Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Exclusive: Federal Prosecutors Interviewed Michigan Secretary Of State in Special Counsel's Election Interference Probe; Republicans Grill Republican-Appointed Republican; One-On-One With GOP Presidential Candidate, Chris Christie; Russian Authorities Release Video That Appears To Show Former Submarine Commander Before He Was Assassinated; New Details Emerge In Secret Coast Guard Investigation Into Sexual Assault At Academy; Ray Epps, Targeted By January 6th Conspiracy Theorists, Sues Fox News For Defamation; Former Manson Family Member Freed On Parole. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 12, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: According to police, there have been a number of sightings and they believe that those sightings are accurate.
Police are also raising the possibility again that Michael Burham who is known to be a survivalist maybe getting help from the outside.
Authorities say a drone was hovering near the jail -- a drone -- just before Burham escaped by climbing down bedsheets that he had tied together.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
We'll see you back here tomorrow.
AC 360 begins now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news, we've just learned about another official who prosecutors in the special counsel's election interference probe have spoken to. We will have details on that and what it may suggest about the case Jack Smith could be making.
Also, Republican lawmakers grilled the Republican appointed, registered Republican FBI director. Is there evidence for their allegations? I'll ask the Republican former US attorney who recommended him for the job, presidential candidate, Chris Christie joins us.
Later, Ray Epps, the January 6 protester now in hiding after right- wing media painted him as an FBI plant. His attorney joins me to talk about the lawsuit they've just filed against Fox News.
The Breaking News starts us off tonight. New word that another top state election official has spoken with federal prosecutors in connection with the former president's efforts to overturn the election. She is Jocelyn Benson, Michigan secretary of State. She now joins her Georgia counterpart, Brad Raffensperger; former Arizona Republican lawmaker Rusty Bowers, and two Nevada Republican Party officials in talking to Jack Smith's team.
CNN's Evan Perez joins us now with more.
So what have you learned about Secretary of State Benson's interview with Jack Smith?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, what's important about this interview is that we now see a pattern of the Smith team, the special counsel's team going through all of the states, the key states that there was this effort by the former president and his allies to try to overturn those elections and try to perhaps seat these fake electors.
And so what we know, sources telling Zach Cohen is that she sat with the Smith team for several hours in recent weeks and we know that, as you pointed out, they've already talked to state officials in Georgia, in Nevada, in Arizona. So you can see that this is an effort by the special counsel to try to figure out exactly whether there's a crime here that was committed in that effort, not only to overturn those state elections, but also to perhaps get access to voting machines.
That is one of the things that Jocelyn Benson's office turned over. They turned over documents and evidence that indicated that there were people connected to Rudy Giuliani, who were trying to get access to voting machines in a specific county in Michigan.
Again, we don't know whether this is something that is going to end up being charged as a crime, but it is something that it is clear the special counsel is diving deep into.
COOPER: And Evan, there is new court filings in a defamation lawsuit that we haven't heard much about lately, but it is a defamation lawsuit brought by those two Georgia election workers against Rudy Giuliani. What are the court filings?
PEREZ: That's right, and this is a defamation lawsuit that is not only against Giuliani, but others. And what's key here is that the legal team for those two Georgia election workers produced some evidence that they have obtained from Rudy Giuliani and some of his allies. And one of the key things here, Anderson is that it shows that Giuliani and again, people connected to former President Trump, were not really interested in checking out these claims of vote fraud. What they simply wanted to do is make those claims and try to make them stick.
And so here's an example which is a text message from Boris Epshteyn, who continues to be very close to the former president as an adviser. Here is what he says in the text message: "Urgent POTUS request. Need best examples of election fraud that we've alleged that is super easy to explain." He continues, "Doesn't necessarily have to be proven, just need to be easy to understand. Is there any sort of greatest hits clearinghouse that anyone has, for best examples." Again, an indication that they weren't really trying to make sure that
these were proven examples of what they claimed was fraud. They just wanted to be able to make those claims, again, as part of this broader effort not only to overturn the state election results, but again, to give reason to Congress and perhaps the state legislators to have their fake electors be seated and again, overturn the victory of Joe Biden.
COOPER: All right, Evan Perez, thanks so much.
Now the FBI director is uncomfortable down on Capitol Hill ever since the former president latched on to attacking the FBI and Justice Department as a way of deflecting the numerous allegations against him and investigations around him. He has had help from Republican lawmakers in the House.
Ever since January, when Republicans gained control of the House and began holding hearings on what they call the weaponization of government, they have made FBI director, Christopher Wray something of a nemesis.
Today, it came to a head.
CNN's Sara Murray reports on his defense of the Bureau and his criticism of the man who appointed him.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): FBI director Christopher Wray --
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Thank you. Good morning, Chairman Jordan, Ranking Member Nadler, members of the committee.
MURRAY (voice over): Pulling no punches in critiquing former President Donald Trump's sloppy retention of classified documents.
WRAY: I don't want to be commenting on the pending case, but I will say that there are specific rules about where to store classified information and that those need to be stored in a SCIF, a Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility, and in my experience, ballrooms, bathrooms and bedrooms are not SCIFs.
MURRAY (voice over): And insisting in the wake of Hunter Biden's plea deal on tax charges, that the Bureau is not protecting the Biden family.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Are you protecting the Biden's?
WRAY: Absolutely not. The FBI does not and has no interest in ...
GAETZ: Well, you won't answer -- well, hold on --
WRAY: ... protecting anyone politically. GAETZ: You won't answer about whether or not that --
MURRAY (voice over): he also disavowed some of the behavior outlined in Special Counsel John Durham's probe, which documented missteps by the FBI in its investigation into the 2016 Trump campaigns ties with Russia.
WRAY: I consider the conduct that was described in the Durham report as totally unacceptable and unrepresentative of what I see from the FBI every day and must never be allowed to happen again.
MURRAY (voice over): Wray, however, stood by the search at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.
WRAY: I would not call it a raid, I would call it the execution of a lawful search warrant.
MURRAY (voice over): And defended the FBI's rank and file amid a wave of threats in the wake of that search.
WRAY: We did stand up a whole dedicated unit to focus on threats to FBI individuals, FBI employees, and FBI facilities because of the uptick that we saw over that time period.
MURRAY (voice over): Wray facing off against some of his toughest congressional critics on the House Judiciary Committee, where Republicans have threatened to slash the Bureau's budget and accused FBI leadership of political bias.
GAETZ: People trusted the FBI more when J. Edgar Hoover was running the place than when you are.
WRAY: Respectfully, Congressman, in your home state of Florida, the number of people applying to come work for us and devote their lives working for us is over -- up over a hundred percent since I started.
GAETZ: We're deeply proud of them, and they deserve better than you.
MURRAY (voice over): All, as Democrats took shots at their GOP colleagues.
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): We are here today because MAGA Republicans will do anything to protect Donald Trump, their savior, no matter how unfounded or dangerous it may be to do so.
MURRAY (voice over): Democrats also needling Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan for once defying a subpoena in the House January 6 investigation.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): It is quite rich to me that you're hearing all of these allegations from somebody who won't even respond to a lawful subpoena.
COOPER: Sara, Chris Wray also tackled head on whether the FBI is weaponized against Americans and whether he's biased. What did he say?
MURRAY: That's right. I mean, this is kind of refrain we've heard over and over again from Republicans on this committee, particularly the chairman, Jim Jordan, and Chris Wray said, you know, absolutely not. The FBI is not weaponized against everyday Americans.
He also said it is insane to him, the notion that he is somehow biased against conservatives, noting his own personal background, and Anderson, his personal background is that he is a registered Republican, and he was appointed into this position by Donald Trump, a former Republican president.
COOPER: Sara Murray, thanks so much.
COOPER: Well, with me here live, the man who recommended Wray for the job, former US attorney, former New Jersey governor, and current Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie.
Governor Christie, good to see you and have you here.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you, Anderson.
COOPER: Chris Wray is a Republican. He served as your personal attorney for a time. You recommended him. How did he do today?
CHRISTIE: I think he did well today.
Look, it's never a comfortable situation. I've appeared before Congress as a member of the executive branch and it is never easy. It's always combative and they are performing what they consider to be their oversight responsibilities and --
COOPER: There is also performance for cameras, too.
CHRISTIE: Well, I was going to get to that, too. Yes, like, and some people are legitimately asking questions.
I thought Ken Buck today was legitimately trying to get to the bottom of some things and did it in a way that was smart and respectful and got information back. Some people are there just to perform, on both sides of the aisle, right?
CHRISTIE: So Chris is a big boy, and he understands this. Let me let me say from my perspective, first off, this is a guy who has been nominated by two different Republican presidents, and twice confirmed by the United States Senate, and not one Republican United States senator voted against him either time.
Secondly, this is somebody who understood as he said in there today, the faults of the Comey FBI, as laid out in the Durham report. That's why he fired every member of Jim Comey's leadership team out of the FBI. That's why he brought in a whole new leadership team and put in place a whole bunch of reforms that he detailed today.
COOPER: Have you seen any evidence that under Chris Wray there has been weaponization of the FBI?
CHRISTIE: I have not.
Now look, it doesn't mean that there might be at times, individual FBI agents who go rogue and that happens, 38,000 employees at the FBI, okay, so Chris Wray can't make sure that every one every day follows the rules impeccably.
But what he has done is when they step out of line, they're disciplined for it.
COOPER: Do you believe -- do you see any evidence that the attorney general, Merrick Garland or President Biden has weaponized the Department of Justice?
CHRISTIE: I don't know about the attorney general and I don't know about the president either. I could say this, I'm concerned about the Hunter Biden situation.
I think that US Attorney Weiss has some explaining to do. I did this, as you know, for seven years, and it should not take five years to do a two-count misdemeanor tax plea, and then to dismiss a gun charge.
So what happened there? What were they doing all those five years? The tax cases are pretty simple, direct cases with somebody like Hunter Biden, so I don't know if that amounts to weaponization or not, Anderson, but it certainly should lead us to ask some questions. And I think either Mr. Weiss or Merrick Garland has got to come up to the Hill and answer some questions.
COOPER: You had said that you would keep Chris Wray on the job when I talked to you a month-and-a-half ago. Is it still the case?
COOPER: And the former president attacked you online early this this morning, I guess it was, leveled a number of accusations against you. Just to pick one, he said that you "desperately wanted to join the Trump administration. But I said no."
CHRISTIE: No. No, completely ridiculous. And let me explain not that anybody should be surprised that Donald Trump is not telling the truth when it serves him.
He offered me twice secretary of Homeland Security.
COOPER: He offered you?
CHRISTIE: Yes. He offered me secretary of Labor and he offered me White House chief-of-staff -- and I said no each time.
COOPER: There were reports you wanted to be attorney general.
CHRISTIE: I would have considered being attorney general at the beginning of the administration, I would have, but it wasn't offered to me. And because to me, the attorney general is the most independent position inside the administration if you do it the right way and I think Bill Barr did it the right way, and showed it -- and showed how to do it.
But also, let's not forget, he also made me chairman of the President's Commission on Opioids and Drug Abuse, and I did take that because of how deeply I care about that issue, and executed for him.
So just on its face, it's a lie, because I was a part of the administration by running that commission. He asked me to do it, not only did, but made me the chairman of it, and accepted all 120 of the recommendations that commission made and put them into action.
COOPER: Beginning of this week, we learned from the former president's attorneys that they are trying to, or they've asked the judge in the documents case to, "postpone any consideration of a new trial date" a variety of reasons, including that he is running for president.
Do you -- I mean, as a former federal prosecutor, do you think the December trial date that the special counsel wants is reasonable?
CHRISTIE: Hard to tell.
COOPER: Do you think there are -- do you think that his lawyers' arguments are reasonable?
CHRISTIE: It's hard to tell. Here is the tough part of it. The classified documents involved, you're either, if they stay classified, you're going to have to get people cleared on his defense team and otherwise experts that --
COOPER: That was one of the reasons that they raised as well, just handling these documents.
CHRISTIE: Right. So it depends on how many of those documents are actually going to be used as evidence, and how long that's going to take. That could be a lengthy process. That's why I would have charged the case entirely differently. I would have just charged the obstruction case. I wouldn't have charged the documents.
That way, the obstruction case is clean. It appears from the facts alleged in the indictment very provable, and still carry substantial criminal penalties for it. So I would have done it differently to take that out of place.
So I think the judge is going to look very carefully at those documents, and how long she thinks it would take reasonably for both sides to be prepared. December is still a long time. I mean, he's still got, you know, over six months to get ready. That may be enough.
But the person in the best position make that judgment is Judge Cannon, and I'm confident she will make the right decision. COOPER: Do you think the president -- the former president is trying
to run out the clock?
CHRISTIE: Of course he is. Yes.
COOPER: No doubt?
CHRISTIE: Oh, yes, no doubt about it.
Look, his fantasy situation is that this doesn't go to trial ever before the election, that somehow he gets re-elected president and then they won't be able to try him while he is sitting in the White House and then that'll get delayed another four years. He'll be 82 years old and he may just, you know, he hopes just walk away from it.
COOPER: How concerned do you think he should be about the special counsel about being indicted again in the 2020 election case?
CHRISTIE: He should be concerned because when you look at it from your report, the depth of the investigation that's being done, it's obviously being taken very seriously, and being done methodically.
Whenever that happens, you've got to be a little bit on guard. I think you should be concerned about the case that's pending against him right now.
The allegations there regarding national security documents, as Chris Wray said in his testimony are supposed to be maintained in a secure location, not at Mar-a-Lago. He lied about that. He lied about whether he had more documents or not. He hid them from his own lawyers, as alleged in the indictment.
And then also suggested to them that if there were some bad documents in there, they just pull them out before they turn them to the government. I mean, it is a classic obstruction case. And I think he should be concerned about that because if he takes a case like that to trial and loses, there is a presumption of jail time.
COOPER: You've said that or you've indicated that if you were president, you would consider commuting any sentence if he was found guilty. Can you talk about that? Why?
CHRISTIE: I would consider it because I do, Anderson, I am concerned about the idea of any president of the United States going to prison, and I think that we've got to think about that very carefully.
I don't think a pardon would necessarily be appropriate given what I know today.
COOPER: Particularly if -- I mean, you've said this in the past that a pardon implies or requires that somebody admits what they did and feels bad about it.
CHRISTIE: Accepts responsibility for it, you know, and I don't think that's ever possible with Donald Trump, but a commutation of a sentence is something that I think anybody who rules that out before you see how all the events unfold, has never had the power to do that.
I have, as governor for eight years. I have commuted sentences and I have given full pardons as governor and it is a very solemn careful process and not something that should be in a political campaign.
COOPER: Governor Christie, standby. When we come back, I want to talk about your campaign and a lot of things on that front, also on the debate stage. We want to see what your plans are.
Also ahead, not your strategy, you're not going to give that away.
CHRISTIE: Not yet.
COOPER: Also ahead, former Russian submarine commander assassinated according to Russian state media while out for a jog. The question is, did his running app put a killer on his trail? We will be right back.
COOPER: It's a little more than a month to go until the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee. We're talking tonight with one of the contenders, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
So to qualify for this first RNC debate, you have to have support of at least one percent in multiple national polls, a minimum of 40,000 unique donors, at least 200 unique donors per state in 20 states. Are you there yet?
CHRISTIE: Yes. I'm glad to be able to tell people tonight, Anderson, that last night, we went past 40,000 unique donors in just 35 days, and it gives you some perspective because I ran it years ago, in 35 days, eight years ago, we had 5,000 donors. We have over 40,000 donors now.
There is a donor in every state in America and we have over 200 donors in 36 states. So we have really broad support for the candidacy. We're really thrilled about it.
And the good news, I think for the Republican Party is that means I'm going to be on the debate stage on August 23rd.
COOPER: What about this loyalty pledge? I mean, what does it say about the Republican Party that they're trying to institute this loyalty pledge. I mean, the very fact that people are running against the former president would indicate that they don't think he should be the president.
CHRISTIE: Well, I've said that I think the loyalty pledge is a dumb idea, but it is a requirement to get on the stage.
COOPER: And you've said you'll -- you said, I'll do what I need to do to be up on the stage. CHRISTIE: Yes, and I'll take it every bit as seriously as Donald Trump
took it in 2016. We all signed the pledge in 2016 also, you may recall, and at the next debate, after we all signed the pledge, one of the questioners said, you all signed this pledge, would you reaffirm it tonight by raising your hand? And nine of us raised our hands, including me, and Donald Trump didn't.
He said, well, we'll see what happens. We said, well you said it. Well, I'll see what happens.
COOPER: What about the pledge in Florida to get on the ballot?
CHRISTIE: I would treat it the same way.
COOPER: The same way.
COOPER: Because that's in writing. Does that make any difference to you?
CHRISTIE: I think this one is in writing, too. I think I have to actually sign a document. I haven't seen the document yet. But it has been represented to me that we have a document, I'll sign the document, because I think the most important thing, Anderson is to be on the stage to try to change our country.
And I really believe I'm the best person to take on Joe Biden. I need to win back those Independents and suburban women. I did it when I was governor in New Jersey. We got 61 percent of the vote for re-election there. We won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote. We won 22 percent of the African-American vote in the most diverse, ethnically diverse state in America.
And one of the bluest states in America, a million more registered Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey, yet, I got 61 percent of vote for re-election.
So if I have to sign that piece of paper to get on the stage, I'm going to sign it and I'm going to go there and be serious about it and be able to bring the case to the people in the Republican Party.
COOPER: In a general election, obviously, abortion is going to be a big issue. Iowa legislature, they passed last night a bill that would ban abortions with some exceptions for rape, incest, and some medical emergencies after a fetal heartbeat is detected around the sixth week of pregnancy. Many women don't know if they're pregnant then. Do you think a six-week ban should be a national standard?
CHRISTIE: I don't think there should be a national standard right now. I really don't. We discussed this a couple of weeks back in the townhall we did here at CNN.
COOPER: You think a six-week ban is appropriate?
CHRISTIE: I think that each state should make that decision on their own. And look, I think what you're going to find is over the course of time here that states are going to be all over the map.
So for instance, in my home state of New Jersey, you can have an abortion up to the ninth month. Now, a lot of people including me find that to be unacceptable.
COOPER: But I mean, I understand your position that you know, this is a state's issue, and the voters there should decide any you respect to whatever they decide, but just you personally, do you believe a six- week ban is appropriate?
CHRISTIE: I don't. I don't think quite frankly, Anderson, that any of us should get into that right now. What we should do is say what we've been saying for 50 years, which is to say to the people the states, you go and decide now what's appropriate in your state, what you think matters.
And a lot of people think they know what that's going to be but let's say Kansas, for instance. In Kansas, a red state, very Republican conservative state, yet they voted for a more pro-choice position.
COOPER: But you don't think politicians running should be pinned down on what they actually personally, you know, deeply held beliefs feel?
CHRISTIE: Well, I'm pro-life, okay, I've said that before. And I always took the position when I ran for governor of New Jersey, that I believed in exceptions for rape and incest and life of the mother and that those should be exceptions that are respected in my state, and I thought it was the position that should be adopted throughout the country.
But as we're now getting down to this, you know, 20 weeks, 15 weeks, 12 weeks, six weeks, what I want to see is I want to see if a national consensus can be built by the states. That's the way the founders intended this system to work on issues that were not specifically talked about in the Constitution.
This was not I think -- Dobbs was decided rightly, and I think you're now seeing that great experiment happens throughout the states. And what I would hope when I became president, is that all 50 states will have weighed in, and that we could get a national consensus that we could get 60 votes for the US Senate, because you can't get anything done in the US Senate without 60 votes. And right now, I think it's very safe to say that whether it was six weeks 12, 15, 20, you could not get 60 votes in United States for any of that so let's let the states do their work.
COOPER: You've talked on the economy. You've talked about cutting spending. I am wondering where you're different than President Biden on the economy. The latest numbers on consumer prices came in just today, inflation fell to its lowest annual rate, I think in more than two years.
I mean, the Biden administration got a lot of criticism for inflation, should they get credit for that?
CHRISTIE: No, the Fed should get credit for that, because the Fed is the people who brought inflation down by raising interest rates and what that's also done is to make it much more difficult and expensive to borrow money in this country, which is tough on small businesses throughout this country and individuals who want to buy their first home or their first car.
Remember, inflation has gone down this month, but over the course of the Biden administration, it's still up 17 percent and while wages during that period of time are going up three percent.
There is a 14 percent gap there that has been absorbed by the American people and they feel it at the supermarket, they feel it at the gas station and they're going to feel it in August when they go to buy back to school clothes.
These are things that really affect real people. And, look, it's what killed Jimmy Carter's presidency, it was inflation. And I believe it's going to be the same thing that lays waste to Joe Biden's presidency as well.
COOPER: It's no secret you're betting a lot in New Hampshire. How well do you have to do in New Hampshire? Do you have a benchmark?
CHRISTIE: Well. I've got to do well.
Look, you've got to prove you can win someplace. Certainly, I'd like to win New Hampshire. I think if I came in second in New Hampshire, that would be a really good night, too, given where we started. I'm in third place right now in New Hampshire in all the recent polls, just a few points behind Governor DeSantis.
So we're making progress in New Hampshire, we're going to continue to make progress there. We're going to work in South Carolina as well, and try to make progress in South Carolina.
COOPER: Is the race this time different than you expected it to be in any way?
CHRISTIE: Yes, it is different in that I thought that more people would be out there articulating very clearly why Donald Trump would not be a good nominee and a good president.
COOPER: Really the only -- you're certainly the most prominent one. I mean, Asa Hutchinson has been a little -- has been as well, but the other candidates are not.
CHRISTIE: No, and that's different and I think surprising. I don't know how you beat a clear frontrunner like Donald Trump without beating Donald Trump.
COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, what do you think they are expecting to happen?
CHRISTIE: I think they hope that somehow Donald Trump collapses from the weight of all these, you know, criminal issues that he's got, and that when they haven't said anything negative about him, they're hoping to then inherit some portion of those voters that otherwise would have voted for Donald Trump.
I don't think that's the way politics works. I think, if a dominant frontrunner like Donald Trump were to drop out, which I don't expect that he will, I think that's a flawed thesis anyway. But if he were, that reshuffles the entire deck, and I don't think anybody knows what would happen.
COOPER: If you are one of the other challengers, manages to defeat the former president to get the nomination, how -- what's the chances of him coming out and saying the primary was rigged?
CHRISTIE: Well, given his history, it's probably pretty good. But I think he'll be a discredited figure then if he has been defeated again. That will mean he lost in 2018, when he lost the House, in 2020 when he lost the White House, and lost the United States Senate for the Republican Party; in 2022, lost two more governorships and another seat in the United States Senate, and led a horribly underperforming House majority of five seats, and now will have lost the primary 2024, that makes them a four-time loser.
So I think at that point, he can cry and complain all he wants, which I'm certain he would. But in the end, I think the Republican Party will unite behind whoever wins the primary other than Donald Trump and I think that's what will happen.
COOPER: You do know that loser is like the greatest insult for him. You keep using the word loser.
CHRISTIE: I didn't know that. I didn't know that. But what I will tell you is, it's true. And here's what Republican primary voters need -- two things they need more than anything else. They need the truth. The truth matters, and they haven't gotten the truth from either Joe Biden or from Donald Trump.
Secondly, they need results on the issues that they really care about. Donald Trump said he's going to repeal and replace Obamacare with a Republican Congress, he failed. He said he was going to build a wall across the entire Mexican border. And as you know, he built 47 miles of new wall, new wall 47 miles in four years.
At that pace of 12 miles a year, he would have to be president for another 50 years to be able to build that entire wall. He said Mexico was going to pay for it. We haven't gotten our first peso yet from the Mexicans on that.
And then, he said he was also going to balance the budget in four years, and he added $6 trillion for the national debt.
Those are all issues that Republican voters care about. They need someone who will deliver on those issues. I delivered on them in a blue state, that prepares me to go down to Congress and help deliver them as president.
COOPER: Governor Christie, appreciate your time. CHRISTIE: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
Up next, according to Russian media, this former submarine commander was assassinated in a morning jog. The question is why and did his killer track his running track on a popular running app, lead the killer to him?
Plus, Ray Epps, the January 6th protester targeted by right-wing conspiracy theorists. His attorney joins me to talk about the lawsuit they just filed against Fox News.
COOPER: Brazen and deadly attack in Russia, the victim, a former submarine commander, shot and killed while jogging in a park. Russian authorities released this surveillance video which appears to show him just before he was gunned down. CNN can't independently verify the video. According to (ph) Russian media suspect is in custody, the commander's alleged killer may have tracked his location on popular exercise app.
Our Matthew Chance joins us now with more. So, what more do we know about what happened?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a former Russian submarine commander, Anderson. His name is Stanislav Rzhitsky. And you see from that video, he was jogging in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar when he was shot several times apparently by a gunman. And as you mentioned, the interesting thing about that apparent murder is that the -- Rzhitsky was tracked on his running app. He apparently had taken the same route a number of times and the assassin was waiting along in a park in that route, when the killing took place.
He is a former submarine commander; he commanded a key low-class Russian submarine of the kind that has fired caliber cruise missiles at various locations inside Ukraine over the course of the past year or so. One attack in particular on the Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia is -- was carried out by a submarine which Stanislav Rzhitsky was linked to, although his family have said that he took no part in the war in Ukraine and would actually -- had actually been decommissioned from the military kind of relatively soon after the conflict took place. So they say he took no -- he had no part in it. But nevertheless, he was linked to it in nationalist Ukrainian websites.
COOPER: And are there clues as to who may have been behind this?
CHANCE: Well, there has been an arrest made. Russian television has broadcast images of military personnel or police at least breaking into somewhere and seizing a suspect. That suspect is said to have links with Ukraine, also the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Agency, the sort of military spy network, have issued an extra ordinarily detailed statement about the circumstances of Rzhitsky's death, saying that he was shot several times with a Makarov pistol, that the weather was bad, and so there wasn't any-- there weren't any witnesses, but they stopped short of actually saying, look, we carried out -- we carried this out.
Nevertheless, there has been an upsurge in the number of sort of attacks carried out across the border, or by Ukrainian sympathizers in Russia, in the past couple of months and the suspicion is that this may be the latest example of that.
COOPER: Matthew Chance, thanks very much.
Tomorrow morning, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard will face tough questions on Capitol Hill about a damning report on sexual assault at the Coast Guard Academy. The report was kept secret for years until CNN started asking questions, the hearing a direct result of CNN's investigation. CNN Chief Investigative Coordinator Pamela Brown broke the story first and talks tonight to assault survivors who said the Coast Guard's culture has not changed.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR (voice- over): New questions about the secret damning report called "Operation Fouled Anchor" which revealed a decade's long history of substantiated sexual abuse, including rapes at the Coast Guard Academy.
According to documents viewed exclusively by CNN, the assaults were treated as minor misconduct by Coast Guard Command, and were usually covered up. Victims were often punished. The investigation ran from 2014 to 2019, but only reviewed sexual assault from the late 1980s to 2006, leaving a major gap in its findings.
KERRY KARWAN, U.S. COAST GUARD VETERAN: The Coast Guard has failed the victims and the worst part is the culture and the environment that they still have at the academy is allowing this behavior to continue.
BROWN (voice-over): Kerry Karwan says she was sexually assaulted in 1995 and even wrote about the incident in her journal at the time, saying a football player came to her room, "Bit my neck and felt up my chest."
Luckily, I got away and he left, but he said he was going to come back and finish what he started. And I was terrified. This guy was bigger than me, he was stronger than me, and I didn't have a roommate. So -- and I didn't know how to protect myself.
BROWN (voice-over): She reported her attack at the time, but the Coast Guard Academy only gave him demerits and assigned him to write an essay. That same cadet would be accused of multiple other assaults, including rape, according to records viewed by CNN.
KARWAN: We are not being attacked by somebody who is a complete stranger that we never see again. You are repeatedly getting traumatized by this individual because you are stuck in the environment with them.
BROWN (voice-over): Karwan says she was hoping for change when the Coast Guard reopened her case and dozens of others with "Operation Fouled Anchor," but that didn't happen.
KARWAN: There was no -- here is what the results were and this is what we are doing about it, and this is the Coast Guard's way forward.
BROWN (voice-over): Instead, Coast Guard officials kept the problem secret for years, a sourse telling CNN, the report was "Very centrally controlled, similar to how classified report would be treated." The Coast Guard only briefed Congress last month after CNN started asking questions. Now, senators are demanding answers.
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN, (D) WISCONSIN: We are looking for accountability. We want to know what steps have been taken to make sure this never happens again.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: This episode is probably the most shameful and disgraceful incident of cover-up of sexual assault that I have seen in the United States military ever.
BROWN (voice-over): Of dozens of old sexual assault cases examined, only one person was ever prosecuted. The charge against him was dismissed when a court ruled the statute of limitations had run out. Many alleged perpetrators graduated from the academy and went on to high-ranking positions in the Coast Guard or other branches of the military. The man Kerry Karwan says assaulted her ended up retiring from the Coast Guard with full benefits.
KARWAN: The victims don't feel like the Coast Guard handled the situation well. Their attackers have gone on to have careers, retired with benefits, and the (ph) victims have never stopped suffering.
BROWN (voice-over): CNN has spoken to more than a dozen former cadets who say they were assaulted over the years, some more recently.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to talk about it.
BROWN (voice-over): This woman who says she was raped three times, just graduated from the Coast Guard Academy last year.
BROWN (on camera): So you have to wonder if they had released this report, if they had done more to crack down on sexual assault, how your experience would have been different.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I often find myself wondering what my future would have been like. Time and time again, the academy and the institution don't protect their people. It did nothing to save me when I was asking for help and it is devastating.
BROWN (on camera): The Head of the Coast Guard, Admiral Linda Fagan will testify on Capitol Hill tomorrow. A Coast Guard spokesperson told CNN that most of the historical cases couldn't be prosecuted because they had to go by the law at the time of the offense and in the 1990s, the court-martial definition of rape was very narrow. Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Still ahead tonight, he has been falsely accused of leading an FBI plot to orchestrate the January 6th Insurrection. Ray Epps is suing Fox News. I'll talk to his attorney in his first interview since filing the lawsuit.
And later, she followed Charles Manson in the 1960s, took part in a murder of a couple, now Leslie Van Houten is out on parole. How that happened, next.
COOPER: Tonight, Fox News is facing a new lawsuit, this time from Ray Epps, a January 6 protester targeted by conspiracy theorists who falsely claimed that he led an FBI plot to orchestrate the insurrection to make supporters of then President Trump look bad. Fox News ran with the story and Epps is now suing the channel, accusing it and former Fox Host Tucker Carlson of defamation. There is no comment yet from Carlson or Fox News.
In the lawsuit filed today, Epps' legal team writes, in the aftermath of the events of January 6, Fox News searched for a scapegoat to blame other than Donald Trump or the Republican Party. Eventually, they turned on one of their own. Epps is living in hiding after receiving death threats. In a moment, I'll talk with his attorney. But first, a look at how he got to this point. Epps talked to my '60 Minutes' colleague Bill Whitaker and here is a clip from that April report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FORMER HOST, FOX NEWS: What exactly was the role of Ray Epps in the chaos of January 6th?
BILL WHITAKER, CORRESPONDENT, "60 MINUTES," CBS NEWS (voice-over): The theory, Epps, a former member of the Oath Keepers, was an FBI informant who incited the crowd on January 6th bubbled up from a right-wing news site called 'Revolver News,' run by a former Trump speech writer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this not (inaudible).
CARLSON: (Inaudible) the entire Fed-surrection.
WHITAKER (voice-over): --and landed on Fox News Primetime.
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST OF "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE," FOX NEWS: According to a new investigation from Revolver, Epps may have led the breach team that first entered the Capitol on January 6th.
WHITAKER (voice-over): The convoluted conspiracy theory made its way to Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not the proud boys who engage in the initial breach, it is Ray Epps at that precise moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did Ray Epps know that there would be pipe bombs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Edburn (ph), who is Ray Epps?
WHITAKER (voice-over): That question has animated Fox News host Tucker Carlson for nearly two years.
CARLSON: Ray Epps? He is on video several times, encouraging crimes, riots, breaches of the Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now is Ray Epps' attorney Michael Teter. Mr. Teter, thanks for joining us. What made Mr. Epps finally decide to sue?
MICHAEL TETER, ATTORNEY FOR RAY EPPS: He had spent two years being lied about by Fox News, the time had come for him to finally have his voice heard and to make sure Fox is held accountable.
COOPER: Did Mr. Epps attempt to resolve this before filing the lawsuit? Were there other communications with Fox News about his concerns prior to it being filed?
TETER: Yes, absolutely. We reached out to Fox in March, asked them to cease and desist speaking about Mr. Epps and lying about him, asked for a retraction on air, the same amount of time and energy they had put into the lies and falsehoods about him. And we didn't get any response.
COOPER: I just want to play a little bit more of what Mr. Epps told "60 Minutes" about Tucker Carlson. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY EPPS, AMERICAN FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: He is obsessed with me. He is going to any means possible to destroy my life, and our lives.
WHITAKER (on camera): Why?
EPPS: To shift blame on somebody else. If you look at it, Fox News, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz, Gates, they are all telling us before this thing that it was stolen. So you tell me. Who has more impact on people? Them or me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So in the lawsuit, you say Fox and particularly Mr. Carlson commenced a year's long campaign spreading falsehoods about Epps. Those lies have destroyed Ray's and Robin's lives. Can you just explain what has the impact been on their lives? I mean, they are -- you've said they are in hiding, essentially.
TETER: Yeah, they started receiving threats, death threats immediately upon the lies that Tucker Carlson and Fox were spreading about them. They had -- they found bullet casings in their property. They had voicemails that had threats about sleeping with your eyes open, text messages, they were inundated with messages to their business. They had people who were sending mail to them, death threats. So they -- people knew where they lived, people were driving by with guns out of their trucks pointing them at the house just to intimidate and scare Ray and Robin.
And so, they had to flee because their safety was in jeopardy. The FBI in fact one time checked in on Ray. There were credible (ph) threats on the dark web focused on Ray. And in fact, Ricky Shiffer, if you remember that name, he is the man who attacked the FBI Office in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2022, referred to Ray in his Truth Social biography. So, Ray was a focus of the right-wing media and their viewers based on lies that Tucker Carlson and Fox were telling about him.
COOPER: Mr. Epps was brought up in the House Judiciary Committee hearing today with FBI Director Chris Wray. I just want to play part of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE COHEN, (D-TN) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think Tucker Carlson and some of the members, colleagues on the other side of the aisle, have said that Ray Epps was a secret government agent, helping encourage this crime so as to make the president look bad. Do you have any knowledge of Ray Epps being a secret government agent?
CHRIS WRAY, DIRECTOR OF FBI: No. I will say this notion that somehow the violence at the Capitol on January 6th was part of some operation orchestrated by FBI sources and agents is ludicrous and is a disservice to brave hardworking dedicated men and women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that is the FBI Director debunking the Epps conspiracy theory under oath in front of Congress. Do you think anything will ever put this to rest when it comes to people who believe it?
TETER: I think that perhaps finally having a jury find that the lies were told about Ray Epps and then awarding in damages might finally put an end to it. But, the truth is that lies haven't mattered to Fox or its viewers for quite some time. They put profits over people, they put fraud over facts, they put lies over legitimacy. And so, I hope that it will spell an end to it. But at the least, they need to be held accountable for their lies.
COOPER: In the Dominion lawsuit, one of the things that Dominion was able to do early on was reach out to Fox producers at all levels of the company and others at Fox and on-air people with point-by-point -- refuting point by point things that they were saying on air and giving them facts. Did Mr. Epps, was he able or attorneys for him, are you able to reach out very quickly or is there evidence that you reached out throughout this, while they were airing these things, to inform them this wasn't true? Because that was helpful obviously in the Dominion suit.
TETER: Right, no, they never reached out to Ray directly. It seemed they would talk about it on air saying that they would reach out to him and that he could of course come on the air. But they never really reached out to Ray, he was not invited on. And honestly I don't think that had he been invited on, he would have arrived and showed up for it because there is no point in fighting with somebody who is willing to tell lies about you over and over and over again.
The facts were known from the get go, Ray was of course not an FBI agent. But the January 6th Committee discovered that, investigated it, refuted the lies that Tucker Carlson was telling on Fox, and what did Tucker say after that? He disputed them. He decided to focus on the fact that the January 6th Committee was covering up for Ray Epps. So that is how Mr. Carlson and Fox deals with facts. They just refuse to recognize them.
COOPER: Ray Epps was a supporter of the former president, believed falsely that the election was stolen. Do you know if he is still supporting the former president? Does he feel like the former president has supported him?
TETER: I don't think I should speak about Ray's political views. I would say that it has made him question Fox, made him question Trump generally for the lies that the former president and his supporters have told. But I don't want to say whether or not he -- how he feels about Donald Trump specifically.
COOPER: And according to the lawsuit, in May of this year, the FBI notified Epps that it would seek to charge him criminally for events on January 6th. Do you know what those charges may be and when they will be filed -- charged?
TETER: No, I am not able to really speak about the criminal side of the matter (inaudible).
COOPER: Michael Teter, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
TETER: Thank you. Appreciate it.
COOPER: Coming up next, a woman convicted of participating in a Manson Family double murder is now free. Details ahead, including what a family member of the victims is saying.
COOPER: More than 50 years ago, Charles Manson and his followers terrorized southern California and put the nation on edge. Now, a woman convicted of participating in a double Manson killing, Leslie Van Houten, is out of prison and will be under parole supervision. She is now in her 70s. Van Houten was sentenced to life behind bars after being convicted for her role in the 1969 killings of a couple at their Los Angeles home.
She was 19 years old when she joined the Manson cult. Randi Kaye has more.
LESLIE VAN HOUTEN, FORMER MEMBER OF THE MANSON FAMILY: He handed me a knife and he said do something. And so I went in and Mrs. LaBianca was laying on the floor and I stabbed her.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's Leslie Van Houten in 1994, talking to Larry King from prison. Van Houten openly shared details about the night she took part in a double murder, which she says took place at the direction of Charles Manson. On August 10, 1969, when Van Houten was just 19, members of the cult known as the Manson Family killed supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in their LA home. This is what Van Houten said when asked about where she stabbed Mrs. LaBianca.
VAN HOUTEN: In the lower back, around 16 times.
KAYE (voice-over): 16 times! And after the couple was dead?
VAN HOUTEN: Sat in the bushes and had milk and cheese.
KAYE (voice-over): The LaBianca murders took place the day after the infamous Tate murders. On August 9, 1969, Manson Family members murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate, the wife of Actor Roman Polanski, along with four of her friends at the Tate's home in LA. Van Houten was not involved in the Tate murders. Van Houten was born in the Los Angeles area. She reportedly grew up going to church camp and singing in the choir. But her father says she soon got involved with drugs. She became a hippy and began living at a commune. And later was introduced to Charles Manson.
She lived with the Manson Family as they were called, which was known for group sex and drug use, and murders that terrorized the nation. [20:55:00]
At her trial, Van Houten claimed that Rosemary LaBianca was already dead by the time she stabbed her, killed by other Manson Family members. But she was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She was sentenced to death along with Manson and three other followers. Their sentences were commuted to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty.
CORY LABIANCA, DAUGHTER OF LENO LABIANCA: I really do not believe that anyone who kills two people and especially having -- in such a brutal manner, should ever be let out of prison.
KAYE (voice-over): Van Houten was denied parole over and over again.
VAN HOUTEN: I'm no longer a danger to society.
KAYE (voice-over): Both California Governor Gavin Newsom and his predecessor Jerry Brown opposed Van Houten's appeals for release. So did the victims' family members. Still, in May, after more than 50 years in prison, an appellate court overruled Newsom's latest denial and released Van Houten to parole supervision. A spokeswoman for the governor said he was disappointed.
ANTHONY DIMARIA, UNCLE KILLED BY MANSON FAMILY: She is a cold-blooded killer. With her release, now, it is our fear that the flood gates in the California penal system will be unhinged.
NANCY TETREAULT, ATTORNEY OF VAN HOUTEN: I understand why people, certainly the victim or the family members of the victims feel emotional about this and want retribution. But that's not the law. Because she meets the standard of parole, she's no longer dangerous, due process requires that she be released on parole.
COOPER: And Randi joins me now. What exactly is her lawyer's argument that she has been rehabilitated in prison?
KAYE: Anderson, her lawyer says that she was in therapy in prison for 40 years. She was enrolled in what is called Rehabilitative Programming courses in prison which are required in order to get parole in California. Her lawyer also said she was getting regular psych evaluations. And now, she is living in a transitional living facility. She'll be there for a year, and on parole for three years.
But it's worth noting, Anderson, that even when she spoke to Larry King back in 1994 in that prison interview, she had some pretty harsh words for Charles Manson. She called him an opportunist, cool and vicious. She also, Anderson, told Larry King that she felt guilty in some part for creating what she called the monster. Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thank you. We'll be right back.