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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Jared Kushner And Hope Hicks Testify In DOJ Probe; Special Counsel's Team Rips Apart Trump's Reason For Postponing Scheduling Of Documents Trial; House Adopts Controversial Amendments As Defense Bill Passage Hangs In The Balance; Defense Secretary Austin Speaks With Sen. Tuberville About Tuberville's Hold On Military Promotions; House Passes Controversial Abortion Policy Amendment To Defense Bill; Biden Slams Tuberville's Block Of Military Promotions As "Irresponsible" And "Jeopardizing U.S. Secretary"; Russia's Missing Generals Reveal Cracks In War Effort; Source: Secret Service Concludes Cocaine Investigation, No Suspect Identified; Police Release Photo Of Campsite Suspected To Have Been Used By Escaped PA Inmate. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 13, 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: More than a million dollars for going on tour with Bill O'Reilly, at least $2 million for speaking at events hosted by Hak Ja Han Moon. She and her late husband founded the controversial Unification Church, a church that's been widely described as a cult.
And that of course is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.2 billion in total.
Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news in both special counsel probes. We now know more about who in the former president's inner circle has been talking to the special counsel and Jack Smith responds to Trump team's efforts to delay the documents trial.
Also tonight, how conservative Republicans manage to attach restrictions on abortion access to a key Defense bill and what that could do to the chances of getting it through Congress.
Later, without being able to save who left a packet of cocaine in the West Wing, the Secret Service still says case closed. The question is why?
If the special counsel Jack Smith decides to charge the former president for his role in trying to overturn the election, being able to show his intent will be critical and showing intent could hinge on whether or not he really believed he had won.
Tonight, there is new evidence that Smith is thinking along those lines and is looking for evidence from people who would know or might have heard him indicate he knew he'd lost. Sources now tell CNN that son-in-law, Jared Kushner and former top aide, Hope Hicks have both gone before the grand jury and some of the questions asked were about whether the former president was told he'd lost the election.
Now, this adds to the picture given by testimony from other members of his inner circle, including his White House counsel, his acting chief- of-staff, former Vice President Pence, and others, including former communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin.
Now, you'll recall both she and Cassidy Hutchinson told the House January 6 Committee that Trump acknowledged losing the election. This latest reporting suggests the Jack Smith is trying to bolster that notion with more testimony.
Also breaking, the special counsel's court filing late today in the documents case, a point by point rebuttal to the defense's case for delaying the trial until after the election.
So there is a lot to talk about with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, the aforementioned, Alyssa Farah Griffin, now a CNN political commentator; and CNN legal analyst, Elliot Williams.
So what have you learned, Kaitlan about the members of the inner circle over time?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is notable who has gone, which is obviously Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks, probably two of the closest people to Donald Trump during his time in the White House, and certainly during this time period.
We know that they both went and testified before the grand jury, this hearing with testimony in this and the investigation into the efforts to overturn the election by not just Trump, but also his allies.
And I think it matters because Jared Kushner was obviously there. You know, I was told back in mid-December of that time period that Jared Kushner was going with Ivanka Trump and urging Trump to concede the election. You know, they never bought into the idea that it was stolen.
That doesn't mean they spoke up, but going to him privately and urging him to concede.
Hope Hicks is also notable. We know that she spoke to the January 6 congressional committee. It is kind of interesting how much of a roadmap they have paid for a lot of this stuff. But she talked to them about urging Trump to remain people -- to tell people who came to Washington for January 6 to remain peaceful in the days leading up to that day.
So they both have kind of offered their perspectives of that to the January 6 Committee. We don't fully know what they said to the grand jury that was hearing them when they went last month. We do know one line of questioning was whether or not Trump had privately acknowledged that he had lost. COOPER: And Alyssa, obviously, you have talked to the grand jury, but we obviously can't reveal or you can't reveal what it was you were asked better said. What kind of information do you think would Hope Hicks and Jared Kushner have?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually met with federal prosecutors, not with the grand jury, but this is an important update, because to Kaitlan's point, Jared and Hope were two of the President's closest advisors and people that he was comfortable sharing mindset how he was feeling and would be the kind of people who check in on him first thing in the morning.
But they also were two people who, to the best of my knowledge, were not people who did something wrong in this period other than maybe not speaking up. So they're not people, I would expect to go in and plead the fifth, like some of the other people who have testified. Like you're not going to get a lot out of Rudy Giuliani.
These two don't have a lot to hide. I think that they would do their best to cooperate, and I know very well, I mean, the last conversation I had with Jared Kushner was me imploring him and him agreeing that the president needed to -- the former president needed to acknowledge he lost, needed to go around the country, talk about his achievements and how he was running again in 2024, and both of them were trying to get Trump to that place. So I'd be curious, what might they be able to shed.
COOPER: And Elliot, if Kushner and Hicks told the special counsel that then President Trump truly believed he won the election, what would that mean for intent?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That is -- that would be quite useful evidence for intent and Anderson, there are probably a few different crimes that would hinge on the president's knowledge or belief that he had lost the election -- conspiracy to defraud the United States is itself a criminal offense that requires that someone is acting, essentially committing an act of fraud on the American people by lying about something like you know whether they won the election or so on, or conspiracy to obstruct an official or congressional proceeding.
These are the kinds of things, and you can't just, and I think people need to know this, you can't just establish that the thing happened. You have to establish as prosecutors that the defendant knew or was aware of some fact and still acted sort of in contravention of that, for a lack of a better way to put it.
So it is very important, it is critical evidence to be able to -- or to have to establish, you know, what a defendant knew and that could be quite useful evidence for that purpose.
COOPER: Kaitlan, is there anyone we know that the special counsel would like to talk to that they haven't yet?
COLLINS: Maybe Donald Trump. I mean, they have talked to a lot of people here. I think that is an important thing to keep in mind.
Jared Kushner is obviously headline worthy because of his proximity to Trump, even though he is someone that they have kind of maintained more of a distance since Trump left the White House.
But I think that that is important here, this doesn't mean that Trump is going to be charged. We don't know. I mean, we still haven't very much reported this out, but they've talked to everyone from Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks to Rusty Bowers in Arizona and Jocelyn Benson in Michigan, this you know, Republican Speaker of the House there and the Michigan secretary of State.
The scope of this is so broad in our reporting. It is kind of difficult to get a sense of the depth of where these charges could come from, because obviously, they are asking about Trump's mindset, but we also know they're asking a lot of questions about Sidney Powell and John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro, Rudy Giuliani and the attorneys.
And so I think that is one question of what they want to know about what Trump's mindset, but also the efforts and the efforts coming from those who were around him to tell him what to do.
COOPER: Alyssa, you had told the January 6 Committee that the former president had said something like, can you believe I lost to that effing guy? Do you believe that then President Trump knew he had lost?
GRIFFIN: Yes, he absolutely knew in the days after the election was called for Joe Biden that he lost. He said it to a number of aides. Kellyanne Conway said it on "The View" that she talked to him and he acknowledged that he had lost the race.
General Milley talks about he said on the record that they were talking about second term plans, that were things that were going to be a Biden problem, not his; to very senior advisers he knew that he had lost.
Now, whether he was actually making the arrangements and planning for a peaceful transition of power, that's a different question, but there's no doubt for at least a period he did.
COOPER: You remember when he said that, the, "can you believe I lost to this effing guy?"
GRIFFIN: Yes, it would have been probably within a week after the race being called for President Biden. And I don't know, like, anyone could spend their whole life trying to understand Donald Trump's mind and motives. I don't know if he --
COOPER: I am not sure anyone really wants to.
GRIFFIN: Really wants to. I don't know if he has self-radicalized himself.
COOPER: He has spent an awful lot of time doing that already.
GRIFFIN: He may have convinced himself now that he won, that may have been something that happened later, but I know with certainty that in that period, he thought that he had -- he knew that he had lost the election.
COOPER: Elliot, we also saw it today this filing from Jack Smith, pushing back on the former president's arguments to indefinitely delay his classified documents trial. Who has the stronger argument do you think?
WILLIAMS: Stop, you're both right.
I think they both have a little bit of wiggle room there. Now look, the Justice Department doesn't really address the point in their response that classified documents cases simply take a long time to get to trial, and the fact that they are pushing for a December trial date is quite ambitious, you know, for lack of a better way to put it. That's a very aggressive trial timeline for any criminal case in the federal system, let alone one that involves a former president of the United States or classified documents, pardon.
Now, a lot of the former president's arguments in their brief are quite silly. The idea that number one as a candidate for office, you know, he can't sit for trial. Well, he'll still be Donald Trump, whether he's a candidate for office or not. He is one of the most famous people on the planet.
So the idea that you couldn't find a fair jury simply because it's Donald Trump, who is running for president is nonsense. The idea that it is a more complicated case than any other is also sort of silly. It's a relatively straightforward, classified documents case. It just happens to have a famous defendant.
And the Justice Department really unpacks a lot of those arguments quite well, and really just, you know, sort of dismisses a lot of the points that Trump makes. The simple fact and I think the hardest thing for the Justice Department to overcome here is the fact that it is classified documents. You're going to have to litigate how you get them into court, and that's going to take several months and may take longer than this December.
COOPER: I want to bring in Tim Parlatore, a former member of the former president's legal team and the founder of Parlatore Law Group.
Mr. Parlatore, appreciate you joining us. The special counsel pointed out in his filing today that only two of the lawyers who have appeared on behalf of former President Trump and Walt Nauta have submitted the forms required for obtaining security clearance to deal with the classified documents at the center of the case.
Are they just trying to run out the clock? Are they -- is that -- I mean, is that reasonable that only two would have actually applied for it so far? Is that an attempt to delay the trial?
TIM PARLATORE, FOUNDER, PARLATORE LAW GROUP: Well, what we're talking about there is an electronic submission of an SF 86. I've done them before, it is a very long thing where you really have to give all of your addresses, all of your prior work experience, and basically anything that the government may want to look into to see if you have the requisite character to access classified documents. It can take a little while.
I mean, it has taken me a week to fill it out, but I don't think that that is necessarily, you know, the only short pole in the tent. What I was kind of surprised tonight with these motions is that they telegraphed right from the beginning that they want to push this out indefinitely. Yes, that to me was odd.
COOPER: Why? I mean, it is kind of surprising because essentially, they're saying, it's not just we want this date, it's we don't even want you to decide when there should be a date.
PARLATORE: Right. See, in federal criminal cases, the judge will set a date, and everybody knows that it's a fake date, because they have to set the date based on the 70-day clock, and then the parties can consent to pushing it out. But also that clock stops for any number of reasons.
Anytime you file a motion, that stops the clock. So you know, to at this stage kind of asked for the judge to hey, just throw away the clock is weird, because, you know, a federal case of this magnitude will take a couple of years, generally, even if it's not Donald Trump, even if it's not a politically sensitive case, it will take a couple of years.
But it will get pushed out in increments. You know, you'll push it out, you know, two years in three-month increments, you know, throughout multiple different scheduling orders. And then every time you file a motion, you'll hear they're going to file undoubtedly a motion to dismiss, that's going to stop the clock while that is all being litigated. They're going to file a motion to controvert the search warrant, that will stop the clock again.
And then once you start to get into, you know, late next year, then they can start talking about their schedule. But the thing is, all of the grounds that they're talking about with, it takes longer because of classified documents, a judge prefers to see that after you actually have some track record.
Instead of saying we think it's going to take a long time. If you wait a few months to say, hey, judge, this thing has taken a long time. This is why we need more time. That's where the judge has a much easier way of saying yes, I agree. Let's push it out.
COOPER: On the idea, though, that only two of the attorneys have applied for, you know, for security clearances for these documents. I mean, I would think this is probably a pretty big case for most of the attorneys working on this thing.
So I mean, if they wanted to move along quickly, I would think they would jump on those security clearances pretty fast, no? I mean, it seems like --
PARLATORE: Oh, sure.
COOPER: If you're trying to slow walk something, trying to slow walk at every step of the way, is the way to go about it.
PARLATORE: Well, the government has to initiate those by giving them a link. You know, not anybody can just log in and create an account for themselves. So one question I have is how many of these what they call the e-QIP SF 86 applications has the government even sent out? Have the other attorneys on the plaintiffs or the lawyers associated --
COOPER: Right. But the fact that Jack Smith is complaining about it -- the fact that Jack Smith is complaining about it in court documents would seem to indicate that they had probably sent out those links, if he is saying only two people responded.
PARLATORE: You would think, but they would say maybe that they sent out links to several different associates, only two of them responded. It's unclear whether they may have only sent it out to Mr. Blanche or Mr. Kise, and they were the only ones who have responded, I don't know.
COOPER: I was talking to Chris Christie last night, who is obviously an opponent of the former president. He's also a former US attorney.
He was saying that between now and December could be enough time for everyone to prepare for the trial. Do you agree with that? And if not, what is unreasonable about a December timeline?
PARLATORE: I think it's unreasonable based on the specific issues involved in this case, because there is going to be significant pretrial motion practice. On that alone, they're going to be filing motions related to discovery, related to dismissal, related to the search warrant.
And you know, I have tried federal cases very, very quickly, where December would very easily be a good timeline. But those are cases where there were no search warrants. And there were no other issues where we essentially just waived motions entirely, and said, let's go straight to a jury trial.
So I don't really see that being as viable in this particular case, based on the facts that are in it.
COOPER: I want some of the other folks on the panel. I know who have some questions -- Elliot.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I too have done SF 86s throughout or did them throughout my government career and I agree with your point. They are voluminous and you've got to pull every piece of information.
But you know, my question for you as someone who has represented the former president, you didn't quite answer this with, Anderson, do you think this is just a deliberate delay tactic? It's certainly should be a priority for an attorney to get briefed up and get ready and fill out their background checks in order to be able to zealously represent their client. [20:15:04]
And I guess just -- it is really a sincere question, do you think they really might just be trying to delay this and push this out, rather than, you know, well, it's a hard document to fill out and it takes time. I just don't think that's that convincing if that is the argument they are making.
PARLATORE: I think that the bigger indicator is the fact that they filed a motion asking for the trial to be discontinued without any date whatsoever. You know, that's the bigger indicator of ...
COOPER: That's the red flag for you?
PARLATORE: ... you know, what the strategy is? Yes.
PARLATORE: And, I mean, the truth is, if the two attorneys who have filled that out are the two that are actually going to be reviewing those documents, then that's fine.
I mean, you know, back with the old team, you know, Jim Trusty trustee and I, we both have security clearances, and you know, the amount of classified documents we're talking about here are not so voluminous that you have to have a huge team of associates, you know, 10 different people to look at them. Having two people look at them -- I don't see the SF 86 issue as being the primary indicator of delay.
WILLIAMS: Sure. Yes, I think what I'd say though, it's the kind of thing for which you don't really have a ton of recourse either if you're the government, or if you're the court. If they are just dragging their feet on basic things like filing their documents, those are the little things that an attorney can do to try to gum up or slow down a proceeding, and it seems, this is just speculation, it seems that that's the kind of thing that we'd see much more of over the course of this proceeding.
COOPER: One thing to watch for certainly, Alyssa.
PARLATORE: Well, I mean, a judge can certainly impose a deadline on it. A judge can say you've got to get this thing done by Friday.
GRIFFIN: And Tim, as you would --
PARLATORE: You know, I've seen that done.
GRIFFIN: As you would know, and Elliot and myself is the government counsel expedites security clearances.
GRIFFIN: So if the attorneys were willing to fill out the SF 86 process pretty quickly, I mean, the FBI oversees a large part of that, of course, the Department of Justice, but kind of to the point earlier, do you think that there is an argument to be made, that there's kind of a vital public interest in getting this on the road by December, by the end of the year, so it can be adjudicated ahead of the election?
PARLATORE: You know, you can look at it both ways on that. Ultimately, you know, the constitutional right to a speedy trial is a right that belongs to the defendant, not to the government. The defendant shall have a right to a speedy trial.
And, you know, one thing that I noticed in the government's filings was that they said that they've already turned over in that first group of discovery, all of the 3,500 material, which is the witness interviews, and the grand jury transcripts, which is something that's very unusual.
Usually, the government tries to hide that until the very last minute, they won't let you see it before motions. You get it really just a couple of days before jury selection.
So the fact that they turned that over, you know, within the first batch, which is a radical departure from how the US attorney's offices usually handle that. That is certainly an indicator to the defense that Jack Smith is trying to rush this to trial as quickly as possible by kind of removing any discovery issues like that.
So I can see, you know, from that indicator, you know, that Jack Smith is certainly trying to push this forward.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan?
PARLATORE: But, you know, ultimately, is it in the public's best interest when you have a politically sensitive case like this? It goes -- it goes both ways.
COLLINS: Well, I think some would argue, Tim --
PARLATORE: So, it depends on what the verdict is, I guess.
COLLINS: I think some would argue that voters should know that before they go and cast their ballots.
I think if you were looking at this, though, and their complaints were just about one thing, whether it's the time to get the security clearances, or asking for this indefinite trial date, but they're also making this argument, Trump's team is, that they can't get a fair jury before the 2024 election. I mean, do you really believe that?
PARLATORE: You know, I don't think that this motion is the best time to raise that. You know, that's something that they would really have to get a lot more evidence of, to properly brief under the appropriate rules.
And, you know, as you guys said earlier, this is Donald Trump, whether he's a candidate or a post-candidate, it is a very difficult and divisive subject. And so I think that they are going to have massive difficulties picking a jury in this. They should, you know, get a pool that's much larger than normal, and, you know, they're going to lose most of them right off the bat.
But that I think that that's kind of premature to be raising at this stage. You know, it's a little bit too premature.
COOPER: We should also point out, that is one of the things that Jack Smith said in documents stays, essentially that you know, yes, there will be special handling different sort of procedures, but that the courts are well equipped to do this even if it does require a little bit of extra work.
Tim Parlatore, appreciate you being on. Elliot Williams, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Kaitlan Collins as well.
As you can see of course, Kaitlan will be anchoring "The Source" at the top of the next hour at 9:00 PM.
Next for us tonight, more on the breaking news and how so much of the upcoming documents trials in the hands of Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee as you probably know who has already been overruled once in this matter. A former member of the federal bench joins us about the judge.
Later, more breaking news, House Republicans add restrictions on abortion access to a must pass defense bill. Where it leaves the legislation and where that leaves the military ahead, tonight.
COOPER: Returning to the breaking news on Special Counsel Jack Smith's court filing today, rebutting defense claims that the former president will simply be too busy campaigning or preparing for other court cases to stand trial in the classified documents matter.
It is now up to Judge Aileen Cannon, more in her track record so far from CNN's Jessica Schneider.
AILEEN CANNON, JUDGE OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: My sincere thanks to the president for the honor of his nomination.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Judge Cannon owes her nomination to the federal bench to Donald Trump, and now, she is front and center in the former president's legal fight siding with Trump's team to grant a special master to review the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago and decide what should be kept off limits from federal investigators, a decision which is now being appealed and has been criticized.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's really a very pro-plaintiff pro-Trump ruling in all respects.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Not only by political pundits, but also three judges on the 11th circuit court of appeals, two of them Trump appointees who described Cannon's initial ruling pausing DOJ's review of documents marked classified untenable.
The 11th circuit ultimately allowed the DOJ to continue its probe into the handling of classified material, while the special master reviewed thousands of other documents. Judge Cannon also ruled that Trump did not have to officially declare in court whether FBI agents planted items at Mar-a-Lago, something Trump and his allies have repeatedly said in public.
The special master had requested Trump prove his claims, but canon stepped in and stopped it.
Judge Cannon has not responded to CNN's request for comment on her decisions, but when asked in 2020 during her confirmation if she had any discussions about loyalty to President Trump, she unequivocally wrote, "No."
SCHNEIDER (on camera): Do you think she has any bias toward Trump?
JASON J. MENDRO, PARTNER, GIBSON DUNN: I don't think she has any bias at all.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Jason Mendro worked with Canon while both practiced at Gibson Dunn a decade ago.
MENDRO: We never talked about politics or judicial philosophy because it wasn't relevant to what we were doing. I still don't know anything about her politics today.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): So she wasn't overtly political.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Aileen Cannon was working as a federal prosecutor at the US attorney's office in Fort Pierce, Florida when Senator Marco Rubio's office first reached out about a possible nomination to the federal bench in June 2019.
Senator Rubio gave CNN this statement: "Judge Cannon is a great judge who I'm very proud to have enthusiastically supported. The attacks against her are just the latest example of hypocrisy from leftists and their media enablers who believe the only time it is acceptable to attack a judge is if that judge rules against what they want."
Rubio isn't the only Florida Republican Cannon is linked to, she met with counsel for Republican Senator Rick Scott just before she was nominated.
CANNON: My sincere thanks go to my home state senator.
SCHNEIDER: And record show she donated $100.00 to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in 2018, but she told senators, her judicial philosophy would be to follow the text and the history of the Constitution and she shared her personal story to stress her respect for the rule of law, talking about how her mother fled communist Cuba.
CANNON: At the age of seven, had to flee the repressive Castro regime in search of freedom and security. Thank you for teaching me about the blessings of this country and for teaching the importance of securing the rule of law for generations to come.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Joining us now is former federal judge, Nancy Gertner, who is currently a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School.
So Judge Gertner, who has the better argument for when the classified documents trial should start? Former President Trump's lawyers or the special counsel's office?
NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Well, as between one side asking for an indefinite postponement, and the other asking for a date certain, it seems to me it's clear that she has to set a date. The judge has to set a date, that's the date by which there will be a trial and the date by which all motions have to be filed.
I am a little surprised as your previous guests were asking for an indefinite postponement of a trial is really a transparent attempt to simply kick the can down the road after the election.
I mean, it couldn't be -- I mean, it's implicit -- it is explicit in what they said, and I can't imagine any judge allowing it under any set of circumstances.
COOPER: So what do you expect her to do?
GERTNER: Well, I've been wrong before, but I mean, I expect her to set a date certain. In other words, you pick a date, the date will be -- it could be the date that the government wants, for example, but that's only sort of a presumptive date. If there are more delays in getting classification issues addressed, then it would be kicked a little bit later. And if you know, the motions take more time, it could be kicked a little bit later.
There is a requirement of a speedy trial but there are many exceptions to that. If it's going to take time to select a jury, then she'll take the time.
What she doesn't do and no judge would do is to say, I'm just going to put this off. I'm just going to give you, you know, whatever. That's unlikely.
And I'm actually surprised that they even asked for that. It is putting, in one sense, the last thing you want is for this judge to agree, because that would be a transparent, you know, moment of bias in favor of, of President Trump, ex-President Trump.
COOPER: And if the Justice Department doesn't like the date that the judge has said, can they appeal to a higher court or is that the date? GERTNER: Well, if she sets a date, it's an unlikely appeal. It's a kind of administrative decision that a judge makes in a case that is not subject to appeal. If she says indefinite, even though that's well within her rights to set, you know, to administer the trial, that would be so extraordinary that I would imagine the government would appeal. I don't know what the Court of Appeals would do.
Typically, these things are not within the can of a Court of Appeals. Let me say, the other thing is that this also reflects is, if there are indictments coming out of January 6, one which is a far more complicated case, one can well imagine what that motion practice would look like.
GERTNER: That's a whole different issue and that suggests that if Jack Smith were listening to this broadcast, that he should be bringing those charges as soon as possible
COOPER: Nancy Gartner, appreciate your time. Thank you.
Up next, more breaking news, the latest from Capitol Hill over key legislation. The fund to military could now be in jeopardy after House conservatives moved to block abortion access for servicemembers. Details on that and what Democrats are bound to do about it, coming up.
COOPER: There is more breaking news tonight on a bill that involves critical defense spending to ensure America's troops have the training, equipment and resources they need. It's called the National Defense Authorization Act, usually goes through with no problem.
But that's in doubt tonight because House Conservatives have pushed Republicans to support an amendment that would ban the Pentagon from covering travel expenses for service members who go out of state for abortions.
The vote was 221 to 213, mostly along party lines. Democrats say it could threaten the bill's final passage. CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now from Capitol Hill. Where do things stand right now?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, the bill is in peril, and that is because, as you mentioned in the previous vote series, the House adopted a number of controversial amendments that seriously jeopardize the bill's chances for passage because Democrats have said they're not going to vote for the final bill.
Those amendments include an amendment that would ban the Pentagon from being able to cover travel costs for those seeking out of state abortions and also an amendment that would ban the Pentagon from covering certain medical services for transgender troops.
So what that means is that all Democrats, or at least most of Democrats, are now going to vote against what has been a historically bipartisan bill on Capitol Hill. And it's unclear whether Speaker Kevin McCarthy even has enough Republican support to get this thing over the finish line.
And that's because some hardline conservatives are threatening to vote against the measure despite the fact that they got their desired amendment vote. So it is really going to be a big test of Kevin McCarthy's speakership tomorrow when they vote on final passage.
COOPER: Separately, not entirely unrelated, Senator Tommy Tuberville spoke with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today about his hold on military nominations over this very issue. How'd that go?
ZANONA: Well, still no signs of budging from Senator Tuberville. As a reminder, he wants the Pentagon to either roll back that travel abortion policy or for the Senate to hold its own vote on the issue. He did connect by phone, as you mentioned, with Secretary Austin earlier today.
Tuberville's office described that call as cordial and productive, and they agreed to continue speaking next week. And a defense official said the call was brief, but that the secretary reiterated that this blockade is continuing to harm military readiness.
Meanwhile, President Biden also weighed in earlier today, but Tuberville remains unmoved. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's jeopardizing U.S. security by what he's doing. I expect the Republican Party to standup, stand up, and do something about it.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He said that this way this ends is Republicans need to put pressure on you to relax.
SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R), ALABAMA: That's not going to happen. You know, I've already told you that's not going to happen. I'm doing it for -- not for the Republican Party. I'm doing it for Republicans and Democrats and citizens of this country.
LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a national security issue. It's a readiness issue, and we shouldn't kid ourselves. And I think any member of the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: And some of Tuberville's Republican colleagues have tried to work behind the scenes with the Senator to discuss potential alternatives, potential off ramps, but so far to no avail. Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Perspective now from Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton. He's a retired Marine who served four tours in Iraq and serves on the House Armed Services Committee. We spoke just before air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Congressman Moulton, I appreciate you being here. Now that the House has passed this amendment banning the Pentagon from covering travel costs for out of state abortions, will you vote in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act?
REP. SETH MOULTON (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: No, I will not. And, Anderson, I'm a proud Marine combat veteran. I look forward to voting for the NDAA than the defense bill every single year, and I cannot support this legislation.
COOPER: Can you explain your reasoning? Because, obviously, as a marine vet you know the importance of having a bill like this.
MOULTON: I usually explain that I support the defense bill because I support the troops, but this bill does not support our troops. One out of five service members in the United States is a woman. About 40 percent of those don't have full access to the health care that they need. And now, these Republicans are in the House are saying, you can't even travel to get the healthcare that you need in an emergency.
I mean, this is making women into second class citizens. It's taking us back 50 years. It's making women into political pawns so that Republicans can advance their extremist agenda.
COOPER: I heard some Republican members of the House today saying, well, you know, women's service members can pay for it on their own dime.
MOULTON: Do we honestly think that women service members or any service members are making enough to be paying for their own healthcare or even the extensive travel expenses that it might take to get from a state that does not allow these healthcare services to a state that does?
I mean, way up in Massachusetts, we're getting a lot of influx of people from states far away who can't get basic health care. But Massachusetts is pretty far from many of the bases that have these prohibitions.
COOPER: There's also the concern about allowing women's service members time off after having an abortion if they have in order to recover.
MOULTON: I mean, again, as a male in the military, if I was injured, if I had a medical procedure, I would get time to recover. But we're saying women, you don't count. That's what this bill says. And that's why, sadly, so many of us are going to vote against it.
COOPER: Republicans of the past have said that Democrats are pushing a social agenda in places like the military. Does it seem to you now that that's what Republicans are doing here?
MOULTON: Of course. And they're taking us backwards, Anderson. You know, this wasn't a problem last year, the year before, the year before that. In fact, for over 60 years, this has been a bipartisan bill. Strong majorities of Republicans and Democrats have voted to support our troops. But that's the problem, is this bill fundamentally doesn't support our troops, and that's why I'm voting against it.
COOPER: So what happens to the funding? I mean, what happens?
MOULTON: Well, what's going to happen with this bill is if Republicans manage to somehow get it out of the House with very few, if any, Democratic votes, a totally partisan bill, it still has to go to the Senate and then be reconciled with the Senate bill.
So those of us who are appointed to the Conference Committee, as I expect to be, will fight very hard to remove this provision, and we don't expect it to be supported in the Senate. But it is such an insult, it's such an insult to every woman who's risking her life for the country tonight to have this even get out of the House of Representatives.
COOPER: I want to ask you also about Senator Tuberville's hold on military nominations, which, as you know, is because of his opposition to Pentagon policy on travel for -- paying for travel to states to get an abortion. We heard President Biden today call the senator's hold irresponsible. He said it was jeopardizing U.S. security. Is it that serious?
MOULTON: I would say it's more serious than that. One of the most brilliant things that we helped the Ukrainians do in the early stages of the war that set the Russians back so much is target their generals, take out their generals so that inexperienced deputies had to take over. And that's part of why Russian forces were in such disarray.
But our generals aren't being taken out by the Russians or the Chinese. They're being taken out by a United States senator. A senator who thinks that his political agenda is more important than the health care of every woman who puts on the uniform. And by the way, a senator who has never served the country himself.
COOPER: The senator is clearly not budging at this point. Is there an appetite among Republicans, do you think, to stand up to him on this? Senator McConnell has said something, but not a lot of others have.
MOULTON: I mean, there's just not much courage amongst Republicans on Capitol Hill, period, right now. So many of them know that he is wrong and behind the scenes to cry what he is doing, and yet they're not willing to go out in public. And just say what I am saying. I mean, just how dangerous this is for our national security.
I'm a Marine veteran. We've had a commandant for over 164 years all the time. This is the first time in over 160 years that we haven't had a commandant. I mean, it's just criminal. It's dangerous for our national security. It's an insult to every woman who puts on the uniform. And it sends a message to Russia and to China that we are more interested in political squabbles back home than standing up for the freedom and values that our troops fight for every day.
COOPER: He says nobody's called him. I know the Defense Secretary Austin spoke to Senator Tuberville today. What can make this change because he has the power to keep this on hold?
MOULTON: Well, I mean, what we need is Republicans to stand up to him and to tell him how dangerous this truly is. And I'm certainly encouraging my Republican friends behind the scenes to do that.
COOPER: Congressman Moulton, thank you.
MOULTON: Thank you, Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Next tonight, more on the apparent assassination of a former Russian sub-commander and the string of top Russian ground commanders, senior generals who've now been killed, fired, or simply disappeared.
And later, why the week long manhunt for an escape killer just got that much more dangerous.
COOPER: When asked in Helsinki today about Ukraine's path to NATO membership and how it might affect Vladimir Putin's willingness to keep fighting, President Biden said that Putin has, quote, "already lost the war".
Now, whether that assessment proves right, Russia is facing significant challenges as it tries to hold Ukrainian territory that it grabbed in the invasion, the most visible being a recent string of fired, killed or missing generals and warlords.
General Sergey Surovikin, not seen in public since the Wagner rebellion last month. One Russian lawmaker saying he's, quote, "resting." General Ivan Popov was fired. Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has also not been seen since the rebellion. Another general was killed in Ukrainian missile strike. And now, of course, there's the former sub-commander gunned down earlier this week after possibly being tracked on his running app.
For more on what we know and what remains a mystery, here's CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: As Russia paraded Thursday the surrender of heavy weapons from the failed Wagner rebellion to the regular army, effectively Russia disarming itself. Fresh criticisms of the war's disaster were coming from inside the top brass against itself, echoing the same complaints made by the perhaps vanished and vanquished Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
A bombshell audio message from a top commander in the south, the latest tear in the fabric of Putin's command.
IVAN POPOV, RUSSIAN GENERAL (through translation): I, in the name of you, in the name of all our fallen combat friends, had no right to lie. Therefore, I outlined all the problems today in the army. The lack of counterbattery and combat, of artillery reconnaissance stations, and the mass deaths and injuries of our brothers from enemy artillery.
I also raised a number of other problems and expressed it all at the highest level frankly and extremely harshly. Our senior commander hit us from the rear, treacherously and vilely decapitating the army at the most difficult and tense moment.
WALSH (voice-over): He likely meant this man, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who ordered Popov sacked shortly after he expressed dissent. Shoigu was doing his usual tour of factory Thursday, as Kremlin sources insisted the audio was private, meant for soldiers ears only, as if that somehow made it OK.
Another surreal type of disaster management on display Thursday as Russia tried to show control after the assassination of another top commander while out jogging deep inside Russia. Here his alleged assassin. Russia's claims he's the killer and confessed hard to verify showed how he purportedly carried out the killing.
In the gilded servitude of Putin's Russia, none of this, the hitmen in Russian parks, or the commanders fired for decrying frontline incompetence is ever meant to happen. But still it is daily, and faster, perhaps, than he can process or adapt.
COOPER: Nick, the southern front has seen some of the heaviest fighting since Ukraine began as counteroffensive. Is this the worst place for Russia to be experiencing this kind of upheaval in its senior ranks?
PATON: Yes. Frankly, you wouldn't want this kind of turmoil when you weren't currently facing the brunt of Ukraine's counteroffensive and all their new NATO supplied weapon. That's exactly what's happening right now. And this dismissal of Popov occurred, it seems, after the death of another key commander in the south, Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov, killed, it seems, by a missile on the coastline of the south as well, before the elected decision to remove Popov from his post for dissent.
So extraordinary turmoil in that vital southern frontline as well matched, I think it's fair to say, by clearly the recriminations floating around Putin's inner circle, particularly amongst the Russian top brass after that failed armed rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group. The fallout from which we're still seeing utterly startling, frankly, at the best of times, potentially critically lethal for Russia's bid to defend itself at this particularly acute moment in the war. Anderson?
COOPER: Yes. Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up, the Secret Service says case closed on the packet of cocaine found at the White House. The question is why? And what police have found in the search for an escape Pennsylvania inmate.
COOPER: The investigation to how a small bag of cocaine ended up in the White House has concluded. The Secret Service saying that it's unable to identify a suspect due to a lack of physical evidence. Not only that, they are unable to determine, they say, the day that the cocaine was brought inside the West Wing.
In addition to the cocaine, a Secret Service spokesman also says that, quote, "small amounts of marijuana were found at the White House on two occasions last year". No arrests were made in those cases either.
Jeremy Diamond joins us tonight from the White House. So what is the Secret Service explanation for not being able to find a suspect?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they conducted an investigation that lasted over 10 days. They combed through hundreds of potential visitors to the White House using visitor logs, using surveillance footage, and ultimately, they were not able to identify a suspect.
That's partly because, looking at the baggie of cocaine that they found, they were unable to pull any DNA evidence from it. There was insufficient DNA on that baggie. They weren't able to pull fingerprints.
But really the crux of this, Anderson, is the fact that the surveillance cameras apparently there was a blind spot exactly where this cocaine was found, and that was in these cubbies that are right at the entrance to the West Wing, where visitors to the West Wing are asked to place their phones before going on these tours.
Apparently, a camera was not directly trained on those cubbies. And so, ultimately, the Secret Service was not only unable to identify a suspect, they weren't even able, according to a source I spoke with, to identify exactly when this baggie was actually placed there. And so they had a pool of hundreds of people over the last few days before this baggie was actually found.
So the response on Capitol Hill, Anderson, the Secret Service briefed lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee today, and Republican lawmakers, of course, were incensed about this. They said that the Secret Service should have gotten to the bottom of this. They said in one of the most surveilled buildings in the world, they find it hard to believe that they weren't able to figure this out. Anderson, the White House, for their part, they've been briefed by the Secret Service on this investigation, and they say that they're reviewing the findings. Anderson?
COOPER: Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.
Now to Pennsylvania, where police today looking for an escaped inmate have shared a photo of a suspected campsite and supplies investigators believe were used by him. They described the missing inmate as, quote, "a self-taught survivalist with military reserve training".
Authorities are also reiterating they believe he now has a firearm. Brian Todd joins us from Warren, Pennsylvania. Where does the investigation stand tonight?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, that photograph that you mentioned is an important new clue that we just got today in this investigation. The photograph provided to us by investigators showing a bag, a dark colored tarp that they say were partially hidden underneath a log.
Here is Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police talking to us earlier about the contents of the bag and where this all was found.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: This particular bag was wrapped in a dark colored tarp and partially concealed under a log. This has been found in the general area of the city of Warren, outside of the city, in the wooded area, but not far. It contained clothing, some food, and some other materials that someone might need if they were trying to exist in the woods. Not in this particular bag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Lieutenant Colonel Bivens says he's putting that out because he knows a lot of hikers and bikers are going to be out this weekend. He wants people to look for stashes like that one. Also, Bivens had a message directly for this fugitive, Michael Burham, saying, quote, "You need to surrender. Don't do anything that gets anyone else hurt. Don't get yourself hurt. We are going to capture you," end quote.
Anderson, he is expressing more confidence than he ever has that this fugitive is going to be caught.
COOPER: Brian Todd, thanks.
If you drink diet soda, you'll want to watch the next story as the World Health Organization issues a potentially concerning health update about an artificial sweetener found in them. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Some potentially -- and I emphasize potentially -- worrying news for diet soda drinkers. For the first time, the World Health Organization has determined that the popular artificial sweetener aspartame should be put in what it describes as the, quote, "possibly carcinogenic to humans category".
Aspartame is, of course, found in many products ranging from sugar free gum to diet sodas. The label does not mean diet soda necessarily causes cancer. The science in this case is not conclusive, we're told, as it is with the harmful effects of tobacco.
In fact, based on the WHO's guidelines, someone weighing 184 pounds could safely drink up to 33 cans of diet soda a day and stay within the recommended limits for aspartame.
The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.