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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Judge Not Ready to Accept Hunter Biden's Plea Deal; McConnell Says He Is Fine After Freezing During News Conference; Giuliani Concedes He Defamed Two Georgia Election Workers; Lawmakers, Retired Military Veterans Push For More Government Transparency On UFOs; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Moving Convention Out Of Florida Following Approval Of Controversial Education Curriculum; Singer Sinead O'Connor Dies At 56. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 26, 2023 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: That iconic video sent her career to new heights, but fame did not grant her immunity from suffering.

She was open about struggles with addiction and mental health. She was distraught after the death of her 17-year-old son by suicide last year. No cause of death is publicly known tonight.

Thanks for joining us, AC 360 begins now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360: Hunter Biden's plea deal on pause. The judge apparently unhappy with answers she heard about what it could mean for potential future prosecutions.

Startling testimony today about UFOs or UAPs as the military now calls them. I'll talk to a Navy pilot about her encounter off San Diego that no one can explain.

Also tonight, Ron DeSantis defends his state's new curriculum on slavery, and filmmaker Spike Lee joins me with his take.

Good evening.

Hunter Biden went to court today with a plea deal already agreed upon between his attorneys and prosecutors. If all went according to the agreement, he would be the first son of a sitting US president to walk into a federal courthouse and plead guilty to a crime. He would admit to two misdemeanors for not paying federal taxes on time in two calendar years and he would enter into a deal that would resolve a felony gun charge if he abided by the deal's conditions.

Now Republicans have characterize his plea as a sweetheart deal and even tried to block it, once again, trying to tie Hunter Biden's dealings to his father.

Today, however, in court, all that was needed was the approval of the judge for the deal, and that is where everything began to unravel.

Once the federal judge began to question the deal's provisions, including one about immunity from future prosecutions.

Kara Scannell joins us now outside the courthouse with more about what happened. So explain why the judge rejected the deal.


So the judge really focused on both components of these deals. The first one is tax misdemeanor plea. She had asked what the exact scope of this would include? What kind of immunity would Hunter Biden get? And she kept peppering the prosecutors saying, you know, would this exclude him from being prosecuted for maybe not registering as a foreign agent because of his business deals overseas, and the prosecutor said, no, that would not cover that.

Now that had Hunter Biden's team kind of caught off guard. They said they thought that that would be the deal. So then initially, both sides, the prosecution, and Biden's team called it off. But then Biden's lawyers asked for more time to try to work something out.

They both came back and Biden's lawyers said they would agree to the terms the prosecution laid out. It looked like things were back on track, but then they got to this gun diversion charge and the judge raised questions about the constitutionality of that charge, saying she wasn't prepared at the time to sign off on that and she wanted to hear more from both sides in terms of legal arguments, both on the tax misdemeanor charge, one of them to firm that up, as well as this question of a gun diversion charge -- Anderson.

COOPER: So what happens now?

SCANNELL: So now, the judge has asked the sides for briefing. She is giving them 30 days to come back with a firmer deal as well as their legal arguments on why this would be constitutional.

The judge raising questions on the gun diversion of why a given agreement between the prosecution and the defendant would involve a federal judge saying it raised questions about separation of powers. She said she wasn't sure it was constitutional, and she wasn't prepared to sign off on it on the fly.

COOPER: And what was Hunter Biden's demeanor during all of this?

SCANNELL: So when he first came into court, everything -- they all thought things are going according to plan. He even went over and shook the hands of the prosecutors, but when these frictions began to emerge, and it was unclear if this deal was going to go through, he started to look more anxious, more worried about whether this was going to pan out and he was huddling with his attorneys.

I mean, at times, one of my colleagues there had a close look and could see that Hunter Biden's brow was furrowed, really unclear where this was going to end up. And of course, the end of the day, he pleaded not guilty to these charges instead of hoping to walk out of there ending a five-year investigation.

COOPER: What more do we know about the judge in the case?

SCANNELL: So this judge is Maryellen Noreika. She was appointed by Trump, but unanimously confirmed by the Senate. She has made political donations to both parties.

And before she was appointed to the bench, and I think it was 2018, she was a patent lawyer here in Delaware. So she has had a number of cases under her belt for the past several years on the bench, and someone that you know, was supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

So this of course, though, is under a much bigger spotlight and she was telling the Hunter Biden even she was sorry, she knew that he wanted to resolve this today, but she said she wanted to make sure that his rights were protected and he understood the terms of the deal that he was pleading to and to make sure that it was constitutional -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kara Scannell, appreciate it.

I'm joined now by our senior data reporter, Harry Enten and CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, former assistant us attorney. He is the author of "Untouchable: Powerful People Get Away With It."

Also with us tonight, CNN political commentator, Alyssa Farah Griffin, White House communications director under the former president.

Elie, did the judge make a right call here?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think she did, Anderson, and I think it's really important to understand what the judge did and did not decide today.

The judge did not decide this is a good deal, bad deal, fair deal, unfair deal. The only thing that the judge decided is this is not a deal. The parties do not have a precise agreement on what the contours are here, and that is the job of a judge because you have to make sure if a defendant is going to give up his constitutional right, his right to trial, his right to a jury. He understands exactly what he is getting.

COOPER: How can they have not already figured out what deal allegedly they have?

HONIG: Can I just offer an amen to that? I mean, I'm sitting here as the news is breaking, saying how on God's green earth could the prosecution and the defense go in there not having every single detail of this deal locked down, and the thing they differed on is the most important thing, which is when he pleads to the tax and the gun and the drugs, which is not part of the deal, but what else has he covered for?

And does it cover this whole unknown universe of other charges? They didn't have an answer and the judge was right to say I'm not taking this deal.

COOPER: Alyssa, I want to talk about the Republican response. Chris Christie said he wants a new special counsel to oversee any and all investigations into President Biden and his family.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley said this. We are going to play.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): The DOJ's own guidelines say that you can't offer this deal. So it's just another example, I think of the sort of sweetheart deal that the Biden seem to get, but it is also just the tip of the iceberg.


ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think today shows that the justice system is working. It did seem like too sweeping of a deal if it would have potentially protected him from further investigations that could come up in the future and this seems to be something much more narrow, specifically focused on the tax crimes.

My caution to Republicans is this, this overreaching on Hunter Biden. At the end of the day, this is the president's son, this is not an elected or appointed official and I think in the eyes of the voter, it would be a strategic miscalculation to try to put this on par with, of course, who will likely be the Republican frontrunner assumed to be thrice indicted former president.

So I think you're going to hear a lot of scuttlebutt on the House side of Capitol Hill suggesting this may, you know, lead to impeachment inquiries into Joe Biden. That would be a strategic mistake for a number of reasons.

I don't think it has the votes in the House either, and it would put moderate House members in a very tough place.

COOPER: Harry, what does polling show about what Americans think about the deal the DOJ allegedly had with Hunter Biden?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, they thought that the Justice Department was laying the kid gloves on him, right? Most Americans believe that, in fact, they were not tough enough on Hunter Biden and we know that Republicans overwhelmingly believe that north of 80 percent of them did.

So, it's not surprising, right, that Republicans in the House and Republicans, generally speaking have been saying, Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden, it's so unfair, so unfair, so unfair. So generally speaking, I think that Americans will be pleased that this plea deal, at least for now is on pause.

COOPER: And what do polls show about Hunter Biden's legal troubles impacting potentially the president?

ENTEN: Yes, so I think Alyssa is a hundred percent correct on this. What we see is that most Americans do not believe that Joe Biden is connected to Hunter Biden in any way, when it comes to what he was, in fact, going to plead guilty to.

A majority believe that the charges were independent of Biden's service as the president of the United States. Those that did believe that in fact, it was connected to Biden were overwhelmingly Republican.

And more than that, as we look forward to 2024, what we see is that most Americans say that this will have no impact on their vote at all, and the Americans who do say that are again, Republicans, less likely, they said that they would vote for Joe Biden, but the truth is, they weren't voting for Joe Biden anyway.

So I just -- you know, this is something Republicans harp on, but I don't believe it's a smart political move to try and connect it back to the current president.

COOPER: Alyssa, I mean, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is considering whether or not to pursue an impeachment, do you think this does impact the presidential race at this stage?

GRIFFIN; I don't think so. I think that Republicans feel a certain way and very strongly about Hunter Biden, and let's be clear, I mean, dating back to the Obama years when he was vice president, Hunter was a known liability.

I think that there are certainly credible allegations of trading off of his name, influence peddling, but he right now is the first son of a president to be indicted on federal charges. I think to make that connection to Joe Biden is a much harder reach to do.

I think the House is going to struggle to do it and I do think it ends up being a distraction at a time when the best thing they can be talking about is the things Republicans do well on the economy jobs.

COOPER: And so, Elie, what does -- what are Hunter's Biden's options? What are prosecutors' options now?

HONIG: Well, option one, they go back to the drawing board. They get together on an actual agreement, which if I was in Hunter Biden's shoes, I would be very eager to do because option two is a trial on the tax charges, on the gun charge and potentially on that very broad category of whatever else.

There is a lot of risk for him in that he has every incentive to get back with DOJ and work this thing out.

COOPER: All right, thanks, everybody.

A scary moment on Capitol Hill today. We are going to tell you about Senator Mitch McConnell who says he is fine after he froze during his weekly news conference and was led away by another Republican senator. Here's what happened.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We're on a path to finishing the NDAA this week. It has been good by bars cooperation. In a string of --

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Hey, Mitch. Anything else you want to say? Or should we just go back to your office?


BARRASSO: You want to say anything else to the press?


COOPER: We are joined now by our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju who was there and later spoke with Senator McConnell. Also, with us tonight, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Manu, what happened?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it started off like any usual McConnell press conference, which he has every week. He made opening remarks, talked about what was happening in the Senate and that's when he froze, at that moment, causing quite a bit of alarm.

And now also reminding people about the episode that he had earlier this year in which he fell, hit his head, had a concussion, and broke some ribs, and also raising concerns about his health.

His age is 81 years old, and these questions are persistent, particularly after that recent episode that happened earlier this spring in which he was hospitalized and came back later.

I asked him about that, whether or not this had anything to do with the concussion that he endured from that fall, and he contended, he's just fine.


RAJU: Could you address what happened here at the start of the press conference? And was it related to your injury from earlier this year when you suffered a concussion? Is that --

MCCONNELL: No. I'm fine.

RAJU: You're fine and you're fully able to do your job.



RAJU: So the leader came out of his office tonight and told reporters that in fact, he got a phone call from the president of the United States himself, Joe Biden called him and again, McConnell reiterated that he is "fine."

He said: "The president called to check on me. I told him, I got sandbagged." But McConnell did not respond to when he was asked was what exactly happened there? Why did he freeze? What was the underlying cause? He would not respond to questions about all of that, which is one of the big questions here and also uncertain here, too, Anderson, whether he in fact, did get checked out by a doctor in the aftermath of this episode.

COOPER: You're saying is not certain if he did.

RAJU: It's not certain. They have not told us if he did one way or the other.

COOPER: Sanjay, I mean, when you watch this moment, what do you see?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's obviously concerning. I mean, when we looked at the tape, I mean, just to give you some frame of reference, it was just about 23 seconds. This happened just before two o'clock this afternoon, for 23 seconds before someone asked how he is doing.

Thirty seconds before he then leaves the lectern there, and I think it was about 12 minutes later when Manu asks him the question about how he is feeling.

So you know, he recovers fairly quickly. That's a long time when he is essentially frozen, unable to speak. He's moving his arms and his legs fine afterwards, so that makes something like a stroke or some sort of TIA less likely, although, you know, I think that's something -- that's the reason he should get checked out.

Could this have been a mini seizure? A TIA. Or a I mean, a small seizure.

COOPER: Sorry. What does TIA stands for?

GUPTA: TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack, that's a mini stroke or it could have been a sort of mini seizure. But on the other hand, common things being common, someone who is dehydrated, someone who has had a medication interaction, someone who's feeling under the weather, might have symptoms like this as well.

Manu mentioned this, but he had that fall back in March, and it was significant. I mean, he had a concussion, he broke a rib. He was, you know, needing care for several days after that.

Sometimes after an injury like that to the brain, a concussion is essentially a mild brain injury. People can have seizures, you know, even months later.

So he needs to get checked out. I mean, just to make sure that you can rule out some of the bad possible things here.

COOPER: Manu, what has the reaction been on Capitol Hill?

RAJU: Well, there's been a lot of concern from his colleagues and a lot of outreach from some of his fellow Republicans, Democrats alike. There are also questions about his own future.

He is not up for re-election again, Anderson, until 2026. He has not said whether he will actually serve out his term. I asked him that just a couple of months ago, whether he will serve out his term, he would not answer that question directly, even though he's previously said that he would.

It's also uncertain whether he had run for leader again in the new Congress, all big questions that McConnell here is facing. But his aides said that afterwards, the reason why he had that moment was that he felt lightheaded, they say, and he came back and he did answer questions at that press conference on a handful of issues -- Anderson.


COOPER: Sanjay, I mean, you mentioned the health scare earlier. Do we know fully what happened during that health scare?

GUPTA: Well, it sounds like you know, it was a fall and a pretty significant one, had a concussion, had a rib fracture. He was in the hospital. He was subsequently discharged from the hospital several days later.

He's had these episodes. I think Manu has talked about where he's had trouble answering questions, since that point of time. I don't know how much he's continued to be evaluated since March since that initial fall.

But again, someone who is of this age has a fall like this, has a traumatic brain injury, even if it's mild, should be evaluated after an episode like this.

I'm sure his doctors were probably wanting to watch this sort of video to see if they could make sense of it and correlate it with his medical history.

But this was a neurological event. It lasted quite some time. It did -- he did improve, he did resolve the symptoms, but in order to try and get some sense of what it was and to try and reduce the chance of it happening again, he has got to get checked out.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, appreciate it. Manu, thanks, and we certainly wish him and his family the best.

Still to come, Rudy Giuliani makes an admission sort of, about the lies he and the former president spread about two Georgia poll workers. The attorney for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, join us next.

Later, my conversation with a retired Navy pilot about her unexplained encounter with what are commonly called UFOs, as well as the latest in a congressional hearing today, focused in part on whether the government has been too secretive about these events. There was also discussion about alien bodies, details ahead.



COOPER: The former president's longtime lawyer, Rudy Giuliani has made quite an admission conceding in a lawsuit brought against him that he did in fact make defamatory statements about two Georgia poll workers who found themselves at the center of a baseless 2020 election conspiracy, however, and of course, there is a however, Giuliani appears to have narrowly defined this quasi admission.

We'll get to that in a moment, but first a reminder of what Giuliani said and what the former president said after the election about Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: How can they say there is no fraud? Look at that woman what could have taken those ballots out? Look at them scurrying around with the ballots.

Nobody in the room hiding around. They look like this -- they look like they're passing out dope, not just the ballots.

It is quite clear they are stealing votes.


COOPER: This guy.

These lies and defamatory statements is documented in the lawsuit brought by Freeman and Moss were repeated again and again even after Georgia officials investigated and found his conspiracy theories and his racist statements without any merit.

That did not stop the then president in his infamous call with the Georgia secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger from lying about Ruby Freeman and mentioning her at least by our count 19 times in that one- hour-and-two-minute phone call.

Here is a sample of what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... 18,000 voters having to do with the Ruby Freeman that's -- she's a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler, Ruby Freeman.

Even the phony ballots of a Ruby Freeman, known scammer. You know the internet? You know what was trending on the internet? Where's Ruby? Because they thought she would be in jail. Where's Ruby?

I'll take on anybody you want with regard to Ruby Freeman and her lovely daughter, a very lovely young lady, I'm sure. Ruby Freeman, one thing, I forgot to say which was the most important, do you know that every single ballot she did went to Biden. Did you ever check the ballots that were scammed by Ruby Freeman known -- a known political operative balloteer?


COOPER: Now, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss testified about the impact these lies and slurs had on their lives at the House Select Committee on January 6 last year.


RUBY FREEMAN, GEORGIA 2020 POLL WORKER: There is no way I feel safe, nowhere.

Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one.

But he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stand up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.

SHAYE MOSS, GEORGIA 2020 POLL WORKER: Yes, a lot of threats, wishing death upon me. Telling me that, you know, I'll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, Be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Were a lot of these threats and vile comments racist in nature?

MOSS: A lot of them were racist. A lot of them are just hateful.


COOPER: I'm joined now by Meryl Governski, an attorney for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.

I appreciate you being with us.

What is your reaction to this latest filing from Mr. Giuliani?

MERYL GOVERNSKI, ATTORNEY FOR RUBY FREEMAN AND SHAYE MOSS: Happy to be here, Anderson. Thanks for having me.

Well, you know, I feel the way my clients feel, which is they are pleased that Mr. Giuliani has essentially admitted what they have known to be true the entire time, which is all of the statements and accusations about them, accusing them of horrible crimes, are not true, that there was never any truth to them.

And so I feel, as do Ruby and Shaye, pleased that he has admitted that they were false.

COOPER: Is it clear to you exactly what Mr. Giuliani is conceding to? Because he maintains that his statements about voter fraud or protecting speech and denies that his statements damaged your clients? I mean, does that apply to his statement about them, you know, looking like people doing drugs, which is just such a bizarre thing to say?


GOVERNSKI: Well, I will go by what Mr. Giuliani said in his filings with the court. So, you know, the judicial process, the way civil litigation works is plaintiffs file a complaint, which includes several allegations.

In our complaint, we alleged that Mr. Giuliani made false and defamatory statements about our clients, including that they, you know, hid illegal ballots and suitcases under the table to count fraudulent ballots, that they excluded election observers under false pretenses, that they passed USB drives -- all of these statements were false -- and those are the factual allegations of our complaint.

Meanwhile, Mr. Giuliani in the motion that he filed last night, or the filing that he filed last night, said: "Giuliani stipulates to all pertinent facts plaintiffs would need from him to establish liability."

So to us, that is pretty cut and dry that he has stipulated to all of the factual allegations in the complaint, while potentially reserving some right to make certain legal arguments.

But no, the facts are what they are, and we view this as a concession, which is what Mr. Giuliani stated in his filing with the court.

COOPER: And what happens next? I mean, what is the scope of this lawsuit?

GOVERNSKI: So one of the elements of the stipulation were that Mr. Giuliani admitted that the statements were defamatory, per se, which means that the statements were essentially so bad, accusing our clients of committing crimes, that it is presumed that they were harmed.

So in our view, at this point, we will have the opportunity to present to a jury the extent of the harm, and the quantification of that harm.

And, you know, you played the incredibly brave testimony of our clients during the January 6 committee hearings, and I don't see how you can listen to them explain how these lies destroyed their lives, and credibly say that they were not severely harmed by this campaign of defamation for political motives.

So we look forward to being able to explain to the jury the extents of that harm and why they deserve to be compensated for it.

We'll continue to follow it. Meryl Governski, thank you so much.

GOVERNSKI: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Coming up next, startling testimony on Capitol Hill today from three military veterans about UAP sightings or unidentified aerial phenomenon and the potential threat to our national security.

I will also talk to a retired US Navy pilot, who saw this UAP nearly 20 years ago and is still waiting for answers about what it may have been.

And later, filmmaker, Spike Lee on Florida's new plan to teach middle school students what new guidelines called the personal benefits of slavery for the enslaved.



COOPER: On Capitol Hill today, a bipartisan call for more government transparency on UFOs or as the military calls them, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, UAPs. Three retired military veterans testified before a House Subcommittee. One was asked about alien bodies. Two others talked about seeing UAPs. In a moment, I'll talk with a retired navy pilot who saw with her own eyes what one UAP was capable of off the Coast of San Diego years ago.

First, more on today's testimony from CNN's Oren Liebermann.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a fucking drone, bro. There's a whole fleet of them. Look on the SA.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The videos of mysterious airborne objects have captured the public's attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going against the wind. The wind is 120 miles to the west. Look at that thing, dude.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): And perhaps it's imagination.

REP. GLENN GROTHMAN, (R-WI) CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY: There lies a pressing demand for government transparency and accountability that cannot be overlooked.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): As Wednesday's hearing focused on the threat they may pose and whether the government has been too secretive about what it knows.

RYAN GRAVES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICANS FOR SAFE AEROSPACE: If UAP are foreign drones, it is an urgent national security problem. If it is something else, it is an issue for science. In either case, unidentified objects are concern for flight safety.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): David Grusch, a former Military Intel Officer, claimed the U.S. had alien bodies and spacecraft, a statement for which he

admitted he has second-hand info and no proof.

REP. ERIC BURLISON, (R-MO) OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY: You've said that U.S. has intact spacecraft. You said that the government has alien bodies.

DAVID GRUSCH, FORMER AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I have to be careful to describe what I've seen firsthand and not in this environment.

BURLISON: Have you seen any of the bodies?

GRUSCH: That's something I've not witnessed myself.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The House Oversight Hearing was a rare moment of bipartisanship in a sharply divided Congress.

REP. TIM BURCHETT, (R-TN) OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY: We're not bringing little green men or flying saucers into the hearing. We're just going to get to the facts.

REP. ROBERT GARCIA, (D-CA) OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY: We should encourage more reporting, not less, on UAPs. The more we understand, the safer we will be.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): One of the witnesses was former Navy Pilot Ryan Graves, who now runs Americans for Safe Aerospace, a group that encourages pilots to report incidents of UFOs, officially known as UAP, Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. The vast majority of sightings he says are never reported.

GRAVES: This is an approximation based off of my personal experience, speaking with a number of pilots, but I would estimate we're somewhere near 5 percent reporting perhaps.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The three witnesses, all retired military veterans, warned the threat these objects posed is real.

REP. ANDY OGLES, (R-TN) OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY: Based off of your own experience or the data that you've been privy to, is there any indication that these UAPs could be essentially collecting reconnaissance information? Mr. Graves?


OGLES: Mr. Grusch?

GRUSCH: Fair assessment. Very possible.

OGLES: Mr. Fravor?

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): David Fravor, a retired U.S. Navy Commander, picked up this on his aircraft sensors in 2004, a reading he claimed was something far superior to anything the U.S. had.

DAVID FRAVOR, FORMER COMMANDING OFFICER, BLACK ACES SQUADRON, U.S. NAVY: You're talking something that can go into space, go some place, drop down in a matter of seconds, do whatever it wants and leave, and there's nothing we can do about it.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In April, the Head of the Pentagon's office looking into this these incidents told lawmakers there were about 650 potential cases of UAPs, about half of which he said may be of interesting value. The White house said Wednesday it is still working on figuring out those answers.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: If your question is, do you think we need to be transparent with the American people, of course, we need to be as transparent as we can be. But the truth is, gentlemen, we don't have hard and fast answers on these things. We are trying to get smarter on it.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.


COOPER: More now on that strange sighting 2004 you just saw in Oren's report, one that resembled a Tic Tac. Here again is that moment. My next guest, along with the retired Navy Commander David Fravor who testified today, witnessed this UAP off the Coast of San Diego during a routine training exercise.


Joining me with more is Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Alex Dietrich.

Commander, thanks for being here. You watched the hearing today, you listened to the testimony. What did you think? What stood out to you?

ALEX DIETRICH, RETIRED LIEUTENANT COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY: Well, I was very proud of my colleagues, the three witnesses, Ryan Graves, David Grusch and Commander David Fravor, who was my Superintendent at the time of our UAP encounter back in 2004. And I thought all three of them did a great job of maintaining their bearing, articulating their experience and their expertise and their recommendations for the representatives of Congress to follow through, to investigate both what has already happened and to pave a way for a process and the system to collect future encounters, the information, the data, and analyze it in a systematic way and make sense of it.

COOPER: David Fravor was your commanding officer. You mentioned him on that day back in 2004 when you saw the UAP, which you referred to as the Tic Tac and we are showing that, the video now. Commander Fravor described the encounter again today in the hearing. What else do you personally remember from that encounter? What stands out to you all these years later?

DIETRICH: So, I thought Commander Fravor did an excellent job of recounting a lot of the technical details, the scenario that we were in, that we were in this training exercise off the Coast of California. We were a large carrier strike group, this battle group of several ships and squadrons of aircraft. That is why it was such a big deal that we had this unidentified aircraft or something in our airspace, operating so close to a military exercise. And the only thing that I would add to the story that he tells is what happened in the moments and hours and days afterwards, which was disappointing.

It was underwhelming in terms of the debrief that we received. And so, again, you know, I would advocate for a process in place, so that when operators, whether they're military pilots or civilian commercial pilots or anybody else, who sees something, to have a way to report it and to have a channel through which it is collected and analyzed in a systematic way.

COOPER: And in the 18 years since, has anyone in a position of -- or anyone from the military, anyone in a legitimate position to investigate been able to give you any explanation that makes sense about what you saw?

DIETRICH: No explanations.


But I will say that it took several years before I was called into the Pentagon to provide a thorough debrief and at that point, I was asked some very good technical questions.

COOPER: I mean, the thing that (inaudible) really got my attention and interest was that a number of these videos that have caught the public's attention were not shot by civilians. They were captured by military personnel like this incident from 2015 off the Atlantic Coast, 11 years after your encounter. I just want to show this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! Got it! Ha ha ha! Woo hoo! What the fucking is that thing? Oh my gosh, dude. Wow, what is that man? Look at it fly!


COOPER: I mean, as somebody who has encountered something, when you see a video like that, what goes through your mind?

DIETRICH: Well, I'm laughing because I recognize their excitement.


That's exactly what we sounded like.

COOPER: I can imagine, I mean...

DIETRICH: Yeah. What is that? And a lot of f-bombs and, again, it's unexpected. I'm confident that there are other videos like this and if they're not recorded, certainly other experiences like this where people just go, "What was that?"

COOPER: Right.

DIETRICH: You know, and

COOPER: Yeah. Commander Alex Dietrich, really appreciate your time. Thank you.

DIETRICH: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, Republican presidential candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis responds to the criticism of the State's new social studies curriculum on slavery. Middle school students being taught that enslaved people develop skills that in "some instances could be applied to their person personal benefit." Filmmaker Spike Lee joins me with his thoughts. And later, we remember Singer Sinead O'Connor who has died at the age of 56.


"Nothing Compares 2 U," Song by Sinead O'Connor.




COOPER: The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has announced they are moving their 2024 Annual Convention out of Florida. The fraternity established for African-American men says Governor Ron DeSantis has "Harmful, racist and sensitive policies against the black community." They said they made the decision following the State's new social studies curriculum approved just last week. Here's the part that has come under fire.

Middle school students will be taught about various kinds of work enslaved black people were forced to perform. Some examples listed agriculture, carpentry and transportation and then it says this, "Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which in some instancing could be applied for their personal benefit." In a moment, Filmmaker Spike Lee's reaction to those new guidelines. But first, what Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said about all this last night.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These standards really were born out of that and these are very thorough standards done by African-American history scholars. There is no agenda here, it is just the truth and they talk in gory detail a lot of the bad in American history including of course the injustice of slavery.


COOPER: So DeSantis is now saying that there's no agenda here.

SPIKE LEE, AMERICAN FILMMAKER AND ACTOR: I don't think he's educated about enslavement of my ancestors. Even if they did have some skills, they were still enslaved. It's not like they opened a business, not like they could profit from it. And another I'd like to say, , I want to thank my wife Tanya because I kept using the term 'slaves.'

COOPER: Which they actually used in their curriculum.

LEE: You got to say enslaved.

COOPER: Enslaved, yes (ph).

LEE: There's a big, big difference and I really

COOPER: It makes a difference because it is not

LEE: It makes a difference.

COOPER: to identify someone just as a slave

LEE: Words are important.

COOPER: This was a person who was enslaved.


LEE: And when you told me to come on your show, I had to pull my hat on because 1619, that is when enslaved African people were brought to this country, were stolen from Mother Africa to work the stolen land from the Native Americans. For me, I always go back (ph), for me, that's one of the foundations of the United States of America, the stealing of enslaved people to work the stolen land from the Native Americans and work from the sun up to sun down and not be treated as human beings.

COOPER: It also -- the -- I just want to read the text again of what Florida is now requiring from Middle School students. It says instruction should include "How slaves developed skills which in some instances could be applied for their own personal benefit."

LEE: How can it be for your personal benefit when you are just treated as an enslaved person? It not like, I'm going a blacksmith, look, I'm going to a shingle out there. I'm going to be able to -- blacks were -- you were owned by master (ph).

COOPER: One of the arguments being made by the supporters of Governor DeSantis is that schools were teaching kids to hate America by teaching, you know, the history of slavery in this country, the history --

LEE: You learn to love America by learning the truth, the good, indifferent and bad. That's what America is. We're trying to aspire to a dream. But we are not -- (inaudible) what Dr. King talked about. You cannot look straight ahead and not see what's happening to your left and your right. How can you -- if you're talking about the history of this country, the United States of America, how can you just like a pun, white out, enslavement?


How can you do that?

COOPER: So what would you -- if Ron DeSantis was taking advice from you, what would you tell him?


LEE: The thing about -- here's the thing, let me (inaudible). Because I'm a tenured Professor of Film, NYU Graduate (ph) Film School, and teach you -- my students say, what if? I say I don't like the word "If." I mean like I don't go by "If." Me and him are never going to meet. We ain't going to talk about nothing. So

COOPER: Maybe you'll be invited down to teach a course.

LEE: To where?


COOPER: (Inaudible).

LEE: I was going to say Mar-a-Lago.


COOPER: To Mar-a-Lago? You can teach a course there, too.

LEE: Well, I teach cinema.


LEE: So I want to thank you for having me on this show because this is really dangerous stuff that this governor -- and is he doing it to -- for his presidential race? I don't know. But it's -- it's ill-timed, ill-thought and it not's the truth.

COOPER: He talks about Florida is where woke goes to die, that woke corporations are problems, wokeness has infiltrated (inaudible)

LEE: What is wokeness? To say that black people have a right to be free, and not be shot down by police or any other people -- that's what woke means? We can't march in streets and say Black Lives Matter? We can't do that? I don't understand what woke means. It's a catch phrase, which has caught on with the people who believe like that and I think it's dangerous. I think it's dangerous.

COOPER: Spike Lee, thank you.

LEE: My brother!

COOPER: Appreciate always.

LEE: Yeah, yeah.

COOPER: Up next, we remember Singer Sinead O'Connor, who has died at the age of 56.



COOPER: Tonight, we want to end the program remembering a woman who was an influential and provocative force in the music industry. Irish singer Sinead O'Connor died at 56. Her family released a statement saying they're devastated and are requesting privacy. The cause of her death is still unknown. Our Randi Kaye has more on her life and career.



"Nothing Compares 2 U," Song by Sinead O'Connor.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sinead O'Connor singing the hit song that catapulted her to international stardom, "Nothing Compares 2 You." The song was written by Prince. And in 1990, she topped the music charts with her version of it. The Irish singer earned four Grammy nominations for this song and the album it was on. She also won the award for MTV's 'Video of the Year.' In 1991, "Rolling Stone" magazine named her 'Artist of the Year.' O'Connor's singing voice was extraordinary, pure power, and her stage

presence electric. But behind all of that, or perhaps helping fuel it, there was pain, lots of it. O'Connor spoke about how her mother abused her in a recent show time documentary called "Nothing Compares."


SINEAD O'CONNOR, IRISH SINGER: My mother was a very violent woman, not a healthy woman mentally at all. And she was physically and verbally and psychologically, spiritually and emotionally abusive.

My mother was a beast. And I was able to soothe her with my voice. I was able to use my voice to make the devil fall asleep.


KAYE (voice-over): Some time after her parents divorced, O'Connor at aged 14 was sent away to live in an asylum run by the 'Order of Our Lady of Charity.'


O'CONNOR: I was a bit messed up and it wasn't acknowledged what had happened to me in my mother's house.



KAYE (voice-over): O'Connor's mother died in a car accident in 1985, two years before her debut album was released.


The Emperor's New Clothes, Song by Sinead O'Connor.


KAYE (voice-over): O'Connor often used her music to address social issues and inspire change. In 1992, on "Saturday Night Live," O'Connor tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II to protest sexual abuse in the catholic church.


O'CONNOR: Evil, fight the real enemy.


KAYE (voice-over): In 1999, she became the first priestess of a dissident Roman Catholic Group. And after the catholic priest sex abuse scandal broke wide open, she called on The Vatican to stop covering up the truth, telling Anderson Cooper this in 2010.


O'CONNOR: The one thing that the victims really require for healing and so do the rest of us as catholic people is a full admission by The Vatican that there was an active cover-up in operation for decades since 1922.


KAYE (voice-over): O'Connor long struggled with her mental health. She attempted suicide at age 33. In 2017, she posted this video of herself at a motel in New Jersey in the midst of a mental breakdown.


O'CONNOR: What do you do? (ph) The people who suffer from mental illness are the most vulnerable people on earth. We can't take care of our fucking self.


KAYE (voice-over): A year later, she converted to Islam and changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat. Last year, O'Connor's 17-year-old son Shane died by suicide. O'Connor shared this photo of the two of them just last week on Twitter. Despite saying in 2021 she would quit making music and touring, O'Connor recently recorded the opening song for the hit show "Outlander's" seventh season.


O'CONNOR: Sing me a song of a lass that is gone, Say, could that lass be I?


KAYE (voice-over): Sinead O'Connor was 56.


COOPER: The news continues. "The Source With Kaitlan Collins" is next, right after a quick break.