Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

NY Judge Finds Trump And His Adult Sons Liable For Fraud; Senate Floats Bipartisan Funding Bill While House Republicans Remain Divided; Interview With Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ); Hutchinson: "Donald Trump Is the Most Grave Threat" To Our Democracy In Our Lifetime; CNN Spends 24 Hours At NYC's Main Migrant Intake Facility; Clarissa Ward Investigates The Man Who May Be Wagner's New Leader In The Central African Republic. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 26, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It is the 11th known biting incident involving the two -year-old dog. One officer was hospitalized after Commander clamped down on arms and thighs and before that, he charged at another and First Lady Jill Biden couldn't "regain control of the dog."

Well, the White House said in the summer that the Biden's were getting more training for the dog, but the sharp bite runs in the family. The president's other German Shepherd, Major, was moved out of the White House after several biting incidents of his own.

I don't know what will happen here, but obviously, some of these bites are serious.

Thanks for joining us. AC 360 begins right now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, in a move that could lead to the end of the Trump Organization as we know it, a judge finds the former president, his sons, Eric and Don, Jr. liable for years of fraud on a massive scale.

Also tonight, Capitol chaos. House Republicans doing one thing, the Senate doing another and everything up in the air with the government shutdown now just five days away.

And later, a view you haven't seen before inside a New York migrant shelter, part of a system authorities say is strained to the breaking point.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with breaking news. A New York judge's determination that Donald John Trump with the help of his sons, Eric and Don, Jr. built his business empire on fraud. That's in the wake of another judge finding that he also sexually assaulted writer, E. Jean Carroll and it's all in of course addition to four state and federal indictments and 91 felony counts in New York, Georgia, Florida, and the District of Columbia. Today's summary fraud judgment essentially amplifying, underscoring, and laying out in great detail what former Trump attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen famously admitted in congressional testimony back in 2019.


LACY CLAY, THEN US REPRESENTATIVE: To your knowledge, did the president or his company ever inflate assets or revenues?


CLAY: And was that done with the president's knowledge or direction?

COHEN: Everything was done with the knowledge and at the direction of Mr. Trump.


COOPER: So that's one way of describing and the judge in his ruling today puts it more vividly, actually comparing the Trump fraud defense to a Chico Marx line in the Marx Brothers classic, "Duck Soup." "Well, who you're going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now with details. So just break down if you can, what's in this ruling?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. I mean, this is a huge loss for Donald Trump, for his family and his family business. The judge finding that he engaged in fraud for a decade by inflating the value of some of his marquee properties on financial statements that were provided in a number of business transactions.

The judge saying that the Donald Trump's explanation for how he came up with the values for some of his assets, he called it a fantasy world, not the real world.

Specifically, he singled out Trump's triplex apartment at Trump Tower here in Manhattan. Trump had inflated the value of that property, including just the mere square footage by three times, meaning that he did acknowledge and the judge saying that that massive discrepancy could only mean fraud.

Now, he also said that he was ordering that certificates of business to operate in New York state be canceled, and that he would put in place a receiver to dissolve the business. Exactly what that will look like, remains unclear at this point. There's a lot of confusion even among the parties about how that will play out. But it could significantly reshape what the Trump Organization looks like, and whether it has a footprint in New York City -- Anderson.

COOPER: And so yes, what does that mean for the business in New York City? I mean, is he out of business in New York?

There's still a lot of building with his name on it. SCANNELL; A lot of people are still trying to -- yes, and people are trying to figure out what this means because the Trump Organization is essentially 400 different LLCs and they are all for each of the properties that he owns.

The New York state attorney general would have jurisdiction over those that are in New York, so it is possible the way that this shakes out is that there will no longer be a Trump Tower owned by Donald Trump, there will no longer be the Seven Springs family compound in Westchester County. But there are still questions here about what that will look like.

You know, is it possible he could transfer these assets out of state? There are questions here that people are trying to grapple with and the Trump Organization, you know, itself is trying, I think, to get their hands on what this is going to mean for them.

COOPER: And have the former president or his sons responded?

SCANNELL: Yes, so his son Eric Trump, who essentially leads the company on a day-to-day basis said that both the judge and the attorney general are trying to destroy their company.

Now Trump's attorney, Chris Kise, who is representing him in this action said: "Today's outrageous decision is completely disconnected from the facts and governing law. While the full impact of the decision remains unclear, what is clear is that President Trump and his family will seek all available appellate remedies to rectify this miscarriage of justice."

They are already appealing before the appeals court the start of this trial because they think the judge has not implemented correctly what claims would actually be covered by this.

So they are hoping that the appellate court will narrow even the scope of what the judge overseeing this case could look at saying that certain claim fell outside of the statute of limitations. We are expecting the appellate court to rule this week on that, but as of now, this trial is still in limbo, but it is currently scheduled to start on Monday -- Anderson.


COOPER: Kara Scannell, appreciate it.

With me here, CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig; CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod; CNN chief correspondent and host of "The Source," Kaitlan Collins.

Also joining us is Tony Schwartz, who is the ghostwriter for Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal" and from biographer and investigative reporter, David Cay Johnston.

Elie, how rare is a ruling like this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's extraordinary. This is what we call summary judgment, meaning the judge has decided that the facts here are so extreme and so clear that I'm deciding this case in favor of the plaintiff, in favor of the attorney general. It's not even going to a jury on the question of whether Donald Trump and the Trump Organization were engaged in repetitive frauds. That's the judge's finding.

It's really -- it's a scorching ruling. The judge outright rejects all of the defenses we've heard from Donald Trump over the years, the main one being subjectivity. Well, Your Honor, Donald Trump's team argued there's always an element of subjectivity in valuation. And the court says, yes, but not to this extent. There is some limit here, and Donald Trump inflated his values by hundreds of percent.

COOPER: And what would the appeal process look like?

HONIG: So the first thing Donald Trump's going to want to do and his team is get a stay, meaning okay, Judge, we know that as of now the business certificate is suspended. We want you to put that on hold while we appeal. Then Donald Trump will have the right to appeal this up to the intermediate New York State court and then potentially, the top appeals court in New York, that will take months.

But that stay is going to be a key issue because that's going to determine whether he can stay in business as of the next couple of weeks, years, months.

COOPER: David, obviously, this strikes at the very heart of the perception of Donald Trump, among many, you know, people is that he was this genius businessman. And, you know, according to this, there was fraud involved, does it -- do you think it has the same impact these other indictments have had, which is boosting his support among his supporters?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, until I see evidence, otherwise, I would guess, I don't know if it'll boost support among his supporters. But I think that he has created a construct under which his supporters believe that he is being unfairly targeted.

He will argue that I did nothing that any other businessman would have done, but they're coming after me for the same reasons. He says they're coming after him on all of these other cases. And I suspect with his supporters, it will land that way.

I mean, you know, you've got to step back, whatever you think about Donald Trump, and his ability to brand himself is breathtaking and history will record that.

I mean, so he has sold people on this narrative. I think it's going to be hard to dislodge this narrative, no matter what a judge writes.

COOPER: Kaitlan, are you hearing anything from Trump camp?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, obviously, it's a devastating blow to them. His attorneys had been trying in recent days, all of these legal maneuvers that were kind of seen as Hail Mary's, but were trying to get this to where when it went to trial, which it is scheduled to do next Monday that they would either be able to have a different judge or maybe get it thrown out. This clearly was a rebuke of that.

And I think, you know, obviously, they're angry. Chris Kise, his attorney says they're going to appeal this. But I think what's at the heart of that is that you we talked about so many of the Trump investigations, everything that's facing him. If this stands, if that appeal is not granted, and they do not went out here, this is the first time we've seen a government investigation result in some kind of punishment for him.

I mean, he's facing all of these other criminal counts that are incredibly serious, but this would be the first time and it cuts right at the heart of the center of who Donald Trump says he is.

COOPER: And Tony, I mean, you helped create a lot of that myth of who Donald Trump is. Working with him all those years ago in 'The Art of the Deal," did you get a whiff of fraud in terms of how he valued or handled his real estate?

TONY SCHWARTZ, AUTHOR OF DONALD TRUMP'S "THE ART OF THE DEAL": Absolutely, and I've said it many times, but he -- you know, he invents reality every day to fit what he wants it to be and he has demeaned the value of truth in a way that has gone not just has he been able to brand himself, as David said, but upon all kinds of follow along's and imitators who are now doing the same.

So, this is who he is. He is a congenital liar. He is a sociopath in the sense that he doesn't have a conscience, so this doesn't bother him at all.

This is the Donald Trump I met. This is the Donald Trump who existed at 10 years old, and it's the Donald Trump of today.

COOPER: David Cay Johnston, I mean, as someone who has followed and investigated Trump's finances for years, how significant is this in your mind, especially as Trump's team argued, you know, that property valuations are subjective?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, as of this moment, Donald Trump is out of business in New York because all of his business certificates, business licenses in effect have been cancelled. But the decision by the judge is devastating.

He fines five Trump lawyers $7,500.00 each. He shows that they told the court, various court decisions they cite or statutes say one thing and the judge shows no, you either clip the quote or misstated the law to say the opposite. He doesn't give them a single bit of ground anywhere and he shows examples of where Trump said, well, you know this was sort of a range of numbers or a rounded number.


He goes, no, when you value something at a quarter billion dollars more than the reasonable number, that would have been a small fraction of that, that's not reasonable.

So this is absolutely devastating for Donald Trump, and unless a Court of Appeals overturns this, which I would think highly unlikely, we're going to see his properties seized, dissolved, and the creditors paid off, and he will be permanently out of business in New York.

COOPER: So David, what does that -- I mean, what exactly does that mean? So Trump Tower, which I guess he owns, that would no longer be Trump Tower?

JOHNSTON: Well, it may be called Trump Tower, but you know, in New York State, you can go into business as an individual, I write books for a living, as Tony does under my own name. But if I incorporate it and became David Cay Johnston, LLC, then I have to have permission from the state and a license and the judge has now vitiated, destroyed all of those licenses.

So Donald, unless a Court of Appeals reinstates it, cannot do business. He's no longer in business in New York State. And eventually those businesses would be dissolved just as what happened in a bankruptcy case where there's a liquidation, you pay off the creditors, and any fines the judge, ultimately fines are due to the state of New York, would come out of those proceeds.

And a key point that the judge makes is, this is not about restitution. This is about disgorgement of ill-gotten gains. You lied in the assessments that you used the financial statements that you used, and that made you money, and that's -- he cites criminal law, but this is a civil case.

COOPER: Well, Elie, let me ask you about that. Why would this be charged as a civil case and not a criminal case considering fraud that was laid out?

HONIG: It's a great question. I was actually wondering the same thing as I was reading this. I mean, when you're talking about fraud of 10 times the value, you have to wonder that.

If I had to get inside the attorney general, Letitia James' head and maybe the DA's head here, I think the problem they would have with bringing it criminally, it's not a technical problem, but it's an atmospheric problem is there's not an obvious victim here.

Typically, in a fraud case, you lie to a bank, you lie to investors, you make off with their money. You don't pay them back.

Here, the conundrum is, the Trump board generally did pay these loans back that they got with these inflated numbers with interest. So you can still charge that as a criminal fraud, but a prosecutor thinking, how's this going to play with a jury? It doesn't have as much appeal without a victim.

COOPER: David, does this create any kind of -- does it change the dynamic for, you know, President Biden, in terms of how he runs against? I mean, he's already been accused of fraud multiple times. I mean, I remember Mike Bloomberg at the Democratic convention, you know, calling him a fake billionaire, or words to that effect.

AXELROD: Yes, look, I think the one thing we haven't seen is, if in the coming months, there are criminal convictions, and he is a convicted felon. Does that change people's view? But you know, this campaign goes on in stages. And what we've seen is, as you pointed out earlier, with each legal setback he gains politically, and he has a very strong position.

And the irony of every -- of all of this is, he goes on trial on March 4th on the January 6th case. They say they'll go eight weeks. You look at the primary calendar, he could literally be named the nominee of the Republican Party and a convicted felon on the same day,

COOPER: Tony, I mean, how much do you think this undermines the former president's persona as a real estate tycoon?

SCHWARTZ: We are so polarized now that I think as David is saying that, for those who believe Trump is being treated badly, they'll continue to feel that and for the rest of us, we will continue to believe that this is one more piece of evidence about who he is.

It is a -- it gives new meaning to the word surreal to imagine what David just said that on the same day, you could have a criminal conviction and the crowning of him as the Republican candidate for president.

I mean, I don't see how in a world where Trump ends up winning, losing in some of these cases, being convicted, and also becoming president where democracy dies.

COOPER: David Cay Johnston, I mean, is it clear to what kind of shape the Trump Organization is in right now? I mean, I know you said all those LLCs are null, but just even before this, while over the last year or so, do you know how it's been doing?

JOHNSTON: Well, Trump has made the argument that he's paid his bills on time, and that none of the banks have lost money and the judge points out that's an irrelevancy to this kind of case, and when I teach my law students about this, I'm going to say it'd be like you embezzled money from the bank, made some winning bets at the horse track and put the money back. That doesn't undo your crime that the bank got its money back the next day.


So we don't know. The monitors reports, Judge Barbara Jones reports should ultimately tell us about this and the values that are received for his properties, we can be certain are going to be significantly below Donald's claims.

And just keep in mind, there has never been a scintilla of evidence that Donald Trump ever had a billion dollar net worth.

COOPER: And Kaitlan, it just -- one does have to just sort of pause and think, you know, the strange universe that we live in. So a judge has found him guilty of sexual assault, a judge has now found him guilty of this massive fraud. And he is facing, you know, all these criminal counts. It's extraordinary.

COLLINS: What and we talk so much about the big investigations. When will the court -- when will the trials actually happen? When will he -- if he is convicted, would he actually face jail time? What does that look like? How does that factor into his presidency?

I mean, this is the most immediate threat that he is facing, though and it strikes right at the heart of what he cares about the most, which is his money. And if this is still going on, I mean, the judge is saying the core of this holds up, that this is right. It is still going to go to trial.

What if there's a cash judgment hearing? What does that mean? Could he end up declaring bankruptcy? Like we don't actually know. And that could be something that happens way before anything with the federal cases.

COOPER: Could his PAC pay off this money?

HONIG: Yes. I mean, someone can help you pay a judgment for sure. I don't know whether that would violate campaign finance laws to pay a fine. In fact, I think it probably would, to transfer money over to an individual in order to pay a legal judgment. I imagine that would violate campaign finance laws.

But this judgment here, if and when there's a judgement, David Cay Johnston is correct. It doesn't depend on a loss to the banks, it's ill-gotten gains. This could be a quarter of a billion dollars, $250 million or more.

COLLINS: I don't know that Trump has that.

HONIG: Yes. I mean, I'd be shocked if he does.

COOPER: David Cay Johnston, do you think he has that?

JOHNSTON: No, I don't think he's liquid in that way. He has raised money and he has funds where there's money, but he personally can have that kind of cash, no.

And this is sort of the end of the story. It began with Tony Schwartz because he wrote "The Art of the Deal" for Donald, and in the book, he describes one fraud after another in that book, which none of the reviewers at the time seemed to catch on to.

This is how Donald has done business his whole life. He is the most successful con man in world history.

COOPER: David Cay Johnston, Tony Schwartz, thank you. Elie Honig, David Axelrod, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan is going to be back at the top of the air on "The Source." We will see you then with special guest, Michael Cohen. Very good booking tonight. Perfect.

Coming up next, more breaking news, a live report in the state of play or state of chaos with the government shutdown coming and House Speaker McCarthy still trying to bring his own members in line.

Also what Cassidy Hutchinson told Jake Tapper about the threat she thinks her old boss would pose to the country if he is reelected president. That and much more from her conversation with Jake and the new book ahead on 360.



COOPER: More breaking news tonight as the Senate slowly begins moving legislation to head off a government shutdown with House Speaker McCarthy still trying to get hardline Republicans to let him move at all and the deadline to get all this done, not budging, it is still Sunday morning at 12:01.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is that the Capitol tonight where a lot of things appear to be in motion right now. So, what do we know about where things stand in the House tonight, including the threats to Speaker McCarthy's job.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: So House Republicans just moved to advance a package of long-term spending bills. This was a routine procedural vote. Normally, we probably wouldn't be talking about this type of vote, but it is important tonight, because last week, a similar vote failed twice on House floor.

So Speaker Kevin McCarthy was under a lot of pressure to show he can govern with his House Republicans, but we should note that none of those spending bills that I mentioned are going to pass the Senate.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is still hoping that this process can build some goodwill with the hardliner conservatives who are opposed to some of their spending bills, and that they eventually will rally around a stopgap plan to keep the government open. That includes some conservative priorities like spending cuts and border security.

But so far, none of those members are showing that they're willing to give in. I caught up with a number of them and that includes Congressman Matt Gaetz, who actually took to the House floor once again to threaten McCarthy's speakership tonight.

In fact, he's walking up right now. He hasn't said when he would issue that motion to vacate. But it's clear that Kevin McCarthy has a lot on the line this week.

COOPER: And how does this whole square with what's going on in the Senate?

ZANONA: Well, they're on a collision course. Over in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader have agreed on their own stopgap plan that would keep the government open for about 45 days. It includes around $6 billion in Ukraine money. They have already taken steps to start advancing that bill, but House Republicans are already padding it. First of all, they don't like that it includes even a modest amount of Ukraine money, and they're also signaling tonight that any bill to fund the government is going to have to include border security provisions. That has emerged as a red line on the eve of this shutdown deadline.

So clearly, it is going to be a showdown between the House and Senate in the days ahead -- Anderson.

COOPER: So what's the likelihood of a shutdown?

ZANONA: I would say that the question bouncing around the Capitol right now, Anderson, is not if there's going to be a government shutdown, it is how long is that government shutdown going to last and that is because there are just so many factors that are up against the leadership.

The first one being the clock, obviously, these things take time, if you're trying to bounce a bill back and forth between the House and the Senate. It's not a quick process. And so they only have a couple of days to do that.

And the other big factor is that Kevin McCarthy at this point, won't work with Democrats because he's worried about threats to his speakership, but he also can't work with his own Republican members. So he's really at a crossroads.

And ultimately, for Kevin McCarthy, it may come down to choosing between keeping the government open or keeping his speakership -- Anderson.

COOPER: Melanie Zanona, appreciate it.

Just before airtime, I spoke with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, she's a Democrat from New Jersey, excuse me, Mikie. She's a Democrat from the Armed Services Committee and a former Navy helicopter pilot.


COOPER: Congresswoman, how confident are you tonight that a government shutdown can be averted?

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): Well, you know, I'm not incredibly confident, I'm very hopeful. We see the Senate Republicans and the Senate Democrats working together, we know that House Democrats are ready to avert a shutdown.

I think the concern right now is really just the fact that the Speaker has pretty much determined that he is going to follow the lead of the far-right extremist in his own conference, which is presenting great problems for keeping the government open.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, he could obviously go round the handful of holdouts in GOP by working, as you said with Democrats to pass a bipartisan stop gap measure to keep it open. Do you think he would ever do that? Because obviously lawmakers on his far right have threatened to oust him if he does.

SHERRILL: Well, one would hope he would consider more than simply his job. As the speaker of the House, I hope he is concerned about governing. I hope he's very concerned about keeping our government open. Unfortunately, former President Trump has encouraged members to shut down the government. We see the far right, many of whom have said they don't seem to care about keeping government open. They don't want to compromise.

It's really leading to an untenable situation for the speaker, so hopefully, he will realize that shortly and we can start to work together to keep our government open.


COOPER: You just mentioned what's going on in the Senate, the short- term government funding deal that Senators Schumer and McConnell agreed to late today. Senator Rand Paul is already threatening to tank it if Ukraine funding stays in. Speaker McCarthy says he's going to add in the GOP's border security package if and when the Senate bill goes to the House. Where do you think that leaves things in the Senate?

SHERRILL: You know, I think this is -- so it's such a misreading by people in our legislative branch about how important this Ukrainian funding is. It's surprising to me because I sit on the House Armed Services Committee, I sit on the committee for this strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party. I work with the Intelligence Committee. I work with Foreign Affairs Committee.

So many people in that space understand how important this fight in Ukraine is, not just to the sovereignty and the democracy of Ukraine itself, but as we push back against our longtime adversary Putin, who is continuing to try to undermine the United States, as we know that China is taking a hard look at invading Taiwan and what that might mean vis-a-vis this invasion that Putin has going with Ukraine, and as our NATO allies come together to fend this off.

So it's really critically important that we support the Ukrainians in their fight here.

COOPER: You were one of the first to call on Senator Bob Menendez, a fellow New Jersey Democrat to resign in the wake of the corruption indictment, something Menendez has said he's not going to do.

Senator Cory Booker is now also calling him to resign along with a slew of other Democratic senators. Are you leaning toward running against Menendez in the next primary?

SHERRILL: No, I'm really focused on running for my seat here in the House. As you can see this week, it is critically important, I think that we have new leadership in the House of Representatives, which I hope we'll see after 2024, and in the meantime, work very hard to figure out pathways forward even in these very partisan times.

COOPER: When you heard him say his explanation for why he had close to half a million dollars in cash at his home, saying it was an old fashioned habit from his family's days in Cuba, didn't explain the gold bars or the Mercedes convertible. I mean, did you buy that?

SHERRILL: I think there was a lot left to be desired with that explanation. And I think he should resign his seat, focus on his defense and we can move forward with what's best for the people of New Jersey and for the United States.

COOPER: Congresswoman Sherrill, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SHERRILL: Thanks so much.


COOPER: Up next, Cassidy Hutchinson, once a top aide to now indicted former chief-of-staff, Mark Meadows with new revelations about the chaotic final days inside the Trump White House.


COOPER: When Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the House January 6 Committee, it became abundantly clear just how much she saw from her vantage point as top aide to then chief-of-staff, Mark Meadows.

Now with the publication of her book, "Enough," that window into a chaotic, apparently unhinged, and certainly unprecedented moment in American history opened wider.

In it, she writes that meadows told her early on that if he could, "... manage to keep Trump out of jail, I'll have done a good job."

Speaking today with "The Lead's" Jake Tapper, she talked about what it was like inside the West Wing and why in her view, the former president should never be president again.



COOPER: When Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the House January 6 Committee became abundantly clear just how much she saw from her vantage point as top aide to then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Now, with the publication of her book "Enough", that window into a chaotic, apparently unhinged, and certainly, unprecedented moment, American history opened wider.

In it, she writes that Meadows told her early on that if he could, quote, "manage to keep Trump out of jail, I'll have done a good job". Speaking today with The Lead Jake Tapper, she talked about what it was like inside the West Wing and why, in her view, the former president should never be president again.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Especially in the Trump administration and in 2020, every day was a hair on fire day. We were swimming to stay afloat, but most of us were drowning. I think that Donald Trump is the most grave threat that we will face to our democracy in our lifetime and potentially in American history.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: When he says things like he did on Truth Social the other day, that he wants to curtail freedom of the press for certain channels and that sort of thing, you take him literally, you think he actually means it, and in a second term, he would do that.

HUTCHINSON: I think that Donald Trump in a second term does not have any -- would not have guardrails.


COOPER: Perspective now from CNN Political Commentator Sarah Matthews, who worked with Cassidy Hutchinson, and Hannah Muldavin, who helped guide her through her appearance before the House January 6 Committee.

Sarah, do you have the similar concerns that Cassidy Hutchinson does about a second Trump term having no guardrails?

SARAH MATTHEWS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do have those same concerns because I think one of the things Cassidy, myself, and I think other people who worked for Trump and have come out and spoken out against him get asked often is, well, why'd you work for him in the first place?

And I felt a sense of duty to serve my country, even though, I didn't always necessarily agree with everything he said 100 percent of the time. But I think I'm so concerned with who is going to be staffing a Donald Trump administration if he gets back into the White House.

And Cassidy --

COOPER: The quality of people --

MATTHEWS: The quality of people. Because that is something that Cassidy has been raising the alarm about as well, is who is going to be advising him and surrounding him and helping him make these decisions. I think they're encouraging his worst instincts. And he has shown clearly that he has no regard for the Constitution or the institutional norms of the office, and he shouldn't be allowed to step any foot back into the Oval Office --

COOPER: If you don't have quality people around you, there are a lot more hair on fire days, as Cassie Hutchinson describes it. Did you have those days?

MATTHEWS: Yes. I mean, I was in the communications office working for him as a deputy press secretary, and so, you know, in one tweet, he could ruin our whole day that we had planned of positive communication plans, and that was the norm, though. And so I can't even imagine what a second term for him would be like, just given everything that's happened since he left office.

COOPER: Hannah, you helped prep Cassidy Hutchinson for the January 6 Committee. Could you just talk about a little bit, was she already having these misgivings? What did you make of her then?

HANNAH MULDAVIN, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, HOUSE SELECT JAN. 6 COMMITTEE: You know, it's funny, Anderson. I actually worked with Sarah as well when she came to the committee. And Cassidy was incredibly poised, I think, when you saw her when she was on testifying to 13 million Americans for that hearing.

But beforehand, she was nervous. She had a lot of facts that she had to get right and keep straight. And I think what we know is that she did keep those straight. We, as a committee, stand by her testimony. We talked or tried to talk to many men that either pled the fifth to us or didn't come in and talk to us at all.

Her boss, Mark Meadows, is one of them. He's found -- we found him in contempt of Congress, but she was nervous leading up to it. I, as a young woman myself, around the same age as Cassidy, was really impressed with how she came off and how she's continued to.

COOPER: She'd also had a Trump paid attorney initially, who, according to the book, advised her, you know, the less you say, the better essentially. She writes that she had started to try to back channel stuff to the committee. Can you talk about that?

MULDAVIN: Liz Cheney was the key to this committee. She provided legitimacy when it comes to the nonpartisan investigation because she's obviously a well-known Republican, but she also was a great person to talk to these Republicans who might want to reach out, feel more comfortable with a Republican like Liz Cheney, who really bucked her party to talk to the January 6 Committee.

So, when Cassidy was going through these things, she spoke, I think, about this today. She felt that it was wrong inside of her, but as a young person in Washington, it's hard to know what to do all the time. And Liz Cheney provided that avenue for her and I think for others that testified to the committee as well.

MATTHEWS: I would like to note as well that I had a similar experience with Liz Cheney, and she did give me that comfort to be able to come forward. She actually contacted me through someone and asked if I would be willing to speak, knowing that I had resigned and if I would be interested in cooperating with the committee.

She had a private one-on-one combo with me where we sat in her hideaway in the Capitol, in the basement of the Capitol building for around four hours and talked to me about what I knew, what I had witnessed.


And then from that conversation, I went forward and did a tape deposition with the committee, which obviously led to me then publicly testifying. And so, I think for, you know, someone like myself, a young woman at the time when I testified, I was 27 years old. Cassidy was 25 years old, I believe, when she testified.

And I think that Liz Cheney really empowered us to have the courage to come forward, just knowing the backlash that we were going to face.

COOPER: Right.

MATTHEWS: But she really was, I think, a huge reason for both of us for why we did.

COOPER: I want to play something else that Cassidy Hutchinson said to Jake because she believes that the former president knew exactly what he was saying and doing on January 6. Let's watch this.


HUTCHINSON: Donald Trump also knows the impact that his words have, and he knows the impact that his presence has on his supporters. He knows that he himself riles people up. He knew that the crowd was armed that day. He knew that there were people angry about this.

So knowing Donald Trump, knowing what I knew inside the White House, that was not a mistake. He did not want to just go to the Capitol to go there and make a little speech and then go back to the White House.


COOPER: Which is interesting, because, I mean, when he now posts, you know, saying -- riling people up about the judges in the various cases against him or about Jack Smith, it's -- I mean, he obviously knows the potential impact of the words he uses.

MATTHEWS: 100 percent. And I think he learned nothing from January 6. And if anything, it just emboldened him to continue to try to use his supporters in a way that's dangerous. And I think I've been to so many Trump rallies when I worked for him. He knows how to fire up a crowd and exactly what to say that will, you know --


MATTHEWS: -- kind of light that fuse. And I think that that's really dangerous when he knows the power he has and his posts have only gotten more increasingly erratic.

COOPER: Sarah Matthews, thank you so much. And Hannah Muldavin as well, thank you. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a surge of migrants arriving in New York City, all in need of housing and support. It's caused major issues for local officials. Our Shimon Prokupecz shows us what they face when they get here, next.


COOPER: Last night, we brought you striking images of a migrant camp in Central America. Many of the people you see there in the dark are Venezuelans, still thousands of miles from the U.S., but hoping to ultimately cross the southern border.

This was the morning then, they set out for one of the most dangerous areas of the journey toward the border. A stretch between Colombia and Panama known as the Darien Gap.


Now the U.S. is dealing with a backlog of deportation cases into the millions. And while all 50 states are receiving new immigrants, no city has had to deal with that backlog like New York City. According to data for August collected by Syracuse University, New York dealt with more than twice the number of migrant cases as the next most inundated city.

Our Shimon Prokupecz spent a day with some of the migrants as they try to figure out what is next.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wearing a New York baseball hat, Jorge (ph) describes a treacherous journey to the United States from Ecuador.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Through rivers and over mountains, he says, now finally ending in New York.

(on-camera): This is your son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): A clean bed, new clothes, and a hot meal for his family. His children, Alejandro and Georgina, just finished their first week in a New York City school.

(on-camera): For you, cookies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): We're happy with everything here, he says.

(on-camera): Happy and you're going to eat. You're going to eat.

(voice-over): After Mayor Eric Adams said the migrant crisis would destroy New York City --

(on-camera): This is another side where they're doing a lot of the intake.

(voice-over): CNN spent 24 hours at the city's main migrant intake facility, a buzzing, nonstop operation at the Roosevelt Hotel. Outside, it's shocking. The number of people, even for a city like New York.

It's something you don't expect to see. Just a stone's throw from Grand Central station in the beating heart of midtown Manhattan. Migrant families who've just arrived wait for a place inside. Single men wait next door in what was once the hotel bar.

(on-camera): Job? What kind of job?


PROKUPECZ (on-camera): Everything. Are these the phones that they use inside? SIM cards?

(voice-over): This is John Carlo Marin-Espinoza. He has spent 10 days in a room at the hotel with his wife and two children. Tonight, he is trying to buy a new cell phone.

(on-camera): How do they get the phone?

(voice-over): It will cost $20 to replace the one he lost three weeks ago crossing the Rio Grande in Texas, along with all of his family's clothes and belongings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): I need a phone so I can get work, he says. $20 is all I have. I ask for jobs, and they all ask me to leave a phone number, and I don't have one, so I need this. It's very hard.

(on-camera): How has it been here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): Air conditioning. They give you a big TV --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and a bag.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): And a bag?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): It's good, but what I want the most is a job. With your own job, you can make your own money.

(on-camera): And that's what you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): In the afternoon, Luis Flores (ph) approached us, ready to talk to anyone that would listen.


PROKUPECZ (on-camera): Yes.

FLORES: From Venezuela.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): OK.

(voice-over): He spent the last few nights sleeping on the street with his wife as they traveled to this facility.

(on-camera): For how many days? He says he's sick and came here because he thought they could get medical care and a job.

For now, like thousands before him at this new Ellis Island, he joins the line at the Roosevelt, hoping to go inside and begin receiving city services. So this is the entrance where many of the migrants, when they arrive, this is where they come through, coming up these stairs and into this hall area where they wait to be processed.

DR. TED LONG, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH & HOSPITAL: We're going to offer you food and water right away.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): OK.

LONG: A hot meal can go a long way.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Dr. Ted Long from New York City's Health and Hospital is proud of the operation the city has established here.

LONG: Everything that we've developed in New York City is to meet the needs that were not met for people coming to us from Texas so far. So here, whether it's screening for communicable disease, if you're a pregnant woman giving you prenatal care, or screening of you for the very important mental health conditions you might have, like depression. We do it all here because it's not done before here.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): It really catches your eye to see so many kids running through the halls of the Roosevelt Hotel, almost like a playground. So many kids. The city says 20,000 migrant children have come through New York so far.

(on-camera): Why did you come to America?

(voice-over): Lady Kaza (ph) is 23 years old and escaping violence in Ecuador. She says she came here for her daughter Maya, who was born with a physical disability.

(on-camera): How are you feeling?

LADY KAZA, ECUADOR: (Speaking Foreign Language)


PROKUPECZ (voice-over): She says she's happy that she's here now and she's scared to go back to Ecuador.

KAZA (through translator): I'm afraid that my daughter will die there if she can't get medical attention. I need a place to stay. I think they're going to help me.

I'm sorry.

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): Yes. OK. Good luck, OK?

(voice-over): It's good news for Lady and Maya, they're being moved out of the intake center to a shelter. As this group leaves, another is already shuffling in behind them. 116,000 have come to New York City since the spring of 2022, city officials say. And it's a reminder that the flow of migrants doesn't stop.

FABIEN LEVY, NEW YORK CITY DEPUTY MAYOR FOR COMMUNICATIONS: The burden on New York City is too much, quite honestly. We are past our breaking point.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Among those just arriving, Luis Flores (ph). We met him outside. And his wife, Ermelinda Morales (ph). They now have seats inside.

FLORES: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): It's a dream come true, he says.

(on-camera): Took him two and a half months to come to this country through the border, and now he's just hoping to give his family a better life. And they've been sitting here now for several days, waiting for the next steps and the next process.

And this is your wife, yes?

FLORES: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (on-camera): Years you've been married. How are you doing?

ERMELINDA MORALES, WIFE OF LUIS: (Speaking Foreign Language).

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Ermelinda (ph) tells us it was their dream to come to the United States, and she doesn't want to lose her husband now that they've finally made it.

As we leave, Luis speaks directly into our camera. I just want to work, he says. These are the hands of a worker.

For some who've just arrived, exhaustion bursts into emotion. For others, there is newfound hope. Jean Carlo is now grinning ear to ear as he holds his one-year-old daughter outside the hotel.

(on-camera): So we were with Jean Carlo (ph) last night. He had been here for a couple -- for a short time, and today, he was told and given a new location with his two kids and his wife, and they've been given a Metro card and given the location and told to take the train.

But they really have no idea how to get there or what they're doing. So what they're going to do is they're going to take their two daughters and his wife, and they're going to get on the subway and head into Queens.

For me to see you smiling with everything going on, it's incredible.

JEAN CARLO, MIGRANT: (Speaking Foreign Language)

PROKUPECZ (through translator): Yes. And when I get a job, I'll be even happier.

He says New York is better than anywhere else they've been.

I'm smiling, he says. I've got to smile so I don't cry.


COOPER: And I'm joined now by our Senior Crime and Justice Correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz. I mean, the asylum process takes a long, long time.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. And one of the things is that many of the migrants don't even know that they need to complete. There's paperwork that they need to do --

COOPER: And they can't work legally here --

PROKUPECZ: Legally --

COOPER: -- during that whole process.

PROKUPECZ: During the whole process.

COOPER: The multiyear process.

PROKUPECZ: They get paroled, right? They're here, but then they have to file for a work permit, and all of that takes time. And what the city is trying to do is once these migrants come into their system, they're trying to tell them, you need to fill out this paperwork. This is what you need to do.

What they're finding is that there's a number of them that don't even know the process. And so they're trying to obviously educate them and tell them, fill out these forms, get going. The other thing that they're doing, which is really interesting, is if some of these migrants have family members in the United States, they're trying to sort of urge them to go and stay with these family members.

They're offering travel to pay for their travel, other things to try and get them out of the system. And they say that's actually starting to work. They're seeing about a quarter of the people who have come into their system now coming out because of family members and other ways to try and live on their own.

COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, appreciate. Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, another 360 exclusive. Who is running the Wagner mercenary group in central Africa now that Yevgeny Prigozhin is dead? In the Central African Republic, Wagner soldiers oversee an empire of diamonds and gold and timber.

Our Clarissa Ward went back there to try to find out who's leading it now ahead.


[20:51:08] COOPER: Now another scenic exclusive from our Clarissa Ward on the Wagner group's stronghold in the Central African Republic. You may recall last week she reported from the group's largest African outpost showing how it's business as usual for them, even after being left leaderless when the Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in that plane crash last month.

His death left questions about Wagner's paramilitary efforts in Ukraine and its secretive operations in Africa that include big profits from gold and diamonds. Tonight, Clarissa takes us back to the Central African Republic, looking for one man who maybe the group's next leader there and who's expected to play a pivotal role going forward.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind this door, we are expecting to find Dmitry Syty, one of Wagner's bosses in the Central African Republic. "Access strictly forbidden to all people who don't work here", the sign warns. Our knock goes unanswered, and shortly after we are told to leave the building.

We came back to the heart of Yevgeny Prigozhin's empire in Africa to see how his death had changed things and found two of his lieutenants still running the show. Vitali Perfilev is in charge of the security piece while Syty runs the commercial side.

Syty likes to keep a low profile these days, which is not surprising given that he survived a mail bomb attack here in December 2022. After the attack, locals began to wear T-shirts in support of him, a sign of Wagner's entrenched popularity here.

We first met Syty back in 2019. Officially, he was acting as a translator, but documents showed he was the head of a now defunct Wagner-owned company called LOBAYE INVEST, and that he had started working with Prigozhin to influence U.S. elections in the so-called Troll Factory back in 2016.

Educated in Paris and fluent in French, English and Spanish, Syty later created the Russian Cultural Center in Bangui, which investigative group this century says Wagner uses as a front to sell its gold and diamonds to VIPs and manage its timber and alcohol operations.

The center is one of the last places Prigozhin was photographed alive, seen here with Syty standing by him. We filmed covertly at the cultural center, where a woman who called herself Nafisa Kiryanova told us that Prigozhin's death has not changed the status quo.

NAFISA KIRYANOVA: So the mission continues to be, the Russian cultural house continues to be. And so Dmitry doesn't have that job anymore. Why not? He is responsible for the whole mission, so he runs this job, he runs some other directions.

WARD (on-camera): OK. OK, OK, OK. So it's all the same people, basically.

KIRIANOVA: Basically, yes.

WARD (on-camera): OK.

(voice-over): In a rare and recent interview with Russian media, Syty says he hopes the mission will not change.

DMITRY SYTY, WAGNER DIRECTOR (through translator): If we start to retreat, then everything that has been built will also crumble. This is our chance. We're now looking for new friends, partners, new markets. Africa is a chance for Russia.

WARD (voice-over): Over the weekend, video emerged of a ceremony to commemorate the death of Prigozhin. "Prigozhin, best friend of Central Africans", a banner reads as Wagner's security chief Vitali Perfilev looks on. One month after his death, Prigozhin's lieutenants are still standing, watching over his empire.


COOPER: And Clarissa Ward joins us now. This is just so incredible to see what's happened since Prigozhin's death. What is the actions of the Wagner group since then in Bangui and elsewhere in CAR, in Africa? Tell us about their future plans.


WARD: Well, I think it's really clear that they want to keep on doing what they're doing, because for Russia, Wagner has ticked a lot of boxes. It gave geostrategic presence in Africa, it diminished French, U.S. and Western influence. It gave huge amount of access to natural resources, diamonds, timber, gold.

So it has been a very lucrative thing for them traditionally. What's going to be tough, though, going forward is that Wagner also traditionally offered the Kremlin plausible deniability. They weren't officially involved with it at all. Now that all of these people have been forced to sign oaths to the Ministry of Defense, they are very much part and parcel of the state.

So it's not clear how the Kremlin --

COOPER: And this Russian cultural center, I mean, it's so surreal with a woman in that dress.

WARD: You really can't make this stuff up. I mean, it's almost out of a movie. And the cultural center has been described basically as the nerve center for their commercial enterprise. But I do think it's worth mentioning that, you know, this story is about Dmitry Syty. He's a very interesting character. He's sort of the boss, but he's not the person who's making the money at the end of the day, that was Yevgeny Prigozhin.

And I think the open question at the moment is, who will replace Prigozhin? Who is going to be the one to seize those assets, seize those profits? And until we know that, you know, people like Dmitry, I think, are actually very nervous about what's going to happen to them.

That woman you saw there who introduced herself as Nafisa, we did some more research and digging on her online. Her name is not Nafisa, which is a Muslim name. It's Anfisa, which is a very traditional old Russian name.

So nobody's being straight forward, nobody wants to comment.

COOPER: So surreal.

WARD: A lot of people nervous and preferring to stay in the shadows.

COOPER: Yes. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.