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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Trump's Anti-Immigrant Comments Draw Rebuke; Scalise And Jordan Battle Over Centrists In Speakership Fight; New York Appeals Court Rejects Trump's Attempt To Stop Civil Fraud Trial, But Halts Process Of Breaking Up His Business; NY Times: New Jersey AG Opens Inquiry Into 2018 Fatal Car Crash Involving Nadine Menendez; Biden WH Waiving Federal Laws To Build Border Walls; Biden Says Border Walls Don't Work As Administration Bypasses Laws To Build More Barriers In South Texas; Students, Parents Fight Against Book Bans In Florida; "Seeing Red: Running With The Bulls" Airs Sunday At 8PM ET/PT. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 06, 2023 - 20:00   ET


NICK OFFERMAN, ACTOR: First and foremost, I think it's just having a sense of humor. We both have the wherewithal not to take life too seriously. A life in Hollywood is very difficult with a lot of rejection, and so we do our best to be giving to each other, and we're kind of hopeless romantics.

You know, we're very lucky that we found the right person, but we're also two people. So you know, we have to work at it and we do a lot of listening and I do the dishes as much as I can.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And I'm sure she was happy to be the one shoveling the dirt on you, maybe.

OFFERMAN: She would have been, yes. She would have taken delight.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you so much, both of you. I really appreciate it.


OFFERMAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And, by the way, quick aside, cover crops. You can plant them, put them over your soil. Nick was saying radishes, peas and lentils all count.

Thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360: New and dangerous language for the once and possibly future president of the United States.

Also tonight, new details on a fatal car crash involving the then girlfriend, now wife of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. Plus, a live report from Elle Reeve about how some parents and students of Florida are pushing back against the book bans in that state.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight Keeping Them Honest by taking a step back, a step back from what seems like a flood of words lately that the former president has said and followed by a flood of stories about those words and subsequent outrage that one side or another has about those stories. Before the whole cycle then repeats itself, and the latest outrage is forgotten, because it's old news by then.

His former strategist Steve Bannon had a phrase for this. He called it flooding the zone with excrement, though he used a different word for excrement, and he considered it a feature, not a bug, a plus, and that it never gave anyone the time to stop, take a breath and take stock of what just happened or what someone just said.

So tonight, we want to just stop for just a moment and give something that the former president said the consideration it deserves; to cut it out, if you will of the flow or flood of daily utterances, and I'm talking about what the former president said, the words he used during a recent interview with a right-wing outlet talking about migrants coming into America.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody has any idea where these people are coming from and we know they come from prisons, we know they come from mental institutions, insane asylums. We know they're terrorists.

Nobody has ever seen anything like we're witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country. It is poisoning the blood of our country. It's so bad, and people are coming in with disease. People are coming in with every possible thing that you can have.


COOPER: Diseased migrants " poisoning the blood of our country." Now even stripped of any historical context, those words have power of their own to invoke fear, of infection, corruption, invasion from unseen outside forces, and that is no accident when those same words have been used before.


(CROWD chanting "Blood and soil.")

(CROWD chanting "Whose streets? Our streets.")

COOPER: The White nationalists and neo Nazi marchers in Charlottesville chanting the Jews will not replace us, but their words "blood and soil," Jews will not replace us. Blood and soil was a Nazi slogan, "Blut and Boden." Americans on the streets in America chanting Nazi slogans.

They were tapping into the deep and dark vein in what's known today as replacement theory. Now most people watching that would be outraged. The former president said this.


TRUMP: ... and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.


COOPER: Very fine people among Americans that night chanting Nazi slogans.

The man who murdered worshippers at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh spent months before the mass shooting, posting one online rant after another calling immigrants invaders. The mass shooter in El Paso's final post said he was doing it because of the "Hispanic invasion of Texas."

But notions of outside invaders replacing White Americans are corrupting the blood of the nation, they are not new, and they're hardly just coming from deranged killers.

The segregationist senator from Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo wrote about this American born descendants of African slaves saying, "A White America or a mongrel America, you must take your choice."

Perhaps the strongest parallel to the former president's line poisoning the blood of the country comes from the darkest place. In a chapter of "Mein Kampf" titled "Race and People," Adolf Hitler writes: All the great civilizations of the past became decadent because the originally creative race died out as a result of contamination of the blood.


The poison which has invaded the national body, he links to a, "influx of foreign blood."

Back to today, a Trump spokesman called the former president's comment, "a normal phrase that is used in everyday life." It's certainly used throughout history, and to the extent it actually is used in everyday life, we think it's worth stopping and taking note of it.

Joining us now is conservative attorney, "Washington Post" contributing columnist, George Conway.

The phrase that he used, it has such clear historical antecedents. Even somebody as poorly read as the former president certainly knows where that phrase come from, that idea comes from. He knows the words he is using.

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER AND WASHINGTON POST CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST: Right. He is not a very intelligent man, but he does have a reptilian form of intellect that really lends itself to this kind of rhetoric, and he is profoundly, profoundly psychopathic in the way that he expresses himself.

And if you go back to 2017, like you just did, and 2016 and 2015, the people who first figured out Donald Trump were the historians, the historians of authoritarianism, the historians of international relations, and the psychologists, and the reason that they both figured it out is because they came at Donald Trump from two different angles.

One, from the mindset of what the inner workings of his mind; the other, from what he says and how he commands the affections or desires of people and that is the authoritarian part.

And what we see here is a man with lacking -- completely lacking in morality, lacking in conscience, lacking in remorse, lacking in empathy, completely, a man without a soul.

And the type of thing that -- what he preaches is hatred, and he preaches hatred because this is the way he can save himself and gain power. And right now, he is getting worse. They always get worse, the sociopaths, the psychopaths, like a Hitler or a Putin, they get worse over time as they become more and more desperate.

And that is what is happening with Donald Trump. We're seeing this rhetoric, the rhetoric about blood poisoning here, the rhetoric about executing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, all sorts of rhetoric that basically is designed to foment hatred and violence, because that is what -- that is in his nature, and that is how he plans to wield power and to gain it back.

COOPER: It's also -- I mean, you know, we talked about in the newsroom today whether to even mention these comments and bring them up, because, you know, this is so normalized now.

CONWAY: Right.

COOPER: People don't bat an eye about this stuff anymore. You don't hear members of Congress, certainly no Republicans, you know, saying anything publicly about it, even you know, John Kelly confirming to Jake Tapper this week, all the litany of just horrible things the former president has said about wounded veterans or veterans who died defending democracy in World War One and not wanting to go to their cemetery, not wanting to have, you know, a disfigured veteran near him in a public event.

Calling, you know, McCain and former, you know, George H.W. Bush losers because they were shot down. I mean, it is -- again, there is no outrage. If people are -- it just -- and it's easy to just move on to the next thing, and it is -- I don't know, from my coverage standpoint, it is -- this is something that I wrestle with.

CONWAY: Yes, and you know, and it is something that is difficult for the press to wrestle with, difficult for all of us to wrestle with because we are not used to confronting evil in the flesh the way that we have to do that now.

I mean, he -- Trump basically, he represents all that -- everything you don't want humanity to be. He brings out the worst in people, and that is basically his nature. And that is what we're seeing here today as he becomes more and more desperate, because his businesses are threatened by litigation in New York and he is facing 91 counts in four different jurisdictions.

I mean, he is going to foment more hatred and more violence and we -- you know, what psychologists and sociologists I think call this as malignant normality. We've gotten so used to his rhetoric, so used to his behavior that we don't -- we hesitate to call it out, and we don't necessarily see the danger that has crept up on us.


But it is profoundly dangerous, because if you look back on history and ask how it was that six million Jews were killed in Europe in the early 1940s, and you ask how genocides occur, it starts with a needle man, using this kind of rhetoric to move and sway and to encourage hatred among people.

COOPER: I was looking -- reading an article in "The Atlantic" today. They cite an article in 1873, August 27th, "The San Francisco Chronicle," there was an ad advertising a book, and the headline was: The Chinese invasion. They are coming 900,000 strong" in 1873, it was, you know, these Chinese diseased invaders are coming and they are going to, you know, take over this country.

I want to read the full response from the Trump campaign spokesperson. He said: "That's a normal phrase that is used in everyday life in books, television, movies, and a news articles. For anyone to think that is racist or xenophobic is living in an alternate reality consumed with nonsensical outrage."

CONWAY: I don't -- there is no other explanation for it. If he is talking about people coming in from other countries and he is talking about blood poisoning, he is talking about race, he is talking about -- he is trying to foment hatred, and that is something that is profoundly dangerous in a pluralistic society, in any society.

And that's something we really need to start calling this out more because we're going to see more, but one of the advantages, perversely that Trump has had over the last three years is that, you know, he was taken off social media, he was taken off Twitter, and he's been giving these rants, these crazy rants and they're getting much worse on his failing social media site, and then on these right-wing news outlets, they are not news, but right-wing outlets that nobody -- that only a few people watch, but it only takes a few people to cause horrific tragedies like the one at the synagogue in Pittsburgh and so many others.

COOPER: Yes. George Conway, thank you for being with us tonight. Thank you.

Mr. Trump weighed in on the race for the Speaker of the House last night throwing his support behind Congressman Jim Jordan. Mr. Jordan has been a longtime supporter, obviously, of the former president. He was served a subpoena by the January 6 Committee to answer questions about actions around the attack on the Capitol. He defied that subpoena.

The other leading candidate for this speaker's job, Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise has been working the phones to his Republican colleagues, trying to convince them that he is the man for the job.

Just to add to the overall chaos, both men agreed to a debate on Monday night and cancelled it after blowback from members. It is a fitting end to a chaotic end.

Melanie Zanona is here to help sort through it.

So is it clear how much of an impact the former president's endorsement would mean on the speaker's race?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, I think it really cuts both ways, because of course, a Trump endorsement is going to help Jim Jordan on the right, and there have been a number of conservatives who have already come out and say they are backing Jim Jordan, because of Donald Trump's endorsement of him.

Now, I talked to Troy Nehls. He is a congressman from Texas, and he said he is backing Jim Jordan because he doesn't want to go against Donald Trump's wishes.

But this endorsement is going to do nothing to win over the moderates in the party who are going to be a key constituency in this race, and some of them are still deeply skeptical of Jim Jordan.

So this Trump endorsement is probably only going to remind them of just how closely tied Jim Jordan is to the MAGA wing of the party. But Jim Jordan is arguing that his conservative credentials can actually be an asset because he can help corral the more far right elements of the party, the same elements that helped force Kevin McCarthy out earlier this week.

COOPER: Has anyone who agreed initially to a debate of Jordan and Scalise? But why was it canceled?

ZANONA: Yes, a lot of whiplash in the GOP today. So this all started when Fox News reached out to the candidates about doing this televised sort of interview from the Capitol on Monday, but Scalise and Jordan agreed. But almost instantly after the event was announced this morning, they started receiving blowback from within the party.

I was also hearing from members particularly moderates, those moderates we talked about who were going to be important, saying that they thought this was a horrible idea, that it was going to be a circus, and that they shouldn't be broadcasting these sensitive discussions when really they need to get behind closed doors and talk it out amongst themselves. So I think the blowback just really goes to show how emotions are running high inside the Republican Party and how they really want to get it right. They do not want to have the same sort of embarrassment or dysfunction on public display that we saw this week or even in January when it took Kevin McCarthy 15 rounds to get to the gavel.


But we'll see whether any candidate can actually unify the party and get that gavel on the House floor next week.

COOPER: Melanie Zanona, thanks very much. A busy week next week.

Coming up next, the former president's stay in court, the decision he was seeking in his New York fraud case, a decision which helps him in the one that he wasn't seeking, which lets the trial continue.

And later, new revelations in a new inquiry into a fatal car crash involving the woman who is now married to and a co-defendant with Senator Bob Menendez.


COOPER: This afternoon, former President Trump failed at getting a New York appeals court judge to stop his $250 million civil fraud trial, but he did get one win. The judge temporarily halted the process of breaking up his businesses.

We're going to get perspective now from CNN legal analyst, Karen Friedman Agnifilo and Jennifer Rodgers; also CNN correspondent, Kara Scannell who has been covering the trial in lower Manhattan.

So Kara, bring us up-to-date on what happened in the appeals court ruling.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this was about a 15-minute hearing and the judge, off the bat said he wasn't going to stop the trial, which is now in its fifth day, but he did agree to put a temporary halt to the cancelling of the business certificates, and that is what that lower court judge had done. He had canceled those certificates.

But this judge in this hearing said, you know it wasn't even clear if that would apply to a person's private home, so he was putting that on pause to allow Trump to appeal the lower court decision where the judge I've said that Trump and his eldest sons and the executives of the company had committed and engaged in a persistent fraud for decades by inflating the value of some of their properties including Mar-a-Lago in order to get better terms on insurance rates and loans.


COOPER: So, Jennifer, in your opinion, do both sides get a little something?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's actually funny because Trump certainly got what he wanted, or half of what he wanted.

COOPER: He didn't get the trial being stopped.


COOPER: But he wanted the --

RODGERS: He got the cancellations reversed or put on pause. But you know, the attorney general actually didn't object to that, you know, she had said, we agree that, you know, it's going to take time, right, for a receiver to evaluate the properties, dispose of the properties. We don't object to putting that on hold until the trial is over, and you can move forward.

So she just said, you know, you shouldn't be able to run the court, we should negotiate something. So it wasn't that she didn't want it. No. So he did get that small victory, I guess, but the attorney general didn't seem to mind.

COOPER: Karen Agnifilo, do you think the trial's initial ruling, ordering the cancellation of the foreign president's business certificates was a little too much too soon? I mean, how complicated a process would it actually be?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know that it was too much too soon. I think it needs to be more granularly thought out about which businesses, which certificates, which licenses, what would it apply to? And so I do think it just needs to be sorted out a little bit more and it'll be interesting to see what comes out during this trial and what other evidence and what the attorney general can prove regarding many of these properties. I think that will inform the record about what will happen to which properties.

COOPER: Jennifer, why would the former president's legal team be asking for a stay after the trial had already been going on?

RODGERS: Yes, that's a good question. I mean, they asked for it to be pushed back beforehand, too, and they lost that. I think they're just kind of trying for a second bite at the apple.

But you know, once it gets going, it's really hard to stop and we don't have a jury in this case, but there are witnesses who are being made available, you know, everybody is there kind of ready to roll. So the notion that an appellate court is going to step in five days in and stop it, you know, I think there's no harm in asking what maybe was their theory, but it was never going to happen.

COOPER: And what happened, Kara, at the fraud trial today?

SCANNELL: So there were some testimony about Eric Trump and his involvement. He's one of the defendants in this case.

COOPER: And I'm sort of seeing him always in the background when the former president is speaking as he has been much less for several days from the courthouse. SCANNELL: Right. He has attended the first three days, but he wasn't there today, when his name did come up in testimony and it was the comptroller of the Trump Organization who was on the stand, and he is the guy that put the values on these properties.

So he was describing how involving the family's compound in New York Seven Springs that he had spoken to the Eric Trump, the government showed a spreadsheet that said, you know, call with Eric Trump on this date.

And he said that he discussed with him how to value that property, and what he said was that, they had come up with the valuation for this compound, based in part on the development of seven mansions for the property, but in fact, those mansions had never been built.

So he said he had done that at the direction of Eric Trump, and a very similar situation involving one of the golf courses also in Westchester County, but it's the first time we've heard testimony really about Eric Trump's involvement in the preparation of these financial statements and the values.

And on Tuesday, the court will resume and Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer will be on the stand.

COOPER: And Ivanka Trump is not part of this, right?

SCANNELL: Yes, the appeals court had dismissed her from the case saying that the statute of limitations had run about her involvement in this, but she is expected to be called as a witness by the state and testify because she had involvement in the old Post Office building, the big hotel that they had built in DC, and her involvement with specific banks.

So that's going to get to the piece of this case that is about how the banks have received these allegedly falsified financial statements.

COOPER: And Karen, should the former president's son be worried about what came out in court today?

AGNIFILO: I think so. I think it was sort of interesting because this is the third witness to testify, and this is one of the defendant's. Don't forget the controller, Mr. McConney is a defendant on trial here, and the attorney general actually called one of the defendants in her case in chief as one of the beginning witnesses and so, I think he is testifying that this is -- he relied on this information that he got from Eric Trump and others. I mean, we'll see how the rest of the testimony goes.

But I think that there's things that came out today that would be concerning to Eric Trump. If I were his lawyer, I'd be concerned about some of the things that came out.

Additionally, for example, they talked about how one of the things that they put up -- and this is what Donald Trump always says -- is that there's a brand value to many of the properties, you know, the Trump brand, but interestingly, there was a disclaimer on these financial statements saying, by the way we didn't rely on or factor in any brand value.

So once again, just complete -- just saying one thing and doing the opposite and that's coming out loud and clear during this trial.

[20:25:03 ]

COOPER: Yes, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, thank you. Jennifer Rodgers, Kara Scannell as well.

Coming up, breaking news on the new scrutiny on a fatal car crash involving the wife of Senator Bob Menendez. She killed a man in 2018, but was never charged. Now, the New Jersey attorney general has opened a new inquiry into it according to "The New York Times," that's next.



COOPER: There is breaking news tonight in the fatal car crash involving the then girlfriend, now wife of embattled New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez.

Back in 2018, Nadine Arslanian -- is her last name -- struck and killed a pedestrian who according to the police report, had been jaywalking.

Newly released dashcam video shows police questioning her after the crash. Take a look at this.



OFFICER: No, no. Look, I understand. Before you go, I just want to confirm that you do not want to give me your phone. Correct?


OFFICER: Okay. And that your statement that you were driving this way, the guy came from this way and he ran in to your vehicle.

ARSLANIAN: He jumped on my windshield.



COOPER: The senator's girlfriend was never tested for drugs or alcohol because police say they didn't have probable cause, according to "The New York Times."

According to the police report, officers concluded she was not at fault. Now, "The New York Times" is reporting that New Jersey attorney general has opened an inquiry into the fatal crash. Here with me is John Miller, CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. So does it make sense to you? Why would they be looking into it now when nothing -- it seems like the police didn't do much investigation then?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: A lot of questions are being raised and the way it works in New Jersey, in most places in the United States, prosecutors are elected officials.

In New Jersey, prosecutors are appointed by the governor and they answer to the attorney general. So when questions are raised about what a prosecutor's office may have done or not done, whether something was covered up or handled correctly, or whether it was all done by the book, the Attorney General is coming in to do this review.


COOPER: So here's what I would like to know, did they the police know she was the girlfriend of Senator Menendez, either on the scene or later on? Why didn't they breathalyzer? Is -- I mean, is that true they didn't have probable cause? I would think that would be standard if you've just killed somebody with your vehicle. And does this seem questionable to you?

MILLER: So by New Jersey law enforcement standards, not questionable in that manner, because unless they can articulate reasonable suspicion that someone's are -- that someone may be intoxicated, they can't compel a breathalyzer or a drug test or drawing blood from a hospital.

COOPER: Because she didn't say the man jumped on her windshield.

MILLER: Right.

COOPER: I don't know, that seems an odd thing to have happened. It could be possible he was hit and propelled onto her windshield.

MILLER: If you see the video, you know, he goes up in the air and lands on the windshield. And when she stops, he flies off the car and bounces in the street a couple of times before he stops. We had three specific questions for the Bergen County prosecutor, which is did she call 911 after the accident? Did she use the phone to call anybody else? And did the Bergen County prosecutor's office subpoena those records?

Why is this important? Because if you look at the video of the car accident, the car sits there, stock still for a full minute after he's been hit, and he's laying in the street.

COOPER: She doesn't get out?

MILLER: She doesn't get out. Actually, she doesn't get out at all, Anderson, until the police arrive. So what's going on in that minute? We actually did learn from a law enforcement source today that she does, in fact, call 911. And she says in the 911 call -- I am told exactly what she said in the video, which is, I was driving and a man jumped on top of my windshield. So there's that. The more burning question is, that's four minutes after she strikes him. That's three minutes after she sits still and then moves the car up 100 feet. Did she call anyone else? And that's why that third question, did they subpoena the phone records? Because what you want to know there is, was she texting while she was driving? Could she have been distracted?

Was she on the phone or reading an email or answering an email? I mean, you want to know all that because it's a factor in a fatal accident. And the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, which, you know, the Pagoda Police Department gave us all the records that they had the first day.

And the last line and those records are the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Accident Investigation Unit is going to subpoena those records. We asked all those questions yesterday. We got back an email that gave a description of their Accident Investigation Unit and said make a records request.

At that moment, while they were telling us make a records request, the attorney general's office was in there gathering up those very same records. So it seems like a stall tactic.

COOPER: Interesting. John Miller, thank you so much. More on this no doubt.

Coming up, as a candidate, President Biden vowed that there will, quote, not be another foot of border wall construct on his watch. So why has a new border wall in the Rio Grande Valley been approved? That's next.



COOPER: The migrant situation is putting pressure on the White House. One thing then candidate Joe Biden vowed to never do -- build more border walls. Fast forward to this week and a notice posted to the Federal Registry announcing just that, more walls to be built along the border in the Rio Grande Valley. President Biden defended the move saying he had no choice.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The money was appropriate for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate, to redirect that money. They didn't, they wouldn't. And in the meantime, there's nothing under the law that I may have to use the money for when appropriate. I can't stop that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe the border wall works?


(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So why then did his administration say it will waive 26 laws to get it done? Senior White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche joins me now. So the White House seems to be claiming that they had to spend this money on the border barriers. Is that the truth? I mean, do they have to spend money?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes and no. It's a little bit more nuanced than that, Anderson. On the one hand, the White House says that under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, in Nixon era law, the White House can't simply choose not to spend that money because of policy differences, which is what they say they would have been doing in this particular case.

On the other hand, there could have been ways to slow walk the construction of that new border wall or, you know, there's also the question of whether the administration should have pushed during the two years that Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the White House to rescind some of that funding, and the White House hasn't had an answer for that particular question.

COOPER: The White House talks about the border issue in the appropriations request, right?

TAUSCHE: They did. And Secretary Mayorkas personally signed off on that filing that was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday evening. And in it, he cited an acute and immediate need at the southern border to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries in to the United States in the project areas.

And he goes on to say, "I have determined that it is necessary that I exercise that authority." So Mayorkas personally signing off on this request to waive those 26 federal laws to essentially expedite that construction, even though he and the administration remain adamant this week. There is no new border policy. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Kayla Tausche, thanks.

With me here, CNN's Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. So what does the polling say on what kind of action voters would like to see when it comes to southern border?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: They want to see increased security at the southern border. That's a fact. And very rarely do you see the percentage that we're seeing in the polls right now. Nearly 80 percent of voters want that increased security at the border.

And more than that, I'm always interested in issues in which a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans agree and this is one of those shows. Now, obviously, Republicans want security more at the border than Democrats do. But still, 60 percent of Democrats wanting more security at the border. This is an issue in which I think President Biden is feeling a lot of political pressure because a polling exactly like that.

[20:40:12] COOPER: I get -- if they -- they're responding polling doing this, or they feel there is a real need for, I don't know why the administration then wouldn't just explain that or are supported. And they seem to be having it both ways. Which party has the advantage on dealing with immigration?

ENTEN: Yes. Sometimes in politics, it's difficult to figure out, you know, why folks don't exactly say what perhaps they should say, from a political point of view. But I will note that which party that has the edge on immigration, it's the Republican Party, and they have nearly a 20-point edge on the issue of immigration.

And this is vastly different from what we saw in the 2020 campaign, when it was actually the Democratic Party that had the edge on immigration. In fact, according to the NBC poll, what we see is that more voters today favor the Republican Party on immigration than at any point in NBC News polling history.

So this is an issue that is working for Republicans right now. And I think that's part of the reason why we're sort of seeing a lot of Democrats recognizing this polling and saying, hey, maybe we should sort of switch up our messaging on immigration.

COOPER: And I think I know the answer to this, but what is -- what are the numbers show about Americans concern about immigration?

ENTEN: Yes, I like when you set me up so easily for questions like this, right. I -- look, back in 2020, immigration was not an issue that was on anyone's radar, right? We were all talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps we were talking about opening up the economy. Back then, just 1 percent of Americans said that immigration was the top problem. It was simply not an issue that Donald Trump can run on.

Jump forward to today, it's now the third highest ranked in terms of the issue that Americans say it's most important at 13 percent. That's also nearly double, basically from where we were. We're about double from where we were during the 2022 midterm campaign. So I think immigration is going to be an issue that Republicans and specifically Donald Trump is going to like to run on in this campaign.

And the fact is, a lot of Americans are coming around to the Republican view on immigration. So it's something I think that Democrats are rightly to worry about.

COOPER: All right, Harry Enten, thanks very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Happy weekend. Coming up next, how some students and parents are trying to fight book banding efforts at school board meetings in Florida.


[20:46:40] COOPER: Earlier this year, CNN's Elle Reeve reported on the group, which calls themselves Moms for Liberty, which has been leading the charge on getting books banned or removed from shelves of schools and some libraries. According to the organization, Pan America, book bans in public schools increased 33 percent last year, schoolyear, and more than 40 percent of all book bans happened in Florida school districts.

Now, in May, Elle spoke with the leader of Moms for Liberty in El Paso County, Colorado, about what was motivating her push to take books off the shelves.


ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): To me, it sounds like you're saying there's some kind of high level, coordinated effort to make more children trans and gay.


REEVE (on-camera): Well, who is directing that?

SCHOENING: Teachers unions and our president and a lot of funding sources. And teachers' unions are also heavily backing the curriculum that we're bringing into schools.

REEVE (on-camera): Why would they want more kids to be gay and trans?

SCHOENING: Because it breaks down the family unit, which breaks down traditional conservative values. It breaks down a lot of things in this country. It changes the way that people think. It changes the way that people handle politics.


COOPER: So tonight, another in-depth look from Elle what some students, parents are doing to try to stop books from disappearing from school bookshelves.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here we go. On page 25, it starts, I swear their relationship is based on those -- blowjobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she grabbed his penis with her hands and started moving it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Page 59, he had a dirty picture of a woman attempting sexual intercourse with Shetland pony.

REEVE (voice-over): This is a school board meeting in Volusia County, Florida, where people are reading the racy parts of books out of context in an attempt to get them banned from school libraries.

TRIXIE MECKLEY, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Yes, adults that are talking about this definitely don't understand their children. RILEY KELLOGG, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I actually have a sticker on my phone right now that says, if you ban a book, I add it to my summer reads list.

REEVE (voice-over): The conservative group Moms for Liberty is leading the push to remove what it deems pornography from schools. But some targeted books are considered classics.

JENNIFER PIPPIN, MOM OF LIBERTY, INDIAN RIVER COUNTY CHAPTER CHAIR: If a room full of adults cannot hear pornography or sexually explicit content or whatever is challenged, then it should not be in the hands of minor children in schools.

REEVE (voice-over): So the group lobbied for a state law that if someone reads a passage from a book out loud at a school board meeting and the board stops them because it's offensive, the book can be immediately removed. The law went into effect in July. It turns spectacle into policy.

JESSICA TILLMANN, MOMS FOR LIBERTY, SEMINOLE COUNTY CHAPTER CHAIR: You want to get shut down. You want to read the worst of the worst of the books we gave you. That way, you will guarantee to get shut down.

REEVE (voice-over): We don't often hear from the people actually affected by this -- students. Some teenagers are telling school boards their side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have learned a lot more about the world around me through books than I have through my own eyes. By removing books that a small group of people take issue with, I may not have been able to do that.

KELLOGG: I've always loved reading. Although there might be something in a book that some people don't want there to be, the books ultimately have a message. They should stay in the libraries.

DELAYNA HILBER, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT: It is disgusting for a grown man to high-five people and get excited to read crude passages knowing that children are attending or watching from home.

I wanted to tell the school board that I believe that more dire matters should be discussed in a school district meeting.

REEVE (voice-over): And some parents are furious about Moms for Liberty's tactics.


MICHAEL MARSH, PARENT, INDIAN RIVER COUNTY: I am the proud founder of Mike for Liberty, which Mike for Liberty says that your parental rights do not stop mine.

It's a travesty.

REEVE (on-camera): Why did you come out and speak tonight? MARSH: Because I'm a proud parent of two beautiful interracial queens and I'm sick of this nonsense. I'm sick of a local fringe group speaking for my children. It has to stop. They are not the majority. They are a bullies.

They could have went to their local school. They could have said, hey, principal, so and so. I want you to look at this book. They chose not to do that. They chose to bring the theater here and for the circus to happen here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This book contains sexual activities, sexual nudity, profanity, alternative sexualities, hate, abortion.

RAEGAN MILLER, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA FREEDOM TO READ PROJECT: If you look at the Statue of David, they're zooming in on David's groin area. You know, one specific part. And what they need to do is take a step back when they're reading these passages, that's all they're doing. And they're missing, really, the amazing work of art.

REEVE (voice-over): Stephana Ferrell and Raegan Miller created Florida Freedom to Read to push back against groups including Moms for Liberty. They've used public records requests to reveal internal school board confusion over the book removal law.

STEPHANA FERRELL, DIRECTOR, FLORIDA FREEDOM TO READ PROJECT: "Anne Frank's Diary" in Indian River, they were successful in removing this graphic adaptation. And according to them, this is sexually explicit nudity.

REEVE (on-camera): These marble statues?

FERRELL: Yes. "The Bluest Eye" has been taken out without a review in many other counties across Florida. We see it high on the list of the most banned book in the country. And it's one of those things where they're talking about sexual assault, and they make it sound as if Toni Morrison intended to arouse the audience with those words. And that was absolutely not the intent of this work.

REEVE (voice-over): The Diary of Anne Frank is the story of a Jewish teen hiding from Nazis during the Holocaust. "The Bluest Eye" is about a young black girl who's told she's ugly so often she wishes for blue eyes. Books like these help teach students how to think about difficult subjects through characters they can relate to.

MECKLEY: When you hear about the bans on books that have like queer themes and like gay and trans people, it's a little hurtful. Not for the crazy people to say we should ban books because of that, but just for that to be the issue that people are like, that's the stumbling block. That's why we're even having to have these conversations. I think that's frustrating. And I think that goes -- that extends to race as well.

REEVE (on-camera): Have you ever read a book about racism and felt bad for being white?

MECKLEY: Yes, obviously. But black people and brown people, whoever, whatever kind of racism is being talked about, they feel bad, too. Like when we were learning about slavery, it's like everyone feels really bad talking about this stuff because it's horrible stuff that's happened to people.

Trying to make it so everyone's happy when they're reading and feel good about themselves is really stupid because it's denying, like, a broader range of emotions and experiences and understanding.

REEVE (on-camera): Are you curious at all what the students think about whether these books should be in libraries?

JENIFER KELLY, MOMS FOR LIBERTY, VOLUSIA COUNTY CHAPTER CHAIR: If they're 17 or younger, no. It's their parents' decision.

REEVE (voice-over): Some told us Moms for Liberty has created a climate of fear from students to teachers to those who might run for public office in Florida.

MARSH: It's so sad when my daughter has to come home and say, daddy, we learned about another religion today. Is that OK? Daddy, we learned about this in history. And I have to tell my daughters, it's OK. Your teachers aren't getting in trouble.

FERRELL: Teachers are scared, rightfully so, because if they lose their certification here, they can't teach in Florida, they can't teach anywhere in the nation.

REEVE (on-camera): Do you think it limits the number of people who might speak out against these book removals? The threat that if they do so, they might be called a pedophile?


FERRELL: Absolutely.

R. MILLER: Yes. I even -- I have a friend who's sitting on a curriculum review committee that talks to me a few minutes ago and says she's scared to go to the review committee because she thinks that they're all going to show up to protest.

MARSH: This is what happens when no one runs and everyone's asleep. Well, you know what? I'm wide awake or awoke, which is the bad word of the day, so we got to vote them out.


COOPER: And Elle Reeve joins us now. What was that school board meeting like that you were at?

REEVE: It has a feel of a professional wrestling match where everybody knows what's going to happen, but they all want to watch it anyway. So, the Moms for Liberty know they're going to read sex scenes. The people who pose them know they're going to read sex scenes. The school board knows they're going to read sex scenes.

But for a Moms for Liberty to have the book pulled from the shelves, the school board has to say these words are inappropriate for the crowd that came to hear them.

COOPER: It's fascinating. And they haven't actually really read these books often.

REEVE: No, no. I asked the mother we talked to, had she read "Slaughterhouse Five". That's a book about the horrors of war. But what was read in the meeting was, you know, these like tiny little sentences or phrases that are about sexuality.

COOPER: All right. Elle Reeve, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: A quick programming note, I hope you tune in this Sunday night for the whole story. David Culver takes us to the annual running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. A dangerous, controversial tradition dates back more than 400 years. David even suits up in the traditional white garb and red scarf and tries it himself. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bit terrifying because you're starting to think, all right, I'm committed, I'm on and I'm going to stay on. As we gather as a group, we kind of find our positioning.

It's crazy to think that you're standing your ground after first the bells and then that rocket goes off and you're holding your ground. And I'm listening to Dennis's command.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Run, run, run, run.


COOPER: You might have seen David there fall in the crowd by the bull. His effort did not go as planned.

See what happened when you watch. It's quite something. "Seeing Red: Running with the Bulls", a new episode of The Whole Story this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Pacific only here on CNN.

We cannot end this long and chaotic week without one more live check in with the soon to be hibernating bears Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve because the end of our week is not the end of their as Fat Bear Week runs through October 10. You can still vote for your favorite. Again the web address is fatbearweek, all one word, .org.

And with that, the news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.