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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

GOP-Led House Votes Along Straight Party Lines To Authorize Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Biden Calls Impeachment Inquiry "Baseless Political Stunt"; Judge Pauses Trump Election Interference Case; Trial May Be Delayed; Trump's March Trial Could Be Delayed As Judge Pauses Election Case While Supreme Court Weighs Appeals; Trump Campaigns In Iowa As House Votes To Authorize Impeachment Inquiry; Moms For Liberty Co-founder Involved In Sex Scandal With Another Woman Despite The Group's Anti-LGBTQ Stance; New Deal Reached To Phase Out Fossil Fuels, But Loopholes Remain. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 13, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: He's missing now, so they don't know. An unofficial telegram channel with ties to Putin's security services reporting now that Navalny is in Moscow and that investigative actions are being carried out with him.

But Navalny's team tonight saying this, "Today, we checked most of the pretrial detention centers in Moscow. None of them had Alexey Navalny. Investigative actions are not carried out without lawyers. All investigative actions have already taken place." According to Navalny's team, his health has been deteriorating. And, in fact, last week they say he became ill in his cell, had to be hooked to an IV. That is the last that they heard from him.

Thank you so much for joining us. "AC 360" starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on "360," breaking news. The House takes a major step in votes to authorize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, but do they have any evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors?

Also, Judge Tanya Chutkan overseeing the federal January 6th case against the former president today hit pause on the proceedings, raising the question, will it ever go to trial at all?

And later, cofounder of the conservative group, Moms for Liberty, gets caught up in a sex scandal of her own, and now the school board where she serves wants her gone.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us. We begin with tonight's historic vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry into President Biden that House Republicans have been pursuing now for months with little or nothing so far to show for it. President Biden tonight called it a baseless political stunt. The vote, 221 to 212, was entirely along party lines.

Pushing for it earlier today, House Speaker Mike Johnson said tonight, tonight's action was, quote, "called for and appropriate," which is certainly a change from the Mike Johnson of four years ago, who believed the exact opposite when the subject of the impeachment was Donald Trump.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The founding fathers -- the founders of this country warned against single-party impeachments, and they had a very specific reason for warning us against that. They said that it would be bitterly divisive, perhaps irreparably divisive for the country. And that's what's happened now.


COOPER: So that was four years ago. When Mike Johnson said that, he had already seen plenty of evidence against the former president, including sworn testimony from ex-administration officials that the former president had tried to pressure Ukraine's president into investigating or at least announcing investigation into then-candidate Biden and his son, Hunter. That wasn't enough for him then.

This time though, it is different. There is next to no evidence of impeachable offenses, yet he is on record all the way back in August saying, and I quote, "The evidence and the allegations against President Biden are the worst in the history of the country. It's not even close," he said.

Now, keeping him honest, in addition to lumping allegations and evidence together, he is the one making the allegations, along with a number of top Republican committee chairman, which lends an echo chamber quality to it all. But even for Republicans who are not making allegations and who say they just want answers, it's worth examining what the search for answers has yielded so far.


REP. JAMES COMER (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Today, the House Oversight Committee is releasing subpoenaed bank records that show Hunter Biden's business entity, Owasco PC, made direct monthly payments to Joe Biden. This wasn't a payment from Hunter Biden's personal account, but an account for his corporation that received payments from China and other shady corners of the world.


COOPER: So, that's House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer talking about what evidence would later suggest were repayments of a car loan back in 2018, before Joe Biden was president. And though there has been testimony that Hunter Biden played up his relationship with his father, neither Chairman Comer's committee nor Jim Jordan's Judiciary Committee have established that Hunter Biden influenced any decisions by President Biden or then-vice President Biden. So far, in fact, they've uncovered no evidence that what Hunter Biden has been saying and said again at the Capitol today is not true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: My father was not financially involved in my business, not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with the Chinese private businessmen, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist.


COOPER: Hunter Biden was supposed to be questioned by the Oversight Committee in private today. And in defying the subpoena, he's certainly adding to his troubles, which now include two federal indictments. But again, this has nothing to do with his father and his capacity as president. But don't tell that to Chairman Comer, who had this to say about Hunter Biden's most recent indictment last week on tax charges.


COMER: We think there are many more crimes, and my concern is that Weiss may have indicted Hunter Biden to protect him from nothing to being deposed ...


COMER: ... in the House Oversight Committee ...


COMER: ... on Wednesday. But we, in fact ...

TAPPER: He indicted him to protect him. Yes, the classic rubric. He indicted him to protect him. I got it.


COOPER: So, in that indictment and the earlier one, prosecutors lay out the evidence that they have gathered. Chairman Comer and Jordan so far have not. They've made plenty of allegations and a lot of TV appearances, which could be entirely the point.


Just ask the former president, who recently posted this on his social network, "Biden is a Stone Cold Crook. You don't need a long inquiry to prove it, it's already proven."

Joining us now, one of the no votes, California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who oversaw the former president's first impeachment. So, congressman, what is your reaction to vote tonight? I mean, are you surprised at all by the unanimous Republican support?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I'm not surprised. These are not serious people. This is not a serious impeachment inquiry. It is a tragedy and a farce, and it's motivated by two things.

One of them, I think, was that social media post that you just showed on the screen. That is, they want to dilute the stain of Trump's two legitimate impeachments with an illegitimate impeachment of Joe Biden.

They have no affirmative agenda for the country. They're doing nothing on housing, nothing on food, nothing on healthcare, nothing on climate change, nothing on gun safety.

What they are doing, they're doing a -- they did a sham censure of me. They vacated their own speaker. They had to expel one of their own members. And now, they're engaged in a farce of an impeachment proceeding as a way of, I guess, taking up time on the floor because they have nothing else to offer the American people. It's a terrible reason for an impeachment proceeding.

COOPER: I mean, there are moderate Republicans who want to do good. Did they go along with this just because of pressure from their constituents, because of pressure to toe the line with the former president?

SCHIFF: Absolutely. One of the things that Donald Trump did well and did shrewdly is anyone who stepped an inch out of line, he would come down on them like a ton of bricks, and he would organize primary challenges and go after them. And, you know, what we've seen is a epidemic of cowardice in the GOP conference. And that's what's motivating this here.

When you contrast it, as you alluded, the overwhelming evidence that we had that President Trump had withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from Ukraine to extort President Zelenskyy into helping his presidential campaign or the evidence that was before all of us in Congress, so President Trump's incitement of a violent attack on the Capitol is subject of the two impeachments of Donald Trump to the lack of any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Joe Biden.

It just shows you the glaring abuse of this process. And it just invites further abuse of impeachment or any other tool, censure, or anything else by this MAGA crowd.

COOPER: Is it clear to you how House Republicans are going to find -- try to find evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors? Now, I mean, they've come up short for months with multiple investigations.

SCHIFF: They have, and I think they have no idea. And I think what they also don't fully appreciate -- and this is something I think Speaker Pelosi understood -- and that is, once you get this train started, you darn well better be sure you have the evidence. And you may need to gather further insights and flesh out that evidence, but it gathers momentum on its own, and then it becomes very difficult to stop.

But the Republican conference doesn't seem to be able to think ahead of next week or tomorrow. And so, they're putting the country on this train destined for nowhere.

And so, you know, by contrast, you know, we did a thorough investigation. We waited until the evidence was rife even to begin a formal inquiry. And we see none of that happening here. This is an impeachment in search of a reason for being. It is an impeachment with a target, but no evidence of a high crime or a misdemeanor.

COOPER: So, now ...

SCHIFF: And in that respect, it's (inaudible) backwards.

COOPER: ... so, now, Comer and Jordan are going to start -- they say they're going to start contempt proceedings against Hunter Biden for not appearing at a scheduled deposition today. They referenced you in their joint statement saying, quote, "Democrats have used depositions in their investigations, including the Adam Schiff impeachment inquiry." I'm wondering what your response is to that.

SCHIFF: We did use depositions, and we used open hearings. And they offered Hunter Biden an open hearing. And then they told him, no, they wouldn't accept it. Look, I welcome that hearing in the Judiciary Committee because I think I will move to add Jim Jordan to the contempt motion.

You know, Anderson, I don't understand how these people do it. We're going to have Jim Jordan who failed to appear for his own deposition, failed to cooperate with a deposition.

He is going to be the one to convene a contempt hearing of Hunter Biden. I'll be very interested to see what that looks like. But if he brings a contempt motion, he should be added to it.


COOPER: Congressman Schiff, thank you for your time.

I want to get some perspective from former Biden Communications Director, Kate Bedingfield. She's currently CNN political commentator. So are David Axelrod and David Urban, former Obama Senior Adviser and former Trump Campaign Adviser, respectively.

David Axelrod, I'm wondering what you thought of Hunter Biden's appearance in front of Congress today and their move now, this vote that took place.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, just from a strategic standpoint, I thought it was the right thing to do because it underscored the fact that he showed up and was willing to testify and they didn't want to hear from him in public. So, I thought it was the right thing to do. And he's got a lot of problems that -- you know, legal problems that he has to deal with. But I thought on this -- in this particular instance, he did the right thing.

I just want to say something, Anderson, about what Adam Schiff just said. He said, once you get these things started, they're hard to stop. I don't think they're ever going to stop. I don't think they're -- I don't think the speaker can get the votes to actually impeach the president. I don't think he wants to call the question. I think a lot of people who voted for it today who are in competitive districts don't want to call the question. So, I think this is just going to be kind of a Benghazi-like experience where it goes on and on until the election comes around.

COOPER: Kate, do you think that's going to happen as well? Do you think that's how it's going to be?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do, I do, because I think, you know, you have these Republicans in 18 Biden districts who don't want to take a vote on this, who don't want to have to go back to their constituents and say that they participated in this, you know, essentially political sham process.

They said as much rolling into this vote today. Over the course of the last few months, you saw a lot of these Republicans in those Biden districts saying, you know, this isn't where our focus should be. So they don't want to take that vote, and they know that it potentially jeopardizes their majority in the House.

So, you know, I think ultimately what happens here is I agree that Republicans have sort of put themselves in a weird box because either a group of them -- enough of them -- if they took a vote, would exonerate Biden -- great for Joe Biden -- or you put these vulnerable members who then have to go back to their constituents and explain the vote under the gun and having to vote for this thing.

So it doesn't make a lot of sense to me as a political calculation for the House. I think -- for the House Republicans, I should say. And at the end of the day, I think it will wind up hurting them more than it's going to hurt Joe Biden.

COOPER: David Urban, I mean, after the House Judiciary Committee voted on charges in the first Trump impeachment four years ago tonight, then Congressman, you know, Mike Johnson -- I want to play what he said four years ago.


JOHNSON: The founding fathers -- the founders of this country warned against single-party impeachments, and they had a very specific reason for warning us against that. They said that it would be bitterly divisive, perhaps irreparably divisive for the country. And that's what's happened now.


COOPER: If that was the principle in 2019, why is it not important tonight, do you think?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think what's happened, Anderson, is -- no, I was listening to congressman Schiff talking just kind of laughing and shaking my head. You know, it is just -- you know, impeachment is a political tool. That's what's going on here. It's politics -- pure and simple. Like Axe said, this is going to be a Benghazi-like inquiry. It's going to go on and on and on. They're not going to be -- there's not going to be a call for a vote on the question of whether or not to impeach the president because I don't think that's the ultimate objective here, at the end of the day. The end of the day is to -- in a political year, is to draw as much blood as possible.

Look, on the -- on President Trump's inauguration day, "The Washington Post" called for his impeachment, on the day he was inaugurated. So it's not like this sport just started two days ago or this evening on this vote. I mean, it started way, way back in the Gingrich days when we impeached Clinton for something that may not have been impeachable, and we continue on. And, you know, here we sit tonight on the verge of another unstoppable movement.

COOPER: David Axelrod ...

AXELROD: That is another (inaudible) ...

COOPER: ... was the impeachment of Trump a sham and this a sham, too?

AXELROD: I think these are two entirely different issues because, basically, they're basing an impeachment inquiry on something the president's son did. Hunter Biden isn't president of the United States. And after two years of trying, they still haven't been able to make a link between Joe Biden and what Hunter did. So, this is entirely different. Trump was being held accountable for Trump's own actions.

But I will say that in terms of the politics of this, Mike Johnson is -- he is playing a game of Twister here. I don't know if he's going to be able to stay on his feet, but he's trying to keep his Trump supporters and his freedom caucus people on board. And they are demanding an impeachment. And he's trying to keep his moderate sort of Biden district members on board.


And this was the compromise. We'll do this. But he is now out of runway here. And ultimately, you know, whether he can mollify everyone indefinitely is the question.

COOPER: David Urban, do you think this is ...


COOPER: ... motivated by the former president, I mean, that, you know, he wants this to muddy the waters and these guys, these folks are dancing to his tune?

URBAN: Yes, I don't think that's the case, Anderson. I think it's just -- I think it really is red meat for the Republican base. I think his acts alludes to the speaker has to keep his -- you know, he's got to run, you know, internally there. He's got to run a very complex organization. He's got to get some incredibly complex things done here in the coming month to keep the government going. Remember, he's got to get a spending bill. He's got lots of things to do that Kevin McCarthy got fired for trying to do. He's got to balance all those things kind of, you know, on the tip of a pin coming up the next 30 to 60 days.

AXELROD: I disagree, I just disagree ...

COOPER: Go ahead, David.

AXELROD: ... I disagree with that, Anderson. I do think this is an ordered hit from Donald Trump, who wants to portray equivalence. They went after me, we're going after him.

He wants to muddy the waters. And I think his supporters want to muddy the waters. You know, the speaker just made a pilgrimage to President Trump, who knows what they talked about, but he came back and now we have this vote.

I think Trump very much wanted this vote. I think he'd be very angry if there weren't this vote. And now the question is, does he pressure them to take more steps that Johnson simply can't deliver?

COOPER: Kate, as we mentioned, Hunter Biden made this surprise appearance on Capitol Hill today. He said he's ready to testify before Congress, only publicly. I just want to play a little bit more of what he said.


BIDEN: During my battle with addiction, my parents were there for me. They literally saved my life. They helped me in ways that I will never be able to repay, and, of course, they would never expect me to.

And in the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd.


COOPER: Kate, do you think he helped his cause here?

BEDINGFIELD: I do, I do. I think what we saw -- so, the Republicans have been trying to make this a central argument against Joe Biden since he was running in the Democratic primary in 2019. This was something that we had incoming to the Biden campaign in 2019.

So, what we learned was that the more we talked about this and the more Joe Biden talked about this, in personal terms, in human terms, through the lens of the struggle that Hunter went through and the challenges that people all over the country can relate to because everyone has someone in their family or a friend who has struggled with the depths of addiction, the more that people understood that that's what Hunter was going through when some of these financial decisions were made, the more they understood it. And that sort of culminated in the 2020 campaign with the debate moment with Joe Biden standing on the stage next to Donald Trump, Donald Trump coming at him in the debate and Joe Biden saying, I'm proud of my son, I love my son. And I think every person watching this debate right now knows somebody who has struggled like Hunter has.

It's incredibly powerful. And so, I think Hunter doing this today, first of all, calling their bluff and saying, I will absolutely speak to you in a public, televised hearing, and them saying no was smart on his part. But then also, putting this in human terms and standing there and making his case directly, I think, was a really smart thing for him to do.

COOPER: Everybody stay with us. I want to get your take on today's legal developments, the big news. The Supreme Court taking up a case that could help the former president and Judge Tanya Chutkan hitting pause on the January 6th case.

Later, a Florida moral crusader, the sex abuse allegations against her husband, the salacious allegations about their private life and threesomes, and the real question it all raises about hypocrisy and double standards ahead.



COOPER: Two major legal developments today, either or both of which could benefit the former president. The Supreme Court agreeing to weigh in on the scope of many January 6th indictments, including the former president's, and Judge Tanya Chutkan's decision today to hit pause on the president's case.

Joining us now with more of both, CNN Legal Affairs Correspondent, Paula Reid. So talk about what Judge Chutkan had to say today.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Chutkan has been adamant that this case will go to trial in March. But tonight, she's saying, look, that might slide. She's had to put the proceedings on hold. And she has to do this because you really can't put on a case when the Court of Appeals is considering issues that could render the entire thing moot. This is also why we saw earlier this week Special Counsel Jack Smith ask the Supreme Court to just step in and decide his issue so they can go to trial on time.

Notably tonight, the Court of Appeals, which is the next scheduled step, unless the Supreme Court weighs in, they set an expedited schedule for hearing these matters. But even if they move quickly, ultimately, the Supreme Court is going to have to weigh in before this trial can begin.

COOPER: And why is the Supreme Court considering whether part of a federal obstruction law can be used in January 6th cases?

REID: Yes, this is so interesting. They've decided to look at a certain part of a federal obstruction law. And depending on how they define that and how they decide that that may or may not apply to people who participated in the January 6th attack, that could possibly impact Trump's case.

Now, also the Supreme Court said today that they are going to once again weigh in on the abortion issue, this time on mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortion. But Anderson, no matter what they decide there, the decision is likely to come by July -- the height of the presidential campaign season.

So, regardless of what the actual outcome is, the presidential frontrunners are going to once again face renewed pressure on this issue. So, the Supreme Court right now looming quite large for this next presidential campaign.

COOPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks.

Perspective now from CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig. And back with us, Kate Bedingfield, and the two Davids -- Axelrod and Urban. So why did Judge Chutkan hit pause?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, she had to legally because this is the immunity question here. This is where Donald Trump claims he cannot be prosecuted because what he did was part of his job as president.


The law says that while an issue like that is working its way of through the Court of Appeals, the trial court Judge Chutkan has to give it up, has to pause, has to be on stay. So she probably didn't want to, but she has to.

And the practical result of that now is this March 4th trial date is very much in jeopardy because, even if this appeal move through the courts with lightning speed, the fastest it can realistically take is January, February, more likely in February. If you look at Watergate, it's ...

COOPER: That would be if the Supreme Court came in ...


COOPER: ... to address it.

HONIG: Exactly. If they say, we're going to skip the Court of Appeals, we're going to take it directly. We're going to have a fast-briefing schedule. We're looking at a ruling late January, early February. It took the Watergate case two months from the start of the time the Supreme Court took, super expedited to rule.

So let's say we get a ruling in February. You can't come back in February as the trial judge and say, okay, parties, we have this enormously complicated case, it's going to trial in three weeks. It's just not realistic.

COOPER: So could the Supreme Court -- I mean, there are two issues they're going to be dealing with. Could the Supreme Court effectively wipe away most, if not all, of Trump's legal issues?

HONIG: Yes. So, well, if Trump wins on the immunity case -- and I think it's a long shot for Trump but not impossible -- if Trump wins on the immunity case, Jack Smith's January 6th case is over and done, and I think Fani Willis' likely is, too.

There's a separate issue that Paula talked about, which is the obstruction charge, right? The Supreme Court has announced now they're going to review whether the obstruction charge can be applied to January 6.

Two of the four charges against Donald Trump, federally, are that charge. So, if the court says, obstruction does not apply to January 6th, Jack Smith loses two of his four charges in that case. So, there's a couple different ways the Supreme Court can make a big dent here.

COOPER: David Urban, I mean, the Trump campaign is already saying that Chutkan's pause in the election subversion trial is a -- in their words -- big win. Do you see it that way?

URBAN: Yes. I mean, what Elie is saying is correct. Either way, whatever happens here, Jack Smith is in a really tough spot because not just the first case that the court's going to hear, but on this obstruction case, which far more likely -- the court doesn't generally take cases on, you know, on circuit court to hear them if they're just going to uphold the circuit court.

So, the DC Circuit overturned the district court. The Supreme Court is not going to take that case up to hear it to -- you know, to reaffirm what the Court of Appeals did. So more likely, they're going to overturn the circuit court and knock down two of those counts in Jack Smith's case, which is basically his whole ball of wax.

COOPER: Do you agree with that?

HONIG: I do think it's more likely the Supreme Court overturns this because, as David Urban just said, all the courts below have said, yes, obstruction does apply to what happened in January 6th. It's hard for me to see the Supreme Court saying, we're going to review this just to say, yes, you got it all right.

COOPER: David Axelrod, if the Supreme Court gives Trump a win on one or both of the issues, is that politically tantamount to him being acquitted?

AXELROD: Well, I think we have to see how the rest of the stories unfold, but it's a huge thing for him. Look, at a minimum here, Anderson, it's always been the case that his strategy would be delay, delay, delay to try and kick everything over until the general election. So, yes, if they throw out major pieces of the indictment, that is a huge thing for him, but just the delay is useful to him.

And if it gets delayed long enough, it's going to run right into the conventions and the general election. And they have to make a decision as to whether that is fair to have a trial going on at that point. I think this was one of the major motivations. You and I have talked about this before, for his candidacy. I think this is part of his legal defense strategy -- run for president, use your candidacy as a shield, and try and kick this thing to after the election, win the election, and kick all these cases -- these federal cases.

COOPER: Kate, I mean, given the timeline of the various cases, depending on what the Supreme Court rules, I mean, if the -- if Trump was on trial in the spring or the summer, what would that mean for the Biden campaign?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think for the Biden campaign -- and it gives them an opening -- they want to make this about the contrast between Trump, the chaos Trump brings, and what Biden would do in a second term, Biden's vision.

If Trump is ensnared in legal proceedings in the heart of the campaign, it makes them -- it makes it harder for him to talk about his own vision, the things that he wants to get done in the second term as he sort of, you know, focusing in and all of the oxygen around him and the coverage around him is about the trial. So I think it does -- it will give the Biden campaign a sort of natural, built-in contrast.

You know, but the other thing that I think is interesting here is I know Judge Chutkan said the gag order remains in effect while this pause is taking place. And, you know, I actually think that's a little bit of a political gift to Trump. I expect there are probably people in his political orbit who wish they could put a gag order on him on other issues.

So, you know, the kind of quieter, more disciplined version of Trump probably benefits him in the end. So, it's just -- it's interesting that, you know, he will continue to be unable to really hold fort on this the way that he probably wants to, but that probably doesn't serve him. So, in some ways, I think this gag order probably does him a favor.


COOPER: Elie, I mean, you mentioned this before, but how soon would the supreme court likely decide whether they are going to weigh in? And then how long would it take them? What's the process?

HONIG: Two different issues here, right? On the immunity question, I think we will know by right around the new year whether the supreme court is going to take it directly. I think they will, and then I think we'll have a ruling around February.

On the other question, the obstruction question, ordinarily, we would get that around the end of the term, which is June, July. I would not be surprised if DOJ makes a motion to the supreme court to expedite that one because I think they need to get that one resolved as soon as possible because you can't go to trial if you're Jack Smith, when two of your charges might get knocked out later by the supreme court. COOPER: And for the supreme court to consider it, if they chose to consider it, do -- does all the parties in it make an appeal to -- I mean, do they go to the court and speak?

HONIG: So, it takes four justices for the court to take a case. It's not necessarily the five that you need to overrule a case. And on the question of would they expedite it, either party can request it. A party can oppose it. Donald Trump's team may well say, no, take your time, do it in the normal course, don't rush this. We have to fully brief this. Ultimately, as with almost everything before the supreme court, it's up to the supreme court.

COOPER: But, would Jack Smith appear before the supreme court arguing his case and the Trump side as well?

HONIG: Sure. I mean, Jack Smith -- probably not Jack Smith himself, probably a member of his team or the Solicitor General, which represents the government.

COOPER: And David Axelrod, how much is at stake you think for the supreme court as an institution in these cases given the recent history that we are seeing with them?

AXELROD: Well, look, we know from past experience, the 2000 election, when the supreme court ruled on the Florida election issue in the presidential race there that it took quite a hit after that. The supreme court has a lot of problems right now. And the more that people feel that it is functioning in a partisan way, it is difficult for them. And either way you rule on this, you're going to irritate people for sure.

But just back to your question before, Anderson, about throwing out the two counts of obstruction, anything that supports Trump's idea that this whole thing was unfair to him, that it was contrived will give energy to his campaign. So, that would be a really big deal.

COOPER: Yeah. Everyone, thank you. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, in the wake of these developments, we're going to check in with the former president, who's in Iowa tonight, weeks ahead of the caucuses, touting his poll numbers and laying into President Biden and Ron DeSantis.



COOPER: Today's potentially favorable legal developments for the former president come with him on the road in Iowa and riding high in the polls. He's now up by double-digits against his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination.

Joined now by CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes who is following the former president on the campaign trial in Coralville, Iowa. He is apparently (ph) dropping up just moments ago. So, what was the message tonight from the former president? KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey Anderson, his message to Iowa voters was fairly clear. He's telling them that it wasn't just about the primaries and the caucuses, but it was really about the primary election, pivoted to Joe Biden, using the unpopularity of Biden to galvanize voters ahead of these caucuses. With just five weeks out, and his message was fairly clear. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're just 33 days away from Iowa, first in the nation. I wonder how you got that. You got that because of me. First in the nation caucuses, and we're going to keep you first in the nation for a long time. You know, the Democrats bailed out. And without Trump, you wouldn't be first in the nation anymore either, but we kept you right here where you belong. You're going to be here for a long time, first in the nation.

On Monday, January 15th, we're going to win the Iowa caucuses, and then we're going to crush crooked Joe Biden next November. And we're going to very simply make America great again. During this holiday season, families all across America are struggling under the brutal weight of Bidenomics. You know, Bidenomics, means a lot of bad things. This year alone, the typical American family is $7,500 poorer because crooked Joe's (inaudible) blunders and greedy betrayals have really hurt us badly.


HOLMES: This is actually the most on-message I have heard Trump recently on the campaign trail, really focusing on the economy, something that he and his team believe will help him in a general election, should he be the nominee. And the other thing to point out here, Anderson, is that his team is growing increasingly confident here in Iowa, particularly after that latest "Des Moines Register" poll that had him up at 51 percent. We had heard chatter among GOP operatives here on the ground that while they believe Trump was leading, they did not think the polls -- the margins in recent polls were quite as wide until that "Des Moines Register" poll, which has a lot of his advisers and the former president himself feeling good going into these caucuses.

COOPER: Did he talk about the various legal cases he's facing or the impeachment inquiry?

HOLMES: Not really. We know, of course, that Donald Trump has been working with his allies on the Hill over the impeachment inquiry. He has been briefed by various Republicans in Congress. But he did not bring that up tonight. In terms of court cases, he mentioned that the indictments helped him politically, but he did not mention anything about Chutkan pressing pause on that case. However, we do know from conversations with senior Trump advisers that they do believe today was a win for them in court.

COOPER: Did he talk about his rivals on the Republican side for the nomination? HOLMES: The most interesting part about him talking about his rivals was actually how hard he went after Nikki Haley. Usually she's just a mention, he calls her a name. But it's clear that this endorsement by Sununu got under his skin, as has her lead -- her growing lead in New Hampshire. And by that, he mentioned how he doesn't believe that Nikki Haley is actually surging. He hasn't actually seen that, the polls don't show that. But it clearly is something that he and his team are focused on.

He also went after Ron DeSantis. He didn't directly address any of the comments that DeSantis made in our Town Hall last night. He just went after him particularly for ethanol, talking about farmers, obviously an issues that is very important to voters here in Iowa. And Anderson, just one thing I want to point out that I think has been really unique to Donald Trump and something I've noticed at the last several events that I've been at, there are people in this room, more than half, who raised their hands and said that they would be caucusing for Donald Trump and had never caucused before.

That is something I have seen in the last two events that I have been at. And it goes to show you that despite the fact that he is facing all of these legal problems, he is still gaining new support. That was also confirmed in "The Des Moines register" poll.

COOPER: Interesting. Kristen Holmes, thank you.

A quick programming note, Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy will participate in a CNN Town Hall tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. He'll face Republican voters in Iowa at Des Moines Grand View University, where my colleague Abby Phillip will moderate.

COOPER: Welcome back. The group "Moms for Liberty" has established itself as a conservative powerhouse in schools around the country. Its members push for book bans and advocate against any discussion of gender, sexualities, critical race theory in classrooms. The Group has been embraced by Ron DeSantis but it is also facing intense amount of criticism for, among other things, the group's stance on LGBTQ issues in schools.

Now, a co-founder of "Moms for Liberty" is caught up in a sex scandal, involving sex with another woman. CNN's Carlos Suarez has the story.


RUDOLPH LUCEK, SARASOTA RESIDENT: Having sex with another woman, in a threesome with her husband, is not the issue. But when you claim the moral high-ground and then you attack the moral integrity of others, the blatant hypocrisy of Mrs. Ziegler and how it reflects on the credibility of this board is a significant concern.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rudolph Lucek is talking about this woman, Bridget Ziegler.


BRIDGET ZIEGLER, CO-FOUNDER, MOMS FOR LIBERTY: Know who their candidates are for school board, know where they stand and hold them accountable.

SUAREZ (voice-over): She's a co-founder of the conservative group "Moms for Liberty" and on Tuesday, was asked to voluntarily resign from the Sarasota Country School Board.

TAMARA SOLUM, SARASOTA COUNTY SUBSTITUTE TEACHER: If you were in support of everyone having these illicit types of relationships then that wouldn't matter.

SUAREZ (voice-over): Ziegler, a close ally of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, helped author Florida's Parental Rights in Education Law, dubbed by critics as the "Don't Say Gay Bill." It removed discussion of sexual orientation and identity from public school's curriculum. DeSantis also appointed her to the board that manages Disney's special taxing district.

KAREN ROSE, CHAIR, SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: The resolution recommends that Bridget Ziegler immediately take all steps necessary to voluntarily resign.

SUAREZ (voice-over): Now, she's under intense criticism for a sex scandal involving her husband, Christian Ziegler, the Chair of the Florida Republican Party and a woman accusing him of rape. According to an affidavit, the woman told police that there was a planned sexual encounter with both Christian and Bridget Ziegler in October. Bridget cancelled, leading the other woman to also cancel. But, Christian still showed up at the woman's home. Bridget, who hasn't been accused of criminal wrongdoing admitted the couple had a previous three-way sexual encounter with the woman, "over a year ago" and that it only happened one time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Ziegler you have tarnished the soul of the school board here with hypocrisy and duplicity.

SUAREZ (voice-over): Ziegler sat stoically through the three hours of public comment at a School Board Meeting Tuesday night and gave no indication of stepping down from the School Board, as her husband is being investigated.

B. ZIEGLER: As people may know, I serve on another public board and this issue did not come up, and we were able to forge ahead with the business of the board.

SUAREZ (voice-over): Still, she got an earful from the community.


SUAREZ (voice-over): The majority of those that showed up, criticized her, though she did have some support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What an adult does in her private life is hers. It's not for you to judge.

SUAREZ (voice-over): But some in the community are pointing to Ziegler's hypocrisy in passing judgment on others. TOM EDWARDS, SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: We hear about all of those hypocrites for my entire life. It's always, do as I say, not as I do.

SUAREZ (voice-over): The fallout from the sex scandal and the criminal investigation has been swift. A Moms for Liberty chapter in Pennsylvania split from the national group and top Republican officials in Florida, including Governor DeSantis, have called on Christian Ziegler to resign. GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R-FL) 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know

that you have any real standing with that hanging over you.

SUAREZ (voice-over): In a statement, Christian Ziegler's attorney said, "We are confident that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated."


COOPER: And Carlos Suarez joins me now. So, what's the next step? Where does it got from here?

SUAREZ: Well, Anderson, the School Board doesn't have the authority to remove Bridget Ziegler. Only Governor Ron DeSantis can, and so far the governor has not called on her to step aside. As for Christian Ziegler, the Executive Committee of the Florida Republican Party is going to meet this weekend and they're going to decide whether to suspend Christian Ziegler and take a vote of no confidence. But right now, Anderson, both Zieglers remain in their leadership positions.

COOPER: All right. Carlos Suarez, thanks so much.

Just ahead, what some are calling a historic agreement today at the United Nations COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai. Then there's the oil and gas industry, also has been applauding it and some are wondering why. Bill Weir has that story coming up.



COOPER: After two weeks of controversial negotiations about how the world should address the climate crisis, a deal was reached today at the United Nation's Climate Summit COP28 in Dubai. Some nations and (inaudible) climate advocates are warning this agreement can hardly be counted as a victory. CNN's Bill Weir has more.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of the 198 nations that gathered in Dubai, any one of them could have derailed this global conference on climate change.

SULTAN AHMED AL-JABER, PRESIDENT, COP28: I must say that you did it.

WEIR (voice-over): So for some, there was a sense of relief when the Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber gaveled in a groundbreaking agreement to transition away from fossil fuels.

AL-JABER: I see a request from Samoa. Samoa, you have the floor.

WEIR (voice-over): But the small island nations most vulnerable to climate change saw no reason to cheer.

ANNE RASMUSSEN, AOSIS LEAD NEGOTIATOR, SAMOA: We didn't want to interrupt the standing ovation when we came into the room. But we are a little confused about what happened. It seems that you just gaveled the decisions and the small island developing states were not in the room. We have come to the conclusion that the course correction that is needed has not been secured. We have made an incremental advancement over business as usual when what we really needed is an exponential step change in our actions and support.

WEIR (voice-over): "The influence of petrostates is still evident in the half measures and loopholes included in the final agreement," Al Gore tweeted about the watered-down language and as OPEC congratulated the Sultan and called for oil field expansion, Climate Envoy John Kerry tried a more hopeful tone.

JOHN KERRY, UNITED STATES SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE: The message coming out of this COP is, we are moving away from fossil fuels. We are not turning back. That is the future. The United States is going to continue to lead the charge on this, on the home front through investments and Inflation Reduction Act, and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

WEIR (voice-over): Those laws have uncorked billions in clean energy investment. And the price of renewables has dropped so dramatically, Texas leads the nation in wind power. But the U.S. is still producing and exporting oil and gas at record rates.

WEIR: John Kerry was trying to frame this is somewhat of a win. It is historic. They are using the F word at a COP in a meaningful way. But he has to come back to a White House that has approved massive liquefied natural gas infrastructure and drilling in Alaska and other places. How will those words work going forward into holding countries to account?

MICHAEL MANN, AUTHOR OF "OUR FRAGILE MOMENT": Unfortunately, the reality is that it was a disappointing agreement, because there was no agreement reached to phase out fossil fuels. There's much weaker T language of transitioning away from fossil fuels and the analogy I use it's like your doctor telling you that you have diabetes and then you promising him/her that you will transition away from eating doughnuts. That's not going to do it.


COOPER: Our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir is here with me now. What are the metrics, I mean the specific goals by the numbers that experts say need to be reached to avoid the worst affects?

WEIR: Well, Professor Mann is among the many who remind us that climate cooking pollution needs to come down by more than 40 percent by 2030, just a few years from now. Right now, the world's on pace and along with the pledges to only hit 10 percent. So, the ambition needs to be quadrupled in speed and scope. And then the United States as a sort of the legacy big polluter needs to do more Professor Mann argues. Our reduction should be about 60 percent to send a message for the rest of the world, when right now it's at about 5 percent. So, there's so much of a gap between ambition and promises and the reality of the physics of the planet, right?

COOPER: Any other -- I mean, when is the next meeting? Or is this it?


WEIR: So, there's one more in Azerbaijan next year. It's eastern Europe's turn and that's the only country Russia would let in there. And then Brazil in 2025 and that will be a big one to see if they take this promise and really put meat on the bones.

COOPER: Yeah. Bill Weir, thanks very much. Appreciate it. We will be right back.


COOPER: A new episode from my podcast about grief and loss called "All There Is" came out today. And if you point your phone's camera right now, that QR Code you see on the side of your screen, a link will show up on your phone that you can click and listen. Last week, I spoke with President Biden on the podcast at the White House about how he lives with grief. This new episode is called "The Greatest Loss." It's about the pain of losing a baby, which is something we don't talk much about in this society.

Millions of women, including my mom, had experienced the child loss during pregnancy or soon after. But their loss is compounded by the silence that so often surrounds it. People don't know what to say or don't say anything at all. In this episode, I speak with a Texas mom named Katie Talman, who lost her first daughter Everly, when she was 23 weeks pregnant. It's an extraordinarily powerful and moving interview. I hope you'll listen. It's available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

The CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with Vivek Ramaswamy starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to Iowa, home of the first contest of the 2024 presidential race, now just 33 days away. We are live here at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, for CNN's Town Hall with Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy. I'm Abby Phillip.

Mr. Ramaswamy has made a name for himself in this field with his bold and sometimes controversial positions. Now, he is prepared to face his first test before voters, right here in Iowa where he is competing with his rivals, including the current frontrunner, Former President Donald Trump. Now, tonight's event is about the voters. Mr. Ramaswamy will have the opportunity to answer questions directly from.