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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Detroit News: Trump Recorded Pressuring Michigan Canvassers Not To Certify 2020 Vote; Special Counsel Urges Supreme Court To Immediately Hear Trump Immunity Dispute; DeSantis: Trump Indictments "Sucked Out A Lot Of Oxygen" From Primary Race; Haley Dodges When Asked By Voter If Trump Is "Grave Danger" To The U.S.; Harvard President Requests New Corrections As House Panel Launches Plagiarism Probe; 14 Killed, 25 Wounded In Prague University Mass Shooting; Czech Police Working On Theory That Suspected Prague Shooter Is Connected To Double Murder In Prague Last Week; U.N. Report: More Than 570,000 People In Gaza Starving Due To Conflict; Chef Jose Andres On His Visit To Gaza With World Central Kitchen. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired December 21, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: CNN getting a rare look at the Iceland volcano from above. Our Fred Pleitgen got a ride on a helicopter to see the extensive lava field. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is an amazing thing to be witnessing. From up here, we can see just how active the volcanic zone still is. We can see the lava. We can smell the magma. We can feel the power that our planet is unleashing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's incredible for Fred to have seen that and shared it with us. Officials warning any tourist to do that obviously to stay away. But thank goodness for Fred and that incredible reporting.
Thanks so much to all of you for being with us. AC 360 starts now.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Good evening. Anderson is off tonight, and we begin with breaking news. A new window into just how far the former president went to overturn the election that he lost. We've already heard the phone call of him pressuring Georgia officials to find him votes that he was not entitled to, not to mention his phone call to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to overturn the election results in Arizona. And now, the Detroit News is reporting on recordings that they've reviewed in which he is pressuring Detroit area election officials to do the same.
CNN's Marshall Cohen joins us now with more. Marshall, this -- there's clearly a pattern emerging here.
MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: One state after another, trump trying to dip into the local state of affairs and influence the results, interfere with the results.
So I want to be clear, we have not heard this tape for ourselves, but the details were reported by the Detroit News. This is November 2020. Trump lost in Michigan. He lost by more than 100,000 votes. It's time for the election canvassers in Detroit to do their job and certify the results so that the election can be finalized.
On the day or around the time of the certification, Trump calls these local officials, Republicans, trying to twist their arms to convince them not to certify. And according to the Detroit News, here is some of what he said, quote, "We can't let these people take our country away from us." Quote, "Everyone knows Detroit is crooked as hell."
That's where he started. There was also Ronna McDaniel. She was on the phone. She is the chairwoman of the RNC. She told them, "Do not sign it. We will get you attorneys."
Do not sign the certification. Trump says, "We'll take care of that." Incredible revelations.
Trump also went on to say, how could anybody sign something when so many -- there's so many more voters than people. That's a false claim that dead voters cast ballots in Detroit. So he was pedaling false claims, trying to twist their arm, trying to convince them not to certify.
It worked. They tried to take back their votes to decertify, but it was too late. They had already set the certification process into motion. And, of course, Trump couldn't undo it once he lost.
BROWN: And again, you know, this is looking back at 2020, but let's not forget that Trump is running for presidency again, right, and could lose. And so, what does this tell us about potential tactics? How does this fit into the ongoing criminal cases against the former president?
COHEN: Yes, he's feeling pretty good about his standing in the polls now, but he could lose. And if he does lose, he might try to overturn it again.
But for the criminal cases with Jack Smith, it's not clear if Jack Smith has this tape. He probably does or he might because he had such a wide-reaching investigation, but it's clearly powerful evidence -- Trump's own voice -- and it's a pattern.
As you mentioned in the top, Pam, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, one state after another, trying to twist people's arm, pressure them to break their oaths to the constitution, pressure them to overturn results of a lawful election. In Jack Smith's words, Trump tried to disenfranchise millions of voters by doing things just like this.
BROWN: Yes. And for context for our viewers, Trump would have had to have three states flipped, three states that had voted for Biden legally. They would -- he would have had to have three states flip in order ...
BROWN: ... for him to actually win unlawfully. And so that's important context as you look at the pattern around these phone calls of these various states. Has the former president or Ronna McDaniel responded to this reporting?
COHEN: You know, it's pretty incredible that they put out a response so quickly. Clearly, this is something that has rattled them. Yes, the Trump campaign put out a statement. I'll read it for you.
They said, quote, "All of president Trump's actions were taken in furtherance of his duty as President of the United States to faithfully take care of the laws and ensure election integrity." But, Pam, it is hard to take that statement at face value that this was part of his official duties as president.
The Jack Smith indictment says very clearly that these were not his job as -- this was not his job, this was actually the opposite of his responsibility. This was a defrauding of the United States and an attempt to overturn an election, according to Jack Smith. But, of course, you know, Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing.
BROWN: Right. But we know the facts. We see the evidence, some of that evidence emerging that you just laid out with this reporting. But again, we want to note CNN has not heard. We're basing this on Detroit News, and there are description of what is in this recording between Trump, these two local officials in Detroit, and Ronna McDaniel with RNC.
Marshall Cohen, stay right here with us. I want to bring in Atlantic magazine contributor and conservative lawyer, George Conway.
George, this recording obviously gets at the heart of the case Jack Smith is building against the former president that he actively conspired to overturn the 2020 election. How big of a deal is this? Help us put this into context.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Well, it's thoroughly consistent with the criminal conspiracies that have been alleged by the Department of Justice by Jack Smith in the Washington DC federal case and by Fani Willis in the Georgia Fulton County prosecution. And it's very much reminiscent of the phone call that you mentioned that had -- where President Trump attempted to coerce and bully Secretary of State, in Georgia, Raffensperger to stop his -- to interfere with his duties in certifying an election.
And the same thing here. I mean, he -- there is no factual basis given for the claiming that there was fraud and there was intimidation involved. And according to the Detroit News article, it's suggested by a former elections official there that, in essence, what was happening here, he suggests, is that they were being induced by the promise of legal protection, by the promise of getting attorneys for them to violate their official duties, which potentially could be an additional crime under Michigan law.
I think is -- I think an interesting question would be whether the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has this tape or has been aware of this tape. Certainly, the call was known, although the substance of the call -- details of the call were not known publicly.
She -- Dana Nessel, the attorney general of Michigan, has charged the fake electors there, as we know. And now, the question is whether -- you know, whether there -- I think it's not necessary for Jack Smith to add this to his case, but it's certainly consistent with his case. And the real question is whether or not authorities in Michigan will seek to prosecute Ms. McDaniel or Mr. Trump.
BROWN: So I want to follow up on that. You say that you don't think it's necessary for Jack Smith to add those to his case, but, you know, he's trying to build out what appears to be a pattern, a conspiracy, right, of Trump trying to overturn the election results. And in the Georgia case ...
CONWAY: Oh, absolutely.
BROWN: ... with that phone call, that was 11,000 votes, right, that he said, go find these 11,000. I can't remember the exact number.
In this case, we should point out, that President Biden won Michigan by more than 148,000 votes, beating Donald Trump by more than ...
BROWN: ... to 322,000 votes in Wayne County where these canvassers were from, right? Why wouldn't this be more ...
CONWAY: Yes, I'm not -- yes.
BROWN: ... critical? Yes, go ahead.
CONWAY: I'm not minimizing it. I just think the case Jack Smith has already built based upon, you know, the false electoral -- the elector certifications, and his conduct on January 6th, and his overall efforts of what he did in the White House as he, you know, watched the insurrection and basically cheered it on. I mean, I think the case is just strong enough as it is.
I think this is consistent with the case. I think what -- it's what lawyers call cumulative evidence of his criminal intent. And I think it's certainly something that Smith will want to look at and may want to put into his trial plan. But it's -- you know, he's got a pretty good case already.
BROWN: And we don't know whether he has this recording or not, but it's certainly interesting.
Marshall Cohen, I want to bring ...
COHEN: Right. BROWN: ... you back because, as we saw in 2020 time and time again, our system is built on people doing the right thing withstanding pressure.
Now, even though these two local officials tried to rescind their votes to certify after this phone call for Trump -- from Trump, they were unsuccessful. How can they use this as a warning as we look ahead of Trump's potential tactics if he loses again? And how do we ensure these officials don't cave?
COHEN: Well, looking ahead to next year, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that a lot of professional election officials across the country have walked away under the threats, the intimidation, the violence. And it's not really a good line of work anymore these days because you could get doxed. You can have someone like Donald Trump attacking you on social media. It could ruin your life as we saw with Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss down in Atlanta who were defamed by Giuliani and others.
But here's the good news. Last year, 2022, there were key elections for Secretary of State offices and other election officials across the country. A lot of election deniers were running to run elections next year. Many of them lost in places like Michigan, Arizona.
People who did not want to follow the law were trying to run, trying to get into those positions of power, and they were often beaten by people who have made it a part of their campaign to say, you know what, even if you don't like the results of the election, I will follow the law, I will certify the results. I'm not going to try to meddle because of somebody pressuring me from the outside.
BROWN: I think that's really important context for sure. George, bringing you back in. Is it significant to you that the former president allegedly offered to provide lawyers for these canvassers if they went along with his plan to reject the certification?
CONWAY: Yeah, yes. As I said and as the election official in Michigan -- the former election official was quoted in the Detroit News article -- said, I mean, that's potentially an inducement to someone to violate their official duties and, you know, potentially -- in other words, potentially bribery. I think we'd have to know more facts exactly what they are promising to do in order to determine whether or not it's a case that's worth bringing, but it's certainly very corrupt.
BROWN: All right. George Conway, Marshall Cohen, thank you so much. More now on one of those criminal cases we mentioned a moment ago, namely Special Counsel Jack Smith's answer to the former president's ghostly request to the Supreme Court on his claims of presidential immunity.
CNN's Evan Perez joins us with that. So what is the special counsel asking for in his latest filing? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's pushing back on the former president's effort to basically delay this. Trump has basically said, you know, you should let the appeals court first hear this and then take this up after that, right? That's a play to the delay, delay, which is part of his overall strategy.
Here, Jack Smith is saying -- I'll read you just a part of the filing, "The public interest in a prompt resolution of this case favors an immediate, definitive decision by this court. The charges here are of the utmost gravity." Of course, no president -- no former president has ever been put on trial for -- on criminal charges before. So Jack Smith points out that this case is like nothing we've ever had in our history.
He does cite the 1974 Nixon case, right, and points out that, you know, this perhaps is even bigger than that because you're talking about criminal charges against a former president.
BROWN: Yes. So let's talk about the US versus Nixon case and just the details of that ...
BROWN: ... and how that is relevant here.
PEREZ: Well, so that's 1974, and Nixon was trying to use executive privilege, claiming executive privilege to withhold recordings from the White House -- the Nixon tapes. And in that case, the Supreme Court hopscotched and leapfrogged the appellate courts and took up the case.
Two months after the petition was filed, they rendered a decision. Sixteen days after they had oral argument, they had a decision. So that's what Smith is asking here. He's asking for similar treatment.
He's pointing out that, look, this is a trial that's scheduled for March, right? And Donald Trump, when he was asked for a trial date, actually asked for 2026. So he has no interest in getting this adjudicated anytime soon.
BROWN: Certainly not. So is there any sense when the Supreme Court may respond here?
PEREZ: Well, look, I mean, I do think that it is -- it has already shown a lot of interest in this case. They already asked for briefs. Obviously, the fact that Trump had to respond yesterday is an indicator that they are paying attention very closely.
The appeals court, by the way, has also gotten a message. They have -- they've scheduled a -- oral arguments for the case -- the same case on January 9th. So all the courts seem to be getting the message that there's a criticism, right, that the courts take too long.
You and I have heard this over the years, right, that the court takes way too long to hear these things. So the court seem to be on this page saying we can do this and we can do this quickly. So we don't know how quickly they'll take it up, but I mean, obviously, they all know what the calendar looks like, right, that voting begins, you know, in the next few weeks. And so that's what people are paying attention to.
BROWN: Certainly. All right, I know you'll be keeping an eye on it. Evan Perez, thank you.
And as we talked about a good deal of the precedent in this case on both sides involves US v. Nixon and another case, Nixon v. Fitzgerald, we're joined now by former Nixon Whitehouse Counsel and Watergate Whistleblower John Dean. Who better to give us perspective than you, John.
So this latest filing from the special counsel once again stresses the gravity of the former president's case and cites US v. Nixon as precedent for a swift decision. As Evan pointed out saying, quote, here are the stakes or at least as high, if not higher. Do you agree with that assessment?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think they are higher actually than US versus Nixon. What we're seeking in the Nixon case were 64 secretly recorded conversations with aides.
There were about a half a dozen defendants who were about ready to go to trial, and the prosecutor wanted that set of tapes, 64 tapes to use in the trial. He had no knowledge that, for example, it would force Nixon to resign when the information was released in those tapes. But he was just preparing for trial, went directly to Supreme Court, as Evan mentioned, and got a ruling 60 days later. So it was a -- it is a powerful precedent, and Smith is relying on it.
BROWN: In your view, is the Supreme Court likely to grant Jack Smith's request here?
DEAN: I think they will. It'd be very telling politically if, for some reason, they didn't. They theoretically could wait until the Court of Appeals acted, saying they wanted it fully briefed and they wanted today see what the Court of Appeals where they came out on it.
But I think that delay so plays into Trump's hand. And it's so conspicuous to all of us now that Trump's MO is to, indeed, delay, delay, delay, that it'll be telling politically if they are influenced at all by Trump. And, Pam, they have not been to date.
BROWN: I'm just wondering for context because at the time in US v. Nixon, it was seen as a big gamble for the prosecutor to skip over the appeals court, go straight to the Supreme Court for a decision. Has that changed in terms of a strategy? Is it more typical now to skip over appeals courts and go straight to the Supreme Court? Just help us understand the context there.
DEAN: It is more common today than it was. When Leon Jaworski did it in '74 in the Nixon case, it had been way back to a -- during the Trump -- excuse me, the Truman administration in a case called Youngstown versus -- Youngstown Sheet & Tube versus Sawyer, where they jumped in and did one of these accelerated examinations of the outcome.
The president had, indeed, seized the steel mills, and that's why they wanted to act quickly. But it was a very out of pace action by Jaworski. But now, as I said, it's much more common today. There have probably been five or six cases in the last few years.
BROWN: So I want to go back to that comparison again because the issue at the heart of the US v. Nixon was whether a president has privilege in a subpoena fight, not this question of criminal presidential immunity that Jack Smith is currently asking the Supreme Court to consider. You said it's a bigger deal with this case. But is there a meaningful distinction here? Just help us understand that.
DEAN: Well, the distinction is Nixon was not personally exposed in the criminal proceeding at that point. He was an unindicted co- conspirator, but had no criminal liability. No one knew what he was really hiding, which was the fact that he had indeed very early in the Watergate cover-up given instructions to his top chief of staff and other aides that -- to use the FBI to block the CIA, which was pure cover-up language.
Not well-understood at the time, months and months and months after the cover-up had been undertaken and the court is looking at this. But Trump was -- excuse me, Nixon was really hiding one tape in that '64. And indeed, when the tape surfaced, it would force him to resign because it'd put to lie all of his claims that he had not been involved in the cover-up.
BROWN: John Dean, as always, thank you for coming on to offer your very important perspective.
And now the latest in Rudy Giuliani's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Just a day after the judge in his defamation case said Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman could start trying to collect their nearly $150 million award, he declared bankruptcy.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us now with details of the filing. So we know he had claimed he was bankrupt, now he has this filing. Tell us about this.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Pam, Rudy Giuliani has a lot of debts. $150 million in this verdict that came in last week in the defamation case brought by these two Georgia election workers, that's a lot of money. That's far more than what he ever would have likely needed to pay or could pay.
And then on top of that, with this bankruptcy filing today, we're learning that there are a lot of other people he owed money to already including the IRS and New York state's tax authorities -- almost $1 million in income taxes he owes. And so, he's -- that's one of the things that he's putting in that bankruptcy filing.
Thirty grand he owes in back phone bills. He, at one point, owned much more than -- or owed much more than that, about double that. So perhaps he paid some of it down. But that's just a glimpse of it.
There's lawyers he owes. There's financial consultants, and there's other lawsuits out there. And so now, that's all in the bankruptcy filing. It's an incredible portrait of a man who, at one point, was not only one of the most ...
POLANTZ: ... famous people, but really was a leader in a very rich city, New York City.
BROWN: Right. I mean, just a fall from grace, you can't even comprehend to see a fall like this. So -- okay, so you laid out his debts and so forth ...
BROWN: ... what about his assets?
POLANTZ: Well, the assets is still a big question. So in this bankruptcy filing, he checks a box that says he has assets between $1 million and $10 million. That is a significant wealth to be over $1 million, but it's a pretty wide range.
And one of the things that came out in the defamation case from Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss is that he wasn't responding to their requests for information, including about his net worth. And so, they weren't able to get a full picture of what kind of income he had coming in, what sort of assets he had. There are some known properties he has in New York and Florida, has bank accounts.
He's a person, though, that took a private plane to his own arraignment in Georgia whenever he was charged with a crime there. He has a legal defense fund out there. He has spokespeople. He has lawyers -- lots and lots of lawyers. There's a lot of cases.
And so, we really don't have the full picture of the money that Giuliani has, at this time, that's all going to be tucked into this bankruptcy proceeding.
BROWN: Yes, the judge pointed out, you're paying a spokesperson ...
POLANTZ: She did.
BROWN: ... you should be able to pay these two women. All right. Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much.
Up next, one of the former president's challengers on how the attention on all the Trump legal cases is making it hard to compete.
Also, the latest from Prague, now in shock after a lone gunman killed 14 at a university. We'll be back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:25:35]
BROWN: Well, we spoke before the break about the many cases against the former president, and now, for the first time, so is his opponent Ron DeSantis, specifically, about how they're keeping the focus on Trump and not the challengers including himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would say if I could have one thing changed, I wish Trump hadn't been indicted on any of this stuff. I mean, honestly, I think that, you know, from Alvin Bragg on, I've criticized the cases, but I also think it distorted the primary unless ...
DAVID BRODY, CBN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Because it's helped, too. Is that what you're saying?
DESANTIS: It's both that, but then it also just crowded out, I think, so much other stuff, and it's sucked out a lot of oxygen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Joining us now, two CNN political commentators, Democratic Strategist Paul Begalla, and with me here Republican Strategist Alice Stewart.
Alice, you just spoke with Governor DeSantis earlier today. Are you surprised on what he said about former President Trump and his indictments?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, because it's actually true. I spoke to him on the radio this morning, and he reiterated what he has said in the past, and that this is what he views this latest ruling out of Colorado.
And many of these indictments, many view these as weaponization of the DOJ and using the system to go against political adversaries. And he views the Colorado ruling just as many of these others. And unfortunately, for him and these other candidates, this is getting so much attention by the media, and this is what's dominating the coverage.
But he also said it's encouraging. When he goes out to Iowa, New Hampshire, and speaking with voters, they're not concerned about legal woes of Donald Trump, they're looking at legal woes and financial woes for themselves -- how they're going to put food on the table, and how are they going to keep their kids safe and keep their kids educated.
So they're really focusing on the campaign trail about issues important to the American people and the heartland. And they're -- it is unfortunate that Donald Trump is getting a lot of the earned media and the media attention based on these legal woes because as we're seeing, Pam, it's not hurting his base, they're supporting him, and it certainly is helping him in fundraising. So he's using these legal issues as a way to boost his support and bump fundraising. BROWN: Yes. If anything, it gives some jet fuel and you have to wonder if there was any other candidate that would have that effect, right?
BROWN: So, Paul, does DeSantis have a point that the Trump indictments have sucked a lot of oxygen from the primary race? And is that really on DeSantis and these other candidates to do something about that rather than just complain about it?
PAUL BEGALLA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I have to say I was listening to Alice, and she is 1,000 times better at this than Ron DeSantis. I mean, she's -- this is why her candidate won Iowa when she was working for Ted Cruz.
DeSantis, just 24 days until the Iowa caucuses, 24 days, and the only thing he should be talking about is how I can make your life better. Instead, he is whining that his lucky opponent, oh, he's so lucky because he got indicted four times on 91 charges. Gee, what a stroke of luck Mr. Trump had.
It's -- I just -- I can't stand whining anyway, but this is free advice. I used to charge a lot of money for this. Talk about the voters' lives, not your life, not Mr. Trump's life, talk about their lives.
Alice is exactly right. These people, there's a lot of pain, there's a lot of strain. They're looking for a leader who can help them. And who's going to sit in Ottumwa? Okay, Harold and Ethel -- it's my grandparents' name, so I think of them as a typical couple. They're sitting in Ottumwa, Iowa, and Harold turns to Ethel and goes, gee, you know, DeSantis is right about how these indictments have sucked the media oxygen out of the room. Let's make him our president.
I'm sorry, it just follows, just a professional (inaudible). So Alice should win instead of Governor DeSantis.
BROWN: (Inaudible) are Harold and Ethel, that's so cute. I just picture with my head what they look like.
All right. So, Alice, let's go to Nikki Haley now. Talk about her. Play something that she said earlier today in exchange with an Iowa voter. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me our former president is just a grave danger to the country and to the Christian church. And my concern is that by people not saying that out loud, we're making it seem like it's okay and that it's normal for people to talk to like he talks. So while I want to support you, I also want to hear from you that you also think they're in danger here.
NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't be wrong if I didn't think that he's not the right person at the right time. I have said multiple times, I don't think it's good for the country for Donald Trump to become president again. I've made that very clear.
The problem is what I have faced anti-Trumpers think I don't hate him enough. Pro-Trumpers think I don't love him enough. The reality is I just call it like I see it. It's not personal for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Of course she stopped short of agreeing with that voter that Trump is a danger to the country. I'm wondering to you, Alice, do you think Haley would be able to break through in a bigger way if she answered questions like that more head on than sort of dance around it?
STEWART: Again, I go back to what I said before. That is a unique question coming out of the audience. I've been to countless rallies and town halls, even against Donald Trump. Most voters are not asking, please pick apart the last stupid thing that Donald Trump says. Please tell me how wrong Donald Trump is.
They're not asking about that. They're asking about the economy, safety, and jobs. And those are unique and rare questions. And I think it's important for Nikki Haley, DeSantis, Chris Christie, all of them to pivot back to the issues that are important to Harold and Ethel, Paul Begala's grandparents that are at the machine shed in Urbandale, Iowa eating a chicken fried steak.
And they're concerned about the economy and not these dumb things that Donald Trump says. And, look, that one person I'm sure, he was asking about this latest stupid thing Donald Trump said about immigrants into this country, poisoning the blood of this country. That is a ridiculous thing to say.
And instead, we should be talking about the concerns that Republicans do have for legal immigration and making sure that we control the border, secure the border. We stop the influx of fentanyl into this country and also human trafficking. Those are the issues we need to be talking about, not disgusting comments from a former president.
BROWN: All right, Alice Stewart, Paul Begala, thank you so much. Great to see you both.
STEWART: Thanks, Pam.
BROWN: All right. And send Ethel and Harold our best, Paul.
All right, up next, just a week after correcting some of her work following plagiarism allegations and two weeks after facing intense criticism over her congressional testimony on antisemitism, Harvard President Claudine Gay is once again in the hot seat. We're going to have details on that just ahead.
[20:35:25] BROWN: Tonight, Harvard University's president is yet again in the predicament as she faces new plagiarism accusations. Claudine Gay will now make more corrections to her past academic work, this time to her PhD dissertation. Well, this has also sparked the House to widen their probe, its probe we should say, into Harvard to include the plagiarism allegations.
CNN's Danny Freeman has the details.
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harvard University's President, Claudine Gay, back in the hot seat.
CLAUDINE GAY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Congresswoman.
FREEMAN (voice-over): After the elite school said it found two more instances of inadequate citation in the embattled president's writings. Now, a U.S. House committee already investigating antisemitism at Harvard says it will also look at the plagiarism allegations.
In a new letter to Harvard's highest governing body, the committee's chair cites Harvard's honor code that states, members of the college community must commit themselves to producing academic work of integrity. And asks, does Harvard hold its faculty and academic leadership to the same standards?
Last week, Gay submitted corrections to a pair of papers she wrote as a professional academic in 2001 and 2017. But a CNN analysis of her writings documented other examples of plagiarism from the 90s when Gay was studying for her PhD at Harvard. Gay's 1997 dissertation lifted one paragraph almost verbatim from another source without citation.
Jonathan Bailey is a plagiarism expert.
FREEMAN: What troubled you about the specific dissertation allegations more than others?
JONATHAN BAILEY, PLAGIARISM EXPERT & COPYRIGHT CONSULTANT: That paragraph showed a length of text that clearly could not have been produced any other way than through copying, was not quoted, and was not properly cited in the paper. So that's what made me worry about that one.
FREEMAN (voice-over): A Harvard spokesperson told CNN in a statement Thursday the university reviewed more of her writings and Gay plans to update her 1997 work to correct these additional instances. Harvard said the inadequate citations were regrettable, but were not research misconduct.
In a previous statement about the earlier allegations, Gay defended her work, saying, "I stand by the integrity of my scholarship. Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure my scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards." The latest development coming a week after Harvard's top governing board unanimously stood behind Gay, following intense calls for her to resign over her congressional testimony on antisemitism on college campuses.
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R), NEW YORK: So, the answer is yes, that calling for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard Code of Conduct, correct?
GAY: Again, it depends on the context.
FREEMAN (voice-over): The allegations against Gay, who is the first black woman to serve as president of Harvard, have largely originated from conservative activists. But the question persists, is the school holding its president to the same standard as its students?
BAILEY: Plagiarism really exists on a spectrum between completely original writing and completely copied and pasted and trying to pass off someone else's work. And right now, the best we have on Claudine Gay is sitting somewhere in the middle between the two.
FREEMAN (on-camera): Now, Pamela, it may be unusual for a president of a university to face plagiarism allegations, but it's not unprecedented. In fact, back in 2021, the president of the University of South Carolina resigned over plagiarism allegations, and that was because of his commencement speech.
Meanwhile, as to what comes next at this point, Harvard is still standing by President Gay, but that House committee, it is still moving along. They've requested troves of documents. So while these new corrections are going to be made, this story likely not over yet. Pamela?
BROWN: All right, Danny Freeman, thank you so much.
And just ahead, shock and trauma in the Czech Republic tonight. 14 people killed and dozens more wounded in a mass shooting at a university in Prague. What we know about the massacre and the suspected shooter, up next.
BROWN: Well, this Saturday, the day before Christmas Eve, the Czech Republic will observe a day of mourning to remember those killed in today's mass shooting in Prague. 14 people were murdered and another 25 wounded at Charles University. Officials also say the shooter is dead.
And the attack came as a shock to the European nation where mass shootings are relatively rare. Tonight, we're learning more disturbing details about the suspected gunman. CNN's Melissa Bell has more.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Terror on the streets of Prague. Students risking their lives to escape a gunman's bullets that killed more than a dozen on Thursday afternoon. More than 20 were injured, 10 severely, in the shooting at Prague's Charles University before the gunman, an enrolled philosophy student, was eliminated, police said.
It's an attack that has rocked the Czech Republic.
PETR FIALA, CZECH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There is absolutely no explanation, no justification for this. Like many of you, I am feeling a deep sorrow and disgust over this incomprehensible and brutal violence.
BELL (voice-over): As night fell on Prague, details emerged about the 24-year-old suspect. Before the deadly shooting in the capital, police said the shooter left his home village where his father was found dead. Intent on further bloodshed, he made his way to the Czech capital.
Tipped off, police forces rushed to evacuate the building where the shooter was due to attend a lecture, but he struck elsewhere. Forcing students to barricade themselves inside classrooms, later evacuated on mass. Their preparation for end of year exams brutally shattered by the country's deadliest shooting in decades.
No indication of a link to international terrorism, the Czech interior minister confirmed, but tonight a city in shock on a continent where mass shootings are few and far between.
BROWN: And Melissa Bell joins us now. So Melissa, what more are you learning about the investigation?
BELL (on-camera): For the time being, Czech authorities are being very tight lipped about the identity of the victims, but we are learning more about what they found out through a search of this young man's home, where they found his father killed.
They believe that he was responsible for that. They also say that they found evidence that he was possibly linked to to a double homicide committed last week just on the outskirts of Prague. It involved the killing, the murder of a man and a young child described as a baby. And that had had -- that was a case that had no leads in it.
They now believe that this young man may have been involved. But apart from that, and again, that was as a result of a search of his home after this terrible tragedy this afternoon at Charles University in central Prague, there was nothing to suggest this young man would go on the rampage. His firearms were owned legally, he had permits for them, he was an enrolled philosophy student, and he had no criminal record. So nothing to suggest that he should have been keeping, kept an eye on, and yet scenes of such tremendous violence, again, in a continent where we don't tend to see mass shootings very often. They're fairly few and far between scenes of huge violence where we saw those students scurrying for cover, many of them sadly not getting out of harm's way in time, Pam.
BROWN: Yes, very sad. Melissa Bell, thank you.
Well, up next, an update on the expected U.N. vote on a resolution calling for a suspension and fighting in Gaza. Plus, Chef Jose Andres on the hunger crisis there and how his World Central Kitchen staff is helping. He was just in Gaza. We're going to talk to him coming up.
BROWN: Tonight, for a fourth time this week, the U.N. Security Council has delayed a vote on a resolution calling for suspension in fighting and encouraging more humanitarian aid into Gaza. That vote is now expected tomorrow, but it could slide again if negotiations continue. The aid is certainly needed.
Today, a U.N.-backed report revealed more than half a million people, or more than one in four households, are facing catastrophic hunger and starvation. The report also warned the entire roughly 2.2 million residents of Gaza could face famine in the months ahead if the current Israeli bombardment continues with not enough access to food.
Joining us tonight with his insight on the situation, Chef Jose Andres, just as they've done all across the globe for years now, he and his World Central Kitchen staff have been in Gaza providing fresh meals to the hungry. He's also co-author of the World Central Kitchen cookbook, "Feeding Humanity, Feeding Hope."
Chef Andres, thank you so much for joining us. First off, just describe what you witnessed in Gaza.
JOSE ANDRES, CHEF, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Well, I was able to go there and let's say three days with the team members of World Central Kitchen. And, well, you have to imagine, right? Rafah, which is very much at the very south of the Gaza street is where an area where hundreds of thousands have moved from the north, even the biggest city, Gaza City, escaping from all the horrors that war creates.
So there, where you see is very much camp after camp, where you see is just a population that seems keeps increasing by the hour, where I was able to visit what they call the Qatari hospital, which is an unfinished hospital that this is in its bare bones, but where every single floor and every single meter is occupied.
But this kind of made up tense where families are able used to keep going with their daily lives. Actually, the story is not really in Rafah, obviously, is need. But there is very much where all the humanitarian aid really is crossing through. So even there, the situation, I would say, is tense, even still with bombings.
Food is flowing there. The true story is the stories you are listening from northern of Rafah, from places like (INAUDIBLE), from places like Gaza City, places that really were not getting enough information, but where they need a food, of water, of medicines Israel.
BROWN: So you posted this video showing some of the security measures that your team in partnership with the U.N. have used to safely deliver these meal kits. What is that like working in this type of conflict?
ANDRES: Everybody is hands on. Everybody obviously tries to be helpful. And there you see some of the security people. Many of them, they are the Palestinian police. They are dressing black, but those are just people making sure that the entire thing goes without incidents, making sure that they keep everybody under control, that they keep everything organized and that there is no, like, for -- there's a lot of children in the middle.
So you want to make sure that now everybody is running. And then all of a sudden, we have an accident of people running over children because it's kind of a stampede. So I would say it's kind of tense, but when people know you're coming, the days you are telling them and that they are going to be receiving their food kit, is the moment that you start kind of bringing that on -- this kind of question mark of when they will get the next meal.
But again, I repeat, the main need is really northern of Rafah, where right now they -- all the indications are that whatever food we bring is not going to be enough. So we need to be increasing dramatically the flow of foods to every single community in need.
BROWN: The bottom line is, you know, you and your teams have been to so many places ravaged by war or natural disasters. You know, how does Gaza compare in terms of the sheer desperation you witnessed just where you are and what you've -- you know, where you were, I should say, and what you've heard from your team members who did go up for the north?
ANDRES: What everybody needs to understand, the people of Gaza, they have nowhere else to go, to the northeast and to the east is surrounded by Israel, and in the south is Egypt. They cannot move any further. Therefore, this is one of the main issues. In Ukraine, at the very least, the Ukrainian people in the front lines, they could always move in line of Ukraine and be safe or whatever war was going on.
But again, World Central Kitchen, we are organization that we believe food and water is a universal, right? We are not the hunger organization in a way. We are an emergency food organization. We believe that this is an emergency in the same way.
Well, it has been an emergency in Lebanon, but we see a lot of families in this place also because hostilities and the same in the northern part of Haiti, where we have Palestinians that are not able to go back or in the same as Israel. But as we know, many, many families were really in the surrounding areas of Gaza after the terrorist attack.
And still, with missiles that keep falling, they're really under stress. We make sure, again, that food and water in this emergencies, it's something that people will not miss.
BROWN: You're helping countless people. Chef Jose Andres, thank you to you and your team for everything you're doing to help those in need in these dire circumstances. Thank you.
BROWN: And we'll be right back.
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