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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

SC to Hear Trump Colorado Ballot Ban Appeal; Biden Hits Trump As A Threat To Democracy Three Years After Jan. 6; Biden Comes Out Swinging At Trump In First 2024 Campaign Speech; Trump Responds To Biden's Speech, Says He's "Staging His Pathetic Fear Mongering Campaign"; NRA Chief Wayne LaPierre Announces Resignation Ahead Of Trial; Authorities: Iowa School Principal Placed Himself "In Harm's Way" To Shield Students During Shooting; Biggest Drop Of Epstein Docs Includes More Than 1,600 Pages Of Details. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 05, 2024 - 20:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Just in, singer Michael Bolton revealing he was diagnosed with a brain tumor just before the holidays. Writing on Facebook, that tumor required immediate surgery. He went on to say, "Thanks to my incredible medical team, the surgery was a success. I'm now recuperating at home surrounded by the tremendous love and support of family."

Bolton, who is 70, says he'll be taking a temporary break from singing. The Grammy award winner had planned to start touring next month. Those dates, though, will be rescheduled.

AC 360 starts right now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news, the Supreme Court takes the case that could knock the name Donald Trump off at least one state ballot and possibly redefine parts of the Constitution.

Also, tonight, President Biden launching his campaign year with a full-throated accusation saying the former president is, quote, "willing to sacrifice democracy to put himself in power."

And the latest batch of newly unsealed documents from the lawsuit against convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, that and new reporting on how he nearly got away with his sickening crimes.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us. We begin with breaking news. The Supreme Court tonight agreeing to review the Colorado Supreme Court decision, which labels the former president an insurrectionist and bars him from the ballot. It comes on the eve of the third anniversary of that insurrection, whatever the high court or an upcoming federal jury determine his role and it was. The news also caps the day that saw the current president speaking bluntly and at length about what he sees as the ongoing threat his opponent remains.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, US PRESIDENT: Trump won't do what an American president must do. He refuses to denounce political violence. So, hear me clearly. I'll say what Donald Trump won't.

Political violence is never, ever acceptable in the United States political system. Never, never, never. It has no place in a democracy, none.


COOPER: The former president, for his part, is campaigning in Iowa where he said, in so many words, I know you are, but what am I?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER US PRESIDENT: Joe Biden is a threat to democracy. He's weaponizing law enforcement for a high-level election interference. That's why crooked Joe is staging his pathetic fear- mongering campaign event in Pennsylvania today.


COOPER: Joining us now is CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic, and CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid.

So, Paula, what more can you tell us about the court's decision?

PAULA REID, CNN LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it doesn't get any bigger than this. This issue arrives at a court that has been battered by scandals and controversial decisions, like overturning Roe v. Wade. This is likely going to be the biggest test for Chief Justice John Roberts, the biggest test of his career. He's going to be under enormous pressure to try to build consensus behind the scenes after oral arguments to craft a decision that does not appear partisan because again there have been a lot of questions about partisanship in and around the court. So this is an enormous challenge for him, not only to decipher the constitutional questions that are in front of them, but also to broadcast to the country and to the world that this is an organization that makes decisions based on the facts in the law.

COOPER: Joan, what is the timing of how all this will play out?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: You know, it's going to be very swift. The date for everyone to keep in mind is February 8th. That's when the court will hold oral arguments, and everyone will get to hear what the nine justices asked.

The oral arguments will be live streamed. They will hear from the parties, you know, all around and maybe even not just the Trump forces, the challengers. There might be some other voices who are allowed in.

By then, of course, there will be an array of briefs coming in, the first set scheduled to come in in just a matter of about two weeks that are going to really show, Anderson, a really full-throated approach, first, to defend Donald Trump's claim that he should not be taken off the ballot. And then the other side will come in about two weeks later.

But the key thing here is that the justices have kind of left it open ended for the range of issues that it would take on at this point because they have not narrowed this down from, you know, big, broad questions as to whether is this the role of the judiciary to actually decide a question that's so politically charged down to did Donald Trump actually engage in an insurrection?

So, there's a chance, Anderson, that we might actually see another order coming from the Supreme Court before the arguments that ask specifically for briefing on particular issues.

COOPER: Paula, Colorado is obviously not the only state where there's a question about former President Trump being on the ballot. How does the Supreme Court decision on this affect all the other cases?

REID: Well, it depends what they say. To Joan's point, it's unclear exactly what they're going to weigh in on. The expectation is they're going to provide some clarity on this constitutional question about Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, the so-called "insurrectionist ban."


This particular section has been litigated across multiple states with varying outcomes. But if they don't offer clarity on that constitutional question, you're going to continue to see these challenges proliferate. The past 48 hours, we've seen new lawsuits in Illinois and Massachusetts because it is the job of the Supreme Court to, again, interpret and offer clarity to the states and other courts on constitutional questions. So, that's what we expect here. Whatever they say would be binding on the states.

But, as Joan noted, it's not clear exactly which issues they're going to weigh in on. The other big question is, what role does the state have to enforce that section?

There are some other cases, other questions that they could potentially weigh in on, like, did he engage in an insurrection? I'd expect they might try to stay away from that and again try to be narrow, focused on the constitutional issues. Again, whatever they say, they're the final word on interpreting the Constitution.

COOPER: I mean, Joan, you've been covering the Supreme Court for years. Given the personalities, the politics involved, do you have a sense of what's going on behind the scenes of this decision?

BISKUPIC: Well, you know, they came to the bench today for the first time in the new year and the first time since these cases had arrived. I was there in the courtroom. They handled, for some early minutes, a lot of routine business, you know, admissions to the bar at the Supreme Court. And then that's when they left the bench, took off those black robes and all sat around a conference table in a small room off the chambers of Chief Justice John Roberts.

And that's where they had to decide what were they going to do there. This is the first time they were meeting in person, as all these filings had come in this week.

And then, Anderson, I have to say, it took several hours for them to announce what they were doing. And I just wonder how much they struggled with whether they were going to already kind of narrow some of the issues or if they just wanted to quickly get out, as they did, we're taking the case and we'll iron out things later.

You know, I'm sure that they -- you know, they saw this marching toward them, and now they're ready to act swiftly on it. And I think they realized the moment for them themselves that however they rule, they're going to set a tone for how to regard democratic norms as we are on the eve of such an important set of primaries, then the ultimate election in November of this year.

COOPER: Joan Biskupic, thanks; Paula Reid.

More perspective now from CNN Legal Analyst Karen Friedman Agnifilo and Jennifer Rodgers. Also, CNN Election Law Analyst Rick Hassan, author of the soon to be published new book "A Real Right to Vote: How a Constitutional Amendment Can Safeguard American Democracy."

So, Jennifer, you have oral arguments scheduled to begin February 8th. What does the timing look like to you?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's obvious that the court really wanted to jump in quickly here because the primaries are approaching, and everyone's talking about the fact that the decisions were stayed. The Colorado decision to take Trump off the ballot was stayed. So, he won't be off the ballot regardless of how long the court takes with it.

But the plaintiffs won below, right, the people who wanted Donald Trump off the ballot won. So it kind of hurts them if he ends up on the ballot. So I think the court kind of recognizes the stakes that the approaching primaries and really wants to get this done quickly.

And the parties have briefed all of this below. It's not like anyone is going to be disadvantaged. Everyone will have their say. The court will have enough time to decide, but they're going to move it really swiftly. That says a lot about what they think about the stakes and how important that they are treating this in terms of, I think, their own legitimacy, understanding that they've taken some real hits in recent years.

COOPER: Karen, I want to play some of what one of the former president's lawyers said on Fox last night about this case. This was obviously I said before today's official decision from the Supreme Court.


ALINA HABBA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I think it should be a slam dunk in the Supreme Court. I have faith in them. You know, people like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, who the president went through hell to get into place, he'll step up. Those people will step up, not because they're pro-Trump, but because they're pro-law, because they're pro- fairness, and the lawness is very clear.


COOPER: How do you interpret that?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It sounds like a dog whistle to me. I mean, that is an absolute message to Brett Kavanaugh through his spokesperson and his lawyer that, look, I went through hell for you, I stepped up for you. If you'll recall, those hearings were quite contentious with the accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh. And basically, Trump is signaling that he expects Brett Kavanaugh to step up.

COOPER: Right. I mean, her argument just on the face of it, it does make any sense that, you know, because he went through hell for Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh should step up for him, but not because he went through hell for Kavanaugh but because he cares about the law.

AGNIFILO: Yes. Well, the law here, there are some questions, I think, that the Supreme Court will have to grapple with. One of them is, does the 14th Amendment apply to the president? In other words, is the president an officer, because it's not named. He's not named as a title or a job description in that amendment. I think it's pretty clear it does apply to the presidency.


Another question that I think he also is arguing, Trump, is that he didn't take an oath to support the Constitution, which, again, I think that falls flat. But I think where they're potentially going to consider whether it applies to Trump is, does it make sense? Is this a qualification like age or where you were born that a state can just determine like that? Or is it kind of complicated, something that Congress has to decide and determine what is an insurrection and whether someone engaged in it? And I think that's going to be the major question that they grapple with.

COOPER: Rick, we don't know how narrow a ruling the Supreme Court might come back with. I mean, there are obviously questions about whether the president is considered, as we were just talking about, an officer of the government, whether states can enforce the so-called insurrectionist ban, whether or not the former president actually incited an insurrection. How far do you think they might go?

RICK HASSAN, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, in their order today, as Joan mentioned earlier, they didn't narrow down the list of questions. So probably it's just too early. Maybe we'll get that order that will tell us.

But everything has to break the way of the challengers in order for Trump to be off the ballot. There are just so many ways that the Supreme Court could decide to keep Trump on the ballot that, you know, the odds have got to be with Trump here.

But as I think about this, you know, Trump's opening argument is, leave this to Congress. And that actually seems quite dangerous. What Trump is essentially saying is, let me run for office, let me potentially win election and then come January 6, 2025, when Congress counts the electoral college votes, let Congress decide if I'm eligible to run. I mean, that sounds like a recipe for real political instability. And I hope the Supreme Court is not going to embrace that argument. It would give them an out, but it would set up the country for a really dangerous period of time.

COOPER: Jennifer, I mean, the court doesn't have to address all these issues. I mean, they could ignore the whole question of whether this was an insurrection or not, couldn't they?

RODGERS: They can. I mean, I think they have to decide on a ground that is common to all states, like if they decided, for example, based on the plaintiffs here didn't have standing or there was some due process problem in Colorado. That's not going to be good enough because there are other pending challenges. They don't want to just do something on the Colorado case that doesn't apply to the other cases. But, sure, they could decide, for example, that the office of the presidency, as Karen was saying, isn't included in the offices under this provision.

COOPER: Right.

RODGERS: And that would apply to all.

COOPER: But even on the insurrection thing, I mean, the 14th Amendment does not say that someone needs to be convicted of it, merely that they engaged in it.

RODGERS: Right. And that is exactly what courts do, right? They take evidence, they make factual finding, they put those factual findings about what Trump did up against the legal definition in the statute or the section of the Constitution, and they make those judgment calls. I mean, that's what courts do every day, which is why it's pretty hard to say that they can't do that here. But I think we all know that the court is looking for an out here. I think they're looking for a way to keep him on the ballot because they're worried about the chaos that will ensue if he's off.

COOPER: Rick, I mean, out of all the sitting justices, only Clarence Thomas was on the Supreme Court for the Bush v. Gore decision back in 2000. Do you see parallels to that case?

HASSAN: Well, here, you know, the stakes are different, right? Right now, we don't know if one of the leading candidates is eligible to run for office. That suggests we really need a decision soon so that Republican voters have the chance to know if the candidates they're considering supporting actually can serve as president.

It's different than trying to deal with a recount. Yes, the stakes are similar. The legal issues are very different. And, you know, as you think about what it's going to mean for the country, remember there are other cases involving Trump that are coming to the Supreme Court, including a really important one about whether he can be criminally prosecuted or whether he's immune. That trial may take place depending on what the court does before the -- you know, we get to the general election season. That decision may end up being much more important than this one if, as I expect, the court is not going to kick Trump off the ballot.

COOPER: Karen, do you think Justice Thomas should have recused himself from the case. House Democrats have questioned whether he can be impartial given his wife's role in what was called the Stop the Steal rally. But an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case just told CNN that they have no plans to ask for Justice Thomas to bow out.

AGNIFILO: Well, I think it make sense given the fact that she -- his wife testified before the January 6th Committee and gave testimony and evidence that she was very much involved in the planning of the rally and the insurrection. I think because that January 6th report was entered into evidence in Colorado and the Colorado district court that decided this actually used the Jan. 6 report as part of the finding as to why it was an insurrection, I think that really makes it so there's a direct conflict for her, and she cannot -- it's his wife.

And I think he has to recuse himself. I think if this was -- I think if it was any other court or any other judge, they would recuse themselves. But I think it's pretty clear here that there's a conflict.


COOPER: But that decision is solely up to him?

AGNIFILO: Solely up to him.

COOPER: All right. Appreciate it, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, Jennifer Rodgers, Rick Hassan as well.

Coming up next, a closer look at the former president's take on January 6th, the facts, and what his attempt to reshape those facts say about him and the moment we're in. Keeping them honest.

And later, the man who put the National Rifle Association at the center of Republican politics, Wayne Lapierre stepping down finally as its leader. Where that leaves the NRA and his political clout ahead.


COOPER: We played you a moment ago some of what President Biden and the former president said today about January 6th, when Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol three years ago. Now, keeping them honest, what their very different framing of it says about the year to come and the historical moment surrounding it. President Biden first.


BIDEN: Let's be clear about the 2020 election. Trump exhausted every legal avenue available to him to overturn the election -- every one. But the legal path just took Trump back to the truth, that I had won the election and he was a loser.


So knowing how his mind works now, he had one act left, one desperate act available to him, the violence of January 6th.


COOPER: President Biden, as you heard at the top, called attention to the threat of political violence and the former president's refusal, he says, to disavow it. For his part, the former president tonight said the real political violence is the prosecution of him, which isn't new. It's part of a familiar, albeit, remarkable pattern he's had since January 6th of trying to recast the attack at something else and transforming the violent mob into -- in his light martyrs like himself.


We have a sample of it in chronological order accompanied by video of what we all saw happen.


TRUMP: Go home. We love you. You're very special.

It was a zero threat. Right from the start, it was zero threat. There was also a love fest between the police, the Capitol police and the people that walked down to the Capitol. There was such love at that rally.

You had over a million people, and they were peaceful people. These were great people. The crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word, love. The love, the love in the air, I've never seen anything like it.

If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6th fairly. We will treat them fairly. And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.

They were there proud. They were there with love in their heart. That was an unbelievable and it was a beautiful day.

I call them the J6 hostages, not prisoners.


COOPER: Clearly, the current and former president are portraying January 6th differently, to say the least, which is not the same as saying one headline this week put it, one attack, two interpretations because there's simply no evidence to support two factual interpretations of a violent mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol, which is what happened. That's what it was. It's what we all saw.

Whether or not President Biden is focusing on it to make a political point about the man he's running against, his description of January 6th matches the facts of what happened. And if the last three years of new video, and witness accounts, and trial testimony, and congressional hearings have done anything, they've only further narrowed whatever little room for interpretation there is or ever was.

Right now, it's mainly down to whether the former president will be held criminally responsible. That's for a jury to decide. The rest is a matter of fact. But because his legal and political feature align in persuading the world otherwise, that is what he has been doing now for years, gaslighting. And for millions of Americans, it is working.

New polling out this week shows that 25% now say it's probably or definitely true that the FBI instigated the January 6th attack, not Trump supporters. 26% say they're not sure. Less than half say it's false. Welcome to 2024.

Joining us now, two senior political commentators, former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, and former Obama Senior Adviser David Axelrod.

Congressman Kinzinger, as you might remember, served on the January 6th Committee. Congressman is a former member of that committee and someone who lived through the horrors of that day in Washington. I'm wondering what your thoughts on President Biden's speech was today?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually thought it was pretty good. I mean, I think he is doing now what he needs to be doing, which is taking this right to Donald Trump, calling out his flaws.

One of the things that's really struck me of late is just how honestly whiny, how victimy, how weak, how complainy Donald Trump is. I think it's important to call out. It's not taking fortuitous shots. It's because Donald Trump has convinced his base that he's this tough rugged American that's standing up to the smog. And the truth is Donald Trump is a victim in his own mind.

He's whiny. And he's not running to make America great again, at least not this time, he's running to protect himself from jail. And I thought Joe Biden did a good job of calling that out. And I certainly expect and hope he continues to do that, as well as making calls for saying we need the same right, the center, and the left to, in essence, uncomfortably unite this year because there's a lot more on the line than just the issues we disagree on.

COOPER: David, President Biden begins his re-election campaign with his approval ratings at or near all-time lows for his presidency. Do you think his message here, defense of democracy, be an effective call to action for voters?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it will be to a large number of voters in his base. I think this was an important speech today, Anderson, because there has been some dispirited feelings among his base. There's been some divisions among his base. And people have been waiting for him to take it to Trump.

This is an issue -- while there are divisions among Democrats, this is an issue that unifies them. And to see the president deliver the speech as strongly as he did today, as passionately -- and he clearly feels passionately about this, I think that's all very important.

Is it sufficient? Probably not because I -- as important as I believe, as Adam believe, perhaps as you believe this issue is, and as many Americans do, they also have issues relative to the -- their day-to- day lives that go to the economy, and the quality of life, and their feeling of security.

And so, when the president talks about the future, it can't just be about democracy. It also has to be about some of these day-to-day issues that concern people.


COOPER: Congressman, I just want to play another part of the president's speech.


BIDEN: Because of you, the will of the people prevail. Not the anger of the mob or the appetites of one man. The attack on January 6th happened, there was no doubt about the truth.


COOPER: It is remarkable, Congressman, I mean, according to the Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, 25% of Americans say it's probably or definitely true that the FBI instigated the January 6th attack. That -- I mean, I just find that incredible.

KINZINGER: Yes, it's outrageous. There's a couple of things going on there. One of them is to believe January 6th was, you know, FBI-led or whatever, which is insane, by the way, but to think that part of that is a tribal tattoo. It has now become a price of entry to be a Republican to say that you believe the January 6th thing was actually led by the FBI because it could never be, you know, the messiah that's come to earth to bless us again, Donald Trump.

The other thing that's happening that's a complete leadership or a failure of leadership not just, you know, Donald Trump is going to say what he says, but Republican voters also look to all the other second tier leaders, people running for president, people in congress, people in the Senate, all the way down to, you know, county chairman. And when every one of them are saying that Donald Trump is a victim of the deep state or a victim of the FBI or he didn't lead January 6th, I'm actually honestly a little surprised that any Republicans say anything else because leaders have failed to lead.

So, we have to keep telling the truth and shine that bright truth into darkness. And I would say that any of my Republican colleagues listening, you're going to have to look yourself in the mirror someday. And this moment is directed at you. You can lead people. You may get kicked out of the tribe, but Trump may not be a tribe you want to stay part of anyway.

COOPER: David, I mean, do you see President Biden kind of rerunning the kind of campaign he ran essentially the first time around, I mean, keeping the focus on the soul of America and, as he says, the former president's threat to it?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, I think we should look back. I think we look back with a little bit of a cloudy lens on that. That was certainly how he ran at the beginning of his campaign. At the end of his campaign, it was a lot about how the COVID crisis had been managed. It was a lot about middle class economics versus Trump's economics. So, you know, it's a little bit of mythology that it was all about the soul of America. And I think this one can't be all about that either.

The other difference here, Anderson, is he's the incumbent now. And so, everybody's grievances attached to him and Trump gets a free ride and people have sort of a gauzy recollection of what it was like during the Trump years.

It is very important for Biden to be on the attack continually in this campaign and not just about democracy, but he should hold a clear lens up against what Trump's actual record was and remind people what those years were like. If you think that the world is chaotic now, think back to what those years were like every day when we woke up every morning wondering what crazy thing the president of the United States had done or said the night before and ask yourself, is that going to calm the country? Is that going to stabilize the future?

You know, Biden has to make this case, and he has to do it on a daily basis, not just a periodic speech about democracy.

COOPER: David Axelrod, Adam Kinzinger, thank you.

Now, the former president campaigning in Iowa, where just a bit ago he fired back at President Biden. Details from CNN's Kristen Holmes in the town of Sioux Center. So, Kristen, what did the former president have to say?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, interestingly, Anderson, he didn't take on Biden's threats that -- or arguments that he was a threat to democracy. He instead tried to make this about issues like immigration and the economy. That is the fight that he wants to take on.

And when he talked about the president, he called him names. He said he was incompetent. And he didn't go after any of the substance of the speech today but instead went after the event as a whole. Take a listen.


TRUMP: These caucuses, we're going to finish the job and we're going to get it done and we're going to actually be stronger than ever before. It's hard to believe because you see the damage that's been done. No president has ever, ever -- you know, I often say you can take the 10 worst presidents in the history of our country. You can add them up, put them together, and they haven't done the damage that Joe Biden has done to this country. What he's done to this country is unthinkable.

Biden's record is an unbroken streak of weakness, incompetence, corruption, and failure. Other than that, he's doing quite well. Isn't it (inaudible)? That's a hell of a list. That's a hell of a list, right? That's why crooked Joe is staging his pathetic fear-mongering campaign event in Pennsylvania today.

Did you see him? He was stuttering through the whole thing. He's going -- he's a threat to democracy. I'm a -- they've weaponized government.


He's saying I'm a threat to democracy. He's a threat to democracy.


HOLMES: He has trying to make fun of his stutter there. And I do want to know one thing. Trump's closing message is about Joe Biden. It's twofold. One is he is telling Iowans to go out there, do not get complacent just because you see those high poll numbers.

But he's also asking them particularly to, essentially, were they happier four years ago economically? And if so, bypass all of this process and just put me back in the White House. You know, that I can do it. So that is part of his key message. So we're seeing a lot of that play out here.

But one thing I also want to point out is he use the word fear mongering, something Donald Trump has been accused of doing. And shortly after he made that remark, he said that migrants were coming over the border and that Democrats wanted them to so they could sign them up to vote in the next election, which obviously there is no proof of that. And we've not heard that in any way. But just goes to the fear mongering aspect of all of this, something that Donald Trump has often done in his campaign.

COOPER: What -- did the former president -- I mean, is he going after his rivals in the Republican primary or is he just kind of doesn't even need to?

HOLMES: No. This was actually the most we've seen him go after Nikki Haley, obviously, after a rise in her poll numbers. I will remind that, you know, they've just put money into ads on immigration hitting Nikki Haley in New Hampshire. They do see a surge in that poll numbers. And here's what he said about her tonight.


TRUMP: Nikki Haley has been in the pocket of the open borders, establishment donors her entire career and she's a globalist, you know? She likes the globe. I like America first. And Nikki Haley's campaign is being funded by Biden donors. Did you know that? Biden donors. Because they're trying to get her, like, in particular here. We're doing so well. I think they've sort of given up. Do you notice they're sort of like, out of here?


HOLMES: And Anderson, he went on to say that all the polls that showed her surging were made up, that they were lies. But I will tell you that speaking to his senior advisers, they are taking it very seriously. They see those poll numbers, they see her rise, and they are trying to stem any kind of momentum she has, particularly here and in New Hampshire.

COOPER: All right. Kristen Holmes, thanks very much.

Coming up, why one of the most influential gun rights advocates in the nation, Wayne LaPierre, is out at the NRA after decades of leadership.

Also tonight, the school shooting in Perry, Iowa. New details about what happened and about the 6th grader who was murdered and the principal shot trying to save more kids.



COOPER: Wayne LaPierre, who was the face of the gun rights movement in the U.S. for decades, announced his resignation as the head of the National Rifle Association today. This happens days ahead of a civil trial in which he and others are accused of misusing NRA funds for personal benefit.

LaPierre once had to apologize for the NRA, calling federal agents Jack-booted thugs. This was just a month after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terror attack on a federal government building. He's led the organization since 1991.

Ed Lavandera joins us now with more. So what more to talk about the reasons for his resignation?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the timing of all of this obviously quite interesting, but the National Rifle Association board of directors was meeting in the Dallas area today. And according to a statement released by the NRA, that is where Wayne LaPierre notified the board that he was resigning.

In that statement, the NRA says that LaPierre cited health concerns as the reason for his resignation. They also went on to say that the resignation will take effect at the end of this month, January 31.

COOPER: So, LaPierre and some of the NRA's other top executives go on trial in a civil case on Monday over allegations of fraud. What are the details on that?

LAVANDERA: Yes, that's why the timing of all of this is so interesting, Anderson. This comes just days before the NRA. LaPierre and three other executives with the organization are set to go on trial. The New York attorney general brought a lawsuit against the organization and these four executives back in August of 2020, essentially accusing the organization and these men of violating laws that govern nonprofit organization, including mismanagement and fraud. It said that they used millions of dollars for personal gain for themselves, families, friends and vendors, and accusing them of losing more than $63 million for the NRA. The attorney general there in New York said that LaPierre's resignation today validates their lawsuit and that the trial will go on as scheduled starting on Monday.

COOPER: Talk a little bit about -- I mean, the power he has had. I mean he's been the face of the gun rights movement in America. Put this in context for us.

LAVANDERA: Well, this is massive. As you said, Wayne LaPierre has been synonymous with the National Rifle Association for decades. He has been the face of this organization's push for gun rights across the country. You know, they have touted for years their ability to elect politicians that see the gun rights issue the way they do, also trying to strike fear in those politicians that would vote against any kind of gun rights issue and against the organization.

He's also had just a long history of very controversial remarks, you know, after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting where 20 children, all very young, elementary school children and six adults were killed. They talked -- he talked about how the only way to stop school shootings is to get more guns on the streets and into people's hands.

You know, these are the kinds of comments that just really infuriated many gun control advocate organizations across the country. Every town -- that one of those organizations, every town says that this is just a sign that the NRA is in a doom spiral at this point.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. Thank you.

This happens the day after the latest school shooting, this one in Perry, Iowa. Today we learned the name of the young boy who was murdered, a 6th grader who was shot three times, in addition to five others who were injured. His name is Ahmir Jolliff. He was just eleven years old.

We also learned about one of the heroes, the school's principal, who is in critical condition tonight. He was shot trying to save the lives of kids by talking to and distracting the shooter.


Veronica Miracle is in Perry, Iowa, with the latest. What have we learned about the other victims in this shooting?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, tonight, we have learned from authorities that there are actually seven people who were injured in this attack. And of those seven, two students and a faculty member remain in the hospital. That faculty member identified, as you said, as the principal of Perry High school, Dan Marburger.

Police say he is in critical condition, still in the hospital. They're also saying they're hailing him as a hero. They're saying he acted selflessly and put himself in harm's way to protect his students. Here's what the superintendent of the Perry Community School district had to say tonight.


SUPT. CLARK WICKS, PERRY COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Mr. Marburger, he was a hero. And I know that it helped the way that he approached that situation and it saved some lives.


MIRACLE: Another victim who remains in the hospital tonight is a student who's been identified by his mother on Facebook. Megan Jeffrey says her son Sage was shot a total of 12 times directly. She says he's in pain. He's recovering in the hospital. She also said, quote, "He's terrified to go to sleep, terrified to be left alone." And said he's in complete disbelief that this is even real. Anderson?

COOPER: What are officials saying about the investigation of any possible motive?

MIRACLE: Well, right now, authorities say they're really focusing in on evidence around social media posts that the shooter made before this incident and also potentially during. They're looking at a TikTok video that is believed to show the shooter inside of the school bathroom posing next to a blue duffel bag with the caption, "Now We Wait."

Authorities did confirm he later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound later on. They're also interviewing victims and eyewitnesses. All of this as the community is really trying to heal. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Veronica Miracle, thanks very much.

Just ahead, the biggest release of documents relating to Jeffrey Epstein. They contain new details about a lawsuit connected to him and about the names of his associates. Kara Scannell and her team have been poring over them. She joins us next.



COOPER: Today saw the biggest release yet of documents from a lawsuit connected to Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile in Florida who died by suicide in jail in 2019 before he could face federal charges. More than 1,600 pages were released today. That's on top of the 100 releases in the previous two days.

Kara Scannell has been reading this latest batch, joins us with details. Anything new? What did you learn?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes. So a little bit more about the orbit that Jeffrey Epstein lived in, some of these famous faces that he was associated with. There was an employee of his who gave a deposition in the case. And what he testified, too, is that he recalled seeing -- having dinner with Donald Trump at Jeffrey Epstein's in his kitchen in Palm beach. He also testified that he met Bill Clinton on a plane. And on a different plane trip, he met Prince Andrew. Now, Trump and Bill Clinton have not been accused of any wrongdoing in this case, and Clinton's team has said he hasn't had contact with him in 20 years.

Prince Andrew reached a settlement with the accuser in this case of Virginia Giuffre, and he has denied any wrongdoing. But there are some other names that also came up in this document dumped today. One of them, Harvey Weinstein. His name appeared on a 2005 phone message log, like one of those old books that are spiral bound. And it just said that he had called for Epstein.

You can see it there on the screen, just a handwritten note noting that. Now Giuffre's lawyer had written in a book that he published in 2020 that Epstein and Harvey Weinstein were friends, but they had a falling out when Harvey Weinstein was too aggressive with one of Epstein's favorite girls, as he put it.

Now, another name that came up in a few of these papers over the past few days, David Copperfield, a magician. Now, one woman who was paid to give massages by Epstein, testified about him being at the house doing magic trips -- tricks, and that he had said to her, she testified, "He questioned me if I was aware that girls were getting paid to find other girls."

And then one of the plaintiff's lawyers in this case was quizzing a woman who worked for Epstein, a separate person, and had asked if she was aware that Copperfield had obtained tickets for Epstein to give to some of the girls. And they invited them backstage. But this person sort of the Fifth Amendment, and didn't answer any questions about it.

Copperfield's team has not gotten back to us. Harvey Weinstein is in jail for prison after being convicted in New York and LA for unrelated sex crimes.

COOPER: And there was news today about the remaining names that have been redacted.

SCANNELL: Yes. So there have been -- there's been this misconception that there was a list of names that was going to be released, and instead it's these names, you know, hidden in all of these documents that we have to go through. So the Miami Herald had asked the judge, there was a court created list just so they could go through all of these does and try to decide what could be unsealed and what couldn't.

So they asked for that to be unsealed. So it would kind of be a key for everyone who's looking at this to try to understand it better.

COOPER: Right.

SCANNELL: And the judge said that she wasn't going to unseal it because people might try to figure out who some of these still sealed names are if it's all listed alphabetically. So she said, in the interest of their privacy for the people that she said should still remain sealed. She was not going to let this list out.

COOPER: And why would some people remain sealed?

SCANNELL: Some of them are remain sealed because they were minors at the time, they were victims.


SCANNELL: And they've never been public. They've always maintained their confidentiality.


SCANNELL: And so she said she wasn't going to put them at risk. You know, and if there was a list that was alphabetical, it's to the chance that someone might be able to figure out who they were.

COOPER: All right, Kara Scannell, thanks very much.

It's important to remember that Jeffrey Epstein might never have been arrested on federal sex trafficking charges in 2019, had an earlier deal negotiated with federal authorities 12 years earlier been allowed to stand.

Randi Kaye has more on that story and the allegations of sexual abuse against Epstein. And we want to warn you, some of the details are graphic.


VIRGINIA GIUFFRE, EPSTEIN ACCUSER: All Jeffrey cared about was, go find me more girls. His appetite was insatiable.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back in 2006, the FBI began investigating Jeffrey Epstein's alleged activities with young girls who today are in their 20s and 30s. Some spoke to the Miami Herald.

COURTNEY WILD, EPSTEIN ACCUSER: I've seen hundreds and hundreds of girls go through Jeffrey's swinging door, his ever revolving door.

KAYE (voice-over): Dozens of them, all with similar stories of sexual abuse, even down to the details of what Epstein's genitals look like.


WILD: He would want us to stand next to him and he would masturbate while he stared at us, touched us.

GIUFFRE: It ended with sexual abuse and intercourse, and then a pat on the back. You've done a really good job. Like, you know, thank you very much and here is $200.

KAYE (voice-over): Epstein reportedly paid more if the girls engage in oral sex or intercourse. And they all say Epstein wanted them to recruit other young girls to bring to them.

WILD: By the time I was 16, I brought him up to 75 girls, all the ages of, you know, 14, 15, 16, people were all from a three to ninth grade at just school parties. That's where I would recruit them from.

KAYE: Here at Epstein's Palm Beach homes is where much of the alleged abuse took place. According to court documents, as far back as 2001, it's believed Epstein began luring underage girls here with the help of those who work for him. Most of the girls ranged in age from 13 to 16 and came from disadvantaged homes. They had never before seen the exclusive Palm Beach Island.

KAYE (voice-over): The house has since been torn down, but the painful memories for some of the victims remain.

GIUFFRE: The training started immediately. Everything down to how to be quiet, be subservient, give Jeffrey what he wants. And, you know, before you know it, I'm being lent out to politicians and to academics.

KAYE (voice-over): Years later in the 2014 court document, one of the women, Virginia Roberts, who today goes by Virginia Giuffre claimed she had been an underage sex slave to Epstein, claiming he forced her to have sex with some of his powerful friends, including Prince Andrew, the duke of York, once at an orgy on Epstein's island.

She would have been 17 at the time. The prince emphatically denied all of it. In 2022, Prince Andrew settled with Giuffre for an undisclosed amount. And a U.S. district judge agreed to dismiss her lawsuit against him. Weeks earlier, Buckingham Palace stripped him of his military titles and according to a royal source, told him he could no longer use his Royal Highness in any official capacity.

Epstein often ran with the rich and powerful, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and his two high profile defense attorneys, Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz. None of them have been accused of wrongdoing. Trump once told New York magazine about Epstein, "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

Federal investigators had identified at least 36 girls and were still building their case when suddenly, in 2007, Epstein made a sweetheart deal. This non-prosecution agreement allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge, just two prostitution charges in state court, and register as a sex offender. He would serve just 13 months in county jail.

The deal also granted immunity to any potential co-conspirators. None of those people were identified, leaving many to wonder if other powerful people were having sex with underage girls at Epstein's homes. The deal shut down the FBI's investigation into additional victims and accomplices and any chance of Epstein going to prison for life, based on the FBI's own federal indictment that would have charged him with sex crimes.

MIKE FISTEN, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I read the indictment. There was multiple allegations of sex trafficking, trafficking girls across lines, using his airplane to traffic girls, witness intimidation, and then all of a sudden, it disappeared. KAYE (voice-over): The deal was negotiated in part by Epstein's friend and defense lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, and signed off on by then U.S. Attorney in Miami Alexander Acosta, who was former President Donald Trump's Secretary Of Labor.

FISTEN: He's supposed to be protecting these victims, and he was protecting Jeffrey Epstein, a pedophile.

KAYE (voice-over): And despite a federal law which says victims must be notified of this type of deal, Epstein's victims were kept in the dark until after it was signed and approved by the judge.

BRADLEY EDWARDS, ATTORNEY FOR EPSTEIN VICTIMS: Somebody with money and power was able to communicate with the government in secrecy in direct violation of the rights of the crime victims.

KAYE (voice-over): At his confirmation hearing for Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta tried to explain his decision not to prosecute Epstein federally.

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: Based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor's office decide that a plea that guarantees that someone goes to jail, that guarantees that someone register generally, and that guarantees other outcomes is a good thing.

KAYE: Meanwhile, in February 2019, 11 years after Epstein was sentenced, a federal judge here in Florida ruled that Acosta and other officials from the Department of Justice violated the Crime Victims' Rights Act by not notifying the alleged victims of the plea deal until after it was signed.


The judge noted that prosecutors misled the victims by allowing them to believe that a federal prosecution was still a possibility.

WILD: It's scary because this is our government that's supposed to protect us, but has done everything to protect, you know, a pedophile.


KAYE (on-camera): And of course, Anderson, the story did not end there. In July 2019, Epstein was suddenly arrested again, and this time he was charged federally. Those charges did include one count of sex trafficking of minors. He was facing up to 40 years in prison. He was 66 years old at the time.

So while he was awaiting trial in jail, he did take his life. As you heard in our story, we also mentioned Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. It's also important to note that neither Trump nor Clinton have been accused of any crimes or wrongdoings related to this case.

In fact, CNN reached out to Bill Clinton and his spokesperson referred us to a 2019 statement saying that Clinton had flown on Epstein's private plane, was unaware, though, of Epstein's terrible crime. CNN also reached out to Donald Trump based on these new documents that were released. And a Trump spokesperson didn't really give us a formal comment, simply attacked the media. Anderson?

COOPER: Randi Kaye, thanks. We'll be right back.


COOPER: This Sunday night, don't miss an all new episode of The Whole Story, "15 Years Later: The Miracle On The Hudson". We'll talk with former airline pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and passengers who survived the emergency landing here in New York's Hudson River after birds crippled the Airbus's two engines. One whole hour, one whole story. This Sunday at 08:00 p.m. Eastern Pacific, only on CNN.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.