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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Judges Skeptical Of Trump's Claim Of Absolute Immunity; Grandmother Convicted For January 6 Capitol Attack Reports To Prison; New CNN Poll: Haley Cuts Trump's NH Lead To Single Digits; Iowa Caucuses Only Six Days Away; Boeing CEO Acknowledges "Our Mistake" During Safety Meeting With Employees After Alaska Airlines Incident; Anderson Talks To Ashley Judd About Her Grief After Her Mother Naomi Died By Suicide; Pentagon Acknowledges Transparency "Shortfalls" As Doctors Reveal Secy. Austin's Prostate Cancer Diagnosis. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 09, 2024 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It is the latest in a string of violent incidents unfolding after a national state of emergency was declared after the escape of a notorious gang leader from prison.

Since then, another gang leader has escaped from a different prison and the situation is deteriorating, largely driven by rival criminal organizations battling to control drug trafficking routes.

And as our David Culver reported "Out Front" last night, Ecuador is a central part of a massive underground operation that is smuggling immigrants illegally into the United States of America along that southern border.

Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360: Can a president get away with murder? That question and the chilling answer got in court today as the former president makes a case for presidential immunity and raises the specter of criminal impunity?

Also tonight, the grandmother who bought the election lie, does she still believe it going into our first night of a five-year sentence?

And later, meet the man who found an airliner's missing door plug in his own backyard. His find could help investigators figure out what severely damaged Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.

Good evening, thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight Keeping Them Honest with the former presidents' striking claim in court today that nothing a president does in office can be criminally prosecuted unless he or she is first impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.

That's what his attorney, John Sauer told a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals today. And what's more, in a remarkable exchange with one of them, Judge Florence Pan, he conceded that the principle would apply even if a president ordered a hit on a political opponent.


FLORENCE PAN, JUDGE OF THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT: I asked a you/no -- yes or no question. Could a president who ordered SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival who was not impeached, would he be subjected to criminal prosecution?

JOHN SAUER, DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: If he were impeached and convicted first.

PAN: So your answer is no.


COOPER: Less the kind of thought experiment, judges often pose to probe the limits of an argument before them. Rarely do they get such a breathtaking answer, according to Elie Honig, who you'll hear from in a minute.

The exchange prompted James Pearce, the attorney representing Special Counsel Jack Smith to ask: "What kind of world are we living in if that hypothetical holds true?"

For his part, the former president today suggested that losing his case would create "bedlam" in the country. What he would not do is answer the following question about any violence that might come with it.


REPORTER: You just used the word "bedlam." Will you tell your supporters now no matter what, no violence?


COOPER: In a moment, our legal and political team join us to talk about where this goes next and how it could reshape not just the presidential race, but the power of the presidency for generations to come.

First, CNN's Paula Reid with more of this consequential day in court.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Trump traveled to Washington Tuesday to watch arguments in a federal appeals court hearing over whether he should be shielded from criminal prosecution.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel that as a president, you have to have immunity, very simple. REID (voice over): Trump was not required to be in attendance, but was in court to witness the three-judge panel express skepticism of his legal team's claim that he could not be prosecuted for his actions unless he is first impeached and convicted by Congress.

PAN: Could a president ordered SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival? That's an official act, an order to Seal Team Six.

SAUER: He would have to be and would speedily be, you know, impeached and convicted before the criminal prosecution.

PAN: I asked you a yes/no -- yes or no question.

SAUER: There's a political process that would have to occur under our infrastructure, our Constitution, which would require impeachment and conviction by the Senate in these exceptional cases.

REID (voice over): Trump's lawyers argued that when trying to overturn the 2020 election, Trump was acting in his official capacity.

SAUER: To authorize the prosecution of a president for his official acts, would open a Pandora's Box from which this nation may never recover.

REID (voice over): Trump's lawyer also warned that if this near absolute immunity was not recognized, it could be a possibility of vindictive prosecutions against political rivals.

SAUER: It would authorize, for example, the indictment of President Biden in the Western District of Texas after he leaves office for mismanaging the border allegedly.

REID (voice over): The Special Counsel rejected these arguments, noting that charges were brought in this case because of what they describe as extraordinary conduct.

JAMES PEARCE, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Never before has there been allegations that a sitting president has with private individuals and using the levers of power sought to fundamentally subvert the Democratic Republic and the electoral system.

REID (voice over): And argued that impeachment and conviction through a political process should not be required before a criminal prosecution.

PEARCE: I think it would be awfully scary if there weren't some sort of mechanism by which to reach that criminally.


COOPER: Paula, so what happens next?

REID: Well, Anderson, it appears unlikely that Trump is going to prevail here, but even if he loses, he can still ask the entire circuit to hear his case.


And that would require a majority of the judges in the circuit to agree to hear the case. It's unclear if they'll do that. Remember, this strategy is as much about delay as it is about the constitutional questions.

Look, if that doesn't work, he can still appeal to the Supreme Court, but it's unclear if they're going to want to weigh in here. Remember, they're already weighing this other question related to Trump about ballot eligibility.

But the longer that Trump can draw this out and the longer it takes to get the final answer on this question of immunity, the less likely it is that Special Counsel Jack Smith will be able to bring his election subversion case to trial, so even if Trump loses on the merits here, Anderson, he still may win on the tactics.

COOPER: Paula Reid, thanks very much.

Joining us now CNN political commentator and former Trump campaign adviser, David Urban; also CNN's Kaitlan Collins, anchor of "The Source" at the top of the next hour; with us as well, CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, and Cardozo Law School's Jessica Roth, like Elie Honig, she is a former federal prosecutor.

So Elie, what were your big takeaways?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, anytime you're a lawyer, and you find yourself vouching for a preposterous ridiculous outcome, that's a good sign that you're in trouble. And Trump's team today took a surprising position that I think landed them in a spot where they were arguing that it could be that the president orders murder and cannot be prosecuted.

They sort of invented this argument that first you have to be impeached by the House, then convicted by the Senate, and only then can you be prosecuted. And I want people to understand, there is no magic to these formulations. We're in new ground here legally. It's not like there's some code hidden in the Constitution.

What the judges and maybe someday the justices are going to be asking is, is this workable? Does this lead to an outrageous outcome? And if it does, I think you're out of luck.

And I just don't think Trump's lawyers are going to win based off that argument.

COOPER: Because I mean, under this absolute immunity theory that the Trump team is pushing, if a president committed crimes while in office and wasn't impeached, they would get it -- there would be no mechanism for accountability.

HONIG: Exactly. You can think of the worst scenario possible, assassination, selling military secrets, and their position is unless and until he is not only impeached, impeached and then convicted by the Senate, he's scot-free. By the way, the better answer to that question about the assassination would have been of course, he can be prosecuted.

COOPER: So a president could, I mean, could a president kill his valet? And if --

HONIG: Right --

COOPER: If it wasn't done in the White House lawn and there was some question about who did it?

HONIG: Exactly, by the argument that Donald Trump's team made today, he would be scot-free, but the better argument would be, of course, he could be prosecuted because it's outside the scope of the presidency. But they made this bizarre turn that left them in a bad spot.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Anderson, when I was listening to this, you know, I'm not a prosecutor, but you know, as a recovering lawyer, and I was listening, I was thinking to myself, stick to the official acts argument. It's a much tighter argument and you have much more to argue there to say, listen, he was looking into this investigation. He's investigating this election, because it was part of his official duties as president, right, to make sure there's free and fair elections and it is all part of this giant scope as opposed to coming up with this construct which is clearly just whacked.

COOPER: Well, Jessica, I mean, do you think there's any validity to the Trump team's argument here?

JESSICA ROTH, NEW YORK CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL LAW PROFESSOR: Not with respect to this hypothetical of whether or not he could be prosecuted for ordering SEAL Team Six to kill his political rival.

On the larger question that when we take a step back from that particular hypothetical, too, is there anything that's troubling about the idea of potentially prosecutions, his argument is they would be political of a former president.

I do think that's a question that courts would want to think about seriously. And for that reason, actually, interestingly, the special counsel said, look, you don't have to agree with Judge Chutkan, that there is no such thing as presidential immunity from criminal prosecution, in all circumstances, full stop. You could just say that in the circumstances presented here, it is very clear, there is no immunity. And we're going to leave open for another day, the possibility that in some very narrow set of exceptional circumstances, there might be presidential immunity.

And he gave the example of a president who on very short notice, has to decide whether to order a drone strike, right? We said that might be the kind of situation where it is a national military interest at stake and there is very little time where a court might say, we're reluctant to say categorically there could never be presidential immunity. But that's not this case, they said, and so if you're inclined to reach this question at all beyond just affirming Judge Chutkan's decision, which was categorical, just leave it open for another day and decide here, there's just no question.

COOPER: Attorneys for Trump argued something different after the second -- during the second impeachment after the insurrection. I want to play with some of what was said in court.


PAN: There's a quote in the congressional record in which your counsel, I'm sorry, your client said through counsel, no former office holder is immune from investigation and prosecution.

SAUER: Investigation is what? There's no --

PAN: Any --

SAUER: Well, that may be true of subordinate officers, but as to the principal office of the president, he is immune unless he is impeached and convicted. Again, it comes back to the point.

PAN: He was -- he was president at the time and its position was that no former office holder is immune, and in fact the argument was there's no need to vote for impeachment because we have this backstop which is criminal prosecution, and it seems that many senators relied on that in voting to acquit.



COOPER: Duh --

URBAN: Look, it's -- so what -- when I was Arlen Specter's chief-of- staff a hundred years ago, right, and the Clinton administration, during the Clinton impeachment, my former boss had an op-ed that ran in "The New York Times" and said, don't -- we don't need to impeach him, he could be tried when he is off -- you know, when he is out of office. That's been the line. You don't have to have impeachment.

Obviously, the Trump people argue that as well. We don't need to impeach him. There's a backstop here, the court system, right? And you're on the record, you're on the record.

COOPER: Kaitlan, what are you hearing from his team about --

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I don't think today went the way they expected it to go. I mean, I thought that they would go -- went into this thinking that a lot of the arguments would be what Trump has been arguing and what they articulated in their written brief, which was that the actions that he took after the election between then and January 6th were duties as president, that what he was doing is to make sure that the laws of the land, the election laws, were faithfully carried out. That is their argument. Obviously, people disagree with that.

But that's the argument that they had been making, that it wasn't electioneering, that he -- as he has now said, which he was not saying at the time, he knew the election was over, and that that's what he was doing in his official duties.

It went into a complete different way, and they essentially ran into a brick wall with these arguments, not only with Bruce Castor's quote, right there that the judge was referencing, Judge Pan, I think, providing a really difficult time for Trump's attorneys, and I don't also think it went the way that Trump thought it was going to go from the optics perspective, either, because instead of it kind of being this big, showcase moment of him going into court, again, being able to use it, which was a purely political decision, I was told, you didn't see him going into court, and instead, you saw his attorney kind of getting browbeat by the judges with these deeply skeptical questions of their arguments.

And then Trump's brief comments at the hotel afterward, where he just, you know, continued to repeat his election lies which have been debunked.

COOPER: Elie, I mean, how quickly will an appeals court rule and what are the next steps?

HONIG: I think we're going to see a ruling within two weeks. They expedited this, right? And now, after they rule, I think we have to watch for two things to happen.

First of all, Trump assuming he loses, I think it's quite clear he will. He is going to try to take this up to the Supreme Court eventually. But he has a long time to do that. You have 90 days to even ask the Supreme Court to take the case.

And so to head that off, there was a bit at the end today where Jack Smith's team asked the Court of Appeals to issue the mandate. And what that means translated into plain English is send us back down to the district court, the trial court, and let them get back on track. Because remember, they've been on pause ever since this appeal started.

So Jack Smith's team wants to let the district court resume its pre- trial preparations.

COOPER: And the appeals court can do that?

HONIG: Yes, they can do that. And we may actually be in a situation where you have two things happening, parallel. You have litigation going on in the Supreme Court and the district court carrying on, but Trump's team is going to ask the Supreme Court to stop the trial part.

COOPER: Jessica, I mean, is this something the Supreme Court would weigh? I mean, it does seem like an important question to answer.

ROTH: It's an incredibly important question, and I think that's the strongest reason for the court to take the case. I mean, this is an important legal question. It's never been decided before. On the other hand, I'm sure they wouldn't relish having to get into the middle of this, if they think that the DC Circuit doesn't cry out for being overturned. Maybe they just leave it.

But I think a lot of it is going to depend on how this opinion is written, how broad it is in its scope. If it is really broad and makes a categorical statement that there's no such thing as presidential immunity in any circumstances from criminal prosecution that might be something that the court thinks it has to address.

If it's more limited, and essentially says, look, there might be in some circumstances, but not in the circumstances presented here or we're going to reach the question of whether these were official acts or not, maybe the court leaves that be.

COOPER: And Kaitlan, he's going to be -- the former president is going to be in court again Thursday on the civil fraud trial, and we've got the Iowa caucuses coming up. He is choosing to be here in these -- at these court cases. He clearly thinks both from a fundraising standpoint and from a political standpoint, I mean, that's where the cameras are, that there's a benefit for him being there.

COLLINS: Well, and they are fundraising off of this today. Eric Trump was sending out an e-mail via their fundraising saying my father is in court right now. He's not able to be an Iowa. He was choosing to be in the courthouse today.

COOPER: Right, he could have been in Iowa.

COLLINS: He is choosing to be here in New York on Thursday for those closing arguments in the civil fraud case, as he is chosen to be there the many other times.

There will -- if this does happen, if the Supreme Court does rule on this, as this trial does go forward, there will be days when he does not get to choose, where he does have to be there in court. But I do think it speaks to the point that right now, they think this helps him, but what we keep hearing from Republicans who are challenging him for this nomination, Governor Ron DeSantis, namely is that maybe this is helpful to him in the primary.

It is not going to be helpful in the general election. That could be the time when he doesn't actually have the choice. He has to go to court.

URBAN: I'll just say real quickly, the point on delay, the tactic on delay, remember that we're up against September 5th, I think is the date, the magic date, right, where you're 90 days out. That's roughly --

HONIG: Sixty or 90 days, depending on who you ask.

URBAN: The DOJ guidelines when you start this, so delay, delay, delay. That's a friend for the president here.

[20:15:01] COOPER: David Urban, Kaitlan Collins, Elie Honig, Jessica Roth, thanks very much.

Kaitlan is going to be at the top of the hour on "The Source."

Coming up next, one woman, a grandmother who believed the former president's voter fraud claims and stormed the Capitol. The question tonight as she reports to prison, does she still believe those lies?

And later the latest on the former president might have a race on his hands with Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, at least, what new CNN polling reveals, ahead.


COOPER: In his brief statement after court today, the former president again referred to a document he has been promoting lately that he says proves his allegations of voter fraud. It doesn't.

The claims in the document are unproven or debunked. It's clear though that three years ago, millions of people did believe such lies. On January 6, thousands acted violently on it and today, one of them, a 42-year-old grandmother reported to a federal prison in West Virginia to begin serving a long sentence.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan recently spoke with her about whether she still believes in the lies that turned her into a Capitol rioter.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How do you feel when you watch this?

RACHEL POWELL, PINK HAT LADY: You know, I think I am more numb when I look at this stuff. It's like surreal to me. I mean, look how angry I looked.

O'SULLIVAN: You'd admit this is a bad look.

POWELL: Totally. You know how dumb I feel when I look at this picture like, oh my goodness.

O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Rachel Powell also known as the Pink Hat Lady is about to begin a five-year prison sentence for her role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.


She's a mom of eight and grandmother of six, and she spent most of the last three years under home detention in rural Pennsylvania.

POWELL: Is this what you expected from an insurrectionist? A terrorist? How do I have time to plan an insurrection when my life is busy like this? Making pie? Raising babies?

O'SULLIVAN: Why did you decide to go to DC on January 6th? POWELL: Well, how often does a president ask you to come to a rally? It doesn't happen.

O'SULLIVAN: At some point, this goes from peaceful protest to you having an ice axe in your hand, breaking a window, trying to get in to the Capitol. How did that happen?

POWELL: It got violent and it was violent for a while and I'm completely in pain. And --

O'SULLIVAN: Because you had been hit.

POWELL: Oh, man, I've been hit with a baton. I've been grabbed and thrown. I've been sprayed. I mean, my whole body was on fire. I don't think there was rational thinking in my head at that point.

And I didn't have an ice axe that passed through the crowd. Somebody put it in my hands. And it was only in my hands long enough to take out that window pane, and yet, I've been charged with a deadly weapon.

O'SULLIVAN: Somebody give you the ice axe?



POWELL: I don't know.

O'SULLIVAN: You don't remember.

POWELL: I don't know who they were. I don't know where it came from. I don't know where it went.

O'SULLIVAN: I grew up, and I guess you probably did too of being told, you know, if a police officer tells you to do something, you should probably do it. That didn't happen that day. Of course, the police were telling you guys to go away.

POWELL: They never actually told us to go away. I never had an officer look at me and say you need to leave or I'm going to arrest you.

O'SULLIVAN: Footage like this have Rachel seen here in the fur-hooded coasts pushing against the police line, and messages she posted on social media condoning violence ahead of January 6 were used by prosecutors to argue that Rachel wasn't just a peaceful protester who got caught up in the chaos of the day.

Do you regret that day?

POWELL: I regret. I have a lot of remorse for ruining my family's life. I mean, in one day, I destroyed everything, for really, for nothing. I don't have remorse for attending protests. I don't have remorse for speaking out and saying that I believe that the election is stolen.

I do have remorse for breaking a window and destroying my whole family's life and for thinking irrationally, and not realizing like why don't you just sit down at this protest.

O'SULLIVAN: A federal judge convicted Rachel on nine counts, including destruction of government property, obstruction of an official proceeding and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds.

POWELL: I'm sorry, it's like my last weekend before I go in, but I'm like, I love my children so much. And so it's like the last thing that they can take from me. That'll be the hard part. And I don't deserve this and my kids don't deserve it. Like have we not been through enough? Like that's the last thing that we have to lose is each other.

O'SULLIVAN: Prosecutors said Rachel showed nothing but contempt for the court and legal system.

You said, you know that you feel dumb, set up?




O'SULLIVAN: Why do you feel duped?

POWELL: With January 6th? I cannot prove it was a setup. But I feel like what if it was.

O'SULLIVAN: Rachel isn't alone. A quarter of Americans believe the conspiracy theory the January 6 attack was instigated by the FBI.

People watching this might say, well, if you were duped by Trump and everybody around him and the election wasn't really stolen and you buying into this has kind of ruined your life. Do you ever feel a bit pissed off at Trump?

POWELL: No, absolutely not. I don't. I've had problems with this election process for years and years. Fifteen years ago, if there would have been protests about election fraud, I would have gone to those because our whole country and everything about our lives is determined by voting.

O'SULLIVAN: Surely, in the last three years, being locked in here, have you ever had a moment where you're like, you know, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Biden actually won the election. Maybe I'm the conspiracy theorist.

POWELL: No, not at all.

O'SULLIVAN: She is due to spend the next few years behind bars, but she believes one man could change that.

POWELL: So, this hat says "Rachel, We Love You, Trump." My -- three of my sons they met Trump and you can actually see them one of the times here.


Trump was very encouraging to them. He's made it clear he's going to pardon us.

O'SULLIVAN: There's a lot riding on this election.

POWELL: Totally.

O'SULLIVAN: For the country, but also personally for you.

POWELL: Oh, man, for me, it's huge. For me, it's like life or death. And it's huge.

O'SULLIVAN: If Trump wins, you could get out of prison.

POWELL: Correct. I will get out of prison.


COOPER: It's amazing to me, although it shouldn't be that, you know, she spent three years locked up in her home, and she could have done some research, and she continues to believe things which are demonstrably false and just lies. I mean, it's pathetic.

O'SULLIVAN: And look --

COOPER: It's amazing, she is teaching her children this as well. I mean, I am stunned.

O'SULLIVAN: I mean, what makes Rachel's story all the more incredible also is she didn't even vote for Trump in 2016. She wasn't particularly politically active. She didn't really believe in voting for a while. It was COVID, the lockdown, she said that she started going to anti-lockdown protests, that led to stop the steal. And that, of course, brought her to January 6, where, look, I mean, she claims that the axe was placed into her hand and everything else and she doesn't view this as an insurrection, clearly, a court disagreed.

But look, Anderson, I think a lot of our viewers and I certainly already know from some of our viewers who have comments online, ask why are we speaking to somebody like Rachel Powell? The reality is, is that she's not alone.

COOPER: I find it informative to hear from her.


COOPER: I mean, it's telling about a mentality and a psychology of some people who are supporting the former president and why.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, and the falsehoods about the election are believed by tens of millions of Americans. And now of course, you even see the conspiracy theories about the day itself.

COOPER: Right. Her whole being duped thing. I mean, Donie O'Sullivan. Fascinating. Thank you.

Just ahead, presidential politics, can Nikki Haley close the gap in New Hampshire with the former president? New CNN poll numbers and John King at the magic wall with all the details, next.



COOPER: One night before CNN hosts the last Republican presidential debate before Monday's Iowa caucuses, Nikki Haley was in the suburbs of Des Moines telling a crowd today that everything, quote, "has come to this moment". Haley having a moment of her own as a new CNN poll suggests she's cut the former president's once daunting lead in New Hampshire to single digits. That primary comes eight days, of course, after Iowa.

John King joins us now at the Magic Wall with the numbers. So how much has Haley gained on the former president of New Hampshire?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Numbers are stunning, Anderson. Let me flip this up and show you. New Hampshire, you mentioned Iowa's first. Next Monday, we count the votes in Iowa. Two weeks from tonight, we count the votes here in New Hampshire.

Remember, back in 2016, this was Trump's first win. This was the beginning of the path to the nomination for Donald Trump. New Hampshire was kind to Donald Trump. So look at these new numbers in this poll, and it is quite striking when you see it.

Nikki Haley within 7 points. 39 percent for the former president. 32 percent for the former South Carolina governor, Chris Christie a distant third. Ramaswamy running fourth. Ron DeSantis in low single digits in fifth. Asa Hutchinson just barely an asterisk in this poll. But think about that, she's within seven points in this poll.

So Iowa will send her on to New Hampshire. The question is with how much momentum. And one quick point, Anderson. We say this all the time but in New Hampshire especially, the composition of the electorate, two weeks from tonight, excuse me, for turning my back, will be absolutely critical.

In New Hampshire, Democrats, Independents, they're undeclared voters, can show up on Election Day, essentially declare yourself a Republican for the day and vote in Republican primary. If it's a conservative electorate, Trump will win. Among conservatives, he's up over Haley by 40 points.

Among registered Republicans, he beats Haley by 37 points. Among voters with no college degrees, we know that's the Trump base, he's up by 17 points. But look at this. Among Moderates, Haley beats Trump by 42 points. Among undeclared voters, meaning Independents, by 26 points.

Among those with a college degree, 12 points. So, who shows up, the full composition of the electorate in New Hampshire is going to go a long way to say whether Nikki Haley can come close or conceivably even beat Donald Trump.

COOPER: Say Iowa caucuses are six days away, what's the state of play there?

KING: Right. So let's come back to that. Let's come back to 2024 and just bring Iowa up on the map because again, Monday night we start doing this, right? The candidates are listed in alphabetical order. We actually get to stop talking about this and start counting votes as we get through it.

This is where Trump has had in the polling a formidable lead and for some time. Again, excuse me for turning my back, but I want to stretch this out. The last Iowa poll was a month ago. Trump was at 51 percent. Five months ago, he was at 42 percent. So Donald Trump, pretty straight line. Strong support above 50 percent in the Iowa poll.

I've been on the ground in Iowa. Some people don't question this, but Nikki Haley, a distant second there. I mean, just in third, excuse me, DeSantis there. So, at the moment, if the data is correct, Trump gets a big first win. There are people on the ground in Iowa who say they think they can get them under 50 percent.

COOPER: Is there a path forward for DeSantis without a strong showing in Iowa?

KING: So remember, Joe Biden lost the first three contests in 2020. He lost Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. He's President of the United States. So we should never say no. But in the context of the Republican primary, Ron DeSantis, what was his calling card? I'm Trump without the chaos.

If Trump is beating him, and Nikki Haley is beating him, coming out of Iowa, it gets pretty hard. He says he's in this, he says he's not getting out, but if Haley can beat DeSantis in Iowa, then the question, Anderson, is going to be a lot of pressure on DeSantis, Christie, and others to get out and give Haley a clear shot at Trump in New Hampshire.

COOPER: All right, John King, stay with us. I want to bring in longtime Democratic Strategist James Carville. James, at this point, do you think anyone has a real shot at defeating the former president in the primaries?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That much. And I mean, and John's exactly right about New Hampshire. Remember, Independents vote. It's very hard to sample that. The other thing is, I will -- I think it's eight days before New Hampshire. That's going to have some effect on the New Hampshire numbers.

How much? I don't know. And he's right. Never say no. But when it comes to Ron DeSantis, I'm just going to say no.

COOPER: I mean, James, I mean, is DeSantis in -- at play still in your mind? I mean, the latest CNN polling has him behind Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy in New Hampshire.


CARVILLE: Yes, but of course, I'm the guy that said I didn't think Trump was going to be the Republican nominee, so be careful. My predictive skills are somewhat rusty these days, but John's been around. He's got it exactly right. But remember, and John will tell you this, when they go to South Carolina, Independents can't vote.

And that's Nikki Haley's state, and it's pretty clear that Trump will beat her there, and then she's going to have to make a case beyond that, which is going to be, I think, pretty difficult.

COOPER: John, Ambassador Haley has not only been making gains in New Hampshire, also had a full crowd at her commit to a caucus event today in Iowa, despite a pretty big snowstorm. Does that indicate anything to you?

KING: Well, it indicates that people at least interested. James knows this well, and it's good to see my old friend. It's been a long time. You know, people show up there. So sometimes you can't make it out for the crowd. Sometimes people show up for events who just want to see the candidates.

But I just highlighted right here the suburban counties. The gray you see, the darker gray, the lighter gray, excuse me, are suburban counties in Iowa. We know the suburbs are Donald Trump's kryptonite. They have been. He did -- he beat Hillary Clinton in the suburbs in 2016, but since then that's been his kryptonite.

Again, in New Hampshire, I -- and James made the point, you know, Independents, Moderates, do they show up for a Republican primary? If so, it probably helps Haley. Who shows up in Iowa? More than 60,000 people have moved to the Des Moines suburbs since the 2016 race, right?

They're not all Republicans, but do they -- but do -- those who are Republicans show up. You see the suburbs around Sioux City, around Cedar Falls, around Dubuque. That's where Haley has a chance. To beat Trump, that would be an earthquake. But to come out maybe surprisingly close, it is mathematically possible.

The flip side of that is across the top up here, across the bottom down here, those are the evangelical rural counties that Ted Cruz actually beat Donald Trump in 2016. Trump is expected to run it up there. If DeSantis is going to surprise us, that's where that will come, among homeschoolers, among evangelicals.

There's no evidence of that at the moment in any real strong, sustained way. But again, right now, we're in the pregame. When we see who actually shows up Monday in Iowa, and then two weeks from tonight in New Hampshire, that will tell us a lot about which Republicans are deciding to come out, especially if the weather's bad, because they want to make a statement about who leads their party.

COOPER: And James, President Biden has made the former president's efforts to overturn the election the centerpiece of his reelection campaign. Is that a smart strategy in your mind? CARVILLE: Well, it's the only strategy he has. I mean, you know, we did Bidenomics, and we did democracy, and now we're -- and (INAUDIBLE). I mean, I don't have a problem at all, but I'm going to do is take this opportunity to make a further fool of myself and predict that Trump will underperformed expectations in Iowa.

I think the opposition, Mr. Vander Plaats, I don't know very little about Republican primary caucus voters in Iowa, but they seem to me to be pretty well organized and pretty committed. And that's going to be zero degrees. And I'll just go out there and say, I think he'll -- I don't know. I'm saying he's going to lose, but he might not win by as much as expected.

COOPER: James Carville, we'll be watching. John King as well. Thanks very much.

Again, the last debate ahead of the Iowa caucuses, tomorrow night here on CNN. A showdown between two candidates, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. CNN's Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are going to moderate tomorrow night's event, which kicks off at 9:00 p.m. Easter.

Still ahead, this -- take a look, this chunk of a Boeing plane landed in our next guest backyard. It's the piece that blew out of the Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight, forced an entire line of Boeing planes grounded. Today, Boeing CEO spoke to staff about a mistake. Details when we come back.



COOPER: We have breaking news to report, a source at Boeing tells CNN that during an all hands meeting today at a factory that produces its trouble 737 Max 9, the CEO of the company acknowledged a mistake in the plane's assembly process. It's unclear if he identified a specific mistake in that manufacturing process.

The emission comes four days after a Boeing 737 Max 9 flown by Alaska Airlines lost a chunk of the cabin mid-flight, leaving a door sized hole in the plane and forcing an emergency landing. About 171 of the same models were soon grounded. Since then, United Airlines says it found loose bolts for that same panel, called a door plug, in some of its own 737 Max 9s.

Now, the NTSB, which is leading the investigation to how all this happened, said this weekend that the door plug was found in the backyard of a man named Bob Sauer, a science teacher who lives in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. And Bob joins me now.

Thank you so much for being with us. I mean, as a science teacher, this is kind of right up your alley. It's fascinating and amazing that you found it. And so is what a good citizen you are that you and all your neighbors in your community went out looking for these pieces. What made you decide to go out and look in that spot?

BOB SAUER, FOUND DOOR PLUS IN YARD THAT BLEW OFF BOING PLANE MIDFLIGHT: Well, I hadn't intended to. I knew that the piece was somewhere around Portland, but didn't figure it was near me. But a friend of mine called me and said, maybe I should check my yard because the search was focusing in my area. And when I went out to look for it, in fact, there it was.

COOPER: And it was up in a tree. Is that right?

SAUER: Well, it had fallen through a tree and it made it to the ground, but the tree helped break its fall so that when it got down the fall doesn't seem to have damaged it any.

COOPER: Did you know right away what you were looking at?

SAUER: I knew pretty quickly. It was night when I found it. It was very dark in my backyard. As you can see, there's some big trees back there. And so I have my flashlight out and it was the opposite side of the door. I could see from what you are. It had the out exterior paint on it. So it's quite reflective in the dark. So I could see it right away. And I very quickly figured out what it was.

COOPER: What was the reaction from the NTSB when you contacted them?

SAUER: Well, the chair had just finished giving a press briefing and she was so excited. She ran back in to tell the journalists who are still there about it. And she only announced me as Bob from Portland, a teacher from Portland. But people very -- quickly figured out I was the Bob.


And they actually came. They're still here in Portland and came and talked to my classes and some other students at my school today.

COOPER: Oh, that's cool.

SAUER: They were very outgoing and very friendly.

COOPER: What -- how old are your students?

SAUER: I teach high school level.

COOPER: Oh, that's so cool. What an incredible, I mean, just educational opportunity this is. Bob Sauer, thank you so much. It's lovely to talk to you.

SAUER: You're welcome. Thank you.

COOPER: Wish you the best.

Coming up, for the new episode of my podcast, "All There Is", I had a remarkable conversation the other day with actress, author, activist Ashley Judd, whose mother, country music superstar Naomi Judd, died by suicide in 2022. Ashley speaks about the grief and trauma she's experienced after finding her mom and what she said to her at the end.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Tomorrow morning, a new episode of my podcast about grief called "All There Is" is being released. It's a very moving and intimate conversation with actor, author, and activist Ashley Judd about the death of her mom, Naomi Judd, by suicide in 2022.


Ashley found her mom and speaks to the ripple effects the suicide of a loved one can have on a person and a family. Take a look.



COOPER (voice-over): On April 11th, 2022, Naomi Judd and her daughter, Wynonna, one of the biggest country duos of all time, performed at the country music television awards. The song co-written by Naomi was "Love Can Build a Bridge."


COOPER (voice-over): This was Naomi Judd's last performance. She died 19 days later by suicide.

Her daughter Ashley, actress, author, and mental health advocate, first spoke about it in this interview just 12 days later.

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: Because we don't want it to be a part of the gossip economy, I will share with you that she used a weapon. Mother used a firearm.

JUDD: Ashley Judd has never spoken publicly in depth about those final moments of her mother's life and the trauma and grief she's been living with until now. I sat down with her a few days ago for my podcast "All There Is".

JUDD: My mother's death was traumatic and unexpected because it was death by suicide and I found her. My grief was in lockstep with trauma because of the manner of her death and the fact that I found her. I held my mother as she was dying and there was blood and I just needed to like process the fact that I was with my mother's blood.

I'm so glad I was there because even when I walked in that room and I saw that she had harmed herself, the first thing out of my mouth was mama, I see how much you've been suffering.

COOPER: You said that to her?

JUDD: And it is OK. It is OK to go. It's OK to go. I am here. It is OK to let go. I love you. Go see your daddy. Go see papa Judd. Go be with your people.

COOPER: And she heard you.

JUDD: Oh, she heard me. And I just got in the bed with her and held her and talked to her and said, let it all go. Be free. All was forgiven long ago. All was forgiven long ago. Leave it all here. Take nothing with you. Just be free.

COOPER: It's an extraordinary blessing that you were able to do that.

JUDD: Oh, I'm so thankful I was there.

COOPER (voice-over): One of the reasons I wanted to talk with Ashley from my podcast was that I still struggle with my brother Carter's suicide 35 years ago.

COOPER: One of the things that -- sorry.

JUDD: I'm here, Anderson.

COOPER: One of the things I have found, so hard about -- one of the things I've found so hard about losing my brother to suicide was, a, the -- I get stuck in how his life ended. The violence of it. And he killed himself in front of my mom. And also the realization that -- and my shock over it -- and the realization that I didn't really know him. And I'm wondering if the manner of your mom's death made you question how much you knew her.

JUDD: Thank you so much for sharing that. All our stories are sacred, and I really honor the place in you that that's coming from. And I think we all deserve to be remembered for how we lived. And how we died is simply part of a bigger story.

COOPER (voice-over): My conversation with Ashley Judd about grief, trauma, and how her mother's spirit is still very much alive in her life is available Wednesday, wherever you get your podcasts.


COOPER: And if you or someone you love are struggling, help is available. Please call or text the nationwide suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.


The new episode of "All There Is" featuring my full conversation with Ashley Judd comes out tomorrow morning. You can find it on Apple podcasts or Spotify wherever you listen to podcasts.

Just ahead, new information about why the Secretary of Defense checked into a hospital New Year's Day without telling the White House until days later.


COOPER: A late update tonight on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Doctors at Walter Reed National Medical Center are saying that despite complications that landed him in the intensive care unit, his prognosis after prostate cancer surgery, is good. They say that Secretary Austin, who's 70, was readmitted to the hospital on New Year's Day after having minimally invasive surgery December 22nd.

Doctors found a buildup of fluid that was impairing the function of his small intestines. The fluid was drained and his doctors say he's on the mend. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 13 percent, or one in eight American men, will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime.

About 2.5 percent will die of it, and the disease is riskier in black men. As to the question of why no one in the White House was made aware of this, that is apparently still under investigation.

That's it for us. The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.