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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Trump Urges Supreme Court To Keep Him On Colorado Ballot; Trump Team: Ballot Bans Will "Unleash Chaos And Bedlam"; Hunter Biden To Appear For Closed-Door Deposition February 28 As Part Of GOP-Led Impeachment Probe; DeSantis Admits He Had The Wrong Media Strategy At The Start Of His Campaign; DOJ Report: Uvalde School Massacre Could Have Been Stopped Sooner; DOJ Report On Uvalde Shooting: Not Immediately Recognizing An Active Shooter Situation Was The "Most Significant Failure"; Remembering The Mother Of First Lady Melania Trump, Who Died At 78; Queen Camilla Says King Charles Is Looking Forward To Getting Back To Royal Duties After Surgery For Enlarged Prostate. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 18, 2024 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: You've heard a lot from him. He reached us on a borrowed phone with a special SIM card. That's how he did it, and he's telling what it's like right now where he is.


MAHMOUD SHALABI, AID WORKER IN NORTHERN GAZA: The sewage water is filling the streets. There are no pavements. There are no streets, basically. Everything has been obliterated and wiped out. It's really difficult to maintain our dignity as Palestinians living in the north of Gaza.


BURNETT: Losing their dignity, this fight for survival as Mahmoud describes it, and it is continuing for so many in Gaza who are suffering tonight.

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news. The former president tells the Supreme Court to keep him on the Colorado ballot, warning there'll be, quote, "chaos and bedlam" if he doesn't.

Also, breaking tonight, Hunter Biden now says he'll talk to House Republicans who are looking to impeach his dad, and he'll do it their way behind closed doors.

And later, keeping them honest, what a parent whose child was murdered at Robb Elementary School thinks the Justice Department's new report released today detailing all the ways authorities in Texas failed to do their jobs and tried to evade accountability.

Good evening. Thanks for being with us. We begin tonight with the former president's Supreme Court filing late today in the case that could decide whether Colorado can bar him from the ballot under the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause. Tonight's brief comes just three weeks ahead of oral arguments in the case and about seven weeks before Colorado's March 5th primary.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now with the latest. So what does this filing say about the implications of letting the Colorado Supreme Court ruling stand?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Anderson, the former president's legal team, they're telling the Supreme Court here that Colorado got it wrong when it ruled to take Trump off the ballot. And they're really warning that if this isn't fixed, that if states continue to be allowed to take candidates off the ballot, they're saying it will unleash chaos.

They said that in the first page of this 50-page filing. I'll read some of it for you. It says, "The Court should put a swift and decisive end to these ballot disqualification efforts, which threaten to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans and which promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado's lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots."

And they're saying this, Anderson, because, so far, two states have ruled to take Trump off the ballot -- Colorado and Maine. Both of those decisions, though, they're on hold until the Supreme Court eventually rules here. So that really means Trump's name will, in fact, appear on the primary ballot despite the court's ruling that they shouldn't be.

The bigger question, though, is really what happens when we head toward the general election, you know, if Trump is the nominee. And that's why his team here is urging the Supreme Court to come down on their side and not let individual states take matters into their own hands in deciding who should and shouldn't be on the ballot here.

COOPER: What's the next steps for the case?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. So the brief that we saw tonight, that is the opening step in the case. Trump's team laid out all of their arguments. So the next step will be the voters who actually won in Colorado. They have to file their arguments by the end of this month to the Supreme Court.

And then the case is going to be heard quickly. It'll be heard on February 8th. You know, the Supreme Court, they already fast-tracked this case because it's hugely consequential. We have the general election less than 10 months away. Primary's already underway.

And Trump's legal team, they're asking the court to really consider this issue very broadly. They're actually laying out all of their legal arguments in the brief tonight -- several arguments, Anderson. They're saying Trump did not engage in insurrection, which the lower courts here found that he did.

And then they're saying that this section of the 14th Amendment, it doesn't apply to him anyway. And it really -- they're saying that it can't be used to deny Trump access to the ballot. So the nine justices will have a lot to consider when they hear these arguments. Who knows how many arguments they'll actually rule on, but there is a lot at stake. Like I said, just about 10 months until the general election.

COOPER: Yes. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

With me here, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elie Honig, and joining us is Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

So, Madam Secretary, I wonder what you make of the filing by the former president's legal team, particularly, the argument that removing him from the ballot would unleash chaos and bedlam.

JENA GRISWORLD (D), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think it's really interesting they chose to use that language because it's just more of Donald Trump saying that if he's not in charge, the country is doomed.

But the language itself on top of that, I hope, is not a threat to the stability of our country. Donald Trump has used his words to incite violence on January 6th with the insurrection, and violence to election workers, judges, anybody who stands up to him and stands up for our democratic institutions. I think it is just more of the same and it underlines how dangerous he is to the country.

COOPER: Wouldn't it be chaotic though, I mean, if voters in your state and any other state -- Maine -- felt that they were disenfranchised? Whether or not it's violent or not, but it just certainly chaotic, no?


GRISWORLD: Well, he used two words in that description, not just chaotic. And, Anderson, you know, at the end of the day, it's my job and all secretaries of state job to uphold the law and United States Constitution. There is clear language in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment about when elected officials or anybody who swears to uphold the constitution engage in insurrection.

It would be equally chaotic to not uphold the constitution in this case. So I think there is lots of legal arguments.

COOPER: Elie, how do you see it? I mean, what are the odds that the Supreme Court will actually go with the president's brief?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think the Supreme Court is going to agree with Donald Trump. I think they will strike down what Colorado has done here.

Donald Trump makes two categories of arguments. One of them is factual. He says I did not engage in insurrection. I don't know how compelling that is when you look at the facts. I don't think the Supreme Court is going to touch that.

I do think Donald Trump makes -- his lawyers make some powerful legal and procedural arguments, for example. And Secretary Griswold mentioned the text of the 14th Amendment.

Well, the 14th Amendment Section 5 says Congress, the US Congress, shall pass legislation to enforce this. It does not say Congress or the states if they so choose. If I can ask Secretary Griswold, I'm curious, what your view is, Madam Secretary, about that, the fact that Section 5 says Congress shall pass legislation. It doesn't say anything about the states.

GRISWORLD: Section 3 also specifically talks about the role of Congress. And the role of Congress in Section 3, which is the provision we're talking about is Congress can determine that someone can be seated for office even if they did engage in insurrection by a certain amount of votes. So that is the clear language.

On top of that, the historical record of this provision is that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is self-executing, meaning that Congress does not and did not have to pass legislation. It has been used throughout American history without Congress first passing a law enabling it. So I do think that is an incorrect argument.

HONIG: But who is the self in self-executing? Who actually enforces this? Who makes the decision?

GRISWORLD: Well, under the electorate clause, it's the states. It's up to individual states to determine how to decide who they're going for for president. That's why we have different elections in every single state. That's also why I think the Colorado Supreme Court got it right in Colorado.

To your point, it is pretty evident that Trump engaged in insurrection. But on top of that, I would say, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is clear. And other clauses in the constitution let states determine how to execute elections.


GRISWORLD: That's exactly what's happening in this case.

COOPER: I want to play, Madam Secretary, something that one of the former president's attorney said on Fox earlier this month about what would happen if the Supreme Court were to take up the case.


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 law in this is very clear.


COOPER: I wonder what -- how you interpret that because, on the one hand, she's indicating that Kavanaugh would step up because the former president went to bat for him. But then she quickly corrects herself and say, well, he wouldn't step up because of that, he would do it because he cares about the law.

GRISWORLD: I just think it's so reckless of his attorney to have said that, let alone even thought it. It undermines the independence or the perceived independence of the court. But I think the bigger picture is that this is how Donald Trump operates. He wants people around him to be loyal only to him. He wants them to set aside the law, the Constitution, even so far as saying that if he would assassinate a political opponent, he wouldn't face liability.

That's one of the reasons I do think he is extremely dangerous. And I think, ultimately, it is very likely that the American people will have a huge role in saving our democracy in the general election. And I'm not waiting for the Supreme Court to solve the big problem of democracy that we have in this nation.

COOPER: Madam Secretary, appreciate it. Elie Honig as well.

Tonight's other breaking news, Hunter Biden last seen in Congress at a House Oversight Committee hearing silently facing Republican lawmakers who subpoenaed him. He previously challenged them to hear his testimony in a public setting, not the private one that they wanted. That was last week. Now, it appears he's doing his talking on their terms.

CNN's Manu Raju joins us now with detail. So what about this deposition? Why is Hunter Biden apparently dropped his insistence on only testifying publicly?


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a significant reversal because he had said he would refuse to go behind closed doors, worried that Republicans would distort and leak his testimony. But he was facing the prospects of being held in contempt of Congress.

There was a vote that was expected this week. It was unclear if he would be prosecuted over this, but that was a real possibility. That's why Republicans believe he changed his mind.

Hunter Biden's team, though, Anderson, has not explained why he has agreed to sit behind closed doors on February 28th. The chairman of the committee, James Comer, did indicate he would be willing to have a public hearing after the deposition. So we may see him in public as we go behind closed-doors next month, Anderson.

COOPER: What's the reaction been among members of the House committee?

RAJU: Well, the Republicans were welcoming. They have been pushing for this for some time. But even some Democrats that I spoke to are hopeful that, ultimately, this will end Republican push, the Republican belief that there was a nefarious activity going on involving Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.

That's what Republicans have been investigating, trying to make the connection between Joe Biden actions in office and Hunter Biden's business dealings, something they have yet to been able to prove. Democrats say they hope ultimately that will scuttle that notion, that there was any connection there. Just listen to what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect that he will be the final nail in the coffin of what is a completely bogus impeachment investigation based on what he said publicly previously. I'm eager for him to come in, set the record straight. Respond to the slanderous attacks that have been made against him by Republicans for years now.

RAJU: He said publicly that there was nothing, his father was not involved in all of his -- any of his business dealings. If he says that under oath, will you take him at his word?

REP. MARC MOLINARO (R), NEW YORK: Well, if he swears under oath and answers the questions, that's information that we'll take in, certainly. But there's a little question that he was peddling a brand. I mean, who else would hire the vice president's son with no experience for that purpose? That doesn't mean that it implicates the president.


RAJU: And that last comment coming from a vulnerable Republican member, a freshman from New York, Marc Molinaro, who will be critical in deciding whether or not Joe Biden, ultimately, will get impeached. And those members who are vulnerable, who are not yet certain about whether to impeach Joe Biden wanted to hear from Hunter Biden, want to hear what he has to say, whether he confirms any of these accusations of many Republicans have been leveling against the president.

But if he doesn't, those congressmen, like, Marc Molinaro could ultimately vote against impeaching the president and scuttle this effort of investigations going on for some time. Ultimately, that many Republicans' hope will lead to the impeachment of president uncertain, though, Anderson, if it will get there.

COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, I want to thank you.

Coming up next, the campaign trail and Nikki Haley's new focus on the former president. We'll show you how she's taking on more directly and whether or not it's working for her.

Also, conservative talk show host, Hugh Hewitt joins us.

And later, the parent of a murdered Uvalde student, his thoughts on today's Justice Department report cataloguing all the ways law enforcement failed his child and so many others that horrible day.



COOPER: With just five days until New Hampshire's Republican primary, Nikki Haley today had the state tour south. Ron DeSantis wasn't there nor was the former president. He was attending his mother-in-law's funeral in Florida.

In a moment, we'll be joined by Hugh Hewitt who recently spoke to Governor DeSantis about his future beyond New Hampshire. But first, CNN's Omar Jimenez who's there.


NIKKI HALEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In five days we shocked the country.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nikki Haley sees a path in the final days to the New Hampshire primary, one that increasingly involves going right through Donald Trump.

HALEY: The reality is, who lost the House for us? Who lost the Senate? Who lost the White House? Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump.

JIMENEZ (voice over): It's a notable shift from Haley who, up until now, has largely focused her criticism of the former president on policy differences.

HALEY: He threw a temper tantrum last night. He's doing other things that attack, but he won't get in front of me and answer the question.

JIMENEZ (voice over): The former South Carolina governor emphasized to voters there's a crucial bottom line at the ballot box Tuesday.

HALEY: I'm going to tell you the truth. You're going to see a lot of things said. But at the end of the day, it's the drama, and the vengeance, and the vindictiveness that we want to get out of the way.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Haley was the only one campaigning in New Hampshire Thursday, hoping to capitalize on a toned-down DeSantis presence in the state. As DeSantis says, they're shifting focus to states beyond New Hampshire.

RON DESANTIS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nikki Haley cannot compete with Donald Trump there. And the fact that she can't do it there, she can't do it anywhere. She's certainly not going to do it in South Carolina.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Meanwhile, former President Trump has turned his attention squarely on Haley here as a weaker candidate to take on Biden.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The vote for Nikki Haley this Tuesday is a vote for Joe Biden and a Democrat Congress this November because that's what's going to happen. You can't do it.

JIMENEZ (voice over): And even going after his rival personally, promoting lies on social media about her eligibility to run for president despite Haley being born in the US.

HALEY: He can say whatever he wants. His record has been that he lost the House. He lost the Senate. He lost the White House. That's a fact. That's not what I'm saying, that's what he's done.


COOPER: And Omar Jimenez is in Henniker, New Hampshire tonight. So how are Haley's more pronounced attacks on Trump playing so far in the state?

JIMENEZ: You know, we are at one of her rallies today. And when she talked about trying to get the vengeance and vindictiveness out of politics, of course, c referring to Trump, that was when the crowd broke out in applause. She also hit him for growing the national debt and saying that she, based on polls, is better positioned to beat Biden than Trump. So some of her most pointed comments.

And one of the interesting things about this is when Chris Christie dropped out of the race. I talked to a lot of his supporters who were thinking about going over to Nikki Haley. And those that were hesitating told me it was because they didn't think that she was going after Trump directly enough. So it will be interesting to see if what we saw today is the beginning of a pattern or more of a strategy or more of just a one-off, I should say, respond to some of the attacks that we've seen from Trump in the final run-up to the election.

COOPER: Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.

Joining us now is conservative talk radio host, Hugh Hewitt. As you heard in Omar's report, he recently interviewed Ron DeSantis. We played some of that.

Hugh, good to see you. What's your sense from talking to DeSantis about his future? Does -- did you feel like he's preparing on some level at least for the end of his run?


HUGH HEWITT, TALK RADIO HOST, "THE HUGH HEWITT RADIO SHOW": Good to see you, too, Anderson. Yes, I do not think he's preparing for the end of the run. I think he's going to run at least through March.

Super Tuesday got, what, 16 states voting on March 5th. There's another four a week later, another six a week after that. So I think he's geared up to go through March and to be the only person alternative left standing if the ambassador does not prevail in New Hampshire tomorrow. She's way behind in South Carolina.

After the Iowa avalanche for Trump, it became very obvious that it's a big climb for anyone, Anderson, to beat the former president in the nomination. They allow to you to bet on this in Great Britain. He's a one in 10 shot to win. Nikki Haley is at eight to one. Ron DeSantis is 14 to one in England for the Republican nomination.

So I think it's going to be a very, very difficult task for either of them. But if Haley loses this tonight, Ron DeSantis is going to be the last one left standing up against the former president.

COOPER: Does the plan, I mean, to stay in the race for another month until, you know, certainly through South Carolina, regardless of what happens, does that make sense to you? Because I mean, Trump is very popular in South Carolina. It's not as if he's not.

HEWITT: I don't think -- I don't see a path for Ambassador Haley. I think that's why she goes to media for the last week. I think the Iowa avalanche crushed her.

But I do see a potential -- events happen, things happen that one person left in the race with enough money and some SuperPAC, Governor DeSantis has got an operation. He's very smart, Anderson. You know, you've talked to him.

I led off the interviews talking about Chevron deference, and Loper Bright, and didn't (inaudible). And, of course, he knew all the Supreme Court law, and he went through all the law cases.

He's very, very smart. That is what America wants -- smart now or they want another rematch of Trump versus Biden, one that the former president is ahead of in right now.

COOPER: I want to play a clip from your interview where DeSantis talks about where he thinks he went wrong in his campaign.


DESANTIS: I spent a lot of time on the ground in Iowa, and it's good. And when you meet people, you convert them. But there's just so many voters out there that you got to do. And I came in not really doing as much media. I should have just been blanketing. I should have gone on all the corporate shows. I should have gone on everything.


COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, it is true, he did not do that. Was -- do you think it was his choice the media outlets that was a problem or, you know, his stiffness on the campaign trail? Because he does seem far more comfortable now. And I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this.

But he -- you know, he seemed really comfortable that CNN debate with Nikki Haley. I don't know if that was just because it was a two-person debate and, therefore, it's easier to deal with. But, you know, he says he likes being the underdog.

HEWITT: (Inaudible) NBC televised debate in Florida, he was great. He's been on my radio show eight times in 2023 and '24 -- eight times. So Nikki Haley, eight times. It's conservative syndicated talk to 475 different audiences. I would think people would want to live there.

This year the comms director (ph) record, not just Ron DeSantis but Nikki Haley, and everybody but Chris Christie decided they weren't going to talk to conservatives. They want to talk to anyone and they're going to manage their message.

Well, you can't do that against the president -- former president because he's ubiquitous. He's everywhere. He gets great ratings. If he showed up at a studio right now, you sit down and talk to him for an hour, he wins by showing up. It's something, I think, is a lesson for future candidates -- always take every interview anywhere that's not inappropriate house.

COOPER: It would also seem like Nikki Haley is kind of playing it safe and not taking questions at town halls in New Hampshire, which is a tradition, of course, in New Hampshire.

HEWITT: Yes, I went (inaudible) -- I grew up in the summer to the north. I went down to one of her town halls. She was superb, and she did take questions. But in the last two weeks, I think Iowa really stunned a lot of people, Anderson, a 50% win.

I've been doing this a long time. I've never seen anyone dominate a field the way that in subzero temperatures and they're subzero for everyone, right? There's subzero for Donald Trump's voters, and for Nikki Haley's voters, and for Ron DeSantis. He crushed it.

And I think that sent a very clear message. E. Jean Carroll helped him. Letitia James helped him. Jack Smith through prosecution with Colorado Supreme Court, Maine Supreme Court, all of these people are helping Donald Trump get nominated. And they're doing a heck of a good job of it. And the president -- the former president tottered himself either.

COOPER: Hugh Hewitt, good to talk to you as always. Thank you.

HEWITT: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: A quick programming note, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley joins Jake Tapper for a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall the top of the hour in New Hampshire just five days before they head to the polls.

Coming up, the Department of Justice report on the failures by law enforcement after a gunman entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May of 2022. As you may remember, children called 911 to tell law enforcement about a school shooting. Seventy-seven minutes passed between the arrival of law enforcement and when they finally confronted and killed the shooter, we'll tell what you the DOJ found.



COOPER: For almost two years, families and friends of the 19 children and two teachers murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas have been waiting for the truth about how the nearly 400 officers who had arrived that day, May 24, 2022, could wait 77 minutes to confront a single killer. About why in the minds of the families there's been so little accountability and so little communication.

Well, today, the Justice Department released a nearly 600-page review about the response, the fullest accounting that we have to date. Joining us now is Shimon Prokupecz who's led our coverage since that day, broke in numerous stories about the botched police response, tried to hold people accountable. He joins us from Uvalde with details about what's in the report and what's missing. So, Shimon, a lot of what's in the report confirms all the remarkable and dogged reporting that you and your team have done on this. Is there anything in it you didn't know before?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Not really, Anderson. I -- the thing -- one thing I will say that they illustrated, and really it was an important part of this report, we know about the failures so that -- in terms of that.

It's what happened with the families in the moments after, once they breached the classroom and were able to get the kids outside, and how they treated the victims, how they treated the families, giving -- in some instances, they were given bad information. So some of that was new.

And just the acknowledgement by the Department of Justice at the pain and the grief that these families have been suffering, one, because of the loss of their little kids. And the other, because of how they've been treated by officials here, by the law enforcement community here, by the city government. And that, to me, was so striking.

And for the families, it was an important moment because they finally had someone in a position of power to acknowledge what they have been dealing with. What they have had to face in all this controversy here that's been occurring in Uvalde because they just don't feel supported by the community.


COOPER: It is incredible as you've been documenting. I mean, I know over the entire time, there've been times where families have gotten information from you that law enforcement authorities in Texas did not give directly to their families. I mean, the lack of communication has just been adding insult to injury.

I know there are three officers who are singled out in the DOJ report. What does it say about their actions?

PROKUPECZ: So it's the three that we've done extensive reporting on here on your show, Anderson. It's the school police chief, Pete Arredondo, who they say was the de facto commander, a guy that was in charge of the scene.

But then they also blame two other law enforcement officials. The acting police chief that day in Uvalde, Mariano Pargas, for his lack of leadership. And then the sheriff, who is still the sheriff of this county, he is actually running to be sheriff again. There's an election that's coming up. So you have the first two individuals I named, Pargas and Arredondo, they're gone. They're no longer police officials.

But the sheriff is still the sheriff here in this town. And the Department of Justice went to great lengths to talk about how he lacked any kind of leadership and that he withheld information, critical information about who the shooter was from officials. And actually, Anderson, just a short time ago before we came on air here, we saw the sheriff because he's here behind me in this building because there's a forum, a political forum for the candidates that are running. And we actually asked him questions about the latest report. He was defiant and seemingly just not in touch with what people here are feeling.

Take a listen.


RUBEN NOLASCO, UVALDE COUNTY SHERIFF: Sixteen minutes before I arrived, OK. The information --

PROKUPECZ: They're saying it was you not taking leadership role and telling the officers to go in the classroom, that you were present there with the other leaders of law enforcement from that day, and that you didn't go in and tell officers to go in. You're the leader of the law enforcement official in the county.

NOLASCO: I got there 16 minutes later. I entrusted in the man with the gold badge. And --

PROKUPECZ: Which is who?

NOLASCO: Would be the chief of police that was there.

PROKUPECZ: Which one?

NOLASCO: He was in the school --

PROKUPECZ: The school police?

NOLASCO: Yes. So -- and really, that's really, I mean, you entrusting somebody, and that's the information that you're receiving, it's a barricaded individual, and then that's it.

PROKUPECZ: So Sheriff --



PROKUPECZ: And actually, Anderson, what the Department of Justice said in their report was that the sheriff should have taken a leadership role. He is the leading law enforcement official in this county. He should have taken action. He should have ordered his personnel into that room. He had enough information to know that there was an active shooter.

But instead, as you hear there, and as he's been doing in the other times that I've interviewed him, he's blaming other people --

COOPER: Right.

PROKUPECZ: -- like the school police chief for what happened. COOPER: Well, also, what's so --

PROKUPECZ: And then, Anderson, at one point --

COOPER: Go ahead, sorry.


COOPER: Go ahead.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, go ahead. No, no, Anderson.

COOPER: No, what's so infuriating is that, yes, OK, he was entrusting this guy, he came 16 minutes later, this other guy had made mistakes. He could have overridden to him based on the universal training for how to deal with shooters. I mean, everybody knows, I know more -- I mean, you know, I've read the FBI reports on how to deal with school shooters.

You have to go in. Everybody has to go in as quickly as possible. This has been trained since Columbine. Every law enforcement personnel knows this. So he, in a position to have overridden things, should have.

PROKUPECZ: Absolutely. And you don't want to know something else that he doesn't even have the proper training. That was the other thing that has been discovered here in all of this, that he was lacking some of the training. As the sheriff, he didn't have some of the training that was needed to even make decisions, but yet he was in this leadership role.

And the other thing, you know, when I asked him, I said to him, are you upset? Just are you upset by what the Department of Justice is saying about you? And he said, simply, no, I'm not upset. And he said, he's going to continue to run for office.

He has no plans on stepping aside and he's going to let this community make a decision on whether or not he should continue being the sheriff. But that's kind of been the attitude here. For now almost two years, Anderson, and it's really just really upsetting for these families.

COOPER: Yes. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you.

I'll be joined in a moment by Berlinda Irene Arreola, her step granddaughter, 10-year-old Amerie Jo was murdered that day. Her son, Angel Garza, is Amerie's stepfather. He was a first responder, rushed to the scene. That's when he found out what happened to the children inside the school, including 10-year-old Amerie Jo, the girl who had called him daddy, and who he'd raised since she was eight months old.

I spoke to him that day after the shooting.


[20:35:14] ANGEL GARZA, STEPDAUGHTER, AMERIE JO GARZA, WAS KILLED IN UVALDE SHOOTING: One little girl was just covered in blood, head to toe. Like, I thought she was injured, I asked her what was wrong, and she said she's OK. She was hysterical, saying that they shot her best friend, that they killed her best friend, and she's not breathing, and that she was trying to call the cops. And I asked the little girl the name, and she's -- and she told me -- and she said, Amerie.

COOPER: That's how you learned.

GARZA: She was so sweet, Mr. Cooper. She was the sweetest little girl who did nothing wrong.


COOPER: I'm joined now by Berlinda Irene Arreola. Berlinda, thank you for being with us. After waiting so long for answers, accountability, did this report today give you any of those?

BERLINDA IRENE ARREOLA, STEP-GRANDDAUGHTER, AMERIE JO GARZA, WAS KILLED IN UVALDE SHOOTING: It basically just told us what we already knew, what we had already seen through body cam footage and, you know, the other reports that had come out with, you know, with the help of Shimon. But it was just -- it was still a blow to see it in writing and to hear the aging Mr. Merrick tell us that, you know, what the findings were.

And, you know, to say that had they breached sooner, a lot of lives could have been saved. And we honestly believe that Amy would have been one of them.

COOPER: I want to play just a little bit more about what the Attorney General, Attorney General Garland said today. Let's listen.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think the report concludes that had the law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices in an active shooter situation and gone right after the shooter to stop him, lives would have been saved and people would have survived.


COOPER: The families and reporters and many others have been saying that since the beginning. Have you -- do you feel like you've gotten any accountability from Texas officials?

ARREOLA: No, I feel like everyone's just been pointing fingers at each other. No one wants to take responsibility. Nobody wants to take accountability. The -- from day one, just, you know, there was lack of communication. Nobody took charge. Nobody -- you didn't see anybody trying to take charge. You didn't see anybody trying to find out who was in charge.

Like, everybody was just standing there, not not communicating with each other, even when they got information, they weren't relaying the information. I mean, do we stop by plain as day, you know, getting information from, you know, the PD itself and still didn't tell anybody about it.

But then we hear, oh, I didn't want to get clocked. Oh, if it were my child, I surely would have gone in there. All I heard was me, me, me, you know, like, nobody took responsibility and nobody is taking responsibility, just like with the -- with, you know, Mr. Nolasco that, you know, Shimon just, you know, talk to.

He doesn't feel like he should be held accountable either when he knew prior to everybody else he knew. You know, like everybody just thinks, oh no, it wasn't me. It wasn't me.

COOPER: Does it surprise you that he's running for reelection?

ARREOLA: Yes and no. He's not the only one. There's several that are running for reelections, a (INAUDIBLE), you know, Nolasco like, it just, it's really -- it baffles me why they would even do that. Like, they have the audacity to run for reelection after -- knowing that they failed. And it's there in black and white. There may not be enough to bring charges to them, but there's enough proof to show that they failed tremendously.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about Amerie Jo?

ARREOLA: That she died a hero. She had a heart of gold and she never met a stranger. She wasn't even too worried about what was going on in that moment. You know, she told Khloie, oh, you know, it's going to pass. We're going to be OK. And she died trying to save her classmates and she will always be my hero.

COOPER: Even in the midst of that horror and that fear that she must have been feeling, she was telling her friend it was going to be OK, she cared about --


COOPER: -- calming her friend.


ARREOLA: Yes. She befriended everybody that came across her path. She was a very sweet little girl, very charming, very sophisticated, very -- I mean, she was just all the above. She was so adorable.

COOPER: Yes. Berlinda, thank you so much for talking to us. I'm so sorry for your loss and I appreciate you spending time with us tonight.

ARREOLA: Thank you for having us, and Angel sends his regards as well.

COOPER: Please, send him my best. Berlinda, thank you.

Still to come, as we noted earlier, Donald Trump was not on the campaign trail today. He was attending the funeral for his wife, Melania's mom. When we come back, we'll have more on the relationship between Melania and her mom Amalija Knavs.


COOPER: On the campaign trail in New Hampshire Wednesday, the former president spoke of Melania Trump's mom, Amalija Knavs, whose death was announced last week. The former president was off the campaign trail today for the funeral.

Randi Kaye has more on the woman who raised a future first lady.


MELANIA TRUMP, FORMER FIRST LADY: My elegant and hardworking mother, Amalija, introduced me to fashion and beauty.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Melania Trump praising her mother during her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

TRUMP: Integrity, compassion, and intelligence reflects to this day on me and for my love of family and America.


KAYE (voice-over): Her mother, Amalija Knavs, was born in 1945 in Austria, then later moved to Slovenia, which had been communist Yugoslavia. According to an obituary in the New York Times, her mother harvested onions on the family farm before taking a job in a state- owned children's clothing factory as a textile worker.

The article also says Melania's mother sewed clothes for her and her sister. Melania began her modeling career in Slovenia and said she was inspired by her mother's work. She shared more about that while eulogizing her at her funeral.

TRUMP: She effortlessly introduced me to the charming world of fashion with tales of her glamorous travels to Paris and neighboring European capitals. With each whispered detail of the splendid fashion shows, spectacular cities and chic boutiques, she ignited passion within me, a desire to immerse myself in this extraordinary universe.

KAYE (voice-over): Melania's parents had owned a home in Sevnica, a small industrial town in central Slovenia with a population of about 5, 000. That's where the former first lady attended primary school. Melania spoke fondly of her time growing up there, which included family ski trips in the Alps.

After the Trump's son, Barron, was born in 2006, her parents, now grandparents, began spending most of their time in New York, then moved to the United States after Donald Trump was elected president.

In 2018, Melania's mother and father both became U.S. citizens, obtaining their citizenship with the help of the former First Lady's sponsorship. Melania's mother was often spotted in Washington, D.C. Her parents also traveled with the former First Family on trips to Mar-a-Lago and to Bedminster, New Jersey. And her mother had a front row seat to history, Trump's inauguration, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and numerous treks along the White House lawn to Marine One. When her mother died last week, Melania posted about the loss on social media, describing her mother as a strong woman who always carried herself with grace, warmth, and dignity.

Adding, "She was entirely devoted to her husband, daughters, grandson, and son-in-law. We will miss her beyond measure and continue to honor and love her legacy". At her funeral, Melania Trump talked about the bond they shared.

TRUMP: She was my dear friend. An irreplaceable treasure. A gift bestowed upon me by the universe. And for that, I'm entirely grateful. Rest in peace, my beloved mommy.

KAYE (voice-over): Amalija Knavs was 78 years old.


KAYE (on-camera): And from the funeral, Anderson, it was clear that both Melania and her son, Barron, had a very close bond with her mother. She spoke about that during the eulogy, saying that she showered her grandson, Barron, with affection, illuminating his world with love, tender care, and unwavering devotion in her presence.

During that eulogy, Anderson, Melania also made clear how much she leaned on her mother in recent years saying that she was a ray of light in the darkest days and offered unwavering support during chaotic times. She said she always found peace knowing that her mother was there to listen. Anderson?

COOPER: Randi, thanks very much.

Next, we'll take you back to New Hampshire as we get closer to our town hall with Nikki Haley at the top of the hour. See what voters there say when asked if they think President Biden legitimately won the election in 2020.

Also, is Donald Trump fit for the presidency if convicted of a crime? That was one of the entrance poll questions in Iowa. What voters in the Granite State said when Gary Tuchman asked them the same questions, coming up.



COOPER: His supporters believe him. Entrance polling shows evidence of this in Iowa, but what about voters in New Hampshire? We asked Gary Tuchman to find out.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We came to downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with two specific questions for people who plan to vote in Tuesday's Republican primary. Both questions that were asked on CNN's entrance poll in Iowa.

The first --

TUCHMAN: The question that was asked to people, is Donald Trump fit for the presidency if convicted of a crime? And 65 percent of the Republicans said yes, he's fit for the presidency, almost two-thirds. How do you feel about that? Is he fit if he's convicted of one of these crimes?

MATTHEW PRATT, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I do feel as though he is still fit to be president of the United States, yes.

TUCHMAN: So if he's found guilty, you would still vote for him?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): But this man who had told us he's voting for Nikki Haley feels much differently.

RICHARD ANTAL, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: If he's convicted of a crime, I don't think he should be the president.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Hank Boucher says he hasn't decided who he will vote for, but does say he likes Trump.

TUCHMAN: Is Donald Trump fit for the presidency if he's convicted of a crime? 91 counts against him.

HANK BOUCHER, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I would say yes, because I don't think there's any legitimate things that they're charging him for.

TUCHMAN: Why is that?

BOUCHER: What are they him charging for? It's all crap stuff that Biden wants him out.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We told him there's no evidence whatsoever that President Biden is behind any of this. But Hank Boucher is sticking with what he believes.

BOUCHER: So Biden's going to do anything and everything he can do to get him out because --

TUCHMAN: I mean, that's what Donald Trump is saying, that Biden's against him. But you're believing Trump about that.


TUCHMAN: You say it's Biden's fault. But these are not legitimate charges.

BOUCHER: Yes. Definitely.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Then, there is the second question from CNN's entrance poll. Also showing nearly two-thirds of Iowa caucus goers siding with Trump. TUCHMAN: You're voting for Donald Trump. Question for you is, do you

think Joe Biden legitimately won the election in 2020?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dick Porzio (ph) says he's probably voting for Ron DeSantis.

TUCHMAN: Do you think Joe Biden legitimately won in 2020?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Mary Lou Carr (ph) is voting for Haley.

TUCHMAN: Do you think Joe Biden won legitimately in 2020?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Carvel Tefft is also voting for her.

TUCHMAN: Do you think Joe Biden legitimately won the election in 2020?


TUCHMAN: Does it bother you that Donald Trump keeps saying that's not the case?

TEFFT: No, it doesn't bother me. I expect that from him.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Alex Zadeh feels much differently. He's a Trump supporter who's pretty much all in.

ALEX ZADEH, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: There was a lot, a lot of finagling going on. There's no doubt about it. Whether it caused him to win, I don't know.

TUCHMAN: What kind of finagling?

ZADEH: Just with the voters stealing of ballots, I think. Hearing things about trucks carrying ballots from here to here.


TUCHMAN: That's funny what you're saying. You're talking about hearing about these things.

ZADEH: Well, seeing them on TV, seeing them --

TUCHMAN: And seeing things, but in -- but there's no evidence of that. It's something that Donald Trump keeps talking about and saying, but there's no evidence of any widespread fraud. But yet you believe there was.

ZADEH: I really do. Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): So what happens if Donald Trump ends up hearing one or more guilty verdicts? This was not a lonely sentiment.

TUCHMAN: So if he's convicted of one of these crimes, which could result in prison time, would you still vote for him for president?

ZADEH: Yes, I would.

TUCHMAN: Do you think it's possible that Donald Trump is just making up things as he goes along, that he's basically punking you?


TUCHMAN: Do you know what punking means?


TUCHMAN: Tricking you.



COOPER: Gary joins us now. Did any of the voters you spoke with signal that they're bothered by lack of evidence for his claims about the 2020 election being stolen?

TUCHMAN (on-camera): Yes, I have talked to a few people here, Anderson, who are voting for Donald Trump this Tuesday and say they are bothered by the lack of evidence. They are bothered that he keeps talking about these allegations, but they're not bothered enough not to vote for him this Tuesday. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Gary, thanks very much.

Again, our town hall with Nikki Haley is now just minutes away. But first when we come back, see who paid a visit to the Princess of Wales as she recovers in a London hospital from abdominal surgery.


COOPER: Kate, the Princess of Wales, continues to recover at a London hospital from what the palace has called successful abdominal surgery. Today, she got a visit from her husband, Prince William, who you've seen there, driving to the hospital.

William is taking a step back from royal duties to support his wife and their three young children. Now, according to Kensington Palace, Kate will be hospitalized for up to two weeks and faces months of recovery at home, missing a number of royal events. The palace has not specified exactly what the surgery was for.

Kate and William have also canceled all travel for the foreseeable future. They usually travel early in the year, but will also now miss an expected international spring tour. Meanwhile, King Charles will go to the hospital next week for an enlarged prostate procedure.

His wife, Queen Camilla, told local media today that he is fine, and she said that he is, quote, "looking forward to getting back to royal duties".

That's it for us. I'll see you tomorrow. The CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with Nikki Haley starts now.