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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Trump's Lawyer Outraged By Ridiculous Jury Decision; Jury Award E. Jean Carroll $83.3 Million In Damages From Trump For Defamatory Statements He Made About Her; Trump Vows Appeal Of "Absolutely Ridiculous" $83.3M Damages Verdict In E. Jean Carroll Defamation Case; Biden Sends CIA Chief For Top-Level Negotiations Over Hostages, Gaza Ceasefire; U.N. Agency Fires Staff Members Allegedly Involved In Oct. 7 Attacks; Growing Number Of Videos Shows Gazans With White Flags Being Shot. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 26, 2024 - 20:00   ET


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Now, where this judge is sitting, right, you can see the Capitol, you can see the scene of the violence from January 6. And because of where these judges sit, you know, they've been grappling with all of these cases that have been coming before them, more than 1,200 of these cases, Erica, so they know firsthand what went on.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Yes, absolutely.

Evan, appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

And thanks to all of you for joining us tonight. AC 360 starts right now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with a massive bill a New York federal jury today handed the former president for repeatedly defaming the woman he has already been found liable for sexually abusing: $7.3 million for the emotional harm he caused by his repeated verbal attacks on E. Jean Carroll while he was president, which some of his followers turned into serious threats against her; $11 million to repair the damage Carroll suffered to her reputation and $65 million in punitive damages. $83.3 million in total.

No comment from her or her team as they left the courthouse in Lower Manhattan making their way through a sea of cameras and reporters.

In a moment, we'll hear from her attorney, Roberta Kaplan, her first interview since the verdict. Also exclusively from another Trump accuser, Jessica Leeds who was a witness in Miss Carroll's first lawsuit, in which she told jurors the former president groped her on an airplane on a cross country flight.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied Leeds' claims.

Today, he responded to the verdict on social media, saying he'll appeal the case, adding; "Our legal system is out of control and being used as a political weapon. They've taken away all First Amendment rights. This is not America."

And not some minor detail, we should point out the First Amendment does not cover defamation. Mr. Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, who spoke a short time after the verdict either ignored or didn't understand that this trial was only about damages, and complained about not being allowed to re-argue what another jury already determined, namely that her client sexually abused E. Jean Carroll.


ALINA HABBA, DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY AND SPOKESPERSON: There was no proof, and I couldn't prove that she didn't bring in the dress. There was no DNA. There was no expert. My experts were denied, two of them. Two of them were denied to come in.


COOPER: That's not what this trial was about. Again, all of that was already determined and explicitly not part of this case. She knows that.

What this case was about was what the former president should pay for repeatedly and cruelly defaming his victim. Here are some of what he has said about E. Jean Carroll.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I met a woman in front of Bergdorf Goodman, took her up to a changing booth, right outside where the cash register is. This is New York City.

Why didn't you scream? I was in trauma.

I don't even know who this woman is.

I have no idea who this woman is.

I have no idea who she is, where she came from.

I know nothing about this nut job.

This is a person I have no idea until this happened, obviously, I have no idea who she was and nor could I care less.

She said that I did something to her that never took place.

It is a totally false accusation.

They said he didn't rape her, and I didn't do anything else either. You know what? Because I have no idea who the hell she is.


TRUMP: I don't know who this woman is.

This is a woman who has also accused other men of things.

I said, well, it's politically incorrect. She's not my type. And that's a hundred percent true, she is not my type.

This is another scam. It's a political witch hunt, and I swear to -- I have no idea who to hell. She's a whack job.

COLLINS: Mr. President --


COOPER: The former president, an adjudicated sexual abuser now on the hook for more than $80 million. Now, a few minutes ago, I spoke with E. Jean Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan.


COOPER: So first of all, what is Miss Carroll's reaction to this?

ROBERTA KAPLAN, ATTORNEY TO E. JEAN CARROLL: I almost don't have adjectives to describe it.

She is overjoyed. She cried. She showed more emotion and I've known her for a long time now than I've ever seen her show. She feels that she got justice from the jury today and from the court, and she feels she really stood up and she has stood up for almost every woman who has been defamed, who's been kicked down, has been shut up.

I think she feels a really -- she really played a part in making things better for women everywhere.

COOPER: Can you take us inside the courtroom? Because during your closing statement, the former president got up and left. Did you see that? I mean, it's a small courtroom.

KAPLAN: Well, so the crazy part about it is, I wasn't really focused on him. I was -- I was standing here, he was to my left, but I was facing the jury who was to my right. And the only way I actually knew it happened because I was really trying to zone him out is when the judge said that President Trump had just left the courtroom.

COOPER: The judge made a point of putting into the record that he left.

KAPLAN: Correct.


But obviously, the jury saw it. And then my partner, Shawn Crowley, when she spoke after me said to the jury, you saw the kind of guy he is, pretty much what he just did in this courtroom today is everything that our case is about.

COOPER: Do you think that act, getting up and walking out hurt in terms of or made a difference with the jury?

KAPLAN: I think it hurt him terribly. I mean, our whole case was about the fact that Donald Trump is unable to follow the law, unable to follow the rules. He thinks they don't apply to him.

And as bad is what he did to E. Jean Carroll was and the sexual assault was terrible, and as horrifying as the different defamation was back in 2019, the most amazing, shocking part of it all is that he kept on doing it, and he kept on doing it, even during the trial.

I mean, what other person thinks they can just openly break the law over and over and over again? Donald Trump.

COOPER: The punitive damages were higher than, I don't know, if they were higher than you anticipated. Where they or --?

KAPLAN: We are very happy with the punitive damages award.

COOPER: Why do you think they were so high? Because of his behavior?

KAPLAN: Yes, because under the law of punitive damages, a jury is allowed to and actually should consider what it will take, what monetary amount it will take to get the person to stop.

COOPER: That's -- so the idea of the jury was, it's going to take a big number to get this guy to stop.

KAPLAN: Exactly. That all he really understands is money, and so you should award an amount of money that will make him stop. Whether that will succeed, I don't know. I sure hope it will.

COOPER: If he continues to defame her, will there be more? I mean, is there a potential, there is another case?

KAPLAN: I'm too good of a lawyer to tell you that, but everything is on the table.

COOPER: So he should be on notice about what he says from now on about her?

KAPLAN: He should be notice. And he should be on notice that if he keeps saying it, it could cost him a lot more money.

COOPER: What is the likelihood this ruling will stand or that the damages will stand?

KAPLAN: Very, very high. We have one of the most best respected -- most well-respected judges in New York City, Judge Kaplan, no relation. The jury was great in the law, and all the tough legal issues in the case have already been dealt with.

The issue about what he said when he is president has been dealt with under the Westfall Act. The issue about him waving presidential immunity has been dealt with already by the Second Circuit. So there's not really much left for them to appeal on.

COOPER: a PM. The steps though, are what? There's a second circuit or --?

KAPLAN: They'll go to the Second Circuit, which we've already won in this case, I guess, three times now. But they'll go again to the Second Circuit. But there's really not much left for them to argue.

COOPER: What would be the grounds for him to appeal? I mean, things -- are there particular things that happened in the court or the filings that occurred?

KAPLAN: I think you're going to hear kind of what people were hearing. I'm told what he and his lawyer, Alina Habba said today that the judge was unfair, that he should have had a do over. He should have been able to retry the assault and the defamation again, that it was biased. He wasn't allowed to speak yada, yada, yada.

None of that's true. He had the fairest trial he possibly could have had with one of the most experienced judges in this country, and none of that's going to be even remotely persuasive to the appellate judges.

COOPER: If the Second Circuit then declines it or rules against him, can he take it higher?

KAPLAN: He can take the defamation claims probably higher. He may be able to bring up some of the issues about presidential immunity, but that's already been litigated as well, so it's very unlikely this could move forward to --

COOPER: I mean, there have been plenty of cases where a jury awards a huge verdict and it gets knocked down later on. Do you anticipate E. Jean Carroll actually seeing this money?

KAPLAN: Completely, she'll see this money. So the kinds of ratios that the courts get concerned about our ratios over six to one. Here, we're well within that range.

COOPER: Six to one based on the person's income?

KAPLAN: Based on the compensatory damages. So here, compensatory damages are $18 million. So $65 million punitive with $18 million compensatory is not that big of a ratio. And I can't imagine a court having any problem with it.

COOPER: Is it possible -- I mean, you also hear -- you know, there's been plenty of defendants who have a big judgment against them and somehow finagle away, declare bankruptcy or figure out a way not to pay. Do you think he's going to pay?

KAPLAN: I think he's going to have to pay and whether it requires him to sell something or to put a lien on something to get a loan, that's his problem, not ours. He's going to pay and Judge Kaplan, through judgment enforcement mechanisms, will make sure that he pays and indeed, even to take the appeal is going to have to at least put up a bond of 20 percent of the amount.

COOPER: You're obviously very experienced. What was this whole experience in the courtroom like?

KAPLAN: I've been to in a lot of courtrooms in my time, especially in New York City, and I've seen a lot of judges. I have never seen a party be so openly contemptuous of the authority of the court and the authority of our justice system and the legitimacy of our justice system as Donald Trump, and I think the best thing of today other than the vindication of E. Jean Carroll so deserved, is that today was a good day for our system of justice.


Today was a day that showed that the rule of law applies to everyone. Even if you don't think the rule of law applies to you, it applies to you and it applied today to Donald Trump.

COOPER: I'm always interested when I see depositions of the former president, because for somebody who has been sued as much as he has and have been involved in lawsuits, and I assume deposed often, he seems like a terrible witness in depositions. I haven't seen him on the stand by I imagine on the stand as well. How do you rate him as a defendant, given his experience in the justice system?

KAPLAN: Well, so to be a good party in case and to be a good witness to the case, you want the jury to believe you and to think that you tell the truth, and the very big problem that Donald Trump has is really no one believes he tells the truth.

And in this case, he lied again on the stand. He again said, I stand by everything I said in my deposition, which was I did nothing to E. Jean Carroll. I never met her. She's a whack job. Never heard of her.

So he not only committed perjury, but the jury themselves saw him commit perjury and then they watched his deposition video, where he pointed out as everyone knows that famous photo of him and Ivana and E. Jean and her then husband, and he points to E. Jean and says that's Marla Maples.

And then my favorite part of it is once he realized he made a mistake, he says, oh, it's a blurry photo. And I said to the jury, you saw the photos, it is the same photo you're looking at today. It's not a blurry photo.

COOPER: Roberta Kaplan, thank you so much.

KAPLAN: Thank you so much.


COOPER: And joining us now is Jessica Leeds who as we mentioned, testified at the first E. Jean Carroll trial. She swore under oath that the former president sexually assaulted her in the 1970s and first talked about her allegations years ago on this program. This too is her first interview since the verdict.

Jessica, what is your reaction to what happened today? JESSICA LEEDS, DONALD TRUMP ACCUSER: I am pleased. I am pleased for Jean and I'm pleased for what it says about our legal system and about taking the situation of sexual aggression seriously.

COOPER: Do you think this will change anything about the way the former president speaks about women who have made accusations against him? Do you think he will stop defaming E. Jean Carroll?

LEEDS: I would hope so, but I would be unwilling to make a bet that he will.

COOPER: I'm wondering what you made of how the former president's legal team tried to depict Ms. Carroll? I mean, his lawyer, Alina Habba said in part Ms. Carroll didn't take "any responsibility for the media and the press frenzy and the public profile that she wanted and she still enjoys."

LEEDS: Well, it was an interesting defense. If she, as a person had ever experienced what E. Jean Carroll has experienced, she would not be using that as bringing all of those issues up because they don't apply.

What E. Jean suffered and how she suffered, she lost her job, she lost everything. And the threats that this society has been thrown against her because of Trump being unable to keep his mouth shut are serious and not to be taken lightly just like our wonderful Congress people who can't seem to stand up to Trump either because they're afraid, just afraid of him, which that's what bullies do. He is a consummate bully.

COOPER: I'm wondering what you made of the former president walking out of the courtroom during closing argument.

LEEDS: I'm not surprised. I think it was stupid, and I think he's going to regret that he did that. But it's par for the course of his temperament.

COOPER: Why did you feel it was important to testify last year on Miss Carroll's behalf?

LEEDS: Well, I was asked, and since I had come forward and you will remember this is 2016, my little moment of notoriety has happened. I figured that if I was willing to come forward, then I should be willing to come forward now.

COOPER: Do you regret coming forward back then?

LEEDS: Regret? Well, it's a little disconcerting, but I feel seriously having worked all these years, having raised children, having had a life that this issue of sexual aggression is one that our society really, really needs to think about and to do something about.


I mean women should be able to go to work and not be harassed and they should be able to go to cultural events or should be able to socialize and not be harassed. And if I feel that seriously about it, I should step forward.

COOPER: You had said when you came forward back then, not only did you describe what he said happened to you on that airplane, but that you would run into Donald Trump later on at a party in New York, and that he had turned to recognize you and said a disgusting word to you, an insult to you.

I'm wondering if you have any message for Donald Trump tonight?

LEEDS: Well, I actually think at this stage Donald Trump has, I really almost believe him when he says he doesn't know E. Jean Carroll. He doesn't. I don't think he -- I don't think she rated any memory, any lasting memory.

The reason my experience with him was so firmly cemented was because of the run in that I had with him a year or so later that just made the whole thing reliving it again.

But he -- I don't know whether it's possible for him to learn or whether he's going to even be able to figure out what's wrong and do something about it. He is basically a lost cause. He is what he is right now. And that's what we have to deal with.

COOPER: Jessica Leeds thank you so much for being with us.

LEEDS: Good to see you.

COOPER: Coming up next, CNN's Kara Scannell on what she saw inside the courtroom today. Kaitlan Collins on the reaction inside the Trump camp, our legal experts and Trump biographer, David Cay Johnston also joins us.

And later, CNN's Clarissa Ward investigating the shooting of people in Gaza who were holding up white flags when they were shot.



COOPER: Just a few moments ago in her first interview since the jury awarded her client $83.3 million, E. Jean Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan talked about the case.

Before we bring in the panel, I just want to replay a moment from our conversation during which she spoke about what stood out to her most about Trump's behavior in court.


KAPLAN: Our whole case was about the fact that Donald Trump is unable to follow the law, unable to follow the rules, he thinks they don't apply to him and as bad is what he did to E. Jean Carroll was and the sexual assault was terrible, and as horrifying as the defamation was back in 2019. The most amazing, shocking part of it all is that he kept on doing it and he kept doing it even during the trial.

What other person thinks they can just openly break the law over and over and over again? Donald Trump.


COOPER: Joining us now CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Kara Scannell. Kara was in the court today; also CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, former federal prosecutor Jessica Roth, and David Cay Johnston, investigative reporter Syracuse University visiting law lecturer and author of "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family."

So Kara, what stood out to you in court today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the moment where Donald Trump just stood up and walked out in the middle of Roberta Kaplan's closing arguments, it was about 10 minutes in, and it was at the moment where she brought up this very point where she said he did not respect the last jury's verdict. In fact, 24 hours he was on a CNN townhall with you repeating the statements the jury just found to be defamatory, repeated them throughout this trial, and she said, repeated them on the stand when he testified, that really solidified the point.

And their argument that the jury was nothing will make this man stop, but money because that's what matters to him, not the truth.

COOPER: Kaitlan, when you were interviewing him on stage then, I mean, in that moment, when he brought that up, did you realize at the time, how significant it was that he was doing this again?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: We thought about this, because, you know, we were preparing for the townhall and the verdict came down the day before. And so, I mean, obviously, it was expected how he would respond to this the way he has been constantly where he goes after her. He talks about her interview with you that she did several years ago.

And the question was, you know, is he defaming her right now? Like you could kind of see it on the stage. And I think one thing that came up during the trial and something that was clearly effective is an argument that E. Jean Carroll's attorneys made their arguments to the jury is they were saying, you know, she felt worthless when he was making those comments at the townhall the day after this verdict had come out and that was essentially the argument here.

And I think that's -- you know, I was talking to former Trump attorneys and people in Trump's world today and they were saying, you know, what's going to be the most effective is saying hit Donald Trump where it hurts, you know, he has all this money. This is why the damages should be so high because this is the only way to send a message to him.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Jessica, from a legal standpoint, how significant is this verdict?

JESSICA ROTH, NEW YORK CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL LAW PROFESSOR AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: These are really significant numbers, both the compensatory damages, which signify that the jury credited E. Jean Carroll's testimony about how she had been harmed by his defamatory statements, and the testimony of her experts about what it would take to repair her reputation, given that he made these statements in question when he was president of the United States.

And the big punitive damages award means that they felt it was really important to send a message to him of moral condemnation for what he had done and what was necessary to deter him from doing it in the future.

And the relationship between the two numbers, between the compensatory damages and the punitive damages number is reasonable. I mean, courts do worry if the punitive damages are an X factor, too much beyond what the compensatory was, here, it's about 3.6, right, times that compensatory. That's generally viewed as being reasonable.

So I think that this is a number that sends a strong message, but it's likely to be upheld on appeal.

COOPER: Joey, do you agree with Roberta Kaplan that there's -- I mean, she had no doubt that his behavior in the court in front of that jury impacted the jury in -- I mean, they saw it with their own eyes?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No question about it. Right?

When you look to punitive damages, what's that about? It's a referendum on your conduct and your behavior. And if you are having the narrative as her team did, E. Jean Carroll's that this is a person who was just immune from any notion of decorum, of respect, and of how a process works.

And we want you, jurors, to hold him accountable for once and for all in his love language, the love language of money, right? And in the event that you do that, perhaps he will understand, and so I think that that certainly was detrimental, the walking out and it fed right into their narrative about what are we going to do to stop that? That's what they did to stop it.


COOPER: David, I mean, what does $83.3 million mean to Donald Trump now? I mean, is that -- I she liquid in that way? Where does that money come from?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, we may discover just how much smoke and mirrors are Donald's finances. In a deposition, he said he had $400 million cash. I wouldn't trust that for two seconds. When Donald, to give you a good example, bought Mar- a-Lago, he told everybody, he paid cash for it. I have in my home the letter from Chase Bank promising to never reveal that he took out a mortgage for 125 percent of the purchase price.

His finances are what he says about his finances in reality are not connected. So this will be interesting to see. Does he have the money? Does he even have the $16 million for a bond so he can appeal? COOPER: You think he may not have that much money to -- because in order to appeal, as Roberta Kaplan said he needs to put up that percentage?

JOHNSTON: All right, 20 percent bond. I think -- you know, we don't know what cross collateralizations, what debts we're not aware of the Donald has. But I'd be very surprised if he ever had $400 million sitting in the bank, which is what he testified to in this case.

COOPER: Kaitlan, what more -- I mean, have you heard about how the former president has reacted?

COLLINS: We know he is angry. He they knew it was coming. There's a reason he left court before the verdict was even read. He left before we even knew that it was coming down. But his attorneys had a pretty good idea, given how long it took the jury to deliberate what was coming their way.

Did they think it was going to be this high? I don't even think they realized that at first.

COOPER: Why do you think he left the court? Was it, I mean, to make a statement that he thought would play well, in terms of fundraising with, you know, his supporters down the road? Because clearly, his behavior in court hurt in front of the jury does he -- he felt like -- he must have known that --

COLLINS: I don't even think it's that strategic. I think it's pure anger. And there's -- the way to get to Donald Trump is to get to his money. I mean, he doesn't even like paying his attorneys. He doesn't like paying people who work for him. He doesn't want to be separated from his money.

It is one of the things that you talk to anyone who's ever worked for him, it irks him so much. And so the idea that he will have to pay potentially E. Jean Carroll this much money is -- this is a case that gets under his skin, like few of the others do, I think because of what's at the heart of this.

It's also something that bothers the former First Lady Melania Trump, and so I think that is all part of it. I don't think it's strategy that he left early today. I think it was they knew he was going to be angry.

I mean, the texts that were going around where I would not want to be the people getting on that plane, because he was on his plane going to Nevada, when the verdict came down.

COOPER: What were you hearing Kara about an appeal? Because Roberta Kaplan seems to be quite confident that there's really not much ground.

SCANNELL: Yes, I mean, they say they're going to appeal this. And they have appealed repeatedly, which is the Trump pattern at every turn in a case to try to appeal and extend it. But I think she laid out that there are limited avenues of appeal here, but just to go back to the money part of this, and he's also waiting a judgment in the New York attorney general civil fraud trial, and they're seeking over $300 million.

Now, the judge has already found in the summary judgment of this, that his financial statements were false. This is really now about how much he will have to pay, and that could be a significant amount of money.

So when you combine the two and you look at what actual cash does he have, it's a big question of what will happen? Will they need to take out loans? Will they need to sell properties in order to cover this big expense?

COOPER: David, I mean, he does have properties he could take loans out on, no?

JOHNSTON: Yes, and he could sell properties, which he'd be very loath to do. At the end of the day, do I think there's $83 million there? Probably. But I don't think he's going to be able to just write a cheque. There's likely to be litigation about his making the payment or not making it as required. That'll be down the road a little ways, but I think it'll be very revealing about Donald's finances and what he's claimed.

Remember, eight years ago, almost nine years ago, he claimed he was worth over $10 billion. When he became president, his financial form, as I count it came out to a little over one. Forbes says three, in both cases, nowhere near 10.

COOPER: Jessica, what would an appeals -- I mean, can he be forced to pay? Because I mean, you do hear about, you know, there's a bunch of road characters out there who are on the hook for a lot of money but haven't paid.

ROTH: Yes, he, as Roberta Kaplan covered in her interview with you earlier, he can be required to post a bond pending appeal. Of course, that would require somebody to essentially be willing to put up the bond and ensure the first case when he got a verdict against him. He wound up posting cash.

COOPER: So just to be clear on that, what that bond means.

ROTH: Yes.

COOPER: Jessica, even for him to file an appeal and get an appeal, he has to put up 20 percent.

ROTH: No, not to file the appeal. He has an appeal as a right. He doesn't have to pay in order to appeal, but in terms of satisfying the judgment now that's been entered against him, he either has to pay it now which is he is not going to want to do, or to avoid having to do that, he is going to have to essentially put up the money in a safe place, an escrow effectively in cash which is what he actually did for the first trial verdict, so that it sits there and it is going to be available to E. Jean Carroll if she prevails on appeal, which I expect she would.


If he doesn't want to put up the whole amount in cash, then he's got to put up a bond in which he puts up a percentage of it and somebody secures -- assures it for him and he would pay interest essentially on that, that loan. So those are his two options and that's one.

COOPER: So do you agree she doesn't have much avenues for appeal?

JACKSON: I mean, he could. That's the reality. And I'll say this briefly. What happens is, is they're going to look at the reasonableness, I think, of the award, right? They're going to attack it. I think, in doing it, they're going to examine the egregiousness of his behavior.

They're going to potentially look at other awards and make a distinction between whether this in light of those other awards is reasonable and appropriate. And I think based upon that, there'll be a determination made as to whether or not this is a figure that considering the totality of the circumstances should be upheld by the system.

And I think that in addition to everything else you heard about the attack on the appeal will be what it is. Is this a reasonable sum and is it predicated on the conduct? And is it dissimilar to other cases?

COOPER: Thanks everybody.

Next, the political dimension, what voters across the partisan spectrum might make of this. Also, thoughts on the former president's legal battles from some women voters in South Carolina started the next Republican primary.



COOPER: More on tonight's breaking news, the $83.3 million jury verdict against the former president, the damages he's been told to pay writer E. Jean Carroll for defamatory statements he's made about her. Now, earlier on the program, we heard Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, say that today was a good day for our system of justice.

I also spoke with another Trump accuser, Jessica Leeds, who alleges the former president groped her on a commercial flight in the 1970s and testified in Carroll's first trial. Ms. Leeds said this about the former president, quote, "He is what he is right now. And that's what we have to deal with." No words about the Republican frontrunner for president.

Randi Kaye spoke with a group of Republican women voters in South Carolina where of course the next primary is going to be held and asked them about the former president's legal battle. She joins us now. Randi? RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. We came here to Greenville, South Carolina to talk to those Republican women. Two of them are supporting Nikki Haley. Three of them are supporting Donald Trump. Now we spoke with them before today's verdict in the E. Jean Carroll case. But I had asked them during our interview what they think of all of these legal troubles and all the charges that Donald Trump is facing. And here is what they told me, just part of it. Listen.


KAYE: Trump is facing 91 criminal charges. He's already been found liable of sexual abuse in the case of E. Jean Carroll. Does any of that give you pause?


CANDACE SPRADLIN, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN: I think it's a political witch hunt.


SPRADLIN: 100 percent. And I honestly believe that every time they add another charge that it's just adding fuel to the fire for his supporters.


SPRADLIN: When they arrested Trump, I was like, that's it. That's it. He's got my vote 100 percent.

KAYE: Why was that?

SPRADLIN: Why was that? Because it is nothing but a political witch hunt. As much as they're coming after him, they're actually coming after us.

KAYE: What is the bar, though? Is there anything that would change your mind? Is there any conviction that would change your mind?

JOAN FOSTER, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN: Well, I think our rule of law has been compromised.



FOSTER: So, if there was a conviction, I wouldn't believe it. We need our courts, our judges. We need to restore an honest rule of law.


KAYE: And Anderson, you heard that one woman, Candace, called it's a political witch hunt. As you know, that's a term that the former president likes to use as well. But the Trump supporters in our group told me that they are watching these cases very, very closely. And that they also told me that those cases only reaffirm their support for the former president. They said they are backing him no matter what. Anderson?

COOPER: Randi, thanks very much.

This is the sharpest legal setback so far for the former president, who's facing multiple criminal and civil cases, obviously. Joining us now, two of our political commentators, Van Jones and David Urban. Van, you're an attorney now, I'm wondering what your reaction is to the jury's decision today.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that they felt that this was a completely out of control, a party. And they were trying to send a message that you got to follow the rules. Look, if Donald Trump had just conducted himself the way that anybody watching this, including those women, by the way, would have conducted themselves, which is to follow the rules, follow the judge's orders, there would not have been this massive judgment against him.

The vast majority of the money is not because of what Donald Trump did a long time ago. It's because of how he's been acting ever since. And so I think that, you know, this is not going to be reversed on appeal. It is a reasonable attempt of our court system to tell Donald Trump and anybody else, you can't just flout the law. You can't just continue to insult people when you've already been found liable for doing so.

COOPER: David, Nikki Haley posted tonight, quote, "Donald Trump wants to be the presumptive Republican nominee. And we're talking about $83 million in damages. We're not talking about fixing the border. We're not talking about tackling inflation. America can do better than Donald Trump and Joe Biden."

I'm wondering, do you think that's an effective line for her?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, that's a line she's going to continue to take. And look, Nikki Haley is, not coincidentally, the gentleman who kind of funded this lawsuit, Reid Hoffman, is also one of Nikki Haley's biggest supporters, so we shouldn't lose sight of that.

And, you know, I disagree with Van, not surprisingly, that the $83 million was reasonable. I think that even those in the courtroom, when they heard that number, gasped at how outrageous it was, right? The punitive damages are so high that it's guaranteed will be reversed on appeal.

And as you heard those --

COOPER: But actually all lawyers say that's actually not the case. That based on a, like, it's -- it, I mean, we've had a number of lawyers say that's not the case.

URBAN: I -- well, let's -- you have me back on, you can prove me wrong. COOPER: OK. All right. I'll bet, it's not me saying it. I'm just saying what the lawyers say.

JONES: I'll bet you $83 million, brother.

URBAN: Listen, Anderson, I think that -- here's the narrative, right? This is in New York City. It's a New York verdict. It's a New York jury. It was -- the case was put together by George Conway, right? There's email as a part of the introducing the concept to E. Jean Carroll.

Look, you should --

COOPER: So what does that matter?

URBAN: -- you should sue Donald Trump in court.

COOPER: Is that a deep -- this is a deep state thing?


URBAN: No, no. Anderson, you're asking about the political ramifications of this, right?

COOPER: Right.

URBAN: That was how we started the segment. I'm telling you, the political ramifications are that the -- those voters that you just heard and others are going to look at this and say, this case was started by somebody who hates Donald Trump and George Conway funded by someone who hates Trump and Reid Hoffman.

And it was -- the verdict was given down by people who hate Donald Trump in Manhattan. That's how it's going to be viewed politically.

COOPER: Van, obviously no one wants to be on the hook for $83 million. Does this outcome, do you think, does it help the former president politically? I mean, among those Trump supporters that Randi Kaye just talked to, they haven't -- they, you know, it doesn't give them any pause at all.

JONES: Well, I think that, you know, there are people who kind of are drinking the Kool Aid. This is a big bucket of Kool Aid from the drink. But I think if you're Donald Trump, you know, he says he's got $3 billion, he probably has $1 billion, it's not liquid. He's going to have to sell something to pay this thing off.

And, by the way, it's -- this verdict is only 3x the actual damages. Look, you get 6x, 10x, 20x, that's when the appeals court steps in and says no. 3x on punitive, that's not reversible. So they can say whatever they want to say, he's going to have to sell something on this thing. And I think it's going to hurt Donald Trump. Whether it hurts his movement or his cause, probably not.

COOPER: David, do you think that the former president benefits from -- I mean, you know, walking out of court, his behavior in the court, according to, you know, those who were in the court, the attorney for E. Jean Carroll, they all believe that that certainly hurt him with the jury, and that is what results in the money. Do you think that there -- that it was strategic, that there are benefits for him in doing that in terms of his supporters and fundraising outside?

URBAN: Yes. Listen, I'm not so sure about that, Anderson. I'm not sure if he would have stayed in the courtroom or if he stormed out of the courtroom. It's going to change the narrative that, you know, those voters that Randi Kaye just talked to will hear or see or listen to, right?

I do agree with you that probably didn't help on the punitive side of things, right? So, but look, you know, as you know, the -- president Trump is not one who hides his emotions very well, right? It's kind of right there. Wears it on his sleeve. And so I'm sure he was angry and he probably pounded the table and left.

And now he's going to have to, you know, go on appeal and hopeful -- be hopeful that this $83 million was reduced because, you know, as Van said, this does stack up. Like, you know, you look at this -- the New York attorney general's case, they're looking for, you know, somewhere in the range of $250 million as well. So it starts adding up, even if you're a billionaire after a while.

COOPER: What do you think -- David, what do you think -- I mean, if the real estate case also is a huge verdict against him, what is -- I mean, if he takes such a financial hit, what does that actually do to his sort of the aura of Donald Trump? Do you think it makes any difference?

URBAN: I'm not -- yes, I'm not so sure it makes any aura. I mean, he'd have to go get a loan probably against some of his properties. I'm sure, you know, it hurts his pocketbook. I don't, again, I don't think that it's going to hurt his political viability amongst the base, right?

If we're talking about the base voters in the primary here, you saw Randi Kaye, you'll hear that echoed again throughout South Carolina, against the Super Tuesday states. I bet you go back and look retrospectively in Iowa, New Hampshire, supporters will say the same thing.

This is all baked in, Anderson. It's all baked in.


URBAN: All these cases, these indictments are baked into this vote as we see it right now.

COOPER: Go ahead, Van.

JONES: Just to add on, you know, from a branding point of view, what he's done is he's positioned himself as he's a mogul who wins, and then when he loses, he's a martyr. So either way -- so he's either a mogul or a martyr. Either way, his base loves it. And so if he's willing to lose billions of dollars beyond the -- to die on the cross for their cause, he's brilliantly -- sickly, but brilliantly turned even his losses into a win.

And that's why some people talk about kind of cult like behavior on the part of his followers. He literally can't lose. Whatever he does, he's either a champion and a winner, or he's losing on your behalf.

COOPER: Yes. Van Jones, David Urban --

URBAN: Yes. And Anderson --

COOPER: David, real quick.

URBAN: -- I'll just say real quickly, you know, this kind of comes -- all this gets, you know, becomes kind of mashed together, right? The Alvin Bragg case --

COOPER: Right.

URBAN: -- the case in Georgia, they have this misconduct in the case in Georgia. So people in America, it's just one big trial of Donald Trump, right? And I think it does play into the narrative that he's being persecuted, not prosecuted.

COOPER: Yes. Van Jones, David Urban, thanks.

Just ahead, high level negotiations for a Gaza ceasefire potentially. And Clarissa Ward investigating the shooting of a grandmother in Gaza who was killed while holding the hand of her grandson who was waving a white flag. There have been a number of people shot while displaying white flags in Gaza. That story is next.



COOPER: Several key developments in Israel's war against Hamas. President Biden has sent CIA Director Bill Burns to meet with top intelligence officials from Israel and Egypt as well as the Prime Minister of Qatar. It's potentially a major step toward a hostage and ceasefire deal.

Comes the same day the U.N. Relief Agency operating in Gaza fired staff members that Israel says participated in the October 7th terror attacks that killed more than 1,200 people. The State Department has temporarily paused funding to that agency. It also comes as the U.N.'s top court told Israel it must, quote, "take all measures," unquote to avoid civilian deaths and genocide, but notably the court did not call for a ceasefire.

Our Clarissa Ward has been investigating allegations of civilians in Gaza holding white flags who have been shot. I want to warn you some of the images you're about to see in her report are difficult to watch.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the last moments of Hala Khreis' life. You can see her here, leading a group of 30 odd people. They wave white flags. A plea for safe passage out of their neighborhood, now surrounded by Israeli forces. She holds the hand of her five-year-old grandson Tayem tightly. And then suddenly.

Little Tayem quickly runs away as her son Mohammad rushes towards her. If you slow the video down, you can see Hala start to turn just before she is shot, as if she had caught sight of something.


From the angle of her fall and the movement of the fleeing group, it is clear that the bullet came from the West or the South. CNN has geolocated the intersection. Mohammad told us when he reached his mother, he looked up and saw two Israeli tanks ahead of them to the south.

And just 200 meters to the west, we know Israeli troops were stationed at the new Gaza Prep School for Boys, as captured here in satellite images and a photograph published on November 12th, the day Hala was killed.

SARA KHREIS, DAUGHTER (through translator): It's really hard for me to look at the pictures, but I try to remember the beautiful gatherings that we used to share together.

WARD (voice-over): Hala's 18-year-old daughter Sara was further back in the group. Now safely in Istanbul, she tells us the family had agonized over whether to leave their home, but after two nights of the most intense bombardment yet, decided to move.

KHREIS (through translator): I remember that my mom, after we all sat down and discussed, she got up and went to the kitchen to make breakfast for everyone in the house. When she was making breakfast, she also went to pray a Doha prayer. It's really hard, really hard.

WARD (voice-over): Take your time.

KHREIS (through translator): My mother was my whole life, she was my friends and my everything.

WARD (voice-over): She wants Hala to be remembered as she was in life, a devoted grandmother who still made Sara sandwiches to take to university for lunch, a retired Arabic literature teacher beloved by her students and family.

The month before October 7th had been the happiest of times for the family, celebrating Sara's engagement and Mohammad's graduation from university.

KHREIS (through translator): My mother was going to be 58 years old on December 30th and had her grandson with her. So why would you shoot her? What's between you and her? You made us feel like it's safe to leave. We had white flags in our hands. So what happened? Nobody knows. Nobody knows. WARD (voice-over): It is a question many are asking, as more videos have emerged of unarmed civilians displaying white flags apparently shot dead. The Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor tells CNN they are investigating nine such incidents. We analyzed four.

The most widely reported is the shooting of the three Israeli hostages, who the IDF admitted killing under the mistaken impression that their surrender was a trap. The most recent incident just this week in Mawassi, in Southern Gaza

51-year-old Ramzi Abu Sahloul says he is trying to get back to the house where his brother is being held by Israeli forces to plead for his release. The camera zooms in on two Israeli tanks beyond a berm. A drone can be heard overhead.

Ramzi and four other family members move tentatively forward, hands in the air, white flag held high. Then suddenly, a burst of gunfire. Ramzi falls to the ground.

If you slow down the video, you can see the impact. The first round against the wall. Clearly fired from the direction of the tanks. The men hastily drag Ramzi's body away. The white flag now soaked in blood. His wife runs after him, but he is already dead.

Another video obtained by CNN was recorded by journalist Rami Abu Jamous on November 10th. He says the IDF ordered his family to evacuate their home and to carry white flags. As they walk, gunshots can be heard. On the other side of the street, a man is wailing over the body of his dead son.

I told you let's stay home, my son, he says over and over, still clutching his white flag. If only we had stayed home. Around the corner, two more people shot, also carrying white flags.


CNN cannot say who fired the shots. We sent the coordinates of all the incidents to the IDF and repeatedly asked for comment.

Hala Khreis was buried in a shallow grave in a small alleyway next to the family home. Her gravestone written in chalk. Her family hopes there will be justice for her killing. And a proper burial when this war is finally over.


COOPER: And Clarissa Ward joins us now from Jerusalem. Obviously incredibly disturbing. What's the IDF saying about this investigation?

WARD (on-camera): Anderson, we actually flew here several days ago with the hopes of sitting down with the IDF, going through our footage and our findings with them on or off camera. They ultimately declined to meet with us, but several hours after this report was first published online.

They did issue a statement saying, quote, "CNN refused to broadcast the footage" -- sorry-- "CNN refused to provide the footage in question prior to the broadcasting of the article, as the IDF requested to receive in order to thoroughly examine the incident and provide any sort of comprehensive response. CNN's hesitancy to share the materials discloses the partial nature of their report, doing a disservice to the complex nature of the operational reality on the ground. The incident is being examined."

Now the IDF statement doesn't specify which incident exactly within our report is now being examined. But I really do want to emphasize again, Anderson, that we repeatedly offered to come to sit down to show them the footage well before publication. They declined to meet with us, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Clarissa Ward, thank you very much. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Very full night. There's a lot more ahead on the landmark verdict to $83. 3 million dollars against the former president. With that, here's "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS."