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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Mystery And Outrage Surround Alexey Navalny's Death; Alexey Navalny Wrote Letters To Kerry Kennedy; New Shelling In Kherson As Eastern City Of Avdiivka Falls To Russia; Sen. Tim Scott Declines To Say Whether He Would've Certified 2020 Election Results If He Were Vice President; Regretful Wisconsin Fake Elector Says He Was Tricked Into Signing Phony Document Claiming Trump Won In 2020; NY Times Columnist: "Biden, As Painful As This Is, Should Find His Way To Stepping Down As A Hero"; Santos Sues Kimmel For Tricking Him Into Making Cameo Videos; Former Pres. Jimmy Carter Marks One-Year In Hospice. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 19, 2024 - 20:00   ET




JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Will Santos say it? Here we go.

"George, can you please congratulate my legally blind niece Julia on passing her driving test?"

GEORGE SANTOS, EXPELLED U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Hey, Julia. Congratulations to you. Congratulations on getting your driving test. You prove that even the legally blind can do it.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Now, Santos is alleging Kimmel misused the videos by tricking him and then airing the videos on his show, a violation of Cameo's terms of service, according to Santos. So far, Kimmel not responding.

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, new reporting about Alexey Navalny's death in a Russian gulag and Donald Trump's condolences for himself.

Also tonight, Wisconsin former state Republican chairman, claims he and his fellow fake electors were tricked by the Trump campaign.

And later why disgraced ex-congressman George Santos is suing Jimmy Kimmel.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Alexey Navalny's widow, Yulia, spoke out today about her husband's death and possible murder in Vladimir Putin's gulag.


YULIA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S WIDOW (through interpreter): I should not have been in this place. I should not have recorded this video. There should have been another person in my place. But this person was killed by Vladimir Putin. Three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband, Alexey Navalny. Putin killed the father of my children. Putin took away the most precious thing I had.


COOPER: Yulia Navalnaya today talking about the 47-year-old man who a day before his sudden death seemed in good spirits, looking thin but energetic and animated in a video court appearance. Navalny was no stranger to hardship. He returned to Russia knowing he would likely be arrested, put on trial and imprisoned, this after he had been poisoned.

Even in death, he is inspiring others. Some Russians have risked arrest and beatings to simply leave flowers at makeshift memorials and leaders around the world are hailing him for his stance on human rights. But to some, he's no martyr, any more than his widow and children are worth even perfunctory condolences, let alone normal expressions of human decency.

Here's what Donald Trump posted online today: "The sudden death of Alexey Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country. It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction. Open Borders, Rigged Elections, and Grossly Unfair Courtroom Decisions are DESTROYING AMERICA. WE ARE A NATION IN DECLINE. A FAILING NATION."

There's no mention of Navalny's wife, no mention of Vladimir Putin. He did not compare himself to Navalny the way he once did to the late Nelson Mandela. Instead, his followers did. Most notably, New York Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, who tweeted: "As the world reflects on the murder of Alexey Navalny at the hands of Putin, it's worth remembering that Democrats are actively doing Biden's bidding as they also try to imprison his chief political opponent, Donald Trump, remove him from the ballot, and ensure he dies in prison."

Now, for the record, as Mr. Zeldin should know, grand jury is made up of ordinary Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, handed up indictments using evidence obtained by lawful subpoenas and search warrants authorized by judges and upheld by other judges, including Republican appointees, even including Trump appointees.

Any due process Alexey Navalny got was ceremonial, if not purely incidental. But Donald Trump's message today did not merely reflect his indifference to the death and possible murder of Russia's leading dissident or even his obsession with himself and his own legal troubles. In not criticizing Vladimir Putin or even mentioning his name, Donald Trump sent a message to the Russian dictator, something he also did a few weeks ago when he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn't pay? You're delinquent? He said, yes. Let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.


COOPER: That was the former president of the United States openly treating NATO as some kind of a protection racket, sending a clear message to our allies, as well as Vladimir Putin, which should come as no surprise. Even with Ukrainian forces literally running out of shells and bullets in Russia over the weekend, capturing new territory, he's been telling congressional Republicans to block new aid to Ukraine.

Republicans whose party used to consider Russia a threat even when it wasn't rolling tanks into a neighbor, which has made for some strange gymnastics in this strange new world. Case in point, House Speaker Mike Johnson, who put out this statement shortly after Navalny's death, and I'm quoting now: "Vladimir Putin is a vicious dictator and the world knows he is likely directly responsible for the sudden death of his most prominent political opponent, Alexey Navalny." He went on to say, "This is the latest attempt to send a message to those working to confront Moscow's aggression."


Certainly sounds tough, which might lead you to believe that he and his members are among those hardworking confronters of Russian aggression. But in fact, he and the rest of the House are on a two week recess and he doesn't want to bring Ukraine legislation to the floor because it would weaken his speakership and no doubt anger Donald Trump. Or for that matter, a substantial number of his members, as former Republican Congressman Liz Cheney pointed out on CNN this weekend.


LIZ CHENEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSWOMAN: We have to take seriously the extent to which - you've now got a Putin wing of the Republican Party. I believe the issue this election cycle is making sure the Putin wing of the Republican Party does not take over the West wing of the White House.


COOPER: Republican challenger, Nikki Haley, expressed similar sentiments on the campaign trail in South Carolina.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know why he keeps getting weak in the knees when it comes to Russia. But I'll tell you what, Russia is not getting weak in the knees because what we're seeing is now they're starting to put soldiers around the Baltic countries.

Russia said once they take Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. Those are NATO countries and that immediately puts America at war.


COOPER: She went on to say that preventing such a war is her number one goal. As for the former president though, his number one goal this weekend apparently was selling sneakers.


TRUMP: This is something I've been talking about for 12 years, 13 years and I think it's going to be a big success.


COOPER: He's been talking about it for 12 years. He's talking about these at $399 a pop. He's also selling cheaper sneakers, not cheaper looking, of course, that would not be possible. Less expensive I should say.

The announcement coming just a day after a New York judge ordered him to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties for business fraud, a bill he presumably cannot lace up his golden sneakers and run away from. Allies, countries under attack by dictators and the fallen heroes who stand against them are easier that way.

More now on Alexey Navalny's death and his family's search for answers from CNN's Melissa Bell.



NAVALNAYA: (Foreign language).

I ask you to share my rage.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Words of defiance by Alexey Navalny's wife as his mother searches for answers, traveling to the Arctic town nearest to his last prison but leaving with very little, the location of her son's body still unknown. Navalny's spokesperson confirming on Monday that his body will not now be released to the family for at least another 14 days. The cause of his sudden death, according to Russian investigators, still not determined.

What is known is that his final moments came in Russia's Arctic after taking a walk in what's known as the Polar Wolf colony where he was moved just weeks earlier. He's said to have collapsed outdoors.

Less than a day after he was seen on video during a court appearance looking skinnier but still with a lively glimmer in his eye. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXEY NAVALNY: (Foreign language).


BELL (voice over): And less than 48 hours after he wished his wife, Yulia, a happy Valentine's Day on social media: "I love you more and more," becoming his final words to the world. Yulia, now a widow, says that Russian authorities are hiding Navalny's body as they wait for "traces" of another of Putin's Novichoks to disappear. The very same poison that nearly killed him in 2020.

Traces of Novichok were confirmed by a German lab while Navalny was convalescing in Berlin. His return to Moscow, another example of the courage that has continued to shine through his many letters written from prison as he stood defiantly against Vladimir Putin. Like the series of exchanges with the Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky obtained by The Free Press in which Navalny writes: "I understand that I am not the first but I really want to become the last, or at least one of the last of those who are forced to endure this."

In another letter he writes: "One day, in Russia, there will be what was not. And will not be what it was."

His hope in so many of the letters contagious, as in the one he wrote to an American journalist which was obtained by the Russian media outlet Holod: "I'm doing well, and I don't regret anything," he writes. "And don't regret it, and don't be upset. Everything will be fine, and even if it isn't, we will be consoled by the fact that we were honest people."

The ink of his pen, one of his final acts of staining Putin's power, not only to be remembered in history books but even now being amplified by his wife to carry his most subversive message yet, that his courage and anger should live on.


COOPER: And Melissa Bell joins us now from Paris.

We've seen protests, people being detained inside Russia since Navalny's death.


Do protests continue or are there fears that this is the beginning of a larger crackdown?

BELL (on camera): Well, there had been - the thinking had been, Anderson, that any further tightening of the repression, and remember that it's been fairly considerable ever since the invasion of Ukraine began, would only happen in a month's time after the election that is likely to see him get this fifth term that he seeks, that the semblance of a democratic operation process would be allowed to go on. But of course, that hasn't happened. And that tightening of the repression further still has happened pretty dramatically over the course of the weekend.

Still, though, people head out, try and put flowers down. No sooner are they laid than they're taken away by masked men. But people have done their best to try and pay tribute to that courage, to try and share some of their grief. And that's also been reflected outside of Russia, with some of the outrage that's been expressed. Anderson, here in Europe, countries from Germany to the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, have been summoning their Russian ambassadors in the wake of this killing. And there are suggestions that the European Union may seek to impose further sanctions on Russia, this time targeting the internal repression.

I think what we've seen both inside Russia and outside is an important reminder of exactly what Alexey Navalny was, what his huge power was, Anderson. He had an ability to speak to Russians about corruption inside and to the West about democracy outside, that it appears is going to go much further than simply his life. He continues to bear that message, and resoundingly so, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Melissa Bell, thank you so much.

You saw in Melissa's piece some of the letters that Alexey Navalny exchanged in prison. There were more, including with Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. This is Navalny in one of those letters to Kerry Kennedy talking about a biography of her dad that he had read.

"It was a personal revelation for me," Navalny wrote, "reading this book and understanding the story of RFK in the context of epoch and the tragical events of his life. Honestly, I've been crying two or three times while reading. But please don't tell anyone."

Kerry Kennedy joins me now.

Kerry, thanks for being with us.

Can you just share a little bit about when you first heard about Alexey Navalny's death, what went through your mind?

KERRY KENNEDY, PRESIDENT, ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS: Well, this is a terrible tragedy. He was the Mandela of Russia, he - but not only of Russia, but of the whole world in a way, because he carried forth the vision of accountability for crimes, of stopping corruption, and most of all, free expression, of bolstering civic space.

At RFK Human Rights, we work on civic space, the ability of people to criticize their government without fear of repression all over the world, and he really was the leader of that.

COOPER: I read the full letter that he had sent to you after he read the book about your dad, and I know you recommended Arthur Schlesinger book as well. You sent Navalny a poster with an image of your dad with a quote from one of his speeches and a drawing also that we're showing.

Navalny wrote back to you in part: "I hope one day I'll be able to hang it on the wall of my office."

What was it like to know that he was so moved by your father's life and by his experience, and to have that exchange with him, to have that contact with him?

KENNEDY: Well, I think he was known as somebody who was constantly reading. He was reading 10 books at a time. He was - he read over 45 books last year alone. He had this incredibly insatiable appetite for information, curiosity and a determination to share his views, and he wanted everyone to be able to share their views and that is - that's going to be really the outstanding legacy of his life, his fight for democracy, his fight for free expression.

And I think we owe it to him to take action, not to just let this moment go, but to take actions that we can as a government, as for me, as a human rights organization and the individuals to create change.

COOPER: How, I mean, how - the idea of letting Vladimir Putin get away with this, not holding him accountable, I mean, he has poisoned other people as well. Do you think if the world had stood up to him sooner, we wouldn't be in this position right now?

KENNEDY: Absolutely. Absolutely.


If the world had held Putin accountable for the poisoning of President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, or of Navalny the first time, or when he killed Magnitsky, or when he committed atrocities in Chechnya, in Georgia, in Syria, in Crimea, Navalny would be alive right now. And in fact, he might be alive if we had sent Ukraine the funds that it needs right now so desperately to stop the Russians.

So that's the main thing RFK Human Rights is going to work on in light of this, is accountability. But I think the United States government, in addition to working on accountability, the crime of aggression in Ukraine, and the killing of Navalny, I think that the U.S. government should hold that group of 400 oligarchs accountable.

Right now, they and their families are free to walk all over Europe, and they are. You can find them skiing in Gstaad or sunning in Saint- Tropez. My god ...


KENNEDY: ... why are we allowing that to happen?


KENNEDY: And then I think we really have to be concerned about Navalny's lawyers, and about the opposition political figures who are thrown in jail simply because they're supporting Ukraine.


KENNEDY: And then finally, I think something that all of us can do, in any little way that we can, is support the Navalny foundation and you can find that online.

COOPER: Yes, Kerry Kennedy, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

COOPER: There's breaking news on the war in Ukraine where Russian troops now control a long-contested town, and new shelling is being heard in Kherson where CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is tonight.


COOPER: Nick, what's happening on the battlefield as Ukrainian officials wait to see whether the U.S. Congress is going to approve more aid?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, being no doubt, that freeze, that slowdown in aid, is having a clear impact on the battlefield now. It's no longer theoretical. Morale has already suffered. The fall of Avdiivka over the weekend, clearly, and you're hearing some of the shelling here in the town we're in, Kherson, a reminder of the reality people are going through.

Avdiivka, really, officials saying, fell because of a lack of ammunition and the feeling that Ukrainians are suffering now acutely on the front lines, and the fall of Avdiivka may be the first of a number to come.



WALSH (voice over): A sight not seen for a while, a Russian flag going up over Ukraine. But Ukraine's withdrawal announced on Saturday from Avdiivka means more than the loss of a town bitterly fought over since Russia first invaded a decade ago. It is perhaps the first sign a delay in U.S. aid spells death and loss here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


WALSH (voice over): These images released of their last defenses rushing into support, under fire from a resurgent Russia who President Zelenskyy says sent seven Russian troops to die for every dead Ukrainian. This is what it was like in the basement, defending down to the last, treating the injured in the darkness, yet aware their options, their ammo, their chances were ebbing.

"Shelling, endless. It spoiled my drink," this soldier complains.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign language).


WALSH (voice over): A commander clear Monday why this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


WALSH (voice over): "We didn't have enough people," he says. "We didn't have enough shells. We didn't have enough possibilities to throw them back."

Russia's Ministry of Defense released images of their final onslaught on that coke plant and what they claimed were the casualties inflicted on Ukrainians as they tried to flee in the dark.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign language).


WALSH (voice over): Other images and reports emerged Monday in Ukraine of the fate of their wounded, one of whom called home in his last moments. Allegations that, in the horrifying rubble here, both the wounded were left behind by Ukraine, but also shot dead in cold blood by Russian forces.

Russian drone images of their spoils released, again displaying their odd pride over the rubble. Zelenskyy may have to get used to more of this.




WALSH (voice over): Putting on a brave face as he visited troops in the likely next Russian target, Kupyansk, just outside Kharkiv.


ZELENSKYY: (Foreign language).


WALSH (voice over): "Although there are different political sentiments in the world," he said, "different flashes of problems that distract attention, we still, all together, do our utmost to have the world with us, with Ukraine." Words no longer enough, not in Avdiivka, and certainly not in the West, where $60 billion in missing aid now means Putin can slowly edge further and further West.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [20:20:05]

COOPER: I mean, it's incredible to see the lack of ammunition and what that means for the troops on the ground. We saw the shelling happening just behind you. I mean, I remember you in Kherson last year when it was being fought over at the beginning of the invasion, I guess it was. What's going on where you are now?

WALSH (on camera): Yes, to be honest, in the dark of night here, we aren't entirely clear what the shelling we've been hearing pretty much constantly over the last two or three hours actually means. We know that there are Ukrainian forces on the other side of the river behind me, and that the Russians have for months now been trying to make this town liberated from their grasp after it fell in the early days of the invasion two years ago now make life here pretty much unlivable. Drones fly overhead, and so people live in the night in darkness to try and be sure they don't become a target.

And this, the daily life, frankly, of Ukrainians is worsening across the front line. We talked about Avdiivka in that piece, Anderson. You've got to remember that's just one place that has already fallen. Kupyansk, Zelenskyy visited today, that's potentially next in the crosshairs. Robotyne down in Zaporizhzhia, a tiny village, a key gain though in the summer counter-offensive, that looks vulnerable. Areas around Bakhmut, remember that from May last year, the Russians took that after a similarly bloody campaign to that which they inflict on Avdiivka.

Areas around Bakhmut look vulnerable, as do other couple points along the eastern front lines. So a very nervous Ukraine, the lack of western aid, it's hit morale, it's hit ammo supplies and now it seems to be allowing a resurgent Russia to get its foot forward on the front line here. But the noises you may be hearing around me here, just emblematic of what Ukrainians are living with daily.

This is not, as Vice President Kamala Harris hinted in Munich at the weekend, a time for political gamesmanship. It's a really serious life and death thing every hour here, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. We're seeing the results of that. Nick, thank you. Be careful.

Coming up next tonight, Wisconsin's former top Republican Party official speaking out about the fake elector scheme he says he and other fake electors were tricked into in Wisconsin by the Trump campaign.

And later, new calls for Joe Biden to step aside. David Axelrod joins us ahead.



COOPER: Speaking on CNN this weekend, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott refused to say whether he would have certified the 2020 election results if he had been vice president. Another sign, perhaps, that he's auditioning to be the former president's running mate this time.

My report this weekend on CBS News' 60 MINUTES traces back to that process which Mike Pence refused to take part in at the end, specifically to the month after the election when Democratic and Republican electors representing the candidate who won the popular vote in their states gathered across the country to formally cast electoral votes for president.

But in seven states that Joe Biden won, Republican electors got together anyway and they cast phony votes for Donald Trump. They become known as fake electors. And according to federal prosecutors, they were part of a plan to overturn the election that was orchestrated by pro-Trump attorneys with Trump's support.

State criminal charges, as you may know, have been filed against fake electors in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. Wisconsin's fake electors haven't been charged. And several weeks ago, one of them, Andrew Hitt, an attorney and former chairman of the state Republican Party, agreed to talk to me for a piece I did for 60 MINUTES to explain how he says he and Wisconsin's other GOP electors were tricked by the Trump campaign. Here's the piece that aired on 60 MINUTES last night.



COOPER: You were head of the Republican Party in Wisconsin. Were you a big Trump supporter?

ANDREW HITT, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF WISCONSIN: I worked tirelessly for him. I - day and night ...

Let's put it together for the president of the United States one more time.

... oftentimes phone calls would start by 6:00 in the morning, and wouldn't end until 10:30 at night. I did everything I possibly could.

TRUMP: The Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt.


COOPER (voice over): Andrew Hitt was often singled out by President Trump at rallies in Wisconsin.


TRUMP: Andrew Hitt.

Andrew Hitt.

How we doing, Andrew? Going to win this state? We got to win it.


COOPER (voice over): But Trump didn't win in Wisconsin. He lost to Joe Biden by some 20,700 votes. The Trump campaign appealed, challenging more than 200,000 absentee ballots on technical grounds in two Democratic counties.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: If you count the lawful votes, Trump won Wisconsin by a good margin.

HITT: That was false. What he said was false.

COOPER (on camera): The Trump campaign wanted the votes in Dane County and Milwaukee County tossed. Did you support that idea?

HITT: It wasn't something that I was comfortable with.

COOPER: Dane County and Milwaukee County in Wisconsin are the most liberal counties. The majority of the black population in Wisconsin live in those two counties.

HITT: Correct. Correct.

COOPER: Personally, you did not believe all those absentee ballots should be thrown out?

HITT: Well, I voted that way. I voted that way.

COOPER: You didn't think your own vote should be thrown out?



COOPER (voice over): On November 30th, Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Tony Evers certified Joe Biden's victory - authorizing the state's Democratic electors to gather at the state capitol on December 14th to cast their electoral votes for Biden.

But days earlier Andrew Hitt says he received a call from the Republican National Committee.


COOPER (on camera): What was the reach out to you?

HITT: "Can we get a list of the Wisconsin Republican electors?"

Cooper: That made you suspicious?

HITT: It did. I was already concerned that they were going to try to say that the Democratic electors were not proper in Wisconsin because of fraud.

COOPER: You didn't believe there was any widespread fraud ...

HITT: No, and I was very involved, obviously, in the election.


COOPER (voice over): Hitt was one of 10 republicans nominated to be an elector if Trump won in Wisconsin. On December 4th, he says, he was advised by the state GOP's outside legal counsel to gather the other Republican electors on December 14th at the Capitol and as a contingency, sign a document claiming Trump won the state in case a court overturned the election in Wisconsin.


COOPER (on camera): In case the legal arguments that the Trump team is making actually win in court?

HITT: Right. And I remember asking, "How can this be? That a court overturns the election and, just because we don't meet and fill out this paperwork on the 14th, that Trump would forfeit Wisconsin?"


And the legal analysis back was the statutes very clear. The electors have to meet at noon at the Capitol in Wisconsin on December 14th.

COOPER (voice-over): That morning, the state Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling rejected the Trump campaign's attempt to throw out more than 200,000 votes. But Andrew Hitt says he and the other Republican electors met anyway to cast fake votes because he'd been told the Trump campaign would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kenneth Chesebro, a pro-Trump attorney, who was an alleged architect of the fake electors plan, showed up to watch.

HITT: We got specific advice from our lawyers that these documents were meaningless unless a court said they had meaning.

COOPER: You are deciding to sign this document as an elector and getting the other electors to sign this document based on a court challenge that you yourself don't believe has legitimacy.

HITT: I wouldn't say it doesn't have legitimacy. That's different than not personally agreeing with it.

COOPER: You personally don't believe that legitimate votes by Wisconsin residents should be tossed out. And yet, you are signing a document in support of a lawsuit which is alleging just that.

HITT: And if I didn't do that, and the court did throw out those votes, it would have been solely my fault that Trump wouldn't have won Wisconsin.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Beautiful kids, Andrew. Good, good. I'm going to blame you, Andrew, if they don't do it.

HITT: Can you imagine the repercussions on myself, my family, if it was me, Andrew Hitt, who prevented Donald Trump from winning Wisconsin?

COOPER: You're saying you were scared?

HITT: Absolutely.

COOPER: Scared of Trump supporters in your state?

HITT: It was not a safe time. If my lawyer is right, and the whole reason Trump loses Wisconsin is because of me, I would be scared to death.

COOPER: Signing legal documents of such consequence that you don't believe in, and you don't believe the underlying reason for the documents, it's -- I mean, it's not exactly a profile on courage.


COOPER: How do you feel about that now?

HITT: I mean, terrible. If I knew what I knew now, I wouldn't have done it. It was kept from us that there was this alternate scheme, alternate motive.

COOPER (voice-over): That alleged alternate scheme is a prominent part of Special Counsel Jack Smith's indictment of the former president.

JACK SMITH, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Charging Donald J. Trump with conspiring to defraud the United States.

COOPER (voice-over): According to Smith, what began as a legal strategy in Wisconsin evolved into a corrupt plan involving six other states as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida, number of votes, 11.

COOPER (voice-over): Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said we can't enter.

COOPER (voice-over): Or some of the fake electors couldn't convince police to let them into the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're electors, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are electors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The electors are already here. They've been checked out.

COOPER (voice-over): Jack Smith cites this December 6th memo written by Ken Chesebro, detailing ways the Trump campaign can prevent Biden from amassing 270 electoral votes on January 6th. Smith alleges the multistate scheme was designed to create a fake controversy. And positioned the vice president to supplant legitimate electors with Trump's fake electors and certify him as president. By January 4th, according to internal emails, some in the Trump campaign were panicking. They believed the fake electors documents from Michigan and Wisconsin hadn't arrived in Vice President Mike Pence's Senate office.

COOPER: Your colleague texted you, freaking Trump idiots want someone to fly original elector papers to the Senate president. You wrote, this is just nuts. What was nuts about it?

HITT: I mean, we have the certification coming on the 6th. How do you not have the paperwork?

COOPER: I mean, you've said that you only went along with this plan to preserve Trump's candidacy in the event of a court ruling. January 4th, just two days before January 6th, did you really think that was still possible?

HITT: Well, remember, the Wisconsin Supreme Court had been appealed, and so January 4th, it seemed like, yes, it's possible that a much more conservative United States Supreme Court could overturn a 4-3 decision.

COOPER (voice-over): To get the paperwork to Washington, they picked Alesha Guenther, then a 23-year-old law school student working part time for Wisconsin's Republican Party.

ALESHA GUENTHER, LAW STUDENT: I was on break from law school, and wanted to make some extra money for -- to pay for books and worked for the party for my month off of school. So on January 4th, I got a call from the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, since I was helping out at the time.


COOPER: What did you think when you got the text?

GUENTHER: At first, I didn't know what it was. And then he followed up and asked, you know, that the Trump campaign wanted these papers flown out to D.C. because they had gotten lost in the mail.

COOPER (voice-over): Guenther says she picked up the papers here at the state party headquarters, and on January 5th flew to Washington.

GUENTHER: So this is the email --

COOPER (voice-over): She showed us her email chain with Ken Chesebro and the Trump campaign's senior adviser, Mike Roman.

GUENTHER: -- explaining that I should only give the documents to Ken Chesebro. So, and then, they asked me to meet up with him outside the Trump Hotel.

COOPER: I mean, it sounds very secretive.

GUENTHER: Yes, I thought that that email was pretty odd and dramatic.

COOPER: And you knew what was happening on January 6th? In terms of the certification of the vote.

GUENTHER: I don't know if I was very tuned into that. Truly because I thought that a court of law would have need to -- needed to overturn the election for those documents to be used.

COOPER: Did you know what Chesebro looked like?

GUENTHER: So he had actually sent me a selfie.

COOPER: He sent you a selfie --


COOPER: -- so that you would know it was him --


COOPER: Can I see it?


COOPER (voice-over): She still has the photo saved on her phone.

COOPER: That's Ken Chesebro. What did he say to you?

GUENTHER: He kind of took a dramatic step back, and looked at me, and said, "You might have just made history."

COOPER (voice-over): Ken Chesebro told investigators he delivered the Wisconsin documents to Capitol Hill. The next day, on Jan. 6, he can be seen in videos outside the Capitol near conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I now want to look even more deeply at the fake electors scheme --

COOPER (voice-over): According to the January 6th Select Committee, an aide to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, tried to arrange to get the fake electors slates to Vice President Pence.

TRUMP: And I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.

COOPER (voice-over): But Pence's aide refused, texting "do not give that to him," according to the committee.

When the Senate chamber had to be evacuated, the real electoral votes in these boxes were taken to safety. And when Congress resumed, they were returned into the House chamber.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pursuant to Senate concurrent resolution --

COOPER (voice-over): Vice President Pence announced the election results and closed the session at 3:44 a.m. January 7th. The Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the Trump campaign's lawsuit in Wisconsin.

COOPER: What do you think about Donald Trump continuing to claim that the 2020 election was stolen?

HITT: I mean, it wasn't stolen. It wasn't stolen in Wisconsin.

COOPER (voice-over): This past December, Andrew Hitt and Wisconsin's other Republican electors settled a civil lawsuit against them by some of the state's Democratic electors. They admitted they signed a document that was "used as part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results."

Hitt resigned as chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party in August 2021. He's cooperated with the January 6th committee.

HITT: -- using our electors in ways that we weren't told about, and we wouldn't have supported.

COOPER (voice-over): And, he says, he's also cooperated with federal prosecutors. He maintains he and the other fake electors in Wisconsin were tricked.

HITT: Whenever anybody sees our text messages, our emails, our documents, they understand, they know they -- their conclusion is we were tricked. The January 6th Committee saw it. Jack Smith specifically in his indictment refers to some of the electors were tricked. That was us.

COOPER: The former president is known to watch "60 Minutes." If he's watching, what would you want to say to him?

HITT: I would say that this country needs to move forward. That we need a leader who is -- tackles serious problems and serious issues that this country faces. And we need faith in our institutions again. And the next president of the United States needs to do that.

COOPER: And in your opinion, that's not him.

HITT: That is not him. Correct.


COOPER: Coming up, calls from President Biden to step aside for a younger campaigner now coming from a popular New York Times Columnist, David Axelrod, who just a few months ago raised similar concerns. He join me next to discuss that. And the latest polling, showing nearly half of registered voters think President Biden will be replaced as the Democratic nominee.



COOPER: The question of how President Biden's campaign should handle concerns about his age became more pressing over the weekend after a prominent progressive New York Times columnist made his case for why Biden should not run again. This is Ezra Klein.


EZRA KLEIN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I'm convinced he's able to do the job of the presidency, that he is sharp in meetings, that he is sound in his judgments. I cannot point you, even now, to a moment where Biden faltered in the presidency because his age had slowed him.

But here's the thing. I can point you to moments where he is faltering in his campaign for the presidency because his age is slowing him. This distinction between the job of the presidency and the job of running for the presidency keeps getting muddied, including by Biden himself.

So yes, I think Biden, as painful as this is, should find his way to stepping down as a hero. That the party should help him find his way to that, to being the thing that he said he would be in 2020, the bridge to the next generation of Democrats."


COOPER: The Klein's assessment comes shortly after a poll from Monmouth University asked how likely it was that Biden would be replaced as the Democratic nominee for president. 48 percent said very likely or somewhat likely, 50 percent said not too likely or not at all likely.

I'm joined now by David Axelrod, Chief Strategist for the Obama campaign -- Biden campaign. So David, does the White House care what Ezra Klein or any other op-ed columnist thinks? Should they care?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the president probably cares. I think he reads it. I'm sure it irritates him. I know I've irritated him when I've raised this issue in the past. But I'll tell you what that Monmouth poll didn't pull me because if they had pulled me, I would have said, no, I think Joe Biden is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party.

I said last November a few things. I said, if you gave me Biden's record and took 10 years off of him, I would have no concerns about this election. But that I thought age was an issue and that screams through every poll.

But the last thing I said was, if Joe Biden wants to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party, because there is tremendous loyalty among a lot of the party to the president. I think there's a lot of respect for the president.


And so, I think that's where we are right now. I think only -- there's -- the idea that some delegation of party elders are going to come and visit him at the White House and persuade him to step down is a fantasy. First of all, that's not the way politics works anymore. We're not, you know, in another century.

Secondly, that belies the fact of who Joe Biden is. Joe Biden is a guy who spent his whole life kind of coming up from nowhere to proving to people, you know, that he can -- that he's going to hack it. That he has a chip on his shoulder, and he deserves to. He's accomplished a great deal.

And his attitude is always people underestimate me in there. I'm sure his attitude is they're underestimating me now. So I just, you know, I read Ezra's piece. He said a lot of things that I had said previously, but I don't think that's where we're going to end up.

COOPER: It's interesting. The argument Ezra Klein is making that he can't point -- you know, that in meetings, Joe Biden is sharp and making sound decisions and his judgment is sound, but just in the running for the presidency, he's had stumbles, which I guess is meaning in public speaking and things like that. Do you think that's a -- I mean, do you think that's a valid argument?

AXELROD: Well, I think it's true. I mean, listen, Anderson, the body of work that he's done, the things that he's accomplished, the bills that he's passed on a bipartisan basis against all odds, the coalitions he's forged globally and so on, those things don't happen by accident.

He's clearly doing the job and you speak to people around him and they say that. You know, they say he's sharp in meetings and so on. He is not good in front of a camera anymore. I mean, that's pretty clear. And he has trouble with that. And that's how most Americans see him.

And worse than that, that's how social media sees him. They, you know, he can give a brilliant speech and have nine bad seconds, and that becomes a -- it's part of the mean, and that gets, you know, circulated to millions of people on TikTok, particularly younger people. And that's, you know, that has been a real problem for him.

So, yes, no, I do accept that he has governed very, very competently. And Anderson, people -- you spent some time with him for your podcast. You know, I'm sure he was very cogent when he --


AXELROD: -- spoke with you. But how people see him on the tube and how they see him in their social media feeds is fueling this and that is sadly a reality of American politics now and one that he's and his campaign are going to have to cope with.

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up --

AXELROD: Good to see you.

COOPER: -- why is George Santos now suing Jimmy Kimmel? Details on that ahead.



COOPER: George Santos has been grift that keeps on giving for late night talk show host. Now he's suing ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. Santos says that Kimmel's team deceived him into creating videos in the video message platform Cameo and then improperly broadcast them on air or on social media.

In essence, Santos appears offended that a person would pretend to be someone they are not and then reap the rewards of that deception, something of course he may be very familiar with.

Here's an example of one of the fake letters that Kimmel's team wrote to Santos.


JIMMY KIMMEL, AMERICAN TELEVISION HOST AND COMEDIAN: George, please congratulate my mom Brenda on the successful cloning of her beloved schnauzer Adolf. She and Dr. Haunschnaffer went through a lot of dogs in the trial runs, but they finally got it to stick. Tell her to give Adolf a big belly rub from me.

Will Santos say it?

ALL: Yes!

GEORGE SANTOS, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Hey, Brenda. I wanted to congratulate you on successfully cloning your beloved schnauzer Adolf. I know it was a lot of trials and tribulations, but you finally did it. Now, you get to enjoy Adolf and be happy. So give him a belly rub for me. Mwah.

KIMMEL: Amour. Mwah to you too.


COOPER: So now by our Senior Chief Data Reporter Harry Enten, wow. How many of these cameo videos has Santos actually done?


COOPER: Apparently, he seems to do them anywhere. That seemed to be like in a wind tunnel or on the street or something.

ENTEN: I don't know. It looked almost like a -- like where you expect like a hostage video to be taken or something.

COOPER: Like in an Uber, I don't know.

ENTEN: Maybe, you know, a late night Uber, maybe he prefers Lyft, I don't know. Look, he's sold about 1,200 of them. And he's -- they're selling them for about 350 a pop, that's up, from where it was originally at 75. And the good news about all of this Anderson is, look, here's some other people, I think that's -- COOPER: OK, so Santos is $350, Kevin O'Leary --

ENTEN: Yes. Mr. Wonderful.

COOPER: Who's he?

ENTEN: "Shark Tank."


ENTEN: Yes, yes.


ENTEN: $1,500. You got Ice-T at $600, you got Don Johnson not Dwayne Johnson from "Miami Vice" --


ENTEN: -- he's at $500. My uncle Neil Sedaka.

COOPER: I just learned that your uncle is Neil Sedaka. I went to school with Neil Sedaka's son.

ENTEN: Mark, Mark.



COOPER: He was a lovely kid.

ENTEN: He was a lovely kid. I -- he said --

COOPER: I remember Neil Sedaka -- I remember going to Neil Sedaka's house, I think.

ENTEN: Oh, the one on Park Avenue?


ENTEN: Yes, yes, yes.

COOPER: I think it was like on Park Avenue, yes.

ENTEN: Yes, I think it was like on West 85th.

COOPER: I think I might have gone to Mark's Bar Mitzvah.

ENTEN: That seems like a possibility, maybe.


ENTEN: I don't know --

COOPER: He was great. ENTEN: You know, Bar Mitzvah's back in the day --

COOPER: I had no idea he was your uncle. Neil Sedaka was huge.

ENTEN: He was huge. "Laughter in the Rain."


ENTEN: "Love Will Keep Us Together."

COOPER: Totally.

ENTEN: "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do."


ENTEN: "Bad blood."


ENTEN: A slew of these things. Maybe what we can do is we can get Uncle Neil to do a cameo for the two of us and wish us well on AC 360. What do you think about that?


ENTEN: That could be a big passover gift for you, right?

COOPER: Are you going to pay for that or am I going to pay for that?

ENTEN: I think maybe we could ask Charlie. Maybe Charlie Moore, the EP, can pay for that. You know, he sent me to Buffalo, so maybe we can do one of these.

COOPER: So, Santos has also mocked Republicans over failing initially to impeach the Homeland Security Secretary. He even posted this picture of the failed resolution result saying, quote, "Miss me yet." How much does the GOP actually miss his vote?

ENTEN: I mean, given how small the majority is right now, I think they miss him a lot. You know, if Santos was still in Congress, they could -- Mike Johnson could afford to lose three Republican votes and hold on to his majority. Now it's down to just two.


So we're talking a Congress that has passed very few pieces of legislation. In fact, it's historically passed few pieces of legislation. I think they've only passed 39 laws and bills that were actually became a law. So if Santos was there, maybe it could be helpful to Mike Johnson and I would expect him to continue to taunt Republicans if they continue to have trouble passing bills and resolutions.

COOPER: I think he should move along.

ENTEN: Yes, very nice.

COOPER: I just think he should.

ENTEN: Right.

COOPER: Harry Enten, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.


ENTEN: Uncle Neil --

COOPER: And my best to your uncle.

ENTEN: Uncle Neil maybe he'll call in afterwards.

COOPER: I would love that.

ENTEN: There we go.

COOPER: Still ahead on this -- he was -- he's so talented.

ENTEN: He was.

COOPER: Yes. Well, he still is.

ENTEN: He still is. We'll get the cameo.

COOPER: Still ahead on this President's Day Forum, President Jimmy Carter marks a year in hospice care, defying expectations again, what his family is saying about his spirit.


COOPER: On this President's Day weekend, America's longest living former president, Jimmy Carter, is marking one year in hospice care at his home in Plains, Georgia. Over the past year, former President Carter turned 99. He also lost his wife of 77 years, Rosalynn.

Rosalynn Carter died in November when she was 96 years old, just days after entering hospice care herself with dementia. The 39th president has defied the odds by surviving metastatic brain cancer, liver cancer and other health scares. His grandson said in a statement Sunday, "We have no expectations for his body, but we know that his spirit is as strong as ever."

We wish President Carter and his family well. Happy President's Day.

That's it for us. The news continues. I'll see you tomorrow. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.