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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

DOJ Filing: Indicted FBI Informant Told FBI He Got Dirt On Hunter Biden From Russian Intel Officials; Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) Discusses About His Take On David Weiss' Revelation On Bidens; Trump Says Navalny Was "Very Brave" But Does Not Condemn Putin; Family Of Alexey Navalny Demand Return Of Body; Mysteries Surrounding Death Of Alexey Navalny; Body Of Missing 11-Year-Old Texas Girl Found In River; SC Republican Women Talk Trump, Haley And The Primary; Two Men Charged With Murder After Kansas City Chiefs Rally Shooting. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 20, 2024 - 20:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Tonight, charges in the deadly mass shooting at the Super Bowl rally in Kansas City, two men facing several charges including second-degree murder. Officials say the shooting started after an argument and one man pulled out a gun. Almost immediately, others also pulled out their guns and there was a shootout. The two men have been in the hospital since the shooting, one woman was killed and more than 20 people injured.

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news. The White House - the witness, House Republicans, have for months been saying holds the key to what they call the Biden crime family, now says he got his dirt on Hunter Biden from Russian intelligence.

Also tonight, House Speaker Mike Johnson turns up in Mar-a-Lago. With the House in recess, Ukraine funding in limbo, Russian troops retaking territory in Ukraine and Trump comparing himself to Navalny. We're keeping him honest.

And later, an 11-year-old Texas girl missing since she left for school on Thursday has been found. The news is tragic and an arrest may be imminent.

Good evening. Thanks for being with us. We begin with the breaking news, which, if allegations in a new court filing are true, suggests that Russia is again tampering with the presidential election. The indicted ex-FBI informant at the center of the House Republican Biden probe saying that the made-up dirt he got on Hunter Biden came from Russian intelligence.

Now, keep in mind, this is the person who Republicans have been using to largely justify their investigation into the Biden family.

Details now from CNN's Evan Perez, who starts us off tonight. So, Evan, explain, this all stems from a new court filing from the

special counsel, David Weiss. What exactly is he saying about this informant and Russian intelligence?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this filing really raises the prospect that what this has all been about is a Russian disinformation operation. And what they're saying is that Alexander Smirnov, who is - who was an FBI informant for about 10 years, that he received some of this information that he's been trafficking against Hunter Biden, against Joe Biden, that he got some of that information from Russian intelligence that he's been associated with for a number of years.

I'll read you just a part of what the filing says. This is a filing from David Weiss, the special counsel. He says that during his custodial interview when he was arrested in Las Vegas last week, Anderson, Smirnov admitted that officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story about Hunter Biden, that's businessperson one, who's identified there in the - in that court filing.

Now, Smirnov is the guy who has been telling people since 2020 that there was this scheme by Burisma, people associated with Burisma, which is a Ukrainian energy company, to pay bribes, $5 million apiece, to Hunter Biden and to Joe Biden in exchange for getting favors from the U.S. government. At the time, Joe Biden was vice president during the Obama administration. According to the FBI, none of that is true, Anderson.

COOPER: And what do you as officials say in the court filing about how all of this could relate to the 2024 election?

PEREZ: Well, what they're saying is that this has as much to do with 2020 as 2024. I'll read you again just a part of this filing. They say that Smirnov's efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States continues. They say that the misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020, that he's actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November.

They were arguing, Anderson, that he should remain detained during the time that this case proceeds. He's facing two charges right now. One of them is lying to the FBI, and the other is falsifying documents.

COOPER: And is it clear why the judge decided to release this guy?

PEREZ: The judge said that despite the political ramifications, that's not really relevant to the detention of this defendant. So what he's done is he's agreed to release Smirnov with a couple of restrictions, including that he has to surrender his passport. He's got a U.S. and Israeli passport. He's also going to have GPS monitoring.

But these charges, Anderson, are in Los Angeles, where he previously lived. David Weiss, we should note, is bringing this case. He's also bringing two separate cases against Hunter Biden, one of them in Los Angeles on tax-related issues, and another one in Delaware for his possession of a firearm. So those cases are all now proceeding apace at the same time.


COOPER: And is it clear when Smirnov - I mean, when did the FBI figure out he was lying? And because, I mean, you said he's been ...

PEREZ: Right.

COOPER: ... he's been an agent of theirs or a source of their, an informant of theirs for 10 years or so. I mean, did they trust this guy?

PEREZ: They did. And look, informants are like this, right? There's always a little bit of a mess that comes with some of these informants because of who they are associated with. And the reason why they have - why they're - why they are informants is that the FBI believes that they are associating with intelligence people overseas and that they have information.

Now, it's upon the FBI, it's incumbent upon the FBI and the Justice Department to assess these people, to see what their stories are and whether they can believe them. And so the question, Anderson, tonight is for David Weiss, who certainly has had some of this information since 2020, and the FBI is what did they do to assess that, to figure out whether what he was saying was bunk or whether it was true.

And so according to the court documents, the FBI last year asked Weiss to start taking a look at this. So the question is, why it did not happen earlier. Certainly if you're Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and you've had to deal with these allegations for a couple of years, I think it's very, very important for them to understand why these lies - what the FBI says now are lies, why they're allowed to live out there for so long, Anderson.

COOPER: And Hunter Biden's legal team is now saying that this may have impacted ...

PEREZ: Right.

COOPER: ... the doing away with the plea agreement that they had.

PEREZ: Right. And I remember that court proceeding last summer where the plea deal collapsed, one of the things that happened was a prosecutor said that they were still investigating Hunter Biden for foreign lobbying allegations. And what Hunter Biden's attorneys today said is that they believe that had to do with Smirnov's allegations. We don't know if that's exactly true.

Again, important questions for David Weiss and his team to sort of answer, certainly in the next few months, why that was the case.

COOPER: Evan Perez, thanks so much.

And now, as we mentioned, Republicans have treated this informants allegations almost as fact and have used it to push their investigation into President Biden and his family. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: How real of a bribery - Joe Biden bribery scandal allegation is this?

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Well, every day this bribery scandal becomes more credible.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): We already know the president took bribes from Burisma.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Even a trusted FBI informant has alleged a bribe to the Biden family.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The most corroborating evidence we have is that 1023 form from this highly credible confidential human source, according to U.S. Attorney Scott Brady.


COOPER: Jim Jordan, saying that was the most important thing that they had. Scott Brady, who is a Trump appointee, also said in his house interview that even though he corroborated some material from the informant, he did not determine whether the underlying Biden bribery claims were true. And he acknowledged that his team never reviewed some key evidence that undercut the bribery claims.

With his now is New York Democratic Congressman Dan Goldman, who served as Democratic counsel during the former president's first impeachment inquiry.

First of all, Congressman, what is your reaction to this revelation from the Special Counsel David Weiss?

REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): Well, it's pretty shocking and especially what it means that has been going on for the last four years, which is that wittingly or unwittingly, House Republicans have been acting as an agent or an asset of Russian intelligence for Vladimir Putin.

This whole Burisma thing was debunked during the first impeachment investigation in 2019 by numerous, numerous witnesses, all of whom experts on Ukraine and Russia. And now this three - this 1023 materializes from a purported conversation in 2020 that is treated as gospel by the Republicans.

And I would like to know whether or not Sen. Grassley, who had a copy of this 1023 before the FBI ever gave it or Chairman Comer or Chairman Jordan, all of whom were singing the praises of this - the information provided by this source, had any idea whether or not it was completely bogus and was in fact a plant by Russian intelligence, which has been trying to meddle somewhat successfully in our election since 2016.

COOPER: You're talking about a 1023. That's where this information initially was reported in, correct?

GOLDMAN: Yes, it's a report of a interview that a confidential human source will provide to his handlers at the FBI to explain the conversations or the information that he has gathered. The FBI then writes it down very meticulously, so they know exactly what he said.


That 1023 is the only evidence - the only evidence - that the Republicans in the House, as part of this impeachment inquiry, have related to these Burisma bribery allegations ...

COOPER: And they pushed against that information out to the public.

GOLDMAN: ... which both Chairman Comer and Chairman Jordan - oh, they pushed incredibly hard. And Chairman Jordan and Chairman Comer have said that this is the best evidence they have of misconduct by President Biden. In fact, it is no evidence. It is just simply evidence that the Republicans are willing to be used as assets of Russian intelligence, just like Donald Trump was in 2016 and throughout his presidency when he went to a press conference in Helsinki and chose Vladimir Putin's word over his own intelligence community.

That is who we are dealing with. It is now a pervasive disease that has gone through the entire Republican Party, and it needs to be excised immediately.

COOPER: So what do you see happening now? I mean, do you think any of this will actually cause Republicans to abandon the impeachment inquiry? Because Comer, the chairman, indicated in the interview last week that the House may not actually hold a vote to impeach the president after his committee releases its report because "the math keeps getting worse."

GOLDMAN: Well, look, before this revelation that the one source, the one person with information related to Burisma and any bribery happens to be completely fabricated and as a Russian intelligence scheme, this investigation was going nowhere. It was being debunked right, left and center by every single witness that had come in. It was almost laughable at this point that it was still an ongoing investigation.

Now, this should put the nail in the coffin because not only is there no evidence of any wrongdoing by President Biden, but it now appears as if the House Republican majority is being used by Russia to interfere in the 2024 election on behalf of Donald Trump. If they continue with this investigation, they are simply doing the work of Vladimir Putin to help Donald Trump win an election in November. That's where we are.

COOPER: It is extraordinary when you think about how much, I mean, oxygen this has taken up by Republicans in the House on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets and radio channels. I mean, it's extraordinary.

GOLDMAN: It's shocking and it is - for me especially because I led the investigation in 2019 in the first impeachment. And I had all of these State Department witnesses, the National Security Council officials, all Russian and Ukrainian experts coming in and saying, actually, what Joe Biden did in encouraging the prosecutor - in encouraging Ukraine rather, to fire the prosecutor general was bad for Burisma, the company whose board his son was on, because that prosecutor general was not investigating corruption. And in fact, after he left and the next one came in, they then did start investigating Burisma.

This has been debunked for years. And the fact that it now is the linchpin of this impeachment investigation, based on a completely bogus lie funneled through a confidential source by Russian intelligence, it tells you the real danger that our Congress is in right now, having been held captive by Donald Trump and now operating at the behest of Russian intelligence and Vladimir Putin.

COOPER: It's incredible. Congressman Goldman, thank you.

A perspective now from two CNN analysts, a former CIA chief of Russia operations, Steve Hall and Carrie Cordero, former counsel to the assistant attorney general for National Security.

Steve, I mean, do Smirnov's claims about Russian intelligence sound plausible to you? And how could this guy, who seems to have had recent contact with Russian intelligence and still peddling misinformation, been a source for the FBI for 10 some years?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Anderson, to answer the first part of your question, absolutely. This is very standard for the Russian intelligence services when they're running disinformation operations, active measures, types of things. I think the Russian intelligence services and the Kremlin have long viewed Hunter Biden as a chink in President Biden's armor and somewhat - some methodology by which they can get at him and weaken him.

And of course, if you're Vladimir Putin, despite what he has said publicly, who would you prefer, the guy who says, let's let Russia do whatever the hell it wants in Europe or do you want the guy who says, let's send more arms to Ukraine? It's pretty clear what the answer is.

So, yes, this is extremely consistent. I'd be very curious to know how this confidential informant Smirnov actually got into contact with the FBI. I don't know if we'll find out, but if he volunteered himself, if he came to them and said, I can help you with this, that's another hallmark of Russian operations where they'll pick somebody and say, hey, go to the FBI or go to this organization, tell them that you have information, then we've got them on the hook.


So, yes, this is all very, very consistent with how the Russian intelligence services do business.

COOPER: So Carrie, Smirnov has been charged with lying to the FBI and creating false records. How would prosecutors try to verify his claims now about getting information from Russian intelligence officials?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that would be the job of the FBI throughout the course of working with him. I mean, it is striking that the court filings say that he was a confidential informant going back at least to 2010. So from an investigative standpoint, on the National Security side of the House and on the counterintelligence side of the House, there is a lot of work that either has been going on or still needs to be done to find out how far back he was providing false information to the FBI.

What - one of the things that's striking to me in the detention filing is that it says just recently he was in touch with his Russian intelligence contacts and sort of the exasperated nature that the Justice Department appears to be in, in the filing where it says if he's released, he will potentially be spirited away by his Russian intelligence contacts with $6 million on hand.

It seems to me that that his duplicity is something that was more recently revealed.


CORDERO: And so then switching from the legal side to the political side, following up just from Congressman Goldman's comments, a big question for me, Anderson, is when did the FBI and the DOJ tell members of Congress that they understood him to be lying over a long period of time.

COOPER: Yes. Steve, we noted earlier that this guy Smirnov allegedly told investigators he was in contact with "top Russian officials" who were "the heads" of the entities they represent. What does that signal about the scale of this alleged disinformation effort and would it require Vladimir Putin's approval? And why would this guy now be admitting that he was peddling false information?

HALL: Well, it could be that he's admitting it because the FBI is putting the screws to him in terms of you've got to do this or there's going to be no deals for you. We're going to throw you in jail for a long time. Carrie's absolutely right. This confidential informant thing is tough. We just don't know how to manage these people. Sometimes it's difficult to vet them. The FBI clearly had problems with this one.

But yes, this is a really interesting story. I don't think we've heard the end of it until we find out more about this individual as a person and when he started cooperating with the bureau.

COOPER: Carrie, does it make sense to you the judge let this guy go today.

CORDERO: I think it's a little bit surprising. I mean, the statement in the detention filing was pretty clear that the FBI was really concerned about him being released. So I need to know more about the conditions of his release.


CORDERO: Maybe - I've been - reported earlier that they put a GPS on him, so they're relying on their ability to track him and there's also a possibility that they would also have to back that up with physical surveillance to make sure that he doesn't disappear. COOPER: Yes, Carrie Cordero, Steve Hall, thank you. That breaking news

on Russian intelligence comes as House Speaker Mike Johnson who said we should be "united" against Putin, had time for a holiday shot with the former president in Mar-a-Lago, but not a vote on aid to Ukraine. We're keeping him honest next.

Plus, the death of Russian dissident Alexey Navalny announced last Friday. Four days later now, his family still not allowed to claim the body. Well, the latest on that mystery in a live report from Moscow.

And later, the search for a missing girl ending tragically. Police have identified a suspect.



COOPER: Tonight's breaking news that the one-time star of the House Republicans' Biden probe now claims the dirt he can't - he got came from Russian intelligence comes as a new photo surface. House Speaker Mike Johnson at Mar-a-Lago yesterday with the former president.

The same Speaker Johnson who sent the House on a two week recess with funding for Ukrainian limbo with Russian troops on the march and Alexey Navalny dead and possibly murdered on Vladimir Putin's orders.

The same Speaker Johnson who said just four days ago after Navalny was - died that we must "be clear" that Putin will be met with united opposition. United opposition is certainly not what congressional Republicans are showing to Putin.

Instead, Speaker Johnson declared a bipartisan Senate compromise to fund Ukraine dead on arrival with no viable replacement, according to one Republican lawmaker who told CNN, I quote, "If there is a Mike Johnson plan, there aren't any House Republicans who are aware of its existence." Johnson's second move was to tell everyone to take the next two weeks off.

Tonight we know that his third step was a pilgrimage to the man who doesn't want him to pass any important legislation if it helps President Biden or apparently hurts Putin. The man whose own message yesterday about the death and perhaps murder of Navalny was short on condolence, long on personal grievance, and did not even mention Vladimir Putin by name. A mixed and grotesque message he repeated in a pre-taped South Carolina town hall, which aired tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Navalny is a very sad situation, and he's very brave. He was a very brave guy because he went back. He could have stayed away. And frankly, probably would have been a lot better off staying away and talking from outside of the country as opposed to having to go back and it's a horrible thing. But it's happening in our country, too.

We are turning into a communist country in many ways. And if you look at it, I'm the leading candidate. I got indicted - I never heard of being indicted before, I was going - I got indicted four times. I have eight or nine trials, all because of the fact that I'm - and you know this - all because of the fact that I'm in politics.


COOPER: He's equating himself with Alexey Navalny and his supporters are going even further. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeting, "Watch the Biden Administration speak out against Putin and his jailing of his leading political opponent while Democrats in four different jurisdictions try to turn President Trump into an American Navalny."

Except, as Speaker Gingrich should know, the American Navalny, as he puts it, has already benefited from extensive and lengthy due process overseen by nonpartisan judges. And the verdicts in his criminal trials, if and when they go to trial, are by no means preordained.

And as they all grind their way through as many motions and appeals as millions of dollars in legal fees can buy, the defendant is flying around the country on his own private airliner or under Secret Service protection.


His air travel unbothered by anything like being poisoned with nerve agents, which is, of course, what happened to Alexey Navalny at the hands of Russian agents.

And as all of this moral and historical inversion is happening, President Biden says he'll be announcing additional sanctions on Russia on Friday in response to the real Navalny's death. As for Putin, according to Russian state media, his officials have filed charges against Navalny's younger brother and added him to Russia's wanted list. And a Russian military defector was shot and killed in Spain under suspicious circumstances.

Joining us now, CNN Political Commentator, Jonah Goldberg, whose recent column in the Los Angeles Times is titled, "No, Donald Trump Does Not Equal Alexei Navalny."

So, Jonah, in your piece, you write of this absurd Trump-Navalny comparison, "condemning such false moral equivalence was once central to American conservatism." I mean, I know how it came to this, but it's incredible.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's kind of maddening. You feel like you're taking crazy pills. I grew up in the conservative movement. I was at National Review for 20 years. Pat Buchanan came to my bris. So I've been around in the conservative movement for a while.

And this was one of the lodestar arguments of the American right, the patriotic American right, the sensible American right, that just because the Soviet Union or Communist China or whatever had a big military and we had a big military, that didn't mean we were morally equivalent. The false moral equivalence argument was at the cornerstone of the Reagan administration, was at the cornerstone of Jeane Kirkpatrick's work, was at the cornerstone of William F. Buckley's worldview. And now you have this just unbelievably glib, asinine effort to do this - it's - you have to be too stupid to be a spell checker at an M&M factory, to think that Donald Trump is an American Navalny. And you go where ...

COOPER: And Newt Gingrich, I mean, who was like hawking videos to make money on - I don't know, the Muslim takeover of America or something years ago has now switched to, I guess, he's full on MAGA. I mean, he knows better.

GOLDBERG: I like to think some of these people know better, but that's not really - I mean, when I say I like to think, I'm not sure that's the right phrase, because I don't know that that's exculpatory, right?


GOLDBERG: I mean, if they know better than they're just grotesquely lying. And look, I don't mind throwing brick racks at Joe Biden. I don't - I think calling him the equivalent of Vladimir Putin is profoundly stupid and slanderous towards him. But the more important point for me, at least, is that it's profoundly slanderous against the United States of America.

During the Bush presidency, the people who - there were constant attempts on the left to make Bush into some sort of dictator. And I would always point out, look, if he was actually the dictator you think he is, you wouldn't be allowed to say the things about him that you're saying. If Trump were the actual Navalny, he would not have just concluded an hour on primetime television on another network. He would be dragged off and beaten to death or poisoned or thrown into jail. It's just - it's gaslighting more than anything else.

COOPER: It is remarkable too, when you - we have correspondents, I talked to Nick Paton Walsh on the program last night in Kherson and actually seeing the lack of ammunition of - for Ukrainian troops actually leading to deaths of Ukrainians and Ukrainian troops pulling out of regions and Russians taking over regions. I mean, all of this has consequences.

GOLDBERG: Oh, for sure. And I mean, earlier you said - I just want to correct one or disagree a little bit with one thing you said earlier where you said that Johnson is down there and he won't do anything that helps Joe Biden because Trump won't let him. I agree that Trump won't let him. I agree that what Johnson is doing is craven and embarrassing and shameful. The thing is, is I think Trump doesn't understand his own political interests very well. It probably would have been better if the Republicans had been able to get that thing - that big compromise on the border and aid passed, because then it would put all the pressure on Joe Biden.

And if Joe Biden did what Republicans wanted him to do, then they could say, see, we made him do it. And if he didn't do it, they say, see, he doesn't want to - he's not willing to do what America needs. Both scenarios would have been better for Republicans. But Trump doesn't understand his own political interests sometimes and he just has this blanket thing where now, if Ukraine falls, if the border goes terrible, he gets blamed for it because he's the one who stopped Republicans from doing the right public policy, from doing the right thing politically.

It's just all so asinine because the entire party refuses to stand up to Trump, even when it would be in Trump's own self-interest, because they've all just sold their manhood cheap. It's just mortifying.

COOPER: Yes. Jonah Goldberg, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Coming up next, where is the body of Alexey Navalny and why won't authorities hand it over to his family? Matthew Chance is in Moscow tonight with the latest. That's next.



COOPER: Four days since the death of Alexey Navalny and his body has still not been turned over to his family. Matthew Chance is in Moscow tonight with more.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Captured on camera in Russia's freezing north, what could be the prison motorcade carrying Alexey Navalny's body from the Arctic penal colony where he died.

Independent investigative journalists believe these traffic images show the late Russian opposition leader's remains have been removed. Although there's still no official confirmation of where they're being held. Even Navalny's elderly mother, who traveled nearly 2,000 miles from Moscow to see her dead son, has been denied. And is now asking the Russian president for mercy.

LYUDMILA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S MOTHER (through translator): They won't give me his body. They don't even tell me where he is. I'm addressing you, Vladimir Putin. The solution to the issue depends only on you. Let me finally see my son. I demand that Alexey's body be immediately handed over so that I can bury him humanely.

CHANCE (voice-over): It is an emotional appeal with Russian public support. It's hard to ignore.

CHANCE: But Navalny here is only the latest in a long line of Kremlin critics to be permanently silenced. At home and abroad, dissidents have been poisoned, killed, even fallen out of windows.


The Kremlin has denied any involvement of political killings, but the message Russians are hearing is as clear as it is dark. Opposing the Kremlin right now is an extremely dangerous path to take. CHANCE (voice-over): Alexey Navalny knew it firsthand. The Kremlin critic barely survived this poisoning with a Russian nerve agent, Novichok, on a plane from Siberia in 2020.

Now, his bereaved widow is accusing the Kremlin of finishing the job and hiding the corpse to prevent the real cause of death from being revealed.

YULIA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S WIDOW (through translator): My husband could not be broken and that's exactly why Putin killed him. And it is just as despicable and cowardly that they are now hiding his body, lying pitifully, and waiting for the traces of another Putin's Novichok to disappear.

CHANCE (voice-over): But the Kremlin has rejected those allegations as absolutely unfounded and boorish saying investigators have yet to determine why this latest prominent critic died. Immune to the criticism, it seems, and the grief so many Russians now feel.


COOPER: And Matthew Chance joins us now from Moscow. As we mentioned, Russian state media is reporting that the Russian authorities have filed charges against Navalny's brother. What do we know about it?

CHANCE (on-camera): Yes. Well, we don't know what Navalny's brother, his younger brother Oleg is suspected of doing, why they want to question him. But in the past, you know, critics have often accused the Kremlin of sort of targeting his brother for prosecution in sort of retaliation for the anti-corruption work that Alexey Navalny has done.

Now, of course, Alexey Navalny is now -- he's now dead, but this announcement that Oleg Navalny is on the wanted list came just a few hours after, well, we heard his mother there appealing to Vladimir Putin to release the body of Alexey Navalny. It also came after his wife Yulia Navalnaya, said that she would pick up the reins and carry the mantle and carry on the work of her husband.

So it seems that that pressure on the Navalny family from the Russian authorities shows no sign of letting up, Anderson.

COOPER: Matthew Chance, thank you.

Just ahead, an arrest warrant may be imminent after authorities found the body of a missing 11-year-old girl in Texas today. Details next.



COOPER: Heartbreaking news in Texas tonight, where authorities announced they have located the body of a missing 11-year-old girl in a river. Audrii Cunningham was last seen leaving home to catch the school bus. Rosa Flores has more.


SHERIFF BYRON LYONS, POLK COUNTY, TEXAS: I sadly announced that Audrii's body was located at the Trinity River on the U.S. Highway 59.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six days of searching, praying, hoping ends with a grim discovery. Authorities say cell phone analysis as well as video and social media helped them to pinpoint her location. The spot was also one of several given to authorities by Don Steven McDougal.

SHELLY SITTON, POLK COUNTY, TEXAS DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Based on all of the evidence that law enforcement has collected, they are in the process of preparing the appropriate arrest warrants for Don Steven McDougal. At this time, we believe the appropriate arrest warrant is going to be for capital murder in the death of Audrii Cunningham. He is currently still in jail under an unrelated felony charge.

FLORES (voice-over): Audrii was last seen in this Livingston, Texas neighborhood about 70 miles northeast of Houston at about 7 a.m. Thursday, state police say. But she never got on the bus and never made it to school that day.

McDougal lives on the Cunningham family's property. The Polk County sheriff says they believe McDougal was the last person to see her and says he admits to leaving the house with her Thursday morning around 7 a.m.

LYONS: And they would have made it to the bus stop, which is relatively just a little under a mile in the same community, real close.

FLORES: Did anyone see her at that bus stop?


FLORES: No other witnesses saw her at the bus stop.

FLORES (voice-over): Sheriff Lyons says when Audrii was reported missing and the community started searching, McDougal joined in, appearing to help.

LYONS: He's happened in our search.

FLORES: What does that tell you?

LYONS: Well, I mean, to me, it simply tells me is that he's trying to give the appearances that he has no play or he's not at fault in her disappearance and that I am part of the concerned party -- parties who were trying to locate her.

FLORES: Do you believe that?

LYONS: No. No, I don't.

FLORES (voice-over): Sheriff Lyons took CNN to the area where authorities recovered a key clue in Audrii's disappearance. He says authorities located the girl's bright red Hello Kitty backpack near this dam Friday.

LYONS: Just a little west of us here along --

FLORES: Was it in the water?

LYONS: No, it was along the riverbank. There was enough in it to lead us to believe strongly that it is Audrii's backpack.

FLORES: That it was hers. What about signs of struggle, or blood, or any other DNA?

LYONS: No, ma'am. There was no signs of struggle there.

FLORES (voice-over): 11-year-old Audrii has touched the hearts of many, including law enforcement in this community.

FLORES: Have you cried over this?

LYONS: Several nights, several days. Yes. It's -- I have kids of my own. I feel that pain that they're feeling.


FLORES (on-camera): And I talked to Audrii's mom this evening, and she says that reality has not sunk in. That's how she described it. She says that she is still processing the reality of living without her daughter, and that she's going to need time, that she's going to need a minute.

But when I talked to her yesterday, she described her daughter as a beautiful little girl. And what she asked the public for were prayers and positive energy.

And Anderson, like every journalist covering this story, I also have to tell you a little bit about the suspect. We have exhausted efforts to try to get comment from his family, and we have scoured court records to try to find his attorney if he has one. We have not been successful. Anderson?

COOPER: Rosa Flores, thank you very much.


The start of a new series with our Randi Kaye is coming up. She listens to a group of Republican women voters in South Carolina talking about the presidential race ahead of this weekend's GOP primary, that's ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, we're debuting a new series with our Randi Kaye. We're calling it the 53 percent. That is the average number of women voters in presidential elections since 2000. More than half the electorate. It's a powerful, important voting bloc throughout this 2024 race. We want to hear what women voters have to say about the candidates and the issues in candid conversations with one another. Randi's goal is to be kind of a fly on the wall, not an interviewer per se, more of a facilitator to keep the conversation going.

We begin in South Carolina, which will hold this Republican primary this weekend. On the ballot, of course, is the state's former governor, a woman, Nikki Haley. Here's Randi's report.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do, unfortunately.

LAURA BETH KIRSOP, VOTING FOR HALEY IN SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY: I think Donald Trump may very well win this primary, but my vote is going to Nikki Haley based on my conscience.

MARY BRADLEY PAZDAN, VOTING FOR HALEY IN SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY: I think there are a lot of closet Nikki Haley supporters as well, and I'm really excited to see --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't find any.

PAZDAN: But, you know, I'm excited to see, hopefully, how young people turn out this week.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How many of you have decided to vote for Donald Trump in the primary? And how many are voting for Nikki Haley in the primary? OK, so you're evenly split.


KAYE (voice-over): Five of the six Republican women in Greenville, South Carolina thought Nikki Haley was a good governor, but only three of them want her to be president.

KIRSOP: The way she went in there and handled what I like to call those good old boys and gave it right back to them, she stood up to them. And I'd love to see her do that in -- on the federal level.

JOAN FOSTER, VOTING FOR TRUMP IN SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY: She was a good governor and I think she'd be a great president. I just am more in line with Donald Trump's philosophy of government needs to be smaller and they need to take less from us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did not vote for him in 2016. I was aggravated with his language and the way he had to have a nickname for everybody and none of them were flattering. But what he did in those four years made me a supporter.

PAZDAN: To the rhetoric piece that you just said, that was -- that's the main reason why I'm not voting for him this go around because I think about as an educator who I would want to work with as a principal, I would never want to work for Donald Trump and I would never want him around my kids that I'm teaching. I don't think he's the role model that we need for our country right now.

CANDACE SPRADIN, VOTING FOR TRUMP IN SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY: I'd love to work for Donald J. Trump, that would be awesome. And I'm for hire, by the way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You would be great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you know what, I think Mary Bradley, this group of southern ladies have a real hard time with his language.


KIRSOP: The issue I have with Donald Trump is his demeanor and his language and how he treats people and women. We live in a very polarized country and I feel that Donald Trump is very much on a vengeance campaign.

PAZDAN: It would mean a lot to me as a young woman to see somebody, to see a female in office. I think that would be really empowering and a lot of, you know, women my age that I know feel the same way.

KAYE: But you wouldn't -- none of you here would just vote for her because she's a woman.

ALL: No.



FOSTER: But I wouldn't vote against her either.



FOSTER: I think she's a tough cookie.


FOSTER: And I would trust her completely.

SPRADIN: I really wish we could shift the conversation to talk about the border. I think Donald Trump will definitely have a stronger stance on the border and I don't believe that Nikki Haley will have as strong of a stance.

LISA STEVENS, VOTING FOR HALEY IN SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY: I think that her stance is awesome. I think she's strong. I don't think she would flinch at doing what is necessary.

PAZDAN: But I think she's also empathetic to the challenges of becoming an American citizen. She doesn't want it to be a 10-year process.

STEVENS: Yes, it should be.

PAZDAN: And she wants people to be able to come and like what you were saying, Candace --


PAZDAN: -- experience the American dream and I think not only will she help secure our country, but I think she'll be more empathetic to that.

KAYE (voice-over): As the campaign draws on, Trump is still facing 91 felony charges in four separate cases, and he now has about $438 million in judgments against him. In this group, that's only strengthened his supporters resolve.

SPRADIN: It's a political witch hunt. Everybody's like, well, don't you hate that all of your -- the GOP funding is going to pay Trump's legal bills? No, I'm not. I'll help pay his legal bills.

KAYE: How did you feel when he was arrested?

SPRADIN: Oh, that locked in my vote. I was like, there we go. I'm voting for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the t-shirt.



SPRADIN: I have the hat.


KAYE: That locked in your vote.

SPRADIN: Absolutely.

STEVENS: I would hope that if, you know, he's exonerated, then everybody accepts that. I hope that if, you know, some things in different places are proven true, then people will accept that.

KIRSOP: What I'm seeing is the narrative is he's bad. We're just going to keep throwing things at him. He's bad, he's bad, he's bad. So the public needs to believe he's bad and this is the narrative we're going to throw at you.

KAYE: Nikki Haley has been attacking Trump pretty forcefully on age, alluding to the fact that he should take a cognitive test. Do you think that's fair? Does that resonate with you, Becky?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does. I am a 73-year-old woman. There are people who are cognizant and capable, and sadly, there are people who are not. FOSTER: So would you support Trump getting a cognitive test?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I think he -- I wouldn't have a problem with it.

FOSTER: I wouldn't have a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't have a problem with it.

SPRADIN: Not at all. But it's a democratic talking point.

PAZDAN: I think she's thinking about it more as like, let's get a fresh face in office. And personally, I would love to see somebody who is making policy changes, who's actually going to see those policy changes live out. And I think that's really important.

KAYE: If Nikki Haley does lose this state, loses South Carolina, should she stay in the race?



PAZDAN: I think so.


PAZDAN: I mean, Super Tuesday. Let's see how it goes.

STEVENS: I think we've lost some good --

SPRADIN: You're so optimistic. I love that about you. You're so optimistic.

PAZDAN: It's the teacher in me.

SPRADIN: I love that.

FOSTER: And you.

SPRADIN: And you. You got it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's enunciated.

SPRADIN: Because I'd probably say the same thing if I was you.

FOSTER: I think that it needs to go on to Super Tuesday. We need to hear her voice. She has important things to say.


KAYE: Are any of you impressed with her willingness to stay in and fight?




COOPER: And Randi joins us now from Greenville, South Carolina. Do any of the women you spoke with believe Hailey has a chance of becoming the nominee?

KAYE (on-camera): Well, Anderson, of the three Hailey supporters in our group, two of them do strongly believe she still has a chance of becoming the nominee. One of them said she doesn't believe based on the polls that Nikki Haley has a chance of being the nominee, but she's voting her conscience, and that's why she's still supporting her.

I also, Anderson, asked the Haley supporters in our group if they would consider supporting Donald Trump if he becomes the nominee in the general election. One of them said, absolutely, she will support him. Another told me, it's very unlikely, she will likely go with either a third party candidate or the Democratic nominee.

And the third Haley supporter in our group said that she just does not buy Donald Trump's election lies, she never did, and she also would consider the Democratic nominee. So Anderson, you have two Haley supporters, two Republican women in our group who say it's very unlikely they will support Donald Trump in the general election if he is the nominee.

COOPER: All right. Randi Kaye, thanks so much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, The Source with Kaitlan Collins, she talks to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.

We'll be right back after this with an update on new charges in that shooting in Kansas City.


COOPER: Lastly tonight, two men were charged with murder and other felonies today for their roles in the mass shooting after a hometown rally last week for the Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs. Lyndell Mays and Dominic Miller are the two men. This is separate from the two teens facing gun-related and resisting arrest charges.

As you may know, Lisa Lopez-Galvan, a 43-year-old mother of two and a local DJ and radio host was killed during the shootout. More than 20 others, including nearly a dozen children, were wounded. Investigators said the two men did not know each other and got into a verbal argument, which then escalated.

The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.