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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Republicans, Democrats Spar During Special Counsel Testimony On Biden Classified Docs; Biden Clinches Nomination With GA Primary Win; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) Talks About His Take On Robert Hur's testimony On President Biden's Classified Document's Case; Special Counsel Defends Biden Classified Docs Report In Tense Hearing; George Judge "On Track" To Rule This Week On Whether To Remove D.A. Fani Willis From Trump Election Case. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 12, 2024 - 20:00   ET



BASIL SMIKLE, CNN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: And frankly, I think that we won't need to get back to it again.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The waters are muddy on this now. Obviously, Trump's facing charges, Biden isn't, but that was the net win for the Republicans here is that muddy waters. I mean, I thought Hur was competent, straightforward and non-theatrical, so I'm not surprised ...

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Impressive - an impressive guy.

JENNINGS: Yes. I'm not surprised people on Capitol Hill didn't like him because, that's not what they are usually. Not the place for you.

BURNETT: All right. All right, thanks very much to all. Thank you all of you for joining us as President Biden has clinched that nomination. Trump has won the state of Georgia and America's Choice 2024 Special coverage continues now with Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, one big night, two big stories.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Voters making President Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee with Donald Trump just hours away from the Republican nod. Meaning that by the end of tonight, the 2024 race will be officially set.

COOPER: Georgia in the last hour, putting the President over the 1,968 eight delegates he needs. The former president expected to reach the 1,215 he needs with Washington State later tonight.

COLLINS: The other big story tonight, former special counsel Robert Hur telling the House Judiciary Committee why he didn't indict President Biden over his handling of classified documents and also taking fire from both sides of the aisle for the decisions that he did make.

COOPER: But first, the election and breaking news, polls have just closed in Mississippi and CNN can now make a projection.

CNN projects that former President Trump will win the state, putting him that much closer to 1,215 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. We can also project that President Biden will be the winner on the Democratic side. Neither outcome, obviously a surprise, but significant in terms of the delegate count.

So I want to go to CNN's Political Director, David Chalian, who is tracking all of this.

So where do things stand right now for the former president, David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, Anderson, 40 delegates at stake in Mississippi tonight. Donald Trump wins all of them because the rules are that if you get over 50 percent of the vote in the state, it is winner take all. He's going to get over 50 percent of the vote as the last man standing with no real opposition in this campaign.

So add those 40 delegates to where he is and so this is where Donald Trump finds himself now. You noted one thousand two hundred and fifteen upper right hand corner there. He needs to secure the Republican nomination. He's now at one thousand 1,184 delegates. That puts him 31 delegates away from securing the Republican Party nomination. That will likely happen when Washington vote - when Washington State's votes come in later this evening in the eleven o'clock Eastern hour.

Obviously, as you noted, Anderson, this is not a surprise and this is not the balloon drop moment that will happen in the convention in Milwaukee in the summer when the delegates make it official. But Donald Trump securing the nomination and Joe Biden doing the same, that's a pivot point in this campaign.

COOPER: What about President Biden?

CHALIAN: Yes. You said he went over the top in the last hour. Georgia, a major general election battleground state, put him there. He gets 35 more delegates out of Mississippi to his total tonight because he won that state, as you just projected. So look at where Joe Biden is to date. He's now well over the 1,968 needed to win. He's at 2,011 delegates uncommitted as 20 delegates in this race right now.

But Joe Biden has secured his re-nomination again. All but the official work at the convention in Chicago for the Democrats this summer when the delegates meet there. But this rematch is set and we are going to continue day by day for months now watching these two gentlemen go through these general election battleground states, making their case to voters.

COOPER: All right. David Chalian, we'll check in with you shortly.


COOPER: For more on the White House reaction to President's big night, let's go to CNN's MJ Lee. So how does the Biden campaign responding? MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, we've

just gotten a statement from President Biden saying that he is honored to officially have clinched the Democratic nomination for president and echoing some of the language that we saw from the State of the Union address last week. He said the country is currently in the middle of a comeback. But he goes on to say amid this progress, we face a sobering reality, freedom and democracy are at risk here at home in a way that they have not been since the Civil War. Donald Trump is running a campaign of resentment, revenge and retribution that threatens the very idea of America.

He goes on to say voters now have a choice to make about the future of this country. Are we going to stand up and defend our democracy or let others tear it down.

Now, Anderson, the Biden campaign, of course, fully expected that they would cross that threshold tonight. But the fact that it was the state of Georgia that put the President over the top is sort of the cherry on top for this campaign. Remember, the President defeated former President Donald Trump in that state in 2020. That was the first time that a Democratic presidential candidate had won that state in some 28 years. And there's no question that this state, in their minds, is a battleground state going to November. It's a state that they want to win.


There's a reason that the President actually went there over the weekend as one of his first stops as a part of his post State of the Union tour. And zooming out, of course, Anderson, this evening is, of course, symbolically important. It's also just one more moment where the campaign is hoping that voters who have not been tuned in so far will start to tune in and actually realize that the 2024 race is, in fact, going to be between President Biden and Donald Trump.

COOPER: MJ, I mean, obviously, some voters were tuned in to the classified documents hearing in front of Congress today, how concerned are is the Biden campaign about that controversy dogging the President through the election season?

LEE: I think it's fair to say that the White House and the campaign are really in a different place than when the first - the Robert Hur report, I should say, first came out last month. There was so much anger, so much frustration and nervousness about this report and all of the age and memory issues that the report went through.

But I think now that the hearing is over and particularly after that State of the Union address last week that many of his supporters said was so successful, I think we are seeing some of that anxiety dissipating, at least for now. And obviously, despite Robert Hur himself saying that he isn't exonerating the President, we've seen the White House literally saying case closed. They think the President is innocent and they are fully ready to move on from this.

COOPER: MJ Lee, thanks very much. Kaitlan? COLLINS: Anderson, I'm here with John King, where else, at the magic

wall as we are looking ahead to the general election now that we're having these two presumptive nominees starting officially tonight.

I mean, you can see what President Biden's mindset is and where he's going, given the fact that he is literally going to Wisconsin in the next few days.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So look where he's going, right? He's going to Wisconsin. He's got Michigan on the schedule. He spends a lot of time in Pennsylvania. He's talking tonight about a win in Georgia. Why is that important? Well, this is the map. Last time he got 306 electoral votes.

But Kaitlan, if you look at where David Chalian and our political team have looked at, where are we right now? Very early - emphasize very, very, very early, it's in March. We have so many questions we haven't answered about third party candidates. Trump's running mate. Will there be trials this year.

There's so much more, both conventions. We have a long way to go. But right now, look where he's going, right? Battleground - we now call Pennsylvania a battleground state. We lean Michigan red for Trump. Wisconsin is a tossup. Georgia, we lean red for Trump, meaning there's public polling showing if the election were tomorrow, Trump would likely win. So we lean it that way.

So the map is not as favorable right now to Joe Biden. In fact, our projection has Trump actually getting to 270. So if you're the President of the United States, what are you doing right now? Playing on your strengths. You've just clinched - you're the presumptive nominee and addressing your weaknesses by getting out into the battleground states, talking about the issues and to the people you need to talk to. Trump has to do the same thing. Even in the results in Georgia tonight, in some areas, Nikki Haley getting a high vote in the suburbs. So that's what you do. Now that you've clinched, what do you got to fix?

COLLINS: Yes. And Trump's obviously keeping a close eye on the Senate as well. But the other notable part of this as we're looking at this 2020 rematch coming in 2024, it was all about the margins and we see what a critical difference that makes. And so I think that raises the question about these third party candidates, because - Joe Biden didn't face any well-funded challengers like President Trump did - former President Trump. But what does that mean when it comes to the margins here?

KING: So let's take a look. Let's start with the Green Party, which is more established. It already has ballot access in 20 states. It could get more as we move on, but it's already guaranteed in 20 states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona, right? Battleground states. Maine, always a very close competitive state. The Green Party candidate will be on the ballot. Ask Hillary Clinton about Jill Stein, Michigan, 2016. That's not a pleasant conversation.

COLLINS: She have a lot to say. KING: Right. So that's just the Green Party. Then you switch over -

one we're watching very closely is Robert Kennedy Jr. Now, we're waiting for these to be certified, right? He's on the ballot in Utah. He says, the Super PAC working with his campaign says they have enough signatures. No reason to doubt them. We just have to watch the states certify this. In Arizona, a battleground. Michigan, a battleground, Georgia, a battleground.

So, again, if you have a Green Party candidate and Robert Kennedy Jr. on the ballot, just like you had Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in 2016. Another one more possibility we're keeping an eye on that's been less effective so far is Cornel West, who right now says he's on the ballot in South Carolina, Utah, Oregon and Alaska.

But again, how many third party candidates, which states, right, how many ballots - how many states do they get ballot access and which states. If they are, your Michigan, your Wisconsin, your Pennsylvania, your Georgia, your Nevada, your Arizona, then they could make the difference.

COLLINS: So who's the most worried about that, though? Because there's arguments by people on both sides, neither of them want them in the race. Trump has gone after RFK Jr., but so has the White House. So who's it worse for, I guess?

KING: So, let me come back to the national map and just say that's - that, who knows, right? That I think is a great question. So, in the sense that you have an incumbent president, so the Green Party, just go back to 2016 and you come to the presidential election and you just come in here to Michigan, right? Trump wins by 10,000 votes.

You could say Gary Johnson, most pure libertarians lean Republican, right? It's less government, get power out of Washington, so maybe that's a Republican vote. Gary Johnson had run before, it's an interesting, but just look at that number, 51,000 votes, right, 51,000 votes, 10,000 is the margin in the state, right? Donald Trump wins by 10,000 in the state.

So if you look at the math right now, it's the Kennedy name. You say, oh, Democrats. However, in my travels, you meet a lot of people who voted for Trump in 2016 and some again in 2020 who were attracted to Robert Kennedy.


Listen to Joe Rogan, for example, (inaudible) he's looking at Jesse Ventura and Aaron Rodgers as potential running mates, according to the New York Times tonight. I'll tell you, those aren't Democrats, so that potentially, that's why you have to go state by state. What state ballots are they on, how competitive are those states and then, shoe leather reporting, polling, other data to find out who they're drawing from.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see how the Jets (ph) feel about that, John King.

Anderson, back to you. COOPER: Kaitlan, thanks.

We got CNN Political Commentators of all stripes here with me, Van Jones, Karen Finney, Alyssa Farah Griffin and David Urban.

Van, what's your reaction to President Biden clinching the nomination tonight?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, here we go. Here we go. I mean ...

COOPER: It's going to be a long one.

JONES: It's going to be one of the longest general elections in history. Usually, you have a little bit longer to get ready. Look, I think a lot of Democrats were nervous, were concerned, were despondent, were fearful and then we saw red bull Biden last week, and it's like, oh, this guy can actually get out there and do some things. And so I think people now want to get out and find a way forward.

But I do think that you've got a lot of double-haters, and it's going to be a contest. Where do the double-haters go? People who don't like Biden, people who don't like Trump, are they going to go third party, can we get them back on our side, it's going to be a lot of tug-of-war over a very small number of votes in five or six states.

But I think this week, Biden clenching feels a lot better than it would have felt a couple weeks ago.

COOPER: Just in terms of the length of this, Karen, I mean ...


COOPER: ... and the ugliness with which it - I mean, with so much time ...


COOPER: ... you can just get like punch after punch after punch.

FINNEY: I will never forget when Trump got in, in 2016, saying that campaign headquarters and thinking, is this the floor or the ceiling when he was talking about Mexicans being rapists and murderers. And as we've seen, right ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the penthouse. That was the penthouse.

FINNEY: ... and we're still, I mean, so yes, look, I think both - well, I can't speak for Donald Trump, but I certainly think the Biden campaign is mindful of that. And I think as you saw in the State of the Union speech, very mindful that in addition to the attacks on Trump, they've got to continue to put forward a positive message. And it's interesting, the statement that President Biden put out tonight, that's one of the clips, that's a little bit of a summary from his State of the Union message. It's one of the clips that have that - some of the outside groups have been testing that did very well. COOPER: Let's actually - he put out a statement on X, formerly

Twitter. Let's take a look.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: November we will vote record numbers and we can do it. It's within your power to do it.

Are you ready? Are you ready to defend democracy? Are you ready to protect our freedom? And are you ready to win this election?


COOPER: That's one of the statements you're talking about.

FINNEY: Yes. When he talks about the future and defending democracy, I mean, again, I think that's the other dynamic we're going to see in this campaign. So Biden's going to try to take on Trump, but also talk about the future and try to win over those voters that Van was just talking about, who are in the middle, who are tired of re-litigating 2020, and who actually want to know what are you going to do, so that's going to be part of that effort.

A couple of other things, Social Security, Medicare, not surprisingly, that did very well in the testing. When he talked about the sort of economic populism, that did very well. So those are just going to be some of the themes that you will hear, because they're resonating with voters of all stripes.

COOPER: It's interesting, Alyssa, how Democrats seem a lot more optimistic since the State of the Union address. And that's just been, what, one week or so? We have so many weeks to go. Like the emotional roller coaster that this is going to be is - I'm already exhausted by the idea of that.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: By the way, like pouring one out for the six and 10 Americans, myself included, who didn't want this rematch, here we are, it is going to be ...

COOPER: (Inaudible) one out.

GRIFFIN: ... a very long eight months ahead.

And yes, Biden got momentum out of the State of the Union. I think he outperformed a lot of folks' expectation. But maintaining that for the next eight months on the campaign trail, traveling across the country, that's exhausting. I've been there for it. He's going to have to do that to prove he's ready.

Now, Donald Trump is in an advantageous position right now. To Chalian's point, he would win if the election were today. But some huge vulnerabilities, the RNC is in absolute disaster. He's behind in the money race. Joe Biden is massively outracing him. And on top of that, you've got this Nikki Haley factor, these voters who just are not sure they're ever going to be able to be with him. Biden's got plenty of vulnerabilities, but Trump does as well. COOPER: He's insulted his daughter-in-law, though, at the RNC, so

that's a clear thing.

GRIFFIN: With a - who has a huge experience in political fundraising and campaigns, so ...

COOPER: Right, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes ...

FINNEY: And building coordinated campaign efforts, right?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, in Lara Trump's defense, she's done an actually good job at this role. She's been doing it for four years. The co-chair of the RNC is largely a fundraiser, figurehead position. And I think she'll continue to do a good job.

Listen, I think you guys keep whistling past the graveyard over there. That's exactly where the Republican Party wants you, right? You refer to red bull Joe. You better have like a tanker truck full of red bull driving around behind him. Because one and a half hours of reading off a teleprompter is not a campaign make, right? We've all been there. It's hard on an average human being, let alone an 80-year-old human being.


Van talks a little bit about like the double haters. Where do they go, that third party? That ad that you just ran that Karen said was tested well, right? You heard in there, we will - there's a lot of optimism. We will vote in record numbers. If the record numbers don't show up to vote, Joe Biden loses, right? We are going to fight for democracy and freedom.

It's hard, 18 percent of Americans, only 18 percent said that they benefited from Biden policy. So when you're sitting at home and you can't pay for groceries, democracy is not high on your list.

COOPER: Let me show you the numbers from Georgia tonight for President Trump, because there's a lot of, I mean, 15 percent - Nikki Haley got 15 percent in Georgia. What is the former president need to do to ...

URBAN: Yes, so ...

COOPER: ... do you think a lot of them will just automatically go to the (inaudible) ...

URBAN: Yes. No, listen, so some of those folks will come home, right? They will come home at the end of the day. Some of them won't. Some of them may have never voted for - they may be people that never voted for Trump to begin with, right? They may have been people ...

GRIFFIN: But by the way ...

URBAN: ... in the party who just have never voted for him, right? So ... GRIFFIN: Let's keep in mind that Donald Trump's going to be running a

lot of this campaign from the courtroom. He's got the hush money trial coming up in New York. He will likely at least begin the trial for January 6th. He is going to be strapped, frankly, just for time and ability to be the places that he needs to be. I think he would be wise to have surrogates to go around, but he has not shown an ability to pivot to a general election message. He was on CNBC saying, we're going to cut your Social Security and Medicaid. He's been criticizing and attacking Nikki Haley when he needs her very voters to get across the finish line. I'm not sure he's ready for it.

URBAN: Well, we'll see. I mean, that's why we have elections, right? So it's better than the four of us sitting around. Look, I think Donald Trump - I spent a little time with the former president last week, incredibly vigorous, right? Not missing a beat.

FINNEY: Were his shoulders broad?

URBAN: Listen, his shoulders were broad. Listen, he is ready for this fight. I will tell you - I've been - we did 30-, 40 rallies in 2016, lots of places. Trump will do that again - this in '24 (inaudible) ...

COOPER: A lot of diet soda and a lot of red bull, apparently.

Much more ahead tonight, including former special counsel Robert Hur's Capitol Hill testimony today, the heat he took on his decision not to indict President Biden, his characterization of the President's mental sharpness and other choices he made. We'll talk to Congressman Jamie Raskin who took part in the hearing ahead.

And later tonight, Georgia, which we were just talking about and what the judge himself is saying about how soon he might rule on whether Fannie Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, could be removed from the Trump election case that she brought. We'll be right back.



COOPER: As we said at the top of the broadcast, a decisive night in the 2024 primary and it counts a big day on Capitol Hill. One would certainly saw it share presidential politics playing out as former special counsel Robert Hur testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

Now, he was there to explain his decision not to seek indictments against President Biden for retaining classified documents after his time as vice president. He came under fire from Republicans for that and from Democrats for the way he explained his decision, especially his characterization of President Biden as a "well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory."

Though the former special counsel told the committee that "partisan politics had no place whatsoever in my work, it was certainly surrounded by it today, with members on both sides using their questions at times to score certain points.

Committee Chairman Jim Jordan used his time, for example, to suggest the President was in it for the money.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Page 231. You said this: "President Biden had strong motivations." That's a key word. We're getting the motive now. "President Biden had strong motivations to ignore the proper procedures for safeguarding the classified information in his notebooks." Why did he have strong motivations? Because he's - next word - because he decided months before leaving office to write a book - to write a book. That was his motive. He knew the rules. He broke them because he was writing a book. And you further say, and he began meeting with the ghostwriter while he was still vice president. There's the motive.

Mr. Hur, how much did President Biden get paid for his book?

ROBERT HUR, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Off the top of my head, I'm not sure if that information appears in the report.

JORDAN: It sure does. There's a dollar amount in there. You remember?

HUR: I don't - it may be $8 million (inaudible) ...

JORDAN: Eight million dollars. Joe Biden had eight million reasons to break the rules.


COOPER: Committee Democrats, meantime, used their time to throw the spotlight on Donald Trump, who by contrast to President Biden, has been indicted multiple times in multiple venues on 91 felony counts.


REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Did you find that President Biden directed his lawyer to lie to the FBI?

HUR: We identified no such evidence.

LIEU: Did you find that President Biden directed his lawyer to destroy classified documents?

HUR: No.

LIEU: Did you find that President Biden directed his personal assistant to move boxes of documents to hide them from the FBI?

HUR: No.

LIEU: Did you find that President Biden directed his personal assistant to delete security camera footage after the FBI asked for that footage?

HUR: No.

LIEU: Did you find that President Biden showed a classified map related to an ongoing military operation to a campaign aide who did not have clearance?

HUR: No.

LIEU: Did you find that President Biden engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice?

HUR: No.

LIEU: Did you find that President Biden engaged in a scheme to conceal?

HUR: No.


COOPER: Some Democrats also ran clips of the former president acting, in so many words, like an elderly man with a poor memory, some saw their questioning backfire. Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, for one, who told Hur, "You exonerated him," meaning President Biden, to which Hur replied, "I did not. That word does not appear in the report."

Republican Scott Fitzgerald asked Hur if his report found that President Biden was senile. Hur said no.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, who was given special privileges to take part in today's hearing.

Congressman, what did you think of Robert Hur and how he acquitted himself today?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, I like the fact that he stuck by the conclusions of his report, which were that President Biden should not be charged criminally for anything, and he stuck by the statement that President Biden had cooperated fully and unhesitatingly in the investigation. And then he stuck by his own elaborate contrast between Biden and Trump, because Trump tried to hide evidence.


He tried to destroy evidence. He lied about the evidence. And he kept these classified documents for months before he turned some of them, but not all of them over. And so he really pointed out this was apples and oranges.

COOPER: I want to play some of what you had to say this morning in the hearing.


RASKIN: President Biden did not assert executive privilege or claim absolute immunity for presidential crimes. He did not hide boxes of documents under his bed or in a bathtub. He did not fight investigators, nor did he seek to redact a single word of Mr. Hur's report. He consented to the search of numerous locations, including his homes, and he did everything he could to cooperate, not obstruct.

Unlike President Biden, Trump did not alert the National Archives or DOJ of the documents, nor did he turn over all the classified materials in his possession. He did not agree to sit down for a voluntary interview with the special counsel. He never consented to a search of his home. On the contrary, Trump suggested that his attorney hide or destroy evidence requested by the FBI.


COOPER: You're making the argument that President Biden was far more cooperative than former President Trump was regarding the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. One of the things that Congressman Schiff was trying to say to Robert Hur, and get him to admit, was essentially that Hur's language was overly broad in his descriptions of the President's cognitive state. Do you think Robert Hur went too far in the language that he used?

RASKIN: He wandered pretty far afield from what his real charge is and was really. The whole thing could have ended after the very first sentence when he concluded that there were no grounds and no warrant for criminal charges.

So I can understand some of my colleague's frustration with him having added those words, which he must have known would have been politically explosive. But I got to say that those words did not have the same kind of charge at all today in the wake of President Biden's triumphant State of the Union address, where he was on performance for several hours. He gave a brilliant speech. It was a political game changer. And then he engaged in a lot of amusing and effective repartee with all of the rhetorical ninja fighters and hecklers of the Freedom Caucus. And he showed exactly how with it he is. And so I think that really took the edge off of those comments about how he was an older man with a weak memory and all that.

COOPER: It did seem that Hur was saying today that perhaps a little shade different than you are portraying it, that some jurors might have actually voted to convict President Biden and that that essentially it was - he didn't think he could convince a jury that the President had committed these crimes. So it sounded like the argument he was making wasn't necessarily that there wasn't perhaps a reason that somebody might have brought charges, just he didn't think it was possible to convince a jury.

RASKIN: I mean, all of that hypothetical speculation and second guessing of his own decision really does seem to veer outside of the proper boundaries of prosecutorial conduct. And it does seem as if he was bending over backwards to send a political message to his allies in the Republican Party that although there weren't grounds to go forward for criminal prosecution, he was going to throw them a bone or two. And I can understand Congressman Schiff's frustration about that. I

shared that somewhat. But again, I think that President Biden just wiped all of that stuff out. He has framed what this election and what this administration is about. It's about defending democracy and freedom.

And as I said today, it is a memory test, but it's not a memory test for President Biden. It's a memory test for America, do we remember fascism, do we remember Nazism and communism and totalitarianism, do we know what we're up against in terms of the authoritarian forces that have rallied around Donald Trump, including Viktor Orban, who had a slumber party at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend and came out pronouncing how pleased he was that Donald Trump had said he would not give one penny to the people of Ukraine resisting Orban's friend, Vladimir Putin's filthy, imperialist, bloody invasion and war against the people of Ukraine. That's what the election is about. That's our real memory test.

COOPER: Congressman Raskin, thank you for your time. Kaitlan?

RASKIN: You bet.


COLLINS: Anderson, here with our legal and political team, Carrie Cordero, Andrew McCabe, Paula Reid, Tia Mitchell, Kate Bedingfield, and Doug Heye. And Carrie, you know, what do you make of how -- what you heard from the congressman there, and also what we heard from Robert Hur today about how the transcript actually lined up with how he described President Biden's mental acuity in his report.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the mental acuity piece plays a lot into the political reaction to Special Counsel Hur's report because that's the piece that his -- President Biden's defenders and his political allies want to push up against. And that's what his political adversaries want to emphasize.

But I think what Special Counsel Hur did today is he really effectively defended the findings of his report, which were that there was not a basis to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that President Biden had committed any kind of a crime.

And so his report is over 340 pages long. It details, I think, in some ways, goes into too much detail things that are extraneous to what his actual finding was, but he did, I think, in a professional way and in a way that well represented the work that he tried to do and that his team tried to do, the fact that they conducted their investigation and there just was nothing to prosecute there.

COLLINS: I mean, Paula Reid, Robert Hur had no friends in that hearing room today, whether it was Republicans or Democrats. And at one point when Pramila Jayapal, the congresswoman, tried to say that his report exonerated Biden, she was kind of moving along and Robert Hur jumped in to say, I did not exonerate the president here.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting. You just touched on two of the goals he had walking into that room. The first was, I'm not trying to make anybody happy. And the second was emphasized the fact that he didn't think that Biden was completely innocent. It was that he did not believe that he could charge this case and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

So, I think the problem going forward, though, is he also made it clear that that determination was based not just on the transcript that we finally got today, but also on the audio recording of that interview. And coming out of the hearing, they clearly didn't get what they wanted out of Rob Hur.

Republicans have made it clear that they're going to try to get that audio. Now, Hur deferred to the Justice Department and the White House, either one of which I think are going to release it, but I think the White House is going to be asked about this probably every day until the election.

COLLINS: Andrew McCabe, you've worked there. Do you think that they'll release this?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think they'll do everything humanly possible to avoid it. We'll see how big -- how much that pressure is brought to bear on them to get that stuff out. I don't think there's probably, you know, they've got the most important testimony in the transcript they received today.

So what they hear from other witnesses is, you know, the idea that, Congress is now going to parse through the results of 174 interviews of witnesses in varying capacities from, you know, senior White House staffers to staffers of catering companies who hosted events or who worked events in the Delaware Beach House. You know, what sort of mischief they'll make with a pile of evidence that they clearly don't even understand is really beyond me.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, are Republicans, because they didn't get what they necessarily wanted today, kind of shifting the goalposts by now demanding the audio of these interviews that Robert Hur did?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Welcome to Congress. The goalposts are never fixed.

COLLINS: That's never happened.

HEYE: They always move. And look, this was all very interesting theater here in Washington. And if you go to a committee room, there's sort of two background rooms, sort of like locker rooms. The Democrats have one, Republicans have one, they're called their cloak rooms.

It's where they coordinate. I'm going to ask this, what are you going to ask? And they hope that they know what the answer is before they ask the question. This was unique in that both sides. We're trying to get at the same person as opposed to one side go after and one side lift up that person.

But let's also remember, we're in Washington, D.C. And as we look at the states that we're voting today, whether it's Mississippi, Georgia, wherever else, the people in those states aren't looking at this. They're not focused on it. They don't know who Robert Hur is, and to Congressman Raskin's point, they probably don't think a whole lot about Viktor Orban as well and what his positions are on anything.

They're looking at gas prices. They're looking at their utility prices, food prices, all that are going up. They're living their daily lives. They're not focused on the drama in Washington.

COLLINS: Kate Bedingfield, I mean, you know, President Biden as well as anyone at this table. What do you make of of how he responded when this report first came out and what you actually read in the transcript today?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the transcript today was vintage Joe Biden. I mean, that is Joe Biden's conversational style.

COLLINS: The car sounds.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes, the car sounds, the stories, the details. I mean, to me, it was sort of amusing, actually, that the Republican line of attack on this was that he couldn't remember details because that transcript was saturated with details.

So, you know, I think Republicans really wanted a slam dunk here. They felt, I think, when the special counsel's report first came out that they had a real opening here. I think the combination of, obviously, as Congressman Raskin mentioned, the combination of the State of the Union and the strong performance that the president gave at the State of the Union which is, as to Doug's point, you know, more Americans will see than any wrangling in a committee room on the Hill.


That combined with, I think, the totality of the transcript the president making salient points, returning to the point he made, in many cases, questioning Robert Hur on pushing back on questions he was asking. I think you have a full picture of a very engaged president. And so I don't think that the Republicans got the home run that they were looking for here.

COLLINS: How did you see it as you've covered both of these politicians, both these groups so well?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes, I think that we knew that Hur, both Republicans and Democrats wanted to accomplish something by their questioning of special counsel. I think that representative lose line of questioning, particularly where he was asking the statements that Trump has been accused of.

And he said, did you find that Hur -- did you find that Biden did these things? And Hur repeatedly said, no, he didn't do these things. And that created that contrast between why former President Trump is facing charges and why President Biden is not. And to me, that was the most compelling and that will be the sound bites that are most easily digestible to regular people who are seeing the recaps on news.

COLLINS: Yes. And we also saw that contrast last night when we were speaking with Trump employee five in the classified documents indictment, who is a former Mar-a-Lago employee who was talking about those efforts to keep those documents out of the hands of federal investigators.

This is what Brian Butler told me.


COLLINS: Did the two of you ever talk about moving boxes or looking back on that.

BRIAN BUTLER, FORMER MAR-A-LAGO EMPLOYEE: Yes, I mean, there was one time towards one of the last times I was with them and we're talking about, you know, boxes and, you know, well, Biden did the same thing. You know, you can't get -- it always got brought up about Biden and other people that did the same thing.

And then there was one time he said, you know, we're all dirty. We all move boxes and I --


COLLINS: I mean, that was one thing we did not hear from Robert Hur today. Have there been any of the witnesses in his report?

MCCABE: No, and I think that's a remarkable point, right? We've spent so much time today rehashing the language that he used in the report and people opining as to whether he should have made references to the memory and the way that he did those sorts of things.

What really stood out to me is this several hundred page report, 174 witnesses other than the president himself and his ghost writer. There's not any testimony in this entire report provided by a single witness who could add evidence that the president did any of this in a willful way that would have put him in the crosshairs of a criminal investigation.

7 million documents. They looked at emails, they looked at text messages, and they haven't pointed to a single one that would indicate a level of intentionality on the president that would have turned this report in a very different direction. So there is clearly a paucity of evidence despite a massive amount of work that went into this over 15 months.

COLLINS: Yes, certainly a contrast.

Still to come here tonight, will Fani Willis, the district attorney in Georgia, be disqualified from that RICO case that she brought against the former president and 18 of his co-defendants? You may know the answer quite soon. New information on the timing of that judge's decision.

Plus, President Biden's biographer is going to join us to talk about whether the president that we see in the special counsel's transcript is the same person that he has interviewed countless times, including just two months ago.



COLLINS: President Biden officially clenching the Democratic nomination after winning his party's primary tonight in the state of Georgia. Donald Trump also projected to win Georgia's Republican primary and clench his party's nomination soon. We'll keep an eye on that.

But meantime in Georgia, there is a major decision that is looming in the Trump election interference case there. A judge says that he is on track to rule this week on whether or not to disqualify the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over allegations of misconduct involving a romantic relationship with the lead prosecutor that she hired in that case.

It is an extremely consequential decision for Donald Trump's fate in the state of Georgia. CNN's Nick Valencia is in Atlanta and has been covering this entire saga. And Nick, what are we hearing now from Judge McAfee about when this decision could be coming?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, first of all, it came as a shock to many of us following this case closely that McAfee would grant an interview, but he did recently to WSB Radio in Atlanta to talk about his re-election bid and the challenger he faces for that November election.

And it was during this eight-minute interview that he spoke about his pending decision on whether or not to remove Fani Willis from prosecuting Donald Trump and his remaining co-defendants. And he said that he is on track to have a decision by the end of this week.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY: I gave myself a deadline because I knew everyone wanted an answer. And I'll tell you, an order like this takes time to write. There's a lot that needs to -- I have to go through. And so, you know, I've had, again, I'll emphasize this, I've had a rough draft and an outline before I ever heard a rumor that someone wanted to run for this position.

So the result is not going to change because of politics. I'm calling it as best I can in the law, as I understand it.


VALENCIA: To say that there's a lot of anticipation for his decision would be a huge, huge understatement. Kaitlan? COLLINS: Yes, it has so many implications for this. I mean, for him himself, you know, one thing we've talked about is he used to work with District Attorney Fani Willis. There's a lot of overlap here.

VALENCIA: That's right.

COLLINS: I mean, did he talk at all in this interview, this rare interview, about how this entire decision is impacting him personally?

VALENCIA: He did, and he talked about his children. He's got two young children, three and five years old, and they don't see him as this judge presiding over this historic case, rightfully. So they just see him as dad. But he did say that he looks forward to the day when they grow up, and he said that he's looking forward to being able to look them in their eye, and said that he did the best they could, and he played it straight.

This is a monumental decision for Judge McAfee. If he does decide to remove Fani Willis, a new prosecution team would take over, and that would likely mean there would be no trial before the November election. Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. Nick Valencia, if he wants to do any other interviews, be sure to let us know.

VALENCIA: You got it. Thank you.

COLLINS: Anderson?

COOPER: Thanks. We want to talk more about our breaking news this evening. The importance of clinching the nomination for President Biden. Plus, whether the president we see in that special counsel transcript is the same person that those who know him well have seen up close.

I'm joined now by someone who's interviewed the president by many times over the decades, as well as written a remarkable biography about the president, Evan Osnos. His latest book is on the deep division in the U.S., it's titled, "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury."

Evan, it was really interesting to see the transcript of his interviews with the special counsel that were released earlier today versus what was in the initial report by the special counsel. I'm wondering what the difference you saw in the way it was described by Hur and the actual transcript itself. And was the transcript of his interviews with the special counsel like the man you've interviewed?

EVAN OSNOS, BIDEN BIOGRAPHER: Yes, it was quite remarkable, honestly, to read the transcript and to see, wait a second, this is exactly the person who I saw in the Oval Office a few weeks ago when I interviewed him. Meaning, you know, he's sparring with his interviewers, he's telling stories, some of which I've heard from him going years back, others of which are about details of foreign policy, things that he's involved in at the moment.


Look, it's really kind of remarkable to compare it to where we were five weeks ago. You know, that was a time when Americans were genuinely wondering, is this guy no longer able to remember the date of one of the most significant moments of his life, the death of his son?

And what we see in the transcript is this essential nuance, the context for all of those interactions, that really makes it much more, frankly, sort of normal and much more lucid, I think.

COOPER: It's interesting on that question of the date, because in the transcript which wasn't in the the special counsel's, you know, report, he remembered the day and the month. He was just sort of speaking out loud, saying what year was that, and I was -- I mean, in a much more conversational way as opposed to sort of really stumbling over what year it was.

OSNOS: Yes, it's a crucial distinction. It's something that I think was not really visible at all in the special report. What you see in the transcript -- and your term is right, he was essentially sort of thinking about. He's saying, all right, you're asking me about my data handling practices at a certain point in the vote -- in the post-vice presidency. So when did I stop being vice president? All right, well then here's how I handled documents back then.

Here are the people who were moving boxes for me. One of the things that comes through here is this is not a guy who was rooting through boxes a whole lot in his years after being vice president. He was working on these other things like his book, cancer, research and things like that.

COOPER: I want to play the moment from the hearing today when Congresswoman Madeleine Dean pushed back on that.


REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Your report on page 208 says that Mr. Biden couldn't come up with the date, the year of his son, Beau Biden's death. When in fact in the transcript, it shows that you asked him the month. And do you know what he said, Mr. Hur? He said, "Oh God, May 30th." Would you like to correct the record? His memory was pretty firm on the month and the day.

ROBERT HUR, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Congresswoman, I don't believe that's correct with respect to the transcript, but if you could refer me to a specific page, I'd be happy to look.

DEAN: From the transcription page 82, the words are President Biden's. What month did Beau die? "Oh, God. May 30th." A searing memory.


COOPER: So, I mean, just to circle back on this, based on the transcript, Evan, did it seem to you that the president was confused? OSNOS: No. He knows exactly the date that this happened. What was confusing about it was this question of when, what time frame were they talking about. That, I think, is it gets to the heart of this. Because what Americans -- if you step back for a second, Anderson, what Americans really want to understand is, does this man have an understanding of the life he's lived, of the meaningful moments in it, or is he losing grip on the chronology?

What anybody sees if they look at that transcript is what people see when they're around him, which is he knows these events. This is -- this was a five-hour interview where they're running around on the calendar between 2009 and 2024. Frankly, I think a lot of people would be tested to stay firm on dates in that kind of window.

COOPER: Evan Osnos, thanks very much.

Perspective now from our panel, plus two former federal prosecutors, Jessica Roth and Elie Honig. Jessica, I mean, now you've heard the special counsel's testimony, you've seen the transcripts, do you agree with his decision?

JESSICA ROTH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Oh, yes. And I thought that the most important takeaways from the testimony today, consistent with his report, was that he found that charges weren't warranted in this case based on the evidence that he uncovered.

And he also made clear that President Biden was fully cooperative with his investigation and didn't obstruct it in any way, which really stands in contrast to how former President Trump handled it. And finally, made clear today that there was absolutely no interference in Mr. Hur's ability to conduct his investigation from the Attorney General or the Department of Justice.

COOPER: Was it him saying that they weren't -- the charges weren't warranted or that he couldn't prove charges?

ROTH: Well, if you can't prove the charges, then the charges aren't warranted. I mean, they're essentially one and the same. And there were a number of elements of the offense that he didn't have sufficient evidence for.

I mean, today, anyone watching got a real lesson in criminal law in one offense in particular, which is the willful retention of national defense information, which requires showing that a person possessed what counts as national defense information. And that they possessed it knowingly, and they failed to return it.

And that they did so willfully, which in this context means that they did so knowing that they were doing it contrary to law. And with respect to each element, there were problems as to the different tranches of documents that, Mr. Hur looked at.

But particularly on the willfulness prong and he kept coming back to this, he said there just wasn't sufficient evidence for -- to convict beyond a reasonable doubt for a jury to find an unreasonable doubt that Mr. -- that President Biden knew he was acting contrary to law. And there was lots of things in the report that supported that determination that there was insufficient evidence on the willfulness.

COOPER: Elie, I want to play this contentious exchange or part of it between Congressman Schiff and and Mr. Hur, as witness (ph).


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You could have written your report with his -- with comments about his specific recollection as to documents or a set of documents, but you chose a general pejorative reference to the president. You understood when you made that decision, didn't you, Mr. Hur, that you would ignite a political firestorm with that language, didn't you?


HUR: Congressman, politics played no part whatsoever in my investigative steps --

SCHIFF: But you understood nevertheless, didn't you, Mr. Hur? Mr. Hur, you cannot tell me you're so naive as to think your words would not have created a political firestorm.


COOPER: Elie, I'm wondering what you think about that, because what Schiff is saying is, so you could have been very specific in saying he did not remember, you know, the year, he remembered the day and the month, but not the year. Instead, he made a broader statement as according to Schiff.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I agree with Adam Schiff that the language used by Robert Hur was over the top and arguably unnecessary. I disagree with that Adam Schiff's indignation over this. Because when you really boil it down, Joe Biden, in a sense, got lucky here by all the focus on Robert Hur's assessment of Joe Biden's mental state, his age, really at bottom, it's what one person believes about Joe Biden.

But what's been missed in all this, what Adam Schiff was not indignant about was that Joe Biden misled the American people. I mean, let's not lose the headline here. Joe Biden, some of those documents, he genuinely, there's no proof he knew he had, but he absolutely knew.

He had at least some of those documents, the documents related to Afghanistan. He's on tape in 2017. He knew he had them. He did not turn them over. He disclosed at least their contents, if not the actual paper documents to his biographer, because he had a specific agenda.

He wanted to be the hero in the historical retelling of the Afghanistan story and Obama to be the heel in that story and that has been missed because there's so much focus on the assessment of his memory and his age. That's really damaging. I agree with Jessica when it comes to whether this case should have been charged or not. I think it's important to understand when you're a prosecutor, there's some cases that have to be charged. I think Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago case had to be charged.

Then there's some cases that you can't charge. There's a missing element. You just don't have the proof. But then there's a broad discretionary zone. And I think this one fell in that discretionary zone. And so did Robert Hur because he said, I do believe a reasonable juror could have convicted.

That doesn't mean you have to charge, but it means he could have, and a different prosecutor could have come to a different result. So Biden got lucky in that sense here.

COOPER: Do you think, Van, I mean, do you think there's a lot of effect on the election?

JONES: It may or may not, but, you know, as long as we're kind of going back through this stuff, I mean Eric Swalwell did a good job of pointing out, there's some stuff in the transcript that would have actually been good for Biden politically, but it might have been bad for him legally.

So, for instance, Swalwell says -- he quotes Hur as saying, you have photographic memory and recall. Well, that's great for Biden politically, but if he's got photographic memory recall, it's bad for him legally because now you're going to get charged. And so, if you look at -- this is a human process, it's a lot of stuff in here.

I'm -- I think the Democrats would do a better job of pulling out some of the stuff in the transcript, not the report. The report makes Biden look like a, you know, daughtering, elderly idiot, but there's stuff in the transcript that makes Biden look great, and that could have a positive impact --

FINNEY: Yes, honestly, I don't think anybody is going to care come this fall. This was not, having been there, a Jim Comey moment number one or a Jim Comey moment number two. Trust me. It also, having been through this, was not a Benghazi hearing moment where Hillary sat there for 11 hours. She was powerful. She was fantastic. Nobody cared when they went to vote in November.

I genuinely believe, you know, most of these things, what we know in politics is the question is, do these things go to what you underlying already believe about a candidate? If you already think that someone is prone to keeping secrets, yes, you would think that Hillary Clinton and her emails that there was something shady there.

I think with Donald Trump, he's trying to, and the Republicans, muddy the waters. Generally, people think Joe Biden's a decent guy. They may not like his policies. They don't think he's corrupt. They don't think he's, you know, a bad guy that wants to expel, you know, Palestinians from this country or, you know, migrants.

At the same time, the problem that Donald Trump has is that this is not the first -- this is not the only case. We're going to hear -- as we just heard last night, we learned new evidence about the way he treated, you know, documents. We're going to hear over the course of this coming months, more information about the way that is going to deepen what people already believe about him. That's what Democrats are going to focus on exploiting.

GRIFFIN: But can I just say, I think this was partisan hackery on both sides of the aisle at its absolute worst. The only person who I think covered himself in some glory was Robert Hur. I'm sorry, Democrats have been saying we need to stand up for our institutions. We need to stand up for our institutions.

You cannot just trust the Department of Justice when it indicts Donald Trump. You have to have a level of you're going to let the process play out. I do not love this White House trying to demean Hur putting out testimony against him trying to criticize him in it.

They should just step back and let the process play out. Let the congressional investigators ask the questions. But it undermines this sort of argument, especially at a time when Republicans have gone far too far in trying to undermine the Department of Justice.


House Republicans want to cut some of the funding to it, which frankly, amounts to defunding the police, which is absurd. But I don't think -- I think Democrats are playing a dangerous game to basically do the same thing Republicans are.

URBAN: It's a political Rorschach test what happened today, right? You're going to see in her testimony what you want to see. I think Elie points out, you know, a great point that's not being made by Republicans. That they should have made more forcefully.

You know, today, they're going down these rabbit holes on how much money he made and all these. I think what Elie -- I mean, thank you Elie, like, you know, the House --

GRIFFIN: Well, he's actually practicing on like --

URBAN: Well, they should thank you because that point gets overlooked and it shouldn't be, but it's white noise to most Americans, right? They're just here, that's all they hear. Right? And what it does is when they think about documents, and Trump documents, Biden documents, Pence documents, they all did it. There was a mistake.

And, you know, Karen, to your point about shiny, nice Joe Biden, Elie's narrative undercuts that, right? Because it now paints him as somebody who knew he had classified documents on the record. I'm just -- and that's what it does. It sullies his reputation.

FINNEY: I don't think in a way that is going to have a meaningful impact in the election, particularly when you have decent percentages of Republican primary voters who made a point to come out and vote -- and say, I am not voting for Donald Trump. URBAN: And there's -- and just as big a number as democratic voters as we see who are coming out and saying, I'm not voting. I'm undecided, undeclared, you know, in these states --

COOPER: All right.

URBAN: -- not voting for Biden, so.

COOPER: We continued. Everyone said we'll have more of our special coverage of this big night. President Biden clinched the Democratic nomination with a victory in Mississippi. Former President Trump, just one victory away from doing the same when polls closed to Washington State about two hours from now.

That plus more of today's testimony by Special Counsel Robert Hur. And reaction from someone who worked with Special Counsel Hur at the DOJ, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. We'll be right back.