Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Trump Decries $464M Bond In NY Civil Case And Not Being Able To Secure One; Calls His Situation "Unconstitutional, Un-American, Unprecedented"; Trump Says His "Bloodbath" Comment Taken Out Of Context; Supreme Court Blocks TX From Enforcing Immigration Law For Now; Machete-Wielding Militias Battle Gangs In Port-Au-Prince As Haiti's Elites Vie For Power; New Documentary "The Truth Vs. Alex Jones" Recounts Defamation Fight Brought By Sandy Hook Parents; Pennsylvania Considers C.J. Rice Innocent Of Crime After Serving More Than 12 Years In Prison; Putin Claims New Six-Year Term, Breaks Silence On Navalny's Death. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 20:00   ET



KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: These rumors have surfaced before. Everyone ignored them. Now they are being taken to a degree seriously and I just feel so sorry for Kate. She's been through surgery. It must have been tough. And now really it's very clear that they've got to do something to stop these rumors, an official engagement, an official photo, because there's all this talk about Kate, about her condition and most of all about the marriage, and that's hard.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It's got to be incredibly hard. Of course, as they say, these people, no matter who they are, they are human beings and people as we all are.

Thank you so much, Kate. I appreciate your time.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. Good to see you.

BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you for being with us. It's time for Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news, new reaction from the former president after he said it's practically impossible to secure the bond, nearly half a billion dollars, he needs to deliver seven days from now.

Also tonight, the bloodbath he promised if he's not back in the White House and why the battle over what he was actually talking about at a rally over the weekend may have overshadowed all the rest of what he said. We're keeping him honest.

And more exclusive reporting from Haiti and how ordinary people there are taking desperate measures to try and stay safe from the growing violence.

Good evening. We begin tonight with the former president, a self-proclaimed multibillionaire, telling a New York court he can't secure the nearly half a billion dollar bond in his civil fraud case. In a court filing today, just a week from the deadline, his attorney wrote: "The amount of the judgment with interest exceeds $464 million, and very few bonding companies will consider a bond of anything approaching that magnitude."

Ten million of that 464 million is from the part of the judgment against Eric and Don Jr. And just moments ago, their dad, on his social network, the man who often boasts about how liquid he is, writes: "The bonding companies have never heard of such a bond of this size before nor do they have the ability to post such a bond even if they wanted to."

Joining us now a Trump biographer, investigative reporter, David Cay Johnston, CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig and CNN's Kara Scannell.

So what did the former president's attorneys say?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we learned in this that they had approached 30 different underwriters, people that would secure the bond and none of them were willing to do this, including some of the biggest insurance companies in the world. Now, Trump's lawyers say that some of the reason why they wouldn't do this is because they have their own internal limits not to secure a bond in excess of a hundred million dollars. Trump needs five times that amount, so that was one of the big issues.

But they said what the major obstacle that they faced was that none of these insurers would accept real estate as collateral against the money that they would underwrite. So they said they wanted only cash or stock, something that could quickly turn into cash, and Trump doesn't have that on hand. They acknowledge that in this filing.

And so they came to the judge saying they are unable to get this bond as part of their effort to try to either have the judge knock down the size of the bond or tell them they don't have to post it and just kind of take them on faith that they can - that the New York Attorney General's Office can take his assets once this appeal process is over.

COOPER: So, Elie, what's the next step?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, either he posts the bond or he doesn't. And it's important to understand, he gets to appeal no matter what. There's been, frankly, a little bit of misreporting that he cannot appeal until he posts the bond. He can appeal. That's a constitutional right that he has.

But the difference is if he manages to somehow come up with the money or get a bond, then Letitia James, who's the plaintiff in this case, cannot try to seize his assets in the meantime while the appeal is pending. But if he fails to post that bond come Monday, yes, he gets to appeal, but Letitia James is going to start seizing his assets. Now, it's not an immediate process. It's not going to turn Trump Tower into "James Tower" immediately, but she can start the process to actually take control of and then liquidate, sell off some of those assets.

COOPER: And - but then who decides if they would lower the bond?

HONIG: Yes. So this is what Trump is now asking the New York Appeals Court to do. He's saying that's excessive.

COOPER: And that would be done before next Monday?

HONIG: He's saying, I need you to do it before next Monday.

And it's worth noting, Anderson, there are examples, and Trump cites some of these in his brief, where courts of appeals have substantially lowered bonds. There's one example in the brief where the court had a $38 billion judgment, lowered the bond to $1 billion. There's another example where there was a $30 million bond that was lowered down to six figures.

So courts of appeals will take big numbers down on the bond, but it's up to the Court of Appeals.

COOPER: David, what - I mean, what does all of this indicate to you about the former president's financial situation?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR: Well, Donald's certainly not worth the $10 billion that he claimed. And a bond is not the only solution for him here, Anderson. He could borrow against some of his real estate.

Here's the problem he faces, if you have a mortgage on your home and you need some money, so you want to get a home equity loan or a second mortgage, you can't get it without the approval and permission of the first mortgage holder. And I suspect that Trump has run into problems with first mortgage holders saying, no, we're not going to let you put any additional liens on these properties of yours.


COOPER: So Kara, what would be the next step for the attorney general?

SCANNELL: So, I mean, they have put the posture this whole time that they're going to be aggressive in this case, they are going to move forward. So there's no sense that they would reach some kind of deal on their own. They've opposed any kind of reduction in the bond, any delay in their posting of it.

So I think we will see them begin to take the first steps to try to seize, whether it's specific properties, bank accounts, all of his assets. They do have a very good sense of this company having spent years investigating them. So I think we'll see them move pretty quickly out of the gate.

COOPER: Elie, is it likely that an appeals court would knock down the - I mean, you said there are other examples of them knocking down a bond. But if they were to do that, is it likely that would be done in the next seven days? Do they move that fast?

HONIG: It would have to be done in the next seven days because if not, then Monday is a strict deadline. And the arguments that Trump makes is, he says he has a likelihood of prevailing on the ultimate appeal. This is actually separate from the appeal of the case itself. He argues the award was excessive, there were defects in the actual ruling. And he says, I need this bond put on hold because if not, I will suffer irreparable financial damage. I will lose money that I can never make back. But yes, the Court of Appeals is going to have to rule on this by Monday.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, David, what Elie's referencing is the lawyers for Trump are saying he shouldn't be forced to sell property to raise the money because it would "result in massive irrevocable losses, textbook irreparable injury."

Given the judgment in the $91.6 million bond that he posted for E. Jean Carroll case that has been a pending appeal, he's also got the 10s of millions of dollars in legal fees in large part to his PAC. Where do you see the future of his personal fortune and business heading?

JOHNSTON: Well, clearly, as Elie points out, the court has a lot of discretion about what to do here. They could lower this. They could also, by the way, just sit on it. There's no requirement for the intermediate Court of Appeals in New York to act on this. And Trump doesn't have a right to appeal to the higher court. That is - he can ask, but the highest court in New York can simply say, we don't want to hear this.

But all of this shows that Trump is under tremendous financial pressure and - in every area of his life. I mean, one simple example, he had a party at Mar-a-Lago and you had to pay for your drinks. That's just not usually the way you do things with a fundraiser.

COOPER: David Cay Johnston, Elie Honig, Kara Scannell, thank you. The former president say - continued to complain about the uproar after he warned at a rally over the weekend that there would be a bloodbath if he's not elected.

Quoting now from a social media post today, the fake news media or excuse me, "The Fake News made a big deal out of the word 'Bloodbath,' knowing that it was about our shrinking auto manufacturing business, and the fact that they use the same name all the time."

Now, before we go any further, here's what he actually said in context Saturday in Ohio.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line and you're not going to be able to sell those cars, if I get elected. Now if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole - that's going to be the least of it. It's going to be a bloodbath for the country. COOPER: So as you hear, he certainly did start off by talking about car makers and apparently a bloodbath if he's not elected for the whole car industry, but he stopped himself and then elaborated, saying, "That would be the least of it," meaning the car industry. He then said, "it's going to be a bloodbath for the country."

Now, keeping him honest, the former president now backtracking and claiming he was just talking about cars, but in the same speech, he said that if he does not win in November, it might be the last election this country has. And this is what Trump does. We know this. He uses apocalyptic language and incendiary rhetoric then claims he's being misinterpreted. It's not anything new for the former president. Just ask a fellow Republican who said this about Trump's speech.


SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): The general tone of the speech is why many Americans continue to wonder should President Trump be president. That kind of rhetoric, it's always on the edge, maybe doesn't cross, maybe does depending upon your perspective.


COOPER: That's Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy conceding a point about Trump's events that many, if not most in his party gloss over. Now, Trump said plenty of other stuff as well. Here's how the rally began.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please rise for the horribly and unfairly treated January 6th hostages.


COOPER: Those hostages he's referring to, of course, are the jailed January 6th rioters, four of whom the Washington Post identified as having been charged with assaulting police officers. That's who the former president saluted over the weekend, people who stormed the Capitol after another inflammatory speech of his, whom he praised with his very first words on Saturday.


TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. And you see the spirit from the hostages and that's what they are, is hostages. They've been treated terribly and very unfairly. And you know that and everybody knows that. And we're going to be working on that soon.


The first day we get into office, we're going to save our country and we're going to work with the people to treat those unbelievable patriots, and they were unbelievable patriots and are.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Hostages and patriots. This is what he said about migrants.


TRUMP: Young people, they're in jail for years, if you call them people. I don't know if you call them people. In some cases, they're not people, in my opinion. But I'm not allowed to say that because the radical left says that's a terrible thing to say.


COOPER: And before he was done, Trump added in another thinly veiled threat.


TRUMP: We better straighten out our elections. We better get smart because the people of the country are not going to take it. We're not going to take it. We're not going to take it any longer.


COOPER: Perspective now from conservative attorney George Conway and former Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who we should mention is running in Maryland's third congressional district as a Democrat.

George, I mean, we - I feel like we've had this conversation, though not on this particular word before, but hearing him talk about a bloodbath for the country, what came to mind?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: It's classic Donald Trump. I mean, the context here isn't that he was talking about the auto industry. He was talking about the auto industry, but he uses this apocalyptic language, this violent language consistently almost on any topic. And the reason fundamentally is the true context. And the true context is his state of mind, his mental abilities and his personality disorders.

He is a narcissistic psychopath. I mean, if you look at the definitions in the DSM-5, the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders, he is clearly a sociopath and a psychopath. And that connotes an individual who has no conscience, no limits, sees no - is a pathological liar, as we see about his discussion of the January 6th and the so-called stolen election.

I mean, he cannot help himself. He does this stuff because he doesn't care about the consequences and because he catastrophizes everything in order to cause his cult-ish supporters to support him and to do his bidding. And it's just - I think we're - we've been dancing around the main problem here. It's not his rhetoric - I mean, his rhetoric does cause problems, but the cause of his rhetoric is his fundamental mental instability.

COOPER: Officer Dunn, I mean, you were a firsthand witness to the attack on the Capitol. You know what happened that day. When you hear the former president of the United States calling these attackers hostages, what do you think? HARRY DUNN, FORMER U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: Anderson, good to be with you. George, good to see you, my friend.

It's - I'm not surprised. It's more of the same thing that we've heard from him before the rhetoric that he continued to spew leading up to January 6th: fight like hell, you won't have a country left. He said those things and the individuals that attacked the Capitol, my fellow officers and myself, and those individuals inherited those same phrases while they were attacking us, while they're marching through the halls of the Capitol.

So they don't fall - those words, they don't fall upon deaf ears. Donald Trump knows what he's doing when he says that, and he knows that his words have power, and he knows that individuals will follow what he says. Now, it's clear he may have been talking about the auto industry, but who uses the term bloodbath to talk about the auto industry? Bloodbath is a violent term and I've only heard it used in one way. So he knew what he was doing, and he's hoping that somehow, secretly, his followers are listening to what he's saying. He's saying the quiet part out loud. He's hoping that they're reading between the lines to say - if you know what I mean.

COOPER: George, the former president also said if he loses the election, "I don't think you're going to have another election or certainly not an election that's meaningful." It seems like most people just shrug this stuff off at this point as, oh, that's just Trump being Trump.

CONWAY: Right. You can't shrug it off. I mean, that is classic - I mean, what psychologists would call that, that's classic projection. He is stating what he intends. And he's not well. He is not - he is just not well, and that's the reason why he says all these things. No normal person would say these things.

And the problem we have is that people want to fit Donald Trump into a normal mode. It gives - it brings to mind, I think, one of the failures of the media is that they've tried to explain him in the way that you would explain a normal, healthy or somewhat eccentric human being. But he is completely off his rocker.

It reminds me, for example, of when the former head of this network, Chris Licht, met with Donald Trump before that CNN town hall, and said, go out there and have fun. That's not something you say to a sociopath. That's not something you say to a psychopath.


The problem we have with Donald Trump - and I think it's going to be - I think the floodgates on this are going to open - is that we - people have tried to normalize him for too long. He is definitively, manifestly unwell. He is a sick person. As the President - President Biden says, he's a sick puppy.

COOPER: And also, Officer Dunn, I mean, given the - I mean, this is going to be a long campaign, and if this is the rhetoric at this stage of the campaign, I mean, do you talk to your colleagues, Officer Dunn, about this type of language? Is there worry among - from you or others, that something like January 6th would happen again?

DUNN: Sure, but to go back to the point about Donald Trump saying that if he doesn't win, there's going to be no other elections or anything like that. I'd argue the opposite. I believe that if he does win, there would be no other elections. I mean, he said it himself that he wants to be a dictator. At what point do we stop talking about his rhetoric and - on the surface level and actually take it for what it is? He's proven to be a man of his word when it comes to threats like that.

So I think we have to - the courts aren't doing it, Congress isn't doing it. Although that would argue, that's why I'm running for Congress, to do something more than what's being done right now. But it's up to the voters that are up to - that it's up to us. We are the people that's going to hold Donald Trump accountable and responsible.

And to talk about the - can January 6th happen again, the point of accountability is to deter things like this from happening again. Up until this point, yes, there's people still that have been held accountable for their crimes, the foot soldiers, if you will. But overall, we're still litigating if the president can be held accountable for this three years later. So it's something that's - the justice system is broken. People are being held accountable, everybody except for him and we need to do it as Americans.

It's up to us to save it because it's clear that the Supreme Court isn't going to do it. We're seeing that all these hiccups that Jack Smith's investigations are coming across, but it's up to the American people and we need to do it at the ballot box, just like we did before. We rejected him before and we got - we have to do it again.

COOPER: Harry Dunn, appreciate your time. George Conway as well, thank you.

Coming up next, exclusive reporting from the growing chaos in Haiti. David Culver joins us live from Port-au-Prince, a capital he describes as post-apocalyptic.

Also CNN's Jake Tapper on the release of a wrongly convicted man after more than a dozen years in prison and how this remarkable story was made possible in part by Jake Tapper's dad. We'll explain that ahead.



COOPER: More breaking news tonight, the Supreme Court today indefinitely blocking Texas from enforcing a law permitting state officials from arresting people they suspect of entering the country illegally, something the Department of Justice argues is a job for the federal government only. CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now with details.

So what does today's decision actually mean going forward?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means that the uncertainty around the fate of what is known as Senate Bill 4 or SB 4 continues to hang in the courts and essentially what the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today says is - that it's an indefinite and possibly temporary block of this bill. And it's a highly controversial bill that has been tied up in court since it was signed by Texas governor, Greg Abbott, back in December, essentially gives local law enforcement here in Texas the ability to arrest people they suspect of entering Texas illegally. And it also gives judges the ability to deport migrants back to Mexico.

This has been criticized by immigrant rights advocates and the Biden administration that have brought these lawsuits. Now, if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't issue any kind of rulings on this in the coming weeks, there is a court date scheduled for early next month where oral arguments are expected to be heard in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

So exactly - it's kind of very difficult to tell at this point exactly how this is going to play out in the court system. But for now, Anderson, the bottom line is that this controversial bill here in Texas will not take effect for the time being.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Now, we go to Haiti and what weeks of growing disorder and violence are doing to the daily existence of people who live there but have seen their lives narrowed by down to the very basics, including simple survival.

CNN's David Culver recently managed to get back into Haiti. Here's his exclusive report.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Port-au- Prince feels post-apocalyptic.


CULVER (on camera): This is basically the aftermath of a war zone.


CULVER (voiceover): Driving through the battlegrounds between gangs and police, we dodge massive craters and piles of burning trash. The police controlled these roads leading to Haiti's international airport, for today at least. It's been shut for weeks. Out front, checkpoints to search for suspected gang members and an armored truck to keep watch. It sits beaten and battered. Less than a month ago, we flew in and out on commercial flights here, now it's desolate.

The country is in chaos, essentially held hostage by gangs eager to expand their reign of terror. Over the weekend, more businesses looted and cars stolen, gangs leaving behind a scorched path of ruin.

We're headed to one of the last remaining hospital trauma centers that's still functioning in Port-au-Prince.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: February 29th was probably the worst.


CULVER (voiceover): As soon as we meet one of the doctors, a call comes in.


CULVER (on camera): Go ahead if you need to get it.


CULVER (voiceover): A gunshot victim heading into surgery. He takes us to him.


CULVER (on camera): Most of those cases that are brought here are gunshot victims from the gang violence.


CULVER (voiceover): With the patient's family giving us permission, we go in as staff prepare to operate. We're told the 24-year-old truck driver was caught in the crossfire between police and gangs.


CULVER (on camera): The doctor is showing me here images that are very disturbing, but they show an entry wound of a bullet basically around the temple and went right through and caused damage to at least one eye.


CULVER (voiceover): The doctor tells us the man's lost vision in both eyes. Another bullet hit his arm.


CULVER (on camera): And so they will have to amputate his arm?





CULVER (voiceover): We peer into the ICU. It's full.


CULVER (on camera): Are most of these gunshot victims?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


CULVER: All of them are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she's in pain. She feels the pain in her leg.

CULVER: And so how did it happen? Where were you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was going to the market.


CULVER (voiceover): Eighty-six years old, a reminder no one is shielded from the violence that's gripped Haiti's capital in recent weeks.

Police are exhausted. One local commander telling me morale is broken and that the gangs have more money and resources than they do: low on ammo, their squad cars out of gas. It is personal for the commander.


CULVER (on camera): He was forced out with his family from their own home and now this is his home, essentially.


CULVER (voiceover): The police, at least in this community, do have backup in the form of local residents.


CULVER (on camera): Do you feel like gangs are trying to move in and take this area?



CULVER (voiceover): While many community leaders call for peace, they admit they're tired of feeling threatened. So much so, some have created their own checkpoints and barricades, staffed 24/7, redirecting traffic and determining who comes in. Not everyone gets out.


CULVER (on camera): You can see right here at this intersection, there's a massive burn pile. This is actually where the community takes justice into their own hands. About a week ago was the most recent such case. They captured four suspected gang members. They brought them here, killed them with machetes, and set their bodies on fire.


CULVER (voiceover): The gruesome vigilante acts recorded in part as a warning to the gangs. But even amid utter turmoil, life moves forward, and with it, moments to celebrate. Outside a church, these bridesmaids excitedly awaiting their cue to walk down the aisle.

Port-au-Prince is a city now shattered by the relentless blasts of violence that have forced more than 300,000 of its residents out of their homes.


CULVER (on camera): Where are you staying here? Where's your home in this facility?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


CULVER: Right up there.


CULVER (voiceover): They take refuge in places like this school, classrooms turned dorm rooms, where more than 1,500 people cram in.


CULVER (on camera): So she's showing us, this is all her stuff ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That her stuff, yeah.

CULVER: ... that she's been able to bring and this is where she is set up right now.


CULVER (voiceover): In the classroom next door, we meet this woman, her husband killed by gang members. She and her five-year-old, like many here, have been forced to move every few weeks.




CULVER (voiceover): "We're sleeping hungry. We're in misery," she tells me.


DESRAVINES: (Foreign language).


CULVER (voiceover): "We'd probably be better off dead than living this life."


COOPER: And David, I mean, is there - are there groups running these makeshift camps? How are people - who need treatment - how are they getting to the hospitals? How are they getting food?

CULVER (on camera): Yes, that's part of the biggest challenge here. As far as those camps, I mean, much like this country, there's no one really running it. People are having to figure out how to run it themselves. And there was an added layer of complexity with that, Anderson, because we'd have folks come up to us and physically grab us and explain to us how they were terrified. And I assumed it was because of the gangs. And they said, not just the gangs, we've now been forced into a community that doesn't want us. And they are also attacking us.

And it's because the folks who are their neighbors now look at them as drawing unwanted attention and bringing more gangs into that community. So they fear they're essentially a magnet for more trouble.

As far as getting to the hospitals, that is a huge issue right now. And there's basically no ambulance system. So you have people who will often be brought on motorbikes or just carried in some cases, if they're lucky to get through the gang territories, to get some medical treatment. I was inside of one emergency room and standing with the doctor and I said, well, this one is actually quite quiet. And he said, yes, but that doesn't mean that things aren't happening.

He said, listen, and there was gunfire going off at the same time. He said, my concern is, I know that it's going to be 12, 24 hours before the people who are wounded by those bullets you hear, before they actually come in here to seek treatment. And by that point, it's often too late. Anderson?

COOPER: The man who was shot in the head, do you know if he made it?

CULVER: He did make it, yes, but this is the other thing. I mean, here he is blind and an amputee. And as the doctor told me, his future is bleak here in Haiti. I mean, given his physical disabilities now, he's going to face challenges that are going to be at times insurmountable.

COOPER: David Culver, thank you. Be careful.

Coming up next, the director of The Truth vs. Alex Jones joins me. It's an in-depth documentary, a fascinating look at how this conspiracy theorist was held accountable finally for the dangerous lies he spread about the 26 children and adults murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


[20:33:58] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Last week, we told you about private conversations involving NFL star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, where he said the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was not real. Our Pam Brown said that in 2013, he had told her it was a government inside job. Another source shared a similar story about Rodgers.

Rodgers, who's on the VP shortlist for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. later said in a statement he's never been of the opinion that, quote, "The events did not take place." He didn't cite, actually, which events he was referring to in that statement.

The outrageous lie that Sandy Hook was some sort of false flag operation was, of course, propped up and frequently shared by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones now owes more than $1 billion for spreading those lies, which are recounted in a fascinating new documentary, "The Truth vs. Alex Jones." It tells the story of the fight for justice for the parents of the Sandy Hook victims, and how quickly and savagely these lies spread.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was at a conference for mothers who -- whose kids died by gun violence. And I was in an elevator with this woman. She saw my necklace and she said, "Who's this?" And I said, "Oh, this is my son, Ben. He was killed when he was six." And she said, "What do you mean?"


And I said, "Well, we live in Sandy Hook. He died in a school." And she said, "You're lying. That didn't happen." They said it didn't happen." And I was like, "What?" She said, "No, no, they said it didn't happen." And I was like, "No, it really happened." And she wasn't crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It had been years since our kids were killed. And I'm walking down the street in Seattle and somebody recognizes me. And then he looked up and he goes, "How do you -- sleep at night, you son of a bitch?" And I just think the amount of content that that person had to watch and digest and hold onto to where he could recognize me in some random city 3,000 miles away from Newtown on some random day, like how much did he have to take in.


COOPER: "The Truth Vs. Alex Jones" premieres on March 26. It's by HBO. It's on Max, which is part of our parent company. I'm joined by its director Dan Reed. Dan, this film -- you've done so many incredible films. Was it about Alex Jones, the Sandy Hook shootings and -- that made you decide to focus on it?

DAN REED, DIRECTOR: I just -- I became very interested in how lies spread and trolling. And I realized that this was a story that involved children in New England, you know, white picket fence territory. And I just could not get my head around who would tell lies about the murder of six year olds in New England. I mean, it just seemed completely wrong (ph).

COOPER: Lies, and not only tell lies, but profit extensively off those lies.

REED: Yes. So this incredible business model, which Jones, you know, brilliantly developed, I think was extremely successful at, which was selling supplements. You know, bringing people into what they call the town square and for wars, using outrage, using, you know, conspiracies and scandal, people come in and then they buy his wares, which are sort of, you know, supplements and colloidal silver and sort of man pills and stuff like that.

COOPER: He's actually selling colloidal silver.

REED: I believe he is.

COOPER: Wow. So in the documentary, Alex Jones claimed for years -- you talk about in the documentary, but Alex Jones for years was claiming that an interview I did with the family of Noah Pozner who was killed was fake that was done in front of a green screen.

I just want to show this part of the documentary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm grieving. That's all. Like we all are.

COOPER: Yes. I wish you strength and --


COOPER: -- peace in the days ahead.


COOPER: I know it's hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. I'm going to need it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, a lot of the tens of millions of video views on YouTube concerning the Sandy Hook hoax surround CNN. I saw this footage where Anderson Cooper turns. He's supposedly there at Sandy Hook in front of the memorial. And his whole forehead and nose blurs out.

I've been working with blue screen for 17 years. I know what it looks like. It's clearly blue screen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somehow that was a proof that we were not actually at that locale and that image of the Town Hall was being artificially projected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the fact that this whole thing could be staged, it's just mind blowing.


COOPER: I've never understood this. I mean, I've traveled all over the world to tell stories. That idea that I wouldn't drive two hours, whatever it is, to Newtown to report on this tragedy seems ridiculous and that there would be a green screen. All of that, of course, is just complete fantasy. It's all made up. And yet, he ran with that for years.

REED: He ran with it for years and years and years and repeated it over and over again. And that's why, in the end, the Sandy Hook, the moms and dads of these kids who were murdered, decided enough was enough and they took him to court. They took him to court in Connecticut, but also in Texas.

COOPER: And it was extraordinary to see -- I mean, you document this. It was extraordinary to see what happened to Alex Jones when he actually faced the justice system.

REED: Yes. For me, that was really where the rubber hit the road with this. This documentary is you're in court. We had extraordinary access in Texas. We had two cameras and about 10 microphones and there Alex Jones is and he is confronted with his lies and there's nothing he can do to back them up.

And, you know, an amazing, very tough judge, amazing lawyers on the parents' side. And his lies are just exposed. And this is the, you know, this is fake news versus the court system. And justice prevailed.

COOPER: And yet -- I mean, he's still out there still doing his thing.

REED: It's, you know, the verdict that the parents, the Sandy Hook family's got in Connecticut was $1.5 billion by the time punitive damage has been added in. And that's an extraordinarily large amount. And yet, you know, he's still broadcasting and I don't know how much of that money the families will ever see.

COOPER: Yes. I think there's a hearing coming up in, I think, it's in March about how Alex Jones assets will be distributed later this month.

REED: Yes. I mean, the lawyers are all still wrangling about how to -- whether to liquidate, you know, all of his assets or to do some kind of deal with him where he pays, you know, he pays down some of the debt for years and years. But Infowars is still going. I mean, he's managed to get away for years and years and years.


COOPER: What do you hope people take away from this film?

REED: I think, you know, this is a sort of pivotal point in the telling of lies that spread like wildfire over the internet. And this is, you know, the only way the parents had to confront these lies and this monetization of their grief was to go to court. And I think what this tells us is, you know, the courts, the justice system is probably one of the last places we can get to the truth. And is that enough?

Should we be doing something else? I have no idea what. I'm just a filmmaker, but we need to confront the spreading of lies like wildfire because otherwise we have no way of -- we have no shared truth as a society and that's very dangerous.

COOPER: It's extraordinary how he has profited off these horrific lies.

Dan Reed, thank you so much.

REED: Thanks.

COOPER: Really incredible.

REED: Thanks so much, Anderson.

COOPER: "The Truth Vs. Alex Jones" is the film premieres March 26 on HBO. It'll be available on the stream on Max, both part of our parent company.

Coming up, the story of C.J. Rice freed from prison after more than a dozen years, an ample opportunity by the justice system to reverse a horrible error. I'll talk about it with my colleague Jake Tapper, who spent years reporting the story and spoke with C.J. Rice about his new freedom.



COOPER: A Philadelphia man is now free after more than a dozen years behind bars, and despite many indications over those years that the evidence didn't hold up. This was the scene when my colleague Jake Tapper, who's championed C.J. Rice's story for years, first met Rice outside a prison.

Jake was made aware of this injustice by his father, who was once Rice's pediatrician. Philadelphia authorities had charged Rice with attempted murder. Jake's dad said that he knew from medical records that were never introduced to the trial that Rice could not be the man responsible.

Rice had a shattered pelvis at the time, but the suspect was seen running away, which Rice would not have been able to do. Tapper spoke to Rice about this moment.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's good to see you.

C.J. RICE, FREED AFTER 12 YEARS IN PRISON: Good to see you, Jake. You've spent almost 13 years in prison. How does it feel to be out?

RICE: It feels amazing.

J. TAPPER: You said the air tastes sweeter.

RICE: The air tastes sweeter. The sunshine, there's a different warmth. To feel the sun as a free man, that's -- can't put it into words.

J. TAPPER: So, these letters from my dad, did you look forward to getting them?

RICE: I did.


RICE: I did. Like a lot.

J. TAPPER: Really?

RICE: Yes, because it's a constant. So you get used to constants in jail, but most of them are demeaning or not so personal. But a letter with ink on it from somebody on the other side of the wall, that's personal. That makes you feel human. The caring concern that your father had for me was genuine.

COOPER: My dad always says that we don't have a justice system. We have a legal system, but there's no justice necessarily.

RICE: I can attest to that. I can attest to that.


COOPER: And Jake Tapper joins me now. I mean, you've spoken with C.J. Rice, you know, since now. How is he dealing being outside? I mean, it's just got to be such a -- after so long dreaming of this.

J. TAPPER: He's, you know, very, very happy to be on the right side of the wall, as he puts it. Still getting used to it. He's also -- you know, while grateful, he's also, you know, as one would understand, kind of annoyed and aggrieved with a system that stole more than 12 years from him for a crime he did not commit and for a crime that the district attorney's office today acknowledged there was very little evidence against him, not enough to prosecute him. And yet he went away in 2011 because -- chiefly because he had a really bad attorney.

COOPER: And this all started with a letter from Rice to your dad, who, as you said, has known him since before he was accused of attempted murder when he was a kid. I just want to play some of the conversation you had with your dad, Dr. Tapper.


J. TAPPER: Tell me about the first letter C.J. wrote to you from prison. DR. THEODORE TAPPER, RETIRED PEDIATRIC DOCTOR: He wrote me and he was very polite, you know, "Dear Dr. Tapper, could you please do me a favor and see if you can get the medical records from Jefferson Hospital from 2011?"

J. TAPPER: This sparked years of correspondence between you two.

T. TAPPER: And I would still be writing them now, except he's not locked up.

J. TAPPER: Right. And I know from being your son that these letters became important to you.

T. TAPPER: Yes, I would look at his letter and figure out what I was going to say and reply to him. He's a fantastic writer. He's very bright and I've shown you and other people his writing. And when I tell people who wrote what they were about to read or who wrote what they just finished reading, they're amazed.

J. TAPPER: He also wrote about how tough it is being a poor black kid growing up in South Philly. Which spoke to you because you -- that's your practice.

T. TAPPER: He grew up walking distance from the office of 5th and Reed and that's the neighborhood that I practiced in for most of the 48 years that I was in South Philadelphia.

J. TAPPER: This is one of the reasons why you chose to practice medicine where you chose to practice medicine.


J. TAPPER: To help these kids.


COOPER: It's so nice seeing you talk to your dad. How is he doing tonight? How is he feeling about all this?

J. TAPPER: I mean, he's even more pissed off than C.J., to be honest. I mean, he's happy that C.J.'s free. He's happy that the district attorney's office is acknowledging the injustice. But here's a kid that my dad testified in his trial in 2013 and said, C.J. had been shot a few weeks before the crime that he was charged with and could barely walk, much less run.


And yet the state or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania still put him away and he's still mad about it. And I understand why he's mad. A patient of his had 12 plus years stolen from him in a system that seems to primarily protect itself more than seek justice.

And thankfully today, we had a district attorney in the district attorney's office here in Philadelphia Larry Krasner and his team, and lawyers Karl Schwartz and Amelia Maxfield and others, who were pursuing justice. But too often, as you know, Anderson, because we cover these stories all the time, the system seems invested more in getting arrests, getting convictions, than actually seeking truth.

COOPER: And did -- I mean, the D.A.'s office said they did their own investigation before deciding to drop the charges against Rice. Did officials find anything more than -- that you didn't know about?

TAPPER: Absolutely, because they had access to all those recordings of courthouse phone calls. I mean, not courthouse, jailhouse phone calls that C.J. made. And they -- one of the things that C.J. always argued was that when he turned in his phone, when he turned himself in after he'd been named as a suspect from a confidential informant, he turned in his phone when he turned himself in and he figured that the police would get the phone records and see he was in West Philadelphia at the time of the crime, not South Philly, where the crime was.

But the police never did that. And he would plea for his incompetent attorney. Please get the phone records. And she never did it. And what they heard -- what the assistant district attorney told me they heard in these phone conversations that he had with his mom and others was C.J. pleading with them, please get the phone records and him having -- C.J. having call after call after call with people trying to track down the phone because he was so convinced the evidence on that phone would prove he was not at the scene of the crime.

And that's not what, according to the assistant district attorney I talked to, that's not normally what they hear when they listen in on these conversations. They normally hear people trying to concoct, alibis.

COOPER: Right.

J. TAPPER: Not people pleading for somebody to track down the evidence to prove the alibi.

COOPER: Jake Tapper, congratulations and our best to your dad as well.

J. TAPPER: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: A quick programming note, Jake will have more on this case on my weekend show, "The Whole Story." Don't miss "Justice Delayed: The Story of C.J. Rice." It's Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

Up next tonight, Vladimir Putin wins an election to name only face -- and face his acts of defiance during his victory speech. Breaks his silence also in the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.



COOPER: Vladimir Putin is basking in an election victory that was really never in doubt. What is surprising though is this, during his victory speech for the first time in years, Putin mentioned the name of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died of the Arctic penal colony last month. His widow, meantime, has been spending the election calling for protests at the polls.

More now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A landslide victory for Vladimir Putin that was never in doubt. Securing the Russian president a fifth term in office and solidifying his grip on power with a record 87 percent of the vote.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): There are a lot of tasks ahead of us, but when we are consolidated, and I think now it is understood to everyone, no matter how hard anyone tries to frighten us, whoever tries to suppress us, our will, our consciousness, no one has ever managed to have done such a thing in history.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Both the U.S. and European countries are condemning the election. Any serious opposition candidates were banned in advance, and dissent effectively outlawed. And yet, a surprising show of defiance, with protesters targeting dozens of polling stations across the country.

Setting fire to ballot boxes, pouring dye into others, while in Berlin, Germany, thousands turned up at the Russian embassy, following calls from the opposition to swarm polling stations. Including Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who died suddenly in an Arctic penal colony last month.

Navalnaya said she wrote her husband's name on the election ballot and has vowed to continue his work.

And in his post-election address, Putin uttered Navalny's name for the first time, claiming he would have agreed to release him in a prisoner swap.

PUTIN (voice-over): A few days before Mr. Navalny passed away, some colleagues asked me if there is an idea to exchange Mr. Navalny for some people who are in prison in Western countries.

Maybe you believe me, maybe you don't. The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet when I said I agree. But, unfortunately, what happened, happened. There was only one condition that we will exchange him for, and that's not to come back.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Backlash, not just from the U.S. and its allies, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy describing the election as, quote, "sham."

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): These days, the Russian dictator is simulating another election. Everyone in the world understands that this figure, as has often happened in history, has simply become addicted to power and is doing everything he can to rule forever. There is no evil he will not commit to prolong his personal power, and there is no one in the world who is safe from this. PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia's ally, China, though, was quick to

congratulate Putin's re-election, saying it, quote, "fully reflects the support of the Russian people."

With no one standing in his way, Putin is now on course to rule for as long as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


COOPER: That's it for us. The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now. See you tomorrow.