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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Judge Nixes Delay Push, Trump Hush Money Trial Now 21 Days Away; Trump Bond Lowered To $175 Million As He Appeals The $464 Million Civil Fraud Judgment In New York; DHS: Sean "Diddy" Combs' California And Florida Homes Searched; Source: Feds Search Of Sean "Diddy" Combs Homes Related To Ongoing Sex Trafficking Investigation; Suspected Russia Concert Hall Attackers Appear In Court; Putin Claims Moscow Terror Attack "Fits Into" The "Series Of Attacks" By Ukraine Against Russia; Royal Family Targeted With Rumors And Lies On Social Media Leading Up To The Princess Of Wales' Cancer Diagnosis. Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 20:00   ET



RORY KENNEDY, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: The polls I'm seeing probably takes 70 percent of the votes from Biden and 30 percent from Trump. And I feel strongly that this is the most important election of our lifetime and there's so much at stake. And I do think it's going to come down to a handful of votes in a handful of states.

And I do worry that probably just taking some percentage of votes from Biden could shift the election and lead to Trump's election.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Rory Kennedy, appreciate you being with us tonight. Thank you.

KENNEDY: Thanks for having me.

HILL: You can catch the HBO original documentary series "The Synanon Fix." It debuts Monday, April 1st at 9 PM Eastern on HBO Max.

Thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, a split decision for Donald Trump. A judge rejects his bid to delay his hush money trial and an appeals court gives him more time to post his civil fraud bond and cuts the bill by more than half.

Also tonight, with suspects in custody and the death toll at 139, the latest in Friday's massacre outside Moscow, which Vladimir Putin blames on radical Islamists and without any evidence also points a finger at Ukraine. And we're learning about why federal agents may have raided mansions belonging to Sean "Diddy" Combs.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

When the day began, Donald Trump had hopes of delaying or completely derailing New York's hush money election interference case against him. He was also facing possible asset seizure and personal bankruptcy for failing to secure a half billion dollar bond in his civil fraud judgment.

Well, tonight he is breathing easier on that front, but on the criminal side, not so much. Not after the kind of grilling that the judge, Juan Merchan, gave the former president's lawyers before setting a trial date for April 15th, just three weeks from now, which prompted this from the defendant.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The law fair that they're doing is incredible. So they could have done this in the case of the trial that we just left. One of the many that are going - every single one of them is run by Biden and his thugs. It's the only way they think they can get elected and I think, so far, it's backfiring, because the people of this country understand it. It's backfiring. But they're being run and they're running all of these different cases. So ridiculous, the cases. Every one of them is ridiculous. You take a look at any one of them and you say any one of them, it wouldn't make any difference. This is all weaponization of DOJ and FBI. They raided my house in violation of a thing called the Fourth Amendment, not allowed to do that. They raided my house in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. No notice, no nothing. They raided it. I can't believe it. Nobody can believe it.


COOPER: A somewhat rambling statement. In point of fact, the search of Mar-a-Lago was approved by a judge and only done after months of alleged obstruction by the former president. And on top of all that, it has nothing to do with today's cases. As for the FBI or DOJ being weaponized against Trump, FBI director Christopher Wray is a Trump appointee and attorney general Merrick Garland has come under fire lately for, if anything, moving too slowly to investigate Trump.

With that, CNN's Kara Scannell starts us off.

So what did the judge rule today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we were in court today because Donald Trump's team had made this allegation that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office had obstructed their ability to get materials from the federal prosecutor's investigation, Michael Cohen, in 2018. So the judge said that these were unbelievably serious allegations. It delayed the trial, was supposed to start today, delayed it till April 15th, brought everyone in to talk about it. He was peppering Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, about the timeline here, communications that were had. And Blanche was on the back foot the entire hearing. But he was sticking to this, that there was widespread misconduct by prosecutors.

At some point, the judge became so exasperated. He said, "You just heard one set of facts and interpreted that as the People not doing anything. I heard that set of facts. I looked at the exhibits and to me it was the People went so far above and beyond what they were required to do that it is really, it is odd, that we are even here and that we have taken this time." So frustrated that he even delayed the trial in the first place. His

ruling, which was not expected today, he ruled from the bench and he said, the prosecutors were not at fault here. They acted in good faith and jury selection is beginning April 15th.

COOPER: What was Trump's demeanor like in court? So when he walked in, he was sort of respectful of the process. He was sitting there quietly. He was paying attention to the attorneys. At one point, leaning over to whisper to one of his attorneys as they were making their arguments.

But when the judge ruled against him, he shook his head side by side and he was getting up to leave. He just looked annoyed. His face kind of twisted into a scowl as he was leaving the courtroom. And then, of course, he went to his property downtown and made those statements.

COOPER: Kara, I want to bring in a former federal prosecutor, bestselling author, Jeffrey Toobin, also CNN Legal Analyst, Norm Eisen and Kaitlan Collins, Anchor of CNN's THE SOURCE at nine o'clock tonight.

So, Jeff, I mean, this hush money case looks like it may be really the only criminal case trial guaranteed to take place before the election. The April 15th trial date that was put, does that seem real?


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it does. I mean, what happened today was the judge said to Donald Trump, you killed your parents and you're asking me for sympathy as an orphan. What he meant by that or what I mean by that is that he delayed asking for documents. He delayed this process.

COOPER: Trump did.

TOOBIN: Trump did. And - but then said, well, now I got these documents too late. I needed to lay in the trial. And the judge said, no deal. You asked for these too late. You have to deal with it now. And I don't see - and there is nothing scheduled between now and jury selection on April 15th. This trial is going to start.

COOPER: And Norm, you were in the court along with Kara, what stood out to you about the judge's demeanor?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If anything, the judge's anger at the behavior of Donald Trump and his attorneys was even more intense in person than as reported. I jotted down every disparaging remark as they mounted. And the judge - he had papers in front of him. He had studied the material, but he would look up and glare at Todd Blanche, Trump's lead counsel, when he said, "This is not what I was led to believe. It's disconcerting. Be careful where you go. It's somewhat misleading. Why didn't you raise it sooner?" And on and on and on, building towards a crescendo of anger.

And that doesn't only matter, Anderson, for what happened today. This is the judge who is going to have to preside over this trial. They have used up their political capital. And if Donald Trump is convicted, this is the judge who will sentence him. Don't squander your political capital before the trial has even begun.

COOPER: And Kaitlan, what's the reaction you're hearing from Trump World?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, they did not expect it to go perfectly for them when they walked in there today, but they did think that they would at least get a few more weeks of a delay out of this trial. I mean, they never expected it to start today as it was initially scheduled. Obviously, their efforts have been to delay this.

The judge, though, as he has time and time again, sees pretty clearly through those tactics in a way that we really don't see with the other cases that have been hindered by all of these other issues, some of them out of the judge's control, like the federal election interference case in Washington.

But this judge is treating it differently. And he referenced Todd Blanche's past work, which is obviously not something that you really want going into a trial as he's questioned your own history, not in the sense of what he's done. It's just he should know better. It was essentially what the judge was arguing.

So in that sense, it did not go well for them. But also, they did not get any more of a delay here. And what they were hoping was maybe this would get a little bit further delayed and not necessarily because they don't want this to go to trial. It would help in delaying other cases, too, if it would run into them and interfere with them.

COOPER: And Kara, does it look like Michael Cohen is going to testify?

SCANNELL: I think it's likely he will be called as a witness. He has been doing some trial prep. He's obviously a controversial witness here, but prosecutors are experienced with handling him. A lot of witnesses who are at the center of a crime are - and who - he pled guilty to federal charges, they're tainted, so they're going to have to deal with some of the issues.

The judge has said he is allowed to testify. It's - all of his past is fair game for cross-examination. And so it's really up to the prosecutors to make him as solid a witness as they can and back it up with documents.

TOOBIN: Controversial is a charitable description of Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is a confessed liar in court. He has multiple felony convictions against him. He has admitted lying to judges in the past. But the prosecution is going to argue that everything he says is backed up by documents. But they are going to - the cross-examination of Michael Cohen will certainly be the high point, at least for the defense of this case.

COOPER: And Kaitlan, I mean, defendants always say or often say that they want to testify on their own behalf. The former president today said he would have no problem testifying. I assume his attorneys might have some problems with him testifying.

COLLINS: They might. But here's the issue for them. And the conundrum facing them is Trump regrets not testifying in the E. Jean Carroll case, the first one, not the one most recently.

COOPER: He didn't even go to that trial.

COLLINS: He didn't even go to that one. That was the advice of his attorneys. They always single out one attorney. But I was told it was multiple attorneys who did not believe that that would be helpful for him. He still has that in the back of his mind. And it's still been bothering him. He brings it up from time to time privately. So the question is whether or not that changes if he heeds the legal advice.

He does like Todd Blanche, his lead counsel right now. He relies on him a lot. It's probably one of the better relationships that he's had with an attorney. I mean, knock on wood for Todd Blanche, of course, now that I've said that.

But the sense of it is that he does heed his advice and he does listen to his legal strategy, whether or not that not showing up to the E. Jean Carroll case and not testifying affects whether or not he still shows up here is another question.

SCANNELL: You also see Trump react in the courtroom to the testimony through these trials.


And it's - as one of his lawyers said to me, he is so strong willed. It - I think they're going to have a hard time containing him because he will want to respond to what he hears.

EISEN: That had a negative effect today. No one knows exactly how Todd Blanche came to make these disastrous arguments, but it was very clear to almost everyone that they were going to fail. It's a fair inference that his client pushed him, but he ended up utilizing a lot of credibility with this judge and ...

COOPER: And you think that damages the attorney's credibility moving forward?

TOOBIN: Norm ...

EISEN: (Inaudible) ...

TOOBIN: ... this is a long trial. One day of fighting with a lawyer ...

EISEN: That wasn't - that was a - I sat right behind Kara. That was a very angry judge that we - that we looked at and he used fighting words and some of these words like misleading, that is not something ...

COOPER: Do you think Trump will testify? EISEN: I think Trump will press very hard to testify in this case.

This case is a strong case for the D.A. It is an election interference case of a different kind, hiding information from the voters. But it's not a slam dunk case. Trump could end up hurting himself more than helping himself if he testifies.

COLLINS: But it's also - it's also personally sensitive for him, because who - it's not just Michael Cohen, who obviously bothers Trump greatly. It's Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal potentially as well. And Trump has not been able to be quiet about the Stormy Daniels of it all. He's criticized her and said that she wasn't his type. And I think seeing them get up there and testify could also be difficult for either whether or not he wants to testify and also how he responds in court to their testimony.

COOPER: Kara Scannell, thanks very much. Kaitlan Collins is going to be up at nine o'clock. Norm Eisen, thank you. Jeff Toobin, stick around.

We've got a lot more ahead. We're going to talk about why an appeals court gave the former president a huge discount on his civil fraud bond and more time to raise it.

Plus the federal raid on Sean Combs' Los Angeles and Miami mansions. All we're learning about what they were searching for and how this might fit into some other legal controversies surrounding him.



COOPER: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, the former president went one for two in New York courts today with a setback in his criminal trial, but a last minute reprieve from a state appeals court on that massive civil fraud bond that he's been unable to secure. The five judge panel said it would accept $175 million and gave him 10 more days to deliver that amount, which he said that he could.


TRUMP: Greatly respect to the decision of the appellate division and we will abide by that. We'll put up the cash or bond very quickly. Securities, cash or bond, whatever it is, we'll put it up very quickly and we'll win the case.


COOPER: To that point, the court did not rule directly on the merits of the case. Jeff Toobin is back with us along with investigative reporter and Trump biographer, David Cay Johnston, also former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.

Do you think it was legally sound for what the ruling was?

TOOBIN: I do. I think this was fair to Trump and it was the ...

COOPER: Fair because in a - this is not supposed to be punitive.

TOOBIN: It's not supposed to be punitive and it was, it seems to me, unreasonable to make him sell real estate in a very difficult environment to make a bond. It is not required under the law that the bond be exactly the same as the award, $175 million is still a lot of money. It will be snapped up by state of New York if and when the appeals are confirmed. But I do think - Trump was right that this was excessive under the circumstance.

COOPER: Jennifer, were you surprised by the decision?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I wasn't surprised by the decision to reduce it for the reasons that Jeff said. I was surprised that they made it so dramatic by waiting until today, the last minute to do it. I thought they could have done it sooner, but I wasn't surprised (inaudible) ...

COOPER: Why would they wait till last minute? I mean ...

RODGERS: I have no idea. I mean, they did actually also stay other things. I mean, they changed the bond amount. They also said that while the monitor and the compliance director that were inserted by Judge Engoron will stay. The other thing like prohibiting Trump and his sons and other people from being officers and corporations in New York, those other things are also stayed pending the appeal. So perhaps they were discussing what they were going to do with those things. I'm not sure.

TOOBIN: Judges also procrastinate like everyone else.

COOPER: David, you heard the former president said that the new bond amount is going to be paid quickly. It's not a problem for him. Do you - I mean, given your understanding of his assets, do you think that's true?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR: I think Donald will be able to borrow or come up with the cash. He may do it through his new found friend, Jeffrey Yass, who has a very large stake in ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, which Donald tried to bar by executive order two years ago and now is very much in favor of him.

And so I see that he in all likelihood will succeed in this. And I agree with, with both Jeffrey and Jennifer, that it's perfectly reasonable for the court to do this. And courts have done this in other cases, set the bond much lower. In this case, the bond is essentially half the pre interest amount of the judgment.

COOPER: So any - Jeff, I mean, any property - I mean, Letitia James is not able to seize anything and his - and he can still own a business to Jennifer's point.

TOOBIN: He can still run a business. He can still go on as before, as long as he posts the $175 million. But remember this judgment is still against him and that will be - go through the appellate process, if he loses the appellate process.


And the court did say the appellate process has to move forward faster than usual, that this will have to be argued in - or the briefs will have to be submitted in August, which is faster than this appeals court usually works.

But if this is upheld, $530 million plus interest is what he's going to have to come up with.

COOPER: So Jennifer, if the briefs have to be in by August, when is a ruling likely?

RODGERS: So September is when they start arguments for the term. So if they argue it in September, then it's with the appeals court. I mean, the fact that they issued this ruling saying they wanted it sped up might suggest to the panel that ultimately gets it, that they should move more quickly than normal, but it can take months and months.

COOPER: So ...

TOOBIN: Yes, this is a notoriously slow pull.

COOPER: ... when you say it's with the appeals court, you mean they make - the lawyers for both sides make the arguments in September and then it's up to the judges when to rule.

RODGERS: Exactly.

COOPER: And they have all the time in the world?

RODGERS: They do.

TOOBIN: They - it's up to them how long they take. And this is just the appellate division. If Trump loses here, he can try to go to the court of appeals, which is the highest court in the state of New York. So the appellate process is likely to take many months here, but ...

COOPER: (Inaudible) ...

TOOBIN: ... with the judgment is against them and it's $500 million and that's the status quo and that's a big problem.

COOPER: And is that earn - I mean, does that earn interest as it does?

RODGERS: And interests keeps accruing every single day.

TOOBIN: Twenty thousand dollars a day is what the interest is.

COOPER: David, I mean, what, if anything, can the former president do between now and September to come up with a full half a billion dollars or so penalty?

JOHNSTON: Oh, if he has to come up with a full amount, he will have serious problems and his bank accounts probably will not be that helpful because Donald has loan covenants that require him to maintain a certain level of net worth and require him to maintain certain account balances in cash.

So if down the road, Letitia James starts grabbing his cash and the inflows of cash from his licensing deals, that could quickly create problems with the lenders behind some of his properties.

TOOBIN: It's also worth remembering, this is a New York state matter. Even if Trump is elected president of the United States, he has no executive authority to change anything about this process. So even if he's president, this verdict will be going up on appeal and he may lose.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Jennifer Rodgers, thanks so much. David Cay Johnston as well, thank you.

We have breaking news next. We've just learned why federal agents have raided mansions owned by Sean "Diddy" Combs and we'll bring that to you next.



COOPER: Breaking news tonight, we have some new details about why federal agents may have raided mansions belonging to musician and producer Sean "Diddy" Combs. CNN's Carlos Suarez is outside of his Miami home for us.

So what more do you know about what's behind these searches?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, a law enforcement tells my colleague - a law enforcement source, rather, tells my colleague, Josh Campbell that these search warrant activities at both of Combs homes are related to an ongoing sex trafficking investigation. However, the source would not say whether Combs is the target of this investigation, citing the sensitivity of the investigation itself.

Now agents with Homeland security rated two homes belonging to Combs, one here in Miami Beach, the other in Los Angeles. The property here in Miami Beach is an 11,000 square foot property. And late tonight, we saw agents walking out of this house, carrying a cardboard box, as well as several bags from the second story of the property out here.

Now agents in Los Angeles could be seen walking around Combs' house there. They were processing the scene there and could be seen taking notes on a table there.

Now an official with Homeland security here in Miami tells me that the raid that took place here happened a little bit after three o'clock this afternoon. And a neighbor tells me that about 30 to 40 law enforcement officers showed up to the house out here and carried out this search warrant. Again, Anderson late word tonight from a law enforcement source who tells my colleague, Josh Campbell that these search warrants that were executed is in connection with a sex trafficking investigation. However, the source would not say whether Combs himself is the target of the investigation. Anderson?

COOPER: And has Sean Combs commented on the searches?

SUAREZ: Yes. So we have reached out to representatives of Combs. However, we have not heard back. Again, all of this played out here at around three o'clock this afternoon, almost immediately. We were trying to get some details on exactly what was taking place, not only here in Miami and Los Angeles, but as of this late hour, we have not heard from any of Combs' representatives about the raids at either of his properties or the investigation itself.

COOPER: All right. Carlos Suarez, appreciate it.

Joining me now CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney, Joey Jackson and the aforementioned Josh Campbell.

So Josh, you were part of searches like this when you were an FBI agent. What do you read into the - I mean, what stands out to you about this?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is all becoming a little clear Anderson, from the moment that we first saw those SWAT vehicles roll up to those homes, as well as mobile command posts, all of those vehicles emblazoned with the letters HSI. That was an indication for those in law enforcement that we're likely talking about sex trafficking because HSI itself is the primary investigative arm of the department of Homeland Security. They deal with transnational criminal groups, but they also have a robust under - effort underway to go after human traffickers.

That involves two prongs, not only to rescue victims of human trafficking, but also to locate and prosecute those who may be behind the trafficking itself.


And again, you know, source now tells me this is part of an ongoing trafficking investigation. We don't yet know what specifically they were looking for at these residences. We did see on the aerial footage dozens of law enforcement agents that were descending on both of those locations.

And so we'll have to wait and see what the search warrant itself actually entailed. But again, this comes after Sean Combs has faced a series of legal troubles in the past several months to include one accuser, for example, back in December. This was a woman who was 17 years old at the time that she alleged in 2003 that she was sexually assaulted by Combs, saying that she was sex trafficked, that she was subject to gang rape.

Of course, Combs himself had denied all of that. And then finally, just last month, a former employee of Combs had alleged in a civil lawsuit that he was forced to work for Combs, forced him to procure and interact with sex workers. And this individual also saying that Sean Combs son, Justin, was accused of soliciting prostitutes and underage girls to attend various parties and functions. Again, the Combs have denied all of that, but all of this now coming into focus about what the likely key primary target here is a federal law enforcement that's determined whether the extent of any sex traffic that may have occurred in these residences and who may be responsible.

COOPER: So, Joey, just from a legal standpoint, I would -- Sean Combs's attorneys at this hour now be informed about what exactly they were looking for?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not necessarily. I mean, at some point, certainly you're going to want to, if you're the lawyers, assess, do you have a warrant? Is it valid? What specific information underlies that warrant? Where was the probable cause with respect to any type of criminality found, right? Who were the sources of that information?

At some point, you'll have all of this. Remember that this is still an active and ongoing investigation as part of discovery. If this does get into something criminal, I would have to presume the U.S. attorney's office is involved.

COOPER: We should point out no criminal charges have been filed.

JACKSON: Not at all, right. This is simply an investigatory step. And at this stage of the investigation, they apparently went to a judge, right, Anderson, and said, look, we have reason to believe that indicia of criminality may lie within these residents --

COOPER: So they show up with a search warrant at these houses --

JACKSON: Correct.

COOPER: -- and whoever's there has to let them in?

JACKSON: Correct. I mean, it's a -- if it's a valid warrant, it's presumably you have all these law enforcement officials there. You let them in. They search for what they search for. And then there's the other step. That other step being what specifically did you find? What if any connection is that to any criminality? You give it to prosecutors and it's taken from there.

COOPER: And are they told what was taken from the house?

JACKSON: Yes, there will be a specific list of items that will ultimately be turned over to attorneys if it goes that far, which will delineate specifically what we took, what room we took it from, who was the agent or agents who secured that information and then it'll go a step further because there'll be analysis on what items that were taken and what, if anything, in that analysis in a laboratory showed that it was connected to any type of sex trafficking, if any, right?

And from there, there'll be or there won't be a criminal prosecution.

COOPER: Josh, I mean, when people hear the term sex trafficking, what comes to mind is moving people across borders. I mean, that's I assume that's not what's involved here if that --

CAMPBELL: You know, at some --

COOPER: -- any of that went on.

CAMPBELL: Yes, it's unclear about the extent, you know, how global this we're talking about. Obviously, with human trafficking, that can be transnational in nature where people are brought in from overseas. But sex trafficking happens all across the United States here domestically from people who are from the United States, particularly young victims who are subjected to, you know, such depravity by individuals.

And this is why you have agencies like HHSI primarily leading the effort to try to rescue those victims in order to hold accountable anyone who may be responsible. But it's something that, you know, it doesn't get a lot of attention, particularly because a lot of these investigations happen behind the scenes.

There's another element where oftentimes investigators will try to protect the privacy of victims, obviously for good reason. But it certainly is a very sinister threat that HHSI continues to investigate coast to coast.

COOPER: We should point out there have been a number of civil lawsuits, I guess, against Sean Combs. Again, no criminal charges, it's really important to point out, have been filed. This was, you know, executing two search warrants. Is it, Joey, I mean, is it common for -- if there are civil cases, that that would trigger a Department of Homeland Security investigation?

JACKSON: Not necessarily and not at all. However, if you have civil complaints, right, civil lawsuits relating simply to that, right, the securing of compensation based upon some sexual misconduct that's alleged, that's a civil in nature. In this particular case, apparently authorities evaluated that.

And from that, they certainly would have had access to the witnesses underlying those allegations, could have interviewed those witnesses, and could have determined that based upon the civil allegations, there could be criminality that may very well have led to the probable cause, which led to these warrants, which is leading to this criminal investigation.


COOPER: Joey Jackson, thanks very much. Josh Campbell as well, thank you.

Coming up next, Russia, where the death toll from the terror attack at a concert hall outside Moscow stands at nearly 140. ISIS-K has claimed responsibility, but Vladimir Putin appears determined to also blame Ukraine. What he's now saying coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: A mixed message from Vladimir Putin on the terror attack at a concert hall near Moscow last Friday, where at least 139 people were killed. Speaking at the Kremlin today, Putin conceded the massacre was carried out by, quote, "radical Islamists," and ISIS-K has indeed claimed responsibility, but Putin once again suggested that Ukraine was also somehow involved. Ukraine has denied any connection, and there's no evidence of it.


Meanwhile, four suspects appeared in a Russian court, as reports emerged that the men faced a gruesome interrogation. I want to warn you, the details are disturbing and there is some video that's hard to watch. Reporting from Moscow for us tonight is Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bloodshed at the concert hall near Moscow. Gunmen running amok before setting the crowded building ablaze, killing more than 130 people inside.

Now the suspected attackers from Tajikistan in Central Asia have appeared in a Moscow court looking battered amid reports of a brutal interrogation. The Kremlin is refusing to comment on allegations of torture. A disturbing video has emerged of the suspects being run down by Russian security forces and ruthlessly beaten. What appears to have had part of his ear cut off on camera during questioning. Electrocution and beatings have also been shown.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses are recounting the terrifying ordeal they endured last week. They didn't scream or tell anyone to take cover, recalls Anastasia. They were just walking around and gunning everyone down methodically and in silence, she says.

It's an outrage that's left many here shocked and questioning just how safe in this country they really are.

CHANCE: Well, as Russians mourn the victims of this attack, the Kremlin is defending its own security services amid criticism it failed to heed intelligence warnings from the United States and others. And while ISIS has repeatedly said it carried out the attack, the Kremlin is still trying to implicate Ukraine, raising concerns it may use this tragedy to rally support for its war.

CHANCE (voice-over): And divert attention from the fact that Russia these days feels deeply insecure.


COOPER: So Matthew, you heard Vladimir Putin acknowledged today that the attack was carried out by what he called radical Islamists, but then returned again to suggesting that Ukraine could be behind the attack. What more did he have to say?

CHANCE (on-camera): Yes, that's right, Anderson. He's not letting that go. He did finally acknowledge that it was ISIS that carried out this attack, but he was saying, well, look who was behind it, who ordered it. And he said that if you look at the recent, you know, strikes by Ukrainian drones on Russian territory, you look at the cross border attacks that have been carried out by militias based inside Ukraine into Russian territory.

And what Putin said is that this kind of attack against the concert hall, this terror attack was a logical step in a series. Now, of course, Kyiv has categorically denied any connection and described it as absurd, but Vladimir Putin appears determined against the evidence to forge some kind of link, Anderson.

COOPER: Matthew Chance reporting from Moscow tonight. Thank you.

Joining us now is Joby Warrick, a national security reporter for the Washington Post, author of the fascinating book, "Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS." Also with us is Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations. Steve, what do you make of Vladimir Putin's comments today?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, not a big surprise, Anderson. He's going to try to make that Ukraine connection even though he has to sort of admit that it does appear to have been ISIS-K that was involved. I think he's looking forward to trying to figure out how to increase conscription and to energize, you know, the Russian populace if such a thing is possible to support his war against Ukraine, and this is the best way to do it.

That is not ruling out Ukraine, saying there was a window for these people asking, like, who was really behind this? And he hopes again to get more support for his continued invasion efforts in Ukraine, I think.

COOPER: Yes, Joby, one of the things that Putin said today, he said, quote, "Are radical and terrorist linked Islamist organizations really interested in striking Russia, which stands for a fair solution to the exacerbated conflict in the Middle East," end quote.

I assume the answer is yes, that they are interested. I mean, why, in your opinion, is ISIS-K interested in striking inside Russia?

JOBY WARRICK, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, they are very interested. These are equal opportunity haters, but they really, really hate the Russians, most of all. And this is a hatred that goes back decades. It dates back to the early Afghan wars in the 80s to the Chechen, you know, uprising in Chechnya and in southern Russia. And more recently to the Syrian campaign.

Russia intervened on behalf of Syria's dictator, we have to remember, fighting Syrian rebels who included a lot of these militant groups. And it was because of Russia essentially that Syria won and these groups were defeated.


And so they don't forget this. They talk about it a lot in their social media. They're vowing to go back and get the Russians and make them pay. And this just looks like one step out of perhaps many.

COOPER: I mean, Steve, you know, we see these videos of these -- the accused attackers in court. And those videos that have been released of their arrests, I mean, an ear being cut off by Russian forces, it's -- what does it say about, I mean, the fact that Russian authorities would release those videos, that they are proud, I guess, of those videos, it says a lot about them.

HALL: Yes, I think there's a couple of things. First of all, you know, I like to talk a lot about the difference in values between what's going on in Russia and what's going on in the West. Even though if something like this happened in the United States, there would certainly be or anywhere else in the West, there would certainly be people who would be saying eye for an eye and, you know, they deserve whatever they get, that sort of thing.

But that's not really civilized society. Civilized society is rule of law and treating suspects, even if you're pretty sure who they are, with some degree of, you know, humanity and respect, which is totally, you know, not understood, not followed. There is no rule of law in Russia.

I think if you ask most Russians on the streets, if these guys got the treatment that they got while they were interrogation, I think there'd be probably a lot of support among the Russian people. It's just a different way of looking at it. Russia is a very different place. They are proud of it.

COOPER: Joby, I mean, knowing how ISIS uses video and social media, would they use the videos of the attack? I mean, they would certainly use the videos of the attack to promote themselves. I'm wondering how the videos of the alleged attackers being, you know, having their ears cut off and being beaten, how that would be used?

WARRICK: Oh, it'll definitely be ISIS propaganda. It's perfect fodder for that. And they'll talk about these guys as martyrs and the abuses which the Russians, the infidels inflicted on them. I have a feeling that the next group of, you know, ISIS-K volunteers who tried to take on a mission like this, will try very hard not to be survivors because one could only imagine if we've seen these videos, what comes next for those four individuals. But it's something that will be echoed and repeated by the Islamic State and its affiliates around the world because they do want to get mileage out of this.

COOPER: And Joby, just in terms of ISIS-K, I mean, what are their capabilities? You know, these guys are -- these alleged attackers who are in custody, I believe, are all from Tajikistan. Would they have -- I mean, would they have already been in Russia and just radicalized inside Russia or would they have been sent into Russia?

WARRICK: So we'll have to see, like, trace back where they, you know, where they ultimately got their instructions and who coached them. They didn't have a lot of training, apparently, just by the way this was carried off. It was fairly clumsy in many ways, so these weren't professional soldiers. But what we do know about ISIS-K in recent years is they've gone from being a group that was really focused on the Taliban, really focused on the Afghan struggle, to being one that is probably, among all the ISIS groups, the one that's most focused right now on external operations, which means attacks overseas.

They really want to strike targets in places like Russia as they have done in the last few days. They went after Iranian targets as we remember back in January, and they have a long list of other plots and plans, including attacks against Westerners against the United States. And we've seen this because of Intel intercepts showing specifically they were planning attacks. They didn't have the networks to carry them out, but they do have this aspiration and goal to ultimately attack us too.

COOPER: Steve, do you expect to see, I mean, military retaliation by Russia against ISIS-K, or do you think they'll just try to focus this on Ukraine, to your point?

HALL: I think they'll try to focus it mostly on Ukraine, and again, try to energize, and you know, if there's going to be an increased conscription call up, they're going to try to say, well, this is the kind of horrific thing that we're fighting against.

It is interesting that these guys were Tajiks. It's interesting because what happens in Russia is there's a lot of central Asian sort of seasonal labor that happens. A lot of people come in from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan to do menial jobs, and they're looked down upon by most of Russian society, and they do the, you know, the nastiest work in Moscow.

But it is an easy way to get into Russia from the Central Asian Republics, formerly part of the Soviet Union. They can get a work visa very easily. So if you're a terrorist looking for a way to get in a police state, an authoritarian state like Russia, this is the way to do it. And so that part at least was pretty smart.

COOPER: And Joby, I mean, ISIS hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but I mean, what's happening in, you know, we're seeing affiliate groups in -- particularly in West Africa really gain territory and be able to hold territory.

WARRICK: Yes. And we haven't really been paying attention to this in the West, but it's been quite alarming. Obviously, we're focused on Gaza and on the fighting Ukraine, but very gradually, but steadily, these groups have been gaining strength, particularly in Africa.

You see in Mali, for example, in North central Africa, groups taking over territory again, holding and controlling towns and fighting off government forces who come after them.


The same is true in parts of -- in Somalia down the southeastern coast, Mozambique. So it's a phenomenon and we even see in the old heartland of the Islamic State, some return to at least ability to to carry out small scale attacks and aspirations to knock over prisons and free prisoners and things like that. So they've disappeared from the headlines to some extent. They have not gone away.

COOPER: Yes. Joby Warrick, Steve Hall, thanks so much.

Just ahead, what a Kensington Palace spokesperson said over the weekend following Princess Catherine's announcement about her cancer diagnosis and an update on King Charles's cancer battle. What princess and son had to say about his uncle.


COOPER: After receiving a flood of support following the Princess of Wales's cancer diagnosis announcement, Kensington Palace released a statement over the weekend saying the prince and princess were, quote, "Extremely moved by the public's warmth and support, and are grateful for the understanding of their request for privacy at this time."


Catherine's announcement came after King Charles's cancer diagnosis earlier last month, and while much is still unknown about the health of both royals, in an interview with Sky News, King Charles's nephew, the son of Princess Anne, gave some insight into how the monarch is doing.


PETER PHILLIPS, KING CHARLES' NEPHEW: He's in good spirits. I think, ultimately, he's hugely frustrated. He's frustrated that he can't get on and do everything that he wants to be able to do. I think the overriding message would be that he's, obviously, very keen to get back to a form of normality. And he's probably frustrated that recovery is, you know, taking a little longer than probably he would want it to.


COOPER: CNN's Max Foster has been monitoring reaction to the royal's health issues.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since Princess Catherine's announcement of her cancer diagnosis, and even in the run up, there's been a markedly restrained response from the British newspapers, by and large sticking to the facts, careful not to speculate, lots of sympathy for Kate and her young family.

It's a departure from a past when the tabloids were accused of deep invasions of privacy, illegal tactics, and complete insensitivity. It's been a different story on parts of social media, which filled a vacuum of information with rumor and lies. The palace found itself unable to control the narrative, and it twisted out of control. For three months, all Kensington Palace would confirm was that the princess had abdominal surgery, then recovered well, and wouldn't be appearing again before Easter. On social media, content creators filled the void, racking up millions of views and followers. No matter how wild and grotesque their claims were, they were cashing in.

When Kate finally came out and explained, they suddenly went quiet.

CATHERINE, PRINCESS OF WALES: In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London, and at the time, it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. The surgery was successful, however, tests after the operation found cancer had been present.

FOSTER (voice-over): Throughout the weekend, guilt stricken social media users apologized for buying into the conspiracies. Others just carried on. Mainstream media hit back at how social media provided a platform for unfounded conspiracy theories.

TikTok pointed us to their transparency center where they say, quote, "Like others in our industry, we do not prohibit people from sharing personal experiences, simply inaccurate myths or misinformation that could cause reputational or commercial harm in order to balance creative expression with preventing harm."

For Instagram, Meta shared information about their existing third party fact checking process and how they deal with misinformation. X forwarded a post from a senior business operations executive, criticizing the way mainstream media has covered the story, saying every news outlet should apologize.

There are chilling echoes of the way Kate's been dehumanized and commoditized with the way her husband's late mother was hounded by some newspapers. In a 2017 documentary, Prince William shared an insight into the difficult and continuous dance with the U.K. press.

WILLIAM, PRINCE OF WALES: You've got to maintain a barrier and a boundary because we cross it, both sides cross it, a lot of pain and problems can come from it.

FOSTER (voice-over): Prince Harry has gone further, cutting ties with certain parts of the media and challenging tabloids in court. He doesn't have active official social media accounts. We don't expect to see Kate or the King out in public for some time. It's down to William and Camilla now to do more whilst caring for their spouses.


COOPER: Max, how have members of the royal family been handling all this since you and I spoke last on Friday?

FOSTER (on-camera): Well, they've certainly lost control of the narrative. I think inevitably some damage has been done to the institution there, and that's the central dilemma with the monarchy. On one level, it's an institution. On another level, it is vulnerable human beings, and we're really seeing the clash there. They're struggling to keep up with the story and what to put first, really. We're going to see that again tested in future months because now you have a situation where two of the most senior royals, Kate and the King, both have cancer. They're out of action.

The other two senior royals, the Queen, Camilla and William, are going to have to pick up. But they're supporting spouses at home who've got cancer. So I think we're going to see a period of immense pressure on the monarchy. They've got to find a way to stay relevant. And at the moment, they're really struggling to keep up.

COOPER: Max Foster, thanks very much.

Well, the news continues. A special edition of The Source breaking down the former president's legal issues starts now.