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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

New Details About Trump Team Strategy For Second Day Of Michael Cohen Testimony; Biden, Trump Agree To Debate On CNN Next Month; On ABC In September; New Book Chronicles What Was Going On Inside 'The Situation Room' During The Riot At The Capitol On January 6th; UCLA Chaos Included Outside Agitators, CNN Investigation Finds; CDC Reports That U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Decreased In 2023 For The First Time In Five Years; Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico In Critical Condition After Being Shot. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 15, 2024 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The fly - the inmate, has an extensive rap sheet. He's a suspected international drug boss under investigation in homicide and kidnapping cases. And he was sentenced just last week to 18 months in prison for burglary, which is the least of the issues, it seems. He tried to escape two days before the armed hold up. And tonight, he and the gunman remain at large.

Thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow. AC 360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news, new details on how the former president's defense team plans to undermine Michael Cohen's testimony in the criminal hush money trial when court resumes tomorrow morning.

Also tonight, President Biden and the former president agree on two debates with CNN and ABC. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos joins us ahead.

And more breaking news this evening, the latest in the attempted assassination of Slovakia's prime minister caught on camera.

Good evening. We start with our breaking news about how the former president's attorney is expected to go after Michael Cohen when cross- examination in the New York criminal hush money trial continues tomorrow. Days after legal analysts criticized defense attorney Todd Blanche's initial approach, and the New York Times noted that his questions produced no gotcha moment, aside from a reprimand from the judge at the outset for making the cross about himself.

I'm joined now by John E. Jones III, former chief judge for the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania, former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin, Norm Eisen, former counsel to House Democrats during the former president's first impeachment. He's also the author of "Trying Trump: A Guide to His First Election Interference Criminal Trial." He's been in the courtroom throughout, as has our correspondent, Kara Scannell, who has tonight's breaking news. So what have you learned about what's going to happen tomorrow?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the name of the game tomorrow is going to be to try to focus on Michael Cohen's past statements and suggest to the jury that he's a liar and he can't be trusted. They just want to undercut his credibility. And one thing that they're going to look at are some of the past statements he's made under oath, and that is because he's under oath now. So they want to say to the jury, he has lied before under oath. You shouldn't believe him now.

And they got into a little bit of it with his past admission that he has pleaded guilty before Congress. But at the civil fraud trial, Michael Cohen, under cross-examination by Trump's lawyers, said that he had lied to a federal judge when he pled guilty to tax fraud. And he has said publicly that repeatedly.

So that is an area they're going to focus on because they want to suggest to the jury that they can't believe the story. So much of this could come down to whether the jury believes Michael Cohen. And so the name of the game tomorrow is really to try to show that he's a liar who can't be trusted. They're also going to focus on the conversations that Cohen says he had with Donald Trump because he's the only one that was involved in those conversations and the only witness to testify that Trump knew and approved this repayment scheme involving - calling it a retainer. No other witness has testified to that.

So it's kind of a twofold thing. They want to say that he shouldn't be believed and to just raise questions about any of these recollections that he's had of conversations with Donald Trump.

COOPER: Norm, that seems like a reasonable defense.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's an excellent strategy. I wonder why they didn't do it on Tuesday. The problem is that the prosecution and Mr. Cohen are laying in wait for these arguments. We talked when I was with you yesterday about drawing the sting, the prosecution presenting details in advance to the jury, so there's no surprise.

On this lying to a federal judge, Cohen explained on his direct that he doesn't disagree with the underlying facts that are alleged about his tax crimes. What he meant was he shouldn't have been prosecuted for such ticky tack issues as a first time offender. And he felt he had to plead guilty because his wife was placed under duress. They gave him a short fuse, we're going to charge your wife.

So the explanations are there. We'll see who the jury believes. It is a reasonable strategy. Attack his credibility and go after the substance.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know what I just don't understand about this is, sure, I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense. But why not use Michael Cohen as a witness for you? For example, this is a case about Donald Trump ordering or creating or causing false documents. I asked Michael Cohen, did Donald Trump ever touch any of these documents? Did he ever process any of these checks? Did he know what the software was? Is he the bookkeeper at this company?

All of those answers are helpful to the defense. And you don't have to accuse him of lying for that. Why not use Michael Cohen for his knowledge of how the Trump organization worked to undermine the idea that Donald Trump had anything to do with the preparation of the documents that are what this case is about?

JOHN E. JONES III, FORMER CHIEF JUDGE, U.S. MIDDLE DISTRICT COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, here's what I'm thinking about, you have Todd Blanche, who has the most difficult client in the United States.


Now, think of a Broadway show that opens. It's highly touted. That's his cross examination the other day and the reviews aren't good. They're coming in and the producer of that show is saying, what's going on here. And you know the former president is reading all these reviews.


JONES: So this is a momentum shift. Blanche had the momentum or some momentum with him on Tuesday. Tomorrow, the momentum shifts. The pressure is on him, I think, to be as incisive and as good as he can be. And he's got a witness, to your point, who's prepped and ready for these arguments. And it's going to be a tough day for him. He's feeling the weight of the world on him.

COOPER: It's interesting, Judge, because so many people were - I mean, you talk about high expectations for Blanche on his first cross examination. The expectations could not have been lower for Michael Cohen, which is to your point, and he seemed to certainly surpass that and remain calm and successfully kind of deflect a lot of stuff with lines that seem to have been worked out in advance with like, sounds like something I would say. Do you think he can - I mean, I - were you surprised by his testimony? How ...

JONES: Well, I would not have started with the so-called shock and awe question. I just don't think that was the way to go. I good cross has been described as a box you build around the witness and then you slam the top shut at the end of the cross. I thought it was meandering. I didn't understand the purpose of it. It's tough when you have a witness who's ready for you and is game-planned and prepared.

I don't know what he's going to do, though, because he's got to shift gears quickly and he can't go too long because he's going to get hurt if he goes too long. It's a tough, tough situation. Right now, points go to, I think, Cohen. He's more credible. They've got work to do.

EISEN: And credit where credit is due to the DA because they very skillfully played the expectation game throughout the trial. They elicited criticism of Cohen from every witness. So they suppressed. The jury is the ultimate audience for the expectations. They suppressed the jury and the judge's expectations. And I was watching the jury. And at different points in Cohen's testimony, you had - the jury doesn't always do this. I counted one of the things today. There was, at one point, six jurors who were nodding or smiling or agreeing with Cohen at one point in his testimony. It's like a presidential debate. Both sides want to suppress expectations. The DA did that brilliantly in setting this moment.

COOPER: And you don't want to get ...

TOOBIN: I don't know, Norm. All this clairvoyance about what the jury is thinking. I mean, we'll see.


JONES: Well, lawyers and judges are the worst at trying to judge what jurors are thinking.


JONES: I confess - well, maybe we'll give points to Norm. But you don't want to get yanked over by the judge in the beginning of your cross-examination and told, don't make this cross-examination about you, bad look.

COOPER: The jury notices that sort of thing and (INAUDIBLE) ...

JONES: They do. I mean, they can't hear exactly what's going on inside. Probably they don't hear any - they're not supposed to hear anything. But they know somebody's in the penalty box at that point. It takes you off your stride.

EISEN: You could see the judge berating Blanche. It was no - you could understand. And then he ordered the question struck from the record and the jury did hear that.

COOPER: Kara, when do you anticipate the case could be in the hands of the jury?

SCANNELL: I mean, I think by next week, because there's no other witness after Cohen. So even if cross goes all day tomorrow, the prosecution will have a redirect with him. And they're - if this goes all day tomorrow, they're going to want to spend some time with Cohen.

If Trump's team decides they're not going to call this expert witness, then it comes down to, does Donald Trump take the stand? And if he doesn't, then we'll move right into closing arguments. So this could be in the hands of the jury next week.

COOPER: Well, all right, we'll be watching tomorrow. Everyone, thank you.

Coming up tonight, bipartisanship may be dead, but occasionally deals do get done. President Biden and the former president today agreed to two presidential debates. The first one will be on CNN, the second on ABC. George Stephanopoulos from ABC News joins us tonight.

Also ahead, more breaking news. The latest on the attempted assassination of the prime minister of Slovakia that was caught on camera, his condition and the investigation ahead.



COOPER: To quote the film "Anchorman," that escalated quickly. A presidential debate schedule that had been up in the air - thank you, Harry - suddenly came together today over the course of a few social media posts by President Biden and the former president after what sources say were weeks of informal discussions between the campaigns.

And now on June 27th, six weeks from tomorrow night right here on CNN, the first presidential debate. It's the earliest debate in a presidential campaign in television history. A second debate was also announced this morning, scheduled for September 10th, airing on ABC.

The flurry of activity began this morning when President Biden released this video.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hasn't shown up for debate. Now he's acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal. I'll even do it twice. So let's pick the dates, Donald. I heard you're free on Wednesdays.


COOPER: An animated President Biden dropping a reference to not only Clint Eastwood, but also the one day of the week the foreign president is always free from his New York criminal trial.

Soon after, the former president confirmed his participation in a series of equally combative posts on social media, quote, "Crooked Joe Biden is the WORST debater I've ever faced - 0he can't put two sentences together." He ended the post by saying, quote, "Just tell me when, I'll be there. Let's get ready Rumble."

I'm joined now by David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, our Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten and Kaitlan Collins, who covered the Trump White House and anchors The Source, next hour on CNN.

David, is this a wise decision by the Biden campaign? And given Trump is leading in many swing states, are you surprised he appears so eager to debate and so early.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, there are a couple of things there. I think he needs to debate. This is a close race. Everyone's seen these polls. They have their own polls. He knows that he has to cross this hurdle. The whole predicate of the Trump campaign, and you saw it reflected in that tweet, is that Biden is old and enfeebled and incapable of being president.

[20:15:01] And the debate is the hurdle that he has to cross. He needs to dispel that notion in that debate and they need - they know they need to take care of that - to take that opportunity. But they also, I thought, negotiated very, very wisely. Trump was eager for it. He kept saying, I'll debate him anytime, anywhere and they took him up on it. And now they've got a debate that's not going to be in Roman coliseum, but in a television studio without an audience, which disadvantages Trump.

And it's early, which gives you a chance to, uh, recover if the debate is not good. We - some of us who are old enough to remember, remember 1980 when Jimmy Carter debated Ronald Reagan once, and he did it a week before the election. The debate didn't go well for Carter and the race was over.

I think, Biden understands that history. So getting early debates and getting them out of the way is also very wise, I think.

COOPER: Kaitlan, do you have any information or any feel for how the Trump team is sort of approaching this and the - wi0th the risk versus reward?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I mean, they really had no option, but to, to take President Biden up on this offer when he posted this video today, because at every Trump rally, an event that he does, and even Chris LaCivita, one of his campaign managers, they have this slogan that says, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, because they've been kind of putting this offer out there, seeming to bet on the idea that the Biden team would be reluctant to debate.

And so when President Biden issued this video, they kind of have to take him up when there is a time and a place after that's kind of what they've been daring them to do. I think that when you, when you speak to the people inside the Trump campaign, they honestly believe that Trump will fare better against Biden in these debates than he did in 2020. Obviously they mock Biden's age and ability at every single turn of Trump's campaign. He does it going into the courthouse even, which was notable that Biden referenced that there because he doesn't often talk about Trump's legal cases. And for him to do that in this video was remarkable.

But they feel quite confident about it. I do think it's a question though of - sometimes Trump sets the bar so low, as he did with the State of the Union, as he did with the 2020 debates. And that when Biden is able to come out there and debate him and perform, it shifts the expectations of what people believe Biden should be doing.

COOPER: That's certainly the hope of the Biden White House in a case like this. I mean, they were certainly pleased with the State of the Union.

COLLINS: Of course, the lower the bar, the easier it is to jump over those expectations. It was for the State of the Union. It was for the first 2020 debate. So that's a big question. The Trump team feels confident though, that the four years have changed Biden and that they'll be able to come across looking better. COOPER: Harry, I mean, David referenced, Jimmy Carter-Reagan debate. What's the data show about sort of the history of the debates in terms of how the impact they've had?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. I'm going to go with debates that actually occurred while I was registered to vote. So why don't we look over the last three cycles? And what we see is the debates can have a tremendous impact on what's going on. There have been real debate bumps back in 2016, 2012, 2020.

We've seen bumps. We saw a bump from Mitt Romney coming into that first debate of about 4 percentage points. Hillary Clinton saw a bump against Donald Trump about five. Joe Biden saw a bump about four. And I think that sort of, to me, illustrates in my own mind, Donald Trump saying, I really want these debates. But the fact is he's actually fared quite poorly in them. And there's a lot at stake for Donald Trump in these debates because although he's ahead in the polls right now, I'm not quite sure we recognize how tight this race really is in the states that matter.

Look at those Great Lake battleground states. Look at those polls that came out from The New York Times-Siena College this - earlier this week. And what we see in those states are very close races, Joe Biden up by a point in one state, Donald Trump up by one another, and up by three in Pennsylvania.

So essentially, if we see the bumps that we saw in the prior years and apply them to the polls right now, Joe Biden might be trailing right now, but he may be coming out of those debates, if he does well, leading in the race.

COOPER: David, I mean, incumbent presidents are historically rusty in their first general election debates. I mean, President Obama's first debate against Mitt Romney comes to mind. I'm sure it comes to mind in (INAUDIBLE) have as well. Can you explain why (INAUDIBLE) have that problem and how they expect (INAUDIBLE) how does a president avoid that?

AXELROD: Yes, they have that problem because they haven't debated for a long time. Nobody gets in their grill. When you're president of the United States, people may challenge you, but they're - you're not, they're not four feet away in getting in your grill. And they habitually want to defend their records when what you want to do is follow a strategic script and put the opponent on the defensive.

And look, we experienced it in 2012 and I circled that data and read months in advance because of the history of this and I - and we worked really hard to try and keep President Obama from being too defensive in the debate by getting too - into the weeds on his record and so on and we failed.

And it took - we - Romney just took us to the cleaners in that debate. We recovered in the next debate. But this is a real problem and it is a particular problem, I think, for President Biden that they're going to have to be careful about.


Because he tends to be very much about wanting to defend his record and tout his record and he could really be subject to this. So Ron Klain is going to be preparing him. His chief - his former chief of staff, very, very masterful debate prep guy who's been through a lot of these, including with us. I think he will be alert to that and the question is, can Biden keep from getting baited?

COOPER: Kaitlan, I want to play a clip from the Biden - the first Biden-Trump debate back in 2020.



BIDEN: Now, make sure you, in fact, let people know - your senators.

TRUMP: He doesn't want to answer the question.

BIDEN: I'm not going to answer that question because ...

TRUMP: Why wouldn't you answer that question?

BIDEN: ... because the question is ...


TRUMP: The radical left ...

BIDEN: The question - would you shut up, man?

TRUMP: Who is on - listen, who is on your list, Joe? Who's on your list?

BIDEN: This is so unpresidential.



COOPER: I mean, yes, wow.

COLLINS: I feel like I need like ibuprofen. I mean, I remember that debate. I was in the room. And sometimes it's harder to watch something when you're actually in the room for it, especially a debate like that than even being at home. I mean, these things are kind of created for at home audiences. But you couldn't hear anything that either of them was saying that they were just screaming over one another. No one walked away from that debate having learned anything or benefited in any way. It was like the Happy Gilmore reference.

And it was just - I mean, it was that moment where the Trump campaign after that - they thought he did really poorly in that debate. They thought he did a lot better in the second debate. But the thing is they felt like it was too late. The impression had set in. And what's interesting about the dates of this is June. Like they feel both campaigns that it could provide enough time that if there is a stumble that they have months before the next one or months before some people cast their votes, it could benefit Biden more given early voting is something they really count on.

The one thing I'll say that's different is the mics can be cut off, which is notable. No audience. You're not going to have it where ...

COOPER: Is it the mics are automatically cut off when the time is up or is it that they just can be?

COLLINS: I believe it's that they have the power to be able - to cut them off because that's essentially what the Biden campaign wanted. This is the letter from Jen O'Malley Dillon, who's working on President Biden's campaign because they felt like it needed - it just needs to have some ...

COOPER: Control.

COLLINS: ... structure.


COLLINS: I guess. It's not to cut anyone off, but I mean, sometimes they don't stop talking to politicians.


ENTEN: I know that feeling for me.

COOPER: Kaitlan, thank you. David Axelrod, thank you.

COLLINS: We also can cut your mic.

ENTEN: Thank you, please.

COOPER: Harry Enten as well.

Coming up next, returning to the breaking news about the Trump team strategy for the second day of Michael Cohen's cross-examination. ABC News Anchor George Stephanopoulos joins me for his take on the historic trial, his new book and we'll get his thoughts on the upcoming Biden-Trump debate as well.



COOPER: Returning to our breaking news from the top of the hour, new details on the Trump defense team strategy for questioning Michael Cohen tomorrow as the hush money trial continues. Sources telling CNN the defense plans to focus on what it says are lies that Cohen has told in the past, including while under oath. The plan to undermine Cohen's credibility is the only witness who has actually tied the former president to falsified business records. I want to talk about it now, as well as the newly announced debates on CNN and ABC between President Biden and his predecessor, ABC News Anchor and veteran of the Clinton White House, George Stephanopoulos joins me. Also, George is the author of a fascinating new book, "The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis."

I want to get to the book in a moment, George. But first, I got to ask you about these two historic for a number of reasons, general election debates ...


COOPER: How they came together today.


COOPER: What do you think? Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It was a big move by President Biden to kind of preempt the commission and come out and challenge the bid. I was surprised at how quickly it came together. I'm glad that you guys are doing one and that ABC is going to do one as well.

I do think that - I was actually skeptical the debates were going to happen this year.

COOPER: Yes, I think a lot of people were.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I thought that - because the experience in last - yes, a lot of - but I do that the rules that President Biden has stipulated can help make it better than that disastrous debate from four years ago that you guys were just talking about a couple of minutes ago. I mean, no audience having the mics cut off when your time runs out could help make - it could help ...


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... make it a more constructive debate. So - and I do think at least for sure, the first one is going to happen. I hope they both do.

COOPER: The first of it is going to be the earliest in history, six weeks from tomorrow on CNN and then the ABC one is in September. Do you think the schedule benefits either campaign more?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think Biden wanted to shake up the race a little bit, so probably - you could argue that it benefits him a little bit more to have the early debate and he also gives each candidate more time to recover if they have a bad debate. But part of that is also of necessity.

The - it's kind of - and we've all learned this from four years ago. It's kind of a misnomer to think of Election Day. Voting in so many states starts in India.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And so many of the - so many of the votes are cast by November that it does make more sense to have the debates, I think, earlier in the cycle. I do think that makes more sense. And especially when - this time around, when there's just no mystery about it and there hasn't been for a long time about who the candidates were going to be.

COOPER: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It does make some sense to have it earlier in the summer.

COOPER: There's a moment in your new book, "The Situation Room," where you talk about the Trump White House and the level of distrust between everyone. You write that his fixer Michael Cohen was taping conversations all the time. You interviewed Cohen, you know what he's like. How remarkable is it to you that the first criminal trial of the former president hinges on his testimony?

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's really something and I was - I've known Michael Cohen for a long time. I was on the receiving end of many angry phone calls when he was a Trump loyalist. I've had endless conversations with him since then as he's switched loyalties. And it is kind of alarming - and you know this as well, Anderson, when he was close with President Trump, with Donald Trump at the time, no one was a more ferocious pit bull. He talked about taking a bullet ...


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... for President Trump. But he's now for several years going back to 2018 has had a complete switch and a complete switch in loyalties to what he says is his family and his country. And as you were just setting up, this whole segment, it is going to be interesting to see whether the fact that Michael Cohen was an inveterate liar for Donald Trump ends up hurting Donald Trump or helping him.

COOPER: Yes. Your book does something which I haven't really heard much about, which is really taking people inside the situation room during crises for various presidents. You chronicle what was going on in the situation room during the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. And you write that a desk officer told you they went into, quote, "continuity of government situation on January 6th," which is something that was designed to ensure the government would still function after a disaster like a nuclear war. Do you think that the general public fully grasp how big a deal that was, January 6th?


STEPHANOPOULOS: I opened the book with that because I think they should, because it was -- this is a White House duty officer who is telling me that he is on the line with the secret service and others at the Capitol, and they are not sure the vice president is going to survive that day. And this is at the same time that the president of United States at the time is tweeting out an attack on Mike Pence and he --


COOPER: And that's something that J.D. Vance, by the way, Senator recently was pooh-poohing saying, oh, thinks is an exaggeration. I don't think the vice president was really in any danger.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. I asked Mike Stiegler about that because I interviewed him for GMA the other day as well. And he says, they can think whatever they want. I was there.

COOPER: George Stephanopoulos, the book, "The Situation Room: The Inside Story Of Presidents In Crisis." It is available now. George, thank you so much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, weeks after pro-Palestinian protests broke out at colleges around the country, CNN Investigation now reveals new details about who was actually behind some of violence that one particular night at the UCLA campus when counter-protesters showed up. We'll have more ahead.


COOPER: Commencement celebrations are underway at Columbia University weeks after pro-Palestinian protests engulfed the campus, culminating in more than 100 arrests by the New York Police Department after demonstrators barricaded themselves inside a school building. University leadership has opted to hold smaller events after canceling the university-wide commencement ceremony in the wake of the protests.


COOPER: Encampments protesting the war in Gaza sprung up on college campuses around the country over the past months. On one particular night at UCLA, some counter-protesters attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment. Our Kyung Lah has been investigating who some of those counter-protesters were. Here's her report.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the worst violence of any of the ongoing college protests. UCLA, where counter- protesters used sticks and boards against a pro-Palestine encampment. It was more than three hours of unrestrained violence the night of April 30th, that led to injuries and bloody scenes as campus security, law enforcement allowed it to continue.

CATHERINE HAMILTON, UCLA DAILY BRUIN NEWS EDITOR: They were there spraying. There are there pulling barriers and they were to very clearly do some serious harm to the students who were on campus.

LAH: When you look at the counter-protesters, how many of them were UCLA students?

HAMILTON: I would say basically none of them.

LAH (voice-over): Who are the most aggressive offenders? A CNN Investigation of hundreds of videos from multiple sources shows many of them are outsiders, not UCLA students. Among the people who showed up that night, far-right -- with no apparent connection to the Middle East war. Others driven by pro-Israel beliefs.

Among them, this man, he strikes a pro-Palestine protest or with a long white pole as part of a mob that pummels the man, as he falls to the ground. He is seen in multiple videos wearing this white mask, striking the barriers, throwing objects into the encampment. Without his mask, we see who he is. 18 year-old Idan On of Beverly Hills, a senior at a local high school.

LAH: Come inside to the kitchen. How do I get inside?

LAH (voice-over): I spoke with his mother.

LAH: Hi, there. Are you Sharon?


LAH: Hi.

ON-SIBONI: How are you?

LAH: Hi, I'm -- let me introduce us.

LAH (voice-over): She did not want to be on camera.


LAH (voice-over): And quickly identified her son from this picture at UCLA that night. She described in detail how her son found the mask and pole on the ground, and said he was defending himself in this fight. On her Facebook page, Idan On's mother posted and circled a screen grab of her son from a local TV station.

She wrote in Hebrew, Idan went to bully the Palestinian students in the tents at UCLA. Idan's mother and father proudly support Israel and defended their son's actions at UCLA, saying he is heading to Israel to join the IDF. After our interview, she texted to say Idan denies being at UCLA.

Older men were also at the front of the violence. Tom Bibian (ph) recorded pulling like bike racks, plywood, kicking protesters, throwing cones at the students in the encampment, water bottles at protesters, and yelling expletives. We went to ask Bibian (ph) why he had gone to the campus that night. Hi, you are Mr. Bibian (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Can you take that off? You don't have permission to record me.

LAH (voice-over): Bibian (ph) was wearing the same jacket he had on in the video from UCLA. He is a Los Angeles resident aged 42. Seen at a 2022 pro-Trump protest outside the Los Angeles FBI office. He did not want to explain why he's on video doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're being a little rude and I am going to call the police if you don't leave.

LAH: Sure. OK.

LAH (voice-over): We identified not just Tom Bibian (ph), but other older men who had no apparent affiliation with UCLA.

LAH: I mean, you've seen them at how many other events?

ANGIE GIVANT, LA COUNTY PARENT & RESEARCHER: Lots of different events, school board meetings, city council meetings.

LAH (voice-over): Angie Givant is a Los Angeles area public school mom, who has been tracking right-wing protesters in her area. The group who she had seen protesting gay rights in public schools were drawn to UCLA that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The revolution ain't happening tonight. Man down, man down.

LAH (voice-over): Though they were clearly at UCLA that night, there is no evidence these men participated in the violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes the Jews song, man, cover your ears.

LAH (voice-over): The man who is live streaming, Marc Polian (ph) appears to be a persistent agitator who posts anti-Jewish tropes on his social media accounts. But at UCLA, he stood with the pro-Israel crowd.

LAH: Hi, I am Kyung Lah from CNN. Polian (ph) claimed to us that he has a child at UCLA, though a student didn't accompany him that night. And that he had good intentions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was definitely keeping the peace. OK? At least trying to.

LAH: You weren't there to make it worse?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, of course, I wasn't there to make it worse.


HAMILTON: I hate to say it, but I was expecting us to start working on an obituary the next day because I thought something that serious would happen to the students in the encampment.

LAH: Do you feel like they won?

HAMILTON: Based on the way they were cheering when the police arrived Tuesday night, I think they might feel that they won.


COOPER: Kyung Lah joins me now.

It is still stunning to me that the police, I mean, there seemed to be some police around, but it seemed -- clearly, didn't seem like police really moved in very quickly at all to stop this. You can clearly find these people. What's law enforcement saying they're going to do, or if anything?

LAH (on camera): Yeah. That's a very good question and we actually asked them, we went to the key law enforcement agencies. We started with UCLA Police Department. We reached out to them via email, their office line, text messages, cell phones. And despite our numerous attempts and very specific questions, we did not get any response, a clear response about their response that night or any follow-up investigation.

We also reached out to the CHP and LAPD. They referred back to the UCLA Police Department. And back to your question, Anderson, I mean, we did identify not just the folks that you saw in the story, but additional people. You'll see them in that story that we'll post tomorrow morning on Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

Still ahead, more breaking news. We have new video showing the aftermath of the assassination attempt against Slovakia's prime minister today and new details on his condition and what officials are saying about the motive for the attack.



COOPER: Breaking news out of Slovakia tonight after an assassination attempt against the prime minister. We got a new video of the actual attack that will show you in a moment when he was shot five times by gunmen. The video you see there is when he is being rushed away after the shooting. Following the attack, an official said the prime minister was "fighting for his life and his medical state was very complex."

Now, the deputy prime minister says he is expected to survive and he's "not in a life-threatening situation." CNN's Nic Robertson has that new video on details.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): As Prime Minister Robert Fico approaches a security barrier, his would-be assassin pulls a gun. Five shots fired into Fico. This film from another angle, the prime minister unable to walk, manhandled by bodyguards into a car. The shooter instantly wrestled to the ground, as Fico rushed to a nearby hospital. Where a spokesman said he was conscious, his life functions stabilized, before being transferred by helicopter to another hospital about 30 kilometers away for higher level care. More than three hours later, the defense and interior ministers announcing the PM still in surgery, fighting for his life, and this a motive.

ROBERT KALINAK, MINSTER OF DEFENCE OF SLOVAKIA: It is a political assault. It is absolutely clear. And we have to react on that.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): No details from the country's two top security officials about the suspected assassin, only extreme concern his actions would trigger a violent backlash in this politically divided nation of 5 million people.

MATUS SUTAJ-ESTOOK, INTERIOR MINSTER OF SLOVAKIA (through translator): I tell to all of our citizens, the answer to hate is not and cannot be hate. I am begging you all to stop. You have to stop spreading attacks and hatred, also through social networks and the media.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The shooting occurred following a government meeting in Handlova, two-hour's drive from the capital. This eyewitness says she was there to shake the prime minister's hand, usual at events like this.

LUBICA VALKOVA, EYEWITNESS (through translator): I heard three shots. It was quick, one by one, like if you throw a fire cracker on the ground. I saw scratch on his head and then he fell next to the barrier.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The reality, however, more than a scratch on the head. The president of the country declaring it a terrible, a malicious attack.

ZUZANA CAPUTOVA, PRESIDENT OF SLOVAKIA (through translator): A physical attack on the prime minister is primarily an attack on a person, but it is also an attack on democracy.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Fico was never shy of courting controversy, a divisive figure, a populist who is anti-immigration, anti-Islam, anti- LGBTQ, and pro-Putin and Russia. He had a political comeback last year, winning the elections as prime minister for a third time despite long running corruptions allegations. He was forced to resign during his previous term amid mass protests over the murder of an investigative journalist in 2018. Fico had no shortage of potential enemies.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


COOPER: And joining me now is CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, who is in Slovakia, outside the hospital where the prime minister is being treated. What more do we know about his condition?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anderson. While it would certainly seems as though the doctors here were really fighting for his life for an extended period of time, the information that we are getting is that he was in surgery for several hours and not conscious for most of that time as well, as the doctors were essentially trying to save his life.

Now, the thing that we heard from the politicians here in this country, they say that he suffered five gunshot wounds. He was five times by that would-be assassin that we just saw in Nic Robertson's piece. Now, as of tonight, as of right now, as I'm standing here, the current situation is that they are saying that the wounds are not life threatening anymore. It is unclear whether or not Robert Fico is conscious at this point in time.

However, he is being treated here in this hospital and certainly seems as though he is going to be at this hospital possibly for an extended period of time. Again, he was air lifted here because this is a trauma center where they can treat some severe wounds. Obviously, the shooting happened a little bit away from here. But certainly, right now, it seems as though the politicians are saying not life threatening anymore, but definitely still a dangerous situation, Anderson.


COOPER: Anything else known about a possible motive of the shooter?

PLEITGEN: Yeah. It is very difficult to say. The only thing that we have from the politicians here, right now, from those two that we saw at that press conference, the interior minister and the defense minister, they say they believe that this was politically motivated. The other thing they say is they believe that hate speech caused all of this.

Now, we saw there in Nic's report, it certainly is the case. Also, we know from reporting here on the ground in Slovakia that, of course, Robert Fico was a very divisive figure here in the political landscape, certainly, also because of his proximity to Vladimir Putin, to Russia, also because of the fact that you wanted to cut off aid to Ukraine as well. And one of the things that politicians said is they said, look, they believe that those fissures that, that hate speech might have caused all this. But they are still being very careful not to disclose the identity of the would-be shooter and certainly, a closer information as to what exactly the motivation could be, Anderson.

COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much.

Coming up next, a high school that goes beyond education and helps teens battle addiction. Meet Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "Champion for Change" just ahead.


COOPER: We learn today that for the first time in five years, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have declined according to preliminary data from the CDC. A little more than 100,000 people died from an overdose last year, a 3 percent drop from the year before. But despite what is seen as a hopeful trend, the overall number of deaths is still extraordinarily high, with fentanyl being a major cause.

All this week on CNN, we are bringing our Eighth Annual Champions for Change, spotlighting incredible stories of people changing their communities and our world. Including Dr. Sanjay Gupta's champion Keith Hayes, a special mentor leading a drug addiction recovery program at a very unique high school. Hayes has battled his own share of demons and is now helping to turn his students' lives around. Take a look.



KEITH HAYES, DIRECTOR OF RECOVERY AT 5280 HIGH SCHOOL (voice-over): Welcome to 5280 High School. We are the largest recovery high school in the country. We serve students who struggle with substance abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, and other destructive behaviors. And we teach kids how to live without drugs and alcohol one day at a time.

HAYES: Hi, I am Keith.


HAYES: So today's topic is about getting sober. How I got high?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be honest, I was miserable in act of (ph) addiction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty much an everyday thing. I was getting high every day.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every morning starts with something known as BOAT, be open and authentic together. To sit and listen to that meeting is one of the most powerful things I think I've ever done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember this period of time where it was like, if I wasn't high, I like was going to kill myself.

GUPTA (voice-over): There is this quote that said that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is human connection. And that is what that time period really is.

GUPTA: Are you breaking new ground with a program like this?

HAYES: That's the hope. I think a lot of other recovery high schools do a lot of clinical pieces and that's cool. But I'm sorry. I had another 16-year-old that looks like me, that sounds like me. That now has a year, 18 months, two years sober, sharing with me what they did to get sober is better than any doctor or clinical person can ever do to help them.

GUPTA: So how much of your own personal life experience is part of this role for you?

HAYES: I mean, it is everything. I started my journey in active addiction as early as 14, 15 years old. I have five felonies today, felonies that I acquired while under the influence of drugs and alcohol and active addiction.

GUPTA: It is hard to reconcile the man that is sitting in front of me with all that.

HAYES: Yeah.

GUPTA: Are you the exception to the rule or are you the rule?

HAYES: There is a lot of us out here who have recreated our lives in recovery. But it is a part of my story and it is very important that I share those very terrible and inhumane things that I did in active addiction, so we can give hope to others that they can recover too.

GUPTA: So, what are we about to see here?

HAYES: So now, we are about to go into our biology, engineering, physics, chemistry, woodshop class.

GUPTA: I like it, biology and workshop together.


GUPTA: I could've used that. Yes, sir.

HAYES: By doing project-based learning, it allows the kids to be able to learn 21st century skills, learn how to collaborate well with others, how to problem-solve, also core principles in recovery as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is like an emotional outlet for me. I love to create.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You come here, you got to put in the work and the action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have (inaudible).

HAYES (voice-over): I know every single kid. I can tell you about their story. I can tell you what they've been through. When they do make mistakes or things do happen, not beating them up about it. Loving on them, supporting them, and figure out what do we need to do next to help them get to the next level.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started drinking and using when I was 13, by smoking crack and fentanyl and drinking and ended up getting narcan-ed and was in the hospital. Keith was like a really big support through all of that and would just continuously show me that he loved me and cared about me. And I have been sober since then. And now I have 17 months.

GUPTA: Congratulations for that.


GUPTA: Do you dream about the future now? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. A few years ago, I didn't think I'd be alive. And so, it was really weird turning 18 and having plans to go to college, and just all of the things that I get to do now.

HAYES: At one point, I didn't know if Lucy was going to live or die. And now, I know Lucy is going to do whatever she wants to do in this world.

HAYES (voice-over): Every single one of these kids gives us all hope today that no matter how hard your life is, things can get better one day at a time.


COOPER: It sounds like such a great program and that young woman, Lucy, her face just lit up when she was talking about her sobriety. What does the fact that a school like this exists say about the state of the drug crisis in our country, especially among teens?

GUPTA (on camera): Yeah, I mean, it is sad I think that a school like this has to exist. But on the other hand, you're glad that it does. It is sort of the physical embodiment of harm reduction, something that we've talked about a lot. I will tell you, Anderson, just over the past few years, you've seen drug usage actually go down in the United States. But at the same time, the drugs have gotten stronger. They've gotten deadlier, and they are easier to obtain.

I mean, Keith was telling me these kids, they'll get the drugs off social media and they'll pay with Venmo, which is I guess no surprise then that the number of overdoses among adolescents has doubled over the last several years. So, it is an incredible program, but sad that it has to exist at all.

COOPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

GUPTA (On camera): I got it, thank you.

COOPER: Be sure to join Sanjay this Saturday, May 18 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for the hour-long special "Champions for Change" with a look at 12 people making a difference. Again, that's Saturday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.