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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Trump Preps For Debate As Possible New VP Contender Emerges; Putin Signs Mutual Defense Treaty With Kim Jong Un; Louisiana Gov. Signs Law Requiring Ten Commandments Be Displayed In Every Public School Classroom By 2025; Thousands Flee New Mexico Wildfires, At Least Two Deaths; Baseball Hall Of Famer Willie Mays Dies At Age 93. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 19, 2024 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, his family releasing a statement to OUTFRONT, which reads in part: "We made it clear that calling Paul's case a 'priority' of the White House had caused the word to lose all meaning. Paul's case does not appear to be a priority. Or the people who say it is use that word in a very different way from how it is defined." Our thoughts with Paul as he still waits and waits, hoping for release.

Thanks so much to all of you for joining us tonight. AC360 begins now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, new reporting on how the former president has been preparing for next week's CNN debate, now just eight days away and word of a new name he could be considering as a running mate.

Also tonight, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un have agreed to a new military partnership. How concerned should the West be in Ukraine?

Plus, Louisiana becomes the only state in America to mandate displaying the Ten Commandments in every public classroom. What happens now?

Good evening. Thanks for joining us. With just eight days to go until the former president faces off against the current one in CNN's first of the campaign presidential debate, there are new details about how Donald Trump is preparing.

They suggest, as The New York Times' Maggie Haberman will explain in a moment, that behind closed doors, the former president is taking it seriously. At the same time, very publicly, he's also laying the groundwork, in case he doesn't do so well on the debate stage, by making completely wild claims that a good Biden performance will be drug-enhanced.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's going to be so pumped up. He's going to be pumped up. You know all that stuff that was missing about a month ago from the White House? What happened? Who left it? Somebody left it there. I wonder, let's see, somebody left a laptop in an office of - a gentleman was supposed to fix the laptop from hell. He never picked it up and somebody didn't pick up hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine. I wonder who that could have been.


COOPER: So, just as a point of fact, the bag found in a White House visitor's storage cubby last summer contained less than a gram of cocaine, according to a staunchly conservative Republican congressman who was briefed by the Secret Service on it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of cocaine would weigh dozens of pounds.

Also, taking up the idea that President Biden will be medicated for the debate, Congressman Ronny Jackson. Ronny Jackson was the former White House physician who was allegedly so free and easy prescribing drugs, without a prescription, he became known as the "Candyman," which the congressman denies. Jackson also administered a cognitive test to the former president, which the former president claimed he aced, though he couldn't remember Congressman Jackson's last name. He kept calling him Johnson the other day.

Joining us now with the new debate prep reporting, New York Times Senior Political Correspondent, Maggie Haberman.

So what have you heard about how Trump is taking this?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: As you note, there are ample opportunities for Trump to make flubs, as much as he tries to point out what Biden does. Trump is taking this more seriously than people allow publicly, right? I mean, in public, his aides often downplay the prep that he does.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: He's been doing not standard debate prep. He doesn't have stand-ins, as of now, for Biden in these debates.

COOPER: So, he's not doing mock debates as it ...

HABERMAN: He's not doing mock debates. That could certainly change. But he's been doing what they've been describing as policy time, where they bring in different people to brief him. A bunch of senators have come in. Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Eric Schmitt both briefed him at the RNC headquarters after his meetings with lawmakers around Capitol Hill, which was his first major meeting with party members since he became the presumptive nominee.

And they are focusing on various issues that could come up, abortion, health care, energy, COVID and then very specifically, and this was one thing that came up last Thursday, what Trump will say when asked January 6th-related questions, particularly his statements about pardoning some of the people who were arrested in connection with the violence that day.

COOPER: So will he - do we - do you know will he try to be vague and not be pinned down on whether he'll pardon them all?

HABERMAN: On that one, what they are hoping he is going to say, and again, who knows what he'll actually say, but what they're hoping he's going to say is some version of, you know, it depends on the case. He has left it much broader in the past and said he'll likely pardon people, again, across the board, think that they're going to try to have him point to specifics, including people who were arrested where they were not that close to the building.

COOPER: Do you know, in past debates ...

HABERMAN: Or inside the building.

COOPER: ... did he do mock debates? I mean, did he have somebody playing somebody else?

HABERMAN: Well, Chris Christie, I mean, played a version of Hillary Clinton and he played a version of Biden in 2020 and then in 2016 before that. So, yes, I mean, those were - look, Trump doesn't like prep. I mean, he considers it school. So the fact that they've gotten him to do it this way is actually pretty revealing and also speaks to the fact that I think he knows that this has to go well for him.

He has said to people multiple times that he knows that he interrupted too much in the first debate with Biden in 2020, and having just rewatched that debate recently, it's really striking. I mean, we all talked about it at the time, but Biden could barely get a word in edgewise and Biden was kind of smiling throughout as this was happening.

COOPER: Maggie, stay with us. I want to bring in former White House - former Biden White House communications director, Kate Bedingfield, also Sarah Longwell, publisher of The Bulwark, longtime Republican strategist, a critic of the former president.


Kate, what is your reaction to Maggie's reporting that Trump is apparently doing more of these policy sessions while Biden is sticking to more traditional debate prep with your old boss, former White House chief of staff, Ron Klain?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm actually not surprised to hear this from Maggie because I think Donald Trump recognizes, as she said, the first debate in 2020, which was essentially a free for all where kind of his worst characteristics were on display, his most chaotic energy was on display. I think he knows and his team knew that wasn't good for him. And I think there's every reason to expect that a more disciplined version of Donald Trump may show up at this debate.

I mean, think about it. The format is actually, I would argue, probably to Trump's benefit. You know, no audience, the mic's being cut off. It means he's not going to have the sort of rambling - have the rambling rally Donald Trump that we get at his rallies and it's - it will potentially be an opportunity for him to be a lot more disciplined.

So I think that it certainly makes sense if you're somebody who's strategizing on behalf of Donald Trump to try to convince him to show up and be that version of himself. And I think it's reasonable to expect that we'll see that version of him.

COOPER: Kate, do you think not having an audience play - helps Donald Trump?

BEDINGFIELD: I do, because I think the thing that will be the most problematic for him is the angry energy, the chaotic energy, the interrupting. He feeds off crowds. He kind of gets whipped up into a frenzy. And I think part of what Biden should do in this debate and what I think he wants to do is try to kind of put the worst of Donald Trump on display, put that chaotic energy on display. And I actually think a more sedate room that will kind of bring Trump's energy level down is probably actually a good thing for Donald Trump.

Sarah, I know you do focus groups to GOP voters. Do you think many of those voters will be impacted by this debate or opinions already baked in?

SARAH LONGWELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. Well, look, for the base voters, opinions are baked in. And for a lot of those people, they think that Joe Biden has dementia, right? Because that's what they hear all the time from the right wing media ecosystem. But what Biden needs to focus on are these swing voters, these independents, even right leaning independents.

And for them, you know, what I hear in the focus groups, we talk a lot about double haters, them being the persuadable group this election cycle. And the good news for Joe Biden is they don't actually hate Joe Biden, those voters. They're just - they're worried he's too old.

And so when he has performances like he had at the State of the Union, and if he has a good performance at this debate, he shows up, he shows command of the policy material, he goes on some offense against Donald Trump around the conviction, around January 6th, they just want to see that he's still got it, that he can do the job.

And I think if he clears that bar, he can do a lot to take these voters who are pretty unhappy about this choice and move them into his column because while they don't hate Joe Biden, they do, many of them, hate Donald Trump. And so I think the more that these voters see of Donald Trump, the more he comes back into their frame, the more they think, oh, yes, I really don't like that guy and I don't feel comfortable putting him in charge of the country. And Biden's just got to hold the line ...

COOPER: Right.

LONGWELL: ... keep that anti-Trump coalition together.

COOPER: Maggie, I understand, according to your reporting, Trump's been working with Sen. Hagerty. HABERMAN: He's one of the senators who has been in. They've had this rotating cast of characters who have come in to talk about different policy. What's interesting about Hagerty is that his name has come up in the context of the vice presidential stakes in the last couple of weeks.

As I mentioned, Marco Rubio is one of the people who was with Trump last week. He is one of the top tier candidates. I don't think Hagerty is, but it just speaks to the degree to which, number one, the Republican establishment is coalesced around Donald Trump and trying to help him in this election.

And number two, that they see advantage in having direct time with him this way.

COOPER: It is interesting that he's, you know, having all these people come and talk policy, because policy is obviously not something that's front and center when you think of Donald Trump or even in his long rambling rallies.

HABERMAN: He has a series of agenda items that he can point to from when he was president, and that's what they're trying to focus his mind on, to your point. A lot of what he has talked about over the last two years has been grievances, his court cases. I think he has been so singular and was during the Manhattan trial so singularly focused on what was taking place there that they're trying to get his mind back to what he can talk about, about what he did.

There are things that I think he can speak to about policy, but there's also a lot of stuff that is going to be a problem for him. You know, the January 6th-related questions, I think, are going to be a problem. The pardons question is going to be a problem. His promises of retribution are going to be a problem when those come up. And I anticipate President Biden will reference his criminal conviction.

Now, I'm quite confident, based on my reporting, that Donald Trump will then point to Hunter Biden's criminal conviction. And this could be an uglier debate than we have seen in a very long time.

COOPER: Maggie had referenced the 2020 debate between Trump and Biden, let's just play some of that.




TRUMP: Are you going to pack the court?

BIDEN: 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 the question, because ...

TRUMP: Why wouldn't you answer that question?

BIDEN: Because the question is ...

TRUMP: You want to put a lot of new Supreme Court Justices. Radical left.

BIDEN: ... the question is - will you shut up, man?

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

BIDEN: This is so ...

CHRIS WALLACE: Gentlemen, I think we've ended this ...

BIDEN: ... this is so un-Presidential.

TRUMP: He's going to pack the court.


COOPER: Kate Bedingfield, I mean, it was very unpresidential and it is interesting from Maggie's reporting that he has said to people he thinks that was a mistake. Or not that moment, necessarily ...


COOPER: ... but that he was too negative.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. Yes. Well, too negative and also just the constant interrupting. I mean, remember, the audience that matters here is the television audience. And watching that on television was unbearable. It was unbearable to watch him just continue to interrupt, continue to berate the moderator.

And I think, again, like, it really, you know, he really helped Joe Biden do the work Biden was trying to do there. And really kind of showcase this is not the guy that you want in the Oval Office. His temperament isn't right. You know, he's disrespectful.

And it was really, we saw in the data on the Biden campaign after that debate, it was really a turnoff for swing voters, for moderate voters, for suburban voters. So I think, you know, to Sarah's point earlier in this conversation, I think this is Joe Biden's task for the debate, you know, to connect with those people. You saw him in that clip there looking directly to camera. I expect that's something he'll do a lot of during this debate as well, to really connect with those particularly moderate suburban voters who just can't stomach Donald Trump.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, Kate Bedingfield, Sarah Longwell, thank you so much.

Coming up next, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, we'll show you the Pyongyang pomp befitting Red Square in the Cold War days, in the Cold War chill, their new defense treaty conjures up. We'll also take you live to Moscow.

And we're live as well in the fire lines in New Mexico, where hundreds of homes and buildings have now burned. A second person has now died. There's also now the threat of flash flooding.



COOPER: Vladimir Putin is in Vietnam tonight, a country which is warming toward the United States recently but has been a longtime buyer of Russian military equipment. Vladimir Putin flew there from North Korea, where he was greeted with a lot of pomp and pageantry and signed a mutual defense pact with Kim Jong-un. We'll have the details now from CNN's Matthew Chance in Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOGBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This was carefully choreographed pomp and ceremony, a lavish welcome in North Korea for the Russian president. In Pyongyang's central square, 10s of thousands cheered, waving flags and balloons, as their own ruthless autocrat, Kim Jong-un, stood shoulder to shoulder with the Kremlin's strongman.

It's been 24 years since Putin's last visit here. Now international sanctions and war have driven him back.

Later, the two leaders signing a strategic alliance treaty, unwavering they called it, heralding a new and dangerous phase in cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang.




CHANCE (voice over): "I've no doubt this powerful treaty will be very constructive," declared Kim Jong-un. "Strictly peace-loving and defensive," he said.




CHANCE (voice over): Putin clarified the partnership includes mutual assistance in the event of aggression. That's similar to NATO's Article 5, raising concerns Ukrainian attacks on Russia could invoke the clause.

Already U.S. officials say Russia is using North Korean ammunition to sustain its barrage on the Ukrainian front lines. Moscow and Pyongyang deny arms transfers, which would be in violation of U.N. sanctions. The Kremlin needs all the help it can get to win its conflict in Ukraine.

What North Korea may get in return is also concerning. Its space, ballistic missile and nuclear programs used to threaten the U.S. and its allies would benefit from Russian technology. The Kremlin says Pyongyang hasn't even asked for help in the most sensitive areas.

Back in Pyongyang, the only tech being transferred so far seems to be automotive. The Kremlin gifting Kim a Russian-made limo, in which Putin then drove him around during a brief interlude.

But then it was back to the business of state-sponsored flattery. Putin and Kim, stone-faced at times, sat as the captive audience clapped along to patriotic Russian and Korean songs. Both leaders, opposed to the U.S. and its allies, are isolated and sanctioned by the West.

In Pyongyang, at least, neither looks like a pariah.


COOPER: And Matthew Chance joins us now from Moscow. So, Putin has now moved to Vietnam. Do we know what he's hoping to accomplish in that part of the trip?

CHANCE (on camera): Yes. I mean, it's going to be a lot less ambitious, I think, than those dramatic scenes that we saw in Pyongyang. The Kremlin says that it wants to establish closer cooperation on the nuclear issue, nuclear power generation in Vietnam. It wants to boost educational exchanges, boost tourism.

In other words, a lot more about increasing trade and business ties, a lot less about fighting the United States and its allies. Anderson?

COOPER: Matthew Chance, thanks so much.

A perspective now from Sue Mi Terry, former CIA North Korea analyst and currently a senior fellow and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. How significant do you think is this partnership now between Russia and North Korea?

SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST: It's significant and this is a big deal. This was - it was leading to this, and I think a lot of Korea experts were warning about this because North Koreans have been supplying Russia with weapons, right? They've sent 10,000 - over 10,000 containers of munitions and artillery shells and rockets and ballistic missiles and so on to be used in Ukraine, and this was very concerning.

And if you remember, Kim Jong-un went to Russia, met with Putin last fall in September.


And two months after, they successfully launched a satellite or so, when they failed to do so previously. So then there was also a question of, okay, North Korea is supplying Russia with weapons, but what is Russia now supplying North Korea with.

So now they meet, and now they have this treaty. So this is a very big deal.

COOPER: And, I mean, Vladimir Putin was asked about, you know, cooperation on atomic issues. He said nobody's asked, you know, for - they haven't asked for anything. That is obviously the biggest concern, I would think.

TERRY: Yes. Putin giving sensitive military technology and there's a lot the Russians can provide because North Korea is right now, you know, they've been advancing their program. They've been diversifying, expanding their missile capability, but they need a lot of sensitive technologies to really perfect their capability. And that's what Kim Jong-un will be looking for from Putin. And the key question is whether Putin will do that or not.

You know, he has some reasons not to do that. He doesn't want to just give away sensitive technology, but he's pretty desperate. There's a reason why Putin has not visited North Korea in 24 years.

COOPER: He was very sort of dismissive of North Korea in past years.

TERRY: It's a pariah state.

COOPER: Right.

TERRY: Russia wanted to - you know, North Korea is, like, 198th-ranked economy in the world. It's a poor state. They cannot even feed its people. There's a reason why Putin didn't visit. So the fact that now he has visited shows his desperation level.

COOPER: Do you think, though, this is just sort of a temporary, you know, alliance while they're useful for Russia, and then, you know, once Ukraine is resolved one way or another, that he turns away from them again?

TERRY: There are people who make that argument because in the past, when you look at it, in the Russia-North Korea relationship, there were times when Russia practically played no role after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They just kind of stayed away. But now - so, you know, it depends on what happens with Ukraine.

If the war goes on, Putin will continually need Kim Jong-un, but if the war ends, does he still need Kim Jong-un? But still, the fact that now they have signed this treaty, it's still very noteworthy and significant.

COOPER: You warn in a recent article in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region could face new provocations from North Korea as we get closer to the U.S. presidential election.

TERRY: Well, typically, in a presidential election year, when just historically, North Korea likes to act out and conduct provocations. And then this is also a year maybe, from Kim Jong-un's perspective, he would want President Trump back and wants to make trouble for the Biden administration. And international environment right now is favorable for North Korea. There's absolutely no repercussion to whatever North Korea does, because we have complete inaction at the United Nations Security Council, China and Russia. Obviously, Russia is now not - they're not implementing sanctions, they're not playing ball, they're not helping the West at all. So there's no repercussion for North Korea.

COOPER: Right.

TERRY: If I'm Kim Jong-un myself, if I'm advising Kim Jong-un, I would say, go ahead and perfect your nuclear missile capability. So to increase its leverage, so when North Korea does sit down with United States, potentially Trump when he comes back, then they have more leverage.

So North Korea has every incentive in the world to continue ramp up its nuclear capability.

COOPER: Sue Mi Terry, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, more on what to expect in next week's CNN presidential debate. I'll speak with the man who played the role of Donald Trump during President Biden's practice sessions back in 2020.



COOPER: Today, Louisiana became the first state in the country to require the Ten Commandments be on display in every public school classroom from kindergarten to state-funded universities under a bill signed by Republican governor Jeff Landry. Under the new state law, which will take effect in 2025, the commandments must be poster size and in a large, easily readable font.

In a joint statement, civil liberties groups and other opponents, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, say they'll file a lawsuit challenging the law, calling it bluntly unconstitutional.

Joining us now, proud son of Louisiana, Democratic strategist James Carville, and CNN Senior Political Commentator Scott Jennings, who served in the George W. Bush administration.

I should have said proud son of Carville, Louisiana. So, James, what do you make of this new law in your home state?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think given the storm season is coming up, we don't need the Ten Commandments, we need a Hail Mary. It would be, you know, much more appropriate for what we face, really, in Louisiana. I don't know which one they're going to put up. There's 10 different versions of the Ten Commandments and our schools are so underfunded that I'm not sure half the kids even know how to read them. But it's one of the dumbest waste of time that I've ever seen in my life. COOPER: The schools in Louisiana traditionally have ranked very low in the rankings of schools in America. It's gone up, I think, pre-K through 12 has gone up a little bit in recent years, but not by much.

CARVILLE: Yes, it's got - Gov. Edwards, John Bel, did a great job. I mean, he got us, you know, off the bottom, but Gov. Landry's intent on putting us back on the bottom, it seems like. But I'm serious. When I look at this storm season and the summer coming ahead, it's going to be a fundamentally different country come mid-October of this year. It's going to really be bad.

COOPER: Scott, I mean, is this a violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause, separation of church and state?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I mean, maybe, maybe not. I mean, that's for courts to decide. I don't have a particular problem with this. If somebody wants to hang up a piece of paper in a schoolroom that says, you know, hey, kids, don't murder, don't steal, don't lie and respect your parents, you know, that doesn't bother me. I'm not out here crusading for it, and I certainly don't think public school teachers should be preachers, but, you know, these are the fundamental tenets of Western civilization. They kind of underpin, you know, our entire criminal justice system.

And look, if they're part of a historical display, if they're hanging up there next to the Constitution, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, I don't have a problem with it. I do think it's sort of amusing that there are people out here so enraged by this today who at the same time would love to use public schools and public libraries and other public facilities to distribute information that more matches their own agenda.

So I think people are overreacting to this, and the courts are going to have to get involved and see what the interpretation of the laws are.

COOPER: James, I mean, is there a difference between having something, a book in a library and something posted in every classroom from the Bible?

CARVILLE: Well, look, this is book burner talking points, all right? These people want to burn books, take them out of libraries. You know, you can't substitute reading, writing, arithmetic with - you know, like I say, the courts are going to have to flush this out, but there's a thousand founding documents (INAUDIBLE) ...

COOPER: Right. I mean, Kentucky had a similar law, it gets struck down.

CARVILLE: The problem is you've got to have kids that can read them.


COOPER: Right.

CARVILLE: Yeah. You know, (inaudible) this court will do, but -- they'll blame it up to -- it'll go right up to a legal system -- what I find fascinating is the book burners really want the Ten Commandments. (Inaudible) Give me a break.

COOPER: Scott, how much of this really is about the quality public education (inaudible).


JENNINGS: Anderson?

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead, Scott.

JENNINGS: I worry about -- I worry about the quality of public education everywhere. I worry, especially about it coming out of the pandemic, when you have an epidemic of kids who have just disappeared, they can't find kids.


COOPER: Right. But is this really about the quality of public education or is it about election year politics and trying to get another so-called religious freedom case in front of the supreme court?

JENNINGS: But I don't -- I don't necessarily think teaching basic, fundamental values of western civilization is in congruent or in opposition to also having quality education in a school system.

And if I may, I do respect the hell out of James Carville, he's a legend in our business and for people who do what I do. But you are not going to sit on this television at night and call me a book burner. I do not believe in burning books. I strongly believe in the First Amendment.

I have no interest in restricting any information and I strongly reject the ad hominem attack. We can disagree on this, but you're not going to call me a book burner on TV.

CARVILLE: Right. Well, the correlation between book burners and people that want Ten Commandments is high. I can tell you (inaudible) but 80 percent of the book burners want to be now, there's the high correlation there. And you want to talk about fundamental American values, try the First Amendment but that's me.

COOPER: For the record, I will say I have not heard Scott Jennings talk about bringing any books anytime that I have talked to him, sorry.



CARVILLE: There's a lot of book burners at work here.

COOPER: I hear what you're saying James.

CARVILLE: There's a correlation.

COOPER: James Carville, appreciate your time. Scott Jennings as well. Thank you.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

COOPER: More now on our top story tonight, presidential debate prep for the first showdown right here on CNN eight days from now. As "New York Times" Maggie Haberman told us moments ago, the former president is taking part in policy sessions loose (ph) with his advisers rather than mock (ph) debates for now, whereas President Biden will reportedly once again be undergoing more traditional debate prep.

Back in 2020, my next guest helped in that effort for then candidate Biden by playing the part of Trump, as President Biden's personal attorney Bob Bauer there, who was the White House Counsel during the Obama Administration. These days, Bauer is the author of a new book, "The Unraveling: Reflections on Politics without Ethics and Democracy in Crisis." I spoke to him earlier.


COOPER: Mr. Bauer, thanks for joining us. You wrote in the book, you said, whatever happens, I will have the memories of the Biden-Trump debates in which I, as Donald Trump, played my part, lying and blustering and bullying my way through the mock sessions. I was expected to be at my Trump-worst, as personally insulting and unhinged as Trump can be." How did you go about preparing for that?

BOB BAUER, AUTHOR: Any debate prep involves immersing yourself in whatever the candidate who you are playing, immersing yourself in whatever they have said, videos of their interviews, videos of their speeches, so that you can really and seriously, I mean, not by way of doing some sort of comic impression, but seriously model out what the experience of debating will be like.

And that's how you prepare. You prepare intensively by just exposing yourself to that material, video and writing, audio, as extensively as you possibly can be before the prep begins.

COOPER: How -- in the debate perhaps that I have done, oftentimes, when you know everything a candidate has said, it is very effective as preparation because they often do repeat the same lines, literally sometimes the same intonations. How accurate were you in your debate prep?

BAUER: Well, in all the debate perhaps that you do, you absolutely hope to achieve accuracy. You're trying to be helpful to the debate prep process and so you're looking to provide an experience that is close to what will actually happen as possible. And I'm sure I missed a few steps along the way. Each debate prep is different. Each session within a debate prep is different.

But you're absolutely right. The key is to be accurate and then you judge yourself by how the candidate that you played actually turns up, how that candidate actually performs when the debate occurs. COOPER: Your book, "The Unraveling," it's about politics without ethics and a democracy in crisis. You write in the book, another presidential campaign is underway and the democracy is being tested once more, Trump and his confederates face prosecution for the events of January 6. Yet his party has embraced election denialism, proclaiming that the political system is fraudulent to the core, rigged to disfavor Republicans and steal votes for Democrats. Trump is running for president on a platform with this claim front and center and a solid majority of his party stands behind him.

Just on Saturday, at a Charlie Kirk event, the former president was once again railing about stop the steal and about mail-in ballots, and how dangerous they are. I mean, is faith in America's democratic traditions, is it irrevocably undermined in your view? I mean, if it is unraveled, is there a way to get it back together, to tie it together?


BAUER: Yes. I think absolutely there is, and I think it is a bipartisan effort. I mean, the book is written, of course, by me as someone who has been involved in Democratic Party politics for a very long time. But I wrote it, I think, with the intention of looking over experiences that I've had and thinking about how we possibly got to this point. And I conclude by giving examples of where Democrats and Republicans have come together recently and attempted to find common ground around the basic defense of democratic institutions and norms, like our elections.

I've had the opportunity to talk to election officials around the country, including Republicans. They're very serious about their jobs. They care profoundly about are voting systems and the communities that they serve care about them too. So I think there is a foundation of fundamental devotion to those sorts of principles of democratic self- governance that we can continue to draw on and cultivate even in the face of this very difficult polarization that we are facing in the country's politics.

The fundamental point that I'm trying to get across and I use my personal experiences to try to give this point some life is that everyone in public life, in government, in politics, in journalism have choices to make, what I call, ethical choices. And those choices have to be made -- have to be considered and then made with a view toward their impact on democratic practices and norms and institutions now more than ever.

COOPER: Bob Bauer, the new book is "The Unraveling: Reflections on Politics without Ethics and Democracy in Crisis." Thank you so much for your time.

BAUER: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Coming up next, we have breaking news. Too fast-moving wildfires taking aim at one part of New Mexico, thousands forced to flee and the death toll climbing. I'll have live report from the scene when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: Breaking news from New Mexico where a second death was just reported as officials tried to battle fast-spreading and still uncontrolled wildfires. The pictures there are just extraordinary. They're tearing through tribal land and villages, the South Fork Fire as it is known about 115 miles by air, southeast of Albuquerque, has forced 8,000 people to flee their homes. It has already destroyed about 1,400 houses and buildings. Ed Lavandera joins just now from there.

Ed, explain what you've been seeing, where you are.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the challenges for first responders and firefighters on the ground here continue just to pile up. We'd had a brief thunderstorm that rolled through here. The hope had been that it would begin the process in that rainfall of trying to tamp down these fires, but it has created other problems. The National Weather Service is reporting up in the mountains, you see behind me, mudslides, there's also been widespread flooding along the main evacuation route that heads east out of the Ruidoso, New Mexico area as well.

So you know, just other problems that have resulted from just what it was a brief storm that blew through here. There is more rain expected at some point either tonight or into tomorrow as well. They would need (inaudible) if you look out there in the distance, that is the main fire here that is now consuming, between the two fires, 23,000 acres and all of that smoke continues to bellow out there in the mountains.

COOPER: And you spoke to some people who had to evacuate, what was their experience like?

LAVANDERA: It's just treacherous and dangerous. You're talking about this -- you were mentioning the second death that has been reported. That was someone who was found in their car, according to officials here in New Mexico. Other people have just told us just terrifying stories as they were scrambling to get out. We spoke with Michael Scott who left his tome with his wife, three dogs, and he was able to drive to another neighborhood and pick up his mother and they left the scene. This is what he describes scene on his way.


MICHAEL SCOTT, RUIDOSO RESIDENT: We reached a point where it was just a solid blackout. We've never seen anything like it, but the thing that kind of startled me more than anything, my truck was being hit with chunks of ash. I could feel them hitting the hood and the gray, it was almost like big gray rain hitting my truck.


LAVANDERA: But Anderson, tonight, this city of mountain village of Ruidoso, New Mexico just still feels like a smoked out ghost town. Anderson?

COOPER: Yeah. Lavandera, thanks so much.

Coming up next, how major league baseball is paying tribute to one of the greatest athlete who has ever played the game. We remember the iconic Willie Mays this Juneteenth holiday.



COOPER: Baseball has lost a legend. Hall of Famer Willie Mays passed way Tuesday at the age of 93. He got a start in the Negro Leagues before becoming first a sensation, then a superstar, then a legend with the Giants first in New York and later in San Francisco. Willie Mays known to generations of fans as the "Say Hey Kid" is widely considered to be among the best ever to play the game, if not the best.

The league had been set to honor him tomorrow night at a game in Alabama as part of a series paying tribute to the Negro Leagues and to coincide with Juneteenth. CNN's Ryan Young is in Birmingham tonight, outside Rickwood Field where a teenage Willie Mays launched one of the most remarkable careers in baseball. What's the scene there like tonight?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): You're talking about an ultimate superstar here, Anderson. You got to think what baseball means to this country and the fact that the African American men who broke the color barrier in baseball stood for more than just the sport. They meant something to the entire community.

At Juneteenth (inaudible) and baseball really has come up with a pretty good recipe here. If you look behind us, the history of the Negro Leagues is behind us. And now, there's a conversation that's happening. There are so many people who have come here, white and black, who are talking about Juneteenth, but at the same time, they're getting a chance to mix in the history. This is the oldest ballpark that's left in America and where better else to celebrate a man who lived so long, but so fruitful of a life that not only did black people celebrate, white people celebrate, and of course, baseball fans across the world celebrated Willie Mays.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will always cherish the memory and life of the great Willie Mays.


YOUNG (voice-over): A standing ovation for Willie Mays Tuesday night in Birmingham during a minor league game at Rickwood Field. A certain (ph) crowd learning of the passing of the Birmingham native, Hall of Famer and American icon who died Tuesday at 93.

SEAN FRENCH, BASEBALL FAN: Just to hear this, (inaudible) to Willie Mays family. That hurts.

YOUNG (voice-over): Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the U.S. is the same field where Mays began his career as a player in the Negro Leagues. Thursday, in honor of Juneteenth, major league baseball is set to host a regular season game at Rickwood Field between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants, Mays' former team. The game which is set to include tribute to the Negro League and Mays will now be a national remembrance to Mays.

GREG MORLA, GIANTS FAN WHO TRAVELED TO BIRMINGHAM: Willie, he is my idol. And when he passed last night, I had tears -- I had tears coming down. May he rest in peace.

LARRY KING, TELEVISION HOST: Baseball always come easily to you?


KING: It did?

MAYS: I never had a problem with baseball.

YOUNG (voice-over): Known as the "Say Hey Kid," Mays started playing with the Negro Leagues Birmingham Black Barons in 1948 at the age of 17.


In 1951, he made his major league debut with the New York Giants at the age of 20. One of the most memorable plays came in game one of the 1954 World Series. Mays making a truly miraculous catch in deep center field over his shoulder. He would go on to play in 24 All-Star games, winning 12 Gold Gloves Awards before retiring in 1973. In 1979, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2015, then President Barack Obama presented Mays with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is because of Giants like Willie that someone like me could even think about running for president.

YOUNG (voice-over): Recently, MLB incorporated statistics of former Negro League players into its record books, which added ten more career hits to Mays' MLB record from his time playing with the Birmingham Black Barons. Earlier this month. Mays reacted to that news in a statement to CNN saying, I never expected I'd get ten more career hits this year. It must be some kind of record for a 93-year-old.

His godson, Barry Bonds posted a tribute to Mays on Instagram saying, "I'm beyond devastated and overcome with emotion. I have no words to describe what you mean to me. You helped shape me to be who I am today."

With Mays passing on many hearts and minds, the mayor of Birmingham says, "His spirit and legacy will never die."

RANDALL WOODFIN, MAYOR OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: Look, I think every city has a hero or heroes. Let's be very clear about this, Willie Mays is a hero to Birmingham, Alabama, not just on the field, but what he meant to little black boys and girls off the field and for generations to come.


COOPER: Yeah. I mean, a true hero for so many. Have the celebrations, I mean, they are taking on new significance in light of Willie Mays' passing.

YOUNG (on camera): Yeah. They've been quite fantastic, actually, Anderson. As a kid, I remember getting Willie Mays' autograph. I can remember my father talking about Willie Mays and what he stood up for. You see attributes like this, he's up here (inaudible). I would say more than half the people wearing his jersey today were white Americans and of course, you don't have to say it that way anymore. You can just say Americans.

So you think about the ultimate sacrifice that he made playing fields that people would scream at him, having to go to separate bathrooms, all these things he conquered. He never took no for an answer. So that will always stand and you put all this together with where we are right now, it is a wonderful place to see the tributes that are being paid to him and you know they'll be going on for quite some time.


YOUNG (on camera): As they say, the greatest of all time.

COOPER: Ryan Young, thanks so much.

Next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on call with the answers to your questions about preventing Alzheimer's.



COOPER: Tonight, we continue our new segment, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on call with his answers to your medical questions. This week's topic is Alzheimer's. As we touched on last night, nearly 7 million Americans are living with it. It is the focus of Sanjay's latest documentary, "The Last Alzheimer's Patient," which is now streaming on Max, part of our parent company. We asked you to submit your questions last night and Sanjay, who is a neurosurgeon, our Chief Medical Correspondent here with answers to some of them.

So Sanjay, Gita from Houston asks, can daily mental exercises or doing 'Words with Friends' or paper-based crossword puzzles reduce your odds of getting dementia?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So this is one of the most common questions we get and there's all this focus on brain training sorts of exercises, and what is interesting is that if you look at the data on this, things like crossword puzzles and word games and things like that mainly make you better at doing crossword puzzles and word games. They may improve your working memory to some extent, but not really a lot of evidence to show they decrease your risk of dementia.

What they did find was doing activities that are a little different for you, so painting, for example, learning a new instrument, learning a new language, those types of things make a much bigger difference in terms of potentially reducing your risk of dementia. The best evidence, Anderson, was really around movement and brisk exercise, not necessarily intense exercise. That was the best shot at growing new brain cells and doing it with somebody else, so you have that connection, probably even better.

So, I always say take a brisk walk with a close friend over a crossword puzzle. That's where you are going to do a better job at reducing your risk of future dementia.

COOPER: Jesse from Atlanta asked, do you suggest those that have a family history of Alzheimer's get the screening, the tests that you took as a baseline, and at what age, or not necessary? A lot of people want to know how they can test and what early warning signs they should look out for.

GUPTA: Yeah. So the testing that I did that, you saw some of this last night. We have some images of this. I did this with Dr. Isaacson down in Boca. That was part of a clinical trial. I do think that that sort of testing which I got to tell you, Anderson, was actually pretty intense. I mean, like quickly, name as many words as you can starting with the letter 'T' go, how many animals can you name; the longer the animal, the more unusual animal, the better; things like that.

But also things like your bone scan and all these other sorts of things, they all make a difference. There is a website called You can go to that website and it will give you an idea of the sort of cognitive testing that's available out there. If you're worried, if you have a family history, you can sort of do that sort of testing on your own.

COOPER: Yeah. I know there's a lot of backlog in a lot of places for those tests. Lisa from North Carolina, very quickly, says my mother and grandmother had Alzheimer's. Should I be tested for it? What do you think?

GUPTA: I'm a fan of testing. I think that the testing has -- there's genetic testing. The vast majority of people who develop Alzheimer's do not necessarily have a strong genetic sort of family history of this. Only about 1 percent of people will have a genetic mutation that's directly passed down.