Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Biden Blames Travel Fatigue For Debate Performance; Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) Discusses About His Take On The Presidential Debate And Why He Believes He Should Withdraw; Trump Amplifies Posts Calling For Military Tribunal For Liz Cheney And Jailing Of Top Elected Officials; Trump Sentencing In Hush Money Case Postponed Until September After Supreme Court Immunity Decision; Never Trumpers Feel Disillusioned After Biden's Performance In Thursday Night's Debate. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 02, 2024 - 20:00   ET



OLHA STEFANISHYNA, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF UKRAINE: Ukraine to sustain its capability requires a sustainable commitment in terms of military and financial support, and these are the decisions we're talking about. It's not about mobilizing or scaling up the financing, it's about securing the sustainability and continuity of this financing. And I think this is the major focus.

And the last thing, of course, Ukraine wants is to have speculations on this issue.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna, appreciate you taking the time to join us tonight, thank you.

And thanks to all of you for joining us tonight. I'm Erica Hill. AC360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, we're joined by the first Democratic Congress member to call for President Biden's departure from the race, as new reporting by The New York Times suggests the President's mental lapses are growing, quote, "more frequent and more pronounced and more worrisome."

Also tonight, with Trump amplifying calls for retribution, even televised treason trials against opponents, how the Supreme Court's landmark ruling makes using the presidency for vengeance that much easier.

And more fallout from that ruling, his New York sentencing set for next week just slipped to September.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

President Biden has just weighed in again on his debate disaster Thursday night. Speaking at a fundraiser tonight, reporters in the room, quote, the President is saying, "I decided to travel around the world a couple - of times shortly before the debate. I didn't listen to my staff - and then I almost fell asleep on stage." Reporters in the room said he seemed to be joking when he said the part about almost falling asleep on stage. But regarding his travel, factually speaking, the President got back from his last trip abroad June 15th. The debate was 12 days later. In any case, his explanation comes at the end of a day in which the first cracks opened up in what was a fairly solid wall of Democratic support.

Solid until today, when a Democratic congressman who joins me in a moment, Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett, became the first national Democratic legislator to say the President should, quoting from his statement now, make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw. I'll ask him about that in a moment.

It's notable because until today, what we have heard over and over from many Democrats is what happened at the debate was simply a bad night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad debates happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have bad nights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very bad night for the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a challenging night.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Just a bad day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was admittedly a very bad night, but it was one bad night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I think it was a rough night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've all had those nights, all of us. Not one person watching has had those nights. Everybody has a bad night and I think that was a weak debate performance.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a slow start, that's obvious to everyone. I'm not going to debate that point.


COOPER: That has been almost a soothing - self-soothing mantra for Democrats since Thursday. But what those two words don't offer is any factual evidence about why it was a bad night. What actually caused it?

The President's doctor back in February said, an - and I'm quoting, "An extremely thorough neurologic exam," end quote, found nothing consistent with such disorders as stroke, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease. When asked today whether the President had been examined by a doctor after the debate or gotten a neurological scan, White House Spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped the question in return to those two words we've heard a lot.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A neurological scan? Look, what I can say is that just to take a step back, it was a bad night. We understand that it was a bad night. And the President has spoken to this.


COOPER: She went on to deny that the White House is hiding any information about the President's health or fitness for the job. It may also say something that five days into a political meltdown, the White House can't get much beyond acknowledging the obvious about Thursday and repeating that bad night phrase.

Today, beyond Congressman Doggett, we did hear others begin to ask whether it was just a bad night or something more.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I think it's a legitimate question to say, is this an episode or is this a condition.


COOPER: House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi asking the question. And here's Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley answering it.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): We have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn't just a horrible night.


COOPER: Or Speaker Pelosi called for the President to bow out. She called it essential for him to do some tough interviews with serious journalists and it seems he will. ABC's George Stephanopoulos is going to have an interview with the President to air July 7th. Also weighing in close Biden ally James Clyburn, the South Carolina congressman did not say the President should bow out, but he did talk about who should get first consideration if he does, Vice President Harris.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I will support her if he were to step aside. This party should not in any way do anything to work around Ms. Harris.


COOPER: What's hard to know for certain at this point is how deep within the party questions about the President actually run.


However, new CNN reporting provides more than a hint. It comes from more than two dozen current and former Democratic officials, as well as donors and longtime Biden allies. All want to remain unnamed to avoid alienating the President. Many say they have already made up their minds, saying he should bow out, some say this week. They say they have held off going to Mr. Biden directly, hoping he would make the decision himself. But according to multiple Democrats we've talked to, patience is wearing thin. CNN's Jamie Gangel, who shares a byline on the report, joins us later tonight. So will New York Times correspondent, David Sanger, who bylines a disturbing new report in The Times, quoting from it now, "In the weeks and months before President Biden's politically devastating performance on the debate stage in Atlanta, several current and former officials and others who encountered him behind closed doors noticed that he increasingly appeared confused or listless or would lose the thread of conversations." Again, David Sanger and Jamie Gangel join us shortly.

Texas Democrat Congressman Lloyd Doggett joins us now.

Congressman, I appreciate you being with us.

I'm wondering, do you buy this pushback from President Biden tonight that his bad debate was because of extensive overseas travel?

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Well, it's a little difficult to believe, and it seems to be the latest story, blaming the moderators, blaming the staff, blaming the cold. I don't know. What I do know is that we're at serious risk of our government being taken over by a criminal and his gang, the democracy values that we cherish so much being lost to an authoritarian strongman.

And this week, we know the Supreme Court basically said Trump can do what he wants to. We know how compliant the Republican Congress would be. I just felt it was important to speak out in the most respectful way possible and say this is not about one night. This has been a problem for a year that our nominee has been lagging behind our strong Senate candidates in half a dozen key states, and no sign of significant improvement.

And now we have the great disappointment of this debate where the President did not look good, did not refute the many lies of President Trump, and did not really do a good job of promoting the many accomplishments. So I salute President Biden. I just feel that it's time for him to step aside if we were to be able to protect what he allowed us to gain in 2020, which was a victory for democracy, but he could - he delivered us from Trump then, he could be delivering us to Trump this year if we had more of what happened last Thursday.

COOPER: So to your fellow Democrats who are continuing to say, look, this was one bad night, you say what?

DOGGETT: Well, I say that we needed a great night. We got a great disappointment instead. Whether there are some physical problems there, I don't know. I think rather than some tests here or there, what I'd like to see is the President out actively engaging with journalists like you, answering the tough questions, demonstrating that he doesn't need a teleprompter. But I think the setback that has occurred will be difficult to overcome under any circumstance. We're looking at not people like me who believe Joe Biden has accomplished a great deal for our country, but a very small portion of the country who are undecided, who may be what are called the double haters that don't like either candidate. And I think we would be better off if we had a new candidate who could present a new vision for our country. And we can do that if we have an open and fair Democratic process over the next few weeks.

COOPER: Are you - I mean, in your statement, it was very respectful to the President for his accomplishments. How tough was it knowing you would be the first sitting member of Congress to say he should end his campaign? I mean, that's not an easy thing to come out and say.

DOGGETT: Well, it was very tough. In retrospect, I wish I had said it earlier, because I think needed - this needed to be a decision that was made much earlier in the process. But the debate and the ruling by the Supreme Court and then the input from my neighbors here in Texas was so strong from my own family that I felt that I needed to speak out. And being an older member of Congress, not about to start a new career and worrying about that or being a particularly vulnerable member of Congress, it seemed to me that I had the ability to do that, that perhaps some of my colleagues who have exactly the same views, that I might speak even if they couldn't come in a public way.

I hope some of them will be calling the White House and voicing their private concerns if they can't join me publicly, and that people around the country will let their members of Congress and the Senate know, just as my constituents have, how they feel about this, because there's just too much at risk here to go with less of - a strong - less than a strong candidate.


COOPER: Are you suggesting that the vice - Vice President Harris should be the candidate or are you not suggesting any particular candidate?

DOGGETT: Not anyone. And I'm certainly not doing this on behalf of any candidate, only because of my love of this country and my great concern about what would happen under a Trump presidency and how very probable that could be at the moment when you look at the numbers.

Vice President Harris certainly would be in the mix, but we have a number of people that you've had on this show before, governors from several states, a number of members of the Senate, perhaps members of the cabinet and the vice president. Let's give them an opportunity just as soon as possible to present themselves to the country, to our convention delegates, and move forward in a process that is open to all of them that's not some backroom deal to select a candidate, but helps us move forward with the kind of new alternative that so many people have been saying they want because they were unhappy with the two nominees that appeared to be coming.

COOPER: President Biden, when he ran, did talk about him being sort of a bridge to, you know, the future, bridge to the next generation. And yet what we are hearing is certainly everything from the White House now and all the reporting about what the President's, you know, the - his family members are telling him is that he's going to stay in this. Is there a scenario where you actually believe he would step aside? I mean, do you think this is realistic?

DOGGETT: I remain hopeful. Yes, he did, as you note, in his campaign. He emphasized that he would be a transitional, a bridge figure, and certainly he has had some transformational accomplishments. I believe that he, like Lyndon Johnson, in whose - the heart of whose district I continue to serve, made decisions for the country and put that ahead of themselves. We know Donald Trump would never do that. He's solely about himself, but I remain hopeful that despite all the input from his own staff and perhaps from some family members, that he'll look at these numbers and realize that this is a hill just too high for him to climb and call on someone else.

I think he would find a tremendous reaction from so many of us that care about what he's accomplished and know he shares our objective of trying to protect democracy and our values and his stepping aside is probably the best way to accomplish that.

COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, we heard, we played that sound bite earlier, where he was talking about that - you know, if the President did step aside that he would support Vice President Harris. Bakari Sellers was on the other day saying that, you know, all the money that the - has been raised under FEC rules could only go to Biden or Harris. If that was the case, would you support the vice president?

DOGGETT: Well, I've talked with Jim, I did - as I did so many of our leadership and colleagues last Friday immediately after the debate to voice my concern about the need for a change. I'm not surprised he'd support the Vice President. She's very able. She should be in the mix.

No, I don't think she has a total claim on the funds. It would - it's a little more complex than I think the initial report that came out. I guess all the lawyers would be looking at it - but only if she's our nominee would I see her being able to take all the funds. And certainly I think there would be an uproar about that if there were a feeling that she was being given an unfair advantage, even as talented as she is.

COOPER: Congressman Doggett, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

DOGGETT: Thank you so much, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to get perspective now from Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, also former Trump White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, co-host of the Rest is Politics U.S. podcast.

Maria, I know you want President Biden to stay in the race. I'm wondering what you make of what Congressman Doggett had to say.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, he has a right to his opinion and there are others who might feel the same. And the campaign and people at the White House should absolutely listen to that. And they are having those conversations, Anderson, you know that, that is being reported. Those are important conversations for the campaign to be having with their allies, with their supporters, with members of Congress, with other elected officials, with their donors. Those are happening right now.

COOPER: But it seems like the conversation that's really happening is they're just publicly saying it was a bad night and how dare you even, you know, raise these concerns?

CARDONA: No, I don't think that's fair. They have not say - said how dare you raise these concerns, they're listening. And yes, they are saying it was a bad night, because it was a bad night. And now what they need to do and they're starting to do this is demonstrate that the President can also have some great days and some great nights ahead.

So I say, Anderson, let's take a beat. It hasn't even been a week since the debate. We need to figure out what the consensus is.


With all due respect to Congressman Doggett, that is not right now the consensus feeling within the Democratic Party and even amongst voters.

Anderson, I was on the night of the debate doing analysis on CNN Espanol and those voters, those audiences, along with Univision and Telemundo, heard the debate through translators. They were doing focus group dials throughout of undecided Latino voters. Almost all of them went to Biden after the debate because, yes, they saw what we saw, Anderson, but they also heard what we heard coming out of Donald Trump's mouth and the dangerous rhetoric scared them.

COOPER: But we - what we're actually saying is when people didn't actually hear the President speaking, they heard a translator speaking Spanish for what he was saying.

CARDONA: What I'm ...

COOPER: That doesn't really make the case for the President, does it?

CARDONA: What - well, what it does make the case for, Anderson, is that when you compare the substance of what Joe Biden said that night and the substance of what Donald Trump said that night, a lot of voters in this country took that as the contrast and as the choice that is ahead of us in this election. It is the choice between an accomplished president who did not sound great and, again, acknowledged that it was a bad night, but that his vision, what he has accomplished, what he wants to do for this country ...

COOPER: There certainly wasn't substance by the former president and I don't think anyone's making that argument. Let me ...

CARDONA: But it's fair to look at what Donald Trump was saying as well.

COOPER: Yes, of course.

CARDONA: ... because that's what ...

COOPER: Absolutely.

CARDONA: ... that's the contrast. Anthony, I mean, you've been very clear about the danger you think Donald Trump poses if he returns to the White House. I wonder what you make of Congressman Doggett and calls for the President to step aside.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, listen, it's not for me to decide that. I understand Maria's points and I'm actually very sympathetic to Maria's points. I would just say, historically, the Democrats do better when they are bolder. And so if the bold move is to have Joe Biden, President Biden, stay in the race, let's get him out there. Let's get him interactive with people like you, Anderson.

CARDONA: Let's have him press the flesh so people can see him not in the state that he was in last Thursday. However, if he's not up to that, he's a great American patriot and I believe that he'll be honest with the American people. And then I would just suggest to my Democratic friends, you had Jack Kennedy, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton. There's a spirit of youth and boldness in the Democratic Party that will beat Donald Trump if they put up a candidate, whether it's Vice President Harris or you guys pick the candidate, I believe he is beatable.

Because remember, what we're not talking about, Anderson, is the things that Joe Biden has done in this administration. He is reshoring manufacturing.


SCARAMUCCI: We are building microprocessor foundries in America again. We got an infrastructure bill done. In the Trump administration, it was infrastructure week every week. Nothing got done. We put an infrastructure bill on the table. Nothing got done. We're rebuilding roads, bridges, and tunnels. I want to get the narrative back on that.

So if the President's going to bring us that narrative, get him out there. Let's have him bring us that narrative. If he doesn't want to do that or he feels he's not up to it, I respect that. I love him as a patriot, and he'll do what's best for the country. And so it's not for me to say, I appreciate Maria's position. I also understand Representative Doggett's position. But I - we got to get the story back on where we're going as a nation, what the President has done thus far, which has been very, very successful and very healing. We do not want to go back to Donald Trump.

And I just want to point out that when I worked for Donald Trump, Maria told me that Donald Trump was spewing lots of lies. And so I sort of owe Maria an apology, I'll do it right here on the air. You were right about a lot of things, Maria, okay? And you know what ...

CARDONA: Thank you, Anthony.

SCARAMUCCI: ... when you get something wrong - but when you get something wrong, you have to own it. And you have to tell people the truth so that we don't go back to the danger of that.


SCARAMUCCI: And so that's my message, Anderson. I don't know where the President wants to go with this, but he should sit down with his family and his friends. And I believe he will do what is in the best interest of the United States. And whoever they go with, I will support because I understand the existential danger that is Donald Trump and this plan that he has for America, which is very dystopian.

COOPER: Anthony Scaramucci, Maria Cardona, I appreciate it.

CARDONA: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Still to come, more on those damaging new details from The New York Times about President Biden behind the scenes before the debate, as well as assessments of his condition from European officials. One of the co-authors from The New York Times joins us next.

Also the fallout in the former president's Manhattan hush money case after the Supreme Court's conservative majority declared him immune from prosecution for all official acts.



COOPER: President Biden will meet with a number of Democratic governors tomorrow, according to multiple sources. They sought the meeting to discuss their concerns in the wake of the debate which he blamed tonight on fatigue from overseas travel. According to new reporting in The New York Times, this wasn't a one-off. The headline in the Times: "Biden's Lapses Are Increasingly Common, According to Some of Those in the Room."

Joining us now is David Sanger, who shares a byline on The New York Times piece, also CNN's Jamie Gangel with her own new reporting. Joining us as well is Michael LaRosa, former special assistant to President Biden and Press Secretary to the First Lady.

So, Jamie, you heard Congressman Doggett calling the President to step aside. What are you hearing from your Democratic sources about where others in the party stand?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think it's fair to say the dam is breaking. Top Democratic Party leaders, this includes former and president - present administration officials, as well as major party donors, are now saying out loud what we've been hearing privately for days, that after what was a disastrous debate performance, they want President Biden to step aside for the good of the party and the country.

They do not think this was a one-off event or just a bad night, and they think the stakes are too high.

[20:25:04] And that, frankly, he would lose to Donald Trump.

COOPER: David, we mentioned that tonight President Biden blamed poor performance in the debate on his busy travel schedule in the weeks leading up to it. You write about that in The Times, quote, "A senior European official who was present said that there had been a noticeable decline in Mr. Biden's physical state since the previous fall and that the Europeans had been 'shocked' by what they saw. The President at times appeared 'out of it,' the official said, and it was difficult to engage him in conversation while he was walking," end quote.

To be clear, they were saying it was more than someone who was simply tired. What else have you heard from people that are in your article?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it was a mixed picture, Anderson, and what we set out to do with just about the whole Times White House team and other reporters that we have around Europe is reconstruct these last three weeks and try to answer just that question, which is, could this just be from the fact that they had him, like, by the President's own description tonight, very unwisely flying across the Atlantic twice and then the last time from Italy to Los Angeles for a fundraiser and back to Washington.

So he crossed a lot of time zones. He was certainly tired. Staff members who were younger than he was were - far younger than he is, were certainly complaining about it. But there may be something deeper going on here, because while the White House calls it a one-off event, in talking to staff members, others who've been dealing with the President, it's clear that there has been an increasing frequency of these moments where he is either frozen or lost the thread of his conversation, and that's made a lot of people worry and make them wonder that whether or not it was more than just the travel, that the travel may have made it worse, but may not be the underlying cause.

COOPER: Michael, you know, the - what we've been - all the reporting is that his family is telling him to stay in. What do you think their thought process is on this? What do you - what would be the view from the White House?

MICHAEL LAROSA, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Right. You have two very respected, very credible journalists and I don't doubt a single reporting in their pieces. I would just say it's going to take a lot more than blind sources to push this family out. They're just not going to bend to - like, he's not going to step aside because of blind sources.

And it reminds me of Ed Rendell, what he used to say, a nation of wusses, this is almost like a party of wusses. If they think that they - if they want the leader of the party to step aside, there's probably, you know, a lot of validity to what they're saying to their concerns. However, they have to be public about it. Like it's going to take Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to really be the ones, like Hugh Scott and Barry Goldwater and John Rose did in 1974 to go down and say, there is no support for you, Mr. President. I don't see that happening. This is not a dam breaking because there is one congressman from Texas and all respect to Congressman Doggett. There was one congressman who called for Bill Clinton to resign.

COOPER: In the end, this decision would boil down to the First Lady and the President.

LAROSA: No, the First Lady - while she is his spouse, she is not his political advisor. She is - now, she is one of several, Valerie, his sister, Mark Gitenstein, the ambassador to the European Union, Mike Donnell (ph) and Ted Kaufman. Yes, they will discuss this kind of thing together and it's usually the way Biden world works is like there's a committee, a consensus by committee and then they will go to him.

But she would never be the one to say, Joe, I want you to end your aspirations. She doesn't - they've not done that for each other throughout their 47 year marriage. She supported his three campaigns for president. He supported her getting three advanced degrees, teaching as first lady, teaching as second lady. They just have never lived in each other's shadows like that.

COOPER: Jamie, is it clear to you, I mean, who the alternative to President Biden would be? I mean, you heard Congressman Clyburn saying, you know, you can't pass over Vice President Harris that ...

GANGEL: Right.

COOPER: ... you know, that she would be the person.

GANGEL: Right. And she has rejected calls for President Biden to step aside, which would be very inappropriate as his vice president. Look, some of our sources think that Vice President Harris would have an edge, but other party leaders we talked to are already floating the idea of opening it up to all contenders, having, let's call it, a five week speed dating primary, maybe having debates between now and the convention and then leaving it up to the convention.


Their number one concern, who can beat Donald Trump, Anderson?

COOPER: David, you also write in the Times, quote, "Like many people his age, Mr. Biden, 81, has long experienced instances in which he mangled a sentence, forgot a name, or mixed up a few facts, even though he could be sharp and engaged most of the time. But in interviews, people in the room with him more recently said the lapses seem to be growing more frequent, more pronounced, and more worrisome."

Have those people raised concerns internally in the White House?

SANGER: It's not clear to me if they have, and it's been sort of a forbidden topic in the White House. In fact, you'll remember how sharply the White House responded, and the president did when the special counsel, her turned out a report in which they referred to the president as sounding like a sort of elderly and forgetful man and they really came down on that.

I think part of what's going on here now is that these questions have been whispered about for some time. The White House has not wanted to engage in it. Then came the debate, and what was happening was evident for everybody to see. And now they've got to come up with an explanation.

I did note that for the first time that I can recall in recent times, his -- the White House turned out a statement saying that his doctors have ruled out some other things, including Parkinson's and so forth, that he's not under any kind of treatment for that. That was all reassuring news.

I suspect what's going to have to happen, Anderson, is that they're going to have to get the president out in many different forums, interviews, public forums, and so forth, if they're going to really demonstrate that this was a one off event, and maybe they will do that.

It's a little bit high risk if he has a bad day again, the way he did on Thursday night. But I don't see another way that they could get at this.

COOPER: Yes. All right, David Sanger, Jamie Gangel, Michael LaRosa, thank you very much.

A quick reminder, David's new book is "New Cold Wars: China's Rise, Russia's Invasion, and America's Struggle to Save the West". It's out now.

Next, the former president's latest endorsement of retribution. He's amplifying suggestion to put former GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney before a televised military tribunal and why yesterday's Supreme Court ruling gives such wishes a new dark edge.



COOPER: As if the former president didn't make it clear enough that he plans to seek revenge against his political enemies if he wins the 2024 election on his social media platform. He amplified two posts suggesting he'd go after his opponents. One claims that former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney is guilty of treason and called for a televised military tribunal against her.

A punishment reserved for war criminals and enemy combatants that are never televised. Another post shows the photos of 15 former and current top elected officials, including President Biden, Vice President Harris, that says they should be going to jail instead of his former senior adviser, Steve Bannon.

Joining me now is CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen. I -- you know, I mean, in the world of, obviously, there's always something, outrageous that the former president is saying, the idea of, you know, supporting or even amplifying the idea for military tribunals of Liz Cheney is insane.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is, and under the law of the utilization of military tribunals where we've just had years of litigation because of the Guantanamo detainees, it would be completely contrary to law to use a military tribunal, not that she's done anything wrong in the first place.

COOPER: But just in general, I mean, the idea of vindictive prosecution, how real of a risk is that? How feasible -- how easy it is it -- would it be for a president to do that?

EISEN: It's a dead serious risk, Anderson. Former president Trump has said dozens of times that he would contemplate doing that. He told Sean Hannity, I would have every right to go after them, meaning his political adversaries. He told Dr. Phil, sometimes revenge can be justified.

In the CNN debate, when they were talking about Trump being a convicted felon, he said Joe Biden could be a convicted felon for some of the things he did, and then pointed to routine policy differences, not criminal or illegal, over things like the border.

We have to take very seriously. History teaches us when over and over again these autocratic threats are made that they are possible. And, of course, the new Supreme Court opinion tears a hole in the fabric of rule of law, unleashes a president to do more of these kinds of things.

COOPER: What would happen, hypothetically, if a President Trump ordered a new Trump Attorney General to prosecute Democratic officials? I mean, what would happen if the DOJ was tasked with that?

EISEN: The system is not built for those kinds of abuses of process. There's very broad latitude that is given to, in particular, to investigations. However, if there were, for example, a baseless subpoena as a part of that kind of an investigation, you could go to court.

Part of the challenge is, and we've seen this in the Supreme Court, where this bizarre granting of presidential immunity, Anderson, even to order SEAL Team 6 to commit assassinations. Can you believe that we're talking about that? That the dissenting opinion says this opinion would allow the president to assassinate his political enemies if he used an official vehicle like SEAL Team 6?

Why bother to investigate them when you have that power. It is a nightmarish prospect and hundreds and hundreds of autocratic threats by Donald Trump, his supporters, his allies, his former aides, we have to take that very seriously as a threat.


COOPER: And what do you -- I mean, there's plenty of people who are supporting the former president who say, look, this is -- he's just, this is bluster. He's not really going to do this. He's going to be too busy, you know, winning for America. EISEN: We live through the first ever refusal of a peaceful transition America -- in America. A tweet from the president to come to Washington will be wild and a violent insurrection. He's been convicted of 2016 election conspiracy and cover up 34 counts.

He's still subject, in my view, despite the Supreme Court opinion to prosecution for the 2020 version. He means what he says in his threats for America. That's why the stakes are so high in this election system.

COOPER: Norm Eisen, thanks so much.

Just ahead, we have more breaking news. New reporting on whether the Justice Department will still pursue their cases against Donald Trump past election day, even if he wins.



COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. A new report from the Washington Post says the Justice Department plans to pursue criminal cases against the former president past election day, even if he wins under the belief that rules against prosecuting a sitting president do not apply until he's inaugurated.

This comes as we're also seeing one of the first real consequences of the Supreme Court's decision on presidential immunity. Sentencing in his hush money case has now been pushed from next week until September.

Joining me now is Former Federal Prosecutor Jeff Toobin and CNN Correspondent Kara Scannell. Does it make sense, Jeff, that the Justice Department would keep trying to pursue cases against Trump even if he wins?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It does make sense because, you know, we have four year terms in this country and Joe Biden and his political appointees will be the leadership of the Justice Department until noon on January 20th next year.

And if the next president, if --

COOPER: Could they stop, though, the investigations? If President Trump takes over, could --

TOOBIN: He could stop it at noon.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: -- and he could dismiss the case at noon, but until that time -- noon that is on January 20th, 2025 -- but until that time, Joe Biden is the president. And, you know, it is the tradition in this country that presidents, you know, run through the tape, as Barack Obama like to say.

COOPER: So maybe just for the principle of the thing, it wouldn't be --

TOOBIN: Well, it would -- I think it's an important principle. I mean, this administration has brought this case like it's brought lots of other cases. It thinks it's a legitimate case and it will continue to bring it as long as he's -- as long as the Biden administration is in power.

And I don't see anything wrong with the fact that, you know, even if the president elect is the president elect, he's not the president. And, you know, we have very clear distinctions in this country between president elect and presidents and until January 20th, that's Joe Biden.

COOPER: So, Kara, what's going on with the sentencing now in the hush money case?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So as you said, it was supposed to be next week. It has now been postponed until September 18th. And the judge did this so he could consider Trump's motion to throw out the conviction in the case based on the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this week on presidential immunity.

You know, they're arguing that some evidence should not have come in based on the Supreme Court's ruling. And the DA's office said that they think this is without merit, but they did not oppose postponing the sentencing. So now both sides will commit their -- submit their legal briefs and then the judge will ultimately rule.

COOPER: So, would the judge -- would they have to go all the way through or could the judge make a ruling? And would there be -- there'd be a hearing or?

SCANNELL: So there's not a hearing schedule. The judge has given them deadlines to file their legal papers. He said he will issue his decision on September 6th. He's already said that. And then if Trump loses, the judge said he will sentence Trump on September 18th.

Now, Trump's team is going to appeal this no matter what. And, in fact, they like that this Supreme Court issue is now before them because they can then appeal that all the way up to the Supreme Court, not just through the New York courts. And, of course, if the DA's office loses, they would appeal this as well.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, does the Supreme Court ruling apply to the hush money case?

TOOBIN: Well, it does apply. The question is, does it apply enough to overturn the conviction? You know, what Chief Justice Roberts opinion said is that not only is there a distinction between official and unofficial conduct. Prosecutors cannot even introduce evidence of official conduct in a prosecution for unofficial conduct.

And the claim that the Trump lawyers will make is that there was some evidence presented in the trial in New York that related to his official conduct as president.

COOPER: Like the Hope Hicks' conversations?

TOOBIN: Conversations in the Oval Office between Hope Hicks and President Trump. Most of the evidence concern -- you know, came from -- before Donald Trump was president. So the ruling doesn't affect that. And it's unclear how much official evidence has to be in a trial in order to have it overturned, but certainly the Trump lawyers are right to try to inject this into the case.

I think ultimately, they probably won't succeed because that was really a very small part of this trial, but this is just one example of how the decision yesterday in the Supreme Court is going to reverberate through all these criminal cases.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Kara Scannell, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, back to the debate fallout, how it's leaving so called Never Trumpers with, they say, no place to go.



COOPER: Anti-Trump conservatives are feeling disillusioned after the president's debate performance. Our Elle Reeve's spoke to a group of them last week.


ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This happy bar party is full of people who usually feel pretty bleak.

PAUL IVANCIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN: This country needs to wake up. There's a dangerous thing happening, it's called complacency.

REEVE (voice-over): They're fans of the Bulwark, a Never Trump media organization. Many are ex-Republicans who reject Donald Trump, a group that can feel so tiny that some got on airplanes to meet one another. The event was festive just a few days before the presidential debate.

BECKY HOFER, BULWARK FAN: It's hard for me to wake up every morning and talk to my neighbors and know that they're supporting somebody that doesn't match any of their values.

REEVE (voice-over): Becky is a former Republican who flew in from South Dakota with her sister-in-law.

HOFER: We're in a very red state and I'm a very not red person and it's tough to find a community there. We're married to Republican men.


REEVE: Is your husband pro-Trump?

HOFER: I think he's going to vote for Trump. I hope he doesn't vote for Trump, but it's an interesting house to live in. REEVE (voice-over): We wanted to talk to these people because they represent an important part of President Biden's coalition. But after his struggle in the debate, we had to go back to them to see what had changed.

Hofer was shocked and angry.

HOFER: It was terrible. I'm completely disillusioned. I, at this -- they're both a joke. It felt like elder abuse. So, yes, I think he needs to be replaced. If for anything, just out of respect for his humanity.

REEVE (voice-over): Robin Hawkland had flown from Salt Lake City to be among Never Trumpers before the debate.

ROBIN HAWKLAND, BULWARK FAN: I fled the district in North Georgia with Marjorie Taylor Greene. She was pretty abusive to people wearing masks during COVID and I was a little traumatized by that.

REEVE: And how would you describe your politics?

HAWKLAND: My politics were center left. My husband was always Republican and we got along fine for years and then it seems everything is kind of broken. And we both now are registered Democrats in Utah, which is rare.

REEVE: Are you worried about what might happen after the election?

HAWKLAND: Yes, very worried, very worried. I have three daughters. They all live in red states and they're in reproductive age, which is in their 20s, and I really worry about their options.

REEVE (voice-over): When we spoke to Hawkland afterward, she said she'd barely been able to sit through the debate.

HAWKLAND: Initial reaction was shock, and then just sadness, and then I think I moved into anger.

REEVE: Do you think Joe Biden should be replaced?

HAWKLAND: It hurts me to say that, but yes. I don't think he's electable. I don't know how you dig out of this hole. He could do more events where he, you know, looks better. He's looked better since then, and they can time it right. But everyone knows deep in their existence what they saw may happen again.

REEVE (voice-over): The pre-debate party in Denver was for a live podcast taping from the Bulwark, which was created by former Republican operatives. At the after party, people told us this was one of the few places where they could meet in real life, people who didn't make them feel crazy.

DAN MAGILL, NEVER TRUMP REPUBLICAN: I'm a relatively conservative Republican. It's almost, rather than being Republican, Democrat, it's become more autocracy versus democracy. Even though I would probably economically agree with more of the policies that a Trump administration would put in place versus a Biden administration, I can't support someone like Trump.

HAWKLAND: You feel safe here and you feel like you can speak your mind and people may disagree, but you can talk about it in a rational way.

REEVE (voice-over): But after the debate, Hawkland felt more despair.

HAWKLAND: You feel like you're being condescended to. To be talked to from the Democratic Party, kind of like, just get behind the candidate was very frustrating and angering. This is not about the Democrat or the Republican Party. They both put up candidates that are not electable for very different reasons.

Trump is a criminal and many other issues. Biden is just aging. And there is no reason that people should not be concerned with what they see.

HOFER: He's done a great job. He did a great job the last four years. Right now, if these are the two options that we have in November, I'll vote for Joe Biden's head in a jar before I'll vote for Donald Trump.

I'm angry. And I mean, I'm angry to the point where if Joe Biden stays on the ticket and Donald Trump is still on the ticket, I'm fast tracking moving to Costa Rica. I had it as a five-year plan to move to Costa Rica and I'm going to try and fast track it.

I do not want to be here before the Republicans. Trump's little trolls start, you know, reducing more, or taking away more women's rights.


COOPER: And Elle Reeve joins us now. Did any of the Never Trump you spoke to say who they would like to see on the ballot?

REEVE (on-camera): Yes. All of these people desperately want to beat Trump, and so they have a lot of empathy for the president, but they feel like the rug's been pulled out from under them, and they're kind of lost.

So, one floated, maybe Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro. Another said that maybe a centrist governor could bring her reluctant husband into voting against Trump, even if he couldn't say so publicly in their conservative small town. And a third said that, you know, Kamala Harris -- Vice President Harris is not super popular and maybe she'd lose, but it was better to try and lose than to not try at all.

COOPER: Do they think that the president would actually step down?

REEVE (on-camera): Yes. They -- well, they were mixed on that. They've been reading the same reports we have. They are afraid that his ego is in the way or that his family's ego is in the way. But they just feel like this has to be done. It's the only way to beat Trump.

COOPER: Elle Reeve, thank you so much.

A reminder, Elle's new book is out next week called "Black Pill: How I Witnessed the Darkest Corners of the Internet Come to Life, Poison Society, and Capture American Politics."

The news continues. The Source of Kaitlan Collins starts now.