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CNN TONIGHT: Trump: President Can Declassify Docs "Even By Thinking About It"; Alex Jones: "I'm Done Saying I'm Sorry" For Spreading Sandy Hook Shooting Hoax; Protests Intensify In Iran Over Woman In Custody Of Morality Police. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired September 22, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): The class, spent months, speaking to a number of generals, ambassadors, members of the Afghan Special Forces, and even a spokesman, for the Taliban.
JIMMY HATCH, SPECIAL OPERATIONS VETERAN: I do believe that one of the things that needs to happen, if the Military is going to stop being the easy button, for how we solve things, is we're going to have to talk to people, we don't want to talk to. And so, for me, the last people, in the world, I wanted to talk to, was the Taliban.
COOPER (voice-over): Jimmy Hatch hopes, the report, will inspire Americans, of all walks of life, to hold the country's leaders accountable, in America's future conflicts.
HATCH: I believe that in a way, a part of the United States of America, died in Afghanistan, and that my classmates, and I, picked them up, and brought them into our classroom, and are attempting to bury them, with respect, and learn the lessons that created them.
COOPER: Well, if you're interested, in reading the report, by Jimmy, and his class, there's the link, at the bottom of your screen, BIT.LY/YALE20YEARWAR. Also, if you want to find out more about Jimmy's charity, go to SPIKESK9FUND.ORG.
Be sure to tune in Saturday, 8 PM Eastern, for the "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" one-hour special.
The news continues. Let's hand it over to Sara Sidner, and CNN TONIGHT.
SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: It is heartwarming. Thank you so much, Anderson.
I am Sara Sidner. And this is CNN TONIGHT. The message by the Special Master that Donald Trump asked for, in his battle, over his possession, of classified documents, is basically this. "Put up or shut up! And you have a deadline to do so." And that deadline is next Friday.
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, turned nemesis, is here. I'll talk to him, in just a few minutes, about the former President's many legal battles, including one of the vital new developments, tonight, putting Donald Trump, under quickly-increasing pressure.
That Special Master, Judge Raymond Dearie now says Team Trump has to back up any claims of the FBI planting evidence at Mar-a-Lago, during last month's search. And they have to do it, in a sworn declaration. They also have to say, whether they are claiming that any of the items, on the inventory list, were not taken from the premises.
Remember, it's one thing, to make those claims, outside of court. It is a whole another thing, to do so, in court, where a lie could be a crime itself.
And Trump, and his allies, have been claiming it, without proof, for weeks, including this, from the former President, just last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did they drop anything into those piles, or did they do it later?
There's no chain of custody here with them.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Wouldn't that be on videotape potentially?
TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I mean, they're in a room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The judge says, "Prove it," and gave Trump's team, one week from tomorrow, to reveal the evidence.
Our sources suggest Trump was considering releasing so-called surveillance video, over a month ago. But that has not happened.
Earlier this week, the Special Master, pushed Trump's lawyers, to take a position, on whether the former President had in fact, declassified the documents. They haven't done so yet.
But here's what Donald Trump said about all that last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Is there a process? What was your process to declassify?
TRUMP: There doesn't have to be a process, as I understand it.
TRUMP: You know, there's different people say different things.
TRUMP: But, as I understand, there doesn't have to be. If you're the President of the United States, you can declassify, just by saying, it's declassified, even by thinking about it.
Because, you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago, or to wherever you're sending it. And there doesn't have to be a process. There can be a process, but it doesn't have to be. You're the President. You make that decision. So, when you send it, it's declassified. We - I declassified everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: OK. The former President arguing that merely thinking about the act of declassification can make it so. A notion that brought a flood of mocking, on social media, today, with comparisons to "I Dream of Jeannie," and the like.
But listen more carefully, and you hear Donald Trump, raise the idea that he knew what he was doing, when he sent those documents, to his home, in Mar-a-Lago, regardless of their sensitivity. That is no joke, to the national security community.
Neither is a $250 million lawsuit, Donald Trump, and three of his adult children, now face, from the New York State Attorney General, over what she calls astounding fraud, and deception, by Donald Trump, and his namesake company, an investigation, in which she has sent referrals, for possible criminal prosecution, to the U.S. Attorney, in Manhattan, and the Internal Revenue Service.
Add these legal challenges, to all the other current battles, faced by the former President, and you have a potential 2024 candidates, with personal crisis, unlike any other person, who has ever contemplated, a political comeback, in America.
Tonight, we look, for insight, from a man, who was once this close to Donald Trump, as anyone could be, outside of his family.
I'm joined now, by Michael Cohen. He's Donald Trump's former lawyer. These days, he hosts a podcast, called "Mea Culpa." And he's got a brand-new book, coming out. It's called "Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics."
Michael, Donald Trump's financial misdeeds, are not new, to anyone, especially people, who live here, in New York.
Tim O'Brien, for example, wrote a book, about Donald Trump, who basically was saying that he was worth $5 billion to $6 billion, when O'Brien said, "No. It was about $250 million."
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP, HOST, "MEA CULPA" PODCAST, AUTHOR, "REVENGE": And then, he sued him.
SIDNER: And then, he sued him.
And then, you had the A.G. sort of looking at, OK, well, what happened here, on the SEC, looking at, in 2022, saying, "Look, you made some misleading comments about, or some misleading statements, about your hotels, and what they were worth." And it basically it was like, "OK, here's a cease and desist," and that went away. But it's not an unknown entity.
So, why did it take your testimony, according to the A.G. herself, to bring this case forward, when this has been a long-standing issue, with the Trump Organization, and Donald Trump himself?
COHEN: OK. So, what you know, about Donald Trump, is what Donald Trump tells you that he wants you to know.
I was one of the very few insiders, in fact, I was the only insider, at the Trump Organization, with any real knowledge that was willing to come in, to testify, to provide not just information, but documentary evidence, in order to demonstrate that he was doing exactly what our amazing Attorney General has now put forth, in a 200-page indictment.
And that is that he inflates his assets, for the purpose of net worth. And he deflates it, in terms of reducing the tax burden, on those assets. Nothing else to say. It is what it is. This is what Donald Trump is all about. As I stated, in the opening, of my Oversight Committee testimony, he's a fraud. He's a con man. He's a cheat. That's who he is.
SIDNER: Let me ask you this, because I've had this question in my head, for a really long time, about you. Why did you stay so long? Knowing that you were his enforcer, you were trying to make sure that he was safe, legally, he was coming to you with all this stuff?
I mean, first of all, how much of your time was spent, trying to keep him, out of legal trouble, and to keep his reputation, which he appears to care so much about that he's willing to bully people, intact? How much of your time was spent doing that?
COHEN: 23 hours a day
COHEN: Really, no joke. I mean, I was the first phone call, every morning. I talk about it, in my old book, "Disloyal," first phone call, every morning, 4:35 AM, and the last phone call before he went to sleep, at 11:00 PM, or 11:30 PM, every single night.
SIDNER: What's he calling you about?
COHEN: There was not a single vacation.
SIDNER: What's he calling you about? What is he asking you to do?
COHEN: It's whatever was on his mind. Somebody was annoying him that there was an issue? There was a potential lawsuit? There was a defamation claim he thought was against him?
Whatever it was on his mind, at that moment, speed-dial. There I was, awake, and dealing with it. Sometimes, I was up all night long, trying to resolve the issue, for him.
SIDNER: So, how were you dealing with it? Was it "I'm going to sue you? I'm going" - threatening? What were you doing? And what did he tell you to do, to sort of make this go away, if you will?
COHEN: Well, it depends. It depends on which issue it was. If it was somebody, who defamed him? Speak with them, make them retract it. If they don't retract it, file a lawsuit. Bring on so and so law firm, and let's file a lawsuit, and let's do what we have to do.
Because, as you stated, and accurately, there's nothing more important to him than his reputation, and the presumption that he's as rich as he claims to be.
SIDNER: Let me ask you about some of the - it seems like randomness of numbers. And here's a few. In Mar-a-Lago, for example, if it's worth $75 million, it's one thing, to round that up. But how does it end up being worth $739 million?
COHEN: Right. So, in his mind? And he - talk to Tim O'Brien. If you speak with him about it, he wrote it extensively, in his book.
He values things, how he feels. He calls it mental valuation. "I think that your jacket, right, is worth $10 million." He goes, "That's what I think it's worth." It's a delusional, delusional position, to take that he gets to determine what the value is, of anything.
Now, what he also did, is he claimed that it's worth the $739 million, because you could parcel it out, and it is a large piece of property, in an exceptionally expensive area, of Palm Beach.
However, he gave away that right. So, he ignored the limitations, on the property, in order to increase the value. Yes, I bet, if you were able to parcel it out, into quarter-acre plots, it could be worth a lot of money. Maybe not $700 million. But it certainly could be worth, a whole lot more than $75 million. But you can't. He gave that asset away.
And let me give you another example, right over here, something that's not even in this indictment. 725 Fifth Avenue. He truly treats that public space, as if it's his own. It is not his. It belongs to you, the taxpayer of New York. It's why it says "Public space" on it.
He decides, "I don't want chairs in there, because homeless will come in. And I don't want this going on, because of this." I mean, this is what he does. He believes, it's his. He gave that away in order to get higher FAR, the air rights, in order to build the property, the residential, next door.
He also claims that those buildings are all his, even though they're fee simple absolute. You own them yourself, like if it was a house, right? It belongs, to all the people, who own the property. Yes, he owns his apartment. But he doesn't know my apartment.
COHEN: He doesn't own your apartment.
SIDNER: You pay for that.
COHEN: He claims, it's his building.
SIDNER: OK. And I just want to make clear, this is a civil lawsuit, from the A.G. An indictment has not come forward, when it comes to the monies, and the dealing, but they are sending that to the SDNY, and to the IRS.
Let me ask you, going forward, you said something that was really interesting. You said when he mentally makes a decision, and he says, "OK, it's worth this much," do you think he's doing the same thing when it comes to the classified documents that he says, "Oh, I mentally declassified them. I just thought about it."
COHEN: Absolutely. There's something very different about Donald Trump today than the Donald Trump, I remember, at the Trump Organization.
SIDNER: How so?
COHEN: I think cognitively, there's something seriously going on. He's so worried about what's going on, not just in this case, but in all of the cases that I really do believe that cognitively, there's something going on, there.
Because nobody, even Donald, is not stupid enough to believe that you can mentally declassify documents. He knew what documents were there. I mean, there's nuclear documents, and we don't even know which ones that they are. We don't know what country they relate to.
COHEN: There's so many people that are - that throw these conjectures, "What could it be? What it meant? Is it France? Is it this?"
What if, hypothetically, it's Israel, and that's how Jared was able to get $2 billion, from the Saudi Investment Authority? I mean, we could think of all of these various things. We're not going to know, right, until God forbid, there's an incident that takes place? And we don't want that to happen. And he doesn't care.
And I believe he took those documents, and all of them, in order to use, against the United States, in the event that he is indicted, or potentially incarcerated.
SIDNER: Wait. Are you--
COHEN: It's a get-out-of-jail-free card.
SIDNER: Are you saying? And, of course, the Trump Organization, they say that it's absolutely preposterous. But?
COHEN: Because the Trump Organization tells the truth all the time, as does, Donald!
SIDNER: But are you saying that you think that if he's indicted that he would use it against the United States, in other words, sell secrets?
COHEN: Are you joking? Of course, 100 percent. There's nothing that he won't do to protect himself, because he doesn't care about anyone else, other than himself. In fact, he'll let his kids go down, before him. He'll let them fall on the sword, the same way he let me fall on the sword. That's who he is.
SIDNER: So why do people follow him? Why do people stick with him? Why does his - all of his team?
COHEN: Why did I?
SIDNER: Why did you?
COHEN: I can always - there must - there was something missing in my life. Look, I had just come off of a massive health issue. And I was bedridden, for quite some time. I blew a whole series of pulmonary embolus that almost ended my life.
I'm a deal junkie. There was the celebrity part to it. He had the number one show, "The Apprentice." There was deals going on. I was bored in my life. And I fell into the cult of Donald Trump!
And the way that the Trump Organization is set up? It's set up almost like a fraternity. And you become friends, with everybody, in the place, and the goal.
SIDNER: You're part of the club?
COHEN: Yes. And what's the club? "Protect the Donald Club At All Costs." And trust me, I know, because I paid the ultimate sacrifice.
SIDNER: You went to prison for it?
COHEN: I did!
SIDNER: Right? Michael Cohen, thank you so much, for your honesty--
COHEN: Good to see you.
SIDNER: --and for your pointedness. Appreciate it.
COHEN: Thank you.
SIDNER: All right, we'll take this conversation, to our political and legal experts.
And we'll look at the Republican senators, who are not happy, with what they're hearing now, from Donald Trump. That is coming up next. [21:15:00]
SIDNER: Donald Trump is having a rough week, to say the least.
But then, again, we've seen the same sort of headline, written before. Like, in February, when he lost three key legal hearings; or, in June of 2020, when the reporting was about political missteps, and a fracturing campaign; or, in 2019, during his first impeachment; or 2018, when the Mueller investigation was cranking up; or the year before that, when he failed in his bid to get Obamacare repealed.
In other words, it's only Thursday. And as bad as this week has been, for Donald Trump, and the Trump Organization, to be pretty frank, he's had a lot of bad weeks. But he tends to bounce back, at least politically.
Let's see how this one stacks up, with former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig, and a couple of keen political minds, in Errol Louis, and Scott Jennings.
Thank you so much for joining us.
All right. I'm going to start here, and this is for anyone to jump in. How bad is this week, for Donald Trump, in comparison to the litany of things, I just threw out there?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS: This is pretty serious, in part, because it's not a political crisis that he now faces.
The Attorney General's investigation, and the complaint that she filed really goes to the heart of his commercial empire. There are real financial consequences that politics aside he cannot afford to ignore.
It's also very detailed, and it deals with hundreds and hundreds of instances, so that he isn't going to have to get more than just a couple of willing lawyers, to help him out. He's going to have to put the whole organization, to work, dealing with this.
It affects his children. It affects his stature. It's something that he is going to have to really spend a lot of time on. This is going to probably be even more complicated than fending off the impeachment.
SIDNER: Because there are so many documents, and so many things that they can point to that are concrete.
I want to look at this poll. The New York Times/Siena College poll, the view of Donald Trump, favorable now versus July. That's dropped off a bit. And so, there it is. 44 percent now, July was 39 percent. Unfavorable, 53 percent. July was 57 percent. His numbers have actually gone up, for favorable, a bit.
So, is this really that bad of a week for him?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: I mean?
SIDNER: Politically speaking?
JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, the wall--
SIDNER: Legally speaking, it's a differing thing.
JENNINGS: The walls have been closing in, so to speak--
JENNINGS: --for a very long time.
JENNINGS: I mean, how many times have we heard that? I think, for most people, this gets extremely complicated. I was listening to Michael, here.
JENNINGS: And it's, I mean, look, I'm not a lawyer. I'm just an average Republican, you know?
JENNINGS: Political guy. It's very complicated. January 6 is going on. The Georgia investigation is going on. I mean, there's a number of things going on.
But he's never been indicted, you know? And until he is, I don't know that it's going to actually feel real, to the average voter, out there. I think they're waiting - we've been waiting for the next shoe to drop for years. And so?
SIDNER: But, Scott?
JENNINGS: So, I think, until that happened?
JENNINGS: You're unlikely to see much movement on him.
Now, there was a survey, out today, the MU Law national survey, today. And, for the first time, in a survey, I've seen, of national Republican political figures, Ron DeSantis, had a higher net favorable rating, than Donald Trump. They were both quite popular. But DeSantis had a 4-point lead, in terms of net favorability.
So, there is some evidence, in my opinion that Republicans may be looking for alternatives here. It's still early in the process. But if you're looking for little signs of weakness? That was one, I picked up on, today. SIDNER: There is someone else that people can pivot to, if they decide?
JENNINGS: Well, somebody, who gives you everything, you want, the same sort of fighting spirit?
JENNINGS: And the same kind of attitude, without all the baggage and chaos--
SIDNER: All right. So, at this point in time, legally speaking, Elie, we're in a put-up or shut-up time, correct? I mean, these allegations, that the FBI, planted evidence, and, you know? We've seen no evidence of that. The judge is now saying, right, "We need to see the evidence."
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Yes. There's only so long, you can carry off a complete fiction, in the courts. Because, what we see happening, right now, with the Special Master, is what tends to happen in court. So, you can make allegations. But eventually, you have to prove it.
This whole Special Master process, by the way, is going really poorly, for both sides.
Donald Trump is being called out, on his declassification claims, his claims. All over the math, he's now being put to test. Those claims, the evidence was planted? He's not going to be able to support those.
But this is not going swimmingly for DOJ either. First of all, this is taking forever. The Special Master hasn't even started. We're almost seven weeks out from Mar-a-Lago. This will be dragging on through November.
There's a reason they didn't want the Special Master. Remember, they won their appeal, last night, on that narrow set of documents. But they fought like mad, against this Special Master.
And this is devolving into a mini trial before trial. Nobody is winning here. This Special Master, I think, today, the order that he issued?
HONIG: Really sort of focuses people, says, "Here's the deadlines. You have to do this by this date." But boy, I don't think either side is happy with this.
SIDNER: But if you have this deadline, and the evidence is not there, and the evidence has been promised, for the past few weeks, of those video--
SIDNER: --or that's showing to him (ph)? If it's not there, then that's not good for the Trump team or Donald Trump?
HONIG: Yes, I mean, the--
SIDNER: And the DOJ wins?
HONIG: The judge will have to make a finding. Here's what I think is going to happen. I think, you're going to see his legal team, continue to tap-dance.
On the planting claim, they're going to say, "We're continuing to investigate. And this isn't the time for it. That's later." But eventually, a judge just says, "No. That's it. I gave you your chance. You didn't submit. I find against you."
SIDNER: I want to quickly talk about some words that Donald Trump used, when he was, on a different network, speaking about these declassified - declassifying these documents. And he basically said, "I thought they were declassified. Therefore, they are. I think. Therefore, they are."
Here is how Senate Republicans, sort of responded to hearing that, because it did two things. One, there was an admission that he actually - this was something he did. It wasn't an accident. It didn't happen - and it happened to be, in some of the boxes, didn't know about it.
It was clear that he did it, and then he thought about it, right, and said like, "OK, these are declassified, in his mind."
Here's what some Senate Republicans said today, about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I think there's a process, for declassifying documents, and - and I think it ought to be adhered to and followed. And I think that should apply to anybody.
SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC) I believe there's a formal process it needs to go through it - that needs to be gone through, and documented.
SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): Up here, we take it very seriously. People can get hurt. People can get killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: People can get hurt. People can get killed. There's a process. Donald Trump says, "There is no process!"
How bad is this, now that you're hearing from Thune, Tillis, Rounds, like how bad is this, politically, for Trump?
JENNINGS: Well if you look at--
SIDNER: Or is it?
JENNINGS: When you look at the episodes, of him, over the years? Most of the time, he enjoyed a cadre of Republicans, with titles, coming out and defending him.
JENNINGS: First impeachment was a great example. They rallied around him. In this particular case, very serious people, are not willing to die, on this ridiculous hill.
I mean, what he said, is patently ridiculous. Everybody seems to agree on that. And I found it noteworthy that they're just not willing to continue to fall on sword after sword. I mean, you fall on so many swords, and, eventually you're too full of holes, to stand, I guess.
JENNINGS: And so that - and that, to me, is the difference between--
JENNINGS: --when he was the president, and right now.
LOUIS: It's a ridiculous claim that he can't take into court. His lawyers are strenuously avoiding, going into court, and saying anything resembling what we just heard about, mentally declassifying stuff.
I think what we're going to see, though, is that as this moves forward, lots of people are going to say, well, especially members of Congress, who have very serious responsibilities, around declassification? They're not going to necessarily stand with him, number one.
And number two, the reasons that they searched Mar-a-Lago, and the statutes that underlie a possible violation here, have nothing to do with classification. The problem here is that when the Archives asked for materials back, even if you legally and properly had it, when they asked for it back, you got to give it back.
SIDNER: So, it is an obstruction issue?
LOUIS: And if you don't, that's where the problem winds.
JENNINGS: One other issue is that the explanations for this have been shifting, day-by-day, and week-by-week. So, if you're John Thune, he's a serious person--
JENNINGS: --or Mike Rounds? You're being asked to defend some excuse today? Well, who's to say the excuse won't be different tomorrow, and you're left sort of hung out to dry, with your ridiculous statement?
SIDNER: Looking like a fool, right.
JENNINGS: So, I mean, it strikes me they've probably seen enough, and they know enough now that tomorrow the rug could get pulled out from under them, if they go out and defend a ridiculous claim.
SIDNER: All right, thank you so much, everyone. You guys are going to stick with me.
We need to turn to another serious legal matter. An ugly case gets even uglier. Coming up, the explosive moments, at the Alex Jones defamation trial, in Connecticut. Is the judge losing control of this courtroom, as Sandy Hook families, dissolve into tears, and look on? That is coming up next.
SIDNER: Emotional and explosive moments, in a Connecticut courtroom, today, as conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, took the stand, during the damages phase, of his defamation trial.
A jury is currently deciding, how much Jones, has to pay, the families, of Sandy Hook victims, after he spent years, spreading lies, about the mass murder of children.
I want to show you this moment, where the attorney, representing some of the families, asked Jones, to face Robbie Parker, who lost his daughter, Emilie, in the massacre.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER MATTEI, PLAINTIFFS ATTORNEY: Robbie Parker's sitting right here. He's real, isn't he?
ALEX JONES, DEFENDANT, AMERICAN ALT-RIGHT AND FAR-RIGHT RADIO SHOW HOST: Yes.
MATTEI: And, for years, you put a target on his back, didn't you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection to the form of that (ph), Judge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overruled.
JONES: Well, I mean?
MATTEI: Didn't you?
JONES: I've said his name. It's true. I've said other people's name, here they are (ph).
MATTEI: You put a target on his back, just like you did every single parent, and loved ones, didn't you? Didn't you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection.
JONES: No, I didn't.
MATTEI: No, you didn't?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next argument. No. It's speculative.
JONES: Just you're unbelievable. You switch on emotions, on-and-off when you want. You're - it's just ambulance-chasing.
MATTEI: Why don't you show a little respect, Mr. Jones?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, judge. I think that you get what you give in this courtroom. Objection.
MATTEI: You have families in this courtroom here that lost children, sisters, wives, moms.
JONES: Is this a struggle session? Are we in China? I've already said, I'm sorry, hundreds of times. And I'm done saying I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: He is done saying "I'm sorry!"
Several of the victims' families, were sitting in that courtroom. You could see, they had tears in their eyes, streaming down their face. The judge later admonished, both sides, over the outbursts, warning them, they could be held in contempt, if they continue to violate court rules.
Our guests are back with me, to discuss.
Elie, I know you were chomping at the bit. I don't know that I've seen something, as cruel as that, in a courtroom, where you have all these parents, sitting there, and whose children were killed, senselessly, and having somebody, who further injured them.
HONIG: I agree. That whole scene is an outrage and a disgrace, on a couple levels.
First and foremost, Alex Jones, I mean, he's a villain, he's the villain in this story. No questions about it. It's unfathomable to do what he did to those families.
A distant second place, though, that judge has to get control of that courtroom. That is a ridiculous scene. I've been in plenty of courtroom encounters that have been animated, heated. I've never seen anything like that.
And the judge owes it not just to the orderly Administration of Justice, to get his courtroom in order, but he owes it to the families, who are sitting there. They're entitled to a dignified process, and not a ridiculous shouting match, personal accusations, back-and-forth, with the lawyer, Alex Jones saying whatever he wants. After the fact, I guess the judge said "Everyone, calm down. I'll give you a - or I'll hold you in contempt," he should have done that 10 seconds, into that exchange. He's lost control of that courtroom, and needs to get it back.
SIDNER: Errol, I'm curious from you. Is there anything? I mean, we have the First Amendment, in this country. He's still doing his podcast. He's still got a bunch of people, listening. Is there anything that could be done, to stop something, like this, from happening? To stop Alex Jones, from injuring people, like this?
LOUIS: Well, that's really what the point of this is. Because as bad as the emotional trauma is, all of the lies, and the conspiracies that he spread? It had real damage. There's at least one woman, who had to move five times.
LOUIS: Her mother was the principal, and was killed there. And because of the garbage that Alex Jones spread, you had conspiracy theorists, following these people around, harassing them, threatening them--
LOUIS: --stalking them. You have someone, who's - the child is massacred, the husband later commits suicide, and then she finds conspiracy theorists, hanging around the cemetery, to see if the body is really there.
LOUIS: I mean, just unfathomable things.
Alex Jones, however? Because, this is about money damages, he can take this as a cost of doing business. Because, he makes so much money, the only way to truly punish this? Because, money is the only thing that's being talked about, right here? It's the only thing. And he's not going to lose his freedom or anything. They have to take a lot of it.
LOUIS: They have to take all of it.
They have to make it clear that anyone, who wants to embark on this, and try and sell diet pills, and supplements, and stir up an angry crazed mob, and set it on innocent families, over a decade. Anybody, who wants to do that? It's going to cost much, much more than they think. The jury has a really important responsibility, here.
SIDNER: I want to ask you, Scott. The first trial, I think, was in Texas, which is sort of Jones' backyard. This trial is far closer, to where the massacre happened, at Sandy Hook, in Connecticut, Waterbury. Does that make a difference here, with the jury, do you think?
JENNINGS: Gosh, I don't know. Elie might have a better argument than me.
JENNINGS: I mean, just as an observer, and as a non-lawyer, I was stunned at the scene, today. And, I would assume, the jury was stunned, by all of this, and anybody in the courtroom, was just stunned.
I think the judge, I think, ultimately, you're talking about institutions here. This guy did something terrible. He is a creep. And he is a scumbag. And he's being - this trial's about holding him responsible. So, you want people, to trust the outcome of that, which means the institution itself, has to be run, in a way that gives, as much confidence, in the outcome, as possible.
SIDNER: Because he is constantly talking about conspiracies, and Deep State.
SIDNER: And he's still doing it, on his podcast, during the trial.
JENNINGS: Exactly. And so, you don't want him to be able to - "Did you see the video? This was a total circus. And the plaintiffs were allowed to do all this."
JENNINGS: So, I hope, the judge, as Elie said, gets control of it. And I hope this guy gets everything he's got coming to him, because what he did to those families, is absolutely evil, and it's wrong.
And there have to be consequences, for your actions, in this. I mean, that's what makes - that's what makes this whole thing work, right, is you do something this bad, there have to be consequences for that. Or as you said, people feel like they can do it again.
JENNINGS: And you don't want that.
SIDNER: Right. I have a question for you, Elie, which you'll probably jump down my throat. But is there any legal relevancy, to Jones saying, oh, he's just been targeted by the Deep State, by the left, by the, whomever boogeyman that he's chosen?
HONIG: I will not jump down your throat.
SIDNER: Is there any legal relevancy?
HONIG: I will answer simply, no, there is not. What matters here, he's already - look, he's already guilty. He was - it was a default judgment.
SIDNER: Yes, right.
HONIG: Because he just didn't show up. This is the damages phase.
And to the point, both Errol and Scott were making? Alex Jones is why punitive damages exist. If you were teaching the purpose of punitive damages, in law school, you would point to Alex Jones.
Because, there's two kinds of damages. There's compensatory damages, which essentially means you have to pay back the damage you cause, what was the bills, basically here.
HONIG: But then punitive damages, go to stop someone, to deter someone, to punish somebody. And if anybody has ever deserved that, it's Alex Jones. And you're not just - you are speaking to Alex Jones--
HONIG: --who needs to be hit, in the wallet, as Errol said. But you're also speaking to any others, who would see this kind of behavior, and say, "Ooh, there's profit to be made there." And that's why I think the jury has such a strong responsibility, as Scott said.
SIDNER: All right. I think we got through it. But it is hard to watch. The cruelty is truly stunning.
Elie Honig, Errol Louis, Scott Jennings, thank you all for being here. Appreciate it.
Up next, the turmoil, overseas, on two fronts, the uprisings in Russia and Iran, how far will they go? And what did they tell us about the fate of those in power, in those two countries?
Aaron David Miller joins me, with some perspective, coming up, next.
SIDNER: Civilians, across Russia and Iran, are rising up, against their authoritarian regimes, in ways, we haven't seen in years.
In Russia, more than 1,300 people, across 38 cities, were arrested, Wednesday, after protesting Putin's order, to mobilize 300,000 reservists, to the war in Ukraine.
An independent watchdog says some of the protesters detained were drafted directly into Russia's Military. They also say just over half of the detainees were women, making it the largest women-involved anti-government protests, in recent history there.
In Iran, women at the forefront there as well. They have been at the forefront, of protests, in dozens of cities. Many have removed and burned their headscarves. One woman even cut her hair, amid a crowd that included men. They were heard shouting "Death to the Dictator." The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was taken in by Iran's so-called morality police, because she allegedly broke the country's headscarf rules.
Are these protests, a moment, or the start of a movement, and larger change, in Russia and Iran?
Joining me now, is CNN Global Affairs Analyst, and Middle East expert, Aaron David Miller.
Thank you so much for joining the program.
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, VP & DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Sara, it's great to see you.
SIDNER: Let's start in Russia. Russia is in a war, right now. They have been not doing as well as they thought they would. They have been losing a lot of people. And now, you have this very large protest, as they try to conscript, and bring in more people, as reservists.
Is this going to be a moment? Or is this going to be the start of something larger, you think?
DAVID MILLER: Sara, I don't think Pythia, the oracle at Delphi, reading the best of goat entrails could probably tell you with any sort of authority, where this is going? Is this a headline? Or is this a trend line?
In the case of Russia, I think, Mr. Putin has made a difficult situation, worse. He's created this partial mobilization. And, in doing so, broke a sort of informal social contract, with the Russian people. And the contract, when something like this, "You can steal from us. You can fight. But don't interfere in our private lives."
And most Russians, 50 percent, according to the most reputable polling organization, and an additional 20-plus percent, are either supportive of this special Military action, or somewhat supports. That's 70 percent of the country.
But the partial mobilization brings the war home. And I think the stats you cited indicate that Mr. Putin is going to have a very difficult time, managing this. And frankly, I doubt, in real-time, whether or not partial mobilization of reservists, who are not well- trained, is going to do much, to alter the trajectory, on the battlefield.
DAVID MILLER: The momentum has changed, in favor of Ukraine.
SIDNER: OK. Now, I was on the ground, in Ukraine. We heard from Ukrainians, who had contacted, people in Russia, because their sons had either been killed, or captured. And they were sometimes breaking the news, to the families. The families didn't even know that that is where they their family members were, in this war. They're not allowed to use, the word, "War," there.
I do want to talk to you about something about Putin's regime. There is a thought, on the minds of some analysts, who say that, this eventually might be his downfall, as the leader of Russia.
And this is coming from, in one case, the great granddaughter of Khrushchev. I want you to hear what she said about this war, in respect to Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, THE NEW SCHOOL: Even if something happens to Putin, I think FSB, and the Security Services, remain, and they will run the country. It may be less toxic. But it's not going to become a great democracy, overnight. As we think, if Putin goes, then it's going to be wonderful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
KHRUSHCHEVA: No, it's not going to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: That's Nina Khrushcheva, the great granddaughter of Khrushchev. Is she right?
DAVID MILLER: Well, time is the ultimate arbiter of things that are of value what endures. And Tolstoy said that time and patience are the greatest warriors. So, I think, in that respect, it really depends on whether or not Putin's power base is threatened, Sloveki (ph), the intelligence and security apparatus that support him.
Putin turns 70, next month, I think, on October 7. And all of the men around him, in the security and intelligence establishment, have an investment, in this regime. I'm sure they're asking themselves questions, now. But many Military defeats, in Russia, over the last couple hundred years here, have led to either reform, or revolution.
SIDNER: Right. I want to get to Iran, really quickly.
DAVID MILLER: So, this was a critically important issue, for Putin.
SIDNER: I want to get to Iran, really quickly.
DAVID MILLER: To win Ukraine (ph).
SIDNER: Agreed with you.
DAVID MILLER: Yes.
SIDNER: This particular thing, with women coming out, in such strong numbers? Could this change things, if not for women, for the country, as a whole? DAVID MILLER: I'd like to see it. And, I think, one day, the determination, and courage, and resilience, of the Iranian people will, in fact, change, a terrible regime.
But you can't underestimate the repressive powers of the State. Remember, only two years ago, or three years ago, in 2019--
DAVID MILLER: --protests and riots, over gas prices, and many other things, led to a huge crackdown. 360 people were killed, Iranian civilians were killed.
So, I think, there's probably very little doubt that Raisi, the President, and the Supreme Leader, are going to change this hijab law. They could diffuse the situation, at least with respect to women, by calling for a voluntary hijab. But I'm not sure they're going to do that. Any sign of weakness with respect to give, means we're going to throw (ph) the regime.
So, I suspect hardliners, will prevail, on this one, as well as in Russia, for the moment.
SIDNER: And, to your point, just really quickly, our CNN's Christiane Amanpour tried to get an interview, with the President. She has interviewed just about every president of Iran, in her lifetime. And when she tried to do so, they insisted last minute that she wear a hijab. She refused. And so, it's clearly - and you see the pictures there.
There is clearly a move, by the Iranian regime, to try and stick with this idea, of women having to cover themselves, in the presence of men. And it was - the point was made, right here, during this interview.
Thank you so much, Aaron David Miller. I appreciate you coming on.
We have some other very important news tonight. And, by the way, this time, it's good news. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here, to take us through a historic moment, in the fight against cancer. More survivors than ever in this country. How we got here? That's coming up next.
SIDNER: Welcome news, tonight, to anyone, who has been impacted by cancer, either directly or indirectly. And there's a lot of people. A promising new report finds that more people, in the United States, are surviving cancer than ever before.
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now.
Sanjay, this is really encouraging news.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. SIDNER: Tell us a little bit about these findings.
GUPTA: Yes. I could dig up some good news, for a change, right?
SIDNER: I mean, so nice!
GUPTA: We measure these incremental changes, in the progress, on cancer.
GUPTA: But it's interesting when you sort of see it play out over decades. 1991, till now, what you find is there's a matter of 32 percent reduction in the cancer death rates. That's significant. And if you actually figure out like how - what does that translate to? 3.5 million lives saved.
GUPTA: I mean, Sara, people, who are alive today, who otherwise wouldn't have been. And I can tell you, you just showed this, back in 1971, there was around 3 million cancer survivors, in the country.
GUPTA: Now, close to 18 million, which is about 5 percent of the population. So, if you're out there, one in 20 people, roughly, would identify themselves as a cancer survivor.
GUPTA: Which is that's pretty--
SIDNER: Pretty incredible why.
SIDNER: Is it because of a lot of organizations, or people getting screenings earlier?
GUPTA: I think there's several things. But I think there's a couple major things.
First of all, the main cancers that we're talking about, where a lot of this progress has been made, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer? I think there's two things.
One is that we're better-identifying the genetics of these cancers. So, we know the mutations that are causing this, and can target those mutations. But also, this avenue of therapies, known as immunotherapy, which actually teaches your immune system, or allows your immune system, to fight the cancer.
I always give the example of Jimmy Carter. He had metastatic melanoma, to his brain. A clear death sentence, a decade ago. He got one of these immunotherapies. And, as far as I know, he's still building houses, with Habitat for Humanity. He's in his mid-90s now.
SIDNER: He's still here!
SIDNER: He's still doing the work!
I want to ask you about your podcast. I know it's exciting. "Chasing Life" is really, really interesting. This is what, the fifth season?
GUPTA: Yes, I know.
SIDNER: Season five? What's most exciting to you?
GUPTA: Well, I mean, this is one of the great privileges, right, for us? I'm a Brain guy. I've always loved that.
This season is all about the human senses, the way that we perceive the world, and what happens when we don't perceive the world well? Things, like face blindness, for example, inability to recognize faces. But also, how animals sense the world and how that's different than humans.
We talk about pain. If you have pain, could I ever truly understand, your pain, by understanding how you've experienced that pain? We dive into these issues, in a big way.
And I got to tell you, I learn a lot, even though I study the brain, as my side job or my primary job! When you do the podcast, you get to talk to these fascinating people, who teach us how the world is perceived differently.
SIDNER: I always learn something from you. And so, this podcast is wonderful. And you've got a great special, coming up, this weekend.
SIDNER: I cannot wait to see about Havana syndrome.
GUPTA: Thank you.
SIDNER: So, thank you so much for coming on, Doctor.
GUPTA: You got it. Thanks for having me.
SIDNER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, with us.
And we'll be right back.
SIDNER: Thank you so much, for hanging with me. I will be back, tomorrow night.
"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Not so fast there, Sara Sidner!
LEMON: How are you doing?
SIDNER: Yes, Don.
LEMON: How are you doing?
SIDNER: How are you doing?
LEMON: OK, remember, we have to remember, we're on television.
SIDNER: Oh, yes. Sorry!
LEMON: OK. So?
SIDNER: Keep it together.
LEMON: Your segment about cancer death rates falling? We are living in the future.