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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Barr On Immunity Hearing: President Does Not Have The Authority To Wage A Coup Against The United States; First Week Of Trump Hush Money Trial Testimony Ends After Three Witnesses, Allegations About Payments, Catch-And-Kill Strategy; At Least Three Injured After Dozens Of Violent Tornadoes Tear Through At Least Five States. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 26, 2024 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CO-HOST, THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS: 9 PM, here in New York, the eighth day of the Trump hush money trial here, a busy and productive one now in the books.

In this hour, for our special primetime continuing coverage, more details from the trial transcripts, we just received, the former President's latest word on whether he'll testify, and what's ahead while trial resumes next week.

Kaitlan Collins starts off the hour with an exclusive interview.



I am joined here tonight by William Barr, who served as the former President's Attorney General, and who told him that his 2020 allegations of election fraud were not true, but is now said he will support the Republican ticket. Therefore, Donald Trump again.

Mr. Attorney General, it's great to have you.

I want to talk to you about how you're going to vote in 2024 in a moment. But, putting the merits aside -- I like how you're laughing about that.

Putting the merits aside, because I know you don't agree with the merits of the New York hush money case. But you worked for Donald Trump. You got to know him. What do you think it's like for him to be in court, being treated like any other criminal defendant, having to be there four days a week?

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it's real tough on him. And I think a lot of the country sympathizes with him. So, I think the longer the trial goes on, the more support he gets.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, he has claimed multiple times that this case is being brought, essentially by President Biden. I mean, you know how this works and how the breakdown in this works. Presidents don't have any role, in what a local District Attorney, what case they bring.

BARR: That's normally true. And I don't -- and I'm not suggesting Biden is involved. But I think what they're saying is that this former federal official, who's gone up to try the case that this somehow shows a link. I don't know whether it does or not.

COLLINS: Yes. But do you agree -- I mean, you worked at -- you were the Attorney General.


COLLINS: Prosecutors leave and go work in other places all the time.

BARR: That's right. I think the impetus for this came from the New York prosecutors. I think that they're behind the case.

COLLINS: And not President Biden?

BARR: I don't know. I don't know.

COLLINS: But yes, but you have no basis to believe that the President would be in charge of an investigation that's being brought by the Manhattan District Attorney?

BARR: Well I don't know. No, I don't think he's in charge of an investigation. But politics -- this is a political case.

COLLINS: Your predecessor was brought up at the trial, Jeff Sessions, because David Pecker, this National Enquirer tabloid king, he got concerned at one point, when he got a letter from the FEC. And he called Michael Cohen, then Trump's personal attorney, to voice concern about that.

Michael Cohen told him not to worry, because Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General, and Donald Trump has him in his pocket.

Did Trump expect his A.G. to go easy on his friends?

BARR: I don't know. I don't know what he expected.

COLLINS: What was your experience?

BARR: My experience was by the time I came in, he did not -- he did not push me to do one thing or another, on these criminal cases. Now, he tweeted, and made his public views on things known. But he never talked to me about them directly.

COLLINS: So, he did not have you in his pocket, you would argue?

BARR: It's not a question of arguing. I did what I thought was right.

COLLINS: And you never felt any direct pressure from him, on what investigations the DOJ was carrying out.

BARR: No. He did not directly pressure me. Yes, as I say, he was out there tweeting and doing things that were embarrassing, and made it hard for me to run the department.

COLLINS: That sounds like pressure.

BARR: It wasn't pressure. It was just, I mean, for example, I had decided that we were going to not agree to a sentence on Stone that was three times longer than normal. And I'd already decided that. And then, he was tweeting about Stone. So, it just made it harder to make the decision.

COLLINS: Because it looked like you were acting at his behest.

BARR: Right. Right.

COLLINS: On Roger Stone's sentence.

BARR: Right.

COLLINS: What they were just talking about is this gag order, and the alleged violations from the prosecutors here. They say it's about 14. It's pretty clear if you read the gag order, and then you look at what Trump has been saying and posting about witnesses, and even commenting on the jury here.

What does a judge do to deter him? Do fines work? I mean, what do you believe the judge's options are here?

BARR: Well, I personally think the gag order could be too broad here. And -- but I think Trump's, and I've said this before, I think Trump basically has the kind of personality that he's always testing the limit. He's always going further and further, and he's usually up against the line.

So, that's what gets him in trouble. And that's what creates all these cases, like we're seeing now in the Supreme Court, very fundamental cases about our Constitution, generally because of excess.

COLLINS: But do you think there's anything to say -- he's testing that? I mean, how does a judge stop that?

BARR: I don't know.

COLLINS: You mentioned the Supreme Court, and those very important oral arguments that happened yesterday. It was really fascinating to listen to them.

But at one point, his attorneys did concede that some of what Jack Smith has alleged, in his indictment are private acts. And they did concede private acts can be prosecuted.

BARR: Yes.


COLLINS: In your view, does that mean that this case can move forward, at least in part? BARR: No, I don't think the case can move forward, in part. I think that if Smith thinks he can try the case entirely, and establish criminal liability, just on the basis of private acts, he could. But if he -- if he requires some official acts, then he has a problem.

I think, the problem here is that the government, Smith, sort of very, you know, he had this broad position that there was no immunity for official acts. And that's the basis on which it has gone up to the Supreme Court.

And both sides are arguing this sort of abstract general idea. There's no immunity.

And then, Trump's people make it seem like there's immunity for everything, even things that are not official acts, like, just if you use the military to do something, somehow you're immune, because the instrumentality, you use is federal.

COLLINS: To stage a coup.

BARR: Yes, I mean that's ridiculous.

COLLINS: Not just a small thing (ph). They -- they--

BARR: Yes, it's ridiculous. Because the question is, is this something you're authorized to do, and have the duty to do, and execute the law and so forth? And the answer, obviously, is not.

The President does not have the authority to wage a coup against the Constitution of the United States. He doesn't have authority to kill enemies, I mean, to kill rivals, and so forth. Those are obviously acts that are not authorized or not required for him to do his job.

COLLINS: So, why are they -- why do you think they're arguing this? Because they're doubling down. It was first, the SEAL Team Six can assassinate a political rival. Yesterday, it was--

BARR: Yes.

COLLINS: --using the military to stage a coup. They said it would depend on the circumstances, whether it counted as an official act.

BARR: Well I don't know why they've taken those positions. I think the issue is whether or not the President is carrying out one of his duties.

And on the other hand, the extreme position taken by the government seems to be that you can be doing an official thing, like firing the FBI Director or something like that, something clearly within your discretion. And yet, you can be prosecuted for a crime, depending on a prosecutor saying, well, you did it for an illegitimate purpose.

And that would just open Pandora's Box, so.

COLLINS: Well, I didn't hear the -- I didn't hear the attorney for the federal government arguing that. But what I did hear Trump's attorneys arguing, and this is something

that you'll know well about, is Trump's effort to install Jeffrey Clark as the acting Attorney General of the United States.

BARR: Yes.

COLLINS: And the point for why he wanted to do that was not just picking who he thought should be running the Justice Department, after you left. It was because Jeffrey Clark was going to use the power of the federal government, to pressure Georgia lawmakers, to overturn their legitimate results.

I mean, is that an official act of the President of the United States?

BARR: Well, that's going to be in that gray zone, that they're going to have to sort out. And that's why I feel it's going to have to go back to the District Court.

Was this -- was this the President seeing that the laws were faithfully executed? Or was this a candidate trying to bully and press a state into changing its vote when he knew that the vote had been against him?

COLLINS: Well, you were there.

BARR: And that has to be sorted out.

COLLINS: You were there. Which one do you believe it is?

BARR: I'm not going to, you know, I'd have to see all the evidence, and see the case litigated.

COLLINS: You were one of few people. I mean, you were up there, up front and close and personal. Was he bullying people, and trying to get them to carry out his will, his personal will, to stay in office? Or was he carrying out election integrity and making sure that the United States has fair election?

BARR: Well I wasn't happy with the way he behaved after the election. But whether it was a crime is a different issue. And that requires the government, to have a -- articulate the basis of the crime, and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

COLLINS: But you--

BARR: And some of these acts are gray acts. Some of these, it's difficult to say whether he was acting as a candidate, or as the top law enforcement officer.

COLLINS: But which ones do you think are gray? Because we -- you and I spoke, right when this indictment came out, and you thought it was a pretty good indictment, a pretty solid indictment was I believe the word you used.

BARR: Yes. But well I said -- well, I said it, yes. Was not -- it was not an abuse that it had a coherent theory. I said I didn't feel it was compelling, but it was coherent.

I think the things that were -- that I think are -- were private, were the recruitment of the alternative slates, and things like that, that were, to me, clearly as a candidate.

But where you get into the gray zone is where he has an argument that, hey, I'm the President. I think this election was stolen. I am trying to see that the laws are faithfully executed. And there has to be some precision as to what exact -- where exactly, he crossed the line.

COLLINS: So, when his attorney, who was seated right here, last night, was arguing that the fake slates of electors do constitute an official act. You disagree with that?

BARR: I don't think they do. I think he was doing that as a candidate. I don't see why it's part of the President's official duties, to recruit alternative slates to support him as a candidate. That seems to me to be a -- not an official act.


COLLINS: When you see his attorneys kind of brazenly arguing about that a military coup could be an official act, that ordering SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival could be an official act, did those arguments undermine the integrity of the justice system in the United States?

BARR: No. I mean, I think they undermine the case because they were stupid examples, in my opinion.

So, for example, when President Obama sent a drone strike overseas, and killed an American, who was apparently in a terrorist complex? That was legitimate. That was the President using his National Security powers. That was within the scope of his responsibilities.

But that doesn't mean a President gets to shoot drones, at domestic enemies to eliminate them, and just because they're military equipment, they become an official act. President doesn't have the power to go around killing Americans at will.

COLLINS: I hear from a lot of Republicans, who defend Trump, saying, well, that's a hypothetical, and that's ridiculous.

But Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was Trump's communications director, posted yesterday and said, that you were present at a moment when Trump suggested executing the person, who leaked information that he went to the White House bunker, when those George Floyd protests were happening outside the White House.

Do you remember that?

BARR: I remember him being very mad about that. I actually don't remember him saying, executing. But I wouldn't dispute it, you know? I mean, it doesn't sound -- I mean, the President would lose his temper and say things like that. I doubt he would have actually carried it out. I don't, you know. COLLINS: But he would say that on other occasions? You said he would lose his temper.

BARR: The President, you know, the President had a -- I think people sometimes took him too, literally. And he would say things like, similar to that in occasions, to blow off steam. But I wouldn't take him literally every time he did it.

COLLINS: Why not?

BARR: Because at the end of the day, it wouldn't be carried out, and you could talk sense into him.

COLLINS: But just because it's not carried out, and you could talk sense into him, doesn't that still mean that the threat is there?

BARR: No. I mean, I think -- I don't think the threat is there. The thing that I worry about President Trump is not that he's going to become an autocrat and do those kinds of things.

COLLINS: Why not?

BARR: Because I don't think he would.


BARR: At the end of the day.

COLLINS: What's the basis for that, that understanding that you have?

BARR: Well.

COLLINS: Is it just your own hunch?

BARR: That's my feeling, having worked for him and seen him in action. I don't think he would actually go and kill political rivals and things like that.

COLLINS: If the January 6 case, the election interference case, doesn't move forward before the election, is that a mistake, in your view?

BARR: If it doesn't move forward? No, I mean, I've said earlier on, I would have liked to see that tried before the election. But I think it's gotten too late.

COLLINS: But you were talking about Jack Smith, and what he charged.

BARR: Yes.

COLLINS: Isn't some part that, the responsibility of the Supreme Court, that they could have heard these arguments, back in December? They chose not to. They could rule sooner. They may not rule until June. I mean, they have a role in this as well.

BARR: No, I think it was -- it was teed up for them. And they acted very quickly to actually take the case quickly. And I think it hasn't been well-prepared. I think that the Circuit Court didn't do its job. It should have sent it back for a fuller record. And I think the Supreme Court is doing the best they can under these circumstances.

COLLINS: Attorney General Bill Barr, I have a few more questions for you. So please stick around.


COLLINS: We're going to take a quick commercial break. And we'll be back in just a moment, with a lot more, including what your former boss has been saying about you, right after a quick break.



COLLINS: We're back now, talking with former Trump Attorney General, Bill Barr.

And great to have you here.

Last time, you and I spoke, when we had you on the show, you told me that you would jump off the bridge, when it came to it, on who you were going to support in the 2024 election. It appears that you have jumped off that bridge, because you said recently you were going to vote for the Republican ticket, come November, which means you're going to vote for Donald Trump.

BARR: That's -- yes, I said that's what I plan to do, at this stage.

COLLINS: You're saying you could change your mind, maybe?

BARR: Well not -- I'm not going to vote for Biden. And I just -- this is a wild time. Who knows what's going to happen in seven months? But I expect, as between Trump and Biden, there's no question in my mind.

COLLINS: Oh, so you're kind of suggesting that maybe Donald Trump may not be the Republican nominee?

BARR: Or Biden may not be the Democrat or--

COLLINS: Oh, so you would vote for another Democrat, if it were -- a different Democrat was on the ticket.

BARR: It's hard to imagine that this party, the progressive Democratic Party would nominate someone I would support.

COLLINS: Yes, I know you disagree with them.

But I had to ask you about something that Trump posted about you this week, because he responded, in response to you saying you'd vote for the Republican ticket.

"Wow. Former A.G. Bill Barr, who let a lot of great people down by not investigating Voter Fraud in our Country, has just Endorsed me for President despite the fact that I called him "Weak, Slow Moving, Lethargic, Gutless, and Lazy" Based on the fact that I greatly appreciate his wholehearted Endorsement, I am removing the word "Lethargic" from my statement. Thank you Bill."

BARR: Yes. Classic Trump.

What's the question?

COLLINS: What's your response?

BARR: My response? Well, I mean, obviously, what I said was that I'm very disappointed that this country is stuck with this choice between two people. I don't think either of them should be President of the United States. But given that binary choice, I feel I have to choose Trump.

COLLINS: But he's mocking you.

BARR: So? It's not about me. I think that that -- I've said this all along. If faced with a choice between two people, neither of which I think should be president, I feel it's my duty to pick the person, who I think would do the least damage to the country. And I think Trump would do less damage than Biden.

And I think all this stuff about a threat to democracy, I think the real threat to democracy is the progressive movement and the Biden administration.

COLLINS: The Biden administration?

BARR: The--

COLLINS: Or President Biden himself?

BARR: Biden's -- Biden support for the progressive agenda.


COLLINS: I think a lot of people hear that. And the case that we just talked about, that went before the Supreme Court, essentially, and say how can you see that and say that Biden is a greater threat to democracy?

BARR: Because well who's -- where are we losing our freedoms? How are our freedoms being constrained? Being constrained by the press -- progressive government. And democracy, especially from the Anglosphere democracies, the Five Eyes insofar, the threat's never been for autocratic government, on the right, a right-wing strongman.

COLLINS: But how specifically is Biden threatening democracy?

BARR: The threat to freedom and democracy has always been on the left. It's the collectivist socialist agenda. And that is where we're losing our freedom.

Parents are losing the freedom, to control their children's education. And people can't speak their mind, without losing their jobs, and things like that. This is worse than the McCarthy era. Where is that coming from? It's not coming from the right.

COLLINS: Those two things that you just noted there, you believe are worse than a President of the United States, trying to subvert the will of the people by overturning the results of the election?

BARR: No, I think -- no, I think a -- I think a country, all the things together, like we're not enforcing our borders, we have open borders, we have lawlessness in our cities. We have regulations coming fast and furious. So, telling people what kind of stoves they can use, and what kinds of cars they have to drive, and eliminating cars and so forth. Yes, those are -- those are the threats to democracy.

COLLINS: But President Biden is not in control of what some school boards, across the country, are doing.

BARR: He's using the administrative--

COLLINS: You think -- you can make the argument.

BARR: What are -- these major--

COLLINS: But how is that the same way?

BARR: Well major changes are being made in our country without the democratic process, and they're being made by bureaucrats, and these agencies.

COLLINS: OK. Pause. You cannot argue that Republicans across the country are not doing that as well. In my own hometown, there's a huge fight at the library, over which books kids can read.

BARR: There's always been--

COLLINS: This is not something that is a single-party fight.

BARR: You think there are -- don't you think there should be some limits on what people are able to read at very young ages?

COLLINS: I just think people -- I just think people look at what you're saying, and they don't--

BARR: Well some people might.

COLLINS: And maybe -- maybe even Republicans, who have concerns about what's happening with school boards, or the culture, and don't -- abortion even, don't equate that with January 6th, and Trump's efforts.

When you told him the election was not stolen, and he still went out there and said it was stolen, and led a lot of people to believe that. They don't -- those things aren't equal. It feels like a false equivalency.

BARR: Well, I disagree. I think and -- I think the country is much more susceptible to losing freedoms, by the excesses of the left, and they have been steadily. And that's clear. People lose their jobs. Kids can't speak out in the classroom. They have to go along with what the professor says, in order to get good grades and so forth.

COLLINS: Well Republicans are also trying.

BARR: It's become like a Stepford Nation being directed by the progressive elites.

COLLINS: Republicans are also trying to limit what could be said in the classroom.

But I do want to ask you. Because you're a lifelong Republican. I don't think it's a surprise that you don't like those Democratic -- those issues that a lot of Republicans blame on Democrats. I think there's a question of how they're the same.

But I'd want you to listen to what another lifelong Republican, Liz Cheney, said, about your decision to vote for the Republican ticket in November.


LIZ CHENEY, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Given what Bill Barr has said publicly, about Trump's lack of fitness for office, I think that his assertion now that he's actually going to support Trump for office is indefensible. And then, was frankly, you know, frankly, disappointing to see.


COLLINS: She says it's indefensible.

BARR: Well that's her view. That's her view.

The fact of the matter is, as I said all along, I agreed with Trump's policies. And despite the media, the left-wing media's effort to portray it as a lawless administration, it wasn't. His policies were sound, and that we had victories in courts, and we defended them. I think that Biden is unfit for office.

COLLINS: So, you're basically saying that you are voting because you want the Republican policies?

BARR: Well, that's certainly part of it. But I also--

COLLINS: Well, I'm glad you said that.

BARR: But I also don't think--

COLLINS: Hold on. Hold on. I'm glad you said that.

BARR: Yes.

COLLINS: Because you told Geraldo Rivera, last year, you may want his policies, but Trump will not deliver Trump policies. He will deliver chaos, and if anything lead to a backlash that will set his policies much further back than they would otherwise be.

You're even acknowledging he can't accomplish those--

BARR: No. What--

COLLINS: --Republican policies.

BARR: What I was saying was, if you want Trump's policies, if you're MAGA and want to make America great again, the other candidates will be -- will be successful at that much more than he will.

COLLINS: But that's not the other candidates.

BARR: For the reasons I stated.

COLLINS: It's going to be Donald Trump.


BARR: That's right. I'm certainly not going to get anywhere near what I'd like under Biden.

And Biden is not a great moral exemplar, OK? And is he following the laws? Here he is, giving away another round of forgiving student loans, after he lost it in the Supreme Court, and he thinks he can get away--

COLLINS: But the ones he is--

BARR: And he thinks he can get away with it, by getting it out the door before the election.

COLLINS: But this is--

BARR: He's not enforcing the law on the borders.

COLLINS: But those are policy differences that you disagree with.

Trump, I remember also when border numbers were at an all-time high in the spring of 2019. So, the idea that border chaos only happens under this administration is inaccurate. But I think people see that.

BARR: No. Wait a minute. We had it under control, because we had a program approved by the Supreme Court, called Remain in Mexico that was fully lawful, and had shut down the border.

COLLINS: But how can you equate--

BARR: And he came in and lifted it.

COLLINS: How can you equate? The border is a real issue. I've been to the border. No one's denying that.

But is that the same thing as what you said recently, which was that, the conduct that was involved with Donald Trump, you said trying to subvert and prevent the progress, the execution of probably the most important process we have, which is the peaceful transfer of power after an election.

Name one thing that Biden has done that's worse than that.

BARR: I think his whole administration is a disaster for the country.

COLLINS: Is worse than subverting the peaceful transfer of power?

BARR: Did he succeed?

COLLINS: Only because Vice President Mike Pence stood in the way.

BARR: Yes. He tried to pursue--

COLLINS: And now the people who are lining up to be VP again say that they will not do what Mike Pence did.

BARR: Yes. I mean, look, I was very loud in saying I thought it was a whole -- the whole episode was shameful. And I'm very troubled by. And that's why it's not an easy decision. But I think when you have a Hobson's choice, you have to pick the lesser of two evils.

COLLINS: You don't see this as the definition of putting party over country?

BARR: No. No. Not because -- because, unfortunately, we're having a -- we're in a situation, where the policy differences between the two parties are very, very vast. There's a huge gulf. And so, in that kind of--

COLLINS: And you're saying Trump can achieve the policies?

BARR: I think he's going to have a much harder time achieving them.

COLLINS: But you're voting for -- so, you're voting--

BARR: And I also think--

COLLINS: So, just to be clear, you're voting for someone, who you believe, tried to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, that can't even achieve his own policies, that lied about the election, even after his Attorney General told him that the election wasn't stolen? And as the former chief law enforcement in this country, you're going to vote for someone, who is facing 88 criminal counts?

BARR: Well, look, the 88 criminal counts, a lot of those are in -- and I've said are--

COLLINS: Even if 10 of them are accurate?

BARR: The answer to your question is, yes. I'm supporting. I'm supporting the Republican ticket.

COLLINS: But can you say that you're voting for Donald Trump?

BARR: And I--

COLLINS: Because you're not saying his name. You just say you're supporting the Republican ticket.

BARR: I've said I -- as between Biden and Trump, I will vote for Trump, because I believe he will do less damage over the four years.

I believe our -- I believe we're facing the most dangerous situation we've ever faced in the world, a lot of it invited by Biden's weakness.

And to have Biden out there, for the next four years, given all the threats we face, including handing the keys to the nuclear weapon to Iran, with a Vice President like Kamala Harris, endangers the country. That alone should be reason to vote for the Republican ticket.

But there are a host of other reasons. Our country is unraveling in many ways. The rule of law is unraveling.

COLLINS: So, you want to put someone back in the position with immense power, who you believe disrespects--

BARR: I think people will--

COLLINS: --the rule of law?

BARR: Well no -- I think he will enforce the law. And we'll have greater safety in our cities.

COLLINS: Mr. Attorney General, I think a lot of people will have some stark views on that comment. We'll, if he is reelected, we'll bring you back. Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for being here.

Anderson, back to you in New York.

COOPER: Kaitlan, thank you.

I want to get everyone's take on what we just heard.

And joining us is legendary reporter, best-selling author, Carl Bernstein as well.


CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR, AUTHOR, "CHASING HISTORY: A KID IN THE NEWSROOM": I'm looking for the right Yiddish word to try and characterize what we've just--

COOPER: You can start with oy.

BERNSTEIN: Oy. What we've just heard.

I think even by Washington standards, in the age of Trump, we've just seen Bill Barr engaging in a kind of craven hypocrisy that is emblematic of him, despite his quiet tones, and of a huge, huge problem, which is Republican leaders, who understand the horror, danger of Donald Trump, and refuse -- and been there to witness it.

Listen to what he said. He saw the sedition that he called out. Barr did. Look at him calling Trump before, a brazen criminal. And to get up and say that Donald Trump should be the next President of the United States? It's astonishing. It's a kind of hypocrisy. Attorney General, dedicated to the rule of law, and then he talks about how Trump has no dedication to the rule of law.


I think, first of all, it's a great interview. It is so revealing. And that's not to say that Barr doesn't that -- doesn't score some points in it.

COOPER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: But it is a defining document of where we are. And that kind of blind loyalty to a seditious president, as Liz Cheney pointed out, and really--

COOPER: Well how much of it is about wanting to--


COOPER: I mean, I don't know what his motive is. But how much is about wanting to still be relevant in Republican circles, to go on lecture circuits, to be?

BERNSTEIN: I can't be in Bill Barr's head. Intellectually, he is an extraordinary person, to listen to. But -- and is this a case of you'll never work in this town again, if you -- if you don't come out and support Donald Trump for president?

It is a breakdown of a kind of moral. And he is a real moralist. If you look at Bill Barr's speech, at Notre Dame in February, four years ago, it's an extraordinary--


BERNSTEIN: --document.

COOPER: Karen, what do you think?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER MANHATTAN CHIEF ASSISTANT D.A.: I mean, it was just astonishing that he would say that the Democrats took away more rights.

He kind of forgot about women, and the fact that it's the Republican Supreme Court that took away a woman's right to choose. And the freedoms that are being taken away from people.

And he blames -- he blames crime on, he says, there's lawlessness. That's a local issue. That has nothing to do with the President of the United States. That has to do with local police.

COOPER: FBI numbers actually show crime going down.


BERNSTEIN: It's going down.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Exactly. And in the cities, crime's going way down. In Manhattan, murder is down 28 percent, and shootings are down 38 percent, just from last year, and to date -- year-to-date.

So, in addition to the fact that crime is down, across the board, it is not something that you normally think the President has anything to do with.

I think Kaitlan's right about the border and other issues.

But I think that it struck me as sort of sad, because he really changed his tune from where he was before. And he's really not thinking about things that really mattered to him before, like law and order, like the crimes that Donald Trump is accused of committing, that he witnessed himself, that he talked about himself, and he came up and talked about himself. And now that he's changing his tune.


ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: If I could pick up on that, the one thing Bill Barr knows best is law enforcement. He's one of two men ever to be Attorney General of the United States twice.

It is wildly irresponsible, for Bill Barr, to stoke this really conspiracy theory that the Manhattan D.A.'s charging this case. And look, I've raised questions about the wisdom of bringing it. But to stoke this conspiracy theory that that charge is somehow a Biden prosecution? He should have said -- he knows better. He should have said, Of course not. It's ridiculous.

The Manhattan D.A. has no connection to anything in the federal government. He is independently elected.

And what the former Attorney General tried to do is cite this one person, on the team, Matthew Colangelo, who was at DOJ, and went over to the D.A.'s office. That is true that that happened. But that is all that there is to this. To make that into somebody acting at Joe Biden's behest, feeds into straight-up conspiracy theories.

COOPER: Well and I want to bring in Kaitlan.

Kaitlan, you pointed out in the interview that plenty of people go from Department of Justice to other places.


COLLINS: Yes. And of course, no one knows that better than the former Attorney General, who's worked at the Justice Department, multiple times, and is very well-versed in how that works. So, I mean, that's just.

COOPER: You had previously interviewed Barr. I mean, what's your takeaway from this? Which by the way, was an incredible interview.


COLLINS: It's remarkable, just in the sense of, one, this is someone who saw up close and personal what those several weeks in between the 2020 election and January 6, were like. Obviously, Bill Barr left his job in December. But a lot of it had to do with what Trump was saying about the election.

And I'll never forget when Bill Barr came out and said there was no widespread election fraud. And Trump kind of lost his mind, when he saw that interview from the Oval Office.

And to hear it, here we are four years later, hearing Bill Barr saying that he will vote for Donald Trump, and he actually said that his name, not just the Republican ticket tonight, is remarkable.

And one thing I think is a question for me is, is it kind of a permission structure, for other Republicans, who maybe are torn on how to vote?

Or independent voters who say, I'm not sure how I should vote on this. I wasn't comfortable with what Trump did. And then see, even his own Attorney General, who has been no short of a critic of him, come out and say this?


And I think really one of the most remarkable -- remarkable moments was Trump mocked Bill Barr, for saying that he was going to vote for him. He posted that. His whole team was kind of like laughing about it, and saying that.

It was funny until you hear Bill Barr say that he was unbothered by that, and that he truly thinks that the Biden policies are -- he can equate them with what happened in that period, to try to overturn the legitimate election results, and he said well he didn't succeed.

But Anderson, everyone who is lining up to be Donald Trump's Vice President, this time around, and at least the ones that I've spoken to, have said, what Mike Pence did that day was wrong, and they would not do what Mike Pence did. So, it's not a given that what happened--

COOPER: Well then--

COLLINS: --on January 6, 2020 would happen again.

COOPER: To me, I mean, that was one of the most extraordinary moments that him downplaying efforts to overturn the election, by saying to you, did he succeed, as though that makes it all right? I mean, had Mike Pence not done the right thing?


COOPER: I mean, it's extraordinary.

COLLINS: It's the same thing with the execution part. That was a part that -- you know, I couldn't stop because we had a -- I had lot more questions to ask him.

But Alyssa Farah Griffin said that Bill Barr and other top cabinet officials were present, when Donald Trump, one time, suggested executing the leaker of whoever said that he went to the bunker, when The Washington Post and CNN reported, he went to the bunker of the White House, because they were worried about the protests.

And Bill Barr said he remembered him being irate. He didn't remember that specific call for executing them. But he said that it happened other times, where Trump was really angry, but it would die down, and no one took it seriously, simply because it didn't happen. I mean, it's just remarkable to hear a top cabinet aid confirm that, yes, the President of the United States, at that time, did say things like that.

COOPER: Right. And talked about it, but more than -- more than once --

COLLINS: More than once.

COOPER: --the idea of executing.

And you could almost see, during the interview, him sort of realizing well, clearly, you're going to pursue this about like, well, what other cases are there, and he clearly sort of started to kind of step back from that. But it seemed like it happened more than once.

COLLINS: I mean, it just speaks to what was happening inside the White House, and what that looked like, and what became kind of the norm. And then -- and it's remarkable.


COLLINS: It speaks for itself.


BERNSTEIN: One thing. There's a long list of courageous Republicans, going back to Ike stopping Joe McCarthy, going back to Barry Goldwater going to the White House and saying to Richard Nixon, we are going to vote to convict you in a Senate trial if you don't resign.

Where has Bill Barr been, to reform this party, since he left office on December 20th--


BERNSTEIN: --at the end of the Trump presidency,

COOPER: Kaitlan, just an extraordinary interview.


COOPER: Thank you so much.

COLLINS: Thank you. COOPER: Carl's not going anywhere. We're going to get everybody's thoughts, on the strength of the D.A.'s case against Trump so far, as they close out the first week of testimony. We'll be right back.



COOPER: It seems even more likely that Donald Trump will not be taking the stand in his own defense. Just last week, he insisted he would testify in his New York criminal trial, although he used the word, would, not will.

But in a new interview with Newsmax, he was notably non-committal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you more or less likely, you think, to take the stand in the Manhattan case, right now? I know two--


Legal scholars and experts, they're saying what kind of a case this is? There is no case.


COOPER: And Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Carl Bernstein, is with us, as well, along with my panel.

There is no scenario -- or do you believe there's a scenario under which he would actually take the stand?

BERNSTEIN: No. No. No. Given the allegations? And no, not a chance.

One of the things about this trial though is these supposed Justice Department people, who put the prosecutor here up to this.

I do not know a single person, in the Biden White House, who doesn't think and hate that this case was brought.

HONIG: Right.

BERNSTEIN: And thinks that it was a great mistake to do so. And that there are these three other cases that have an incredible gravity that go to the heart of Trump's seditious conduct, and they would much rather this case have never been brought. I don't know anybody that thinks that they like the idea of this case--

HONIG: So interesting.

BERNSTEIN: --going ahead.

HONIG: And doesn't that just sink the conspiracy right there? Because if Joe Biden was so eager, to get Donald Trump at any cost? I mean, Jack Smith has brought two way stronger charges. So why would he be--

BERNSTEIN: Yes, of monumental--

HONIG: --bothering with this secret mole and the D.A.? Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Of monumental--

HONIG: Right.

BERNSTEIN: --consequence to the future of democracy.


BERNSTEIN: And where this country goes.

COOPER: How, Karen, how soon do you think Michael Cohen would be called to testify? Because you probably don't want to have him be the last witness, do you?


FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: I think you're going to see some people, like you saw this week, putting documents in, and things that you don't really know what the significance is, of that is yet, like what was the significance of a certain calendar entry that they put in today for Rhona Graff?

I know, there was a -- they said that Donald Trump had lessons on how to use a teleprompter. What was that about, I mean? But for some reason that was put in.

There's little things like that that will be put into evidence, dates and phone numbers and bank records, that I think are a setup for other witnesses, perhaps someone like Michael Cohen, who will then be able to talk about what those -- what those mean.

But I just wanted to say to you, Mr. Bernstein, I'm one of the people, who thinks that it was a good idea to bring this case, and that it is an important case, because what is coming out in the evidence, especially through David Pecker, in my view, just from seeing what's coming out, is this was really about trying to influence an election, just like the other cases, only--

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. The four cases fit together. That's very true.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Yes, they -- they fit together. And the--

BERNSTEIN: Undermining elections.


FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Undermining the election. Only this is the one he actually succeeded. I'm reminded that he won this election in 2016, in three swing states, by 80,000 votes. AIDALA: And you think storm that of the fact that a multi-billionaire, named Donald Trump, who everyone knows about all the women he's been with, and Marla Maples and this and that, that if it came out, he fooled around with Stormy Daniels, that would have changed the election?



AIDALA: No. He's just protecting.


AIDALA: Not that it was going to swing the election. This is 2015. He didn't even think he was going to be President of the United States. Trust me. I knew people around him. Nobody was -- I spoke to Rudy Giuliani the day after.

LOUIS: Well he didn't spend all that money--

COOPER: Right. But--

AIDALA: Nobody was more surprised he won the election--

LOUIS: He didn't spend all that money for nothing.

AIDALA: --than Donald Trump. He's just--

COOPER: But there's -- but there's going to be testimony about being--

AIDALA: My friend, he spent what a half a million dollars? That's like, you know, you've given me well--


COOPER: There's going to be testimony about the Access Hollywood tape, and the impact, the bombshell impact that had on the campaign.


COOPER: And how that actually changed the desire to silence Stormy Daniels.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: And I think what -- what I think what the prosecution is going to try to do, and I think today, I think you're right, everybody knows now and everyone's desensitized to it. But back in 2015, and 2016, other than the people around him, I think the general public didn't know. And I think this was--

AIDALA: That he was a playboy?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: I think that that this type of the Access Hollywood tape was very devastating. And I don't think they wanted -- look, right-wing conservatives, as part of his base, I don't think they wanted it out there that he was cheating on Melania with Karen McDougal, and then cheating on Karen McDougal with Stormy Daniels.



COOPER: It was untested at that point, would the Evangelicals actually embrace him, as they did.

And, you can make an argument, there were some who thought, well, of course, once people know the full sordid details of his life, they're not going to. Of course, little do we know, actually, of course, that they actually would embrace him, and just ignore it, despite all the stuff they have said.

But back in 2015, he was an untested candidate.


COOPER: And to what fights against your argument--

AIDALA: But wasn't he known as the most eligible bachelor?

COOPER: What fights against your argument is, it's Donald Trump, we now know, and Michael Cohen, who held this meeting, who called David Pecker in for this meeting. It wasn't David Pecker coming as previously thought. It was them saying it.

AIDALA: I'm not saying--


AIDALA: --I'm not saying they don't -- that they didn't desire again tell me if it's the same (ph).

SCHNEIDER: No. No, because you -- of course, his obvious defense is, I've been buying stories and controlling my media, for my whole life. That's my brand. The difference here is he was running for office.

And yes, celebrities have gone to the National Enquirer. They've bought and suppressed bad stories. And that's not a crime. If you have the money to buy silence, buy it.

The difference in this case and why it was brought, which goes to the heart of what we've been talking about is Donald Trump was no longer just a celebrity, at the time this was happening. He was a celebrity running for office.

And I think his attorney, Todd Blanche, his lead counsel, made a mistake in the opening argument, because he made a statement to the jury, and I think it's going to come back to bite him later on. He said there's nothing wrong with influencing an election. It's called democracy.

And I think the Manhattan D.A.'s office would beg to differ, because when you are influencing an election, ill-lawfully, under New York state law, that's called an illegality.


SCHNEIDER: And that's what this case is really about.

AIDALA: But Anderson, I was agreeing with what Carl said, in terms of the power of the case, or the ramifications of his actions. In other words, trying to stop the presidential election and January 6th is like a 10 on a scale from one to 10.


AIDALA: Paying off a prostitute, basically, for not talking her mouth -- shooting her mouth off about an affair, it's like a two-and-a-half.

So, to Carl's point, they're saying the White House isn't happy that this is the case that went first.

COOPER: Sure, of course.

AIDALA: It's because people are like laughing about it, compared to let's stop the peaceful transfer of power.


BERNSTEIN: But what it's all about, in every instance is undermining a free and fair election.



COOPER: I want to thank everybody.

We're going to leave the story for a few moments, for breaking news out of the Midwest. Video, one of at least -- of at least 60 tornadoes that touched down, in at least five states today. More on the damage and the forecast, next.



COOPER: We have more coverage of Donald Trump's criminal trial, in a moment, on CNN.

But tonight, we're also monitoring a severe weather system that spawned dozens of violent tornadoes, touring -- that tore across at least five states today.

Take a look this video, comes to us from a storm-chaser, who got very close to a tornado, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The one tornado in the area ripped through a local business, with 70 people sheltering inside, authorities say at least three people were injured.

At least 60 tornadoes have been reported. Want to get right to CNN Meteorologist, Chad Myers with the latest.

So, what is the damage in Nebraska, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is -- it is bad, Anderson.

We know that at least for a while, this was at 150 to almost 200 miles per hour, as it went from that Lincoln picture that you see there, to what was almost west of Omaha, into the Omaha suburb of Elkhorn. And so, solidly EF-3, EF-4 damage.

And you know what, the pictures tell the story. There was so much damage here, with 67 tornadoes. So 66 other than that one right there.

COOPER: It's incredible. Were there warnings?

MYERS: Oh, absolutely there were warnings. Because, you can see it. Look, this is called -- we call this a LP, low-precipitation tornado, which means it's visible.

There are probably thousands of videos of this tornado, online, which means the Weather Service saw it too. It wasn't hidden in some cloud, or some rain-wrapped tornado that you don't even know that's there. This is the reason that we had the warnings that were so well-done.


Even the Police Chief of Omaha said the warnings that were put out by the Weather Service today saved lives. We had warnings in time. They knew it was coming. They got into their shelters, the safest place in their houses. And without a doubt, the Weather Service saved many lives, when you look at that.

COOPER: And where's this severe weather heading next?

MYERS: Yes, that's a good question, because it's heading to the same spot. This is going to regenerate tomorrow to be in the same areas that we have right now.

Even Des Moines, right now, I need you to really pay attention to this. There are still tornado warnings for you. Some of these storms are still rotating. In the dark, at night, storms do lose their power, so that's happening, but not enough power to take away the tornadoes for now. Another hour, hour and a half, yes, this will be done.

But look at where the tornadoes, look at where the storms are, again tomorrow, from Oklahoma City to Texas, back into the same places that got hit today. Exactly what first responders don't need, obviously.


MYERS: Where people are trying to pick up their lives, and put their pieces back together.

So far, Anderson, there have been zero reports of fatalities--


MYERS: --which, to me, is amazing.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, those images are extraordinary.

Chad, thank you.


COOPER: Our special primetime coverage of the historic Trump trial continues next.