tv CNN Newsroom With Ana Cabrera CNN November 24, 2019 4:00pm-5:01pm PST
developments right now related to president trump's dealings with ukraine, details that are central to his impeachment inquiry. right now a confidential white house review has turned up hundreds of e-mails showing extensive efforts to justify president trump's decision to freeze military aid to ukraine after the fact. this is new reporting from "the washington post." and according to "the post," the documents include e-mail exchanges between acting chief of staff mick mulvaney and white house budget officials from early august. president trump ordered the hold in mid-july. the reporting also says white house lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. tom hamburg is the investigative reporter at "the washington post." he and his colleagues broke this explosive report today. what exactly do these documents reveal, tom? >> ana, what they show is that there was extensive discussion going on inside the white house,
indeed inside the executive branch after the president decided in july to with hold the congressionally mandated military aid to ukraine. and it reveals some pretty heated discussions behind the scenes. >> and do they actually expose the real reason the aid was put on hold? >> you know, it doesn't quite take us there. what's apparent from some of the e-mail exchanges that we've heard about and also some of the public testimony is that the president decided -- made a decision to with hold the aid or at least to delay it initially without an explanation. and then the e-mail trove that we're most familiar with in early august shows mick mulvaney exchanging messages with his successor at the office of management and budget, asking for justification for holding up this aid, looking for legal reasons to do so. and indeed the federal law, the
obscure bit of legislation called the federal budgement and -- act does require if aid is rescinded ordelayed or altered after a certain period of time, that congress be notified. and so what these e-mails reveal is an extensive discussion behind the scene afrz the president made his decision to with hold the aid saying, hey, what's the justification for this? and we believe that there are also in addition to the memos that we saw show some exchanges between the omb and the acting white house chief of staff, mick mulvaney. the expectation is that there are also communications from other agencies involved. the state department, the defense department, in particular the national security council where we know from public testimony there was concern bordering on alarm over the delay on this military aid to ukraine. >> talk about the timing, though, of these e-mails and communications in relation to the whistle-blower complaint. >> so one of the things that we
found there are a number of sort of stunning things on the time line. and one of the things, by the way, that white house counsel pat sipalone was engaged with was putting together a time line of events so that white house staff and attorneys would have access to a time line as they prepared for any questions that might result from the impeachment inquiry. and one of it things that we found of course one of the stunning bits is that the aid is released shortly after the -- the whistle-blower report's concern that there is a political connection between the decision to with hold or delay aid -- military aid to ukraine and the president's desire to get information that will presumably help his 2020 political -- personal political campaign that is information on joe biden and his son hunter biden and their activities in
ukraine. >> tom hamburger, incredible reporting. thank you very much for sharing it with all of us. with us now is white house correspondent and associate editor at politico anita kumar along with david gergen. the office of budget and management spokesperson said there was a legal consensus every step of the way about withholding aid. this after the fact timing seems suspect, doesn't it? >> well, right. and as you just pointed out those e-mails seemed to indicate that there was a conflict there. and we've heard about a conflict between various people in the administration saying whether they could with hold things. it's very interesting as "the post" points out that its omb saying we can withhold this aid or at least temporarily, but it's the more sort of the people dealing with aid, the state department, the national security council, who deal with aid generally to foreign countries saying no, we can't do that. it's clear that the
administration is split. look, we've been seeing that split all along in this house impeachment inquiry. >> david, these e-mails trying to justify a decision after the fact, did that happen in any of the administrations you served in? >> it happened in the nixon administration with some regularity. but nonetheless that is not to diminish what happened here. and special now just after the hearings have ended to have this story come out look very suspect right afterwards. like they've been sitting on it. but more importantly what it says is that stone wall that the president has erected, there's a reason why he's done that. and that is because if there was transparency, if they turned over the documents as they should, as they did in past scandals like this, if they turned over those documents there's a lot of stuff in there that might not be illegal but might be embarrassing to the president. that's what "the washington post" is saying.
and clearly what the president is his men are doing is trying to prevent, obstruct every effort by the democrats to get a full story. now we may know more soon. it may be that a courtroom tomorrow could prompt mr. bolton to come forward and say yes he would be willing to testify. so there may be more to come, but this in and of itself i think just mfdss there's a lot to this story that we still don't know after two weeks of intensive hearings. and frankly the public deserves to know what the rest of the story is. and so anita, the this new development from "the washington post" is there any indication democrats might pump the brakes and push for testimony from mulvaney and others before they proceed with any votes on impeachment? >> no. i mean you've seen house democrats say they need to move forward. they've closed out these investigations or this inquiry these last couple of weeks. they know there's more out there. you know, as we've indicated don mcgahn, john bolton, there are other piece of information out
there. they want that information. but if they hold this up any longer we're well into 2020 when the senate gets this and has this trial. and that's just getting too late. so i don't think there's really any way that they're going to do that. they have indicated that every time the white house and the president has stopped them from getting information or a witness, they're just going to use that against him as part of this obstruction. they're going to say he's obstructing an investigation and that could be an article of impeachment. does it indicate there's no indication they would stop it at at this point. >> i spoke to former white house counsel during watergate john dean earlier, and he said this about president trump. >> this president doesn't think through anything. he just goes and does things, and his staff is the last to learn often by reading his twitter account. i'm sure this is what happened here. my god, does the man know that he's breaking the law if he's trying to put a freeze on this money that he can't do? and so i'm sure that was part of
the after-the-fact look at this. >> david, do you agree? are these e-mails attempting to justify the decision to withhold aid proof that the president knew what he was doing was wrong? >> no, i don't think you can say that based on what we know. but that's why it's important to see the e-mails. because what we're getting is secondhand accounts of this leaked information. we're not seeing documents. and one would have expected and what we saw in the past on big scandals like this, when the white house and the grs have a conflict and the congress says we must see the documents as part of our investigation, typically when you get issued a subpoena, people come forward and they talk. and typically there are documents. and that's all been blocked here, and so i agree that it's going to be hard to change the dynamics of this, but it shouldn't -- it's not that hard to go out and raise hell about it. it's not too late to do that.
i think this is after all a political event as much as it is a legal event. and i think that's where the white house should -- can and should be making much more noise about the obstruction. >> i just wish i were a fly on the wall in the white house right now to see what the reaction is there. because this "the washington post" reporting puts acting white house chief of staff yet again mick mulvaney back into the middle of this entire scandal, anita. he was already on thin ice we recall after his press conference where he admitted a quid pro quo and then he walked it back. i'm not seeing these new developments ending well for him. do you? >> he was on thin ice but he's been sort of back in the fold. we've seen him out talking to members of congress trying to sort of talk to them about impeachment and convince them -- these are republican members of congress -- convince them what the white house did wasn't wrong. but you're right, he's back in there. and if you'll recall the president has considered firing him and finding a new chief of
staff. and there are people that have convinced him this is probably not the right time to make a change. and so he's there for the duration, but, yes, he's right back in the thick of things. it puts omb right back in there. and as you've indicated there's so many questions more than these answers. we're just having more and more questions with little bits of information coming out. >> yeah, more and more information just creating more questions. david, if you were advising president trump right now after these stunning developments, what would you say to him? >> well, i -- i -- as someone who went through watergate i'm a huge believer in transparency, i'm a huge believer in turning stuff over in the long run. that's a way you're going to have a healthy democracy and i actually think it would strengthen the president's position. but he's so far down the track right now. would he stop denigrating us, stop insulting our intelligence
as a people, and would he just essentially run a more civil administration? if he would do that alone, i think some of our exhaustion might pass. >> it is exhausting, no doubt. david gergen and anita kumar, thank you both. great to your contributions tonight. we're also following other breaks nu breaking news. the defense secretary has now ordered the resignation of the navy's top civilian leader for his handling of this war crimes case. the president is responding tonight. all the details on this breaking story just ahead. a peaceful nt frequent heartburn waking him up. now that dream is a reality. nexium 24hr stops acid before it starts for all-day, all-night protection. can you imagine 24 hours without heartburn? you may have gingivitis. when you brush, and the clock could be ticking towards bad breath, receding gums, and possibly... tooth loss. help turn back the clock on gingivitis with parodontax. leave bleeding gums behind.
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breaking news in the controversial case of navy s.e.a.l. edward gallagher a senior defense official telling cnn navy secretary richard v. spencer has been fired for going outside the chain of his command and proposing a secret agreement with the white house. according to this official spencer proposed a veview of gallagher's case with a secret guarantee gallagher would be able to keep his status as a navy s.e.a.l. he was convicted of opposing with a body of an an isis -- and the official says spencer was fired for surcomventing his own chain of command. >> we're hearing three different stories exactly why the secretary of the navy richard spencer was fired from his job. the pentagon issuing a statement
saying the secretary of defense, mark esper, had found out that spencer had conducted these secret talks supposedly with the white house about the fate of eddy gallagher who was due to face a review board about whether he would keep his status as a navy s.e.a.l. according to the pentagon spencer had made a secret deal with the white house in that he intended to keep gallagher and the navy s.e.a.l.s to allow the review to go forward. we're hearing two very different stories. one from president trump who says spencer was fired in a tweet, spencer was fired because of how he handled the gallagher case overall and cost runs with regard to navy contracting and we got a letter from spencer himself. he said he was fired because of his refusal to follow an order that he thought would violate good order and discipline that is unethical, that is likely referring to the gallagher case here and president trump's clearly stated desire to keep gallagher in the navy s.e.a.l.
it's very unusual to have three kind of conflicting stories about a senior member of the pentagon, the navy secretary. of course spencer has been one of the longest serving members of the trump administration. he joined very early on in 2017. he's a former marine. he's actually served as a brief time as acting secretary of defense. there hasn't been much controversial surrounding his time in post. but this gallagher case which has been prominent on fox news, which has been prominent in president trump's twitter feed has seemed to call his downfall. >> on that note we're going to talk about the president's latest tweets on this. president trump is responding to the navy secretary's firing, and he's also naming his replacement. let's get straight to cnn's jeremy diamond at the white house. and the president's tweets don't exactly line up with the reason the department of defense gave for secretary spencer's firing. >> as ryan just laid out, there are three different versions of this story out there right now.
three different versions why richard spencer was forced to vezine in the wake of this eddy gallagher controversy. let's read what the president was saying. he says i was not pleased with the iwith way navy s.e.a.l. gallagher's trial was handled by the navy. despite this was completely exonerated on all charges and like wise large cost over runs from past administrations's contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction. therefore secretary of innavy richard's services i have terminated by secretary mark esper. he then goes onto thank richard esper for his service and he says he plans to nominate the ambassador to norway who is a retired admiral of the navy. the president calls him a man of great achievement and success. now, what's also notable in to president's tweets here is that he says that eddy gallagher will
indeed retain his trident pin, which signals his membership as a navy seal. that is notable because that is what defense officials had been raising concerns about. in fact, the defense department says that richard spencer was fired because he tried to work out an arrangement with the white house going around mark esper to allow exactly this to happen. to allow eddy gallagher to retire while maintaining his membership in the navy s.e.a.l.s. so this is really quite remarkable circumstance that we're seeing particularly because the president is ultimately getting the exact outcome that he wanted despite all those concerns and even in the wake of the firing of in th navy secretary. >> i want to get a military voice in here now. joining us is retired lieutenant general mark hurtling. what's your reaction to all this? >> confusion. >> me too. >> there's so many stories involved in this. i think ryan and jeremy just
brought up the different aspects to this. in reading the termination letter if you will of secretary spencer, there was a whole lot more to this than what's being reported right now. it's certainly understandable secretary spencer went behind the president behind secretary esper, the defense secretary's back as he, secretary esper and general milly were petitioning the president to back off of this case and let it go through the administrative processes of determining whether or not chief gallagher should retain his pin. that's understandable. you don't go to your boss' boss and petition without letting your boss know. if that all happened, that's true. i can understand esper being pissed. but the other piece of this is for the last three days there has been reporting, good reporting about the fact that secretary spencer is prepared to resign, prepared to offer his letter of resignation because he's defending the navy
s.e.a.l.s, the command of the navy s.e.a.l.s, and he understand what admiral collin green, the commander of the ceils is going through in this situation in terms of an administrative elimination of eddy gallagher's trident pin. this is so extremely confusing, it's just another night in trump world. and it's unfortunately bad for the civil-military relations and an understanding of what command authority has to do within the military. >> without trying to figure out all those pieces who knew what, why and what was going on exactly just answer this question. what kind of an impact can an abrupt shake-up like this have than the stability, readiness and even the morale on the rank and file? >> all indicators -- and i'm not a sailor so i don't know this for sure, but i've heard secretary spencer's reputation was extremely good as a secretary of the navy. he was well-liked and well-admired by those in that
service. so that will cause a shakeup. the actual act of this back and forth between the secretary of defense, the president and the secretary of the navy, and you have to understand also the fact that secretary spencer cited good order and discipline within the service was what he vowed to defend, and he's saying in his letter, i can't agree with the way the president is handling these things. so one has to question the fact of what good order and discipline is he talking about, and it's certainly a result of these pardons and the interference in a command authority relationship within the s.e.a.l. and other communities. so there's that. there's also just the shakeup of the civil relationship between secretary spencer, admiral green, others within the navy who supported at the higher ranks this action that has been denigrated on the likes of fox
news with various correspondents there. attacking the secretary of the navy, attacking the commander -- in fact, that occurred this morning where admiral gallagher actually attacked as a guy wearing the uniform in violation of the military uniform code of justice he attacked in public his superior officers. >> yeah. >> i mean, this is another part of crazy town that we're just starting to see that will have d deltorious effects on the military. certainly a questioning of command and control within the force. >> lieutenant general mark hurtling, always good to have your perspective. thank you. >> thank you, ana. a new report alleges u.s. intelligence agencies briefed lawmakers that russia is behind a yearslong effort to wrongfully frame ukraine for the 2016 u.s. election meddling. so just how deep does russia's disinformation campaign go? find great gifts at great prices.
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says, yes, there was a quid pro quo linking ukrainian aid to digging up dirt on the bidens. rudy giuliani, the president's personal attorney announces he has insurance against getting thrown under the bus for any of this ukraine business. and something you may have lost sight of in the tornado of breaking news, we learned russia could be behind that theory being pushed by some republicans blaming ukraine for meddling in the 2016 election. >> it is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time. >> we all know that russia meddled in the election, but that's not to say ukraine didn't try to influence the election. >> why as long as russia does it is it mutually exclusive only to russia? rush raw is doing it but other countries are as well. >> and we know russia is involved in our elections but we have credible information ukraine was meddling and engaged. >> is that a fact? no, not according to fiona hill who testified to the house intelligence committee this past week. >> some of you on this committee
appear to believe that russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason ukraine did. this is fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the russian security services themselves. >> thomas ray joins us now, a professor at john hopkins and considered the authority on rush disinformation and also the author of the forthcoming book active measures, the secret history of disinformation and political warfare. great to have you with us. does this conspiracy theory about ukraine meddling in our 2016 elections have russia written all over it? >> the story there is quite treacherous and complicated. we have to be very precise here. the story has two components. did ukraine somehow have a role in the 2016 election campaign,
and did ukraine hack the national democratic committee, the dnc or other democratic targets? the conspiracy theory that you often hear claims that something is wrong with the server, the dnc server and that somehow ukraine hacked it, and that is simply completely wrong. what is correct is that ukraine -- some ukrainians members of parliament did favor hillary clinton in 2016. but that does not mean they actually interfered in 2016. this is key important thing about disinformation. disinformation is not completely inventing something from scratch. they take something that has a kernel of truth and then add forgery, fake information to that kernel of truth. and that makes the whole brew hard to counter. >> so what would you tell those gop lawmakers who are giving creedsance credence to this theory? >> the core of the conspiracy theory is that crowd strike, this company that found out the
russian fingerprints all over the dnc hack is somehow -- it somehow has links to ukraine and potentially gave the server to ukraine. there is no factual basis to this. this is the heart of the conspiracy that president trump articulated in that famous zelensky call. and it's important to understand that this conspiracy theory was, indeed, amplified by russian disinformation entities. but there is so far no good evidence that they actually started this conspiracy theory in the beginning in the first place. >> the genius though is that russia seem tuesday have learned how to take advantage of our own toxic political diskrs, right? >> russia has literally a century of history in advancing dis -- spreading disinformation and sometimes leaking secret or confidential files in the public domain to drive wedges into the cracks that already exist among these adversaries. this is very old trade craft and
old tactic that indeed was used in 2016. but it's also important to understand there's a risk in overestimating russian capabilities. russian intelligence certainly wants to be overestimated. they want to be seen as all-powerful. so if we do that, if we blame things that go wrong here in washington, think domestic problems on foreign interference without really looking at the evidence very critically and very closely, if we blame russia for everything's that's wrong here in d.c. or for major things that are wrong here with the white house and this conspiracy theory is an example, then we're becoming a little bit like russia which after all blames they're own domestic problems with foreign interference. >> you've said russia is known for framing others for their own interference. what other examples can you offer? >> so let's look at history briefly. and one of the most famous --
infamous disinformation theories is the idea that hiv/aids is an american bioweapon engineered by the american army. there were actually fringe conspiracy theories in the far left lgbt community at the time that purported a similar myth which the russians then picked up the soviets and amplified over years. and finally it became quite successful and well-established as a conspiracy theory. so there's always an interaction between domestic organic conspiracy theory and foreign disinformation. and that is what we're seeing here as well. >> so what is the best way to counter this kind of disinformation campaign? >> i believe the best way to counter it is by doing what i am trying to do here, by extremely cautious and sober and looking at the facts. so far we only have hints and two congressional testimonies,
and an article based on purely anon s sourcing that alleges the ukraine conspiracy theory was invented and amplified by russian operatives. i'd like to see a little more evidence before we run with that theory. >> okay thomas red, thank you. we appreciate your expertise on this. our breaking news this evening "the washington post" reports tonight that the white house developed an after the fact justification for withholding military aid to ukraine. we'll take a look at why this is so significant in this week's "presidential brief." biopharmaceutical researchers. pursuing life-changing cures in a country that fosters innovation here, they find breakthroughs... like a way to fight cancer by arming a patient's own t-cells... because it's not just about the next breakthrough... it's all the ones after that.
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presidential brief, a segment we bring to you highlighting the prospective mess national security issues the president will face. first on this breaking news from "the washington post," what's your take on this? >> this a case study on how the process isn't supposed to work, and really signals how president trump doesn't really care how illegal or dangerous his actions may be. before president obama took decisions when i was at the white house two key groups of people were involved -- the lawyer and security experts. what we're learning from this reporting that the lawyers were not part of any discussion about whether freezing this aid was actually legal. and we know from previous reporting that security experts also weren't in the loop, so president trump relied on something else, an intuition or some other group of people in order to make this decision. second, "the washington post" reporting indicates there was not a consensus among the lawyers that president trump's move -- again, this is after the
fact -- was actually legal. that really throws water on the gop's defense there was nothing wrong with what the president did. >> there's also another big development this week and a lawyer for the indicted associate rudy giuliani tells cnn his client is now willing to tell congress that republican congressman devin nunes was meeting with a former ukrainian prosecutor. to be clear nunes has emphatically denied this reporting calling it demonstrably false, but how significant could it be? >> this reporting is mpandora's box of problems. he's a ranking member on the intelligence committee. his jurisdiction is oversight of the intelligence community. his work is not supposed to include using his official perch to do domestic political errands for the president or to look into investigations for the president's political rivals. we have the department of justice for actual law enforcement matters. plus this also raises even more questions about nunes' competence to sit on this
committee. consider your source. getting information from victor shulkin, the former prosecutor general of ukraine really should be taken with a grain of salt. he's a strong bias against vice president as does rudy giuliani who reportedly devin nunes also got information from. and i think we could expect to see devin nunes get a subpoena as part of this impeachment inquiry. he's met with several of the characters according to this reporting that are key to the impeachment inquiry like victor shulkin and giuliani. and he's very close to the president. so there's real questions whether the president was aware of nunes' extracurricular activities or in some way corrected them or condoned them. >> while wave been caught up in the impeachment inquiry other things are happening. the president has been talking about for example the trade deal with china. are we close to a deal? >> president trump says we're very close but this feels like deja vu and very expensive deja
vu because he's said this before. and he's put other policy issues on ice because he doesn't want to upset the chinese. what we're talking about right now is what the president has called a phase one deal. the original negotiations were on a much broader set of issues. president trump apparently appears focused to getting the chinese to focus on more u.s. agricultural products. the chinese for their part wants the united states to remove tariffs on chinese goods. and on december 15th he's set to impose more tariffs on china, and if he does so, that will certainly throw negotiations off. while all of that is happening, ana, we have massive protests in hong kong and president trump has stayed relatively silent because he does not want to upset the chinese. at the same time the chinese are according to u.s. national security advisor o'brien, in turning muslim minorities in concentration camps, yet another issue trump hasn't spoken out much much about. other priorities are being
seriously downgraded. >> what is trump's decision on whether to sign the penalties against china? >> well, if trump doesn't sign legislation that just passed in congress with a strong bipartisan majority, he's really signaling that his number one priority is getting the chinese to buy more u.s. goods. it's really signaling that everything has a price for the president. he's willing to stay silent on human rights abuses. he's willing to stay silent on china violating the rule of law, just as long as china agrees to buy more u.s. goods. that could lead other leaders to try to buy trump's silence as well as we abandoned core american values like the rule of law and human rights. a health scare for justice ruth bader ginsberg. she felt the week in the hospital. an update on how she's doing tonight next. introducing... smartdogs. the first dogs trained to train humans. stopping drivers from: liking. selfie-ing.
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closer look at all the president's lies. jake tapper talks with fact checkers sp scientists about trumps falsehoods. here's a preview. >> what i have tone is defeated isis. we have defeetd isis essentially. we defeated isis. isis was never defeated. >> when the u.s. president lies on the world stage he's doing more than trampling truth. >> we captured many isis fighters. most from europe. >> he's up ending world order. >> the united states has essentially gone for
what i describe as the principle architect and principal general contractor of the world the preserver of the world to the principal disrupters. >> trumps lies are a big part of the disrupting. there are two kinds of trump lies. >> one is to only present one
side of the story. >> such as hailing the end to the recent turkish assault on the kurds in northern syria. >> getting that serious fire to stick we have done something very special. >> instead of explaining he helped facility the turkey by withdrawing the troops who were protecting the kurds. a u.s. ally. then you have situations like we saw in the wake of the decision to turkey and syria. when the president stands up and says this is a great success. >> now people are saying wow, what great out come. >> that's not the case. >> joining us now. chief washington correspondent jake tapper. obviously not everyone can watch every second of this impeachment inquiry. there's a lot of information. and misinformation. coming at them.
what will viewers learn tonight. >> first of all, that the president is defense is largely based on falsehoods. he says that the whistleblower complaint has been proven to be false. that's not true. a lot of witnesses have verified the essential part of the whistleblower complaint. and more broadly that the manner of the strategy this idea that it's falsehoods is part of a very widespread pattern coming from president trump. that is troubling to a lot of people who are worried about long term impacts of the lies. he lies much much more tran previous testimonies. >> if the goal oftd testimony was get this in front of the country and sway public opinion in favor of impeachment did democrats succeed? or trumps strategy worked. >> it's a little early to say
right now. because we probably need to give it a week or two. it's possible that opinions on impeachment are locked in. with a narrow majority of the country favoring impeachment and removal from office. a narrow majority of people in battleground states obviously key to the reelection. taking the other view. it's possible opinions will not change and it's possible the president's defense which is largely based on lies and changing the subject. and a lot of supporters in conservative media and cap hol
hill willing to say things that are not true. it's possible that's going to work to a degree. >> the president's most supporters just accept this as baked in the cake. the guy doesn't always tell the truth. and they're enthusiastic about it. >> there is a degree to which
people like his supporters like him telling it like it is and their view. like him saying anything off the cuff. taking on the people they hate. which include democrats and the media and hollywood. and the like. but there's something else going on here that's what we try look at in this special. these lies are not just going to trump supporters. they are going to the world. what is the impact on our allies? across the ocean. what is the impact on science. what's the impact on traders on wall street. if you can't take the president's word on face value what happens when he really needs you to believe him. these are some of the questions we'll get into tonight. >> we look forward to that. thank you. >> thank you for joining us this evening. the premier of the impeachment inquiry words of the witnesses with anderson cooper is next.
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