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Conclusion Of Special Counsel Probe Believed Imminent; L.A. Times: Marine Corps Commandant Warns Of "Unacceptable Risk" From Border Deployment; New Zealand Announces New Gun Laws. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 21, 2019 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Chris Cuomo is off tonight. In this hour of 360, from Washington, we have growing anticipation for the long anticipated moment when we finally learn that Robert Mueller's report is finished.

We thought that today might be the day, and we were certainly not alone. In every official corner of this town, but especially in the White House and the halls of Congress, they're now bracing for impact, whatever it may be.

Tonight, we'll talk about what might be in the Mueller report, how much, if any of it, we might actually get to see, and what happens next. Let's go to Pamela Brown first on how we got here.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Nearly two years after it began, Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is soon coming to an end.

Through his filings, Mueller has shown how Russians strived to interfere in U.S. politics, scrutinizing those in Trump's orbit as part of that effort.

To date, 34 people and three Russian entities have been charged with crimes, 26 of whom are Russian nationals charged with computer-related crimes, ranging from hacking the computers and networks of prominent Democrats to using social media to sow political discord in the U.S., with the purpose of helping to elect Donald Trump.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the United States.

BROWN: The President always careful to distance himself from those charged.

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of the 34 people, many of them were bloggers from Moscow or they were people that had nothing to do with me, had nothing to do with what they're talking about or they were people that -- that got caught telling a fib or telling a lie. BROWN: Even when some in the President's inner circle and those who ran his campaign were found to have violated the law, the President remained defiant.

TRUMP: The Russia thing is a hoax. I have been tougher on Russia than any president, maybe ever.

BROWN: The probe helped reveal how the initial stages of the FBI's Russia probe unfolded. George Papadopoulos, a Trump Campaign Adviser bragged to a foreign diplomat in a London bar about what (ph) a man with ties to Russia called dirt on Hillary Clinton.

[21:05:00] That 2016 encounter may have prompted the FBI's counterintelligence investigation, which would eventually become Mueller's inquiry.

Mueller uncovered evidence that Trump's longtime political adviser, Roger Stone allegedly communicated directly with WikiLeaks while in coordination with the Trump campaign official. The extent and exact substance of those communications are not yet known.


BROWN: In 2016, Stone bragged about his contacts with WikiLeaks Founder, Julian Assange, but later denied he had any direct contact with WikiLeaks. Stone is charged with obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering.


TRUMP: First of all, Roger Stone didn't work on the campaign, except way, way at the beginning long before we're talking about.

BROWN: The investigation revealed Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort's deep ties to pro-Russian Ukrainians, and the litany of crimes he committed. A Judge found he lied about contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate believed to be linked to Russian Intel, who he gave Trump campaign internal polling data to.

His contacts with Kilimnik also strike at the heart of the investigation and to Russian efforts to seek ways of removing sanctions, in this case, through a possible peace plan to end conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

TRUMP: He worked for me for a very short period of time.

And I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort.

BROWN: In convicting the President's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the Special Counsel revealed how the President was pursuing a business deal with Russia to build Trump Tower Moscow during much of the election, Cohen even discussing traveling there after the Republican Convention.


BROWN: The deal fell apart. But investigators have been keenly focused on it and why Michael Cohen lied to Congress about how long talks of the deal took place.

TRUMP: So, he's lying very simply to get a reduced sentence, OK.

BROWN: In charging the President's former National Security Advisor, the public learned that Michael Flynn's contact with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. included talks about sanctions, and he discussed his conversations with others in the Trump Administration.

Discussions within the Administration have been raised at various points in the investigation.

Cohen's attorney says he talked to White House staffers about his Congressional testimony beforehand. And Manafort allegedly had contacts with the White House after being indicted.

During the campaign, with Trump in the room, Papadopoulos says he raised the prospect of using his contacts to setup a meeting between Trump and Putin.

President Trump all the while insisted Mueller does not have any incriminating evidence on him, and has repeatedly called the investigation a witch-hunt and a disgrace.

TRUMP: This thing's been a total witch hunt. And it doesn't implicate me in any way. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing.

BROWN: But his attorney Rudy Giuliani seemingly moved the goalpost from no collusion involving the campaign to only Trump himself.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.

BROWN: Through it all, Mueller has remained silent on his findings, refusing to utter a word publicly, relying instead on indictments and court documents to speak for themselves.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The core allegations under inquiry by Mueller was whether or not a foreign national interfered with the integrity of our 2016 Presidential election. Resolving those questions, I think, was of critical importance to the legal system, and to the American public at large.

BROWN: Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well James Comey, who's firing led to the naming of Robert Mueller weighed in today on the op-ed page of The New York Times, writing, and I'm quoting, "I have no idea whether the Special Counsel will conclude that Mr. Trump knowingly conspired with the Russians in connection with the 2016 election or that he obstructed justice with the required corrupt intent. I also don't care," he says.

He went on, "I care only that the work be done, well and completely. If it is, justice will have prevailed and core American values will have been protected at a time when so much of our national leadership has abandoned its commitment to truth and the rule of law."

Comey also comes out against the President's impeachment and removal because he says some would see it as a coup.

Joining us now, two people who've been on the inside during challenging times at the White House, Joe Lockhart who served as a White House Press Secretary to President Bill Clinton, also former Trump White House Lawyer, Jim Schultz, appreciate both of you being with us.

Joe, I mean we hear the White House is nervous. We hear the White House isn't nervous. In a typical administration, what would be going on when the conclusion of a -- of a investigation like this or Special Counsel's investigation was believed to be imminent?


COOPER: How does one prepare for that?

LOCKHART: You -- you would prepare a very detailed response. We -- we faced this situation in 1998 with then Ken Starr was preparing his report. We knew the rough outlines of what was in the report. But we didn't know what conclusions he would draw, which pieces of evidence.

And we -- we debated internally, the -- the political people and the lawyers, whether we would put our own report together. We ended up putting our report together, which stood side by side with the Starr report.

[21:10:00] This Administration, the Trump Administration has a distinct advantage though. They're going to be able to see the report. They're going to be able to weigh in on what's in it, what's not in it, as far as the -- what's released to the public, so that is a distinct advantage.

The one thing I will say is there have been a number of these things where you know something's coming, you know, Bob Woodward's book, for example, they all knew when it was coming, and this White House doesn't seem to plan a counter-attack.

They seem to allow the President to go out and tweet and make a statement, and there isn't a lot behind it.

So, I'm sure they're nervous tonight. And I think they'll probably also have a feeling that, you know, we have, which is no matter what's in it, at least we'll all now know what we're fighting about as opposed to, you know, kind of chasing after ghosts. COOPER: Yes. Jim, I mean as someone who worked in -- in President Trump's in the Counsel's Office, can you just explain the -- the latitude that the -- the White House have, the President has to claim Executive privilege on anything that -- that Mueller presents to Barr.

And -- and how do you think this is going to be handled? It's given -- we know the report with the -- whatever Mueller's report is, however long or short it is, it's given to Barr, what happens then?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well I think the Justice Department is going to look at it.

I mean there's -- there could be classified information in the report, there could be a number of things in that report that can't be made public, and they're going to have to make judgments at the Justice Department as to what can be made public, and what can't.

To that -- to that end, the White House Counsel's Office is going to have an ability to review the report, and they're going to have an ability to assert Executive privilege about communications between White House staff and -- and Executive staff -- and -- and Executive Branch staff relative to what's into the -- what -- what interviews took place, and -- and information that came out of those interviews.

And to the extent that they involved communications between White House staff or communications with Administration officials, the -- courts are going to give great deference to the White House and to the President, as it relates to Executive privilege. They always do.

And then Nixon, that was a -- Nixon, we have to remember, that was a subpoena from a court that -- that allowed the tapes to be released and the information to be released.

In this instance, you know, we're likely seeing subpoenas from Congress and not a court relative to this issue, and they're going to give great deference to the White House.

Now, from a political perspective, I mean, this goes back to what we were -- what you were just saying, is that -- is that they're going to have to make some judgments as to what they're going to do in terms of a -- of a counter report, if they're going to issue a counter report, what they're going to do as to, you know, transparency because, look, the American public is going to expect some -- expect transparency on this.

COOPER: Right.

SCHULTZ: And, you know, tying it up in a court battle, which it will get tied up in a court battle, if they hold too much back, is going to be a real problem because there's going to be that drumbeat that they're going to have to deal with.

So, I think, politically, you heard the President come out and say, "Look, I'd like the report to be released." He said that publicly, I think, yesterday or today.

COOPER: Right.

SCHULTZ: You know, the White House Counsel's Office can make some judgments on that, but this is largely going to be a political decision at the end of the day--

COOPER: But -- yes.

SCHULTZ: --backed up by legal judgment as well.

COOPER: Although Joe, you know, it's very easy to see -- to envision a situation where, you know, the -- the Department of Justice reviews it. The White House knows what's in the report. The White House, you know, is able to -- to review it for -- for Executive privilege.

But that's not going to (ph) stop the President from coming forward and just saying, "Look, the report says no collusion, the report says no obstruction of justice. This is, you know, for the President to define what's in the report before the public gets to see whatever they're going to see."

LOCKHART: No. That's it's -- there -- there are real advantages here to the last couple of times we've been through this, whether it'd be Clinton, whether it'd be Nixon for this White House.

I'd say the big disadvantage is this President has a reputation all the way through this process of not telling the truth.

So, I don't think him -- I don't think the President himself out there spinning, and I wouldn't advise, if I was his adviser, to have him out there spinning, because I think it would be counterproductive.

COOPER: Do you think his adviser can actually stop that? I mean it seems like--

LOCKHART: I -- no. Again, it's--

COOPER: --he's his -- his own adviser here.

LOCKHART: --it's -- my advice is probably as -- as influential as the people in the White House right now, which is not.

So, I think my guess is they'll do some sort of report. I -- I agree with Jim that it's very, very hard, at this point, for the President to say, "It's a witch-hunt, no collusion, no collusion, but you can't see the report."

So, I expect there'll be an enormous amount of political pressure. The one thing I will say though is this is the President who stands up to pressure, you know. There was an enormous pressure for him to release his tax returns, and he thumbed his nose at that.


LOCKHART: The -- the last point -- the last point I'd make is on Executive privilege. Yes, the courts do assert deference. But if you put a -- a -- a weak claim forward, you -- you actually can harm the Presidency.

In the -- in the Clinton case, the President decided not to exert Executive privilege because he thought that this might weaken the Presidency. I don't expect Donald Trump to be thinking a lot about that. I do expect--

COOPER: Sincerely.

LOCKHART: --people in the White House Counsel's Office to be looking at--


LOCKHART: --whether they have a strong claim or not.

COOPER: I got to -- we got to leave it there, Joe.

[21:15:00] SCHULTZ: Yes. It's going to be have to -- it's going to have to be--

COOPER: Go ahead, Jim.

SCHULTZ: --it's going to have to be done with specificity, and not just -- not just broad brush--

COOPER: Not a blanket.

SCHULTZ: --general assertions of Executive privilege. It's going to have to be done with--


SCHULTZ: --specific -- specificity to hold up in court.

COOPER: Joe Lockhart, appreciate it, Jim Schultz, appreciate it.


COOPER: Coming up next, he's not even running yet, and he may get into the race very late, but there's new reporting on who Joe Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden might be running with.

We'll talk about the -- his possible early pick with Biden friend and confidant, Delaware Senator, Chris Coons.

And later, the President's decision to send troops to the Southern border, and newly-revealed objections from the Marine Corps' top Commander, what he is saying about the Commander-in-Chief's order.


COOPER: At a moment when this city is so consumed with Robert Mueller, there are developments as well in the other obsession around here, campaign politics.

Reporting in The New York Times, the former Vice President, Joe Biden and top advisers, looking at ways of appealing to young Democratic voters, if he gets into the race.

According to The Times, one is to pick a younger African-American running mate, perhaps unsuccessful 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate, Stacey Abrams. I spoke earlier about that and all that may come with a possible Biden run with his friend Delaware Democratic Senator, Chris Coons.


COOPER: Senator Coons, our reporting that that Vice President Biden may now not announce his candidacy until late April, how late is too late, I mean if only in terms of -- of donor support?

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE, JUDICIARY & APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, if there's anyone who can afford to wait a little bit longer before announcing, it's former Vice President, Joe Biden.

He's probably got a 98 percent name ID among Democratic primary voters, and he's got the strongest progressive record among anyone who's currently running, or who could run.

[21:20:00] So, I think it's fine if there's a couple more weeks between now and what I am hoping for, which is, his announcement that he'll be running for President.

COOPER: Biden is reportedly considering choosing a running mate during primary season before the nomination is sealed up, perhaps even as he announces. Would that be a -- a smart move, in your opinion? I mean it's been tried before.

COONS: Well it would certainly be a bold move to allow folks to know right from the beginning what a future Biden Administration would look like.

But there are lots of good potential running mates out there, those who are both already in the race and folks who are serving at as governors or senators, or who have been candidates in previous cycles.

So, I don't know exactly what Joe's thinking is on this. My hope is that he's going to get in the race, he's going to run a bold and successful campaign, and he'll focus on the positives and on the future, and at some point, he'll have a running mate who, I think, will also inspire us.

COOPER: Certainly, the name that's been floated right now is Stacey Abrams. It's -- it's been reported that they -- they met recently. You've known, I think, since she was in college, I'm wondering what to make of the--

COONS: Well--

COOPER: --yes, let her -- and I know she's been meeting with a lot of -- of -- of the candidates. What would she bring to a ticket? And do you think that's a wise idea for him to announce that at this stage and with her name? COONS: You know, Anderson, I'm torn because I'd love it for Stacey Abrams to run for the U.S. Senate and join me as a colleague. And I think a future Biden Administration would be well served to also be certain that there's a Democratic majority in the Senate.

And we need strong candidates in at least five races so that we've got a strong shot at taking back the Senate, and she would be one of the strongest candidates to pick up a seat anywhere in the country.

COOPER: In terms of the other option, reportedly being floated, Biden pledging to -- to serve only one term, there's obviously, you know, with any candidate, concerns about age. There certainly is with -- with Vice President Biden.

Does that allay concerns? It also puts certainly more focus on who he picks as Vice President.

COONS: You know, I -- I frankly have encouraged Joe to make it clear up front that he's got the energy and the determination to run for two terms that he is fully capable of serving out two full terms as President of the United States.

In the 2018 cycle, he campaigned in 24 States for, I think, 63 different candidates. He was the most in-demand candidate to help other candidates around the country, the most in-demand former Office holder.

He's someone who can fire up a crowd in virtually any state in the country, and who appeals to millions of Americans from every possible background.

COOPER: And just finally, I -- I know you were very close to Senator McCain. I wonder what your thoughts are as you see and hear the things that are being said by the President over the last several days.

COONS: Well of all the things that Candidate Donald Trump said that I thought were beneath him and, frankly, in this case, despicable, his criticism of John McCain's war record, his record of service and of duty and sacrifice as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam for 5.5 years, I thought was beneath contempt.

And -- and frankly, the ways in which, in recent days, he has again and again and again criticized and attacked former Senator, a late Senator, John McCain, I think are just regrettable, the sort of thing the President should apologize for.

I am grateful for the firm and clear voice of my friend and colleague, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia who called him out directly and said, "The country deserves better than this."

And I hope more of my colleagues will find their voice and will challenge the President for the ways in which he is disrespecting the memory of this honorable veteran who was a genuine war hero and a great colleague in the Senate.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Coons, I appreciate your time, thank you. COONS: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Well just a day after President Trump stood in front of Tanks and praised the military, there's an astonishing new warning about the readiness of the Marine Corps because of the Border battle. It comes from a member of the Joint Chiefs.

The Reporter who broke the story is here next.


COOPER: An urgent new warning tonight about the state of U.S. Marines worldwide in part because of President Trump's crackdown on the Southern border comes from a man who leads the Marine Corps.

The Los Angeles Times obtained recent memos from Four-Star General Robert Neller.

Molly O'Toole broke the story, which CNN has since confirmed. She joins me now. Thanks for being with us.

This is fascinating. So, General Neller in this memo says that the President's national emergency declaration poses, in his words, an unacceptable risk. How so?

MOLLY O'TOOLE, IMMIGRATION & SECURITY REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well he was talking about a number of factors that are leading to budget strains in the Marine Corps.

But among them--


O'TOOLE: --he was talking about the deployment to the Southwest border along with some of the shifting of funds that is planned or starting to happen under the emergency declaration, the shifting of funds to Border security.

There's also been a lot of hurricane damage, for example, at Marine Corps facilities across the country, particularly in Georgia and North Carolina. All of these things combined, he's saying--


O'TOOLE: --are posing this unacceptable risk. They're undermining combat readiness in the Marines.

This is really the first time we've heard from someone within the Services, within the Pentagon, expressing concerns about the strain on their resources due to some of these Border operations.

COOPER: And included in your reporting, he -- he talked about -- wrote about cutting back training in a number of countries? O'TOOLE: Right. Exactly. He said a number of the hard decisions that they've had to make in about five countries they're either reducing or canceling exercises.

And that's the reduction of exercises with Australia, with South Korea, and then the cancellation of exercises in Scotland, Indonesia, for example. And this is training that they really depend on for this combat readiness.

COOPER: How unusual is this? I mean some people might look at this and say, "Oh, is this sort of a, you know, CYA memo, just sort of saying, you know, this is difficult," and -- or, I mean, how unusual is it?

O'TOOLE: It is absolutely true that the services are they will employ strong terms when it -- it comes to budget shortfalls. But this is pretty unusual for such strong language to be used.

I think that General Neller is known for being a pretty straight shooter, not exactly dramatic or to -- prone to exaggeration. Then also, it is significant that some of the President's top political priorities were cited in these memos as part of this strain on the Marine Corps.

COOPER: Has the White House or -- or the Pentagon made any comment about it?

O'TOOLE: We reached out to the Pentagon and also a -- a spokesman for Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan, who didn't respond for comment.

[21:30:00] The Marines did respond for comment -- did respond after these -- we published these memos to stress that a -- really a lot of their resources are being strained by this hurricane damage that I mentioned, and this is just ahead of--

COOPER: Right.

O'TOOLE: --hurricane season.

So, this is awfully (ph) urgent, urgent concern for them, and that the Border deployment perhaps wasn't so significant as that strain, but clearly, it was significant enough--

COOPER: Right.

O'TOOLE: --for the -- for the Commandant to mention in--

COOPER: Interesting.

O'TOOLE: --in his memo.

COOPER: Interesting. Molly O'Toole, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Want to bring in Retired Marine Colonel, David Lapan who served in the Department of Homeland Security under President Trump, also Mark Morgan, a former Border Patrol Chief under President Obama.

What do you make of this?

MARK MORGAN, FORMER BORDER PATROL CHIEF UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA, FORMER FBI AGENT: So, as a marine as well, I would say that if the Commandant of the Marine Corps says that he -- he sees a potential risk in operational readiness, I think you can take that to the bank.

But what I'll say to that is that's exactly what a leader should be doing, and that's exactly what the President needs, is a leader like the Commandant saying, "Hey, look, with -- with what you're doing, here's the risk it is to the world that I own."

He needs every leader to do that.

But, look, I know this is common sense but the -- the United States faces a lot of threats, and it's hard to be the President. He's got to balance the needs of all these different entities and all the different threats and do what's right in the best interests of the -- the country.

And what I would say, the -- the tagline you've got Marines are maxed out, my experience at the Border Patrol, what's going on right now, the Border Patrol, ICE, they're beyond maxed out. They're overwhelmed, they're overrun.

COOPER: David, how do you see this?

DAVID LAPAN, FORMER DHS SPOKESMAN UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP, BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER VP OF COMMUNICATIONS: So, very similarly, again, if General Neller sounds the alarm, I would take it very seriously.

The thing that Molly mentioned too about hurricanes, obviously, those are something that was unplanned, you know, something that the Marine Corps has to deal with because of exigent circumstances.

But, in many ways, Border deployment was the same. They didn't plan for this. This wasn't in their budget.

So, when the President directed the services to include the Marines to go to the Southwest border, that was, you know, an unplanned deployment that then was going to take resources from other priorities.

And, as Molly talked about, those priorities include international exercises and things like that.

COOPER: So, do you think--

LAPAN: Something has to give.

COOPER: Do you think it was necessary? There are some who argued at the time that they -- they would -- had more to do with politics, frankly. I mean, National Guard troops have been deployed to the Border in other administrations, but that it wasn't really necessary.

LAPAN: So, I'll put up my hand and say, "I was one of those." You know, the things that are in General Neller's memo, and I didn't have any inside information at the time.

COOPER: Right.

LAPAN: But just based on my experience as a -- as a Marine in -- in working at the Pentagon, my concern at the time that the Border deployment was ordered is that it was going to be a strain on resources.

I said at the time that that then Secretary Mattis had -- had been very clear on the need for the military to shift its focus after 17 years of -- of counterterrorism operations and get ready for full- spectrum operations and combat readiness and lethality.

And I argued at the time that none of those were being served by this deployment of active duty military forces, big difference between National Guard, which again had been done under the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration.

But sending active duty forces were restricted by the law, Posse Comitatus --

COOPER: Right.

LAPAN: --from engagement in -- in domestic law enforcement. They were not going to have their combat readiness and their lethality improved by serving at the Border.

COOPER: Mark, I mean do you think -- I mean if -- if -- I mean do you think politics was involved in -- in this decision although I guess politics is probably involved in every decision?

But do you think this was overwhelmingly about politics? And, if so, should it be reversed?

MORGAN: What -- you -- you're talking about what the Commandant said or the decision to deploy troops?

COOPER: Decision to deploy troops.

MORGAN: So, from my perspective, again, so it's very important, Anderson, that -- that my perspective is a law enforcement perspective. That's the narrow--

COOPER: Right.

MORGAN: --world I'm trying to live in. I'm -- I'm trying to stay outside of politics although this is infused with politics--

COOPER: Right.

MORGAN: --obviously.

And from a law enforcement perspective, both from the FBI, living and working in El Paso, in role of (ph) Chief of the Border Patrol, the deployment was actually absolutely needed. We are, in my opinion, we are facing a dual front on the Southwest

border, both a threat and humanitarian crisis. And the Border Patrol, talk about, you know, like the military, they're not designed for this humanitarian crisis. They never -- they never have been.

I said it was a crisis back in 2016. The numbers have just gotten worse.

COOPER: Right.

MORGAN: So, when the military came in, they gave specific, very narrow resource enhancements to help the Border Patrol. It -- it was necessary.

COOPER: Is the crisis though, you know, just numbers of people coming, because overall numbers have been going down, obviously, as you know, over the years.

Or is it also making asylum claims that much harder, so there's more people now backed up waiting longer times to actually be able to make an asylum claim? There's not enough judges to actually hear those claims.

[21:35:00] MORGAN: So, I -- I think the most important thing, I think -- I'm glad you brought up the numbers, it's at a little bit of a false narrative, because if you look back in the 90s and 2000, we had, you know, 1.5 million or so. The issue is most of them were Mexican males.

COOPER: Right.

MORGAN: And 90 percent of them were removed back to Mexico, sometimes within hours. The difference now, the demographics has completely changed.

COOPER: Right.

MORGAN: They're family units, unaccompanied minors.

COOPER: Central Americans.

MORGAN: Right, Central Americans. 65 percent of them claiming asylum, and guess what happens under catch-and-release? They're allowed into the interior United States--

COOPER: Right.

MORGAN: --while they're waiting.

So that means this year, we're looking at a million, Anderson, 650,000 will be allowed into the interior United States. That's a different mission. That's a different crisis. We've never experienced this before.

COOPER: All right, I got to leave it there. To be continued, Mark, David, thank you very much. Appreciate it. MORGAN: Right, thanks.

LAPAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, the Prime Minister of New Zealand announcing a sweeping gun ban in the wake of the shootings that killed 50 people.

That and a CNN exclusive report about how guns in this country are being sold by unlicensed dealers across the United States and the story of one man almost killed as a result.


COOPER: Today, just days after gunmen attacked two mosques and killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, the country's Prime Minister announced sweeping bans on all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

[21:40:00] Obviously, that sort of ban has not happened in the United States after the rash of -- rash of mass shootings here, not after Sandy Hook or Parkland or Las Vegas.

Now, the reasons are many, of course. It's very complicated. And both sides are -- are deeply entrenched with strong opinions.

With all of that as the backdrop, you'll want to see this next report. It's a year-long exclusive CNN investigation, looking at how guns in this country are routinely bought and sold, no background checks, many linked to violence.

This must-watch report now, from Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It was 2:00 in the afternoon a Sunday, San Francisco. Tarek Oueslati was walking home when a gray Honda came speeding out of nowhere.

TAREK OUESLATI, SHOOTING VICTIM: Didn't stop at all, and went through the intersection.

GRIFFIN: The car nearly hit him. Oueslati yelled, then saw the driver, and a gun.

OUESLATI: I -- I didn't believe it. Was this guy pointing a gun? What's going on?

Looked at me, pointed again, and I'm like, "Oh, my God, this guy is going to kill me."

GRIFFIN: He heard a bang. Two bullets, fired from a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber handgun, tore through his body.

OUESLATI: And after he shot me, and I literally was feeling and hearing the -- the -- the blood gushing like swoosh. GRIFFIN: The road raged shooter changed his life forever. This is that shooter.

EASY CHANG, CONVICTED SHOOTER: That was a really bad period of my life.

GRIFFIN: Easy Chang, that is his real name, pleaded guilty to assault by a firearm, and served just 2.5 years for nearly killing a man he never met. Why? He was angry, and in his hands was an unregistered gun he thought couldn't be traced to him.

CHANG: I had a unregistered gun.

GRIFFIN: Did that affect your thinking at the time?

CHANG: Since this is not being tracked, I felt like I could do whatever I wanted with it.

GRIFFIN: The gun Chang fired that day can be traced back to an accused unlicensed gun dealer, and part of a much bigger gun sales problem in the United States.

CNN reviewed dozens of cases against alleged unlicensed dealers, some who sold hundreds of weapons, a flood of weapons without any background checks whatsoever.

Guns often going to people prohibited from buying them because of criminal convictions, because they are drug dealers, because they are mentally disturbed.

And CNN's investigation found many of these guns can be linked to violence across the country, to murders, assaults, armed robberies, suicide.

THOMAS CHITTUM, ATF DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Lot of the firearms that I have seen recovered in violent crimes have come through the hands of unlicensed dealers. Some get prosecuted. I would say most do not.

GRIFFIN: Unlicensed gun dealers benefit from a vague federal law that says anyone "engaged in the business" of selling guns must have a license, and conduct background checks, except those who make "occasional sales" for a "personal collection or for a hobby."

It sets no limits on the number. The problem is unlicensed dealers often masquerade as those private sellers who have few restrictions.

Thomas Chittum is a top ATF official overseeing the Bureau's operations in the Western U.S.

CHITTUM: The law doesn't require that I know your name or that I ask about your criminal history or your age or ask about your residency, only that if I know or have a reason to know that you're a prohibited person, or a resident of another state, or too young to possess a firearm, then I cannot transfer it to you.

GRIFFIN: So, it's best to not know the person you're selling it to.

CHITTUM: Well, I guess that would--

GRIFFIN: Seems to be.

CHITTUM: --be up to the seller.

GRIFFIN: That is almost laughable. I think people will be shocked when they hear that coming out of your -- your mouth.

CHITTUM: It certainly presents some challenges for us.

GRIFFIN: CNN has identified egregious cases of illegal dealing, including a police officer, who sold up to two dozen guns, even guns connected to a homicide, and other crimes, for years, a Defense Department employee with a security clearance who sold 200 guns to a crack dealer, a DEA supervisor in Arizona, who sold a large number of weapons, including one to a drug trafficker.

The vagueness of the federal law is one of the reasons ATF officials say the cases are hard to prosecute, which brings us back to Tarek Oueslati.

OUESLATI: All this area is like just all smashed.

GRIFFIN: It was blown out.

OUESLATI: Just gone.

GRIFFIN: This is Sims Corner, Douglas County, Eastern Washington.

Mary Hunt is a former County Commissioner. Her husband, Terry, a prominent Wheat Farmer. Along with their sons, Derek and Rusty, the family's side business for years, according to the ATF, was selling guns to just about anyone.

Court records obtained by CNN show this Washington State family were prolific gun sellers dating back to 2009. They sold hundreds of guns at their table at the Big Reno Gun Show in Nevada. No questions asked. No background checks conducted.

[21:45:00] In 2012, ATF agents even hand-delivered a warning letter to Terry Hunt telling him to stop. The family kept selling. The ATF has traced the guns sold by the Hunts to drug dealers, felons, crime scenes, even into the hands of a mentally ill person, all prohibited from owning firearms.

And CNN's investigation, including an admission from the shooter himself, found that the .38 caliber Smith & Wesson used by Easy Chang that nearly killed Tarek Oueslati can be traced to Mary Hunt.

Mary and Terry Hunt never responded to CNN, neither did son Rusty. This is Derek, who asked us to come into his trailer, no camera.

DEREK HUNT, SON OF MARY HUNT AND TERRY HUNT: You want to come in real quick? You guys -- you guys just stay here (ph). GRIFFIN: That was Derek. He is still on probation for another two years, he says, and doesn't want to talk about the case. I explained to him our story. I explained to him about tracking the guns to crimes.

I explained to him in particular that a Smith & Wesson that ended up in the hands of Easy Chang and that Easy Chang shot an innocent student on the streets of San Francisco, and he had no reaction.

Despite the seriousness of the crime and years of investigation, the Hunts got off easy, a plea deal to a misdemeanor, no prison time, just probation and fines.

Tarek Oueslati now drives for a rideshare company. His dreams of a career in electrical engineering shattered by bullets that left him unable to focus.

Sounds like you've got almost a life sentence here.

OUESLATI: Yes. Yes. It's pretty unfair, isn't it?


COOPER: Drew Griffin joins us now. What's the solution to all this?

GRIFFIN: Anderson, the Universal Background Check bill passed in the House, but apparently going nowhere in the Senate is the answer to shutting down these unlicensed gun dealers.

If you require every single gun sale to include a background check, it removes the ambiguity in the federal law that allows these unlicensed dealers to sell guns to people who otherwise would not legally be able to buy them.

COOPER: And -- and who's against in the Senate? I mean will it even get a vote?

GRIFFIN: As far as we can tell, it has no -- zero Republican support in the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill will not get a vote, most likely, will not even get a hearing.

COOPER: It's also not a small problem these guns are being sold to criminals and -- in -- in large amounts.

GRIFFIN: They sure are. My -- my colleague Scott Glover meticulously went through federal records and found case after case, Anderson, where these guns were being sold without background checks.

And these aren't only the convictions, which are scarce. If you read the detailed findings on, you're going to be amazed just how many of these guns are being sold without records and without background checks, really, to anyone.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: Anderson. COOPER: Drew Griffin, thank you very much, appreciate it.

One of the most dramatic moments in recent Supreme Court history almost went another way, but only tonight are we learning the details of how Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind on Obamacare.

The Author of a new biography is here for her first interview, next.


COOPER: Tonight, new insight into one of the biggest Supreme Court rulings of our time, the Obamacare decision. It's helped define the legacy of John Roberts, now in his 13th year as Chief Justice of the United States.

And it's just part of a remarkable new biography by CNN Supreme Court Analyst, Joan Biskupic. Book is called, The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts, as (ph) said, it's -- it's a fascinating book.

Joan's with me now for her first interview. Thanks for being with -- congratulations, first of all.


COOPER: There's a lot of talk about this book. When did you learn about Chief Judge -- Justice Roberts' Obamacare decision?

BISKUPIC: Over several months of research, I knew about one switch that he had made on the individual mandate part of the, you know, the -- the core of the Obamacare law. But then, I found out he had switched on another part, the Medicaid expansion.

And what I reveal in the book is that the end result was the exact opposite of what the nine justices had originally voted in conference, in their private conference, after these three remarkable days of oral arguments back in 2012, they vote to strike down the individual insurance requirement--

COOPER: Right.

BISKUPIC: --and to uphold the Medicaid expansion for needy poor people.

COOPER: And -- and what--

BISKUPIC: And he flipped.

COOPER: What was behind the flip? I mean how did -- do -- do you have a sense of what the thinking was?

BISKUPIC: I do. Remember, back then, we were in the middle of an election year, there's a lot of pressure on the Chief Justice, reviewing the signature domestic achievement of the Barack Obama Administration, he was right at the center of this. Anthony Kennedy, who typically, during those days, was -- was the deciding vote, he was all for striking down the entire Obamacare law. The Chief did not want to go that far.

And once he realized that he was going to have to build some sort of coalition between the two side -- competing sides, that's when he enlisted a couple other justices to -- to come up with this compromise that ended up invalidating the Med -- Medicaid expansion, but upholding the core of the law.

COOPER: It's one of the things that's so interesting about this book. I mean, I don't think a lot of people or, at least, I -- I hadn't really thought so much about them try -- trying to build coalitions in the Supreme Court.

BISKUPIC: Well, and also, you know, we had known of rumors of the Chief maneuvering and -- and changing at least one of his votes. But I also discovered that Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena -- Elena Kagan had changed their votes.

They changed on the Medicaid portion in part because they were worried that the Chief was going to flip back the other way. There was constant--

COOPER: Oh, really?

BISKUPIC: You know, it's interesting. He has said that he's only an umpire calling balls and strikes--


BISKUPIC: --just looking at things neutrally. But when you unpack this case, it's really a -- a -- a prime case study--

COOPER: Right.

BISKUPIC: --of the kind of considerations that go on--

COOPER: That's fascinating.

BISKUPIC: --that have to do with the atmosphere at the time, the court's institutional reputation--

COOPER: Right.

[21:55:00] BISKUPIC: --and perhaps the Chief Justice's reputation, lots of crosscurrents going on.

COOPER: It's not so black and white that it's just he's calling balls and strikes.

BISKUPIC: Absolutely has.

COOPER: That's fascinating.

You know, so many Democratic Presidential candidates now are talking about this idea of increasing the number of Justices. I think Justice Scalia's son was on television the other day saying he's not supportive of it, but I think he said, maybe it's an argument worth taking seriously.

BISKUPIC: You know, it's in Congress' power to increase the number of seats on the Supreme Court. The last time Congress acted was in 1869, when it set the number at the nine Justices we have now.

But once upon a time, it was as low as five seats. And once up a time--

COOPER: Wow, I didn't realize that.

BISKUPIC: --it was size -- is 10. But the one you're probably remembering most, the one attempt to change the number was back in the Roosevelt era, when he was so angry that the Conservative Supreme Court was striking down his progressive New Deal initiatives--

COOPER: Right.

BISKUPIC: --and he thought, "I'm going to -- I'm going to try to expand the number of seats." That went nowhere, as we all know. And, frankly, I don't think this is going to go anywhere either.

COOPER: Yes. Joan Biskupic, congratulations to the book and (ph) The Chief. It's fascinating read, thank you so much.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: The news continues, so does the waiting game here in Washington. Let's turn things over to Don Lemon and CNN TONIGHT.