Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump To Announce Running Mate Soon; President Biden Criticizes The Supreme Court; Columbia University's Anti-Semitism Incidents Prior To The Protests; Bowman, Latimer Fights For The 16th Congressional District Of New York; Weinstein Accusers Speak Out After His Conviction Is Overturned; U.S. Surgeon General Calls For Warning Labels On Social Media Platforms; Russia Sets Date For Closed-Door Trial Of U.S. Journalist Evan Gershkovich. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 17, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now. Jeff, I want to start with Senator Vance who was asked this weekend what would make a good running mate for Trump. Here's what he said.


SEN. JD VANCE (R-OH): This applies to the vice president. There are a lot of smart good people that Trump is looking at, but it also applies to our senators, it applies to our congressmen and women too. We need to have people who are supporting Trump, not trying to stab him in the back. It's very, very simple.


TAPPER: A push for loyalty there. If Trump is looking for a loyal fighter on the ticket and one who says loyalty is incredibly important for everyone else too, J.D. Vance showing that he's capable and willing.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Capable and willing and flexible because we all remember back in 2016, he was one of those Republicans who was very critical of Donald Trump, but look so much has changed since then. Yes, he did win the straw poll at that conference over the weekend. He was also the only one of the potential VP candidates to actually speak in person at the event, so perhaps seeing him in the flesh was actually one of the reasons he was supported.

But look, he has become one of the biggest defenders of the president. There is no doubt that he is on the shortlist. We know this because he's been spending significant time with former President Donald Trump. He'll be doing so again on Thursday evening in Cleveland when Trump goes there for a fundraiser.

Jake, so much of this, via Veep-stakes if you will, has been sort of playing out right in front of our eyes. These auditions have been happening in real time. The former president will pick one or a couple of them to fly with him, to travel with him, to appear at rallies with him, and he wants the buzz and the conversation to be about all of them as he makes up his own mind.

Talking to Trump advisers they say look he is going to make up his own decision, he is not going to get much input from the outside, but it's who he feels comfortable with. But there is no doubt J.D. Vance at 39 years old, the youngest person on the list, has proven himself as a strong fighter and defender of Trump on television, and we know that that is what the former president likes more than anything perhaps, his skills on television. He's ambitious though. The question is he too ambitious? That will be one of the questions weighed here.

TAPPER: So, speaking of people who sounded very different about Trump in 2016 as they do now in 2024, Senator Marco Rubio, Florida. They fought each other for the Republican nomination. Now Rubio is reported to be there near the top of Trump's shortlist as well.

ZELENY: He is and we all remember those fiery debates when the two would stand on stage and Marco Rubio at the time took great pleasure in making fun of Donald Trump. All that is in the past. I was talking to a Rubio adviser earlier and reminded me that they actually buried the hatchet if you will during the Trump administration.

President Trump had Senator Rubio and his wife over to the White House for a series of dinners. They made a friendship then and he worked with him in the administration. There is no one who has been on the record so much against Trump who has completely changed his tune. He is absolutely a strong defender of Donald Trump and he would also bring several things to the ticket.

One challenge of course, he is a resident of Florida, Trump also a resident of Florida. The Constitution essentially prohibits that, it's not been attested. Would he move someplace else? Would Trump ignore that? We will see but there's no doubt that Marco Rubio is now in Trump's good graces. Those insults of 2016, ancient history.

TAPPER: Yeah. I do remember when Bush picked Cheney, they were both Texas residents and Cheney just moved back to his home state of Wyoming. Theoretically, I guess Trump could move to New York just because Marco Rubio doesn't have anywhere to move back to.

ZELENY: I don't think Trump's moving anywhere though. That's the question, is Rubio going to move somewhere else? We'll see.

TAPPER: Well, where would he move? Anyway, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum doesn't have the same name recognition as a Vance or Rubio but that also might be part of the appeal for Trump.

ZELENY: Exactly. I mean one thing he is, he's a wealthy businessman. This is something that Donald Trump likes more than anything. And look at him there. He's central casting in the view of Donald Trump in terms of good looks there. Again, a wealthy businessman.

He made his money in Microsoft. He sold his company in North Dakota. A self-made man without question there. He tried to run for president earlier this cycle, most people likely don't remember that. That's also good because his insults of Trump are few and far between. He once said he wouldn't do business with him, he corrected that over the weekend. He said, of course, he would do business with him. So the Rolodex that Doug Burgum has could be very important to the former president.

But Jake, these are only three. If we look at the full list here of people that Donald Trump is considering, it also includes some other names. Tim Scott for example, the senator from South Carolina. Elise Stefanik of course, she's in the house. Byron Donald's also in the house. Ben Carson of course, a close friend of Donald Trump's and on from there.

So one thing we do know, that one month from today this person, whoever it is, is likely to give a speech in Milwaukee at the Republican National Convention as the vice-presidential nominee.


TAPPER: Don't forget Tom Cotton also. Senator Tom Cotton.

ZELENY: Tom Cotton also. Sorry, I did not see him on the list. Yes, senator from Arkansas.

TAPPER: We just had him on State of the Union yesterday.

ZELENY: Exactly, and his wife from Nebraska of course. So, he is also on the list, but one month from today, they'll be in Milwaukee.

TAPPER: Nebraska's own Jeff Zeleny. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in our political panel. I'll bring them back to weigh in on this and more. Let's stay with the Veep-stakes. So Congressman Byron Donald's was on the graphic there from Florida and he is not shy about explaining why he would be a good running mate. Here he is on "Meet the Press." Take a listen.


REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): It's obviously the toughest job, the biggest job, not just in our politics but really frankly in the world. Look, I think that I would have an ability to step in. I'm actually pretty intelligent. I can sift through issues really, really well. Do I believe in myself? One hundred percent I do.


TAPPER: Wait, you are a former Trump administration official, a former Trump White House official. Who do you think would be the best pick? I'm not predicting -- I'm not saying tell me who you think Trump will pick. Who do you think would be the best pick?

MATT MOWERS, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there's several great candidates, you know. Some good --

TAPPER: Okay, but pick one.

MOWERS: Governor Doug Burgum, unquestionably qualified, unquestionably -- whether it's the private sector as governor. Senator Tom Cotton, I think Senator Tim Scott, Senator Marco Rubio. You know, maybe Congressman Byron Donald's, but I'll tell you that Byron Donald's is clearly not shy about it, but has also earned a lot of goodwill with Donald Trump because you got to remember out of all those candidates only one of them was actually introducing Ron DeSantis the night that he won re-election as governor and it was Byron Donald's.

He and his wife were close personal friends with Governor DeSantis, yet he became one of the highest profile endorsers and most active surrogates for Donald Trump in that primary process which indeed built him a lot of goodwill with President Trump and those around him.

We'll see if he actually makes the final cut but I expect it's -- I think it's unlikely it's gonna be someone from the House. He'll probably be someone who either served in his cabinet or was in the Senate or maybe a governor.

TAPPER: You didn't narrow it down at all. All right anyway, on Saturday night at a Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles, President Biden had a lot to say. Alencia, he was very, very critical of the U.S. Supreme Court. Here's just an excerpt.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Supreme Court has never been as out of kilter as it is today. I mean never. I taught constitutional law for nine years. This guy knows more about it than most. Look, the fact of the matter is that this has never been a court that's been this far out of step.


TAPPER: This is a big issue for Democrats, I think.

ALENCIA JOHNSON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Yeah, it's a huge issue. I mean, I've been on the road with a lot of Democrats over the past couple years talking to voters on both sides of the aisle about the Supreme Court. And this is the lowest polling and confidence that we have seen in the Supreme Court.

You have a lot of voters, majority of voters, wanting ethics reform, wanting expansion or term limits. And a lot of this happened after the Dobbs decision. And the polling shows that the decrease in confidence continued after affirmative action. And so we see that there are a couple of Supreme Court justices who have openly said that they want to retire under a Republican president.

This is the critical issue that should move a lot of Democrats. And it has been an issue not just this election. Hillary Clinton also talked about it in 2016. Obviously, we know how that campaign went. But I think more of our base is paying attention to what is happening, especially with Dobbs and the affirmative action. It's a smart strategy to run on.

TAPPER: I think there are probably Trump supporters out there who think that if Donald Trump said this about a liberal U.S. Supreme Court, people would be like setting their hair on fire. MOWERS: Yeah.

TAPPER: Saying, look at this, he's going after judiciary, he has no respect for institutions. Do you agree? Do you think that there is a double standard here?

MOWERS: I do think that President Biden has to be very careful in the way he's talking about these issues. Otherwise, it's going to undermine what he's now saying is the entire premises of his campaign. That he is saying that he is the one that's going to defend American institutions, defend democracy. Well, last time I checked the Constitution, the Supreme Court is a third co-equal branch of government.

And so if he's going to show respect to the institution, clearly, he's going to disagree with Supreme Court rulings. Right? I mean, we've had presidents for since, you know, our founding that disagree with Supreme Court rulings. But to go after them as an institution, I think does a lot to not just undermine the credibility of the institution, but to undermine the key argument he's trying to make in this campaign.

JOHNSON: But you know, respectfully, Matt, we might disagree given our positions and our sides of the aisle. But I think the conversation around respecting the institution comes when there are conservative justices who aren't, you know, reporting the trips that they're taking. They're not holding themselves accountable to the way that their wives are showing up in very partisan ways. But that is where the American --

MOWERS: But that's not what President Biden is talking about.

JOHNSON: -- but that is where the American people have raised their concerns. And therefore, we know how a conservative president will appoint justices who are loyal to him versus loyal to the Constitution, which we have seen so many of these activist justices do.

TAPPER: So, I'm sure you would agree with one part of what I'm going to air right now, what we're going to run right now from President Biden still talking about the U.S. Supreme Court and what the stakes are when it comes to the November election regarding the court. Let's roll that tape.


BIDEN: The next president is likely to have two new Supreme Court nominees, two more, two more.


He's already appointed two that have been very negative in terms of the rights of individuals. The idea that if he's re-elected, he's going to appoint two more firing flags upside down is really -- I really mean it.


TAPPER: So, first of all, just for the record, Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices, not two. But beyond that, here are the ages of Supreme Court justices. Thomas is 75, Alito 74, Roberts 69, Sotomayor 69. I mean, he's not wrong. Whoever wins in November could appoint two, maybe even more.

MOWERS: And look, that was a big reason why conservative voters in 2016, who were still a little skeptical of Donald Trump as a candidate at that point, came around to his candidacy. I mean, I remember looking at polling and, you know, we were just talking about Michigan before. Conservative, evangelical Western Michigan had not come on board with Donald Trump until really the last couple of months.

Part of it, he campaigned on the Supreme Court justices and the types of folks he was going to put out there. He put out a list of potential Supreme Court justices. It's an issue that --

TAPPER: Well, the Federalist Society put out the list.

MOWERS: Well, they did together.

TAPPER: He signed on to it.

JOHNSON: And he campaigned on filling that stolen seat that Mitch McConnell took from President Obama.

TAPPER: Speaking of the Supreme Court, Alencia, I want to get your take on this. This morning, Trump posted to Truth Social, quote, "If a president does not have immunity, the court will be opening the floodgates to prosecuting former presidents. An opposing hostile party will be doing it for any reason all of the time."

This is, of course, about the immunity case that we're going to hear from in the Supreme Court's going to rule in the next few weeks about on whether or not and to what degree they think Donald Trump has immunity from prosecution, if at all.

JOHNSON: Look, I think this speaks to what I was saying earlier about President Trump was about loyalty to himself and not loyalty to the Constitution. We have seen some of these justices, the way that they have, you know, decided in these cases are very much aligned with some of their outspoken lives who are in Donald Trump's pocket. And so --

TAPPER: Ginny Thomas and Martha-Ann Alito.

JOHNSON: Exactly. And so he is signaling directly to those justices what he wants them to do. And to be honest, that is extremely partisan and very concerning and throws out the loyalty to the Constitution that we've been talking about.

MOWERS: I'll just say real quickly that, you know, those Supreme Court justices have, you know, impeccable credentials, impeccable education on both sides, by the way, on both ideologies. I think they're making up their own decisions, not just because their spouse is telling them to roll one way or the other. TAPPER: Thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. Always good to have you

both. Next on "The Lead" quote, "We have to do better." A co-chair of Columbia University's Task Force on anti-Semitism, revealing allegations of intimidation and harassment and discrimination against the school's Jewish students.

Plus, a key task for Democrats as they look to sharpen their messaging ahead of November. Why one race in New York is getting so much attention.



TAPPER: Back with our "National Lead" now. A task force at one of United States' most elite universities reveals some disturbing instances of anti-Semitism and a generally hostile environment for many Jewish students and faculty. Columbia University created the task force in November, a month before the protests in May that ended in dozens of arrests after students barricaded themselves inside a university building. CNN's Omar Jimenez digs into the findings of this task force.


ESTHER FUCHS, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Many things are broken at Columbia, deeply broken.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Professor Esther Fuchs is among the co-chairs of Columbia University's Task Force on anti- Semitism. The task force was formed in November 2023 to, quote, "foster a community, as Columbia University President Minouche Shafik put it, where debates and disagreements are rooted in academic rigor and civil discourse."

(On camera): Where are you right now in the process?

FUCHS: Questions of harassment, intimidation, hate, just pain, isolation, discrimination, every word you could think of came out from students' experiences, Jewish students' experiences at Columbia, making it very clear to us that a lot of systems in place are not working for Jewish students.

What we found in the listening sessions were essentially students who felt like the burden was on them to resolve it.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Professor Fuchs says they found that one professor came across what may have been a Jewish-sounding name before an exam and asked that student to explain their views on the Israeli government's actions in Gaza.

Also, that another professor told their class to avoid reading mainstream media, declaring, quote, "it is owned by the Jews."

FUCHS: To ask a student to defend the policies of a government in Israel because they're Jewish is -- I don't even have words to say how ridiculous that is, but also how intimidating that is.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): For weeks, Columbia University was at the focal point of nationwide protests on college campuses over the Israel-Hamas war. Some of those nationwide protests got violent. In and around Columbia's campus, there were similar dynamics, especially just outside campus, but at the very least, there was palpable tension. Some Jewish students felt unsafe to the point they chose to leave campus in the lead up to graduation.

(On camera): We also heard from Jewish students who did not feel that way, who said they did feel safe on campus, and we also heard from Muslim and Arab students who also felt unsafe. I know this is an anti- Semitism task force, but --

FUCHS: No, no, no. It's a perfectly appropriate question.

JIMENEZ: -- but how do you deal with that dynamic?

FUCHS: So, you know, we are hoping that our recommendations will be relevant and be used to deal with all students who are feeling unsafe or discriminated against.


We were asked to be the anti-Semitism task force to do the work around that. The president tried to constitute an Islamophobia task force and could not find faculty to be on it. We would have preferred to have an Islamophobia task force right next to us doing the work with us because this is a broader issue.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): A university official told CNN they didn't get enough professor buy-in, that for the administration, there was a will but no willingness from those who were calling for it.

FUCHS: The university has to do better, you know, if we're about educating, which is our primary mission, education and research are our primary missions, we have to do better.


JIMENEZ: The task force already put out a report largely focusing on Columbia's rules around protesting and recommendations on that front, which the university president says she supports. But this next report is one that's going to focus a lot more on campus climate.

That's where we're going to see some of their in-depth reporting about from these listening sessions that we got some details of here, which I should also point out, the co-chair told me that the super majority of faculty, that for that super majority, they were not behaving in some of those egregious examples that were described, for example, asking a student, a particular student, to defend a government's policy.

But the fact that it happened was still concerning to this task force. And they tell me the next report will also take a look at all the systems that are currently in place to report incidents like that, not just for Jewish students, but for all students that are facing discrimination in this front. And throughout all of this, it's a task force that university officials tell me has the full support of not just university president Minouche Shafik, but the wider administration as well, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Omar Jimenez in New York. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now in our "Politics Lead," a major test for Democrats in a highly contested district in New York, New York's 16th congressional district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Westchester County. The primary is next week in eight days. It's an ugly primary race with Israel's war on Hamas at center stage.

The incumbent is Congressman Jamal Bowman. He has been courting the progressive Democrats critical of Israel, such as AOC and the squad, as well as supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders. His challenger, George Latimer, is backed by Hillary Clinton and more establishment Democrats, as well as the pro-Israel group AIPAC. CNN's Gloria Pazmino lays out the high stakes race.


GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jamal Bowman is in a fight for his political life, and the two-term congressman seems to know it.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): If I win my election, I'm one step closer to getting to go back to Washington.

PAZMINO (voice-over): But a series of political stumbles and Democrats serious divisions over the Israel-Hamas war have put the left-wing congressman at risk of losing his primary. One such misstep, Bowman had to plead guilty to a misdemeanor after he pulled a fire alarm inside a House office building during a vote last year. Then some of his past blog posts resurfaced, showing he took an interest in 9/11 conspiracy theories. Bowman says he regrets the posts. But he also says some of the criticism he's faced is political.

BOWMAN: Those who are outspoken and fight for justice and challenge power, you know, there's always pushback.

PAZMINO (voice-over): Bowman faces a challenge from Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a familiar face in parts of New York's 16th Congressional District.

GEORGE LATIMER, NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I may not look progressive by my demographics, but I am.

PAZMINO (voice-over): The two went after each other in a debate over differences in class, race and vision for the future of the Democratic Party.

BOWMAN: It's too soon to say anything.

LATIMER: I think it's time for us to pull the truth alarm, Jamaal, because you constantly misrepresent the truth.

BOWMAN: Please stop it. Stop your lying.

PAZMINO (voice-over): Bowman's early comments on the Israel-Hamas war led to ugly attacks on both sides. Bowman was forced to backtrack after calling reports of sexual assault during Hamas's terror attacks in Israel on October 7th propaganda.

BOWMAN: There is still no evidence of beheaded babies or raped women, but they still keep using that lie. Propaganda.

PAZMINO (voice-over): While Bowman was one of the earliest and most outspoken members of Congress to call for a ceasefire, even the liberal pro-peace, pro-Israel lobbying group J Street dropped its endorsement of Bowman, saying the past few months have, however, highlighted significant differences between us in framing and approach.

Latimer has racked up support from the local Democratic establishment, including Westchester County resident Hillary Clinton and the influential pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC has poured millions into the race.


UNKNOWN: George Latimer has sold out to Republican funded AIPAC.

UNKNOWN: Bowman voted against resolutions to condemn Hamas.

PAZMINO (voice-over): During a recent debate, Latimer said Bowman's constituency is Dearborn, Michigan, a reference to the city with the country's largest Arab-American community. Speaking to union members this past Saturday, Latimer said Bowman is chasing social media attention and airtime rather than prioritizing the needs of the district.

LATIMER: I know what a legislator has to do, and it's not just get headlines.

PAZMINO (voice-over): Bowman, who has the backing of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, has hit back.

BOWMAN: He's not running for the Bronx or Mount Vernon or New Rochelle or Yonkers. He's not running for the people here. He's running for Netanyahu and he's running for the wealthiest constituents in our district.

PAZMINO (voice-over): The district covers parts of the North Bronx up to Westchester County and is home to some of the wealthiest suburbs in America. A large Jewish population and a majority of non-white black and Latino voters. Many of them told us they're paying attention.


(On camera): Now, Jake, we spoke to many of those voters over the past week and the beginning of early voting. They told us that they're also worried about public safety, the cost of housing, the cost of food. But they're also paying attention to what these two candidates have said about the war.

Now, Jake, just like in any other close election, this is going to come down to turnout, particularly in areas where Bowman is popular. But so is George Latimer, partly because he has a longstanding record and has represented areas in that district for a long time.

TAPPER: All right, Gloria Pazmino in New York, thanks so much for that. Appreciate it.

Coming up next to see an exclusive interview with two of the women who testified against Harvey Weinstein, their new mission as the former Hollywood mogul faces a potential retrial.



TAPPER: A CNN exclusive now as New York prosecutors plan for their potential retrial of Harvey Weinstein. Women who testified against the Hollywood producer are speaking to CNN detailing how his trial and now his overturned conviction of up ended their lives.

And now some of these women have a new fight as CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister reports for us they're working to change the laws that led to Weinstein sex crimes conviction being overturned in the first place.


DAWN DUNNING, TESTIFIED AGAINST HARVEY WEINSTEIN: This has been you know, such a long ordeal for me. You know, I would love to have that closure.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Closure that for Dawn Dunning will have to wait. Her testimony as a supporting witness against Harvey Weinstein is among the evidence that led to his historic sex crimes conviction in 2020.

It's also why the New York Court of Appeals overturned that conviction this April, ruling that too many women like Dunning testified to prior bad acts even though Weinstein wasn't facing charges in their cases.

DUNNING: I think there's a lot of these nuances and these loopholes that just don't make sense and you know, really needs to be updated.

WAGMEISTER (voice-over): Dunning and others pushed for laws allowing supporting witnesses to testify in New York sex crimes cases. State lawmakers proposed a bill that passed the Senate but failed to pass the full legislature before the session ended last week. Another setback for Dunning.

WAGMEISTER: On a personal level, what would you tell these lawmakers?

DUNNING: It would feel that let down and I would also feel like it could prevent other women from coming forward as well.

WAGMEISTER (voice-over): Women like Tara Leigh Wolf.


WAGMEISTER (voice-over): Also one of the supporting witnesses who testified against Weinstein in 2020 then struggled to process the fact that the conviction was narrowly overturned because of testimony like hers.

WULFF: The idea that too many assaults is too much for them. It also highlights for me what needs to change.

WAGMEISTER (voice-over): Wulff plans to advocate for the New York law in the next legislative session. But for now, worries about what could come next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is supposed to be judged on the facts of the case.

WAGMEISTER (voice-over): Weinstein and his legal team are also appealing his California conviction, which led to a 16-year prison sentence in 2022. Even though California is one of 16 states that do have laws allowing supporting witnesses to testify to prior bad acts and sex crimes cases, Weinstein's lawyers claimed a jury was prejudiced, one told of the prior New York convictions.

UNDIENTIFIED FEMALE: He came into that courtroom with the stamp of convicted felon on his back and that it was done so fairly. And that turns out not to be the case at all.

WAGMEISTER: Is there any fear in your mind that there could be a day where that appeal is successful?

WULFF: When they filed for appeal in New York, I refuse to believe that was possible. This can't happen. And then it did, because all I really have is the hope that the laws are different there and strong enough to hold that conviction.

WAGMEISTER (voice-over): Weinstein has repeatedly denied that he ever sexually assaulted women, but accusers like Dunning say they live in fear that Weinstein who has been accused by more than 100 women of sexual misconduct won't be held accountable for his crimes.

DUNNING: The thought that that he would be free again is terrifying. I know everyone thinks he's so old and frail and sick, but he's never going to stop. He never will stop.

WAGMEISTER: Now, Jake, as we know the Manhattan DA's office into tends to retry this case and they say that trial can happen as soon as this fall.


New York prosecutors have said they are in touch with many women who are not comfortable to come forward in 2020 which was a different time, but now they may be willing to testify. So New York prosecutors have indicated that there could be a new indictment coming against Weinstein.

Now, when I spoke to Dawn Dunning who we saw on that piece, I asked her if she knows that there are other women and she says, yes, there are absolutely other women who allege that they have been assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, but they've been too scared for a myriad of reasons to come forward. Jake.


TAPPER: Elizabeth Wagmeister, thank you so much for that report. A new warning today from the U.S. Surgeon General, he is putting the addictiveness of social media in the same category as tobacco and alcohol what this might mean for your kids. That's next.



TAPPER: Our tech lead today, an urgent warning that all parents, grandparents and caregivers of children need to hear the U.S. Surgeon General is now demanding that Congress passed legislation to put warning labels on social media apps.

Dr. Vivek Murthy says that like cigarettes and like alcohol, social media can be extremely damaging to the health of people, especially the health of young people. Specifically, Dr. Murthy says social media can have detrimental effects on mental health for adolescents and drastically increase their risk of depression.

Joining us now media commentator CNN contributor Kara Swisher. Kara, do you think warning labels might actually help? Do you think kids are going to pay attention to them? Do you think parents will?

KARA SWISHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's you know, it's a comparison to cigarettes. That's what they're trying to do here. So I think yes, it would warn them people would see it, I think probably cigarette smoking did go down when you started to explain to people that the deleterious health effects.

I think the big question is, does it have deleterious health effects? Because the studies are kind of mixed. And it's not very clear. There needs to be more studies. And does it violate people's first amendment rights? I think so. There's a lot here compared to a cigarette compared to cigarette smoking.

TAPPER: To be clear, though, this is just a suggestion from the Surgeon General, the warning labels would have to be legislated by Congress. Do you think Congress --


TAPPER: -- would be willing to do that?

SWISHER: No, I don't. I think you know, some of them say there's enough warning that that again, first amendment rights is another thing. Others will say there's not enough studies done on this, although not too many, because a lot of people want to blame social media for that, and there's good cause to do so.

But they also have to stress the good things about social media. There's all kinds of issues of what exactly the impact is. And I think that's what's wrong. But I think it's fine for the Surgeon General to do this and talk about and call attention to the issues around mental health, self-esteem of girls issues around isolation of young man, and whether social media plays a role. So that's a good part of this.

TAPPER: A Gallup poll from October, said that teens, and I have two teens, spend an average of nearly five hours on social media per day. Very believable, it sounds a little low actually. You know how the ins and outs of apps work? What can parents do right now, if they're concerned about social media being bad for their kids?

SWISHER: A couple of things. I think it's probably bad for people a little older, actually, I think they're the ones that are spending more time on it. But you're right. I mean, the question is, should we age gate these things and age gating means that parents have a responsibility of not letting them use these devices.

I mean, you do have some control over your kids, and you can talk to them about it and not let them use it so much. I know it sounds like crazy. But the problem with social media and phones are is parents are just as addictive as their kids, right. And so that's kind of a big issue of parents are using them in the same way that kids are or a slightly different way. It's a problem to do that.

But I think probably you don't tell them not to use them and take them away. There's a lot of -- there's a big movement of removing them from schools during the school day, and it showed some really good effects on schools. If you take the phone away, lock it away for the school day, and then give it back to kids. There's all kinds of different ways but I think a lot of it is usage not don't use it as much and deny them usage. I know that controversial thing, but it's worked in a lot of places.

TAPPER: Now TikTok says that they do limit kids ages 13 to 17 to an hour a day. But I'm sure kids easily get around that.

SWISHER: Yes, they can limited day, right? They can, it's up to the parents to do that. And they're putting everything in the hands of the parents and when it's an addictive thing, and they leave a lot about the addiction part of about this out, which I think they should focus on. It's very difficult to do. So the question is, should it just be legislated that there's an age gating thing? Or should they do it at the app level and all kinds of things, but I think everyone's involved in this problem. Everyone is addicted to it.

And so -- but when you do use things like addiction, you think about warnings and you think about things like that. And so it'd be really important to find out if it's actually doing that and getting a lot of proof and then building a case for it and Congress, but that's going to be hard because the First Amendment is also at play here compared to other health issues.

TAPPER: China does not have the First Amendment. They don't have a lot of freedoms and China they know which their parent company started Twitter. They've taken drastic measures to limit screen time for Chinese kids in China. They only allow people under 18 to play video games between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on weekends or holidays. They have a 40-minute timer on the Chinese version of TikTok --


TAPPER: -- for accounts under 14. I mean the fact that they do that for their own kids and yet we see what TikTok is for our kids here in the United States seems to say a lot.

SWISHER: It does say a lot they want us to use TikTok because it's an app that has a lot of control over kids or has a lot of usage and it's a good thing for China to have that in this country. They don't have other companies that do that.

You know, again, age gating is the way I look at it. I think you -- if you have an age gate, and we do that with movies, we do that with a lot of things, I think it might be really interesting way to do it.


Now this call by the Surgeon General, look, some people in tech think it's a stunt. I think it's a good stunt to point out the problem so that we can study them. And at the same time, look at all the other problems in society that kids have around anxiety and all kinds of stuff like that.

TAPPER: Yes, if it's a stunt, it just caused us to talk about this issue in a way that we wouldn't --

SWISHER: That's correct.

TAPPER: -- have had been Dr. Murthy not announced that. Kara Swisher always good to see you.

SWISHER: Thanks, Laci (ph).

TAPPER: Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy will join CNN Erin Burnett tonight 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Today we're learning some new details about the upcoming Russian trial of American journalist Evan Gershkovich. Coming up next, I'm going to be joined by a lawyer who used to practice in Russia with what we can expect when the Wall Street Journal reporter appears in court.


TAPPER: In our world lead according to Russia a trial, and let the record reflect I'm doing air quotes, will start next Wednesday June 26 for jailed American journalist Evan Gershkovich.


Today marks one year 80 days since Gershkovich, which has been detained on espionage charges and the first American journalist arrested on allegations of spying since the end of the Cold War. Despite this very high profile case, Russia plans to hold his trial in secret behind closed-doors.

Let's talk about this with William Pomeranz. He's director of Wilson Center, Kennan Institute here in DC practice law in Russia. The case is now going to be held behind closed doors. No cameras, obviously, already, I was very skeptical, that's a nice word for, the Gershkovich which would be able to get a fair trial. But now behind closed doors?

WILLIAM POMERANZ, DIRECTOR, WILSON CENTER KENNAN INSTITUTE: Well, he has no possibility of getting a fair trial. Even in a -- the criminal justice system. In Russia, there is a 99 percent conviction rate in criminal cases. So there is no chance that he will get a fair trial, it will -- there will be no chance for him to put on a reasonable defense. He will be convicted. And once he is convicted, then whatever negotiations between the United States and Russia can take place.

TAPPER: So today, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said quote, well, we have that. let's play that.


MATTHEW MILLER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We will try to attend the trial as we try to attend the trial of any American citizens who are detained in Russia. But ultimately, I don't have an answer for you yet whether that's going to be possible.


TAPPER: Is there any precedent for a U.S. official attending a closed door trial in Russia?

POMERANZ: Not that I'm aware of, I think they would have to have certain conditions, even if to allow a U.S. citizen to attend that trial, again, is an espionage trial. And they are basically trying to defend Russian state secrets. And I don't think that they would really want Americans to be in the courtroom.

TAPPER: And it's also very unclear that there's any actual evidence. I mean, obviously, Ivan was working on a story. But the idea that he received or was trafficking in any sort of classified materials is has not been presented anybody.

POMERANZ: No, and there is no evidence, and there won't be any evidence, and there won't have to be any evidence because the judge will convict the defendant. So it doesn't really matter. You know, what the prosecutor's office says claims that would happen, that happened, it will all be a lie. And it will be taken as the truth.

TAPPER: So now, you know that the -- they can -- the negotiations for a prisoner swap can begin. Russia wouldn't have done it before the guilty, quote unquote, guilty conviction. Is that why Russia does this so that they can get bad guys that have been locked up, whether in the United States or in our allies? I know they want this Hitman who's in a German prison. Is that why they take people like Evan, who are innocent of any serious crimes, hostage in jail them? Or do they do it because they want to send a signal to American journalists don't come to Russia?

POMERANZ: I think it's the former, that they want to kind of basically show that they had a trial. And they want to make sure that no one wants to come to Russia to investigate these trials. So is simply an attempt to have a hostage and to try to negotiate who they can get out of us or German prisons in the process. So it's simply just hostage taking, and not really a fair trial or any attempt at justice.

TAPPER: So some Americans have been able to get out from prisoner swaps. We obviously have covered the case of Trevor Reed. Brittney Griner has gotten a lot of attention. Paul Whelan has been there longer than anybody. And he's been lingering former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan. Why do you think it's been so tough to get him out?

POMERANZ: Well, I don't think he was really in a position to have a good exchange from the Russian perspective. So he just sits there.

TAPPER: And what do you mean by that?

POMERANZ: He did have a equivalent person who they could exchange for him. And unfortunately, for Paul Whelan, he's been close. But they have not really used Paul Whelan, in any negotiations. And so there was an attempt to kind of have a twofer to swap.


POMERANZ: And the Russians simply rejected that. So it's just a tragedy that Paul Whelan is still in Russian prison. And I don't think that he's actually in a place where that they will negotiate for him. And so the United States will just have to try to recert (ph) itself, to make sure that Paul Whelan somehow is part of the negotiations.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to keep covering both of the cases of Gershkovich and Whelan.


William Pomeranz thanks so much for being with us today. Our last leads are next.


TAPPER: Our law and justice lead leads off our last leads, democratic Maryland Governor West Moore today signed off on pardons for 175,000 low level marijuana and drug paraphernalia convictions impacting about 100,000 people both living and dead.

The action does not free anyone from jail or prison. Instead, Governor Moore says it cleans people's criminal records that have been used to deny them housing and employment and educational opportunities.

And our Earth matters series, forecasters expecting the hurricane season far worse than normal and the National Hurricane Center just issued its first warning about a system forming in the lower Gulf of Mexico.


Tropical storm watch has been issued for parts of South Texas and northeastern Mexico, five to 10 inches of rain are possible. Perhaps more.

In just 10 days, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have their first debate in the general election. I will moderate that discussion along with my colleague Dana Bash. That's next Thursday, June 27 on CNN streaming on Max and elsewhere. The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer right next door in the place I like to call it The Situation Room. See you tomorrow.