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French President Emmanuel Macron Dissolves Parliament Following Party Defeat In E.U. Elections; Benny Gantz Quits Israel's War Cabinet In Blow To Benjamin Netanyahu; Donald Trump Holds First Campaign Rally Since Felony Conviction; Dangerous Venezuelan Gang Operating In The U.S.; Donald Trump Ally Steve Bannon Ordered To Report To Prison By July 1st To Serve Contempt Of Congress Conviction; Alex Jones To Liquidate Assets To Pay Sandy Hook Families; The Washington Post Abruptly Replaces Executive Editor Sally Buzbee; Bill Weir Explores The Damage These Wildfires Can Bring To Communities And The People Who Call Them Home. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 09, 2024 - 18:00   ET


JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jessica Dean in New York.

And breaking now, French President Emmanuel Macron has dissolved parliament and called a snap election after polls show his party being trounced by the far-right opposition party in European Parliamentary elections.


Macron saying he called these new elections to give voters a say after these most recent E.U. elections.

CNN Correspondent Melissa Bell joining us now.

Melissa, just walk us through what the E.U. elections are, what they mean and what the fallout is now.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Basically, Jessica, over the course of the weekend, it is 20 -- the 27 countries of the E.U. that took part in this vote, and what they're voting for is the European Parliament. So, 720 lawmakers that sit at European level.

What we saw Europe wide tonight as these results came out, and these are projections, but give you an idea of what's happened is that the far-right, in many different countries made pretty substantial gains.

Now, the far-right have a different set of views when it comes to issues like Russia and Ukraine, it's difficult to see how they'll function as a very unified bloc, and yet, it is expected that their results are so strong in so many countries, could mean that they're going to have a bigger impact on the European Union, things like immigration policies, than they have had in the past.

But the biggest news tonight from Europe is that in France, the far- right has come out on top with such a resounding victory, more than 30 percent of the vote that Emmanuel Macron, the centrist leader of France, has dissolved parliament.

And what we'll do is now have parliamentary elections here in France that could see if the results go to the far-right, as they have at European level, the far-right win those parliamentary elections and Emmanuel Macron would be forced to function with a far-right prime minister.

Now, it depends on how the election goes, but that would be a pretty significant shift of France's political landscape, Jessica.

DEAN: Right and these elections that Macron has set for France, that would be taking place in the next several weeks, the end of June, beginning of July, right?

BELL: That's right. So, we're going to know fairly quickly, 30th of June, second round, seventh of July, and by then, we'll have an idea of who then -- what party the next prime minister of France will be.

Now, in a way, Emmanuel Macron was already finding it difficult to function. His party had lost its absolute majority, so he isn't giving away that much.

But it is a pretty big gamble, and it could be difficult for a partisan like him to function with a far-right prime minister, should that be the result of the election.

His party is clearly hoping that they can reverse those gains in these parliamentary elections and remain the dominant party, but it is a gamble, and one that will make a big difference to the coming few years of his second term, Jessica.

DEAN: Absolutely. Melissa Bell for us. Thank you so much for that reporting.

And let's go now to my next guest, CNN Political and National Security Analyst and White House and National Security Correspondent for The New York Times, David Sanger. David is also the author of the New Cold Wars: China's Rise, Russia's invasion and America's Struggle to Defend the West.

David, thanks so much for joining us. Let's just dive right into what we're seeing coming out of Europe tonight. What is your take away from getting these results and now seeing what the French president is doing?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jessica, it's a real acceleration of something we've been seeing happen for the past couple of years, which has been the right -- the rise of both the center right and the far-right.

And it's not just France, we saw it in the results today for the -- in the overall European parliament election. In Germany and we saw it in Austria. We've seen it in the Netherlands. So, there was sort of a common anti-incumbent phase turning here.

But there's also for France, which is sort of at the heart of support for the European experiment, a vote for basically more France and less Europe, and I think you're seeing that as well in the other countries.

So, what you're seeing now from President Macron is that you bet your country gamble, as we just heard, which is a very quick election before anyone really has time to get organized. I think this is scheduled for June 30th, in which he's basically saying to the country, do you really want to go this path?

Because if he loses on this, he will still remain as president, but he will have essentially an ungovernable parliament.

DEAN: And so, I want to break down a couple things you just hit on there. First of all, just, it is a gamble what he's doing, and it sounds like what your saying is he's hoping that doing this quickly will benefit him.

SANGER: That's right, he's hoping that these results scare enough voters who may have stayed at home, who may vote for centrism normally, but sort of enjoy the poking at the institutions.

But you know, his ratings are pretty low right now. He -- you know, his party is barely scoring with the socialists here. And that's pretty remarkable change of fortunes for him.


And think about the timing as well for France in particular.

So, first of all, obviously the Olympics are coming up, so the world's going to be focused on France in a way they have not before once the -- this opens.

The second is the G7 Summit is happening just in the next -- this week. So, he's going to go as a leader whose future can't be assured, meeting President Biden, a leader whose future can't be assured.

And the third thing that's going to happen is that the NATO Summit, it's supposed to be the grand sign of unity of Europe and the United States. This is the 75th anniversary. It's supposed to happen in our early July, right after the July 4th holiday. It will be just as we get the results from the French election.

DEAN: And so, with that in mind, so, that was the first thing. The second thing I wanted to ask you about is goes hand in hand with that NATO Summit. It's about we're seeing continued kind of isolationism amongst so many countries that have for decades been united in fighting for democracy, protecting democracy, and we're seeing voters and this -- in this case too. It seems like really saying, as you said, more France, less Europe.

SANGER: That's right. And to some degree, less Ukraine, right? Some of the -- not all of these groups have exactly the same platform. But there is a rising call for why are we engaged in this conflict with Russia.

If you were Vladimir Putin and you were trying to design an outcome here, you couldn't be happier than the results today. And that actually raises an interesting question, which is, how quickly will the propaganda forces in Russia move in to try to amplify those voices that they favor along the way and try to influence the election in France, we've already seen a good deal of that happening. We've also seen a lot of Russian activity against the International Olympic Committee, just as the games get ready to begin in France.

So, this is a territory where we could see the Russians attempt to interfere, if they can get organized in time for this election.

DEAN: And of course, Macron has beat the far-right leader Marine Le Pen in France now a couple of times. But what is she saying?

SANGER: That's right.

DEAN: This has to be welcome news for her?

SANGER: She was celebrating tonight, because if you take this broader European vote as an early indicator of where her party may end up in France, she could end up in a position where her party is finally outstripping the centrists, and that's why you could end up with a President Macron dealing with a opposition prime minister and an opposition parliament, which would basically lead to paralysis and chaos.

Now, Macron is clearly betting. You know, he had two more years. He didn't have to call this election, he is clearly betting that he will do better now at a moment that perhaps his supporters are scared into, you know, showing up and becoming more activist than if you let it drag on for two years.

DEAN: And then, more broadly, it becomes, what does this mean in relation to the United States of America and its relationship with Europe, its relationship with France, obviously, a key ally. What do you read into that?

SANGER: Well, we're seeing the same thing happen here. I would not equate each of these European parties with platforms that are equivalent to President Trump's. And of course, at times, it's very hard to know what President Trump actually stands for.

But, certainly, the impetus that has given rise to President Trump's continued popularity despite the conviction on 34 felony counts, despite everything else that we know and we've learned, is the same impetus that you're seeing across Europe. And it's an interesting question about whether the United States is going to follow the same wave.

DEAN: Yes. And somewhat ironic, know that they were just in France, world leaders joined together marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, talking about how important it is to band together and fight against any aggression against Western democracy.

SANGER: That's right. Now, not all of the right-wing parties in Europe would tell you that they oppose that goal, but some certainly would be a lot less enthusiastic about it than Macron has been. It's been -- Macron has been the most outspoken, more so than the United States about sending European troops, NATO troops into Ukraine to train the Ukrainians and relieve some of the burden on them, so that more Ukrainians would be freed up for combat. President Biden has said, no way, I'm not participating in that.


So, Macron has probably, at this point, stands out as the most pro- supportive Ukraine candidate out there, almost anywhere in Europe, and that's what's going to be up for a test in just 2-1/2 weeks.

DEAN: Just a few weeks. All right, David Sanger, great. Thank you so much for that context. We really appreciate it.

SANGER: Thank you. Great to be see -- be on with you.

DEAN: We're also following breaking news in the Middle East, where tonight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asking a key member of his war cabinet to come back. Opposition leader Benny Gantz quitting the government this afternoon. Gantz says he's stepping down from the emergency government and called on Netanyahu to hold new elections.

And his departure, of course, comes just one day after Netanyahu failed to meet Gantz's ultimatum, which was calling for a post war plan in Gaza to be in place by June 8th.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Tel Aviv with the latest on this. Paula, Gantz's resignation a blow to Netanyahu, who is facing some pressure in Israel to bring these hostages home and in the conflict, what's he saying?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Jessica. And he has publicly said that he wants Benny Gantz to come back, saying now is the time to unite.

Now, what we've heard from Gantz himself is that he doesn't believe that Israel can win this war with Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm, saying that it's important to have a Prime Minister who puts the hostages ahead of politics.

He's been very critical of Netanyahu in recent months, and he has said that this is necessary to have the day after plan for Gaza. It is necessary to have a decisive plan to bring the hostages back and to have a plan to bring peace to the northern border as well with the Southern Lebanon.

So, these conditions have not been met, so Gantz is now walking away. What it does mean at this point is not much for the actual coalition government. The government doesn't fall. Netanyahu still has a majority, so it's still able to continue.

But what it does mean is what we saw Gantz as, and what the U.S. certainly saw Gantz as, is more of a moderates within this coalition, which does contain some very far-right elements.

So, Gantz has really been seen domestically and internationally as a counterweight to some of those far-right-wing ideas.

Ben-Gvir, for example, the National Security Minister. He is now saying that he should be in the war cabinet as Gantz has gone, and there is this concern that now a more moderate figure has left. It allows the more right-wing figures to have more of an influence when it comes to the prime minister himself.

And, of course, we know that the U.S. -- that U.S. officials had been trying to nudge Gantz to postpone this decision because they are concerned about what it means for this hostage cease fire deal, which is on the table at the moment.

Gantz was very much for this deal, which President Biden announced last week, saying it was based on the Israeli proposal. And certainly, there are some concerns about what this could mean for that, Jessica.

DEAN: All right, Paula Hancocks live in Tel Aviv. Thank you so much for that reporting.

Still ahead tonight, Donald Trump is holding his first campaign rally since his felony conviction just hours before the former president will talk with a probation officer.

And new tonight, federal authorities warning a ruthless criminal gang from Venezuela has now infiltrated the U.S. where it's being linked to a string of brutal and violent crimes.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



DEAN: Former President Donald Trump today in the swing state of Nevada holding a rally in Las Vegas. It is a state Trump lost in both 2016 and 2020 but a recent poll shows he is gaining ground among voters there.

It's Trump's first large scale rally since his 34 count felony conviction in the New York hush money trial. CNN reporter Alayna Treene is in Las Vegas with the latest on this. Alayna?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jessica, Donald Trump in his first campaign rally since being convicted by a Manhattan jury last week. Surprisingly, did not specifically bring up that trial. Why I find that very interesting is because over the last several days, he's really escalated his rhetoric around retribution and calling for revenge on his political opponents.

But, instead, he talked about his legal troubles more generally, he also referred to Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was not part of his New York trial and his New York case as a, "Dumb son of a bitch" and also claimed that the weaponization of the Justice Department in the United States right now is worse than what you would find in a third world country.


Take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll tell you what, no third world country has weaponization where they go after political candidates like we have, either. This guy can't get elected anything without cheating, the only way he can get elected is to cheat.


TREENE: Now, Jessica, I can tell you from my conversations with Donald Trump's advisers, that they really do want the former president to leave his weeks long criminal trial in the past and start focusing again on his general election campaign messaging that includes immigration, crime, the economy, all things that they think will help get him elected this fall.

And he did actually make a new announcement today, he said that if re- elected, his second administration, would get rid of taxing tips, something that's very important to voters, specifically here in Nevada, which depends heavily on tourism and hospitality.

Now, just looking ahead to tomorrow, Donald Trump does have a pre- sentencing hearing with a probation officer. This is after his conviction in his New York hush money trial. We're told that he's going to be doing that virtually, and his defense Attorney Todd Blanche will be there as well, Jess.

DEAN: All right, Alayna Treene in Las Vegas. Thanks so much.

And joining us with more on this, former special assistant to President Biden Meghan Hays and CNN Political Commentator Shermichael Singleton, great to have both of you here on this Sunday evening.

Shermichael, let's start first with you Trump, echoing a lot of themes we hear a lot about from him, the border, the economy, Joe Biden's fitness for office, but he also went directly after the Justice Department and people who work there. We'll listen to this clip first.


TRUMP: And what they've done is they've weaponized the Department of Justice. The only thing they didn't understand is that we just had the largest fundraising effort in a period of one week than anybody has ever had.

I did nothing. You know, we have a deranged individual named Jack Smith. He's a deranged, dumb guy. He's a dumb son of a bitch.


DEAN: Now, Trump is still facing two federal criminal indictments brought by Jack Smith. Shermichael, I know you talked to the Trump campaign and give them advice, especially on outreach to different demographics that they're trying to bring in, talking about black men and maybe trying to bring them over to Trump in bigger numbers.

What would you say to them, or what are your thoughts on this line of attack and its effectiveness with potential swing voters or new voters for Donald Trump?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think this is certainly red meat for the base, but my advice to answer that question as a strategist would be that the base is already there.

So, I'm looking for areas or groups of people that you can pull in to sort of provide that cushion. And what we know will be a very mathematically tight and close presidential election this November.

And so, if I'm looking for those different pools of voters, Jessica, my question becomes, what are the principal concerns of those different groups of voters? Whether it's Latino men, African-American men, maybe even Asian men.

And then, from there, then I'm going to write policy prescriptions that the campaign can release, and there's some points that I want my candidate to really hone in on and focus on on the campaign trail, to say these are the things that I can do to address some of your concerns that the current individual is not addressing.

DEAN: And Meghan, as Donald Trump is attacking the Justice Department today, we did hear from President Biden, who said he's going to accept whatever the jury decides in his son Hunter Biden's case, and that if he is found guilty, he will not be issuing a pardon.

What do you think the American public should take away from that contrast?

MEGHAN HAYS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I think that the -- President Biden is -- believes in the rule of law here, and he understands how important it is to a functional democracy. I just think that people are starting to see the lies here and the contrast with them, and like when Trump is saying, it's weaponized, like Merrick Garland is the one who had a special counsel for Hunter Biden.

So, you know, why would you have -- instruct your own Justice Department to have a special counsel for your son? That just doesn't make sense when you like, start to peel back the layers of what's happening.

So, his like entire premise is a little bit off, but I think that that's starting to become more known. And the more that Trump is out there not talking about the issues to Shermichael's point, more and more people are going to see that contrast where President Biden continues to talk about issues and continues to talk about how he can be helpful to the middle class.

And Shermichael is talking about writing policy papers, etcetera, and keeping his candidate on message, and that's what he needs to do. He needs to talk about the policies to continue to have that contrast, but he's not giving people a contrast to actually vote for, so people are just continuing to see his lies back and forth, which I think will be detrimental to him in November.

DEAN: And there was some new round of polling from Fox News on these key swing states, and we've talked a lot about how pivotal these are going to be, that a handful of states are probably going to decide this election.

Shermichael, we have been hearing from some GOP lawmakers in swing states who say they are still remaining on Team Trump. We can listen to some of these clips.



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now that Trump has been convicted, are you planning on supporting him in November?

REP. MIKE GARCIA (R-CA): Versus Joe Biden? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm supporting for Donald Trump for president. Yes.

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): I already voted for him in the primary.

RAJU: And in November (INAUDIBLE).

LAWLER: And even today. This is about the American people.

REP. ANTHONY D'ESPOSITO (R-NY): I have no issues in supporting Donald Trump for president of the United States.

REP. LORI CHAVEZ-DEREMER (R-OR): He's the Republican nominee. I'm a Republican.

REP. NICK LALOTA (R-NY): Yes. And a lot of my constituents are I think even more of them are supporting him now because the Democrats went way too far.


DEAN: And those were like -- those are vulnerable Republicans in their district. But Shermichael, a couple things.

One, the swing poll -- the swing state polling that we saw showed what we all know, a very, very tight race. And one particular state that I want to drill down on, Virginia. In this particular poll, again, just one poll seemed very tight. That's a -- that's a state that Biden won by 10 points in 2020.

So, my question to you is, is all of this data where we now have the conviction, we're looking at this polling right now, what do you think is happening? We're seeing vulnerable Republicans in districts where they might be up against a wall sticking with Donald Trump. What does that say to you? SINGLETON: Well, it says, you know, your previous segment, you talked about what's going on politically in France with Macron, and we're seeing this pattern across the Western world and even within our own country. I'm just sort of taking a broader look here Jess and that we're seeing a lot of, I guess I would describe them as sort of disenfranchised, marginalized people who are looking at the political system writ large, this sort of era of meritocracy.

And what they're saying is that these technocratic elites are out of touch. They've created and fostered an environment that does not yield to any type of measured success for the common man, for the working man.

And so, here's Donald Trump, who's taken a complete wrecking ball to this process, and those individuals are sticking with him regardless of what the flaws may be.

And so, if you're a Republican elected official and you're adhering to the calls or cries, if you will, of your voters who are saying, this is the person we're standing with, and we expect you to do the same, or we're going to vote for someone else.

Well, we know most politicians are most concerned, principally, concerned with self-preservation. And so, when you see Manu asking that question, who are you going to stick with? Of course, they're going to say, we're sticking with the former president, because that's what the voters want, because they perceive the former president as someone who's completely disrupting a system that they believe has completely left them behind.

DEAN: Meghan, I wanted to give you another question. We're out of time. Is there any response -- quick Response you have to that? I'll let you have it.

HAYS: I mean, I think they're scared that President Trump's going to come after them. And we've -- he's seen time and time again that he will go after people who are not loyal to him.

So, I think that they're also worried for their own re-election. To Shermichael's point, there's health preservation.

DEAN: All right, Meghan, Shermichael, thanks so much. Always good to see you both.

SINGLETON: Good to see you. Thank you.

HAYS: Bye, Jess.

DEAN: Still ahead, CNN taking an in depth look at a dangerous Venezuelan gang linked to a multistate human trafficking ring that's forcing immigrant women into prostitution, the brutal murder of a former police officer in Florida and more.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


DEAN: New tonight, federal authorities are warning a ruthless criminal gang from Venezuela has now infiltrated the U.S., where it is being linked to a string of brutal and violent crimes from an alleged multi- state human trafficking ring to the murder of a nursing student in Georgia and attacks against police officers in New York.

Officials say these apparently unrelated crimes al have a common denominator. CNN's Rafael Romo has been investigating the gang and their growing presence here in the U.S. Rafael, what more are you learning about this?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, we already knew Tren de Aragua had spread its tentacles across South America. In the last several months, we investigated cases here in the United States that have all the markings of the gang and now federal and local law enforcement, members of Congress and immigrants are all telling us the same thing. The gang is now here in the country, and it poses a serious threat.


ROMO (voice over): For the last several years, they have terrorized multiple South American countries. Police in the region say a Venezuelan gang known as Tren de Aragua has victimized thousands through extortion, drug and human trafficking, kidnapping and murder.

And now, U.S. law enforcement, including Customs and Border Protection and the FBI say the gang has made their way into the country.

BRITTON BOYD, EL PASO FBI SPECIAL AGENT: The FBI El Paso can confirm that members of Tren de Aragua have crossed into the United States.

ROMO (voice over): Alvaro Boza, a former Venezuelan police officer now living in Florida, says he fled his country in large part because the gang had become so powerful they could kill law enforcement like him with impunity.

Boza says a fellow police officer who refused to cooperate with the gang was shot 50 times.

ALVARO BOZA, FORMER VENEZUELAN POLICE OFFICER (through translator): He refused, and was murdered. They tied his body to a motorcycle and dragged it throughout the San Vicente neighborhood to demonstrate the power of the Tren de Aragua.

BOYD: They have followed the migration paths across South America to other countries, and have set up criminal groups throughout South America as they follow those paths and that they appear to have followed the migration north to the United States.

ROMO (voice over): U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens, who has confirmed multiple arrests of alleged Tren de Aragua members over the last year, issued a warning in early April after reporting yet another arrest. Watch out for this gang, he said, it is the most powerful in Venezuela known for murder, drug trafficking, sex crimes, extortion and other violent acts.


ROMO: The challenge for law enforcement officials is that it's very difficult to know how many members of Tren de Aragua are already here in the United States.

What some Venezuelan immigrants are telling us here in Florida and other states is that they are already beginning to see in their communities the same type of criminal activity they fled from in Venezuela.

ROLANDO VAZQUEZ, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: They do have their hands in prostitution, contract killing, selling of drugs, selling of arms, you name it. It's just all types of criminal activity that they can engage in, anything that's an illicit activity they're going to engage in for a profit.

JUDGE MINDY S. GLAZER, FLORIDA 11TH CIRCUIT COURT: Tren de Aragua, a violent Venezuelan street gang that is operating in the United States.

ROMO (voice over): A judge in Miami, Dade County said in a hearing that one of two suspects in the murder of a former Venezuelan police officer in South Florida, allegedly is a member of the gang.

And more recently, a New York police source told CNN, the 19-year-old who allegedly opened fire on two officers after they tried to stop him for riding a scooter in the wrong direction, has tattoos associated with the gang.

Boza, the former Venezuelan police officer, says the U.S. government has no way of knowing if a Venezuelan immigrant asking for asylum at the southern border is, in reality, a criminal because Venezuela as a matter of policy, does not share intelligence with the United States.

BOYD: Our biggest concern would be making sure our partners are aware to be on the lookout.

ROMO (voice over): And that's the key federal officials say when it comes to making sure this new threat in the United States does not grow into the national security challenge it's become in several Latin American countries.


ROMO (on camera): There are more than 70 cases here in the U.S. in which Tren de Aragua is mentioned in law enforcement documents where prosecutors complaints. From those cases, the CBP and Border Patrol in Texas identified 58 gang members between the beginning of fiscal year 2023 and the end of May. The rest appear in complaints made by victims or arrest reports that point to the possible involvement of the suspects with this organized crime group.

Jessica, back to you.

DEAN: All right, Rafael Romo, thanks so much for that reporting. Still ahead, a bad week for supporters of the big lie move to steal

the 2020 election, won fair and square by President Biden. One Trump ally is headed to jail. Others have been arraigned in court. We'll break it down for you.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



DEAN: It has been a rough week for several Trump allies, from legal to money troubles to credibility concerns. There was a barrage of tough headlines.

But the bad news wasn't limited to MAGA world, the Washington Post coming into the spotlight this week as internal struggles led to an abrupt exit of the paper's executive editor, Sally Buzbee.

Let's discuss it all with CNN Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcy, who's joining us now. Hi, Oliver, great to have you this afternoon or evening I guess now.

Let's start with Steve Bannon being ordered to report to prison. He thought he'd be able to delay his prison sentence while he appealed the case. How might this affect his media empire, his podcast?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, I think this is a big loss for Trump. People think of Steve Bannon as a political figure, and he's, of course, a political figure. He's worked on the Trump campaign before, he was in the White House, but he's also a prominent right-wing media figure.

You know, before he started with this War Room podcast, he was the boss over at Breitbart, and now he does head this War Room podcast, which is one of the most influential programs in right-wing media.

It actually helps shape the conversation in the MAGA media universe, and so him not being on that podcast daily, being on the bench basically for the next several months, I think that's going to have a big impact in on the conversation there.

You know, he's a person who has really pushed the right to the fringes, attack people who he views as soft on Trump, people who might not back the former president.

And so, without that, you know, bully pulpit being used by Bannon, I think that will have some impact on the conversation you see in right- wing media, and therefore, the election.

DEAN: Yes. And speaking of right-wing media, we also have Alex Jones, who this week revealed he's going to liquidate his assets. He was ordered to pay $1.5 billion to the Sandy Hook families for defaming them. We can listen to a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEX JONES, RIGHT-WING CONSPIRACY THEORIST: We're going to beat these people. I'm not trying to be dramatic here but it's been a hard fight.


DEAN: He's obviously emotional. Oliver, he told a lot of lies about Sandy Hook in a mass shooting with children who were killed. What happens next for him?

DARCY: It's hard to feel any sympathy for him, given how he tormented the families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook shooting. He has not paid them a dime, despite juries in both Texas and Connecticut ruling that he should be paying them $1.5 billion in damages.

And so, now, after really resisting, liquidating his personal assets, he has agreed to do this, and that does mean that in -- at some points in the future, if this does go according to plan here, he will no longer be the owner of InfoWars, which is, of course, his media empire that he's used for decades to spread all sorts of vile conspiracy theories and lies like the lie that the Sandy Hook Shooting did not happen.


And so, this is -- this is a big deal again in the right-wing media universe, which it does -- it does end up coming back around to affect where the Republican Party is today.

I think if you were to name one person who has really pushed the GOP outside Trump into this conspiratorial space, Alex Jones would certainly be at the top of that list.

DEAN: And then just kind of completing this media roundup, let's talk about the Washington Post for a second. It's facing a lot of blowback internally following the sudden departure of its executive editor, Sally Buzbee. You wrote about how the publisher Will Lewis is now facing some strong criticism from within.

What more can you tell us about it's -- how this is expected to impact this media giant, The Washington Post?

DARCY: Yes. I mean, it's certainly distracted staffers over the past several days in the newsroom at a really important time for national politics.

But this is -- this is something that's not going to end just yet. Really, what's happening here is Will Lewis, who was tapped by Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post earlier this year to lead the newspaper, he used to work for Rupert Murdoch, and there are allegations that he helped cover up, or the hacking scandal that Rupert Murdoch's media empire in the U.K. was ensnared in decades ago, and those allegations have been revived by a lawsuit that Prince Harry and a number of other notable celebrities have filed, and it's making its way through the court.

And so, what happened this week is, after he dismissed Sally Buzbee as the executive editor, it was revealed, according to Sally Buzbee's account, that she told others that he pressured her and expressed his dissatisfaction with the Washington Post covering this lawsuit, which, of course, mentions the allegations against him, the hacking scandal.

Then, an NPR reporter came out and said that he tried to kill that story in NPR, and so, it's really caused a lot of backlash that he's still going to have to deal with in the months ahead.

DEAN: Yes, all right. Oliver Darcy for us, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

DARCY: Thank you.

DEAN: We'll be right back.



DEAN: This week, a heat dome baked parts of the Western U.S. with a sharp rise in temperatures. And hot weather plus dry conditions are a recipe for wildfires causing death and extreme destruction.

CNN's Bill Weir explores the damage these wildfires can bring to communities and the people who call them home.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since climate change has helped create the most flammable earth in human history, every new wildfire season brings new reminders that resilience is everything.

It determines which communities burn to ash and which ones survive and rise, like Paradise, California.

WEIR: So this whole thing was like your home was burned to the ground?

HEIDI LANGE, PARADISE, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: House burned to the ground. I never made it home that day.

WEIR (voice-over): It's been just over five years since a mile-wide blowtorch known as the Camp Fire came roaring over the mountains and into this town of 26,000. It took 85 lives, 90 percent of the structures, and two-thirds of the population never returned.

But the people who rebuilt, like Heidi Lange, really want to be here.

LANGE: I kind of took an inventory of, you know, everything that was still here. My community and my neighbors and my friends and my church and my job was all still here. So, my little village, my little village is here in Paradise.

WEIR: The native tree species of California had millions of years to adapt to wildfire, to survive and thrive. Now the people of California have to do the same in much less time. And here's a perfect example. If you didn't know, you'd never know that this was once a neighborhood of hundreds of families, middle class workers, retirees, mostly living in prefabricated, highly flammable homes, the kind that right now would cost more to insure than the home is worth.

And this insurance crisis is creating sort of a perverse natural selection of survival of the richest.

So, how old is this house?

CARL JOHNSON, PARADISE, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: I was born in '39. This was born in '40.

WEIR (voice-over): Carl Johnson's house survived the Camp Fire. But when he went to renew his $1,100 a year insurance policy --

JOHNSON: I got one quote from Farmers Insurance that said $14,702 --

WEIR: A year?

JOHNSON: -- a year.

WEIR (voice-over): As major insurers decide that places like this are just too risky to cover, Carl is among those forced to go uninsured.

GARY LEDBETTER, PARADISE, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: A lot of people that were here the day of the fire never came back. But the people that chose to stay, I think that's amazing.

WEIR: While Gary Ledbetter managed to find decent insurance after rebuilding what may be one of the most fireproof new homes in all of the West.

LEDBETTER: I had my own torch and my own Bic lighter and I tested materials these guys wanted to use.


WEIR: Is that right?


WEIR: You're trying to burn their samples?

LEDBETTER: Yes. And as it's flaming in my hands, I throw it down and say, we're not using that.

WEIR (voice-over): During the Camp Fire, all the fire hydrants lost pressure. So, Gary connected his swimming pool to a sprinkler system that includes the roof. And every vent and window is engineered to survive an ember storm.

LEDBETTER: And its fiberglass instead of vinyl. So, it's not going to catch fire. It's not going to melt. And with these windows, the screen is on the inside. LANGE: I did a metal roof and stucco Vulcan vents, which are engineered to close up when they're exposed to a certain degree of heat. So they don't let the embers draw in. And I have more gravel than any normal girl would.

WEIR (voice over): Wildfire is as vital to a forest as rainfall. But human fear of it has shaped and reshaped entire ecosystems, often for the worse.

But by shifting the way they think about nature, shelter and community, Paradise is out to prove to the rest of the overheating world how to live with fire. Because there's no other choice.

Bill Weir, CNN, Paradise, California.


DEAN: And you can catch a new episode of "VIOLENT EARTH" with Liev Schreiber tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, it is only here on CNN.

Still ahead, major far-right gains in European elections. How the power shift is creating political instability and could have ripple effects here in the U.S.

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