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Senate Candidate Moreno Wins Ohio; Rep. Cory Mills is Interviewed about the Crisis in Haiti. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 06:30   ET





BERNIE MORENO (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: The reality is, we have an opportunity now. We have an opportunity now to retire the old kami and send him - and send him to a retirement home and then save this country.



Republican voters in Ohio have spoken, choosing Trump-back businessman Bernie Moreno to take on Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who occupies one of the Democrat's most vulnerable Senate seats. Marino kissing the ring in his victory speech.


MORENO: But I just got off the phone with President Trump.

I want to thank President Trump for all he did for me, for this campaign, for his unwavering support, for his love of this country.

I wear with honor my endorsement of president - from President Trump. I wear that with a badge of honor.


HUNT: All right, joining us now, CNN political director, David Chalian.


HUNT: David, good morning.

So, let's dig into these Ohio results, right? Both what this means for control of the Senate. We can talk big picture too in terms of some warning signs for Trump kind of underneath these numbers. But what do you make of Moreno winning here and how he stacks up against Sherrod Brown. CHALIAN: I mean he didn't just win, right? I mean he won with an 18

percentage point margin over Matt Dolan, the more establishment backed, DeWine, Portman backed candidate here. So, a huge, significant victory, obviously, for Moreno, for Trump, who went in last weekend. There's no doubt about that. And continuing to put the stamp on the fact that that old establishment Republican Party is no more as the dominant force inside the Republican Party. We know that it's Donald Trump's party.

But to your point, Kasie, what is consequential here is the matchup for November because this is a race that could end up determining control of the United States Senate. And Sherrod Brown has a major uphill climb in now what was formerly a battleground state, but is now very red state of Ohio. And he's running in a cycle unlike his previous three races as the state has gotten further away from Democrats.

So, I know Democrats got the candidate that they preferred, and -

HUNT: Sure.

CHALIAN: And wanted to get there, but that doesn't mean it's going to make it really any les tough of a battle for Sherrod Brown here.

HUNT: Yes. No, I mean, and Schumer kind of tried to play at the last minute as well to help Moreno.

CHALIAN: Yes, the super PAC, the Democratic super PAC aligned with Schumer went in there and - as we've seen them try to play, tried to get the more MAGA candidate elected thinking it will be the weaker general election candidate. And maybe he will prove to be a weaker general election candidate. It's still a state that favors the Republicans right now I would say.

HUNT: Yes, for sure.

So, David, you've got the exit poll data. You came in with it. You were doing -- this is always kind of what you're digging into every election night. What did you see in that - in that data that we should be paying attention to?

CHALIAN: Well, you know, we see in here how the coalitions for each of these candidates sort of sort themselves and get created. And one of the things here is that we see again, Kasie, that roughly a third of this Republican primary electorate in the Senate believes correctly that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election.

HUNT: Twenty-eight (ph) percent. Yes.

CHALIAN: But two-thirds of the electric do not. Sixty-nine percent do not believe that, wrongly. And, of course, as you might imagine, that larger group, the 67 percent who say no, that Biden didn't legitimately win, overwhelmingly whet for Moreno, the Trump-backend candidate here, whereas the smaller slice of the pie, they were going for Matt Dolan in this race.

HUNT: Right.

Can we - can we put up two - there, obviously, was a topline primary match up. It's not competitive. Donald Trump won. And, obviously, we know Nikki Haley is out of the race.

CHALIAN: She got about 14 percent of the vote.

HUNT: But she still pulled 14 percent of the vote.


HUNT: What's going on there and can Trump win a general election if that's the portion of the party that says, I mean, even when she's not actually running anymore, they're like, no, I don't want Trump?

CHALIAN: Well, if you can tell me now, today, how much of that 14 percent goes to Donald Trump in the fall, I can answer your question about whether (INAUDIBLE) a general election. But I would imagine some slice of it will. Some significant slice of it likely will sort of put on the Republican jersey and probably vote -


HUNT: Sure. Of course.

CHALIAN: If history is any guide.

That 14.3 percent, I mean, remember - right, she's out of the race for two weeks. There's no race. There's not - no advertising. There's nothing here. What that represents to me, as I look at that number and I say, there is, inside the Republican Party - remember, this is a Republican primary electorate, still a slice that is Trump resistant and they are quite committed to that Trump resistance even by supporting a candidate that has suspended her campaign in this race.

He - Donald Trump definitely needs to get some portion of these folks back in the fold. He needs a unified Republican Party heading into this general election. He doesn't have a fully unified Republican Party yet. He has a - he is no doubt the dominant force in the Republican Party and he's got the big swath of it, but he's - he and his team are definitely going to need to spend these next seven months working to get some of these folks into their fold.

HUNT: Matt Mowers, what do you see in those numbers as, you know - and, you know, you're going to have to tell me, are you - honestly, are you going to support Donald Trump in the fall as the nominee and, you know, do you think he can win considering this portion of this, you know, as David - David puts it, the Trump resistance?

MATT MOWERS, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, he certainly can win. You see them polling across all these battleground states, Ohio included, that he's going to win. It's among the reasons why I think Bernie Moreno's going to win. I mean, look, I mean, Donald Trump won Ohio by eight points. I mean, he won by half a million votes.

HUNT: Yes, yes, yes, I'm not disputing he's going to win Ohio. MOWERS: Right.

HUNT: I'm asking -


HUNT: You know, OK, this is a slice. This is - there is still a slice. I mean there's suburban Republicans outside Columbus and Cleveland and other places, right?


HUNT: That's probably some of what makes up those Nikki Haley numbers. There are voters that are not dissimilar to voters in states like Arizona and Georgia -

MOWERS: Sure. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

HUNT: And, you know, Michigan, Wisconsin.

MOWERS: You name it.

HUNT: Right.

MOWERS: You know, you go to Oakland County, Michigan, right? That seems very similar (ph).

HUNT: Those are the places I'm talking about -


HUNT: In terms of like can Trump win a general election in those states if that many people are resisting him?

MOWERS: Yes, and, look, you're going to have - ultimately this election is going to come down to, does Donald Trump or Joe Biden get a larger percentage of the votes from their own party. It's who's going to hold their coalition together more than anyone else, especially when you've got RFK Jr., potentially Jill Stein, potentially Cornell West, maybe No Labels. When you have all these other candidates on the ballot, which one is going to be able to hold most of their typical party coalition of voters together. Whichever one can, wins.

You saw on primary night just a couple weeks ago, Super Tuesday, Donald Trump was talking more about the policies. It was a lot less personality. If he can keep that up, he's going to win those 14 percent of voters or so.

HUNT: Yes, I mean, minus bloodbath.

MOWERS: Well, there was that rally, right? Right. Well, let's - there's going to be a lot of discussion about the term bloodbath and how he's talking about the auto industry and the rest of it. So, let's - let's put that in context (ph).

HUNT: All right. Well, and the solute at the top of the January 6th, you know hostages.

MOWERS: Sure. And that - and those - and those are the things that are going to scare away some of these voters potentially that they have to be cognizant of. If they keep it about immigration, they keep it about inflation, they keep it about energy, Donald Trump's going to win this election. He's holding a lead in all these states right now over Joe Biden.

HUNT: Holding - I will say, holding the Democratic coalition together is not - is no easy feat, Christy.

CHRISTY SETZER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's no easy feat, especially right now when Joe Biden is still losing, let's say, you know, ten plus percent in certain states to uncommitted. But he also has a long time between now and November in order to win back groups that are traditionally part of the Democratic constituency, right?

And I, again, certainly think that you would rather be Joe Biden right now than be Donald Trump for a lot of reasons, not including the 91 felonies. Joe Biden also has a -- something like five to one fundraising advantage right now, whereas all of Donald Trump's and the Republican Party's money is going to go towards his lawsuits. So, there's a lot of reasons why I think that, you know, you would rather still be the incumbent president than be Trump.

HUNT: So, the money point is - is a good point. And, Tara, I want to bring you on this because we were having a really interesting conversation earlier in the 5:00 a.m. our about just how important the money is.

Let's - let's show -- this was -- Alina Habba was on Fox News earlier in the week, and she was asked about, you know, does Donald Trump have enough money to pay his bond? Here's what she claimed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does Donald Trump -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have that kind of money -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sitting around -

HABBA: Yes. I mean, he does. Of course he has money. You know, he's a billionaire. We know that.

HABBA: They know by looking at his statements of financial condition that this guy is worth a lot of money, billions and billions and billions of dollars.


HUNT: So, Tara, with all due respect if that were true, I think he'd be able to pay half a billion in bond.


HUNT: But money is really driving everything, is my understanding -


HUNT: Based on you're reporting -


HUNT: What's going on with the team - the Trump team right now?

PALMERI: Well, Donald Trump is just feeling the cash crunch. He's in a very vulnerable position compared to Joe Biden, who's going to outraise him. Right now he's just - he's about $50 million behind the DNC and the Joe Biden campaign. So, he's sort of looking at everyone who comes through Mar-a-Lago kind of currying favor, trying to get an a cabinet position and an administration posting. Even the vice presidency as someone who can possibly raise him cash or bringing in a white whale donor that he needs.


And when I mean white whale donors, I mean people like Sheldon Adelson, who gave him $100 million in 2016, because he's going to need like ten of these. We know that both candidates are going to have to spend about $1 billion each in probably what will be the most expensive election in terms of advertising in our lifetime.

So, it's not just about, like, I don't think it's as - based on my reporting, what he's looking at people, he's not really thinking about like - it's not a voter play per say as much - or a - or even, you know, I guess a demographic play in a lot of ways. It's really a donor play with, yes, he looks at Tim Scott and says maybe he can bring over African American voters, maybe he can bring over some swing voting white women in the suburbs, but more than that he's thinking to himself, can you get Larry Ellison to write me $100 million check, because Larry Ellison wrote him at $30 million check back in the Senate. So -

HUNT: For Tim Scott, yes.

PALMERI: So - exactly. So, you know, he's trying to bring in big hitters like John Paulson, a hedge fund billionaire who wants a treasury secretary position. Paulson holds parties for him, fundraisers in Palm Beach, and he can bring in all his friends. So, you know, Trump is playing footsie with all these people, and what can he dangle, appointments. It typically used to be ambassadorships, which you brought up off air before, but it can be as much -- anything as like the vice presidency. I mean you have your own donor base. Can you bring them along?

And I think, personally, based on my reporting, Trump has the evangelical base. He's got his MAGA people. What he really needs is money. And - and the other issue, obviously, is abortion. That's something that's on his mind.


CHALIAN: But you folks love to point out, of course, that Hillary Clinton outraised them in 2016 -


CHALIAN: And they still went on to defeat her.

The - and the equation is entirely different. He was running as a purely insurgent candidate at the point, new to the scene. The money game, I think, matters more now probably than it did back in 2016 (INAUDIBLE).

HUNT: Yes, it certainly matters to him.


HUNT: I mean his financial security is on the line in a way that it wasn't at that point.


HUNT: David, thanks. That was great.

Coming up next, what the FBI director says he's doing to try to get justice for Laken Riley.

Plus, the uprising in Haiti spiraling out of control. Florida congressman Cory Mills has traveled there multiple times to evacuate trapped Americans. He joins me live, next.



HUNT: All right, 46 past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: And we're doing everything we can to help our partners achieve justice for Laken.


HUNT: FBI Director Christopher Wray vowing to help local law enforcement help bring the killer of 22-year-old Laken Riley to justice. A migrant from Venezuela was charged last month with the Georgia college student's murder.

Alec Baldwin was offered a plea deal by New Mexico prosecutors last October, only to have it withdrawn a week later. It reportedly called on the actor to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon with a six-month suspended sentence. Baldwin now facing trial for involuntary manslaughter coming up in July. A very busy day for two royals. Queen Camilla filling in for King Charles while he battles cancer. She will be delivering a speech in the Isle of Man to designate the Borough of Douglas as a city, while a two-day hearing begins in Prince Harry's lawsuit against the publisher of "The Sun" newspaper alleging unlawful information gathering.

Where's Kate? Isn't that all we care about?

All right, let's go now to this very important story.

This morning, the crisis in Haiti is deepening. Gangs in Port-au- Prince cutting off food, fuel, and water supplies across the city. The escalating violence threatening the safety of U.S. citizens who are trapped on the island. Nearly 1,000 Americans in Haiti have filled out a crisis intake form to try to evacuate.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Cory Mills of Florida. He has personally, with the help of a strong team, rescued 23 Americans from Haiti since the country was overtaken by gang violence.

Congressman, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it.

REP. CORY MILLS (R-FL): Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

HUNT: Take us behind these missions that you're conducting. Who have you been able to get out? I know there's been some - some high-profile names, but also just, you know, Americans who are in trouble. How do you do this?

MILLS: Well, and a lot of times the members of Congress, we all work together. Everyone likes to think of this as being such a partisan play, but all of us work together in our offices to establish kind of a crisis management plan. And our office has kind of headed this up, if you will, going back even to the Israel debacle. And so we'll gather names, we'll try and find out who's all co-located so we can try and get in and look at consolidation points, look at makeshift HLZs because, obviously, the ports and the airports and things like that -

HUNT: HLZs, can you translate for me?

MILLS: HLZ, helicopter landing zones.

HUNT: Got it.

MILLS: And so - my apologies for my acronyms.

HUNT: No, it's OK.

MILLS: Being military, you tend to throw those out a lot.

But, you know, so, you know, with the gangs, with Jimmy Cherizier, with G9 taking over Mecankhan (ph), all these gangs essentially taking the airports, the main ports of maritime, as well as for the main roads, you don't have a lot of avenues to be able to try and get these - and achieve a rescue. And so we're actually looking at not just coordination of individuals to try and consolidate, but also making sure that we can get everything from risk analysis to where they're moving, when the actual lockdowns occur, how we can move these individuals, and then also how much time we're going to spend on the ground because we are moving in a very, very small team, but our best asset is to have the concealment of darkness, but also the speediness of our extractions.

HUNT: Yes, I mean, how do you ensure that you're safe when you do this?

MILLS: Well, you can't ensure 100 percent safety. It's a risk management play.

You know, I've spent seven years of my life in Iraq, three years and Afghanistan, Kosovo, Pakistan.


I've been blown up twice by roadside bombs in '06 in Baghdad. I don't think safety and security is my number one priority sometimes. Either that or it's just my ignorance to go and do things like this.

But, you know, the bottom line is, is that this isn't a Republican/Democrat issue. Americans are at risk. American lives are at stake. And yesterday -- or Sunday, excuse me, I just pulled out 13 more, and one was a two-month-old baby and one was a three-year-old little girl.

HUNT: Those families are really lucky to have you.

MILLS: You know, these are kids that basically may not have had a future had it not been for getting them out before everything really does turn on its head, like it is right now.

HUNT: Yes.

And this, of course, Haiti, you mentioned what you did in Israel, rescuing people there, and also Afghanistan. I mean walk us through that.

MILLS: So in 2021, obviously, the fall of Kabul occurred quite rapidly and there was obviously a botched withdrawal and there was a failed military strategy. And this is my personal opinion. And that resulted in thousands being left behind. And one woman and her three children in particular, who were born and raised, Amarillo, Texas, natives, had been left behind. She had made multiple attempts to work with the State Department, multiple attempts to get to the main gate, showing her blue passport, as she was told to do, and was denied entry while the Taliban and everyone who had the outer circle of security extorted them.

And so after about 11 days, and unfortunately even my own government kind of thwarting our efforts, we ended up conducting the very first successful overland rescue that had ever been done. And then we subsequently went on to almost three dozen people.

Fast forward to October 7th, you know, the horrendous and barbaric incident cost 1,200 innocent lives there in Israel. I was on the ground by October 11th conducting our first rescue of 32 people. The following day with 45. We ended up getting 255 out in totality and then we ended up getting 96 just by ground evacuations across the Jordan River.

HUNT: Really remarkable.

You - one of the people that you rescued in -- in Haiti was Mitch Albom, who many Americans may know from the books that he's written. What was it like to talk to him? What did he have to say to you as this was unfolding?

MILLS: Well, you know, it was funny, I had never met - and this is an interesting thing. No one I've ever rescued have I ever met or did I know personally. You know, a lot of times the first time I've ever met these individually was when I actually get them out. Mitch was no different. And, in fact, even just understanding communications security and operational security, we don't even give the people that we're pulling out a lot of heads up, and he kind of alluded to that, because they have local contacts, they have friends, and they don't mean to actually do anything to nefarious, but sometimes they text there locals and say, hey, by the way, just want to let you guys know I'll be leaving today, or I'll be doing this. We'll miss you. We think about you. So, we can't even give them that opportunity.

So, I gave Mitch about 31 minutes. So, the time that we actually got into Haitian airspace, you have 31 minutes. By the way, it won't be two drops. One drop. Only documents. You can take a laptop bag, drop luggage. And in that rescue we were able to get ten out successfully.

HUNT: So basically you say to him, sorry, you've got to leave everything you've got. You've got your - you've got one bag.

MILLS: Well, we originally - we originally told them two lifts, seven and then five. And then we come back last minute and, again, looking at the scenario, looking at the prime minister, who was just getting ready to resign, looking at how that vacuum of power is going to be filled by Jimmy Cherizier and the rest of them. We realized that there may not be a second lift. And so going in, on the concealment of darkness, going in at like three - you know, 3:00 in the morning roughly, spending a minute, seven seconds on the ground, hot loading these individuals into the aircraft while it's still running, and then being able to get out, that was our best asset. And, you know, we're, at that point, landing in peoples' backyards in his HELO.

So, my hat's off to the - our great team. Like, I've got a guy who's been with me for a long time, former special operations, and our pilots, who are absolutely phenomenal and have done these types of search and rescue missions in the past.

HUNT: I've got to say, I - with - you clearly, extraordinarily high- speed, like Congress, really for you? MILLS: Well, I'm hoping that like one of the things that I've always

talked about was, you know, getting back to what it was to be a statesman, a representative. Getting back to the - trying to bring confidence to Congress and to the government that we actually do care about the American people. And, you know, that - I don't care what district you're from, I don't care what state you're from, I don't care what your political affiliation is, your gender, your race, your faith, what I care about is that you blue passport, you're an American holder, and that used to mean something. I want to bring that back to - to what the United States had, which is that to be an American was a thing of pride.

HUNT: Well, I think, you know, I - I certainly am still very proud to have a blue passport. And I hope that, you know, that is - that is something that -

MILLS: We're the - we're the freest country in the world and I think we're a shining beacon for our constitutional republic. And I think that's something that we should continue to be very proud of.

HUNT: Congressman, I'm so grateful for your time.

MILLS: Thank you.

HUNT: I want to expand this conversation out to our panel, but I - I'll start with you because there was a hearing on The Hill yesterday. We showed like a salty minute from it, but we didn't talk about the substance around Afghanistan. And you mentioned Afghanistan policy. We heard from General Mark Milley and another general who were involved, you know, overseeing the military during that pullout. I know you're on the committee that dealt with that. What did you learn yesterday, if anything, and what lessons are there in terms of making sure some of those mistakes never happen again?

MILLS: Well, look, one of the things that both General McKenzie, the former CENTCOM commander, and Chairman Milley, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had made clear is that their advisory was not what actually took place.


And, in fact, that -- President Biden had gone against their advisory. Their advisory was to leave 2,500 in place to be able to maintain Bagram Air Base, which would not have resulted in the release of the Bagram prisons, which is where the suicide bomber actually had originated from that cost the lives of 13 brave heroes.

But I think that - what we also looked at as putting political optics above military strategy is not exactly the best idea. Looking at who can actually, from a policy perspective, maintain the command and control on the ground when it comes to conducting a NEO, I think that's really something that -

HUNT: NEO? You're going to have to translate that.

MILLS: It's a noncombatants evacuation operation. HUNT: OK.

MILLS: So, this is where we would basically draw down. I mean think the, you know, fall of Saigon.

HUNT: Right.

MILLS: Think the, you know, helicopters coming on the rooftop of Afghanistan, et cetera. These are the things where there's a bit of a shift on who maintains command and control. Is it the ambassador? Is it the State Department? Is it the Department of Defense? And so really drawing a new policy thing, which is what kind of Chairman Milley had brought up, which was a great point, on who actually leads that command and control structure, I think is a real key issue because I do put a lot of fault on the State Department in this and their failures because they acted way too slowly.

And even Chairman Milley and McKenzie have said that they should have conducted this NEO weeks and weeks ago but the ambassador there had refused, even though there is 23 diplomats who had wrote a dissent cable saying, if you do what you're about to do, you're going to get people killed, you're going to leave Americans behind. So, they were well warned, both at the secretary of defense and secretary of state level.

HUNT: Christy, let me bring you into this on - this is - I often think about the pullout from Afghanistan - and we were showing some of the pictures of the chaos of that -


HUNT: As a real turning point for President Biden, right?


HUNT: He had kind of come in riding high. We were sort of fighting back, you know, trying to beat back the Covid pandemic. He had defeated Donald Trump. But ever since that - you know, public sentiment really turned against him in the wake of that. You could see it in the polling. And, honestly, the biggest sort of demon they're battling as they try to win re-election is the perception that President Biden is weak. And, you know, I'm curious how you think about how this plays into the bigger picture and what the White House is doing to try to fight back against that, especially as the president now has, you know, multiple foreign policy crises on his plate.

SETZER: Yes, it's interesting because I think that for the most part, most Americans don't think all that much about foreign policy. And this has certainly been a presidency in which there have been several different moments that have really forced Americans to think about it. First, Afghanistan. Then, obviously, for a long time, well, continuing, Ukraine. And now certainly with, you know, Israel and Gaza.

And you've also seen that sort of harden along partisan lines, for example. That's something, obviously, that's happening right now with the Gaza crisis where, you know, there had always been, I don't want to take this too far course, but, you know, daylight between support for Israel and support for Netanyahu. But now, you know, it's finally something in which Democrats are actually able to sort of say that out loud. Republicans are, you know, standing strong with Netanyahu. You're seeing this sort of partisanship develop that hadn't been there before.

HUNT: Well, so, Tara, speaking of Netanyahu, Republicans on The Hill are going to hear today from Benjamin Netanyahu in what is, you know, basically a political statement, especially considering that Chuck Schumer is out there basically saying Israel should hold new elections based on the policy.

How do you see that cutting?

PALMERI: I mean, he was actually supposed to speak with them last week before Senator Schumer made that statement at their retreat. But I do think, you know, it's starting to fall on partisan lines, support for Israel versus, you know, liberal Democratic, you know, opposition to Israel.

HUNT: Well, I mean, I think we should say, there are some people who support Israel's right to defend itself -


HUNT: While still criticizing Israeli policy.

PALMERI: Yes, no, definitely.

HUNT: But, continue.

PALMERI: I just think that this has become an issue that I'm sure Donald Trump will try to exploit. But the White House pretty much remains the same. Joe Biden has told Netanyahu that he's not going to -- he doesn't support interfering in the elections. But I - they're trying to put pressure on him. I don't know exactly how it's going to play in the election, though. They are still a number of months ahead, six months ahead.

HUNT: Yes, very challenging conversation.

Quick last word.

MOWERS: I'll just say, you know, I was at the State Department, then ran for office.

HUNT: Right.

MOWERS: You're right, voters often don't rank foreign policy as the top issue. But when you have Afghanistan, when you have what's happening in Israel, Ukraine, and now Haiti, add that to the crisis -

HUNT: Yes.

MOWERS: It gives a feeling that the world is on fire and there's uncertainty. And that plays into the election.

MILLS: That's right.

HUNT: OK, Congressman, thank you very much for your time.

MILLS: Thank you so much.

HUNT: I really appreciate you being here.

All right, I'll leave you with this. Rumors are flying about who might be the next Bond, James Bond.


SEAN CONNERY, ACTOR: Bond. James Bond.

DAVID NIVEN (ph), ACTOR: My name is Bond. James Bond.


PIERCE BROSNAN, ACTOR: The name is Bond. James Bond.

DANIEL CRAIG, ACTOR: The name is Bond. James Bond.


HUNT: Love that montage. For more than 60 years, Agent 007 has left behind a trail of villains and women, shaken and stirred.


Now the iconic role could be going to British actor Aaron Taylor- Johnson according to the U.K. tabloid "The Sun."