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CNN Tonight

Awaiting Senate Vote on Debt Ceiling Bill; Fallout Over CNN's Reporting on Trump on tape talking About Classified Document He Kept After Presidency; President Biden Survived in a Fall; CUNY Commencement Speech Condemned as Anti-Israel. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 01, 2023 - 22:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Well, you know the saying, there's a grain of truth in every joke.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biggest mistake you made at your wedding?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honey, I love you, but said I do not. Not my mistake, not mistake. I love my wife.


PHILLIP: Well, that man was just convicted this week of first-degree murder and home invasion of the shooting death of his estranged wife. The T.V. appearance from three years ago did not come up at the trial, but the marital troubles that were central to the prosecutor's theory of the motive in that case.

Thanks for joining us. CNN Tonight starts with Alisyn Camerota right now. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Okay. That was a plot twist, Abby, that I did not see coming right there. I thought that was your kicker, that was a plot twist.

PHILLIP: Lesson learned, do not kill your wife. That's not a good idea.

CAMEROTA: Good. Thank you for sending us off on that message. We will all take that to heart. Abby, thank you very much. See you tomorrow.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN tonight.

Our breaking news, we're awaiting the Senate vote tonight on the debt ceiling bill. We'll take you live to Capitol Hill to see if there are any last-minute obstacles.

And more follow up to Donald Trump caught on tape discussing a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran. Now, Team Trump is trying to defend the former president with an array of different excuses. So, we will fact-check what they're saying.

Plus, how the anti-drag law in the Sunshine State is raining on pride parades this year.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in the closet for so many years, and I still face hatred and oppression, and I can't even go to my own pride fest?


CAMEROTA: Okay. My panel has thoughts on all of this.

Also, we have new KFile investigative reporting tonight on Ron DeSantis and his flip flop on Dr. Fauci. On the campaign trail, DeSantis calls Dr. Fauci nasty names, but that's an about-face from what he said about Dr. Fauci at the height of the pandemic.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you are faced with a destructive bureaucrat in your myths, like a Fauci, you do not empower somebody like Fauci. You bring him into the office, and you tell him to pack his bags. You are fired.

From Dr. Birx to Dr. Fauci to the vice president, who's worked very hard, the surgeon general, they are really doing a good job. It's a tough situation, but they're working hard.


CAMEROTA: Okay. We will play more of those flip flops for you.

But let's begin with the debt ceiling vote tonight in the Senate. Melanie Zanona is live for us on Capitol Hill. So, Melanie, the vote looks like it's moving at lightning speed. What's happening at this very moment?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Alisyn, that is what we call Senate magic, because they can actually move very quickly when they want to, and in this case, they absolutely are pushing to get this done tonight. They are just in the process of wrapping up some votes on amendments. None of those are expected to pass. And then they're going to move immediately to final passage. So, that could happen really within the next 30 minutes. And we are expecting it to pass. Then the final step will be to go to President Biden's desk for signature.

But I want to point out that this was actually a very rocky road to get here. It took weeks of intense negotiations. There was multiple breakdowns. And even just getting a time agreement to fast track this bill in the Senate tonight took some cajoling because there were some Republican defense hawks and Republican appropriators who were really worried about this bill's impact on the spending process going forward, worried about cuts to key defense programs.

And so in order to earn their cooperation, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell put out a rare joint statement saying they are committed to passing all individual 12 appropriations bills on the Senate floor in order to avoid a 1 percent across the board spending cut that would be mandated by this bill if they don't pass all those bills.

And then Schumer also took to the floor and made a floor speech where he said, they have other means, like the supplemental appropriations bills, to try to pass emergency aid packages, including for Ukraine. But Republicans weren't the only ones with concerns. There was Democrats. They don't like the work requirements, stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients. They didn't like some of the new energy permitting reforms.

So, there was a lot of members on both sides of the aisle who were grumbling over this bill. But in the end, we are expecting members from both sides of the aisle to come together and to avoid what would be the first ever catastrophic default.

CAMEROTA: Okay, Melanie, thank you for all of that. Please keep an eye on everything that's happening there on Capitol Hill and update us as soon as you have more.

But let's turn now to the fallout over our CNN reporting about that audiotape of Donald Trump talking about a classified Pentagon document about Iran. That's a document that he held onto after leaving the White House.

Here with me tonight, we have our favorite reality checker, John Avlon, former Congressman Lee Zeldin, Inside Columnist Linette Lopez, and our legal genius Elie Honig. Great to have -- okay.


Congressman, let me start with you. You are a supporter of Donald Trump in this presidential race. Yes?

FMR. REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): I have endorsed him.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Are you comfortable with the fact that he held onto that classified document and that he was talking about it at his golf club with people who do not have security clearances?

ZELDIN: Well, clearly a change has to get made, because this isn't just an issue involving President Trump. What's come out over the course of the last year is that multiple former presidents, vice presidents, as leaving, they have taken classified documents with them.

CAMEROTA: But they weren't waving it around at a golf club. Well, we don't know if he was doing that. They weren't disclosing it and talking about it with people who don't have security clearances out in the open at a golf club. So, is that a distinction?

ZELDIN: I honestly don't know what conversations the others have had about the documents that they had or what those documents were. All we know is that they had left with classified documents.

There's an interesting dynamic when someone takes classified documents and they're trying to cause harm purposefully to the United States of America. One added dynamic when you take that away is that, in this case, it's someone who has the power to declassify documents. It's one thing if you're a specialist, you don't have the ability to do that.

CAMEROTA: But do you think that Donald Trump declassified this document?

ZELDIN: So, this is a legal question. So, his defense is going to be that he believes that he did. And what happens, the burden of proof is going to be on the prosecution to prove the elements of this case beyond a reasonable doubt.

CAMEROTA: The thing about this audio, to just correct this, is that it shows that he didn't think that he had the power to the point was, he said, I wish I could show this to you, but it's classified, and so I'm not able to declassify it because of these rules.

ZELDIN: All a back and forth that would, if it got to it, be settled in a court of law.

What's interesting dynamic when you make that argument, your self- defense, you claim that you declassified a particular document, then that is considered, and you testified to that under oath, that is evidence as well. So, the burden becomes even more difficult.

Do you have other witnesses that you with those individual documents to contradict what the defendant in a particular case related to classified documents is claiming? So, what we're talking about is the back and forth of how this plays out in the court of law. There're different interpretations of federal law, and there's a lot of confidence on both sides of this argument in their argument.

If it gets to that point, this is going to be a unique case, because we're not talking about a case where someone is taking the document to try to cause harm.

CAMEROTA: Well, we don't know why President Trump--

ZELDIN: Well, this (INAUDIBLE) compare to like someone who is --

CAMEROTA: Yes, we don't know what his motivation is, is what I'm saying.

ZELDIN: I mean, the high-profile case from a few months ago where the person was on the gaming platform.

CAMEROTA: Fair, but we just don't know what his motivation is. And, luckily, we do have a lawyer here. Elie?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, it is, of course, true that Joe Biden, Mike Pence and Donald Trump all had classified documents in their possession. But that is just the beginning of the inquiry as to what's criminal and what's not and, really, you have to look at two main things, knowledge and intent. We don't know whether Joe Biden or Mike Pence knew they had classified documents. They've denied it. Donald Trump has many times over acknowledged that he knew. And in this new recording that we have reporting on, he again acknowledges that he knows he has classified documents. Then you get into the question of intent. What was he going to do with these?

Now, he's not posting them online on a gaming platform, but one of the really important things about this reporting is it gives us the first indication of what on earth was he doing with these documents and what is he doing in this scenario? He's trying to persuade some journalists to spin things his way for political advantage by sort of flaunting, I have this classified information. Now, that's not as bad as selling information to a foreign adversary or posting it online but that's still a bad intent, and that's a big difference.

CAMEROTA: And is it against law?

HONIG: Yes. I mean, the argument prosecutors will make, well, look, there's going to be an argument here, but the prosecutors are going to argue he had knowledge and he had intent. And the classification issue also goes to intent because, look, there's just no squaring his statements with this, what's on that tape, he has said many times over, including on our air here at CNN, I declassified, I declassified. In this recording, he's saying this is classified after he's left office. So, that you just can't square those.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, that's the fundamental difference here, Lee. I mean, Ali asked you a pretty direct question. Is it wrong for a former president to take classified documents, and in this case, on tape acknowledged they're classified, which is why he couldn't show them to other people but was branding them around? That's a pretty easy yes or no question, I think.

ZELDIN: Well, I mean --

AVLON: Yes or no?

ZELDIN: -- the easy answer is that a classified document, no matter who you are, whether you're president of the United of States you're a private in the military, should be handled to a highest level of standard to be able to protect the document.

AVLON: So, it was wrong for Donald Trump to have classified documents be brandishing them in a meeting? Is it a yes or no?

ZELDIN: If he is in fact taking classified documents out of the White House, which is an issue, that is a question that pertains to President Biden when he left with Vice President Pence --

AVLON: Just focus on this case.

ZELDIN: But this is one of the challenges for the Department of justice. Because if you want to go after President Trump on this, you're saying that you should not be leaving the White House with classified documents. The question that's posed this is an issue that needs to be addressed across the board.

AVLON: I get the systemic issue, but it seems like you're tiptoeing up to saying it's wrong, which is pretty obviously -- no, no, no--

ZELDIN: True, yes --

AVLON: But you're unreluctant to say it.

ZELDIN: No, not true, because you said yes or no. I said it doesn't matter who you are, whether you're president of United States, you're private in the military. It's wrong to have --

AVLON: So, it's wrong for Donald Trump?

ZELDIN: There is an issue here with regards to what happens with records at the end of a presidency, a vice presidency, because, clearly, there are multiple people. Now, whether you're talking about President Trump, Vice President Pence, Vice President Biden, and who knows who else --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I take your point. There's a systemic problem. Yes, there's a broader point that they need to do better record-keeping. But the distinction seems to be that the other two gentlemen that we're talking about say that they didn't know they had it, and Donald Trump says that he did know that.

LINETTE LOPEZ, COLUMNIST, INSIDER: And can we just note that Mar-a- Lago is a security eyesore? We have seen more than one or two or three times individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party and to the Kremlin --

CAMEROTA: This was at Bedminster, by the way, his other --

LOPEZ: I mean, all of his clubs are a security disaster, and they have been the entire through his presidency. So, the knowledge that he was talking about this in what I can only imagine is a Donald Trump tone of voice, which is not a whisper in his club, which is a public place, where we know that there have been very shady characters about, it's very disconcerting. Pence does not have a golf club, where the CCP hangs out, and neither does Joe Biden.

CAMEROTA: Here's something interesting, Elie, that I want to get your take on. This is what Tim Parlatore was saying. This is a former Donald Trump attorney. I want to play the one where he's saying that this is actually a failure of the National Archives and get you to respond to this. So, listen to this.


TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Whether it was classified or declassified classified is not really something that's relevant to the statute that we're talking about here. Because, really, what DOJ is investigating is willful retention of national defense information. Whether it's classified or declassified is not an element of that offense.


CAMEROTA: Okay. So, the one that I was hoping that we were talking about is where he says, I don't think this warrants an indictment. This is a situation where failure of process is what led to documents leaving the White House, going to Mar-a-Lago, failure of the National Archives to get a facility in Palm Beach, as they have for every other president since Reagan, a facility within the hometown of the president where they move the documents to. So, why did the National Archives have to set up a facility?

HONIG: I'm going to respond to both of it, both what they showed us and what you said. Let's assume that's correct. Let's assume that Archives, unlike the way they've treated other presidents, didn't get Donald Trump a security facility. Not to be over legalistic about it, but so what? That is an interesting point, maybe to note as to how this happened.

But if he still has these documents and knows he has them, he's misusing them, and he's sort of flouting them about, then that's a crime. This is not a defense. It's an interesting point, I guess, and it might score a half a point with a jury, but it is not a defense.

The other point he's making as to classification is actually interesting. I actually subscribe to the legal view that the president does have unilateral declassification power and does not have to go through any checklist that any bureaucrat made up. However, the question is, did he actually use that declassification power on those documents?

CAMEROTA: But if he has unilateral power, does he have to tell someone when he decides something is declassified?

HONIG: So, the reason we have these checklists and these bureaucratic framework is so it's done in an orderly fashion that people know about. But, yes, there needs to be some evidence that he actually did it while he was president. To this point, we've seen no such evidence, and this new recording flatly contradicts that he ever did declassify.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Okay. Thank you all very much for all the thoughts on this.

Next, we have new KFile reporting on what Ron DeSantis says now and what he said in the past about Dr. Fauci. Hint, they're very different. Stick around for that.



CAMEROTA: Ron DeSantis is starting to attack former President Trump pretty regularly on the campaign trail. And one line of attack is about trusting Dr. Fauci.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think he did great for three years, but when he turned the country over to Fauci in March of 2020, that destroyed millions of people's lives.


CAMEROTA: Well, tonight we have new reporting from CNN's KFile on how DeSantis has definitely changed his tune on Dr. Fauci.

My panel is back. We're also joined by Andrew Kaczynski from the KFile. Okay. So, tell us what you've found about what DeSantis used to say versus what he is saying today about Dr. Fauci.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, that's right. There is some pandemic revisionism going on with these DeSantis attacks on Donald Trump. Now, he is attacking Trump for praising Fauci. We've seen his campaign do that. We've seen that he said that he turned the country over to Fauci.

Now, DeSantis was praising Dr. Fauci at March and April of 2020, at the exact same time that Donald Trump was. DeSantis in Florida was citing Dr. Fauci's guidance. I think he said he deferred to his judgment to put in place these policies that he's now referring to as lockdowns.

Now, take a listen to this clip here of DeSantis talking about Fauci in March 2020.


DESANTIS: We chose freedom over Fauci-ism, and the state of Florida is better off as a result of doing that.

From Dr. Birx to Dr. Fauci, to the vice president, who's worked very hard, the surgeon general, they are really doing a good job. It's a tough, tough situation, but they're working hard.


CAMEROTA: Yes. So, I mean, basically nowadays on the campaign trail, he's acting as though that Dr. Fauci was some sort of totalitarian who was forcing everybody into lockdown. But back then, I mean, you even found from that same speech, I believe, where he said that Dr. Fauci was really, really good and really, really helpful.


So, what changed?

KACZYNSKI: And what's interesting about this is it's almost ironic in that Trump and DeSantis pretty much have the same position on the pandemic. This is not some investigative hit where we're going back 30 years. This was three years ago. We all remember this. Trump was calling in April and May to open up the country. Trump was attacking Dr. Fauci on Twitter. He was making statements in April, of May of 2020. And who was one of the first governors to open up, Ron DeSantis, and then Donald Trump ended up praising him for it.

CAMEROTA: So then, Andrew, to that point, isn't it possible that Governor DeSantis has just evolved or changed his position in terms of whether or not businesses should have been closed?

KACZYNSKI: No, he absolutely has changed his position.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, maybe not in a hypocritical way. It just feels different.

KACZYNSKI: What we're seeing here from him is they're attacking the Trump campaign. They're taking quotes from Donald Trump where Donald Trump is saying, oh, we needed to shut down the country. He's talking about March. He's talking about April of 2020. These were the shutdowns. These are the same shutdowns that Ron DeSantis advocated in Florida. So, what the DeSantis campaign is doing is they're maybe possibly cherry-picking a quote from Trump here or there, to say that Trump supports shutdowns. But as we all remember, Trump was right out there, and he took a lot of heat for that when he was calling for these reopenings so early in the spring.

CAMEROTA: Can you imagine a politician cherry-picking a quote out of context and changing their tune?

LOPEZ: Ron DeSantis is going to twist himself into a pretzel you'd buy at the mall. And that's running after Trump, untrumping trump, overtrumping, Trump undertrumping -- it's hard to find the line where the Trump people still like you and the independents like you, too. And I don't know if Ron can do that being more Trump but also less Trump than Trump. Honestly, I'm confused.

CAMEROTA: So will this about-face, will people hold it against Ron DeSantis?

AVLON: The Trump people will. And I think Andrews, as usual, KFile strikes again to point out the hypocrisy. I think the question is whether hypocrisy still sticks in a Trump Republican Party. It doesn't matter. It used to be the unforgivable sin in politics. That was before Donald Trump.

KACZYNSKI: It doesn't stick on Trump.

AVLON: Yes. But I think the larger point is, look, in the beginning of March, everyone's galvanizing, and then all of a sudden, not only the pandemic kicks in, but that particular form of cynicism that says, what unites us in the Republican -- with the Republican base is to own the libs, and then all of a sudden to define, demonize Dr. Fauci and fundraise off of demonizing Dr. Fauci.

CAMEROTA: What do you think, Congressman?

ZELDIN: Well, while it was the worst of times, when COVID first hit, my best memory of it was how well everyone was working together, whether you're a Republican or Democrat, whether you're the president, Congress, mayors, governors. I was here in New York with a President Trump, a Governor Cuomo, and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, everyone just wanted to work together to get stuff done.

For the first few weeks, quite frankly, no one really knew exactly what was happening. But what we did know is that we needed to be as best prepared as we can for what could end up being the worst case scenario. And, really, it's hard to find contrast and division in those initial few weeks. And it doesn't matter whether you are the furthest left or furthest right, what party you are, or what level of government you are, everybody was working together.

CAMEROTA: And what do you think about Governor DeSantis now changing his tune?

ZELDIN: So, I think, well, after you get through those first few weeks and as more information starts coming out, now you have governors taking two very different paths across the country. There were different schedules for reopening, there's different policies on masks and then different policies on vaccine mandates.

Governor DeSantis was somebody who was one of the first governors who was seeking to reopen his state. I remember Governor Kemp doing that in Georgia. I know it was a big contrast and controversy with these other states where they're saying, hey, you can't reopen this quickly. And there are other states at the other extreme that were volunteering themselves to be the last to reopen.

CAMEROTA: Sure. But does that make Dr. Fauci's advice in March of 2020 now wrong?

ZELDIN: My biggest concern back in March, April was, you know, that that Dr. Fauci was looking at this from a health standpoint. And there were so many other dynamics of it. There were impacts on kids, on their getting them back into school, the remote learning, not having access to broadband. And that's just one specific example, the impact on the economy. Dr. Fauci, he was not there to be an economic expert.

So, what I think would have been much better if you were to overanalyze that moment is if you had -- if somebody is there as a health expert or health experts and you also have people who are economic experts and folks who are out there sticking up for the kids and you're coming up with decisions that are more of a balance, then I think that there would have been a better solution struck.


But it is true for Governor DeSantis to talk about how he was one of the first states, one of the first governors to be reopening. But go back to March, everybody was getting along at every level of government.

CAMEROTA: What's getting in your craw, John?

AVLON: I think it's that the politicization of the pandemic ended up contributing to the deaths of over a million Americans. And I think what Lee is saying is those initial days when we were united, in some ways, that showed the best of the country in rallying to a crisis. And then the politicization of the pandemic occurred and different states had different solutions, which is difficult to do during a pandemic, the laboratories of democracy, as we all know they are. But that politicization ended up spreading disinformation, and that contributed to the deaths of people who didn't need to die. LOPEZ: And I don't remember Dr. Fauci stopping Ron DeSantis from doing anything that he did as Florida governor. So, I don't know.

KACZYNSKI: He was critical of him in July.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Fauci was critical of him in July because he was taking it from a medical point of view, and Ron DeSantis was taking it from a business and economic point of view.

KACZYNSKI: But also then the kids needed to be in school.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But when he now calls Dr. Fauci a destructive bureaucrat, that is different than how he felt about then about taking his guidance.

KACZYNSKI: A big part of this, too, is that the attacks on Trump are hypocritical, because the quotes that he's using to attack Trump are from that same time period that, like Congressman Zeldin said, where everybody was along the same page.

CAMEROTA: Got it. Okay. Thank you very much for unearthing this and sharing it with us. Andrew, great to see you.

Okay. President Biden is fine tonight, according to the White House, after he tripped on a sandbag and fell at the Air Force Academy today. Dr. Reiner is going to be with us after this to tell us what he sees and if this is happening too often.



CAMEROTA: The White House says President Biden is fine tonight, hours after he tripped and fell during a graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy. The president landed, as you'll see, on his right side there before being helped up pretty quickly. The White House says President Biden tripped on a sandbag as he was making his way back to his seat. The president then poked fun at himself as he returned to the White House.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I got Sandbagged!


CAMEROTA: All right, let's bring in CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He also advised the White House medical team under George W. Bush. Dr. Reiner, great to see you. Was that fall that you just saw cause for concern to you?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it was bad optics, certainly, for the president, but he tripped on the sandbag.

We learned a little bit about the president's gait from his doctor, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, after the president had his physical this February. And what -- Dr. O'Connor said is that the president does have a fairly sort of stiff gait. It's pretty noticeable that he takes relatively short steps. He almost shuffles his feet.

And Dr. O'Connor had some of his neurology advisors assess the president to look for any neurologic cause. And it appears that the conclusion was that he's very arthritic and he's very stiff and he walks with a stiff gait. And when you do that, you don't have a lot of sort of agility. So when your foot catches a sandbag, you go down.

We've seen the president fall a couple of other times going up the stairs of Air Force One. And if you don't get your leg up high enough, if you're a little bit stiff and you catch the step and you're trying to jog up the steps pretty quickly, because otherwise you're in pretty good shape, you know, you go down. So I think the optics were bad. I don't think it means anything in terms of the president's physical capacity or his overall condition right now.

CAMEROTA: I mean, obviously, when an 80-year-old falls, it's always cause for concern because the fall can create, you know, cascading problems. But there's also concern if there's something going on, as you say, neurological, that's causing the fall. But you're saying that that has been ruled out because of his recent checkup and it is more physical?

REINER: Yeah, Dr. O'Connor actually, I think, in his basically four- page note addressed that. And I think they look for things like Parkinson's. Sometimes, you know, Parkinson's, which is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the cells that secrete dopamine, that can cause, you know, similar kinds of appearances of gait.

You see people taking short, short steps. But the president apparently doesn't have any of the other stigmata of that, and they didn't think he had Parkinson's. And it appears that the president is just 80 years old, and we know that 80-year-olds fall. It's thought that about one out of every four people over the age of 65 will fall in any given year.

There are millions of, there are about three million E.R. visits a year for mechanical faults. One of the most common reasons people come to the E.R. But older people fall more commonly. And once someone falls, they're more likely to fall again.

Now, the sequelae of falling can be severe for an 80 year old. You can break a hip and that can be absolutely life changing or life ending if you break a hip. And the president takes a blood thinner for atrial fibrillation. And if you're on a blood thinner, you're more likely to bleed as a consequence of a fall.

So these are not, you know, so benign. And while the -- I think the worst part of today for the president was the political optics, I don't think there is really any this is not some sort of ominous talisman about his medical condition.

CAMEROTA: I fell in the hallway because I was wearing high heels and walking too fast recently. Well, it was actually about three years ago now, come to think of it. And it's so startling as an adult when you fall. It just like it knocks the wind out of you. And it's so you can't believe that you just fell. And he got up a lot faster than I did. Are you encouraged that you saw him back at the White House looking pretty spry?


REINER: Yeah, yeah. Look, otherwise the president, you know, appears to be in pretty good physical condition. I'll note that even more startling this week, Bruce Springsteen took a fall on stage and he was on his back for quite a bit longer than the president today.

CAMEROTA: That is excellent context. Thank you very much, Dr. Reiner. Really appreciate talking to you.

REINER: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: Okay, a graduation speech by a student is drawing criticism, including from our congressman, Lee Zeldin, here. What did she say? And why are so many people taking offense? We'll see about our rest of the panel thinks. Is this freedom of speech or something else? That's next.



CAMEROTA: The commencement address given by a student at the City University of New York School of Law's graduation ceremony is drawing sharp criticism.

The student's remarks are condemned as anti-Israel. She also had harsh words for the New York Police Department, the U.S. military, and the school itself. Here it is.


FATIMA MOHAMMED, CLASS OF 2023 CUNY SCHOOL OF LAW GRADUATE: This school's mission statement is void of value, that as Israel continues to indiscriminately reign bullets and bombs on worshippers, murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyards as it encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinian homes and businesses as it imprisons its children, as it continues its project of settler colonialism, expelling Palestinians from their homes in spite of the racism, in spite of the selective activism, the self-serving interests of CUNY Central, an institution that continues to fail us, that continues to train and cooperate with the fascist NYPD, the military, that continues to train IDF soldiers to carry out that same violence globally. A larger institution committed to its donors, not to its students.


CAMEROTA: All right, we're back with our panel. Congressman, is that freedom of speech? FORMER REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): It's hate speech. And by the way,

you're just playing a clip. She was talking about this. Now she's getting her law degree in this system that she is getting involved in the the rule of law shoes talking about how it was white supremacist and and how these get torn down.

She was using other rhetoric where if you're with the administration and you have the opposing view to what she's saying it's because you're getting bought off by investors which is you know a long time anti-Semitic joke, so that there's a lot of other stuff as well on top of the clipped you just played, you graduate your commencement ceremony you know family friends.

This is your dream, you worked hard for it, you should be able to enjoy that moment without having to experience that. What makes this worse is that the City University of New York has had an issue for the last few years and it's been growing.

The city council scheduled a hearing a few months ago around the schedule of the CUNY chancellor, he ends up no showing. Last year at the CUNY law commencement address, there was another speaker who ends up being criticized for similar reasons. There was a professor who was giving a sermon on a Sunday in New Jersey a couple years ago talking about death to Israel.

You have Jewish faculty resigning from jobs that they loved because the faculty student administration was passing resolutions that made them feel unwelcome. I believe that there needs to be a change of the administration at CUNY. I believe that all Jewish students and Jewish faculty should feel welcome at CUNY of all faiths, of all backgrounds.

And you can't go for a third time not being a charm next year. You have to stand up and do something now. And this isn't about just Jews being offended. There are other people being offended. CUNY has an issue that needs to get addressed. And just saying that what we experienced, what we heard, what we listened to is bad, and then we don't do anything about it, it's going to continue to get worse and metastasize in a worse way at the university.

CAMEROTA: I have the CUNY statement, John. I'll read it for everybody. They said in response to this, this is from the board of trustees and the chancellor of CUNY, free speech is precious, but often messy. and it is vital to the foundation of higher education.

Hate speech, however, should not be confused with free speech and has no place on our campuses, in our city or our state or our nation. The remarks by a student selected speaker at the CUNY Law School graduation, unfortunately fell into the category of hate speech. As they were a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation, the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York condemns such hate speech.

Here's what's interesting, John. We asked them if they were aware. that she was going to give this commencement speech. And it's very unsatisfying, quite frankly, what they said. They said that the CUNY Law School Dean, Sudha Sethi, I hope I'm pronouncing that right, saw a first draft of this commencement speech delivered by Fatima Mohammed, who is that student. There is no approval process for the speech.

However, the spokesperson said, we strongly encourage speakers to work with us on tone and time limits. So we have no idea if they saw those comments or if the student inserted them, after this dean maybe signed off on the first draft.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And we should get to the bottom of that. What you just saw was a very clear condemnation by CUNY. And look, it was, to my judgment, a loathsome speech. It was anti-Semitic. It was anti-Israel. Calling the NYPD fascist is absurd and insulting and ridiculous.

And also, I mean, CUNY University is the City University of New York. It's a great institution. It's also taxpayer-supported. So the conspiracies about listening to the donors is off base among many, many other problems. It's also a fact that while Cuny's called this hate speech, she's a student exercising First Amendment rights.

And you can condemn it, clearly, and I see no reason why most folks wouldn't, while also saying, as a student, she may have had a right to give the speech, but that shouldn't be licensed, and she should be roundly condemned for it. It's a totally offensive speech, particularly to public taxpayer-funded universities.


CAMEROTA: Linette, we should tell everybody that CNN has made multiple attempts to contact Fatima Mohammed, the student there, to get her response to all this, but we have to no avail been able to make contact. What are your thoughts?

LINETTE LOPEZ, COLUMNIST, INSIDER: It's really hard to have real conversations about what the political situation is in Israel when there is hate speech surrounding its very existence to survive. Like it just blows those conversations out of the water. This is a very complicated situation and we do not start from a place from Israel should not exist.

Israel has every right to exist, period. And so that's that, I don't agree with all that's going on with the settlements, but that's like a whole different conversation from just saying. We don't have Israel. Israel should not exist. And that's where this is very upsetting, because now we have a hate-filled conversation. We have a conversation that doesn't actually get to any solution-making or the heart of the matter.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: It's a disgraceful speech in every respect. And I think the solution for bad speech is more speech. Right? And good on CUNY for coming out with a solid condemnation of this. And we're talking about it and condemning it too. And I think people can disagree, but this is an utterly disgraceful display by this student.

CAMEROTA: Thank you all for that.

We do want to go to Melanie Zinona now. She's live for us on Capitol Hill as promised because the senators, we understand, are voting right now. Tell us all the color that's happening there.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's exactly right, Alisyn. As we speak, the Senate is voting on final passage. of a bill that would raise the debt ceiling until 2025 and also limit future spending. They're working quickly. I'm watching the floor as we speak. They need 60 votes for this to pass in the Senate.

So it is gonna take some cooperation from both sides of the aisle. But, Alisyn, we are expecting them to be able to pass this any moment. They've actually been working through amendment votes tonight through lightning speed, trying to get out of here as quickly as possible.

None of those amendments did pass, but that was part of their agreement to try to move things along and speed things along because the default deadline is just days away. So it looks like Congress is going to be able to avoid economic catastrophe with just days to go until the deadline, but it was no easy feat to get here, Alisyn.

Half of the battle was just hammering out this agreement between President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. They were trying to hammer out a fiscal complicated agreement. Usually these things take months to negotiate and they did it in a matter of weeks. There's blowups along the way at times that looked like things were going off the rail. But then they got there.

And then the second half of the battle was selling it to members. There was a lot of concern on both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans alike had concerns over this bill. Democrats in particular worried about the stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients. They also did not like some of the permitting reforms for energy projects.

And then you had Republicans, particularly conservatives over on the House side who do not like that this bill is going to extend the debt sling for as long as it is. They don't think spending cuts go far enough. In the Senate you had Republican defense hawks who were worried about the impacts on future defense spending. But in the end, we are expecting a bipartisan coalition to come together, deliver a win for President Biden and their party leadership, and avoid what would have been the first ever default. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Okay, Melanie, we will check back with you throughout the next hour also so that you can monitor what's happening there. I mean, there could be some sort of succession, surprise ending, you know? We'll see.

All right, meanwhile, is Taylor Swift getting her fans too excited? We'll tell you about the brain dysfunction that fans are reporting after seeing her concerts. That's next.






CAMEROTA: All right, Taylor Swift fans are experiencing something crazy. It's called post-concert amnesia. Several Swifties say they cannot remember the concert because well the excitement was overwhelming. So one user on Reddit says, does anyone else feel like they kind of disassociated during the concert?

Another asks, anyone else experiencing this? I'd waited half a year for this moment and now that it's over my brain seems to be trying to convince me that I wasn't there. Another fan tells "TIME" magazine quote, "it feels like an out of body experience as though it didn't really happen to me, yet I know it did because my bank account took a $950 hit to cover the ticket."

I'm back with Lee Zeldin and Ellie Honig, obvious Swifties themselves. Ellie, you've seen this up close and personal.

HONIG: I had a remarkable experience this weekend. I stayed at my cousin's house and her daughter, who's 17, went to the Taylor Swift concert in North Jersey with three other teenage girls. And I saw the next day. Let me tell you. It was as if they had seen the face of God herself. They were giddy, they were elated, they were ecstatic.

And I asked her, the 17-year-old today, in preparation for this, I said, do you remember everything? And she said, you know, there's a part at the end that I have no memory of. She brought Taylor Swift, brought some guest singer on the stage and my friends said that happened and she said, I have no memory. So I guess she blanked out or something out of pure ecstasy.


CAMEROTA: Wow, is Taylor Swift hypnotizing people? What's happening, Congressman?

ZELDIN: My daughters are 16 years old. They love Taylor Swift. We have not yet been in a Taylor Swift concert. Aside from the fact that the ticket prices are as high as they are, this story is now actually making me want to go to the concert with them --

CAMEROTA: Yes, and monitor.

ZELDIN: -- to see exactly what we're talking about here, because this sounds like quite an experience, and my daughters, I'm sure, would love it. So I don't know, it causes something bad to the brain or something good. A lot to see for yourself.

CAMEROTA: It's just -- like it's so euphoric and so exciting that somehow a part of your brain turns off. I've never heard of this before. Usually those things are in technicolor. Like an intense experience is more memorable, but somehow this is not.

HONIG: You have an illustrious history of concert-gowing yourself. I mean, have you ever, I've been to Springsteen concerts. For a guy from Jersey, that's like -- CAMEROTA: Yeah.

HONIG: -- that's like seeing what's going on.

CAMEROTA: I have broken down crying at concerts. Like it was the biggest.

HONIG: Oh, they cried too. I asked them, I said, did you cry? And they were like, constantly.

CAMEROTA: That's awesome. All right. Please go and report back to us immediately after you go. Okay, gentlemen. Thank you very much.

All right, coming up, some of our favorite reporters are going to be here.

And we have breaking news, the Senate just passed the debt ceiling bill.

We have much more to come. We'll take you to Capitol Hill for the exact numbers and how it all came to pass and our reporters will weigh into it.