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CNN Tonight

A Breakdown, Key Takeaways From The Trump Tape; Trump Floats New Defense, Documents Talk Was Bravado; 4 Dead, 40-Plus Hurt By Russian Strikes Days After Rebellion; Minister Kuleba Believes Putin Remains Center Of Power In Moscow; Abby Phillip Interview Presidential Candidate Asa Hutchinson. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 27, 2023 - 22:00   ET




MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-MIAMI, FL): I will search Uyghurs. I'm a good learner. I'm a fast learner.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The Uyghurs, obviously, are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in China. The U.S. has recognized them as a target of genocide. Their treatment comes up in many conversations in foreign policy circles in Washington. It certainly will on the debate stage.

Suarez, who is the mayor of Miami, I noted, later said, quote, of course, I am well aware of the suffering of the Uyghurs in China. I didn't recognize the pronunciation my friend, Hugh Hewitt, used. That's on me.

That's all for us tonight. Thanks for joining us for all of our breaking news. CNN Tonight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. Tonight, we begin with a dissection of the tape that may be central to the federal case against former President Donald Trump. The tape that he responded to today, and we will get to that in just moment. But, first, let's start here.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, it started right at the --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like when Milley is talking about, oh, you were going to try to do a coup. No, they were trying to do that before you even were sworn in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to overthrow your election.

TRUMP: Well, with Milley, let me see that. I'll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn't it amazing? I have a big pile of paper, this thing just came up. Look.


PHILLIP: From the start, this explains why Trump allegedly slashed a classified document to people who didn't have a clearance to counter General Mark Milley's claim that Trump was itching to attack Iran. And speaking of clearance, in that clip, he asked his aide to hand him papers. Now, it's unclear who exactly did and whether that person had a security clearance either.


TRUMP: They presented me this. This is off the record, but they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him.


PHILLIP: It is yet another instance in the tape where Trump references a document and the first time that he hints at its sensitivity.


TRUMP: We looked at some. This was him. This wasn't done by me. This was him. All sorts of stuff, pages long. Let's see here.



TRUMP: Isn't that amazing. This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is very highly confidential, secret --


TRUMP: This is secret information. Look at this.


PHILLIP: And there it is again, another apparent acknowledgment that whatever he is holding is, quote, highly confidential and secret. So, in other words, not declassified.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary would print that out all the time.

TRUMP: She'd send it --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her private emails.

TRUMP: No, she'd send it to Anthony Weiner.


TRUMP: The pervert. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please print.


PHILLIP: Look, the irony of Trump and his allies joking about Hillary Clinton's server is rich considering --


TRUMP: For what she's done, they should lock her up.

She wants to stay out of jail.

She doesn't want to go to jail.

She should be in jail.

She should be in prison.

She has to go to jail.

We need a special prosecutor to look into Hillary Clinton.

Special prosecutor to figure this deal out.

Special prosecutor, here we come, right?


PHILLIP: I don't think anyone could forget that but that was then and this is now.


TRUMP: I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And, you know, he said, he wanted to attack Iran, and what --


TRUMP: These are the papers.


PHILLIP: So, again, there, are appearing to acknowledge the presence of the documents and a reference to a plan to attack Iran.


TRUMP: I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And, you know, he said, he wanted to attack Iran, and what --


TRUMP: These are the papers. This was done by the military and given to me. I think we can probably, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. We'll have to see. Yes, we'll have to try to figure out a --

TRUMP: Declassify it.


TRUMP: See as president, I could have declassified it. Now, I can't. But this is still a secret.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn't that interesting?


TRUMP: This is so cool.


COLLINS: Now, this is key. What you just heard there is an acknowledgment by Trump that he understands the declassification process, that he did not declassify the documents, and, once again, acknowledging the sensitivity of these documents. It is also worth noting that those around him acknowledging, too, that they probably shouldn't be seeing the documents either.


TRUMP: Hey, bring some Cokes in please.


PHILLIP: The Cokes, of course, are not part of the legal case against Trump, but it's perhaps worth noting that this audiotape was recorded not long after Trump called for a boycott of Coke, hoping to punish the company for speaking out against Georgia's restrictive voting laws. But that's neither here nor there. Today, Trump did respond twice to this tape. He said that the talk on the tape was all bravado but he also said this.


TRUMP: I had a whole desk of papers, and mostly newspaper articles, copies of magazines, copies of different plans, copies of stories, having to do with many, many subjects. And what we said was absolutely fine and very perfectly. We did nothing wrong.

REPORTER: You are not concerned what was your own voice on those recordings?

TRUMP: My voice was fine. What did I say wrong and those recordings? I didn't see the recording. All I know is I did nothing wrong. We had a lot of papers, a lot of papers stacked up. In fact, you could hear the rustle of the paper.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: I want to bring in John Bolton, former Trump National Security Adviser and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Bolton, thank you for being with us here tonight.

What was your reaction about hearing this tape?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, it sounded exactly like I have heard Donald Trump talk in similar settings. And the fact that he really, out of his own mouth, admitted both to having a classified document to saying he could have declassified it but did not before he left the White House, and that he still had it, my first thought was imagine a jury hearing that at trial. And if there are more pieces of evidence like that, the sooner this case goes to the jury, the better. I think that is going to be the dispositive factor here, really, whether we see this case tried before the November '24 election or after.

PHILLIP: You said before, including on this program, that Trump is possible prone to bluster and embellishment. But as you heard that audiotape, did it ring alarm bells to you about how serious this is? And do you now believe that he actually did have it in his position, that document he claimed to have?

BOLTON: You never can tell with Trump. But, presumably, the witnesses saw the document. They didn't just hear the papers rustle. Perhaps they had a look at it. Perhaps afterwards, the Trump staffers saw it. I'm very interested in the list of 84 potential witnesses that the special counsel has filed. I think that is going to be enormously interesting if any or all of that is made public.

And I think each of these things that are revealed, I hope that is not a leak from the special counsel's office, I don't know where it came from, but I hope it didn't come from there, but as this unfolds, I think the public will get a more profound sense of the danger potentially caused American national security by Trump's obsession with having these things, because, as he says in that excerpt, it is just cool to have it.

PHILLIP: And you hear him on the tape as well joking about Hillary Clinton's emails, a scandal that he is bragging, that he has his own set of documents that he never declassified. What are your thoughts on, I mean, frankly, the hypocrisy of that?

BOLTON: Well, that's par for the course with Trump. He just doesn't think rules apply to him. I think a lot of people have said that. It is true. And in the past, let's face it, he has gotten away with a lot of things. He has been able to fight it in litigation to delay the outcome, to just wear people down, to impose costs on people. The question here is whether the special counsel can outlast him. He has tried to take some measure of control of the schedule proposing the December trial date. And, as I've said, I think that is the dispositive question now potentially for the entire 2024 election. Will Trump's case go to a jury before the election?

PHILLIP: And given the seriousness of his allegations, if he is convicted by a jury, do you think that the penalty for that should be actual jail time?

BOLTON: Well, obviously, he'll appeal and that will take some time here. I mean, I think it is unlikely that a former president would actually be put in jail. I can't imagine what the Secret Service would think of that and what it would do their job. There comes a point where the penalty just makes him into a martyr.

I do not think we should be, at this point, considering whether or not to pardon Trump and I'd rather see what the convictions are for, which counts of the indictment even before getting to the question of incarceration.

I think the analogy to the Nixon pardon is misplaced, since Nixon resigned the presidency before he got a pardon, which Trump has done nothing comparable to.


So, I'd rather let the trial play out and see what the jury comes back with.

PHILLIP: So, Ambassador, Trump and his allies are now today arguing that this tape is actually proof of his innocence. Is there any version of this where even joking about using state secrets to win, let's say that this was all a joke, is an exoneration?

BOLTON: No, absolutely not. I mean, this is another example of Trump's success with flat out lying. And that's what this is and they know it. And their hope is that enough people won't pay attention, that they'll buy that he's being persecuted yet again. Polls show that most Republicans think this prosecution is politically motivated and they'll take Trump's word for it.

That's why I stress the importance of actually getting the case to trial. I think it's very hard to say, if Trump is convicted, that the 12 jurors, whoever they might be, are agents of the deep state, and that somehow the deep state in front of a Trump-friendly judge, so far, they managed to find 12 people that were instructed by the deep state to convict him. I think being convicted by a jury of his peers would be a devastating blow. But if it doesn't happen before the election, it's just speculation.

PHILLIP: Well, look, some of his rivals who are running against him in the 2024 field are basically saying that he shouldn't be tried at all just because he is a former president and just because he is a candidate. What do you think about that?

BOLTON: I think that disqualifies those people from being President. And I think I would say the same for any of them who have said he should be pardoned. Part of the equal application of the law is that everybody has to be held to the same standard.

And, frankly, I'll just show my biases here. When it comes to national security information, I can't think of a higher duty for the president, a higher example of leadership to set for everybody below him in the executive branch who deals with classified information than to handle it carefully, which Trump has flouted, he did for four years in office. He's done it since then.

And I think there's something to be said to show to people that you're held to high standards because everybody else is, including the president. And when you fail to uphold those standards, you pay the penalty.

PHILLIP: All right. Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, thank you very much for joining us.

BOLTON: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And coming up next, Donald Trump's former impeachment attorney will respond to the tape and how Trump's lawyers may try to defend it.

Plus, a busy night here tonight. Not one, but two presidential candidates, Asa Hutchinson and Will Hurd join us live next.

And Vladimir Putin's Russia launching a deadly attack in Ukraine as his nation reels from a rebellion. CNN is at the site of that strike, and Erin Burnett is near the frontlines.



PHILLIP: And tonight, the fallout continues over the audio first heard here on CNN of former President Trump discussing secret documents that he said he'd never declassified. Trump responding today, insisting that he did nothing wrong, then he later said it was all bravado. But does the tape put his legal defense on the back foot?

Joining me now to discuss all of this is the lead counsel who represented Trump in his second impeachment trial, David Schoen. David, thank you for being here tonight.

So, Trump today told report reporters that he had, quote, a lot of papers and copies of different plans on his desk. And he later told reporters on the flight to New Jersey tonight that he was talking about plans to a golf course. Do all of these shifting explanations help him or hurt him in this case?

DAVID SCHOEN, LEAD COUNSEL FOR TRUMP'S SECOND IMPEACHMENT: Well, generally, I think shifting explanations probably don't help. And I would say that one would be hard pressed to say that having a tape like this is better for the defense than worse for the defense, but maybe there's a theory by which it is.

However, I don't like the way that sort of everyone has him convicted already based on the tape. I think any criminal defense lawyer who's handled a lot of cases knows that tapes can be very valuable for the government, but they also aren't magic. There are ways to cross- examine tapes.

And part of this thing is I think I know Ambassador Bolton made the point, it's going to come down to also what the witnesses said. You can be sure each of the witnesses who was present has been interviewed by the government, and they know what those people intend to say. So, that's going to give some sort of flavor to what happened here.

But I don't think it's quite as simple as people think. It's a serious matter. But every criminal case -- almost every criminal case has serious issues that have to be fought. And there are some defenses to this. They have to fit it within their defense theory.

I think part of the problem right now is he doesn't really have a real criminal defense lawyer on his team. He's going to have to have that.

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, to that point, I mean, do you think that Trump will eventually get a lawyer willing to take up this case given how he conducts himself as a defendant? I mean, is it difficult to get a lawyer to want to take up not only the case and the difficult issues that arise but also Trump who is out there talking about it every day?

SCHOEN: First of all, I think there are great lawyers who will take this case. He has lawyers now willing to take the case. I think this Chris Kise, by all reports, is a pretty smart guy, but he needs a real criminal defense lawyer, someone who knows how to fight a criminal defense case in a hard way and knows how to deal with these kinds of issues. But I think he'll find. I mean, I think many people will be more than willing to do it.

I don't find him to be a difficult client, as odd as that sounds. In every conversation I've ever had with him, he's been gracious with me and he's always accepted my advice and been very, very flattering. So, I don't find him to be a difficult client. I don't like having clients talking about cases. But he's Donald Trump. He's going to talk about what he wants to talk about, and people understand that.

I think one thing, we have to take a step back and take a broader look at this case, and I know Ambassador Bolton sort of alluded to it, but, remember, you have millions of people who believe this never should have been brought as a criminal prosecution.


Never underestimate the value of jury nullification.

And so no matter what's on any tape, some of the people, the reaction will be, but, listen, can you imagine what conversations Hillary Clinton had about the documents she had, or can you imagine when President Biden was taking those documents with him, conversations he might have had, it may not get past that discussion, so it doesn't really matter. Yes, sorry.

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, it's an interesting point. But in this case, Trump was the one who recorded this conversation. I mean, he had his team record it. So, that's why he's on tape.

And also to the point about Hillary Clinton's email scandal, he is on this tape acknowledging that he has documents that he shouldn't. He's joking about the Hillary Clinton case. How does that play with a jury? SCHOEN: I want to make one point here that I think is being missed a little bit, at least from my perspective. I don't think on the tape, he said he had documents he shouldn't have. He said it clearly they had documents that were classified. He could have classified them but he didn't.

PHILLIP: Sure, he said that they were secret. Yes, he said that they were secret.

SCHOEN: Right. In their theory of defense, as I understand it, remember, they believe that under the Presidential Records Act, he had the exclusive right of determining which documents were personal and which were presidential, irrespective of whether the document was classified.

So, if you follow that theory of defense, one of the prongs they have to prove under the statute he's charged with is that it was a person unauthorized to have the document. If they believe and they think they can prove that they were authorized to have the document, whether classified or not, because the president has the exclusive right, without judicial review, of determining that something is a personal document, and he believed this to be personal document, let's just say for argument's sake, because he felt he had been in the past under siege, people had told lies about him, he wanted to be able to defend himself, and in this case, that he thought General Milley was doing a disservice to the country, he wanted the country to know we were prepared. I'm just giving you a scenario.

PHILLIP: I hear what you're saying, but I think we should also tell the viewers, just so that they understand what you are describing is something that is a totally untested legal theory that will have to be borne out. And it's made more difficult, as former Attorney General Bill Barr has pointed out, that these are documents that were created by the government and also classified. And he acknowledges that part of it, that they were classified. So, in order to then go and say, well, they're personal now, that would also have to be proven in court.

So, I take your point that they're going to make that case. But I think we should just be clear that this is not sort of something that will just be accepted by a judge because it just has not been tested.

SCHOEN: Of course not, it hasn't been tested.

I'll tell you one thing, though, to keep your eye on at all times, Ms. Phillip, and that is the third prong, the willfulness prong. Because in this statute, willfulness means, as it does broadly in other statutes, it means that the person acted knowing that he or she did something the law prohibited. If you follow that theory through and he believed he had a right to these documents, he's entitled to a jury charge that the government has to prove that he understood or believed that he did something the law prohibited.


SCHOEN: With President Trump, apparently, from what we're hearing so far, that wasn't the case. And they are at least entitled to that defense.

PHILLIP: Well, we'll see. You're totally right. He's entitled to that defense. It is complicated by the fact that he says on the tape, they're secret, I didn't declassify them when I could have.

But, David Schoen, we have you on because you understand the mind of a defense lawyer and you also understand Trump. So, we appreciate you joining us tonight.

SCHOEN: Thank you very much.

PHILLIP: And coming up next for us, just days after Vladimir Putin, an armed rebellion, Russia striking restaurants inside of Ukraine. CNN is there tonight.

Plus, Presidential Candidate and former CIA Officer Will Hurd joins me on the unfolding crisis in Russia, as well as to respond to that audiotape of his 2024 arrival.



PHILLIP: And tonight, just days after Vladimir Putin was challenged in an armed rebellion, Ukrainians in the city of Kramatorsk are cleaning up after attack by Russian missiles that destroyed parts of that city's center. Officials say at least four people were killed and dozens more were injured, but they're still searching the rebel for more victims. And officials say Russians deliberately targeted crowded parts of that city.

Kramatorsk is in the eastern part of Ukraine, just outside of areas occupied by Russian troops, and CNN's Ben Wedeman is there tonight.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- took place at precisely 7:32 in the evening. We don't know what it was that struck, but it was clearly a very large missile by given the level of damage here.

Now, right behind me was a very popular restaurant. And given the time of the strike, there were probably many people inside.


WEDEMAN (voice over): A witness inside the restaurant says it was crammed with people when the missile struck. He saw rescuers pulling dozens of people out. Slabs of concrete collapsing at the center of the restaurant. Medics and firefighters continuing to pull people out hours after the strike and removing damaged cars from surrounding streets, clearing the way for more rescue work.

Air raid sirens warning of another strike, pausing the search and rescue and moving along crowds looking for loved ones.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Ben Wedeman, thank you very much. And a big question tonight is if Putin will escalate the strikes like we saw against Kramatorsk in the wake of Prigozhin's insurrection.

CNN's Erin Burnett is in Eastern Ukraine for us. Erin, what are you learning?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Abby. Of course, right here in Dnipro, another city in Eastern Ukraine, behind me, it's pitch dark. This is a city of a million people, and it lies in complete darkness. The street lights are off, and yet, even here, sirens multiple times tonight night, worries about drones flying over the city.

That horrible strike in Kramatorsk a very real fear across much of Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine here, that this could happen anywhere, to anyone.


And that is the fear tonight about what Putin might do. And today, I had a chance to speak to the foreign minister here in Ukraine, Dmitro Kuleba, about whether Ukraine knew about Prigozhin's rebellion and what it actually means for the war on the frontlines. And here's part of what he told me.


BURNETT: Did you have any intelligence pointing to an insurrection like we saw?

DMITRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: No, we did not have any specific information with kind of the timeline of possible implementation of Prigozhin's plans. But for us, it has always been pretty obvious that it's just a matter of time when someone in Russia will dare to challenge Putin because we saw how his power and authority is shrinking and how Russia is entering very difficult turbulence. So, Prigozhin is just the first one who dared. But I have no doubts that others will follow one way or another.


BURNETT: And, Abby, it's interesting. Minister Kuleba told me that he does believe that Putin is still the center of power in Moscow, but that he thinks that is changing. They expect that there will be more incidents, more people, not just Prigozhin. So, they expect more of this to come. Also, though, he said that if the rebellion had just lasted another 48 hours, Abby, 48 more hours, that he thinks that could have changed morale on the frontline and really changed this war.

He said it would have been a sort of force majeure event. But for now, Ukraine is continuing to fight along these frontlines, worried about a ramp up in strikes, and trying to just continue to take that territory and punch back on the counteroffensive here in the south of Ukraine. Back to you. PHILLIP: Erin, thank you for that. And joining me now from the state

of New Hampshire is Former Texas Republican Congressman Will Hurd. He is seeking the GOP nomination of the 2024 race and he's also a Former CIA Officer. Congressman, thank you for joining us.

Look, you have been critical of President Biden's silence as this unfolded over the weekend. Although many other experts did commend his distance, basically saying, look, the United States should stay away from appearing to be involved in an internal Russian dispute. So, what was so wrong about Biden staying out of it?

WILL HURD (R), PRESIDENTIA CANDIDATE: Well, anytime that you have chaos and uncertainty, it's actually an opportunity. And what we should have been doing is working with our allies to double down on our support to Ukraine in order to end this war quickly. That was the thing that I was critical of.

And this is an opportunity for us to make sure that the Ukrainians have all the resources that they need and to stop worrying about this notion of escalation on our side. This notion that if we provide more support to help the Ukrainians who we are already helping and who is our ally, that we're going to see an escalation from the Russian side.

I think this is the events of this weekend is an example of how when Vladimir Putin was faced with somebody coming down the highway, trying to get him, what did he do? He actually capitulated. And this is a lesson that we should take into account when it comes to supporting our friends in Ukraine.

PHILLIP: I guess the counterpoint to that, though, is that this uprising, if you call it that, basically ended within hours, and Putin today remains in power. So, wouldn't the U.S. have, you know, weighing in on this have risked really sort of moving too fast before the situation had revealed itself?

HURD: No, look, the U.S., we've already made our decision that we're supporting the Ukrainians, and we should be doing as much as we possibly can. And this was an opportunity for us. We should have been ready if this happens again. And again, I'm not talking about supporting Prigozhin and his efforts.

I'm talking about supporting the Ukrainians and doubling down for them to protect themselves, to be ready to protect against further missile strikes on their country and we have to remember, it's a fraction of the cost for us to be helping the Ukrainians now to solve this problem.

One of the other criticisms I have of the Biden administration is Tony Blinken on Sunday. He said that the United States' goal is to help the Ukrainians push the Russians out of the territory they've gathered and they've invaded since 16 months ago, since back in February.

I hope he misspoke. I haven't seen any clarification of that. We should be supporting the Ukrainians and pushing the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include Crimea and Donbass. And if that is a Biden position, I think that's the absolute wrong position. We should be helping our friends liberate their entire country.

PHILLIP: All right. Congressman, I do want to turn back here to the United States. You have been, obviously, a fierce critic of Trump's handling of these classified documents.


I wonder, though, what was your reaction when you listened to the actual audio tape of him discussing it in that meeting at Bedminster.

HURD: Look, it is -- it's sickening to hear the former leader of the free world being calloused and completely disregarding of his responsibility to protect secrets that men and women, people like my own colleagues that have put their lives on the line in order to protect. And the fact that he was sharing information that if in the hands of our adversaries could lead to a loss of life of the women, the men and women in our armed services that are trying to protect us and ensure we enjoy the freedom that we enjoy. It's unfortunate.

And again, yes, you're innocent until proven guilty. And, you know, President Trump continuing to lie and obfuscate about what he actually knew and the thing that these documents were fake, it didn't seem based on the reaction of the people he was talking to that they thought that was just some kind of newspaper article. But we're going to find out details as this case progresses. But it's just a slap in the face to all the men and women that put on a uniform or go into dangerous places in order to protect American security.

PHILLIP: I want to ask you about one of your other, you know, candidates who are running in this 2024 field. Ron DeSantis, he's in New Hampshire today, as well. He was asked by a voter in New Hampshire if Trump violated the principle of a peaceful transfer of power on January 6th, and listen here to what he said.


RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I wasn't anywhere near Washington that day. I have nothing to do with what happened that day. Obviously, I didn't enjoy seeing, you know, what would happen. But we've got to go forward on this stuff. We cannot be looking backwards and be mired in the past.


PHILLIP: Congressman, does that answer satisfy you?

HURD: No, of course, and I'm sure that answer didn't satisfy the person that asked the question. And here's one of the issues. If you're going to be running for President of the United States, you should be clear on what your answers are to these seminal events and not be afraid to call it for what it is.

And yes, I actually believe we should be articulating a vision on the future, but we should be clear about what happened in the past. Donald Trump lost. The election was not stolen. It was not a tour that happened on January 6. It was an attempt to stop the government, overthrow the government. And we should be able to be clear on those things and not afraid to speak up when you have the opportunity.

We need leaders that are going to be willing to be bold, that are going to be honest, and treat the voters with respect. And that requires answering a question truthfully.

PHILLIP: All right, Congressman Hurd, good to have you on tonight, Sir. Thank you.

HURD: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And next, another presidential candidate joins me live as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy attempts to walk back comments that he made about the strength of the GOP field. And Liz Cheney is blunt with Americans.


LIZ CHENEY (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: What we've done in our politics is create a situation where we're electing idiots.




PHILLIP: And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is playing clean up this afternoon following these comments, which incited outrage across the MAGA world.


KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It makes it complicated.

JOE KERNEN, CNBC ANCHOR: If he's got all these trials and all this stuff overhanging.

MCCARTHY: It makes it complicated. It also helps him when --

KERNEN: But do you think he could win an election? Could he win an election?

MCCARTHY: Can he win that election? Yeah, he can.

KERNEN: You think he can?

MCCARTHY: The question is, is he the strongest to win the election? I don't know that answer.


PHILLIP: And just hours after that interview, McCarthy tried to walk those comments back, saying that Trump is stronger than he was in 2016. With me now is Republican Asa Hutchinson. He, I assume, disagrees. He's running for president and has served as Arkansas' Governor. Governor Hutchinson, what does it say about your party that the House Speaker can't simply suggest that a former president who was twice impeached and lost his reelection and has been indicted now, multiple times may not be the strongest candidate for your party.

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Speaker McCarthy is, of course, trying to hold his coalition together. And whenever you look, though, at what he said, he really spoke the quiet truth that there's an understanding among the Republicans that we're in great shape for 2024 unless Donald Trump is leading the ticket.

And that could cause us to lose both the White House, but also look at the races down ticket where need independent voters. We need the suburban moms. We have to be able to go after those and if someone's leading the ticket, that energizes the other side, that can't win those independent votes, we could not only lose the White House, but we could also lose a lot of other elections from Senate to House members on down the ticket.

So, this is really important that the base, as they are doing, understands that we've got to have a leader that represents character, integrity, our national voice and someone that can reach out beyond simply the Republican base.


And so, that's what this 2024 election is about in part. And I think it's very, very important what Speaker McCarthy said. I think he's just speaking the truth as everyone knows it.

PHILLIP: Well, he spoke the truth for a few hours, at least, until he walked those comments back. But they came on the heels of this, which is this newly surfaced audio tape of Former President Trump discussing his handling of classified documents. Do you, as someone who is running against him, plan to really bring this to the voters and convince them that this should be something that is not an asset for Trump in this primary?

HUTCHINSON: Oh, I do, and it's important. And whenever you look at the fact that you have a future, somebody who wants to be commander in chief that can't protect our nation's secrets. And whatever happens in the criminal case, it's important to understand that is a legitimate concern about electing our next president, somebody who knows how to handle classified information, our nation's secret, and not use bravado or not use them as entertainment tools.

That's critically important. We have two candidates in New Hampshire today. One of them is defending his use of and handling of classified information. The other candidate cannot answer a high school student's question on January 6 and the threat to our democracy. American voters deserve more. They deserve somebody who will bring out the best of our country and answer these tough questions very straightforwardly.

PHILLIP: And we just played that clip of Governor Ron DeSantis that you just referred to there a little earlier in the program. But Governor, please stay with me. I want to ask you about Liz Cheney telling Americans to stop electing idiots. We'll be back in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)




LIZ CHENEY (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: -- we've done in our politics is create a situation where we're electing idiots. And so, I don't look at it through the lens of like, is this what I should do or what I shouldn't do? I look at it through the lens of how do we elect serious people? And I think electing serious people can't be partisan.


PHILLIP: We're back now with a GOP presidential candidate, Asa Hutchinson. Some laughs there in the room for that, but she's making a serious point. Do you think it's a fair one?

HUTCHINSON: Well, of course, I disagree about the characterization. I've been elected governor twice in Arkansas, and I look at my colleagues across the country. They really have a public-mindedness. They're very bright, incredible backgrounds they bring in Congress the same way --

PHILLIP: Something tells me she wasn't talking about you.

HUTCHINSON: Well, I know that, but I'm making the point. There's really good people that serve. And even if you look at the ones running for president, there's 12 Republicans running. Most of them are serious candidates that bring great credentials.

I think our point, obviously, is that we need candidates and we need to elect leaders that have courage, that stand for convictions, that speak the truth, and do not always listen to the loudest voice in the room. That's what I believe the American people want and need. And also, it reminds me that our founding fathers understood that we're all humans and we're flawed, and so that's why there's a system of checks and balances.

And that's why we have the different branches of government. The United States Supreme Court today really affirmed the check and balance of a judicial where they can overrule legislative laws that are unconstitutional. That's a foundation in our country. Those checks and balances are important. But in this election, we do need serious candidates, people of courage and integrity. And that's why I think Iowa and New Hampshire is going to do a good job of sorting through that.

PHILLIP: All right. We'll see how this unfolds for you, as well. Governor Asa Hutchinson, thank you very much. And another presidential candidate has an awkward moment on the campaign trail today. The long history of campaign gaffes. We'll have that for you, next.



PHILLIP: Now, gaffes on the campaign trail are not actually uncommon. They fall into a few different camps here. There are the physical gaffs --



PHILLIP: --verbal gaffes --



PHILLIP: -- and then there are misstatements, mispronunciations, all of them par for the course. It is difficult to run for president or for any office, and you're expected to know about a lot. Well, today, yet another candidate learned that lesson the hard way. Listen to Miami Mayor and Republican Francis Suarez on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show earlier today.


HUGH HEWITT, HOST, "The Hugh Hewitt Radio Show": Will you be talking about the Uyghurs in your campaign?


HEWITT: The Uyghurs.

SUAREZ: What's a Uyghur?

HEWITT: Okay, we'll come back to that.

SUAREZ: You gave me homework. I'll look at -- what was it, what did you call it? A weevil?

HEWITT: The Uyghurs. You really need to know about the Uyghurs, Mayor. You gotta talk about it every day.

SUAREZ: I will talk about it. I will search Uyghurs. I'm a good learner. I'm a fast learner.


PHILLIP: The Uyghurs, not the Weevils, are the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in China that the United States declared are the target of a genocide, something that I think a person who wants to be president might be expected to know. But Suarez did release a statement after the fact saying that he was well-aware of their suffering and he took a shot at China. And he also said that he didn't recognize the host's pronunciation. Now, it is hardly the first time that a candidate has made headlines

over global issues. Take 1976 as an example.


GERALD FORD, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

MAX FRANKEL, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I'm sorry, could I just follow up? Did I understand you to say, Sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence and occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it's a communist zone?


PHILLIP: Now, Ford did not back down there, but more recently, one of the more infamous ones is this one.


MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC "MORNING JOE" 2016: What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo? About Aleppo.


BARNICLE: You're kidding.



PHILLIP: Okay. Also during that campaign, Libertarian Gary Johnson couldn't name a foreign leader he admired, and he couldn't name the leader of North Korea. So, CNN's own Alisyn Camerota asked him to explain.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I just want to ask you about some of the foreign policy flubs that you've had publicly lately. First, there was the Aleppo moment where you didn't know what Aleppo was, and then you couldn't name your favorite foreign leader. So, what's going on with you and foreign affairs?