Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Tonight

Giuliani Is Interviewed in Special Counsel Probe; Trump Hold on to Documents; What Happens Next In Russia?; Supreme Court Rejects Trump-Backed Election Legal Theory; CNN Obtains Audio Of Trump Discussing Classified Docs; What City Had The Worst Air Quality In The World Today? Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 27, 2023 - 23:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So, what is -- what is going on with you and foreign affairs?

GARY JOHNSON, FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: But I guess because you can -- you can dot the Is and cross the Ts on foreign leaders and geographic locations that now somehow, you're qualified to put us in that situation, hey, if that ends up to be the case, so be it. I guess I wasn't meant to be president.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I guess he wasn't meant to be president. It seems like a good segue to our friend, Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: I appreciate that reminder. I have no recollection of that moment --


-- because that was a campaign and, as you well know, it does become a blur when you interview so many candidates, day in and day out, Abby, as you know. But that does seem like an important one and telling.

PHILLIP: Yeah. You know, to be fair, Alisyn, I think a lot of our viewers may have forgotten that Gary Johnson was up -- right up there with all, you know, what was it? Fifteen or 16 other candidates? But, now, that moment will live on in infamy.

Thank you for bringing it to us, Alisyn. We appreciate you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for reminding me of it, Abby. Great to see you. Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to "CNN Tonight." We've got exclusive CNN reporting tonight, that Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's former lawyer, has been talking to prosecutors in the special counsel investigation into Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election. One of Trump's other former lawyers, Michael Cohen, is here tonight with his thoughts on what Giuliani is saying.

Plus, the former president is offering multiple explanations tonight for that audiotape obtained by CNN of his meeting at Bedminster where he showed off his reportedly secret classified documents. What does that tape reveal about Donald Trump's motive? Our panel of legal experts weighs in.

And, as we know, people who crossed Vladimir Putin tend to fall out of windows or suffered mysterious illnesses. So, what is next for Yevgeny Prigozhin? A longtime Russian TV host tells us.

Let's begin with our CNN exclusive. Rudy Giuliani has been talking to prosecutors as part of Jack Smith's investigation into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election win of Joe Biden. Our senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is here. Paula, great to see you. So, do we know what Giuliani has told investigators?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We don't know what he said to investigators during this interview, Alisyn. We do know that he was accompanied by his lawyer, Robert Costello, for the sit down with special counsel prosecutors.

But we have some idea what they might want to talk to him about. We know that late last year, he was subpoenaed for documents related to payments that he received around the time that he was filing legal challenges on behalf of former President Trump trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. That subpoena came when it was still a Justice Department investigation, before Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed.

But, Alisyn, when Smith was appointed, Giuliani did not hear anything for over six months and there were questions being raised about whether that meant that he was possibly a target and not just a potential witness in this investigation. So, the fact that he has now sat down with prosecutors, talked to them, presumably answered questions, that is notable.

Now, we just got a statement from his spokesperson, Ted Goodman, who said -- quote -- "The appearance was entirely voluntary and conducted in a professional manner."

CAMEROTA: So, Paula, do we know anything about the timing if the investigation is almost wrapping up?

REID: It does appear that way, Alisyn. From all of our reporting on this side of the special counsel probe, you know, looking at efforts to overturn the 2020 election, we always knew that this was going to have a longer timeline than the Mar-a-Lago documents probe because, look, there are more people, right, with potential criminal exposure, more potential crimes. It is just a broader, more diverse array of potential criminal activity.

But it does appear, over the past few weeks, we have seen a flurry of witnesses going before the grand jury. We have seen other activity that suggests strongly that the special counsel could be nearing a charging decision.

So far, he has not brought any charges related to January 6th, but it appears that could be coming. It is completely unclear if Rudy Giuliani or former President Trump or anyone at all will definitely be charged. Definitely, we are seeing an uptick in activity.

CAMEROTA: Okay. We know you will keep us posted. Paula Reid, thank you very much.

Here to discuss tonight, we have a man who knows Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, he would say all too well. That is Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, author of "Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics." Michael is also the host of the "Mea Culpa" podcast.

Also, our chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller, is here, and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. Gentlemen, great to have you all here.

John, Rudy Giuliani is fascinating because he talks a very big, bold game on cable TV, and then when he is under oath in front of a judge, he often changes his tune.


Case in point, we all remember on November 7th, 2021, he stood outside of the Four Seasons landscaping and made all these claims about how there was all these fraudulent -- there was all sorts of fraud in the 2020 election and he had proof of it. And then 10 days later, he was in court and a judge said, do you have evidence of fraud? And Rudy Giuliani said, no, I do not, your honor.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, he has a firm grasp on what you can get away with in the public forum, which is it is not a crime to lie to the press, it's bad practice but it's not against the law, politicians do it all the time.

And what you can do in court? As an officer of the court, he understands that making those statements is, you know, if not against the law for perjury, if you know they are not true and you are making them, at least a violation of the canons of ethics for the legal profession. So, I think he understands how to change those channels, yes.

CAMEROTA: So, Michael, you've seen Rudy Giuliani in action. What is he going to say to prosecutors? What story is going to tell?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Whatever story he needs to tell to keep himself out of trouble. Rudy Giuliani has seen what Donald has done to myself, what he has done to so many attorneys that have fallen by the wayside because of foolish fealty to the furor.

And at the end of the day, Rudy does not want what happened to me to happen to him. He will -- as you may remember, Rudy made a very interesting statement. I have an insurance policy. Don't worry about it, I have an insurance policy.

CAMEROTA: What was that remind us? What was the insurance policy supposed to be about?

COHEN: I don't remember. I think it was after they raided his home and they took the computer and his cellphone and so on. They said to him, are you nervous? He said, no, I have an insurance policy. Maybe this is the insurance policy. Maybe now he's willing to cooperate. Maybe he didn't require a subpoena.

Maybe he went in voluntarily because he knows that if he goes in voluntarily, it certainly looks better and the prosecutors who probably still have some shred of respect for him will probably give him the benefit of the doubt if they don't force his hand.

MILLER: So, I'm very curious, though, you know, from both of you, gentlemen. When he sits down with prosecutors, what is the brand of that meeting? Is that a proper session? Here is what I can give you? Is that, let me talk you out of charging me because once you hear what I have to say, you will be swayed?


HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is the important point. Paula's detail that we really have to focus on, he goes with his lawyer. It's a proffer session that he goes and asks for on his own.

But this means that Smith is now in the circle, right? The last circle before Trump himself -- let us have a peace with interviewing Raffensperger, really zeroing in on the false electors. Giuliani is up to his neck in that.

So, what this is called is a queen for a day. He goes in to the prosecutors and it is all make believe. They can't charge him for it. This is what I can do for you. This is what I can tell you. And if they accept, what he is looking for, angling for, is immunity. Second to that, a very light charge and sentence.

But he has got to give them something. What would that be? Donald Trump, it seems to me. So, this is really Smith getting to just, you know, a half step away from Trump himself.

COHEN: Except one thing. That is assuming that it is the standard operating procedure. I know Bob Costello.

LITMAN: Right.

COHEN: And of course, I know Rudy Giuliani. Bob Costello is more --

CAMEROTA: His attorney?

COHEN: -- than -- yes -- more than Rudy's attorney. He is also his loyal friend. He may not be going in there as a proffer, as a queen for a day. He may be going in there as support, as an adviser to him more so than being the lawyer. But let us not forget --

LITMAN: Totally hear you. But here is --

COHEN: Because Costello, actually, at one point in time, tried to become part of my defense team so that he could report back to Rudy Giuliani. LITMAN: Yeah.

COHEN: Look, ethics and this crew really fall very far from --

LITMAN: Time out, Michael. And this happened in Georgia. Costello did the same thing and Giuliani is a target. If it doesn't work that way, then whatever Giuliani says can and will be used against him. The only way to do it so that he is not inculpating himself and giving the material is in this sort of pretend session where his lawyer helps them.

I'm sure he is a good friend if he is looking out for him. It is now time to try to play ball and that is through a lawyer before you will actually fess up and --

COHEN: Unless they just do it through a proffer.

LITMAN: Which is what exactly they are doing --

COHEN: Exactly.

LITMAN: -- the reports, yeah.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the audiotape.


Yeah, we hear Donald Trump in his own words talking about and it appears showing off --

COHEN: You see, I'm not the only one. I'm not the only one who gets --

CAMEROTA: Caught on tape.

COHEN: -- Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Oh no, Donald Trump has a lot of audiotapes, as you well know. And so, today, he was on Fox talking about what he believes that audiotape shows. Here it is.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said it very clearly -- I had a whole desk full of lots 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 was said was absolutely fine and very perfectly. We did nothing wrong.


CAMEROTA: He did not say it very clearly, none of that, on that tape that we heard. It was quite different.

MILLER: Maybe they played him a different tape. I mean, because on that tape, he literally builds the case for the prosecution. Not only is he describing a document that is supposed to be an attack plan for the United States in the event that they have to invade a specific country, which fits the pure definition of the charge, which is information regarding the national defense, but he acknowledges it is secret, he acknowledges he could have declassified it when he was president but he can't now because he is not.

He basically is writing the indictment for them in a soundbite which, given that reaction, it is just strange that his view of that conversation is so much less worrisome than it should be.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Donald Trump's motive for keeping those classified documents and not handing them back over to the National Archives. What was it, Michael? You know him. Why did he want to keep those?

COHEN: You may remember, I was on your show right after they raided Mar-a-Lago and took all the documents, I turned around and said to you, it's a nefarious purpose that he'd rather burn the country down than to allow himself to be indicted --

CAMEROTA: But what specifically would he use it for?

COHEN: Money, for power, in order to get out of jail free card.

CAMEROTA: What does that mean, get out of jail free card?

COHEN: Oh, he will turn around and say, I have five, six copies already made of this, and if I end up indicted and incarcerated, we are going to send these out to Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, whoever it might be, Mohammed bin Salman.

CAMEROTA: Meaning like bribing the Justice Department if they are going to charge him?

COHEN: More like extorting.

MILLER: Extorting the Justice Department.

COHEN: John is 100% correct here. You know, his -- his understanding of what he says really exists in a whole another planet. It's a whole another sphere of nonsense that comes out of his mouth. I mean, he is talking about the newspaper. You can't declassify a newspaper. I mean, his own words, as John said, he built the case for them.

CAMEROTA: Harry, do prosecutors have to show his motive in court? Do they have to figure out why he wanted these things?

LITMAN: Yeah. So, textbook, no. Nevertheless, this is a showcase audiotape in the indictment, paragraph six. Even though it is not part of the charge because this would might be dissemination, it basically just shows and the tape really shows viscerally what a jerk, I think, might be the legal term. Ladies and gentlemen, need I say more after we played the tape?

(LAUGHTER) LITMAN: This is someone who cavalierly and jocularly more than willing to give up the crown jewel, national security classified document. It's not even clear he has and it doesn't really matter. They are not charging him with dissemination, but it's nevertheless such a piece of his character.

CAMEROTA: But I don't understand that. If he doesn't really have it and he is just showing something else often, then it's not a crime. I can tell you right now, I have national secrets, but if I don't, then it's not a crime.

LITMAN: One hundred correct. That wouldn't be a crime but it would still be really solid evidence of the crime with which he is charged, his willingness to do whatever the hell he wants with national security documents.

I think -- you know, notice that they didn't charge him. I think they had the witnesses there and said, did you, you know, show the -- did you see this, see that? And they probably didn't see it enough to absorb. It may well turn out that it's a total Trumpian gesture and it wasn't -- doesn't matter. That tape is still so good for showing -- everything he said, of course, is a lie.

Another nail in that coffin, when he said, I automatically declassified things. And ladies and gentlemen, this is what the 12th version of this story, need we say more? This is who the defendant is.

COHEN: Can I remind you of something? The FBI raided Mar-a-Lago and they recovered classified, top secret documents. There is a better than likely belief that the information that he was showing was what it is expected or purported to be.

LITMAN: One very quick point, this is the reason they did. There was -- there was dissent within the ranks of the FBI. They got this tape. Holy cow, we got to go -- we got to go in. That is why --

CAMEROTA: Then why didn't they raid Bedminster?

LITMAN: They didn't have probable cause at the time. That discussion happens in April of 2021.


By the time they know about this, it is a year later. You got to show a magistrate fresh, probable cause.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, gentlemen. Really helpful in understanding all of this. Great to see you, guys.

COHEN: Good to see you.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So, what happens next in Russia? One thing is for sure, people who cross Vladimir Putin do not have a long-life expectancy. A former Russian TV host and CNN's Peter Bergen tells us what that means for Yevgeny Prigozhin.


CAMEROTA: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says Russia fired rockets at Kramatorsk today, killing at least four people and injuring 47. The rocket strike happening just days after that attempted rebellion against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, now claims he convinced Putin not to -- quote -- "destroy the Wagner group and its chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin."


And there is new reporting tonight on who knew about the planned rebellion before it happened.

Joining me now, we have CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen and former Russian TV host Stanislav Kucher. Great to have both of you, gentlemen, here.

Okay, so, Peter, "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that a senior Russian general had advanced knowledge of Prigozhin's planed rebellion. This is according to U.S. Intelligence officials. Does that explain why Prigozhin thought he could march his Wagner army into Moscow?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Alisyn, I think it does, and it suddenly (ph) explains sort of a mystery, which is why a group, by Prigozhin's own account, was able to get 120 miles from Moscow seemingly with almost no opposition.

So, you know, the fact that there was at least a passive acceptance of this by senior Russian generals, if this " New York Times" report is correct, would help explain some of the events that we saw unfold on Saturday.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. Stanislav, do you agree that, basically, Prigozhin was under the -- if this is true, Prigozhin was under the impression that some of the Russian army, more of the Russian army, including some of his top leaders, would join his forces?

STANISLAV KUCHER, FORMER RUSSIAN TV HOST: Well, I don't honestly know what Prigozhin had in mind before, but I'm absolutely positive that quite a few people, not only one general, had been aware of his plans.

By the way, the interesting thing about Mr. Surovikin is that he was actually the first Russian army general who issued -- who posted video address with Prigozhin and his PMC, Wagner, calling them to stop the rebellion. He was very sad as he was delivering that message. He had obviously been talking to -- recording that message. He is not usually using social media a lot.

But, you know, I think I'd like to share a funny meme that is currently making its rounds in the Russian social media and which probably will give you an idea of how the Russian public, how people are reacting to all of this. (INAUDIBLE) how to explain Russia to someone who isn't familiar with Russia based on the happenstance of a single day. So, on the weekend, the defenders of Russia decided to take power in Russia. Subsequently, some other defendants of Russia flew to kill the first defendants of Russia, but they themselves were killed during the attempt.

We are talking now about at least two helicopters which were shot down by Wagner. Prigozhin, a Russian hero, was on route to kill Russian hero Shoigu, the Russian defense minister. As a result, Russian hero (INAUDIBLE) set out to kill Russian hero Prigozhin.

Simultaneously, Russian hero (INAUDIBLE), who is head (ph) of Russia FSB, opened a criminal case against Russian hero Prigozhin but immediately closed it. That is why the main Russian hero, Putin, first guaranteed that the traitors would all pay a mighty penance and then rapidly guaranteed that they would not be any (INAUDIBLE) at all.

That is giving you an idea of how many actually very high-ranking Russian heroes, you know, Russian --


KUCHER: -- military guys were involved. That's the joke, of course. Obviously, there is no doubt that Prigozhin was not alone here.

CAMEROTA: Peter, I'm sure you've followed that byzantine logic perfectly, having studied Russia for as long as you have. I think that Stanislav brings up a good point, which is what happens to people who cross Putin, as we know.

So, so many of his opponents, obviously, have ended up dead or severely wounded or poisoned or they mysteriously fall off of balconies. I mean, just in recent memory, here is a few. So, in 2015, Boris Nemtsov, he was the political adversary, fierce Putin critic, he was shot dead on a Moscow bridge. There were witnesses. I mean, it was a very brutal assassination, basically.

In 2018, we all remember the father and daughter duo, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, they were poisoned after touching a doorknob at their home. This was in a different country, in the U.K.

In 2022, Ravil Maganov, he is the former chairman of the Russian gas giant Lukoil, he ended up dead after -- quote -- "falling out of a hospital window." He had criticized the Ukraine war. And then, of course, we all know Alexei Navalny, who just, you know, continues to endure these horrors at the hands of Putin.


He's still alive but he has been poisoned. He is in a prison camp, et cetera. So, what is going to happen to Prigozhin?

BERGEN: Well, if you are a betting person, you would give him pretty bad odds of, let's say, dying naturally in his bed. One thing about those examples that you mentioned, Alisyn, you know, in intelligence cycles, you talked about plausible deniability. But I think what Putin does is he has implausible deniability.

He wants people to know that he is responsible for -- the Kremlin is responsible for -- you mentioned Boris Nemtsov who was shot just around the corner from the Kremlin, people like Skripal who was poisoned with a very exotic nerve agent. When these poisonings happen, they are done in such a way that they couldn't possibly be some normal criminal act. It is clearly (INAUDIBLE).

And when people looked into these, the various examples you've given, you know, inquiries have been made, and typically, the finger is pointed at the Kremlin.

So, you know, Prigozhin, for the moment, I think is okay because after all, Putin is losing the war and not winning the war in Ukraine. He does need the Wagner Group to be relatively effective group. But, you know, there will come a point where -- I think Putin holds grudges for a very long time. I think Prigozhin will not benefit from that.

CAMEROTA: Peter Bergen, Stanislav Kucher, thank you both very much. It is really great to have your insights tonight.

BERGEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the Supreme Court rejecting a Trump-backed attempt to allow state legislatures to transform American elections. The lawyer who argued the case before the court, and one, tells us what it means next.




CAMEROTA: The Supreme Court giving a big win to voting rights today. In a 6-3 ruling, the justices decided that the North Carolina Supreme Court did not violate the U.S. Constitution when it invalidated the state's 2022 congressional map.

The ruling rejected a controversial Trump-backed election theory that would have given state legislatures a limited role in reviewing election rules in federal elections.

Former President Obama is just one of the people applauding the court's ruling, saying in a statement -- quote -- "This ruling is a resounding rejection of the far-right theory that has been peddled by election deniers and extremists seeking to undermine our democracy. It makes clear that courts can continue defending voters' rights in North Carolina and in every state."

Joining me now is Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general and host of "Courtside with Neal Katyal," the podcast. He won today's case on behalf of the voting rights group "Common Cause." Neal, great to see you. So, tell us why this win is so important for the country.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yeah, I mean, Judge Michael Luttig, a very prominent conservative judge, described this as the most important case for democracy in the two and a half centuries since America's founding.

I think the reason for it is because the Republican Party here was pressing illegal theory that basically said state legislatures can do whatever they want, they don't have to abide by the Constitution, they don't have to abide by what state courts say about it, they get to basically do anything they like.

You know, that is contrary to two centuries of checks and balances that our system has had, but yet it sure looked like before the argument like many of the justices were entertaining this idea.

And so, today, in the 6 to 3 decision, written by the chief justice, they resoundingly threw that document -- threw that argument out and said this independent state legislature theory has no purchase.

CAMEROTA: And so, Neal, just put this in layman's terms for the rest of us. Had you lost this case today, what it would've meant for the 2024 election?

KATYAL: It would've meant to state legislatures could do what they want, including possibly appointing their own electors to the electoral college as opposed to following the popular vote. It would have meant state legislatures could change the voting rules any which way they want. Absentee ballots and polling hours, you name it. The number of shenanigans that could have been launched was infinite.

And so, what Chief Justice Roberts said today, uh-uh, in this country, we have the tradition of judicial review, judicial oversight, particularly things that impact our democracy.

And if you think back to the 2020 election, there were about 60 different cases that Donald Trump tried to bring, claiming to throw -- claiming that he won. Almost all of those cases were in state courts. And had this theory prevailed, all of those cases would have come out the other way.

And so, what I think ultimately you have here is the chief justice along with five of his colleagues, including Trump-appointed justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, saying, uh-uh, we are drawing the line in the sand and we are going to resist efforts by state legislatures to mess with the integrity of the election, including the 2024 election.

CAMEROTA: So, in other words, was this case directly connected to January 6th and the scheme to reject Joe Biden's electors?

KATYAL: Yeah. So, it is the same legal theory that a lot of the January 6th stuff was based on, which is the idea that state legislators are in control and can call all of the shots.


Indeed, John Eastman, who many describe as the architect of the President Trump's January 6th theory, even filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in this case trying to pedal this theory, a theory that has now been resoundingly rejected by the court.

I think one interesting thing about the case is, you know, most people thought we were going to lose this case, including people on our side. In fact, almost all the lawyers on our side for different parties tried to tell the Supreme Court, get rid of this case, don't decide this case, you don't have jurisdiction.

Those arguments were totally wrong, totally misguided, and they stand as a powerful lesson that if someone carefully studies United States Supreme Court decisions, litigants can win cases that stand up for our democracy, and that is what happened today.

CAMEROTA: Neal, I want to ask you about what happened this week. As you probably know, CNN exclusively obtained this 2021 audio recording of former President Trump. He was holding a meeting at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and he is talking about holding, literally, in his hands classified secret documents, as he describes them, and showing them off to guests who did not have security clearances. What was your reaction when you heard that recording?

KATYAL: It is a smoking gun. It basically blows Trump's defense into smithereens. I mean, Trump's basic defense has been, well, I thought these documents were declassified. And on the audiotape, you hear him, first of all, showing these documents, which is disgusting.

The idea that former president or anyone who had a security clearance would be showing these documents is something I cannot even begin to fathom. You know, Americans risked their lives to generate those documents or our allies' spies do. You cannot not treat them cavalierly.

I was national security adviser at the Justice Department. I can guarantee you, anyone who did such a thing would not just be fired, they would be prosecuted immediately. That is one.

But the second is, you hear Trump on the tape actually saying, oh, that is a classified document, it is not declassified, and I do not have the power to declassify because I'm not the president. That throws the whole theory that he can magically declassified documents by bringing them out of the Oval Office to smithereens, too.

It was never a real legal theory. it was only a made-up one. But even in a made-up pretend world, you know, Donald Trump does not even pretend to believe it and that is what the tape says.

CAMEROTA: You hear the people around him laughing. Do you think that he put lives in danger?

KATYAL: Oh, 100%. I mean, it is unfathomable, what he did. That is why I am so glad to see people like Bill Barr, including on your network, talking about this. People like former chief of staff John Kelly and others saying, no way, this is abhorrent behavior, it is criminal behavior.

CAMEROTA: Neal hosts "Courtside with Neal Katyal" and you have a new episode dropping tonight with John Legend where you discussed the Supreme Court and voting rights. So, tell us about that.

KATYAL: Yes. So, basically, what I want to do is bring the Supreme Court and make it alive to ordinary Americans. Each week, I have a discussion with a non-lawyer like John Legend this week. Next week, it will be Katie Couric. In future ones, it will be Jeff Koons, the artist, or John Moloney, the comedian.

We just go through one Supreme Court case in detail and, again, try and take it really seriously because I think, unfortunately, the court has been caricaturized in a lot of our discourse. So, we want to just methodically go through it, ask what the court is doing, what their moves are, and is it a right and just decision?

CAMEROTA: That sounds a great lineup. I can't wait to listen. Neal Katyal, thank you so much for being on the program tonight. Your podcast, Courtside," is available wherever podcasts are found. You can sign up for a subscription at Thanks so much, Neal, for being here.

KATYAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Okay, as you can see, our panel of Lee Carter, Astead Herndon, Josh Barro, and Coleman Hughes are standing by with their analysis of the Trump tape and so much more after this very short break.




CAMEROTA: All right, our panel is here to talk about Donald Trump caught on tape talking about those classified secret documents. Okay, um, let me start with you, Coleman. So, what do you hear on that tape?

COLEMAN HUGHES, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE FREE PRESS: Yes. So, look, we don't know whether he is necessarily really risking lives. I think that will come to light as the trial moves --

CAMEROTA: In revealing an Iraq attack war plan put together by --


CAMEROTA: -- Iran, thank you -- put together by Joint Chief Mark Milley. It just sounds like something that should not be disclosed to other --

HUGHES: Absolutely wrong. It causes a clear, obvious red line, and we will see actually what the potential consequences of that could be. We'll see about that.

But the key point about this is that he is shooting his own best defense in the foot. He had these legal defenses that I could have classified it, which there is a truth to, right? He could have declassified it. Now, he is actually shooting that defense in the foot himself, right? He is on tape admitting that he didn't. That is really the key takeaway here.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Josh.

JOSH BARRO, PODCAST HOST: Yeah, I mean, you know, Trump keeps coming up with all of these stories about how he did not have the document in his hands, there was newspaper clipping, maybe it was a plan for a golf course. It was one of the things that he said this week.


But the thing is that the purpose that the tape from 2021, that interview tape where he is talking about the Iran war plan, the purpose for which that is going to be used in a criminal trial is not actually about the Iran war plan. He hasn't been indicted for possessing that document. The government never found that document.

What matters about that tape is that he says on the tape that he did not declassify all of these documents when he was president, that he knows that he can't declassify them anymore, that they are still secret and he is not supposed to possess them.

It demonstrates what he knows about the law on classification, what he knows around what his legal obligations were. And so, the other documents that the government did find in the search of Mar-a-Lago, one of the things they have to prove was that he knowingly kept them and he knew that they were classified. That tape will help demonstrate that.

Even if he never really was holding the Iran war plan, even if he was lying in that moment about the document, he still demonstrated that he understood certain things that are important for proving that he committed a crime.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting. Let's talk about how all these play into the presidential campaign. Today, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy was on CNBC and talking about whether or not some of this stuff has weakened Donald Trump and if he is still just a strong. Here's what he said in the morning. This is what Kevin McCarthy said.


UNKNOWN: It makes it complicated if he's got all these trials and all this stuff overhanging.

KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: It makes it complicated. It also helps him when --

UNKNOWN: Do you think he could win an election? Could he win an election?

MCCARTHY: Yeah, he can.

UNKNOWN: You think he can?

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

CAMEROTA: Okay. Somehow by the afternoon, he did know that answer because apparently, team Trump was quite unhappy with how the speaker had answered that question. Here, a few hours after that, is what Kevin McCarthy said. I will read it because this was to Breitbart.

It says, the only reason Biden is using his weaponized federal government to go after President Trump is because he is Biden's strongest political opponent, as polling continues to show. Just look at the numbers this morning -- Trump is stronger today than he was in 2016.

Astead, what do you hear there?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I hear the flip-flop that is indicative of where Republican leaders are right now with Donald Trump. What Kevin McCarthy acknowledges in the morning is pretty much common knowledge among even most Republican voters.

There is an openness to maybe some alternatives, perhaps the electorate who was basically saying that some of these things have weighed on their support of Donald Trump.

We saw that in the midterms. There was actually a kind of fallen nature of his relationship with their own base, even as some of that has come back around to him.

But what has changed in the last time since the midterms is that that is not something you can say as he has become -- looked more likely to be the nominee.

You have Kevin McCarthy, as he has done over and over again, having to kind of crawl back to Donald Trump and basically, politically, apologized in the most open manner.

I think this is for Kevin McCarthy, who looks weekend, but this is a person who came into that office with that hanging over him. Since the day he got that speaker gavel, the Trump wing of the party has put pressure on him, even as he has continued to rack up some winds in D.C.

There is a disconnect between Kevin McCarthy who, I think, sometimes been underestimated, kind of legislative wise in Washington, but then politically, this always swings back to Donald Trump, who remains the center of gravity for the party and nobody is able to block that out.

CAMEROTA: Lee, what do you think of the speaker's verbal gymnastics between morning and afternoon?

LEE CARTER, POLLSTER: He's a politician. Right? I think what he said this morning is true. Donald Trump might not be the strongest candidate, but he is the one that's pulling the strongest right now. He's ahead of Ron DeSantis by 30 points in this moment. Eighteen percent of Republicans say they are more likely to consider him today than they were before the indictments.

I'm not sure that was Donald Trump's people that got to Kevin McCarthy as much as people said, hey, you got to be careful because you don't want to lose that 51% of Republican voters right now who are supporting Donald Trump.

And Kevin McCarthy has a very difficult job right now. He's got a whole bunch of people that are very difficult to manage. If he says anything against Donald Trump, it becomes even more difficult for him to manage it.

I'm not sure if it was Donald Trump or somebody else, but he's walking a tightrope here. I think a lot of people are saying, I wish we could find a Republican with spine to stand up to Donald Trump. The problem is more than half of the Republican voters right now are saying that is who they want. So, it's a tough game.

HERNDON: But why Kevin McCarthy have such a slim majority in the House at this moment is because the country rejected the kind of version of Republicans that he has been all in on. It has helped Democrats as recently as November.

CARTER: Well, I think that Donald Trump hurt in the midterms. No question about it. I think the bigger issue is what happened in the Supreme Court in abortion. I think the fact that Roe v. Wade got rolled back a year ago put out more people that are going vote Republican than ever before. I think that is still an issue.

When you think about 28% of people are saying that that is going to be the primary reason that they're going to go out and vote, 90% of Democrats are saying that's what's going to make them vote, 74% of independent women are saying that's what's what going to make them vote, I think that is what in the midterms more than Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Let me quickly get you guys in. What are your thoughts on this?

BARRO: It reminds me back late in the Obama administration when John Boehner was leaving the speakership and Kevin McCarthy was supposed to be the heir apparent.


One of the missteps that he made that made Republicans nervous and ended up -- they reached for Paul Ryan instead was he went on TV and he made these comments about how the Benghazi hearings were being useful for damaging Hillary Clinton politically, which was the thing you're not supposed to say. That was the political purpose. You had to say that it was about national security and the Americans who died in Benghazi.

He like forgot the talking point. It was not a very complicated talking point. That happened here again where, you know, it wasn't that hard to remember what you are supposed to say about Donald Trump, where you're not supposed to express the sort of wariness. I agree with Astead. I think that he has actually performed much better legislatively than I expected out of him this year. But it's a pattern that I see of him not having quite the ability that he needs to have to stay on message.

CAMEROTA: Coleman, 10 seconds.

HUGHES: As they say, a gaffe is when a politician accidentally says what they think, right? So, my question is, when he said that in the moment, who is a thinking of? Chris Christie?

CAMEROTA: You mean who might be stronger?

HUGHES: That's right.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting. Thank you all very much. Great analysis. Okay, next, you know what city had the worst air quality in the world today? Here's a hint. It is in the U.S. We will tell you where and why next.




CAMEROTA: Chicago made history today in a bad way. It was the most polluted city in the world. That is because of smoke from the wildfires still raging in Canada.

You might remember this scene in New York just a few weeks ago. Well, now, the smoke is back. Eighty million people from the Midwest to the East Coast facing air quality alerts.

Authorities warning residents to avoid spending long periods outside and to avoid strenuous activity, especially those with health problems like respiratory illnesses.

Fifty-five million people are also under high heat alerts in the south. The most dangerous cities are Dallas, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans where the heat index will approach 120 degrees. Be careful out there.

Tomorrow on "CNN This Morning," musician Jason Derulo is going to join live on his new book and his secrets to success. That all starts at 6:00 a.m.

Thanks so much for watching us on "CNN Tonight." Our coverage continues now.