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CNN Tonight

CNN Exclusive, Special Counsel Interested In Chaotic Trump White House Meeting About Efforts To Overturn Election; Judge Rejects Rioter's Ask To Attend January 6th Festival; Belarus Says, Revolt Leader Now In Russia Amid Mystery; White House Probe On Cocaine Ready By Next Week; DeSantis Doubles Down On A Controversial Video From His Campaign Slamming President Trump's Vow To Protect LGBTQ Rights; The Eagles Band Launches Its Farewell Tour. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 06, 2023 - 22:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: An update tonight on the investigation into the cocaine that was found at the White House. A law enforcement source telling CNN that the Secret Service is expected to finish its investigation early next week whether or not they can identify a suspect.

Investigators have already reviewed security footage and visitor logs to get into the White House but they have not yet gotten results of a fingerprint analysis or any kind of DNA test.

CNN previously reported the cocaine was found in a cubby near the ground floor entrance of the White House. We will stay, of course, on top of the investigation.

Thank you so much for joining me tonight. CNN TONIGHT with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Kaitlan, thank you very much. And stand by for us because I want to talk about your new reporting tonight.

And in case everyone missed it CNN is now reporting tonight that prosecutors investigating efforts to overturn the election are very interested in a chaotic White House meeting that took place in the final days of the Trump administration. Now, that meeting included Rudy Guiliani.

So, Kaitlan, what do we know about why Special Counsel Jack Smith is pressing on some of these witnesses about this meeting?

COLLINS: Yes, this is interesting, Abby, we believe that Jack Smith is in the closing days of the January 6th investigation, closing period, I should note. We don't know that it is actually days, but it does appear to be winding down as they had this flurry of activity recently. And one thing that I and our team have learned is as they were going through this, they have been asking questions for sometime but also recently about the chaotic oval office meeting that happened six weeks after Donald Trump lost the election.

I think a lot of people will remember it from the January 6th hearings where attorneys in the White House were essentially pitted against these outside advisers to Trump, outside advisers who wanted him to do crazy things, like sign an executive order about getting the U.S. military to seize voting machines for those seven states that he lost. They were talking about martial law. They were talking about making Sidney Powell a special counsel to investigate voter fraud. That was at the center of the heated meeting where insults were hurled. A lot of shouting was happening in that meeting.

But we are now told, recently, Jack Smith and his team have been asking witnesses about it, whether that is the investigators or before the grand jury. They were doing this several months ago with some witnesses. They've been doing it with more witnesses recently.

One of those is Rudy Giuliani, who we know went before and sat down voluntarily with Jack Smith's team last month two days, back-to-back. He was asked about a range of topics, we are told. His attorney is not commenting on this tonight, but we are told by sources that that was something that he was asked about in that meeting, so just raising a lot of questions about what the end result of this investigation could look like.

PHILLIP: And that is really what this is all about. I mean, we are now coming upon what could be the endgame here. We know the January 6th grand jury met again today. Do we have a sense of what is next?

COLLINS: I think a big question is what -- if there are charges, what they could focus on. Everyone is kind of trying to play this game, even attorneys in the former president's orbit as well. Is it going to focus on the fake electors and that scheme to have them, the seven states that he lost? Will it focus more exclusively on the figures at the center of this, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn, Patrick Burn, who is the former CEO of Overstock? Those are the big questions and I don't think anyone has a sense.

Of course, the other big question is whether Donald Trump himself is indicted in that investigation or if he is an unindicted co- conspirator or not he's mentioned at all. I mean, I think there are just so many questions. And it is such a bigger, broader investigation than the documents investigation. I think that is why people are having a hard time kind of guessing what it is going to look like.

PHILLIP: Yes. And, of course, added to all of that, you have elements in Arizona, which you've been reporting on this week as well. This is a sprawling case and we'll see where it all turns out.

Kaitlan, thank you so much for staying a little bit later for us.

COLLINS: Of course. Thanks, Abby. PHILLIP: Speaking of January 6th, a judge today ruling that a convicted rioter cannot attend the festival this weekend in Missouri to honor those who stormed the Capitol.

Kenneth Thomas was convicted last month of seven crimes, including assaulting an officer. And I want to bring in now Thomas' attorney, John Pierce. He is the founder and chairman of the National Constitutional Law Union, and he is represented actually 35 January 6th defendants in addition to Kenneth Thomas. So, John, thanks for being here.

First, I just want to start with this. I mean, he is awaiting sentencing, your client here. Why would a judge give him permission to attend a festival that is essentially celebrating the thing he was convicted for?

JOHN PIERCE, ATTORNEY FOR KENNETH THOMAS: Well, I would take issue with the idea that this is celebrating the things that he was convicted for.


I would actually take some issue with the language in some of your lead-up about folks storming the Capitol. January 6th was a very complex event. There were a lot of people who engaged in various kinds of conduct. Mr. Kenneth Joseph Thomas was found not guilty of engaging in violence on the Capitol grounds.

PHILLIP: Well, he was found guilty of assaulting a police officer.

PIERCE: So the statute that you are referring to actually contains multiple kinds of conduct that can be the basis for liability under it. So, you could have the typical kind of assault that you're speaking of or impeding or obstructing a police officer in their duties.

So, he was found not guilty of engaging in violence on the Capitol grounds. That was a specific charge. And so we believe that the jury found that in that count that they found him guilty on, that would have been impeding or obstructing an officer, not assaulting an officer.

PHILLIP: Look, I think the issue here, though, is January 6th. This was a festival that is about celebrating, honoring, whatever you want to describe it, the event that led to your client being convicted of multiple counts and also several of your other clients. So, a judge, why would any judge in their right mind allow him to do that?

PIERCE: So, I push back on you a little bit and then come back to your question. These folks are --

PHILLIP: Can you answer my question first without a pushback?

PIERCE: I will come right to it. These folks are not going to -- I believe it is in Missouri -- to celebrate any kind of armed insurrection. Nobody has been charged with insurrection. They are not going there to celebrate violence. These people are going there to pray. They are going there to have a sense of community. These people have been through an incredible ordeal. They are up against the most powerful forces on the planet with unlimited resources. They are trying to raise money so that they can pay very limited legal fees that they are able to pay. So, they have some funds for commissary in prison when they are detained. They are not going there to celebrate any kind of violence.

Now, we requested Judge Friedrich, who I respect very, very much. I hope and I think she knows that. We requested a modification of his conditions so that he could attend. He is a minister. He wanted to go there to pray and be with this community. She denied that request, which she has the power to do. We respect her decision. We are obviously disappointed in it.

But, you know, you have got to remember these folks do not give up their First Amendment rights in the course of this.

PHILLIP: Well, is your client remorseful about his actions on January 6th?

PIERCE: I think -- as he said at trial, I think there are certain things that he wish had happened differently. But, you know, the trial laid out very clearly that he was there to have his voice be heard. He was there to protect other people. There is very clear evidence that there was excessive force by police officers and he was trying to assist an elderly person who was being beaten by batons when he was on the ground.

PHILLIP: Look, I have to stop you there because, honestly, we watched what happened on January 6th, okay? And you can make sort of legalistic arguments about what exactly your client was convicted of and what he was not. There is no question that there was violence at the Capitol, that officers were assaulted on that day. There is no question about that.

There is also no question that your client was -- participated in pushing back against law enforcement officers who were doing their jobs, which was protecting the Capitol that day. So, I just -- we have to put that on the table.

But I do want to ask you this. You are his attorney, right? He hasn't even been sentenced yet. Isn't -- I don't see the sort of legal wisdom here of him asking to do this when it could aggravate potentially how he is sentenced.

PIERCE: Kenneth Joseph Thomas, like many of my defendants, like many January 6th defendants, feel very, very strongly that, to a large extent, they went to Washington, D.C., that day to have their voices heard. There was -- look, the narrative that, with all due respect to your network, sometimes has been pushed that this was a -- just a violent event, that there was violence on both sides.

PHILLIP: No, no. It was a violent event. Look, it was a violent event. Police officers were there doing their job. PIERCE: Abby, some of the police officers were not doing their jobs. Some of the police officers were going way beyond doing their jobs including unjustified lethal force, okay? So, January 6th is not as simple --

PHILLIP: John, a mob was attacking the Capitol. They were trying to break into the chamber. Some of them were armed. Many of them assaulted police officers to the point of permanent, long-term injury.


Look, I know that you have 35 clients here that you are representing in these cases. I know that in some ways this event, which is actually also a fundraising event, would help pay for your legal bills.

But at the end of the day, he was convicted of his -- for his actions on that day. He is probably, you would agree, facing jail time. So, the seriousness of the crime is really not in question here. And I also don't think that it is legitimate in any way to say that just because there were a couple of people milling around that it wasn't -- the objective was of that day --

PIERCE: That is a fundamentally -- that is an unfair way to -- the vast majority of individuals --

PHILLIP: It is the --

PIERCE: You have to let me finish. The vast majority -- I know this stuff better than you, with all due respect, way better. The vast majority of individuals who are on the Capitol grounds were there and they were peaceful. There were obviously --

PHILLIP: That does not include your client?

PIERCE: We argued at trial that it did and he was found not guilty. He was found not guilty of violence on the Capitol grounds, not guilty.

PHILLIP: He was found guilty in seven other counts. Will he -- do you think it is likely he'll serve prison time for those counts?

PIERCE: I do think it is likely, yes. This was the best jury verdict so far of any January 6th case.

PHILLIP: Which I think says quite a lot about the seriousness of the accusations against a lot of your clients.

But, John, I have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us.

PIERCE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And we have a very busy show. Coming up next, Presidential Hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy joins me live on the 2024 race and several domestic and foreign policy issues. Plus, the mysterious whereabouts of the revolt leader that Russia just got -- in Russia just clear and the discovery includes gold and also wigs.

And in the mystery of the cocaine found at the White House, a forensics expert will join me next on how they are finding the culprit.



PHILLIP: Tonight, is the mercenary leader who led a revolt against Vladimir Putin's power still alive? His whereabouts have been a mystery. But today, we learned that Prigozhin is not actually if Belarus. It is unclear if his Wagner fighters will move to Belarus and it is throwing more confusion on that deal that supposedly ended the armed insurrection.

Now, it comes as Russian state T.V. is releasing new images of a raid on Prigozhin's St. Petersburg property, footage showing money, wigs and gold found at the property. And it all raises questions about what Moscow's plans are for Prigozhin.

Joining me now on this plus many other issues is Republican Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Welcome, sir, to the program.

I do want to start there on the war in Ukraine. It has obviously taken on renewed urgency after Prigozhin's uprising and Kyiv's offensive, and you proposed, as I think many people know, a 72-hour window as president if you were elected for Putin to agree to a deal that would pull him away from Beijing in exchange for the United States ending, effectively, its support for Ukraine.

But my question to you is why would Putin stop at only parts of Ukraine that they've already invaded when he has hinted that he has much broader ambitions for Ukraine?

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, look, Putin would accept a deal because it allows him to achieve something he wants. He does not enjoy being Xi Jinping's little brother in that relationship. But the reason I would do that deal is that it would still advance American interests because the top military threat that we face is the China-Russia alliance.

Nobody else in either political party is talking about it. But if you combine Russia's nuclear stockpile and its hypersonic missile capabilities combined with China's economy and its large land mass and the fact it is an adversary to the U.S., as well as its naval capacity, they outmatch us.

So, I think our top objective should be to pull Putin out of that alliance. Putin does not enjoy being second fiddle to Xi Jinping. That is why I think he'll take that deal. But I think we have to end that Ukraine war by freezing current lines of control. PHILLIP: Well, look. I think the other question here is, if you basically give Putin what they have seized by force, how would that stop China from seizing by force Taiwan, for example? I think the principle here, many people would argue, is that there is a world order in which you don't just get to seize territory by waging wars on your neighbors.

RAMASWAMY: So, China is -- has actually one constraint after going after Taiwan. I want to tap into that constraint. Right now, Xi Jinping has confidence that Vladimir Putin is in his camp and his bet is that the U.S. will not want to go after two allied nuclear superpowers at the same time. But if Putin is no longer in Xi Jinping's camp, then Xi Jinping will absolutely has to think twice before going after Taiwan.

I do think Taiwan is more important for the U.S. than is Ukraine because we depend on the semiconductors that come from that island nation that power our modern way of life, including our cell phones, our cameras, all modern technology, our cars, and so on. So, that is why I think that Taiwan and Ukraine are not really the same thing. We shouldn't treat them the same, either.

But it is by ending the war in Ukraine and doing that deal that requires Putin to exit his alliance with China that we also deter China from going after Taiwan in a way that avoids war. That should be a top foreign policy objective of the next president.

PHILLIP: One other component of this, of course, is that Putin and Xi Jinping have much more than economic ties, they also are both authoritarian leaders. And they, on a sort of values proposition, have more in common with each other, don't you think?

RAMASWAMY: Well, you could have said the same thing about Mao Zedong and Brezhnev back in 1972 when Nixon made the move of pulling Mao out from under Brezhnev's hands. And I think that back then, Mao was the little brother in that relationship. Today, Putin is the new Mao.

So, I think that I don't trust Vladimir Putin on anything but I do trust him to follow his self-interest.


And I think if we are willing to normalize economic relations with Russia, if we're willing to freeze the current lines of control, if we're willing to guarantee that NATO will not admit Ukraine as Vladimir Putin asked for in late 2021 before he invaded, then I think it will be in Putin's interests to actually renormalize those relations with the west as long as he exits the military relationship with China. And I would also require that he remove nuclear weapons from Kaliningrad, which borders Poland, as well as to remove the Russian military from the western hemisphere. That is how we advance American interests while ending the war in Ukraine.

PHILLIP: I want to turn to a domestic policy issue, and this is actually something that you have not been particularly vocal about, and it is entitlements, like Social Security and Medicare, which -- it is an issue that actually has become a point of contention between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. The question to you is would you make changes to Social Security and Medicare if you were elected?

RAMASWAMY: So, the classic debate right now is between tax increases on the Democrat side versus cuts to entitlements among some on the Republican side. I personally believe there is a better way, a third way. Focus on GDP growth itself. I am the only candidate in either party who believes and acts on the fact that we can grow our way out of our problems. It is true that if we remain --

PHILLIP: Do you think you can grow your way out of Social Security and Medicare and social security needing -- I am presenting to you what many of your Republican colleagues say. They say that it is going to be insolvent in just a couple decades. You think you can grow your way out of that problem without addressing the fundamentals of those programs?

RAMASWAMY: That is correct. If you continue to grow at this year's current GDP growth rate of less than 1 percent, then, absolutely, we are going to be in trouble, in 20 years, we run out of money. But for most of our national history, we have grown over 3 to 4-plus percent in GDP growth.

I have a clear plan how to restore that in relatively short order. First is you unlock American energy, drill, frac, burn coal, put people back to work.

PHILLIP: Will you pledge then to not touch Social Security and Medicare, let's take into consideration your economic plans, but would you pledge not to touch Social Security and Medicare if you are elected president?

RAMASWAMY: I do. And, in fact, the irony is that when we're growing at high GDP growth rate again by the time I'm out of office in January, 2033, we will be growing at over 4 percent. Ironically, it is actually when the country is at its strongest economically, when our citizens are making more money that we can then have a rational conversation about whether we have the political consensus to draw distinctions between people who have, say, made $10 million or more in their lifetime versus those who have not when it comes to Social Security or Medicare. But right now, it is not that environment. In a shrinking economy, we should not cut entitlements.

PHILLIP: Can I ask you about another issue. This is also something your opponents, Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, have called for, including DeSantis very recently, which is an end to birth right citizenship. What is your position on that? Would you end birth right citizenship?

RAMASWAMY: I think for a period of time, I think it is going to be necessary in this country because we have an influx of migrants across that southern border, 14,000-plus per day by some estimates crossing that southern border. That is not the rule of law. That is the abandonment of the rule of law. So, if migrants are coming illegally, intentionally to be able to establish an illegal toehold in the United States, then I think that that is something we should not abide in this country.

PHILLIP: We should say also you were -- both of your parents are immigrants to the United States, so you would have been a beneficiary of birth right citizenship. But you now are saying you would ban that for people coming into the country. And what is the period of time for which that would be the case?

RAMASWAMY: For people coming into the country illegally. That is the key distinction. And people make this mistake all the time, and I think you have got to be really careful when you talk about the difference between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants. One is founded on following the rule of law. The other is founded on breaking the rule of law.

PHILLIP: That might be the case. But I'm just saying --

RAMASWAMY: And there is a distinction. Border security and immigration are not the same issue.

PHILLIP: What I am saying is birth right citizenship, as it is currently in law, does not make that distinction between whether that person was born to someone legally or not. So, you are saying that even though birth right citizenship for you was something in play, you would take it off the table now, and my question also is how long would that be the case. And also how would you do it? Would you go to Congress for a constitutional amendment?

RAMASWAMY: Well, actually I have supported the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. I'll actually go one step further on this, Abby, is that I don't think someone just because they are born in this country, even a sixth generation American, should automatically enjoy all the privileges of citizenship until they have actually earned it.


So, one of the things I've said is that every high school student who graduates from high school should have to pass the same civics test that every immigrant has to pass in order to become a citizen of this country. I believe that there are civic duties attached to citizenship, so much so that I don't think you should automatically get your right to vote at age 18 unless you have passed that same citizenship test that immigrants have had to pass or else have served the country. So, this is part of my broader pro-civic vision.

PHILLIP: I understand that, although I think there are questions about why younger Americans would have less citizenship rights than older Americans, but I do want to move on here.

You have been seeing a bump in recent polling and that is probably as a result of you being in a lot of different places and campaigning. And in New Hampshire, former President Trump had some unusually warm words for you. I want you to take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Actually Vivek is, well, Ramaswamy is leading most of our candidates. And you know why? Because he says Trump is one of the greatest presidents in the histories of our country. And I said I like that guy. I like him. I said, are you sure he's running against me? You know? That is a pretty severe statement. But he is very good. He is actually a pretty good guy.


PHILLIP: So, what do you make of that? I should say some people have suggested that Trump is using your candidacy to undermine his biggest rival right now, which is DeSantis.

RAMASWAMY: We are very early in this race, so anybody who is trying to draw who the frontrunners before the first debate, I think, is missing the plot, just like they would have in 2016. I am running to lead this nation forward.

It is true that Trump and I have a couple things in common. We are both outsiders who have had success in business, who did not grow up in the world of politics. And I think we have a lot of common cause both in standing for the America First agenda, but I am in this race to take that America First agenda to the next level, to actually secure the southern border by moving the military to secure that border, shutting down government agencies that should not exist. I've said I would end affirmative action by executive order, by rescinding the one Lyndon Johnson wrote into law, that every other Republican president since then could have negated.

So, in many ways I am going further than Trump but I also hope to unite the country by doing it based on first principles and moral authority. So, do I respect a lot of his accomplishments for this country? Absolutely, and I've been unapologetic about saying so. I am in this race as the first millennial ever to run for this nomination to take that to the next level because I have fresh legs and I'm reaching the next generation while I do it.

PHILLIP: I have to ask you, would you be open to being Trump's running mate?

RAMASWAMY: I would not. I am actually focused on winning the presidency. If you're like me, got two young sons at home making the sacrifices that we are, putting over $15 million of my money into this campaign already, hard earned money, not what I inherited, I didn't inherit money. You know what? You make those sacrifices if you want to actually drive a national revival, like Ronald Reagan did it in 1980. There was the Reagan revolution. I say in a good spirited way, we're looking for the Ramaswamy revolution in 2024, and that is I think what I will deliver.

PHILLIP: Did I hear you say you've put $50 million into your campaign so far?

RAMASWAMY: Over 15, I think, is what I said, yes.

PHILLIP: $15 million. And so how much -- where will you stop on self- funding? RAMASWAMY: We'll stop at nothing. To be honest with you, we've gotten also over 60,000 unique donors. I haven't said that I think in other settings yet. We crossed 60,000 unique donors at the start of July. I know many other candidates are talking about 40,000 being a tough threshold for the Republican debate stage. I am a first-time candidate. I've never had a political donor or donor list in my life. We've already crossed 60,000.

So, this is a grass roots campaign. People are responding to the message of putting American interests first but doing it based on principles and moral foundations. And I think that is going to take us not only all the way to the White House but to a national revival in the eight years thereafter. That is what I'm looking to lead.

PHILLIP: All right. Vivek Ramaswamy, thank you very much for joining us tonight on all of those issues.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And up next for us, the Secret Service is still trying to uncover who brought a small bag of cocaine into the west wing. We'll hear from a forensic expert.

Plus, the history of drugs at the White House is quite long actually. We'll explore that in a moment.



PHILLIP: The mystery deepens. Federal law enforcement still working to figure out how a dime-sized bag of cocaine made it into the White House. The substance was found earlier this week near the ground floor entrance of the West Wing and a law enforcement official tells CNN that additional tests are being conducted, including DNA and fingerprint analysis.

So, for more, I want to bring in Cathy Corrado. She's the executive director of Syracuse University's Forensic and National Security Science Institute. Cathy, thanks for joining us. So, I wonder, this DNA and fingerprint analysis is being done on this baggie. What is that process like? What kinds of tools are being used, and what other kinds of testing could be useful here?

KATHLEEN CORRADO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY FORENSIC SCIENCE PROGRAM: So basically, what happens when we get typically drug evidence into a crime lab is that they're going to first separate the drug evidence from the packaging. So, they'll separate the physical solid drugs and that'll go off for drug testing, which it sounds like this already happened and they determined it was cocaine. And then the packaging actually can go off and be processed in the latent print section for fingerprints or it can go off and be processed in the DNA section to generate DNA profiles or sometimes it can -- they can do both.

[22:35:00] PHILLIP: I want to show people what the size of a dime bag of cocaine would look like, basically. It's pretty small. Do you think that has any significance for the work of the investigators trying to collect whatever evidence they might be able to on the baggie itself?

CORRADO: Yeah, certainly. I mean, anything that's this small, this size, is going to be hard, both to get fingerprints and for DNA. In particular, for fingerprints, you know, the size of the bag, there's just not a lot of surface area on there. And also, depending on how often it's been held, has it been crumbled up in someone's pocket for a week? Or if it's pristine, that could, you know, depend on how -- if you'll get fingerprints.

And in terms of DNA, also, the size really makes a big difference. It's really small, and so they'll have to swab it and then do the DNA analysis. And really what we're talking about is touch DNA. So, you know, someone that held this Ziploc bag and they might leave traces of their DNA on there. So, there's really not a large amount of DNA. So, very often we don't get enough DNA to get a full profile.

Additionally, we often get mixtures of more than one person's DNA. That's because the item could have been handled by multiple people. Or even if I were to touch something, I might leave my DNA on it, but if I touch something prior to that, I might also carry other DNA on it. So, very often on drug baggies like this, we get DNA mixtures.

PHILLIP: All right, Kathleen Corrado, thank you very much. And it sounds like we'll be perhaps getting some answers next week as the investigation moves into a next phase, according to the Secret Service.

CORRADO: I hope so.

PHILLIP: Thank you. And oddly enough, there is a long history of drugs at the White House for a lot of different reasons of course.


CONAN O'BRIEN, "LATE NIGT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN HOST: There's one thing that you wrote about a number of years ago that happened in the 1970s, and I still can't believe it really happened, so I have to ask you. You wrote that when Jimmy Carter was President, you visited the White House, you snuck up onto the roof of the White House and smoked a joint. Is that -- is that something that --

UNKNOWN: I hope that happened.

O'BRIEN: You hope that happened?

UNKNOWN: I really hope I did that.


PHILLIP: Well, it's worth noting that pot is now legal here in Washington, D.C., except on federal properties like the White House. But in 1989, Bush 41 brought a prop into the Oval Office during his anti-drug address.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This, this is crack cocaine, seized a few days ago by drug enforcement agents in a park just across the street from the White House. It could easily have been heroin or PCP. It's as innocent looking as candy. But it's turning our cities into battle zones. And it's murdering our children. Let there be no mistake, this stuff is poison.


PHILLIP: And by the way, guess who gave the Democratic response to Bush's speech that night?


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT, 1989 U.S. SENATOR: In line with what the president is calling for, we have to hold every drug user accountable. Because if there are no drug users, there would be no appetite for drugs, and there would be no market for them.


PHILLIP: And more recently, Snoop Dogg made this claim.

UNKNOWN: Have you ever smoked at the White House?

SNOOP DOG, RAPPER: In the bathroom.

UNKNOWN: You did, in the White House?

SNOOP DOG: In the bathroom. Wow. Not in the White House, but in the bathroom. Because I said, may I use the bathroom for a second? And they said, what are you going to do, number one or number two? I said, number two.

UNKNOWN: Who said this, the First Lady?

SNOOP DOG: No, the CIA or the FBI, the alphabet boys. So, I said, look, when I do the number two, I usually, you know, have a cigarette or I light something to get the aroma right. And they said, well, you know what? You can light a piece of napkin. I said, I'll do that. And the napkin was this.

UNKNOWN: This is some story.


PHILLIP: Something tells me that one may not be true. Snoop Dogg did though post this video of him smoking outside of the White House. There he goes. Coming up next for us, the mayor of New York says that he has kept a picture of a slain officer in his wallet for decades, but the question now is, is that story even true? New allegations and the niece of that officer join me next. Live.




PHILLIP: There's new controversy tonight circling New York City's Mayor Eric Adams. Now, you may have seen or heard him reference this photo of a fallen NYPD officer. Mayor Adams claims that this is his friend and that he carries this photo with him in his wallet every day. Robert Venable was tragically killed in the line of duty in 1987.


ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Go back to the days of thinking of Robert Venable. Our close colleague who died in the line of duty. I still think about Robert. I keep a picture of Robert in my wallet.


PHILLIP: This photo appears a little bit weathered which would make sense if he had in fact been carrying it around for decades but according to "The New York Times", it was actually just printed last year by City Hall employees who were directed to spill coffee on it to give it that older look. Now, the mayor's office is calling this report a false attack saying in part, to be clear, Mayor Adams made a photocopy of a photograph of Officer Venable that was printed in an N.Y.P.D. transit news bulletin from November 1987 which Mayor Adams still has possession of to this day and which "The Times" saw.

Now, with us now is Meredith Benson. She's the niece of Robert Venable and she joins me now.


Meredith, thank you for being here. You told "The New York Times" initially that you would be disappointed if that story about the photo in his wallet were true. I wonder, do you still feel that way?

MEREDITH BENSON, NIECE OF SLAIN NYPD OFFICER ROBERT VENABLE: To me, it's really not about the photo. What I am upset about is just that on "The New York Times" wants to use the legacy of my uncle to discredit the mayor. And that is not what my family is interested in at all.

PHILLIP: Do you -- does it matter to you that the mayor used your uncle's story to kind of show this relationship over the years? What does that mean to you that he's been telling this story in the first place?

BENSON: Gun violence is real and gun violence is what killed my uncle. And if his story can be used to help end gun violence in the city of New York, in the city that I love and that I was born and raised in, then by all means. Eric Adams was someone who was definitely a friend of our family. He helped my family through a very difficult time, through our trauma, and my grandmother helped Eric in very high regard. And they had a wonderful relationship, and my grandmother kept up with

him over the years and was very excited and happy to see him, you know, get a master's degree and grow up in the ranks of the New York City Police Department and she was ecstatic when he became the Brooklyn Borough President. So, he had enough of a history with my family and I think his story is genuine.

PHILLIP: Does it matter to you if the picture was staged?

BENSON: Does it matter to me if the picture was staged? I, personally, I don't think he would do that. I don't think he had a reason to do that. And I think his intention was to draw attention to gun violence. And I think his intention was to use the story of a friend, someone who he had a relationship with prior to his death to highlight that this scourge that's on our community still exists.

And if he thinks about my uncle every day when he's writing legislation -- or helping to write legislation or working with the city, and he thinks about the loss and the pain that my family still has, then by all means use the story, use the photo, and get it done. He's a mayor of the people, he's a mayor of New York City, and we expect him to do right by the city.

PHILLIP: All right. Meredith Benson, thank you very much for joining us tonight and sharing your family's story with us.

BENSON: You're quite welcome.

PHILLIP: NGOP Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis doubling down now on his campaign ad attacking Donald Trump for defending LGBTQ issues as many people condemn that ad as homophobic. Coming up next the president of the Log Cabin Republicans weighs in on that controversy.




PHILLIP: Republican Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis doubling down on a controversial video from his campaign slamming President Trump's vow to protect LGBTQ rights. In an interview with conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, DeSantis called the video totally fair game.


RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, I think, you know, identifying Donald Trump is really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream where he was having men compete against women in his beauty pageants. I think that's totally fair game because he's now campaigning saying the opposite, that he doesn't think that you should have men competing in women's things like athletics.


PHILLIP: And for more I want to bring in Charles Moran. He's the President of the Log Cabin Republicans here with me in the studio. These are DeSantis' first comments on this video. What do you make of his reaction?

CHARLES MORAN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Well, just hearing his opening words talking about injecting gender ideology into the debate, the opening lines of that ad that his campaign retweeted have President Trump addressing the nation after the Pulse nightclub shooting. I don't know how addressing a national tragedy just miles from Governor DeSantis' then-congressional district is injecting gender ideology.

Look it's very clear and we're seeing it from across the conservative spectrum. Everyone agrees that this ad was misdirected, it was misplanned and it was not set up to the right tone. The Republican Party and the conservative movement have moved beyond a lot of some of these divisive social issues. And there are truly threats out there from the extreme left and elements of the LGBT community who's trying to impose radical gender theory. But this video went in a totally different direction.

PHILLIP: Well, you say that the Republican Party has moved beyond that, but, you know, a lot of people, advocates, LGBTQ advocates have been saying for a long time that the focus on trans issues would inevitably have a snowballing effect, escalating the rhetoric against LGBTQ individuals. Has this rhetoric gotten out of control?

MORAN: Well, I think that the problem is actually that it's being lumped in as quote trans issues but it's really radical gender theory. What we're seeing in some of these coloring books, some of the content that's being pushed out in primary education and higher education is not trans and I really want to make that distinction between what are trans issues versus what is radical gender theory.

PHILLIP: But as you pointed out the video actually targets LGBTQ people in general. Trump is in the video talking about LGBTQ people.


MORAN: And that's the real threat behind this video is instead of being very precise and President Trump has actually been fairly precise in his criticism of radical gender theory. Governor DeSantis' ad paints a very broad stroke. Going after people like Caitlyn Jenner, people going after a drag queen named Lady Maga, these are not the problems that the conservative movement has typically been focused on, that a lot of the republicans are focused on.

Like, this ad was so misdirected towards what the real threat is and the response from Governor DeSantis, there was a total sidestep. He didn't address it. He didn't even address some of the most important things that were in that video and he missed an opportunity of something that brings all Americans together, definitely conservatives, around protecting women's sports, protecting women's spaces, preventing gender transition, permanent gender transition below the age of 18. Those are things with broad general agreement. Governor DeSantis didn't focus on that.

PHILLIP: Do you think that this is disqualifying for DeSantis?

MORAN: I think that there's going to be a lot of people who look and listen to the argument that people make which is allegedly that Governor DeSantis is more electable than Donald Trump. When you see things being put out like this from his campaign, it completely destroys that argument that he's more electable than Donald Trump.

And it's actually been entertaining watching left wing media sitting here and having a field day celebrating the fact that Donald Trump is actually more LGBT inclusive than Ron DeSantis is after spending so many years demonizing President Trump and his record of achievement doing things like promoting the end of HIV in America and calling on decriminalization of homosexuality internationally, which are things that President Trump was championing.

PHILLIP: All right, Charles Moran, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate you coming in.

MORAN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And another classic American band is calling it quits. That story and Alisyn Camerota is next.




PHILLIP: It's an American classic, but The Eagles today are announcing that their upcoming tour will be their last, and they are not the only ones. Other artists are singing their swan song this year, including Aerosmith, Elton John, Kenny Loggins, Gladys Knight, Dad and Company, Foreigner and Kiss. That's a lot of legends all in one year. So, you better go get your tickets now. Thank you for joining me tonight. I'm Abby Phillips, CNN TONIGHT continues right now with my friend, Alisyn Camerota. I know you'll be first in line.