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Laura Coates Live

Tensions Flare 10 Days Out From Trump-Biden Debate; Putin To Visit North Korea; NJ Power Broker Indicted For Racketeering; Is Social Media The New Smoking?. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 17, 2024 - 23:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Famous tuna-melt recipe which microwaved white bread with loads of mayo, canned tuna, and cheese, it became world famous for all the wrong reasons. And earlier this year, President Biden was criticized for answering questions about the Israel-Hamas war while eating an ice cream cone. And who can forget Donald Trump's tribute to Cinco de Mayo with a taco bowl and the caption, "I love Hispanics?" That was just a few years after New Yorkers called out his pizza etiquette. And Jon Stewart was particularly offended by this.


JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Son of a bitch!


Mother -- and you stack your slices, Donald?


With all due respect, I apologize. Let's -- let's continue with the meeting. Is it -- are you eating it with a fork?


Oh (bleep) fork! Ahh!


PHILLIP: And thank you for watching "NewsNight." "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Jim Acosta, in for Laura Coates on this Monday night, 10 days out from the highly anticipated debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump right here on CNN. And tonight, a moment from this past weekend is leading to questions about a candidate's mental fitness for office.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I took a cognitive test, and I aced it. Doc Ronny, Doc Ronny Johnson, does everyone know Ronny Johnson, congressman from Texas?


ACOSTA: It's actually Dr. Ronny Jackson, not Johnson. Donald Trump there forgetting the name of his own doctor while challenging Biden to a cognitive test. If you've been watching right-wing media, that's probably not the moment you were expecting us to play. No, instead, it is this clip that they've been circulating to question Biden's mental fitness.

It's Biden at the end of his Los Angeles fundraiser from over the weekend. You can see him standing before a cheering crowd, and then Barack Obama grabs Biden by the hand and walks with him off stage. The New York Post, among others, claiming Biden froze. There is no evidence of that, but Fox and others have been replaying this on a loop, claiming otherwise.

For his part, Mark Cuban weighed in, saying -- quote -- "Both candidates are old, very old. Both are going to have senior moments, misremember, forget things, and have physical frailties." He adds, "One is great at soundbites, but also thinks in soundbites. The other is awful at soundbites, but thinks in complete sentences. Voters will decide which we prefer."

Now, this all comes just days after Trump's allies pushed a misleading video of Biden at the G7 Summit, falsely claiming he was meandering into a field when in fact he was thanking a skydiver who had been cropped out of the video. The White House tonight fed up and pushing back.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you all have called this the cheap fakes video, and that's exactly what they are. They are cheap fakes video. They are done in bad faith. Let's not forget, President Obama, President Biden have a relationship. They are friends. They're like family to each other. And I think that's what you saw.


ACOSTA: As Trump's allies questioned Biden's fitness for office, Team Biden, meanwhile, is questioning Trump's. The Biden campaign out today with a $50 million buy on a new ad hitting Trump as a convicted felon.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): In the courtroom, we see Donald Trump for who he is. He has been convicted of 34 felonies, found liable for sexual assault, and he committed financial fraud. This election is between a convicted criminal who is only out for himself and a president who is fighting for your family.


ACOSTA: Democrats have been warning that Trump would make an all-out assault on the justice system if elected. One of Trump's top allies, Steve Bannon, stoking those fears this weekend. Watch.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You are going to be investigated, prosecuted, and incarcerated. We're going to use the Constitution and the rule of law to go after you and hold you accountable. November 5th is Judgment Day. January 20th of 2025 is Accountability Day. Ladies and gentlemen, it's very simple, victory or death.



ACOSTA: Victory or death. Whatever happened to victory or defeat? If for some reason you were to doubt whether Trump keeps in touch with Steve Bannon, here's the former president calling Bannon during the middle of Bannon's show just today.


BANNON: Hey, Kari, hang on for one second. Got a call -- I got a call from someone. I got to take this. Hang on.


BANNON: Hey, Mr. President, I'm live on TV. Can I call you back?


I'll call you back, sir. Thank you. Kari, go ahead. Continue on. Your favorite person.


ACOSTA: And joining us now is New York Democratic Congressman Dan Goldman. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.


You know, when you listen to Steve Bannon say things like November 5th is Judgment Day, January 20th, 2025 is Accountability Day, I mean, you can write this off as there goes Steve Bannon again. But after January 6th, you can't really do that. What's your -- what's your reaction when you hear that?

REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): No, remember, Steve Bannon was the one on his podcast the day before January 6th who really rallied the troops, so to speak, to raid the Capitol. And now, he's using the same rhetoric. So, it's the same as Donald Trump. It's one thing if you do it the first time and you don't necessarily realize what the reaction will be. It's entirely different when you know what the reaction is to your violent rhetoric and you still continue to do it.

So, let's not make any mistake here. Steve Bannon knows exactly what he's doing. He is riling up a violent base that is the same base that invaded the Capitol, and he is saying victory or death, which means either we win or we kill our opponent. That is the definition of fascism.

And it is incredibly scary, Jim, to think that this is what we are facing in this next election. I don't want to talk about policy. We can talk about policy, you know, all day long. But it's irrelevant. What we have is Steve Bannon and Donald Trump trying to destroy the country that we know.

ACOSTA: And -- I mean, we do know that the Biden campaign is trying to sharpen its arrows a little bit. The Biden campaign released this new ad today directly going after Trump for his 34 felony convictions in New York. Polling suggests public sentiment has not exactly turned against Trump in any significant way. There's some new polling that shows maybe with independence, it might be having some effect. Do these ads make a difference? Do you think, at the end of the day, that this felony conviction will make a difference?

GOLDMAN: I do, Jim. I think when you add the felony conviction to the fact that he was held liable for rape and for financial fraud in a civil context, what you realize is that Donald Trump is the most unfit person to become our president. And if he cannot own a gun, why would anyone ever give him sole authority over the nuclear codes? He is not the person that should lead this country. He will lead us into a completely different country than we know.

And I'm happy to work across the aisle. I work across the aisle with many of my Republican colleagues on many different policy issues. But I cannot emphasize enough that what you're seeing from this revenge tour that he's on is not even Donald Trump in 2016. You are seeing someone who wants to get revenge for his own personal failings and his own personal misconduct. And he is using our government. He is using the possibility of becoming president to get back at his enemies because all he cares about, and I've known this since 2019 when I led the first impeachment investigation, all he cares about is himself.

And you have Joe Biden, on the other hand, who has been a lifelong public servant, who cares deeply about American families, about the average American, about making life better for Americans. That is a stark contrast, and it's one that we will be talking about from now until November 5th.

ACOSTA: Well, and congressman, you know, you have a fight on your hands. The president's campaign is running that ad going after Donald Trump. You're seeing this criticism now on the far-right and far-right media saying the president froze over the weekend at this fundraiser in L.A.

When you see these videos, do they -- do they give you any concern? And if you're saying, okay, I have no concern there, what about the potential for mischief, that these videos can be manipulated, that they could be deceptively edited, and that you could pull the wool over folks' eyes from here until Election Day?

GOLDMAN: Well, we don't have to look very far.


GOLDMAN: That video that you're showing right now does not show someone freezing, does not show any help needed. It just simply shows two former colleagues, two friends walking off of the stage. But you can deceptively edit it to make it look like Joe Biden was unable to get off the stage, just as it was deceptively edited in Normandy when he was looking for a chair and that they purported that there was no chair there. There was a chair there. He was just looking for his chair.


So, the deceptive videos to make Joe Biden look bad will continue, but at the end of the day, Jim, you have somebody who has led this country with such dignity, with such strength, has rallied our allies, has dealt with a terrible hand that Donald Trump gave him, and has done it really, really admirably, not to mention the historic legislation that he passed in the last Congress that is completely revamping and revitalizing our infrastructure, that is building renewable energy, that is building manufacturing in this country, that is lowering prescription drugs for all Americans, lowering student debt.

Joe Biden is the greatest president for the middle class that we have ever seen, and that will continue after November 5th.

ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Dan Goldman, thanks very much for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right, let's continue this discussion with communications director for President Donald Trump's 2016 transition team, Bryan Lanza, and also with a CNN political commentator, National Coalition's director for the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign, Ashley Allison.

Ashley, let me start with you first. I mean, you're going to see these attacks on Biden's age. I mean, this has been happening up until this point. It's going to keep happening. But they've been pretty relentless on right-wing media tonight. Let's take a look at this.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: This thing looks bad. And now, they're talking about swapping Hillary in.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, obviously, President Biden, he's not capable of making any momentous decisions. We all know that. And none of us really know who's in charge.

WATTERS: The Democrat Avengers, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have deliberately thrown down the gauntlet for an early debate to stress test Sleepy.


ACOSTA: And here are Avengers right here -- (LAUGHTER)

-- Brian and Ashley. Ashley, what do you think?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's disingenuous. I think it's dishonest. Yes, the president of the United States is old. He's 81 years old. There's no dispute disputing that fact. But when you take footage and you manipulate it to feed a narrative, that is not honest in the underlying fact of he wasn't confused, he wasn't talking and meandering out into a field. It's dishonest and it's misleading voters.

Do I think it is having an impact? Perhaps, because the way social media works is that there is no fact checker. And so, a consumer, a voter can get this information and not maybe ever receive information that disputes it.

So, what the campaign has to do is continue to push back, let the American people feel the confidence of the president's ability to show up and represent them and draw that contrast about who are telling the lies and misleading them.

ACOSTA: And Trump -- I mean, Bryan, as we saw with Trump over the weekend, I mean, he's prone to gaffes as well. He forgot the name of Dr. Ronny Jackson and there have been some other moments as well. Let's watch. Let's take a look at this.


TRUMP: I took a cognitive test, and I aced it. Doc Ronny, Doc Ronny Johnson, does everyone know Ronny Johnson, congressman from Texas?

Victor Orban, did anyone ever hear of him? He's probably like one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world. He is the leader of -- right. He's the leader of Turkey.

Saudi Arabia and Russia will be -- uh, will be reducing.


ACOSTA: Yeah, I mean, Bryan, I mean, we could do this all night. We go back and forth. I've got my clips, you've got your clips, and just do that all night. Does it get us anywhere?

BRYAN LANZA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN: I would say this. I think here's the challenge. It's not Joe Biden's age. It really is his cognitive decline. And it's not misspeaking because everybody misspeaks on television. I do, you have, you have. People get nervous. And they even conflate decades. I'll give those things to Joe Biden.

It's the fact that he can't find a door becomes a problem. Like he goes to the podium and he has to be told where to go. He's going to the wrong doors. I'm sorry. You know, maybe Obama and Biden do have this friendship, but to the average person looking at this, seeing this weekend's image of Obama having to guide him out, it reinforces what we already see.

It's not that he misspeaks. It's that he appears lost on the national stage and lost on the international stage. And that's the challenge here. I mean, these people in the international stage have known Joe Biden for 40 years. You don't think they've seen the cognitive decline. We're being dishonest by saying it doesn't exist. It's dangerous.

ACOSTA: Is Donald Trump the same guy he was in 2016?

LANZA: Sure, but he's not going through the wrong doors. He doesn't need help to get off the stage. That event that you saw took place --

ALLISON: That --

LANZA: Hold on. Let me say, that event that took place this weekend, somebody was telling him minutes before he went on stage exactly what to do and exactly what to do to get off. It didn't happen. That's a cognitive issue.

ALLISON: No. Let me tell you, as someone who worked for both of them, I read that event, exactly what happened. President Obama is someone who follows the schedule to the T. When they say go off at 301, he's off at 301.


Joe Biden, when they say go off at 301, no matter what age he is, he always runs late, he would have stayed out there until every single person left that. And Biden and Obama, that's the role they've always played. And Obama was like, come on, Joe, it's time to go.

LANZA: Yeah --

ALLISON: It wasn't he couldn't find --

LANZA: It looks bad, guys. It's not one video, it's not one clip, it's not this weekend. It's three and a half years of his entire administration where he looks lost on stage, where somebody has to show him where to go, where the door is. I'm sorry, guys. It looks bad.

ACOSTA: Come on, you have to admit, I mean, some of these videos have been deceptively edited.

LANZA: But listen --

ACOSTA: Howie Kurtz over on Fox this past weekend is calling it out.

LANZA: Hold on a second. I remember -- I remember during Trump's term when CNN showed President Trump dumping a bunch of, you know, fish food to the koi ponds with the prime minister of Japan saying that was disrespectful, that was out of protocol. That was a selective edit. And, you know, the Trump people complained, and the Biden people are going to complain, too. Nobody is sort of -- nobody is free of that game. CNN plays it, Fox plays it, MSNBC plays it. But you can't say it's --

ACOSTA: Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, CNN and Fox are nowhere --

LANZA: Excuse me? You guys --

ACOSTA: -- nowhere --

LANZA: -- let's go back to that coverage. We should --

ACOSTA: -- nearly in the same category.

LANZA: -- hours dedicated.

ACOSTA: Come on.

LANZA: -- hours dedicated.

ALLISON: So then, how come Fox didn't acknowledge that Donald Trump made a misspeak about the Ronny Jackson?

LANZA: I can't -- I can't tell you why Fox doesn't acknowledge these things, but I just said minutes ago that both politicians misspeak. That's a normal thing.

ALLISON: So why don't -- why don't we call it --

ACOSTA: We're covering both. They don't. But anyway, let's talk about this poll out of Iowa showing former President Trump with a commanding lead over Joe Biden, speaking of things that, you know, if it were the reverse, they wouldn't show it on the other network. But Harry Enten, our senior data reporter, has this breakdown. Let's look.


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: All right, Jim. So, there was an important poll that came out from the state of Iowa, and I'm going to give you a little glimpse into those numbers right here. All right, so the Iowa presidential margin, Ann Selzer comes out with her latest poll from the Hawkeye State, and look at this, Donald Trump is ahead by 18 points.

You go back to November of 2020, Trump won the state by just eight. In fact, this would be the largest Republican presidential win in the state in a generation or two, all the way back, you have to -- all the way back since 1956.

Now, the question is, why is this such an important result from Iowa? And this may give you a reason why. All right, the final Ann Selzer poll error in presidential races, she's just really, really good at her job, all right, in 2012, she was off by just a point, 2016, off by two points, 2020, she was off by just a point. Keep in mind that the average state pollster during this time span was off by, get this, five, count them, five percentage points. So, the fact of the matter is Ann Selzer is significantly better than average.

Of course, you may be asking yourself, why do we care about a result in Iowa, given that Donald Trump won it easily in both 2016 and 2020? Here's the reason why. You know what Iowa's next to? It's next to the state of Wisconsin. And you may know something about the state of Wisconsin. It's a very pivotal state for Joe Biden to win come November. He obviously won it last time, but Donald Trump won it back in 2016.

And here we go, Iowa and Wisconsin presidential results since 1856, get this, only twice, only twice out of 42 times was there a difference of greater than 18 points between those states. So, if Joe Biden is losing in Iowa by 18 points, the chance that he's able to carry Wisconsin, very, very small. So, that's the read right now from Iowa. We'll see what happens down the way. Back to you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Harry -- and Ashley, I mean, we know Iowa. I mean, it's not the same place that it was in 2008 when Obama did really well there. Is this a big sign of concern for the Democrats, for the Biden campaign? What do you think?

ALLISON: Look, I think every state that's -- quite honestly, 50 state strategy is what I've been telling people. But in the battleground states, we know it's going to be extremely close. I also know that, to your point, Iowa is very different in terms of the politics that it is in Wisconsin. And the campaigning that takes place in Iowa is different in Wisconsin.

I don't think it -- should the Democrats be concerned? I think they should pay attention. I've been saying they should pay attention and they should not let up the gas. But I also think it doesn't help when Donald Trump also says things like Milwaukee, which happens to be in Wisconsin and not in Iowa, is a horrible place. So, how is that going to land on those voters? I don't think this kind of poll takes things like that into consideration.

ACOSTA: What do you think, Bryan?

LANZA: I mean, listen, you know, Iowa in 2016, I remember the Clinton campaign thought they had a chance of winning it. So, it wasn't that long ago that this was a swing state and it just goes to show the evaporation of the Democratic Party in the Midwest. My guess is Wisconsin is probably the last stand they have, and we'll see the impact.

I think, you know, President Trump making statements like that over the weekend aren't helpful. But at the end of the day, I think the thing that's going to matter most to the people is going to be the economy, it's going to be inflation. It's not going to be the unemployment rate and it's not going to be the stock market. It's going to be the rate of inflation that everybody is paying. And for 36 months that President Biden has been there, he has promised to hit the target of 2% inflation rate, and he has missed that target for 36 months.


So that's zero for 36 in actually helping the American public deal with the most important issue to them. That to me is failure. And that's what people in Wisconsin are going to care about.

ACOSTA: And going back to Milwaukee, I mean, talking about things that are said and when you misspeak and so on, if you had that moment back, you'd want that moment back?

LANZA: One hundred percent.


LANZA: One hundred percent.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And Trump does that.

LANZA: Yeah.

ACOSTA: He's going to have moments like that between now and then.

LANZA: Yeah. There are going to be more moments like that. I think that's sort of baked into his support. I mean, you're going to have the media, you know, this outlet, other outlets, sort of, you know, create the outrage over specific things. But I do think this election is going to boil down to, you know, hey, what have you done for inflation, Joe? I'm sorry, the record of zero for 36 and hitting that target, it's a fail rate that's just unacceptable.

ALLISON: I think it's going to be bigger than that issue. I think that people will know that Joe Biden is fighting for them in the economy to work for the middle class. Wisconsin is a big union state that we know that the Republican Party, particularly Donald Trump, is anti-work.

We know that reproductive rights are going to be an important issue. We know voting rights is going to be an important issue. We know criminal justice reform is going to be an important issue. Sure, immigration is going to be an important issue, but there's a contrast. And most importantly, I think Wisconsinites care about our democracy, and they know the threat that Donald Trump poses to our democracy.

ACOSTA: Before we go, I do want to ask you, Bryan, because I know, you know, you're an honest broker about this in particular, this subject. When Steve Bannon is out there saying victory or death, you don't want that anywhere near the Trump campaign.

LANZA: Primarily because you guys are talking about it. Like Steve Bannon is a private citizen. He has a radio show. His impact on a campaign is minimal. But when he says stuff like this, MSNBC, you guys all jump on it, that becomes part of the story, and you're not talking about things that are going to matter in this election. And I think inflation matters about the election. People think inflation matters.

ACOSTA: And he's echoing Trump.

ALLISON: Wait --

LANZA: Is he echoing Trump?

ALLISON: We just watched a clip where Steve Bannon answered the phone because Donald Trump called, and he's not an important component to the --

LANZA: You don't think it's a prop? I mean, I didn't see the phone ring. I didn't see him say President Trump.

ACOSTA: You're not so sure that was --

LANZA: I'm not so sure that Trump called Bannon in the middle of his show. It's a good prop, though.

ACOSTA: Yeah, it's a good prop. Maybe it was just a prop. Bryan, Ashley, guys, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, Russian President Vladimir Putin heading to North Korea for the first time in two decades. What does it mean for Putin's war in Ukraine? All right, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, he is right there. He's going to discuss in just a few moments. Stay with us for that.

And live pictures out of Boston, take a look at this, where the Celtics tonight are world champions, beating the Dallas Mavericks in game five, 106 to 88. This was -- this was never really close, a record 18 titles for the Celtics, the most in NBA history. We'll be right back.




TRUMP: When you see President Xi of China, when you see Kim Jong-un of North Korea, when you see Putin, and you see all of these people, they're at the top of their game, whether you like it or not.


ACOSTA: And like it or not, two of the authoritarian leaders Donald Trump mentioned will meet in a few hours. Russia's Vladimir Putin will travel to North Korea to meet with dictator Kim Jong-un tomorrow. Satellite images show North Korea preparing to host Putin, clearing out the central square in Pyongyang where a large parade is expected to take place. The two met last year in Russia when Kim toured facilities that produce fighter jets and rocket launchers.

Joining us now is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He served as former director for European affairs at the National Security Council during the Trump administration. Colonel Vindman, always great to see you. So, tell us about this meeting. What do you think? What should we expect?

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, RETIRED U.S. ARMY LIEUTENANT COLONEL: Thanks, Jim. Always good to be on with you. This is -- you know, what I find interesting about this is the stark contrast to the recent flurry of activity in support of Ukraine. There was a very, very large-scale summit, a peace summit in which Ukraine was able to marshal the democratic world, 80 signatories to a -- to a peace plan proposal or at least a course for -- towards peace.

Before that, a G7 with a large number of bilateral security agreements, a $50 billion pledge towards Ukraine, a loan package that Ukraine is going to be able to tap into for its defense, all sorts of resources pouring in to support Ukraine's war effort.

And on the battlefield, Ukraine is holding its own. It's actually starting to make tactical counterattacks and take back territory and really punish the Russian forces, stymieing Russia's offensive.

What does Putin do? He reciprocates a visit that Kim Jong-un paid to Russia last year, and he is there kind of hand out asking for additional resources, additional artillery shells. He'll get some. Some 30, 40% of that artillery is ineffective, is pretty much useless. And he's going to go with his hand out around to the authoritarian world, to Iran with its drones that it's providing, but that's not going to amount too much.

And the stark contrast is what's amazing. This is a guy that positioned himself as a world leader. He can't travel anywhere. He's a hermit because he has been -- there's a warrant for his arrest, and he's going to the hermit kingdom.

ACOSTA: Yeah, I mean, that's one of the questions that I have, is whether this speaks to some kind of desperation on his part. Colonel Vindman, you and I have been talking about this for some time now.


There was a lot of concern that the Ukrainians, because they were waiting for so long for support, military aid from places like the United States, places like Europe, that that was going to give Russia the upper hand. But now we see Putin going almost hat in hand to the North Koreans.

VINDMAN: That's exactly right. It's amazing, you know, how quickly things have turned. We passed a Ukraine aid bill that the Democrats have been trying to force, that the Biden administration has been trying to move on for months, in September of 2023, being held up by Speaker Johnson and Trump. And some eight weeks ago, this Ukraine aid bill passed, and immediately aid started flooding back into Ukraine. And right away, you see those effects on the battlefield.

Ukraine is holding its own. It's actually has, in certain areas, an artillery superiority. The Russians are no longer able to launch massive barrages, follow those with these human wave attacks and gain any ground. The Ukrainians are fighting quite effectively.


VINDMAN: I'm -- I'm now slightly more optimistic. But it just does show the indispensable nature of this nation. And if we have a Trump administration come back starting next year, Trump wins in November, you'll see the likes of Donald Trump with Kim Jong-un and Putin, instead of what Biden has been doing, rallying the G7, rallying the democratic world to advance the interests of democracy. ACOSTA: Well, I do want to ask you about that, about how the presidential election could really change things. Let's listen to what Trump was saying over the weekend about the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.


TRUMP: I think Zelenskyy is maybe the greatest salesman of any politician that has ever lived.

Every time he comes to our country, he walks away with $60 billion. He just left four days ago with $60 billion, and he gets home and he announces that he needs another $60 billion. It never ends. It never ends.


ACOSTA: Yeah, I mean, we can talk about those numbers that Trump was throwing out there, but Colonel Vindman, let's talk about one thing, though, that more Americans, 31% of Americans think the U.S. is providing too much assistance to Ukraine. That's up from 7% at the start of the war. Does the Biden administration, maybe after the election, if the president is reelected, does he need to go back and do another sales job with the American people to talk about this?

VINDMAN: I think so. I mean, I think the Ukrainian war is central to U.S. national security. It'll either push Russia back on its heels, really defang Russia as one of our two most inveterate, most aggressive adversaries, Russia and China, or it'll embolden Russia and it'll embolden China. So, I think the president does have some work to do.

I was out on the campaign trail for my twin brother today, actually, in Northern Virginia in VA-7, meeting folks, visited a working-class community. The bulk of the folks I spoke to were minorities, immigrants. We had that in common because my twin brother and I both came here as refugees.

And I don't think that this is a message that's hard to sell to the American public, that we should be helping our allies around the world, we should be advancing the cause of democracy, and we shouldn't be doing what Trump is doing, first of all, fabricating things like, you know, Zelenskyy was here four days ago. That's not true.

And the $60 billion nonsense, that's also not true. Ukraine has received $80 billion, the vast majority of that has gone to U.S. defense sector, back into American jobs, American industry.

So, I mean, you don't have a normal American president damn our allies and celebrate our adversaries, and we don't need that back in the White House. That's why Joe Biden and my twin brother need to go out and win.

ACOSTA: All right, Colonel Vindman, great to talk to you as always. Thanks a lot.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right, coming up, it's a story only New Jersey could deliver. A big player in the state's Democratic politics charged with running an alleged criminal enterprise. And who's there in the front row while the indictment is being announced? The defiant defendant himself. His response, next.



ACOSTA: Politics is kind of known for being a blood sport in New Jersey. And today, we got a front row seat. The state attorney general announcing a 13-count indictment against a Democratic political operative while the defendant sat in the front row of the press conference.

George Norcross is a longtime kingmaker in democratic politics. New Jersey's attorney general says Norcross also ran a criminal enterprise for at least a dozen years to control lucrative property, collect millions in government tax credits, and threaten and extort officials.

Norcross allegedly told one developer who refused to relinquish property rights that he would -- quote -- "F you up like you've never been F up before." Norcross denies the charges as he's ready to prove his innocence now.


GEORGE NORCROSS, DEFENDANT: I want to go to trial in two weeks. I want Matt Platkin to come down here and try this case himself, because he's a coward.


ACOSTA: And joining me now is the New Jersey editor for "Politico," Dustin Racioppi. Dustin, it was quite a scene there today. Take us through the biggest allegations in the indictment. Is this making waves in New Jersey?


DUSTIN RACIOPPI, NEW JERSEY EDITOR, POLITICO: Yeah. As we put it in in our story -- our story today, this was like an atomic bomb that went off for New Jersey politics. This is something that lots of people had reported might happen at some point because authorities had investigated Norcross for many years. But nobody really quite expected this to actually happen. It finally did. It really just shocked everybody.

And to answer your question, I don't know if there's one particular thing that really stands out, but I think the totality of it, as you pointed out, a dozen years, he is alleged to have run what the attorney general called a criminal enterprise. And when you just put it all together, all the different allegations, it's a pretty stunning set of circumstances there. ACOSTA: Yeah. Dustin, why was Norcross in the front row staring down the attorney general today? What does that say about how he operates?

RACIOPPI: Well, he operates on fear. That's sort of his calling card. And it was shocking and surreal to see him do that, but not at all surprising. That's just the kind of personality he has. He's very -- very combative. He doesn't back down from fights, he picks a lot of fights, and he has a lot of hubris, he has a lot of pride. So, I -- stepping into his head a little bit, but I imagine he's thinking, okay, well, you're going to indict me, you're going to do it face to face with me.

ACOSTA: And Norcross was often called the most powerful unelected Democrat in New Jersey. How deep are his connections in New Jersey and beyond?

RACIOPPI: Going back at least three decades, he has built up this really formidable democratic machine down in South Jersey, and he effectively controls almost everything that happens down there. And for many years, especially under Republican Governor Chris Christie, he had a strong alliance and was probably at his peak of power because he had not only his friendship with Christie, which was beneficial to both of them, but he also had his longtime friend as the Senate president, the most powerful legislator there is in Trenton.

So, between those three people, they got a lot done in Trenton. That's where a lot of these charges stem from, is tax break legislation that got passed and the money that flowed down to South Jersey. But he's got a three decade-run at least of having enormous influence in the state capitol.

ACOSTA: Yeah, where -- I mean, what is going on in New Jersey these days? The senior senator, Democrat Bob Menendez, also facing corruption charges, along with his wife. He has earned the nickname Gold Bars Bob for the gold bars and bags of money prosecutors say they found in his home. What's going on in New Jersey right now?

RACIOPPI: I wish I had a clean answer for you, but that's what everybody is wondering because it's just head spinning, the pace of change and all the action that is happening when you have the senior senator on trial for the second time on federal bribery charges. You have what happened today. And much less notice is that there has just been a whole re-ordering of the political machinations in New Jersey. It's got a very longstanding and very unique way of doing politics and running its elections.

And that's all changing kind of like in the blink of an eye. Just within the last six months, things have really heated up and it feels like the ground is sort of shifting underneath all of us, and we're in the midst of really serious political change.

ACOSTA: Yeah. For some reason, Dustin, I want to end this segment by saying forget about it. But anyway, all right, Dustin, thanks for joining us, keeping us posted on what's happening in New Jersey. Come on back anytime. Thanks for your time tonight. Appreciate it.

RACIOPPI: Thank you for having me.

ACOSTA: All right. Just ahead, could social media apps soon come with a warning label like cigarettes? America's top doctor says they should. Kara Swisher is here to weigh in, next.




DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It is our moral responsibility as a society to take care of our kids. And in that mission, when it comes to social media, we are not doing well, we are failing.


COATES: Is social media as bad as smoking? That's the parallel surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is trying to make. He's warning that social media apps pose such a risk to children's mental health that they should have a warning label, just like the ones you see on a pack of cigarettes. It's something Congress would have to approve.

But he's pointing to data to back up his claim, including one study that shows teens who spend three hours a day on social media double their risk for depression. Definitely a worrying statistic, especially considering teens spend on average nearly five hours a day on social media.

Joining me now to talk about this is CNN contributor Kara Swisher. She's the author of "Burn Book" and host of the "On with Kara Swisher" podcast. Kara, great to see you. You're the perfect person to talk to about this.


ACOSTA: What did you make of the surgeon general warning business? Do you buy this? Is this going to work?

SWISHER: I don't think it's going to happen, for one thing.


SWISHER: But I do think it's -- you know, it's a little bit of a stunt on his part. And it's something he has been talking about, depression and loneliness and things like that in the mental -- the deleterious health effects on it.


And so, it's good to focus on it. So, I feel like it's a stunt, but a good stunt to bring people to be talking about the issue and maybe looking at it more carefully. I don't think it's going to pass, though.

ACOSTA: And do the social media giants even pay attention to this? Do they take stock of what you're saying?

SWISHER: Oh, yeah.


SWISHER: Oh, yeah. No, it's not good to be called a cigarette company. You know, when I interviewed Marc Benioff a couple of years ago, and he called it a cigarette -- he called Facebook, in particular, a cigarette company. And I don't think they like that very much. You know, they'll -- they'll push back by saying, well, he also pointed to some of the benefits of social media and online activity. There's no good thing about cigarette smoking for kids, right?

ACOSTA: Right.

SWISHER: So, you know, it's a -- it's a mixed bag. Some of these studies are problematic. Some of them are actually accurate. Some of them are actually accurate. Some of them aren't. And so, the question is, is it the best thing to do, to put a warning label on, or is there a better thing to do like age gating social media perhaps or getting rid of cell phone? I mean, mobile phones in schools, that's been proven to be actually very helpful to schools. Lots of stories about that. More studies, more government studies, more payment for real studies that are independent might be a good idea to do first.

I'm not -- I don't think it's a bad thing to slap warnings on certain behavior, but it's a little like if we -- when we were younger, would you slap a warning on television watching?


SWISHER: Maybe. Right? It's -- it's very -- when we were kids, television was thought to rot your brain, if you recall.

ACOSTA: Yeah. I'm glad they didn't have a warning on Pac-Man and Gallagher.




ACOSTA: My mom would give me a roll of quarters at the arcade. Have a good time.


ACOSTA: And that was -- that was the end of me. I'd be gone for like hours.

SWISHER: Yeah. Right.

ACOSTA: But, you know, parental responsibility, I guess, is part of this, too.


ACOSTA: I mean, I have found it to be effective with my kids to -- to go into their phones and set limits. I mean, if you can get into the --


ACOSTA: You know, there are ways to do this to control. Yeah.

SWISHER: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think the issue that -- the problem with parental responsibility is so pervasive. And also, parents themselves are addicted to these phones. And so, it's -- it's -- it's not just a youth thing. It's everybody uses these phones. And it is sort of a do as I say, not as I do problem, right?


SWISHER: And -- and one of the issues is that the whole families -- you know, you walk anywhere, people are all staring at phones. I was in a restaurant. The whole family was staring at a phone.

ACOSTA: The whole family.

SWISHER: What do you do about that? Yeah. And, you know, and I -- and I kept saying, why don't you look up? Like I'm one of those people who does that. But it's really -- it's -- I think it's a difficult question. Some of the -- but some of the solutions we should start trying -- phones in schools should be barred. That should be something that happens. The kids can fully focus because they're they're anti focus machines. And that is clear from anyone who uses them. Age gating is another thing. And I like that he's causing this to be discussed. I think that's a great thing. And that's exactly what the attorney with the surgeon general should be doing.

ACOSTA: Yeah. I mean, if there's one comparison to make between cell phones and cigarettes, is that, you know, if you go back 60, 70 years, you know, look at old photographs, people smoking as they're walking up and down Fifth Avenue. Nowadays, I feel like --


ACOSTA: You know, the pictures that people will be looking at 50 years from now, it will be all of us staring at our phones, and they're going to say, what the heck is wrong with these guys?

SWISHER: Yeah. Yeah, that's exactly right.

ACOSTA: But I mean -- but they are addictive and there is no way really to fix that. Is there?

SWISHER: Uh-hmm. Well, yeah, sure. The way they're designed, they're designed like casino machines, right? You're there with --


SWISHER: -- you know, putting quarters, speaking of quarters. These things, you know, there's lots of studies about this and how they like to pull you in. And, of course, it's endless information, endless entertainment. People aren't used to being bored anymore for a long time now. That's not a new, fresh thing. But these phones take it up a notch. You know, you have to always be looking at something and watching something. There's always a piece of news.

And so, it creates that kind of, you know, attention deficit disorder. That's a real issue where everyone is paying partial attention, continual partial attention to things. And so, again, I think something like -- there -- there are some very big issues about young men and being isolated, young women feeling self-esteem issues on these platforms. And so, the question is, how do we handle that? What's the best way to do it? And there is some regulatory relief here. It's just a question of what should be.

And the last thing is it runs into the First Amendment, right?


SWISHER: We should be able to do and say and watch what we want. And so, that's another issue.

ACOSTA: So, I mean --

SWISHER: In China, they just -- in China, they just bar it. They're just like kids.

ACOSTA: That's true. They absolutely do that. And what kind of warning labels would you put on these apps? I mean, could you put a warning on X? You know, may cause fascism.

SWISHER: I would say -- oh, X.


I always call it -- I'm -- I don't -- it's like -- it's like a bar that you don't want to go into anymore. There's lots of ways to describe it.

ACOSTA: So true.

SWISHER: There's a lot of porn on there. You know, I think I would say, look up. I often walk behind people who are staring at the phones in the street, which I think is a little dangerous. And I walk up behind them and I yell, look up, and they stop looking at that. And every single person -- someday I'm going to -- it's going to end my life, but every single person goes, oh, I really need to stop.


People understand the problem --

ACOSTA: That's right.

SWISHER: -- clearly. ACOSTA: Kara, and you may be saving a life because that person you said, look up, might have just been walking into the -- into the crosswalk to cross the street.

SWISHER: That's correct. Look up. I said look up all the time.

ACOSTA: That always scares me.


I see people do that.

SWISHER: Yeah. Exactly.

ACOSTA: And, of course --


ACOSTA: -- I'm not going to lie. I do that myself. Kara Swisher, great to talk to you --

SWISHER: You do.

ACOSTA: -- as always. You're the perfect person.

SWISHER: I've seen it, Jim. I've seen it. Look up.

ACOSTA: I know you have. I will. I'll look up. You, too. All right, have a good night.

SWISHER: Thanks.

ACOSTA: All right. And thanks very much for watching. We leave you tonight with the party just getting started in Boston after the Celtics won their 18th NBA championship. They destroyed the Dallas Mavericks. There's no other way to put this, 106 to 88 in game five of the NBA finals. The Celtics now have more titles than any other team in NBA history, which is why they're so excited in Boston right now.

President Biden congratulating the team moments ago on X, praising Boston for -- quote -- "a true legacy of excellence." With their win, Boston passes the Lakers, to which Magic Johnson says -- quote -- "I hate that the Celtics officially have more championships than us now." Hey, in Washington, we got to settle for one. Was it 1977, 78, something like that? We're still suffering here. Please send help to D.C. We need something. "Anderson Cooper 360" is next. Have a good night.