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Laura Coates Live

Trump Eyes Revenge In Virginia Primary; Giants Legend Willie Mays Dies At 93; Jim Acosta Interviews Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; Putin And Kim Embrace In North Korea; CNN Presents "Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom And Legacy". Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 18, 2024 - 23:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: You should advise anybody to do. I mean, if the cop tells you to.

MERCEDES COLWIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That's a million-dollar question. It really depends. If you're super inebriated, maybe something you should reconsider and not take a breathalyzer test, and then just take the penalties and the adverse inference because if you are super intoxicated, there are other penalties that attach.

PHILLIP: Yeah, that number becomes a liability for you.

COLWIN: That number becomes -- right. Exactly. The blood alcohol content is much greater, and past 0.08, it can be very significant.

PHILLIP: Mercedes Colwin, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 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 Tuesday night.

We begin with breaking news in that so-called MAGA civil war in Virginia's 5th Congressional District. Congressman Bob Good tonight, the head of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, is fighting for his political career. Results in the primary there show him neck and neck against his Trump-backed challenger, John McGuire. The race at this point, you see it on your screen right now, it is too close to call.

Now, if Good loses, it'll be a major win for Donald Trump, no doubt. But what if Good pulls this one out? You saw those numbers a few moments ago. It is close. What then? After all, Trump did try to put his finger on the scale in this race to try to exact revenge on Good. The sin that Good committed, it was endorsing Governor Ron DeSantis in the primary against Trump.

Good tried to make up for it by eventually endorsing Trump. Look at this. He showed up -- even showed up at Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan. That did not work. Good was also one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House. McCarthy has not gotten over that. He, too, has spent time, energy, and money to try and get revenge on Good.

And joining me now, former Republican congressman from Colorado, Ken Buck. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. What's your impression of watching these results come in? You served alongside Bob Good in Congress and as a member of the House Freedom Caucus. This one is tight. I mean, for -- for Trump getting involved in the race and getting behind the -- the challenger in this race, it's -- it's pretty darn close.

KEN BUCK, FORMER COLORADO REPRESENTATIVE: Well, it's an impressive performance by Bob Good, frankly. Bob has been outspent at one by McGuire's side, not necessarily the candidate himself. But Kevin McCarthy has put a lot of money in this. Other donors have put a lot of money in this. The primary endorsement that a candidate can have in this race, Donald Trump's endorsement, was against Bob. So, to be as close as he is at this point is impressive.

Bob came out very strongly against funding Ukraine. It's another issue that I think upset voters in his district and certainly donors in his district.

So, it's a close race. I don't think that Donald Trump wins this race, even if his candidate wins, because it is so close that clearly people didn't ignore all the other factors involved and just go with President Trump's advice.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And I wonder, congressman, does this sort of fit in with this phenomenon that we've seen in some of these republican primary races in the presidential contest where you see Nikki Haley, you know, even though she has been out of the race for months, getting 20% of the vote?

I'm from the Commonwealth of Virginia. I -- Trump is not that popular among Republicans in Virginia, in certain parts of the state, sure, but I kind of wonder if there's some of that going on. What do you think?

BUCK: Well, I think, clearly, Donald Trump is taking 80% of the primary vote. But the primary vote is a very small percentage of the overall vote for a general election. And even in this race, the primary vote in Virginia was a fraction of what the vote is in this particular primary that we're looking at right now. The turnout is much better in this congressional primary.

So, I think that Donald Trump has some coattails, and I think, especially when you get to the more rural areas like Bob Good's district, you're looking at a higher percentage of people paying attention to President Trump, but I don't think he carried the day in this particular race.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And we saw Good supporting Trump for years, even showed up to court for Trump's trial in Manhattan. But Trump called him a backstabber for endorsing DeSantis. I mean, what message do you take away from that? I guess you -- you understand some of this all too well. BUCK: I think I do understand a lot of this. I'll tell you something. Donald Trump should be focused on trying to unify the republican base going into the general election and not picking fights like this. This is a silly fight for him to try to exact revenge and make Republicans in Bob Good's district mad.


Even if Bob Good loses, there are still going to be Republicans who remember this that are supporters of Bob Good that will go into the general election and question whether they should vote for President Trump or not. He should be out unifying and not dividing at this point.

ACOSTA: Right. I mean, he's out on the campaign trail saying, I am your venture -- I am your vengeance, I am your retribution, and he's even doing it inside the Republican Party. Congressman, you said people who continue to say the 2020 election was stolen are lying to America. McGuire was at the January 6th rally and still says that Trump was robbed. What do you think about all that? And why is it that that election lie still lives on?

BUCK: I have no idea why that lie lives on other than the fact that Donald Trump continues to perpetrate that lie. I think the key is to move on and focus on the next election and get past the last election. I don't think anybody is going to vote in 2024 based on what happened in 2020.

If anything, people should wish -- both sides should have a higher turnout and should be more diligent in terms of poll watching and making sure that everyone can agree that this election has great integrity.

ACOSTA: All right. Republican Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado, thank you very much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

BUCK: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right, let's go out to CNN's Melanie Zanona at Bob Good's primary headquarters. Melanie, I mean, we were just talking about this with the congressman a few moments ago. You know, for Donald Trump to get involved in this race and endorse the challenger to Bob Good, Bob Good is holding his own tonight and he may squeak this out. What -- what's going on?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, it's really neck-and- neck right now. And in fact, I'm standing here outside the watch party here in Lynchburg, and they are wrapping up for the night and sending people home because the race has been too close to call.

And Bob Good just put out a tweet and he said, "The entire D.C. swamp was aligned against us with over $10 million in attack ads. But with your help, we were able to make this race too close to call."

And I think it is worth reflecting here on just how much national attention this race has gotten. Normally, this would be a relatively sleepy race. We probably wouldn't have paid that much attention to it. But Donald Trump got involved and that's why so many people are paying attention.

As a reminder, Bob Good did endorse Ron DeSantis initially over Donald Trump. He did eventually throw his support behind Donald Trump after Ron DeSantis got out of the race. But Trump really never forgave him for that. And so, he was actively campaigning for John McGuire. He was railing against Bob Good on social media. He did a tele town hall last night for John McGuire. He even told the Bob Good campaign to stop using signs that had Donald Trump's name on them, although I should point out, we saw some of those signs earlier tonight inside.

And then in terms of other enemies that Bob Good has made inside the GOP, Kevin McCarthy is another one. Bob Good was one of those eight House Republicans who voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker. So, Kevin McCarthy and his allies have also been going after Bob Good.

So really, the odds seemingly have been stacked against Bob Good leading up to this moment. He was outspent by his opponent. This has become the most expensive House republican primary race in the country. There has been a ton of outside spending from other groups.

So, we'll see in the end where this ends up. He could still hold on. Again, the race has not been called yet. It's really neck-and-neck here. But in the end, we're going to see this as a test of not only Trump's influence in the GOP, but also a test of the strength of Kevin McCarthy's revenge tour.

ACOSTA: Yeah, that revenge tour has had some hiccups. There's no question about it. And Melanie, I mean, this might be within the margin where they have to have a recount in this district. So, we may not know about this for some time. But Congressman Matt Gaetz, who has been involved in some of this, too, he has called this the most important primary in the country. What's at stake for the Freedom Caucus if Good loses?

ZANONA: Yeah, this would be a huge defeat for the House Freedom Caucus. Bob Good is the chairman. They've never seen in their history as a group one of their own chairman go down in a primary. So, if he if he does lose, it's going to have reverberations inside the GOP.

And Warren Davidson, we should point out, he is a member of the Freedom Caucus. He's actually endorsed against Bob Good. So not even the Freedom Caucus has been totally aligned when it comes to Bob Good and it just shows how complicated and deep the divisions are inside the GOP. It has been interesting to see these sorts of odd bedfellows come together, united against Bob Good.


ZANONA: We had some members who are from the so-called Main Street Caucus, we had chairman. You had Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, all of these different forces combining to try to defeat him. But it's just too soon to tell whether they've actually succeeded or not, Jim. ACOSTA: Yeah. I mean, I love that part of Virginia. It is a great part of the state. But, I mean, they're really fighting over it. It's something else. All right, Melanie Zanona, thanks very much. We do have a live shot we want to show right now of John McGuire's headquarters. They haven't taken things down yet. And you can see, there's a sign on the podium that says, "John McGuire, Trump- endorsed."


Let's discuss some of this. Joining me now, Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton and Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha. Shermichael, you like all this infighting. Is this -- is this good? Does this bode well for the upcoming November elections?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, I think you've got to figure these things out. Jim, former president could be a little temperamental at times. I think Bob Good is finding that out the hard way.

ACOSTA: You don't --

SINGLETON: You know, it was interesting to me. I wonder why did he actually endorse DeSantis. I thought that was really, really odd when he did it at the time. I had always been of the mindset that Donald Trump was always likely going to be the presumptive nominee. So that was a risky take in my position.

But also, I think from McCarthy's position, Good has sort of not been, I guess, a good faithful member of the republican conference. He ousted McCarthy in many ways. He has caused or led, some Republicans would argue, for the conference to lose some seats because of the constant and perpetual infighting when the party wants to keep those seats and potentially expand them in November. So, if he were to lose tonight, I don't think it would necessarily be bad.

ACOSTA: Yeah. I mean, Chuck, you like this. I'm sure you also like Eugene Vindman, we should note, who has been on this program a bunch and on CNN a bunch. He has won his democratic primary in that congressional district, hoping to replace Abigail Spanberger, who's running for governor of Virginia. A lot of interesting --

CHUCK ROCHA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There are three -- there are three big races there tonight. This Good race is something for Democrats. They spent $15 million fighting with each other. That's $15 million they could have used against Democrats. So as a Democratic strategist who's working on 20 congressional races, if they want to light their money on fire and fight each other all night long, that's fine with me.

ACOSTA: And, Shermichael, I do want to ask you, at a rally in Wisconsin earlier today, Trump tried to clean up some of his comments that he made about Milwaukee last week when sources say he called the host city for the RNC -- quote -- "horrible." Here's what Trump said to date. Let's listen to that.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love Milwaukee. I was the one that picked Milwaukee, I have to tell you. I was the one that picked it. These lying people that -- they say, oh, he doesn't like Milwaukee. I love Milwaukee. I said, you got to fix the crime. We all know that. You got to make sure the election is honest. But I'm the one that picked Milwaukee.


ACOSTA: He said it, clean up on aisle six, I guess.


And this is according to "The New York Times." "The New York Times" is reporting Trump will now stay in Milwaukee for the convention after initially planning to stay in Chicago. Trump, apparently, was going to stay in Chicago during the convention. I mean, these are -- these are not positive things for winning a swing state like Wisconsin. They remember in places like Wisconsin.

SINGLETON: It's good to clean up earlier versus later, Jim.


SINGLETON: Look, Wisconsin is a very important state. It's a state that the former president lost by 22,000 votes. It's going to be, I would argue, a key state in order for him to potentially return to the White House. I mean, I think the campaign has to have a battleground state strategy. You're looking at Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, and maybe you want to play hard in Pennsylvania, potentially Michigan. But you cannot win if you're Trump without winning potentially Wisconsin.

So, I'm glad he's staying there. I think he's recognizing that I need to do a little cleanup and make this up to the potential voters a little bit.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And today, Chuck, I do want to talk about this. Trump was encouraging his supporters to vote early by mail or vote early in general. That's a complete reversal from the past. I covered him at the White House when he was trashing early voting and vote by mail, accusing Democrats of harvesting and so on. Let's listen to Trump now.


TRUMP: She said, once you get rid of the mail-in voting. You know, mail-in voting is largely corrupt.

If you have mail-in voting, you automatically have fraud. If you have --

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Okay, well, there's mail-in voting in Florida and you won huge.

TRUMP: That's right. (APPLAUSE)

If you have it, you're going to have fraud.

INGRAHAM: But you won.


ACOSTA: Now he's saying he wants his supporters to do it. I mean, what do you think?

ROCHA: He needs it to win. And that's what they've all realized. And he's got some adults running this. You're going, look, we can't have any more of this stuff if you want to win states where there's a big mail-in battle like Arizona and Nevada and all of these states that he has to have in Georgia. Mail-in is a big part of it. There's a lot of senior citizens that he is counting on that vote by mail that are permanent absentee voters, is what we say.


ROCHA: And that's like money in the bank to us political consultants because they vote every election.

SINGLETON: Every election.

ACOSTA: And I have to ask the control room for a favor. Do we have time to run the Lindsey Graham sound from earlier tonight on Fox News? I want to play this because this is some of the mental gymnastics that we're beginning to see about Trump's conviction, his felony conviction, being called a convicted felon now. Listen to Lindsey Graham earlier on Fox. Take a listen to this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): So, the next time you hear the word "felon" in this election, I think the felon in this election is Joe Biden. What he's doing to the country is criminal.


ACOSTA: Felon in this election is Joe Biden.

ROCHA: The polls are coming back now. Polls that are --

ACOSTA: Am I up too late?

ROCHA: No, no, no.

ACOSTA: It's late right now. So, I'm just -- is it the sleep deprivation?

SINGLETON: It's only 11:14.

ACOSTA: It's only 11:14.

SINGLETON: It's not too bad.

ACOSTA: It's milk and cookies time for me.


But I'm just --



ROCHA: You're starting to see --

ACOSTA: Really?

ROCHA: -- this to have an effect. That's why they're trying to do all of this jujitsu to try to say, oh, it ain't that bad. Don't look over here. Look over there like they always do because the numbers don't lie. And the numbers are starting to move and it started to move after the felony convictions. And they're upset over there on our end.

SINGLETON: Yeah. The numbers --

ACOSTA: That's a Bruce Lee --

SINGLETON: The numbers -- the numbers are moving. Is still early. I still think that there are several issues that President Biden is still struggling on. He's still struggling to shore up his base. Now, granted, we're five months ahead. He has an opportunity to do that. I think the party needs to continue to make the case, Jim, about why the American people aren't satisfied after the past four years.

ACOSTA: But to have Lindsey Graham say Joe Biden is the felon, I think the felon in this election is Biden, that is -- I -- that is --

SINGLETON: Well, Jim, look, if you're asking me as a strategist, if that is what I would advise the message to me, I can assure you that would not be the message that I would advise. Again, I think the message that I would advise is --

ACOSTA: It is very tough, though. That's -- I think the issue is that this is -- I don't know if we've fully absorbed or the public has fully absorbed, our body politic, our system has fully absorbed, one of the candidates is a convicted felon, and is just going to be one.

SINGLETON: Look, Jim, I don't think the party should focus on what we just saw in that clip with Senator Graham. I think the message to the American people should be, are you satisfied over the past four years economically? Are you satisfied about the state of immigration? Are you satisfied about the potential foreign conflicts in the future, potentially come with aggressions from Russia, aggressions from China? I think the answer for the average American voter is no. That should be what Republicans are talking about.

ROCHA: There's also a reason why Joe Biden is running a 50-million- dollar ad telling everybody he's a felon because it works. ACOSTA: Yeah.

ROCHA: That's why he's doing it.


ROCHA: Won't do it if it didn't work.

SINGLETON: Well, yeah, it works because it does enable Democrats not to focus on the issues that I just mentioned.

ROCHA: Yeah.

ACOSTA: All right, guys, it's late. I'll let you go home. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it. I thought it was late because of the sleep deprivation.


I listened to that sound. I thought, surely that's not what he said, but that's what he said. Okay, guys, thanks very much.


ACOSTA: And we're going to, of course, keep you updated on what's happening in Virginia right now, that fifth congressional district tight as a tick. We're going to keep our eyes on that and bring that to you if anything breaks on that.

More breaking news just ahead. Baseball legend, Hall of Famer Willie Mays, just a legend in this -- in the sport, he has passed away at the age of 93. Bob Costas is here to react to the life and legacy of the "Say Hey Kid." We'll be right back.



COATES: Tonight, the world has lost a giant. Hall of Famer Willie Mays has died at the age of 93. Tributes flowing in for the electrifying 24-time all-star who broke barriers his own way, paving the way for the game's Black stars. Here's the moment Mays passing was announced where he began his career as a player in the Negro Leagues as a member of the Black Barons.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): We will always cherish the memory and life of the great Willie Mays.



ACOSTA: And there will be more tributes like that to come. The MLB commissioner declaring, "Statistics do not begin to describe the awe that came with watching Willie Mays dominate the game in every way imaginable."

Giants' chairman saying the "Say Hey Kid" had a profound influence not only on the game of baseball, but on the fabric of America." And his son, Michael, channeling his father's grace toward the world at large, saying this, "I want to thank you all from the bottom of my broken heart for the unwavering love you have shown him over the years. You have been his life's blood."

And joining me now to talk about this, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick. And on the line is a contributor, Bob Costas. Gentlemen, thank you so much for helping us remember Willie Mays.

Bob Costas, let me go to you first. He's obviously one of the greatest baseball players ever to play the game.

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): Uh-hmm.

ACOSTA: What was it like to watch him play?

COSTAS (via telephone): Well, I only remember him as a kid, not as a professional. But I came to know him quite well in later years, both on a personal basis and interviewing him. He was great, beyond great. The statistics show that. But you had to have seen him, even the film clips kind of conjured up for younger people. But he was wondrous. He wasn't just great. He was wondrous. He -- he was captivating.

If you took someone to a ballpark and they had never seen a game before, and if Willie wasn't having a particularly great day, he was 0 for 4, there wasn't a spectacular play to be made, he just made that basket catch, just by the way he carried himself, just by his presence and magnetism, your eyes would go to him. Even if you didn't know a sacrifice, but from a sacrifice fly, who's that guy? There's just something charismatic about him.

And he understood that -- Bob Kendrick can speak to it as well. He understood that it wasn't enough just to be a great competitor. He often said, you have to entertain people. And he said, I will make an easy play look hard, I'll make a hard play look easy.

And what he meant by the easy play was that sometimes, he would make a play that he could have made look easy. He'd make it look hard because it's just more entertaining, but he'd make the catch either way.

ACOSTA: Amazing. Bob Kendrick, let me go to you just to play off of what Bob was saying a few moments ago when I was reading some of the tributes about Willie Mays. One of the things I read that he had said at one point was, yes, you know, you love as a baseball player to get a great hit, but when you can catch a fly ball out in the outfield and take somebody out at second base, pick them off at second base, something like that, that meant more to him than hitting a home run or hitting a single or a triple.




KENDRICK: He was the consummate five-tool player. There was nothing that Willie could not do in this game. And as Bob alluded to, he did it with grace and flair. And that's why I think he became such an icon. He -- for fans of that era, all you had to do was say his name and people would start to smile. That's -- that's the joy that he brought to the game.

And of course, for us at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the fact that arguably Major League Baseball's greatest player came out of the Negro Leagues in so many ways help validate some of the lesser known names that were also stars in the Negro Leagues. And so, Willie Mays's career was transcending in so many ways.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And Bob Costas, I mean, there isn't just puffing things up here. Willie Mays was one of the greatest of all time, and some would argue he was the greatest player of all time because he was an all-around player.

COSTAS (via telephone): Yeah, you could make a case. It's difficult to compare eras, especially if you talk about those who played, both Black and white, when the game was segregated.

But there are people who have greater batting statistics. Ted Williams had greater batting statistics. Stan Musial in some sense. Hank Aaron, his greatest contemporary, you could argue that Hank, who was an excellent all-around player himself, you could argue that Hank was by a small margin, maybe a better hitter.

But the overwhelming consensus is that Willie Mays is the greatest all-around player who has ever played. And as sad as it is, there's something poetic about the fact that he passes while much of the baseball world is gathered in Birmingham, Alabama, in Ringwood Field, for a game that was to be dedicated to Willie and still will be.

The Cardinals playing his team, the Giants, on Thursday night in a major league game that will count in tiny Rickwood Field, the oldest ballpark that is still in use that not just Negro League players played in, but as Bob Kendrick will verify, I don't know the exact number, but pretty close to half or more of the players in the Hall of Fame, black and white, played at one time or another at Rickwood Field, right, Bob?

ACOSTA: Amazing. Bob, can you speak to that?

KENDRICK: Yeah, the history of Rickwood is so amazing. And I spent the entire day at Rickwood, you know, watching the transformation that has occurred in preparation for this game. And Bob, as you know, any time that you walk into hollow grounds like Rickwood and understand the history that was made there.

And again, even more so for me as a steward of the story of the Negro Leagues, that that was the place that a 17-year-old kid named Willie Mays came out and patrolled center field for the Birmingham Black Barons. It is always meaningful. It gave me goosebumps. And it still does every time I walk out on that field.

And this game on Thursday, you know, while we're all in somewhat of a somber mood, it will be, I believe, the ultimate celebration of Willie Mays's life. There will be a number of former Negro League players gathered there. I know how much he wanted to be here, to be there with them, particularly Reverend Bill Greeson, who mentored and nurtured him as a player with the Birmingham Black Barons. He'll be 100 years young later this year.

So, I know how much it meant to Willie to want to be here and, unfortunately, that 93-year-old body just would not allow it to happen. But the celebration that will take place on Thursday will be, I now think, even more meaningful and it was already tremendously meaningful.

ACOSTA: Well, Bob Kendrick, Bob Costas, thank you so much for helping us remember the great Willie Mays. He has passed away at the age of 93, but his legacy lives on and will live on this week, as you were just saying, Bob Kendrick. Bob and Bob, thanks so much. Really appreciate the time.

KENDRICK: Oh, man, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you, sir.

Coming up next, President Biden taking new executive action that protects some undocumented spouses from deportation. But it's just two weeks after his asylum crackdown at the border. What's behind this immigration back and forth? That's the question for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. We'll talk about it in just a few moments.




CROWD: Send them back! Send them back! Send them back! Send them back! Send them back!


ACOSTA: A raucous crowd chanting, send them back, after former President Donald Trump blasted migrants coming into this country, describing them as violent criminals. This comes on the day President Biden unveiled a new executive order protecting some undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens from deportation, paving a pathway to potential citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, so long as they have lived in this country for at least 10 years.

President Biden did not miss the opportunity to blast his predecessor's policies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When he was president, he separated families and children at the border. And now, he's proposing to rip spouses and children from their families and homes and communities and place them in detention camps.


I'm not interested in playing politics with the border or immigration. I'm interested in fixing it.


ACOSTA: Republicans, including Trump, are calling this move amnesty motivated by politics.


TRUMP: One of Crooker Joe's most destructive moves yet is the lawless executive action he is taking today.

UNKNOWN: This is illegal immigration and amnesty. It's wrong. And by doing what they're doing, okay, they've tainted the entire ability to get any immigration reform done up here.

UNKNOWN: Everybody knows what the goal is here. Ultimately, it's to get the voter rolls loaded up with people who are not actual citizens.


ACOSTA: And joining me now, secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us. Let's be clear. Do a fact check here. None of the people affected by today's executive order will be able to vote anytime soon. But this move does come a couple of weeks after the president signed an executive order to limit asylum claims. Was this a political move to appease Democrats who were upset with that crackdown?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Jim, you are correct that the people who will benefit from the president's leadership of the executive action he has taken will not be able to vote in the November elections. Any assertion to the contrary is absolutely false.

What this measure signifies is the president's leadership in the face of congressional inaction. And this president's approach from day one has been that we can both take action to secure the border and also make our immigration system, which everyone agrees is fundamentally broken, more just and more fair, and that is what today's action represents, as well as the action that the president took just two weeks ago.

ACOSTA: Yeah, Mr. Secretary, I do want to ask you a little bit about some of that sound we heard at the beginning of this segment. Recent polling shows 62% of voters think all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. should be deported. That is up from 39% in 2016. That's a pretty sharp spike. What do you say to those Americans who think today's move is a step in the wrong direction and who are shouting things like "send them back" at Trump rallies?

MAYORKAS: Jim, let's take a look a few years back when we provided this relief for spouses of U.S. servicemembers, men and women who have served our country in uniform and have been willing to risk their lives and too many have indeed made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. That is what we have expanded upon today. This path for status in the United States is available to the undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens now.

But right now, before today, they have to have left the country and applied for that benefit with uncertainty and fear as to when they would be able to enter the United States, when their paperwork would be processed, and so they would be separated from their U.S. citizen spouse and so very often from their children, including U.S. citizen children.

Now what the president has done is enable these people to access that path without having to leave the United States to be able to stay with their family members. It is about family unity. That is an ethic and a value of this country. And we will benefit significantly from it. We will keep families together, families, including the undocumented spouses who have contributed so much to this country in so many different ways.

ACOSTA: But when you hear people at a Trump rally chant, "send them back," what do you think of that? What's your response?

MAYORKAS: Jim, I cannot comment on the political landscape. The law prevents me from doing so. But I will say this, as the president so poignantly and powerfully expressed today, we are and proudly so a nation of immigrants.

ACOSTA: And, you know, I know there was that bipartisan border deal that Republicans failed to pass. Former President Trump was urging them to kill that deal. And did the Biden administration, though, wait too long to clamp down on this migrant crisis down at the border, in effect, giving political ammunition to Donald Trump and the Republicans? Did you hand them a gift for the upcoming election?

MAYORKAS: Oh, we most -- most certainly did not. And I will say about that bipartisan Senate legislation, which was the product of months of work across the aisle and would have been the most significant transformation of what everyone agrees is a broken immigration system in more than 25 years, the president, on day one of his administration, presented Congress with a comprehensive legislative proposal to fix that broken immigration system.


Congress did not act. Until May of last year, Title 42, the public health order, was in place, which essentially closed the border. In May, everyone expected when we lifted Title 42 that pandemonium would ensue, and it did not. And shortly thereafter, the president submitted to Congress a very important supplemental funding request to ensure that we could strengthen our border security, not just in the Department of Homeland Security, but also the Department of Justice and the Department of State. Congress did not act.

In October, the president yet another supplemental funding request. Again, Congress did not act. We went then into the bipartisan Senate negotiations. A bill was produced, a bipartisan bill, and Congress did not act.

And now, the president has. And this is not the first executive action that he has taken. Two weeks ago -- it was not the first executive action that he has taken. We have taken an action in the face of congressional inaction repeatedly. And that is what is called leadership. And that is what the president has exhibited from day one.

ACOSTA: And Mr. Secretary, I do want to ask you about the recent arrests of eight Tajik nationals with alleged ties to ISIS who crossed the southern border requesting asylum. The former CIA director, Leon Panetta, told CNN this is a -- quote -- "9/11 wake up call." Do you share the assessment that ISIS could be exploiting vulnerabilities down at the border to attack the United States? What's your sense of that?

MAYORKAS: Jim, we in the law enforcement community and the intelligence community have been speaking of a heightened threat environment, certainly exacerbated in the wake of the October 7th terrorist attacks against Israel. We've been speaking about the threat of domestic violent extremism, individuals already resident in the United States who are radicalized by foreign terrorist ideologies, false narratives, anti-government sentiments, personal grievances and other phenomenon.

We also have seen a growth in the foreign terrorist threat, and we have enhanced our screening and vetting accordingly. We had eight individuals of concern as to whom we did not have derogatory information when first encountered at the border. We made determinations in the service of our law enforcement objectives, in the service of our highest priority to keep the American people safe and secure, to take immigration enforcement action. And that is indeed what we did.

ACOSTA: And, Mr. Secretary, I do want to ask you about the murder of this Maryland mother that has been in the news. It's gotten a lot of attention. She was killed last year. An undocumented immigrant was just arrested in her death last week. He's suspected of multiple crimes since he crossed the border illegally in early 2023.

Obviously, you know, we know that studies show that undocumented immigrants don't commit more crimes statistically than native born U.S. citizens. But what do you say to critics who blame the administration for allowing something like this to happen? Obviously, this is something that you hear in right-wing media all the time.

MAYORKAS: Jim, first and foremost, of course, our hearts break for the children, the family, the loved ones, the friends of the individual who was murdered, the woman, the mother. Jim, a criminal is responsible for the criminal act. The criminal who committed this heinous act should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law and forcefully so. That is my response.

ACOSTA: All right. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, thank you very much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

MAYORKAS: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, and to follow up on the breaking news, we've been covering this race, the fifth congressional district race down in Virginia, that primary battle going on between Bob Good, the incumbent, and John McGuire, the challenger, the Trump-backed challenger, John McGuire has just come out a few moments ago and declared victory even though the results are extremely tight at this point. We don't exactly know who won that race. It's not been called just yet. But here's what McGuire had to say.


JOHN MCGUIRE, VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, the votes are in and the people have spoken.


It is -- It is an honor to be your Republican nominee for the fifth congressional district.



ACOSTA: Now, again, we should note, the race has not been called, yet that's what John McGuire is saying. That's the latest from that race down in Virginia. Anything breaks before the end of the hour, we'll bring it to you. But you can see the results, right there, coming in. Still very close to call at this point, 50.3 for John McGuire, 49.7 for Bob Good. Extremely close race right now. We'll keep you posted on all of that.

Coming up next, new information coming in as two strongmen share an embrace in North Korea. And that's not all Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are sharing tonight. They're also exchanging their -- quote -- "pent up innermost thoughts." What does that mean? We'll talk about that live report just next.



ACOSTA: In North Korea, one dictator is rolling out the red carpet for another. Vladimir Putin's official welcome ceremony in North Korea getting underway in Pyongyang. We just got this image moments ago. Take a look at this. You see earlier Kim Jong Un embracing Putin when the Russian president arrived in the country. It's the first time Putin has been there in 24 years. And Kim is playing up the pomp and circumstance for the occasion. The two even shared a ride in Kim's private car. North Korean state media is saying they exchanged their pent-up innermost thoughts, whatever that means, during the journey.

And joining me now is CNN international correspondent Ivan Watson. Ivan, tell us, you know, we're used to seeing North Korea putting out this kind of colorful language, but what do we really know about what's going on with this -- this meeting? What's -- what's on the agenda?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what's really interesting is that the language that North Korea usually puts out against imperialism and colonialism and so on has been echoed, very much mirrored, I would argue, by the Kremlin with its own language, where the Kremlin has said that North Korea is a staunch, like-minded ally and supporting -- supporter ready to resolutely resist the desire of the collective West to prevent the formation of a multipolar world order based on justice.

So, what we're seeing here is these two leaders signaling that they're very much ideologically aligned, they're both isolated by the U.S. and its Western allies, and they're making a show that they can draw closer. And in fact, the Kremlin has announced that they're planning to sign a new strategic partnership with North Korea at this meeting.

In the meantime, expect a lot of these kinds of ceremonies. I've been at some of them in the summer in Pyongyang. The forecast is that the weather is approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It's going to be hot. I've seen people participating, passing out in front of the VIPs. So, these two leaders are going to be exposed to shows like that in the hours ahead.

ACOSTA: All right. We know you'll be watching. Ivan Watson, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

A star-studded event tomorrow night as CNN puts on a Juneteenth celebration. We'll hear from John Legend and a sneak peek next.



ACOSTA: A big CNN special event celebrating Juneteenth is airing tomorrow night. The newly formed federal holiday marks the day union troops notified enslaved people that they were free more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. CNN's Victor Blackwell caught up with singer and activist John Legend on why he's making work on social justice part of his legacy.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: John, you could sing, release music, and then go home.


BLACKWELL: And not do the work. What compels you to engage and do the social justice work? Well, part of it is I've always been inspired by the tradition of particularly black artists over the years, realizing that when we have this opportunity, when we have this platform, we want to use it to stand up for what's right, fight for justice, support activists and organizers who are out there doing really important work to secure freedom for all citizens.

I come from a tradition of that, I believe. When I think about my mentors and my heroes like Harry Belafonte and others, they invested in the civil rights movement. They spent their money, they spent their social capital, and they use their platform to try to make the world better. And I always thought that was what an artist was supposed to do. So, I feel like this is part of my calling as an artist.


ACOSTA: And CNN host Victor Blackwell is with me. Victor, this looks terrific. Tomorrow night's special is a celebration of freedom and legacy. But John Legend, who is amazing, and your other guests say there's much more work to do, isn't that right?

BLACKWELL: Yeah, there is lots of work to do. And John Legend, Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle, they are doing that work. And I think that is the message of the evening that we hear from all of them, is that you have to invest. This can be a moment of celebration, Juneteenth. It could be a moment of commemoration but also a clarion call to get to work.

And you don't have to have these national and international platforms that these fantastic artists have. Start where you are. Start in your neighborhood, start in your community towards freedom, towards equality, and you can get a lot done.

ACOSTA: Yeah. Victor, the program dives into the legacy these artists and others are creating in today's America. Why is it so important that they mark this holiday by speaking out? What did you find out?

BLACKWELL: Well, two of them, Patti LaBelle and Smokey Robinson, are -- they're in their 80s, and they've been performing for more than 60 years. So, when you consider the arc of this country and how much they've seen, when you think about the civil rights era of the 1960s, the soundtrack of that is Motown music.

So, we kind of talk to them about the progress of the country. And while they both say a lot has happened, a lot has changed and improved, there's so much more work to be done. This is a moment to inspire people to remember that there's more to do and how they can get involved.

ACOSTA: Yeah. I'm having anchor envy right now, Victor. Those are some amazing guests. Sounds like a terrific special.


Victor, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Thanks for having me.

ACOSTA: And don't miss "Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom and Legacy." It airs at 10 p.m., tomorrow night, right here on CNN, and you can stream it right on CNN Max.

And thanks for watching. "Anderson Cooper 360" is next. Have a great one.