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DeSantis To Announce Candidacy Tomorrow On Twitter With Musk; Ocasio-Cortez: GOP Taking Entire U.S. Economy "Hostage"; Surgeon General Warns Of "Profound Risk" To Kids On Social Media. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 23, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Millions, in Mexico, are on edge, as the country's most dangerous active volcano emits ash, that's been hitting several nearby towns, since last week.

But there's some good news, tonight. The country's President says that there's less activity now. And that's certainly a welcome sign. Authorities are still urging residents, to stay on alert, and to wear masks.

The news continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip, starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you very much.

And good evening, everyone.

Tonight, the nation is facing a situation that has never been contemplated, in its history before. A former President will sit trial, as a defendant, in the middle of his campaign, for another term, which means that jurors and voters will be deciding his fate, at exactly the same time.

Donald Trump appearing virtually, in court, today, as a judge sets his trial date, for March 25 of next year. And in case you're wondering, that is 20 days, after Super Tuesday, six days after Florida, Ohio and Arizona, and one month before Pennsylvania voters go to the ballot boxes.

The trial of course involving the 34 felony counts, related to the Stormy Daniels hush money case. Trump has pleaded not guilty, in that case.

And also, tonight, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, will announce his candidacy, tomorrow, in a rather unconventional way, appearing in a live conversation, on Twitter, with Elon Musk.

We're already getting word that Donald Trump, and his allies, are making plans to upend that announcement.

And Maggie Haberman will join us, in a moment. And just a reminder of how wide open and unpredictable these races are. Just take a look at the Republican primary polls, from this month, back in 2015. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush both led the pack. Donald Trump, he's sort of just 3 percent, tied with George Pataki.

And speaking of polls, fast forward to right now. New CNN numbers show that Republicans, they smell blood. President Biden's approval rating just hit 40 percent, the lowest number, since last summer. It is also lower than Trump's approval rating, at the same point, in his term.

And joining me, tonight, is Senior Media Reporter, for Axios, Sara Fischer; New York Times Senior Political Correspondent, Maggie Haberman; Republican strategist, Rina Shah; and Democratic strategist, Basil Smikle.

Sara, the fascinating thing about all of this, we knew DeSantis' announcement was coming. We didn't know it was coming in quite this way. An announcement on Twitter says both a lot about what DeSantis thinks, he has to do, but also, I mean, it says a lot about Twitter, and where that platform has gone, after all these months.

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST, SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: Yes. Twitter has become the center of gravity, for the Republican Party. That used to be Fox News. Never, since it fired Tucker Carlson. You're seeing a slew of conservative personalities, now candidates, flocking to the platform.

But if you think about Ron DeSantis, he's always been someone, who shied away from the mainstream media. This is a very strong signal, of what his campaign, is going to focus on, platforms that bypass traditional outlets, including Fox News, to speak to voters, directly.

And one thing I want to note. Elon Musk hasn't come out endorsing a specific candidate. Of course, he's the CEO of Twitter. But, in the past, he said that he would endorse DeSantis, especially because DeSantis, from his perspective, is a younger, livelier candidate, compared to Joe Biden.

Now, obviously, Donald Trump is not necessarily a young, agile candidate, compared to Ron DeSantis, either. But I think that it was notable, the other person that we're watching, in terms of Elon Musk, of course, is Tim Scott. Elon Musk endorsed Tim Scott's sort of one of his campaign ads, earlier this week.


FISCHER: So, it's just an interesting time to see what Republicans are going to do with Twitter, and how Twitter CEO is going to handle Republicans.

PHILLIP: And Trump is allowed back on Twitter, but hasn't really been back on the platform. I mean, this seems to be also just DeSantis' way, of perhaps differentiating himself, and maybe not being compared to Trump on the platform?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: I think a couple of things about this moment. It's going to be pretty interesting. It's not risk-free, for DeSantis, for a couple of reasons.


HABERMAN: Number one is the technology. The Twitter Spaces often have, and you would know this better than I do, but they're often glitchy, things go wrong. So, just that's at the outset.

PHILLIP: Especially recently --


PHILLIP: -- that's been a major factor.

HABERMAN: Number two, you're dealing with two people, Elon Musk, and Ron DeSantis, who are not known, as charismatic, interviewees, or talkers. So, I don't know what that's going to look like.

But I do think -- I understand and, you know, the logic of it. If you are Ron DeSantis, and you have lost all this ground, in the last couple of months, you have to do something, to get attention. And this is a way that you can raise, small-dollar donations, from people.

What Trump does to respond is anyone's guess. It's not only that he hasn't been much on Twitter. He hasn't been at all on Twitter.


HABERMAN: He's been focused on his own social media platform. His aides have signaled, for a while, he's coming back to Twitter, sooner rather than later. Seems like there's a non-zero chance tomorrow might be that day. But we'll see.


PHILLIP: That'll be interesting to see, I mean, if Trump suddenly is firing back, in real-time.

I actually -- this is a statement, from a pro-Trump Super PAC. The spokesperson, for that Super PAC, says "This is one of the most out- of-touch campaign launches in modern history. The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis' after party at the uber-elite Four Seasons Resort in Miami."

I mean, it's actually kind of a reasonable point. I mean, Twitter is very much not real life. Only a small sliver of the American public or even the voting public is on this platform.

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. The cardinal rule in politics is to meet voters where they are. And he's not doing that, because Twitter is not where voters really are. And that's a -- look, it's a unique strategy. I quite like it. I think it's different. He's not getting out there, like Tim Scott, on a stage. He's not doing this video, like Biden, or Haley. And it's definitely one of these moments, where I'm thinking to myself, "Could this be the moment where people stop saying, 'This campaign is dead in the water?'" I don't think it is. And it's not dead on arrival, either.

Because this signals a real changing point, where candidates can be unique, they can be different. And he doesn't have to put his face out there. He puts his voice out there, and tells people, what he's standing for. He's had a lot of problems. This could be a turning point.


BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: A lot of people -- well, I think all of that's true. I also want to point out that a lot of people, on the left, don't like Elon Musk, right now, so -- because of what he's done to Twitter.

So if you're Ron DeSantis, you say, "Hey, I'm all about being anti- woke. Let me pair with someone, who's also sort of an enemy of the left, right now, get on this platform, try to stand out, from Trump, and others," even, because Trump has gone to an alternative platform, everybody's going to these alternative means, "Let me stay on this one platform, where there's still a lot of folks that are engaged and paying attention. And let me see if I can find a way to stand out."

SHAH: Well it's not a general election yet, right?

SMIKLE: It's not.

SHAH: And this is the primary. And people aren't acting like this is the primary. I'm one for primaries. I don't like coronations. I like primaries, because you can tease out what you get, from a candidate, later down the road, and get it earlier.

PHILLIP: But what happens in a primary doesn't disappear in the general election. I mean, the Elon Musk of it all?

SHAH: Yes, yes.

PHILLIP: I think is very significant. I mean, this is someone, who has been spreading non-stop conspiracy theories. Whether it's about Paul Pelosi's attack, or the Neo-Nazi guy, who carried out a mass shooting in Texas? I mean, he in and of himself is kind of a controversial, some would say, toxic figure, to tie yourself to, at this stage.

FISCHER: Yes. But others don't think he's toxic. And that's the whole point. The Republican Party is moving, into this world, where Elon Musk stands for what they stand for, culturally. So, it makes perfect sense that Ron DeSantis would go there.

But the thing that I'm thinking about is when we say, "Voters aren't on Twitter," voters aren't anywhere, like this media landscape is so different. It's not the old days, where everyone was watching the same three broadcast news networks, at night. Now, everyone is on gaming platforms, or social media platforms. All that matters, is can you plan a message that can go viral, and break out?


FISCHER: That's going to be the standing test of time, for tomorrow.

HABERMAN: What also matters is actually appealing to real voters, and especially in the first four States, especially in Iowa, which is where, of the first four States, there is the biggest non-Trump opening, and where, a lot of DeSantis' allies, and advisers, believe he has to win that State.

So, I think this is -- we're very focused on Twitter, as we should be, because this is interesting, and this is where it's going to be, tomorrow. He is going on Fox News, right after, supposedly he does Twitter. He is supposed to make visits to the early States. So, he is doing all of these things. And he is going to do a pretty actually conventional rollout, I think, after tomorrow.

SHAH: But winning Iowa isn't everything. Ted Cruz won Iowa?


HABERMAN: No. But you're nowhere if he doesn't -- if he doesn't win Iowa, he has --

SMIKLE: He's --



HABERMAN: -- it has to start somewhere.

SHAH: As moving forward, right.

PHILLIP: As people have pointed out, the Republican nominee has not won Iowa, since George W. Bush, back in 2001. So, it's been a long time.

HABERMAN: That's true, indeed.

PHILLIP: I do want to play this new video, from -- that was tweeted out, by Casey DeSantis, Ron DeSantis' wife, teasing the announcement, tomorrow.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call it faith because, in the face of darkness, you can see that brighter future.

A faith that our best days lay ahead of us.

But is it worth the fight?

Do I have the courage?

Is it worth the sacrifice?

America has been worth it every single time.



PHILLIP: So, your reaction?

SHAH: I love it.


SHAH: I think DeSantis is somebody to watch, because he's going -- he's gone far right, when he knows that most presidents come to the center.

So, he's got -- this is the strategy, here. He's going over to the right, to see what he can peel off, from MAGA universe, right? This abortion ban, this fight with Disney, he doesn't think it's going to hurt him, because he knows we have short attention spans.

PHILLIP: Well --

SHAH: So, he's acting strong. He's Trump-lite. Look, I didn't like Trump. But I like this.

PHILLIP: That's interesting. I mean, it is kind of like -- it's like the polar opposite of the sort of sunny, like, positive future. I mean, that's pretty dark.


I do want to point out Nikki Haley, today, basically kind of put out this memo, saying, DeSantis is Trump, but without the charisma, without the personality skills. I mean how does that play?

HABERMAN: Look, I think if you're Nikki Haley, and if you're a lot of people, who are in this now-burgeoning field, who see, Ron DeSantis, in front of them, and then Donald Trump, much further out, they have to find a way to try to gain ground. She can't get to Trump until she can get to DeSantis. And I think that you're going to see a lot of that from people, who are polling, at a lower number.

What I'm struck by the visuals, in that video, more than really the message, which I'm not surprised by, I just don't understand why --


HABERMAN: -- we're seeing his back, going to a stage.

PHILLIP: Yes. HABERMAN: That's honestly the only thing that I was confused by.


SMIKLE: No, it's incredibly dark. And you're right. He doesn't have the charisma -- maybe Haley -- maybe she's right, that he doesn't have the charisma of Donald Trump.

And I do believe that presidential campaigns are about creating a social and political movement, which I don't think that Ron DeSantis can do. What he has done is try to say that "Where you get chaos from Donald Trump, I can codify everything you like, about Donald Trump's policies, but he hasn't been able to implement," like any all of this sort of anti-wokeness, going after the College Board.

SHAH: Yes.

SMIKLE: He's actually gotten involved, in School Board elections. So, he's been able to say, "I know the levers of political bureaucratic power, to implement all the things that you care about." I just don't know that that's a winning general election message.

PHILLIP: That's exactly right. I mean, I think it's clearly moved the Republican Party, in a certain direction. But what is going to happen, when we get to the broader electorate?

But everyone, stay with us.

Smack in the middle of next year's presidential primary season, the former President will have a court date. Will his hush money case, and other legal woes, sabotage his bid to retake the White House?

And the nation is quickly approaching default, with neither the White House, nor Republicans blinking. We'll talk about it with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Stay with us.



PHILLIP: A trial date is set, for Donald Trump, March 25, 2024, in other words, right in the middle of a presidential primary season. Trump will trade the campaign trail, for a New York courtroom, to stand trial, in the Stormy Daniels hush money case.

And, in court, today, the judge made sure that the former President knew the rules, about what he can and cannot say, whether he's standing on a campaign trail stage, or sitting in front of a TV camera. A decision Trump is already saying violates his free speech and calling election interference.

And joining the table is one of Trump's attorneys, in the first impeachment trial, Robert Ray. He's also the former head of the Office of the Independent Counsel. Maggie, I want to start with the timing here, because this is very significant. We knew that this could land smack-dab, in the middle of this next presidential campaign. Now we know it is right after Super Tuesday happens, a very significant time, for Trump.

HABERMAN: Yes, look, this is not the timing that the Trump team wanted to see. Now, remember, there are going to be a lot of pretrial motions, and there's going to be an effort, to try to get these charges dismissed. Assuming that they go ahead, this is when the trial is -- we've never seen anything, like this.

I have no idea how this plays, politically. We certainly know that, let alone the bigger issue is a criminal trial, and the President does not want to be -- former President does not want to be convicted.

We know that it has helped him, this indictment, in the primary, so far. We don't know how further legal issues will play out, for him, although there has seemed to be a galvanizing effect, with his base. I don't know that this will be helpful to him, in the middle of, let's say that he is ahead, in the Republican primaries, at that point.

This is not going to be helpful, for him, as it's turning to a general election. If this is still an ongoing, sluggish primary fight, I just don't -- yes, this could galvanize his base further. It's not going to bring a lot of people, who are undecided, I suspect, to his side. But mostly what it is, is just an element of chaos that we can't tell how this plays out.

PHILLIP: And the other element of chaos here is Donald Trump himself. And the judge basically informed him, of what the expectations were, in terms of what he was supposed to -- what he's able to say, and what he is not.

How do you think that that's going to play out, in terms of Trump following those rules? I mean, you know him well, as a former defense attorney for him.

ROBERT RAY, COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP IN FIRST IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Look, I think the judge made clear that he's taking great pains, to not interfere, with the former President's ability, to campaign, actively and fully.

The protective order is narrow, since it is limited to the information that is shared, as part of discovery, from the government, to Mr. Trump's lawyers. And the client, in this case, the former President, has access to those materials, but is instructed, under paying of penalty, for contempt, not to share that with the public.

It's hard to answer your question in a vacuum. I don't know, what will be turned over. I know what the intention is. The government doesn't want there to be any adverse impact, on any of its witnesses, before trial. I would think there's probably enough room to maneuver that the President will not run afoul of the protective order. But who knows?

And there's also, of course, always recourse, to go back to the judge, and say, "Well, there's something I do want to talk about," and it's arguably covered by the protective order. And so, the lawyers will attempt to seek some relief, whether the prosecution chooses to do that or whether Mr. Trump intends to do that.

PHILLIP: Yes. And Trump is just not the type of person to, I mean, he doesn't read like the fine print, on some of this stuff. And I think that's part of the problem, if you are someone, representing him.

When we're talking about a podium, in front of a rally, tens of thousands of people cheering him on, and egging him on? You're talking about TV interviews, debate stage, a Town Hall stage? Can he stay in line?

SHAH: Absolutely not. He's proven that. He'll open his mouth and say whatever he wants to say, and think that he is above the law. And those words can't come back to hurt him. And that's what actually people love about him, the ones who still support him, I must add.

So, look, playing the victim card has really worked for Mr. Trump. In all this time, you see people coming out from the Republican side, saying, "We're not victims." Yesterday, Senator Tim Scott, literally saying "We choose victory over victimhood."


Yet, Trump plays the victim card, and gets sympathy boosts. Politically speaking, he will get these sympathy boosts. And people will say, "Look, the system is coming after him. And they're mistreating him. He was a person in power. They're going after him. If they can go after him, they can go after me." And that is the verbiage he will use.

PHILLIP: Maggie raised the possibility, Robert, that, this could end in, even before a trial it could end in a dismissal of the charges.

RAY: Sure.

PHILLIP: What do you think are the prospects?

RAY: Well, there'll be a full set of motions that will be filed in the -- before the State court. And, of course, in June, there's the what -- effect is the first substantive appearance, in federal court, with regard to removal.

I know some have characterized that as a long shot. I have to say that I've looked at the federal removal statute, for criminal cases. It's broad enough, to encompass things, like what the former President is arguing that he has federal defenses, in connection, with a State prosecution. It'll be interesting to see how a federal judge handles that.

And no matter who wins or loses, on that decision, it is going to be appealed. And on something this significant, you can expect, like everything else that's involved, the former President, it's not going to be a single trip, to the District Court. It's going to go to the Court of Appeals.


RAY: And it likely will be something that the Supreme Court may take a look at. So, we say trial date, in March of 2024. That suggests like it's one day. It's not going to be one day. It's going to be a several-week trial. The notion that the former President is going to be on trial in the middle of campaign, I'll believe it when I see it.


RAY: I think there's -- the great likelihood, in my view, is that that's never going to happen. But we'll see.


HABERMAN: He was just on trial, in a civil case.

PHILLIP: Yes. That has happened.

HABERMAN: So, I just want to make the point that we have --


HABERMAN: -- we have some precedent for it.

FISCHER: And just to put a final touch on this, one thing Donald Trump is very good at is making lemonade out of lemons. Anytime he is in a criminal situation, in a court situation, the FBI raid, he will find a way to make this a fundraising opportunity, and merchandise opportunity.

So, don't expect Donald Trump to hide away from this. He's going to absolutely leverage this, as a part of his campaign, and the media is definitely going to follow it. I mean, we saw this, when he had his indictment, a few weeks ago. There will be wall-to-wall coverage of this thing, and that will drown out the other candidates.

HABERMAN: It will. But I will just make the point that we are seeing, real-world consequences, with him, legally, on this that we haven't seen before. He was found liable, in the civil trial. The judge's ruling, today, I think, is not insignificant. He does fear, I think, certain legal consequences more than others.

PHILLIP: So, we just got word that Trump's lawyers have requested a meeting, with Attorney General Garland, in that classified documents case.

This is the Special Counsel case that Maggie, you have said is one of the ones that he is the most concerned about. What do you make of that?

HABERMAN: Well, I make of it that they assume that there's going to be a charging decision near, because all signs are that these cases, both the January 6 investigations, and the documents investigation, are wrapping up, or at least coming close to being wrapped up, and that they want to get in their say, before anything might happen. I don't know how this will be received. I don't know whether it'll be taken. But yes, it speaks to the fact that they are taking this incredibly seriously, and want to deal with it.


RAY: It also means that it's decision ultimately, notwithstanding the Special Counsel regulations --


RAY: -- that is one that the Attorney General himself has to make, which raises in the context of an active political campaign, with two announced candidates, that you are having the Attorney General, appointed by one presidential candidate, making a charging decision, in connection with a criminal case, as to a political candidate, for the other party.

It raises the question, therefore, which I think is what the lawyers are teeing up, and one of the questions that I think will be out there eventually, before too long, is the question of recusal.

PHILLIP: They want to present -- this meeting, our understanding is that they want to present arguments for why he should not be indicted. How successful do you think that can be?

RAY: Well, it often can be successful. But understand, this is an unusual situation.

In the ordinary course, you would expect the Attorney General, unless there's some extraordinary reason, not to, to endorse the charging decision, of the Special Counsel.

It suggests to me that I think they think that the Special Counsel's decision is a foregone conclusion, which means that the only avenue left, to pursue, is whether or not the Attorney General will authorize the prosecution.

That is a significant moment, in American history. I mean, I guess, maybe there's lots of significant moments. But it is a significant moment. And as I have confronted, in my own past, the decision about whether or not to charge a sitting or a former President of the United States is not a little deal.


RAY: There are only two people, in the United States, who are subject to election, by all the people, the President, and the Vice President. And he's a candidate now for Office. Again, that raises some substantial questions.

PHILLIP: Yes. We could be, as a country, on the cusp of a very significant series of decisions, being made, by this Justice Department, as it relates to former President Donald Trump.

Sara, Maggie, Robert, and Rina, thank you very much for all of that. [21:25:00]

And coming up next, for us, debt deadlock. Just nine days, until a possible default, and still no deal, to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

Progressives, like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are warning the President not to budge. And she joins me live, next.


PHILLIP: House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, telling Republicans, he is quote, "Nowhere near a deal" with the White House.

And each day that we go, without one, America gets closer to not being able to pay its bills, a catastrophic possibility, for the world economy, and it would be devastating, for countless Americans.

Now, negotiators, they are meeting, and like they did, today, at the Capitol. But there are no talks scheduled between McCarthy, and President Biden, directly.

But joining me now, to discuss all of this, is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, from New York.

Congresswoman, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining us.

I want to get straight to the specifics, because we are getting close to a decision point, here. Our reporting is that Republicans have essentially ruled out tax increases. They've also ruled out defense cuts.

Are you comfortable with the Biden administration coming to an agreement, if those are part of the terms?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I think one of the things that is indicated by the information that you just shared is that for all this talk about negotiations, Republicans are not negotiating at all.


They in fact are -- Republican Matt Gaetz expressed, in a party meeting, today, that this is in fact a hostage situation. And I want to be clear about what the Republican Party is taking hostage. It is not Democrats. It is the entire U.S. economy.

And for them to have this situation, and try to use it, in unprecedented move, of taking the entire U.S. economy, hostage, in order to secure cuts, to Veterans' health care, to Medicare, Medicaid, potentially, or just threaten all of those services, in the event of a default, is unprecedented. It is extreme. And it is not acceptable.

PHILLIP: But what you're saying, I mean, there is a negotiation happening. The White House is at the table. And in order to get an agreement that will pass the House and the Senate, it sounds like there are going to have to be cuts. I'm wondering what are you, and other Democrats, willing to accept, in terms of cuts that you think the White House can put on the table.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think what's important to add context to the situation is that while the White House is at the table, what does seem to be a big question mark, in the frame of negotiation, is that there have been offers, on how to reduce the debt ratio offers, and how to address the deficit. And the White House has offered revenue raisers.

And that is not too unlike what we saw happen during the Obama administration. They said, OK, if we are serious about addressing this debt issue, or if we are serious about addressing a deficit issue, we have to address the primary drivers of the U.S. debt ratio, which are the 2017 Trump tax cuts, including tax cuts on things like yachts and private jets.

And in order for there to be any sort of claim to a negotiation, there has to be a give-and-take. And, right now, what Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Party are doing is only going further and further, to the right, and more and more extreme, in their proposals. And that, it is actually their refusal, to negotiate, despite there being conversations that, is contributing to this situation.

PHILLIP: So, am I hearing you --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think, right now, the focus needs to also --

PHILLIP: Am I hearing you say that you believe that --


PHILLIP: -- tax increases, rolling back, perhaps the tax cuts, from 2017, needs to be part of the deal?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: If there is not a clean debt limit raise, then that should absolutely be part of a negotiation. A deal, the basic function of any deal is that one party may get one thing, and another party may get another. And if revenue raisers are not a part of that conversation, the question that we need to ask is what actual deal is even being proposed.

And it is precisely because the Republican caucus refuses to concede, any single point, to the White House, that we are in the situation that we are.

And that, it goes beyond the point that even President Trump said, during his administration, that using the debt limit, as a leverage point, or a negotiating tool, is absolutely ludicrous, and unacceptable, because the stakes are simply too high, to hold the entire U.S. economy, hostage.

Particularly, if the Republican evaluation is a cynical one, saying, "If we tank the economy, we'll expect people to blame the President," is reckless. It's irresponsible. It will hurt rural communities. It will hurt urban communities. It will hurt seniors. It will hurt kids enrolling in Head Start. All of these things could grind to a halt.

And it could also include essential infrastructure issues, like air traffic controllers. The stakes of a deficit -- the stakes of a default, cannot be understated. The chaos that would ensue and the impact on people's everyday lives would likely be immediate.

And it is one of the reasons, why we need to take default, off the table, and have Republicans, agree, to raise the debt limit. Because frankly, this is a very serious situation that nobody wants.

PHILLIP: Well --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: This is not a partisan issue.



PHILLIP: I hear what -- I hear what you're saying about the damage that can be done, from a default.

But again, the White House they are at the table, now. They are discussing a deal that would raise the debt ceiling, in exchange, for a budget agreement that probably will rely on cuts.

Do you think that that is a negotiation that the White House should be engaged in, right now? And if not, how are we going to avoid a default in less than nine days now?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No, personally, I do not believe that cuts are acceptable, to wide parts of much of the Democratic Party.


And we also need to look at the stake of -- at the stakeholders, here, at the table. There is the White House and their responsibility. But also, Kevin McCarthy does not have the votes, necessary, to pass such a draconian deal, in the House. And that is essentially one of the key dynamics here that we have to highlight.

A McCarthy deal, and what Kevin McCarthy is proposing, cannot presently pass the House. Nor are we -- and we are also seeing indications, from many, in the Senate, which has a Senate Democratic majority, that, by and large, a deal may not be able to pass there.

And so, instead of cuts, I think we really need to focus on the stakes, and this being a negotiation to begin with. The stakes are simply far too high, for us to be playing with the fates of so many people, in this country.

PHILLIP: So, do you do you think President Biden should walk away, from the table, right now?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think what we're seeing here is if we get down to the basic math, is that Democrats filed a discharge petition, on Friday, to raise the debt limit that received north of 200 votes. You need 218, in order for us to really be able to solve this situation.

PHILLIP: The moderate Republicans, who could join in with you --


PHILLIP: -- rejected that proposal. So, that is also going nowhere as well.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I believe that right now, if we are at an impasse, in both of these -- in both of these arenas, our responsibility is to break through that impasse. And so, we are either going to have to break through an impasse, of Kevin McCarthy, being short of 50 votes, or Democrats, being short of five or six votes.

And I believe it's very important that we try to pursue the path of least resistance. And, right now, we are -- the path of least resistance is the path of least votes. I understand that there may be some moderate Republicans that would balk at that.

But there are 18 Republicans, in the House, that are in Biden districts, that the President carried by multiple points. And their constituents do not want to see them associate, or amplify, in the most extreme elements of their party. And their districts, and their constituencies, do not want to see them really promote, and contribute, to the country descending into default.

PHILLIP: Was it --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And so, right now, I think the focus is on those 18.

PHILLIP: Was it a mistake, for Democrats, not to eliminate the debt ceiling, when your party had the majority, in the House, in 2011, or in 2012?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean I was very supportive of us addressing this issue, prior to January, during the lame-duck period.

There are other perspectives that say, we may not have had the votes. I believe that we could have at least attempted to pass that in -- pass similar measures, in the House, and at least put it at the Senate's feet, so that they could make that decision. But, right now, we are in the moment that we are in, right now.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: And we have to focus on solving the issue before us.

PHILLIP: And real quick, before you go. June 1. Do you believe that that is the drop-dead deadline here? I mean, we've heard some Republicans call that into question.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I see Republicans calling it into question. They have not really provided evidence for that. I am very concerned that House Republicans, and Republicans, in general, are not taking seriously, the guidance, from the Treasury, and from other places. We do not have evidence that a June 1 deadline is not -- doesn't, you know, does not have integrity. We are hearing from experts, across the country, from the Treasury Secretary, on down that June 1 is the date. And my question would be to any folks that would question that is, are you really willing to risk the entire economy, on a hunch that experts in this field might be somehow wrong?

I think the stakes are far too high, and that the Republican Party is dramatically underestimating the chaos and the damage. We are talking about Social Security checks --


OCASIO-CORTEZ: -- potentially being interrupted, Medicare payments, potentially being interrupted, Head Start, and so on.

PHILLIP: Yes. That's all very much at risk, as we go forward. Critical few days ahead.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, thank you very much, for joining us, tonight.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, thank you.

PHILLIP: And a profound risk of harm for kids. That is how the U.S. Surgeon General is labeling social media. What he's learned that prompted him to issue the stark warning is coming up, next.


Plus, more on the news, just in. Donald Trump's lawyers, requesting a meeting, with the Attorney General, in the documents case, on why they believe that he should not be indicted. That's next.


PHILLIP: A sobering new advisory, from the Surgeon General, about the impact of social media, on children's health. Dr. Vivek Murthy said that social media use presents a profound risk of harm, for kids.

And his new advisory calls for more research, on the impact, which is widespread, considering that up to 95 percent of kids, ages 13 through 17, report using social media. A third say that they use it almost constantly. And the advisory says that nearly 40 percent of kids, aged eight to 12, are on social media platforms.

The Surgeon General says that he is concerned that social media is contributing to the harms that these kids are experiencing, in the middle of this current mental health crisis. Dr. Murthy says that social media companies should be required to operate, by the safety standards, to protect children.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: It is urgent that we take action, to protect our kids, and to make sure that their experience on social media is safe.


We've done that for other products that kids use, for medications, for cars, and we haven't asked parents, to go inspect the car themselves, and make sure it's safe. We've set safety standards, and we required manufacturers, to implement, and abide, by those standards. We've got to do the same thing here.


PHILLIP: And joining me now to discuss this is Frances Haugen, an advocate for accountability, and transparency, in social media. And she's also the whistleblower, who revealed Facebook's practices that she says, the company knew were harmful, to kids, and to adult users.

Frances, thanks for joining us.

And you just heard what the Surgeon General just said there. He's likening this to regulation on medications, regulation on cars that are designed to protect users.

So, what accountability, and liability even, do these social media companies have, for the actual harm that they might be causing to children and families?

FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Today, social media companies operate under something called Section 230, which gives them basically a blanket immunity, for the content that they deliver to users.

It seems -- right now, we need to have a conversation, around how we can hold them accountable, for the larger product context, the experiences that they introduce, and not just the content.

I'll give you an example. One of the things that the Surgeon General flagged was that one-third of adolescents say that they're using social media, till midnight or later, most weeknights.

Right now, we have no accountability for these companies to say, hey, this is a real practical way you could be making these products safer, give kids real tools that help them unplug at night, help parents, real ways of setting boundaries in ways that they can help make sure their kids are safe online.

PHILLIP: These are some issues that have been raised, for a long time. I mean, you have been so public, in many of them. Is there any evidence out there that the social media companies are taking them seriously, acting on what is already out there, what we already know, and fixing their platforms?

HAUGEN: Right now, the social media companies are locked in a real challenge, because if any of them are first-movers on safety, they risk that the other social media platforms won't follow, and they'll lose the next generation of customers.

Companies know that they can be making these products safer in real ways. But instead of shipping real controls for parents, real tools, for kids, to manage their own use, they ship a lot of half measures, and refuse to give us any data, on whether or not these interventions are effective, or whether or not they're used.

We need to have mandated transparency, so that we can work together, with these companies, to ensure that they're creating experiences that are safe, for our children.

PHILLIP: Any evidence that lawmakers are going to take up that challenge? Or are they asleep at the wheel here as this is unfolding?

HAUGEN: It's really scary, right now. There's a -- even the lowest hanging fruit, in terms of platform accountability, something called PATA, Platform Accountability and Transparency Act, is struggling, to get through Congress, are having trouble getting enough sponsors, or make movement, to actually passing this bill.

When we struggle to pass laws that are as basic as, should researchers be safe, from being sued by platforms, when they uncover the dirty laundry of the platforms? I think we really need to ask questions, of our Representatives.

I encourage people, to call their Representatives, and say, "What are you doing to demand?" The public gets to ask questions about these platforms, and get answers, because today, we can't even get very basic bills through Congress.

PHILLIP: Yes. All right, Frances Haugen, thank you very much for all of that.

And coming up next, South Carolina takes a major step, tonight, towards a statewide ban, on most abortions. My next guest is a Republican, who filibustered that bill. And she'll explain why. And we'll get her reaction to its passage, next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the South Carolina State Senate passed a six-week abortion ban, in a move that brings the State closer to outlawing the procedure, with very limited exceptions.

And now, keep in mind many women are not even aware that they are pregnant, by six weeks. And the bill, known as the "Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act," passed by a vote of 27 to 19. It now heads to the Governor, who has already promised to sign it into law.

The State's five women, known as the "Sister Senators," adamantly opposed the final version of this legislation. And that group includes my next guest.

Republican Penry Gustafson voted for the bill, back in February. But she now says that the House made dramatic changes that she does not support. State Senator, thank you, for joining me, here, tonight, on just a few hours, really, after this has passed.

Can you just tell us why did you go from once supporting a six-week ban, to not supporting it, in this iteration?

PENRY GUSTAFSON, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE, SC GOP STATE SENATOR OPPOSED TO NEW ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: Well, I think a better question is why did the South Carolina House decide to completely change it? I didn't change. They did.

They struck the bill, pretty much, and inserted their own language, their own definitions, extra -- where, as fact-finding clauses, which can be problematic, for the South Carolina Supreme Court, S.S.1 (ph), two years ago. It is simply not the same bill. And I did not support it today.

PHILLIP: Can you tell us, I mean, do you support banning abortion at six weeks?

GUSTAFSON: No, ma'am. I don't. I do not support.

PHILLIP: Why not?

GUSTAFSON: I've come to realize, in the process of all of this, that women really don't know. They just don't know, in most cases, that they're even pregnant. And that seems to be a sticking point, for a lot of people, I don't know why, because it's a biological fact. But it's absolutely true, isn't it?

PHILLIP: It sounds like you've had a bit of a change of heart, in this process. Is that fair to say?

GUSTAFSON: Not exactly. We -- in South Carolina, I don't think anyone is happy about the number of people, coming into our States, have abortions.


And I don't -- I'm against abortion. However, I'm a pragmatic politician. And I understand that there are gray areas in the world. And I'm trying to best-represent most of South Carolinians. And the fact is South Carolina does not want an all-abortion ban.

PHILLIP: Do you think that these efforts, to strongly restrict abortion, like this one, will hurt your Republican Party, in the future?

GUSTAFSON: This is the question that has been posed to me a number of times. I think this is an opportunity. Please, let's learn from this, and work together, more, understand each other more, respect each other more. That's been kind of my mantra.

This whole process is to not to burn bridges, and be able to come on out and on the other side of all of this. As colleagues, you can still work together. And that goes across the Republican Party as well. PHILLIP: All right, State Senator Penry Gustafson, thank you very much, for joining us, tonight.

And just ahead, on "CNN TONIGHT," LeBron James, fueling speculation, about his future, after the Los Angeles Lakers got swept, by the Denver Nuggets. Is the NBA star heading toward retirement? Alisyn Camerota will take that up next.


PHILLIP: The U.S. territory of Guam is bracing for what could be a direct hit from a monster typhoon, the strongest storm to hit in more than 60 years. And, right now, Typhoon Mawar has winds of 140 miles per hour. That's the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane.


It is expected to make landfall, sometime around 2 AM Eastern Time, tomorrow. But the worst conditions will begin around midnight. And forecasters warn that the storm is bringing a triple threat of devastation, with torrential rainfall, catastrophic winds, and storm surge.

Hoping everyone stays safe there.

But thank you for joining us, tonight,

"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota, is starting, right now.