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DeSantis Enters 2024 Race: I'm Running To Lead "American Comeback"; Legendary Superstar Tina Turner Dies At 83 After Illness; Ex-Treasury Chief: "Disgusted" By Talk Of Debt Ceiling "Hostage". Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 24, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: One year later, their families are still looking for accountability and answers, after it took 77 minutes, for law enforcement, to confront the gunman, and kill him.
We remember the victims, tonight, and think of their families.
The news continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip starts now.
See you tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO -- "THE BEST" -- SONG BY TINA TURNER)
You're simply the best Better than all the rest Better than anyone
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, CNN PRIMETIME: A very good evening to you. I'm Abby Phillip.
And tonight, the entire planet is paying tribute, to the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll," the one and only Tina Turner, gone at the age of 83. A superstar, for the ages, and we reflect, in a moment, on one of the biggest voices, and losses, in music history.
But first, we begin tonight with the breaking developments, in the 2024 presidential race. The man, who was viewed, by many pundits, as the biggest threat to Donald Trump, for the Republican nomination, he just made it official, in a post, on Trump's old turf, Twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Righting the ship requires restoring sanity to our society.
Truth must be our foundation. And commonsense can no longer be an uncommon virtue.
We need the courage to lead and the strength to win.
I'm Ron DeSantis. And I'm running for president, to lead our great American comeback.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: But Ron DeSantis' big announcement night went a little bit south, from there.
A very rocky start, to his formal bid, with major glitches, plaguing his planned conversation, with Twitter Spaces, CEO Elon Musk, an audio forum that had some major technical difficulties, and the moderator blamed heavy traffic. The Florida Governor's campaign, they tried to play it off, as breaking the internet, with so much excitement.
But political opponents are already pouncing Trump. He posted this, on social media. "Wow. The DeSanctus TWITTER launch is a DISASTER. His whole campaign will be a disaster. WATCH."
And Biden's campaign trolled him, on Twitter, tweeting a link, to the campaign's fundraising page, with this message, "This link works."
The live launch did finally happen, after about a half an hour. And here was DeSantis' takeaway, on Fox News, a little bit later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: We had a huge audience. It did. It was the biggest it ever had. It did break the Twitter space. And so, we're really excited with the enthusiasm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: DeSantis has risen, as a Republican Party figure, with his culture wars, his ongoing battles, with Disney, and by taking on the Biden administration, directly, over migration.
But will he be able to stop the rise of Donald Trump? According to new CNN polling, the Governor has his work cut out for him. He is trailing behind Trump by more than half, among Republicans and Republican-lean voters. Trump is at 53 percent. DeSantis, he's at 26 percent.
And we should note that the survey, it was taken before he announced, and also before Senator Tim Scott announced, as well.
David Chalian would join us in a moment.
To our panel, Molly Ball, recently wrote TIME's cover story, on DeSantis. She is the National Political Correspondent for the magazine.
And we're also joined by Jason Osborne, former Trump campaign adviser; and Jamal Simmons, former Communications Director for Vice President Kamala Harris.
Molly, who could have seen this coming that Twitter, which has been a place that has been very glitchy, just for the average user, didn't seem to be able to handle this. What do you make of the significance of this failure? I mean, as the Trump campaign put it, the failure to launch, here?
MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Right. Well, you only get one chance to make a first impression, right?
And so much of DeSantis' reputation, particularly among his fans and supporters, has been the sort of well-oiled machine that he has run, down there in Florida, right? He has a reputation for having this juggernaut, of a sort of ruthless operation, in the Governor's office. And it's been extremely effective, in Florida.
But when he has to get, on the national stage, and stumbles right out of the gate, it certainly, I think, puts a dent, in that competence argument, and the argument he's trying to make against Trump, which is that he's the one, who essentially can make the trains run on time, and be, have all of the same policy views, but without the chaos, and without the drama.
PHILLIP: And, Jason, you, I mean, you like actually several other, Republican and Republican-leaning strategists, a lot of them like this idea, just in general, that perhaps doing something out of the box, when you're dealing with someone, like Trump, that's a good way to kind of differentiate yourself.
Do you think it matters that it turned out this way?
JASON OSBORNE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: No. I mean, I think the ultimate goal, and I know Jamal can appreciate this as well, it's like you have, as a campaign person, you have a situation, like that happen, your stomach drops, right?
In this scenario, I think it accomplished exactly what they set out to do, which is we have been talking about this now, for two days, ever since it came out. When you talk about Tim Scott's announcement, there was a few pieces, here and there, in the news, and inside the beltway, folks were paying attention to it.
But America was watching this DeSantis thing. And they were watching it because they wanted to know not only, what is DeSantis going to say, and how is this Twitter going to work? But also, what is Trump going to do on this? Is he going to, all the sudden, surprise on Twitter, show up on Twitter, and try and troll DeSantis?
So, I think this, it does, it creates some fodder, for sure, particularly amongst campaign operatives, because they're going to have fun with it. I do have to give Biden credit on it. That was probably the best comeback on it. Unlike Trump -- no, like, just sit this one out. But Biden did have a good comeback on it.
But I think that what DeSantis is going to do, over the next few days, and moving on, he's going to focus where he needs to, just like the other candidates are, which is "How do I build an operation in Iowa and New Hampshire?"
PHILLIP: Jamal, I know you're upset that you can't take credit for that tweet. But --
JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No.
PHILLIP: -- some praise for your team?
SIMMONS: No, not at all.
Listen, it was the Babyface versus Teddy Riley versus launches.
PHILLIP: OK, that's a very niche reference.
SIMMONS: It's a default (ph).
PHILLIP: But I get it.
SIMMONS: Somebody --
PHILLIP: I get it.
SIMMONS: Somebody out there will get it.
Listen, I think, as Molly said, just to start off with, you only have the one chance, to make a first impression.
Now, people have seen, over the last few weeks, this thing has settled in that DeSantis is not really ready for primetime, as a presidential candidate. This today is another example that they're not ready for primetime. They've got to learn how to run a national campaign.
It's hard to do. Everybody who tries to do it, people stumble a lot. Barack Obama stumbled, when he started.
He's going to have to, DeSantis, is going to have to really get up and speak quickly, or else is going to settle in that he's not ready for this. And it's a very hard hole to get out of.
OSBORNE: But I do think it's important to recognize here that when you are a campaign, and you're doing a launch, you control almost every aspect of it.
I think going on to Twitter? That's not the campaign. That's Twitter. That's Twitter breaking down. I think you can separate the two.
And I think at the end of the day, we're all, both sides are competing for this, 10 percent to 15 percent of the middle-of-the-road voter, and they're not paying attention to that.
PHILLIP: Well --
OSBORNE: The far-left and the far-right are going to make it fodder, and they're going to make jokes about it. But the folks that want to vote, and that decide these elections, it's gone. It's done. SIMMONS: Quick --
PHILLIP: So, I --
OSBORNE: And we're going to look in this (ph).
PHILLIP: I hear what you're saying that the glitches are clearly not that DeSantis' campaign's fault.
But, on the substance, here? Forget about the glitches, for a second. The substance of what was happening, in this conversation, on Twitter? It was billed as something that was supposed to be allowing regular people, to ask questions.
Instead, we got Dana Loesch and Christopher Rufo, both, conservative activist types, asking questions that are basically softballs, at DeSantis. The subs -- they were talking about Dogecoin, Cryptocurrency, and he used the phrase, at one point, "Accreditation cartels." I don't know what that means.
On the substance, is that really the message that you want to come out of the gate on, very narrowly focused on maybe the 150,000 people, who were listening?
BALL: Right. Think about the opportunity that you have, with a campaign launch.
Think about the pictures that came out of Tim Scott's launch, on Monday, right? He was able to communicate a really clear sense, of why he's in this campaign, what his message is about, and then you had all these beautiful pictures of him, surrounded by screaming fans.
DeSantis has basically passed up the opportunity for all of that. And so, where are the nice pictures, out of his campaign launch that can run with the newspaper story, tomorrow?
And I know you want to talk about substance. Where's the message? Where is the meaty sort of thing that he wants to impart to America, right? He says "Great American comeback." So what does that mean? What are people going to take away from this?
If you're a rank-and-file Republican voter, who's legit undecided, and really wants to shop around, and understand all the candidates, and where they're coming from? I think you would be mostly confused, even if you're open to a potential DeSantis candidacy, and just want to know what he's about.
And we're hearing now that he's not going to do a second launch event, where he does an in-person launch, in his hometown, and does all the fanfare. And so, it strikes me as a real missed opportunity, to just have that conventional event, where you really get to sell your message, all in one shot.
SIMMONS: Abby -- Abby, this is a very key point. I don't want to lose it. It's the only day, you are guaranteed to get good press, is your launch day. Molly's right here. And if you blow the launch day, it's a very tough, very tough hole to get out of.
OSBORNE: Well, I obviously I disagree.
OSBORNE: And I don't want to come off across as --
SIMMONS: Well the day you get out is also often a good day.
OSBORNE: Wait a minute (ph).
SIMMONS: You get a lot of good breath. You feel -- people feel very nostalgic about it.
PHILLIP: He's still got --
PHILLIP: I don't know that the day you get out is a good press day.
OSBORNE: Yes (ph).
PHILLIP: I think that's a bad press day.
OSBORNE: I --
PHILLIP: But go ahead.
OSBORNE: I think -- look, I don't want to come across. I'm not a DeSantis endorser. I haven't done any of that yet.
But what I do, I do feel for the campaign because, but I also recognize that we've had a year, of his policies, in Florida, where the press has continually talked about it. Trump has highlighted some of those, and attacked him on some of those, which has even given DeSantis, more press.
So, I don't think this is -- this isn't a situation, where like -- God bless Tim Scott, who I love, and I think is a great, great American, and a great candidate, or a Nikki Haley.
We know about DeSantis. Now, he's going to go out, and he's going to tell his message about what he's done in Florida, and he's going to try and sell that, to the other States. So, I don't know if this launch is being the only time that you have to make an appearance, is going to be the end there.
PHILLIP: It's not the only time. But it's certainly the one that the people are going to be paying the most attention to.
But everyone, stay with us for now.
CNN's Political Director, David Chalian, is joining me now.
David, what is the polling telling you?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you just noted, Abby, where the horse race stands. And obviously, Donald Trump is the clear front-runner, at this beginning stage, of the Republican nomination race. It's going to go through months and months of engagement, now.
But I think what is interesting to look at here as well is where the race has been. So, compare today's snapshot, 53 percent for Trump, DeSantis, 26 percent, to where this was a little over two months ago.
In March, it was much closer, between DeSantis and Trump. We know what has happened in the interim there, which is that Donald Trump, and his allies, had been hammering away, at Ron DeSantis, day after day, seeing him as the most significant threat, and wanting to get his numbers down, before today's launch. And they did so, successfully. So now, DeSantis will have to build from an even weaker position than he initially was in.
But Abby, take a look, when we asked Republicans. And this, I think, gets to the unsettled nature, of this contest, and why there's opportunity here. We asked folks, who would you consider supporting, beyond just the person you said is your first choice, in the poll?
And vast majorities, of Republicans, and Republican leaners, said they're open to both Donald Trump, and Ron DeSantis. 85 percent said they would consider Ron DeSantis, if they, in addition to picking him, as a candidate. 84 percent said that for Trump. And smaller majorities said that for Nikki Haley, 61 percent, or Tim Scott, 60 percent. Even Mike Pence has a slim majority, of Republican and Republican leaders, who say they are open to supporting him.
Now, flip that, Abby, and you'll see, we asked, "How about not willing to consider support at all?" This is a real trouble sign for some folks, who even aren't in the race yet, like Chris Christie, 60 percent of Republican and Republican leaners say they will not consider him, for support, this cycle. 55 percent say that about Asa Hutchinson, and Chris Sununu.
And you see all the way down there. Even Mike Pence, and this is his overall problem, 45 percent of Republicans and leaners say they won't consider him. So, Pence sort of has a divided Republican Party, in terms of whether they would consider support.
PHILLIP: Yes, that's really fascinating.
And so, David, the other part of this is about the money. And obviously, that's not everything, in the world of politics. But it is significant in this era of the billion-dollar campaigns.
So, where do former President Trump, and Ron DeSantis, stack up, in the money race?
CHALIAN: Abby, we should be clear, before we get into these numbers, both of these men are going to have the money, to go the distance. They are very proven fundraisers.
And take a look, here.
DeSantis has $30 million, in his Super PAC, never backed down. They've only been up and running for a little while here. And they have raised $30 million, already. $85 million, DeSantis has stacked away, in State Political Committees that he and his team believe they're going to be able to move over, into a presidential campaign that may be tested legally.
Donald Trump, as of March 31, at the end of the first quarter, he had $13.9 million. Now, remember, that quarter ended with his criminal indictment, in Manhattan, which by the way, his campaign said, at the time, was helping him raise money, like gangbusters, in the day of the indictment, and the days, thereafter. We won't see those figures though, until the second quarter comes to a close, and they have to file by July 15.
But again, when you look at these numbers, just know, I don't think neither Donald Trump nor Ron DeSantis are very concerned that they're not going to have the money to go the distance, in this campaign.
PHILLIP: Yes. And not to mention that they both have these outside groups, these Super PACs, also going to be spending tens of millions of dollars, in this campaign. So, it's going to be really, really, really expensive.
David Chalian, thank you very much, for breaking all of that down.
CHALIAN: Sure. Thanks, Abby.
PHILLIP: And ahead for us, tonight, the world is remembering a music icon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO -- "WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT" -- SONG BY TINA TURNER)
What's love got to do, got to do with it? What's love but a second hand emotion? What's love got to do, got to do with it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: You can just call her "Tina." She rocketed to fame, in the 1960s, with her ex-husband, Ike. And then, she hit the stratosphere, as a solo artist.
She's gone now, at the age of 83. We will look back, at her remarkable life, and her lasting legacy, up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO -- "PRIVATE DANCER" -- SONG BY TINA TURNER)
I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money I'll do what you want me to do I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money And any old music will do I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money I'll do what you want me to do I'm your private dancer
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO -- "PROUD MARY" -- SONG BY IKE TURNER AND TINA TURNER)
Big wheel keep on turning And the Proud Mary keep on burning Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river Say we're rolling, rolling, rolling on the river
Oh I cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: An unforgettable voice, and an unforgettable performer, we lost a force of nature, today. Tina Turner was 83-years-old. Her family released a statement confirming that she died, following a long illness.
Now, I would be up here, all night, if I had to list all that she accomplished, in her extraordinary life, and her half-century career. The moniker, "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll," really was backed up by dozens and dozens of hits, with more than 180 million albums sold.
I'm joined now by Diane Warren, the Hall of Fame songwriter, who co- wrote "Don't Turn Around," which Turner released, in 1986, as the B- side of "Typical Male."
Diane, thank you so much, for joining us.
You have written songs, for so many legends, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, and Tina Turner. Where does she rank, in your mind, as a performer, who you have had the pleasure, of having your words sung by?
DIANE WARREN, HALL OF FAME SONGWRITER, GRAMMY-WINNING SONGWRITER, WROTE TINA TURNER'S "DON'T TURN AROUND": I mean, she's the best of the best. What a sad loss for music today. Nobody -- she'll never -- there's no one that ever could compare with Tina Turner. There was so much soul and strength, in her voice.
I wish she had done more on my songs. I mean, that song, "Don't Turn Around," ultimately, it started out as a B-side with Tina, and then became a hit later on, for a group called "Ace of Base." But anyways, just the fact that she sang a song of mine, was the coolest thing, in the world, because there's no one -- there's -- she's on the top of the mountain, of great singers, of all time, in popular music. And it's a huge, huge loss, for music, today.
PHILLIP: Yes, I mean --
WARREN: For the world, today.
PHILLIP: -- so few singers have the force and the range that Tina Turner did.
PHILLIP: Just vocally alone.
WARREN: Oh, yes.
PHILLIP: Here's what she had to say, back in 1987, to Larry King, about the kind of music that she chose to perform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, AMERICAN TELEVISION HOST: Do you consider yourself Rock 'n' Roll?
TINA TURNER, SWISS SINGER: Yes.
KING: Is that your -- that's your idiom?
TURNER: That's my style. I -- I take great songs, and turn them into Rock 'n' Roll songs on stage. I don't really actually get Rock 'n' Roll material. Because is that -- not that much good music out there. Because my performances and energy on stage, I need that kind of music. So I just transformed the music.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: That was in 1997, to Larry King.
PHILLIP: What is it like as a songwriter, to hear your words, your melodies, performed, by Tina Turner, in a way that really only she knew how to do? She, as she just said, she transformed songs.
WARREN: Yes. There's no -- like, when a singer -- she's like one of those one-name singers. You just say, "Tina."
WARREN: And it's Tina Turner.
So, when somebody like that sings your song, it lifts the song higher than you ever could have thought it's possible. So that -- she was a gift to so many songwriters, and to so many songs. And I was lucky enough that one of them was mine.
But there'll be nobody, nobody, like Tina, and her energy. I mean, and you got to think about the fact that she came, you know, she was a star, when she was younger. And then, she came back again, in her 40s, which didn't happen a lot.
WARREN: You know?
WARREN: And had an even bigger career than she ever had in her life, so.
PHILLIP: And for her to be a woman, and a rock star?
PHILLIP: We kind of take that for granted. But not just a woman, a Black woman, and a rock star, is a really extraordinary thing.
PHILLIP: When you think about it.
You said in a tweet today that she is a survivor, and a badass. I would add to that. One of the biggest trailblazers, I think, we have in --
PHILLIP: -- in my lifetime, and your lifetime.
WARREN: Oh, yes.
PHILLIP: What do you -- what will you remember about Tina?
WARREN: Well, I want to say one thing that the fact that she's a Black woman, it wasn't just in R&B.
WARREN: Tina transcended all genres. She was rock. She was pop. She was, you know, she created -- she was everything. And that wasn't easy to do.
And then, the age thing, so she just broke so many barriers. She was an amazing trailblazer, on all levels, and just in her personal life, what she overcame, with the abuse, and all that -- all the horrible stuff she had to deal with.
And I think that informed her, her art, her voice, because you could hear the strength, her strength, and power, and everything she's saying.
WARREN: And she always sang powerful, you know, she wasn't like -- she didn't sing a lot of wimpy songs.
PHILLIP: Yes. She did not.
Look, we only have a couple seconds. But what was it like? Do you remember hearing, for the first time, her singing the song that you wrote? What was that like?
WARREN: I remember hearing that, and then finding out it wasn't on her album, and being really bummed out about it. It's like, "Oh, it's not." And that was after her, "What's Love Got to Do with It."
WARREN: "What's Love Got to Do with It" album. So, it was her second -- her follow-up to that.
And I remember, sitting in the office, with her manager, and he goes, "You know, it's not going to be," and I remember -- I remember like I think I was like almost cried, or something.
WARREN: And then, it was the B-side of a song called "Typical Male." And you can't keep a good song down, and it just kept -- people kept hearing it, and everybody kept recording it.
Like, this group, Aswad had this reggae version. And Neil Diamond, I mean, all these people recorded it, and then ultimately, it became, a big hit for "Ace of Base." But it started with Tina. And, in her musical, I guess that's the big moment, so.
WARREN: I'm just happy I got a chance to -- I wish I could have done more songs, with her, because she's just one of the best singers, ever, of all time.
WARREN: No one will ever compare to Tina Turner.
PHILLIP: She's extraordinary.
PHILLIP: And I sit here, with a smile on my face, because you can't watch Tina Turner perform, hear her voice, without feeling the energy that she really just projected --
WARREN: Oh, yes.
PHILLIP: -- in everything that she did.
PHILLIP: Diane Warren, thank you for joining us.
WARREN: That's why it's hard, because we thought she -- you thought -- think someone like that would live forever, right?
PHILLIP: It feels like she should have lived forever.
WARREN: She's had so much energy.
Thank you so much, Diane, for joining us, tonight.
WARREN: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks.
PHILLIP: And up next, a new twist, in a political scandal, between two top Republicans, one, who's being investigated for corruption, and another, who's accused of being drunk on the job.
PHILLIP: Tonight, scandals are engulfing two of the most powerful Republicans, in Texas, and it's culminating in a showdown.
On one side, is the Attorney General, Ken Paxton, the state's top lawyer, and he's facing pass full impeachment over corruption charges.
And on the other side is House Speaker, Dade Phelan, who Paxton is accusing of performing his duties, while drunk, at the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DADE PHELAN, (R) TEXAS HOUSE SPEAKER: The Senate amendat -- the amendment is (inaudible) is the objection to the opposite amendment, and the chairperson (inaudible) amendment -- amendment is adopted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Now, after that moment, Ken Paxton called Phelan, to resign. But he may have had some personal reasons, for doing that.
The House Investigating Committee had subpoenaed records, from Paxton's office, regarding a $3.3 million settlement, the State paid, to settle corruption allegations, brought against him, by his own former aides.
Now, House investigators, today, they skewered Paxton, for a list of false statements that he allegedly gave them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Page 39, false. That's false.
Page 34, false.
Do you want me to keep going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: I'm joined now by Zach Despart, Politics Reporter, for The Texas Tribune.
Zach, thank you for joining us.
So, can you explain to us, tell us about these allegations that are being made, back and forth, between these two Republicans, and how it escalated, to this point, where one of them is being accused of being drunk, while performing his job?
ZACH DESPART, POLITICS REPORTER, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE: Sure. It has been a strange 24 hours, in Texas politics.
To take you back to yesterday, really, out of the blue, Attorney General, Ken Paxton, put out a statement, in which he called House Speaker Dade Phelan, called on him to resign, because he alleged that the Speaker was drunk, while presiding, over a late-night session, of the House, couple weeks ago.
There's some video in which the Speaker is slurring his words, at a couple points. The Speaker says he was simply tired. We're not entirely sure, what's the bottom of that.
Now, it turns out a couple hours, after the Attorney General had made that claim, an Investigative Committee, in the House, announced that it was in fact investigating Attorney General Paxton, had been investigating him, in secret, since March.
Now, that Committee met again, this morning. It heard testimony from four investigators it had hired. Three hours of testimony, in which these investigators laid out what, essentially, is a pattern of alleged misconduct, on behalf of the Attorney General, to benefit a friend, and real estate developer, in Austin.
So, that raises the prospect of -- we're almost at the end of our legislative session. It ends on Monday. Clearly, the House is taking this seriously. The question now, in the Capitol, is will this committee recommend some sort of punishment, against the Attorney General, the most severe, which would be impeachment?
PHILLIP: What do you think, though, are the prospects of that, for Ken Paxton? I mean, he has been dogged by all kinds of allegations of misconduct, for quite some time, now, if I'm not mistaken. Will this actually lead to potential consequences for him, short of being charged criminally?
DESPART: That's a great question.
So, Attorney General Paxton has fought ethical issues, and scandals, pretty much the entire time he has been in office, since 2015. That year, he was indicted, for felony securities fraud. He has yet to stand trial, for that case, even though it is now 8-years-old.
He has been under FBI investigation that we know of since 2020, related to the same series of allegations, related to this friend, and real estate developer, in Austin.
Voters, repeatedly, in two elections, including the one just in November, have said that they were willing to tolerate these issues, with the Attorney General. They reelected him twice. And so far, nothing has come criminally, in terms of indictments, from the FBI investigation.
Now, today's news, it's kind of hard to overstate how stunning it is that this committee, in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and now is the most serious political threat that the Attorney General has faced, in a long time, they have the power to impeach him. And, of course, then the Senate would have to decide, whether to convict him, and with the House, remove him from office. So, this is a serious issue.
PHILLIP: Yes, it's a serious threat, to him, coming from, within his own party.
Zach Despart, thank you very much.
And on the heels of backlash, against Bud Light, now it is Target's turn. The company is having to remove products, from stores, after some employees received threats. The controversy, next.
PHILLIP: Tonight, growing scrutiny, on Target, after the retail chain announced that it is pulling some products that celebrate Pride Month. And the reason is that there are concerns, over employee safety.
The company told "The Wall Street Journal" that over the past decade, of selling Pride products, around the month of June, it has always received some criticism. But it's taken a more aggressive turn, this year.
Quote, "People have confronted workers in stores, knocked down Pride merchandise displays and put threatening posts on social media with videos from inside" of the stores.
Target has not specified what products it will be removing. But many right-wing activists have focused their criticism, on a transgender- friendly swimsuit that online commentators incorrectly believed was being marketed to children.
The company now joins a growing list of big brands, and companies, like Walt Disney, Bud Light, and North Face, caught up in these partisan culture wars.
And my panel is back with me.
Target is saying that they're doing this, because it's a safety situation. And I think they're sympathetic to that. I mean, these are real people, who work, in these stores, and they didn't sign up to work, at a Target, to get caught up in the culture wars.
But LGBTQ activists say that this is a critical moment, and that the store is backing down.
Here's a comment from Sarah Kate Ellis, the President and CEO of GLAAD. She says "Anti-LGBTQ violence and hate should not be winning in America, but it will continue to until corporate leaders step up as heroes for their LGBTQ employees and consumers and do not cave to fringe activists calling for censorship."
What do you say?
SIMMONS: I think that she's right. You can't let the haters win this kind of thing. They also represent a minority, a very smaller minority, of American public.
Target has 1,900 stores, across America. And if you go back, and you look at their marketing and research, it's, their average user is a 35-year-old to 44-year-old, White suburban mom, who makes $80,000 a year, has some college, maybe even a college four-year degree.
70 percent of Americans support marriage equality. Those voters -- those Americans tend to align with Democrats, tend to align with more progressive causes.
So, for them to take this position, I think they don't understand their market. And they're going to pay a cost, on the other side, because particularly with a lot of voters, now, they're looking at companies, and their social policies, not just where they stand on what products they have. This is going to be a problem for Target on the other side of the ledger as well.
PHILLIP: Jason, can I ask you about this? Because I mean, I don't think you can really separate this, from the broader conversation that we're having, about what culture war really means. But we're really talking about human beings here.
People, who are LGBTQ, people, they live in this country, over the last couple of decades, have fought for basic rights.
And you had a lot of activists, on the right, basically saying that the idea here, according to one, who tweeted, today, is to make Pride, toxic, for brands, to make cultural acceptance, for LGBTQ people, unacceptable.
Is that where this is headed, on the right?
OSBORNE: Well, I certainly don't speak, for the right, on this kind of thing.
I mean, my view of it is, I mean, if we're going to be, over the last five years, 10 years, as Republicans, we've witnessed, this effort, to cancel some of our views, right, and then been pretty successful, people losing their jobs, companies going under.
I think it's a mistake, for us, to then turn around and then try and do the same, to the other side, right?
And I think what's happening here is that there was an -- with the Bud Light situation, is that that was successful. But I think it was successful, in a vacuum, because Bud Light, their target market are folks that are not necessarily aligned with a Dylan Mulvaney, et cetera.
On Target, the people that are going into Target, to your point, on the marketing side of things? I can't imagine that any of those folks cared what was on display there. And as I understand it Target has had this display for a number of years. And it really was, I think, just the bathing suit aspect of it. And that's, I think, a different story, in a sense.
But I do think it was a mistake for Target took to come back like this, because here's what I would do, if I was on -- if I'm on the right, and I'm arguing this, which I think this whole thing is ridiculous, to begin with.
But I would say you're concerned about employee safety here. But what about the stores, where folks are coming in, and shoplifting, and grabbing, baskets full of clothes, and product, and everything out, and leaving, and you're not doing anything about it? But you're concerned about employee safety, in this case?
I mean, there's a number of things. You're kicking the can down the road, for another argument that just continues the story out there, which I think is ridiculous.
PHILLIP: There is this independent analysis done by the research group that shows that right-wing demonstrators have increasingly mobilized, over the last year. I mean, I don't think we even need a bar graph, to know that that's happened.
Incidentally, I think Ron DeSantis would claim credit for some of this too, right? I mean, you've spent some time digging really deep into the kind of origin story, of this push, against LGBTQ individuals, which has been really centered, around trans people, but is not just about trans people.
BALL: Yes. And I think there's also a larger story about the divorce between the Republican Party, and the business community.
PHILLIP: Yes, that too.
BALL: A lot of these companies feel like they are caught in the middle, and they would just like to serve their customers, and not get involved in politics.
But increasingly, they do have to choose sides. There is not a middle ground. You have -- it is either that you're sort of with them or against them. And the pressure is coming from customers, it's coming from employees, to take sides, in some of these important issues that are about, for a lot of people, basic human rights.
And that means that the companies are sort of, in this no-win situation, where, I think, from the point of view, of the right, to Jason's point, there is a feeling like they have been the victims, of this culture war, coming from the dominant culture, coming from corporations, coming from all of the institutions, outside of government.
And so, you've seen politicians, like Ron DeSantis, a lot of activists, whether it's on Twitter, or elsewhere, saying they want to go on offense, and take on these corporations, that have, in their view, gone woke.
And so, it leads to this situation, where everybody is picking sides, and where companies have become alienated, from the sort of traditional party of capital, because Republicans are the ones, saying, "If you're Disney, and you want to promote gay rights, in your movies, or on your campuses," they're going to protest.
PHILLIP: Well, I mean, look, these are businesses. They are concerned about their employees, and their customers. And if you're a Disney, you're doing these things, because your employees, and your customers, are in a place of acceptance, when it comes to LGBTQ people. So, it's really a question of whether they can turn back the clock, on all of that.
Molly, Jason, and Jamal, thank you all very much, for joining us, tonight.
And the nation is now one week away, from a potential economic doom scenario. And Congress is about to, believe it or not, leave town, for the holiday weekend, without a deal, on the debt ceiling.
Former Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, knows how these high-stakes deals are really done. And he's going to join us, next.
PHILLIP: The nation is now just seven days away from possibly running out of money, something that has never happened, in U.S. history. And tonight, Congress is about to go on vacation, without any semblance of a deal.
And the news gets a little bit worse. One of the three top credit rating agencies, signaling tonight that it could downgrade U.S. debt, if there is no deal, in place, to raise the debt ceiling.
That's only amplifying the focus, on June 1. That date circled on the map. The date is the day that The Treasury Department says that they could run out of money. America will no longer be able to pay its bills. And that would mean no Social Security checks, no paychecks, for our troops, fighting overseas, and absolute chaos, in the world economy.
With Congress, about to leave, for the holiday weekend, we're hearing a lot of this, from Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I felt it was productive.
I believe it was a productive phone call.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What I can say is that the negotiations have been productive.
REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R-NC): This meeting was productive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: "Productive," we're hearing a lot of that word. But we have still not seen any of that rhetoric produce a deal. And the reality is there's more talk about what's not on the table, than what is on the table, in terms of the deal.
Now, my next guest knows the risks, from his time, as Director of the National Economic Council, and as the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
Larry Summers, thank you very much for joining us.
LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: Good to be with you.
PHILLIP: Now, right now, as we sit here, there's no deal. Both sides, they're far apart. And nobody seems to know where the votes are going to be, the 60 votes, in the Senate, the 218, in the House.
When you hear the rhetoric, you see everything that's being said, are you concerned? How loud should the alarm bells be ringing, right now, seven days out?
SUMMERS: I'm concerned. I'm not panicked. Negotiations tend to close, right at the deadline. That's what I still think will happen, here. This is a silly charade. And we should be worrying about the nation's big problems, not engaged in this kind of political posturing.
But my expectation would be that before -- certainly before any debt payment is missed, and very likely before any kind of payment, to a federal worker, or a program beneficiary, is delayed, I think this will be worked out in some way. This is an unproductive use of political energy, at a time, when the nation has huge problems. There's always a risk when you have a negotiation, that something will go wrong. And if we were to miss a payment, that would be catastrophic. But I think the likelihood is that we will be able to work this through. And that is certainly my hope.
It's been said that in democracies, fear does the work of reason. And unfortunately, and I wish it weren't so, fear may need to build a bit, before people are able to find, their way, to some formula, that enables us, to move forward.
PHILLIP: I mean, you say -- you say --
SUMMERS: There's no issue here.
PHILLIP: You say that fear needs to kick in. I mean, I have some questions about whether there is enough fear, based on what we're hearing, on Capitol Hill.
Just take a listen to what Congressman Matt Gaetz has been saying this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I think my conservative colleagues, for the most part, support Limit, Save, Grow. And they don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: "We don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage." On top of that some lawmakers are also saying they don't necessarily think that June 1 is all that real of a deadline.
So, what would you say to them?
SUMMERS: Look, I think the notion of talking about one's colleagues in governing the country, as hostages, like it was some kind of kidnapping, is at the edge of depraved, and is really terribly, terribly unfortunate, and is a mark of the very troubling polarization, in our country. I have to say, I really am almost disgusted by that kind --
PHILLIP: And --
SUMMERS: -- by that kind of -- by that kind of observation.
Look, no one knows exactly what the day is going to be. Secretary Yellen has to give warning, about the earliest possible day, when we will run out of money. But it may be that we're going to have money, a bit longer, under the limit. But that's no reason not to work this out.
You can dance around blindfolded, in traffic, and you'll probably survive. But why would anyone want to try this kind of experiment? PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, let's --
SUMMERS: So, we should be working this out as quickly as we can. I think the President, and his team, are ready, to do that. The President is engaged in a --
PHILLIP: And --
SUMMERS: He's already moved his position, in a substantial way, by being prepared, to work out a compromise. And I think those, on the other side need to be ready, to come to terms, if they're not going to be the ones, who are responsible --
SUMMERS: -- for a really very serious outcome, for our country.
PHILLIP: And we have now just a few days now to find out. Let's hope we don't get to that deadline. But we will see what happens in the coming days.
Thank you very much, Larry Summers, for joining us, tonight.
SUMMERS: Thank you.
PHILLIP: And ahead, on CNN, what is behind the surge, in pasta prices, and why it's sparking a crisis, meetings inside of the Italian government? Well, Alisyn Camerota, she will take that on, next.
PHILLIP: Thanks for joining us, tonight.
"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota, is starting, right now.