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CNN: WH, GOP Closer On Deal To Raise Debt Ceiling & Cut Spending; Ex-Wife Of Oath Keepers Chief Reacts To 18-Year Sedition Sentence; DeSantis: "I Don't Know What Happened To Donald Trump." Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 25, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yesterday, the committee heard from investigators, detailing what they described as years of misconduct, from Paxton. He's denied all wrongdoing. In a new statement, tonight, Paxton referred to Republicans, who've defied him, as Liberal and RINOs.

That's it for us. The news continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip starts now.

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

And good evening, everyone.

We begin, tonight, with breaking news, straight from Capitol Hill. We are getting word that the White House, and House Republicans are getting closer to a deal, to raise the debt ceiling, one week before the U.S. runs out of money.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is live for us, in Washington.

Melanie, so what do we know, right now, about where the deal stands, between Kevin McCarthy, House Republicans, and the White House?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Abby, I think we should caveat by saying nothing has been agreed upon yet. Nothing has been finalized.

They are moving closer to a deal. We have seen some progress, over the last 12 hours, particularly on the spending issue. That has been something that has been really bedeviling the talks. But they've started at least floating the idea, of a potential compromise that both sides could try to claim, as essentially a win.

And one of the things that they're discussing is raising the debt ceiling, for two years, which would be longer than what House Republicans had proposed, in their debt ceiling plan, in the House, and then instituting spending caps, for two years. So, caps on federal spending levels.

Again, they have not agreed on those top 10 (ph) numbers for those spending caps. But one of the emerging sort of compromises here is the idea that they would spare Pentagon funding, so they would spare specific domestic programs, so that Democrats could say, "We actually didn't cut certain things," and other programs would see some cuts, which Republicans could then claim as a win.

So, you're starting to see the contours of how a spending provision deal might come together. But I will caution that there are a number of other outstanding issues, particularly on the issue of tougher work requirements, for social safety net programs.

That has been something that both sides have been really dug in on. Republicans included it in their bill in the House. They are demanding it. They say it's a red line for them. And then, you have Democrats, who they're going to need to supply votes, to get this thing, over the finish line as well, saying they can't support something that has really any form of tougher work requirements. So, that's really where the issue lies.

And there's other issues, where they're starting to see more agreement. One of those issues is clawing back unspent COVID money. That's something that they agree on. Permitting reform generally has agreement, but again, they have not finalized how to get there yet.

So where we're at right now is that negotiators, they left the Capitol building, for the evening. They are not expecting a deal, to come together, tonight. But they are going to work tomorrow, through the weekend, and try to really wrap this thing up as soon as possible. Because, of course, the timeline, Abby, is such a crucial factor, here. They are trying to raise the debt ceiling by June 1. But that process takes time.

Even when they have an agreement, they still need to turn it into legislative bill texts. They need to get what's called a score, from the Congressional Budget Office. Then they need to give members, 72 hours, to be able to actually read the bill. That's a promise that McCarthy made to his members, during the Speakership race.

And so, once it gets through the House, then it starts to go over the Senate, where you already have conservatives, like Mike Lee, who are threatening to hold things up, if they don't like what they see in the deal.

So, a lot of obstacles between now and the finish line. But we are starting to see some slight signs of progress, which is obviously a welcome development, after days of talks of it, and really up and down and back and forth, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yes, we are quickly approaching that 11th hour, and it is very significant what you are discussing, because it sounds like the contours of a deal could be on the horizon.

Melanie Zanona, thank you very much.

And also with us now is CNN Economics Commentator, Catherine Rampell.

So Catherine, when you hear what Melanie is talking about, obviously, lots of this is still up in the air. But, to me, what stands out, this two-year extension, of the debt limit, takes this output -- out of the political sphere, at least temporarily, past the 2024 election.


Look, we don't want to default on our debt at any moment. We certainly don't want to have brinksmanship, over and over and over again.

But you really don't want to have this become an issue, in the lead up to the election, because whatever modicum of rationality, politicians have, right now, I think, goes completely out the window, when they're just looking at polls, leading into the election.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, we could be potentially facing just doing this, all over again, in another year. And also, on top of what she discussed, we don't know what the spending caps are going to be. A big sticking point has been, will it be 2022 levels, or will it go back even further prior to COVID, as well?

RAMPELL: I think actually, the bigger question for maybe, besides the topline number, is what actually is eligible for cuts.


RAMPELL: We've heard a lot of reporting, including just now, about what's been carved out, what is being protected.


RAMPELL: Defense, Veterans programs, entitlement programs, whatever things Democrats want to hold up, is the things that they have saved.


What's left? By process of elimination, there isn't a ton of programs left, especially if we're talking about relatively big overall cuts, if you're going to have to like, what are we going to do?


RAMPELL: We're going to clear out all border security funding, or FBI funding, or Pell Grants? I don't know.

PHILLIP: It could be very, very significant. The devil will be in the details.

Catherine, standby for us.

And we'll continue to monitor this story, throughout the show.

A new twist, tonight, in the intensifying federal investigation, into Donald Trump. Was a dress rehearsal held at Mar-a-Lago, to move around sensitive documents, before the Feds came to get them? And if so, the crucial question is why? And did Donald Trump himself take part in or direct such a dry run? So tonight, the Washington Post reports never-before-heard evidence that may be crucial to the Special Counsel's investigation.

On June 2 of last year, according to The Post, two Trump employees, allegedly moved boxes of papers, that day, back into the storage room, at the former President's Florida Resort. It was just one day, before the FBI showed up, to retrieve classified documents, in response to a grand jury subpoena.

Now, the timing that The Post's sources are saying is suspicious, to investigators, and could be an indication of possible obstruction.

And another big headline, from this reporting, is the alleged dress rehearsal that Trump, and his aides, are said to have held, practicing, moving around papers, even before his office had received that subpoena, last May.

And finally, The Post says prosecutors have gathered evidence, indicating that Trump sometimes kept classified documents, in his office, where they were visible. And he even showed them to others.

Even he didn't give a full-throated denial of that during CNN's Town Hall, this month.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to your documents, did you ever show those classified documents to anyone?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified after --

COLLINS: What do you mean, "Not really?"

TRUMP: Not that I can think of.


PHILLIP: And we should, of course, note that Trump overall, continues to deny any wrongdoing, in this case.

But, right now, we are joined by CNN Legal Analysts, Joey Jackson and Jennifer Rodgers; former Deputy Assistant to President Trump, Ja'Ron Smith and also Democratic strategist, Ashley Allison.

Thank you all for being here.

Let's start with the legal minds here. Because, we're starting to get the contours, of Jack Smith's case, potentially. And when you start talking about not just moving around boxes, but also maybe showing it off as well, what kind of difference does that make, Joey?


So, what happens is, is that when you look at the law, Abby, you look at what's called mens rea. What does that mean? It means guilty mind, right?

We spend a lot of time, as lawyers, assessing not only factually what someone does, but we assess what their mind frame was, when they did it. There's a distinction, for example, between doing something, intentionally, or doing something, recklessly, or doing something, knowingly.

At the end of the day, if you're moving around boxes and that type thing, what may that evidence? It evidences a consciousness of guilt. If you don't think anything's to see in the boxes, what's the basis for moving them? If you don't think you did anything wrong, why do anything with the boxes at all?

And so, it's troubling, with respect to the obstruction of justice charge, when you look at the shifting and movement. And then, of course, it gives the Special Counsel, reason, to believe, there was something amiss, which was the basis and purpose, for them being moved, in the first place.

PHILLIP: And then, it's harder to argue, as the Trump team has argued in the past.

This is according to The Washington Post. In their letter, the Trump's team's letter, to Congress, they said that President Trump, when he left office, he had little time to prepare for the outgoing transition from the presidency. So, White House staffers and GSA employees quickly packed everything up, in boxes, and then they shipped them all to Mar-a-Lago, and everything was haphazard and just so happened that there would be hundreds of classified documents.

Does that work anymore?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, it's such a unique situation, right, where you have a putative defendant, out there, actually kind of vetting his defenses almost, like he's out there, saying, "Oh, I have the absolute right to declassify. Oh, they automatically declassified. Oh, I could have taken them." And then, his lawyers are saying, "Oh, no, it was just all a rush job."

So, you have all these opportunities, to actually work, to find evidence that strikes those down. And that's what the Special Counsel has been methodically doing, right? They've been interviewing witnesses, they've been figuring out exactly what was going on, so that those defenses don't fly, so, that just really solidifies and underscores their case.

PHILLIP: Yes, I wonder, I mean, Ja'Ron, you worked in the White House. I mean, on some level, I think the chaos of it all, really, it's not unusual. I mean, there was a lot of chaos, in that White House.

But did you ever hear or see President Trump, showing off classified documents, in other settings that might, be relevant for this kind of case that he might have been done in Mar-a-Lago?

JA'RON SMITH, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I've never seen him do anything like that. [21:10:00]

I think that many members that I work with, and people, in Congress, look at this, as the weaponization of government. And people are really concerned that we're spending millions of dollars, on issues, like this, that don't amount to any real prosecution.

In the same time, we have the rise in violent crime across countries, and you have rogue prosecutors not holding real criminals, accountable. And so, I've been really focused on public safety solutions, and doing the city's tour, and working with members, in underserved communities to deal with violence.

PHILLIP: But don't you think -- I mean, putting that aside, I mean, I get the weaponization part of this, and maybe actually you jump in here. There is a real question of why even push back on giving the documents back, if they belong to the government, in the first place. If there's no crime here, just give them back. He just wouldn't give them back.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: Yes, because he thinks he's above the law. And he doesn't think he has to follow the law, because it doesn't apply to him.

Whether -- we know he cannot classify -- un-classify the documents, the way he claims. So either he was misunderstanding, to your point. Knowing, intentional reckless, one of those may apply here.

The question, though, is from a political landscape, is will voters matter? Well, it might -- I don't know. I think, if you're in Trump's camp, at this point, the documents kind of, you're going to stay with it.

PHILLIP: It's one of many things on the table.

ALLISON: It's one of many.

PHILLIP: For voters.

ALLISON: But it's really troubling because of the risk it put towards our country, because we don't know what's in them. And we don't know who he showed them to.

PHILLIP: And Jennifer, let me ask you about one other defense that the Trump team has, well that Trump himself has put forward.

As Ashley said, he says, "I automatically declassified them." Is that a potential coverall defense, for any possible charges, that he could face, related to taking the documents, when he shouldn't have had them?

RODGERS: Yes, it's not. So, one of the things that Jack Smith and his team have been doing is they've been interviewing lots of people, within government, to prove that you don't do it that way, right? Like, even if the President has the power to declassify, which he does, there's still procedures that you have to go through.

So, not only are they going to put on, if this ultimately goes to trial, witnesses who say "That's not how it's done. This is how it's done," but witnesses, who will say, he didn't do those things, right? So, they actually were not declassified. So that's what the case will look like.

PHILLIP: Yes. So, the special -- Jack Smith would have to establish that, as part of the case. It wouldn't just be a given.

RODGERS: Well so --

PHILLIP: If there is a process.

RODGERS: So what happens is you put on your Case-in-Chief, right? So, if they come back with that as a defense, then you would put it on as rebuttal case.


RODGERS: But any good prosecutor is going to kind of knock out those defenses, as you go, just kind of answer all the questions that jurors would have. So, I would expect them to just go ahead and do it, in the first instance.

PHILLIP: All right, everyone, standby for us.

Coming up next, a blistering rebuke, for the leader, of the far-right extremist group, as Stewart Rhodes learns his fate, finally, a federal judge, labeling January 6th domestic terrorism, for the first time, today, and it came, during the sentencing of Rhodes, the Founder of the Oath Keepers.

In the longest sentence yet related to the Capitol riot, Rhodes has been ordered to spend 18 years, in a federal prison. And that is nearly as long as he was married to, my next guest, Tasha Williams -- Tasha Adams, excuse me.

Thank you for joining us, Tasha.

So, Tasha, you have known Stewart Rhodes, for a long time. You know, deeply, this organization, the Oath Keepers. With all of that knowledge, knowing that for the next 18 years, you and your six children can live your lives, with Stewart Rhodes behind bars, how do you feel about that?

TASHA ADAMS, EX-WIFE OF OATH KEEPERS LEADER STEWART RHODES: I'm very happy about it. It's been a great week, for us, really, as a family. We're happy to feel safe. We're happy he's in a place, where he can't hurt us. He can't hurt anybody else.

Of course, there's that dark cloud sort of looming of pardon.


ADAMS: Depending on who gets in office next, or even, beyond that, the next election.

So, there's some reason for concern. But other than that, it's been great, to feel safe, really. And it's been like -- my divorce was finalized, this week, after five and a half years, of trying to deal with that. So, it's been a lot at once.

PHILLIP: Well, you raised the issue of the pardons. I want to play for you, what two presidential campaign candidates have said, about the prospect of pardons, for people, like your ex-husband. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pardon the January 6 rioters, who are convicted of federal offenses?

TRUMP: I am inclined to pardon many of them.

CLAY TRAVIS, AMERICAN WRITER: Do you think the January 6 defendants deserve to have their cases examined by a Republican president?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): On day one, I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases, who, people who are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive at issuing pardons.



PHILLIP: If you could talk to former President Trump, Ron DeSantis, what would you want them to understand, about who the Oath Keepers are, who Stewart Rhodes really is?

ADAMS: I'm not sure anything I would say would make any difference, because I think they fully understand what he is, and what he tried to do, and they fully support it.

He is a person, who plotted war, for over a decade. All he ever thought about was creating chaos, creating violence, violence in the home, violence, in the country, anything that could put himself on top, and anyway, he could make that happen.

And, I think, Trump fully understands, DeSantis fully understands. They know what Stewart's about. And they agree with him.

PHILLIP: Are you worried at all, that if Rhodes were pardoned, that there would be a risk of another potential January 6?

ADAMS: Oh, absolutely. This is Stewart's life's work. This is what he does. He's incredibly brilliant. He's completely manipulative. He's good at what he does.

And he will just regroup, immediately. I guarantee he already has plans in the works, for as soon as he's out. He will regroup and he will do this again. And he will do this again, until he creates the kind of chaos that he wants to create. PHILLIP: So today, Rhodes stood up in court, and he called himself a political prisoner. He equated himself to of the former President Trump. Members of Congress have used that same term, "Political prisoners," to describe January 6 defendants.

So, what should they know, about your ex-husband before they go and champion the cause of those people?

And, I guess, I should say, I mean, it's not just lawmakers. I mean, I think, there are probably millions of people, millions of their supporters, who do view January 6 prisoners, as political prisoners.

ADAMS: Well, I would want people to know that Stewart Rhodes, in particular, but a lot of these leaders, on January 6, have a lot of similar personality traits.

Stewart has destroyed the lives of everyone, he's touched, and not just his political enemies. He's destroyed the lives of people, on his own side.

There are hundreds of people, who desperately, desperately wish they had never gone to the Capitol, on January 6. They don't know what they were thinking. And they don't know why they let themselves get tucked into this kind of thing.

There is nothing that Stewart Rhodes, or anyone, like him, can bring to anyone, except for destruction.


ADAMS: And that's what they're in it for. That's the goal. And that's all he's interested in.

PHILLIP: Tasha Adams, thank you very much, for joining us, tonight.

ADAMS: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIP: And just 24 hours, after Ron DeSantis, entered the 2024 race, the fighting with Donald Trump is intensifying. And now, a warning, from a top Republican figure.

Plus, there are new polls that show President Biden, is facing headwinds, of his own. And one of his Democratic challengers, he's in double-digits. That's next.



PHILLIP: As Biden (ph) looks ahead to the campaign trail, he starts with a sizable advantage, over the other declared candidates, for the Democratic nomination. He's leading the field with 60 percent of the Democratic or Democratic leaning voters, as his first choice.

And Robert Kennedy Jr. is at 20 percent.

Marianne Williamson, she's at 8 percent.

And despite a wide lead, for the nomination, the new CNN poll also shows President Biden's overall favorability, declining, and many Americans seeing a second Biden term, as a negative thing, for the country.

My panel is back with me.

And Catherine, we talked about President Biden's approval rating. It's low. It's in the 30s, at this point. That's still around President Trump. He's at 37. That's within the margin of error.

But this, for Biden, I think, is a little bit different. Typically, he has benefited from generally people giving him the benefit of the doubt. Generally people like the guy. Now, I think that has eroded. Maybe no surprise since he's the President of the United States, and that happens?

RAMPELL: Yes, it does happen. And these polls increasingly get polarized over time, right? You see very, very negative reviews from Republicans. I think the more concerning thing is that Democrats are not as enthusiastic, about the incumbent candidate.

And what does that mean for him going forward, particularly if the economy takes a turn? Part of the reason why people seem to be so unhappy, right now, with the President of the United States, has to do with economic conditions, which, by many measures are actually quite good.

PHILLIP: Right, I was just going to say.


PHILLIP: I mean this is the great irony. I mean, every day, it's like, the economy is pretty good. But people feel --

RAMPELL: Right. So?

PHILLIP: -- like their economic situation is unstable.

RAMPELL: Right. And they have good reason to feel that. I mean, pricing pressures continue to grow. And there are a number of reasons, why people feel insecure.

But if people feel this insecure, people are this negative, or if people are this -- lack this much confidence, in the President, now, imagine how much worse things would get, if we have a recession?

PHILLIP: Oh, yes.

RAMPELL: And I don't know that we will. But there are some worrying signs, in the economy. Certainly, if we default on our debt, I think we would have even bigger problems. But that's what I'm concerned about.

ALLISON: I think what many people have criticized the Biden administration, for right or wrong, is the -- they're not telling the story, and it's not resonating with the American people. And so, when you actually look at his legislative accomplishments, he's had significant wins.

Now, one thing that actually hasn't come into play yet is that we have trillions of dollars that are going to go out, in this infrastructure bill. And that will really go into communities, and impact the lives of people, and improve people's quality of lives. It will increase job opportunities, manufacturing, the CHIPS bill, those implementations are going out.

And I think there's a real opportunity, here, for the administration and now, his campaign that's in place, to really go out, and tell the story, not about 12 million anything, but "You, American, you were the person, who got this job, because I delivered it for you."

PHILLIP: Is it --


SMITH: I'm more worried about everyday Americans, because they're not feeling it. That's something that's real. You see high inflation. You see increased crime. You see individuals not really getting a living wage job. I think we're behind the times, on kind of reimagining what we can do for underserved communities.

That's what we worked on, in the Trump administration. We're able to kind of implement that stuff now. I wrote a book called "Underserved" that addresses this issue that Congress, and many leaders, have, for decades, continue to kick the can, on issues for the Underserved.

But we can fix these issues, right now. And it's not just a government solution. You can work with institutions, philanthropy, and have a united approach, on fixing some of those things.

PHILLIP: But interestingly enough, I mean, when you ask -- there's a really interesting question, in the poll, kind of unconventional, I think. The question was what would a Biden 2024 win mean for the country? What would a Trump 2024 win mean for the country?

Here's Biden. 41 percent say a disaster. 26 percent say a setback. 27 percent, a step forward. Just 7 percent say a triumph.

Here's what they say for Trump. 44 percent, almost identical, say, a disaster. 12 percent say a step-back. A step forward, 27 percent. 17 percent say a triumph.

So basically, to me, this seems like a very depressed electorate.



PHILLIP: They are not excited about this. They don't think either of the two, maybe we call them likely options, will be what they want. But we've also seen that movie before. We saw it in 2022. And Democrats still performed better than most people expected.

RAMPELL: I mean, we even saw it in 2020, arguably, right?

PHILLIP: Yes, yes.

RAMPELL: Biden was not the front-runner, going in. There was a lot more energy, among the Democratic base, for many of the other candidates. And I think a lot of pundits did not think Biden had much of a chance. And obviously, he pulled through.

He had a certain combination of decency, and empathy, and the promise to restore the soul of America, and all of these things that people were hungering for, that worked for him, then. Will it work for him now? I don't know.

But the question is, whatever his record, and whatever the frustrations that real voters have, with the state of the economy, which may or may not be related, to actual Biden policies? Who's the alternative, right? Who's the alternative in either party? The people are clearly disillusioned with their options.



PHILLIP: As Biden often says, "It's not the almighty you're running against. It's the alternative."


PHILLIP: Everyone, stand by for us.

On the other side of this race, it's been just one day, since Ron DeSantis stepped into the ring. And this is already the state of play.


DESANTIS: I don't know what happened to Donald Trump.

TRUMP: Rob' DeSanctimonious and his poll numbers are dropping like a rock.

A fool who has no idea what the hell he's doing.


PHILLIP: So, where is this duel headed next? Well, we'll talk about it.



PHILLIP: The gloves are officially off. Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, is taking direct jabs, at Donald Trump, after the former President attacked his campaign launch, last night. Trump called the event, a disaster, and posted mocking videos, including this AI-generated parody video, of DeSantis, being interrupted, online, by fake guests, like The Devil and Adolf Hitler. And Trump also posted this, what appears to be a SpaceX rocket, labeled "Ron 2024" falling over and exploding.

DeSantis, meanwhile, is now taking dead-aim, at Trump's policy decisions, as President.


DESANTIS: I think he did great for three years. But, when he turned the country over to Fauci in March of 2020, that destroyed millions of people's lives.

When people look back, you know, that 2020 year was not a good year for the country as a whole.

He said he was going to eliminate the national debt when he ran in 2016. He ended up adding almost $8 trillion to the debt in four years.

And he is going left on a lot of the fiscal. He's going left on culture. He's even sided with Disney against me.

I don't know what happened to Donald Trump. This is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016. And I think -- I think the direction that he's going with his campaign is the wrong direction.


PHILLIP: And this is just day one. This is just a preview of what voters will likely hear, as DeSantis prepares to blitz three early voting States, next week, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

And my panel is back with me.

Allison -- Ashley, it seems to me, DeSantis, yesterday, with this Twitter announcement that he was trying to sort of out-online Trump, out-trump Trump. And then, Trump hits back, as he often does, really strongly.

Is this kind of tit for tat, on stunt -- stunt's going to really be what wins the day here?

ALLISON: I don't think so. I think, again, if you're in Donald Trump's camp, after January 6, I don't think you're ever coming out of his camp. I just I'm not seeing it in the polls. I'm not seeing it in voters. And I'm talking to that support him.

What I think it might hurt though, is Ron DeSantis, as he is looking at the other competitors, in the field. If somebody wants an alternative to Trump, and they are seeing Ron DeSantis, behave like Trump, they might skip over him, and go to Tim Scott, or Nikki Haley, or Mike Pence, or whoever is going to announce, in the Republican field. So, this is Trump being Trump. DeSantis has an opportunity to rise above it. And by him doing tit for tat, I don't think it's going to fare well.

PHILLIP: There's also the policy of it all. I mean, he's trying to sort of argue that Trump tried to sign amnesty. He did all these things. Will policy win out?

SMITH: I think so. Honestly, I'm very excited I have three former potential bosses in this race, in Mike Pence, as well as Tim Scott. And I think that's going to help us have more of a policy conversation, because they're going to bring ideas to the table.

Some of those ideas they worked with President Trump on, including Ron DeSantis. But I think ultimately the policy conversation which is going to really drive, what decisions that voters are going to make.


PHILLIP: I mean, actually, that's a good point. I mean, if you worked with former President Trump, on this stuff, can you really attack him for it?

SMITH: That's exactly right. There's a lot of common ground, on issues, even with DeSantis was talking about the Pandemic, and strategies around opening up, there's a lot of them working together. Same thing with Tim Scott, and Opportunity Zones and criminal justice reform.

PHILLIP: So speaking of, as Nikki Haley said, earlier this week, she accused DeSantis of echoing Trump. Here's an example, potentially, of that very thing. Here's what he said about pardoning January 6 rioters.


DESANTIS: The DOJ and FBI have been weaponized... On day one, I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases, who, people are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive at issuing pardons.


PHILLIP: Really, Joey, not much daylight there between Trump and DeSantis?

JACKSON: Not at all.

So, there's a faction of the country, though, that believes that the Department of Justice was weaponized, in this January 6 prosecutions.

And then, of course, the other faction is saying, "Weaponize? We're holding people accountable for what they did to this country."

And if you look at what's happened, they've done exactly that Abby. Like what? Like prosecuting over 1,000 people, who were involved in the Insurrection, like sentencing over 500 people, who were involved in the Insurrection.

And so, ultimately, at the end of the day, you're either going to look, and you're going to be political -- take this as a political issue, right, with respect to January 6, or you're going to take it as an affront to our democracy, where there were people, who were killed.

PHILLIP: But what do these comments do, to the legal system? I mean, you work, in the legal system, so closely.


PHILLIP: I mean, it's, these are people running for president.

JACKSON: So, these are not normal times, right? I don't think that's a newsflash at all.

And it's unfortunate, because it's very difficult, Abby, to divorce now, really, discussions about the legal system, from politics. If someone's being prosecuted, "Oh, it's a political prosecution," right? It's not that they're being held accountable, for a potential crime. "Oh, why are you investigating that? There are better things to investigate."

The issue is that what it's doing to our system is it's very troubling, as a practitioner of the system, to look at the politicization, of the system, as opposed to looking at people, being prosecuted, for doing things that are wrong.

PHILLIP: And Catherine, $8.2 million that DeSantis campaign claims, although we cannot verify, that they raised in 24 hours. What does that tell you?

RAMPELL: If it's true, I guess --

PHILLIP: There's reason to sometimes question that.

RAMPELL: Yes, yes.

PHILLIP: And sometimes, they are not being truthful.

RAMPELL: Yes. Fair.


RAMPELL: If it's true, it suggests that there is donor support, behind DeSantis, which there was already, right? I mean, I guess it depends on who these donors are. DeSantis has been boosted, primarily, by, I think, Republican donors, who are looking for a supposedly saner version of Trump.


RAMPELL: An alternative to Trump, Trump without the baggage or whatever. And some of them have abandoned DeSantis, because he has been a little too Trumpy, picking fights with Mickey Mouse, and things like that. But if he's raising money, I guess, that shows that he still has --


RAMPELL: -- a campaign left.

PHILLIP: And look, I think, there are probably some Republicans also, who just want a good healthy primary, who wants to keep him in the race, so that he can be on that stage, against Trump.

But everyone, thank you for being here, Joey, Catherine, Ja'Ron and Ashley.

Coming up next, there is news, tonight, on the new generation, of weight loss drugs. Could some of the most popular ones do more than just help people lose weight? Could they cure other addictions?

We will discuss that, with a famous weight loss surgeon, Dr. Procter, from TLC. That's coming up next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, what could be a game-changer, a more effective way, to quickly lose weight, maybe right around the corner. And instead of injections, offered once a week, by drugs, like Wegovy and Ozempic, people are trying to shed pounds that could soon be able to pop a pill, and do it that way, instead.

Let's bring in weight loss surgeon, and Doctor, on TLC's "1000-Lb. Sisters," Dr. Charles Procter.

Dr. Procter, thanks for joining us.

So, these medications were already considered kind of a game-changer, when it came to diabetes and weight loss. But now they could be administered so much more simply. What would that do?

DR. CHARLES PROCTER JR., BARIATRIC SURGEON, DOCTOR, TLC'S "1000-LB. SISTERS": Well, I think it would relieve a barrier, Abigail, to a lot of the patients, who may be somewhat squeamish, about the idea of giving themselves, an injection, even once a week.

One of the medications is already commercially available, right now. That's a pill that's taken a couple of times a day, every day. That can in itself be a barrier. And that's quite a lot to remember.

So, but I think that for a lot of people, out there, who are concerned or nervous, about giving themselves a shot, once a day, the idea of a pill may seem a little more appealing.

PHILLIP: And one of the other interesting things that's come out of the popularity of these drugs is some anecdotal evidence that perhaps it's helping people with other vices, let's call them, smoking, drinking alcohol, et cetera. What is behind that? PROCTER JR.: So, this has been kind of a really exciting find for this new medication. This line of medications known as GLP-1 agonists have sort of -- are becoming a Swiss Army knife of medications, if you will.

Something that was originally intended to help control Type 2 diabetes, we found, has excellent efficacy, with regards to weight loss. And now, finding that even things, like addictive drugs, such as alcohol, can be limited by taking these medications, because they limit the introduction, of these type of drugs, into the mesolimbic system, which makes them addictive.

So, it's a very exciting new finding with this.

PHILLIP: I mean, that's so fascinating. I mean, a lot of people though, look at this, especially with the weight loss implications, and they say, "Well, people are just taking the Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card."

You treat a lot of patients, who are dealing with serious obesity issues. What do people need to understand, about why these drugs might actually be needed, to help treat patients, like yours?


PROCTER JR.: So, unlike drugs that we've had in the past, which were basically appetite suppressants, these actually have biological effects that are similar to what we see, in patients, after they have weight loss surgery, bariatric surgery.

We now understand that the effects are more of a neurohormonal type effect. GLP-1 and GIP, which were found in one of the newer drugs, Tirzepatide, both act, they're produced naturally by the GI system. They act not only on the GI system, slowing down emptying from the stomach, to help you feel full, faster and longer, but also act on the hypothalamus, in the brain, to curb hunger signals.

So, it's a wonderful adjunct to help try to lose weight. Certainly people have to do their part, and still have to eat right, and get some exercise in. But doing those things, this could be somewhat of a natural way, if you will, even though taking a medication to help you achieve your goals.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, there's so much more, I think, we need to learn about what this could all mean, and also about whether or not this will help us deal with chronic illnesses, that are -- some of them stem, from obesity, including, diabetes, and heart disease, and all kinds of other things.

A longer conversation that I'm sure we'll have you back for, Dr. Charles Procter. Thank you very much.

PROCTER JR.: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And a shark attack, in paradise. Police, in Turks and Caicos, say an American woman just had her leg bitten off, while she was snorkeling. Of course, that raises serious concerns, for swimmers, everywhere, ahead of this Memorial Day weekend.

We'll have all the details, next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, a 22-year-old American woman is in serious condition, after a shark bit her leg off. That happened while she was snorkeling with a friend, near a resort, in Turks and Caicos. She was rescued, by a crew, on a nearby boat, and she's now hospitalized.

But it is just the latest shark attack, making the headlines, in recent days. Over the weekend, a 15-year-old girl, she was bitten by a shark, in New Jersey. And days before that, a 13-year-old girl in Florida fought off a shark that attacked her stomach, her arms and her legs.

Let's explore all the facts on this with Andy Casagrande, shark specialist, and Host of Discovery's "Shark Week."

So Andy, everybody is probably wondering, after I read that horrible list of events that just happened. Should they be afraid before they go into the water?

ANDY CASAGRANDE, FILMMAKER & HOST, DISCOVERY'S "SHARK WEEK": I mean, anytime you enter the ocean, you have to understand that sharks live there, predators live there. So, it's a calculated risk. Anytime you enter the ocean, just assume it could happen. It's highly unlikely.

I mean, one thing we have to understand that although shark attacks are kind of scary? Relatively statistically, they're very rare. So we always have to approach any of these incidents with a scientific objective mind, and not hype it up.

PHILLIP: What is the role of, I guess, what is termed mistaken identity, in all of this? When sharks maybe are thinking you're something else, how does that factor into attacks like this?

CASAGRANDE: Yes, exactly. I mean, there's a number of reasons why sharks will occasionally bite people, sometimes eat people. And mistaken identity is one of these big factors. But in that situation, they think you're something else. The visibility is murky. The water's rough. They think you're a seal. They think you're, on a surfboard, they think, white shark thinks you're a seal.

In this case, in Turks and Caicos, it's an amazing dive location. The visibility is essentially limitless. So, in this situation, I really don't think it was mistaken identity.

Another reason why sharks occasionally bite people is curiosity. When this girl lost her limb, definitely not curiosity.

Another reason is defense. They get provoked, they get aggressive, because they're defending their territory, or defending themselves. And then, lastly, hunger. And, in my opinion, in this situation, based on what I've read, and what I've heard, there's so many, in clear water. They're offshore. There was reference of it could potentially be a Caribbean reef shark. But from what I'm hearing about the loss of limb, it could have been a tiger shark, a bull shark, I would put my money on either of those two species.

PHILLIP: You bravely, in my opinion, spend a lot of time, swimming with sharks. And one of the factors in all of this, I understand, could be how the water temperature's changing. I mean, what can you tell us about that?

CASAGRANDE: Well, that's certainly another factor with like the shifting in the climate and the changes in the oceans, everything from acidification to the temperatures, it's moving the prey around, it's moving the predators around.

So, sharks and humans are colliding seemingly more, but it's also a factor of humans, using the water more. There's more coastal population that is exploding, here in Florida, especially. So, it's kind of tough to say.

The bottom line is if sharks thought humans were a viable prey item, something a food source that it could eat regularly, they would. They would hunt and kill us every single day, because we're slow, we're easy to catch.

And -- but the reality is, everything we just talked about, mistaken identity, curiosity, defense, or hunger? These sharks, at the end of the day, they are predators. We are protein. So, it's a risk you take.

My condolences to the family. I mean, this sounds like a really interesting situation, where they're snorkeling off shore, and then seemingly out of nowhere --


CASAGRANDE: -- a shark comes, and bites this woman's leg off. But I'm sure there's more to the story.

PHILLIP: It's horrible and scary. But, to your point, we're really not the food that they want. So, maybe that's reassuring to some people.

Andy Casagrande, thank you very much.


PHILLIP: And ahead, on "CNN TONIGHT," is a four-year degree worth the cost? More and more students are asking that very question. And college enrolment continues to slide. Alisyn Camerota will take it up with Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" ahead.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIP: Tonight, a Mississippi mother is demanding answers, after her 11-year-old son, Aderrien Murry, was shot, in the chest, on Saturday, by a Police officer, after the young boy called 911, for help, following a domestic disturbance.

And, right now, Aderrien is at home, thankfully, recovering. But a family attorney says that he suffered from a collapsed lung, fractured ribs, and a lacerated liver, in the shooting.

And here's how his mother described what happened to him.


NAKALA MURRY, MOTHER OF ADERRIEN MURRY: I heard a shot. And I saw my son run out towards -- where we were, he ran from the inside of the house all the way to where we were in this, when he fell, bleeding, shot. And I put pressure on the -- I put pressure on it to stop, help stop the bleedings, it bleeding so much.


I asked the cop, I thought, "What happened," you know. He's told me, he shot my son that he thought he didn't know, he came around a corner. He, you know, there were no real explanations of what happened.


PHILLIP: And the family attorney says Aderrien is traumatized, and called for the officer, involved in that shooting, and the Police Chief, to both be fired.

You can go to, for more information, about this story.

And thank you, for joining us.

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

Alisyn, hi?


Such a horrible story.

PHILLIP: I know.

CAMEROTA: We're going to be talking about the developments, in that case, as well.

PHILLIP: Very sad.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Awful. That should never happen, obviously. So, we'll try to figure out what went wrong.


CAMEROTA: Great to see you, Abby. Good evening.