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DeSantis, Trump Trade Barbs As Field Grows; Ex-DNI On Trump Doc Revelation: "Worst Fears Realized"; Georgia Gun Shop Owner Closes Store Over Spike In Shootings Of Children. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 01, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And two CNN Town Halls, coming up, to tell you about it.

Jake Tapper hosts a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with former South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley. That's in Iowa, Sunday, at 8 PM.

And next Wednesday, at 9 PM, our Dana Bash moderates a Town Hall, with former Vice President, Mike Pence, who's expected to launch his campaign, on that day.

Thanks so much for watching. I'll see you tomorrow.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: And thank you, Anderson.

Good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining me.

This is war. And that may actually be the nicest thing that Donald Trump has said, in the last 24 hours, about his former friend, and now foe, Ron DeSantis. Both of the men crisscrossing the early voting states, today. DeSantis has been on a blitz, in New Hampshire, and Trump was in Iowa.

But here is just a little taste of the back-and-forth that has really escalated, over the last 24 hours, on everything, from the debt ceiling to nicknames.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ron, as I call him "Ron DeSanctimonious" for a reason.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think it's so petty. I think it's so juvenile. I don't think that's what voters want. And honestly, I think that that his conduct, which he's been doing for years now, I think that's one of the reasons he's not in the White House now.

TRUMP: When he says eight years, every time I hear it, I wince.

DESANTIS: I think it's a project that will begin on day one. And it will require a daily grind for not just one term, but I think for two full presidential terms.

TRUMP: But when I heard DeSantis go out and say, and talk about eight years, "We need eight years," you don't need eight years. You need six months. We can turn this thing around so quickly. If you need eight years? Who the hell wants to wait eight years? You don't need eight years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former President Trump says he'd do it in six months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here you go, man, right (ph).

DESANTIS: Why didn't he do it his first four years?

In terms of the debt limit, yes, I think he should -- I should -- think he should come up, you know? I mean, are you -- are you leading from the front, or are you waiting for polls to tell you what position to take?

TRUMP: I would have taken the default if you had to, if you didn't get it right.

DESANTIS: He used to say how great Florida was. Hell, his whole family moved to Florida under my governorship. Are you kidding me?



PHILLIP: And that was only week one.

The mudslinging is only going to get worse, especially with this Republican field that is about to expand yet again.

Now, if Trump is ticked off, about DeSantis, what is he going to say when Mike Pence, his former Vice President jumps into the race, next week?

And Chris Christie, who led Trump's transition team is also about to announce his bid. He's also made it crystal clear that he's not going to hold back, trying to take down Trump.

Joining me now, at the table, is former DNC Communications Director, Mo Elleithee; National Review Senior Editor, Ramesh Ponnuru; Republican strategist, Rina Shah; and L.A. Times Op-Ed Columnist, LZ Granderson.

Now, this Trump-DeSantis matchup has really heated up. I mean, I feel like just a week ago, we were talking about "Will DeSantis really hit him?" He's hitting him.

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, and he's starting to name names. And that's the important part, right now, is because we need that. We need that fight from DeSantis. And when I say "We," we, the people who don't want Donald Trump, to see the 47 -- to become that 47th President. I say this. In the moment we're in, it's so delicate for DeSantis. And he's got to do this dance. But he's got to do it well, for a long time. We're still so early out. So, I say the biggest and best thing that either of these men can do, or anyone serious, in the GOP field, can do, right now, is focus on the delegate math.

And I know it's still early, but focus on the delegate math, the early states, and then also be judicious with your money, because this whole thing will be defined, the GOP primary will be defined, by who runs out of money first, and where they're spending it.

PHILLIP: I mean, I would argue there's probably not a huge risk that DeSantis is going to run out of money quickly. But at the same time, I mean, narrative really matters, early on, in these contests. And the early states, of course, matter.

But numbers like, like this CNN poll, that's showing Trump basically doubling DeSantis, at a national level. Sure. But DeSantis needs to turn that narrative around.

MO ELLEITHEE, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: He does. He needs to turn that narrative around. But he does need to do it in those early states. Once you start to see movement, in the polls, in Iowa? And Iowa, I think, really is the ballgame, on the Republican side.

New Hampshire isn't going to be important. But if Chris Sununu gets into the race, that scrambles the math a little bit. With two South Carolinians, in the race, will the South Carolina primary be as potent as it usually is, as deciding as it usually is?

So, Iowa is the place where any alternative to Trump has to make a move. So, it's smart that they're all spending a lot of time there. But the narrative does matter.


If you want to take out Donald Trump, you have to take on Donald Trump. And DeSantis is really the first guy to do that. Throughout this entire campaign, so far, every one of the rest of them has been tiptoeing around this, because they don't want to upset the MAGA base. He's saying, "You know what? I'm more MAGA than Trump is. And I'm going to call him out on his record."

The only other guy that shows any interest in doing that is Chris Christie, who seems to be on a kamikaze mission, simply to take out Donald Trump. So, it's going to -- it's about to get even more interesting.

PHILLIP: I want to -- something interesting happened today. This New Hampshire State Representative, James Spillane, he switched his endorsement, from Trump to DeSantis. Listen to why he decided to do that.


STATE REP. JAMES SPILLANE (R-NH): But it's become evident, especially with the latest attack on Kayleigh McEnany that there's no loyalty in him. He can't -- he can't be trusted to stay loyal, to the people, who have supported him, in the past. And it's a problem. And those kinds of negative attacks, and the vitriol, does not play well in New Hampshire, and it's not good for the United States.


RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, that's quite a straw to break the camel's back there, the attack on Kayleigh McEnany.

PHILLIP: He would be maybe the last person to realize that there's no loyalty there with Trump, sometimes.

PONNURU: He -- this is a man, who was just found liable for a sexual assault. And the thing is this criticism of Kayleigh McEnany that is finally, the scales have fallen from his eyes, about the character of the former President.

PHILLIP: And specifically, Trump was criticizing Kayleigh McEnany, for misquoting his polls. And instead of showing that he was up over DeSantis, by 34 points, she had it at 25 points, and he was really upset about that.

But I mean, for DeSantis, a win is a win?

LZ GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": I guess. It's so sad, though, isn't it, though? Weren't we hoping for something better? Something more besides arguing over poll numbers, in the month of May? Like it's just so sad to me.

DeSantis has a very tricky plank to walk, because he does need to attack, but he can't alienate the Trump voters. And I wonder if the fact that Trump has a record, this time, in a primary, will make it so that it won't just be DeSantis that will be able to attack him, but the other members.

Remember, the first time he ran in a primary, he had no record, to really antagonize, or to critique, or to pull apart. Now, he does. It's a lot harder for him to duck and dodge and misdirect, when there's an actual record that even his voters are aware of.

PHILLIP: What do you make of the argument that the eight years versus four years argument that you heard in the montage that we played earlier?

SHAH: With Trump, he's got such a problem with numbers. And that's where I stay fixated, like this guy doesn't understand anything, when it comes to numbers, because we all know how he wanted to inflate his Inauguration Day figures. And these poll numbers are going to continue to matter to him.

I think he continues to go down this path of weakness. He starts to make himself continue to look more and more foolish. And in that what will happen is that there's going to be less serious conversations about kitchen-table issues. And then, voters will get dragged into the misinformation that runs rampant in today's GOP. GRANDERSON: But I have a serious question for you. And, I mean, no shade by this at all.

How much more foolish can he actually get to the point in which you actually see it impact him politically? Because, from my perspective, he's had a lot of opportunity, for voters, to say, "You know what? That's foolishness. He's not serious. I'm turning my back." And yet, we've yet to see that. And today, he is the primary lead.

PHILLIP: Well, it's interesting that you bring --

SHAH: It's --

PHILLIP: Go ahead, Rina.

SHAH: Some would argue that at the CNN Town Hall, he really knocked it out of the ballpark, on the economy, as well as on abortion. Those were two areas, in which he sounded a bit more strong than most people expected.

And so, what I would say is that don't count out Trump's ability, to shoot himself in the foot. But also at the same time, look at this field. Who's going to be able to really attack him?

PONNURU: Yes. And the attack from DeSantis that originates this is that Trump would be a lame-duck, if he were elected, that he couldn't run for reelection in 2020. I got to wonder how many voters are really that strategic?

SHAH: Yes.


PONNURU: I mean, that seems like it's a play for a group of very long- term oriented activists. And I wonder how many people that really represents?

ELLEITHEE: Yes. I mean, I think DeSantis has two real lines of attack that could have some resonance.

One, why didn't you do it the first time, right? Like, Trump's out there saying "You only need six months." Why didn't you do it in four years then?

The second is the electability argument, right? And DeSantis is one of the few Republicans who, after the 2022 midterms, actually has something that he can point to, on electability, with his pretty big win, in Florida for re-election. While contrasting that, with Trump, losing three straight, or Republicans losing three straight elections, with Trump as their standard-bearer.

The problem that DeSantis is going to be facing now is that there is still a really strong emotional connection, between Donald Trump, and his base of supporters. And it's hard to overcome emotion with reason. Those might be the two arguments that start to chip away at it a little bit, but it's still going to be a steep climb. PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, hard to overcome emotion with reason, and certainly maybe harder to overcome emotion with policy, which was how --

ELLEITHEE: Yes, oh, had to overcome that (ph).

PHILLIP: --Ron DeSantis is trying to run.

Everyone, standby for me.


Coming up next, a minor scare, tonight, after President Biden tripped, and fell, at the Air Force Academy commencement, today. What the White House is saying about that, and how the images play into concerns that exist about his age.


PHILLIP: If there were any late-night comedy shows, live on the air, tonight, you could be sure that this moment would be getting quite a lot of attention.

The White House tells us that President Joe Biden is perfectly fine, after this fall, earlier today. He did trip on that sandbag that you see there, and he fell, as he completed handing out the diplomas, at the Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs.

And he even joked about it on his return to the White House.




PHILLIP: OK. He's got a little pep in his step there.

But the video often outlives the context, for these kinds of things. After all, this moment, earlier, in his administration, was played, for plenty of laughs.

Now, people do fall, that happens, especially leaders, who are on the move, and the camera is on all the time. Just ask Barack Obama, who had a few stumbles of his own. And so did Ronald Reagan, back in the 1980s.


Gerald Ford's epic spill, while visiting Austria, in 1975, was so memorable that Chevy Chase turned it into a career. It was a hallmark of his "Saturday Night Live" skits.

But when an 80-year-old President falls, when there are already concerns, about his age, and while he is asking the nation, to reelect him, for a second term, it really is not a laughing matter, ultimately.

Everyone remains here, at the table with me.

So, this is obviously a touchy subject, for a lot of people. But it must be had.

SHAH: Yes, I don't think it's ageist, to be concerned. We are always one fall away from President Harris. And I think Republicans are salivating at the mouth for that, because they know that a President Harris means we get a Republican, in the White House, next time.

I think here we sit, in this unique moment, in time, where we have to ask ourselves, "Are we a gerontocracy?" I think we are. But that's not what we're being -- we're discussing here.

What we need is for Democrats to really meet the moment. And the moment requires for Democrats, to say to their voters, as well as to independent voters, is, let's look past this moment of age, and frailty, fragility, whatever we want to call it.

I myself, a big fan of the American presidency. And I did not think, in all this time, that I would have a former President, Trump, where every day, I would be questioning his cognitive abilities, to be Commander-in-Chief. And now, with President Biden, every day, I'm questioning his physical abilities, to be Commander-in-Chief.

PHILLIP: Well, look, I mean, glad you brought up Trump, because they're not too far apart in age. We're talking about two elderly candidates, for the presidency.

But actually, here's Trump talking about Biden's fall. It's kind of interesting.


TRUMP: He's at the Air Force academy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, fell on stage.

TRUMP: He actually fell down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He said (ph) --

TRUMP: Well, I hope he wasn't hurt. I hope he wasn't hurt. But it's -- the whole thing is, look, the whole thing is crazy. You got to be careful about that. You got to be careful about that, because you don't want that, even if you have to tiptoe down a ramp.


PHILLIP: He is speaking from experience. I mean, it might sound like he's joking. But he's actually serious, because he literally tiptoed down, around, at West -- I believe this was West Point, late in his presidency, and it got a lot of attention. A lot of Republican sources, texting me old articles, about Trump's physical fitness, back in those days. But this is a concern, not just for Biden, but for Trump too.

PONNURU: Absolutely. It is risky. It is just commonsense that it is risky, if the country decides in 2024, it wants to elect, as President, somebody born in 1942, like Biden, somebody born in 1946, like Donald Trump. This is -- it was an issue for Bob Dole. It was an issue for John McCain. And it was rightly an issue for both of them. And it's rightly an issue, right now, too.

PHILLIP: So, what did they do about it then?

PONNURU: Well, they should step aside, is what they should be doing.


PHILLIP: I mean, what do Democrats do of that?

ELLEITHEE: They do what the President has been signaling his response is going to be, which is, "Watch me do my job. If you watch me do my job, you'll see I have what it takes." And we just saw it.

First of all, remember, this is not a referendum on his age, right? Elections are not -- there will be no line on the ballot that says, "Do you believe Joe Biden is too old to be president?" No.

What's going to be on the ballot is Joe Biden, and another name. He's got to show that he is better at the job than that other name. Right now, the most likely person to be that other name is Donald Trump.

You want to know, is Joe Biden fit to be president? Look at what he just did, on the debt ceiling, to prevent the United States, and the global economy, from going over a cliff, with minimal damage, to his set of priorities. He got almost everything he wanted, in that.

The other guys, the top two guys, on the other side, both say, "We'd rather have had a default." You tell me who has the more -- who is more fit to be president, in that sense.

If Joe Biden is out there, making that case, on a daily basis, against either of those two other guys, I think people are going to forget that he tripped over a sandbag, once, because he's doing the job.

PHILLIP: Well, there's the stamina issue. But I mean, I know, a lot of people watching are probably some people, who are fans of President Biden, might say, "Oh, we're just making a big political thing out of this."

But I actually want to play. This is Dr. Jonathan Reiner, talking about why this is actually, just from a practical perspective, a very serious issue for the President.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Talk to people every week, the President's age, about safety, about putting grab bars, in their bathrooms, and in making sure area rugs are secure. Because falls can really create a major health injury, for a person, the President's age, particularly if he were to break -- break his hip.

Look, I would -- I would suggest to the President that he really needs to be careful. And in on unsteady ground, it wouldn't be the worst thing, for the President, to use a cane. I know he may not like the optics. But a falling appears much worse.


PHILLIP: Maybe not a cane, but?

GRANDERSON: Do not have a cane.

SHAH: I agree.


PHILLIP: But on a very, you know, I mean, there are probably some things that his staff can do, the advanced teams can do, right, to make things safer. I mean --

ELLEITHEE: Make sure there's no sandbag on the stage. Make sure --

PHILLIP: Make sure there's no sandbag on the stage.

ELLEITHEE: Right, yes, yes.

PHILLIP: There's a -- there's a real safety issue here.

GRANDERSON: There's a real safety issue. But that's also a real opportunity as well. I'm not quite sure if the President is able to make -- take advantage of the opportunity, but it's there.

SHAH: Right.

GRANDERSON: Because we are an aging society.

SHAH: Yes.

GRANDERSON: All the metrics show that we're going to get older and older. We're living younger and younger. What does this mean? We're going to change the way we think about aging, in general, anyway. I was talking to a buddy of mine, who reminded me that the "Golden Girls" were in their 50s.

PHILLIP: That's true.

GRANDERSON: In their 50s.

PHILLIP: They looked great.

GRANDERSON: They looked great. But they were called "The Golden Girls." The idea of thinking someone in the 50s, in 2023, being in the golden years, it's almost laughable.

So, we have to move the needle, in terms of how we talk about aging, to begin with. I'm not quite sure if President Biden is in a position to do that, obviously. But that's the conversation we ultimately need to have. How we look at the elderly, because we're all going to get there. And oh, by the way, most of the country, it's going to be there, within the next 50 years.

PONNURU: That's older people are often the ones, who are most aware of some of the limitations, and changes, that happen as you get older, in addition to the wisdom that you can sometimes gain.

But I think that you're going to find that this issue, it's not just a matter of young people, versus old people. Older people, too, are going to wonder, does it really make sense for him to have this job?

PHILLIP: Right. You've heard the President saying what Mo has said, which is, "Watch me. Watch me do my job. And that will be proof that I can do it in the future."

Mo, Ramesh, Rina, and LZ, thank you all very much.

Coming up next for us, President Trump -- Donald Trump questioned directly, by CNN, today, on that tape that the Feds have, of him, talking about a classified document in his possession.

Plus, his lawyer didn't want to answer our questions, last night, about that very subject.


JIM TRUSTY, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I'm not going to address that.

Yes, I'm not going to dignify the DOJ leak.


PHILLIP: But there was something that he did keep saying that we plan to fact-check, coming up next.



PHILLIP: Former President Donald Trump ignoring questions, about the CNN reporting that he is on tape, acknowledging that he had a classified Pentagon document, after he left the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, why did you take classified documents?


PHILLIP: Now, that refusal to answer, it might be familiar to you, if you were watching his attorney, Jim Trusty, on this show, last night.


TRUSTY: I'm not going to address that.

I'm not going to bite on a leak campaign and try the case in the media.

I'm not going to dignify the DOJ leak.

I'm not going to sit here and address the document.


PHILLIP: Now, Trusty refused to discuss quite a lot, like whether the former President took any sensitive military documents, what evidence they may have, that the documents in question were ever declassified, or how it got to his club, in Bedminster, New Jersey, in the first place.

But he did keep going back to this point.


TRUSTY: The President, under the Presidential Records Act, has unfettered authority, to do what he wants, with documents that he's taken from the White House, while President.


PHILLIP: "While President," that phrase.

Now, keep in mind that Donald Trump wasn't President, in July of 2021. That's when our sources say, he was recorded, discussing a classified document that was in his possession. And in fact, that was more than a month after the National Archives reached out to him, to tell him that he had documents that needed to be returned.

But on the question of the larger claim, that Trusty was making that as President, Donald Trump had, quote, "Unfettered authority," the point of the very law that he's talking about the Presidential Records Act, is about setting hard defined rules, about the handling of these documents.

To quote the National Archives, "The PRA," the Presidential Records Act, "changed the legal ownership of the official records" from "the President, from private to public and" it "established a new statutory structure under which Presidents, and subsequently NARA must manage the records of their Administrations."

Now, in fact, if you read the law, this is the Section 2203. It has all the rules about how records are supposed to be handled, and the very real limits, on what the President can and cannot do.

Trusty went on to say this, last night.


TRUSTY: And so, if he wants to declassify them, if he wants to personalize them under the Presidential Record Act? That is his right. PHILLIP: Well --


PHILLIP: Now, this is what we need to clarify. Those are two separate powers, the power to declassify and personalize, the power to personalize.

And more than that, more than once in the interview, last night, Trusty actually conflated those two ideas.


PHILLIP: What I'm asking you is when it comes to your client, you will not say what he has said, which is, that, he blanket-declassified all of those documents. Did he do that?


PHILLIP: Well then --

TRUSTY: And he personalized them.

PHILLIP: Well then, can --

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Just to be clear, you're making the argument, right now that by the time he was on the ground, in Florida, after he left Washington, that that is when he declassified all of these documents that he took with him?

TRUSTY: No, no, no. I'm saying the documents he brought with him are effectively declassified, and personalized, under the Presidential Record Act.


PHILLIP: The Presidential Records Act doesn't have anything to do with the declassification process. Whether records are classified or not, by law, they are considered property of the United States government.

However, what the Presidential Records Act does do is define what is public and what can be private. There is this long section that clearly defines what is considered presidential, and that is public, and what is considered personal.

And in short, personal would be only, quote, "Documentary materials ... which do not relate to or have an effect" on "the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President."


So, we will have to see how they make that argument in court that the President -- the Pentagon plans do not relate to the carrying out of the duties, of the Commander-in-Chief.

But at least publicly, the former President, and his defense team, they seem to be very fixated, on this 1978 law.


TRUMP: You have the Presidential Records Act.

TRUSTY: Look at the Constitution. You look at the Presidential Records Act.

TRUMP: I come under what's known as the Presidential Records Act.


PHILLIP: They talk about it a lot. And it actually does cut to the very heart of this story. Specifically, why did former President Trump keep these documents, in the first place?

Here's the law again. It says "The Presidential records of a former President shall be available to such former President." In other words, if he wanted to see something, if he wanted to have access to it, all he had to do was ask.

And the other part of this story is the danger of having Pentagon battle plans just out there. Remember, the Director of National Intelligence launched a full damage assessment, to figure out the risk, posed by what Donald Trump took with him.

So, let's bring in the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Director Clapper, thank you for joining us.

When you look back, at the Mar-a-Lago affidavit, we heard at that time, that there were, Top Secret TS/SCI, Sensitive Compartmentalized documents that could be in this trove that Trump took with him. When you pair that with what we've learned about this particular document, what concerns you?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Abby, when the -- when we first learned of the presence of the classified documents, at Mar-a-Lago, all we really had to go on were the classification caveats or descriptions.

And I said several times, at the time, that we needed to be cautious here, because we didn't know the substantive content of these documents. Well, now we apparently know, if the media reporting is correct, the content of one of them, which is quite sensitive. So, this is kind of worst fears realized, when, you look at the sensitivity of such a document.

Don't know the provenance of it. It's, what date it was or anything like that, but even more on the subject of a potential attack, of some sort, against an invasion, against Iran, well that's really a serious, serious revelation. And it will serve to heighten the paranoia that already exists in Iran, and actually, I think give them more ammunition, not that they need it, or a justification, for pursuing a nuclear weapon. PHILLIP: What are the national security implications, you think, of plans like this, if they have to do with an attack on Iran, being out there in the world?

CLAPPER: Well, it's obviously a serious compromise. I mean, potentially, you're putting people's lives at risk here. If not within Iran, certainly, if any U.S. military forces are engaged in any kind of activity, having to do with Iran. So, the implications are quite serious.

And this is one document. It makes you wonder, what are the substantive content of the other documents that were found at Mar-a- Lago? And how sensitive are they? And what are the implications for them that they might bear on national security, and its potential compromise.

PHILLIP: Today, we heard an interesting argument, from another attorney, who used to be very recently part of Trump's defense team. This is Tim Parlatore, talking about whether or not this document, could be considered to have posed a risk, to national defense. Listen.


TIMOTHY PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: If it is a plan, I mean, a lot of it depends on, if it exists, how detailed is it? Is it a fairly rudimentary proposal, from Mark Milley, to the President that was outright rejected? Does it give very detailed plans? If it's something that happened a few years ago, and it's outdated?

So really, it's one of those things that in the legal sense, it goes to the jury, where they have to look at the document, and they have to make a determination, as to whether it's national defense information.


PHILLIP: Does that hold water for you, that argument?

CLAPPER: Not really. I think there would need to be -- I would put a lot more stock, in a formal assessment, by the Intelligence Community, or other competent executive branch officials, to actually make a determination, just how serious revelation that this document represents.

PHILLIP: But what if it -- I mean, what if, to his point, what if it was an old document? What if it was just a briefing rather than specific plans? I mean, would that make a difference to you?


CLAPPER: Well, obviously, it doesn't sound like it was. An Operations Plan is a very elaborate document, with a lot of attachments, and annexes. It doesn't sound like it was that.

But the point here is if it reflected intent, a policy statement, of some sort, or the implication of a policy statement, on the part of the -- of the government, then that in itself is pretty serious, and has implications, as I mentioned before, not the least of which is the impact on Iran itself.

So, again, not knowing the provenance, the content, but just from what is inferred, it was pretty serious, I think.

PHILLIP: All right. James Clapper, thank you very much, for that insight.

And ahead for us, a gun store owner decides to stop selling guns, due to the spike, in mass shootings. He's afraid that the weapons that he has sold already could end up in the wrong hands. And you're about to hear from him, coming up next.


PHILLIP: Recent mass shootings, and other incidents, of gun violence, in the United States, have prompted one gun shop owner, near Atlanta, to close his business.

Jon Waldman has children of his own, and he says that he now worries that the firearms that he was selling, at Georgia Ballistics, could be part of the next tragedy. And his conscious won't let him do it anymore.

He joins me now.

Jon, thank you very much for joining us.


You opened this store, not too long ago, back in 2021. What was the catalyst, in your mind, for this decision?

JON WALDMAN, OWNER, GEORGIA BALLISTICS: The original catalyst was that not only did I want to help people get armed to defend themselves against threats that are coming in.

But after what happened with COVID, and all the lockdowns, this was one of the stores that allowed you to not be stuck at home, and actually be a necessity, and helping people.

So, it was from that point, where I literally just wanted to help police, and local authorities, because they were so busy getting defunded that nobody was rewarding them, for actually defending people.

PHILLIP: And what changed? What made you decide now to go ahead and close the store?

WALDMAN: Just all the -- it's really the kids. My son keeps seeing it. My son's going through mass shooting tragedies, at school. He's going through all the training. It's nothing like that when I went to school. And it's sad that he has to live like that.

But at the same time, it's also my responsibility, because I sell higher-end items that could be used like that. And I don't ever want to sell something that could be used against my kid, let alone anybody else's.

PHILLIP: And you, I mean, you are right, the statistics do bear this out. Firearm deaths are the leading cause of death for children. But at the same time, since 2014, mass shootings, in the United States, have doubled, in this country. This has been going on, for nearly a decade now, and longer than that, if you look further at the statistics.


PHILLIP: So, before this moment, I mean, did you think gun violence was an important enough issue, for you to want to make a statement, like this, prior to this moment?

WALDMAN: I wasn't really in the industry, before. I wasn't -- I wasn't at the dinner table, so to speak, for what's going on. And now, I am.

And when you see everything, it just -- it just, everything adds up. And with the shooting in Tennessee, and then one in -- and another one at the medical center, it really isn't going to stop. But at the same time, it's my responsibility, to just not participate in what could happen.

PHILLIP: Yes. What is your biggest fear as a gun shop owner?

WALDMAN: My biggest fear is that something gets sold to a law-abiding citizen that's left in the car stolen, and then used in a horrific -- in a horrific event. And then, that's everything that I sell, has my fingerprints and my name on it. And I don't want anything that I sell to be used.

And the things that I've learned from doing a gun store, just keep stacking -- just keep stacking against doing it. And I'm not saying anyone else should. But it's one of those things, where it's my decision. And my decision is this.

PHILLIP: I see that you're sitting in your shop that my understanding is that it's already closed. But you do have a lot of weapons there, behind you. What happens to those weapons now?

WALDMAN: Yes. I tried working with every town. I sent them messages, about closing, and seeing if there's a way to get them, so I don't have to sell them, because I don't want to. And I'm just waiting to hear back. It's been about two months.

PHILLIP: You live in a State now, in Georgia, where the gun laws are a little bit more lax there, than in other places.

Do you think that there's anything that can be done, beyond your personal decision, to make an impact, on what you're concerned about here, which is that these weapons could be used, in horrific killings, potentially, against children?

WALDMAN: Well, the problem is, is that nobody wants to sit down and have the conversation. There's always sides, this side and that side. And we're all in this together. And it's just one of those things, where if you just sit down, and talk, there's no reason it can't work itself out.

But at the same time, my son is going through mass shooting trainings at school. And they're actually teaching potential shooters, where all the kids are going to be hiding. So, there's problems like that too that hit me, and also, why I have to do this.

PHILLIP: Did you at some point, recently, I mean, did you have a order from a customer that disturbed you in any way?

WALDMAN: There was a -- there was a SAW that was ordered. It was a 240 SAW. And it just --

PHILLIP: And can you tell us what that is?

WALDMAN: When you see it in video -- it's a belt-fed 16-inch military rifle that's civilian issue --



WALDMAN: --which isn't a problem. I mean, there's a lot of people that like those that use them. It's for defense. But at the same time, if somebody breaks in your house, and they're not stored properly, if somebody has something in the car, then they're taken, and then they're used.

And being a gun store owner, when you are one, every time there's a gun store that's broken into, you get an email. And I get three emails a month. And it's just another one of those things that go in that even in storage here could be pilfered. And then, something that I've done is taking away family, children from other families.

PHILLIP: That weapon that you're talking about is a civilian version of a military automatic weapon, right?

WALDMAN: Of a military, yes.


WALDMAN: Yes. The military have one that are full auto. There's a selector on it. These are just civilian issue.

PHILLIP: Did you sell it?

WALDMAN: But it's still a -- the only difference -- yes, unfortunately.

PHILLIP: So, that gun now is in the hands of a gun owner?

WALDMAN: Yes. And that was the other part, where I was just like, at what point -- because I only sold high-end items. I didn't -- I wasn't doing the stuff that normal gun stores do. I was doing it more for professionals. So, it's one of those things where if these fallen, in the hands, it's not just an AR-15. There's other items that make them look like a Tonka truck. PHILLIP: All right, Jon Waldman, thank you very much, for sharing that perspective, with us.

WALDMAN: No, thank you for having me. And I greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And stay tuned now, for a dose of inspiration. The new list of Forbes' Most Wealthy Women is out. And it's been a record-setting year for those women. Who nabbed the top spots in 2023? We will tell you next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the moment you've been waiting for. Forbes' list of America's Richest Self-Made Women is officially in.

And it includes top celebrities like you guessed it, Oprah Winfrey. She's topping at a net worth of $2.5 billion. But there are also billionaires, like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, and multimillionaires, Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner.

So, those names may not be surprising. But it is worth remembering, how exactly these powerful women built their fame, and fortune, and the historic records that they shattered along the way.

Let's take Taylor Swift, for example. She sold more than 2 million tickets, to her Eras Tour, more than any other artist, in a single day. And that infamously led up to the Ticketmaster crash.

Meanwhile, Rihanna, she performed one of the most watched Super Bowl halftime shows, in history.

And, at the age of 25, there is social media star Kylie Jenner, who is the youngest self-made woman on the list of the Top 100. That's the title she's held for the past five years.

Now, CNN's Alisyn Camerota is joining me now.

I know there's a little bit of controversy, about Kylie, and what exactly self-made means.


PHILLIP: However?

CAMEROTA: I'm glad you brought that up. Because what does it mean? I mean, Kylie Jenner has had a few hands-up, I would say.

PHILLIP: I'm with you on that one, honestly. I mean, when I think of self-made, I mean, I think Oprah really fits that bill. She came from basically nothing. She inherited nothing. She was not wealthy. And she's worth $2.5 billion.

CAMEROTA: Exactly. And so does Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton is on that list. She's number 10. I mean, obviously from abject poverty, she started working at 10-years-old.


CAMEROTA: I mean, the commonality with all of them is they're all incredibly talented, and incredibly hard-working. But which one of these is not like the other? I don't know. I can't speak to -- I can't speak to Kylie Jenner's secret sauce. She's obviously very successful. But she doesn't -- to me, she's not in the category of --


CAMEROTA: --Oprah and Dolly Parton.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, yes, when it comes to self-made, I really think that that's kind of a stretch, and the definition. It is interesting to me though, how young some of these people are.

And, also, I was fascinated by -- when you look at the artists, right, like Rihanna, even compared to a Beyonce. Beyonce is worth, according to this list, $540 million. She's maybe arguably one of the most famous people, on the planet. She's on this massive tour now.

But the thing that makes Rihanna so wealthy is not actually the music. It's the merchandise. It's the makeup. It's the clothing line. So, the artists, who kind of branch into something else, they've really been able to exponentially increase their wealth. And that's pretty amazing, I think.

CAMEROTA: That's what we need, a side hustle, Abby. That's what I am hearing you say. We need a side hustle. And I don't know --

PHILLIP: Clothing or jewelry, or makeup?

CAMEROTA: Jewelry, makeup. Obviously, we've cornered the market, on fuchsia things --

PHILLIP: That's right.

CAMEROTA: --items. But it's obvious that our sheer talent, which is abundant, is not going to get us to this level. We need some merch, merch to sell.

PHILLIP: Even though we are in our Barbie era? That may not be enough for us.

So, Alisyn, the other thing that I couldn't help but notice is, I mean, these women are wealthy. And actually, I want to show the audience here, the list of the Most Wealthy Women, include some names that you don't really know.

But they're not really as wealthy as the men. I mean, look at the men on this list. I mean, Elon Musk, $200 billion. Jeff Bezos, $143 billion. The wealthiest self-made women, on the list, Diane Hendricks, $15 billion. Judi Love, $10 billion.

I mean, we're talking about a lot of money here. But it is amazing to me. I mean, what a huge delta there is, between the women, and the men, on these lists.

CAMEROTA: Well, women are catching up, I would say.


CAMEROTA: And I think that these women are really impressive.

I was so struck by this list of the self-made women, because the number one is in roofing and building supplies.


CAMEROTA: That's fascinating, because I think that we do tend to over- index, for the celebrities, and the famous. But you don't have to be Rihanna. This is what we need to teach our kids. You don't need to be Rihanna. You can be a roofer, girls. That is what we need to start telling --

PHILLIP: I have --

CAMEROTA: --all of our kids.


PHILLIP: I have this pet theory that if you just make a thing that everybody uses every day, like toilet seat covers, you will be extremely wealthy, because everybody needs to have it.

And that's actually -- some of these -- a truck store, convenience store, health care software, I mean these women are doing really well, doing -- not -- they're not celebrities. But they are doing really well, and climbing up on that list.

And it's been, as we said earlier, a banner year, for these women. So, hats off to them, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Agreed. And if you have a model for a toilet seat cover that you'd like to show me, I'm happy to partner with you, on that because clearly we do need to be doing something extra.

PHILLIP: "Shark Tank," here we come.


PHILLIP: Everyone, stay tuned.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota is starting right at the top of the hour. Don't miss it.

And coming up next, for us, a "Family Feud" contestant is joking about actually regretting his marriage. But now, he is going to prison, for killing his wife.


[22:00:00] PHILLIP: Well you know the saying, "There's a grain of truth in every joke?"


STEVE HARVEY, AMERICAN TELEVISION HOST: Biggest mistake you made at your wedding?

TIMOTHY BLIEFNICK, "FAMILY FEUD" CONTESTANT: Honey, I love you, but, said "I do."


BLIEFNICK: Not my mistake, not my mistake. I love my wife.


PHILLIP: Well that man was just convicted, this week, of first-degree murder, and home invasion, and the shooting death, of his estranged wife.

The TV appearance, from three years ago, did not come up at the trial. But the marital troubles were central to the prosecutor's theory of the motive, in that case.

Thanks for joining us.

"CNN TONIGHT" starts with Alisyn Camerota, right now.


CAMEROTA: OK. That was a plot twist, Abby.

PHILLIP: Very much so.

CAMEROTA: That I did not see coming, right there. I thought that was your kicker.

PHILLIP: Lesson learned.

CAMEROTA: That was a plot twist.

PHILLIP: Do not kill your wife.