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NY Times: Trump Allies Promote Legal Strategy To Erase DOJ Independence From The White House; Miami Mayor Suarez Officially Launches WH Bid; WSJ: DOJ To Investigate PGA Tour Deal With Saudi- Backed LIV Golf. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 15, 2023 - 21:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The news continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Kaitlan Collins starts now.


Tonight, we have a stark preview, of what justice could look like, in a second term of a Trump presidency.

"The New York Times" reporting on plans that are being formulated, right now, by people, around the former President, to strip the Justice Department of its traditional independence, something the former President telegraphed, just two nights ago, after his arraignment, in Miami.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will appoint a real special prosecutor, to go after the most corrupt president, in the history of the United States of America, Joe Biden.


TRUMP: And the entire Biden crime family.

I will totally obliterate the Deep State.


COLLINS: I'm quoting now, from this "New York Times" story.

Quote, "Mr. Trump's promise fits into a larger movement on the right to gut the FBI, overhaul a Justice Department" that "conservatives claim has been 'weaponized' against them and abandon the norm, which many Republicans view as a facade -- that the department should operate independently from the President."

According to the report, one of the figures involved in this reworking, of the DOJ, is Jeffrey Clark. You might remember that name because the former President tried to make him the Attorney General, during his final days, in office, as part of his effort to overturn the election.

Joining us now Charlie Savage, who shares a byline, on this "New York Times" story.

Also, Andy McCabe, CNN's Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, and the former FBI Deputy Director, and for a time, a victim of the former President's hunger, for political payback.

Charlie, reading through this, I was thinking about how we see a lot of talk, from Trump, about the Justice Department. But it's not just empty rhetoric, because what you're reporting is, is that there are actually people working, behind-the-scenes, to formulate a plan, of what this would look like, of putting this in place.

CHARLIE SAVAGE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. Well, the first thing that has to be said is, even though Trump is saying if he gets into office, again, he's going to appoint special prosecutors, to go after Biden, and Hunter Biden being the family. That is already happening.

Under Attorney General Merrick Garland, of course, there is a Trump- appointed U.S. attorney, who is looking at Hunter Biden's financial dealings. There is a Trump appointed former U.S. Attorney, now a Special Counsel, looking at Biden's handling of classified documents.

And so, literally what he's promising to do is already happening.

COLLINS: Is that it's already happening.

SAVAGE: He's saying this to suggest that the charges brought against him were somehow directed by Biden, without evidence, and that this is an evidence of politicization, so he'll reverse the flow, which doesn't really work when you recognize that this is already happening.

So that aside, though, what he really seems to be saying is, "I'm going to appoint people, who will actually charge my political enemies, regardless of the facts of the evidence, because these guys aren't real special counsels."

And that gets us into what we're talking about here, which is the post-Watergate norm, that the Justice Department is independent of White House political control, when it comes to charging decisions, investigative decisions, about specific criminal cases. The President does not involve himself in that for the last 50 years.

And Trump is openly saying, "Forget it. I'm going to do -- I am going to direct this investigation into my political enemies."

And you're right that he has people around him, his allies, who are already putting in place, openly, they're talking about, they're issuing papers, putting in place, the intellectual framework, for how this could be so, saying, "Look, the law does not make the Justice Department independent. Forget this norm. It's not the real thing. We can do this. We have the -- once we're in office, again, we will have the power to do it." And they're openly saying that they will.

COLLINS: Yes. And these are individuals, who actually know how the levers of government work, and how to use them.

Andy, I wonder what you think when you read this, because essentially, what we've heard, from Republicans, so much, is they feel like the Justice Department is being weaponized against them. But this is them openly saying how they would weaponize the Justice Department.


So, this is, Mr. Trump, and his supporters, on the Hill, can't finish a sentence without decrying the alleged weaponization of the Department of Justice. And this is their promise to do exactly that, if Mr. Trump comes back into power, to weaponize the Justice Department, against their political enemies.

I mean, it's for anyone, who has had any connection, to investigations and criminal prosecutions, of the judicial system? This is an absolutely stomach-turning concept, right?


We depend, in this country, on the idea of a fair judicial system that in which decisions are made, about investigations, and prosecutions, and ultimately, indictments and charges. Not around politics, but around facts.

And to be clear, that system is not perfect. That system has many problems. It is not fast enough. It is not consistent enough. It is not fair enough, to people of color, particularly. But being political is actually not one of the current problems with our system of justice.

And I know that there are many people, out there, who are frustrated with the current investigations, of the former President, and they feel like there is some sort of political retribution going on already. There is not.

I would say to those people, ask yourself, upon what facts, what single piece of information, do you have, to indicate that former President Trump, and all of his supporters, on the Hill, are actually talking about something that happened? You haven't seen that.

There's no information, whatsoever, to indicate that the White House has had any role, in the Justice Department's investigation, the Special Counsel investigation of, for instance, the former President's withholding and retention, of national defense information, and his obstruction of justice. That was a conclusion that came -- that was brought by a grand jury of his peers, in Florida, in his home state, in his community.

So, the idea that we might tamper, with the independence of the rule of law, is really, is frightening, and frustrating, at the same time.

COLLINS: Well, and as Charlie noted, there's a Counsel looking into Trump, and one into Biden as well.

But I think, when you look at this, some people may think it's just Trump talking this way. But when you actually take a bigger look, at the entire Republican field, it's a lot of the Republican candidates, who are making comments, like this.

SAVAGE: Right. Well part of what's happening is the --


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two things can be true at the same time.

One, the DOJ and FBI have lost all credibility with the American people. And getting rid of just senior management isn't going to be enough to fix this. This is going to take a complete overhaul. And we have to do that

Two, the second thing can also be true. If this indictment is true, if what it says is actually the case, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security.


COLLINS: I should note Chris Wray is the guy that Trump handpicked, to be the FBI Director.

But what do you make of the fact that it's so many Republicans, who are running for office, that are saying this?

SAVAGE: Well, I think the Republican Party has clearly been evolving, under Trump's influence.

All this really goes back to 2017, when the Russia investigation was getting going, when Trump was wishing it would go away, he had to get rid of Mike Flynn.

Then, he fired Jim Comey, and there was this blowback. And suddenly, he had a Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, appointed into him. And he started making these claims that the FBI was out to get him, that this was all a Deep State plot, as a sort of public relations defense.

And the Republican Party, which for most of its history, has been the law and order party --


SAVAGE: -- the crime hawks, the "How dare you attack the CIA, the FBI" party, while the Democrats were the squishy liberals, who were worried about civil liberties and so forth, has mapped itself on to Trump.

The people, who still are that way are increasingly alienated. They're the Never-Trumpers. They're being exiled from the party.

The people who want to appeal to Trump's base, have paced him, and are saying that the FBI is bad, attracting the suspicion, or invoicing them, in hopes of picking up the party, as it exists today. And so, it's not just Nikki Haley.

It's the Trump's number one rival, Governor DeSantis, out of Florida, also saying, putting forward this idea that there is something rotten to the core, about the law enforcement bureaucracy, in this country, and saying as well, that he thinks very little of this idea of Justice Department, law enforcement independence, when it comes to investigations, and that, in fact, it's all a canard.

He said this over and over. He clearly has a spiel, because he says -- keeps saying. "It's all a canard. The Justice Department is not an independent agency. The President can control it like any other Cabinet agency." And so that's where we're going now.

COLLINS: Charlie Savage, Andrew McCabe, thank you both, for joining, tonight.

Perspective now, from someone, who saw how the former President operated, for years, in New York, former Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance, who I should note is now a partner, at the law firm, Baker McKenzie.

Cy, when you read into all of this, aside from this reporting? I want to talk also about what's happening, today, is when we got this new order, from Judge Aileen Cannon, and where she is working, when it comes to the current investigation that is facing Trump, after he was arraigned, in Miami. In this, she's talking about expediting clearances, for his attorneys.

What does it signal to you about what the pace of that trial is going to look like?


CYRUS VANCE JR., FORMER MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I think it's an indication that she wants to deal with some of the time-consuming issues up front, which I think makes a lot of sense. So, I don't look at that as a delay result. I look at that as taking head-on, something that's got to be worked out very carefully.

COLLINS: Well, on the timing questions here, at the arraignment, on Tuesday, Trump's co-defendant, Walt Nauta, did not have counsel with him. That delays it by at least two weeks, before he goes, again, to have local counsel with him.

Trump himself is still looking for attorneys. So, there could be more, who need security clearances.

So, despite what Judge Cannon's intentions may be, on a speedy trial, do you believe it's likely that this trial is going to get delayed? How much? Could it be after the 2024 election?

VANCE JR.: I think it certainly could be, after the 2024 election. I think in federal court, in particular, they control -- the judges control their calendars, with a tight fist.

And that said, it's a case with some complexity. And the lawyers, on one side, are going to be saying, "We're ready to move this as quickly as possible." The lawyers on the other side are going to be saying "Perhaps, we need more time to develop defense, or develop another angle of litigation."

And I think the judge is probably going to be given an opportunity, to do something, right down the middle.

COLLINS: We'll see what she does do.

But speaking of the Judge herself, she doesn't have a lot of experience, when it comes to criminal trials. And when you said some complexity, I think there's going to be a lot of complexity here. It's going to be also one of the most closely-watched criminal trials, in U.S. history.

Do you have concerns about her lack of experience, when it comes to overseeing trials? Do you think that'll impact how the Special Counsel approaches this?

VANCE JR.: The fact that she does not have a deep experience in criminal cases, is going to make it, I think, a challenge, for the judge. That's not to say that she's not going to dig in that she's not going to try to fully understand, by getting help, from others, perhaps. There's nothing wrong with that. The criminal procedural aspects of the case.

But this is a very important case. Her rulings are going to be critical, in terms of what the outcome may be. And so, I think the judge is going to have to show, by her demeanor, and by her rulings, that she understands the terrain that she is playing in. And if she doesn't, there'll be lots of critics pointing that out.

COLLINS: When it comes to this case, and what he is facing, in New York? Obviously, we've heard from, the Attorney General, in New York, talking about how she believes this federal case will change the timelines for that.

Do you still believe that this case, this documents investigation that he is in, the federal charges he's facing, poses a more severe legal threat to him than anything else right now?

VANCE JR.: Yes, I think, unquestionably.

The New York case, the hush money case, the charges with which the President has been indicted for, do not carry a mandatory prison sentence. I think it's an unlikely event that Donald Trump, if convicted, in New York, would be sent to jail. The Attorney General's case is a civil case. It's a very strong case. But it's a civil case. And so, there are limitations as to what the remedy would be.

Of the three cases, clearly, the documents case, dealing with national security issues, is the most significant, and presents the greatest risk, for the President.

Now, there's still two outstanding investigations that we are aware of, one in Georgia, and one around January 6. I think both of those cases, depending upon what the charges ultimately are, could pose serious risks, for the President, and the possibility of incarceration, if convicted.

COLLINS: Yes. And I was told today, there's been a lot of activity, when it comes to that January 6 grand jury as well.

Cy Vance, thank you for your time tonight.

VANCE JR.: Thank you very much, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Up next, we'll have more on Judge Cannon's ruling today, in that case that we mentioned there, her critical Role, as Cy noted, there.

CNN Legal Analyst, Elliot Williams, and former Trump insider, Sarah Matthews, will join me.

Also, and this is in the Wall Street Journal, the next new development. It's a big one, after PGA Golf's stunning decision, to reverse course, and join forces, with the Saudi-backed LIV Tour. Now, the Justice Department wants to review that merger. We'll tell you why and how long it could take, next.



COLLINS: More now, on our reporting, in the last segment, about Judge Aileen Cannon, and her new Friday deadline, for attorneys, in the Trump documents case, to begin connecting, with the Justice Department, about getting their security clearances, in order to work, on the former President's case.

A short time ago, a source familiar with the matter told me that Trump's attorneys, Todd Blanche and Chris Kise, have already been in touch, with the Justice Department, on that matter.

As for Judge Cannon's selection itself, a source close to Trump's legal team also said they're thrilled with the fact that she is going to be the judge, overseeing this historic criminal case.

Perspective now, from CNN Legal Analyst, and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Elliot Williams.

Also, Sarah Matthews, who we should note served inside the Trump White House, and also testified before the House's January 6 Committee.

Thank you both for being here.

When you look at what Judge Cannon is ordering, today, which is really her first big order, in this case, is to get the ball rolling, on these attorneys, getting security clearances. Obviously, they need them, because of what is at the heart of this.

What does it say to you, though, about her timeline for what this is going to look like? ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it shows that she didn't fumble one of the more basic rulings, she would have had, to enter, in this case, which is that in order for this, to even take place, at all, in any way, Kaitlan, you have to get lawyers, security clearances. Otherwise, they can't even view the evidence that their client is being accused of having mishandled.

So, she did set a pretty aggressive schedule, having them turn things around, in four or five days. So, it's clear that at least as of today, Thursday night, yes, things are on track, and we'll see where things go from here.

COLLINS: Does it make it clear to you she's not going to recuse herself, which has been a question that some people would have had?


WILLIAMS: Hard to say. This is such a preliminary ruling, and doesn't really get into the specifics of the case, or anything too deep in the weeds. So, it's really hard to tell.

Now, keep your eye out, for when the first big ruling comes, because I think the Justice Department certainly will be watching, and seeing --

COLLINS: What would the first big ruling be, like what are you looking for to happen next? I mean, obviously, it's to get Walt Nauta, first, his arraignment. He hasn't even entered a plea in here yet.


COLLINS: But what would the first ruling from her look like?

WILLIAMS: OK, there are a few, I think, scheduling. Just when the time comes, to set a date, for the trial, and that could be relatively soon, if she sets a trial date out in 2025, or something like that, the Justice Department could be alarmed.

If she starts restricting the evidence that could be put in front of the jury, early on, the Justice Department could challenge that. And if you reach a point, where they start moving, to strike evidence, from the search warrant, at Mar-a-Lago and so on? That could also be, she could sort of botch that --


WILLIAMS: -- and the Justice Department could appeal that as well.

COLLINS: And she has a pretty broad overview, of course, of what evidence is going to be used in this.


COLLINS: But before we get there, obviously Trump has to assemble his legal team first. And what we were told is that Todd Blanche and Chris Kise, the two attorneys, who showed up with him, on Tuesday, they're already in touch with DOJ, about getting their clearances. But Trump is still looking, for another attorney, to add to this team.

Sarah, you worked in his White House. What does it say to you that he hasn't been able to, or he hasn't announced a new attorney yet for this team?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think it's surprising that he's having difficulty tracking down another attorney, for this case, especially because Trump usually doesn't listen to the advice, from his lawyers, as evidenced, by the new reporting, that came out today that his lawyers were pleading with him, to cooperate, in this investigation, and to turn over the documents that could have avoided this indictment, altogether.

He chose not to. Instead, he chose to listen to a conservative activist, who told him that he had the right, to keep the documents. And we see now how that played out.

COLLINS: Who is not an attorney.

MATTHEWS: Exactly. And so, obviously, that came back to bite him.

And I think that he needs to be listening to his lawyers, if he wants to, avoid any kind of conviction, in this case, or anything like that.

But he has proven time and time again, that he does not listen to the advice of those, who are giving him good advice.

For example, you look at the election. Those around him, his campaign, and close advisers were advising him that he had lost. He started tuning those people out, and started listening to the people, who were feeding him what he wanted to hear, which were conspiracy theories that he actually had won the election.

WILLIAMS: And an important point here, Kaitlan. National security law is not an area, where you can trust your gut, or have your buddies come and represent you in court. It is a highly technical, highly specific body of law.

Forget the fact that Donald Trump can't find a lawyer, who's admitted to the bar, in Miami. What he needs is somebody, who understands national security, and the law of national defense, and documents, and so on.

That is what should be incredibly alarming to any defendant. Because it's not, you know, this isn't minor narcotics or something like that. It's incredibly technical, incredibly complicated, and he could face serious peril, if he just doesn't have the right attorney.

COLLINS: Yes. And his attorney, Todd Blanche, has only been, on the legal team, for about two months.

Elliot, Sarah, thank you both.

Yet another addition, to the 2024 GOP presidential primary hopefuls, what it could mean, for the already crowded field, and how they're responding, of course, to the former President. Plus, a potential challenge, for President Biden's reelection campaign, next.



COLLINS: If you thought the GOP presidential primary field was crowded before? Just wait. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez officially launched his 2024 bid. He's speaking, right now, in California, at the Reagan Library.

He is the first major Hispanic candidate, to enter the Republican race. And today, he touted his approach, to crime, and his support for law enforcement, in his announcement.

He is previously a critic, of the former President. And this morning, he was pressed to react to his indictment, and what he makes of the arraignment, on "Good Morning America."


MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL), MIAMI: I think if we continue to have a conversation, about the former President, then the former President will be the nominee.


SUAREZ: I'm here to talk about why I'm running for President.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. But tell me what you think about the indictment. Do you think it shows that Donald Trump is fit to be president?

SUAREZ: I think what it shows, is that people are frustrated, in this country, particularly Republicans, who feel that there isn't an equal administration of justice.


COLLINS: With me now, Democratic strategist, and former lead strategist, for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville; CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; and CNN Political Analyst, and Axios Senior Contributor, Margaret Talev.

Jeff, we were just talking, yesterday, about Suarez getting in the race, people, at home, maybe wondering why it's getting so big. What is his argument for getting in?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, his argument basically is turning the page, turning the page away from Trump.

He's giving a speech, right now, at the Reagan Library, I'm told, not going to mention the former President at all. He didn't vote for him in 2016 or 2020. That could be an issue, I think, on the campaign trail, if he's asked about that. But look, he's making this generational argument that really selling this biography. And he has a good story to tell in that front. The challenge is, though, the race is very crowded. It's a bit late. And exactly where is the market for that in this Republican Party?

But I think his video, this morning, saying, "I'm running," and literally showing him running, throughout the streets, of Miami, obviously, he looks different than Donald Trump. He looks different than a Joe Biden, in several ways. So, trying to appeal to a new generation, I guess. That's what he says. But I think if you lift the hood a little bit, there are some structural challenges, for him.

COLLINS: Yes. And questions of whether or not he gets, on the debate stage.

Margaret, on the other side of this, though, with Democrats, of course, Biden is the presumed Democratic nominee.

He does have some challengers though, RFK, Jr. himself. I think a lot of people that I've heard from are even surprised at how well he's polling. Some polls have him at 20 percent, in a recent CNN poll. Axios is suggesting that could pose a problem to Biden, in the early States.

What's your sense?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is a technical argument, for why it could pose a problem.

Biden has said South Carolina should go first. And if there's a revolt, in States, like New Hampshire, Iowa, then it's time -- it's a balloting question, if Biden's name were not on a ballot, because he said this should be the first primary, then he couldn't become the choice of that state. I mean, you can see.

It doesn't mean that RFK would become the nominee for president. But it shows just the tensions, the complications, in this disputes among the States.


There's a couple of things to note. One is that I think a lot of voters don't know what Kennedy necessarily believes in, the anti-vax stance.


TALEV: They know the name, right? So, there's that -- you come in with a higher name recognition than you might otherwise.

But we had very interesting swing voter focus groups, in North Carolina, this week. These are voters, who had once been with Donald Trump, then voted for Joe Biden, four years later, still really concerned about Biden's age, his appearance, if he trips over a sandbag, or if he stumbles over words, and saying things like they want to see him debate, other Democrats, to be confident, and for others to be confident that he actually has the mental acuity, in the general election.

Now, this is a perception thing. It's not a poll. It's not scientific. But just qualitatively, when you hear these things, you start to understand why there is some interest, in Democratic debates. It doesn't mean that they don't want Biden. It means that they want to see Biden pressure-tested in the primary.

COLLINS: Well, and on that note, James, there is a USA Today poll that says 80 percent of Democrats would actually like to see some of those Democratic debates. So, I wonder what you make of that.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, Biden's got some critical decisions to make. I mean, New Hampshire, being one. New Hampshire is going to go before South Carolina.

COLLINS: I think we're having a bit of trouble, with James' audio. We'll check on that and make sure --

CARVILLE: Well -- hello?

COLLINS: Go ahead, James. We can hear you now.

All right, we'll check back on his connection, of course.

I mean, but there is that poll that shows that. I mean, the chances of Biden debating his challengers, though seems pretty slim.

ZELENY: Slim to none. And why would he? I mean?

COLLINS: He's the incumbent Democrat.


ZELENY: The reality is the White House is relieved that there's not a challenge, from the left. That is the biggest sort of issue, if there was a progressive challenge.

Perhaps the biggest issue for them is Cornel West, making the decision, to become a Green Party candidate. A lot of Democrats remember back Jill Stein, from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. Her margin, in those States, was more than the margin of what Trump won by. So, that is an issue for them.

But we are not going to see the President debate other Democratic candidates. It would be silly of the White House, regardless of what voters say that would be -- would be folly.


And I think we have James back with us now. Hopefully, we can hear him, because obviously, I'd love to get your take on all of this.

CARVILLE: Well, look, the Biden White House, they have some very critical decisions to make, particularly New Hampshire. New Hampshire is going to go first. I mean, they're just going to do that. It's going to be all of the press, all you all will be up there. And Kennedy or somebody else could get a slew of votes. And he might do better than people think, in South Carolina. The Kennedy names still mean something, particularly to older voters, in South Carolina.

COLLINS: Yes. And what do you -- what's your view of how --

CARVILLE: Voters --

COLLINS: What's your view of how the --

CARVILLE: Excuse me?

COLLINS: -- the arraignment that we've seen -- the arraignment that we've seen this week, and how that plays out in the Republican field. Because, that's the only thing, we're talking about big this field is, the only thing they're getting asked about is the former President's legal problems.

CARVILLE: Well how can you not? And, I mean, the idea that I think Pence, and DeSantis, and Nikki Haley, are coming across as like circling buzzards, that they're waiting to pounce, on his car, because -- the guy, who's got actually the smartest strategy, is for a Republican, is Ramaswamy, who's saying, "I'm going to pardon him." He's pretty clear.

It's clear that Governor Hutchinson and Governor Christie can't stand Trump.

But even if Trump gets knocked out, by legal reasons, or something like that, still, these Republican voters are going to remember, who stood by him, and who didn't. And there's some difficult positioning going on, on that side, because he's still a looming figure, in that party. And you're going to talk about him, I'm going to talk about him, and they're going to talk about him, for a long time to come.

COLLINS: You think it'll hurt Republican candidates, who say that they wouldn't pardon him, if he gets convicted?

CARVILLE: It'll hurt him with a large part of the Republican base, yes. And unless there's something intervening things, there's been so many intervening events, here, and it hasn't shaken his core Republicans' support.

And you wonder, now you got Atlanta coming up, you got potential more things coming out of D.C., of Jack Smith, you got the New York trial. Remember that that's in March. But it looks like his support is pretty unshakeable. And they're going to be mad that especially the other candidates have a tight thing (ph) here, because they're going to be mad that they look like they're turning their backs on Trump, even if Trump ends up not being the candidate.

COLLINS: We'll have to see what that looks like.

Thanks to all of you for joining us.

CARVILLE: Yes. [21:35:00]

COLLINS: Up next, a big question. Where is the proof? That is what's being asked, of Republican lawmakers, who are now making accusations, about President Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. When you hear some of their answers, you might have questions too.


COLLINS: Several supporters, of the former President, former President Trump, are responding, to his indictment, by asking why he has been charged, but Hunter Biden isn't.

This week House Oversight Chairman, James Comer, even claimed that they are looking at whether or not President Biden, quote, "Sold out the United States," and allegedly ran a bribery scheme, when he was Vice President, with his son, Hunter, and a foreign national.

Also, this week, Republican senator, Chuck Grassley alleged that the foreign national had quote, dozens of recordings of conversations with the Bidens. But now, not so much.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): I just know they exist, because of what the report says. Now, maybe they don't exist. But how will I know until the FBI tells us, are they showing us our work?

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We don't know if they're legit or not. But we know that the foreign national claims he has them.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): This could be coming from a very corrupt oligarch who could be making this stuff up.


COLLINS: More on this now, from CNN's Sara Murray.

So Sara, what is Senator Grassley actually claiming here?


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's basically saying that there was a foreign national, who was involved, in this alleged bribery scheme, with Joe Biden, while he was Vice President, who has audio recordings, 17 audio recordings, with Joe Biden, and with Hunter Biden, and that this is all documented, in an internal FBI document. And he wants to know what the FBI has done, to investigate this.

But what's interesting is that a number of his Republican colleagues has sort of been pumping the brakes on this.

I mean, we've heard from James Comer, the House Oversight Chairman, saying, "We don't really know if these tapes are legitimate." We heard from Senator Ron Johnson saying "We haven't even verified if these tapes exist," and sort of, pouring some cold water, on whether you can really trust the foreign national's account, in this case.

And we do know that the FBI, and prosecutors, did look into these allegations, included in this FBI document, years ago, and were unable to corroborate the claims in them, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. Trump's Attorney General, Bill Barr, has said as much.


COLLINS: But despite the fact that we're hearing about it's not verified, they don't know that they actually exist? We're already seeing Republicans using this, to talk about, saying that, essentially, that this came out, and that Trump was indicted on the same day that a lot of this information was circulating, last week, basically tying them together, even though they don't even know if this is legitimate.

MURRAY: Yes. It seems to be some kind of notion that the Justice Department, and Jack Smith, moved ahead, with this Trump indictment, to try to overshadow these stories, about Joe Biden.

I mean, if you ask Democrats, they think it's the opposite. They're saying the only reason we're hearing all of this stuff, from Republicans, about the Biden family, and all of these unverified allegations, about the Biden family, is because they want to take the attention off of what's going on, with Donald Trump, and his legal problems.

I mean, suffice to say, there is no evidence to back up the fact that Jack Smith decided to move ahead with this indictment that, in a case he's been working on, for months and months, to try to overshadow, again, these unverified allegations, against the Bidens, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: No, but certainly something that the former President is using, to defend himself.

MURRAY: Absolutely.

COLLINS: Sara Murray, thank you.

MURRAY: Thanks.

COLLINS: Our thanks to Sara Murray, from that conversation, earlier tonight.

Joining us now is Tennessee Republican congressman, Tim Burchett, who is part of a faction, in his party, which has been at odds, with House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, this week.

Congressman, we'll get to the Grassley comments, in a moment. I know you want to talk about that.

But first, you were part of this group, of these conservative hardliners, who basically brought all floor action, to a halt, over the last week, because of this deal that Kevin McCarthy cut, with the White House, on the nation's debt limit. What commitments did he make this week in exchange for ending that impasse?

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): Well, Speaker McCarthy did the right thing, Ma'am.

He got us all in a room, and something I'd suggested, and just to hear everybody out, so that he knew what our thoughts were. We'd send emissaries in. And he would send somebody over to see us, back and forth. And it's always something gets lost in the translation. And I suggested to the Speaker, that he get us all in the room.

And really, I think he just committed to us, saying he would forge ahead, with a conservative -- a fiscally conservative agenda. And he gave us his word that he would work with us, and keep us, in the loop. And I think that's the key thing, as he should, with all different factions of the party. And it's, I mean, it's a lot of moving parts, as you know.

COLLINS: So, were those -- were those the only commitments that he made, just that he would make sure you're part of the conversation, next time?

BURCHETT: Yes, Ma'am. I think basically, that's -- it was more of that than it was anything fiscal, of course.

I mean, there's specifics. We're upset that the bill had -- we're going to end up with additional $4 trillion in debt. In less than 10 years, the largest portion of our budget will be interest on our loans, the largest portion. I mean, that's just shoveling money out into the air.


BURCHETT: And so, we're, I think, we're moving ahead, in more of a fiscally sound. And you saw what the Chairman of the Appropriations said, this year, I mean, this this week, about their agenda, in the future, as far as the appropriations and going through the budgetary process.

COLLINS: Yes. Those meetings aren't typically very fiery. But they were very fiery, this week.

And, as you know, the fight for government funding is far from over. And what the spending demands are that we're seeing, from the House, Republicans in the House, are not going to go over well, as you know, in the Democratic-controlled Senate.


COLLINS: Do you think that there could be a government shutdown this fall?

BURCHETT: Well, my friend, Hakeem Jeffries, and he is my friend. He is the Democrat later. And he's doing what he's supposed to be doing. He's representing the Democratic faction of, and, frankly, the far- left end of that party.

It's always ironic to me that when the Republicans were in the minority, and we were trying to get something at the agenda -- on the agenda, we were called obstructionists.


And now, we're in the majority, and we're trying to do the will of our constituents. Here we are, back again, being called, obstructionists, again, because we won't yield to a very liberal Chuck Schumer, who honestly doesn't represent -- sure doesn't represent the Second Congressional District of Tennessee, and I dare say he represents the majority of this country, in his thoughts and beliefs, in his fiscal responsibility.

COLLINS: Well, he is the Majority Leader.

Republicans, obviously, do have control, of the House.

Separately, on another note, you said this week that you couldn't see yourself supporting President Trump, if he gets convicted, in the documents case. If he is convicted, do you think he should pull out of the Republican race?

BURCHETT: I suspect his numbers will surge, Ma'am, to be honest with you.

As you probably have done your research, I'm the only, I believe, the only congressional member, from Tennessee, who has not endorsed the President. I'm just not a big believer in endorsements. I don't believe you pick up friends, just enemies. And I have never searched for endorsements nor given them freely myself.

So, I really don't know what the end game will be. I know it's more clickbaits. It's more people on their cell phones, getting more emails, and raising more money.

They attempted to censure Adam Schiff, yesterday, and it failed. And I think he raised over a million dollars overnight. So, I told somebody, it's all we did to Adam Schiff was just probably elect him to the U.S. Senate. But I suspect that's what --

COLLINS: Yes. He's running in that race.

BURCHETT: -- will happen in this case, Ma'am.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, he's already -- the former President's already raised about $7 million.

But when you read through that indictment, and you see how he handled some of this nation's most sensitive Military secrets, do you think that's someone who is fit to be the Republican candidate, for President of the United States?

BURCHETT: Well, I've sat on a lot of those secure briefings. And I remembered, my first one, I sat in, I leaned over to an old Democrat, and I said, "Sir, let me get this straight." I said, "When I walk out of here, I'll probably see all this secure information, on CNN, in about 30 minutes." And he said, "Tim, it'll be about 15 minutes."

So, Washington is very porous, and I would dare say anything left in there is very secure.

COLLINS: Yes. But you're not saying --

BURCHETT: But you're going to --

COLLINS: OK but --

BURCHETT: And honestly, I mean, we can look at Senate -- when Joe Biden was a senator, and he had confidential stuff, which he was not supposed to have, in his own possession. And there he is.

COLLINS: But he returned those documents.

BURCHETT: He has information.

COLLINS: He returned those documents, once they realized they had them. Trump held on to his, despite getting a subpoena.

BURCHETT: Well they were -- and they were --

COLLINS: And they had to -- the FBI showed up, and then found those documents that were still at Mar-a-Lago.

BURCHETT: Yes. I can't speak for his reasoning on that, and I don't know about that.

But I do know that Secret Service had secured Mar-a-Lago, regardless if he kept it in the bathroom or --

COLLINS: They didn't even know these documents were there. They weren't in charge of --

BURCHETT: -- in and out of the house for all that matters, but the --

COLLINS: -- they weren't in charge of these documents themselves.

BURCHETT: But I can assure you, Ma'am, if someone was in there taking stuff out, or going in and taking pictures, they would have known. I know the Secret Service. And they are a pretty fine-tuned group of folks. And they understand what's going on.

COLLINS: Well actually in the indictment --

BURCHETT: So, anything within the perimeter of his --

COLLINS: If you read the indictment, it says that the storage room, where they were kept, was actually close to the pool, at Mar-a-Lago, and there was a door in there that was often left open, and people could essentially come and go through that hallway.

BURCHETT: Yes, Ma'am. Well I can't speak to that. I don't -- COLLINS: Does that sound secure to you?

BURCHETT: -- I don't -- well, is it the truth? Do I know it's the truth? I don't know. That's why we have a court of law. And it's and you're not -- you don't go to jail over indictments, or accusations. You have a court of law. And that's what we're going to hear. And I'm sure you all will be covering it from end to end.

COLLINS: We will be covering it, of course. It's maybe the most important criminal trial.

Do you believe that the charges though, Trump kind of brought on himself, given he had these documents, and didn't -- and refused to turn them over, when the government so clearly wanted them back?

BURCHETT: Well, that's sure (ph). I mean, he's Donald Trump. He's going to do what he wants to do. And that's his -- that's his M.O. And that's why people like him, because they're sick of Washington. They're sick of the same old stuff over and over and over again. And he's, frankly, is a breath of fresh air, when it comes to that.

When he says, "I want to drain the swamp," I mean, it's not code. It's not something that somebody thought of in a think tank.

COLLINS: But how is that related to mishandling national security secrets?

BURCHETT: Well I don't know that he did, Ma'am. That's why there's this -- that's why we're -- we're obviously going to have a trial. And that's why he was indicted.

But as you well know, you can indict a, as many lawyers have told me, you can indict a ham sandwich. But you still have a -- we'd still have a system of judge and jury in this country. And it's -- and it won't be decided by the Boardroom at CNN. It'll be decided in a court of law. And they've already started attacking the judge.

COLLINS: And sure, he's innocent until --

BURCHETT: And they've already started attacking the judge that --

COLLINS: He's innocent until --

BURCHETT: -- proven guilty.

COLLINS: He's innocent until proven guilty.

BURCHETT: And -- but you've already started attacking the judge.

Prior to this, you attacked the judge, because he's a Trump -- she's a Trump appointee. But if she'd have been a Biden appointee, you would have been OK with it? So, I mean, you're obviously throwing doubt --

COLLINS: I didn't attack the judge.

BURCHETT: -- into the whole judicial system anyway. [21:50:00]

COLLINS: I don't think --

BURCHETT: Well in your prior --

COLLINS: I don't think pointing out that --

BURCHETT: -- in your prior report, Ma'am, you threw doubt upon her by saying she is a Trump appointee. Why would you say that unless you had doubt about her, and you're creating the doubt in the mind of the public?

COLLINS: I have no doubt about her. But what I noted is that she is --

BURCHETT: Why didn't you just say -- why didn't you say where she went?

COLLINS: She is a Trump appointee. And the reason that she has drawn scrutiny, with all due respect Congressman, is because of her rulings, from last fall, rulings that I should note --


COLLINS: -- were overturned by an appeals court because they said she was simply wrong. She was giving preferential treatment to Trump, because he's a former President, and not treating him, like he's any other person, like they would, if it was you or me.

BURCHETT: I can assure you, Ma'am, if she was a Biden appointee, and she was overturned by higher court that was a Trump appointee, you all will be pointing that out as well.

But she is a member of the Judiciary, and the system is a system of checks and balances. And she has a right to adjudicate as she sees fit. And she obviously is going to do that. And that will of course draw your all's ire, if they don't throw Trump in jail for 20 years, obviously.

COLLINS: That's not -- Congressman, that's not fair.

BURCHETT: And you'll bring back the fact that she is a Trump appointee, Ma'am.

COLLINS: Just to report on simply what she has been doing, how she has ruled, looking at what trials she's overseen, when she's about to oversee one of the biggest criminal trials, in this country's history, is not attacking her. It's just simply looking at her record. It's not an attack.

BURCHETT: Ma'am, do you --

COLLINS: It's just reporting on her.

BURCHETT: Do you all -- do you all ever -- do you all point -- you all make a note of whether it was an Obama appointee, was it a Carter appointee, was it a Bush appointee, which Bush it was?

COLLINS: Absolutely.

BURCHETT: No, you don't. You absolutely do not, Ma'am.

COLLINS: We talk about who judges were appointed by all the time.

BURCHETT: You do not. Well, why don't you talk about her law school? Why don't you talk about her credentials or is it --

COLLINS: She -- she went to Michigan.

BURCHETT: -- just the fact that she's a conservative female that --

COLLINS: I've looked at her -- I've looked at her credentials.

BURCHETT: Well this is the first I've heard about that from you all. Then, why don't you all talk about things like that?

Why don't you talk about she's a hard-working person, put herself through school? No. You immediately say she's a Trump appointee. And so, you create doubt, Ma'am. I mean, come on. You're CNN. We know that.

COLLINS: I think --

BURCHETT: It's just the game we all play.

COLLINS: That's an unfair attack. We're just noting simply her credentials, who appointed her.

It is notable that she is a Trump appointee. Trump's own legal team, in his orbit, would say that. They're thrilled that she is going to be the judge, overseeing this case.

But we'll have to leave it there, Congressman Tim Burchett. Thanks for your time, tonight.

BURCHETT: Thank you, Ma'am. It's been a pleasure.

COLLINS: Up next, why the controversial PGA-LIV Tour merger may be delayed, and even end up in the bunker.



COLLINS: Tonight, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Justice Department has informed the PGA Tour, it is going to investigate that surprise merger that was announced, last week, with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

According to this new report, the Justice Department is going to look at whether or not that deal violates antitrust rules.

Joining me now, Dan Rapaport, a golf journalist, with Barstool Sports. Dan, I mean, I think a big question that a lot of people will have, just regardless of how you view this merger, is how long this DOJ investigation could take, in addition to other investigations, happening here, in Washington. I know the Senate's Finance Committee is taking a look at this as well.

What's your sense of that?

DAN RAPAPORT, GOLF JOURNALIST, BARSTOOL SPORTS: Yes, I don't think we're going to have a resolution or anything resembling a resolution for at least a year. I think the PGA Tour will kind of continue on its path for 2024. I think LIV Golf will continue on its path for 2024.

And we know that the United States Senate is not known for its timeliness. So, I think this thing could drag on for many years to come.

It's been kind of caught in litigation, already. There was a DOJ investigation, into the PGA Tour, before this, about anti-competitive practices. So, the Feds were always going to get involved, in a merger, or a business deal, this big, with this many geopolitical ramifications. So, I don't think this is going to end anytime soon.

COLLINS: Yes. And it certainly does have a lot of ramifications.

I know you're at the U.S. Open, at The Los Angeles Country Club, now. What's the reaction that you've been hearing, from golfers? We talked to Bryson DeChambeau, last week. What are they saying about not only the investigations, but just the deal overall?

RAPAPORT: Yes, I think there's a little bit of bitterness or jealousy that they weren't involved in the negotiations, which is different from thinking that it's a bad deal.

I think a lot of these players put a lot of time and effort, over the last year, into trying to play a role in this, into having meetings, and trying to reshape the PGA Tour. And then, when it came time to actually make a deal, it was three gentlemen, in a room, representing the PGA Tour, none of which were players.

So, well, from talking to guys, the reception, or the reaction that I get, it's kind of surprising. It's almost one of relief, because they feel like "Look, we put in all this effort. We put in all of this time. And now, we know that it didn't really matter. So, we're going to get back to playing golf. What's going to happen is going to happen whether we want it to or not." So, I think they feel like they don't have as much power as they thought they once did.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, I mean, especially for the PGA players, who were told, "Don't accept these deals. You won't to be able to play in the PGA," what are you hearing from them?

RAPAPORT: Yes, they need to be made right. But it's a very tricky situation. I mean, how are you going to do that? Is that money going to come from the PIF? Is that money going to come via fines, from the guys, who did go? I mean, there are a lot of players, basically, every top player, whether they negotiated far enough, to get an actual offer or not, knows that if they put their head out there, and they wanted to negotiate with the Saudis, they could have gotten an offer for $50 million or $100 million.

And you got Jay Monahan, the Commissioner of the PGA Tour, flying to see these guys in-person, having dinner with them, and looking them in the eye, and saying, "Don't do this. Stay loyal to the PGA Tour. Don't betray us. We're not going to negotiate with these people. We're going to continue on our path."


RAPAPORT: Now, you've got guys who did take the $100 million, who are now going to be allowed back into the same ecosystem. So, there's definitely a little bit of jealousy, and like, "Where's my money" kind of situation.

COLLINS: And Jay Monahan was also talking so publicly about human rights and Saudi Arabia's record on that, of course, a terrible record on that.

Speaking of Jay Monahan, though, after this deal was announced, obviously, he was getting a lot of criticism. But then it was announced that he was going to be essentially on -- had a medical situation, and was going to be stepping away, from his duties.

Have you heard anything about that?

RAPAPORT: I've heard rumblings that he's doing OK. I don't think it's a life-threatening situation. But it's hard to speculate about someone's health.

But what I will say is that when he took this job, as the PGA Tour Commissioner, this was not what he had in mind. These last couple years have been --


RAPAPORT: -- tumultuous, chaotic, whatever word you want to use. I think he kind of thought he was stepping into a role, where you grow the game, and you grow purses, and you play nice with sponsors. I don't think he was anticipating getting in DOJ investigations, and having to deal with the United States Senate.

COLLINS: Yes, safe to say that.

RAPAPORT: So, there's a lot of stress on -- he's dealing with a lot of stress.

COLLINS: Dan, thanks so much, for your time, tonight, on that.


COLLINS: Time now, for "CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip.