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Supreme Court Guts Affirmative Action In College Admissions; Former Trump Campaign Official Cooperating With Special Counsel In 2020 Election Interference Probe; Docs Suggest Missing Russian General Was VIP Member Of Wagner Group That Led Mutiny Against Putin. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired June 29, 2023 - 21:00   ET




MANUEL OLIVER, SON JOAQUIN KILLED IN PARKLAND MASS SHOOTING: Be quiet. Mr. Attorney and Scot Peterson. Keep your mouth shut. Get in your car and go to your perfect life. But don't cry in front of national TV.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A wrenching day, and a meaningful one, to so many people.

The news continues. CNN PRIMETIME with Kaitlan Collins, starts, right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Kaitlan Collins.

Tonight, it just keeps going. We have now learned that the federal grand jury, in Miami, is still investigating, three weeks after Donald Trump was indicted. More on that in a moment with Maggie Haberman.

But first tonight, to the ruling that will change the landscape, of the education world and, also, maybe upend diversity policies, across this country.

The fallout has been fierce, from the Supreme Court's decision, to gut affirmative action, from higher education, with President Biden condemning it, saying quote, "This is not a normal Supreme Court," as he blasted the conservative super-majority, saying he believes they may be doing too much harm, to the country.

The dissents, from the Liberals, on the court, was scorching. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson writing, quote, "With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces 'colorblindness for all.' But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life."

Conservatives are cheering this decision. Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, said Harvard and UNC, the University of North Carolina, the two schools, at the center of this, that those programs violated the Constitution, writing, quote, "The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual -- not on the basis of race."

Joining us now, with more, on what all of this could mean, going forward, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic senator, Alex Padilla, of California.

Senator, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

Do you see this ruling as a step backwards?

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): Kaitlan, thanks for having me on such an important day.

Not only it's a step backwards. This ruling really does take us back decades, yet again, another example, of an extremist majority, on the Supreme Court, undoing decades, decades of precedent, and in this case, undoing affirmative action, which, maybe they just don't understand, what affirmative action is, or what affirmative action isn't.

Affirmative action is not quotas. It's simply allowing the university systems, to consider race, among all the other factors, and criteria, in an admissions process.

We've been through it here, in California, measure on the ballot in 1996 that was approved by the voters, forced this upon the University of California system, other state university systems. And they have not fully recovered, after nearly three decades, of trying to make up for that loss, of an important tool, in increasing diversity, on college campuses.

COLLINS: Well, you mentioned what people want. And you mentioned, of course, what your home state of California has done.

Looking at the polling, on this, there was a recent CBS poll, it says that 70 percent of Americans agree that colleges should not be allowed to consider race in admissions. 30 percent say it should be allowed.

But that appears to be, quite a gap between, or leaders in your party certainly stand, compared to the country as a whole. How do you explain that?

PADILLA: Yes, well, always got to take polls with a grain of salt, because, again, not everybody knows what affirmative action is, and what affirmative action isn't. So, we're not talking about mandatory quotas, in this case. It's a matter of just considering race and the experience that comes with that, as one of many factors in the decision.

Some people might have taken that poll to say, this is going to be used to allow people in, and improve diversity, on a college campus. In my opinion, it's not just a good thing. It's a great thing. Others may have interpreted that question in the form of excluding people on the campus. So, who knows what drove those numbers.

But this is what I can tell you. I've referenced that we've had this in place in California for decades. In 1996, two years after the infamous Proposition 187, one of the first major anti-immigrant initiatives that this country has seen, soon after Proposition 209, this anti-affirmative action measure came anti-labor initiatives, anti-bilingual education initiatives.

California has come a long way since then, not just the demographics, and the population, but the policymaking that has led to California being the fourth largest economy, in the world. So, I do think opinions have changed, as people are enlightened.


Most private sector leaders can tell you, most academic leaders can tell you, and certainly, our federal government knows that we are better, as a country. We're better as a democracy. We're better as an economy, when we are more inclusive, not less.

But those leaders of the future, in the public sector, and the private sector, and in academia, are educated on college campuses. And when we undo diversity, we really sort of undermine the quality of education, the educational experience, we're providing.

COLLINS: Well, your home state is such an interesting kind of experiment for this. Because you did reference what they -- the actions they took in 1996. But when Democrats, in the State, when Democratic leaders, tried to reinstate it, in 2020, Prop 16, which is what the measure was known as, it failed, and it failed badly.


COLLINS: So, it's not just the poll numbers. It's also how people are voting on this.

PADILLA: Right. And, again, I think it speaks to the difficulty, in communicating what's at stake here, what affirmative action is, what affirmative action isn't.

But I will tell you this, Kaitlan. Go back to those 1994, 1996 measures. That's what inspired me, to leave mechanical engineering career behind. I am a product of affirmative action. Would I have gotten into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with, or without, those considerations? I don't know. I won't reveal my SAT scores, here, on this show, today.

But I do know that with a promising engineering career, in front of me, looking at the risk, the danger, the cruelty of a lot of policies that were popular, at the time, doesn't mean they were good policies, or the right policies, but they were popular at the time, is what motivated me, to get involved, in government, and politics, and steer California, helped steer California, into a better, more responsible, more inclusive direction, and have a work cut out to do that for the rest of the nation.

COLLINS: Yes. You don't reveal your SAT scores. I won't reveal my ACT scores. I think we have a deal there.

But as the way that the White House is responding to this? President Biden was asked, today, by my colleague, Arlette Saenz, if he sees this as a rogue court. He said he doesn't see it as a normal court.

But when he was asked about expanding the courts, something that your party has certainly suggested, members of your party, I should say, have suggested, he said that would be a mistake.

What do you say?

PADILLA: Yes. Look, I don't disagree that there's an absolute crisis of confidence, when it comes to this Supreme Court.

If you take decisions, over the last decade, from a democracy standpoint, right, this is the former Secretary of State of California, talking now, this Supreme Court has made it easier, for wealthy people, to influence elections, and harder, for people, to exercise their right to vote. And surprise, surprise, it tends to be, historically disenfranchised communities.

And here, we are now talking about higher education. With today's ruling, the Supreme Court has made it harder, for young students of color, young, diverse students, from a life experience standpoint, to envision let alone access higher education.

And, I don't want to assume what's going to happen, tomorrow, with the student debt case before them, the student loan case before them. But we could be very well on the verge of, for those who are able to get into colleges, and universities, for it to be much less affordable, for them, to obtain their four-year degrees.

So, there is a crisis of confidence, lack of public confidence, of the Supreme Court, right now, absolutely.

COLLINS: Yes, one major ruling after the next. We'll see what they do decide on the President's student loan plan.

Senator Alex Padilla, thank you, for your time, tonight.

PADILLA: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: What we do know, there are so many unknowns with this, but what we do know is this decision does mark a foundational shift, for race, in America.

My next two guests, tonight, come at this decision, from very different perspectives, as we've seen play out, across the country today.

Cornell William Brooks is the former President and CEO of the NAACP.

And Wen Fa is the Director of Legal Affairs at the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Thank you both, for being here, tonight.

When Chief Justice Roberts said today, in this, kind of had these two carve-outs, basically said, admissions committees can consider race, as long as it's limited to the specific context of a personal essay, for example. Is it clear to you how that nuance is going to work when it's actually put into practice?

WEN FA, DIRECTOR OF LEGAL AFFAIRS, BEACON CENTER OF TENNESSEE: Well, I think it's clear that the Supreme Court has told universities that they must consider each individual as an individual, and not as a member of an arbitrary racial group.

And I think this decision, today, is great for equality, before the law, and it's great for individualism. Individuals should be judged, based on their individual aspirations, their individual achievements, and their individual abilities. And they shouldn't be subject to a process that distributes burdens and benefits, on the basis of race.


So overall, I think this decision was great, for the rule of law. It was great for equality, before the law, and it was good for individualism.

COLLINS: Cornell, what do you think?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP, PROFESSOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Let's be clear. The Supreme Court described the world that we may aspire to. It is not the world we live in.

So, when students write about themselves, they write about themselves, in the context of a 2023 America. So, in other words, the George Floyd generation, which has literally seen, on television, discrimination and violence, and America's racial legacy? Were they to write about that, were they to write about that in the context of themselves, that might be considered constitutionally suspect.

The point being here is that yes, individuals apply to college. But they apply to college, from groups, from communities, which are segregated, which was subject to racial discrimination. That cannot be ignored. And that is nowhere near in -- nowhere in the history or the context of the 14th Amendment. This decision is unfounded, constitutionally speaking.

COLLINS: When, I mean, he says constitutionally unfounded, we do know there's a lot of room for groups, to test this, to see what colleges and universities can do. What are you -- what do you predict could happen, in the aftermath of this ruling?

FA: Well, I think one open question after this, a question that the Supreme Court, I think, hinted at, in the last paragraph, of the majority opinion, is this notion of facially-neutral but race-based proxies, racial proxies that we see, used in specialized schools, in the K through 12 context.

We've seen that in Thomas Jefferson, in Virginia, the New York specialized schools, Magnet schools in Montgomery County. Personally, I've, worked on some of those cases. And from my perspective, covert racial discrimination is just as wrong, and just as illegal, as overt racial discrimination. And I think that's an issue that you'll see, before the Supreme Court, in the coming years. COLLINS: Cornell William Brooks, I think the other question is, beyond colleges and universities, they now have to go and revisit their admissions practices. But how do you believe this sets the stage, for challenges, to diversity efforts that we see, in businesses, and all these other aspects of American life?

WILLIAM BROOKS: Absolutely. The ripple effects of this are of tidal wave proportions.

So, in other words, by calling into question, by holding constitutionally suspect, as an unconstitutional, the diversity rationale, or the use of diversity, what you're going to see is perhaps, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offices closing, companies are rolling back their commitments to diversity, which has consequences, and implications, for great many people, not merely African Americans, not merely Latinos, but a variety of other ethnic groups and women.

Among the most prominent beneficiaries of affirmative action had been White women. When we think about, say, any of the cable networks, our major newspapers, where they were, when affirmative action started? We didn't see the diversity, on television, and in print that we see today.

The consequences here could be devastating, likely devastating. California has yet to recover, from its repudiation of affirmative action.

And the point being here is think about this. Where you have literally people being underserved, because they don't have access to Black doctors, which has an impact, on life expectancy, maternal expectancy, infant mortality, where people literally regard the court system as less than legitimate, when they don't see lawyers of variety of ethnicities? The point being here is that racial proxies are not enough.

We live in a country that is color-conscious, color-coded and segregated. And to pretend otherwise is to literally to submit, to solidify America's legacy of racial supremacy -- racial supremacy. We cannot duck the question. And we certainly cannot ignore the victims.

COLLINS: That seems to be like the point that we were seeing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson make, talking about there's the law, and there's life, and what that looks like.

Thanks for the perspective from both of you. Cornell William Brooks, Wen Fa, appreciate you both coming on, tonight.


COLLINS: Coming up, we now know the identity, of one of the people, from Donald Trump's indictment that says he showed them a classified document, a military map. She has been speaking with federal investigators.

Plus, the former President may have already been indicted. But the Special Counsel's Office, and that grand jury in Miami, hasn't stopped investigating the case. We'll tell you what that means, next.



COLLINS: We have new developments that we are tracking, tonight, on the Trump legal front.

Multiple sources are now telling CNN that that Florida grand jury, that indicted Donald Trump, in the classified documents case, in the first place, three weeks ago, is actually still investigating. While it's unclear what information, prosecutors are looking for, there, we do know that they are continuing to question witnesses and subpoena them.

And speaking of witnesses, we've also now learned that the person, who is effectively running Trump's 2024 campaign might be one.

Susie Wiles is a figure that you often see, around the former President, on the tarmac, getting on his plane, going to campaign events. She is also the person that Trump allegedly showed, a classified map, of a military site, at his New Jersey Golf Club, in the fall of 2021. That's according to Jack Smith's indictment.

In the meantime, we've also learned the Special Counsel's team has secured the cooperation, of the former Trump 2020 campaign official, Mike Roman, in the other ongoing probe, related to Trump, and his allies' efforts, to overturn the 2020 election.

Maggie Haberman is a Senior Political Correspondent for The New York Times. And she joins me now.

Maggie, there's a lot to go through. There's been like five developments every single day, it feels like. But what does it say to you, as you were the first to report this, earlier today, that the Miami grand jury is still investigating? What does that signify to you?


MAGGIE HABERMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's interesting, Kaitlan. It could be a couple of things. As we understand it, there have been a bunch of subpoenas that have gone out. And that indicates it's still very active.

It could be that they're looking to charge additional people. It could be that they're looking to do what's called a superseding indictment on Trump, and Walt Nauta, with additional charges. It could be that they're just looking to bolster evidence.

But it means that this case is still very much ongoing, which again, just adds another fascinating and kind of shocking dimension, to a political candidacy, that this investigation, which has been really the most potent against Trump, is still in stages of discovering information. COLLINS: Yes. And the other complicating factor here is that we now know it's Susie Wiles. Anyone who covers Trump knows her. People at home may not recognize her name. But she is the individual, from Trump's Political Action Committee, that he showed that classified map to.

They had referenced it in the indictment saying, "During the meeting, Trump commented that an ongoing military operation in Country B was not going well." He "showed the PAC Representative a classified map of Country B and told the PAC Representative that he should not be showing the map to them," and not to get too close. "The PAC Representative did not have a security clearance or any need-to-know classified information about the military operation."

But the fact that Trump is still with Susie Wiles, nearly, on a daily basis, just adds another layer, to the potential witnesses, that are around him, on a daily basis.

HABERMAN: Yes, that's right, Kaitlan. And we've seen this, in a number of instances.

Other people, who are key witnesses, and you guys have reported extensively on this, in terms of that audio, of the other instance, that the indictment focuses on, which is this recording of Trump, talking to a bunch of people, in a room, where he, waves papers that the indictment says, was something he called a plan of attack that was a classified document that he had from his White House days. One of the people in that meeting was Margo Martin, who travels with him frequently.

Other people who are connected to his world, in various ways, are also part of this indictment. Walt Nauta himself is his co-defendant, and is on the plane, repeatedly.

It does speak to the unprecedented nature of what we are seeing, in terms of the sprawl of this case, that the level of his prevalence, on the political scene, and his dominance, of this race, on the Republican side, for the presidential nomination, and the fact that it is overlapping with all of these legal matters. It is complicated.

He is fundraising off of these indictments. He is fundraising off of these investigations. It is a core part of his messaging. So yes, this is going to, I suspect, keep coming up as a question.

And just as an additional point, Kaitlan, as you know, the judge has told him that there is going to be a list of, or a bunch of witnesses, the government has produced a bunch of witnesses, that are connected to the case, who Trump is not supposed to discuss the case with. That adds another wrinkle of complication for him too.

COLLINS: And Susie Wiles is kind of connected to all of these different facets, here. I mean, she knows the attorneys, the Trump legal team. She's around all of that. I thought it was interesting that when CNN had confirmed that it was her that we got a statement from the spokesman. They pointed out that she has no plans to step away. What do you read into that?

HABERMAN: I think that they are very much treating this as something, as a political effort, that's how they're describing it, by Jack Smith. And they are not going to give into what they would see, as bending to what the Special Counsel is looking for.

I think they are going to not give into critics. I think they are going to just go about their day, as if in their campaign, as if things are not playing out in a certain way. I think it's going to be a question as to whether that's sustainable, in all cases, and we're going to find out.

But I think that right now, this is very in keeping, Kaitlan, as you know, as well as anyone, with the Donald Trump playbook, which is never give an edge.


And you reported last week that Michael Roman, who is a former Trump 2020 campaign official, was in talks, to potentially cooperate in the other investigation, the January 6 one, that's looking into fake electors and fundraising.

We are now told that he has this agreement that he is cooperating. And, of course, this is notable, because he had direct knowledge, of this fake electors' scheme that they were putting together.

HABERMAN: That's right. His cooperation is significant. We don't know what he's going to say. We don't know what the scope is, of the cooperation. We don't know what the parameters are.

But he is, as you say, a key figure, in the January 6 investigation, as relates, as far as we know, anyway, I don't know if he connects with other aspects of this investigation as well. But he is connected, specifically, to this so-called fake electors' scheme, and he was central to trying to figure out ways, to stymie the congressional certification, of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. And so, he is in a position to offer prosecutors, information.


Now, usually, these kinds of agreements, these proffer agreements take place, when someone is trying to be as cooperative as possible, and prosecutors are looking to give them a chance, to say what they want, as they make decisions, about charges. So, we will see where this goes.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see what information, he offers them.

Maggie Haberman, thank you.

HABERMAN: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: For more perspective, on Trump's legal troubles, I want to bring in former federal prosecutor, and CNN's Legal Analyst, Elliot Williams.

There's like four different developments that we just went through. But to start on that most recent one with Mike Roman --


COLLINS: -- and the proffer agreement, as it's known. Explain how that works, and the significance. I mean, it is a big deal, because he's the first person we know of --


COLLINS: -- that's cooperating, when it comes to the fake electors' scheme.

WILLIAMS: There's a reason why they call proffer agreements, the "Queen for a Day" agreement, where you come in, and are given at least the promise, or informal promise, of a benefit, from prosecutors.

If somebody agrees to be truthful, and straightforward, prosecutors might take something off their sentence, if they plead guilty, or and can also, prosecutors commit to not using things, that that person says, against them, to bring charges against them.

That's all contingent on being honest. If prosecutors find that he lied, they can, number one, throw the books at him, but also charge him with an additional crime, of lying to investigators.

COLLINS: Yes. How does it benefit Michael Roman, though? If he's going in, and he's -- this is someone who --


COLLINS: -- we reported, got a subpoena, and had his phone seized, in recent months. If he's going in, and he can do an informal sit-down, with prosecutors, as opposed to going before the grand jury?

WILLIAMS: They might have charges that they could bring against him, Kaitlan. They might. I mean, we don't know. This is speculation. But when someone might be facing criminal charges, it might be, to their interest, to sit down, with prosecutors, and see what they can do, to either -- to make them go away --


WILLIAMS: -- for lack of a better way of putting it.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll wait to see what happens there.


COLLINS: But the fact, switching to the documents investigation?


COLLINS: Because there's these two tracks that Jack Smith is tracking. The fact that the grand jury in Miami, which indicted Trump, three weeks ago? He had his arraignment, two weeks ago. The fact that they are still investigating and bringing people in and speaking to witnesses, what does that signify?

WILLIAMS: I think it's two things.

They are either looking at additional charges. And look, there's 5,200 crimes, in the Federal Criminal Code. There could be anything that they're additionally looking into there.

Or the crimes that they've already charged, they could be just bolstering the evidence that they have, getting additional witnesses, to help support the case that they eventually plan to bring anyway.

COLLINS: And would that mean, could there be additional charges for other people? Could that mean additional charges, as Maggie was referencing, there, talking about a superseding indictment, potentially --


COLLINS: -- for Trump and Walt Nauta?

WILLIAMS: All the above. So, you could charge more people with crimes. You could. And again, I don't want to cause alarm, and think that more people will automatically be charged with crimes.


WILLIAMS: But you could charge more people with crimes. You could add crimes, to the indictment that you'd already brought.

COLLINS: But would that delay the trial?

WILLIAMS: What -- no, I don't think so. Because look, the trial's going to take a while to get to, anyway, on account of the complex national security issues that are involved. But no, I don't really think it'd really delay the trial far beyond than it already would.

COLLINS: OK. We'll wait to see what they do.


COLLINS: We know they're still investigating.

Elliot Williams, thank you for being here, tonight.

He did not rush in, as a gunman entered, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Florida. Today, a jury delivered their verdict, for the school's Resource Officer. We'll tell you what it was, next.



COLLINS: Earlier today, a jury, in Florida, acquitted the former School Resource Officer, who stayed outside, and failed to confront the gunman, who entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and killed 17 people.

Scot Peterson wept, today, as he found out that he was not guilty, on 11 counts, seven of which were felony child neglect.

Families of the students, who were killed, that day, sat in silence, and shook their heads, in the back of the courtroom.

After he left, Peterson said he felt like he got his life back.


SCOT PETERSON, FORMER PARKLAND SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER: Don't anybody ever forget this was a massacre on February 14th. Only person to blame was that monster. It wasn't any law enforcement, nobody on that scene, from BSO, Coral Springs. Everybody did the best they could. We did the best we could with the information we had. And God knows we wish we had more.


COLLINS: Joining us now, tonight, is Democratic congressman, Jared Moskowitz, an alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and represents that district, I should note.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

Scot Peterson was accused of taking cover, for more than 45 minutes, as that shooting happened, inside the high school. Of course, a reminder that the shooter was actually sentenced to life in prison, without the parole, last year.

What was your reaction when you heard today's not-guilty verdict?

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Well, it's shameful. It's no justice, for the Parkland families, first. The shooter, who is solely responsible, got life in prison, instead of the death penalty.

And now, Officer Peterson, who not only did not go into the building, for 45 minutes, and hid in the stairwell, outside, he prohibited other officers that arrived on the scene, from also going into the building.

And so, what is the message this now sends, to parents, around the country? That a School Resource Officer that the kids trusted? He took that job knowing that his job was to protect those students. And he decided that his potential retirement, he was very close to retirement, his potential retirement was more important than their lives.

I'm glad he got his life back. That's what he said on that video. But the 17 families, who lost loved ones, the 15 kids that are in cemeteries, they don't get their life back.

COLLINS: Yes. You saw those families in the courtroom today, some of them of the victims, and they were just kind of silent, as he was sobbing, sobbing a lot, as this verdict was read.

I know you've talked to some of those families, throughout this trial, as this was going on. What were they thinking on this?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, they wanted to see, some responsibility taken, here, because at the end of the day, he did not do his duty.


And based on the information, we have? And I'm not going to share some of the private information, of some of the families. But there were some of the kids that were shot, who did not die, from their gun wounds. And they died by bleeding out, by not getting medical care.

And, in those instances, they blame the officer, for not letting other police officers, and medical care, get into the building, soon enough. So, to say that, ultimately he had no impact on that scene? Well, we'll never know that.

But that's why people depend on their School Resource Officers, these students, who walk the halls with them, every single solitary day, depend on them. I mean, the good guy with the gun, he's the good guy with the gun, he failed. He didn't act. He didn't help those students, not once.

COLLINS: Yes, and parents see someone like that as a source of comfort, when they are worried about something like this.

This was an unusual case. And a conviction essentially would have paved the way, for law enforcement, to be held accountable, for their response, to mass shootings. As you know, the police, in Uvalde, right now, are being investigated, for their response, to that school shooting, at Robb Elementary.

Do you think there's a lane to hold law enforcement, accountable, for something like this?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, look, this is an egregious case, right? This is a mass shooting, at the high school. He arrives on the scene, and he never goes into the building. Never. For 45 minutes, he stood, in the stairwell.

And he gave instruction to other officers, who arrived -- OK, he didn't have the courage to go in. He stopped other officers, who arrived on the scene, from going in, and helping those students. And so, yes, look, I do think there -- bear some responsibility here, and I do think, in these egregious cases.

No one forced him to be a police officer. No one forced him to be an SRO. He knew what his job was. It's not like school shootings hadn't happened before. Any SRO knows that's a possibility, at their school. And so, look, if the laws have to be changed, at the state level, then I would support the State Legislature looking into that.

COLLINS: Congressman Jared Moskowitz, thank you, for joining us, tonight. MOSKOWITZ: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And tonight, of course, our thoughts are with the families, of those 17 victims, of the shooting.


COLLINS: We'll be back in a moment.



COLLINS: President Biden, today, with a sharp condemnation, of the Supreme Court, just moments after they issued that ruling, on affirmative action.





COLLINS: In case you couldn't hear him there, the President telling, my colleague, Arlette Saenz, "This is not a normal court."

Today's ruling has provoked intense reaction, from both sides, of the political aisle.

Republicans, cheering the move, saying that they believed it was quote, long overdue, and saying they believe, no one should be judged by the color of their skin.

Democrats say that they fear it is a blow to civil rights, and will only lead to more racial inequality.

Joining us now, to discuss this, Democratic strategist, and former Communications Director to Vice President Harris, Jamal Simmons.

Also with us, Republican strategist, and former Republican National Committee Communications Director, Doug Heye.

Thank you both for being here.

Doug, I should note, you're wearing a Carolina blue tie. That is not the only thing.


COLLINS: At issue, where these programs, at Harvard, and the University of North Carolina, both say affirmative action helps, or it aids campus diversity. You're on UNC's Board of Visitors, and you're Harvard Institute of Politics fellow.

But the idea that the court has already had such a massive impact, on our political landscape, how do you think this adds to it?

HEYE: The honest answer is, I don't know. It's very easy to try and extrapolate large lessons, when we just get, very recent news, and we haven't fully read, what the Supreme Court is, as deciding everything. And these were long opinions and dissents. So, we have to go through this.

And that's part of the reality of what the schools are going through. They're going through this, to see what are the rules of the road? What are the lanes that we're in?

And part of where we're going to find out where the -- what's going to happen politically is what do the schools do? So, as somebody, who is on the UNC Board of Visitors, I want to hear from my school, and I want to hear from my Chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, specifically.

Not the holding statement that everybody puts out. Jamal and I were talking about this earlier. You put out the two-sentence statement, and then you figure out what you're going to do later.

You've had months to go through this. What are the schools going to do, not just UNC and Harvard? Those are the two immediate ones. These affect schools throughout the country.

How are you going to implement this? And are you going to be clear and consistent, not just in your messaging, but what you're doing, so that voters and, ultimately, students, who are there, or who are trying to enroll and apply, know what the rules of the road are? And that's what we don't know yet.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, they're all basically revisiting their admissions processes. And there were those two carve-outs, for military academies, and for personal essays. What did you make of it, when you heard that, today, from the court?


One is the fact that Justice Thomas, read his opinion, from the bench, first time in, I don't know, 30 years, I guess?


SIMMONS: That he spoke actually from the bench? It's amazing that this was the case that he chose to make a stand on, and talk about. The very thing that helped him get into Yale, he is now taking away, from other people, affirmative action.

And then you see, Justice Sotomayor, who read the dissent, for the three justices. She read that dissent, from the bench, and she talked about one thing, in particular, the pipeline problem that's being created by this. We have an America that's becoming far more diverse. If we're going to win the global competitive race, in the words of "Jaws," "We're going to need a bigger boat," right? We got to get more people diversity into leadership of the country. But we've got to -- but we're creating a diversity pipeline squeeze.

And so, I was on the phone, on the way over here, with the President of a historically black college. They expect to see their enrollment of the applications grow by 50 percent to 100 percent, in the next three years, if this case has the impact they expect, especially among students, who would have gone into some of these more selective colleges.


Here's the problem. The problem is, in American society, we don't have as many places for people to get on the ladder of success. And we are now going to make it harder for those people to get on that ladder.

HEYE: And can I say, to Jamal's point? North Carolina, again, a very politically important state, but also 11 HBCUs, throughout the state. If UNC can't articulate clearly, what they're going to do, moving forward, all of those schools, Winston-Salem State, Elizabeth City State, and on and on, are going to see a huge increase, in enrollment.

COLLINS: Well, and California, is so interesting on this. We were talking to Senator Padilla, from California, earlier. Because they have kind of served as this quarter-century experiment, for this, when they got rid of affirmative action, I believe, it was in 1996. And they had that exact effect, where it was the select universities that saw the changes the most, but the others actually saw more diversity added, because of it.

SIMMONS: And just take a look at the academic credentials, of the people, who are on the Supreme Court, and the clerks that they choose. So many of them have come from the most selective schools, in the United States.

So, the thing is getting into one of those selective schools, is actually the pathway, to getting into leadership, in American society. And we need more people, from diverse backgrounds, in that leadership.

COLLINS: What matters here is this is all coming, as there has been a crisis of confidence, essentially, the Supreme Court. You've seen the polling, and the numbers of the Supreme Court have dipped.

You heard President Biden, earlier. He was asked about expanding the Supreme Court. He says he still thinks that's a mistake.

I mean are there any changes that come here, as a result of any of how people look at the Supreme Court, these days?

HEYE: With a Republican House, and a Democratic Senate, the short answer is no. And the reality is if we change the rules --

COLLINS: And a Democratic president, who says no. HEYE: Absolutely.

But if the rules change this time, well, they can change next time. And when we set, you know, precedent's a big term, when you talk about the Supreme Court. Also is true in Congress. So, if you break precedent, it's everything we've argued about with the nuclear option, and the filibuster, and so forth. This plays there as well.

SIMMONS: Well, they do talk about Joe Biden being the best president, since FDR. FDR tried to pack the court. Didn't work out so well. I'm sure Joe Biden's thinking about the same thing.

COLLINS: I'm sure, he is.

Thank you both, so much, for joining us, tonight.

A pair of mysteries, when it comes to the Russian president. We are learning more about one of why his top generals could be missing, and that Putin may be an avid watcher of SpongeBob SquarePants?


COLLINS: This is a sketch that he drew, today. It's mystifying many, including those who watch the Kremlin closely.



COLLINS: There is growing intrigue, tonight, over a top Russian general, who has gone missing.

Documents that were exclusively shared, with CNN, suggest that General Sergey Surovikin was actually a secret VIP member, of the Wagner Group, which of course, as we now know, led the mutiny, against Putin, over the weekend.

But it also turns out that he was not the only one. The Russian Investigative Dossier Center, which obtained these documents that were then provided to CNN, found that at least 30 other senior Russian military members were also listed, as VIPs, in the group.

That's certainly an unsettling prospect, for the Russian leader, who is often quite suspicious, and has been on a rather bizarre and very clearly choreographed PR tour, in recent days.

Just today, Putin was seen drawing this SpongeBob-like SquarePants- like character, on a whiteboard, complete with ears and hair.



(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: The crowd behind him waited in silence, and then tepidly applauded, as he signed his work.





COLLINS: Bizarre moment there.

Joining me now, Alina Polyakova, the President and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Thank you, for joining us, tonight.

I wonder what you make of the way that Putin has been handling the fallout of this mutiny, doing these strange things, coming out in public, in these very choreographed settings, as we are learning that dozens of top Russian officials were secret Wagner members?

ALINA POLYAKOVA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR EUROPEAN POLICY ANALYSIS: Well we're seeing a narrative that the Kremlin wants to portray, of Putin, as someone who is back in control, he's loved and supported by his people. He's the strongman, again.

He has made very loud accusations again, against Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, calling him a traitor. But of course, bizarrely, Prigozhin remains alive, in Belarus.

And the recent arrest of a key Russian general, Surovikin, I think, signals that the Kremlin is looking for a fall guy, here, someone to blame for what happened.

But unfortunately, I don't think it's working for them. I don't think they're really getting the narrative back at all. Looks a little too contrived.

COLLINS: Yes. You mentioned Prigozhin.

And as we were on air, last Friday, when this was first happening, Friday night, here in the U.S., most Russia-watchers, I think, expected there to be serious retribution for him.

I mean, there are people, who speak out on a lot less, on social media, in Russia, and are thrown in prison for a lot longer. He obviously has a pretty large target on his back. So, what do you make of the fact that he's still alive, tonight, hiding out in Belarus?

POLYAKOVA: Well truly, there's a lot we still don't know about the events that happened.

But the fact that Prigozhin is still alive is really what undermines this narrative that the Kremlin is trying to spin, of Putin, as the strong leader, because Prigozhin still being there, supposedly, in Belarus, really shows that he's actually quite weak.

I'm shocked, frankly, and so are most Russian experts, that they haven't taken him out, after Putin called him, a traitor, publicly, multiple times. And I think this is a real sign of a quite significant regime fragility that we don't usually see, in the public domain, in Russia.

COLLINS: Yes, it's quite fascinating to watch it all play out, and to see where it goes.

Alina Polyakova, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

POLYAKOVA: Thank you.

COLLINS: Also developing, a suspected January 6 rioter, wanted for the Capitol attack, has been arrested, near the home, of former President Obama, with materials, to make a Molotov cocktail. Details ahead.



COLLINS: A concerning update, tonight. A man with numerous weapons, and materials, to make a Molotov cocktail, was arrested, today, near the D.C. home, of former President Barack Obama. It turns out he's in wanted, in connection with the attack, on the U.S. Capitol, on January the 6th, and there was a warrant out for his arrest.

Law enforcement officials tell CNN tonight that the suspect, Taylor Taranto, claimed on an internet live stream he had a detonator. They added though that there is no indication of a direct threat, to the Obamas. And he has now been arrested, as a fugitive of justice.

A spokesperson for the Obamas declined to comment, tonight, to CNN.

Thank you so much for joining us.

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Thank you very much, Kaitlan. Great to see you.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to "CNN TONIGHT", on a big news night.

The Supreme Court handing down a decision that's being described, as a generational shift that will alter the way colleges and universities have operated, for decades. The conservative majority court overturned affirmative action, the long-standing precedent, designed to help level the playing field, for Black and Hispanic students.