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CNN Live Event/Special
Special Counsel's Team Questioning Witnesses About Chaotic Oval Office Meeting After Trump Lost Election; President Of Belarus: Wagner Chief In Russia, Not Belarus; DeSantis: Donald Trump Has Spent More Than $20 Million Attacking Me. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired July 06, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The decision comes as five men were killed, when the Titan sub suffered, what was called, a catastrophic implosion, last month.
Since the tragedy, new details have emerged, about warnings, and safety concerns, over the sub. OceanGate charge, as you may know, each passenger, $250,000, to ride on Titan, and explore the 111-year-old Titanic shipwreck, on the ocean floor.
That's it for us. The news continues. CNN PRIMETIME with Kaitlan Collins, starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Kaitlan Collins.
And tonight, we are learning more about what the Special Counsel, Jack Smith, is zooming in on, and what is believed to be the closing stretch, of his January 6th investigation.
This is exclusive reporting, tonight, new reporting, on CNN. Our sources are telling us that Jack Smith, and his team has signaled a continued and seemingly renewed interest, in what was one of the most chaotic meetings, to ever happen, inside the Oval Office.
This was December 18th, in 2020, six weeks after Trump had lost that election, as the lawyer, Sidney Powell, Trump's former National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, and the former CEO of Overstock.com, floated some of those desperate suggestions, to keep Trump in power. Martial law was brought up, so was the proposal to have the U.S. Military seize voting machines.
You may remember hearing about it, from the people, who were there, and later testified, before the January 6th Congressional Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I was not happy to see the people in the Oval Office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain why.
CIPOLLONE: I don't think -- I don't think any of these people were providing the President with good advice.
DEREK LYONS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I mean, at times, there were people shouting at each other, hurling insults at each other.
SIDNEY POWELL, AMERICAN ATTORNEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Cipollone, and Herschmann, and whoever the other guy was, showed nothing but contempt and disdain of the President.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that it got to the point where the screaming was completely, completely out there.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: I'm going to categorically describe it as you guys are not tough enough. Or maybe I'd put it another way. You are a bunch of (bleep).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Tonight, we are learning that federal investigators are asking about that very meeting.
And they have asked several witnesses about it, including Rudy Giuliani, when he sat down, with them, voluntarily, last month. We were told that was in two back-to-back days, where Giuliani went before them. He was asked about multiple incidents, but that was one of them.
They've also asked about those outsiders that were there. As I noted, Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn, the former overstock CEO, Patrick Byrne.
This meeting is also notable, because it came four days, after members of the Electoral College met, in all 50 states, to officially cast their ballots, declaring that Joe Biden was indeed the winner.
After that chaotic meeting, as it ended late into the evening, that was when Trump sent this tweet, about the January 6 rally that was going to happen, in just a few weeks, saying it "Will be wild."
All of these developments are coming, tonight, as we also know that Trump's body man, turned co-defendant, Walt Nauta, has finally appeared in court, for his arraignment, today, after quite a delay. It's nearly a month after the former President was indicted, in the classified documents probe.
The former Navy vet, from Guam, is facing the very real possibility, of years behind bars, now, for allegedly helping hide government secrets, and lying to investigators. All of this, of course, is raising the question of what is going to happen, to Nauta, going forward, what his legal strategy will look like.
In the past, we have seen people, who were loyal to the former President, flip before.
And tonight, my first guest is Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen. Michael, thank you for being here. Of course, you're the Author of "Revenge." You host the "Political Beatdown" and "Mea Culpa" podcast, we should note.
First, before we get to Walt Nauta, on this new reporting, on that meeting that happened in the Oval Office, what does it say to you that it's of significant interest to Jack Smith, and his team, in what we think is the closing days of this investigation?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY, AUTHOR, "REVENGE," HOST, "MEA CULPA" PODCAST, HOST, "POLITICAL BEATDOWN" PODCAST: Well, I don't know, as they're talking about the chaos.
Donald Trump lives in chaos, every single day of his life. It's why he's referred to, as Captain Chaos.
So, why it is that they're now looking at it? It's possibly just more, for superseding indictments. And I think it probably affects others more than Donald Trump.
COLLINS: Yes, they're looking at those others, who were there.
On Walt Nauta, he finally was arraigned today. There was quite a delay, as he was trying to get a Florida-based attorney, to go in there with him. He pleaded not guilty. You think that's a wrong decision?
COHEN: No, I think he believes that by being the Trumpiest Trumper that Donald will protect him. So, the answer would be yes, I think, it's a bad decision on his part. Again, being the Trumpiest Trumper, he thinks Donald will protect him, and not throw him under the bus.
Well, the benefit, for someone, like Walt Nauta, is the fact that he has the example, of Michael Cohen, to look at. He has the example, of Rudy Giuliani, to look at. He has the example of half a dozen other people, including people, like Stewart Rhodes, who got an 18-year sentence. What happened to Donald taking care of them? What happened to Donald paying their legal fees?
In fact, tomorrow, I'm back in court, for pre-trial conference, on legal fees, where I'm suing Donald, in order to recover. That's after four and a half years.
COLLINS: You're suing the Trump Organization, for those legal fees.
You think Walt Nauta should learn from your example, do you mean?
COHEN: I think he probably should. I mean, history repeats itself. And in this specific case, one thing that we know for certain is that Donald does not pay legal fees. Donald doesn't pay fees at all.
COLLINS: The other side of that is that he is paying his legal fees, right now, from the Super PAC, we should note, which is also paying Trump's legal fees. Walt Nauta worked for him, in the West Wing. He took him down to Florida with him. He does seem to have this sense of loyalty to Trump. I mean, is there any incentive for him to flip in that sense?
COHEN: It's not really flipping. It's providing testimony. Whether he's going to do it voluntarily, or if he's going to get subpoenaed, it's one or the other. You're not going to not be responsive, when government wants the information from you. And so, if there's something that Walt can do, right now, that would benefit him? Then my belief is that he should probably consider it.
COLLINS: What leads someone -- I mean, you were in this position. I mean, Trump once tweeted, I remember this, "Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected." He said, "Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble... Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that."
Of course, the Michael, he is referring to there is you. And you ultimately did flip. What leads someone to do that?
COHEN: Well, there came a point in time, where I said, my loyalty, my first loyalty, has to be to my wife, my daughter, my son, and my country. And that was when I made the decision. I was actually speaking to George Stephanopoulos, at the time. And there just came a point in time that I said, "Enough is enough."
While I understand that, right now, Trump, what the PAC is paying, for Walt Nauta's legal fees? Let's not forget, he did the same thing with me. But there's a pattern to what he does. He will pay a little bit, for behind, pay a little more, for bigger behind.
And that way -- which is, again, what this case that I have going to trial, at the end of this month is all about. What will ultimately happen is he will leave Walt Nauta, the same way he left me, the same way he left Giuliani, Stewart Rhodes, and dozens of other people.
COLLINS: One thing that's different about Nauta is he's a co-defendant of Trump's. And they've been told not to discuss the case, as a list of other witnesses.
But there's been no secret of how closely they've continued to work together. I mean, you've seen Walt Nauta, at rallies that Trump has done. They were ordering cheesesteaks together, in Philadelphia, Pat's, recently.
Does it strike you that Trump hasn't tried to keep some distance from him?
COHEN: No, no, because Donald Trump doesn't believe that the rules apply to him. They apply to you. They apply to me. They apply to everybody else. But they don't apply to him. If you tell him not to do something, being the petulant child that he is, he will then go ahead and do it, simply to be spiteful.
COLLINS: One thing you did say, you talked about how Trump, with your legal fees, and how they paid Salmon (ph), do you think Trump has learned his lesson though, with this, given the consequences of your testimony, eventually leading to him being the first ever President indicted?
COHEN: Yes, twice. I actually think he has learned the lesson. And I think it's one of the reasons --
COLLINS: To keep them close?
COHEN: To keep them close.
And he made a big mistake. I think he knows that he made the big mistake. And he's not going to make it a second time, at least not with Walt.
COLLINS: Michael Cohen, thanks for joining us, tonight.
COHEN: Good to see you.
COLLINS: I'm joined now, tonight, by former U.S. Attorney, for the Southern District of Florida, where the Trump's documents case is expected to be heard, Marcos Jimenez; as well as former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.
Thank you both, for being here, tonight.
Marcos, we spent a lot of time, together, when Trump was himself being arraigned, in Florida.
Nauta himself has struggled to find an attorney, in Florida. He did today with this woman, Sasha Dadan, I believe is how you pronounce her last name. How does she fit into this picture, in the sense of how well-known she is, in that circuit down there?
MARCOS JIMENEZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: Well, she's not well-known. In fact if you look at the docket today, in the case, you will see that the magistrate judge had to enter an order, providing expedited procedure, for her to obtain permission, to file documents, electronically.
All attorneys in the Southern District of Florida must register, for electronic filing. And she was not. So, that indicates to me that she does not have substantial federal criminal experience. I believe that her experience has primarily been, in the state court criminal process, as a Federal Public Defender, in the state system.
And, of course, we know that she ran for office, as a Republican politician.
COLLINS: Yes. And, of course, we know he has another attorney that is Stan Woodward, who has been with him, for most of this. She's just the legal-based counsel, in Florida.
Jennifer, we are told that Trump and Nauta both believe, right now, that taking these cases to trial is the right strategy for them. They are hopeful they'll get -- they'll be acquitted by a jury. Do you see that as the best strategy, at this point, based on what you've read in that indictment?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I don't know that is the best strategy for Walt Nauta, because he likely has the option of cooperating, against Trump, becoming a cooperating witness, pleading guilty, and getting a more lenient sentence, at the end of the day.
For Trump himself, I find it impossible to believe that he would plead guilty himself. So, that leaves trial really as his only option. And, I think, he's probably hoping that some of his most fervent supporters will be on that jury, and refuse to convict him. So, I think that's his play.
And so far, we haven't seen this divergence, where Walt Nauta, takes his own interest, as presidential. And maybe he will, maybe he won't. We'll have to wait and see.
COLLINS: Yes, no indication of that yet.
And Marcos, yesterday, we got an unsealed additional portions of the search warrant that was used, for that search that happened, in Mar-a- Lago, in August. And it says, essentially, that they saw Walt Nauta, on surveillance footage, moving more boxes, out of the storage room, then were ultimately brought back. If you're not -- Walt Nauta, what is your defense for something like that?
JIMENEZ: Well, I think Walt Nauta's defense is going to be that he did not know what the boxes contained, that he did not know anything about classified information. I think that's going to be difficult, because I think the indictment says at one point that he walked into the room, and saw that there was a classified document that had spilled out into the floor.
And his bigger problem is that the government alleges in the indictment that he lied, to the FBI agents, when they interviewed him, about moving those boxes.
That's a difficult, sometimes very difficult, charge to overcome, because you have an FBI agent, on the stand, who's very credible, saying, "We know this fact to be true. And he told us the opposite, when we interviewed him." And that is a separate Federal offense that that by itself, if you're convicted for that, results in a felony conviction.
I think Walt Nauta's hope here is that somehow the jury will have compassion, on him, because he simply was a worker for Donald Trump. And maybe his ultimate hope is that if Donald Trump is reelected, that he'll be pardoned, if he's convicted. And there's nothing stopping for Donald Trump, if he's reelected, I meant to say, if he's reelected, President Trump, in his second term, could easily pardon Mr. Nauta --
JIMENEZ: -- if he is convicted. COLLINS: And you make a good point about the picture that Nauta sent. That was to another worker at Mar-a-Lago that we know was also interviewed. It was Five Eyes intelligence that had spilled out on the ground.
Jennifer though, returning to the reporting that we had, at the top of this show? This is from me, and from the rest of our reporting team, on this, about Jack Smith having this renewed interest, we're told it's kind of been there all along, but it's, people are being asked about it recently, about that insane Oval Office meeting that happened. Even by Trump's standards, probably one of the craziest meetings that happened, in the Oval Office.
What is your -- what do you think when you hear that that is something that Jack Smith, and his team, have also focused on?
RODGERS: It strikes me, Kaitlan, that if they are headed towards a broad conspiracy indictment, against Trump, and others, in relation to the attempts to overturn the election? That's the sort of evidence that they would be interested in.
Because, they're going to want to set out not only these individual strands of the conspiracy, about the fake electors, and the improper pressure, on state election officials, state legislatures, Mike Pence, and so on. But they're going to want to set out kind of how it all came together, and who was applying that pressure.
So, the renewed interest in that says to me, as they kind of come to charging decision time, maybe they're leaning in that direction, and we'll see a broad conspiracy indictment, instead of one or more smaller indictments, for some of these more discrete parts of the conspiracy.
COLLINS: So Jennifer, if you're bringing in a Rudy Giuliani, or Sidney Powell, or someone who was there, which, I should note, we don't think that Sidney Powell has talked to the Special Counsel's team, what kind of questions are you asking about that meeting?
RODGERS: Well, they will have asked him questions under a proffer agreement. So, that protects Rudy Giuliani from those statements being used against him. But they'll just ask him everything. I mean, obviously, the obvious things. Who was there? What was said and all of that.
But then, they'll want to know the rest of it. So, who -- what did you do afterwards? What do you know about what other people did, kind of not only what was talked about, but then what were the action items, and who actually executed those, as they try to fill in what happened here, to make this case.
COLLINS: Marcos Jimenez, Jennifer Rodgers, thank you both for your expertise, tonight.
JIMENEZ: Thank you. COLLINS: She's pushed 9/11 conspiracies, heckled school shooting victims, spoken at a White nationalist conference, and more. But none of that was what got Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene booted, from the far-right Freedom Caucus, in the House. We'll tell you what was, ahead.
Plus, a surprising update, on the leader of that rebellion group, against Putin. Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was supposed to be an exile, in Belarus. But the President of Belarus now says he's not there.
COLLINS: A stunning revelation, about the leader, of the failed mutiny, against Vladimir Putin, and Russia. It turns out that the Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is in Russia, not Belarus, as originally believed.
At least that is according to the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered this deal, between Putin, and Prigozhin, as his forces were approaching Moscow. And gave an extraordinary news conference, today, in Minsk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUS (through translator): He is in St. Petersburg. Or maybe, this morning, he would travel to Moscow, or elsewhere. But he's not on the territory of Belarus now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That surprised many people, at that press conference, who believed that Prigozhin was there.
A reminder that Prigozhin has not actually been seen, in public, since he stopped his march, on Moscow, on June 24, what many saw, as the biggest threat to Putin's rule, in 23 years.
And my colleague, Matthew Chance, was one of the few journalists, who questioned Lukashenko, today.
Matthew, this idea, this surprise announcement that Prigozhin is not actually in Belarus, and is in Russia, raises all kinds of questions, about his status, about where he is, and what he's doing.
How surprised were you by that answer?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very surprised. In fact, I was half-expecting Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner leader, to be at the press conference, with Alexander Lukashenko. It's one of the reasons, we came. But obviously, that didn't happen.
We got this extraordinary revelation that Prigozhin is not in Belarus, nor are any Wagner fighters, but they are elsewhere. They are in Russia. And none of us, none of the journalists that had gathered, here, in Minsk, were expecting that.
Now, Lukashenko says that Prigozhin is a free man, in Russia. He's not in jail. He raised the possibility of an assassination of Prigozhin, by the Kremlin, but quickly dismissed that as being not something that Putin would consider, although I think that the fact that he raised it, as a possibility, indicates how precarious the position is, at the moment, of the Wagner leader.
And he also said that Wagner fighters, who had also invited, to come and sort of operate, out of Belarus, were not coming, either, or they hadn't come so far. And I sort of got the sense that possibly this was a blessing in disguise, for Belarus.
Take a listen to that line of questioning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: Are you concerned that that would have destabilized Belarus? I mean, the Russians thought it was, you know, it was safe to have them. But, you know, they were wrong.
LUKASHENKO (through translator): This is not a situation, where I was lending Wagner a helping hand. This was reached in a process of negotiation. You know what was at stake. I made this decision at that time, and I would stick to it. But I don't think Wagner would rise up, and turn its guns, against the Belarusian state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: Yes, I mean, really extraordinary, he would say that, given that that's exactly what Wagner did, when it came to the Russian state.
Anyway, look, I mean, the fact that Yevgeny Prigozhin is still free, and in Russia, it does make Vladimir Putin look somewhat weak, in the sense that this is an individual who's accused of fomenting an insurrection, against the Russian state. Yet, he has so far gone unpunished.
That may not last forever, though, because already Russian state television is working overtime, painting Prigozhin, as a criminal, as a traitor. Today, they aired dramatic footage, of a raid, on one of his houses, in St. Petersburg, in which gold and cash and guns were seized, along with wigs, for disguises, and passports, with various aliases in.
And so, the groundwork seems to be being laid, inside Russia, for perhaps some sort of criminal prosecution, against Prigozhin, to be take place. It hasn't happened yet. But we're keeping a close eye on it, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes, just an extraordinary development.
Matthew Chance, thank you.
And here, tonight, with their insights, on today's developments, Beth Sanner, the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence; and William Taylor, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, and the Vice President for Russia and Europe, at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Thank you both, for being here, tonight.
Ambassador Taylor, how shocked were you to hear that Prigozhin is not actually in Belarus, and may actually be in Russia, according to what the President of Belarus says.
AMB. BILL TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE (2006-2009), VICE PRESIDENT FOR RUSSIA AND EUROPE, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: So, Kaitlan, there's obviously a whole lot that we don't know, about the deal. We know that there was some deal struck, but it was unlikely. It's not written down. It was discussed among three or four or five, more people. We don't know what the deal is.
And no one's living up to the deal that we thought we heard. That is that Prigozhin would go to Belarus, and his soldiers would have the option of retiring, or joining the Ministry of Defense, or going with him to Belarus. So, there's a lot we don't know.
Mr. Putin doesn't know. He's got this Prigozhin, who still has a lot of troops, roaming around Russia. This can't make Putin very happy.
COLLINS: And Beth, you were the Deputy Director of National Intelligence. Prigozhin is known for using body doubles, obviously having these kind of costumes that he had.
I mean, do you think he was ever actually in Belarus? And what's your sense of how they assess? Is he alive? Is he in prison? Where he is right now? How does U.S. Intelligence assess something like that??
BETH SANNER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, they do some of the same things that we're seeing in the Open Source, now. An Open Source is just a wonderful place with watching the flights go back and forth with a plane that's associated with Prigozhin.
And perhaps, they have some way of tracking his communications. I'm not sure. But there are a number of different ways. And then, there are, sources, talking about where he is. And so, there's lots of ways to track him.
I really don't know where he is, now. I don't know if -- I'm pretty sure the Intelligence Community has a much better sense than we do. And I think that looking from the outside in, even the Intelligence Community has to have a lot of humility, about figuring out what happens, in such a closed and Byzantine system that is Russia. It's difficult.
COLLINS: It's quite difficult. I mean, there was Matthew Chance, saying they thought Prigozhin might actually show up there, today. And then, they find out, he's in Russia. Ambassador, the other announcement that we're expecting tomorrow, when it comes to the frontlines of Ukraine, is that the U.S. is actually going to start providing Ukraine with cluster munitions, something that Kyiv has been pushing for, for a long time.
And for people, who are watching at home and don't know what they are? They're these controversial weapons. They're deadly. Washington has resisted sending them. Russia has used them, we believe, these bomblets. You can kind of see just what looks like, this is what's actually makes up the cluster munition.
Do you think sending that is the right idea? Is that wise? What's your sense of what's behind that decision?
TAYLOR: Kaitlan, it clearly was a hard decision.
However, it sounds like the ammunition shortage, the shortage of 155 millimeter artillery rounds that the Ukrainians need, for this counteroffensive, is getting very low. These cluster munitions are good, against troops, on the ground. They are area weapons. They're not as precise as the single shot.
So, in order to keep the Ukrainians, in the fight, this decision sounds like it's going to provide some ammunition that they need for this counteroffensive.
COLLINS: Beth, what does it say to you about how the U.S. is assessing these decisions?
SANNER: Well, they're assessing them, I think, with the big strategic question in mind, which President Biden has focused on is, "Am I going to push Russia over the edge, and push them into some kind of nuclear confrontation?" I think that that was probably in hindsight, a mis- assessment of the risk of that. But hindsight is 20/20.
But then, I think that the other is just a very practical matter here, in that Ukraine needs to have enough men and munitions, to fight this fight. And they do not have enough. And it is really eye-opening, and it's eye-opening, for us, when we look at a Taiwan conflict.
COLLINS: Beth Sanner, Ambassador Bill Taylor, thank you both, for joining, tonight.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
COLLINS: Back home, there is word that one of the most controversial members, of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has now just been ousted, from the far-right House Freedom Caucus. And perhaps the biggest question, what finally did it?
COLLINS: A group of hardline conservatives, with no shortage of firebrand members, have now voted, to kick out Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. A member of the House Freedom Caucus, Maryland congressman, Andy Harris, says that they booted her, just before the end of last month.
And before we tell you what did cross the line, this is the kind of stuff that did not, with the House Freedom Caucus, in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): The so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon, it's odd, there's never any evidence shown for a plane, in the Pentagon.
The Democrats are now controlled by the Jihad squad, led by AOC, the little communist, from New York City.
January 6 was just a riot at the Capitol. And if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Before you ask, no, it was not the suggestion, from 2018, that the wildfires in California were started, because of Pacific Gas and Electric, the Rothschild Inc.; and former California Governor, Jerry Brown, conspired to fire lasers, from space.
The breaking point, for the House Freedom Caucus, was apparently this heated exchange, you see, playing out here, between Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the other person, Colorado congresswoman, Lauren Boebert. Greene accused Boebert, at this time, we are told, from reporting, later on, of copying her Article of Impeachment, and reportedly called her a "Little B."
Congresswoman Greene refused to comment on her status, in the House Freedom Caucus, but said in a statement, in part, quote, "In Congress, I serve Northwest Georgia first, and I serve no group in Washington."
Joining me now to discuss, and laughing, as I was reading that is Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush; and Bakari Sellers, former Democratic State Rep, from South Carolina, and the Host of "The Bakari Sellers Podcast."
BAKARI SELLERS, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER, HOST, "THE BAKARI SELLERS PODCAST": Thinking, it was me thinking, close.
COLLINS: OK. Well then I'll go to Scott.
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Son of a B, you can't be doing that.
SELLERS: This is hilarious of somebody --
COLLINS: Apparent spot (ph), I can't do that.
Anyways, Scott, what happened to the 11th Commandment from Ronald Reagan? "Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican." Now, we've got the House Freedom Caucus kicking out Marjorie Taylor Greene. JENNINGS: Yes, I wonder if this is really the thing, or if the fact that she's actually been a pretty good ally, of Kevin McCarthy. I mean, she stood with Kevin McCarthy. She helped him become the Speaker. She voted with him on the debt deal. He's used her a lot here. He's got a narrow majority.
And they're using this, as the trigger point. But I actually wonder if it's just they don't like the fact that she's become card-carrying member of the Establishment.
COLLINS: I mean?
JENNINGS: In the House, right now, you know?
COLLINS: It definitely shows how fractured House Republicans are.
SELLERS: Oh, they're a mess. I mean, look, there's an old saying, my father would say that if -- you never argue with a fool, because people watching can't tell the difference. And when you look at that, I mean, you just can't tell the difference, of what's happening.
And when you just sit back, and you understand the dialog that was happening, between the two? It just shows that the decorum between Congresswoman Boebert, and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, is below that, and below the dignity of the United States Congress.
When I was growing up? I'm sure, when Scott was growing up? He's older than I am, substantially. But regardless, when we were growing up, I think we held the United States Congress to a higher esteem. The individuals, who served us, we believe them to be carrying themselves with a decorum and a dignity. And these two ladies simply have not been able to do that.
And by exchanging that type of terminology, by exchanging that type of rhetoric, on the floor, by calling somebody else, to quote you, Kaitlan, a "Little B," that is just -- it's below the dignity of office. And I think all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike should have some shame.
COLLINS: And that it's over who got to file impeachment articles, first, against President Biden.
On another issue, though, on the campaign trail, of who may be president, next, we have learned from the DeSantis campaign that they have raised $20 million, in the six weeks or so, since he has entered the race. Well that came after we learned Trump raised about $35 million.
That's a lot of money for DeSantis, $20 million, in those six weeks. But he has had a series of missteps, on the campaign trail. Is that enough to make up for it?
JENNINGS: Well, and you add it to what he brought into the race, from Florida. He's got plenty of money to communicate. I mean, the higher you climb, in these campaigns, the less money matters.
Do you have enough to communicate? Do you have enough to operate? Obviously, he does. Obviously, Trump does. I worry about the rest of the campaigns, having enough money to, and oxygen, to last.
But he's got plenty of money to get his message out there. The question for him is not money. It's, is there an audience for this? And, right now, Donald Trump's so dominant, in the primary, that no amount of money may be enough. And, obviously, he's fighting hard, and he's bringing up some issues, right now. But Trump's been hard to dislodge so far.
And the money has not deterred the other non-Trump candidates. That's his first mission, is to get rid of everybody else.
SELLERS: Ron DeSantis has one singular problem. It's the more that people meet him, the less they like him. I can pay --
JENNINGS: Florida excluded?
SELLERS: Florida excluded, probably. And I think many people in Florida, once they actually -- he didn't have to run a campaign. I mean, you and I could have beaten Charlie Crist. That's a whole another story.
But Ron DeSantis is not a very likable politician. He does not do well, in retail politics. People like his policy, I think. Certain people like his policy. They just don't like the person.
And I believe we're seeing him turn into Scott Walker. We're seeing him turn into Tim Pawlenty. I don't know if viewers remember those names. But at one point in time, they were the next big "It" thing. Everybody thought they were the front-runner, to be the GOP nominee. But they turned into Icarus. They flew too close to the sun.
COLLINS: So, DeSantis was actually just on Fox, before we came on here. And he was asking why he's not resonating with voters. It was really fascinating. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've also been attacked more than anybody. As you know, Will, you know, Donald Trump has spent over $20 million, attacking me. That's more than he'd spent supporting Republican candidates, in last year's midterm election.
Now, you can't win with just Republican voters. I think we showed in Florida, you know, if you want a big victory, you got to win Independent voters. You got to win people, who haven't voted for our party, in the last several cycles. I've shown I can do that. And I think we can do it nationally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Is he doing stuff, to do that, though, to appeal to Independent voters, and people who haven't voted for Republicans? JENNINGS: Well, look, he's got to win a Republican primary first.
But his electoral success, in Florida, came on the backs of a lot of Independents, and a lot of Democrats. And he flipped some big areas in Florida that traditionally vote Democrat. So, he has a history of doing that.
But you can't get to that part of the game, unless you win the Republican primary. And the issues that resonate, in the Republican primary, right now, he is hitting on.
Again, though, I just go back to Trump's got half the party. The other half wants to do something else. And you got a whole bunch of people that are fighting for that second half. It's not Trump. He's got to dispatch the rest of the field.
SELLERS: The problem is that most Americans know him to be 5'8. Most Americans know him to be the Governor of Florida, who's not Donald Trump, who fought against Mickey Mouse, and lost. And so, when those are the characteristics people know you for, you have to stand for something. And he doesn't stand for anything, right now, in his presidential primary.
COLLINS: Bakari Sellers, Scott Jennings, thanks for keeping this panel, so pure, tonight.
SELLERS: Oh. It's because we're going to church, on Sunday, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Exactly. Yes, we are.
Up next, New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, is facing controversy, tonight, over this photo that he carries, of a fallen New York Police Department officer. He carries it in his wallet, often flashes it at press conferences.
But now, a new report is saying it's all an act, and that that story behind the photo isn't true.
COLLINS: This is a photo, of a fallen New York Police Department officer that Mayor Eric Adams says he carries with him, in his wallet, every day. He often talks about that Officer, Robert Venable, who was killed, in the line of duty, in 1987.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: I go back to the days of thinking of Robert Venable, my close colleague, who died in the line of duty.
I still think about Robert. I keep a picture of Robert, in my wallet.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: The photo that he's talking about looks wrinkled, it's weathered, like something he has carried around, for decades.
Except today, we learned from a new report, in "The New York Times" that the photo was actually printed out, last year, by City Hall employees, who even spilled coffee on it, to make it look more convincing, or weathered.
Tonight, the Mayor's office is denying that report, saying in part, and I'm quoting them now, "To be clear, Mayor Adams made a photocopy of a photograph of Officer Venable that was printed" in a New York Police Department "Transit News Bulletin from November 1987, which Mayor Adams still has" in possession of "this day, and which the Times saw."
Our CNN Political Commentator, Errol Louis, is here, to talk about this story.
I mean, what was your reaction, as someone, who covers this area, obviously, and has interacted with the Mayor, when you read this story, from "The New York Times?"
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS, HOST, "YOU DECIDE" PODCAST: In covering politicians, of all kinds, and I'm sure you've seen this, politicians, they take a couple of liberties, with the truth, here and there, you know?
If somebody's cutting a ribbon at a library branch, and they say, "Oh, I used to spend every weekend in the library," and you know, they really didn't.
LOUIS: It's kind of a white lie. It's relatively harmless.
What's striking here is that it's not entirely harmless, because it seems that City employees were asked to do something. And they felt strange enough about it that they told "The New York Times" about it. And so, this falls into sort of a different category, of people kind of inventing something that didn't have to be invented.
Everyone knows that this is a Mayor, who spent a couple of decades in the NYPD. Everyone knows that this is a Mayor, who supports the men and women of the NYPD. There's no particular reason to exaggerate, you know?
I mean, if you remember him in your heart? If you remembered him through a photo that you used to carry? It all sounds the same. It all works the same. Why would you go to this much effort? And I think that's the thing that I and a lot of other people are really wondering about.
COLLINS: I mean, what would be an answer to something like that of why he would go to these lengths? I mean, I know, there's been moments before where, he said one thing, and it was kind of like what you were saying earlier, not a full fabrication, but an exaggeration.
COLLINS: I mean, is that what your sense of this?
LOUIS: I'm not sure what's going on here. Other than that, it's a mistake.
I bet he wishes he could take the last couple of days back, and maybe take some of those speeches back, and some of those actions back, because it doesn't help him, in any way, shape, or form. It doesn't get him a single new vote. It doesn't shed any new light, on his commitment, to the NYPD, or the policies that the City needs to follow, to battle crime. It doesn't do anything positive at all.
And it makes you wonder why go to such efforts in that way. And it starts to get into the questions that are going to be raised about character. And that's where it really starts to get difficult for everybody.
COLLINS: Does it hurt him politically at all? I mean, a recent poll of registered voters, in New York City, had his favorability at 46 percent. It was down about 3 percent, from the same survey, back in May. I mean, what do voters think about this? He was someone, who was seen, as, the way he came into office was aspirational, to Democrats, nationwide.
LOUIS: Sure. Look, he is one of the first homegrown mayors, we've had, in a generation, in New York. We have a lot of outsiders, who come here, and then dip as Mayor. And so, he's got a real opportunity here.
He's only the second Black mayor, as he never stops reminding us. He's got a real opportunity to bring the City together, move the City forward. Really important policies that he promised on the campaign trail that people voted for back in 2021. We've -- seem to be turning the corner on crime, in many respects.
And so, there's a lot riding on this. It's really, really important. And that's why it's all the more important. We just lived through this, through the pandemic, Kaitlan. Every word that comes out of the mouth, of our mayor, or our governor, it's got to be true. It's got to be accurate.
When we were talking about masks, and PPE, and how to deal with this pandemic, we learned the hard way everything you say has got to be true. There's no room for these fables and fibs that seem to be coming out of City Hall.
COLLINS: Errol Louis, thank you.
LOUIS: Thank you.
COLLINS: Up next, my colleague, Abby Phillip, is going to speak to the niece, of that Fallen Officer, Robert Venable, coming up on "CNN TONIGHT." Make sure to tune into that. Also tonight, it is Mark Zuckerberg's biggest swing yet, at his rival billionaire, Elon Musk. So, what were you on today? Threads or Twitter? Maybe both? We'll talk about the big launch, and what it means, next.
COLLINS: Facebook's attempt, to compete with Twitter, has been active, for a little more than a day, now. It's called Threads, and Mark Zuckerberg says it was downloaded more than 30 million times, in the first 16 hours of its existence. Big names, from Oprah, to Bill Gates, and even the Dalai Lama, jumped on quickly.
But Twitter is already threatening to sue Facebook's parent company, Meta. Even if you have never sent a tweet in your life, you have likely heard about the weight of chaos that has enveloped the company, Twitter, since Elon Musk bought it, for $44 million (ph), back in October.
CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich joins me now.
Threads, is this, everyone is getting on it, from Instagram, today. Mark Zuckerberg is bragging about how many followers -- or how many people have already downloaded it.
But Twitter is already threatening, essentially, to sue them over it.
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Let the showdown begin between the two big social media giants.
This was a letter that was sent, on behalf of Twitter, to Mark Zuckerberg, directly, essentially saying that Threads stole the intellectual property, stole the ideas, and stole a lot of the sort of makings of Twitter, to create Threads. They called it a copycat app. They also said in this letter that Threads hired Twitter employees, to go ahead, and create Threads.
So, there's a lot of back-and-forth, going on, right now, I think, amongst the community. Does this look like Twitter? Is this just like Instagram?
But it's important to note that Meta says this is not true. This is an independent app. They did not hire Twitter employees, to create Threads.
This is really going to be a showdown, between these two big giants. Sounds a lot like a cage match. But wait a minute, that's actually already happening, between --
YURKEVICH: -- Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. But this is just the beginning. We got to keep an eye on what happens here. COLLINS: But even if he is claiming that they hired all the Twitter employees, didn't Twitter fire a lot of its employees, when Elon Musk took over?
YURKEVICH: They did. And that's a lot of what we're hearing, is that people are a little bit upset, with what Twitter has become, over the last couple years. And that's maybe why people are taking a look at Threads.
Thousands of Twitter employees were fired.
Twitter's now charging people, for things that were free before, for checkmarks, for using TweetDeck.
And so, potentially, Threads has an opportunity to draw some of those people, over from Twitter.
But one thing Twitter has that Threads doesn't is the longevity. They have years of experience. They have diehard Twitter fans.
But Threads is an opportunity, for Meta, to potentially make some money, draw in a new crowd, make some more money, in terms of advertisers.
But one of the things to think about is Instagram seamlessly interacts with Threads, which is a great transition, for all of those users. Twitter, on its own, has 250 million users. Instagram, on its own, has 2 billion users, more people to get on Threads, directly from Instagram.
COLLINS: Yes, we'll see if they can maintain that momentum. And I said $44 million. It's $44 billion that --
YURKEVICH: Billion, yes.
COLLINS: -- Elon Musk bought it for. Quite a price tag on there.
COLLINS: Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you very much.
COLLINS: It is the story that is in Washington, essentially taking over every headline, and the nation's interest. Where did the cocaine that was found in the West Wing come from? We have new details, about that investigation that is underway, tonight, next.
COLLINS: An update, tonight, on the investigation, into the cocaine that was found, at the White House. A law enforcement source, telling CNN, that the Secret Service is expected to finish its investigation, early next week, whether or not they can identify a suspect. Investigators have already reviewed security footage, and visitor logs, to get into the White House. But they've not yet gotten the results of a fingerprint analysis, or any kind of DNA test.
CNN previously reported that the cocaine was found, in a cubby, near the ground floor entrance, of the White House.
We will stay, of course, on top of that investigation.
Thank you so much, for joining me, tonight.
"CNN TONIGHT" with Abby Phillip, starts, right now.