Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

"Unhinged" Oval Office Participant Patrick Byrne Trolls Special Counsel On Twitter: "Call Collect"; Biden: Sending Cluster Munitions To Ukraine A "Difficult Decision" But "They Needed Them"; NY Times: John Kelly Said In Sworn Statement Trump Asked About IRS Inquiry Of FBI Officials. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 07, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A quick programming note.

You heard from CNN's Audie Cornish, earlier. This Sunday, she delves into the dark side, of social media, and the negative impact, it can have, on the mental wellbeing of children.

It's a new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY." It airs, this Sunday, 8 PM Eastern, right here on CNN.

The news continues. Have a great weekend.

CNN PRIMETIME with Kaitlan Collins, starts now.

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

And tonight, Donald Trump is airing his grievances, anew, on the campaign trail, as he awaits his trial.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Never -- never happened before. "He's doing well, we have to arrest him." These people are sick.


TRUMP: If I weren't -- if I weren't leading in the polls by so much, they wouldn't be indicting me. If I were not running, they wouldn't be indicting me.


COLLINS: Those claims, from Trump, as Jack Smith is in the closing stages, of his January 6 investigation.

Last night, we brought you exclusive reporting, here, about a meeting of high interest, to the Special Counsel. But what's also very notable is what happened before and after that chaotic gathering, in the Oval Office, in the final days of the Trump presidency, between what is now commonly known as "Team Crazy," and "Team Normal," coined by a former Trump campaign manager, regarding that deep divide, within the Trump camp, following the 2020 election that he lost.

We learned exclusively that Jack Smith's team continues to ask witnesses, about this meeting that took place, on December 18th, 2020, 19 days before the January 6 riot, and four days after the Electoral College ratified President Biden's win. That was the meeting, where there was a push, to seize voting machines, and declare martial law.

Listen to what one of the participants, Trump's former National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, in his own words, just the day before that meeting took place.


GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He could order the -- within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place them, in those states, and basically rerun an election in each of those states. I mean, it's not unprecedented. I mean, these people out there talking about martial law, like it's something that we've never done.


COLLINS: That's December 17th, 2020.

The very next day, Mike Flynn, and several others, went into the Oval Office, for that meeting. While he talked publicly, about martial law, then, Mike Flynn later pleaded the Fifth, when he was asked about it, by the January 6 congressional committee.

Meanwhile, another participant, on what is known as "Team Crazy," is trolling the Special Counsel, today, after our reporting. This is the former Overstock CEO, Patrick Byrne, who was also in that meeting in the Oval Office.

And here, he linked two CNN's exclusive reporting, and said quote, "Hi Jack Smith, I take all responsibility. Best of all, with my eidetic memory I can tell you amazing detail about it." And he asked Smith to call him "Collect."

Joined now, tonight, by a pair of former federal prosecutors, Elliot Williams, and Harry Litman.

Thank you both for being here.

Harry, let me start with you. Because the reporting that we have about how intensely Jack Smith is looking at this meeting, what could the potential charges be? If there are charges that come from this meeting? We don't know that there will be. But if there are, what is your guess of what it would be? Conspiracy? Obstruction? What do you think? HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, yes, and yes. But it's very interesting, he's focused on it.

First, we know he is, and even very recently, because Giuliani comes on bended knee, and he can ask him anything. And there's a lot of focus, in two days, of eight-hour meetings, on this meeting.

I think, as you say, Kaitlan, what precedes and postdates the meeting are really important.

What precedes is they were just storming in, unannounced. And that's what makes "Team Normal" rush in. And then, we have like six hours of screaming, over theories that actually they don't implement, martial law to get the machines, or making Sidney Powell, the Special Counsel.

But then after is when Trump goes, and does his famous tweet, infamous tweet, it's going to be "Wild," about January 6.

So, I think, you have two things you can say about the meeting. First is Trump is told again and again and again, there is no evidence here. And by the way, it's too late, on electors. That happened four days ago. And then second, having heard all this that he went out, and did that infamous tweet.


So, I think you can surmise that Smith is following a theory that this is when he really began to focus, on the sort of Jack-Pence (ph) and final play, of January 6 itself. If that's right, that means the charges he's looking at will include that final melee, which is in itself news.

COLLINS: Yes. And that tweet about "Will be wild" was something Trump posted, after he had retired off to the residence, following these crazy meetings.

Elliot, if it is a conspiracy charge, obviously, you can't conspire alone. And you saw what Patrick Byrne said, in response to our reporting. It's clear he has not spoken with the Special Counsel's team. I'm assuming that is not a good sign, for Mr. Byrne.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: It's generally not a good sign, Kaitlan, because, typically, prosecutors would not compel a conversation, or testimony, from someone that they were charging with a crime. It's the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, you can't -- in fact, you have the right to remain silent. You can't testify against yourself.

Now look, to your point, you can't have a conspiracy by yourself. But it's actually not that hard, to establish a conspiracy. What you have to prove is some agreement, between two parties, some statement that one person makes that another person agrees with, and then one step, only one step taken, in furtherance of that conspiracy. Now, I don't want to read too much into this one meeting, or one conversation. But if you have people batting ideas around, and then one of the people from that goes out, and carries out the things that were talked about, in that meeting? That can be evidence itself of a conspiracy, pulling in everybody, who was aware of it, or affiliated.

So, it just remains to be seen what evidence they have. But certainly, you're exactly right. Not talking to prosecutors could be a sign of a problem for that one witness.

COLLINS: And, Harry, you've referenced the timeline of this as being critical.

The other part of this is that meeting was 17 days, after the Attorney General, Bill Barr, told The Associated Press, no evidence of widespread fraud in the election. He said he was delivering this message. That's what he said publicly. But he also said later on, that this is the message he was saying to Trump privately.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I made it clear, I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen, and putting out this stuff, which I told the President was bullshit.


COLLINS: As a prosecutor, how important is it, to people, on Jack Smith's team, to hear what Trump was being told, privately, by people, like Bill Barr, compared to what he's doing publicly, and what he was saying?

LITMAN: It's pivotal, because this has always been a crime in plain sight. And the only possible thing, for the defense, would be some kind of really very exotic, you could say, or kooky mental status defense. "Oh, I thought this, I thought that."

So, when you have the Attorney General of the United States telling you, on December 1st? And when you have, again, the grownups in the room, Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin, screaming at "Team Crazy," there's no evidence here, and Trump is sitting there, and taking it in? It tends to really add to what I think is already kind of a mountain of evidence that Trump, anything he said in public about, "Oh, I thought I could just declassify everything," or "In my mind everything. I could do whatever I wanted," he just can't believe that.

He didn't believe it. I think there's evidence of that in the indictment. And he can't, when he's getting such emphatic advice.

The other people there are just the ones that will tell him what he wants to hear. But that doesn't cut it, when you have such a refrain, and a screaming refrain, here, a vulgar refrain, even, saying there is no evidence here, period.

COLLINS: I mean, Elliot, when we talk about, what Bill Stepien famously described as "Team Crazy," and "Team Normal," following that meeting, it's pretty clear which path Trump chose, which team, Trump chose, even if he didn't move on the Executive order that was suggested, or martial law, or making Sidney Powell, as Special Counsel? He's still did continue to say, "The election was stolen." I mean, he's still saying it today, as of 9 PM, on this Friday night.

WILLIAMS: Right. I think it can't be underscored enough. And Harry touched on this point, a little bit, a moment ago, that advice that either the former President, or the people around him had gotten, that what they were doing was improper, or illegal, or wrong, could come back to bite them, as evidence.

So relevant to -- so, for instance, let's take conspiracy to defraud the United States, which might be the kind of charge that would be considered, for something like this. You would have to establish that they knew what they were doing was faulty, or unlawful, or deceiving people.


And being told, by this cadre of lawyers, including White House staff that -- I will use the term, "Team Normal," saying, "This is unlawful," or "You can't do this," could itself be evidence of the fact that the Trump team was put on notice of what they were doing was wrong.

And so, all of this advice, anytime the former President was notified, or a member of the team was notified that they lost the election, could potentially come in as evidence, and going to be quite relevant.

COLLINS: And speaking of all these attorneys, today, Harry? I mean, Rudy Giuliani is far from being the only former member of Trump's legal team, who has faced consequences, for what happened in that time period.

I mean, you can see here, there's multiple of these attorneys, who faced several of these issues, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, John Eastman, obviously.

Today, an Ethics panel, in D.C., found that Giuliani's law license, they say, should be revoked, because of the work he did, on a failed lawsuit, challenging the election results. It's not a final decision to disbar him.

But how do you see this ending? Could this go the way of what we saw happen, to Lin Wood, this week, who basically retired, before he could be disbarred?

LITMAN: Yes, so certainly. Look, this is where Giuliani goes, in front of the Pennsylvania court, and says all these outlandish things and, at the same time, doesn't know what standing is. It's this outrageous performance. It's so odd, during this time, these lawyers, who are the final stalwarts, for Trump, really think it's OK to say anything and everything.

You're right, it's just a recommendation. But more often than not, the recommendations are accepted. I think Giuliani's law license, to practice in D.C., is about to be pulled from him. The twilight of his career has been a very odd phase, and don't even know if he needs to, or wants to practice anymore.

But definitely, all these lawyers, who are the final circle, around Trump, they face not just criminal possibilities, but also losing their livelihood. And that's true of Sidney Powell. It's true of Jenna Ellis. So, they've got double trouble.

COLLINS: Yes. And I should note, Giuliani spokesman reached out, earlier, to say, they are pushing back on this, they're fighting this. We'll see how it ends up.


COLLINS: Elliot Williams, Harry Litman, thank you both.

LITMAN: Yes. Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Ahead, an exclusive one-on-one with President Biden, on the day that he made what he said was a quote, very "Difficult decision." The weapon that he is now sending to Ukraine that his former press secretary once said could potentially count as a war crime.



COLLINS: In a CNN exclusive interview, President Biden is defending his decision, to send cluster bombs, to Ukraine, as part of a new aid package, from the United States.

Biden said it was a difficult decision, to make this, mainly because of this. Cluster bombs are lethal weapons that can scatter, essentially, dozens of smaller explosives, over an area the size that can be up to several football fields.

These so-called bomblets are supposed to go off, as soon as they hit the ground. But experts say that up to a third of them usually don't. Kids have been often known to find them, mistaking them for toys. Others turn into de facto landmines that go off, when people stumble upon them, years later, long after the conflict has ended.

The dangers are so great, from cluster bombs, that they are banned by much of the world, today. Although as the White House highlighted, Russia uses them, really, with abandon, certainly in Ukraine.

Factoring into today's decision, the White House says that Ukraine gave written assurances that they would minimize, any risk, from using these cluster bombs, to civilians.

President Biden sat down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, today, to explain why he changed his mind.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: You have news today. The news is that the Administration is going to provide cluster munitions to the Ukrainians. These are weapons that 100 nations banned, including some of our closest NATO allies.

When there was news that the Russians might be using it, admittedly against civilians, your then-press secretary said this might be the -- constitute war crimes.

What made you change your mind and decide to give them these weapons?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Two things, Fareed. And it was a very difficult decision on my part. And, by the way, I discussed this with our allies, discussed this with our friends up on the Hill.

And we're in a situation where Ukraine continues to be brutally attacked, across the board, by munitions, by these cluster munitions that are -- had dud rates that are very, very low -- I mean, very high, that are danger to civilians, number one.

Number two, the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition, the ammunition, they used to call them 155-millimeter weapons. This is a -- this is a war relating to munitions. And they're running out of those that ammunition. And we're low on it.

And so, what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the Defense Department, to not permanently, but to allow for, in this transition period, where we had more 155 weapons that -- these shells, for Ukrainians, to provide them with a something that has a very low dud rate. It's about one -- I think it's 150, which is the least likely to be blowing. And it's not used in civilian areas. They're trying to get through those trenches, and those -- and stop those tanks from rolling.

And so, but it was not an easy decision. And it's not -- we're not signatories to that -- that agreement. But I am -- it took me a while to be convinced to do it.

But the main thing is, they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now from their -- keep them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas, or they don't. And I think they needed them.

ZAKARIA: When you go to the NATO Summit, the big strategic issue is that Ukraine wants membership, in NATO. Should it get membership in NATO?

BIDEN: I don't think it's ready for membership in NATO.

But here's the deal. I spent, as you know, a great deal of time, trying to hold NATO together.


Because I believe, Putin has had an overwhelming objective, from the time he launched 185,000 troops, in Ukraine. And that was to break NATO. He was confident, in my view, and many in the Intelligence Community, he was confident, he could break NATO. So, holding NATO together is really critical.

I don't think there is unanimity in NATO, about whether or not to bring Ukraine, into the NATO family, now, at this moment in the middle of a war. For example, if you did that, then, we, I -- and I mean, what I say, we're determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It's a commitment that we've all made, no matter what. If the war is going on, then we're all in war. We're in a war with Russia, whatever the case.

So, I think we have to lay out a path, for the rational path, for Russia, for -- excuse me, for Ukraine, to be able, to qualify, to get into NATO.

And we have, when the very first time I met with Putin, two years ago, in Geneva, and he said, "I want commitments on no Ukraine in NATO," I said, we're not going to do that, because it's an open-door policy. We're not going to shut anybody out.

NATO is a process that takes some time, to meet all the qualifications, and from democratization, to a whole range of other issues.

So, in the meantime, though, I've spoken with Zelenskyy, at length about this. And one of the things I indicated is the United States would be ready, to provide, while the process was going on, and it's going to take a while, while that process is going on, to provide security, a la, the security we provide for Israel, providing the weaponry, the needs, the capacity, to defend themselves, if there is an agreement, if there is a ceasefire, if there is a peace agreement.

And so, I think, we can work it out. And -- but I think it's premature to say, to call for a vote, you know, in now, because there's other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues.


COLLINS: And Fareed Zakaria joins me now.

Fareed, I think what's the most obvious from that answer is that the U.S. knows Ukraine needs ammunition. They're running low on it. And the U.S. doesn't have enough to give them.

ZAKARIA: Yes, you have to remember, the U.S. was not planning on this military intervention, in the sense of providing the massive level of supply, of weaponry, has had to do with Ukraine. The war is eating it up.

So, what has happened is, we're running low on the kind of munitions, the Ukrainians need, the United States is. The U.S. does have stockpiles of these cluster bombs. And President Biden made a determination that it's more important that they not lose ground, to the Russians, that they are able to succeed, or have a chance of success, in the counteroffensive.

I mean, I think the point he makes is, I think, on balance, correct, which is the greatest harm to civilians, in the area, would be if the Russians win, because the Russians have shown themselves, to be totally indiscriminate.

And so, here, what the Ukrainians are trying to do is use these weapons, to break up the Russian positions, which are hardened, which are in trenches, which are in tanks.

There is always a danger. But again, we have to keep our eyes on the prize, I suppose, which is, if Russia would win the battle, in any of these situations, is that better or worse, for civilians? Certainly, for the last year, what we've seen is it's been terrible, for civilians. And these are Ukrainian civilians, so the Ukrainian government, has every incentive, to try to minimize any civilian casualties.

COLLINS: And that was the point that his National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, made, which is they're not going to just be using them willy-nilly. I mean, these are their people that they're using them to protect.

But despite that Biden is facing pushback on this decision, from a former Democratic senator, Pat Leahy and, a current one, Jeff Merkley, who wrote this Op-Ed, in "The Washington Post," tonight, calling it a serious mistake, and saying it would come at an unsupportable moral and political price. And they say the last thing we need is to risk a rupture, with key allies, over a weapon that the U.S. should be leading, the effort, to prohibit.

ZAKARIA: Look, I think that the way, if you listen to that answer, again, and obviously, I've listened to it very carefully, I think it's clear, it's meant to be a transitional device, for exactly the reason you said, Kaitlan, which is they're hoping to ramp up regular munitions, to have enough supplies.

But in the meantime, if there's, I'm going to guess a six-month gap, or a three-month gap, they think it's more important that Ukraine not lose any of these key battles, in this key period of a counteroffensive. And it's a compromise. Look, war is hell.

COLLINS: Yes. And it was also as striking, as he's getting ready to go to that NATO Summit, saying he doesn't believe that they are ready to join.

Fascinating interview, Fareed. Thank you for joining us.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.


COLLINS: And you can watch the entire interview, of Fareed's that he did with President Biden, Sunday morning, 10 Eastern, on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," right here on CNN.

Coming up, new reporting that was just published, in "The New York Times," about Trump's former Chief of Staff, saying in a sworn statement, that then-President Trump asked about having the IRS investigate, two FBI officials, that he has publicly, very publicly, criticized.


COLLINS: New reporting, tonight, from "The New York Times," reporting that Donald Trump's former Chief of Staff, John Kelly, has said, in a sworn statement, under the penalty of perjury, I should note, that the ex-President once discussed having the IRS, and other agencies, investigate two FBI officials, who were involved, in the FBI's Russia probe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.


You've awfully -- often heard their names, from the former President, at rallies. He often goes off against them. They, of course, had text messages that were made public, where they were critical, of the former President. Peter Strzok is now suing the FBI.

I should note that all of this comes in this reporting tonight, where Kelly essentially is telling The Times that before, Trump had a pattern, of attempting to use his authority, as president, against those, who've been critical of him.

For more, on this breaking story, tonight, I want to bring back Elliot Williams, and Harry Litman.

Thank you both, for coming back in here.

Now, Elliot, to get a fuller picture of this, and just to remind people, given there have been so many things that have happened since then, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were working -- Lisa Page was an attorney at the Bureau.

Peter Strzok was working on the Russia investigation. Their texts that were criticizing Trump were made public. He is now, in this big lawsuit, against them, essentially for violating his privacy rights, by releasing those text messages, but also is saying that he was wrongfully terminated.

Now, in this, John Kelly has given this sworn statement, and I want to read part of it, where it says, "President Trump questioned whether investigations" by the IRS, or "other federal agencies should be undertaken into Mr. Strzok and/or Ms. Page. I do not know of President Trump ordering such an investigation. It appeared, however, that he wanted to see Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page investigated."

What do you make of this story?

WILLIAMS: Yes. So, let's step back, from the story, for a quick second, Kaitlan, and just go to the underlying principle here.

And that, in a healthy functioning democracy, there ought to be a divide, between Law Enforcement and the President. That is, frankly, this July 4th week, something that the Framers wanted to establish that the President ought, not be directing investigations, into individual people. Frankly, quite frankly, that's why, right now, there are multiple Special Counsels investigating, former President Trump, and conduct from former President, Biden, around documents. You want to depoliticize the investigation into individuals, as much as possible.

When I was at the Justice Department, if there were ever joint meetings, with the White House, and if cases, were going to come up, you'd send the White House people out of the room.

And so, merely even asking the question of, or presenting the idea, "Hey, you know, maybe the IRS ought to investigate these people," is itself incredibly problematic, from frankly, anyone in the White House, let alone a former President of the United States.

COLLINS: And it's not just even any agency. It's illegal. I mean, after Nixon left office, Congress made it illegal --


COLLINS: -- for any president to not just directly, but directly or indirectly order the IRS, or other agencies, to investigate someone, Harry.

So, when you look at this, as part of this investigation, and -- or the part of this lawsuit that Peter Strzok has now filed, I mean, what do you make of the fact that it's Trump's former Chief of Staff, John Kelly, in a sworn statement, saying that, yes, this is something that he had talked about that he had questioned whether or not this could happen.

WILLIAMS: I think it's --

LITMAN: Pretty credible, I think, and part, and as Kelly said --

WILLIAMS: Sorry. Go ahead.

LITMAN: -- of a larger vendetta, on his part.

And look, something very important happened, today, in this lawsuit. The judge said that Trump himself now has to be deposed. The Department of Justice resisted, and said it's not necessary. And the judge said, "No, no, no, we have." And Kelly's assertion is a big part of it. And it's not just, by the way, about Strzok and Page, but an overall vendetta.

And there's one more point to raise here. Trump is in all kinds of trouble. This is a civil suit, where he's going to have to be deposed. And in it, we think all the time about the criminal cases. But he's got at least three big civil lawsuit problems. This, E. Jean Carroll, and the New York A.G., and that's the kind of play. He'll have to be deposed here. That's the order. He can try to take the Fifth. But it can be used against him, in the lawsuit.

And, right now, Strzok and Page, it's been a long time coming. As you mentioned, Trump really vilified them, and nasty and vulgar. And asked for this investigation, why? One reason only, because they had criticized him in private texts. That's why he wants the IRS, to be hounding them. That is chillingly Nixonian.

COLLINS: Well, also just ironic, given he is someone, who always claims he is under audit, and that's why he can't release his taxes.


COLLINS: Elliot Williams, Harry Litman, thank you both, for coming back, on this breaking story, tonight.


COLLINS: On a much lighter note, Trump maybe -- Trump maybe the fast food king. He did seem kind of dumbfounded today, though, when he was at Dairy Queen, as people around him were ordering Blizzards, and he had one big question. We'll tell you what it was, next.



COLLINS: The battle, for the Republican nomination, is heating up, in the Hawkeye State.

At a speech, today, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, former President Trump took aim, at his main rival, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, torching him, for his lack of support, for ethanol subsidies, and the Trump administration's tariffs, on China.


TRUMP: They would outsource every American farming job to a foreign country. This is what Ron Desanctimonious wants to do.

Very simply, DeSantis sided with the communists in China. I sided with the farmers in America.


COLLINS: Those comments, less than 24 hours, after Governor DeSantis accused the former President, of being more interested, in tearing him down, than building Republicans up.

Joining me now, to talk about all of this, Bakari Sellers, former Democratic State Rep, from South Carolina, and the Host of "The Bakari Sellers Podcast."

And Geoff Duncan, former Republican Lieutenant Governor, of the State of Georgia.

Geoff, that was supposed to be the message, the overarching message, today. But for a lot of that speech, Trump instead focused, on his indictments making him more popular, and his legal grievances. I mean, is he just stepping on his own message with that?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER GEORGIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Yes, it's just the same old, same old. I mean, when you show up to these, 97 percent is either throwing shade on somebody, poking fingers, calling names, and then 3 percent is trying to suck up to the crowd, and tell them whatever they want to hear for that moment.


I mean, that's just rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. He continues to do it one election cycle after another. And that's exactly what we saw, today.

COLLINS: And everyone is in Iowa, basically. Mike Pence is making it essentially his entire strategy, to have a really good showing, there.


COLLINS: Last night, he asked Republicans, and I'm quoting Pence now, to "Think carefully about the right leadership," if the GOP wants to win back the White House. Is that really -- he doesn't name Trump, directly.

SELLERS: No. I mean, listen, these Republicans are just too soft. I mean, everybody, running against Donald Trump, they're just, I mean, they're just cotton-nail (ph) soft. And Ron Desanctimonious, when he's like, "Oh, my God, he's not building up Republicans," I mean, you got to fight Donald Trump. That's the only thing bullies understand is you have to fight back.

He's taking the fight to every single Republican that matters. I'm not sure Mike Pence matters yet. But none of them are fighting back. They are trying to take the higher ground. I mean, they are using the lines, from my favorite first lady of all time, you know? "When they go low, we go high." That doesn't work with Donald Trump. When Donald Trump goes low, you have to go just as low or equally as lower.

I understand the fragility of democracy. I understand decorum. We had that conversation, last night, about Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. But you cannot beat Donald Trump, being soft. And, right now, everybody's just looking real soft.

COLLINS: And how does that factor into what Florida is doing now, which is requiring the candidates, who are on the ballot, in their State, to sign a loyalty pledge, essentially, like the ones that the Republican National Committee is signing? I mean, do you think that's normal?

DUNCAN: I couldn't think of a worse idea, if you wanted to beat Joe Biden, right? I mean, you couldn't invent this stuff. But it's just one misstep after another after another.

And I'll take a little bit different angle. I mean, I think yes, you got to punch a bully in the nose, right? We all get that.


DUNCAN: But you also have to provide a -- cast a vision. I think you have to center -- SELLERS: Yes.

DUNCAN: -- re-center Republicans and Americans, in the middle, back towards the real problems that we face today. The problems that there's a war raging in Europe, there's an economy that's teetering. There's inflation that is sticky as ever. And these are real problems.

So, I think, yes, you got to punch him in the nose. But if you get sucked into doing that all day, every day, then you just get sucked into his game. And he's going to beat you at that game. I think we've got to find a leader that wants to stand up.

And Mike Pence? Right message, wrong messenger. He had four years to say what he's saying today.

SELLERS: That's right.

DUNCAN: And he didn't do it.

COLLINS: That's an interesting point.

One thing that these politicians, try to do, in states, like Iowa, is to look super-relatable. They eat the local food. We all have seen these unflattering photos.

Trump went to a Dairy Queen, today. And there was this moment that his campaign posted this video, but he asked this question, in the Dairy Queen.


TRUMP: Everybody wants a blizzard. What the hell is a blizzard?


COLLINS: I mean, you're going into Dairy Queen, and asking.

SELLERS: First of all, I think that's utterly disqualifying.

COLLINS: To not know what a Blizzard is?

DUNCAN: I think he ought to lose the election just because of that. How he'd not know what a Blizzard is?

SELLERS: Oreo Blizzards -- I know you have a favorite. But Oreo Blizzards are just --

COLLINS: Butterfinger Blizzard over here.

DUNCAN: Butterfinger Blizzard.

SELLERS: Oh, my God. Oreo Blizzard are --

DUNCAN: Two to one.

SELLERS: -- I mean, you got, they're not bad. But they are phenomenal. I mean, Donald Trump probably goes into McDonald's, and thinks the ice cream machine is actually working. Like, I mean, it's such a disconnect. I mean, this shows that disconnect.

But Iowa, let me just say this, for what it's worth, we give Iowa a hard time. If Donald Trump wins the State of Iowa? It's game, set, match. The race for the Republican nomination is over.

COLLINS: You think so?

DUNCAN: Well, it's certainly a huge giant step in that direction, right? And it feels like the momentum could be there. But you know what? I just continue to think Republicans are going to wake up at some point, right? We're going to wake up, from this stupor, and we're going to do the right thing.

SELLERS: You've been asleep for a long time, my friend.

DUNCAN: Not me. I've been on the front, for our lives.

SELLERS: You have been. They, you all, as a group.

COLLINS: We'll leave it there. Geoff Duncan, Bakari Sellers, thank you both.

DUNCAN: Absolutely.

SELLERS: Thank you.

COLLINS: Something mind-blowing ahead, psychedelics. Prince Harry says he took them, so did Aaron Rodgers and Elon Musk. Now, they're even bringing Democrats and Republicans together, on Capitol Hill. That's a tough act. Next, we'll tell you more.



COLLINS: There's new momentum, from an unusual pair, on Capitol Hill, to study psychedelic drugs, New York congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, and Texas Republican, Dan Crenshaw.

Their efforts are detailed, in a new "Washington Post," piece by Ben Terris, really saying how AOC first proposed a bill, on researching psychedelics, back in 2019, shortly after she had come to Capitol Hill. That amendment failed, though on a 331 to 91 vote.

She described it this way, saying, a member of my own party, a senior member, walked up to me, and said, "Oh? Is this, your little shrooms bill?" The senior Democrat laughed in her face, literally mocking it, she said.

Now, the renewed push, in Congress, is being taken much more seriously, including by an eclectic team of supporters, like my next guest, Tom Rodgers, an advocate, for psychedelics, on Capitol Hill, and a prominent supporter, of Native American causes. In fact, at a ceremony, last summer, he was given the name, "One Who Rides His Horse East." And we'll call him Tom.

Thank you, Tom, for joining me.

You have said, this isn't about people having drug parties, in their basements. So, for someone, who's not familiar, with psychedelics, and the benefits of them, talk about how it's helpful, in a mental health capacity.

TOM RODGERS, ADVOCATE FOR PSYCHEDELIC LEGISLATION, ADVOCATE FOR RESEARCH ON PSYCHEDELICS: Well, as you know, Kaitlan, we've suffered from massive mental trauma, coming out of a pandemic.

And mental health is one of the primary issues, confronting this nation, and specifically, confronting veterans, who we are finding out, not the 19 suicides a day, but actually more into the 40s. We are losing perhaps 44 veterans to suicide a day.

And then, we have Native American youth, teenagers. And our second leading cause of death is suicide, for teenagers.

So, you're dealing with generational trauma for Native Americans. And you're dealing with massive, massive PTSD, depression, anxiety, brain injuries, for our veterans, the people that we should be supporting at all costs. And so, those two constituencies there, I call them, the tip of the spear. And that is what we have to do.


We have to have a broad coalition, Kaitlan, of compassion, and a very sacred effort. We have to learn our lessons from the cannabis campaign that has been underway, on the Hill, for years. And we have to build this broad coalition of far-right, far-left, Native Americans, veterans, capitalists, healers, scientists. It has to be guided by healing, and by scientific, empirical research.

COLLINS: And you mentioned --

RODGERS: This is not about --

COLLINS: You mentioned veterans, there. And I think that's an important part of this message, especially one that resonates with everyone, but especially, on Capitol Hill, because their suicide rate is higher actually, than the general public.

And so, I wonder, does the veteran community, would be helpful in pushing this forward? Do you -- are you hopeful there will be momentum on this and change?

RODGERS: I am cautiously optimistic. Eventually, we will prevail. As I referenced to you earlier, Kaitlan, Mr. Machiavelli said, over 400 -- 500 years ago, most difficult thing is to change the order of things. And it's to see with new eyes. You saw that remark to Representative Cortez, about the "Is this your shrooms bill?"

Education is not seeing new things. It's seeing with new eyes. And we have to re-educate people, because they're anchoring to the war on drugs, philosophy. They're anchoring to the Timothy Leary concept.

We need to reframe and reshape the narrative that this is about science. This is about empirical data. And by having this coalition of compassion, and having the veterans, and the indigenous people, of this country lead this effort, how beautiful is that? Defenders of our country, and the First Americans, leading an effort to heal this traumatized nation?

COLLINS: Tom Rodgers, thank you, for your time, tonight.

RODGERS: And thank you.

COLLINS: And we remember a hero, ahead. A former Afghan interpreter, who helped the U.S. Special Forces, for a decade. He managed to escape that chaotic withdrawal, in Afghanistan, only to lose his life, here in America.



COLLINS: This is Nasrat Ahmad Yar. For a decade, he lived through the war, in Afghanistan, and served alongside U.S. Special Forces, as a combat interpreter, in his home country, fighting against the Taliban.

Nasrat survived the war, only to die, in the middle of the night, this week, in Washington, D.C., where he was working, as a Lyft driver.

Police are now searching, for the four people, you see here, running away from Nasrat's car. He had been pulling an extra shift that night, to support his wife, and his four children. The youngest is just 15- months-old.

Jeramie Malone helped Nasrat leave Afghanistan, and joins me now.

Thank you, for being here. I mean, this is just such a devastating story.

But about his life, and what can you tell us about what he lived through, in Afghanistan, how he served, in this incredibly tough role, alongside the U.S. Military, before he came to the United States?

JERAMIE MALONE, FRIEND OF NASRAT AHMAD YAR, HELPED NASRAT AHMAD YAR LEAVE AFGHANISTAN: Yes. So, as a kid, Nasrat helped U.S. Forces, in ways that he could have, doing small jobs and favors. But formally, he worked for U.S. Army Special Forces, for 10 years, as a combat interpreter.

And combat interpreters are really the unsung heroes of the U.S. Military. They go through a tremendous lot. They risk their lives every day. They continue to stay in danger, when their job is done. And they do it for very little pay. It is really a huge -- it's a huge sacrifice that they make for us.

But he was really committed to the mission. He was really committed to the U.S. mission. He loved the servicemembers that he served with. He was so proud of his service. And he was also, he was proud of the work that was being done, for Afghanistan. He wanted to see Afghanistan be a place, where people were free, and could be educated, and not live in fear. That was why he did what he did.

He was so proud, to come to the United States. He was relieved, to come to United States. And he didn't want anything, except the opportunity, to be able to earn a living, for his family, and to give his children, the opportunities, that he didn't have, and that they would never be able to have, in Afghanistan, under the Taliban. He just wanted them to have an education, and to be successful, and to be safe.

COLLINS: And his kids were -- they're so young. I mean, I know he has -- like just the youngest being only 15-months-old.

Have you talked to his family? How are they doing tonight?

MALONE: They're being very strong, and very brave. But they are really devastated. I've been in regular contact with them. His wife is heartbroken, and stressed. The kids are being really brave. They're so sweet. They're really tough. But they loved their dad so much.

He -- I know he loved them. He was always telling me how much he loved his kids. He always said to me, he said, "My children are my life." He had a couple of opportunities to potentially leave Afghanistan, without them, and send for them later. And he denied those opportunities. He said, "No, I could never live without my children."

So, everybody is very heartbroken. He's got an extended family. And everybody is really, really devastated.

COLLINS: And I know he was also still supporting his family, back in Afghanistan.

Jeramie Malone, please, when you speak to his family, give them our best.

And I know you also set up a GoFundMe, to help his family. We are showing it, right now. We'll also share it online. It is called "Support Family of Murdered Afghan Interpreter." It goes to them. Thank you for doing that.

And thank you for joining us on this difficult subject.

MALONE: Thank you so much, for having me.

COLLINS: Thank you, Jeramie.

And thank you, for joining us.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Abby Phillip, starts, right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Thank you, Kaitlan. And that is a really horrible story. I hope people will go and support that GoFundMe account, for his family. Thanks.