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The Situation Room

Soon, Trump Takes Questions From GOP Voters At CNN Town Hall; Rep. George Santos (R-NY) Pleads Not Guilty To 13 Federal Charges; Migrants Surge To Border One Day Before Trump-Era Policy Expires; GOP Committee Chair: Biden Family Received Millions In Foreign Money; Expert Warns Of "Tsunami" Of Disinformation During 2024 Election. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 10, 2023 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: For years, Fletcher (ph) has pushed for reparations for the families directly impacted. She's even testified before Congress today, on her birthday. The judge reportedly said she'll decide next week if the reparations case can move forward. Either way, happy birthday to the American hero.

I'll see you tonight after the CNN Town Hall. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington along with Erin Burnett in New York.

Happening now, we're counting down to CNN's town hall with former President Donald Trump. New Hampshire Republicans, as well as undeclared primary voters, they are all standing by with questions for the GOP frontrunner. And it all comes as Trump stares down growing legal troubles, multiple criminal investigations, an indictment in New York and a $5 million sex abuse verdict.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All of that, Wolf, as we are also following another major story tonight. Congressman George Santos speaking out today, he pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges. Santos pulling a page out of the Trump playbook calling the case against him a witch hunt.

If convicted, Santos could face up to 20 years in prison for the top counts he faces. The Republican from New York is facing calls to resign from many in his own caucus. Speaker McCarthy, though, is still holding fire, saying Santos deserves his day in court, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're also keeping an eye in the southern border right now where authorities are making last-minute preparations for the end of what's called Title 42. I'll ask the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the growing migrant surge and how the Biden administration intends to respond. This is a special edition of The Situation Room.

BURNETT: And we start this hour in New Hampshire, less than two hours away from that town hall, where former President Trump will come face- to-face with voters in the key state. Let's go straight to Kristen Holmes who is at the site of the Town Hall. And, Kristen, what are you learning about what Donald Trump's game plan is for tonight?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, Trump and a small group of advisers are on their way to the Town Hall here tonight. And I've talked to sources close to him who believe the former president is as prepped as he is going to be for this event. He is not somebody who likes that tedious studying, practicing that we see with other traditional candidates, so there is no last-minute cram session.

But the advisers that I have talked to said they are urging Trump to focus on two things, one, to stay on message, talking about the things, policy-wise, that he wants to accomplish, if he wins wince in 2024, but also to stay measured.

And they are expecting tough questions here tonight, not just from CNN but from this audience. They are trying to get out of that conservative voting bubble, that conservative media bubble. That is why they have agreed to do this town hall tonight.

And the one thing we are going to be watching very closely is keeping in mind that this is a live audience, undecided Republican voters. What are they reacting to in the conversation? What questions do they have for the former president?

When you see those polls and the reason that we are doing this, the fact that he is leading in the primary field, you believe that he has a huge amount of voters. But they know, his team knows, from advisers I've talked to, they believe they have to get outside of his base to actually win this election and this nomination.

So, something to look at is can he win over voters in this room and what do they care about? Are they going to focus on the legal battle that Trump faces or, like so many Republicans, are they going to ignore that and focus on other aspects of Donald Trump? That's what we are going to be watching tonight as well as how Trump responds to those questions, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Kristen, thank you very much. Of course, as we get ready for that, Wolf, so many questions on exactly how all this will play out tonight.

BLITZER: Yes. And I want to bring in our experts right now for some analysis. Jeff Zeleny, I'll start with you. Clearly, there has never been a presidential candidate like Donald Trump. So, this town hall tonight could potentially be unprecedented.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. I mean, there is nothing in our American history that really sets the table for what we're going to witness tonight. Only Grover Cleveland, of course, ran again for president and served a second non-consecutive term.

But, look, former President Donald Trump is essentially ringing the bell of the Republican primary race tonight. Yes, he is the leader going into this, but it is a long road ahead and he has some questions that voters want to know.

And when I travel across the country and talk to Republican voters and others, there is a sense of wanting to move on from the drama, to move on from just the exhaustion from the Trump years. So, is that something that he can sort of telegraph tonight or will he not do that?

But, look, he is, obviously, on the heels of the verdict yesterday in New York, with so many other cases looming, particularly that Georgia case looming this summer.


We do not know where his legal cases will be at the end of this primary race. So, it's all entangled here, which makes this even more challenging.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jamie? Jamie Gangel is with us. You have covered Trump for a while. Are we going to see a more measured Trump tonight?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I have never seen a measured Trump. So, that would be also historic if that happens tonight. Look, he may be leading in the polls but Donald Trump cannot be normalized.

And I think the question is, he is going to have to finally answer tonight -- maybe he will, maybe he won't, but he is going to have to answer questions about January 6th, why he didn't immediately call for these rioters to stop and leave, why it took -- why he never picked up the phone as commander in chief and called the Pentagon to send help, why he sent tweets that endangered his vice president, why he continues to undermine democracy with -- by being an election denier.

So, I think these are all questions that he really has refused to answer or lied about. Tonight, the question is will we see anything different.

BLITZER: Yes. And, Jonah Goldberg, he has to really appeal if he wants to win to swing voters and independents. Do you think he can?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I doubt it. I am sure the reporter who was talking to the campaign people, that's what the campaign people want him to do. His lawyers want him to do all sorts of things that he doesn't to either, as we saw just this week.

I mean, Donald Trump, he has been coachable a few times in his life, right? His first state of the union address was fairly well-coached. He handled it well. But for the most part, he thinks he should be able to be like Colonel Jessup and say, you're damn right I ordered the code red. He likes to own these -- like he defended the, you know, grab them by their private stuff in a deposition because he doesn't feel like he should apologize or defend himself in any serious way.

And so I think that's a real problem. The strategist is right, he has got to reach outside of his coalition. He didn't win enough votes in 2020. He needs more votes than he got in 2020. Nothing that's happened since 2020 is adding votes to him. But, you know, it will be interesting to see him try. I just don't have a lot of confidence.

BLITZER: Laura Coates, how does he handle the mountain of legal problems that potentially are out there?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's my concern. On the one hand, what I don't want to happen, because the prosecutor may be salivating to hear what he will actually say, is for him to have softball questions that do not get to the meat of the matter, that he has an ability to preach to a choir as opposed to be able to have objective -- the audience asking questions about things that I think the overwhelming electorate is concerned about.

For example, what impact does it have that you have a man who is running as a frontrunner for the RNC who yesterday, not even 24 hours ago, was found civilly liable of a sexual assault and, of course, defamation? What about a block away where you have got the Manhattan D.A. with multiple indictments about issues that go to the core of what might happen again in terms of having to have campaign donations and beyond for an upcoming election in about 500-plus days?

And you still have the unsolved discussions in Georgia about a false slate of electors, and, of course, Mar-a-Lago and classified documents, speaking of not being apologetic to these things.

And so all of these things to me are the accumulation that I think people want to know more about. I am actually perplexed as to why his attorneys would say, yes, go ahead and speak freely, for the same reasons that the congressman, George Santos, on these court steps today was talking, and I'm sure his attorneys grimacing and trying to figure out how they can get out of representing him, I am sure a similar thought about Trump.

But here is the sad thing. Unlike, say, E. Jean Carroll or any number of people who had the opportunity to have justice on their terms, that's the court of law. The court of public opinion, the court of electorate has a far bigger megaphone and it's a sad reality that will probably be exploited today.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. He is clearly, Jeff, the frontrunner right now for the Republican presidential nomination. So, what is at stake for him tonight?

ZELENY: Look, I think that he is the frontrunner. There is no doubt about it. I mean, in many respects, the race is just getting underway, and it's been very slow to start. In previous cycles, there would have been debates by this point. The only other leading candidate at least at this point is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and he is not even yet in the race. He will be, we are told, in the next two or three weeks or so.

But what is at stake tonight for Donald Trump is to continue to stay in command of this race. But he is beginning as the frontrunner. We have no idea of the twists and turns that will unfold, without question, as the legal cases and the political cases, there is no roadmap for this.

So, yes, he is the frontrunner, but he has not won over reason voters because one thing hangs over everything.


They want to win back the White House. They see President Biden as a beatable president. But the question is Donald Trump the person to beat him? And many Republicans are very skeptical of that.

New Hampshire also interesting, it revived his presidential campaign in 2016 after getting second place in Iowa. He won the New Hampshire primary in 2016 but went on to narrowly lose the state in the general election both times to Hillary Clinton, very narrowly to Joe Biden by some eight points. So, the New Hampshire electorate also has been somewhat skeptical of him, at least the general election, so a couple of different audiences tonight. The primary audience he is doing okay in, but the broader audience he has some issues.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Jamie, because some of the other potential Republican presidential candidates, like Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis, for example, they have been relatively subdued in going after Trump. But Chris Christie, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, he is really going after him big time. Take a look at these full screens, these Christie ads that have just come out, and you see some of the things he is saying.

GANGEL: So, you know, Chris Christie, Asa Hutchinson, they are lonely voices out there. The reality is that many in the Republican Party elected officials seem to be willing to look the other way, I mean, to Jeff's point, they want to win, but they are not willing to give up on Donald Trump because of his base.

But that's the question he is facing tonight. You know, what Chris Christie said, what Laura mentioned about all of these investigations, why should he ever be allowed to be president again with his history? It's not just will he get the votes. But considering what he did on January 6th, considering these criminal investigations, should he ever be allowed to be president?

BLITZER: Yes. That's what several Republicans are saying.

All right, guys, everybody stand by. Coming up, breaking news from our Manu Raju up Capitol Hill about Republican Congressman George Santos, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, weighing in just now.

Also ahead, we are closing in on the expiration of what's called Title 42. We will go live to the southern border for an update.

Stay with us. This is a special edition of The Situation Room.



BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of The Situation Room. We have breaking news just into CNN. The House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, says he will not support George Santos' re-election, our Manu Raju just getting that information. And it comes as the New York Congressman pleaded not guilty to 13 federal counts today, those included wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, lying to Congress.

But I want to get straight to Manu Raju, who is breaking this news on Capitol Hill. Manu, for the speaker, obviously, this is a significant thing to say. He will not support Santos for re-election. What else did McCarthy tell you?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Because, typically, the leadership will support any incumbent member who is running, even incumbent members who are facing primary challenges. McCarthy making clear to me just moments ago that he will not support George Santos running for re-election.

Santos, of course, at that defiant press conference after he plead not guilty to those charges, federal charges, said that he would, in fact, run for re-election. But McCarthy said that he would not support him if did he. And I asked McCarthy, will you try to defeat him in any sort of primary campaign, because, already, there are primary challengers who are lining up against Santos. And he said Santos has a lot of things going on. I think he has other things to focus on in his life other than running for re-election.

I went on to ask him about calling on him to resign. McCarthy has not, on his floor, calling on him to resign, saying there is a process that plays out here and he says members have been indicted, cleared and still continued to serve. His bar has been different on that issue.

But he did say that he would call on Santos to resign if the House Ethics Committee, which is also launching an investigation into Santos, comes back and finds that Santos broke the law. I asked McCarthy directly, I said, if there is -- if the Ethics Committee comes back and finds that Santos broke the law, alleges that he did, would you call on him to resign? McCarthy said, quote, yes. So, that is the speaker's bar in trying to push Santos out.

Now, there is a serious political consideration here as well because if you are not -- if you were to resign right now, that would set up a special election in his district, potentially could swing to the Democrats. The Democrats have an advantage in that district. McCarthy has only -- can only afford to lose four Republican votes in any close vote. If that became a Democratic seat, he could only afford to lose three Republican votes, narrowing his already very tight margin in the House.

So, he would rather see Santos serve out and not run for re-election. But if he runs for re-election, the concern is, Erin, that could harm their chances of holding on to that very important seat in New York. So, news here, Kevin McCarthy saying he will not support that effort by Santos to run again.

BURNETT: All right. That's significant. Obviously, the Ethics Committee thing also significant, that he would then -- he is formally giving a line of what it would take for him to call on for a resignation for Santos.

All right, Manu, thank you so much breaking all that news. Wolf, and that is a development and a real move for the speaker.

BLITZER: Yes, that is major development, indeed. And as Manu just mentioned, Santos is clearly very defiant right now, speaking to reporters on his way out of the courthouse earlier today. Listen to this.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): We have an indictment. We have all -- we have the information that the government wants to come after me on and I am going to comply.

The reality is it's a witch hunt.


BLITZER: Santos could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

CNN's Paula Reid has the details.



PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New York Republican Congressman George Santos adopting the Trump playbook after being indicted on 13 criminal counts.

SANTOS: The reality is it's a witch hunt.

REID: Surrounded by reporters after his initial court appearance, Santos was pressed about allegations he fraudulently received more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic while he was working at a Florida-based firm.

SANTOS: This is part of my defense. This is inaccurate information and I will get to clear my name on this -- during the pandemic, it wasn't very clear. I don't understand where the government is getting their information, but I will present my facts.

REID: The indictment spanning 20 pages details allegations that Santos illegally solicited campaign contributions, which were then funneled into his personal bank accounts and used for various personal expenses, including credit card and car payments, personal bills and even designer clothes. And federal prosecutors allege he made false statements on multiple financial disclosure statements filed with the House of Representatives prior to being elected in 2022.

Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself. The U.S. attorney said in a statement, Santos pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on $500,000 bond. After his successful 2022 election, he was exposed for a series of

lies about his personal history. He lied about attending college, working for powerhouse financial firms, and his mother being present at the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks.

SANTOS: Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did, and I'm sorry.

REID: Two veterans accuse Santos of raising funds for life-saving surgery for their dog only to keep the money for himself, which Santos denied.

RICHARD OSTHOFF, NAVY VETERAN, SAYS SANTOS TOOK MONEY INTENDED FOR HIS DYING DOG: It's an open wound. And every time I see him, It's like pouring salt into it again, but I am not in that bad place I was six years ago.

SANTOS: Good morning, Shabbat Shalom to everybody.

REID: He even lied about being Jewish and having grandparents who survived the Holocaust.

SANTOS: So, as I have said many times and I think you heard me say this, I always joke, I'm Catholic, but I'm also Jew-ish, as in ish.


REID (on camera): As a condition of the congressman's release, he can only travel to New York and Washington. Now, tomorrow, he will head become to Washington to vote on a border bill and then he has to be back here in New York on June 30th for his next court hearing. But if he wants to go anywhere else in the interim, he needs to get permission from the court. Wolf?

REID: All right, very dramatic developments, indeed. Paula, thank you very, very much. Erin, over to you.

BURNETT: All right. And so let's bring in our panel here now. Scott Jennings is with me, former senior adviser to Mitch McConnell, Karen Finney, former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Scott Brown is with me, former U.S. ambassador during the Trump administration and the former Republican senator from Massachusetts, along with Ryan Goodman, former special counsel at the Defense Department.

Okay. So, we have got this breaking news, Scott. Here it comes out. McCarthy is saying not backing the re-election campaign for Santos and saying if the House Ethics Committee, I'm sorry, comes with a guilty conclusion, then I'll ask for his resignation. How significant is that at this point?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, pretty significant, because all of the processes that are in place right now, the legal process, which he is obviously under threat, the ethics process and the political process, by which he would return to the Congress in the next election, all of these things, he is under siege. McCarthy is saying he wouldn't back him for re-election. Obviously, there are primary candidates lining up to run against him.

If the Republican Party wants to support someone else there, they can, they should. And I suspect now that the voters know who this charlatan really is, they will want someone else. So, all the doors that he could possibly escape out of this room are being closed in his face today.

BURNETT: Ambassador, people think about the DOJ, they don't generally think certainly in the context of recent broader conversations, they don't generally think of speed, okay? But this was fast. This was fast. But that doesn't surprise you?

FMR. SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R-MA): No, not at all, because a lot of what they are relying on are his personal filings. As you know, as a former senator and ambassador, you have the FEC filings, you have ethics filings, and that's you.

You have submitted these documents. So, they have what's called a paper case. And if they are just saying, hey, did you or did you not, you said you did, how do you explain it, those move pretty quickly and they are fairly easy to prosecute.

BURNETT: But he could face 20 years. As you read through this, all these charges, Ryan, how solid is this case? Is it as the ambassador is indicating, a black and white paper case, basically?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: I think it's super solid. As the ambassador says, it's all based on documentation. They didn't really need testimony from witnesses or things like that. For example, either he did or did not receive over $100,000 in salary while he was claiming unemployment insurance, did or didn't.


Either he did or did not tell the House in his disclosure forms that he received the unemployment insurance checks and he apparently didn't. Either he did or did not communicate with donors and say, oh, you gave me $25,000, I'll put it into political advertising, but instead he funnels it through and then pays for luxury goods.

BURNETT: So, Karen, what does this signal? I mean, McCarthy, in a sense, he doesn't really have a choice. If the Ethics Committee was going to come out and says guilty, he was going to have to probably call for resignation anyway. But he comes out and says this. That, of course, would then force a special election, as Manu was laying out.

This is a swing district but predominantly Democratic district, that, for various reasons, right, it was more about the policies they wanted than it was about George Santos himself. It's a risky special election. McCarthy only has, as Manu said, four seats he can afford to lose.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. It would be incredibly risky. I do think actually a Democrat would win. As you mentioned, it's a heavily Democratic district. I think many in the district just really weren't taking it very seriously, if I'm being honest, but now the stakes are much higher.

It's not surprising, you know, it's relatively easy for McCarthy to come out and say that he wouldn't support him for re-election because the truth is he needs him now. I mean, you heard Santos when he left the courtroom talk about how he wanted to get back to vote on the border bill. So, those pieces of legislation that McCarthy is trying to get through, that he is using as part of his negotiations or, you know, messaging against Biden, he needs him and he needs those votes.

BURNETT: But it puts the urgency of this front and center, Scott, four-vote margin. And this is something that could play out, again, as the ambassador was saying before we came to air, the Ethics Committee is secretive. You don't know where they are in their process. But that could come relatively quickly, and then, all of a sudden, boom, special election.

JENNINGS: Yes, and it would be very competitive. I don't know who the Democrats would nominate or who the Republicans would put up. But I suspect both parties would be all in on it. I mean, a Republican did win here even though people weren't paying a ton of attention, and I don't think Biden is getting any more popular by the day. So, I think it would be a very competitive race. But this is the wages, by the way, of not doing as well in the midterm as we should have. You know, the margin shouldn't be this --

BURNETT: You don't have margin for error.

JENNINGS: You don't have the margin, that's right.

BROWN: May I just say something? This should come to no surprise to anyone. The policy, as Scott said, and the professor said, they're spot on. Legal is playing its role. Obviously, the Ethics Committee is playing its role. But, listen, there is plenty of blame to go around. The Democrats -- Biden won by ten points.

The Democrats didn't take it seriously, as you referenced, and they didn't -- and as a result, he won. The Republicans didn't do the vetting and neither did the media because this stuff was out there. I mean, everybody knew. And yet they said, oh, this is a great guy, let's go, let's go, let's go. So, shame on everybody.

BURNETT: Yes. Well, Ryan, I also will say are you surprised and, you know, I mean, look, of all the things -- and I remember speaking to the vet, right, the heart-wrenching experience he went through losing thousands of dollars on his dog, okay? But they came specifically with unemployment, FEC, you know information. Do you think they should have gone for more or does it matter that it seems to be so narrow?

GOODMAN: They always still can go for more. It's not as though they decided against it. There could be superseding indictments in the future. But I think what's very strong is the way they framed. They basically said this is a public corruption case.

In their press release, they say he repeatedly engaged in dishonesty and deception to ascend the halls of Congress. And all of the crimes actually end up there, even the unemployment checks because he doesn't then disclose to the House this is part of his income. So, that's where it's packaged very strongly and there is no question about the strength of the case.

BROWN: And the standard is knowingly and willingly deceiving Congress and filing false documents. Had he just -- oh, I made a mistake, he could absolutely file an amended FEC and other filings, but he didn't. It's knowingly and willingly, and he's got some problems.

BURNETT: All right. All stay with me.

Coming up, CNN live on the southern border as officials scramble to prepare for the end of the Title 42. The secretary of homeland security is standing by to join us as well and we'll be right back.



BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of The Situation Room. You're looking at live pictures from El Paso where migrants right now are lining up around the border with just one day until the formal end of Title 42, which is the pandemic-era policy that has been used by border officials just about 3 million times to expel migrants from the United States, so, now lining up to come in.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas telling reporters the federal government is pouring resources into the border right now to handle the, quote, unprecedented number of migrant screenings ahead.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead which have the potential to be very difficult.


BURNETT: Now, Secretary Mayorkas is going to join Wolf in just a bit. First, though, I want to David Culver, because he is there at the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. And, David, what are you seeing tonight? I mean, I know you spend a lot of time with migrants, you have been in these lines, we are now just hours away from Title 42 expiring. What are you seeing now?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you mentioned those added resources that have been sent here to the border. Overnight, Erin, we did see some of those resources coming into play and they added some more fencing.

It's not clear, though, if those were just Texas National Guard or those also U.S. military at the federal level who were here trying to add some reinforcement, but also it seemed at some point giving some hope to some of the hundreds if not thousands of migrants just on this one small portion of the border.

[18:35:03] You're looking at Texas right now because that technically is El Paso, though, just shy at the border wall. Let me show you though, Erin, what we saw about 20 minutes ago. This is from above. We had a drone up in the air to capture some of the images of the CBP vans coming over on to this side of the border wall and it were loading up what seem to be a few dozen migrants. And it seems to be that they are processing them.

Now, that's something that's giving a lot of migrants hope not only behind me but also in the city center and thinking that perhaps now they're going to be able to get in to the U.S. It's something worth asking Secretary Mayorkas when you in -- Wolf speak with him in just a short time to see how exactly they are processing those migrants.

BURNETT: Yes, absolutely. Now, I know you have been speaking with migrants there for days now, and we've been watching you do that, David. So, what are you hearing from them today?

CULVER: There is a lot of frustration. There is a lot of struggle in the conditions alone, okay? You have the scorching sun, the heat, at night, it gets rather cold, the wind whipping up a lot of sand right now and they are limited with a lot of the water and food that they have access to on that side of the barbed wire.

That aside, we were in the city center earlier this morning, and that's when a lot of the migrants start their day trying to log on through their cell phones to the CBP One app. And that's something the Biden administration has been urging them to get an appointment for an asylum officer to meet with them and then to go through that process to potentially be able to get into the U.S. through asylum. And, hopefully, for them, it would be a way to guarantee an interview and to at least give them something to look forward to.

However, everyone we spoke with there was unsuccessful. And said they were trying to really refreshing every few seconds on their phone and got -- talked to a few of them, and here's how they told me they are approaching this.


CULVER: She is saying she was doing it through the app because she wants to go in legally through asylum, but it's getting frustrating for her.

She says she is not really sure if she is going to try right after Title 42. She'd really rather just have an appointment through the app. She says she has faith it's going to work out.


CULVER: Most telling me, Erin, that they are going to try to do this legally, they want to go in the right way, but some saying if it's too complicated and if takes too long, they will go in undetected. They're going to figure out a way to get into the U.S. however they can.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, David Culver, who has been there along the Mexican side of the border. Wolf?

BLITZER: Erin, joining us now for an exclusive interview, the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in. I know you have a lot going on right now.

President Biden now says the border is, quote, and I am quoting him now, going to be chaotic for a while. Is he admitting, for all practical purposes, that the Biden administration is not prepared for what's about to happen?

MAYORKAS: Wolf, thanks very much for having me. So, I have been saying for months and months that we've got a very challenging situation at the border and indeed it's going to get more challenging when Title 42 comes to an end. So, this is perfectly in line with what I have been saying.

What we have been doing throughout those months and months is preparing for the end of Title 42. We have had a plan in place. We have been executing on that plan, and, indeed, we are going to do so and continue to do so as the days unfold.

BLITZER: Will these new measures that you are proposing right now, including the major tracking system for migrants who have been released here in the United States, will they be implemented in time to deal with the immediate surge?

MAYORKAS: It will be. And, Wolf, I don't want to understate the degree of the challenge that we are going to meet when Title 42 comes to an end, but the plan that we have in place will yield results. It very well might take some time.

But the plan is built on the success of a prior program that we announced and implemented on January 5th for individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, to use the lawful pathways that we have made available to them and to deliver a consequence if they don't use those pathways.

We saw a 90 percent drop in the number of encounters at the southern border of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. We have an obligation, not just a security obligation, but a humanitarian obligation to cut the smugglers out. And in the service of that effort and to develop orderly and safe pathways, our president has led to an unprecedented expansion of lawful alternatives for individuals seeking a better life.

BLITZER: I want you and our viewers, Mr. Secretary, to watch how then- candidate Biden talked about asylum for these migrants back in 2020. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I am going to restore our moral standing in the world and our historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers.


My lord, we've never, we've never made asylum seekers stay -- seek asylum outside the United States of America.

This is the first time ever you have had to seek asylum in a third country. It's outrageous. It's outrageous. It's wrong.


BLITZER: But now, the Biden administration is proposing that these asylum seekers seek asylum in third countries, exactly the opposite of what he said then.

MAYORKAS: Well, actually, the lawful pathways are designed to really provide individuals an opportunity to apply for refugee status outside the country to really take advantage of expanded family reunification programs, other humanitarian opportunities.

The asylum claim must be made by law in the United States, by definition, but it -- the threshold to make an asylum claim is going to be raised when we issue our final rule because, Wolf, what we are seeing now is the smuggling organizations that are ruthless, that care only about profit and not people, control the territory of migration, and we have got to cut them out.

BLITZER: So, it's going to be much more difficult for these migrants who are seeking asylum to get asylum in the United States for us to welcome them in the United States?

MAYORKAS: Well, I would say it's actually a little bit more complicated than that. We are building these lawful pathways. We are surging resources to enable these migrants to avail themselves, to take advantage of the lawful pathways. And if they don't use those lawful pathways, and if they don't or, I should say, if they haven't sought protection in one of the countries through which they have traveled, they are not banned from asylum but they will have a higher level of evidence that they must satisfy.

We have got to cut these smugglers out and we've got to reach the migrants where they are. We are not ending the asylum system. As a matter of fact, the prior administration dismantled it and we have rebuilt it.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

MAYORKAS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A powerful House Republican now says the president's family made millions from foreign entities by trading off the Biden name. Does he have the proof to back up his allegations?

Plus, the former president and current GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump, just landing in New Hampshire just ahead of CNN's Town Hall tonight.



BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. We are a little more than one hour away from a CNN town hall with Donald Trump from that stage in New Hampshire. Republicans ramp up their scrutiny of the man Trump hopes to beat in 2024.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer just released new records that he says prove that President Biden's family, including his son Hunter, made millions off of the Biden name, including during Joe Biden's tenure as VP.

Sara Murray has more.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Oversight Chair Comer offering new details to bolster his claims that members of Joe Biden's family, including his son Hunter, received millions of dollars in payments from foreign entities in China and Romania.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): I want to be clear. This committee is investigating President Biden and his family's shady business deals that capitalize on Joe Biden's public office and risked our country's national security.

MURRAY: Committee Republicans cited new bank records obtained via subpoena that include payments made to companies tied to Hunter Biden.

COMER: Many of the wire payments occurred while Joe Biden was vice president and leading the United States' efforts in these countries.

MURRAY: Republicans also allege hunter Biden and his associate used family ties to facilitate a 2016 meeting between a top Biden advisor and a Serbian national running for United Nations role.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): These people didn't come to Hunter Biden because he understood world politics or was experienced in it or that he understood Chinese businesses. They wanted him for the access his last name gave them.

MURRAY: But, so far, Republicans have failed to unearth any payments to Joe Biden while he was vice president or after leaving office, and the report today does not suggest illegality in the payments from foreign sources. The president has repeatedly denied any involvement in his son's overseas deals.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never once discussed this issue with Hunter while I was vice president. And the reason is to keep this wall between me and anyone involved with me at all, whether it's family or otherwise.

MURRAY: But that hasn't stopped the GOP's investigations.

COMER: We are pretty confident that the president was very knowledgeable of what his family was doing.

MURRAY: Republicans took aim at Joe Biden for railing against corruption as vice president.

BIDEN: Corruption saps the collective strength and resolve of a nation.

MURRAY: In the same nations where members of his family were allegedly profiting.

COMER: While Vice President Biden was lecturing Romania on anti- corruption policies, in reality, he was a walking billboard for his son and family.

MURRAY: Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell says there is no evidence of wrongdoing by his client. Today's so-called revelations are retread, repackaged misstatements of perfectly proper meetings and business by private citizens.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, a lot of Republicans today said the Justice Department should be investigating. Well, the Justice Department has already looked into payments to Hunter Biden from a number of foreign entities for possible money laundering or violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

That leg of this long running criminal investigation into Hunter Biden has largely fizzled and potential charges now focused on tax issues and a false statement and Hunter Biden, of course, has denied any wrongdoing in that, Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much.

MURRAY: Thanks.

BURNETT: And is artificial intelligence about to super charge the spread of political misinformation just in time for the 2024 election? We're going to have a closer look at this extremely severe threat and what needs to be done to fight it, after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

You're looking at live pictures right now out of New Hampshire where former President Trump is set to take the stage in a just over an hour. The election is ushering in the age of the artificial intelligence campaign. Republicans who are out of the gate with this A.I. ad depicting President Biden as a ruler of a dystopian society.

So how will voters know what's real or fake?

CNN's Brian Todd has more.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days after being fired from Fox News, right wing provocateur Tucker Carlson announced a new show on Twitter with a conspiratorial take on the news we consume.

CARLSON: At the most basic level, the news you consume is a lie. You are being manipulated.

TODD: This from the man who repeatedly laid out baseless theories on his Fox show.

CARLSON: FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol.

TODD: The man whose platform Carlson could soon be joining, Twitter CEO Elon Musk, tweeted that they haven't signed a deal yet after earlier tweeting, quote, trust nothing, not even nothing, seemingly reflective of what "Axios" in a new article calls the new "trust- nothing" era of American politics.


DARRELL WEST, ANALYST ON TECHNOLOGY & POLITICS, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: There's going to be a tsunami of disinformation in this election. It's going to be hard to know what to trust. Viewers are not going to be able to distinguish the real from the fake.

TODD: Take a recent ad produced by the Republican National Committee in response to President Biden's announcement that he's running for re-election. Images in the ad were generated by artificial intelligence, A.I., and tick through a series of imagined dystopian scenarios if Biden wins.

RNC AD: This morning, an emboldened China invades Taiwan.

RNC AD: Financial markets are in freefall as 500 regional banks have shuttered their doors.

TIA MITCHELL, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Right now, it's the wild, wild rest, which we saw in the RNC ad, they were transparent that it was A.I., but again the concern is other people won't be as transparent.

TODD: A.I. and the potential that it will spread misinformation is such a concern that the White House recently hosted the CEOs of top A.I. companies and warned them of the perils A.I. poses to the public.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you're doing has enormous potential, and enormous danger.

TODD: These days, there are deep fakes all over social media, from a computer-generated Mark Zuckerberg to fake news anchors from China. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy supposedly surrendering, and counterfeit clips of Trump and Biden.

DARRELL WEST, AUTHOR, "POLICYMAKING IN THE ERA OF AI": The sophisticated A.I. tools for creating fake videos is available to everybody. You don't need to be a coder or a technical person in order to use these types of techniques. Anybody can engage in disinformation, and a lot of people will be engaging in disinformation.

TODD: What can the average voter do in this election cycle to avoid falling for campaign misinformation?

MITCHELL: Going into the 2024 election, people are going to have to be really judicious about their news sources.


TODD (on camera): And if the Russia probe stemming from the 2016 election taught us anything, it's how easily that bad actors like nation states or others who want to undermine American elections can use social media to spread misinformation and put their own thumb on the scale to manipulate American voters -- Wolf.

BLTIZER: Brian Todd reporting, Brian, thank you.

Just ahead, we're only about an hour or so away from CNN's town hall with former President Donald Trump. We'll go live to New Hampshire for a closer look.

This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.