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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Federal Prosecutors Interviewed MI Secretary Of State In Special Counsel's Election Interference Probe; FBI Director Wray Takes Heat At Congressional Hearing; Some Dems Push Back On Cluster Munitions Transfer To Ukraine. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 12, 2023 - 21:00   ET





The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, we have exclusive new information, on the January 6th investigation. Special Counsel Jack Smith has another key witness. And she's about to join us, live.

Plus, the FBI Director coming face-to-face with some his harshest critics, during what turned out to be a tense hearing, on Capitol Hill, blasting Republican claims of bias, against conservatives, as quote, "Insane."

But some Democrats didn't give him a pass either. And a lawmaker, who was there, will join us.

Also, mending fences, a high-stakes sit-down, between President Biden, and President Zelenskyy, ending on a high note, tonight, after tensions had been simmering, about NATO membership. How were they able to smooth things over? A top White House official will tell us about it.

I am Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.

Tonight, we have CNN exclusive reporting.

The Special Counsel's team that is investigating efforts, to overturn the 2020 election, has now interviewed Michigan's Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson.

Benson, of course, as you know her, is the highest ranking election official, in that battleground state. She oversaw the election that Trump lost, and faced death threats for it.

We know that federal prosecutors have also spoken, recently, to former Arizona House Speaker, Rusty Bowers. He broke that news, with us, last week. But also, Georgia's Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. Both of them are Republicans, I should note.

Benson herself is a Democrat.

And Secretary Benson joins us now.

Secretary, thank you so much, for being here.

We know from, our reporting, this interview was in March. Were you subpoenaed? How did you end up speaking to investigators?

JOCELYN BENSON, (D) MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: We responded earlier, to a subpoena, and then responded to a request, for an interview. We've been very upfront, transparent, about all that we endured, throughout the 2020 election cycle. And I've spoken with anyone, voluntarily, who reaches out to us, to ensure accountability for what occurred.

COLLINS: And how long did this interview with Jack Smith's team last?

BENSON: Several hours. It was back in March. And it really underscored, I think, the depth, through which the federal prosecutors are looking into everything, and the seriousness with which they're taking what occurred, and the quest for justice, to ensure it doesn't happen, again.

COLLINS: Was Jack Smith there, for this interview? Or did you speak to him at all directly?

BENSON: I don't want to get too much into the details, of the, who and the what, because I don't want to compromise the investigation itself.

But I do think, a lot of what was discussed, and very openly revealed, during the January 6th congressional committee hearings, provides a good roadmap, for a lot of what any federal prosecutors should be looking at.

COLLINS: Have you gone to the grand jury? Or do you think you'll have to take that step as well here?

BENSON: I'm willing to speak with anyone, on the record, about what we endured, and seek accountability. So, if and when we are requested, we'll be a part of any proceedings that require my testimony.

And again, it's tricky, because these are ongoing investigations. And none of us want to compromise the very seriousness, with which this effort is proceeding.

But I think it's important, for the American public, to know that what occurred in 2020 was really detrimental to who we are, as Americans. And it's important that there be justice and accountability for what occurred.

And I have confidence that our federal prosecutors are looking carefully, at the law, without bias or favor, and ensuring that the law is enforced, and that there's accountability where violations occurred.

COLLINS: We spoke to Rusty Bowers, last week, who also was subpoenaed, and spoke to Jack Smith's team. He said that he had turned over a lot of documents, through his attorney.

Did you turn over any evidence, any documents, voicemails, text messages, anything of that nature?


BENSON: Yes. And as was mentioned, we received a subpoena, earlier. So, we've been consistently ensuring that any evidence we have, of any wrongdoing, of any illegal effort, to overturn the legitimate results, of a presidential election, any evidence, we have, is swiftly and effectively turned over, to all relevant authorities, including at the federal level.

And we have been in near constant communication, with officials, as we receive evidence, because it is important that all of these investigations proceed, not just in accordance with the law, but rooted in solid evidence, of wrongdoing. And so, it's our responsibility to ensure, if we have that evidence that it is submitted.

COLLINS: Did you get a sense -- you talked about how you believe this underscores kind of the importance of this investigation. Did you get a sense from the questions that investigators had, about the scope of this investigation? Was there a certain area that they seemed the most focused on?

BENSON: I think, again, you can look back to the content, of a lot of what the congressional January 6 committee discussed, particularly when it comes to election workers, the impact of the misinformation, on our lives, and the threats that emerged, from that from various sources.

I mean, that was certainly something that was discussed, during the January 6th committee hearings, from many election officials. And so, to the extent that any of those threats, or the misinformation that led to those threats crossed the line, I think, there needs to be accountability, there.

And, myself, and the election officials, who have at request, or simply because we have a story to tell, have been speaking to any authorities, I think, it's really a reflection of our desire, just to ensure that the law is followed, and that where there is evidence of wrongdoing, there is justice that is served.

COLLINS: What do you believe? You sat down with them for several hours? What do you believe is the most important testimony that you gave them?

BENSON: That's a great question. I think it's a connection between, what we witnessed, which I've talked openly about, for several years now, a real coordinated, strategic effort, to try to block the counting of votes, in our State, the certification of an election, in our State, and then spread lies that then transformed into threats, against the lives of election officials, who were simply doing our job.

And there's a lot of evidence that has already been revealed that it was presented, to the January 6 committees, and it's already out there in the public, square about all of this. And I think it's important that that evidence be taken seriously. And I have confidence that it is being taken seriously.

And we are willing, to go over and over again, with the relevant authorities, everything we endured, and experienced, and witnessed, to ensure, again, where there's evidence of a pernicious and strategic effort, to overturn the will of voters that there is justice that is served, so it can't happen again.

COLLINS: And, of course, the fake electors scheme was prominent, in Michigan, as you know. I mean, Giuliani -- Rudy Giuliani testified, before a Michigan House committee, in late 2020. And it was urging state lawmakers, to pick their own electors, to replace, though, who were legally pledged to President Biden, as you and I both know. And we know the fake electors scheme has been a focus.

Did they ask you about the fake electors?

BENSON: I can't get into the details.

But certainly, we know that many states had, including Michigan, including Arizona, including New Mexico, and others, had evidence, of a false slate of electors that was outside of the confines of the law. And so, evidence of that, I would observe, could be relevant to any investigation.

And also, it's important, again, to harken back to that day, in early December of 2020, when Rudy Giuliani did show up, and tried to present false evidence, to a state legislative hearing, about election wrongdoing, with no evidence, of actual wrongdoing, but just cast aspersion on those results.

That led not just to questions about the certification, but people showing up, outside my home, in the dark of night, armed and protesting the election results, which again, not just myself, but other election officials witnessed, real threats of violence, as a result of those acts.

And so, by casting, I think, a broad net of all the ways, in which there were attempts to not just overturn an election, but cause fear, and threaten those professional election workers, whose job it is to protect the votes, and voice, of every people? All of that, I think, is something that should be looked at, and certainly speak to the, what we witnessed, here in Michigan, and the experience that I personally had.

COLLINS: I was thinking about something you said, last year, where you said that you had heard from someone, who was familiar, with a conversation that had happened, in the Oval Office that during a White House meeting, you were told Trump said, you should be tried, for treason, and potentially executed.

Did Jack Smith ask you directly about Trump?

BENSON: I don't want to get into the specifics of the ongoing investigation.


But as I talked in length, to the January 6 committee, and a lot of that testimony has been made public, it's very clear that we dealt with a lot of challenges, and a lot of threats, as a result of just baseless allegations, about our elections, with an effort, to overturn the results, and cause fear not, just in election officials, but voters themselves, when it comes to exercising our fundamental rights.

So, all of that, I think, needs to be looked at. And I have confidence that the relevant authorities are looking at everything that needs to be considered, in seeking full accountability, and culpability, for all the events that transpired, following the 2020 election.

COLLINS: I understand what you're saying about not getting into the specifics. I mean, we're still waiting to see, who actually is charged, if anyone, in this investigation.

Was your sense, though, without getting into those specifics, that they were trying to learn new information, from you, or that they already had a pretty good grasp, of what happened, and they were essentially just pulling everything together, and kind of tying up loose ends?

Did they seem to be closing in on the end of this investigation to you?

BENSON: I really can't. I don't know. I think, I mean, again, this conversation happened several months ago.

I think what is clear to me, is that there, the seriousness with which federal investigators are taking, what occurred, and the importance of, I think, for everyone involved, are proceeding in a way, that is not political, but is strictly based on facts and the law.

And what's already out there, on the public record, really does paint a very comprehensive picture, in no small part, due to the incredible work, of the January 6 congressional committee hearings, of a lot of what happened, in the aftermath, of the 2020 presidential election. So, there's already a lot out there. I imagine perhaps more could be discovered.

But certainly, the bulk of what we've experienced has, in many ways, already been in the public eye, through the January 6 committee hearings. And it's important, I think, that any federal investigators take the evidence that came out, through those committee hearings, seriously. And I believe that the Justice Department is doing that.

COLLINS: Yes. It's definitely notable, to hear you hearken back, to the January 6 committee congressional hearings, on this, so much, because it kind of paints a picture, of where these other investigations, which have more force behind their subpoena power could be going.

Secretary Jocelyn Benson, I mean, you joined us, on this breaking news, after my colleagues, Zach Cohen, broke that you had spoken with them. Thank you for joining us, at the last minute, to talk about your interview, with Jack Smith's team. We appreciate your time, tonight.

BENSON: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: And joining me now to talk about that, and the implications of it, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former Chief Assistant District Attorney, at the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

We've talked a lot about this January 6 investigation. What stood out to you, about what the Secretary said there, about what she said was an hour's long investigation -- or interview that she had, with Jack Smith's team, back in March. Noticeably didn't say whether or not Jack Smith himself was there.

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF MANHATTAN D.A.'S OFFICE: I think it confirms what many people have been speculating, based on other tidbits of information, that we are learning, from people, who are coming forward, and telling us, just like the Secretary of State did, tonight, about that conversation, which is that Jack Smith, and his team, are focusing on several areas, with respect to January 6, one of them being the fake electors scheme, in various states, right?

We know he also spoke with Brad Raffensperger, which is the Secretary of State of Georgia. And now, Michigan. And those are both states where there were false sets of electors, or fake electors. And the Secretary of State is the one, who certifies these. And so, they're the witnesses that you would call, and the ones that that you would have to have, as evidence, in the grand jury.

Now, one thing, to note, though, is that federal grand juries, you can put hearsay, which means a live witness, doesn't have to go in. So, I don't know that we can glean exactly anything, from the fact that she hasn't testified, in the grand jury yet.

It could mean that they are not going to charge that. It could mean that they haven't gotten to it yet. Or it could mean that they're going to take summary of the interview, from March, and just put that in, through a witness, like an FBI agent, so.


FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: At least, we know the investigation is including, looking into that.

COLLINS: Because she said she spoke with investigators. She said she's willing to go before the grand jury. But it sounds like she hasn't.

She also said she turned over evidence. We asked about. She didn't specify what. She was careful not to get into the details.

But if you're the Secretary of State, for Michigan, I mean, and you're interviewing her, what kind of evidence are you asking for?


FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Well, were there any recordings? Were there any notes that you took contemporaneous, to any phone calls that were made? Are there any other witnesses, to some of the statements that were made? Is there any video?

She talked about threats and things that happened. I would just want to know what corroboration there is. But I'd also like to see the documentary evidence, regarding the fake electors scheme, right?

They signed their names. You need to gather the real electors, and the fake, the documents, right? Because, there are people there, who falsified documents and who the witnesses are for all of that. So, there's a lot that they would want to gather. But it's everything from video, audio, emails, text messages, and official government documents.

COLLINS: OK. Karen Agnifilo, thank you for breaking all of that down, with us, our breaking news.

Also, tonight, the FBI Director was hit, with a tsunami of questions, and allegations, on Capitol Hill, today. His first time there, since Trump was indicted, on federal charges. He was forced to defend his agency, from attacks, on everything, from the former President, to Hunter Biden. We'll show you highlights, next.


COLLINS: FBI Director, Christopher Wray, was bombarded, with questions, from Republicans, on the House Judiciary Committee, today, appearing for the first time, in front of that panel, since Donald Trump was indicted, on federal charges, and since Republicans took control of the House.

It was combative, to say the least.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): People trusted the FBI more when J. Edgar Hoover was running the place than when you are. And the reason is because you don't give straight answers.


COLLINS: Director Wray was on defense, for hours, talking about January 6th, social media, allegations of political bias, and yes, of course, Hunter Biden.


GAETZ: Are you protecting the Bidens?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Absolutely not. The FBI does not, and has no interest --

GAETZ: Well you won't answer the question -- hold on.

WRAY: -- in protecting anyone, politically.

GAETZ: You won't answer the question about whether or not that's a shakedown. And everybody knows why you won't answer it.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The American people deserve to know how the FISA court is being abused, and how it's being abused against a former President and against them.

WRAY: The idea that I'm biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me, given my own personal background.


COLLINS: What is his own personal background? You may not have been able to tell, if you watched that hearing today.

But a reminder. Wray is a registered Republican. He was appointed, by a Republican President, Donald Trump. And he was confirmed by 92 senators.

This hearing put some Democrats, in the position, of defending Director Wray and the FBI. But others had their own frustrations with him.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): In my view, actually, I'm concerned that the FBI has been reluctant, to do its job, when it comes to the former President.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): His tape-recorded conversation, with the Secretary of State, in Georgia, in which he badgered the Secretary to, quote, "Find 11,780 votes," that don't exist. While that was the subject investigation, by the local District Attorney, in Fulton County, did not appear to be the subject investigation, for more than a year, by the Justice Department. To me, that is inexplicable.


COLLINS: On the FBI's search, of Mar-a-Lago, Wray insisted it was not a raid, but a lawfully executed search warrant. He said he wasn't going to wait until ongoing investigations. But he did make this note.


WRAY: I don't want to be commenting on the pending case. But I will say that there are specific rules, about where to store classified information, and that those need to be stored, in a SCIF, a Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility. And, in my experience, ballrooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms, are not SCIFs.


COLLINS: I'm joined now, by a Democrat, who was at today's hearing, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, of Washington.

Thank you, for joining us here, on THE SOURCE, Congresswoman.

For the most part, Democrats were largely defending Director Wray, as he was being largely attacked, by Republicans.

But you grilled him, about the FBI's practice, of buying personal information, of American citizens, data that could include their location, their health information, even potentially what they are looking at online, obviously data that the FBI can't legally collect, on its own, without a warrant, but can buy on the open market.

For our viewers, who missed your line of questioning, I want to show them a moment of it.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): The ODNI declassified a report, revealing that the FBI, and other agencies, do purchase significant amounts of commercially-available information, about Americans, from data brokers.

Can you tell me how the FBI uses that data?

WRAY: Respectfully, this is a topic that gets very involved to explain. And so, what I would prefer to do is have our subject-matter experts come back up, and brief you, and they can answer your questions, in detail, about it.


COLLINS: Congresswoman, were his answers, today, sufficient for you?

JAYAPAL: Kaitlan, they were not. And throughout my questioning, I kept saying to him, "This is our job, is to have you testify, in public, before the American people, and before Congress, about what the FBI is doing."

And we do have significant concerns. It's not just I. ODNI, for those who don't know, is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That is where the report came from, that said that the FBI is purchasing large amounts of data, from these data brokers.

And that information contains everything, from your location information, your medical information. It could contain information, about all kinds of private things that I think the American people understand they do not want the FBI to have.

And so, I have an amendment, on this topic, in the NDAA. It's a bipartisan amendment.

And this whole area, of the FBI, utilizing information, of Americans, without a warrant? These are all warrantless searches that are done. They are backdoor searches. The information is used in ways that we don't know. We have a lot of information about this. And the FBI has not been forthcoming with its answers.


And so, I did say, at the end of my questioning, of Director Wray, that if he wants the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which I happen to think is an important piece of legislation, but it contains some very important issues, around privacy, we are going to need answers to this. And we're going to need some significant reforms, about how the FBI uses Americans' data, and how we protect the privacy, of Americans, across this country.

COLLINS: And if you don't get that it sounds like you would consider blocking the reauthorization. Is that right?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think, we need to get some really significant reforms, if we're going to reauthorize FISA, because I don't think that we can sacrifice the liberty and the privacy of Americans. And that is a bipartisan concern.

It's not often that the Chairman --


JAYAPAL: -- Republican Chairman, Jordan, compliments me, on my line of questioning. But he did, in part, because we have been working, for many years, actually, on significant reforms that need to be done, within the privacy context.

COLLINS: Yes, I noticed that, at the end, Congressman Jim Jordan, the Chair, for those who weren't watching, complimented you. It's not something you see every day.

But do you share the concerns that your Democratic colleagues, on the panel had, that the FBI slow-walked investigations, into Trump's role, on January 6th, they slow walked efforts to dig into his refusal, to hand over classified documents?

JAYAPAL: I absolutely do.

And I will say that it was a very bizarre hearing, another bizarre day, on Capitol Hill. Because, I didn't think that I would ever be, in the situation, of listening to Republicans, lambaste, the majority of Republicans, I should say, lambaste the Director of the FBI, and even some of them talking about defunding the FBI, the nation's largest law enforcement agency.

Democrats have had concerns, about the partisan nature of the FBI, for some time. Certainly, when you look, at the investigation, of Donald Trump, and you look at the fact that Director Wray was appointed, by Donald Trump, it becomes even more bizarre to hear what Republicans were saying, today. And you heard him say that in one of the clips that you played.

I do have concerns, in general, about how the FBI conducts many of its operations. That does not mean that I think that we should defund the FBI, or that the FBI isn't playing a very important role. And I think that's where the Republicans, the extremism, of the Republicans really comes across.

And Director Wray, I thought, did a good job, of talking about all the things that the FBI does, from working, on fentanyl seizures, to working, to prevent foreign hacking, of our various pieces of networks, here in the United States.

And what would happen if we were to do what these extremist Republicans are saying to do, all because Kaitlan, they want to defend Donald Trump at any cost? And if that means, defunding the FBI, so that the FBI can't pursue legitimate investigations, of the former President? Then, they're going to do that, obviously.

COLLINS: Congresswoman, thanks so much, for your time, tonight. Thanks for joining us.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: A highly-anticipated meeting, today, after a very tense 24 hours, overseas. But we did see smiles. And, according to both sides, President Biden, and President Zelenskyy are on good terms, and agreement, on the final day, after that NATO Summit.

A White House spokesman is going to take us behind-the-scenes, next.



COLLINS: President Biden pledging that U.S. support for Ukraine, quote, "Will not waver" after his face-to-face talks, with Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, at the NATO Summit.

Tensions had been high, heading into this meeting, after President Zelenskyy publicly criticized the lack of a real timeline, for Ukraine's entry, into the NATO alliance, calling it quote, "Absurd," at one point.

But when the two leaders were in front of the cameras, today, both agreed that Ukraine will be able to join the military alliance, once the war ends, and certain conditions are met.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: We want to be on the same page with everybody with all the understanding. And, for today, what we hear and understand that we will have this invitation when security measures will allow.


COLLINS: National Security Council Spokesman, John Kirby, joins me now.

Kirby, thanks so much, for being here.

The U.S. says that Ukraine does have a future, in the NATO alliance. But no one has really articulated how, or when. Why not offer them a clear timeline?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: Well, I think, right now, the focus has got to be, Kaitlan, on helping him win this fight, on the ground, win this counteroffensive. That's really what's right in front of us.

And what you saw today was terrific unity, out of the Alliance, on two things.

One, making it clear to President Zelenskyy that there is a path forward. They don't have to use the map, the original plan, for entry to the Alliance, but they still have to work on reforms. And there'll be a process to help them do that.

And number two, and this is not unimportant, there was unanimity that we're going to have to continue to work, on security commitments, long-term, for Ukraine. For when this war ends, whenever that is, however, that is, they're still going to have a long border with Russia. And they're going to have needs.

And President Biden made it very clear to President Zelenskyy that in the United States, and across the G7, they would have security commitments, from those nations, to make sure that they could continue, to defend themselves, as they work towards that path to membership.

COLLINS: President Zelenskyy said, and I'm quoting him now, "I believe that we will be in NATO, as soon as the security situation is stabilized. In simple terms, the moment the war is over."

Does President Biden agree that the moment the war's over, Ukraine will be admitted to NATO?

KIRBY: The President certainly believes that, that while the war is ongoing, NATO membership is not in the best interest, not only of NATO allies, but in the interest of Ukraine.

But he also believes that there are certain reforms that have to be accomplished. And it's not like Ukraine hasn't been working on them. They have.

But when it comes to anti-corruption, democratic institutions, rule of law, judiciary, those kinds of things? There's still reforms, and that need to be accomplished that Ukraine is going to need help with. And they're going to find, again, in the United States, a friend to do that.

COLLINS: OK. So, it sounds like it may not be immediate.

One decision the U.S. has made, recently, is to give cluster bombs to Ukraine.

There is now though a bipartisan effort that has been mounting, on Capitol Hill that is led by a Democratic congresswoman, Sara Jacobs, to ban, essentially, to block the U.S., from being able to provide those, to them.

I mean, how concerned is the White House about this? Because, I know you've gotten letters, from Democratic senators, as well, urging the Administration --


COLLINS: -- not to send these cluster munitions to Ukraine. What do you say to them?


KIRBY: Well, look, we certainly understand the concerns. Quite frankly, President Biden had concerns, about providing cluster munitions. This was not, as he said, on this very network, not an easy decision for him to make. It took him some time, to come around to it.

But the bottom line is that the Ukrainians really need it for the fight that they're in, right now. I mean, we can't leave them defenseless. And if we don't provide these cluster munitions, as a bridge, until we can get normal production rates, of artillery, unitary, normal artillery shells up to speed, they're going to run out.

So, it's really important. They're in a gunfight. They've got to have these cluster munitions. But it is just a bridging solution. It's not meant to be a permanent add to their inventory.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, obviously that raises questions about the U.S.'s own inventory of ammunition.

But John, on another subject, North Korea has fired a long-range ballistic missile, off its East Coast. Is there still zero communication, between this administration, and North Korea?

KIRBY: Well, look, we have channels to be able to communicate with Pyongyang. We don't have, as you know, Kaitlan, we don't have an embassy there. We don't have direct diplomatic relations. But there are ways, to pass communications, back-and-forth.

We have consistently made it clear, to Kim Jong Un, and to the Regime, in Pyongyang that we are willing to sit down, without preconditions, to talk about the denuclearization, of the peninsula, and to talk about ridding the peninsula, and the region, of this arsenal, that Kim Jong Un continues to try to improve, and perfect, because, it's dangerous not only to the peninsula, to our allies, in South Korea, but actually to our allies, in Japan, and elsewhere, throughout the region.

And yet, they have failed to take us up on that offer. But we're continuing to make it. Even today, we're making it.

In the meantime, since they're not responding positively to it, the President is also taking additional actions, to make sure that we can defend our security alliances, and meet our commitments, in the region.

We're bolstering military exercises and training events. We're working harder, to improve trilateral cooperation, with the Japanese, and the South Koreans. And we're going to continue to improve our ability, to gather intelligence and information.

COLLINS: But John, just to follow up on that, because when I was covering the White House, not that long ago, there was -- what I was told was that there was no communication, between the U.S. and North Korea, that they had not responded to anything.

Is that still accurate? Or are you saying they've responded? Just not positively?

KIRBY: No, no, no, they have not responded to our offers.


KIRBY: What I'm saying is there are existing channels, to communicate with them. But they have not taken us up, on this offer. They have not responded in any way whatsoever --


KIRBY: -- which we have to take, as a negative response.

COLLINS: Just wanted to clarify that.

Also, our Pentagon producer, Haley Britzky, took this photo, today. It is of -- it's at the Pentagon. These are the Joint Chiefs. You can see Chairman Milley, at the top. But you see that empty space, right there, on the bottom-right. That is for the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Obviously, there is no permanent leader, at the Marine Corps, now, after the other leader was forced to essentially relinquish his spot, this week. And his successor has not been confirmed, from the Senate, because of the holds in place, from Senator Tuberville.

He was on the show with me, Monday.


COLLINS: And he said this, about outreach, from the White House.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): We need leadership, in the White House.

If I'd been the President, I'd already called me, to the White House, and said, "Coach, what are you doing? This is why we need to get this done. How do we work it out? We got to come to some compromise."

But Kaitlan, there's got to be conversation. Nobody has even talked to me, in five months.


COLLINS: Does President Biden have any plans to call Senator Tuberville? Do you think a call would resolve this?

KIRBY: I know of no such call, on the schedule, Kaitlan. And frankly, he doesn't need to get a call, from the White House, to know that it's the wrong thing, to hold up more than 250 officers, from either achieving a higher rank, or new assignments.

I mean, my goodness, that picture you showed just a minute ago? Let me tell you, by the end of September, there's going to be three more empty photo frames, on that board, on the wall, in the Pentagon.

Because, officers are going to be timed out of their jobs, they're going to have to retire, and there won't be a successor, confirmed by the Senate, to take their place. And that has real impact, on the military readiness, around the world, across all the services.

It also has a significant impact, on military families. Because, now you're going to have families that can't move, can't find new homes, can't get schools, for their kids, in time, for the fall semester, coming up.

I mean, this is going to have a real impact, on military readiness.


KIRBY: I would also say, before I finish that, that without these leaders, in their jobs, what kind of a message does that send, to the rest of the world, at a time -- we were just talking about the NATO Summit, and the critical nature of the security environment, in Europe, and elsewhere around the world, in the Indo-Pacific? And now, we're going to talk about military leaders that aren't going to be in their assignments, at a very dangerous time.


KIRBY: This is foolish. And he's playing politics with the military.

COLLINS: We asked him those questions about how it affects military families.


John Kirby, thank you, for your time, tonight.


COLLINS: Another State Legislature has just passed a strict abortion ban, setting the limit, at just six weeks. Of course, that's before many women even know that they are pregnant. Abortion rights groups are now suing to block it.

The State, the story, that's next.


COLLINS: Iowa governor, Kim Reynolds, is going to sign a six-week abortion ban, into law, on Friday, after the Republican-controlled state legislature there, passed a bill, just before midnight, last night, during a special session.

The bill contains exceptions if the mother's life is in danger, and for rape or incest, if it is reported within a certain period of time, to law enforcement, or medical professional.

Dr. Francesca Turner is an OB/GYN, in Des Moines. And she joins me now, tonight.

Thank you, Dr. Turner, for being here.

You've said that the bill is a bit ambiguous that you're unsure, at what point, of a medical emergency, a doctor would be able to intervene. As a medical professional, what part of this is the most unclear to you?

DR. FRANCESCA TURNER, OB/GYN: Well, the medical exception, for the life of the mother, is clinically meaningless. So, that's not how we practice. And it doesn't really make any clinical sense. What I mean by that is like how we practice, how we take care of people.


And so, people come in, and they have a problem, and we try to fix that. So when they come in, let's say, they're bleeding, and it's an inevitable miscarriage? And normally, I would take them, to the operating room, to stop their bleeding.

But sometimes, they come in, and they're still very stable, and they haven't lost that much blood yet. I'd still take them to the operating room, because they're going to continue to bleed.

I don't want to wait till they're unstable. I don't want to wait until I have to use a massive transfusion protocol. If I have to wait till they get sick, they're more likely to go in the ICU, they're more likely to have complications, or even die. The anesthesiologist, they don't want to take an unstable patient, to the OR, if I can prevent it.

And so, at what exact point do I get to save someone's life? It's very unclear.

COLLINS: So, you're saying -- you know, because often that is something that you hear from state lawmakers, who vote for these abortion bans, is that it does have these exceptions.

But you're saying what it says there is an exception for the life of the mother that that's, in your view, is that's not really an exception.

TURNER: Well, I think, if someone comes in, and I know what the subsequent happenings are going to be? I will take care of it, right now.

But if they're clinically very stable, their vital signs are stable, or they haven't lost enough blood, does that count, as save -- as her life in danger? Maybe right at this moment, it's not. But it's going to be.


TURNER: And do I have to wait? And it's, sometimes, it's not even going to be my decision. The hospital --

COLLINS: Dr. Turner, you still there?

We lost Dr. Turner. But we do appreciate her joining us, tonight, with her insight, in this. She is an OB/GYN, in Des Moines. Obviously, this new bill that is going to be signed into law, by Governor Reynolds, on Friday, will be critical, in that State, and will certainly affect her work, and others.

Thanks so much, to Dr. Turner, for joining us.

Ahead, is the kingmaker of conservative media, Rupert Murdoch, souring on Republican presidential candidate, Governor Ron DeSantis? We'll tell you what the new reporting is next.



COLLINS: A new round of campaign ads, airing, in key early primary states, all taking aim, at former President, Donald Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got so many distractions. The constant fighting -- something every day -- and I'm not sure he can focus on moving the country forward.

The election is really important, because we're going in the wrong direction. I mean, we definitely need somebody that can freaking win. I think you'd probably lose that bet if you voted for Trump.


COLLINS: A new Super PAC, called "Win It Back," is spending about $3.5 million, on those ads that you saw there, in Iowa and South Carolina, over the next two weeks.

The Political Action Committee has ties, to Club for Growth, which for those who don't know, is an influential conservative group that has had a long and complicated and tortured relationship, to the former President.

Joining me now is my panel.

Scott, when you look at those ads, obviously they're not advocating for any other candidate. But they certainly are advocating against Donald Trump.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. So if you're Ron DeSantis, you'd like it. If you're Tim Scott, you might like that as well.

My question about these ads, and any other efforts, to go after Trump, on television, is, is there a TV ad that can change someone's opinion about Donald Trump? I mean, even that sentiment, right there? I mean, a lot of Republicans believe that. And some of them are not going to vote for him. But a lot of them are going to end up voting for him.

Would seeing a TV ad really change the dynamic, for Trump? I'm dubious, not saying it couldn't be true, but I wonder.

COLLINS: What about a TV interview? Because Governor Ron DeSantis, a few months ago, if he went on Fox News, it was quite friendly to him. But he no longer seems to be able to rely on them, for that, because obviously, he's a candidate now. That changes it.

But now when he has been going on, he's been getting pressed, multiple times, on his poll numbers, and the fact that he's not doing better in these polls.

Here's an example of what he's been questioned about lately.


WILL CAIN, FOX & FRIENDS WEEKEND HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: I'm curious in the analysis of Ron DeSantis, of why not yet is connecting?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think -- did you just see the news, today, about the record fundraising haul we've had?

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR: But I'm wondering what's going on with your campaign?

What happened?

DESANTIS: Maria, these are narratives. The media does not want me to be the nominee.


COLLINS: Obviously, he's not doing better in the polls. That's why he's getting asked about polls.

But this comes as "The New York Times" is reporting that they believe based on that, Rupert Murdoch is reassessing just how formidable of a candidate DeSantis is going to be.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE STAFF MEMBER, NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: Well, coming out of the 2022 election, I think, a lot of Republicans prematurely hitched their cart, to Ron DeSantis, thinking, because he was one of the more successful Republicans, in the midterms, that he would be able to announce and shoot up and soar. And he hasn't.

He did have a good fundraising quarter for announcing the race. But he hasn't been able to close polling numbers. I think that's because he is trying literally to be Donald Trump 2.0, and play victim. "The media doesn't like me." That could have worked, and it did work in 2016. Only, you already still have Donald Trump still playing that role. And so, he's not being a good understudy.

COLLINS: But also, "The media doesn't like me," I mean, he's -- that's the friendliest media he's probably going -- or maybe not the friendliest, but some of it.

JENNINGS: Well, it is true. The media hates Ron DeSantis. And the mainstream media, I don't mean Fox News, necessarily, but I mean, the dude is well-covered and well-criticized out there.

There was a period of time, you mentioned the November midterm, it wasn't just that he won in Florida. It was that a lot of Republicans did in the moment say, "Well, maybe Trump cost us" --


JENNINGS: -- "the election here. And we didn't do as well because of Trump."

But he didn't announce until May. So, you had this sort of vacuum, between November and May, where everybody was waiting, for DeSantis. He took forever to get into the race.

And if this doesn't work out for him, I wonder if we may end up looking back, and saying, "Boy, you missed your window there," because there was a period, where people were maybe looking for the next lily pad, and it wasn't available. And then, he finally gets in.

But look what happened in between then and May.

ALLISON: That's right.


JENNINGS: Trump gets indicted. Everybody rallies around Trump. Trump actually starts to run a campaign. He's got great operatives working for him. You wonder, was that period that --

COLLINS: He's defining Ron DeSantis?


ALLISON: But Ron DeSantis also did a lot of things in his home state, as governor. He signed in a six-week abortion ban. He started to go after Disney in a more aggressive way.

He really stuck his claim on the right of Trump. And believe it or not, maybe people who are even support Donald Trump don't want right of Donald Trump. And I think that that's kind of why Ron DeSantis is stalled out.

COLLINS: Scott Jennings, Ashley Allison, thank you both.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

ALLISON: Thank you.

COLLINS: A hot tub may sound fun. But it is actually incredibly dangerous, when that is the temperature, in the ocean. We'll tell you more, next.



COLLINS: If you've been spending any time, off the coast of Florida, these days, the waters there feel more like a hot tub, than a cool dip.

A sudden marine heat wave is even surprising scientists. Sea surface temperatures are registering at the 90-degree mark, between the Southern tip of the State, and the Florida Keys. The hot water there could kill coral reefs, in the area. That's why it's of such concern. There's also fear that it may provide fuel, for a devastating hurricane season.

Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight, as you have, every night, this week.

"CNN PRIMETIME" with Laura Coates, starts, right now.