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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Huntsman Predicts Trump Will Be "So Entangled" In Legal Problems, Has No Path To Win 2024 Race; Key Progressive Walks Back Claim Israel Is A "Racist State"; Putin Ends Critical Grain Deal With Ukraine. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 17, 2023 - 21:00   ET



RON ECKLUND, ENCOUNTER WITH BURHAM LEAD TO HIS ARREST: It seemed like forever because we're standing out in the porch watching, you know, just to make sure he's not coming up towards the house or anything. And -- but, you know, they were here pretty quick.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: And, at that point, did he try to run at all, do you know? Or did he just -- was he just waiting there?

R. ECKLUND: We don't know.



C. ECKLUND: He didn't wait there.

R. ECKLUND: No. He headed up the creek. But we don't know because we left the area. It's probably 300 yards, from the house, where he was.

COOPER: OK. Well Cindy and Ron?

C. ECKLUND: And clear.

COOPER: I'm glad there's a happy ending, to all of this, and I'm glad you guys are OK.

And did Tucker get something, some special treats?

C. ECKLUND: Oh my, yes.

R. ECKLUND: He's had plenty. And a steak dinner, tomorrow night.

COOPER: Wow. All right. Well, you all deserve steaks. Thanks so much.


C. ECKLUND: It will be a family affair.


Cindy and Ron Ecklund, thank you so much.

R. ECKLUND: All right.

C. ECKLUND: Thank you.

R. ECKLUND: You have a good day.

COOPER: That's it for us. The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, Senator Joe Manchin says there's an insurance policy, if 2024 is a Trump-Biden rematch.

Could he launch a third-party run? He's here to answer that question, alongside former Republican presidential candidate, and Trump's Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman.

Plus, the top progressive, in the House -- the top Democrat in the House, I should note, is now apologizing, after calling Israel, a racist state, as the bipartisan backlash, on Capitol Hill, is only growing.

And also, my exclusive sit-down, with Georgia's GOP governor, Brian Kemp. He famously withstood Trump's 2020 pressure campaign. Will he support him, if he's the Republican nominee?

I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.

Senator Joe Manchin has a long history of keeping his Democratic Party guessing. But tonight, he's creating a new stir, after speaking at a Town Hall, in the critical early primary state of New Hampshire. This was, on behalf of No Labels, which is a non-profit group that is considering, running a third-party candidate, in the 2024 presidential election.

Critics say it's a spoiler that could pull moderate votes, from President Biden, and instead give Trump, the keys to the White House, once again. But the Group says that they are not thinking that far ahead, right now. Instead arguing that America deserves a better choice, than Donald Trump, or Joe Biden.

As for Senator Manchin, he's not ruling out a third-party run, but also says don't call him a spoiler either.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I've never been in any race I've ever spoiled. I've been in races to win. And if I get in a race, I'm going to win.


COLLINS: Also, fueling that 2024 speculation, is the man there, seated to his right, former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman, who was with Manchin, tonight, at that event. He once ran for president, in 2012. And he served as an Ambassador, for both Trump and Obama. But he recently told me, he couldn't support Trump, again.


COLLINS: And joining me now is Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, of West Virginia; and former Governor of Utah, and Trump's former Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman.

Thank you both, for being here.

When you talk about what this is going to look like, is this, an insurance policy, in case the 2024 ticket is looking, like it is, right now, which is a Biden-Trump rematch?

MANCHIN: That's probably a good description. Basically, we're trying to make sure that parties understand you can't stay in the extreme left or extreme right.

The whole process is that most Americans want that center-left, center-right, or the moderate-middle, independent-middle, if you will. And hopefully, we can make them understand that that's where decisions are made. That's where bipartisanship works. That's where you get things done.

And right now, people are sick and tired, of what they're seeing, and upset about, all they see is turmoil and havoc. And we can do better than this. And the people expect us to do better.

And this is a good movement. Input from all over the country. 50,000 different inquiries came in. They put the commonsense agenda together. There's things you can agree, things you might not agree, things you want to adjust, or make adjustments to, or tweak a little bit. Everybody's involved. But I can tell you, a lot of excitement, Kaitlan, a lot of excitement.

COLLINS: And are both of you willing to be --


COLLINS: Go ahead, Ambassador.

HUNTSMAN: Yes. This has been interesting, because Joe and I came together about 12 years ago, around starting No Labels. Nobody paid any attention. Nobody cared. We could have had an event here in New Hampshire, nobody would have shown up. Today? Completely different.

So, what is the difference? There's been a complete implosion, in trust, between the voters and the political system. They're caught in a doom loop that keeps replaying itself over and over again, with the theatrics, and the craziness, on both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile, nothing gets done. So, they see nothing they can even relate to, in their own individual lives.


So, you bring us to where we are today, Kaitlan, and there's been incredible interest, in something that we weren't even prepared for. I mean, Joe and I picked up on where we left off 12 years ago. We come here to New Hampshire, to share the commonsense roadmap.

And I think it really is reflective that the commonsense majority has no voice. And they're beginning to feel the effects of that. And they don't want that to happen any longer.

COLLINS: Are both of you willing to be on a No Labels presidential ticket?

HUNTSMAN: I think it's way too early to jump to conclusions. First of all, No Labels is a platform. It's not a party.

So, what is it doing that's consequential? Well, number one, it has a document that we released, today, this booklet that is made up of conversations, with tens of thousands of Americans, on what they think is important, and where they would identify are priorities.

So, this commonsense roadmap is not something that we just got out, and made up. This is a reflection of where the American people are. So, that's number one.

Number two, No Labels is undertaking this pretty unprecedented and audacious approach, to getting on every state's ballot, which I don't think has ever been done before, by an outside group. It's long. It's tedious. It's expensive.

And so, you'll have, in a sense, a delivery system, should the political, the mainstream political system produce the same results, in 2024, as it did in 2020, in which case, three-fourths of the American voters have said "No, not again. We want an option."

And if I had $1 for every person who stopped me to say, "Why is it that we never have an option outside of just the mainstream party results?" Well, this is providing, for the first time, the American people, a potential option, with a delivery system that actually will connect with every state in America.

COLLINS: Well, and Senator Manchin?

MANCHIN: Kaitlan, this is not a campaign stop. This is not a campaign stop. I know. It's not a campaign stop. This is basically a stop, to hear more Americans, especially New Hampshire, very independent, very outspoken. They want answers.

COLLINS: But also a key --

MANCHIN: And this is a great place for us to be able to come.

COLLINS: Of course a key state, where a lot of presidential hopefuls go.

Senator Manchin, your fellow Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin, actually said today, he called you, and I'm quoting him now, said you are "America's biggest political tease" and that he trusts you will make a judgment to run for reelection, in West Virginia. What's your response to that?

MANCHIN: Well, my friend Dick Durbin knows more than I know.

I haven't made any decision, nor will I make a decision, until the end of the year. And my reason for that? I've never seen a place in the world that basically, the next election starts the day after the last election.

I've got a lot of work to do, for my State of West Virginia, which I love dearly. I've got a lot of work to do, for our government, I mean, to work for this great country of ours.

And I'll tell you, once you become a target? I might be a suspected target now. But once you become a target, things pretty much are very difficult and shut down on you. So, I know everyone's assuming this and that and everything else.

The bottom line is that they all know that I've been extremely independent. I've been very upset, for the far left, and the far right, for all of the chatter that we have going on. And both parties think they have to retreat. That's not where the American people are.

And if they can see this movement, where people said, "Wait a minute. We want commonsense solutions to commonsense problems that we have every day?"

They won't talk about the immigration problems that we have, having an immigration policy that absolutely shuts down the border, makes it secured, and then having a pathway with worker visas, so we have more good workers, in our country, and make states responsible.

A debt that's out of control, and inflation? We have streets that aren't safe today. People are scared. And your schools become a killing field. Nobody wants to talk about how do you find a rational position on that? Or how do you solve the problem?

So, when they see a Democrat and Republican, sitting together, talking together that like each other? That's a novel thing, in the political arena, today. That's, I think, why there's so much chatter.

COLLINS: And given that Senator Manchin, another comment from a fellow Democrat of yours today, Mark Kelly was saying, when it comes to No Labels being a non-profit? That means it doesn't have to reveal who is donating to it. And he said, he framed this, as a few people putting dark money, behind an organization.

Senator Manchin, do you think that people have a right to know who's funding No Labels?

MANCHIN: I think that people have a right to know how the Democratic Party gets all their money, through the dark channels, $1.7 billion in 2020. The Republican Party, through dark money, $1.5 billion, I'm sorry, not trillion -- but billion dollars. That's real money. That's real dark money.

I believe that Citizens United has basically destroyed the system, as we know it. I would vote tomorrow, to get rid of Citizens United.


But for my dear friend, Mark, who I think the world of, to say that point one, a dark money? And the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have made a business out of dark money. That's not accurate.

COLLINS: Ambassador, neither of you, I should note, are pro-Trump.

Senator Manchin voted guilty, on both of Trump's impeachments.

You yourself was his -- you were served as his Ambassador to Russia, but you told me that you would never vote for him, again.

Obviously, the complaint here, from critics, has been that these efforts could help put Trump, back in that office. What do you say to that?

HUNTSMAN: I just think it's premature to draw any conclusions.

I've shared with you before, Kaitlan that I don't think Trump makes it to the finish line. I think he will be so entangled, in legal problems, that he just doesn't make it that far. And even if he did, there's no guarantee that when you do the mathematics, that this would, in fact, help him.

But the very fact that we're having a conversation about minimizing or limiting people's choices, and participation, in the greatest democracy that ever was is a little disconcerting.

So, having lived in places, like China and Russia, where people have no choice, where there is no talk, about expanding access, to the ballot box, where there is no right to assemble, and express your feelings, in a free and open fashion? These are the traditions that we cherish in this country.

And when people start talking about, "Well, you've got to limit this or that because the outcomes might be A, B, or C," is just very anti- American. And it just doesn't resonate with me. And I don't think it resonates with a lot of people.

But it's pre-season, in politics. There's a lot of hyperbole, about what is going on here, and about what it all might mean. I think we'd let it play out. This is a country, where the people are still in charge. And they should be given choices.


HUNTSMAN: And they should be given a process, whereby we can begin, to identify the issues that are most pressing, in this country, and figuring out ways, to resolve them, for the sake of the next generation

MANCHIN: Kaitlan, the greatest thing is to have the choice, the choice to make a decision, on how do you fix problems, and who's willing to do it. Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have the ability to do that.

COLLINS: Given that, Senator?

MANCHIN: That they basically play --

COLLINS: I mean, you can -- well, let's talk about you in this, because what the -- a lot of the criticism is coming from your own party. And you were a key player in a lot of the deals, the legislative action that we saw coming out of the Biden White House, in President Biden's first term.

By doing this, are you saying that you don't believe President Biden has governed, as the centrist candidate that he ran as?

MANCHIN: Well, first of all, that's not accurate whatsoever. I believe that every person, when you're in a Senate, no matter who the president is, you want to make sure they succeed, and do everything you can. But you have to speak truth to power.

So, everything that I did? I tried to bring people together. I tried to make sure that I could go home and explain what we were doing.

We need an energy policy that works for our country that gives us the energy we need, to run this country, today, but also the investments in the technology, for the future. It's a balanced approach, an all-in energy policy.

So, anything I could have, my vote was critical, I always had -- I had a lot of input. But I think I was rational. I wasn't trying to stop things, for politics. I was trying to make it better. And I've done the same thing, for the first two years, with President Trump. But then, it got to the point, where they made it very difficult. And you have to do the job that you've basically taken an oath to do.

100 -- 400 and -- 535 of us, 100 senators, and 435 Congress, we take the same pledge. We take the same oath, to protect and defend the Constitution. Doesn't have whether defend and protect it, if it's a Republican or Democrat. You do it for the country.

And I'm just so sick and tired of people thinking, "Oh, you're not on this team and that team." I'm on the American team. I've got one team, one slogan. It's all about America.

COLLINS: But what does it say about President Biden that you were part of this effort that you're up in New Hampshire, with Ambassador Huntsman, having this conversation, today?

MANCHIN: I think he's been pushed too far left. He knows that.

And we're still friends. We can talk. I just think that basically, in a lot of the ways they're interpreting and trying to implement pieces of legislation that never had the intent of what they're trying to do, to make something that wasn't passed. So, we have our differences. You have the ability to dialog, and to talk about it.

But I think he's been pushed too far to the left. I don't think that's his inherent, who he is as a person. And I think that he has the strength to fight back, and he will. We'll see.

COLLINS: Senator Joe Manchin, Ambassador Jon Huntsman, thank you both, for joining, tonight.

HUNTSMAN: Thanks, Kaitlan.

MANCHIN: Thank you, Kaitlan.

HUNTSMAN: Great pleasure.

MANCHIN: Appreciate it.

HUNTSMAN: Great pleasure.

MANCHIN: Bye-bye.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.


COLLINS: Should also note that I asked Senator Manchin, and Ambassador Huntsman, about No Labels platform that came out today. They called it this commonsense platform.


It talked about a lot of the major issues in the country, immigration, Social Security. But it didn't have specifics on abortion and these end policies that are obviously critically important. Ambassador Huntsman said that they are policies put forward, to be a roadmap, not a destination.

Ahead, tonight, Democrats are scolding one of their own colleagues, after the top House progressive called Israel, a racist state. Congresswoman Jayapal has now apologized. But is it enough?

Plus, my exclusive sit-down, with a target, of Donald Trump's ire, in 2020. He tried to get him pushed out of office. The Republican governor of Georgia, where he stands, now, on the twice-indicted former President.


COLLINS: Bipartisan backlash, tonight, as there are calls, for disciplinary action, against Democratic congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal. This outrage is sparked by comments, she made, during a weekend panel, as it was interrupted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): We have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state.


JAYAPAL: That the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy.



COLLINS: After those comments, Jayapal later apologized, and said, quote, "I do not believe that the idea of Israel as a nation is racist. I do, however, believe that Netanyahu's extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government."

Joining me now, former Obama senior adviser, David Axelrod; and former Trump White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin.


David, I mean, after those comments, there was a lot of backlash, yesterday.

43 House Democrats have come out, and criticized her. Leadership came out. They didn't mention her by name. But it was pretty clear they were talking about her.

But Republicans say that they want disciplinary action to be taken.

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, all I can tell you is I remember when Marjorie Taylor Greene got elected, and it turned out that she had embraced this crazy QAnon idea that fires in California were set off by the Rothschilds, and space lasers? And she's now one of the close-in lieutenants of Kevin McCarthy. So, this is a game, a political game.

I think it's a deadly serious issue. And I, look, I've been critical, for a long period of time of the Netanyahu government. I believe in a two-state solution, I believe that permanent occupation is not in the interest of Israel, or the Palestinians. All of that is legitimate.

I think she got over her skis, in front of a crowd, and went too far. And she, as much as acknowledged it. And I think let's have a serious discussion about the issue, rather than trying to put points on the board, as, I think, is happening, on the Republican side.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and I think that there are elements of the progressive left that do veer into anti-Zionism.

And I think that there is a -- there has to be a discussion, about separating the issue, of the Israeli and Palestinian dispute, and actually not engaging with something that goes a step further, which is what I felt like her disgraceful comments were.

But I commend Democrats. They came out roundly, and quickly, and leadership condemned the comments that she made. That's how it should be handled. Now, I was a little surprised that this came from the Congresswoman. Because, she is a leader. She's not somebody, who's known to kind of fly off the handle, as much as some of the members of the Squad, earlier in their careers, did. I think that this was a comment that reflected her views. But once she said it, she realized that it needed to be walked back.

I also think boycotting the President's visit to the States is not something that's in our best interest. I think --

AXELROD: And her --


COLLINS: So, he's coming --

FARAH GRIFFIN: I believe that she should --

COLLINS: Just for everyone, who doesn't know, he's coming to Washington. He's giving an address to Congress. And several progressives are boycotting his speech, citing human rights, tomorrow.

AXELROD: Yes, look, this is an issue, OK? The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, the treatment of the Palestinians.

There's another side of the issue, which is acts of terrorism, aimed at Israel. And -- but that is different than questioning, essentially, the essential quality of Israel, which, after all, was born as a reaction to the worst acts of racism, the Holocaust, and Nazi Germany. And this emerged -- this country emerged from that.

So, it was a painful thing to say, and, I think, a thoughtless thing to say. Doesn't undercut the fact that the issue needs to be thought through.

The President obviously has concerns about it, because he is promoting, still promoting a two-state solution.

But I will say this. Even as we're having this discussion? There are hundreds of thousands of people, in the streets of a pretty vibrant democracy, in Israel, to protest what Netanyahu wants to do, in terms of the judiciary, there, and undermining the rule of law. And that, to me, speaks to the vibrancy of -- those people want fair treatment of minorities, in that country, and so on.

So, I think there's more nuance to this issue than she recognized.


Well, I also want to ask you about another development that happened, today. This was also in the news, because the White House came out, today, and condemned some astonishing, but maybe not surprising comments, from the long-shot Democratic presidential contender, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., where he suggested that COVID was designed, to spare Jewish and Chinese people.

These were remarks that were obtained, by the "New York Post."


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In fact, COVID-19, there's an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately.

COVID-19 is targeted to attack, Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.


COLLINS: First of all, he is completely wrong. Those comments just amplify racist and anti-Semitic tropes.

RFK Jr. claimed afterward, and I'm quoting him now, "I have never ever suggested that the COVID-19 virus was targeted to spare Jews."

Of course, you just heard him there, on that audio.


This is just the latest false conspiracy theory to be pushed by RFK Jr., the same guy, who has walked back other of his conspiracy-laden comments, likening public health efforts, to Nazi experiments, during the Holocaust, suggesting that manmade chemicals, in the environment, are making children gay.

Panel is back with me.

I mean, Alyssa, Kevin McCarthy was asked about these comments, today. He said, "I disagree with everything he said."

But RFK Jr. is still set to testify, at a hearing, on the weaponization of the government, and censorship, later this week. And he defended the fact that he hasn't been uninvited from them.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and it's thematically relevant to what we were talking about before. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, all over the world, and in this country. And we, as Republicans, can't have credibility, in condemning it, if we're going to give a platform, to somebody, like this, who's espousing just absurd untruths and myths.

And censorship is a very real issue. There's plenty of great people, you can bring on, to talk about censorship, without amplifying, somebody who is a known feeder of misinformation and disinformation.

But, by the way, I would note. He has polling at 20 percent, in some polls. I mean, the "Kennedy" name will get you a certain distance. But there is an element of our culture that likes them.

AXELROD: Yes. But he has, since he announced his candidacy, his numbers have gone down, among Democrats, and up, among Republicans. He's now the darling of Tucker Carlson, and the conspiracy theory crowd.

I will say, for the record, I'm an Ashkenazi Jew. And I had COVID, twice.

COLLINS: Thank you for clearing that.

AXELROD: Yes. And I'll tell you something else.

And maybe I better check in with 23andMe.

COLLINS: Hope all that they've wanted (ph).

AXELROD: But I'm also someone, who grew up, inspired by Robert Kennedy, who he really was the greatest influence, my greatest political influence, as a kid. And I am who I am, in part, because of that.

It's painful to see someone defile his name, his son defile his name, by building a campaign, on a platform, of really, really vile conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic tropes.

And the fact that they're giving him this platform, I think, is, you know, I think they think it's mischief within the Democratic primary, to give Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a platform. These are not serious people. And they need to get serious. We have a lot of serious issues, in this country. And this is a big waste of time. And you're giving a guy a platform, who's going to abuse it.

COLLINS: But also, Republicans are saying that -- some Republicans, I should note are saying that Jayapal should be censured, or there should be some kind of act because of her comments. But they're also still saying that this guy can still come on Capitol Hill and testify.

FARAH GRIFFIN: This is what drives me crazy, in this moment, of the Republican Party, is we lose the moral high ground, and the credibility, on issues we care about, like anti-Semitism, when we're not going to condemn it, if it's somebody, who's maybe one of ours? David is right that he has been supported by people, like Steve Bannon, and the likes. But then, we're not going to condemn it when it's someone else.

COLLINS: David Axelrod, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you, for fact- checking that. It was perfect.

Ahead, he faced Donald Trump's wrath, after certifying Biden's win, in Georgia, and saying he couldn't do what Trump didn't -- wanted him to do, when it came to overturning the election results. But will he support Trump again?


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): And I told him exactly what I could and couldn't do, when it came to the election. And I followed the law, and the Constitution.

But that's a lot bigger than Donald Trump. It's a lot bigger than me. It's a lot bigger than the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: That exclusive interview, with Republican governor, Brian Kemp is, next.



COLLINS: Georgia could prove to be one of the most crucial battleground states, in 2024. It certainly was in 2020. And it remains at the center of two investigations, into former President Trump, and his allies' efforts, to overturn the election results.

Earlier today, I sat down with Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, in Washington, who made news, on whether or not he is considering running, in the crowded 2024 field, saying it's not in it for him.


COLLINS: Governor, thank you for joining us here, in Washington.

Normally, I would probably ask this question last. But because of some comments, you made, recently, I'm going to ask it first. Have you fully closed the door, on running for president, in 2024?

KEMP: Well, I have a lot of people writing a lot of different things, about me and 2024. And I've said, look, in politics, there's always doors opening and closing.

I got a great job, right now. I personally feel like having more people in the race does not help us win and beat Joe Biden. So, I'm certainly not running for president. But there's always doors open, in politics, depending on how things play out. And we'll see what happens.

COLLINS: You do know this field of people, who are running, pretty well, a few other sitting governors.

KEMP: Yes.

COLLINS: What do you make of the current race? Is there anyone that you would think could actually beat Donald Trump?

KEMP: Well, it doesn't seem like there's a lot going on, right now. I mean, there is, with the fundraising numbers coming out. But the race has been pretty stagnant, if you're looking at all the national polls.

But I don't -- I kind of take that with a grain of salt. You're in the fixing to be in the dog days of August. And it just hasn't been a lot of movement. And people getting their legs under them now. And so, I think there's still a long way to go in the race. And we'll see where that goes.

COLLINS: Are you surprised that Governor DeSantis has not gained more traction? I mean, you referenced the polls. You talked about the fundraising. Are you surprised he hasn't been a more formidable challenger to Trump so far?

KEMP: If you talk to his camp, they're doing a lot of really good things, a lot of good things on the ground. And they're in it for the long haul.

I think Ron was in a pretty tough spot, when he got in the race. His numbers were so high, before he got in. In some ways, he didn't have anywhere to go. And now, he's gotten in a stagnant place. But they're making a lot of changes.

But there's a lot of other great candidates in the race. A lot of friends of mine are in the race. And so, I'm continuing to watch and see where they go.

But my thing is, Kaitlan, we got to win. We got to have a candidate that can win, and can beat Joe Biden, and can win, in states, like Georgia. There's no path, for us to win the White House, if we can't win Georgia. And so, that's what I've stayed focused on.

And really, I've had a message to every candidate out there. Listen, we have to tell the American people what we are for. We got to be forward-thinking and tell them what we're going to do. We can't be looking in the rearview mirror. And then, we got to have a candidate that can beat Joe Biden, in November.

COLLINS: You say the road to the White House must include Georgia. I mean, can Donald Trump win Georgia? He's the front-runner, right now.

KEMP: Well, I think he can. Because Joe Biden has been such a bad president. His approval ratings are just terrible, in the State of Georgia, right now. So, I think he can.


I also think he can lose Georgia, if he's not doing what I said, telling people what he's for, staying focused on the race, quit looking back, at the 2020 election. I mean, for goodness sakes that was two and a half, three years, ago now. The American people want to know "What are you going to do, for me, to help me offset the bad policies of Joe Biden?"

I mean, Biden talks about, the middle-out, "We're going to grow the economy from the middle-out, and the bottom-up." The only thing coming out of the middle, right now, is people's money, coming out of their wallet.

COLLINS: You apparently said at a Republican donor retreat recently that quote, "Not a single swing voter in a single swing state will vote for our nominee, if they choose to talk about the 2020 election being stolen."

But the Republican front-runner is still saying that. He still talks about it, all the time.

KEMP: I think if he continues to do that, he's going to lose Georgia, in November. I mean, people are not worried about the past, regardless about -- of how you feel about the election, you know?

If you're a Republican, and you feel like, you know, if you're a moderate Republican or, if you're center-left independent or center- right independent? They are not worried about the 2020 election, right now.

And if you feel like the election was stolen? And other people that are out there that do? There's others that don't? But it doesn't really matter.

COLLINS: You said you'll do what you can, to get the Republican nominee elected. Even if it's Trump?

KEMP: I'm going to certainly be supporting a Republican nominee, to beat Joe Biden.

COLLINS: But even -- I mean, Trump pressured you, to overturn the election. He wanted you to call a special session. He said he was ashamed that he had endorsed you because you didn't do. You said you couldn't do what he wanted you to do, there. I mean, he called you hapless.

Even despite all of that you would still work to get him elected, if he's a nominee?

KEMP: He was mad at me. I was not mad at him. I told him exactly what I could and couldn't do, when it came to the election. And I followed the law, and the Constitution.

And, as I've said before, that's a lot bigger than Donald Trump. It's a lot bigger than me. It's a lot bigger than the Republican Party. And that's what I'm going to continue to do, as the governor. And that's what I did, in 2020.

But despite all of those things, I believe anybody running for President, right now, as a Republican? They would be better than what we're seeing with the Biden-Harris administration.

COLLINS: I just think it might surprise some people that you would work, to help get him elected, given your history with him?

KEMP: Well, I would ask a lot of people, I mean not -- I have people that say, I just can't go there and do that.

But I'm thinking of, the next president is going to be picking probably another Supreme Court Justice, and, judges on the Court of Appeals, and federal judgeships and, dealing with shrinking our military, and standing up to our adversaries, around the world. And who do you want -- who would you want to be your president? I mean, that's the question that everybody's got to ask themselves.

He may or may not be the nominee. So, we'll wait and see.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, in Georgia, Fani Willis, the Fulton County District Attorney is close, we are told, to announcing a charging decision, in her investigation. Of course, it's gone on for two years now. Into Trump and his allies' efforts, to overturn the results, in your State.

Are you surprised that it's taken this long, to announce, if there are going to be charges?

KEMP: Well, probably more disappointed that it's taken this long. People are wondering like why is this taking so long? Why haven't we had -- why haven't we had resolution?

So, I think that just sows distrust, in the system, which is unfortunate. That's not what people should be feeling, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. So, it is, I know it's frustrating. But we'll see what she comes out with, and at the appropriate time.


COLLINS: Comments there, from Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, who I should note, when he talked about people, who still believe the election is stolen, made clear that he does not believe that.

Up next, tonight, we are going to talk about Putin vowing revenge, after Ukraine bombed a key bridge. It looks like Russia may already be striking back.



COLLINS: Tonight, Russia is launching airstrikes, in Southern Ukraine. Explosions were seen, and heard, by CNN's team that is on the ground, in the City of Odessa. This is coming nearly 24 hours, after Ukraine took the rare step, of claiming responsibility, for attacking a key bridge, in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Kremlin says that Ukrainian sea drones targeted this 12-mile long bridge that directly connects Crimea, to the mainland of Russia. The bridge is a personal project, of President Putin's, and essentially seen as his way, to assert Russia's dominance, over Crimea, which I should note he illegally annexed, in 2014.

Ukrainians revile the bridge, seeing it as a reminder, of Russia's initial invasion.

Today, Putin called the strike, on the bridge, a terrorist attack, and issued this warning.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There definitely will be a response from Russia. The Ministry of Defense is preparing proposals.


COLLINS: Joining me now, retired U.S. Army Major General Dana Pittard.

Thank you so much, for being here, tonight. I mean, he says, essentially, they were prepared for a retaliation. Do you believe these strikes that we're seeing happening, in Odessa, right now, are that retaliation?

MAJ. GEN. DANA PITTARD, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, good evening. Kaitlan.

Yes, I do. In fact, it's retaliation for the blowing up of the Kerch Strait Bridge.

COLLINS: This bridge is symbolic, for Putin. Obviously, personally, it is. Remember, he drove a Mercedes, across it, to show that it was safe, after the last attack, on this bridge.

But it's also strategic, because it's the only, essentially, direct link to Russia, from Crimea as well. I mean, clearly, that's why the Ukrainians were targeting it, in that attack, this morning.

PITTARD: No, absolutely. It's a key supply line that links mainland Russia, with the Crimean peninsula. And it's been used, by the Russians, as supply lines, since their invasion, in 2022.

COLLINS: And this is coming as Ukraine is conducting this counteroffensive, even Zelenskyy -- President Zelenskyy had said it's going slower than they hoped it was.

What do you make of the fact that they are using a naval drone, for this attack, on the Kerch Strait Bridge? What does it say about Ukraine's military capabilities?


PITTARD: Well, I think it's ingenious. In fact, I'm sure it gives Russians concern, both from the land and the sea, that the Ukrainians have the ability, now, to use sea drones that can go underwater, and be used either against Russian ships, or bridges, or other things near the sea.

But what's also happening, on the Ukrainian side, though, is their counteroffensive is stalled. This is not what they had planned to do.

COLLINS: And what do you -- how do you think they change that?

PITTARD: Well, they're trying to do a couple things. One is isolate the Crimean peninsula, like they're doing, making it untenable, for the Russians. They're continuing to try to probe the Russian defenses, to find a point, where they can conduct a penetration, exploit it, attack through it, and drive towards the Sea of Azov.

But, up to this point, they haven't been able to do that because of the Russian-layered defenses.

COLLINS: And as this is going on, Russia announced that they terminated a grain deal with Ukraine. I mean, this is not something that only matters, to Ukraine, and to Russia. This is shaking the global food market. I mean, Ukraine accounts for 10 percent of the world's wheat market, 15 percent of the corn market, 13 percent of the barley market.

Do you believe another country's going to have to get involved here? What's your expectation? What are the ramifications of Putin terminating this deal?

PITTARD: Well, President Putin suspending the Black Sea Grain Initiative is huge. A lot of countries, as you mentioned, depend on it. Countries, from Africa, the Middle East, even China has become much more dependent, upon Ukrainian grain. So, I do believe that at some point, China will prod Russia, to go back to the negotiating table, for the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

COLLINS: We'll see.

PITTARD: Because they depend upon that grain also.

COLLINS: Yes, we'll see if China does do that.

General Dana Pittard, thank you so much, for your expertise, tonight.

PITTARD: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Ahead, on the eve of a key hearing, for Donald Trump, and his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, the judge, in the classified documents case, has just issued an order, to Trump's team, about what she wants to talk about.

Her warning, on what to be prepared for tomorrow, is next.



COLLINS: Donald Trump's lawyers, and prosecutors from the Justice Department, are both preparing, for their first hearing, tomorrow, in front of Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge, Aileen Cannon, in Florida.

She, of course, is the judge, who's going to oversee the classified documents case. And today, she did put both sides, on notice that they will be talking about a trial date, tomorrow.

Here with me, tonight, for insight, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former Chief Assistant District Attorney, in the Manhattan D.A.'s Office.

Tomorrow is going to be interesting, for so many reasons. I mean, it's the first time, we've seen, Judge Cannon, in this role, as she's overseeing this case. So, we could get insight into what she's going to do, but also, when a trial could be potentially.

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT D.A. FOR MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Yes. I think everyone's going to be watching, to see how she's going to play things.

Because, don't forget, she ruled, in a way, previously, last fall, on the search warrant, in a way that seemed to favor Trump. She got reversed.

And so, everyone's looking to see what will she do here?

Because, the trial was set for August.

The Department of Justice, through Jack Smith said, "How about December? We can't be ready in August."

And Trump's team said "Actually no, don't set a trial date at all, because the election's coming up."

So, we'll see is she going to set a trial date at all? Will it be before the election? Or will she go along with Trump's team, and not set a trial date.

COLLINS: So, she could set a trial date, tomorrow, potentially?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Yes, I mean, that's what's typically done, in federal cases. Typically, they set a trial date, and you work backwards, from there. You discuss what's reasonable.

There's a Speedy Trial Act that requires a speedy trial. But there are certain exceptions, and pauses that can be put on it. And all of that is discussed ahead of time.

But typically, there is a trial date set. And so, that would be what would commonly happen, in a federal case.

COLLINS: Yes. We're also waiting to see what's going to happen, in Georgia.

I spoke with the State's Republican governor, earlier today, Brian Kemp. And I asked him his view, essentially, on why we haven't seen charges yet, if there are going to be charges. He said this.


COLLINS: Are you surprised that it's taken this long, to announce, if there are going to be charges?

KEMP: Well, probably more disappointed that it's taken this long. People are wondering like why is this taking so long? Why haven't we had -- why haven't we had resolution?

So, I think that just sows distrust, in the system, which is unfortunate. That's not what people should be feeling, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. So, it is, I know it's frustrating. But we'll see what she comes out with, and at the appropriate time.


COLLINS: It's been two years. Is that longer than typically you would see? I mean, this is -- you can't really compare this to anything else. But is that longer?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: It depends on what she ultimately does. If this is a one-count indictment, about the phone call, "Find 11,780 votes?" That would be unusual. And this would be quite -- taking quite long.

But if she comes out with what we think is a multi-defendant sweeping indictment that encompasses a lot of different states? The racketeering, RICO Act, this racketeering charges that we think she's going to bring? I think it's going to be -- it could be hundreds of pages, this indictment. And if that's the case? Then no, that would be typical, to take this long.

COLLINS: And do you expect that based on just reading the tea leaves, obviously, but the idea that she's told the court, to essentially clear the calendar? They've talked about security, for the month of August? The fact that it has been two years that they've been investigating?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: I think it's possible, for sure. I mean, this was a huge sweeping effort, to basically overthrow the election, right?

And so, it just depends on how far she wants to go. I mean, there's so many people, who were involved, in this scheme. And so, it just depends on how many defendants, how many charges, and how sweeping it is, whether she goes nationwide, or she sticks with just Georgia.

COLLINS: Yes. And it could include, as I noted, to Kemp there, even some of the Republican former state officials.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

Ahead, two milestones, in the worlds of law enforcement.



COLLINS: A history-making day, as Edward Caban was appointed, as New York City's Police Commissioner, today. The son of a Puerto Rican transit police officer, now becoming the first Latino officer, to lead the, nation's largest police force, in its 177-year history.

Washington, D.C. also nominating a new Police Chief, today. If confirmed, by the D.C. City Council, Pamela Smith, that you see here, would be the second woman, and the first Black woman, to permanently run that department.

Also, a special programming, before we go, tonight. Tune into "THE LEAD," tomorrow, at 4 PM. My colleague, Jake Tapper, will be interviewing Republican presidential candidate, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. Of course, a lot to ask him.

Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight. We'll see you here, tomorrow.

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

Hi, Laura.



We are going to be going really deep, into what's going on, in these Gilgo murders. It's unbelievable what's happening there, I'm telling you.

COLLINS: Absolutely.

COATES: This is right up my alley. And that sounds odd. But we're going there. Thank you so much.

COLLINS: No one better to talk about it than you.

COATES: All right, I owe you money. Fine, Kaitlan. Thank you so much.