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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

WSJ: Trump Target Letter Cites Three Criminal Statutes, Including Conspiracy And Tampering With A Witness; MI6 Chief On Putin's Actions Amid Mutiny: Wagner Chief Started Day "As A Traitor," Was "Pardoned By Supper"; Controversial Jason Aldean Music Video Pulled By CMT. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 19, 2023 - 21:00   ET




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

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, I have brand-new reporting, on how Trump is beefing up his legal team, as he's bracing for another potential indictment, from the Special Counsel. I'll share that scoop in a moment.

And stunning new details on the U.S. soldier, believed to be detained in North Korea, tonight, after crossing the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone. A witness says she saw him bolt across the border, and you're going to hear her account.

Plus, the music video that is rocking the world of country music and beyond. Why Jason Aldean's chart-topper was pulled by Country Music Television.

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

Good evening. We start, tonight, with that breaking news, on how Trump is adding more firepower, to his legal team, as he is bracing, for a potential another indictment, from the Special Counsel.

Of course, as we know, Trump shocked the world, when he announced yesterday, he had gotten that target letter, from Jack Smith's team. And now, I have learned that he has quietly added a new criminal defense attorney, in recent weeks, to his team.

I'm told that John Lauro, a former federal prosecutor, turned white- collar attorney, is going to be joining that team, that team that is focused on what could be an indictment, in the coming days. He will be focused, on the January 6th investigation.

And of course, that comes, after last month, when Trump was indicted in the documents case, two of his key attorneys departed his team, one of them who was very familiar, with the January 6th investigation.

Now, Trump is adding a new person, to that team, of course, as they are trying to figure out more about that potential indictment, what evidence does Jack Smith have, what witnesses has he spoken to that Trump and his team were unaware of?

Of course, I should note, John Lauro is someone, who was part of that group that was reaching out to others, in Trump's orbit, attempting to find out who else may have gotten a target letter.

I should note that as we came to air, tonight, here at 9 o'clock Eastern, so far, they have not uncovered anyone else, who has also gotten a target letter, in the January 6th probe.

Meanwhile, that grand jury that is hearing evidence is expected to hear more, from other witnesses, tomorrow, one going back for his third visit, before the grand jury. We have learned that Trump's team has been asking around, to see about those other potential witnesses, that other potential evidence, as they're trying to learn more, and bracing for another indictment, potentially.

As we know, Donald Trump has until tomorrow night, given that target letter, to answer that. But sources say it is highly doubtful that he would accept an offer, to testify, himself. After that, his legal team is going to be on indictment watch. Tonight, they are already bracing for it.

All of this is coming, as we are now learning what kind of charges, Trump might be facing. This is included in that target letter that he got. According to multiple news outlets, there are three federal statutes that are included, in the letter that Trump's team got, on Sunday night. Deprivation of rights, conspiracy to commit an offense or defraud the United States, and witness tampering. Serious crimes and historic times.

Let's bring in someone, who was once in that inner circle of Trump's.

And joining me now is the former National Security Adviser, to Donald Trump, John Bolton.

Ambassador, thank you, for being here, tonight.

What do you make of the fact that the former President, and your former boss, is on the verge, of potentially being indicted, in this case?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Well, we haven't seen the indictment yet. Although, I agree, it certainly looks like one is coming almost any day. We don't know the exact scope of it, which could have a big influence.

But I have to say, this being the third indictment, not having seen a real political impact, negative to Trump, on the first two? In fact, if anything, it helped bolster his stature with supporters. A third indictment, or even a fourth indictment, I don't think is going to change that much politically.

I think the single most important question, now, on the legal side is whether any of these cases actually get to trial, before the 2024 election. That's what's going to be important. Not this indictment or that indictment or the next indictment. Which case, if any, gets to trial, and does he get convicted?

COLLINS: Yes. And we saw his attorneys, in court, for the documents investigation, this week, essentially arguing that if they do have the case, that it should be from mid-November of next year on.

I mean, do you think it's fair for voters to go to the polls, to cast their votes, if they don't know what the outcome of that trial, or these trials, potentially could be?


BOLTON: No, I mean, I think the clear consideration, any defendant is entitled to time, to prepare his defense.

But, as they say, justice delayed is justice denied. If Trump really wanted justice, he'd be saying, "I want to go to trial as soon as possible, and remove this cloud, from over my candidacy." That's obviously not what he wants to do.

I happen to think his attorneys, in the documents case, made a substantial mistake, by putting it fairly directly to the judge, they don't want the case before the election. That shows the real strategy. And when you think about it, it is shocking.

Now, it may be difficult to have a kind of traffic jam here, with all these cases. But I think it's part of the court's duty, to make sure that the public interest is served as well. The defendant has a legitimate interest in time, to prepare his or her defense.

But I do think, in this case, giving special privileges, to somebody, just because they're a candidate for president, is not consistent with the notion of one law for all.

COLLINS: One avenue that we know, from our reporting that Jack Smith has been pushing and pursuing, is this idea that Trump knew that he lost the election. I mean, is it clear to you that he did, at that time?

BOLTON: Well, I think that's the central difficulty, with what may come, from the January 6th investigation. It's why I personally think it's the documents case, that's the most important.

Trump will have a lot of ways, to say, "I thought I had a legitimate reason to believe that the election had been stolen." There will be witnesses, who will say, "Well, we told him that it was -- that he lost and he wouldn't accept it." But there were other people, maybe crazy people, but they were telling him it had been stolen.

So, I think the intent issue here is difficult. And I think that's where the focus of Trump's defense will be.

COLLINS: Yes. And I know you said, back in August of 2020, that you had concerns, about the way Trump was talking about the election, saying that the only way he could lose is if it was rigged.

But what you just said there is important. You're talking about the people, who were around Trump, and what they were telling them. We've talked about this Team Normal versus Team Crazy. Do you expect that Sidney Powell, the Rudy Giuliani, the John Eastmans, that those attorneys should be indicted, in this case?

BOLTON: Well, they could well be. I mean, I think the key witnesses here could be people, like Rudy Giuliani, or Mark Meadows, to whom Trump may really have said something that's very hard for him to dodge, really showing that he lost.

I mean, he said a lot of things, in the nature of, "How could I lose to that" fill-in-the-blank "Bozo, Joe Biden." And some people said, "See that shows he knew he lost." I think he could easily argue it shows the opposite that, "Of course, he couldn't lose to that bozo Joe Biden. Therefore, it must have been stolen."

And I think the worst outcome, in any of these cases, from the public interest point of view, of keeping Trump, from becoming president, again, is that he's acquitted, or gets a hung jury, because that fits directly, into his argument that these cases were all political, he's being persecuted.

So, a lot rides on this. I'm sure Jack Smith understands that. But a win here could shake up this election. An acquittal or a hung jury could give Trump, the Republican nomination, for sure, in my view, and might win in the election.

COLLINS: Speaker Kevin McCarthy, after January 6th said that Trump bears responsibility, for what happened that day.

He is now saying that he doesn't think Trump has any criminal culpability. He told my colleague, Melanie Zanona, "I don't see how he could be found criminally responsible," for what happened on January 6th, for those efforts, to overturn the election.

Do you disagree with that?

BOLTON: Well, it depends on what this indictment says. I mean, I think the better thing, for Republican leaders, to be saying, if they say anything, is "This case is now in the criminal justice process. And I'm not going to comment on it." That was the tradition in American politics. It was a good tradition. We ought to go back to it.

I think, from what has been reported, about the target letter, that Trump received, on Sunday was that I could see an indictment here that doesn't deal with January, the 6th at all, as many people have commented. And it could be part of Smith's strategy, to kind of separate the case, into different indictments. I mean, we'll know soon enough, I think.

COLLINS: When you ever worked for him, did you ever think that it would be a situation like this, where he's been twice-indicted now, maybe thrice-indicted? BOLTON: Well, I think it's, I just felt that his desire, to take advantage, of the judicial system? In my book, I referred to it as obstruction of justice, as a way of life.


It wasn't that he played close to the edge. He did acknowledge there were edges, there were limits, to what he could do. And it was probably only a matter of time that he did something that could result in an actual criminal trial. But again, the equities here, a prosecutor has to decide.

And I think many of Trump's critics of whom, I'm obviously one, miss the point. It's not impeachment that stops him. It's not indictment that stops him. It's conviction. If you impeach him, and you fail to convict, you don't constrain him. You empower him. If you indict him here, and fail to convict, you could elect him president again.

COLLINS: Ambassador John Bolton, thank you, for your time, tonight.

For more on what we are learning, about the Special Counsel's investigation, I want to bring in one of the most foremost experts, in election law, Republican attorney, Ben Ginsberg. He also testified, I should note, as an expert, before the House January 6th congressional committee.

Thank you so much, for being here.

When you look at this, and you hear this reporting, about these three statutes that are allegedly cited in this letter? That is what Trump is ultimately charged with. Which one do you think is the most important?

BEN GINSBERG, ELECTION LAWYER, TESTIFIED BEFORE JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: Well, it really depends on what the facts that Jack Smith presents are. In other words, if this is a case, where there is a broad conspiracy, with lots of information that we don't know yet? Then any of the three could be serious.

I think the deprivation of rights count is probably the most interesting, because that could, in effect, open up a discussion, the proof that Trump would have to make that his charges of rigged elections were actually true. And it would be a worthwhile exercise, for the American people, to actually hear, if Donald Trump can make that case.

COLLINS: Well, that statute was -- also stood out to me, because the other two we kind of knew about that they could be an option? That's what the January 6th committee actually recommended, to the Justice Department.

But the one you're talking about was one that was enacted, after the Civil War. And essentially, as "The New York Times" sums this up, tonight, it was to provide a tool, for federal agents, to go after KKK members, who engaged in terrorism. But what they say the modern usage of it could look like is essentially Trump facing prosecution, on accusations of trying to rig the election himself.

GINSBERG: Yes. And that goes to what you were talking about earlier, with Ambassador Bolton, which is his intent. Not only it's his intent, it's the knowledge that he had, and what he was told.

Remember that there were 64 court cases, after the election. He lost all of them. 14 of them never got to -- were dismissed on procedural grounds. 14, he voluntarily dismissed. Over 30 actually were hearings on the merits. And he couldn't prove the fraud that he said, in any of those cases.

So, if it now comes back to his intent, there could be a thorough examination, of what he knew, and whether there is any validity at all, to the charges that our elections are rigged.

COLLINS: And obviously, Jack Smith has been able to do a lot more, because the power of his subpoena, packs a lot more punch, than the congressional committee. How much more evidence, do you think, he has been able to get than the January 6th committee was?

GINSBERG: Well, a couple of hints on that.

First of all, the documents case, when it produced, showed a far more in-depth investigation, than anyone had seen coming.

Secondly, you saw the January 6th committee report, and the number of witnesses, who did not talk to them, who managed to stiff-arm a congressional committee, and not give information.

What's interesting is that Jack Smith has been able to talk to all those people. And there are a series of court decisions we know about, in which attempts to invoke either Executive privilege, or attorney- client privilege, have been rejected by the courts. So, you know, from that that Jack Smith has been able to gather far more evidence, than the January 6th committee was able to.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, Mike Pence, for example, so many of these officials.


COLLINS: Ben, you have always been outspoken, about the state of democracy, and preserving it.

We have kind of seen a preview of what Trump's defense here could look like. He said things like he has the right to question the election. Obviously, he did a lot more than that. He tried to overturn the election.

In your view, how big of a moment is this, for the country, and preserving that democracy?

GINSBERG: I think it's a huge moment. Look, we are in a more precarious situation, as a country, than we've been, in a long time. We are a very polarized country. That's happened before.


But the number of people, in this country, who doubt the veracity, and reliability, of our elections, is at an all-time high. And now, you've got an indicted former President, running for office, in an election, in which he claimed is rigged. That is, under any definition of it, a toxic mix.

And so, Jack Smith's ability to be able to lay out facts that we haven't seen yet, and the theory of what Donald Trump may have done, to stand in the way, of the will of the people, in the election, is a huge moment, for the country.

COLLINS: Ben Ginsberg, a huge moment, for the country. Thank you, for joining us, tonight.

GINSBERG: Thank you.

COLLINS: Also, we have breaking news, tonight, here.

Russia is targeting the port city of Odessa, in Southern Ukraine. It's the third night in a row that they have been bombarding them. Ukraine's Armed Forces recording at least eight Russian aircraft flying in the direction of the Black Sea. Of course, this comes just days after they terminated that grain deal. We will be there live, on the ground, in just a moment.

Also, just weeks away from the first presidential debate, some Republican candidates are still scrambling, to make the stage, including names that might surprise you. Donald Trump has not committed to taking the stage. And the head of the Republican National Committee has advice for him tonight.


COLLINS: We are a little more than five weeks away, from the first Republican debate, in Wisconsin. What is that debate stage going to look like?

A reminder, of course, the Republican National Committee sets criteria, for candidates to qualify. That means all of them likely won't be up there.


Right now, the current front-runner, Donald Trump, would easily meet those requirements. But so far, he has said, he is not planning, on showing up, in Milwaukee, for that first debate.

The Chair of the Republican National Committee says she thinks that's a mistake.


RONNA MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: I think he should be on the stage. I want everybody on the stage that qualifies.

I think it's a mistake to not do the debates.


MCDANIEL: But that's going to be up to him, and his campaign.


COLLINS: Trump's former Vice President, Mike Pence, I should note, tonight, was asking New Hampshire voters, to donate $1, to his campaign, because he is yet to qualify for that stage.

Joining me now, Kristen Soltis Anderson, and Van Jones.

I mean, what do you think that debate stage is shaping up, to look like? Because we've got this new poll, out of New Hampshire, today, among likely primary voters. Trump's at 37 percent; Ron DeSantis, at 23 percent; Tim Scott, at 8 percent. And then you've got Chris Christie, Doug Burgum, and the others. We know Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy, have so far qualified to make the debate stage, they say.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I think it's going to be really interesting. I don't know how crowded it will be, though, once you factor in that all of these folks have to get a certain number of small-dollar donors.

And the polling criteria are a little bit unusual. As a pollster, it's not 100 percent clear to me exactly which polls will count for the qualification standards.

But nevertheless, I think that Donald Trump could be making a mistake to sit out this debate. We know he's done it before. In 2016, one of the debates he sat out.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: Counter-programmed.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: Made his own show.

But I think he is going to want to have the opportunity, to prove that he's better than Ron DeSantis. I don't think he'll be able to let that go by.

COLLINS: But what do you make, of the RNC Chair, having to kind of go on Fox? And obviously a channel she knows he watches, and --

V. JONES: And beg?

COLLINS: Your word, but yes.

V. JONES: "Please, please, baby, please."

COLLINS: Urge him to come on.

V. JONES: "Please, baby, please."

I think it's kind of pathetic. But Donald Trump does what he wants to do. I think he's making a mistake, because somebody else could do something extraordinary.

Tim Scott is a really compelling figure. He's a unifier. If he didn't have to sit there, and dodge weird nicknames, from Donald Trump, he could break through. And once somebody breaks through, you can get a snowball going. Remember, Barack Obama was down in the numbers and stuff. So, I think, it's a mistake.

But I just think it's, this is like, you've got this big toddler, who's like the size of a skyscraper, just wandering around the Republican Party, doing whatever he wants to, and you've got the RNC Chair behind saying, "Please, please sit down. Please, eat your piece." It's not going to work. He'll do whatever he wants to do.

COLLINS: And Tim Scott, of course, we should note, his Super PAC has a ton of money.

Kristen, Trump was on Fox, last night, talking about something that he is at odds with, with people, like the RNC Chair, and other mainstream Republicans, in his party, over, when it comes to early voting. He said this about it.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Bad things happen to those ballots, also. They are sent in early. And all of a sudden, where are they? Bad -- look, we have very corrupt elections.


COLLINS: He's criticizing early voting, as people in the RNC are trying to, they're rolling out an early voting program. They believe that the Democrats are better at early voting than they are.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: It's one thing to say I wish we would go back to the pre-pandemic way we did elections, where there was less early voting, less absentee voting.

But there's also the reality that we're in, which is that mail-in voting, early voting, absentee voting, these have been expanded, and that is largely here to stay.

And so, you have to run in the world that exists. You have to run an election in reality. And if Republicans bail on early voting, they bail on absentee voting, where in some states like Florida, they have actually had advantages, for a while? They are leaving votes on the table. It is tactically disastrous.

V. JONES: Do not --

SOLTIS ANDERSON: If Republicans abandon it.

V. JONES: Do not listen to this woman, Republicans. Listen to Donald Trump. Don't vote early. Please be quiet. It's the one time I agree with Donald Trump. Republicans, don't vote early.

COLLINS: I mean it's the Donald Trump and Kari Lake effect. They're the ones, who are discouraging it.

V. JONES: Yes.

COLLINS: But I want to espouse something else. This is something that the White House is kind of sitting back, and laughing at.

It was something that President Biden tweeted this video, saying he fully endorsed it. And why it was surprising is because it's of Marjorie Taylor Greene, in a speech, she gave, where she thought she was criticizing President Biden, but he used it as an endorsement, essentially.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Joe Biden had the largest public investment and social infrastructure and environmental programs that is actually finishing what FDR started, that LBJ expanded on. And Joe Biden is attempting to complete.


V. JONES: Hurray.

Look, I mean, you could not get a better endorsement than that. In our party, she's talking about people who are beloved, FDR. That's literally who Biden wanted to grow up, and be, and thinks he is becoming so.

But it just shows how different the world is. For Republican Party, apparently, FDR, who saved us, in World War II, who rebuilt the country, who, a guy saw the Great Depression, is some kind of villain? It gives you a sense of how far apart the parties are.

But I think it's very, very smart. Somebody, in the Biden campaign, was paying attention, and has a great sense of humor.


COLLINS: I mean, what do you make of that? I mean, she's saying he took her out of context. That she posted the full clip of her comments. She's criticizing his spending, and programs. But?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, one, it's a sign of how polarized we are, today, right, that the very thing that one side of the political aisle thinks is obviously negative, can so easily be viewed as a positive, to the other side.

But the thing that I think really stuck out to me was when this video dropped. It's very much for those who are online, who really know immediately, who Marjorie Taylor Greene is, they get why this is funny. Was -- is this an AI thing? We live in strange times, where that's a question you have to ask.

COLLINS: Because we've seen people using AI in their ads.


COLLINS: Thank you both.

V. JONES: Thank you.

COLLINS: Also, we have breaking news, tonight, what I mentioned a second ago, the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, is being bombarded, right now, as Ukraine's president is accusing Moscow, of trying to cripple their ability, to export grain. We'll take you live there, to the ground, next.

Plus, we have new details tonight on that U.S. soldier that is believed to be held in North Korea. There is now an eyewitness, who watched him go across the Demilitarized Zone. The question is why?


COLLINS: We have breaking news, out of Ukraine, as Russia is bombarding the southern port city of Odessa, for the third night, in a row.

You can see this extraordinary video, just in, from CNN's team. It shows Ukraine's air defense, working to repel these Russian attacks.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me live, from Odessa.

Alex, what have you been seeing on the ground, as this is the third night in a row that we know this has happened? And is there a sense of what kind of weaponry that Russia is using here?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was a city that was already on edge, after two nights, of extraordinarily intense ferocious attacks, by Russia, this city, wondering whether it would happen, for a third night in a row.


That answer coming, just before 2 AM, with an attack that lasted around an hour and 45 minutes, arguably the most intense yet, in terms of the weaponry that we saw, on display, tonight.

It did start the same way that the last two nights have, with air raid sirens, warning citizens, of this city that an attack was coming. Then, we started to see those red tracer rounds, from the air defenses, firing up into the sky, lighting up the night sky, looking for drones to take down.

There were spotlights that were searching for drones. We saw interceptor rockets, taking off with, and presumably hitting things, because there were huge explosions, in the sky, that cast this huge glow, all across this city, that eventually went dark. All of the lights being turned off, presumably, for security reasons.

But the reason that this does appear to have been more intense, tonight, was because of the variety of cruise missiles, at least three different kinds of cruise missiles, Russia used, including the much- feared Kinzhal missile, which has a warhead of one ton. We know that Russia sent up at least eight long-range, supersonic strategic bombers, to fire these cruise missiles.

And then, very notably, we know that in all of these attacks, drones were used. But this was the first time that we heard these drones, so close. They sound like huge mosquitoes, flying very close to the buildings.

What the targets were? What the damage was? That we don't know. The sun is just coming up. But I think it is fair to say that these last three nights have represented the most serious, most intense, attacks, on Odessa, since this war began, last year.


COLLINS: Alex Marquardt, please stay safe, and thank you.

Also, tonight, there is possible proof of life, of Yevgeny Prigozhin, of course, the Wagner leader. There is a grainy Telegram video that appears to show him alive and well, greeting soldiers, in Belarus.

I should note, tonight, that CNN has not independently confirmed that this is indeed Prigozhin. But if so, it would be the first time that he has been seen, in public, since he led that attempted mutiny, against the Russian military, nearly a month ago.

The whole saga still has Western intelligence officials, scratching their heads, over how it happened, and how he's still alive. Even Britain's spy chief, Richard Moore, the Head of MI6, who I should note, rarely speaks out in public, and certainly not as candidly as he did today, said, he was stumped.


RICHARD MOORE, BRITAIN'S MI6 CHIEF: Prigozhin started off, I think, as a traitor at breakfast. He had been pardoned by supper. And then, a few days later, he was invited for tea. So, there are some things and even the Chief of MI6 finds that a little bit difficult to try and interpret, in terms of who's in and who's out.


COLLINS: CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon, for us, tonight.

I mean, Oren, when I heard that comment, it just kind of stunned me, to hear the Head of the MI6, saying that they're even a little baffled by it, and they're still trying to sort out the idea that of what happened that day, and the fact that he's alive, right now.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Of course, and that's part of the mystery, of all of this, and where does Yevgeny Prigozhin stand now.

Normally, in Vladimir Putin's Russia, if you present a challenge, to Putin, or present too much disapproval, of the decisions, he made, you find yourself somewhere in the spectrum, from complete obscurity, to inevitable defenestration. And yet, Prigozhin doesn't seem to be on that spectrum.

The question is where exactly is he? He presented possibly the greatest challenge, to Putin's rule, in his entire time, in the Kremlin. And he was essentially moved out, right? He's no longer in charge of Wagner, at least not as he was. He's not leading his forces in Bakhmut. The relationship between Wagner forces, in Africa, and Prigozhin, right now, is also unclear.

And yet, if this video is to be believed, and CNN teams have geo- located to a base, outside of Minsk, the question is if Prigozhin remains open? But if this video is to be believed, he clearly has at least some of his forces, and safe haven, in Belarus.

It's also worth noting that the Head of MI6 said Putin had to make this deal, with Prigozhin, to save his own skin. And that Kaitlan, in and of itself, is very telling.

COLLINS: Yes, what do they say? Don't drink the tea in Russia.

Oren Liebermann, thank you.

We're also learning new details, tonight, on the Army Private, Travis King, who is the U.S. soldier that bolted, into North Korea, on Tuesday, catching the world off guard, and those who were there.

An eyewitness, who was at the Demilitarized Zone, this is a tour that was ongoing, watched as he dashed across the line, catching both U.S. and South Korean service members, who were there, off-guard.


SARAH LESLIE (ph), WITNESSED U.S. SOLDIER BOLT INTO NORTH KOREA: I thought is this guy doing it for a TikTok stunt or something really, really stupid like that. But he didn't stop.

There were South Korean and U.S. soldiers around us.


I heard one of the American soldiers shout, "Get him," and then a bunch of them ran after him, but he was going so fast and we were so close to the border that he was gone by then.


COLLINS: Joining me now is Sue Mi Terry, a former North Korean analyst, for the CIA.

I mean, this whole saga is fascinating, I think. I should note some background that he had been accused of assault, twice, last year. He had been held in a South Korean jail. He was due to be removed or separated, as they were saying, from the U.S. Army.

I mean, what is -- what do you make of everything?

SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST, FORMER WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: I mean, it's very bizarre, because, I think, when you look at the history, you have a lot of North Korean defectors. But you don't have American defectors, as there are five or six cases in the past. So, it is very bizarre.

It looks like he got into a lot of trouble, as you mentioned, in South Korea. He cursed out a police officer. He vandalized some cars. He hit -- he assaulted a South Korean citizen.

And he was supposed to be sent back, and from Incheon Airport. He didn't get on that flight, and made it straight to the DMZ. And so, it's very intentional that he intended to run to North Korea.


MI TERRY: He didn't want to come back to the United States, I guess.

COLLINS: What is he facing, though, in North Korea? I mean, I think some people would rightly say it's bizarre that he would prefer to go there, than to return to the United States.

MI TERRY: It's a gigantic prison. North Korea is a prison of 25 million people. So, I think, I'm sure he's regretting it, right now.

But it's very uncertain what his future holds, because he defected. So, it's not like North Koreans are the one, who are detaining an American citizen, like Otto Warmbier. This is a case, where American defected. So, we'll see what the North Koreans do.

The problem is U.S. and North Korea, are in an impasse, right now. There is no dialog. There's no conversation. Since the failure of the Hanoi Summit, and then COVID years, there has been no conversation, between the Americans and the North Koreans.

COLLINS: And I think that might surprise people, given just how much Trump was meeting with Kim Jong Un. And they did have that summit in Vietnam. There has been no contact, between the Biden administration and North Korea. They're not responding to the Biden administration.

So, what do they do, in this situation?

MI TERRY: I think those guys are going to take their time, right? So, as you mentioned, since all that summitry and diplomacy of 2018, 2019, that summitry, that diplomacy have completely collapsed.

And if you remember, North Koreans have been just diversifying, and modernizing, and expanding their nuclear missile arsenal. There are some 70 ballistic missile tests, last year, and some over 30 missile tests, this year.

There's no talk. And North Koreans might be like, "We're not interested in having a conversation." They might not respond.

COLLINS: Could they try to use him as a pawn? MI TERRY: Potentially. But North Koreans might also say we're not -- to show that they're not interested in coming back to dialog and just keep this guy.

COLLINS: Sue Mi Terry, we'll be tracking all of this. Of course, your expertise on this is invaluable. So, thank you.

MI TERRY: Thank you.

COLLINS: Ahead, tonight, two IRS whistleblowers have gone public, with their testimony, first time, at a hearing, focused on Hunter Biden, one whose name was just revealed.

Republicans claimed the President's son got special treatment from the Justice Department. We'll show you what Democrats on the committee said as well.



COLLINS: For the first time, publicly, a second IRS whistleblower revealed his identity, today, in front of the House Oversight Committee, talking about the criminal probe, into President Biden's son, Hunter Biden.

Joseph Ziegler has worked for the IRS, for 13 years, as a Special Agent, with the Criminal Investigation Division, and claims that he believes the case was ultimately mishandled.

He was joined at that hearing by another IRS whistleblower that we've already heard from, Gary Shapley.

As Republicans are arguing that these two credible witnesses, they say, concerns should not be ignored.


GARY SHAPLEY, IRS WHISTLEBLOWER: I watched the United States Attorney Weiss tell a room full of senior FBI and IRS senior leaders, on October 7th, 2022, that he was not the deciding person on whether charges were filed. That was my red line. I had already seen a pattern of preferential treatment and obstruction.

JOSEPH ZIEGLER, IRS WHISTLEBLOWER: It appeared to me based on what I experienced that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, in our investigation, was constantly hamstrung, limited and marginalized, by DOJ officials, as well as other U.S. attorneys.


COLLINS: I should note, the U.S. Attorney that they are referring to was appointed by the former President Donald Trump, and has defended his decision, to let Hunter Biden plead guilty, to two tax misdemeanors, and a felony gun charge. David Weiss has insisted that he had the ultimate authority, on what those charges would have looked like, for Hunter Biden.

The top Democrat, on the committee, called out his Republican colleagues.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): But one thing you will not hear today is any evidence of wrongdoing by President Joe Biden, or his administration.

Like every other try, by our colleagues, to concoct a scandal, about President Biden? This one is a complete and total bust.


COLLINS: Here to break down today's hearing, my colleague, John Miller.

John, you obviously have a background, in law enforcement. What Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, was trying to say there, basically was, this is just tug of war, between investigators and prosecutors, and nothing more than that. What do you think?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I mean, the problem here is, Kaitlan, that the very reason the Justice Department appointed David Weiss, to this job, was he was a Trump- appointed U.S. attorney, who they left in place, along the idea that whatever decision he came to, would not be questioned, on political grounds, because he's a Donald Trump appointee, who theoretically would have been calling it down the middle.

I've worked with the IRS Criminal Division before on cases. They are very good, very thorough. And these two agents are very credible, when they give their testimony and their background of the cases they've worked on.

The issue is, as you've framed it, you put together your best case, and then prosecutors will look at and say, "But I actually have to prove that. I have to go through a messy trial. It's going to be politically charged. There's going to be accusations about everybody's motives. Can I get the government paid back and get a guilty plea?"

The IRS loves to prosecute famous people. We know that from all the big name cases, we've seen. Hunter Biden would fit into that category. But the ones, who pay up, and plead guilty, before a trial, often get a deal like this.


COLLINS: But what's the difference in a Hunter Biden, and what is happening here, versus those other big names that you've talked about? Is there a difference in how much they owed, and what essentially they were going after them for?

MILLER: So, let's baseline those. Wesley Snipes, or Nicolas Cage, or Willie Nelson, these were cases that involved millions and millions of dollars, not just in income. In Nick Cage's case, I think he was evading taxes on $70 million. But it's millions of dollars in owed taxes.

Even with the agents' testimony today, you were talking about $100,000, here $150,000, there. So, far below that line. Now, Martha Stewart went to jail for $200,000. But it was attached to an insider trading case, where she lied to the SEC. Wesley Snipes went to jail for much bigger numbers. Willie Nelson and Nick Cage made deals to pay.

So, this fits kind of underneath those, as a lesser case, with a less famous name, but a politically charged case, which is why, as we saw today, it's messy.

COLLINS: Yes. One, it's not the end of it because Gary Shapley is negotiating, to go before the Senate, now, and testify as well.

John Miller, thanks for watching that and breaking it down for us.

MILLER: Thanks.

COLLINS: He is one of country music's biggest stars. His new song was topping the charts. But Jason Aldean's music video has just been pulled from the Country Music channel. The controversy explained ahead.



COLLINS: Country music star, Jason Aldean, is pushing back, tonight, against critics, after his music video, for the song "Try That In A Small Town" was pulled off of Country Music Television.




COLLINS: That video and its lyrics getting backlash, in part because it was one filmed at the site of a 1927 lynching, in Columbia, Tennessee.

Aldean did not address the location, in his pushback. But he is defending the lyrics that critics say are racist and encouraged vigilante behavior.

Aldean responded, and I'm quoting him now, "There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it... Try That In A Small Town, for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief."

Joining me now, tonight, is Tennessee State Representative, Justin Jones, who of course, last joined me, back in April, when you were famously expelled, and then reinstated, after he led a gun control protest, on the House floor, in Tennessee, after six people were killed, at a school shooting, in Nashville.

Representative, thank you, for being here, with us, again tonight.

Jason Aldean, as I noted, is defending this video.

But I wonder what your reaction was, when you heard the song and saw the video?

JUSTIN JONES, (D) TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE, "TENNESSEE THREE" MEMBER: Yes. Well, thank you so much, again, for having me, Kaitlan.

As a Tennessee lawmaker, as the youngest Black lawmaker, in our State, I felt like we had an obligation, and a duty, to condemn this heinous vile, racist song that is really about harkening back to days past.

There's no accident that he filmed this in the sight of the Maury County Courthouse, where the race riot happened, and where as well as the 1927 lynching, of a young man, who was 18-years-old, Henry Choate, occurred.

This song is about normalizing racist violence, vigilantism and White nationalism. And it's about glorifying a South that we are moving forward from, and that we're trying to move forward from, here in Tennessee.

COLLINS: And Aldean, obviously, he didn't write the song, but clearly sings it.

And for some of the lyrics? We were looking at them earlier.

One of them is: "Cuss out a cop, spit in his face Stomp on the flag and light it up Yes, ya think you're tough Well, try that in a small town."

Are those the lyrics that you're referencing?

J. JONES: Those lyrics and the lyric that says "See how far ya make it down the road?" I mean, this is a lynching anthem. It's an anthem that reminds me of the stories, of young men, like Trayvon Martin, Ralph Yarl, young man, Ahmaud Arbery, who were killed by White vigilantes.

I mean, this song is not about small towns. Because if it was about small towns, where was Jason Aldean, when the Maury County people were fighting for their clean water? Where was he when hospitals in these small towns were closing? Where was he when people in these communities were suffering, from starvation wages? Nowhere to be found.

But instead he comes to sing a song that harkens back to the vision that harkens back to fear of outsiders, this racist violence, that led my grandparents to leave these small towns, fleeing Jim Crow terrorism.

This is something that we must condemn, because if we normalize, this racist, violent rhetoric, then we normalized, racist, violent actions. And we cannot allow that. Because we see what's happening in this nation. I was expelled challenging gun violence.

This song is about this proliferation of guns, in our communities, of violence, of taking things into our own hands, and we feel threatened by people because they're different than us. I mean, this is shameful, and we must condemn it.

COLLINS: What do you make of how he noted? I mean, Jason Aldean, for those, who don't remember, was obviously performing at that festival, in Las Vegas, when a gunman opened fire, and killed 58 people. It was the deadliest mass shooting, in American history.

And he said, in response, quote, "NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart." I mean, do you think that that rings true, when you listen to the song?

J. JONES: I mean, when I listen to the song, I hear this normalization of gun extremism. We are a state that has been plagued, by mass shootings, just this year, Covenant elementary school.

This is not about bringing us together. But it's about lifting up division, and fear of neighbor. This is not about caring for each other. It's very shameful that this is what he chose to offer, in light of what we saw, this year.

In Maury County, where he performed this song, just last week, the KKK left flyers, in front of Black churches. I mean, let's be honest about what this is about. And so, we must be truthful, to condemn this, about the proliferation of guns, in our community.

Our vision is a new South, a South, where we care for each other, where we uplift the beloved community, where we lift up a community, where our kids are protected, and not guns.

And so, this is not about ending violence. This song is about promoting violence, normalizing violence, particularly White vigilante violence. And Jason Aldean should be ashamed of himself, for promoting this song that seeks our darkest history, instead of our better angels, in this nation.


COLLINS: Tennessee State Representative, Justin Jones, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

J. JONES: Thank you so much.

COLLINS: We have an update, on the Alabama Senator, who was single- handedly blocking hundreds of military promotions. You heard from him, here, last week.

Tommy Tuberville says he's had several conversations, with the Defense Secretary, about his concerns. But did he lead up today, when the opportunity presented itself? We'll tell you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Tonight, Alabama senator, Tommy Tuberville, once again held up military nominations, even after a conversation that he had, yesterday, with the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, which has seemed to go well, was described as cordial.

Senator Tuberville, who complained on this show, last week, about a lack of contact, from the White House, or the Pentagon, has now spoken, with the Defense Secretary, twice, I should note. But it hasn't changed his mind.



SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): There was no offer of a compromise. It's their way or the highway.


COLLINS: Senator Tuberville has shown no sign, as he alludes to there, of letting up, and affirmed that he plans to, quote, "Stick with it."

Thanks, for joining us, tonight, so much.

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

Laura, a lot of news going on.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST, CNN PRIMETIME: A lot. I'm surprised the Senator isn't even going to really entertain a conversation, with somebody, who is so high up like that, and have this conversation.

It's just it's stunning to me, from last week's interview, till now, Kaitlan, that we are still here, with this Senator. Isn't that crazy?

COLLINS: Yes. And, of course, their fear is that it's going to go on, for months, now, maybe even until September, October, when the Joint Chiefs Chairman is set to retire.

COATES: Unbelievable.

Well, you'll be on the case. Nice seeing you, Kaitlan.