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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Trump: "Completely Unhinged" To Consider Admitting Ukraine Into NATO "At This Time"; Capitol Hill Hearing Gets Heated Over RFK Jr.'s Comments; DeSantis Voices Support For Sen. Tuberville's Military Blockade. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired July 20, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Don't miss the interview. Again, that's 11:30 PM Eastern.
That's it for us. The news continues. THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, Odessa is on edge, for a fourth evening, as sirens were sounding, just moments ago, in the southern port city that has been shaken, by days of Russian attacks. We'll take you there, live.
Also, the grand jury, considering charging Donald Trump, with January 6th crimes, met in secrecy, again, today. But we now have Intel about what they asked one of his personal aides. Direct conversations about Trump himself.
Plus, a conspiracy theorist taking center stage, and it went exactly, as you might expect, off the rails. RFK Jr., denying he said what we've heard him say. But Democrats roll the tape.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Tonight, the city of Odessa is staring down another attack. Just moments ago, air raid sirens were blaring, as the Ukrainian city, on the Black Sea, is bracing for more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO -- MOMENTS AGO -- ODESSA, UKRAINE -- AIR RAID SIRENS BLARING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: This would be the fourth straight night, of Russian attacks, in Odessa, a city already on edge, after being bombarded. Russia says it is retaliating, for Ukraine's attack, on a critical bridge to Crimea.
And Ukraine says that Moscow has used almost 70 missiles, and 90 drones, in just four days. President Zelenskyy says that some were shot down. But he warned that his country's air defense, as it stands, right now, can't protect the entire Ukrainian sky. Now, key infrastructure is in ruins, including major grain terminals, like this one that you see here, burned to the ground.
CNN's Alex Marquardt is live, in Odessa, where he has been all week.
Alex, what are you seeing and hearing, tonight?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, it was very startling to hear that air raid siren, go off, just a few minutes ago, because of how, on edge, this city is, of course bracing for a potential fourth night of strikes. We did hear that air raid siren go off. It has since ended, for the time being.
There was a warning, from the Ukrainian military that there was a missile threat. Now, whether those missiles were indeed fired and landed elsewhere, and we didn't hear them? Whether that was a false alarm? That we don't know. We will certainly learn that in the coming hours.
But the fact that this city is so on edge, so anxious, really speaks to an assumption, fair assumption, that these civilians, are fearing, the worst, because, over the past few days, they really have seen the worst that had been fired, at this city, since the beginning of the war.
Kaitlan, you talked about those 70 missiles fired, over the course of the past few days.
Last night alone, we saw four different types of cruise missiles, being fired, from long-range supersonic strategic bombers. We saw drones being fired, at this city, not just last night, but over the last three nights. You could hear them buzzing right over this city.
Ukraine says that Russia is lashing out, hitting Odessa, because this is the most famous port city, in the country. And Russia has just pulled out of that grain deal. It is retribution, it is a message, Ukraine says.
I would also argue that Russia does not only want to destroy different infrastructure, around the country. They're also looking to terrorize the population. So, when you launch missiles, when you cause those air raid sirens to go off, you're waking people up, you're sending them, into the basement, you're scaring them. That is effectively terrorizing the population, of a city, like Odessa, and all across the country.
Now, Kaitlan, Russia is saying that they have been striking Odessa, because of that attack, by Ukraine, earlier this week, on the Kerch Bridge, Russia saying that they would continue, to retaliate, for that brazen attack. Whether they will continue to do so tonight? We are waiting to see.
COLLINS: Yes. And Alex, I should note that we've just learned, from the Ukrainian Air Force, saying that that air raid missile alert, the threat, has ended. We'll see, of course, how the night develops. I know it's kind of in touch and go, where you are.
The other thing that we know that Ukraine is doing is they started using those cluster bombs that the U.S. is providing to them. What's your sense of whether or not that is going to help them, in this counteroffensive that is happening, as Russia is bombarding Odessa?
MARQUARDT: Yes, that's a real debate, Kaitlan. What everyone agrees on is that Ukraine is really running low, on artillery rounds.
This is an artillery fight, in this counteroffensive. Russia has an enormous number of artillery rounds. Ukraine needs them. And the reason that was given, by the Biden administration, for giving these extremely controversial cluster munitions, is because Ukraine simply needs more artillery rounds.
Whether they will be effective? I spoke to a General, last week, who said that they could have a radical impact, on the battlefield. Some analysts say that you really need the right kind of target, say, large groupings, of Russian soldiers, large groupings, of Russian equipment and machinery, to target with those cluster munitions.
But what everyone agrees on is that this is plugging a gap, this is making up, for that shortage, of those critical artillery rounds.
COLLINS: We'll see what develops, tonight.
Alex Marquardt, stay safe. Thank you.
And joining me now, is the former Defense Secretary, under former President Donald Trump, Mark Esper.
Secretary Esper, thank you, for being here, tonight.
MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thanks, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: When you see what Russia is doing, targeting these grain ports, civilian infrastructure, now even opening the door, to attacks, on civilian ships? Does it seem like a new level of desperation to you? Or what do you read into this?
ESPER: It does seem like a new level of terror. Clearly, it is payback. And they said, so, for the attack on the Kerch Bridge, which was also, of course, a personal insult to Putin, who opened that bridge, a few years ago. So, it's that.
They're trying to destroy the grain, at least a million tons of grain there, which is also horrific, because it's going to cause food insecurity issues, around the world, particularly in Africa. And there's some speculation that they're doing that to raise grain prices, globally, which of course, would happen. And that would help Russian grain exports. So, there's a lot of factors to play here. Also, the drones that struck the Kerch Bridge were launched from Odessa. So, that's another factor.
And I'd say probably a third one is the fact that this attack, on Odessa, distracts the Russian people, from the ongoing drama, with Prigozhin and Wagner, and everything else that's happening, in the upper ranks, of the Russian military.
COLLINS: Yes, which we now know, the Wagner leader is surfaced in Belarus, the first time, since that mutiny happened, last month.
But Secretary Esper, with the Ukrainian forces, what they are essentially struggling with, is to beat back these attacks. You mentioned the drone attacks, there. Because they don't have advanced air defense systems, in the southern part of their country, where Odessa is. What we were told is that they were only able to destroy five out of the 19 cruise missiles that were launched, last night.
I mean, what do they need to fight this? Do you think they'll get it?
ESPER: Yes, look, I think a preponderance of the air defense assets are probably at Kyiv, protecting the capital, where they should be. Those are difficult to move.
The other complicating factor is that Odessa is a port city, within direct line of attack of, from Crimea to its southeast. And so, there, you're not able to prepare layered defense, like you can do, with Kyiv, which is further in the interior of the country.
So look, they're going to have to quickly move air defense assets down, as close as they can, to protect Odessa, and then maybe put some aircraft up in the skies, as well, to help out.
But of course, the whole aircraft issue gets into the whole matter of why we didn't provide Ukraine with F-16s sooner. They would have helped in this situation some, and certainly would have helped -- would help, in the counteroffensive, also.
COLLINS: Yes. I know, you've been advocating for that.
I also want to get your response to something that your former boss, former President Donald Trump, said today, about Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: The notion that we would even consider admitting Ukraine into NATO at this time is completely unhinged.
The last thing that this incompetent administration should be doing is risking war with a nuclear-armed Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I should note, of course, President Biden has said he doesn't believe that Ukraine is ready to join NATO, yet. They've pushed that until after the war is over.
But do you have a concern that if Trump is reelected, he would try to pull the United States out of NATO?
ESPER: I've said so in the past, I've had -- I would have -- concerned about the, his intentions with a variety of alliances, pulling troops out of Japan, out of Korea, and certainly out of NATO. I think any move on NATO would probably begin with a cutting off the supply of arms, and ammunition, and material, to Ukraine as well. So, I think that would precipitate that.
But look, the issue about Ukraine? Ukraine should be in NATO. Nobody expected that to happen, now. I actually think they should have been given a better -- a better plan, a better timeline, clearer steps. And that was the disappointment I had coming out of what was an otherwise very successful summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania.
COLLINS: Yes, that was last week, where President Biden was, of course.
Another thing, you have talked about this. You've said that Trump was a threat to democracy, in light of what happened on January 6th. Now, of course, he's gotten a target letter. He appears to be on the verge of being indicted, in that investigation, potentially. Do you believe that the charges would be appropriate here?
ESPER: Well, I haven't studied the charges. I'm not a lawyer.
But look, there are some basic principles, of American democracy. And one is nobody's above the law. Two, there should be accountability. And number three is, look, the President is innocent till proven guilty. So, I think this legal process needs to play itself out.
And of course, for President Trump, he's dealing with what? Two or three of these types of inquiries, indictments, now. So, hope he has a good legal team.
COLLINS: You wrote in your book that before the election, you were worried about Trump trying to use the military, to hang on to power, if he lost that election, something that obviously was later actually suggested, by outside advisers, in a meeting that we know Jack Smith, is asking about.
I mean, what does that say to you that people, who were suggesting something, like that, were invited into the Oval Office, and now it's the subject, it's at least part of this investigation?
ESPER: Of course, I was fired on November 9th, a week after the election. And my big concern, at the end of October, of that year, and leading up to the election, was what would the President do, with the military, whether he won or lost? Would he deploy the National Guard, for example, or maybe even active duty troops, against protesters?
And so, I write about this in my memoir, of course, the concerns I had, a private meeting I had, with the head of the National Guard, to discuss these contingencies, and so forth and so on.
But the other stuff that was far more dramatic, of course, didn't happen till December, when it was, I think, late December, when President Trump had a meeting, with General Flynn, retired General Flynn, and others, and they talked about seizing ballot boxes. That, of course, is very alarming. And I suspect that's where the -- would be a critical element of this January 6th investigation.
COLLINS: I'm curious. You've said you don't think he is fit for office that he shouldn't be back in office. How do you plan to handle the Republican primary? Are you going to endorse another candidate here?
ESPER: No. I don't plan on endorsing anybody. I said that I wouldn't support Donald Trump. I don't think he's fit for office, because he puts himself first. And I think anybody running for office should put the country first. And they should abide by their oath, and do a number of other things.
Look, there's a crowd of about 12 or so Republican candidates, beyond Trump. I think at least half of them are very credible. Any of those six or so could beat President Biden, if they become the nominee.
And what I'm looking for? And I'm willing to assist any one of them, help them. I'm looking for somebody, who puts the country first, who will abide by their oath, who will advance traditional Republican policy objectives, and who will bring the Republican Party together, grow the party, and win elections.
You have to win elections. And Donald Trump has not been able to win elections, whether they are House, Senate, or White House. And so, that's what Republicans need to do.
COLLINS: Just amazing for me. I mean, I know that those are -- that's your view on this. We've obviously talked many times, Secretary Esper. But to hear someone, who was the Pentagon chief, for now-candidate for president, saying that you would willingly help his challengers, who were running against him, just speaks to the moment that we're in, I think.
But Secretary Esper, thank you, for your time, tonight.
ESPER: Thanks, Kaitlan. Have a good evening.
COLLINS: Ahead, as a deadline looms, as we mentioned, for Donald Trump's lawyers, to answer an offer, from the Special Counsel, Jack Smith, we are now learning what one of his personal aides was asked about, by the grand jury today.
And he's accused of bigotry and hate and outlandish conspiracies. But today, RFK Jr. raised his right hand, and swore this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While I'm under oath, in my entire life, I have never uttered a phrase that was either racist or anti-Semitic. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: You can hear him say it. He's a notorious anti-vaxxer. He also said he was not anti-vaccine. We've got to hear it to believe it. We'll show you the highlights, and speak to someone, who was in that hearing, next.
COLLINS: Special Counsel, Jack Smith, gave Donald Trump, four days, to decide if he wanted to come, and testify, before a grand jury that is investigating January 6th.
Well, as you know, today is day four. It is nearly midnight. For now, the former President is making his case on TV, and asking why he wasn't indicted sooner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And now here (ph), they want to indict me on this one. And why didn't they do it two years ago? Why didn't they do it, like when it would -- would have been, you know, timely?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I should note we don't know that Trump is going to be indicted. Obviously, it is widely speculated. But we wait to see what Jack Smith's team does.
Meanwhile, we have just learned that the witness, who went in front of the grand jury, today, Will Russell, he was a personal aide, to Trump, in the White House. He followed him, to Mar-a-Lago. He was there, on January the 6th. He was asked a series of questions, we were told, today, about his interactions, with Trump, before he left the White House.
Will Russell's attorney, later said that prosecutors were asking his client, questions that he believed may impede, on Executive privilege.
Let's discuss with former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Tom Dupree; and the former Chief Assistant to the Manhattan D.A., Karen Agnifilo.
Karen, I'll start with you.
Will Russell being asked about what his attorney, Stan Woodward, who I should note, is also representing several other people, in Trump's orbit, said, impeded on Executive privilege. I mean, what does that signal to you?
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT MANHATTAN D.A.: Well, first of all, the Executive privilege is a privilege. That means the Executive branch can't share information, doesn't have to share information, with the other two branches, Legislative branch or Judicial branch.
And it's interesting, because Jack Smith, as part of the Department of Justice, is within the Executive branch. And P.S., the current president holds it, right? So, Joe Biden, and he has said there is no Executive privilege issue here.
So, bringing -- this is an argument that Trump, and his world, has brought up many, many, many, many times. And it doesn't hold. It doesn't stick. And what it tells me is that Jack Smith wants to know, what was Trump saying? What were the conversations? What were his words?
COLLINS: And Tom, when you were talking about Will Russell? He's not this household name. But he was backstage, the morning of January 6th, at The Ellipse. You could see him here. He's obviously to Trump's right. I mean, he has gone before the grand jury, three times now. What would warrant three appearances?
TOM DUPREE, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, a lot of times prosecutors will ask a witness, questions, and they'll go talk to other witnesses, and they'll get some ideas, for additional questions. So, they'll have to circle back, with the additional, the first witness.
I think what's going on here, Kaitlan, is that Jack Smith is clearly intent, on nailing down what President Trump's mindset was, both on January 6th, and the days leading up to it.
From what we've heard, the charges he's contemplating, a lot of them will turn on the President, the former President's intent. Did he have an intent to corrupt the election? Did he in fact know he had lost the election, was trying to overturn it?
And in order to confirm the President's intent, Jack Smith needs to get witness testimony, from people, who were with the President, who understand what he knew, and who understand what was on his mind, on that day.
COLLINS: I'm glad you brought up his mindset.
Because, also Karen, we were looking at what Will Russell has said, publicly. He told an Ohio newspaper, last year, just how close he was, with Trump. He said "Whenever Trump left the White House I was with him, by his side, briefing him every step of the way."
And Tom mentions there, Trump's mindset.
We know he's spoken, the Special Counsel, has talked to people, Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks. Do you think Will Russell is someone, who could offer a similar level, on Trump's mindset?
FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: It certainly sounds like it. It sounds like he would, if not be a part of the conversations, he would at least be around, while the conversations were happening. He was literally, in the room, where it happened. And so, he would be able to say, and talk about things that Trump was saying, to other people, things that Trump knew, things that Trump was intending to do, et cetera.
COLLINS: And of course, we mentioned he was there, on January 6th.
Also, Cassidy Hutchinson was there who, became incredibly well-known, after she testified, about what she heard Trump say, before that rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CHENEY, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE -- WYOMING: His response was to say they can march to the Capitol from -- from The Ellipse?
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO MARK MEADOWS: Something to the effect of "Take the effing MAGs away. They're not here to hurt me. Let them in. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol after the rally is over. They can march from -- they can march from The Ellipse. Take the effing MAGs away. Then they can march to the Capitol."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I mean, Tom, when you talk about what insight, Will Russell, can offer? Do you believe it's something similar to that, potentially? Of course, without knowing what he testified, given, this is a secret grand jury.
DUPREE: That would be my best guess, Kaitlan.
And look, prosecutors would tell you that often most effective evidence you can present, against a criminal defendant, is his own words. And that's one reason why, I think, Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony was so devastating, because she could report what President Trump actually said.
It's obviously something that's difficult to deny, if you're a defendant, that you're being confronted with your own words. They illustrate your mindset. They illustrate what you intended to do. And they illustrate what your state of knowledge was, on that day.
And so, look, if Russell was a player here, if he was present, when all these things were happening, when these conversations were occurring? He could very well prove to be an absolutely critical witness, in whatever indictment may be forthcoming here.
COLLINS: Yes. And the last time Trump got a target letter, Karen, I mean, it was about three weeks, I believe, before he was indicted. Do you expect a similar timeline here? If he got the indictment -- the target letter, on Sunday, when do you think we could see an indictment?
FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Well, if you recall, the prior target letter, Trump wanted to meet, with Merrick Garland, and then Jack Smith. And he wanted witnesses. There was all sorts of things that were going on, during that three-week period.
Here, I think they limited it, and said, "You have four days to decide whether you want to testify in the grand jury." And if he doesn't testify, I think, we could see an indictment, as soon as tomorrow, or in the next week or so.
COLLINS: We'll see what that looks like. Of course, we know they had until today to respond. We don't believe they have.
Karen Agnifilo, Tom Dupree, thank you both so much.
DUPREE: Thank you.
COLLINS: What do you get, when you invite a full-fledged conspiracy theorist, and presidential candidate, to testify, on Capitol Hill?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
F. KENNEDY JR.: I have never been an anti-vaxx.
You are slandering me, incorrectly.
Congressman, what you are saying is a lie.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): I am a Congresswoman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Robert F. Kennedy, on Capitol Hill, a wild hearing, on free speech. Are Republicans regretting that invite? We'll talk about it next.
COLLINS: Sometimes, it seems like every day, is a spectacle, on Capitol Hill. But today, it really seemed to hit a new level.
House Republicans invited noted conspiracy theorist, and longshot Democratic presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to testify. He spoke in front of a Republican-created committee that is focused on the weaponization, of the federal government. He was there, to talk about censorship. That was the premise of this entire hearing.
But as soon as RFK Jr. was under oath, he started denying reality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
F. KENNEDY JR.: While I'm under oath, in my entire life, I have never uttered a phrase that was either racist or anti-Semitic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: OK. That was what he said today.
A week ago, at a dinner, Kennedy was recorded saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
F. KENNEDY JR.: COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Democrat, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was on the committee, confronted Kennedy, about his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Mr. Kennedy, do you think it was easy, for Jewish people, to escape systematic slaughter, of Nazis? Yes or no?
F. KENNEDY JR.: Absolutely not.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Do you think it was just as hard to wear a mask, during COVID, as it was to hide under floorboards or false walls, so you weren't murdered or dragged to a concentration camp?
F. KENNEDY JR.: Of course not.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: OK.
F. KENNEDY JR.: That's ridiculous.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But that's a comparison that you made. So, Kennedy, were the measures taken --
F. KENNEDY JR.: I did not make that comparison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: It was quite a hearing. And I should note, Kennedy was not the only witness, who was invited.
Democrats invited the civil rights activist, Maya Wiley, there, today. Her testimony at points turned into a rebuttal of RFK Jr. And she joins me now.
I mean, just, what was it even like, to be inside that hearing room, today?
MAYA WILEY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: It was just a deeply sad and disturbing experience. And sad, because Robert Kennedy Jr. was once, a very different person, one who, did pay attention, to science, particularly environmental science.
And the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., we saw today, which we've been seeing repeatedly, is one, who has not met a conspiracy theory apparently, he hasn't advanced, including anti-Semitic tropes, and frankly anti-Black stereotypes, which came out, in some of the questioning, in the hearing.
But the thing that was particularly disturbing is the discussion about whether or not he was censored, and his own statements, asserting that he was, even when he had tweets, with deep mis- and dis-information that were never removed, that was even in the record in the Biden versus Missouri case that -- I mean, Missouri versus Biden case, which essentially claimed that the President and the White House had been coercing social platforms, to take down, and censor speech. And his statements about that, some of them were actually factually inaccurate.
COLLINS: And I should note, at these hearings, you see witnesses. When they come, they deliver a pre-written opening statement. They've got a few moments, to speak, before they're questioned by members of Congress.
You scrapped yours, to directly address, what had been happening in his opening statements. For our viewers who didn't catch the hearing today, I want to play that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: When you make a statement that suggests that based on race, based on religion, based on anything other than facts that you may have somehow not been targeted, but other racial groups have, that by definition feeds into something very dangerous in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Did you feel like you had a responsibility to correct the record?
WILEY: Oh, absolutely. I liked my prepared statement. I thought it was a good one.
There was no possible way to be a person, who lives in this country, to be a mother of children, to be someone who lives in a community, and cares about people. And so many Americans, I know, so many Americans know, there's so much more we agree on than disagree on. And we also know that we're being torn apart. We're being torn apart by conspiracy theories, but also people, who would suggest that we should be torn apart.
And it was just one of those moments, sadly, where I was thinking, these are our elected representatives. These hearings are supposed to be opportunities, to investigate, questions, we really should be asking ourselves, as a country, like whether or not we are enabling rampant lies that are racist, that are anti-Semitic, that are anti- Asian, that have, by document and research contributed to a rise in hate, violence.
I wanted to remind people that this is the week that Robert Bowers, who murdered massacred 11 Jews, in their place of worship, who on social media repeatedly, repeatedly said anti-Semitic things. People are dead. And we have to have that conversation in this country. And we have to talk about, and face, how we stop it. And that was what was so critical for me, was to just have a moment, where we said, "Let's talk about what's real. Let's talk about what we have to solve. And let's stop spreading the very things that are endangering us, driving division, and costing people, lives."
COLLINS: And it felt like, watching it, it completely missed the point of what the hearing was supposed to be, which you talked about, just a moment ago, this thorny question of misinformation, whether or not it's protected by the First Amendment? What's removed? What's not? The role that social media companies play in this? I mean, that's not the takeaway coming out of this hearing today.
It's the comments that RFK Jr. made, and your response, and lawmakers' response to those comments.
WILEY: One of the things that's so frustrating is there was really no opportunity to have a discussion about what is censorship? Has it happened?
And they have cut by 80 percent, in the case of Twitter, their Trust and Safety employees that are there to help keep the user experience safe, and to protect this societal interest. They do it because it is their choice. It is their policy. And that is not censorship under our laws.
Nor are we having a real honest conversation about two things. Two things, if we want to talk about censorship, is this very committee, has actually gone after, and targeted, researchers, looking into mis- and dis-information, and using the power, of government to, frankly, try to get them to self-censor. That is something that's also problematic.
And it's happening, by the very people, who are claiming that these social media companies are being asked to enforce their policies, are engaging in censorship. That's a scary conversation, given what we're facing in this country.
COLLINS: Yes. I guess we'll have to wait for the next hearing.
Maya Wiley, thank you, for joining me, tonight.
WILEY: Thank you.
COLLINS: Ahead, did the Speaker of the House make a secret promise, to Donald Trump, to get back in his good graces, after he questioned his strength, as a presidential candidate? What Kevin McCarthy is saying tonight? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COLLINS: Tonight, House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, denying that he promised to erase Donald Trump's two impeachments, from the Congressional Record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, did you promise Trump that you would have an expungement vote?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The backstory, to that sound bite? Which I should note, this was first reported, by "Politico." McCarthy called Trump, last month, to apologize, apparently, after he questioned, in an interview, whether or not Trump was really the strongest Republican candidate, in 2024.
In that subsequent call, we are told that Trump and McCarthy were speaking, as McCarthy backed an effort, to expunge Trump's two impeachments. And essentially, it would just be symbolic. It wouldn't actually obviously erase the fact that Trump was impeached twice.
But we are told that McCarthy did not promise to bring that to the House floor, for a vote, which is probably a good thing, because members of his own Conference don't think it's a good idea.
Some House Republicans pouring cold water on the prospect of doing so, just today.
Mike Lawler, saying, quote, "I really don't see the purpose."
Garret Graves, "I am not going to take a position."
Andy Harris said, "I'm concentrating on appropriations."
Chip Roy said "This is a new body. So I'd say onward."
And Tim Burchett of Tennessee, "I don't care about that. It doesn't amount to anything."
Here to discuss, Van Jones, a former Obama administration official; and Scott Jennings, who was a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.
I mean, Scott, those -- a lot of those names that I just read are Republicans, who are in districts, that President Biden won. And voting on something that's basically meaningless, just symbolic, and would send a message, doesn't necessarily help their campaigns.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. And you might also get into a situation, where it fails. I mean, what if he puts up like that on the floor, and you don't expunge it?
I talked to one House member, today. He said, "Well, maybe the first one might get expunged. I'm not sure about the second one." I mean, think about -- the optics of this are all bad.
And so, and then you tack on the political, you know, empirical political data we have, which is when voters are thinking a lot about Donald Trump, and the things he did, and what he represents? We lose elections, just like we did in the midterm.
So, all these people want to look forward. These votes would be looking backward. And going into a presidential cycle? That's not really the disposition the party should take.
COLLINS: Do you think a lot of this has to do though, with McCarthy, not endorsing Trump yet, in 2024?
JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, he -- it's just about staying in the good graces. I mean, his speakership, to some degree, is owed to Donald Trump. They've been close political allies. I'm not surprised the reporting is true that he floated it.
But sometimes, you have to protect people from their own bad ideas. And putting something on the floor that might not pass, or cause extra embarrassment? Speaker McCarthy, I don't think would do that. But he should be honest, with the President, and say, "Hey, I'm not sure I can pass it."
COLLINS: Well, and part of the reason, it may not pass, is it may not be constitutional. I mean, Jonathan Turley, who is, you know, one of Trump's favorite attorneys and law professor, said, "It's not like a constitutional DUI. Once you are impeached, you're impeached."
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
COLLINS: I mean, it's not even -- it's not even clear that you could actually do this.
JONES: Yes, it's not.
And also, poor Kevin McCarthy. I mean, he's like, the incredibly -- the incredible shrinking Speaker. I mean, he's got to go, and beg, and cry, and apologize for saying something that everybody knows.
It may in fact, be true that Trump's not the strongest guy in a general election. He says, a true statement, has to go and apologize, and then slips on a banana peel. And now, he has to walk back whether or not he's promising to do something he can't do.
This is? I'm sorry. We've got real stuff happening in America. We've got fires and floods and all kinds of stuff happening, there's real issues. And the Speaker of the House has to deal with stuff like this? I remember when he was a serious guy.
JENNINGS: Well, let me just say, in his defense, I think, he has overperformed what a lot of expectations were for him. After the way he got the speakership, a lot of people were predicting his demise, on this issue, or that issue. And time and again, he has delivered on things when people didn't think he could.
So, overall, I actually think he's had a very successful run of it. I think this is an unfortunate episode. And hopefully, they don't put this, on the floor, and they just choose to do other policy that would be important to voters.
COLLINS: I want to ask you about something else that happened today, which is Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis was in an interview, and was asked about his view, of Senator Tuberville's hold, on those military nominations. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH HEWITT, HOST, "THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW": Do you think Senator Tuberville should remove those holds on the career chain of command, because it's really screwing things up?
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the reason -- no, I don't. And the reason is, is what the military's policy is, is not following U.S. law. They are using tax dollars. They are funding abortion tourism, which is not an appropriate thing for the military to be doing. So I think our Republicans in the Congress should just take a stand on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: It's Iowa robust for Ron DeSantis. And that is exactly what a caucusgoer, in Iowa, a lot of them would want to hear that he's going to stand up, for pro-life policies. They don't really see or feel that this might actually be screwing up military readiness. But they feel the issue, the pro-life issues, viscerally. It's one of the reasons, they are Republicans.
And so, I think, for Ron DeSantis, everything he's doing, right now, is about Iowa, because if you get close to Trump, or somehow beat him, in Iowa, it's game on. If you get beat out there, and then Donald Trump wins it going away? Race could be over.
COLLINS: And I should note, by abortion tourism, which was the phrase, he used, that means the Pentagon is paying for service members, who live in a state, where you can't get access to an abortion, to go out of state.
We did hear from Senator Tuberville, himself, though today.
COLLINS: He is, once again, still blocking these. He had an opportunity, this week, to stop. And he said he was standing by it.
He said he is essentially doing this, to stop the Biden administration, from doing this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Somebody is telling them no, and they can't handle it. They're going "What do you mean, we can't do this? You got to give us our candy. We got to continue on and turning this country into socialism." That's not going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Yes, that's not rational statement.
First of all, he better hope nothing bad happens. He better hope nothing bad happens.
He better hope that all of this nonsense he's doing, doesn't put America at risk, doesn't put our soldiers at risk. You've got some -- a place called North Korea that's got weapons. You got Iran with drones. You got a lot of stuff that's going on. And this stuff does have a big impact.
And those of us, who served in the federal government? He took an oath, same oath I took, the same oath those soldiers took, to protect the Constitution of the country, to defend us against enemies, foreign and domestic.
There are enemies, out there. And we're not focused on them, because he wants to play a politics, around abortion. He just better hope nothing bad happens, because if something does happen, it's going to be on him.
COLLINS: Van Jones, Scott Jennings, thank you both.
JENNINGS: Thank you.
COLLINS: Ahead, two migrants, who were pregnant, were in a Texas shelter, and now have disturbing allegations, saying the National Guard did not give them water, as they were trying to turn themselves in, to the immigration authorities. This comes, as some troopers are flagging, what they say, is inhumane treatment, at the border. We have a full report, next.
COLLINS: Tonight, two pregnant women tell CNN that the Texas National Guard would not give them water, as they were trying to turn themselves in, at the U.S.-Mexico border. A woman said she was six months pregnant, and was turned away repeatedly.
This is just the latest in allegations that migrants are being treated inhumanely, at the southern border. A report, out this week, includes a claim that troopers there were ordered -- had orders, to push migrants, back into the Rio Grande River, despite the obvious risk of drowning.
Two border medics, saying that they witnessed a 4-year-old girl, who passed out, in the 100-degree heat, and a 19 year old woman, trapped in razor wire, having a miscarriage.
I do want to warn you now these images are incredibly difficult to look at. But these are the injuries, a direct result of that razor wire, that's along the border, according to a Texas DPS report.
We know that the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has added additional razor wire, along the border.
The Justice Department says, tonight, it's assessing the situation, but has not yet opened any kind of formal investigation.
My colleague, Shimon Prokupecz, joins me now.
Shimon, I mean, the examples that we cited there, the pictures that we just were showing the viewers? I mean, that's just a few of these allegations that we're being told of.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, that's just a few. I know that there are more, because I've been talking to sources, in Texas, from the Department of Public Safety.
And there are several more complaints, filed by officers, state troopers, who are working the border, following the Greg Abbott policy, the governor's policy, following the Texas Department of Public Safety policy, in the apprehension of these migrants.
And what they're saying is that what they're doing is inhumane, in the way that they're treating these migrants.
And one of the issues is? You talk about this razor wiring. But what they have done is the way they have placed it, according to these allegations, from these troopers is that they're making the migrants go to the deeper end of the water.
So, in the shallow end, you have all the razor wiring. But the migrants have figured out, if they go to the deeper end, they may be able to get around it. And what's happening, on the deeper end, is they're drowning.
I mean, this one State Trooper wrote about how there were five deaths, just in that one weekend that he was there. And most of them, as a result of drownings, kids, babies, mothers carrying their kids, over, and are dying in this water.
And he also describes how they come across a large group of people, some 120 people. And basically, what the troopers are told to do, and the National Guard? Push them back in the water, force them back in the water, make them go back to Mexico.
And these people have spent, enormous amount of time, getting there. So, they're tired. They wanted water. They weren't given water, according to this Trooper.
The Department of Public Safety's denying a lot of these allegations, saying they don't have the directive, where not to give water or anything like that. But that's not what I'm hearing, from troopers, who are in meetings, who are being briefed, and told what to do.
COLLINS: And they're saying that they are being told that?
PROKUPECZ: They are being told not to give water. "Don't do anything to help the migrants." They're complaining about optics, and they don't want to make it seem like they're helping them. They want to make it as difficult as possible, for the migrants, when they're trying to cross.
COLLINS: And I imagine, the Governor, Greg Abbott, is saying similar?
PROKUPECZ: Well, what he's saying, right, that there is no policy, against giving water, and that there's no policy, in any way that's going to compromise people's lives. And he's, just saying, "Look, we have to protect the border. And we're going to do what we have to do." He's doubling down.
They're doing these buoys. And people are complaining about these buoys, and the effects that that can have, on the migrants, who are trying to cross over, drowning.
COLLINS: Which is what?
PROKUPECZ: They are these big orange things that are the barriers, you see it there, in the video that are supposed to somehow protect, or stop the migrants, from entering land. Other people have looked at this and said it's a problem, and it's not something that they should be doing because, people could drowned, trying to get around it, trying to get under it.
And all of this is happening, while when you look at the numbers, from the Border Patrol, they're down drastically, in terms of people trying to cross, since the new Title 42 policy. I mean, we haven't -- the decrease is so significant. It's been the largest decrease, since 2021.
So, this has a lot of people asking questions like, "Why is the Governor in Texas taking such an aggressive approach?" And the answer really, I mean, when you talk to most people in Texas, it's politics, right? This is an issue for the Republicans that it's an important issue, the borders. And so, they feel a lot of it is just politics.
COLLINS: Yes. And those immigration numbers are way down, compared to what we expected --
COLLINS: -- with Title 42.
Shimon Prokupecz, I know you'll be reporting on this. Keep us updated.
He felt to live his life, in a quote, "Proper fashion," after then- President Donald Trump commuted his prison sentence. But now, a convicted con man has been charged, yet again. Details ahead.
COLLINS: Eli Weinstein is a convicted Ponzi schemer, who got out of prison early, thanks to former President Trump, who committed his 24- year sentence, before he left office. Afterward, Weinstein vowed to make the most of his newfound freedom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIYAHU "ELI" WEINSTEIN, CONVICTED PONZI SCHEMER GRANTED CLEMENCY BY FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: My goal is to make everybody proud of me, and to lead my life, in the proper fashion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That was then.
This is now. More than two years later, Weinstein has just been charged, in a multimillion dollar fraud scheme.
Prosecutors say that his crimes were brazen and sophisticated. He allegedly used a fake name, to make false promises, to investors, about deals, for baby formula, scarce COVID medical supplies, and first aid kits that he claimed were going to war zones, in Ukraine.
According to the prosecutors, it seems Weinstein, quote, "Picked up right where he left off."
Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight. We'll see you, tomorrow night.
"CNN PRIMETIME" with Laura Coates, starts, right now.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST, CNN PRIMETIME: Good evening. Hey, Kaitlan? I've got one of your blazers on. You don't have a bright color on, today? What's going on?
COLLINS: I love it. No, I'm letting you take that mantle, tonight.
COLLINS: I'll be back, tomorrow night, with a bright blazer, OK?
COATES: All right, thank you. I'll hold you to that. Thank you so much.