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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Special Counsel Asking About Oval Office Meeting Where Trump Praised U.S. Election Security; DOJ Sues Texas Over Floating Barriers In Rio Grande; Alabama Republicans Refuse To Draw 2nd Black Majority District Despite Court Order. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 24, 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, the Special Counsel drilling down, on yet another Oval Office meeting. This time, Donald Trump bragged about election security, months before attacking election security.

Plus, "See you in court," the Governor of Texas, throwing down a challenge, to President Biden, the legal battle on the border, over what the White House says is chaos, and stunts. A 2024 contender, who represented a border district, is here with me.

And Alabama defying a Supreme Court order. A state lawmaker, on the fight, harkening back to the State's darkest history, will join me.

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

Good evening.

The grand jury, here in Washington, that is investigating Donald Trump, and his actions, surrounding January 6th, will meet again, tomorrow. That as the former President's legal team believes that he is on the verge, of being indicted, for potentially a third time.

Tonight, we have new exclusive reporting, on what Jack Smith is asking questions about, this time, another Oval Office meeting, that happened in February of 2020. Sources tell CNN that in that meeting, Trump praised the very improvement, to U.S. election security that he has now spent years, attacking.

This was, right around the same time, that, his administration put out a report, and added this quote here, "The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency" has "helped state and local election officials secure online voter registration systems, voting machines, and other election infrastructure." Trump was apparently so on board, with those changes, that he pushed the FBI, and Homeland Security, to hold a press conference, talking about what they had done.

Then, just months later, of course, as we've all seen, he launched what has become years of baseless attacks, on those very same election systems, something that he is still doing to this day.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Very dangerous thing for this country, because they're cheaters. They go and collect them. They're fraudulent in many cases.

I don't want to see a crooked election. This election will be the most rigged election in history.

The only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged. Remember that. It's the only way we're going to lose this election.

They know it's going to be fraudulent. It's going to be fraud all over the place.

I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.


COLLINS: I'm joined now, by one of the reporters, who broke this story, CNN's Evan Perez; as well as former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu.

Evan, let's start with what we know. Obviously, this is February of 2020. What was happening, in this meeting? Who all was there?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you had a number of important people, from inside the White House, of course, people from the Homeland Security Department, people involved in some of those election security efforts, the FBI. They all were there because the former President wanted everyone, to take credit, for all the work that he was very proud of.

He said his administration had been successful, in securing the election system. So that the 2020 election, in the end, the Homeland Security Department, ended up declaring it the most secure election, in U.S. history.

The former President, though, at the time, really liked hearing all the work that was done. And of course, you can see the contrast with him, just months later, weeks later actually, where he started undermining what he knew was the truth.

And so, one of the things that this raises, obviously, for the investigation is, for prosecutors, they want to know, his mindset. And this sort of gives a window, into two sides of Trump, when he's listening to his experts, and everything that he says, they did great, versus when he's listening to his non-experts, and he's going out peddling, these false claims of fraud, blaming Venezuela, and China, and Italian satellites, for --


PEREZ: -- for things that he says cost him the election.

COLLINS: Hugo Chavez and all the like.


COLLINS: Shan, what does it say to you that this is something that Jack Smith is asking about? I mean, I think that's what's the most notable, about this, is it's not just this meeting. There are other Oval Office meetings. Clearly, he has a lot of questions, on Trump's mindset.

But what do prosecutors need to know about this meeting? What is the intent of that?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I think it really speaks to how wide-ranging Smith is being, in the investigation. All of this evidence, he's gathering, may not all of course be used, in court. I mean, they're going to pick and choose what's best for them, to use. But he's really leaving no stone unturned.


This particular point, I think, is interesting, because it certainly shows, at one point, Trump's expressing that he has confidence, in the security of the election. And obviously, later, he changes his mind.

I think it's important to understand, though, they don't have to prove that he honestly believed the election was fine. He can continue to claim that "All in my heart, I distrusted the results, whatever I was being told." What they need to prove, ultimately, is his intent to interfere.

And that's a slightly nuanced distinction. But it's different than having to prove to the world that he honestly believed he lost. Evidence, where he says, "Yes, I think I lost," that's really damaging to his credibility. But it's not an element of their proof.

COLLINS: But Evan, also, what does it speak to, given Trump was getting these kinds of briefings, from these top officials? He knew how secure the systems were --

PEREZ: Right.

COLLINS: -- what they were doing, to beef it up, going into the election, obviously, with changes, because of the pandemic.

Yet, he was still publicly saying, before a vote was even cast that there was going to be widespread fraud. PEREZ: I think it goes to what Shan is saying, which is it goes to the idea, that the former President had one strategy, which was a political strategy, right, which was to claim, just in case he was going to turn out, on the losing end of this, to claim that it was not fair, that it was rigged. You hear him using that term a lot.


PEREZ: During the summer.

And it's all because he is anticipating, or he's setting up, certainly, what ended up happening, which was he came out on the losing end.

And so, I think, if you're the prosecutors, you can look at both things and bifurcate it, right?

On one hand, he's listening to his experts, and he wants to take credit, for everything that they've done. And even up till the end, he's hearing his White House Counsel, he's hearing his Attorney General, everyone, telling him that these fraud claims were bogus.

And he decides to follow his political whims, right, which was to claim that it was fraud, so that he could try to remain in power.

COLLINS: Yes. And all of this comes, as we're looking at what Jack Smith is looking at, Shan, and where Trump's team is bracing for an indictment. They believe it could happen potentially, as soon as tomorrow. I mean, no one really seems to know.

If and when that does come down, what are you going to be looking for, when it comes to seeing what Jack Smith is asking about, but seeing what he actually thinks he could potentially prove and charge?

WU: Yes. I think he has a history, Smith, does, of doing the so-called speaking indictments. So, we'll be looking for a pretty well laid-out story, here, in terms of what happened.

I'm particularly curious as to whether they're going to really rely upon the violence that happened, and whether they're going to interweave that into the charges that they're choosing, to bring forward.

On the one hand, it's a very good thing, for the D.C. jury, because they were all aware of the violence that affected them.

On the other hand, it may be easier, for Trump, to distance himself, from the violence. "I wasn't there breaking things. I didn't tell them -- I told them to do things peacefully."

But it's an integral part of what happened. And he's clearly laying a story that starts much earlier than that actual day, January 6.

PEREZ: Right. This dates back to February of 2020, right?

WU: Yes, exactly. COLLINS: I know it's going to --

WU: It's a full story.

COLLINS: -- potentially fascinating, especially just given obviously, he has much more power, than the January 6 congressional committee did.

WU: Right.

COLLINS: Evan, great reporting.

Shan, thank you very much.

Joining me, tonight, is Republican presidential candidate, and former Congressman, Will Hurd.

Congressman, you were a CIA officer, for nearly 10 years. What do you make of Jack Smith's interest, in Trump's mindset, about election systems, being secure, before he was aggressively attacking those very same election systems?

WILL HURD, 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, (R) FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think he's going for this creating a conspiracy, right? This is -- the FBI is known for this. They've done this, in a number of white-collar crimes. I think that's what the focus is.

We saw so much of the interviews that happened, during the January 6 committee hearings. We saw the conclusion of the Fox News and Dominion lawsuit, about the fact that so many people knew that what Donald Trump was saying was a lie.

I think you have the video evidence. Donald Trump rallied everybody, to come to the Capitol, on January 6th. He told them to march down the street, on January 6th. He basically told them to get Mike Pence.

And to me, if we are sick and tired of this kind of thing, if we don't want to see this potentially happen again? Then, we need to make sure that Donald Trump loses, in the Republican primary, because the likelihood that these court cases get resolved before that happens is very low.

So, it's time to -- we need more people voting, in this Republican primary, to make sure that we don't see what we saw, on January 6, ever happen again.

COLLINS: Yes. He's on the verge of potentially being indicted, for January 6th, in that investigation.

He reposted a meme, over the weekend, that read January 6th will go down in history "as the day" that the government staged a riot "to cover up the fact" that "they certified a fraudulent election." That's what Donald Trump reposted.

I mean, beyond the fact that Trump was the one, running the government, that day, what do you make of that? [21:10:00]

HURD: Well, look, this is -- it's insane, is literally the bottom line.

And what's even wilder to me is that the number of people that are trying to run against Donald Trump are defending him. You're not going to beat Donald Trump, by kissing his butt, or being a clone of him, or licking his boots.

This is someone, who is a national security threat, to the United States. This is someone, who willingly -- like, imagine if you had kids working on the Capitol, that day, first time, you're working for your hometown congressman, and you're hiding under your desk? That's absolutely crazy to me.

And then, the fact that he was setting this up, all way in the summer, when he started getting reports that he was potentially could lose to Joe Biden.

And what's frustrating to me is that you know who's excited, about all this going on? Our adversaries. The Chinese government, the Russian government, the Iranian government, the North Korean government, all of them, are gleeful that this kind of drama is going on.

And unfortunately, if the Republican Party nominates Donald Trump, as our nominee, then we're going to give four more years, to Joe Biden, because this baggage is only increasing, and it's only going to hurt more, in a general election.

COLLINS: Senator Tim Scott said recently that he holds the rioters responsible, for what happened that day, not Trump himself. Obviously, Senator Scott was there that day.

Who do you believe is responsible for what happened on January 6th?

HURD: I think the people that were responsible are the people that sent the rioters, and the people that were down there, trying to do an insurrection, right?

Like everybody -- like Donald Trump is responsible. He's the one that fomented this. We know that he was planning, and working with groups, in advance. That evidence has already come out in the January 6th hearings. And to me, those, you know, I wasn't in Congress. I had just left, when that happened.

And unfortunately, we have too many people that are supporting Donald Trump, and are not calling a spade a spade. And we need more people that are willing to stand up. We need more people to vote in the Republican Party, because we can't handle four more years of Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

COLLINS: Well we have more questions, for you, about the primary process, of course. Standby, Congressman. Not just that, also the Border battle that is going on with your home state, and the Justice Department. We'll get to that in just a moment. Also ahead, Ukraine is now taking credit, for today's drone strikes, on Moscow, warning that Putin that more attacks could come. I'm going to speak with the former Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, about this new flashpoint, in the war.



COLLINS: Tonight, the Justice Department is now suing the State of Texas, over those floating barriers, in the Rio Grande, that the Administration says violates the law.

The Justice Department told Texas governor, who is a Republican, I should note, Greg Abbott, to remove them, last week, citing federal laws that protect free navigation, along the waterway that you see there, as well as their concerns, about the humanitarian issues, at play, here.

Abbott refused to do so, and argued that they are needed, to deter migrants, from crossing over, from Mexico. And he wrote a letter, to President Biden, essentially saying "See you in court."


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We will litigate it, initially, in a federal district court, in the State of Texas. If we lose there, we will be going to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and eventually all the way to the United States Supreme Court, because Texas is defending its sovereignty, and its constitutional right, to secure the border of our State, and our country.


COLLINS: Former congressman, and Republican candidate for president, Will Hurd is back with me now.

Congressman, obviously, you represented a district in Texas that encompasses more than 800 miles of the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border. You know these issues well. Do you agree that the Justice Department has the standing to take legal action here?

HURD: Well, the way this should have been resolved, is Joe Biden should have picked up the phone, called Governor Abbott, and talked about what is the best way that we can share, use federal resources and state resources, to address a humanitarian crisis that is not only impacting every community, along the border, in Texas, but communities, throughout the United States. This is how this should have been resolved.

There are probably some issues, when it comes to the landowner rights that are happening in the border. There's an international boundary or an international boundary, the treaty that dictates how activity should happen, along the border.

But the fact that this is being sorted -- trying to be sorted out, in a court of law is not beneficial to anybody. What needs to happen is Texas and the United States -- and the U.S. government should be working together, to get the Mexican government, to do more, on their side.

5.5 million people have come into this country, illegally, since Joe Biden is has been in office. This crisis began under Donald Trump. It got significantly worse under Joe Biden. And this is not going to get resolved, by these legal battles, and everybody trying to fight, in social media, and the press.

COLLINS: Yes, I should note, illegal border crossings are actually, at their lowest point, in about two years, which is not what people were predicting, when those Title 42 restrictions were lifted.

HURD: Sure.

COLLINS: But you just mentioned there, something that -- I think most people would like to believe that the President could call the Texas governor, and they could have a conversation about this.

But I mean, given the fact that Greg Abbott, has bused migrants, to the Vice President's residence, here in Washington, and dropped them off, in a political move, clearly, I mean, do you really think that a conversation between the two of them would have resolved this?

HURD: Well, it should.

And let's talk about the realities of what's happening. It is about 110 degrees, at night, when the sun goes down, in many of these places. You always see a decrease in the amount of people that are coming across the border, illegally, in the summer.


It's not humane, to allow human smugglers, to have people go, in these treacherous waters, and come in between our ports of entry. It's illegal to come into a country, in between our ports of entry. It's not humane, to have people sleeping on the sidewalks, in places like El Paso, and Eagle Pass, when it is over 100 degrees, at night.

And it's just not about busing people to California and New York. There's hundreds of people every single night that are flying out of airports, to places, all around the country.

And so, ultimately, we know what the problem is here. You got to stop treating everybody, as an asylum-seeker. Donald Trump started this. It's happened under Joe Biden. People wanting to come to the United States, to get a good-paying job is not an excuse for asylum. You can't come in between our ports of entry.

Why hasn't Joe Biden worked on trying to streamline legal immigration? It's 2023. We should be able to determine that Texas needs workers, in the hospitality industry. Florida needs workers in agriculture. And we should be able to address that. Joe Biden is doing nothing on this.

And then also, how come the Mexican government is not helping us enough?

So, these are all the problems. And this is a problem, squarely, because of Joe Biden. And it started under Donald Trump.

And if people want to see these kinds of debates happening, if people want to see someone, who's not afraid, to tell Donald Trump that he did the wrong thing, in January 6, and was responsible for that? Then, I need you all to go on, and help me get on the debate stage, so we could have these debates, with Donald Trump, and the rest of the Republican nominees.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, I should note Congress isn't doing much, to fix immigration, either.

But on the debate stage, I'm glad you brought that up, because seven candidates have now met that polling threshold that you have to meet, to get on the first stage, in a little over a month from now.

I know you hope to qualify. But you have not qualified yet. What happens if you don't?

HURD: Well, I'm on week number five that we're working towards, hitting our numbers. We got about 28 days, in order to accomplish this. That's what we're working towards. We know what we need to do, in order to do this.

And here's what I'm learning. Folks want to see someone on the debate stage, who is willing, to take it to Donald Trump, who's not afraid of Donald Trump, who's not going to give him a pass, on all the things that he's done wrong, who's going to talk about how he's lost? He hasn't won an election, since 2016.

But also, someone who's going to talk about the future, about how do we deal with the Chinese government? How do we make sure that our kids are getting a world-class education? How do we make sure that they're getting, when they go to school, that they're in safe environments? These are the base to have.

And again, it's All you have to do is give $1, and we'll cross that bridge, when we come to it.

And Kaitlan, you know, I said, I'm not going to sign a pledge, I'm going to support the nominee, because I will not support Donald Trump. I can't lie to get access, to a microphone. But Donald Trump hasn't even agreed yet that he was going to sign that pledge. So, a lot could happen in the next five weeks.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see what does happen.

The closest challenger to Trump, right now, and it's not even really that close, depending on which poll you're looking at, and which state, is Governor Ron DeSantis.

He is defending a new benchmark that was included, in this overhaul, to Florida's African American history standards. And the benchmark says middle-schoolers should be instructed, and I'm quoting from it now, "Slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."

This is DeSantis defending it.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what they're doing is I think that they're probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith, into doing things, later in life.


COLLINS: What do you make of that defense?

HURD: Look, it is shocking to me, Kaitlan, that in 2023, I have to say this. There is no -- there was no upside to slavery. Slavery was not a jobs program.

And also, Ron DeSantis showed his lack of leadership, by acting like it was somebody else's fault and not something that was done, on his watch.

Here is the reality. If you're going to talk about how African Americans, despite being treated, like property, despite having zero freedoms, or zero rights, that they still had a tremendous impact on our country, if you want to talk about that? That's great. But to imply that there was an upside? It is unacceptable.

And what he should have done is say, "Listen? That was worded wrong. We're going to fix that. There is no upside to slavery. We're going to make sure that we talk about this, and that our kids in schools, get a proper understanding, of our history." That's how a real leader would have solved this problem. Not letting this continue to fester.

COLLINS: Congressman Will Hurd, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

HURD: It's always a pleasure to be on.


COLLINS: Protesters, in Israel, pouring into the streets, after a vote, to overhaul the Supreme Court's powers, passed today, despite warnings from the White House that it shouldn't.

And Ukraine is now claiming responsibility, for those attacks, you saw, on Moscow, inside the capital, as Russia is continuing its assault, on the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.

Perspective from the former Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, next.


COLLINS: Tonight, a new flashpoint, in Vladimir Putin's war, on Ukraine.

Ukraine is now warning Moscow that it could see more drone strikes, after they claimed responsibility, for the unmanned drones, that crashed into buildings, in the Russian capital. And though the strikes did not cause major damage, they did hit inside the Russian Defense Ministry complex, which houses the GRU, Russia's military intelligence service.

That comes after Ukraine says that Russian missiles destroyed dozens of cultural landmarks, in Ukraine, including a historic Cathedral, in Odessa, that you can see here. The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dates back to the late 1700s.

But this is just the latest, in the wave of attacks that we've seen, on the southern port city, where Russia is actively destroying Ukraine's grain reserves, and therefore threatening the global food supply.

Joining me now, for more on this, Leon Panetta, former Defense Secretary and CIA Director, under President Obama.

Mr. Secretary, thank you, for being here, tonight.

We seem to have hit a turning point, where Ukraine is openly claiming responsibilities, for some of these attacks that are happening, inside Russia. I mean, just the fact that they happened, the fact that they're taking credit for it, what does it say to you about what stage of the conflict that we are in here?


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA, CIA DIRECTOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well I think the Ukrainians are making a statement that Russia is not just going to have a license, to attack their cities, and their people, and their cathedrals, and not get pushback, from the Ukrainians.

And they're made very clear that they're going to respond. They're going to send these drones, into Moscow. They're going to send drones, into Crimea. They're going to hit the Russians back. I think that's the message that the Ukrainians are sending.

COLLINS: Yes, because of course, the Russians have obviously been bombarding Ukraine. But Russians have largely lived, without a fear of that.

Ukraine's Defense Minister said today, Kyiv's counteroffensive, it's behind schedule. It's not where they want it to be. How much do you believe that has to do just to the lack of weapons, or the ammunition, that they say, they so desperately need?

PANETTA: Well, I think it's a combination of things. Obviously, look, this is a tough slog. It's not easy.

The Russians have planted a huge number of mines. They've built fortifications. They have manpower. They control the air over those areas. The Ukrainians are struggling to be able to keep up with the arms that they need, in order to hit the Russians. And so, that combination, obviously, is what has thrown them off of their schedule.

Now, Ukrainians have made progress. They've been able to get back over a half of the land that the Russians acquired, during the invasion. In addition to that, they continue to put pressure, on the Russians, in the East.

But there's no question that, we're looking at one of two paths here.

One is the Russian path, which is a war of attrition, a stalemate that ultimately can break the will of the United States, the Ukrainians and our allies.

The other is the Ukrainian path, which is to have a successful initiative, here, to go after the Russians, break their line, push the Russians back, and ultimately force Putin, either to withdraw, or to negotiate. Hopefully, that is the path that ultimately, Ukrainians, the United States, and our allies, have to make sure, takes place, in this war.

COLLINS: We also saw what's happening, in Israel, today, where lawmakers enacted a major change, in a law, restricting, essentially, the ways in which the Supreme Court can overrule the government. Did you -- seeing that, which the White House warned against, I should note, did you see that as a blow, to the rule of law, in Israel?

PANETTA: The bond that the United States has with Israel is built on the fact that Israel is a democracy, the only democracy in the Middle East, and that we share some basic values, as democracies. And one of those important values is a system of checks and balances that makes sure that power is not going to be centralized, in any one branch of government.

I think what they did, by enacting this limitation, on the ability of the Supreme Court, to have oversight, over what happens, in the government, impacts on their system of checks and balances, and very frankly, weakens their democracy. That's not good for Israel. It's not good for the United States. And frankly, it's not good for the Middle East.

COLLINS: And, of course, it's, as Netanyahu himself is on trial, for corruption charges.

Mr. Secretary, before we go, three years ago, you signed your name, to a letter, alongside dozens of other Intelligence officials, saying that the Hunter Biden email saga had -- the letter said all the classic earmarks, of a Russian information operation. You noted that the people who signed it said you didn't know for sure, of course, what it was.

But given what we know now, do you wish that you hadn't signed that letter or been involved in it?

PANETTA: No, not at all. I signed that letter, for one reason, which was to make the American people aware that the Russians deliberately were engaged in a disinformation campaign, in the United States, and trying to impact, on our election, and trying to impact, on our ability, to have free and fair elections. That's why I signed that letter.

And very frankly, I've seen no evidence, to the contrary, that Russia has not engaged, in that kind of disinformation campaign.

COLLINS: Right. Well we just haven't seen evidence affirming that either.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much, for your time, and for your expertise, tonight.

PANETTA: Good to be with you, Kaitlan.


COLLINS: GOP senator, Mitt Romney, has a new urgent message, for his party, what he says Republicans must do, in his view, to block Donald Trump, from becoming the Republican nominee.

Plus, Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing the reset button, again, on his own White House run. Details on his new promise, to deliver what they say is a quote, "Leaner, meaner" campaign.


COLLINS: We are now less than one month away, from the first Republican presidential primary debate. It's going to be happening in Milwaukee. And so far, seven of the declared candidates have met the polling threshold that would get them a spot on that stage.

The latest poll, which is from Fox Business, shows Trump with at least a 30-point lead, in both Iowa and South Carolina. Training him in second, as you can see here, Governor Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Senator Tim Scott, all essentially in a statistical tie.

Governor DeSantis, for his part, is rebooting yet again, now promising donors a leaner, meaner campaign.

Tonight, all this is happening is top Republican Party officials, are still trying to convince the front-runner, Donald Trump, to show up.


TRUMP: Ronald Reagan didn't do it, and a lot of other people didn't do it. When you have a big lead, you don't do it.


COLLINS: For more on this, I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator, Karen Finney.


And Matt Lewis, Senior Columnist at The Daily Beast, and Author of the new book, "Filthy Rich Politicians: The Swamp Creatures, Latte Liberals, and Ruling-Class Elites Cashing in on America."

We are going to get to that book, in a moment, Matt, because obviously, it's a topic, I think, everyone can agree on.

But we're learning these new details about another reset that the DeSantis campaign is trying. It involves smaller events, getting him in front of voters, in these early states, like Iowa and South Carolina, and kind of what they say is embracing this underdog mentality. The question, of course is does it work?

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST AT THE DAILY BEAST, AUTHOR, "FILTHY RICH POLITICIANS": Well, I think they have to do something. So, I'm all for rejiggering and retooling or whatever, rebooting, whatever they want to do. I just I don't think it's going to work.

Now, we have seen campaigns, John Kerry, in 2004, John McCain, in 2008, where it has worked.

But I think the fundamental problem, with Ron DeSantis? It's not about his staff. It's not about overhead or the burn rate. It's about Ron DeSantis. People don't like Ron DeSantis. But he can't fire himself. And so, the shakeup has to be something else. So, they have to try this.

But at the end of the day, you have a candidate, who's running against Donald Trump, who's still wildly popular, in the Republican Party, at least. And you have a candidate who, on paper, I think, Ron DeSantis, had a lot of pretty compelling arguments, for why he should be the nominee. But he's just not a likable or charismatic person.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But also, it feels like the Republican primary electorate, has said, "We want Donald Trump. We don't want the fake version from Florida. This is who we want. This is who we're going to support."

So, in that instance, DeSantis just doesn't offer anything. He's not been able to grow the base, of support -- his base of support, throughout this period that he's been retooling and retooling and retooling. And it's hard to see how "Leaner, meaner" is going to actually benefit him. I mean, it's more of the Establishment saying, "We're trying to pump him up." But it's not -- voters just aren't buying it.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, there is still time. Obviously, we're still in the summer. But, I mean, the debate obviously is seen as critical by a lot of people. And that's what was so interesting about that new poll that obviously all the Republicans were waiting for, to come out, yesterday.


COLLINS: Is to see how much people, like Senator Tim Scott, have gained ground. I mean, obviously, DeSantis' campaign, for weeks now, has been saying he deserves more scrutiny, because essentially, they would like for the heat to be on someone else as well.

LEWIS: Well, I mean, I was just talking about how Ron DeSantis, in my opinion, and I think a lot of people's opinion, lacks the "Wow" factor, that certain something. Tim Scott has that. Tim Scott is likable, utterly likable. He's optimistic. And I think he has the potential to have a moment. He's the kind of candidate, who I think could catch fire, in a debate. I don't think he becomes the nominee. But I think he could have a moment.

And then, the question, I think, will be, does Donald Trump turn on him, the way He went after like Ben Carson, in 2016? Or does Tim Scott? I think he's even potentially in the running to be a running mate for Donald Trump?

FINNEY: Sure. I mean, although I think we're going to see, because the field is so large, people going up and down, throughout the next several months. But that, again, that core base that supports Donald Trump, just does not seem to be going anywhere.

So, you may see Nikki Haley, you may see Tim Scott, again, sort of go up and down and up and down. But that core base, they still want Trump.

COLLINS: Well, and given that, Senator Romney put out a new Op-Ed, in the Wall Street Journal, today.


COLLINS: Speaking to everyone, who was not named Donald Trump, and essentially saying, if all of these people stay in the race, you're going to see a repeat of 2016. I mean, he said, "Donors who are backing someone with a slim chance of winning should seek a commitment from the candidate to drop out and endorse the person with the best chance of defeating Mr. Trump by February 26."

I mean, how are you going to convince those candidates --



COLLINS: -- "Hey, you need to drop out. It's time."

LEWIS: Here we go again. I feel like I've been through this story before, where like "OK, if Ted Cruz wins Texas, and Marco wins Florida, we can," you know, look, I will say, it is true, it really doesn't matter how many candidates are running. What does matter are when they do get out, so.

But how do you -- how do you tell somebody, they're the one to get out?

FINNEY: Right.

LEWIS: That fundamentally was the problem, in 2016.

FINNEY: Right. "I'm going to stand. But you get out," right?


FINNEY: That's going to be the conversation.


FINNEY: "No, no, you go, and I'll stay," I mean.

COLLINS: "Yes. You jump off the bridge. I'm going to stay over here."

FINNEY: Exactly. I mean, you could see how that conversation goes.

And again, this is the difference between the Establishment donors and the base, where the base is saying, "We want Trump." We can see it in his fundraising. The Establishment, they get together, and they're trying to, reboot Ron DeSantis. There's a real disconnect there.

COLLINS: Yes. Let's talk about your book. I mentioned that, of course, "Filthy Rich Politicians."


COLLINS: It is out now. Everyone can buy it.


You talk essentially, in there, about how candidates, or how politicians become so wealthy, what they make on Capitol Hill, but how they actually make so much money.

And one thing that has been pointed out, in Governor Ron DeSantis' first fundraising quarter, is one of his largest campaign expenses, is private planes. That, candidates will argue they need them to get around, because of their schedules. But his campaign paid nearly half a million dollars, in these travel expenses. I mean, it was $480,000 (ph).

I mean, given the fact that you cover so much of this political wealth, and what politicians do, what did you make of that number?

LEWIS: Well, I do think that one of the reasons that we can't get rid of politicians, that they stay in Congress forever, as I write in the book that, the Founders wanted them to leave the farm, and go to Washington, D.C. But now, they'd rather buy the farm than leave the farm -- than go back to the farm? I think it's because of this lifestyle.

They've become accustomed, this lifestyle, they've become accustomed to. And it wouldn't surprise me if Ron DeSantis, has a taste, now, for flying private. I've heard it's nice.

But by the way, Ron DeSantis just became a millionaire. He was, as recently as like, two months ago, he was -- his net worth was $300,000. And now, because of his book, he's a millionaire. So, maybe he's a filthy rich politician.

COLLINS: All right. Matt Lewis, Karen Finney, thank you both. And good to see you, here in Washington.

FINNEY: You too.

COLLINS: All right, Alabama Democrats are ripping Governor Kay Ivey, over the newly-proposed congressional map that she has just signed. It includes just one majority Black district, in the entire state.

One Alabama state lawmaker says it is offensive and wrong. And he's my next guest.



COLLINS: Alabama Republicans are pushing through a new congressional map, openly defying the nation's highest court, tonight.

Last month, the Supreme Court stunned Alabama lawmakers, when it ruled that they needed to redraw the map, to create two majority Black districts, or something quite close to it, as the Court said, to comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and to better-correlate with the State's 27 percent Black population.

The new map drops the percentage of Black voters, in the existing majority Black district, from 55 percent to roughly 50 percent, and only increases the second district's share, of Black voters, to about 40 percent, from about 30 percent.

The Republican supermajority is calling this a compromise. But Democrats, in the State, say it is offensive and wrong. The map now has to be approved, by a federal record, which I should note is set to hear the case, next month.

This is a fight though that is not just about Alabama. It has legal implications far beyond, given 10 other states are also waging similar battles.

Critics say this decision though, in Alabama, echoes the worst parts, of the State's history, including my next guest, tonight, Democratic state legislator, Prince Chestnut, of Selma.

And thank you, Representative, for being here.

I mean, Republicans, in the State, including Chris Pringle, say that this map allows minorities, to elect a candidate, of their choosing. They said this was the best compromise that they could get. But is it a fair map, in your view?


And I think it's what's really pressing is the fact that the Alabama legislature, the supermajority, did not respect the ruling of the Supreme Court.

COLLINS: Well, as we know, Alabama has -- I mean, as we both know, we're both from there, has a fraught history, with courts, having to get involved, on laws, related to voting and civil rights. I mean, it was a legal challenge, in the State, in the early 1990s that forced the creation of that 7th congressional district, which is, right now, the State's only majority Black district.

I mean, does it surprise you that you're still having this fight in Alabama, all these years later?

CHESTNUT: Yes, it does, because I have ancestors that were involved, in this fight. And my grandmother was one of the people, to ask for desegregation, in the Selma city school system, more than 50 years ago. Have a relative that was a lawyer that fought these fights, 50 years ago.

And I just find it surprising and stunning that I'm still fighting those same fights that my ancestors fought.

COLLINS: What was your grandmother's name?

CHESTNUT: Her name was Velberta (ph) Chestnut.

COLLINS: And the fact that you do see that through line, from there, to where we are now, and to what you're fighting through? I mean, what does it say to you?

CHESTNUT: Well, it just says to me that there are many, in our home state, that have a very recalcitrant and an obstreperous mindset that they're just not going to do the right thing, unless a federal court makes them do it.

COLLINS: What do you think your grandmother would think of the fight that you're fighting now?

CHESTNUT: I have no doubt that she would be very proud of me. I think, when you're born, you're born a Chestnut, in Alabama, especially if you choose the profession that I chose? You have no choice. You have to serve people.

COLLINS: What we were -- I mean, this isn't just an Alabama thing. And also, I think the through lines to Washington, here, is part of this. Because Senator Steve Livingston, who is a Republican, from Scottsboro, said he spoke with House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who he said, told him, "I'm interested in keeping my majority."

I mean, what do you say to the Kevin McCarthys, the other national Republicans that are getting involved, in the redrawing of Alabama's map?


CHESTNUT: Yes. In Alabama, we always say we should have Alabama solutions for Alabama problem.

Well, if that's the case, then why is someone, from California, calling in to Alabama, dictating the terms, by which we engage in legislation? I just find it that patently offensive. And it is meddling at the highest order. And we should reject that.

But instead of rejecting that it seems like many, in the Legislature, accepted that push to do something that would violate the Supreme Court order.

Because, I think, when you look at that map, that they drew, there's no way that you can look at that map, and look at the how Black -- the Black population is very contiguous and compact. You can draw two districts with majority-minority districts easily. You can do that easily. And if you can't do one, do both with over 50 percent. You can get something very close to it.

COLLINS: Alabama State Representative, Prince Chestnut, thank you, for coming on. Thank you, for also sharing, about your grandmother, with us.

CHESTNUT: Thank you.

COLLINS: And we'll be right back.



COLLINS: And thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.

"CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip, starts right now.