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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Top Election Security Official Fired By Trump Spoke To Special Counsel Investigating Election Interference; Trump: "Not Concerned" About Possible Indictments; Military Families Stuck In Political Battle. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 25, 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, exactly what Donald Trump has been asking for, the Speaker of the House making his most direct threat yet, about impeaching President Biden. Why the sudden shift, as even Kevin McCarthy is admitting, his Republicans have not yet proven, any wrongdoing, by the current President?

Plus, panic on the court. One of the biggest names, in college basketball, in the hospital, before he's ever even played a game. Bronny James, the 18-year-old son of LeBron James, suffered cardiac arrest, and is now, thankfully, out of the ICU. But fear and questions remain, about his condition.

And 15 months, after he was freed, in a prisoner swap, a U.S. Marine veteran has been injured, in Ukraine. What we're learning more, at this hour, about what Trevor Reed was doing, in Ukraine, and what this could potentially mean, for other Americans, who are being wrongfully held, in Russia.

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

Tonight, Donald Trump is on the campaign trail, in New Orleans, as his legal team is bracing, for a third potential indictment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any thoughts on your upcoming possible indictment?

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't know anything about it. I don't know anything. We have a crooked nation.

I am not concerned. I am not concerned. We have a -- we are legit. We have very corrupt people running our country.


COLLINS: We should note, again, his legal team is bracing, for that third indictment.

And today, the grand jury, that is hearing evidence, in the January 6th investigation, didn't meet, as expected. But we're learning more about that investigation, who exactly it is, that investigators are speaking with.

Tonight, the top election security official, who was fired by President Donald Trump, in the weeks, after the 2020 election, because he refuted Trump's claims about election fraud, Chris Krebs, is confirming to me that he spoke, to the Special Counsel's team in early May.

This is the first time that he is confirming publicly that they spoke, and that he sat down, with Jack Smith's investigators.

What's new and notable also is obviously the timing. This happened in early May. We know, as part of this broad investigation, that's been happening here, Smith's team has been asking about Krebs' firing, and the timeline surrounding it, for months now.

As Trump's legal liability is growing, meanwhile, in this 2024 race, his Republican challengers are struggling to catch fire. In fact, the man, who was once thought to be potentially his strongest competition, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, is facing new questions, about the strength, of his own campaign.

Sources tell CNN that he is cutting more than a third of his team, to rein in spending, amid concerns about cash, coming from donors. While DeSantis' team is now promising a leaner and meaner organization, his poll numbers have been slipping.

Meanwhile, here in Washington, the House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, as I noted, is facing enormous pressure, to show support for Trump, in the 2024 race. He has yet to endorse any candidate.

And he is now making his most explicit threat yet on impeaching President Biden.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): All of this continues to unravel it rises to the level of an impeachment inquiry.

What that simply provides is that the American public has a right to know, and this allows Congress, to get the information, to be able to know the truth.


COLLINS: I should note, Speaker McCarthy acknowledged that House Republicans have yet to directly link the President, to his son's business dealings. The White House has maintained all along that Biden had no involvement, in those business deals.

I'm joined, tonight, to talk about the investigation here that is underway, into the former President, by former federal prosecutor, and CNN Anchor, Laura Coates; and former acting Solicitor General, Neal Katyal.

Thank you both, for being here.

Laura, I mean -- or Neal, let me start with you, actually, since you're joining me here, for the first time. The grand jury we all thought, was going to meet today, they did not actually go there. We were there, all day, staking out the courthouse, as CNN's team always is. They didn't show up. What does that signify to you?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Very hard to read much into it one way or the other, Kaitlan. I mean, it's reading tea leaves. It could mean that there was an indictment that's already been voted on, by the grand jury, last week.

Jack Smith did issue that target letter, last Sunday. We haven't actually seen the text of the letter. But Donald Trump has confirmed aspects of it. And, I think, for a prosecutor to do that, like Jack Smith? He's basically done. He's basically saying, "I'm going to do this. I'm warning you now. The threshold, the barrier to otherwise would be too high."


So, I think, his ducks are in a row. Is it going to be Thursday, when the grand jury next meets, or next Monday, or Tuesday? I think it's going to be soon. But possible to tell today, tomorrow, you know, that way.


LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Just to unpack, and I know you're under predictions, but just to unpack the word, "Done," in some respects? When a prosecutor is laying out their case, and has the grand jury, and their subpoenas? They're looking to figure out do they have enough testimony that corroborates somebody else's testimony.

The ducks in a row entails being able to say, "Have I gotten all of the investigative materials that I would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt? Who will I call as a witness? Is that person credible? Was there a problem in the grand jury, where the grand jurors, who are allowed to ask questions in that room, are they kind of taking a step back and saying, this is not the guy or woman you want to have on there?"

Also, remember, an indictment is not necessarily final. It can be superseded, meaning, they could add a charge or two, except that the grand jury is not supposed to be a trial prep vehicle, or tool.

It's supposed to be, when you indict, you had all the investigative material, and really the weight of the government, on your side. You're supposed to have what you need, as a closed universe. But sometimes, a defendant will actually engage, in behavior, later on, that makes you want to amend your complaint and indictment.

COLLINS: Yes. And so, there are definitely still questions, about his investigation, because we believe other people will likely be indicted, if Trump is, not just Trump, obviously, here.

It has not been that long, though. I mean, if you look at the timing, from the documents investigation, from when Trump got that target letter, to when the indictment happened, it was a span of about 20 days.

KATYAL: Correct. And it could go as long as 20 days. My guess is here, it's going to go faster, because Jack Smith has more information, this time, than he did, last time, in two different senses.

One, the January 6th copious amount of information is just, it's already gathered a lot by Congress, and the January 6th committee, and so on.

But also, Jack Smith knew, this time, Trump's playbook, which is you send a target letter, what's Trump going to do? He's going to tweet about it or use this, whatever it's called social meet -- whatever his social media thing is called, and alert the world that way to it.

So, I think Smith probably understood the timeline, this time, was going to be less than 20 days.


Laura, what do you make of Trump saying, as he did in New Orleans, tonight, saying, "I'm not concerned about another indictment," saying "I don't really know anything about that."

I mean, I know even just behind-the-scenes, he's been talking to his legal team, non-stop, about it. And he was the one who told us he got the target letter, in this investigation.

COATES: Sure, you're not concerned about it? OK. That sounds implausible to me, for a variety of reasons.

One being, of course, on the one hand, certainly he has been called, "Teflon Don," and he hasn't faced a whole lot of accountability, or even full indictments yet, at the federal level.

But on the other hand, this is still a serious allegation that's even looming, not only in Manhattan, of course, which is considered maybe the lesser of the indictments, possible, the one in Miami, or as in Southern District of Florida, the one that might be looming in Georgia.

But unlike, for example, the last trial, he had, when you had E. Jean Carroll, and the lawsuit, he actually has to be present, for whatever comes, next, meaning, he has to be off the campaign trail.

He has to factor in whether voters want the weight, and the exhaustion, and possibly, fatigue, of all. And he has to guard against a documents case, which is far easier, if you are Jack Smith, than say a more tangled web of January 6th, either you had the documents or you did not.

So, at all fronts, every individual prosecutor can focus on their case. His attorneys, who are all shared counsel, have to cast the net out, widely, and be prepared for all of it.


COATES: That's cause for concern.

COLLINS: And this is a really wide net. I mean, now that we have Chris Krebs confirming that he did speak, with Jack Smith's team, in early May?

Obviously, he was the top -- for people, who don't remember him, because that was obviously a really chaotic period? He was the top election cybersecurity official. And he had said this was one of the safest and most secure elections in U.S. history. Trump directly said that was why he fired him.

What do you read into the fact that Jack Smith's team is not only speaking to him, but they're also asking questions, of the timeline, surrounding his firing?

KATYAL: Yes. So, Jack Smith is a career non-political, very serious federal prosecutor, like Laura, before she left for higher pastures.

COATES: Oh, my god, says the man of the "Courtside" podcast. Oh, my goodness, thank you so much. Wow. It's touching.

KATYAL: And what I think he's trying to do is really demonstrate something we call mens rea, criminal intent, which is did Donald Trump act with corrupt intent?

And the way to do that is to look at starting in February 2020, as the CNN story, yesterday, showed that Smith is investigating people that told Trump, and what Trump said, about just how secure elections were.

So, before the election, Trump believed this. During the election, Trump is a -- Smith is interviewing contemporary evidence -- getting contemporary evidence, about what Trump said, to people, in the Oval Office, in those meetings, and then after the election, going up to January 6th.

All of this is part of a piece, to show the criminal intent here. The corrupt intent is solid. And I suspect Jack Smith believes it is.


COLLINS: Yes. And Laura, I'm so glad you brought up his podcast, because you have this interesting podcast, where you sit down, with celebrities, and you talk to them about what we're talking about, right now. What's playing out the biggest legal issues that we're talking about?

And, right now, you had one, and you spoke to John Mulaney. I want our audience to listen to that.


JOHN MULANEY, COMEDIAN: We are kind of in this perpetual season of presidential investigation and impeachment.

Morrison v. Olson brings up some interesting questions, some of which were solved already, some of which still linger, about who can investigate a president and how long they could do that for.


COLLINS: I mean, the idea of how Special Counsels work, how it's changed, is fascinating, in and of itself, and worth reading a whole book about, I mean.

But the idea that you're sitting down with celebrities, and talking about this, that it's that commonplace that everyone is kind of well- versed, in how Special Counsels work these days?

KATYAL: Yes, I actually wrote the Special Counsel regulation.


KATYAL: Just as a young Justice Department staffer.

And I really do think everyone should listen to this podcast, because the whole point is to say, "Law matters to you, ordinary Americans." And this is one of the most difficult questions, in all of law. "Who guards the Guardians," goes back 2,000 years.

And someone, like John Mulaney, he's so brilliant, he reads everything, to try and explain it, to the people, and just be like, "Here are the constitutional issues. Here are the policy issues, and the like."

And here, you can see it playing out, in real-time. Jack Smith is a Special Counsel. He's independent of Garland. So, when you hear Trump say, "This is the Biden Justice Department going after me. This is the Garland Justice Department?" Uh-uh, this person is separate.

And that's different, for example, than the person, who is prosecuting Hunter Biden, who's investigating him. That was someone, who Donald Trump appointed. That's Donald Trump's prosecutor doing it. Very, very different circumstances.

COLLINS: And Biden has his own Special Counsel, just to add that to the mix.

Laura, Neal, thank you both, for being here, tonight.

Of course, as we noted earlier, House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, say, in no uncertain terms, that he is considering an impeachment inquiry, into President Biden. Obviously, this is a consequential shift, in what he is saying publicly.

And it comes as you're seeing other Republicans urge McCarthy, to take action, on what they allege, is this connection, between President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden's business dealings.

I should note, as Kevin McCarthy himself has acknowledged, today, to CNN, there is no direct link that Republicans have been able to draw, from their investigations, to President Biden yet.

For more on this, let's bring in CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, who is up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, obviously, this is a shift, from McCarthy. And I know, he's kind of behind-the-scenes, drawing a distinction, in an inquiry, and actually going forward, with an impeachment vote. But why this shift? Why is he considering going down this path now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Kaitlan, this has been pushed, very hard, among the right flank, of the House Republican Conference. And, initially been, on the fringes, of the House GOP conference, but now, being, increasingly embraced, among the mainstream, including, the leadership, of the Conference, as that right flank has enormous sway, over the legislative process, and the Speaker himself.

And the Speaker has floated the idea of moving forward, with the impeachment proceedings, over cabinet officials, namely the Homeland Security Secretary, as well as the Attorney General.

But there's recognition, among Republicans, that there simply is not enough time, to move forward, with such, with multiple impeachment proceedings. Remember, an impeachment inquiry, and followed by an actual vote? That is an all-consuming event. And that would require enormous political capital, in order to get Republicans, to get behind this, push something through.

And now, there's an expectation that perhaps their best and biggest target, Joe Biden, might be the one, to go after, this, after some of those allegations have come forward. One of them being that unverified allegation that Joe Biden was involved with some sort of bribery scandal, as part of when he was the Vice President of the United States. That is all what Kevin McCarthy believes an impeachment inquiry could uncover.


COLLINS: Yes. And the first thing I thought of, when I heard this, was what do moderate Republicans, who come from districts that President Biden won, think about this? I mean the idea that they could be forced to vote on this, I imagine, is not sitting well with them.

RAJU: Yes, they are squeamish at the moment, uncertain about whether to go forward. And that is something that the Speaker himself knows full well that he will have to allow these members, to get behind this effort, because ultimately, this could hurt them, some of them fear, in their campaigns.

One congressman, Don Bacon, told me that they have not yet made the case, to impeach, or at least open up an official impeachment inquiry, against the President, just yet.


REP. DON BACON (R-NE): I don't know that we've made the case for a formal impeachment inquiry yet. But I do want the committee digging into this. I think the facts that we're seeing are alarming. But I'd rather do it in a very thorough, conscientious way.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The Speaker's being clear. If in fact, where the facts dictate, and the Constitution dictates that we go to an impeachment inquiry phase of the investigation, we'll do that. And the advantage of when you get to that point is it's easier to get the information.


REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): If there's not accountability now, for the highest officeholder, in the land, when is it going to be?

At the end of the day, he will be impeached.


RAJU: And remember, Kaitlan, that Speaker McCarthy cannot lose more than four Republican votes, on any party-line vote, especially an impeachment vote. And with so many members, in difficult races, that will be complicated to do. So, the longer this drags out, and if it goes into an election year, this makes his calculus, even more complicated, as he tries to hang on to his majority.

And in a clearer case in point here, Kaitlan, I asked Mike Lawler, who's a freshman New York Republican, in a difficult race, about this, about whether he supports going forward with an inquiry. He didn't want to even respond to the questions. He walked right by the camera.


RAJU: Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And as he has noted, Hillary Clinton is one of his constituents, in that district.

Manu Raju, thank you.

For more on the politics, at play here, I want to bring in former President Biden's White House Communications Director, Kate Bedingfield; and the former Communications Director, for the Republican National Committee, Doug Heye.

Thank you both, for being here.


COLLINS: Doug, I don't think it's an accident that just one week ago this is what President Trump was saying, about impeaching President Biden.


TRUMP: They impeached me over a phone call that was perfect. Why aren't they impeaching Biden for receiving tens of millions of dollars?


TRUMP: Why isn't he under impeachment?


COLLINS: That was last Tuesday.

HEYE: Here we go. When Donald Trump says something? We used to have the commercials, "When E.F. Hutton Speaks, People Listen." When Donald Trump speaks, the Republican base listens, which means congressional leadership, listens. So, it's not a surprise that we've seen some inching forward of this, at least in the rhetoric, if not moving forward, in any kind of a real process way.

But as Manu highlighted, there are a lot of Republicans, who don't want to do this vote.

If you're one of those New York Republicans, who won a district, in that Joe Biden won, this isn't where you want to go, nor do you want to talk about going back and revisiting Donald Trump's impeachment either.

If you're David Valadao, who won in a swing district, from the Central Valley of California? These are not the things you want to talk about.

You want to talk about all those things that have Joe Biden's popularity, where it remains right now, which is really low.


And Kate, obviously, you just left working in President Biden's orbit. He was asked by Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich, today, about this. He clearly heard the question, but kept moving along, and did not comment on it.

I mean, what does the White House do now, in response to this? Because, McCarthy is making clear that this is the clearest he's been that they're pursuing something like this?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER BIDEN WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, the White House will stay the course, which is to say, allow Kevin McCarthy, and the Republicans, Donald Trump, to continue to demonstrate that this is what they're going to focus on, while the President is going to continue to focus on jobs, on wages, on helping the middle-class.

I think, for the White House, this is something that has been an attempted attack that the Republicans have made, on Joe Biden, for five, six years now. It has been debunked by none other than Bill Barr, by Donald Trump's Justice Department.

And it's also, don't forget, from a communications perspective, in addition to the fact that the underlying facts have routinely been debunked, and there's been no evidence of these allegations that surfaced? From a communications perspective, this is also a really challenging argument.

You sort of have to have a PhD, in Ukrainian energy payments, and how the FBI moves, documents. I mean, for the average person to follow this? There's a really easy response for Democrats, which is, "This has been debunked by Donald Trump's Justice Department."

COLLINS: And I think it's important to note, I mean, we have invited the chairmen of these committees, people who are leading these investigations, and pressed them on that matter, on the lines of this that they're pursuing. And still no direct link.

But let's talk about the 2024 field, generally, because we did get a really notable development, today, Doug.

HEYE: Yes.

COLLINS: From Ron DeSantis' campaign. They are getting rid of a third of his campaign staff, essentially a recognition that they are burning through cash. That's in hopes of reining in spending.

And essentially, "The New York Times," as they said this, reported this tonight, "The cutbacks are seen internally as a recognition not just that spending must be reined in but also that fundraising is expected to be" more difficult in the coming months.

HEYE: I think Kate would agree with me that it's great to see something bad happen, to a politician, and have them not blame the communications team. That's what always happens, otherwise.

BEDINGFIELD: Hear-hear. Hear-hear.

HEYE: Bipartisan agreement on that. Any communicator would agree.

But this is sort of a best-of-time, worst-of-time for DeSantis, because this has been sort of a rolling set of layoffs. And it's a clear sign that he's not gotten the traction, that he needs, in fundraising, that he's spending too much money.

But also, if you drill down, in the polling, in early states, he's still very comfortably, in second place. Tim Scott is sure rising in some of these polls. Vivek is rising in some of these polls.

But these are all going to remain static, until we have a debate, or debates, and Donald Trump is with these candidates, and ultimately, they take him on. The nomination goes through Donald Trump, not around him.

And as, I think, we all learned in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker had to confront Darth Vader. He couldn't sit back, and wait for the Force or hope that Han Solo would do it for him.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, Republicans clearly think it's going to be a rematch of Trump and Biden, at this point. That's why Romney is telling people you need to get out by February 26th, if it's not shaping up to look like you're going to pose a real threat to him.


BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think, it's either going to be Trump, or it's going to be somebody who's espousing a lot of what Trump has brought, to the Republican Party, toward, over the last six or seven years.

I mean, you've seen, obviously, Governor DeSantis is making decisions, to pare down tactically his campaign, but you see him continuing to double down, on these positions, like he did, last Friday on, African American, on slave -- excuse me, on slavery, in education, excuse me.

COLLINS: Yes, the overhaul that they have, yes, yes.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. So, you see him --

COLLINS: Of the education standards.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes, thank you. So, you see him continue to double down, on these really extreme positions.

So, I think, for his campaign, he's got to make a decision. If he's really rebooting, is he trying to present himself to an electorate that is much more moderate than the core of the Republican Party? So, I think that's going to be really interesting to watch.

COLLINS: We'll see what it looks like.

Kate Bedingfield, Doug Heye, thank you both.

A terrifying moment, on the basketball court, played out, yesterday. Bronny James, the son of LeBron James, went into cardiac arrest, and collapsed, while practicing at USC, what we know about his condition, next.

Plus, hundreds of military spouses have a message, for Alabama senator, Tommy Tuberville, "Don't use us as political leverage." We'll tell you his response, ahead.



COLLINS: Tonight, LeBron James' 18-year-old son is out of the intensive care unit, and in stable condition, after he went into cardiac arrest, during a practice, at the University of Southern California, yesterday. That's according to a statement that the family put out today.

He is a basketball star in his own right. He was gearing up for his freshman season, with the Trojans.

And as we've seen, since that statement came out, from his parents, today, well wishes had been pouring in, from across the sports world, including from Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin, who obviously knows this better than almost anyone.

Remember, it was last fall that Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest, in the middle of a game, on Monday Night Football. He was hospitalized, for more than a week and, luckily, is doing great.

Joining me now, to talk about this, Dr. Jonathan Kim, the Director of Sports cardiology, at Emory University. He's also the Team Cardiologist, for Emory Athletics, and for the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves.

Also here, tonight, former NFL Wide Receiver, Donte Stallworth.

Dr. Kim, let me start with you.

Because, of course, I should note that you did not treat Bronny James, yourself. And we're still learning a lot of specifics, about what happened, and what the treatment was.

But obviously, cardiac arrest, among an athlete, this young, is rare. I mean, what is your sense of, of just how common it is, and how this would happen?

DR. JONATHAN KIM, DIRECTOR OF SPORTS CARDIOLOGY, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, first off, thank you for having me on your show, Kaitlan.

And I just want to note that our thoughts and prayers are all with Bronny, and his family, as he recovers. It's really good news that he's out of the ICU.

And indeed, sudden cardiac arrest and death is rare, in young, competitive athletes. But these cases are tragic. And they do occur.

There are nuances. We know that based off of sex, self-identified race, even sport type, risk can differ among different athletes. But it is important to note that thankfully, these cases are really quite rare.

COLLINS: Yes. And the idea that this happened, and he obviously was taken to the hospital, was in ICU, but was out of it, within 24 hours, of this episode? What does that tell you about what his recovery could potentially look like?

KIM: Well, it's hard to speculate, of course. But I do think we want to tip our hat, to the athletic trainer, the emergency -- trainers, the emergency responders, at the University of Southern California. They did exactly what we preach. We can never prevent all cases of sudden cardiac arrest, in young athletes. They're impossible to fully not allow to happen.

But focusing on that emergency action plan, immediate recognition, of SCA, CPR and, likely, defibrillation and then, of course, transfer to the tertiary care center, really saved his life. And hopefully, this early exit, from the ICU, is a positive sign for him. And we'll see.

COLLINS: Yes, and we saw what a big change that made, of course, with Damar Hamlin, himself.

Donte, you obviously are an athlete, as well. You know the kind of regimen that these athletes are put through. What was your first thought, when you saw this statement, today?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: Well, I was sad, but I was happy to see that he had become stable, he was out of ICU.

As athletes, we train year-round, for our respective sports. And so, we push our bodies, to the brink, right? We're pushing our bodies, consistently, every single day, to be in the top shape, because it's a grueling, physical, mental push, during the season, and so.


STALLWORTH: These young kids, today, are -- they have some of the best care.

And so, the good thing is that when they're on -- when they're on campus, in Bronny James' case, when they're on campus, they have the ability, to have the medical staff there, and the athletic training staff that are right there, with him, every step of the way, even during their workouts, not just their practices.

So, they have those people there that are critical, to what has happened, with Damar Hamlin, as we saw, earlier this year, and now Bronny James. So hopefully, the big thing, I think, for him is that obviously he wants to resume his career, where we all wish him well.

But he's looking at, trying to, really trying to push through these workouts. But I'm not insinuating, that's what happened here, but just saying the physical training that we have to go through.

And then, they also need, you know, we go through EKGs, and all these other things, all these other different extensive tests, before they put them out there. So hopefully, there's no underlying issues and he's able to resume his career.

COLLINS: Yes. And we obviously want to know more about the specifics here, what happened. And we talked about the health here. But this is all about a star athlete, who --


COLLINS: -- yes, he is LeBron James' son, but he himself has also made a name for himself.

And I was just thinking of how LeBron James has always said, the idea of playing, in the league, with his son, is something that's so special to him, and something that he hopes happens, one day, and obviously, the concern that this could impact that potentially? We don't know.

STALLWORTH: Yes, it's a big concern. Obviously, they're concerned more about the health of their child. But I think, with all of the technology that we have today, and all of the different research that we have, Damar Hamlin is luckily back out on the football field. He's cleared extensive tests.


So hopefully, this isn't a lingering thing, for Bronny, and that he'll be able to resume his career, as soon as possible.


All right, Donte Stallworth, Dr. Kim, thank you both so much, for being here, for your expertise, and for your obvious understanding, of what he's going through.

Up next, more than 500 military spouses are calling out, Alabama senator, Tommy Tuberville, over his refusal, to end his hold, on military promotions. Their message, "Don't use us as political pawns."

The Alabama Senator is responding. We'll tell you what he said, next.


COLLINS: New pressure, tonight, on Alabama senator, Tommy Tuberville, to end his hold, on more than 270 military promotions. He is doing this, in protest of the Pentagon's policy, on abortion. But it means that hundreds of military family members have signed this petition, urging not only Tuberville, but also Senate leaders, to find a resolution.

The petition is organized, by the non-profit, Secure Families Initiative. And it reads in part, quote, "It is highly inappropriate and unpatriotic to wage a political battle by using military service members as pawns. It's time to end this political showmanship and recommit to respect the service and sacrifice of those who pledge to defend this nation."

Kate Marsh Lord is the Communications Director of the Secure Families Initiative. She's also a military spouse. Her husband has served in the Air Force, for 23 years. And she joins me, tonight.

I'm so glad that you're here, because obviously this is such an important issue that we've been covering.


Senator Tuberville's office responded to your petition. In part, they said, "Coach," as they refer to him as, "honors, and is grateful for, the service of all of our heroes in uniform. That is why he is working to get politics out of the military using the tools that he has" as a U.S. senator, "including his hold."

If you could talk directly to him, what would you say?

KATE MARSH LORD, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: First, thank you for having me.

If I could say something to him, that, his thank you is really an empty thank you. And military service members, unfortunately, are used to hearing those platitudes. But he's not following it up with action. He's not showing gratitude, or respect, for the military members, in office, or who are serving now.

Military folks are pragmatic and patriotic people. They serve a cause greater than themselves. And I would ask the Senator to do the same.

COLLINS: And it has a real impact. I mean, it obviously it has a hold, on these nominations.


COLLINS: We've talked about the concerns the Pentagon has, about military readiness, and that if they can't get confirmed, then others can't move into those positions.

But it also has an impact on families, families like yours, where the kids can't get enrolled, in a new school, somewhere else. I mean, maybe if someone -- if a spouse is trying to take a job, in another place. I mean, those are real-life impacts.

And I talked to one family, who they were saying, their spouse essentially quit their job, in anticipation of being re-stationed somewhere else.


COLLINS: They don't have that income now. But they haven't moved yet, because their spouse hasn't been confirmed.

MARSH LORD: Right. Military is a family business. We're all serving. We're all making sacrifices.

And for the military families, as soon as we find out that we're moving, we're going to a new duty station? My family moved this summer. As soon as we find out where we're going, we spend hours researching the new location, looking into schools, looking into where to live.

And then we try and do the best that we can, to adjust to a new place, to get our kids enrolled in school, to find them new sports clubs, or find them new ways, to make friends and build community.

And he's really putting that on hold, for all of these families, who are being held up, for his political gamesmanship. And it doesn't just impact those 281 families, who are waiting for confirmation. It has a downstream effect too, on the folks that worked for those generals.

And really, it has an impact on all of us, because we're seeing the Senator, use military leaders, as political pawns.

COLLINS: Yes. So, we had Senator Tuberville on, the night that we actually started this show, to talk about a range of issues, including this one, of course.


COLLINS: And that was one of the things we pointed out, which is that this isn't hurting, President Biden, directly.


COLLINS: Or Secretary Austin, the Pentagon.

It's hurting these families directly, because of that impact. And this is what he said.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): It's a tough situation. And there's nobody more military than me, Kaitlan. My dad was military, career military. I'm all for the military. We need a strong military. But we also need to go by the rules, in the Constitution, and represent the people and taxpayers. Taxpayers are not supposed to pay for anything that has to do with abortion.


COLLINS: How does that sit with you?

MARSH LORD: Well, he's taking something that is a DOD policy, he doesn't agree with, and he's punishing military families. So, his words are empty. They don't really sit well with me, obviously.

He just really doesn't seem to grasp the impact that it's having. He's doing it for attention, it strikes me that he's doing it for attention, and not considering the impact, the broader impact, both on readiness, but also retention and on the families that it impacts directly.

COLLINS: And, I think, such a big part of this, I mean, the responsibility that members of Congress have?


COLLINS: When it comes, to authorizing, where service members, where they go, how families, like yours, are affected by these huge decisions?

MARSH LORD: Absolutely. And that's why it impacts more than these folks, whose nominations are being held up. It really impacts the entire military community.

We trust that Congress -- these are the folks, who decide, to declare war, the folks that make decisions, about sending our service members, into harm's way. If they can't even handle the most basic task, of approving nominated generals, for really important positions, how do we trust them to make these decisions that will impact literally the life and death of our loved ones?

COLLINS: Kate Marsh Lord, I mean, you are better-positioned to speak on this, than almost anyone else.


COLLINS: So, thank you, for joining me, tonight.

MARSH LORD: Thank you so much for having me.

COLLINS: Trevor Reed, the Marine veteran, who was just released, 15 months ago, in a prisoner swap, with Russia, has now been treated, we have learned, in Germany, after he was injured, fighting in Ukraine. New details, next.

Also, Hunter Biden is in court, tomorrow, to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax crimes. The judge, now threatening his attorneys, we'll tell you the last-minute developments.



COLLINS: Hunter Biden will appear in court, tomorrow, for what signals the end of a five-year investigation, from the Justice Department.

The President's son, of course struck a plea deal, last month, with prosecutors, to plead guilty, to two tax misdemeanors, and also resolve a felony gun charge. Sources tell us, tonight, that prosecutors, for now, are expected to recommend no jail time. But obviously, the judge here will have the final say.

Republicans have blasted this entire deal as too lenient. They pointed to whistleblower testimony, on Capitol Hill, about political interference, in this investigation.

But we should note, of course, the Trump appointee, who brought the case, that's U.S. Attorney, David Weiss, has refuted those claims, and even offered to testify, publicly, on Capitol Hill, later this fall.

Joining me now, to discuss, what we expect for to happen, tomorrow, CNN Political Correspondent, Sara Murray.

Are we going to learn anything new about this deal tomorrow, or what this investigation looks like?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think, the most striking thing is just that we're going to have this sitting President's son, walk into a federal courthouse, and admit that he broke the law.

That's what you do, as part of these plea deals. You go there, and you provide your allocution. You say what you did wrong, that you failed to pay these federal taxes, as they sort of lay out the parameters, of what this plea deal is.

So, we may learn a little bit more, in what we expect to be a statement of facts, about the plea deal, and what led to this. But I think it's just going to be striking, because of sort of the magnitude, of this moment, and everything that's led up to it.



The other thing that I imagine may come up, tomorrow, is the federal judge, is now threatening to sanction his attorneys, today. There's a new filing that claims members of his legal team misrepresented her identity, to improperly get documents, removed from the public docket.

Obviously, this is a serious accusation. I know Hunter Biden's attorneys had until 9 o'clock, tonight, to respond. Have they responded?

MURRAY: Yes, they have responded.

And, I mean, one of the things you probably don't want to do, right before entering this plea deal, is to annoy the judge, right before you're going to appear in court.

And this happened, because the Republican chairman, of the Ways and Means Committee, put a filing in, basically saying, "Please consider some of the political ramifications around this case, as you're considering this plea deal."

And members of Hunter Biden's legal team went to the clerk and said, "We're concerned that there could be grand jury material in here there can be sensitive tax material in here. And essentially, we want to have the file quarantined, or taken down, in some way."

And what the judge is saying is that there are allegations that the person on Hunter's team, who went to the court, and asked for this, misrepresented who they were, and who they were affiliated with.

So, in a filing, tonight, we're seeing a little bit of a cleanup crew, from Hunter Biden's attorneys. They say, this was an unfortunate and unintentional miscommunication, although they don't acknowledge how this might have happened. They say that they feel certain there was no misrepresentation, when the person, from their office called.

COLLINS: And I think we'll see what the judge says about that tomorrow, how they respond.


COLLINS: I think what's notable, about this, though, is this investigation has been going on for five years. But the idea that his legal trouble may be over, I mean, certainly the political headlines won't, because Republicans are vowing to keep investigating this.

MURRAY: No, I mean, the political ramifications of this are going to continue, because we've seen, Republicans, in the House of Representatives, who still want to know more, about the Biden family's business dealings, including Hunter Biden's business dealings.

They want to know, if these were all properly investigated, by the U.S. Attorney. They wanted a better sense of what the scope of his investigation was. And they want answers, to some of the claims they got, from these IRS whistleblowers, who are working, on the case, and made allegations of political interference. Many, as you said, David Weiss has debunked, but others that are still kind of floating out there.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see what he says when he testifies, publicly.


COLLINS: Sara Murray, thank you so much.

MURRAY: Thanks.

COLLINS: Up next, there's been a shock, from Ukraine, as news came today that Trevor Reed has been injured, while fighting there. He is now being treated in Germany. We're told he's OK. This all comes 15 months after the U.S. Marine veteran was released, from a Russian prison cell, in a prisoner swap.



COLLINS: Tonight, Trevor Reed is in a German hospital, being treated, after he was injured, while fighting in Ukraine.

Of course, he is the Marine veteran, who was wrongfully detained, in Russia, for nearly three years, before he was released, in a prisoner swap, 15 months ago. Reed has been an outspoken advocate for Americans, who are also being wrongfully held, in Russia.

But tonight, a State Department official is expressing concern that his fighting in Ukraine may have a negative impact, on negotiations, for Americans, who are still being held there, Paul Whelan, Evan Gershkovich.

The White House says it has warned people not to travel to Ukraine, reiterating that the U.S. can't always evacuate Americans, if something goes wrong.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is tracking all the latest developments, from the Pentagon.

Oren, first, what do we know about Trevor Reed's condition, how he's doing, tonight?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, tonight, Trevor Reed is at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, in Germany. That's one of the largest U.S. military hospitals, in the world. And that's where he was taken, after he was injured fighting in Ukraine.

What's unclear, at this point, is how long he was in Ukraine, or where exactly he was, when he was injured, and how he sustained that injury.

He was first taken, we've learned, to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, to receive treatment, there. Then, an NGO got him out of the country, before he was taken, to Landstuhl, where he's now being treated. We are waiting for an update, from Landstuhl, on his condition.

He was released, from a Russian prison, back in last April of 2022, so just a couple months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine. That was part of a prisoner swap. In exchange for Trevor Reed, the U.S. released a Russian cocaine smuggler, who was serving a 20-year prison sentence.

As for what Reed did in the meantime? Well, it seems for most of that time, he was in the U.S. Just a few months ago, he was on CNN, as an outspoken advocate, for other Americans, who are wrongfully detained in Russia. And he was on social media, until just a few weeks ago.

But at some point, Kaitlan, he made that decision, to go fight in Ukraine. And that's where he sustained that injury for which he's now being treated.

COLLINS: Yes, we talked to him. I mean, he's come out and spoken, very publicly, about his concerns, obviously, about Paul Whelan, who has been detained, there, now, Evan Gershkovich.

We heard a concern, from some officials, about whether or not this could complicate efforts, to bring those other Americans, home. What are top officials saying, tonight?

LIEBERMANN: So, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was asked about this, at a press conference, in Tonga. And he said, the U.S. views these as different and independent cases and will handle them as such, dealing with Evan Gershkovich, Paul Whelan, and having dealt with Trevor Reed, separately.

But the problem is a U.S. official tells us that there is certainly concern that Trevor Reed's returning to fight, in Ukraine, could complicate the efforts, and they are complicated efforts, to secure the release of Whelan, or Gershkovich.

Even if the U.S. sees these, as separate situations, and cases, to be negotiated independently, that of course doesn't mean that that's how Russia sees it.

And it's worth noting that Trevor Reed is a former Marine, Paul Whelan is a former Marine. These may not be related, in the U.S.'s mind. But it's not hard to see how Russia could use this, as an excuse, to try to either gain leverage, or to complicate the negotiations, about potentially securing their release.

Regardless, Blinken said they are still very much working, on this, and committed, to securing the release of Whelan, and Gershkovich.

COLLINS: What is Trevor Reed's family saying, tonight?

LIEBERMANN: So far, at least, they haven't released any public statement.

They have in the past been outspoken, with their son. In fact, when he was on CNN, his family was right there, with him.

But at least, as of right now, Trevor Reed's family has chosen to not release a statement. We'll see if that changes, if they decide to be more public, when we learn more about his condition, or the reasons for him being in Ukraine.



COLLINS: Of course, his parents, lovely people, and his sisters, well we're thinking of all of them tonight, and obviously hoping that he is also recovering well.

Oren Liebermann, thank you.

The Olympian swimmer, Katie Ledecky, has made history, once again. The other American champion that she has now tied that record, of course, you've got to see the moment, because this win wasn't even close.


COLLINS: U.S. swimming champion, Katie Ledecky, is now tied, for the most individual world gold medals, with none other than Michael Phelps.

This is the moment that the 26-year-old dominated the 1,500-meter freestyle at the World Championships, happening, right now, in Japan. She is so fast, you can see here, you can't even see the other swimmers, in the video, as she reaches the end.


Ledecky finished with a final time of 15 minutes, 26.27 seconds. She beat the second swimmer, who was behind her, by more than 17 seconds.


KATIE LEDECKY, AMERICAN SWIMMER: I'm just really enjoying swimming, right now. And especially my distance events, I've just been feeling great. I feel like I'm getting better each time I swim them. And that's what you love to see. You love to see improvement. And that's been my biggest goal over the last couple years.


COLLINS: And we love to see it as well. Congrats to Katie Ledecky.

And thank you, so much, for joining me, tonight.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, CNN PRIMETIME: She is so amazing. And it's such a full-circle moment, to see her, tying, Michael Phelps, someone who she idolized, for a long time.

Kaitlan, thank you so much.

COLLINS: Yes, epic moment.