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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Chris Christie Calls For Special Counsel To Replace Prosecutor In Hunter Biden Probe; Republican Gov. DeSantis Floats Putting Democrat RFK Jr. At FDA Or CDC If He Wins; Military Members, Lawmakers Push For Answers On UFOs. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 26, 2023 - 21:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, a not so good deal, for Hunter Biden. The plea agreement, struck by the President's son, unravels, in a dramatic court hearing. The twists and turns from inside the courtroom, and what this all means for the ongoing federal investigation.

Plus, Mitch McConnell, standing frozen, mid-sentence, for 23 seconds, before the Senate Minority Leader was escorted away. He did return. But the whole incident is renewing questions, about the 81-year-old's health.

And new information, tonight, on the health of LeBron James' 18-year- old son, Bronny James, what we know about the tests that were done before, his cardiac arrest.

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

Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, what was supposed to be a 30-minute formality turned into almost three hours of drama, as tonight, Hunter Biden's plea deal hangs in limbo, raising new questions about where this leaves the President's son, and his legal team.

Hunter Biden entered the courtroom today, prepared to plead guilty, to two misdemeanor federal tax crimes, and avoid prosecution, on a gun charge. It all started with normal procedural questions, as Hunter Biden explained his tax troubles, and detailed his history of drug use.

But things went off the rails, when it came to the scope of his immunity deal, on potential additional charges. Say for example, illegal foreign lobbying. The Justice Department said it would not make him immune, to those potential charges. But the defense seemed to think that it would. The parties began furiously negotiating, in the middle of court. And the judge later said, she could not accept a plea agreement, today.

As the deal began to unravel, Reporters, who were in the room, in the courtroom, said that the President's son grew agitated, and worried. The judge also raised what she called, quote, "Concerns," about the constitutionality of the gun aspect of the deal.

Three hours later, Hunter Biden exited the courtroom, after pleading not guilty, and being processed, like any other defendant.

House Republicans, who, I should note, tried to block the entire plea agreement, before Hunter Biden showed up to court today, responded this way, on Capitol Hill.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think it's all driven by the whistleblowers, and just how credible those individuals are, and the fact that their testimony has not wavered.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): It collapsed, because it was a sweetheart deal, from a family that has been protected.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Hunter Biden is getting a sweetheart deal that no other American, who wasn't rich, and had a father, as the President, would ever get, ever.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you believe the whistleblowers, and what they're saying, no, this was a sweetheart deal. It was corrupt, in terms of how it was handled.


COLLINS: I'm joined now by CNN Anchor and Senior Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip; as well as a pair of former federal prosecutors, CNN Chief Legal Analyst, Laura Coates, and Shan Wu.

Thank you all, for being here, tonight.

Laura, I mean, Hunter Biden's attorneys clearly thought that the immunity aspect of this was much broader. I mean, I think most people look at this, and say, "Isn't this something they should have had figured out before they walked into that courtroom, today?"

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, they should have.

The idea that you would not have fleshed out all the details, to figure out "Whether this is a 360 plea deal? Am I going to have everything resolved, right now, arising out of this predicate set of facts? If I walk out of the courtroom, today, can I kind of do this with my hands and walk away?" That this was not the dotting of the I's and crossing of the T's is really confounding to me.

The judge's role here, of course, normally is to, when you have the meeting of the minds, between the prosecution, and the defense team, essentially say "OK, my now role is only going to be to set the sentencing. You've agreed to everything else. You've had a colloquy that says, 'Do you know what you're getting into defendant? Are you aware of all the things you're giving up here?'"

It seemed pretty clear that based on the absence of information, and a certainty, about the scope of this plea, Biden didn't necessarily have all the details, in place, to know what he was likely doing. And that's when the judge steps in.

I will say though, I don't think I've ever -- don't know about you, Shan. I think I've only maybe one or two instances, I've ever seen a plea deal fall through the table. And that's when the defense counsel was ineffective, and the defendant did not know that they had either had the plea offer extended to them--


COATES: --or they now want to change their mind, and say, "Look, I'll take my chances at trial."

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, clearly, the judge seemed worried that Hunter Biden was not fully aware, of the scope of this plea deal, or how this would affect him. I mean, Shan, have you ever seen anything like this?


WU: Usually, when they fall through, it's either for what Laura was saying, or there's a disagreement, about the factual proffer, like the defendant doesn't think it actually went down that way.

This was unusual, not only because of how high-profile the case was. But there was such ambiguity. And the prosecution had been saying, it's still an ongoing investigation.

In defense of the defense, I can see how they might have been more comfortable, with ambiguity, saying, "OK, let this go forward. If later there are charges that arise, we're going to say, 'Hey, this was already covered in the plea deal, you can't charge him again.'"

But for the prosecution, kind of inexcusable, not to have that ironed out.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: And then, I think, in retrospect, actually, we probably saw this coming.

When this plea deal was first announced, there was that disagreement, between what Hunter Biden's lawyers said, which was that "This is the end of our client's involvement, with the Department of Justice, it settles all the matters involving him."

And then, DOJ later came out and said, "Actually, this investigation is still open, and it's still ongoing."

I do think that one of the elements of this, that is probably not going to be appreciated, in Washington, because everything has to be partisan, in one way or another, it's just sloppiness here that there's a degree to which perhaps, DOJ didn't just make up their mind, about how much this was going to cover, and communicate that to Hunter Biden.

And, look, on the political side, people are going to say it's a sweetheart deal. It's going to -- it's evidence that the justice system is working. But I also think that what we might be witnessing here is people making mistakes, not doing their jobs thoroughly, and the judge stepping in, in her role, and saying, "Let's make sure that our I's are dotted and our T's are crossed."

COLLINS: Yes. And the judge didn't even get to well, Republicans, yesterday, trying to block this deal, from actually going through it, from happening today. I mean, when she had more questions, about, Laura, was like, the fine print of the gun charge--

COATES: Right.

COLLINS: --and how they were resolving that.

WU: Right.

COLLINS: I mean, what she was essentially saying, part of it had him agreeing to a two-year diversion program that prohibited Hunter Biden, from using drugs, or drinking alcohol, but excuse me, using drugs, or owning a firearm.

But her question was, "OK, if he violates these terms, how do we handle that?" And they didn't seem to have an answer.

COATES: This is such an important point, because it's a minor civics lesson, the judge tried to say, which is "I'm part of the Judicial branch. You're the Executive. Your job is to actually decide prosecution terms."

A diversion program normally is a pre-indictment decision, by the prosecutor's office that says, "Look, as long as you are on the up and up, you don't commit any crimes, you do the domestic violence program, or anger management or substance abuse treatment, or any number of things, and you do not violate the terms we set forth for you? We're not even going to file this indictment. We're not going to charge you. But if you do something differently, we reserve the right to do so."

The judge is normally not a part of that interaction, because it's between the prosecutor, and the defense counsel.

People may remember though, consent decrees. When we were at the Civil Rights Division, normally, we'll work with the DOJ, of course. And a local jurisdiction, in say, a pattern and practice dispute, with a police department.

And they'll say "Here, court, here is our contract. We're going to agree to do these changes, to make sure that they will, in fact, institute the right changes to make equity available. And then, we're going to file it with the court. And if they mess up, you can of course throw the book at them." This is not that.

WU: Right.

COATES: This is a pre-prosecutorial decision. And the judge is right to say, "You cannot instruct me to decide whether or not Hunter Biden actually violates the terms"--

WU: Right.

COATES: --"and then say, 'Now he gets to be charged.'" That would violate the whole premise.

WU: Yes. And I think it's possible the DOJ was trying to maybe insulate themselves, a little bit, or maybe insulate, from future administration changes as well.

Usually, it's completely in the prosecutor's discretion about if you've complied with the version. But they tried to put it onto the court a little bit to say, "You'd have to do a fact-finding hearing to make sure"--


WU: --"that there really was a violation."

COLLINS: And speaking of all of this, and the politics surrounding this, of course, we've seen Republicans, on Capitol Hill. We'll talk more about what they're saying on the campaign trail about this in a moment.

But also today, what we saw happened, with Rudy Giuliani. This isn't a separate legal matter, obviously. But it's still pertinent. Because, he came out, and essentially admitted that while he was acting, as an attorney for Trump, that he did make false statements, about those two election workers, in Georgia, who came out, and who testified, in front of the Jan 6th congressional committee, about just the impact that it had, on their life.

I mean, what do you read is the significance of this? Is this Giuliani avoiding discovery, avoiding paying more legal fees? What's your sense of it?

WU: Yes. It's a little bit puzzling, because it's styled a nolo contendere, which means he's not contesting it, and yet he is still contesting it. He's still saying he had a First Amendment right, to make these false statements, which he does not, particularly in court.

So, it seems like maybe he is trying to shortcut some of the proceeding, to get to his substantive legal arguments, which he wants to make his constitutional claim. He wants to claim maybe these people weren't really that damaged by it.

COLLINS: But this also comes, I mean, as he is, Rudy Giuliani is facing a world of legal trouble, essentially, not just from this Georgia defamation case.


PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, look, we'll have to see how this plays, into the legal jeopardy, that he really does face.

But it does raise the prospect that Giuliani, and perhaps a lot of other people, who are embroiled, in the January 6th investigation, that the Special Counsel's doing, but also the Georgia case that is yet to come to a conclusion, these cases are going to be time- intensive and extremely expensive. It's not easy to carry that legal burden.

The former President can have his Super PAC or his PAC pay for the legal costs. Other people involved in this, whether they are people, like Giuliani, or people like Walt Nauta, don't necessarily have the deep pockets, to handle this.

If you're Giuliani, it probably wouldn't be the worst thing, in the world, to try to take some of the potential legal exposure, off the table. But I'm not sure that we can say that just yet, especially considering we don't really know the scope of it, yet. And this part, about the defamation, against these two individuals, is only just a small part of the alleged scheme that he could be a part of.

COLLINS: Yes. Absolutely, we'll see where that goes. Thank you all for joining.

You can see more of Abby, tonight. She is going to be hosting "CNN PRIMETIME," up next, at 10 PM. So, make sure you keep watching.

Hunter Biden, of course, is not an elected official. He is not running for office. But his plea deal, unraveling today, is already showing up, on the Republican 2024 campaign trail.

One candidate, Chris Christie says he has, quote, "Seen enough." The former federal prosecutor, and former governor of New Jersey, says that the Trump-appointed attorney here, U.S. attorney, on the Hunter Biden case, should be fired. And he is calling for a special counsel, to oversee any investigations, into the Biden family. That of course, would be a decision for President Biden, or for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, really.

Joining me now, is Republican presidential candidate, and the Governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum.

Good evening, Governor, and thank you, for being here.

Do you agree with Chris Christie, that the U.S. Attorney, David Weiss, should be fired?

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Kaitlan, first of all, great to be with you.

And what I do know, being on the ground, in Iowa, and New Hampshire, is that the voters on the ground, they're very concerned that we've got a two-tiered justice system that there's one set of rules, for one party, and another set of rules, for another party.

And it's not just politics. This actually concerns the foundation of democracy itself. When we start to have a lot of citizens, maybe even majority of citizens, start to question whether this -- whether our institutions of justice, are actually fair? That starts to erode democracy itself.

And I think one of the things that is missing in this country is trust in our systems. And one of the reasons that we're running for president is to make sure that we've got leadership, in the White House that can help rebuild that trust, and help America focus, on the issues that matter to every American, like the economy, like energy, like national security.

COLLINS: Yes. Governor, I've heard you say that before that you've heard from voters. But do you personally feel that it's a two-tiered justice system? I've never heard you say what you believe on that issue?

BURGUM: Well, I think, we've got plenty of evidence, to suggest it is. And I think that's why there's enough here that is -- that causes people to question the system.

And part of building trust is, as we did, when I was growing up, in a small town, you build trust one transaction at a time.

You don't build relationships over generations with a set of farmers, if that, one week, you're weighing their wheat and grain, at the elevator, one way, and the next week, you're doing it a different way, or one family gets one set of price, for their wheat, another one gets the others. Word gets out, trust gets eroded.

And that's the situation we're in, right now. And it's a serious for our whole country.

COLLINS: I guess, my question is, what is the two-tiered justice system here?

Because even Bill Barr, before he resigned, as Attorney General, said that he did not believe there was a reason, to appoint a Special Counsel, for the Hunter Biden investigation.

This was a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, who's in charge of this investigation.

So, what's the double standard, here? I haven't heard anything specific.

BURGUM: Well, you just had a great panel of experts on, talking about this issue, and talking about how this whole thing, may have been mishandled. I think you've kind of covered the whole topic, already.

And again, I think when we're talking to voters, they're saying, "Wow, if we're going to have this under the umbrella, of the 2024 election, are we ever going to have any space, to have a candidate, who can actually have an opportunity, to talk about where our country can go, as opposed to the problems we've had in the past?"

We have to have a discussion about our future, because the country, the future for the United States is just unlimited, in terms of what we can do. Our economy should be sprinting, instead of crawling. We should be selling energy to our friends and allies instead of buying them it from adversaries. And we should be focusing on innovation.

We're in a cold war with China. We're in an actual war with Russia. And we spend all of our time talking about these internal problems. And you know who loves that? China loves that. Because, this is how you undermine a democracy, is you get everybody, to turn on themselves, and start discussing, all these issues.


And we just have to change the focus, and say "Great. The court's going to have to figure some of this out." But, as a country, we got to have a discussion about how we can work together, to build better education systems, how to have it be safe for kids, in schools, to have safe cities--


BURGUM: --where people can feel they can live in those cities.

COLLINS: I think that had -- the conversation had more to do with the prosecutors, and the defense not agreeing eye-to-eye, before they walked into that courtroom, today.

But let's talk about the 2024 field, because I don't have to tell you, you are in a very crowded field. And we heard from Senator Mitt Romney, this week, essentially urging GOP mega donors to get the candidates, to agree to withdraw that they're backing, if and when it's clear, they can't win. He says that date is by February 26th.

You're largely funding your own campaign, right now. Do you agree with that date?

BURGUM: Well, first of all, I'm not largely funding my own campaign. And two, that date, is like 1,000 years from now, in terms of presidential politics.

I mean, all you have to do is look back, at the last half a dozen elections, and see that the people that were ahead, in June or July, the summer before, are not the ones that are ahead, in the next January or February. And so, we're focused on that.

And we're just working on making sure that everybody understands, who we are, what we're about, and that we care deeply about all Americans, and that we're going to be working to solve the problems, like we did, in North Dakota, where we cut taxes, we reduced the size of government.

We passed 51 out of 52 red tape reduction bills, this last year. And we drove innovation. And we also are producing clean energy. And if you care about the environment, you'd want to have all the energy produced, in America, not overseas. And we just want to make sure that we're getting that message out.

And as we are, and people are getting the notice, we got to the debate stage, this week, faster than any other candidate, and we're still virtually unknown. So, we know that there's traction for our message, and we're excited to be out, telling the story. COLLINS: Yes. Well, just to be clear, when we looked at your campaign quarter files, it's $10 million of your own money that you have lent your campaign.

You endorsed Trump in 2016, and in 2020. You are now running against Donald Trump for the nomination. Did he not live up to your endorsement? Or what changed and made you want to run against him?

BURGUM: Well, I think, again, we want to have a candidate that understands the world is changing, and the economy is changing, right now, technology, changing every job, every company and every industry.

And we also know that it's an opportunity for, to have a candidate that can focus on the future, and not on the past. And so, that's why we're in the race. And we're in because we care. We care deeply about this country. And we care deeply about the people that are here.

And we think we -- competition is good. I mean, I would reject the whole premise of this whole discussion, is "The field is crowded." This is the most important job in the world. And we got what seven people that have made the debate stage, and maybe 12 have applied?

If I was in the private sector, and we posted a job that was the most important job in the company, and only 12 people applied? We'd sit around and go, maybe we should repost, because the pool needs to be bigger.

COLLINS: Well, I would just say, it's a crowded field. There have been questions, of course, about, last time, it benefiting Trump, in that sense.

When it comes to what you just mentioned there, about the past versus the future, do you think the legal troubles that are surrounding the former President, as he's on the verge of a potential third indictment, are a distraction for your party?

BURGUM: Well, I think, again, there's an entire industry that likes to discuss the challenges of, past presidents, current presidents. And I think that industry is doing just fine without me.

And so, I'm going to keep focused on the things that are important to Americans, because people are -- they're paying too much, for their gasoline. They're paying too much for their heating bill. They're concerned about Chinese spy balloons, coming over the country, and Chinese spy bases, in Cuba. They've got real concerns, about our future.

And again, we're out there, talking about how we're going to lead the country, and not opining because Manitoba (ph), there's -- between the cable industry and the social media industry, the amount of clickbait around all of these topics, it's unending. But we're trying to break through and say, "Let's talk about where we can take this country," because where we can go is actually amazing.

COLLINS: Well, those are certainly all important issues. Just as you know, from being on the trail, and from having instances, it is often Trump and his issues that are at the forefront of the questions that candidates get.

I do want to ask you one question before you go, though, because the U.S., as you know, is experiencing a major heat wave, right now. I mean, of course, I'm sure you feel it in North Dakota, where it's nearly 100 degrees, today.

A new analysis that was released, this week, by a global group of scientists found extreme heat waves, across three continents, this month, were made significantly more likely, by the human-caused climate crisis.

Do you agree that humans are to blame for what's happening?

BURGUM: Well, I know that climate is changing. We know that.

And I'll tell you, in North Dakota, we're the only state that set a goal of being carbon-neutral by 2030. But we're not doing it with a bunch of regulations. We said we can get there, through no new mandates, no new regulations, all through innovation. And that's happening, in North Dakota, right now.


And again, I think, if people want to have a discussion, if they CO2 is the cause, then let's get serious about what we can do, to reduce that.

And again, there's all kinds of things we can do that are more effective than the crazy plans that are in place, right now. And I say, "Crazy," because they don't match economics, physics, or any aspect of commonsense.

If you want to take our country, and have it run on all EV vehicles, and then China produces 85 percent of all the rare earth minerals in the world? We'd just be trading OPEC for Sinopec.

And then, of course, what is China? The plants, where they make the solar panels in China, where they make the wind blades, where they make the batteries? They're all powered by coal, because they're building -- they got 41 coal plants that are being produced.

So, we can't solve the world's environmental issues, by outsourcing, all of this, to a country that has basically no environmental controls--

COLLINS: Yes, but your view--

BURGUM: --and their CO2 emissions are going up.

COLLINS: Your view, on what's driving this? Of course, there are different agreements, and disagreements, about what's the solution. But is your agreement that humans are what's causing this?

BURGUM: Well, certainly, right now, that there's a lot more CO2 going into the air. And if you say, "Hey, we think CO2 is causing the climate change, right now," then we should be addressing, how do we address CO2? Not having some ideological thing, where we decide to hamper the U.S. competitiveness, and we hand over the future economic of the world, to China.

People start exporting their environmental guilt to somebody else that actually hurts our country. And it would hurt the poorest people. It would hurt the people that need air conditioning, the people, that need heat, in the winter, that would need to have manufacturing coming back to our country.

And so, if we're going to have a discussion about what to do, about the changes, in climate, then, we ought to have it, and make a sense, like, what should we do that actually helps our country, and helps actually advance the solution. And that's always going to be innovation, not this regulation. You can't add 500,000 EV charging stations, and not be able to permit a transmission line. And you can't--


BURGUM: You can't use--

COLLINS: OK, Governor. I didn't hear yes or no there. I did hear you talking about solutions. But I didn't hear yes or no on that. But we are unfortunately out of time.

Governor Doug Burgum, thank you, so much, for joining us, tonight.

BURGUM: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Up next, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, freezing mid-sentence, and eventually escorted away, from the podium, on Capitol Hill, today.

So, what happened to the 81-year-old, during that news conference? We'll talk about it with a doctor, next.



COLLINS: Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, says that President Biden called to check on him, tonight, after that scary moment, when McConnell froze, mid-sentence, for 23 seconds, during a press conference, on Capitol Hill.

The 81-year-old Senator insisting, tonight, that he's fine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling now, sir?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling now?

MCCONNELL: I'm fine. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen a doctor? Are you going to see a doctor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any idea what happened?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any idea what happened?

MCCONNELL: I'm fine.



COLLINS: He says he's fine.

But there are still questions, tonight, unanswered, after this moment, today, where Senator McConnell froze, mid-sentence, and stared straight ahead.


MCCONNELL: We're on a path to finishing the NDA. This week, there's been good bipartisan cooperation and a string of--




SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Hey Mitch, anything else you want to say? Or should we just go back to your office?


BARRASSO: Do you want to say anything else to the press?

We'll take a break.




COLLINS: 12 minutes elapsed, between that moment, there, and when Senator McConnell made his way, back over to the lectern, to answer this question, from my colleague, Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could you address what happened, here, at the start of the press conference? And was it related to your injury from earlier this year, where you suffered a concussion, is that?

MCCONNELL: No, I'm fine.

RAJU: You're fine? You're fully able to--


RAJU: --do your job?



COLLINS: An aide, for the Senator, later said he was lightheaded.

I should note, tonight, he has been seen on the, Senate floor.

Joining me now, to talk about that moment, is Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a former Obama White House Health Policy Adviser.

Doctor, thank you so much, for being here, tonight.

We can see Senator McConnell, there. He's on the Senate floor, clearly doing better.

But when you saw that moment play out, today, what went through your mind?

DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER: Well, you have to be concerned, about the individual, and you hope nothing very serious is happening. And you have to hope that he gets the correct medical attention.

COLLINS: What medical attention do you think that is? What kind of tests would you recommend, for example?

EMANUEL: Well, I think it's unethical, for me, to comment about his medical situation. I don't know, in detail, his medical history. I don't know what drugs he's on. I haven't examined him. And I don't know what tests and treatments have already been done. That's for his personal physician to figure out.

And his personal physician has a lot more information than just speculating about all the tests. And he knows what tests have been done, say, in March 2023, when he fell and had the concussion. And those would be relevant to determining what happened here.

COLLINS: Of course. And I should note, we actually haven't heard from Senator McConnell's office, about whether or not he has met with a doctor, tonight.

But when he came back, he said that he felt lightheaded that he had just stepped away, from a moment. He did come back to that question- and-answer session, which his office noted he did take questions not just from Manu, but from other reporters, on other subjects.

Given the fact that he was able to come back and take those questions, what do you read into that, without being someone who has treated him?

EMANUEL: Well, that whatever it was, it was transitory, and doesn't appear, although, again, without data, it's hard to say, doesn't appear to have left a permanent problem.

But you need the studies before, the history, and you need to conduct additional tests, to be totally sure of that.


COLLINS: For reporters, here in Washington, I mean, McConnell, he's obviously 81-years-old. He fell back in March, and it was widely known. He suffered a concussion and a rib fracture.

Do you have any concerns from just that included with what you saw today, given, obviously, that was the question of whether or not it could be as a result of that or have any tie to it?

EMANUEL: It certainly could be connected to it. And again, we don't know enough.

I think it does highlight, Kaitlan, one of the most important items, which is we need full transparency, about the health of our politicians. They are extremely important. They're making world- important decisions. And we need to have full transparency, about their health.

President Biden released his full physical exam, and we got to see what the doctor saw.

But, President Trump was much more cagey. And when he got sick with COVID, and was admitted to the hospital, the public was misled, by his doctor, about his situation. And it was only after he left office, that we discovered he was very, very sick, and maybe even very close to death. That's not the way we should find out the world's most powerful person's health.

And Senator McConnell is the second most important senator, in the U.S. Senate, very, very critical to making the government work, especially at this moment. We need full information, and transparency, about the health, and well-being, of our politicians, who are ruling the country.

COLLINS: Yes, I think everyone would second that.

Dr. Emanuel, thank you, for your time, tonight.

EMANUEL: Thank you.

COLLINS: Robert F. Kennedy has pushed conspiracies, for years, most recently, of course, the anti-Semitic one, where he claimed COVID was ethnically targeted, to spare Jewish people.

Now, a top Republican 2024 candidate is saying there could be role, for him, in his administration, in a medical position. We'll tell you who, next. [21:35:00]


COLLINS: Senate Democrats are on the floor, tonight, protesting their Republican colleague, Tommy Tuberville's blanket hold, on military promotions, which I should note is itself a protest, against the Pentagon's abortion policy.

All of this is coming, you can see Senator Tuberville there, all of this is coming, as former President Trump is now echoing House calls, to impeach President Biden.

Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, weighed in today, saying he thinks maybe they should not move forward, with that, saying that another impeachment proceeding, in his view, would quote, "Not" be "good for the country."

Tonight, my CNN Political Commentator, and former White House Senior Policy Advisor, for the Obama administration, Ashley Allison; and Ramesh Ponnuru is the Editor of the National Review, and a columnist for The Washington Post, are both here tonight.

Ramesh, I mean, this is House Republicans, I should note, who are now moving closer than they had before, to this idea of impeaching President Biden. But Senate Republicans, not just Mitch McConnell, John Thune as well, obviously are skeptical of it?

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think that there are probably some House Republicans, who are skeptical of it as well.

Remember, there're about 18 House Republicans, who are in districts that Biden carried in 2020. And they probably don't want to be in a position, of having to choose between conservatives, who want to impeach him, and swing voters, who in their districts might not want to.

I think though what we are moving toward is a system, where we are more and more going to see, when there's a House in one party, and a president in the other, you're going to see impeachments. And then, you're not going to see that carry through in the Senate, because you can't get that two-thirds majority that's necessary to convict on an impeachment. This, I think, is going to become the new normal.

COLLINS: I mean, is that where we are? I mean, how does the Biden White House handle this? Because, the Republicans are moving closer to this, but not that they have more concrete evidence, of what they've been alleging, about President Biden. They just seem to be moving closer to it.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The Biden White House should handle it, as they govern. Just ignore it, and let them do theirs.

This right here, impeachment, from Republicans, is throwing red meat, to the base that really supports Trump. That's why Trump is using it. He hasn't been indicted yet. And when he gets indicted, it seems like his poll numbers skyrocket. When Republicans impeach, perhaps, for his base, his poll numbers skyrocket.

I don't think the Biden administration engages it. They need to continue to focus on the economy, focus on the war in Ukraine, focus on making sure that we are climate-stable, the issues that the American people really care about, and that improves their quality of life.

COLLINS: And of course, all this is going on, as we're also watching what's happening, on the 2024 campaign trail. We just heard from Governor Burgum, there.

But Governor Ron DeSantis, today, was talking about this idea, of maybe having RFK Jr., serve in his administration, potentially. This is what he said.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, the medical stuff, I'm very good on that. So, that does appeal to me.

But there's a whole host of other things that he'd probably be out of step with. And so, on that regard, it's like, OK, if you're President, you know, sic him on the FDA, if he'd be willing to serve, or sic him on CDC.

But in terms of being Veep, there's, you know, 70 percent of the issues that he may be averse to our base on? You know, that just creates an issue.


COLLINS: So, he's saying he couldn't be serve as vice president, but RFK Jr., who is spreading conspiracy theories, about COVID-19, sparing Jewish people, last week, could serve in the FDA or the CDC?

PONNURU: Well, it could be -- he didn't specify which medical things, he found appealing. It could be that he likes RFK's theory that WiFi causes leaky brain, for example, or that anti-depressants are behind school shootings. So, there's still -- there's room, for some follow- up questions here. But I think that the--

COLLINS: And you're joking, of course.



COLLINS: Our audience could be wondering (ph).

PONNURU: The Robert F. Kennedy Jr. record, on these issues, is just unrelieved crackpottery. And it is irresponsible to talk about placing him anywhere, near a position of authority, particularly on medical issues. And I say that as somebody, who thinks that the CDC, in particular, to

a lesser degree, the FDA, made some serious mistakes, during the COVID crisis. But the answer to those problems is not to put somebody, with this abysmal track record, in charge.


COLLINS: And Mike Pence's response to this was not about what RFK Jr., has said. But the idea, saying that because he's pro-choice and that he would never put him, in his administration, because of that reason, not referencing his conspiracy theories.

ALLISON: This is really hard -- this is hard for me to wrap my head around.

And I'll first focus on DeSantis. This is a governor, who's State, right now, is teaching young people that slaves benefited from slavery. And now, he's talking about putting a conspiracy theorist, in charge of government agencies that deal with medical issues.

I am not a Republican. But I even believe Republicans deserve better than Ron DeSantis, right now. I don't understand his campaign strategy. It seems like he knows he's failing, and he's throwing spaghetti, at the wall, to see what sticks.

But this is not the way you win, like going in support of RFK is not how Ron DeSantis wins the Republican nomination, and it's surely not how he's going to win the Presidency of the United States.

On Pence? You were the Vice President during COVID. And you're saying you're not going to address the fact that he's talking about putting him again, in charge of two agencies that deal with medical issues, for this country? Instead, you focus on abortion.

The Republican field is in real trouble, right now. And it's kind of disappointing to watch some of the -- the way some of these conversations that are going down.

COLLINS: Ashley Allison, Ramesh Ponnuru, thank you both, for joining me, tonight. And happy birthday.

ALLISON: Thank you.

COLLINS: Today, on Capitol Hill, a push, for more transparency, when it comes to UFOs. My next guest, who's one of the witnesses that you see there, at the table, and warned, this is an issue of national security.



COLLINS: New warnings, about UFOs, on Capitol Hill.

Today, three retired military veterans testified, before a House hearing, about the increasing risks that they say unidentified objects, they believe, pose to national security.

And joining me now is one of the witnesses, who was testifying there, today. Ryan Graves, a former Navy pilot, and runs "Americans for Safe Aerospace," a group that I should note, he founded, to encourage pilots, to report these UAPs.

Thank you so much, for being here. I first want to show people a video. This is something that was released, by the Pentagon, of something that members of your former squadron, saw, off the coast of Florida, in 2015.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a whole fleet of them. Look on the S.A.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are all going against the wind. The wind's 120 knots to the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing, dude.


COLLINS: I mean, you were a fighter pilot, for 10 years. Obviously, you've seen some of these objects yourself, you say. Is this something that you believe the U.S. even has in its capabilities?

RYAN GRAVES, FORMER NAVY FIGHTER PILOT AND DEFENSE CONTRACTOR: Well, the performance characteristics that we're observing, from these objects, range from staying stationary, in very high winds, Category 4 hurricane winds, to accelerating all the way to Mach 2.

These objects are out there all day. And they're coming close to hitting our aircraft. So no, I'm not aware of anything with our arsenal that has those type of performance characteristics. And I'm also not sure why they would be testing such things in our airspace.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, it's just remarkable to hear you say that that that's something you don't think the U.S. has the ability, to do. When people kind of tried to eliminate other things that this could be, you say, you don't think that's something the U.S. has, in its abilities?

GRAVES: Yes, and this is a conversation that at least in the modern time, we've been having, since at least about 2017 or so. So, I would think that if they were testing particular classified assets, off of the coast of Virginia Beach, or elsewhere, they would have ceased to do so, after this gained national and international attention.

Aviators, on the Eastern Seaboard, are still seeing these objects. And they had, for a number of years.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, you've been very outspoken on this. Obviously, you didn't only testify today. You've spoken about this publicly before. Do you ever hear from other pilots? Do they ever send you videos of things of objects that they see? GRAVES: Absolutely. There's not a lot of help, right now, for commercial airline pilots, to mitigate this safety risk. They are starting to stand up for reporting procedures, within the Department of Defense.

But again, for commercial aviators, they don't feel like there's any place, where they can go to, or safely report this information. Not only is there not a mechanism, to support this, but they also fear for their careers. They don't want to stick their head, above the line, and get chopped down, by Management.

Some of these pilots have received cease-and-desist orders that prevent them from publicly talking about this topic. And so, we really do have a big gap. We're not taking advantage of some of our most trained observers.

COLLINS: And for people, who there is a stigma, for people who come forward. I think it's changing. And it's changed, certainly, potentially, with today's testimony. Do you think your testimony today will encourage other people, to come forward?

GRAVES: Well, I hope so. I've created "Americans for Safe Aerospace," which is a non-profit, that I'm the Executive Director of. And we've been receiving witness reports, from people. And that was not our intent.

But we are starting to process, those witness reports. And we have a pipeline, established, to communicate that testimony, to the Senate Armed Service Committee, as well as potentially arrow, should it rise to that level. I would encourage--

COLLINS: How often--

GRAVES: I would encourage--

COLLINS: And how often are you getting reports?

GRAVES: We're getting reports almost on a daily basis.

I'm speaking with a number of pilots that have been submitting their reports, at And I would encourage your listeners to do the same. And with that report, we're able to take that information, to Congress, and show just how serious of a problem this is.

COLLINS: Given that you testified, in front of members of Congress, today. And as you and I were noting earlier, sometimes, these hearings could have a tendency to go off the rails. But clearly, both members, both parties, felt the need to take this seriously today.

What do you want to see the government doing differently, going forward, taking this issue more seriously?

GRAVES: Well, I think we heard it, today, from members of Congress. It was one thing that there was little argument on, and that was that this represented a matter of national security. It seems, going forward, that this is going to be taken with the

seriousness, it deserves, at least I expect it to. And I'm eager for Congress to hear more of the background information that Mr. Grush can provide, in a closed setting.

COLLINS: Lieutenant Ryan Graves, thank you, for your testimony, today. It was very interesting to hear. And thank you, for joining us, tonight.

GRAVES: Thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, new information, on the health scare for LeBron James' son, Bronny.



COLLINS: Tonight, CNN has learned that just months before, he went into cardiac arrest, on the court, LeBron James' son, Bronny, underwent a thorough heart exam, and multiple tests that all came back normal.

That new information, coming from a source, familiar with the situation, telling my colleague, Sanjay Gupta, that. Of course, they told Dr. Sanjay Gupta that, that the testing is part of this routine. It's a part of the program, for prospective NBA players. And that's why Bronny James underwent it.

Joining me now is CNN Sports Analyst, Christine Brennan.

Christine, I mean, you have covered so many young star athletes, in their time. What went through your head, when you first heard about this health scare, but also what we've learned, from Sanjay that, he, just a few months ago, was undergoing normal test.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Kaitlan, what it shows us is that this is such a shocking and unforeseen development that you can think someone's healthy, and all of a sudden, you can have something that is just -- can be so catastrophic.

We learned that with Damar Hamlin, of course, just six and a half months ago, the Buffalo Bills player. And, of course, it was a different situation.


But I think one of the very good things, out of a terrible situation, is that the national conversation, we're having, and the fact that it could really save kids' lives, especially high school athletes.

Because, if people are aware of it, and this conversation, from Damar Hamlin, now, to Bronny James? Obviously, then people will hopefully understand the risks, and know they need to learn CPR, and they need to have the defibrillators. And, in the case of Bronny James, that's exactly what happened. And obviously, he is alive, in large part because of that.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. It's completely raised the question, there.

I mean, but the idea that he is, Bronny James, he's an 18-year-old star athlete, his dad always hoped that he -- they'd play in the NBA together? And what does the conversation look like, when you talk about what the future holds for him?

BRENNAN: That is, of course, the key question. And, right now, the James' family, from all my sources that I've talked to, they just want to make sure that their son is healthy. And if he -- well they want him to play basketball again. And of course, the hope is he will be able to play. He's an excellent basketball player.

And LeBron has always talked about wanting to play with his son, someday, because they're only 20 years apart, in age. And LeBron would like to hang around, and make sure he could play, with Bronny.

So, that is a family dream. But right now, that is back on the back burner, because their real concern is the health, and safety, and the well-being, of their 18-year-old son.


BRENNAN: And so, there'll be many more tests, and we'll figure out how that goes in the future. But, right now, hopefully, he will be OK.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. And we'll stay on top of it.

Christine Brennan, thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.

We'll be right back.



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

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