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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
CNN Projects: Ohio Voters Reject Measure In Win For Abortion Rights; DeSantis Fires Campaign Manager As He Trails Trump; Judge Schedules Friday Hearing On Protective Order In Election Interference Case Against Trump. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 08, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Today, Ireland paid final respects, to singer and activist, Sinead O'Connor, who died almost two weeks ago.
Hundreds lined the streets, in her hometown, in Bray, just south of Dublin, to pay their respects. The procession, carrying her coffin, made its way, past her old home, which is in keeping with an old Irish custom.
Sinead O'Connor was 56, when she died.
Time now, for "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" and breaking news, from Ohio.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, right now, the numbers are coming in, and the votes are being counted, as an Ohio special election becomes a crucial new litmus test, on abortion rights, here, in America, more than a year after Roe's reversal. More on that, in a moment.
Plus, all shook up again, as a failure to re-launch prompts another reshuffle of the DeSantis campaign. Will this latest shakeup make a difference?
And after reading Trump's new election interference indictment, a former official of his, says that his blood ran cold. The Army vet's take, on the possibility, of Trump using the Military, to stay in power.
I'm Kaitlan Collins, and this is THE SOURCE.
And we start with breaking news, for you, this evening because CNN can now project that Ohio voters have rejected Issue One. This was a ballot measure, championed by the state's Republican-led Congress that would have made it harder, to change Ohio's constitution, to add an amendment.
This was an effort by Republicans, to basically change the rules, before there was going to be a key vote, on abortion rights, come November. After seeing what happened in referendums, in six other States, either protecting abortion rights after Roe versus Wade was overturned, or restricting them.
If Issue One had passed, there would have needed to be a 60 percent supermajority, to change the state's constitution, instead of just a simple majority. But now, that is not happening, after the voters of Ohio have spoken.
CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is in Ohio, tonight.
Jeff, obviously, I know you've been tracking this, all day, as people have been going to the polls. They weren't sure what this was going to look like. What happened here?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, we are at the Vote NO party. And you can see they've actually been predicting victory, slightly before our projection.
(PEOPLE CHEER & APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: Largely because of the strength of the early vote. More than 700,000 Ohioans had voted, going into Election Day. And that strength continued throughout Election Day. So, even as the numbers continue to come in, from across the state, we can now project that the Vote NO wins.
(PEOPLE CHEER & APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: And you can hear the applause behind me here.
What this really is, Kaitlan, is the beginning of the process.
(PEOPLE CHEER & APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: This is the beginning of a major campaign, over abortion rights, in one of America's classic of battleground states. Ohio, of course, has been trending red, in recent presidential elections. But abortion now will be on the ballot, in November, and the threshold, to enshrine abortion rights, in the Constitution, will be 50 percent. That's what was at issue here.
This was a two-step election, if you will. Republican leaders were trying to make it more difficult, to raise the bar, for what it would take, to pass the November ballot measure. They wanted to make a 60 percent threshold. Well, that amendment was defeated, today. That issue was defeated today.
(PEOPLE CHEER & APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: So, the beginning of this next abortion rights question, and battle, starts tonight, in Ohio. And there is a broad coalition of supporters.
(PEOPLE CHEER & APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: Again, you can hear behind me here, from labor, to physicians, to just rank-and-file people did not like the process that this went through.
So, Vote NO wins, tonight, in Ohio. But the campaign for abortion rights, which clearly will be a very large campaign, with outside money pouring in, that begins, in the morning, for the November ballot question.
COLLINS: Yes, Jeff. I guess the sense of what we've been hearing here is, is this about voters being upset that this was a vote that they decided to have in August, even though that Republican supermajority had just voted, to eliminate August special elections?
Or do you think it's a sense, from what you've heard, on the ground, about an energy, there, behind what voters believe, on abortion rights?
ZELENY: Look, it was definitely a mix. I mean, abortion rights was a driver of this campaign. There is no doubt.
But when you talk to many Republicans, we encountered, as we've been covering this, over the last month, we encountered many Republicans, who are opposed to abortion rights. But they do not believe that this summertime special election was the way, to change the state constitution.
Two former Republican governors, Bob Taft and John Kasich have been campaigning, across the state, saying that the state constitution should not be changed, in this way, the threshold should not be raised.
So, there definitely was a sense. Some described it as a power grab. We talked to Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, today. He dismissed that. He said, clearly, this was not an attempt, to push something through. Well he may have been right about that. Because the reality is the Vote NO proponents came out in large, large numbers, to support this.
But it was about abortion rights, also about minimum wage. There's going to be a question about raising the minimum wage, on the ballot, perhaps next year. And this was also part of that.
But there's no doubt that Ohio now stands, in the list of States, like Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, in sending a loud message, on abortion rights. But again, this is one step of the process. The real question happens, in November, when abortion, is on the ballot, here in Ohio.
COLLINS: And, of course, the questions for the implications of that.
Jeff Zeleny, thank you. We'll check back in with you. And we're going to speak to Democratic Ohio congresswoman, Shontel Brown, in just a moment.
But I want to start, tonight, with Mike Gonidakis. He is the President of the Ohio Right to Life group.
Mike, obviously, you were hoping that this was going to pass, tonight. Why did this fail?
MIKE GONIDAKIS, PRESIDENT, OHIO RIGHT TO LIFE: Well, Kaitlan, thanks for having me on your show.
Look, there's still over 7,000 precincts that still need to have their results turned in. We're expecting another million and a half votes. So, we're not ready to call it on our side just yet. We still think that the votes are out there. We're really good at same-day voting, in the Republican Party. So, we're still holding out.
We don't believe that the race should have been called this early. But here we are today. And the NO side is winning, of course. But at the end of the day, we still want to count all of our votes.
COLLINS: You still think there's a chance?
GONIDAKIS: I do. I think 7,000 precincts, it's not in the nation, but just in the State of Ohio. So, there is still time. We're going to let the process play out. And then, we'll see where we're at.
But, at the end of the day, we've been laser-focused, on November, since January. This was just step one in the process. And we'll be ready to go, come November.
COLLINS: Well, I'll say, CNN is obviously really accurate, with these projections. We don't make these early. We make these when we have a very good assessment, of what the vote looks like, on the ground, I mean.
But you say you're still waiting to see the final call. I mean, when this final call comes through, if it has failed, why do you think it failed?
GONIDAKIS: Look, this was a battle worth having. We needed to have a decision, with the State of Ohio, all 88 counties. Look, do we want to protect our constitution from outside special interests, whether they be liberal or conservative special interests? Or do we want our constitution to be for sale?
Look, in the State of Illinois, they have a 60 percent threshold, to change their constitution. And we said "If it's good enough, for the blue State of Illinois, shouldn't it be good enough for the red State of Ohio?" Voters will decide, tonight. But was the battle worth having, is a question we should have all asked tonight. And we did. And the voters will respond. And the voters always get it right.
COLLINS: But is that what it's about? Is it about special interest? Because I mean, even the Ohio Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, said, quote, "This is 100 percent about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our Constitution." Did that hurt your efforts here, to get this to pass?
GONIDAKIS: No, look, the strength of our side, our YES side, was the diversity of our coalition.
For myself, and my wife, Amy, of course, 100 percent about abortion, and not to have enshrining late-term abortion, in our state constitution. But our Second Amendment friends were involved, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Farm Bureau, we were all together, on this issue, tonight, and vote YES on Issue One.
COLLINS: But the Secretary of State made it about abortion. Do you think that's why it failed?
GONIDAKIS: No, no, not at all. Look, the voters are smart enough. They know abortion is just the tip of the spear, this November. We knew they qualified for the ballot weeks ago. So, we knew this was coming.
And when they're done, when the specialist interests are done with us, they're going to come for the Second Amendment. They're going to come, as you said, for minimum wage, and so many other issues. Our farming industry, agriculture is next.
So, we had a chance, tonight, and we'll still see what the results of this election, whether we protect our Constitution or not. But it's bigger than abortion. It's about our way of life. We're a Midwestern state, with Midwestern values, and we have a chance here, to protect our constitution, and just be like other States, like Illinois.
COLLINS: But what do you say to people, who were critical of the timing of this? I mean, even a former Republican governor, of the state, Bob Taft, said that a question this big should go to voters, in November, not in a summer special election, which the Republican supermajority there, had just voted to eliminate.
I mean, did they mess this up, in the camp of people, like you, who were trying to get this passed, by scheduling this vote, in August, and not doing so, in November?
GONIDAKIS: Yes, no, look, at the end of the night, we've had a great voter turnout, today. Look, in all 88 counties, that early voting, same-day voting has been tremendous. So, the voters knew there was an election. We didn't lose any ground here. I mean, we're approaching gubernatorial turnouts, here, in a lot of counties.
So, voters are smart. They knew that there was one issue on the ballot. There's no city council races or other races. So, the voters are smart. They knew that there was an election, today. And they responded.
We'll see here in a 45 minutes, to an hour, what the final results may or may not be. But the fact that was in August, I don't think, weighed one way or the other.
COLLINS: Well, I think, just to remind our viewers, CNN has called this, and says that this vote has failed. I know you said that you're still waiting to hear it.
What do you think this says about what's going to happen, come November, when that amendment about protecting abortion rights, is on the ballot? Do you think that this means it could pass?
GONIDAKIS: No, as Jeff just said, in the earlier report that there are a lot of Republicans that are pro-life that may have voted no, on this issue, tonight, that will be with us shoulder-to-shoulder, come November.
Look, we have marijuana, and abortion, on the ballot, this November, coming up. And I just believe our faith-based community in all 88 counties will reject both.
COLLINS: You don't think any of this is a message, from voters, that Republicans have misjudged how abortion plays in politics?
GONIDAKIS: I don't think so.
In June of 2022, the Dobbs decision came out. And 90 days later, Governor Mike DeWine, our pro-life governor, was reelected, with 64 percent of the vote, and pro-life Republicans won entirely down the ballot in Ohio. That's just 90 days after the Dobbs decision.
So, if there was going to be some tsunami of pro-choice voters? That would have happened in 2022. And it just never occurred.
COLLINS: We did see that when it drove, of course, what many expected was going to be a Republican red wave, in the midterms. And that didn't happen.
Mike Gonidakis, we'll see what happens, come November, with that measure, in your State, President of Ohio Right to Life. Thank you for your time, tonight.
GONIDAKIS: Thank you. Thank you so much.
COLLINS: And for more on this, I want to bring in Ohio Democratic congresswoman, Shontel Brown.
Thank you so much, for being here, Congresswoman.
I mean, what do you make, let's just start, with the idea that this has failed that this issue has failed? And that, obviously, abortion advocates wanted this, those who favor having choices, having abortion, be able -- people to be able to make those decisions, wanted this to fail. What's your response to that tonight?
REP. SHONTEL BROWN (D-OH): Well, first and foremost, thank you for having me.
And I want to thank the voters, and the volunteers, who showed up and showed out, in Ohio, for this, what was a rushed in, in my opinion, an illegal election. I think what it shows is that the power remains, in the hands of the people, issues are still important, and that messaging matters.
COLLINS: Yes. What do you make of what Mike just said? He was saying he doesn't think the timing of here had an effect, the fact that it was a special election, happening in August, this was the only issue that voters were voting on, and casting their ballots about, tonight.
Do you think that is why this failed?
BROWN: I think it failed or it is going to fail because people are paying attention.
Despite their suppressive efforts, to try to hold an election, in what I would describe as a sneak-attack, people were paying attention. I am so grateful of the number of voters that showed up, and showed out, early, in Ohio, to make their voices heard.
This was about protecting a 100-year precedent that had been set in Ohio, a simple majority rule. Their efforts to try to raise the threshold to 60 percent, for future elections, as well as changing the requirements, to get a citizen-led initiative, on the ballot, were really sinister and sadistic.
I mean, when you think about the fact that currently, right now, we require 44 counties, of the 88, to get signatures, to get something on the ballot, and they wanted to change it to 88. That means one single county could have held up an entire constitutional amendment, for the entire state. And so, that is not democracy. That is not representative of what the people, in Ohio, wanted.
This was about freedom. And I think the people of Ohio demonstrated that they wanted to protect their right, to make their own health care decisions. And that's what this barometer and litmus test demonstrates in the state.
And I believe, history has proven, Ohio is the pathway, to victory, when it comes to American politics. And so, we look at this as a litmus test. And we are thankful that when the votes are all counted, that this issue will have failed. And we will not only have saved democracy, in Ohio, but potentially across the country.
COLLINS: Do you think this means that that vote, in November, on protecting abortion rights, is going to succeed?
BROWN: I am optimistic. Listen, we have to take each election, one at a time. But what we know is, currently, polling indicates that 58 percent of Ohioans would want to enshrine and protect the right to make your own health care decisions.
And despite the extreme MAGA Republicans' sneak-attack to try to make that no longer the case, the people, again, showed up, and were paying attention, and they made their voices heard, despite the efforts, to try to silence the voice of the voters.
COLLINS: I want to ask you about a poll that CNN came out with, today, on abortion that shows 64 percent, a majority, of U.S. adults, say they disapprove -- who say that they disapprove of last, the ruling, essentially believe that -- essentially, were arguing that they don't believe that enough members of your party, or of those who favor abortion rights, have done enough, to protect it, whether at a state level, or on a federal level.
I mean, what do you make of that? And how can you change those voters' minds?
BROWN: Well, I think we saw -- we got a taste of that today. Listen, we do agree with the majority of voters. We passed legislation in the House that was stalled at the Senate.
But I want to say this. When the Dobbs decision was made, Ohio was one of the States that had a 10-year-old rape victim, who had to flee the state, to go to Indiana, to access health care, to access an abortion. And so, when we think about that, when we think about issues, around our state, this election was critical, to helping people, make that decision.
And I think it's also important to point out that this was a non- partisan, if you will, result. Democrats and Republicans alike believe in protecting the one-person-one-vote, simple majority rule.
So despite what polls, across the nation may say, as it relates to Republican versus Democrats, when it came to this issue of Issue One, we were able to bring both Democrats and Republicans together. And that demonstrates what happens, when the people come together. The votes are successful, and the country succeeds.
COLLINS: Yes. And we should note that abortion law that you noted there is on hold, right now. It's being reviewed, by your State Supreme Court.
Congresswoman Shontel Brown, thank you, for joining us, on this breaking news, tonight.
BROWN: Thank you for having me.
COLLINS: And we'll have more about what this vote means, on a national level, when we return. Not just what is happening in Ohio, but what is -- what are the ramifications, for nationwide?
Plus, there has been a major leadership shakeup, for the DeSantis campaign, as the presidential-hopeful is struggling to catch up to the Trump Train.
COLLINS: Breaking news, tonight, CNN has projected that Ohio voters have rejected, an extraordinary attempt, by the Republican supermajority, in that State, that would make it harder to change the state's constitution. This was an effort to change the rules, in a rare August special election that would have happened before a vote that is going to happen this November, on protecting abortion rights. It's a measure that is going to be on the ballot, then.
Tonight, this was the only measure that voters in Ohio were voting on. And Republicans, in the State, have even admitted that it was about abortion, at least Ohio's Secretary of State has.
For more on these breaking results that we are just getting in, let's bring in Jamal Simmons, former Communications Director to Vice President Harris, and a Democratic strategist; along with Republican strategist and pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson.
Let's start with you. Since we are looking at these numbers, I mean, there were questions of what this was going to look like. We got the numbers in pretty quickly. And pretty overwhelmingly, these voters have rejected this.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is a wake-up call to Republicans, on two fronts.
The first is that the problems politically that they are facing, in a post-Roe world, have not gone away. They have still not, as a party, figured out a message on abortion.
When you ask Democrats, "What's your position on abortion?" They say, "It's between a woman and her doctor." And they rarely sort of get pushed on the, "Well, how late does that mean?" any kinds of questions.
But for Republicans, they're still getting bogged down, in the, "Well is it 15 weeks? Is it six weeks? Is it eight weeks? What are the exceptions? Is it federal? Is it state?" And there's no coherent answer.
The second thing that Republicans, I think, need to wake up to, is that the patterns of who turns out, in very low turnout elections, have changed.
The Democratic coalition has really been fired up by this issue. And they are turning out, in elections, that previously, it was much harder, for the Democratic Party, to turn people out in.
Meanwhile, Republicans, their coalition now consists of a lot more voters that are hard to drag out to the polls, when Donald Trump's not on a ballot. And that's a big challenge.
COLLINS: Well, it'll also be fascinating, to see what the demographic breakdown, of how this voted, who voted here, and how this failed, and who is responsible for that.
When you heard from Mike Gonidakis? He's obviously the President of Ohio's Right to Life group. He wanted this to pass, because they want that threshold, to be higher, come November, when voters are going to voting, on whether to enshrine abortion rights. But he's arguing it's not just about abortion.
I mean, do you think that it is about abortion? What's the message that you're reading from this?
JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VP HARRIS: It's about abortion, but abortion also as the linchpin, to an America that he doesn't particularly probably want, right?
Here's the problem. The Republicans are trying to go around the country, and change the rules of the game, as they see themselves kind of losing the cultural arguments, nationally. So, we've seen it in North Carolina, where they take away power from the Governor, when the Republicans, when the state legislature, do the same thing in Wisconsin, when there's a Democratic governor elected.
So, we're seeing this trend happen, around the country, where they're changing the rules of the game, in the middle of the game. People don't like that. I mean, Americans are pretty much raised, that when you know the rules, you play by the rules, you win, or you lose.
And when you take a look at what's happened on abortion, they just have an army out there. And it's not just Democrats. What we found, when I was in the White House, last year, is we knew that there were a lot of women, many of them that probably voted for Republicans, who would support a Democratic initiative, to keep abortion, legal.
We saw it in Kansas. And the Dobbs happened in June. In a Kansas vote, in August, we saw Republicans stand up, and say they want to keep abortion legal. And then, we saw it again in Michigan, in 2022, during the midterms.
COLLINS: Yes, I'm glad you brought that up, because we were looking at this map, earlier. Because, some people may see this and say, "Oh, well, it's just Ohio. This isn't relevant to me." But obviously, this has national implications.
I mean, look at what we did see. This was States that rejected measures, to restrict abortion rights. Kansas, as you mentioned, Kentucky, Montana, protected the right to abortion, California, Vermont, Michigan.
I mean, with this being, on the ballot, come November, do you think Republicans, in Ohio, and people, like Mike Gonidakis, are worried that this means that could pass?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Absolutely. And bear in mind that Ohio is no longer thought of as a pure kind of swing state. When I first worked in politics, I felt like I was doing focus groups, in Columbus, Ohio, like every week, because that was the swing part of the swing state. And now, Ohio votes, like Texas, at a national level.
Now, it's going to be really interesting, next November, when you have Sherrod Brown up on the ballot. Republicans think that maybe they can pick up a Senate seat there. There's going to be a ton of money spent, in that State. But Republicans, I think, now need to wake up. You can't just take for granted that even these States that have moved quite red, during the Trump era, will necessarily always vote with you on every issue.
In CNN's own polling that just came out today, about a third of Republican respondents said that they disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision, to overturn Roe. The politics of this issue are much more complicated than red and blue.
SIMMONS: But --
COLLINS: And State's Republican governor, I should note --
COLLINS: -- supported, wanted this to pass. He voted for this, I believe.
What were you going to say?
SIMMONS: Well, I was going to say, in Kansas, when the vote happened there?
SIMMONS: Donald Trump won Kansas 56-41, right?
If you're losing an abortion vote, in Kansas, and you're losing again, in Ohio, which looks like it's maybe closer to 58 percent, 59 percent, 60 percent? These are not like small losses. It's not just a turnout campaign. This is really about people saying, "Not today. Not on my watch. We're not having this."
COLLINS: But if you're in the numbers game, which all politicians are? They're looking what happened in Kansas. They're looking what happened in Montana, and California, and Vermont, and Michigan, tonight, in Ohio.
I mean, at what point does that break through to them that Republicans does not play in elections, like they think it does?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: I mean, from my perspective, this message should have been received the day after the 2022 midterms.
But it seems as though Republicans, I'm hopeful, will take a lesson, from this, and say, we need to find either a more coherent message on the issue of abortion itself that is not so alienating to young women, that is not so alienating, to the swing voters, who might be with us, even on some other cultural issues, that there has got to be a rethinking of the strategy period.
SIMMONS: I'll tell you one place, was not going to help? Talking about the merits of slavery, right? So, DeSantis talking about that, bringing that into the Florida Education Initiative? This is not the kind of conversation Americans want to have.
There's some of these issues that I think we, as a country, have decided we know the answer to these issues. We can argue about a little bit more of this, a little bit more of that. But we know the answer to these issues. Why are the Republicans trying to open these up, as they begin to take majorities, in some of these key states?
COLLINS: So, I'm curious, what do you think is going to happen, in Arizona? Because, today, an abortion rights group, there, launched this bid, to enshrine abortion rights, there, like a first step, essentially, of putting it on the ballot. It's not there yet.
Does that help mobilize Democrats, in Arizona, who maybe, next November, would not be as enthusiastic, about voting, for President Biden, in his reelection effort, but maybe this is something that would drive them to the polls?
SIMMONS: It drives them to the polls. But I will say this, again. I think it's the litany of all the things that are coming together.
The affirmative action vote, I think, helps with African American voters, and some liberal whites, to get them more engaged, and to pay attention to it. The abortion vote crosses party lines, because it's not just an ideological -- a partisan issue. It's an ideological issue.
So, the litany of these things, and saying to people, the Republican Party just may not be on the side of a kind of big multicultural America that we all thought we were on the path, to having. It's really on the side of a kind of an America, maybe it's 1950s. Maybe it's the 1890s. We don't know. But it's not the America that we're looking for today.
COLLINS: Jamal Simmons, Kristen Soltis Anderson, thank you both, for being here, on that breaking news.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
COLLINS: In the presidential race, as we were just mentioning, there is a sign of trouble, for Ron DeSantis. Can his campaign survive yet another shakeup? We'll find out, because as another shakeup just happened.
COLLINS: Republican presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, is restructuring his campaign team, again.
For the third time, in less than a month, the Governor of Florida announced another staff change, to his team, removing his campaign manager, and instead replacing her, with a loyalist. In mid-July, he fired about a dozen staffers. Then, two weeks later, cleaned house again, amid concerns over how much money his campaign was spending.
DeSantis has been struggling, financially, and unable to show growth, when it comes to polls, and whether or not he's able to compete, with the Republican frontrunner, former President Donald Trump.
Marc Caputo is a National Political Reporter for The Messenger. He broke this story, today.
Marc, thanks, for joining me, tonight.
Obviously, firing a campaign manager is never a good sign, for any candidate, no matter what election you are running. And what is going on here, with the DeSantis campaign?
MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE MESSENGER: Well, the question is whether it's third time is the charm?
And you've just seen this sort of slow-motion refusal to rip the band aid off quickly, and kind of fess up, acknowledge some of the problems he had, from his financial arrangements, the assumptions, they made, in building the budget, hiring staff, to fundraising, and also, to his media strategy.
Now, you've seen all of those things change. And the final thing that changed here was, over a period of time, you heard a number of donors, a number of supporters, a number of advisers, to DeSantis, say, "Look, you really have to replace the campaign manager."
Now, not all of this should fall on campaign manager, or outgoing campaign manager, Generra Peck's shoulders, because the reality is, is that a candidate owns his campaign.
But nevertheless, the problem with being a campaign manager is that when things go badly, with a campaign, and things look mismanaged, you usually get blamed for, and that's what's happened here.
Now, James Uthmeier is his Chief of Staff, in his official office. Last week, he came in, was tasked by DeSantis, to say, "Hey, find out what's going on, see what problems there are, and whether you can fix them." He did that. He reviewed the budget. He reviewed the financials. He looked at their strategic plan. And he also talked to staffers.
And when he came back to DeSantis, DeSantis then turned to him and said, "Hey, why don't you run it?" And it was difficult for his Chief of Staff to say no. As you had pointed out, James Uthmeier is quite a loyalist, for Ron DeSantis. So, if the Governor asked him to do something, he's going to do it.
COLLINS: Yes, I'm glad you brought up the money there.
Because another thing that obviously stood out, when you look at the DeSantis campaign is that out of that $9.2 million that they raised, entering July, the campaign mistakenly reported about $2.6 million of it, which can't be used, in the Republican primary. It could only be used, if he makes it to the general election. I mean, what does something like that say about, how the campaign is being run, when it comes to what donors are concerned about, which is how they're spending money?
CAPUTO: That's a good question. It's one of those mysteries. From what I was able to tease out, and what I reported, today, in The Messenger, was that only in the final weeks of the quarter that ended July 1, or ended, at the end of June, was that they had miscalculated how much money was coming in.
And one of the reasons they did that is they were banking, what they thought were pledges, that were going to come in that never came. Now, pledges are kind of like, in the Mary Poppins terms, these piecrust promises. They're easily made and easily broken.
Now, the DeSantis campaign is going back to some of those people, and said, "Hey, look, you pledged this stuff in the past. We've made all these changes. We really need your money. Won't you give it to us?"
Now, what we're being told is that that money is coming in. But we've heard that the money was coming in before, that the ship was being righted. It hasn't been quite true. But maybe it's a new day, in Tallahassee. We're going to find out.
COLLINS: You've covered DeSantis, for a long time, obviously, politics in Florida, generally. Are you surprised to see how his presidential campaign is struggling, to translate, the success that he had, in Florida, which is obvious, but translating that to a national level?
CAPUTO: Yes, and no. DeSantis is a very smart individual. He compresses a lot of information, quickly. He can mount an argument. He can deal with multiple inputs. He can give and take the best of them.
But the problem that DeSantis had is he was sort of a victim of his own success. He won Florida by almost 20 percentage points, I guess, historic margin, for his reelection. And he became such a powerful governor. And he created such a system around him, where, his word was basically law.
You had a Republican legislature that obeyed his every whim. And they essentially bent to his will. And so, as a result, he never really created a structure, where he was ever really challenged. He hates the news media, especially the national news media, so he didn't really have to deal with them.
So, he felt he could sort of create his own reality, it appears, and only launched his campaign, and stubbornly refused to change his campaign, by only talking to conservative media, and not engaging in that sort of give-and-take, with the broader national media, which is still a bread and butter, of the nation, finding out who you are.
Now, that doesn't mean for a Republican that he has to agree with everything that he thinks the liberal media, in his words, are going to say. But it doesn't mean that his supporters, and people, who could be potential supporters, want to see him thick on his feet, argue back, and mount an argument. And he wasn't doing that.
He's doing that now. And as I just said, a minute ago, we're going to see if it works. There is a debate, right now, about whether it's too late, or whether there's still time. I think it's probably the late side of early, that there still could be time.
But the fact of the matter is, outside of DeSantis having his own problems, the biggest problem Ron DeSantis has, is the same problem all of these Republican candidates have, in the primary. It's Donald Trump.
He has a very high floor, and he's able to get to 40 percent or 50 percent. If he can get to 50 percent, obviously he wins. But even at 40 percent, if you have a multiple-candidate primary, it's really hard to beat a guy like that. And DeSantis and everyone else, is finding that out.
COLLINS: As you said, we'll see if the third time is the charm.
Marc Caputo, great reporting. Thank you.
CAPUTO: Thank you.
COLLINS: A U.S. Army officer, who worked, in the Trump administration, says his, quote, "Blood ran cold," when he read these two parts of the Special Counsel's indictment. He'll join me next, to explain why he believes, the Military could have been forced, to make a choice, between defying orders or turning their weapons on civilians.
COLLINS: Tonight, a former Army officer, who was a top aide, to John Kelly, when he ran the Department of Homeland Security, says, and I'm quoting him now, that his blood room cold when he read two parts of this latest Trump indictment.
In his piece, for The Dispatch, titled "An Unthinkable Choice," Kevin Carroll says that if Trump and his co-conspirators were successful, with what they set out to do, it would have put the Military, in an impossible position, either defy their orders, or turn their weapons on civilians.
Tonight, Kevin Carroll is joining me. He is a former DHS official, CIA officer, and former Senior Counsel, to John Kelly, at the Department of Homeland Security, as we noted there.
Thanks so much, Kevin, for being here.
I mean, that quote really stuck out to me. You said your blood ran cold, when you read this indictment. Why?
KEVIN CARROLL, FORMER SENIOR DHS OFFICIAL AND CIA OFFICER: Kaitlan, it was a terrible prospect. It's just two paragraphs, in the lengthy indictment. But it's clear that Jeff -- that John Eastman, who is the academic mind, behind this idea, to have Vice President Pence negate the votes, and the Assistant Attorney General, Jeff Clark, who President Trump planned to name Acting Attorney General, knew that riots would result, if Vice President Pence did what they suggested.
And they anticipated that the Insurrection Act would be invoked by the President, and that violence would result that basically federal law enforcers or nationalized -- federalized National Guardsmen would have to put down protests, in American cities, with force.
COLLINS: Yes, I mean, it sounds like you're saying, when you're referring to Jeffrey Clark, obviously, he talked about invoking the Insurrection Act, John Eastman had this kind of callous response, when he was warned about his actions, potentially, causing riots, in the streets.
It basically sounds like you're worried that the outcome could have been a lot worse, than it even was, in that period.
CARROLL: The outcome would have been terrible, however the matter was resolved.
Senior Military officials would have been put in the position, of having to decide, do we disobey a facially lawful order, from the President of the United States? Because the Insurrection Act does give the President, quite a bit of latitude, to use force, to keep the federal law and operation, out in the States.
Or would they, for a bad purpose, to try to keep someone, in the White House, who had lost the election, use force, on American citizens?
And it's inevitable in this day and age that if there's a really large protest, there's going to be some vandals, there's going to be some looters. There's going to be some arsonists. So, it's certain that there would have been a confrontation, between young American troops, who probably wouldn't have had much training, in civil unrest, and American citizens.
And tragedy would have resulted in a way that would have changed our country, again, either through the Military, no -- disobeying a presidential order, or through shedding innocent blood.
COLLINS: And you're essentially saying that the harm of what could have happened, and the potential outcomes here that that should be taken into account, for his sentencing. Of course, that's if he's convicted. We don't know where this trial is going to go yet, or when it's even going to happen, potentially.
But I mean, it sounds like you think that he should go to jail?
CARROLL: Yes. And if he's convicted? It's a fraud and a conspiracy case. And part of the conspiracy here was to misuse the United States Military, against American citizens, to try to keep someone in office, who'd lost the election.
And when the government takes its position, on sentencing? And when the judge, if there's a conviction, decides what the sentence should be? I think they have to look at the fact that if this plan had gone forward, you would have had terrible harm, to the United States Military, as an institution, to our Republic, as a democracy, in which the Military is supposed to be, and has been, subservient to civilian control. And to the young service members, and the young protesters, who would have tragically been at the sharp end of this.
COLLINS: Safe to say that you would never serve in another Trump administration?
CARROLL: That's a very, very safe prediction, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Kevin Carroll, thank you, for joining us, on this piece, in The Dispatch, tonight.
CARROLL: Thank you.
COLLINS: A new hearing date, speaking of Trump's indictment, there, has just been set, after a back-and-forth, over the two teams, over the handling of evidence, in the case, and what can and can't be said about it.
What the judge still needs to decide, as Trump is on the campaign trail, lashing out, against the Special Counsel, prosecutors in Georgia, and everyone in between? Next.
COLLINS: Tonight, U.S. District Judge, Tanya Chutkan, is rejecting a request, from the Trump legal team, and has now scheduled a hearing, for 10 AM, this Friday, to talk with both sides, about what rules should be imposed, for handling of evidence, in that investigation, by the Special Counsel, into Trump's efforts, to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump does not have to go, in person, on Friday, I should note. His appearance has been waived.
But today, on the campaign trail, he was complaining about how his legal problems are affecting his presidential run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I won't be able to go to Iowa, today. I won't be able to go to New Hampshire, today. Because, I'm sitting in a courtroom, on bullshit, because --
TRUMP: -- his Attorney General charged me with something. Terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: With me, to discuss, all of this, is CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, in the Southern District of New York, Elie Honig.
Elie, we won't make you weigh in on those comments there.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.
COLLINS: But what do you make of this decision by, like, what do you read into Judge Chutkan, saying, "No, I'm not going to give you until next Monday or Tuesday," as the Trump team had requested. "Let's do this on Friday."
HONIG: It's a completely fair decision. Prosecutors wanted to go in ASAP. Trump's team wanted till next week. And she said, "Let's do it Friday."
And this is a mini skirmish that's really going to foreshadow much bigger battles, we have ahead, about timing, because you can see the dynamic. Trump's team wants to push off as far as possible. Prosecutors want to pull as quick as possible. And the judge is going to have to find a middle ground.
COLLINS: OK. But this is pretty -- I was talking to a source, in Trump-world, earlier, and I was saying, this is actually pretty standard, this early on, in a criminal prosecution, to decide, here's what you can and cannot say publicly --
COLLINS: -- about what we're sharing with you of evidence in the case. I mean, it could be transcripts, from witnesses, who went before the grand jury. It could be a lot of information.
HONIG: Really important distinction.
The judge is not deciding to shut Donald Trump up entirely. It may get to that point, if he keeps making comments like that.
All the judge is saying is you can't take the evidence, in this case, the discovery, the grand jury transcripts, the witness information, and blast it out over Truth Social. And the judge is going to decide what the parameters are of that.
But yes, that's a really important distinction here.
COLLINS: And the federal grand jury that is investigating here, the one that handed down the indictment, last week, they've met --
COLLINS: -- again, today
COLLINS: I mean, clearly, they're still investigating, because there's six unindicted co-conspirators? What is this?
HONIG: It's got to be that. I mean, look, the prosecutors always love to say the investigation is ongoing. It's clear that means something here, it's not just boilerplate.
Yes, look, there are six people named as co-conspirators. Prosecutors don't do that lightly. When you call someone a co-conspirator, what you're saying is we believe this person was part of the crime, and in on it.
And so, there is a continuing investigation, all indications, including Paula Reid's reporting that Bernie Kerik was in there, being questioned about Rudy Giuliani, tell me that they're next focused on those six co-conspirators.
Big question, by the way is if they are going to indict them, do they add them to the Trump indictment? Or do them separately? If they add them to the Trump indictment? That's going to be a big problem for timing.
COLLINS: Yes, we'll see what that looks like.
But also today, Trump was railing against this judge -- the district County -- the District Attorney, in Fulton County, Fani Willis. I mean, he was going after her, in terms that we're not going to play what he --
COLLINS: -- said about her, today. But he was going after her.
But we have learned, from Sara Murray, just now, that she is expected to present her case, to the grand jury, starting next week. That's going to take about 48 hours, we believe. I mean, how soon do you think Trump could see, be facing another indictment?
HONIG: Look, it looks clear. It's going to be very soon, could be next week. When you're at this phase, you're really in end game.
And remember, Fani Willis has already put all her evidence, into this special grand jury, that wrapped up a couple months ago. She can just go in, to this grand jury now, and summarize it.
I do have to say, because I just feel obligated, every time Trump goes on one of these rants, you're right not to play it. Don't give it air. But what he says here is disgraceful. It's grotesque. It's dangerous. I'm out of adjectives. But I do feel it's really important, to call this out, every time he attacks our judicial system, our prosecutors, our judges.
COLLINS: Yes, I mean, he's not just attacking Fani Willis. He's saying she's politically-motivated, in what she's doing here.
But he also says that, you know, he's attacking the judge that is going to -- his attorneys are going to be before, on Friday.
Obviously, he goes after Jack Smith, essentially, every day, at breakfast.
COLLINS: I mean, what is that, like when Trump's attorneys are in the room, with Judge Chutkan, on Friday?
HONIG: My goodness.
COLLINS: Trying to have this discussion?
HONIG: Here's the thing. You do have a right, as a criminal defendant, to criticize your judge, your prosecutor. I've been criticized, in public, by people I've prosecuted. That's fine. It's a First Amendment right.
But at a certain point, when you cross a line, into threats, into potentially tampering with witnesses, or your jury pool? Remember, everyone's watching this. They're part of the jury pool? Then, it's up to the prosecutors. I mean, normal citizens can't go to a judge and say "You need to put a stop to this." Only prosecutors can do that, or the judge can do it herself.
But gosh, I can't even imagine how difficult it is to try to --
HONIG: -- be the lawyer for this client.
COLLINS: The other thing that stood out to me today, when he was in New Hampshire --
COLLINS: -- is he said this. This is a quote he said. "There was never a second of any day that I didn't believe that it was a rigged election."
COLLINS: I've never heard him say something like that before. Obviously, we listened to a lot of his speeches.
But we looked at the indictment. Jack Smith opens the indictment by saying Trump knew that he had lost. At least 30 times in it, he references Trump's quote, "Knowingly false claims." Do you think this is a defense tactic that we're seeing from Trump?
HONIG: 100 percent, that's going to be a crucial battleground, in this case.
By the way, I think, the most important piece of evidence, in that indictment, one of them, is when Donald Trump's talking about claims that Sidney Powell has made, about election fraud, and Donald Trump says those claims are, and I quote, "Crazy." That's going to be a key battleground, throughout this case.
COLLINS: A lot of key battlegrounds that we have here.
HONIG: For sure.
COLLINS: Luckily, we have you, Elie Honig, to help break them down.
HONIG: Here for you.
COLLINS: Thank you.
COLLINS: We were just speaking of co-conspirators. One of them, Trump co-conspirator number one, Rudy Giuliani, has now been accused of making excuses, like "The dog ate my homework," to avoid complying with a lawsuit, about election lies. More on that excuse, next.
COLLINS: Excuses. Excuses.
Smartmatic, the voting technology company, that is suing Fox News, for lies, about the 2020 election, is now putting Rudy Giuliani on blast, for allegedly making up stories, they say, to avoid turning over documents.
In a new court filing, Smartmatic says, quote, "'The dog ate my homework.' ... Since the dawn of time, people have made up excuses to avoid doing things they do not want to do. This is exactly what Giuliani has done here."
We should note CNN has reached out to Giuliani's attorney, for comment. We have not yet heard back.
Thank you, so much, for joining me, tonight.
"CNN PRIMETIME" with Laura Coates, starts, right now.