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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Rudy Giuliani To Meet With Fulton County D.A.'s Office Tomorrow; Trump's Georgia Allies Go After Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis; The New Yorker: Musk Treated Like An Unelected Official. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 22, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Quick reminder. Coverage of the first Republican presidential debate begins here, on CNN, tomorrow night, at 11 PM Eastern, with my co-host Dana Bash. We'll have highlights and analysis. That's tomorrow night, 11 PM Eastern, here on CNN.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, the first surrenders of Trump's co-defendants happening, in Georgia. And we have breaking news, on one who is yet to do so, Rudy Giuliani.

Plus, the stage has been set for tomorrow night's first Republican presidential debate, without Donald Trump, and without one of our guests, tonight, who is not happy about it.

And about last night, someone, who will be on that stage, Vivek Ramaswamy said his comments, on 9/11 were misquoted. Well, we now have the tape.

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

Good evening. We start with breaking news, on Rudy Giuliani, and when he plans to surrender, in Georgia. It has been basically a revolving door of lawyers, and defendants, at the Fulton County Jail, today, in one of the most closely-watched cases, in the nation.

Two of Trump's co-defendants, in the efforts, to overturn the election, in Georgia, surrendered today. Several more agreed to bond deals, bringing the deal there to about a dozen.

One of them is a bail bondsman. Yes. A bail bondsman, Scott Hall, he turned himself in today, along with Trump ally, and lawyer, John Eastman, who as you may remember, pleaded the Fifth, to the January 6 congressional committee.

But he said this, outside the jail, today, standing next to his own attorney.


JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'm here, today, to surrender to an indictment that should never have been brought.

I am confident that when the law is faithfully applied, in this proceeding, all of my co-defendants, and I, will be fully vindicated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still think the election was stolen?

EASTMAN: Absolutely.


EASTMAN: No question.


EASTMAN: No question in my mind.


COLLINS: No question in his mind.

Meanwhile, we have new reporting, tonight, on who has been helping Rudy Giuliani. And it happens to be an unindicted co-conspirator, in this case, who I should note is also not an attorney. He is the former New York Police Commissioner, Bernie Kerik.

This may not come as a surprise to you, if you've been following our exclusive reporting, that we brought you here, on THE SOURCE, last week, regarding how Giuliani went to Mar-a-Lago, on what appeared to be a fruitless mission, a few months ago, to ask Trump, to help pay for his legal bills, something that didn't work out.

We have even more news, on Giuliani, tonight. For that, I want to go to CNN's Paula Reid, who is live, outside the Fulton County Jail.

Paula, you have this breaking news, on Rudy Giuliani. We have not seen him yet, at the courthouse. What are you hearing from your sources?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect we could see him, tomorrow, Kaitlan, because we have learned that Giuliani is scheduled to meet, with the District Attorney, here in Fulton County, tomorrow.

Our colleague, Zach Cohen, and I have learned that Giuliani will travel, here to Georgia, tomorrow, with Bernie Kerik. Now, he's of course the former New York Police Commissioner. He is not a lawyer. He is also an unindicted co-conspirator, in this case.

But he's a longtime friend of Rudy Giuliani's. And he's been helping him try to find a lawyer, something that has proven challenging, given Giuliani's seven-figure legal bills that remain unpaid.

It does appear that at this point, they have been able to find an attorney, with a Georgia license, who is at least willing, and expected to help him, tomorrow, with the bond part of this procedure. And it's unclear though this individual will be representing Giuliani, throughout this case. Now, I am also told that Giuliani would like to negotiate his bond, and then do his surrender, all before former President Trump shows up here, in Georgia, on Thursday.

As you and I reported, Kaitlan, Giuliani went to the former President pleading for help, with his legal bills. And as of now, he's only received a small portion of what he owes. And that, of course, wasn't from the former President, but from a Political Action Committee, affiliated with the former President.

COLLINS: Yes. So, even though he's showing up, tomorrow, is you're hearing, it's not even clear if he's got a full-time attorney in this case yet, is that right?

REID: That's right. We know that he needs a Georgia attorney, someone licensed in this State, to help him with the bond paperwork, to sign that. It does appear that they have someone, who's agreed to do that. But, at this point, it's unclear if that individual is willing to represent Giuliani, throughout this case.

Again, it's unclear if he can even pay an attorney, at this point, which is part of why Bernie Kerik has agreed, pro bono, to help his old friend, try to help him through this process, find somebody, who would at least get him through this initial step. Because remember, he has a deadline of Friday, at noon, or he could potentially be detained.

COLLINS: Yes. And Mark Meadows also has that noon, Friday deadline, just like everyone else, and to show up or either risk being arrested.


But now, he is trying not to show up, on Friday. What is the argument that he's making? And what's the sense of whether or not he's going to be successful in delaying that?

REID: That's right, Kaitlan. He doesn't think he should have that deadline, because, right now, he's trying to get his state case, removed to federal court, where he believes he will be successful, in getting it dismissed.

And he says, look, while that is pending, there's a hearing on that question, on Monday. So, while that is all pending, he says he should not be subject, to this requirement, to turn himself in, and then to surrender. Now, it's unclear, Kaitlan, if he is going to be successful.

We know that former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, is also making an attempt, to this exact same thing. And, at this point, it's just unclear.

But look, while this works itself out, the D.A. has until tomorrow, to respond. He likely, if he has to surrender, wouldn't do so until Friday, until we have more clarity, on what the federal courts think of this request.

COLLINS: Paula Reid, great reporting. Thank you.

And, of course, I should note, no one who has been charged, in Fulton County, in this case, has yet to set foot actually in a courtroom. But we all are already seeing some of the very distinct game plans that are taking shape, in terms of the defendants' legal strategies, and what those could look like.

Let's put this in football terms.

Mark Meadows that Paula just mentioned there, and Jeffrey Clark, are trying to run what is known as an "End around," by basically wanting to move their cases, to a federal court, an out-of-state court. That's in hopes of ultimately getting it dismissed.

John Eastman, meanwhile, that you just heard from there, outside the courthouse, is calling, basically, for a fair catch, by waving this off, as just performing his ethical duty, as an attorney.

Meanwhile, former Georgia Republican Party chair, David Shafer, he's looking for blockers, claiming that he was just acting at the direction of then-President Donald Trump.

I'm joined now by a pair of former federal prosecutors, who between them were part of the Watergate, and January 6th investigations, on Capitol Hill, Nick Akerman, and Temidayo Aganga-Williams.

I won't ask you to make any football analogies.

But Temidayo, I mean, with Meadows, and Jeffrey Clark, both trying to make this push, from state court, to federal court? We know what their endgame is. But if they are successful, does that mean the entire case could potentially move there?

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: You would only move those particular defendants, who asked for removal. So, for example, if the court allowed, for Mark Meadows, or Jeffrey Clark, to be removed, to federal court, the remaining defendants would stay.

One thing I would note that a Jeffrey Clark could be looking to do is not necessarily aim for dismissal. But it's for separation. Because if Jeffrey Clark moves his case to federal court, he could have a trial by himself, which I think would dilute some of the power, of the RICO case that Fani Willis has put together, because she might not be telling the whole story. She's telling just a Jeffrey Clark story. And that'll be less powerful.

COLLINS: That's really interesting, because it wouldn't be the entire enterprise, as she has basically framed it?

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: Exactly. It would be a perhaps a limited scope of evidence, which I think a jury might not find as compelling, as one, where President Trump sits at the top, and you have this sprawling enterprise.

COLLINS: Seeing the big picture. And Nick, what do you make of what you heard from Paula there? Rudy Giuliani, he is expected to go, tomorrow. He wants to do the bond, and turn himself in, all in one day. But it's not even clear that he has an actual full-time attorney, in this case.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: No, and I don't think he's going to be able to get one very easily.

I mean, he has to be able to pay a lot of money, upfront, to some attorney, to represent him, in this case. I mean, I think he's looking at a minimum of $500,000 to $700,000, upfront retainer, to whoever is going to take this case.

I mean, it's a very serious case. It's going to go on for a very long period of time. And nobody's going to want to be the last victim, in the crime wave here. I mean, they don't want to be stuck, with a major bill, just like Donald Trump has stuck, person after person, lawyer after lawyer, in legal bills, so.

COLLINS: And he already has some major bills. I mean, it's already at seven figures is what we're hearing, from sources, who were telling us, about those efforts, to get Trump, to pay for his bills.


COLLINS: We've also -- go ahead.

AKERMAN: I just want to say why this is significant is because Fani Willis started out with a similar RICO case, against the Atlanta school system, with 35 defendants. Whittled it down. Finally, there were nine that went to trial.

A lot of the people here are not going to be able to afford lawyers. They're going to have to make a deal. And, I think, you're going to see a lot of these people, drop out, over the next six months. That's going to be the next big thing that happens in this case.

COLLINS: Yes. It really runs the gamut here. We've got a retired public school teacher, who has a GoFundMe, for her legal bills.

We've got John Eastman, on the other side, that we saw, from today, and he's making this argument that this was just "Zealous advocacy," on behalf of his client.

But when does it go from you're being an advocate for your client, Donald Trump here, to potential criminal liability?


AGANGA-WILLIAMS: I think when you form criminal intent.

And the January 6 committee has already uncovered evidence that's now public, that showed that John Eastman himself took issue, or at least expressed doubt, as to the legality of the very plan that he was an architect of. So, being a lawyer is not immunity, and does not allow you, to commit crimes because you happen to have your bar card in your wallet. So, I think that defense here he has is not going to go very far.

COLLINS: Just on a personal note, I mean, given that you worked on the January 6 investigation, what do you -- what goes through your mind, when you see him, on camera, today, saying he still thinks the election is lost? Or was stolen? I should say.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: Stolen. I think one thing that's always, I think, troubled me, personally, is trying to get into the mind of the architects of these schemes, whether they deep-down really believe what they're saying.

Because, I think, again, and again, the evidence has demonstrated there was no fraud that impacted the outcome of the election. And when folks, like John Eastman, who have seen the lack of evidence, who have had two and a half years, to put up, or shut up, and are still saying they think the election was stolen? It starts to maybe question even their -- honestly, their perception of reality.

COLLINS: Is that key to his defense, though?

AKERMAN: Well, his defense is for not here. There is a email, dated December 31st, 2020, where he basically says that Donald Trump is going to have to file a false affidavit, with the federal action that was going to be filed that very day, which Donald Trump did.

So, he knew that all of these allegations were false. Trump knew they were false. And he said they were. And that's all admissible against Donald Trump, as a statement, in furtherance of a conspiracy. It's admissible against Eastman. So, this whole idea that "He is Mr. Innocent" is totally out the window.

And I might also add, this motion that they made, is going to get blocked, and tackled, at the federal court, because what they've got to show is that they were acting, in the course of their duties, as a public official.

And it's certainly not in the course of their duties, to interfere, in a state election process, and try and throw an election, to Donald Trump that was won by Joe Biden. That is not something that the federal court is going to view.

COLLINS: And it kind of seems like we're seeing the tensions, which could be magnified, of these 19 co-defendants, turning on one another, potentially.

I mean, Jenna Ellis is one of the figures here, who's indicted. She's a former Trump attorney. She has been complaining that they are not paying her legal fees, and she agreed to $100,000 bond, today.

I just want to remind people of who this person is. She was one of the biggest pusher, of Trump's election lies. This is, for example, things she was saying around the election.


JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: This is an elite strike force team that is working on behalf of the President, and the campaign, to make sure that our Constitution is protected. We are a nation of rules, not a nation of rulers. There is not someone that just gets to pick, who the next President is, outside the will of the American people.


COLLINS: I mean, I should note the elite Strike Force is Rudy Giuliani, indicted, and Sidney Powell, the people, who were standing around her.

I mean, is that someone that we could see, turn on Trump, theoretically, in a case, like this?

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: I don't see any reason why not. This is how these big cases often go. Everyone starts out strong, determined that they're going to stand strong. And as time goes on, as costs go on, as they feel the pressure, and the prospect, of actual prison time, becomes more and more real, people start to break.

And, I think, here, frankly, it's happening quite fast. We just got an indictment here. And you see the defendants already, in a sense, publicly turning on each other. That's only going to speed up and grow, as this case goes on and on.

AKERMAN: Don't forget, Jenna Ellis has only raised $3,000, on the internet. I mean, that is just a mere pittance. It's not even going to --

COLLINS: How much does that even pay for a legal fee in a RICO case?

AKERMAN: Almost nothing. I mean, maybe for the meals that the lawyer is going to have to incur --


AKERMAN: -- while he's going to and from court. I mean, it's just a joke. She needs hundreds of thousands of dollars, not $2,000.

COLLINS: Nick Akerman, Temidayo Aganga-Williams, thank you both, for being here.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right. Also, the stage is now set, for tomorrow's first presidential Republican debate. Trump is not going to be there, as we know.

But neither will my next guest, Will Hurd, who is now lashing out at the Republican National Committee, over what he says, is an unacceptable process, for who gets on that stage.

Plus, someone who will be on that stage, was adamant, last night, here on THE SOURCE, Vivek Ramaswamy, saying that he was misquoted, in a story, by The Atlantic, on a 9/11 conspiracy.


COLLINS: Are you telling me that your quote is wrong here?

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm telling you the quote is wrong, actually.

COLLINS: Because it says --

RAMASWAMY: I am actually. I actually asked --

COLLINS: -- "how many federal agents, were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers."

RAMASWAMY: Yes. When I actually -- and this is just lifting the curtain, and how media works, again. I asked that reporter, to send the recording, because it was on the record. He refused to do it.


COLLINS: Now, they've published that recording. We'll play it for you, next.



COLLINS: We now know what the stage will look like, and who will be standing where, tomorrow night, at the first Republican primary debate, happening in Milwaukee.

Eight Republican candidates have qualified. That's according to the Republican National Committee. Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, and entrepreneur, Vivek Ramaswamy, will be center stage, right there.

One person, who won't be on that stage, tomorrow night, is former President Donald Trump. He posted in today, instead, saying quote, "I will be very busy tomorrow night. Enjoy."

I want to get straight to THE SOURCE, with the Republican presidential candidate, and former Texas congressman, Will Hurd, who is also not going to be on that stage, tomorrow night.

You were pretty confident that you were going to make it. What happened?

WILL HURD, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, eight national polls, eight state polls that had us, meeting the requirement. And some of them were cherry-picked.

One, for example, in essence was, RNC said it had too many Democrats, and Independents in the poll. And I'm shocked. I'm like, "Well, aren't we trying to grow the party? And that should be something we should be encouraging." And I think this is one example of why the RNC and why the GOP hasn't won a nationwide popular election, in over 20 years. And --

COLLINS: Because basically they argue that the polls needed to have a certain amount of likely Republican voters.


HURD: Absolutely. And I believe and most people would believe that anybody who'd be willing to vote for a Republican is a likely Republican voter. And that's where -- that's how we're going to grow the party. And that's how we're going to beat Joe Biden, in November. That's how I continued to win, as a Black Republican, in a 72 percent Latino district.

And look, the decision was made. We tried to articulate why we should have been on there. We're moving on.

But here's some good news. And I'm tied in New Hampshire, with Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence. The former VP, a former U.N. Ambassador, both of whom have been in the race much longer than I have.

I got to the 40,000 thresholds, and probably will get to the 50,000 threshold, by the end of the week. So, if folks still want to help,, and at least invest $1, to help us hit those goals.

And so, we're growing. We're moving. And what we're learning is that people want someone, who's not afraid of Donald Trump, and who's articulated a vision, on the future, and who also recognizes that 9/11 was real, and wasn't a hoax, right?

Like, that's, if I was on the debate, Vivek, and I would have had some issues with that, especially when you think about the 3,000 people that died, on that day, and the thousands that were injured. It's just unacceptable.

COLLINS: I want to get to that.

But you're staying in this race is what you're telling me right now?

HURD: Absolutely. We have the resources. We have momentum. People are excited. A lot of our supporters are upset about what happened. And we're going to drive on.


HURD: And so, we're undeterred. This is not going to stop us, because the stakes are too high, for us, not to -- for us to stop. And so, we're going to continue.

And people want someone, who recognizes that we need to have unprecedented peace, at a time, there's a Chinese government trying to surpass us, as a global superpower, where we have to have a thriving economy, at a time, when new technologies, like AI, is going to impact everyone. Our kids need to have world-class education. These are the issues that people talk about, and ask me, when I'm crisscrossing the country. And look, Iowa was another example. People talk about how I went there, and I spoke the truth. And I said Donald Trump's running to stay out of prison. We're to see --

COLLINS: You got booed.

HURD: Yes, we got booed. But guess what? We went back and we got cheered. And so, The Des Moines Register headline was, from jeers to cheers, right? So, we're moving in the right direction. I'm excited. And we're going to press on.

COLLINS: And you said, at that moment, whenever you've said Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison, in your view, you said it's the truth, you need to hear it. I mean, what do you think does need to be asked, on that stage, tomorrow night?

HURD: Look, I think what needs to be asked is how are people going to manage a complicated economy, when you have artificial intelligence, quantum computing, synthetic biology. And today, we can program DNA, like we can program computer code, right? We have to be prepared for that.

How are we going to make sure that we rebuild our alliances, to take on this threat of China?

How are we going to repair a relationship, with Mexico? The bilateral relationship, between the United States and Mexico is the worst it's ever been. That's important, in order for us to deal with this humanitarian crisis that we're dealing with, right now.

If we want to treat human traffickers, and human smugglers, and drug trafficking organizations, like terrorist organizations, then we have to cooperate with the Mexican government, and the governments throughout Latin America.

These are some of the questions that need to be asked, on the debate.

And also, people got to explain, was 2020 lost, right? And the reality is, is it was. Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. It was not stolen. He was incapable, of growing the Republican brand, amongst the largest growing groups of voters.

And if we don't recognize that? And if the person who's the GOP nominee doesn't recognize that? Then, we are giving four more years to Joe Biden. And that's unacceptable. And America deserves better.

COLLINS: You mentioned Vivek Ramaswamy. He once said it would be an embarrassment, and uncourageous for Trump, to not show up to the debates. Last night, he said he's fine with Trump, skipping some of them, but coming to some others.

Why do you think Donald Trump is not going to the debate, tomorrow night?

HURD: Well, Donald Trump's not going to the debate, tomorrow night, because he doesn't want to have to defend his record of losing. Donald Trump has not won an election since 2016. He lost the House in 2018. He lost the Senate, and the White House, in 2020. And he prevented a red wave from coming in, in 2022. He doesn't want to have to answer that.

He doesn't want to have to answer to the fact that all of his legal problems are self-inflicted.

When you know you have classified documents? We're not debating whether or not he had classified documents. Turn them back in. Why are you hiding? Why were you trying to keep them? What did you do to protect that information that you knew you had in your possession?

You lost the 2020 election. Don't call a state official and say, "Hey, find me votes," and get someone to break the law, when you knowingly knew you were asking him to break the law. Don't do those things. And he wouldn't -- we wouldn't be in this position.


And then, guess what? We could be talking about Hunter Biden. We could be talking about the fact that the President gave $6 billion to the Iranian government, to try to get some of our Americans back. But we didn't actually get them back. This is the problem with the baggage around Donald Trump.

And guess what? No one's going to be paying attention about the debate, on Thursday, because everybody is going to be focused on what's happening, in Georgia.

COLLINS: What about -- I mean, what do you make of the timing of Trump, turning himself in 24 hours, after the debate?

HURD: Of course, he's trying to take all the air out of the sails of anything that's happening, on that debate stage. And the RNC should be upset by that.

The RNC should be angry that Donald Trump asked for all of these provisions to happen. He wanted everybody to bend a knee to him. And then, he's not going to sign the pledge? He's not going to participate in the debates? That's a complete smack in the face. And folks should be angry and upset by that.

COLLINS: And you just mentioned Vivek Ramaswamy. And, I mean, we had him on, last night, asking about these questions, comments he's made, twice now, on 9/11?

HURD: Yes.

COLLINS: Gave him the chance to explain himself.

I mean, what would you say to him, about those comments, if you were on stage with him, tomorrow night?

HURD: I would say, "Vivek, here's the truth. 9/11 happened. And it killed 3,000 Americans, on that day. And anybody, who is running for President of the United States, should recognize that and defend our nation, against potential attacks, like that. And using this issue, as a way to try to get clicks, is just completely unacceptable."

COLLINS: Will Hurd, you won't be on the debate stage, tomorrow night. But you say you're staying in the race.

Thank you, for joining me, tonight.

HURD: Of course.

COLLINS: And up next, we'll go back to Georgia, where some Republican lawmakers, are finding new ways, to go after the District Attorney, Fani Willis. Our next guest has insight, into how they're trying to do that using a new law that was championed by Governor, Brian Kemp.



COLLINS: Tonight, some Republican lawmakers, in Georgia, are ramping up efforts, to punish the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, after she indicted Donald Trump, and 18 others.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Trump backers, in the State, are using a new law, approved by Governor Brian Kemp that essentially creates a state commission to power the -- has the power to sanction or oust prosecutors they deem are not upholding the law.

One Georgia State Senator vowed to file a complaint, with the Commission, as soon as those proceedings began, in October.

But that is on top of a different effort by another senator, who called for a special legislative session, last week, to investigate and potentially impeach the District Attorney.

The reality is that Republican lawmakers aren't likely to have enough votes, to ever remove her. That is something that was even acknowledged by Governor Kemp. Of course, that was a fact that prompted this furious response, from the former President, accusing the Republican governor of blocking Willis' impeachment.

Let's get more insight, on this, from Michael Moore. He is a former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, so, the perfect person, to take our questions, on this.

I mean, Michael, given the fact that when you look at the landscape here, this effort, from Republicans, on impeachment doesn't seem likely to work. What do you make of this new effort, with the new law, on potentially ousting or sanctioning prosecutors? Do you think it's going -- could it work?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I'm glad to be with you.

And I really think this is just an effort, to get some press, by a young senator, from the north Georgia area. He shares the area with a certain representative, from the State, who likes to sort of throw some bombs, like this. This is going nowhere.

There is a law now on the books that the Republicans passed and the Republican governor signed that creates an independent commission, to look at prosecutors' duties.

And interestingly enough, the law requires actually prosecutors, to consider every case, for which there is probable cause. Well, the grand jury, in the Trump case, has determined, by issuing an indictment that there is, in fact, probable cause, to move to trial.

So, the sort of the nonsense rhetoric that we're hearing, and this request for a special session, because this particular Senator doesn't like Fani Willis' decision to move forward, while she is in fact, bound by the new law that the Republican legislature passed, to move forward with the case.


MOORE: And so, this is just an effort, to make noise.

COLLINS: Essentially, what you're saying, here, is what they're trying to do, is the opposite of -- it goes basically completely against what this new law actually states that prosecutors in the state must do. Is that right?

MOORE: Yes, I'm saying the hunter got caught by his own trap, in this case. And so, the law requires the District Attorney, in this case, to consider the charges, and moving forward. So, it's clear, on its face.

I mean, what's interesting is the Constitution of the State of Georgia sets out the formation and the creation of the district attorneys. And the voters elect those, in each judicial district.

And so, this is an interesting time, when the Republicans have decided that they think that they know better than the voters of the district. And so, they should be able to come in and change the person, who won that election.

Who does that sound like?

And so, that's, again, this was a political stunt. It's a political stunt, now. It's going nowhere.

There's some district attorneys, in the state, who have brought suit, claiming that in fact, this violates the duties that they have, under the Constitution, as well as their First Amendment protections. And is backlash, I guess, for some effort, by the district attorneys, to look at classifications of crimes, and make decisions, on whether or not they're going to move forward, and which is clearly within their discretion.

So, I think, what we're hearing now about the Trump case, and Fani Willis, is just noise. And, I think, it's interesting that how it sort of all come back to roost.

COLLINS: Does it go anywhere at all? I mean, you say you don't think it ultimately will be successful. But can they start the proceedings? I mean, what could this actually look like, in October?

MOORE: I don't think there's a chance in the world, they'll have a special session about this.

If they want to make a complaint, to the body of the Prosecuting Attorney's Council, and to the Governor's office, and ask that there'd be a commission look into it? I'm sure he could write a letter, and have something initiated, like that, if you want to call it a start, to it.

But I just don't see it moving anywhere at all. I don't think it's going to have any effect at all on the timing of the case. I don't think it's going to be an impediment, to moving forward. I think there are plenty of other obstacles that we've talked about that may come into play, there, with appellate courts and things like that.


But this effort, to have the District Attorney, removed, I think, is a non-starter. Again, it's an effort that the Republicans made, to try to campaign, on sort of an anti-crime move-forward, and they pushed this bill through. And now, this is the outcome.

COLLINS: What do you make of Trump? I mean, he's going after Brian Kemp, saying that he's blocking the impeachment of Fani Willis. I mean, it seems like a lot of that has to do with what appetite Republicans in the State can do with that.

MOORE: Yes. I'm not surprised to see some of the shots back against Kemp, or other people, in this case.

And I certainly don't think that the District Attorney is particularly bothered, or is certainly not immune, from these kind of shots, back from a defendant, in a case. This happens from time to time. The question is whether or not other Republicans will get on board.

And, you saw this, frankly, if you think about back, at the time of the impeachment, after January, the 6th, you had folks, who were sort of hiding under their desk, and counting on the police, to protect them, from the mob. And then, when it came time for impeachment, they didn't have the courage, to vote for.

So, Consciousness ebb and flow, and backbone seem to grow at certain times. And this is one of those instances, I think, when the Republicans will -- right now, they're circling the wagons a little bit. We'll see as this case moves forward.

COLLINS: Michael Moore, thank you, for joining me, tonight.

MOORE: It's always a pleasure. Thank you.

COLLINS: Is the world's richest man making the Pentagon, a little nervous? A new explosive expose that says Elon Musk holds growing influence, over the war, in Ukraine, and is also, chatting it up, with President Vladimir Putin.

Ronan Farrow joins me, next.



COLLINS: Since the start of the war, in Ukraine, one man has controlled the country's access to the internet. Elon Musk. And a new report details just how expansive the billionaire's influence really is, not just in Ukraine, but also inside the U.S. government.

In his latest piece, for The New Yorker, which he worked on, for the last year, Ronan Farrow writes that current and former officials, from NASA, to the Pentagon, and even the FAA, told him that quote, "Musk's influence had become inescapable in their work, and several of them said that they now treat him like a sort of unelected official."

Joining me now is The New Yorker Contributing Writer, Ronan Farrow.

Ronan, thank you for being here. I mean, this piece is?

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: It's expansive. It's fascinating.

I mean, one part that stood out, you quoted a former NASA administrator, who said, "There is only one thing worse than a government monopoly. And that is a private monopoly that the government is dependent on."

How dependent is the government on Elon Musk?

FARROW: And first, an interesting aside, that former NASA administrator is Jim Bridenstine, who is a Trump appointee, a former pretty far-right, Congressman, someone who's very free market, in his general disposition. Very interesting to have him speak so frankly, about the risks of the government receding, and too little regulation.

He actually explicitly says, "If we concentrate this much power in private individuals, private companies, we may wind up with another Titanic submersible situation, but on a vaster scale." So, that's the threat we're talking about, when we do become too beholden, to a private interest, and too unable to regulate it.

And the answer to your question is we are very, very beholden, in multiple sectors, to Elon Musk, as a nation.

COLLINS: Do other officials in the government, did you find also share that skepticism?

I mean, because you wrote that a Pentagon spokesperson said, they were keeping Musk appraised, of your inquiries, about his role, and especially in Ukraine, and that they would grant an interview, with an official, about the matter, only with his permission?

FARROW: And this came up, in the Pentagon press scrum today. And they've got other spokespeople, flailing around saying "Absolutely not. That's not our point of view." But that is indeed part of the gatekeeping I encountered. And that's a real quote, from a real spokesperson.

And I think it's a modest reflection of a much bigger paradigm here, which is everyone, in these relationships, with Elon Musk, where he provides such essential services, sometimes, for the public good, sometimes, in ways that benefit us.

He has kick-started the space race. And now, in an area that previously was going fallow, we can send Americans, from U.S. soil, into space. We don't have to rely on the Russians, and their launches, anymore. That's big.

In the electric car market, obviously, he has reinvented that as it currently exists. And as we try to advance green energy plans, we need to work around him, because he has a majority of all the electric chargers, in the country.

So, there's good. But also in all these situations, you see that dynamic of everyone is very frightened of aggravating Elon Musk, because he can flip switches, and turn off services, and cause a lot of chaos. And there's not always competition in all these spaces, where we can turn to a fallback option.

COLLINS: I mean, Ukraine is the center point of that. I mean, so they're scared. I mean, he -- it's a good thing and a bad thing. He is the reason Ukraine is able to have the internet that it has. But also, he is the reason that Ukraine is able to have the internet that it has, and he controls it.

FARROW: When Russia first started bombarding Ukraine, last year, there was a desperate need, for internet infrastructure, that could survive the attacks from the Russians, because they were going after that critical infrastructure.

And the fact that Elon Musk has this network of satellites, and mobile satellite stations, called Starlink was a godsend. And the people who fundraised, for that, and helped get those units to Ukraine didn't think at the outset, they told me, of the fact that Elon Musk was going to have so much control.

And what we found, as that conflict, ground on, is that he really was able to flip a switch and use geofencing, cordoning off areas where, for instance, Russia didn't want troops advancing. So, his role became very political very fast.


COLLINS: And what did you learn about how he sees his role? I mean, does he see himself as kind of an unelected leader, in the fact that he gets to play a role in those decisions?

FARROW: I let Elon Musk's own words carry the day, in terms of answering that question. Wherever possible, he speaks voluminously, about his feelings, pretty much all the time. So, we don't have to speculate on this. I mean, he's been asked, "Are you more powerful than the United States government?" And he's said, "In some ways."

Do I think that he relishes these problems born of over-reliance on him? I don't get any sense of that. I think a lot of his orientation is sincerely mission-driven. I think he cares about the greater good, in some ways. There's also a whole lot of ego there.

Ultimately, some of the downsides, we're talking about, are about Elon Musk, right? They're about a person, who is capricious, who is increasingly erratic, who is somewhat politically radicalized, recently, as we see from his presence, on Twitter.

But a lot of these ills we're talking about are much less about Elon, and much more about the systems, around him. This form of modern capitalism that has allowed so much concentration, of wealth and power, and sometimes, so few restraints on him.

COLLINS: One, how much does that have to do with a lack of investment, on the U.S. government's part, on key infrastructure, on things like this?

FARROW: I'm glad you asked that. It has everything to do with that.

The situation we are in, just to take the NASA example? Right now, it is born of years and years of underinvestment, in an area that I think, too quickly, we wrote off as a subject of mere scientific exploration. And I say "Mere," with implied air quotes here, because that too, is important.

But of course, the modern space race is also pivotal, for national security. Who has control of the satellites in orbit has intense bearing, on our ability, to control missiles, to control drones, to surveil enemies.

So, this matters. We didn't invest enough. We were relying on Russians and Russian launchers for far too long. And what Elon Musk did was revolutionary, in a really positive way, in creating SpaceX.

But the continued underinvestment in alternatives, and in the strength of the government itself, in this space, has led to this tricky situation, where now essentially, a number of officials, described this as feeling like they're being held, at gunpoint, by a private individual.

And his outbursts, and his political turns that come out of left field, sometimes, talking to Vladimir Putin, then presenting a pro- Russia peace plan, on the Ukraine front? These are things that the government struggles to contend with, now, because of those years of underinvestment.

COLLINS: Yes, fascinating details. I mean, I should note, Musk denies speaking to Putin, but obviously your reporting shows that --

FARROW: He has denied it repeatedly. And we have people, even on the record, officials, in this story, saying he told us that he did. And even, in some cases, saying that he not only boasted about talking to Putin, he talked about regular consultations, with the Pentagon, with -- I'm sorry, with the Kremlin.

COLLINS: Fascinating story. Ronan Farrow, thank you.

FARROW: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

COLLINS: And I should note, The New Yorker reached out to Elon Musk. He declined to respond, for comment, for that story.

CNN has also reached out to SpaceX, Tesla, and Elon Musk himself, on this report. We did not hear back.

Ahead, an update on a major denial that you heard, last night, on this program, a presidential candidate, pushing back, when I asked him about something that he was quoted, as saying about 9/11. He assured me it was wrong.

And this.


RAMASWAMY: I asked that reporter, to send the recording, because it was on the record. He refused to do it.


COLLINS: Well, that recording has now been published. We'll play it for you, next.



COLLINS: About last night, Vivek Ramaswamy said something that it turns out wasn't true.


COLLINS: You're saying that you were misquoted, here. So, we will take you at your word.


COLLINS: You're saying that you were misquoted here.


COLLINS: The quote in question there, was this one, from The Atlantic, from Mr. Vivek Ramaswamy, where he said, quote, "I think it is legitimate to say how many police, how many federal agents, were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers."

To be clear, there is zero evidence that the U.S. government had agents, who were on the planes on 9/11.

So, I asked him to explain that quote. And, on this show, last night, Ramaswamy insisted that the reporter, John Hendrickson, had gotten his words wrong.


COLLINS: But are you telling me that your quote is wrong here?

RAMASWAMY: I'm telling you the quote is wrong, actually.

COLLINS: Because it says --

RAMASWAMY: I am actually. I actually asked --

COLLINS: -- "how many federal agents, were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers."

RAMASWAMY: Yes. When I actually -- and this is just lifting the curtain, and how media works, again. I asked that reporter, to send the recording, because it was on the record. He refused to do it. But we had a free-flowing conversation.


COLLINS: After our interview, The Atlantic released the audio, more than four minutes of it, actually.

And here's the part, with that quote, that was in question.


JOHN HENDRICKSON, WRITER & SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: What is the truth about January 6 that you're referring to?

RAMASWAMY: I don't know, but we can handle it. Whatever it is, we can handle it.

HENDRICKSON: But what is it --

RAMASWAMY: Government agents. How many government agents were in the field? Right?

HENDRICKSON: You mean like entrapment?

RAMASWAMY: Yes. Absolutely. Why can the government not be transparent about something that we're using? Terrorists, or the kind of tactics used to fight terrorists.

If we find that there are hundreds of our own in the ranks on the day that they were, that they were -- I mean, look...

HENDRICKSON: Well, there's a difference between entrapment and a difference between a law-enforcement agent identifying --

RAMASWAMY: I think it is legitimate to say, how many police, how many federal agents were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers? Like, I think we want -- maybe the answer is zero, probably is zero for all I know, right? I have no reason to think it was anything other than zero. But if we're doing a comprehensive assessment of what happened on 9/11, we have a 9/11 commission, absolutely that should be an answer the public knows the answer to.


COLLINS: You just heard it yourself. He was in fact quoted accurately.

In an email to CNN, after that audio was published, his spokesperson said, "The audio clearly demonstrates that Vivek was taken badly out of context and even this small snippet proves that. We continue to encourage The Atlantic to release more of the recording, rather than their carefully selected snippet, so that the full context and reality is exposed."

I should note, that spokesperson did not explain how he was supposedly taken out of context.


The reality is that Vivek Ramaswamy is running to be President of the United States. He will be on that debate stage, tomorrow night.

And he says this is a central message, to his campaign.


RAMASWAMY: This campaign is founded on the truth.

The truth.

We will not back down from the truth.

We stand for the truth.

I am a patriot, who speaks the truth.


COLLINS: Well, the truth is he did say it. The quote was accurate. And it is on tape. And yes, this is how the media works. You get quoted, the things you say, accurately.

Up next, for us, Vladimir Putin was supposed to be at a summit of five nations that began, today. But he only appeared via video. We'll tell you why, next.



COLLINS: Five nations, annually, take part in a major summit. It is now underway, in Johannesburg.

The summit includes Russia. But the President there, of course President Putin, decided not to show up, and instead appeared virtually, today. That's actually not because he just felt like working remotely.

It's because had he landed, in South Africa, officials there, would have had to arrest him, under a treaty, with the International Criminal Court. Of course, Putin is wanted, for committing more crimes, in Ukraine. And that is why you only saw him, via video, today.

Thank you so much, for joining me.

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

Hi, Abby.