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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Storm Surge Threatens GA, SC As Idalia Moves East; Giuliani Loses Defamation Suit From GA Election Workers; McConnell Freezes For A Second Time In Weeks. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 21:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So now, Tropical Storm Idalia headed toward The Carolinas, this storm not done yet.

Good night from Florida.

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


Hurricane Idalia now a tropical storm, still dangerous though, as it's moving north, after battering Florida. The record storm surges that continue to pose a threat, the homes underwater, and the rescues that are still underway.

Plus, new questions being raised, tonight, after Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell freezes up, for a second time, one month after a similar health scare. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us.

And a searing front page, unlike any other, students, in North Carolina, summing up, an American crisis, really better than any photo ever could. The student behind it will join me.

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

Tonight, hundreds of thousands of people are still without power, in both Florida and Georgia, where Idalia is barreling through now, as a tropical storm. It is also lashing South Carolina, with heavy rain, and sustained winds, of 65 miles per hour.

Idalia did prove to be that once-in-a-lifetime storm, for the Big Bend of Florida, the strongest one to hit there, actually, in at least 125 years. Thousands of homes have been damaged, after the hurricane struck, as a Category 3 storm.

Look at this gas station. This is in Perry, Florida. You can see the powerful winds, just dismantling it, and knocking it right down to the ground.

In Tampa Bay, the storm surge, there, broke records, with water levels that surpassed four-and-a-half feet.

So far, more than 75 people, tonight, have been rescued, from the severe flooding that happened in St. Petersburg. It has been a long day, to say the least, for Floridians. The danger though is not over yet.

Our Meteorologist, Chad Myers, is in the CNN Weather Center.

Chad, I know you've been following the path of the storm, ever since we were talking, last night.


COLLINS: Where is it hitting, right now? And how bad is it, now that it's become a tropical storm?

MYERS: It still has an awful lot of tropical moisture. And what I don't like, what I'm seeing right now, is this flare-up of very heavy rainfall, kind of almost to the Piedmont of South Carolina, raining down in the Low Country, it kind of just settles down, into the Low Country.

But when you get it up here, into the Piedmont, it all has to run back down. And it's going to get into these creeks and streams, and then into the rivers, and then pushed down toward the ocean. That's my concern, at this point.

And then back out here, the other flare-up we're seeing, in the very warm Gulf current here, very warm water here, that's going to start to rotate, into North Carolina. And so, when that happens, we are going to see the potential, for spinning storms, and of course, the chance of a tornado or two. We've already had, I think, at least four, on the ground, today, so far.

COLLINS: Yes. So given that, I mean, the potential for tornadoes, what that could look like? I know everyone's keeping an eye on those alerts. What are the other threats that remain, when it comes to the level of rain that we've seen?

MYERS: Sure. Well, Charleston now having its fifth highest tide ever on record, nowhere near where it was with Hugo, but still above nine feet there.

And so, we're going to travel this center of the hurricane, tropical storm, right there along the coast. And I'm really expecting significant beach erosion, at this hour, and all the way through tomorrow morning.

Still have tornado watches, along the coast, because that's where the weather is going to rotate onshore.

And this is interesting. It happens on every single hurricane. But if you look at the right or the northern part of the storm, you will see that all of these cells, as they come on shore, can be rotating. And for much of the day, we were seeing reports of waterspout after waterspout. And when they come on shore, they do damage. COLLINS: Yes, they do a lot of damage, and a lot of concern about that.


COLLINS: Chad Myers, I know you're still tracking this. We'll check back in with you. Thank you.

CNN's Gloria Pazmino is in Crystal River, Florida, where officials say, the City was decimated, by the part of the storm that they got.


COLLINS: I mean, Gloria, I know, we've been hearing from residents that were rescued, after a storm surge trapped them inside their homes. What are you seeing there, on the ground, tonight?

PAZMINO: Yes, Kaitlan. In fact, we actually just got an update, from the local sheriff's office here. They have carried out about 75 water rescues, throughout the day.

And, as you said, some parts of Crystal River, where we are, right now, the water really came rushing in, earlier today, especially after that high tide came into town.


In this direction is a city hall. And over there, beyond the traffic light, is where the river and the Gulf of Mexico come together. That water came rushing in. City hall, here in Crystal River, had about eight feet of water, according to the Mayor.


PAZMINO: So, there is a curfew. 10 o'clock, at night, is the curfew here. And they are asking residents, to stay away, stay off the streets.

You can see that there are some people, who are still out here, taking a look at the conditions. But they are asking people to stay away, for those who evacuated, to not come in yet, because they just want to make sure that they can get to everyone, who may be in need of some help.

COLLINS: I mean an eight-foot storm surge is just remarkable. What are the after-effects of that?

PAZMINO: Well, look, I have been standing at this intersection, all day. And I know it doesn't look like it. But things actually are a little bit better here. A lot of the water has actually started to recede.

I spoke to a woman, earlier today, Kaitlan, who told me she was born, and raised, right here in Crystal River. She is 64-years-old. And she told me, the water has never come up, this high. And it's certainly never come up to the street. She told me last night she had to get out of her house, through a window, because the water was starting to rush in.

We had all been preparing, for the possibility, of this storm surge, coming in, and really having just such a direct impact, on property and people. And it is very dangerous.

But so far, from what we can tell, it does look like people heeded those warnings, people evacuated for, for the most part, and especially in parts, north of us, to where we are, right now, Cedar Key, that Big Bend area, that took a direct hit. It looks like a lot of people actually managed to get out.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, we're grateful to hear that as we see what this recovery process is going to look like.

Gloria Pazmino, thank you.

I want to turn now to Mayor Alan Perry, of Hilton Head, South Carolina, which is of course under a state of emergency, with flood and tornado watches, in effect.

Mayor Perry, thank you, for joining me, tonight.

I mean, as you're looking at this? I know it's getting dark. And that's a challenge as well. But what is the biggest risk, facing your community, right now?

MAYOR ALAN PERRY, HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA: Right. So, right now, what we're really facing is the storm surge. The majority of the storm has moved through, at this point. But we still have high tides, right now. And we're expecting three to five feet on top of that. So that's what we're really most concerned about, at this point in time.

COLLINS: Three to five feet on top of -- how does the high tide make that worse?

PERRY: Right. So, high tide is about 8.4 feet. So, that's when the water is at its highest. And then, you add three to five feet on top of that. And for the low-lying areas, that means, devastated in flooding.

COLLINS: I mean I know this is an area that has seen flooding before. Are you worried it's going to be breaking records, tonight? What's your expectation, on that front?

PERRY: No, I don't think we will see record-breaking. I think that there's just going to be some minor flooding that's going to take place. We've had some other storms that have come through the area that didn't provide flooding. But one thing that this storm has done is the winds didn't hit us as hard as we had expected.

COLLINS: That's good. I mean, I know that's always something that's kind of unpredictable.

You had declared a state of emergency, a local one, for the storm.

PERRY: Yes. COLLINS: And you all had already got some storm-related calls, into the sheriff's office. I mean, what kind of calls are coming in now? Are people and first responders still able to go and respond to those calls, tonight?

PERRY: Yes. First responders are still out.

So, the majority of the calls, to this point, had been for downed trees, whether on cars, over roads, or on houses. Fortunately, no one has been injured, to this point. But we have had some rain, and it has weakened the ground. So, we're still afraid that as some winds still come around, this evening, that some trees may continue to fall.

COLLINS: Mayor Alan Perry, I know you got a lot, to keep your eye on, tonight. Thank you, for taking the time, to join us. And keep us updated.

PERRY: We will. And thank you for taking care of us, and looking out for us.

COLLINS: Absolutely.

And, of course, the State of Florida is going to be needing a lot of disaster aid. But there is a big question, tonight, about whether or not the federal funding is going to be there. This is a conversation playing out, at the White House.

A Democratic congressman, who is also Florida's former top emergency official, will join me, next.

Plus, it happened again. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, freezing up, during a news conference, prompting only more concerns, and more questions, about his health.



COLLINS: We're keeping a close watch, tonight, on Idalia, as it is now pushing northeast, through Georgia and The Carolinas.

Storm surges, flooding, strong winds, all are still major threats, tonight. That is evident in the scenes that we are seeing, in the Big Bend region, of Florida, where damaged structures and rushing waters left some neighborhoods, unrecognizable, to people, who live there.

Florida's Emergency Director says their biggest concern, are the roughly 190,000 customers, who don't have power, right now. Search and rescue teams are still making their way, tonight, through those hard- hit areas.

Someone who knows what they are going through is joining me now, Florida congressman, Jared Moskowitz, the State's former Director of Emergency Management.

And Congressman, thank you, for being here, tonight. I mean, you know what it's like to be in this position. What is the biggest challenge, for these response teams, in the aftermath, of a storm, like what we just saw hit Florida?

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Well, thanks, Kaitlan. Thanks for having me.

Well, right now, the biggest challenge is search and rescue. Obviously, the surge has been, and continues to be the greatest challenge. And the greatest potential loss of life, it is the water, it is not the wind.

And so, time is of the essence, where water rushed into homes, very quickly, within a matter of hours, eight feet, in some areas, making sure that they can go home to home, to make sure that people, who need to be rescued, by those Swiftwater rescue teams, that's the greatest challenge.

And then, obviously, rushing in those resources that are life, health and safety, so, drinkable water, ice, food, making sure people get medical supplies. Sometimes, they set up, portable hospitals, they set up, portable prescription centers, so people can get their medicine.

So, that's what Director Kevin Guthrie, right now, is dealing with. All those pre-positioned assets that he moved, in anticipation of the storm, those days of preparation, are now coming into full view.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, we're just kind of getting the full view, of the damage, and what that's going to look like, how long that'll take. I mean, based on what you've seen, and what you've heard, how long do you think that recovery could take?


MOSKOWITZ: Well, look, Category 5 storms take a decade, right? Sometimes, they take a little longer. I mean, Panhandle is still recovering, after Hurricane Michael.

And so, look, this was a Category 4 storm, right? It hit just on the cusp of a very strong Category 3 storm, when it made landfall. That eye wall came through these areas that have not been hit by a hurricane, in over 100 years. And in those areas, a lot of them are fiscally-constrained. They don't necessarily have the resources.

And so, there are some communities that may never look the same and others that will get rebuilt that will look slightly different. And so, look, this is a life-changing event, for some of these counties, some of these fiscally-constrained counties.

But look, all of those resources, from the State, all of those resources, from FEMA, they're going to come in, the FEMA reimbursement, the HUD money that comes in, for housing, all that CDBG-DR money that's going to come, that will help the community recover.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, that's such a big part of this. And you've worked with Governor DeSantis, in previous disasters, in your previous role, and including, obviously, hurricanes that hit Florida, pretty regularly. What do you make of the job that he's done so far?

MOSKOWITZ: We always did a good job, on emergency management. And he has, since he came into office, he really understood that emergency management, in Florida, needed to be the top agency, in the country. In fact, on the very first day that I took over, in 2019, the very first place, we went to, was Mexico Beach.

And quite frankly, the government in Florida, including the Governor, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars, into building the greatest Emergency Management Agency, of any State, in the State of Florida. And they're battle-tested, right? They just did Ian a year ago.

And so, the State of Florida is on top of emergency management. We have to be, when you have storms, like Michael, Ian, and now Idalia, all in a four-year period.

But look, the State's doing a good job. We've had a couple loss of life. But that's been kept down to a minimal. I think a lot of lessons learned, for me, and a lot of people listened and heeded those evacuation warnings.

But look, we're not out of the woods yet. The immediate response is still ongoing, before they eventually transition to recovery.

COLLINS: Yes. And, of course, one person who has visited there frequently, because of that, is the FEMA Administrator, Deanne Criswell. She's coming to Florida, today.

She says that FEMA has about $3.4 billion left, in its Disaster Relief Fund. Maybe it sounds like a lot of money. But it's not, when you think of what they need to do, in Florida, what's happening in Maui, other disaster areas, in the U.S.

And the White House is asking Congress, for $12 billion more, for that Disaster Relief Fund. But some Republicans have complained that it's tied to new Ukraine funding, as well. Do you think that could imperil the passage of that money that they need for that Disaster Relief Fund?

MOSKOWITZ: No, that's a great question. I mean, first of all, I have the bill. I have the bill to refund the DRF, which is FEMA's fund, for $12 billion, in the House. I filed that bill. Senator Rubio filed it in the Senate. So, it's a bipartisan, bicameral bill. Neither of our bills are moving.

And so yes, the Biden administration, coupled that together with Ukraine, which I support the Biden package. But I also support moving these pieces of legislation, individually, if necessary.

The FEMA Administrator said these communities, both, in Maui and in Florida are going to have the money that they need, for the response.

But one of the things that we know is that hurricane season is just beginning. We got all of September. We got all of October.

And reimbursement for the state and these towns will be slowed down. And that's not something the Emergency Management should be focused on. They shouldn't have to worry, that their money is not coming on time. That's not what they should be focused on. They should be focused on response and recovery and rebuilding.

And so, Congress needs to do its job, right?

Emergency managers, out there, are saving lives. They're preparing for their communities, right, every single solitary day away from the families, away from their kids. People are losing their houses, they're losing loved ones.

Congress needs to do its job. And they need to fund the one agency that helps people, in their time of need, when we face disasters, in this country. And that's FEMA.

COLLINS: I mean, it sounds like you're worried that it might not get passed.

MOSKOWITZ: Well, Kaitlan, listen, we're on a six-week break, right now. We're coming back for three weeks in September. We're only going to work two weeks, in October. We're only going to work two weeks, in November.

Congress hasn't passed a lot of pieces of legislation this year, right? You got the Freedom Caucus, holding up bills, going to the floor, by voting against the rule. So yes, I'm worried about that dysfunction.

Now with that said, right, disaster management has shown that it's bipartisan, it's non-partisan. You've seen people like Governor DeSantis and Joe Biden work together, not just in Surfside and in Ian. So, I'm hoping that sentiment comes to Washington, and we can pass this on a bipartisan basis.

COLLINS: So, I mean, what if it doesn't get done? I mean, who should voters hold accountable, if that funding doesn't get passed, and FEMA's forced to kind of re-strategize and move pots of money around?


MOSKOWITZ: Well, we got to hold the Legislature accountable. I mean, we are, look, we are the Legislative branch. We are the appropriators, right? And so, they got to hold us accountable. Those bills, do not move in the House and the Senate? They got to hold leadership of both houses of the Senate and the House, accountable.

COLLINS: Something President Biden said, today, when he was speaking on this, in Maui, he said, quote, "I don't think anybody can deny the impact of the climate crisis" now.

But some Republicans, who were running for his job, are doing just that.

I mean, how do you deal with a crisis, if lawmakers, and the White House, can't even find consensus on it?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, look, not every disaster, right, is necessarily because of the climate crisis. But I can tell you the hurricanes that are affecting Florida are.

This went from a tropical storm, to a Category 4 storm, in 24 hours. It's called rapid intensification. It's the same thing that happened in Hurricane Michael. That's supposed to be the exception. It's now becoming the rule.

Why? The Gulf of Mexico is basically a hot tub, right? It's 90 degrees, we had a buoy measure 98 degrees, off of the State of Florida. And that's what's leading to this rapid intensification. So, that is where climate change is affecting the strength of these storms.

Watching the Republican debate, when they asked is climate change, real, yes or no, wasn't a trick question. People looked around, like to see what the answer was, from the teacher. I mean, it was ridiculous, right?

Climate change is real. Climate change is affecting these storms. And it's affecting things happening in areas that haven't happened before. Tornado Alley is expanding. We're seeing flooding in different areas, fires, right, and hurricanes that are much stronger.

And so listen, we got to be honest, which is, is that climate change is going to not only affect us, globally, but it's going to make these natural disasters much stronger than we're used to seeing, in the past.

COLLINS: I mean, it wasn't just that that they looked around, at that question. Vivek Ramaswamy said that, I believe his quote was that "Climate change agenda is a hoax."

MOSKOWITZ: Yes. Yes, no, he did say that, right? Why not just blame the Deep State, or say it was woke?

I mean, it was a weak example, of what it's like to be a troll, running for Congress, and running for the presidency, and trying to tell people, what they think they want to hear, because, "Oh, I'm going to get to the right of everybody," right? "I'm going to get to the right of everybody. I'm going to say climate change is a hoax." I mean what a joke? That's not leadership. That's placating to the lowest common denominator, right?

In the State of Florida, during the Rick Scott administration, they didn't even say the word, "Climate change." They would come hearing after hearing after hearing, and they wouldn't even say the word, "Climate change," right? It's totally ridiculous, especially here in the State of Florida.

And so, look, we got to obviously work, on a bipartisan level, to address this. Climate change is not just going to affect Democrats. It's not just going to affect the Libs, right? It's just something that's going to affect us all together, and we got to figure out, how we're going to work together, to solve it.

COLLINS: Congressman Jared Moskowitz, lot going on, in your home state, tonight. Thank you, for taking the time, to join me.

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you.

COLLINS: Ahead, if Rudy Giuliani was not already strapped for cash, as his attorney claims, with his ballooning legal bills, he just lost a defamation lawsuit that was filed by those two Georgia election workers, and it could cost him dearly.



COLLINS: Tonight, Rudy Giuliani's legal and money problems have gone from bad to worse.

In a scathing ruling, today, a federal judge, held Giuliani liable, for defaming those two Georgia election workers, who he falsely accused, of election fraud. Of course, you will remember them.

The decision now means that Giuliani, whose own attorney argued, just weeks ago, that he was virtually broke, in court, could be on the hook, for a major payout, to Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.

It's hard to forget their searing testimony, before the January 6th congressional committee.

The mother and daughter, just doing their jobs, and their civic duty, smeared with allegations, of pulling a fast one, with suitcases of illegal ballots.

They have, of course, in turn accused Giuliani, of turning their lives, into a living nightmare, and putting them in danger, with lies, like this one.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Tape earlier in the day of Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss, and one other gentleman, quite obviously, surreptitiously passing around USB ports, as if they're vials of heroin or cocaine. I mean, it's obvious, to anyone, who's a criminal investigator, or prosecutor, they are engaged in surreptitiously illegal activity, again, that day.


COLLINS: Joining me now is the attorney, for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, Mike Gottlieb.

First off, just for our audience to know, it wasn't a USB. It was a ginger mint. But we all have come around to see that.

I just wonder how did Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss respond, when they heard the judge's ruling, today? MICHAEL J. GOTTLIEB, ATTORNEY FOR SHAYE MOSS & RUBY FREEMAN: Thanks for having me, Kaitlan. It's great to be here.

They have been through so much, and really have been heroic, in their willingness, to not lie down, and to stand up and fight, for what is right, not just for them, but for democracy, and for the future of the protection of election workers, throughout the United States.

So, they were very pleased to hear, about this result, today. They feel vindicated. But they know that there is more work to do, and that there is a long road ahead, for the two of them, in restoring their reputation, and in trying to get some semblance of normalcy back, in lives that have truly been shattered, by the kinds of grotesque lies that you just played a clip of.

And yes, to your point, it was a ginger mint. It was not a -- it was not a USB, or a vial of cocaine or heroin.

COLLINS: Do they see this as a step to -- I mean, what was most searing, about their testimony, was talking about how they didn't feel comfortable going to the grocery store, or going out in public? Do they see this, as a step, on getting back their reputations that Giuliani took from them?

J. GOTTLIEB: Yes, this is definitely a step. This is a significant milestone. It is a finding of liability, on every count, of our claims that we brought, in this lawsuit.


And so, it is a significant validation, of what they have been saying, since day one, which is that they were unfairly and improperly targeted, for just doing their job. And so, it's a significant step, and a significant milestone.

There will, of course, be a trial, on the quantification of damages. And that will give our clients, the opportunity, to have an actual day in court. It will also give Mr. Giuliani that opportunity. So that is still to come. And that will be significant as well.

But this is a very significant step, in a finding of liability, on all of our accounts of defamation, every other claim, and a finding that punitive damages are appropriate, in this case.

COLLINS: Yes. I mentioned what the judge said in the ruling, I mean, really dropping the hammer, on Giuliani, saying that he was only paying lip service, to orders that required him, to turn over documents.

He was telling the court that he couldn't, because his phones had been seized, his devices had been seized, as part of this separate investigation.

Why do you think he chose to take what could be a potentially huge loss, rather than comply with those orders?

J. GOTTLIEB: There's some of that questioning, in the court's order, today.

And I think only he can explain, why he has made the strategic decisions that he's made, to show up and litigate this case, but just not turn over any of the discovery and evidence that we asked for, and to not comply with the court's orders, for everything, from producing basic documents, to us, on his financial condition, to paying us $89,000, in attorneys' fees that he was required to pay us, and still hasn't.

So, I don't know why he's chosen this path. I can't speak for him, or for the strategic decisions, he's making. But it's not been a very effective strategy. It's one that's led him to a place, where liability is now established. And we really look forward to being able to put forward our damages case, and to pursue that over the coming months, so.

COLLINS: An adviser, for Giuliani, said that the ruling was, and I'm quoting this adviser, now, "A prime example of the weaponization of our justice system," and that it should be reversed. What is your response to that?

J. GOTTLIEB: I very much look forward to their appeal.

The weaponization of the justice system, is when powerful individuals, refuse to be accountable, to the justice system. It's not when people, who have traditionally lacked that power, go to the justice system, and fight over years and years, to get their opponents, to comply, with basic discovery obligations.

So, in our view, the weaponization of the justice system is when powerful individuals, hide behind it, and refuse to have accountability. And that is exactly what Mr. Giuliani attempted to do, in this case.

He attempted to get out of all of his obligations, to do what every other person, whoever gets sued has to do, which is to turn over potentially damaging or incriminating text messages, and emails, to the other side in discovery.

It is a painful, a laborious process. But it is one that all responsible parties, who are -- who sue or get sued, comply with. Particularly, people, who were United States Attorney, for the most famous district, in the United States, they're expected to comply with those obligations.

COLLINS: Yes. The judge was basically saying, he knows this better than anyone else.

You mentioned that hearing, where they're going to make a decision, on how much he has to pay Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, in damages. How high do you think that could go? Could it be hundreds of thousands of dollars? Millions? I mean, what's your expectation?

J. GOTTLIEB: So, we haven't quantified damages yet, just because of the stage that the case is in. But in our expectation is that we'll be able to prove tens of millions of dollars, in compensatory damages, before you get to punitive damages. So, we expect it to be a significant damages case that we will present to the jury, and we're confident in our ability to document and demonstrate it.

COLLINS: Tens of millions?

J. GOTTLIEB: Yes, you heard me correctly.

COLLINS: That's what you believe Rudy Giuliani could be ordered to pay?

J. GOTTLIEB: Well, if we're successful, I would hope so. Yes.

COLLINS: His attorney has been arguing in court -- notwithstanding the fact that he took a private plane, to Georgia, last week, and we haven't found out who's plane that was, though I've asked his attorneys.

But his other attorney was arguing in court that basically he doesn't have money, to pay for small legal bills. Do you think Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss will ever see any of the damages that they do get?

J. GOTTLIEB: Rudy Giuliani wouldn't be the first person, to try to evade accountability, and responsibility, by not paying, or claiming to not be able to pay.

We don't know yet. We haven't seen the evidence. I think if you read the court's opinion, today, you'll see that a lot of the evidence that would go to net worth, and financial conditions, are documents and information that we've been seeking, for months now, and have never been provided.


So, we'll have to get that information from them. He's now been ordered to turn that over to us, as part of the next phase of this case, and be able to make a determination, of what may or may not be collectible. So, all of that remains to be seen.

And it's going to happen quickly. The court has set a fairly aggressive timetable out, for us, to go through that discovery process, and to have a trial on the damages phase.

COLLINS: We will see what that number is.

Mike Gottlieb, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

J. GOTTLIEB: Thank you.

COLLINS: Ahead, there are major new questions, about Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and his health. The 81-year-old lawmaker froze again, mid-answer, at a press conference.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear the question, Senator, running for reelection, in 2026? SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, I'm sorry you all, we're going to need a minute.


COLLINS: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to answer our questions, about that moment.


COLLINS: A jarring moment, in Kentucky, today, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, freezing, for over 30 seconds, while he was in the middle, of answering a reporter's question, the second time that this has happened, in just a matter of weeks.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running for reelection, in 2026.

MCCONNELL: Oh, that's a --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear the question, Senator, running for reelection, in 2026?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, I'm sorry you all, we're going to need a minute.

MCCONNELL: And a string of --






COLLINS: They are both difficult moments to watch, no matter where your politics lie.

And those two moments, are raising questions, about Mitch McConnell's future, as the Republican leader, in the Senate, a position that he has held, for decades. After both incidents, aides said that McConnell was feeling just light-headed.

He did attend a fundraiser, this evening. He did not make any mention of what happened, earlier today, in Kentucky. But this time, unlike a month ago, when it first happened, as you saw there, on the right, McConnell's office said that the 81-year-old lawmaker will see a doctor. This comes months, after McConnell suffered a fall, at what was then the Trump Hotel, in Washington. He also had a concussion, according to his office.

Joining us, tonight, is CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, obviously, you have not treated the Senator. You can't provide any solid conclusions, without examining him, yourself. But you are a neurosurgeon. I mean, what do you see, in those 30 seconds, from today?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is a pretty classic episode of freezing, the same term that you used. I mean that is what I see.

You see someone, who becomes frozen, in their speech. Even their face is sort of frozen. Their body is frozen. You can see his hands, Kaitlan, are sort of clenching the sides of the lectern. One of his aides comes over to try and raise his hands. But he's really sort of locked in, in place. He doesn't look like he's fainting or something like that.

And you'd be surprised that there's a pretty long list of things that could potentially cause this. Is it a temporary sort of lack of blood flow, to the brain, something known as a TIA, a mini seizure, or something like that? Those seem less likely.

But you've seen people, who have Parkinson's disease, who will become kind of frozen, if their medications start to wear off. We don't know, again, as you say, what he has. But that would be an example of something that could cause that. And that's often associated with what's called a masked facies, people really lose expression, of their face, at the same time. So, we don't know.

We do know that the aides, who came to his side there, they didn't seem that surprised, Kaitlan. We've seen this twice. But you get the sense that they see it quite a bit, even knew how to react. And one of the ways that they -- there wasn't a sense of urgency, "Oh, we need to get him to the hospital right away," which makes you think that they kind of have dealt with this, may already know what's going on.

And as has been reported, he was doing fine, later on. So whatever it was, came and went, pretty quickly.

COLLINS: Yes. And they didn't rush him out of the room, either.

GUPTA: Right.

COLLINS: He took more questions, I mean, moments after that, and they were a bit stilted.

His office came out later. They said that he was just feeling light- headed, at that event. But that's the same reason they gave us back in July, when he froze, for those 20 or seconds, so, that moment that was on the right side earlier.

GUPTA: Right.

COLLINS: Would that be a reason though, feeling light-headed that someone would stop speaking, for a sustained period of time, and kind of clenching the lectern?

GUPTA: As I said, I think it's a long list of things. But I would put that pretty low down, on the list.

I think someone, who gets light-headed? They may need to sit down. They could be confused, as a result of just being light-headed, or feeling like they're going to faint, but not the frozen, the frozen sort of face, the frozen, sort of clenching of the lectern. Those suggest that something else is going on. Again, I mean, a seizure perhaps, or medications wearing off. We don't know.

But I'm glad that he got checked out. Because again, even though it sounds like this is something, his aides have been dealing with, these were pretty characteristic episodes. And this is my area of expertise. I'd certainly want to take a look at him, examine him, and make sure we weren't missing something else, going on here.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, there are major questions, for his office, on those follow-ups, tonight.


COLLINS: It's not just the other times that McConnell has frozen, Sanjay. He's had several health scares.


COLLINS: What do you make of the sequence of those events?

I mean, obviously, he's 81. A lot of us have parents and grandparents. We know how concerned we'd be, for those people, if they had moments like that.

What do you make of that sequence of events?

GUPTA: Well, I remember that back in 2019, even you remember, Kaitlan, he fell and fractured his shoulders. So, that was four years ago. And there was a lot of concern, then.

He had polio, as a child. He's always had difficulty walking, as a result.


But this year alone, I mean, you look at the list of things? You go back to March, for example. That fall that he had at the hotel. He got a concussion. He broke ribs. A significant fall. Falls in the elderly? Huge concern. And he obviously had that, was hospitalized for a period of time. He's had this trouble hearing reporters. And I don't know if that's actual trouble hearing, or it's just part of the same thing that we saw, with the freezing, where you're getting distracted, you're losing your train of thought, and you ask for the question to be repeated, not because you didn't hear it, but because of those things.

And then, as we've talked about, most recent, these episodes of freezing, if the doctors know what's driving this, if it's some medication interaction or medication wearing off? That could be the case, and might explain why they didn't quickly usher him, out of the room, and to a hospital.

But the sequence clearly seems to have been picking up, at least what we know. You do get the impression that his aides, and others, know a lot more, because they see him obviously a lot more than we do.

COLLINS: Yes, that's a great point, Sanjay.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you, as always, for sharing your expertise, with us.

GUPTA: You got it, Kaitlan. Thank you.

COLLINS: After non-stop school shootings, in America, and little actions -- little action, I should say, students, at one of the most recent crime scenes, have come up with a way that like no other can sum up, and draw attention, to the gun violence crisis.

It is raw. It is extremely powerful. We'll show it to you what students at the University of North Carolina did, next.



COLLINS: Today, the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, is holding a vigil, following a deadly shooting, on their campus, this week.

On Monday, a graduate student shot and killed a faculty member, in a chemistry building, on campus, leading to an hour's long lockdown, at the school.

Some students were seen jumping out of windows, to find safety, in the chaos, after those shots had been fired. You can see them here.

Today, the school student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, filed its front page, and filled it, with text messages, sent and received, by students, during that long lockdown.

Some of them are understandably explicit. But that is the kind of language that people use, when they feel like their lives are at risk. The messages are just snapshots of what it is like, to live through a school shooting.

"Are you safe?" "Get under the desk or run if you can." "Please pray for us."

I want to go straight, to the source, tonight, The Daily Tar Heel's Editor-in-Chief, Emmy Martin, who is a student, at the school.

Emmy, I think this front page is really brilliant. Can you just tell us how you came up, with this idea, and how you're doing, tonight?


I'm doing all right, I think, like any student, at UNC. It's a weird feeling. We've lived through a campus shooting that something I couldn't say before Monday, and now I can.

But the newspaper was an idea that I had, after seeing so many texts, from loved ones, and friends, and family members, on my phone, and also, on social media from students, across UNC's campus.

And so, The Daily Tar Heel's team immediately started asking other students, for those texts, and they just came pouring in, so much raw feeling, and emotion, and pain. And we knew that had to be our front page.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, it almost makes you -- my little brother is your age. He's in college. And it almost makes you sick, to just read those messages, and to know the panic that you all are feeling.

And you're not just the Editor-in-Chief of the paper. You're a student yourself. I mean, how is it, on campus, right now? How are your other students doing?

MARTIN: It's eerily quiet, on campus. Students are still processing. I know, at least in our newsroom, it's been tense. There's been a lot of tears shed. It's different. And I think our campus will be different from now on.

COLLINS: How do you think it'll make your coverage? I mean, this is your second week on the job, I should note. Just your second front page was supposed to be about the football game. And instead, it turned into this. How does it change your coverage, you think?

MARTIN: I think it's put a mark on the year for everyone, but especially, our newspaper. So much of our coverage is, of course, going to shift, to the aftermath, of the school shooting, and how our students are coping, and what our community is facing, and doing, in response to such a tragic situation, for everyone.

And yes, you're right. It's only our second week. So many people are fresh. I am fresh. This is a new job for me. But we're really doing our best, to make sure we are reflecting our community, and serving our community, in the best way that we can.

COLLINS: Well, you are. I mean, you're not just even serving your community. The page, the front page has made such a huge impact.

Everyone at CNN was talking about this front page today.

President Biden actually even posted it, tonight, saying, no Americans "Should have to send texts like these."

What do you make of the fact that the President of the United States is sharing the front page that you and your other students, at the paper, put together?

MARTIN: It was just absolutely overwhelming, mind-blowing, to see the President post our newspaper, on all of his social medias.

Honestly, all of the outpouring of love, from people, across the nation, has kept us going. It's been so rewarding, to see that people are reading, what we put out, and are connecting with it, on such an emotional level.

I think anyone, who's lived through an active-shooter situation, has received these texts. And I think it also just points to a bigger issue.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, what's sad is the reason so many people can relate to it is because so many people have lived through something like that.

MARTIN: Exactly. And I think that's part of the reason that it drew so much attention, especially from the President.


COLLINS: Emmy Martin, we are all thinking, of everyone, on campus, especially you, and your colleagues, at the paper. Thank you, for joining me, tonight.

MARTIN: Thank you, for having me, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Ahead, is a big shift coming, in U.S. drug policy, news about an announcement that it may hit the White House, and marijuana in America, tonight.


COLLINS: Before we go, tonight, our final word is about weed.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommending that the Feds significantly ease restrictions, on marijuana.

Nearly 40 states have already legalized pot use, in some form or another.


But it's still classified at the federal level, alongside drugs, like heroin and LSD, considered, of course, as the most dangerous controlled substances. But officials want to change that, reclassifying weed, in a category with drugs, like ketamine and testosterone, which are considered to have a moderate to low potential, for dependence, and abuse.

The change would not mean that marijuana is suddenly legal, everywhere. But it would open up more research, expand the market, and allow marijuana businesses more access to banks.

The final decision now rests with the DEA. We'll keep you updated.

Thanks so much, for joining us, tonight.

We'll pass things over, to "CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip.

Hi, Abby.