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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Judge: Tarrio Was "Motivated By Revolutionary Zeal" And Has Shown "No Remorse" After January 6; WH Warns Russia, North Korea "Actively Advancing" Arms Deal To Help Moscow's War Effort In Ukraine; Judges Strike Down Alabama Congressional Map Again. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 05, 2023 - 21:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Cheers to you, Anderson, and the entire AC 360 team, on your 20th anniversary. This is actually just coffee. But congratulations.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.

Yes, we launched this program, September 8th, 2003. I have no memory of that date. As Jake said, this is our 20-year anniversary week, which honestly sounds very strange to say. We'll be celebrating, all week, sharing some great memories. Hope you join us, as we look back, this week.

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


The former leader of the Proud Boys just got the most severe prison sentence yet, for January 6th. His pleas, for mercy, fell on deaf ears, as the federal judge, who imposed the sentence said he had no indication of remorse.

Plus, the world's two biggest pariahs, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un soon to meet, for an exclusive summit, for dictators. What U.S. Intelligence says that they believe they're plotting?

And also today, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, returned to Capitol Hill, as some of his fellow Republicans even, are raising concerns, about his health. What he could say behind closed doors, to them, tomorrow?

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

He pleaded for leniency. And he ended up with the longest sentence, of anyone, who has been charged, with the deadly attack, that happened, on the Capitol. 22 years, for former Proud Boys leader, Enrique Tarrio. And it could end up remaining the longest sentence of all of those.

During the hearing, today, the federal judge, Timothy Kelly, who I should note, was appointed, by former President Donald Trump, scolded Tarrio, and said that he was quote, "Motivated by revolutionary zeal," while slandering the father of our country, referring to George Washington. He called Tarrio, the ultimate leader, of a seditious conspiracy, to overthrow the U.S. government, by force.

I should note that Tarrio was not actually even in Washington, on January 6th. But that's because he had been arrested, two days before the attack, and was ordered by a judge, to leave the city. Prosecutors say that he did help create a command structure that he was in touch, with co-defendants, on the ground, that day, as the attack unfolded.

He is now the final Proud Boys leader, convicted, of seditious conspiracy, to receive his punishment.

For more on this, let's go to CNN's Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, obviously, one of the longest sentences, of anyone, who has been charged, in the attack.


COLLINS: And the judge clearly seemed to think that a stiff punishment was necessary, to deter future political violence.

PEREZ: That's right, Kaitlan. He mentioned the idea of deterrence, that the importance of the sentence was one of deterrence, so that the next time, the next attempt, at a peaceful transfer of power, which is something that was broken, by the January 6 attack, at least we could try to rebuild that.

And, as you noted, Enrique Tarrio wasn't even here, on January 6th. As a matter of fact, he was arrested, for some previous alleged offenses. And the FBI, the U.S. attorney did that on purpose, because they were hoping, to try to get him out of town, and try to prevent any mass gathering, of Proud Boys. Of course, we now know that that didn't work.

And one of the things that his lawyer said, today, in speaking to the judge, was that, he wasn't there. He wasn't in control, of this crowd, of Proud Boys. And he said that Tarrio was not a terrorist. He is a misguided patriot.

And of course, the judge said, "Look, this is something that you argued to the jury, and the jury did not buy it." So, in the end, that's one reason why you saw such a stiff sentence, for Enrique Tarrio, longer than any of the other Proud Boys, the other four Proud Boys that were sentenced, in the last few days.

COLLINS: Yes, he had that enhanced terrorism penalty here.

As we were talking about the others, who have been charged, with seditious conspiracy, and already got their sentences, Dominic Pezzola is one of those. He cried to the judge, last week. And then, after he was sentenced, walked out, and declared Trump won, as he was leaving the courtroom.

PEREZ: Right.

COLLINS: But it seemed to be a very different scene, today, Evan, as Tarrio was speaking, and essentially asking the judge, to take it easy on him.

PEREZ: Oh, absolutely. Look, I mean, they all cried. They all cried, in the previous sentences.

In this case, Tarrio kept his composure, except for when his mother spoke, to the judge. And she tearfully cried. She said that she wanted her son, to have another chance. She said this is not the person that we know he is.

Of course, the judge also said that he did not detect any indication that Tarrio had any remorse.

I will note that Tarrio made a reference, to Dominic Pezzola. And the fact that he stood up, after the judge had exited the room, and said, with his fist raised that Trump had won.

Tarrio said, "After this is all over, I'm going to leave behind politics. I'm not going to be involved in politics. And judge, once you leave the room, you're not going to hear anything else from me."


I think that was a clear indication, or at least an effort, by Tarrio, to try to undo whatever damage, or whatever influence, from what Pezzola had pulled, last week, from having an influence, on this judge, and his sentence, today.

COLLINS: Yes. And yet, he still got 22 years.

Evan Perez, thank you.

PEREZ: Sure.

COLLINS: And, for more on this, I want to bring in New York Times Senior Political Correspondent, and Trump biographer, Maggie Haberman.

I mean, Trump's -- Tarrio's attorney, Maggie, who was arguing, today, for that lighter sentencing? When he was making his closing arguments, not, that long ago, before he was convicted, he was basically saying, "Don't blame my client. Blame the former President. It's his actions, and his words, that were the reason what happened on that day."

I mean, clearly, the judge disagreed.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The judge clearly disagreed, because these are cases, where people have to take responsibility, for their own actions, when they are convicted. And I don't think that's a surprise. I think you're going to see courts of law, uphold rule of law.

But it is not the first time that we have heard any defendants, related to January 6, or their lawyers, suggest that Trump is behind what they did that day. And I think you are going to continue to hear that.

And that is where, Kaitlan, and I'm not saying this is specific to this case, but just more broadly, this is where there is an issue, for Trump, facing liability, for that day. It was something that his own aides warned him about, in real-time, that this could be an issue. And I think you are going to continue to see that going forward.

COLLINS: Yes. And what Evan was just noting there, about the terrorism aspect of this. I mean, the judge essentially was ruling that basically, that is something that could be applied here. He agreed with prosecutors that that could be part of the sentencing here, because of what Enrique Tarrio, and others, did on that day, what they were ultimately trying to achieve.

Trump has said he would leave open the door to pardoning, a lot of the people, who were convicted that day. I mean, does that -- does the fact that domestic terror is now a part of this, change that calculus, you think?

HABERMAN: I don't think it's going to stop Trump from saying what he has been saying. He has been fundraising, to try to help some of the defendants, in January 6-related cases. I don't think that this will have him adjust anything.

I'm sure his lawyers would like it, if he would adjust some of what he's saying and doing. But I don't think for what he is saying himself. He sees political advantage, in continuing to say that he might pardon people. He thinks that it rallies his supporters.

COLLINS: What about the fact that his attorney is blaming Trump? I mean, do you think that could factor into whether or not Trump, whatever, I mean, this is all hypothetical, but whether or not he'd pardon him?

HABERMAN: I don't think it helps, in that specific case. But as you and I know very well, what Donald Trump sees, as beneficial, to Donald Trump, can change moment to moment.

COLLINS: The other thing that we saw happen today, was Jack Smith's team has issued this new filing, as Trump's been posting links, about the judge, in his case in Washington, in the same courtroom, or same courthouse, where Enrique Tarrio was sentenced today.

He's calling Jack Smith, deranged. He says he has unchecked and insane aggression. And the reason we're highlighting that is because the Special Counsel, today, is arguing that those comments, which are happening, on a daily basis, multiple times a day, could taint the jury pool.

What is your sense, of whether or not Trump's attorneys, are concerned, about testing prosecutors' patience, here, about maybe seeing sanctions, from the judge, for Trump, on what he's saying?

HABERMAN: They're certainly aware that this is a possibility that there's going to be a request, for sanctions, and that judges could take action. Now, what they'll argue is that this is infringing, on Trump's free speech rights, that he's a political candidate, and that he has to be allowed to say what he wants to say, in that context, and also that he's a defendant, who's entitled to say things, about his case.

But to your point, that is a different measure. That is not just saying, "I'm an innocent person." That is really attacking prosecutors, and as he's attacked other people connected to these cases, over and over again. As we've said, many times, he will test the limits of what he can get away with, up until the point he can't do it anymore.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, he's attacking the judge, repeatedly. I think, Jack Smith, that's kind of been a New York constant. But the judge, who makes these decisions, and has such control, over this trial, he attacks her, basically, on a daily basis.

HABERMAN: And she's warned him, about not tainting the jury pool. So, he is looking to see how far he can take this, and how far he can get away with it. And we're going to find out what the answer is.

But we've talked about this before. It typically, in cases like this, when defendants are given a warning, about what they say, what they post, on social media, what they say in public interviews, they tend to be much more circumspect, than Donald Trump is being. He is just sort of letting it all fly.

COLLINS: Yes. Tomorrow's going to get interesting, in Georgia, because we've now seen all 19 co-defendants there plead not guilty. That means none of them will be showing up, for their arraignment hearings, tomorrow. They've all waived their right to the appearances.

But we will see the judge there, Scott McAfee, hold a hearing, for Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, essentially, on their arguments, about severing the case and whatnot. But what's notable is it's going to be televised, tomorrow.


COLLINS: We will see what is going to happen. I mean, do think people being able to actually watch that will affect how they view this?

HABERMAN: I think it might, Kaitlan. I mean, I think that so much of this has been behind closed doors, or in a way that you can't see, in real-time. And it's being relayed, through us, in the media.

And I think, for the public, to be able to see this, I think, is important.

I think this -- look, I am very pro cameras, in courtrooms, in general. I think journalists generally are.


But I do think this is an important moment, just in terms of people understanding, what's taking place, and forming their own opinions. It's going to be a lot harder, for defendants, in these cases, to say, this is going through a filter, and this is somehow tainted, in terms of public understanding, when it's televised

COLLINS: And these are people, who, Trump is not paying their legal fees.


COLLINS: Like in the other cases that we see.

I mean, what is your sense of the calculus inside his world over? Of course, it's really expensive, if he was going to cover for all of them. But if he doesn't, I mean, they could be more encouraged, to make a deal, with prosecutors, to cooperate, to try to get their sentences potentially reduced, if they were ever convicted.

HABERMAN: I think there's a couple of things that have gone into this. We have seen Georgia be a little different, in terms of how they have handled that case, in his world, compared to the federal cases, and compared to the Manhattan case. So, it's not totally surprising.

Bluntly, I don't know what money there is, to pay for all of these folks' defenses, at this point. Save America doesn't really have a ton of money left. And they have --

COLLINS: How much money have they spent? Ballpark?

HABERMAN: A lot. I mean, I don't want to get the figure on, off the top of my head. But it's tens --

COLLINS: Millions and millions?

HABERMAN: It's tens of millions of dollars, on his legal fees, and on -- and the reason I'm just delaying is there was an error put out, by folks, around him, in terms of how much was spent. At one point, they actually overestimated it.

But it's still a lot of money. These trials are costing him -- I shouldn't say him. These trials are costing a lot of money, for whoever is paying his legal fees, and the fees of people around him.

COLLINS: He doesn't even like paying his own legal fees, much less that of other people's?

HABERMAN: Correct. And so, in certain cases, they have paid people's legal fees, as we've discussed here. The fact that they're not paying Giuliani's legal fees has been an ongoing source of frustration, except for one very small tranche. I say very small. $350,000 or so. That's not --

COLLINS: Small for Rudy Giuliani's legal fees.

HABERMAN: -- that's not small. It's just small -- it's small, comparatively. It's a lot of money, in normal circumstances.

But this is a source of consternation, about not having these fees paid, for a lot of people. Jenna Ellis, who's one of the co- defendants, in Georgia, has been very vocal about it. We will see whether that ends up becoming a problem, for Trump.

But the flip side is if he's paying people's legal fees, in a conspiracy case, I think that takes on a different patina.

COLLINS: Yes. What do you make of CNN's latest reporting, about how Jack Smith's investigation seems to be continuing. We know they have the grand jury, till September 15th.


COLLINS: We'll see if it gets extended.

But on Sidney Powell, specifically, in these efforts to breach voting machines, to essentially, the involvement, and the efforts that they had, not just in Georgia, but in Michigan and other states as well, I mean, the sense of just that the investigation is still continuing past, the charges that we've seen so far.

HABERMAN: Look, we know that Jack Smith has continued to drill down, aggressively, in the documents case, the Mar-a-Lago case, and the January 6th case. In the January 6th case, among other things, there were six unindicted co-conspirators. Then, there was separately this issue of looking at the fundraising, with Save America.

What this tells me is that he's looking at a broader range of fundraising, not just Save America, and other efforts that were taking place. And that seems to be a bit of a newer Avenue.

COLLINS: Yes. And he's been asking people about Hugo Chavez comments that she was making, and whatnot.

HABERMAN: Very public that she made those.

COLLINS: Maggie Haberman, thank you.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Very much.

Up next, two of the most dangerous dictators, in the world, may soon be meeting, together, in-person. Is Vladimir Putin seeking Kim Jong Un's help, with his invasion, of Ukraine.

And also, the Senate's top Republican, back, on Capitol Hill today. But now, members of his own party are asking questions, about Mitch McConnell's health and transparency. Tomorrow, he'll speak with them, behind closed doors.



COLLINS: Tonight, U.S. officials say that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, is in advanced talks, to travel to Russia, to meet with President Vladimir Putin, this month, over a major weapons deal, potentially.

The New York Times, which was the first, to report, on this meeting, said that the deal could involve Moscow, getting artillery shells, and anti-tank missiles, in exchange for North Korea getting satellites, nuclear-powered submarines, and food supplies for their impoverished nation.

Officials say that the meeting could take place, this month, with Kim, traveling by armored train, from Pyongyang, across the border, to southeastern Russia. It would be a rare journey, for the North Korean leader, but one that he has taken before, back in 2019, as you see here.

Despite warnings, from the Pentagon, the National Security Council says they do believe negotiations, between those two nations, are quote, "Actively advancing."

Joining me now, to discuss, former CIA officer, Will Hurd, who is also a 2024 Republican presidential candidate.

Thank you, for being here.

U.S. officials that we've talked to believe that if they disclose this Intelligence that it could potentially deter North Korea, from actually following through, on this. I mean, you're a former CIA officer. What do you make of that strategy? And what would you do, if you were president?

WILL HURD, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first off, this is not deterring Kim Jong Un.

I would never have thought that I would say that two former Presidents, Trump, and the current President, Biden, would be doing the same thing that Vladimir Putin is doing. And that's emboldening a nuclear terrorist.

I hate the fact that Trump sat down with Kim Jong Un. Biden, couple of weeks ago, saying that he would be willing to sit down with him, without preconditions. I think that all plays into Kim Jong Un's willingness, to engage with the Russians. This is also a sign that things in Russia aren't going to Vladimir Putin's liking.

And what I would be doing, under my administration, is, all the equipment and weapons that we have promised, to Ukrainians, that the rest of our Western allies have promised them? Get them to the Ukrainians, as quickly as possible, for them to continue their counteroffensive. Because, this is a sign that Vladimir Putin can't do this himself.

This relationship has usually been the other way around, where the North Koreans are getting weapons, from the Russians. And this is a statement of how bad the situation is.

And then, we should be helping the Ukrainians, to double down. And I would even say, letting them have the equipment, where they can continue and do strikes, inside Russia. And we, the Hurd administration would be very clear, what we consider to be preconditions, for success. And that is the removal of all the Russians, from all of Ukraine to include Crimea and the Donbas.

COLLINS: You think that's realistic?

HURD: It absolutely is realistic. The fact that the Ukrainians are seeing some success, in Crimea, right?


And unfortunately, the Biden administration is trying to, behind closed doors, say that they don't think the Ukrainians should be focused on that. One of the reasons I believe that they're doing that is because they want to have a negotiating position, potentially, with the Russians, and let them keep Crimea. That's a bad move to make.

The fact that Tony Blinken has said that we want to get back to the February 22 lines, in Ukraine? That means that the Russians get to keep Donbas and Crimea. To me, that's unacceptable. A true victory is helping them push up.

COLLINS: But to your first point that you were making there, you were saying that the way the Trump administration, and Biden administrations, have handled North Korea, you think, are equally doing it wrong.

But they're taking very different approaches. I mean, Trump and -- Putin and Kim are exchanging letters, right now, in the lead up to this summit.

HURD: Sure.

COLLINS: Trump and Kim did the same thing, before their historic face- to-face summits.

I mean, Biden hasn't even -- he's never spoken to Kim Jong Un, since being President. They have had basically no communication, because the North Koreans don't answer the phone.

HURD: Right. But he's also undermining his recent steps, by engaging with the South Koreans, and the Japanese, that we should be having these negotiations together. We should be including the Australians, in any conversation.

And this is one area, where the United States and China could actually cooperate, when it comes to North Korea, because the Chinese do not want a nuclear war, on the Korean subcontinent, because that's going to lead to millions of refugees, North Korean refugees, on the Chinese border. And the Chinese can't handle that. So, this is how we should be looking at this area.

And look, Kim Jong Un wants to stay in power. He wants to be fat, drunk and happy, and die, being a rich man. And what we need to make sure is that we contain him, with all of our allies, in that region. COLLINS: But what does Biden need to be doing, differently, on North Korea, specifically? I mean, just saying he'd sit down with him, there's no sign that that's even close to happening?

HURD: Well, I wouldn't be talking about no preconditions. I think --

COLLINS: You would have preconditions?

HURD: You would have --

COLLINS: Like what?

HURD: You would have preconditions.

Number one, you got the stop the nuclear -- there's nuclear program, as is, right? We're not going to have any kind of conversations, if you continue to do testing.

The number of tests that we've seen Kim Jong Un do, over the last year, has been pretty significant. There would have to be a period of saying that we can trust that you're not going to be doing the test.

Those are two simple steps that I would take, before having any kind of engagement.

COLLINS: Speaking of Putin, there is one thing that a lot of your fellow 2024 contenders, are happy to say, to label him as, which is a war criminal.

There is one though, who noticeably is not. This is an exchange that happened, over the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes or no, do you think Putin is a war criminal?

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that Putin is a dictator. And I think those are open questions that need to be adjudicated by the ICCJ. We have an ICCJ for a reason.

My job, as the U.S. president, is to advance American interests. So I think Putin's actions have been craven. That much I will say. And I've said it all along.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But do you believe he's a war criminal?

RAMASWAMY: We have to get the facts, before we get to the bottom of that.


COLLINS: What facts, do you think, he's talking about there?

HURD: Well, the facts are clear. There are tens of thousands of documented cases, of the Russians, killing and raping innocents, blowing up, whether it's grain storage facilities, apartment complexes, non-military equipment, non-military targets. So, this is very clear that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.

And unfortunately, Vivek has said it himself. He's only been paying attention, to foreign policy, for the last six months. And it shows. His policies are ignorant. He acts like he knows everything. But he's always wrong, when it comes to foreign policy.

And it's dangerous, to have someone, who's running, to be the President of the Free World, who is willing to kiss the butt, of a war criminal, like Vladimir Putin. It's not hard to call it what it is. And it's unfortunate, there's people in that race.

And if other folks -- if people are afraid, your viewers are worried about that? And they want to support someone, who is not going to kiss the butt of dictators, like that? Go to

COLLINS: But what about the numbers? I mean, he has gone up. In our polling, today that was done after that first debate?

HURD: Sure.

COLLINS: Vivek Ramaswamy went from 1 percent to 6 percent.

I mean, your poll number, your polls have not changed, in that way.

HURD: Sure, sure.

COLLINS: I mean, are you out of step with where your voters are today?

HURD: I wouldn't say that I'm out of step. But $15 million goes a long way, in moving those poll numbers.

I'm not going to discount the fact that he's moved. But there's also a lot of people that are turned off by him. I was recently in New Hampshire. And I don't think he's going to be growing those numbers, with college women that live in suburbs. They're turned off, by some of his, the ways he acts, and the things that he communicates.

And as, we have 9/11 coming up here, the conversation that you all had? This guy is, I think, running to try to be the Chief Gaslighter of the United States, where he says one thing, and then changes direction, in the same interview. To me, that's just unacceptable.


And again, the poll numbers are the poll members. But that's not something that we should be having, in the leader of the Free World.

COLLINS: But what about the -- who could be the leader of the Free World? Again soon, Trump potentially, if he is the nominee.

HURD: Sure.

COLLINS: In this poll, Republicans, and Republican-leaning Independents say if true, the charges that he is facing across four criminal charges, they don't think are relevant to his fitness for the office. I mean, that's what Republican voters think. HURD: Right.

COLLINS: People you are trying to get to make you the nominee. How do you make that argument to make you the nominee, if that's where they stand?

HURD: If this poll is true, then the Republican Party is going to continue a 20-year trajectory, of losing the public -- the popular public votes, if Donald Trump is our nominee. He is a proven loser. He lost in 2018. He's lost the White House and the Senate in 2020. He prevented a Red wave from coming to power.

And here's what I believe. Like, if people are worried about those numbers, then, guess what? We need you to vote. If you're worried about that rematch from hell, between Donald Trump and Joe Biden? Then those people that only vote in general elections, we need you to vote in primaries. We need you to vote in the Republican primary. Only 23 percent of Americans vote in a primary.

So if you want better options, in November, then we need you to start getting engaged now, to prevent something like this from happening, because, again, America deserves better than Donald Trump and Joe Biden. That's one of the reasons why I'm running, and we're taking the message, to places, like New Hampshire and Iowa.

COLLINS: Will Hurd, thank you, for being here, tonight.

HURD: Always a pleasure.

COLLINS: It has happened again. A federal court has thrown out Alabama's congressional map, after Republican lawmakers there, pretty much ignored a Supreme Court order, to create a second majority Black district. So what now?

The only Democrat, who represents Alabama, in the House, will join us, right after this.



COLLINS: A federal court has struck down a newly-drawn congressional map, in Alabama, for the second time, after state lawmakers ignored a ruling, from the Supreme Court, and refused to create a second Black majority district, in the State.

White voters make up the majority of six, out of the seven congressional districts, in Alabama, where more than a quarter of the State's population is Black.

The three-judge panel, two of them who, I should note, were appointed, by former President Trump, wrote in their unanimous decision, today, that they were quote, "Disturbed" by the Republican-controlled State Legislature's actions.

The newly-drawn map created one majority Black district, and boosted the share of Black voters, in a second district, from roughly 30 percent to 40 percent, but reduced it in another one.

Alabama's Attorney General says he's going to appeal, and the case could end up, full circle, at the Supreme Court.

Joining me now is Alabama Congresswoman, Terri Sewell.

Congresswoman, thank you, so much, for being here.

Court-appointed experts, I should note, are now going to be the one, who are drawing these three proposed maps. That's what they'll then decide on. It's not the State Legislature, like before.

Do you have confidence, though, that they will be able to draw a fair map that accurately represents the State of Alabama?


I have to say, I was more than just disappointed that the State Legislature didn't even try, to adhere, to the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Supreme Court was pretty clear. They said draw two majority- minority district, or something quite close to it.

And as you said, it was one district, my district, they took from 55 percent to 50 percent. And then, they created another district that was around 39.9 percent. And definitely, that's not quite close to it.

But you know what, Kaitlan? Today was a victory, for Black Alabamians, but also for all Alabamians. Because what we're fighting for is fairness, right? We want to make sure that irrespective of your race, or your ZIP Code, that every voter has an equal opportunity, for their voice, to be heard, in this democracy. There's nothing more fundamental than that.

COLLINS: And the State is now responding, with the Attorney General. They're basically trying to escalate the issue, up to the Supreme Court. They hope that there is a stay, on this decision, today.

How do you expect, or how do you hope that justices will respond to that? Because I mean, obviously, someone, like Justice Kavanaugh is going to be a key person, to this decision that is going to be made.

SEWELL: Well, the Supreme Court decision was pretty tight, 5-4. And Kavanaugh was pretty clear, in his position, as well.

I really hope that they will reject the stay, immediately, so we can continue with the process. I know that it's going to go on concurrently with the drawing of the maps. The Special Master has until September 25th, to come up with three different maps.

And, Kaitlan, the problem is, it was possible, to draw two majority- minority districts. In fact, the Supreme Court had, in its evidence, by the plaintiffs' attorneys, a 11 maps, that showed that there was a way that you could have two majority-minority districts.

And so, the blatant disregard, for the Supreme Court's edict, as well as this three-judge panel was just really unacceptable. And when I think about it, it's also an insult, to those of us, who know that they could do better. They could have done better.

COLLINS: Well, and we're both from Alabama. We both love Alabama. But this is not just a story about Alabama. It's a national story, really, because we see similar legal battles, playing out, in other states, half a dozen of them, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

Do you see this, as a Republican strategy, to hang on, to their razor- thin majority, in the House? Or, how high do you see the stakes here?

SEWELL: Well, it was Frederick Douglass, who said that power concede nothing without a struggle.

And so, there's a real fight going on now. Because if we can get more congressional seats, by fair maps, by fairer maps, that will affect the change imbalance, in the House, in the House of Representatives. And that's pretty important.


But for me, when I look at just the bare bone of what this is about, we know that our State has a long storied history, in racism, and segregation, and voter disenfranchisement.

But we also come from a State of wonderful people, Black and White, who gathered around, and tried to do the right thing. They marched in order to desegregate. They also, marched irrespective of what happened on that bridge, John Lewis and those marchers march, and defied real, you know, and really helped democracy get to where it is.

They say that justice -- that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice. But it doesn't get there by itself. It gets there by courageous people, like those plaintiffs that filed this lawsuit.

And I think incrementally we'll get there, because this is really about political power. African Americans make up 27 percent of the voting age population in Alabama. And yet, we only have one of the seven seats. That's 14 percent representation. That is not what we need.

COLLINS: But what do you make of the fact, given that storied and ugly history, of courts having to intervene, for voting rights, in places, like Alabama, that it's 2023, and this is still a fight that you're having?

SEWELL: Yes. But as John Lewis said, you can never give up and never give in. We know that the pendulum swings, right to left, that progress is elusive. And that every generation has to fight to hold on to the progress that we've made, and to try to extend it. And so, I see this as a further step, towards progress, in our State.

If Alabama can have two districts, where African American voters, in Alabama, have the opportunity, to choose a candidate, of their choosing? That, to me, is progress. And I know that it will affect not only Alabama, but we're waiting on Louisiana and Georgia, and it will have a ripple effect. And not just in congressional seats.

Because what this case says is that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is alive, well and enforceable, Section 2. And so, Section 2 is about voter dilution.

So, even in Jefferson County, where we have five commission seats, I think that you'll see a lawsuit, to try to see whether or not that violates the VRA Section 2, because there's so many African American voters, in that county. It has a big effect all around.

And I know that John had some incomplete business, before he left this great Earth. And -- but he left us a wonderful roadmap, he and those foot soldiers. And what they said is that we have to be bold enough, encouraged enough, to do the right thing, no matter what, and to get into some good trouble. And frankly, Kaitlan, we're in some good trouble, right now.

And I'm really hoping that the Supreme Court will quickly overturn the stay, this motion for a stay, and so that we can get on with the business, of creating two majority-minority districts, in our home state of Alabama.

COLLINS: Congresswoman Terri Sewell, thank you, for your time, tonight, for joining me.

SEWELL: Thank you.

COLLINS: Speaking of Capitol Hill, Mitch McConnell was, on the Senate floor, today, speaking. Many were watching very closely. This is the first time that we have seen him, on the Senate floor, since he publicly froze up, last week, for the second time.

But what is happening, tomorrow, in Washington, maybe foretelling about the Minority Leader's future, in Congress.



COLLINS: Tomorrow, in Washington, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is expected to talk, to his caucus, behind closed doors, about his health. Some of his fellow Republican senators, have been raising questions, about what is going on, and what he's saying publicly.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I think if you go halfway and you reveal stuff, that doesn't make any sense, it just leads to more questions.

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): I concerned on the last -- on the first one, and the last freeze-up.

But since he fell now, he's struggle. And I hope he can continue. I'm sure it's still going to be up to him, most of the way. There's going to be some conversation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Senator McConnell was back, on Capitol Hill, today, for the first time, since freezing, for that second time, on camera, in his home state of Kentucky, last week. He did mention his health, only in passing, in his speech, on the Senate floor.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Now, one particular moment of my time back home has received its fair share of attention in the press over the past week. But I assure you, August was a busy and productive month for me and my staff, back in the Commonwealth.


COLLINS: Joining me now, Jamal Simmons, former Communications Director for Vice President Harris; and Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Communications Director for the Trump White House.

Alyssa, I mean, the Capitol physician, they put out a note, saying there was no evidence of a stroke, or a seizure disorder. But, I mean, clearly, even members of his own party have questions, about what's going on, and if he is being transparent enough?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think the Leader needs to speak to his caucus.

And I think here's the reality. We've got a gerontocracy, in Washington, D.C. We've got a lot of folks, who are living, frankly, beyond the median age, of most men, in this country, who are in high positions of governing.

I think, as far, Mitch McConnell was voted in by the voters of Kentucky. I think a conversation about how long he's going to stay on, as Leader, is important to have. And I think to start talking about what a transition plan would look like.

Now, Mitch McConnell, love him or hate him, is probably the most effective Republican legislator, of my lifetime. So, I think they need to think about who is ready to replace him, and step in, if he is going to pass off the reins, the way that we saw Nancy Pelosi do, in the House.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, and so far, those who would be the most likely, to replace him, have said they're still fully behind him.

But when he does go behind closed doors, at his lunch, tomorrow, I mean, what does he say to them, to alleviate their concerns?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I kind of could care less what he says, to those senators, when he goes behind closed doors.

Because I think the bigger challenge is one that faces the entire country? There's so many Americans, who've lost faith in our government. They've lost faith, in our leaders. Young people, especially feel this way.

I think that Senator McConnell is missing an opportunity, to shore up trust, in government, and trust, in our institutions, by not going out in public, and talking about what he's really facing.


And I think we saw what happened on video. You can't just put out a letter. One of the lessons of communications is you respond in the way the attack came. And that -- and what we saw, from him, is a video of him, not performing well.

Earlier on, on Anderson Cooper, Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Gupta was on. He didn't seem convinced about the answer that the McConnell people are giving. And I think most people, in America, aren't convinced about it either.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, what do you make of that, given he will also have his weekly press conference, tomorrow. He said that's still scheduled. He doesn't speak to reporters, in the hallways. But he does talk at these press conferences. That was actually where we saw him freeze up, the first time.

FARAH GRIFFIN: I mean, I would argue that these ailments, and I wish the very best, to the Leader, have not technically gotten in the way of him doing his job.

I use Dianne Feinstein, somebody, who I've said should step down, as an example, of somebody, who seems actually confused, when voting, had to be like, guided by an aide, on how she should be voting. I meant that it was holding up nominations, in the Judiciary Committee. That to me is somebody, who needs to probably immediately resign, especially when you represent the most populous state, in the country.

Mitch McConnell, I think, he needs to be very transparent. He needs to answer questions, for his voters, for his constituents, but also the American public, as the Leader of the Senate.


SIMMONS: Let's remember what happened when Senator John Fetterman had his health challenges. He went out in public, and told people what he believed was dealing with. And people rooted for him. They wanted him to be successful. They wanted him to get healthy.

Now, everyone is sitting around, waiting for the next shoe to drop, on Senator McConnell. It's just a bad place to be.

COLLINS: The other person we heard from today was Senator Tuberville. You just heard him there. But he is also someone, who is facing criticism, when it comes to his hold, on military nominations, and protest, of the Pentagon's abortion policy. He said today, he's not budging on that.

I mean, we're hearing, from the Secretaries of the Army, and the Navy, and the Air Force, who were speaking to Jake Tapper, earlier, saying that this is a national security risk, in their view.

FARAH GRIFFIN: It's a readiness crisis. It is a shame that for the first time, in over 100 years, the Marine Corps, for example, is without a permanent Commandant.

Listen, I strongly support the Hyde Amendment, meaning taxpayer dollars should not fund abortion. That is not what this DOD policy does. It simply gives paid travel, to people, who may go and seek an abortion.

I think it is a misreading, of the policy, by Senator Tuberville. And I think his Republican colleagues need to rally around him, and say "We, as Republicans, are the pro-military party. You are actually affecting national security readiness."

COLLINS: But he did make the point that Chuck Schumer could bring these up one by one if he needed to. I mean, that is not something that the Majority Leader has taken the step. They say it is essentially giving it to him. But it is something he technically could do.

SIMMONS: I'm sure Chuck Schumer could technically do that. And then, how long will that take?

This week, so many Americans, like my family, we're taking our kids back to school. People are paying attention to it.

You know who's not able to do that, who is having trouble? A bunch of military families, whose kids don't know where they're going to be, if they're going to be in the base, where they are currently, or the base, where their parent is getting promoted to. We got to figure this out. This is not a way we can govern our American military.

COLLINS: Jamal Simmons, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you both, for being here, tonight.

Speaking of an impeachment trial, not one on Capitol Hill, but it is underway, for one of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters. It is pitting Republicans versus Republicans, over allegations of abuse, corruption, extramarital affairs.

More on the drama, playing out, in Texas, on-camera, next.



COLLINS: The Republican Attorney General, of the State of Texas, pleading not guilty, today, in his own impeachment trial.

Ken Paxton stands accused of repeatedly using his office, to help a wealthy real estate investor, and donor. In exchange, the donor apparently gave Paxton, $20,000 worth of remodeling materials, and paid for a mistress, for the State's Attorney General.

As CNN's Ed Lavandera reports, 12 of his fellow Republicans agree, he should face impeachment, on allegations that he abused his power.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just before Ken Paxton faced impeachment proceedings, which includes misconduct, involving an alleged affair, Paxton smiled and hugged his wife, who happens to be a state senator, and will be listening, to the charges, involving bribery, abuse of power, and retaliating against whistleblowers. But she will not be allowed to vote.

LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK, (R) TEXAS: This is a very significant and serious occasion that will be in the history books.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Paxton stood with his hands crossed, as his attorney said the suspended Attorney General was innocent, of all the impeachment charges.

TONY BUZBEE, PAXTON ATTORNEY: Those allegations are flat-out false. The Attorney General pleads not guilty.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Paxton's lawyers went on to say, in opening statements, that Paxton is a victim of a political witch-hunt, and that his political fate should not be in the hands of state senators.

BUZBEE: Texas chose, at the voting booth, who they wanted to be their Attorney General.

Only 30 people, out of almost 30 million, will decide whether Ken Paxton is allowed to serve, in the office, he was voted into. That's not how it's supposed to work. That's not democratic.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The lead House impeachment manager said Paxton has committed crimes that make him unfit to serve as Attorney General.

ANDREW MURR, TEXAS HOUSE IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Mr. Paxton should be removed from office, because he failed to protect the State. And instead, used the power of his elected office, for his own benefit.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The impeachment trial has exposed a bitter divide, among Texas Republicans.

Paxton has the support of Donald Trump, and the extreme right-wing of conservatives, in the State. One Pro-Paxton group, known as the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, says it will pump millions of dollars, to go after Republicans, who voted to impeach or convict Ken Paxton.

JONATHAN STICKLAND, FORMER TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: This is a political witch-hunt, against Ken Paxton.

Anyone that votes against Ken Paxton, in this impeachment, is risking their entire political career. And we will make sure that that is the case.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): As the political pressure mounts, against Republican state senators, many are watching Senator Angela Paxton, who has long stood, by her husband, as he climbed the Texas political ladder, even performing musical numbers, at his campaign rallies.


ANGELA PAXTON, TEXAS STATE SENATOR: I'm a pistol packin' mama and my husband sues Obama.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Despite the lurid allegations, against Ken Paxton, in the impeachment trial, Angela Paxton is publicly showing full support, for her husband, calling him the love of her life. And in the impeachment trial, she will be closely watching the Republicans, who will decide, her husband's political fate.



LAVANDERA: And Kaitlan, we're looking for clues, as to which way these Republican senators might be leaning.

And we might have gotten a hint, early on. Before the impeachment trial started, there was a wave of motions, where the senators could have voted to dismiss the charges, by a simple majority.

In each of those votes, where Paxton didn't get enough votes, he had six to eight Republicans voting in his favor. But he needs 10, to be able to survive this impeachment trial. But the longer this goes on, the amount of political pressure, on many of these Republicans, to switch their votes, and to support Ken Paxton, will only continue to grow.

So, it is going to be a really intense few weeks, here, in Austin, for Republican lawmakers.


COLLINS: Yes. It'll be fascinating, to see, what it means, for the Republican Party, in Texas.

Ed Lavandera, thank you, for that report.

Up next, there is new fallout, from the unwanted kiss that happened, at the World Cup, and a big firing.



COLLINS: Jorge Vilda, the head coach, of the Spanish national soccer team, that just won the women's World Cup, last month, has been fired. He was pushed out.

But the soccer chief, Luis Rubiales, of course, the one, who is facing a lot of the fallout, from that unwanted kiss, his fate still hangs in the balance, tonight.

What we do know is that Montse Tome was made the first female head coach, for Spain's national team, a former member, of that team. We'll keep you updated, on that story.

Thank you so much, for joining us.

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