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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Five Americans Released By Iran En Route To U.S.; Trump: "It Was My Decision" To Challenge 2020 Results; Five Americans Hours Away From Landing In D.C. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 18, 2023 - 21:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from "The Source", five American hostages held in Iran for years are now on their way home. As political backlash is growing on the terms of the deal, Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is here.

Plus, a special CNN sit-down tonight with Democratic Party powerhouse, California Governor Gavin Newsom, on 2024 speculation and the state of his own party.

Also, a big break, just a few moments ago, is the mystery of the missing U.S. fighter jet. How does an $80 million plane vanish from thin air? I'm Kaitlan Collins, and this is "The source".

Hostages no more tonight, as five Americans are on their way back to the United States. They were freed early this morning after being wrongfully detained in Iran for years. Three of them were in prison for over five years, and two others have not yet been publicly identified over their own privacy concerns. But, what led to their release is leading to harsh criticism from some Republicans tonight, because the U.S. unblocked $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil revenue, and dismissed federal charges and released five Iranians of their own. White House officials say that that money can only be used for things like food and medicine, and will be subject to strict oversight. The deal was sealed as President Biden arrived here in New York where he is preparing to address the United Nations tomorrow.

All of this is coming as another foreign policy crisis is looming on Capitol Hill over Ukraine. The President is expected to continue to rally the world to defend Ukraine against Russia. But, in Washington, there is a growing divide that is on clear display right now among House Republicans over funding that effort. President Zelenskyy also here in New York ahead of his own meeting with Congress later this week.

Let's get straight to "The Source" tonight with Republican presidential candidate, 2024 candidate, Chris Christie. Governor Christie, thank you for being here tonight. Five Americans are now on their way home. If you were President, would you have made this deal today? CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not have made the deal, Kaitlan. No. And the idea that Iran would use this money for only humanitarian efforts. Let me say what humanitarian is in Iran, Kaitlan. That means they cut your hands off before they kill you. That's humanitarian in Iran. This is one of the most barbaric regimes in the world. They are the biggest exporter of terror in the world. And Joe Biden has given them now $6 billion to go and make mischief, more mischief, dangerous mischief, around the world. I wouldn't have made this deal as much as I would have liked as Americans to be home. You cannot give $6 billion to a terrorist state.

COLLINS: Well, so, how would you have handled it? Because, I mean, we've seen this criticism from Republicans. But, these were Americans. They were being wrongfully held, some of them in an incredibly notorious prison. And former President Trump had this policy of maximum pressure on Iran. He wasn't able to bring them home.

CHRISTIE: No. Well, Kaitlan, you know, you do the very best you can. You continue to work as hard as you can to get them returned home, but you don't get them returned home to make matters worse. They are now -- Americans are now more of a target for Iran than they were before, because they took five this time, maybe they'll take 10 next time. And then, there'll be looking for $12 billion or $15 billion. This never ends. It's a slippery slope that you slide down.

As a leader, you have to say "no" to that type of thing. I would not have had a problem with exchanging five hostages for five hostages, but -- for five prisoners rather, but I would not have given them $6 billion. This empowers that regime to sport terror, and encourages them to take more Americans in order to try to get more money from assets that are frozen because of their own terrorist conduct.

COLLINS: If you were elected, I mean, this is a challenge that you also have to deal with. There are still Americans wrongfully detained abroad. Obviously, Evan Gershkovich is one of the top names that comes to mind, Paul Whelan as well. Why do you believe that you'd be better at handling these sensitive and complex issues than some of the people who are running against you, a former President, former Vice President, former Ambassador to the United Nations, those who have dealt with these kinds of issues before?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, first off, the former President has shown himself to be someone who, in this iteration of his political career, cares only about himself, and more of his statements today just prove that. He puts himself before he puts any of the American people.


So, I think he'd be off the list. And let's face it. The former Vice President and a former UN Ambassador had no experience doing this as well. I spent seven years as a prosecutor. And in that job, I had to do, get involved in negotiations with a lot of criminals, a lot of folks who are committing crimes, and trying to resolve those issues. We're using law enforcement and using intelligence capabilities. I've done that before as the United States Attorney in the fifth largest office in the entire country. And I think it prepared me very well for the current negotiations you would need to be engaged in at this level as President.

COLLINS: As I mentioned, President Zelenskyy is here. He'll meet with lawmakers in Washington later this week amid a government funding fight that includes resistance from your party's right flank to continue supporting Ukraine. What do you say tonight to Republicans as someone who has visited Kyiv yourself, who argue that more money for Ukraine isn't needed and they're willing to shut down the government over it?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, they're just wrong, and history shows they're wrong. This is a proxy war with China, Kaitlan. This is a proxy worth of Chinese. The Chinese are funding the Russian war against Ukraine. They're supporting it. They've now set their client state North Korea through Kim Jong Un to meet with Putin, to have them exchange weapons. These folks are connected, all three of them, Kim Jong Un, President Xi, President Putin, are committed communist authoritarian dictators, and they want the world to look like what Russia, China, and North Korea look like. That sounds the way I think the world should work.

And if we don't stand up to China now, we will be fighting China in Taiwan. And then, it won't be just sending arms there. It will be sending American men and women there to fight that fight. And that is not something that we should want to do. In fact, by being tough now, we can avoid that in the future. You've learned that the last time they were here (inaudible) aggression.

COLLINS: That message doesn't seem to be breaking through with some members of your party.

CHRISTIE: Well, look, they have the right to be wrong, Kaitlan. But, there are many of us who have to stand up and say no, and this is where the President needs to show better leadership. Joe Biden has given the Ukrainians just enough not to lose. He should have been more aggressive right from the beginning. But now, he has a job to do. His job is to convince a majority of the United States House and Senate to continue the support for Ukraine. The fact is that they are making progress in their counteroffensive, and they'd be making even more if we had armed them with F-16s earlier, if we had given them the artillery they needed earlier. We didn't do those things.

And it's naive to believe, as some in the Republican Party believe, that somehow we can negotiate something with Vladimir Putin, which will quench his thirst for aggression. This is a former KGB operative, Kaitlan, who wants to put back the old Soviet Union. He wants to put it back together. He will not be satisfied until that's done. And we need to stand up and say no to that, and make that very clear to him by our support of Ukraine.

COLLINS: Yes. I'm not sure that people like Marjorie Taylor Greene are listening to President Biden or will be convinced by his arguments. But, I want to ask about something else, because you mentioned you are a former federal prosecutor. Former President Donald Trump was asked over the weekend whether or not he was listening to lawyers or acting on his own accord when it came to challenging the election results, trying to overturn the election. This is what he said.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS MODERATOR, 'MEET THE PRESS': You called some of your outside lawyers. You said they had crazy theories. Why were you listening to them? Were you listening to them because they were telling you what you wanted to hear?

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, I listen to myself.

WELKER: Were you calling the shots, though, Mr. President, ultimately?

TRUMP: As to whether or not I believed it was rigged? Oh, sure.


TRUMP: It was my decision.


COLLINS: Does that hurt a legal defense that he could try to use?

CHRISTIE: Every time he opens his mouth, his lawyers must want to vomit. I mean, this is a guy who is just burying himself deeper and deeper, taking away any potential defense he has to the charges that have been brought against him. But, incredibly, I think for one of the rare times in his life Donald Trump is actually telling the truth. I think he was the person who made these decisions. I think he is responsible for his own conduct, and like any adult should be responsible for their own conduct. But, I will tell you, if I was his defense lawyer, I'd want to jump out a window every time this guy gets in front of a microphone, or in front of screen to send something out on Truth Social.

Look, this is why we as Republicans cannot nominate him again. You never know what's going to come out of his mouth next. He gets himself in deeper and deeper trouble. He will be sitting in a courtroom every day for all of March and most of April, while we should be out there fighting Joe Biden and the Democrats to re-win the White House and to take control of Congress.


That's why I'm the right person to do this. I will be bringing that fight to him. I won't have to be spending five minutes inside a courtroom. Donald Trump will be. Whether you think those charges are fair or not, and I know there is disagreement with some in our party about that, the fact is, they are a reality, and his conduct, which as you saw from that interview, he doesn't deny his conduct. Kaitlan, well, if you don't deny the conduct, then you're in very, very big trouble. And he is in big trouble. And if we nominate him, our party will be in big trouble.

COLLINS: We shall see. Former Governor Chris Christie, thank you for your time tonight. Thanks for joining me.

CHRISTIE: Kaitlan, as always, thanks for having me. COLLINS: Coming up, one of the longest held Americans in history, his loved ones are celebrating the release of these Americans tonight. But, for Bob Levinson's family, their "nightmare" continues, and they are still seeking answers. His daughter will join me in just a moment.

Plus, an exclusive one-on-one with California Governor Gavin Newsom on concerns within his Democratic Party of another Biden run, 2024 speculation, and much more coming up.


COLLINS: Tonight, five Americans who were wrongfully detained in Iran are on a plane and just hours away from landing in Washington. Critics of the deal that was made say that by unlocking $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue amounts to paying a ransom and incentivizing more hostage taking in the future.


But, the White House has been pushing back on that, pointing to new sanctions that they say are punishment for the lack of answers that they still have regarding another prisoner, Bob Levinson, who is the longest held hostage in American history. The retired FBI agent disappeared in Iran more than 16 years ago, and is believed to have died in Iranian custody. His daughter, Sarah Levinson Moriarty, joins me now. And it's so good to have you here. We had been in an event before where there were families of detained Americans there. I imagine this is a bittersweet day for you.

SARAH LEVINSON MORIARTY, DAUGHTER OF BOB LEVINSON: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me and giving me a chance to talk about my father and the great celebration of success that this deal actually is for five Americans coming home today.

COLLINS: Yes. And your dad, 16 years, and I know that part of the sanctions that came out today, they talked about they still want a full accounting from Iran. They want questions about your dad. What questions are you still seeking? Are you hopeful that the U.S. is committed to making sure that you get those answers?

MORIARTY: They've told me that they are. A lot of senior administration officials have told me firsthand that they will not stop until they get us the answer. So, I'm hopeful. But, it's just -- it's very hard with the Iranians. And so, I think we need to continue to inflict punishment, find ways to deter them for the future. But, let them know that my father's blood is on their hands, and we will not rest until they sent him home to us, or give us a full accounting from the day that he got there to whatever unfortunately happened to him.

COLLINS: And we have heard, you know, not just from Republicans, but even some human rights activists who say they do have concerns that this incentivizes hostage taking. You don't seem to have those concerns.

MORIARTY: I think that this administration made the difficult decisions that they had to make to bring five Americans home. And I think we should be focusing on that and celebrating that. And then, when they're home on American soil, we need to move to the next step and start deterring and punishing them. And I think the Levinson Act sanctions were a first step toward that.

COLLINS: Can you just put that in perspective of someone who is a family member? I mean, he is your father. And for those who are criticizing the deal, what it's -- what you live through, what you go through every day as it is your loved one who is being held wrongfully?

MORIARTY: I think the best thing that I can say is that these five Americans are coming home to their family where my father was not able to. And every American should be celebrating that right now.

COLLINS: Whenever you and I met, it was for at a James Foley foundation dinner, and you talked about your dad and just the memories that you have and what you think of. And -- I mean, what are you thinking about him on this day?

MORIARTY: I'm thinking he'd be so proud of his family, and how we continue to fight for him and for other Americans to come home, and fight against this injustice that's happening in hostage taking, and how we won't stop fighting and he knows that, until we get him at peace.

COLLINS: I know this is a tough day for you. Thank you for coming in to talk about this.

MORIARTY: Thank you for having me.

COLLINS: Sarah, thank you very much.

Up ahead, we have an exclusive one-on-one with a major player in the Democratic Party, California Governor Gavin Newsom, his take on Republicans who are now trying to potentially impeach President Biden, and whether or not he believes the President is too old for a second term. And much more coming up with Dana Bash.



COLLINS: A new CNN exclusive interview for you tonight, California Governor Gavin Newsom fired up as he is leading the charge and defending his party, their priorities, and President Biden, in an exclusive sit-down interview with Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN HOST: I want to start about your lawsuit --


BASH: -- against the five oil giants for misleading the public on fossil fuels. The American Petroleum Institute already is pushing back, calling it meritless, politicized, and a waste of California taxpayer resources. What do you say to it?

NEWSOM: Well, they should be ashamed of themselves. They're one of the people we named in the lawsuit. They've been lying to people. They've been playing you and everybody watching us like false. They've had information that none of us were privy to. In fact, in the creation of this lawsuit, in the production of this lawsuit, I realized how ignorant I was on the issue. Back in the 50s, they had fundamental data and information that was not shared with the American people. They knowingly misled people. They deceived people. As a consequence, we didn't take the kind of actions we would have taken to hold these big polluters accountable. And right now, we're dealing with the consequences of it.

As we convene here with the United Nations and climate week in New York City, we broke 10,000 records around the world. The climate is in deep distress. Ask the folks out in California, every single one of them, Democrats and Republicans would agree. They may not agree on global warming, climate science, but their own eyes their lived experience.

BASH: The oil companies, are you saying that for years the government relied on them to supply their own data and their consequences?

NEWSOM: No. They funded science. They funded research with --

BASH: But, why did --

NEWSOM: -- precision and accuracy.

BASH: -- but, why did the government --

NEWSOM: They did not share that information. They lied to people. They lied to people, knowingly lied to people. They suppressed that data and that information. They shared it. They shared it within companies. They may be competitors. But, baseline, information was shared. It is completely analogous to the tobacco companies. In fact, in this complaint, in our lawsuit, we lay out (inaudible) right that they recognize their vulnerability and legal liability as it relates to their deceit and lies, and they were concerned about those tobacco settlements, and they began a process of greenwashing and manipulating and lying to the American people.

BASH: A new CBS News poll shows only one third of American voters think that Joe Biden will stay in office through a second term. I know you're downplaying concerns about his age. But, do you believe that voters don't have any reason to be concerned that he would be 86- years-old by the end of his second term?

NEWSOM: Voters have every right to be concerned, but I'm -- maybe I am a little -- I remember Bobby Kennedy said it best said, what the world needs are the qualities of youth, not a time of life but a state of mind, a quality of imagination.


I mean this. -- I couldn't imagine three years ago that this President could accomplish so much in such a short period of time. I mean that. If this political season is all about a celebrity, with all due respect, we had a celebrity for four years, it didn't go well. And so, I want a seasoned pro that knows how to get things done. I'm a little old fashioned. I want a guy who produces results, and the results are in. It's been a masterclass. There is simply no administration in my lifetime that's been more effective producing more substantive results, and we haven't even started the campaign. This re-elect is just --

BASH: And do you think he is going to be able to convince the American people that he is -- has the vitality to handle a second term?

NEWSOM: It's about bringing the team together. That's his job and responsibility as the head of our party. But, it's not just about one guy or gal on the white horse. It's going to come save the day for everybody. It's a responsibility of the entire party.

BASH: One of the things that Republicans are relentless on, of course, is Hunter Biden. The House Republicans are now engaged in an impeachment inquiry.

NEWSOM: No. They are worried about gun crimes, which is remarkable. I actually --


BASH: Well, but, I want to talk about something else, which is I should say there is no evidence that Joe Biden directly benefited from anything that Hunter Biden was doing.

NEWSOM: They may want to tell the Speaker of the House.

BASH: Well, Republicans have shown that Hunter Biden, he tried to leverage his father's name, and that the President allegedly, before he was President, joined phone calls that Hunter Biden's business associates were on.


BASH: Do you see anything inappropriate there?

NEWSOM: I don't know enough about the details of that. I mean, I've seen a little of that. If that's the new criteria, there are a lot of folks in a lot of industries, not just in politics where people have family members and relationships, and they're trying to parlay and a little -- and get a little influence and benefit. In that respect, that's hardly unique. I don't love that any more than you love it or other people I imagine love that. We want to see a lot less of that. But, an impeachment inquiry, give me a break. This is student government, student government, threatening debt again or rather threatening a government shutdown again, after we went through that process with the debt ceiling. This is student government. This is a joke. Ready, fire, aim. I mean, it's a perversity with the Founding Fathers ever conceived of and imagined. So, if that's the best they can do, give me a break. That's about public opinion.


BASH: Should President Biden out there defending himself, defending the notion of what his son did or didn't do, because he has been silent on it?

NEWSOM: With respect, I can't answer that. That's for the President to answer. Why? I will say this, though, just as trying to be as objective as I can, when you have the Department of Justice, I would best advise the President not to start meddling. This was what we were criticizing during the Trump Administration. So, I know you all wanted to do something, but at the same time, we then we criticized him for getting too involved in the weeds. I think he is taking the right approach. It's tough personally for him not to be able to say more. I can imagine. Forget the politics and the day we come and go. He is a future ex-president. I expect that will happen in five plus years. But, at a personal level, this has got to be devastating to him.

BASH: You and Vice President Kamala Harris go way back?


BASH: You say that you came up together in San Francisco and knew each other.

NEWSOM: Before we were in politics.

BASH: Before you were in politics. I'm sure you saw that former Speaker, Speaker Emerita, Nancy Pelosi, she heaped praise on Kamala Harris, but she declined to say whether or not she thought that the Vice President is the best person to be on that ticket with Joe Biden in 2024. Do you?

NEWSOM: Of course she is. The Biden-Harris administration, masterclass in terms of performance, bipartisan deals on infrastructure, bipartisan deals on guns and debt ceiling, on the CHIPS and Science Act.

BASH: So, she is the best choice.

NEWSOM: I mean, by definition. If I think this administration, last two and a half years, been one of the most outstanding administrations in the last few decades. And she is a member of that administration. She gets to lay and claim credit to a lot of that success. The answer is, absolutely.

BASH: Another issue is abortion. You have probably heard more and more Republicans, including Donald Trump, who just over the weekend accused Democrats of supporting abortion rights up to and after birth. Can you be clear about --

NEWSOM: What does that mean, after birth abortion? It's made up. It's a political thing (ph).

BASH: But, can you just be clear about what limits on abortion should be?

NEWSOM: It's a political thing. People are not seeking abortion --

BASH: But, what is --

NEWSOM: -- at the --

BASH: But, what is the policy? What should it be?

NEWSOM: The policy, it's not up to Donald Trump or me. It's up to you, to women that have to bear that responsibility uniquely and distinctively. And the reality is it's a canard. It's a political frame. It total BS. And it's exactly where they need to go because they know they've gone too far on the other side.


BASH: But, there has to be some kind -- well, let me just talk about your State of California.


BASH: As you well know, there is a law in books that preceded you that says that you can have an abortion up until viability, which is about 24 weeks.

NWESOM: That's right.

BASH: Is that something that you support personally?

NEWSOM: That's in statute in the State of California. That said, there was a constitutional amendment that we placed on the ballot that has some nuance in it. And so, that's an area that's been adjudicated in public opinion, and likely will ultimately be adjudicated in the courts.

BASH: So, is it the government's role then? I know you said it is upto women.

NEWSOM: It's our role (ph) to make that decision.

BASH: So, there should be nothing on the books?

NEWSOM: This is a canard. This is a false flag. This is where they need to go in order to get out of the mess they've created, because they don't believe in fundamental choice and freedom for women. They don't. Period. Full stop. And this whole issue is a political issue. And so, with respect, I'm not surprised that Donald Trump is saying this. This is exactly what you hear every single one of them saying next week down at the Reagan Library. And at the end of the day, those examples are so extreme, so rare, when you have literally viability issues that are deeply personal and painful. Others have said it more eloquently. I have -- after you picked out the name of the baby, and then you're forced to make this terrible decision at the end of a term and to exploit that for political purposes, offense.

BASH: I just want to be clear, because people are going to be listening very carefully to what you're saying. NEWSOM: Yes.

BASH: You do not believe it is the role of government nationally or state government to have any limits on the books legally.

NEWSOM: The State of California has long believed in viability. I've long believed in viability. We went forward with a constitutional amendment that's created some questions as it relates to this. My point is, no one wants to see late, late term abortions. No one is out there promoting that. That's what the Democratic Party's position is. It's not my personal position is. In those rare and extremely rare and personal circumstances, one thing I absolutely believe, Donald Trump shouldn't be making that decision. I should not be making that decision. That's a decision for the mother, the would-be mother and for her doctor, and for whomever member of her family or priests believes that's the right thing to do. And beyond that, with all due respect, I call BS on this whole debate. It is purely a political canard.


COLLINS: And Dana Bash is here with me now. I mean, that was quite -- he was ready to answer that question on abortion. And I just think it's so notable given how -- what we've heard from Donald Trump lately, what we've heard from these other Republicans saying. Democrats think this on abortion. Democrats think this, and he said the whole debate is, whatever. What was his word there?

BASH: A canard.

COLLINS: A canard.

BASH: Yes. Look, this, since 2022, we saw what happened. The Republicans got caught flat footed when they got what they wanted the year before with Roe being overturned, and they didn't have arguments for the general election for why they thought that their position on abortion was OK. And so, what they've been trying to do ever since is say, but what about the Democrats?

In fairness, that is a question. What do the Democrats want? Because we're in a very new world. What do the Republicans want? That's been the debate within the Republican primary process. And what do the Democrats want when it comes to what clearly is state law? What should the position be? And his answer was, it's not up to us. It's not up to the governments. It's not up to Donald Trump. It's not up to me. It's up to doctors, which is something that he believes is a very, very popular position, general election.

COLLINS: Yes. He said not only should -- do I not think Donald Trump should decide, I also don't think I should decide --

BASH: Yes.

COLLINS: -- was the code that he used.

BASH: Yes. It is interesting. Look, kind of taking a step back, Kaitlan, he is -- Gavin Newsom is Governor of California. He is here in New York. He is here for the Clinton Global Initiative. He is pushing issues like climate and others, but he is trying to be as out front as he can to argue for Joe Biden, for Kamala Harris, in a way that he does --


COLLINS: So, he is not necessarily President, like some people have speculated is what --

BASH: He says he is not. He says he is not. But, we'll give a full answer in the next hour.

COLLINS: Yes. So, you have much more of this interview airing at 10. Can't wait to watch it. Fabulous job, Dana.

BASH: Thanks. Good to see you.

COLLINS: Thanks for joining us here on set in New York.

BASH: Good to see you.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, many Republicans are struggling to find their own footing on abortion in the post-Roe world, the data I was just referencing. That includes Donald Trump, who actually paved the way for Roe's reversal. We'll talk about that more, coming up.



COLLINS: Moments ago, the President himself touting his experience as rebuttal to those chronic questions about his age. He did this behind closed doors here in New York at a campaign fundraiser tonight. This is a quote from the President. This is what he told donors. He said "A lot of people seem focused on my age. Believe me. I know better than anyone", going on to use his experience as rationale for why he should be re-elected. He said "When this nation was flat on its back, I knew what to do."

Joining me now, CNN Political Commentator Jamal Simmons, and CNN Senior Political Commentator Scott Jennings. I mean, this seems to be more of a direct way of Biden taking on his age than we've ever seen him do so before. Do you believe that this is, I mean, a new version of his stump speech, because you worked inside the White House?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. This is one of these issues. Everybody is talking about it. Everybody is concerned about it. Democrats are concerned about it. Republicans are concerned about it. The President can't go around. The only way to get through this is to go through it. So, he is going to have to talk about it. He is going to have to address it. He tells people why should I do not just what you hear, what you think, why shall I get it done. He has been getting the job done. And I think the economy is going in the right direction. Inflation is going down. Wages are going up. Things are going in the right direction. The President has got to keep making the case.

COLLINS: Well, and he is basically -- the quote about being flat on its back, he is referring to Ukraine, and saying that if Trump is re- elected, he is going to cozy up to Putin, that democracy will be at risk.


Do you think that's a difficult argument for Republicans to respond to?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I don't think Republicans have to respond at all to the arguments about Joe Biden and experience and age, because the American people have already decided what they think about this. I mean, you've got massive majorities and majorities of Democrats who believe he is not up to the job today, let alone with the capacity to make it through a second term. There is a -- he must have seen a clip. You know what?

SIMMONS: Wait a minute.

JENNINGS: No, no. Let me --


SIMMONS: You get masses of Democrats.

JENNINGS: Yes. But, Joe --

SIMMONS: Does he not upto the job? That's not true.

JENNINGS: A majority --

SIMMONS: And that's the Democrats might be concerned about his age. That doesn't mean that I think that he is not upto to the job.

JENNINGS: Majorities of Democrats do not -- they believe he is too old and they don't want him to run again. Yes.

SIMMONS: But, they like the job he is doing.

JENNINGS: Do they want him to run again or not?

SIMMONS: Yes, sure. They want him to run again against Trump.

JENNINGS: So, you're lying about the polling.


COLLINS: OK. Scott, finish your point.

JENNINGS: But, the reality is, tonight, he goes into a fundraiser. You must have read what was in the Washington Post tonight, again, which a newspaper that seems to have turned on the Biden presidency, they've got a whole story tonight about Democrats all over the country being upset with the Biden re-election campaign, right? One Democrat County Chairman in Ohio said, well, you know, he is getting to the stage of life where people die. I mean, it was quite a story. And I think he must be responding to this because it's reaching the upper reaches of the Democrat Party.

COLLINS: I will say --

SIMMONS: BY the way, Trump is three years younger than the President. So, let's just --

COLLINS: And there was a moment that some people may have flagged me over the weekend where Trump said watch out, a World War Two is going to happen. Of course, it has already happened. But, I do want to sort of something else Scott said -- Scott that Trump said because this is about a really important issue for Republican voters. And Trump, obviously, is someone who appointed three Supreme Court justices. They played a key role in overturning Roe v. Wade. He is now criticizing his own party over its messaging on abortion, all the while he continues to avoid letting out a clear position of his own. He said he could negotiate a deal between Democrats and Republicans, and said that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's six-week ban is "a terrible mistake". And tonight, the Florida Governor pushed back.


RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any time he did a deal with Democrats, whether it was on budget, whether it was on the criminal justice First Step Act, they ended up taking him to the cleaner. He is going to make the Democrats happy with respect to right to life. I think all pro-lifers should know that he is preparing to sell you out.


COLLINS: That's quite a warning.

JENNINGS: Yes. Well, it strikes me Trump has come to the conclusion the primary is over, and that he can take all these Republican votes in Iowa, particularly for granted, by saying what he said about abortion over the weekend. And he is going to skip the next debate and instead go talk to these union members who voted for Biden 57 to 40 in the last election, instead of going to talk to the Republicans who are going to be watching the debate. He thinks it's over. And he thinks there is nothing that any of these other campaigns can do about it. And Iowa will be the decision point here.

Can Ron DeSantis or anybody else convince these pro-lifers that this man is transactional? He does not really share your values, and he will sell you out if he thinks that is good for him in that moment. I'm dubious. I think Republicans may have decided they just want a referendum.

COLLINS: They don't care what Trump's position on abortion is?

JENNINGS: Well, they haven't cared what his position is on a lot of things over the years. But, we'll see, because what he said this weekend, if you are truly a person who has pro-life values, was egregious and wrong and not conservative. COLLINS: I mean, he never answers the question himself. He is criticizing Republicans who don't say where they stand. This is what Trump said to me when I tried to pin him down on this question.


COLLINS: I just want to give you one more chance, though, because you did not answer whether or not you've signed a federal abortion ban, or how many weeks into pregnancy you believe abortion should be banned.


COLLINS: Can you the answer this tonight?

TRUMP: -- I gave you the answer probably four times already.

COLLINS: Which one is that?

TRUMP: I'm looking at a solution that's going to work.


COLLINS: I'm looking at a solution that's going to work.


COLLINS: What do general election voters think of an answer like that?

SIMMONS: Well, listen, this Atlantic City casino owner is becoming the worst kind of politician, sort of dealing on both sides of the deck. On one hand, he says that he wants to punish women. This is what he said before for having abortions. He said the other day, even if you have a 15-week abortion ban, that's still a federal ban. Right? So, he is going to sign a federal ban. And then, let's all remember, he is the one that appointed the three judges that got rid of Roe v. Wade. So, he is sort of like, I remember a cartoon of a little boy sitting in the middle of his room and dad walks in and the room is in mess, and the little white says, let's not get into the blame game. Right?

But, Donald Trump has made a mess of everything. He has been a mess of the economy. He made a mess of our response to the pandemic, and now he is making a mess of women's healthcare choices, whether or not women get to make decisions without the federal government and men having their say at it.

JENNINGS: This abortion question is a mess of his own making in terms of what he said over the weekend.

COLLINS: Yes. He is the one who appointed these --


COLLINS: -- three Supreme Court justices, which people seem to be conveniently ignoring.

JENNINGS: Yes. And of course, Democrats are going to make that point in next year's election. But, as it relates to the economy and the other issues you brought up, that's just simply not what the polling says. If you to ask people who they trust on these other matters, it's Donald Trump over Joe Biden right now, and it's not really all that close on the economy or many other issues.


SIMMONS: Not the people that we usually see vote in the election. What we've seen in the last few elections that have come out, since 2022, Democrats won the Senate. Democrats almost held the House. Democrats win (ph) when an abortion is put on the ballot, those things that were in Kansas, Michigan. We've seen several times. So, Democrats have a track record here. And now, we've had several special elections this year with Democrats have overperformed what they've done previously. So, we've seen a track record here of Democrats doing better when Donald Trump is the issue in elections.

COLLINS: We'll leave it there. But, this does seem to be a new kind of stump speech from President Biden. We'll see if it's one that he is using on the road. Jamal Simmons, Scott Jennings, thank you both for being here tonight.

Also tonight, a special story for you. He won a Super Bowl, and then he went to prison for 14 years. This is an alum from my alma mater, the University of Alabama. Now, he has not only turned his life around, he is remarkably changing lives in his community, and that is why he is my champion for change. We'll tell you more about Sherman Williams next.



COLLINS: This week, in a series called "Champions for Change", we are spotlighting everyday people who are making big differences in their communities. I traveled to my alma mater, the University of Alabama, to interview Sherman Williams, who went from Alabama football star to Super Bowl winning running back to prison, to then becoming a guiding hand for his community.


COLLINS: What was it like growing up here?

SHERMAN WILLIAMS, CO-FOUNDER, PALMER WILLIAMS GROUP: Tough, rough, but a built character. Just wanted to try to just make it, survive and get out. I want to state of San Francisco right here in this stadium.

COLLINS: You had a ton of records that you broke.


COLLINS: 3,000 yards?

WILLIAMS: In a single season. COLLINS: Football is everything in the south, especially in Alabama, and especially in small towns like the one where I grew up and the one where Sherman grew up in Pritchard. And it's something the entire community bases itself around. When he signed that scholarship to come to the University of Alabama, he became a football legend. Must bring back a lot of memories to be in here.

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes, championships and, you know, tradition and everything that comes along with Alabama football.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Williams in the middle, touchdown.

COLLINS: When you did that damage, you also had a dance that you did.

WILLIAMS: This Sherman shake was my signature.

COLLINS: Dance that.

WILLIAMS: You got to shake, and being the place to go with it.

COLLINS: When were you drafted?

WILLIAMS: 1995, NFL drafted 46 overall pick for the Dallas Cowboys in the second round, and went on my rookie year to win a Super Bowl.

COLLINS: He was at the top of the world, and then he got cut from the team. And that's when he got into trouble. Why were you arrested?

WILLIAMS: Distribution of conspiracy of marijuana.

COLLINS: And what was your sentence?

WILLIAMS: My overall sentence was 15 years and eight months.

COLLINS: While you were incarcerated, your mom passed away.

WILLIAMS: That was probably the most damaging thing about being incarcerated. It was also part of the motivation to move forward and be a part of change.

COLLINS: Sherman Williams was still serving his prison sentence when he had this idea for what eventually became the Palmer Williams group. And together with David Palmer, who he played football with, they wanted to start something that could reach disadvantaged youth.

WILLIAMS: When I was released from prison, it wasn't about wins and losses. That wasn't the measuring stick anymore. It was about, how many people can you help? Well, we're ready to play football. Set. Let's go. Go get him. Go get him. Go get him. Go get him.

MIKE MEARDRY, COACH, PALMER WILLIAMS GROUP: We mentor kids. They find scholarships. So, it's so much more than the sport that you're seeing today.

(CROSSTALK) AARON RANKIN, MENTEE, PALMER WILLIAMS GROUP: I do have little siblings. I'm going to be a good role model down, and (inaudible) bigger than me. I know how to do that.

WILLIAMS: Football was our initial sport. But now, we have basketball, baseball, soccer and a cheer program. We want to make sure that we are able to provide that resource to the children at no cost, because that was something that we didn't have opportunity to do as children.

COLLINS: And it's blossom even beyond sports. It's also about financial literacy, about scholarship, about entrepreneurship. Do you see yourself in those kids ever?

WILLIAMS: All the time. Maybe we could prevent some of those children from going through similar situations as myself.

COLLINS: After you were released from prison, you came back here to finish your degree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sherman C. Williams Senior.

WILLIAMS: We try to motivate children to go to college. And what better example was it for me to have a college degree. I think that the problem with -- is more dear to me now than win the Super Bowl. That is going to be the most significant purpose in my existence.


COLLINS: It was so special to go home to Alabama to Tuscaloosa and to Prichard where Sherman is from, to talk to him, to talk to his family about his story and to see how he is now pouring back into his community to get what he hoped that he had had, growing up. I want to thank his sister Juanita (ph) for having the grace to let us into her home to shoot part of that interview, also to his former teammate Antonio Langham for speaking to us about the change that he saw in his friend to the University of Alabama as well for letting us shoot that interview, and just to Sherman for sharing his story and being so open with us about it. Be sure to tune in. There are more of these stories Saturday 8 p.m. Eastern. The "Champions for Change" one-hour special will be airing right here on CNN.

Up next tonight, a story that, just kind of amazed everyone, a U.S. fighter jet so stealth that vanished in mid-air, the Pentagon was crowdsourcing help to find it.


Now, there has been a big break.


COLLINS: One of the most sophisticated fighter jets on the planet is in a trail of wreckage outside of a small town in South Carolina tonight, after more than 24 hours where the Pentagon could not find their F-35. This jet cost almost $80 million in taxpayer money. But, at one point, the Pentagon made an unusual plea, asking the public for help locate hitting it with a phone number to call if you saw it. Congresswoman Nancy Mace from South Carolina summed it up when she asked, how the hell do you lose an F-35?