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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Netanyahu: Palestinians Can Benefit From Possible Peace Deal With Saudis; Dem Sen. Bob Menendez & Wife Indicted On Corruption Charges; Nikki Haley Sharpens Attacks Against Trump, Calling Him "Thin-Skinned" And "Weak In The Knees" On Ukraine. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 22, 2023 - 21:00   ET




DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, what did you make of that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well I saw a few things, in there. One was what I call thought-terminating cliches.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just kept saying, "You'll find out. You'll find out. You'll find out."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll find out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's the kind of thing that there's no real answer to, there's no explanation needed. You can just repeat these things. And there's no way, to kind of prove or disprove, you'll find out.



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


A special one-on-one, with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who just spoke with Kaitlan Collins, about that historic deal, that may be on the horizon, with Saudi Arabia. The furor, in Israel, over his controversial judicial overhaul, his relationship with President Trump, and much more.

Plus, the bars of gold, the hidden stashes of cash, and the pressure now growing, for a top U.S. Senator, Bob Menendez, to resign, after being indicted, once again, on corruption charges.

And a State Attorney General calls the fake Trump electors, she charged, "Brainwashed." Did she undermine her own case?

I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is THE SOURCE.

Good evening, I am in for Kaitlan Collins, who sat down, with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, following his address, at the United Nations, today, and amid what could be a truly historic breakthrough, for his country.

Netanyahu telling and showing the world, earlier, what a new Middle East could look like. He says Israel is on the quote, "Cusp" of a deal, with Saudi Arabia, that would not only normalize their relations, but encourage other Arab States, to do the same, and increase prospects of peace, with Palestinians.

Netanyahu finally met, with President Biden, Wednesday, their first face-to-face meeting, since Netanyahu returned to Office. Biden had been keeping his distance, freezing the Israeli leader out, for nine months, over his government's highly controversial attempt, to overhaul Israel's democratic system, and reduce oversight of his government.

Here's Kaitlan's one-on-one with Prime Minister Netanyahu.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you, for being here. Happy New Year.


COLLINS: One of the things that you discussed, with President Biden, when you met here, in New York, was this potential deal, to normalize relations, with Saudi Arabia.

We heard from the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. He says he believes that talks are getting closer.

How close do you think that they are?

NETANYAHU: I'm going to plagiarize. I'll say that every day we get closer.

COLLINS: And how close are you today?

NETANYAHU: Closer than we were yesterday.

COLLINS: Do you feel that a deal is likely?

NETANYAHU: I think it's -- I think it's possible. I think it's likely. Because, I think, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States share a common goal, to change history, to make this quantum leap, another quantum leap for peace.

We had one, with the Abraham Accords, with the United States. And we now have an opportunity, with the United States, to change the Middle East, forever, to create not only -- not only to bring down the walls of enmity, but also, to create a corridor, of energy pipelines, railings, fiber optic cables, between Asia, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.

This is -- this is an amazing change. And I'm always careful, about these things I'd never exaggerate. I think this is a pivot of history.

COLLINS: It couldn't be pivotal. But, of course, any deal, with Saudi, would require something in exchange, for the Palestinians. What significant concessions are you willing to make to them?

NETANYAHU: I don't think it's an exchange. I think they can benefit from this peace.

And I think they made a mistake, in not joining the Abraham Accords, and just, keeping themselves out of it. I think they'd be much wiser to enter this, and see how they could be part of the process.

Part of the process doesn't mean that they have a veto power, over the process. Because if they'll have a veto power, over the process, if they had one, in the case of the Abraham Accords, we'd never have had the Abraham Accords. And we'd go for another quarter of a century without peace. So, no veto power.

COLLINS: Well that's what --

NETANYAHU: But it would benefit them.

COLLINS: -- you're not willing to do. What are you willing to do? What are you willing to give the Palestinians, specifically?

NETANYAHU: Well, these are the things that I discussed with, in discrete forums, in order to get something, a real result. It's much better to bring the entire package, at one time.

But I will say this, and I think it's important. I think that making peace, with Saudi Arabia, and basically beginning to end the Arab- Israeli conflict, will also help us, in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And I think that's what people miss out.


They think, "Oh, no, you have to first conclude the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, and then go to the Arab world," what is called the Inside-Out approach. I think it's the Outside-In approach that has a much greater chance, to end both sets of conflicts, with the Arab States and with the Palestinians.

COLLINS: But what is on the table? Is it opening the U.S. Consulate, reopening it, in East Jerusalem, for Palestinians? Is it freezing the settlements, on the West Bank, and areas that are earmarked for them? I mean, are those things that are on the table, in your view?

NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, whatever is on the table, I will not jeopardize Israel's national interests, and our security. But I also will not jeopardize success, by speaking about it publicly. Even on CNN. COLLINS: OK. So, even if you have something, in your mind, that you're not prepared to say now, that you are willing to give to the Palestinians, in order to have this deal happen, how could you get that through? How could you get your coalition government on board with that?

NETANYAHU: I think people don't understand how our system works. My coalition partners joined me. I didn't join them. And they are -- they actually get to be, when you actually look at decisions, what we actually do, they're quite eminent. They're eminently sensible. I mean, they talk a talk, which is obvious. That's what politicians always do.

COLLINS: So, they're just talking --


COLLINS: -- when your Finance Minister says, no concessions to the Palestinians?

NETANYAHU: Well, I don't want to say what we'll end up doing. But I think that when we actually come to the -- what do you -- how do you say in baseball? You step to the mat, you?

COLLINS: To the base.

NETANYAHU: To the base, whatever, OK. And we have to actually make the decisions.

And everybody sees the full package, of what it is we bring, to the State of Israel, to the Middle East, to ourselves, and our neighbors, and the world. I think there's a very good chance that everybody will go along.

COLLINS: But that's surprising, because, I mean, you hear what your Finance Minister has said, in recent days. He's previously said that the Palestinians don't even exist, as a people.

I think people have a hard time believing that you could have something, where you're giving a significant exchange, to the Palestinians, and you've also got this coalition on board, even if you say you're the one who makes the decisions, here.

NETANYAHU: Well, I just passed, to make my point, to stress the point.

I just had a Security Cabinet meeting, a few weeks ago. And I said our policy, our policy, is to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. That's the governing body, of the Palestinians, in Judea, Samaria, and the West Bank.

And we had a vote, 10 people, 10 members of the Security Cabinet. Eight voted with me. One voted against me. And one abstained. It passed. And that's my point. When you actually make the decisions, it's the mainstream decisions that ultimately went out.

And, I think, here, there'll be, if we are successful, in tackling the four or five main components, of this agreement, and I believe we can be, I think you're going to get a groundswell of support.

COLLINS: Would you be willing --

NETANYAHU: In Israel in -- on the right, on the left, and from the international community.

COLLINS: Would you be willing to blow up your coalition, essentially, to get this deal with Saudi done?

NETANYAHU: I don't think it'll require that. And I think this deal --

COLLINS: You think they'll go along with it?

NETANYAHU: Well, it's whether I'd go along with it, you know? That's the ultimate test.

COLLINS: But don't they have to come as well?

NETANYAHU: No, the ultimate test is whether I, and my quad (ph) partners, believe that this is something that serves the interests of Israel.

COLLINS: But even members, of your own party, have been skeptical of concessions, to the Palestinians.

NETANYAHU: Well it happens to be, yes, I have a democratic party, small D. I have a democratic party.

People can say what they -- they even criticize me. Can you imagine? Yes. I'm supposed to be this great dictator. They can say whatever they want. They get elected, not by me, but by 150,000 registered members of the party. They're free to do it.

But ultimately, if you look at what I've done, over the years? When I was elected, people say I'd destroy the economy. Built up an extraordinary economy, with our policy. They said, I'll destroy peace. I made four Arab -- four peace treaties, with four Arab States that nobody believed would happen.

COLLINS: But, on this deal, specifically?

NETANYAHU: They said, I'd go to war. I've been very careful, because I've suffered the slings of war. I've lost friends. I lost my brother. I've been very prudent, in the way I use Military force.

And I think that -- but decisive when I have to. I think I can -- if we overcome these obstacles, and I don't want to minimize them, but if we do, if I do? Then I think, yes, I think I'll carry my Coalition, and the country with it.

COLLINS: Well, let's talk about this deal. Would you be OK with the Saudis, enriching uranium?

NETANYAHU: I think that there are major issues there. It's a very complex problem (ph).

COLLINS: So, you would not be OK with that?

NETANYAHU: So, I think that what would happen is that we would not do anything, in any way, that would jeopardize Israel's security.


And, on this, I have to tell you, that I stand shoulder-to-shoulder, with President Biden. We have -- Israel and America have no daylight between them on this. There's also an American law, on this matter. So, this is something that we stand on, very strongly, what we can do, and what we cannot do. And we have no qualms about either side of it.

COLLINS: OK. That sounds like a no. But meet -- you mentioned President Biden. After your meeting with him, this week, the White House said that he quote, "Reiterated his concern about any fundamental changes to Israel's democratic system, absent the broadest possible consensus."

How can you deny the damage that your push, for this judicial reform, is doing, to Israeli-U.S. relations?

NETANYAHU: Well, I think the damage is not the reform. It's the way the reform is mis-presented. So, it's some kind of collapse of democracy, when we're all -- all we're talking about is -- you know what? We're really talking about is how we choose judges.

Now, in America, the elected officials, your politicians, choose judges that have to be confirmed by your Parliament, by the Congress. In Israel, they say that if that happens, there'll be a collapse of democracy, let's say.

COLLINS: You think the White House misunderstands what you're proposing?

NETANYAHU: Well, I hope they understand it better now, after this discussion. But I think the discussion has been crazy. I mean, it's been completely off the rails.

COLLINS: I mean, it took -- it took -- we've never seen it, take this long, for an Israeli Prime Minister, to meet with a U.S. President. And that meeting didn't even happen, at the White House. It happened here, on the sidelines, of the U.N. summit. It's very clear that they are concerned with this reform.

NETANYAHU: Well, they don't hide it. And I don't hide the fact that they do it. But ultimately, it's our democratic decision, which will be prudent and responsible.

But I can tell you, yes, it took nine months. But the meeting was borne, and was a very good meeting. It was a very good meeting, and I think can lead to a successful outcome.

COLLINS: The Supreme Court is obviously considering parts of that judicial overhaul. Can you say that you are willing to abide by, whatever it is, that the Supreme Court decides? NETANYAHU: I think we should abide by the Supreme Court rulings. And the Supreme Court should abide, by the basic laws that the Knesset legislates. I think we should keep both sides of this basic bargain of democracy.

COLLINS: That's not a yes or a no.

NETANYAHU: That's the right answer.

COLLINS: Will you abide by this decision related to this reform, specifically?

NETANYAHU: I want to have us continue to abide by the Supreme Court rulings. And I want the Supreme Court to continue to abide by the basic laws. And that's, I think, the correct balance.

COLLINS: I think it's really notable that you won't answer this question. You wouldn't answer it to Wolf Blitzer. You're not answering.


COLLINS: And it's a yes or no question.

NETANYAHU: Well, it's a yes or no question, if you also answered the other part. And we haven't answered it. I hope we don't get to that. I don't think we should get to it.

COLLINS: But if they rule tomorrow, what do you do?

NETANYAHU: Well, let's hope that we both do the prudent thing, and remain, in the basic principles, that guide our democracy. In a democracy, no one power has absolute power over the other powers. In Israel, the Supreme Court has all the checks but no balance. And it's important to have some kind of balance.

COLLINS: But it's the only check on your coalition, you and your coalition.

NETANYAHU: No, it's not. It's not. That's not true.

COLLINS: What are the other checks?

NETANYAHU: Well, they can cancel a lot of laws. But they -- do they have the power? And do they have the count -- the power to cancel basic laws?

COLLINS: But it's so interesting, this argument you're making. Because, I looked this up. It's not like they kind of use this all the time that they strike down a lot of laws. I think it's only happened 22 or so times ever.

NETANYAHU: Yes. Well, that's a lot. In Britain (ph) --

COLLINS: Since 1997, they've only done it 22 times. NETANYAHU: Yes, but they also issued a decision, which empowers the Attorney General, to knock down any decision, made by the government. Any decision made by the government.

Can you imagine a system, where the Supreme Court tells the Attorney General of the United States, who could pass, from one administration, to the next, that you can strike down any decision made by the President?

COLLINS: There are more checks and balances in the U.S.

NETANYAHU: No, no, no, no, no, just been of checks and balances. Can you imagine this? And of course not. No country, in no democracy, on the planet, you have such powers, for the judiciary, either directly, or through their representative, in the Attorney General, the Legal Adviser of the government. In Israel, the Legal Adviser of the government doesn't advise.

COLLINS: OK. I just think it's notable --

NETANYAHU: They dissolve (ph).

COLLINS: -- that you're not saying yes or no.

But I do want to ask about one other thing.


KEILAR: That one other thing is about former President Trump, who, you may remember, cursed out Netanyahu, for congratulating President Biden, on his victory. So, have they talked?

Also ahead, very serious new bribery charges, against the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his wife. The stunning evidence, bars of gold, hundreds of thousands in cash, some of it stashed, in the Senator's windbreakers.



KEILAR: Back now, with more of Kaitlan Collins, a special interview, with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Prime Minister and former President, Donald Trump, were, of course, once close allies. But what is the status of their relationship now?


COLLINS: When was the last time, you spoke to former President, Donald Trump?

NETANYAHU: I got a note from him, a few months ago, when I won the election.

COLLINS: What did it say?

NETANYAHU: Congratulations.

COLLINS: And he --

NETANYAHU: When I won the election.

COLLINS: He criticized you, in an interview, with Barak Ravid, of Axios. He said that he felt you were disloyal to him, because you called to congratulate President Biden, on his victory. I mean, he used an expletive.

What would you say is the status of your relationship?

NETANYAHU: I appreciate what the President did -- what President Trump did. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He recognized our sovereignty, over the Golan Heights. He went out of what I thought was a disastrous Iran agreement. He did these and other things --

COLLINS: So those comments don't bother you?

NETANYAHU: I've been long enough, in the political life, to look -- to put aside, the periodic ebb and flow of emotion, and to look at the substantive positions that leaders and allies have done. And I respect what was done, and I appreciate it. So yes, I don't particularly care for that. I mean, I don't care about it, is the way, I would say.

COLLINS: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you, for your time, today. Happy New Year.

NETANYAHU: Thank you. Thank you.

COLLINS: Shana Tovah.

NETANYAHU: Shana Tovah. Thank you.


KEILAR: And I'm joined now by Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy Columnist, for The Washington Post.

A lot of fascinating stuff, there. But let's start with this potential Saudi deal. He's talking about getting to what he called this, quantum leap. Netanyahu, of course, would have to give something up. Kaitlan pressed him on that. He wasn't going to give on it.

But what would that be?


JOSH ROGIN, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Right. To be sure, there is a lot of upside, in a potential U.S.-Israel-Saudi Arabia deal. But there's no way that's going to happen, without significant -- some significant concessions, on the Israeli side. On the Palestinians, and, as you saw, Kaitlan Collins pressed him very, very hard. And he wouldn't admit, even one that he would really consider. And that's a big problem.

And you have to, again, match that with what you see, on the ground, which is that Netanyahu's far-right coalition is expanding settlements, and those settlers are perpetrating violence, on Palestinians. And that doesn't really create the conditions, for a real good deal that makes the Palestinians feel like they're getting something, so.

KEILAR: And that's not just a matter of him keeping his powder dry, and keeping it behind closed doors?

ROGIN: To be sure, there's an element of negotiation. But everybody knows what the gaps are, on the Uranium enrichment that Kaitlan pointed out, on the Palestinian issue. There are a lot of them.

And he was pretty clear. He didn't say it outright. But he was pretty clear that he doesn't want Saudi Arabia, to have Uranium enrichment. Well, how's MBS going to deal with that?

So, it's really easy to get to this stage. To get to the deal is going to be really hard. I think they all have a political incentive, actually, to talk about this. It distracts from the things that are going on, at home, for both Netanyahu and MBS. It keeps Biden in the box a little bit. It's hard for him to criticize those two guys, while they're dealing.

KEILAR: You think it's just a big shiny thing?

ROGIN: I think there could be a situation, and I hope this is not true, where they dangle this, in front of Biden.

And then, as the election gets closer, here comes President Trump, their friend, their buddy, the one that they're giving, that MBS is giving $2 billion, to his son-in-law, the one that President -- that Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly prefers.

And if you get closer to that election, if you are those two guys, would you give this huge win, to President Biden? Or do you wait to see maybe Trump's going to come back? And so, I think the closer we get to the election, actually, the heart of the deal gets to -- is to get, frankly.

KEILAR: He did dangle it. And they spoke about it. Here's what Biden and Netanyahu said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If you and I, 10 years ago, were talking about normalization with Saudi Arabia, and -- and I think we'd look at each other like, "Who's been drinking what?" But we -- we're --

NETANYAHU: Good Irish whiskey. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Interesting moment.

But when you see the protests, that have been happening, in Israel, over his judicial reforms, did answers that he gave to Kaitlan, give you any reason, to think he's listening to the concerns, of his people, that he's listening to leaders, like President Biden, that on this issue, that they're so concerned about?

ROGIN: He's clearly listening. And he clearly doesn't care about those concerns. He's clearly rejecting those concerns, and doubling down on his plans. And there's no sign that he's going to slow down now.

I think, to be honest, what the White House is pushing for is, for that the Netanyahu coalition to reach a consensus, with the opposition, where they can move past this. I think that's a worthy goal, actually. I think there's a possibility that that could happen.

But based on the answers that he gave to Kaitlan? And she pressed him pretty hard, very hard, actually. No, he didn't show any give at all. And in fact, the signal you would have to get, from that interview, is that they're going to go full speed ahead. And it makes sense, from a domestic position, why they would do that, because now is when they have the chance to do it.

So, I think, that, again, it's improving U.S.-Israel relations is necessarily a good thing. But it's not going to change Biden's idea that Netanyahu is a threat to democracy, in Israel. And it's not going to change Netanyahu's idea that Biden is a threat to his political standing. And that's, those two old gentlemen, who have known each other, for 50 years. They like each other. But they're fundamentally opposed. And that's not going to change.

KEILAR: Yes, we definitely saw that.

Josh, thank you. Great to have you.

And to the stunning second indictment, of a U.S. Senator. And not just any senator here. We're talking about the Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Bob Menendez, facing bribery charges, again.

And the evidence is jaw-dropping here. We're talking, look, wads of cash, hunks of gold, a Mercedes-Benz. What were these in exchange for? We have that next.



KEILAR: Tonight, Senator Bob Menendez says he is not going anywhere, as calls for him to resign grow louder within his own party.

The New Jersey Democrat was charged, today, with corruption-related offenses, for the second time, in 10 years. The shocking new indictment accuses him, and his wife, of a bold bribery and corruption scheme. It says they accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars, in bribes, in exchange for the Senator's influence, both at home and abroad.

Federal investigators say they found a veritable treasure trove, in his home. Gold bars worth more than $100,000; a Mercedes-Benz convertible; and about half a million dollars in cash, hidden in envelopes, and even in a jacket, embroidered with the Senator's name.

The Democratic Governor of New Jersey says the alleged facts are so serious. He's joining a growing number of Menendez's Democratic lawmakers, from New Jersey, who are calling, on the Senator, to resign.

Now, the Senator, who is up for reelection next year, said "It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere."

Paula Reid is with us now, on this story.

I think what people are judging is the gold bars, the wads of cash, and also very importantly, this email traffic that aligns with some policy decisions, that the Senator was involved in, as the Chairman of the very powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Walk us through some of what he is alleged to have done here.

And we should also mention that he is temporarily stepping down, from that position, according to Leader Schumer.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly serious accusations, here.

They allege that he was advocating, on behalf of Egypt. For example, he allegedly ghost wrote a letter to other senators, advocating for more aid for Egypt.


He also and perhaps most seriously, allegedly shared sensitive information, with Egypt, about U.S. embassy personnel. Now, in exchange for this, in part, his wife allegedly received a no-show job.

But the fact that he may have been advocating, on behalf of a foreign government, perhaps against U.S. interests, is an incredibly serious charge, to be levied, against a U.S. lawmaker.

KEILAR: What else stood out to you in what was nearly a 40-page indictment here?

REID: So, in addition to what's going on here, allegedly, with Egypt, just how brazen this was, especially from a lawmaker, who just a few years ago, was charged with corruption.

And though that did not end with a conviction, it's just incredible to me that following that experience, really immediately, following the acquittal, on that particular set of charges, he is engaging in this. He has wads of cash, in a jacket, in his house, with his name on it, right? His wife's driving around in this incredibly expensive luxury car.

It's been interesting over the past eight to 10 or so years of covering these kinds of cases, you expect that people, who go through something like that, especially someone who's a U.S. lawmaker? You're under scrutiny for everything in your life. You would expect those people would be more discreet, if they were going to engage in this kind of behavior, or maybe not engage in this kind of behavior.

But this, I've seen this again, and again. People are somehow inexplicably emboldened.

KEILAR: He was Googling how much is one kilo of gold worth, right? There are emails, where he's saying "Delete this email." I mean, there is very importantly this kind of email and digital paper trail, or digital trail, I should say.

REID: What is that? Is that generational? Am I the only person who worries about what you --

KEILAR: It's not -- it's not how you do it.

REID: -- what you email, or what happens to your search history?

Again, this is a sitting U.S. Senator, someone, who has been charged, with crimes, to leave this kind of trail, for federal prosecutors is, I think, more of a -- almost a psychology question than a legal question.

KEILAR: In both cases, we should mention, because this isn't his first brush with the law.

In 2015, just to remind people, he faced conspiracy and bribery charges. Prosecutors then alleged that he'd accepted more than $600,000, in political contributions, a luxurious hotel suite, at the Park Hyatt in Paris, free rides in a private jet, from a wealthy ophthalmologist, all in exchange for political favors.

Both of these cases, he's defending his actions, as part of the normal business, of a Senator. How does that ring to you?

REID: So, the problem he has here?

The previous set of charges, obviously similar allegations of you receive money, or gifts, in exchange for political favors.

Here, you have some of that with these allegations that he was trying to help some associates, influence the selection of a U.S. attorney. You can see a good defense attorney perhaps successfully advocating, on your behalf.

But then, you get to this alleged conduct, related to Egypt. And there is no ordinary course of business, where you share sensitive information, about U.S. embassy personnel, as part of your job, as a lawmaker.

But legally speaking, I mean, the Supreme Court has made this a little more difficult, for federal prosecutors.

We remember, the former Governor of Virginia, who was convicted, on corruption charges. I covered that trial, watched it go through, up to the Supreme Court. They overturned that conviction, where some of the facts were a little bit similar, right? He was receiving certain gifts, allowed to borrow a sports car, in exchange for political favors.

And what the Supreme Court warned against, in overturning that conviction, is they said, look, prosecutors can't draw, too broad a circle, around what constitutes official duties. I mean, some of this is just politics.

But here, in this case, the allegations against Senator Menendez, here, particularly, when it comes to Egypt, and a foreign government, it is hard to square how that is in any way, part of the ordinary course of business.

KEILAR: Very interesting, to continue to watch, here.

REID: Indeed.

KEILAR: Paula Reid, thank you so much. We do appreciate it.

It will be history in the making. A sitting U.S. President, about to join striking autoworkers, on the picket lines, as the walkout against the Big Three automakers, expands. What that moment will mean? Ahead.



KEILAR: It is looking like history in the making, next week, President Biden announcing plans, to stand on the picket line, with members of the United Auto Workers Union, in Michigan, as they strike against the Big Three automakers. It will be one of the most significant displays of support, for striking workers, ever made, by a sitting president.

UAW President, Shawn Fain, invited Biden, to join them, after announcing the Union is broadening its strike, against General Motors, and Stellantis, while talks with Ford progress.

Now, we should note the UAW has yet to back a presidential candidate, even though they endorsed Biden, back in 2020.

Joining us now to discuss, we have Kate Bedingfield, former White House Communications Director; and Alice Stewart, Republican strategist and former Communications Director, for Ted Cruz.

So Kate, we should note, early September, Biden says he doesn't think that a strike will happen.

The UAW President, Shawn Fain, he sure did not like that. Now, he is going to be the first sitting President ever, to do what he's going to do, on Tuesday. Is he making up for misstep? And do you think that this is going to get him the endorsement of the Union?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, remember, the cardinal rule of communications is show, don't tell.

So essentially, what Biden, and the White, House is doing here is finding a backdrop. It gives him the opportunity, to talk about all of the things that he's done, to make people's lives better, to make working people's lives better. But to do it in a dynamic way, where the visual is obvious, it's clear.

Whether this gets him the Union's endorsement? We'll see. I certainly couldn't prejudge that. But he got the endorsement in 2020. Obviously, he has put forth a first term first -- few years of the first term that have done a lot, for working people. He's going to spend a lot of time, reinforcing that over the coming weeks. So, we'll see if he ultimately gets the endorsement. But he certainly got it in 2020.

KEILAR: It's going to be a very fascinating week, with Trump there as well. He, a day ahead of Biden, he's going to be speaking to Union workers.


What does he need to say, to convince them? And I say this. Convince them, that he is not part of the "Billionaire class" that enriches itself at the expense of workers, as Shawn Fain described Trump. He said some harsh words for the former President.

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TED CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Look, I fully expect the former President Trump, to go there, and not say anything. Really, he's going to take every side of this issue, and really not commit to anything. He's not going to -- he's not going to fully endorse the Union. He is not going to fully support the workers.

I expect him, more than anything, to make this more about Joe Biden, and the policies the administration has, for electrical vehicles, and how that is the death knell, of the automotive industry, and how electrical vehicles are putting people out of work. I expect that to be more of his messaging. But he's going to come away saying, "I'm out there for the working man."

The reality is, Joe Biden, this President has to go there. He has said he is the most pro-Union president. He has to, to Kate's point, in terms of, whatever -- when you say it, you have to do it. So he has to.

But many Republicans, and those who support free markets, and private sector, look at this. This is a private sector issue. We can all agree the company heads, the CEOs, and the pay disparity is tremendous, between them and those working, on the factory -- on the factory floor. But this is a private sector matter, many Republicans feel. And a lot of the GOP candidates are saying so. And if there's a problem here, there should be the shareholders in there, pressuring the CEOs, to take action. And Republicans just are not in support of what the Union's getting, in between negotiating with workers and the corporate CEOs.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, sort of, to Alice's point here. The other thing that the President is doing, by going on Tuesday, the day before Trump goes, is sort of kneecapping Donald Trump, here. I mean, he's sort of forcing Donald Trump, to respond to him.

He's ensuring that he's going to set the tenor of the coverage, for the two days, where he and Donald Trump are there. And that contrast, I would imagine the campaign, the Biden campaign, I should say, things will be very favorable for them.

KEILAR: In the meantime, Trump's GOP rivals, they are increasingly looking for ways, to break out. You have Nikki Haley, who is notably doing this, by ramping up attacks on Trump. She was actually asked about how he might be remembered, 10 years from now, and this is what she said.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was thin-skinned and easily distracted.

He didn't do anything on fiscal policy.

Weak in the knees when it comes to Ukraine.

A terrible thing happened, on January 6th, and he called it a beautiful day. And in the eyes of America, it was a terrible day.


KEILAR: All right, I mean, it sets her aside, for sure. Does it help her? Does it hurt her?

STEWART: I think it does help. Look, she goes on to say Donald Trump has thin skin, and he's easily distracted. All of those things, everything she says is completely accurate.

A lot of these GOP candidates are recognizing the fact now you got to go through Donald Trump, to get to President Biden. You have to. And this tiptoeing around him and this doing everything you can, to not piss off his base, isn't working.

And the difference between, where Donald Trump is, and the rest of the field is getting larger. So, they have to retool their strategy, and have to go after him. And she's doing so, in a way that is factually accurate.

She's also blaming him in part, for the debt crisis that we're having, and speaking honestly, to the GOP voters, and the American people, about Trump's role, in the economy. And she's also speaking truthful about abortion issue, and the foreign policy issues.

But many of them are going to realize -- and I've talked to several of the campaigns. On that debate stage, next week, there's going to be a lot more arrows, at Donald Trump, than there have been, in the past.

KEILAR: Is it too late, though? What do you think?

BEDINGFIELD: Look, I want to believe that helps her. I'm not sure I see a lot of evidence that within the Republican voting base that it's going to help her. We've continued to see, as Alice said, we've continued to see Donald Trump extend his lead.

I think, certainly for history, she's on the right side. Nothing she said I disagree with.

But I think the problem that the Republican Party has, is that Donald Trump has an almost cult-like, a cult of personality style lock, on their voters. And they're not interested in hearing facts. I mean, they're -- most of his voters argue that he won the 2020 election, fair and square.

So, they don't -- they have not yet shown that they're open, to this kind of argument, although I certainly applaud Nikki Haley for making it. And I think that history will look kindly on her, for calling it out.

KEILAR: Maybe it's about how she'll be seen in 10 years or 30 years, you know?

So, the latest CNN/University of New Hampshire poll is pretty interesting, because it shows this stubbornness, that we're seeing, among Republican voters.

There are hypothetical match-ups, between Biden and other non-Trump Republican nominee -- candidates. And what it showed was a substantial number of voters, essentially ordered off menu. They wrote in Trump, still, as their pick. For instance, in this poll, of Christie versus Biden, 16 percent told us they would still choose Trump.

OK. He's not on the menu. But they are still choosing him. What do you guys make of this?


STEWART: Look, they clearly -- a lot of Republicans, in New Hampshire, they're supporters of Donald Trump. And we're seeing that in the head- to-head match-up, on our CNN poll. Head-to-head Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, actually Biden is doing better, in this one. He's up 52, and Trump's at 40. But Trump is the best of the GOP candidates, in New Hampshire.

And people, in New Hampshire, are pretty set in their ways. But as we get closer, to the first-in-the-nation primary, they're still window- shopping. They're still looking. They're still going to make up their mind. And more people are going to go out, into New Hampshire, do that retail politics and change minds. And I expect those numbers, in terms of these candidates, against Donald Trump, is going to tighten up, between now and then.

BEDINGFIELD: It's a reminder, also, just generally, of the fervor, around Donald Trump. So, you see, of course, people are willing to write in, and they're essentially desperate to say, "I will not support anybody but Donald Trump."

But remember, he also engenders that kind of energy, going the other way. He fires up the Democratic base. He's also really off-putting to a lot of Independents, who may genuinely be deciding how they're going to vote, this election. So, I think, to me, that's actually the most interesting thing about this is it just is such a reminder that he energizes voters, in a way nobody else does.

KEILAR: Yes. Very good point.

Kate, Alice, thank you so much to both of you. We appreciate it.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having us.

STEWART: Thank you.

KEILAR: Ahead, they haven't yet gone to trial. But the Attorney General, prosecuting 16 fake electors, for Donald Trump, in Michigan, is bad-mouthing the defendants.


DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: The problem is, these are people who have been brainwashed.


KEILAR: So, will that hurt her case? Next.



KEILAR: The Michigan Attorney General, on camera, doing something you almost never see a prosecutor doing, talking about the people she's prosecuting.

The Democrat, Dana Nessel, made these comments, in a virtual event, with liberal activists.


NESSEL: The problem is, these are people who have been brainwashed.


KEILAR: Well "These" are the 16 people that she called "Brainwashed." They were the fake electors, Donald Trump wanted to lie and say he won the Michigan -- he say he wanted to win Michigan -- wanted to say that he won Michigan, in 2020. Now, Nessel's office is trying to convict each of them, on eight felony counts. And legal experts say she may have made that harder with comments like this.


NESSEL: How do you flip someone who concedes that they did everything that they're accused of doing, but what they say is, 'We believe that we were in the right. We think that Donald Trump is the real winner of the election.'

They can't admit that what they did violated the law, because they still think they're right.


KEILAR: I'm joined now by former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu.

Shan, why is the Attorney General speaking, about a case, an active case, at a political event?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, she shouldn't be speaking about it at the political event. Seems like this is a careless mistake, classic, unforced error. Ultimately, I don't think substantively it will tank the case.

It certainly does hand some ammunition, to the defense team, to make some hay with. They can argue that she's showing some bias. She may be tainting the jury pool, potentially.

And most importantly, of course, the use of that term, "Brainwashed" plays right into the defense counsel's likely argument, that there is no criminal intent. They were just following orders. They genuinely believed what they were doing was correct.

So, she has created some issues for herself.

KEILAR: Well, that's exactly right. Because it's so important, right, that they would know that they are breaking the law. And to that point, maybe someone, who's brainwashed doesn't know that.

WU: That's exactly right. And there's just -- I mean, the other problem with what she's saying is, obviously, it's insulting, it's disparaging, prosecutors aren't supposed to do that.

But just as you're saying, on the substantive point, how are you going to be arguing on the one hand that they formed this criminal intent, they knew it was wrong, and they wanted to do the crime, when on the other hand, you're also saying that, frankly, they don't have the mental capacity, to figure out right from wrong. So, that that's what the issue is.

KEILAR: So, there's a hearing early next month, on a motion, to dismiss the charges. Any chance that defense attorneys do not bring this up there? WU: Zero chance they do not bring it up. I'm sure they'll bring it up. And that's -- I don't think they're ultimately going to make too much hay with it. But that is an argument that she has now created for them, absolutely.

KEILAR: OK. So, there was also this part, where Nessel was touting the jury pool, for the upcoming case.


NESSEL: Ingham County, where Lansing is located, is a very, very Democratic-leaning county. But I worry that there will be people who just won't care that they clearly violated the law, because they believe that the ends justify the means, and that, you know, it's OK to do as long as the end game is getting this autocrat into office.


KEILAR: Should she be commenting on stuff like that?

WU: No, she shouldn't. That is much more clearly, potentially, tainting the jury pool. She's talking about the potential jurors, which leanings they may have, to the left, or to the right. And that's problematic. She really should not be doing that.

KEILAR: All right. Shan, thank you so much, always insightful. Shan Wu.

WU: Good to see you.

KEILAR: So next, an incredible 9-1-1 call, after a Military pilot ejects, from an American fighter jet that the Pentagon initially could not find. Where that pilot ended up, and the doomed plane?



KEILAR: A 9-1-1 call, so crazy, that even the emergency dispatcher was left asking, "What?"

New audio reveals the extraordinary moment that first responders learned, an F-35 pilot ejected from his plane, and parachuted into a South Carolina backyard, earlier this week.


OPERATOR: I'm sorry, what happened?

HOMEOWNER: We got a pilot in the house. And I guess he landed in my backyard.

PILOT: Ma'am, a military jet crashed. I'm the pilot. We need to get rescue rolling. I'm not sure where the airplane is.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So, it would take more than a full day, to find where that $100 million aircraft went down. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

And some good news, for you, tonight. A 2-year-old girl is back safe, with her family, after Police said she walked barefoot, three miles, into the woods, with two family dogs.

Michigan State Police put out requests, for drones, search and rescue, and canine teams. Neighbors formed a search party.

And she was found, sleeping off a wooded trail, using one of the dogs, as a pillow.

Police reportedly said, the second dog, a Rottweiler, was in quote, "Guardian mode."

And isn't she just so preciously cute? We're so happy that she's fine.

And thank you so much, for joining us.

"CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip starts now.