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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Biden Ad Labels Trump "Convicted Criminal" For First Time; Maryland Gov. Pardons 175,000 Marijuana Convictions; Putin Heads To North Korea Seeking Weapons For Ukraine War. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 17, 2024 - 21:00   ET



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Satellite images have indicated the size of that in the main Square in the center of the North Korean capital. And so that's something that we're going to be kind of watching very closely.

But I think the most interesting stuff that's going to be decided, is the stuff that's not going to be made public, the stuff that's going to be agreed behind-the-scenes, things like ammunition supplies in the future, from North Korean factories, to Russian troops on the frontline, in Ukraine, and, of course, what North Korea will get in return for that.

Would it be assistance with technological help, with their missile or even their nuclear program? That's certainly the big concern, in the United States, and elsewhere, about this burgeoning relationship, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Matthew Chance, thank you.

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


The message and the payback mission. Why both campaigns are focusing on the same issue? But a new message from a Trump ally, who is two weeks away from reporting to prison.

And pardon the interruption. But there is a big news, tonight, from headline, from a rising star in Democratic politics, and one of the most sweeping acts of clemency that we've ever seen.

Plus, Vladimir Putin in North Korea. A pair of nuclear-armed pariahs are meeting face-to-face, in one of the most secretive places on the planet. What Putin needs that Kim Jong Un has.

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

Tonight, we are just 10 days away, it's hard to believe it, from the first 2024 presidential debate, right here on CNN. And it is becoming clearer tonight what both campaigns see as the central issue of this race. And both seem to think that focusing on Donald Trump's legal drama actually works to their benefit. Case in point, this television ad that the Biden campaign just dropped $50 million on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This election is between a convicted criminal, who's only out for himself. And a President, who's fighting for your family.


COLLINS: Remember, when the Biden team was treading very carefully around Trump's trial? Well, you can throw that out the window tonight.

Because now, the image that is front and center in that new ad, when it notes that the presumptive Republican nominee is indeed a convicted criminal, is Trump's Georgia mug shot.

That would be the very same mug shot that Trump himself is now handing out of swag, before friendly interviews.


MIKE MAJLAK, AUTHOR: Is this -- is this your mug shot?



TRUMP: This is what we're reduced to.


PAUL: No way. No way.

MAJLAK: Should we put them on now?

TRUMP: Yes. Isn't it--

PAUL: You know that's--

TRUMP: Isn't it crazy though?

MAJLAK: That's amazing.

TRUMP: And it sells.


COLLINS: It's almost like a Rorschach test for voters. Do you see Trump, the convicted criminal? Or do you see Trump, the persecuted former President?

Tonight, the Biden team, their claim that Trump is out only for himself, in this campaign, is coming as what we are hearing from one of the loudest voices, in right-wing media, Steve Bannon, vowing that it is not a question of if, but when Donald Trump will go after those who prosecuted him.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: November 5th is judgment day. January 20th, 2025, is accountability day.

We're going to get every single receipt. And to the fullest extension of the law, you are going to be investigated, prosecuted and incarcerated.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's very simple. Victory or death.


COLLINS: "Victory or death."

If there was any doubt, in anyone's mind, about whether or not Donald Trump is still in touch with his former Chief Strategist in the White House, who was abruptly fired, at one point, and had pretty frosty relations with Trump, but is now set to report to prison in just two weeks? Look at what happened today.


BANNON: So Kari, hang on for one second. I got a -- I got a call from someone I got to take. Just hang on.


BANNON: Hey, Mr. President. I'm live on TV. Can I call you back?

I'll call you back, sir. Thank you.

Kari, go ahead, continue on. Your favorite person.


COLLINS: Joining me, tonight, at the table, my top political sources.

CNN Political Commentator, and former Trump White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

And Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky.

And former New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, as well.

Glad to have all of you here.

But Alyssa, just hearing that, that moment there at the end, before Trump was calling Steve Bannon on his podcast, where he was talking about what this revenge tour is going to look like.

And his quote was that everyone is going to be investigated, prosecuted and incarcerated, specifically naming top officials of the DOJ, or people like the Special Counsel, Jack Smith.

What did you make of that as someone who used to work with Steve Bannon?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, listen, Donald Trump's made clear that a second term is going to be about rage and retribution. He's laid out who he's going to go after.


Now, Steve Bannon is this figure, who was very close, early, in the first Trump administration, was on the outs, and is back on the inside.

And he's one of these outside voices that I think Trump sees as sort of a litmus test. He gauges him as somebody who knows what his base wants, and he packs an incredible amount of influence. So, when I see him, out there, saying things like "Victory or death," that's scary stuff that should be heeded.

Now, I would mention it's a terrible general election argument. Any normal American watching that is like, what am I watching? But to his core base that Trump is very beholden to, and he's going to govern in favor of, this is the person who has his finger on their pulse that he's going to listen to.

COLLINS: Mayor, I mean, what do you -- what goes through your mind when you hear that?

BILL DE BLASIO, (D) FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Besides the fact it's deeply troubling, it's un-American, it's undemocratic. What goes through my mind electorally is it's -- that's an advertisement, to moderate American voters, to swing voters, particularly in the suburbs, to run away from Donald Trump.

I think it's a really interesting juxtaposition with Steve Bannon's de facto advertisement, and Joe Biden's actual advertisement, reminding people that Trump's now a convicted criminal. The two send the same message ultimately, that Trump is so far outside the American mainstream.

And I do believe that those moderate suburban voters, in the end, are going to say, we do not want a country that's going out of control, in terms of losing track of democracy, enemies lists, people being arrested because of their politics. That's not America.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, but Julie, when you see that contrast of both campaigns using Trump's mug shot?


COLLINS: Both believing it's politically beneficial for them? I mean, that's quite a moment.

ROGINSKY: It's a moment. And I think, to the point that the Mayor made, people are tired of the drama, right? Like, people sit around at home, and they think about how to put their kids through college, how to -- how to make -- pay for groceries, how to pay for gas.

They don't just sit around thinking, I need a president, who's going to go after Lisa Monaco, whoever she may be, right?




ROGINSKY: A name that's not familiar to any of them, with all due respect to Lisa Monaco.

But so, if you're an average American sitting around, you're thinking about who's going to be actually looking out for me. And you may like or not like the President. But you certainly don't like what you're hearing from the Trump campaign, which is that he's going to go after people you've never even heard of, rather than focusing on things that actually affect you.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But can I say what I do think is effective, and shouldn't be slept on is Donald Trump is trying to reach some of these new environments.

Going and sitting down with Jake Paul, someone who -- that is not someone who's going to get you general election votes. But young men, who maybe have never voted in election before, don't have political inclinations, they're like, oh, he's cool. I follow him. He has tens of millions of followers across his platforms. And he's sitting down with him.

That is something that in some ways I would have expected Obama to do, 10 years ago. And I feel like Trump is trying to meet young male voters, where no one else is meeting them. And that's something to keep an eye on. TikTok as well.

COLLINS: Well, and the other interesting thing is sometimes people say, oh, these people who talk are maybe freelancing, or they're not actually in touch with Donald Trump.

I mean, Trump clearly called Steve Bannon. He very clearly wanted to show that.

And it does raise the point, though. Steve Bannon is reporting to prison, in two weeks. And this podcast that he has, this loud voice, in right -- in the right-wing base is going to disappear for four months.

DE BLASIO: And every bit matters, right? I mean, he is one of the great organizers of the Trump project. So, him being out of the commission, just when he's needed, that means something. But I also would remind us all. I mean, all of this adds up, in the political mind of voters, in those last weeks before the election. And again, I think if what they are seeing is this kind of obsessive focus on revenge, this obsessive focus on like settling scores, and it's all so personal to Trump. I do think that turns them off in the end.

And I hear the point about the Trump campaign having some game. They do. They're going some interesting places. But the problem is the message never changes.

So, if you go to younger voters, for example, and they're saying they're going to Black and Latino voters, but the message is, I want revenge, you know? Or the message is I'm going to give tax cuts to the wealthy? Or I'm so proud, I took away a woman's right to choose? It doesn't matter if you go into new audience, if it's a message they don't like.

COLLINS: But what about how the Biden campaign is leaning into this, and using Trump's mug shot? I mean, there's no basis to the claims that Trump's allies make about Biden orchestrating all of these prosecutions.


COLLINS: But what do you make of them actually using his mug shot in the ad, and kind of leaning into it in a way that they were not two months ago?

ROGINSKY: I'm not sure why they weren't two months ago. Well, I guess he wasn't a convicted felon two months ago, as they didn't want to put their finger on the scale.

But now that he is a convicted felon, why not talk about it? This is crazy, bizarro world, we're living in, where a major party has nominated, or is about to nominate, as their standard-bearer, a convicted felon.

And if people just pause for a second, and think about that, that you might have a President of the United States, who has been convicted on 34 criminal counts? And if that actually penetrates people to the point where the Biden administration -- sorry, the Biden campaign is trying to do that? That actually may make a difference.

Because people, again, to my point, he's not focusing on us, and on you. He's focusing on himself--


ROGINSKY: --and on his plaints, and his complaints.

DE BLASIO: And voters care about law and order.


[21:10:00] DE BLASIO: This is a really interesting point. Because a lot of those more moderate voters, if you said to them how important is it, to have a candidate who truly believes in law and order? That's a big deal in the history of American politics, and certainly now.

The problem for Trump is he's crossed a line that for a lot of very sane, sober voters, you can't unsee a criminal conviction.

COLLINS: Yes, well, and there's that "Politico" poll that just came out that says Trump's conviction made 20 percent -- 21 percent of Independents less likely to support Trump.

And when you look at that, though, it's not just about Trump in the White House. We saw House Speaker, Mike Johnson, go down to meet with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, today, obviously, something they've done before, Alyssa.

But it also comes as he was trying to spearhead some attempted legislation, that's not going to happen, frankly. But that would essentially allow Trump, to move convictions in a -- or charges in a state to a federal court. I mean, it just shows how Trump is also still has such influence on the Hill that they're putting up bogus legislation to--


COLLINS: --to make him feel better.

FARAH GRIFFIN: So, the Trump message is bad. And there's a lot of things that can be run on to beat him. But it's also incumbent on Biden to communicate that.

And what I mean is this. That is what the House Speaker is spending his time doing, is trying to do something extra-constitutional to expunge the former President's record.

They're trying to bring up an impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden, but yet -- have yet to identify what the crime is. There are so many things that -- they blocked aid to Ukraine at his behest, despite the fact that most Republicans actually want aid to Ukraine.

Biden's got to get better at telling that story to the American public. His -- that Trump's focus is not on helping you. It's not on the issues that you're focusing on. It is simply on settling scores.

DE BLASIO: And the Senate Democrats.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And I do think that debate matters, by the way.


FARAH GRIFFIN: I think it's a huge moment--


FARAH GRIFFIN: --for him to say, you are a convicted felon. Try to get a rise out of Donald Trump, and try to actually tell the story of what his record has been since he left office.

ROGINSKY: Or just--

COLLINS: You will agree that--


COLLINS: --Biden needs to message better on that?

DE BLASIO: A 100 percent. I think -- I think he's starting to. But I was just going to say, the Senate Democrats did a great job, pointing out that Republicans can't stand behind IVF. There's a lot of mainstream middle-class American families that need that opportunity, so they can have a family, so they can have children.

That is the kind of thing that Democrats should say: Look, we're the party of families. We're the party of children. We're the party of making sure that people's lives are better. And these guys want retribution and revenge.

That's a powerful message.

COLLINS: I'm so glad you brought up the Senate.

Because this new ad, from Larry Hogan, today, who is obviously the former Governor of Maryland, who is running for the Senate as a Republican, in Maryland, he came out after Trump's conviction, and said that Americans should respect the verdict, basically. It was a jury of their peers. He was roasted by Trump's allies over this.

And here is how he has responded to this with this fascinating new ad.


LARRY HOGAN, (R) FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR: Strong, independent leaders can make a difference. That's exactly what Washington needs today.


COLLINS: He was basically saying, he's quoting JFK, saying--



COLLINS: --too much party loyalty is not a good thing.

ROGINSKY: He's in a -- he's in a--

DE BLASIO: Yes. Nice try.

ROGINSKY: He's in a bind, right? He's in a bind.


ROGINSKY: He needs the MAGA crew to come out for him, or else he's never going to win in deep-blue Maryland. And yet, he can't win in deep-blue Maryland if the MAGA crew comes out for him.

Now, last week, Trump came out and said I might endorse him, I might endorse Larry Hogan. After roasting him. So, was Trump doing that to potentially hurt him? Because I think that's probably what it was.


ROGINSKY: Or what was he doing here?

FARAH GRIFFIN: I give former Governor Hogan so much credit, for not taking the endorsement, coming on, saying it sounds like he's supporting me. He's actually maintaining this independence, and standing by what he has said since January 6th and before, with his criticisms.

And the Republican Senate definitely needs somebody to replace the Mitt Romneys of the world, and those who are willing to challenge Donald Trump.


ROGINSKY: But he can't win with him.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Especially if he's about the--


ROGINSKY: Can't win without him.

DE BLASIO: You know what?

ROGINSKY: That's the problem.

DE BLASIO: You never can tell because he's a capable politician. But running away from your own party, in this environment? You either own it or you don't.

He could say I can't live with what's happening in the Republican Party, I'm going to run as an Independent. That would be honorable. Or, I'm switching to Democrat. That'd be honorable.

But to say, I disagree with Republicans on the following 50 things, but I'm still a Republican? I don't think that works in 2024.

COLLINS: But is he electable?

FARAH GRIFFIN: But some of us though are fighting to take the party back.

COLLINS: Is he electable?

FARAH GRIFFIN: And I don't think we're ready to give up and be like, we're not Republicans. And I think that's what Larry Hogan's trying to do.

DE BLASIO: I do respect that. But I think 2024 Maryland, to say I oppose all these things, but I'm still a Maryland -- I'm still a Republican in Donald Trump's Republican Party? I think that's a real hard sorry.

ROGINSKY: And it's very hard, very hard. Chris Christie couldn't win New Jersey as a as a federal candidate. And I'm not sure Larry Hogan can win as a federal candidate, in Maryland. You can do it at the state level. You can be governor because people vote for you as a person.

COLLINS: Yes, exactly.

ROGINSKY: They're not going to vote for somebody, who's going to caucus with whoever the next Mitch McConnell is.

COLLINS: But he--

ROGINSKY: That's the problem.

COLLINS: He's kind of saying, I'm not going to always vote with my party. He was -- he, in the ad, which we -- was not included in that though, he cites John McCain doing the thumbs-down--

ROGINSKY: But he's going to vote--

COLLINS: --on getting rid of Obamacare.

ROGINSKY: But he's going to vote for a leader--


ROGINSKY: --for whoever the Republican is.

DE BLASIO: He's going to be with them.

ROGINSKY: And that person is going to determine the agenda for the Republican Party, and for the Senate, if they become the majority party. And that's the problem.

Because that agenda is, as you said, anti-IVF, anti-all-the-policies, anti-tax cuts for the middle-class but tax breaks for the rich. I mean, go on and so on and so forth. That's the problem. You're just going to be another vote for a MAGA extremist, who's the person--

FARAH GRIFFIN: I don't know if I think that's the case.

ROGINSKY: --who's going to be leading the party.


FARAH GRIFFIN: I think that these are the kind of Republicans that we need. And I think that if he can get there, which I agree is an uphill battle, but he's a very adept politician. We need people who are going to challenge the party from within. And I think he'd be like that.

ROGINSKY: But except even somebody like Mitt Romney ended up voting for Mitch McConnell. That's the problem. DE BLASIO: Agree.

ROGINSKY: They're going to vote for that guy to be in charge.

DE BLASIO: Exactly right.

COLLINS: A lot to watch here, to see it all play out.

Alyssa Farah Griffin. Julie Roginsky. Former Mayor, Bill de Blasio. Thank you all for being here.

Coming up, we have new reporting on CNN, about where Steve Bannon is actually going to prison. It is not the one he wanted, Club Fed, the more comfortable facility. We'll tell you which one he will be reporting to.

Also today, in Maryland, Governor Wes Moore, who replaced Governor Hogan, wiped away more than 175,000 Marijuana convictions. He is our source, tonight. He'll be here to talk about that moment.






COLLINS: It's a sprawling campus, in Fairfield County, Connecticut that inspired a TV show. And it is also where a who's who of the rich and famous have spent prison time.

Among them: the singer, Lauryn Hill. The reality TV star, Teresa Giudice. Yes, I watch Bravo. And the so-called Queen of Mean, real estate titan, Leona Helmsley. And "Orange is the New Black" writer, Piper Kerman.

The name might also sound familiar to fans of "The American President."


LEWIS ROTHSCHILD, FICTIONAL CHARACTER PLAYED BY MICHAEL J. FOX, "THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT": Can I just state very clearly I can't be part of anything illegal.


ROTHSCHILD: Say what you want. It's always the guy in my job who ends up doing 18 months in Danbury minimum security prison.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: The official name of it is the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury. And Satan has learned that that is where Steve Bannon is due to report by July 1st.

While it's far from the roughest place around, it is certainly also not Club Fed, which is the type of facility that Bannon hoped to serve his time, those four months, for contempt of Congress.

Joining me tonight.

CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

And CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller.

John, can we just talk about the difference in a minimum security prison camp, and the low-level security federal prison that Bannon is actually going to be going to, in Danbury.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, the difference is all about walls or fences. The prison camps generally don't have a big barbed wire fence surrounding them. The picture that we just showed here, of Danbury, you can see this as a contained facility. You know you're in prison when you're in there.

But for a Steve Bannon, it's going to be prison greens, green shirt, green slacks. He can put money in his account for his commissary, to buy things, when he gets there.

You really have to show up with nothing. You can bring a phone book. Kaitlan, none of us have a phone book anymore. He'll have to make one, because you can't bring a cell phone. A religious medallion, a Bible.

But from there on out, except for what you buy with your commissary funds, from the prison store, that's what you got.

COLLINS: So, it's not -- there's not like actual cells. It's more of this kind of open-air concept.

MILLER: So, they're in -- they're in pods, like a dormitory, with other prisoners. And it's not a cell, where the door slams behind you. It is not, as you said a minute ago, "Shawshank Redemption." But you also know you're not allowed out. And you have to do what you're told.

COLLINS: Yes. And it's not where Steve Bannon wanted to go. Why would he not be able to -- to be able to go to the camp-style facility instead?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, the problem Steve Bannon's running into is he has another case pending.

He has a state level fraud charge in New York, which is in front of Judge Juan Merchan actually, got postponed to make room for the Trump trial. And so, when the Federal Bureau of Prisons does its calculations, they will add on for that. And that's why Steve Bannon is going to go to a low level, not a minimum.

By the way, I hate to fact-check Michael J. Fox. He's not quite right. He said Danbury is minimum. It's actually low, which is a step-up.

And I should say, to John's point. When I was a first year federal prosecutor, we would get escape cases, and you go, oh, this must be like "Shawshank Redemption," or something.

MILLER: The kind of people--


MILLER: --call an Uber.

HONIG: 95 percent of the time, it's a guy who walked off of a minimum security thing.

COLLINS: OK. But can I -- can I please get your take on, on what Bannon's attorney said--


COLLINS: --in a filing to the D.C. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, basically saying that he shouldn't have to go to prison, July 1st, because then he would be behind bars, for the four-month period, leading up to the election. They said this would effectively bar Mr. Bannon from serving as a meaningful adviser, in the ongoing national campaign.

Do courts care about that?

HONIG: Nobody cares. And it's not relevant at all.

And let me just explain to people why Steve Bannon is out of prison, even as of this moment.

So, he was convicted at trial, people will remember. He was sentenced to four months. And then, he was given the courtesy of bail pending appeal, which means you get to stay out until your appeals are over, so long as you can show you have a substantial chance of winning on appeal. He's now lost his appeal. So, he has very little chance.

He has two last place he can try. One, and he's asking the entire Court of Appeals to rehear the case. They almost never do that. I don't think they'll do it here. And then two, he can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in. They very rarely do that. I think that's extremely long shot too. And if he doesn't get it, either of those, he's got to surrender on July 1st.

COLLINS: One, if they don't -- so they don't do that on an emergency basis. I mean, he'll probably have served his time, even if they did take it up.

HONIG: Yes, they would. If they gave him that review, they would probably pause and--


HONIG: --and postpone his surrender date. COLLINS: You talked about what he -- what he's walking into, what he can bring, I mean. But what is day-to-day life like in something like Danbury?

MILLER: So, first thing you do is get used to the routine. You're getting up at 6 o'clock in the morning.

Second thing you got to do is you got to get a job. You might be cutting the grass. You might be working in the kitchen. But you have to be doing something.


And then there's the stuff that we don't think about, like email. So, there's an email room that has like four pods, where you can log on. But it's not like your email or mine. You have to get permission to get emails from people. They have to approve to get emails from you. It can be a very short list and a limited time. So, he's got some adjustments to do.

COLLINS: You have to get permission to send emails to certain to--

MILLER: You have to get.

COLLINS: Also but I mean, he's not going be able to--

MILLER: It's like it's--

COLLINS: --to podcast--

MILLER: --it's like--

COLLINS: --or broadcast his message.

MILLER: No, no, no.

COLLINS: That he has been here.

MILLER: But it's like the visitors list. You have to submit an approved list of people that can visit you. They have to want to do it.

There's one great irony, in the Danbury story, which is when Ring Lardner was there, who was one of the Hollywood 10. That was before the House Un-American.

HONIG: Timely reference.

MILLER: Yes, the House Un-American Activities Committee, back in the McCarthy days. He was sentenced to a number of months there. And he actually ended up becoming reacquainted, with the Chairman of the Committee, after he was sentenced there for corruption. So, they were there together.

I'm not sure Steve Bannon is going to come full circle that way in the short time he's there. COLLINS: Yes.

MILLER: But it's got history.

COLLINS: The former Goldman Sachs employees or anything.


COLLINS: Before we go, I've got to ask Elie, about a bankruptcy court judge, in your old Southern District in New York, who told Rudy Giuliani today, there are reasons to be very concerned about the disengaged way he's approaching his trial, basically saying we're not getting good information about your finances. Your lawyers are blowing off these filing deadlines. You owe all this money.

I mean, what do you make of what they're warning him?

HONIG: Rudy is playing with fire here. I mean, disengaged is a nice way to phrase it.

But now that Rudy has declared bankruptcy, what you do when you declare bankruptcy? You don't make all your debts disappear. You just put yourself before the jurisdiction of a bankruptcy judge, and a monitor, and they are going to be watching your finances like a hawk.

And if you move funds out, if you commit fraud? That could be a whole new federal crime. So, he's in dangerous territory here.

COLLINS: We'll continue to monitor that.

Elie Honig, John Miller, great to have you both.

HONIG: Thanks.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, in Maryland, a massive change, when it comes to marijuana. The Governor there, made history today, by forgiving 175,000 convictions. He says it won't turn back the clock on the harm from the war on drugs though.

Our source, tonight, Governor Wes Moore, is here live, right after a quick break.



COLLINS: Tonight, more than a 175,000 Marijuana convictions have been forgiven, in the State of Maryland.

Democratic governor, Wes Moore, signed a mass pardon, today, for low- level charges, impacting an estimated 100,000 people. It is the largest state-level pardon that we have seen, in this kind, in U.S. history.





COLLINS: So, given what you're seeing there, I want to go straight to THE SOURCE, on what that moment was like, with Maryland governor, Wes Moore, who joins me now.

And Governor, you used an orange pen as you were there, signing these mass pardons. That was handed to you by a man who also received a pardon today. What drove you to do this now?

GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): This meant so much. Because, I mean, this was a great day, not just for the individuals and the families. This was an important day for the soul of our state.

And they've been going on -- the Last Prisoner Project has actually been going around the country, and asking individuals, who are still languishing, still dealing with the impact of cannabis convictions, and asking them to write letters, to lawmakers, telling their stories, and asking lawmakers to act on it.

And so, when they came in today? And they were very helpful with us, throughout this whole process. And they came in and they said, we'd like to -- we'd love for you to be able to sign the pardon, the mass pardon, the largest mass pardon of its kind, in our nation's history, with that pen? I was speechless. And I told him I'd be honored to.

So, that pardon, now basically pardoning over 175,000 convictions, for misdemeanor cannabis charges, I signed with their pen, that they've been going around the country, asking families to write their stories.


MOORE: And so, it was a pretty remarkable moment.

COLLINS: Well, and a big part of what you focused on today, I was watching when you came out and made this announcement, was how disproportionately that people of color were affected by this, by the war on drugs.

And just when you were elected, we covered how historic that was. You're Maryland's first Black governor. And so, I wonder what it meant to you, for you, to actually be the person who was signing this.

MOORE: We saw how the war on drugs was intentionally discriminatory. And you just have to look at the State of Maryland. In the State of Maryland, we have 24 jurisdictions in our state.

But if you just take a look at three of them, just Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Prince George's County, they represented about half of the cannabis convictions, in the entire state. Three jurisdictions represented half of the cannabis convictions. And it just so happened that those three jurisdictions are majority Black, or majority communities of color. And so, you watch how there was a measure of intentionality, how cannabis was used as this cudgel, how cannabis was used as a way of being able to eliminate people from larger conversations.

And so, the ability to now sign this mass pardon, to be able to know that equity is going to be at the center of this. Because if we really want to be a state that focuses on pathways to work, and wages and wealth for all communities, and not just some? It means you had to stop putting up these barriers, for people to be able to participate.

Especially when we're talking about an industry that is a burgeoning multi-billion dollar industry, but we still had people who could not get home loans, and could not get -- and could not go to school and get student loans. This is the type of thing that we had to be as intentional, in our approach, to be able to fix this, as the policies were intentional to be able to create these types of gaps.


COLLINS: Well given what you say about it, being this multi-billion dollar industry, and how much money it's been able to make, a lot of states, just do you believe that it should be legalized, on the federal level?

MOORE: Yes. And I think if you look at where voters are.

I mean, just take a look at our state. Our state put it up for a referendum, and asked the people, do you think there needs to be a recreational cannabis market? And by about 70 percent, the people of my state said yes, that we need to decriminalize cannabis, and that we need to turn into recreational cannabis.

And so, over the process of the past 18 months, that's exactly what our administration has been working on, where we have created what many believed to be the most equitable, the most fair and the most smooth transition into a recreational cannabis market that this country has seen.

But the thing that I knew going into this was this. We cannot talk about the benefits of legalization, if you do not wrestle with the consequences of criminalization. We have had -- we've had 174 social equity applicants.

We are creating new pathways to wealth, for African Americans, and people of color, in the cannabis industry. But we still had people, who had cannabis records that was keeping them from being able to be part of that process.


MOORE: Because of today's action, that's now gone.

COLLINS: Well, and I mean, politically, what you did today would have been unthinkable, I think, for a lot of governors, 20 years ago. I mean, it was 2010, when Biden -- President Biden referred to marijuana as a gateway drug, a sentiment that I should note, he walked back-- MOORE: Sure.

COLLINS: --during the 2020 campaign.

But given that, I mean, do you believe, would you like to see it legalized, on the federal level?

MOORE: Yes, I would like to see every single state taking this on. I know, right now, we cannot move to a point, where we can have true measures of economic growth, a true equity lens, in the way we're looking at economic competitiveness.

And frankly, even if you look at things like the racial wealth gap. The racial wealth gap has cost this country $16 trillion in GDP, over the past two decades. That's not GDP of a group. That's GDP.

And we're losing competitiveness, because we have -- or not have an economy that is actually a participatory economy. So I want for -- I want for each of our states, I want for all of us, to be able to understand that we have a unique opportunity, to right historic wrongs.

And this becomes our obligation, for those, who are sitting in these seats, to make sure that those individuals, and those communities, that have been disproportionately harmed, from a failed war on drugs, that they know that this was our chance to get this right. And we're not going to miss this moment to do so.

COLLINS: Yes. Governor, while I have you, let me ask you about an important election that is happening in your state.

Because after Trump was convicted, in New York, your predecessor, Larry Hogan, who is now running for Senate, as we were just talking about, he asked for all Americans to respect the verdict. It seemed pretty -- pretty simple. But he was widely criticized by Trump's allies.

And he's not wavering, though. He said in new ad tonight that he'll be an independent voice if he's in the Senate. And I just wonder, when you see how Larry Hogan responds to that kind of pressure, from Republicans, do you believe that there should be more people, like that, with that kind of view in Washington?

MOORE: Well, so I think the old governor is a nice guy.

I also know this is going to be very difficult, because I think some of the things that we've seen in, over these past months, are the things that people just dislike about politics.

Where, you say you're not going to run for Senate, and you don't want to be in a useless body and be one of 100 who does nothing? And then the day of the filing deadline, you announce you're running for Senate.

That you were recruited by Mitch McConnell, you were endorsed by Donald Trump. You've said you're going to caucus with the Republicans as you get to the Senate. But then you turn around, and call yourself an Independent voice.

That you are saying you're pro-choice now. But the truth is, when you were the governor, and when you actually had the authority to do something about Roe v. Wade, and when Roe v. Wade fell under his watch? He did things like vetoed bills that would enhance privacy, vetoed bills that would enhance protection.

While my first day, as the governor, I had to release $3.5 million of previously-unreleased funds, because the old governor would not release them.

And so, I just think, right now, the back-and-forth is actually the thing that really frustrates people, about politics, about not knowing where you are. And I know he just received the endorsement of Donald Trump.

But my endorsement is going to Angela Alsobrooks, the person who he is running against, the County Executive of Prince George's County, who -- and she has a track record of actually bringing crime down, inside of the neighborhoods, while she was a state's attorney.

She has a track record of building 10 new schools, while she was the County Executive of Prince George's County.


I trust her. I trust her vision. I trust her consistency. And that's why I'm supporting her to be to be Maryland's next senator.

COLLINS: Yes. So, you don't actually think he would be the Independent voice that he's saying.

Governor, it's great to have you, especially on that big announcement today.


COLLINS: Also, I would -- and talk about your other big announcement, which is that you declared yesterday, Maggie Rogers Day, who is one of my favorite artists. And we really enjoyed that. She's the best.

So, Governor, great to have you. And maybe we'll get you on with Maggie Rogers, next time.

MOORE: And she's a great Marylander. She's a great Marylander. We're all very proud of her.

COLLINS: Thank you, Governor.

And a programming note, because CNN's a special celebration of Juneteenth is going to happen, this Wednesday night, here on CNN. You're going to want to watch the special "Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom and Legacy" that it's happening at 10 PM, right here on CNN. You can also stream it on Max.

Still ahead here tonight, though, we are going to separate the fact from the fiction, because there are a lot of videos going around, about President Biden, on social media. Which ones are real? Which ones are deceptively edited, now being called cheap fakes? We're checking our sources, and we'll tell you next.



COLLINS: Tonight, White House officials are pushing back against videos that they say President Biden's right-wing critics are amplifying in bad faith.

The latest is this video, from a Los Angeles fundraiser, on Saturday night. You see President Biden here, as he pauses, looks out at the audience for several seconds before former President Obama, who's standing right by his side, took his left arm, put his own around Biden's back, as the two of them, then walked off the stage.

Almost immediately, this clip that was posted went viral, with freezing headlines, in conservative media, leading to this response, at the White House briefing today.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you all have called this the cheap fakes video. And that's exactly what they are. They are cheap fakes video. They are done in bad faith.

Let's not forget, President Obama, President Biden have a relationship. They are friends. They are like family to each other. And I think that's what you saw.


COLLINS: CNN's Senior Media Reporter, Oliver Darcy, is here, checking with his sources.

And Oliver, I think when you look at that video, it's not actually manipulated.


COLLINS: It was just posted and shared. And people were spreading it around, talking about that one moment that we just showed there.

DARCY: I think what the White House and Biden campaign, what they have an issue with is that these outlets are wrapping these videos, in very misleading context, right, saying that this is evidence that Biden was freezing, he's unable to walk off stage on his own.

And that's obviously not the case. But that's how it's being portrayed in right-wing media. And it plays into this years-long narrative, where they have tried to portray Biden as a senile, old man, incapable of governing the country. And this is just the latest example. These attacks are obviously ramping up, in the lead up to the November election. COLLINS: Yes. And the other one, I mean, what I thought about when I saw this yesterday, and circulating Saturday night, was the G7 video, where Biden is there.

And it's the "New York Post" that posted this. It was a pretty misleading video, because what you're seeing here on the left is the "New York Post" edit, that version. That's all people could see. It zoomed in. It was claiming that Biden appears to be wandering off.

But when you actually zoom out, like you do here on the right, you can see the full picture from the unedited source pool cameras, where very clearly he was talking to sky divers, who were just out of frame, as he was standing next to other world leaders. You can see them there, at the bottom.

And, I mean, so that one was very obviously misleading.

DARCY: Yes. And that one was a deceptively edited, right, to show Biden, and make it appear again, as if he's just wandering off.

COLLINS: Staring off into the distance.

DARCY: Yes, has no idea what he's doing.

But that is literally what you hear, in right-wing media. I mean, if you watched Sean Hannity, at nighttime, on Fox News, like almost every night, they say that Biden has no idea what he's doing. He can't remember the last meal he ate.

All these things are pretty easily disproven, when you watch him give the State of the Union address, or talk in interviews. But that's the narrative that they're feeding their audience.

And so, these videos are very easily to be believed, if you're being told day in and day out, that Biden has no idea what time it is. And it's obviously deceptive.

And obviously, Rupert Murdoch's "New York Post" knows exactly what they're doing. They know this is not honest. But they're not going to correct the record. And they're going to continue pushing this, because it gets clicks.

COLLINS: Yes. And we're heading into an election. We're in the middle of it basically, already, where, these are the two oldest candidates, running against each other. And you see moments like with Biden, where he's reading something in the Oval Office, maybe or.

But this moment with Donald Trump, over the weekend, where he was talking about the White House doctor, the former White House doctor, who was there, when Biden was actually Vice President, and said this about him.


TRUMP: I think he should take a cognitive test like I did. I took a cognitive test. (AUDIENCE CHEERS)

TRUMP: And I aced it.

Doctor Ronny. Doctor Ronny Johnson. Does everyone know Ronny Johnson, Congressman from Texas? He was the White House doctor. And he said I was the healthiest president he feels in history. So, I liked him very much.


COLLINS: I mean, his name is obviously Dr. Ronny Jackson. Everyone remembers him from the White House briefings. He's now in Congress, and a big supporter of Trump's.

But a moment like that is not treated the same as a Biden moment.

DARCY: Of course not. That's never going to play on Fox News, as Donald Trump being confused, having cognitive issues. It's just -- it's just not going to be portrayed like that.

And I think what the Biden folks take issue with as well is, in their eyes, the mainstream media as well focuses way too much on Biden's age, and lets Donald Trump get off with these gaffes without ever questioning his cognitive fitness.


There was that "Wall Street Journal" story that came out a week ago, or two weeks ago, where that questioned whether Biden was fit mentally to run the country, and said that some of these, you know, there have been questions about this.

But there have been a lot of former Trump officials, who have raised--


DARCY: --the same issues with Trump. And it doesn't get treated the same way.

COLLINS: Oliver Darcy, great reporting. Thank you for that.

Also, a very serious ramp-up of a very dangerous alliance of two dictators that we are tracking tonight. Russian President Putin is on his way to visit North Korea, for the first time, in more than 20 years. What he's after? Right after a quick break.



COLLINS: In just hours from now, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is going to be touching down, in North Korea, for his first visit to the rogue nation in 24 years.

Putin is expected to meet with Kim Jong Un, over the next two days, in a sign of their deepening bromance of the authoritarian kind, but also a deeper signal of something that Putin very much needs. Weapons for his war in Ukraine.

New satellite images that we are seeing tonight show that Kim is preparing quite the show, for his counterpart. Grandstands and other large structures have been constructed in Pyongyang's Central Square, where all of the big parades as we know are held. And of course, we know how much Kim Jong Un loves his parades.

Joining me tonight, former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief, and Russia expert, Jill Dougherty.

And Jill, it's great to have you here.


COLLINS: Because it is fascinating to look back and see the last time that Putin was in North Korea, back in 2000. He was then meeting with Kim Jong Un's father.

And obviously, I mean, you've studied Putin for years. What you're going to be watching for, in a visit, which I should note these visits are very highly choreographed often?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think the most important thing is what we won't see. And that is, what kind of a deal are they going to strike, especially for the most dangerous part of it, which is for Russia to get more ammunition, which really, really needs for Ukraine. It is burning up ammunition. And the North is able to supply it almost indefinitely.

And then, I think the other thing is what both of them will do, in terms of trying to undermine the West. That is a constant message. And you're going to hear it from Putin. Obviously, you'll hear it from Kim Jong Un. But from Putin as well.

I think those are the two really important things. And then, I actually should add, what Russia gets out of it -- what North Korea gets from Russia. And that is perhaps the scariest thing of all.

Because what they want is really high tech -- high technology, which they can use for satellites, which they can use for nuclear submarines, and which they can use for intercontinental ballistic missiles. And that is a very bad situation, right now, that's getting worse.

COLLINS: Well, and that's a really interesting point, because, obviously, we have seen Russia reliant on North Korea, in a way that just has not existed before this war, frankly. And for North Korea, I mean, that's -- those are -- that's things that they can't access easily from anyone else.

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely. And that's really what they want. Because especially, let's say when you get into the satellites, they are trying to develop their systems, so that they can strike at the United States and other parts of the West, but especially the United States. And if they get this technology, then there's a possibility that they could do that.

Now, Russia denies that it's going to allow them to do anything that would be against international non-proliferation norms. But we won't know that. And there are grave, grave concerns about this.

COLLINS: But did you ever think that you'd see where Putin is so reliant on North Korea, and on Kim Jong Un? And, you know, the fact that this is their second visit in nine months, Kim Jong Un went to Russia previously last fall? I mean, did you ever think that you'd see the reliance in the way that we're witnessing today?

DOUGHERTY: Yes, I think it's kind of flipped, because in the old days, 24 years ago, when Putin did go to North Korea, Putin was the main character, and North Korea really was not at all as powerful. But right now, you have the flip side, because Vladimir Putin needs Kim Jong Un, to supply that equipment, the ammunition.

And then, also, I think, just this week, that he's -- the next stop for Putin is Vietnam. And we've recently seen the Russian ships in Cuba. And it reminds me of kind of like the heavy hits of the Cold War, that Putin is trying to remind the world, hey, we can create, if not, let's say a unity, we can certainly create some mischief. And that is what he is doing, who's sending a lot of messages with this trip.

COLLINS: Well, and do you think he's succeeding in sending that message?

DOUGHERTY: In a certain way, he is. I mean, listen, this is a very serious -- this is a very serious trip. This cooperation between North Korea and Russia is unprecedented. And so, that's really true. And then, just the optics of it will be big.


COLLINS: Yes. Absolutely, Jill Dougherty, we are going to be watching what we can see closely here, of course, as this trip is getting underway. Thank you so much.


COLLINS: And thank you all for joining us.

We will be watching that trip very closely, as it gets underway.

"CNN NEWSNIGHT" starts right now.