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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

New Fox Poll Shows Three-Point Shift In Favor Of Biden; Louisiana Requires Classrooms To Display The Ten Commandments In Large, Easily Readable Font; Putin And Kim Seal New Pact, Vow To Help Defend Each Other. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 19, 2024 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: What do you think?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm a fan of testing. I think that the testing has -- there's genetic testing.

The vast majority of people, who develop Alzheimer's do not necessarily have a strong genetic sort of family history of this. Only about 1 percent of people will have a genetic mutation that's directly passed down.

But there's a lot of other testing out there now, including what's called a phosphorylated-Tau test.


GUPTA: Big name. Remember that. That can -- that can be a test you can put on the list as well.

COOPER: All right. Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now. See you, tomorrow.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Straight from THE SOURCE tonight, at this hour, a potential shift in the presidential race, as both campaigns are preparing for the historic CNN debate, and may be a defining moment.

And also, the constitutional holy war that just erupted in Louisiana's public schools. The Ten Commandments must now be posted, in a big readable font. We'll have a former Louisiana teacher weigh in, tonight.

Plus, two nuclear-armed dictators taking things to a whole new level, tonight. Beyond the flag-waving, waving pomp and circumstance, we're learning new details about the biggest international shakeup, since the end of the Cold War.

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

Tonight, plans of attack are being hatched, strategies are being set. Maybe even a few traps are being laid.

It is all happening, behind closed doors, as President Biden and former President Donald Trump are cloistered with their teams, in two different beach homes, tonight, about 1,000 miles apart. But both preparing for what is inarguably the most anticipated face-off in years.

The first presidential debate, now just days away, right here on CNN, next Thursday night, one of them staying tight-lipped about those preparations.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is squarely in the camp of the campaign. So, I have to keep that there. And I'm not going to -- to speak in details about that.


COLLINS: Of course, the first rule of Fight Club, you do not talk about Fight Club. The White House appears to certainly have gotten the memo.

Then there's the former occupant, who seems more than eager to move back in.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They'll get some ratings for the debate. They're going to get big ratings.

We have a debate coming up. That'll be interesting.


COLLINS: Judging by what he has been saying, the former reality TV host knows the value of something that he really hasn't gotten nearly as much of, this campaign, a live national television audience.

And in a race that has been remarkably stable, polling wise at least, tonight, there has been some movement, Biden actually inching ahead of Trump in a brand-new national poll. The race, of course, is still very much within the margin of error. And this is just a snapshot of where we are right now. But notably, Biden is ahead of Trump, in that Fox News poll, for the first time since last October.

Of course, there's no clear leader in this race, which means the stakes for next week could not be higher for either camp here. And both campaigns are clearly eager for that matchup.

Biden's team marked the Juneteenth holiday, by tearing into Trump's quote, flagrant racism.

And Trump, on the other hand, maybe realizing that he himself has set the bar too low, by constantly painting Biden as confused and senile, is now trying to manage expectations, in really what can only be described as the most Trumpian way possible.


TRUMP: Joe Biden doesn't have a clue. Now we're going to watch -- is anybody going to watch the debate?



TRUMP: He's going to be so pumped up. He's going to be pumped up. You know all that stuff that was missing about a month ago from the White House?


TRUMP: What happened?

Somebody didn't pick up hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of cocaine. I wonder who that could have been. I don't know. Actually, I think it was Joe.


COLLINS: I can't even believe I have to fact-check that one, I guess if that's what you're calling it. But it was not President Biden.

Anyway, my political sources, tonight, are the former Mayor of New York, and one-time debate opponent of President Biden, Bill de Blasio.

Also, the former deputy campaign manager for Ron DeSantis' presidential run, David Polyansky.

And CNN Senior Political Commentator, Ana Navarro.

It's great to have you all here.

Mayor, I mean, in this new poll, it's pretty interesting. It's nothing groundbreaking. But we're watching kind of every movement here. And it shows a three-point change since May, where Biden is up. Obviously, it's margin of error.

But as we're tracking the Fox News poll, The New York Times poll, I wonder what that says to you, and also what it means for what President Biden needs to do, on Thursday night, next week.

BILL DE BLASIO, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, first of all, I really envy Joe Biden, because it's just such a wonderful opportunity, to have a strong aggressive game plan, and go in there, and mix it up with Donald Trump.


Just look him in the face, and call him a convicted felon, 20 times. And just tell him to his face, you took away a woman's right to choose. You've owned that publicly. How you feel about this? Just get right up on him. And I don't think Trump handles that well.

I think Biden can be really feisty, really strong. Look, I did debate against him. And he has a great common touch. He has the ability to elevate and get intense and focused.

And I think it's interesting that Trump is consistently trying to lower expectations, because I think they've painted themselves into a little bit of a corner here. Having said so many times, Joe Biden can't handle it? Joe Biden is about to handle it, and get a great advantage.

One more thing on the polling. Months and months of Trump extremism, months and months, of saying things that moderate Americans just can't live with. That's what we're seeing. That's having an impact.

COLLINS: Well what's so interesting is we sometimes hear from Democrats, and Axios is reporting this today, about a criticism that Biden campaign is focusing too much on democracy, and not kitchen- table issues, like inflation.

And we saw this, in this poll today, the top two issues, in this Fox News poll, Ana, say that voters -- to voters, are the future American democracy and the economy. Both of them.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't know why polls think, and why some strategists think that the American public isn't capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, of worrying about their pocketbook issues, and worrying about democracy.

And I don't understand how you don't worry about democracy, when you're constantly hearing Trump, and the people around him, talking about retribution, and revenge. That would worry me tremendously. As somebody that might be the target of his revenge, that worries me personally.


NAVARRO: But it worries me for the country as a whole.

And look, this -- I'm so glad he's no longer on trial that he's been convicted, and he's no longer on trial, because he's now out doing rallies and speaking publicly.

And every day he says stupid things. If he's not talking about sharks, he's talking about batteries or windmills. And today, accusing Joe Biden, who doesn't even drink alcohol, unlike me, about being a cocaine addict? For the love of God.

COLLINS: I mean, David, what do you make of everything, in what we're seeing in these new polls?

DAVID POLYANSKY, AXIOM CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER: Well, look, I think at this point, when these two candidates faced off, at this stage of the race, Joe Biden was up by almost nine points. And so, as we hover on national polls, talking about it within the margin of error, that's actually a really tough sign, for the President, right now. And more importantly, when you looked at the RealClearPolitics average, across all the battleground states, there are not seven battleground states anymore. There're really three. And that's the firewall for the President, which is the Rust Belt, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. And right now, on the RealClearPolitics average, Trump's ahead in all three of those states.

So, I think the debate, next week, is almost a make or break moment for the President. Yes, it's an opportunity, for sure, to stand on the stage, and make the differences that the American public needs to hear. But more importantly, he's got to shift the narrative, because the race is not in his favor. And right now, there's not a path--

NAVARRO: But Republicans keep editing and cutting and splicing videos, and making him look like a completely senile, decrepit old man. And I think they're doing themselves such a disservice, because they've made it so that if Joe Biden shows up at this debate, and doesn't die behind the podium, he's had a good night.

POLYANSKY: Well, that's -- look, we saw that in the State of the Union. It was the same thing. There was--

NAVARRO: Well he had a great night.

COLLINS: They set the bar--

POLYANSKY: He had a great--

COLLINS: They set the bar--


COLLINS: --so low. And you're right. We -- I had the same thought about the videos that we've been seeing.


COLLINS: And then, if he gets up there, and he's not, wandering off, and what they -- what they say.

But you've actually been on the debate stage, with President Biden. You're the only person at the table, who can -- who can say that. What do you think he needs to do, besides going after Donald Trump there?

There's that image from 2019 in August. I'm sure you remember it well.


COLLINS: In Detroit.


COLLINS: What do you think he needs to do besides calling Donald Trump a convicted felon, as you noted?

DE BLASIO: Look, he has a chance to change this race by bringing home American moderate voters. I really believe that.

And this is why, although I agree with you, if you look at the polling, you could be particularly concerned, right now. I'm the first to say we're all having greater doubts about polling than we used to, certainly since 2016. And this is different. This is the fate of democracy. This is the future of global stability.

Look, I agree with Ana. I think -- I think a lot of Americans can keep multiple ideas in mind.

What's happened in the last few months is convicted felon, more extreme statements even than ever before. I mean, this cocaine example, this is normal now for Donald Trump to throw anything out there.

Joe Biden has an opportunity to not only be aggressive, strong, clear in his message, but presidential. And I actually believe in a very uncertain world, Americans want a stable, sane president. I think Biden wins this debate. And then, from there, you see that steady improvement, in the states we need.

COLLINS: So, that's what you think Biden should do.


I mean, you prepared Governor DeSantis to debate Donald Trump. It never actually happened, of course, with all of them on the same stage. But what was -- if Donald Trump had showed up, which was kind of a will-he-won't-he question at the first one, what was the advice for, for how to deal with Donald Trump, on the debate stage?

POLYANSKY: Well, look, I helped Senator Cruz with--


POLYANSKY: --those debates in 2016.

Donald Trump is a very difficult man to debate. He's unpredictable. He can be volatile. He can also be incredibly charming, and disarming, in many ways.

And in this debate, he has the benefit of going in, and not just having to make it about personalities. He has the opportunity to compare his four years against Joe Biden's. And no matter what side you're on, you got to recognize, the economy and inflation are not in a good place, for Americans today.

DE BLASIO: Wait, wait, wait. It's the best economy in many ways. Hold on. I'm not belittling inflation. But as an overall economy, this is a very strong American economy. We're actually leading the world--

POLYANSKY: An economy that voters care about, right now?

DE BLASIO: I actually think that voters do care about jobs. And thankfully -- thankfully--


DE BLASIO: --there's a lot of jobs. I agree we have an inflation challenge.

But I would caution to you, I think Joe Biden can take it to Donald Trump. The one thing Donald Trump doesn't do well with is someone being aggressive with him, and staying on the offensive.

POLYANSKY: I think that to a degree, that's fair. But I will say this. When you look at the cameras out to people, that are hurting back in their houses, tonight, and figuring out how to pay their bills, can they afford their first home with interest rates being so high? That is what they care about.

But just as importantly, you're talking about global -- the global stage. I mean, over the last four years, Russia has invaded Ukraine. We saw Russia enter a pact, a mutual agreement pact with North Korea, last night. You've seen Hamas attack Israel. The world is unstable right now. And that's a tough spot to be as an incumbent.


COLLINS: And I think--

NAVARRO: I also think we have to -- you know, there is -- we talk a lot about Trump amnesia. And I think -- I hope Joe Biden reminds the American people, where he found us. He found us curled up in our beds, locked up in our houses, in the middle of a pandemic, when Donald Trump was telling us to inject bleach--


NAVARRO: --to cure it. And so, I hope that some of this Trump amnesia that we're all suffering gets cured by Joe Biden, next week.

COLLINS: Yes. And, I mean, Trump's advantages on immigration and the economy have shrunk actually. He still has won, in this poll at least. But it's shrunk since earlier this year.

DE BLASIO: Because it's getting real. People are actually thinking, who do I actually want in that White House? And Donald Trump gets scarier all the time, the things he says, the things he does.

COLLINS: It'll be fascinating.

POLYANSKY: That's why next week's so important.

COLLINS: Yes, it's going to be fascinating.

NAVARRO: Best thing that could have happened to Donald Trump is if that trial had lasted five months.


NAVARRO: And he would have been stuck there in a freezing room, in New York, and not spewing out stupid stuff on a daily basis. COLLINS: Might not have been freezing in the heat wave. But we'll see. It has pretty bad air conditioner.

Ana Navarro, Mayor de Blasio, David Polyansky, great to have all of you here.

Coming up, here tonight, on THE SOURCE, Louisiana made history, today, because it actually became the first and only state that in the nation requires the Ten Commandments to be posted, in every classroom in a school that receives state funding. Is it constitutional? We're going to explore that question with our legal experts.

Also, troubling new details about Russia and North Korea, and their new partnership. The former Director of National Intelligence on how the military alliance impacts us.



COLLINS: Louisiana made history today, now requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every single school that receives state funding.

Every single classroom and every public elementary, middle and high school as well as colleges have to display the Commandments, on a poster, or a frame document that is at least 11 by 14 inches. The text has to be the central focus of that and it has to be printed in large, easy-to-read font.

Before signing this bill into law today, the Republican governor, Jeff Landry, called it one of his favorites, and said, quote, "If you want to respect the rule of law, you got to start from the original law giver which was Moses... He got his commandments from God."

My source tonight that we start off with is Tia LeBrun, a Louisiana mom and teacher, who in 2022 ran for Congress as a Democrat.

And Tia, it's great to have you.

Because my mom is a public school teacher. You worked in a classroom for 12 years. And I just wonder if you -- how you feel about this new law, and if you're -- if you support it, or if you're opposed to it and why.

TIA LEBRUN, LOUISIANA EDUCATOR: I'm very opposed to it. And it's not anything to do with disliking religion. It's just that there are different religions that exist in our communities.

I've taught Jehovah's Witnesses. I've taught Muslim students. I have really great Muslim teacher friends, who are going to now have to display Christianity as the accepted or promoted religion in our state.

COLLINS: Well, and I wonder, given that and talking about the different children with different religions, different teachers with different religions, what the Governor was arguing is that it's good for kids, to have this up in the classroom. He said, in part that it was key to respecting the rule of law.

And just as someone, who actually spends time, in the classroom, teachers see it so differently than anyone else. I wonder what you make of that argument.

LEBRUN: I think if a poster could cure what ails schools? That would have been done a long time ago.

We all had posters up of rules, keep your hands and feet to yourself, respect each other, be kind. Those things are all over the walls already. And somehow, we are still 47th in education. And I don't know why they think this is going to be a magic bullet.

COLLINS: Yes. Alabama, my home state, is not far behind you on that.


And just, looking at it through that lens, and at the landscape, what are you hearing from other teachers and educators? I mean, is this the kind of bill that they want the governor and legislators in the state to be focused on? Or is it -- is it other things that could -- that could help you, help teachers in the classroom?

LEBRUN: Yes, I think if they would put in place adequate pay scales, and work on our homeowners' insurance problem, that would be a much better use of their time, than focusing on these culture-war issues that are maybe trendy, nationwide, but they don't make a difference in our life, every day.

That Ten Commandments poster isn't going to make sure that my kids that I have at the next school I work at are going to go home and have something to eat. So, if it doesn't make our lives better, in a meaningful way, I don't know what the point is of spending our tax dollars and time on that.

COLLINS: Tia LeBrun, it's great to have that perspective, from someone, who was actually in a classroom for 12 years. Thank you for joining me tonight.

LEBRUN: Thank you.

COLLINS: And for more on the legality aspect of this. As the Governor said he was expecting challenges to this.

I want to bring in Elie Honig, who is CNN's Senior Legal Analyst and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

And also Jennifer Rodgers, CNN Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Elie, I know that you've memorized the Ten Commandments that you don't even--

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Don't test me, please. COLLINS: --you don't even need to look at this, to see what they are.

But this is actually the size. This is 11 by 14. This is what actually the size that has to be printed. Obviously, clearly legible, you can read this. And it's just notable that this is what they're saying has to be in each classroom.


COLLINS: But my first question was, is requiring this, regardless of size, does it violate the First Amendment?

HONIG: Yes, flagrantly, in my view. If you wanted a perfect example of what the First Amendment prohibits, I think this is it. The First Amendment says Congress, government, shall make no law respecting establishment of religion, meaning state entities can't do things that endorse any particular religion or religiosity in general.

And if you look at those 10, there are some -- I know one of the defenses is, well these are themes that are consistent throughout civilized society, and throughout religion. Shall not kill, number six, I'm cheating, because I'm looking. But don't kill, don't rob, don't steal, that kind of thing.

But there are some Commandments that are inherently religious. Observe the Sabbath day. I'm the only God that you may worship. So, it's an inherently religious document.

I should add. This came up before. In 1980, there was a case out of Kentucky, in the Supreme Court, almost exact same facts. And the Supreme Court said, unconstitutional.

COLLINS: Well I'm glad you brought that up. Because Governor Landry said, basically he couldn't wait to be sued. He was bracing for that. The ACLU weighed in, tonight, said they are suing. They've made that pledge, in a tweet, tonight.

If this does go up to the Supreme Court, which is what we have seen a lot of conservative groups try to have happen, what is the reception compared to 1980? Is it a friendlier court to an argument, like having the Ten Commandments up in a classroom than it was before?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so I think it is a friendlier court. The problem is it's unlike some of the cases that we've seen in recent years, where they have pushed to the right, on this issue.

So, the case from a couple of years ago with the public high school football coach, who prayed before the games. That's a conflict between his free exercise of religion, and everyone else who says it's an Establishment Clause violation. We don't want that religion to be foisted onto us. So, when you have those two things in conflict, this Court has consistently ruled for the individual, who says they're exercising their right.

You don't have that side of it here. This is the Legislature saying, here's the religion that we are putting in front of all school children. We don't care if they're Christian, Muslim, if they're atheist. They all have to look at this religious document. You don't have a person saying, this is violating my individual religious freedom right.

So, given that it's one-sided, I don't see how they possibly rule for that non-existent proponent. I think it's a clear violation.

COLLINS: So do you -- you believe it ultimately gets struck down?


COLLINS: But if it's on its way to the Supreme Court, and making its way? I mean, there's all these appeals playing out. Could this stay in place? Could teachers have to put this up in the classroom, in the meantime?

HONIG: So, it's a great question. It'll depend on what the lower courts do. I think one of the first things the ACLU, if they make good on their promise to sue, will ask for is a stay, essentially. You have to put this thing on hold while we litigate it. They will say there is irreparable harm that will be done, and are likely to succeed.

And look, the fact that this essentially already came up in 1980, in Kentucky, doesn't mean this court is going to do the same thing. First of all, that was 40 or 44 years ago. Second of all, that was a five- to-four opinion. All nine justices have now turned over.

And as Jen said, the trend recently has been in favor of religiosity, among the Supreme Court. So, I wouldn't guarantee a result. But to me, this is a great example of what violates the First Amendment.

COLLINS: Well and it reminds me of Roy Moore in Alabama, when he was a judge there, and he had the Ten Commandments.


COLLINS: And it was this huge fight that was playing out, over whether or not he could keep it. And ultimately, he had to remove it.


RODGERS: Yes, he lost. I mean, when you get down to just this Establishment Clause question, this should be the result, right? I mean, we know that this court doesn't always follow precedent. But if they do, then this should have to be removed, or not go up in the first place.

HONIG: One more point. The Governor, you quoted him before saying, well this, it's good for kids to know this.

Maybe it is. I mean, I believe it is. But that's different from a question of whether it violates the First Amendment. The First Amendment isn't about what's good for kids or bad for kids.

There's plenty of things that are protected by the First Amendment, or prohibited by the First Amendment that might be good for kids. But that's a policy reason. That's not a constitutional reason.

COLLINS: Yes, those arguments aren't mutually exclusive.


COLLINS: Elie Honig, Jen Rodgers, great to have you both on this tonight.


COLLINS: We'll see what that ACLU lawsuit looks like.

And speaking of the Supreme Court, we are still waiting on more than 20 rulings from them, including of course the blockbuster presidential immunity case. What the decision is going to be? One legal expert, tonight, is questioning why is it taking so long?


COLLINS: Tonight, we are still waiting on rulings, from at least 20 cases that are left on the Supreme Court's docket. It's still quite packed. And that includes the biggest blockbuster of them all, Donald Trump's claim of immunity from criminal prosecution.

In "The New York Times," today, you might have read this. One legal expert wrote, "Something's Rotten About the Justices Taking So Long on Trump's Immunity Case." If past is prologue, as Leah Litman argues in that article, Trump's case should have been decided by now.

What we know, of course, is, when you look at the calendar, a 111 days have passed since the court agreed to hear this case.


Now compare that to Watergate, when then-President Nixon was arguing immunity, from a subpoena that was seeking his Oval Office recordings, and the Supreme Court made that decision in 54 days.

I want to get perspective, tonight, from John Dean, who was the former White House Counsel to President Nixon.

And it's great to have you, John.

Because I don't know, when you -- when you look at this, and you see what Leah is arguing, in her article, today, do you believe it's taking an unusual amount of time? Are you suspicious of this?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Kaitlan, I'm very suspicious of this. There's just absolutely no reason for it. It was 16 days from argument to decision in Nixon versus U.S., where they tried to -- where they got the tapes from him. So, there really is not a clear explanation of what's going on.

There are -- you noted the number of decisions, important decisions that haven't been issued yet. There's a lot of administrative law kind of decisions, which really are not as important, in the bigger picture. They are to the litigants, but not to the fate of the nation, is the one they're now sitting on for some 100 days. So, there is not a good explanation, at this point.

COLLINS: Yes. And I think the other part of this is it is a historically sluggish court. "The Wall Street Journal" looked at this, and noted that the justices here are completing decisions at the second slowest rate that we've seen, from the Supreme Court, since their 1946 term. And April was a very busy month for them.

DEAN: Right.

COLLINS: But I wonder, when you do look at this, how much of it is a matter of the process, and making a big decision like this one, versus when people see it as maybe a political delay, as Leah Litman is suggesting here?

DEAN: Well, the fact that they're -- the number of decisions that are backed up would really, some of the proponents are trying to really disassemble the administrative state. And I'm sure there's contentions within the court itself that could prolong and protract those decisions just in the normal course.

Then you add in the immunity case for Trump, which was actually, it's been some six months they've been sitting on that, or ignoring it, if you will, or not facing it, or not telling the public, what the decision is, because the Special Counsel, Jack Smith, brought it in, initially, in December, as on an emergency proceeding. So, the court certainly knows the prosecutors think it's important to get this decided.

Yet as I say, if it comes out in June, hopefully it will not get pushed over until July. This is a long time on that case.

COLLINS: Yes. And ultimately, I mean, we could see this as soon as tomorrow, potentially. Tomorrow is a Supreme Court day.

DEAN: True.

COLLINS: We never know what's going to come down. Do you think though ultimately, when it does come out that Trump's immunity claim fails?

DEAN: It should, by all precedent, by all history. I can't imagine any argument that could grant him total immunity.

There is total immunity, which was extraordinary at the time, in civil cases for presidents. While judges and members of Congress have immunity from their work, in their legislative work or judicial work, per se, Presidents have never needed it, because, it has just not been an issue after Fitzgerald versus Nixon.

So, now we're into the criminal area. And nobody else has criminal immunity in the entire federal system. So, the fact that Trump wants absolute immunity is extraordinary. I can't believe, Kaitlan, he's going to get it.

COLLINS: Yes. DEAN: Can't believe it.

COLLINS: It's just remarkable. I spent part of the day, today, and I can't believe I'm saying this, because I'm so nerdy, but I was reading some of the transcripts of the Nixon Oval Office recordings, and in conversations with you. It's just remarkable.

John Dean, it's great to have you weigh in on this. Thank you for being here, tonight.

DEAN: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And you heard what David mentioned earlier, the strongest military deal in decades that we've seen, between Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un. How these two nuclear-armed and anti-West dictators are now forging new levels of cooperation, and what it means.



COLLINS: Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, have now made a deal, signing an agreement to help each other, if either is attacked, a big boost to the nuclear-armed alliance, and an even bigger warning to the West.

Of course, there was plenty of fanfare, during this trip. North Koreans cheered them on, waving flags and balloons. Portraits of the two leaders hung high above the main square, both leaders smiling shoulder-to-shoulder through Pyongyang's streets, really a signal to the world that these two dictators, and their nations, are closer than ever.

Our source on this tonight is CNN National Security Analyst, and the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

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

I wonder, when you see this pact that they've signed, how substantive you think it is, and how much it makes you worried about this growing military relationship, between two very ostracized countries.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Kaitlan, I would liken it to an axis of convenience.

I would think it has to be a bit galling, for Putin, who seemingly, they go to Pyongyang, hat in hand. They hadn't been there since, I think, the year 2000. In recognition of how desperately the Russians are, depending on the North Koreans, for munitions, principally, I would guess artillery.

So, it's a media event for both of them. Kim Jong Un craves face. He wants the attention. And when a major power visits Pyongyang, that's a big deal for him.


But certainly, I don't ascribe a lot of concern to this, at least yet. Having seen the text of the agreement, there is some contrast with the last agreement they signed in 1961, which had some immediacy attached, to how they would come to each other's aid. It'd be very interesting to see just how -- what -- how the wording addresses that issue.

This is in contrast, Kaitlan, though, to the burgeoning relationship with -- between China and Russia, which I do think does pose an increased threat to the United States, but not so much between Russia and North Korea. And as I say, I think this is more an axis of convenience.

COLLINS: So, you think this is more essentially superficial, than what you fear more, which is the burgeoning alliance between Russia and China?

CLAPPER: I do see a big contrast there. I think there's more opportunity for the Russians and the Chinese to cooperate technologically, particularly in the cyber space, and even the nuclear arena, particularly as China expands its strategic nuclear capability dramatically, which is, I think, very concerning.

COLLINS: Yes. And Russia -- or North Korea is also trying to do that too.

The other thing that stood out today, it wasn't that long ago that Putin wanted North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal. And today, no mention of North Korea ever giving up their weapons, in these statements. I wonder what you make of that contrast as well.

CLAPPER: It's, again, it's just how Russia's role has changed that it wasn't so long ago that Russia was supportive of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear. They were supportive, for example, during the negotiations with Iran, on the deal that was eventually struck there.

They have been in the past, and I have some personal experience with this, very much concerned about the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea. But not so much anymore. Necessity here is causing Putin to change his position on a lot of things.

COLLINS: Yes. The bargaining chips that we've seen for North Korea in this is remarkable.

Director Clapper, it's always great to have you. Thank you.

CLAPPER: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And still ahead tonight, some -- and strange and bizarre weather, across the United States, raging wildfires that engulfed a ski shop. Tropical storms, torrential rains, millions of people who are now sweating out a dangerous heat wave.

Across the country, we are tracking all the extreme weather with Bill Weir. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COLLINS: Across the United States, tonight, and really no matter where you go, the chances are you're experiencing an extreme weather event.

Look at New Mexico, raging wildfires are turning deadly there. At least two people have died, as a result of these two fast-moving fires that are forcing thousands to flee their homes, and even engulfed this ski shop and more than a 1,000 other structures.

From the Midwest to Maine, a dangerous heat wave is shattering at least 46 temperature records, in just the last few days alone. It's not over yet.

And also in the Gulf, the outer bands of the Tropical Storm Alberto are lashing South Texas, tonight. Parts of Galveston, underwater, from the storm surge and the torrential rains. Yet that storm's core, about 300 miles off the shore.

Joining me, tonight, to break down these extreme weather events, CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent, Bill Weir.

And can we just start in New Mexico? But I mean, just seeing these images, from New Mexico, are so striking. A 1,000 homes destroyed. More than that I believe. Families being displaced.


COLLINS: What is -- what are officials saying about why they're having such a difficult time tightening (ph) this?

WEIR: Well, this is one of the most flammable corners of the country. Super-drought happening right there. All that grassland is just tinder, right? High winds, a lightning strike, any other natural cause spark from something, and you had two fires converging.

What's even more bizarre is tonight, they had thunderstorms and flash flooding. We won't know until tomorrow morning, how much help that is for the -- for the fires. But now, we live in this sort of whiplash, where they're going from flame to flood, in the same ZIP Code. It's very strange.

COLLINS: Well, and it's also, maybe it's predictable there, because of what you said.

But in other areas, you're seeing what's not predictable. I mean, look in Maine and the weather. It's 10 miles from the Canadian border. And they just had 103 degrees on the Heat Index. And I think people look at that and say, here, really?

WEIR: Totally, yes. These are the northern latitudes, you think are sort of climate change proof, right? Maybe it gets a little more pleasant. But these are tropical temperatures in places that just don't have the infrastructure. It's interesting that Maine is leading the nation in heat pump adaptation. These are these new cleaner replacements, for your furnace, and your air conditioner. But not the whole state, and not in time to deal with this heat wave.

And if it sits for a long time, we've never seen a heat as a source of a federal national disaster, where FEMA comes in, or a governor says this -- the heat has overwhelmed us. There are a bunch of groups now saying that we should rethink that going forward. There's nothing that couldn't make that happen. But--

COLLINS: But is there a game plan if that needs to happen?

WEIR: No -- I mean, it's there if it's needed. And FEMA could actually get out in front of these things, set up cooling centers, and save lives in ways that maybe you wouldn't -- you know, with an earthquake that you didn't know what's coming.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, the other -- I mean, it is fascinating how it is truly all over the map, when you look at this.

WEIR: Yes.

COLLINS: And what's happening in Texas, I mean, the storm, the center of it is hundreds of miles offshore. Yet still they are feeling the brunt of it in a real way.


WEIR: Yes. There's these waterspouts, big, kicking up out there, a lot of wind and rain, not the kind of hurricane we worry about. It'll actually hopefully add some relief to the Rio Grande. There's a water fight now between Mexico and the United States, because of so much drought in that region right there. But it's like too much water or not enough, these days.

And in California, the wildfires we didn't mention at the top there. Stephanie Elam, our colleague, out in L.A., just wrote a story online. 1,500 percent above normal. That's how many acres have burned so far this year.


WEIR: It is off the charts. And we're not even -- the first day of summer hasn't even hit us yet.

COLLINS: Yes. And I know, we've talked about in Hawaii, so much of it, where -- is where it destroys the vegetation. It grows back, and it's more flammable than ever.

WEIR: Exactly, yes.

COLLINS: But overall, when you're looking at this picture, I mean, the question people has is, how much of this is a result of climate change? WEIR: It's everything. I mean, there's climate attribution, and they can say, well, but this particular event, there's a 40 percent -- 60 percent chance it was supercharged by.

But it's very simple. We have man's -- human success has created this Godzilla, made of carbon in the sky, it's weighs over a trillion tonnes. And the bigger he gets, the hotter it gets. Period. Last year, he got bigger by almost 40 billion tonnes. But that was only a 1 percent tick up.

And a lot of experts say this could be the year, at least next year, that we hit peak oil, and it starts coming down as the rest of the globe electrifies, and goes to more renewable energy, which is now the cheapest source of energy humanity's ever known. The question is how much life will be lost--


WEIR: --in that race to decarbonize as the big fossil fuel interests dig in.

COLLINS: Yes. And quality of life for so many.

WEIR: Totally. Totally.

COLLINS: Bill Weir, you're going to be very busy. Thank you for joining tonight.

WEIR: Unfortunately, yes.


WEIR: My pleasure.

COLLINS: Also tonight, celebrating Juneteenth, remembering a baseball legend that we talked about here, last night. That Major League Baseball is honoring the legacy of Willie Mays at the field that launched his Hall of Fame career.

We are live at that field, next.



COLLINS: As we celebrate Juneteenth today, Major League Baseball is honoring the holiday, at the oldest surviving ballpark in the nation. It's Rickwood Field's, in Birmingham, Alabama, with -- talk about the timing here. I mean, it is the old stomping ground of the baseball giant, Willie Mays.

And of course, the late great "Say Hey Kid," as he was known, passed away yesterday, at the age of 93. Charles Barkley talked about how that should be a celebration.

He first began his career as a player in the Negro Leagues, on that same field that you are seeing tonight. That is where we find CNN's Ryan Young, who is joining us, live, from outside the Rickwood Field--


COLLINS: --in Birmingham.

And Ryan, I know there's just so many people, down there. And it's incredible to see these celebrations happening in the first place that he played pro ball. I wonder what's it like, what are people telling you that you're running into down there.

YOUNG: First of all, the energy here is amazing. It's electric here. And the idea that we're able to celebrate this man that's now sort of immortalized, as one of the greatest people, who have ever come out of Alabama, and this country, Willie Mays. Everywhere we went, today, someone has something positive say about him.

But for folks who live in Alabama, you got to understand how special this moment is, especially when you surround all this with MLB. So, when you put the history of MLB, and the fact that Willie Mays was able to break not only the color barrier, in some sense. And what I mean by that is he was an All-Star on the field. But off the field, he meant so much to so many people.

In fact, listen to Joe Torre, talk about Willie Mays, and what he meant to the game of baseball.


JOE TORRE, FORMER MLB EXECUTIVE, MANAGER AND PLAYER: Willie loved the game. I mean, it was evidenced by the fact that when he played in an All-Star Game, he batted first and played the whole game. Because, you know, he knew people wanted to see him. And he was exciting. Never needed a coach, because his head was on a swivel all the time, when he ran the bases.


YOUNG: So, you think about all this, Kaitlan. Look, in the south, it's kind of complicated. Of course, you have the long civil rights history. But Black and White people really do live together, and watch sports together, when it comes to football, when it comes to baseball, when it comes to America's pastime.

You add Juneteenth into this. It was almost perfect, in terms of them having a conversation about Juneteenth, and having a celebration for baseball. We were, of course, well to talk about Willie Mays, and then that got extended with his passing. There have been people, who shed tears all day long, in terms of talking about a man, who meant so much to this area.


COLLINS: Yes. I loved what Michael Mays, his son, had to say about it. He described it, and the quote that was in "The New York Times," was a full circle moment for Major League Baseball, for Birmingham, and for their families. YOUNG: Yes. I mean, and then you think about what Major League Baseball has been able to extend. This is the oldest baseball field, professional, in the country.

But then you look at this wall, and you see how they're celebrating the Negro Leagues. And you understand with them putting the stats in, it was almost like a conversation is being had, where you have this great pass to be celebrated, because, of course, the Negro Leagues is a part of American history.

You add Juneteenth with it. And then, you see this celebration coming together, in a city that, quite frankly, needs this sort of celebration, because honestly, the people, who are coming from all across the country, have been exploring the Birmingham area, and they said they love the southern hospitality.

You have tomorrow's big game. And that's of course, when all the bright lights will be here, and the big-time athletes will be out there on the field. Tonight was a celebrity softball game.


But that allowed for the conversation, for people, from all across the country, to come and celebrate a great man, who, by the way while he was playing, could not always enjoy everything that every other American could. So, this has been a fantastic celebration, so far.


COLLINS: Yes. It is remarkable to reflect on that. And because of them adding the stats, he actually -- Willie Mays logged more hits in retirement, which is just amazing to--

YOUNG: 10 more hits.

COLLINS: --to see it.

YOUNG: 10 more hits, yes.

COLLINS: Ryan Young, I'm glad the southern hospitality is in full effect. Great to have you. Thank you so much, Ryan.

YOUNG: Always. Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much, for joining us.