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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Jack Smith Cites Threat To FBI In Renewed Plea For Gag Order; "The Exit Visa Should Be Clipped To The Diploma": Bannon Rebukes Trump's Green Card Proposal; Supreme Court Upholds Ban On Domestic Abusers Possessing Guns. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 21, 2024 - 21:00   ET



MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AEROSPACE ANALYST: They just want to figure out why they're having so many troubles, with this spacecraft before they bring them back home.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Remarkable story. We'll continue to stay on it.

Miles O'Brien, grateful for your insights. Thanks for your time tonight.

Thanks for your time, watching throughout the hour.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE" starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Straight from THE SOURCE tonight.

Sounding the alarm, both Jack Smith and Alvin Bragg pleading with judges, to limit what Donald Trump can say, citing concerns over threats that are putting lives in danger.

The Supreme Court, upholding a gun control law, for the first time since the justices expanded gun rights, two years ago. There was also a notable absence, as we await blockbuster rulings.

And what Donald Trump said about immigration, a head-snapping change that has not the left, but some on the far-right unhappy tonight.

I'm Pamela Brown, in for Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.

Tonight, not one but two prosecutors sounding alarms, about the danger of Donald Trump's words, warnings at the local and state levels that if Trump is free to say what he wants, people's lives will be at risk.

It's a claim that's actually been well-documented, up and down the judicial system.

In the words of a D.C. Appeals court a, quote, "Predictable torrent of threats of retribution and violence" erupts when Trump goes after anyone connected to a case against him.

Or take the judge, in his civil fraud case, who was, quote, "Inundated with hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters and packages."

Even the judge in his federal election subversion case found, quote, "Such statements pose a significant and immediate risk." A risk that's no longer theoretical. There is a Texas woman that's now facing charges, for telling that very judge, quote, "You are in our sights -- we want to kill you."

Now, as for Alvin Bragg's office, they brought receipts to back up their claims. 61, that is actually the number of threats against Bragg himself, his office bombarded by nearly 500 threats overall, just since April.

Left to compile those threats is the NYPD. Police officers Trump describes like this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a beautiful thing to watch, New York's finest.


TRUMP: They did a great job, New York's finest.


BROWN: But that respect Trump claims to have for law enforcement, as you heard there, it's undermined by the facts according to Special Counsel, Jack Smith, who pointed out, in a new filing, tonight, Trump had previously said the FBI wanted to kill him, and the result of such rhetoric was an attempted attack on an FBI office, by a Trump supporter.

And as recently as last week, one threat from a Trump supporter was quote, "If Trump does not win the election, FBI agents will be hunt[ed] down and slaughter[ed] in their own homes."

Well Trump himself argues he should be able to post about anything, lies about federal officers. His reason, and I'm quoting here, "The first presidential debate approaches at the end of this month." That would be the one right here on CNN, next week.

Trump clearly sees lashing out as a political win for him. He's been raising money off of it, as we know.

This week, he amplified his former White House strategist, and now fellow convicted criminal, Steve Bannon's vowed to quote, "Get" former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe, who is now an analyst for CNN.

And as Bannon faces having to report to prison, in just a few days from now, here is what he's been warning.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP STRATEGIST: Let me tell the people that have done that to President Trump, whether you're in the federal government, or whether you're down in the State of Georgia, or you're in Arizona, or you're in Michigan. We are going to go, and 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.



BROWN: Well, our sources tonight, are:

Former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu.

CNN Legal Analyst, Carrie Cordero.

And political scientist, Barbara F. Walter, Author of "How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them."

All right, thank you all for being here.

Let's dive right into it. Carrie, I want to start with you.

You have prosecutors in Manhattan that say hey, they're fine with Trump being able to attack witnesses, like Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels.

I was just reading through Jack Smith's filing, tonight. He's making it very clear. Look, Trump can go after me, any one of the top officials at the Justice Department, the Biden administration, not these law enforcement officials, right?

Tell us why these distinctions are so important.


CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so I think from the perspective of a Jack Smith, who is the Special Counsel, but who also is operating within the Justice Department, under the Attorney General, they have a responsibility, to protect their prosecutors, to protect their law enforcement personnel, in this case, the FBI agents, who are under threat from statements that the former President is making, with respect to the Mar-a-Lago case in particular.

And so, and it's more broad than that. There's been obviously, as you documented, so many different cases, that the former President has said things publicly, and then that is affecting the prosecutors, the law enforcement officers.

And these are real threats. I mean, in Jack Smith's filing, he lays out an actual attack that was made -- attempted to be made, in Ohio, against federal law enforcement officers. And so, this is a real threat environment.

I suspect, as a former Justice Department attorney, that the number of threats are probably even more than what is being revealed publicly. And so, what these law enforcement leaders are seeing behind-the- scenes, is even more serious, even more worrisome to them, as individuals with responsibility, to protect their folks.

BROWN: And we've seen it online, what can happen, that kind of rhetoric.

I want to bring in Barbara for this.

Because CNN's Donie O'Sullivan had this reporting, right after the verdict, in this case, about how these online attempts, by supporters, to publicly identify the jurors, in the Trump case. It started immediately after the verdict.

How real is this threat against people, who didn't ask to be part of this case, or even people who could be mistaken for being attached to the case, but aren't?

BARBARA F. WALTER, AUTHOR, "HOW CIVIL WARS START": We now have real data showing that violent rhetoric leads to violent acts.

And we know also that there's been a real surge, in violent threats, in actual violence, in domestic terror. And it all stems from Trump's loss in 2020. If you follow the words that are being said, and the threats that are being made, you will often see the repercussions of that.

BROWN: So, the question is what do you do, right? There's obviously the gag orders that are in place. But should law enforcement, Shan, be more public and more aggressive, in dealing with these people accused of making these threats? And how do you balance that with the First Amendment?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think they did need to be more outspoken. Limit to how aggressive they can be. I mean, when a case rises to the top, and they can make an arrest, I'm confident they're taking the right level of action with that.

But I think there's more to be done, in terms of speaking out publicly. I think the Attorney General, other prosecutors, and maybe Smith, if he's allowed to do that, can speak out and say, this kind of rhetoric is very dangerous, and it affects the system, and it affects people.

I get why the prosecutors, the lead prosecutors say, it's OK to talk about me, but not my staff. But there's a danger to allowing them to be talked about, to be disparaged as well, because it trickles down to the rest of the public, and the rest of the staff.

And I think public statements would be appropriate, to warn off people making statements like this. That doesn't mean you're being unfair or persecuting people. If it's a crime, it's a crime.

But I think this is a grave public threat that needs to be addressed by them. And I think that'd be a good thing to do.

CORDERO: Can I give a really specific thing -- BROWN: Yes. Yes.

CORDERO: -- that I think could be done about it? So, there's a gag orders that are being tried to be implemented, in the court situation. There's sort of public statements that can be made.

There's one specific line of threats that's happening in actual attacks, which is this incidence of swatting, which is when a threat is called into a particular location, law enforcement then has to respond. The laws on swatting are really weak.

So, right now, those types of cases are handled at the local level. There's no federal law on it at all. And what that means is that these cases are actually not really being brought to justice, because there's jurisdictional problems, at the state and local level, they have trouble investigating these cases, and actually being -- bringing the perpetrators to justice, and actually prosecuting them.

So, there really is, like one specific thing that I think could be done about it. But it would require legislative action.

BROWN: Well, and going back to Trump, in his rhetoric in all of this, he knows how fast his statements go, right? I mean, he knows as soon as he says something, or post something, it's going to get out there. It's going to spread like wildfire.

In April, he posted quote, "When I put out a statement it is SPREAD all over the place, fast and furious. EVERYBODY SEEMS TO GET WHATEVER I HAVE, TO SAY, AND QUICKLY."

So, for those who don't follow every post on social media, Barbara, on Truth Social, I should say, what's the impact of Trump's social media rampages that target certain people?

F. WALTER: Well, Trump's doing it for a very specific reason. He wants to stay out of jail, and he wants to get in the White House.


And this is sort of classic mob-style bullying tactics. He's trying to intimidate jurors, intimidate judges, intimidate anybody, who might have an influence on what the repercussions of this past trial are going to be.

And he wants to play towards his base, his biggest supporters, and convince them that if he loses in November, that this will be the second consecutive election that he will have lost. And he's priming them. He's priming them to be angry, to feel like a grave injustice has been done to him. And for some of them, he's priming them to come out, and fight, to prevent him from losing yet again.

BROWN: When you say he's priming them, to come out and fight, what do you mean, specifically? What -- what exactly?

F. WALTER: So, I think we'll see something similar to what we saw, after the November 2020 election, when he started talking about we need to take our country back. Come on January 6th, it's going to be -- it's going to be wild.

And he's kind of doing the same thing. He's sort of setting the doubt that there's no way he can possibly win -- there's no way he could possibly lose.


F. WALTER: So that if he does lose, people will feel that the election is illegitimate, that there was fraud, that his supporters need to fight back, to correct what they will truly believe was, was an injustice.

BROWN: And we know so many of them actually believe every word Trump says, right?


BROWN: I mean, Carrie, we have seen the steady climb in numbers, of these serious threats, against federal judges, for example.

How has the reality changed in the legal system, since Trump took office? And how do you see that reality playing out if Trump wins, again in November?

CORDERO: Well, I think the current environment, in the legal system, is this environment of increased threats, to court personnel, to prosecutors, to judges, to everybody involved in that system.

It has obviously, as a practical matter, required increased security, for all of these different types of personnel. So, when you talk about the judiciary, that's Federal Marshal Service that has to increase their protection.

And if he continues to win, I mean, then we're going back to one of the clips that you played earlier, which was of Steve Bannon saying that there also will be the legal system, potentially, in a future Trump administration, brought against individuals. So, sort of using prosecutorial power for political purposes, as payback. That's as even a separate threat from the physical safety threats that we're encountering now.

I tend to think that one of the reasons, the former President has continued to be able to make these types of statements, is because he was not charged with incitement, as it related to January 6th, you know?

The federal -- the Special Counsel had to make decisions, about what to charge. And he chose conspiracy to defraud the United States- related charges. And then he chose obstruction charges, which we're waiting for that one Supreme Court case. We've talked a lot about immunity. But we're waiting for the obstruction case to come down, to see if those cases hold on the obstruction piece that the former President's been charged with.

But he wasn't charged with incitement. And as a result, he has been able to continue to walk right up this line, tiptoe over it, but not actually be held accountable for statements, that are potentially encouraging people to take other action.

BROWN: And like what Barbara was saying.

What do you think, Shan? Do you agree?

WU: I agree. And that could be remedied. Something could be done about that, which is to hold him accountable, through these types of gag orders or ones that are even more stringent.

And I think the red -- the red herring here is really the First Amendment. Because no one is saying violate Trump, or anyone else's First Amendment rights. They're simply saying there have got to be restrictions, to protect people.

If a court later determines there's a First Amendment violations, so be it. But there's too much pre-self-censorship going on, being too worried about the First Amendment.

BROWN: Well, we know First Amendment, it's not all-encompassing, the protections that come from it.

WU: Right.

BROWN: True threats are an exception, right, to the -- to the First Amendment protections.

WU: Right. Right.

CORDERO: They are. And, of course, it is complicated by the fact that he's a current candidate.


CORDERO: And I think that that does clearly weigh --


CORDERO: -- on all of the judges, who are looking at these gag orders.

BROWN: As it should, right, as it should. I mean, this is historic.

WU: Yes.

BROWN: All right. Carrie Cordero, Shan Wu, Barbara Walter, thank you so much.

Coming up on this Friday night, we have some new reporting on the shadow campaigns trying to influence Donald Trump's search, for a running mate, including a dinner party straw poll, the night of his felony conviction.

And today, the Supreme Court handed down its most significant gun control ruling, in two years. So, what does this mean for gun rights in America? We're going to discuss.


BROWN: Well, it turns out Donald Trump and, his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, do agree on something after all. And it is setting off a MAGA meltdown, tonight.


TRUMP: What I want to do, and what I will do is you graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically, as part of your diploma, a green card, to be able to stay in this country. And that includes junior colleges too.


BROWN: That actually echoed a Hillary Clinton campaign promise.


The Trump campaign quickly tried to clarify his position, saying that there would be an aggressive vetting process, "To exclude all communists, radical Islamists, Hamas supporters, America haters and public charges."

But that's not quieting the criticism, from the far-right, including from fierce Trump allies, like Steve Bannon. Today, he suggested giving foreign college graduates, a different sort of card.


BANNON: The exit visa should be clipped to the -- to the diploma, the exit visa.

Yes. Let's take them in, on selective basis, train them up. Let them root for college football and get all that. You know, you look in the college football stands for diversity. It's fabulous. But then, it's time to go back home, and make your country great again.


BROWN: My political sources, on this tonight.

CNN Senior Political Commentator, and former Senior Adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.

And Republican strategist, Doug Heye.

Doug, let's start with you, from the Republican perspective, quite a shift in policy and rhetoric, to say the least, from Trump. What is his political calculation, if there is one here?


And let me first apologize that I'm not wearing a Carolina blue tie for you.

BROWN: Yes. You should be.

HEYE: Yes, I was -- sorry, I was at Patsys Italian Restaurant, in Midtown, New York, where Sal makes the best Clams Posillipo in the world.


HEYE: And rushed right over here for you.

BROWN: Thank you.

HEYE: But look, this is a big shift for Donald Trump. And actually, the policy that he espoused in this case is one I agree with. And it's very interesting to watch how Trump-world and MAGA-world reacts to when Donald Trump says something that's sort of off-script.

What we see is a real mix here. Steve Bannon says one thing that this is terrible, you shouldn't do this. A lot of the Trump acolytes will do that. Mike Lee said that this was a terrible idea, a few weeks ago. He deleted that tweet, earlier today.

So, what it tells you is there's a split in Trump-world. But Donald Trump is not a set of policy -- policy prescriptions. Donald Trump is an attitude. And what it means is everybody is going to fall in line eventually.

BROWN: That's a fair point. We've seen that in the past, right? Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

HEYE: Yes.

BROWN: But David, we want to remind viewers how Trump has talked about migrants, in just this last year.


TRUMP: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. They poison mental institutions and prisons all over the world.

And we know they come from prisons. We know they come from mental institutions, insane asylums. We know they're terrorists.


BROWN: So, how do you square the two?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I don't know whether this was a well-thought-through policy shift on the part of Donald Trump, or was it him sitting on a podcast, with four Silicon Valley investors, and wanting to play to the audience, which, this often happens in politics.

Trump is not an ideologue, when it comes down to it. Obviously, the immigration position has been key to his politics, from the beginning.

But I really think he says and does what he thinks will be advantageous to him. And in that moment, he thought it would be advantageous, to tell that particular audience, which is very desperate, for the high-level talent that they can glean, that they support this.

I agree with Doug. I think it's a good policy. I think there are all kinds of immigration policies that we should implement that would help benefit this country. But I just don't know that he thought it through.

And I'm sure that alarm bells went off at the campaign headquarters, when they -- when they heard that he had taken this position. And they sort of broke glass, and tried to qualify it, because they knew what the reaction would be. I'll be interested to see whether he mentions this again, anytime soon.

HEYE: And Pamela, by the way --

BROWN: Right.

HEYE: -- David highlights something that campaign people, and communication staff, and congressional offices deal with on a daily basis. The difficulty between a negative interview, and a friendly interview.

Quite often, the friendly interview comes up, somebody who is ideologically aligned with you, somebody who's maybe a personal friend to the candidate, or to the communications director, and says, it's going to be all softballs.

When all the soft balls come, that's actually when you get into dangerous territory, because you start agreeing with the host over and over again --


HEYE: -- and you end up like a frog in hotter water, in a place you don't want to be in.

Hostile interviews can actually be the easier ones for a candidate to do, that's sort of counterintuitive.


HEYE: But it's something campaign people deal with all the time.

BROWN: That's really interesting perspective.

AXELROD: It's also -- it's also, Pam --


AXELROD: -- it's also -- it's also why candidates often make mistakes at fundraisers, because they feel like they're among friends.

HEYE: Yes. AXELROD: They want to cater to the audience. And they say things that get them in trouble. There's a -- history is replete with those examples.

So yes, this was a firestorm. I don't know whether he's going to repeat this, or not. It seems to me he touched the rail. He got the shock, and we'll see what happens.

BROWN: Well, we know the shock doesn't always keep them away from touching the rail again.

HEYE: Yes.


BROWN: Doug, let's get to this New CNN reporting that really takes us inside Trump's VP search, and these shadow campaigns trying to influence his decision.

So, we're learning his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has made his affinity for Senator J.D. Vance. Well-known.

Rupert Murdoch is pushing for Governor Doug Burgum.

And Sean Hannity has gone to bat for Senator Marco Rubio, arguing that the son of Cuban immigrants could help Trump with Latino voters.

However, the Trump campaign is insisting he alone will make the call.

How do you see this playing out?

HEYE: That last part is the most important part. Everything we know about Donald Trump is that he's a decider, whether you like this decision or not. And that he decides things when he wants to. So, we've seen a lot of speculation.

I remember a dinner, Pamela and David, that I was at in February, where somebody, who has worked in Republican politics, for a long time, somebody I really respect, said to me it's absolutely going to be Ben Carson.

This was in February. Nothing was going to be certain in February. Nothing is certain in June. We need to take the reporting that we see, accurate though it may be, with a grain of salt the size of the Empire State Building.

Because Donald Trump is going to make up his mind today. He'll change his mind tomorrow. He'll change it a third time, fourth time, fifth time. And what it's going to come down to is what does Donald Trump think, at that moment, when he finally makes the decision?

Does he decide, I need to boost my support with African American males? OK, well, then maybe it's Tim Scott. Maybe it's -- maybe it's Ben Carson. Probably not. Maybe it's a Byron Donalds.

Does he say I got a problem with women in suburban areas? Then maybe it's a Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Then maybe it's an Elise Stefanik.

But it's a wild card until Donald decides.

BROWN: All right, Doug.


BROWN: Hope you get back to that fun dinner that you had to leave to come on this show. And next time, you better wear a Tar Heel tie.

HEYE: Absolutely. Go Heels.

BROWN: David Axelrod, wear Kentucky Wildcats style. Take that too.

David Axelrod, Doug, great seeing you as well.

Well, still ahead.

AXELROD: All right, you guys. Great to see you.

BROWN: The Supreme Court is about to rule on presidential immunity.

We're going to speak to a law professor, who says the court could make the President a king, and set the stage for a quote, Oval Office crime spree.



BROWN: Well, in a victory for domestic violence survivors, and gun control advocates, the Supreme Court today upheld a federal law that bars domestic abusers from possessing guns. And most of the court's conservatives joined the liberal justices, in an eight-to-one opinion with Justice Clarence Thomas as the lone dissenter.

Now, on its face, this issue might seem like a no-brainer. But there was a lot of uncertainty, over how the court would rule, since it vastly expanded gun rights in 2022. And this battle is far from over.

Let's discuss this with Abene Clayton, Lead Reporter on The Guardian's "Guns & Lies in America" project, and a CNN Contributor.

Nice to see you.

So, what do you make of the way, the court ruled on this issue, especially after their ruling two years ago?

ABENE CLAYTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, there was a lot of confidence, coming out of people, who work with domestic abuse survivors, people who advocate for DVROs, which were at the center of this, domestic violence restraining orders, as well as people who try to expand protection orders, you know, so people who are deemed to be a danger to themselves, or others, can have their guns confiscated temporarily. And based on oral arguments, it sounded like the justices were not completely sold on the idea that because there's no exact historical twin to this current law, then it's unconstitutional. I think we heard a lot of the justices say, historical silence does not mean it's unconstitutional.

So, while I am surprised that there was only one dissent? I expected one or two more. The fact that overall the law was upheld is not a surprise to me.

BROWN: We can't emphasize enough, obviously, how much of a relief this is, for domestic abuse survivors, right?

I mean, one woman, who survived being shot by her ex-husband, spoke to CNN, about this relief that she felt, after the ruling. Let's take a listen to that.


KATE RANTA, DOMESTIC ABUSE SURVIVOR: My case, you know, the gun was the weapon of choice. He -- he didn't try to stab me. He didn't try to run me over with a car. And, you know, he -- he went for a gun. And that's -- that's the easiest and most deadly way, to erase your partner from this world.


BROWN: One notable issue is this law would apply to known abusers with a criminal history. So, what about people accused of domestic violence, who are in the process of fighting those charges in court?

CLAYTON: Yes, I think that's where a lot of advocates are saying, there's room to grow. Like you mentioned, this ruling is quite narrow. It's specific to intimate partners, and people who have a child with their abuser. So, there are a lot of people, who fall through the cracks.

And there's still a lot of advocacy, going on, statewide. We know that President Biden has made money available, for different kinds of restraining orders and protection orders, to become available for people, who don't necessarily neatly fit into the category that was protected today.

BROWN: All right. Abene Clayton, thank you so much.

Now, I want to bring in Kim.

Today's ruling, on gun control, was just one of several blockbuster Supreme Court decisions we've been waiting for.

So, let's discuss with Kim Wehle, Professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Also, the Author of the forthcoming book, "Pardon Power: How the Pardon System Works - and Why."

[21:35:00] So, the biggest case, undoubtedly, the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on, is Trump's immunity claim. There has been a lot of debate. I know here at CNN, every day we're like OK, is it going to come today? Is it going to come today?

What do you think is going on? How do you think it's going to play out?

PROF. KIM WEHLE, AUTHOR, "PARDON POWER": I think the court is going to manufacture a test for criminal immunity. And I say that because, in this moment, there is no such thing as criminal immunity for presidents. And this is a conservative court that reached out to take this issue.

So, I think they're going to establish a multi-factor test that will separate public functions, from private functions, and parse, is a president acting privately or publicly, and for certain public functions, say, even if what he does would be a crime, that crime cannot be prosecuted, once that person is a private citizen, which would be immunity.

BROWN: And you wrote this article, in "Politico." I think it was "Politico," right? About pardon power, and how you think actually, the government made a mistake in ceding how powerful the President's pardon power can be, right?

WEHLE: Right. So, the pardon power, of course, the President has the ability to pardon federal crimes. And a lot of people think it's unlimited, and it's sort of this crown of crowns for a king almost, in the United States.

And so, Justice Alito, I think it was said, well, what -- if we don't create criminal immunity, a president will come in, and just have everyone in the Oval Office, or as people commit crimes, and in the last day in office, pardon all those crimes, and then pardon himself, which would basically create a crime spree, in the Oval Office. So, we need to manufacture some kind of immunity in advance.

And I think, honestly, the government seemed to concede this really mythology around the pardon power that it's not checked -- checked or balanced by other parts of the Constitution. And as I make the case, in the book, there's actually case law, I think, that goes against that presumption. And it's really a dangerous one.

BROWN: It's interesting to ponder, for sure.

I have to ask. A lot of court-watchers and just the general public have noticed that Justice Alito, Samuel Alito, who's been, of course caught in this storm of controversy, of late, has been absent for the last two days. No explanation from the court.

What's going on here? Why isn't there more transparency surrounding this?

WEHLE: Well, hard to know. We have lots of things going around these, days, in terms of why people can't make it to work. I think the bigger issue with transparency, of course, is the fact that the court is not being transparent, about some of these conflicts of interest. It's not allowing itself to be accountable to anyone, for the transgressions, frankly, by Justice Alito, and Justice Thomas, conflicts of interest, and flying of Stop the Steal flag, things like that. That's really the more urgent question.

And the government, through the Congress, I really think, needs to put some guardrails around the court. And I actually have a new piece, coming out next week, in "Politico," that argues that Congress could take some legislative steps that are commonsense, so Americans can feel more comfortable and have more buy-in to this powerful body that's really redesigning and rewriting the Constitution before our eyes.

BROWN: Yes. And in my view, as someone who used to cover the Supreme Court, if you're not transparent, even on little things, you know that can extend to the big things too. And it just feeds into this overall narrative, right, of a lack of transparency, a lack of trust.

I want to bring in, before we let you go, the -- what's going on with the Manhattan prosecutors, because we're keeping this eye -- our eyes, on an effort by them, to extend Trump's gag order, in his criminal hush money case, noting growing threats against the D.A.'s office.

What do you make of the growing animus, against officials in our justice system, federal judges, prosecutors, and so on?

WEHLE: Yes, it's really interesting. Because we just had a sitting president's son go through a criminal prosecution and a conviction, and we didn't have all of this issue with attacking the court, attacking the jury. That's how it's supposed to work.

It's only one side, and it comes straight down from the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, who has called Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan D.A., an animal, right? And so, that kind of talk is not protected by the Constitution, something that could incite people to violence and harassment.

And so, the court, these judges have to balance that idea, of protecting people, who are involved in the judicial system. We want people to serve as jurors. We want people to participate in elections. We want people to work for judges, in the courtroom, for example. And if they're worried that they're going to be threatened, and some of these threats are serious, the whole system can break down.

So, I think, the prosecution is saying these are ongoing, notwithstanding the fact that the conviction now, is in the rearview mirror. But the sentencing is in July.


WEHLE: So, we'll have to see if it extends beyond sentencing.

BROWN: We'll be keeping an eye on it for sure.

Kim Wehle, thanks so much. Nice to see you.


BROWN: Well, the extreme heat in the Northeast shows no sign of letting up this weekend, as temperatures across the globe are leading to hundreds of deaths.

Bill Nye, you know he is right. He is here, after a quick break, to explain what's going on.



BROWN: Well, there is no relief in sight, as we enter the first weekend of summer. And already, a third of the country is dealing with unrelenting dangerous heat.

It hit 94 degrees, in New York City Central Park, today, and 100 degrees at Newark Airport, in New Jersey. Washington, D.C., where we are, right now, could see temps pass that, over the weekend.


But climate extremes are not just hitting the U.S. In Saudi Arabia, more than a 1,000 people are feared dead in this year's Haj, or annual pilgrimage. Muslims making the journey to the holy city of Mecca are enduring 125-degree temperatures, the hottest on record there.

My source, tonight, is one of the world's top scientists. You now know him. Bill Nye, "The Science Guy."

I mean, the perfect source for this conversation, right? I think we're all wondering, look, I mean, it gets hot in the summer, depending on where you live. But it's so early in the summer.

Can you explain how climate change is fueling this extreme heat here, and around the world?


BROWN: Right.

NYE: We're putting all this carbon dioxide, methane in the atmosphere. It traps heat. So, you've heard this many times, I presume. Visible light comes through the atmosphere, hits the Earth's surface, is reradiated at a slightly longer wavelength, infrared heat. And it's these molecules hold it in.

So, we have to stop pumping all this carbon dioxide, methane into the atmosphere. Easy to say. It's a huge job. But we have a problem, where about half the people don't accept it's happening. Don't accept the cause and effect. And this is troublesome.

So, people say to me: Bill Nye, Science Guy. What can I do about climate change? Vote. Take the environment into account, when you vote.

BROWN: I think a lot of people wonder, though, like, OK, what can my daily habits actually do?

NYE: See, I understand.

BROWN: I mean, a lot of people.

NYE: I'm sympathetic to this idea. And I'm of a certain age. We grew up with every litter bit hurts. The premise was, if everybody picked up his or her litter then there wouldn't be any litter.

But with many organizations producing paper -- paper, food products, stuff, it just ends up -- litter ends up everywhere. So it's a -- and this is for example. So, individual action is not going to do it, Pam. No.

BROWN: So, is it just an exercise of utility --

NYE: You need.

BROWN: -- to recycle?

NYE: No. You need to --

BROWN: And, you know?

NYE: -- work. Everybody, who plays a sport, goes into the game, planning to win. That's -- you're optimistic at the beginning of the game, even maybe --

BROWN: That's very true.

NYE: -- especially if you're the underdog.

So, do not come running to me about we can't do this. Wham, wham, wham, wham. Doom -- doomed. No.

Let's get to work people. This is, as we like to say, this is the United States. This is what we do. We do big things. Let's go.

BROWN: How do we get to work though? For all the viewers, seeing at home, who are like concerned about this? OK, what can I do?

NYE: So, get involved. Make sure you --

BROWN: Beside go -- I know you said vote.

NYE: Well make sure --

BROWN: But like what else?

NYE: -- you're involved this year.

So, every -- I mean, of course, everything every one of us does affects everybody in the world, because we all share the air. I'm not joking you.

So yes, indeed, we can get a tiny fraction of the great mission accomplished by cutting back, cutting back on -- combine your errands. Carpool. Don't leave the water running when you're shaving or showering or whatever. That yes, these are all important things.

But we need big investments, big ideas, to address this problem. And there are great many ideas. And there are great many innovators, working on this problem. But they need support from the great evil word, regulations. Ah. Regulations. Ah. Yes, we need --


NYE: -- all the regulations we need and no more. But just getting rid of regulations for the --

BROWN: But, I mean, there could be regulations --

NYE: -- sake of getting rid of regulations.

BROWN: -- out the wazoo in the United States. But then you have China.

NYE: Well see that.


NYE: OK. That's an excellent point.


NYE: I equate that to hand-wringing.

BROWN: Ooh, all right.

NYE: No, so, China's a big economy, and it's influencing what we purchase, here in the United States, to be sure. India is a growing economy. But the U.S. has to lead.

So, the United States is so influential. United States' culture is what we export, often by accident. So, if the United States were into lead, I claim we would be getting her done.

But this, I claim, that's an excuse whining -- whining. Complaining about what's happening in China, or India, it's important. But most of the solar panels in the world are made in the same place that's burning all the coal, China.

So, you guys, we can do this. Let's get to work.


NYE: Let us all work together.

BROWN: It's just so time -- days like today, you're in Washington, where we are --

NYE: Oh, man.

BROWN: -- it's brutally hot out.

NYE: So.

BROWN: Going to be hotter this weekend.

NYE: So, you know the expression we use all the time. What's it going to take? How often have we heard --


NYE: -- what's it going to take? Everybody, we have a heat dome. We have people dying from heat.

So, you know what makes you and me go, and your traditional internal combustion engine, is the difference in temperature, between the burning fuel inside the engine and the outside world.


You and I are a different form of a heat engine. We have enzymes that break down our food, at much lower temperature than burning. But there's a point, where we cannot cool off. We cannot where the -- if the outside world of a car engine, were the temperature of the inside of the car engine, it wouldn't work.

This is the mythic. The, you can't get away from it. I'm sorry, everybody, Second Law of Thermodynamics.

BROWN: Wow. We ran out of luck here (ph).

NYE: So, anyway, we can do this. Let's get to work.


NYE: Thank you for having me on.

BROWN: All right. Thanks, Bill Nye.

NYE: Let's change the world.

BROWN: Great to see you. Thank you so much.

Coming up, we've got some more news, breaking news actually, problems with a Boeing-built spacecraft, now forcing two astronauts to extend their stay, on the International Space Station, indefinitely.

A former astronaut joins me to discuss what happens next. And the news coming out tonight about this.



BROWN: We have breaking news, tonight, that return to Earth for two NASA astronauts is now delayed for a third time.

Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore were scheduled to come home, next Wednesday. But now, NASA does not have a new return date. Their Boeing-built Starliner spacecraft suffered thruster failure and helium leaks en route to the International Space Station. So now engineers, they're scrambling to understand more about what went wrong.

Tonight, NASA did add that the Starliner can be used, if there is an emergency on the ISS.

So joining us now is Leland Melvin, a former NASA astronaut. Also, the Author of "Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances."

Leland, so are, helium leaks and malfunctioning thrusters, are they common issues, for a spacecraft to have? What's going on here?


You know we have had these problems before. It was stuck thrusters, and helium leaks. And that's how you -- the helium actually allows you to gimbal your RCS, reaction control system jet, so you can kind of gimbal and steer the vehicle around, when you're in space. So, this has happened before.

Now, this is a test vehicle. So this is -- there are things that will always happen in the test vehicle. And both Suni and Butch are test pilots. So, they're used to this kind of thing.

But we got to get it fixed. We got to figure it out, get more data. And the reason we're delaying even longer is because we have these two -- these three EVAs sort of coming up. And we want to support the EVAs.

I think Suni and Butch have both been working, with the ISS crew, to help make the EVAs go a little bit smoother. So, there's other things they can do on the Station, while we're getting the data to analyze why these things are leaking, and why they're getting stuck.

BROWN: So, spacecraft issues, they have marred Boeing Starliner program, practically every step of the way. Do you have any concerns that the spacecraft shouldn't have launched in the first place?

MELVIN: No. I think, the analysis was done. The spaceship got to space safely. And we had these leaks, we had these things.

In any vehicle, we have these problems. When my shuttle mission, my first shuttle mission, we were on the -- we were about to go to the pad, and we had these ECO sensor problems. These are like fuel gauges for the -- for the big tanks.

And so, the flight will say you have to have three or four to launch. Well, they had two to four. And we declined, as a crew, to not launch, and it delayed three months, about a million dollars' worth of re- working the shuttle. But we got it fixed, and it worked. And so, it's having calm minds during launch, and figuring out what's wrong with the vehicle. Because it is, again, a test vehicle. Every time we launch a shuttle, it was new software on there. So, it was always changing. Over a 135 flights --

BROWN: Right.

MELVIN: -- we had a new shuttle. So, it's part of the -- the part of the mission that we do, as astronauts, ma'am.

BROWN: Yes. And it highlights the heroism and courage it takes to be an astronaut.

Really quickly. It's so perilous coming back into Earth's atmosphere, I'm wondering if you think that could also be behind the delay, because of just how challenging it can be, right?

MELVIN: Well, it said that if it's an emergency, they can come home. So, there's obviously enough helium. Even if there are leaks, they'd probably do the reaction control jets. And so, they get, you know, I think, if they say that, then they would not put them in the vehicle, to come home, on an emergency.


MELVIN: So, we have to figure out more (ph) data, figure out what's happening.

BROWN: All right. We shall follow this. In the meantime, we wish them the best up there.

Thanks so much, Leland.

MELVIN: Thank you.

BROWN: And before we go, a reminder that the finale of the CNN Original Series "Secrets and Spies: A Nuclear Game" airs this Sunday.

Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The summit in Geneva is a first step on the path to the end of the Cold War. The U.S. and the Soviet Union both agreed to reduce their nuclear stockpiles, and diminish the threat that has paralyzed them for decades.

SUSAN EISENHOWER, AMERICAN CONSULTANT AND AUTHOR: If there was anything that the Gorbachev era really produced was the opportunity for people to develop relationships with each other.

But at the end of the day, we're going to look back at this period and say, we took a lot of risks. And we were lucky. As a matter of fact, most people today, who had anything to do with that part of the world, would say it's just a miracle, we got through the Cold War, without some terrible incident taking place. (END VIDEOTAPE)


BROWN: So, don't miss the finale of "Secrets and Spies: A Nuclear Game," this Sunday at 10 PM Eastern and Pacific, right here, on CNN.

Thanks for joining us.


Have a great weekend.