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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Biden & Trump Prepping For High Stakes Thursday Face-Off; Sanders: NY Primary Among "Most Important" In Modern History; Julian Assange Walks Free From British Prison After U.S. Plea Deal. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired June 24, 2024 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is heading back to Australia, a free man.

He was released from a prison, in the United Kingdom, after agreeing to plead guilty to a felony charge, related to his alleged role, in one of the largest U.S. government breaches ever, of classified material. It was part of a deal with the Justice Department, allowing him to avoid prison here. He spent 1,901 days behind bars, in Britain.

That's it for us. The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.


We're learning new details, about how Biden and Trump are prepping. We'll go behind closed doors, with former White House insiders, the Pod Save America crew, on what to expect when you're expecting a debate for the ages.

And it was one of the largest breaches of classified material, in the United States' history. Tonight, Julian Assange, after five years, in a high-security prison, in London, is cutting a deal to avoid any U.S. prison time.

We're also digging into one of the most expensive House races that we have ever seen, that's also dividing the Democratic Party. A member of the so-called Squad, and a fight for his political life. Jamaal Bowman's primary challenger is here with me tonight.

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

Tonight, we are just three days away from a debate, unlike anything that we have ever seen. What you'll watch, Thursday night, right here on CNN, will be unique in American politics.

Right now, President Biden is cloistered in the cone of silence, known as Camp David. And "The New York Times" reports that a movie theater and an airplane hangar there have been turned into a makeshift debate stage with lights and all.

The President has been preparing for five days now, with more than a dozen staffers in tow, all too aware of the rust that often plagues incumbent presidents in their first debate. In a moment, we've got some insiders, who know all about that phenomenon. Just ask them what happened in Denver in October 2012.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has just thrown a potential wrinkle, in the mix for 2024. The High Court is adding two more days to its calendar, this Thursday, and this Friday, in addition to the already- scheduled decision day on Wednesday. That means there's a real possibility that the decision, on Donald Trump's immunity claims, could come just hours before he and Biden both take the stage.

As for his prep, Trump is also shaking up his usual schedule. Normally, he's never in South Florida, this time of year, when it's hot and slow, and most of his friends are at Bedminster.

But that's where he and his team find themselves, tonight, a more secluded place, as he says that podcasts are the best way to prepare.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm preparing by taking questions from you and others, if you think about it. We had a great meeting just now in Philadelphia with the -- at the -- at the shop. You saw that with all the wonderful people.

So, but I'm preparing by dealing with you.


TRUMP: You're tougher than all of them.


COLLINS: We're told that Biden's team is preparing to encounter potentially, and highlight on "Potentially" there, a very disciplined Donald Trump on the debate stage.

Of course, that would stand in stark contrast to what we saw four years ago, or even what we're seeing on the campaign trail now.


TRUMP: How should I handle him? Should I be tough and nasty? Or should I be--


TRUMP: Should I be -- she say no. Should I be tough and nasty, and just say you're the worst president in history? Or should I be nice and calm and let him speak?


COLLINS: Biden's team believes that Trump's campaign is more restrained, while Trump himself is crowdsourcing his debate strategy, which is at least a shift from what he was just saying. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Maybe I'm better off losing the debate. I'll make sure he stays. I'll lose the debate on purpose. Maybe I'll do something like that.


COLLINS: Now, it's important to remember, it was just a month ago that Trump was posting on social media, calling Biden "The WORST debater" that he'd ever faced, and also telling his crowds, this.


TRUMP: I really think he has to debate. He might as well get it over with.


TRUMP: Probably, we should do it early, so that he can -- you know, because he's not going to get any better.

He can't walk. Can't find his way off a stage. Can't put two sentences together.


COLLINS: OK. But now, he's arguing this.


TRUMP: I'm not underestimating him. I'm not underestimating him.

I assume he's going to be somebody that will be a worthy debater.

I say, he'll come out all jacked up.


COLLINS: If you're confused, try being one of Trump's surrogates, trying to set expectations on national television.


REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): The truth of the matter is, is that Joe Biden is not the man he was four years ago, or eight years ago. Everybody knows this.

And so, what they're trying to do is lie, dissemble and cover up for the fact that Joe Biden cannot go on a campaign trail, like Donald Trump is doing right now. He has to be in Camp David for seven, eight days, to prepare himself, to be in a 90-minute debate, with Donald Trump. That does not bode well for a man, who says he wants four more years.

[21:05:00] GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): We have to look at -- the guy's run for office more than a dozen times. He's run for president four times. He's been campaigning since President Nixon was in office.

This guy has got the ability. And we've seen it -- we've seen him in debate, four years ago. We've seen him in the State of the -- the State of the Union, this year, that when he needs to, he can step up.


COLLINS: My lead sources tonight on this are former Obama White House staffers, and also the hosts of Pod Save America, Tommy Vietor, Jon Favreau, and Jon Lovett. They're also the authors of the new book, "Democracy or Else: How to Save America in 10 Easy Steps." We'll see how easy it is. We'll talk about that in a moment.

But, I mean, it's for this debate prep. We're told that tonight President Biden is having lasagna, and preparing. I don't know. It's an interesting meal choice. But what does this look like to prep a president for a debate?

JON FAVREAU, CO-HOST, "POD SAVE AMERICA: Well, it didn't go so well for us, in 2012, with Obama, for the first debate.

COLLINS: Understatement.

FAVREAU: But usually, what you're trying to do is like not give the president too much information. You're trying to just give him like a few goals that he wants to achieve, out on the debate stage.

And so, there's like a few contrasts you want them to hit. Usually, there's some zingers that are written. But like, I think, without an audience, zingers aren't as effective this time around.

So, you're trying to -- and then there's a lot of mock debates, too. So usually, I'll have someone playing the opponent, in this case, Donald Trump. And you'll just go a couple rounds, and have like full debate -- debate prep sessions that just look like an entire debate. Someone plays the moderator. And then, for the town hall debate, you'll have different staffers, asking questions. And so, it looks exactly like a real debate.

JON LOVETT, CO-HOST, "POD SAVE AMERICA": They went through a--

COLLINS: Yes. And I mean--

LOVETT: They went through a fair number of shelter dogs, to find the right one, to play Trump.

We're on television?



COLLINS: But really, I mean, it is a -- it is a good question of how to prepare to debate Donald Trump, because it's not just, you know, when you were preparing Obama, to debate Mitt Romney, it's focusing on the policy and those details.

Trump is kind of the zinger person, who, when Hillary Clinton was saying something to him about being President, he said, well, if you were -- if I was president, you'd be in jail. Moments like that, that stand out from the debate, how do you counter that?

LOVETT: I think in this -- I think the -- like, what kind of Donald Trump shows up, I think, is one of the biggest questions. Because he's out there in front of his biggest, weirdest fans. And he's like, should I be nice? Or should I be mean? And they want him to be mean. And he wants to give them what they want.

But you know his campaign is hoping that that Donald Trump doesn't make it a show, about how extreme and dangerous Donald Trump is.

And the format, which a lot of people are saying, oh, you know, it's going to -- they're going to shut off Trump's mic, ha-ha-ha, we're going to shut up Trump's mic. It might be conducive to like keeping that kind of Trump in check.

The only -- I think the other side of it is five minutes into a debate, Donald Trump's going to forget any kind of prep, and then he's going to go all instinct, and then he's going to -- he's not going to be able to stop himself.

COLLINS: Yes. But he often plays to kind of the crowd he's in front of. I mean, he often is very different when he's in a more muted setting, if he doesn't have that audience there. And the assumption is it'll hurt Trump. But also, could be a benefit to him.

I don't -- how does the Biden campaign prepare for something like that, if Trump is more restrained?

TOMMY VIETOR, CO-HOST, "POD SAVE AMERICA": Yes. I mean, I think you have to prepare for the worst, which is Donald Trump saying absolutely vicious personal things about your son, your family, your finances, right, like live fire drill, where you, as a staffer, have to say, to the President of the United States, all the worst things you could imagine Donald Trump will say.

And then, you also have to prepare for a more measured steady Trump, in how you sort of parry that, but also try to bring out from him, all the things that people like the least, like you want to bring out, Donald Trump the Twitter feed, and not let him pretend to be a statesman for 90 minutes.


You mentioned that moment with Obama and Romney from that debate. And obviously, it was in 2012.

Just to remind people, this is a moment, from that first debate in Denver.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it. Obamacare's on my list. I apologize, Mr. President. I use that term with all respect, by the way.


ROMNEY: Good. OK, good. So I'll get rid of that.

JIM LEHRER, AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND NOVELIST: Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?

OBAMA: You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we've got a somewhat similar position.


COLLINS: I mean, I imagine that last?


COLLINS: Was that your idea that it's?

FAVREAU: That was my line. Yes. I said, pause.


FAVREAU: Stutter a little bit. Yes, no.

COLLINS: But you know, the other part of this is incumbent presidents, they're kind of insulated. They're on Air Force One. They're in the Oval Office. They don't face a lot of one-on-one combat--

VIETOR: They're up (ph) when you walk in the room.

COLLINS: --like on the debate stage.


VIETOR: They salute you.

FAVREAU: They're not used to being challenged. But also, they are naturally defensive about their record, because they've been president for four years. They think they've accomplished a lot. And so, when you're challenged about that, you go on the defense, you start being defensive.

And I think that for Biden, he just has to be careful. Like, it is not about defending his record. Donald Trump wants to go in there, and wants to make it a referendum on Biden. Whether he is disciplined Donald Trump, whether he's crazy Donald Trump, he wants to make it a referendum.

[21:10:00] Biden, no matter which Donald Trump shows up, he wants to make the election a choice, and he wants to paint a picture for people, about what life is going to be like, under four more years of Joe Biden versus four more years of Donald Trump.

So, if there's one thing that Joe Biden has to do, in that debate, it's to make sure people leave the debate thinking, Joe Biden is someone, who cares about the American people, and Donald Trump is someone, who cares about himself.


FAVREAU: So, every answer sort of has to funnel into that larger theme.

COLLINS: Well, and what about age? I mean, obviously, both of these candidates are up there. And we're going to watch both of them on stage, for 90 minutes, only with two breaks. None of their teams can come and talk to them or give them advice or pump them up halfway through.

LOVETT: Yes, they're both quite old.

COLLINS: I don't know if you've done -- we've done the math on the numbers. They're 78. 81.


VIETOR: I mean, Biden's--


LOVETT: What's a--

VIETOR: --question about his age. I think voters are, as we've seen, from polling, more concerned about Joe Biden's age, and his readiness to be president.

I personally am not concerned, about his ability to do the job. I do wish he were 20 years younger, so that we weren't having this conversation. So, I think he's got to step up there, and show the Joe Biden that we saw at the State of the Union, who was punchy, who was giving and taking, and like just getting ready to do it.

COLLINS: Yes. Can we talk about the book? Because it's actually incredibly timely. "Democracy Or Else: How to Save America in 10 Easy Steps." I think people are wondering if it's really that easy to do that.

But you talk a lot about the cynicism that so many people feel. And they're going to feel that, when they see these two -- these two candidates that a majority of Americans don't actually want to be voting for, but obviously, will be dealing with.

LOVETT: So, one of the reasons we wanted to write the book is in part, because we know that people are really cynical about politics, and they have a lot of very good reasons to be cynical about politics.

But one of the things that we've learned, in eight years, of doing this show, is how rewarding it can be, when you step outside of your phone, you stop, just seeing what's going on, on your screen, and you get out there and talk to people, meet people, knock on doors, volunteer, make calls.

Because you remember that campaigns, ultimately, it's not really about Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Yes, they are -- they are what the narratives are about. They're what the TV coverage is about. They are who we vote for. But ultimately, the stakes are about what happens to us. And we have a lot of say -- we have a lot of say, in what happens in this system.

And reminding people of their agency, when there is so much media and noise and cynicism, to get people to feel otherwise, is a valuable project. And it is especially important, when people maybe wish the candidates couldn't remember the Bay of Pigs.

COLLINS: And, I mean, and were alive for it.

LOVETT: Right.

COLLINS: And what does that look like, when you talk to voters though? I mean, this is kind of what you all do. You're on the road a lot. You're interacting with people, who I imagine come to you with a lot of questions of how do I get involved? What does this really look like? Is there even any chance to make a difference, if you're just a regular person?

FAVREAU: Yes, I mean, there's going to be a lot of nervous Democrats, watching the debate, on Thursday, so nervous, so.

VIETOR: Great ratings (ph).

FAVREAU: Right. Yes, so very -- nervous Republicans too.

And the thing is like we can't control how Joe Biden does in the debate. We can't control the outcome of the election. Because the last election was, Joe Biden only won by 40,000 votes, across three states in the Electoral College. So, it was really close.

And the upside of a closely-divided electorate is that everything you do has a bigger impact. And so, what we always tell people is whether you are volunteering for a presidential election, a state election, a local election in your community, like the impact you have, as one person, can make all the difference.

Because when we vote -- when elections are decided by a couple hundred votes, couple thousand votes, like every door you knock matters, every text you send matters. And not only is it impactful, but it gives you the sense of agency that you're actually, you can control what other people do, by persuading them, to get out and vote, because elections matter, and they have a big impact on people's lives.

COLLINS: Yes. And you all talk to a lot of notable figures, for this book. Stacey Abrams, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, just as a few on advice, and what to look for.

I mean, if someone, they're looking at these candidates, and a lot of people, I think, yearn for younger candidates, different kinds of candidates. We're watching this primary race in New York right now that's one of those expensive ever. I mean, what kind of candidates do people often ask you about?

VIETOR: I mean, I think great candidates are people, who are authentic to themselves, and have a story that informs, who they are, and their values, and what they're fighting for, and to have a policy proposal, that sort of that -- that goes along with it, right?

Like someone like AOC, someone like Stacey Abrams, they just bleed authenticity, like you believe them, when they talk. They seem like real people. AOC was bartending not long ago, before she was a member of Congress. So, I think, like people that's seen connected to the communities they represent, those are the strongest candidates.

COLLINS: Yes. What's your last piece of advice for anyone, who's watching this, and interested and maybe is going to be thinking about this on Thursday night?

LOVETT: I would say buy the book. That'd be the first thing.


And then, also like don't give me a hard time about the shelter dog thing, like I didn't really mean it. And like, I like shelter dogs. It was a sort of antagonistic towards shelter dogs. And I don't want to go down for that, you know? There's so many more important things happening.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll put shelter dogs on this -- on this show.


FAVREAU: But book pitch, Lovett.

LOVETT: But it is -- here's -- here's what I'll say about the book, is that -- where do I look?

It's very funny. It's actually surprisingly funny. We worked really hard on it.

And all the proceeds from the book, the profits from the book, go to Vote Save America, which is an organization that is helping to do everything we can, to protect democracy on the ground, and other groups that are doing good work. So, we're not even -- we're not even, you know, this isn't even like a profit motive for us.


LOVETT: You know?

COLLINS: Yes. Maybe--

LOVETT: We did it for the love of the game.

COLLINS: Maybe some of the dogs.

FAVREAU: For the dogs.

LOVETT: Yes, like I'll -- and if--

FAVREAU: Just do it for the dogs more, Lovett.


LOVETT: --and if you'll just get off my ass about it. I'll do a donation to the shelter dog some things, the adoption center or something. I hope Biden wins. Oh, I just hope he wins. I don't mind.

COLLINS: OK. On that note, thank you all for being here.

Tommy Vietor, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, great to have you.

Coming up. Donald Trump says his vice presidential pick is likely going to be at Thursday's debate. It might be one of these guys.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): There is no way we are going to allow a con artist to take over the conservative movement. And Donald Trump is a con artist.

BURGUM: Just think that it's important that you're judged by the company you keep. And I--

CHUCK TODD, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS: You just wouldn't do business with him?

BURGUM: No, I wouldn't.

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): I'm a never-Trump guy. I never liked him.


COLLINS: All former critics of Trump, all now vying to be his vice president.

And also, after a five-year stint, in a high-security prison, in London, for his alleged role in one of the largest U.S. government breaches of classified material, Julian Assange is now set to walk free. We have the details ahead.



COLLINS: If you're wondering who Donald Trump is going to pick as his running mate, join the club.

We do know one thing though. He has someone in mind. And Trump says that person will likely be, at this Thursday's presidential debate that's going to air, right here on CNN.

I sat down with one of the top contenders for that job, the North Dakota Governor, Doug Burgum, who said this when I asked him, why should he be on Trump's ticket?


COLLINS: What would you bring to a Trump ticket specifically?

BURGUM: Well, I think we have to just look at the fact that President Trump can win this race regardless of who is vice president.

COLLINS: What is it specifically? Why should he pick you, basically?

BURGUM: Well, I think that's -- that's for up to President Trump. President Trump understands the criteria that he wants. He's going to make that choice at the time he makes it.

COLLINS: Do you think that you're best-positioned to serve on his ticket?

BURGUM: I think that question is up to President Trump.

What we decided when we decided--

COLLINS: But if he's watching right now, what's your argument to him, I guess, for why you would be a good choice?

BURGUM: Well, that could be a -- that's a conversation between President Trump and myself.


COLLINS: Let's bring in former White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

Republican strategist, David Polyansky.

And former Senior Adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.

David, you're laughing while watching that.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, I think he's mastered the one quality that Trump will appreciate, which is deference. Whatever the President says, I mean.

I mean -- but I understand it is a difficult -- it's unseemly to sit there and say, here are my great qualities. This is why I would be the best person. Now, he may have handled it a little less awkwardly.

But I don't -- I don't question his instinct to not want to be a kind of shameless self-promoter. There are plenty of those out there. We know that.

COLLINS: Alyssa, I mean, you obviously worked for, for the last vice president to Trump. What did you make of Burgum's pitch, or maybe not articulating it?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Honestly, my money is starting to lean toward Burgum.

And listen, he's in many ways, like Mike Pence with a higher net worth. He's somebody, who's not going to come crossways with Trump. He's somebody who's steady. He can go out raise money. He can help down-ballot ticket -- candidates on tickets. And I think that the former President genuinely likes him.

From an electoral standpoint -- standpoint, I think Marco Rubio is the scariest for the Biden-Harris team. That's somebody, who can make inroads with Latinos. That's somebody, who I think, for sort of Trump- skeptical Republicans, they trust him, they know him, and that could bring them back into the fold.

J.D. Vance, my fear there, or my analysis there is that I think he could outshine Trump. I think he's somebody, who has a big persona. And there could be real skepticism of having him in the West Wing.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, if he joined the ticket, J.D. Vance, at least, obviously, he's quite young. He's 39-years-old. He has like a lot of road to go. And so, I think, when Pence even set up a PAC, when he was inside the White House.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And that was a whole thing.

COLLINS: It became--

FARAH GRIFFIN: No one was happy about that.


COLLINS: --a huge story, in the news cycle.

POLYANSKY: Well, look, I think we're at a different place than we were a month, certainly two months ago, with the President and the choice that he can make.

When you look at the seven battleground states, he's leading on average, in RealClearPolitics, in some cases, comfortably out of five out of seven, and the other two he's tied in. And Virginia is now in play. So, may -- Minnesota and even New Mexico.

And when you talk about the cash advantage, or disadvantage that we formerly faced, a Marco Rubio might have been a cleaner pick, two months ago. But right now, if you looked at the combined authorized committees, the Trump team has $235 million at their disposal compared to $212 million for Joe Biden and the Democrats.

So, the politics are in Trump's favor right now. And so is the cash advantage. So, I think he gets to actually make the pick, of who he'd be comfortable with, rather than who politically or financially might get him there.

COLLINS: Yes, which is what Burgum was arguing. And -- but obviously, speaking of fundraising, I mean, Thursday night

is going to be a huge night, for both of these candidates. When you're watching this, David, is there room? Is it going to change the race substantially, what we see on Thursday night, potentially?

AXELROD: It's a really good question. I mean, if there's -- if one candidate completely craters?

And in the case of Biden, that would be performing poorly, reinforcing concerns about his age.

In the case of Trump is if he had a repeat of what happened, four years ago, in that first debate, I think that would be bad for him. I'm sure in some ways, his team is happy to have mics muted, and no audience, because maybe that will enforce some control.


The question about Biden is whether he can control events. The question about Trump is whether he can control himself. But if they each do what they need to do?

And now they're trying to raise the expectations for Biden, but they spent years setting them, and to the point, where if he comes and goes under his own power, he's sort of cleared the bar.

COLLINS: That's a great point, because Trump has spent two years, years, four years, saying that Biden can't put two sentences together.


COLLINS: He has changed his tack in the last several days. As Bakari told me, yesterday, they had kind of set the standard so low, it was essentially in hell.

And when, Alyssa, when you're looking at that, I mean, now Trump is saying on Truth Social that Biden needs to do a drug test, before the debate. I remember it's like in 2020, when he was saying Biden was going to be wearing an earpiece. I mean, he kind of uses these things as a distraction technique, from the actual debate itself.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Correct. And it's to have a way to argue on the other side, it was rigged. That it's the same reason you have his spokespeople going after the moderators and criticizing them.

But it also remind folks in 2020, Donald Trump lied about his COVID test. Those of us in the White House, working very closely with him, did not know that he tested positive, just days before and appeared on the debate stage. So, it's rich now that he's saying, Joe Biden has something to hide, and isn't being forthright with the American public.

But listen, I think it's high stakes for both of them.

I think Donald Trump has to prove the competency, and the ability, to get through it, and be steady, and not go crazy, not lean into the rage and retribution.

And for Biden, the issue of age, that is baked in.


FARAH GRIFFIN: He needs to show he can do it.

AXELROD: But the question is, this race has basically -- yes, there have been some fluctuations. But the race has been actually pretty stable, for a very long time. One of the questions is can one of them blast through that, and create some movement?

And I'm not at all sure, you're talking about two, probably the best- known candidates for president we've ever had, and two incumbents running against each -- or one former incumbent, people know them. I think it's tough to move the needle. But you have to pass the test.

POLYANSKY: I'm not sure Trump feels he needs to move the needle, right now.

I think -- I think Thursday night is incredibly important for the President, because if he starts off on the wrong foot, heading into the fall, I don't know that he can recover. I think--

AXELROD: Yes, but David, I would say, if the President surprises on the high side? That is a problem for Trump.


AXELROD: That would concern me if I were Trump. And one question is if Trump realizes in the midst of this debate that, jeez, he's actually doing pretty well, does he become more aggressive? That's what happened in the second debate--

POLYANSKY: Yes, that's--


AXELROD: --last time.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, and this could very well be one of the biggest stages that they have until -- I mean, the next debate's not until the end of September. Early--

POLYANSKY: If it happens.

AXELROD: If it happens.

COLLINS: If it happens. No one knows. Early voting will be underway. And so, it is a moment for both of them to see them side by side, in a way that no one has, in four years.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Right. And the Biden team was, I think, was smart to agree to this earlier debate, and to push for an earlier one, because they're wanting to create the real general election rush, right now. They don't want to wait till three months out, when we know most voters actually make up their minds. So, drawing out that contrast, reminding people why they vote -- did not vote for Donald Trump in 2020.

But it could cut both ways. I've been with Donald Trump, and seen him perform for 90 minutes, and able to stay on, roughly on message, not say crazy things, largely has no -- have his wrap -- his head wrapped around policy. There's a world, in which we see that. I think this format does benefit him. He doesn't have an audience that makes him want to be bombastic and loud.

But we'll see.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, his rallies are 90 minutes on a short day.



FARAH GRIFFIN: If he shows up with the rally speech, though, and he's speaking about immigrants poisoning the blood--


FARAH GRIFFIN: --and the greatest hits from--


AXELROD: He has to know that. The question is--

FARAH GRIFFIN: That does not work.

AXELROD: --if provoked, how does he respond? At some point, does he just kind of--


AXELROD: --does something trip his wire, and that'll be--

COLLINS: The felony convictions, January 6th.


COLLINS: I mean, there's a lot.

AXELROD: I think that's why they've been running ahead -- and out for a week and a half, featuring his -- the felony conviction. I think they want to get in his head.

COLLINS: Yes. We will see if they do, on Thursday night.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, David Polyansky, and David Axelrod, thank you all.

In the lead up to that debate, I should note, House Speaker, Mike Johnson, is going to join me live here, on THE SOURCE, tomorrow night. You don't want to miss that. That's going to be at 9 PM Eastern, here on CNN.

But first, up next, it is the most expensive primary race that I was just talking about, in American history. It's also now one of the most contentious. And my source, right after this break, is one of the candidates, who's in the middle of that madness.



COLLINS: No primary in America has divided Democrats, like the one that is playing out right now, in New York's 16th district, a race that is notable for its big money, more than we have ever seen spent, on any House primary ever. Big accusations, and also some big-name endorsements.

The incumbent, Congressman Jamaal Bowman, a high-profile member of the so-called Squad, whose victory four years ago, was seen as a major shift in the direction of his party.

He's been vocal in his opposition to how Israel's conducting its war in Gaza. He was one of the first to call for a ceasefire, had to apologize and walk back statements, saying it was propaganda about the rape and sexual assault that happened, on October 7th.

And he also made this accusation, about his opponent, over the weekend.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): We are not going to stand silent, while U.S. tax dollars, kills babies and women and children.


BOWMAN: My opponent supports genocide.


COLLINS: The challenger that he's referencing there is George Latimer, a former state lawmaker, now serving as a County Executive in the district.

Both candidates have big names backing them.


Bowman, for his part, has been endorsed by big progressives, like Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Latimer, on the other hand, endorsed by Hillary Clinton, and another New York Congressman, Mondaire Jones.

My source tonight is George Latimer.

And I do want to note, we've also extended an invite for Congressman Bowman, here on THE SOURCE. That still stands.

But it's great to have you here, Mr. Latimer.

And, first off, I do want to get your reaction to that accusation that was lobbed there, that you are supporting a genocide in Gaza.

GEORGE LATIMER, (D) NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Kaitlan, I think this is part of the rhetoric that the incumbent, and those who support him believe.

Those of us, and I think I'm in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, the House members of the Democratic Party, Hakeem Jeffries, that what we see as a path to peace includes Hamas giving up hostages as part of any arrangement, to cease violence, and then also provide humanitarian aid.

Only until recently, did the incumbent talk about the releasing of hostages. So, because we want to see people, who were kidnapped, released, and were not prepared to have a ceasefire immediately, he calls that supportive genocide. I think the majority of the American people don't see it that way.

It is a volatile situation. There are innocents dying. Hamas is just as guilty of bad behavior, because I believe they put their civilians in the -- in the line of fire, on purpose, to try to create this environment.

So, I think there's much both sides have to discuss.

COLLINS: You said the majority of Americans don't believe it's a genocide. Do you not believe it's a genocide either?

LATIMER: I do not believe it's a genocide, no.

COLLINS: Even though the International Court of Justice said it is plausible that Israel's committed a genocide?

LATIMER: The International Court of Justice may have their opinions, based on their politics and their ideologies.

What I'm watching is Israel respond to a horrific act, no different than the way we responded to 9/11, or perhaps Pearl Harbor.

Should we continue to see that type of violence happen? No. I'd like to see the violence cease. But it ceases when Hamas agrees to give up the hostages, or the remains of the hostages. On that basis, then you can plausibly expect there to be a stopping of the -- of the violence, and then humanitarian aid to go in.

COLLINS: So, you support a ceasefire, but only if the hostages are released.

Let me ask about this race, though, specifically, because we talked about how more money has been spent here than any House primary race ever in the United States. And that's remarkable given, of course, what this -- you've said this race focuses on local issues that matter to Westchester.

LATIMER: It does, yes.

COLLINS: And to the Bronx.

But listen to what Senator Bernie Sanders said, when he was here on Saturday.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): This election is one of the most important in the modern history of America.


SANDERS: It really is.

Because this election is not about Jamaal versus Mr. Latimer. This election is about whether or not the billionaire class and the oligarchs will control the United States government.


COLLINS: I mean, given AIPAC has spent almost $15 million backing you in this race, do you worry that voters will see it how Bernie Sanders does?

LATIMER: No, I don't think they do, because I'm the person that's been on the ground, talking to voters in the district. What voters in the district talk about are the bread-and-butter needs. They talk about the affordability of their lives. They talk about jobs and transportation, and climate change.

Senator Sanders has long railed against oligarchs, and the structure of government.

Here's the important thing, Kaitlan, in terms of dollars and cents. My opponent has made much of the support that I have. Over 50 percent of my financial support comes from people in the district. Those people may be affiliated with AIPAC, or they may be involved in other Jewish causes. But they're donating, because of his radical point of view, regarding Israel. That's why they're donating.

And it's important to note that 90 percent of his money comes from outside the district, from places, in California, and other parts of the country, where people, who aren't living in the district, wants to see a Congressman, like him, represent the district.

COLLINS: Well, you were criticized, for saying that he had a constituency in Dearborn, Michigan, which has a largely -- a large Arab population.


COLLINS: People were saying that those were racist comments.


COLLINS: Do stand by what you initially said about him?

LATIMER: Well, let me -- let me get the quote right. What I said at the time was, he has raised money, from places, like San Francisco and Dearborn, Michigan. That's accurate fact.

Because what he did is create a joint fundraising organization, with Representative Tlaib, who's based in Dearborn, Michigan. So, it's not the City of Dearborn. It's that Representative Tlaib is from there, she's been raising money. I think she transferred a half a million dollars in part to him.

So, the question is, when someone looks at where's the money coming from? Who are the sources that are driving your policy? The incumbent is getting his money, from outside the district, from a host of these different sources that aren't district people.

COLLINS: Yes. But do you see how people saw it that way, given obviously Dearborn is so prominent and known--

LATIMER: No. I think--

COLLINS: --for its large Arab population.

LATIMER: I think what you had is my opponent wanted to misrepresent what I said. And once you've misrepresented, to make it sound like I'm picking on a municipality, with an ethnicity, as opposed to his commitment to joint fundraising with Representative Tlaib. That's what I actually said.

So, the spin, and that's what we deal with so many times, in these campaigns, that one side wants to spin something, a specific way. I know the quote that I said. It is on tape. So, you can judge.

COLLINS: And you stand by that, that comment.


When you look at this race, I mean, if he loses, Jamaal Bowman, he would be the first member of the Squad, who is not returned to office, by his constituents. What does that say about your party and what Democratic voters want to see, if that happens?

LATIMER: I think what it says is that Jamaal Bowman got out of step with the district. He stopped working the needs of the district. He stopped caring about every one of the municipalities, and the residents there.

Because there's a certain amount of national image that he seems to care more about, that he's out there as a spokesperson for point of view, rather than representing people, who have legitimate needs in the Bronx, and Westchester.

COLLINS: So, you don't think it's a referendum on progressive politics of your party? LATIMER: Well, let me just say this, Kaitlan. I know this is probably below the level of interest for most of your viewers.

What I've done in running Westchester County is extremely progressive. We've done a host of things. We passed a clinic access law for county government. We've passed access to counsel for indigent people, a host of things like that, that mark us as the most progressive county in New York State.

The positioning of this race as a progressive against an establishment conservative isn't accurate. It works, because the demographics appear to be that, but not on the ground of what actually--


COLLINS: He's willing to raise money on wealthy people. Are you?

LATIMER: I'm prepared--

COLLINS: To raise taxes.

LATIMER: --I'm prepared to raise taxes, when we have a budget that shows where the tax money is going to go for that it makes sense. That's what I've done as a local official.

I don't go into a budgetary process, as a county executive, or state legislator, saying, I'm here to raise taxes. I'm here to try to find the resources we need to do the programs we need. And I think most people feel that way.

Certainly, in the district, they don't want to just see us raise taxes. They want to see us solve problems. If you -- if I can show you that what I'm doing is protecting Social Security, or protecting Medicare for the long-term, then that makes sense. But just to generically say, I just want to raise taxes, I think that's an ideological statement. Not a practical statement.

COLLINS: Mr. Latimer, your race is tomorrow, night. We will be watching it very closely. Thank you for joining, tonight.

LATIMER: Thank you, Kaitlan. It's been an honor.

COLLINS: Great to have you.

Also, up next, we have breaking news tonight, on the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, word of a guilty plea, allowing him to walk free. We'll tell you the conditions.



COLLINS: The U.S. effort to extradite and prosecute WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has now ended, with him walking free, avoiding any prison time, here in the United States. Of course, WikiLeaks published this video, of him, leaving a British

prison this morning, after he reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, by pleading guilty to a felony charge, involving one of the largest leaks of classified information in U.S. history. The deal allows Assange to immediately return to Australia, his native country.

You may recall the 2010 leak included hundreds of thousands of confidential military records, about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the plea deal, the roughly five years in prison that U.S. prosecutors were seeking for Assange, would be equal to the time that he already served in a British prison.

Remember, President Biden said a few months ago that he was considering ending the prosecution against him.

I want to talk about this with Andrew McCabe, the former FBI Deputy Director.

And obviously, this is a huge step-down, Andrew McCabe, from the 18 charges, the potential 175-year prison sentence that he was facing.

What do you make of the terms that prosecutors have come to, with Julian Assange?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You're right, Kaitlan. It's a big -- it's a far cry from the -- from the charges that were brought against him. But I think it's the right call, at this point, in this saga.

And, don't get me wrong. I think that the process -- the charges, and the indictment and the prosecution of Julian Assange is entirely appropriate.

Julian Assange was indicted, by a grand jury, in the Eastern District of Virginia, a grand jury, who listened to the entire investigation and determined there is probable cause to believe he committed a crime.

It's easy to see how they concluded that, because the facts here are not in dispute. He did what the law says you cannot do, right? He solicited that information, he published that information, gave it to people who weren't entitled to receive it.

But at this point, we are many, many, many years into this prosecution. And I think the fact that continuing to try to extradite him, to bring him here, to hear those charges, and to face those charges in court, really raises significant questions, concerns, about what sort of precedent that result might have, on legitimate journalistic activity.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, it's notable to hear you say that.

Obviously, his team argued that he should be protected by the same laws that journalists are, that he was releasing sensitive information, but in the public's interest. And so, he's been alternatively celebrated in -- by some, and reviled by others.

And so, it is striking for me to hear you, given your former position as the Deputy FBI Director, to say, you think this is the right call?

MCCABE: I do think it's the right call. And don't get -- don't get me wrong. I think Julian Assange did the wrong thing.

Julian Assange hurt the United States government. He put the lives of our troops in danger. He put the lives, particularly of Iraqi citizens, who had helped our effort, in the war in Iraq, in danger. So this guy did a lot of bad things. But what he did, some of what he did, was very similar to the way that journalists conduct their business.

Of course, in other ways very different, right? There wasn't (ph) any of those conversations prior to publication that journalists typically have, when they're going to reveal classified and sensitive information, to find out what, you know, reach out to the government entity involved, to find, let them seek comment, and then have a conversation. Give the government an opportunity to say hey, please don't do this, because these people might die as a result. So, very big differences there.


But the fact is that going forward with this prosecution would run the risk of putting all of those processes, and those protections, kind of up for grabs. And that could set a very dangerous precedent, going forward, and have a chilling effect on the journalistic news gathering process, and how that impacts the First Amendment.

COLLINS: Yes. Andrew McCabe, notable comments. Thank you for joining tonight.

MCCABE: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Up next, a son who is fighting to bring his father home, a Holocaust historian, and the son of Holocaust survivors. You've seen him on the show before. He's now held hostage, in Gaza. His son is here next.



COLLINS: Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, rushing to contain backlash following his comments, over the weekend, where he said that he would agree to a partial deal with Hamas that would release only some of the hostages, and also allow Israel to continue its war in Gaza.

Not only does that stand in opposition to President Biden's endorsed ceasefire proposal, but it has also angered Israeli politicians, groups that are representing the hostages and their families, including one group that released new video today from the October 7th attack, to add pressure on to the Prime Minister.

We know at least 120 hostages are still believed to being held in Gaza. That includes 75-year-old Alexander Danzig, who was kidnapped on the October 7th.

You'll remember, I spoke to his son, Yuval, when I was in Israel, reporting in November, as he has been fighting for his father's return.

And Yuval joins me now.

And it's great to have you here.

I mean, it's crazy to think that it's been eight months, since you and I spoke, at your home. We talked about what this meant. You watched the coverage, every night, of the first hostage agreement. You were worried about your dad, getting his medicine. I've imagined that's only amplified this many months in.

YUVAL DANZIG, SON OF ISRAELI HOSTAGE: Yes. Thinking that now -- we don't think about the medicine. We think about his life. We think if he -- if he even alive, still alive, because he didn't get his medicines. We know that. And we know nothing about him, for 200 days. So, we're in square one.

COLLINS: When this happened, did you -- could you have ever imagined that you'd be here in June, and still not have seen your dad?

DANZIG: I was sure it will end, when the first hostages were released. We were sure a deal -- another deal will come in a month, in weeks, not in nine months. And we don't see a deal coming. So, I can't believe it's -- for me, it's still October 7th, you know?

COLLINS: It's still October 7th for you?


COLLINS: I mean, when we spoke in, your dad missed your son's bar mitzvah.


COLLINS: Which is obviously supposed to be a joyous time. Grandparents should be there. But he couldn't be there for it, for obvious reasons.

DANZIG: Yes, it's -- it's -- we have -- we have 13 grandchildren, and it's -- he's the only boy. So, it's the only bar mitzvah he -- of his grandchildren, so. But for now, we don't worry about these things. We're worried for, if he's -- if he's alive.

COLLINS: Do you still have hope that he's alive?

DANZIG: I have to. I have to. Otherwise, I couldn't go anywhere, and couldn't do anything.

COLLINS: When you hear the Prime Minister say that he's open to maybe having some of the hostages released, but not all, is that acceptable to you?

DANZIG: It's not acceptable. It's people will stay there. But we need to do everything, to bring some of them home, as soon as possible. And I really don't believe that Hamas will -- will do any deal from the -- to the end. So, I think it's right to be realistic. But he can't -- he can't speak like this. Not to us.

COLLINS: Netanyahu?


COLLINS: What do you -- do you feel like he's doing everything he can? What's your view of how -- not from a political perspective. But, I mean, this is your dad.


COLLINS: Do you feel like they're doing everything they can to get your dad and bring him home?

DANZIG: I feel they're doing a lot. But they -- I'm sure now that they missed opportunities, to bring them home.

And I'm sure the word is missing opportunities, because I think that even the mediators now, it's looked like they've taken a step back, instead of pushing to when the deal is on the table. It's looked like they're taking a step back and again, speak about humanitarian aid, and not about a deal.

COLLINS: What's it like for you to come here? You're in the United States. You and I spoke, when we were -- when I was in Tel Aviv. And to see, what we saw over the weekend, the anti-Semitic protests, blocking Jewish people from being able to go in and worship, and those protests that turned so violent in Los Angeles.

DANZIG: I really hope that the American people will understand that it's there in back -- in their backyard. What happened in Israel can happen in United States, in Britain, everywhere, because they don't want to stop with us, you know? So, I hope it will make everybody awake.

COLLINS: If you could say one thing to your dad, right now, what would it be?


DANZIG: That we're waiting for him in home, that you have to come back.

COLLINS: Hopefully, the next time you're back, we are talking about him coming back.


COLLINS: Thank you for coming back, and joining me tonight.

DANZIG: Thank you.

COLLINS: And we'll continue to bring attention to his story.

DANZIG: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Yuval, thank you.

Thank you so much, for joining us.