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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Two Days Out From Trump-Biden Face-Off At CNN Debate; CNN Projects Lauren Boebert Wins GOP House Primary; Johnson: House To Weigh In On Bannon Prison Sentence. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 25, 2024 - 21:00   ET



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To those in need. And tonight, the United Nations is saying that it is raising concerns, with the Israelis, about a security coordination at those land routes as well, with the top U.N. spokesman warning that the risks, frankly, he says, are becoming increasingly intolerable, on the ground.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much.

So, that's it for us. The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now. I'll see you, tomorrow.


Substance and stamina. We have new reporting, on the final phase of President Biden's preparations, as Trump-world is doubling down on a ridiculous accusation.

48 hours away from the historic debate, right here on CNN, House Speaker, Mike Johnson, will join me live.

Plus, the polls have just closed, in the most expensive House primary ever. A member of the so-called Squad is fighting for his political life.

And it's also judgment time, for Republican, Lauren Boebert, who remember, switched districts, when it looked like her congressional career was about to go up in smoke.

And I have brand-new reporting, breaking here at 9, on Steve Bannon, and a notable change in the judge, for his upcoming fraud trial.

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

The polls are in a dead heat, and the insults are flying, expectations are being gamed. And the accusations, about getting juiced up, on drugs, are frankly ridiculous and getting out of hand. That all means that one of the most highly-anticipated live events, in modern American history, is set to begin 48 hours from right now.

The mission for both candidates in the CNN Presidential Debate is a contrast. And before you start yelling at your screen, yes, these two could not be any more different from one another. But what happens, on Thursday night, and both style and substance has the potential to alter the trajectory of this race.

President Biden has spent days, locked in intense preparation, surrounded by his closest advisers at Camp David. And our sources are telling us, tonight, that full mock debates are underway at the podium, under the lights.

He's even watching tape, to know exactly what he's going, to see when he steps up to that lectern. His team shot a video, during a walkthrough, of the CNN studio. And as I reported, while covering him at the White House, when Biden prepares, he does so incredibly, intensively.

The former President on the other hand, who is not known for his attention to detail, is talking about how very hard it is to prepare, while at the same time insisting he doesn't need it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think I've been preparing for it for my whole life if you want to know the truth. And I'm not sure you can lock yourself into a room for two weeks or one week or two days and really learn what you have to know.

I think we'll do very well. We've -- we've done well in the past and I think we'll do very well. I know the subject matter. But I don't think, Corey, you could just lock yourself in a room like some people do and think you're going to come out OK. It doesn't seem to work that way.


COLLINS: Trump says, in his view, instead, debating is more of an attitude than anything else, telling the "Washington Examiner," "I know what I know. It's largely based on common sense."

The common sense for Trump's advisers lately seems to be this need to double down though, on a baseless distraction, ahead of Thursday night.


JASON MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: We know that when it comes to the big events, when it comes to debates, when it comes to State of the Union, things of that nature, that they're going to have Joe Biden completely super soldiered up. He is going to be ready to go. He has a certain muscle memory that kicks in for having done this for 50 years.


COLLINS: "Super soldiered up." The Biden campaign actually might welcome that comparison to Captain America.

But Trump's co-campaign manager, however, was more to the point on this.


CHRIS LACIVITA, TRUMP CO-CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He's, you know, probably going to be filled with Adderall, like he was at the night of the State of the Union. And so it's just it's -- it will provide a great contrast.


COLLINS: There's really no more way to fact-check that than we already have. The more that they say it, the more ridiculous it sounds.

My lead source, tonight, is the Democratic congressman, from Maryland, and also supporting President Biden, no surprise there, Jamie Raskin.

It's great to have you, Congressman.

When you look at Thursday night, and just how many eyes are going to be watching Joe Biden and Donald Trump on stage, what do you believe is a must-do for President Biden?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, it's an epic moment, obviously. And Trump's team is obviously in desperation, trying to rattle the President, with all of these ludicrous claims about Adderall, unless they're looking for a reason to pull out.

We know that the 2020 debates were a disaster for Donald Trump. He refused to debate his primary opponents. He refused to take the stand in New York. He refused to come and testify, when he was accused of inciting a violent Insurrection and was impeached for it. And he refused to come before the January 6th committee.


So, I think they're extremely nervous over there. And that's why they are lashing out at Joe Biden, with all these concoctions.

I think President Biden needs to do three things. He needs to look to the past, and to demonstrate that his administration has been a tremendous success.

The lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years. We've lowered inflation more than any of the other countries in the G7. The economy is roaring, in like the manufacturing sector, where more than 900,000 jobs have been added, more than 15 million new jobs.

Donald Trump, of course, was one of only two presidents, who left office with fewer jobs then when he started, him and Herbert Hoover, which is a pretty exact analogy, in terms of what both of those guys did to our economy.

But I think that President Biden also needs to talk about Donald Trump, and how he is indeed, a serious peril to the future of democracy and freedom in America. Trump has been running all over the country, bragging about the fact that he packed the Supreme Court, with these justices, who overthrew Roe versus Wade. And now, they plan to go further, and basically make abortion a federal crime, everywhere in the country, the way they've done it--


RASKIN: --in a third of the country, and get rid of birth control and IVF too. That's where the MAGA right wants to go. And then, Biden needs to talk about everything we really need to be working on, once we get rid of the MAGA threat.

COLLINS: OK. That's a lot to cover in 90 minutes.

But when you mentioned the economy, that is, one of the areas that is of the most importance to voters, but also where President Biden polls, the weakest.

And so, I wonder how he balances that, of getting on stage, and this fear that we've heard from some of his advisers, that he'll spend too much time defending his record and being defensive about it, and not tapping into what we're seeing that voters are feeling, and the sentiments about the economy.

RASKIN: Well, President Biden doesn't need to defend his record. He just needs to articulate his record.

I mean, I sat there for four years, under Donald Trump. We had infrastructure week. We had infrastructure month. We just never had an infrastructure bill.

And President Biden sent it to us, in the first couple weeks of his administration. And we passed that, without much help from the Republicans. But the Democrats unanimously supported a $1.2 trillion investment in the roads, the highways, the bridges, the ports, the airports, rural broadband. We did that.

And look at the Inflation Reduction Act. Dramatic reductions in the cost of prescription drugs. I have constituents who were spending $500 or $600 a month on insulin as diabetics. That's capped at $35 a month, within the Medicare program, and a $2,000 a year out-of-pocket cap. The Democrats did that.

The Republicans are trying to overturn that. They're campaigning against inflation reduction act right now.

So, President Biden just needs to remind people that the Democrats are in the business of delivering the goods to the people. And that's what democracy is all about.

COLLINS: Yes, of course, it's a high bar for Thursday night. We'll see what that looks like.

Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you for your time tonight.

RASKIN: You bet.

COLLINS: And I want to bring in Maggie Haberman, Senior Political Correspondent for The New York Times.

Ashley Allison, who is the former National Coalitions Director for the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign.

And also, Republican strategist, Shermichael Singleton.

Great to have you all here.

Maggie, you heard Trump, just in the last hour, in this interview, with Corey Lewandowski, talking about how he's approaching this, how he's approaching his prep. He so far has not been doing the same kind of formal prep that we've seen the Biden campaign doing.

What do you make of how he's approaching this, now that we're two days away?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He is taking it more seriously than I think he genuinely likes to acknowledge that he is.

He even admitted in an interview, I think it was with the "Washington Examiner," that he had interrupted Biden too much, which is something he has said to people around him, privately. I was surprised to hear that he said it publicly, about their first debate, where Biden was widely seen as beating him, pretty handily, just by standing there and smiling.

I don't know what that translates to, once he gets to the debate stage. Donald Trump, as you said, does not prepare conventionally, the way we are used to presidents doing it. He tends to think that people can't inform him of things. His term in office was actually a bit ago. And so, they've been doing some policy refreshers.

The question is going to be -- I mean, a couple of things. These two men really don't like each other, Biden and Trump. And so, to my mind, that creates a huge X factor, when they get on stage. Because, you just don't know. You can do all the preparations in the world, as candidates. And then, when you get into the arena, it can be very different. Number one.

Number two. I don't -- you know, you saw Trump at a rally, the other night, saying, should I be nice? Or should I be very mean? And I suspect he will interrupt less. And I suspect he will be mean, because I think that is his speed, when it comes to being on the attack.

COLLINS: Mean, in the sense of, of what, like attacking Hunter Biden, or just?


HABERMAN: I think that if what -- so, I've heard conflicting things about this. I think that inevitably, when the question of Trump's criminal conviction comes out, there is a real chance Trump is then going to turn it around, about Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden is the son of a president. But he is not running for president. And so, that is just a different thing. But Trump's folks believe it is a way to get under President Biden's skin. And I don't think they would see it as a hands-off moment.

Now, Trump is aware that his own attacks, on Hunter Biden, in that first debate in 2020, humanized President Biden. It basically gave President Biden, an opportunity, to say, my son is an addict, and he has a struggle that a lot of Americans have.

And Trump came off looking incredibly mean, and belittling, to an issue that a lot of people struggle with.

I don't know that we're there now. This is just a very different moment in time.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, and President Biden, I mean, when State of the Union, these big events, where he does give speeches, and typically has done pretty well at them, I mean, he's spent so much time preparing.

I think people really underestimated, if you don't actually witness it, or hear about it and see it. But he does spend an incredible amount of time, trying to be ready for these big moments.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not just these big moments.

When I worked for the Vice President Biden, when I worked for the Candidate Biden in 2000 and -- or in 2020, when he was running for office, when I worked for him, on the transition team, we would prep him, because he cares about the issues. He cares about the people we are talking to.

We will be doing a table of labor workers, and he would want to know their birthday, how many kids they had, how many jobs they've had, were they originally from this town, were they not? Because that is what you want in your leader. You want them to be committed. You want them to be locked in.

Whereas Trump is so careless, so frivolous, he thinks he can throw these jabs, he thinks he can be reckless, and that it'll make him look like this strong, tough man.

But if he goes, if he thinks he takes that approach, and goes after Hunter Biden? I have to tell you, that is not -- that doesn't work in the polling. It didn't work in 2020. And it still won't work now. Whether you were an addict in 2020, you're still at a recovering addict in 2024. And families understand that, and families have compassion. That is not a winning strategy for Donald Trump.

And I hope Joe Biden does the prep that he always has done, as a candidate, and shows up, and defends his record.

COLLINS: Shermichael, what do you expect this to look like? SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, I think the former President is acutely aware of the magnitude of Thursday night.

I think he's aware of how electorally close the previous election was, in 2020. You're talking about less than 100,000 votes, across four different states.

And I think he understands that there are a sliver of voters in the middle, who may be on the fence about President Biden, who voted for him, thought things were going to look differently, over the past four years. And have made up their minds: I don't know if I want to give him another four years. I am potentially interested in Trump. But can Trump showcase that he's a statesman? Can he showcase tone, the proper tone that is?

And I would say, to the point of addiction. I don't think the former President is going to throw that out there, unless he feels personally attacked. But I think the American people should also remember. The former President lost a brother, who also suffered from alcoholism in the past. So, he's acutely aware of what addiction can do, to an individual, and also to a family.


Can we just talk about the format though, Maggie? Because Trump said something today that -- I mean, he often kind of is more revealing, just when he speaks about this.

And he seems very concerned about the fact that there's no audience, and was talking about how he believes it can really essentially, it's going to be "A sterile, dead room" was his quote to the "Examiner."

And he does seem to have concern that you won't be able to see the audience reaction, to how he's handling an issue as sensitive as that one or anything else.

HABERMAN: In every interview, or -- every interview -- every debate that I have seen him do, every live forum that I have seen him do, he uses the audience as a second character, on stage with him, and he plays off of it. And so yes, I mean, I am not surprised to hear him complaining about that.

You're absolutely right. I think if he wasn't concerned about that, we wouldn't have had days and days of him and his team, essentially trying to work the refs, in the lead up to the debate, and complaining about fairness over and over again.

So yes, Trump is somebody, who uses an audience to great effect. I don't know what it will look like, absent that. But no, that's -- it's not a -- it's not an additive for him by any stretch.

SINGLETON: I think it's a benefit that there isn't an audience. To Maggie's point, the former President does feed off of that. And if I'm an adviser, you have to be potentially concerned about the bombastic nature of the former President, because of an audience. So absent an audience, my presumption would be he'll be a little more toned down. He doesn't have a crowd, to potentially react to some of the things that he may say, that some may say is a bit outrageous or outlandish. And so, I think that potentially benefits him.

ALLISON: I guess, I'm just like, try -- I can't forget the last eight years.

And I've yet to see Donald Trump be in private settings, in a public campaign, at the reporting out from Mar-a-Lago, or in an interview, where he doesn't have a moment, where he lashes out, where he doesn't have a moment, where he is the true epitome of the nastiness that he asked his crowd, whether he wants to be.


So I -- you know, perhaps, perhaps one could dream that if someone's running for president, they would behave themselves on a debate stage. But the last eight years have not proven that that is who Donald Trump is. And I don't want to pretend like that we're going to see somebody different, and that we should then forget those last eight years, even if he does have a well-behaved night for television.

SINGLETON: But the last four--

HABERMAN: I do agree.

SINGLETON: Maggie, go ahead.

HABERMAN: No, I'm sorry, Shermichael.

SINGLETON: Go ahead.

HABERMAN: I mean, I do -- I do agree that I think that there is an -- there is an amnesia factor that we've all talked about with Trump.

I think that the challenge for President Biden is going to be to try to make, tell viewers why they should care more about that--


HABERMAN: --than anything that Trump is saying about things that impact their lives directly.

COLLINS: Well debating--

HABERMAN: Because there is--

COLLINS: --Trump is so difficult.

HABERMAN: Correct. It's--

COLLINS: I mean, you saw Hillary Clinton talking about that today.

HABERMAN: Correct.

COLLINS: In your paper.

HABERMAN: In my paper. Yes, I mean, it -- everybody who has debated against him has said exactly that, that it's just incredibly hard. That doesn't definitionally make Trump a good debater, by the way--


HABERMAN: --we would conventionally describe good debaters. But he is effective at just chewing up whoever is on stage with him, so that he ends up winning by default. Although, he did not win by default, in that first one in 2020.

COLLINS: Yes. What Hillary Clinton wrote--


COLLINS: --just one on this, because she said it's nearly impossible to identify what his arguments even are. He starts with nonsense and then digresses into blather. This has gotten only worse in the years since she debated him in 2016. She says it's a waste to try to refute his arguments.

Does Biden risk, getting dragged into that potentially?

SINGLETON: I mean, all of the reporting that I have seen thus far, including by our network, is that the -- that the President plans to go after Donald Trump, and remind the American people about January 6th, or the state of democracy, et cetera.

And I'm not certain how that sends a message to voters, who are worried about their bottom line. I have not met a single American, out there, who have not made up their mind about Donald Trump, whether they like the guy or dislike the guy.

So, this idea that you're going to go on the debate state, if you're Biden, and say, well, he's a terrible person, therefore, I'm better?

OK, with all due respect, Mr. President, that's great and all. But how about the bills that I'm struggling to pay at the end of the month? How about the crappy paycheck that I'm getting? Sure, the jobs are doing great, I appreciate you for that. But I'm still not making enough money.

Those are the things that the average person is dealing with every single day, Kaitlan. And I have yet to see an argument from President Biden that he can articulate, to say, I deserve another four years, because I have done this.

ALLISON: Well, I would--


ALLISON: --I would just say that I don't think Donald Trump has also given a convincing argument, why he deserves four more years either.

But I think there are different segments to this audience. There are the people, who are going to vote for Joe Biden, and they need to rally them around, so that they become the mouthpieces after this debate, spreading the gospel of Joe Biden.

Then, there's people who are still undecided, maybe those Nikki Haley voters, maybe those couch voters, and they -- and Joe Biden needs to make a convincing narrative.

And then, there are people like me, who need to be constant -- not actually, I don't need to be constantly reminded.

But I am reminded, and I get fired up, when I remember how terrified and how disgusted I felt, under four years of Trump. And that is what I am going to do, to bring people to the polls, in November.

COLLINS: Ashley Allison. Shermichael Singleton. Maggie Haberman.

We will see what happens on Thursday night.

Also, right now, the results are coming in, at this moment, for what was the most expensive House primary in American history. Harry Enten is here with the breakdown. And maybe, we'll get a few projections tonight.

Also Speaker House -- House Speaker, Mike Johnson, is going to join me live, to talk about Donald Trump's debate strategy. That's ahead.



COLLINS: Polls closing in New York just about 20 minutes ago. And right now, votes are being counted in what is the most expensive House primary in United States' history.

It has pitted two Democrats against each other. Progressive Squad member, Congressman Jamaal Bowman, against the Westchester County Executive, George Latimer, who is a moderate and veteran politician that you saw here, last night.

Here, look at the votes that are coming in, right now. We've got about 36 percent of the vote in so far. So obviously, still some more counting to go. But right now, George Latimer is about 56.5 percent, Jamaal Bowman at 43.5 percent.

And Harry Enten, CNN's Senior Data Political Reporter is here to break it all down.

Harry, I mean, you see those numbers. But also, look at this visual of the two watch parties, the two -- for these two candidates right here. It's kind of a striking visual, to see Latimer's party on the left. And Bowman's on the right, which is a pretty sparse, judging on what we're seeing at 9:23 PM.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL DATA REPORTER: Yes, one of those looks like a party, in which people expect to win. And that's on your left side, of your screen, George Latimer. On your right side of the screen, not exactly the party that looks like they were expecting to celebrate, this evening, which of course matches up with the poll results that we see so far, which is that George Latimer has an advantage in this race.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, how could that change as what we're seeing being counted in? We had Mr. Latimer, here on the show, last night. We were talking to his team about when they expect most of the vote totals to come in. Obviously, they're looking at Westchester -- Westchester County and other -- other parts of this.

ENTEN: Yes. So I, you know, not much of a surprise too. I was looking at the votes that have come in so far.

This district is partially Westchester, partially the Bronx. Westchester makes up a larger share of it. And that's where Latimer's base is. The Bronx is where Bowman's base is. Much more of the Bronx has been counted so far, as a percentage of the vote that's coming. There is much more of Westchester to come.

I will note that Latimer was expected to do extremely well, in the early vote. He has done so well in the early votes so far, winning it by over two to one. But even in the day-of-election vote, that's coming in, Latimer's still winning it by about 15, 16 percentage points. And there's still a lot of that vote to be counted.

So yes, things could change. But at this particular point, if you have a lead like George Latimer has, and you look at the vote that's outstanding, you'd much rather be him than Jamaal Bowman.


COLLINS: Well, and we talked about with him, last night.

I say this has been one of was expensive primary races, in House history. AIPAC is responsible for a lot of that. I think it was $14.5 million that they used to back Latimer.

But those all ads weren't all about Israel. Some of them didn't mention Israel at all. But they made clear, after October 7th happened, that for those voices who were incredibly critical that they were going to show that, in their spending. And Jamaal Bowman obviously was one of those.

ENTEN: Very few of the ads actually mentioned Israel. That is not the marquee issue in this race, as I -- as far as I'm concerned, talking with local voters. I am just south -- just from south of that particular district. My friend's actually a county legislator from that district.

And if you in fact talk to voters, in that district, they would say it's not about Israel. It's about the fact that Jamaal Bowman hasn't delivered there. And George Latimer is a longtime local-pal (ph) there.

COLLINS: Yes. And Harry, hang on a second, because we do have a projection to make.

CNN can now project that Republican congressman -- congresswoman, Lauren Boebert will win the Republican primary in Colorado's 4th Congressional District.

After she was facing a tough reelection in her own district, she actually switched to run in a more Republican leaning one.

And Harry, this was something that a lot of Republicans were actually unhappy about, when this happened. There were accusations against her. But her last race, I mean, it was a -- hundreds of votes decided it, maybe even fewer than that, before she switched here.

What do you make of this, I think, believe it was a six-way race between Republicans.

ENTEN: It was a six-way race. Look, she vastly outraised her opponents. She had vastly higher name recognition.

This is a very safe district, come the fall. Ken Buck, of course, retiring, who was not exactly friendly to Donald Trump. You'll end up with a much friendlier Donald Trump voice now, from Colorado's 4th District. At least as far as Lauren Boebert's concerned, this was the right move. It definitely paid off. And she's definitely a favorite heading into the fall.

COLLINS: Yes, and we'll see what that continues to look like, as you track the New York races.

Harry Enten, thank you for that.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Up, we're going to go next straight to THE SOURCE, with the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. A lot to discuss with him. He will join us live, in just moments.

Also, are the Biden and Trump campaigns listening? Because we're going to speak to perhaps one of the most sourced people in America, about what is the secret strategy that has been proven to win debates.



COLLINS: What is the secret to winning a presidential debate, and also winning over voters, more importantly? That is obviously something that is on top of mind, for President Biden, and former President Trump, tonight. Is it a vibe? Is it a zinger?

Maybe it's a moment like this one.


RONALD REAGAN, 40TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We need fundamental change in this country. And that's what I'd like to bring up.

TRUMP: If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general, to get a special prosecutor, to look into your situation.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Yes. Because you'd be in jail.


COLLINS: Those three moments, and many more, are the kinds that my next guest has studied, and the voters' reactions to them, for more than three decades.

Longtime pollster, and communications strategist, Frank Luntz, joins me now.

And Frank, I mean, you have written this really interesting article, today, about what actually wins voters over, when it's in debates. And shockingly, to those of us on cable news, it's not always what the pundits think is the biggest takeaway.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER & COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: No, it's very frustrating. In my walk here, I was saying to some of your staff, be very careful who you predict as the winner, because voters see it very differently.

They're not trying to score points. They don't care if you trip up on something. And they're actually not focused precisely on every detail, to looking at the personality, to looking at the presentation. Do I trust them? Do I like them? Can I see them as president? Is this someone I want to have in my living room, every night, for the next four years?

And in the end, it's the reason why Donald Trump lost that debate, with Joe Biden, four years ago, and why he beat Hillary Clinton.

And that line there, all the pundits said, oh, my God, we're going to be a Banana Republic. He says he'd throw her in jail. And every network went nuts on him.

Our focus group said, oh, my God, he's actually going to hold her accountable. This is exactly what we're looking for in politics.

So, he was a disaster in 2020. And he was really good in 2016.

COLLINS: But when you look at those two moments, I'm sure there were some voters, who did not like that moment.

LUNTZ: Sure.

COLLINS: This political opponent clearly saying he'd put his other -- his opponent in jail, because he doesn't like her.

But when you actually look at this, you write in this, and say that the key moments that will have the greatest impact on the remaining undecided voters, which is obviously what we're all paying attention to here, are those in which the candidates attack each other in defining ways or undermine the political case that each wants to present to Americans. Viewers will quickly decide whether the accusations are fair and the responses effective.

I mean, if you are trying to appeal to these independent undecided voters, Thursday night, what does that look like?

LUNTZ: By the way, it's only 4 percent. It's only in three states, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

And I'd be asking a rhetorical question, just like Reagan did. Is inflation higher or lower today than it was four years ago? Is the border safer or less safe? Do you feel more or less secure, if I'm Donald Trump? And if I'm Joe Biden, do you really want to go back to that chaos? Do you really want to go back to? And I'm going to do that for three or four times.


Either ask your question, or make your statement, where you the public at home is nodding their heads, yes.

The problem is Trump wants to own Joe Biden, and he's got no self- control whatsoever.

And in Joe Biden's case, he really hasn't figured out how to handle the ex-president. And he's not made the case, for his own reelection, as well as he could have. The economy's better than people realize. The situation -- the legislation that he's passed, they don't know this. And you know what? It's not your fault. It's the President's fault.

COLLINS: When you're watching a football game, and you're there, and you can hear the audience, or you're watching it on TV, or you could see the refs and their calls.

When you look at this, and there's no audience, for a moment like that, what Trump said about Hillary Clinton, there would have been no reaction to that inside that room, if there had been no audience.

If there's that, if the mics are being cut off, and maybe we'll still see them talking, in the two shots, but not actually hear them. How much of a difference do you think that'll make?

LUNTZ: Huge. It's a big deal.

These rules do not help Donald Trump. He was so eager to get Joe Biden into a debate that he said yes to anything. If I had been advising him, I would have said, don't -- not this one. Yes, you want to debate him, but not through these rules. You need an audience. And second, he's so -- he has no faith in Biden even being able to complete a sentence. So, week after week, he made fun of him. And now, he's trying to reverse that. Now, he's trying to raise the expectations. It doesn't work, if you tell people for months, this guy can't complete a sentence.

COLLINS: Yes, with a week to go and you're saying--

LUNTZ: Exactly.

COLLINS: --oh, he's going to be formidable. Or this, viewers, you know, he's going to be jacked up on drugs, was -- was 2020 is, oh, he's going to have an earpiece. Both ridiculous accusations.

The other thing though, is these two men are probably the best-known politicians, in U.S. history, to see them go up to on the stage. Everyone knows everything about them.

Is there anything really left to say, to change voters' minds, do you think?

LUNTZ: Not much. 70 percent of Americans do not want these two people. They're upset that it's Joe Biden versus Donald Trump.

In the end, I believe we're going to be voting those final undecided voters, not on the candidate they like, but then on the candidate they dislike the least. And that's why our democracy is so challenged, right now. We're not happy with our choices. So, we're trying to vote for the least, worst evil.

COLLINS: Well, when you put it that way, Frank, just sounds great.

LUNTZ: I know.

COLLINS: Frank Luntz.

LUNTZ: And I'm the most depressing guest you could ever have. Eventually you're going to stop allowing me to do this. But here's the problem. I listen to the American people. And this is what they're telling me.

COLLINS: Great to have you, Frank. Thank you for that.

LUNTZ: Thanks.

COLLINS: We'll see what the American people think of Thursday night.

Up next, we have House Speaker, Mike Johnson, joining us live. Trump, Biden, so much to discuss. Stay with us.



COLLINS: Breaking news, with a projection to make, right now, is Westchester County Executive, Democrat George Latimer, is going to defeat incumbent Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who is now the first member of the so-called Squad to be ousted, in what was New York's House primary and the most expensive House primary race that we have ever seen, in New York's 16th Congressional District.

You heard from George Latimer, here last night. And now, we can report he is expected to win that race, and will likely win that race in November.

Meanwhile, former President Trump's team trying to raise expectations, for President Biden, ahead of that debate here, on Thursday night. The Trump campaign, telling CNN that Biden will be, quote, "Ready to go," they believe. Of course, a big question, how ready is their candidate?

I want to bring in one of Trump's top allies, in Washington. The House Speaker, Mike Johnson, joining us live.

Speaker Johnson, great to have you here.

Have you given former President Trump any advice, about what you think he should do on stage, Thursday night?

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Well, I spent some time with him, over the last week. And I could tell you, he's in a great mood, and a great place. And I'm looking forward to the vision that he's going to cast, for the country, on Thursday night. I think it'd be a big night for him.

And I think there'll be a stark contrast between his vision for America, that's very positive vision that he wants to cast. And with really, I think the terribly weak record of President Biden, that's hard to hide from. I think that contrast will be a stark one.

COLLINS: Yes. You've previously said that you have seen a cognitive decline, in President Biden. But don't you worry that you and fellow Republicans have set the bar pretty low for him?

JOHNSON: Look, I just tell the truth, Kaitlan. I mean, I don't -- I have no personal animus, against Joe Biden, of course. I respect the Office. And -- but I've just acknowledged what everyone sees.

We can't help how we age. Everybody ages differently at a different pace. My father-in-law is the same exact age, as President Biden. But he's on his A-game. He works 12 hours a day, runs his small business that he's been running for years, and he's vibrant. And he's just he can -- he can do almost anything, seemingly.

And President Biden cannot. I mean, that's what people see. And so, it's a dangerous thing. I take no pleasure in saying it, because our adversaries see that as well.

And I think it's going to be a very interesting contrast between these two men. And the interesting thing about this race, Kaitlan, is that both of these men have been President. So, you can ignore the rhetoric. You can ignore the talking points. You can look at the record of these two men. And I think that's--


JOHNSON: --a really important one as well.

COLLINS: But do you think some of the rhetoric, Speaker Johnson, I mean, just knowing you, and how you conduct yourself, do you think some of the rhetoric is out of line, when people from Trump's team are suggesting that -- and Trump himself that Biden is going to be on cocaine, when he's on that debate stage, Thursday night?


JOHNSON: Look, there's a lot of things that are said in jest. Of course, no one expects that Joe Biden would be on cocaine.

But they do ask questions. And I think they're objectively -- I mean, I think it makes sense why people are asking, will he be on some sort of energy drinks or something, OK?

Look, his energy levels, you can see vary, depending on what format he's in, and what forum. And we expect that he'll do what he did at the State of the Union. He had a lot of energy, that night. So, that's the Joe Biden, I expect to see.

The question is, can he stay for 90 minutes, on that stage, and go toe-to-toe, with President Trump, who as you know, goes to rallies, and talks for two hours on end, without any break and any notes. So, it'll be a very interesting thing to see.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, the allegations just about drugs have just been, frankly, ridiculous, and, obviously, are baseless as well.

But let me ask you something that's happening on Capitol Hill. Because you've vowed, previously, to push back on Donald Trump's prosecutions. You suggested that the funding of the Special Counsel's office could be an opportunity for that.

But Republican appropriators are not attempting to defund Jack Smith, in their latest proposal today. How come?

JOHNSON: Well, there's a lot of talk about how we get control of the out-of-control Special Counsels and, I think, many of the abuses that we've seen in the system. There's a lot of frustration about that. And it's not just House Republicans. It's all the American people.

I'm traveling around the country. I've been -- done campaign events in over 130 cities now, in 30 states, in the last six months. And there's real frustration about that. People see a two-tiered system of justice. That's how they describe it themselves. It's not a Republican talking point.

So, we've got to bring accountability, because that's the role of Congress, under the Constitution. The question is, what's the best and most effective way to do that? So, there's a lot of thoughtful discussion and debate.

The underlying bill doesn't have that provision in. But there may be amendments. But we have to look at what is actually a lawmaking exercise, and not just a messaging exercise, because the times are too important.

COLLINS: And so--

JOHNSON: So, a lot of ideas on how to do it. The jury's still out. We'll see.

COLLINS: It's not in the underlying bill. I mean, an amendment could be added. But if you really wanted it, you would just put it in the underlying bill. But if it is ultimately in there, is that just a messaging tactic, because it's not actually going to go anywhere, and defund the Special Counsel's Office?

JOHNSON: No, look, it's not a question about what we want. We definitely want to bring the Special Counsel under control. But there's differences of opinion, even among House Republicans, on the best way to do that.

COLLINS: But what's your opinion?

JOHNSON: Do you defund the entire Special Counsel program?

COLLINS: Do you believe that you can do that, that you have the ability to do that?

JOHNSON: No, look, I think there is a role for a Special Counsel function. And the purpose of it is because, it's -- the Department of Justice is an executive agency branch, obviously, an executive agency in the executive branch. And sometimes, there's a conflict of interest.

Let's say, for example, Republicans may want to investigate something that Joe Biden did, after he's in office, like they've done with President Trump. We have a Special Counsel, right now, that's working on the Hunter Biden matters.

The reason you have Special Counsels, is because sometimes there's a conflict of interest within DOJ, and the White House. So, it has an important function, but it has been abused. I mean, I think Jack Smith has abused his position and what he's done. And I think that bears investigation.

I think the funding streams, is an important part of that. And that's what Congress is very carefully and deliberately debating. How do you solve the problem without creating a bigger one? And that's what we're going through, right now.

COLLINS: But are you still debating it, if it's not going to be in that underlying proposal that came out from the House Appropriations Committee, tonight?

I mean, you previously suggested, that would be a way to go after Jack Smith. So, do you not believe any longer that that is a way, to go after the Special Counsel's office here? JOHNSON: No, but it's not about what my personal belief is. It's about what we can actually get enacted into law. And obviously, Chuck Schumer, in the Senate, would probably not take that up. We could -- you and I can both guess that. And I'm sure President Biden would not sign it into law, right?

So, we have to look at what's reality. I have the smallest margin in U.S. history. For about four-and-a-half months here, I had a one-vote margin. We are now at three, because we had a new member take an oath of office, tonight, a new Republican. So, I'm excited about that.


JOHNSON: But look, it's the reality of the math that I've got to deal with every day. And what can we actually get enacted? We're trying to get appropriations bills done that reflect our priorities. And if we have things in there that make that tougher, we've got to carefully debate, and consider those.

COLLINS: Well and--

JOHNSON: That's what's happening right now. That's part of the process.

COLLINS: I mean, we've seen that playing out. Marjorie Taylor Greene, tonight, was saying it was a complete and utter failure of the Republican-controlled House, by not doing that. She said she'd let you know that.

But let me ask you about something else, Speaker Johnson.

Because we understand this evening that the House of Representatives is weighing in, and actually taking an official position, on what we're on the verge of seeing happening, on Monday. Steve Bannon reporting to prison, for defying a congressional subpoena, and failing to respond to that.

Can you confirm that the House is expected to take an official position, on that? And if so, what is it?

JOHNSON: Yes, I can't confirm that. We'll be filing a brief, in that legal proceeding. And we think that's really important to do.


We think the previous statement of the House, under Speaker Pelosi, was incorrect. We do not believe the January 6th Special Committee was properly constituted. We don't think it followed the House rules.

And now, we're finding, under our own investigation, that they may have in fact covered up some evidence. That's great concern to a lot of people. You'll see a lengthy report come out on that.

But in the meantime, when they're using that, to prosecute people, we think it's important for the House's position to be known, the current House. And that is that we don't believe that that was a proper committee, properly constituted that did appropriate work. The court should take that into consideration. And I think we have an obligation to make that position known.

COLLINS: Do you worry that that will undercut your ability to enforce congressional subpoenas in the future, though?

JOHNSON: No, not at all. You got two totally different matters. I mean, we're going to court, by the way, to enforce the subpoena against Merrick Garland.

The Judiciary Committee is going to proceed in the court, to make sure that the audio tape of the -- of the lengthy interview, with the Special Counsel and President Biden, is turned over to Congress.

We have a right to see it. In fact, we have an obligation, a necessity to hear that audio, to make sure that it matches with the written transcript that Merrick Garland, the Attorney General, turned over to the House.


JOHNSON: You got a conflict between the two branches. We're using Article I of the Constitution, as we're supposed to do.

COLLINS: And, of course, Steve Bannon was no longer working, in the executive branch, when he had his subpoena, for the time period that it was relevant to. We'll see how this pans out, how the Supreme Court takes it.

House Speaker, Mike Johnson, thank you for your time, tonight.

JOHNSON: Thank you so much.

COLLINS: Up next, speaking of Steve Bannon, we have new reporting, about the judge overseeing his criminal fraud case, here in New York.



COLLINS: New reporting, tonight, that I have on the shakeup regarding which judge is going to be overseeing Steve Bannon's upcoming criminal fraud trial, here in New York.

We have now learned, and the court has confirmed that Justice Juan Merchan, the judge, yes that one, who oversaw Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, last month, will no longer oversee Steve Bannon's upcoming trial, this fall.

They were scheduled to happen in the same courthouse, with the same judge. But tonight, that's changed. Merchan was not removed from the case. But has another case that conflicts with the scheduling of Bannon's trial, I'm told. Now, another judge has been assigned to take that case. Of course, all as he is on the verge of reporting to prison in another case.

Joining me here tonight, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

Elie, I mean, this was kind of a surprise.


COLLINS: I'm told Bannon's team learned about this, on Friday night.

What do you make of it? Is this normal? How does this work?

HONIG: It happens. Usually, it's just an administrative issue.

You may look at the different judges, and say, oh, this one's overloaded on his docket, that one has some room on hers, or there's a scheduling conflict with trials, that kind of thing. And so, a lot of times this kind of move just gets made, administratively, or by the Chief Judge, and there's nothing really more to it.

I will say, though, usually the judge, who's losing the case, does at least get consulted. Hey, are you OK with giving up this case? I mean, remember, there was originally a conflict between the Trump trial and the Bannon trial. And Judge Merchan clearly prioritized the Trump trial.

So, this happens. It's not unusual.

COLLINS: Yes. Do we know anything about this new judge, who is going to be taking over? I mean, the case isn't getting delayed or anything, from what we know. Bannon's actually scheduled to appear before her, later this month.

HONIG: Yes. Judge April Newbauer.

So, I talked to some of my sources, I will now report them on the -- even your sources have sources here.

Here's some of the intel I got from her. She's been on the bench for about -- not from her. About her. For about 12 years. Her primary experience, before this, was she worked at the Legal Aid Society, which provides legal services to indigent poor people.

Here's a couple of things that people told me that have appeared in front of her. Quote, she's a very, very hard worker, always on trial, no slacking.

Someone said she is, quote, a very, very left liberal.

And I said, how do you think that plays? And this person said, well, on the one hand, defense lawyers usually like liberal judges. On the other hand, liberals don't love Steve Bannon. So, who knows?

And then another person said, I found this really interesting, from a defense attorney's perspective, she's the best judge in the courthouse. Smart, friendly, polite, thoughtful, and does not automatically rule for the prosecutor, every time.

So, generally positive reviews. It's interesting, there seems to be a consensus, she's very liberal. I don't know which way that's going to play here.

COLLINS: Yes. And just to remind people, this case was for defrauding donors, in that Build the Wall scheme.


COLLINS: And people might think, well, I thought Trump pardoned him for that.

Trump did in the federal charges. These are state charges that looked almost exactly like those charges. And of course, presidential pardons don't apply to state charges.

HONIG: And you know, what's so interesting? So originally, Bannon was charged federally by my former office, the SDNY.

Trump pardoned only Bannon. All the other co-defendants, in that case, were eventually convicted, either pled guilty, or went to trial, and got sentenced at the time. But Bannon is close with Trump, he got out of the key -- was pardoned. Now, Bannon faces state charges for the same fraud scheme.

COLLINS: Yes. And so, while we're watching all of this, obviously Bannon's hearing will be happening while he's also supposed to report to prison, on Monday.


COLLINS: The other case we're watching is the documents case, in Florida. And Judge Aileen Cannon, we've talked at length about her, and how she's overseeing this.

One of the arguments that they're listening to now, is they're trying to -- and we saw new pictures, as they were pushing back on claims that they had kind of staged the evidence. I mean, we saw the boxes of classified documents, firsthand.

But part of it is they're trying to say the search warrant was invalid. She seemed, though, to argue, no, it's not.

HONIG: Yes, she's not buying this.

The reason they put those photos, in the brief, is because they're trying to respond to an argument that DOJ and the FBI shuffled up the documents, and got them out of order.


And the response from DOJ is look, they were already a mess.

That motion to invalidate the search warrant will fail. Donald Trump will not succeed on that motion.

COLLINS: OK. We'll be watching. Well, we'll see when she rules on the motion.

HONIG: That's a prediction. I don't do them often. But there's one.

COLLINS: Elie Honig.

HONIG: Thanks.

COLLINS: Thanks for bringing your sources to THE SOURCE, tonight.

And thank you all so much, for joining us.

We'll see you tomorrow, live from Atlanta.