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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

GOP's Own Witnesses Testify That No Evidence Has Yet Emerged To Warrant Biden's Impeachment; Sen. Menendez Planning Puerto Rico Fundraising Trip; In Surprising Move, Trump Drops Bid To Move Georgia Election Case To Federal Court. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 28, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: An update now, on the murder, of a 26-year- old tech CEO, in Baltimore, now that the suspect is in custody.

According to court documents, obtained by our affiliate WJZ, the victim, Pava LaPere, died from strangulation, and blunt force trauma, was found on a rooftop, of her apartment building.

The documents also reveal that detectives have surveillance video, showing the suspect, Jason Billingsley, and LaPere, in the lobby, talking and getting on an elevator, together. Police say they do not think they knew one another.

That's it for us. The news continues. We'll see you tomorrow. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.


President Biden, rebuking Republicans, for their quote, "Silence," on threats to democracy, calling out his predecessor, by name.

We'll be joined, tonight, by Cindy and Jack McCain, the wife and the son, of the late Republican senator, John McCain.

Plus, the first Biden impeachment inquiry hearing, not off to a strong start exactly. One senior Republican aide, calling it, quote, an "Unmitigated disaster," as every single Republican witness agreed with Democrats.

All with nearly 48 hours left, before the government is said to shut down, and run out of funding, millions of Americans stand to stop getting their paychecks, including members of the U.S. military.

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

We're live, from Capitol Hill, tonight, the citadel of our democracy, where democracy is not exactly working, as it should be.

The government is on the brink of shutting down, tonight, with House Republicans voting, in this hour, on some of these standalone spending bills, though, even if they can get these votes passed, tonight. And that is very much still an open question, as we're speaking right now. That alone would not prevent a government shutdown. A shutdown, of course, is not just a formality, or something procedural. It would actually create a lot of pain, for a lot of regular Americans.

Tonight, House Republicans are essentially at war, with one another, not just over funding the government, though.

Even with no agreement in sight, on funding the government, House Republicans held their first hearing, in the impeachment inquiry, into President Biden, today.

But it did not quite go as they expected or at least had planned for it to go, as the hearing was deemed, by even their own Republican colleagues, an unmitigated disaster, mainly because of things like this.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We've -- we're going to present evidence.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): What evidence? There's no evidence, witnesses.

COMER: We'll just -- we'll just --

RASKIN: There are no fact witnesses.

COMER: -- sit back, and let the American people hear the -- see the hearing.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Are you presenting any firsthand witness account, of crimes committed, by the President of the United States?


I have not.


TURLEY: I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment.

DUBINSKY: I am not here, today, to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud or any wrongdoing.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: This is an embarrassment.


COLLINS: Democrats, like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were not the only ones, who felt that way.

Some, inside the Republican Party, here, on Capitol Hill also voiced their frustration, to CNN, in real-time, saying that it was quote, "Mind-blowing" for Republicans, to pick witnesses. And several of those witnesses there were Republicans' witnesses, that they repeated their own case. One senior Republican aide, as I noted, called it an "Unmitigated disaster."

Of course, the target of that hearing, President Biden was laying out the stakes that he sees, for democracy, focusing on his predecessor's grip, on the Republican Party, and warning that he believes democracies can die in silence.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today's Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists.

More determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down, than to let the people's business be done.

Here is what you hear from MAGA extremists about the retiring patriot general honoring his oath to the Constitution: quote, he's "a traitor," end of quote.

Quote, "In times gone by, the punishment would've been death," end of quote.

And although I don't believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening.


COLLINS: We'll have more, on that speech, in just a moment.

But for the impeachment inquiry, that we saw today, I want to get straight to THE SOURCE, tonight, with the ranking member, on the House Oversight Committee, Maryland Democratic congressman, Jamie Raskin.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

I mean, we saw you sitting there, next to the Chairman, James Comer. Do you think anything was accomplished, in that room, today?

RASKIN: I think it demonstrated to the whole country that there really is no evidence at all, supporting the idea of impeaching President Biden. They can't even really name what the purported high crime and misdemeanor is. They don't even have a low crime and misdemeanor. They have no crime at all.


And today, for their very first impeachment hearing, they had no fact witnesses. They had no eyewitnesses. They put on several experts, who agreed with us that there's not remotely sufficient evidence, to justify an impeachment.

And so, we saw a meltdown, on the Republican side of the aisle, where the Republican members were fleeing the committee room, in droves, embarrassed and humiliated by what was going on. But of course, the Democrats were there, because we would like to put an end to this nonsense, right now, and get back to the work of America.

The government is about to shut down in two days, because of the chaos of this clown show, I'm quoting Republicans here, on Republicans, because they can't develop any focus on what they want to do.

And so, you've got a small extremist MAGA faction, maybe 15 or 20 or 25 members, which is essentially driving the train. And Kevin McCarthy has continually catered to them and appeased them. And we're all paying the bitter price of that.

Right now, they're about to shut down the government of the United States, although the Senate Republicans, the Senate Democrats, the House Democrats, and the President of the United States are all united. We need a clean Continuing Resolution, to get through this, along with disaster aid, and aid to the people of Ukraine, fighting Russian imperialism and violence, against their society.

But it is the pro-Trump pro-Putin MAGA wing of the Republicans, which is having their way, over Kevin McCarthy. And so far, he's not been willing to stand up to them, and the government of the United States might shut down. This is something that no enemy government has ever been able to do to us in America. And MAGA is about to do it to us, right now.

COLLINS: Yes, it seems that we are on the verge of that, even if Republicans do get those bills passed, tonight.

But on the hearing, today, Chairman Comer, of the House Oversight Committee, obviously has subpoena power. He said they will be subpoenaing Hunter Biden, and President Biden's brother, James Biden.

Do you think that he's ultimately going to take the step, to subpoena the President himself here?

RASKIN: I don't know.

This has been going on for nine months. We've had 12,000 pages of bank records, 2,000 Suspicious Activity Reports. We've had tons of witnesses, coming in and testifying. And all of them say, and all of the evidence shows that Joe Biden wasn't involved in any of this stuff.

So, whatever you think about Hunter Biden, and what he was up to? Leave that to the Special Counsel, who's been appointed, who was the U.S. Attorney, in Delaware, who was Donald Trump's appointment, as U.S. attorney, and he's already charged Hunter Biden, with several gun offenses. And it's clear that the system of justice and the rule of law is working for him.

Why use that to try to bring down the President of the United States, who has been in public life, for 50 years, and has no convictions, and no indictments? And their leader Donald Trump, who's calling the shots, over there, now has 91 criminal charges, outstanding, all over the country, on everything, from trying to overthrow a presidential election, to stealing government documents, to obstructing justice, and so on. And I don't even want to get into his civil litigation, where he's been deemed to be an abuser of --

COLLINS: Yes, we'll see that.

RASKIN: -- women, and so on.

COLLINS: Well, and the other trial that we'll see on Monday, in New York.

But on this, today, I mean, what you heard, from Republican witnesses, there, in the room, today saying that they don't believe there's evidence there, to impeach President Biden yet.

But do you ultimately think that House Republicans will move forward, with impeachment articles, even if nothing new emerges? I mean, do you really see them turning back, from an impeachment inquiry?

RASKIN: Well, I don't see them moving forward, right now, because you've got something like 15 or 20 Republicans, at least, who are not going along with it.

Now, Ken Buck, for example, is a member of the Freedom Caucus. He was the --

COLLINS: We had him on, last night.

RASKIN: -- the former Chief of the Criminal Division, of the U.S. Attorney's Office, in Colorado. He's a smart lawyer. And he says there's nothing there, this is ludicrous. He's saying it's ridiculous for them to proceed. And I feel very good, about him, and some other members, who are saying, you don't impeach someone over nothing.

I mean, we understand why Donald Trump wants to trivialize the meaning of impeachment, and confuse everybody, about what it is. But there's no reason anybody else should do it. It's an extraordinary remedy. That is the people's last line of self-defense, against a President, who acts like a king, and abuses the public trust.

COLLINS: Do you think there'll be more impeachment hearings, after what we saw, today?

RASKIN: I kind of doubt it after what we saw today, or at least it will be a while.

COLLINS: You think they'll second-guess it?

RASKIN: I know that there was a lot of consternation, and alarm, on the Republican side, to see how weak the case was.

COLLINS: You heard that from Republicans?

RASKIN: Oh, directly on the floor, in fact.

COLLINS: Like what?

RASKIN: Several Republicans were saying to me, that the right-wing is now saying that Kevin McCarthy actually set it up, to be a failure, because he didn't want to proceed with impeachment. They couldn't believe that such a disaster, which has happened by accident. I think, that attributes a lot more organization --

COLLINS: And do you really think that the others --

RASKIN: -- and foresight to Kevin --

COLLINS: -- that's a strategy behind, it seems?


RASKIN: No, I don't. But what I mean is that it is now taken for granted, over there, that their impeachment inquiry is going nowhere, and that they don't have any evidence, after nine months of this.

COLLINS: One thing that they have said, Chairman Comer, is they deemed the work of the impeachment inquiry team, these committees to be essential. So, if there is a government shutdown, come Saturday night, they will continue with that work.

Do you think that's appropriate?

RASKIN: I can't think of anything less essential than this sham impeachment, that they are running against Joe Biden, just because Donald Trump sent out some social media communications, saying, "Well, they impeached me. So, we've got to impeach Joe Biden. They did it to me. Let's do it to him." That's not the constitutional standard, whether you're mad at the other team.

The constitutional standard is whether there's treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. And they haven't assembled one iota or morsel of evidence, suggesting that Joe Biden has committed an impeachable offense.

COLLINS: You bring up Speaker McCarthy. Obviously, as they are trying to figure out how to fund the government, one thing that is threatened is his job, here, as Speaker. There could be a motion to vacate, to remove him from that role.

If that comes to a vote, how will you vote?

RASKIN: Well, gee, I haven't even thought about that. And, of course, I'd use the Tip O'Neill rule, which is, I don't vote for anybody unless they ask me to vote for them. And so, I haven't even heard from Kevin McCarthy about it.

In any event, we're together, with Kevin McCarthy, if he would abide by the agreement that we made, back in May. We foresaw that the extreme MAGA Republicans would try to shut down the government. And we set up an actual budget agreement. And now, Kevin McCarthy has stepped away from it, because the MAGA Republicans are threatening to vacate the Chair, which means overthrow the Speaker of the House. So, I hope that he can get it together to organize his caucus.

If not, we've got a great leader, in Hakeem Jeffries.


RASKIN: And we've been making real progress, for America, with the Infrastructure Act, with the Inflation Reduction Act. The Democrats are ready to lead.

COLLINS: But is there a chance that you would potentially vote, for Speaker McCarthy, if his job was on the line?

RASKIN: Well, it never occurred to me to vote for Kevin McCarthy.

But I'll tell you this. I have heard conversations, among some of my Democratic colleagues, who come from states, where there are cross- party coalitions, to form, to try to isolate the extreme right.

And that happens, and they say they share, 50 percent of the committees go to Republicans, 50 percent of the committees go to the Democrats, they alternate weeks, in which there's a Democratic Speaker, a Republican Speaker.

So, I suppose anything is possible, in the land of hypotheticals, which is certainly, where we live, in the Oversight committee, where the whole impeachment process is based on hypotheticals.

But look, the real point is, what are we going to do, to continue to make progress, for America? And the first thing we got to do is keep the government open.


RASKIN: Because that's a massive pain and hardship that they're threatening, for millions of people, in the WIC program and the SNAP program, federal workers, across the country.

COLLINS: OK, I'm going to mark you down as a "Maybe" then, for that.

Congressman Jamie Raskin.

RASKIN: I don't even know what I said "Maybe" to. But I want to make progress, for America.

COLLINS: Just for caucus (ph).

RASKIN: That's why I'm a progressive.

COLLINS: Thank you, for joining us here, on the balcony, on Capitol Hill, tonight.

RASKIN: Yes. COLLINS: Coming up, President Biden is warning that democracy is in danger. He is invoking the late Republican senator, John McCain, to make his point, in Arizona, today. I spoke with his wife, Cindy, and his son, Jack, about the state of American politics, as it is, tonight.

Plus, a surprise move by Donald Trump's legal team, just in, in the State of Georgia. That's next.



COLLINS: Within a matter of minutes, the House is scheduled to vote, in an attempt to find some way, to keep the government open, and funded, past Saturday, at midnight. Lawmakers have been scrambling to find a path out of this problem, of their own making.

Roughly 4 million Americans are trying to figure out how long they can go without a paycheck. They are facing basic questions, tonight, like how they could potentially pay rent, or credit card debt that they'll have to incur, or what bills they can skip, if that happens.

A shutdown means that if you're about to buy a home, getting a mortgage is going to be tougher. If you have travel plans, there could be longer security lines, and more delays, at the airport. And of the 33 million small businesses, in this country, 93 percent of them say that a shutdown will cost them more money.

As we speak, though, tonight, there are still big questions about whether this latest plan, what is happening, can even pass the House. For answers on that, hopefully, I am joined by Pennsylvania Republican congressman, Brian Fitzpatrick.

And thank you, Congressman, for being here.

What -- I mean, there are these appropriations bills that Republicans --


COLLINS: -- are voting on, tonight.


COLLINS: Are those going to pass, do you believe?

FITZPATRICK: Some might. It's really hard to predict what's going on, on the floor, these days. Sometimes, rules are taken down, and the vote count hasn't really gone, as expected. I think at least one, maybe two, possibly three, definitely not four. The Ag appropriations bill is not going to pass. Too many -- way too many problems with it.

And a lot of people are approaching this, the same way we did with the debt ceiling negotiations, knowing that what comes out of the House is never going to become law. But it's necessarily a mechanism, to get two people to sit down.

That was certainly the case, with the debt ceiling. And the outcome was good. Speaker McCarthy and President Biden sat down. They came up with a two-party solution. It got signed into law. And America is better for it.

So, the volleys -- individual volleys shouldn't be judged as a final product. But we're coming close to the deadline.

COLLINS: But is there an overall plan?


COLLINS: I think that's what people are curious about tonight.

FITZPATRICK: Well, we have a plan. I lead the bipartisan Problem Solvers, as you know. We don't -- we work outside of the confines of leadership. We work with each other. We're 64 members, 32 Democrats, 32 Republicans. And we believe in two-party solutions.

And what we do, like we did with debt ceiling, like we did with Infrastructure, like we did with the CHIPS and Science Act. We do our work, in the background, we prep a remedy. And if things collapse, at the last minute, amongst talks with the Four Corners, as I call them, the Republican and Democrat leaders of the House and the Senate, then we step forward with our solution.

That was certainly the case with Infrastructure. We provided the votes, to get that across the finish line. We also drafted it.

Last Friday, we introduced a way to keep the government open, a two- party solution. Nobody got everything they wanted. But that's kind of how government operates.

COLLINS: Yes, but this plan, this short-term plan that Speaker McCarthy says will be put, on the floor, for a vote, tomorrow, even though it's not clear --


COLLINS: -- that there are the votes to pass it? Actually seems like there's not. So, why vote on it, if they know that it's not going to pass?


FITZPATRICK: Well, I think, they at least need to give it a try, right?

I mean, I am a fan of putting everybody's bill on the floor, and letting democracy take hold, and have our put on votes. What I don't like is not putting bills on the floor, because some member threatens to take a rule down or threatens to take the bill down.

That's democracy. Let the individual members cast their vote, go back home, and explain their vote, to their proxies. COLLINS: So, should Speaker McCarthy cut a deal with Democrats to get that bill passed?

FITZPATRICK: Well, it's not cutting a deal with Democrats. I mean, we believe in two-party solutions. That's what our caucus is about. So, it's not cutting a deal with anybody. It's coming up with a two-party solution. That's good policy. That's good for our country.

And we know, by the way, that's where this is going to land, right? We always knew that. We knew that that was where it was going to land with the debt ceiling. We knew with Infrastructure.

There's a 60-vote threshold, in the Senate. So by definition, everything that emerges from the Senate will be a two-party solution. Our view is why don't we start there? Why do we got to go through this rigmarole? And come out in a predictable way on the other side.

COLLINS: But they're totally dismissing what the Senate's plan is. I mean, Speaker McCarthy is dismissing that.

FITZPATRICK: Yes, well, I can tell you they have not dismissed our Problem Solver plan. Speaker McCarthy hasn't. Hakeem Jeffries hasn't. Colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, they are very appreciative. I can tell you, talking to people coming up to us, on the floor, all the time, saying, "Thank you. You may be the ones that help us get out of this."

The clock is ticking. We only have a few days left. I will tell you that there is a group of us that are prepared to do what it takes, to get our bill on the floor, should this not be resolved, and regulated.

COLLINS: But can you convince those hardliners?

FITZPATRICK: Well that --

COLLINS: Who are saying essentially they're not voting for this?

FITZPATRICK: We only need 218 votes. We don't need 435. We need 218. And if you can't get 218, in your Conference, you go for 218, in the Congress. We focus on 218, in the Congress. There's a lot of ways to get to 218.

COLLINS: How much does a government shutdown hurt your party?

FITZPATRICK: It hurts America. I mean, forget which party it hurts. It hurts America.

I lived through a government shutdown, as an FBI agent. My last assignment was out in the L.A. division. And we had to pull people off Title III Wiretaps. We had to pull people off physical surveillance routes, which decimates cases. When you have a gap of evidence for 30 days? That's very, very devastating to an investigation.

That's just the FBI perspective. Not to mention what it does to FAA, for flight safety, what it does to CBP and the Border Patrol on the border. I mean, every single federal agency will be impacted. And they cost money.

COLLINS: Yes, it's a massive impact.

FITZPATRICK: It's believable.

COLLINS: Do you believe --

FITZPATRICK: Government shutdowns are stupid.

COLLINS: Do you believe --

FITZPATRICK: And they should never happen.

COLLINS: Government shutdowns are stupid.

Do you believe that Speaker McCarthy can emerge, from this, with his job intact?


COLLINS: Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, we'll wait to see if that is true.


COLLINS: I know you have to go vote, in a few matter -- a matter of moments.

FITZPATRICK: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: We'll see if those bills pass.


COLLINS: Thank you, for joining us, tonight.


COLLINS: Of course, so much turmoil happening here, on the Hill.

Elsewhere, in politics, tonight, we turn to the family, of the late Republican senator, John McCain, for their take, on the state of the Republican Party, and what is happening, next.



COLLINS: As President Biden, today, warned Americans, of what he sees as a, quote, "Extremist movement," within the Republican Party, he hearkened back, to his longtime friend, across the aisle, the late senator, John McCain, a war hero, who notably stood firm, against former President Donald Trump, in his final years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Very few of us will ever be asked to endure what John McCain endured. But all of us are being asked right now: What will we do to maintain our democracy? Will we, as John wrote, never quit?

Will we put partisanship aside and put country first?

I say we must and we will. We will.



COLLINS: The President was speaking, in Arizona, today, as he honored Senator McCain, announcing the construction, of a new library there, in his home state, in his name.

The late Senator, of course made the fight for democracy, at home, and abroad, a signature issue of his, during his 35 years, here, on Capitol Hill, before he died, from brain cancer, in 2018.

I spoke earlier, to his wife, and son, Ambassador Cindy McCain, who is the Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme; and Jack McCain, a veteran, of the war, in Afghanistan, who of course, has been here, on THE SOURCE, before.


COLLINS: Thank you both, for being here with me.

Ambassador, I know how personal this is for you. I mean, you could hear it, in your voice, today, as you were talking about how the Bidens actually introduced you, to your husband.

Do you believe that President Biden's message, about democracy, today, resonated?

AMB. CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF LATE SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I do believe it did. I think his message was important.

And I know many people feel that there's a lack of civility, and a lack of debate, in democracy. It's not personal, anymore. I think it's a message that not only resonates but it's a very important message, to make sure in the coming years.

COLLINS: And Jack, what do you think your father would say, about this state of our democracy, right now, that the President feels the need to come out? I mean, this is the fourth time he's made a speech, to this effect, about democracy, and how he believes it's at stake?

JACK MCCAIN, SON OF LATE SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I'm always loathed to put words in my father's mouth. But I will say that he was an eternal optimist. And whatever the circumstances were, he always believed in the strength, of the American democracy, and the courage that lives behind it.

He would offer, I think, that we always need civility. We always need leaders, who are willing to serve a cause, greater than their own self-interest. But that the American experiment is truly the greatest one, in the history of mankind. And he would still continue to be as hard behind it now, as he was then.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, it's an issue that we have so many guests come on, and say, they think that democracy could not survive, potentially, a second Trump term. Obviously, that is part of what's driving President Biden's speech, today, given he is the current Republican front-runner.


Ambassador, do you agree with that, that it may not be able to survive, a second term, of a Trump presidency?

C. MCCAIN: I have great faith in the American people. And I truly believe that we all believe in democracy, freedom, and the right to vote, and the right to be, orderly participants, in discussions and debates. I think that that, of course, that message starts at the top.

And I'm just hoping that this coming election is one that is civil, that has -- that uses courage, and not intimidation, and something that encourages people to vote, and not abstain, because they're afraid of the system.

COLLINS: Jack, one of President Biden's main points, today, was about being silent, and how that's essentially being complicit, not speaking out, after Donald Trump says things like that baselessly, that General Milley committed treason, or that news networks should be investigated for such.

I mean, what do you say, to other Republicans, Republican leaders, who don't speak out, about comments, like that, from someone, who is so prominent, in today's Republican Party?

J. MCCAIN: So, I always have to be very careful in speaking, in a partisan manner, just because of the nature of my work, and the fact that I'm still serving.

But what I will say is that, I would say the definition of character, in my own mind, is doing the right thing, by the virtue of the fact, it's the right thing to do. Sometimes, that's hardest to do, when everybody's watching, and that you never lose, through acting in good faith, and with good character.

COLLINS: Ambassador, when you see President Biden, give this speech, today, speak the way that he did, at the end of that, about that?

And then, you see, a prominent figure, in your state, Kari Lake, who is going to be announcing that she is running for the U.S. Senate there.

She said -- she called the speech "Disgusting," and said, "We will not be lectured on "Democracy" by someone who is trying to jail his political opponents," obviously a reference to Donald Trump's indictments, which are happening that the White House obviously says President Biden is not involved, in.

What's your response to that when you hear that?

C. MCCAIN: Look, we need to keep the rhetoric, to a slow-roll. What we need, again, is what my son just said is civility, duty, honor, country, when we start talking about our leaders, and those who want to be leaders, in our country, and most of all, remembering who we are.

We're Americans. And we believe in democracy, and the rule of the Constitution. So, these things are all important. And I'm hoping that that certainly the voters of Arizona, with the American people, in general, will adhere to them, this time.

COLLINS: And Jack, with respect to what you just said, of course, which is very important here, and your constraints on that. But your father was always famous, for saying, "Country before party."

Do you still think that's an ethos that's, that's reflected today that a lot of people still believe?

J. MCCAIN: I do. I think that the ideal that we all want to strive for, for country over the party or, for service over self-interest, is one that is strong, in the United States. I think, in every corner of the country, you find examples of this, when you seek them out.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to try to foster those ideals. And we should try to make them accessible to all Americans, which is, thankfully, one of the things we're lucky enough to have had President Biden, announce the McCain Library that will be -- being built here. That's one of the things we really hope to do through that project.

COLLINS: Ambassador, what about you?

C. MCCAIN: Well, what I look to is what not only what my husband stood for, but the ideals that we can replicate, within the library, as Jack mentioned.

And what's important to me is we keep his legacy alive, and more importantly, we teach our young people, about serving their country, and being able to be good participants, within government, and respectful of each other, and with using civility. And those are the kinds of things we intend to honor, here at the library, and make sure that we continue to pursue.

COLLINS: Yes, a significant announcement, of course, from President Biden, who clearly had such respect, for the late Senator's.

Ambassador Cindy McCain, Jack McCain, thank you both, for taking the time, to join me, tonight.

J. MCCAIN: Thank you so much.

C. MCCAIN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: And ahead, we are keeping a close eye, on what is happening, here, on Capitol Hill, as House Republicans and, of course, Democrats as well, they are voting, is a question of whether or not those bills, tonight, will pass. All of this as a government shutdown is looming.

CNN's very own Manu Raju has a scoop, about Senator Bob Menendez, as well, another development we are following closely here, on Capitol Hill, right after the break.



COLLINS: Back here, on Capitol Hill, tonight, as the House is voting, as they continue to try and find some way, to keep the government open. A reminder that, it runs out of money, Saturday, at midnight.

For the latest, on where things stand, I am joined now by CNN's Manu Raju.

And Manu, of course, I mean, even if they pass these bills, tonight?


COLLINS: Which Congressman Fitzpatrick just said, there's no way they're passing all of them? Maybe they'll pass some of them. It will still not keep the government funded. They still have to figure that problem out.

I mean, you just talked to Speaker McCarthy. What is -- where is his head at, on this?

RAJU: Yes, look, he is still trying to do something that will actually avoid a government shutdown, which is to pass a short-term spending bill, to keep the government open, for a few weeks, with Republican votes alone, because it includes spending cuts, in there, it includes border security measures.

Democrats don't want to do any of that. They and -- but the problem -- there is a problem for McCarthy. Not all of his Republicans want to do it either, in this closely-divided House. A number of conservative hardliners say they will never vote, for a Continuing Resolution, meaning McCarthy doesn't have the votes. Yet, he is still pressing ahead, on this effort.

So, and then, the question is well, the vote is going to happen, tomorrow, in the House. That is going to fail. Then what?



RAJU: There really only seems to be one way out of this, for McCarthy, which is to cut a deal with Democrats. Get it out of the House. Get it on the Senate, the President's desk. But McCarthy doesn't want to do that yet because of the pressure, on his right flank, and threats to his speakership, if he were to do that.

And when I asked the Speaker, about this, earlier tonight, about whether he's willing to cut a deal, with Democrats, he didn't rule it out. But he also sidestepped the question.


RAJU: Clear that you know it's you don't have votes, better than we do.


RAJU: Your members aren't going to do that (ph).

MCCARTHY: I still got time.

RAJU: You have time (ph)?

MCCARTHY: I got time to do other things.

In this job, you got to have A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. We're going to be ready with something --

RAJU: OK. So --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What letter are you on now?


MCCARTHY: I haven't spelled my name out completely.


RAJU: So, yes, I was asking him like, well, if he's on -- is he on Plan B? Is he on Plan B yet?


RAJU: And he said that he's got multiple plans. So, we'll see what he actually has in mind.

But again, if he cuts a deal, with Democrats, these members, on the right, say, they're going to vote, to oust him, from the speakership. And that could really come to a head, in the next couple of days, here.

COLLINS: Yes. And of course, there's pure chaos, in the House. That's what everyone's focused on.

But the Senate is also facing some interesting moment, today. I know, Senator Bob Menendez, who of course, we saw plead not guilty, today, to those bribery charges, made his case, to the Senate lunch, today.

What's your reporting about what you're hearing about what he plans to do, if he'll answer those calls to resign?

RAJU: Yes, he is making it very clear. He is not resigning. He said that behind closed doors, to his colleagues, saying "I'm not resigning." He made the case that he said he was innocent. He repeated a lot of things he said publicly.

But what I've learned is that actually, he seems to be taking steps, to continue his reelection bid. And that is what's causing a lot of fears, among Democrats, right now, who believe that if he runs, he could jeopardize a very safe seat, in a difficult election environment, for Senate Democrats.

I got a copy of an invitation that his PAC sent out to donors, urging them to come, to an event, that he's planned to have, next month, in Puerto Rico, at a luxury hotel, beachside hotel, with golf with the Senator, dining with the Senator, and his Chief of Staff, saying that the event is still on despite the latest events.

So, making clear that, he's taking steps to run, and to continue to run, despite the fears that if he were to do that, he could jeopardize a very safe seat, and make it harder, for Democrats, to control the Senate.

COLLINS: Obviously, innocent until proven guilty.

But he's still going to host a donor retreat, in Puerto Rico, even despite the fact that he's now mounting a criminal -- or a defense, to these criminal charges.

RAJU: Yes, that's what the invitation says. He'll be there with golf. If you want to pay a price, you can have access to the Senator.

COLLINS: I can't imagine those conversations.

Manu Raju, great reporting. We'll see what that looks like. Thank you.

RAJU: Thanks.

COLLINS: Up next, a surprise move, late today, from Donald Trump's legal team. This is not what reporters, who have been talking to his lawyers, were expecting. It's an unexpected decision.

Some legal experts are also wondering, what's up. We'll talk to one of them, next.



COLLINS: Tonight, the latest move, from Donald Trump's legal team, is to stay put. It's a very unexpected decision, at least for those of us, who are following this, closely. But Trump's attorneys now say that they are not going to attempt to move his Georgia criminal case, to a federal court, even though if they had, he could have potentially had a better argument, to dismiss the charges, maybe even a more favorable jury pool.

This comes after his former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, was denied, in his attempt, to move his case, from a state court, to a federal court, saying that he was just doing his job, as a federal employee. His legal team is trying to appeal that decision, tonight.

But for more, on Trump's move, I want to bring in former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu, who's here with me.

This is, I mean, we had been talking, to people, on Trump's team, if they were going to do this. It seemed pretty clear-cut that they were. But do you think because Mark Meadows was denied, initially, by this judge, that that played a factor, in their decision, here?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it plays a factor. For one thing, Meadows took that unusual step of waiving his Fifth Amendment, and testifying.


WU: And so, that's a concern for Trump and his team.

But he may also get some of the benefits anyway. I mean, one of the ideas, removal, in part was delay. He may be taking a look at the pace now, of the case, and deciding that it's not going to be that much of a rush pace, anyway. And he can sit back and watch what happens, with the other defendants, who may go first.

There's also a theoretical chance that if Meadows were to win on appeal that Trump's case might still get removed, because of the legal connection, of this defense.

COLLINS: Maybe they move all of them?

WU: Right. Yes, I think some of them wouldn't get moved. But there's a bunch of them might get moved if Meadows were to win, on that legal issue, of the federal officials, it was a federal type of action.

COLLINS: Are you surprised by this, overall, though? I mean, just given what we had seemed to think that Trump's legal team was going to do?

WU: I am a little surprised at it. It seems a little bit more strategic, and less reactive than what he normally does. And one thing that occurred to me too, I mean, it perhaps costs a little bit less money, because they're spending an enormous amount of money, on fees, right now.

COLLINS: Yes, it certainly is.

And I think the biggest takeaway is if this does go forward, as I mean, still an open question, in a State trial, I mean that means there will be cameras, in the room.

WU: Yes.

COLLINS: It's going to look a lot different than if he had been successful in moving it.

WU: Yes. I think that's a really great point. I think that was a very happy idea, he had, that nobody would be watching this, on TV, even though he likes to be the showman. But absolutely. And I think it'd be really important for it to be broadcast.

COLLINS: The other legal thing that he is facing, the foremost, this week, is what's happening, in New York, of course, that Judge finding that Trump massively overvalued his assets, overinflated them. Trump has said -- that trial is still starting, despite that decision, on Monday.

And now, we read today that the Judge has -- essentially the Office, the list of witnesses that the Attorney General's Office has submitted, includes Trump, includes Ivanka Trump, includes Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump as well.

Do you think we could actually see Trump himself testify?

WU: I think it would be a really bad idea, for him to testify. So, I think, he probably will stay off the stand. I think the arguments they want to make, they can put forth, without him having to put himself, on the stand, that way.

But the -- it's a very complex unraveling, that's going to happen. It's still a little bit unclear to me just how some of the judge's rulings are going to get implemented.


But no question, the judge has really eviscerated the heart of his defense, which was that these were valid valuations, I was making, and that's completely gone.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean his own attorneys were asking "What's the point of us going to trial?"

WU: Right.

COLLINS: I mean, obviously there are still other things the Judge could rule on.

WU: Yes.

COLLINS: Further penalties --

WU: Right.

COLLINS: -- potentially facing Trump.

WU: Right. It's really just become a damages question, at this point, just what kind of penalty there's going to be.

And, as always, Trump is his own worst enemy, which is the sorts of exaggerations he was making, they're so easily caught. I mean, square footage is something that's just measured. And to exaggerate it, that way, just gives you a sense of just how arrogant he was, in making those sorts of decisions.

COLLINS: Yes, we'll see what that trial looks like, on Monday.

WU: Right.

COLLINS: Shan Wu, thank you, for being here, with me, tonight.

WU: Sure.

COLLINS: Also, next, the real-life consequences, of what's happening, here, on Capitol Hill, where we are now, a potential shutdown, military families, many of them already living paycheck-to-paycheck, now facing a real possibility, of not getting paid.



COLLINS: We are back, here live, on Capitol Hill, tonight. Of course, there is a lot of late-night drama going on, about how to keep the government funded.

Nearly 2 million military troops, and personnel, will stop getting their paychecks, if the government does shut down, as it looks like it's going to, this weekend. It's a terrifying prospect, for many people, who live paycheck-to-paycheck, or rely on government services, to help feed their families.

My next guest knows what it's like, to face that uncertainty, head-on. Besa Pinchotti is the CEO, of the non-profit National Military Family Association. Her husband is also a veteran of the Marine Corps, whose next paycheck is now in doubt, as a civilian employee, for the Air Force.

And you join me now. Thank you, for being here.

I mean, when you look at this reality, and we talk to the lawmakers, about this, and you think of the real-life consequences, how many military families are, living, paycheck-to-paycheck?

BESA PINCHOTTI, CEO, NATIONAL MILITARY FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Well, I can tell you that about 25 percent of military families have told us that they're food-insecure.

And so, living paycheck-to-paycheck has unfortunately become such a huge part of military life. Military families, it used to be that you could survive on their income. Now, you need two incomes to survive. And things like this just make it hard.

If the government does shut down, like we're expecting, and if our service members do get paid, let's say, best-case scenario? Even in that situation, there are 16,000 military spouses, who are employed by the federal government. There are childcare centers that won't be able to take care of kids, so that those other military spouses are able to go to work. WIC offices on installations will be closed.


PINCHOTTI: And so, basically, there are people, all over the country, just holding on, wondering, what's next? What's going to happen, next week? How will they pay for groceries next week?

COLLINS: Yes. And it has these -- I mean, you mentioned WIC, which is the of course, Women, Infants, and Children program. I mean, and we were just looking at the numbers, here, of some 7 million people that rely on that, that could be denied that assistance, if this shutdown goes through, on Saturday night.

I mean, do you think lawmakers here understand the consequences of that?

PINCHOTTI: It doesn't feel that way. I can tell you that much.

For military families, we know that if you just look at a service member's income, hundreds of thousands of military families are eligible for WIC. And like I said, they're on installation. So, they're really important, for the health and nutrition, of military kids, and for moms.

And when I'm sitting here, right now, I'm just imagining that there is a military mom, probably several, pregnant, wondering how she's going to feed her kids, next week, also, wondering if she's going to be able to go to her prenatal appointment, and how long this is going to go on.


We've been trying, when we've talked to lawmakers, almost every day, this week, as we've seen this coming, talking to them about the real- life consequences this would have, living without a paycheck.

One Republican Congressman, Tim Burchett, of Tennessee, had this to say, about what those consequences could be.


REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): We have -- we have a shutdown about every two to three years. And the average lasts about eight days. Social Security checks are going to continue. And all the government's -- government employees will receive full back pay. And no veteran is going to lose his house. It's against the law.


COLLINS: They keep talking about back pay. But, I mean, is that enough for people who live paycheck-to-paycheck, who don't -- can't afford, to go that long, without actually getting that paycheck immediately? PINCHOTTI: So, we ask military families, to face, uncertainty every single day. And this is just another level of that.

And that, what I just heard, sounds like a very comfortable response. He's obviously not a person, who's living paycheck-to-paycheck. And if you really were thinking about that, maybe they're going to get paid in two weeks.

But like I said, it's beyond just the pay. It's everything every day. Will my kid be able to go to daycare, on Monday? Will I be able to take my child, to their doctor's appointment? It's every single part of their lives.

And these are people, who volunteer to serve. They stand up, for this country, every single day. And this is how we respect them. We hear, "Thank you for your service." And this is the opposite of a thank you.

COLLINS: And I think about this. I mean, Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Milley is, he is officially leaving his post, tomorrow. His replacement has been confirmed. But there are so many others, hundreds of others haven't.


COLLINS: I mean, between what's happening here, with the prospect of a shutdown, between what's happening in the Senate, with Senator Tuberville's hold, I mean, are military families just caught in the middle of politics, in a way that you've never seen before?

PINCHOTTI: Absolutely. Military families are being used as pawns.

And military kids are watching. And there are kids all around this country, who are dreaming of being in our military. They want to serve. They're patriotic. And they have this desire to serve.

But they're sitting at home and they're watching the news. And they're seeing that they may not get paid, their kids may not be cared for. And we're talking about a crisis, in recruiting and retention. And this is not the way to solve that problem, either.

COLLINS: Besa Pinchotti, thank you so much, for coming, and explaining the real consequences, of what very much seems like it's going to happen, on Saturday night.

PINCHOTTI: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: Thank you.


Tonight, as I mentioned, there was a standing ovation, for General Mark Milley, as he exited the Pentagon, for the final time, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.


COLLINS: At midnight, on Saturday, General C.Q. Brown will officially replace him, as the nation's top military officer.

That was his salute, as he left the Pentagon, for the last time, tonight.

Thank you so much, for joining us.

"CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip, starts, right now.