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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Ethics Committee: "Substantial Evidence" Santos Broke Law; Israel: Tunnel Shaft Found In Al-Shifa Hospital Complex; CNN: Special Counsel Report On Biden & Classified Documents Expected To Be Critical Of Biden, But Not Recommend Charges. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired November 16, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us. The news continues. THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS starts now. See you tomorrow.


Ferragamo, an adult website and Botox? A scathing new report says that George Santos misspent thousands of his donors' dollars. And tonight, the calls are growing, for him to be expelled, from Congress.

Plus, the Israeli military says it has recovered the body of a hostage, near the Al-Shifa Hospital, also releasing new video that it says shows a tunnel shaft, inside Gaza's largest medical center. We'll go one-on-one with a top U.S. official, in moments.

And why has Osama bin Laden's two-decade-old manifesto, justifying 9/11, gone viral on TikTok? And more importantly, why are some young Americans sympathizing with it?

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

Indicted congressman, George Santos, now says he won't be running for reelection, next year. But reelection may have been the least of his troubles. Tonight, he could be facing even more legal jeopardy.

The House Ethics Committee has just referred its new findings, on Santos, to the Justice Department. The report finds quote, "Substantial evidence" of additional uncharged, unlawful conduct, by the New York Republican. The Committee suggests that more crimes were committed than the 23 that Santos was already charged with. I should note, he has pleaded not guilty to those.

The report finds that Santos quote, "Blatantly stole" from his campaign, and those funds, to pay for his own personal expenses. Here's what that report says that he bought.

Nearly $3,000 worth of Botox, purchases at Hermes and Ferragamo, Sephora, taxi and hotel charges, in Las Vegas, during the time, when the Congressman told his staff, he was on his honeymoon. And also, quote, "Smaller purchases" from the website, OnlyFans. If you're watching and you don't know what that is, don't Google it on your work computer. Just trust me.

Santos called the report, "Biased," and a quote, "Disgusting politicized smear."

The Ethics Committee, I should know, did not subpoena him, as part of this investigation. But the reason they gave was partly because he is a serial liar. And they said his testimony would have had low evidentiary value.

Santos did admit to CNN, earlier this month that he had made some errors, on his financial filings.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Were there mistakes made on those forms? Now I know they were. Was I -- were they malicious? No. Did I understand the reporting date? So, this is from last year to current date this year? No, I didn't -- I didn't understand how that worked. And I'm a new candidate, and I'm sorry that like mistakes were made.


COLLINS: He is sorry that mistakes were made.

Well, the Ethics Committee found that they were much more than mistakes. And now, the question is what will his colleagues think?

A number of House Republicans have indicated they will vote to expel Santos, when that vote comes up again, having previously not supported it enough, to at least remove him, from Congress. But many were waiting, for this report, from the Ethics Committee. So far, at least 10 Republicans, who voted against it, last time, now say they would vote for it.

I'm joined now by Santos' fellow New York Republican congressman, Mike Lawler.

Congressman, what do you think? Do you think George Santos is ultimately kicked out of Congress?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): Oh, no question. He is a serial liar, who, with the report, now out, is proven to be a serial liar. And, everything that I, and many of my colleagues, from New York, have said, for months, has borne out.

And I think it is time, long past time, for George Santos to go. If he had any dignity or decency, he would have resigned, yesterday. But obviously, we'll see, between now and the time we get back, whether or not he pleads guilty, or resigns, or both. And whether or not we obviously have to come back and expel him. I bet the votes are there, when we get back.

COLLINS: You think the votes will be there. If there's a Republican, tonight, who's on the fence, and doesn't know which way to vote? What would you say to them?


LAWLER: This isn't about party. This is about country. It's about the institution. And anyone, who is serving in public office, needs to hold themselves. And we need to hold them, to a higher standard.

George Santos has defrauded the voters. He defrauded donors. He defrauded the NRCC. His treasurer pleaded guilty about a month ago. Staffer pled guilty, just this week, to impersonating Kevin McCarthy's Chief of Staff, on a phone call, with donors, to try and defraud them of money.

And obviously, he misused campaign funds, including paying for shopping sprees at Ferragamo and Hermes, and including a subscription to OnlyFans? I mean, it's absolutely absurd. It is, you know, would be like an episode of Veep, and if it -- and it would be funny if it wasn't so sad and pathetic.

COLLINS: It's, yes, it's funny, except it's not, because it's disturbing.

I mean, I'm assuming -- you were elected at the same time that he was. I'm assuming, you knew you're not supposed to spend your campaign money on that kind of stuff.

LAWLER: That goes without saying. Look, I think, campaign funds are meant to be used, to get your message out, to the voters, to help elect you to public office. They're not meant to be used, for personal gain, in any way.

And, obviously, at the end of the day, this is about the public trust. This is about the people that we represent, being able to trust that we have their best interest at heart.

And when you see episodes like this, when you see individuals like this, who get elected, to Congress? It demeans the office. It demeans the institution. And it really does break the public trust.

So, I think, this is far bigger than party. It's far bigger than politics. And it's time for him to go.

COLLINS: Well, given that, we heard from Speaker Mike Johnson, today. He says he's troubled by the report. But he didn't explicitly call for Santos to resign. Do you think that Speaker Johnson should?

LAWLER: Look, I'll let the Speaker speak for himself.

I have said repeatedly that George Santos needs to resign. I called on him to resign, going back to the beginning of the year. I called on him to resign, when he was indicted. I joined my New York colleagues, in putting an expulsion resolution on the floor, and voted to expel him. He needs to go. And I think after this Ethics report came out today, the sentiments I have heard, from many of my colleagues, including those that were waiting, for a level of due process here, is that he's got to go.

COLLINS: But Speaker Johnson, I mean, he's the leader of your party. And you're saying that party -- that politics should not be put over that here. Don't you think that that means the leader should call on him to step aside?

LAWLER: No, I think the Speaker said in his statement, that, we need to put the institution above all else. And so, I think, I would read between the lines there that George Santos needs to go.

And if he's unwilling to, show a little bit of decency and dignity here, and resign, then he needs to be expelled. And I expect that when we get back from the Thanksgiving recess, if he is still a member of Congress, there will be a privilege resolution, brought to the floor, and he will be expelled.

COLLINS: Congressman Mike Lawler, it is something that you have been saying, for quite some time now. Thank you, for your time, tonight.

LAWLER: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Of course, in light of this damning new report, George Santos does still represent more than 770,000 Americans, in the Third District of New York. Many of them had some thoughts on the allegations.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lied to everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We deserve better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we definitely need some fresh blood, somebody who's going to be ethical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's wrong. You know? I mean, we need to honesty.



COLLINS: Our CNN Senior Political Analyst, John Avlon, is here.

I mean, John, I know how much you love history.


COLLINS: Because I have a little fun fact for you.

AVLON: Oh, good.

COLLINS: Because if he is expelled, as Congressman Lawler just predicted, his colleagues will expel George Santos, he would be the only member in U.S. history, to ever be expelled from Congress, who has not been convicted in court, who was not fighting in the Confederacy.

AVLON: We got to put a finer point on that. I mean, my grandparents were from Youngstown, Ohio. So, they remember Jim Traficant, very unfondly when that went down.


And look, I think, the objections, up to this point, have been a question of precedent. But folks have been waiting, for this report. This report is as damning and detailed, as the indictments he's already faced. And it's just so pathetic, and so tawdry.

Mike Lawler there, New York Republican, wants him to resign, along with others, because he's a stain on them. But when he calls for country over party, 100 percent, when he starts expecting anything resembling decency, or integrity will surface, in the frame, with George Santos? Good luck. Ain't going to happen. Not in the same ZIP code.

COLLINS: And I think when you look through this 55- -- 56-page report, today, they included an exhibit, where his campaign staff, they knew that there was something going on, with him. They created this vulnerability report, where they basically had all of the reasons and questions that they had.


COLLINS: They urged him to resign, or to step out of the race. He didn't. The three of them resigned. I mean, so the signs were there. They weren't obvious, obviously, but.

AVLON: They weren't. And it's because he'd run previously, and he'd lost by a lot, and people didn't think the race would be competitive.

And the North Shore Leader raised questions about his finances. But we didn't know how bad it was. We didn't know it was predicated entirely upon a fraud, and a fraud he perpetrated, on his constituents, on the voters, of Long Island, in Nassau County.

And I think the larger step-back is this is partly a downstream effect of Donald Trump. If you're concerned about fraud, if you're concerned about serially lying? Well, then, it's not just George Santos, because it's frankly, Donald Trump, who turned shamelessness into a political superpower, who made people feel that lying was somehow table stakes for politics.

Politicians should be held to a higher standard. It should be an honorable profession. Those are the kind of sentiments that Lawler is drawing on, as an argument for expulsion.


AVLON: But it's the larger culture that's created and enabled this absurd figure. And maybe, it'll take this, to remind people, that those attributes should not be tolerated, in our politics.

COLLINS: Well, and everyone deserves due process. But I mean, it's not just Republicans. Senator Menendez, obviously is facing --

AVLON: Yes, absolutely.

COLLINS: -- a bevy of indictment charges. And he's remaining in the U.S. Congress.

AVLON: Well, equal justice under law. Republican -- Democrats, who have been calling on Senator Menendez to resign, and not just from his home state, because it makes them look bad? Republicans calling on Santos to resign?

That's actually return to the kind of politics we see, where parties -- people and parties are willing to police their own outliers. They're not willing to defend the indefensible, simply because of the party label by their name. That's what we've seen too much of in our politics.

COLLINS: What happen -- if he doesn't resign? And if they don't -- I mean, they need about 50 Republicans, total, more than what voted the last time, to actually expel him, from Congress. They're not there yet, based on our numbers.

AVLON: Right.

COLLINS: We'll see if it changes, after the break. But what happens if he doesn't get expelled and he doesn't resign, and he stays there?

AVLON: I think it'll just -- he will symbolize the stain on the Congress. And it'd be a shame to the Republican Party. He'll be ostracized. He says he's not going to run for reelection again, flipping what he told our colleague, Manu Raju, not that long ago.

COLLINS: Weeks ago.

AVLON: Weeks ago.

But look, the only reason to keep him, in Congress, isn't a question of precedent, now. It's really just a question of whether Republicans want to winnow their minority, you know, their majority to an even thinner number. But that's not a good enough reason. You know?

They got to apply certain basic standards. And then, it's not just about George Santos. It's applying those standards more broadly. And if your problem is with lying, with fraud, with degrading the truth, and skimming off your donors, and spending on these ridiculous details, well apply those standards forward.

COLLINS: John Avlon?

AVLON: Thanks.

COLLINS: We know that you would never do that.

AVLON: Never.

COLLINS: Ahead, Israel has released new images, tonight, to back up its claims, they say, Hamas has been using a major hospital, as a command center. Hamas is calling that a baseless lie.

I should note. We're going to have the White House Spokesman, John Kirby, here, to break it all down, next.

Also, he has been dead, for more than a decade. But why is Osama bin Laden going viral, on TikTok?



COLLINS: Tonight, Israel's military says it has proof of Hamas' tunnel infrastructure, below Gaza's largest hospital. This video that you're seeing here was released by the IDF, a day after they raided the Al- Shifa complex.

At one point, in the video, which I note has been geo-located by CNN, it shows one of the hospital's main buildings, about 100 feet away. This is a big area, a big complex. I should note, CNN cannot verify the IDF's findings. We've been unable to get a comment, from hospital authorities, since this video was released.

Doctors and health officials in the Hamas-run enclave have denied these accusations, from Israel.

The IDF also says that their troops found large stashes of weapons and ammunition. They also announced that they have recovered the body of an Israeli hostage, near the hospital.

Israel says that Hamas killed Yehudit Weiss, a 65-year-old grandmother. It's not clear how she died, tonight, though. We do know she was kidnapped from kibbutz Be'eri, on October 7th. Her husband was also killed in that attack.

Also, Israel is now pointing to these new details, as it's facing growing pressure, to provide evidence, of Hamas' command center, at that hospital.

The United States says it does have intelligence, to back up that claim.

And for more on that, I am joined now by John Kirby, the White House National Security Council Spokesman.

Admiral Kirby, thank you, for being here.

Does the U.S. plan to release any evidence that it has, that this Al- Shifa Hospital was being used, as a sprawling Hamas command center, as you've said?

JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: I don't have any plans to speak to you, tonight, with respect to release of our own intelligence.

But I can assert, as the President did yesterday, that our own intelligence analysis, does corroborate the claim, that Hamas was using that hospital, as a command and control node, probably also to store ammunition, other weapons, and of course, as a potential temporary housing location, for some of their fighters.

COLLINS: But John, you know, as well as I do that, there's skepticism over this. The U.S. says it has this intelligence. Israel says it has this intelligence. But neither side is showing evidence of that intelligence.

And, obviously, people in the U.S. are long been skeptical of claims about U.S. intelligence at times. Wouldn't it be helpful and important to build confidence, in these assessments, to show that evidence?


KIRBY: Well, the IDF is doing that. They're releasing imagery. They're releasing video. They're walking through the hospital, and showing through camera coverage, what they're finding.

Again, I don't have any plans to speak to you, tonight, about release of any U.S. intelligence.

But it is solid intelligence that in fact, Hamas was using the hospital, in that way. And it's right out of their playbook, Kaitlan. I mean, they routinely try to put civilians in harm's way, by tunneling under their homes, and headquartering in hospitals and schools. They deliberately try to use the innocent people of Gaza, as human shields. And so, this is right out of their playbook.

COLLINS: Well I should note what Israel has shown is part of a tunnel shaft. And they've shown guns and other things that they found in the hospital, not this sprawling complex that they alleged it was, when they showed that 3D mock-up.

But John, based on what the U.S. does know, do you believe that the raid, on Al-Shifa Hospital, was justified?

KIRBY: We know that this was a tough dilemma, for the Israelis, Kaitlan. I mean, we know that Hamas was using that hospital. We know they were command and control of their forces out of there, at least some of their forces out of there.

But we also know it's a hospital, a working hospital, with patients and medical staff and even young children. And so, it's a tough dilemma, for the Israeli forces. One hand, you want to be able to eliminate a very viable, very critical threat to your own country. On the other hand, you've got this added burden of protecting people.

And as we've said, we don't want to see hospitals, as firefight locations. We don't want to see them as battlegrounds. It is a violation of the law of war that Hamas would headquarter itself, inside a hospital. Again, it puts that extra burden, on the Israeli forces, to do so, in as precise and careful way as possible. They have gone in, on the ground. They have gone in, in small numbers, to try to be as careful as possible.

But obviously, we're going to stay in touch, with them, and make sure that -- and urge them, as much as we can, to be careful and deliberate, and to not place those patients, and those medical staff, in any greater harm's way than Hamas has already placed them in.

COLLINS: The IDF said today that the body of a 65-year-old hostage, an Israeli woman was found, near Al-Shifa, in this complex.

Do you know, John, if any American hostages were being held there?

KIRBY: No. We don't have any information to confirm that. We're still working very, very closely, with the Israelis, to get more information, about where all the hostages are. And I think we have to assume that they're not all in one place.

We know there's still a small number of Americans. And we're still doing everything we can, to try to gather more information, about them. But no, I can't confirm that they may have been held at Al- Shifa. I don't know that.

COLLINS: You're in San Francisco, with the President, now, John.

We've seen in recent days, protests, over President Biden's refusal to call for a ceasefire. Last night, the Democratic National Committee had to be evacuated. You saw these pro-Palestinian protesters, outside, very tense clashes.

Have those protests moved President Biden's position at all?

KIRBY: Well, first, we're very sorry that that protest, outside the DNC, turned violent. Our thoughts are with the officers, who were injured, and hope for a speedy recovery. Peaceful protest is one thing. But when it turns violent, and somebody gets hurt? That's unacceptable. And we've been very clear about condemning that kind of activity.

The President understands, Kaitlan, that there's strong feelings here, on all sides, with respect to what's going on between Israel and Hamas. But he also believes, and continues to believe, that now is not the time for a ceasefire. A ceasefire would simply validate what Hamas did, on October 7th. And it would give them breathing space and time.

What we do support, and what we have talked to our Israeli counterparts, about, are a series of humanitarian pauses. And you've seen yourself, and reported on that fact that they have now put in place, regularized humanitarian pauses.

They originally announced them for four hours. But in recent days, they've actually expanded them, sometimes by two or three hours, to allow civilians to get out of North Gaza, through safe corridors. And many people of Gaza are taking them up on that. That's a good important step-forward, to help protect civilian life, to get those folks out of harm's way, so that they're not in the crossfire, between Hamas and the IDF.

COLLINS: And Admiral Kirby, obviously, you used to work at the Pentagon. What we have seen happen, in recent days, there have been at least 57 attacks, on U.S. forces, by pro-Iranian militias, since this war began.

We've seen the U.S. carry out multiple retaliatory strikes. Do you believe that they're working? It doesn't appear that they are, given these attacks are continuing.

KIRBY: We'll keep doing what we have to do, Kaitlan, to protect our troops and our facilities, in Iraq and Syria. They're there, for a counter-ISIS mission, which is still a viable mission. They have come under additional attack. We will continue to take the actions, we need, to protect them and protecting our ability to continue to go after ISIS.


And our message to the groups and to the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guard Corps that is supporting them, is you need to stop these attacks. They're unacceptable. And if you don't, then there will be additional consequences, for you.

COLLINS: But will they be anything different than what we've seen, given the deterrent strikes have not deterred the attack, so far?

KIRBY: If the attacks continue, we will respond, at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

You've seen us, just in recent days, go right at targets, that were tied to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, to their facilities, where they were training, headquartering, where they were storing ammunition and some of these rockets, and other materials that were used by these militia groups.

We will continue to hold the IRGC, and these proxy groups, accountable, if they continue to attack our troops, in Iraq and Syria.

COLLINS: Admiral John Kirby, as always, thank you, for joining us here.

KIRBY: Good to be with you.

COLLINS: Up next, a CNN exclusive. The Department of Education, now looking into reported incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, at seven schools, here in the U.S. The first such investigations that we have seen happen, since that October 7th terror attack in Israel.

The schools are spread across the country. They include one K through 12 school, in Kansas, six colleges, including Cornell, Columbia, and Wellesley.

At the conclusion, of that investigation, we are told, the Department of Education will make recommendations, to those schools. And if they're not followed, they could risk losing federal funding.

Also tonight, two decades, after 9/11, Osama bin Laden's justification, for the attacks, has resurfaced, on social media, with some young Americans, sympathizing with him. Yes, really.

We'll talk about this disturbing TikTok trend, with the last Western journalist, to actually interview bin Laden. He's here next.



COLLINS: Videos online, focusing on a letter, that was written by Osama bin Laden, have now racked up millions of views, in just a matter of days, with dozens of them, showing young Americans, expressing sympathy, for the al-Qaeda leader. Yes, you heard me right, sympathy.

This is a letter that was published a year after the September 11th attacks, by the terrorist, who orchestrated it. And it went viral on TikTak with -- TikTok, with users embracing parts of his message.

That message from bin Laden, a broad critique of American foreign policy, defending 9/11, attempting to justify targeting and killing U.S. citizens, it's also filled with anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracies. The premise for the most part of these videos is criticism, of American support for Israel, in this ongoing war with Hamas.

TikTok says that the videos promoting that letter violate their platform's rules, against supporting any form of terrorism. Many of the posts have now been removed.

We also even heard the White House weighing in on this, today, telling CNN that the videos are an insult to the victims of the terror attacks.

Joining me now is the last Western journalist, to actually interview Osama bin Laden, CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller.

John, my question here is how it is the -- how's the intelligence community treating something like this? Are they trying to figure out, if these are bots, if this is a foreign government, if this is real? I mean, how did they look at the popularity of these videos?


This drove very far and very fast. 48 hours ago, this unfolds, with a TikTok influencer. She posts a recording of somebody's reaction to the letter. And that's kind of the first we see of it.

But you want to kind of go back to where is the digital crime scene? Where did this begin? And then, how did it move that way? She has 175,000 followers. It gets 800,000 views. It gets 80,000 likes, which when you're talking about a letter, from bin Laden, justifying 9/11, calling for the destruction of Israel, the violent overthrow of the United States, and repeating every anti-Semitic trope, in the staple set, is unusual to see that.

But then, it spreads to, according to The New York Times, tonight, 14.2 million views and shares. So, they're trying to figure out, is there something else behind it, driving this snowball downhill, as it got bigger? Is it a bot? Is it an AI feature that caused it to move faster and wider?

COLLINS: Because they all had pretty similar language. If you watched the videos, a lot of them were young people. They all were kind of saying, "I just discovered this," and "I can't believe what it said. And now it's changed my overall" --

MILLER: With an existential shift, you know?


MILLER: "It changed my whole view of America and terrorism." It was if they were going through a script?


MILLER: Which is something that they have to look at, which is, are they just playing off what the last person they viewed, said, and they're un-original? Or is it something more than that?

COLLINS: And the other part of this is that the platform itself. It's TikTok. They've long been accused of, being a home to anti-Semitism, and allowing that to kind of fester. They've pushed back on that.

But when you look at the numbers here, one-third of Americans, 18 through 29, get their news from TikTok. And a lot of the potential viewers of this, or the people, who are putting it out, they weren't even born, when 9/11 happened.

MILLER: I think a key to this, on the social media, on the social phenomenon side, a key to this is a complete lack of context, by someone, who has shown something, and then told to join in the conversation, and simply repeats what they heard five seconds ago. Not very sophisticated.

But the other question is, what's the effect, this is happening? The intelligence community assessment today is we're seeing this now, being repeated, on al-Qaeda channels, saying "Sheikh Osama's letter is now being viewed by millions of Americans" --

COLLINS: Oh, they're touting this?

MILLER: -- "who are finally understanding what this is about, and what our brothers and Hamas are going through."

It's also, and this is the one that kind of knocked me back, it's also being -- the letter is being posted now, in right-wing violent extremist accelerationist channels, where anti-Semitism is their normal flavor, saying, "This guy actually gets it."


COLLINS: And can we just talk about the person who wrote this letter? I mean, the idea that people are sympathizing with him?

I mean, you were the last Western journalist, to actually interview Osama bin Laden. For if any young TikTok users are watching, who saw this video, I mean, what would you say? How would you talk about that interview? How would you describe it?

MILLER: There are things in that letter that are thematic to the things he told me that night, in a al-Qaeda base in 1998, which he said, "I predict a black day for America, after which the States will no longer be united." He was encouraging a revolution. He said, "We beat a superpower before, the Russians. And the Soviet Union fell, when we forced them out of Afghanistan."

But he also said, and this is thematic to his letter, "You will only understand this as a people, when you find a government that represents your interest instead of that of the Jews." The anti- Semitic theme from Osama bin Laden started, long before the world discovered -- rediscovered this letter. But it's echoed in there.

COLLINS: Yes, a disturbing trend.

John Miller, thank you.

MILLER: Thanks.

COLLINS: Ahead, it did not take long, only a few hours after Donald Trump's gag order was lifted, here in New York, and he returned to social media, attacking the very person he was barred from attacking.



COLLINS: Well, that didn't take long. Tonight, online, Donald Trump is attacking the clerk of the judge, who is overseeing his civil fraud trial, here in New York.

But this time, he won't face any repercussions, no fines or reprimands, from the judge here. That's because Trump is posting just three and a half hours, after a New York Appeals Court judge, temporarily lifted the gag order that barred the former President, and his attorneys, from bashing court staff.

Among other things, Trump has called her a "Politically biased and out of control, Trump Hating Clerk."

Of course, I should note there is no evidence of that. The judge has steadfastly defended her, as a public servant, just doing her job here. You'll recall. He put this order, in place, after Trump had denigrated the clerk, the first time. The judge then fined Trump, for breaking that order, then extended it to his attorneys, and then fined Trump again, for breaking it.

The gag order is now lifted until at least November 27th, when a full panel, of Appeals court judges, can actually hear this matter.

Former federal prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst, Jen Rodgers is here.

Jen, what do you make of the fact that they lifted this gag order, just temporarily. But do you think it -- is that pretty standard?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is. It doesn't mean much actually. You want to keep the status quo in place, until the judges can hear it, on the merits.

And here, the status quo is nobody's stopped from doing anything that they may have a right to do. So, that's why they put a temporary pause on it. And then the judges will consider the merits of it, and decide whether it holds up or not.

COLLINS: What I was thinking of? And the Trump argument has been this violates his First Amendment's right -- Amendment rights. That's why this was even before a court.

But the judge, when he put this in place, said he was -- "You can attack me all you want," but he was worried about the safety of his staff. This is his principal law clerk. And so now, Trump is free to attack her at will, on social media.

RODGERS: Yes, I mean, he doesn't really have a leg to stand on, I don't think. I mean, I think the Appeals court will uphold the gag order, because he's still free to say, basically anything he wants. "It's a witch-hunt. The A.G. is after me. The judge is after me. This is all the Biden administration," whatever nonsense.

As long as he doesn't identify and target the law clerk, that's really the only thing he's prohibited from doing. It's really narrowly-drawn. So, I think it will be in place, after the judge would consider it. The problem is, as you said, how many times will he attack her before that happens?

COLLINS: Yes, there's a lot of time between now and then.

Something else that I have a feeling, just a hunch, that he'll be also posting about, is what we've learned tonight, which is that President Biden is not expected to be charged, in the classified documents case. Of course, he had his own Special Counsel, investigating documents that he took, after he left office.

But we are told there's a final report, this, expected to be issued in the coming months. It is going to be critical, potentially, of how he handled those documents.

What do you make of how that's resolved, if that reporting bears out? RODGERS: Yes. So, I think it's the right result. I mean, the Justice Department, Merrick Garland, appointed a Republican U.S. attorney, appointed by Trump as Special Counsel, in this case, Robert Hur. So, you can't allege any bias there. They took their time.

COLLINS: Though he does.

RODGERS: Well, he shouldn't. He has no basis for it.

They took their time. They did a thorough investigation. And apparently, they will be critical. And listen, there were classified documents that were found in places that were unsecured, right, where they shouldn't have been. So, there should be some criticism of him.

But there's no basis for criminal charges, because at least from what we know, if this holds up, in the report, no knowledge, no intent, full cooperation. In fact, it was Biden, who brought to the attention of the authorities, in the first place, that there were classified documents.

COLLINS: So, very different --

RODGERS: So that's vastly different.

COLLINS: -- situation compared to Trump's.

RODGERS: Really opposite. I mean, Trump's case, of course, knowledge, intent, he still to this day, says he was entitled to have them, fought with the National Archives, for months, had to be, you know, have a search warrant executed, by the FBI, and then obstructed justice, allegedly, according to the indictment, by trying to destroy evidence, when it came to light.

COLLINS: The other thing I want to get your legal take on is there's this other investigation. This is into Hunter Biden, and there's also a Special Counsel into that as well.

And what we've learned exclusively here tonight is that the Special Counsel there is using a grand jury, in California, to compel documents request, testimony as well, from potential witnesses. They've subpoenaed President Biden's brother, Jim Biden.

How significant of an escalation is that, that he's using a grand jury now, in California?

RODGERS: Well, this is bad news, right, for Hunter Biden, who's already facing charges, on the gun charge, being an addict and in possession of a firearm, in Delaware.

They were supposed to have him plead to misdemeanor tax charges, in Delaware. But that fell through. So, they're clearly now going after him again.


I mean, you can't issue grand jury subpoenas without a grand jury. So obviously, they're looking into it, and probably trying to build a felony case, against him. They don't need actually an indictment to file a misdemeanor. So, if they just wanted to go ahead and file those, they could. So, this suggests they're looking for something more.

COLLINS: Something more serious.

RODGERS: Exactly.

COLLINS: Long way from that plea deal that they came so close to striking.

Jennifer Rodgers, as always, a lot of legal issues, for you to break down. So, thank you, for doing that.

RODGERS: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, as we talk about the 2024 race, and what that looks like, Trump is still far and away the front-runner in that race.

But now, someone is gaining on him, in the first primary state of New Hampshire. Nikki Haley is now in second place. What's behind that surge? We'll discuss with top political minds next.


COLLINS: Former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, has now secured a second place position, behind Donald Trump, in a key 2024 primary state.

CNN's latest poll, in New Hampshire, shows that Trump is still in the lead by a comfortable margin. But Haley has climbed 8 points since September.

And in Iowa, she's tied with Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, in second place, at 16 percent.

In her home state of South Carolina, she's ahead of DeSantis and again, in that second place position, behind Donald Trump.

Two top campaign veterans are here, to break down the numbers with us.

Ashley Allison served as the National Coalitions Director, for the Biden-Harris campaign.


David Urban, a former Trump campaign adviser.

David, you're the Republican here. So, let me start with you. Do you think that these numbers show that Nikki Haley is having a moment?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, she's definitely she's had some good debate performances. And in a world that's desperately looking for an alternative to Donald Trump, I think her star's definitely on the rise. And yes, so, she is having a moment.

But do I think that moment is going to translate into her wrestling away the nomination from Donald Trump? Not a chance.

COLLINS: Well, what about the sense, David that she's, which every other Republican, in this race has, that they're kind of waiting in the wings, that if something happens to Trump, with his legal issues, or anything like that?


COLLINS: That that's a position for them?

URBAN: No, listen, I think she's -- this is the strategy. We've talked about this before. Everybody's kind of waiting for Donald Trump to falter.

And I think the only person that could beat Donald Trump is Donald Trump, right? You've seen, in these past couple days, where he has said some things that I think are, I would, advise him not to be saying, not to be out there kind of beating that drum. Those are the kinds of things that will cost the presidency.

I think that if Donald Trump focused on the economy, on the border, on things that people care about, in their homes, and not about, political enemies' list? I think he'd be a breeze to the presidency. I think if he focuses on the wrong things, however, it's going to make it a much more competitive race.

And so, I think that, the folks, like Nikki Haley and Governor Christie, you just had, who just ran some tape on, and all the other folks down the list, I think they're just waiting for Donald Trump to stumble. And I think none of them could trip him. I think he's going to just stumble on his own.

COLLINS: Yes. If only Donald Trump would talk about the economy, and immigration more? I feel like I've heard that before, David, maybe for the last, six years.

Ashley, I'm curious what you think is --

URBAN: I'm trying my best, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: I know. I'm just saying. I mean, it's like a movie we've seen before.

Ashley, when you look at these numbers, and you talk to New Hampshire voters? They don't seem that concerned about Trump's electability. They seem -- the Republican-leaning voters. They seem to think that he is electable.

How does that square up with Nikki Haley's argument that if you look at the head-to-head match-ups that she is actually -- she could beat Joe Biden, based on where the polling is today?

ASHLEY ALLISON, NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Nikki Haley is leaning into the concern, by many Americans that they are not looking forward, to a Donald Trump and Joe Biden match.

But just to David's point, about Nikki Haley, and could she beat Donald Trump? I don't know if anyone is going to be able to catch up to Donald Trump.

But when I look at those numbers, if a Chris Christie, or Ron DeSantis, were to drop out of those -- that race, Nikki Haley gets a whole lot closer to Donald Trump than anybody has been, in the last eight years.

And it is time if the Republicans really don't want him, to be the nominee, to pick someone, and one person only, to consolidate behind, and see if their voters will follow that individual, because it is clear that a substantial amount of people are starting to go away from Donald Trump.

We know 35 percent of his base in the Republican Party are not going to leave him. But it is seeming like some of those other folks, who are staying in the race, a little longer, are ticking away. But they need to consolidate, to actually have a chance.

COLLINS: David, what do you make of that argument? Do you think it would be helpful that she could actually be more competitive with Trump, if the other people got out of the race?

URBAN: Yes, I'm not quite sure that, those, like, you know, Ashley makes a good argument, right? It seems logical. If somebody gets out that those numbers -- those people would shift automatically, to the next person, up the line.

But I'm not quite sure that's the case. Not quite sure that the folks want. They might switch over to Donald Trump, who knows? I mean, that's the unknowable here. And so, until somebody decides to get out of the race, right? We won't know that fact to be true.

One factor, we can add up the numbers on the other side, and see, do they beat Trump? They don't, right? That's the, if Vivek Ramaswamy got out, Chris Christie got out, and Ron DeSantis got out, and you gave all those numbers to Nikki Haley, does then she somehow magically beat Donald Trump, in a head-to-head contest? That's not the case.

And I just don't think that's going to be the case moving forward. And whether it's in -- not in the caucus states, but in New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada, any of the early primary states, I don't think you're going to see that happen.

COLLINS: Ashley, does this change, given you know this current White House, so well, does this change any of their thinking? Because they had, kind of, seemed resolved to the idea that, the nominee is likely potentially going to be Donald Trump. Does this shift that at all? Or do you think that they're still preparing for a Trump-Biden rematch?

ALLISON: It shouldn't shift it, because the reality is, whether it's Donald Trump, or Nikki Haley? They still have very similar viewpoints. Or Ron DeSantis, or Chris Christie? They have very similar viewpoints, on issues that people really care about, particularly when we just saw one on abortion.


And so, I think the messaging of the Democratic Party should be very clear that we are the party that wants to protect freedom. We are the party that wants to improve the quality of life, for poor people and middle-class folks. And we're the party that actually wants to protect our democracy.

And one way to do that is to protect our elections, and actually acknowledge the winner of an election, in 2020, which none of those folks, except with the exception of Chris Christie, has done.

COLLINS: Ashley Allison?

URBAN: Yes. But don't --

COLLINS: David, go ahead.

URBAN: I'm just going to say real quickly. Let's not forget, Ashley's got a little intra-party scrum on her side of the aisle, right? You see last night, outside --

ALLISON: We're talking about you all today.

URBAN: OK. OK. But last night, outside the DNC -- last night, outside the DNC, you saw something that I think it's going to play out more in the future, so. Thanks for --

COLLINS: But David?

URBAN: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: And yes, that did happen last night. But that's not the -- you can't compare that to like January 6th, right?

ALLISON: No, absolutely not.

URBAN: No. No. I'm not -- no, I'm not saying that's a January 6th comparison. I'm just saying that --


URBAN: -- young people, in the Democratic Party, there's a huge shift, right, right now. You're seeing in all these, in polls, and in presence, you see people pulling away from the party, so.

COLLINS: Ashley Allison, David Urban, as always, thank you both.

ALLISON: Thank you.

URBAN: Thanks.

COLLINS: Coming, up next, a Major League Baseball team is now a -- Major League Baseball is now making a major decision, a shift from something that they had decided, pulling out of a state, a few years ago, over a controversial law. We'll tell you more, ahead.



COLLINS: Major League Baseball announcing the 2025 All-Star Game will return to Atlanta, two years after pulling the game, from the State, in response to that law, the voting law that Governor Brian Kemp signed into place. Something he noted today is still in place, in the State of Georgia.

Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.