Return to Transcripts main page
The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Cheney: "Wishful Thinking" To Believe Democratic Guardrails Can Keep Trump In Check If He Wins In 2024; Speaker Johnson: House GOP Blurring January 6 Footage So Rioters Won't Be Charged By The DOJ; Biden: "If Trump Wasn't Running, I'm Not Sure I'd Be Running". Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 05, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And then, in 2015, the President's oldest son, Beau, died of brain cancer.
Season 1 and Episode 1 of the new season, are available, right now. If you can't access that QR code, you can also find episodes, on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or wherever you get -- wherever you get your podcasts. The President Biden episode starts, tomorrow morning. That's when it becomes available.
The news continues, right now. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
Breaking news, with a candid admission, from President Biden, about his reelection, saying if quote, Donald "Trump wasn't running, I'm not sure I'd be."
Plus, the case against Trump revealed how the Special Counsel plans to directly tie him, to the violence on January 6th, at trial.
Also tonight, hundreds of military nominees, who have been held up, over abortion, for months, have finally been confirmed, after one Senator ended his nearly 10-month blockade, mostly with no apologies and no regrets.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Tonight, behind closed doors, President Biden offering a candid assessment, about why he is seeking a second term, something that he says he may not be doing, if Donald Trump wasn't running again.
But of course Trump is. And, as of this moment, he's the front-runner, for his party's nomination. Tonight, one of his most outspoken Republican critics is also saying out loud, what some Republicans will only say about Trump, in private.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CHENEY, (R) FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: He's gone to war with the rule of law. And a president who won't enforce the law creates a situation where things just unravel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Liz Cheney is the former Vice Chair of the January 6 committee. Also, addressing the rumors that she herself may step, into the 2024 Republican race, to challenge Trump, in this new interview, with Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I'm going to look at this, over the next couple of months, through the lens of how do we stop Donald Trump. And, on some level, it's not about me. It's not about what I'm going to do or not do. I look at it very much from the perspective of right now, absolutely we have to keep our eye, on the goal of stopping him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The congressional committee that Cheney chaired is what helps lay out a roadmap, for the criminal prosecution, of Trump, over the riot, at the Capitol, on January 6, in his efforts, to overturn the 2020 election.
The Special Counsel, who is handling that case, Jack Smith, is now revealing how they plan, to try to prosecute Trump in court. Jack Smith, we are learning plans to go back, way back, to tell the jury, at that trial, about Trump's history, of encouraging violence, also his longtime refusal to commit to the peaceful transition of power.
The court documents that were just unveiled are striking. We're going to dig into them, with a team of attorneys, in a moment.
But tonight, we start with two veterans, of the Trump administration, who have joined the growing chorus, against the Republican presidential front-runner. Former National Security Adviser, John Bolton. And former deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Matthews.
Ambassador Bolton, let me start with you.
Because I just wonder what you make of what Liz Cheney had to say, in these blunt warnings. That it's no surprise that she's saying this. But the fact that she is making them repeated warnings, coming out, months before this election, is going to get underway, potentially if Trump is the Republican nominee.
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think the criticism she makes of Trump are exactly correct. I don't think there's any doubt that if he were the nominee, and elected president, he would cause serious damage, to the country. But I don't think it's existential.
And, I think, it's important, for voters, to understand what the nature of the problem is, and what the remedy needs to be. I think if you overstate the problem, you're inviting the wrong kind of response, from the other side. And understating, the problem is just as serious. I think Trump's election to a second term would mean constitutional crisis, on a daily basis. But I have faith in our constitutional structures. They're strong. And Trump tried to steal the election, as President, in 2020, and failed. So, it will be a tremendous battle, and not one that anybody should look forward to. But I'm confident, in the end, Trump and his acolytes will be defeated.
COLLINS: That's really interesting, there, saying that you don't believe people should understate it. But you also don't think that they should overstate it.
Liz Cheney, in this interview, seemed to address to people, who think that she's being alarmist, with these warnings. I want viewers, who missed that part of the interview, to listen to what she told Anderson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I think it's naive, and a real misreading of what we've lived through to think that we can count on the guardrails that we have in place.
Donald Trump tried to seize power in 2020.
He's learned the lessons of 2020 and 2021. And so, I think anybody who says "Well, don't worry, you can count on the balance of power and the institutions?" That's really wishful thinking that we can't afford.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Ambassador, she's basically saying that the guardrails that you're saying that are there, aren't there.
BOLTON: Well, they were there in 2020. And a lot of people did exactly the right thing, time and time again. And Trump's efforts to steal the election were defeated.
I'm always happy to be called naive. It brings back memories of days going by. I'm not naive about this at all. But I'm also not alarmist.
Bob Kagan, whom I have a great deal of respect for, an old friend, wrote a lengthy piece, a couple of days ago, comparing Trump to Julius Caesar, and the threat to the Roman Republic.
Now, I have to say Caesar must be turning in his grave, to be compared to Donald Trump. But Donald Trump is not Caesar. And the Roman Republic fell not because of Caesar alone, but because of repeated body blows, from the likes of Sulla, Catiline, Pompey, and its own structures were not even comparable to ours.
So, I just think you've got to get a grip on this, historically. Be ready for the fight, if Trump's elected. But not put it in terms that confuse people, or actually make it harder to mobilize opposition to Trump, when the need arises. COLLINS: Well, so what are the guardrails that you think would be there, if Trump did try to repeat his actions? Is it the Supreme Court? Is it Congress? Because I mean, the Supreme Court, he picked most -- several -- three of the justices that are on that court. They now lean in a strongly conservative favor.
We've seen Republican lawmakers. I mean, Liz Cheney got booted from her position, as a Republican leader, on Capitol Hill, basically, because of the same comments that she's making, tonight.
BOLTON: Well, I don't think anybody, who knows the six Republican justices, nominated by Republican presidents, on the Supreme Court, really believe that any of them are going to do Trump's bidding. I am worried about some lower court judges. But by and large, I think the Judiciary will hold.
I think Congress, it depends. It depends on who gets elected, in some key races. I think too many Republicans, in the House, in particular, have been supine, in facing Trump. I hope that changes.
But even within the Executive branch, people have to understand, Trump can't just snap his fingers, and expect things to happen.
And I think one of the constitutional crises we're going to see is when he tells appointees, even his own appointees, to do things that are illegal, unconstitutional, how many of them resign? And then how many of the career people, in the Justice Department, in the military, start resigning below him?
This is the kind of thing that I think will cause enormous turmoil, in the country. But it's part of the process of keeping Trump under control.
COLLINS: Well, yes. And you mentioned those lower courts. I mean, a lot of the lower- and mid-level courts, they have a lot of Trump appointees that are -- that have been confirmed.
But you mentioned a second term. If Trump gets a second term, he has been very blunt about what he would do with one -- will do with that. He's talked about using the Justice Department, to go after his political opponents.
But do you think when he says those, which would typically be the quiet part out loud, do you think that people are listening to that, that it's breaking through, to Republican voters, what he plans to do, with a second term?
BOLTON: Well, I don't think it's breaking through enough. We'll see in the third debate, tomorrow.
I mean, I think the opponents to Trump, by and large, have committed the same mistakes other candidates did, in 2016. They're attacking each other, instead of attacking Trump. Chris Christie, Asa Hutchinson have attacked Trump. More need to do it, to show he's not fit.
Look, I'm perfectly well-aware of what Trump can try and do, with the Justice Department. He tried to do it to me, with respect to my book, in 2020. And his political appointees, at the top of the Justice Department, did the bidding of the White House, in trying to suppress publication of the book.
The real question is because of -- because others have learned as well, certainly Trump has learned from his experience, but others have learned as well, how he will try to manipulate the Justice Department. And we'll see how it goes.
We'll see how many of his nominees get confirmed. We'll see how he deals, not just with a few people, being in acting positions, in a place like Justice or the Defense Department, but with everybody being in active positions. I think he could be tripping over his own shoelaces, in fairly short order, if people keep their eye on the ball.
COLLINS: Yes, it's a big we'll-see.
Ambassador John Bolton, as always, thank you for your time, tonight.
BOLTON: Thank you.
COLLINS: More now, from another Trump White House insider. Sarah Matthews was former President Trump's Deputy Press Secretary, and testified in the January 6 hearings, also, resigned in the wake of that attack, on the Capitol.
And Sarah, thank you, for being here, tonight.
What do you make of what Ambassador Bolton was saying there? Do you think some of Liz Cheney's claims about what a threat Trump is are overblown?
SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: No. I understand what he's trying to convey, when he says he doesn't want to sound like an alarmist.
But I think we have to look at what Trump is saying, and pay attention closely. He has called for doing away with parts of the Constitution. He has said that he wants to rid this country of people he deems as vermin. He says that he wants to weaponize the DOJ, to enact revenge, on his political enemies.
And so, I would encourage people, who think that we sound like alarmists, when we're saying that, democracy is at stake, if Trump were to be elected, again, for a second term, that you have to pay attention to his own words, because he is saying these things.
And unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be penetrating through to the public. And I think it's in large part, because his campaign has actually kind of adopted a basement campaign strategy, circa, Joe Biden's 2020 campaign. And they actually kind of have shielded him, from public view, and have been a little bit more strategic, with his appearances. And so, I think that as we get closer and more, into the 2024 race, it looks obviously inevitable that Trump will be the Republican nominee. Then, I think the American public will be a little bit more tuned in. But, at this point, it doesn't seem that they are.
COLLINS: Yes, I'm glad you brought that up. And Trump's not going to the debate. When you talk about him being shielded, he hasn't gone to any of the debates. He knows he'd get attacked by some of the people, at least like people like Chris Christie, on that stage.
But Liz Cheney was asked about how Republicans view what Trump has been saying, framing this as Biden is the actual un-democratic anti- democratic candidate, in this race, when obviously, that's what he's accused of. This is what she told, Anderson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I think that the overwhelming majority of Republicans understand that that's disinformation, that that's a lie.
That's been sort of Trump's method of operating. He knows that it is a real threat to his political success, if people recognize that he himself is trying to unravel democracy. And so, I think he's projecting, he's trying to turn that threat around that I don't think it'll work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Sarah, do you think that the overwhelming majority of Republicans see it that way?
MATTHEWS: I think if you look back at the 2020 race, obviously, a lot of people voted for Joe Biden, because they thought that democracy was at stake. That was a large point of -- focal point of his campaign. And so, there were some reluctant Republicans, and even some reluctant Democrats and Independents, who went along with his candidacy, because, they believed in that message.
And so, obviously, now, Joe Biden is going to run on that same message, in 2024. And I know that Trump views that as a potential weakness of his. And he is trying to, as Liz Cheney said, project and put it back on Biden.
Now, I do worry. I don't know if Republicans -- the vast majority, don't believe that. I do actually think that there is a significant number of Republicans, especially when you look at the base, who do view a Biden presidency as detrimental to our country. They're unhappy with the current state of things.
But I don't know if that message will necessarily be effective, on Independents, who is the vote -- who are the voters that Trump would need to win over most, in order to win in a general election, against Joe Biden.
COLLINS: Sarah Matthews, thank you, for your time. Also, Ambassador Bolton as well. Up next, we'll talk about more on the new filing that we mentioned a moment ago. It reveals how Special Counsel, Jack Smith, plans to convict Trump, at that upcoming election trial. It's a fascinating document.
Also, it's all a blur, what the Republican Speaker of the House now says about protecting the January 6 rioters, yes, protecting them.
COLLINS: The Special Counsel's Office offering a taste of what evidence prosecutors plan to present, at Donald Trump's upcoming trial, in Washington, stemming from his attempts, to overturn the election.
Jack Smith's roadmap far more expansive than we had expected, when what we have learned is they plan to establish a pattern, basically, of Trump's claims of voter fraud, going far as far back as 2012, in Mitt Romney's campaign against Barack Obama.
Prosecutors pointed the scene in Detroit, in 2020, as evidence that the Trump campaign wanted riots to happen, to stop the vote-counting. They also want everything that Trump has said about the January 6 rioters, to be used, against him, pointing specifically to moments like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Who would you like me to condemn?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Proud Boys.
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: White supremacists and right-wing militia.
TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.
If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6th fairly. We will treat them fairly.
TRUMP: And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: With me now, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig; and also, former Senior Investigative Counsel for the January 6 Select Committee, Temidayo Aganga-Williams.
Elie, I mean, the trouble in Detroit, comments about Mitt Romney's campaign, what he's saying now, how does that tie back to this indictment?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, prosecutors are trying to establish a pattern, here.
And what this document is, is where prosecutors lay out their evidence that sometimes we call extrinsic evidence, meaning it's at the margins of the indictment, or maybe even outside the indictment, but will prove the motive or intent within the indictment.
And so, the argument prosecutors are making is he does this every time. 2012, 2016. Every time, he loses an election, or might lose an election, primary, presidential or otherwise, he tries to upset it. He tries to break the mold. And he tries to get people to rise up. And that's exactly what prosecutors will argue he did here.
Now, the judge is going to have to decide whether she lets that in. Tough call.
COLLINS: Well, that's the question, because they are basically tying him closer to the violence, on January 6th than they did, in the indictment. So, how does the judge make that call, of whether to allow this, if it's not actually alleged, in the indictment?
TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: Well, I think, she's going to be looking at is he going to be -- is he going to basically have a fair trial here, right? So, her concern is if you let in too much bad evidence that doesn't have to do with the case, the jury is going to be basically inclined against them too far.
But I think our insight here is what Judge Chutkan has said at prior sentencings, with other January 6 defendants, right? She has repeatedly talked about basically the missing co-conspirator there. She sentenced other folks, pretty harshly, and talked about, basically, the President's -- the former President's culpability here.
So, I think she's coming into this, looking at this case that has a kind of factual connection between him and the violence. And I think Jack Smith is going to have a real opportunity, and likelihood, that she's going to allow it to come in.
COLLINS: So you think she lets it in?
AGANGA-WILLIAMS: I think she does. And I think Jack Smith is going to be successful in connecting Trump to the violence, and telling a full narrative. I don't think she cuts him off.
COLLINS: Yes. And I should note the Trump campaign is pushing back on this, saying Jack Smith is trying to interfere in the election, including claims that weren't found in the indictment.
We'll see if that argument breaks through to her at all.
The other thing Elie, though, is they point to an alleged co- conspirator, who wanted these riots, in Detroit, saying, quote, "The Campaign Employee encouraged rioting and other methods" have -- they learned that the vote was trending in the favor of Biden. How does that violence and them encouraging it, if they've got that evidence, how does that help make their case?
HONIG: Yes, that may be a little bit of a reach here, by prosecutors. Technically, a person, Donald Trump, can be liable, for acts committed, by their co-conspirators, in the course of the conspiracy.
But as Temidayo was saying, what the judge has to balance here is, on the one hand, how probative, how relevant is this evidence? On the other hand, you can't let in evidence that's overly inflammatory. And judges do, from time to time, get reversed, for letting in too much evidence.
The worst-case scenario here, for every -- for Donald Trump, for DOJ, for the American public, is a conviction that then gets thrown out by the appeals court. So, I guarantee you Judge Chutkan is thinking about that, and guarding against that.
COLLINS: Is that a real concern?
AGANGA-WILLIAMS: I think it's always a concern. And any prosecutor wants to have a record.
COLLINS: I mean, that would be Donald Trump's dream.
COLLINS: If he was convicted, and then it was overturned, it would basically fulfill all of his arguments that he makes about this.
AGANGA-WILLIAMS: Yes. But Judge Chutkan is an experienced judge, here. She's not going to allow that to happen.
And judges, this isn't -- this is common here, right? Prosecutors are constantly going to want to get as much as possible as they can. They want to paint the worst picture of the defendant. Defendants counter that. The judge is going to find the balance here.
But I think what's very important here is that there is evidence that connects the President's former intent with the violence here, right?
In the document, Jack Smith talks about references, of those 187 minutes, where the former President did nothing, as the Capitol was under attack. And there were -- folks were pleading with him, to do something here. And I think that is probative of his intent, to obstruct the congressional proceedings.
Now, does it mean that it's evidence that he wanted violence or harm to get to individual members? Not necessarily. No. But it does show that the violence that was occurring was part of a broader plan, to obstruct Congress, which is one of the charges he's facing.
COLLINS: We'll see what -- it's a fascinating look. Temidayo, Elie, thank you both, for coming in, tonight.
And as we're looking at this document, Donald Trump obviously is preparing for this criminal trial that is expected to happen. It's the earliest of the ones that he's facing, when it comes to these serious charges.
The new Speaker of the House, meanwhile, Mike Johnson, is busy trying to muddy the waters, about January 6th, or at least maybe blur them?
Speaker, who ordered thousands of hours of January 6th riot footage released, is now saying that all of the security footage is not public yet, because his team is busy protecting the rioters, in that video, the ones who illegally went into the Capitol, from law enforcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don't want them to be retaliated against, and to be charged by the DOJ.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Many of them have been charged by the DOJ. Speaker Johnson's office later tried to walk back that claim, saying that you did not hear him say that that he was not -- that was not his intention.
They issued a statement saying that, quote, "Faces are to be blurred from public viewing room footage to prevent all forms of retaliation against private citizens from any non-governmental actors. The Department of Justice" they said, "already has access to raw footage from January 6, 2021."
I have a feeling former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, might disagree. He joins me now.
I do wonder Andrew, what you make of what Speaker Johnson is saying here. I mean, we do know that the authorities have this footage. But what do you make of the suggestion that the people, who were illegally there, in the Capitol, need to be protected from law enforcement?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Kaitlan, before I get to that, let me just touch the security issue, very quickly.
The idea of releasing tens of thousands of hours of private internal security video, you have to ask yourself, have we ever seen tens of thousands hours of security video, from inside the Kremlin, or inside the Great Hall of the People, in Tiananmen Square? The answer is no. I get it. They're not democracies.
But there's another reason. When you do that, you expose the infrastructure of your security precautions, to protect that space. And so, there could definitely be some negative repercussions, to doing this. I can tell you that there are plenty of foreign intelligence officers, agents of our adversaries, who are going to be watching that video, very closely and taking notes. But putting that aside, this is really a remarkable occurrence. So, in an act of transparency, the Speaker has decided, of course not to be transparent, with the faces of the people, in the video. I don't really understand that.
But what he's doing effectively, is outwardly, and with some level of pride, working against the Department of Justice, and the FBI, both of whom's duty is to bring the rioters, and the insurrectionists, and the people who have committed crimes, by attacking the Capitol, to justice.
So, there, I spent a lot of time, knocking heads with folks on the Hill, when I was running the FBI, and -- but I've never seen anything quite like this. He's actually taking steps, to thwart the actions, and the effectiveness of the FBI, which has been very public about asking the public, for assistance, in identifying people in those videos.
COLLINS: A lot of them posted the photos, and videos of themselves, doing this, storming the Capitol, on Facebook. That's how they found some of them.
But as we are looking at this? And there's this idea, of protecting people, from federal law enforcement, out there. I want your reaction to something that a former high-ranking official, in the Trump administration, Kash Patel, who may very well go on to be another one, if Trump wins a second term, what he said that he would do, if he is picked as Trump's next CIA Director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Kash, I know you're probably going to be head of the CIA. But do you believe that you can deliver the goods on this, in a pretty short -- in a pretty short order, the first couple of months, so we can get rolling on prosecutions?
KASH PATEL, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: Yes.
The one thing we learned in the Trump administration the first go- around, is we got to put in all America patriots, top to bottom, and we got them for law enforcement. We got them for Intel collection. We got them for offensive operations. We got them for DOD, CIA everywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: What's your response to that?
MCCABE: I mean, where do you begin?
It's a stunning lack of understanding, about what the CIA is, what their legal authority is. The fact that they have no authority, no legal authority, no basis, no mission to conduct any sort of investigative activity, or certainly not prosecutions of people, in the United States, that's not what they do. So, I mean, I would say he's probably not a great candidate to run that organization that he clearly doesn't know much about.
But that aside, Kaitlan, I think we really need to look very seriously at things like his statements, and the statements of others, who are close to Donald Trump. And we need to take them at their word.
This is not a thought experiment between political scientists as to what might happen if Donald Trump is reelected. This is a very real prospect of completely restructuring and undermining our government, our democracy, in the way that we know, and expect it to function. And that's based simply on what they are actually saying, they're going to do.
And all of those plans involve some degree of completely ignoring the rule of law, and the norms that we all expect a government to function under. So, I think it's a really--
COLLINS: And it's--
MCCABE: --really alarming time.
COLLINS: It's not far-fetched. I mean, I was covering the Trump White House, when Kash Patel nearly became one of the highest ranking officials, at the CIA, in this plan that they had, to push out Gina Haspel, as the CIA Director, and have this loyalist be acting in a top role. It came very close to nearly being carried out.
But yes, it is a sign that these are real possibilities, if he wins a second term.
Andrew McCabe, thank you, as always, for your time.
MCCABE: Thanks, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Of course, we're talking about what would happen, if Trump won the Republican nomination. If he did, he would almost certainly face President Biden, in the 2024 race.
But behind closed doors, tonight, President Biden said the quiet part out loud, about that race. What he told donors about why he's running again.
COLLINS: "Yikes." That is an exact quote, from a top Biden campaign adviser, after hearing what he told donors, behind closed doors.
Tonight, in Boston, he offered a notably candid reasoning, about why he is running for reelection. He told them, and I'm quoting him now, according to reporters in the room, "If Trump wasn't running, I'm not sure I'd be running." Well, there is that.
Let's see what a former Deputy Assistant to President Biden, Jamal Simmons, has to say about it.
Also here, CNN's Senior Political Analyst, Gloria Borger.
Jamal, I should note, it was not you, who said "Yikes" in response to that quote. It's a current campaign adviser. I mean, but what do you make of that?
JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a tough quote, Kaitlan.
I mean, here's the problem. You want candidates to be running for President, because they really want to do something, for the future. They see the next four years. They're not just running against somebody. They're running for something. They're going to push out ideas and policies and programs that are going to make the country a better place, going forward.
The question this begs is if for some reason, something happens to Donald Trump, over the course of the next few months, and he is not the nominee, will President Biden still be running for reelection? I assume the answer is yes, because I think he does have a lot of things that he wants to do. But the campaign has to talk about those things. The American public is dialed in and focused and they get what this campaign is about.
COLLINS: Yes, I think a lot of the potential Democratic fields was listening to that very closely.
I mean, Gloria, that's a good question.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
COLLINS: What does happen, if Trump's not the nominee? It's not guaranteed that he will be.
BORGER: Well, I think, Biden still runs.
But this gives you real insight into his thinking. He knows how old he is.
Remember, after Charlottesville, that's what got him to decide to run against Donald Trump, in the first place, right? And he clearly believes, in this unscripted piece of information, we got today, that he is the best person to beat Donald Trump, because he's done it before.
Now, remember, when he was running, last time, he talked about being a bridge to the next generation, et cetera, et cetera. But when it became clear that Donald Trump was going to run, I just think he felt he couldn't avoid it, even though he knew all the pitfalls, particularly his age. But I think he thinks he's the best one to beat him.
COLLINS: Jamal, I mean, I should note, this is not a new thing, for President Biden. Anyone who has been around him, he has a history of saying things, of not just in public, very candidly, but certainly, as he's been President, behind closed doors, at these moments, with donors.
I mean, how does the White House handle this? They're going to -- the Biden campaign, they're going to be asked about this, potentially, as soon as tomorrow.
SIMMONS: Sure, they'll be asked about it tomorrow. But one of the things that you realize when you're in the White House is that news moves at a volume that you just can't imagine, when you're not there, right? Every day, it's just a flood of things. So, this might be a problem for a day or two. But in a couple days, people will move on to something else.
And we got some pretty big issues that are happening in the world. A couple of wars taking place. Obviously, the former President's, on another network talking, tonight. He'll say some things that are going to be a problem. So, there'll be a lot of news, for the White House, to kind of blow this under the rug, after a little while.
BORGER: You know I--
COLLINS: Gloria, what do you think?
BORGER: I don't think it's--
COLLINS: Go ahead.
BORGER: I don't think it's a big surprise that Joe Biden feels this way. I think people, who have covered him, like you, Kaitlan, like I've covered him, understand how he feels about Donald Trump. And he continually talks about democracy being at stake. And he sees Donald Trump as a threat to that.
What is interesting about this is that he clearly believes that he's the best person, to take on Donald Trump, even though a majority of Democrats, in our polling, and others, believe he's too old to do it.
And I think, right now, there's no turning around, for Joe Biden, in this, even if Donald Trump, turns out not to be the nominee.
COLLINS: Yes, the polls, right now, would spell trouble for that. But he did say, tonight--
COLLINS: --he doesn't think Donald Trump would show up to his second inauguration, like he did in his first. We'll see.
COLLINS: Gloria Borger, Jamal Simmons, thank you both.
BORGER: Sure. SIMMONS: Yes, thank you.
COLLINS: We have some major developments, on a story that we have been covering, since day one, here, on THE SOURCE.
On Capitol Hill, the Senator, who single-handedly blocked hundreds of military promotions, has now caved. It is not over though. There is anger over what Senator Tommy Tuberville did.
We'll be joined by one of his fellow senators, who fought to make this happen.
COLLINS: After nearly a year, Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville has now folded, backing off his unprecedented blockade, on military promotions, but seemingly not much to show for it.
Today, he allowed for three-star nominations and below, to move forward, after initially dismissing mounting pressure, from Democrats, and even members of his own party.
The Senate approving more than 400 military promotions, just hours later, as Tuberville is vowing to hold promotions, as leverage, that he says, over a totally unrelated Pentagon policy, that allows servicemembers, to travel, to get an abortion, if they need one, that is outlawed in the state that they are serving in.
Late today, Senator Tuberville, still defiant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did your stand here hurt national security?
SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Oh, no. Oh, no. I think it helped it. I think people opened their eyes a little bit. What's going on?
RAJU: Despite what the Pentagon said?
TUBERVILLE: Yes, I could care less what they say because they I mean -- they have not helped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Here tonight, Democratic senator, from Virginia, and a member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Tim Kaine.
Senator, thank you for being here.
I mean, Senator Tuberville is claiming that he has success. Why do you think he relented now? SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Kaitlan, he relented because he was alone and isolated in the Senate. The "Farmer in the Dell" song ends with the lyric "The cheese stands alone." And he was a cheese standing by himself.
Democrats fought against him, from day one. Republicans were unhappy, but enabled him for a while, but then they fought against him.
And when the magnitude of this harm, to our national security, patriotic officers and their families, became so manifest that the American Legion went on board, and said, Senator Tuberville needed to drop this, because they were hurting our military, he finally decided to bail out. He achieved precisely nothing, other than hurting our military readiness, and hurting military families.
COLLINS: There are still about 12 of, I believe it was total 451 senior-level officers that had been on hold that are four-star nominees. He is not dropping his hold, on those nominees, just three- stars and below.
Do you want Senator Schumer to schedule individual votes on them? Are Democrats talking about that tonight?
KAINE: Kaitlan, we are. We have to do the defense bill that comes out of the Conference. And we're working on a national security supplemental bill.
But before we leave here, for the holidays, we should just make everybody stay in, until we get those 12 done. And Tommy can either make all his colleagues, chew up time, before the holidays, or he can admit he's lost this battle, and let the 12 go, just as he did with the hundreds that we approved, today.
We're going to get these done, before we leave here.
COLLINS: OK. So, you think you will get them done. That is a notable.
I do want to ask you, Senator, about what we were just talking about a moment ago, about this comment, at a closed-door fundraiser, tonight.
President Biden said, if Trump wasn't running, he said quote, "I'm not sure I'd be running." His campaign was a little caught off-guard by that. One of his advisers said, "Yikes," as a response to that.
What do you make of that comment?
KAINE: I didn't hear it directly.
But Trump is both Donald Trump and Trumpism. Donald Trump has now taken over the Republican Party. They get on bended knee, and do what he says.
And I do think that for a Joe Biden, who was in the Senate, for decades, before he became Vice President and President, watching one of the two main political parties, in the United States, decide to throw aside all their values and principles, and just bow in allegiance to this narcissistic bigoted bully, is very troubling to him.
So, it may be about Trump. But I think it's more broadly about Trumpism. What Joe Biden wants to do, what I want to do, is turn a corner, and make sure that small-d Democrats beat autocrats.
It's democrats beat autocrats all over the globe now. That's what Russia-Ukraine is about. That's what so many of the struggles in the globe are about.
We're coming up on our 250th anniversary, as a nation, in 2026. And we have to make sure that the United States embraces democracy, and rejects autocracy. And I do think that's a motivator, for Joe Biden. It's a motivator for me. And I think it is a motivator for American voters.
COLLINS: But if that's the fear? And right now, in their polls, they're not magic balls, telling us what's going to happen. Do you think that Biden is the best candidate then, to go against someone, who poses a threat like what you just laid out there?
KAINE: Kaitlan, I heard the earlier segment, where you were talking about, with your guest, it's not just about what the other side is doing that troubles (ph). It's also about what's being accomplished.
And look, Joe Biden has got to record a run on. Dramatically low unemployment, dramatically accelerated job growth, growing salaries in the middle-class, he's got a lot to run on. And I'm running on those things, too.
I'm on the ballot, next year. And everywhere I go, in Virginia, I am pitching results, that Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress has managed to achieve, under tough circumstances. And so, look, Joe Biden is running for president. And I am running with him. And I am pitching the results that we are achieving.
I have been in many races, where the polls might not have been completely pleasant, at some point, along the way. But if you do the work, and you listen to people, and you produce results? I usually count on the American voters, to get it right. And I think they're going to get it right in 2024.
COLLINS: Senator Tim Kaine, thank you.
COLLINS: Up next, we have new details, about some of the freed Israeli hostages, after a contentious meeting that happened, with the country, with Israel's war cabinet, today. We'll tell you what they said, in just a moment.
[21:51:38] COLLINS: Tonight, CNN has learned that former Hamas hostages had a contentious meeting, with Israeli officials, today.
One of them telling the Israeli security cabinet, quote, "What I see on TV scares me a lot. I see [Israeli] bombings there, and you have no idea where the captives are. I was in a house surrounded by explosions. We slept in tunnels, and we feared not Hamas, but Israel might kill us, and then it would have been 'Hamas killed you.'"
I'm joined, tonight, for more, on that testimony, by someone you have seen multiple times, here on this program, prominent Israeli journalist, Nadav Eyal.
Nadav, great to see you here, again tonight.
I know that you've been speaking to some of these families. But to hear them say that they expressed fear, over the IDF strikes here, that they were worried that that is what would be what killed them? Do you think that changes the calculus at all, for the cabinet that's listening to them, on how they're conducting Israeli military operations, in Gaza, tonight?
NADAV EYAL, ISRAELI COLUMNIST: Well, first of all, the Prime Minister did react to that family member, giving that testimony, about the bombing being so close, to the extent that she was actually hurt, because of the just the sheer force of the bombing around the house.
And he said, the things that you have said, have entered not only our hearts, but also our calculations, as to what the IDF, or what the Israeli Air Force, is doing, across the Gaza Strip.
Basically, those family members, Kaitlan, were saying, "You need to get our family members out as soon as possible." And what they were describing, including people, who were captives themselves, and left their husbands behind, because Hamas would not release them, is a situation of torture.
They said that they were tortured by Hamas, that their spouses were tortured by Hamas, including a person that his entire body was shaved, as humiliation, by Hamas, constant beating, malnutrition, to the extent of starving, et cetera.
COLLINS: I mean, it's just horrific, to hear what they have been saying, about what they went through.
The other aspect of this today, the, what's going to happen next has been the underlining in this conversation. We heard from the Prime Minister saying, the IDF, he believes, would maintain security control, over Gaza, after they defeat Hamas, long after.
But there has been warnings from the White House, they don't want that to happen. They believe it should be another independent body.
I mean, what do Israeli officials make of that?
EYAL: Well, first of all, what he was talking about was keeping some sort of a security overreach control, somewhat like the Israel has today, across the West Bank, everywhere in the West Bank, at least since Operation Defensive Shield in the beginning of the 2000s after the Second Intifada. So, the idea is that the IDF would be able to come and go to Gaza, if it sees Hamas re-arming itself.
And it's obvious that Israel will need to hand over control of the Gaza Strip, to some sort of a body.
And President Biden, as you remember, well, was talking, in his Washington Post article, about a revitalized Palestinian Authority.
I'm not sure that Israelis and Americans are that far away, in that sense. But the question is, what kind of a Palestinian Authority you can have there, that will be both effective, and will fight the extremists, within the Gaza Strip, so to speak.
COLLINS: Yes, it's a pressing question, and one that it doesn't appear they have an answer to yet.
Nadav, always good to have you. We'll have you back. Thank you, for joining, tonight.
EYAL: Thanks very much.
COLLINS: Up next, some news that will hopefully make you smile, tonight. With all the heaviness that we have been talking about, in this world, right now, you want to hear about what's going on, what these numbers are that we're seeing, right after this.
COLLINS: The number one song, on this week's Billboard Hot 100 chart isn't from this year, actually, or from this decade, or the decade before that. It's actually twice my age, and then some. In fact, if it were a person, it would be old enough to collect Social Security. As the holidays near though, it's probably one you've been hearing a lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(VIDEO -- "ROCKIN' AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE" -- SONG BY BRENDA LEE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" is making history, 65 years after it was released, now breaking the record, for the longest time to debut between debuting, and reaching number one.
This achievement, fueled by a new music video, and TikTok campaign, from Lee, who recorded the song, when she was just 13-years-old. She's now 78, and celebrating this milestone. And she turns 79, next week. A nice, early Happy Birthday to her.
The song is set to break the record that also a Christmas classic, Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" had set.
Of course, lot of Christmas music around here, for the next several weeks.
I want to thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.
"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts, right now.