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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Meadows Loses Appeal To Move Criminal Case To Federal Court; GA Election Workers Sue Giuliani Again To Stop Lies; Trump, Immigrants "Poisoning The Blood Of Our Country"; Top U.S. Military & Intelligence Officials Head Overseas Amid Surging Deaths In Gaza; FL GOP Strips Chairman Of Power Amid Sex Assault Investigation; Actor Jonathan Majors Found Guilty Of Assault, Harassment; Expelled Ex-Rep. George Santos Sits Down With Comedian Ziwe. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 18, 2023 - 21:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Well, more breaking news tonight. First, an earthquake and now a volcanic eruption is underway in Southwest Iceland. Look at these visuals. Hot lava and smoke spewing into the air. It is not unexpected after several weeks of seismic activity in the area.

The eruption is less than two miles from the town of Grindavik, which was already evacuated. And according to Icelandic authorities, cracks in the ground now stretch toward the town. The nearby Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, popular with tourists, was also shut down weeks ago. We'll continue to monitor that situation and will of course bring you any new developments right here on CNN. The news continues "The Source" with Kaitlan Collins starts now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from "The Source," a major defeat for Donald Trump's former right hand man, a blistering decision against Mark Meadows written by one of the most conservative federal judges in the nation, and the ruling itself could be devastating for Trump at the Supreme Court.

Plus, Trump accused of parroting Hitler once again the second time in just a matter of weeks. He says that immigrants are "poisoning the blood of America." It is chilling rhetoric from the GOP frontrunner just four weeks from the first votes.

Also, tonight, one of the biggest rising stars in Hollywood found guilty of assault and harassment for attacking his former girlfriend. Now Marvel is cutting ties with an actor that it was betting its future on.

I'm Kaitlan Collins and this is "The Source."

As seems to be the case for many people who get close to Donald Trump, tonight things have gone from bad to worse for his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. His attempt to get his criminal charges in the state of Georgia moved to federal court has now been denied. And his assertion that he was just doing his job, resoundingly rejected in a decision that was written by one of the most conservative judges in America.

That judge saying, "We cannot rubber stamp Meadows' legal opinion that the president's chief of staff has unfettered authority." As far as legal rulings go, it's essentially a smack down from the judge here, William Pryor, writing for a unanimous three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meadows had been arguing that the election conspiracy allegations against him in the state of Georgia, were actually connected to his official duties as chief of staff in the White House.

But the court and this judge having none of it writing that the law that's in question here, "does not apply to former Federal officers. Even if Meadows were an officer, his participation in an alleged conspiracy to overturn a presidential election was not related to his official duties." That is the part of the ruling. That could also be a message to the Supreme Court.

Also, a reminder here the judge who wrote this was twice on Trump's shortlist for potential Supreme Court nominees. Now this could be bad news, potentially for Donald Trump himself.

Also a reminder, as you look at the scope of this and what it means for Mark Meadows going to potentially have this case happen in the state of Georgia, at the heart of it is that infamous call where Meadows was on with Trump pressuring the Secretary of State there to "find him more votes."


MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF (via telephone): Mr. Secretary, obviously, there is -- there are allegations where we believe that not every vote or fair vote and legal vote was counted and that's at odds with the representation from the Secretary of State's office. What I'm hopeful for, is there some way that we can find some kind of agreement to look at this a little bit more fully.


COLLINS: Of course, that is the call that is at the center of this. But remember who set up that call? It was the man you were hearing from there, Mark Meadows. Joining me tonight, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Hoenig, and two Georgia officials who testified before the Fulton County grand jury, former state Senator Jen Jordan and former Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan.

Elie, let me start with you, because I mean, it seems like the very clear message that we're getting is overturning the election is not part of anyone's official duties.

ELIE HOENIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Breaking news. Yeah, what's so interesting here is, we're seeing the law evolve and develop. If you go back six months ago, we knew that a lot of folks, including Donald Trump, were going to make just this argument that what I was doing was within my official duties, therefore, I'm entitled to be treated in federal court. And then the next step, which is a half-step removed from that, therefore, my case should be dismissed on immunity grounds. We didn't really know how was going to come out.

We've now seen Mark Meadows, today, Donald Trump in other contexts, about a half dozen folks and all make those arguments and they've been uniformly rejected. They are batting point 000. Those rejections have come from state judges, from federal judges, as you said, from conservative judges, from middle the road, from liberal judges. So we're starting to see a real consensus emerge that rejects this proposition that, Well, what I was doing was somehow within the outer boundaries of my job as President, as chief of staff, as DOJ official in Jeffrey Clark's case. And I think there's a pretty clear message and consensus emerging here.

COLLINS: Yeah. And this is an argument that other people, other codefendants here we're trying to make. And Jen, when you look at this, you know, Meadows, this team was making their argument on Friday, it was pretty clear the skepticism that this panel had about that argument. But what does it say to you that it just really, you know, from Friday to today, we got this 49 page ruling, saying unanimously, you're wrong here?


JEN JORDAN (D), FORMER GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: Well, I think what it says is that they already knew where they were going. I mean, in look, I think the biggest thing is that we cannot underscore enough the importance of Judge William Prior authoring this opinion. He's considered to be one of the closest circuit allies to Clarence Thomas.

And for those of you who remember when he was first appointed, he was a recess appointment from the first President Bush, because he was so controversial in terms of, of how conservative he was. So I think it's incredible that he was the one who authored it.

Obviously, the arguments from the attorneys did not change anybody's mind. And at the end of the day, I think probably one of the most significant things that come out of this as well, are basically they batted down all of the immunity arguments. So which will now go back to the state courts and judges like Judge McAfee is going to be presented with those arguments in terms of the Supremacy Clause et cetera, and now there's actually a road map, and with William Pryor basically showing them the way.

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, Geoff Duncan, that is a really good point about who this is coming from, especially, you know, from someone like Trump who always pays attention, you always see his attorneys arguing about who the judges. This is one of the most conservative judges on the federal bench. As I noted, he was on Trump's Supreme Court shortlist, not once, but twice.

I mean, but do Republican voters take that into account when they look at what Judge Pryor is saying here, you know, that whatever Mark Meadows' role was when it comes to election administration, he wrote, "That role does not include altering valid election results in favor of a particular candidate."

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, make no mistake about it. Mark Meadows was not down here on official business. He was down here to meddle in our elections here in Georgia. And this 36 page opinion highlights every part of that.

As Elie said, opening, you know, I feel like Trump and his cohorts are over 500 right now, and continuing to just be thrown in their face that, you know, they're trying to get off on technicalities. Just one of these individuals would actually produce any proof it would change the narrative.

But the brutal realities are, everybody in Trump's orbit, most of these defendants are waking up realizing that they need to flip from protecting their old boss to protecting their you know, what, as we walk into this, because the brutal realities are, they're about ready to lose everything. These witnesses or these codefendants and these casts of clowns that have been around Donald Trump for years are going to lose their careers and be disbarred. They're going to lose their money.

And quite honestly, they're going to lose their freedom. Some of these folks are going to spend years in jail, and it's painful to watch the Republican Party go through this. I'm being optimistic and calling it a healing process. But we need to wake up now or else it's going to be too late. Yeah,

COLLINS: I think it is a question of whether or not it's a healing process. But, Elie, Jen makes an important point there that this is bigger than just Mark Meadows. What this could mean for Donald Trump and his immunity claims that we know he's planning to make not just here, but in other prosecutions as well. And the signals that it is sending to someone like Justice Clarence Thomas, whom ideologically is pretty aligned with Judge Pryor here.

HOENIG: I think you said the exact right word, which is signals. Of course, what the 11th Circuit or any court of appeals or lower court does is not binding on the U.S. Supreme Court, they're going to do what they're going to do. But justices absolutely will look at opinions below and evaluate the reasoning, the logic, the strength of the law.

And reading this opinion today -- sometimes I'll read an opinion and go, Oh, this is weak, or I see what the counter is to this. This opinion is meticulous, it's airtight. This judge, Judge Pryor and the others on the panel, they go through and systematically address and dissect Mark Meadows' arguments. And you could almost just global search and replace Meadows for Trump here.

I mean, if the job of Chief of Staff -- if Mark Meadows was outside his job of Chief of Staff, it almost follows that Donald Trump would have been outside his job as president and what they were doing. So it wouldn't at all surprised me if what Judge Pryor and his colleagues were doing here was sort of saying Supreme Court, here's a way you can follow us and get to the same conclusion. I think it's a very bad signal for Trump.

COLLINS: Can we talk about the other thing that you and I were just talking about, it feels like two minutes ago, on Friday night, which is this massive ruling against Rudy Giuliani, $148 million. You know, this is because of what happened in the state of Georgia where he defamed two election workers there. They are now suing him again today, saying that he is continually continuing to defame them. And they want this judge to rule don't ever -- you can't lie about them ever again.

HOENIG: It would be a wonderful thing for all of us for, in particular, for Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman, if the court could just or somebody could just make Rudy shut up. Unfortunately, our First Amendment does not work that way. The courts are very, very reluctant to issue, what we call, a prior restraint. Meaning, I'm preventing you from saying this in advance.


Now, Rudy, or anybody can say what they want to say, that doesn't mean there won't be consequences. You can be sued. Sounds ridiculous to say they can sue him for defamation again. If your speech crosses the line into criminality, you can be charged criminally. But our courts are very reluctant to stop someone in advance.

COLLINS: Jen, I mean, it's not even just that -- Giuliani was just doing this as of like an hour ago going after Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. He was doing it outside the court. He was doing it on Steve Bennett's podcast on Saturday. I mean, what do you make of the fact that he's continuing with this?

JORDAN: I think they're trying to run the clock, right? What he's trying to do is to get out there, dominate the airwaves, and really try to influence people ahead of the presidential election. Because the only way out for all of them is if Donald Trump were able to become president again. That's it.

I mean, they are dead in the water in terms of whether you're looking at the criminal prosecutions, or the civil cases and the money that Rudy Giuliani is going to owe. And so for them, they have nothing else to lose, except just to keep doing what they've been doing and keep pushing these lies. Because otherwise, I mean, they know what's waiting for them.

And really with respect to Giuliani and meadows and a lot of these others, they really are looking at possibly going go into jail and losing their freedom.

COLLINS: And Geoff Duncan, I mean, all comes back to Georgia every single time it seems. And I couldn't ignore how, as these -- as this judgment against Giuliani was coming down on Friday, there was another lie spreading around Georgia with the help of some of the state's elected officials wrongly claiming that the Governor Brian Kemp staff told the secretary of state that they had found 17,000 invalid votes in Fulton County in 2020.

Obviously, multiple hand recounts, there's no truth to that. But what stood out to me was the response from Governor Kemp's office today saying, "Retelling the same lies for three years does not make them true. Even when citing bogus online blogs. The moon landing was real, Bigfoot does not roam the forest in North America, and the 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen."

DUNCAN: Yeah, I mean, you felt like you were backing Groundhog's Day, watching this play out. I mean, I was getting text messages from folks going is this true? And of course it wasn't true. But look, this is the game they play. They just double down on stupid.

Rudy Giuliani was one part of the chorus singing the fake news and the lies and they just double down on it, until we hold them accountable. But all things are going to come to pass in Georgia. Right? I just cannot even remotely fathom that Donald Trump, by the time this plays out, and all these truths and half-truths and fake news are highlighted across our courtroom screens and in our televisions that he's going to win Georgia. He's just not.

It's not going to be possible by the time he's his reputation has continued to be soiled. And therefore as Republicans we won't win back what should be the easiest White House to win in decades. We'll fumble the ball again and he'll lose like he did the two (ph) U.S. Senate seats for us here in Georgia.

COLLINS: Geoff Duncan, we'll see if that pans out. Jen Jordan, Elie Hoenig, as always thank you all for being here.

Ahead, Donald Trump also this weekend on the campaign trail, now being accused again, taking a page out of Hitler's playbook, leaning in on that line that immigrants are poisoning the blood of this country.

Plus, tonight a self-described jokester sitting down with a man that she calls a national joke, George Santos. Let's see that one coming up.


ZIWE FUMUDOH, AMERICAN COMEDIAN AND WRITER: In the words of Lady Gaga you live for the applause. Are you like Tinkerbell? If we stopped clapping, would you disappear?


FUMUDOH: You wouldn't?


FUMUDOH: What can we do to get you to go away?




COLLINS: In one month from now, the first votes will be cast in the 2024 race to be President, the man who was leading the Republican field's amped up immigration rhetoric is now invoking the same terms that were once used by Adolf Hitler.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. They've poisoned mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about. But all over the world that coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.


COLLINS: In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote, "the Jew," I'm quoting him here, "Poisons the blood of others." Trump has used that line before and other phrases like it that echo Nazi rhetoric. But it should be noted that as you can see there, he is reading off a teleprompter, meaning that he knew exactly what you wanted to say.

I'm joined tonight by Marc Short, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence and David Axelrod, the former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Marc, I mean, having a strong immigration policy is one thing, this is not that. And as you are someone who well knows Trump's language has consequences. It's not just colorful words as some people like to dismiss it as. I mean, how dangerous do you think that is?

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP. MIKE PENCE: Well, look, I think it's offensive. I think it's certainly outlandish. But you know, he says things like that to get extra attention, put himself back in the center of coverage.

In this case, it's so incredibly wrong and unnecessary, because the reality is that the Biden Administration has been so poor on the border. The border is such a weakness for them and it's such a winning issue for Donald Trump. It shouldn't be covered, around controversies. It should just be covered on the merits of the issue.

COLLINS: But, I mean, no one's talking about it as like an actual issue right now. They're not saying well, this could be done with asylum or this could have been -- that conversation is happening on Capitol Hill. What they're talking about is that, he's saying what Hitler used to say.

SHORT: Well, I think you've covered it to 2016. I think you know as well as I do he's probably never read Mein Kampf. But the reality is that -- is that yeah, you're making my point that on the merits he has such an advantage on border because the Biden ministration has done so poorly on this. And so instead we're talking about controversies about that outlandish language he uses which I think is counterproductive.

COLLINS: Maybe he's never read it. His ex-wife did say once that he had a copy of Hitler's speeches on his bedside table.

SHORT: Means he read it.


COLLINS: And David -- I can't speak to his reading list. But, David, I will say, you know, the other point of what Marc is saying here is, this is something that that Trump has said before. He is someone who pays very close attention to his media coverage. And when he said something similar back in September, we widely covered just how similar it was to the words of Adolf Hitler here. So there's not really any pleading ignorance around these comments.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. No. I think he knows exactly what he's doing. And I just want to disagree slightly with Marc, in that, I think these are not just words or political stratagems.

I mean, they may be apolitical -- they are a political stratagem, but they have consequences. We saw that in 2018 when he, when he really torqued up his language around illegal immigration, and the caravans you'll remember, before that primary. And we had a tragic event in Pittsburgh, around that issue at a synagogue there, the Tree of Life Synagogue.

So that you know, Donald Trump has a following. And what he does is he legitimates, the worst instincts of some of the worst people to act on their instincts, and that's the danger here. It's not that, Gee, this isn't really a great stratagem, He could have a --

The problem is he is a leader who inspires people to action and the action sometimes is very, very tragic.

COLLINS: I mean --

SHORT: Yeah. I think --

COLLINS: I think Marc could speak to that. Maybe you were on Capitol Hill on January 6th with your boss?

SHORT: Sure. Sure. I mean, I accept David's point, and I and I don't disagree with that. I just -- I'm simply making a separate point that for Donald Trump, this is such a winning issue. It doesn't need to be shrouded in controversy this way.

COLLINS: So governor DeSantis and Nikki Haley are also kind of making a similar argument. I mean, this is how DeSantis responded to reporters when he was asked today about these comments.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Give them an ability, the opposition, an ability to try to make it about something else with some of those comments, I just think it's just a mistake. Why are we in a situation where we're even having those discussions?


COLLINS: Why not come out stronger against the comments, if you're running to take the job that Donald Trump might very well get?

SHORT: He should. I mean, frankly, the role of discussing the tactics should be left to pundits and not the candidate. I think the reality is, he should just directly confront that Donald Trump is dead wrong in what he said.

COLLINS: Would you have advised -- I mean, your boss -- your boss, dropped out of the race recently. Would you have advised him to do that?

SHORT: Well, I think if you go back even to 2016, Mike Pence took strong issue with the comments Donald Trump made about the judge in Indiana. I think Mike Pence has spoken out about some of the things that Donald Trump said.

COLLINS: David, when you look at this and the comments that Trump is making overall on the campaign trail, I mean, this weekend, we also saw him invoke the Russian leader President Putin, in his comments where he has said that Trump's indictments are just him being, you know, persecuted by his political opponent, that it's proof the U.S. is not the shining example of democracy.

That it thinks -- it is -- obviously, Putin is not exactly a credible critic of the U.S. political system. But what do you make what did you make of those comments, given he was talking about President Biden.

AXELROD: Listen. Trump admires dictators. I mean, that that's -- it's just -- that's simple. He's he doesn't even hide it. Not only did he approvingly quote Vladimir Putin on the quality of American democracy at the very moment when his chief political opponent who had been imprisoned on trumped up charges is gone missing. He also praised, Kim Jong Un, because Kim Jong Un was very nice to him. And he praised Viktor Orban, the autocrat who is the Prime Minister of Hungary.

He admires that. Listen, there's a reason that he said when Putin invaded Ukraine that it was genius. He thinks if you can -- well, if you can snatch a country, why not? It's the complete absence of any sort of moral center that is the problem here.

When governor DeSantis says, well, he made a tactical mistake. No. It was a moral outrage. And, you know, the fact that so many people, in the Republican Party are so intimidated by Trump that they don't want to, speak up to that, it's a really -- it's a real problem for the Republican Party going into a general election.

COLLINS: I mean, obviously, this was a hallmark of Trump in the White House the last time praising Putin. I imagine he would do the same, if not further, if he wins reelection.

Ron DeSantis is on the campaign trail today saying that if Trump loses the Iowa caucuses, he's going to claim that they were stole -- that it was stolen. Do you think that that's the route he'll take?

SHORT: I think he has a hard time accepting defeat, and I think that he does look to find others to whom he can blame for that. So I don't -- I think that, there's probably some credibility to what he said.

But, Kaitlan, I think the reality is he's probably going to win Iowa by a significant margin, so I don't think that's going to be what we're facing.

COLLINS: But if there is some state, New Hampshire, wherever, where Nikki Haley is surging --


SHORT: Yeah, we saw that. Right? We saw that in 2020.

COLLINS: And none of Republicans handle that. Have they learned how to handle that? Because it seems like a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill, and even the ones who are in the 2024 field, are scared to criticize him.

SHORT: I think that a lot of Republican voters still like Donald Trump. And so to attack him -- I think a lot of the media want other candidates to go after him directly. I don't think that plays well among primary voters. And as you know --

COLLINS: But there is a difference in right and wrong.

SHORT: I know it's what's different, Kaitlan. I agree with you on that. But just from a political analysis, I think the reality is that that's the challenge for them. And right now, Donald Trump is leading Joe Biden in most every poll.

COLLINS: And what role will the former vice President, given his proximity to him on January 6th, what role do you see him playing?

SHORT: I think he was very outspoken about the events of January 6th, Kaitlan. I think he was --

COLLINS: He was. What he is going to do in 2024?

SHORT: He was. I think he was. He was open with American people. I think he has been on the campaign trail. But I think that that right now, I don't think you'll probably see him endorsing, right, in anytime soon.

COLLINS: Anytime soon?

SHORT: Anytime soon. I mean, I'm not going to speak for him. I'll let him make his decision. But right now, I don't see that imminent.

COLLINS: Marc Short, David Axelrod, as always, thank you both.

Up next, the U.S. Defense Secretary is in Israel. Pressure is melting on Prime Minister Netanyahu amid rising civilian deaths in Gaza for the accidental killing also of 3 Israeli hostages. A report there from a -- in a moment.



COLLINS: Tonight, the U.S. sending its top military and intelligence officials overseas as a rift with Israel starting to appear. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, arriving in Israel today, as you can see here, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials, continuing to stress support for the fight against Hamas, but also talking about pathways toward a future for what Gaza looks like after.

And as the death toll there is rising, saying that protecting civilians is a "moral responsibility." Today, we also saw CIA Director Bill Burns meeting with Qatari and Israeli officials in Poland, hoping to restart these negotiations to release more hostages. This coming after Israeli soldiers mistakenly killed, three of them, last week.

There's a lot of news to get to tonight, I'm joined now by CNN Political and Foreign Policy Analyst Barak Ravid, one of the best "Source" reporters in the region. And Barak when it comes to President Biden dispatching his top officials to go to Israel, to have these difficult conversations behind closed doors, I think the question is just how much sway the U.S. still has over Israel's military operation.

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL & GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good night, Kaitlan. First, you know, the U.S. has huge sway, because at the end of the day, the U.S. gives Israel four things. The first three things are munitions, munitions, and munitions. And the fourth thing is the backing in the UN Security Council. This is why Biden has a lot of leverage with the Israeli government.

And we have to remember Joe Biden right now is the most popular politician in Israel. This gives him even more leverage when it comes to influencing Israeli decision making. And, you know, you mentioned that Austin was in Israel. And it's just one more U.S. official who's -- goes to Israel in a series of visits since the beginning of the war. And it seems that every week, there's another senior U.S. official in Israel, almost as if the Biden Administration feels that it needs sort of like I know, chaperoning the Israeli government through this war.

COLLINS: Is that how Israeli officials say it? Did they feel like they that they are being chaperoned?

RAVID: Well, you know, it's funny, because the Prime Minister Netanyahu, both today, and last week, when Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser was in Israel. His people told reporters that both Sullivan and Austin are not meeting the Israeli war cabinet. They are meeting Netanyahu and the ministers of the war cabinet accidentally are also there.

Because I think that they are aware that, you know, they see how every time a U.S. official comes, he's meeting the Israeli war cabinet, basically getting fully briefed about the plans, but also, you know, giving the U.S. position on what the Biden Administration thinks is really what it should do.

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, they did -- the U.S. did a briefing with reporters, not even long after Jake Sullivan left the country to talk about what those discussions looked like, to give their side of it.

The other thing that I'm fascinated by this weekend was, what we saw -- what we heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu, where at one point, it seemed as if he was kind of boasting about the fact that there hasn't been a Palestinian State that hasn't been established. We all know President Biden has been very clear. He sees a two state solution as the outcome here. But Prime Minister Netanyahu seemed to be reminding the Israeli people that he stopped it.

I mean, how much of that had to do with the tragic event that we saw happened last week with these three hostages being killed by the IDF. Netanyahu trying to protect his political standing, what did you read into that?

RAVID: Well, Netanyahu, in the last few weeks, is in a political campaign. And this political campaign influences his whole decision making. It doesn't make any sense. If you're in a war, and you need full us backing, it doesn't make any sense to pick a fight with Biden over something that both sides know is not going to happen tomorrow morning, and not next week and not next month. This is -- I mean, the Palestinian State.

So Netanyahu picks this fight because he is trying to use it politically for his domestic politics in Israel, because he's in a very bad shape in the polls. Just today, you know, a devastating poll for Netanyahu when his party gets only 17 seats. His coalition right now in this poll gets only 44 seats. And most of the Israeli public wants him to resign.

So I think this is part of his attempt to try and somehow get his base with this straw man argument over a Palestinian State that nobody's even demanding him to establish, not tomorrow morning, not next week, and not next month.

COLLINS: And the other thing you broke reporting on today were these talks that were happening between Israel, Qatar. The CIA Director, Bill Burns there, obviously critical. You know, I can't even -- I was looking at reporting and thinking about today marks the day that the youngest hostage Kfir Bibas would -- turns 11 months old.


You know, I heard from his family today, they said they've not gotten an update from the government since they said they were investigating those claims made by Hamas that they had been killed. They don't have any answer. It's just unbearable. But what is your latest reporting on whether or not these talks, these hostage negotiations are actually moving forward? And whether we're going to see anything happen?

RAVID: Well, first, I think, you know, we are in a different situation than we were a month ago or a few weeks ago with the previous hostage deal. This thing is going to take much more time, it's much more complicated.

On the one hand, this meeting today in Warsaw is a sort of -- you know, I don't want to call it the photo op, because you know, it is meaningful. But it's a way for Netanyahu to let out steam when it comes to the domestic pressure he's in from the hostage families.

On the other hand, you know, the head of Mossad met the Prime Minister of Qatar, in Paris on Friday. Today, we had this meeting with the head of the CIA in Warsaw. So sometimes when you start a meeting, and you start talking, there's a dynamic that is being created. That might take you again, not tomorrow, but I don't know, a week from now, two weeks from now, to something more solid and to some sort of framework that might allow you to go back on a path for a release of hostages.

We're still not there. OK? It's still a long way to go. But you know, it's a beginning.

COLLINS: Yeah, at least some hope for the families, potentially. Barak Ravid, thank you for that. Great reporting.

RAVID: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Also a scandal blowing up in Florida tonight involving the chairman of the state's Republican Party who has now been stripped of his power over an allegation of rape. But he's still refusing to step down. More on that next.



COLLINS: The leader of the Republican Party in Florida refusing to step down tonight as he is being investigated for alleged sexual assault. But that hasn't stopped members of the state's GOP from taking matters into their own hands.

Florida Republicans have now censured and stripped Christian Ziegler of his authority, even reducing his salary to a single dollar, all because of a scandal has now pushed Ziegler and his wife, Bridget, into the national spotlight, not in the way they wanted.

This is what we know so far. Christian Ziegler is under investigation by police related to an allegation of sexual battery from October. Police documents show that Brigid Ziegler, his wife, told police that the woman accusing her husband is the same woman that the couple previously had a consensual sexual relationship with.

That admission from Bridget Ziegler has prompted outrage among a Right Wing group that she has cofounded called Moms for Liberty. It's widely known for pushing anti LGBTQ policies in schools. And critics are now saying that she's a moral hypocrite. They're pressuring her to resign from the Sarasota County School Board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having sex with another woman in a threesome with her husband is not the issue. But when you claim the moral high ground and then you attack the moral integrity of others, the blatant hypocrisy of Mrs. Ziegler and how it reflects on the credibility of this board is a significant concern.


COLLINS: Now I want to note here that at this point, no one has been charged with the crime. Christian Ziegler's attorney told CNN that once this investigation is over, his client will be cleared of wrongdoing.

Joining me tonight, Marc Caputo, a veteran Florida political reporter and national Political Reporter for "The Messenger." Marc, I think a lot of people who had no idea who these people were, you know, more than a few weeks ago, want to know what is going on here, and what else we do know about the allegations?

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE MESSENGER: There's a lot that's going on here. I mean, bottom line is, Christian Ziegler And Bridget Ziegler have been sort of the face of the new Right, the Christian Right, the DeSantis Right in the state, and now it's sort of all unraveling.

We also know that police are wrapping up their investigation. Ziegler asked the Republican Party of Florida, when it was stripped him of his power, not to kick him out. They didn't -- mainly because of procedural reasons, but they're going to come back in about a month, and they're going to do just that and remove him from office.

She's not going to step down. Bridget Ziegler is still seen by her supporters as a possible successor to Vern Buchanan, the Congressman from Sarasota. But even he has denounced Christian Ziegler and told him that he should step down. But, again, Ziegler isn't doing that.

COLLINS: Well, if that's the question, what her political future could look like here? I mean, we're hearing, you know, not just from conservatives who were criticizing her husband here, but also critics who have faced off with her personally.

I mean, Zander Moricz is an LGBTQ activist who people would remember him, he was banned from saying the word gay in his high school graduation speech. Something that she supported. He went to one of these meetings and said this.


ZANDER MORICZ: Bridget, you deserve to be fired from your job because you are terrible at your job, not because you had sex with a woman.

The hypocrisy is glaring. We are the ones who have been begging her to leave our personal lives alone, and yet she has been engaging in the exact action she's been villainizing this whole time.


COLLINS: Given what you said about her potential political ambitions, I mean, what is the sense of whether or not that that that's still viable?

CAPUTO: Well, that's a good question. I understand that we're in kind of the modern Republican Party here under Trump. And part of it is no apology, no surrender, don't quit, keep moving forward.

And kind of to that end, Christian Ziegler hasn't resigned his post at the Republican Party of Florida. But he's privately mentioned to other Republicans who wanted to kick them out, who voted to kick him out, that he's accused them of hypocrisy, saying, Look, Donald Trump was found liable for rape recently for an incident that happened in 1996. How come you're not calling on him to resign?


He paid off a porn star that he had sex with while his wife was pregnant. And that's now the subject of a criminal matter in New York City. How come you're not calling on him to resign? Now Republicans are saying these matters are very different.

However, the point still stands broadly in an aggregate that Christian Ziegler is drawing a measure of comfort and a measure of inspiration from the way Donald Trump handles things. Trump is the only major Republican Party figure in Florida. He is a Florida man. Not to denounce Ziegler or call on to resign. And Bridget Ziegler to a degree is also following that sort of same playbook. And so, you know, in a few weeks, a few months, but who knows what's going to happen?

COLLINS: That's interesting that he's not saying anything. What about her group? I mean, what's the influence that "Mom's for Liberty" still has at this point?

CAPUTO: I give that is yet to be seen. It was interesting that when the story first broke "Mom's for Liberty" posted a statement on social media on the platform, formerly known as Twitter, and supported her as sort of a badass woman, that I think was their phrase. And then they took down the tweet, which is sort of notable.

So they've sort of subtly distanced themselves from Bridget Ziegler. She's also sort of separated from them. But she said, Look, I'm going to do my job. I'm going to stick through this I'm going to stay on the board.

COLLINS: Marc Caputo, it's always something down in Florida, but this is really something else. Thank you for joining us.

CAPUTO: It's always shady in Florida. Yes.

COLLINS: Indeed. Up next, is Jonathan Majors, an emerging Hollywood star has been dropped just in the last few hours by Disney's Marvel Studios, after he was found guilty in a domestic violence case. It was very closely watched. We'll tell you what the jury decided right after a quick break.



COLLINS: Tonight, one of Hollywood's fastest rising stars is now facing potentially up to a year in prison after a New York jury found Jonathan Majors guilty of misdemeanor, assault and harassment of his former girlfriend after a domestic dispute earlier this year. He was acquitted, I should note, on two other charges, and he's set to be sentenced in February.

He starred in a number of box office hits. His face will be very familiar to you, including that role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with more films that were supposed to be in the works. But his acting future is now in question after this judgment from the jury.

CNN's Entertainment Correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister juror is here with more. Elizabeth, obviously, you know, the question was what was going to happen here and the arguments that he was going to be able to clear his name with this trial. Did Jonathan Majors have any reaction after the jury found him guilty of reckless assault and harassment?

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan he did not have much of a reaction in court. He had a stoic face when the verdict was read. And when he left court we have video and not much of a reaction. He left the courthouse with his girlfriend, the actress, Meagan Good, who has been by his side the entire time throughout the trial. But other than that not much reaction from Jonathan Majors.

But we did hear from his attorney. His attorney said that they weren't disappointed in the verdict, but thanked his fans and his friends in saying in part, "Mr. Majors still has faith in the process and looks forward to fully clearing his name."

Now I have to tell you, Kaitlan, it is a long road and it's going to be an uphill battle for him to clear his name because as we know, shortly after the verdict came in, Marvel dropped Jonathan Majors. Now this is a huge deal, because Disney which of course owns Marvel, they had cast Jonathan Majors to essentially be the centerpiece of the next few years for the next phase of Marvel.

They cast him to star in two films. As we know Marvel films make billions of dollars, so now with them dropping him, I expect that the reaction will continue. I had spoken with sources prior to the verdict coming in and everyone in the industry that I spoke with said all eyes were on Marvel and if Marvel drops them that's a pretty good indicator of what's to come.

COLLINS: Elizabeth Wagmeister, seem to lose your audio there for a second. We'll come back to you. Thank you so much for that update, though. Of course, as we were watching all of this very closely.

Up next, an interview that you've kind of just have to see. Not Frost/Nixon, it's the new hard hitting, political interview that everyone is talking about. You just kind of have to say it.


FUMUDOH: Would you rather shoplift from Sephora or Ulta?

SANTOS: Neither? I don't do petty crimes.

FUMUDOH: White Collar.




COLLINS: George Santos may have met his match. The indicted and expelled and apparently, shameless, former congressman sat down with the satirical talk show host Ziwe for an exit interview of sorts, following his expulsion from Capitol Hill.

In her signature style, she pressed George Santos on his many, many lies, like the ones about his mother surviving 911 and his grandparents surviving the holocaust.


FUMUDOH: Do you think It's appropriate for politicians to use terror for their own professional gain?

SANTOS: That's what politicians do.

FUMUDOH: So yes.

SANTOS: No. No. I'm not saying yes. I'm just saying, just look at all these politicians. They're hacks. They're not doing anything other than lying to you. If a politician's mouth is moving on Capitol Hill, they're lying to you.

FUMUDOH: But I'm looking at a politician --

SANTOS: I'm not a politician.

FUMUDOH: and your mouth is moving.

SANTOS: I'm not a politician.

FUMUDOH: And I feel like you're lying to me.

SANTOS: I'm not a politician.


COLLINS: No topic was off limits, like the prospect of prison time over the 23 federal charges that he is facing. By the time he was seen carrying a baby around the halls of congress, someone asked if whose it was? He said not his. Yet, also, he was pressed on his knowledge of civil rights icons after he compared himself -- yes, he really did this. He compared himself to Rosa Parks.


FUMUDOH: Marsha P. Johnson. Very respectful, honorable person. Keep going.

FUMUDOH: Respectful and honorable about what?

SANTOS: On all the stances and all the work.

SANTOS: Marsha P. Johnson?


SANTOS: What does that mean?

SANTOS: Just Keep going next.

FUMUDOH: Do you don't know her?

SANTOS: Yeah. I do. Keep going.

FUMUDOH: Do you?

SANTOS: I do. Go. Just keep going.

FUMUDOH: James Baldwin?


FUMUDOH: James Baldwin?

SANTOS: Who the hell is James Baldwin? Who's James Baldwin?

FUMUDOH: Harvey Milk?

SANTOS: I have no clue who that is.

FUMUDOH: OK. What about Bowen Yang doing an impression of you on SNL?

SANTOS: I think he deserves an EGOT.


COLLINS: He did not know who James Baldwin was. In the interview, Santos also left the door open to running for office again, though he did seem to rule out his own icon status.


FUMUDOH: Can you also say that you're an icon?

SANTOS: No. You're the icon.

FUMUDOH: No. You're the icon.

SANTOS: No, you are the icon.

FUMUDOH: No, you're icon.

SANTOS: You're icon, icon.


SANTOS: Icon girl. Girl boss.

FUMUDOH: Well, let me say icon again.




COLLINS: You really just have to watch the full 17 minutes of Ziwe. It was masterful.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Speaking of masterful, CNN "NewsNight with Abby Phillip" starts right now.