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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Trump Is Disqualified From 2024 Ballot; Tonight: Trump Again Repeats Line From Hitler, Says Immigrants Are "Destroying The Blood Of Our Country"; Trump Targets GOP Rep. For Backing DeSantis. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 19, 2023 - 21:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: He didn't really note anything.

Just very quickly, what are his allies saying?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, his allies, his spokesmen, his team, they're all framing this as election interference. That is the narrative that they have been crafting, around the Special Counsel's criminal investigations, the two criminal cases, at the federal level, that former President Trump faces--


REID: --in addition to state-level cases. So, this feeds right into that.

And I think we're going to hear a lot about this decision from the former President's allies, and his surrogates, because it fits into this narrative that they're arguing that judges and elites want to take away choice from voters.

BROWN: Paula Reid, thank you.

The news continues with much more, on this historic decision, tonight.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN Breaking News



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And we do begin with breaking news, tonight.

A blockbuster, from the Colorado Supreme Court, ruling that Donald Trump is disqualified, from running for president, in that state, in 2024, and officially booting him from the ballot. Tonight, the country is in uncharted waters. From the ruling, and I'm quoting here, "President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment... Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act... to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot."

This ruling, just out tonight, goes on to say, "President Trump did not merely incite the insurrection. Even when the siege on the Capitol was fully underway, he continued to support it by repeatedly demanding" that the Vice President, Mike Pence," refuse to perform his constitutional duty and by calling Senators to persuade them to stop the counting of electoral votes. These actions constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection."

Of course, as you look at this tonight, it is important to note there will be an appeal, to the Supreme Court here.

But make no mistake, what you're reading, tonight, and what we're about to be talking about, for most of the next hour, is unprecedented.

The Trump team is responding, saying that they believe this is deeply undemocratic.

But also, this stood out to me just now. The former President did not mention tonight's ruling, when he was on stage, in Iowa, just a few moments ago.

Look at the timing here, as we wait to see what the ruling is going to be, when that appeal is going to be filed, what the Supreme Court will do here.

The timing of all of this, and as you read in this ruling, it ties back to Trump's insurrection, look at this. It comes exactly three years to the day that Trump first invited his supporters, to that fateful day, in Washington, when he tweeted this. "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild."

Three years later, and here we are tonight, with this historic decision, from the Colorado Supreme Court.

We're going to be breaking it down with legal experts, for the next hour.

We start tonight with CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Elie Honig, who is here, on set, with me.

Elie, I mean, this is, it's hard to even really talk about where we are, in the sense of, we know the Trump team is going to appeal this. We'll get into what their decisions are going to be, and their arguments here. But this is something we've never seen before.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is historic, in every sense. This is something we've never seen before, and not even close.

And let's just sort of get our minds around what the consequences are. If this stands, and there's a legitimate question about if it will, if this stands, this means that millions of voters will go to the ballot, to the voting booth, in November, in Colorado, and they will have only one major party name there, Joe Biden. That's it. That's the consequences here. And?

COLLINS: If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee?

HONIG: If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, which of course he's leading, but yes, exactly.

And other states, there are dozens of pending lawsuits. Now, we'll talk about which ones are going to sort of dictate the outcomes in which. But other states, this is going to encourage other litigation, other plaintiffs, in other states, who are going to try to knock him off the ballot as well.

COLLINS: You think it'll encourage other states to say, "Hey, it worked for them in Colorado. We're going to do the same thing?"

HONIG: At least temporarily. I mean, there already are at least three dozen or so of these efforts underway across the country.

COLLINS: And let's just look at the reasoning here.


COLLINS: Because there -- this wasn't a unanimous decision. It was a four-three vote. And the justices are basically reversing the District Judge in Denver's finding, that the Section 3 of the 14th Amendment doesn't apply to the presidency. They're saying, "No, it does."

HONIG: Exactly. So, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says that any officer, who engages in or gives aid or comfort to insurrection is ineligible to hold office.

The trial court, here in Colorado, held a five day or so hearing, back in October, and November, largely consisting of reading transcripts, from the January 6 congressional committee. That judge concluded, "Yes, Donald Trump did engage in insurrection. But no, the President does not count as a quote-unquote 'Official.'"

The Colorado Supreme Court tonight by a four-three vote, said, "We agree. It was insurrection. But we disagree. We think that an officer does cover the president. Therefore, Trump is disqualified."

So, that's really the only point of difference. But what differentiates the majority in Colorado that said "Kick him out" from the three justices, who dissented, is procedure.


Because the four justices said, "The procedure that was used here, a trial-level state judge having this five-day hearing, that's good enough." The dissent says "No. We just made this procedure up on the fly. This isn't anywhere in the Constitution. This isn't anywhere in a federal law. And you can't do it that way." COLLINS: And the timing here is also notable, because they're saying automatically, they're staying this decision, until January 4th.


COLLINS: That matters because the Colorado Secretary of State said, "I need to know by January 5th, basically," so they could start putting names on the ballot.


COLLINS: So, we know the Trump team is going to appeal this. But what does this look like, with the timing now?

HONIG: Yes. So, crucial point here. The Supreme Court of Colorado itself recognizes, this is almost certainly going up to the Supreme Court. So, they said, "We're going to stay. We're going to put on pause our own ruling until at least January 4th."

If Trump even asks the Supreme Court to review it, which he certainly will, it's on hold until then. So, it's not going to keep him off any ballot unless and until the U.S. Supreme Court says, "We agree with the Colorado Supreme Court," which I think is unlikely.

COLLINS: OK. Elie, obviously we have a lot more questions for you.


COLLINS: So, stick around.

But I also want to find out what's happening in Trump world, to this -- the reaction to this explosive ruling, from the Colorado Supreme Court.

Joining us now is Maggie Haberman, a Senior Political Correspondent for The New York Times, and CNN Political Analyst.

Maggie, I noted Trump was just on stage, in Waterloo. He did not mention this decision, on stage, there. But what are you hearing, from Trump insiders, about the reaction, to the ruling, tonight.

ON THE PHONE: MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They generally see it, Kaitlan, as a gift. I mean, Trump is not happy about any of these cases, particularly cases that tie him, to a charge of insurrection.

But they see the way that they anticipate this will play out. As you know, they are going to appeal. They're going to ask the Supreme Court to take it up. The Supreme Court doesn't have to. If they don't, it's basically affirming the decision, which I think becomes complicated, although they could obviously always affirm it.

They feel pretty good about their chances that it will get overturned. And either way, they see this as something that they can use, to argue that he is being victimized. It's something that's easy, for voters, to understand, Kaitlan, which is, effort to throw someone off the ballot. Some of these legal cases, the criminal cases that he's facing are more complicated.

So again, none of this, in the aggregate, is the kind of news that most people would like. But somehow, every time Donald Trump gets a piece of legal news, that in normal times would be problematic, it has had a rallying effect, on his supporters.

COLLINS: I mean, that's pretty fascinating that this historic ruling, kicking him off the ballot has just come out. And obviously, they're going to appeal it. But I mean, Maggie, he started almost immediately fundraising off of it. So, they think it's going to ultimately benefit them.

ON THE PHONE: HABERMAN: Yes, I mean, listen, I don't think that he wants to be -- I don't think they want the Supreme Court to uphold the decision, right?

And that is, obviously within the realm of the possible, although they don't think that that's the likeliest scenario, because if that happens? I mean, to Elie's point, you're going to see people, in other states, trying this anyway. And if the Supreme Court does that, it's, he will get kicked off the ballot almost everywhere.

But they do see at least short-term political advantage. And everything with Trump, right now, is a game of inches, toward getting to the next benchmark.

The current benchmark is becoming the Republican nominee, and having as much money as he can. And so far, everything that has happened legally has helped him in that. That doesn't mean that it would in a general election. But it certainly is right now.

COLLINS: Why do you think he didn't talk about it tonight?

ON THE PHONE: HABERMAN: I think that he probably has not totally processed it, since it happened right before he went on stage. And I think that there are moments when his back is against the wall, when he can be more disciplined than other times. I don't know that that's the reason why. But that would be my guess.

COLLINS: Maggie Haberman, of course, a lot of reaction to come. We've heard, certainly heard from his allies, and his spokespeople.

Maggie Haberman, thank you, for jumping on the phone with us, on this breaking news, tonight.


COLLINS: And for more reaction on this unprecedented ruling, let's bring in someone, who is at the center of it. Sean Grimsley, the attorney, who is representing the plaintiffs, in this case, the voters who sued to remove Donald Trump, from the ballot, in Colorado.

Thank you so much for being here.

Why do you think that you won, on this effort, when others, who have tried to do, do similar, in other states, have not been successful? SEAN GRIMSLEY, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS IN CO 14TH AMENDMENT CASE: Well, I think Colorado has procedures that allows for an actual evidentiary hearing, in a case, like this. You've seen in other states that courts rule that there's no procedure available, under state law, to hear this type of case. Colorado is different.

The district court ruled in our favor on that. And, so did the Supreme Court today. The district court ruled against us, on a very technical legal issue, regarding an interpretation of the 14th Amendment. We were very confident that the Colorado Supreme Court would not side with the district court on that.


And although there were three dissenters, among the seven justices, none of them sided with the District Court, on that issue. Two of them said they would have agreed with the district court, but simply on state court grounds. And another of the dissenters said there was a political question, under federal law.

But Colorado, just again, has unique procedures that allowed us to do this.

COLLINS: Yes. And we'll talk more about what that dissent said, in a moment.

But we have heard, from the Trump team. His attorneys, they've said they will be appealing this, to the Supreme Court. Do you think that you have a chance at the Supreme Court?

GRIMSLEY: We do. I think we have a chance, at the Supreme Court.

First of all, Trump is going to have to convince the Supreme Court to take this case. And I can imagine a world, in which the Supreme Court says "This is pretty early on in the election cycle. Let's see how this plays out in some other states first."

So, he's first going to have to convince the Supreme Court to take it. And once he convinces the Supreme Court to take it, I do think we have a good shot, on the substance.

Again, we've got good strong findings and fact, from a district court. I think that, even the U.S. Supreme Court will respect, and defer to those fact findings. And I think on the legal issues, we're very strong.

COLLINS: Well, when you're talking about, you believe he'll have to convince the Supreme Court to take this, I mean, how long do you envision this playing out? How long do you think it could be before they do take it up?

GRIMSLEY: Well, I suspect he's going to move pretty quickly, to seek cert, in this case, to try and review the Colorado Supreme Court decision that issued today.

But it could be that the U.S. Supreme Court says, "You know, there are 50 states. This is really the first state that has decided this issue on a full record. Why don't we see what some other states do first," before they weigh in.

COLLINS: If this does take a long time, I think that's going to be a big question, for people. And it makes me think about the arguments that were being made, in front of the justices, in Colorado. One of them was worried about this potential for chaos. Some states letting Trump be on the ballot, some not.

Eric Olson, who was one of the other attorneys arguing this, said that any disorder, he believed, would be figured out pretty quickly, was the quote that he used.

I mean, that does not seem guaranteed. Are you worried that this could lead to chaos?

GRIMSLEY: No. I don't think it will lead to chaos. I think, again, either the court will take it up, fairly quickly, on this timeframe, with Trump seeking to appeal this ruling. Or, you will see another state do something in relatively short order, I would suspect.

I'd be a little surprised if this issue weren't settled, by the Supreme Court, during the presidential primary, and certainly before the general election.

COLLINS: What do you make of what's at the basis of the criticism of this argument, which is that it's undemocratic, and that it's the voters, who should be able to be the ones, who are making this decision, about who's on the ballot and who's not.

I mean, Chris Christie is one of the biggest critics. He is trying to take Donald Trump's job, as potentially the next president. And he is saying that he thinks this is the wrong ruling.

GRIMSLEY: Well, I respect Chris Christie's view on this. But qualifications, by definition, keep people off ballots, and prevent people from voting, for who they want to vote for.

So, for instance, if Obama wanted to run again, he could not, even though I'm sure there are many people, out there, who would love to see him serve a third term as president. Arnold Schwarzenegger could not run for president because he is not a natural-born citizen. Qualifications, again, by definition, keep people off the ballot.

And Donald Trump is the only person to blame for this. I understand that his supporters may be upset that he could be off the ballot. But he needs to look in the mirror, as to what he did, on January 6th, and the days leading up to it. He is the one, and it is his actions that are going to be the thing that keeps him off the ballot. He engaged in insurrection.

The Framers of the 14th Amendment, after the Civil War, said, we will not have people holding office, who have taken a solemn oath, to support the Constitution, represent our country again.

And he has done that to himself. COLLINS: And if the Supreme Court does take it up? And they've got three conservative justices that were appointed to the court, by Donald Trump, at the center of this. You think that that conservative- leaning court is going to hear your argument, and agree with you?

GRIMSLEY: I do. Because, I heard Elie Honig earlier, say that, somehow our argument was not an originalist argument. It very much is.

If you look at the originalist meaning of the 14th Amendment, it clearly covers the president, and the insurrection that he engaged in, on January 6th. I think the arguments that we're going to make, the historical-based arguments are going to be very appealing, to some of the conservative justices there.

And I don't think they have any great fealty, from a political standpoint, to President Trump. They have a conservative viewpoint, of the Constitution. But we think the argument we are making, regarding the Constitution, is a conservative one.

COLLINS: Sean Grimsley, a lot to happen in your future. I imagine we'll be speaking again, and having many conversations. Thanks for hopping on with us, so quickly, tonight, on this breaking news.

GRIMSLEY: Thank you, Kaitlan. Really appreciate it.


COLLINS: And Elie, as he mentioned there, is back here with me.

As we are also joined, by one of the country's foremost experts, on election law. Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer, including for George W. Bush, in the 2000 Florida recount. So, knows something about the Supreme Court and presidential elections.

Ben, let me just get your reaction, to this historic ruling, tonight. What did you make of this?

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAWYER: Well, it is certainly an historic ruling. But having said that, there are a couple of caveats with this.

First of all, the Colorado Supreme Court, by saying it's going to leave it stay, in effect, gives the Supreme Court a way, not to have to rule about this immediately.

And number two, I think you've got to pay some attention, to the deference, in Supreme Court rulings, about primary elections and general elections. And in primary elections, the U.S. Supreme Court has given the parties, a lot of deference, in who they can choose, and the way they can choose their candidates.

And so, I think that this is a case, where the Supreme Court is likely not to jump into this. All they have to do is wait till the Colorado March 5th primary. And it's a moot issue.

And there is a question, in my mind, about whether any of these cases are ripe yet, because they are about primary ballots, which the court does defer to the parties. But the court has much more ability, to rule on a general election ballot placement. But those cases aren't ripe, until there is a nominee chosen, by the party conventions. So, I'm not sure that this Supreme Court is going to jump into this battle quite yet.

But it is also really important that the Supreme Court does, because this will create chaos, if some states put Donald Trump on the ballot, and others don't. And that will particularly come home to roost, on January 6th, when the Electoral College votes are open.

COLLINS: Yes. And Elie, I mean, based on that, I mean, it says is -- are we going to potentially be at a point, where the Supreme Court doesn't take this up immediately, and we're finding out their views on this, their rulings on this?

I mean, Trump's world, his entire orbit, the Republican Chairwoman of the Republican Party, Republican lawmakers, are all saying "We'll just wait to see what the Supreme Court's going to have to say about this."

What if they don't have anything to say about it for a while?

HONIG: I don't think we've ever been in a moment in history, quite like this before, and that we have three enormous cases pending, or potentially pending, in front of the Supreme Court, each of which will drastically impact the election.

We have this one, first of all, which will, I think, obviously determine whether Donald Trump is on the ballot, in Colorado, and potentially elsewhere.

We are waiting on whether they will rule that Donald Trump is immune, in his federal election challenge. And if he is, that case goes away. We're waiting to see if they take that.

And at the same time, they've taken -- the Supreme Court has taken a case, which will essentially determine whether two of Jack Smith's four charges, the two obstruction charges, will stand against him.

So, all three of these cases either are in front of the Supreme Court, or likely will soon be. They all will determine either directly, whether he's on the ballot, in certain states, or indirectly, whether he takes a major hit to his electoral fortunes.

COLLINS: I mean, Ben, that's pretty remarkable what Elie just laid out there, if you think about everything that is going to be, before the Supreme Court that could determine Donald Trump's fate, when he gets -- so whether it's electorally or criminally.

GINSBERG: Yes. And plus, the country is much more divided now than it's ever been before. I mean, in a sense, if you're a Supreme Court justice, it makes Bush versus Gore look like a walk in the park.


GINSBERG: And of course, three of the Supreme Court justices were down in Florida, litigating Bush versus Gore.

But this is a moment, where the Supreme Court, no matter what they do, or if they don't do, is going to play a major role, in the presidential campaign, which puts a real premium on them, sticking with legal principles, about when they do have to weigh into these, yes.

COLLINS: Well Ben, then what did you make of Sean Grimsley, the attorney, who was arguing, in front of the Colorado Supreme Court, which is a very different makeup than the U.S. Supreme Court?

He says that he doesn't think that that has anything to do with even politics, for some critics, of the Supreme Court, who will think that. He thinks that they will prevail here. I mean, do you believe that that's likely at all?

GINSBERG: No, actually, I don't. I mean, I think the only people, who have found that Donald Trump committed insurrection, have been his political opponents. And I think that's pretty dangerous, for the country, and not a real incentive, for the U.S. Supreme Court, to rule that way as well.


I mean, the deference of Supreme Court cases is always been to let the voters decide. And so, making rulings, knocking somebody off, is not what they've ever done before, granted an insurrection charge, and everything that's gone on, with Donald Trump, is as Elie's pointed out, really unique, in our history.

COLLINS: Ben Ginsberg, one of the best voices to talk about this to.

Elie Honig, thank you for your analysis and expertise as well.

Thanks to you both.

We have much more to come, on this breaking news. We're also going to get reaction, from a key figure, from the Watergate era. John Dean is here.

Also, we'll speak to a former top Trump adviser, just after this.


COLLINS: Tonight, as Donald Trump, and his Republican rivals, are campaigning, across Iowa and New Hampshire, so close to the first votes being cast, in just a matter of weeks from now, some of them already reacting to the news, tonight, from the Colorado Supreme Court, their decision to remove Trump, from the state's ballot, in 2024.

As we noted, perhaps his biggest critic, former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, is coming to his defense, tonight, over this. Christie says that forcing Trump off the ballot, in his view, would quote, be "Bad" for the country.

For more perspective on this, tonight, I am joined by none other than John Dean, the former White House counsel, to President Richard Nixon.

It's so great to have you here, John Dean.


I mean, just before we get to the politics of this, and what the Republican field thinks. No matter how you slice this, this is historic. It is unprecedented. What did you make of this ruling?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I was quite surprised. I have made a quick first trip through it. It's 213 pages, very closely reasoned. The dissents are more about state law, and what -- how the procedure and state law operates, or should not operate, and whether this was a proper question, to be before the state court, or a federal political question.

So, it's -- what's most striking, though, Kaitlan, is it's very much like the reasoning of the conservative legal community. There have been a number of law journal articles that have come out by Federalist Society, credentialed law professors, who've raised this issue. And it sounds like this court has very much followed that line of thinking, and interpretation, of the 14th Amendment.

COLLINS: Yes. When you look at what they decided here? And this was the big news, with the District Judge's ruling, which was, with that -- she found about Trump engaging in the insurrection, saying that it was really just a technicality, why she believed Trump could not be booted, from the ballot.

But this court, what they found was that the insurrectionist ban does apply to the presidency. The January 6 was an insurrection, and also that Trump engaged in that insurrection.

I mean, even if this does get ultimately reversed, by the Supreme Court, this is still the Colorado Supreme Court that found these three things. And they're viewed to be true.

DEAN: I'm not sure at all, it will be reversed by the federal Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court. To the contrary, I think, the thinking of this court, and the High Court, could be very similar.

One of the things I found interesting, in the ruling, is that the Colorado Supreme Court did embrace the January 6 committee hearings. They adopted them, looked at them, used them, relied on them. And that was a finding of fact that they found that they could employ. And so, that'll probably apply as well, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I think Ben Ginsberg's point about timing is very interesting. I think he might be right, that it's early. The way this -- they don't have -- don't have to rule immediately, to solve the Colorado problem, because it's been stayed in Colorado.

Trump's name will appear on the primary ballot, the way it now goes, if they don't get to it. And there's no, you know, there's just really no problem there. So, that could well defer them, until another case comes along. COLLINS: But John Dean, just to -- what you just said, is so important that you think that maybe the Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court, will agree with the Colorado Supreme Court here.

And if that is the case, if they don't reverse this, I mean, if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, for president, he would not be able to become president, if he's potentially off the ballots, in other states, if we see other matters like this happen. I mean, that's a really significant statement that you just made.

DEAN: It's true. It's just as the lawyer for the litigants, in Colorado, said, Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot become president because he doesn't qualify. Lots of people are too young to run for president than you might want to. So, there are all kinds of reasons that people don't qualify. And starting an insurrection and engaging in one happens to be another one.

COLLINS: I'm glad you brought up insurrection, because Trump's attorney was asked, before the Colorado Supreme Court, to define an insurrection.

I just want everyone to be able to listen to, to the back-and-forth that he had, with the justices, in the Colorado -- before the Colorado Supreme Court.


RICHARD L. GABRIEL, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE COLORADO SUPREME COURT: What if we narrowed it to say prevent the peaceful transfer of power of the United States government? Would that be an insurrection?

SCOTT GESSLER, TRUMP ATTORNEY: To prevent the peaceful transfer? I don't think so. And I'm not sure, Your Honor. Look, I mean, if you look at historically, in the context of how insurrection was used, I mean, it has to be, for a substantial duration, not three hours.

L. GABRIEL: You've added a whole lot of conditions there. I'm not sure where it came from.

GESSLER: I have. I would -- I would urge you, I think probably the best exposition of that was the State Attorney General's briefs, and the authority that they provided. OK. But I think also, if you look at sort of the historical record.

Now, now you're going to tell me, "Mr. Gessler, you're making it up." And I'm going to say, "Well, so did the judge." And I'll say, "We're all sort of making it up."


COLLINS: What do you make of that?

DEAN: I make it, if you look at the amicus briefs that are filed, with this case, it could very well be defined, as Trump's action as insurrection.


COLLINS: John Dean, I mean, one of the best people, to have on, on this monumental ruling, tonight. Obviously, a lot more to come on it. Thank you so much.

And more to come, on what this could mean, a question of if the Supreme Court does move and when. What it also means, politically? We're going to speak to Trump's former National Security Adviser, turned critic, John Bolton, right after a quick break.


COLLINS: 2024 already shaping up, to be a massive monumental year, for the Supreme Court, including an appeal that involves Donald Trump, trying to claim presidential immunity, in his federal election case, in Washington. The name "Trump" about to be on the Supreme Court's docket, again potentially, if they decide to take this case up.

We know that Trump's campaign is saying tonight that it will swiftly file an appeal, in this Colorado case, removing him from the state's ballot, in 2024.

Here to talk about what's next, CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent, Paula Reid.

Paula, obviously a lot on the Supreme Court's plate, potentially.

REID: Yes.

COLLINS: I mean, what would the ruling from the High Court mean, for Trump not just in Colorado, but every other state potentially as well?

REID: Well, the Supreme Court is the biggest factor, in the 2024 election. That much is clear. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, in this specific case, if they take it up, will be binding on the entire country.

Now, as you noted, the Trump legal team, they said that they're going to appeal this swiftly. It means they're likely going to be working through the holiday, something they have complained about, in the Special Counsel litigation. But if they want to do this, they're going to have to move.

Now, if and when the Supreme Court takes this up? All that's unclear, because it's safe to say Trump is likely going to be on the primary ballot. So, this is really a general election issue.

So, if they take this up? And I think they likely will, because you don't want to have this question, just hanging out there, for the general election. They would have to decide it, by the end of the term. And again, whatever they say is binding, on the entire country.


COLLINS: Certainly, a weighty decision.

Paula Reid, thank you.

And I'm joined here tonight, by former President Trump's former National Security Adviser, John Bolton.

Ambassador Bolton, when you look at this, this measure that was put in place, to keep former Confederates from returning to power, I mean, what do you make of it being used here?

AMB. JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think it's completely misplaced. I think this Colorado Supreme Court decision is badly wrong, for multiple reasons.

Number one, the 14th Amendment provides that Congress can pass legislation, to carry its provisions into effect, which Congress has done, on many aspects. It has not put anything with respect to Section 3 on the books, since just after the Civil War.

Second, the idea that the 50 different state courts can decide a question, involving the highest elective office, in the Executive branch, interpreting the federal constitution, as to what constitutes an insurrection, against the federal government, is incoherent. And I think, undoubtedly, the Supreme Court is going to have to clear that up.

In terms of what the Framers of the 14th Amendment meant, I think it's quite clear that the Radical Republicans in Congress, who wanted to suppress the secessionist advocates and governments of the southern states that seceded, would not provide, on this critical question of the offices that are going to be denied to people, who broke their oath to the United States, that you're going to put decision-making authority on that, in the hands of the states, including the former secessionist states. If that was their intention, they were delusional, when they did it.

So, I'd be willing to bet a small amount of money here that the Supreme Court, if it gets to the merits of this, if it has to, will reverse. There's no other logical way you can apply this. And it would sow chaos in elections as far as the eye could see.

COLLINS: Well, and I think it's important, for people, maybe if they don't watch "THE SOURCE," every night, and haven't heard from you, since you left working for Trump, when he was president. You have been quite critical of him, and the idea that he could be back in office.

But you're saying that, that the way that that should be achieved, if that's what someone is trying to do here, shouldn't be through a ruling, from the Colorado Supreme Court, or the U.S. Supreme Court. That it should be a decision for the voters. Is that what you're saying?

BOLTON: Well, ultimately, it should be. But if this case? And I do think the Supreme Court will take it. They should not let this kind of erroneous decision rest out there, because other cases are going to be brought. You can see it already.

This has to be something that Congress itself, if they want to enact legislation, which they haven't done, for 150 years, about what the meaning of Section 3 is. Then it's not up to the states, to make it up, as they go along.

COLLINS: I do want to -- one thing, if maybe you'll disagree with this, because it is a State Supreme Court.

But you have said that January 6th wasn't a coup that it was just stumbling around, from one idea to another, what happened that day. But what do you make of the State Supreme Court saying that this was, what happened on January 6th, was an insurrection?

BOLTON: Look, I think January 6th was one of the worst days in American history. And I think everybody who participated in it should be in jail for a very long time.

But the Framers of the 14th Amendment, I think, knew what they meant by insurrection. They had just been through one. How significant was it? Killed soldiers, leaving civilian casualties out, fatalities in the war, among Confederate and Union soldiers were 620,000. That's an insurrection.

What happened on January the 6th was a disgrace, a stain, on our country's history. It was a riot. It was not an insurrection.

Now, if Congress disagrees with that, they've got authority, under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment to legislate, which they have certainly not rushed to do.

COLLINS: Yes, though, they haven't rushed to do much legislating, I should note. Even members of Congress would acknowledge that.

But I want to ask you about something that Trump did say, on the campaign stage, tonight. He did not mention this ruling. But he did repeat something that we have heard him say, not once, not twice, but now three times tonight.

This is what he told the audience.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: And it's true. They're destroying the blood of our country. That's what they're doing. They're destroying our country. They don't like it when I said that. And I've never read 'Mein Kampf.' They said, 'Oh Hitler said that.' In a much different way.


COLLINS: I don't think you have to have read Mein Kampf, to have quoted Hitler, which we had noted.

His comments were comments that were very similar to ones made by Hitler, about Jews poisoning the blood of the country. Trump was saying that illegal immigrants were poisoning the blood of the country.


Are those comments appropriate, Ambassador Bolton?

BOLTON: They're -- no, they're disgusting, I mean, really vile, and appealing to base racist instincts. It's just one more example why Trump is not fit to be president.

But I have to say, we've had in 100,000 years of human history, a lot of racists, not all of them are equivalent to Hitler. There's only been one Hitler, one Holocaust. And I think when people too readily compare Trump to Hitler, they're not demonizing Trump. They're normalizing Hitler. And I think that's a big mistake.

I think, look, just let's forget the complicated morality and history. Let's just deal with rhetoric and PR. When you overstate a case, you misstate the case. And when you misstate the case, by criticizing Trump, you give him the opportunity to rebut it, and score points against you. There's plenty of things to be said, about why Donald Trump is not fit to be president. There's no need to overstate it.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, I mean, it was language that was similar, to what was used, by Hitler, I think just comparing the language itself.

Ambassador John Bolton.

BOLTON: Look, yes, it's a blood libel. There's no question it's the blood libel. But you got to be careful about invoking Hitler. It's very, very significant.

COLLINS: Ambassador John Bolton, thank you, for your time, tonight.

BOLTON: Thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, I'll be joined by a Republican, who voted against overturning the 2020 election, and now is a target, of Trump's wrath, again, because he endorsed someone else, who is running to be president, in 2024.

Republican congressman, Chip Roy, he's up ahead.



COLLINS: Primaries are on Donald Trump's mind, tonight. As we continue to follow the breaking news, with Trump being kicked off the primary ballot, in the State of Colorado.

The former President, tonight, is calling for someone, anyone, he says, to primary an ultra-conservative Republican congressman. His target, Texas congressman, Chip Roy. His offense seems to be his support, for Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, in the 2024 Republican race.

On Truth Social, today, the former President wrote, quote, "Has any smart and energetic Republican in the Great State of Texas decided to run in the Primary against RINO Congressman Chip Roy. For the right person, he is very beatable. If interested, let me know."

I am joined, tonight, by Congressman Chip Roy.

And Congressman, thank you, for being here.

Let me just start with asking, when is the filing deadline, for the primary, in your race?

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Yes, well, somebody didn't get the memo. The filing deadline was last week in Texas.

And, look, I'm privileged and blessed not to have a primary opponent, this time. I did get three primary opponents, in 2021, when I voted to certify the electors. It was something that I thought was constitutionally appropriate. And I still won with more votes than any other member of Congress in Texas.

I mean, look, most people just want us to go do our job, seek the truth, wherever it may lead. I'm an unapologetic, conservative, unapologetic defender of Donald Trump, when he does things that I agree with.

And for example, right now, I'm critical of the opinion, out of the Colorado Supreme Court. I don't think that's following the Constitution. I think that's stretching the bounds of the 14th Amendment, unconstitutionally.

But I'm proudly supporting Ron DeSantis. He's a good man, a friend, someone I've known for a decade. And for some reason, that gets under President Trump's skin.

And this is exactly what the American people are tired of. They want us to focus on the job at hand. They want us to secure the border, stop spending money we don't have, make sure we have a strong military, do the things that they want us to do, to get their lives back on track, so people can achieve the American Dream. That's Ron DeSantis. He's been doing it in Florida. He'll now do it for the country.

COLLINS: In the post, I noticed that Trump called you, as I just said there, a RINO, a Republican In Name Only--

ROY: Yes.

COLLINS: --for those who are not familiar with the term.

I mean, what is your response, to not only Trump saying that. But when he says that, then all of MAGA, and that orbit, also is calling you a Republican In Name Only?

ROY: Yes, well, first of all, that's not something that I'm going to spend a whole lot of time worrying about. I'm focused on the job at hand, being a member of Congress, doing the things I just told you.

But the point, it kind of answers itself. Pretty much everybody, in the conservative world, who understands what we do in Washington, knows that I'm a conservative with a strong record.

I have voted against Biden more than virtually everybody, member of Congress. I have a strong conservative 100 percent score from Conservative Review. 98 percent from Heritage Action, pro-life community, I can go down the list. But it kind of doesn't matter. It misses the point.

The point is, this is about, we don't -- we don't have princes in this country. We pursue principles, right? That's what we're supposed to be about. We don't anoint the people, right? We don't coronate people. I've been saying this on Fox, Newsmax, CNN.

Because you know what? I'm in Iowa, where there are people here, who they take very seriously, the job of choosing who the President will be, through the caucus process.

And I was just at multiple events, with Ron DeSantis, where he's shaking their hands, and looking them in the eye, while Donald Trump hangs out, in his basement, in Florida, afraid to actually debate. What's he afraid of?

Look, I'm happy to debate him if he wants to anywhere. I'm just a little old congressman. Why won't he debate Ron DeSantis, or any of the other candidates? I think he should.

COLLINS: Why do you think he won't get on the debate stage with the other Republicans?

ROY: Well, I mean, like I can tell you with Ron -- from Ron DeSantis' perspective, is because he would clean his clock. I mean, if you compare the records, they're not comparable.

Ron DeSantis, has done a phenomenal job, in Florida. He's stood up to the tyrannical machine of the government, when it shut down the greatest economy, in the history of the world. We've racked up $6 trillion to $8 trillion of debt since then, as a result of the mismanagement that started in that last year of the Trump administration.

President Trump also failed to actually fully secure the border. If we'd gotten the policies in place, if he had worked with conservatives, to get bills passed, in 2018, 2019, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in, right now, where Joe Biden is leaving Texas fully exposed, to have people running over our Border Patrol agents and our DPS.

We had six kids in the district, I live in Kaitlan, six kids, who died from fentanyl poisoning, last year. 300,000 apprehensions, in November, on track for 300,000 in December. We should have stopped this years ago.

President Trump could have done that, if he would have led Congress to get something done. That didn't happen. I don't think he wants to debate that record. I don't think he wants to go, through every single issue that he's been a part of. And he knows that Governor DeSantis has done a phenomenal job, in Florida. So, he doesn't show up to the debates.

COLLINS: Well, on immigration?

ROY: Speaks for itself.

COLLINS: I mean, on immigration, specifically, we just played the soundbite of Trump, tonight--

ROY: Yes.


COLLINS: --where he's again repeating this comment, where he keeps saying that illegal immigrants are poisoning the blood of the country. He said, "Destroying the blood" of the country, tonight in those comments.

I mean, what do you make of the fact that the Republican front-runner, because he is well ahead of Ron DeSantis, right now, is using that kind of language, when there is an issue on the border that Republican voters, and most voters, but Republican voters, care so much about?

ROY: Yes, well, first of all, I want to say one thing, about the polls. Polls do not tell the story, right? They're supposed to reflect voter sentiment, not drive it. And that's too much of what's going on right now. The people of Iowa will decide in a month, who they're going to select to be the President of the United States.

With respect to that issue. Let me just say something that's really important to me, OK? It's a personal matter. I've gone to the border a lot. There are a lot of Hispanic children, OK, who are being abused, put into the sex trafficking trade, who are sitting in stash houses, as we speak.

Like, the father who was held to ransom, by a cartel, for something like $28,000. A federal judge in the Northern District of Texas highlighted this in a case. And he said that they'd have to pay that money, if they -- so they wouldn't rape his daughter and his wife. That's completely unacceptable for a country like ours to allow that to happen.

A 1,000 migrants died along the southwest border last year, many along the Rio Grande, many that are dying, in the Texas heat. 53 in San Antonio, Kaitlan, in a tractor trailer, in the Texas heat, what kind of compassion is that? We shouldn't be doing that and subjecting these people to the cartels.

COLLINS: And do you think that the Republican front-runner--

ROY: We should have a strong, secure border.

COLLINS: --should be saying that they're poisoning the blood of the country, I mean, given what you just talked about what these people are facing?

ROY: I think the Republican -- and I'm not going to characterize front-runner, because that's your poll-speak, OK? I'm on Iowa. And I think the front-runner is Ron DeSantis, OK? I think he's the guy that's going to be at the top of the ticket.

COLLINS: OK. But about the comment itself?

ROY: Yes. And so, what I'll say about that is, I think, Republicans generally, whether it's Ron DeSantis, or Donald Trump, or anybody else, we should be talking about this, in terms of what it means to humanity. I don't think we should be talking about, this issue, from a perspective of, blood, or whatever the President said.

What I think we should be saying is, is that there are human beings, who are suffering, Americans, people that are ranchers in South Texas, the children, who died in my district, the moms that I meet with every day, who are losing their loved ones, to fentanyl, little girls, whether they're brown, white, black, doesn't matter, getting sold into sex trafficking trade.

Nobody in America cares about all of this, divvying us up by race, which is a very sorted business, to quote the Supreme Court, and John Roberts. So, the bottom line is, we should be doing our job, to secure the border, for our benefit, and for the migrants who seek to come here legally.

By the way, Donald Trump did very well, in South Texas, by standing up for a secure border, just like Ron DeSantis won 62 percent of the Hispanic vote, after sending people to Martha's Vineyard, which totally shocked the system, last fall, and helped us retain the House, in Republican hands.

COLLINS: Congressman Chip Roy, thank you so much, for your time, tonight.

ROY: Thanks, Kaitlan. God bless. Merry Christmas.

COLLINS: Back with more, and an update on Capitol Hill, in just a moment.



COLLINS: An important update, from Capitol Hill, tonight, as Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville has now just dropped his remaining hold, on a 11 four-star military nominees. The Senate now confirming them after he dropped that hold.

All of this is a big picture, as the Republican had started to relent, earlier this month, on hundreds of other military nominees that he has been holding up, since February, all in protest of the Pentagon's policy on abortion that pays for the travel of service members, who need to seek care.

His complete capitulation, tonight, now comes without any changes, nothing, in the policy that he was protesting, despite saying he would not give it up, until the Pentagon changed something. Now, he has given it up, on those other military nominees, now, the final 11, they were holding out tonight.

Thank you so much, for joining us, for a very busy news, tonight.

"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts, right after a quick break.