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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Trump Appeals Decision Removing Him From Maine Primary Ballot; Harvard President Claudine Gay Resigns; NY Corruption Lawsuit Aims To Push Out NRA Chief. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 02, 2024 - 21:00   ET



HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, the Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has dispatched all means, necessary, to try to get these people out.

But again, because it's so cold here, because incoming rain could mean landslides, we don't know how many people are going to survive.


MONTGOMERY: We don't know if we can get to them in time.

COOPER: Hanako Montgomery, I appreciate you being there. Thank you.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE" starts now. I'll see you, tomorrow.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.

Donald Trump formally challenging the decision in Maine, to remove him, from its primary ballot, based on the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban. And we expect other legal challenges, from his team, any minute now.

Plus, a senior leader of Hamas, killed in an explosion, near Beirut, Lebanon, Hezbollah warning Israelis this kind of action, inside Lebanon's borders, won't be tolerated. Could this lead to another front, in Israel's war?

And Claudine Gay is officially out, as Harvard's President. Her resignation, following mounting accusations of plagiarism that began after her controversial testimony, on Capitol Hill, about anti- Semitism, on Harvard's campus.

Kaitlan Collins is off tonight.

I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is THE SOURCE.

Tonight, Donald Trump's legal team, appealing the decision, by Maine's Secretary of State, to remove the former President, from the state's primary ballot.

Trump, of course, was also booted off the primary ballot, in Colorado. And we're still waiting on that appeal. We're going to have more, on this breaking news, in just a moment.

But it's all unfolding just 13 days, from the Iowa caucuses, where Republican voters will have their first say, about who they want their party's nominee to be.

And if you think these court battles are getting in the way of Trump's quest, to win back the White House? Think again. Not only did he nail down an endorsement, today, from the second highest-ranking Republican, in the House, Majority Leader, Steve Scalise. But polls show his base is growing more loyal as the criminal charges stack up.

According to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, GOP voters are now more sympathetic, to those who stormed the Capitol, on January 6th, and more likely to absolve Trump, of responsibility for the attack, than they were right after the insurrection.

Joining me now, we have Senior Political Correspondent, for The New York Times, and CNN Political Analyst, Maggie Haberman; Trump's former White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin; and former Trump campaign adviser, David Urban.

Welcome to all of you. We are officially here, in a presidential election year, now.

Maggie, tell us, how does Steve Scalise's endorsement, of Trump, and also the support, of almost all of the House GOP leadership play, into his strategy, for the primaries?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it just creates this sense of momentum.

And you're going to see this, I think, going forward, he's going to highlight the endorsements that he's got. And they're going to point to have -- the breadth of support that he has, within the party, it is really striking, as considering where things were once upon a time.

And so, it, again, it just makes it harder, for anybody, who is trailing him. And this is a pretty small primary field, Brianna, at this point. But it makes it very hard, for anybody, who is trailing him, to break through. It just creates another news cycle that is all about Donald Trump, for Republican primary voters. Now, does this help him enormously, in a general election? Not really. But it does help, right now.

KEILAR: And Alyssa, I mentioned that new Washington Post poll. It shows Republican support, for people, who stormed the Capitol, on January 6th, it's actually grown, and so has their loyalty to Trump in the past three years.

How do you see a conviction, affecting that support?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, this poll is obviously a direct result of elected Republicans, and Donald Trump himself, lying about the events of January 6th, spouting conspiracy theories around it. So, no doubt, the American public's position has changed on it.

I think that a conviction, while the polling suggests could hurt Donald Trump, if he already has the nomination, it's going to be much harder, to get rid of him. Like, this is a very short process that we have. I don't think, most think, that we're going to see conviction, in any of these cases, ahead of the convention. And I think the likelihood that he would be dropped is incredibly low.

For those who want to stop Donald Trump, if that is your aim, the time to do it, is in the primary. And that window is rapidly closing.

KEILAR: Yes. it certainly is.

And David, if we get into our Wayback Machine, and we go back 13 months, I think we should remember, Trump struggled, to fill his Mar- a-Lago ballroom, for his campaign kickoff. Pundits were wondering whether Governor Ron DeSantis might eventually eclipse Trump.

Was there anything besides the narrative of legal persecution that he put out there, that rallied the party back to him?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's a really good question, Brianna. I'm not -- I'm not quite sure, I know that answer.


I think that there was a vacuum created -- there was a complete vacuum, political vacuum, after Ron DeSantis did so successfully -- so successfully won his reelection in Florida. There was a big narrative, he was the next new-new thing. And then, he said he wasn't going to run until his session was done, in Florida. And so, he kind of vanished from the headlines.

And there was a void left. And politics abhors a vacuum, like nature. And so, we had indictment charges, in New York City, as you recall, quickly thereafter. And that became the news. And the news kept going and going. And Donald Trump was as front -- front page, center, above the fold, in every paper, in America. And it just kept propagating and growing, right?

So, I do think that that -- that that narrative is, can you defeat upon itself, and strengthen him is, as the polling suggests. That's great in a primary. I don't know how it's going to work in a general election.

KEILAR: Alyssa, what do you think? Is this the only thing that has fueled him? Or do you think it's something else?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Listen, I think Urban hits on something important, which was that New York indictment coming first, I think kind of paved the way, for the other indictments, the two Department of Justice, Fulton County, much more serious indictments, for Trump, to be able to message them, as, this is all political, this is all partisan.

The New York one kind of set the stage, to sort of sow some doubt, in what has come since then. And Donald Trump is a bit of a master, of pivoting bad media cycles in

his favor. He's done that. If the attention is going to be on him, he's going to find a way, to work, in his favor, with his base.

And to the point of the Scalise endorsement. He has elected Republicans, solidly in his pocket. So, that means he has an echo chamber, and amplifiers, who are going to go out and back him. He's got the vast majority of Republican endorsements that you can have. And, as I said, he's really paving his way, to the nomination, just shortly after Super Tuesday.

KEILAR: Maggie, looking beyond the nomination. If Trump does have a lock on it, is he ready, is he positioned, for a general election?

HABERMAN: In what respect?

KEILAR: In terms of his appeal. In terms of how people are responding to him.

HABERMAN: Oh, I see what you're saying.

Look, this has been actually something that's been discussed a lot, today, because of a piece, by your colleague, Isaac Dovere, focusing on how the Biden folks are going to train their attention, on Trump, going forward, in the coming weeks.

I think we all forget that we see a lot of Donald Trump, because we cover this. And Republicans see a lot of Donald Trump, because it's their primary.

The general election electorate has not seen that much of Donald Trump. He has not been on Twitter. He does not hold press conferences. He does not really do media interviews, the way he used to. He is not on Fox News, the way he used to be. And so, there hasn't been a lot of Donald Trump, in the public eye, the same way. There will be, once he is in a general election.

He's been trying to massage his position, on abortion, to be essentially everywhere on it. He's the person, who is most responsible, other than Mitch McConnell, for Roe v. Wade ending, with the appointment of Supreme Court justices, and a supermajority.

And yet, because Donald Trump, once upon a time, was pro-abortion rights in it, he is seen by a segment as moderate. And I think he's going to continue to try to push that.

I don't think that his constant discussion, about the election, and his lies about the election, and his claims about January 6th, 2021, and the attack on the Capitol that day, I don't think that that's especially helpful to him, in a general election. And I don't think his advisers think it is either. But I think they are going to deal with that when they get to it.

KEILAR: Yes. David is certainly nodding along with you.

URBAN: Yes. KEILAR: To that, Maggie.

URBAN: Yes, well, Brianna -- yes.

KEILAR: Go on.

URBAN: I was -- yes, I was just going to say, Joe Biden always says, don't judge me against the almighty. Judge me against the alternative.

And I think that's what a lot of Republicans, and just, and voters in general, in these polls, are doing, right now. They look at the border. They see a very porous border. They see crime on the rise in cities. They see brackets around their 401(k)s. And they're unhappy. They're disaffected.

And they -- and they yearn, believe it or not, for those days, during the Trump administration, when there was a low unemployment, inflation was non-existent, and immigration was -- the border was secured. And so, I think they're looking at that, nostalgically, right now. We'll see if that plays forward.

And as Maggie said, if people focus on that, the campaign get people to focus on that, during the election cycle, rather than 2020, and January 6th. That'll be the challenge.


FARAH GRIFFIN: And if I could -- if I could just add, Brianna? I think what's remarkable is six in 10 Americans did not want -- do not want the Trump versus Biden rematch. Yet, we're careening into it.

Donald Trump, in most polls, narrowly beats Joe Biden, but not by a significant margin. Whereas if someone else, like a Nikki Haley, were to get the Republican nomination, she beats Joe Biden, by as many as 16 points. There is a disconnect, between the party, who wants to beat Joe Biden, but then who they're heading toward nominating Donald Trump.

KEILAR: So, let's listen to this, because when Trump is speaking to his supporters, it's often to frame this election, in really the most apocalyptic terms. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: 2024 is our final battle.

It's our final battle.

This is the final battle.

It's our final battle.

It's our final battle.


The final battle.

Remember, it's our final battle.


KEILAR: What is he telegraphing, Maggie, when he is talking about this, in these terms? What is he telegraphing here? His, would a second term--

HABERMAN: Look, he--

KEILAR: --a potential second term would be?

HABERMAN: Sure. I mean, I think this is the underlying question, with what he's been doing, for a couple of years now.

He has been speaking, as have a lot of his supporters, and a lot of folks, on the right, in increasingly apocalyptic terms, describing essentially the country is on fire, describing everything, as in tumult, describing everything as terrible, describing everything as the ultimate fight, to take the country back, quote-unquote. You are going to hear that a lot.

Now, what he has said previously, in addition to that language, and he's been saying it all year is, some version of, "I am your retribution."

He has made very clear that he is going to use his time, in office, to go after President Biden, and his family. He is going to radically change the federal government. He is going to erode the post-Watergate norm, between the Justice Department and the White House. I mean, among other things, he has a very radical plan for immigration. All of this fits into his description of the country, in turmoil.

I think, to Dave Urban's point, there are a lot of people, who are looking at specific policy aspects. They look at the border, right now. They look at inflation. And they are very upset. And they are hearing him casted, in these terms, as some kind of incredibly grim match. I think you're going to hear him continue to say that.

What he will do with that presidency is not necessarily what that means, in terms of final battle. I think his view, of what he wants to do, with the White House, yes, there are policy pieces. But there are -- there is also a payback component, for him, personally.

KEILAR: Yes. He makes it very clear.

David, here we are. I mean, less than two weeks to the Iowa caucuses. Is there anything, in your opinion, that Nikki Haley, or Ron DeSantis, can do, to really change much, before Iowa and New Hampshire?

URBAN: Brianna, I don't think there is, right? But we always -- that's why we have elections and not polls, right? And caucus, polls, even. People go out, and they vote.

And remember, in 2012 -- I don't know if this is going to be the case. But Rick Santorum, I was helping a guy, back then, who no one thought stood a chance. And lo and behold, he came, from nowhere, to win the Iowa caucuses, right? So, it could happen. I think it's highly unlikely it's going to happen.

I think that after Iowa, you're going to see great pressure, on one or two of these candidates that are in there, both DeSantis and Haley, to get out, if they don't kind of score someplace, in the high-20s. I think there's going to be a great deal of pressure. If they're still polling at, they end up at 16 percent in the polls, and they end up with 16 percent in the vote share, on the caucus night, there's going to be a big push to get out.

KEILAR: Yes. And we'll be looking for that.

David, thank you so much.

Alyssa, Maggie, thank you so much, to all of you, for being with us, this evening.

URBAN: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: In the meantime, former President Trump is now formally challenging the decision, to kick him off, of the primary ballot, in Maine, based on the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban. This is just one of a growing number of 14th Amendment cases, working their way, through the courts, in several states.

Former federal prosecutor, now CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig, is with us now, to talk about this.

Elie, in summary, what is the argument that Trump is making, when it comes to Maine?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So Bri, I just read the brief. It's short. It's sort of short on detail.

But essentially, the first part of his argument is he says, I was not engaged in insurrection.

And then, he offers us this sort of list of even if procedural arguments, to wit, he says, first of all, it's not up to the states. It's up to Congress, to tell us how this works.

Then he says, but even if it's up to the states, Maine, in this case, they did not follow their own procedures. The forms that I had to fill out didn't say anything, about the 14th Amendment. And he argues, the Secretary of State, she was biased, and recused her -- and should have recused herself.

Then, he argues, even if Maine properly followed its procedures, I was not given proper due process. He argues, this was a sort of abbreviated quasi hearing, and I wasn't given enough of the protections that you would need, in a hearing, like this.

And then, finally, he argues, even if all those things I just said are not true, the President does not count as an officer of the United States, under the 14th Amendment, using some sort of legalistic linguistic gymnastics.

So, he's got a lot of different ways, to win this. He's trying to create various avenues, to victory, here. And the challenges are, should be noted, have to win all of these, in order to win on their -- on their motions.

KEILAR: Yes, well, that's a very good point.

How strong are the arguments that he's making?

HONIG: Well, my personal view is he did engage in insurrection. So, I don't think that's very strong. It's one sentence, in the brief. He just says, I did not engage in insurrection.


I think the procedural arguments is where this will be resolved. I think when we see the higher courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, take this up, they're going to answer these questions, which by the way we don't know. This is completely uncharted territory.

I think the Supreme Court will answer, first, is it up to Congress, which has not acted about how the 14th Amendment should work? Or is it up to the states? If it's up to the states? Did they follow their own procedures? And did they provide enough due process? So, I do think ultimately, this is going to be settled, on those latter grounds, those procedural questions.

KEILAR: I spoke with the Maine's Secretary of State, today, about the confusion that could result, if she is successful. And here's what she said.


KEILAR: If you send out ballots, because it stayed, as you said, that have his name on them, and then later send out corrected ballots, that don't have his name on them? Certainly, there may be some instances, where people turn in ballots that have his name, or even cast their vote, even though they can't technically, for Donald Trump. What do you do, then?

SHENNA BELLOWS, (D) MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: You are engaging in a hypothetical that may not come to pass, especially because under Maine law, the Superior Court is required to issue a decision, by January 17th. And indeed, it is widely expected that the U.S. Supreme Court may intervene, in that time period.


KEILAR: So worth noting, Bellows says, Elie, that she is actually planning for that hypothetical, though she didn't reveal details of what that entails.


KEILAR: How much is riding on the Supreme Court weighing in, before ballots are supposed to go out, some as soon as this month?

HONIG: This is exactly why this case, more than any I can really think of, in modern history, is crying out for the Supreme Court, to get involved.

I mean, Secretary Bellows said it's a hypothetical that might not come to pass. It's also a hypothetical that might well come to pass, in which case we will be thrust into chaos.

And I agree with the Secretary that this is a -- she seems to be calling for the Supreme Court of the United States, to take this case. And I think they have to. This is a constitutional issue, with enormous consequences, where we just don't know the answer.

And if the Supreme Court does not take this case? You already nicely highlighted the chaos within Maine. Imagine the chaos now, across all 50 states, where some have thrown Donald Trump off. Some have not. They're all doing it by different procedures. They're all arriving at different results.

We really need the Supreme Court. And I think everyone seems to agree on this. We need the Supreme Court, to do its job, here.

KEILAR: Certainly.

Elie, stay with us, if you will.

Tonight, there is some new allegations of corruption, against embattled Democratic senator, Bob Menendez.

The New York lawmaker was already accused, of using his powerful position, to secretly aid the Government of Egypt, in exchange for bribes. Well now, he is accused of also taking bribes, to help Qatar.

Remember those gold bars that authorities say they found in his house? Well, apparently there are more. And prosecutors now say, Menendez and his wife were also involved, in an attempted cover-up, after the Feds raided their home.

Menendez and his four co-defendants have already pleaded not guilty. His attorney tells CNN that Menendez acted quote, "Entirely appropriately," when it comes to Egypt and Qatar.

So, what makes this situation so concerning, beyond a Senator allegedly being a crook, until his indictment? Menendez was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, holding an incredible amount of sway, with access to national secrets. And by the way, he's still on that committee, receiving classified briefings.

Elie is back with us now, to talk about this.

Elie, can you just break down these new allegations for us?

HONIG: Yes. So Bri, this is essentially the fourth set of allegations, relating to Senator Menendez, relating to bribery and extortion, to taking cash and other benefits, from people, in order to deliver them, official benefits.

Two of them now relate to lobbying, on behalf of foreign corporations. Another relates to him trying to shut down a criminal case. And another relates to him trying to do special favors, for a local businessman.

And what makes this really powerful, for prosecutors is, in a situation like this, where you essentially have four different stories to tell? They tend to mutually reinforce one another, with the jury.

The jury is going to hear about all four of these, the same jury, and they're going to think well, this is a pattern. This is someone, who had a way of doing business. And the thing is for prosecutors, in a case like this, you only need to win one, to get a guilty verdict, to get a conviction. That's largely going to drive any potential sentence here.

If you're Bob Menendez, Senator Menendez, here, you got to -- again, like we were saying before, he's going to have to beat all four of these. And they do have a way of sort of propping one another up. So, the indictment, in my view, just got stronger against him.

KEILAR: Yes, really stunning new allegations, here.

Elie, thank you, for being with us, tonight.

HONIG: Thanks, Bri. All right.

KEILAR: Just days before the first 2024 primary contest, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley take questions, directly from Iowa voters, in back-to- back events.

The CNN Republican Presidential Town Halls, moderated by Kaitlan Collins, and Erin Burnett are live, Thursday, starting at 9 PM.


One of the senior leaders of Hamas has been killed, in an explosion, near Beirut. Could this expand the war to Lebanon?

Plus, it was the video that captured the attention of the world, today. What we are learning now, about the two planes that collided, on a runway, in Tokyo, killing five people, even as hundreds of others miraculously survived?


KEILAR: New tonight, a U.S. official telling CNN that Israel did in fact carry out a strike, today, in Lebanon that killed a senior Hamas leader.

Earlier a senior adviser, to Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would not confirm, but also did not outright deny that Israel was behind the incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel has not taken responsibility, for this attack. But whoever did it, it must be clear that this was not an attack, on the Lebanese state. It was not an attack, even on Hezbollah.


KEILAR: 57-year-old Saleh al-Arouri was one of the most wanted men, in the Middle East. The U.S. issued a $5 million reward, for information about him, back in 2015.

Joining me now is CNN Political and Global Affairs Analyst, Barak Ravid.

Barak, al-Arouri was an incredibly significant figure within Hamas.



I think this operation that Israel conducted, in Beirut, earlier today, is important, not only because of Arouri, but because of the other people, who were with him, in his office, in Beirut. And basically, the people who were assassinated, today, are all of Hamas' military commanders, out of Gaza.

So, this attack did not only take Arouri, out of the field. It took everyone, who runs Hamas operations, outside of Gaza. And therefore, it was very significant move.

KEILAR: You've been reporting that Israel did not notify the United States in advance of the attack. How significant is that?

RAVID: Well, I think one of the reasons maybe that Israel did not notify the U.S. in advance was that Israel maybe thought that the U.S. have -- would have an issue, with an attack, in Beirut, very close to Hezbollah headquarters.

An attack that has, we have to say, a big potential, of increasing tensions along the northern -- Israel's northern border, and in an extreme scenario, could lead to a regional war, something that the U.S. wants to avoid. So, the Israelis decided this, from what I hear from Israeli officials, to notify the U.S., as the operation was taking place.

And this is not something that just happened today, and within one or two hours, this operation went underway. This was weeks in planning, according to what Israeli officials are telling me.

KEILAR: Barak, what does this strike mean, for fears, of a growing regional conflict? And also, what does it mean, for any prospects, of trying to secure the release, of more hostages, out of Gaza?

RAVID: Well, first, let's talk about the hostages. So, Hamas notified both Egyptian and Qatari mediators that it is suspending the talks, over a possible new deal, to release hostages. This was like a first response, from Hamas. And Hezbollah announced that it will retaliate, for this assassination.

So, we're looking at two situations, where Hezbollah could retaliate, and Israeli officials think it will, and that it will do it, through launching long-range missiles, at Israeli cities, like Tel Aviv and Haifa, something that Israel would have to retaliate, again. And this could lead to this cycle that gets us to an escalation, and to a regional war, which is very dangerous.

On the other hand, some Israeli officials say that both the issue of the hostages, and the issue of tensions, on the border, with Lebanon, could actually -- that this assassination could actually improve the situation.

Because while in the immediate term, it will escalate things? In the more interim, it will basically send the message, to Hezbollah and to Hamas leadership in Gaza, that it's better off cooling off tensions with Israel, and going for a hostage deal. I'm not sure I would agree with this Israeli assessment. But many Israeli officials feel that way.

KEILAR: Very interesting.

How precarious, right now, is the political situation, for Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, given you had the defeat, this weekend, of his judicial overhaul, and also the fact that there's waning support, for funding, military aid funding of Israel, among Democrats, here in the U.S.?

RAVID: I think that when you look at what happened today?

On the one hand, it was a big blow to Hamas.

On the other hand, it was quite a big boost, to Netanyahu and his government. They were looking for almost three months, for some sort of a big win, that they could show to Israeli public opinion. And I think they got it today.

And although I'm not -- I don't think this was the reason, for killing al-Arouri, it is definitely an important side benefit, that Netanyahu can use, with his, not only his base, but Israeli public opinion, as a whole that, as you know, is not -- Netanyahu is not very popular, in Israel, these days, with more than 70 percent of Israelis, want him to resign, once the war's over.

KEILAR: Barak Ravid, thank you, for being with us, and for sharing your reporting, with us, tonight.

RAVID: Thank you. Good night.

KEILAR: Harvard's president is out. Was it Claudine Gay's testimony, on anti-Semitism, or her ongoing plagiarism scandal that finally did her in? We'll discuss. [21:30:00]


KEILAR: Tonight, Claudine Gay's brief tenure, as Harvard's president, is over. She resigned, after a firestorm of controversy thrust her into the national spotlight.

At a congressional hearing, last month, Gay and other university presidents were criticized, for failing to explicitly say, without equivocation, that calls for the genocide of Jewish people constituted bullying and harassment on campus.

The pressure, on Gay, intensified as an ongoing plagiarism scandal, involving her academic writings, revealed a growing list of violations, and became the focus of a House congressional investigation.

In a letter, to the Harvard community, Gay wrote, quote, "It has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor -- two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am -- and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus."

Joining me, tonight, we have former Communications Director to Vice President Kamala Harris, Jamal Simmons, with us.

And also, CNN Political Commentator, S.E. Cupp.

S.E., I do want to note here that sources tell CNN, Gay actually made this decision to resign, last week, ahead of some new plagiarism allegations that emerged, this week.

What is your reaction, to her resignation, today?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think in light of everything that Harvard was facing, it was the right call. From a PR perspective, right, there was a lot of incoming for Harvard.


But also, just because holding such an esteemed position, and having such a difficult time, saying the appropriate and correct things, really put a spotlight on college campuses.

And there is a scourge of anti-Semitism on college campuses today. That's not an invention of the right. That is something that has been acknowledged, by the White House, by Democrats, by liberal academics, by media outlets, by Jewish groups. And so, it's appropriate to cast an eye, on this deep-rooted, deep-seated problem.

Now that said, the resignation of Claudine Gay, and the earlier resignation of Liz Magill at Penn, does not solve this problem. And sort of the retaliatory nature, of folks, like Elise Stefanik, wanting to score political points, is also corrupting, an already very difficult, very complicated problem. But that said, I think it was the right move.

KEILAR: Jamal, what do you think?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If this is about plagiarism, then I think this is a - this is something that she probably made the decision that was the best decision for her, and for the university.

My understanding is, I saw today, in The Harvard Crimson, there were a couple of pieces that were written in the last -- right before, I guess, the holiday. And one of them was from an undergraduate, who was on the Honor Council, who said that if a student was brought before the Honor Council, they would be disciplined.

So, that -- that's, from my understanding, talking to Harvard professors today, that's something that really drove, I think, this question that could she stay with authority in the position. So, that -- that's real.

But if you take that one -- the tile of Claudine Gay, and you kind of pull it back, and look at this mosaic, there are a lot of African- American leaders, tonight, who feel like there is a -- it's a trendline that's very disturbing, that there's something happening, when particularly Black women are headed into academia, and they're taking on positions of leadership.

We saw what happened to Nikole Hannah-Jones, down at UNC, when she tried to go there. And she had her professorship taken away.

We saw what happened to Kathleen McElroy, at Texas A&M, where she had to return to University of Texas, because they rescinded her offer. They actually paid her a lot of money, to make that go away.

So, there are people, who feel like there's a trend that's happening, that the affirmative action case, the venture capital fund, that couldn't invest in, on women leaders, African-American women leaders, who wanted to start companies. There are all these things that are happening, in the American mosaic that are disturbing, about DEI, and whether or not we're going to have people of color, who are in the leadership of the country, as we become a more diverse country.

KEILAR: Yes. And there are many things happening all at once, in this case. I think it's easy to see that.

We heard Gay, Jamal, reference, "Personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus." And she's certainly heard, I think, some of the rhetoric, more rhetoric than we have heard, about her as well. She mentioned that in her resignation letter.

You have the Reverend, Al Sharpton, today, saying, quote, "President Gay's resignation is about more than a person or a single incident. This is an attack on every Black woman in this country who's put a crack in the glass ceiling."

But like I said, there's a lot going on here, right? There is, I think, to any eye, looking at what happened, there is some wrongdoing, here. So, what do you think about what he is saying there?

SIMMONS: Brianna, there's always wrongdoing. Right? I mean, when I started at the White House, I had to endure four or five days of attack, of opposition research, about something -- some Twitter, some old tweets, from when I started, from 10 years ago, that people tried to bring up. There's always something. The question is are people willing to, to invest in new leaders?

And so, one of the things that happened is I wrote a piece about this, a couple years ago, called The 4 Percent Problem, which is about African-American leadership, across sectors.

And one of the things when I talk to -- when I talked to social scientists, about this, is they call it a prototypicality threat, that people tend to believe that the best people for a job, are people who came up just like them.

Now, I'm the prototypical example of what success looks like, in my field. And so, if somebody else comes up, that doesn't look like me, or doesn't have the same qualifications as I do, I feel like maybe they're just not really qualified.

And, I worked for a Black woman, who was a Vice President. And one of the attacks, on Kamala Harris? You can say a lot of things about her. She got high staff turnover. Sometimes she just, she has funny words, she has, in her speeches.

But people come after her is whether or not she's qualified. This is a woman, who was a prosecutor, and it sits -- an Attorney General, of the largest state, who was a Senator, a Vice President. She's qualified, right?

But sooner or later, it just seems like the attack turns this question of qualifications, particularly when it's about African-American women.


KEILAR: Yes. S.E., what do you say to that that critics of how this has all gone down, who are in Claudine Gay's corner, will say Black women are subject to more scrutiny. They can't make mistakes that Black men can make. Women can't make mistakes--

CUPP: Yes.

KEILAR: --that men can make.

CUPP: Yes. I think that's all true. And I -- and Jamal knows this. I deeply respect him. He's really smart, and he's good friend.

However, I think the fact that over the past couple of minutes, we've been talking about everything, from DEI, to Kamala Harris, and breaking the glass ceiling, means we haven't been talking about anti- Semitism.

And it breaks my heart that her race is becoming the focal point, over a resignation that had nothing to do with it. She was not being pressured to resign, because she was Black.

I will remind you, Liz Magill at Penn, a White woman, resigned. Scott Bok, pressured to resign, a White man, at Penn. Sally Kornbluth, a White woman, at MIT, is being pressured to resign, again, not because of the racist-right. But because everyone, from the White House to Democrats, to liberal academics have acknowledged there is a real problem here.

And to me, while I think there are credibly important conversations, to be had, about race and sexism? I think this particular one really diminishes the deep pain, that Jewish Americans are feeling, right now, in the face of attacks, on their college campuses, where they no longer feel safe, and feeling like they don't have support, or even like there is an indifference, to their pain, and that one-time allies have decided that they're no longer supporting them.

So, I just want to be very careful, in this very complicated melange of stuff that's going on in here, to remain focused on what is a really serious, deeply disturbing problem, that was sort of awakened after the awful, horrific attacks, by Hamas, on October 7th.

SIMMONS: S.E., I want to be careful, too, because I think that's absolutely a very good and insightful point.

October 7th was horrid -- was horrific. And I think all of us, who watched it, most of us, who watched it, felt like that was the case. There is anti-Semitism on campus. That is also something that's true. It didn't start October 7th. But it did get unveiled then.

Some people at Harvard would say Claudine Gay--

CUPP: Yes.

SIMMONS: --was trying to find ways, to reach out to students, at Harvard, Jewish students at Harvard, although her testimony was lacking, when she was in front of Congress. So, I think that we have to -- that's all true.

I think that the conversation that we were just having, was a conversation about why even after we had the initial call, for her resignation, that Harvard Corporation decided to keep her, why the attacks kept coming at her? Why did it keep coming? And I think that's the place, where we have to wonder if race had something to do with that, that the attacks just sort of kept coming.

And so, while we all sort of recoil, at what happened, October 7th, I think we do have to also take a look at how it is we handle people that we disagree with, and whether or not race influences, how those people get handled, in the American media.

KEILAR: Jamal, and S.E., thank you so much. It's such an important conversation, to have. And I appreciate it.

CUPP: Thanks, Bri.

KEILAR: A deadly airport runway inferno, two planes colliding, in Tokyo, five on one plane killed, nearly 400 on another miraculously making it out alive. How did this happen?



KEILAR: New images, out tonight, of the deadly plane crash, that triggered an inferno, on a Tokyo runway. The crash site may offer investigators, some clues, about what went wrong here.

After Japan Airlines Flight 516, with nearly 400 passengers and crew on it, collided, as you saw just there, with a Coast Guard plane, a Dash 8, at Haneda Airport, some emergency doors were not functioning, on the airliner. But the flight crew got all 367 passengers out, as the cabin began to fill with smoke, as you can see in this video.

But at least five people, on the smaller Coast Guard aircraft were killed. They were headed, to help with relief efforts, in the earthquake zone, in western Japan.

Joining me now are former FAA Safety Inspector, David Soucie; and also, former Inspector General for the Department of Transportation, Mary Schiavo.

David, air traffic control audio appearing to show that the Japan Airlines flight was cleared for landing. What do you think went wrong? What other questions do you have now?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, the questions I have are the fact that we think that air traffic, they gave that clearance, perhaps they gave clearance to the other aircraft as well. But what I -- the question I have is, why did the air traffic controller not follow up on that?

Air traffic controllers are extremely busy. Their jobs are extremely difficult.

But to be able to say, I'm giving you clearance to do this, you need to also verify that the previous command that was given, was followed out properly. If you say, hold short of a runway? They need to go back and confirm that they did indeed hold short of the runway, not just get a verbal back from them. And I suspect that might be part of what's going on here.

It's a global issue that's gone on, as we know, far too often, in the United States, in just the last few months.

KEILAR: Meaning, they should have asked if they actually held short?

SOUCIE: No. They could actually confirm where the aircraft is. You can say, hold short of the runway. But then, you look to see, or you look visually, on your screen, to see where that aircraft is located.

If it ekes out onto that airport? If it ekes out onto that runway? Then, you've got to tell that, you've got to reverse your command, for landing approval, and tell them, you need to make a go-around and come back around a second time. But they obviously didn't do that. If they had done that, we wouldn't have seen a collision here.

KEILAR: Really interesting there.


Mary, we're getting these new images, of the collision aftermath, in Tokyo, this morning. We can see them, right here. What do you think investigators will be examining, from the crash site?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, from the crash site, in addition, they have to solve, of course, what went wrong, and make recommendations, so it doesn't happen again.

But they're going to be looking at this plane. And they will be aided by Airbus, as to how did the plane perform? How -- what were the functions of the -- the survivability factors? What was the flammability of the contents of the plane, of the seats, et cetera? And really looking for anything they can do to improve survival safety, in the future, as it has been improving, over the last two decades.

We have seen situations, like this before, where planes have been burned entirely. But the passengers have all gotten off, or maybe other than one or two or three, in the case of Asiana. But this is becoming more common that the plane will hold together, and the flammability is better, so you can get the passengers off.

KEILAR: Yes. It's really amazing. You look at these pictures. And yet, everyone on that flight survived.

David, Miles O'Brien brought up an interesting point, which was this is an aircraft -- and correct me, if I'm wrong here -- that has a overlay that allows the pilots, to not have to keep hearing down, at their instruments. And that part of this actually does -- it gives some light, within the cockpit, or what they are seeing, through the cockpit window.

Is that something that could have gotten in the way, of this Japan Airlines pilot team, seeing what might have been in front of them? Or were they not going to have a chance seeing a little plane, on the runway?

SOUCIE: They should be able to see a little plane on the runway. That's not an issue, even if the heads-up display is active. But at this point, in the approach, it should not be active, for at least one of the pilots. One of the pilots should have a clear view, of what's going on outside at all times. So, it shouldn't have interfered with that.

If it was on, if it was an issue? It's one of the things, like Mary said, what is it that they can do to prevent this from happening in the future? But I don't see that as being a contributing factor, at this point, unless there was something wrong with how they used it.

KEILAR: Mary, what are all the lessons that will be taken from this?

SCHIAVO: This is what's so important, and can be really life-saving, for passengers, and pilots, and airplanes, around the world.

And that is that this was a tremendous warning call, for the nation. Not only has the United States have a terrible problem, with runway incursions, runway near-misses. This last year was the highest in many years. It's on the rise. It's the one aviation statistic that is headed the wrong way.

The International Civil Aviation Organization that looks at safety, around the world, says runway incursions, and runway safety issues, account for 60 percent of the aviation deaths.

People should look at this accident, look very carefully, and say, what do we need at all of our airports? Be it runway positioning information, we have systems we could put in the airport that would give the tower exact information, and give the pilots and the air traffic controllers, warnings, when there's going to be runway incursions.

This is a wake-up call the world should heed, because it could have been just terribly worse. And it's an accident, waiting to happen, like this, at airports, all over America, and all around the world.


KEILAR: Yes. They'll be lucky to learn this lesson, with this, so many people surviving.

David, Mary, thank you to both of you.


SOUCIE: Thank you, Brianna.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

KEILAR: He's been at the helm of the NRA, for decades. But Wayne LaPierre is now facing an ouster, rooted in a corruption case. What we're learning, tonight, about the trial, as jury selection begins.



KEILAR: The longtime leader of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, facing a lawsuit to essentially fire him.

The New York Times reporting on a trove of details, about New York A.G., Letitia James' attempt, to remove LaPierre, after decades, at the helm, of the controversial gun lobbying group.

The lawsuit centers on allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement, including prosecutors say, $40,000 Beverly Hills shopping sprees, another $250,000, on travel expenses to the Bahamas, and Italy's Lake Como, among other destinations. All of this allegedly, on the NRA's tab.

LaPierre has argued his expenditures were all legitimate business expenses.

With us now, CNN Contributor, and Writer for The Trace, Jennifer Mascia.

Jennifer, thanks for being with us.

There have been so many attempts, to oust LaPierre, as the face of the NRA. What makes this different?

JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This could actually cost him his job. This is not NRA executives standing near him. And he has fended off coup attempts, by dissident NRA members.

This is something that -- the New York Attorney General says she can prove that LaPierre, as well as three other top executives, enriched themselves, with funds that members thought they were donating, to advocate for gun rights. And James alleges that they used as a "Personal piggy bank." Those are her exact words.

So, these are pretty damning allegations. And as we've seen, through The Trace, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, a lot of the details have already been reported.

So, she says that she can back this up, with receipts.

KEILAR: The NRA's power and its financial might, its waned in recent years. Is it in danger of dissolving altogether, you think?

MASCIA: James actually tried to get the NRA dissolved, as part of this case. And the same judge that's presiding over this segment of the trial is -- rejected that. So, this is not going to be like a corporate death penalty, for the NRA.

But it could be the end of Wayne LaPierre. As we know, for most Americans, he's the only voice of the NRA, and the only face of the NRA that we've seen. He's the originator of the "Good guy with a gun" line.


And so, this could end the NRA, as we know it. But NRA-ism has basically been absorbed, by the Republican Party. The Republican Party has made all of the NRA's asks part of their platform. So, in a way, the NRA's, over the decades, has been mostly successful. And if it changed, streamlined, or even ended, tomorrow, it's basically done its job.

KEILAR: As you said, it's been assimilated, certainly into the messaging, and into the culture.

Jennifer Mascia, thank you so much, for being with us.

MASCIA: Thank you.

KEILAR: And thank you, for joining us.