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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Trump Asks SCOTUS To Overturn Colorado Ruling That Removes Him From The Ballot; Speaker Johnson Leads 60+ Republicans To Southern Border; Haley, DeSantis Campaign In Iowa, New Hampshire Days Away From First Votes Of 2024 GOP Primary. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 03, 2024 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
Donald Trump's urgent appeal, to the Supreme Court, to get back on the ballot, in Colorado. Former President says that January 6th wasn't an insurrection. And even if it was, he didn't engage in it.
Also, names are dropping, tonight, some big names, in the long-secret Jeffrey Epstein casefiles. Who else has now been linked to the dead sex offender?
And a mystery, tonight, after twin bombings have killed over 100 people, in Iran, at a memorial, for the man, who was once known as Iran's Shadow Commander, who was killed, in a U.S. airstrike, ordered by then-President Trump. These bombs today, exploding just feet from the Iranian general's tomb. The question, still tonight is who did it.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Tonight, Donald Trump has officially filed that appeal, to overturn last month's explosive ruling, from Colorado's High Court that declared he was ineligible, to appear on the state's primary ballot, determining that he had engaged in an insurrection.
The new appeal, tonight, is only raising new pressure on the nine justices that you see here, to settle this matter, once and for all, or potentially risk chaos, in a presidential election year.
With similar battles, over the ballot, and Trump bubbling up in other states as well, we're left with a key question, tonight. Can the former President be disqualified, from holding public office again, under the Constitution's insurrectionist ban? And does states get to make that decision?
Trump has also appealed the decision, in Maine that happened to remove him from its ballot. That was to the state court there, after that decision, from the Secretary of State, last week.
As for the arguments, in this new appeal, tonight, Trump and his lawyers are claiming that there are many grounds, they believe, for reversal, alleging that January 6 wasn't an insurrection. Even if it were, that Trump didn't engage in it. And that questions of presidential eligibility are reserved for Congress only to resolve.
I should note, all of this is coming, as you just heard Anderson, talking about those Town Halls, 12 days before the first votes are going to be cast, in the nation, in Iowa.
It also comes as we are learning that Trump is making plans, to attend next week's arguments, in a federal appeals court, here in Washington, on the subject of whether or not he's immune from prosecution, for actions that he took, while he was president. Presidential immunity.
The Supreme Court has declined to fast-track taking up that case, on a previous request, from the Special Counsel, Jack Smith. But this case also appears headed for the nine justices to decide.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Because we are.
I want to bring in Eric Olson, the attorney, who was representing the plaintiffs, in this case, the voters, who sued to remove Trump, from the ballot, in Colorado.
And Eric, it's great to have you, here tonight.
What is your response, to the arguments, that the Trump legal team is laying out, in this appeal, tonight?
ERIC OLSON, COLORADO ATTORNEY: Thanks, Kaitlan.
Our response is that this is more of the same. They basically claim that the Colorado Supreme Court got everything wrong. When in fact, they issued a thorough, detailed opinion, affirming the trial court's finding that Donald Trump engaged in an insurrection against the Constitution, and holding that the Constitution applies to him, just like it applies to all of us.
COLLINS: So, you don't think that any of the arguments that they're making here, in your view, are valid?
OLSON: Well, they're arguments we've all seen before, and have been rejected by the courts.
He claims here, I guess, the one new thing is he claims, for the first time, that no court, not even the United States Supreme Court, can determine whether someone engaged in an insurrection, and that he's above any judicial determination, of what he did, leading up to and on January 6th.
That's just not the law. And we're confident the Supreme Court will reject that claim.
COLLINS: Well, what I'm interested in part of the argument here, and this is something that we have gone round and round about, when talking about this issue, with legal experts, constitutional law experts.
And it's an argument that is the Trump legal team says here, even if the Supreme Court in Colorado could consider challenges to Trump's eligibility that they misapply the law because the President is not an officer of the United States, and never took an oath as one, and that the presidency is not an office under the U.S.
OLSON: Well, Kaitlan, that argument has been raised several times. The overwhelming majority of scholars reject it, and properly so.
Because to give that argument effect, would mean that Jefferson Davis, who led the Confederacy, led the Civil War, against the United States, could have become its president, shortly thereafter. There's no indication in historical record that that's what anyone intended.
It was a broad ban, applying to all those, who held office, and were officers. And the President was and is both.
COLLINS: So even, as they kind of point out that there are other parts in the Constitution, where it does lay out officers of the United States, and it lists the presidency separately, you don't think that it's separate, even though it's referenced separately, in other parts of the Constitution?
OLSON: No. We think that the court -- the Colorado Supreme Court thoroughly addressed this question, and properly held that the Constitution applies to everyone.
And the purpose of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was to prevent those that took an oath, to support our Constitution, and then engaged in insurrection, from holding office again. And there is no reason, whatsoever, to think that they left out the most powerful person, in our democracy, the President, from that prohibition.
Again, Jefferson Davis could become president, under this theory. There's no basis in law or history for that to be the case.
COLLINS: When it comes to this, and the questions of, you look back at history and what it tells you, about when we're looking ahead, to what the Supreme Court is going to do here, do you think that they will take this case up? And if so, are you still hoping to get a decision, as soon as February 11th?
OLSON: We certainly expect they will take the case. Every party, to the case, has urged them to take it. We disagree a little about what questions they should take. But every party has urged them to take it.
And if they don't take this one, there's more behind. There's ones coming from Maine, and perhaps other states. So, the court will need to address this, this case quickly. This is an ideal vehicle to do it.
As to whether they'll decide it by February 11th? Voters, in Colorado, receive their ballots, on February 12th. We've asked the court to work quickly here, to issue a briefing schedule, an argument schedule, that allows them to complete a decision by February 11th, so that those voters in Colorado, and elsewhere, on Super Tuesday, have the benefit of knowing whether Donald Trump--
COLLINS: If they--
OLSON: --is disqualified.
COLLINS: If they do take it, how tough, do you think, the fight is going to be, for your side?
OLSON: I think this court has shown a willingness, to step aside, from sort of the partisan frame, on these hard issues that are important to our democracy.
We're optimistic that as did the Colorado Supreme Court that when you look closely, at the legal arguments and evidence presented here, there really isn't a close case here. Donald Trump engaged in an insurrection, against the Constitution. And therefore, under the Constitution, he cannot be our president again.
COLLINS: We'll see what the courts decide, if they do end up deciding here.
Eric Olson, an attorney, representing the plaintiffs here, thank you so much, for your time, tonight.
OLSON: Thank you, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: And joining me now, to break down this lengthy filing that we got.
John Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon.
Elie Honig, former Assistant U.S. Attorney, for the Southern District of New York, and CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, and regular here, on THE SOURCE.
Elie, so let me start with you. Because you just heard what Eric Olson was arguing there, how his assessment of reading this. What are the strongest points that you think the Trump legal team is making here, and the weakest?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Kaitlan.
So, Trump's brief, which was just filed, earlier today, is 34 pages long. But let me break it down into sort of the four major arguments that Trump's team makes.
Number one, he argues he did not engage in insurrection. I think that's a weak argument, first of all, on the facts. But second of all, the Supreme Court is not going to touch that. They're not a fact- finder. They don't do trials. They generally won't make that kind of finding.
Argument two that Trump makes is this is up to Congress. Congress has to tell us how this works. It's not up to the individual states. That would cause chaos. I tend to think that's a stronger argument. I think that would give us some sense of uniformity, or there's ways to read the 14th Amendment, either way on that. The third argument that Trump makes, in the brief, is that even if it is up to the states, like Colorado, he says he was not given due process. Colorado did not follow its own rules. And the hearing that he was given was insufficient. I think that's a fairly close call.
And then the fourth argument we just heard Mr. Olson responding to is this claim that the term, "Officers," as it's used in the insurrection clause, does not include the president. I tend to side with Colorado and Mr. Olson on that one. You can carve that up linguistically, either way. But I think just commonsense, as Mr. Olson just said, how could it not apply to the president?
But all of this is new, Kaitlan. Whatever happens here, we're all going to learn together.
COLLINS: John Dean, if you're a Supreme Court justice, what are you thinking about, tonight, as this is, it seems inevitable to lay out, in their laps?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the brief actually, the petition anticipates the court, in that they are very, very light on the argument that there was no insurrection, and Trump wasn't involved.
I don't think the court wants to go into that. As Elie said, there's a fact-finding body in Colorado that really looked thoroughly at that, did have a trial on it, for five days. And they're not going to go there.
But so, what I'm looking at is what is going to solve this problem, statewide and nationally, if you will? So that -- because it's going to come back up at the level of the general election. So, we need to get it resolved.
COLLINS: Yes, it could be chaos, if they don't.
Elie, we've been hearing, from Trump attorneys.
I do wonder, if to a degree, part of the argument was that Trump wanted that included, in this response, to say that he didn't engage in the insurrection, because he was, whenever that was determined, by the courts, in Colorado, by the Secretary of State there, it was a sore point for him.
But his attorney, Christina Bobb, was talking about the application of the 14th Amendment. This is what she told -- what she said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINA BOBB, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment doesn't even apply to the president. It's not self-executing. Donald Trump hasn't been charged with insurrection. And this is a question for the voters. The reason why it doesn't apply to the president was because the drafters, of the 14th Amendment, realized that the president is elected by the entire nation, and it should be the entire nation who determines who they want for president, whether they're guilty of insurrection or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Elie, is that a strong legal argument, in your view?
HONIG: Well, I agree with half of it.
DEAN: No (ph).
HONIG: I agree when she says that it's not necessarily self-executing, because Section 5 of the 14th Amendment says Congress has to pass laws, telling us how this works. And it's not left up to the state. That's what this sort of self-executing argument means.
I disagree with the point she was making that it does not apply to the President.
I do want to agree strongly with something that John Dean -- Justice Dean just said that, I think is a really important point.
If the Supreme Court takes this case, there's a way they can decide it, where they answer all of these challenges at once.
If they say it's only up to Congress? All 50 states, that's it, we're done, no more of these challenges. But if they say, yes, the states can do as they please, and Colorado did, or did not meet that? Then, we're going to have 49 other challenges.
So, they have a really important decision to make about how broadly they want to cast their decision here.
COLLINS: Well, that is an interesting question, John, that Elie raises there, which is how they're approaching this.
Because obviously, we've seen the Supreme Court, under a microscope, in recent years. After the 2000, after the Bush v. Gore election, or decision there, there was, you know, they took a hit to their standing, essentially.
When it comes to how they could decide this, it's not just a yes or no. There are different ways and narrower scopes that we could see, as an outcome, from the Supreme Court, of what this could look like, right?
DEAN: That's right, Kaitlan. And they may also wait a while. They don't have to take this petition immediately. They might want to see what other states do, and not tip their hand, as to how they feel about it.
So, the problem is still young. The issue is growing. More states are, I think, there's something like 14 states out there, with this issue still brewing. So, who knows how they're going to resolve it? I think, ultimately, they're going to have to.
There's no question that will have to be resolved, before the end of the general election. But when is still open -- an open question.
COLLINS: Elie Honig, Justice John Dean, I like that, that name, thank you both, for joining, tonight.
DEAN: Thank you.
COLLINS: Up next, here on THE SOURCE, long-awaited documents have finally been unsealed. Names are being revealed, of many people, who were tied to sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, after these names have been kept secret for years.
Also, tonight, a CNN first, speaking with the new House Speaker, who went to the southern border, today, talking about the Biden administration's handling of the crisis, there.
Back in a moment.
COLLINS: Four years of anonymity, for Jeffrey Epstein's friends and his business partners, is ending, at this hour, tonight, here at 9 o'clock, on the East Coast, as hundreds of court documents have now been unsealed.
That includes revelations, from depositions of women, who once worked, for the notorious sex trafficker. One such revelation just coming out involves a woman, claiming that Jeffrey Epstein made startling comments, about former President Bill Clinton, just one of the many powerful people expected to be named here.
CNN's Senior Crime and Justice Correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz, joins me now.
Shimon, there's a very specific detail--
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIMES AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
COLLINS: --that just came out, about the former President. What is that? And what else can you tell us about this entire release overall?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. And this is pretty much, from our understanding. It's this new information that's being released. And it came, from a deposition, of a former employee, a woman, who worked for Jeffrey Epstein.
And she claimed, in her deposition, that Epstein told her that the former President, quote, "Likes them young." She said that. According to her that Bill Clinton had a conversation with Jeffrey -- Jeffrey Epstein, and that Epstein said that at one time, Clinton told him that he likes them young, or that Epstein said that he likes them young. The former President, obviously, who there has been information, out there about his association with Jeffrey Epstein, he's denied any wrongdoing. And, in 2019, he admitted that he had flown, on Jeffrey Epstein's plane. But said that he knew nothing of his terrible crimes.
And then today, a spokesperson again, denied that there was any wrongdoing, and that it's been nearly 20 years, since President Clinton had any contact, with Epstein, and that Clinton has not been accused of any crimes, or wrongdoing, related to Epstein.
Now, there's hundreds and hundreds of documents that were released, late tonight. We are expecting many more documents, to be released in the coming days.
And the importance of all this, Kaitlan, of course, it's just the transparency, for the victims, for journalists, who have been fighting, for a lot of this information.
This all stems from a lawsuit that was brought by one of the victims, against Epstein's former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. There was a lawsuit against her, by one of the victims. And for years, this lawsuit had gone on. They had eventually settled. And just now, all of this information is coming out.
Also, Prince Andrew is mentioned, in these documents. That is not new, as well. That information has been out there, previously.
But there's still a lot more that we're trying to learn. And once more documents come out we'll certainly see those documents.
As to Ghislaine Maxwell, of course, she was convicted, back in 2021, of sex trafficking.
And then, as you know, Jeffrey Epstein, he died by suicide, awaiting trial, at a New York State jail.
COLLINS: Shimon Prokupecz, I know you're going to continue to look through this. As you do, let us know. And standby, because we do have more news.
I'm joined now by Lisa Bryant. She is the Director, of a documentary, called "Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich," and has done extensive work, on the life.
And I just wonder, Lisa, what you make of these new revelations that are coming out, tonight?
LISA BRYANT, DIRECTOR, "JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH": Well, it's interesting, because I've been following this for a while.
COLLINS: Go ahead.
BRYANT: I -- so OK. I heard someone talking.
I would be surprised -- if I'm surprised by many of the names that come out that are new, because I've been investigating this for so long. I do think many of these names have been reported. I mean, Clinton, we've been hearing about for years.
I do think that there will be, some surprises. It's certainly for the general public that has not taken such a deep dive.
But I do think what will be interesting is, is like these new details about, like President Clinton, or Fitzer (ph), or things that are just coming out, now, we didn't know that come out -- we hear from these depositions, of these young women, who said, they might have been with some person, and they name that person, and that person's name comes out.
So, it'll be very interesting to see, because it's just happening, in the moment, now. How many new surprises there are?
And, do I think that there's going to be more prosecutions, or anything like that? I doubt it.
Sadly, I spoke with a couple of the survivors, tonight, who were featured in the documentaries. And they are, on one hand, they're relieved. They feel some sort of justice in this. They feel, they want to keep the conversation going. But they don't have much hope, in the government, because they haven't done much, over the years.
Because, as you know, right now, the only person, who has been prosecuted is, is a woman, Ghislaine Maxwell, who certainly, should be behind bars. But, even she's complaining that, certainly there's so many other people involved.
It's interesting in this, network of all these men, who've been trafficking young women, and underage women, for decades. And yet, the only person that's been prosecuted, is a woman. So yes, she should be behind bars and was convicted.
BRYANT: But there are many, many other people that, should be held accountable as well.
COLLINS: I think that's a really important point, Lisa, on who is facing consequences, for their actions here. It's interesting to hear, how the survivors feel about this. So, thank you, for sharing that, Lisa Bryant.
And I want to bring back in Shimon Prokupecz.
Because Shimon, you are continuing to look through this. What else are you learning about who's named in this?
PROKUPECZ: So, now we have a reference here to, Kaitlan, to Donald Trump. This is also coming from a deposition, of Johanna Sjoberg. She was an employee of Jeffrey Epstein. And according to her deposition, which was released, that she said
that she recalled a time, she was with Jeffrey Epstein, on one of his planes. And the pilots had said that he needed to land in Atlantic City. And then she says that "Jeffrey said, 'Great, we'll call up Trump,'" and we'll go to -- and then she said, she doesn't remember the name of the casino in Atlantic City, but "We'll go to the casino."
She also then says that in her deposition, there was a question about whether she had any inappropriate contact, or relationship, with Trump. And she says that she never gave a massage to Trump.
So, here we're seeing Donald Trump's name, now. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, former President Bill Clinton. And that continues, as we continue to look through the documents, to see what other prominent people could potentially be named.
COLLINS: So, she doesn't say, in the deposition, based on what we've seen whether or not that actually that proposal that Jeffrey Epstein had--
COLLINS: --actually happened?
PROKUPECZ: Correct. It's not entirely clear, if that ever happens. This is just a claim that she made. This is what she's saying that Epstein said to her, I guess, and the pilots, when the pilots had asked -- said they needed to land in Atlantic City.
We don't know why they needed to land in Atlantic City. There's no context here. But certainly, obviously seeing that name. And again, we've known that the former President -- former President Donald Trump, his name has certainly surfaced, previously, with Jeffrey Epstein.
COLLINS: Lot of powerful people on edge.
Shimon Prokupecz, I know you'll continue to go through this. And keep us updated. Thank you for that.
COLLINS: Also, ahead here tonight, House Speaker, Mike Johnson, was on the southern border, today, speaking also with Jake Tapper, while he was there, about what he believes needs to be done, about the immigration crisis.
But House Republicans saying that shutting down the federal government, if they don't get what they want, is also on the table.
COLLINS: Tonight, any fix on the border, by lawmakers in Washington, looks pretty grim. And I'm putting it nicely. This is the state of play, right now.
House Speaker, Mike Johnson, at the southern border, tonight, as members of his own party are threatening to shut down the government, if they don't get what they want, on immigration.
Speaker Johnson was leading more than 60 House Republicans, here, on a tour, in Eagle Pass. That's in Texas.
And Republicans, at large, are in a standoff, right now, here in Washington, with the White House over implementing stricter immigration policies, including restoring some Trump-era policies, in exchange for funding on Ukraine, Israel, border funding in there as well, from the White House.
In Washington, I should note, Republicans say that they're moving ahead, also, with impeachment proceedings, against Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, over his handling, of what's happening at the border.
President Biden, and Senate Democrats meanwhile, including in talks that Mayorkas is involved in, have signaled an openness, on making what the President has said they would be willing to do, significant changes. But he has blamed House Republicans, for quote, obstructing the talks.
Speaker Johnson responded, to the President, here on CNN, earlier, with my colleague, Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): What the White House is proposing is more money to process, and allow more illegals into the country. We need to do the opposite of that.
And this is -- you don't need to take my word for it. Listen to the Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, who was with us, last night. And he told us, in his own words. He said, it's as if I'm at an open fire hydrant. I don't need more buckets to dump the water. He said, I need to turn the flow off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: His argument there being that the issue will not be solved, simply with more money.
Jake Tapper is here. And he joins me now.
And Jake, you also asked Speaker Johnson, about this threat that is coming, from House Republicans, not all of them, some of them, to shut the government down, if they don't get their immigration changes that they want, as a part of this deal.
This is what Speaker Johnson told you about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The House Freedom Caucus, a very important flank, in the Republican Party, you're talking about, refusing to vote, to keep the government open, unless H.R. 2 is law.
How seriously do you take those threats?
JOHNSON: Well, look, I don't think it's just the Freedom Caucus. I think you have most House Republicans, who are responding to their constituents' concerns, about this border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: It seems like it's a growing sentiment, around these Republicans, Jake.
TAPPER: Yes. I mean, Speaker Johnson has a very narrow majority. By the end of the month, I think he'll only be able to lose two votes, two House votes. He'll have 219 seats. So, he can't afford to lose anyone, really.
And certainly, there is a big crisis at the border. And certainly, the federal government is in charge of that. And so, they feel as though they have a winning issue, and an issue where they can apply some pressure points, on President Biden.
The problem is? And I've been in this town for a long time, covering immigration battles, for a long time. And the problem always seems to come down to the fact that the Senate, even when the House is under Republican control, the Senate is, there just aren't 60 votes, to support what the House Republicans want to do. And that's whether there's a Republican in the White House, or a Democrat, in the White House.
And it seems as though we are in the exact same scenario, we've been, in the past, when the issue was a much broader one, having to do with larger immigration reform measures.
This is one, where there are no carrots even being offered, to the Democrats, within the construct of immigration itself. And Democrats have actually moved more to the conservative side, on so many of these issues, the White House has made -- is ready to make a number of concessions. But the Republicans just feel like they don't want to concede almost anything.
COLLINS: Yes, it stood out that, during that interview, he which -- at the border, it's obviously a photo-op. We've seen Democrats and Republicans do it. I mean, he accused President Biden of -- when he visited the border, it being a photo-op.
But just the fact that they're not in Washington, where those negotiations are happening, talking to the lawmakers, in the Senate, their colleagues, in the Senate, about actually passing bills that would actually fix this.
Because no matter what you talk about what the President could do here, or mayors, or other people, it's really Congress that everyone looks to, that time and time again, doesn't actually do anything.
TAPPER: Yes. And look, they have a point, the House Republicans, Speaker Johnson, when it comes to the fact that the federal government is in charge of enforcing the border laws.
But the truth of the matter is, Congress writes the laws. Congress makes the laws. And the negotiations, as you note, are in the Senate, right now. And they are not proceeding particularly well.
And one of the reasons is, because whatever they agreed to, in the Senate, has to be signed off on, by the House. And House Republicans want their bill, H.R. 2, which includes a lot of Trump-era border laws that the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, says are just a non- starter.
And frankly, I don't even know that most Republic -- that while most Republicans, in the Senate, would vote for him. But I don't even know that they'd get all Senate Republicans, when it comes to H.R. 2.
It's a pretty tough bill on the border. And it doesn't include any sort of measures, to appease anybody, who might be more moderate, on the issue, such as, for example, providing a path to legal status, for the DREAMers, or any of the other items that might be included, in a more comprehensive border and immigration measure.
COLLINS: Yes, doesn't seem like anything as coming close to any kind of an agreement.
Jake Tapper, a great interview. Thanks for joining us, tonight.
TAPPER: Thanks, Kaitlan. Good to see you.
COLLINS: And for more on the migrant crisis, how it's affecting people nationwide, I want to bring in a Mayor, whose city is being directly impacted by this. Denver Mayor, Mike Johnston. Not to be confused with House Speaker, Mike Johnson.
MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON, DENVER, COLORADO: Yes.
COLLINS: Mayor, it's great to have you, here tonight.
I mean, this is a real issue that you're dealing with, on a daily basis. And I know that officials, in your city, have been very firm that it is hitting a breaking point, in handling the influx of migrants. I mean, what is the situation, in Denver, as it stands, this evening?
JOHNSTON: Yes, thanks so much for having me, Kaitlan.
And we are on the frontlines. Denver is, right now, the single largest recipient per capita of any city in the country, in terms of the number of migrants, arriving to our city. So, we know exactly what we're facing. We know exactly what's not working.
[21:35:00] I think what's broken about the current situation is you have someone that comes into the border, with a valid claim of asylum, folks that have credible fear about their persecution in their country. They get admitted into the country.
But often -- I talked to a migrant yesterday, who has an asylum date that is in 2029. It is six years out till that asylum could get heard, because there's a backlog of adjudicative capacity, to hear those cases, at the border.
Then, Governor Abbott just decides where to pick those folks up, and send them to a small number of American cities that he wants to try to exact political punishment on. And then they arrive in our cities, without either the ability to work or federal resources to support them.
And so, we know the current system isn't working. But it's also actually very clear to us that there is a path that does work here.
And that is if we can have folks that arrive, with work authorization, with federal support, and with a plan for coordinated entry, throughout the country, we actually, as mayors, can make this system work, if we can get, as you said, Congress to actually act on the things we need, which are the federal dollars for support, for border staff, federal dollars for city support, and the work authorization we need to get people to work.
COLLINS: Just to quickly follow up on that, you mentioned Governor Abbott bussing migrants, often to places, where they don't intend to go, or don't fully know where they're going, once they arrive there, what to do.
Your governor has also, I believe, said today that he is also going to have to bus migrants, to other cities, because it is too great of a burden, on your state. Is that something that you approve of?
JOHNSTON: I mean, what we try to do is just help people arrive to the destinations they tried to seek. So, we have people who came to Denver, and they want to be in Denver? We help them integrate and succeed here.
We'll have folks that arrive in Denver and say, I never had to plan to go to Denver, I wanted to go to see my family in L.A. But someone put me on a bus to Denver.
If you're arriving in the country, without a network, without work authorization, without support? We do think it's important, we help you arrive to a place, where you do have networks and family and support.
So, we will do that for folks that asked for it. But that's at their own volition, on their own request. We're not forcing folks to go to cities, they don't want to, which is what we're getting over and over here, in Denver.
COLLINS: So, you -- OK. So, you're saying it's more that the migrants, who are being bused, out of Colorado to other places, they know where they're going?
JOHNSTON: Oh, yes, they're asking for it. They say, I had a family in L.A. Can you send me there? I was trying to get to Memphis, because I have my cousin there. So, it's only if they're choosing it, and asking for us to do it, then we help them provide onward travel.
But what we see over and over, is that the biggest challenge really, every day, I talk to folks, in these sites. And they'll say, Mr. Mayor, all I want is a chance to work.
And at the same time, I'll get calls from employers, every day, who will say, Mike, I know these folks have arrived. I have open jobs. Can I please hire them?
And we need Congress to act because the problem is, right now, we have people, who want to work, and employers, who want to hire them, and we can actually connect them to those jobs, without some federal policy change.
COLLINS: Speaking of that federal policy change, I mean, you've asked the White House, and made direct appeals to them to help, saying, you need dollars, you need help getting those work permits sped up.
Do you think the federal government is listening to those pleas? Are they doing enough, to help people, like in your city, in Denver, officials like you, with this crisis?
JOHNSTON: Yes, I do think the White House has helped.
And Secretary Mayorkas has helped. I mean, I spoke with him directly, five, six months ago. And we asked him about this work authorization. And he responded by changing the temporary protective status, so that Venezuelans, who arrived before August 1st, could apply for work authorization. That's why folks were so successfully integrating, in this country, for the last, six months, was because of that policy change.
Now, new arrivals, in the last two or three months, don't have that work authorization. That's why we see more and more folks ending up, on the street, in encampments, or with additional needs.
So, I think the Biden administration understands this. They understand they want to speed up asylum claims. That's why, in this federal supplemental bill, you have dollars, for more adjudication, at the border. You have dollars, for support for cities. And they're trying to expand, I think, the need for work authorization. I think they see what has to get done.
The challenge is we have, I think, House Republicans--
COLLINS: I wonder--
JOHNSTON: --who've been trying to hold up those dollars that we need.
COLLINS: Well, what do you make of the effort, by House Republicans, to potentially impeach Secretary Mayorkas? I assume you don't agree with that?
JOHNSTON: I think it's exactly the wrong decision. I think he's the reason why our cities have been able to be successful, to this date, is because he's helped give us the flexibility, around workout authorization that's helped get folks to work.
I mean, what I would say, after I listened to that interview, Jake did, with Speaker Johnson, is? I was with a gentleman, today, who followed me around. I walked him, entire time (ph). And he at the end just said, Mr. Mayor, look at me. I walked 3,000 miles, to get here. I have strong hands. I have a strong back. I have a big heart. I will work anywhere. I just want a job. Can you please help me?
And what Republican congressmen wants to look that man, in the eyes, and say, no, no, you can't work. Don't work. Sit on a street corner, beg for money, get caught into a drug subculture. Have the city or the state have to support you.
Nothing more un-American than denying folks the chance who want to work and support themselves, to force them, to sit on a street corner, and have the cities and the states provide them with essentially welfare state support. That's not what they're asking for. That's not what they need. What they want is a chance to work. And we should give that to them.
COLLINS: 3,000 miles, I mean, it's hard to even think about that.
Mayor Mike Johnston, thank you, for joining us, here on THE SOURCE, tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thanks so much, for having me. Have a great evening.
COLLINS: Up next, an important questions still being raised tonight, after two blasts killed more than 100 people, in Iran. It is throwing the Middle East, into deeper chaos than it already was. It's raised fears of a wider war.
The former Trump National Security Adviser, John Bolton, will join us, with his assessment.
COLLINS: Tonight, a senior U.S. official says that a pair of deadly explosions, in Iran, quote, "Look like a terrorist attack," and that the M.O. fits with ISIS.
State media putting the death toll at more than 100 people, after two explosions tore through a crowd, in an Iranian city of Kerman, today.
American officials were quick to say that it was not the U.S., that they had no indication either that it was Israel.
This is coming four years to the day, since that U.S. airstrike took out the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, Soleimani. The bombs detonated today, four years after that, near his tomb. Among the more than 100 were killed, many were mourners, who were gathered there, for the anniversary.
Iran's Supreme Leader is now warning that his country will have a harsh response to this.
And all of this is coming, and this is the important context here, as Iran-backed Hezbollah has also been vowing a, quote, "Limitless" response, to a strike, yesterday, that killed a top Hamas leader, in Lebanon.
Another group, backed by Iran, Houthi militias, out of Yemen, have launched at least 100 attacks, on ships, in the Red Sea, just over the last month alone.
Few have as long of a history, in the region, as my next guest, John Bolton, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, under President George W. Bush. And also, of course, was the National Security Adviser to former President Trump.
So, Ambassador Bolton, great to have you.
No one is claiming responsibility for this yet. But if you're in the Situation Room, tonight, what would you be looking at? What would -- who do you think could be responsible for this?
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER UNDER TRUMP: Well, there are a variety of possibilities.
I know, as you indicated, the U.S. officials have pointed toward ISIS. I don't think that's plausible. I don't think ISIS has the reach to do that.
I don't think it was Israel. That's not their style. They don't particularly gain anything out of this.
This memorial ceremony was undoubtedly attended, by many, many supporters, of the regime, in Tehran, which leads me to believe there's a pretty good possibility, it was some kind of anti-regime force. The Ayatollahs are in a much weaker position, I think than people believe, much weaker than at any point, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. My guess is that's it.
Or, it's just a cynical device, by the Ayatollahs, themselves. They have immediately pointed the finger at Israel. And if they were looking, for a pretext, to take action against Israel directly? Now, they have it.
But we'll have to know more. I don't think you can make a definite response to it, at this point.
COLLINS: I mean, that latter part, tensions have been so high, in the region, since October 7th. I mean, if that is something, and that is what happened here? And we don't know yet. No one has taken responsibility for this. I mean, how worried would you be that that would escalate tensions, to where we could potentially see Iran getting directly involved, in what's happening, between Israel and Hamas?
BOLTON: Well, I think the intensity might go up.
But I think the central point is Iran is involved in all of this activity.
This region, right now, is one chessboard. You have the Houthi rebels, in the Red Sea; Hamas, obviously, in Israel; Hezbollah, attacking Northern Israel, from Lebanon; Shia militia, attacking American servicemembers, and civilian personnel in Syria and Iraq. And Iran just last week launching a drone strike, against a ship, in the Indian Ocean.
All of this is being coordinated in Tehran. I don't yet know what their full strategy is. But they are in the war, right now, through their proxies.
And we are not deterring them. And I think the risk for a more intense conflict is real, not because of anything that we're doing, but because of what we're not doing.
COLLINS: Also, on top of this, as I just mentioned, before I introduced you, this killing of this Hamas leader, a senior Hamas leader, we're told, in Lebanon, that the U.S. believes was Israel carrying out that strike.
What does that say to you about Israel's strategy here? Because I believe, they've said, we'll find these Hamas leaders, wherever they are. I mean, I believe this would be the first time that we've seen one killed, outside of Gaza.
BOLTON: Well, perhaps in this particular conflict.
But let's come back to what Israel has said, since within days of the October 7 attack. They intend to eliminate Hamas. Now, a lot of people don't seem to believe that. I think this guy believes it, in heaven or hell, wherever he is, at the moment, because they've taken him off the battlefield. And I think it is a signal that they are very determined.
And all the talk about how the war is winding down? It's not winding down at all. Look, our advisers told Israel, at the beginning, it took us nine to 12 months, in places like Fallujah and Mosul. We're three months into this. The Israelis have six to nine months more to go, in Gaza, by that timetable.
COLLINS: Interesting to hear you say you don't think it's close to over. Ambassador John Bolton, obviously, many more discussions, on this, to come. Thanks for joining tonight.
And I'm joined now here, on set--
BOLTON: Thank you.
COLLINS: --by the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and the Executive Director of the McCain Institute, Evelyn Farkas.
I just wonder. You hear what Ambassador Bolton said there, his assessment. I mean, we don't know. I think that's the first and foremost most important thing that we should say. No one's claiming credit for this yet.
But what do you make of who could be responsible, and the significance of who it is that could be responsible, for these two attacks?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right. Well, first of all, I don't -- I would not agree with him that this would be something cynical that the Iranian government would have launched against their people.
COLLINS: As a pretext.
FARKAS: I mean, this is a really sensitive, commemoration, celebration of this man, memorialization of this criminal, frankly, international criminal. They wouldn't have done that.
It is possible that there's some opposition inside of Iran. But I think what's more likely is that it's some kind of Sunni terrorist organization, like ISIS, because this fits their modus operandi. There were two explosions. The second one, more deadly. That we've seen that all over the world, conducted by ISIS and terrorist -- Sunni terrorist organizations. So, that seems to me more likely.
But what's more interesting to me, the bigger picture issue here is, somebody might be trying to send a message, to Iran, to stop it.
As you heard, from Ambassador Bolton, the Iranians are using their proxies, in the Red Sea, in Gaza, obviously, in Lebanon, across the border into Israel. And there are Sunnis, who are on the other side of this, who want to stop Iran. And there may be states also, who have, are maybe using proxies as well.
COLLINS: Which states would you, would guess?
FARKAS: I don't want to point fingers. But clearly, we know that Iran has historic enemies. Now, they've all kind of reconciled, though they're all diplomatically getting along, like Saudi Arabia, and others, in the Gulf. But there may be actors, who want to send a signal to Iran to stop.
I think, however, having said that, I don't know that a state would really condone this kind of action, because of the target.
COLLINS: It's a fascinating thing. We'll wait to see, until we get more information.
COLLINS: But thank you for your expertise, for joining us, tonight.
FARKAS: Thanks for having me on.
COLLINS: Evelyn Farkas, really great to have you here, on set.
Also, tonight, as we noted, we are 12 days out, from the first votes, in the nation, in Iowa. The candidates coming out swinging, as they make their final closing pitches.
One voter, tonight, accused Governor Ron DeSantis of not swinging hard enough, at the front-runner, Donald Trump. We'll tell you how Governor DeSantis responded to that, right after this.
COLLINS: Notable question, from a voter, in Iowa, tonight, just about 24 hours from back-to-back Town Halls, here on CNN, with Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOTER: Why haven't you gone directly after him?
In my viewpoint, you're going pretty soft on him.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I think what the media wants is they want Republican candidates, to just kind of like smear him personally, and kind of do that. That's just not how I roll.
I don't think Donald Trump ultimately can win an election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Karen Finney, Scott Jennings, both here, to talk about the latest in politics, with me, tonight.
Scott, let me start with you. Because you heard that answer, from Governor DeSantis, saying he didn't want to smear Trump. I mean, Trump has no problem, as we all know, smearing him, on a daily basis. He says that he has a very different style than the former President.
What did you make of the fact that the voter asked that question, and how he answered it?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there is a small cohort of voters, who want somebody in the primary, or just in politics, generally, to smear, go after Donald Trump as frankly, in the way Chris Christie is. But that's just not the DeSantis audience. It's not the way he's conducted himself.
You point out that Trump has attacked him. But for DeSantis to win and to overcome Donald Trump, he would have to appeal some Donald Trump voters, back his way. And smearing him personally, and going after him, in the manner that the person was suggesting, is probably not the way to achieve it. So actually, I think DeSantis handled it as about as best as he could.
I don't think running, at this stage of the -- late stage of the Iowa caucus, sort of a personal attack, or a smear campaign, against Trump is going to work for DeSantis. I mean, it's going to be hard to beat Trump out there. But I doubt that tactic would be successful.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
COLLINS: Karen, as you saw that response, what did you make of how DeSantis responded (ph)?
FINNEY: I wondered if that was a Nikki Haley plant, that question. Because if you're Nikki Haley, you want to make his -- her narrative now, about DeSantis is that he's weak, right, and that he can't win.
So, but at the same time, I agree. I mean, DeSantis has been harder than any -- well, I guess, with the exception of Chris Christie. But he's tried to go at Trump around. He can't win, and he didn't build the wall.
Here's the problem, though DeSantis has. It's all in for him on Iowa. If he doesn't, at this point, if you take away -- he spent more time in Iowa. He's not on the air, in New Hampshire. He's so far back, in New Hampshire. If he doesn't pull it out in Iowa, which I don't think is likely, because that's, you know, there's too much ground to make up, in two weeks. So, for him, this is do or die, I think.
COLLINS: And does do or die, Scott, look like coming in a strong second? I mean, would that be even something that would be surprising, to Republicans, who have been watching the DeSantis campaign?
I mean, we've seen Nikki Haley saying today that they think it would be a success, for her to come in second place, in Iowa.
JENNINGS: Yes, obviously, this is a lot of just expectation setting for DeSantis. I think coming in second, and getting closer to Trump, than the polls might indicate, would be a measure of success. If he got within single digits, that would be hugely successful.
For Haley, really, all she has to do is just get slightly ahead of DeSantis. And that would be, I think, considered a huge night for her, even if she's far back of Trump, just finishing in second place, which people have not been thinking about, until very recently, would be successful.
For Trump, I mean, he's crashing in the polls. He does have high expectations, here. And the trouble with high expectations is that they're high. And you do have to meet them. And so, for him, what does success look like? I think it's a double-digit victory would be successful. If he meets or exceeds what the polls would say, that's going to be a huge amount of momentum, for Donald Trump.
So, they're all playing a little bit different game, when it comes to expectations.
But I agree with Karen. For Ron DeSantis, if he doesn't meet whatever those expectations are, it's going to be hard to go on.
COLLINS: Karen, do you agree with that?
FINNEY: Absolutely. I think -- and I also think Haley is trying to focus on New Hampshire, and then a bank shot into South Carolina. Again, expectation's lower for her, in Iowa.
COLLINS: Yes. Well New Hampshire though will be critical. We've seen Trump with the new ad there.
COLLINS: Karen Finney, we will continue to watch to see what closely happens. Just 12 days from now.
COLLINS: Scott Jennings, as well.
Thank you both for being here.
And tomorrow night, for all of you at home, here at 9 o'clock, tune in, as CNN is going to host back-to-back Town Halls, with Governor Ron DeSantis, and Governor Nikki Haley. They're going to take questions, directly from Iowa voters, just days before the Iowa caucuses.
I'll moderate the Town Hall with Governor DeSantis, at 9 PM Eastern. Erin Burnett will moderate one, with Governor Nikki Haley, right after that. You are not going to want to miss it.
Thank you so much, for joining us, here tonight.
"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts, right now.