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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
DeSantis: Turnout Amid Frigid Temps A "Major Wildcard"; Trump Co-Defendant Alleges Prosecutor Had Affair With D.A. Willis In Bid To Get Case Dismissed; After Just Two Months As Speaker, Mike Johnson Faces Ouster Threat From Far-Right Republicans. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 12, 2024 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: That's it for us. Have a great weekend.
The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
Donald Trump, and his GOP rivals, now canceling almost all of their in-person events, in Iowa, less than 72 hours out, before the critical first vote, in the nation. The extreme weather and sub-zero temps upending their plans.
Plus, new U.S. strikes, against Iranian-backed militants, in Yemen, tonight, hours after President Biden said that he had delivered a message to Iran, with that barrage of strikes, last night. The question now is, is escalation inevitable.
Also, potential complications, for the Trump case, in Georgia. Allegations of an improper relationship, between the Fulton County District Attorney, and her lead prosecutor. And a judge is now looking into the matter.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
We are now down to the crucial final three days, before the first vote, in the nation. And right now, the Republican front-runner will be off the trail, and on the phones, instead, just like his GOP rivals.
Donald Trump's campaign, forced to cancel three of its four scheduled rallies, this weekend, in Iowa, out of an abundance of caution, amid severe weather advisories. And instead, they're going to hold virtual ones.
Trump, who, I should note, spent two days, in court this week, hundreds of miles away from Iowa. He was instead in Washington, and here in New York. Says that he thinks the extreme weather in Iowa could actually be good for him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: You have the worst weather, I guess, in recorded history. But maybe that's good, because our people are more committed than anybody else. So maybe it's actually a good thing for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Despite the optimism, we are told there is some concern, inside Trump's campaign, tonight, over how those subzero temperatures could disrupt their plans, to take the caucuses, by storm, on Monday.
A senior Trump campaign adviser telling CNN, quote, the weather issue may take away the intensity. But a win is a win. And no one has ever won Iowa by more than 12 points. So that's our goal.
Maybe a bit of expectation, lowering, coming from the Trump campaign.
I should note, of course, other candidates are also facing the same challenges, as Iowans are now being warned to stay off the roads, because of these blizzard-like conditions that you can see here, that are spreading across the state.
This is what a highway looked like, just today. Drivers clearly can barely see out their windshields.
The question is, of course getting people motivated, to come out and caucus, when it is going to be a high of minus-four on Monday.
Now, Iowans are tough. They know how to deal with a winter storm. And they take their caucuses very seriously. But compare the temperature that is expected to be there, on Monday, to past caucuses. It have mostly been held at what seems like balmy weather now, 30s and 40s degrees. With wind chills, it could feel like minus-40, in some parts of Iowa, on Monday.
I should note that despite these dangers, the candidates are still asking the voters, to bundle up, and come out for them, that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm concerned because I want people to be safe, on caucus day. It's going to be negative-28 wind chill. And so, what we hope is that they will wear layers, that they will bring their photo ID, and that they will come out and caucus.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody can forecast what the turnout is going to be. Anyone that tells you they can do that is not -- is not being honest. It's a major wildcard.
Obviously, it's going to affect it in some way.
You're never going to have an opportunity, to have your vote count more, pack more of a punch, than on Monday night.
So, if you care about the future of the country, if you believe in us, come out and do it. And you won't regret it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: We have team coverage tonight, with CNN's Jessica Dean, who is live in a very chilly maybe frigid Des Moines.
Chad Myers is warm inside the CNN Weather Center, with the forecast ahead.
And we have two presidential campaign veterans, with their predictions here as well.
Jessica Dean, we'll start with you.
Because we are now learning that Donald Trump is canceling many of these Iowa rallies, this weekend. What is the campaign saying about how that could affect what Monday looks like?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, publicly, they're saying this is out of an abundance of caution.
And it follows a lot of the trendlines that we saw both from Nikki Haley, who canceled all of her in-person events, today. And Ron DeSantis, who canceled a number of his, though he did get to two in- person events, earlier today.
But we also have learned that privately Trump's advisers have acknowledged to CNN that it is going to have likely an impact, that it is just simply that frigid and that cold.
You mentioned it. Iowans are not -- no strangers to snow in the winter. That's pretty common. But we are really in record-setting territory here. And when you're talking about wind chills, of a negative 40, on Monday, that could be frostbite, within 10 minutes, to expose skin outside. So, that's what the campaigns are dealing with.
In terms of Trump specifically though, as you mentioned, he was in -- he was in court, a couple of days, this week. Now, that hasn't slowed down his fundraising, or his numbers, in any of the recent polling.
However, the other two candidates -- or two of the other candidates, who have been here, on the ground, DeSantis and Haley have gone again and again, and said it over and over that they have been here. Of course, Ron DeSantis has done the Full Grassley, gone to 99 counties, all 99 of them, here in Iowa. And they continue to make that point.
So, for him to have to cancel those events, tomorrow, we are just in this very delicate timeframe, right up against Monday's caucuses.
COLLINS: Yes. And canceling the last-minute event is one thing. But how concerned, and what are you hearing from these campaigns, and from Republican officials, in Iowa, about actually getting people to leave their homes, and go and caucus, on Monday night? Because it's not just an easy go, check your ballot, and head back home. This is a long, lengthy thing that happens at night, not normally, near their polling location, always where they go and vote. It requires a lot of effort to get people to get out of their homes.
DEAN: It absolutely does. And sometimes, if it's a crowded caucus site, there might even be a line outside. So, what are you going to do with these people that might have to stand in line? This is absolutely something that all of the campaigns are thinking through, right now. And they're all trying to motivate their voters. And it's kind of coming from different directions.
So, if you're Trump, and the Trump campaign, they're trying to make sure that nobody is overly competent -- confident that they are going to win. And so, they're trying to remind everyone that supporting Trump, that they have to come out, that they can't rely on this giant lead that he's had, in most of the state polling, here in Iowa.
For Ron DeSantis, they have gone again and again, to talk about -- the Super PAC that's aligned with his campaign. They say they have an unparalleled organization, and ground game that matters a lot, in Iowa, for the reasons you just laid out, about why caucuses are different than just going and checking a ballot. And so, they're hoping that that's going to make the difference, on Monday.
But they're certainly concerned about how do you convince people to get out of their warm homes, and go do this.
COLLINS: Yes, it's a tough call.
Jessica Dean, thank you so much for that.
COLLINS: And as I said, Chad Myers is in the Weather Center, tracking the conditions, in Iowa.
So, Chad, what is it going to look, on Monday, or guess I should say feel, on Monday--
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right.
COLLINS: --when people are getting out and leaving their homes, to go and caucus?
MYERS: Yes. I don't think you understand what 30 degrees below zero feels like, unless you're actually get out in it. And I've lived in Nebraska, for a long time. And I had a change of tire, at 45 below, and nearly lost my fingers.
But here's what the Weather Service just put out. This will be in effect at midnight, through Tuesday. Travel should be restricted to emergencies only. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle. So, that's where the Weather Service is on this. Right now, wind chill in Des Moines is 11 degrees below zero. It is still snowing. There's a blizzard out there. Parts of Interstate 80 are absolutely shut down, at this point. There are so many accidents, out there, right now.
People are not getting across these east-west roads. Think about this. Most of the roads in Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, they go north-south, east-west. Interstates can turn a little bit. But those east-west roads are getting blown shut by the wind, and the drifts. So, just because a plower goes by, in 15 minutes, that drifts can drift that road shut again.
So, nine degrees below zero, when you're standing in line, to get into the caucus? That's the air temperature. Now, you add in the wind. And all of a sudden, nine below turns into 28 below.
Up here, in Sheldon, Okoboji, 38 degrees below zero. There are a lot of people here that have livestock. They have animals. They have to take care of those animals. Do they have four hours, to leave them, go someplace, and then hope that they're still alive, when they get back? To me, that answer is no. We'll have to see how that affects turnout.
COLLINS: Yes, a lot of dangerous conditions out there. Obviously, we're hoping that everybody stays safe, even if they do go out.
Chad Myers, thank you for that.
MYERS: You're welcome.
COLLINS: And let's talk about the cold, but not just that, the contest that is going to be happening on Monday night. We have two campaign veterans here.
David Urban, a senior CNN Political Commentator, and was a campaign adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016.
And Ashley Allison, who is the former National Coalitions Director for the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign, and is also a CNN Political Commentator.
Great to have you both here.
David, I mean, I think this is a real concern that we are seeing here, from these Republican candidates, and also with Donald Trump's campaign.
Because they had been trying to get a lot of people, to come out, who aren't typical caucusgoers, who maybe don't turn out every four years. A lot of them in rural areas, who may have to drive further, to get to their spots.
I mean, how much of a real concern is this, for these campaigns?
DAVID URBAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So, Kaitlan, I think it's a big concern, right? There's an old saying, how you run a campaign. You run scared or unopposed, right? And so, everybody's running scared, at this point, especially in light of this weather situation.
Jessica alluded to it. Most of the people go to camp -- caucus sites, which are, they walk in, and they're kind of in a gym or in a school. So, you're not standing in line, like at a polling place that you'd normally see, on Election Day. But nonetheless, you have to go out.
If you look at those pictures, on the screen, right now, you're driving in that kind of conditions. And even in the daytime, it's going to be treacherous. So, at nighttime, ice, it may be get people pause on, on, going out. And if you're older, nervous driving, you're maybe worried about it. You may stay home.
But I will say this. As Donald Trump alluded to, in that video you showed, his followers will crawl over broken glass, to get to their polling place. And I believe it. I was there in 2020, in the Iowa caucuses, for the former President. And I can tell you that the folks were pretty excited, in 2020. I think they'll be pretty excited this year as well.
COLLINS: Well, Ashley, one of the concerns that seems to be coming, even from the Trump campaign certainly is that maybe there's a bit of overconfidence that Trump will do well, so not everyone needs to turn out. They're not as worried about it.
And the Trump campaign seems to be trying to reference that in recent days, with Donald Trump himself, as he was in Iowa, not too long ago, saying, just because the polls look good, we still need everyone to come out.
What does that say to you about how they're feeling about it?
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, that's not a surprising message, for a front-runner. You don't ever want to get too comfortable. Because people then say, oh, my vote won't matter, or my attendance at a caucus won't matter.
But I do think this storm is also (inaudible) they're going to be able to show up, particularly those in rural areas. I mean, (inaudible) said about a couple of months ago, you never know what's going to happen. And so, you never know, if you're going to have negative 30 degrees. It's the last thing you actually want.
But I will say for campaigns that actually have an organization, like DeSantis, and even like Donald Trump, right now, they build an organization, unlike Nikki Haley, did. She has a strong one, in New Hampshire, but not so much in Iowa.
And so, you want to be able to convert that grassroots organization, to be phone-banking, nonstop. If you can't knock on a door, then you need to be burning up the phones, texting everybody, and then deciding like, oh, am I going to be able to get some of those folks maybe to provide rides for folks. But the reality is, is the roads are so dangerous. It's just a question of how committed are you to the candidate that you want to win? And, to be honest, I agree with David, again, for the second time in a week, that it seems like Trump voters seem to be the most dedicated.
ALLISON: I mean, they even went to Capitol--
COLLINS: We're going to make that down.
ALLISON: --and broke in, to overthrow a democracy. So, why would they not go to caucus?
COLLINS: We're going to mark that down, twice that you all have agreed. We'll put it on our counter.
David, she mentioned Ambassador Haley. And she has a new ad out. A group supporting her, I should say, has a new ad out. It's criticizing and attacking Governor DeSantis, for what they say is idolizing the former President, as this father figure, or as they call it, in the ad that we're about to show you, daddy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CROWD CHANTING "WHO'S YOUR DADDY")
DESANTIS: Make America Great Again.
(CROWD CHANTING "WHO'S YOUR DADDY")
DESANTIS: Build the wall.
(CROWD CHANTING "WHO'S YOUR DADDY")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: David, what do you make of that closing argument?
URBAN: Yes, well, listen, I don't know how it affected. It's pretty -- it's pretty damaging. Right? It gets you to chuckle. Everyone watches it and says, wow. It's pretty powerful.
But, I mean, Ron DeSantis was helped very much. Everybody acknowledges it. To become governor, by President Trump. Came into the last, with then a strong endorsement, and got him over the -- got him over the threshold there, in his gubernatorial race. So, he did cut some ads that were pretty pro-Trump, back in the day.
COLLINS: Incredibly pro-Trump. I mean, both the Trump campaign and the Haley campaign have now used that ad, against Governor DeSantis.
But Ashley there was a moment, a remarkable one, out on the campaign trail, today, where Governor DeSantis said something that you don't often hear, from Republicans, certainly not one, who is running for president, saying that conservative media does not hold Republicans accountable.
This is what he told reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: He's got basically a Praetorian Guard of the conservative media. Fox News, you know, the websites, all this stuff. They just don't.
They don't hold him accountable, because they're worried about losing viewers. And they don't want to have their ratings go down. And that's just -- that's just the reality. That's just the truth. And I'm not complaining about it. I'd rather that not be the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Ashley, what did you make of those comments?
ALLISON: Well, I mean, it was a complaint. And he was complaining about it.
But, look, Ron DeSantis doesn't hold Donald Trump accountable. So, why is he complaining about Fox News? I mean, it tells me that he is yet again worried.
People thought Ron DeSantis will be doing much better than he is right now, leaning into Iowa. He put all his eggs really in Iowa's basket. And so, if he does not have a high performance, he might not make it to New Hampshire. So, I think that is a little bit of him just trying to make a last-ditch case that I'm the underdog (inaudible).
COLLINS: Ashley Allison.
ALLISON: And it's kind of ironic, since he doesn't even hold him accountable himself.
COLLINS: We'll see.
URBAN: You know? I would just say real, I'd say, quickly, Kaitlan--
COLLINS: Go ahead, David.
URBAN: --that DeSantis is talking about looking past New Hampshire. He may not go to New Hampshire. I think he's looking past it right now and focusing on South Carolina.
So, he's putting the marker down now that no matter what happens in Iowa, skipping New Hampshire, going into South Carolina, because he knows he'll do well there. So, I wouldn't -- I would -- you know, like the old Monty Python movie, "I'm not dead yet."
COLLINS: We'll see. He's supposed to have a Town Hall with Wolf Blitzer, on Tuesday. We'll see what that looks like.
Ashley Allison, David Urban, thank you both.
And of course, be sure to tune in, on Sunday night, here on CNN. We will have special live coverage, as we are counting down to the Iowa caucuses. I'll be hosting, alongside the one and only Abby Phillip, for two hours, on Sunday night, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You will not want to miss it.
Ahead here, on the source, tonight, though, new U.S. airstrikes against Iranian-backed militants, in Yemen. It is another escalation of the conflict, already underway in the Middle East.
Plus, tensions are flaring once again within House GOP. House Speaker -- as Speaker Johnson is trying to avert another government shutdown, he is also facing new threats and demands, from hardliners.
COLLINS: And breaking news, this hour, as a second night of strikes are happening, in Yemen. As we are learning the U.S. has carried out more strikes, against Houthi targets, there, specifically a radar facility that was used by the Iranian-backed militant group.
Tonight's action carried out solely by the United States. It's different than what we saw happening, last night, which was multinational. It's also much smaller in scale, than the strikes that we saw last night. And it targeted dozens of Houthi positions, across northern Yemen.
All of this is going on, and something the White House is watching very closely. The Houthi militants were already vowing retaliation. And today, you saw mass protests, filling the streets, in the capital of Yemen, as the White House says it wants to avoid further escalation that this was a message of de-escalation and deterrence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've already delivered the message to Iran. They know not to do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you continue with the strikes, sir?
BIDEN: We will make sure that we respond to Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior, along with our allies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are we in a de facto proxy war with Iran?
BIDEN: No. Iran does not want a war with us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group, sir?
BIDEN: I think they are. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Joining me now, CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller.
I want to get to what he said there, at the end, about the Houthis being a terrorist organization, in a minute.
But with the U.S., continuing these strikes, tonight? I mean, even before this, the Houthis were already vowing retaliation. What is this fine line that the U.S. is walking, in sense of they want to respond to these attacks. But also, they don't want things to escalate.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, so, the United States Intelligence Community understands the game here. We're not at war with the Houthis. We're not looking to be at war with the Houthis.
Tonight's attack was based on a bomb damage assessment, about what did we get yesterday, and what did we miss. So, it targeted an additional radar location, not to kill Houthis, but to disable the capability that allows them to shoot missiles, at commercial shipping, major ships, U.S. and British Navy ships that are protecting the Red Sea. So, that's purely tactical.
At the bottom line, it's not really about the Houthis. It's about the Axis of Resistance, which is more than 15, some terrorist groups, some militias, some groups like the Houthis, that are paid for, armed and trained by Iran, who had become proxies, in Iran's efforts to jump behind Hamas and Israel's conflict, and destabilize the region, which is in Iran's interest, right now.
COLLINS: Yes. And I also want to bring in, we have Ronen Bergman with us, who is a Staff Writer for New York Times Magazine, and the Author of "Rise and Kill First: The Secret" of Israel's -- the "History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations."
Ronen, it's great to have you here.
Because the other part of this is that this is not something--
RONEN BERGMAN, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Hi, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: --President Biden and his aides really wanted to have to confront. They had been trying to contain this, for months now.
But now that we have these American-led strikes, last night, the unilateral American ones, tonight, what does this clear shift in strategy look like going forward?
BERGMAN: Well, it seems that as much as the U.S. tried to contain the situation, not reacting to this brutal violation of freedom of maritime traffic? And as much as Israel did not react to the cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, the drones that were sent by the Houthis? This is, of course, an unprovoked attack. I would say -- I would assume that if this has happened before October
7th, both from Hezbollah in the north, and from the Houthis, in Yemen, we will be long gone with a full, full-scale war with, between Israel and those two members of the Axis of Resistance.
But Israel is trying to continue fighting only the Gaza front. The U.S. is trying not to get itself. Tried to. But it didn't work.
As far as we hear, our sources, the New York Times sources, speaking with Farnaz Fassihi, my colleague at the New York Times, said it's coming from Iran, and from the Houthis side that the Houthis are going to continue their attack. And this will demand a much more aggressive reaction, from the U.S.
And I think it's still not clear how further the Houthis are willing to go. And also, with -- and this is the more important question. Whether the Iranians, who ignited this front, are now trying to de- escalate, because maybe the Houthis got out of control. The Houthis were the most comfortable proxy, far away from Iran.
BERGMAN: And I can say it's not us. Iran is not paying any price. But now, I think that the Iranians might be thinking again. The question is, of course, are they able to control the Houthis, who seem to be very determined, to continue their strike until, as they say, Israel stop its invasion into Gaza.
And John Miller, I mean, this really matters, because I mean, if you look at this, the threat to trade here is meant. I mean, this is some 30 percent of shipping that goes through the Red Sea. That's where all of these attacks are happening. People are having to take different routes. It's taking longer. It's costing more. This could be -- have global impact, if this does escalate.
So, if the Houthis are not deterred from this, I mean, what is the -- what does the Biden administration do? How do they handle this? Because there's U.S. assets in the region. If a U.S. -- if a U.S. troop was killed, how does the U.S. respond?
MILLER: So, there are carrier strike groups in the area. They've been there actually, for some time, although that's been augmented because of the situation between Israel and Hamas.
But the Houthis are, if -- you have to kind of zoom back for the wider picture. The Houthis are a proxy of Iran. They are attacking these shipping routes, simply because they're trying to turn up the pressure, draw the United States further into a regional conflict.
Think of what Iran has accomplished. Somewhere behind a curtain, in Iran, is General Hossein Salami, who is the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that controls the Axis of Resistance groups. They have tweaked up the group, in Iraq, to fire on U.S. bases that are there, trying to dismantle ISIS.
The U.S. retaliated, and that caused the President of Iraq, to say, maybe it's time for the U.S. to leave the region. They have struck these shipping routes, which caused the U.S. to retaliate, which is now had several of our allies, tonight, come out, critical of those strikes, not supportive.
So, what they are doing is they are destabilizing a region, after supporting Hamas, and supplying them with all of their missiles. So, Iran's plan -- Iran's plan is something we have to watch very carefully. Because A, it's working. And B, we have to modulate our responses to make sure that we don't bite too much into it.
COLLINS: Yes. It's a scary situation that could -- that could easily escalate.
John Miller, Ronen Bergman, thank you both, for your expertise, on this. Very welcome, tonight.
BERGMAN: Thank you.
COLLINS: Also, in Washington tonight, not even three months into the job, tonight, House Speaker, Mike Johnson, is being threatened by some of his own members, with potentially the same fate, as his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.
Is the House GOP unleadable? A Republican insider, and former Freedom Caucus member, will join us next, with that question.
COLLINS: Congressman Mike Johnson has held the Speaker's gavel, for two and a half months. And already, it is safe to say that not only is the honeymoon period over, this arranged marriage, between the House GOP conference, and their leader, may be on the brink of collapse, as well.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): If he moves forward with a separate deal trading our border security, weakening H.R. 2 in exchange for $60 billion to Ukraine, I told him, yesterday in his office, that I would vacate the chair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Speaker Johnson's position, despite those comments, seems relatively safe, for tonight anyway.
But what you heard there, from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, fits into the threats, of what has become really standard procedure, for these intransigent members, on the right. There is no compromise. And any attempts to deal with Democrats, despite the slim majority, is seen as a betrayal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANDY OGLES (R-TN): I want the Speaker to start fighting for us.
REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): We're frustrated.
REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): Yes, I'm frustrated.
MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mike Johnson, his job is at risk.
DONALDS: The way this place operates, I think everybody's job is at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: What started as the Freedom Caucus' insistence on refusing to bend has turned into the last decade, solidifying its place, at the core of the Republican Party, much to the bane of a succession of Republican speakers.
John Boehner once bemoaned what he called, quote, "Legislative terrorists," who made his job so impossible that he quit.
And while his successor, Paul Ryan, tried to embrace the hardliners, and take a different route, he too threw up his hands, and retired, deciding against seeking reelection, in the end.
Boehner and Ryan at least walked away from the role. Kevin McCarthy, as we all remember, was tossed out by his own members.
The record shows that for all the refusal to compromise, though, the results have been repeated government shutdown threats, and actual government shutdowns. Every time it's happened, in more than a decade, has come with Republicans holding a majority of the House, I should note.
And even when it comes to the business of passing laws, doing their jobs, on Capitol Hill, last year's Congress actually set a record for being the least productive ever.
My next guest once walked the halls of Congress, as a member of the Freedom Caucus. Former South Carolina congressman and governor, Mark Sanford joins me now.
Thank you so much, for being here.
I mean, you have kind of said that when you were there, what passed for, far-right, in your time is a far cry from what constitutes the far-right today. I mean, how do you think that that has changed the ability of any Republican Speaker to actually get things done?
I think we lost Congressman Sanford there. We'll work to get that connection and get him back. Because the question here, of course, is what this looks like, for Speaker Johnson, going forward, as this is something that is quite difficult, for them. And they are working on this.
I think we have you, Congressman.
All right. We'll work on that connection. We're having some technical difficulties. We'll get him.
Because this is a big issue, the Republicans are dealing with, on Capitol Hill. What this is going to look like? We'll work on that. Be back in just a moment.
COLLINS: Life-threatening cold and bad weather is making a difficult situation worse, for many cities, across the country, tonight.
In New York, city officials were already struggling to handle an influx of migrants, many of whom were sleeping outside hotels, as people were also protesting moves, by officials, to evict them from shelters, after they hit the city's limit of 60 days.
Then, as an intense windstorm blew through on Tuesday, a tent shelter had to be evacuated, as migrants were then bused to a nearby high school. That also sparked an uproar, because in order to use the school, as a shelter, students had to attend classes, virtually.
In Chicago, where shelters are already packed, some migrants have been sleeping in city buses or even the airport.
In Denver, the city is sheltering more than 4,000 people. And this weekend, wind chills are expected to drop to around below 30 degree -- 30 below zero, I should note.
We are joined now by the Mayor of Denver, Mike Johnston.
Welcome back to THE SOURCE, Mayor. Thank you for being here.
I mean, these are people, who are not used to dealing with a Colorado winter. What are the challenges that your city is having to face, to get these people somewhere warm, where they can stay, as the weather is getting this bad?
MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON, DENVER, COLORADO: Yes, Kaitlan. You're totally right.
These are folks, who will often show up in Denver, in shorts and a T- shirt. And we're talking about five-degree weather here. And so, we are working hard to get everybody inside.
I was there at an encampment, yesterday, where folks were outside, in five-degree, 10-degree weather. We got them all moved indoors into a congregate shelter that we've opened.
But it just underscores for us why this current situation is unsustainable. And why -- I think what's frustrating for us is we actually know this is solvable.
You were talking about Congress, and their ability to get to a deal. We know if Congress can get to a deal here, our cities can actually help welcome these people, with dignity, and not break the financial backs of our cities. We just need Congress to act, in these coming weeks.
COLLINS: Yes. And Congress acting in the next couple weeks, is anyone's guess. There's a good reason to be skeptical.
And as part of, as city officials are dealing with this, the Governor of Illinois, Governor Pritzker, he sent a letter to a fellow governor, Greg Abbott of Texas, asking him to stop sending migrants, during the dangerous winter storm, warning that it could kill people.
Do you expect that Governor Abbott will, who's also sent migrants to Denver, I should note, do you expect that he'll heed that warning?
JOHNSTON: I would hope that he would. It is incredibly dangerous, for us to have folks arriving, in the middle of this polar vortex, where we'll have record low temperatures.
But we also think this is, underscores part of the challenge that the country is facing, right now, which is what we need to make this work is not to have a system where one governor decides where every migrant in the country gets sent.
But instead, a place where we have federal dollars that support new arrivals. They arrive with the ability to work when they get to cities like Denver. And we have a coordinated entry plan, so actually, all the cities and states in the country can figure out what their capacity is and take up to that capacity.
The strategy of having folks just sent to New York and Chicago and Denver, I think, is not setting them up for success, or setting our cities up for success.
COLLINS: Well, speaking of Governor Abbott, he's also defending himself, after some comments that he made, on a podcast. It was about these efforts, to stop unauthorized border crossings.
But there was something he said at the end that caught people's attention. This was that comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We are deploying every tool and strategy that we possibly can.
The only thing that we're, we're not doing is we're not shooting people, who come across the border, because of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: When he was asked about those comments, today, he said he was just distinguishing between what Texas has the legal authority to do, and what would be illegal.
But I wonder what you heard in those remarks.
JOHNSTON: Yes, I just hear general hostility, and I think failure to see the folks that are coming here, as human beings, who are trying to do exactly what, the Statue of Liberty says, which is send us "your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
These are folks that have walked 3,000 miles, looking for opportunity.
Talk to me to get my three kids to the grocery store and back.
We have families that are putting their 2-year-olds, and 4-year-olds, and 6-year-olds, and bringing them 3,000 miles, to get to opportunity. I think they're looking for the American Dream. I don't think they're looking to get shot by an American governor.
COLLINS: Denver Mayor, Mike Johnston, I know you got a lot going on, in your city. Thanks for taking the time, to come and join us, on THE SOURCE, tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thanks so much for having me.
COLLINS: Up next here, the District Attorney, who is prosecuting Donald Trump, in the State of Georgia, is now under the microscope herself, amid allegations about a romantic relationship, with her lead prosecutor.
Ahead, we'll speak with a former Georgia prosecutor, who believes that if they are true, she should step aside.
COLLINS: In a Georgia courtroom, today, an attorney, for former President Trump brought up unsubstantiated allegations, but allegations that have been out there, and swirling for days, about the allegation of an improper relationship, between the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, and her lead prosecutor, in Trump's case, Nathan Wade.
Trump's legal team is considering joining a bid, by Michael Roman, who is one of Trump's co-defendants, there, in the State of Georgia, to try to get the election interference case dismissed.
Roman's attorneys are saying, and I should note, with no direct evidence, that Willis improperly hired Wade, saying in this court filing, that they are romantic partners, that she recruited him, to help prosecute the case, while also alleging that she has benefited -- that Willis has benefited, financially, from his appointment, alleging that Wade used some of his earnings, to go on lavish vacations, together.
While Fani Willis has had little to say, beyond saying that she will respond to this, in court filings, it is becoming a major issue, in this case.
Joining me tonight, Michael Moore, a former U.S. attorney in Georgia, and a CNN Legal Analyst.
And I just wonder what you make of these allegations, as we saw them coming out in this court filing. And then, we saw Fani Willis also served with papers, in that prosecutor's divorce filings.
Can you just kind of expand on what's happening, for a moment?
MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. Well I'm glad to be with you. And I'm sorry it's under these circumstances, to talk about this, really.
I don't know if the facts, in the motion that had been filed by the defendant, in the Trump case, are true or not. And I don't know that any of us know.
But they -- I can't imagine that a lawyer, in that type of case, would file a motion, without having some information, sort of in their back pocket. And whether that's coming from part of the sealed record, in the divorce case, or some other source that this lawyer might have. So, we'll wait and see what happens, on that.
The problem that I see is really an optics problem. And that is that it begins to look like there are other things afoot, other than just the prosecution of the Trump case. And I frankly, you know, the personal relationship allegations, that's their business. I'm not too -- I don't care a lot about that.
But it's the amount of money that's being paid, the use of that money, and whether or not actually the selection of the lead prosecutor, in what we would have to arguably say, is the largest case, in the state, right now, if not the nation, whether or not that was based on qualifications, or something else. And that's -- that I think is the concern.
For a prosecutor, the case -- this is not Fani Willis versus Donald Trump, and the other co-defendants. This case belongs to the people of the State of Georgia, and the people more specifically, of Fulton County.
And so, when a prosecutor's actions, get in the way, I think, and can cause an optics and an impediment problem, for moving a case forward? Then, I think they have to make a decision, about what's best for the case, as opposed maybe what they may want to do for themselves. I'm not saying she has not invested time. But that's certainly something she's got to consider. COLLINS: Yes. And I should note, we don't know anything really about--
COLLINS: --about what the allegations here. We've just seen what has been alleged.
We've not really heard anything, from Fani Willis on this. They have said, she'll respond through court filings. But no press conference, no denial on background. Sometimes, she sends emails, to her staff, addressing what's out there. We haven't seen any of that.
But I just want to talk about the prosecutor here, Nathan Wade, and his experience, because that's getting a closer look, following these allegations. And he's someone, who's a former prosecutor turned private practice defense attorney, a municipal court judge. But he was someone, who worked on misdemeanors. And the allegation, in one of the filings, is that he's never worked on a felony case.
Is he someone that typically would be in this role?
MOORE: No. And that's -- I think that's the problem. If he's never prosecuted a felony case, you would not expect him, to have been selected, based on his qualifications, to serve as the lead counsel, in this type of case.
I mean, the District Attorney has a stable full of lawyers that she could have chosen from, as well as a number of private practitioners, who I'm sure would have volunteered, or could have signed up to be Special Counsel, who had decades more experience, prosecuting felony cases.
If in fact, that's true? And again, I don't know, Mr. Wade's prosecution record. But if he has not prosecuted a felony case? And one would think that's basically an inexplicable occurrence, to have him sitting in this position. So, that begins to draw questions.
But then again, you look also now at information that's coming out, because of this, because of the allegations, because of what's happening. And we're seeing his billing records.
And so, it's given people, on the Trump side, something to grab ahold to, when they see in those billing records, things like meeting with the Biden administration, and counsel for the Biden administration. When in the past, the District Attorney has been rather coy about what discussions she may have had, with the Feds, about the case. And so, that, that, to me is a problem.
She has not come out and addressed the allegations.
MOORE: She says she'll do so, in court filing.
But part of the issue too, is this District Attorney has been pretty open and free, with giving press statements, and comments, throughout the prosecution in this case, unlike Jack Smith, who basically has sort of been living in a cave, while he's prosecuting the case in Washington. So, this is a -- it's a very different dynamic when you look at it.
COLLINS: He does go to Subway, sometimes. That's really the only time we've seen him.
MOORE: He does seem to. And he--
COLLINS: Michael Moore.
MOORE: And he's supposed to drive sometimes (ph).
COLLINS: Michael Moore, as always, thank you so much.
MOORE: It's a pleasure to be with you.
COLLINS: And we'll be back in a moment.
COLLINS: And we are happy to say that we have reestablished our connection, with the former South Carolina congressman and governor, Mark Sanford.
Thank you, for being here.
We were talking about the state of the Republican Party, on Capitol Hill, right now.
Because these hardliners are now pushing, against Speaker Johnson, for a deal on funding that he's agreed to, with Chuck Schumer, of course, the leader of Democrats, in the Senate, something he doesn't really have an option, some would argue, because of a slim majority.
But what do you make of these threats, to revolt, if they continue with what he's agreed to, and not back off of that agreement?
MARK SANFORD, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think they're probably real. I mean, I don't understand exactly the thinking of a Marjorie Taylor Greene. But that faction of the party is real right now. And it's incredibly strong. And it's strong, for this reason.
If you look at the size of the Republican majority, basically, you're looking at a 2 percent margin that'll get you into trouble.
I mean, think about your business environment, or think about your family. I mean, I love my brothers and sisters. But I don't agree with them 98 percent of the time. And yet, that's the kind of margin that the Speaker has to look at maintaining right now. But this is not -- he's again with a no-vote, and he's got to go to Democrats, and that creates its own complexity.
So, it's just a function of a tight operating margin, a few other things that he's dealing with that causes real problems.
COLLINS: What do you say, though, to those who say the GOP, right now, in its current state, is kind of ungovernable -- governable -- like unleadable, in the sense of, they pushed out Kevin McCarthy, for agreeing to basically the same type of deal that we're looking at, right now.
Now, some of them have said Speaker Johnson won't face the same fate, because they trust him more. But you now do have some members saying that that is a real threat that he should be thinking about.
SANFORD: I don't think they're bluffing. I mean, I think that the threat is real.
But I think you have two opposing forces. One is, you have a Republican Party that's indeed become less governable. In the Trump element, sort of the fractiousness, if you want to call it that, it's Trump with his time in politics, has manifested itself, and it's real within the Republican Party.
You take with that the fact that the Republican Party has a very different operating base than the Democratic Party does. I mean, you look at small farmers, and small business people. I mean, a very disparate group of folks, compared to the labor unions and teachers unions and trial lawyers, where, and they know ahead of time, if we don't hang together, we hang apart. That's not the base of the Republican Party.
So, you take an already tough governable group, pull it down to a margin, where you got to get 98 percent, to get it right. And then, add to that, the Trump faction. And yes, you got a tough governing body.
COLLINS: It is a tough governing body. I think Speaker Johnson would agree that as an understatement.
Mark Sanford, thank you, for coming back. I know we had some issues. But we hope to have you back again, soon.
COLLINS: I want to thank you all, for watching. I hope you have a great weekend. We'll see you, on Sunday night.
"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts right now.