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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Sen. Tim Scott Endorses Trump For President; Top GA Prosecutors Under Scrutiny For Alleged Affair; Biden, Netanyahu Speak For First Time In Weeks As Israeli PM Argues Against Palestinian State. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired January 19, 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: The news continues. THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS starts now. Have a great weekend.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
A searing snub, for Nikki Haley. Tim Scott, the senator that she once appointed, now expected to endorse Donald Trump, giving him the backing of the nation's highest ranking elected Black Republican, just four days out from the make-or-break New Hampshire primary.
Plus, the District Attorney, who indicted Donald Trump, in Georgia now facing allegations of her own misconduct, involving the man that she hired as her lead prosecutor. What new credit card records reveal? And what it could all mean for the future of this case?
Also, Alec Baldwin indicted, for a second time, in that deadly movie shooting, charged again with involuntary manslaughter, prompting major questions, about what changed.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Any minute now, we are expecting another endorsement, for Donald Trump, someone who has been racking them up constantly, since his dominant win, in Iowa, on Monday, as the Republican Party falls in line.
But this one, in particular, is notable. Not because it's necessarily surprising, but because it's a stinging blow, to his rival, Nikki Haley, who is fighting to keep this race competitive, with a strong performance, Tuesday, in New Hampshire.
Senator Tim Scott is expected to appear, on that stage, in Concord, New Hampshire, potentially, at any moment. We know he traveled there, with the former President, tonight, as the former GOP presidential contender, who I should note is, of course, from Haley's home state of South Carolina, could potentially help push her out of contention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Oh, man. I'm so excited for the announcement, tonight. Just tune in. Pay attention. Listen closely. And let's talk about four more years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And Tim Scott went from being on the Trump plane, now he is on the stage, sharing it in New Hampshire, with the former President.
This is all particularly stinging, to Nikki Haley, because it was just a decade ago, more than a decade ago, when she was the Governor of South Carolina, and appointed Scott to the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is with great pleasure that I am announcing that I am appointing our next U.S. senator to be Congressman Tim Scott.
He earned this seat, for what I know he's going to do, in making South Carolina, and making our country, proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That was then. This is now.
Not only is this a snub, considering their history as once allies. But the timing of this announcement is also what matters here. We are four days out, from the first-in-the-nation primary, in New Hampshire, where Haley has been campaigning aggressively, and building momentum.
A source close to Haley tells CNN that she did not know Scott was planning to go ahead, with endorsing Trump, tonight. I was told by a source that Haley called Senator Scott actually, in recent days, to ask for his endorsement.
We've also learned that Trump's inner circle originally hoped this moment, where Tim Scott is endorsing Trump on stage, would actually come, not now before New Hampshire, but instead before South Carolina's primary, on February 24. But the timeline moved up, as Haley was seeing a spike in the polls, in New Hampshire.
All of this is course part of a goal, by the Trump campaign, to paint Haley as someone who is disliked by those who know her best, in her home state.
In a statement after all of this, I should note that Haley responded, saying and I'm quoting her now, interesting that Trump's lining up with all the Washington insiders, when he claimed that he wanted to drain the swamp.
She's also likely referring to what we're seeing, from other senators, on Capitol Hill. Senator Marco Rubio, who also just endorsed Trump again, another blow to Haley, especially in light of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HALEY: Our next president will be Marco Rubio.
(AUDIENCE CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
HALEY: Take a picture of this, because the new group of conservatives that's taking over America looks like a Benetton commercial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I'm joined now by the Republican strategist, Rina Shah; and the former Deputy Assistant to President Biden, Jamal Simmons.
Rina, I just I think no one is surprised that Tim Scott is endorsing Donald Trump. But what I thought when I first saw this, when the New York Times broke it, earlier today, was ouch, because he's choosing to do it not when, when people thought it would have the most impact, before South Carolina, but before New Hampshire, where Nikki Haley was hoping to do her best, potentially.
RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Tim Scott could have waited, and he probably should have waited, until after Tuesday. But what this reeks of, him doing it at this point, is pettiness. And some people are not going to be willing to believe that about Tim Scott, because he's so aw-shucks nice.
But I would say this. He's already shown us, number one, by making this endorsement that he's not willing to put country over party, number one. He's willing to go along with how Washington works. Washington takes care of their own. And that's how this is going to go.
This is Tim Scott auditioning to be in the Trump administration, this time. He wants to situate himself while also sticking it to Nikki Haley. They got in a lot of jabs, during those debates. And I think the situation here is that there is love lost.
But also, this endorsement kind of means nothing, because who is it moving the needle with, electorally? Evangelicals? Well, they've already still got a choice, in Ron DeSantis.
And Trump doesn't have to worry about evangelicals. He needs to worry about moving that moderate independently-minded voter. That's who he's having trouble with. And this is a distraction, right now, because that voter, the independently-minded voter is sitting in New Hampshire, right now, not caring about a Tim Scott endorsement.
So, I would say this is being, a lot of fanfare, for kind of nothing.
COLLINS: Well, given what you said, about the value of this endorsement? Governor--
COLLINS: --the Governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu has endorsed Nikki Haley. He's a big surrogate of hers, Jamal.
JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO VP HARRIS: Yes.
COLLINS: This is what he had to say, about the Tim Scott endorsement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Look, Tim Scott wouldn't have a job without Nikki Haley. Nobody cares what Tim Scott thinks. If they did, he actually wouldn't have been driven out of this race, three months ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: He also argued against the endorsed -- the power of endorsements, even though he himself has endorsed--
COLLINS: --Nikki Haley, I should note.
SIMMONS: No, it's funny. This either says something bad about Tim Scott, or it says something bad about Nikki Haley, right?
Either Tim Scott is disloyal, and he's not -- he didn't look out for the person who looked out for him. Or Nikki Haley really has got no swing left, in South Carolina, which means she's going to get trounced, when she gets down there. It just feels like one of them is going to pay, for this, pretty badly. Today, based on the polls, it looks like Nikki Haley is that person.
It looks like Tim Scott is getting on board, with Donald Trump, because he might want to be Vice President. And according to our friend, Bakari Sellers, who I saw on earlier, he's going to be a tough -- he'd be a tough debater, if he did end up, in the vice presidential nominee slot.
But I think he's -- I think this is one of these moments, where you look at Tim Scott, and you wonder, what is it that happened between the two of these people, over the last few years, that got him to the point, where he's willing to come out in public, and really trounce her, in a place where people will look at this and say, wow, something must be wrong with Nikki Haley here.
COLLINS: Well let's ask someone, who might know that. We have Rob Godfrey, here, who is a longtime player, in South Carolina Republican politics, who knows both Haley and Scott, and served as Nikki Haley's chief spokesperson, when she was the governor.
Rob, I'm glad to have you, joining us here, tonight.
And as Jamal noted, this was a former ally of Nikki Haley's. Obviously, things have changed recently. But what do you make of the personal nature of this endorsement, tonight?
ROB GODFREY, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF & SPOKESMAN FOR GOV. NIKKI HALEY, FORMER SPOKESMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY: That it may not be personal at all.
That at the end of the day, Tim Scott was a candidate for president, Tim Scott has his own political future to look out for, and Tim Scott may see the writing on the wall, that President Trump takes -- keeps a scorecard, of who endorses him, when, Tim Scott -- takes note of who endorses him when, when he's considering things, like picks for the administration, picks for the cabinet down the road.
And Tim Scott may well -- may well have made a personal calculation, not to get back at anyone, or to exactly revenge on anyone. But simply to do something that was in his own best interest, to pursue opportunities, down the road, whether it's, as a member of the cabinet, or it's for another elected office.
And so, politicians are allowed to do that, just as they're allowed to, run for whatever office that they want to run for.
COLLINS: Yes. Well Rob, actually--
COLLINS: --can we listen to Tim Scott, because he was just on stage, in Concord, in New Hampshire, just truly minutes to go. Let's just listen to his endorsement, of the former President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: You see, we need a president who doesn't see Black or White.
SCOTT: We see a president who sees Americans as one American family.
(AUDIENCE RESPONDS WITH "DONALD TRUMP")
SCOTT: You see, we need a president who doesn't see Black or White.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Do you think he would -- I'm skeptical of the idea that he would serve as Vice President, just based on some conversations that I had heard, in Washington. But do you -- do you believe that that is something that he would be open to doing, based on what you just saw there?
GODFREY: So, when that kind of question comes, it's hard to anticipate, what your answer would want to be, particularly, if you're someone of service.
Tim Scott has served as a county councilman. He's served as a member of the statehouse. He served as a member of Congress and as a U.S. senator. And when the nominee of your party or the President-elect of the United States asks you to serve, you consider.
So while he may not, a few weeks ago, have told you that he was seeking out the vice presidency, or a spot in a potential administration, that could change, if the question comes as a serious one.
But at the end of the day, it's important to remember this. Both Nikki Haley and Tim Scott have, over the course of time, been allies, and they have been friends. They've also underscored the fact that they don't take things, like these presidential races, all that personally.
And so, this is a small state, where you have common friends, where you have common allies, where you have common donors, where you have members of, candidates that serve, a governor, right now, who supports President Trump, and who served the previous governor who's now running for president. All of these people remain friends, despite the fact that they may not be supporting, one of these three people, who've run for president, this year.
GODFREY: And so, that's the theme to remember, going forward, in South Carolina.
COLLINS: We will see, Rob, if they--
GODFREY: As this race is over--
COLLINS: We'll see if they continue to stay friends here. I mean, this is a -- it's been a very personal race, certainly between Donald Trump, and the attacks that he's directing at, Nikki Haley.
But Rina, when you look at Nikki Haley's trajectory here, and what this means going forward for her.
The other thing that Governor Sununu was saying earlier, which is that Nikki Haley doesn't need to -- he said she's never needed to win New Hampshire. Only Trump needs to win New Hampshire. She doesn't really need to start winning states yet.
Is that how most political strategists would see it, though?
SHAH: I have completely seen it that way.
And shame on Tim Scott, for thinking that that lukewarm win that Donald Trump had in Iowa, somehow seals the deal for this nomination.
This is a bizarre race, I tell you, because we have not seen anything like this, on the Republican side, in a while. You cannot compare this to 2016. The way this nomination is going to be won is by feeling the pulse of the Republican electorate. And I don't think that can be felt until Super Tuesday.
Now, I get that we're going to be where we're at, very tense in March. And the math has to be there. Again, we're looking at something like 1,200 delegates, for somebody to win over, in order to outright get the nomination. But I want you all to think a step further.
I was a delegate, to the 2016 nomination, the first one to speak out against Trump, when I was elected, when he was a presumptive nominee. That summer, we tried to deny him the nomination, on the floor of the convention. And it didn't work.
This time, I think if he's -- if there is a rebellion, it can possibly happen. And there's a greater chance, for him, to be denied the nomination, on the floor of the Republican convention, this summer than there was in 2016, because of the sentiment that's in the electorate.
COLLINS: Well but Jamal, do you think this is just an effort, by Trump, rolling out these endorsements, earlier than expected, to just put the nomination away, to have it done, and so then we're going to have the longest general election contest of our lives, it's going to feel like?
SIMMONS: Of course, he wants to do that, right? Because he really wants to get the campaign going, to be able to use the money that he has, to go after Joe Biden, all those things.
I got to go back to what Tim Scott just said. It was the most maddening endorsement of Donald Trump. I can't imagine Tim Scott giving him that he doesn't see Black or White. Tim Scott is somebody we think of as being optimistic and inclusive. And he's got a vision that seems like it's from an old era of Republicanism, where everybody gets to be involved.
Donald Trump doesn't see Black or White? Remember when Donald Trump was running for president the last time, and he said there was a judge, in Indiana, who couldn't say anything about him, because he had Mexican heritage, right?
He is a -- he's a member of a party that is fueled by this MAGAism that goes after diversity and inclusion. Ron DeSantis, who won't -- who has -- who takes out slavery, and the bad effects of slavery, from the books in Florida. They can't say slavery caused the Civil War.
I mean, you go on and on about how race is a part of the movement that it is that he's -- he is driving. And then, Tim Scott has the nerve to say he doesn't see Black or White.
COLLINS: But also--
SIMMONS: It's outrageous.
COLLINS: --he perpetuated the birther conspiracy, about Obama and amplified it. In recent days, he's been making racially-charged attacks, about Nikki Haley, amplifying a post, questioning whether or not she could still -- that she was qualified to be president.
COLLINS: She was born in South Carolina.
COLLINS: I mean, this is not something that -- what's happened 10 years ago, and it's not happening now.
SIMMONS: It's right. It's happening right now, including like mispronouncing her name, and putting her birth name out, as if it's a way to come after her legitimacy, as a president.
And by the way, her name, she can -- you have that name, and still be an American citizen.
COLLINS: She does.
SIMMONS: Right, exactly.
COLLINS: And what we are (ph). Jamal Simmons.
SIMMONS: Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, like we're -- Jamal Simmons, right?
SHAH: It's all possible.
SIMMONS: We're in America, where we all get to have--
SHAH: Rina Shah, yes, I mean, you know.
SIMMONS: Rina Shah. We all get to have whatever name it is that we have.
COLLINS: Jamal Simmons, Rina Shah, Rob Godfrey, thank you all, for being here, tonight.
Also tonight, as the former President is amping up those attacks, on Nikki Haley, as I noted, some of them are racially-charged. Not surprising. But we're going to talk to someone, who knows what it's like, to be targeted, by Donald Trump. A member of the exonerated "Central Park Five," now turned New York City Councilman, will join me here on set.
Also tonight, we're tracking new developments, in Georgia, where the District Attorney, who indicted Trump there, is facing scrutiny, accused of having an affair, with a prosecutor that she appointed. Now, new bank records are coming to light. More on that in a moment.
COLLINS: New records that were released today revealed that the Fulton County District Attorney, in Georgia, Fani Willis, took trips, on the taxpayers' dime, with the lead prosecutor, in the Trump election case. This comes amid accusations that she had a romantic relationship, with the prosecutor, Nathan Wade, who she hired to help prosecute Trump, in this case.
[21:20:00] Today, Wade's estranged wife revealed credit card statements, showing that he bought airline tickets, for at least two out-of-state trips to Miami, in 2022, and San Francisco, last year, for himself and for Willis, she says.
This came out as evidence, in Wade's divorce proceedings. But what it is being used here is now in this case, with Trump, because Trump's co-defendant there, in Georgia, and also his former campaign staffer, is trying to use this, and this allegation, to disqualify Fani Willis, from prosecuting this case. It could have very important implications for this.
I want to break it all down, here tonight, what we know so far, with Clark Cunningham, who's a law professor, at Georgia State University.
Also, Geoff Duncan, our former Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, regular here on CNN.
Clark, let me start with you, because you know Georgia law inside and out.
And as I noted here, this is coming from a Trump campaign staffer turned co-defendant, here in Georgia. It's a little bit hard to follow. But this is Michael Roman, who his attorneys have been saying, without evidence that Fani Willis had this affair with Nathan Wade that she's financially benefiting from the salary that he has, as special prosecutor.
I mean, when you look at this, how serious of an issue do you think this could be, for Fani Willis, here?
PROF. CLARK CUNNINGHAM, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Well, up until today, I've generally had almost nothing but good things to say about how D.A. Willis has been handling this case.
But with the corroboration that came out this afternoon, of the allegations that are being made, by Michael Roman against her? I've said that I think she should seriously consider taking a personal leave, and stepping away from the office. I think that's about the only way this case just doesn't go right off the rails, right now.
COLLINS: Well, I mean, she had -- I should note, hasn't outright denied the allegations, about the affair itself. But she has stood up in defense of Nathan Wade, who she hired here, and why she hired him.
But I wonder Clark, when you read into the credit card statements, and if that proves anything that we saw today?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, unfortunately, it corroborates two possible arguments that really, Donald Trump is probably going to make, along with Michael Roman. And I'm not saying that these are necessarily going to be winning arguments, in front of Judge McAfee. But I don't think they're trivial arguments.
And it's very dangerous, I think, from the District Attorney's perspective, to go forward, and fight this to the very end. Because if she loses, as I say, then she gets thrown off the case, her whole office gets thrown off the case. The case gets put in limbo, until a special prosecutor is appointed, by a state agency. And then, that special prosecutor could decide to reduce or dismiss charges. So, the stakes are really, really high, in trying to fight this one out.
Whereas I think, also in the public interest, she and probably Mr. Wade need to get out of the spotlight, and let the merits of this case go forward.
So, here's the problem. So, there are two arguments that could be made, why she should be disqualified, both having to do with Georgia law that says a prosecutor--
CUNNINGHAM: --cannot have a personal interest, in convicting a defendant.
You had a question, Kaitlan?
COLLINS: Yes. Well, I am glad you brought that up. Because that is, what we know is going to be going before the judge here. There's a hearing that Scott McAfee has scheduled, on February 15th, not long from now, and wants to hear in the filings, from Fani Willis. But Geoff Duncan, when it comes to the questions if this is a legal
issue. We'll hear that in court. But what about optically? What are -- what are people saying in Georgia? Because obviously, the court of public opinion is one that Trump uses, at his disposal, often.
GEOFF DUNCAN, (R) FORMER GEORGIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's start off by saying what a mess. I mean, you just kind of scratch your head and said, what in the world are these people thinking?
When you run for elected office like Fani Willis did, you open yourself up to a higher standard. And then, when you further indict a former President, with multiple indictments, of course, you open yourself up to even higher standards.
And to watch this play out has been painful. I think the sentiment, on the street, on both sides of the aisle, is if these accusations or allegations are true, there's some serious shadows being casted on this case.
And for somebody, like me, and I think this is a general sense, for the rest of the country, this is an important case, no matter which side you're on, to be heard and for the verdict to be read. To make sure that this 2020 election and the facts are heard, in a courtroom, under oath, the lead up to January 6, there's some important information that needs to come out, in these trials.
And to think if Fani Willis, in this incident, casts a shadow that makes that impossible, or unlikely to hear, and for a verdict to be read? Then, I believe she needs to step away, and do it quickly, so that the merits of the case stand alone. And look, if these folks are innocent, and there's a box of proof somewhere that we've been waiting for, for three years? I can't wait to see it. I'll be the first one to pat somebody on the back. But the likely scenario is that none of this is going to come out to be true, and there's going to be some painful consequences.
COLLINS: Geoff Duncan, Clark Cunningham, we'll obviously stay tuned to see what happens, especially February 15th, in that hearing. Thank you both.
CUNNINGHAM: Good to be with you, Kaitlan.
DUNCAN: Thanks, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Up next, speaking of criminal cases, a new one against Alec Baldwin has been revived, as the actor was just charged again, with involuntary manslaughter, for that shooting that happened, on the movie set, and killed a cinematographer. We'll take a look at what's different this time.
COLLINS: Tonight, Alec Baldwin has been indicted, for a second time, for the deadly 2021 shooting, on the set of the movie, "Rust." A New Mexico grand jury has charged the actor, with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, for the death of the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.
If you remember, Baldwin had been rehearsing a scene, and holding a gun that fired live ammunition. He was initially charged, a year ago. But the charges were dropped, after the case fell apart.
Prosecutors said they could (ph) move forward, because the timing and new evidence involving the gun that was used here. Baldwin now could face up to 18 months in prison, and a $5,000 fine, if he's convicted here.
To break down this new confusing development, New Mexico attorney, Jennifer Burrill, is here with me.
And Jennifer, I'm so glad to have you.
Because I think the main question here is, what's different, if anything, about this new indictment, compared to the first one?
JENNIFER BURRILL, PRESIDENT, NEW MEXICO CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS ASSOCIATION: Well, we really don't know what evidence was presented to the grand jury yet. They do make a recording. This should be available later. But I don't believe that anybody's heard it yet.
I was in trial today, with the grand jury judge. And we know that it came down just before lunch. So, those haven't been released yet, the actual details.
But the way that this is working, is that they are charging it in the alternative. So, it looks like there's two counts, but it's not. It's one count of manslaughter.
The first way that they're trying to indict, is that somebody committed a misdemeanor, or petty misdemeanor, in this case, negligent use of a deadly weapon, and that resulted in the death of somebody else. That's how they're getting to the involuntary manslaughter.
The second way that they're trying to get around it is that no crime was committed, but they were so reckless, acted it with a willful, reckless disregard, for the safety of others, that that would amount to manslaughter. And I think that's going to be a really uphill battle. Because people act that way all the time, on movie sets, right? That they trust the process and what's going on. So, I think they're probably more likely to have the first option.
But both of these option will carry, or could carry, if the D.A. decides to move that way, the special prosecutor, to add the firearm enhancement. And in 2020, they raised that from one year to three years. So, even though this is a fourth-degree felony, in New Mexico, which is the very lowest felony that we have, and it would carry 18 months, they could add an additional three years.
COLLINS: OK. And good to hear you say that it looks like two, but it's one charge of involuntary manslaughter.
And what's complicated here seems to be the gun itself, because obviously, we've heard Alec Baldwin, who in an interview, with CNN, said that he was told it did not contain live rounds. He also said he didn't pull the trigger.
But then, the prosecution previously had commissioned that report. They said that the trigger had to have been pulled, for this to happen.
So, what are we expecting, from the new prosecution team here, and how they could handle this?
BURRILL: Well, if you look at the second option, right, that they have the alternative? The way that the statute reads is it says, an ordinary person, how an ordinary person would act, that an ordinary person acting in this way would expect a death.
And we've had movies, for decades, where people have used prop guns, and nobody died. And so, I think they're going to have a really hard time overcoming that, obstacles. We could just see a parade of Hollywood stars come in, and say, we did the same thing, and nobody died. So, at this point, we really don't know what to expect.
But I was -- I am kind of surprised that we're two and a half years into this, and they still don't have a theory. The reason they're charging in the alternative is because they don't -- they don't have a theory of what happened. They're just throwing everything against the wall, and seeing what sticks. COLLINS: Jennifer Burrill, we'll be watching it closely. I know you will as well. Thank you, for being with us, tonight, to update that.
Also, this hour, we saw earlier, the only Black Republican senator, Tim Scott, giving his endorsement, his backing, to Donald Trump. Race in Trump's attacks, very much still part of his campaign trail, in 2024, as they were in 2020, and 2016.
My next guest, tonight, was wrongly imprisoned, for nearly seven years, at a time when Trump took out a full-page ad, calling for the death penalty. He's now an elected leader, here in New York City. And we'll speak to that member of the exonerated "Central Park Five," who I should note is yet to receive an apology, from the former President.
COLLINS: Just moments ago, you saw Senator Tim Scott, who is the only Black Republican, in the Senate, endorsing Donald Trump, as he makes another effort, to get into the White House, even as Trump, of course, has in recent days been embracing what is, for him, a pretty familiar tactic, on the campaign trail, racially-charged attacks.
He's been going after Nikki Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, whom he once selected, as his United Nations Ambassador, by amplifying false claims, about her citizenship. She was born in South Carolina, I should note here. And also mocking her birth name, Nimarata.
My next guest knows all too well, what it's like to be personally attacked, by Donald Trump. He was among the exonerated "Central Park Five," five Black and Latino teenagers, wrongly convicted of the rape and assault, of a White female jogger, in the 1980s.
In response to that, Trump took out what was a full-page ad, at the time, calling for New York, to bring back the death penalty.
Those teenagers spent nearly seven years, in prison, before DNA evidence proved that someone else had committed that crime.
Joining me now is one of the Exonerated Five, Yusef Salaam, who is now a New York City Council member.
So Councilman, it's great to have you here.
YUSEF SALAAM, MEMBER OF EXONERATED "CENTRAL PARK FIVE," NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Oh.
COLLINS: Congratulations on your victory. I haven't seen you since then.
SALAAM: My pleasure.
COLLINS: But it's great to have you here, just in this moment. Because you have talked about how hard it is to see someone, like Donald Trump, rise to the pinnacle of American politics. And I wonder what you think of his approach, this time, the fact that so many, in leadership, in American politics, are still backing him, and he could very well potentially be the Republican nominee for president.
SALAAM: I think it's the scariest moment in time, where we have almost pre-knowledge. We've been here before. And here we are again. And the outlook of what could be is so unbelievable, but yet believable, at the same time.
One of the things that I want Americans, to really consider, is what we really want America to be. We -- I've said it before. I've said that we live in the United States of America. But we are very divided. The effort is for the leader, of this nation, to unite us, in a way that is meaningful, in a way that has legacy. Not in a way that is nightmarish.
When Donald Trump took out those full-page ads, almost 35 years ago, it wasn't something that was -- I mean, you got to think about it. Two weeks after we were accused, these ads ran. And these ads, were trying to have the effect that they would come into our homes, drag us from our beds, and I've said this before, do to us what they did to Emmett Till.
Nobody is safe, under the watch, of a person like Donald Trump. And I think that if we look at January 6th, if we look at Charlottesville, if we look at other things that have happened, and that continues to happen? This is what America will be more of. And this is what we're really fighting against.
COLLINS: But what is it? I kind of wonder what goes through your mind, given America knows Donald Trump. I mean, they're very familiar with him. Obviously, he lost his last election. But he's so quickly had this ascendancy, this time around that it's even stunned the people, who challenged him.
SALAAM: I think it really shows that racism is still alive and sick in America. It's something that is pulsating. It has a -- it has a heartbeat. And the fact that it's still here, the fact that we're still talking about things that are very divisive?
I mean all of the things that Donald Trump has come out and said, against his opponents, has been, in many ways, unbelievable. But then, we're like, but that's Donald Trump, like, what else would he do? What else would he say, you know?
The fact also, I think, is that there is a -- there's this love affair, with the idea that we all can become a Donald Trump. We all can have this outlaw-ish kind of attitude towards everything that we can just say, the rules are for them.
COLLINS: Well, I just wonder how you look at it when he makes claims, like he's making now, about total immunity as president. And he's arguing that it could affect other presidents, just the fact that that's happening and he's got 91 counts against him, I wonder how you look at that, given the way he treated you.
SALAAM: Look, nobody's above the law. And what I want folks to really consider as well is that even if you get some semblance of a door, a way out? The ultimate judge is god. That should scare all of us. When we go to our deathbeds, we will not -- that won't be the end.
I mean, I know that there's a narrative out there that says, we only live and we die, and that's it. But there's also a narrative that says you will be raised, and you will be judged for what you did. And those individuals, who did the most evil, will wish they had a second opportunity, to just come back, for a moment, to do the right thing.
COLLINS: It's great to have you. Thank you for joining me, on set.
SALAAM: My pleasure. My pleasure. I hope America gets it right, this time.
COLLINS: It's a powerful message. Thank you so much.
Also, tonight, we are tracking news out of Washington. And I should note, if you're in D.C., if you're a Capitol Hill reporter, just hopeful that your government's not going to shut down? There is good news, because it won't be shutting down, tomorrow, when that deadline hits.
But the good news ends right about there, for House Speaker, Mike Johnson. Tonight, his grip on the gavel is tenuous at best, probably, after he pushed through a short-term funding bill with mainly Democratic votes.
A big question is could he need Democrats, eventually, to help keep his job? We'll speak to one, who is open to that, right after a quick break.
COLLINS: Tonight, House Speaker, Mike Johnson, has avoided a government shutdown, but with a small yet growing, maybe getting bigger potentially, number of House Republican hardliners, who are threatening to oust him, as problems cannot be avoided.
I should note, Speaker Johnson has not yet even 100 days into his new job. But he's facing many of the issues that were there, for his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.
And tonight, some Democrats are raising the prospect, privately, of potentially coming, to Johnson's rescue, if he needs it. It's a big if though there, because what we are hearing is that they will help him out, if he agrees to put a bipartisan spending and border deal, one that's still being hashed out, in the Senate, up for a vote, on the House floor.
Joining me, tonight, is a Democrat, who says that he would consider doing exactly that, Texas congressman, Vicente Gonzalez.
And Congressman, it's great to have you here tonight.
Explain to me why it's different this time. Because obviously before, when hardliners pushed, to oust Kevin McCarthy, no Democrats came to save him. Not surprising. Why would it be different for Speaker Johnson?
REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): Well, I think Speaker Johnson has a historic opportunity, to bring the country together, and lead from the -- from the center, and pass meaningful bipartisan legislation.
And I think, in doing so, he's going to develop relationships, and a lot of goodwill, on both sides of the aisle that I think will be supportive of him, and that one day, could save his speakership.
And I think he has a decision to make of which path he intends to take here, in the next few months.
COLLINS: Well, this bill, this immigration bill that's being crafted in the Senate, right now. And we could see it as soon as next week. What he says is rumored to be in it, right now, he called it dead on arrival, saying that, that it would not make it to the House.
If it comes over to the House, and they make a bunch of changes? And by, they, I mean Republicans. Would you still vote for it? Or is your vote then in question?
GONZALEZ: Well, probably not. I mean, you hear a conversation of them wanting to turn it into an H.R.2, that's going to be dead in the Senate. And it's not going anywhere.
He has an opportunity to bring the country together, to work in a bipartisan way, and pass a very impactful legislation. Or he can be hijacked by a handful of members, on the extreme right, and history will judge him -- and judge him, depending on how he acts here, in the next -- in the next month or two.
But I think this is great -- a great opportunity, for the Speaker, to do the right thing, and do what the majority of American people want. And is to work together, and pass legislation, in a bipartisan way that could have a meaningful impact, to the American people.
I think history will judge him depending on his next actions, these next few months.
COLLINS: But then--
GONZALEZ: If he's worked in there another few months, and continued to be -- and continuing to be hijacked by a handful of members? That's a very tough situation for him to be in. I think, if I were him, I would be talking to members, in a bipartisan way, and building relationships.
COLLINS: Well Congressman just to--
GONZALEZ: So, he's got to--
COLLINS: For everyone at home, who's watching, who's not on Capitol Hill, as often as you are, H.R.2 is that very restrictive immigration bill that Republicans want. It has a lot of Trump-era immigration policies inside of it.
But what you're saying is that if the bill from Senate -- the Senate, comes down, that Senate Republicans like, and Speaker Johnson put that on the floor, and then Republicans, hardliners, move to oust him, you would vote to save his job? Do I have that right?
GONZALEZ: I (inaudible) the language in this bill. But if it's a bill that both Democrats and Republicans agree on? We have a problem on our border that I've been critical about, for a very long time, and it needs to be addressed.
And I think if this speaker addresses it, in a bipartisan way, in a meaningful way that the majority of Americans want him to do? He will gain support from, and respect from, both sides of the aisle. That can be a savior to him, at some point. And I think he should be open to those ideas.
COLLINS: Yes. President Biden himself, saying tonight, that the border is not secure, as they work, to try to get something done. We'll see what happens. And if you are in that situation, I hope you'll join us back here.
Congressman Gonzalez, thank you, for your time, on a Friday night.
GONZALEZ: Thank you.
COLLINS: Up next, speaking of the White House, there was a phone call, today, between President Biden, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Notable. They haven't spoken in about a month. Tonight, they talked about the future of the war.
And you're going to hear, tonight, here exclusively, from a former Hamas hostage. She is just 13-years-old. That in a moment.
COLLINS: For the first time, in nearly a month, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, today. A call that comes just one day after the Israeli Prime Minister appeared to reject the idea of a two-state solution ever happening.
He said, quote, "In any future arrangement... Israel needs security control over all territory west of Jordan. This clashes with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty." That, of course is directly at odds, with the stance that we have heard, from President Biden, and his top aides, including the Secretary of State.
In fact, a person familiar with the conversation today, tells CNN that the statement was meant to not shut the door forever, on the possibility of a Palestinian state, though it certainly raises the questions about what Netanyahu would do for one.
President Biden told reporters, after they spoke, that he does believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu would agree to a two-state solution, quote, "Given the right one." Did not elaborate.
But also during that call today, we have learned that Biden and Netanyahu discussed the ongoing efforts, to bring hostages home.
Right now, the Israeli government believes that 132 hostages, taken on October 7th, are still being held, in Gaza, tonight.
Several women and children had been released, as we saw, during that brief period, where there was a temporary pause, in the fighting. That included a 13-year-old Hila Rotem Shoshani (ph). She is one of the youngest freed hostages, to speak publicly, about what happened to her, when she was being held by Hamas.
Hila (ph), her mom and, of course, her friend, Emily Hand that you all are familiar with, were all kidnapped, on that day. Hila (ph) and Emily, they have been freed, after 49 harrowing days in captivity. And she went on to turn 13, just days after that. But her mom was not released, when she was. They instead separated them, held to her for a few more days, and then eventually released her.
Hila (ph) joined me, here on set. She was in New York, last week, to talk about what she went through, to call for the awareness, for the release of more hostages. She mainly speaks Hebrew. She's 13-years- old. So, her uncle, Yair, was here with her, to translate.
COLLINS: You were told to be quiet, you said, very quiet while you were there? You weren't allowed to speak? I mean, what would happen, if you -- if you make noise?
HILA ROTEM SHOSHANI (ph), 13-YEARS-OLD FREED HAMAS HOSTAGE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
YAIR ROTEM (ph), HILA ROTEM SHOSHANI'S (ph) UNCLE: They were held in some room. Once they took -- too loud. The terrorists would take them to another room. It's like a living room, and just sit there. For example, one time, she spoke too loudly, took her to the living room, and have there -- sit there, and just stare at them for -- for a while, as a punishment, alone.
COLLINS: That must have been scary.
And you were separated from your mom, two days before you were released. What was that like?
ROTEM SHOSHANI: Very hard.
COLLINS: She talked about how hard it was. She talked about what it was like to be there.
And I just want to say, I'm thankful for Hila's (ph) courage. The fact that she's 13-years-old, she's able to come on camera, publicly, to share her story, and also, use her moment, use her platform, to call for awareness, for those who are still there. Those were her friends, for 49 days.
We are wishing her, and her family, the best, as they move through this recovery period.
I want to thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.
"CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts, right now.