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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Senate Grills Social Media Execs Over Child Safety; FBI: China Seeks To "Wreak Havoc" On U.S. Infrastructure; Haley: Trump Is "Toxic" And Lacks "Moral Clarity". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 21:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: That is all for us, tonight. I'm John Berman. Thank you so much for watching.

The news continues now. So, let's turn it over to "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS," which starts right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.

An extraordinary moment, at a contentious hearing, on Capitol Hill. Mark Zuckerberg standing up to apologize, after he and other tech execs were accused of having blood on their hands. A parent that he apologized to is here, tonight.

Plus, the fate of Ukraine's top general, up in the air, this evening. Could a major military shake-up be underway? We have brand-new CNN reporting on what it means for the state of the war.

Also tonight, a stark warning, from the FBI Director, on major threats that are facing the United States. Christopher Wray says hackers in China are preparing to wreak havoc, and we aren't paying enough attention.

I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.

It's incredibly rare, these days, to see any kind or shred of unity, on Capitol Hill. But even more astonishing, what we saw today, were the words that were directed, at the chief executives, of the five big tech companies, today, Meta, TikTok, Snap, Discord, and X, formerly known as Twitter.

Angry members, of the, Senate Judiciary Committee, confronting them, about their company's ties, to the deaths of children, kids, who were, in some way harmed, by the impacts, of social media, including online harassment, and exploitation. It was searing.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): You have blood on your hands.

You have a product.


GRAHAM: You have a product that's killing people.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Your platforms really suck, at policing themselves.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): When a Boeing plane lost a door, in mid- flight, several weeks ago, nobody questioned the decision to ground a fleet of over 700 planes. So, why aren't we taking the same type of decisive action, on the danger of these platforms, when we know these kids are dying?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Your platform has become a killing field.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): It appears that you're trying to be the premier sex trafficking site.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, META CEO: Of course not, Senator.

BLACKBURN: In this country.

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, that's ridiculous.



COLLINS: You can see people behind, people like Mark Zuckerberg and the other executives. Those are parents, some of them who lost their children to suicide, sitting behind them, as they were grilled by those lawmakers, some of them holding up photos, of their dead children. Some reacting audibly as that hearing went on for hours today. At moments there was applause, tears and also times of silence.

But the moment that might perhaps be etched, into Capitol Hill history, was when Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, was prodded into an apology for the ages.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): You didn't take any action.

ZUCKERBERG: That's not true, Senator.

HAWLEY: You didn't fire anybody. You haven't compensated a single victim. Let me ask you this.

ZUCKERBERG: That's not true. That's not -- that's not what I said.

HAWLEY: Let me ask you this. There's families of victims here today. Have you apologized to the victims?

Would you like to apologize for what you've done to these good people?


ZUCKERBERG: I'm sorry for everything that you've all gone through. It's terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered. And this is why we've invested so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to -- to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer.


COLLINS: We have never seen something like that happen, at one of these hearings, focused on reining in Big Tech, or really on the Hill, period, in such dramatic fashion.

Zuckerberg, and the other CEOs, who were seated at that dais, also strongly defended the measures that their companies have taken, they say, to make their sites safer.


EVAN SPIEGEL, SNAP CEO: We provide in-app reporting tools, so that people who are being harassed or who, you know, have been shared inappropriate sexual content, can report it, in the case of harassment or sexual content.

SHOU CHEW, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TIKTOK INC.: I'm proud to say that TikTok was among the first to empower parents, to supervise their teens, on our app, with our family pairing tools.

LINDA YACCARINO, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, X CORP.: You have my personal commitment that X will be active, and a part of this solution.


COLLINS: Now, that's the executives.

I should note all the heat that you heard, from the lawmakers, who were questioning them, that cutting criticism? Despite all of that, Congress has done close to nothing, really nothing, to regulate the social media companies' members, at this moment.


Joining me here tonight is Christine McComas. She was in that hearing. And when Mark Zuckerberg turned around, she was one of the people that he apologized to, directly. Her daughter, Grace, died by suicide, at the age of 15, after being relentlessly cyberbullied. And Christine is with me now.

And I'm so glad that you're here. And thank you for coming in.

It must have been incredibly emotional, to be in that room, today, with those parents.


There's a certain amount of grief from all of us. I know many of those parents that were there, at least 20 of us, know each other. And grief is one thing.

But for me, I find anger as well, because my daughter died in 2012. And I started talking immediately, about the role that social media played. And at that time, maybe people didn't understand. But now we know.

And the thing that really is upsetting is with the whistleblowers that came forward, two of them from Facebook and Instagram, there, they brought papers, with them, that proved that they had internal information and internal research, that they knew, also, and they chose to do nothing.

And every time, you know, we've done a lot of advocacy, but every time a bill like this fails, or does, they just don't take any action on it? I know that there will be more kids harmed, and more kids will die.

COLLINS: When Zuckerberg turned around, with that apology, which of course I should note, came after Josh Hawley, the Senator, was essentially kind of put him in a position, where he had no choice but to do so.


COLLINS: What went through your head?

MCCOMAS: Well, that was the thing. It wasn't -- it wasn't exactly organic. I don't think he had a choice, but to turn around and say something. I could not clearly hear everything he was saying. But he did look at me.

But the bottom line is, there's a lot of talking. And now we need action, and we need change. And KOSA, the Kids Online Safety Act would do that.

COLLINS: Do you think -- did the sense from the lawmakers give you any hope that it won't just be talking, that they will actually do something?

MCCOMAS: Well, they certainly seem heated about it. It sounded to me like they were making promises that they will bring it to a vote now. Whether it goes to the House, and what happens over there, I don't know. But I think for the betterment of the United States, and the safety of American children, it has to happen.

COLLINS: You have Grace's picture, there. You're wearing it in that pin.


COLLINS: I mean, to think that she was 15-years-old, what was she like? MCCOMAS: She was born happy. She was a pretty bright light from birth. She was always pleasant and funny as all get-out. And it only continued as she grew. I mean, she was a communicative and active teen, wasn't at risk, until things happened with on Twitter. And she never had a smartphone. And she wasn't on Twitter. And I didn't even know what it was at the time.

But you don't have to be on social media to be hurt by it. And that's what I think a lot of people don't understand.

When social media exponentially explodes, maybe the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you, or hatred towards you, or violence threatened to you, you don't have to be actually on there, and receiving it, because it goes out to everybody.

It goes out to the peer group. It goes out to, you know, and people would call her and say, he's talking about you again. And then, just at that time, you could just look up, whatever their handle was at the time, and you could see the last thing they said.

COLLINS: And what did she endure?

MCCOMAS: The types of things? I made this to share with senators, tomorrow. We will spend the entire day tomorrow, on Capitol Hill. And this is some of the tweets that were aimed at our daughter, when she was 14-years-old. I--

COLLINS: They're stomach-turning.

MCCOMAS: I'm sorry?

COLLINS: They're stomach-turning.

MCCOMAS: Yes. She was 14.

And there are things like, snitches should have their fingers cut off one by one while they watch their families burn. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate you. Literally seven times. I hope you see this and cry yourself to sleep, and then wake up and kill yourself. You might as well. You're a lousy piece of.

And I had never seen anybody talk to other people like that. There were no ways. I knew it was happening. She told us about it. We had screenshots. We went to everybody we could think of, and couldn't get it fixed.


But the thing is, even today, you can't report and get things taken down. If a kid is in crisis, and they are afraid, or they are being harmed or sextorted, or whatever, they need an instantaneous way, to contact a caring adult, and get that information taken down, and make sure that they know, a trusted adult, or a kind person, who will -- their parents, whatever, to take care of them, and to stop it.

COLLINS: Thank you for sharing that. And thank you for talking about Grace with us.

MCCOMAS: Thank you. Appreciate you.

COLLINS: And for joining us on such a difficult day. I really appreciate it, Christine.

MCCOMAS: Thanks.

COLLINS: Thank you.

And on the other side of that hearing today, were the lawmakers. And one person, who was there, Democratic senator of Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, who was questioning those executives. And Senator Klobuchar joins me now.

Thank you, Senator, for being here.

I mean, when you hear Christine talk about what her daughter had to go through, what people said to her, about her, and what she saw, are you committed to parents, like Christine, to bringing about change, on Capitol Hill?

KLOBUCHAR: I think Christine knows I've been committed. I have been leading a number of these efforts for years. Two of the five bills that we want to go to the floor, very quickly, to Christine's point, are my bills. And this is about finally getting some accountability.

I felt a sea change, having taken on issues from App Store fees, to social media companies, engaging in monopoly conduct. I felt some hope, in that room, today, few reasons. Bipartisan, you could see it.

I think the companies always try to divide and conquer. They think, oh, we'll tell the liberals, this is bad. We'll tell the conservatives, this is bad. I think they think this is too esoteric to matter. I think those parents standing there, with the pictures of their kids, behind the CEOs, will be forever etched in people's memory.

And the third thing is they always think, oh, Congress doesn't know what they're doing.

That's not the Senate Judiciary Committee. We know what we're doing.

And this focus on making them accountable. No other industry is like this. They -- literally, this rule was put in place before I was in Congress. It said they can't be sued for anything. And yet, they profit off of these kids. And opening up the courtroom doors would make a huge difference. They are no longer little companies in a garage.

Giving law enforcement the tools they need, to go after the fact that we have pills laced with fentanyl. Two Minnesotans were there, whose kids just got one pill off the internet. They thought it was a Percocet. And it was laced with fentanyl and they died.

And then finally, she mentioned it, Christine mentioned it, sextortion. We've had over 20 kids, according to the FBI, commit suicide, just because they're looking for a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, and someone lures them in that's really a corrupt person. And they give them their picture, naked picture, whatever. And then, they basically extort them. And the kid, who's maybe 15-years-old, kills themselves, because they think their whole life is over. This is happening, right now, in America.

And the fact that, as I noted, a jet loses a door, and thank God, no one was killed, and we ground the 700 planes, which was the right thing to do? And this is going on. And we just sit.

So, I am glad that Senator Schumer is committed. He's met with a number of us, to bring these bills to the floor. They're all bipartisan. And the time has come. And I think this hearing is going to be a game-changer.

COLLINS: Yes. So, what is that time? If a parent is asking, when would those bills be brought to the floor, has Senator Schumer given any indication of that?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think, you know, right now, we have a very important border security and Ukraine bill, in front of us, the supplemental. We're making progress. We then have the budget. But that can all be done in the next few months.

And from there, as we go into this election year, there's some bipartisan things out there to get done. This is one of them. A.I. is--

COLLINS: So, you think this year, potentially?

KLOBUCHAR: It has to be. I mean, we -- these parents, Christine just told you, have been waiting since 2012, to get this done. And this isn't getting better.

I am glad they're giving parents more power, to put things on their phones. But as one mom told me, it's like she's sitting out there with a mop, and the sink is overflowing in front of her, because she can't keep track of her three kids.

And we didn't expect the parent with the kid next to the door that came off the plane, to look for the bolts. I think these companies, who are making money off of this have to take responsibility, for getting this stuff, off the internet--


KLOBUCHAR: --and not having their kids exposed to it.

COLLINS: Senator, did you think that Mark Zuckerberg's apology was genuine?


KLOBUCHAR: I'm not going to evaluate them. I am glad that he apologized to those families. And I'm glad that other people have done that in the past. And that they are pursuing actions in court. But for me, that wasn't the point.

The point is that these companies have two or three lobbyists, for every member of Congress. And time and time again, they have stopped this legislation, from going forward.

And for the first time, at one of these hearings, I saw my colleagues, not just saying, you're bad, you did this. But now saying, OK, are you going to help us get this bill passed, then, if you care so much? Are you going to finally take legal responsibility for this?

That is a difference in tone. That is much more constructive. And that, to me, means action.

And they have got -- they've opposed nearly everything we do, unless it's the smallest of small studies or small things.


KLOBUCHAR: That time has passed.

COLLINS: And I should note. Christine has been sitting here, shaking her head, yes, the whole time that you've been making those points.


COLLINS: These parents are counting on lawmakers, like you, Senator Amy Klobuchar. Thank you for joining, tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. And thank you, Christine.

COLLINS: And I just want to note, for anyone who's been watching this, if you or anyone, in your life, needs any help at all, you can always call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. It is open 24 hours a day. The number is simple. It's 988. Anytime, any day, someone is standing by, to help. There is help.

And up next here, on THE SOURCE, we are hearing about a major shake-up that is potentially underway, in Ukraine. It could be announced in just hours from now, as President Zelenskyy reportedly ready to oust his top military commander, with major implications for the war.

Also, a new warning, from the FBI Director, of major threats from Chinese hackers, who he says are preparing to wreak havoc on the U.S.



COLLINS: We have breaking news tonight, as a major shake-up is potentially underway, for Ukraine's military.

Sources are telling CNN that President Zelenskyy has now informed his country's top military commander that he has been fired. The move, almost two years after Russia's invasion began, comes after weeks of speculation, about tensions between the two of them, Zelenskyy and his army chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, I should say. Joining us now is former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Ambassador Bill Taylor, who just returned from Kyiv, last Sunday.

And it's just remarkable, because there had been these tensions, between them. But this, if it happened, would be the biggest shake-up that we have seen. How significant do you believe that this is?


General Zaluzhnyi has done, by all accounts, a very good job, under difficult circumstances. He wasn't able to pull off this big counteroffensive that you reported on, for a long time.

But in the beginning of the -- of this war, when the big war, when the Russians were coming down, on Kyiv, General Zaluzhnyi, and other generals -- I mean, there are other generals there, did a very good job with him, succeeded. It's been hard, for the last year.

So, a lot will depend on who takes his place, if it happens. I mean, as you said, it's not official yet.

COLLINS: Yes. What we're hearing is that it could happen as soon as Friday.

If it does go forward, as sources are telling CNN tonight, that it is expected to happen that he already informed him of this, on Monday, is it because of the failed counteroffensive that we did report on in the fall?

Or is it because of the comments that General Zaluzhnyi made, in that interview with The Economist, back in November that kind of sent shockwaves everywhere? Because he said it was a stalemate.

TAYLOR: He said it was a stalemate. And the President said it was not a stalemate. Frankly, both were right. You could do that either way. It was the -- the lines hadn't changed, therefore stalemate. But there was progress. Ukrainians are making progress, on the waters, in the Black Sea, in the air, shooting down some airplanes.

So, you could say -- the President could say it's not a stalemate, we're actually making some progress. General Zaluzhnyi was looking at whether or not the lines moved very much, and he said it was.

COLLINS: He may not be a household name, Zaluzhnyi, in America. Obviously, President Zelenskyy is incredibly well-known, since the war almost two years ago began. But he's incredibly popular in Kyiv, and in Ukraine. I mean, look at the fallout be potentially from this.

TAYLOR: The President needs to have a good feel for, confidence, in his senior military.

If they make some progress, on the ground, if they make some progress, on the battlefield, with a new general, to take General Zaluzhnyi's place, and as I say, there are good candidates, then we'll look back and say, well, actually, maybe that was the right thing. But you're exactly right. General Zaluzhnyi is almost revered by soldiers, by civilians, by the private sector, by the government. He's a very popular man, as of course is the president. But this is going to be a difficult one, for them together.

COLLINS: Ambassador Bill Taylor, always learned from you. Thank you, for coming on, to talk about this breaking news, tonight.

TAYLOR: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Also, we are hearing reports, of serious threats, here in the U.S. New warnings that are coming from the Director of the FBI, about Chinese hackers, and what they are preparing to do, including real- world harm, to American citizens.



COLLINS: A stark warning, from the Director of the FBI, today. Chris Wray telling Congress that, hackers, supported by the Chinese government, are planting the digital equivalent of bombs, across U.S. infrastructure.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: China's hackers are positioning, on American infrastructure, in preparation to wreak havoc, and cause real-world harm, to American citizens and communities, if and when China decides the time has come to strike.


COLLINS: The threats that were laid out are not hypothetical.

Leaders, across the intelligence community, testified about uncovering Chinese attempts, to hack the systems that keep our planes flying, keep the nation's trains running on time, make sure the water you drink is clean and safe, that the pipelines that deliver oil and gas can do so, even the ability to turn the lights on in your own home.

For more perspective, on these threats, I'm joined tonight by the former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.

And it's great to have you.

We've heard about China's cyber capabilities, for a long time, and the threats they could pose, to the U.S. What was different, in what you heard, from Director Wray today?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think the first thing that's different is Christopher Wray is not a guy, who's prone to overheated language. So, if he delivers a direct and very clear statement, of the threat, it's we're all doing the right thing by listening very closely to what he has to say. What's different about what China is doing now?

For years, we watched China conduct malicious cyber activity that was directed primarily at our private sector, to steal data, to take technology, to benefit from our research and development, to try to prop up their economy.

This is very different. This is a nation state, seeking essentially military advantage, over the United States, preparing the battlefield, as it were.


In the event that there's a conflict, between our two nations, they want to be able to essentially turn out the lights, in this country, to disrupt our transportation systems, our delivery systems of goods and services that are needed to support troops in the field, and things of that nature, the delivery of fuel, banking, financial systems.

So, this is pre-preparing their ability to strike out against the United States.

COLLINS: There was this moment that he -- where he was just talking about the scale of what we could be facing, and what China has, that was really staggering to me. I want people to hear what -- how Wray explained it.


WRAY: In fact, in fact, if you took every single one of the FBI's cyber agents, and intelligence analysts, and focused them exclusively on the China threat, China's hackers would still outnumber FBI cyber personnel by at least 50 to 1.


COLLINS: That's mind-blowing to me.

MCCABE: And that has always been their strength. They pushed resources and personnel, into developing this effort, to developing this capability, years ago. You have entire divisions of Chinese -- of the Chinese military that do nothing but seek vulnerabilities, in U.S. systems, and figure out how to take advantage of those vulnerabilities, to build capability for China.

COLLINS: The other thing that I was thinking about, as he was testifying today, is what he's testified about previously, which is these threats, that are posed by Americans, who are just kind of turning what is online anger, and often dismissed as just online, into violence in the real world.

There was this moment today where, in Pennsylvania, this gruesome murder--

MCCABE: Sure. COLLINS: --of a man, posting a video, on YouTube, with his father's severed head.

And I know that's one incident. But I wonder what it says to you about the broader warning that we've seen from Director Wray?

MCCABE: Well, it tells you that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's concerns, about extremism in America, are actually right on target.

Yes, sure, this was an extreme example, of a disturbed person, who has been fueled by this political grievance, and these narratives that he has now heard, validated by people, in public office.

So, elected officials, who accept and repeat the same sorts of rhetoric? That gives extremists, the motivation, and the validation, they need, to go out and ultimately pursue acts of violence. Not all of them will, but some of them will. And it's those isolated acts that lone offenders will engage in, that causes our security folks to stay up at night.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, and just this man's history, he has twice sued the federal government, because he couldn't get a job. He claimed that he was fired, because he's a guy. And on this video, he ranted about the border, Biden, woke mobs, as he referred to them.

I mean, if you're an investigator looking into this, what broader picture are you trying to connect it to?

MCCABE: Well, I mean, I think what we see here, the common picture here is this simmering grievance, based on perceived political slights, anger about immigrants, anti-Semitic beliefs, it's that concoction of lies and conspiracy theories that really drives these people.

So sure, any individual that embraces outsider sort of political ideology, that's not what we're talking about here.

But there is a strain of people, in this country now, that have embraced these conspiracy theories. And that is fueling them towards acting out violently. And it's pushing us toward a period, where political violence is something we have to consider, as an everyday thing in this country.

COLLINS: Which is just wild.

MCCABE: Yes, totally.

COLLINS: Andrew McCabe, thank you, for coming in, to talk about these grave threats.

MCCABE: Sure thing.

COLLINS: Coming up, here on THE SOURCE, Nikki Haley has her sharpest words yet for Donald Trump, slamming the President that she worked for, as "Toxic" now. [21:35:00]


COLLINS: Nikki Haley sharpening her attacks, on Donald Trump, even more tonight, as the two of them battle their way toward the primary, in her home state of South Carolina.

Listen to how she ramped up her criticism, of her former boss, during this interview today, with the influential radio host, Charlamagne tha God.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's made it chaotic. He's made it self-absorbed. He's made people dislike and judge each other. He's left that a president should have moral clarity, and know the difference between right or wrong. And he's just toxic.


COLLINS: Her campaign also going after the former President by putting him in the same aging boat, as President Biden.

Look at this picture, from a new series of digital ads and online videos that the Haley campaign has done, with her "Grumpy Old Men" series, the title, a reference, of course to the 1993 movie, expected to include an episode called Stumbling Seniors and Basement Buddies.

I want to talk about this tonight, with CNN Special Correspondent, Jamie Gangel; and Jonah Goldberg, the Editor-in-Chief of The Dispatch.

Jamie, I wonder what you make, as we've been watching this primary process play out, and it seems that every time someone is -- as the field is narrowed, with DeSantis when he felt like it seemed like he was on the verge of getting out, they start directly attacking Trump much more.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, this is -- toxic, I think, is the furthest she's gone. But the reality is she knows she's getting under his skin. We hear, unhinged. We hear, confused. She particularly likes, confused.


And I think that she, the other day when Trump confused her, for Nancy Pelosi, she knows that if she does these digs, maybe he will make a mistake. Maybe he will do that again. And he's the ultimate counterpunch. But when he confused her for Nancy Pelosi, people remember that.

COLLINS: Jonah, I mean, do you think it's an effective tactic?

JONAH GOLDBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DISPATCH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's an effective tactic, to try to force an error out of him. And I think Jamie is exactly right about that. Whether it's enough, at this point, to do it--

GANGEL: Right. Right.

GOLDBERG: --is the question, right?

It's going to get a lot of free media, because, first of all, it's a two-person race. And it's a lot of fun to watch Nikki Haley, just stick it to Donald Trump. And she's good at it.

But there is this weird dynamic, in the race where like, Ron DeSantis, after almost a year, became a fantastic candidate, after it was clear, he couldn't win, right?

There was something about figuring, you've burnt your ships, you're going to completely commit. And so, Nikki Haley is like being much, much more open and free, in her criticism of Trump. And I think it's really bothering him.

COLLINS: Yes. And the difference with her and DeSantis is she has enough money to stay in the race.


COLLINS: And I wonder, Jamie, what this new poll from Quinnipiac shows that Biden is leading Trump 50 to 44 percent, in part because of some more -- support among women.

But when it's Nikki Haley, it shows that she leads Biden 47 to 42 percent, buying into that electability argument she's been making. But it hasn't worked for other candidates. I mean, can it work for her?

GANGEL: So, I doubt it. Look, he is so far ahead. He is holding on to his base. No matter what we've seen, whether it's the legal cases, he's just knocked everybody out, once again, just the way he did in 2016.

Her donors, who I speak to, her biggest supporters, even top people on her campaign, they know that this is a very uphill climb. The one thing they say is, maybe something will happen, then. But right now, they think -- they don't think it's going to happen.

GOLDBERG: Yes. No, I think that's right, as well. I think that, look, Democrats didn't vote for New Hampshire and Iowa. That was a lie, from the Trump campaign.

Democrats can vote, in these open primaries. So, they have an open primary strategy, where they can get disaffected Democrats, Trump haters, independents, other people, who just want to cast the protest vote about Trump, or just keep this party going for a little while. And that strategy, that could work.

The thing that hurts her is there are very few primaries left that are -- that are not winner-take-all from the delegates.

COLLINS: Yes. GOLDBERG: So, if there's -- if this is a delegate strategy, where she's standing, with the most -- the second most delegates, and then this deus ex machina thing happens to Trump, and he smells burnt hair and keels over or whatever it is, that strategy doesn't work, if she doesn't actually acquire a bunch of delegates.

But she will be in people's minds. It's a way to burnish her reputation. It's just a really narrow thread to--


GOLDBERG: --a narrow needle to thread.

COLLINS: Jamie, I have to ask you about something tied to this, but that we've been texting about all day, which is this--

GANGEL: I have been waiting all day to -- for the following two words. Go ahead.

COLLINS: It is this obsession with Taylor Swift that we are seeing kind of in MAGA media, and the conservative world.

And for people who have been paying attention, this concern that she's going to endorse President Biden in the race, I just want people to listen to a little bit, just a little bit of what's been being said.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this? Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon's Psychological Operations Unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset, during a NATO meeting.

CHARLY ARNOLT, TV PERSONALITY: Please don't believe everything Taylor Swift says. We're all begging you.

TOMI LAHREN, AMERICAN COMMENTATOR AND TELEVISION PRESENTER: I think if she's smart, she will just stay out of politics altogether.

I think she should just stick to her singing and let her love life be what it is.


GANGEL: Get a life guys.

I mean, I did not have Taylor Swift as a conspiracy theory on my bingo card.

Look, they are attacking her. I don't know why they're attacking her. But they're scared of her. She can get people to register to vote.

But this went viral today, on Twitter, X, whatever we call it now. And there were two tweets that I'd like to share with you that I think speak to how crazy it is that they're doing this. The first is Yale Law Professor, Scott Shapiro, who summed it up with this tweet. Quote, "Political Consultant:" some imaginary political consultant, "We have a huge women problem." "GOP: What if we declared war on Taylor Swift?"

I mean, really?

And then, my favorite of the day, I will confess, former Congresswoman, Liz Cheney, the Vice Chair of the January 6 committee, who knew exactly what she was doing, when she simply said, "Taylor Swift is a national treasure."


COLLINS: I mean, and speaking of good tweets, Jonah Goldberg tweeted, "I cannot get over the fact that so many right wingers are flat out determined to get on the wrong side of the only 80-20 issues around today: Professional Football and Taylor Swift. Maybe these political geniuses can come out against dogs, hamburgers, and sunny days."

GOLDBERG: Well, sunny days are a psyop too. So, you have to really care for them about that.

No, look, I mean, there's a big chunk of the right that thinks the most brilliant legal strategy is to metaphorically smash themselves in the groin with a hammer. I don't quite get it. It's all so incredibly stupid.

COLLINS: Couldn't have said it better than the two of you and Liz Cheney.

GANGEL: There you go.

COLLINS: Jonah Goldberg, Jamie, as always, thank you for being here tonight.

Speaking of that, Donald Trump needs help. He is on the hunt, tonight, for lawyers, who can help keep him, he hopes, from paying $83 million, to E. Jean Carroll. That next.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We're appealing that case. It's a ridiculous case.




COLLINS: Former President Donald Trump putting out the now-hiring sign tonight, or really just posting it, on his social media account. He wrote this today, saying that he is in the process, along with his team, of interviewing various law firms "to represent me in an Appeal." Not just any appeal. He is talking about the E. Jean Carroll case, where last Friday, a jury found that he should pay her $83.3 million, for defaming her.

Usually, top law firms would be falling all over each other, to represent someone, like a former President, in a case like this one.

This former President, of course, as we know from past reporting, has not exactly proven himself to be the easiest client to deal with. You can ask his own former attorneys about that. And he has struggled to find new representation before. That may be why he also wrote, quote, "Any lawyer who takes a TRUMP CASE is either "CRAZY," or a TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT."

I'm joined now by a true American patriot, former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams.

I mean, it's not that surprising, I would say, and I wonder if you agree, that he wants a different attorney, a different set of legal team to handle the appeal than who handled this case. Is that right?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And I think appeals are a niche area of law. You really want someone, who's an expert in appeals.

Look, I wouldn't hire me, to argue an appeal of a major case. And I have tremendous faith in my ability, as an attorney.

It's just it's kind of like in medicine, your oral surgeon could probably operate on your soldier -- he might have -- shoulder. He might or she might have learned how to do it in med school. But you want an expert doing it.

And appeals really require experts. He ought to hire new attorneys for this.

COLLINS: So, as he's doing this, and we're learning in FEC reports that are coming out tonight, which we reported yesterday, $50 million spent on legal expenses, last year, by his PACs.


COLLINS: We're also waiting for the federal appeals court, here in Washington, to make a decision, on whether or not he has that presidential immunity. They have not come out with one yet. What do you think is taking so long?

WILLIAMS: In the grand scheme, Kaitlan, of federal appeals, this is still moving at a breakneck pace.

And I think we, in the world, are so used to things happening, the day we want them to happen. But an appeal being briefed, in a matter of days, argued in a matter of days after that, and coming out two or three weeks later, it's still really fast. I worked on an appeals court. And it could take six months to write a case.

So, it'll come.

COLLINS: Does it signal to you anything about how these three judges, who are making this decision, including a Bush appointee--


COLLINS: --are leaning?

WILLIAMS: My guess is that they're trying to come to a unanimous decision. I would assume so. Based on the oral argument, they all seem to be in agreement. They're probably going to try to get a three- nothing opinion. That's bullet proof that goes up to the Supreme Court.

COLLINS: It will go to the Supreme Court, we do believe.

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

COLLINS: Elliot Williams, thank you very much for that.

Up next here, a Muppet's four-word question to the world, it seemed pretty simple. But a massive outpouring happened, in responses, saying so this is not what Elmo was expecting.



COLLINS: Elmo may have gotten more than he was bargaining for, when he posed a pretty simple question, online.

It all started with a kind-hearted check-in, by the beloved Sesame Street character, a run-of-the-mill post asking, hey, how is everybody doing?

What he got in response was existential dread. These are some of them. Quote," Elmo we are tired." "I'm depressed and broke." "I just got laid off." "My dog just rolled around in goose poop." And, quote, "The world is burning around us, Elmo."

That post now viewed more than 180 million times, since Monday.

Here to discuss is Dr. Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at Georgetown University.

I mean, Elmo got more than I think he was preparing for with that post, you would say?


COLLINS: Why did this resonate with people?


COLLINS: What's your sense? BONIOR: I think, in a way, there's some hope in there. Because I think with all the loneliness research, we are so, so starved for connection.

And I do think there was something so sweet and innocent, about just a check-in, from a beloved character that a lot of us have grown up with, or have continued to see as this pleasant and welcoming. I think people felt, you know, maybe I can say that I'm not OK, and I'm not going to be judged by it. And then, it kind of took on a life of its own, as people started to commiserate with each other.

COLLINS: I mean, given your background?


COLLINS: Were you surprised by any of those responses, or kind of the overwhelming nature of the dread and despair that was sent?

BONIOR: It definitely seemed a little bit bleak.

But I think sometimes when things kind of go viral, there's a notion of people one-upping each other. So, I think some of those responses were, let's see how many people will get a kick out of this, let's see how much attention I can get.

But I also think the vulnerability that some of the more genuine responses showed was really surprising. And I think it speaks to this need that people have, to be understood, and to be heard, and to have it be OK, to acknowledge that we're not feeling great that anxiety and stress are so high, right now, and that we're so disconnected.

And I think something like this takes off, because it's kind of an innocent way to connect, over shared misery. Even though that can sound really bleak, I think there's hope in it in the connection aspect.

COLLINS: You talked about COVID, and how loneliness increased, and people wanted this sense of connection, which obviously everyone felt so much, during lockdowns.

What have you noticed in the years since then, as life has shifted back to more normal as, if you want to put it that way?

BONIOR: Yes. Unfortunately, things aren't really getting better, in terms of some of the data.

Loneliness really hasn't improved that much. We can break it down in different demographics, and see some hope. But young people in particular, are really struggling. Some people think that's because of the particular age they were, when COVID hid.

The truth is though a lot of these mental health signs were going in a negative direction before COVID. So, we can't really blame it on COVID. I think COVID exacerbated some of the stresses and isolation--

COLLINS: Yes. BONIOR: --that people already were feeling.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, clearly, and Elmo was the one to bear the brunt of that.


Doctor, it's a really serious issue, though, underlying this. And thank you, for coming on, to talk about it.

BONIOR: Thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much, for joining us, on this busy news night. I'm Kaitlan Collins.

But "KING CHARLES" starts right now. You don't want to miss it.