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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Ex-Trump Org CFO In Talks To Plead Guilty To Perjury; Auto Workers Union Chief Expresses Confidence That Majority Of Members Will Vote For Biden; Haley: "Unconscionable" That Trump Has Spent $50 Million On Legal Fees. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 21:00   ET





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

Breaking news, as Trump's longtime money man, Allen Weisselberg, is now in talks to plead guilty, again, this time for allegedly lying, on the witness stand, at Trump's civil fraud trial.

In another landmark trial that we've watched today, the mother of the Michigan school shooter, Ethan Crumbley, took the stand, in her own defense. She says she didn't know that her son was a danger, despite the many warning signs.

And a mea culpa, from the Pentagon, as Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, faced reporters, for the first time, since his secretive hospital stay, apologizing for not telling the President, saying quote, "I did not handle this right."

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

Tonight, the man, who's spent decades, helping run Donald Trump's family business, Allen Weisselberg, could be on the verge of pleading guilty, for the second time, this time to a perjury charge, we are told.

The 76-year-old was the Chief Financial Officer, of the Trump Organization, for decades. He went to jail, at Rikers, for about 100 days, last year. That was for his role in running a 15-year tax fraud scheme, at the Trump Organization.

Now, tonight, there is new reporting, from the "New York Times," and confirmed by CNN, that Weisselberg is in talks, to potentially plead guilty, to a perjury charge, this time related to Trump's civil fraud trial, where he, Allen Weisselberg, would have to admit that he lied, on the stand, during his own testimony.

The timing here is also key, as we are learning more, about this new reporting, because right now, we're waiting on a judge, in this case, to decide what the penalty is, essentially how much Donald Trump owes. A reminder, the Attorney General, in the closing arguments, asked for north of $370 million. And is a ruling that could threaten Trump's entire real estate empire.

I'm joined, tonight, by the Senior Editor at Forbes, Dan Alexander, who is the guest, on this story, because it was his reporting that exposed Weisselberg's alleged lies under oath on the stand.

And Dan, when you look at this? And we don't know, I should note, which statement exactly it is that could potentially go towards this perjury charge, if he does plead guilty here. But you've noted in your reporting that there were emails, and notes, from him, that are believed to be at the center of this.

What did you pick up on, and what you believe that he lied about, as he was kind of trying to distance himself, from Trump's financial statements?


And one of the key examples of that is that Trump was claiming that his penthouse was 30,000 square feet, when in fact, it was 10,996 square feet. And Allen Weisselberg was on the stand, and was trying to explain that he really had nothing to do with this. And as he was making that claim, it was obvious to me that he was lying.

I went back through our notes, and could track years of conversations that he had had, with our reporters, where he was really focused on the penthouse, where he was trying to claim that it was 30,000 square feet, or even 33,000 square feet, I think, at one point Donald Trump had it. And that he was trying to claim that it was wildly overvalued.

So, this is clear, documented stuff that you can say, he's claiming one number, the documents show another number, and he was lying.

COLLINS: You noted in that story that you had documents that prosecutors didn't. Did you hear from their office, after that?

ALEXANDER: So, their office did go back, and look through documents. With the Trump Organization, they tried to do an additional sort of forensic look, and they put some paperwork in the docket about that.

They did not come after us or anything. But everything that we have is out there. We've released tapes of Trump lying about the size of his penthouse. We've put out the notes of Weisselberg's conversations, over the years. All of this stuff has all been laid out, and it's very clear.

COLLINS: It's a remarkable piece of journalism. Dan Alexander, thank you for that.

And for more, on this breaking story, we have former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig here as well.

And Elie, you heard what Dan said there. I mean, this was a groundbreaking article--



COLLINS: --that pretty flatly stated that they believed Allen Weisselberg had lied.

All of this is coming as Judge Engoron has not decided yet.


COLLINS: He said by end of January. Obviously, that was yesterday. Wasn't definitive. But could that play a role in why we haven't heard from him yet?

HONIG: Absolutely. If I'm in Judge Engoron's position here, and getting ready to issue a big verdict and ruling, and now I hear this, and now we've all heard it that one of the key witnesses committed perjury in front of me? I slam on the brakes, and I say, I'm not going to rule until I know the specifics of this.

Now, I think it's likely the judge probably discredited Allen Weisselberg's testimony anyway, because it was contradicted by so many of the facts, as Dan just laid out. But you have to know this. As a judge, if you're going to issue a ruling, and if it turns out Weisselberg lied? That's going to harm the Trump Organization, when it comes time for the verdict.

COLLINS: How could it bode for Donald Trump himself?

HONIG: It's a problem for Donald Trump, because he's going to be on the receiving end of this verdict.

It is important though, there's an important detail, in the reporting, that Weisselberg's deal that he's working on, or towards with prosecutors, does not necessarily involve Allen Weisselberg, cooperating against Donald Trump. And that doesn't surprise me. This guy is not in position to cooperate.

I've cooperated some really bad guys. But the problem is when you have an inveterate liar, multiple times convicted, if he takes this plea, you can't put that person on the stand, and ask a jury--


HONIG: --to believe him.

COLLINS: And also when we talk, I mean, Allen Weisselberg, fiercely loyal to Donald Trump, I should note.


COLLINS: But I think one thing we forget about which the "New York Times" noted tonight is that he got a $2 million severance package that required him not to cooperate--


COLLINS: --with any law enforcement investigation unless he was legally required.

HONIG: That was stunning to me. I've never heard of such a thing. It's, I don't think that's enforceable to say you won't cooperate with law enforcement. I mean, it certainly undermines what prosecutors are trying to do.

I mean, unless legally required? I guess that can mean a subpoena for trial or anything. But that's a shocking detail, to put into a severance agreement, in addition to the amount. So they're clearly, Trump and his people are trying to keep Weisselberg, in the fold here, I think, because they're worried about him flipping.

COLLINS: Yes. And I should note, he has not actually agreed to this yet.

HONIG: Right.

COLLINS: He's just in talks to potentially do so. It could fall apart. We've seen it happen with other plea deals.

Elie witness -- or Elie Honig, thank you. Elie witness.

HONIG: I could be a witness too, if I saw something.

COLLINS: You would be a great witness, on the stand.

HONIG: Thank you.

COLLINS: I do want to turn now to conservative attorney, and one of Donald Trump's fiercest critics, who anyone who watches THE SOURCE would know. George Conway is here.

George, I mean, if this does come to fruition, for Allen Weisselberg, the theme here would be, in both guilty pleas, that he was lying, on Donald Trump's behalf, would it not?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER, CONTRIBUTOR, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. And it's actually not surprising, because that's what Donald Trump does to people.

I mean, we've seen numerous circumstances, where Trump has gotten people to lie, or obstruct justice, or perform illegal acts, to protect him. Even sometimes, when he hasn't even asked them to do it, they understand what he wants them to do.

I mean, you see all these people, who were indicted, including his own Chief of Staff at the White House. And in Georgia, we've seen Michael Cohen. We've seen Weisselberg, previously.

It's just Donald Trump is just a cloud of deception. And he is -- he creates a culture of lying and deception, and illegality wherever he goes. And if you are associated with him, you have to be very, very careful. You're taking a risk. I mean, there are lawyers, who are losing their licenses, or in threatening -- of being threatened with losing their licenses for defending him. And it just it never ever stops with him. He asks--


CONWAY: --he expects people to do illegal things for him.

COLLINS: Here's what I'm confused by, which is Allen Weisselberg was in jail, for 100 days, in Rikers.


COLLINS: Just one year ago. He went at the beginning of 2023. I mean, he testified on the stand after that.

If there were emails and documents to back up, or to contradict what he was saying, why would he lie?

CONWAY: It's just beyond me. I think that some -- I -- he's doing it because he's wanting to -- he wants to protect his boss, or he doesn't want his boss to get mad at him. He doesn't want retribution from his boss.

I mean, it's, these are, you know, the people who work for Donald Trump are kind of like, abused family members, in some ways. They shudder at the thought of displeasing him. They're afraid of retaliation, and they instinctively end up doing the wrong thing, because that's what Donald Trump expects them to do.

COLLINS: The District Attorney, in Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, may be the only person to bring a case against Trump this year. I mean, we don't know what's going to happen with the other indictments. But we know that Trump's team is focused on slowing them down.

Could something like this strengthen his hand, Bragg's hand, going into that trial?


CONWAY: I think, indirectly. I mean, this does not directly impact the charges that are involved in the case that D.A. Bragg has brought. That's the -- essentially the falsification of documents, relating to the hush money that Donald Trump paid, through Michael Cohen, to Stormy Daniels, the porn star. So, this doesn't directly relate to that.

But I think it's a very, very important warning, to any witness, who's called to testify, in that case, on either side, that they better not lie, because if they lie, then they could end up like Weisselberg, at Rikers, or someplace unpleasant like that.

COLLINS: Yes. It's a remarkable development in this story.

CONWAY: Yes. COLLINS: George Conway, thank you for that.

CONWAY: Thank you.

COLLINS: Elie, I mean, as we just -- we don't know what's going to happen here with this, and whether or not he's taking it. But big picture, how do you see it?

HONIG: Well, I think George makes a good point there. I think that this actually will tie Trump's hands a bit at the Manhattan D.A.'s trial.


HONIG: Because if they were planning, on calling Allen Weisselberg, to say, for example, Donald Trump had nothing to do with the way these hush money payments were logged. It was me, the CFO, and it was Michael Cohen, their star witness? He can't do that now. He's neutralized now, because--

COLLINS: So, it could deny Trump a potentially helpful witness?

HONIG: Exactly. It takes Allen Weisselberg, off the table, as a potential defense witness.

Like I said before, you're not calling him as a prosecutor. The guy's going to have at least one conviction, and probably two for perjury, if he takes this plea. But it also means he can't come in as some sort of surprise witness, to try to tank the case in Trump's favor.

COLLINS: Yes, it's remarkable. And we'll see what happens here.


COLLINS: Elie Honig, and to everyone here tonight, thank you, for joining us, on that breaking news.

Ahead, we also witnessed historic testimony, of a different kind today. The mother of the Michigan school shooter, Ethan Crumbley, she took the stand, in her own defense. Prosecutors, trying to hold her accountable for her son's murders.

Also tonight, we have a one-on-one interview, with the United Auto Workers President, Shawn Fain. He spent the day, with President Biden, and has some key words, about what his union's endorsement could mean, and what any other endorse -- and unions, considering backing Trump, what it could mean for them.



COLLINS: For the first time, since the murders of four students, at Oxford High School, in 2021, the deadliest school shooting, I should note, in Michigan's history, we just heard directly from the mother, of their killer, at a historic manslaughter trial that is underway right now.

This is 45-year-old Jennifer Crumbley. She took the stand, today, in her own defense. It's a first-of-its-kind case. It could set a precedent, for whether parents can be found criminally culpable, for their children's crimes.

Ethan Crumbley was 15, at the time of the attack. He was sentenced last year to life in prison without parole. He was tried as an adult, I should note.

But the prosecution is arguing that his mother, and his father, James Crumbley, who will also soon be tried as well, are also responsible for the murders that happened that day.

Jennifer Crumbley is accused of gross negligence, including for failing to get her son, the mental health treatment that he needed, despite many warning signs, warning signs that she argued today, she didn't see. That includes disturbing texts that were sent by her son, journal entries, violent drawings as well.

Some of those were shown, in court, today, including one, where Ethan Crumbley had written, I'm quoting from it now, "I have zero HELP for my mental problems and it's causing me to SHOOT UP THE SCHOOL." Another chilling one that said "I want help but my parents won't listen to me."

Prosecutors offered evidence, which they argue shows that she, did know about what her son planned to do.

This is what she said, when she was being questioned, I should note, by her own attorney.


ATTORNEY: Are you a failure, as a parent?

JENNIFER CRUMBLEY, ETHAN CRUMBLEY'S MOTHER: I don't think I'm a failure as a parent. But at that time, I guess I didn't see. I felt bad that Ethan was sad at those things. And I guess I just, I don't know, I just felt like I failed somewhere.

ATTORNEY: Do you or had reason to know your son was a danger to anyone else?

CRUMBLEY: No. As a parent, you spend your whole -- your whole life, trying to protect your cat -- your child from other dangers. You never -- you never would think you have to protect your child from harming somebody else.


COLLINS: Not a failure, and no signs of danger, she insists.

Listen to her answer, when she was asked though, does she wish that she had done anything differently?


CRUMBLEY: No, I don't. I mean, I, of course, I look back, after this all happened, and I've asked myself if I will have done anything differently, and I wouldn't have.


COLLINS: A remarkable moment, only on day one of her on the stand.

Joining me here tonight, criminal defense attorney, and former prosecutor, Mark O'Mara. And attorney and Legal Affairs commentator, Areva Martin.

Thank you both for being here. I'm so glad to have both of your legal minds on this.

Areva, when you listen to Jennifer Crumbley, as her attorneys were asking her, these questions today, talking about her parenting, and that day, do you think it helped her case, from what you heard?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY & LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Yes, I don't think that statement, where she said she wouldn't have done anything differently helped her at all.

She spent most of the time, on the witness stand, today, trying to explain why the jurors shouldn't believe the literal interpretation, of those text message, those very damning text messages, particularly as it relates to the text messages, about her son seen people in their home, or perhaps hallucinating. She tried to give this story that they play some game in the house, about ghosts, and that this was all a part of a larger prank.

I think it's going to be very difficult for the jurors, to accept that this mother, who, according to the prosecutor, spent more time, interested with horses, or spending more time, on her horses, than she did with her child.

Now, obviously, bad parenting isn't a crime. But when you look at the warning signs that were there, the flashing warning signs, and the lack of response from this parent, I think jurors are going to have to grapple with her testimony. And they may determine that she didn't do everything she could, to prevent these horrific murders from happening.

COLLINS: Well Mark, to pick up on that, I mean, where is the line of bad parenting and negligence?


MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: So, we're about to find out with the verdict in this case, because we know it's on a spectrum, right?

If you didn't spend all the time in homework, and your child's not getting As, is that bad parenting? No. If you're not doing everything for football, bad parenting? No. But somewhere along the spectrum, when those signs of dangers show up, mental health concerns that are there, or the ignorance of some of these checks that she had to be aware of, even some of that which came out in the evidence that support the idea that she knew, or should have known better? At some point, it starts leading towards the end of the spectrum that the state has to get this jury to. And that is that awful will -- the willful blindness, the truth, the lack of caring about what was going on.

And I think she helped herself a bit with that. In this case, the first hour was spent upon humanizing her and the relationship with her son. That was all great. But the defense, I don't think they did a great enough job, for her to acknowledge what she did wrong.

And I will tell you, in my opinion, the answer to that question should have been, I would have done anything different, knowing now what the result was, rather than this sort of defense of herself that, I did everything I think I should have done.

COLLINS: And Areva, the other thing that she did say was she kept going back to her husband, seeming to pin blame on him. They're having separate trials.

At one moment, she was asked about, just the gun itself, who handled the gun itself. And this is what she told the court.


ATTORNEY: Who is responsible for storing the gun?

CRUMBLEY: My husband is.

ATTORNEY: OK. Explain why you say he's responsible for that role?

CRUMBLEY: I just didn't feel comfortable, being in charge of that. It was more his thing. So I let him handle that.


COLLINS: Do you think that's a strategy, Areva?

MARTIN: No. I think that's a very damning response.

And picking up on what Mark said, this mother wants you to believe that everybody but her is responsible: It's the husband's fault. It's the school's fault.

And if you're not comfortable with guns, as a parent, why are guns in your home? You can't abdicate your responsibility, as a mother, to the father. She had an equal responsibility to make sure that her son did not have access to a gun.

And some of her testimony, throughout the day, was she didn't know where the gun was. She didn't know where the lock to the cable was. She talked about it being in a beer stein, maybe in the kitchen. She wasn't sure. And I know jurors are sitting here thinking, you have a 15-year-old

that bought a gun that you and your husband bought a gun for, for Christmas. Now, you may not have walked into that store. But as the parent, you are equally responsible.

COLLINS: Well, and it just all comes down to not just what happened before that day, Mark, but also that day, and the meeting with the school counselor that happened, the morning of the shooting, where she was contradicting the prosecution, and how they framed this, which is that essentially, she just kind of downplayed it more than the emphasis that they've put on it.

But how does a jury see that? That there is a meeting with the parents, with the school counselor, over concerns, over a drawing, from the 15-year-old, at the time?

O'MARA: No question. Half of those jurors are more -- are parents. And they know that you have to be aware in looking for those nuances of how your child is doing.

So, when she walks into a meeting, and is shown that type of evidence, that type of information? The idea that she wouldn't have done anything other than take care of the child is sort of unbelievable. The idea that she had to go back to work, where she downplayed it, or I know he's depressed, but I don't think he was just -- it was just him acting out.

Right now, that jury is going to -- the jury is going to go back in that room, and say, is she a grossly negligent parent?

And I think most of what she was doing, today, and the lack of acceptance of responsibility, is sort of feeding in to the prosecution case. And we're going to hear about that in closing argument. And we're really going to hear about it in her cross-examination, tomorrow.

COLLINS: Yes. And that starts tomorrow. We'll obviously be watching it closely. I know you too, as well, Mark O'Mara, Areva Martin. Thank you both, for joining tonight.

O'MARA: Thanks, Kaitlan.

MARTIN: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Up next, President Biden returned to a state that was critical to his 2020 win. But he is now facing backlash, from Michigan's Arab American voters, as he's courting big labor unions.

We'll be joined by the head of the United Auto Workers, who has endorsed him, and was with him right there, today. Shawn Fain is next.



COLLINS: President Biden addressing the surging violence, against Palestinians, in the West Bank, with a new executive order that he issued today, imposing sanctions, on four Israeli settlers accused of assaulting Palestinian civilians, who live there.

For years, Palestinian West Bank residents have faced violence, from these Israeli settlers. But it's hit record levels, since the October 7th Hamas terror attack.

This order today, comes as President Biden was on his way to Michigan, home, I should note, to the nation's largest concentration, of Arab and Muslim Americans, many of whom are furious, and threatening to withhold their support, come November, over the approach that President Biden has taken to the war in Gaza.

CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, joins me now.

And Jeff, you've been in Michigan, where Biden was today, meeting with autoworkers, I should note. But you've been talking to voters. What did they say about his visit?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, the President's visit clearly was a bit of safe harbor, going to that UAW Hall, in Warren, Michigan, surrounding himself with people who were already his supporters.

But the concern here, for many Democrats, and frankly, some supporters of the President, is what is he doing to try and win over those, who are concerned and frankly not supporters, now.

So, what the President did not do here, today, as he spent several hours, on the ground here, was try to neutralize any of the anger and real, a distrust and discontent, in the Arab American community here, which is so significant to his coalition that he won with.


But we spent some time, talking to a variety of voters, including someone who worked for President Biden, last time. He was a field organizer, in his campaign. Now, he's campaigning against President Biden.


ADAM ABUSALAH: They're telling us that as Arab Americans, as Muslim Americans, as minority communities, who are not supporting Biden that we are the reason that we are going to get another four years of Donald Trump.

But the reality is Joe Biden is the reason that we're going to get another four years of Donald Trump.

ZELENY: There's nothing that President Biden or the administration could do, at this point, to change your mind?

ABUSALAH: There's nothing. It's 30,000 lives too late.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: And we do know that White House officials, in the coming weeks, are expected to come and meet here, with some Arab American and Muslim leaders, here in Dearborn, Michigan.

But that did not happen today with the President. He signed that executive order, the first step, I'm told, in trying to neutralize some of this anger.

But Kaitlan, the geography of this visit today, so interesting. The President chose to go to Macomb County, just north of Detroit. Of course, that is the home of the Reagan Democrats, where so many working-class voters became Republicans. Now they are Trump voters as well here. So the President stayed there, in much safer terrain.

Of course, between now and November, he'll have to campaign in other places, perhaps in hostile ones, as well.


COLLINS: Key votes that he will need.

Jeff Zeleny, on the ground, in Michigan, thank you for that.


COLLINS: And joining me now is the United Auto Workers President, Shawn Fain.

And it's great to have you here, Mr. Fain.

You said recently that you believed a majority of your members would not actually end up voting for President Biden, in November. What does that breakdown actually look like? And what are you hearing from these members?

SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UNITED AUTO WORKERS UNION: First off, thanks for having me, Kaitlan.

And, look, I'm very confident an overwhelming majority of our members will vote for President Biden, in the upcoming election, with especially just given the stark contrast.

I mean, the one thing we've done, throughout my presidency, is we deal with facts. And with our contract campaign, and the Big Three with that fight, with the strikes, we put the facts out there. And when you look at the facts, in this presidential election, with the two leading candidates, you couldn't have a more stark contrast.

I mean, you have President Biden, who has a lifetime of serving others and standing with workers and with the working-class.

And you have President Trump, who has a lifetime of serving himself, and standing against everything the working-class was for. He serves the billionaire class.

And so, it's a -- you know, when you look at the track record of the two, and the body of work they've done, particularly with auto, in particular, it's a simple decision, for us, on where--


FAIN: --where we think we should go.

COLLINS: So, you actually think it's the reverse? You think a majority will vote for President Biden, not for Trump if he's the nominee?

FAIN: Yes. Oh, yes. No -- yes, by far--


FAIN: --a majority will vote for President Biden.

Actually, when I was interviewing the other day, it was a, when I'm going back and forth, it was a -- it was a misstatement, but.

COLLINS: OK. OK. No, that's great.

FAIN: Yes.

COLLINS: I'm glad we got you to clarify that, because I do -- I do think that's really important.

FAIN: Yes.

COLLINS: And you're talking to these workers all the time.

You are in Michigan, with President Biden today.

One thing I noticed, obviously, as a former White House reporter. The White House and the campaign kept the specific details of where President Biden was going in Michigan, private. As you know, he's been encountering a lot of protests, when he is out on the road, over his stance in the Israel-Hamas war. You've called for a ceasefire.

Did you and President Biden talk about that today? What did you say to him?

FAIN: No, I've always -- we've spoken to the White House, and talked about our position, and that we feel there needs to be a lot more work done there.

And, look, the UAW has always stood for peace. And we've called for a ceasefire. We're going to keep pushing. And I believe that they'll do the right thing. And I believe Michigan will deliver for President Biden.

We can't afford to go backwards. And a Trump presidency would be a disaster.

COLLINS: By right thing, do you mean, call for a ceasefire?

FAIN: Well, I mean, yes, obviously, more action needs to be -- needs to happen there. So, what's happening over there is it's just wrong. This is about

humanity. And innocent people are being killed, women, children. And it's senseless. And there's no excuse for it, so.

COLLINS: You mentioned former President Trump. And he has not been happy since you endorsed President Biden. He's been blasting you and criticizing you. He just met with Teamsters, which is obviously one of the biggest unions. It represents truck drivers, pilots, others.

The question is who will Sean O'Brien from Teamsters endorse? And as he's weighing that, I wonder what it would say to you, if he does endorse Trump, and what it would say for the labor movement overall?

FAIN: I am not going to try to answer for Sean O'Brien.


But I would 100 percent bet that I can't see any way in hell a union would endorse Donald Trump for president. The man stands against everything that working-class people stand for, that organized labor stands for.

Look, they chose to entertain visiting with candidates. And that's the path they chose.

I mean, we -- I saw no point in it, because I look at the track record of Donald Trump. I mean, his two favorite words are, you're fired. He's the boss. He represents the billionaire class. That's his base.

And so, when you look at the two candidates, on our end, Joe Biden has a history of betting on the American worker, standing with the American worker, just as he did, in our strike, this year.

When Donald Trump was president, and GM was on strike for 40 days, Donald Trump was AWOL. He never said a word, never did a thing.

When it came to saving communities, Donald Trump didn't do a thing, to help Lordstown Assembly, back when that plant closed, in Ohio, in 2019, when Trump was president.

But you look at President Biden. He's stood with us over in Belvidere, Illinois, this year. We took one plant was going to close. Now we have two plants going to be built there. And on top of that, we saved the community.

So, the contrast couldn't be any more different between these two. And when it comes to organized labor, I can't fathom any union would ever stand for Donald Trump.

COLLINS: Yes. Trump, I remember, when he told people, to keep their homes, not to sell them.

Shawn Fain, as always--

FAIN: Yes, don't sell your houses.

COLLINS: --it's great to have you here. And thank you, for joining us, on THE SOURCE.

FAIN: Oh, thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, the latest from the 2024 campaign trail.



COLLINS: Tonight, Nikki Haley is going after former President Donald Trump, tying his legal troubles, to his campaign cash. A lot of it, $50 million, to be exact, according to records from the FEC, has not actually been spent on campaigning at all.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Get ready to spend more campaign dollars on legal fees, because those court cases have just started. He's got two in March, and they go out for the rest of the year.

It is unconscionable to me that a candidate would spend $50 million in legal fees. It explains why he's not doing many rallies. He doesn't have the money to do it.


COLLINS: Here tonight, Republican strategist and pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson.

Also joining me, Democratic strategist, and adviser to the Biden 2020 campaign, Alencia Johnson.

Great to have both of you.

Kristen, I'll start with you. Because I wonder what you make of this new tactic, from Haley, going after Trump in his court cases. But doing it so, by arguing about how he's using fundraiser dollars, on his legal fees.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: I imagine that that comment she made about the fact that well, he's not doing rallies, because he's spending all his money on legal fees, has got to get under his skin. Because he is somebody who is known for always trying to say, I am the richest guy around, I'm the one that's got all the resources.

And she's trying to continue to prosecute this case around electability. Unfortunately, for Haley, this has not really worked, in the Republican primary so far. Donald Trump continues to win a majority of voters, including in her home state of South Carolina.

And so, while, I think personally, she's right that Donald Trump is a risky proposition, in a general election, in part because of his legal peril. Republican voters have been a little bit more immune to that argument thus far. COLLINS: Well, I'm glad you brought up what she keeps saying, this electability argument, which is her essentially arguing, she could beat Biden, and Donald Trump can't.

And Alencia, when you look at new CNN polling that came out, just today, it shows a lead for Hayley, if she was the Republican nominee. New matchup, she beat Biden 52 to 39. But Trump is 49 to 45. Obviously, a lot closer.

Why is that an argument that isn't necessarily resonating with voters?

ALENCIA JOHNSON, SENIOR ADVISER TO BIDEN 2020 CAMPAIGN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's because of this voting base, the MAGA Republican voting base. There's this cult of personality. They love Donald Trump. They believe what he says.

And it's interesting, as we were talking about the money piece, right? He's using his campaign funds, that is, overwhelmingly raised by these small-dollar donors that he's constantly talking to, and saying, I'm fighting for you.

And so, Nikki Haley is trying to break all of that apart, and tell them the truth, about who this man is, and that he is using them. But she can't seem to break through, because they hear his rhetoric. They believe it, right?

There's going to be studies and studies after this, after the Republican Party hopefully dumps Donald Trump. But until then, it's at the -- their -- at the beholden of the voters, who continue to say that they want Donald Trump, and they don't like when people, whether Democrats or Republicans, go against him.

COLLINS: Well, the other numbers, Kristen, that I was looking at, in the FEC reports, is how much money Nikki Haley has, because obviously that is the lifeblood of any campaign. Most people who drop out of races, it's because they run out of money.

But what we saw, from yesterday's report, is that she still has $14.6 million available to her. I mean, what does that say to you about, even if the polling numbers, aren't there, the financial numbers are, does -- how much longer does she stay in, do you believe?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Certainly. Well, and look, even though she is not winning a majority of Republican voters, in Iowa, in New Hampshire, unlikely in South Carolina, she's still pulling in, arguably four in 10 Republicans.

And so, by staying in the race, even though I think the odds that she actually becomes the Republican nominee are almost zero, she's allowing that 40 or so percent of the party that does not want Donald Trump, to keep having a voice, to keep making their voice heard, and to make a statement, hey, Republican Party, you need us just as much as anything else.

COLLINS: We'll have to leave it there.

Kristen Soltis Anderson. Alencia Johnson.


COLLINS: Great to have you both here, tonight, on THE SOURCE.

Coming up, also, there's an apology today from the Defense Secretary. Many questions still remain though, about what Lloyd Austin did not say. We'll tell you what he did, right after this.



COLLINS: With American forces under attack, in the Middle East, the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, held his first news conference, since being secretly hospitalized for prostate cancer, and complications from it a month ago.

Austin apologized to reporters, in the room today, for keeping the country and the Commander-in-Chief in the dark about his condition for days.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I want to be crystal clear. We did not handle this right, and I did not handle this right. I should have told the President about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public. And I take full responsibility.


COLLINS: Austin said that he acted out of a desire for privacy that he was shaken by his diagnosis.

I should note, there were questions though today that he did not answer. One of those was whether or not his top deputy, the one who was technically in charge of the Pentagon, while he was under anesthesia, knew about it.


AUSTIN: I think in terms of what she knew and didn't know, I think we should probably let the -- that come out of the review.


COLLINS: I'm joined tonight by someone who has held that same job, former Defense Secretary, under former President Trump, Mark Esper.

And Secretary Esper, it is great to have you, because you know what it's like to be at that lectern.

I wonder if you're satisfied with what you heard, from Secretary Austin today.

[21:50:00] MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, good evening, Kaitlan.

Look, first of all, he did the right thing, by coming out and acknowledging that he had made some errors in judgment, on how it was handled. And he took full responsibility for it, which is what we'd expect of him to do. And so, that was good to see that.

However, there were and remain a lot of unanswered questions, questions that he was asked today, tough ones, by some members of the press that, that he didn't fully answer. And there are more to follow.

The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mike Rogers, has initiated an inquiry, a couple weeks ago, and he has promised to invite Secretary Austin, to come to the Hill to testify. So, this isn't going away anytime soon.

And I think, in front of the committee, a lot, or some of those questions that were raised today, by the press, those threads will be pulled pretty long, by members of Congress.

COLLINS: Well what kind of questions are those? Because I mean, a lot of this, the controversy had to deal with the fact that so many people didn't know that he was even in the hospital.

ESPER: Yes, I think it begins with, some would argue he had three opportunities to notify the President, and his staff, and he didn't. The first was the diagnosis. The second was going in for the procedure. And then the third was the rushing to the intensive care unit, in early January. So, that's number one.

I think number two then will be, what authorities were transferred? Who knew -- who knew they were transferred -- who knew they were transferred, and were they told of his condition? Because when authorities are transferred, it matters, whether or not the person, the Secretary of Defense is in for a two-hour procedure, or is in intensive care unit for three days. It colors, how one might decide to execute that authority.

But -- and in the case of Secretary -- Deputy Secretary of Defense, Hicks, arguably would have prompted her to come immediately, back to Washington, D.C., to be at the Pentagon, where you have all the resources available to you, you have the full staff available as well.

So, to me, those are some of the principal questions that are out there.

The other one that was asked today, and that he addressed pretty straightforwardly was, did he order anybody, on his staff, not to tell the White House, the President, et cetera? And he said, no, he never gave any orders along those lines.

COLLINS: Yes. And the other thing, of course, that he was asked about, naturally--


COLLINS: --part of why there was so much -- so many headlines about this, is given what's going on in the Middle East.

And right now, the President said the other day that he had decided how to respond, after U.S. forces were killed, by that deadly drone attack, in Jordan.

And today, Austin said this of the Iranian proxies. He said, quote, "They have a lot of capability, I have a lot more." He didn't telegraph what the White House is going to do.

But I wonder what you think the window, for a response looks like here, given now we're at Thursday night, these attacks happened on Sunday?

ESPER: Yes, first of all, on the first part, you're right. I mean, the United States forces were engaged in active combat operations.

So, that raises that question as well, once again, about the chain of command. Did it remain unbroken during his absence? And those will be the key questions, I think, that the House and others will get to. Keep in mind there's an internal inquiry as well ongoing at the Pentagon.

Look, on the broader issue, and he got -- he took a number of questions today about this as well, is the response to this to the killing of American soldiers, on Sunday, in Jordan. Very tragic, of course.

Look, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner. It tells me that maybe the Pentagon is maneuvering forces, in place, to either conduct or sustain offensive operations. Having been in that position, I know that's what I had to do, and had done. And so, I think once those things are in place, the commanders are briefed, maybe there's some coordination with allies, then I think the campaign, if you will, will begin.

And I think what they're talking about in terms of multi-tier, they're talking about striking, I assume the proxy groups responsible. And the number one designee, right now, seems to be Kata'ib Hezbollah. But also, Iranian facilities and Iranian personnel, which I've been arguing for the last four or five days, that, you have to hit them. You have to have a really tough response.


ESPER: And look, we could see already through the media, through senior Iranian officials that they're already backing off a little bit. They're saying they don't want war. They're changing their strategy. They've gone to actually a commander, a Quds Force commander, went to meet with leaders of Kata'ib Hezbollah, told them to back off. They subsequently made--


ESPER: --a statement that they were going to do the same.

So, there's a lot going on here. And it's, look, it's good to see that it looks like we are having a deterrent effect, so far. The proof will be in the pudding, the scale, scope and impact of the attacks, these strikes. And then, we'll go from there and see whether we can sustain the deterrence.

COLLINS: Secretary Mark Esper, we will see. Thank you very much, for joining tonight.

ESPER: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Back with more news in just a moment.



COLLINS: Tonight, Republicans are demanding punishments that can't happen for words that a member of Congress didn't actually say.

I'm talking about Democratic congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, who recently addressed supporters, in Minneapolis. She was speaking Somali. The topic was a controversial port deal that would give a breakaway region, of northern Somalia, access to the sea.

An ambassador from that breakaway region posted a version of her comments online. The translation on the clip claimed that she said this. "The U.S. government will only do what Somalians in the U.S. tell them to do. They will do what we want and nothing else. They must follow our orders and that is how we will safeguard the interest of Somalia."

Now, CNN translated her speech. Here's what she actually said. Quote, "The United States government would do what we tell them to do. We need to have confidence as Somali people, we live in this country, this is the country that we pay taxes in, this is the country where a girl was born from you all who is sitting in Congress."

Republicans shared the first version, and have all but ignored the second one, the accurate one.


Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, is demanding that Omar be kicked out of Congress, lose her American citizenship, and be deported.

Congressman Tom Emmer calling for an ethics investigation, into the comments.

And Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a resolution today, calling for Omar to be censured.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Representative Omar has revealed herself to be a foreign agent acting on behalf of a foreign government.


COLLINS: There is no evidence that Congresswoman Omar has done anything of the sort.

And you can't deport a U.S. citizen, I should note.

Omar says that she believes these attacks are rooted in Islamophobia. And as for that resolution, she told CNN, quote, I hope she finds peace in her mind. That's insane, truly insane.

Thank you all, for joining us, tonight.