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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
U.S. Strikes Iran-Backed Groups After Three Americans Killed; Trump's D.C. Election Interference Trial Postponed; E. Jean Carroll's Lawyer: Trump Flew Into Rage When His Legal Team Offered Her Lunch At Mar-A-Lago Deposition. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 02, 2024 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: CNN's coverage continues. I am Jim Sciutto.
THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
We start with breaking news, as the U.S. retaliation, for the deaths of three American soldiers, is underway tonight.
The U.S. hitting more than 85 targets, in Iraq and Syria, against Iranian-backed militias. B-1 bombers flying, non-stop, from an Air Force base, in Texas, ultimately striking seven facilities, in a mission, that, the White House says was successful, but also not over yet. It is without a doubt a sharp escalation of the war in the Middle East.
Those bombers, in the air today, as President Biden was attending the dignified transfer, for those three soldiers, at Dover Air Force Base.
We start with team coverage tonight.
Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon.
Retired Air Force Colonel, Cedric Leighton, in Washington.
And Nic Robertson is in Tel Aviv.
Oren, let me start with you. Because obviously, we are hearing from the Pentagon, confirming these strikes, laying out their rationale. What's the latest that you're learning, tonight?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. carrying out strikes, across seven different locations, in Iraq and Syria. To be more precise, four in Syria, three in Iraq, going after, not specifically Iran.
The U.S. didn't strike directly in Iran, in this case, but going after Iranian-backed militias, and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, the elite part of the IRGC. Trying to send a message not only to Iran, but also to these militias, that the attacks, on the U.S. forces, in the region, have gone way too far, including, especially that attack that killed three U.S. service members, and wounded scores more, in Jordan, on Sunday.
The response now beginning to play out, coming through five days later, as the U.S. carries out strikes, on 85 targets, including not only weapons, and the U.S. saying there were secondary explosions, at some of these facilities, indicating weapons were hit, but also command and control centers, intelligence centers, and much, much more.
This is at least an order of magnitude larger than the strikes we've seen the U.S. take, in Iraq and Syria, over the course of the past few months. It's also, I should note, the first time we have seen the U.S. strike both countries, at the same time, with very much the possibility of more expected, perhaps in the coming days.
President Joe Biden strongly suggested this was just the beginning.
And Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, put it even more bluntly. In a statement after the strikes, he said, "This is the start of our response. The President has directed additional actions to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and Coalition Forces. These will unfold at times and places of our choosing." Austin very much saying, there will be more here.
And we will wait to see how that looks, how that unfolds.
But this is a very strong first message, not only in the target, and the amount of strikes here, but also in the platforms used. B-1 heavy bombers, much more significant, in terms of the payload and the bombs, they're able to carry, the missiles as well than the fighter jets, the U.S. normally uses, to carry out these sorts of strikes.
Following that in a briefing, the U.S. says, they're confident in the targets they hit, and the effect that the strikes have had. They say there are likely members of the militia, who were killed here. But for that, we'll need a battle damage assessment, which could start to come together, once it's daytime, in the Middle East, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: OK. And we'll stand by for that.
Oren Liebermann, at the Pentagon, thank you.
Up next to Nic Robertson, who is live in Tel Aviv, tonight.
Nic, obviously, Iran notably said this week, after those three soldiers were killed, last Sunday that they did not want war. The U.S. was clearly trying to send a message to Iran with this. So, what do we know about how they're responding?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we don't have any indication from the Iranians per se yet.
However, I think it's worth noting as well that the President of Iran also said in that same statement that they would deal with bullies, authoritatively, and with strength. So, I think the indication is that the Iranians will choose to hit back, through their proxies, undoubtedly.
Indeed, one of those proxies, this evening, just minutes before the strikes took place, Kata'ib Hezbollah, in Iraq, said that they were waiting for orders, their orders. Clearly, the implication seems to be that they're waiting for their orders, from Iran, there, and Iran- backed proxies. So, that would be a reasonable conclusion.
But we don't have anything, from Iranian officials about this yet. But it's very clear that there have been strikes, on some of these targets, previously, not as devastating as the ones, we've witnessed, tonight.
But they -- what we have seen is these militias have plenty of people. They'll get more weapons. They believe that they're in a fight with the United States. Iran may not be. But they are through their proxies. And their proxies believe they're engaged in that fight, with the United States. So, they will continue. And I don't think there's any doubt about that. When they will restart? With what kind of force? What they will target? We don't know.
COLLINS: And that's the big question, even the White House is waiting to see, is how these detour, if they slow them down.
Nic Robertson, in Tel Aviv, we'll continue to check in with you.
For more on how this retaliation went down, I want to bring in retired Air Force Colonel, Cedric Leighton.
And Colonel, obviously the Pentagon here, as you just heard from Oren, in his report, talking about what they hit. Command and control ops, intelligence centers, supply chain facilities, other of key locations.
But what can you tell us about where they struck? And just how active the militias are in these areas?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Yes, absolutely, Kaitlan.
So, one of the key things to think about here is where this actually happened. And this is the Euphrates River, right here. It was during -- in this valley, in Syria, that most of the attacks occurred. Right here at the border crossing, at Al-Qa'im, between Iraq and Syria, was also a place where the attacks occurred.
And then, the Euphrates continues into here. All of these areas are basically places, where these militias operate. And they also operate in areas of western Iraq, right here, and some in the northwest, as well as in other parts of the country of Iraq.
But because they are doing all of this, these areas become so important, from a military standpoint. Because what they're doing is they're taking out all of these different nodes, like you mentioned, and Oren mentioned in his report, the command and control nodes, the logistics, areas, all of that, because this is the main supply route, for these militias, to get the stuff that they need to do their work, from Iran. And that's why these areas are so important, from a military perspective.
COLLINS: The B-1 bombers that flew, all the way from Texas, I should note, seems to be a kind of a show of force, from the U.S., because obviously, there's carriers in the region. But they use these B-1 bombers. It's a 6,000 mile non-stop flight.
Can you just kind of walk us through how the U.S. carried this out?
LEIGHTON: Yes. So this, the B-1 bomber is an aircraft that is capable of flying non-stop with refueling. And it can do that to any point in the globe. So, that makes it an important, really a strategic asset for the United States.
And these bombers have done missions like this before. The first time, the B-1 flew in combat was actually in 1998, for Operation Desert Fox, which was also done here in the Middle East.
But the key thing for this particular operation was they were able to fly non-stop, from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, all the way to Syria, and Iraq. And they were able to do this, because they had the capabilities. And of course, they also have the weapons on board, to do the kinds of things that they need to do, in order to really go after those 85 targets that were hit today.
COLLINS: Colonel Cedric Leighton, glad to always have you here, but especially on a night like tonight. Thank you for that.
Also joining me here is the retired four-star Navy Admiral William Fallon, who is the former head of U.S. Central Command.
And it's great to have you here as well, Admiral.
Because when we look at this response, obviously it's sent as a message, from the White House that they say it's just the beginning. Do you think the first round sends a strong enough message, in your view?
ADM. WILLIAM FALLON (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND, U.S. NAVY (RET): Well, Kaitlan, I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's the first round. This is the opening salvo of what I expect is going to go on for some time. And that message has already come out of the White House.
In my view, there are really three, at least three different levels of activity and intention here.
First is the strikes, today, retaliation -- retaliation, to strike back at the perpetrators, of the -- caused the death of our soldiers, and other activities.
The second thing is to attempt to deter further attacks. Third thing and I think, most important, is to send a message to Iran.
Because there's no doubt that Iran is behind all of this activity. They coordinate it. They arm it. They fund it. And they encourage it. And so, at the end of the day, the real objective, in my mind, is to get a message to Iran. And we've had enough of it. And it's got to stop.
COLLINS: Well, on your second point, about deterring the attacks.
COLLINS: I mean, that's really the main question. Does it stop the attacks on--
COLLINS: --U.S. forces?
FALLON: We'll see. My sense is that it's going to be really hard.
So these, first of all, the Iran-U.S. dynamic has been one of mutual distrust, and enmity for four decades. Iran is well-entrenched, all over this region. They've got proxies that have been doing their bidding for quite a long time. We're going to have to figure out how to get that message to Iran, they've got to stop.
So, I view this activity, today, as chasing rats in the sewers. So, you got a big spread-out -- by the way, remember, this is a 1,500-mile piece of territory, from the Levant, Mediterranean, all the way down to Yemen. And I note, there were strikes, earlier today, in Yemen as well. So, it's a large territory.
So, you got these rats, if you would, these proxies that are coming up, and nipping at us here and there. Iran has been slowly but surely escalating this. So, we're going to have to not only take care of the rats, but we're going to have to get back to the source of this. And that's Iran, so.
COLLINS: What does that look like?
FALLON: Well I think it looks--
COLLINS: And what if this doesn't deter them?
FALLON: Well, I think then we have to look broader -- in a broader sense. And I would hope that's going on, right now.
So, we have the military escalation that's underway. How long, how far, how much, remains to be seen.
I think there's some other things that we might want to take a look at with Iran. And that is take a real hard look at the sanctions that we have, and see how we're actually enforcing them or not. I get the feeling that we're kind of maybe not being as tough as we say we are with that.
And I note that Iran, for example, continues to export oil. They're cranking out 4.5 million barrels a day. That's a lot of oil. And guess where most of it's going? To China, like, probably 90 percent of it.
So, this whole business is connected. Iran, Russia, China, the countries of the region. And the U.S. is in the middle of it. And we're now standing up. And I think we have to be prepared. And hopefully, we've thought through some of the follow-on steps that we can get these folks, in Tehran, to understand, we're just not going to continue to tolerate it.
COLLINS: You said two things that really stood out to me. One, you talked about how long this could go on for.
COLLINS: How long do you think this could go on for?
FALLON: Well, I have no idea how long they have, these initial strikes planned. I would suspect they have a number of days and nights. And they're going to assess and see what we've done, what our folks have been able to accomplish.
And then, I'm sure they have a list. Back in my day, we'd have a list of things you wanted to accomplish. We'd check it off, see how we're doing. If we're not there, we try to finish the list.
COLLINS: Secretary Esper, the other--
FALLON: And then we're going to have to stand back and see if this has actually had any effect.
COLLINS: Yes. And when you -- when you look at that, part of the options, and some of what lawmakers were calling for, some of them, at least, were striking, actually, inside Iran.
COLLINS: Is that something that you think, would need to be on the table, if they're not deterred by this?
FALLON: Well, I think, whether it's on the table, in fact, or in messaging, I think the message needs to be there, that if Iran doesn't stop this stuff, that we are likely to continue to escalate, in ways that make sense. We're not looking for another war in the Middle East by any means. But the message has to get there.
And by the way, there's a lot of Iranian stuff, if you would, and without being calling things out specifically, there are things that I think we could do that might get -- help get that message across.
But I suspect it's not going to be easy. It's not going to happen overnight. This isn't going to be a one-time shot. It's going to take a while. And hopefully, we've got a plan, with the administration, to see how we do. And if it's not getting there, to-- COLLINS: Do you--
FALLON: --be able to get there.
COLLINS: What are those things, though, that you -- that you think would be effective?
FALLON: So again, if we go back and look -- so, the military strikes will do what they do. It appears, right now, that we're -- the initial strike's just in the three countries they've mentioned. I doubt we would go and strike Iran directly. But there are other things we might be able to do that could get to Iran that might help them get the message.
And again, back, I think we need to relook at some of the things that we've said we're doing, and see if we're really being effective in those, in the way of sanctions and in other activities.
COLLINS: Admiral, it was great to have you, tonight. And as we do see what the aftermath of this looks like, we'll be sure to have you back. Thanks for being here, on THE SOURCE.
FALLON: You bet. My pleasure. Thanks, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: And coming up tonight. We also have a former CIA officer, who's spent 20 years, in this region, on what he thinks could be next.
Plus, we also have major news, tonight, about one of Donald Trump's federal trials, with a big date, now open, on his and really everybody's calendar.
COLLINS: Back to our breaking story, tonight, as President Biden is delivering on his vow, from earlier this week, to forcefully respond, to Iran-backed militia groups, responsible for the deaths of three U.S. soldiers, in that deadly drone attack, in Jordan.
A short time ago, the U.S. carried out a series of military strikes, at seven sites, in Iraq and in Syria. The White House says that this is just the beginning of their response.
We have CNN's Alex Marquardt, in Washington, tracking all of it.
I mean, Alex, given what we heard from officials, once these strikes have been conducted, that they do believe they were successful. How exactly are they gauging success?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, in two different ways, Kaitlan.
The first is that they say they hit what they intended to. The Director of the Joint Chiefs said that the targets that they laid out, that those were hit. Seven facilities in Iraq and Syria. Not just Iran-backed groups, but facilities that are connected to Iran's IRGC and the Quds Force.
The Pentagon said that the targets that they laid out, they had an expectation that there would be casualties. The Pentagon hasn't confirmed yet that there are casualties. But we know from Syrian state media, that there were deaths reported, in Syria. And so, of course, this is in response, to that strike, on Sunday that left three American service members dead.
The second way that they think this is a success, is they think they sent a very strong message. You have 85 different targets that were hit. Not with jets from the Middle East that were based out there, F- 15s, F-16s.
This was, as you were just speaking with Colonel Leighton about, done with B-1 bombers that were flown over from the United States, all that way, with some 24 cruise missiles on board each. So, that sends a very strong message.
But of course, Kaitlan, the real test of whether this was a success, is if Iran is deterred in the end. Will they be, after tonight? Almost certainly not. But we know that this isn't going to be the end of it.
There is an expectation that there will be more strikes, like this, in eastern Syria, in western Iraq, perhaps against logistics lines, coming from Iran, into Iraq. The U.S. could step up their strikes, in the Red Sea, against the Houthis. We could see cyber-attacks. So, there is an expectation that this will continue.
And the big question is, will Iran, will those groups be deterred? This is far from over, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes, that is the main question.
Alex Marquardt, great reporting. Thank you for that.
Also, joining us tonight is Bob Baer, who spent 21 years, as a CIA officer, in the Middle East. He wrote the book, "The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower."
And Bob, I mean, just few people have your level of knowledge, on the region, the militias that are operating, like you do.
Do you think that the first round of strikes, from what we know? And that could change, as obviously morning comes and we learn a little bit more. But do you think it's enough to deter these groups?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIONS OFFICER, AUTHOR, "THE DEVIL WE KNOW": No. I don't think it's a decisive attack. I think the -- it was very accurate. The B-1 bombers, cruise missiles, very, very accurate, they hit what they were shooting at.
The problem is, the last couple days, these forces have been dispersing personnel, and ammunition, weapons and the rest of it. So, they were preparing for this attack. I think mainly this attack will serve as a message to Tehran is that we are willing to escalate, if they keep attacking our forces, in the Middle East. And we have forces in Iraq, Jordan, and everywhere else. So yes, I think it's a strong message. And let's see what the Iranians do.
But what I'm afraid of is, Kaitlan, is this is going to escalate the war across the Middle East? The Iranians are determined to project power, from Yemen, to Lebanon, to Syria, to Iraq, right across what we call the Shia Crescent.
COLLINS: How does the U.S. hurt Iran, and thread that needle? I mean, is it cyber-attacks, like Alex just mentioned? Is it more of these strikes, on the proxies, they direct? Or is it direct strikes inside of Iran, like some Republicans think? I mean, how do you hurt Iran?
BAER: Well, we could hurt Iran. It has a very relatively weak army, which we could easily beat.
But attacking Iran, they have asymmetrical warfare capabilities. In particular, they can take out the Gulf's oil facilities. We're talking about 30 percent of the world's reserves. They could close it down in 24 hours with missiles. They hit Abqaiq, a Saudi facility, in 2015. It was a very accurate attack, very damaging.
So, if we get into an escalation, this is going to get really ugly.
COLLINS: It kind of feels like we're in that escalation. I mean, with this, this is obviously an escalation, in and of itself. But how do we know, as the U.S. is inching closer, how do we know when that's happened?
BAER: Well, one thing is the Iraqis, some of the positions we hit, the Iraqis, describing as almost their National Guard positions, the Hashd al-Sha'bi is what they call it.
So, are the Iraqis going to throw us out of Iraq? I don't know that they are. But they're certainly complaining a lot. There's nothing the Syrian government can do.
And the Iranians are continuing to supply Hezbollah, and encouraging it to attack northern Israel. I think what the escalation would look like is if Lebanon is drawn into this, where -- into this war very seriously.
COLLINS: And you believe all of this goes back to what we're watching happening in Gaza?
BAER: Oh, absolutely. The Iranians are allied with Hamas. Hamas could exist without the Iranians. But the Iranians are definitely behind them.
And I think the Iranians look at this, as a great opportunity, to spread their influence, across the Middle East, the Gulf, Yemen, everywhere else. And right now, they are looking like, as I wrote in my book, a superpower, at least in the Middle East. COLLINS: Bob Baer, I have a feeling we're going to be talking a lot. Thanks for coming on tonight, and joining us.
COLLINS: And on a solemn note, just hours before these strikes happened, the remains of those three Army Reservists, who were killed, in the deadly drone strike, in Jordan, were returned to the United States.
Under a somber grey sky, President Biden, the first lady, top Pentagon leaders, stood silently, in the receiving line, for the dignified transfer, at Dover Air Force Base. With their hands over their hearts, or raised in salute, they stood as those flag-draped cases, of Sergeants William Rivers, Kennedy Sanders and Breonna Moffett, were ceremonially moved -- ceremonially moved, from a plane, to a waiting vehicle.
Beforehand, the President, I should note, met with their grieving families, in a private room. For President Biden, this now marks the second dignified transfer, of his presidency.
COLLINS: Tonight, Donald Trump has succeeded, in pushing back his federal trial, for trying to overturn the 2020 election, at least for now.
Right now, it will no longer begin a month from now, as it was slated to, on March 4th. That's because we're still waiting, for that appeals court, to rule on his claim that he had absolute immunity, as President, meaning, that right now it remains unclear when that trial will begin.
I'm joined, tonight, by an attorney, who knows what it's like, to defend Donald Trump, in a federal criminal case, Jim Trusty, who is no longer on the legal team, I should note, just for our viewers, who haven't seen you here before.
I just wonder if this, you know, it seems like it's exactly what Trump's legal team wanted. A delay.
JIM TRUSTY, FORMER COUNSEL FOR DONALD TRUMP, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, PARTNER, IFRAH LAW: Well, it is. But you have to really go back, and recognize that the March trial date, the Super Monday trial date was really a kind of arbitrary creation.
Jack Smith pushing for what he called a speedy trial, right, which makes almost no sense. It's a defendant's right. And the trial judge accommodating that, and saying that she had no interest in hearing about conflicting schedules.
So, when the case went to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, on the immunity issue, Jack couldn't even wait for that that he asked for the Supreme Court to jump in, on an expedited basis. And I think it kind of played out like too clever by a half.
So now, they're stuck with the fact that the Supreme Court is going to rule on this eventually. But it won't be on a speedy basis.
COLLINS: Well, we don't know yet about the Supreme Court because, right now, we're still waiting to hear, from this appeals court, on that argument, about immunity.
And I should note, it's not just Jack Smith. Because you're right. The judge, Judge Chutkan here, had agreed, and was the one who set that March date.
But on the appeals court, why do you think it's taking so long, for them to issue the ruling, on the immunity claim?
TRUSTY: Yes, look, I mean, like most lawyers, I'd go poor, if I bet on every prediction of an appellate court and their timing.
I don't think it's particularly slow, though. Oral argument was not that long ago. And these are pretty weighty issues, pretty thorny issues.
I think it was a pretty hot bench for President Trump's lawyers. So, I don't expect that full immunity is going to get a whole lot of love, from the panel.
But I'm sure they're taking their time, hashing it out, writing a very reasoned opinion. And recognizing, as I do, that I think the odds are very strong, that the case goes right up to the Supreme Court.
COLLINS: Well, so once they -- a technical issue, though, that could be actually really important is once they do rule, which you think will be against him, based on what we heard, do you believe Judge Chutkan will then try to actually move forward with this? Set a trial date, have the motions being filed again, request out for jurors, start what would be happening right now?
TRUSTY: Yes, that's a great question, and a hard one to answer.
I mean, for the moment, she just entered a minute order, which means there wasn't some sort of hearing. And she just announced that all scheduling was suspended, because of the current appeal. I think that most likely it's going to stay that way, until the Supreme Court either accepts or denies cert.
Obviously, if they deny, certiorare, and say, we're not going to hear the case, which I just can't foresee happening, in something this important? Then, she could just bring the parties together, and jump right on, and try to have the case, go to trial, in the summer or fall.
But, again, realistically, with the first bite at the Supreme Court landing was such a thud, in terms of expedition, that I think they're going to be on their regular briefing schedule. We're months away. And I think it would be fairly foolish, to set a trial date, knowing that they're taking the case.
COLLINS: As of today, do you think it's more or less likely that none of his federal cases go to trial before the election?
TRUSTY: Well, I think it's certainly less likely, because the one that was shaping up, as a definite, or at least close to a definite, was January 6, because of the insistence of the trial court that we're going to get this done.
I think that the approach, in Florida, which a lot of people try to say, is partisan and somehow she's favoring President Trump? It's actually much more typical, for federal practice.
She's taking very incremental approach. And it's complicated by the delays that happen with classified information. There's a whole long procedure that usually adds a year, to any case, just to sift through, how classified material is going to be used at trial.
She's basically said, let's come back in March, and see where discovery is, see how the classified stuff is going, and then we'll talk about setting a trial date, and we'll consider the calendars of the attorneys, which, in my experience, is much more typical, than just announcing here's the date, clear your books, and--
TRUSTY: --be there when I tell you to.
So, I think that the Florida case is probably drifting towards after the election, but not surprisingly, based on the CIPA, the classified information component, that really dictates--
TRUSTY: --a pretty slow process.
COLLINS: But I should note. It's not just people, who are complaining, saying she's partisan. She also had bungled some things upfront that non-partisan lawyers said that she had made mistakes on.
But I do want to ask you, just overall, Trump's legal team. We just found out, that he spent $50 million, on legal expenses, just last year alone. He had the $83.3 million verdict, from that jury, on Friday. He's had a lot of verdicts going against him.
Do you think that he's getting his money's worth? Or I guess, I should say, his donors, since that's where the money's coming from?
TRUSTY: That was -- that was a great roundabout way, to get me to comment on the other attorneys. And as you know, Kaitlan, I'm not -- not one to do that. Look, it's--
COLLINS: I thought it was pretty direct, actually.
TRUSTY: Yes, took a while, but it was -- I figured out where you were going. I mean, look, the bottom line is, these are unprecedented times. I think it's a very bad sign, and a common one, between all these types of cases, even some of the civil ones, that there's a measure of creativity, in the charging or in the civil complaint.
And when we're talking about a former President, no matter what you think of him, and a presidential candidate, who's leading the administration, when you take all that? We should have very thoughtful, transparent, predictable behavior, by prosecutors, and by plaintiffs.
Meaning, they should -- they shouldn't have a political calculus. They should be saying this is about justice. We're going to be transparent. We're going to be patient. And that's not what we're seeing with Jack Smith.
We're seeing all sorts of irregularities, out of Georgia, and we're seeing all sorts of irregularities, out of the Michael Cohen case, with Alvin Bragg.
COLLINS: Well Jack Smith, though, as you know is--
TRUSTY: So, if it's a -- if it's a bribery or something--
COLLINS: --is Florida, the documents case, and this case. And these cases were started long before Trump was running for office again, and before he was the Republican frontrunner. The reporting was that he actually declared that he--
COLLINS: --was running in part because of his legal troubles.
TRUSTY: Well, look, you can also say it's just going after a former President, like strip away the impact, on a current election.
I would want prosecutors, and I was a prosecutor for 27 years, I would want them to be very circumspect, thoughtful, fair, transparent, when it comes to going after somebody that was President of the United States, whether or not they run.
And I think there's a lot of open questions, about whether Jack Smith insisting on a trial, the day before Super Tuesday? Attorneys accused of essentially blackmailing defense attorneys, in the Mar-a-Lago case? There's a lot of stuff to sift through that history may not be real kind to.
COLLINS: Yes. We've talked about your blackmailing claim here before. And, of course, that was a -- that March date is one that the judge here said.
Jim Trusty, though, great to have you. Thanks for joining, tonight.
And I'm also joined tonight by a former federal prosecutor, Kristy Greenberg.
I wonder what you make of what you heard, from Jim Trusty, on the sense of, I mean, he said it's looking less likely that any of these cases happen now, before the election.
KRISTY GREENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, I think, in terms of the federal cases, I do still hold out hope that the D.C. case happens before the election.
The classified documents case? I don't think so. And not necessarily because Judge Cannon is biased. She's also a very new judge, you know, relatively.
COLLINS: Yes, it's her first federal trial.
GREENBERG: Yes. She's relatively inexperienced. And so, I'm not sure she wants all of the scrutiny of a trial before -- particularly before the election.
But as to the federal case, in D.C., I do still hold out hope that that could happen.
I think, right now, what you're seeing in the appeals court, clearly, there may be some dissension. It's a three-judge panel. You have one of those judges, Judge Henderson, who actually was against expediting the appeal. And so, she has the most seniority. She can decide she wants to write the opinion.
GREENBERG: And she can take her sweet time drafting it.
And the oral arguments suggested that there were some questions. What is the legal standard? It's not going to be absolute immunity. I don't think any of them agreed with that. But will it be something short of that, outer duties or something narrower? It seemed like they were wrestling with what the legal standard would be.
COLLINS: Yes. And now, we're waiting to see of course, not just that. You heard him mention Georgia. We're waiting to see what happens there, as we just got that first formal response, from Fani Willis, today. We'll see what the judge decides.
Kristy Greenberg, thanks for coming in, tonight.
Up next, a story about a fit of rage, with the former President, in that case where we're talking about the $83.3 million verdict, apparently throwing papers across the table, storming off, during a lunch.
The other side of that table was E. Jean Carroll's attorney, who is now speaking out.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: The attorney, who just defeated Donald Trump, to the tune of $83.3 million, is now speaking out, about what happened behind-the- scenes, including a moment that sent the former President into a fit of rage.
Roberta Kaplan was representing E. Jean Carroll, in her defamation trial that ended last Friday. And during the lead-up to that trial, Trump sat with her legal team, for a deposition, at Mar-a-Lago.
I'll let Kaplan explain what happened, when it came time for lunch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTA KAPLAN, E. JEAN CARROLL'S ATTORNEY: And you could kind of see the -- the wheel spinning in his brain. You could really almost see it.
And he said, well, you're here in Mar-a-Lago. What do you think you're going to do for lunch? Where are you going to get lunch?
And so I said to him, well, you know, I raised this question with your attorneys yesterday, sir, and they graciously offered to provide us with lunch.
At which point, there was a huge pile of documents, exhibits, sitting in front of him, and he took the pile and he just threw it across the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That was on the podcast, "George Conway Explains It All."
And I am joined now by George Conway.
So, please, explain it all for us.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER, CONTRIBUTOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well I can't really explain it, because I've never heard of anything like that before.
It is a very common practice that when you are hosting a deposition, your counsel provides lunch, for everyone else. And they provide lunch, in a -- usually in a separate conference room, so that both sides can have confidential conversations.
And in this particular instance, the deposition was held at Mar-a- Lago, for Donald Trump's convenience. So, it would have been perfectly understandable, and was perfectly understandable that Alina Habba, and the team of lawyers, representing Trump, ordered lunch for their adversaries. This same courtesy would be extended, if the shoe were on the other foot.
And he went bananas because of that, and he started screaming, as Robbie Kaplan describes. He was screaming at Alina Habba. Tough client there. COLLINS: There was this other moment, as I was listening to this whole conversation. And it's obviously not just getting my attention, but also everyone else's.
I want people to just listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAPLAN: We come in the room and I say, I'm done asking questions. And immediately, I hear from the other side, off the record, off the record, off the record. So, they must have planned it.
And he looks at me from across the table and he says, see you next Tuesday.
You could tell that it was like, it was like a kind of a joke, again, like teenage boys would come up with.
SARAH LONGWELL, AMERICAN STRATEGIST: Yes.
KAPLAN: But again, I wasn't in on the joke.
LONGWELL: No that is a teenage boy-level joke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: OK, George, this is cable. But we should keep it peachy.
CONWAY: Yes. I'm not going to spell it out.
COLLINS: But, I mean, what did you think, when you were sitting there, listening to that?
CONWAY: I mean, it's just appalling. I mean, he's a pig. And the fact that he was President of the United States makes it all the more distressing.
I mean, it was misogynistic. I mean, to call a woman that, to her face, and trying to be cute about it, I mean, it was just disgraceful, and the kind of indecent conduct that you wouldn't expect in any adult. I mean, it was just, I wouldn't even say it was teenage boy- level conduct. It was just utterly, utterly childish.
And it's not that surprising that Trump does this. I mean, we know -- we've seen him do all sorts of crude and -- things over time.
And it brought to mind this incident that occurred in The Roosevelt Room, I think it was, in the fall of 2019, where Donald Trump was congratulating a pair of female astronauts, who had conducted an EVA, a spacewalk, outside the space shuttle. And it was the first all- female EVA.
And Trump made a mistake. He said, oh, this is the first time a woman's ever been outside the space shuttle. And then, the astronaut, the female astronaut gently corrected him.
And he clearly was taken aback. It was a very gentle, very respectful correction. And he starts to touch his forehead, as if to scratch an itch, but he used his middle finger.
And there was this huge controversy. Wait, was he really giving the finger to these astronauts? And people gave him the benefit of the doubt.
But I find it hard to give him the benefit of the doubt, after seeing all of this conduct.
COLLINS: George Conway, it was a fascinating conversation, and to hear from her, on the behind-the-scenes. Thank you for coming on.
COLLINS: Again, you are now a SOURCE-regular. Thanks for coming on, tonight.
CONWAY: Happy to be here.
COLLINS: Also tonight, we're following another court case. This is the fate of Jennifer Crumbley. She is the mother of that Michigan school shooter. Tonight, her fate is in the hands of a jury, after a rather bizarre day of closing arguments.
You've really got to hear what her attorney was saying here. That's next.
COLLINS: A historic case has now reached its final phase, as the jury is going to start deliberating, come Monday, in the manslaughter trial, for Jennifer Crumbley.
Her son, Ethan, shot and killed four students, at his Michigan High School, back in 2021, using a gun that his parents had given him, for Christmas.
She is the first parent, to stand trial, on charges, seeking to imprison her, over her kid's school shooting, making it so historic.
In the closing arguments, today, her defense attorney acknowledged that a guilty verdict would set a dangerous precedent for parents, and she also told the jury that she is human and flawed, just like her client.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANNON SMITH, JENNIFER CRUMBLEY'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I will openly admit that I'm a lawyer, who messes up.
I'm lucky if I am fit for human contact. I'm lucky if I've taken a true shower, and didn't just grab a handful of wipes, and scrub off the best I can, on my way running out the door.
Actually, I have an oopsie baby. My fourth one. I did not want four in four years. But that's what I was blessed with.
I have a large butcher block on my counter with big knives that I use when I cook. And I enjoy cooking. And at the end of the day, my kids could just as easily grab a knife, without me knowing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Here tonight, attorney and legal affairs analyst, Areva Martin.
Areva, I wonder what you made of that closing argument.
AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY & LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Yes, Kaitlan, it did not resonate with me. And I would be surprised if it resonated with jurors.
I understood what she was trying to do. She was trying to say, look, this could be any one of you. We are all human. We all make mistakes. There are no perfect parents. Don't find her guilty because she is a mother that has made mistakes.
But what was missing from this argument are the facts of this case. This is not a case of someone that has to use wipes, because they don't have time for a shower.
This is a mother that had clear opportunities, to prevent her son, from committing these murders. She had the warning signs, big red warning signs, and she ignored them.
And I think the jurors are going to be smart enough to distinguish, between a busy working lawyer that has four kids, and a mother of one child, where the evidence has shown that she has spent more time with horses, and perhaps with a boyfriend, or trying to find a boyfriend, on an online app, than she did taking care of her child.
So, I got what the motivation was, behind this kind of argument. But I think it fell short.
COLLINS: What did you make of the cross-examination that started out, this morning?
And they were kind of trying to make that point that she wasn't responding to her son's text. She wasn't answering his calls, when he was saying, please call me back, please text me back.
What did you make of how effective that was?
MARTIN: I think the -- Kaitlan, the prosecutor made some good points. I was surprised that the cross-examination was so short. I think there were some missed opportunities. I think he could have delved a lot more, into some of the issues, in this case, particularly the meeting in that office. I think a lot of parents are going to find what Jennifer did, at that
school meeting, very troubling. She's in that meeting, for only 11 minutes or so. She doesn't embrace, doesn't engage with her son.
And I'm just sitting here, thinking if a school shows you this very disturbing picture that your son has drawn? You don't then say to the school, there's a gun that we purchased, as a gift for Christmas. There's a gun that I don't personally know where the key is. I don't know what the gun is, according to her. And even to say to her son, son, this is troubling. Son, do you need some help?
Even though she's tried to make this argument that the school told her, he was OK, and he could return to his classroom, I think jurors are going to have a really hard time with that.
And I think the prosecution did a good job, of juxtaposing her statements about being this hyper-vigilant-involved mom, and what she actually did on that day.
COLLINS: What's your prediction, on how long it would take the jury to reach a verdict?
MARTIN: It's always difficult to know, Kaitlan, how long jurors will take.
There's -- this isn't a case, though, with a ton of evidence. This was supposed to be a two to three week trial. It was much faster than anyone expected. There were no witnesses called by the defense other than Jennifer herself.
So, it could be two hours. It could be a couple of days.
COLLINS: We'll wait to see, on Monday.
Areva Martin, thank you so much.
MARTIN: Thanks, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Ahead tonight, remembering the beloved actor, Carl Weathers, the star of four "Rocky" films, and so much more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
APOLLO CREED, FICTIONAL CHARACTER PLAYED BY CARL WEATHERS, "ROCKY III": He's hooking. He's hooking. Damn, Rock, come on. What's the matter with you?
ROBERT "ROCKY" BALBOA, FICTIONAL CHARACTER PLAYED BY SYLVESTER STALLONE, "ROCKY III": Tomorrow. Let's do it tomorrow.
CREED: There is no tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The legendary actor, Carl Weathers, has died at the age of 76. He passed away peacefully, at his home, on Thursday, according to his manager.
He came to fame as Apollo Creed, the fast-talking hard-hitting nemesis-turned-ally, in the "Rocky" movies.
His co-star, Sylvester Stallone that you saw there, shared this tribute, to his longtime friend, tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER STALLONE, AMERICAN ACTOR AND FILMMAKER: He was magic. And I was so fortunate to be part of his life. So Apollo, keep punching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I should note. Weathers also found plenty of comic relief, in his career, notably as Adam Sandler's alligator-hating golf instructor Chubbs, in "Happy Gilmore."
Adam Sandler posted this message, on Instagram, remembering him as "A true great man." A "Great dad." A "Great actor." A "Great athlete." "Love to his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend."
That, he certainly will. And we're thinking of his family, tonight.
Also tonight, as we were in break, and the story we started out with, this is brand-new video, coming from the Pentagon, tonight, of those B-1 bombers, taking off from Texas, for the strikes, tonight, in the Middle East.
(VIDEO - NEW VIDEO: B-1 BOMBERS TAKING OFF TO STRIKE TARGETS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA)
COLLINS: Much more on what you are seeing here, and this breaking news, with "CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts right now.