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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Appeals Court Rules Trump Does Not Have Absolute Immunity; House Vote To Impeach Homeland Security Secretary Fails; Sources: RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel Offers To Step Down After SC Primary. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 06, 2024 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us. The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.


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

No immunity. Donald Trump's claims outright rejected by a federal appeals court, in what was a unanimous decision. The judges, referring to him as citizen Trump saying, that former presidents cannot escape being held accountable, for their actions, while in office. All eyes are now turning to the Supreme Court.

Also, that Republican effort, to impeach the Homeland Security Secretary, over the border, just went down in flames, failing spectacularly, in the House, this evening. It's a major embarrassment for the House Speaker, but really for the House GOP.

Also tonight, we are tracking this. For the first time ever, the parent of a school shooter has been held responsible, for her actions, related to her own son's murderous rampage. What it can mean for the future school shootings in America?

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

The answer, if you're wondering, is no, a president cannot order SEAL Team Six, to assassinate his political opponent, with absolute immunity from prosecution in the future. Remember that striking hypothetical that was posed, just one month ago, to Trump's attorney, by a panel of judges, that that attorney then went on and actually tried to defend, even hypothetically?

Well, today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals took a sledgehammer, not to just to that, but to really all of Donald Trump's immunity claims. A former President, whom the judges referred to, in this decision, as citizen Trump, for the purposes of this case, can be criminally tried, by the Special Counsel, Jack Smith, for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Tonight, the trial that was just taken off the calendar, last week, could potentially be back on that calendar very soon. We'll have more on the scheduling, and what that looks like in a moment.

But right now, what we are seeing is Trump furiously posting, on social media, continuing to float many of the same claims that were rejected by the court, today, such as this one, saying Without Presidential Immunity, the Presidency will lose its power and prestige.

Contrast that with what is actually in the decision, that everyone should read today, saying, quote, Former President Trump's stance would collapse our system of separated powers.

Trump is also arguing tonight that, A President of the United States must have Full Immunity in order to properly function.

That's not what the appeals court says. Instead, really just writing the opposite, saying that, quote, Instead of inhibiting the President's lawful discretionary action, the prospect of federal criminal liability might, instead, serve as a structural benefit to deter possible abuses of power and criminal behavior.

In this ruling, the three-judge panel also referred to something that was in the judge's ruling, the federal judge, who is overseeing the 2020 case, that's Judge Chutkan, remember, and what she said. This is from the quote, from the ruling today, and I'm quoting, Every President will face difficult decisions... whether to intentionally commit a federal crime should not be one of them.

Here tonight, to start us off, conservative attorney, who has been arguing, or who has argued, I should note, before, in front of the Supreme Court, which just makes his a key voice for tonight, George Conway, who also has a new piece out, in The Atlantic, calling this An Airtight Ruling Against Donald Trump.

George, it's great to have you here.

Why do you believe this ruling, as you put it, was masterful?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: It was masterful, because it combined so many elements.

It combined constitutional text, judicial precedent history, and just sheer logic, and the party's own concessions, Trump's own concessions, to make just an absolutely cohesive whole opinion that is just inexorably -- inexorably leads you to the conclusion that he is not immune. And it was just so well done.

And it also, one other aspect of the decision, which makes it even more bulletproof, is the fact that they narrowly focused, on the exact situation, in this case.

They weighed the potential costs of not having immunity, which is what Trump's talked about, which is the danger of a floodgate of litigation, which they -- of criminal litigation, which they pooh- poohed. And they matched it up against, as they were required to do by the immunity case law, they matched it up against the public interest. And the public interest wasn't just the public interest in the

enforcement, generally, of the criminal law. But this was the public's interest in constitutional democracy and in the peaceful transition of power.


And when you weigh the two up against each other, there's just no question.

COLLINS: So, the real question here is how does the Supreme Court read this? Because Trump's team says they do plan to appeal it. I mean, you say that it doesn't require further review.

CONWAY: Yes, it doesn't, because I don't -- I mean, this opinion is so good and so clear, so comprehensive, there's nothing in it that could be possibly attacked.

And I don't see how even the Supreme Court could write, I don't see how any judge any court anywhere, including the Supreme Court, could write a better opinion that more accurately states what the law is and should be.

And as a result, I don't think it's worth the court's time, to deal with it, at this point. If Trump is convicted, which I think he will be, they can actually review this, after his conviction.

And meanwhile, the Supreme Court already has its hands full. On Thursday, it's going to hear the argument, in the disqualification case in Colorado, where the court held, the court of -- the court in Colorado held that Trump couldn't be on the ballot, because he was an insurrectionist.

COLLINS: Yes. So, I mean, we don't know what they're going to do.

But let's say that the Supreme Court does take it up. Given all of the arguments that Trump's attorney made, were totally eviscerated, by this court today, is there a new legal argument that they could make, to the Supreme Court here?

CONWAY: They -- no. Because they threw everything up in the air, and every single argument was methodically and systematically dismantled by this court. There is nothing left. Even the -- the court addressed even all the bad arguments that Trump probably shouldn't have made to this court.

And there's just nothing, there's just nothing left, for the Supreme Court to clean up. And I think, if I'm sitting on the Supreme Court, I'm thinking, we don't need this, this is fine. This is a case that can go into the judicial law books, into the case books, and law schools, for the next 100 years. It's that good.

COLLINS: You write that this reminded you, of the Supreme Court decision, forcing Nixon to hand over the Watergate tapes. How come?

CONWAY: Yes, because it was the sort of the same thing. I mean, Nixon was looking for any kind of err, any kind of weakness, in the opinion. And he was sitting -- he was -- he was up early in the morning, in San Clemente.

And Al Haig, his Chief of Staff, General Haig, called him up to tell him the Supreme Court had just handed down the decision. And he asked, well, is there any -- is there any err in it? Nixon asked. And Haig said, no, nothing, tight, tight as a drum.

And this case, this opinion, is even tighter than the Supreme Court's opinion, in the United States against Nixon. And I just don't see how Trump can act -- can get this thing overturned. He might be able to delay a little.

But I think the Supreme Court is going to see right through that. And there's a good chance it may not even take this case. And if that's the case, then this case, this immunity appeal, could be over, within a couple of weeks. And we could have a trial, as early as late May or early June.

COLLINS: Yes. It's a remarkable development. George Conway, fascinating piece, in The Atlantic. Thank you for starting us off tonight.

CONWAY: Thank you.

COLLINS: And I'm joined now by an attorney, who used to represent former President, Donald Trump, Tim Parlatore.

Welcome back to THE SOURCE.

Are you surprised that Trump lost here?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: No. It's not surprising what the result is.

I mean, I was a little bit surprised that they ruled it on the merits. I kind of thought that they may go for jurisdiction, and just say, this is premature, come back to us after the case is over, which would have been really removed the ability to even go to the Supreme Court right now.

So, it did surprise me that they went to the merits. But not what the bottom line was.

COLLINS: I mean, yes, they spent a lot of this ruling, on the jurisdiction, if anyone's reading that.

But on the merits itself, I mean, Trump is responding to this today, by saying the presidency is going to lose power and prestige, when the court says it's actually an important check on the presidency, if they're not immune.

He says a president must have full immunity to properly function.

They say that's not supported by history or logic that he was just carrying out his official acts. They say what's alleged is not an official act. That it was, instead, they say, if proven, an unprecedented assault on the structure of our government.

If it does go to the Supreme Court, let me ask you what I asked George Conway, which is what argument does his legal team have left?

PARLATORE: The big thing that I thought that this decision was kind of missing was a more detailed discussion, of what the left and right limits would be of immunity. I think that it kind of gave a little bit short shrift to the idea of when you're out of office that it doesn't apply anymore. So, I think that the Supreme Court could clarify those points.


And one thing to understand is that the Supreme Court doesn't just take cases to overturn them. And there was a case, several years ago, in the Clinton administration that the Circuit decided an issue of privilege. And the Supreme Court decided not to take it.

But Justice Ginsburg gave a very strong dissent, where she said, issues like this that affect, the privileges and immunities, related to the presidency, is something that should be coming from the Supreme Court, not just from the Circuit.

And so, even if the Supreme Court were to take it, and affirm it entirely, it is something because it affects the President, that there is a belief that it should come from the Supreme Court, not just the Circuit.

COLLINS: Do you believe that? Do you think it should go to the Supreme Court after reading this opinion, or this ruling, today?

PARLATORE: I do see a value, in the Supreme Court weighing in, and potentially clarifying what type of conduct would or wouldn't be, under the immunity. I don't think that it's going to affect the outcome. I don't think it's going to change what's going to happen, in this trial.

I think that the Supreme Court would have to make that decision, really based on, on the law and the precedent, whereas a lot of people want to make the decision, based on the schedule, of getting the trial done, before the election.

COLLINS: But you're saying you do think the case will ultimately go to trial, even if it does go to the Supreme Court?

PARLATORE: I believe that the Supreme Court is not going to overturn it, and find the blanket immunity that the former President is asking for.

COLLINS: OK. That's -- I just wanted to make sure that's what you were saying.


COLLINS: You know Trump well. You worked for him. You represented him. There's kind of like a special class, for all the attorneys, who worked for Donald Trump, I think, just based on covering them for so long.

I wonder how you think he read this today, the fact that he lost. That they rejected his arguments? That they referred to him as citizen Trump? I mean, how would you predict he's responding to this tonight?

PARLATORE: I mean, I think that he's probably taking it more personally, particularly the parts about citizen Trump. I think that he's probably more concentrating on that.

But, ultimately, one would hope that his lawyers -- and he had some very good lawyers on this particular issue, to try to refocus it on just the legal aspects. Have John Sauer go in and say, this is the standard, this is what we need to more focus on, than the personal.

COLLINS: Tim Parlatore, great to have you. Thanks for joining us tonight.

PARLATORE: Thank you.

COLLINS: So the question is what is the next move here? Because Trump's team only has a few days to respond to this.

Joining me now, two expert legal minds, and former federal prosecutors, Shan Wu, and Elliot Williams.

And Elliot, one key part of this is that Trump's team has kind of been boxed out of, of the delay tactics here, in the sense of appealing and appealing and appealing.


COLLINS: Because what the court ruled, which is just as important as the substance, in here, is that he only has until next Monday, to file that emergency request, with the Supreme Court. They do plan to do that.

But essentially, what would the other options for recourse be?

WILLIAMS: Right. There really aren't that many.

So, a party who loses in a federal court of appeal can typically take a case to the whole appeals court or the Supreme Court.

Now, as you noted, Kaitlan, they, in their order today, they made very clear that pretty much, on Monday, this goes back to the trial court, unless the Supreme Court steps in.

So, we would anticipate that the former President would appeal this up to the Supreme Court. It's in some way they're going to end up getting the case. Now, whether they decide to take it on, or rule on it, is an open question. But it's not going to trial on Monday. But that's the next step.

COLLINS: Shan, how do you see it, in the sense of, Judge Chutkan just took this case, off of the court calendar. Could we soon see it added back on, do you think? SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We could. I mean, she'd have to first reconvene it, and get a sense of where things stand, in terms of the preparations.

I agree with Elliot. They're a little bit boxed in now, because of the way the D.C. Circuit set some conditions, if they do go to the en banc, that it will kind of recommence the trial.

Although I have to say, from Trump's team's point of view, I don't think they really care that much about it, that they're happy with start-stop, start-stop, as long as there's more stopping than starting. So, I think the name of the game for them is still to delay it, as much as possible. So, I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if they also tried to go en banc.

COLLINS: Well, Elliot, or Shan, can you just clarify exactly what that would mean?

OK. So, if someone who didn't go to law school is watching, and you're -- the options here are to file this emergency request, to the Supreme Court or they could go back and instead of just the three judges, on this appeals court, they could ask all--


COLLINS: --I believe, a 11, that it is, here?


WU: Right. They could ask the entire circuit to review it. The circuit might decide not to do that. But if they do that, the D.C. Circuit, the panel that made the ruling said if you go that route, rather than just going to the Supreme Court, we're going to start the clock ticking again, on--


WU: --the trial case.

And if they go to the Supreme Court, the panel that issued the ruling says we'll hold off on restarting the pace, until we hear from the Supreme Court first.

COLLINS: Elliot, it's important to note who made up these three judges, because oftentimes, when there's a ruling that the Trump team doesn't like, they go after the judges.

There is a conservative judge, on this court, Judge Henderson--


COLLINS: --who has ruled in Trump's favor on things previously. Everyone was watching her very closely.

I think the question is, if it goes to the Supreme Court, how are they going to look at an opinion, or a ruling that is written the way that this one was tonight?

WILLIAMS: Well, again, they are, to use the Latin lawyer term, sui generis, their own thing, the Supreme Court. And so, I don't think they're obligated to follow what came before.

But let's be clear, looking at how this opinion was written. It was called a per curiam decision. It was not signed by any one judge. They wrote with one voice, as opposed to say, one person writing it, and the other two signing their names to it. They were very clear about making this a unanimous, strong, forceful opinion.

And I also think that might have been a signal, to the other judges, on the D.C. Circuit, saying that look, we're all in agreement here. Anybody else, speak now, if you have a problem with this.

So, I do think it was a sign to the Supreme Court that certainly these three judges are unanimous on it. And I would think that the rest -- many or a majority of the D.C. Circuit is in agreement as well.

COLLINS: Yes. And you just heard Tim Parlatore, a Trump attorney, saying he thinks it would be very unlikely, the Supreme Court would overturn this.


COLLINS: Elliot Williams, Shan Wu, great to have both of you here, tonight.

We have a lot more, as we are digging into this incredibly important immunity ruling. We're going to speak to Trump's former National Security Adviser, John Bolton. He's here in studio.

But first tonight, you got to see it to believe what happened on the Hill. It was this spectacular fail. House Republicans, who are in the majority, called a vote, but were unable to follow through, on what they've been promising to do, for weeks, if not months. Impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. There were three Republican holdouts. We'll tell you all the drama, ahead.



COLLINS: High drama, on the House floor, tonight, where there's rarely a vote, where we don't actually know what the outcome is going to be beforehand.

But House Speaker, Mike Johnson, learned that the hard way, tonight, and led to a stunning defeat, for House Republicans. Their swing at a historic impeachment of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security failed.

Despite House Speaker Johnson just expressed confidence, earlier today, that Republicans did have the votes to do so, and despite months of investigations by the GOP, a handful of House Republicans voted against the impeachment, sinking it, for today, at least. We do believe they'll revisit it in the future.

One of them was Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, who said afterward that impeachment will set a dangerous new precedent that will be weaponized, against future Republican administrations.

All of this is coming as Republican members also lined up, to kill their own immigration bill today, one that they spent months demanding, and also hammering out, behind closed doors, over in the Senate.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill, where all the action is.

Melanie, I mean, I can't even really imagine what it was like, to be on the Hill, in this moment. But I imagine there were people, who were caught off guard, when there was one lawmaker, who showed up, a Democrat, that they were not, the Republicans clearly were not expecting, who was in scrubs, tonight?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Hospital scrubs, and no shoes, as he was being wheeled on to the House floor. It was quite a scene. Republicans were very surprised by this.

Now, this vote was always going to be close. We knew heading into it, it was going to be a nail-biter. But had Al Green remained absent, this impeachment vote would have prevailed.

So, Republicans are really saying now that they need to keep pushing forward, with this vote. They are planning to bring it back up again, next week. They are confident that when Steve Scalise, who has been battling cancer, he's been receiving cancer treatments, when he returns, that they are going to have the votes, to impeach him.

But no doubt, this was an embarrassing defeat on the House floor. And really, it was a huge gamble, by Speaker Mike Johnson, to put this resolution, on the floor, knowing that they didn't necessarily have the votes, and not knowing what the whip count was.

I talked to some lawmakers, after the vote. Steve Womack, he's a longtime lawmaker. He said it's been hard to sit there, and watch all of this play out.

So, just a lot of frustrations, inside the GOP, right now, and a lot of questions about their ability to govern, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Many of those.

Melanie Zanona, thank you.

And luckily, to ask some of those questions, we are joined tonight, by Republican Congressman, Tim Burchett, who voted for the impeachment, I should note, tonight.

Congressman, why put -- why did leadership put this bill on the floor, if it didn't have the votes to pass?

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): Well, listen, it could be a lot of reasons. Republicans generally don't use the carrot or the stick, like the Democrats have done in the past.

You've seen on the floor, where votes have been dragged out, and they circle them in leadership, and whisper in their ear, and tell them things that they maybe are not too comfortable hearing.

But we don't do that. We allow for the free-thinking of others.

COLLINS: OK. Well actually, Congressman?

BURCHETT: And frankly, I just--

COLLINS: Congressman, I like -- I like--

BURCHETT: Go ahead.

COLLINS: I want to hear your answer. And I'd like to let people talk, when they are a guest, on this show.

But I do have to say, there were reports that people were going up to Congressman Mike Gallagher, after he had voted against impeachment.

BURCHETT: Oh, sure. I'm sure there were. But it wasn't any orchestrated thing. It was different people.

I asked somebody. I asked Matt Gaetz, or one of them. I said, where is Gallagher? And they said, we don't know. And so, I don't know where he was.

But obviously, folks are allowed to do that. And they do that. And if they, whatever way they used to, or tried to convince him, obviously it wasn't very successful.


But obviously, the Speaker knows that these folks will go home. And they do know the lack of popularity that they have, this vote will have, with the base. So, I suspect we'll be coming back next week, and you'll probably see a different outcome.

COLLINS: What about what Congressman Gallagher said though, in his statement, that this is setting -- you're all setting a precedent that this will happen when Republicans are in the White House?

BURCHETT: Well, it's already happened when the Republicans were in the White House. We -- the Democrats impeached Trump twice.

COLLINS: But not a member of the cabinet.

BURCHETT: And many people believe--

COLLINS: That's historic.

BURCHETT: Well, the President is ranked above the cabinet, I would state.

I just think this is just the way we're going to be in, for quite some time, until calmer heads prevail, ma'am, because folks are aggravated.

And honestly, I mean, the uniparty runs this thing. It's not the Democrats or Republicans. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves, of the crazy spending, taking in $5 trillion, spending $7 trillion every year, and trying to explain that--

COLLINS: But on Republicans?

BURCHETT: --to the American public.

COLLINS: But can I ask about Republicans, specifically? Because what we saw, in the -- today, just alone, the effort to impeach the Homeland Security Secretary that you all have been trying to do for months, failed.


COLLINS: Republicans lined up to sink the bill that Republicans have been negotiating, for four months, on immigration.


COLLINS: And the standalone bill to send aid to Israel, tonight, also failed, in the House.


COLLINS: I mean, doesn't that add to the presumption--

BURCHETT: I would--

COLLINS: --that you guys can't govern?

BURCHETT: Well, I mean, sure, it does at CNN. But the American public understands that that deal, in the Senate, was cut behind-the-scenes. It had nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats.

I mean, let's look at the reality of what's going on with immigration. It is never--

COLLINS: Republicans have said you guys can't govern.


COLLINS: Chip Roy, he's -- he was just here, last night. He's not -- he doesn't work at CNN. He is a member -- a colleague of yours, in the House, a Republican.

BURCHETT: I'm sure -- and Chip's very frustrated.

But you asked me about the Senate bill, and I'm trying to explain that to you. That was done behind closed doors.

You have our National Chambers of Commerce who have stopped any meaningful immigration reform, because they like somebody being on the roof, that if they fall off, that has no real legal recourse. They're afraid they're going to be reported to immigration, and will be transferred out of the country. So, they have that great fear.

This is about cheap and free labor, ma'am. It has nothing to do about--

COLLINS: OK. But there were--

BURCHETT: --doing what's right for the poor people in Central America.

COLLINS: There were other efforts included in that as well.

BURCHETT: And you have a 100,000 children. Ma'am?

COLLINS: There were other efforts included in that as well.

BURCHETT: You have a 100,000.

COLLINS: I'm talking about what happened with Israel as well, this effort that you all have been pursuing, on the DHS Secretary.

Congressman Tim Burchett, that's all of our time tonight, though. Thank you for joining us.


COLLINS: And for reaction to that, I want to bring in Democratic congresswoman, Veronica Escobar.

Congresswoman, I wonder just can you kind of explain what the scene was, on the House floor, tonight, when it became clear, Republicans did not have the vote to follow through, on this impeachment.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Hi, Kaitlan. Thanks so much, for having me on.

We knew all day that it was up in the air. I mean, the Republicans that had concerns, aired those concerns, in their meeting, in the Republican conference meeting, this morning. There was talk, all day, about the fact that Republicans may not have the votes, for this sham and very political impeachment.

And yet, the House Speaker decided to bring it to the floor anyway, believing that he and Marjorie Taylor Greene could bully their colleagues, into submission.

And thankfully, the three, who voted against this impeachment, held firm to their principles. Even when others, in the party, who didn't agree with this strategy, folded? These three held to their principles. And as a result, it was a spectacular failure, on the part of the Speaker of the House, on the part of the House GOP.

And I hope the American people see over and over and over again, that the Republican Party is unwilling to govern. They are uninterested in addressing our great challenges head-on. And they are far more interested in political performance.

COLLINS: Yes. I do think it's important to note, though, that this is expected to be a short-lived victory, for Democrats. Because as Melanie was noting, just other Republicans, including Steve Scalise, a member of House leadership, once they show up, would be able to vote for it.

I mean, so this will eventually happen, and he will -- he is expected to be impeached.

ESCOBAR: That is very possible. They could bring it back, and they could have the votes. The bottom line though, is that what they are doing is a political -- part of their political circus.

Secretary Mayorkas is a dedicated public servant. He is the most accessible member of the cabinet, of any cabinet, that I've ever worked with. And I represent a border community. So, I am on the phone with him frequently.


And the truth is House Republicans and, frankly, now we see, Senate Republicans do not want a solution, not for immigration reform, not for border reform, pretty much not for anything. And they will do everything, in their power, to distract, from their dysfunction, and to keep Americans, on a treadmill of rage, so that they can keep getting reelected.

COLLINS: Republicans, obviously, as you noted, they sank their own immigration bill. I mean, there's a lot of frustration, in the Senate. House Republicans are happy about it. As you heard Congressman Tim Burchett, he does not support it there. That is obviously on Republicans.

But on the border itself, President Biden is the President. We've even seen Democrats acknowledging it's a crisis at the border.


COLLINS: So, what should President Biden and what should Democrats do here?

ESCOBAR: Well, I have a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, called the Dignity Act of 2023. It addresses the border and beyond. It addresses everything that has gone without congressional action or legislation for over 30 years.

And the fact of the matter is, Kaitlan, that President Biden, and Secretary Mayorkas, at every turn, get stymied by Republicans. Republicans keep complaining that Secretary Mayorkas isn't doing everything he can. These are the same folks, who withhold funding, to the Department of Homeland Security.

The Senate Democrat, Senator Chris Murphy, for four months, worked with one of the most conservative members, in the Senate. And in fact, Senator Murphy has gotten beaten up, by some Democrats, who say he gave Republicans way too much. But that's still not enough for Republicans, because they don't want a solution. So, if Republicans are interested, in finally addressing this chronic issue that our country has faced? They should join the bipartisan coalition that is on the House Dignity Act of 2023, and get this done. It is Congress' job. It's on us. The reason that we are in a state of crisis is because of the crisis of leadership in Congress.


Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, we look forward to talking to you, about this issue more, going ahead. Thank you, for your time, tonight.

ESCOBAR: Thank you.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, Donald Trump fundraising off his immunity loss, from today, from the federal appeals court. But there are political implications, to today's ruling as well.

We'll speak to John Bolton, right after a quick break.



COLLINS: Tonight, former President Trump fundraising off of his latest loss, in court, and repeated things tonight that was similar to his collection of greatest hits.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A President of the United States has to have immunity.

You have to have a guaranteed immunity for a president. Otherwise, a president's not going to be able to function.

Harry Truman would not have done--


TRUMP: Harry Truman would not have done Hiroshima, Nagasaki.

If a President of the United States does not have immunity, he'll be totally ineffective, because he won't be able to do anything.


COLLINS: The question now is do we continue to hear those arguments, after three federal judges essentially smashed them into pieces.

Here tonight, John Bolton, the former Trump National Security Adviser, who was also the former head of the DOJ's Civil Division, under President Ronald Reagan. So, perfect to talk about this.

What did you make of the ruling today?

AMBASSADOR JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I thought the result was correct for the case they had.

But unlike some people, I don't think the opinion itself was that great. I think it was confused and muddy, in its analysis of where the immunity applied, and where it didn't apply.

I think the cleanest way to have written this opinion was to say nothing that was alleged in the indictment that Trump did, were official actions. They were the actions of a candidate for office.

The indictment starts off saying he was trying to contest the election that veered into criminality. I mean, by definition, no official act of the president can be something that gets him involved in criminal activity. This was private behavior, not public behavior.

COLLINS: So, you don't think that they were -- they were clear enough on that.

Because there was one part where it said, he claims these are official actions. But what's alleged here, inserting yourself into the electoral count process has nothing to do with the presidency.

BOLTON: Right.

COLLINS: They made that part clear.

BOLTON: That's correct. That's why I say that part of the -- of the reasoning of the court is confused.

And it could afford some justices, on the Supreme Court, an interest in taking the case, not to change the result, but to change and fix the reasoning correctly, so that future cases, involving presidents or senior executive branch officials, are not confused by the reasoning that the district--

COLLINS: Do you think it goes to the Supreme Court?

BOLTON: Well, I don't -- I don't know. I think it's -- there are a lot of ways the court could split this.

They could, for example, allow the mandate of the Court of Appeals to issue, allow the district court to proceed, in the interest of judicial efficiency, and yet consider and grant certiorari, on the larger issue.

Or another jurisdictional issue, this one, I think, the court -- Court of Appeals could have gotten wrong, where they said they did have jurisdiction, to take an interlocutory appeal. There was a -- it's very strange. An amicus brief, not Jack Smith, not Donald Trump, but an amicus brief argued that the immunity issue should come after trial.

COLLINS: Right. But even Trump and Jack Smith's team said no, well, let's decide it now. So, that was the jurisdiction.

But I think the big takeaway, when people look at this, is does it mean this trial happens soon. BOLTON: Well, another way the court -- the Supreme Court could approach it is to say, we agree immunity should be decided after trial. But you should present facts at trial that prove that this is not official action, Jack Smith. That's your burden to show, the president wasn't carrying out official duties.

Because there are circumstances, where something the President does is mixed. In part, it is official. But in part, it's private behavior too.

So, for example, in an obstruction of justice scheme, should be illegal? Perhaps the president grants somebody a pardon. Now, the case law is basically a president's pardon power--

COLLINS: It's an official duty.

BOLTON: --is unrestrained.


That's a complicated issue. That's not what we have here. This was all unofficial conduct. But that's not what the Court of Appeals opinion gets into.

COLLINS: CNN is reporting tonight that on Thursday? That's when his legal team is going for the Supreme Court, a separate issue, but that's on the 14th Amendment, whether he can be on the ballot, in all 50 states, since some have tried to remove him, and some have removed him. He's not going to go.

What do you make of his decision that he's shown up to other court cases, but he's not going to go to that one?

BOLTON: I think, in this case, he's worried that he's outnumbered nine to one. It's not just some district judge, somewhere, some state court judge in New York.

These are -- this is the Supreme Court. This is the third branch of government, sitting in front of him, three of whose members he appointed. And I think he thinks maybe a little overawed by that. I think he's chickening out here.

COLLINS: How does he view the Supreme Court? I mean, you worked for him.

BOLTON: I don't think he understands the Supreme Court much better than he understands most of the rest of the Constitution. And I think those who think that his appointees will just do what he wants, and are afraid of that, I don't think they know really the kinds of justices he appointed. I think he's going to be disappointed in them.

COLLINS: Ambassador John Bolton, it's always, it's great to have you. Nice to have you here in-person.

BOLTON: Glad to be here.

COLLINS: Thank you very much.

Also, we have another historic verdict, separate from politics today. The mother of the school shooter, Ethan Crumbley, found guilty, on all counts. What we're hearing from the jury forewoman, tonight?



COLLINS: A Michigan jury handing down an unprecedented decision, today, finding Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the school shooter, Ethan Crumbley, is guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count for each student that her son killed, at Oxford High School in 2021.

She is now the first parent, of a school shooter, to be directly held responsible, for their killings.

Prosecutors argued that she and her husband were culpable, because they had given their son a gun, even though they knew he was struggling with mental health, and had contemplated violence in the past.

Listen to what the jury forewoman told CNN, about what convinced the jury, of her guilt.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The thing that really hammered it home is that she was the last adult with the gun.


COLLINS: I want to bring in Joey Jackson, CNN's Legal Analyst, and criminal defense attorney, who has been all over this.

Were you surprised by the verdict today?


And let me say this. There was certainly ample evidence to convict. The question for me is would the jury actually do so, right, evaluating those three issues?

Foreseeability. Was it foreseeable that Ethan Crumbley would engage in that behavior, their son, as a result of having this gun there? Was she on notice of his mental health maladies? And did she act reasonably?

And since obviously, Ethan Crumbley, did it, convicted, pled guilty, serving life without parole, would the jury now impute that to her? And so I was thinking, will they do that?

And so, to the extent that they did do it, Kaitlan? Game-changer, not only in Michigan, but throughout the country.

COLLINS: Yes. And it has major implications here.


COLLINS: But most immediately, her husband, here, was a big factor of her defense, essentially kind of putting a lot of it, or all of it, really on him.


COLLINS: He still has to stand trial.

What does his legal team take from this? Do they do anything differently?

JACKSON: I think that you're very concerned, if you're his legal team.

Remember, one of the really bases of her defense was that it was on him. What was on him? He was the person who purchased the gun. He was the one who stored the gun. He was the one who was really into the gun issue, and hiding the gun.

And so, if you're blaming him, and the jury concludes, while you say, guns were not my thing, she testified, and they convict you? Certainly -- not that she didn't blame the school too. She did. But I think to the extent that he was the person really dealing with the gun? I think he could be in significant legal peril.

COLLINS: School shootings happen so often, in America.


COLLINS: It obviously will inevitably happen again, unfortunately.

What are the implications of this for something going forward?

JACKSON: So, number one, I think it's a big deterrent, right? I think you're going to see parents really be heads-up about this stuff, right?

This was a case, involving negligence. Were you negligent? Were you careful enough, as a parent, to really assess your child, is there any issue, and really give a gun to your child in this situation?

You might see less as a result of that, because I think parents will be more on guard, and more vigilant.

Goodness forbid this does happen? I think parents are going to have to be on the lookout, because there's going to be accountability. That's what this verdict spoke to, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, and now a precedent.

Joey Jackson, great to have you, as always.


COLLINS: Thank you so much.

JACKSON: Thank you.

COLLINS: We also have breaking news that we're following here at THE SOURCE, tonight, about the Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Donald Trump has been pushing, for her to step aside.

Our breaking news, right after a quick break.



COLLINS: We have some breaking news for you, tonight, as the Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, has now offered to step down, from her post, following the South Carolina primary, which obviously is slated for the end of this month.

Sources are telling me and my colleagues here at CNN that she told Trump about those plans, and doing so, in order to allow the former President when it comes to who the next leader of the RNC is. I should note that person is elected by the body of the RNC, not just installed by the former President.

But let's get more insight from someone, who knows this, as well as anyone, the former Communications Director for the Republican National Committee, Doug Heye.

Doug, I wonder what you make of this breaking news that Ronna McDaniel is expected to be stepping down soon.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: How many times in a sitcom, Kaitlan, have we seen somebody say, you can't -- you can't fire me because I quit. And essentially, that's what Ronna Romney McDaniel is doing here.

Donald Trump and his team have made it very clear, for not just weeks now, but months, that when they were going to be able to take over the reins of the committee, her time was going to be limited.

I think it's a smart, preactive -- or proactive move, by the Chairwoman.

We'll see who comes next. It looks right now like it will be Michael Whatley, the General Counsel, somebody I've known for a long time from North Carolina. He's the head of the party there.

But as we know, nothing's official with Donald Trump, until the decision is definitely made. And even after then, there's still a lot of shuffling that can be done.

COLLINS: What do you make, though, just of the move overall, given what you were just saying, you can't quit if you're fired.

Clearly, Trump was unhappy with her, in recent days, suggesting there could be changes, at the RNC, before this came out, before she had this two-hour meeting, with Trump, at Mar-a-Lago, in recent days.

But, I mean, she is someone, who was incredibly loyal to Trump. The RNC was paying a lot of his legal fees, when he was President. I mean, at one point, he was irritated by her relation to Senator Mitt Romney.

I mean, what do you just make of how this has come full circle or however you would call it?

HEYE: Well, it's a lesson that we see so often, with Donald Trump, is that he brings somebody on. And then, very quickly, or, over a space of time, he's unhappy with them, for whatever reason.

He brought Reince Priebus, the former RNC Chair, as Chief of Staff. He lasted about six months. Sean Spicer, sort of the same thing.

And we learn this lesson over and over again with Donald Trump. Donald Trump doesn't give points. He only takes them away, one at a time. And anybody who goes to work for Donald Trump knows that at some point, their luck could run out, and their loyalty certainly could as well.


And I should note, an RNC spokesperson sent us a statement, tonight, saying no changes currently to announce.

Doug Heye, thanks as always, for hopping on with us, on this breaking news.

HEYE: Thank you.


COLLINS: Up next here, on THE SOURCE, grab your red solo cup, because join us. We are remembering the country music legend, my personal hero as a child, Toby Keith.





COLLINS: We leave you with some heartbreaking news, tonight, as one of the biggest stars, to ever come out of Nashville, Toby Keith, has died, following his battle with stomach cancer. He was 62-years-old.

He was a larger-than-life country star. He rose to fame in 1993, with his debut single, Should've Been a Cowboy, which was played 3 million times, on the radio, making it the most played country song of the 90s.

He went on to have 42 Top 10 hits on Billboard's country music chart after that, which he said surprised him, including Red Solo Cup, one of my personal favorites, How Do You Like Me Now? [22:00:00]




COLLINS: He was a staple, for so many, including me, growing up. I always asked my parents to play his songs, on the radio, when we were in the car, even though my siblings wanted to listen to whatever was popular, in pop music, at that time.

But tonight, country music fans, and stars alike, and myself, raising a red solo cup, in Toby Keith's honor, thinking of his family and friends, tonight.

Thank you so much for joining us.

CNN NewsNight With Abby Phillip starts right now.