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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

GA Trump Prosecutor Defiant In Testimony As Defense Tries To Disqualify Her From Election Interference Case; Trump's First Criminal Trial Set For March 25 In New York; Former FBI Informant Charged With Lying About The Bidens' Role In Ukraine Business. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 15, 2024 - 21:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Kaitlan Collins, on what has been one of the most dramatic days, in the long running legal saga of Donald Trump. And I don't say that lightly, tonight.

He and we learned today that the former President of the United States will face his first criminal trial, on March 25th. All in one courtroom will be defendant, Donald Trump, adult film star, Stormy Daniels, and hush money payer, Michael Cohen. We are about to bear witness to history, yes, once again.

But the drama does not end there. It was almost surreal to watch, for hours, on live TV today, another Trump criminal case.

The top prosecutor, in Fulton County, Georgia, Fani Willis, took the stand, in her own defense, as Trump and some of his 14 remaining co- defendants are trying to have her thrown off the case.

Let me get you up to speed. It's a lot to pay attention to here. The lawyers are trying to establish that Willis hired the lead prosecutor on this case, Nathan Wade, when they were already in a romantic relationship. And they allege that she benefited, financially, from that relationship.

Wade also took the stand, today, and things got really, really personal. Questions about their romantic relationship, when it began, when it ended, trips that they've taken together, their money, where it went, where it came from.

After Wade got off the stand, it still wasn't clear what Willis was going to do. But right as one of her deputies was objecting, to her being forced to testify, she made this dramatic entrance, and had this to say.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I've been very anxious to have this conversation with you today. So I ran to the courtroom.

I probably had some choice words about some of the things that you say that were dishonest within this motion. So, I don't know that it was a conversation. As you know, Mr. Wade is a Southern gentleman. Me, not so much.


COLLINS: You could almost feel the tension. She answered those questions from Ashleigh Merchant. That's the defense attorney that you see here. She's representing Trump's co-defendant, Michael Roman. She's also the attorney, who brought these conflict of interest allegations to light.

And throughout the questioning, things got heated.


WILLIS: You're confused. You think I'm on trial. These people are on trial, for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial. No matter how hard you try to put me on trial.

Because you've lied in this -- this -- let me tell you which one you lied in. Right here. I think you lied right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor. I'm going to object.

WILLIS: No, no, no, no. This is the truth.


WILLIS: And this--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object to this (ph).

WILLIS: It is a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to--

WILLIS: It is a lie.


COLLINS: It was an intense back-and-forth, specifically on the timeline, of when this romantic relationship between Fani Willis and Wade began.

Here's what they both said on that question.


WILLIS: I don't know the day that we started seeing each other. But it was early 2022 is my recollection.

ASHLEIGH MERCHANT, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: When did your romantic relationship with Miss Willis begin?


(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: OK. But Robin Yeartie, a former friend of Fani Willis', and colleagues, contradicted that, saying that Willis and Wade's romance actually began in 2019, before she hired him, to work on this case.


MERCHANT: You have no doubt that their romantic relationship was in effect from 2019 until the last time you spoke with her?



COLLINS: And then, there's the key issue here, about money. Willis was peppered repeatedly with questions about how she reimbursed the prosecutor, Wade, for the many trips that they took together.

They both testified, she paid in cash.


MERCHANT: So the cash that you would pay him, you wouldn't get it out of the bank?

WILLIS: I have money in my house.

When we were growing up, my daddy had three safes in the house. So, my father's bought me a lockbox, and I always keep cash in the house.


COLLINS: Wade testified he didn't have any deposit slips, to support those claims that she paid him in cash.

She was intensely questioned, about the subject as well. At one point, the judge even got involved, interjecting, to try to determine what it was exactly the lawyer was trying to suggest.


SCOTT F. MCAFEE, JUDGE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, GEORGIA: Are you trying to establish that she was insolvent in some way?

MERCHANT: I definitely was trying to establish that she did not have these massive amounts of cash.


COLLINS: Then came this extraordinary moment. When Willis seemed to suggest her lead prosecutor, and now former romantic partner, was sexist, while also noting that because of this whole ordeal, and what has happened with these allegations, that their relationship has actually grown stronger.


WILLIS: It's interesting that we're here about this money.

Mr. Wade is used to women that, as he told me one time, the only thing a woman can do for him is make him a sandwich.


We would have brutal arguments about the fact that I am your equal. I don't need anything from a man. A man is not a plan. A man is a companion. And so, there was tension always in our relationship, which is why I would give him his money back. I don't need anybody to foot my bills. The only man who's ever foot my bills completely is my daddy.

We are good friends. My respect for him has grown, over these seven weeks of attacks. We are very good friends. I think but for these attacks, it would have been a friendship that as life goes, he would have stopped having. I think that you have cemented that we'll be friends to the day we die.


COLLINS: And that was just today. She's expected to be back on the stand, tomorrow morning.

To break down what we did see today, in an extraordinary moment, former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig; as well as former U.S. attorney, Michael Moore, both CNN Legal Analysts.

Also here with us tonight is Atlanta -- from Atlanta, is the former Georgia prosecutor, Sarah Flack, who previously worked with Fani Willis.

We'll get to you in a moment, Sarah, because I know you have a lot of thoughts. You were in that room today.

But Elie, when we start with this, and you just look at what happened today, I think the question is did the defendants get what they wanted here, in the sense of demonstrating this conflict of interest that they say, exist? Or did Fani Willis help herself?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: I don't think the defendants got what they were hoping for today. I think their proof came up a little bit short. There's still more to come tomorrow. But ultimately, I was not super- compelled by either the timing angle, or by the financial angle.

Fani Willis, to me, was such an interesting witness, because by the book, she was a dreadful witness. She was evasive. She was non- responsive. She got asked simple, factual questions, and responded with these monologues. She attacked her questioners.

However, on the other hand, she was a powerful presence, in that courtroom. She owned that courtroom. I mean, there was a moment, when she even reminded the judge that she used to be his supervisor. She was telling the judge what to do. And I do not think the defense lawyers landed a punch on her that will leave a mark. I think when it came to the financial part, it's this mishmash of she sort of reimbursed with cash, a few times here and there. But they didn't drill down on specifics. There was not that moment where I said, aha, now they've got her.

COLLINS: What about the moment though, at the beginning, where her former friend, who, I should note, they haven't spoken, in quite some time--


COLLINS: --said that actually, they were romantic in 2019. That would directly contradict what both Fani Willis and Nathan Wade have said.

MOORE: Yes. Well, I'm glad to be with you.

I do think this is going to be unique, because that -- it's just got to come down to a question of credibility and who the judge believes.

And so, if you look at this witness, who came in and she said, this is what happened.

And they said, well, you've got a reason to lie. You were mad at the D.A. when you left.

Well, OK. But the people, who really seem to have the biggest reason to lie may be Mr. Wade and Miss Willis.

And so, the judge is going to have to weigh those things out.

But there are a lot of circumstantial things that I think support the friend.

Wade and Willis admit that he was going to her house alone in 2021. That's a little odd. I mean, she claimed that she was doing strategy meetings, over the indictment, or something like that. That's nonsense.

That she's repaid him in cash. Cash that can't be tracked, you know? There's no receipts. There's no nothing. But suddenly, we're just paying in cash? Cash isn't accounted for on forms, or in tax filings, and that type of thing.

So, there are other things, I think, the judge will use to look at. I thought she was a terrible witness. I thought she looked like she was unhinged. And we say down south, a kicked dog barks. And I thought there was a lot of barking, coming from the stand.

Her indignation might have seemed more genuine had she not let this simmer for about two months. And she should have just come out and owned it. But instead, she just let it go on--

COLLINS: I mean.

MOORE: --and build and build. COLLINS: She literally ran to the courtroom.

MOORE: She did.

COLLINS: She told us that that she ran there--

MOORE: Right.

COLLINS: --after she'd noticed or she realized that Wade was wrapping up his testimony.

And Sarah, I mean, you were inside that room. You not only know Fani Willis. You know the judge here. You know the defense attorney that we were just talking about there, Ashleigh Merchant.

I mean, what was it like, in that moment, when Fani Willis comes in and says no, no, to her team, I know you're fighting the subpoena, right now. I'm actually going to testify.

SARAH FLACK, FORMER GEORGIA PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, my gosh, Kaitlan, you couldn't make this up. I mean, Hollywood couldn't make this up any better than it was today.

It was silent. The courtroom, everybody, it was -- there was confusion. I think everybody was kind of confused on is she really going to do this? And she certainly did.

She came in that courtroom with one goal. And that was, I think, to stand up for herself. I think you've heard, over these past seven weeks, the silence. We've all been wondering what's -- what is she going to say? How is she going to defend herself? And she sure did that today.

She made it clear that the allegations against her are not true. And she really -- yes, I mean, it was less of a cross-examination than it was the D.A. just telling us and the court where she stands.

COLLINS: Well, and I just thought it was remarkable. Her team was saying she shouldn't have to testify. And the fact that she chose to do that, as the judge said, OK, well come on. We'll take a five-minute break, and then we'll have you -- we'll have you up here.

I think the question is, did she ultimately help her or hurt her case? What did you -- what do you think?


FLACK: Well, I mean, it depends on who you ask. And it depends on in which way.

I think that she had to do some damage control, because what has been said, the allegations in these motions, are serious. There are some implications, ethically. Of course, the disqualification of her office, even possible, I don't want to say criminally. But she had to get up there, and defend herself. So, in that way, I think she did that. Now, I don't know how far that goes. I still think tomorrow is going to be a full day of testimony. I think the defense is going to have to really wrap up, and tie up the conflict, the purported conflict here, without sort of fishing.

I mean, we get it. They had dinner. They were in a relationship. But they've got to make this connection. And I think that Fani Willis' office has been pretty clear that there is no conflict of interest. And that's what her goal was today. And I think she did accomplish that.

COLLINS: Well, and Elie, on the conflict of interest allegations. I mean, the judge here had indicated a few days ago that that maybe there was something here, that he actually wanted to hear these arguments today. But he kept redirecting everyone, today. We're talking about the relationship. And we're talking about the money.

HONIG: Right.

COLLINS: On the money front, I mean, where does it go from here, tomorrow, if they weren't able to, while it was dramatic, prove that there was that conflict of interest?

HONIG: I think the defense lawyers have to do two things here. First of all, they have to establish a causal link here, that because Fani Willis inserted Mr. Wade, as the prosecutor, she profited substantially. And second of all, they need to get so much more specific.

The cross-examinations of both Wade and Willis were severely lacking. They just sort of left it at this vague thing, I don't know, stacks of cash. Do you have receipts? Not really. When did you pay? I don't know.

They need to drill down. How did you get this money? What documentation do you have? Where's your bank records? When was the first payment? How much? How did you document this? What was the balance?

It's left in this murky sort of gray area. And that's not going to be enough for them to win.

The other thing is on the timing of the relationship, personally, I doubt that they started the relationship afterwards. Commonsense is against that. Circumstantial factors are against that. But if you're the judge, you have to weigh the evidence here. And you have--

COLLINS: It doesn't matter if they lied.


MOORE: That's the big thing.

HONIG: Because Nathan Wade--

COLLINS: That's the question, right? It's not that the relationship actually had existed.

MOORE: That's right.

COLLINS: But it's whether or not they lied.

HONIG: It's crucial to the narrative. And if they lied? Nathan Wade submitted a sworn affidavit that Fani Willis put in with the court. If that's a lie? That's a major problem. But the status quo, right now, is you have both participants saying, didn't start till after.

And again, the one witness, the friend, Miss Yeartie, who said it started before, was very vague. The examination was brief and unclear. She just said, I sort of knew, and Fani Willis told me. But there was no specifics.

COLLINS: And they said that she was that -- she said she resigned from the D.A.'s office. She said they -- the defense -- or the prosecutor's office said that actually she was on the verge of being fired--


COLLINS: --that she had been reprimanded. So, I think that raises questions.

But the bottom line here is we're sitting through this whole thing watching this today.

MOORE: Right.

COLLINS: All the co-defendants and their attorneys, and there are Trump's attorneys, in there, were not actually talking about the election interference case.

MOORE: Right.

COLLINS: If the judge does decide to disqualify Fani Willis, it's not just her. It's the whole office.

MOORE: That's right.

COLLINS: What does that mean for those co-defendants?

MOORE: I think it just means delay. I think it means this case is out years before it ever gets tried. If she's disqualified?


MOORE: It will be, especially if he happens to win the election. Then, they're not going to bring him back, and bring a sitting president, and try this case.

We already know, under their best-case scenario, if they tried to start the trial now, we'd be well into next year, before we could even finish the case. And so, well after the election.

And that's just not going to happen. I mean, let's just-- we did this, go ahead, and say. I do think that the main thing that may catch them here would be the efforts to cover it up, if they did, in fact lie.

But remember, they hold the keys to the truth of the case. I mean, they're fighting the subpoenas. They're fighting that -- having people come in. They don't want to waive any attorney-client privilege.

They, I mean, Mr. Wade and Miss Willis, sort of have the keys. They could let it all out, and let the people see it. But at every turn, it's not a -- it's not a goal of transparency. It's to again, try to keep it out of the sight, to come in and look like you're indignant, that you're upset, that you're going to call out people, for trying to put you on trial.

Well, just show us the text. Show us the -- show us the records.

COLLINS: I mean, Sarah, this case was investigated for so long. We were in Georgia, when all these co-defendants were coming one by one, to enter their not-guilty pleas. I mean, what's your expectation? Is it going to be Fani Willis taking this to trial, do you think?

FLACK: I do. I don't think that they're going to be able to make the connection. I think that the plan was to sort of smear her office, and to get people talking to, you know, detract from what's at stake here.

I don't know that they're going to be able to prove because it's got to be more than just a relationship. There's got to be an actual conflict of interest, as it relates to this criminal indictment, and to this specific case, and these specific defendants.

The law is pretty clear. I mean, there are cases where defense attorneys and prosecutors are in relationships, and a conflict hasn't been found. So, I just don't know that it's going to reach the standards, such that she gets disqualified, and her office gets disqualified.


COLLINS: Yes, and that's something that their office has brought up here, other potential relationships.

I mean, it's remarkable. We will all be watching, tomorrow morning, of course.

Elie Honig, Michael Moore, Sarah Flack, all of you, thank you for being here.

FLACK: Thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, for us here, on CNN, the former Manhattan District Attorney, who once investigated Trump, on where he sees this case going from here.

Also, everything else that happened today, because Trump's first criminal trial is now set. We got a date for that, weeks after Super Tuesday. The question is, is he going to go on trial, as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Also, you just can't make this up. But apparently, this guy can.

Because the former FBI informant, who was championed, by Republicans, on Capitol Hill, has now been arrested for lying, about the Bidens and Ukraine.


COLLINS: The Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, was fired up, defending her conduct, on the stand, today, as she was also directly admonished at one point, by the judge, for the way that she was answering some of those questions.

One point, the defense attorney, who was leading the charge, to get Willis removed, accused her of acting as a hostile witness.



WILLIS: I'm not a hostile witness. I very much want to be here.

MCAFEE: It's not so much you're hostile, Miss Willis. It would be an adverse witness.


MCAFEE: Your interests are opposed to Miss Merchant's.

MERCHANT: Thank you.

WILLIS: Miss Merchant's interests are -- are contrary -- contrary to democracy, Your Honor, not to mine.


COLLINS: I want to bring in Laura Coates, CNN Anchor, and Chief Legal Analyst, who was outside, as all of that was happening today.

And Laura, I mean, it was just so remarkable. And I just wonder, given your legal background, what you made of everything.


I mean, can you imagine having Jack Smith, Special Counsel, prosecuting a former President of the United States and other co- defendants, on the stand, testifying about his sexual relationships, or his romances or anything else?

I mean, it was an extraordinary moment, considering that they were trying to figure out, if she ought to be disqualified from this prosecution.

Now, if they disqualify her? It's not just her, Kaitlan. It's her entire team, which means it would go to an outside agency, to then choose or appoint new prosecutors, who are not beholden to her, or the indictments, before. They can even dismiss the case.

But she came out of the game, just completely out of the gate, guns blazing, so to speak. Why? Because she went directly to the prosecutor -- the attorney, who was trying to litigate this matter. She was indignant. She was also persuasive. They did not test her, a great deal, in terms of trying to undermine her testimony.

Remember, what their responsibility was here, was to prove a through line. Did she financially benefit from having hired Nathan Wade? They talked about dueling sources of income. They talked about different methods of payment. But did they make that through line? So far, no.

And the one -- the one witness, who testified today, Kaitlan, to talk about and conflict what they had said, and contradict, the start of the romantic relationship, was somebody, who appeared to be a disgruntled employee, with an axe to grind, who was not later corroborated, or rehabilitated on that point.

It was an extraordinary day. And I think really tells you a lot about the stakes of this consequential moment.

COLLINS: Yes, it's everything that she's been working on.

I mean, it's just remarkable, Laura Coates. It was great to have you there, to just see this in real-time. I know you'll have much more on this, on your show, "LAURA COATES LIVE." We will all be watching, at 11 PM Eastern, tonight. Thank you.

COATES: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And I also want to get perspective on all of this, from someone, who has been in the shoes, of a district attorney, because he was one. The former Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance Jr., who knows all too well, the scrutiny that prosecutors face, while they are investigating Donald Trump.

And I'm so glad to have you here, in-person, on this matter.

But just to see her? Part of her testimony was on the threats that she's faced. She talked about her father, fearing for her safety. We've read the book reports about how she had to wear a bulletproof vest.

What did you make of hearing that from her in her testimony?


And I think to be in a position, where you are threatened, or your children are threatened, is really no -- there's nothing more fear- inducing than that. So, I'm empathetic. And I think it's a terrible situation, for anyone to be in.

And I'd like to say that comes with the territory. But it's more than -- it's more than we should be having to deal with, she should be having to deal with. So, I thought -- I think that is a very personal experience. And it probably scares her, and makes her mad as hell.

COLLINS: Well, and at one point, I think one of the most searing moments was when she said, I'm not on trial, these people are on trial, pointing to the co-defendants, attorneys, who were in the front row, for trying to overturn the election, which just kind of reminded us that this whole thing was not even about the actual case at hand here. It was all focused on, on her really.

VANCE JR.: Right. Well, I understand what she meant. But I don't think that necessarily plays well with the judge. I mean, she is a witness, who the judge expected to come and testify. And like anybody else, she has to follow the, you know, follow the court rules. And she had a little tough time doing that.

COLLINS: Have you ever seen a district attorney get on the stand like that? I mean, does that -- can you remember any other instances?

VANCE JR.: No. I -- I was called as a witness once, when I was a very young prosecutor. But I've never been told on the witness stand.

COLLINS: Was it televised on CNN?

VANCE JR.: It was a very, very--

COLLINS: Other cable networks?

VANCE JR.: --very, very small courtroom, in Manhattan Criminal Court.

No. It is extraordinary. And am I -- I'm empathetic.


But when you're dealing with Donald Trump, in a case, knowing who he is, and how he litigates, and that he's looking for every angle, in order to accomplish his objectives, to get the cases dismissed, or to get delay. This was -- this kind of goes into the category of an unforced error, and giving Trump the opportunity to do what he does best.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, his team will sometimes find, if your cousin's wife's ex-girlfriend donated to a Democrat, and they'll wield that against someone, it's a political prosecution.

The fact that they have this instance, where they're alleging something that's not politically-motivated, but just saying that they were in a relationship, and therefore, that this shouldn't go forward, I mean, I think would be quite remarkable to people, who've read that indictment and watched this play out.

To see Rudy Giuliani, and all these others, potentially have this, turned into the hands of a district -- different district attorney, or a different prosecutor, would be really remarkable.

VANCE JR.: It would be remarkable. And -- but what I -- the times I was angriest, when I was D.A., was when I or someone else I'm working with made unforced errors, the end -- because you take the job on, and you have to expect that you're going to be scrutinized, all the time, and especially in a case like this.

COLLINS: This big.

VANCE JR.: So, I do think, as you were asking your -- my former -- your colleagues before, I think she testified, heartfelt. She was fired up. She was angry. And I think that -- and I think that speaks to her credibility. But this is making the case much more complicated. And it's -- and even if the motions don't succeed, this isn't going away.


VANCE JR.: It's going to be part of the narrative, from now, to the time of trial.

COLLINS: Well, you're also not going away, because I have to get your thoughts, in a moment, on what else happened, this morning, at the other courthouse that I was outside, this morning.

VANCE JR.: Sure.

COLLINS: So, we'll do that after a quick break, Mr. Vance, if you'll stick with us, because we've got a lot more to talk about.

Also, on what happened today though, in that courtroom, in Georgia, there was a book that came up several times, where Fani Willis had been interviewed. She's on the record, and she's quoted. They zeroed in on one paragraph, about her finances. We're going to ask the authors about that, right after a quick break.



COLLINS: As Fani Willis was testifying today, one particular book played a notable role, in the case that Trump and his co-defendants' attorneys were trying to make.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been bombarded with the book, "Find Me the Votes."

MERCHANT: So you gave interviews to the authors of this book?

WILLIS: I have not read this book.

Can you show me where that is, because this is where you put the tab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You saw the book here, "Find Me the Votes."

WADE: I'm a little wary of entering an entire 300-page book, because I don't know exactly what every single line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The title of the book, of course, is "A Hard- Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President, and the Plot to Steal an American Election."


COLLINS: The full title of that book is "Find Me the Votes: A Hard- Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President, and the Plot to Steal an American Election," of course, a reference to Donald Trump's request, to the Georgia Secretary of State, a notorious one.

The authors of that book, Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, are here with me, tonight.

One, I mean, I hope this was great for book sales, given this was being aired on every single cable network, and they were showing the literal cover of your book.

But Michael, let me start with you. Because what the attorneys were focusing on was one single paragraph, about Fani Willis' finances, in your book. I kind of wonder when you heard this today, you were wondering if they're missing the point of the other 324 pages.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CO-AUTHOR, "FIND ME THE VOTES," CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, they actually missed the point of the paragraph that they were asking about.

Because there is a passage in the book, in which we're talking about, and quoting Fani Willis, about the financial troubles, she was having, after she ran for a judgeship in 2018, and lost.

And she was talking about how she was drained. She was a single mother at that point. She wasn't -- she didn't have a lot of clients, in her law firm. And she was struggling. And she talked about that. And that that was -- that was a reason that she hesitated, when -- about running for D.A. in 2020.

But if they had read the next couple of paragraphs of the book, they would have understood that after her concerns, about her financial troubles in 2018, she was appointed to a judgeship. She got a healthy salary, from that. Her law practice improved. And her finances were fairly much better at the time.

So, if they had read the book, a little more closely, which I hope your viewers will do, they'll see that they really kind of mischaracterized what we were saying there.

COLLINS: Yes, Daniel, I imagine that you didn't, when you were writing this book, and you all were reporting this out that you probably didn't think this paragraph would be such as a central focus, of this hearing. But it's because the money matters here. And that's key to the allegations that they are making, against the District Attorney.

I mean, I wonder what stood out to you, as you were listening to that today, and how they were talking about your book.

DANIEL KLAIDMAN, CO-AUTHOR, "FIND ME THE VOTES": Well, I was in the courtroom. And it was a little bit of an out-of-body experience, hearing them mention the book title, talk about entering it into evidence, and all these lawyers scrutinizing our words.

But yes, the point that they were trying to make was that this was evidence that Fani Willis was, you know, hired Nathan Wade, and took on this Trump case, because they saw an opportunity, to enrich themselves. And she needed it, because she was destitute, according to their interpretation of our book.

But as Mike just said, they distorted our account. And the reality is that she was actually doing quite well, then. Her concern was running another race, pouring in some of her own money, and ending up in that position, once again.

And so, it -- and look, I'm not surprised. Lawyers take whatever evidence they have, facts they have. They throw up against the wall and see what sticks. But she actually, when she testified, she sort of corrected the record. And her account was very consistent with what we wrote in the book.


COLLINS: Yes. But Michael, what I couldn't get over is, as someone, who has seen your book, and knew what it was about, is that these are the co-defendants, attorneys, for the people who were indicted, for trying to overturn the election, in the State of Georgia, which is what your entire book is focused on, that effort, and just the lengths that they went to. And they're citing your book, but trying to prove a different point.

ISIKOFF: Yes. I mean, look, the really surreal aspect of this is that we spent all day, delving into the personal sex lives, of the D.A. and her -- and the special prosecutor she hired.

They didn't really get all that much, to advance their case. They had the one witness, who contradicted them. But she was vague. She didn't have any specifics. She had been fired by Fani Willis. So there was that.

But all of which is a huge distraction from what the case is all about, and what our book is all about, which was a rather elaborate conspiracy, to overthrow the results of an election.

And all the serious matters, we talk about, in the book, and which are part of the case, the pressure on state officials, the blatantly false testimony by Rudy Giuliani and Georgia legislature, that led to all the threats, against election workers, like Ruby Freeman, the fake electors, the cyber heist raid in Coffee County, rural Georgia, all of that is almost forgotten.

And instead, we're talking about something that really has no bearing--

KLAIDMAN: But Kaitlan? Yes.

ISIKOFF: --on the evidence at all.

KLAIDMAN: And Kaitlan, that's what -- precisely what underscores why this is so problematic, for Fani Willis, because the last thing she wants is for people, and potential jurors, out there, in the public, not to be focused on the really serious matters underlying this case.

And the problem is for a District Attorney, who's bringing such a serious set of charges, to herself become a witness, in a spectacle, like this, and at least for a short period here, lose the moral high ground.

Now, I think, this could, if she is not disqualified, if the case continues?


KLAIDMAN: It'll be part of the narrative. But I think she could get back on track here, and get the focus back on the underlying issues, which is the threat to democracy, by an attempt -- serious attempt to subvert an election.

COLLINS: Maybe that will be book number two. Daniel Klaidman, Michael Isikoff, this is well-timed. Thank you both. Of course, that is a notable book, in this moment.

Up next, the other massive headline from today that somehow has been overshadowed in part because of what happened in Georgia. Donald Trump is going to stand trial, next month, in the New York hush money case. There are historic implications. We'll talk about them in a moment.



COLLINS: With all the drama happening in Georgia, you may have missed the other earthquake, in another courtroom, that happened here in New York today. That is where a judge decided that the former President of the United States will face a criminal trial, his first criminal trial, on March 25th, next month.

The potential for fireworks, at that case, the Trump hush money trial, could make what happened in Georgia today look tame.

It is going to be Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, all in the same courtroom. Of course, this is because then-candidate Trump is accused of using Michael Cohen, to pay off Stormy Daniels, just weeks before the 2016 election, to keep quiet about an alleged affair. Prosecutors charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records, alleging that he hid the pail, to benefit his political campaign.

Trump was actually in that courtroom, today, to witness his attorneys get repeatedly shut down, as they tried to get the trial delayed. He did not seem thrilled afterward.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This all comes out of Washington. They coordinated with the District Attorney and the A.G.

It's election interference by Biden, because it's the only way he can think to get elected.

I shouldn't be in a courthouse for something that virtually every legal scholar says they don't understand it, there's no crime. Even if he was guilty of something, there's no crime.


COLLINS: That's an interesting legal theory.

I should note, none of this is President Biden's doing. Trump is making that up.

But to bring back in, here with us tonight, former CNN -- or former prosecutor and CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig; and also Cy Vance Jr., who served as the Manhattan District Attorney, before Alvin Bragg did.

And investigating Trump, in this matter, actually began on your watch. And so, it's great to have you here. I mean, I just wonder what you make of the fact that we're at this point that a trial has now been scheduled, for next week -- I mean, next month.

VANCE JR.: Well, it's extraordinary. It's extraordinary. And I think it's extraordinary that it's in a state office, as opposed to a federal courtroom. And -- but it's really no surprise for Manhattan. I mean, I think that office has had significant cases. This is extraordinary.

But the crazy atmosphere has been, we've been there before. But the -- but the cases are -- the cases, I think, both sides have arguments in this case.

I think prosecutor Bragg has some hard facts and hard evidence. And he's got some issues that he's going to have to deal with, including Michael Cohen. On the other hand, Michael Cohen is Trump's hire. And the documents are the documents.

Interesting, Trump's argument also will be that I'm a victim here that this was extortion, and I was dealing with extortion. May not be the way that you like, but that'll be an argument.

And then, there are also some legal theories around whether the false business record statute, which is a misdemeanor in New York, whether the crimes that are being -- whether those false records were in furtherance of a state crime or a federal crime. And there isn't a lot of settled law on that.

COLLINS: And normally, we do the fact-checking. We don't ask our guests to do it.

But can you -- I mean, he's claiming it was the Biden DOJ. This has been under -- this kind of investigation had been under in the works, for long before that. VANCE JR.: Well, the investigation started when I was D.A., and when I left D.A.

COLLINS: When Trump was President.


VANCE JR.: When Trump was. And we indicted.

COLLINS: And in charge of the DOJ.

VANCE JR.: And we indicted the Trump Organization that has been convicted of tax fraud. So, there's a long history to this case before we arrived to the current indictment. And so the shock of the Trump family orbit being indicted, that happened in 2020. This is just another chapter in a long story.

HONIG: Let me -- let me -- if I can add to that. The Justice Department, under Joe Biden, the Southern District of New York, my former office, declined to prosecute this case. I mean, I reported on this, in my book, it's been confirmed since.

There were internal conversations. Cy, you may have been part of early -- an early iteration of that. But when Trump leaves office, in January of 2021, there are a series of internal meetings, between DOJ bosses, and SDNY folks, who had prosecuted Michael Cohen. And the ultimate decision that that DOJ made is it's not worth it.

Now, that raises another question, though. What is Alvin Bragg, your successor, and I should say, a former colleague of mine, what is he doing? What is he seeing that the Southern District isn't seeing?

And the key to me is Michael Cohen. He's going to be such an interesting -- there's going to be a moment where Michael Cohen, takes the stand, in a criminal trial, against Donald Trump. I'm interested what you think of his credibility. I mean, Michael likes to claim -- I know, Michael. I consider him a friend. But we know his history.

And Michael likes to claim that the only things he ever lied about had to do with Donald Trump. That's not really true, though. He was convicted of personal tax fraud. He now claims he lied, when he pled guilty to personal tax fraud. I see him as a problematic witness.

VANCE JR.: Well, he's more than a problematic witness. He could be a exploding hand grenade, for the D.A.'s office. There's a lot to work with, if you're cross-examining Michael Cohen, a lot. And there are conflicting stories, about the same story.

And so, but I think, as former prosecutors, we also understand that it's your job, when you have a very difficult witness, to make sure that the jury understands who he is. They have -- that's been preset. They know this is going to be a guy with a bad past. You've got to inoculate the jury. And then, I think if he's honest about all of his failings?

COLLINS: Yes. VANCE JR.: He's more believable.

COLLINS: Can I say one thing that stood out to me, today, being in front of the court, was the judge.

Trump's strategy on every trial is delay, delay, delay.

This judge was like literally cutting off Trump's attorney, saying stop interrupting me, because he saw through that. He saw that that's what they were trying to do. And they said no, it's happening March 25th.

HONIG: Yes. Today, that calendar entry went from pencil to pen. I mean, that's been on the calendar, for a long time. But the supposition, for months now, has been, well, it's going to conflict with Jack Smith's calendar. And Alvin Bragg has signaled, and the judge has signaled, we're going to give way.

Now, Jack Smith's case gets delayed. And as a result, that case is standing all on its own.

And the one and only thing I was listening for, today, when you reported, Kaitlan, well, the date's on, I said, there it is. That's the story of today.

COLLINS: And it only took like 20 minutes. It happened.

HONIG: Right.

COLLINS: And we were shocked, it happened so quickly.

HONIG: That's the story of today. This is going to happen. I mean, I'm having -- I'm trying to get my mind around it. It was surreal, as I said--


HONIG: --when we saw an indictment of Donald Trump. And we're 39 days, I counted, away from a trial.

VANCE JR.: This judge is a veteran--

COLLINS: Any thoughts?

VANCE JR.: --on Donald Trump. So, when, we were investigating, and dealing with the grand jury, and gathering evidence, and then all the way to the Supreme Court twice, this judge knows the M.O.

And Judge Merchan is a very even-tempered, very thoughtful, very smart judge. But he is, I think, what you're seeing today is he's going to control the courtroom. When Donald Trump steps outside the courtroom, and talks to the press, that's going to be another matter, but.

COLLINS: Yes. And I should note he was much more muted in the courtroom today as well.

Cy Vance Jr., always great to have you.

Elie Honig, of course, you're a regular here.


COLLINS: Ahead though, another interesting story, as the former FBI informant, who was central to Republican efforts, to impeach President Biden, was just indicted, for making up stuff about President Biden.



COLLINS: Chairman James Comer, you might want to call your office.

Today, the individual, behind the allegations, at the center of Republicans' impeachment inquiry, into President Biden, an investigation that is being led by Comer, he's the Chair of the House Oversight Committee, was arrested and charged with making it all up.

Alexander Smirnov is a former FBI informant, now accused of lying to the FBI, and creating false records, tied to claims that he made about President Biden, and his son Hunter's dealings, with the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

For almost a year now, House Republicans have championed these now- totally-discredited claims, from this informant, without naming him.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Even a trusted FBI informant has alleged a bribe to the Biden family.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): We already know the President took bribes from Burisma.


COLLINS: Today's indictment alleges that the so-called trusted informant's evidence was actually a fabrication.

Here tonight, former White House Communications Director, Kate Bedingfield; and former Senior Adviser to Mitch McConnell, Scott Jennings.

Scott, I mean, Republicans have been using this, for months. And they have been citing this informant. Senator Chuck Grassley was doing it. Chairman Comer was doing it. Now, they're putting out statements, tonight, saying that their whole thing wasn't revolved around this.

But there was a lot of pressure on the FBI, from conservatives, who basically said they weren't doing their job, because of this informant.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO MITCH MCCONNELL, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. If you talk to them, tonight, they'll tell you this isn't really all there is to this impeachment inquiry.

They're still investigating all the other payments, from all the other countries that came in to all the other LLCs, and all the other members of the Biden family. So, they're full speed ahead.

I actually did talk to Jamie Comer, earlier, fellow Kentuckian.



COLLINS: Since this came out?


COLLINS: And what did he say?

JENNINGS: He told me that his goals here have always been, to hold people accountable, and make criminal referrals, if necessary, and ultimately to perhaps even pass a law, regarding influence-peddling, as it relates to the kinds of things that have been uncovered.


He's not sure whether the House is going to do an impeachment or not. He's never has been quite sure they're going to go through with it. But he's just trying to find the facts and some accountability.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well that's quite a shifting of the goalposts, from where he's been, since the beginning of this process, where they've said, many times, that they aim to impeach President Biden.

They've spent months and months and months, trying to put together a case. They've had their very own witnesses. They've had Republican witnesses, who have essentially undermined the thrust of the case they were making, even before you get to their kind of star informant, now actually going to jail, for lying about what was at the center of their case.

So, I think it's a little -- it's -- this is a moment, where Republicans are looking at, how badly they fumbled the ball here, and they're saying, well, actually, our intention was never to get into the end zone? That's crazy. That's not quite -- that's not quite true.

And I think what we've seen, time and again is that this has blown back politically, on Republicans. We've seen, this has been a concerted effort, for, as I say, many months, I mean, years, really, to try to make this stick to Joe Biden, to try to make this kind of the center of their case against Joe Biden.

It hasn't worked. We've seen now, again, on the substance. That's because there's no there-there.

JENNINGS: This -- but this is not the only thing they're looking into. A lot of other money has changed hands here.

COLLINS: So but some of the most--

JENNINGS: From a lot of other sources.



JENNINGS: And so, to wash that all away over one, who by the way, was apparently quite a trusted person, from the FBI, who they paid lots of money to, over the years. I mean?

COLLINS: But I looked at this, Scott.

JENNINGS: To pin that on Republicans, I'm not sure, is fair.

COLLINS: And some of the most sensational claims that we hear, about the $5 million payment? That's all from this person, who's now got arrested, in Las Vegas, today, when he touched down.

JENNINGS: Yes, it's not good, I mean, when your -- when your guy gets arrested like that.

But it also doesn't wipe away everything else they had been looking into, which is far more than just this piece. You would have to admit. Lots more has come out.

And look, I don't know whether they're actually going to get to an impeachment or not. But a lot of information has come out here, about money that changed hands, that has nothing to do with this person.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, except that it continues to be -- they continue to make those allegations, and they continue to be undermined.

I mean, they've tried time and again, to make this argument about this payment from China, which they had -- again, throughout the course of this process, they've had their own witnesses come out and say, well no, it actually, the money actually didn't go from here to there. And they've never been able to make a cohesive case here, as they've desperately tried and tried to put it together.

So, again, I think this is, we saw -- we saw this throughout 2019 and 2020. They tried to make -- Republicans tried to make this an aggressive political case, against Joe Biden, and Hunter Biden, and the Biden family. It didn't work. And at every turn, the substance of what they've tried to put forward falls apart, which you saw in spectacular fashion, today.

COLLINS: Well, and Jamie Raskin is saying that they should call off the inquiry now. I'm not totally sure that'll happen.

JENNINGS: No, it won't.

COLLINS: Kate Bedingfield, Scott Jennings, great to have you both. Tonight, also, we have to update you, on an important story, from last night, the one we started with. That deadly shooting that happened at the Super Bowl celebration, in Kansas City. The people in custody, what we are learning? All, as a vigil was held tonight for the victim.



COLLINS: Tonight, in Kansas City, a vigil was held, for the victims, of yesterday's mass shooting, at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade.

More than 20 people were hurt, including a lot of young children, some of them as young as 8-years-old. A mother and a local radio DJ, Lisa Lopez-Galvan was killed, in that shooting.

Investigators say, tonight, that the shooting stemmed from, what they believe, was a dispute, that there's no indication what happened was motivated by terrorism, or extremism.

Right now, police say two teens are in custody. A third person was let go today. And, right now, prosecutors have until tomorrow, to file charges.

We will obviously be paying close attention, to what they do here.

Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.