Return to Transcripts main page

The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Supreme Court To Hear Trump's Immunity Claim In April; Romney "Surprised" By McConnell's Announcement To Step Down; Romney: If U.S. Doesn't Pass Aid For Ukraine, Trust In America & Ukrainian Lives Will Be Lost. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 28, 2024 - 21:00   ET



NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Anderson, reading through these text messages, it's pretty clear that Bradley intended to remain anonymous. But as the leads he gave Merchant didn't pan out, she pivoted back to him, as her best source of information. But as you read there, and saw, what he said on the stand, and what he read, or what he texted, in stark contrast from each other.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Yes. That is for sure. Nick Valencia, fascinating. Thank you.

The news continues. That's it for us. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now. See you, tomorrow.


The Supreme Court will decide whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution, in the federal election interference case. But they also may have just played a major role, in his legal strategy. We have new reporting, on Trump's reaction to it all, tonight.

Also, our exclusive interview, with Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator, to vote to convict Trump twice. He'll weigh in on what he believes a second Trump term would mean.

And also, a key figure of Watergate, John Dean, will join me. What does President Nixon's White House counsel make, of the ruling that could shape U.S. history?

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

We are feeling shockwaves, tonight, from the Supreme Court. And if things play out, as they now seem that they will, Donald Trump will not have to face Jack Smith, in court until deep into 2024, potentially right up against the election, or even more likely after the election. And of course, all of this depends on whether or not he wins that election, in which case he may never have to face Jack Smith at all, on this case. That's because the Supreme Court now says it is going to decide

whether Donald Trump, as a former President, has immunity from being criminally prosecuted, for the actions that he took while he was in office. That includes his attempt to overthrow a free and fair election in 2020.

The Supreme Court waited weeks, to announce this decision, and did not schedule arguments until the week of April 22nd, almost two months from where we sit today.

This is after that a federal appeals court issued that blistering, but also an importantly, unanimous ruling, saying that Citizen Trump is not immune.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A president of this country has to have immunity. Or they're not going to be able to function in office.

When they talk about a threat to democracy, that's your real threat to democracy. And I feel that as a president, you have to have immunity.


COLLINS: We're hearing, from sources tonight, that Trump and his team view this as a win for now.

Of course, they've been working, repeatedly, to push his federal trials, until after the 2024 election. They may get their wish on one of them, because this decision means that a ruling from the Supreme Court may not come until late June.

Even if Trump loses, on the merits here, which his team, I am told, expects could likely happen, he could actually win on a technicality. It takes time to get a trial going, to pick a jury. Trump's attorneys, the DOJ, the judge here, Judge Chutkan, will all have to turn their focus to the calendar, where there are other court cases expected to be on there.

And, of course, we'll ultimately see whether Trump's efforts, to run out the clock, on a trial, when it comes to overturning the last election, or at least trying to, before Election Day this year, paid off.

Here tonight, former counsel to attorney -- to the Attorney General, Shan Wu; CNN Legal Analyst, and former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams; also CNN's Senior Supreme Court Analyst, Joan Biskupic; and CNN's Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, and former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.

And Joan, let me start with you. Because we have kind of been waiting and waiting and waiting. What does this mean? And what do you make of how they decided to do this now, and hear this late April?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: OK. They had several weeks, to tell us when -- whether they wanted to intervene. Actually, they had since last December, when Special Counsel, Jack Smith, first went to the Supreme Court and said, please hear this case.

He understands how long it takes, to resolve any kind of serious question, like whether a former President is immune from criminal trial. He said, please intervene, then. The justices rejected it in a one-sentence order with no explanation.

And now, they've waited two weeks, after additional filings had come in, once we had a D.C. circuit interim ruling. And what it means is they do not embrace a sense of urgency to the extent that Special Counsel, Jack Smith, on behalf of the United States and the Department of Justice, has toward trying President Trump.

But they did give the Special Counsel something. Instead of just scheduling it, as you normally would, any case granted in the month of February, scheduling it for next session, they decided they'd schedule it at least for April arguments, which means we would probably get a ruling, at the end of June, if it's resolved, on the same kind of schedule that other cases that will be argued in April will go.


But Kaitlan, this delay suggests there's plenty of tension, behind- the-scenes. And I could see this being pushed further into summer.

And I think the very bottom line here is that this Supreme Court is going to remain at the center of the election year controversies. And it also means that because of this action, today, it's unlikely Donald Trump would be tried, in any way, on this election subversion claim, by summer, and maybe not through all of 2024.

COLLINS: The idea that it may be pushed even later, you talk about that tension behind-the-scenes. I mean, as a former federal prosecutor, what do you make of this?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What I make of this, is the fact that judges, and particularly the United States Supreme Court, more than any other entity in America, operates on its own timeline, operates on its own schedule, and has chosen not to sort of face the political realities, of the fact that we have an election, and prosecutors that want to have a case going, on their own timeline.

Now, to be clear, the Supreme Court, as we've all talked about here, on this network, the Supreme Court could have simply taken up the lower court opinion -- not taken up per se, but just not stepped in at all, and let that prior opinion stand.

It was unanimous. It was clear. And quite frankly, it's very likely that whatever they decide somewhat tracks the reasoning, in that opinion, because the law, at least to me, as a layperson, seems pretty clear on this issue, about immunity.

They have chosen to step in. They are moving, I guess, fast, in Supreme Court terms. But it did not need to take as long as it did. Let's just put it that way.

COLLINS: Shan, I mean, if you're looking at this, if you're Jack Smith tonight, how are you viewing what the Supreme Court has decided? Because to Joan's point, they didn't move as fast as they could, but they did move faster than they normally do.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: If I'm Jack Smith, I'm pretty frustrated with this. I mean, best-case scenario, I'm tremendously under the gun in terms of the timing. Some things I could try to do to speed it up, ask there to be a shorter prep time. But it makes it really hard. And, to disagree respectfully with Elliot, I think it is a very

political decision, actually. Because by them refusing to just let the case stand, they have to have their paw prints on it, they have to get involved, when it was a very strong decision, and they could have just let it stand. So, they are involved, politically.

WILLIAMS: Yes, well to be clear, I wasn't saying it wasn't a political choice at all.

WU: Right.

WILLIAMS: I'm just saying that they, you know, we were talking about this before. It's the snootiness of the United States Supreme Court, up to--



MCCABE: --supreme arrogance.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I mean--

WU: Yes, very.

MCCABE: Like what they have done is they've preserved for themselves the final word on this issue.


MCCABE: And they have done it at the expense of ever having these charges, and the evidence supported the -- supporting them ever considered by a fair and impartial jury. Because in all likelihood? I mean, it's as hard to predict with any degree of confidence, because there are so many variables that will fall into place as we get these decisions.

WU: Right.

MCCABE: But I think it's, the likelihood is that we will not see a trial of these charges before the election.

WILLIAMS: And on that--

COLLINS: And yours--

WILLIAMS: Well, on the Jack Smith point, on the -- so the question of how's Jack Smith feeling? Remember, Jack Smith asked for this case, to be taken up by the Supreme Court, back in December. They could have addressed the case, and sort of jumped over the appeals court back then.

BISKUPIC: Well and--


BISKUPIC: And I think they could have, because then then it would have answered why they are intervening here. Because I don't think it's bad that they're intervening, generally, to say--


BISKUPIC: --we're the Supreme Court. We should have the last word on it.

But the point is that they've delayed it to the -- and actually, I would predict, right now, they will probably affirm the D.C. Circuit.

WU: Right.

BISKUPIC: The President--

COLLINS: So, why take it up, if they're going to affirm?

BISKUPIC: Because--


BISKUPIC: Because they are the Supreme Court, and they want to have the last word, enough of them.

Well, let's remember who's on this court, also. There is a six to three conservative-liberal majority. But it's not just that it breaks down along ideology that way. We've had a lot of justices, several of them, who worked in the executive branch, who takes -- who take the idea of separation of powers and executive authority seriously.

So there's -- I'm sure there's some very substantive reasons, to get involved. The only question is when, and they already delayed it from December, and the way this order came down, it already delayed--

WILLIAMS: You know but--

COLLINS: But when you say supreme arrogance, you mean, because they are going to likely affirm this decision, and that they didn't have to take it up. But as Joan was saying, they want it to be them. Is that what you mean by that?

MCCABE: It is. And I think there's another aspect of this, Kaitlan. There -- and I know Elliot is going to jump in here, and disagree with me vociferously. But that's fine. There is an imperative here, about having some finality, to these

issues, for the voters to be able to consider before the election. Judge Chutkan has referenced this, in a bunch of her statements, and in her rulings, on some motions. Jack Smith has argued it in several different -- in several different filings.

And I would argue that this -- the resolution of these charges is important, not just to people, who are not supporters of President Trump, and are seeking some desire of accountability, for what they perceive is his illegal actions, with respect to 2020, but also for Trump supporters.


If you want to see Donald Trump reelected or elected, you should want him to go on trial, and be proven innocent, and carry that vindication, into the final months of the campaign.

COLLINS: Well, and we could potentially see that in the sense of -- OK, so let's say that decision does come out, in June. Everyone's been doing the rough math that--


COLLINS: --if you try to schedule the trial, two months later, because they've got to have the procedures in place. I mean, could they actually schedule a trial that close to the election, do you believe?

WILLIAMS: Well, they could schedule a trial that close to the election. That will be pretty breakneck. Just, so folks understand it would take roughly two to three months based on sort of the estimates that folks have, to get from the day of an opinion comes out, to coming to trial.

Now, the Justice Department has a policy of not taking investigative actions, within 60 days of an election. Now, the problem -- 30 days of an -- 60 days of an election. Now the problem is, what about a trial that maybe could have started six months ago, or started a few months ago, but carries over into the days before the election? It's sort of in a grayer space now. I think the Justice Department will still proceed and try to move forward with a trial. But it's close.

COLLINS: But what if the classified documents case is underway in August? And then how does that play here?

WU: Right.

COLLINS: Because that could certainly complicate things.

WU: That's not going to happen. But--

COLLINS: You don't think the classified documents case will be scheduled?

WU: I just -- yes, I think that's on a slow roll. But if that--

COLLINS: So, you think maybe neither of these could go to trial before the election?

WU: Oh, absolutely.


WU: I think that's a very real possibility that neither of these will go to trial.

And just to throw one more wrench into the works. If they schedule it, and the preparation goes really fast? To me, it's not impossible that Attorney General, Merrick Garland, would actually exercise his discretion. He has some oversight over this. And say, this is too close to the election. It looks too partisan to me. Even though all his non-action ends up being partisan here, he might actually step in and say, I think this is too close.

COLLINS: I mean, the -- I think it's important to take a step back, and realize how big this is. We talk about so many different legal developments. But this could actually decide whether this happens. And if it doesn't, if Trump does win the election, this case hasn't seen the light of day, before then, he makes it go away.


COLLINS: The jury, the American people will never get to hear these charges, in this case--

MCCABE: Never hear it.

COLLINS: --argued.

MCCABE: They never hear this one, and they never hear the Mar-a-Lago case, which I agree with Shan, will be was -- was likely to be heard after the election anyway. So you think about that. If, as we some of us think that there's unlikely with this -- with this decision today--


MCCABE: --that we're unlikely to have this case tried before the election? You're basically looking at a 50-50 chance that either of these cases will ever go to trial.

COLLINS: It's remarkable, Joan, the role the Supreme Court is going to play, regardless of what they decide in the 2024 election. Because they don't just have this. They've also got the Colorado ballot case. I mean, they have so much in their hands.

BISKUPIC: Right. And the Colorado ballot case was heard on February 8th. And we still don't have a ruling there. We do know, from oral arguments, and I think we can take this to the bank, that this Supreme Court is going to reverse the Colorado Supreme Court, and say that Donald Trump should remain on state ballots.

Now, I had thought we'd have a ruling, by at least Monday, the day before next Monday, the day before Super Tuesday, when Colorado voters finished their balloting, for the primary, and several other states have their primary elections. We still could get it. But we know which way that one's going. Well, we suspect.

But that's -- but that's still an important decision from them. An important decision that says contrary to what the Colorado Supreme Court said, Donald Trump cannot be kept from ballots, under this provision of the Constitution, that powers people, who had taken an oath, to uphold the Constitution--


BISKUPIC: --and then engaged in an insurrection.

COLLINS: A remarkable moment. Glad to have all of your perspectives on this tonight. It says we are at a pivotal moment in the 2024 election.

Up next here, on THE SOURCE, Senator Mitt Romney, he's here to react to what you just heard, this decision, what he thinks of that.

Also, the breaking news we got today, Senator Mitch McConnell is stepping down as the Senate Republican leader.



COLLINS: As Donald Trump, and his legal team, argue that he can't be held criminally responsible, for actions that he took while he was president, it stands in stark contrast to one of the last people, to win the Republican Party's nomination, who during his 2012 campaign, said that leaders should be held accountable.


COLLINS: I'm joined now by Utah Republican senator, Mitt Romney.

Senator Romney, great to have you here tonight.

On this breaking news that the Supreme Court is going to take up this immunity ruling, but not hear about -- hear the arguments until April. What's your reaction to that?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Well, apparently they felt that there was an important legal issue to consider. And this has some monument, which would apply not only to Donald Trump, but to future presidents. And they thought they needed to take a deep look at it.

COLLINS: I think one question about it is whether or not it means that the trial will be delayed. I wonder if you think that that voters deserve to hear this case, see it go to trial, before the election, given the basis of it is about trying to overturn an election.

ROMNEY: Yes, I think the process of the law, as they say, grinds, fine, but also slow. It takes time. That's the nature of our system. They're not going to change the procedures of the Supreme Court, based upon campaigns and elections. They're going to go through this the way they would another important case. And then, I could respond to what they think voters want to hear, when they want to hear it. COLLINS: Yes, we'll see what they decide.

Of course, when you think about the Supreme Court, one pivotal figure that you think about in Washington is Senator Mitch McConnell, and the role he played, in shaping the last three justices, who were joined -- who joined the court.

He announced today that he is stepping down from Republican leadership. What did you make of that news?


ROMNEY: Well, I was surprised he announced it today. I thought he might make a decision and announce it perhaps in November, when a new administration came to town, or the same one was reelected, one or the other.

But his decision to do it today reflected, I'm sure, his personal interests and cares. And it's hard to speculate exactly why. I was surprised that he announced it today, because it's a long period now, of relatively lame-duck status.

But I think there's a perception that Mitch McConnell rules with an iron hand that he twists arms, and tells people how he wants them to vote. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I think he recognizes that there are 49 Republicans, in our caucus, each of whom thinks they ought to be President of the United States. And the last thing they need is as a leader, who's telling them what to do.

And so, he listens to us, encourages us to follow our own conscience. Now, and then, he'll tell us what he's going to do, oftentimes, not until the last minute. So, I don't think there's a big change in how we will operate over the coming months.

COLLINS: How does it reflect on the institution, though, that he doesn't -- he is stepping down from this leadership role?

ROMNEY: Well, I think there's been very few, if any leaders that have had more commitment to the institution of the Senate, than Mitch McConnell.

He, after all, took extraordinary heat from President Trump, who wanted to get rid of the filibuster, and put through his full agenda, without any need for Democrat votes. And Mitch McConnell said no, because he wants to protect the institution of the Senate.

And so, I think what he's doing now is consistent with that, his commitment to the Senate itself. I think his timing may have personal implications, potentially political implications. We'll see as time goes on.

I was with a group of Republican senators, this evening. We were speculating as to why he's doing it now. Does it relate to the campaign and so forth? But we really don't know. And we'll probably get a better sense of that as time goes on.

COLLINS: Well, and the speculation also is who's going to replace him, who is going to be the next person, who is going to take that role for Senate Republicans.

Do you have a concern that the litmus test, for that, is going to be loyalty to Donald Trump?

ROMNEY: No, I don't think that's how senators will vote. I mean, there'll be some who--


ROMNEY: --guy, who will be some, will be interested in what the President thinks, and who he might endorse, the president -- former President.

But I think we got three leading candidates, right now. The Johns, if you will, John Barrasso, John Thune, John Cornyn. People jokingly say, I'm for John.

COLLINS: I'm for John.

ROMNEY: Yes. And I think they're pretty safe in saying that.

If President Trump were to say I'm for this one versus that one, I don't think, again, these 49 or 50 Republican senators are going to say, oh, I'm going to do what Donald Trump tells me to do.

This pretty headstrong group, we just think we're pretty good. And people, like me, actually ran for president once. And we got a bunch of guys who ran for president.

COLLINS: Yes, but you're different in the sense of how you -- how you stand. I mean, we just saw Trump's influence, on the immigration bill, in the Senate, that bipartisan bill with foreign aid that came out. He did have a lot of influence on at least some of those Republican senators.

ROMNEY: Yes, I think, on various issues, he will have an influence. I think he has more influence in the House than he does in the Senate.

But I think, by and large, senators vote their conscience. They do what they think is the right thing for their constituents, for their reelection, for the country. And so, I don't -- I don't think that they salute and take direction, either from Mitch McConnell or from Donald Trump.

COLLINS: One of the most aspects that stood out to me and something about Mitch McConnell's legacy is, of course, the role that he played, when Donald Trump was impeached. And he voted to acquit, even though he made clear that he thought the legal system would take care of him.

In a deeply-reported book about you, by McKay Coppins, it was reported that during that time, after the impeachment managers had given their presentation, that they walked by you at one point, and McConnell said they nailed him, referencing Donald Trump.

I wonder what you make of how he handled that, and whether -- how that affects history, going forward.

ROMNEY: Well, I think -- I think there are a number of people, Mitch McConnell, among them, who believe that the prosecutors, if you will, on the Democrat side, were able to prove their case that Donald Trump had done the things that they alleged.

But these individuals felt that that didn't rise to the level that required his removal from office, or in this case, being barred from office. And of course, there were two impeachment trials. So, I may be mixing the two, as I say this.

But Mitch McConnell felt, for instance, that you shouldn't have an impeachment trial of someone, who has left office. He thinks that's just a bad precedent. And so, he thought the legal system would therefore do the work it needed to do, for someone who's left office.

He thought that if we were going to be impeaching former presidents, that at some point, we're going to be impeaching presidents that had slaves. Thomas Jefferson, let's impeach -- we're going to -- we're going to open a Pandora's Box that could be challenging.

But I don't -- I don't -- I can't speak for precisely what Mitch McConnell believed. But I do think there were a number of senators, who believed the case was made, but didn't think it rose to a requirement, to remove from office or bar permanently from future office.


COLLINS: But now, Trump's team is arguing, his legal team, that unless you're impeached and convicted, then you can't be prosecuted. I mean what do you make of his -- the basis of what the Supreme Court is hearing that Presidents have this broad immunity?

ROMNEY: Well I'm not a constitutional lawyer.

COLLINS: But you ran for president.

ROMNEY: I ran for President.

COLLINS: You would have had this story.

ROMNEY: I went -- I went to law school. But my bar exam has long since -- it's expired.

I just don't think that's a very effective argument, in my own view. But this is more as a layperson than as a jurist or a constitutional scholar. But the idea, that, you have to have an impeachment trial, and be convicted in an impeachment trial, in order to be convicted in a court of law? I don't understand that connection, and I don't see it in the Constitution.


COLLINS: Don't worry. We have a lot more of our interview, in that conversation. It was so fascinating, with Senator Mitt Romney. The blame that he says he believes his own party will bear, ones in the House, if they don't help aid Ukraine.

Also, more thoughts on Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That's right after a quick break.



COLLINS: Back now with more from our conversation, with Republican senator, Mitt Romney.


COLLINS: Another thing that McConnell acknowledged today, when he was announcing that he was stepping down, is that he's out of step with the majority of the Republican Party, on national security, with his views on that.

How would you define what the foreign policy view of the Republican Party is today?

ROMNEY: I think there're different avenues of perspective on that. And my own view is that -- and I do believe that the majority of our caucus, the Republican senators, believes that we should play an active role, in the world, and that we should defend freedom, in places where it's under attack.

I think for instance, if Taiwan were attacked, you'd see the great majority of the Republican senators, say we need to help Taiwan, want to give it weapons, so it can defend itself.

I believe that if there's a plain vote, just to give weapons to Ukraine, the Republican senators will support that. Some were unhappy with support for the government of Ukraine, didn't want to vote for the Ukraine funding on that basis. But I think the majority of our group feels that we are better off in America, if we defend the cause of freedom, around the world.

Otherwise, bad people, terrible authoritarians, like Vladimir Putin, are going to ultimately attack NATO nations. And we're going to be required by treaty, to send our own soldiers, into harm's way. Or we can walk away from NATO and blow up an alliance, which has helped preserve global peace, among -- at least among the major powers, for the last 75 or 80 years.

COLLINS: I was just in Ukraine, sitting down with President Zelenskyy. They are deeply worried that your colleagues in the House, Republicans in the House, aren't going to send them any more aid that they are going to stand in the way.

I mean, what responsibility do you believe Republicans will bear, for setbacks, on the battlefield for Ukraine, if they don't pass any more aid?

ROMNEY: Well, if we don't pass aid for Ukraine, then I think Ukraine has a very difficult time, preserving their geographic integrity, and life. You're going to have a lot of people, who'd lose their life, as Russia runs across Ukraine. And that will make it very clear to people around the world that you really can't trust America's word.

Because we made a commitment in 1994, to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine, to help defend the people of Ukraine, if they were attacked. And that's what's happening. And if we walk away from that, they won't trust our word.

Europe will say, hey, the United States is not with us. We're not going to be with them, if there's something they want to do in the Pacific. For instance, let them deal with China. Let America deal with China, and the issues there.

So, we're strong, globally, in part because of our friends. We have alliances. We always talk about how the Russians and the Chinese don't have the kinds of friends we have. Well, we have friends, in part because we stand together. And if we don't stand with our friends, we will lose strength, and that will ultimately come to hurt us.

COLLINS: So, you disagree with your colleague, Senator J.D. Vance, who is making the argument that $60 billion more dollars won't fundamentally change Ukraine's stance on the battlefield.

ROMNEY: Yes, that is an interesting point. It just happens to be as accurate as it is irrelevant, all right? It may not change their stance on the battlefield. What it does do is communicate to the entire world, that we honor our commitments, and we stand with our friends, and we will -- we will help freedom fighters, around the world, who are our friends and allies.

And that's a message which is important to the people in Taiwan, to the people in Japan, to the people in India, to the people in Europe. I mean, all these people are watching to see, can you count on America? Or is America so isolationist, it doesn't care what happens to the rest of us?

If that's the case, by the way, if we cede leadership, if we're no longer the leader of the Free World, if we're no longer the arsenal of democracy? Then the world is going to look for different leaders. And I know at least one player that's happy to step into that role. And that's China.

And a world where Xi Jinping is the leader of the world, is a very dangerous world, and not good for America, not good for our businesses, for our economy, but certainly not good for our freedom.

COLLINS: It's also pretty amazing to hear you just put it in this simple perspective that if House Republicans block more money, to Ukraine, lives will be lost in Ukraine, as a result of that.

ROMNEY: There's no question about that. Lives will be lost there. And Vladimir Putin will not stop. He may take some time, to rebuild

his military, because it's been decimated by the ill-considered attack on Ukraine. But he will ultimately go after other nations, in the Baltics, Latvia, Lithuania, potentially Poland, those are possibilities, Georgia. I mean, he will continue.


He has indicated he wants to rebuild the Russian Empire, if you will. And those are NATO nations. We're obligated under treaty to come to their defense.

We are -- it would be pound -- excuse me, penny-wise and pound-foolish to say we're not going to help Ukraine with weapons. When the next step is a place where under treaty we would be obligated to help with not just weapons but -- and funds -- but blood.

And we need to make sure that the world knows we will stand with Ukraine. I can't guarantee, as J.D. Vance indicates that this is going to mean that Ukraine is successful on the battlefield. But I can guarantee it shows the world that we'll stand by our friends.

COLLINS: Do you agree with President Zelenskyy's analysis that Trump doesn't really understand Putin because he's never fought him?

ROMNEY: I don't know that I can enter into the mind of Donald Trump, and understand his perspectives.

I think he shows more respect for Vladimir Putin than Vladimir Putin deserves. Donald Trump has said some strange things, like well, OK, Putin has killed some people, but our presidents killed people, too.

It's like, yes, but our presidents don't killed their political opponents and members of the media, all right? Our presidents may take us to war, to protect our freedom and our interests as we understand them. That's very different than murdering political opponents, and murdering members of the media and incarcerating journalists.

These are the things Vladimir Putin does, and attacking a sovereign nation, Ukraine, without provocation, and killing tens of thousands of people, kidnapping children. This is a very bad guy, based upon our values. And I think the values that are shared by people throughout the world.

And I think it's fine for a president -- and a former President, to talk to leaders of other nations. But be clear-eyed, Vladimir Putin is a very bad person.

COLLINS: Nikki Haley, who is challenging Donald Trump, for the Republican nomination, is in your home state, today, campaigning. She's gotten a lot of support, from other top Republicans in your state.

But her argument, and what she told your constituents today, is that if Trump's the Republican nominee, your party is going to lose the election. Do you agree with that? ROMNEY: Yes. I don't necessarily agree with that. That's a good campaign line, I'm sure. But I--

COLLINS: So, you think he could win?

ROMNEY: Oh, I'm sure I think he can win. I mean, today, it's kind of a toss-up. But if the election were actually held the day, I think he'd probably win. I can't tell what's going to happen over the next nine months or so, but.

COLLINS: What does it mean if he does win?

ROMNEY: Well, a dramatic change in our foreign policy. I think that people around the world say OK, America is no longer the leader of the Free World, and the arsenal of democracy. It's not the shining city on a hill. It's now an isolated island.

And there are some things, by the way, Donald Trump does better than Joe Biden, a lot. Joe Biden's made extraordinary mistakes. On the immigration front, it's embarrassing how bad he's been.

COLLINS: Yes, I know you care deeply about the border, and.

ROMNEY: Yes. So, he's made it terrible -- and Donald Trump did a lot of smart things, when he was president.

On the foreign policy front, it would be a dramatic departure, from our posture, over the last 75 or 80 years that, by the way, has not only kept us safe, and free from attack. But it's also allowed us to build an extraordinarily strong economy, and have an income per person in America, about a third higher than people in Europe.

COLLINS: But can I just ask, I think that those comments there may raise some questions for people watching at home. Would you vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden?

ROMNEY: No, no, no, absolutely not. I mean, for me, there are two factors of deciding who I want to have as the leader of my country, and the person, who is the example of the president, for my kids and my grandkids.

One is their position in policies. And on foreign policy, I'm not aligned with Donald Trump, at least as I understand his policy. And domestic policy, yes, I aligned with many of his domestic policies.

But there's another dimension, besides policy. And that's character. And I think what America is as a nation, what has allowed us to be the most powerful nation on earth, and the leader of the Earth, is the character of the people, who have been our leaders, past presidents, but also mothers, fathers, church leaders, university presidents, and so forth. Having a president who is so defaulted of character would have an enormous impact on the character of America. And for me, that's the primary consideration.

COLLINS: Senator Mitt Romney, thank you, for coming on THE SOURCE, tonight. ROMNEY: Thanks, Kaitlan.


COLLINS: A fascinating interview with him.

Up next, we'll talk more about the historic arguments that are said to happen, at the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump's former impeachment lawyer is here. Why he says he does believe Trump is entitled to immunity, and whether or not the justices will buy that.



COLLINS: One of the most serious legal threats that is facing former President Donald Trump, is in the hands of the Supreme Court, tonight. And what they decide, no matter what it is, will have profound implications for the 2024 election, even the future of the presidency, also, how long it takes them to decide.

Here tonight, David Schoen, Trump's former attorney, who is there, representing him, during the second impeachment trial, in which Trump was charged with inciting an instruction. He was convicted -- or he was impeached but not convicted, in the Senate, as we talked about with Senator Romney.

David, I just wonder, if you're in the Trump legal team, tonight, and you hear this from the Supreme Court, that they are going to take this up, and they're not going to do it, until at least hear it until April 22nd, are they happy about this?

DAVID SCHOEN, FORMER IMPEACHMENT ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'm sure they are. That's still a pretty quick schedule, you know, all things being considered.

But yes, I mean, I think the Supreme Court, nobody can read their mind, but I think that they felt it is of monumentally important case. And it's the criminal side of the Nixon versus Fitzgerald case. And so, I think they felt it was appropriate, not arrogant, for them to weigh in on, and decide it once and for all.


COLLINS: So, you disagree with the argument that we heard from the former Deputy FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, earlier saying that in essence everyone believes they're just going to affirm what the appeals court found, but they want their name to be on it.

SCHOEN: That could be. But I don't think that would be the reason.

I think that because -- one of the criteria, primary criteria, for the Supreme Court, to hear a case, besides conflict among circuits is, is a case of monumental constitutional importance. And I think this is that kind of landmark case. I think that if they resolve it, they ought to resolve it, on

relatively narrow grounds. I think something like a model like Nixon versus Fitzgerald would well-serve the court. In the criminal context, also. We have some of the same interest. The court there was concerned about the intrusions on the function and the authority of the executive branch. And so, if something is an official act, then that sort of stops the process.

And so, we don't put people at peril, who make decisions in wartime, let's say, for certain bombings that afterwards, people look at and say, gee, you shouldn't have done that, that looked like a war crime. I don't think we want policy to be driven by a concern about being prosecuted for something that in hindsight, looks illegal, potentially.

COLLINS: But that's not what he's being prosecuted here for, not a drone strike, or a decision to go to war. I mean, he's being prosecuted for his attempts to overturn the election.

SCHOEN: I mean, that's a way to characterize it, which many people have. I would say that another way to characterize it would be--

COLLINS: How would you characterize it?

SCHOEN: That he had genuine concerns, about election integrity, that he demanded an investigation into it, that nobody really knows what the Vice President's role is, under the Electoral Count Act.

As the leading election law expert in the country probably has said, from Ohio State, nobody knows what the parameters really of the authority are. And therefore, he demanded that there be -- he believed--

COLLINS: I think Mike Pence would disagree with that.

SCHOEN: He may well. But I think that the evidence that I've seen at least, is that President Trump genuinely believed, based on information he was provided, that there were concerns about it. And so, all of this came up in the impeachment trial, also.

I think that it was a quintessential official act. And that's to me.

COLLINS: Yes. But the argument that a lot of the senators made, which was noted by this appeals court, is that they believed this isn't something for us to take up. This is something for a court to take up. So, that's why they were skeptical of the argument that Trump's attorney was making, which is that, you can only be prosecuted, if you've been impeached and then convicted.

But let me ask you about the timing of this, because a lot of this has to do with how long Trump was in office, how long he's protected. And in his view, he's permanently protected.

But what the appeals court was arguing is that, he's now Citizen Trump, and that any immunity, he did have, no longer applies to him.

SCHOEN: Yes, that would be a very dangerous position to take. And I think the court went that far. I don't think they had to.

I think that the timeframe that's relevant is when the person was president. We don't then say, well, you lose the immunity afterwards. Listen, that's part of the question, the Supreme Court considered. They considered -- the single question they're considering is whether and to what extent a former President is immune from criminal liability for alleged acts, official acts.

So you're right. That's part of the question.

COLLINS: Can I -- I wonder your perspective.

Because let's say that the Supreme Court comes out, and makes their decision on this, June 1st, and then Judge Chutkan gets the case moving that they do actually schedule this trial before the election.

But if it is scheduled, then, for say, September, and Trump's team is arguing, well, it's too close to the election, that's election interference? I mean, can they in good faith make that argument, given they're the ones, who sought this delay in the first place?

SCHOEN: Well, I don't think they sought a delay in this case, that is by taking up the immunity issue, I don't--

COLLINS: They definitely did. They'll openly admit that they wanted this case--

SCHOEN: Oh, wait.

COLLINS: --to be delayed.

SCHOEN: No question. They have said that. I just mean, by taking an appeal in the immunity issue, I don't think that -- this was foisted on them. They didn't ask for the prosecution, in the first place.

But listen, I happen to love Judge Chutkan, in many ways. I won a big case with her this week. I don't think that she has done anything wrong in that regard.

But I think that this is an issue that has to play out. These are all important constitutional issues. And I think that's more important than rushing forward. I don't think there should be a criminal trial in this case. I don't think criminal charges--

COLLINS: But Trump's team--

SCHOEN: --should have been brought.

COLLINS: On the point, though, the question was about, can they in good faith make an argument, about when it's scheduled--


COLLINS: --if they sought to delay it?

SCHOEN: Yes, I think they can, because if the delay in this case is because the system is working, and the court is fleshing out these issues? Then, I think they can still make the argument.

First of all, I'm not sure they would have enough preparation time. Remember, we still have under review in the Supreme Court, the obstruction statute. That has to be played out. And they have to be able to prepare their defense based on what the parameters of that statute's going to be.

So, I think it's, you know, I think they can make the argument still in good faith.

COLLINS: David Schoen, thanks for joining us.

SCHOEN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Both sides of this argument have referred to Nixon's case that went before the High Court, to bolster their arguments. John -- John Dean, President Nixon's White House counsel, will join us, with his perspective.



COLLINS: Back more on the breaking news, tonight. The Supreme Court agreeing to step in, and hear Donald Trump's claim that he has broad immunity, from prosecution, absolute immunity that is, from acts that he committed while he was in office.

We now know those arguments are scheduled to happen the week of April 22nd. The question is when is there a decision?


Joining me now is someone who knows a lot about the Supreme Court, taking up landmark cases, about presidential power. Former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon, John Dean.

And John, it's great to have you here.


COLLINS: Because it is not an overstatement to say that whatever they decide, and how long they take to decide it, could be a pivotal moment, in this election and how it plays out.

DEAN: Very much so. You're quite right on that.

And the gray area of the timing is what's going to create a lot of drama. We do know the briefing schedule. But how quickly will they move, after the arguments?

Historically, we know the court can move quickly when it wants to, as it did in Bush v. Gore, move with lightning speed, within days it had resolved the issue, actually, in favor of the majority of the court, which were Republicans, at the time. But it also in Nixon -- U.S. versus Nixon, it took about -- it took

about just under three weeks, 16 days, as I recall, to get the opinion of the court that Nixon had to turn over his secretly-recorded conversations.

So, the court is used to these kinds of big deliberations. And it can move with speed when it wants to.

COLLINS: Well, so then compare that to this timing.

If someone's at home watching, and confused on the fact that what you just said there, Bush v. Gore happening, being resolved in a matter of days. U.S. v. Nixon, you said it took about two weeks, after oral arguments before we got that.

And the fact that this took weeks to just hear, when the schedule is going to be, and now it's happening two months from now?

DEAN: We don't know until decades after the fact what happens inside the court, and sometimes not even then.

With Watergate, and that court, the Nixon court, in that era, we know a lot because Scott Armstrong and Bob Woodward got ahold of a slew of clerks, and did a book called "The Brethren," and they went right inside the decision-making process.

A lot of politics involved, a lot of watching the hearings involved, inside the court. They are very aware. They keep a keen antenna, as to what's going on politically. So, we know they're sophisticated and following public reaction, if you will.

This is a court today that has got a lot of bad-will against it, as a result of overturning Roe. It is a court that doesn't seem to care about its standing with the public. So, that's why I don't know how it's going to play out, Kaitlan. I really don't. I don't have a good feel for it.

I know there's a need to address immunity. But it needs to be done quickly and not to be protracted.

COLLINS: Yes, Joan Biskupic was reporting that, clearly there is tension behind-the-scenes, in the Supreme Court, and how to (inaudible) that's what she read into how long it took to actually hear that they were going to take this up.

But I wonder if you also think that there are tea leaves to read, if you will, and the question that the Supreme Court has decided to answer here. Because essentially, it's to what extent, that's the quote, about the immunity for former presidents.

And do you believe that means that they want to see parameters put in place? Could we see a limit on executive power, as a result of what Trump is trying to do here?

DEAN: They framed the question broader and a little differently, nice, as thought they would, in the one-page order. But it also -- I immediately, when reading it, I thought, well, we're all forgetting that there are two other cases that immunity is at play that involve Donald Trump.

And one is the Florida case. He has filed a brief in Florida, seeking immunity there. And he has said -- his lawyers have said they plan to do so in Georgia as well. The only place he's waived it is in New York, with the Bragg case, the Manhattan D.A. case, the election interference potential on his part.

So, immunity is a real issue, in much broader than the January 6th case, if you will.

COLLINS: I think when a lot of people listen to you, John, I mean, they think of just the landmark kind of implications, in these decisions. When you look at this, how pivotal, do you think this will be in U.S. history?

DEAN: It's hard to tell when they're going to do a landmark decision. They could do a very quick run-through, and really just embrace the opinion of the D.C. Circuit, which is a very sophisticated look at it, based on the facts.

The other thing they could do that really troubles me, given the order they've issued, is they could actually send it back to a lower court to get more facts. Now, that would really make it protracted. And that would mean there's not a prayer it would take place, and be decided before the election.


So, the order they're under has the markings of a potential landmark decision, no question, the fact that they took it up. It is a court however that likes the last word. So, I think we're all going to have to sit tight and see what happens

COLLINS: Yes. Well, and that last word from you, John Dean, I mean we'll just see what the timing, of course, here, and what that means for everything.

Thank you, John Dean. Really appreciate to have your perspective, here tonight.

DEAN: Thank you.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much, for joining us, on this incredibly busy night.