Return to Transcripts main page

The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Special Counsel Wants New July 8 Trial Date In Trump Docs Case; Sanders Slams GOP Idea To Raise The Retirement Age; Grand Jury Weighs Criminal Charges Against Uvalde Police Officers Who Botched Mass Shooting Response. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 29, 2024 - 21:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But what was most interesting, we saw in Pennsylvania, and that will matter in these other states, is that Democrats, you heard in the piece there, saying that they're still with the President. They think he's OK. But when they talk to peers, some of them have doubts. And so, that's an issue, as we go forward here.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right. John King, thanks.

We apologize, again, for the technical difficulties, tonight. There's nothing worse than doing an interview with somebody, and you can't hear everything that they are saying. So, apologies for that.

The news continues. THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS starts now.


24 hours after the Supreme Court hit the brakes, on Donald Trump's federal election case, Jack Smith hitting the gas, on another, just proposed a surprising new date for the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. For Trump, his campaign, and his likely Republican convention, it could be quite explosive.

Also, a split-screen playing out on the southern border, dueling visits by the current president and his predecessor, as President Biden is looking to turn around an area, where voters say he's the weakest, as Trump is really looking to sabotage getting anything done in Washington, so he can use it, to hurt Biden, come November.

Also, a CNN exclusive, our conversation with Senator Bernie Sanders, who had some scathing criticism, of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, and called for an immediate end to the war in Gaza, and a lot more that you'll want to see.

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

Tonight, we start, as we are witnessing the aftershocks, really, of that Supreme Court decision that has imploded the Trump legal calendar.

Jack Smith is now suggesting that they move the start date, for that trial, in the classified documents case, down in Mar-a-Lago, a move that comes just one day after the justices slammed the brakes, on the case against Trump, in Washington, for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Late this evening, the Special Counsel's office filed this new motion that you're seeing here, asking for Donald Trump, and two of his co- defendants, to stand trial, beginning July the 8th. One other co- defendant, a little bit after that. The Special Counsel's team wants to get basically at least one case heard, before Election Day, in November.

Trump's legal team responded with a now-familiar retort, saying that "A fair trial cannot be held until after the 2024 Presidential election is concluded." I'm quoting them.

But they did offer another date, this year. And the judge, who has been mired in some controversy, in this case, Judge Aileen Cannon, is expected to hash it out, in a hearing, tomorrow, in Florida that could be critical to the future of the classified documents case.

I'm joined, tonight, by an attorney, who used to represent Donald Trump, in the classified documents case and others, Jim Trusty.

Great to have you back here, Jim.

In this, when you look at it, what Jack Smith is asking for is for Trump, and Walt Nauta, and Carlos, to go to trial on July 8th. The three defense attorneys want Trump -- excuse me -- want their trial to start in July, want another one to start in August.

What do you think this likely ultimately lands, based on what Jack Smith wants, and what the defense attorneys are arguing?


What's happening? I mean, you talk about this judge being, quote, mired in controversy. She's actually taking a very incremental approach, to everything, when it comes to scheduling. And that's what you normally see in federal court. It's talking to the parties, where are we on discovery? Where are we on classified documents?

You've got five motions to dismiss pending, right now. You've got 10 DOJ attorneys entering their appearance on the case. This is not a quick and simple matter.

And so, Jack Smith, I think, the approach he took was desperate to try something against President Trump, before the election, which is really the wrong paradigm, for DOJ to take, for Jack and the Attorney General to take. And of course, the other side is saying we can't possibly do this before the election.

Yes, there's some blame to be had, perhaps on both sides, for taking kind of extreme positions. But as a former prosecutor, 27 years, I can't get over the fact that DOJ is admittedly making this a political exercise. They're basically saying, we've got to do this before the election. And that's just not what you normally see, in a white-collar case for a non-incarcerated defendant.

So, I think we're going to chug along, for another month or two. We might see some really fascinating motions hearings, in Florida, I think, very important ones. But I suspect that trial's not happening this summer, for a variety of reasons.

COLLINS: Well, they're not explicitly saying it's about the election. That's actually kind of Jack Smith's thing. He has not mentioned the word, election, in his filings. So, when do you think the classified documents case, for Trump, actually happens?

TRUSTY: Well, it depends on a lot of factors that we don't know yet.

There's, I think, actually very significant motions, not boilerplate type things, you routinely file, but really critical ones, about the Presidential Records Act. The Trump team wants that litigated, in about two weeks. And I think even Jack said something about April for that. So that's a huge threshold.

I haven't seen a motion relating to the search warrant. But I think that's a very viable issue in this case, which is unusual.

COLLINS: OK, so there's a lot of things to argue.

TRUSTY: So, there's some real fundamental stuff and you've got the--

COLLINS: But ballpark, where do you guess it could go?


TRUSTY: I think, if we get past the summer, then the natural reluctance of the court is probably to the benefit of President Trump, to say -- and look, there used to be a DOJ policy. We don't try to interfere with elections, by trying cases, or even bringing indictments, on the eve of an election.

So, I think if we get to May, and she's not locked in, on July or August, and we may know more tomorrow, that if she's not locked in on those dates, then it might slide the 2025. And that's actually kind of a typical process for a classified document complex white-collar case.

COLLINS: Yes, but I'll note that I mean, these cases were brought some time ago. And certainly, the Trump team has sought to delay them, because they believe it's to their benefit.

And so, when I look at this, and you see what Trump's team is asking for here, the three -- the defense attorneys for all three co- defendants, what they're asking for, in September, I mean, we could find out in June, from the Supreme Court, what they think about the immunity claim. That would then be able to restart the case in D.C., technically.

But if this classified documents case is scheduled, is that a way to kind of box Judge Chutkan in, by the Trump team, by saying, well, sorry, we've got the classified documents case now that we have to deal with, and there's no time for the federal election case? TRUSTY: Yes, I mean, good question. I don't know for sure. Because the judge, in D.C., has been very strong-willed about scheduling, and that has fed into Jack Smith's desire to try that case yesterday. So yes, there is this tug-of-war between who's going to have the scheduling priority.

But frankly, the case, in front of the Supreme Court, could easily have a significant effect in Florida as well, and could lead, believe it or not, and I hate to even say this out loud, but to additional litigation, about whether or not certain activities were within the scope of presidential responsibilities, a little bit like when you have executive privilege litigation.

So, we could be at round one of a Supreme Court exercise on immunity. If they rule generally, in favor of the President, then you could end up having more litigation and more Supreme Court before anybody ever thinks about a real trial date.

COLLINS: Well, let me ask you on that, because that is interesting.

And in the order, as I was looking at it, the Supreme Court basically defined the question that they're -- that they plan to answer here, which is, and I'm quoting, "Whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office."

One, I notice they are totally ignoring his claims of double jeopardy. It seems like they're not buying that at all. But two, he's been arguing absolute immunity.

But since they say, "Whether and if so to what extent," is that telling you that they don't buy the broad immunity claim right off the bat?

TRUSTY: I mean, it's a dangerous game to read the tea leaves too much. And though I do agree with you about the double jeopardy claim? That would never really grab me as having a lot of traction.

Look, I think -- excuse me -- I think there's a little bit of overstatement, which is when they talk about absolute immunity, it's still tempered by the need for the actions, to be within the presidential responsibility.

So, it's not really the king can do no wrong, period. It's he has absolute immunity, if the actions are related to specific duties, even the outer perimeter of the presidential duty. So, it's a real nuanced term. But it basically comes closer to qualified immunity than it sounds.

COLLINS: But that's not really what Trump's team--

TRUSTY: I think that's the area where the Supreme Court is going to be tempted to rule.

COLLINS: That's not really what Trump's team argued. TRUSTY: Sorry?

COLLINS: I mean, they bought in on that hypothetical that was floated by the judge, about using SEAL Team Six, to kill a political opponent. They said technically, yes, that they did agree with that. So, I mean, that's not -- would you -- I mean, I don't think anyone would consider that to be an official duty of the president.

TRUSTY: Right, I hope not. I mean, look, I thought that was a bad moment, in terms of kind of conceding to the hypothetical that way. And maybe the ultimate feeling tactically is we're going to shoot for the stars, but we'd be thrilled if we land at the moon, meaning we're overshooting but we still have that kind of more limited version of immunity, to play with.

Again, no matter how it went in front of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, I do think that's where the Supreme Court is going to be wrestling, which is, do we afford immunity, to act within that exterior, that outer perimeter of presidential responsibilities?

And I tend to think they're going to say yes, and that's going to be a huge moment for President Trump. Doesn't necessarily mean Florida goes away automatically, because there's a retention of documents after the presidency. There might be a need for some evidentiary--

COLLINS: And obstruction.

TRUSTY: --hearings or argument on that. But I think the D.C. case would be in dire straits, maybe by the explicit language, but certainly by a ruling that favors this idea of kind of qualified immunity.

COLLINS: Jim, are you glad that you're not trying this anymore? Or how do you feel about it?

TRUSTY: Well, I don't know. Look, anybody that's a trial lawyer, when they see other lawyers, like, man, I should be in there doing that.

But, look, I had a fascinating year, representing President Trump. Got to make some really good friends, meet some very interesting people. I don't regret being on it and that I don't regret being off it.

COLLINS: Fascinating is one word. Jim Trusty, thank you for your time tonight.


And for more analysis, on what we're looking at, tonight, I want to bring in NYU constitutional law professor, Kenji Yoshino.

Glad to have you back here.

When you see what Jack Smith is asking for, pushing the trial date, but he wants much earlier than what the Trump team, and the co- defendants, Walt Nauta, and Carlos De Oliveira, what they're suggesting, is it somewhere where they're trying to meet in the middle? Or what do you make of what happens here?

KENJI YOSHINO, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW, AUTHOR, "COVERING": I think what Jack Smith is motivated by is not November. I think it's by June, which is the end of the Supreme Court's term. And I think all he's thinking about is making sure that there's no ambiguity, whatsoever, about what the Supreme Court said.

So, the one thing we know that is, that by the end of June, the Supreme Court will have ruled one way or another, on this executive immunity claim, and this trial is set for one -- the proposed date is one week after the close of term.

COLLINS: And the immunity thing, we always talk about it in the realm of the election interference case. But Trump's also claiming that in the classified documents case. And you heard Jim Trusty, saying there that he thinks he could have an argument on part of it. But it's also the willful retention, and the obstruction of the efforts to investigate, to try to get them back that is also at play here.

And also, Trump was not in office. Can he argue presidential immunity, if he was two years out of the office?

YOSHINO: Yes, absolutely.

So like, even under the Nixon versus Fitzgerald case, which says, and the language was quoted by earlier guest, Trusty, that you go to the outer perimeter of presidential actions. No one is arguing, right that taking documents into your own home, and obstructing justice, are your official acts as president. So, I think that's--

COLLINS: And keeping them in a ballroom and a bathroom.

YOSHINO: Clearly beyond, right.

COLLINS: In his--

YOSHINO: Any claim of immunity.


And in his filing, what you could see is that Trump was leaning heavily, on being the Republican nominee, which he's not yet, but seems like he's on the path to do. They talked about the dates of the Republican National Convention. They talked about other campaign dates.

How does the judge look at that? Does she take that into consideration for criminal proceedings?

YOSHINO: I think, in an ideal world, she should not, right? I mean, no one is above the law. This is a criminal proceeding. She should just set the dates as it were. But I can't imagine, as a human being, she'll ignore that.

One of the most chilling things that I've seen, in 25 years of teaching constitutional law, is the trial schedule that the defense attorneys proposed. And I'm sure you've seen it as well, with our blocks that say, here's when we're going to argue pre-trial--

COLLINS: That's one of the most chilling things you've ever seen?

YOSHINO: Well, just this idea that you have somebody, who's saying, here's a pre-trial motion, and then, here's the Republican National Convention. Because it just suggests that this is the very first time, in our nation's history, that we've had an individual, who's a front- runner, running for president, who was a former President, who's under a criminal indictment.

This has never happened before. This is completely uncharted territory. That kind of chart did -- picture's worth a 1,000 words. It did more than anything else than knock my socks off.

COLLINS: Yes, you're going to have to put that on your syllabus, one day, Kenji.


COLLINS: Thanks to have you here, to break that down for us. Great to have you.

Ahead, we're also tracking a political split-screen that we've been watching all day, but just looking at it from the big picture. Donald Trump and President Biden both at the border, 300 miles apart, I should note, as Biden did something unexpected, challenging Trump to work with him.

Also, coming up, our one-on-one sit-down, with Senator Bernie Sanders, who says that there are warning signs for President Biden in 2024, and also weighs in on the war in Gaza.



COLLINS: It was a pretty remarkable split-screen that played out on the frontlines, of the border crisis, in America today, as Donald Trump, and President Biden were both in Texas border towns.

Trump was in Eagle Pass, Texas. That's where you've seen that razor wire go up, to keep migrants out. It's been a point of high tension between the state and the federal government.

Meanwhile, President Biden was about 300 miles away. He was in Brownsville, in his first visit to the border, in 13 months.

Each of them pointing fingers at each other.



The United States is being overrun by the Biden migrant crime. It's a new form of vicious violation to our country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Trump highlighting crimes, committed by migrants, to make his point, but I should note, without the data to back up his claim of this immigrant-fueled crime wave, in the U.S.

Immigration and Border Security are, of course, top concerns for voters. We've seen that in the polling. And record numbers of migrants have crossed into the United States, since Biden took office.

There's enough blame to go around, though, of course, including to Trump, and the Republicans in the House, who recently tanked that bipartisan immigration deal, a deal that some conservative senators said they believe was better than anything that they had had a chance to pass, in decades.

President Biden, highlighting that point, when he was in Texas, today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's time to act. It's long past time to act.

To Mr. Trump, instead of playing policy with this issue, instead of telling members of Congress to block this legislation, join me, or I'll join you, in telling the Congress, to pass this bipartisan border security bill. We can do it together.


COLLINS: Few people know Donald Trump's vision, for the border, better than the person, who ran the Department of Homeland Security, during his administration. Chad Wolf was Trump's acting Homeland Security Secretary. And he joins me now.

Thank you so much for being here.

Well, just on that comment, made by President Biden, there, saying that Trump should join him, I mean, should he? Why not take him up on his offer, if Biden is ready to make real concessions on the border, as he was in this Senate immigration bill?


I don't know that we need to overly complicate things. President Biden has all the authority, he needs today, to solve this crisis. And he can do it tomorrow, with a really a stroke of a pen.

The authorities that we saw, during the Trump administration, that were highly effective, in getting the border under control, and stopping the mass numbers of illegal migration that we see today.


And so, you can wait on a Senate bill. You can ask others to join you. Or you can just simply do your job, and use the authorities that you have.

And I think that's the frustration a lot of Americans see today, is they want the job done, and they want some action. They want some results. And I would say to the Biden administration, use your authorities, to get the American people what they want.

COLLINS: Yes. So, there are some executive actions, based on our reporting that Biden is considering taking.

WOLF: Yes.

COLLINS: But I'm curious because when Trump was in office, he also took a lot of executive action, on the border, not as much as what Biden has done. But if you look at what he -- his executive -- executive actions, there were 35 of them. And I looked at the numbers today. Almost 94 percent failed to stand up to legal challenges.

So, what's the point in kind of signing an executive order, if it's not actually going to pass muster with the courts?

WOLF: Well, I think there's things that you can do, without signing an executive order.

You can use the authority that you have, to restart the Remain in Mexico program. You don't need an executive order to do that. Secretary Mayorkas has all the authority that he needs to do that. That was one of the most single effective programs to end catch and release, and to get, again, that border under control, and to stop these frivolous asylum grants and complaints that we see today.

So, there's things that you can do without an executive order. It's just existing authority that Congress has passed, many years ago, decades ago, that resides both with the President and with the Secretary. You don't have to do an EO. You can just simply put it in place today. That's restarting border wall construction, restarting our Asylum Cooperative Agreements.

And so, there's a number of things here that have been tested by the courts, such as Remain in Mexico has been validated by the courts--

COLLINS: Well on--

WOLF: --to be effective and legal.

COLLINS: On Remain in Mexico, we hear this from Republicans a lot--

WOLF: Yes.

COLLINS: --that want it to be back in place. But the Mexican government doesn't want it. They've made that clear. So, I mean, it's not really possible, is it, for the United States to put it in place, if the Mexican government says, we don't want this?

WOLF: Well, I think it is. I think the Biden administration really hasn't fought hard for it. You've got to negotiate with the Mexican government, just as we did in 2018, and 2019, to get that in place. That was the same response the Mexican government had, when we talked to them initially, about that program.

And so, there's a lot of things that can be done. You just -- it takes leadership, it takes will, and it takes some hard negotiations, and some hard conversations. But you need to do that. It's an effective program. And it will work again.

COLLINS: President Biden spoke, right after we heard from your former boss, Donald Trump, also on the border today.

I just want to play a little bit of what Trump said, in his remarks, in Eagle Pass.


TRUMP: These are the people that are coming into our country. And they're coming from jails, and they're coming from prisons, and they're coming from mental institution, and they're coming from insane asylums, and they're terrorists.

We have languages coming into our country, we have nobody that even speaks those languages.


COLLINS: As you know, the border is a legitimate issue.

WOLF: Yes.

COLLINS: But why make things up, while talking about it? Why not just talk about the border itself?

WOLF: I don't know that the President -- former President Trump is making anything up. I think if you look at all of the arrests that ICE made, last year, half of them, over 50 percent were criminal aliens. And so, I think what he's saying is, there are some bad individuals, coming into this country, illegally, through a wide open southern border, and we need to be concerned about that.

COLLINS: But there's no evidence of mental institutions sending people.

WOLF: And he's also talking about the number of countries and the number of nationalities that are being picked up along the border.


WOLF: Sorry, Kaitlan, what was that?

COLLINS: When he -- we've asked the Trump campaign. The first time, it was years ago, when he said that mental institutions were emptying their places, that doctors were complaining they didn't have any patients in their mental institutions, in other countries, because they were all being sent across the southern border. And there's no evidence to back that up.

I mean, why make that claim that's not true, when you can actually point to legitimate things on the border, I think is my point here.

WOLF: Yes. So look, I think there's a lot of evidence, there's a lot of evidence that a number of bad individuals, that are coming across that border, that are criminals, in their home countries, in countries in Central America, South America and Venezuela, and the like, and they're coming across this country.

And how do we know that? Because we eventually pick them up, and we do arrest them. And as we start to look into their backgrounds, we understand that they have criminal records, in their home country. So, I think that's the concern.

And that's what Americans are really concerned about is not only the illegality of what's going on along that southern border, but the safety and the security in communities like Athens, Georgia, and elsewhere.

COLLINS: Yes, but you're making one point, and I understand that. But he's making another about mental institutions.

WOLF: Yes.

COLLINS: There's just no evidence to back it up. And I think I don't understand why he keeps saying it if it's not true.


WOLF: Well, again, I think the President obviously speaks for himself. But he has real-life experience, obviously being president for four years, understanding the types of individuals. I was in the Oval Office and briefing him, many times on the types of individuals, and the types of groups that are coming across that border.

COLLINS: Right. But you never saw evidence of the mental institutions point, did you?

WOLF: And he sees what, I think most, reasonable Americans see is that there are a number of bad individuals that continue to come across this border that the Biden administration is -- they know this. They have the same stats and the same statistics. And they're not putting any policies in place to stop them.

COLLINS: Well, they have signed a lot of executive orders.

But OK, I just -- I wanted -- I didn't hear any evidence about this one thing. We still haven't heard anything. I just wanted to ask you about that.

Chad Wolf, as always, thank you for coming on tonight. Appreciate you joining us.

WOLF: All right. Thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, our exclusive interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, his take on the presidential election, how President Biden is doing. Also, a major issue that he believes President Biden needs to address. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COLLINS: Gunfire, panic and pandemonium, at food lines in Gaza today that left more than 100 people dead, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

A warning that some of the images you are about to see in this report are graphic.

We have aerial footage that was provided by the Israel Defense Forces. It shows the civilians, as you can see here, desperately swarming aid trucks for food, as the United Nations has warned Gaza is on the brink of famine. This is the aftermath of the carnage that unfolded, bodies picked up and carted away, piled on the back of the truck that you can see here.

We are now hearing two starkly different accounts, from the IDF, and from Palestinian officials and eyewitnesses, about how and why in that ensuing chaos, many of the victims were run over by those aid trucks.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is on the ground, in Tel Aviv.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, let's start with what eye witnesses on the ground tell us happened.

Early this morning, before dawn, a convoy of aid trucks made its way into the western part of Gaza City, was immediately swarmed by hundreds of people, desperate to grab any humanitarian aid. Some of those individuals jumped on top of those aid trucks, grabbing bags of flour, and whatever else they could take.

But within minutes, we're told that the Israeli military then opened fire, on that crowd, sending people running in all directions, and propelling the drivers of those trucks, to hit the gas, running into that crowd, killing dozens of people in the process.

Now, Khader Al Zanoun (ph), a local journalist, who has worked with us before, tells us that about 20 people, he believes, were killed by the initial gunfire, but that the majority of those people were killed in the ensuing chaos.

Now, the Israeli military offers a very different timeline. They say that there was first, a stampede, and those aid truck drivers running over people, and that it was only after that happened, that Israeli forces nearby fired on another group of Palestinians, who they say were approaching them, in what they describe as a threatening manner.

Now, the Israeli military says that it will investigate this incident. But those accounts, by the Israeli military, obviously contradict what we're hearing from witnesses on the ground.

The bottom line, though, the Palestinian Ministry of Health says that at least 112 people have been killed, in this incident, more than 760 people injured, adding to this grim death toll that we hit on Thursday, of more than 30,000 people killed.

And it's also very clear that if this situation continues, in particular, in northern Gaza, where people have very little access to food, very few aid trucks are making it through, that more people will die, not just by bombs and bullets, but also by starvation, as the World Food Program warns that about half a million Palestinians are on the brink of all-out famine.

Now, this could also complicate those negotiations that are happening for a temporary ceasefire. President Biden warning that it will complicate those talks.


COLLINS: Jeremy Diamond, thank you for that report.

And as he noted, President Biden is weighing in on this, talking about what that violent scene could mean, for those ongoing painstaking negotiations that have been underway, for a ceasefire, a ceasefire that I should note, earlier this week, President Biden predicted could happen, as soon as Monday.


REPORTER: Do you know what happened in Gaza City? More than a 100 civilians were killed.

BIDEN: I have just -- we're checking that out right now. There's two competing versions of what happened. I don't have an answer yet.

REPORTER: Are you worried that, that will complicate those negotiations?

BIDEN: I know it will.


COLLINS: He's not saying that he is predicting it could. He says he knows that it will affect these negotiations that have been underway, come close and fallen apart.

Just this week, the President witnessed the impact that his handling of this war could have, on his political chances, come November.

I sat down exclusively, with Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders, to talk about that reality, and what he thinks should happen next.


COLLINS: Senator, thank you for being here. It's great to sit down with you.

We saw the Democratic primary play out in Michigan. And over 100,000 voters voted Uncommitted, in a protest of how President Biden has handled the war that Israel is waging in Gaza.

Is that a warning sign to the White House, in your view?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I think it is. I mean, I think, all over this country, people looking at what's going on in Gaza, and really cannot believe what they're seeing. I mean, it's not only that 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and 70,000 wounded. Two-thirds of them are women and children.

But Kaitlan, what we are looking at, at this moment, is the starvation of hundreds of thousands of children. And that is because of Israeli bombardments, and that is because of the restrictions at the border, preventing humanitarian aid from getting in. This is absolutely unacceptable.


And in my view, I've said this, a million times, the United States should not be giving Netanyahu, and his extreme right-wing government, another nickel for their war efforts that are killing so many innocent Palestinians.

COLLINS: When the White House says, we're listening, to these voters, who have that same exact concern that you do, about the aid that is going to Israel, with no restrictions on it. The President has sent campaign aides, to talk to Arab Americans. He's sent White House officials, including national security aides.

But should he himself be having these conversations directly?

SANDERS: You have to understand some -- whether it's him or his aides, it's what the policy is. That's what's important.

And what the President has got to do, in my view, is tell Netanyahu, sorry, you're not getting another nickel of U.S. taxpayer money, to murder women and children in Gaza. That has to be a major change, in the Israeli policies. It has a lot to do with a two-state solution, and where we go at the end of this war.

COLLINS: If he doesn't do that, do you think those 100,000 voters won't come home in November?

SANDERS: Well I don't want to -- nobody can speculate it. Nobody knows. You haven't talked to 100,000, in lately, have you? Nobody has.

So, but I do think this. The contrast between Biden and Trump is pretty clear. And I think most of those people, who voted for Uncommitted, understand that.

Biden has done by and large, a good job for working people. He understands that climate change is real.

And on the other hand, you have Donald Trump who is a pathological liar, who wants to deny every woman in America, the right to control their own body, who doesn't even understand that climate change is real.

So, I think the choice is clear. But I think there are a lot of people, who are upset, about the President's policies, regarding the war in Israel.

COLLINS: You've been really outspoken, in calling for a ceasefire, and you're a champion of policies on the left. I mean, everyone witnessed your runs, for president. You though have also faced some of what President Biden has, when he's out speaking publicly, which is, is people calling for ceasefires, or calling for you to call it a genocide, something that you have not (ph).

SANDERS: I know. That's true. But I don't know that we want to be arguing, whether it's a mass slaughter or a genocide. It's kind of a technical term that the International Court of Justice is looking at.

Look, the real issue is, with 30,000 dead and 70,000 wounded, and hundreds of thousands of children starving to death, I would hope that every sane American wants this war ended, and ended right now. And that's the role that the United States has got to play.

And we have a special role, because we have supported Israel for many, many years, $3.5 billion of military aid, every year. And now, there are those in Congress, who want to give them another $10 billion, to continue this war. So, I think the goal, right now, was for us to rally around the effort, to say no more military aid, for Netanyahu, in this terrible war.


COLLINS: More from that interview, with Senator Bernie Sanders, right after this, as he fights to address America's retirement crisis, asking the question, do you want to be working until you're 80?



COLLINS: Many Americans fear that what they (inaudible) supposed to be their golden years won't actually be so golden.

If you have concerns that you'll never be able to stop working, you're not alone. Just 43 percent of Americans, based on the latest numbers, believe that they'll be able to retire, when they want. That is the lowest that number has been since 2012.

And it's a reality that I dug into with Senator Bernie Sanders.


COLLINS: Let's talk about why we're in this hearing room. You just wrapped up a hearing earlier, on the retirement crisis, in the U.S. And one number that you put out in your report that really stood out to me, you said 52 percent of Americans, who are 65 and older, live on less than $30,000 annually, and that one in four survive on less than $15,000 per year.

SANDERS: You're right. I mean, that really when I read these statistics that my staff put together, it is stunning. And Kaitlan, if you put that within the context of the richest country

in the history of the world, and at a time, when the people on top have never, ever done better, when three people on more wealth than the bottom half of American society, I hope we all conclude that we can do a lot better for seniors than we are currently doing.

COLLINS: Is it a point where retirement is a bit of a luxury in the United States?

SANDERS: Well, one of the witnesses you may have seen this morning, was a woman, who was with the United -- is with the United Automobile, where she's an autoworker. And she described the difference, in her situation today, as somebody who currently has no pension, with her grandparents, who did have the pension.

Now, what we used to have in this country is a defined benefit pension system, which was pretty prevalent. In other words, you work for your company, for a certain number of years. And you knew that when you retired, there will be a certain sum of money, coming into your bank account, every single month. By and large, that is gone.

So, in my view, we've got to do two things. At a time, when corporations are drawing record breaking profits, we got to say to them, you know what? You got to establish a defined benefit pension plan for your workers. There are various ways that you can do it. That's number one.

Number two, we got to deal with Social Security. For many, many Americans, especially lower-income working-class Americans, the Social Security benefits that they're getting today are inadequate. So, what do we have to do? We got to do something very simple.


Right now, you make $1.6 million a year. I make $160,000 a year. Guess who pays more in Social Security taxes? We pay the same.

COLLINS: You pay the same.

SANDERS: Because there is a ceiling on what you can pay.

COLLINS: And to be clear, that's not my salary. You're just using a hypothetical.

SANDERS: No that--

COLLINS: I don't want people going crazy, on this, well I just (ph).

But on that note, Senator Cassidy, who was in here, he said, that's an outdated model. He talked about obviously now we've shifted to where, it's -- the responsibility is more on the employee than the employer.

SANDERS: Yes, no kidding.

COLLINS: But on Social Security, it is set to become insolvent soon. And it seems like everyone understands that. But no one really wants to address it because of the political pitfalls.

SANDERS: Well it's not--

COLLINS: What is the realistic way to handle it?

SANDERS: Kaitlan, it's not a political pitfall.

The rich get richer. The rich have lobbyists, all over Washington, D.C. Billionaires make enormous campaign contributions. And you know what their main issue is? Don't tax us. Hey, I'm only worth $8 billion. He's worth $10 billion. That's not fair. Don't tax me anymore.

So, the result of that is a taxi cab driver has an effective tax rate, which was higher than billionaires. So of course, they don't want. This is a class issue. Of course, the rich don't want to pay more in taxes, most of them. There are some, who are willing to do it.

But you tell me if it makes any sense to you, when we are struggling, to make Social Security solvent, that you got billionaires, who paid the same amount into the Social Security Trust Fund, as somebody making $168,000. Makes no sense. But you have people, who work for the rich, and not for their constituents. And that's why we are where we are.

COLLINS: One idea we hear from Republicans, especially in the Republican primary race, was this idea of raising the retirement age.

SANDERS: Brilliant idea. Yes, it is. Yes, we're going to have people, 87-year-olds, packing groceries, in a supermarket. You know, really? People have worked hard their whole lives. This is the richest country, in the history of the world, raise the retirement age, cut benefits? I don't think so.

The alternative approach, which makes eminent sense to me, and the vast majority of the American people, is demand that the people on top, finally start paying their fair share of taxes, so we can expand benefits.

Do not raise the retirement age. That is cruel. I mean, to tell people who've worked, like that woman in a factory, for a whole life, that she's got to work two or three more years? I don't think so.

COLLINS: On this issue overall, one thing that stood out from the hearing is just listening to people's financial situations, and what people are going through. And one thing we often hear, from the White House, is that despite how people are feeling, the economy is doing better, their lives are improving, since Biden took office.

But what happens when people don't feel that way?

SANDERS: Ah it's a very good question. So, there are two realities here.

Number one, unemployment is low. If you want to get a job in most states, you can go out and get a job. That's a pretty good thing. We are rebuilding American manufacturing, creating manufacturing jobs. That is a good thing. So, in a lot of ways, the economy, in fact, is doing well.

But there is another reality. This is an astounding fact. Over the last 50 years, five-zero years, despite a huge increase, in worker productivity and technology, the average American worker, today, in real inflation accounted for dollars, is earning less than he or she did 50 years ago. That is insane.

There has been a massive transfer of wealth, from the working class, to the top 1 percent. Now, I don't -- we don't talk about that much on TV, and we don't talk about it much in Congress. But that is the reality. We're a rich country. But almost all the wealth is going to the people on top. 60 percent Americans are working paycheck to paycheck.

So, what you really need is a movement, and we're beginning to see that with the unions, are people standing up and saying no, to corporate greed, creating an economy that works for all, not just a few.

COLLINS: We've seen the unions, the UAW. You mentioned a worker, who was here, at your hearing. They've endorsed President Biden, come November. We talked about his issues with Arab Americans. But he's also facing issues with other groups as well, that brought him to the White House.

Do you think he can hold together a winning coalition, come November?

SANDERS: I think so. But it depends on the nature of the campaign that he runs. I would hope that he says to the American people, look, we have accomplished a lot. There was a lot that he should be very proud.

We forget, Kaitlan, three years ago, in the midst of the terrible COVID pandemic, unemployment soared, the economy virtually collapsed. Thousands of people were dying every day. Everybody was scared to death, about this terrible disease.

We came out of that economic downturn a lot faster than the economists thought we would, because we passed the American Rescue Plan.

So he has, I think, a lot to talk about. But he has also got to recognize that over the last many, many decades, we have seen a growing gap, between the very rich and everybody else. Corporate profits are soaring. Elderly people are living in poverty.


So, what he needs to do is say it, make it very clear. He is going to stand with the working class of this country, around an agenda that works for everybody, not just the people on top.

COLLINS: Is he doing that enough right now--


COLLINS: --in your view?

SANDERS: He's not. I mean, there are things that I think can be done. I think you have to say very loudly and clearly. And he does, but not quite as strongly as I would like.

You got Republicans, right here, in this room, who want to repeal the Estate Tax, which applies to the top one-tenth of 1 percent, want to give massive, over a period of years, trillions of dollars in tax breaks, to the top one-tenth of 1 percent. And then, they want to cut back on programs, for the working class, and the elderly. Does that make any sense to me?

He's got to take them to task, and stand up, and make it clear that if Trump and Republicans gain control of the Congress, the rich are going to do very, very well, and working people are going to be hurting.

COLLINS: Maybe we'll see that at the State of the Union, next week.

Let's talk about you in November.


COLLINS: You have not announced what you plan to do. Are you going to run for reelection?

SANDERS: Well, that's between me and the people of the State of Vermont. And I will make that at the appropriate time. Make that decision.

COLLINS: Do you think you'll make it before May, your filing deadline?

SANDERS: I guess so.

COLLINS: OK. Well, hopefully, you'll come back here on THE SOURCE and tell us.


COLLINS: And we will, of course, keep you updated, when Senator Sanders does tell us what he plans to do, come November. It's a big question, on Capitol Hill.

Also here tonight, the City of Las Vegas has been such a powerful force, in the zeitgeist lately, hosting the Super Bowl, wowing audience in its futuristic new venue, the Sphere.

Now, the new CNN Original Series "VEGAS: THE STORY OF SIN CITY" takes us on an incredible journey, from the city's origins, as a dusty desert town, to the entertainment Mecca that it is today.


WAYNE NEWTON, AMERICAN SINGER AND ACTOR: The gentleman who was auditioning us listened to two songs. And he got up to leave, and I thought, well, back to school. And he said, if we can get you a work permit, I'll hire you for two weeks. The two-week engagement turned into a five-year contract.


COLLINS: And that Original Series, you don't want to miss it, "VEGAS: THE STORY OF SIN CITY," is going to continue with a new episode Sunday night here, at 10 o'clock Eastern, on CNN.

Up next for us, here tonight though, the new Superintendent of the Uvalde schools is now pleading with Congress for help, to prevent future mass shootings, nearly two years after the Robb Elementary shooting. She's here, to join me next.



COLLINS: A grand jury, in Uvalde, Texas, is now weighing criminal charges, against officers, who responded to the 2022 school massacre, at Robb Elementary, as officers waited a notorious 77 minutes, to confront the gunman, even as children were repeatedly calling 911, and begging for help. 19 students and two teachers were murdered that day.

And two years later, nearly, the community is still calling for accountability, and for action, to help keep schools safe.

That's why my next guest, the new Uvalde superintendent, is in Washington, pleading with lawmakers, to do more, to help their community.

And Ashley Chohlis joins me now.

Ashley, it's great to have you here.

You just assumed this role, as Superintendent, about three months ago. You're in Washington, right now, for a reason, because you're talking to lawmakers.

And I was struck by something you wrote, in a recent Op-Ed, where you said the money and the heartache that it takes to recover from these tragedies is far greater than the money that districts need to prevent them.

Do you think that message broke through, on Capitol Hill, today?

ASHLEY CHOHLIS, SUPERINTENDENT, UVALDE CONSOLIDATED INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: I do. We had a very positive reception, from both Republicans and Democrats, whenever we talked to them today. So, I'm hopeful that they heard the message, that we need additional funding for mental health resources, and safety and security resources, especially for rural districts like mine.

COLLINS: And one big part of this that you need is, is $20 million, no small fee, but that's to help finish paying for the replacement school, for Robb Elementary. On that front, given that enormous sum, what did the lawmakers say about that? Did they offer any assurances to you about the funding?

CHOHLIS: I think that they're going to try to work through that with us. We are hopeful that they will do the best that they can, to assist us, to replace our elementary school.

COLLINS: Yes. And I know you talked about the grants, and the difficulty that some districts like yours have, in applying for these grants, because it does take so much time, and you don't necessarily have someone to -- whose job solely it is to do that.

When you -- when you look at that, and the other enormous aspects that come with this job, and just a community that's still reeling from what happened nearly two years ago, I mean, I wonder what you feel about the weight of the role of this job that you've taken.

CHOHLIS: It is trying to bring hope to a community that has lost so much. I'm honored, quite honestly, to be in the role. And I love working with the community. It's a beautiful community. And we are going to do everything that we can, as a team.


I work with a wonderful group of administrators. And our goal is to present a beautiful plan, to put the community back together, through the kids. And so, we're going to do that, in a very connected way. And I'm looking forward to doing that work with them, so.

COLLINS: Ashley Chohlis, quite a job that you have. Thank you, for joining us, to talk a little bit about it. We hope you'll come back in the future.

CHOHLIS: Thank you.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much, for joining us.