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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Judge Drops Charge Related To Trump's Call To "Find" Votes; House Passes Bill That Could Ban TikTok; Michigan Secretary Of State On RNC Lawsuit: This Is A "Political Strategy". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 21:00   ET



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: --the double- digits, in terms of popularity.

I actually spoke to one of them, at an election event, a few days ago. Leonard Salewski (ph). And he told me, look, he wasn't even trying to win. He was trying to come second, which is, extraordinary, for a presidential candidate. Although it's realistic.


CHANCE: Given how the odds are stacked against anyone in this country standing against Putin.

COOPER: Yes. Matthew Chance, from Moscow. Matthew, thank you.

The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now. I'll see you, tomorrow.


A surprise win, for Donald Trump, as some of his criminal charges were thrown out, in the State of Georgia, what the judge called fatal, in the prosecution's case, and an even bigger decision that is looming that could come at any moment.

Also, Congress has started the clock, on TikTok, the House overwhelmingly passing a bill that would ban it nationwide. And President Biden says he'll sign it if it reaches his desk. But that's a big if. We'll take a look at the national security threats, as well as the political threats, if lawmakers cut off the app that is used by 170 million Americans.

Also tonight, a potential Trump running mate is posting about her brand-new teeth. The South Dakota's governor is now facing ethical questions, about that new smile. We'll dig into that video that some are calling downright bizarre.

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

Fresh off of clinching the Republican nomination for President, as he did last night, it was the win that very few people saw coming. Not even really Donald Trump.

The judge that is presiding over his election conspiracy case, in Georgia, has now dropped six of the 41 counts, in that indictment against Trump and his co-defendants.

Three of those six charges that were dismissed were pending against Trump himself, including the one that was tied to that infamous phone call that we all remember to Georgia's Secretary of State, after Trump lost the 2020 election.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So look, all I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.


COLLINS: Judge Scott McAfee cited what he called a fatal lack of detail, from the prosecution, to support the specific charges that he dropped today. But he also made sure to note, and this is important here, I'm quoting Judge Scott McAfee. He said "This does not mean the entire indictment is dismissed."

The heart of this case, in fact, really, the vast bulk of it does still remain intact, and Donald Trump is still facing 10 criminal counts in Georgia.

Meanwhile, there could be a bigger decision coming in that state though, in the next 48 hours. The judge is still weighing, whether or not to remove the District Attorney, Fani Willis, from this case, over those accusations of a conflict of interest that stemmed from a romantic relationship that she had, with the lead prosecutor she hired on that case.

Judge McAfee confirmed to CNN today, and we rarely hear from him outside the courtroom, that he is still on track to issue that decision, this week.

I'm joined now by CNN Legal Analyst and former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore; and CNN Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.

And Michael, let me just start with you, since all this is happening in your home state. What did you make of Judge McAfee's rationale for dismissing these charges?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with both of you.

This, what was filed by the defense is a very standard motion that's filed by defendants, in many cases, in Georgia. It's a demurrer, or a challenge to the sufficiency of the indictment. And the law says that a defendant is entitled to an indictment. It's basically perfect in form and substance. And so, the judge simply looked at it. He said, look, you've got this, these allegations in the indictment, that where you're saying he tried to solicit people to violate their oath. But you need to tell me what part of their oath, what part of the constitutional provisions -- whether it's a state constitution or federal constitution provisions, as they take an oath to uphold both. You've got to spell that out in the indictment, so that the defendants have some knowledge, before they go to trial, of what they may have to prepare and present a defense against.

So, while it's a significant win, I think, for the defendants, it certainly is not fatal to the entire indictment.

And the District Attorney, as a matter of fact, can go back and re- indict and claim those charges up, or there could be an appeal of the judge's ruling or, frankly, they could just move forward, because so many of these allegations are wrapped up in the RICO charges. We've heard about that. Those charges stand.


MOORE: And so, this might be a cut on the case. Was thinking about chopping down a tree, there were a few good axe blows put to the tree today. But it's still standing. If there are many more blows, then it may topple.

But, right now, the case -- the case is in play and the indictment stands, just with a few -- a fewer counts.


COLLINS: Yes. The RICO charge, of course, as the conspiracy charge, is at the heart of this. That's count number one.

MOORE: Right.

COLLINS: And so, Jennifer, when you look at this, and what this means for Fani Willis, the District Attorney here, I mean, this is obviously not something any prosecutor wants to have happen to them. But does it mean that she made the case too broad? How did you read it?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It doesn't mean she made the case too broad. It means they made a mistake in the grand jury. When they were in the grand jury, they needed to present more evidence, more specific language in the indictment.

So, it's really more embarrassing than anything else, to be honest with you, because all of the facts that underlie these counts that have now been dismissed, are part of the RICO offense. All of that evidence will still come in. They still have it charged in the RICO. That is the big ticket here as far as potential penalties. So, it really doesn't mean much, at the end of the day, except a little bit of embarrassment.

COLLINS: But, of course, what could mean a whole heck of a lot is Fani Willis herself, and whether or not she stays on this case. And, Michael, as you looked at what the judge decided here, in throwing out, some of these, there was some legal analysis today that because he's only throwing out some of these, and not this entire indictment, as he made clear, that it signifies what he may decide, on Fani Willis herself, a decision that is going to come in the next 48 hours.

What do you believe it means?

MOORE: I think whoever is saying that is a better tea-leaf reader than I am. I don't think he put a lot of information into the -- this order, about what he may do.

The one -- the one footnote that caught my attention, really, was where he said, look, if the D.A. wants to appeal this decision, I would probably go along with an appeal, and let them go on up, and they can take a challenge and make -- have an appellate court decide, whether or not I'm right or wrong.

That tells me, frankly, that he is probably thinking this case is not getting tried this year. He would have no problem with some delay, through the appeals process on that. Whether or not that has any bearing on the District Attorney, I don't know.

But we do have a fairly well-reasoned order on this demurrer. He laid it out. He explained his thought process, what the legal ramifications were. I think you're going to see the same type of order.

And it'll just be a matter whether or not he thinks they've proven the connection, between the financial prong of the disqualification motion, or whether or not he thinks that the appearance of the impropriety is so bad that he can't let the case go forward, with that kind of baggage hanging on them.


And Jennifer, I mean, we heard from Steve Sadow, Trump's attorney in this case, bragging today, saying that this means the whole case should be dismissed, because these few charges were. They would certainly like to see that.

But when you actually look at the heart of this and whether or not that's going to happen. What's your sense?

RODGERS: Oh, that's not going to happen. I mean, the disqualification is what's up in the air now. But the rest of the charges are solid.

COLLINS: If she -- if she's off the case, it threatens the entire case, because it's not clear that another prosecutor would take it.

RODGERS: Well that's for sure. If she is off the case, I think this is probably never going to trial. Certainly not this year. I don't know that any other prosecutor, in Georgia, will want to take it up, or has the resources, frankly, to take it up.

COLLINS: Jennifer Rodgers, thank you, as always. Michael Moore. Great to have you both on.

And of course, the drama in Georgia is just one of several legal battles that Trump is fighting this week, and going to be doing for the next foreseeable future.

In the E. Jean Carroll civil case, here in New York, a judge has approved his $91 million bond.

And tomorrow, the presumptive Republican nominee is not going to be on the campaign trail. He'll be in a Florida courtroom, which he's been using as his campaign trail. That's for a hearing in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.

Here with me to talk about that, CNN Political Analyst, and Senior Political Correspondent for The New York Times, Maggie Haberman.

What's your sense, Maggie, of how Trump is responding to what happened? I mean, Steve Sadow, his attorney, is calling it a victory. How does he see what happened today?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Trump and his folks are very happy about what happened today. But it is a temporary victory. It will be -- the bigger question is going to be what happens, in terms of Fani Willis staying on this case.

But this case is being fought, and they all are, but this one in particular, the Georgia case, is fought on a PR grounds, because there is an expectation this will not get heard this year, at the rate that it's going. And so, anything that Trump and his team can do, to chip away at a perception of validity, in their minds, is a good thing.

Again, legally, this is a temporary win. But in the political realm, this is helpful to him.

COLLINS: I mean, they kind of take the wins that they can get.

HABERMAN: Correct.

COLLINS: Because they've had so many losses lately.

But tomorrow, he is going to be in that courtroom, in Florida. He doesn't have to be there.


COLLINS: And I know we've talked about how it's a political strategy. But is it also a legal strategy, to show, I'm showing up here, I care about this, to Judge Cannon in any way?

HABERMAN: I think it's less important that Donald Trump be at these hearings than say, Walt Nauta, his co-defendant, or Carlos De Oliveira, his co-defendant, because those are people who, I think, are in a certain way, in greater jeopardy, and would be in greater jeopardy, at sentencing.

I think Trump could not show up. I do think he wants to be there. There is an argument, and lawyers have made this to me, that it is better for a defendant to be in court.

We know that Trump sort of over-learned the lesson of not showing up to the first E. Jean Carroll trial in 2023. However, based on how Trump behaved, in the other civil actions, in New York, one was another E. Jean Carroll trial, one was New York Attorney General trial, I'm not sure how much his presence helped him.

This is a different setting. This is a judge he appointed. And it's a different case.


COLLINS: And also, what's notable is there's this fight going on, between Trump's attorneys and the DOJ, in this case--


COLLINS: --over revealing the names of the witnesses here.

And we spoke with one of them on Monday, Trump Employee 5, Brian Butler, as you know. And this is what he told us, in part, about what he witnessed.


COLLINS: You noticed that he had boxes?

BRIAN BUTLER, "TRUMP EMPLOYEE 5": Oh, yes, they were the boxes that were in the indictment. The white Bankers Boxes? That's what I remember loading.

COLLINS: And did you have any time -- any idea, at the time, that there was potentially U.S. national security secrets in those boxes?

BUTLER: No clue. No -- I had no clue. I mean, we were just taking them out of the Escalade, piling them up. I remember they were all stacked on top of each other. And then, we're lifting them up to the pilots.


COLLINS: I mean, if this goes to trial, he is a central witness in all of this.

HABERMAN: He's a central witness. He's describing a scenario, where the former President put a lot of his employees, not just people, who worked at Mar-a-Lago, but people who worked for him in his post- presidential life, as direct aides, in a dangerous situation, because they are handling boxes that had classified material.

Brian Butler, as far as I know, does not have a security clearance. And so, a lot of people were around these documents, who don't have security clearances. That's--

COLLINS: Yes. He was running the car service at Mar-a-Lago.

HABERMAN: Exactly. I mean, that's not -- that's not their fault. That's the material that was taken by the former President. And they are then in this moment of jeopardy.

What strikes me about what he's saying, and to your point about him being a key witness, there are many, many Brian Butlers.

There are many people, who worked for Trump, whether it was in the White House, whether it was on the campaign, whether it was at Mar-a- Lago, who, whether it was in the documents trial, or the federal January 6 trial, who will testify, and it will just not be a good fact set for him.

So, as much as he is going to try to take control of the narrative, outside the courtroom, where there won't be cameras, in any of these trials, there will still be a lot of testimony that gets heard that is just not going to be helpful, to him.

COLLINS: I think that's a really good point, because we've seen these one-off instances, where someone who is close to him, turns on him, or they legally cooperate against him, because they were placed in situations--


COLLINS: --where in the middle of it.

But this would be two situations, in these two cases, where it would be a stream of the closest people around him, and documents. It would be everyone who's worked at Mar-a-Lago, from cooks to people running the car service, to body-men.

In January 6, the case in D.C., it's everyone, who worked in his cabinet, in his administration.

HABERMAN: And it's not actually that different, the type of circumstance that we're talking about, the specifics of it is, in terms of the Alvin Bragg trial, which is the one that's starting in less than two weeks. The central witness there is Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer and lawyer. And that is a narrower case with fewer witnesses. It's really pretty dependent on Cohen.

But there is documented evidence. There are, you know, there are emails, there is written correspondence, there are financial records that are going to be part of that record.

It's the same basic idea. It's somebody, who was in a situation, where they said they were doing something for Trump, or Trump wanted them to do something. And you just see that on a much bigger level, with the January 6 or documents case.

COLLINS: Yes. And you just -- you also see, he's tried to kind of learn his lesson, I guess you would say. Michael Cohen always says, having him keep people in the fold, and pay for their attorneys.

They've tried to do that at Mar-a-Lago, but they haven't been successful. I mean, Brian Butler, they--

HABERMAN: Yes. COLLINS: --they tried to pay for his attorney.


COLLINS: And he was like, no, I'm going to get my own.

HABERMAN: Yes. In fact, they tried to reach out to him to get him an attorney, and he didn't return the phone call, from the Trump lawyer, who reached out to him. You're absolutely right, that there was a pattern that they observed.

There, I think, are other complicating factors, in some of these cases. But the end result has been trying to keep people in the tent. And it does not always work.

COLLINS: Are you surprised that Trump hasn't said anything about that interview, those comments? He talks about E. Jean Carroll, every five minutes, calls her Miss Bergdorf Goodman. He hasn't said anything about Brian Butler. I don't know if it's because of his release conditions that he's not supposed to talk about the witnesses here.

HABERMAN: I think that a lot of it is about not talking about witnesses, in a particular federal case, because there has been so much concern, from the government, about witness intimidation, in that case.

In the E. Jean Carroll case, he did go many, many weeks without doing it. When he started doing it again, it was right after he posted that bond. And I don't think those two are unrelated. Now, you could make the argument he's posted the bond, it's over. He's certainly not helping himself with his appeal, by doing that.

COLLINS: Well, and you would think he would learn his lesson on that since it's costing him.

HABERMAN: I think some of these lessons, like filing lawsuits that he ends up paying the other side's legal fees for, he has to learn several times.

COLLINS: Maggie Haberman.

HABERMAN: It seems.

COLLINS: It's always great to have you.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Here's a big question, for a lot of people, who may be on their phones, right now. Is TikTok about to be banned in the United States? It is a real possibility, at this moment, after the U.S. House today overwhelmingly voted and passed a bill that would ban it nationwide, over national security concerns. It has set off major concerns, among millions of users, some of whose paychecks depend on it.

Plus, in one of the first moves, since Trump's takeover over the Republican National Committee, they're suing the Secretary of State, in Michigan. Well she's here to respond.



COLLINS: Tonight, the United States is one step closer to a potential TikTok ban, after the House voted, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, to pass a bill that would actually ban the social media platform, from U.S. app stores, unless its Chinese parent company sells it, something that would not be any easy kind of feat.

And while the bill's fate is still unclear, tonight, at this hour, what's going to happen in the Senate. We have heard from the White House, and President Biden says that he would sign it if it makes it to his desk. It's still a big if.

But supporters of TikTok are arguing -- supporters of this bill, I should say, are arguing that TikTok poses a national security threat.


But we're hearing pushback from the company's CEO, Shou Chew, who's offering this defense of the app, tonight.


SHOU CHEW, TIKTOK CEO: Over the last few years, we have invested, to keep your data safe, and all platform, free from outside manipulation.

This bill gives more power to a handful of other social media companies.

It will put more than 300,000 American jobs at risk, and it will take away your TikTok.


COLLINS: Here tonight, Democratic congressman of Illinois, Raja Krishnamoorthi, who first introduced this bill, alongside his Republican colleague, the Chairman, Mike Gallagher, in the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

Congressman, it's great to have you here.

First, I would just love to have you respond to what the TikTok CEO said, just moments ago, in that new video.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Unfortunately, I think, the TikTok CEO is getting into trouble once again. He made similar representations, on Capitol Hill, which proved to be false.

He made three, at least three representations which were false.

First, he claimed that American user data is stored only in America and Singapore. That turned out to be false. Some of it is stored on PRC servers, including sensitive financial information. Secondly, he claimed that ByteDance employees in China have no access,

to the data of Americans. Again, false. It turns out that ByteDance employees in China routinely access this data, even unbeknownst to TikTok USA employees.

And then, the third representation he made, before Congress, is that this data has not been weaponized against Americans. Again, that's false. This data has been used to surveil American journalists, and a very well-documented story of journalists here, who basically uncovered the previous misrepresentations, being surveilled, based on their geolocation data, on their TikTok app.

COLLINS: Well, and obviously, you have all of those national security concerns that are the top of mind for you.

But just because this passed the House, there are still major questions about what happens to it, in the Senate. I mean, it kind of seems stuck in purgatory, right now. And do you believe -- have you gotten any assurances, from Senator Schumer that he's going to take this bill up?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: We're going to respect the Leader's -- Leader Schumer's process. We've had many positive conversations. But we're going to allow the process to unfold, as it should, in the Senate. And we look forward to working with folks over there, on passage of this bill.

COLLINS: Obviously, there are a lot of young people, on TikTok. But there's also a lot of people in their 30s and 40s, who are on it. I think it's 45 percent or so, of their users in the U.S. are in their 30s and 40s. They may be watching this, right now, and wondering why TikTok would be banned.

And we've heard some complaints, actually, from some people, who talk about what if your bill succeeded, if it passed the Senate, and made it to President Biden's desk, what it would mean for them.

Take a listen to what they said.


SIDNEY JEWEL (ph), TIKTOK USER: Literally, not even a month ago, I quit my job, to do TikTok, social media, full-time. And now, this.

NADYA OKAMOTO, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR, TIKTOK USER: There are eight years of Generation Z that are now eligible voters, in this election year.

Do you really want to piss them all off by taking away their favorite app, where they make friends, where they make contents, where they laugh, where a lot of us creators make our money? You want to take that app away?


COLLINS: Well, I mean, what would you say to those users, Congressman? KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, we don't. This bill is not a ban. It's about a divestiture. And it's really not about TikTok. It's about ByteDance. It's about ByteDance, which is basically controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Just one data point. The Editor-in-Chief of ByteDance is the Secretary of the CCP cell, embedded at the very highest levels of ByteDance, to control all of its products, including TikTok.

And so, what we're saying and what we expect is that once this bill were to become law, that essentially ByteDance would then sell off enough ownership, to get below the 20 percent threshold that's specified in the law. And then, the app would continue to operate as it is right now.

This is not without precedent. Let me just point out one thing. Grindr, a very popular LGBTQ dating app, was once owned by a Chinese company. Once the United States government recognized that the CCP had access to sensitive data, about LGBTQ members of the U.S. military and the government, it forced the divestment.

Now, this happened very quickly, and there was no disruption of service for the users. And I suspect the exact same thing will happen with regard to TikTok.

COLLINS: Congressman, we'll see if you are right. We'll see what happens, in the Senate first. That's the next step here.

But Congressman Krishnamoorthi, always great to have you on.



COLLINS: Meanwhile, new hires and new lawsuits happening, as a result of those new hires, by the new Trump-controlled Republican National Committee, the committee that is now targeting the top election official, in a crucial battleground state of 2024.

Michigan's Secretary of State is here to respond to that new lawsuit from Republicans, right after a quick break.


COLLINS: The new version, Trump-controlled version, of the Republican National Committee is now going on the offensive, as Donald Trump's handpicked team has immediately hired lawyers, Charlie Spies and Christina Bobb.


You may recognize Christina Bobb, because yes, that is her, the election-denying conspiracy theorist, and a Trump favorite, who championed lies, about how the 2020 election was stolen, when it was not. She is now the senior counsel for election integrity. You may also remember her. She's also the Trump attorney, who signed

that sworn statement, in June 2022, falsely assuring Justice Department officials that there weren't any more classified documents left, at Mar-a-Lago. Two months later, of course, when that FBI search happened, the world found out that that was not true.

But these new lawyers are wasting no time getting to work. And they have filed the first, in what we are told is going to be a barrage of election-related lawsuits.

First up is Michigan, a state that I should note Trump lost by fewer than a 155,000 votes in 2020. That is where he and his allies have filed and lost nine lawsuits against the election.

This latest effort, though, claims that the state has too many dead people still signed up to vote. Even though less than two weeks ago, a similar suit was dismissed, after a judge noted, and I'm quoting that Judge now, "Michigan is consistently among the most active states in the United States canceling the registrations of deceased individuals."

Here tonight, to weigh on, on this, no one better than the Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson.

And Madam Secretary, it's great to have you here.

Why do you think Donald Trump's team made your state, Michigan, their first target?


And I wasn't surprised at all by this lawsuit, except for the fact that an identical lawsuit was just dismissed, for having no actual merit.

But that said, it was no surprise because Michigan is a key battleground state in this presidential cycle. So, just as we were scrutinized, in the spotlight, in 2020, we will be again this year.

But we welcome that scrutiny. We're accustomed to fighting back against that scrutiny. The truth is on our side. Our elections are secure. So no matter how many lawsuits are filed, that truth will continue to rule the day.

And yet voters should expect these attacks, or these strategies, to continue all through November, and probably even after.

COLLINS: Well, and I think it's important to look at the data here, and the numbers, because that judge that we were quoting, he has found between 2019 and 2023 of just last year that Michigan canceled between 400,000 and 450,000 registration because those voters were deceased.

So, I mean, I guess if you're looking at this, and you're a regular person, and they're already clearing names off the voting rolls, I mean, what do you think this lawsuit is actually about? BENSON: Yes, well, you're exactly right. We've done more in the last five years than when -- than has been done in the previous two decades in Michigan, to remove ineligible citizens, from our voter rolls, and increase their accuracy.

The reason this is happening is because it's a political strategy, it's a PR strategy, masquerading as a legal strategy, that's really designed to sow seeds of doubt, among citizens in Michigan, and frankly, around the country, about the integrity of our elections.

And so, we'll continue to push back, against these deceptive tactics because this is, not the last of which we'll see. And we should expect to see these in other battleground states, like Nevada and Arizona as well, all tactics designed to harm citizens' faith in their own voice, in their vote, in the results of our elections, which will continue to be accurate reflections of the will of the people, regardless of who the winner is.

COLLINS: Yes, we'll see what this election integrity unit gets accomplished.

Secretary Benson, thank you so much for joining here tonight.

And also, to weigh in on this we have, on the RNC's new mission, CNN's Political Commentator, and former Obama administration official, Van Jones; and also Senior CNN Political Commentator, and former Trump campaign adviser, David Urban.

And David, let me start with you. Because I think just looking at, what you just heard from Benson there, saying that this is a political strategy, masquerading as a legal strategy. What do you make of that?

DAVID URBAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, listen, Charlie Spies, who is the new Chief Counsel for the RNC is an incredibly accomplished lawyer, with -- he is no joke. And so, I have great faith, in his ability, to carry forward this mission, in terms of kind of rooting out maybe some irregularities, in different voting rolls, across the country.

And listen, I am glad to hear that Secretary Benson welcomes this investigation. I think she should.

If they're -- if the suit is alleging that there are in 53 counties, in Michigan, that there are more people on the rolls, than there are adults in the county. I would think that, either that's factual or it's not factual. We will find out. And if it isn't factual, then great. Let's clear the air. But if it is, we should make sure that's corrected.

COLLINS: Yes. But David, I mean, you would agree that the track record, history is not on their side. They've made a million baseless claims, about the election that were never borne out.

URBAN: Yes. But you know what? Yes, but it doesn't mean that this one isn't. How do you -- so, to dismiss this out of hand is not factual or not relevant, isn't just even fair. So, I don't think that's -- I think that we should wait and see. If it's not -- if it's not factual, then you can talk smack about it then. But at this point in time, the judge is going to hear the case. And we'll see what happens.


And again, I have great deal of confidence--


URBAN: --that Charlie Spies is no joke.

JONES: Well, I noticed you're talking about Charlie. You're not talking about Christina Bobb. Nobody has any confidence in. She's an election denier conspiracy theorist.

And also, this very exact set of facts was literally just thrown out of court, two weeks ago, in the same state.

So, here's what I see is going on. This is just the beginning of a very aggressive, hyper-aggressive strategy, on the part of this new Republican Party.

First of all, Trump comes in. He doesn't care about competency. He doesn't care about policy. He cares about loyalty. He's installed the people at the top of this party, who are loyalty him, more they are to the Constitution or anything else, and they are already going on offense.

And the point, it's obviously baseless. You literally just had these facts thrown out.

They're going to have a barrage. They want to put these election officials, back on their heels, have them afraid to do anything, rather than doing their job. And the point is to -- is to shape the battlefield, so that this idea that the election is going to be stolen from us, is already baked in even before anybody votes.

COLLINS: I can also feel Patrick (ph), from my team, almost probably screaming in the control room, because Michigan also has a voter ID law in place.

JONES: Yes. Oh, yes.

COLLINS: It's not like dead people can just go, or people can just go and use dead people's names, to vote in Michigan.

JONES: Yes. Well, I mean, that's part of the problem.

But here's the thing. I think Democrats have to be very careful, because I think we may be fighting the last war, playing the game the old way. In the old way, the way you win an election is you increase the quantity of people, who are voting for you. You're worrying about who is casting a vote.

Donald Trump says, forget that. I want to control the people, who are counting the vote. I want to make sure that we'd never again have a Republican Party,

where people are in place, who actually care more about the Constitution than care about Donald Trump.

And so now, you're going to have the attempt to control who is casting them -- who is counting the votes. And that is very, very dangerous. That's where we're headed.

COLLINS: Well, David, what do you make of that?

URBAN: Yes. Listen, I think that, again, we should -- we should welcome all these looks at these different places, early on, like this, right? So, in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, let's clear the air.

Let's clear the air, so that on Election Night, we have a great deal of confidence, in the electoral system, and that people know when they go to the polls, their votes actually count, and they're being counted squarely and fairly.

So, I think, the more the better, level the playing field right now, let's make sure people have confidence in their election system.

And Van and I've discussed this. We've discussed this all together, I think. I'd love to see on Election Night, a winner declared, right, so that we know who wins on Election Night, and that confidence is rebuilt in the American electorate that our elections are fair and square.

COLLINS: But David -- and David, I know you approach this from a very sober point of view.

We've talked about this, and covered this ever since 2020. But it's not that people think the election isn't fair, because there was legitimate -- there were legitimate -- legitimate issues in Michigan, or in Georgia, or in Arizona. It's only because Trump and his allies repeated lies about it. None of them that borne out, all of these court cases, were thrown out, 64 of them.

So, it kind of feels like the boy who cried wolf, when they're saying, well, we're worried about dead voters in Michigan, when there was a judge saying that Michigan is one of the top states dealing with that.

URBAN: Yes. And that was in that specific case. And I think each case deserves to stand on the merits and fall on the merits. So, those cases are the past, right? Doesn't mean the past is prologue here. Let's see what happens in this case.

COLLINS: David Urban, Van Jones, we will continue this conversation, I imagine, over the next several months. Thank you both for being here tonight.

JONES: Thank you.

URBAN: Thanks.

COLLINS: Also, meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is rattling his nuclear saber again, his new warning to the West, about using nukes if necessary.

We'll get reaction from a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, his thoughts on those threats ahead.



COLLINS: Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says that Moscow is ready for a nuclear war with the West, if it ever comes to that. This is in an interview that he did with state media today, boasting about Russia's nuclear capabilities.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Our triad, the nuclear triad, is more modern than any other triad. And it's only us and the Americans who have such triads.


COLLINS: That saber rattling came ahead of presidential elections, in Russia, this Friday, the not so free or fair elections that Putin, a certified dictator, has won over and over and over again.

Joining us tonight to talk about all of this, is retired four-star Admiral, James Stavridis, who served as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, and is also the Author of the new science fiction novel, "2054."

And Admiral, I want to talk about your book in a moment.

But just first, on these comments, from Vladimir Putin. I mean, this is the second time, in less than two weeks, that he's threatened this. What do you make of him saying this and why he's saying it now?

ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER OF NATO: We always ought to be concerned when the leader of a nuclear- armed state kind of rattles that nuclear saber. But I think it's highly unlikely Vladimir Putin will use a nuclear weapon.

Number one, I despise Vladimir Putin. But I'll give him this. He loves his country. So, he's not going to reach for the lever to the nuclear apocalypse and destroy Russia. So, let's kind of park that strategic exchange.

Number two, militarily, it's a 600-mile battlefront. Using tactical nuclear weapons, not a very good proposition, militarily.

And number three, Kaitlan, he knows if he uses a nuclear weapon? India is gone. Pakistan is gone. Nigeria is gone. South Africa is gone. Brazil is gone. The Global South will move away from him. I think it's highly unlikely he uses a nuke.

COLLINS: Well, that's interesting, because we've been having this conversation, ever since he invaded Ukraine, and he's been, as you noted, rattling that saber.


And Jim Sciutto, my colleague, reported this week that actually in late 2022, there was this moment, where the U.S. was actually rigorously preparing for a potential nuclear strike in Ukraine. They were worried about Ukraine potentially retaking Crimea and how Putin would react if that happened.

He denied that in this exchange today.

But Western intelligence agencies got information that Russian officials were, at least some of them, explicitly discussing a strike.

And I just wondered, are we in this new era, where now this is a regular threat that we are going to have to kind of assess every time he or another world leader makes it?

STAVRIDIS: Kaitlan, it's a threat that has never gone away.

And as the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, even 10 years ago, in that role, I thought, consciously and frequently, about the potential for Russia, to use tactical nuclear weapons. That's part of the job of my successor, the current SACEUR, General Chris Cavoli.

I wouldn't over-read into it, that the West is thinking about it. That's different than the assessment of whether or not Putin would use it. I think it's highly unlikely, he would.

COLLINS: I'd love to get your take on Ukraine, on the battlefield, and what they've been doing, as of course, they're dealing with the shortage of ammunition. They're having issues with air defense right now.

And they've kind of been intensifying efforts, to move a piece of this war that we're seeing playing out, onto Russian turf, launching a wave of attacks, of drone attacks, deep inside Russia, obviously right ahead of this presidential election.

I wonder what you make of that choice by Ukraine.

STAVRIDIS: I think it's a smart choice. Let's face it. War is not static. This started off with Russia, two years ago, threatening to really sweep the table, and run, take Kyiv, perhaps kills Zelenskyy, and overtake the country.

Then, the Ukrainians come back, and they push hard against every element of Russia, score a lot of advances.

Now, Russia is pushing back.

The key here, Kaitlan, is not what's happening in Kyiv, not what's happening in Moscow, not even what's happening on that battlefield. The key is Washington.

The United States must step up, provide the additional $60 billion in aid, to Ukraine, matching what the Europeans have already contributed. That will give the Ukrainians, the breathing space, they need, to push back against the recent minor offensive successes of Russia. I'm confident they will, if we close the switch and send them the aid.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, there are certainly efforts by Republicans, and Democrats, who share that assessment.

But I also want to talk about your book. Because you had this book, this futuristic book, "2034," that was so popular. And now, you have published "2054."

And for those who haven't read it or been aware of it, it's another cautionary tale that begins with a U.S. President, refusing to leave office, and also dealing with the rise of artificial intelligence, and how that plays in the geopolitical space. There are a lot of people, who may look at that and say, hits a little too close to home for me.

But tell me what scenario "2054" takes readers through.

STAVRIDIS: Again, as you just said, this is not predictive fiction. I'm not predicting a new set of political parties by the mid-century. I'm not predicting civil conflict in America. I'm not predicting pervasive and potentially dangerous AI.

But I'm cautioning. We'd better wake up to those trends, from where we are today, in 2024. Look at these intense disagreements in our country, and think about how can we come together to avoid a civil conflict?

Think about America in 1824. Looking ahead, 30 years, 40 years, could we have reverse-engineered it, and avoided a civil war? I think we still can. That's the point of "2054." Be very concerned about civil conflict, artificial intelligence. But let's think now about how we avoid it.

COLLINS: Yes, it's a good cautionary tale, "2054."

Admiral James Stavridis, thank you, for joining me, tonight.

STAVRIDIS: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Coming up, switching subjects, on you quite a bit, because the teeth of a U.S. Governor are now in the news. Why? Because Kristi Noem of South Dakota is showing them off, in a video, that is raising a lot of questions, some of them ethical.

One lawmaker, in her state, is now even calling for an inquiry, into what you're seeing here. We'll show you more after a quick break.



COLLINS: The Republican governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, who you see here, is facing new questions, tonight, from lawmakers in her state, and also facing new legal action, over this five-minute video that she posted, not related at all to her state, or her gubernatorial duties, but instead about her teeth.

Noem, who I should note, here, is on the shortlist to be Trump's potential vice presidential pick, posted this five-minute uncanny testimonial video. I guess, you can say it's about her dental work, at a Houston area cosmetic dentistry firm.

Here's a taste of what she had to say.



GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): Well hi. I am Kristi Noem. I'm the Governor of South Dakota. And had the opportunity to come to Smile Texas, to fix my teeth, which has been absolutely amazing.

You know, I think that I chose the team here at Smile Texas, because they're the best.

When they showed me my beautiful new teeths, I hugged Dr. Davis, and thanked him, and started to cry, just because he really does care about the work that he does.


COLLINS: That video has now sparked questions, about whether the clip was produced or posted, to offset the cost of that procedure, questions which I should note, Noem's office has declined to answer, in the nearly 48 hours, since she posted it.

My next guest has been going over every angle of this story. New York Magazine's Washington correspondent, Olivia Nuzzi, joins me now.

I mean, Olivia, I know you are one of the reporters, who reached out to Governor Noem's office. Did you hear anything from them?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I did not hear back. I talked to a very polite receptionist, who had no information for me whatsoever. But I never heard back from them.

And the dental practice in question, Smile Texas (ph), they have been very dodgy. They've given different questions -- different answers to different reporters, who have reached out.

To the AP, tonight, they're reporting that the office said that they were referring them to one law.

To me, they said it was a HIPAA violation to disclose any information about whether or not there was payment to Kristi Noem, or whether or not she received this procedure for free, in exchange for her posting this testimony.

COLLINS: Well, and I think that's a critical point here. I mean, no one cares if someone has cosmetic procedures, or whatever they have done.



NUZZI: And she looks great, by the way. Her teeth look great.

COLLINS: Her teeth do look great. It's a great smile. But I think it's the question of--


COLLINS: --it's a publicly elected official. She's posting about a business. It's not even in her home state. It's in the State of Texas.

NUZZI: It's very strange. I think the first reaction for most people seeing it was just that it was very odd.

I mean, typically, if you were a politician, from a state, or particularly if you're the governor, you're not going to promote small businesses that are not located in your state. It's very unusual. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. So, that was the first strange thing that jumped out.

And then, it's very strange to have a sitting politician, a governor, behaving sort of like an Instagram influencer.

And there are laws that govern this type of thing. You are supposed to disclose whether or not you are posting an ad, or whether or not it's a video that's not biased towards your profit, in any sort of way. And that's for all people. That's not just for politicians. So, if Governor Noem is flouting those laws, I think the public has the right to know.

COLLINS: Yes. And there's -- she's not the only one posting. One of the dentists at this place--


COLLINS: --that is called Smile Texas, posted this photo, and said "This gracious leading lady... just received an executive, feminine, beautiful smile hear at Smile Texas."

And I mean, you mentioned the potential legal action. She is facing a lawsuit, by a consumer advocacy group, Travelers United--


COLLINS: --that says that it is an undisclosed advertising, because it doesn't say ad or anything on it.

I mean, we've seen other people, people like Kim Kardashian, face actual legal repercussions, and have to make payments because of something like that.

NUZZI: Right. In theory, the standard should be higher for elected officials. The standard should not be that they behave like influencers. It should be that they behave in a more ethical manner than influencers. So, it's very strange case.

And I should note, the AP reported that the dental practice said that only Governor Noem had posted a video. That's not true. The dentist, who performed the procedure, whom Governor Noem refers to in that video, also posted it. And he also promised to post a more in-depth video, about the specifics of the procedure. So, there's some misinformation, floating around, from this Texas dental practice.

COLLINS: One, it's also just notable -- that's so nice. But it's also just notable that her office hasn't said anything about it. And I think the one thing that--


COLLINS: --you know, we've noticed this pattern of, in different ways, haven't seen it with anyone's smile, in recent weeks. But it's for people who are on Trump's VP shortlist, and the way that they've acted publicly, given he is a very optics-driven, former presidential candidate.

NUZZI: It's true. Looks matter to the former President. And so, I suppose if you were vying to be his Vice President, right now, it's not the dumbest idea in the world, to make sure that your smile is particularly camera-ready.

COLLINS: Have you heard anything from people in Trump-world about this?

NUZZI: I haven't really. Just from all sorts of people in politics, a lot of what the hell is going on with this. It's a very strange story. And that's by the standards of 2024, which is saying a lot.

COLLINS: It absolutely is.

Olivia Nuzzi, I know that you will stay on this with your impeccable reporting skills. Thank you.

NUZZI: My Pulitzer is in mail, I assume.

COLLINS: Thank you so much, Olivia.

NUZZI: Thank you. Bye

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


Up next, a big new show, on "KING CHARLES." They're going to be talking about my home state, the State of Alabama, also Charles Barkley's home state, and how it's been in the news lately, with Alabama senator, Katie Britt's Republican State of the Union response, to President Biden.

I will be joining them, to talk about it. So, make sure you stick around.

Thanks for joining us here, on THE SOURCE.

But "KING CHARLES" starts right now.