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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

NTSB: Baltimore Key Bridge Did Not Have Any Redundancy; Judge Recommends Ex-Trump Lawyer John Eastman Be Disbarred; "The Anxious Generation" Author: Phone Addiction Killing Gen Z. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 27, 2024 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I mean, in terms of politics, is there one, like, event, you think he will most remembered? I mean, I guess the Vice President.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: His history making as the vice presidential candidate.


KING: And also, the big divide in the country and the Democratic Party.

He supported the surge in Iraq.

COOPER: Right.

KING: And thought it was the right policy.

And of course, Barack Obama became president, because Axelrod ran a great campaign, Obama was a great candidate, but also because the country was so mad about the Iraq war.


KING: He was on the side that people were mad about.

COOPER: John King, thank you so much. David Axelrod, as well.

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


Breaking news, out of Baltimore, where moments ago, the NTSB revealed what's been discovered, on a newly-obtained data recorder, from that doomed cargo ship. And 764 tons of hazardous material that was on board when it crashed into that bridge.

Also tonight, there's a new litmus test apparently, to get a job at the new Trump-run Republican National Committee. Wrong answers only, apparently, to this question. Was the 2020 election stolen? It wasn't. But also, just in, speaking of the 2020 election, the chief architect

of that plot to keep Trump in power is, tonight, facing a major reckoning.

And screens and teens. Are smartphones and social media dooming a generation? A guest, tonight, who has studied the science says yes, and to take them all away, until high school.

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

But we start with the breaking news, tonight, as we have just heard from the NTSB, with new information, on its investigation, of the collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, details on the data recorder that was obtained from that 200 million pound cargo ship.

Officials say there are six hours of recordings, and numerous alarms can be heard, as they laid out a timeline of what happened, including this.

At 1:26 AM, the ship's pilot asked nearly, for those tugboats that were nearby, that had been helping the ship, to come back for help. Then, ordered for the anchor to be dropped, because the ship had lost all power by that point.

All of this happening just moments before that big crash. We're going to piece together this timeline and what it could mean, as this investigation is very much still underway.

This comes, today, as we also learned that in that pitch-black water, and those dangerously frigid temperatures and high tides, with mangled metal all around them, divers, late today, discovered the two bodies, of six -- of the six missing people, two of the six of those construction workers, who were just doing their jobs, on the Key Bridge when this disaster struck.

One was identified by a driver's license, in his pocket, the other by a single fingerprint. We'll talk more about the victims here in a moment.

But on that breaking news, CNN's Pete Muntean joins us, was at that NTSB news conference that just wrapped moments ago.

Pete, tell us just the highlights, as this investigation is going on. We're getting so many briefings a day. What did they just tell us, moments ago?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: National Transportation Safety Board Chair, Jennifer Homendy, described a sad tale, a boat completely out of control, helpless, with no hope, careening toward the Key Bridge.

What is really interesting is that investigators now have the voyage data recorder. And they were able to give us a tick-tock, a blow-by- blow, of what was going on, on the ship.

It left port at about 1:24 -- sorry, it left -- left port earlier than 1:24, about 1:06 in the morning. But at 1:24:59, numerous alarms lit up on the bridge of the ship. That

is when the crew, on the bridge of the ship, called for the tugboats that pulled it out of the Seagirt port there, in the Port of Baltimore, to come back.

They reported multiple power failures, and they describe about four minutes and 30 seconds of terror, this boat, essentially out of control, veering off of the channel, in the center of the Patapsco River, and toward one of these main pilings of the Key Bridge.

What is also really critical here, and underscored by NTSB Chair, Jennifer Homendy, is that this bridge is fracture critical, meaning that of the three spans of the bridge, if one of the pilings comes down, all of the bridge comes down, all of the dominoes comes down.

And she says, that is especially concerning, considering the fact that these bridges are, in many places, across the country. And this ship was 95,000 tonnes, about the weight of an aircraft carrier, about the length of the Empire State Building.

It is also really critical to point out here that the voyage data recorder only recorded very few parameters. It's not like a commercial airliner, she says, with a 1,000 different points. They have only about five different points of data, including the frantic calls, on the bridge of the ship, to clear the bridge, and to get cars off of it.


They say today, according to Governor Wes Moore, that those actions were heroic.

COLLINS: Pete Muntean, thank you for that update from Baltimore.

And we also have here with us tonight, the Baltimore Fire Chief, James Wallace.

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

I know this investigation is very much still underway. And as Pete was saying, there's only so much they can get, from that voyage data recorder, talking about how, it's also hard to hear because there were so many sirens and alarms going off.

But on the investigation in itself, and how it shifted today, from this recovery mode to a salvage operation, what does the current state of this investigation look like?

CHIEF JAMES WALLACE, BALTIMORE CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: So -- and good evening, Kaitlan. And thank you for having me.

So, some of -- from a fire department perspective, as you've heard over, and you've spoken about, naturally, we're still very cognizant of the fact that there are hazardous materials on board the vessel itself. From a dive team perspective, our team stood down, this afternoon,

after being involved in over a dozen dives, just over the past two days. We're at a point, right now, where we believe that we've searched all areas, underwater, that are safe for divers to search.

Now we're moving towards an operation, where some salvage is going to need to happen, a lot of underwater debris is going to need to be removed, and the bottom, if you will, of the collapse zone, stabilized, before divers can reenter the water, for any other purposes.

So, a lot of instability on the -- on the crash scene, and something that we're going to have to really be attentive to, over the next few days.

COLLINS: What's your sense of, if you have one, even at this point, of how long it would take, to clear that debris, in order, for the divers to be able to go back safely to those areas.

WALLACE: My sense, it's going to be a couple of days.

We're very fortunate. And Secretary Buttigieg was out there, with us, yesterday, and promised anything that we would need, as well as our governor. Senator Van Hollen, Cardin, and our Mayor.

And we've not had to ask for anything yet. People are coming to us. Agencies are rallying around us, at the state and federal level. And we have all the help that we need, right now. And things are moving very quickly.

My sense is it's going to take a few days. I think the Corps of Engineers, as well as the Coast Guard, and some other structural engineers need to conduct a good thorough assessment, of the incident scene, both above and below water.

But especially, up on the bow of the boat, up on the deck, there's a lot of bridge structure up there that remains very unstable. There was damage to the bow of the boat, especially the port side. And as was earlier stated, there are sea containers up there that are very unstable.

So, it's going to take a lot of assessment--


WALLACE: --and a lot of meticulous assessment--


WALLACE: --to really get us there.

COLLINS: Chief, let me ask you, though, because you just mentioned one of the biggest headlines, out of that press conference, which is the 764 tons of hazardous material that was on that ship.

And what I believe the NTSB Chair, well, one, she described it as corrosives, flammables. And she said that some of them are breached on the ship, including flammables. And she also described a sheen on the water, seeming to suggest that some of it has made it into the water.

Is that what you -- do you know how much of that is in the water, if so?

WALLACE: We don't know how much is in the water, right now. We are aware that hazardous materials are part of the cargo and, as described, various hazard classes.

What we've been able to do, and it's been really, we've relied very heavily on aerial reconnaissance. So, the night of the incident, we had Overwatch and Maryland State Police, who had infrared capability. And then, we've had drones up over top of the site itself. That's the only way we're able to see in.

Oftentimes, when chemicals release, there are chemical reactions, that they give off heat. They'll give off a very strong odor. They'll give off a vapor cloud. And it's been that Overwatch piece that's been able to really assure us, right now, we have no reactions on board.

I would also add, it's going to be very difficult, if not impossible, and very dangerous, to place people on the bow of that boat, right now, with the sea containers as tight as they are, and the way they've shifted.

COLLINS: Chief James Wallace, thank you, for your time, tonight.

WALLACE: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

COLLINS: Also joining us again is maritime expert, Sal Mercogliano, who knows ports and container ships, inside and out, as we talked about, last night.

You cover this, on your YouTube channel, "What's Going on With Shipping?" And Sal, it's great to have you back.


Because the other big headline, out of that press conference that we just got, from the NTSB officials, was about what was happening, with the timeline. And what was heard, the alarms, before the ship actually hit that bridge, and hearing that pilots called for tugboats, to come and assist, but obviously, they didn't make it there in time.

What was your reaction to that?

SAL MERCOGLIANO, FORMER MERCHANT MARINER: Well, I think, we were piecing together what happened on board that ship.

And one of the things you did here is that ship's VDRs, vessel data recorders, are not as complex. They don't get as much information as airplane black boxes.

But what we did get was a good kind of timeline, which we hope to get read to us, in the near future, of the exact orders that came out on the bridge. It sounds like, again, the ship's pilots, there were two pilots on board, Chesapeake Bay pilots, who sounded the alarm, almost immediately.

Once that power went out, they knew they were in trouble. They set in motion, their emergency distress signal out. They sent a Mayday out. It started movement on the bridge. It started tugs and coast guard vessels heading their way. And the crew seemed to have performed admirably, in trying to get a handle on the situation.

What we didn't learn, obviously, is what caused the power outage. Matter of fact, we didn't -- the NTSB wouldn't even confirm that there was a power outage, at this time.

COLLINS: Yes, they also said that they hadn't spoken to the pilots yet.

And I guess if there's -- there's a limit to that data recorder. And I want to get more to that in a moment. But if there's a limit to that, I mean, what kind of questions do they have, would you have, for the pilots here?

MERCOGLIANO: Well, I think they want to get the feel of the pilots. Going on board, what was told to them by the ship's master? Was everything in order? What was the events, leading up to the loss of power? Was there any indications at all that there was a problem with it?

I would want them also interview the pilots that brought the Dali up to the port. Have there been any issues, in docking, that vessel, any issues at all, in professionalism, or maintenance with the ship. And then, you want to interview the master.

Remember, the crew on board here is Indian. So, once you let them go, it's going to be very hard to get them back. So, you've got to get all that testimony, all that expert witness information, from them, while they are here.

COLLINS: Do you think they -- I mean, I assume -- it kind of surprised me that they haven't actually spoken to the pilot yet, at this point.

MERCOGLIANO: Yes, I mean, there's a couple of issues at play. I mean, the pilot would be the one you would want to grab first.

Because the pilots not on the vessel anymore. They would have been sent ashore. So, you could have grabbed them, very early, and done that. Get their information before they get exposed to the press, and everything else going on in news, you want to get that feeling.

The ship's crew was on the ship, because they got to maintain the ship. I mean, we still have issues with the ship. If weather comes up, we got to worry about the ship shifting.

But they really need to start gathering that information, as quickly as they can.

Maritime issues are not really the forte of the NTSB. They are much more aviation- and road-focused. So, it's always a challenge when we have maritime issues, with the investigation, I think.

COLLINS: That's really interesting.

And the biggest change that I think, maybe not everyone realizes, is that, what you were just saying about, it's not a black box. It's not -- doesn't have all the data points that you would get, from a commercial airplane, if it had crashed. And just the way, Jennifer Homendy, was describing it as saying it's much more of a snapshot, of what's going on, on the ship, at this time.

I mean, how much less will they learn, because it's a more basic operation?

MERCOGLIANO: They have to fill in the pieces. We've seen these investigations, when El Faro sunk, and a few other vessels we've had incidents with. It's very hard. We don't have all the information.

This is something that the U.S. and the International Maritime Organization should really be pushing, for better documentation, better technology on board the vessels, so that we can see what happens, in case of these emergencies.

A lot of vital data, we're not going to be able to get. Engineering performance, engineering data, that's the kind of stuff that we need to determine, what caused this power failure. Was it mechanical? Was it engineering? Was it electrical? We just don't know. And this is something the NTSB is going to have to do.

And then, of course, you have the issue that this is an international ship, with international companies. And when you start looking at the elements that are at play here, Singapore flag, Danish company, Indian crew, Japanese classification society, it gets very difficult, when you're dealing with all these different entities.

COLLINS: Yes, all really great points.

Sal Mercogliano, great to have you back, on THE SOURCE, with us, here tonight.

MERCOGLIANO: Thank you for having me.

COLLINS: And now, we've talked about the ship here.

We're also still learning more about the bridge, and its structure, including just moments ago, at this press conference.

Nehemiah Mabry is a structural engineer, entrepreneur, and an educator who builds bridges for a living. So, you are the perfect guest to have here.

I just want everyone to listen to a really important moment, from that press conference, about the structural integrity of this bridge. So, this is what officials said.


JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: A member fails, that would likely cause a portion of or the entire bridge to collapse, there's no redundancy.


The preferred method for building bridges today is that there is redundancy built in, whether that's transmitting loads, to another member, or some sort of structural redundancy. This bridge did not have redundancy.


COLLINS: What did you make of that that this bridge didn't have any redundancies on it?

NEHEMIAH MABRY, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Yes, thanks for having me, Kaitlan.

And prayers to all affected by this.

What this is referring to is the type of structure that existed in this main portion of the bridge, known as a truss. Over these three spans there in the middle, truss is made up -- is made up of diagonal members that look sort of like a triangular web.

And these types of structures are often fracture critical, meaning that if a key component, that is either pushing or pulling against another component, adjacent or next to it, is compromised? It can lead to further compromising or domino effect of the members that are along it.

And so, around the late 70s, or 80s, our coding authorities began to really emphasize the need for a structural redundancy. However, today, as was said, it's quite different. But during this time, it was known that truss bridges are very strong. They're among the strongest that you can kind of use, in terms of the ability to support vertical weight.

However, as we learn things, and situations like this happen, the need for structural redundancy became more and more a part of our coding lexicon.

COLLINS: But given those coding changes, as you said, came in closer to the 80s. I mean, this is a bridge that was built in the 1970s. So, this is something that would have happened before those coding and structuring changes happened?

MABRY: Yes, it's hard to tell because there were some lessons we learned, in engineering community, in the late 60s that began to change sort of the emphasis on these design practices. And so, it was designed right around that time.

However, I would say that truss bridges, and in this case, is a continual truss -- continuous truss that actually shares loads across supports as well. So, beyond the fact that the truss itself could potentially be fracture critical, you also have situations where loads are redistributed, or attempted to be shared across supports. And so, we're talking about different levels, whether it's talking

about macro (ph), of the actual truss members, or even the continuous nature of that portion of the bridge in general, it's always important, of course, to have redundancy. And this is something that has become towards the latter part of the 20th Century, something very, very common now, in the bridges that we design.

COLLINS: So, I mean, as they're talking about the massive undertaking, that is rebuilding this bridge, when it comes to that? Obviously, a lot of steps before that. I mean, is that something that would be different, in the reconstruction, this time around?

MABRY: Yes, a couple of things will be different. I mean, obviously, the ship sizes, as was mentioned before, have drastically increased, since the time of the bridge construction.

Not only that, but as we know, there are a number of protective measures even beyond the structure themselves, that are put in place, such as dolphins and fenders that are put in place to protect against collapse or impact of this nature.

So, that being said, I think modern traffic conditions, modern environmental circumstances, our obviously modern shipping circumstances that we have now, all we run into consideration, in the reconstruction and redesign of this bridge.

COLLINS: Yes, it's a long road ahead.

Nehemiah Mabry, thank you for breaking all of that down for us.

MABRY: Thank you.

COLLINS: And as we mentioned, as part of this has moved on, from the recovery phase, to the salvage phase, it means divers can no longer navigate these treacherous waters, because they are so difficult to recover more victims.

We're going to speak to someone, who knows these obstacles well, in just a moment. He was among the first divers in the water, after Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge disaster.

Also tonight, a reckoning, for the chief architect, to stop the 2020 election certification, that man you're looking at right there. We'll tell you in a moment.



COLLINS: Tonight, officials say that they have recovered two victims, in the water, underneath Baltimore's collapsed bridge. But they were forced to suspend the search because divers can no longer safely operate, around the wreckage, because there's so much concrete and twisted metal beneath the surface of that water.

I want to bring in a veteran diver, who knows just how dangerous it can be, under a collapsed bridge. Because when the Sunshine Skyway, over Tampa Bay, was hit by a ship, and also collapsed in 1980, Bob Raiola was a senior diver with the Florida Department of Transportation, and he helped with that recovery effort. And he joins me now.

Bob, it's great to have you.

And, I mean, given Baltimore's harbor has these frigid waters, fast- moving tides, and now these huge pieces of steel and concrete submerged in the water. I mean, how massive is this undertaking?

BOB RAIOLA, FORMER SENIOR DIVER: It's going to be huge. It's going to take quite a while, for the divers to cover the entire area, as thoroughly as they feel like they need to.

Even with the new methods and techniques, with side-scan sonar, most of the dive recovery is going to be tactile. It's going to be with the divers swimming inch by inch, along that concrete and steel debris that's on the bottom.

COLLINS: I imagine, it didn't surprise you when they did call off this search because, right now, it's just too dangerous for them to continue searching down there.

RAIOLA: No, no, I completely understand that. And I appreciate the concern for everybody's safety.


I know that the conditions up there are significantly worse than what they were down here in Florida, on that morning. We had 30 foot of horizontal visibility, the tides and currents are not as significant as they are, up in the harbor, up in Baltimore.

The steel and concrete structure up there still hasn't settled, and is probably subject to movements and stuff. I'm sure, the divers are hearing creaking and groaning, and can't see much out of sight, probably within arm's reach.

I'm sure there's a concern about falling concrete, asphalt and steel, sharp edges, all kinds of obstructions that aren't going to be clearly visible. It's completely understandable.

And I just wish them the best of luck, and encourage them to be cautious. I know that everybody's anxious to, to resolve the issues, and to bring closure to the families and victims. And my heart's out to them.

But my heart also goes out to the first responders, the divers, the people topside that are attending them and taking care of them.

And I caution, please be careful. No matter what you do, you're never going to feel like you've done enough, whether it's tonight, or tomorrow, or next week. It may take quite some time to resolve all of the issues that are going on, completely underwater, let alone when they begin the investigation. COLLINS: Yes.

RAIOLA: So, I urge caution. And I'm glad that the Coast Guard is taking caution.

COLLINS: Well, and you know, I mean, what they're going through, what this is like. And we have a picture, from 1980, after that Skyway Bridge collapsed. You're there, on the left, in this photo.

I mean, can you just kind of take us back to what it is like, as a diver, navigating something where you don't really know fully what you're going into.

RAIOLA: That's exceptionally true. It will be difficult for people, who haven't been in that situation. I was a combat vet in Vietnam, and went through quite a bit of stuff, and still couldn't prepare myself for what I was going to see, when as soon as I hit the water and got underwater.

It's something that the divers, and the first responders, whether they're divers or not, are going to deal with, not only today and tonight. But they're going to deal with that, like I have been, for the rest of their lives. As should another issue or situation like this appear, I'm sure that they're going to feel the same that they do.

They will never feel like they've done enough whether it was last night, today, or tomorrow. They'll always have that little doubt in the mind, and thought that they could have done, and wish they could have done more.

COLLINS: Bob Raiola, thank you, one, for your service and, two, for your expertise on this, and for explaining what this is like to us.

RAIOLA: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.

COLLINS: Also tonight, major consequences, for one of Donald Trump's alleged co-conspirators, for his role, a major one, if not the central one, besides Donald Trump, in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.



COLLINS: There is breaking news, out of California, tonight, as the attorney, who has been called the chief architect of Donald Trump's bid, to overturn the 2020 election, a California judge has now just recommended that John Eastman be disbarred.

It is a 128-page scathing rebuke, where the court found that his quote, "Lack of remorse and accountability presents" what they say is "A significant risk" to the public.

This is the culmination of a months-long trial that has been going on. But really, bigger picture, it's a major reckoning, for another lawyer, who tried to keep Trump in power, after he lost in 2020.

The California Supreme Court will have the final say here. But this ruling will force Eastman's law license into inactive status, which effectively bars him from practicing the law.

I'm joined, tonight, by the Chief Trial Counsel for the State Bar of California, George Cardona, who led the Eastman case.

And it's great to have you here.

I mean, this is a blistering decision when you read it. Why do you believe a case like this, against John Eastman, is so important?

GEORGE CARDONA, CHIEF TRIAL COUNSEL, STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA: I mean, it's important because for a number of reasons. I mean, one, the violations of a lawyer's duties were clear and obvious, as the opinion makes clear. Mr. Eastman lied on repeated occasions, made false statements of fact and law.

But second, and what makes the case really unusual, is the context in which those violations of an attorney's duties occurred. They were made, as the court found, as part of a conspiracy, with his then- client and President Trump, to attempt to delay and obstruct the counting of the electoral votes, and delay the peaceful transition to President-elect Joe Biden.

COLLINS: How do you expect the California Supreme Court to rule here?

CARDONA: Well, I mean, the recommendation will go up to them. The opinion lays out, in quite some detail, the extensive evidence that was presented to support it. My hope would be that when and if it gets to the Supreme Court that they uphold the recommendation, and order the disbarment.

COLLINS: Do you believe that John Eastman violated criminal law with his actions?

CARDONA: That's probably not for me to judge. There is a pending criminal case, in Georgia, in which he's named.

What we alleged were a series of what we believed were false statements. And the court's opinion concludes that on repeated occasions, both in public, to Vice President Pence, and Vice President Pence's counsel and in court filings, Mr. Eastman made false statements.

The court also does find, by clear and convincing evidence, which is a somewhat different standard from the criminal standard, that he did engage in a conspiracy with then-President Trump, to try and obstruct the counting of the electoral votes.


COLLINS: Yes. George Cardona, it's worth reading in full. Thank you for joining us tonight, to talk about this important case.

CARDONA: Thank you for having me.

COLLINS: Also here tonight, is CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig.

And Elie, when you're just -- I mean, what do you make of this ruling when you read it?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: John Eastman did this to himself. And that becomes very clear, when you read this ruling.

And it's important to understand what line exactly John Eastman crossed. Because, a defense lawyer has a duty and, really, an obligation, at times, to make aggressive arguments, or novel arguments, or unusual arguments.


HONIG: What John Eastman did, though, as Mr. Cardona just said is, he time and again, dozens of times, laid out in this opinion, gave false information to court, made arguments based on things that he claimed were fact, but that he knew or should have known were false. And that's why he's now had his license suspended.

COLLINS: So, what do you make of his statement, tonight, where he's saying that the process, as they referred to that he undertook, is the same one taken by lawyers, every day and everywhere, "It is the essence of what lawyers do."

I mean, is it?

HONIG: It's good in theory, if that is what he had done. But that's not what he did, right? I mean, we've seen people make novel legal arguments all the time.

I'll give you a recent example. We saw groups of lawyers, recently bringing 14th Amendment challenges, to try to keep Trump off the ballot. Well, that was untested. They were making aggressive arguments that failed almost uniformly that were rejected nine-zero, by the Supreme Court.

But that's not going to get anyone disbarred, because they didn't lie. They didn't make up facts. They didn't put things in front of the court that they knew were false. And that's the difference.

And Eastman is trying to say he was on the one side of the line, but he clearly crossed it.

COLLINS: Well, and the side that he's now on, I mean, it's Rudy Giuliani, Jeffrey Clark, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, like all of these attorneys, who were in Trump's orbit, in those final critical few weeks, when he was trying to not leave office. I mean, it's kind of remarkable to see the culmination of the big picture of it.

HONIG: It really is. Look, it's not lawyer's finest day as a profession. Hopefully, it will be a lesson to people.

But if you tick through it, you have people, who are indicted, in Fulton County, most of those lawyers you just named. You have several of them, including Eastman have been named as co-conspirators, not charged. In Jack Smith's case, you have several who have now lost their law licenses. You have people who've been sued civilly. So, there's real accountability coming home to roost.

COLLINS: Well, and for John Eastman, some of these attorneys are not actually practicing. He still -- he is currently a practicing attorney. And even though he'll appeal this, I have truly zero doubt about it.


COLLINS: I mean, he can't practice law right now.

HONIG: Yes, not to state the obvious, that's a big deal, to lose your law license. This is his life's work. He's been a practicing lawyer, for 40 years or so. And not only do you have the humiliation, of losing your license, you lose your ability, to make a living. So, there are real consequences here.

COLLINS: Yes. What do you think the Supreme Court of California -- because this is important.


COLLINS: He is not outright disbarred. It's a recommendation, after a lengthy investigation, in which he defended himself--


COLLINS: --in this process.

But what do you make of the California Supreme Court, how they handled this?

HONIG: By the way, he cannot complain that he did not have process. I mean, he had a full hearing.

This ruling is exhaustive. I think the California Supreme Court will agree with the ruling that we just saw that just came out. I think they will ultimately disbar him.

I read through that ruling as quickly as I could. It's a 128 pages. It is nuanced. It is detailed. And it goes through not just one or two or three. Dozens of examples, where Eastman said dead people voted, and underage people voted. Just simply false. And I guess he thought he could get away with it, but.

COLLINS: I mean, it compares him to -- it says that they haven't seen behavior like this, since -- it cites one of Nixon's henchmen.

HONIG: Yes. I haven't been around that long. But in my experience, same -- same here. I mean, it's almost become part of this story that you almost can take for granted.

But when you think back to when this was all happening, not just John Eastman, but Jeffrey Clark, and Rudy, and Sidney Powell? None of this could have happened without them. They were the enablers that took Donald Trump's wild fantasies, and gave the legal imprimatur to it, and really spurred this whole thing on.

So, these kinds of -- I feel sorry for someone, in a human sense, when they lose their license, or when they get indicted, or when they get sued. But I just don't feel any sympathy here, because they've earned all of this.

COLLINS: Well, I mean, and if someone at home is feeling sorry for him, which I'm not sure many people are, for John Eastman.

As we were waiting for this to come down, and Katelyn Polantz, my colleague and I were talking about the ramifications of this, I was thinking about what John Eastman said after he turned himself in, in Georgia.


COLLINS: Because he's a co-defendant of Trump's there. And whether he ever regretted tying himself to Trump.


ALI VITALI, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Do you still think the election was stolen?


VITALI: Absolutely? Still?

EASTMAN: No question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret attaching your name to the former President?

EASTMAN: None whatsoever. The president calls and asks for representation, I think every citizen in my position should be willing to stand up for--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a plane to catch.

EASTMAN: --representation.


COLLINS: I mean, when this -- when the judge says he has no remorse--


COLLINS: --like he has no regrets either.

HONIG: The judge cited that.

Look, Eastman could have very well said, look, I was trying to do my job, as a lawyer. Things got out of control. I regret what happened. I hope I didn't harm anyone.

Instead, he's doubling and tripling down.

COLLINS: Yes. Elie Honig, thank you for being with us--

HONIG: Thanks, Kaitlan, all right.

COLLINS: --on this major breaking news.


Also, speaking of major, it is a red flag to tell lies on a job interview, obviously. We all know that. But apparently, it is not, at the new Trump-run Republican National Committee. There's a new question that hires apparently have to get wrong.


COLLINS: Name, resume. And did you think that the 2020 election was stolen? CNN has learned that that last question is what people, who were applying for jobs, at the Republican National Committee, are being asked by party officials.

Sure sounds like the litmus test for the kind of blind loyalty that the National Republican Party has been looking for, and really showcasing, after purging the committee, earlier this month, after the Chairwoman stepped down.

It's all in stark contrast to what that Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, and the new Co-Chair, Lara Trump have been saying, when they themselves were asked about the outcome of the 2020 election, just this week.



RONNA MCDANIEL, FORMER CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Where I was in 2020, and the quotes that are being taken from a very long -- long time ago, three and a half years ago, to where I am today, you've got to allow the process to play out. And I think it is fair to say, there were concerns then. But no, I -- Biden is the president, and we need to move forward.

GARRETT HAAKE, SENIOR CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Is it going to be the position of the RNC in 2024, that the 2020 election was not fairly decided, or that it was stolen somehow?

LARA TRUMP, CO-CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think we're past that. I think that's in the past.


COLLINS: Joining me now, former Deputy Assistant to President Biden, who also served as a Senior White House Communications aide, Jamal Simmons. And also, Republican strategist, and the former Deputy Campaign Manager, for the DeSantis presidential campaign, David Polyansky.

I mean, one I have to note that Ronna and -- Ronna McDaniel and Lara Trump, both pushed and promoted lies about the election, claiming all of these -- this fraud, which obviously didn't exist.

But, I mean, as a Republican, are you comfortable with that question being asked of employees?

DAVID POLYANSKY, FORMER DESANTIS DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, look, first and foremost, I get Democrats want to talk about 2020, in terms of the election. And I think, for Republicans, we need to be talking about 2020, in terms of asking voters if they were better off in 2020 than they are today. That's where the debate needs to be.

As it pertains to these specific questions? I don't know. Reading the "Washington Post" today, it sounds like it was one of a plethora of questions, whether not just how they felt about the 2020 election, to would they be willing to move to Palm Beach? So, the question is, was it a litmus test? I don't think it's actually clear on that.

And, for me, I think you would need to ask potential employees, especially if they're going into the field, how they would respond to that question, probably just as you ask a Democrat field operative, who is going to Michigan, how they would answer the question about the U.S. position on the Israeli-Gaza conflict, so.

COLLINS: But isn't it a litmus test, if you will get asked the question, and if your answer is one thing, you don't get hired?

POLYANSKY: Well, that's that -- let's see. I don't know if that's the case. And "Washington Post" didn't report that.

COLLINS: But why else ask it?

POLYANSKY: Well why else would you ask, again, a plethora of questions. You have to be able to go in the field.

Make no mistake. If you are applying to go to the RNC, right now, you have to be willing to go in and support and defend Donald Trump, and try to do everything in your power to get him into the White House. You know that is his position on the issue. And I don't think it's unfair to ask the question.

What I hope is the RNC doesn't focus their hiring practices, on the answer to that question, but instead hires the best people, in the best positions, because we are way far behind our friends on the other side.


POLYANSKY: And we need to catch up. And we don't have time for litmus tests.

SIMMONS: It's clearly a-- COLLINS: You're smiling?

SIMMONS: Yes. I mean, it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

I've seen this multiple times. Every four years, the new presidential nominee gets to choose who they want to bring in. They layer over some staff. I've been layered over. I've also been the person who's layered over someone else, right? It's what happens to you when you -- when the nominee wins.

But what you don't do is do a wholesale purge, kick everybody out, tell everybody oh, now you get to reapply, and you have to sign up to a conspiracy theory that is demonstrably not true, and most Americans don't either -- either don't believe, or don't want to hear about anymore.

And you talk about whether or not we're better off today than we were in 2020? We're absolutely better off than we were in 2020. In 2020, we were in the middle of a pandemic, with a president, who wanted us to use bleach to get rid of it -- get rid of COVID.

So, the more people focus on what's happening, in the future, the better off we're going to be. But this idea of what they're doing at the RNC is absolutely crazy.

POLYANSKY: I would just push back to say, I think voters feel differently.

And that's why it's incumbent upon the RNC, it's incumbent upon the Trump campaign, and all Republicans, that are trying to win the White House, this go around and, frankly, recapture the Senate, and hold the House, to talk about that contrast.

Because voters disagree by a wide margin, whether it's on the economy and inflation, to border security to crime, and everything in between, for some reason, they have a very romantic view, of the first Trump administration, back in those days, and unless there's a change of heart.

And that's why I think Democrats are trying to change 2020, back to the election. They're in deep trouble.

COLLINS: I guess where I see this is this isn't a policy issue. It's not like immigration.


COLLINS: Every policy issue, I could probably say the two of you probably disagree on, energy policy, immigration--

POLYANSKY: I'm not so sure about that.

COLLINS: --climate change, all of these issues.

This isn't an immigration -- this isn't a policy debate. It's a yes- or-no question. And the answer is no, it wasn't stolen. So why are they asking these prospective staffers have to say? Because they're going to feel like they have to say, yes.

POLYANSKY: Every person that works on the Trump campaign, or in the RNC, and goes in the field, is going to be asked about election integrity, whether reflecting in the past, or certainly as it goes forward into 2024. That's just the reality. I mean, we're talking about it here today.


And so, my view, my hope, is that they're asking that question to see how people answer it. I would think it would be a massive and significant mistake, to make hiring decisions, based off of their answer.

SIMMONS: Kaitlan, campaigns are games of addition, right? You have to assemble as many people as possible, in order to win.

This looks like a game of division. Not only is the President dividing Democrats, from Republicans, now he's dividing Republicans, from Republicans, because either you have to sign up for the chaos or not.

And apparently, if you worked for Nikki Haley, you also can't get a job, with the Trump campaign, or with the RNC. That's the word on the street these days, right? So, if that's true, they are taking Republicans out of Donald Trump's win column. That just seems like a recipe for failure.

COLLINS: I mean, it's the ultimate trick question.


COLLINS: But anyway, great to have both of you here on set. Thank you for that.

POLYANSKY: Thank you.

COLLINS: Another big question that is being asked, one that's less controversial, I don't know maybe it's actually just as controversial. Should kids be allowed to have smartphones, before they are in high school?

My next guest says no, and he thinks that smartphones and social media are actually fueling a mental health crisis, among children. We'll listen to him make his case, right after this.



COLLINS: Should kids have access to social media? It seems like a simple question. But it really has dire implications, as the U.S., right now, is facing a devastating mental health crisis, among its children.

This week, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill into law, banning children, 14 and under, from having their own social media accounts. And that's really just the latest, in a string of states that are trying to pass laws that restrict young Americans, from being on social media.

But with youth suicide rates rising, a big question is whether or not it's enough, and what parents should be doing, to bring normalcy, back into their children's lives, in the smartphone era that we now live in.

Joining me now is Jonathan Haidt, who is a social psychologist, from New York University, and also the Author of the new book, "The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness".

And it's so great to have you on, because this book is really engaging.

And essentially, what you're saying is that we went from this era of, you called it, play-based childhood, to now it's smartphone-based, and the consequences that are so obvious from that.


So, one of the things I tried to do in the book is not just say, the sky is falling, look at how bad the mental health stats are. I take a long time, in the book, to go through what is childhood? Why do we have it? Why is human childhood so long?

And once you see all the things we have to do, in childhood, developing our social skills, taking risks. And you see that we were doing that, all the way up until the 1990s. Kids were doing that from 5 Million B.C. until the 1990s.

We started reducing that, and we're over protective. But their mental health doesn't plummet until we give -- they trade in their flip phones for smartphones. And that all happens between 2010 and 2015. That's the great rewiring, because a flip phone doesn't take up every minute of your life. But once you get a smartphone, it does. And childhood, as we know it, for millions of years, is kind of over.

COLLINS: And you basically -- a quote that you said that really stuck out to me, you said we've overprotected our children in the real world. And we've under-protected them online. You want to see changes here, with these companies, not in the sense of cleaning up content, and fixing that.

HAIDT: That's right.

COLLINS: You believe it's bigger than that.

HAIDT: That's right. Everyone focuses on the content. The latest data shows that American kids are spending about five hours a day, on average, just on social media, just social media. You add in all the other stuff, and you're up to eight to 10 hours a day, on their phones and other screen devices. That pushes out just about everything else.

Now, there's a lot of efforts to say, well, let's clean it up. Let's, you know, if they're going to spend 10 hours a day, let's at least make it not so much suicide content, and let's make it nicer stuff.

It's still 10 hours a day. It means they're still sleeping less. They're exercising less. They're seeing their friends much, much less. They're not studying as much. They're distracted all the time.

So, my point is, we can't possibly make social media safe, for middle- school kids. It's just absurd. Middle school is where the greatest damage is done, especially to girls. We have to just get it all out. I'm not saying ban it -- ban phones legally. I'm saying we need a norm.

All parents are thinking like, when's the right age, and they give a phone early because everyone else did. But if we can just say, let's get it all out of middle school. No smartphones till high school. Just give your kid a flip phone or an Apple Watch. That would go a long way.

COLLINS: Which is what you've done with your own kids?

HAIDT: That's right. Well, I didn't know any better, when I first gave my son an iPhone, in fourth grade. But I have delayed social media. I made it clear to them, no social media of any kind, in middle school.

COLLINS: Because you describe these foundational reforms. And one of them is no smartphones before high school. No social media before 16. You think schools should be phone-free and more play time, and independence.

HAIDT: Yes, that's it.

COLLINS: I think a lot of parents are like, yes, sure, yes, I like that. But there's kind of this sense, it seems, of resignation and not.


COLLINS: How do you practically implement this?

HAIDT: Yes, that's been stunning to me. Most of my previous writing, there's been some controversy. There have been people saying, I'm wrong or I'm stupid.

Here, I haven't yet found anyone, who's disagreeing with me. Everyone sees the problem. But there's a pervasive sense of well, what are you going to do? The genie's out of the bottle? It's too -- we can't roll it back.

We have to roll it back. Our children don't have childhood. They're coming out in terrible shape. Academic performance is down. I mean, we can't just say, well, what are you going to do?

The secret, the trick to getting out of this is to recognize that we all hate it. The kids even don't like. The kids even say they wish these programs were never invented. But they're trapped. And so, it's a collective action problem. And if we can coordinate, we can solve it collectively. So, it just -- so if you're -- if you're a parent, and you're

listening to this, get on a text thread, or talk to the parents of a couple of friends of your kids. If you all delay smartphones, or if you all put certain restrictions on? Then it's OK. Your kids will go for it. They just don't want to be the only one. So, we can escape this if we act collectively.

COLLINS: But do you hear from parents who are actually doing that?


HAIDT: Yes, I do, every day.

But my hope is -- it's so far, it's lone parents, who are doing it, and then their kids feel isolated, and then they often have feel like they're grateful later. But I want to make it easy, for parents, to do it today, tomorrow.

COLLINS: Jonathan Haidt. The book is "The Anxious Generation." It's fascinating. Everyone should read it. Thank you, for joining us, tonight.

HAIDT: Thanks so much, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much, for joining us, for this very busy hour.

"LAURA COATES LIVE" starts right now.