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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Israel Says, Gaza City Surrounded, Encirclement Is Complete; Cracks Emerge, More Democrats Calling For Ceasefire, Pause; Zelenskyy Aide To TIME Magazine, We're Not Winning; Ukrainian President's Aide Says They Are Not Winning; New Hampshire Governor's Endorsement To Nikki Haley Getting Closer; Hunter Biden Blasts GOP And Fox On His Op- Ed On Weaponizing Addiction. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 02, 2023 - 22:00   ET





SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): It's not like people who are kicking in doors in Fallujah shooting terrorists in the face.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We need this guy like yesterday.

We want this guy. Coach, we need this guy. We're in a fight. We need the best people on the field.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): Never mind the safety and security of the American people during this perilous time just doesn't make any sense to me.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Those football metaphors do not appear to have worked. What we know is three new confirmations were pushed through today. That means for the, first time since July, the Joint Chiefs do have a full slate of Senate-confirmed officers. That includes Admiral Lisa Franchetti, now the first woman to ever served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Tuberville tonight saying that he is standing by this blockade, which means they will have to continue to do them one by one by one. We'll keep an eye on that.

Thank you so much for joining us. CNN NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: The Gaza sky lights up with rockets and flares as President Biden warns Israel it risks losing the war of public opinion. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

Good evening. I'm Abby Philip in Washington.

Tonight, the sights and sounds of war caught on CNN's cameras lighting up the sky over Gaza. The rockets put two questions front and center for President Biden today. Can the United States tell its ally how to fight a war? And can the leader of the free world stitch together Democrats viscerally torn apart by Israel's campaign?

Just in, sources say that President Biden and his administration are all warning Israel that it has weeks, not months, to uproot Hamas from Gaza. And that every image of a dead Palestinian child is tipping public support away from its war.

The president got on in your face challenge to tell Israel that enough is enough.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, if you care about Jewish people, as a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire right now.


PHILLIP: Biden responded by saying that he wants a pause or what his critics call a ceasefire by another name. It's a notion that the White House tried to shoot down today.



REPORTER: And as you push Israelis for humanitarian pauses, are they just supposed to sit back and let Hamas attack and attack and attack them and not fight back?

KIRBY: We've been crystal clear that Israel has a right to defend themselves. I mean, my goodness --

REPORTER: So, a pause means they can still shoot back?

KIRBY: My goodness, Peter, we're giving them security assistance almost every day.


PHILLIP: Now, Democrats were never going to make blood thirsty calls for revenge or insist on bulldozing the entirety of Gaza with artillery, but 26 days ago, a ceasefire demand would have been really unthinkable except for the far left wing of the party. And it was just a week ago that the National Security Council itself said a ceasefire, quote, really only benefits Hamas. Now, it's not unthinkable at all.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): It is time for a humanitarian pause. It is time for us to count the injured and bring them forward for floating hospitals and other sources that can help them. I think this is the moment we should cease.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Is a ceasefire needed now?

DURBIN: I think it is.


PHILLIP: That was Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate on CNN This Morning.

Now, Durbin's answer is just the latest in a dramatic evolution of Democrats telling the president that Israel cannot go on waging war like they are. And tonight, Senator Chris Murphy, a powerful Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, demanded that President Biden push Israel to, quote, shift to a more deliberate and proportionate counterterrorism campaign.

In his view and in the view of others, strikes like the blast in Jabalya, which you see here, are nowhere near proportionate.

Count among them Jason Crow, who earned a Bronze Star in the battle of Samawah, he said today, this should not have happened. To some Democrats, the Jabalya strike is simply a warmer (ph).


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): We're seeing refugee camps bombed. We're seeing thousands of children who have died. This is not war. This is chaos. And we have a responsibility to uphold our standards and commitment to human rights.

I believe it is a war crime.


PHILLIP: At the same time, there is a very vocal other side of this conversation. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan now finds herself a target of this ad from a group called Democratic Majority for Israel.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's one of only seven Democrats in Congress to vote against missile protection for Israel. Her legislation will allow terrorists to rearm themselves. Tell Rashida Tlaib she's on the wrong side of history and humanity.


PHILLIP: I want to bring in Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Congresswoman, thank you for being here.

You're calling for a ceasefire, as are some of your colleagues. But, looking at what's happening tonight, this intensifying of bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, do you think that that is still possible?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Abby, what I have called for is a ceasefire or, at minimum, a cessation of hostilities. Because a ceasefire does take time to negotiate, it does involve all parties. And I think what has to happen is a cessation of hostilities so that we can get the hostages out, we can get humanitarian aid in and we can have a real discussion of how to move forward in this very, very, very, tragic and complex time.

And so, I think it is still possible. You see countries around the world continuing to call for a ceasefire or cessation of who hostilities. You see more and more people because, Abby, the death toll is just increasing of innocent civilians in Gaza. We're up to 9,000 now innocent civilians dead in Gaza. And over 3,000 of those are children and another 6,600 kids injured. And this is not in accordance with international humanitarian law, which the president has very rightly called for Israel to follow.

And so, nobody believes that keeping fuel, keeping water, keeping food from innocent civilians in Gaza is in compliance with the law.

PHILLIP: Your colleague, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has called the IDF strike on the Jabalya refugee camp a war crime. Do you agree with that?

JAYAPAL: Well, look, I think that it's very difficult in the moment to figure out what is or isn't a war crime. What I think is really very salient in this moment is how many innocent civilians are dying. And what we know is that the number of casualties, according to international law, the number of casualties of innocent civilians has to be minimized.

And if you recall, there were 1.1 million Gazans who were told to go from North Gaza to South Gaza. They got to South Gaza and the IDF continued bombings in South Gaza. There have been this bombing in the refugee camp and close by Al-Quds, 12,000 people who are sheltering there, this is where these airstrikes are taking place. So, the idea that we're going to minimize the civilian casualties as we continue these kinds of strikes simply doesn't make sense.

And I think what we have to understand is if we want peace and security for Israel and if we want it for Palestine, but certainly if we want it for Israel, this is not the way to go. And experts in war and terrorism are saying that this kind of bombing is simply going to turn more Palestinians towards Hamas or whatever the next iteration of Hamas. This is not the way that we're going to get peace and security in the region.

PHILLIP: You've called for a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities. That's been echoed basically by your colleague, Senator Dick Durbin. But Senator Chris Murphy has said that Israel needs to be more proportional and deliberate in its carrying out of this campaign.

Is it possible, in your view, for Israel to be more proportionate without them ending their campaign to wipe out Hamas, which carried out that horrific October 7th attack on their nation?

JAYAPAL: Well, there's no question that the October 7th attack was horrific, that Hamas is a terrorist organization and it needs to be eliminated. The question is how.

And, you know, what we have seen over and over again, and expert in terrorism who are not particularly progressive, have said the same thing, that when you go in and you just raze an entire population and you don't follow humanitarian law, you don't have proportional hits compared to what was done to you, if you violate all of those terms, all you do is you actually turn more people against you.

And so I think that it is possible --

PHILLIP: Yes, go ahead. I mean, that's what I'm wondering. Is it possible for them to carry out this campaign and do so in a way that you think actually does, in fact, minimize civilian casualties?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think that it is absolutely possible to have a cessation of hostilities for Israel to rethink how it is going to take out Hamas, and how it is going to build the kinds of relationships that will allow for that kind of multilateral coalition, including with regional partners, to be able to help do that.


Remember, in cases where we have been successful in taking out terrorist organizations, there have been many ways on the ground that countries have come together, forces have come together, and, right now, it doesn't seem like there's much of a plan.

PHILLIP: I want to turn to just how this is all playing internally in the United States. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, she is now facing an ad buy against her over her stance on Israel. You also have Congressman Jamaal Bowman facing potentially a primary challenger. This is becoming such a hot button issue, dividing, really, the Democratic Party. Are you concerned that this is something that could hurt Democrats in 2024 in districts, that, frankly, your party cannot afford to lose?

JAYAPAL: I do worry about what this means not only for swing districts, where we have big Muslim and Arab-American populations that were critical and excited about getting Joe Biden elected and taking back the House, taking back the Senate, but also in places across the country, in swing states across the country, or even not swing but very close states across the country where we have a lot of young voters who turned out.

Abby, there is a generational divide in how to think about Israel and Gaza. And our young voters who are out there, and, frankly, the majority of the American population believes that Israel has a right to self-defense. They abhor what Hamas has done. They don't think one war crime deserves another war crime.

And I think that we have to be extremely careful about losing these voters who may not go and vote for a Republican, but they will stay home if they feel like their moral core has been challenged in a way that doesn't allow them to come and be excited.

PHILLIP: Do you think that they should do that if they want to stay home because of this conflict?

JAYAPAL: Listen, I think I'm going to be out there getting every Democratic voter out that I can possibly get out to vote for Joe Biden, to vote for Democrats. But what I'm saying is that we cannot take them for granted. And there is a real issue here not just with the politics, but let's remember that 140 nations of the United Nations voted for a sustain humanitarian truce. The United States was only one of 14 countries that did not.

And I don't want the United States to be isolated. Joe Biden has done a phenomenal job in rebuilding multilateral institutions. We need to listen to those multilateral institutions and we need to make sure that the United States is seen as an unbiased broker that can help broker the kind of peace and truce that will last for a long time in the Middle East and that will preserve both Israeli security, Palestinian security, self-determination and preserve Israeli and Palestinian lives. And I think that's really what's at stake

PHILLIP: All right. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you for joining us tonight.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And ahead, Israel says it has surrounded Gaza City as soldiers begin to engage with Hamas. We'll talk about the unfolding battle, next.

Plus, the leader of next door, Hezbollah, is set to give a speech as fears grow that this will turn into a wider war.

And a stunning report on the fate of the war in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy's inner circle reportedly believing that their war against Russia is unwinnable.




PHILLIP: You are looking here at the orange glow of war piercing the Gaza sky today. The dramatic images are what might be the prelude to Israel's new stage of the campaign to eradicate Hamas, as the IDF troops have now surrounded Gaza City.

The clear escalation of clashes with Hamas promises to, quote, teach Israel a lesson and to repeat the terror of October 7th.

Now, for a closer look at what is happening on the ground there, I want to bring CNN Military Analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Colonel Leighton, what we saw today, it was really -- I mean, when I saw spectacular, I mean, I've never really seen something that looks like that before, these explosions, the lighting up of the sky. Walk us through what Israel was trying to accomplish there. And this was, by the way, going on in this area right here, right? COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That is correct, Abby, exactly. So --

PHILLIP: And (INAUDIBLE) you can really do the dirty work here.

LEIGHTON: No problem. So, what you're looking at is not only the tunnel of maps, as we have them right now based on the intelligence knowledge that we had, but you're absolutely right, this was the area in which this occurred, this very spectacular explosions that you see right here.

Now, when you go back to this tunnels map here, what they're trying to accomplish is they're trying to cut off every single piece where there's an entrance and an exit. So, think of doing this for over 300 miles of tunnels. That's the difficulty of this operation.

And just by putting these dots on here, you can see how difficult it is to go after every single area, not only here but also in the south and in the center of the country.

PHILLIP: And when we say they are encircling Gaza City, what does that mean.

LEIGHTON: So, what that means in this case, so Gaza City is about here. They are literally from sea, land positions as well as air. They are going after all the different Hamas positions that are in Gaza City. So, we have to remember, Gaza City is destroyed in large part right now.

But what the Hamas fighters are doing is they're using that as placements for setting up ambushes, for setting up IEDs and things like that. And so what they're having here, Abby, is the Israeli Army is coming in from several different sides and they are using these areas to come into Gaza.

First, they'll start here, move down this way. And as they come down in this area, they're stopping to keep everything encircled right here to keep them from going anywhere else.


PHILLIP: What does this mean for the hostages? There are 242, I believe, now, is the number, of hostages still in Gaza city, some of them, we believe, held in tunnels like this one that you're looking at here. What does all of this bombardment and the ground invasion mean for them?

LEIGHTON: So, it can mean many different things. But most likely, it means that they are being forced in certain areas.

So, they're going to be in tunnels like this in all likelihood, most of them will be. If they're lucky, they will be in areas where there is enough air and enough water for them to sustain themselves. But that's going to be a bit of a problem, because as the Israelis come in, the idea that air, water, other things may be limited in supply will limit the effectiveness not only of the hostage takers and their ability to maintain the hostages but also will have an impact on the hostages themselves. And it could be very difficult for them to come through this without major health issues at this point in time.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, so many risks for those hostages who are still there in Gaza.

Colonel Leighton, thank you very much for joining us, as always.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

PHILLIP: And up next, betrayed by the west, Ukraine's president delivers a brutally candid criticism aimed at the United States.

Plus, Donald Trump tonight calls January 6th inmates hostages and he salutes their anthem. Republican Governor Chris Sununu will join me live to respond.



PHILLIP: The escalating war between Israel and Hamas is fueling debates about how the United States should approach it. But there is another international conflict that is still raging, that is still also a big flashpoint here at home, the war in Ukraine.

After months of a counteroffensive to rest territory from Russia, new reporting from TIME Magazine reveals that while Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is still deeply committed to the fight, some of his advisers are worried. One of his Zelenskyy's aids telling TIME he deludes himself, we're out of options, we're not winning, but try telling him that.

And that sobering assessment extends beyond the civilian government. Ukraine's commander-in-chief for the Armed Forces saying this to The Economist. Just like in the First World War, we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate. There will likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough, a stalemate which was not the characterization over the last several months.


KIRBY: They've already acknowledged that they're not going as far and as fast as they would like. That said, they are moving. It's not a stalemate. They're not just frozen. Ukrainians are moving.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We do not assess that the conflict is a stalemate. We're seeing it continue to take territory on a methodical, systematic basis.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have seen good progress in the counteroffensive. He's very heartened (ph). We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs not only to succeed on the counteroffensive but has what it needs for the long-term.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: And the reality on the battlefield, well, we can show you, those silver slivers of yellow are Ukraine's counteroffensive gains, and it really isn't a whole lot. Now, the ground in Ukraine is hardening now for another long winter. And the fight in the United States over how much aid to give it is getting more intense. Congress has authorized roughly $113 billion so far, but polls suggests that the American people's willingness to support Ukraine is waning.

The yellow line here shows the share of Americans who say that the U.S. is doing too much to help Ukraine. And now, it's at 41 percent, up from 29 percent in June. And that's raising some tough questions for the Biden administration and for both parties in Congress.

And joining me now to discuss this is retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He is also the former European affairs director for the National Security Council. Colonel Vindman, thank you for joining us.

This interview is extraordinary because it does outline Zelenskyy's deep opposition at this point to negotiating a truce. This summer counteroffensive was supposed to be their moment to make a breakthrough against Russia, but it has fizzled. Is there now a time for a push from his allies in the west to get to the negotiating table?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: So, I think Zelenskyy has to respond to his own domestic population. For the time being, there's overwhelming support to continue an offensive and to potentially attempt to liberate the territory. This is overwhelming margins. We're talking about 90 percent of the population still believes they could win the war. And as a democratically-elected leader, he has to respond to that.

What our obligations as allies and partners, what is the U.S. strategic interest, I think the U.S. strategic interest is continue to help support Ukraine, mainly because things could actually change relatively fundamentally towards the end of 2024, not because of victories on the battlefield that didn't materialize this year.

There are multiple different factors. Part of it was how late support came in. ATACMS, for instance, came in just within the last couple of weeks. The flow of support, in general, in terms of armored vehicles, was insufficient. Engineering vehicles to breach obstacles was insufficient. But, it's also the tactics that the Ukrainians were deploying, insufficient training, didn't really have a concept for a way to achieve these major gains.

But the political dimension in 2024 can be very significant. There's a NATO submit, a Washington summit, the 75th anniversary of NATO, where Ukraine can be admitted into -- offered an invitation to join NATO.


That could fundamentally change Russia's desire to continue to wage war because at that point Russia would lose the incentives or continue to fight because there's a chance they would provoke a confrontation with NATO.

Or the presidential elections at the end of 2024, Putin's hoping for an opportunity to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat with a Trump administration that completely cuts support for Ukraine. If that doesn't happen, does he want to continue to wage war? So I think the fact is that our obligation now is to continue to support Ukraine.

PHILLIP: Well, look, if you just mentioned the 2024 campaign, if it does happen that Trump, if wins that campaign. I mean, that could spell real trouble for Ukraine. But the article also quotes a close Zelenskyy aide saying, quote, "most of all, Zelenskyy feels betrayed by his Western allies. They have left him without the means to win the war, only the means to survive." You just mentioned some of the aid from the United States coming late in this conflict. Is he right that this is a betrayal?

VINDMAN: From his perspective, he's fighting on behalf of the democratic world. It's his soldiers that are dying. It's Ukraine that's bearing the brunt. I think he has, you know, a valid cause to make that. We might not like hearing it. We might have thought that we'd done enough, especially the Biden administration, that takes things quite personally when they're called out for not providing support or providing it too slowly. But I think from his standpoint, it's a completely valid judgment.

I think what the U.S. has benefited from this war, from a geopolitical standpoint, is half of the Russian military is destroyed on the cheap. We could have provided all this aid faster, more aggressively, that would have saved Ukrainian lives.

We still have the opportunity to do that. President Biden, I think, in his recent speech, brilliantly connected Israel and Ukraine because he saw this as a systemic threat from illiberal regimes, whether it's radical terrorist groups or Russia that are looking to upend U.S. leadership, upend kind of norms-based rule of law and good governance, global governance.

And I think the fact is that there's an opportunity to move forward with a very large appropriation, the $106 billion that the president has asked for, $60 billion towards Ukraine, about $40 billion for Israel and Palestine. And that could make actually some significant differences. It could provide the resources that Ukraine needs to continue to kind of chip away because I think these doom and gloom scenarios don't make a lot of sense to me. The fact is Russia does not have endless resources.

It's a vast country, but it does not have endless resources. It's relying on antiquated equipment, poorly trained troops. We see that play out in these battles in the east where they're taking thousands of casualties. Russia is just trying to hang on for as long as it can through 2024, and we could continue to help push Ukraine, provide resources to win.

PHILLIP: All right, Colonel Alexander Vindman, thanks for your perspective on that.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And Nikki Haley's campaigning in New Hampshire with Governor Chris Sununu in tow. Will he endorse her? I'll ask the governor next.

Plus, Hunter Biden says shame on the Republicans for weaponizing his addiction. But does he want sympathy for the same things that his father once called for people to be locked up over?




PHILLIP: Can Nikki Haley make friends in high places? The setting, first in the nation, New Hampshire. The friend in question, the state's governor, Chris Sununu. Sununu joined Haley on the campaign trail today, where the pair took questions at a local restaurant. The stop follows a polling surge for Haley that shows her as a clear but distant second place behind Donald Trump in South Carolina.

I wanna bring in New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu, himself. Governor Sununu, thank you for joining us. So you had quite a day with Governor Haley today. Are you ready to endorse her for president?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Well, I'm not making any endorsements yet but kind of traveling the scene with a lot of the candidates. Nikki was great today we started a diner we did some town halls we met a lot of folks there's a lot of energy and I gotta tell you people are really getting engaged now a lot more than they did just a couple months ago.

And I think that's going to continue about, as we said, most voters now they really don't decide who they get a vote for to probably to leave it after Thanksgiving for the fact that we had, you know, town halls today where people are literally out the door. They had to have people, you know, sitting in 30 degrees of the parking lot, but they were watching, they were engaged, they were asking good questions. So, retail politics makes good retail managers and that's what the White House could use.

PHILLIP: You said that you were closer to endorsing her today. So I mean, is that where you're leaning? Are you feeling like she is probably the closest right now to getting your endorsement?

SUNUNU: No, I wouldn't say that. Look, I was with all day with Ron DeSantis last week. I spent some time with a lot of the other candidates. I'll be back on the trail with other candidates next week. I mean, Nikki and I have been friends for a long time.

I think she's a wonderful candidate. She is working hard here on the ground. There's no doubt about it. And she's connecting with voters. I mean, today was just a great example of her knocking out of the park, event after event after event.

So, you know, folks are really getting engaged. You know, when I figure it out, when I know who I'm gonna vote for, I'll just let everybody know. It's kind of that simple. and then I'll get behind them, I'll work hard for them. But voters in New Hampshire are smart.

Endorsements don't mean everything. They really wanna make the decision for themselves, ask the question of the candidates themselves. We have a saying here, are you gonna vote for Nikki Haley? Well, I don't know, I've only voted for, I've only met her three times, you know.


So they gotta keep coming back and kind of earning the vote time and time again. That's kind of the way we do it. And I think that's why New Hampshire's such a great first filter for the rest of the country.

PHILLIP: So you mentioned Governor Ron DeSantis. He has been really amping up his criticism of former President Trump. Listen to what he said about Trump potentially showing up or not showing up at next week's debate.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-CA), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you this, you know, Donald Trump can summon the balls to show up to the debate. I'll wear a boot on my head.


PHILLIP: What would it take to get Donald Trump to show up at a debate at this point?

SUNUNU: Well look, you know, I gotta tell you, I mean, Trump is scared. He's scared to death that someone is gonna call him on his record for not getting stuff done. He's scared to death that these Republicans know his record better than even he does. He's almost trying to convince his base voters that he wasn't already president, right? Like he wasn't already part of the establishment.

And when it comes to conservatives like myself, we want fiscal discipline. He was a disaster. We want the border secured. It was never secured if it was we would probably have the crisis that we have even today we want the swamp drained it was it wasn't drained at all actually under him he could even work with Republicans and so he sure as heck is it going to get anything done with Democrats.

And most importantly can't win in November so you know he doesn't want to be called to the carpet on all this stuff what will it take I think what a you know as the polls get closer and they will as the field keeps winnowing down which it already has started, he's gonna have to start really facing the music he's going to do everything he can to avoid having to talk about him and himself as record in the future.

But that's what this is about. This is about a party coming together, a country coming together, kind of healing where we are today and moving forward in a really positive way and getting past the Biden agenda, which as a conservative Republican, we all want to see. PHILLIP: I mean, you're saying that the polls are going to tighten,

but they really haven't. I mean, the candidates at the bottom of this race have been trading votes. Trump has been staying where he is in the mid 40s. Aren't you running out of time to make a decision? Perhaps even before Thanksgiving when things might really get locked in.

SUNUNU: Oh no, no. Things don't get locked in until January or February, really. I mean, think of it this way. Trump has to win New Hampshire and Iowa. If Trump doesn't win one of those states, he's toast. I mean the political effect will absolutely crush him.

PHILLIP: It's looking right now like he is a shoo-in for both of those states.

SUNUNU: But again, most of the voters don't decide. Don't get caught in that national media trap, really. Most of the voters don't decide who they're gonna vote for until after Thanksgiving. That's just the nature of the beast. In the next, the third debate in November, we may only have four people on that debate stage.

So the field is naturally winnowing down. That's the most winnowed field we've had in over 20 years. So naturally things are getting tighter and tighter. It's really gonna come down to, I think, two or three candidates when you hit Iowa and New Hampshire. And if you can get to a one-on-one race before Super Tuesday, That's the real race.

If Trump runs the table on Super Tuesday, you're absolutely right, he's got it. But that's really the deciding day. And if you get to one-on-one, as you said, if he's in the mid-40s, well, that tells me the other candidate's gonna be in the mid-50s and Trump's gonna be in trouble.

PHILLIP: All right, so Governor, I wanna play for you what happened today at a campaign stop for former President Trump in Houston. He saluted the flag to an altered version of the national anthem. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, thank you very much. And you know what that was? That was I call them the J6 hostages, not prisoners. I call them the hostages. What's happened? And it's a shame. And you know, they did that. And they asked me whether or not I would partake and do the beautiful words. And I said, yes, I would. And you saw the spirit. The spirit was incredible.


PHILLIP: The version that he saluted was sung by January 6th inmates. What do you make of that?

SUNUNU: Well, look, obviously I have no problem with the national anthem or who sings it, but let's cut to the chase. Donald Trump's a few fries short of a happy meal. We all know that, so it should surprise anybody when he says or does something stupid. So he's going to do anything he can to kind of talk about the past, try to re-litigate the past, fire his ultra base up, that ultra base of about 30, 32 percent that probably isn't going to move from him really remind them why that why, you know, he's gonna stick with them and why they need to stick with him if you look at the polls though remember a third of his voters said they would consider somebody else.

So, deep down in the he knows that he could be in trouble if this gets down to a one-on-one race so his only path here is to keep riling up his base with stunts like that

PHILLIP: Governor Sununu, real quick before you go I have to ask you and Donald Trump is the Republican nominee next year are you gonna vote for him in the General Election?

SUNUNU: Well, I don't think Trump's the nominee. I don't think Biden's even gonna be the nominee.

PHILLIP: I know you say that, but if he is, will you vote for him? That's a yes or no question.

SUNUNU: I'm doing every -- no, I'm doing everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen. That's all I'm thinking about right now.


PHILLIP: All right, well, I'm gonna note here, you did not answer the question. We'll have you back and I'll ask you again. Thank you, Governor Sununu.

SUNUNU: That's how I get on the show again.

PHILLIP: All right, up next for us, Hunter Biden is accusing Republicans of weaponizing his drug addiction in a new op-ed, and it appears to have caught the White House off guard.

Plus, Ivanka Trump's request to postpone her testimony at her dad's civil trial, well, it's been denied because the judge has decided that it's not going to work.



PHILLIP: Hunter Biden tonight slamming the Republican Party and right- wing media for what he calls a weaponization of his addiction. In a new op-ed, the president's son alleges that his struggles and his mistakes have become fodder for a vile and sustained disinformation campaign against his father and a full annihilation of his reputation. He also warns the weaponization of my addiction by partisan and craven factions represents a real threat to those desperate to get sober but are afraid of what may await them if they do.

Now, Hunter is currently facing multiple charges, including three federal gun charges, which allege that he lied in 2018 on a form that he used to buy a gun. With me now is Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton and CNN political commentator and former Obama White House staffer Ashley Allison. Shermichael, your take on what he saying here in this op-ed which is about addiction, but it's also about him and what he's been through in terms of how it's been handled by conservatives.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, sure. And Hunter Biden is an adult. His father has been engaged in politics for 50 years. Now he should be used to this. And I do have empathy and compassion for what he's going through. Addiction is a very serious illness. And people spend their entire lives, every single day, trying to battle it, some with great success, and unfortunately, some with not such good success.

But the same compassion and empathy that he's calling for, Abby, I would have wished and hoped that his father, the chief architect of the '93 crime bill, would have had that same compassion and empathy for the 1.5 million black men that were imprisoned because of that legislation. I would have wanted the same empathy and compassion and the lack of politicization that black mothers and families and community leaders asked for when those same black men were going before judges who said, you're absolutely going to prison.

I'm not going to have compassion for your addiction. And so while I understand the point and the politics of it, this to me goes a whole lot deeper and falls a bit on deaf ears.

PHILLIP: He starts the op-ed by saying he drank a bottle of alcohol and smoked crack every day. The '93 crime bill that Shermichael was talking about, I mean, he's not wrong. The crack, a cocaine disparity was born out of that crime bill. And now, compassion for Hunter Biden?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the way we are dealing with addiction now has changed drastically over the years. It is a disease. I will say that some 20 million Americans in this country suffer from addiction, which means that most Americans interact with a human being that has an addiction. And it is a trying experience. It is hard for the person who is addicted and really hard on friends and family.

So to go after Hunter Biden as a political ploy, I don't think falls well on voters, because if you have compassion for your family member who is addicted, you would also have compassion for a father who has sympathy for his son who has struggled.

To the '94 crime bill, though, I would say that the Biden administration has done a lot of things to right the wrongs of that bill, descheduling marijuana, working to, I mean, the first step back was passed under Donald Trump, but making sure that this Justice Department actually does decrease the sentencing disparities, commutations.

Those are things that this administration has done to right some of the wrongs of the '94 crime bill. And I think that is important to recognize as well. SINGLETON: It is. And I give significant credit to the president and

the Justice Department for doing those things. I just think that Hunter Biden should not be surprised by this, Abby. We're living, Ashley, in hyper-partisan times, hyper-tribal times.

Some people may be of the belief that anything is to go. I don't necessarily agree with that politically. But again, I think here's this guy who is the son of the President of the United States of America. I own a lot of firearms. I can guarantee you if I as a black man somehow made an error or did not put the proper information on that document, I would not have been given a sweetheart deal before the judge came in and said, wait a minute here, this isn't what would occur for the normal person.

I could assure you that if I didn't pay my taxes, like Wesley Snipes, then I too would probably be in prison for almost three years. And so look, I don't like to use the term white privilege all the time, but this is certainly a case of a white male privilege, because if this guy wasn't white and wasn't named Hunter Biden, I absolutely guarantee the charges against him will be very different. He would be in prison, maybe under the prison.

ALLISON: Well, he does note in his op-ed that he, you know, didn't come up with like extremely wealthy background, but he does have privilege. And so he acknowledges that.

PHILLIP: I mean, his father's been a Senator.

ALLISON: The Senator for most of it. Yeah, right. But I mean, he does acknowledge the privilege that he has been, he benefits from his father. The thing though, is that addiction doesn't discriminate.


And so whether you're white or black, I think what the lesson to be learned is, is that if someone is suffering with addiction, they should be supported by their family and they should have the infrastructure around them and the social welfare programs around them to get them the help to recovery. And I think that's the point of the op-ed.

PHILLIP: Well, look, I mean, that is, I think, where we are today. There are probably some black men in prison right now who did not get that same kind of race.

ALLISON: Absolutely.

PHILLIP: For sure. That Hunter Biden is asking for.

ALLISON: And black women, for that matter.

SINGLETON: Yeah, and black women as well.

PHILLIP: Shermichael and Ashley, interesting conversation. Thank you both. And new tonight, a New York court tells Ivanka Trump no. We'll tell

you what she wanted to do and the reason that she gave the judge coming up next.