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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Testifies, Spars With Judge In Extraordinary Trial; Trump In Testimony Says, Mar-A-Lago Worth More Than $1 Billion; WAPO Reports, Trump Plots Revenge And DOJ Control In Second Term; "New York Times" - Siena Poll Showing President Biden Is Lagging Far Behind GOP Frontrunner Donald Trump Among Registered Voters In Five Key States; Colorado Jury Acquits Police Officer Nathan Woodyard. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 06, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: West is a veteran journalist and two-time Emmy winner, I should note, and the vice president of Gannett's local news added this about the candidate search. Now, pay attention. He said, we were very pleased with the caliber of the pool that we had. It ran the gamut from veteran hard news reporters, including at least one very established White House reporter, to Swifties who have blogs and are influencers.

To be clear, I am not that former White House reporter that applied for that job. But has anyone seen Wolf Blitzer lately?

Thank you so much for joining us. Tonight Abby Philip and CNN Newsnight starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Donald Trump's testimony may need a disclaimer. That's tonight, on Newsnight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Philip. And today, a trademark Trump performance inside a New York City courtroom, it was trademark for all the reasons you would expect, loud, libelous, unrepentant, uncontrolled, dominated by conduct that frankly would never be permissible for any other defendant, civil or criminal. After four hours of testimony, the former president thought that everything was just perfect.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think it went very well. I think we were there and we listened. (INAUDIBLE) scammed this. This is a case that should have never been brought. It's a case that should be dismissed immediately. The fraud was on behalf of the court.


PHILLIP: With his bombastic behavior on the stand, Trump tried making a mockery of the legal system. But there is more that he's reportedly planning to undermine if he gets back into the White House.

We will have more on that in a moment. But, of course, Trump's lawyers would have you believe that they, quote, never had a witness testify better, that Trump answers were, quote, brilliant and great. It's their strategy to inject a dose of the campaign into this courtroom.

Now, Trump's testimony was riddled with outbursts, most of them of the petty variety. And at one point, the former president even directed a high society insult at the New York state attorney general, Letitia James, saying, quote, she doesn't know what a 40 Wall Street is. James replied on Twitter, don't tell, I can see it from my office window.

But between the antics, there were some admissions, some damning ones. Multiple times today, the former president admitted under oath that he influence the inflated values of his properties.

So, let's just go through of some of them. What about the idea that Trump really didn't know what was going on with his finances inside of his own corporation? Well, the defendant said, quote, I would look at them, I would see them, and I would maybe occasionally have some suggestions.

What about Mar-a-Lago and the legally binding document the Trump side in which he stated that he intended to keep it as a club and not as a residential property that could ever be developed? Well, the defendant said this, quote, intend doesn't mean we will do it.

Now, that answer is almost Clintonian. It depends on what the definition of is is. But these two, it's far easier to track Trump's attention.

What about his apartment? That's the one he claimed was 30,000 square feet but it really was only 11,000. The defendant said this, quote, the number was too high. They lowered it after that. He also said, quote, I thought the apartment was overvalued but I never really looked into it.

Well, I want to bring in a witness who testified recently in this fraud trial. That's former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. And he is the host of Mea Culpa and Political Beatdown, the podcasts. And he's also author of the book, Revenge, How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics.

So, Michael, what do you think about all of these little admissions that Trump made while he was in court today testifying about his finances?

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Yes, it's really fantastic that Alina Habba came running down the stairs for her few minutes of news time to tell everybody that, of course, Donald was brilliant, the best witness out there, and that they schooled me.

Why they brought me back into the conversation today, I'm not 100 percent sure. But they decided to say that she schooled me. What they should be doing is not schooling me.


They should be schooling Donald in terms of how to respond and how to act appropriately in a court of law. That's what they really should be schooling him on.

PHILLIP: And to that very point, you said just this morning, that you expected this to turn into a circus. And you are right in a certain sense. But a source also says that Trump's legal team is actually happy about how today's testimony went. Do you think that they should be?

COHEN: First of all, that's a lie. Yes. Well, let me start with the first part. Yes, I came on the show at 8:00 A.M. this morning and I kind of refuted my friend, Anthony Scaramucci, who thought that Donald would behave better. Knowing Donald as well as I do, I count to that point and said the second they started to talk about his finances, his net worth, and they put him into a corner, that the only thing he knows how to do is to lash out. And that's exactly what he did.

I mean, most of the time I happen to be right, only because -- not because I'm clairvoyant. I'm certainly not Nostradamus. I happen to know the guy well enough to know how he's going to act.

As far as whether or not they think that they won this thing, they think that they're doing great, they know that they're not. Except they have a client that doesn't care, as long as they keep responding the way he wants them to respond. So, if he tells them, I did great, I did great, all of a sudden they start to parrot, Donald, you did great, you are brilliant today. This is all about basically patting him on the back and making him and stroking his ego. That's all this is about.

He knows that he lost this matter already. It's just a matter of how much. It's a matter of the disgorgement that they're going to be able to show.

What he's looking to do is to figure out how to play this, since he lost already in the court of law, how to play this to a court of public opinion. And he thinks that he's doing well and he's going to try to ride the same street. Look, with all due respect to media, think about it. 24/7 since he took the stand has been nothing but Donald Trump. We have a war going on right now in Israel against Hamas. We have another war that we are working with, Ukraine against Russia. And what are we talking about, Donald's baby antics? Come on.

PHILLIP: Look, as you know very well, sometimes people who work for Trump, they have to play the hand that they're dealt, and in this case, they have a client who's angry. So, if their best bet is to try to push for an appeal based on the idea that the judge is biased, do you think that Judge Engoron maybe fell a bit into a trap today by actually responding to Trump's provocations on the witness stand?

COHEN: No, no, no way. Judge Engoron has been perfect as a judge in this matter. Again, I sat there for two days, not four hours, like Donald lost his concentration and started acknowledging all the things that they probably sat with him for hours on and say, do not, whatever you do, do not acknowledge that you did this, or do not acknowledge that you did that. Instead, he came right out, said, yes, I was involved with it, to some extent and so on, which, by the way, it's a lie. He was involved in all aspects, something that, again, I testified to.

I think Judge Engoron is absolutely setting the record perfect to avoid any appealable issues, because there are no appealable issues. This is really a case of documentary evidence coupled with corroborated with testimony.

PHILLIP: And speaking of testimony, Ivanka Trump is set to testify on Wednesday. What do you make of the fact that prosecutors left her as their final witness this week?

COHEN: Well, remember that Ivanka is not part of the case. She was time-barred based upon the statute of limitations. Why they would put her last, I don't really know. She could have gone first. Don could have gone last. Eric could have gone last. Donald himself could have gone last. It makes no difference.

They already lost earlier on the motion for the liability part. He has been guilty of fraud. That's done. Now, again, it's all about the disgorgement. Ivanka will come in and she will testify honestly and truthfully, I believe that, because she has a lot to lose. In fact, she has a lot more to lose than even her father in this case because, as we've been saying, Donald overinflated his assets quite substantially.

PHILLIP: All right. Michael Cohen, good to have you on this particular topic. Thanks for being here.


COHEN: Good to see you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And few things animated the former president more than the discussion of Mar-a-Lago's worth. He complained on the stand about the judge's citation that put the resort's value at $18 million. That was based on a Florida tax appraisal record.

Now, Trump insists that it's worth well over a billion dollars. And joining me now to help us sort through this argument is someone who knows quite a lot about Palm Beach real estate values, and that's Jeff Liechtenstein. He's the owner of Echo Fine Properties in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He's also the author of How Making a Sandwich Can Change Your World.

So, Jeff, Trump, when he was asked if he believed that Mar-a-Lago was worth a billion dollars, he said I think between a billion and 1.5 billion.

Now, a lot of people have said the $18 million figure, that is far too low, but that is a huge range, to go from $18 million to $1.5 billion. What's the reality check on that?

JEFF LICHTENSTEIN, FOUNDER, ECHO FINE PROPERTIES IN PALM BEACH GARDENS: Well, as real estate agents, we can puff, so we can inflate the value. So, I can say, hey, Abby, your house is the best ever when maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But he has a point and he doesn't have a point. So, Rush Limbaugh's place recently sold for $155 million, and that was 2.3 acres. And then also the surfside place was just sold for $120 million, and that was two acres. So, that's $60 million an acre. So, if you look at Mar-a- Lago, that 17.5 acres. So, 17.5 acres at $60 million, you're above a billion dollars.

The problem is that it's the land in both Rush Limbaugh's case and in the surfside case, they're buying the land. And that is the best use of the property. So, you have to bulldoze Mar-a-Lago. And you can't do that because it's a national historic register. So, it's like you can't bulldoze the Statue of Liberty or the Hurst Castle. And the developer would love to go in there and build condos and develop it, but it is what it is.

PHILLIP: And that's a really key point. It's one that comes up in this case. So, the New York attorney general says that Trump came up with this original valuation of $738 million by claiming falsely that it was an unrestricted property, that it could be sold and developed for residential use. What are the limitations on what you can do with a property like Mar-a-Lago?

LICHTENSTEIN: Well, from what I understand it, it is what it is. It can be used for the resort that it is, and he could live there. So, if you want me to sell it, I could get a buyer tomorrow who would buy it for a billion dollars if they could develop it and totally develop it, but you can't, so it's stuck would this best use.

So, it's probably in the range really more than $350 to $400 million range. There has been plenty of properties that have sold above 100 million. But going over a billion dollars or 789 million, that's too much.

PHILLIP: Well, we'll take your word for it. Jeff Lichtenstein, thank you so much for joining us.

LICHTENSTEIN: Thanks for having me, Abby.

PHILLIP: And one story that has been overshadowed by this whole trial is the reported vengeance plot that Trump and his allies are planning for a second term. Now, two former Trump officials join me live next on that.

Plus, Democrats are frantic tonight over new polling showing President Biden losing to Trump in battleground states. We will debate Biden's next move, ahead.



PHILLIP: While Donald Trump has been busy turning a New York courtroom into a circus this week, there is actually another story about Trump that might have more far-reaching consequences. The Washington Post is revealing how Trump and his allies have already begun strategizing for how to use the White House and the Justice Department to exact revenge on his enemies if he's elected to a second term.

Now, according to The Post, Trump isn't just talking about weaponizing the DOJ on the campaign trail, his allies are putting together a game plan. And after musing about using the Insurrection Act against racial justice protesters back when he was in office, The Post says that Trump is, once again, plotting to invoke that 152 year old law in his first days in office.

Now, here with me now to discuss this is James Schultz, a former Trump White House lawyer, and Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Miles, let's start with you. This report says that Trump might use the DOJ to go after former officials, people like John Kelly, who you know well, Bill Barr along with other officials inside the DOJ and the FBI. How far do you think that would go and do you think that you yourself, a former Trump official who notably came out as anonymous, could be a target?

MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY KRISTJEN NIELSEN: Yes. Abby, I don't think it is a might. I think it's a will. I think Donald Trump will do this in the second term. I don't just think it's a possibility, I think it's a near certainty. And it's something that he's been telegraphing very clearly from the campaign trail.

Now, I've spent the past two years interviewing fellow ex-Trump officials about what they think would happen in a second Trump term, and this was one of the biggest through lines of all of those interviews. People time and time again saying the justice system would be weaponized in a second term.

And it's something that Donald Trump talked a lot about his first term. He would talk to us about it in the Oval Office, frankly, his fantasies about going after political rivals using the mechanisms of government. And my colleague here on the hit tonight in the counsel's office frequently were the ones who had to shut down those Donald Trump dreams of prosecuting his enemies. But in a second term, it will be no hold for it.

And this was Trump's philosophy, which was that even if you did not have a case against someone, you sue them, because if you sue them, you tie them up in costly litigation whether or not they get convicted. And so his notion is that you will appoint these special counsels.


And even if they go after his enemies, like John Kelly, like myself, and there's no case to be made against those people, those people have to hire lawyers and they spend years with the threat of a Justice Department case hanging over their heads. It is what he is done in his private life all throughout his career and it is a tactic in the second term he plans to bring in government.

But, Abby, it doesn't stop there. Trump wants to do this with a lot of different levers of government power throughout the departments and agencies underneath the president's control. That is what I think is deeply concerning for our democracy and for democratic stability.

PHILLIP: So, Jim, according to The Post, there is this group of far right wing Washington based think tanks are working on these plans for Trump's second term. One of the plans is, quote, that they would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act. This was a law that was last updated in 1871 and authorizes the president to deploy the military for domestic law enforcement.

The idea is to use it to squash potential protests that could actually accompany him returning to office. Do you think that this is something that they could actually execute?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So, the good news in all of this is that the folks who are going to be in position should he actually win the election, and we're not close to that yet, we're not even into the primaries yet, but if he were actually to win the election, there are checks and balances through the system. Every one of the appointees has to be confirmed by the Senate can be removed and impeached and removed from office as well.

And the folks that go into these jobs, especially the lawyers, right, the lawyers that are in those positions have a law license that they have to protect. If they're asked to do something that is outside the bounds of the law, then there's going to be a check on that as well.

So, that is the good news in all of this, is that we have career officials, we have folks in the military, we have people that are lawyers that will exercise good judgment to beat that back, just like we saw through the allegations where you have Jeffrey Clark's issue and the January 6th issue, and it was beaten back by the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone and folks like that. You have to trust that there will be people in government that are going to step up when bad ideas are brought forth.

PHILLIP: No question. I mean, people did step up to stop some of these bad ideas. But you just brought up Jeffrey Clark. I mean, it is a good example of how many people actually did go along with it. And, actually, one of the people behind, as Trump's former budget director, Russ Vought, he's leading one of these think tanks. He said that you don't need a statutory changed at all, you just need a change of mind set. You just need an attorney general and a White House Counsel's Office that doesn't use itself as trying to protect the department from the president.

Jim, I mean this is a real -- in some ways, it is actually a legal question. Is it just something that requires a change of mindset, somebody saying, we're going to do this, or would they be breaking the law?

SCHULTZ: Look, anytime that you are using -- look, all these new things need to be looked at through the lens of, one, is this the right thing to do, two, might it violate the law. There is going to be plenty of lawyers who are in the government, at the Department of Homeland Security, in the military agencies, at the Department of Justice. And all of these places who have been there a long time, and the folks that are leading those departments, again, are going to have to be confirmed by the Senate.

I don't think you have the risk that the same type of risk that you have that folks are really worrying about here. Yes, we have got to hope that people go to the ballot box and vote against these types of things, but at the same time, if they don't, there is also a lot of other things going on in government that need to run. We have a conflict around the world, those things are going to be on the front page. They're going to have to deal with the economy.

So, this idea that all they're going to do is be laser-like, that there's going to be a group of individuals who are going to be able to push the entire federal government in that direction is ludicrous, in my view, but the risk isn't worth it in the end of the day, right? But that is something that needs to be challenged in the ballot box through these primaries and then the general election cycle so that we don't have that.

PHILLIP: Miles, I want to give you a very quick last word here. Is this potential of a second term a keystone cop a situation, or are you worried that this could be more organized, more driven?

TAYLOR: I think it will be vastly more organized. I mean, look, I appreciate Jim's optimism and I would like to hope for the same. I would like to hope that the guardrails will be there. Maybe my view is a little cynical, Abby, but I don't think the guardrails will be there.

And, in fact, people like Russ, who we have worked with, they know better than this.


But they also know that the people are the guardrails. And that is why there is a concerted plan to make sure those people who would second guess in a legal order are gone. And they have spent a lot of time thinking through who those yes men and yes women are to bring in the administration. And mark my words, they will populate the full upper ranks of a Trump 2.0 administration and there won't be the people to stop these things from going into effect. I think it will be vastly more dire than the first term was in terms of ignoring and disregarding the rule of law.

PHILLIP: We cover this because Donald Trump is on the ballot. He is leading in the Republican Party. It's critical to know what he might do if he's elected again.

James Schultz and Miles Taylor, thank you both.

And up next for us, new polls say that voters don't think age is just a number for Joe Biden, trouble in the making in data that is making some Democrats squirm. But one senator has something to get off his chest about California's governor.


PHILLIP: Democrats are, well, let's be honest, they're freaking out again. And this time it is because of the latest "New York Times"- Siena Poll showing that President Biden is lagging far behind GOP frontrunner Donald Trump among registered voters in five key battleground states -- Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania

Now, the former president is leading Biden by margins as much as four to 10 percentage points which is huge in American politics. And our former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod, is echoing a growing number of Biden supporters and suggesting that he might want to rethink a second run for the presidency. Listen.


DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: As I've said for like a couple of years now, the issue is not -- for him is not political, it's actuarial. And you can see that in this poll. And there's just a lot of concern about the age issue. So, he just has to ask himself, is, you know, is this the best path? I suspect that he will say yes. But time is fleeting here. And this is probably the last moment for him to do that check.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, along with pollster Frank Luntz. Basil, this is bad. The polls are bad. But isn't this just even the polls and the freak out about the polls a huge problem for the Biden campaign?

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, I would just say this. They haven't spent the kind of money that they need to spend in those states at this point. I assume that when that happens, and they actually did have some commercials on the air and they don't seem to be breaking through, that's a problem. But I do think they need to double down on that.

Having said that, what Mr. Axelrod said is not helpful. We are not in an era where we have the kind of machine politics that will just say, you sit down, you stand up, and we're ready to go. We don't have that. Right now, Joe Biden is the sitting United States President.

And for whatever concerns you may have about him, you don't have to vote for him. You could vote for Kamala Harris. You could vote for Hakeem Jeffries. You could vote for democracy. Whatever the case is, you just got to go out there and vote on that line. That's what I would say.

PHILLIP: But isn't the point that he's making that Biden should not run because he needs to step aside for his own good, for the good of the country?

SMIKLE: Then tell me what you have next. Tell me what your alternative is.

PHILLIP: Frank, what's the alternative?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: It could be Gavin Newsom, the governor of California. It could be Cory Booker. The senator from nearby in New Jersey could be Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, and my favorite, Mitch Landrieu.

SMIKLE: Oh, that's the former mayor of New Orleans.

LUNTZ: All these people are great candidates, great leaders. Cory Booker's done this before. He has the skills. But in the end, the Republicans at this moment have been tearing themselves apart in the House. And it's interesting that the Democrats are now doing this in the White House. But make no mistake. You can reverse inflation. You can stop a war, but you can't reverse age.

And it's not about voting for Joe Biden when he's 81 years old. It's about voting for Joe Biden when he's 86, because that's how old he would be when this is all done. In the end, the American people, particularly younger voters, are saying, you know what? Thank you, Mr. President. You've done a good job, but it's time for somebody younger.

SMIKLE: You know, my sense of where younger voters are, and there have been stories recently about African American voters, for example, Latino voters who are concerned not so much about Joe Biden, although that's part of it, but also about the party itself.

And one of the things that I look at as you talk about Donald Trump is a problem that Democrats have always had. We're trying to elect Joe Biden on the policy. Policy has been great. Policy has been fantastic, and it's getting people to work in this country.

But most people vote out of emotion. And where is a lot of that emotional energy? It's on -- it's Donald Trump, which is why he's performative in a courtroom, which is why he talks about retribution and reclamation when he's on the campaign trail, because that energizes his base. I think what is often intellectually persuasive is not always emotionally compelling. And that's, I think, the thing that's missing from Joe Biden.

PHILLIP: Let's talk about Trump for a second, though, because it's no, you know, piece of cake for Trump either. I mean, he's-


PHILLIP: Almost as old as Joe Biden is.

LUNTZ: You realize.

PHILLIP: He makes a ton of mistakes like Joe Biden does, which we have documented on this show. And he is facing a ton of legal issues. So, maybe this is what the Biden camp is seeing. It's not Biden against anybody. It's Biden against Trump, who has potentially an Achilles heel.


LUNTZ: Well, the thing that "Saturday Night Live" ought to do is to do the 2024 debates right now. One candidate gets wheeled in an oxygen tent in a wheelchair. The other candidate comes in handcuffs and an orange suit and watch the two of them debate with each other. The sad thing is that it's not just humorous. It could happen.

What's not reported in those surveys is that other Republicans were run against Joe Biden, and they do even better than Donald Trump does. This is not necessarily Trump's strength. This is absolutely Biden's weakness. And the other thing that we haven't talked about is inflation, that in the end, voters are still angry that food prices are up, gas prices, all of these are up, and they can't afford to get through day-to-day life.

PHILLIP: So, Frank mentioned a bunch of people. None of them were named Kamala Harris --

SMIKLE: That's right.

PHILLIP: -- who would be the alternative to Joe Biden. Isn't this the whole reason that she was chosen as the Vice President? She's someone younger. She's had a very bright political future. But she's not coming up in this conversation about what is next after Joe Biden.

SMIKLE: No, and that's just that's angering actually and disturbing because all of the folks that you mentioned, the Gavin Newsom's and the Cory Booker's of the world, great. It's a great bench that we have. But the sitting vice president, this is -- it goes back to my point.

There's this there's this quickness to sort of -- to sort of dismiss the sitting president and sitting vice president who are two very talented individuals. If you're concerned about African American turnout, if you're concerned about Latino turnout, why don't you push out the individual who exhibits the kind of intersectionality that is not just the current party but is a future of the party. I'd complain about that.

PHILLIP: But why doesn't, I mean, that's, I think that's the question is why hasn't that happened?

SMIKLE: I have said over and over again that they need to do this because she is the one person that I think can bring out some of those voters and energize those voters. But I feel that she's being underutilized. And I do think a lot of it is the race of misogyny that we've consistently heard about in other contexts. But the reality is she is the future of this party. So, I am not sure why she is not being utilized.

LUNTZ: Because she has the lowest approval rating as Vice President than anyone since Dan Quayle. And he had the lowest since Aaron Burr. The fact is that her ability to communicate has been brought under question. And she is even less popular than Joe Biden is. That if the Democratic Party wants to be successful, it is not just to step into a new generation. But it's to take the underpinnings of what they have done of the various pieces of legislation, but put a fresh face, a different face on it.

PHILLIP: And it seems that Democrats can't agree on who that face. Which is why they don't want them to leave.

SMIKLE: This goes back to my earlier point. If you want to come out and say, we got to do something different, then we do it en masse. Just picking at it over and over again over a couple of weeks and months is not helping anybody.

LUNTZ: So, I do want --

PHILLIP: We got to leave it there.

LUNTZ: But could you imagine Cory Booker challenging Donald Trump, what that debate would look like, what it would sound like.

PHILLIP: Here's the thing, Frank. Cory Booker ran for president and didn't get out of the Democratic primary. So, I think voters had a chance to imagine that. And that's what this is what they came up with. Basil Smikle and Frank Luntz --

LUNTZ: He would scare me. Just for the record, he would scare me.

PHILLIP: Thank you very much. Coming up next for us, rising anti- Semitism has some American Jews on edge, so much so that they are actually going out. And they're buying guns. That story is next. Plus, we'll get a reaction to all of this from the son of a Holocaust survivor, Eli Wiesel.



PHILLIP: As the war rages on in Israel and anti-Semitic threat surge in the United States, more and more Jewish Americans here are purchasing firearms and seeking out training out of fear for their safety. CNN's David Culver has the story.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not Shanni Suissa's usual L.A. hangout.

SHANNI SUISSA, ATTENDED FIREARMS TRAINING COURSE: Two months ago, I never would have really thought about owning a gun.

CULVER: The 31-year-old podcaster organized this group firearms training.

UNKNOWN: Go ahead and pick up your gun in your dominant hand.

CULVER (voice-over): Inviting others from her Southern California Jewish community including her childhood schoolmate, Dani. Would your friends say, oh, yeah, Danny's the type to always want to carry a gun and go shooting it?

DANI, ATTENDED FIREARMS TRAINING COURSE: No, definitely not my vibe, definitely not how I was raised.

CULVER (voice-over): This course, as these women see it, a last resort in self-defense.

UNKNOWN: I don't think I hit anything.

DANI: The reality is, people don't seem to want us around and it's hard.

CULVER: And do you feel that now more than ever?

DANI: Now more than ever. It's suffocating, actually.

CULVER (voice-over): Amidst the ongoing turmoil in Israel and Gaza, law enforcement here in the U.S. warning of increased anti-Semitic incidents targeting Jewish people, homes and businesses.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a threat that is reaching in some ways sort of historic levels.

CULVER (voice-over): And gun shops, along with firearm instructors around the country, reporting a surge in interest, particularly from Jewish groups.

YOSSI EILFORT, RABBI, MEGEN AM USA: When I'm doing our messaging, it is a message of light and peace.

CULVER (voice-over): Rabbi Yossi Eilfort believes that light and peace should be safeguarded through vigilance and preparation. It's why he started Magen Am, a private security firm tasked with keeping the local Jewish community safe.

CULVER: Did you ever think that you would end up also teaching people how to carry and fire a gun?

EILFORT: It's sad that it's necessary, but it definitely is. It's really important that we start educating our community.

CULVERT (voice-over): We went to one of his weekday firearm classes.


UNKNOWN: What can I do to protect my family? And what can I do to protect myself?

CULVERT (voice-over): Roughly two dozen Jewish women here on this night.

UNKNOWN: I can tell you as a mom and as a teacher.

CULVERT (voice-over): You can sense anxiety, fear, and unease.

EILFORT: We want people to live and be able to practice in peace. That's the whole goal. And so, if they want to pursue the ownership training with a firearm, and that's going to help them feel at peace, then let's do that. CULVERT (voice-over): California has some of the toughest gun laws in

the U.S. And some here simply do not feel comfortable around guns.

EILFORT: It's not for everybody.

CULVERT (voice-over): Back at the range.

UNKNOWN: Woo! I cannot believe I did that.

CULVERT (voice-over): Shani and Dani -- feeling more confident after their four-hour training.

UNKNOWN: No way!

CULVERT (voice-over): And in case you didn't recognize their teacher, that's Rabbi Yossi.

EILFORT: Those were about three to four shots per second as I accelerated.

DANI: What we did here today will make me feel safer in the future as long as I keep practicing.

CULVER: Are you going to continue the instruction?

DANI: I will come back, a hundred percent. We need to be prepared and the best defense is a good offense and I think that's really important to understand. David Culver, CNN, Los Angeles.


PHILLIP: And joining me now with reaction is Elisha Wiesel, the son of Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust in Auschwitz and was a Nobel Peace Prize-winning laureate. This piece really is about fear at the end of the day and what's going on for Jewish Americans. What did you see in what these young women were saying?

ELISHA WIESEL, SON OF MARION AND ELIE WIESEL: First of all, thank you for having me back on the show, Abby. I'd say the fear is justified. Earlier today, we learned that an elderly California man at a rally was killed, unfortunately. He had a megaphone smashed in his face by an anti-Israel protester. He fell to the ground and died. So, this is a real threat when you look at the anti-Semitism that is showing its face now in this country.

PHILLIP: So, I understand it. My shul has security. My synagogue has security. But I think that we are in a much broader battle, as well. The Jewish people once again is being put on trial for a war that we didn't start.

And in that war, we have to arm ourselves with the truth that Israel didn't start the war. We have to arm ourselves with allies. And thank God there have been so many, including President Biden. And we have to arm ourselves with legal remedies.

And that's why I think one of the most significant developments today was the ADL and the Brandeis Center and Hillel all announcing that there is a new website, for any students or faculty on college campuses where they feel that indoctrinating lies are being spread in anti-Semitism.

PHILLIP: We want to continue that conversation. Elisha, stay with me. We're going to talk about what you're talking about on college campuses, but also, I want to ask you about Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's claim that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians.



PHILLIP: We're back with Elisha Weisel who just penned an op-ed. My father, Elie Wiesel, survived Auschwitz. He'd ask these questions about Israel-Hamas war. Now, Elicia, you're seeing this conflict really tearing apart college campuses. You say that a lot of these students who are rallying against Israel are missing critical facts. What are they in your mind?

WEISEL: Yeah. And I want to say students who have that position -- I don't see these people as evil. I just see them as misinformed. They're spreading very dangerous lies which have their roots in the blood libel, the accusation against the Jewish people that we are attacking innocents, whether it's Christian babies in the Middle Ages or Gazan civilians right now.

And the key facts are Israel withdrew from Gaza. It took every last soldier. It uprooted 9000 settlers out of the surrounding area so that we could discover what will the civilization become in the several square miles that are the Gaza Strip.

And soon enough, Hamas was given a strong majority. They staged a coup, ejected the PA, and effectively this was a government that was created to attack Israel and destroy the Jewish people.

PHILLIP: Can I just focus in a little bit about what you're just talking about? One of the things that you hear from pro-Palestinians, including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, is that Israel is committing a genocide against Palestinians.

They're talking about the bombings that have killed more than 10,000 Palestinians. When you hear the word genocide used in that context, what does it bring up for you?

WIESEL: Listen, genocide is a very specific word that was really -- it was a term that was created in the wake of the Holocaust. And the idea is, in order for it to be genocide, there has to be intent for genocide. You have to desire the extinction of the other people.

If you look at the founding documents of the state of Israel and compare them to the founding documents, the Hamas Charter, you will discover that one of them is genocidal and the other extends its hands to all of the surrounding neighbors.

Israel from the very beginning wanted peace with its neighbors, was ready to accept a Palestinian state, and called for co-existence. Today, it has a 20 percent Israeli Arab population. The Hamas Charter calls for the extinction of the Jewish people and Israel. That is genocidal.

PHILLIP: I want to be just clear that, I mean, there are obviously people who have a lot of issues with how Israel has treated Palestinians.


You say that is separate from the kind of language that's being used in this context about this conflict.

WIESEL: Listen, you know, words like genocide, if you throw them around so loosely, it's devastating. It's a very serious form of attack.

PHILLIP: All right. Elisha Wiesel, thank you so much for joining us as always. We appreciate your perspective here.

WIESEL: Thank you, Abby. And coming up next, he put Elijah McClain in a neck hold, but tonight he is walking free. There's a surprise verdict coming out of Denver after this.


PHILLIP: Tonight, Police Officer Nathan Woodyard is a free man after a Colorado jury found him not guilty of homicide and manslaughter. Now, if that name isn't familiar to you, the name of 23-year-old black man who died in police custody might be. That's Elijah McClain.

Now, prosecutors say that Woodyard was the first officer to confront McClain on the scene in 2019. He never introduced himself, never explained that someone called 911 to report a suspicious black male.


And he grabbed McClain within just eight seconds of arriving on that scene, wrapping his arms around his neck. Woodyard then took the stand in his own defense during the trial, testifying that he feared for his life.

And that's it for me. Thank you very much for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now. Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Abby, I got to tell you, that case, of all of the cases that we have covered, that one guts me every single time. This was a young man who would go and play his violin for cats at an animal shelter.

He was out trying to get, I think it was a Snapple maybe or a juice for his younger brother. He had headphones on at one point. He had a mask before the pandemic and was just keeping to himself. And they injected him with ketamine in the end. And just thinking about what those final moments would have been like, this young, I know you call him a young man, maybe even an old child is more appropriate. He actually said as he vomited trying to get free, vomiting on an

officer, apologized- apologized for that and then said, hey, teamwork makes the dream work, trying to encourage them to let him go. And I can tell you, I just -- every time I hear his name, and we've heard a lot of cases. That one -- that one brings tears to my eyes at this moment.

PHILLIP: It's incredibly sad, but also just a reminder, a lot of times in these cases, acquittals are very common when it comes to officer involved deaths like this one. Laura, appreciate your thoughts on all of that.

COATES: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: I know you have a lot to get to on your show. Have a good show.

COATES: We do, indeed. Thank you so much.