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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

New Victory In Global Rise Of Far Right Politics, Populism; A.I. Staff Threatens Exodus After CEO's Firing By Board; Federal Court Guts Voting Rights Act In Dramatic Blow; Donald Trump Releases A Doctor's Note About His Health; Family Of A Palestinian Poet Raising Questions In The Wake Of His Disappearance; New House Speaker Mike Johnson Meets With Trump, Source Tells CNN. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: They are currently being assessed tonight. We're still waiting on details of their current condition.

But I should note that this comes as the National Weather Service showed gusts up to 21 miles per hour. Mist, visibility was down to around a mile at the time of this incident. We'll keep an eye on this and keep you updated.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: The far right rises again around the world, and there's a clear evidence why. That's tonight on Newsnight.

Good evening, I'm Abby Phillip in New York. Meet South America's new far right famous Milton Friedman loving leader. And today, the world is learning a lot more about this guy.

Don't cry for Milei, Argentina. And, yes, that is a chainsaw. He is the nation's new president-elect. And he's an outsider nicknamed El Loco, the madman, with the wolverine haircut and the Renaissance biography.




PHILLIP: He is a political outcast profane with a grudge against the pope, who taught, and I'm not kidding here, tantric sex. He'll enter this office with a clear mission.


MILEI: Today, the impoverishing model of the ubiquitous state, which only benefits a few, while the majority of Argentines suffer, is coming to an end. Today, the idea that the state is like a bounty to be divided among politicians and their friends is over. Today, the idea that the perpetrators are the victims and the victims are the perpetrators is over. Today, we return to the path that made this country great. Today, we, once again, embrace the ideas of freedom, Alberdi's ideas.


PHILLIP: Now, if that make Argentina great again line catches you and makes you wonder if you're seeing another Donald Trump figure in the world stage, Milei is not quite that simple. You got to put his and Trump's political agendas in a Venn diagram. And there's very little actually that they share.

Milei put his name to dozens of academic papers. He is fluent in economics. He is someone who can detail in precise terms his personal evolution from a mainstream pusher of liberal economic thought to a self-described anarcho-capitalist.

But listen to Milei and he shares Donald Trump's anger.



PHILLIP: So, there is some nuance here in his libertarian worldview. He takes soft approaches to, for example, trans rights. He supports gay marriage. He says, go ahead and sell your organs if you want, that the state should have nothing to do with that.

But underpinning his rise is that anger. In Buenos Aires, Milei's fans reveled in his wind shouting, out with all of them. And they're now counting on Milei to drain their own swamp and engineer a way out of decades long inflation.


MILEI: We know that there are people who are going to resist. We know that there are people who want to keep this system of privileges for some that impoverishes the majority of Argentines. To all of them, I want to say the following. Within the law, everything, above the law, nothing.


PHILLIP: Now, that is the anger, that is the point, and it's a phenomenon that's fueled far right figures everywhere. You look promising to deliver prosperity and to flip the bird to the professional politicians. You see it in Brazil.


JAIR BOLSONARO, FORMER BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT: We face a battle between good and evil. The evil lasted for years in our country and almost broke it. Now, they want to go back to the crime scene.




VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: If you separate western civilization from its Judeo-Christian heritage, the worst things in history happen. Let's be honest. The most awful things in modern history were carried out by people who hated Christianity. Don't be afraid to call your enemies by their names.


PHILLIP: And, of course, in Italy.




PHILLIP: And then there is right here in the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.


PHILLIP: And joining me now is CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp and Rolling Stone Columnist Jay Michealson.

S.E., this phenomenon, this right-wing populism, but really the emphasis on the populism here, is something that has become, rather than an import to the United States, in some ways, an export to the rest of the world as well.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And Milei I would carve out just a little. As you did, he's a little bit more nuanced. I see him more as like a Ron Paul kind of guy. But, certainly, the populism is exploding in places you might not expect. Last year, I wrote about a rise in right wing nationalism in Sweden, of all places. So, you know, Hungary, Brazil.

And I think what happened with Trump was the world was watching and thought if America, right, this bastion of democracy and freedom isn't going to tamp down on this guy, well, who is? And maybe this is something we could emulate because we'll get away with it, we'll be allowed to.

I think if Republicans had come in and said, we're not nominating this guy, this isn't going to be our version of conservatism, I think the world would have taken note and there might be one less Orban, Bolsonaro, you name it, today. PHILLIP: But it also strikes me that so much of this is about the rhetoric, about the dialing up of the rhetoric of the enemies of the people, that kind of thing, that you see from Trump, you see the similarities with Milei, you see it in Hungary, you see it all over the world, and that might be irrespective of the policy.

JAY MICHAELSON, COLUMNIST, ROLLING STONE: Yes, I think it's right. The emotional tone is the defining feature of populism. And it's not necessarily new. I mean, we've seen this kind of reactionary populism for the last 150 years in the west. Before the Nazis were the great villains that we assumed them to be, they were a political party with an agenda, and they also had a nationalist agenda.

And I think we're seeing so much -- I try to take a little bit of a step back and sort of see what's the human nature that's behind this global rise in populism and what's happening around the world, right? Technological advances, changes in social mores, increases in migration, and sort of the loss of a certain kind of privilege that some people had then in their home countries.

And these kinds of dislocations, liberals need to take them more seriously, I think, than they do. And here, I mean small L liberals, because the sort of populist answer is, we're going to return to some special, perfect time in the past. That doesn't really work, but there's not a compelling -- it's hard to articulate the alternative to that.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, here's why I think this matters if you're sitting in the United States and wondering, okay, and Argentina has been a mess politically and economically for a while. But some of the factors that are at play there, the high inflation, you know, the sort of political upset, the young people wanting a say, these are all things that you can easily see coming into play in 2024.

CUPP: Well, absolutely. And they've already been in play. And I think to the tone and rhetoric, if you are insufficiently angry about these issues, then you're not trustworthy to this group of people. The anger is really, really important.

And when Trump goes on and says, well, never mind my mean tweets, like I'm angry about stuff and you should be too. Now, he goes to cartoonish overreach when he does it, and he preys on our basest instincts, but he's out there identifying problems that a lot of people see every day, and that Democrats are saying don't exist, right? There is no rise in crime. There is no border crisis. Joe Biden is doing great, so is the economy. Don't believe your lying eyes and don't believe your feelings.

I think leaning into that anger has been very, very important to Trump and other right wing nationalist would-be leaders around the world.


MICHAELSON: I think that's right. I mean, you can see the ideological malleability, particularly in the Argentinean case, right? I mean, we don't see a lot of hard right figures espousing this kind of anarcho- capitalism.

I remember when I was in college. I was friends with someone who described himself as an anarcho-capitalist. And now it's actually the president of Argentina. And that really used to be kind of like --

PHILLIP: Not your friend, just the ideology.

MICHAELSON: Not my friend, fortunately, for me. That was like a kind of thing that, yes, college sophomores used to talk about, like, oh, we should, but now this is the mainstream. And I think we don't see that among other far right figures who tend to be sort of more standard kind of arch-capitalist, let's say, but I think that goes to your point, that this is really -- this is an emotive tone. And that's been true of nationalism, again, for quite some time.

CUPP: And populism.

PHILLIP: Do you think it's being taken seriously by the small L liberals that this is out there and it's real?

CUPP: Well, from my vantage point, you know, being inside the conservative movement, but also really disavowing where Trump has taken it, no, I think, no. And I think there was a condescension from the left for a long time that you heard in the way people talked about the square states, right?

There's a whole book called, What's the Matter with Kansas? I mean, Democrats are looking back on that now with some embarrassment, that it was snobbish, that it was condescending, that it was trying to talk over to people with some very real grievances.

Now, some of those grievances might also be imagined, imaginary racism or white replacement or conspiracy theories. Some of them are real and they should be taken serious.

MICHAELSON: But I think that title was maybe unfortunate, but that argument was the same argument that you're actually making, right --

CUPP: No, it's not.

MICHAELSON: -- that the claim -- no, really, the claim of What's the Matter With Kansas was here are people who are voting against their economic interests, which is clearly true.

And what I think that book got right, again, in a sort of patronizing tone, was that it's not just the economy stupid, right?

CUPP: Right, there are other issues.

MICHAELSON: There was all kinds of dislocation that people in Kansas were experiencing, and that's what they voted for. But I think it's right, the idea that like that was a mistake, oh, no, no, you should be voting your economic self-interest, not voting for the things that you strongly believe in. That's the mistake.

CUPP: Think it's a mistake to tell people how to vote and what should be important for them. And I think that's the mistake Democrats are making.

PHILLIP: But this is also a really important point. We talk about this from the frame of economics, because oftentimes that's what is being said out loud. But what's not being said is the frame of people's social self-interest, what they think about their group identity.

And that plays out with Trump. It plays out in Italy, where they're pushing back against migrants and in all of these other places as well.

MICHAELSON: Absolutely. I mean, that's what's so striking, I think, about the Argentinean case, is that you don't -- you know, I was scouring his statements to see, well, okay, where's he going to say the quiet part out loud about immigrants, for example. But he didn't really make that argument, actually. It was much more of an anti-elite argument, something that you would hear from RFK Jr. here in the United States, like, oh, well, the elites, the cultural elites, the political elites, these people don't have your interests at hand. And that, to me, is actually almost unique. It was fascinating.

PHILLIP: Yes, and this is super fascinating. We'll continue to watch it.

You guys stick around for us. S.E. and Jay will be back in just a little bit.

But up next for us tonight, a revolt is underway at one of the biggest companies in artificial intelligence, as one of the industry's biggest names gets the boot.

Plus, a court just gutted the Voting Rights Act, making it harder for groups to defend all voters.

And new signs that President Biden may be embracing his age, despite concerns ahead of the next election.



PHILLIP: Resign or we will. That is what OpenAI employees are telling its board of directors in a new letter, just days after the board abruptly firing of the co-founders and CEO, Sam Altman.

Now, more than 700 employees are threatening to leave for Microsoft, saying that they're unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgment, and care for OpenAI's mission.

Now, the move follows Microsoft's announcement this morning that it would hire Altman to lead its artificial intelligence unit. But, hold on now, in interviews later today, CEO Satya Nadella made it clear that Altman could still return to OpenAI in some capacity.

The revolt within OpenAI is more than a fight between just the employees and its board, but rather about the lasting consequences of artificial intelligence and what it could have on our society. Now, joining me to discuss all of this is Business Insider Correspondent Linette Lopez, and also with us, Semafor Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith.

Ben, to me, this is like the fight over who gets the dragon egg in Game of Thrones. Like this is a technology that is like inoculating and whoever owns it kind of owns the future. Tell us like in layman's terms, why it matters who runs OpenAI and whether it's Sam Altman or someone else.

BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SEMAFOR: Well, you have this kind of very strange situation, which I think like anybody watching A.I. develop has seen, where the people who run these companies, notably Sam Altman, the people around OpenAI, which developed ChatGPT, which is genuinely pretty amazing, presented themselves as that their real interest was in making sure that A.I. didn't go too fast and didn't hurt anybody. And they had a nonprofit board who said that was their job.

And then at some point, the board seemed to start taking that a little too seriously while the actual company actually raced to make as much money as they could and build as good a company as they could, and attempted to fire Altman for essentially going too fast. It seems like at which point, the people operating the company at Altman and their investors said, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, like our actual mission is to build a great company and make money. What all this stuff about slowing down and worrying about the robot apocalypse was sort of P.R.

And so it seems like -- and that in the sell the company to Microsoft, make a billion dollars, build cool technology side of this fight, has clearly won.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, Linette, do you think it matters whether there is like the state admission to make A.I., you know, safe for humankind? Does that even matter? Is that a significant part of this conversation at all, or was it always destined to become a kind of for-profit giant?


LINETTE LOPEZ, COLUMNIST, BUSINESS INSIDER: ChatGPT doesn't have the monopoly on creating great A.I. There will be companies that come up and maybe make better large language models because that's what they make. They have a large language model that scrapes the internet for patterns that make sense as what you would say a sentence or a logic or thought.

There are other companies that can do this and that are doing this. It's just that ChatGPT raced to it first and became this household name that went viral and brought this technology to the forefront of our popular culture. But this stuff has been going on since 2018.

Now, there are three things that are happening right now. One is that we don't know why Sam Altman was actually fired. It could be completely political. They will not tell us what he did or how he was racing too fast or anything like that. The other thing is that OpenAI still doesn't make any money and it needs its investors, like Microsoft, which is why Satya Nadella has the freedom to say, you can stay with us or you could go to OpenAI. Because what we're really realizing now is that the board is toothless. It doesn't have money. It doesn't have control over the investors.

And, lastly, the mission. Okay, is this mission about what's happening in A.I now why we're still trying to figure out the use cases for this large language model technology, or is this mission about technology we don't actually even have?

The fear-mongering from this board is about general intelligence A.I., which is like the robots in the Jetsons. We don't have that yet.

PHILLIP: Well, we could. I mean --

LOPEZ: Or we may not ever.

PHILLIP: Should we be afraid, Ben, that this is the beginning of the part of this technology that gets kind of scary?

SMITH: Well, I mean, you know, it's good that Linette is so relaxed about the robot apocalypse. I mean, I think what we're seeing here is just sort of in real time this idea that once you've created a technology, the notion that particularly these private companies are going to exercise any kind of control of it other than just essentially feed the market, just like there were a lot of -- there was a lot of skepticism of that, and this is -- you're sort of seeing that idea collapse in real time.

PHILLIP: If you're Microsoft -- so one of the things we don't really know is whether actually, you know, Sam Altman will end up at Microsoft. It seems like they're open still to the idea that he could go back to OpenAI maybe with a different board. But if you're Microsoft, do you want OpenAI and Sam Altman and all of these brains from this entity in your company or would you prefer them to be on the outside? Their stock got a little bit of a boost today over this.

LOPEZ: Who knows? But what I think the most important question is, how do we know what A.I. thinks, what it thinks? How does it come to the computations that it comes to? Like what we see when we put a prompt into ChatGPT is like solving a math problem without showing your work.

I think what we need to focus on is not the fear-mongering that could come 10, 15 years down the road. We need to focus on understanding this technology now and the fear-mongering distracts from that. And it seems very convenient for me.

Do you think, Ben, that this is what the board is worried about, that a lack of guardrails is a real problem?

SMITH: It's really hard to know. That is what they say they're worried about. They haven't been particularly effective in doing anything other than maybe handing Microsoft the whole company sort of for free without regulatory approval, like this incredible gift, although who knows if that works out. And I think it seems like now Microsoft and Satya are just trying to kind of like put the genie back in the bottle. They had a stable functioning situation. Maybe they can get back to that.

LOPEZ: And they call themselves effective altruists, which also Sam Bankman-Fried said he was. And we know how that turned out.

So, I just -- I think watch what they do, not what they say.

PHILLIP: Forgive me for being a little skeptical that there's altruism at play here. I think people want to make money and we'll see where that takes them.

Linette Lopez, Ben Smith, thank you both.

SMITH: Thank you.

LOPEZ: Thanks.

PHILLIP: It's a stunning ruling that will impact the voting rights of Black, Hispanic and other racial minorities at the risk of -- and risk a devastating blow, that's next.

Plus, former President Trump releasing the results of a recent health exam. Why the timing is noteworthy here.

And the IDF potentially arresting a rising Palestinian writer and contributor for The New Yorker. We'll ask what went on there.



PHILLIP: While Donald Trump's gag order appeal got the most attention today, in another court, the Voting Rights Act is in serious jeopardy. The act, of course, is the landmark legislation from the 1960s outlawing racial discrimination in America's voting system.

But tonight, a federal appeals court gutted it, the ruling that private groups cannot bring lawsuits. Only the federal government can.

In a written dissent, Chief Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith, a George W. Bush appointee, noted that just 15 cases in the last 40 years have been brought by the Justice Department. He writes that rights so foundational to self-government and citizenship should not depend solely on the discretion or availability of the government's agents for protection.

Let's discuss this with Judith Browne Dianis, the executive director of the Advancement Project, non-profit focused on racial justice issues. Judith, thank you for joining us.

This is something that you've called a body blow to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If you are an average voter in one of these states, what does this mean for you heading into 2024? JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Well, first we have to remember that the 8th circuit doesn't cover the whole country, but it does cover Missouri and Arkansas and Minnesota. Missouri is a case where Advancement Project is brought voting rights cases.


And so, what it means for that handful of states, including the Dakotas and Iowa and Nebraska, is that this court has slammed the courthouse door on civil rights plaintiffs and civil rights organizations. It means that the federal government is the only protector that we have, that our communities cannot access justice on their own. And it's problematic for so many reasons.

I mean, the first thing is that this is fundamental. This is like one of those things that you say like, this isn't even a thing. This has never happened. No court has ever raised that. And in fact, in this case itself, the defendants did not raise it. The court, the lower court raised it on its own. And so, this has been well settled that plaintiffs can bring civil rights cases under the Voting Rights Act, and now this one court has gone rogue, has acted outside of precedent, outside of what the Supreme Court has done.

PHILLIP: Well, when it comes to the Supreme Court, one of the factors is that the judge who wrote the majority opinion here is a former, you know, acolyte of Justice Clarence Thomas.

And if this is going to go up to the Supreme Court, do you think that it matters whether or not there has been these decades of precedent, over 180 cases brought by non-governmental entities under section two, doesn't that count for something if all of these decades of cases have been sided with other parties being able to bring them before the courts?

DIANIS: Yes, I mean, this court even said that for half a century that -- that courts have recognized private right of action and then did the exact opposite. I don't think that the Supreme Court can go in a different direction. I mean, you think about it, there've been cases just recent to redistricting cases that the Supreme Court did not question this. That's why this is outrageous because this is something so fundamental to the administration of justice.

PHILLIP: And Judith Browne-Dianis, thank you very much for joining us on all of that.


PHILLIP: And up next, Donald Trump releases a doctor's note about his health. And we've noticed some similarities to all of his previous ones. Plus, the family of a Palestinian poet is raising questions in the wake of his disappearance. We'll try to look for some answers next.



PHILLIP: Tonight marks President Biden's last birthday before the election, and Donald Trump didn't waste the anniversary to troll the age concerns by releasing a new statement of his own from his doctor. Here are a few details, and there are few, no test results or statistics to compare. And we've seen over the years several of these statements. There are, though, some remarkable similarities, we'll put it.

First, the over-the-top glowing adjectives. For instance, in today's letter, excellent overall health, it says. Exceptional cognitive results. Excellent was used a second time. And in January in 2018, a statement by yet another doctor, a physical exam that went exceptionally well. Again, excellent health.

In the 2015 letter by a previous personal doctor, astonishingly excellent, said the letter about his lab results. Excellent cardio ability, extraordinary physical strength and stamina, and sometimes these statements even came verbally.


RONNY JACKSON, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR: But the president did exigently well on it. He's very sharp. Based on his cardiac assessment, hands down, there's no question that he is in the excellent range.


PHILLIP: Other similarities in the statements about Trump's health, the unique ability of his doctors to predict the future, especially one that involves a 77-year-old. In today's letter, he will, quote, continue to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle for years to come.

In a 2019 memo, the doctor anticipated that Trump would be healthy for the remainder of his presidency and beyond. And again, those predictions have been said out loud, too.


DR. RONNY JACKSON, TRUMP'S PHYSICIAN: It's called genetics. I don't know. It's -- some people have, you know, just great genes. You know, I told the President that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old. I think he will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even for the remainder of another term if he's elected.


PHILLIP: Okay, it's worth noting in the 2015 statement, the doctor ended the letter with this, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." Now, that doctor would later admit that he didn't write any of those words, that Trump had dictated the entire thing.

PHILLIP: Back with me again, CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp and "Rolling Stone" Columnist Jay Michelson. Yeah, S.E., exceptional, excellent. But also, some great trolling on the part of the Trump campaign.

CUPP: I mean, no coincidence. Joe Biden's birthday. To be clear, he released no medical records, okay? There was propaganda.

PHILLIP: He released propaganda. Really.

CUPP: We've seen no lab results. We've seen nothing other than whatever he told this doctor to say. I also heard that Kim Jong-un hit 11 holes in one. He says that, so we should believe it, right? I mean, it has that kind of it rhymes with that.

MICHAELSON: To me, it encapsulates this whole election. So, like on the one hand, Joe Biden, a little bit old. On the other hand, Donald Trump, a lying liar who makes up his own doctor's reports --


CUPP: Right.

MICHAELSON: -- and who basically says the cat ate my homework if that would give him an A.

PHILLIP: Also old. I mean, they're just not that far apart in age.

MICHAELSON: That's right. Yeah, that's right. But you know, it's just like to me, the frustration of this whole election is like, yeah, I get it, Biden's a little bit old, but this guy is like an authoritarian who lies about everything. And if you think, you know, he's not a con man, you're the mark.

PHILLIP: So, President Biden today, as you noted, today is his birthday. They released this image of him with a flaming birthday cake. He joked it was 146 candles. He's been joking more about his age at the Turkey Pardon earlier today in that image, basically joking about how old he is. And do you think that will work to just, like, you know, the elephant in the room, just say it out loud?

CUPP: I guess it's better than, like, raging against it. But, you know, I think I would ignore it. I know Jay's really worked up about this photo, though.

MICHAELSON: I just don't know which White House intern needs to get fired for having the cake look like the Statue of Liberty or the Olympic torch or something. But when you want to de-emphasize someone's advanced age, you don't put 81 candles on a birthday cake.

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, I think that they're trying to say, like, well, maybe we should just talk about it.

CUPP: What? Me, worried? That's what they're saying. What? Me, worried? We're not worried about it. You shouldn't worry about it. But people are worried about it and pretending that they're not. I don't think it's the answer.

PHILLIP: And it's more than just the number, I think, is part of the problem. CUPP: For sure.

PHILLIP: It's also about whether they think he can do the job. So, just on a separate topic here, Bill Maher is offering up, as he does, a new take on why Trump is beating Biden in some of these polls. Listen.


BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: This, to me, is why Trump is winning. Because he talks about, I'm going to open up the mental hospitals again. I'm not saying these are necessarily the good solution. But he talks, I'm going to put people in camps, the immigrant, all this kind of stuff. And people just see a place, a country, especially in the cities, that looks out of control. And the fact that the Democrats could control it for three days, how about making it permanent?


PHILLIP: He's talking here about when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited San Francisco and Governor Gavin Newsom said, hey, we're going to clean it up in a couple of days. Is there any truth to that?

MICHAELSON: Well, let me just put a pin in the fact I'm glad that Bill Maher said that concentration camps would not be the best solution to the immigration crisis of the country -- very courageous step from Bill Maher. Look, I mean, there's lots of ways to cut what is or isn't happened in the cities. I think it was a cute joke, basically.

There are a lot of complicated reasons why San Francisco is the way it is, but it's obviously a winning political issue for Republicans. There's no question that when, you know, you have what is perceived to be. You know, this kind of chaotic situation. But look, they say the same thing about New York City, right? That New York City is some kind of hell hole or whatever. And then if you actually go outside, it is clearly not that. So, there's a lot of myth versus reality in this whole conversation.

CUPP: I don't feel safe in New York and I've been working here for a really long time. I've noticed a difference. And I, again, what I said before, I think people can see a reality and it doesn't have to fit with the statistics, but the reality is people feel unsafe.

And that is because crime in some places is up and there is a border crisis. And to have Democrats say those things don't exist, they're not real, you're making them up, the stats don't back it up, just isn't how people are feeling.

And I think Bill Maher is a hundred percent right. If you think, well, gosh, the government could solve some of these problems, but they won't unless it's window dressing for Xi Jinping, that must make you very, very frustrated. And Trump is offering solutions. They're not the right ones. But he's offering solutions to problems that are real. And people want to hear that acknowledgement.

PHILLIP: You're right. I mean, obviously the crime, the immigration, these are real issues. But when you look at, okay, mayoral elections in New York, in Chicago, in Los Angeles, the candidates who are running on beating the Democrats on those issues did not win.

MICHAELSON: No, I still want to quibble about whether these are real or imaginary issues, right? I mean, in terms of, we can --

PHILLIP: You think that they are more imaginary than real?

MICHAELSON: There are real feelings but I didn't realize that conservatives were, you know, just all about feelings and coddling everybody's feelings. I thought we actually wanted some facts and evidence. And yeah, there are feelings --

CUPP: So, there isn't a border crisis? That's not a fact?

MICHAELSON: There are feelings that are being stoked by a certain kind of media narrative that is soaked in an anti-urban, anti-city narrative that's been with us for half a century and has a very dubious history. And I understand that people may feel a certain way, and that is real. But whether it's actually grounded in the facts of crime rates in the cities, that is highly debatable.

PHILLIP: Well, look, I think crime in San Francisco is up. Homelessness is a real problem, and there is a migrant crisis.

PHILLIP: Not every city is the same.

CUPP: Right, certainly. There is an issue at the border. That's a real thing. There's a migrant issue in these major cities. In Washington, D.C., carjackings are up, hugely.


CUPP: Yes.

PHILLIP: So, people, the statistics say what they say, but people actually -- feelings actually do matter to voters.


I mean, so if you're Joe Biden --

MICHAELSON: I'm not denying. I'm not denying that.

PHILLIP: You can't - I mean, if you're Joe Biden, how do you deal with the very real feelings that might influence how people feel?

MICHAELSON: So, there's got to be a combination here, right? So there has to be a little bit of like, of a reality check. Yes, we acknowledge that feelings are real, we acknowledge that there's some crisis, but we're not going to get on board with this sort of like campaign gravy train that every single problem in urban areas is, you know, mushrooming out of control. That's a kind of politics of hysteria that does lead necessarily to these kind of outrageous authoritarian proposals from Donald Trump. Concentration camps -- I mean, I'm glad that we agree that that's not

a good idea but that kind of extreme rhetoric is being tolerated in the party and it does flow from this kind of narrative of hysteria. That is not a new thing, right? It dates back again. It's got a very sorry legacy in this country that the inner cities are on fire and all these kinds of tropes and themes. That is what these messages are in here.

CUPP: Except, I just will add, conservatives are also complaining about an opioid crisis in rural communities. This is not just, you know, slamming the cities because most of them have Democratic mayors. They're talking about red states where there's other kinds of problems like fentanyl and opioids.

PHILLIP: I mean, what does Joe Biden have to do crime in San Francisco?

CUPP: No, I mean, the whole look, the optics of this moment where Joe Biden's coming, Xi Jinping is coming, and so they get rid of the homeless people and needles and crime for three days has nothing to do with Joe Biden except clearly the Democrats are able to do it and want to do it for window dressing. All I'm saying is that looks real bad, and Bill Maher is right. I think to say that is good news for Donald Trump.

MICHAELSON: If we want to solve the homelessness crisis in San Francisco, we need more affordable housing, not less. Republicans have been against affordable housing, against the Housing and Urban Development Department for generations at this point. And if we want to really solve these structural problems, we need structural solutions, not fiery rhetoric.

PHILLIP: All right, guys. Thank you so much. S.E. Cupp and Jay Michelson. Appreciate it. And up next for us, the Palestinian writer and contributor for "The New Yorker" has disappeared in Gaza. His family says the IDF took him prisoner. We'll dig into that next.



PHILLIP: New tonight, a rising Palestinian writer and contributor for "The New Yorker", Mosab Abu Toha, has been detained by Israel Defense Forces. That's according to his brother, writing on Facebook that Mosab was taken into custody by the IDF when he reached the checkpoint while leaving from the north to the south of Gaza. The reason behind Abu Toha's arrest still remains unclear and CNN has reached out to the IDF for comment on this.

A State Department spokesman earlier said he didn't have information to share on that situation. Joining me now to discuss this is International Journalist Rula Jebreal. Rula, Mosab Abou Toha has become pretty well-known as a Palestinian writer and poet. Tell us why.

RULA JEBREAL, INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST: Well, he is an award-winning poet. He is a wonderful man, a brilliant intellectual. He is the founder of the only library in Gaza where you have English-speaking books. He is an inspiration because in moments -- in the darkest moments of Gaza throughout the years, he always spoke about our shared humanity. He always used -- he never raised his voice, he used his language, raised his argument about common future, how our destiny is intertwined, about how our liberation and freedom depend on one another.

He wrote a beautiful poem recently about the desire to die in dignity and that we don't deserve these deaths. When people were talking -- actually he watched this TV show, he watched CNN, and he wrote about it for "The New Yorker". And he communicated to a lot of people about when he saw officials, Israeli officials, saying that there's no civilians in Gaza.

He communicated with all of us, said, break your silence because there's -- 50 percent of Gazans are children, people who were born after Hamas came to power, who are under 15 years old, they're almost 900,000 children. So, he wanted to speak for them, for the living and the dead. He wanted to speak beyond this moment of terror and tyranny.

PHILLIP: Can I read a little bit about, from a piece in "The New Yorker", he writes, this is under bombardment in Gaza. "I sit in my temporary house in the Jabalia camp waiting for a ceasefire. I feel like I'm in a cage. I'm being killed every day with my people. The only two things I can do are panic and breathe. There is no hope here." Do you have any sense of why someone like this would disappear and allegedly be taken by the IDF?

JEBREAL: In this moment, there's 7000 Palestinians who are arrested and who are in jail in Israeli dungeons. Among them, there's 200 children. Israel is the only place on earth that have martial courts for children. We are looking at a moment where, and we've seen, you know, officials coming here on CNN saying, we don't really -- our war is not on Hamas and on civilians.

So, if he is suspected of talking to the international journalists or international community about the condition of Gazans, remember even the journalists who are embedded with the IDF, they're forbidden from talking to Palestinians.


So, words are now crimes. So, you know, it reminds me actually when Angela Davis was arrested 50 years ago here in this country, when people were writing about, you know, black people rights and their liberation and their self, you know, their equality and dignity. It reminds me of this moment where -- when they start arresting intellectuals and journalists and activists. This is the moment we know that it's not only about Hamas, this is about all the Palestinian people.

PHILIP: We'll see what more we can find out about where he is and his whereabouts. This is something that we continue to ask about here at CNN. Rula Jebreal, thank you so much for joining us. And just in for us, word of a meeting tonight between the new Speaker of the House and the likely Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the new House Speaker making a pilgrimage to Mar-a- Lago. A source tells CNN that Mike Johnson went to meet with former President Trump at his Florida compound tonight. The speaker's voyage follows his endorsement last week of Trump. Johnson has branded himself as one of Trump's closest allies in the Congress. And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now. Hey Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Surprise, surprise, surprise. Another pilgrimage --

PHILLIP: Shocking.

COATES: -- down to Mar-a-Lago. I am stunned. This is truly, where's the banner? Breaking news, this has happened. Abby, great show.

PHILLIP: We should describe this as a great Republican tradition, which I think it has become.

COATES: I think it's becoming that. It's almost like the true rite of passage.


COATES: Now, how will the voters feel about it? We'll have to wait and see. Thanks, Abby. Nice to see you. We'll see you back tomorrow.

PHILLIP: Goodnight.