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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Biden Tells Donors, I'm Not Sure I'd Be Running If Trump Wasn't; Liz Cheney Doesn't Rule Out Third Party Run To Stop Trump; Trump Says, I'll Only Be A Dictator On Day One Of Second Term; Ukraine's U.S. Aid Hangs By A Thread; President Biden Slams Hamas' Sexual Violence Against Israeli Women; Sen. Tuberville Drops Blockade On Military Promotions. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Brenda Lee's Rocking Around the Christmas Tree is making history 65 years after it was released, now breaking the record for the longest time to debut between debuting and reaching number one.

This achievement fueled by a new music video and TikTok campaign from Lee who recorded the song when she was just 13 years old. She's now 78 and celebrating this milestone and she turns 79 next week. A nice early happy birthday to her.

The song is set to break the record that also a Christmas classic, Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You had set. Of course, a lot of Christmas music around here for the next several weeks.

I want to thank you so much for joining us tonight. CNN Newsnight with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Comments from the president that made his own staffers go yikes. That's tonight on Newsnight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in New York. Tonight, what you might call the law of political physics, every action has its equal opposite reaction. President Joe Biden has now essentially confirmed that he's running for one reason or rather because of one man and one man only, Donald Trump.

Those remarks came at an off-camera fundraiser in Boston, and they are jaw-dropping if only for their clarity and their simplicity. If Trump wasn't running, he says, I'm not sure I'd be running, but we can't let him win.

The Biden campaign was caught off guard, according to sources. Yikes was how one top campaign adviser reacted when he learned what Biden had said.

Now, the remarks are sure to create some headaches in the days ahead and to renew some conversations that are ongoing about President Biden's age. Moments ago, Trump himself tried to turn Biden's admission to his own advantage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: When I ran for president four years ago, I said we were in a battle for the soul of America, and we still are.


PHILLIP: Now, the comments today do echo 2020. You can see the parallels with his 2024 campaign announcement.


BIDEN: When I ran for president four years ago, I said we're in a battle for the soul of America, and we still are.


PHILLIP: But the context here is far different. Biden is now 81 years old, not 77, and he has long since discarded this promise.


BIDEN: Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else. There's an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.


PHILLIP: A bridge, but to what, to himself? Well, it's something Democrats say they do not want, and it's a big reason why the president's age and his health and his mental competency are questions that come with all of this.

Also tonight, the standard bearer of a famous political family says she might run for the exact same reason as Joe Biden. Liz Cheney, the former Republican congresswoman who worries that Donald Trump might never leave if he wins again, sat down for an interview with our own Anderson Cooper. And she would not rule out joining the 2024 field if she thinks that it accomplishes one mission, and that is stopping Trump.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you were to determine that your candidacy would take more votes away from Trump than it would from Biden, would that be a catalyst to get into the race?

FMR. REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I'm going to look at this over the next couple of months through the lens of how do we stop Donald Trump. And on some level it's not about me, it's not about what I'm going to do or not do. I look at it very much from the perspective of right now, absolutely, we have to keep our eye on the goal of stopping him.

Right now and in this election cycle, I'll do whatever I have to do to make sure Donald Trump is not elected.


PHILLIP: Anderson Cooper joins me now. Anderson, it was really striking how Liz Cheney really went after her former Republican colleagues. Let's take a listen to what she had to say.


CHENEY: This group of elected Republicans can't be counted on to defend the Constitution. And that's a very sad thing for me to say. It's a very dangerous place for the country to be, but that's what we've seen based on the actions of the last several years.


PHILLIP: And she, of course, knows this from personal experience because she was there, and they basically abandoned her. And she watched them participate basically in, you know, parts of the things that led up to January 6th.

What did you make of how she thinks about not just the Trump of it all, but the Republican Party of it all?


COOPER: Yes. That's one of the things I just find so extraordinary about what she has written, the idea that the Republicans in the House, the body that she served in until very recently, cannot be trusted. She's talking particularly if an election is so close that it ends up being determined in the House.

I just find it stunning that Liz Cheney, who spent her career in the House, who's been a diehard Republican for so long, comes from a very conservative family, is saying something so strong. I mean, it's kind of remarkable.

PHILLIP: And there's also, you know, now the speaker of the House is an election denier, Mike Johnson, someone --

COOPER: who she writes extensively about in the book, which is fascinating. I mean, she obviously wrote the book before Mike Johnson was named speaker, but she had a lot of interaction with him. And she was telling me that people who were involved in the book were sort of like, why are you spending so much time talking about Mike Johnson? It now was very prescient that she did include him in the book.

But she really does view him as somebody who portrayed himself as a constitutional scholar, who was making very sort of specious constitutional arguments, and sort of putting out an amicus brief that also some members of Congress felt had sort of an implicit threat that President Trump would be looking at all the members who went along with him on this.

PHILLIP: Do you get the sense that she thinks it's a lost cause, that the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump's now? COOPER: It does -- certainly, this iteration of the Republican Party, it does seem that she thinks it is beyond salvaging. I mean, I think she has talked about thinking about a third party run or the creation of another sort of party. I'm not sure. Obviously, I think there's a lot for her to figure out on that. And obviously, there's a lot of obstacles for that.

PHILLIP: So, she talked about what would happen if Donald Trump were re-elected to a second term. Listen to what she said.


CHENEY: What it means if a president of the United States won't enforce the rulings of our courts, and that is absolutely what he said he will do. He's gone to war with the rule of law. And a president who won't enforce the law creates a situation where things just unravel. And he will have people around him who will help him do it.


PHILLIP: Just a couple days ago, I was talking to John Bolton, who is, to be clear, no fan of Donald Trump's. And he thought that that language was pretty alarmist. And I've actually heard that from several pretty anti-Trump Republicans. They think that she's gone a little too far in how she talks about this. She is not moved by that at all. She's doubling down, it seems.

COOPER: There's no doubt about it. I mean, she seems to very much believe that the guardrails of democracy that not only are they not as secure as many of us like to believe they were or before a Trump administration, but also that the former president has learned from mistakes he made and things he wasn't able to do before and would not make those same mistakes, that that essentially the people around him have learned from the mistakes of the first administration.

PHILLIP: You mentioned the third-party run. Did you get the sense that she's keeping that option open but more likely, less likely to go that route?

COOPER: I mean, I don't have any really insight on that. I mean, I think, look, she -- I don't think she wants to do anything that would help Donald Trump become the next president. You know, is she saying that in order to kind of get attention, which many people do, you know, in order to, when you're out with the book and she's making another headline?

PHILLIP: Yes, it certainly is buzzy.

COOPER: I'm not sure. But, I mean, you know, look, a third-party run for her, if -- I think that would be a difficult calculation.

PHILLIP: Yes, it certainly would be. Anderson, thank you so much for joining us on that.

And you can check out Anderson's podcast about grief for an interesting interview with President Biden. And you can listen to all there is first thing tomorrow morning on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

At a Fox Town Hall tonight, the former president refused to say something very important. Sean Hannity tried to give Donald Trump an out to put to bed these stories about a second term and what it would look like, and whether there is a specter of authoritarianism or fascism, Trump refused to say no.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: -- any way have any plans, whatsoever, if re-elected president to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You mean like they're using right now? So, in the history of our country, what's happened to us, again, has never happened before, over nonsense, over nothing, made up charges.


HANNITY: I want to go back to this one issue though because the media has been focused on this and of tacking you.


HANNITY: Under no circumstances you are promising America tonight you would never abuse power as Retribution against anybody?

TRUMP: Except for day one.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Tim Alberta. He's a staff writer for The Atlantic. And he's also the author of the new book, The Kingdom, The Power, and The Glory, American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism. Tim, thanks for staying up for us, a perfect person for this particular moment, as always.

But that from the Trump Town Hall is pretty extraordinary. I mean, once again, Hannity almost like leading a horse to water and asking him to drink, and he won't do it. Why won't he simply say the answer is no?

TIM ALBERTA, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: You know, I've called this before like the Fifth Avenue theory, Abby, remember when Trump in 2016 said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

And he has, over the past eight years, almost seemed to play this game where he wants to see how much he can get away with. He just keeps pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing. And, frankly, in that setting, answering the question the way that he did, or I guess more accurately, not answering the question the way that he did, he knows he can get away with it. He realizes that there's no consequence for it. There's never been any consequence, at least not from his base.

And so he's going to keep playing these games until it's almost like the hot stove thing, right? Like until he really gets burned by it, I don't think we should expect anything else. But it is just extraordinary to pause and reflect on that. Like he's -- yes, Hannity begging him, like, come on, really though, you're not going to turn into a tyrant, are you?

PHILLIP: I mean, you know what it reminds me of? The last time we saw Trump kind of pull something like this was just before the 2020 election, when he was repeatedly asked, will you accept the results of the election if you lose? And he refused to say. And then afterward, he refused to accept the results of the election. So, it's not just a rhetorical game. I mean, the audience was laughing. This could be a signal of what is to come.

ALBERTA: Yes. It's almost like we should start taking him seriously, right? I mean, even a couple of -- I think it was 36 hours or so a couple of days after the election, I believe it was November 5th when Trump gave the speech from the White House where he basically said we're living in a banana republic, you can't trust our elections anymore, it's been stolen from me, you, the people, need to do something about this.

And I remember being horrified and fearful at that point of what was going to happen, and everybody was shrugging it off. Oh, this is just what he says. This is this is, you know, his shtick. And it's like, well, okay, but hold on, there are tens of millions of people who voted for this man and who believe him when he says these things. So, it seems as though, just as with your example where he was almost priming people for how he might behave in the aftermath of that election, is he now priming people yet again to say, yes, I might just pursue an authoritarian style of governing and maybe people won't really have a problem with that?

PHILLIP: You kind of touched on this in your book. You talk about Cal Thomas, who plays a pretty important role in the rise of modern evangelicalism. And he said this to you about evangelical Christians. He says, you can't have a legitimate conversation with these people who are all in on Trump, because if you find any flaw in him, even flaws that are demonstrable, they either excuse it or attack you.

I mean, does that what he's describing there make you or him worry that that's a recipe for authoritarianism?

ALBERTA: Well, especially, Abby, yes, I mean, it makes me worry, and I think especially when you take the elements of authoritarianism, but then you inject the religious zealotry and the religious justification, not from Trump himself but from this base of conservative right wing white evangelicals, whom he has cultivated over the past eight years.

And these are folks who, if you look at January 6th, some of the religious imagery around the siege of the Capitol, if you look at the language he deploys when he's in front of explicitly evangelical audiences talking about giving back power to Christianity, wanting to sort of take on Christianity's enemies in the culture, I mean, this is loaded language. And you don't have to look far to see just overseas in Ukraine, Russia's invasion was loaded with this sort of religious, identitarian rhetoric, and Trump, in some ways, is borrowing from that same playbook. So, it's very worrisome.

PHILLIP: So, I want to play for you something that Trump said over the weekend. Listen.


TRUMP: But I think if you had a real election and Jesus came down and God came down and said, I'm going to be the scorekeeper here, I think we would win there, I think we would win in Illinois and I think would win in New York.



PHILLIP: Are evangelicals comfortable with that, invoking God and Jesus I his quest to sort of claim that he deserves to win everywhere?

ALBERTA: You know, if you had asked me that question just a few years ago, Abby, I would have said no, of course not. But I think we have to recognize how dramatically the paradigm has shifted here and how Donald Trump has sort of rewritten the rules inside the modern evangelical movement.

I mean, look, in many ways, what Trump has effectively done is he has conditioned evangelical Christians in this country, at least the millions of them who are loyal to him and to the MAGA movement, to expect that sort of rhetoric, to expect this sort of antagonism, this pugilism, and anything short of that almost doesn't pass muster.

Like if you watch Mike Pence as he campaigned for president, he'd go in front of evangelical audiences and talk about civility, talk about decency, talking about turn the other cheek, and he would get booed. He would get jeered.

PHILLIP: Yes, he would have to be booted off the stage.

ALBERTA: Yes. So, it seems like we've lived through in a very condensed period of time here, just almost a wholesale remaking of that alliance between the evangelical movement and the Republican Party, and Trump is obviously at the tip of the spear.

PHILLIP: And it makes you wonder if there has been a break between evangelicalism and its religious origins now the Trump has sort of made it not necessarily about all the sort of values of Christianity but about other things, about his personality, about who he is as a person.

ALBERTA: Well, you know, there was some fascinating research done during Trump's presidency that showed that there was an uptick in white conservatives who were self-identifying as evangelical, even as simultaneously the number of white conservatives who were attending church was going down.

So, there is an identification phenomenon here where, for many of these folks, evangelical is now a cultural, a political, a tribal label that is basically hollowed out of its spiritual meaning, which I think is just -- it does an incredible disservice to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And for those of us who believe in that gospel and who feel that we have a responsibility to evangelize, to take that gospel to the nations and to try and share the news of Jesus Christ, it's hard to do that when everyone now attaches this political label to the term itself.

PHILLIP: All right. Tim Alberta, thank you so much for joining us. And everyone pick up his book, The Kingdom, The Power and The Glory, available right now. Thanks so much.

ABLERTA: Thanks, Abby.

And next, Chris Wallace joins me on Biden's surprising remarks tonight about running against Donald Trump.

Plus, the new speaker says that he's blurring the faces of the January 6th footage so that the rioters won't be prosecuted.

And is Vladimir Putin winning his deadly war in Ukraine? Why a shouting match tonight in a classified Senate briefing may have the answer to that question.



PHILLIP: Just a few moments ago, reporters asked the president about his admission that Donald Trump is his sole reason for running.


REPORTER: Would you be running for president if Trump wasn't running?

BIDEN: I expect so. But, look, he is running and I just -- I have to run.

REPORTER: If you drop out if Trump says no?

BIDEN: No, not now.


PHILLIP: I have to run, he says. And as we pointed out at the top of the show, Donald Trump responded to Joe Biden's comments just in the last hour.


HANNITY: If Trump wasn't running, I'm not sure I'd be running, he said, at a campaign event today. How do you react to that?

TRUMP: Well, I think somebody gave him a talking point. They thought that would sound good.

The person they don't want to run against is us. It's us. It's not me. It's us, because it's a movement the likes of which this country, Sean, has never seen before.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is CNN Anchor Chris Wallace.

Chris, I want to start with this new comment from President Biden. He told Democratic donors today that he wasn't confident that he would be seeking another term in the White House if former President Trump was not in the race.

Here's what he said. He said, quote, if Trump wasn't running, I'm not sure I'd be running, and added that Democrats cannot let Trump win. It's really astonishing, but perhaps in line with what he said in the past.

I mean, how do you think this comment plays now that he is on the ballot and just before the election really gets into gear?

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think it would play a lot better if you were actually leading Donald Trump in the polls. In fact, there are a number of polls that show him dead even, or even trailing Trump.

I know that was the argument in 2020. He was the one Democrat who could defeat Donald Trump, and he did. So, you have to give him that credit. But there is an awful lot of people who think he might be the one Democrat who could lose to Donald Trump.

And with a lot of other people out there, none of whom are going to take on Joe Biden in a Democratic primary because he's the incumbent president, but you think of Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, Governor Whitmer of Michigan, Pritzker of Illinois.

You know, I just think it's a harder case to make when there is so much doubt about him. And, you know, the idea -- he's basically saying, I'm the only thing that protects the country from Donald Trump second term. I think there are a lot of people who question that.

PHILLIP: I mean, isn't that kind of an acknowledgement to himself that age is a factor here, that, I mean, he would be doing something else, maybe retire himself if it weren't for Trump?

WALLACE: Well, I hadn't thought of it that way, but I suppose that's true because, you know, generally speaking, a first-term president is hell bent on seeking a second term.


And the fact that he's saying, you know, if it weren't for Trump, I'd be out in Rehoboth, it certainly does raise the age question I'm sure not in the way that he intended it to.

PHILLIP: So, as all of this is happening, we have former Congresswoman Liz Cheney out there saying that she has to close the door to running as a third party candidate. Obviously, she's very clear. She wants to stop Trump from being president again. But do you think a Cheney run would actually help Trump or hurt him?

WALLACE: Well, I think it's very much up in the air whether or not it would hurt Trump, which is obviously what she would want to do.

Now, look, Liz Cheney has got a book out. She's trying to get promotion for the book. So, comments like this are good for moving the merchandise. But my initial reaction when I heard that she was thinking of a second -- there's not a chance in the world that she could win.

I mean, she doesn't have support in the Democratic Party. She doesn't have adequate support in the Republican Party. So the only reason for her to run is to think that she would be able to hurt and perhaps prevent Donald Trump from winning. And I don't think that's at all certain.

PHILLIP: Look, meanwhile, over on Capitol Hill, the new House speaker, Mike Johnson, he's trying to rewrite essentially what happened on January 6th, by releasing these tapes and also saying that when he releases the tapes of the January 6th footage, he's going to blur the faces of the January 6th rioters to protect them. Is this just him playing to, you know, an important audience of, one, for a Republican, but, I mean, I am so astonished by this idea of explicitly protecting writers from accountability, what do you make of that?

WALLACE: Well, you know, the January 6 tapes have been an interesting political litmus test. First, you had then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy give them exclusively to Tucker Carlson, and he then proceeded to rewrite history and say that the tapes show that this was, I think, in his words, a tourist event, perhaps but not necessarily the strangest thing Tucker has ever said.

But now, in a sense, I think this is even more astonishing, the idea that the speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency, is saying, I'm going to put these tapes out and let everybody have them, but I'm going to blur the faces of people. Why would he blur the faces? Because they're guilty, because they've done something wrong, and he specifically said, because I don't want the FBI or the Justice Department going after them.

Well, look, if they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear. If they did something wrong, then the FBI or the Justice Department should be going after them.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I think that that's the basic premise of the rule of law here.

Last thing before you go, Chris, the Republicans in the House are still making this effort to impeach President Biden, and Speaker Mike Johnson says that he does have the votes. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, issued this warning to Republicans.


FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): Republican, do you really want to guarantee a primary opponent by voting against it, looking at it? This doesn't impeach him. This simply gives Congress additional power to force the White House to reveal documents and to force people to come and testify.


PHILLIP: And now that statement probably isn't surprising if you know Newt Gingrich, but at the same time, we still have a basic question of where is the evidence. And the latest from James Comer about payments from Hunter Biden to his father turned out to be car payments from Hunter Biden to Joe Biden.

So, it seems like they're just simply having a hard time coming up with this evidence. Can they still move forward in spite of that?

WALLACE: Well, look, it's all -- it's a question of votes. If they've got 218 votes, they can approve an impeachment inquiry. And as Gingrich is saying, this is simply to investigate.

But, you know, and I know that the impeachment is particularly the first one of President Trump was controversial over the issue of his phone call, his perfect phone call with Zelenskyy, and whether or not he was going to condition US aid and whether or not Zelenskyy was going to investigate Joe Biden, but at least there was a there, there.

At this point, you know, a lot of people have problems with Hunter Biden trading on his father's name. There was a recent poll, a third of Americans, including a third of Democrats, think what Joe Biden did in allowing Hunter to use his name, his brand, was unethical. But in terms of something that would qualify as a high crime and misdemeanor, there's -- you know, as I say, there's no there, there.

We haven't seen it yet. I'm looking forward anxiously to see if they're able to come up with something. But so far, and it's been several years of investigating, they haven't come up with anything that would rise to that level.


PHILLIP: Yeah. And look, nobody is asking everyone to Hunter Biden's behavior. The question is what was Joe Biden's conduct that would warrant an impeachment and I think that's where they've come up short. Chris Wallace, always, good to have you on. Thank you so much for joining us.

WALLACE: Thank you Abby.

PHILLIP: And next, a shouting match erupting tonight in a classified Senate briefing as Republicans hold Ukraine aid hostage. Is this music to Vladimir Putin's ears?


PHILLIP: A provocative question tonight. Is Vladimir Putin winning his deadly war? I want to start with this conversation with a claim from the Senate Majority Leader.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Ronald Reagan would be rolling in his grave, rolling in his grave, if he saw his own party let Vladimir Putin roll through Europe.


PHILLIP: That observation comes at an inflection point for America's place in the world. And up for debate is the notion that the past century of the United States jumping into global conflicts, for better or for worse, is over. The new House speaker says no more money for Ukraine unless the border crisis is also addressed.

Now this is critical. When you take a step back and you realize that Ukraine could be on the slow road to collapse, the White House warns that funds for the war are on the verge of running out completely.


The chief of NATO warns to brace for bad news as Ukraine's counteroffensive sputters.

Moscow is now adding more troops to its million-man army, and members of Volodymyr Zelensky's inner circle privately doubting that this war is winnable. Now, in fact, many people believe that the Ukrainian president is growing more delusional. And tonight, in Washington, a shouting match erupted during a classified Senate hearing over Ukraine.

Apparently, some Senate Republicans began to shout at Pentagon officials for refusing to address the border. So, if Vladimir Putin's goal was to let this war continue until the West simply loses interest, it appears to be working. Stanislav Kucher is a journalist and a former Russian TV host. Stanislav, I was asking you earlier, is Putin winning?

STANISLAV KUCHER, JOURNALIST: Well, Putin's original plan was to either win the war in five days or to drag the West, Ukraine and America, into a quagmire that he and his population are able to withstand while his opponents in the West would get tired, exhausted more quickly. And, yes, that's exactly what's happening at the moment.

I mean, I can't say he's winning the war, right, because, again, his original plan was to win in five days. But his second plan is definitely working now.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Meanwhile, in Russia, I mean, look, it's not as if Russia is not taking significant casualties as this drags on. So inside of Russia, what's your sense of how this is playing for Putin? Can he politically withstand a drawn-out quagmire, as you call it, in Ukraine?

KUCHER: Well, politically, he definitely can withstand absolutely anything and everything in his country, as long as he's president. Well, solely because he's a dictator right now. And, you know, his elites are totally, completely dependent on him. So, any ideas of coup d'etat, you know, a military coup, it's all out of the question, especially now that Mr. Prigozhin is somewhere in a parallel world, right?

And as far as the population of Russia is concerned, again, unfortunately, too many people are under the influence of propaganda. That's number one. And number two, too many Russians strongly believe, even those, you know, who initially were against this criminal war. Like many of them now believe that, okay, the whole world is against us, the West is against us, so we're going to suffer anyway. So, the only way for us is to somehow win.

And then we come to what it means to win the war. Because neither Putin nor Shoigu, military minister, neither of them has ever defined victory. What victory means? I mean, some say it's a flag, Russian flag in Kyiv. Others, I mean, I've even heard people saying that we got to, you know, a be in Poland somewhere, or even in Washington, D.C.

PHILLIP: So, they can define it, however. they want at the end of the day.

KUCHER: Well, you see, one more thing. It's -- in a poker analogy, right, Putin initially had a very small stack, but he was threatening everyone to flip the table over. And somehow, those other players at the table believed he might do so. And so, he was wearing them down. And now, it seems like he has, well, he may, in fact, have the biggest stack. Of course, this analogy is very imperfect because in poker you have to play by the rules, whereas Putin definitely does not.

PHILLIP: He definitely does not. Stanislav Kucher, thank you so much for joining us tonight. And next, Jake Tapper joins me on a Democratic congresswoman now backtracking on her comments about the sexual violence committed by Hamas.



PHILLIP: President Biden tonight denouncing reported sexual assaults by Hamas, saying, quote, "Hamas's terrorists inflicted as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible. The world can't just look away at what's going on. It's on all of us to forcibly condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation."

For more on this, I want to bring in CNN's Jake Tapper, who aired a really powerful report on the sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas on October 7th, and in some ways really put this issue on the map for the world. Jake, thanks for being here. What do you make of Biden making these comments today, the timing of it all? JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I was told last week by some of his top

aides that the president would be saying something publicly about it because it was something that Hamas had done that, they -- the White House had not yet commented on, that the president had not yet commented on. And then I think the reason he did it today was because yesterday there had been that event, that session at the United Nations that the Israeli mission to the U.N. had hosted with Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg, Senator Gillibrand and others in which there was featured public testimony, witness testimony, the head of the police in Israel talking about witness testimony.

And so, the president felt compelled to say something about what Hamas did, the crimes that they committed on Israeli women and girls on October 7th.


PHILLIP: So, these remarks are also coming just after Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She faced a significant amount of backlash for her response to these sexual assaults by Hamas. Listen to what she told Dana Bash.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Rape is horrific, sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas, obviously, are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.


JAYAPAL: Fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, three-quarters of whom ---

BASH: And it's --

JAYAPAL: -- are women and children.


PHILLIP: Now that was Sunday. Today is Tuesday. Tonight, Jayapal issued a statement about the backlash to those comments saying that she unequivocally condemns Hamas's use of rape as an act of war. What did you make of the fact that statement had to be put out and that it came when it did two days later?

TAPPER: Well, it's -- I think first of all, a lot of progressives have a difficult time expressing any sympathy for anything that Israel or Israelis went through because it then puts them in a position where they feel that they are then how -- somehow complicit in whatever Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, is doing in retaliation for the terrorist attack.

Obviously, that's not the case. Obviously, there are Israelis who were victims of what happened October 7th, who might be in disagreement with what Netanyahu and the IDF are doing. That doesn't make them any less victims of October 7th. And, you know, when Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State, you know, really put rape as a weapon of war on the map during the wars in Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, there really wasn't a pushback about well does that mean that you are there for taking the side of this faction in the war or that faction of the war.

But because there is unfortunately a lot of animus towards Israel, this does come up unfortunately. I would also like to point out and there is a lot of criticism coming from the U.S. obviously about how Israel is waging this war. One of the main reasons that there are so many civilian deaths, I mean, there is a lot to criticize about the IDF, as I said, but one of the main reasons is Hamas hides within the civilian population of Gaza.

It's not like Hamas has a military base and Israel could hit that, but instead they're hitting the civilian population. Hamas hides under and within the population of Gaza.

PHILLIP: But, Jake, you know, I mean, one of the things is that I've heard and seen people on the left, the same people who or advocates of the MeToo Movement, the same people who say believe women, who say there's no proof that these rapes happen, that there's no evidence that this is propaganda. That's the part that I'm not understanding how these same people won't believe what seems to be pretty widespread evidence that these things happen.

TAPPER: Yeah, the same people that were pretty willing to believe some shoddy reporting about Brett Kavanaugh are now like not willing to listen to eyewitness testimony, police testimony, some pretty grisly videos that Hamas themselves put out there that speak some fairly disgusting truths about what they perpetrated on women.

Look, I think that there have been some issues in the -- I don't know where these people were misinformed, whether it's in the educational system or where, but when you see people tearing down posters of children because they think it's propaganda that justifies what's going on in Gaza. They can't just look at the face of a baby and say that's a kidnapped baby and that's tragic.

Somewhere along the line these people have been convinced there is no humanity in that face of that child. And I can't explain why that is. Certainly, we have seen throughout history with all sorts of minority groups, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, now Jews, we have seen this dehumanization and it is very, very sad to see it playing out. It's very uncomfortable to see it playing out and it's frankly uncomfortable to see one minority group do it to another minority group.


Because obviously we're all humans and when we're talking about civilians it's always -- it's always sad. And we're talking about children it's always -- it's always tragic. I cannot explain it except to say someone taught these people that these people on the posters, that these women who were raped, that these children who are kidnapped, someone taught them that they are not human, that they are not deserving of sympathy or empathy. And I cannot explain it, but it does make me very sad.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it is all very sad, frankly. Jake, thanks so much for joining us tonight. And you can catch "The Lead" tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 P.M. Eastern time.

Next, a year-long blockade ends tonight, almost.



PHILLIP: Tonight, Tommy Tuberville's blockade has broken. Four-hundred plus service members will now get their stars. Now, the Alabama senator calls his failed protest a draw, but a dozen would-be four- star generals are still on hold tonight. The White House says that Tuberville's gamut was all pointless, except for maybe to gin up fear about the military's -- military readiness and loathing, lots of loathing, from his colleagues.


SEN. JON OSSOFF (D-GA): Is there objection? Senator from Alabama.

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R--AL): Reserving the right to object.

It's about the right to life. These are some of the most important things in the world to me. And so, Mr. President, I object.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): There's not one senator in here that could not find a reason to object to an administration policy. In the military, none of us. We could all find something.

OSSOFF: Senator from Alabama.


OSSOFF: Objection is heard.

Senator from Alabama.


SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): My colleague from Alabama is a hundred percent wrong.

TUBERVILLE: With that, Madam President, I object.

I object.

UNKNOWN: The Senator from Alabama.


I object. I object.

UNKNOWN: Number 132, Michael S. Sederholm to be Lieutenant General and Commanding General, 1 Marine Expeditionary Force.


I object.

SULLIVAN: This is the best of America. This is the best of America. And these men and women have been serving and sacrificing honorably for literally decades.


I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Nine deployments, 13 real-world operations. He is a warrior.


ERNST: We see another one bite the dust.


I object.

UNKNOWN: Senator from Alabama.


I object.

SULLIVAN: We're going to look back at this episode and just be stunned that what a national security suicide mission this became.


I object.

I object.

I object.

I object. I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

I object.

SULLIVAN: Now they're like, wait, why am I stuck? Why are they going after my career? Something I have nothing to do? It's wrong. We all know it's wrong.


PHILLIP: Without objection, that's it for us here on News night. Thanks for watching. "Laura Coates Live" starts right after this break.