Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Extremism Goes Mainstream, From Candidates To Campuses; From Biden to GOP, All Sides Find Reason to Lament Charges; Harvard President Apologized; AFP Staffer Supports Governor Ron DeSantis; Atlanta City Council Bans Ski Masks. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 08, 2023 - 22:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: This week, the U.S. donut chain opened its first outpost in France and the company tells CNN that 400 customers were waiting outside for opening day, with some lining up the night before to snag the first few dozen freshly glazed treats. Over the next year, the chain plans to open what it calls 500 points of access for the French to load up on donuts. It is a full circle moment for the bakery.

Almost 100 years ago, Krispy Kreme's founder bought the recipe for its original donut from a French chef in New Orleans.

Well, thanks for being here with us tonight. CNN NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillips starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: America holds up a mirror to itself, and what we see is ugly. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in Washington.

This week, the United States gave itself a physical of sorts and found that extremism runs deep in its bloodstream. It runs across both parties, and it courses through our most esteemed institutions, and we dismiss it at our own risk.

The example that sparked the most headlines, the most discussion and the most fear of a constitutional crisis was delivered by the former president.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Under no circumstances you are promising America tonight you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?


HANNITY: Except for?

TRUMP: He's going to crazy. Except for day one.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: By now, this kind of rhetoric from Trump isn't really surprising, and neither are the mental gymnastics from Republicans determined to dismiss it.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you okay with that kind of rhetoric.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): It's entertainment. We've been around him long enough. It's entertaining. I think he is an executive that does make decisions and gets things done.


PHILLIP: Now, all of this would be easier to dismiss if Trump didn't have a shadow cabinet who sees his words as an invitation for retribution.


KASH PATEL, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We will go out and find the conspirators, not just in government, but in the media. Yes, we're going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections. We're going to come after you, whether it's criminally or civilly, we'll figure that out.


PHILLIP: It would be easy to dismiss those kinds of threats if numerous reports didn't say that Mr. Patel, who you saw there, is under consideration to be named director of the Central Intelligence Agency under a second Trump administration.

And it would be easy, too, to wave aside conspiracy peddling about January 6th than the racist doctrine responsible for inspiring real life massacres if it wasn't being said on the biggest stage available right now to a Republican politician.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why am I the only person on this stage, at least, who can say that January 6th now does look like it was an inside job, that the government lied to us for 20 years about Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9/11, that the great replacement theory is not some grand right wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party's platform?


PHILLIP: It would be easy to shrug that off if the highest ranking elected Republican in the land wasn't openly recommending giving a pass to criminals who bought into those extremist lies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): We're going through a methodical process of releasing them as quickly as we can. As you know, we have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don't want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ.


PHILLIP: It would be easy to say that this is an affliction of the few if we didn't have video of people proclaiming to preach tolerance but celebrating terror instead, people like the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations who said this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of Gaza only decided to break the siege the walls of the concentration camp on October 7th. And, yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land and walk free into their land that they were not allowed to walk in.


PHILLIP: It would be easy to say this is one person speaking for himself if we didn't have weeks of evidence on college campuses of anti-Semitism fueled by a few on the left.

Now, it would be easy to say that we could blame it on youthful ignorance if we didn't just hear elite college presidents testifying like this.



REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I am asking specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a context dependent decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can be depending on the context.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If targeted individuals not making public statements.


PHILLIP: Now, clearly, extremism isn't just something on the fringe but a cancer slowly eating away at every segment of American society. And the question now is, at what point does it get cut out?

Joining me now to discuss all of this is CNN Contributor and longtime journalist and sports commentator, Bob Costas. Bob, thank you for joining us tonight.

You've been a journalist and a keen observer of American life for a long time. Do you think the United States is tipping more now toward extremism?

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Obviously it is. Some of this is fueled by the media landscape, which has changed so drastically over the last generation or so, where you have business models on cable T.V. that are set up to basically only feed the resentments and the beliefs, affirm the beliefs already of their core audience.

And then it's even worse on the internet where you can seek anything out. When you hear someone say, I did my own research, what that almost always means is, I put aside everything credible until I found somewhere, something that affirmed what I wanted to believe in the first place. There's just more of that out there than there ever used to be.

And to get attention, you have to be more extreme, more absolute, less nuanced. That's a generalization, but that's the way it is. So, that media landscape plays into that.

Also, what has been going on in academia for a while, and which we in the mainstream media and those who would identify as somewhat left of center have been slow to recognize, and if we do recognize it, we've been slow to call it out.

What's been going on for a long time in academia just became writ large by what we're seeing now on campuses and by the disgraceful, despicable testimony of the three university presidents this past week in Congress. And we haven't even addressed the specifics yet because it would take about a month, the specifics of the toxic insanity that is MAGA world.

PHILLIP: Yes. Look, one of the things that strikes me about this particular moment is that so much of it is about the language. And as actually the Harvard president said when she apologized for her testimony, language matters.

We are hearing disputes over what it really means when you say, from the river to the sea, what genocide really means, the use of the word vermin to describe people in this country.


PHILLIP: What do you think it means to use language like that in the public square?

COSTAS: Well, let's leave the right side of the aisle aside for a moment and talk about what the university president said. These are people, three women, who are the heads of universities. The meaning of genocide, the meaning of from the river to the sea, should not be beyond them.

And keep in mind, they preside over universities, whether they believe in all of this or not, where, surely, safe spaces have been created for the delicate flowers in their charge who can't possibly be confronted by anything that they're not prepared to deal with, anything that challenges what should be their still developing world view. And where trigger warnings are in place, lest something that they might come across in Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird might jar them a little bit. And we're going to be okay with that. We're going to think that's a progressive way to view things. But we do not have the moral clarity to say flatly, unequivocally, and loudly to Congress, yes, calling for genocide under any circumstances gets you tossed off this campus or gets you censured.

And when the head of the University of Pennsylvania said, I was looking at it through a constitutional prism, I assumed that if you become a university president, you can pass a tenth grade course in civics. Most people know, if they paid any attention, that where that applies is to governmental action that might affect free speech, in which case action can only be taken if that speech is a direct incitement to violence or results in violence itself.

That doesn't have to apply on a university campus. It doesn't have to apply within CNN or any other business. You're allowed to make your own rules, your own standards and establish your own boundaries. So, that was a cowardly way to address the question or frame the question.

PHILLIP: In the open, just a few minutes ago, you heard one of Trump's allies say that they would pursue criminal charges to target the media if Trump gets a second term. As a journalist, what do you make of that?

COSTAS: Well, in the media, Fox News, and it must be said that there are some good journalists there, and then you have the more extreme iterations, we didn't think that was possible, of OAN and Newsmax and whatever is found on the internet or on right wing talk radio.


But at Fox News, there are some legitimate journalists, and they're right about some issues when they take on the extremes of the left that we in the mainstream media have been reluctant to confront and highlight. But in general, they have been a propaganda outfit.

And when Trump came along, not only did they never challenge him, they glorified him and then rationalized his worst excesses, not just of personality but of specifics that would affect the way the nation is run and the tone of our discourse. And they cast all criticism of him as Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Trump Derangement syndrome is real, and it's his supporters who have it. It's one thing to give them a pass for thinking maybe we should roll the dice with an outsider, but forget about what is said on CNN or in the Washington Post or anywhere else. Just look at what Trump himself has told you unfiltered. Look at the insane rallies. Look at what he says on Truth Social. And if ever there was an oxymoron, that's it.

Look at what the people who have been closest to him, his former cabinet members, the people who have been in business with him, look at what they say. Don't pay attention to what any people that you cast as left wing say. Look what he has shown you himself. As Mark Twain once said, it is easier to fool a man than it is to convince him he has been fooled. But by now, with all that's in front of you, even if you don't like the alternative of Joe Biden, it's not to endorse Joe Biden or endorse any left wing policy, we're just talking about MAGA, if you can't see this now for what it is, then MAGA world and all their enablers in Congress and in the media are a coalition of the brainless and the spineless.

PHILLIP: Look, I think a lot of Trump supporters are seeing what he wants to do, and they like it. And that's part of what we'll have to face as a country if he becomes the nominee.

Bob, thank you so much for joining us.

COSTAS: Abby, give me 20 more seconds. I've said this for a long time. If you like some of Trump's policies, which can be debated, but Supreme Court nominees and the border and all the rest of, if you like it, find an honest, rational man or woman to advance those policies.

And if you're concerned about Joe Biden's age and his failing capacities, which are obvious, painfully obvious, but you like some of his policies, find a vigorous, younger person who can put those policies out there in an effective and convincing way. It shouldn't be so difficult.

75 percent of the country isn't pleased with our choices.

PHILLIP: There's always 20 seconds for a last word from you. Bob Costas, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

COSTAS: Thank you, Abby. Have a good weekend.

PHILLIP: And up next for us, as Hunter Biden faces new criminal charges, he tells his friend, Moby, that Republicans are trying to kill him. Moby will join me next.

And a new conspiracy from the Republican who's investigating Joe Biden in a surreal Jake Tapper interview.

And it's one of the most influential conservative groups in America, and the Koch Network operative says that he was fired because he publicly criticized Nikki Haley. And he'll join me later on in the show.



PHILLIP: Now that Hunter Biden is facing new criminal charges, it seems that no one is happy. Hunter Biden obviously isn't. Hunter Biden's lawyer isn't. The White House is tired of answering questions about it. Conservative media is calling Hunter Biden a whiner tonight, and the Republicans investigating Hunter Biden aren't happy because they think it's all a conspiracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): My concern is that Weiss may have indicted Hunter Biden to protect him from having to be deposed --


COMER: -- in the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

TAPPER: He indicted him to protect him, yes, the classic rubric. He indicted him to protect him. I got it.

COMER: Well, look, Jake, this whole thing's been about a cover up. You know, you've got two.

TAPPER: That's why he indicted him to protect him, to cover it up?

COMER: Look, you indict him on the least little thing, the gun charge and not paying taxes.

TAPPER: He's facing, like, 17 additional years in prison.

COMER: Yes, but look what he's done.

TAPPER: These are felonies.


PHILLIP: Now, it's not clear whether James Comer realized that Jake was being sarcastic, but, yes, the explanation does not make sense, just as Republicans are also not happy with Hunter Biden offering to testify publicly next week.


TAPPER: In any case, I guess my other question is just, isn't something better than nothing? Why not just jump at the opportunity to grill Hunter Biden on national television? Here's your chance. You're the dog that caught the bus. Here it is.

COMER: This isn't about politics. It's not about theater. My job -- I know the media, and I like you, Jake. I know the media would like to have a big public show, and that would be very entertaining. But my job --

TAPPER: Yes, it's me that wants the big public show, yes.


PHILLIP: What Jake was trying to say is the public show is what Republicans have been going for here. For instance, Congressman and Trump-backer Troy Henls says that slapping Biden with an impeachment inquiry will give Trump, quote, a little bit of ammo to fire back.

Also, the same Republicans who are hitting Hunter Biden with a subpoena parade for private testimony are the same Republicans who didn't believe in subpoenas over the last few years. For instance, Jim Jordan is threatening to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress even though Jim Jordan himself defied a congressional subpoena.

And tonight, the president's son is making a deadly serious accusation. On a podcast with a musician friend of his, Moby, Hunter Biden says that Republicans are trying to end his father's presidency by killing him.


HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: They are trying to, in their most illegitimate way but rational way, they're trying to destroy a presidency.


And so it's not about me. And their most base way, what they're trying to do is they're trying to kill me, knowing that it will be a pain greater than my father could be able to handle.


PHILLIP: With me now is Moby. Moby, thanks for being here.

Why does Hunter Biden think that the GOP is trying to kill him?

MOBY, MUSICIAN: Good question. My assumption is because everything the GOP says and does indicates that they are trying to destroy him. And the reason -- I just put out an episode of my podcast where I interviewed Hunter, and my hope was really simple, to show the Hunter Biden who's my friend.

You know, I got to know Hunter through addiction and then recovery. And the Hunter I know is this gentle, smart, funny lovely person. And it's been very disconcerting for me over the last few years to watch the GOP drag my friend through the mud.

And, of course, and I'm sorry for rambling on, like Hunter is a complicated person because many of us are complicated people and I'm sure he's done things in his life that he's not thrilled with but he's really quite a delightful person and it's been very baffling watching the, you know, especially, right wing media try and turn him into some sort of evil Svengali when the truth is he's just nice guy.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, you mentioned that he's made mistakes. Does he show or talk much about remorse for his past actions, especially in light of the charges that he's now facing?

MOBY: Yes, I mean, one of the things -- I don't know. I don't want to be presumptuous and make the assumption that you or people watching have direct experience with addicts or addiction or recovery, but one thing I will find, I find with myself as a former covering addict and also talking to Hunter and other friends of mine who have really been through the ringer is there is the sort of the sadness about the mistakes we've made in the past, but also bringing a lightness to it as well, a self-deprecating lightness around the mistakes we've made because there's no point spending your entire life in self- recrimination and beating yourself up. Rather, you acknowledge your mistakes, you make amends and you move on and, hopefully, best case scenario, you learn not to make those mistakes again.

PHILLIP: He talks about how he thinks that the Republican Party or the GOP, they're trying to destroy him in order to hurt his father. Do you worry about what that means for him and his sobriety? Do you worry about a relapse?

MOBY: I worry about my friend the same way I worry about my other friends who are in recovery. For some people, their recovery is very solid, other people, it's a little bit tenuous, and that can change day to day.

But what really baffles me, and I don't want to necessarily be too critical of the GOP, but what confuses me so much is how the GOP who are ostensibly Christian, I'm just wondering where in the New Testament Jesus compels his followers to attack and criticize addicts and people who are trying to get better. Like where -- what weird gospel of Jesus does he compel his followers to not be forgiving and loving?

PHILLIP: You know him at this point really well. Are you worried that all of this could impact Joe Biden and his re-election bid?

MOBY: I mean, I don't know. I don't understand at this point, like the seven swing voters who remain in the United States -- maybe it's six -- what their criteria is for choosing a presidential candidate. I'm baffled by the world of electoral politics. So, I wish I could be opinionated about that, but, honestly, I have no idea.

PHILLIP: Fair enough. He's talked to you about, you know, MAGA fanatics harassing him. What did he say actually has happened?

MOBY: Well, one thing that happened that I found so depressing was the New York Post, you know, Rupert Murdoch's paper published Hunter and his wife and their newborn child's address, home address.


And hundreds of Trump supporters showed up like in a Frankenstein pogrom with pitchforks, essentially, to try and attack Hunter and his young wife and their newborn child.

And I just was like, how is this okay? How does anyone think that attacking -- physically attacking at 02:00 in the morning the family of -- the president's family? I was like, what has happened where someone thinks that that's a good idea? And how is it encouraged by the right wing media? It's just whatever ethical standards I have are so horrified by that sort of behavior and the encouragement of that sort of behavior.

PHILLIP: So, Moby, I have to be honest. I think you were probably maybe the last person I thought would become a character in this saga. What do you think it is that brought you and Hunter to have such a close friendship over the years?

MOBY: Well, we're middle aged guys. We grew up on the East Coast. We grew up kind of going to the same record stores. And I think it's the sort of the worldview and the view of yourself that you develop when you've been through the ringer of odd public figure status, addiction and recovery. It just gives you a perspective of yourself and the world around you that is kind of unique, not better, not worse than other people's perspective but there's a bonding that comes with that.

Addicts who've been through the ringer, we tend to understand each other. We tend to understand each other's jokes and also each other's sadness. So, it's just -- you know, I guess it's like that almost like the connection that you have when you've been in the trenches together.

PHILLIP: Yes. Just broadly speaking, before you go, if Donald Trump is elected again, what do you think happens to the country as a result of that?

MOBY: Well, fingers crossed, and I'm just going by what people who've served in his cabinet and have known him have said he's so deeply unqualified to be president of the United States. But if somehow he gets elected, re-elected, we have one thing going for us, is he's deeply lazy.

When he was president the first time, he spent most of his time like eating hamburgers and watching T.V. and playing golf, like he played more golf than any president ever. So, the only thing that will save us from his sort of like autocratic, authoritarian tendencies is the fact that he's a profoundly lazy person who just wants to sit in the Oval Office and watch T.V.

PHILLIP: Well, on that note, Moby, thank you very much for joining us. I hope you have a great.

MOBY: Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

PHILLIP: Harvard's president is apologizing, saying her testimony to Congress about campus anti-Semitism hurts students. We'll speak with the journalists who interviewed her, next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, an apology from Harvard's president, an acknowledgment that words matter, and an admission that hers did not meet the moment.

In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Claudine Gay told the paper that she's sorry and that her congressional testimony, some of which you heard earlier, amplified distress and pain of students on campus.

Joining me now are two of the journalists who conducted that interview, Miles Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan from the Harvard Crimson.

Miles and Claire, thank you both for joining us. Claire, I want to start with you. Did you get the sense as you sat in this interview with her that she had genuine regret about this testimony? Or did it feel like a kind of check the box moment? CLAIRE YUAN, STAFF WRITER, HARVARD CRIMSON: I mean, this has certainly been a sort of crisis moment on campus, and in particular, for President Claudine Gay. She has only been in office for less than a semester, five months. It's a big ask to be dealing with such a major moment for the university.

And I think two days after the congressional hearing, with all of the backlash that has been happening on campus, online, everyone basically just being very upset over how the hearing went. I think that's definitely a message that President Gay heard. That's something that she and her office have been thinking about.

And you know, in our interview she did express regrets. And it's pretty remarkable that a president of a university like Harvard would say, I am sorry about something I said or something I did.

PHILLIP: Yes, and Miles, you all cover the university, but also the university administration very closely. What are you hearing about the fate of Claudine Gay's job? I mean, there are a lot of calls for her to step aside. Do you think that it's safe right now?

MILES HERSZENHORN, STAFF WRITER, HARVARD CRIMSON: Right. In the days after the congressional hearing, there were calls for all three presidents to resign, in particular, at the University of Pennsylvania. It is very clear that the board of trustees there is looking very closely at President Liz Magill.

At Harvard, it's not clear that President Gay is at all in that type of peril. Of course, there are -- there are calls for her to resign in Washington. There's a lot of anger on campus at the situation, and she's received a ton of criticism, including from former university President Larry Summers, who in the very initial days after Hamas's attack on Israel criticized Gay's response to the attack, which was really an extraordinary thing to see from a former university president where at Harvard, there is essentially an unwritten rule where university presidents do not criticize, or former university presidents do not criticize the incumbent.


So that was shocking, but right now it is not clear that the corporation has lost faith in Claudine Gay.

PHILLIP: Miles Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, thank you both very much. As a former Crimson editor, myself, proud of the work that you guys are doing as student journalists.

HERSZENHORN: Thank you so much.

YUAN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And an endorsement for Nikki Haley from Americans for Prosperity, a top conservative organization reportedly causing some staffers to leave in protest. We'll speak with one of them, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIP: Thank you. Next. Well, that's what some staffers at Americans

for Prosperity are reportedly saying. They're flocking from that Koch- backed organization following its endorsement of 2024 GOP candidate Nikki Haley. And among them is Chris Maidment. He was terminated, he says, from the AFP after publicly criticizing the group's move to endorse Haley in a lengthy thread on X, formerly known as Twitter.


Now, Maidment wrote in part that he's lost all faith in AFP following its endorsement, and quote, "if it comes down to it, I'll vote for Biden over Haley 10 times out of 10 because he's less of a threat to our country."

Chris Maidment joins me now. He's working now as the New Hampshire political director of Never Back Down, a PAC backing Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

Chris, thanks for joining us tonight.

CHRIS MAIDMENT, NEW HAMPSHIRE POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NEVER BACK DOWN: Thank you for having me, Abby. It's great to be here.

PHILLIP: So, you say that you would vote for Joe Biden over Nikki Haley 10 times out of 10. Really?

MAIDMENT: Well, at the end of the day, it's not going to come to that, right? We have Governor Ron DeSantis in this race. He's going to go on. He's going to win in Iowa. He's going to perform very strongly in New Hampshire. He has a clear path to the nomination. Super excited to support Ron DeSantis. And at the end of the day, he's going to win the nomination. He's going to be the next president of these great United States.

PHILLIP: But it seems pretty clear based on the polling that Nikki Haley is the one right now with the momentum in this race. She's really the only one that's been gaining and not dropping in the polls. And that includes Ron DeSantis. It could very well be a Nikki Haley versus Joe Biden. You would still vote for Joe Biden as a conservative?

MAIDMENT: Nikki Haley represents the failed, the failed past, the Bush-McCain era foreign policy intervention, cronyism, capitalism, handouts, subsidies, everything that Republican voters despise. She's got a hard ceiling. The grassroots are with Governor DeSantis.

The grassroots will continue to flock to Governor DeSantis. She might look like she has momentum on paper. She's got Democrat mega donors. She's got the backing of Wall Street banks. But Ron DeSantis has the governor, the backing of the grassroots on the ground, the people that turn out and vote. They're the ones that are going to decide this election, not mega donors, not Democrats.

And at the end of the day, she might look like she has the momentum, but there's a hard ceiling on that. And we're going to elect Governor Ron DeSantis. PHILLIP: What happened at AFP right before you left? You put out that

Twitter or X thread or whatever you want to call it. And you started by saying, I think I'm going to get fired for this. I didn't clean out my desk. I mean, did you do it to get fired? Did that actually happen? Did they come to you and say, you put out this thread, you got to go?

MAIDMENT: Well, we did part ways and it wasn't -- it wasn't because of the thread in whole. At the end of the day, my job was going to be to go out and turn out voters and turn out the grassroots and work to -- work to support Nikki Haley. And that was something that in my heart, I couldn't come to come to live with. I don't support her. I don't support her policies.

I want to see better for our country, better for New Hampshire. And so, I said I wasn't going to do the work. And I think they were very justified in terminating me because I told them I wasn't going to be doing my job.

PHILLIP: So, you just mentioned earlier the big donors and criticized her as your -- as Ron DeSantis did in the debate earlier this week for being backed by, you know, moneyed interests.

If DeSantis had gotten the Americans for Prosperity endorsement, I mean, that's a group that's backed by big money. I mean, you would probably still be working for them, wouldn't you? I mean, do you think that's a fair critique? Just because Nikki Haley is the one who got the endorsement?

MAIDMENT: So in regards to Americans for Prosperity, the organization I've known for six years now, I've come to love, they gave me my start in politics. They taught me just about everything I know. The team here in New Hampshire, amazing people around the country, amazing people. And they fought for years and years and years.

Since 2004, they fought for the principles that I believe in, the principles that they helped me come to believe in, of limited government, getting government out of the way, rejecting cronyism, having a realistic and restrained foreign policy.

And I am disappointed that they endorsed Ambassador Haley. I think that Governor DeSantis checks way more of the boxes of the principles that they believe in, that they espouse. And at the end of the day, I hope, you know, once this is all over, I look forward to them going back to working to get government out of the way, allowing people to be successful. I look forward to working with them on that mission once this is all said and done.

PHILLIP: All right, Chris Maidment, thanks for joining us tonight.

MAIDMENT: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIP: And next week, CNN will host two Republican presidential town halls in Iowa. Don't miss Jake Tapper's conversation with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis next Tuesday at 9 p.m. Eastern and my conversation with Vivek Ramaswamy next Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. And next, some American cities are looking to ban ski masks that they

say is necessary in order to respond to rising property crime. We'll discuss that next.



PHILLIP: You might want to think twice about what you wear during your next visit to Atlanta, specifically when it comes to facial coverings. Atlanta City Council is proposing a ban this week on ski masks, hoods, or any other item that hides or conceals or covers a person's identity.

Now, the reason, according to the legislation, is to help maintain public safety. The city has seen a jump in property crimes this year, with auto thefts rising by 64 percent and shoplifting up 20 percent. Now Atlanta's proposed ban comes on the heels of Philadelphia's city council passing similar legislation this week.


Auto thefts there up by 81 percent, shoplifting up 29 percent this year. Now it's important to know that if you are an offender of both of these potential rules, you would face a fine. But the question that is being hotly debated is, is this really a right call to begin with?

I want to bring in Van Lathan. He's a media personality and host of the Higher Learning podcast on the Ringer.

So, Van, what do you say? Is it a good call?

VAN LATHAN, HOST, THE HIGHER LEARNING PODCAST: Long ignored the connection between clothing and crime, which is why me and my colleagues at the Black Negro American think tank are looking to look to look into bans on Armani, Hugo Boss, all of Brooks Brothers to make sure that we can keep white collar crime in check. Because we think that if we're able to ban people from dressing like that, perhaps they won't steal millions of dollars from American people. So no, I think it's a great call, Abby.

PHILLIP: Look, I thought that you would say something exactly like that. But all joking aside, one of the interesting things about this is where this is happening, right? In Atlanta, in Philadelphia, these are cities that have large black populations, to your point, I think, but also some of the lawmakers that are behind this.

For example, the Atlanta City Council. There, one of the lawmakers proposing this describes himself as a six-foot-two black man. He says, I get calls from parents, from sisters and brothers who have lost loved ones from people who've had on ski masks, and we can stop it because it was on camera. And he says, I'm governing and sometimes we have to govern despite the pushback.

Do you think there's any validity to a desire to say, well, we should at least see the faces of the people perpetrating these offenses/ LATHAN: First of all, I think that what's going to -- what this is going to lead to is very clear. It's going to lead to the hassling of particularly young black males and females. And to me, whenever you increase the amount of interaction that young black people have with police, you always see negative outcomes.

You see situations where they're thrown into the criminal system. They don't have the money to pay the fine. Now they're incarcerated and the cycle begins. I really don't see how in America we're still trying to negotiate and solve crime on the back end of it.

If you want to have a conversation about why property crime is going up, perhaps it might behoove you to address some of the systemic issues that lead to that type of crime. Like trying to make sure that we catch all the bad guys by policing what people wear in a free society, or at least what I thought was a free society, seems to me to be not only a poor solution to the problem there, but it also seems to be one that can put a specific group of people in peril. And I just don't want to see that. I don't want to see anybody arrested or fined because they're wearing a ski mask.

PHILLIP: Does it surprise you that a lot of the supporters of this in Philadelphia and in Atlanta are black? I mean, the Atlanta city council, or the, sorry, the Philly city council, I think is a majority black members. Does that surprise you?

LATHAN: No, it doesn't surprise me at all because what I think this shows is that there's a frustration in the inability of systems to really change in America over time. We don't know what to do. We haven't really had political or social leadership that addresses some of these needs at their root.

So, we're thinking if we can't stop or de-incentivize crime, at least we can, the least we can do is throw more people into the carceral system by being able to see their faces. And so, I'd say that it's not just, it's not a black issue. It's not a white issue in terms of the way we talk about the carceral system in America. It's a really American issue.

I can tell you one thing. We're coming after Brooks Brothers. We're coming after Armani. We're coming after all of the well-dressed criminals in America. It's not just going to stop at the ski mask, Abby. We're taking it all the way federal.

PHILLIP: Listen, I'm in -- I'm in favor of going after the white- collar crime too. I want to ask you though, what can be done? I mean, the cities are really facing serious issues with these crimes.

I don't like calling them property crimes because when you steal something from someone at gunpoint, that's not a property crime. That's a violent crime. So, what can be done about that for these cities who are really struggling with it?

LATHAN: Well, I think there have to be serious solutions. I think you have to look at society in a way we haven't before. We have to look at really, really robust and forward-thinking ideas. [22:54:58]

Because really, most of the places that we're talking about have actually seen declines in crime in the last 10 or 15 years, and obviously spikes after the pandemic. The question is, what do people need that they're not getting?

It has nothing to do with the way they're dressing or the way that they're concealing it. I don't think that criminals that really want to commit property crime are going to think I don't need to wear my ski mask today.

What we need to do is deal with the root issues, particularly in black neighborhoods, and figure out how we can make societies that work for people. And if we don't do that, we're always going to see rising levels of crimes, particularly violent and property crimes. It doesn't matter what the people are going to wear or what they're wearing. They're going to find a way to do whatever they need to do.

PHILLIP: All right. Van Lathan, thank you very much for all that. We'll take your white-collar crime proposal to Washington.

We'll be back in a moment.