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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Israel Testing the Limits of What U.S. Will Tolerate in War; Should Trump's Trials Be Delayed After the Election; The Satanic Temple Of Iowa Display Vandalized And The Goat-Headed Figure Beheaded; Hunter Biden Holds A Press Conference Just Steps Away From The United States Capitol. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 14, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: A local news outlet says that animal control said that he escaped a meat supplier about three miles from Newark's Penn Station.

After a 45-minute delay, he was coaxed off the tracks with no injuries to commuters or himself, thankfully. By dinnertime, he was given the name Ricardo. He is now safe at an animal sanctuary where we are told he will spend the rest of his days.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, such a busy news night, also back with you tomorrow night.

CNN Newsnight with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Israel is testing the limits of what the United States will tolerate. That's tonight on Newsnight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in Washington.

And today, a not-so-gentle nudge from the leader of the free world to the only democracy in the Middle East, watch where your bombs drop.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives, not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful.


PHILLIP: Today's warning from the president to his Israeli counterpart makes what he told the world less than two months ago seem, frankly, a world away.


BIDEN: I come to Israel with a single message, you're not alone. You are not alone. As long as the United States stands, and we will stand forever, we'll not let you ever be alone.


PHILLIP: Right now, the two nations are no longer in lockstep. Biden administration officials have advised Israel that their campaign of overwhelming force needs to end and end soon, within weeks.

It's not quite an ultimatum, sources made that clear. But the United States is now more willing to say that quiet part out loud, they believe that Israel is simply killing too many Palestinian civilians and far too many Palestinian children.

President Biden outright accused Israeli forces of, quote, indiscriminate bombing. It's an accusation that Israel heard and looked right past.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is saying, you are bombing Gaza without care.

TZIPI HOTOVELY, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: Absolutely not. And you know what, let's just see history. Americans were fighting ISIS in Mosul. You had much more people that got killed in Mosul proportionally than the people in Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many civilians will have to die to kill all 25,000 to 30,000 Hamas fighters in Gaza.

HOTOVELY: I have a good answer. If Hamas wants to surrender now and to bring back our hostages, no civilian in Gaza will get killed.


PHILLIP: Now, part of what is fueling this break between friends is new intelligence. Sources say that a Pentagon document estimates that the IDF has fired as many as 13,000 so-called dumb bombs since October 7th.

We'll go to the magic wall in a moment to look at how that might be to blame for the spiraling numbers of dead. But, first, CNN goes inside of Gaza. Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward witnesses the horror from a field hospital, rows and rows of women and children injured, dying, or already dead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It used to be a stadium.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Arriving at the Emirati Field Hospital, we meet Dr. Abdullah Al-Naqbi. No sooner does our tour begin when --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, our ambulance -- that's the real life.

WARD: And this is what you hear all the time now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, at least 20 times a day.

WARD: At least 20 times a day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe more sometimes. I think we get used to it.

WARD: One thing none of the doctors here have got used to is the number of children they are treating. The U.N. estimates that some two-thirds of those killed in this round of the conflict have been women and children.

Eight-year-old Janen (ph) was lucky enough to survive a strike on her family home that crushed her femur but spared her immediate family.

She says she's not in pain so that's good, so that's good.

Her mother, Hiba, was out when it happened. I went to the hospital to look for her, she says, and I came here and I found her here. The doctors told me what happened with her, and I made sure that she's okay.


Oh my God.

They bombed the house in front of us and then our home, Janen tells us. I was sitting next to my grandfather and my grandfather held me and my uncle was fine. So, he is the one who took us out.

But Dr. Ahmed Almazrouei says it is hard not to.

DR. AHMED ALMAZROUEI, UAE FIELD HOSPITAL: I work with old people like adults, but with children, something that changes your --

WARD: Touches your heart and tests your faith in humanity.


PHILLIP: Now to the weaponry causing all of that suffering, we mentioned that the United States intelligence analysis about Israel's air-to-ground munitions says that nearly half of them were unguided, known informally as dumb bombs. So, what does that mean for civilian deaths in Gaza?

Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton is over at the magic wall to help us understand this.

Colonel Leighton, the Israeli Air Force, they posted some photos at the start of this war of planes being armed with unguided munitions. And CNN has an analysis that says that these may be M117 munitions. There is also other reporting that suggests that Israeli Air Force is dropping Mark 82 munitions. So, can you tell us about these two types?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, definitely, Abby. Good evening.

And the photos that you're talking about from the Israeli Air Force are these right here. This is an Israeli Air Force F-16I. And you can see the munitions right here and here that they were loading up in this area.

So, a Mark 82 is actually still in use by a lot of air forces, including the U.S. military. It's an unguided airdrop weapon, but it can be modified with something known as a JDAM, which I'll explain in just a little bit.

But the basic idea here is this is about a 500-pound bomb, and it's loaded with an explosive known as tritonal. It's basically a mix of TNT, 80 percent TNT, and 20 percent aluminum.

Now, the other bomb that we're talking about here is the M117. This is a bomb that dates all the way back to the Korean War, and it was discontinued in the U.S. in 2015. The last plane to drop it was a B- 52. It was used extensively in the Vietnam War. But the Israelis apparently used this at least in October of this year when they first went after Hamas in Gaza.

PHILLIP: Yes. And you mentioned the technology that the United States has already sent to Israel that could make unguided munitions into guided ones. How does that work?

LEIGHTON: Yes. So, this is what's known as the JDAM or the Joint Direct Attack Munition. So what this does is it basically attaches a pack to the weapon itself, to the bomb itself, and what that does is it has a GPS guidance system associated with it, plus other guidance systems. And what they can do is they can actually make it much more precise.

These guidance systems can be programmed before flight or in flight, either manually by the crew or automatically depending on what the sensor system is on the aircraft. And what it does is it attaches to those unguided munitions and it's apparently been given to Israel about 3,000 of these packages since October the 7th, and that is what we know to be the case. And so the Israelis could have easily used the JDAM in order to prosecute the kind of targets that they've been looking at.

PHILLIP: That's very interesting. Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you as always.

And joining me now is the former director of the National Intelligence Agency, retired Lieutenant General James Clapper.

Mr. Clapper, we're talking here about whether Israel is making choices in this war that are leading to increased civilian death. But I also wonder, just taking a step back, do you see Israel achieving its military objectives in Gaza?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, they may, and it appears to me, and it has since it started that the basic objective of, you know, in destroying Hamas is, in the end, in effect, is virtually to level Gaza.

There is no country in the world that has an abundance of precision- guided munitions. Certainly we don't, and certainly the Israelis don't. So, from a logistical standpoint, if they're going to conduct an aerial bombardment of Gaza, they -- the most of what they had in their arsenal are unguided munitions.

And you don't need a U.S. intelligence report. You can look at the pictures and see the results of using unguided munitions, which is compounded by having all those people already in a very dense part -- densest populated part of the Earth, crowded into even more limited spaces.


So, the result is inevitable.

Maybe the Israelis don't intend to kill a lot of civilians, but that is the impact of the way they're conducting this war, and I think that's causing more and more strain in the relationship between, which has traditionally been, as you know, quite close.

PHILLIP: But is it inevitable? I mean, the United States is basically saying how they are doing this has to change. If Israel ignores this from the White House, what happens then?

CLAPPER: Well, that's a great question. And I actually don't -- at this point, I don't think Israel, the Israeli leadership, could change their approach even if they wanted to, given the domestic politics and the coalition that Netanyahu relies on to stay in power, which is very right wing, very conservative.

So, even if he wanted to change the approach to, say, a more surgical counter-insurgent kind of approach, which I think the U.S. would prefer, I don't think they're supposed to do that, since all the considerations here and then the decisions, I think, were driven both militarily, politically, and for that matter, emotionally.

PHILLIP: Yes, it's certainly a very emotionally tense time inside of Israel right now. It's probably going to continue as the pressure increases on that government.

In Europe, something interesting, disturbing happened this week. German and Dutch authorities arrested four alleged would-be terrorists who, they say, were affiliated with Hamas. This is part of, I think, a broader concern worldwide that the risk of terrorism is increasing.

Do you worry that there will be a Hamas terror attack on European soil or on American soil, for that matter, in the next six months?

CLAPPER: Well, I think you have to consider that possibility. And actually, there were three countries, I believe, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, where there were alleged operatives in support or in sympathy with Hamas, which tells me that this was probably centrally directed. It wasn't freelancers. And I think the message on Hamas' part is nobody is safe and particularly anyone they view as supportive of Israel.

So, absolutely, I think we need to be on our guard as well, as though the countries in Europe that have been supportive of Israel.

PHILLIP: James Clapper, thank you very much.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And just in the controversial satanic display inside the Iowa Capitol has been vandalized and beheaded, the head of that satanic group will join me to respond.



PHILLIP: As Donald Trump's appeals pile up, the risks of his trials moving deeper into an election year is rapidly increasing. And there is a debate over whether all of these trials should be delayed until after the election.

Joining me now on both sides of that argument are journalist and former Fox News Host Geraldo Rivera and former Hillary Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines.

So, Geraldo, what's your take? Should these trials wait until after the election?

GERALDO RIVERA, JOURNALIST: Well, I liked them before the election so people could make a more reasoned judgment when they were voting for whoever they're going to vote for. But that's not the issue. The Supreme Court doesn't care whether or not it's fair. It cares whether it's legal.

So, he's being charged with obstruction of the election or conspiracy to obstruct the election. But the issue is, and Trump alleges, that he has absolute immunity for any crime committed when he's president. So, the Supreme Court has decided to litigate that. They're going to decide whether or not Trump has absolute immunity.

I mean, there are other defenses that he has, like double jeopardy and some of the others. But the main one is this absolute immunity. Are presidents absolutely immune from criminal prosecution for acts committed while they are in office? And so far, Trump's been losing on that. But we'll see.

PHILLIP: So, I mean, ultimately, is that a yes, it should wait, given that these big issues are still at play.

RIVERA: I -- right now, I think that the Supreme Court is going to look at this statute, this conspiracy to obstruct statute, and they're going to decide whether or not it's constitutional. The case against President Trump is hanging by a thread, I think, right now.

It is -- to get this thing done before election is going to be extremely difficult. The Supreme Court is going to come down with their decision probably in June, then it's going to be July, and before you know it, it's going to be an election. I don't know how they could possibly do it physically before the election.

PHILLIP: So, Philippe, what's your view on this? I mean, the courts can move quickly when they want to. Should they?

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON SPOKESMAN: Yes, I mean, there's a lot to unpack there. But I think, you know, I try to forget some of 2016, but I do remember very vividly a chant that went something like lock her up. And it wasn't lock her up when she feels like getting around to it or lock her up whenever it's convenient for her.

Donald Trump is pushing this cockamamie theory of immunity because he's trying to stall. It's the kind of thing that his lawyers, like Sidney Powell or Jake Sekulow would come up with.

There's no realistic idea among jurists that it holds any water.


It basically says someone can do whatever they want to, whoever they want, whenever they want, just because they were president, and that just doesn't make sense.

What Trump is doing is he's throwing as much spaghetti at the wall that he can and he's doing it for a very simple reason. And I think one thing to clear up with Geraldo, it's not one case, and he knows this, it's four cases, two of which, one in the state of Georgia, one federal, are directly on this matter.

The Georgia case has no date, but the federal case is moving quickly. And, in fact, the special prosecutor went to the Supreme Court directly and said, please move this faster.

So, I don't think there's anything to really base on to say it's hanging by a thread or that it may not happen. The problem is, is that it should happen. It needs to happen. And it needs to happen because these were direct threats on the democracy of the United States. And the president of the United States is the person ostensibly responsible at the end of the day for protecting the country.

You can't have someone on trial for undermining the United States and also be president. If he were to win, which I hope he doesn't, he would snap his fingers and make these go away. That's not justice. That's just vengeance.

And to quote Geraldo, looking at what he said recently, is that Trump is up for two things, what I call vengeance, but what Geraldo calls brutality, and I think a get-out-of-jail-free card, and it can't be allowed to happen that way.

PHILLIP: I mean, Geraldo, I mean, isn't justice delayed justice denied, and the courts would effectively, if they moved at a snail's pace or slowly, would, it seems, be handing Trump a de facto victory? What do you think?

RIVERA: Well, that may be true, Abby, but the Supreme Court also, one thing Philippe did not mention, is deciding whether or not the very statute under which he is accused in this main case, the Jack Smith case, these four counts in the indictment, whether or not the statute itself is appropriate, whether or not it is constitutional, whether or not you need corrupt intent.

It's not only Trump's case that hangs in the balance right now, Abby. It's hundreds of January 6th rioters. Their cases also hang in the balance. And whether or not the very statute under which they are accused, even -- Philippe may not like Trump. That's not relevant. What is relevant is what is constitutional, what is appropriate.

There's a reason presidents have not been arrested before. There's a reason that they're not indicted. They are impeached. He has been impeached twice. He has also been acquitted twice by the Senate of the United States.

Trump argues, maybe successfully, maybe farfetched, that that is double jeopardy. The court, the original court of jurisdiction, has said no, it's not double jeopardy. But the Supreme Court has now decided that they want to rule on this case.

PHILLIP: Philippe?

REINES: Geraldo, that doesn't make sense because you're saying all these hundreds of cases hang in the balance. That goes against what you're saying because those hundreds of cases against the January 6th attackers and rioters, what everyone called them, they have all moved forward. They've moved forward expeditiously, the trials have happened and the sentences have been handed out.

So, I'm not exactly -- what does that even mean? That they could be overturned?

RIVERA: The issue whether or not --

REINES: We don't wait to try cases --

RIVERA: They will -- that's --

REINES: We don't we don't wait -- I don't have to be a lawyer --

PHILLIP: Let me let Philippe finish here and the you can jump in, Geraldo.

RIVERA: Is there corrupt intent? I -- Abby, trust me, it is shocking to me as well that the Supreme Court took this case and they are now reviewing the case of whether or not the very statute is constitutional. It is -- they say, their statute requires corrupt intent, not only corrupt intent.

So, was there corrupt intent? You know, that is something that will be litigated, but it is, by no means, a slam dunk. It is nerve-wracking. Ask Jack Smith how he feels tonight that the Supreme Court has taken these cases.

PHILLIP: Let me let Philippe jump in here.

REINES: Geraldo, this is why we have trials. We have trials that the prosecution can make its case, the defense can say, this is why you're wrong. You can even appeal it I mean, this is not -- you don't just decide that you don't feel like dealing with it until I happen to be president.

You have to remember, he's got 91 counts against him. The bulk of those are in these cases against democracy. It is -- I don't even know what to call it. It's insane to think --

RIVERA: That's not so.

REINES: What's not so?

RIVERA: He has 91 counts against him, a whole bunch of them are Alvin Bragg and Stormy Daniels, the Georgia state case, ironically, maybe the case.

REINES: Do you realize that we're nitpicking over how many felony counts in how many states?


There's a problem there.

RIVERA: Who is on the Supreme Court? Hold on. who is on the Supreme Court of the United States right now? Is it not a fact that Trump has managed to put three justices on the Supreme Court and now there's a conservative 6-3 majority? I think your complacency and attitude that this thing is going to go ahead and you'll get it done in a timely fashion.

What people have to grasp is, and with all due respect, I really believe that this issue of corrupt intent will screw up all of the schedules that people have and I believe that it will be physically impossible for the Supreme Court and everybody else to rule in time for the election. I don't believe that that will happen.

It is in Trump's interest.

PHILLIP: So, Philippe, let me give you the last -- let me give you the last word, Philippe, on this, but in response to what Geraldo is suggesting, which is not, this is a conservative court and you can't even be close to sure that they would not rule in Trump's favor. Does that concern you?

REINES: I'm not sure at all. I'm just saying let the system work as it is, not as Donald Trump prefers it, which is to just punt using every theory he can come up with.

And there's a number we haven't used, and this is the real problem For Donald Trump, it's the number 31. 31 percent of Republicans say that if he is convicted of a felony, they will not vote for him.

Now, let's set aside for a moment what the other 69 percent are thinking. He cannot afford any Republicans to leave him come next November, assuming he's the nominee.

Now, also, I'm kind of old enough to remember that the Republicans used to elect people, nominate people who didn't have felony counts against them. He's not the nominee yet. I mean, it's not too late for some people to say this is absurd, someone who's on trial.

And, I mean, I know that Geraldo very much believes that what he did was wrong. I mean, this is quoting Geraldo. We saw with our own eyes an attack on democracy, an attack on the Constitution. I can't believe that the solution to that -- I won't accept that the solution to that is to just punt until a couple of years from now when he can just dismiss the cases by fiat.

PHILLIP: Well, we will have to leave it there with both of you, Geraldo Rivera and Philippe Reines, interesting conversation to be continued. This has not -- and this will not end anytime soon. Thank you both.

And a satanic temple display at the Iowa State Capitol is stirring up some controversy. New tonight, the display has been vandalized.

We'll speak with the group's founder, next.



PHILLIP: It's the display at the center of a free speech debate in America -- the Satanic Temple of Iowa, putting up this scene in the Iowa State Capitol. Built with the state's permission, it includes a statue of a goat-headed figure, along with the seven tenants of the group's beliefs.

But not everyone is feeling blessed by its appearance. Iowa's Governor Kim Reynolds calling it absolutely objectionable, another Iowa lawmaker calling it disgusting. And tonight, outrage hits a boiling point, with the display vandalized and the goat-headed figure beheaded.

I want to bring in the co-founder and spokesperson of the Satanic Temple, Lucian Greaves. Lucien, thanks for being here.


PHILLIP: Let's start with what happened to that display. How did you feel when you saw the damage?

GREAVES: Well, they had prayer rallies, they protested us, they denigrated the local government for following the law and opening the public forum to all viewers, and they still felt the need to tear down the statue or the display that was put up by our Iowa congregation. I think it was a real act of cowardice. It's cowardice dressed up as heroism.

It's acting like they're standing up for us when, in fact, when politicians do this in my understanding is that this is somebody running for public office, they're really yielding to the whims of an uncomprehending undemocratic mob and they don't have the spine to stand up for the values that they swore to uphold when they took an oath of office. And I think we saw a similar from Ron DeSantis in his comments about us recently.

PHILLIP: I'll get to Ron DeSantis' comments in just a moment. But you know, the governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, she said earlier this week that she thought that the display was absolutely objectionable, but that in a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech.

She went on to encourage people to join her in praying over the Capitol. What did you think of that response? Were you surprised that it came from her?

GREAVES: I am surprised that it did come from any of the politicians right now. And it's really courageous to take a stance for free speech at this point on either the left or the right. And there's a certain point at which we need some adults in the room to tell people what our liberal democratic values are, what their value is, why we uphold them and what they're good for. And they need to stand up for these types of values, or we're going to further degenerate in our polarism towards autocracy.

PHILLIP: You were talking about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earlier. He is criticizing an IRS rule that was put in place under the Trump administration that designated the Satanic Temple as a tax-exempt church. Is he right though, fundamentally, did the Trump administration's actions actually give your organization a legal standing to have this display?

GREAVES: No, we have a system in place where we have a system of checks and balances and we have static institutions like the IRS that work under a certain set of rules. And they're supposed to act neutrally in regard to viewpoint and just follow rote practices in which, if we fall within the parameters of the law, our rights will be respected the same as anybody else's.

We don't want to yield some kind of power to the government to begin picking and choosing between religious groups. People might hate us and people might want to exclude us, but that simply opens the door to more sectarian battles and it certainly won't stop there.

Our IRS tax exempt application certainly never came across Trump's desk. Trump wouldn't have comprehended it if he had seen it.


And I think DeSantis knows that. It's just another display of cowardice from a politician who wants to play ignorant, I think. I think he knows better. I would be happy to debate him at any point.

But I do think he is being a pathetic little coward when he calls us, when he tries to use us as a ploy to appeal to a mob of people who just don't understand what somebody like him very well should understand and should convey to the public instead of riling up fears and animosity between different people.

PHILLIP: So, what should we understand about the Satanic Temple group? What is the actual message that you're trying to convey? Many people would look at the name and they would say, is it satanic worship? GREAVES: We're a non-theistic organization, but honestly, I feel that

the beliefs that we hold take second place to upholding these values that I was speaking of. There's books available about us. There's been a film about us. We have a website. There's articles written about us all the time.

People interested in what we truly believe can find these things and they can see how we engage pro-socially with the communities that we're in, how we have various congregations doing good things in various areas. If they don't like the symbolism behind what we're doing, if they don't like the mythological construct that we appeal to, that makes no difference.

It's far greater evil, I think, to allow the government to begin, as I said, picking and choosing, elevating one religious voice over another, because that's a downward spiral, and that's not what we stand for, and that's not what liberal democracy stands for.

PHILLIP: You say that the belief system takes second place to the broader values of religious freedom. That makes sense, but I wonder, I mean, this provocative, you know, construct that was chosen here, Satanism, this display -- was the intent to simply provoke people of Christian faith who might find that to be against their religion, not just objectionable in and of itself, but actually against something that they believe?

GREAVES: Well, for one thing, no. We don't do this just to provoke and offend them. But I also want to offer the caveat that even if that were what we were doing, even if we were offering criticism of mainstream traditional religious organizations, I would defend our right to do that. And that's why -- that's why I have a difficult relationship with that kind of question.

I really think though, that if people did learn about us, they would find much less objectionable than they think. But people aren't -- some people aren't willing to do that, but our public office holders should do a better job and they should have more elevated standards.

PHILLIP: All right, Lucien Greaves, thank you. Very interesting conversation. We appreciate it.

GREAVES: Thank you.

PHILLIP: Hunter Biden is taking an aggressive new strategy against Republicans investigating him. But is the White House on board with it? That's next.




PHILLIP: Keeping quiet has apparently not worked, so Hunter Biden is trying out a new strategy, taking it to the Republicans that he accuses of trying to persecute him. For evidence, just look at what the President's son did holding a press conference, just steps away from the United States Capitol.


HUNTER BIDEN, SON OF PRESIDENT BIDEN: No matter how many times it is debunked, they continue to insist that my father's support of Ukraine against Russia is the result of a non-existent bribe. They displayed naked photos of me during an oversight hearing. And they have taken the light of my dad's love -- the light of my dad's love for me and presented it as darkness. They have no shame.


PHILLIP: Stef Kight is here with me now. She's an Axios reporter. So, Steph, what is going through the minds of White House aides right now when they see something like this press conference happening on Capitol Hill?

STEF KIGHT, POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: You know, over the past several months, we've seen Hunter's legal team take a more aggressive approach when it comes to pushing back against, you know, the criminal cases against Hunter, as well as Republicans' investigations.

And that more aggressive approach really went to a whole new level yesterday with this presser by Hunter himself. And that has caused some tension within the White House. The White House has wanted Hunter to kind of stick with the quieter strategy to, you know, let things play out and try not to draw additional attention to some of these investigations.

But of course, as we've seen, Hunter's team seems to think that that's not working and Hunter needs to be more forward in defending himself and his father. And, you know, after that presser, Hunter told Axios that his two priorities right now are staying sober and staying clean and also defending his father. And he feels a need to be speaking out more than he has in the past.

PHILLIP: So, maybe the White House doesn't like it. But is there a sense here that other Democrats who maybe want the Biden administration to be more aggressive appreciate what Hunter is doing here?

KNIGHT: You know, there's certainly a divide within the White House. There are some officials who felt that. Hunter made a very strong statement yesterday. There are some who are going to back this new strategy, who think that Hunter remaining quiet actually will hurt President Biden as we go into the 2024 election cycle.


And that it's important that Hunter does not appear guilty, even as Republicans have struggled to, you know, draw a line between some of Hunter's actions and his father, President Joe Biden. So, there are certainly going to be some cheering him on to continue taking this approach, but it's certainly caused some division within the White House at the very least.

PHILLIP: Interesting reporting there. Stef Kight, thank you very much.

KIGHT: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIP: And next, a CNN exclusive analysis into the nation's largest credit union, Navy Federal. More than half of Black applicants denied some home loans last year. But experts say this is part of a larger problem. That's next.




PHILLIP: Now, for exclusive CNN reporting about the nation's largest credit union, the Navy Federal Credit Union. A CNN analysis found that it had the widest disparity in conventional mortgage approval rates between white and black borrowers. CNN's Rene Marsh has more.


BOB OTONDI, DALLAS-AREA HOMEOWNER: But really the nice neighborhood, you know.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bob Otondi, a Kenyan immigrant turned Texas entrepreneur, knew this was his dream home the moment he saw it. It's in a highly sought after school district that his son so desperately wanted to attend for its basketball program.

MARSH: So, how many homes did you look at before you found this one and said this was it?

OTONDI: We had about six, but this was the one that we all wanted. And we're all praying to get this one.

MARSH: Otondi's first choice for his mortgage was Navy Federal Credit Union. It services military members, defense personnel, veterans and their families and is the largest credit union in the country.

OTONDI: I was the CEO of my company, so I had a pretty good income.

MARSH: Your credit was in the 700. You had recently sold your house. You had $100,000 for the down payment, which was more than 20 percent.

OTONDI: Correct. I mean --

MARSH: CNN reviewed Otondi's financial documents. He even had a pre- approval letter from Navy Federal in hand, but just two weeks before closing --

OTONDI: I got a denial. They sent me a letter saying, we're sorry, but your application has been denied.

MARSH: Were you stunned, surprised?

OTONDI: I mean, I was stunned. I was shocked. I was hurt. MARSH: The denial letter listed excessive obligations in relation to

income as the reason.

OTONDI: When they denied is when we came back and said, oh man, there's something else going on.

MARSH: And what did you think that something else was?

OTONDI: Discrimination.

MARSH: But it wasn't just Otondi. Thousands of other black applicants were also rejected. According to a CNN analysis of federal consumer protection data, last year, Navy Federal Credit Union only approved 48 percent. That's less than half of its black applicants for conventional home mortgages. White borrowers were approved more than 75 percent of the time. It's the biggest gap among the top 50 lenders.

The data also shows Navy Federal was more than twice as likely to deny black mortgage applicants than white ones, even when different variables including income, debt, property value and down payment percentage were the same.

OTONDI: I feel validated at one point, but also I feel a bit of anger because it shouldn't be happening.

MARSH (voice-over): Two weeks after Navy Federal rejected him, another bank approved Otondi for a mortgage. Navy Federal Credit Union denied CNN's request for an on-camera interview. In a statement, it said it is committed to equal and equitable lending practices and that CNN's recent analysis does not account for major criteria required by any financial institution to approve a mortgage loan.

That includes credit scores, which are not public. Navy Federal declined to provide additional data. We asked Navy Federal why Bob Otondi's loan was denied, but they declined to comment, citing member privacy.

CNN's analysis does not prove discrimination, but it does show dramatic racial disparities in who Navy Federal rejects and approves for conventional mortgage loans.

LISA RICE, CEO, NATIONAL FAIR HOUSING ALLIANCE: The black-white homeownership gap and the Latino-white homeownership gap today are both wider than they were in 1968 when we passed the Federal Fair Housing Act.

MARSH (voice-over): Lisa Rice has spent decades as a fair housing advocate. She says the disparities in Navy Federal's lending data are alarming and an extreme example of a bigger problem.

RICE: It's definitely a larger systemic issue. And we know that we have a long history of redlining and a long history of lending discrimination in this nation. Well, all of that data that is sort of tainted with bias is being used to develop the credit scoring systems.

OTONDI: We got the house, thank God, and we moved on. But what about the ones who were denied? What about the ones who now can't get their own dream house? It's something that's going to affect the generation all the way down to their kids.


PHILLIP: And Rene Marsh joins us now. Rene, great reporting. What does our analysis say about the effect of discrimination here?

MARSH (on-camera): I mean, what we know is that the data suggests that there is just this dramatic disparity. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau oversees consumer lending.

We've reached out to them. They told CNN that it doesn't comment on specific institutions but that they do conduct investigations to ensure that banks and credit unions are following fair lending practices.


But Abby, anyone who thinks that they may have been denied a mortgage because of their race or ethnicity, they should, in fact, file a complaint with their local Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Abby.

PHILLIP: Thank you so much for bringing that to us, Rene. And we'll be back in a moment.

MARSH: Sure.


PHILLIP: The deadly statistics are becoming all too familiar. Black women are two to three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States. And this week, I looked into why that's the case.

We took a journey inspired by my own pregnancy to understand why more black women are giving birth at home. And I spoke with experts like those at an innovative labor and delivery unit who are working to improve these statistics in hospitals.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Two times 10 days, got you. It's 10 A.M., the Saturday morning shift change. When I arrive at MLK to meet Angela Sojobi, the midwife program director here --


Hi, Ms. Angela.


PHILLIP (voice-over): She's invited us to follow her on her 24-hour shift. SOJOBI: How's it going?

UNKNOWN: It's going all right.


PHILLIP (voice-over): This is a midwife-led maternity ward and return to facility. What is that like to work with doctors to have midwives leading?

SOJOBI: Most pregnancies are normal. There are a few that just need medical care, right? So, those normal ones we take care of. And what that does is it leaves our physicians to really take care of the ones that they need to take care of.

PHILLIP: Someone coming in here may never see a doctor.

SOJOBI: They may never see a doctor.


PHILLIP: An all new episode of "The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper" airs Sunday night at 9 P.M. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN. Thank you for watching. "Laura Coates Live" starts right now. Laura, hi.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: It will be "The Whole Story with Abby Phillip" on Sunday, you mean. That's what you're talking about, right?

PHILLIP: Just this one Sunday.

COATES: Okay, there you go. I will hype you up myself. Thank you so much Abby. It's really important.

PHILLIP: Thank you, Laura.