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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Giuliani Ordered To Pay $18 Million For Defaming Poll Workers; From Fox To Giuliani, The Impact On Conspiratorial Media; Classified Russian Intel Disappeared In Trump's Final Days; CNN's Abby Phillip Discusses Possible Misuse Of Declassification Authority With Guest Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; Los Angeles Medical Examiner's Office Releases The Autopsy Report For Actor Matthew Perry; Former First Lady Melania Trump Makes Delivers A Speech During A Naturalization Ceremony At The National Archives In Washington. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 15, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That is after the National Archives went to great lengths to get those documents back before resorting to a search of his property to get them.

Melania Trump's appearance today, beyond the substance of why she was there, is also notable given she has been noticeably absent from the campaign trail or from the courtroom that her husband has been in.

Thank you so much for joining us on this very busy news week. CNN NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: A jury gives Rudy Giuliani 148 million reasons to regret his lies. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in Washington, where today cameras captured what might be the final chapter in a truly American story. A June jury sentenced the man once known as America's mayor to what is essentially a financial death penalty. Rudy Giuliani is now on the hook for $148 million, $148 million for the harm that he caused to two women, Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman.

Moss and Freeman are the Georgia election workers whose lives were forever altered after Giuliani made them the crux of a nonsense voter fraud conspiracy.

Now, the sheer size of this penalty is really stunning, $16 million for defaming Freeman, $16 million for defaming Moss, $40 million for emotional distress to both women, and $75 million in punitive damages.

Now, just moments following the verdict, the two women thanked the jury, but they said that today's result does not atone for two years of turmoil.


WANDREA SHAYE MOSS, GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER DEFAMED BY GIULIANI: The flame that Giuliani lit with those lies and passed to so many others to keep that flame blazing changed every aspect of our lives, our homes, our family, our work, our sense of safety, our mental health.

RUBY FREEMAN, GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER DEFAMED BY GIULIANI: I want people to understand this money will never solve all of my problems. I can never move back into the house that I called home. I will always have to be careful about where I go and who I choose to share my name with.


PHILLIP: Now, Giuliani came out to the cameras, too, and the word of the day was absurd.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: The absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding where I've not been allowed to offer one single piece of evidence in defense, of which I have a lot. It will be reversed so quickly it will make your head spin. And the absurd number that just came in will help that, actually.


PHILLIP: Let's be honest, the only absurd thing here is Giuliani's conduct, repeating his lies in the middle of a trial about those very lies, lies that his lawyers had already conceded in court documents were, in fact, false. And yet Giuliani says the fix was in.

And if you were looking for a sign, any sign of contrition here, Giuliani instead confessed that he still believes all of it.


REPORTER: You still believe these claims?

GIULIANI: I have no doubt that my comments were made and they were supportable and are supportable today.


PHILLIP: Joining me now, CNN Political Commentators Ashley Allison and Alice Stewart. Marcus Childress is also here. He's a former investigative counsel for the January 6th select committee. And a media commentator, Brian Stelter, is also with us as well.

Marcus, $148 million, the jury, no doubt, knows that Giuliani is scraping for cash. They wanted to send this message anyway.

MARCUS CHILDRESS, FORMER JAN. 6TH COMMITTEE INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: Yes, this was all about accountability, accountability for democracy, accountability for the big lie that Mr. Giuliani was so central to spreading. But like Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman said today, this isn't making them whole. In fact, it's still super sad to hear what they're having to go through. When they testified to our committee, they talked about how they received threats, such as, you're lucky it's 2020 instead of 1920, right? Those are threats filled with racism and bigotry that Mr. Giuliani is at the central of spreading, of amplifying.

And so while I'm happy with the verdict here today, this doesn't make them whole. And the work, as they said in their statement, is just beginning for holding individuals accountable.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I honestly will never forget their testimony before the January 6 committee. It was so searing. And even watching them today, it's depressing what this has become.


But there're so many people out there who are embedded in these lies. Donald Trump even has not walked away from them. Alice. I mean, at what point does all of this add up to just stop it, just walk away from this stuff?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, unfortunately, people that buy into the lie will not stop this. And what we saw today, thank goodness the jury and the legal system demonstrated there is a huge price tag for lies and deception and a pathetic pursuit for proximity to power.

And, eventually, Rudy Giuliani will wake up and sober up to the reality that his constant pursuit of currying favor with Donald Trump, his election lies, his baseless claims of ballot tampering on behalf of these two public servants in Georgia, they will ultimately lead to his self-destruction. He has done this all himself, and this is complete self-destruction.

And here's the thing. He's going to think that Donald Trump is going to help him out. Donald Trump will not return his phone calls, pay his bills, will not pass, go and collect $200 for Rudy Giuliani. He is not going to get anything out of Donald Trump.

And the good thing, as you said, these -- Shaye Moss -- Ruby Freedman and Shaye Moss, they say money is not everything. They need to get back to their life as normal, which it never will be. One good thing, they left that courthouse with their integrity. Rudy Giuliani left with inequity because of his immoral conduct.

PHILLIP: I mean, I sure hope they get some money out of this.


PHILLIP: I mean, they deserve it. But, look, Ashley, before you jump in, let me just play a little bit more of what Giuliani had to say outside of that courthouse, just really remarkable stuff.


GIULIANI: The comments they received, I had nothing to do with. Those comments are abominable, they're deplorable, no defense to it, but I receive comments like that every day. This is a terrible part of our political system. Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives all get that. My comments weren't that.


PHILLIP: Let me just remind people, he claimed that they were acting like they were passing dope.


PHILLIP: He said that.

ALLISON: So, I don't think it's an accident that Rudy Giuliani picked two black women in the state of Georgia to attack in a state, where, not too long ago, their ancestors didn't even have the right to vote. And now they were helping live out the dream of the franchise for people in that state.

Culturally, when I learned that she was passing a church mint (ph), basically to her daughter, and he said it was dope, that's a dog whistle. That was feeding his base, saying, treat them like dogs. But today, our justice system did right by them.

And money doesn't make you whole, but it does tell other people -- and I don't think Rudy is by himself on this. There's a whole lot of folks, particularly folks who came to the Capitol on January 6th, and said that they believed the lie, but it must stop. And if they won't stop the words, then the justice system has to stop it for them.

I am humbled to have heard the stories of those two women and I hope other people who are election workers and who are poll workers stay the course and realize that the system will protect you. Because the only way we can stop people like Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump in protecting our democracy is having more freedom fighters, like Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, stand up for justice every day.

PHILLIP: What about appeals here, Marcus? I mean, what do you think are the prospects that he could appeal and perhaps get this reduced in some way?

CHILDRESS: I don't see them as being a good option for him. The facts are on Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss' side here.

But I do want to highlight, just in addition to the appeal, the parallel proceedings here, too, as well. Going back to the Fulton County point, you see Mr. Giuliani, he's still talking outside of the courthouse. He testified to the January 6th committee and locked himself into some testimony. He didn't testify this week. But you have to imagine that the Fulton County D.A., the special counsel, they're listening to all of his words. They're all considering it for their upcoming trials. And if he does make an appeal, those words will also be considered as.

PHILLIP: Yes. He's in a world of hurt, legally, on some very serious charges down in Georgia, for which even a hypothetical Donald Trump would not be able to pardon him. CHILDRESS: Yes. And this is just the first domino to fall. I mean, this is -- there's a lot of dominoes left here, and I think this is the first.

STEWART: The absurdity also of an appeal, which more than likely will happen based on the amount of the compensation here.

But for a case and a proceeding, he wouldn't even take the stand for himself. And he told everyone throughout this entire proceeding, I will testify. And then he has the nerve not to do so, claiming that these women have been through enough, that was for him.

And he says today that the judge and the jury wouldn't -- or the courts would not allow him to put forth testimony, that is another lie on top of all of these lies.


He had the opportunity to present the kraken and to show his case about ballot -- interfering with the ballots. He didn't have it. So, he's lying from start to finish in this case.

PHILLIP: There are no facts on his side on this one.

I want to turn now to Brian Stelter. Brian, you know, similar question I just asked Alice, but you cover these types of people very closely. Do you think that this will have a chilling effect on all the other conspiracy theorists who are still out there peddling these election lines?

BRIAN STELTER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: This judgment does embolden a lot of other plaintiffs and there are so many other cases still pending, you know? I was talking to one of Dominion's lawyers yesterday We're basically only in the third inning of this because Dominion is still suing Rudy Giuliani and Newsmax and other big liars, Smartmatic and other voting machine companies still suing Fox News and Rudy and others. There are also individual plaintiffs. There are shareholder lawsuits.

Already, we've seen Trump's allies have to pay more than a billion dollars, if you count today's judgment, which Rudy can't afford, but if you add it all together, more than a billion dollars in legal fees and fines and settlements related to Trump's big lie of 2020.

So, you have this incredible, you know, track record that's been that's been produced here and we're only at the very early stages, as you all were just talking about, the criminal cases being another.

So, your question, does this affect the folks who are out there peddling, does this affect the smear merchants who are out there? I think in some cases, yes, around the margins They'll be a little more careful next time. If Trump loses the election next year, they'll be a little more careful in the way that they smear certain individuals. They might not use certain companies' names out loud.

But this playbook, right, of still denying reality, it will continue, right, Abby, because this isn't just political, it's psychological in nature. This is about people's psychological needs. And that's why I think today's verdict, today's ruling, it was a plea for civility and sanity There's a quiet majority in this country that does not want to put up with this anymore, that does not want to be lied to. And when they get a chance to speak out in court, they do. They make a message. They send a message. They say, let's make the liars pay.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, look, I have noticed the same thing that you're talking about. It's almost craftiness, cleverness with which people are telling the same lies, there are still lies, though. When it comes to the entities here that can potentially pay settlements, let's put Fox out there as an example, at what point is there going to be an upper limit on what they're willing to stomach financially, because these juries are not playing around with these verdicts? They're saying $150 million for one individual. What more could they say for a corporation like Fox?

STELTER: Right. I'll tell you, my reporting indicates Fox very strongly wants to settle that Smartmatic lawsuit. That's the biggest of all of these civil cases, it's still pending. Smartmatic claims more than $2 billion in damages. Fox says that's crazy, but that's heading toward trial in 2025.

Fox would love to settle and make that go away, but Smartmatic is busy deposing people like Rupert Murdoch, trying to get even deeper into what went wrong in 2020.

So, the fact this is all going to play out through the 2024 election, you know, it is a remarkable thing and it might cause some people around the edges to be a little more careful.

You know, Moss and Freeman, they're still suing a far right blog alleging defamation against the site called the Gateway Pundit. So, they are still seeking justice in other forums as well. And that might cause some of these website proprietors to be a little more careful.

But I think the problem does go deeper, Abby, it does go to our psyche as a country.

PHILLIP: Yes, it certainly does. Brian, Ashley, Alice, Marcus, thank you all very much.

And next, two former Giuliani staffers will join me on where it all went wrong for America's mayor.

Plus, we'll explore the drug ketamine, which was a factor in the death of Friends star Matthew Perry.

And also the alarming mystery about what happened to a binder full of Russian intelligence in the last days of Donald Trump's presidency. John Bolton reacts to CNN's explosive reporting.


[22:15:00] PHILLIP: Tonight, Rudy Giuliani has evolved to his final form over three decades, gone from America's prosecutor to America's mayor to now America's liar.


GIULIANI: I'm standing before you as the next mayor of New York City.

Today is obviously one of the most difficult days in the history of the city and the country. The tragedy that we're all undergoing right now is something that we've had nightmares about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you running or not?

GIULIANI: Yes, I'm running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you make an official announcement or is this it, here, right now?

GIULIANI: I guess you do one of these things where you do it four times or five times in a day.

I'm proud that we chose to stay positive and to run a campaign of ideas in an era of personal attacks, negative ads, and cynical spin. We ran a campaign that was uplifting.

I'm Rudy Giuliani, I made a lot in New York politics, I endorsed Donald Trump, but I'm not part of the campaign.

How can they say there's no fraud? Look at that woman. Look at her taking those ballots out. Look at them scurrying around with the ballots, nobody in the room, hiding around. They look like they're passing out dope, not just ballots.

Let's have trial by combat.


PHILLIP: Here to talk about what happened is former Rudy Giuliani Staffer Mike Paul and former Press Secretary on Giuliani's first mayoral campaign Ken Frydman. Thank you both for staying up with us.

Mike, put this into perspective for us, the depths of how big of a fall this is for Giuliani.

MIKE PAUL, FORMER GIULIANI STAFFER: Well, let's start with a man that had the moniker, the name, the brand, America's mayor, by the way, given to him by a black woman, and we'll get into race in a little bit, by the name of Oprah Winfrey in New York at Yankee Stadium, of all places, went around the world.


His ego started to fall right after 9/11, and let me explain. The fire department's union here, FDNY in New York, most people thought Rudy was always behind them, they were with Rudy, he was always there for the police, as well as the police union. Well, when it came time for the fire department to decide who they were going to back, at least the union, for president, when Rudy decided to run, they made a commercial against him.

Now, people said, why would he do that? Why would they do that? The reason why they did that is because when it came time for them to come to Rudy, to support him, them, from a city, state, and federal perspective regarding getting money for those who got sick on the pile who were cleaning up the mess of 9/11, he wasn't there for them.

PHILLIP: And, Ken, what is the role of Donald Trump in all of this, do you think?

KEN FRYDMAN, FORMER GIULIANI PRESS SECRETARY: Well, he hovers like the specter. You know, Rudy is still playing to the MAGA crowd. That's why he was so defiant again today after the judgment was rendered. And he said, I don't regret a damn thing.

Well, he should regret a lot of things. He should regret defaming two innocent poll workers, trying to upend a democratically held election and many other things like trying to upend democracy, frankly.

You know, you mentioned earlier that he should be showing contrition. You know, he studied for the priesthood at one time. And I think this is the time to be contrite and apologetic and recognize your sins, for lack of a better word.

You know, your clip reminded me of election night in '93. I was on that stage. And it was the proudest night of my life, until it wasn't when he joined Donald Trump's defense team. And it's gone downhill, you know, since then.

PAUL: Yes. But, Abby, even before he ever joined Giuliani's defense team, he attacked the president of the United States by the name of Barack Obama. And in 2015, on another network, I had to denounce any relationship with him because it was that bad.

Remember, he was saying that he wasn't born in this country. He was calling him a Muslim. He had started early on, way before he was attached to Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: Right. Yes, I mean, and you made the point, he was named America's mayor by Oprah, only to now be accused of -- actually found to have defamed two black women, accusing them of passing dope when they're just trying to count ballots.

Look, to the two of you, I'll start with you, Ken, fill in the blank here. Rudy Giuliani will be remembered for.

FRYDMAN: Well, I've written and I've said that his legacy, of course, has been demolished now. And as Mike mentioned, if he had stopped after 9/11 and joined a law firm and made an honest living, that would be his obituary. America's mayor died today. Now, it will be Donald Trump's lawyer died today. So, it changed the whole trajectory of his life for the worst.

PHILLIP: Mike, how will he be remembered?

PAUL: Well, Abby, let me start by saying, you know, Rudy Giuliani had Trinidad in Tobago as a client. Both Abby and I have roots that go back to Trinidad, and he called it a banana republic, and he ended up getting fired.

He will certainly be remembered for 9/11. That will be in the history books. But on the tail end of that, we will also see his fall. We will see that he attacked the president of the United States. We will see that he tied himself to a man by the name of Donald Trump, who he's known since the 80s, probably even the 70s, and did a lot of things for him in New York.

Remember, Donald Trump put up a lot of buildings here, but at the same time, as he was making money, at one point, $100,000 per speech, was billing in the thousands, was making millions of dollars as an attorney, really doing some lobbying work and public affairs and issues management-type work, he decided to then go back to this man, Donald Trump, and it's going to be his fall. And it's going to be so bad that his children are going to be concerned about letting people know their last names the same way that these two courageous women had to try and fight for their name.

FRYDMAN: Mike, his daughter has already changed her last name. She uses her mother's maiden name.

PAUL: Well, he has a son who's still following in his footsteps.


I also think that we should be looking where he might be hiding money. Sometimes that's done with family. Let's see what happens in the future when it comes to those areas, too.

PHILLIP: There will be a lot of scrutiny on where they can scrounge up, even if it's some of this settlement here for Ruby and for Shaye.

Mike Paul and Ken Frydman, thank you both very much.

And a binder full of highly classified Russian intelligence just vanished at the end of the Trump presidency, and it's still missing today. I'll speak with Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, about this, next.


PHILLIP: Tonight, the U.S. has no idea where a binder full of highly classified intelligence connected to Russia is. What is clear, though, is that the binder has vanished and it vanished in the final days of the Trump presidency.

In CNN's exclusive reporting, it said that the intel inside is so secretive, it was kept in a safe within another safe at the CIA's headquarters. As for where it went, well, there are several theories. One was floated by Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide for then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, in her recent book. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: I watched him climb into the limo, noticing the original Crossfire Hurricane binder tucked under his arm. I did not have time to ask what he planned to do with it as he drove away. What the hell is Mark doing with the unredacted Crossfire Hurricane binder?


PHILLIP: Now, Meadows' attorney strongly denies that he mishandled any classified information at the White House.

With me now is John Bolton. He served as national security adviser to President Trump until September 2019. Mr. Bolton, what do you know about this binder?


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I haven't heard anything more than what came from the CNN reporting. I have to say, the very existence if the binder as it's been described strikes me as a little bit strange. It doesn't sound like something the CIA would do, these various documents, some supposedly raw intelligence, others different kinds of communications or evaluations.

I don't get that part of it. It sounds like something that maybe somebody not all that familiar with government process but who had access to classified information might put together.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, it is interesting. And I think you're right. It does kind of seem odd that any document would have all of this information all in one place, making it very easy for someone to just walk away with it.

One of the other parts of this is Mark Meadows and his role. He's now cooperating with the special counsel and he is in some ways at the center of this story. His legal team alleges that he had nothing to do with this binder going missing. But, you know, what Cassidy Hutchinson suggested is that he's one of the last people seen with it. How does that complicate his current legal situation?

BOLTON: Well, again, if this notebook contained significant classified information and it was taken off the White House grounds by somebody after noon on January the 20th, 2021 without somebody's authorization and some means of protecting it, then you've got another classified documents issue.

Again, the reporting seems to be that a lot of this was pulled together for very late declassification effort to get information about the so-called Russia collusion investigation out in public, all very haphazardly done. I think one place to go to really get the story is the White House Counsel's Office --

PHILLIP: Right. BOLTON: -- since they were clearly involved in the effort to redact very sensitive information. I think it may be the Trump lawyers in the White House who may be able to give the best -- the fullest description of this whole episode.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it's a very interesting point. I mean, it also seems that, to your point, Trump did actually issue a declassified order for some of these documents. So, the question now is, what is it going to take, you think, do you think it will ever be publicly released?

BOLTON: Well, again, what appears to have happened is that Trump, in some way, he indicated he wanted this material declassified. It's not clear that any of it has been released publicly yet. And so, that's a whole another question. What happened to it? It really -- it reads like a cheap dime store novel. Mark Meadows rushing to the Justice Department.

PHILLIP: But do you think it ever will be --

BOLTON: I think it depends on what's in it. I mean, if it really is, if there really is raw intelligence in there, if there's other sensitive information, then no matter how curious we are, it could well be there's a very good case to keep it classified.

PHILLIP: So, ultimately, do you think that this was given to the Russians by someone associated with the Trump administration?

BOLTON: Well, if that were the case, that would be big news because, again, if the information is as described, putting it in the Russians' hands would give them an intelligence bonanza. And if that's what the intention was or if that's somebody, what somebody tried to do, and they could find out who it was, I'd say that person's in pretty big trouble, up to and including, yet again, Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: So, look, Trump and Republicans have endlessly attacked Hillary Clinton in 2016 and beyond for being careless with classified information on her server. Do you think that this is worse?

BOLTON: Well, I think if the idea was they were trying somehow to declassify information and they were doing it with the intention of getting it out or getting it to others without really people understanding the nature of what was being declassified, then I think this is a misuse of the whole declassification authority.

Not questioning the president's authority to declassify, but the whole thing sounds very, very suspicious to me. And so again, I come back. I'm not -- the only people I would trust to give you a straight story on this for their own professional reputation sake, if nothing else, would be the people in the White House Counsel's Office.

PHILLIP: All right. Ambassador John Bolton, thank you very much for coming in tonight.

BOLTON: Glad to be with you.

PHILLIP: And new tonight, Matthew Perry's official cause of death revealed to be, quote, "acute effects of ketamine". I'll discuss that with an expert, next. Plus, Melania Trump's former senior advisor reacts to her rare remarks at a citizenship ceremony.



PHILLIP: New tonight, the Los Angeles Medical Examiner's Office has released the autopsy report for actor Matthew Perry. The "Friends" star was just 54 and he died from quote, acute effects of ketamine and subsequent drowning. Also included in this report, Perry was quote, "reported to be receiving ketamine infusion therapy for depression and anxiety".

Joining me now is Dr. Joseph Lee, an addiction psychiatrist. Dr. Lee, tell us, why would Matthew Perry have been taking ketamine? What does it do?

JOSEPH LEE, DOCTOR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HAZELDEN BETTY FORD FOUNDATION: Yeah. Ketamine is a really interesting and complicated chemical with some medicinal benefits but also some known harms. Ketamine initially became widely used in America some decades ago as a general anesthetic, but fell out of favor because it had many side effects.

And then many decades later, it became a street drug used recreationally and became known as a dissociative. It has effects where when people take it recreationally, it gives you an out-of-body experience, distort your perceptions.


But in recent years, ketamine has come into the research as a potential treatment and promising treatment for certain kinds of depression. And so, it's very likely that Matthew Perry was taking ketamine to treat his depression.

PHILLIP: So, given what the autopsy report says, what role do you think the ketamine played in his death and his ultimate drowning?

LEE: Yeah. Well, it's hard to know precisely, but the medical examiner's report says that they believe that the acute effects of ketamine played a significant role in his passing. And so, ketamine in his body was found at levels that were at general anesthetic levels. And so, ketamine alone, theoretically, could cause respiratory depression. It could cause someone to become very sedated.

And they also discovered that he had some underlying heart issues. He had some other chemicals in his system. And the report is saying that all of those contributed to his unfortunate demise.

PHILLIP: Yeah, there was also in the report, signs that he had ketamine in his stomach. It seemed to suggest not just the intravenous infusion, but maybe he was taking it in a pill form. What does that tell you?

LEE: Yeah, you know, people can get ketamine in lots of different forms. And it doesn't have to be through illegal means. There are actually treatments of ketamine where they'll mail order you ketamine sublingual tablets under your tongue or intranasal spray, you know.

So, there's different ways to get ketamine and it's not just through I.V. so that doesn't surprise me. In fact, there's evidence to suggest that Matthew Perry was getting good medical care. He had a chemical called buprenorphine which is a medication used to treat opioid addiction. So, there's clear evidence to suggest that Matthew Perry was getting care from physicians.

PHILLIP: Yeah and perhaps had it not been for the tub, the presence of water there, it might have had a different outcome. Dr. Joseph Lee, we appreciate you joining us for that. Thank you.

LEE: Yeah, thank you very much.

PHILLIP: A rear public appearance today from former first lady, Melania Trump, and it wasn't on the campaign trail or in the courtroom. We'll speak with her former senior advisor, next.




PHILLIP: It's been nearly three years since President Trump left office, and since that time, Melania Trump has rarely been seen in the public eye. But today, the former First Lady made an appearance, giving a speech during a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in Washington. Along with applauding the 25 immigrants for gaining citizenship, she also reflected on her own journey to citizenship.


MELANIA TRUMP, FORER U.S. FIRST LADY: While challenges were numerous, there were rewards for well worth effort. I applaud you for every step you took, every obstacle you overcome, and every sacrifice you made.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former senior advisor to First Lady Melania Trump. Stephanie, thanks for being here. You said that, you know, you tried but failed previously to get Melania to do things like this, these kinds of ceremonies, while she was First Lady. When you see her doing it today, what goes through your mind?

STEPHANIE WINSTON WOLKOFF, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO FIRST LADY MELANIA TRUMP: Hi, Abby. You know, unfortunately, I find it to be really deceptive, almost deceitful, and quite honestly, I find Melania Trump's words to be lacking of any real meaning. And it's unfortunate because she had an opportunity as the First Lady of the United States to make a difference, and she didn't at all.

PHILLIP: So, what do you think she's doing it for now?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: Look, Melania Trump had, you know, as the second First Lady of the United States of America to ever be an immigrant. She had the opportunity to make such a difference in the lives of so many. I mean, it was the American dream.

And to squander that opportunity to show up today, to try and make a difference in something that her husband is so against, which is immigration, as we all know, really is meaningless. So I go back to the, you know, strong philosophy that your, you know, intent on doing the right thing matters in America and that your attention and how much you're receiving from others is not what matters most.

And for her, that is why she is there today. It is the attention she receives. It is what brings Donald the ability to bring more people to the forefront of what he's discussing about immigration. And for her to really talk about and be there under the guise that she cares about America and democracy, it's untruthful.

PHILLIP: Do you think she's giving him cover?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: I think she's using this opportunity to give herself, you know, P.R. publicity and the ability to speak to the American people in a way that he needs.

PHILLIP: So, aside from attending Trump's presidential announcement, Melania really has not been seen anywhere on the campaign trail, in court. She has virtually disappeared from the spotlight, save for being at Rosalind Carter's funeral a few weeks ago. Why do you think she has been so scarce out in public?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: Melania Trump doesn't do anything, you know, intentionally in the sense that she wants to appear to be someone who is mysterious. She wants to continue this philosophy that she is an enigma, but she is not.


And, you know, unfortunately, people keep giving her this out, this reason to believe that Melania should be freed from Donald. But Melania is complicit. Melania is, you know, side by side with a showmanship and she is exactly like Donald, just unfortunately a skirt and high heels.

And showing up today was just another way for her to have some camera time and, you know, speak some things that some other people have written for her. And I am just -- it's unfortunate, Abby.

PHILLIP: So, do you think ultimately that she will reappear in the coming months? I mean, we've got all these trials. We've got a campaign in full swing. Trump looks to be cruising to the nomination. Do you think that suddenly she will be at his side helping him with this campaign?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: I do feel strongly that Melania Trump isn't going anywhere. I believe that Melania will stay by Donald's side throughout all of this. She is his partner in crime. And we, the American people are struggling to survive with our democracy.

You know, again, back to today's naturalization, being in the National Archives with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights and knowing how she felt about not wanting to actually promote that for so many individuals that have less opportunity than she had, it was just a squandered opportunity and she feels like, you know, it's again, I keep going back to that publicity moment and I find it to be really quite repulsive.

PHILLIP: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, thank you again for joining us tonight.

WINSTON WOLKOFF: Thank you for having me, Abby.

PHILLIP: And can a third party candidate make a run for president without being a spoiler? Cornell West will make his case ahead.




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 here in the United States. Now faced with these grim facts, many black women are now choosing to opt out of hospital births altogether. We took a very personal journey, inspired by my own pregnancy, to learn more about why that is.


UNKNOWN: Hi, baby.

PHILLIP (voice-over): This is the sound of new life being brought into the world. The kind of moment most pregnant women dream of. Yet this is the stark reality that most pregnant black women live with.

ANGEL: Yeah, I'm feeling pressure. I was scared. I had like, I was crying.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Angel is in labor with her sixth child.

PHILLIP: What were you afraid of?

ANGEL: Coming in and not coming out.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Ashley is having her second child in one month.

ASHLEY: You know, moms are supposed to have this wonderful moment, they just weren't making it out, you know, alive, out in the hospital.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Elaine gave birth nearly two years ago.

ELAINE: We're preparing for the worst at the best time in our lives. PHILLIP (voice-over): Three women, three pregnancies, one journey to

understand exactly what scares them about hospitals and why some black women like me are now redefining the oldest act in human history. Childbirth.

A few years ago, I was pregnant with my first daughter. I knew the black maternal mortality statistics and I didn't want to take any chances. So, I decided to skip the doctor and the hospital and with the help of a midwife, I gave birth in my own home. It may sound crazy, but it felt so much safer. And honestly, since then, I've been surprised to meet a number of black women who decided to go down the same path that I did.


PHILLIP: This all new episode of "The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper" airs on Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern at Pacific Only here on CNN. And Laura Coates is up next and she joins me now. Laura, this piece is very personal to me.

We've talked about it, but I'll tell you that every black woman I know who is of childbearing age, we all have the same anxieties. I think it's sometimes hard for people to understand that. But it is a kind of silent commonality among many of us that people are afraid to have babies in this country because the statistics are so, so bad.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Abby, you are speaking so many truths. And you know, for me, I almost died after my first child and had a lot of concerns about going on to have a second and did not end up having a third for various reasons connected to it.

And so, when you talk about this and you have shed light on such an important issue, I mean, it hits so close to home for so many people. And just thinking about, here we are, it's 2023. We're not a developing country.


We are the United States of America. And this is a number and statistics that impact people all across income levels. I don't care about all the demographics you talk about for elections and how they try to categorize people and who's more prone or wherever it might be. It really is a tie that binds.

And so, I am just so proud of you for doing this story. I know this is deeply personal. It's not always easy to go there the way you have. And I cannot wait to see it in its full --

PHILLIP: Thank you.

COATES: -- because it's such an important conversation. So, good for you, Abby.

PHILLIP: Thank you so much, Laura. And thank you for sharing that with us. I mean, it's part of your experience and your life. And people need to understand that it can happen to me, it can happen to you, it can happen to any of us. So, have a great show. Have a great weekend. See you soon.

COATES: Thank you, you too. I look forward to it. It's going to happen Sunday everyone at 8 o'clock, "The Whole Story".

PHILLIP: Not -- 9 o'clock.

COATES: 9 o'clock. I'm on the West Coast today. I don't know what time it is right now. Where are we? What's happening? It's Abby Phillip. Nice to see you.

PHILLIP: It's Laura Coates time, that's what time it is.

COATES: Yes it is, nice to see you.