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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Repeats Poisoning The Blood Remark, Quotes Putin On U.S.; GOP Defends Or Dismisses Trump's Inflammatory Rhetoric; Roseanne Pushes Nazi Caliphate Conspiracy At Conservative Event; Texas Governor Greg Abbott Signs One Of The Nation's Strictest Immigration Policies Into Law; Verdict On Jonathan Majors Sparks A Debate In America About Domestic Violence; Senate Aide Fired For Allegedly Filming A Sex Video In A Hearing Room. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 18, 2023 - 22:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you also say that you're an icon?

FMR. REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): No, you're the icon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you're the icon. No, you icon.

SANTOS: You're iconic, though.


SANTOS: Icon girl, girl boss.


SANTOS: I con.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: You really just have to watch the full 17 minutes of Ziwe. It was masterful.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Donald Trump yanks the U.S. toward authoritarianism as his supporters cheer. That's tonight on Newsnight.

Good evening, I'm Abby Phillip in New York.

And tonight, Donald Trump doesn't need to ask for forgiveness, and that's because his party and his voters give him permission every single time.

Now, Trump, again, leaned in all the way in, playing to the worst fears embedded in this country's history of black and brown people polluting the nation.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. They've poisoned mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world. They're coming into our country from Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They're pouring into our country. Nobody is even looking at them. They just come in. The crime is going to be tremendous.


PHILLIP: Yes, you've heard it before and Trump is saying it again and again. He's borrowing their language from authoritarian's past, specifically Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, using it to demonize immigrants in the present.

Now, this is not a slip of the tongue, it's not just loose talk. This time, the rhetoric is accompanied by plans, mass deportations, massive immigration camps, purges of disloyal government workers. And already the GOP has deployed varying manners and methods of saying that Trump's remarks are really nothing to see from trying to tell you what he really meant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they wanted to focus all the Sunday shows, Lawrence, on the word he used poison. He was just trying to say, we want to keep America America. We want to build up the border and find out who's coming in and out. And they tried to say that this language was the problem.


PHILLIP: To assuring you that he really didn't know what he was saying at all.


MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENTI MIKE PENCE: I think it's highly unlikely that Donald Trump's ever read high-mine comp. I think the reality is what we have is that the left continues to attack him on something outrageous, he says but he continues to drive the issue back to border security, which is what he wants to be talking about.


PHILLIP: To admitting that, frankly, no one gives a damn.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you comfortable with him using words like that? SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We're talking about language. I could care less what language people use as long as we get it right.

The only thing you want to talk about on immigration is the way Donald Trump talks, you're missing a lot.


PHILLIP: There is a very real political argument that some Republicans are making here, and that is that American voters have so much on their minds that they can't even bother, or they don't have the bandwidth to measure what Trump says versus what they need in their lives right now.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You guys are exhausting. You're exhausting in your obsession with him. The thing is the normal people aren't obsessed with Trump like you guys are. The normal people care about the fact that they can't afford things. They feel like their freedoms are being taken away.


PHILLIP: There is some truth to what she's saying there. For the most part, Republican voters are ignoring Trump's most outrageous campaign promises. And, in fact, they may even like it. You see that reflected in the polls.

In Iowa, for example, likely Republican caucus-goers say that some of Trump's most authoritarian-inspired solutions and statements make them actually more likely to support him. Sweeping raids, giant camps, mass deportations, well, 50 percent support that. Root out the vermin, 43 percent support that. Immigrants are poisoning the blood of America, 42 percent.

And you hear it, the adulation of authoritarians. And you hear the adulation that they crave wherever Trump goes.


TRUMP: Thank you very much.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Republican Congresswoman from New York Nicole Malliotakis. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us.

Look, I'll start off by simply asking, is Trump right that immigrants are poisoning the blood of this country?


REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): Well, I don't think that's what he was saying. When he said they are poisoning, I think he was talking about the Democratic policies. I think he was talking about the open border policy. And if you look at what my mayor, our mayor here in New York City, is saying, that this migrant crisis is destroying New York City, I think it's pretty much the same thing.

What we're trying to say here is that we need to have secure borders. You know what's actually poisoning America is the amount of fentanyl that's coming over our open border. And so this is a really serious issue.

And I think that that's what he's talking about, that the open borders are unsafe, that it's unsustainable, and it's bankrupting cities like ours, and we need to address it.

PHILLIP: Congresswoman, you're saying that's what you think he's saying, but he was pretty clear. He was saying that the immigrants who are coming in, he says they're poisoning the blood of the nation. He says that they're doing it.

MALLIOTAKIS: He never said immigrants are poisoning, though.

PHILLIP: He's talking about people coming across the border and --

MALLIOTAKIS: I honestly think he was being --

PHILLIP: We just played it.

MALLIOTAKIS: Yes, and he said he didn't say the words immigrants. I think he was talking about the Democratic policies.

PHILLIP: He was talking about people.

MALLIOTAKIS: Okay. Well, look, I know that some are trying to make it seem like President Trump is anti-immigrant. The reality is he was married to immigrants, he's hired immigrants. I mean, he's not -- it's --

PHILLIP: He was talking about people coming across the border. He was saying that they were bringing crime, they were bringing violence with them.

MALLIOTAKIS: But that's true. They --

PHILLIP: So, will you agree then that he's talking about immigrants?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, no. But the thing is that our open border is unsafe and unsustainable. We know that the drug cartels are bringing in and setting up operations, selling fentanyl and other drugs to the point where over 100,000 Americans have died. We know that there is crime taking place.

And that's not to say that all immigrants are bad. My parents are immigrants. I represent a community full of immigrants. But what I will tell you from the immigrants that I know is that they're very upset by the lack of order that we're seeing at the border.

PHILLIP: And, look, you've talked -- we've talked to you actually about your background, your immigrant history. I have immigrant history too. So, we share that.


PHILLIP: Exactly, we all do. But let's talk for a second here about the fact that Trump continuously, repeatedly uses this rhetoric that now, maybe you could say the first time he didn't know the references, the parallels to authoritarians.

He knows now, why does he keep saying it over and over again?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, look, I just think he's trying to bring attention to the issue.

PHILLIP: He's using the rhetoric of a authoritarian to bring attention to this issue?

MALLIOTAKIS: I think the important thing is we need to pay attention to this issue.

I mean, look, let's admit what's going on here in this country. We have drug cartels that are running our southern border. We have the women and children, by the way, who are coming over the border. How many of them are being raped along the journey? Doctors Without Borders, even put out a report saying between Columbia and Panama, there were 400 children and women that they treated who were being raped.

Every single person coming over that border is paying the drug cartels thousands of dollars to get here. What are they doing with that money? They are, in turn, selling drugs, the drug cartels, right, are setting up operations here. We know the gangs are here. We know this is all happening. If you talk to the Drug Enforcement Administration, if you talk to law enforcement, it's happening.

So, I mean, let's differentiate between legal immigration and illegal immigration and admit that this open border is a major problem for this country. And it's unsustainable. It's costing our taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year here in New York City. We're going bankrupt with the cities that cross the board cuts.

PHILLIP: Look, I don't disagree with what you're saying about the policy, and I think that's actually --

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, that's what we have to focus on. I mean, we may --

PHILLIP: I agree. Look, I think it's really important, the policy that you're talking about. I think you would agree that that is probably what lawmakers like you want to focus on.

Trump is using the rhetoric of Hitler and Mussolini to make a point about people coming across the border illegally. Don't you think that's a bit of a distraction?

MALLIOTAKIS: I disagree with what you're saying. I just fundamentally disagree. I think what he was saying is that the Democratic policies, the policies of this administration that have allowed millions of people, including, remember, we caught people in the terror watch list, that should be concerning to us in New York City in a post/911 world. I mean, we have to be serious about what's going on. And you have 1.7 million people who are completely unaccounted for it.

And the policies, by the way, of this president, I would argue of President Biden are the ones that are anti-immigrant. Let me explain why. We have people who are waiting years in line. They've come the right way. They did everything right. They applied. They've been waiting for years to get an asylum date or whatever. And they're being cut now by these individuals that have paid the drug cartels to come over the southern border. They're prioritizing this administration the people have come over the southern border ahead of the people who have been waiting for years.


I know this because I --

PHILLIP: And I know that you've --

MALLIOTAKIS: -- where I'm dealing with this regularly.

PHILLIP: -- (INAUDIBLE) work on that.

I want to ask you about something else that former President Trump was talking about recently. He said this, take a listen, in New Hampshire.


TRUMP: Vladimir Putin of Russia says that Biden's, and this is a quote, politically motivated persecution of his political rival, is very good for Russia because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy.


PHILLIP: What do you make of that? Do you agree with Putin's point there that Trump was quoting?

MALLIOTAKIS: No, I don't even know what it was about, quite frankly. I honestly don't know. You don't play the whole thing, so it's hard for me to say. But what I would say is that, look, the reality is we know, we don't want to see communism, socialism, the suppression of the media that we've seen in other countries, Russia. My mother fled communist Cuba. And we don't want to see that happening ever in the United States of America.

PHILLIP: I think what he was quoting Putin saying was that the investigations that he is facing are proof of, you know, Trump using the government to persecute him. Do you think that that is true, and that Putin was saying that that means that America's democracy is rotten?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, look, I think we do have a real issue in this country when you see that these agencies are being weaponized and they're going after individuals simply for political beliefs. That should never occur in the United States of America.

And I think that, unfortunately, we've seen it in the DOJ, in the FBI. There's been a two-tiered system where there's been a double standard. I mean, we're showing that right now with the way Hunter Biden was treated. And all of a sudden, when we're exposing all of this, now all of a sudden we see the DOJ bring nine charges against Hunter Biden for what the whistleblower said should have been brought a long time ago, but was suppressed by the DOJ.

So, we always want to make sure that we have a system where we can't believe in justice. And that's, I think, fair for anybody to say.

PHILLIP: Turning to the other part of the presidential race that's underway right now, I believe you haven't made an endorsement in this race yet. I'll just play real quick this ad from Nikki Haley.


HALEY: I'll just say it, Biden is too old, and Congress is the most exclusive nursing home in America. Washington keeps failing because politicians from yesterday can't lead us into tomorrow.


PHILLIP: She's pointing out there the median age in the House is 58, median age in the Senate 65. She says President Biden is too old. Donald Trump, though, is also 77. She's been making the case against Trump, too, on this front. Do you agree that Trump is too old to be in the Oval Office?

MALLIOTAKIS: I don't know. I mean, look, whether he's too old, as long as you can do the job, right? I don't --

PHILLIP: Is that true of Biden?

MALLIOTAKIS: Yes, as long as you can do the job. Quite frankly, I don't think President Biden, though, can do the job. I think that there is a major issue there were people who have been in government for too long. And I think I agree with her. I think many times she's talking about the U.S. Senate, which seems to be a nursing home, like she's saying in the end.

Look, I'm proud to be a part of the younger generation in Congress, people who are coming in now. I think that we've certainly brought the average age down. But I think this has more to do with people who have been in office for too long, for term limits. When I was a state rep, I stopped myself at ten years and said I

wasn't going to run anymore for the state assembly, but I feel the same way about Congress. You have to be here for a certain amount of time and then move on, make your contributions, and do what you can.

But the people that have been there for 30, 40, maybe even more years, I think you get jaded and you get complacent. And we don't need that. We need fresh people coming in all the time.

PHILLIP: Do you tend to make an endorsement in the presidential race? MALLIOTAKIS: I probably will at some point, but certainly not tonight on your show. But, look, I am actually friends with Nikki Haley, President Trump. I've supported him in the past, good friend. He's supported me as well. And so I'll be announcing it at the time as we approach to New York primaries.

But what I'll say is that, look, we can't continue down the path that we're on for the next four years, and American families know that. So, hopefully, we'll find someone new that can go to the White House because the reality is inflation is crushing Americans, energy, this terrible energy policy of this president has driven up costs for American families. The border is not secure. We need to get that under control. And I would love to see the Senate pass our legislation that we pass the Border Security Act that would do just that.

PHILLIP: And we'll see how that turns out. New York Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, thank you very much for joining us.


And it's not just Trump's rhetoric that's going mainstream, Roseanne among the headliners pushing bizarre conspiracies at a conservative conference. Frank Luntz and S.E. Cupp join me live.

Plus, new reporting that President Biden is livid over his low poll numbers, and he's putting the blame on his White House staff.

And a Senate staffer is fired for allegedly making a sex tape inside a Senate hearing room, and his boss is speaking out for the first time.


That's ahead.


PHILLIP: Tonight, is this what passes for normal in today's Republican Party?


ROSEANNE BARR, COMEDIAN: If we don't stop these horrible communists -- do you hear me? I'm asking you to hear me -- Stalinist communists with a huge helping of Nazi fascists thrown in.


PHILLIP: And that, believe it or not, was Roseanne Barr, former T.V. star, who got canceled for racist tweets and then blaming a sleeping medication for them. That fact-free rant happened at something called America Fest, the latest, greatest and conspiracy-heavy successor to CPAC.

Joining me now is CNN Political Commentators S.E. Cupp and Frank Luntz, the pollster and communication strategist.


Who wants to take Roseanne? S.E.?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Don't look at me. I never watched her.

PHILLIP: The question that I have though, S.E., is why?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, why was she there?

PHILLIP: Why these characters who say these inflammatory and really wild things, and what's the substance behind that?

CUPP: Well, there was no substance behind that, and I shudder to think what she had scripted, because she also admitted that she had lost her speech, just minutes before going on, so that was winging it.

But, listen, there's no substance. There's just saying the word salad that matters to Trump's MAGA right wing, the word salad of communist fascist. It doesn't even matter what she's referring to. I don't know. She's showing up for the right person, and she has the correct enemies.

But I was thinking today, I don't know if you'll definitely remember this, I don't know if you will. I'm aging myself. But 2004, Howard Dean, January 19th, I'll never forget it, because I covered it, and the scream heard around the world that ended his presidential campaign for being too excited.

And now we have a candidate, right, in Donald Trump who is facing 90 charges, and has people like Roseanne coming out and speaking for him. What a difference, you know, however many 19 years makes.


LUNTZ: Here's the problem, and I've been debating whether or not to say this, and I still haven't decided. If you look at the polling and you look at the focus groups and you look at the states that really matter, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, the states that are in play, Biden keeps falling every week. Trump keeps gaining every week.

And for the first time that I've ever done this publicly, if the election were held today, Donald Trump beats Joe Biden. So, we have to start to ask why and what does that mean for America?

And I was debating because I'm about to go on holiday. I want to get away from this. It is a fear that we saw in 2015-2016, a fear of the economy, a fear of society, a fear of culture, I'm not justifying it, I'm only trying to explain it, where people feel ignored, forgotten, betrayed, left behind, you choose. And that fear is back again.

Inflation has made it worse where our incomes have gone up 5 percent a year and inflation has gone up 8 or 9 percent, and people are really suffering struggling, food, fuel, housing, healthcare. And the reason why this works is because it plays into that anger, that frustration, it isn't right and it's going to destroy this country, but this is why it's happening

CUPP: He's created it. He's fomented it.

LUNTZ: I don't --

CUPP: There are some grievances that are real, Frank, you're right, and economic grievances are real. Anxiety over immigration, that's real. We should deal with that as a policy. But he's also invented some anxieties and conspiracy theories around white fright to keep these people rabid and afraid and angry at their neighbors, because that's what he needs to win the race.

PHILLIP: And just to make the point that this is -- it's not like he invented this tactic, right? He is taking this tactic out of a toolbox that has been created by strongmen past, and he is openly citing those things and it's working.

LUNTZ: But the problem is Congress solve it, actually make an agreement.

PHILLIP: How does Congress solve Trump?

LUNTZ: By fixing the border. Trump exists because of weaknesses in democracy. It exists because of policies and programs that haven't been done yet.

We see people coming across the border day after day, week after week, year after year, and no one does anything about it. Trump finds the most ugly language to articulate this. But it's working because the public is saying, fix it.

CUPP: We'll see if it's working because his base is still big, but it's condensed to the purest, most loyal Trump supporters. All the apostates are out. I don't know if there's -- we'll see if there's enough voters.

PHILLIP: I think that there are a lot of numbers right now that suggest that Trump is actually -- he's consolidating to a point where it's going to be very difficult.

CUPP: Yes.

PHILLIP: And, look, Joe Biden of it all, right, there's a Washington Post story this weekend where he reportedly earlier this fall blew up at his staff over his falling poll numbers. His numbers have fallen even further since then. He is really in unchartered waters in terms of his low approval ratings.


Can this even be fixed?

CUPP: It's a little late and frankly why a number of folks like me were trying to warn Democrats.

You don't -- listen, no one should be embarrassed by the fact that Joe Biden was really elected to be a transitional president, not a transformational one. Many of us, including me, voted for him for a term to get Trump out and restore some normalcy.

It would be okay for Democrats to have looked at some other candidates who might be stronger against a Trump or another Republican candidate. And there was this sort of fingers in ears from my Democratic friends and colleagues. They didn't want to hear it. He's earned it, they would say. He's earned the right. He's done so much.

I mean, these poll numbers are atrocious and I would be -- I think it's too late, but I would be very, very worried if I were Democrats.

LUNTZ: He's got two problems. One is fixable and that's inflation. You can't have prices going up faster than incomes and not have the working class and the middle class angry and frustrated. But the other problem is not fixable and it's age, and he continues to get older.

I know that Trump is the same age, almost the same age as Biden, but it's communicated in a different way. Trump acts differently. And every time that Biden speaks, every press conference, every time he has trouble with language, it gets worse and worse.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I would add a couple more things to that, including the Israel-Hamas War, which is causing him some problems with his base.

But, Frank and S.E., always great to have both of you, thank you for joining us tonight.

And breaking news tonight, the governor of Texas signing one of the nation's most hard-line border laws, allowing police to arrest migrants. I'll speak with someone who's been embedded with armed militia groups who are seeking vigilante justice on the southern border.



PHILLIP: Breaking tonight, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing one of the nation's strictest immigration policies into law. And the centerpiece of it is that police will now be allowed to arrest migrants who are suspected of illegally crossing the border.

While it's undeniable, yes, there's a border crisis, the move now raises many questions and fears of how it will be enforced and will undoubtedly test the limits of how far an individual state can go to guard their state lines.

Now, this comes as more and more vigilante groups are patrolling the border themselves. "L.A. Times" Reporter Keegan Hamilton interviewed some leaders of these armed militia groups about what exactly they're doing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNKNOWN: Yeah, getting off the couch and doing something is extreme. Then sure, we're extremists. Sitting on the couch thinking everything's rainbows and unicorns -- that's asinine. And we have the right under the Constitution. If the government cannot protect you, you have the right to protect yourself. And that's what we're doing.


PHILLIP: And Keegan Hamilton joins us now. Keegan, it's really fascinating this report -- reporting that you have in the video. With it, you shadowed one of these groups -- Arizona Border Recon. What was it like to be out there with them?

KEEGAN HAMILTON, CRIMINAL JUSTICE EDITOR, "L.A. TIMES": I mean, it's striking when you're out in the middle of nowhere, which is where these folks operate, seeing how small this group really is. Like there's only a half dozen or so folks camped out for a week or so at a time, and they're only able to patrol a tiny fraction of the border, maybe a couple miles max at a time of more than 2000 miles of U.S.- Mexico border.

So, one of these guys put it to me that they're thinking of themselves as a drop in a five gallon bucket. And that was especially striking when you get out there and see how big the border really is and how few of them there are.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, who are these individuals? I mean, my understanding is that many of them are not even from these border communities.

HAMILTON: That's right. The leader of the group, Tim Foley, is an Army veteran who does live on the border, but he attracts volunteers from all over the country. I spoke to folks who come from the New York area, from California, from Idaho, from Oregon, some driving very long distances to sort of camp out there for a week in patrol.

And they're motivated by some of the fears that you're talking about at the top of your show, that the border's being overrun, that you know, it's being flooded with drugs and criminals. That type of rhetoric, I think, really drives people who don't live anywhere near the border to get out there and do something like this, like take up arms and do a civilian patrol.

PHILLIP: Yeah. So, one of the interesting things when you read the piece is that you see suddenly the names, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers popping up. What do these groups have to do with these small border militias that are suddenly trying to patrol the border themselves?

HAMILTON: This part of the broader, you know, umbrella of extremism that has come out of the post-Trump era where groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, you know, have taken cues that the border is something that can be powerful rhetorically to get people to support their cause and their ideas.

You know, the leader of Arizona Border Recon, Tim Foley, said that he had spoken with the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, on several occasions and so, there's no coordination between those two groups. But I think this is the idea that they are, you know, speaking, that they sort of share similar ideology is telling in some ways.

And you can see how a group like the Oath Keepers that, you know, the connections to the January 6th insurrections are well documented. Stewart Rhodes was among those sentenced to prison for his role in that. It's not too far removed to have a group like Arizona Board of Recon that purportedly focuses just on the border turning up in D.C. and being part of this broader movement.


PHILLIP: Yeah, showing up at the Capitol maybe saying they weren't part of the mayhem but they were there. Keegan Hamilton, thank you very much for that interesting reporting. HAMILTON: Thanks.

PHILLIP: And tonight, a question in American culture. Who gets a second chance? This, after Marvel fires Jonathan Majors after a guilty verdict. I'll discuss with Cari Champion and Jessica Washington next.


PHILLIP: The verdict tonight sparking a debate in America about domestic violence and who should get a second chance in our society. Jonathan Majors was a rising star in the Marvel universe and now he's potentially facing really the end of his career at just 34 years old. A jury finding him guilty of assault and harassment after a confrontation in his car with his then girlfriend Grace Jabari.


She reportedly saw him get attacks from another woman and Jabari testified that she grabbed his phone and he tried to take it back, eventually hitting her in the head. Now, Majors' lawyer argued that that did not happen, but it was Jabari who assaulted him.

Majors eventually asked the driver to stop the car, and surveillance video shows what happened next. Majors jumps out, followed by Jabari, but then Majors pushes her back into the car. The video then shows Majors running away from the car as she chases him.

The prosecution also showed images of her injuries while his attorney says that he too was injured. Following today's verdict, her lawyers say that Jabari is gratified by the verdict, but Majors' attorney says the actor still looks forward to clearing his name.

Now, it only took hours for Marvel to fire Jonathan Majors from his upcoming projects. To discuss all of this, I'm joined now by Jessica Washington, Senior Reporter at "The Root" and CNN Contributor, Carrie Champion.

Jessica, you've written about this situation and pointed out that Jonathan Majors' attorneys tried to play this out in the court of public opinion, in the media, including releasing texts and videos. Obviously, it didn't work in the court of law. Why do you think that they even went with that strategy?

JESSICA WASHINGTON, SENIOR REPORTER, "THE ROOT": Yeah. I mean, I think it's complicated, right? You know, obviously, it's dangerous. And the attorneys that I spoke to said it was dangerous to try to play it out in the court of public opinion because you could end up releasing information that could make you look guilty later on. But I think, certainly, they wanted to protect his image. They wanted to protect his budding success. I think that was the reason they did it.

You know, I also spoke to an attorney who cover -- who specifically works on domestic violence cases. They said it could also be a warning to the woman to not come forward, to not work with the prosecutors or police, to try and embarrass her to say, you know, this will be an Amber Heard situation for you if you keep this up. So, I think it could be a multitude of different reasons.

PHILLIP: I mean, we'll get back to that Amber Heard reference, the Johnny Depp reference in a second. But you know, Cari -- Jonathan -- it's hard to overstate how big of a rising star he was just before this happened. He was promoting Creed 3, he had a U.S. Army campaign that was then canceled after this happened. Is this the end?

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would hope that we can just look at this in this instance and say first and foremost, let's just say domestic violence in any in any capacity, as we all know, we say no to that. But as far as his career is concerned, and if we look at the pattern of other rising stars, I can't see him in any time within the near future accelerating to the level in which he was about to.

Here's the thing, here are the optics and they're very clear. There was something obviously wrong with this relationship. Everything that we were able to read, according to the testimony, says that they had a history of this type of interaction, he with her and her with him.

And for people who want to say, why do other people get second chances, say for instance, in the world of sports, we've seen athletes accused of domestic violence and they get to come back because they don't affect the bottom line. Unfortunately, it's so -- let me say the uncomfortable part out loud, it's about wins and losses. And if you're not affecting the bottom line and you're helping a team win, well, then of course, we want you back, which is so unfortunate.

When you look in Hollywood, not only is it a popularity contest, it is a wins and losses that they can't afford to lose. So, for Disney to say we are removing his film, it's because guess what? You're going to affect our bottom line. Yes, it was wrong what you did, but also at the end of the day, which is so unfortunate to say, I hate to say this quiet part out loud, it is a business. And I don't see anyone taking their chance on someone who says they want to clear their name.

I do see him -- I do see him in the near future doing an indie role, something that will allow him to slowly but surely work his way back into this society, if you will?

PHILLIP: And look, there are precedents for rehabilitation tours for things like this. But you know, Jessica, you mentioned Johnny Depp. And there were apparently some Johnny Depp fans in the courtroom for this case.

This is also a case about domestic violence. And we can't really lose sight of that. And how this has kind of torn people apart, people taking Jonathan Major's side in the same way they took Johnny Depp's side and so on and so forth. How do you see that playing out?

WASHINGTON: Yeah. I think it's really hard to tell exactly where public opinion is going to come down on this. I think the fact that we have a guilty verdict means people can't. And when I say hide behind, you know, innocent until proven guilty, I think that's a very important part of our legal system.

But I also think that sometimes people will say, well, we don't actually know this hasn't been proven. But now this has been proven in a court of law. So we can talk about this in a different way that we can talk about a lot of these other cases where someone has not been proven guilty.

And so, I think that will shift the conversation. But I think there are plenty of people who saw what his attorneys put out and really believe that she was the aggressor or at the very least believe that it was equal and that both of them are to blame.


I think there are people who are following this case a little bit more closely and have read some of these text messages between the two of them and see more classic textbook domestic violence.

PHILLIP: I mean, I've seen a lot of reaction to that video. I know you have, too.

CHAMPION: The video -- when I first saw the video, and I'm just going to say just on first blush, I was like, why is she chasing this man down blocks and blocks and blocks if he allegedly attacked her? But then you think about it and you go even deeper and you figure there are circumstances, there are situations, things in which we do not know anything about.

But the reality of this is just so unfortunate all around because I don't know if there was not this video. I don't know if we would be here today, if there weren't other people to document what happened between the two of them. I don't know where we would be in this, if this would even be a story.

Jonathan Majors right now is sitting and thinking, how did my career do such a reverse? How in the world did I find myself here in this one moment, sitting, just presenting at the Oscars?

PHILLIP: You know, one of the things though, when this, all this happened, there were other people who came forward with stories about Jonathan Majors --

CHAMPION: This is true.

PHILLIP: -- accusing him of all kinds of other things and then taking a step back, there's also what happened with P. Diddy recently, where he was accused of horrible things against singer Cassie. There is sometimes this moment, right, with celebrities, huge celebrities, where the dam breaks.

WASHINGTON: A hundred percent. I do think we're seeing that. I think for Majors, another important part of this puzzle and kind of why public opinion, I think also turned on him so quickly is because of his persona. He talked about this kind of change to masculinity, this softness, you know, as men we have to protect women.

And then I think to then have the reverse be shown in court, I think that's going to hurt him especially because it's so counter to what he wanted us to believe about him.

CHAMPION: Do you think that, and I'm wondering, I'm asking you from the way in which you covered this case and you've written about it, do you believe, because in my opinion, he was guilty until proven innocent. And there was no innocence. I felt like we, I felt like the court of public opinion had already decided who Jonathan Majors was, and it was just a matter of time before we found out that he was guilty. It was hard for me.

PHILLIP: Do you think that -- look, I'm going to say the quiet part out loud.


PHILLIP: Some people have wondered.


PHILLIP: This is what people are talking about, whether race played a role in that. Do you think that was the case?

CHAMPION: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think the optics are always there. We live in a world where people will try to tell you that race doesn't. It absolutely matters. Because you see this black man dating this white woman, and there are people within a community, in the black community, black women saying, well, that's what happens when you date outside your race.

And there are people saying, well, you shouldn't be attacking and putting your hands on this woman. There are all of these images and all of these things that we do not talk about that are probably built into our cultural bias.

And I believe it plays a huge role, whether we want to admit it or not, as you said, say the quiet part out loud, which is why I love that you do that. Sometimes you just have to say it.

PHILLIP: Really fascinating conversation ladies. Jessica Washington, Cari Champion. Thank you both.

CHAMPION: Thank you, Abby.

WASHINGTON: Thank you. PHILLIP: And a Senate aide is out of a job tonight, fired for allegedly filming a sex video in a hearing room. Even George Santos is speaking out about this. I'll explain, ahead.



PHILLIP: When you've lost George Santos, you know you've really screwed up. Tonight, a Democratic Senator is giving no quarter to his former aide, who allegedly defiled the Senate by filming a sex tape in it.


BEN CARDIN, U.S. DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: It's a breach of trust. It's my understanding Capitol Police is doing the investigation. It's a personnel issue. So, we clearly will be, I'm not going to comment on the personnel issue and it's under investigation.


PHILLIP: Capitol Police are sure to document the how, the when, and the why of how this aide allegedly chose to film the most private of acts in the most sacred of public places. But if you thought that the fired staffer would say I'm sorry, well then you must not be living in the year 2023.

In a statement, the former aide said, "I have been attacked for who I love to pursue a political agenda. While some of my actions in the past have shown poor judgment, I love my job and would never disrespect my workplace."

Well, you can Google the pictures yourself and decide what this person allegedly did and whether it disrespected the workplace. But you also know that you've kind of jumped the shark when George Santos, who lied his way into and then out of Congress, says, what you're saying is honestly a stretch.

Santos tweeting this, having sex in a United States government building and filming it is the reason you got heat. Like a moth to a flame, of course, Santos found a camera and a 17-minute interview with Comedian Ziwe to make sure that he doesn't get traded like a tattered Hermes scarf. Ziwe played "Name That Person" you should know with Santos and well, this was the result.


ZIWE, COMEDIAN: Marsha P. Johnson.

GEORGE SANTOS, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Very respectful, honorable person. Keep going.

ZIWE: Respectful and honorable about what?

SANTOS: On all the stances and all the work. ZIWE: Marsha P. Johnson?


ZIWE: What does that mean?

SANTOS: Just keep going, next.

ZIWE: Dude, you don't know her.

SANTOS: Yeah, I do. Keep going.

ZIWE: Do you?

SANTOS: I do, go, just keep going.


ZIWE: James Baldwin. James Baldwin.

SANTOS: Who the hell is James Baldwin? Who's James Baldwin?

ZIWE: Harvey Milk?

SANTOS: I have no clue who that is.

ZIWE: Okay. What about Bowen Yang doing an impression of you on SNL?

SANTOS: I think he deserves an EGOT.


PHILLIP: That was George Santos, who is apparently still around. And next, happening right now, Plumes of Lava. Shooting into midair in Iceland, more of those incredible images of this eruption.



PHILLIP: New tonight, take a look at this. Massive plumes of lava in Iceland as a volcano eruption begins. Experts have warned that the activity could threaten nearby homes as well as local power plants. The area has been evacuated for a month in preparation for this moment and no flights have been disrupted yet. But Iceland's government says that right now there is no threat to life.

Laura Coates, it's pretty amazing, but I'm glad that you and I are both here and not there to witness it.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Are you kidding me? I could not be farther enough away from that. I could not be far enough away from that, Abby. The volcano thing? No, thank you but hope you're all safe out there.