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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Supreme Court Refuses To Fast-Track Trump Immunity Bid; Trump Says He's Not A Student Of Hitler After Blood Remarks; Pro-DeSantis Group Cancels Ad Buys In Iowa And New Hampshire; Israel Consistently Has Dropped 2,000-Pound Bombs In Gaza; Historic Surge Of Migrants At South Border; A New York Bill To Require Restaurants At Rest Areas To Open Seven Days A Week. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 22, 2023 - 22:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And before we go, dasher, dancer and vixen, is that you? What could have been an early Christmas miracle in the skies above Utah, well, actually, it's just a routine checkup by wildlife officials. Instead of pulling Santa's sleigh, the deer were left hanging three at a time from a helicopter transporting them to biologists. While NORAD tracks Santa Claus' journey on Christmas Eve, Utah's DWR tracks the deer migration with GPS devices. Oh, dear.

Thank you for joining us. CNN NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillip starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Read it and wait. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in Washington. And tonight, just one sentence from the Supreme Court may trigger a chain reaction for Jack Smith, Donald Trump and every single voter in the 2024 election. The nine justices only required 11 words to turn down the special counsel's request to rush and provide an answer to an essential question. Is Donald Trump ultimately immune from prosecution?

The high court's decision to take the special counsel's case off the fast-track ushers in a world of uncertainty here. The special counsel now must go through the regular process. He and Trump's lawyers will make their arguments before the D.C. Circuit in January, on January 9th, just six days before the Iowa caucuses.

Now, today's choice by the justices almost certainly guarantees that the trial scheduled for March 4th, a day before Super Tuesday, mind you, won't get underway on schedule. And if the Supreme Court decides to take the case, and no one knows, of course, right now if that will happen, it is entirely possible that much of the country will have already voted without knowing if Donald Trump will stand trial for January 6th crimes.

Joining me now to tell us what the Supreme Court is likely thinking, Harry Littman, former deputy assistant attorney general, and former Federal Prosecutor Mimi Rocah.

Harry, I'll start with you, with the magic eight ball here. Why would the court decide to wait on this case knowing that ultimately it probably will just end up before them anyway? HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Because something important happened after Jack Smith asked them to take it quickly, and they had first hopped-to to take it quickly, and that was the D.C. Circuit issued a very quick scheduling order themselves, including, as you've just said, Abby, the oral argument on January 9th.

So, from the court standpoint, they would know that if they just wait a few more weeks that they'll get a full opinion from the D.C. Circuit. I courted on the court and wrote a lot of memos there. That's something they care about and makes it easier for them.

I think they're very aware of the importance of the issue and the importance of moving quickly, but they coalesced around, let's all just wait for a few weeks, and they wanted to do it unanimously. The reason it's only 11 words is because they want to avoid, if possible, the black eyes of 7-2 Justice Thomas or Justice Sotomayor voted against, which they know may be coming down the line.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, Mimi, can you weigh in on that, that one sentence decision, nothing of substance to explain their decision- making, do you read that as a way basically to get some semblance of compromise, at least in the intermediate period here?

MIMI ROCAH, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, it's certainly reading tea leaves a little bit, but I would say that, on the one hand, this is sort of procedural at this point. And so it's normal for the court to issue a very short statement, opinion, decision when it is deciding something procedural.

On the other hand, I do think that in a matter of this import, which clearly the court understands, the country understands, I mean, that would just be naive to think that anyone doesn't understand the import of all this, that if there were a real issue about the timing and whether this is just being put off for delay, that there would have been a dissent, at least one, if not more, and they could have even in something procedural.

So, the fact that it came down in this very sort of normal way with very few words, at least suggests that this is nothing more than what it seems, which is we're going to let this go forward, as Harry said, in the circuit court, and we benefit as a Supreme Court from having a circuit court decision to analyze and they could summarily affirm or not.


So, there are a lot of different ways it could go. But the fact that it came down in such a uniform and seemingly simple way makes me think that there was not an obvious division within the court.

PHILLIP: It seems likely that that would be the case on the ultimate merits of this case. So, I'll ask both of you quickly, starting with you, Harry, do you anticipate that the court will grant or not grant immunity for Donald Trump here?

LITMAN: I think they'll take the case not long after the D.C. Circuit. They'll rule with some expedition, and they'll rule he does not get immunity. They will affirm.

PHILLIP: What about you, Mimi?

ROCAH: So, I think if I were looking at this as an objective court just following the law, I would 100 percent agree. It is a little bit hard right now, given in particular Justice Thomas' issues, in which I think he should be recusing himself from this case, to have sort of the ultimate faith in them, simply following the law, which would lead, I think, to the conclusion that someone is not above the law and cannot be both untouchable when he's president and then immune when he is no longer president for those acts.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, this question of Justice Thomas' recusal, I think, is going to hang over the court, not just in this case, but potentially any number of others that make their way up to the Supreme Court.

Harry Litman, Mimi Rocah, thank you both very much.

LITMAN: Thanks, Mimi.

ROCAH: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And tonight, Donald Trump repeats himself. The former president gave a lengthy interview to conservative Hugh Hewitt, and in it, Trump made it clear that for the fifth and sixth time that he really means it when he says immigrants are poisoning the blood of the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: They're terrorists. Absolutely, that's poisoning our country. That's poisoning the blood of our country. And that's what's happening.

We are poisoning our country. We're poisoning the blood of our country. We have people coming in. Think of it, mental institutions all over the world are being emptied out into the United States. Jails and prisons are being emptied out into the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you're --


PHILLIP: Joining me now, Anthony Scaramucci. He spent a week and changed as Donald Trump's White House communications director, but has also known the former president for some time. Anthony, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

This is something that Trump keeps saying over and over again. We know it was lifted from Hitler. Why does he keep saying it?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, listen, it's a total dog whistle for him. And you're right. I only spent 11 days in the White House, but I worked on the campaign for Mr. Trump for about nine and a half months. I did 71 campaign stops on that campaign. And so he knows exactly what he's doing. He puts things out there sort of with a fork tongue. He'll say one thing and say, oh, jeez, I didn't realize that that was from that, but he does know that it's from that. He'll tell a lie. He'll walk up the steps of the campaign plan and you'll say, jeez, well, why did you say that? And he'll say, well, it sounded good at the time.

There was a situation in the Oval Office where we were preparing a speech. He goes into the Rose Garden. I think the number was very favorable for him. It was like an 86 percent number or something like that. He says 95 percent from the podium, comes back into the Oval Office, you're going to get another Pinocchio from The Washington Post. Why did you say that? Well, it sounded good at the time.

So, Abby, he knows exactly what he's doing. It's very premeditated. And then he always gives that fork tongue spiel to somebody else later on after he's dropped the bomb.

PHILLIP: And, you know, Trump to Hugh Hewitt in this interview, he denied that he knew that Hitler had used the phrase. Listen to how he explained it.


TRUMP: I never knew that Hitler said it either, by the way. And I never read Mein Kampf. They said, I read Mein Kampf. These are people that are disinformation horrible people that we're dealing with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you intend no racist sentiment whatsoever when you say poisoning our blood?

TRUMP: Dear, no. I know nothing about Hitler. I'm not a student of Hitler. I never read his works. They say that he said something about blood. He didn't say it the way I said it either, by the way. It's a very different kind of a statement.


PHILLIP: I saw you shaking your head there. I mean, he literally said it exactly the way that -- he said it the way Hitler said it. So, when he claims there's no racism behind it, I mean, how are people supposed to interpret that?


SCARAMUCCI: So, Abby, listen, somebody wrote that for him and knew that Hitler said it, put it in the speech. I do believe him that he has not read Mein Kampf, okay, because I don't think this guy has ever read a book. He had people write the books that he. The joke on the campaign is that he's written more books than he read. And so I'm sure he didn't read Mein Kampf but he knows about Mein Kampf.

You can ask General Kelly. He told General Kelly that he thought Hitler's generals were very loyal to him. And then it was pointed out, well, there were two or three coup d'etats and a bomb explosion in 1944. Mr. Trump didn't know that. The president didn't know that. But he knows what he's doing, okay? He knows that this is a dog whistle. He knows he has a base, some of them of which are white supremacists. Some of them are actually very good people. This is the big dilemma. It's not just white supremacists.

I think the elites in the country have to understand that there's a lot of people suffering the country, and they feel rejected by the establishment. So, they use President Trump as an avatar for their anger. But there's a portion of them that he's blowing that whistle very hard because he knows they're going to come out and vote for him. They'll vote in the rain. They'll vote in the sleeve in the snow. They don't care. He knows that. That's why he's blowing very hard on that whistle.

PHILLIP: So, I have one other kind of interesting, on a separate topic, question for you. I want to play for you. This is something that happened on Joe Rogan's podcast earlier.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear what he said like yesterday or a couple of days ago? He's talking about the revolutionary war. He's like one of the reasons why we lost a revolutionary war, one of the problems with the revolutionary war was they didn't have enough airports. Have you seen that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you had any other job and you were talking like that, yes, they would go, hey, you're done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just for the record --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not fake, but he was referencing Trump saying that. Here's what Trump saying it in 2019.

TRUMP: It ran the ramparts, it took over the airports. It did everything it had to do.





PHILLIP: Look, this podcast is in some ways a little tongue in cheek, but it speaks to a broader point. Sometimes there's this hyper focus on the right about Joe Biden, but not so much about Trump and the things that he says. I mean, do you think that there's a double standard here?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. Well, listen, of course there's a double standard. The combined age of the two candidates is 158 years old. And people that are really honest, that really love the country are asking themselves, why are we doing this to ourselves at this point in the country. We've got a lot of very big issues. And you have to look at the two candidates and ask yourself, if they were true patriots, would they both be running at this time?

Now, I know the president thinks that he's the only person that can beat Donald Trump, and I understand that he really believes that, but there are younger Democrats. It would probably be a patriotic move for him to step aside for a younger Democrat.

Now, flipside is President Trump is an egomaniac, so he'll never step aside. But if you want me to address Joe Rogan, I like Joe. It is a tongue in cheek podcast. And if you're pointing out that there's a double standard, of course, there's a double standard. But I think the most glaring issue at a combined age of 158, can't we ask the rhetorical question to America, don't we have better, potentially younger candidates that can take on the challenges that America is facing right now? And I think we do. And it's just disappointing to me that we're not given that opportunity to choose those people.

PHILLIP: All right. Anthony Scaramucci, thank you for joining us.

SCARAMUCCI: Nice to be here. Happy holidays.

PHILLIP: You too.

And next, is the Republican primary closer than everyone believes? We'll discuss as Nikki Haley got some big news from the world of Ron DeSantis.

Plus, Israel is accused of dropping bombs on places it told civilians to go. Retired General David Petraeus joins me.



PHILLIP: The hits keep coming for Ron DeSantis' presidential bid. Never Back Down, a super PAC backing the Florida governor is canceling more than $2 million in ad buys in Iowa and in New Hampshire. With just weeks before voting begins in Iowa, the group says it plans to shift its focus from the ads to tThe ground game in those states.

The latest move comes as the PAC has experienced weeks of turmoil, including the departure of a number of high level officials.

Let's discuss with Peter Wehner, a former senior adviser for President Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and also George W. Bush, along with CNN Political Commentator Alice Stewart.

So, Peter, the DeSantis super PAC making all these moves, canceling these millions of dollars in ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, the staff departures, this only really matters because this super PAC was supposed to be the engine of the DeSantis campaign. That's how they build themselves. What does it signal to you?

PETER WEHNER, SENIOR ADVISER, REAGAN, G. H.W. BUSH, G.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATIONS: Well, it signals to me that a campaign that was already failing is failing worse than it was. He's been in a tailspin for months now. The high watermark for him was November of 2022, and it's been downhill since then. I think his campaign has not been effective, but I think he's really the main problem. I mean, he's just not a very good candidate.

This happens a lot in politics. People think if you're a senator or a governor and you're successful, that you can translate that to the national stage. And running for president is unlike anything else. Some people can do it. They're talented, some can't. Ron DeSantis can't. He's just not talented.

So, you know, his campaign is for all intent and purposes over. He's going to go through the motions here. We'll see what happens. But he's not going to win this nomination, I guarantee you that.

PHILLIP: There's something about campaigns, Alice, that kind of separates the wheat from the chaff, to Peter's point here. DeSantis still thinks, though, that Iowa is going to be the main event for him. Do you still think it is possible for him to have a strong finish in Iowa?


ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it will be very difficult, but anything can happen. And a strong finish in Iowa for any non-Trump candidate is a good second or third place. Because the goal of Iowa is generally to leapfrog out of Iowa into New Hampshire with the wind in your sails and momentum and overplay expectations.

But the focus of Iowa really is to winnow the field. It is for the candidates that are fourth, fifth and sixth down the line to decide where they need to go moving forward and should they continue to stay in. So, that's what I'm looking for coming out of Iowa is these other candidates, what are they going to do and where are they going to shift their commitment, and where are those followers and their supporters going to go?

And, look, what we're seeing clearly is Donald Trump in both in Iowa and in New Hampshire, with a commanding lead, 20, 25 points ahead. The real horse race is clearly between DeSantis and Nikki Haley. And one is ahead in one state, one ahead in the other, and they're both running through the tape. And with DeSantis having the support of Bob Vander Plaats and the evangelicals in Iowa, that will help him have a strong showing in Iowa. Nikki Haley with Governor Sununu in New Hampshire, that is tremendous for her. So, I think the real race right now is who's going to come in second and third in these early states.

PHILLIP: Peter, what do you make, though, of what's happening with Nikki Haley? I mean, there are some who argue that, really, she has done what none of the other candidates were able to do, which is essentially make it what feels like a two person race. She's not only surging in New Hampshire, it seems, but she also has the money, the financial backing that it would take to go the long haul. Do you think that she's now narrowed that gap enough to make a credible case for her as a competitor to Trump? WEHNER: Well, she certainly narrowed the gap. I mean, she's doubled her sport in New Hampshire. There's a recent poll that came out with her 30 percentage points, 14 behind Trump. Is she a credible challenger? She's a credible person. I don't think she's a credible challenger. This is Donald Trump's party. It's a MAGAfied party. It's a Trumpified party.

There's a lot of talk about Iowa, New Hampshire, and I get that. But the field and the races after Iowa and New Hampshire, it's really where Trump is weakest. I mean, once you get out of New Hampshire, you go to South Carolina, he's 26 points ahead of Haley there, and she was a governor, she would have to win that state. And then on March 6th is Super Tuesday, and that's really Trump's home turf.

So, Iowa doesn't elect presidents. New Hampshire is a little sui generis because of the independent voters there. Can she make it a race? Yes, she can in New Hampshire. I just don't see her being able to sustain. I say that as somebody who was one of the earliest critics of Trump and one of the fiercest.

So, I wish he would not win the nomination. I consider him a grave threat to the country. But time after time after time, Republicans have underestimated his grip and his hold on this party. This is almost a cult-like figure, and I don't think Nikki Haley is going to be able to change that.

PHILLIP: Alice, what do you think? I mean, is she potentially making this race closer than people expected?

STEWART: She certainly is. And Peter is 100 percent correct. And there's a lot of ground to cover after New Hampshire, before any of the candidates get to the necessary 270 Electoral College votes, and that's when the game really begins. The question is, no doubt, that the GOP needs to consolidate behind one non-Trump candidate if we want to have a viable candidate to take on Joe Biden in December, someone that is electable, someone that can appeal to a general election audience, someone that is not so far right as to off-put the moderate voters that we see in November.

And that's the question, where are the other candidates' supporters going to go? Clearly, you look at someone like Vivek Ramaswamy, who is basically Trump-like. More than likely his supporters will go to Donald Trump. But I'm hoping and I'm cautiously optimistic that rational Republicans will galvanize behind, whether it is Nikki Haley or DeSantis, someone that has a positive, optimistic, younger generation view, that doesn't look at their past grievances but looks at an optimistic vision for the future of this country and can be an electable candidate against Joe Biden. And I could see Nikki Haley certainly being that person if she were to be this credible threat against Trump that many are expecting.

PHILLIP: Peter, do you think Chris Christie should drop out at this point? Some people on the right have suggested that he should.

WEHNER: Yes, I think he should. I mean, Christie has made, I think, very pointed criticisms of Trump, the best of any candidate in the field, I would say, by far. But he's not going to win the nomination. He's radioactive. And if he dropped out, presumably, most of his supporters would go to Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, because if you're for Christie, you're not going to be for Trump, and that may help her.


That almost inevitably would help her.

Now, whether it would help her enough to beat Trump, I don't know. That St. Anselm poll that came out, even if you combined Christie's support with what Nikki Haley has, she would still be trailing him by a little bit.

But, yes, he should drop out. There's no rationale at this point to stay in. And if, in fact, the threat posed by Trump is what Chris Christie thinks, then he really has an obligation to get out.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it would put her just short, but that would be better than any of the other candidates have gotten up until this point.

Peter Wehner, Alice Stewart, thank you both very much.

WEHNER: Thanks a lot.

STEWART: Thanks, Abby. Merry Christmas.

PHILLIP: And Israel accused of dropping enormous bombs on Gaza in areas where they told civilians to go. We'll talk with retired General David Petraeus about it ahead.

Plus, record numbers of migrants surging at the U.S southern border. We'll speak with a local Texas Republican official about what is going on there.


PHILLIP: A news CNN analysis reveals just how devastating the first weeks of Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza were.


According to the satellite imagery assessed more than 500 craters over 40 feet in diameter seen, which is consistent with those left behind by 2,000-pound bombs. Now for context, those are four times heavier than the largest bombs the U.S. dropped on ISIS in Iraq during its war there.

Now these revelations come as authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip -- in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip report that the death toll now tops 20,000. They also claim that most of the dead now are women and children. David Petraeus is the former CIA director under President Obama and he's also the author of "Conflict." General Petraeus, thank you for joining us tonight.

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you, Abby. Thank you.

PHILLIP: The IDF is claiming that it has been carrying out what they're calling targeted and precise operations across Gaza in an effort to reduce civilian deaths. But realistically speaking, if they are using these 2,000-pound bombs, how precise can that possibly be?

PETRAEUS: Well, clearly those are very destructive and very damaging. And the question is, where are they being used specifically? What is the purpose of it? What's the value of the target? As always, there is a tension between proportionality and the importance of the mission that is being conducted. I think they have made a very considerable effort in recent weeks in particular to reduce the civilian casualties, which were very substantial in the early weeks of the campaign.

And I was heartened to hear the Israeli Minister of Defense, Gallant, in his press conference with our Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, a day or so ago, announced that they are going to be allowing the population back into their homes in some areas. So, they will be doing the clear and hold operations that I think are necessary if they are to achieve their objectives.

They've announced three of these, destroy Hamas, dismantle the political wing, and also gain the release of the hostages. But of course, there are several questions that beg answers, such as who will administer Gaza, and there are certainly no hands going up in the region. There's not a competent, capable, and trustworthy Palestinian entity that can be transplanted there.

So, I think that in the end, by default, Israel is going to have to do something that it doesn't want to do, and that is to oversee Gaza for a period of time. Indeed, I don't know how they can achieve another of their objectives, which will necessarily be to prevent Hamas from reconstituting if they don't maintain a potential presence on the ground.

PHILLIP: The Times is reporting also that these bombs are being used in areas that civilians were told were safe at a particular time. And given the population density here, is it really justifiable for there to be a military objective that effectively leaves nowhere in such a small area for about two million civilians to go?

PETRAEUS: Well again, it's very, very difficult and I've been second guessed by others when I was privileged to command a couple of wars and I'm a bit loath to do that here. So, it's difficult, I think, from a distance to degrade this. But there's no question that use of very substantial munitions, and they have been used in dense areas, is an enormous risk when it comes to loss of innocent civilian life.

And if indeed you're going to end up owning that area, which I think by default is going to be what will happen, you should be very, very careful. You should be very careful with that in any case. I'd also like to hear over time what the vision is for the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Before we went into Ramadi or Fallujah or Baku or Mosul, we would tell the people in advance during the surge in Iraq that we are going to make your life better. We're going to improve it. Once we get al-Qaeda or the Sunni insurgents out of your midst, in this case Hamas, we're going to restore basic services, we're going to distribute humanitarian assistance, we're going to oversee reconstruction of the damage that has been done. And that is very considerable, of course, in the case of Gaza.

We should also note that this is about as challenging an environment as anyone could imagine. The density of the population, as you noted, the fact that they've been pushed all around Gaza, the very substantial urban areas that are there, the tunnel complexes, an enemy who doesn't wear uniforms and who uses humans as hostages, as shields, this is very, very challenging for soldiers.


PHILLIP: The U.S. has used these particular bombs very rarely in past conflicts. However, the Biden administration is sending a type of 2,000-pound bomb, the MK-84 munitions. Should that stop in an effort to try to shape how the war is being carried out?

PETRAEUS: I don't think so. I think what has to go on is the continued dialogue, such as we saw this past week, between our secretary of defense and the Israeli minister of defense. And of course, Lloyd Austin, our secretary of defense, knows how to do this. He was the second of the three-star commanders I was privileged to have during my command of the surge in Iraq when we cleared some very substantial urban areas.

PHILLIP: I want to ask you about one thing we also learned today. The U.S. intelligence now suggests that Iran was deeply involved in planning attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. What do you make of that development?

PETRAEUS: Well, I want to understand a bit of the context of it, but there's no question that the Iranians support the Houthis in Yemen who have been carrying out these attacks in disrupting freedom of navigation in one of the world's most important arteries. These are very, very significant attacks, although they have not taken place now for a number of days and it will be interesting to see.

My understanding is that there is dialogue directly between our State Department officials and Houthis in various ways. And hopefully that can deter, dissuade the Houthis that this will not be wise to continue. At some point, it may be that we have to take more robust action going after the actual sources of these attacks on Yemeni soil.

And then let's find out what is the nature of the Iranian involvement, if it is provision of weapons systems, rockets, perhaps even anti-ship missiles, that is similar to what they've been doing with a number of other of their proxies.

At some point, there may have to be tougher action against Iran as well, and I'm sure that there is a lot of evaluation of different options to be considered.

PHILLIP: I'm sure that we'll continue to follow this. General Petraeus, thank you very much for joining us.

PETRAEUS: Thanks for the invitation, Abby.

PHILLIP: Record numbers of migrants surging at the U.S. southern border. We'll speak to someone who lives at the epicenter of this crisis next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, crisis levels of illegal crossings at the southern border. The 10,000 migrants entering the U.S. daily are altering life as they know it for many who live there, including my next guest, Adolfo Telles. Adolfo, thank you for joining us.

In light of this crisis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he signed a bill this week that made it a state crime to enter the state illegally. You support this move, but I wonder what you think about the concerns from civil rights groups that say that this basically gives a green light potentially to racial profiling in a state that's 40 percent Hispanic.

ADOLFO TELLES, CHAIRMAN, EL PASO COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: You know, if you and I walk down the street and we see a group of people that we're not real comfortable with, we're going to walk around. Did we just racially profile those people? I've been asked before, I'm Hispanic, I've been asked before if I'm legal. As a matter of fact, when you cross the border every time, if you're doing it legally, they ask you if you're legal, you show a document.

You know, I think racial profiling is something that we as citizens do every single day with people we deal with. And so, I don't see it as a negative thing. I think what Governor Abbott is trying to do is he's trying to protect the citizens of Texas and the citizens of the United States. When we have 45,000 plus people that cross in one week, something's wrong. And what's wrong is we have a president that's not doing his job.

And our local representative, Veronica Escobar, she's not supporting her constituents. And so, I don't see that as a big concern because the country is being invaded. And we live here, we see it. You look at the two million plus people that have been here since the Biden administration took office, and it's wrong. And we need to do something about it.

PHILLIP: Speaking of doing something about it, I mean, what do you think will actually work to stop people from actually coming here? You're talking about something that would deal with people who have already made the journey. But so many of these people are fleeing violence, they're fleeing desperate economic conditions. Are you supporting or seeing any policies that would actually deter them from coming here?

TELLES: You know, immigration will never be stopped. Illegal immigration will never be stopped. It's got to be controlled. It's got to be reduced. There's got to be a way we can get it to a point where it's acceptable for our country. As it relates to the individuals that are coming here, this country was started by people that were being overly taxed, then they went against the power, international power, and they won.

We fought for what we thought were right. We got into World War II because we fought for what were right. We got into World War I also for the same reason.


These people are not willing to fight in their country for what is right. And that automatically raises a question in my mind. Are these the type of people that we want in this country when they won't --

PHILLIP: Can you really -- can you really say that with any confidence? I mean, some of these are women and children, many of them actually are women and children. Can you really talk about their unwillingness to fight for their own countries?

TELLES: You know, I've been in probably 25 plus countries around the world, okay, for lots of different reasons, primarily work, but I've been into manufacturing facilities. I've been to a lot of different facilities. And there are people in countries that they love their country, and they're gonna support it. My concern about these people is they're willing to come here and break our laws from day one.

And every day they stay here illegally, without doing it properly, they're breaking our laws. That tells me something about their character. I understand they have issues they need to deal with, but so do we in this country, and a substantial amount of our money is going -- taxpayer money, is going to support people that are entering this illegally instead of supporting our people in this country. I think we need to come up with more opportunities for people, not try to be giving these people incentives to come here and not work.

PHILLIP: Adolfo Telles, thank you very much for joining us.

TELLES: You're welcome.

PHILLIP: A New York state bill could require some Chick-fil-A locations to stay open on Sundays. We'll speak with the assembly person who's sponsoring that bill next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, Senator Lindsey Graham is declaring war against a New York State bill involving Chick-fil-A, if you can believe it. The bill would require all restaurants in the state's highway system rest areas to operate seven days a week. Some of those restaurants are Chick-fil-A's, which, as I'm sure you know, famously closes on Sundays. Joining me now is the sponsor of that bill, New York State Assemblymember Tony Simone. Assemblymember Simone, just -- let me give you a hypothetical here, just out of curiosity. If Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, would you force all businesses to

be open on Sundays? They are typically not open on Sundays, many of them, on Christmas, many of them.

TONY SIMONE, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYMEMBER: Well, thank you, Abby, for having me on. First of all, this is a consumer protection bill. The Rest Stop Restaurant Act is about having our rest stops serve New York drivers and commuters seven days a week. It's not about anything else. It's simply having the new contracts that are approved. Look, it's my responsibility as a state lawmaker that makes sure state contracts serve all New Yorkers.

PHILLIP: So, in answer to my question, yes, you would make all businesses open on Christmas Day if it were on a Sunday.

SIMONE: Yes, and if they wanted to give their workers off, great. If they celebrate that holiday and folks who did not celebrate that specific holiday could work that day. It's really about serving New York drivers, travelers. Look, during the holidays, Sunday falls on Christmas Eve this year. You get hungry when you're traveling with your family. You should be able to have options, not long lines, and have so many of them closed. And this affects all future contracts at our rest stops on our throughways.

PHILLIP: For the people who say that this is basically targeting Chick-fil-A, this is a business that a lot of people who patronize it, especially in the South, they know they're closed on Sundays, the owners are Christian, they give their workers off, they observe their day to go to church or what have you. It does kind of seem like it is targeting this one business that just happens to have the rule like this.

SIMONE: Look, this has nothing to do with religion. This affects new contracts. Chick-fil-A is welcome to close on Sunday at all their other restaurants in the state. This is about making sure that throughways have rest stops that support and, you know, have our travelers be able to be serviced. Look, as responsibility as a state legislator on state contracts, a public good serves the entire public.

If folks want to take that day off because of religious holiday or Christmas or Hanukkah, they should be allowed to. It's wonderful they give their employees off. But to have a rest stop not fully functional is not fulfilling the state contract. And that's why I propose that my great colleague, State Senator Michelle Hinchey in the state senate to ensure that our rest stop areas are always open.

We've gotten complaints that they've gone to rest stops and several restaurants were closed. These will affect all new rest stops, not the ones that exist.

PHILLIP: Yeah. So right now, there are currently seven Chick-fil-A's at rest stops in New York state throughway and after renovations there would be about 10. All of those rest stops that we mentioned do also have other food options and convenience store options that are open seven days a week. I mean it's not a whole lot of rest stops that we're even talking about here. Is this really an issue that kind of rises to the occasion in this day and age when there are so many pressing issues for you and I'm sure your other assembly members to deal with here in New York State?


SIMONE: Sure, and we're working on those issues. I'm a big proponent of affordable housing for all New Yorkers. I'm fighting to make sure we increase public safety. And like I can chew gum and talk at the same time. This was a need because folks said they were going to rest stops and now everything was open. Look, there's no doubt that Chick- fil-A has a terrible record in the past against the LGBT community.

But look, they can choose now to open on Sunday and operate. So, this bill is really a consumer protection bill to serve New York travelers to make sure there are enough restaurant choices at the rest stops. And it's a state contract which state legislators have purview over.

PHILLIP: New York State Assemblymember Tony Simone, thank you very much for joining us.

SIMONE: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And thank you for watching NEWSNIGHT. "LAURA COATES LIVE" starts next.