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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump's Legal Troubles Loom Over Campaign; Can Israel Dismantle Hamas?; Civil Rights Leader Kicked Out Of 'The Color Purple'; U.S. Pressed Mexico To Help Drive Down Border Crossings. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 27, 2023 - 23:00   ET



ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Also, if you look at another recent tragic example with the death of Matthew Perry, of course, this is someone who is one of the top sitcom stars of all time, and now will be known for the work that he did to really raise awareness for addiction and how to combat that.

So, you're absolutely right, Abby, that here in America, it's, of course, not glorify, but when you come forward with your struggles, audience does really understand that.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Yeah. It has been interesting to watch this, and so sad it can -- what has happened in this case.

Marc Stewart, thank you for sticking with us, and Elizabeth Wagmeister, thank you for joining us tonight.

And welcome now to a bonus hour of "NewsNight." A new filing this hour from Jack Smith putting Donald Trump on notice. That's tonight on "NewsNight."

Three hundred and fourteen days to go until Americans hit the polls to elect the next president of the United States with the shadow of what happened the last time hanging over just about everything, and as we face a collision of politics and the law like nothing we've ever seen in our history.

Now, a presidential candidate, the Republican frontrunner, is campaigning while he is facing 91, 91 criminal charges across four different cases, and everything may hinge on Donald Trump's federal election subversion trial in Washington.

Prosecutors at Special Counsel Jack Smith's office are trying to prevent Trump from spreading false information in court and claiming to be a victim of a political persecution as part of his defense.

Writing in a new court filing today, the court should not permit the defendant to turn the courtroom into a forum in which he propagates irrelevant disinformation and should reject his attempt to inject politics into these proceedings.

You might say good luck with that, but meanwhile, in Michigan, the Michigan Supreme Court today rejected an attempt to remove the former president from the primary ballot based on the Constitution's insurrectionist ban.

That's a victory for Team Trump and it comes just days after Colorado did kick Trump off of its primary ballot. That was over his role in the January 6th riot and at the United States Capitol. Now, Colorado says that it has asked the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling.

There's so much there on the legal front, and joining me to discuss all of this is CNN's legal analyst Norm Eisen. Also, with us, James Surowiecki of "The Atlantic."

So, Norm, I want to start off with this news out of Michigan tonight. It's just such a very different outcome from what we saw in Colorado, tackling basically the same basic question of whether the 14th Amendment applies here to Donald Trump. How do we make sense of these divergent decisions?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Abby, our different states are a wonderful tapestry of American federalism, and they treat ballot access questions differently. The Colorado courts held that under the laws of that state enacted by that state's legislature, they do have the power under the United States Constitution to determine Donald Trump was an insurrectionist. They made that determination.

And under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, insurrectionists may not serve under Colorado law. They decided Trump cannot go on the ballot.

And Michigan has different laws. They do not allow that determination to be made. But very importantly in Michigan, this was for the primary election only. They've left open the question of whether the general election could have a different outcome under the laws of that state.

So, the Supreme Court is going to begin addressing this with the Colorado case. And overall, what we're seeing with all these legal stories is American checks and balances in action as they try to grapple with a presidential candidate who, allegedly, previously used those same powers he wants to obtain once more -- to attempt to overthrow a democratic election. That is why we are seeing all of these legal matters across the country.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And James, to Norm's point, today's decision out of Michigan did leave the door open to these future 14th Amendment challenges if Trump ends up becoming the GOP nominee, which at this point looks like it could very well happen.

Now, the group behind the challenge today, they vowed to keep fighting this issue at a later stage. Do you think that we will see this come up again in the general election or perhaps, do you think, we could see the Supreme Court weighing in before then?


JAMES SUROWIECKI, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I mean, I think the Supreme Court will ultimately have to make this call. I mean, individual states are certainly going to decide. There was also the Trump file, this motion trying to get the secretary of state in Maine to recuse herself from making decision about the 14th Amendment question because she had written, I think, two or three tweets essentially suggesting that January 6th was an insurrection and that Trump should have been impeached.

So, you know, you're going to see this on a state-by-state level. But it feels like the Supreme Court is really going to have to come in and weigh in on this.

But, you know, to me, the bigger picture here, the really interesting thing is really what you led with, which is we have 314 days left until the election and it feels like an incredible number of those days are going to be occupied by arguments about or discussions of or Trump writing crazy posts on Truth Social about his legal issues. I mean, this really is going to be one of the dominant factors in this campaign. There's no way to avoid it at this point.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I think you're totally right about that. It's happening. It's playing out just really from coast to coast here in Maine, as James was just pointing out, Norm. It's one of the just two states with their own 14th Amendment cases that are still pending.

But this time, it's different here. The secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, she's a Democrat. She will be the one who decides, at least at this early stage, on Trump's eligibility. Do you get the sense here that this could be a case where she follows Colorado's lead, kicks him off the ballot, and then there's one more challenge that heads right up to the Supreme Court?

EISEN: Well, we're seeing each state make their own determination. And Secretary Bellows is one of our outstanding secretaries of state, and she's grappling with those same questions. There's a certainly powerful evidence and the Colorado court seduced it, that Donald Trump did engage in insurrectionist activity and that his candidacy violates the 14th amendment.

Unlike Michigan or Colorado in the first instance, that's up to the secretary. She's wrestling with that now, and we'll see what she does. She said she'll decide this week.

PHILLIP: Which will be a very significant Maine. It might not seem like it is a very important state in the electoral college process here.

James, I want to turn now to Trump's other legal troubles. We talked about this earlier today, too. Jack Smith is asking the judge overseeing the January 6th election fraud case to stop Trump from making political attacks during this trial. Do you think that this has really credibility here in this case? Can he get this done?

SUROWIECKI: Yeah. I mean, Norm can probably speak better to the legal questions here, but this is a fairly routine thing for prosecutors to do. So, the concept is basically you don't want the -- you know, you might imagine, well, the defendant can say whatever they want in order to try to, you know, defend themselves. But that's not the case, right? You don't want defense attorneys being able to make false claims or even claims that are essentially irrelevant to the legal questions at the heart of the case, but that are being made really to try to prejudice the jury.

And that's the argument here, right? I mean, Trump wants to say this is a political persecution by the Biden administration or he wants to potentially argue about January 6 that, you know, the cops let the rioters in and if they had done a better job, it wouldn't have happened.

And none of those things are really germane, I mean even really relevant to the question of whether Trump conspired to overturn the 2020 election, which is essentially the fundamental charge at the heart of Jack Smith's case.

So, I think that the motion itself is both, you know, sort of routine in some ways, and I think it has substantive merit. The one thing about it that I think is interesting is that Smith is filing this even though that case has been stayed while Trump's claim that he has absolute immunity for his actions because he was president when he did them is being sort of working its way through the courts.

And it's interesting that Smith did that because it really irks Trump. I mean, Trump posted today on Truth Social and basically was like, this is crazy that he's doing this, it's just more and more of a political persecution.

So, you can really see all of this kind of getting to Trump and, you know --


SUROWIECKI: -- his Truth Social posts gotten increasingly unhinged.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, he lashes out pretty much every time someone tries to argue that he shouldn't be speaking about certain matters in these cases.

Norm Eisen, James Surowiecki, thank you both very much.

I want to now bring in legendary journalist Carl Bernstein for a big picture look at all of this.


Carl, as we head into 2024, this is obviously an election where Trump's legal troubles, his reactions to them, it's sucking the oxygen out of pretty much every room in this upcoming election. What do you think ultimately the impact of this is, especially for the candidates in this race on the Republican side who are scraping and fighting to gain traction in this race?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, first, we got to pull back and decide what this election and this trial sequence is about, and it's about the future of democracy in America, whether we will continue to be a liberal democracy, 300 years of liberal democracy in the world. We have been the beacon of this form of government. And now, we are going to determine if we will continue to be the leader shining this beacon.

And it goes to two questions. The election itself, Donald Trump, an authoritarian who has made no qualms about his authoritarianism, about what kind of government he would lead, about his contempt for real democracy, his contempt for the Constitution, and meanwhile, we have the January 6th insurrection case.

And that needs to go forward. That is what Jack Smith is trying to do, is to keep that trial on course, so that there is a finding of justice having to do with the insurrection and the former president of the United States.

And what Trump's strategy has been, as we can see, is delay, delay, delay, throw motions in front of the courts to keep that trial from happening.

Hopefully, we are going to see both that trial, and we are going to see an election in which all candidates are going to have access to the ballots, and in which we're going to go with this democratic tradition of a liberal democracy. Otherwise, we are doomed to authoritarianism as Trump would have it.

PHILLIP: And look, it's not lost on me or anybody else really that so many of these legal questions facing Trump really put the Constitution at the forefront. This 14th Amendment issue, the election fraud issue, this is uncharted waters for this country. Ultimately, this goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Do you think that they, with all the questions raised about their legitimacy in American society, can they adjudicate these questions fairly and those judgments be accepted by the American public?

BERNSTEIN: I think the answer is yes. It's a little tricky. I think the basic question has to do with the January 6th case and the precedent for the case is United States versus Nixon, where the Supreme Court unanimously decided that the president of the United States is not above the law and that his criminal culpability is relevant and can go forward in the courts. I would expect that we are going to see that precedent upheld by this Supreme Court. I'd be very surprised if the case were otherwise.

The question of being thrown off the ballot because of the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment is a very different matter. Look, the Supreme Court, even though it is a judicial institution, is also aware of its political role in this culture.

It would be awfully surprising to me if the Supreme Court of the United States said essentially to the people of this country, we will not let you have Donald Trump be the candidate on the ballot for president of the United States. I would be astounded.

Even though there's no question, there's very little question about him being an insurrectionist, about him being a seditionist, about his culpability in the January 6 events and fomenting that insurrection, I would be really surprised to see the Supreme Court say to the people of this country, we're going to take this case and say there cannot be an election in which Donald Trump is not on the ballot in a large number of states. I just don't see it happening.

So, the real question is, can that trial go forth in a timely fashion such as Jack Smith is trying to ensure that it do, that it does, and such as Donald Trump is doing every damn thing in his power to prevent? That's what all of these struggles are about. Watch that case.

And remember, this election is about the future of democracy. It's in one of many elections around the world. The trend around the world is toward authoritarianism, away from depth democracy, away from liberal democracies.

We see it. Look what's happening with the Republican Party and its willingness to un-fund the war in Ukraine.


Imagine. Look at Donald Trump's obeisance to Vladimir Putin. Look at his authoritarianism. Look at his disregard for the rule of law, for the Constitution. If Donald Trump is re-elected or elected to another term as president of the United States, we are in authoritarian territory where we have never been before, including his original term in office.

PHILLIP: It's very interesting that you believe that the Supreme Court will keep him on those ballots, and we will have to see how that turns out over the course of the next few months. Three hundred and fourteen days until the next election. Lots of decisions ahead for all of us.

Carl Bernstein, thank you very much.

And Israel's military chief says that the war against Hamas will continue for many months. But can Israel actually take out Hamas? Is that even possible? We'll discuss that next.


PHILLIP: Tonight, as the Israel Defense Forces push deeper into southern Gaza, Israeli officials are warning that the war against Hamas could continue well into the new year. It also comes as new video purportedly shows at least two Palestinian children, stripped and held at gunpoint by the IDF in Gaza.


CNN has obtained the footage, but I want to warn you, it is graphic. Let's go to CNN's Will Ripley, who is in Tel Aviv for us. Will?


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Abby. We still have a lot of questions tonight about this video that has emerged. It appears to show Palestinian men and at least two children in a stadium in Gaza being stripped of their underwear and detained by Israel Defense Force soldiers. Now, we have geolocated the video, we know where it was taken, but we cannot independently verify when this actually happened. It was posted on Christmas Eve.

In the past, Israel has said that the reason why they strip people down is to check them for explosives. And even Israel says within the last week or so, as they were going house to house in Gaza, they did find a stash of weapons, including explosive vests that Israel says were modified for children to wear.

But we're still asking questions about exactly what the circumstances are with this video that shows these children. But there's a lot of other horrific video coming out of Gaza, including southern Gaza where there were smoke plumes rising from yet another airstrike near a hospital that the Hamas-controlled health ministry says killed at least 20 people.

The images are just horrific. And doctors, international surgeons who are on the ground in Gaza, are saying that these handful of hospitals that are still barely functional, barely operating, don't have basic medical supplies. They just don't have enough to be able to treat the huge influx of injured patients.

We can't independently verify the numbers from the Hamas-controlled health ministry. They say that more than 21,000 people have died, a staggering more than 55,000 people injured, and some of those patients, doctors warn, are actually dying as they wait to receive urgent care.

The scenes of devastation, of heartbreak, are just a lot to take in, but we did also see some signs of hope at one of the schools where families are sheltering. There was a teacher, a displaced teacher, who was teaching impromptu classes for these young students, trying to give them at least some semblance of a normal life even though they're surrounded by so much death and destruction, Abby.


PHILLIP: Will Ripley, thank you for all of that. Let's bring in now CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel Leighton, Israel's military chief is now saying that the war in Gaza could last many more months from this point. If that is true, what does that look like?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Yeah, that's a really great question, Abby. So, let's first take a look at the ground operations that Israel has conducted here so far. So, this area in light blue is basically where they've cleared all the area in northern Gaza, almost all of it. Their furthest points of advance are in darker blue. They've also been active in the south- central part and in the extreme southern part, including at the border crossings right here.

So, as far as how this looks, well, this is one of those areas where, as Will described in his report, there is a lot of destruction in Gaza. And when you look at what has happened so far, you can kind of extrapolate from that as to how far this is going to go if Israel continues with these kinds of operations. So, this is the kind of thing that we can expect to happen even more throughout all of Gaza.

PHILLIP: One of the main objectives here for the Israeli government is eliminating Hamas. There are questions being raised about whether that's possible. Are they capable even with all this bombardment? Senior leaders of Hamas, they're still alive. Are they capable of actually eliminating this entity?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think the short answer to that, Abby, is really no. I mean, when you see the different areas in which -- in which they've been operating, it really is very hard for them to completely eliminate every single aspect of Hamas.

We have to remember, Hamas as an ideology. They are really funded in many parts through all kinds of different fronts. And as part of a larger process throughout the Middle East, they are going to be part of this effort that is in many ways bankrolled by Iran.

But this ideology is something that is not going away. Even if Israel were to be able to eliminate the heads of Hamas, eliminate all the subdivisions and all the other aspects of that, they're going to have a really difficult time getting rid of the ideology, and that is, I think, the biggest problem that they have in realizing that particular operational objective that they have.

PHILLIP: Yeah. What about other groups like Hezbollah? Is this war, as devastating as it has been for the people of Gaza, is it a deterrent or is it simply incentivizing more groups and even individuals to launch more attacks?

LEIGHTON: Well, I'm unfortunately going to say that I think it incentivizes a lot of these groups, Abby. When you look at all the different groups that are active here, not only do you have Hamas, but you have the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.


They're active both in Gaza and in the West Bank. Of course, we've already talked about Hezbollah, very active in southern Lebanon. You have different militia groups within Iraq and in Syria, plus in places like Bahrain. And, of course, down south in Yemen, you have the Houthis.

So, all of these groups are looking at this as a possible opportunity in order to attack not only Israel but also the U.S., and they see the kinds of things that we're doing in the Middle East as basically being part of a bigger effort that unites the U.S. and Israel.

That may not be completely true in reality, but that's how it's perceived in the Arab world, and all of these groups are seeking to take advantage of what's going on in Gaza right now.

PHILLIP: Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you as always for your expertise on all of this. LEIGHTON: You bet, Abby.

PHILLIP: And now, let's bring in Joel Rubin, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for the Obama administration for legislative affairs. He's also running for Congress in the state of Maryland. Joel, thanks for joining us tonight.


PHILLIP: So, tonight, we're also learning that Iran is saying that this October 7th attack was revenge for the assassination of the Iranian commander, Soleimani, which happened during a U.S. airstrike back in 2020.

Now, Hamas is actually refuting that claim. They're saying that this was not about that. It was about the Al-Aqsa Mosque. What do you think that this kind of dispute, even between these allied entities, what does it mean?

RUBIN: You know, Abby, the line, no honesty amongst thieves comes to mind. Look, Hamas chose to conduct this attack on October 7th, this vile attack, and they did it on their own volition.

Iran has been backing Hamas for years, for decades, without a doubt, but Iran did not pull the trigger and tell Hamas to do this. And in fact, there's a lot of frustration and anger inside Hamas at Iran because Hamas was hoping that Hezbollah would be activated, that there would be more militias, as the colonel was describing, activated in striking Israel, and they were not. Iran has not either struck Israel.

So, there are some tensions there without a doubt. And I think that Hamas, they want to take full credit for this vile attack. And let them have full credit. They're the ones that did it, and they're the ones that should be on the receiving end of punishment for it.

PHILLIP: So, also happening right now, you know, one of Netanyahu's top advisors, Ron Dermer, he met with the Biden administration officials over at the White House for hours in Washington about Israel's plans for what's next in this war, scaling down the war. The U.S. is trying to pressure Israel to bring an end to it under enormous domestic pressure, but also global pressure as well.

Do you get the sense that the Biden administration has that kind of influence over the Israeli government at this point?

RUBIN: You know, they certainly do have the inroads in the Israeli government that give them credibility, not just with the government, but with the Israeli people. President Biden's popularity is through the roof. He would win an election in Israel if he were to run for prime minister there. So, he has that influence.

What the Biden team is trying to do is to make sure that the Israelis don't just fight this war as if there's no peace, but also fight for peace as if there's no war, to look for some type of political horizon, provide that for the Palestinians because ultimately, as the colonel was saying a moment ago, Hamas cannot be fully defeated through military means alone. There needs to be an opportunity for the Palestinian people to see a better day in the future.

And that's where the Biden team is engaging. But they are very close. And there should be no doubt that the Biden team is looking at Israel as an ally in this fight and is trying to coax and coach it along as it is engaged in these operations.

PHILLIP: So, at what point do you think that this goes beyond just carrots here? Because, I mean --

RUBIN: Yeah.

PHILLIP: -- the Netanyahu government has articulated a goal, which is to eliminate Hamas. It's actually seems pretty easy, but it's kind of a vague objective. So, at what point does the Biden administration have to change tactics in order to get the result it's looking for?

RUBIN: Well, you know, the Arab world has a vote in this, and the Arab world has not yet fully coalesced around a plan for how it wants to engage the United States and engage Israel on this. There are peace treaties between Israel and many Arab countries. I think that's the X factor in this, that the pressure on the White House in particular from our Arab allies, who are also in good relations with Israel, that could be very significant.

And also, the question of the hostages. Look, let's not forget there are more than 100 hostages still being held captive in Gaza, many of whom are Americans. And that, combined with the continuing humanitarian crisis, all of that can come together at a certain point.


I think that the Biden administration, what they're trying to do is to tell Israel, don't forget about these issues, don't forget -- don't get so caught up in the direct immediate fight with Hamas that you forget about the broader regional dynamics, the hostages and, of course, overall relations with the Palestinians.

I don't think that's a forever proposition, but certainly they're going to give Israel time it needs to conduct operations that it feels it needs to conduct. But this isn't going to be a forever amount of bandwidth for Israel. I think that's why you see so much close consultation.

PHILLIP: Yeah. It's also a really politically tense time for President Biden. And you know well what's happening on the left here of his party. There's so much anger about the death and the destruction in Gaza. As we head into this election year, what is the political risk right now for President Biden?

RUBIN: Well, there are real political risks, without a doubt, Abby, as you're describing. Look, there is a lot of legitimate sympathy for the Palestinians in the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and the humanitarian conditions there. There's also a significant amount of sympathy for Israel. I think what we're seeing is a spike in hate speech right now and antisemitism that is causing deep concern as well in the party. It is ripping the party's soul in two in many ways and causing fractures amongst different coalitions that have worked together closely for a number of years. So, this is very much at the grassroots.

What will it look like electorally months from now? It's very early to tell, it really is. These can be repaired relationships. But, right now, there's a lot of concern. There's a lot of skepticism about the policy on one side, and then there's a lot of deep support on the other side.

I think that the president -- he's unique in this space. Just want to add, he's a unique voice. He has the ability to reach to people with whom he has difference and to engage. He has a lot of deep equity across the Democratic Party. That kind of support, that's going to carry him.

But without a doubt, it's a very difficult time right now in the Democratic Party because this is a very human crisis and this is something that people care passionately about.

PHILLIP: Yeah, they certainly do. Joel Rubin, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

RUBIN: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And coming up, a civil rights leader kicked out of a movie theater while trying to see "The Color Purple." He joins me next.

Plus, a major crackdown on dog fighting rings. CNN investigates later in the hour.



PHILLIP: AMC, the theater chain, is apologizing tonight to civil rights leader Bishop William Barber, and it's all because he was kicked out of an AMC theater in North Carolina where he was trying to see "The Color Purple" with his 90-year-old mother.

Now, why, you might ask. Well, it turns out that Bishop Barber had brought a special chair to sit in the handicapped section due to a disability that makes it impossible for him to sit in a regular chair. Now, here he is being escorted out of that theater.


BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER, FORMER NAACP NORTH CAROLINA CHAPTER PRESIDENT: I've been on Broadway, come on. You all, I've been on Broadway, I've been in the White House with this chair. They've called an officer of the law to AMC Theater in Greenville, North Carolina. They would not make amends to simply do the right thing, but we'll deal with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Now, authorities say the police were called because a customer was allegedly arguing with employees, and they wanted that customer removed.

The movie theater chain is saying now AMC's chairman and CEO, Adam Aron, has already telephoned him and plans to meet with him in person in Greenville, North Carolina next week to discuss both the situation and the good work that Bishop Barber is engaged in throughout the years. "We are also reviewing our policies within our theater teams to help ensure that situations like this do not occur again."

And joining me now is Bishop William Barber himself. Bishop Barber, thank you so much for joining us so late tonight. You left that theater voluntarily and, obviously, no charges were filed there. But how are you feeling tonight after that incident and seeing what, you know, the CEO has said about what transpired?

BARBER: Well, when the officer asked me, I said he would have to escort me out. I couldn't just get up and leave. And actually, um, I thought they were going to charge us back. So, we got it outside, and they didn't.

But, you know, I'm not ashamed of being different, be able. You know, down through history, Bible history, Moses was different, able. Paul was different, able. Down through history, Roosevelt, um, was different, able. Kennedy, Harriet Tubman, fan of the cross. So, I'm not ashamed of that.

And I'm not ashamed that I have to use this chair because I've been battling this disease for 40 years. And by the grace of God, I've survived and been able to help others in spite of my own disability as part of my sensibilities in the work where I care about other people.

But what I am ashamed of is that all of the stuff going on in this world, the wars, the struggles, the lack of health care for people, struggle with voting rights, that two managers would decide that they would use their power to not use the law of accommodation, to block a grown man and his 90-year-old mother.

It was a very sentimental night for me because my mother is old now, and she wanted to do this. I don't know how many more years I'm going to have with her. And for them to say I couldn't come in with a chair that I have used in Broadway, the White House, restaurants, movie theaters, (INAUDIBLE) would not even make the cop just said no, and then to call two officers of the law and another security guard with guns, is absurd and hurtful.

And, you know, I prayed for them on the way out. I had to leave my mother.


And I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm just emotional. I don't normally do this. But I had to leave my mother in that place with an assistant and a young girl who was there, young 12-year-old who couldn't figure this out and talk to her afterwards. My mother, who helped integrate public schools in North Carolina, you know, just simply said when we got back, why? You know, why, why?

PHILLIP: You don't have to --

BARBER: And I am -- yeah, I'm sorry.

PHILLIP: You don't have to apologize at all, honestly. I mean, it's a hurtful thing to happen. It just so happened that it happened to you. But did the CEO, when you spoke to him, did he apologize? Were you satisfied with that response?

BARBER: I was moved by Brother Aron's outreach immediately. And immediately, he asked, he wanted to sit down and talk. I'm moved by that. That's what I do. That's what I believe in. I don't -- I'm not interested in this so much for me, but other people.

I think about what if somebody was poor, who couldn't afford a wheelchair, maybe they could only afford a stool, but they just wanted to come out. You telling me you wouldn't make accommodations for them? That's what concerns me.

And so, I'm glad that we're going to meet. I look forward to doing that. I hope there's something just and good and systemic change can happen. This should not have happened to anybody.

But I wonder, there's one other piece of this, Abby. You know, I'm a Black man. I have Tuscarora and Caucasian ancestors, but I'm a Black man. And when you say that a Black man is arguing, right, and you call the law and people with guns in the south and saying that they're trespassing, in fact, but they're not going to argue with you, debate you, because you -- they didn't show me any rules or anything, but they're really going to show, you create a situation where too often we've seen turn deadly.

And, you know, there's got to be another way. There has to be another way. There's nothing I was doing was violent. Nothing I was doing was debating. But I wasn't being violent or I wasn't trespassing. This has become accommodations issue.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it absolutely is. Before you go, I do want to get your thoughts on something separate from this. Nikki Haley tonight was asked about the Civil War, and I want to play for you her response.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): What was the cause of the United States Civil War?

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, don't come with an easy question or anything. I mean, I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run. The freedoms and what people could and couldn't do. What do you think the cause of the Civil War was? I'm sorry?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I'm not running for president. (INAUDIBLE).

HALEY: I mean, I think it always comes down to the role of government. UNKNOWN (voice-over): In 2023, it's astonishing to me that you would answer that question without mentioning the word slavery.

HALEY: What do you want me to say about slavery?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

HALEY: Next question.



PHILLIP: Yeah. What do you think?

BARBER: Abby, this shows why there's not a diamond difference between any of these candidates and Trump. Right in her own state in Charleston, where the succession papers were signed at the beginning of the Civil War and succession, it was clear that it was about slaves, it was about the oppression of Black men and women.

It was about turning human beings into chattel. It was about evil economics and bad biology and sick sociology and political pathology and a heretical ontology that suggested that it was God's will that people be enslaved based on the color of their skin.

And to not be able to say that in the 21st century shows just why, number one, you should not be president, to suggest that this is about just government rather than it was about violation of fundamental human rights, violation of promises made in the Constitution.

The people who died, the thousands and thousands and thousands of people who died, Black and white fighting, the blood that was spilled, and you still are (INAUDIBLE).

But remember now, Nikki Haley is telling you who she is. She's the same woman that stood against voting rights in her state when she was governor. She's the same woman that undermined educational funding in some of the poorest districts in her state.

She's the same woman that did not remove the Confederate flag until after people were killed in Mother Bethel. And when she had it removed, it was only under the pressure and the pressure of the tourism, and then she had it brought down and handed to a Black officer of the law carefully, almost cuddling it, to put it in a museum when it represented the evils and the atrocities of the Civil War.

This is the real Nikki Haley. And you know what's good about it is if the right questions are asked, it comes out. It comes out.

PHILLIP: Bishop --

[23:45:00] BARBER: And if you think that about Civil War, what in the world do you think today about the struggles of voting rights and the struggles of justice that we have to address today?

PHILLIP: Hmm. Bishop William Barber, thank you very much. I know it's really late at night. We appreciate you joining us and all that perspective.

BARBER: Blessings. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And we'll be right back.


PHILLIP: A high-stakes meeting tonight. Biden's top diplomat and his homeland security chief, all in Mexico, appealing directly to that country's president to help reduce the surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border.

Now, that meeting lasted more than three hours. This is as a round of 6,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border on Tuesday alone. Officials are now bracing themselves for the coming days with some warning that the border is at -- quote -- "breaking point."

Rosa Flores is at the southern border for us.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As border authorities near a breaking point from the weeks-long migrant surge, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas meet with Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in Mexico City to discuss ways to drive down the unprecedented number of illegal migrant crossings. The seven-day average earlier this month, 9,600.


Blinken and Mayorkas are expected to ask Mexico to move migrants south, control railways that are used by migrants to move north, and provide migrants incentives to stay in Mexico like visas.

In Eagle Pass, Texas, although migrant apprehensions dropped from about 3,000 daily encounters last week to about 2,000 Monday, according to a law enforcement source, one of two international bridges are still closed to vehicle traffic to redirect personnel to process migrants. The wait time to cross by car Wednesday afternoon, an astounding 15 hours.

Many Americans who frequently drive back and forth are opting to cross on foot, like Minerva Castro (ph).


FLORES (voice-over): She says that when she ditched her car in Mexico, she saw a group of about 100 migrants walking towards Eagle Pass, some with children.

One Eagle Pass business owner says the migrant surge is tearing the community apart.

UNKNOWN: I can tell that tempers are flaring everywhere you go. That's why I'm hoping that there is a peaceful resolution to this crisis.

FLORES: Would you like to see President Biden visit Eagle Pass?

REP. EDDIE MORALES (D-TX): I would, very much so.

FLORES (voice-over): Texas State Representative Eddie Morales, a Democrat who represents residents from 11 West Texas counties along the state's border with Mexico, says the federal government's ongoing closure of the bridge and the recent five-day closure of the international railway cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

MORALES: Every day, Texans are the ones that end up suffering.

FLORES (voice-over): Morales says he's hopeful that the top-level talks in Mexico City will pave the way for realistic change at the border, but says he would have liked to see Texas Governor Greg Abbott have a seat at the table.

MORALES: We're only going to get there if there's communication between these two countries and also with the state of Texas.

FLORES (voice-over): Texas recently passed its own immigration bill and has come under fire for Abbott's border security tactics like busing and flying migrants to blue states, separating migrant families, and deploying controversial border buoys and concertina wire.

Morales initially supported Abbott's border security push, which has cost billions of dollars, but now says those efforts have fallen short.

MORALES: We have nothing positive to show to our taxpayers for the amount of money that we've invested.


PHILLIP: Rosa Flores, thank you for that. And next, is there a hidden message in Merriam-Webster's word of the Day? We'll find out after this.



PHILLIP: Is Merriam-Webster trying to tell us something? It sure seems that way. The word of the day today is sangfroid, which comes from the French term for cold blood. So, it's defined as the ability to stay calm in difficult or dangerous situations. Now, this is also from the same folks who said that the words that defined us this year included dystopian, implode, and indict.

So, with 2024 right around the corner, I want to wish you a sangfroid in the face of any and all dystopian situations, implosions, and indictments that might come your way.

Thank you for watching "NewsNight." Our coverage continues after a short break.