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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

The Eight Biggest Questions For The Fate Of A Consequential 2024; Trump Appeals Maine Ruling Barring Him From 2024 Ballot; Racial Backlash Over Resignation Of Harvard's President; Iowa Holds Its Caucuses For The Republican Primary In Just Two Weeks And Then New Hampshire A Week Later; "Steamboat Willie" Now In The Public Domain. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 02, 2024 - 22:00   ET



JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, in a way, the NRAs over the decades has been mostly successful. And if it changed, streamlined, or even ended tomorrow, it's basically done its job.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes. As you said, it's been assimilated certainly into the messaging and into the culture. Jennifer Mascia, thank you so much for being with us.

MASCIA: Thank you.

KEILAR: And thank you for joining us. CNN Newsnight with Abby Phillips starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: In the course of history, some years are destined to shape the decades that follow, and 2024 will undoubtedly be one of them. That's tonight on Newsnight.

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

For the U.S. and for the world, here are the eight biggest questions for the fate of this consequential year. One, quite simply, who will be the next president of the United States? In a potential rematch of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, one would be 81 if reelected, and the other may be a 78 year old convicted felon who's made it clear he's not a huge fan of American democracy.

And speaking of question number two, will Donald Trump end up in prison? He is facing several trials this year. And not only do his supporters who once chanted lock Hillary Clinton up, not care if he's convicted, they're already daydreaming about him pulling the levers from behind bars.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happens if he's indicted at some point?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He can be president from jail if he has to.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Question number three, what role will the Supreme Court play in each of the prior two questions? Could the justices blow up Jack Smith's case by ruling that Trump has immunity? And could their ruling tip the scales for this next election?

Question number four, will Russia win in what would be a blow to democracies worldwide and perhaps a green light for autocrats to invade nations at their pleasure? Ukraine, in its battle against Moscow, is now losing support in America and among U.S. Republicans. The Ukrainians are running out of funds, and they're also losing ground.

Question number five, how does this Israel-Hamas war end? What started as a horrific terror attack by Hamas is now a global debate over just how far Israel should be going to defeat this group, as dozens of hostages and nearly 2 million civilians remain in the balance.

Question number six, will this Congress be productive at all?


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-NY): This is actually a fundamentally different Congress. I've had Democrats coming up to me telling me we're running it much better.

We're keeping our commitment. It's just another check-off on all what we said we would do.

One thing that is abundantly clear is the people's House is a productive House again.


PHILLIP: Look, doing something should be a given for the United States government. But after last year of becoming the most unproductive Congress in history, the bar really is pretty low. And, by the way, the government shuts down in 17 days. And Congress, they're still on vacation.

Question number seven, what will become of the economy? All those doomsday recession analysts predicted never came to pass. And instead we're seeing inflation is down, stocks are soaring, but most Americans, yes, they are still feeling the pinch of high costs and stagnant salaries.

Question number eight, is the border on the verge of busting after weeks of record migrant encounters? It seems something has got to give.

But tonight we begin where we started with Trump's viability to be in the Oval Office again. The former president just a short time ago appealing Maine's decision to keep him off the ballot. He's citing the 14th Amendment, and it's the first time the secretary of state made that call, just a couple of weeks after Colorado's judges did exactly the same thing.

Now, Trump is likely to appeal Colorado's ruling as well, which would kick that straight over to the Supreme Court.

Joining me now is James Schultz, a former Trump White House counsel. So, Jim, what is next now that Trump has decided to appeal Maine's decision to keep him off the primary ballot?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So, it goes to the Maine superior court. January 17th, I believe, is the date that it's heard. There will be three days after that time frame on that decision to appeal it to the Maine Supreme Court, and it will be two weeks after that for a decision. So, this is all going to happen very quickly.

PHILLIP: And on the 14th Amendment issue, this is obviously playing out all over the country. It will eventually get to the U.S. Supreme Court. But should the high court wait for all of these different states and their appeals to cycle through before weighing in on this or is there a time imperative here?


I mean, these primaries are coming and they're coming very fast.

SCHULTZ: Well, I think you've already seen some inconsistent decisions coming out of various states, right, being you have California going one way, you have Colorado going the other, you've had Maine also throwing for president off the ballot. So, you have inconsistencies among jurisdictions already and it really does turn on federal law at the end of the day so I think they'll be quick to take these up

PHILLIP: So, I want to turn now to some major news out of Capitol Hill this evening. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, he's charged by federal prosecutors with receiving gifts, including race card tickets from Qatar.

As recently as last month, Menendez was still receiving and attending Senate-classified briefings. This is obviously not the only allegation against him as it relates to a foreign government. Should he even be allowed into these briefings? And do you have any sense of why, why this is being allowed to happen?

SCHULTZ: Look, that's really up to the Senate. They govern themselves in this regard, right? And if they have the ability to remove Senator Medendez, if they want to, it takes two-thirds vote in order to do it. And they've got some real soul searching to do as to whether or not they want to continue down the road of allowing him into these classified briefings, to giving him access to these classified briefings, and right up to the point of removal.

Obviously, he has due process rights. These are only allegations that have been brought against him, but at the end of the day, they're serious allegations. And if it were the president of the United States, certainly, there would be impeachment hearings beginning, and they'd be convening an impeachment investigation. So, you would think that the Senate would govern its own body the same way.

PHILLIP: And, frankly, if it were just a regular person, it's hard to imagine that they'd be given access to classified information of this magnitude. Also in this indictment, prosecutors are revealing that Menendez's bribery scheme continued into 2023, a year longer than they initially claimed. I mean, first of all, from a legal perspective, are you surprised that they're just revealing this new information that something as significant as how long the scheme went on would be amended this late into an ongoing prosecution?

SCHULTZ: And something new came about in order to amend this complaint to involve the issues involving the Qatari government now. I mean, you're talking, you know, the bribery allegations are so unbelievable, gold bars, Mercedes-Benz, tickets to the Grand Prix in Miami. I mean, it just goes on and on, and cash. And all of this kind of adds up to, you know, very serious allegations, very serious jeopardy if the allegations are proven true for both Menendez and his wife.

I do believe that, you know, this case will move along fairly quickly at this point. They are going to have to exchange discovery. It's going to take some time to do that. But I do think this is something that's going to move along at this, move along.

PHILLIP: Yes. And, Jim Schultz, thank you very much for joining us.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And a surprising move tonight for Senator Bernie Sanders, he's calling on Congress now to end U.S. funding to Israel over its war against Hamas. Sanders saying, while we recognize that Hamas' barbaric terrorist attack began this war, we must also recognize that Israel's military response has been grossly disproportionate, immoral and in violation of international law. And the results have been catastrophic.

Joining us now is Congressman Jared Moskowitz. He's joining us tonight. Congressman, first of all, what's your reaction to what Senator Sanders said there in that statement?

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): No, thanks, Abby. Thanks for having me on. Well, look, I think the senator is misguided. We don't support a country or its people based on a leader. He attacks Netanyahu and Netanyahu's right wing government and makes his whole statement about one person. And I think the United States' support of Israel in its entirety is bigger than one leader. Certainly, as an American, I still supported this country and Americans when Donald Trump was president who I did not support.

And so I think Bernie is misguided. I also think this logic is going to cause all sorts of problems for the humanitarian aid that we need to get to the innocent Palestinians in Gaza because people are going to start this conditioning battle. If we're going to condition the aid to Israel, then people are going to want to condition the humanitarian aid that people in Gaza desperately need.

And, quite frankly, it's just disappointing to see Bernie give in to some people, quite frankly, that if Bernie's family was in Berlin in the 40s, they wouldn't have come and rescued him. That's who he's aligning with in this thought process. [22:10:00]

PHILLIP: I mean, conditioning U.S. aid to other countries is not a new concept. I mean, are you arguing that this is a military aid to Israel no matter what it does in any particular conflict?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, look, I have faith in President Biden who has put immense pressure, and Secretary Blinken who will be going back to the region, who will continue to guide the Israelis on, quite frankly, what the next step are. Because I think that is very important. I think we have to bring the Arab world and the Abraham Accord nations to figure out, you know, how we can rebuild Gaza and get back to talking about the two-state solution.

But if we start conditioning the aid, military aid that Israel needs to finish the mission against Hamas, who started this war when they ended the original ceasefire, who still has hostages, that is going to send the wrong message. I mean, what kind of message do you think Iran is picking up right now watching Bernie Sanders talking about conditioning aid to Israel?

So, this is a very dangerous conversation. And I think it will have repercussions beyond, you know, the current day-to-day situation in Gaza, which is absolutely horrific. No one wants innocent Palestinians to be dying. But remember, Hamas is the one responsible, not Netanyahu.

PHILLIP: Hamas is certainly responsible for the attack on October 7th. I think one of the things that Senator Sanders is pointing to, and he mentions this in his statement, he also mentions Netanyahu, but he talks about how the war is being carried out. It's not necessarily about Netanyahu specifically.

CNN and other outlets have reported about the IDF's use of 2,000-pound bombs that produce really extraordinary death tolls, the fact that so much of Gaza is uninhabitable right now. People are basically starving to death, according to international agencies.

What is the United States supposed to do to reduce those kinds of outcomes other than using the main tool that it has, which is military aid?

MOSKOWITZ: I mean, Abby, it's absolutely horrific. And what we need to happen is we need the war to end as fast as possible. We need the hostages to be released. We need Hamas to surrender. The war is over if that happens. And Israel needs to get out of Gaza, quite frankly. That's the quickest way for this to happen, is for the hostages to be released and for Hamas to surrender.

No one wants this war -- go ahead.

PHILLIP: There are some in Netanyahu's government, including the national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir who tweeted that the Palestinians should leave Gaza and some in your party have called that a call for ethnic cleansing. I mean, these are some of the kinds of things that people are seeing and saying is there another motive here. MOSKOWITZ: Well, look, those comments are despicable, okay? They have no place in this conversation. But, you know, look, in a party, in a large party, you have people that say crazy things from time to time, or those are people in my party.

PHILLIP: He's part of Netanyahu's government. He's part of the government.

MOSKOWITZ: No, listen, but they have a unity government right now, which means all of the parties right now are part of the government. And so, look, I have people that I serve in Congress with. They're part of the government that are in my own party that say things that are wildly crazy, I think, sometimes. And then there're folks across the aisle, which every day reach a new low.

And so those comments are despicable. We got to make sure that we rebuild Gaza. We have to make sure that we have a two-state solution. And we have to finally use this unfortunate incident to try to bring stability to the world and piggyback off of the Abraham Accords and continue to expand that by bringing Saudi Arabia in.

But we have to make sure, we have to make sure that when this is over, that this doesn't become a worse situation. Israel has to recognize that they are not getting any of Gaza. Gaza is going to be part of a Palestinian state. And the sooner that happens, the better.

PHILLIP: Congressman Jared Moskowitz, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, racial backlash tonight over the resignation of Harvard's president. We'll hear both sides of this brewing debate.

Plus, I'll speak with a member of Chris Christie's steering committee in New Hampshire about why he's switching his support to Nikki Haley.

And just in, stunning new video of the plane crash in which most of the passengers miraculously survived.

This is Newsnight.



PHILLIP: America's most prestigious academic institutions are facing a political crisis, and, tonight, another major inflection point, one that is sparking a racial backlash. Claudine Gay, she is the first black president in Harvard University's history, is resigning now from the top post after just six months on the job. This comes amid weeks of widespread controversy over her handling of anti-Semitism on the Ivy League's campus and ongoing allegations of plagiarism.

Gay releasing a statement saying in part, after consultation with members of the corporation, it has become clear that it is in the best interest of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual. She also added that she's been subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.

The campaign against her was led by conservative media and right wing activists, so some of the allegations have been confirmed by other outlets, including CNN.

Joining me to discuss this is CNN Political Analyst Coleman Hughes. And also with us, former Harvard Law School Student Body co-President Mussab Ali.

Coleman, right decision, wrong decision?

COLEMAN HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Definitely the right decision. If you're the president of a university, that means you're in charge of policing plagiarism among students.


Every year, some Harvard students get disciplined for plagiarism. You cannot yourself be trailing a history of almost 50 credible allegations of plagiarism. She has no one to blame but herself in this situation. She took the easy way out by plagiarizing over and over again rather than the hard way of constructing your own original prose.

PHILLIP: So, putting aside the people bringing the allegations, do you think the allegations themselves warrant this outcome?

MUSSAB ALI, FORMER HARVARD LAW SCHOOL STUDENT BODY CO-PRESIDENT: I don't think these allegations weren't the outcome at all. I mean, I think if you look at the investigation that was done by Harvard Corporation, they looked at the plagiarism arguments, and they said that, you know, it wasn't substantive.

And also, these weren't allegations with regard to her original ideas. They were just regards to some of her cursory review and some of the methods that she used. So, I don't think that plagiarism is actually a real case here.

PHILLIP: So, why is it Coleman that when there have been other cases like, for example, when Stanford's president was accused of plagiarism and actually fabricating some research, no one in this orbit who's accusing Claudine Gay said anything about that. Stanford was allowed to handle that internally. Why couldn't Harvard handle it internally?

HUGHES: I think it's a matter of degree. If you have one or two isolated instances of plagiarism, you can chalk that up to a mistake. That actually happens to a lot of authors.

PHILLIP: I mean, the Stanford president was a case of fabricating research.

HUGHES: Right. But when you have 40 or 50 examples of just straight up paragraphs lifted from other people with a few words changed, it becomes an undeniable pattern of fraud.

PHILLIP: So, you don't think there was anything about this that had to do with the fact that she was a black woman from the people who were claiming this as a victory against DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion?

HUGHES: I don't think it did. And you know what, even if it did, that doesn't justify it. If you or I did this, or even any white scholar, it would be career-ending to have 50 examples of plagiarism. And it has to be because how can you be the one upholding Harvard's integrity when you yourself have failed? It's as if the commissioner of the Major League Baseball or the NBA had a lifelong history of steroid use and was now the person in charge of kicking other people out for steroid use. It's completely untenable.

PHILLIP: What's your view on whether or not this idea that the race of the person accused is not important here?

ALI: So, I think it's definitely a point here that really we have to look at. Because, you know, the example you gave for the president of Stanford, you know, when he came on, he had seven months of an investigation. There was internal investigation. Kirkland Ellis was hired to actually go through and do a thorough view of the analysis of all of his academic work to go back and find that there was very serious allegations of plagiarism.

Harvard Corporation did an investigation. They could have done internal investigations. It took several months. Why is it that it took seven weeks to decide that this was too much, whereas the president of Stanford got seven months for similar allegations?

HUGHES: Well, look --

PHILLIP: I mean, why do you think? And, obviously, I should say, I mean, there was obviously the anti-Semitism issue, her testimony before Congress, which put her in the hot water to begin with. But after Harvard moved past that internally, this was the thing.

HUGHES: Yes, this was the thing. And, well, my question about the internal Harvard review that you seem to think was a very rigorous process is how did they only find, what, four or five examples of it when they were 50, almost 50 to find?

And plagiarism it's not like a, it's not like true crime where there's a million perspectives on it. You kind of either lifted the paragraph or you didn't.

PHILLIP: Well, just from based on my understanding of this, some of the examples involved technical descriptions. Some of the people allegedly plagiarized from said that they wouldn't consider it to be plagiarism. So, there is a gray area here.

HUGHES: Yes. Well, look, the second point I would dismiss because the fact that the person plagiarized doesn't care about it is not really relevant.

PHILLIP: No, not that they don't care, but they said that they would not themselves as academics consider it to be plagiarism.

HUGHES: I think that lifting language verbatim changing one or two, if it's one sentence of technical description, you can say, okay, that's not such a big deal. But many, many of these examples were literally just whole paragraphs of serious research lifted with no quotation marks. This is not small stuff.

ALI: So, again, I disagree here.

HUGHES: Students get expelled for this.

ALI: No. So, I completely disagree here. I mean, look, when Claudine Gay went through the process, right, people are here saying that she was at diversity hire. I mean, she went to Phillips Exeter. She went to Princeton. And she went to Stanford. She got her PhD at Harvard where she got top marks in her dissertation for political science. She had the number one dissertation in political science.

HUGHES: There was plagiarism in that dissertation.

ALI: Now, the argument that you're making is that everyone who reviewed her paper, which is not just one professor, multiple professors at Harvard reviewed her paper and gave her the best academic remarks. Neither of us are PhDs. We're not people who aren't academic writing.

And, again, I'm saying if your point is there's 50 allegations, why isn't there a full process? Why don't you agree to have a seven-month process, just like the president of Stanford? Why should be a different case for her?

HUGHES: (INAUDIBLE) seven-month process where they can look at all the different ways in which she plagiarized things. But the fact that she got good marks on her dissertation, this is totally irrelevant, okay?


ALI: No, but I think it's --

HUGHES: this is a change of subject, right? This is a pattern of serious fraud that would destroy the career of any journalists, any author.

ALI: So, let there be an investigation. I mean, the reality is the right wing mob that is really behind this has claimed this as a victory against DEI. They've been saying over and over again, she wasn't --

HUGHES: There was an investigation and they uncovered maybe one-tenth of what there was to uncover. What that tells me is that they wanted to keep it hush-hush.

ALI: And like I said, they could have hired a third party, just like Sanford did, they hired Kirkland Ellis to come in as a third party. They went through seven months of investigation.

HUGHES: What do you think that would find, that investigation would find?

ALI: I think they would offer a fair process. I think what we're asking for is a fair process.

HUGHES: I think they would find 50 -- up to 50 examples of straight up plagiarism.

ALI: Listen, again, maybe they would, and maybe they would. But the reality is she didn't get a fair process. And I think part of that has to do with DEI. It has to do with the fact that there was a racial animus that was built in. There were all these racial tensions that were building up, and people were coming out after her saying that she wasn't qualified.

HUGHES: What kind of process did Elizabeth Magill get? She got much more of a process than Magill.

PHILLIP: Can I ask you to respond to that allegation about the part about the people bringing these allegations actually themselves saying that this is about DEI. They are saying that this is about ending diversity, equity and inclusion in higher ed. So why are they bringing that up if it's not a part of --

HUGHES: Look, it might be -- I'm sure that this is partly political in the sense that Claudian Gay is viewed as by them as a DEI hire. She has made DEI very important herself.

PHILLIP: But is that fair or is that racially driven?

HUGHES: I don't think it's racially -- it's politically driven. DEI is a political ideology, and a lot of people oppose it, and obviously they want to take down people that represent it.

But that is a separate question. You went to law school. In a courtroom, would it matter the motives of the accuser, or would it matter the evidence?

ALI: It would matter that we had a fair process.

HUGHES: If the evidence is overwhelming?

ALI: It would matter that we had a fair process, that there was a trial that people presented the evidence, and there was a judge that made a ruling. Instead, this is one person that's anonymous blogger that were taking their work for it, saying that this is why we're getting rid of her.

HUGHES: No, it's not an anonymous blogger.

ALI: Listen, but, again --

HUGHES: It's dozens of journalistic outlets, including by CNN.

PHILLIP: And I think that's a fair point. The allegations, some of them are from an anonymous person, but many of them have been corroborated by outlets, including by CNN. So they're not made up out of the whole clock (ph).

ALI: Sure. But I think like if you look and have a full and thorough process, I think that's the most important part. I think the fact that the corporation --

HUGHES: Did Larry Summers (ph) get a process? Did Magill get a process? These are all white presidents that got ousted. I don't know if they got a processed.

ALI: I think it's really disappointing.

HUGHES: But I don't know that it's racial. Larry Summers, Elizabeth Magill, did all of these people get seven-month processes?

ALI: But the corporate -- listen, the corporation stood by her. And, again, it's the fact that this mob just continues to go over and over again and say we need to get rid of her, she's a DEI hire, she's not qualified and her qualifications speak for herself.

HUGHES: She would still be president today if she hadn't chosen to play dress (ph).

PHILLIP: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Coleman Hughes, Mussab Ali, thank you both for a lively discussion.

And up next for us, two weeks until Iowa, three weeks until New Hampshire, and tonight, one of Chris Christie's top men in the Granite State jumps ship for another campaign. He tells me why. That's next.



PHILLIP: It is the fortnight of the first votes of the 2024 race as Iowa holds its caucuses for the Republican primary in just two weeks and then a week later, New Hampshire. And while some candidates are putting their bets on multiple states, Chris Christie is going all in on New Hampshire.

But the former New Jersey governor suffered a severe setback today when a member of his Steering Committee jumped ship and he announced that he's backing his opponent, Nikki Haley instead.

And Tom Boucher joins me now. Mr. Boucher, thanks for joining us tonight. Can you tell us why exactly you decided to leave Chris Christie's camp?

TOM BOUCHER, FORMER NH STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR CHRISTIE CAMPAIGN: Yeah, thanks for having me on. You know, I think it comes down to, I want to pick a winner. And, you know, as much as Chris Christie ran a really great campaign, his messaging just didn't resonate with the people of New Hampshire and it was showing up in the polls.

And Nikki's been surging and I love her passion. I love her ability to walk the talk and I think she's the best chance to be Donald Trump and that's essentially the reason why I'm supporting her now.

PHILLIP: So, can you tell us what is it exactly that you think isn't resonating with New Hampshire voters? You know, I think it's true probably for the entire country that they're -- the voters of New Hampshire and I think the country are tired of the negative rhetoric that's out there that comes from Donald Trump.

And again, I know Governor Christie was going after him hard. And I applaud that. But I think the general public is just tired of the negativity and the chaos. And it's time for some real leadership and someone that is going to talk about the positions and the important issues that are facing our country.

PHILLIP: So, my understanding is that you spoke to Governor Christie about this before you made the announcement. How did he take it?

BOUCHER: I did, you know, it was through text. It was very, he was very gracious. He actually thanked me for reaching out to him personally and not having him hear it through the media. And, you know, I wished him well, and, you know, I don't know if he's going to stay in or not, but, you know, he says he's going to, and I take him at his word.

PHILLIP: So, this weekend on that point, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, he told, CNN's Dana Bash that the only person that wants Chris Christie to stay in this race is Donald Trump. Do you think that that is true and should Christie leave if he doesn't win in New Hampshire?

BOUCHER: I'm going to leave that up to Governor Christie, but in my personal opinion, if he doesn't, you know, land in the top four in New Hampshire, you know, I think it's over.


And again, I wish him well, but Nikki Haley is the future of the Republican Party.

PHILLIP: So, coming up, we have some debates in Iowa and New Hampshire. Chris Christie did not make this most recent CNN debate. It'll be Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. Do you think that either Nikki Haley or DeSantis should be the ones to make a strong case against Donald Trump, especially since Christie, who's made that a central part of his campaign, is not going to be on that debate stage?

BOUCHER: I do. I absolutely do. And I remember Governor Christie actually calling that out in some of the debates that he was the only one putting Trump's feet to the fire. And I'm going to encourage Ambassador Haley to do that -- to do just that. It's time.

It's time to, you know, stand up to Donald Trump and his crazy rhetoric, his childish ways, you know. I know that it makes people laugh, but being President of the United States is no laughing matter.

PHILLIP: Nikki Haley, just in the last week, she was under fire for an answer that she gave that failed to mention slavery when she explained why the Civil War was fought. Do you think that that was a serious mistake?

BOUCHER: You know, look, I know it's been talked about a lot, and I'm not going to put words in her mouth, but you know, when you get asked a question, you try to answer it as best as you can. And certainly, you know, we all know what happened with the Civil War. She knew it as well, and I think it was kind of a question that was trying to get a gotcha moment.

And, you know, we're talking about issues today, not issues that happened a couple of centuries ago. I know it was an important time in our history, but, you know, it was one little tiny mistake, if you want to call it that. I don't see it as a standing, lasting issue that's going to take her down.

PHILLIP: And she also supports raising the retirement age for younger Americans. You're a business leader. I wonder, do you think that is a good idea?

BOUCHER: I do. And it's one of the things that attracted me for one of her stances is, is just that. I mean, let's face it, the American public is aging. They're aging out at 85, 90 years old now, not 60 years old. And just because of that statistic alone, you have to raise it. Otherwise, there's going to be nothing left for my children who are in their 30s. It's -- it's -- you're going to have to. It's just -- it's just a numbers game.

PHILLIP: So, do you think that, you know, if Donald Trump ends up being the nominee here in the Republican race, would you ultimately support him?

BOUCHER: Support as in give him my vote?

PHILLIP: As in give him your vote --

BOUCHER: Or support --


BOUCHER: I'm going to say no. I'm not going to vote for him.

PHILLIP: And Ambassador Haley -- you've mentioned this a few times. You think she should be a little bit more forceful. Why hasn't she been willing to call out Trump more forcefully? And do you think that's been a mistake up until this point?

BOUCHER: Well, I think the reason is that Donald Trump hasn't been to a debate. You know, so how do you -- how do you call somebody out just through the media and through these talking points? I wish he would debate her. I wish she had the opportunity to say it like it is to him, the way that he says it.

But she'll do it in a much classier way. So, I anticipate she will start to ratchet that up. I haven't spoken to her directly about that, but I can only imagine that if you want to get past Donald Trump, you got to stand up to him.

PHILLIP: All right, Tom Boucher, thank you very much for joining us.

BOUCHER: You're welcome. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And next, my political panel will discuss Haley's new challenge to Donald Trump. Plus, the eyebrow-raising in doubt endorsement from Vivek Ramaswamy that he just received. And I'll speak with the director of the new horror film featuring Mickey Mouse.



PHILLIP: We have just two weeks now until the Iowa caucuses and just three candidates now will qualify for the Iowa debate here on CNN. Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis. Now, both Haley and DeSantis said they will participate, but Trump, yet again is skipping the debate stage. Instead, he'll appear on town hall on Fox News.

Now, Haley, even though we're deep into the debate cycle, says that she's had enough, writing in part, it's time for Donald Trump to show up. For more, I want to bring in Republican strategist Jason Osborne, along with the host of the very serious podcast, Josh Barrow. Jason, what do you make of Nikki Haley saying, show up, Donald Trump?

JASON OSBORNE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think there's two things at play here, right? I mean, if you go back to 16, which is, you know, I remember from Dr. Carson's days where Trump skipped the Iowa debate, the last debate before the caucus, and it sucked the air out of the room.

Nikki Haley needs a defining moment in Iowa. I mean, it's clear she lost a little momentum in New Hampshire with her statements the other day. And DeSantis has an operation in Iowa that is, as far as I can tell, is the best operation of any of the campaigns so far.

So, what Nikki needs to do is establish herself and get some good, strong sound bites that come out in the news that night. Even though Trump is doing a competing event, she's got to overshadow him a little bit more. And I don't know how you do that without him in the room.

PHILLIP: So, you heard -- probably heard Tom Boucher earlier on the show, saying, she needs to amp up the criticisms of Trump, really make the case against him.


Do you expect that we'll see a change of tone from her?

JOSH BARRO, HOST OF THE "VERY SERIOUS" PODCAST: Not a large one. And, you know, I think it's interesting that he said that, given that he was shifting his support from Chris Christie to Nikki Haley.

PHILLIP: He wants a Christie-ish Haley.

BARRO: Right, and he said that Christie's message was not connecting, and yet he wants Nikki Haley to make her message more like Chris Christie's. I mean, the key fact about this Republican primary is the vast majority of the voters like Donald Trump.

They, you know, a lot of them think he did win the election in 2020, and even those who don't think he did think that he ought to have won the election, they look at the polls, they see him on average leading the president in the polls, so they don't buy any of this stuff about the Trump can't win the next election.

And so, basically, you're trying to make an argument to people who like Donald Trump a lot, and if you attack Donald Trump, that's not going to appeal to them. And the electability arguments don't really fly that well either because they don't think that Trump has an electability problem.

So, I think that, you know, the reason that she hasn't executed a strategy that does better there is I'm not sure that there's one available that will work.


OSBORNE: I would take issue with the fact that the, I mean, I think there's an overwhelming majority that are supporting Trump, but still he's below 50 percent. And I think all the polls that continue to show him in the low 40s show me that there's 56 plus that are looking for an alternative.

And I would even say that there's probably 30 percent of Trump's 44 percent are just waiting for somebody to show that they have enough to be able to continue his policies, but without his rhetoric and his vernacular.

BARRO: Well, how long are they going to wait for? I mean, the voting starts in two weeks. I feel like this is the theory that we've been hearing for the better part of a year. And the polling, you know, a year ago kind of looked like Ron DeSantis might be able to do that.

But once the candidates actually started campaigning and, you know, Ron DeSantis started doing the true conservative routine that he just ripped off from Ted Cruz eight years ago, it's not working any better than it did for Ted Cruz.

I think that, you know, as the Republican primary voters see these candidates, they're not feeling any need to replace Donald Trump. They have a front-runner who they like.

PHILLIP: Okay, so I got to ask you about a curiosity also in this presidential race. Steve King has endorsed Vivek Ramaswamy. Last time he was seen, he was arguing that white supremacy was not so bad of a thing. Why is this happening?

OSBORNE: I don't know. I mean, I wish he, he's like the bad penny that just won't go away. I mean, I had my issues with him, yes, in 2016 and what he did to Ben Carson and those caucuses.

And I -- I don't know what it -- it doesn't do anything for Vivek. I mean, it really doesn't do anything except what Steve King is trying to do because he understands the caucus process, which is wound DeSantis or Haley enough so that Trump can then squeak out a victory in Iowa and then move on to New Hampshire.

PHILLIP: Do you really think there's a constituency for this that will actually benefit Vivek?

BARRO: A small one? Vivek is what, at like four or five percent in the polls? Now he's very off-putting. Like, you know, I've never gotten this boomlet. He's so annoying. And, you know, I think that there's a reason that, you know, he got up to like 11, and then once he got on that debate stage and people saw more of him, they didn't like him.

No, I mean, you know, Steve King, obviously, he was elected as a congressman several times in Iowa. Even though he was defeated in a primary last time around, he has, you know, he has some loyal voters. So, I don't know, there's only four congressional districts in Iowa, so it's, you know, it's not crazy to me as a strategy to try to pick up a few percentage points, but I'm not sure what the broader strategy is.

OSBORNE: And I think he takes away from -- Steve King takes away from Trump's voters. It's not like he's taking Nikki Haley voters or Ron DeSantis voters and moving them towards --

PHILLIP: Yeah, I'm not sure there's a whole lot of overlap here between the Nikki Haley constituency and Steve King. But the speculation will end very soon when the voters start voting. Jason Osborne and Josh Barro, thank you both.

BARRO: Thank you.

OSBORNE: Thank you.

And a mouse and a whistle -- we all know so well, may now be haunting our nightmares. Steamboat Willie is going horror. The director behind this film, next.



PHILLIP: The world's most famous mouse is now up for grabs. After 95 years under Disney copyright, "Steamboat Willie" is now in the public domain, and my next guest is taking advantage of that expired copyright.



PHILLIP: That's "Mickey Mouse's Trap", and it's one of at least two horror films announced as Willie goes public. Joining me now is the director of "Mickey Mouse Trap", Jamie Bailey. Jamie, thanks for joining us. I have a two-year-old who is obsessed with the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse". Why do we got to take a lovable kid's character and make him a murderer?

JAMIE BAILEY, DIRECTOR OF "MICKEY MOUSE TRAP": Thanks for having me, Abby. We were really excited when this --there that love slasher movies -- wanted to take the iconic character and put it --

PHILLIP: So, what can we expect from the reinvented Mickey? I mean, the trailer, you kind of seem to believe that if you look at it, that he's a killer on the loose, almost reminiscent of Ghostface from "Scream". Is that what we're in for if this movie -- if we sit in for this movie?

BAILEY: -- and it is starring Mickey Mouse, so it is obviously ridiculous.


So, we're going to -- crazy way that, you know, now that he's in public domain that we have a parody version --

PHILLIP: Jamie Bailey, thank you very much for joining us. And sorry for the technical difficulties in that interview. Just in for us, stunning new pictures of the aftermath of that deadly plane collision in which so many luckily survived. "Laura Coates Live" is next.