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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Colorado Ballot Ban; Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Haley Say They'll Attack Trump After Avoiding; Epstein Documents Unsealed, Naming Bill Clinton And Prince Andrew; Administration Official Resigns; Republicans Witnessed Migrants Crossing; Claudine Gay Had Enough. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 03, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And tomorrow night, for all of you at home here at 9:00, tune in as CNN is going to host back-to-back town halls with Governor Ron DeSantis and Governor Nikki Haley. They're going to take questions directly from Iowa voters just days before the Iowa caucuses. I'll moderate the town hall with Governor DeSantis at 9:00 P.M. Eastern. Erin Burnett will moderate one with Governor Nikki Haley right after that. You are not going to want to miss it.

Thank you so much for joining us here tonight. CNN Newsnight with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Donald Trump attacks the very definition of insurrection in an appeal that will set up a Supreme Court clash. That's tonight on Newsnight.

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

And tonight, a question of paramount importance to your vote lands at the feet of nine justices. Donald Trump wants the United States Supreme Court to answer two questions once and for all. One, did he engage in an insurrection? And, two, is he ineligible to run for president of the United States?

Trump's lawyers say that the answer to question one is clear and unequivocal, no. Their filing submitted today asserts that what the world witnessed on January 6th was, quote, not insurrection. And President Trump in no way engaged in insurrection.

His lawyers write, in the context of the history of violent American political protests, January 6th was not an insurrection.

Now, read through the document, and it almost sounds like the lawyers lawyered by basically lifting from their own client.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: They were there with love in their heart. That was an unbelievable, and it was a beautiful day. And what I was asked to do, I wasn't involved in it very much. I was asked to come in, would I make a speech. I made a speech. I said, walk peacefully and patriotically, many different things.


PHILLIP: Just like his perfect call, for which he was impeached, Trump's legal counsel thought it wise to send a transcript of his one hour speech to the justices.

Question two now, is Donald Trump constitutionally even allowed to run? Well, his lawyers answer, without a doubt, the answer is yes. They assert that the president is not an officer of the United States.

Now, is that logic or is it logic-bending? The Supreme Court now gets to answer that question. And there is a huge need for speed here. Colorado votes on March 5th.

In just moments, Chris Wallace will join me on the political impact of all of this. But, first, joining me now for her first interview since Trump filed his appeal to the Supreme Court is Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Thank you very much for staying up for us tonight, Secretary of State Griswold.

Can you first walk us through what this means for the state of Colorado? If we don't get a ruling by January 5th, in just a couple of days, does that mean Trump remains on the ballot in Colorado, basically, no matter what?

SEC. OF STATE JENA GRISWOLD (D-CO): Well, first off, thank you for having me. And don't you worry, it's not too late in Colorado. So, still plenty of time to talk about this crucial case.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump engaged in insurrection and because of that, he was disqualified from the ballot. But they put a caveat into their ruling, saying that if the case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, Trump would be on the ballot until the Supreme Court acted in some way.

So, as of today, he is on the ballot. I certify the ballot. So, basically tell the counties which candidates will be on so that they can print the ballots. But our elections get going pretty quickly overseas and military ballots actually go out this month. We have early voting vote by mail in Colorado. So, Coloradans will be voting pretty soon.

PHILLIP: And if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Colorado Supreme Court to remove Trump from the ballot but his name is still there, what happens then?

GRISWOLD: Colorado's elections take into account candidates who either drop out of a race when their name is already on the ballot, or otherwise unable to be voted on. So, in that situation, if voters cast a ballot or a vote for someone who is disqualified, we would not be able to count those votes.

I think it underlines that how unprecedented this situation is. Usually, when we have disqualifications arise, it's not with the president, it's not with candidates running for president, because, usually, candidates running for president don't engage in insurrection and don't have this crucial constitutional question facing their candidacy.


PHILLIP: Here's what Trump's lawyers are arguing in their filing about whether the 14th Amendment even applies to the former president. They write, to find that Section 3 includes the presidency, one must conclude that the drafters decided to bury the most visible and prominent national office in a catch-all term that includes low ranking military officers while choosing to explicitly reference presidential electors.

I mean, to a lot of people, including many legal experts, this doesn't make sense, just common sense. What do you think? Does it hold any merit?

GRISWOLD: I agree that it doesn't make sense. It does not make sense to allow a president to engage in insurrection and get off scot free. A president, the person who has arguably the most power in this country, should not be able to do that type of action and run again when every other elected official would be barred from doing so.

Donald Trump is basically arguing to the United States Supreme Court that he did not engage in insurrection. But even if he did, it's okay. He can still be president again. I disagree with that. Two Colorado courts have already found that he did engage in insurrection. I think it's very clear from the actions around January 6th, before and after his role in that violent insurrection.

But regardless of my sentiments, this is a big case in front of the United States Supreme Court. And I do believe that the United States Supreme Court should tell the American people whether a president can engage in insurrection and then again run for that office.

PHILLIP: Yes, I want to ask you about one of the arguments being made by Trump's lawyers. They're basically saying that this would deprive the American people from choosing to vote for or against a candidate of their choosing at a national level for the presidency of the United States. What do you make of that? And do you think that that will factor into the Supreme Court as they weigh this question? Do you think that there's a risk here of disenfranchising voters?

GRISWOLD: I think the biggest risk of disenfranchising voters happened on January 6th, when Donald Trump tried to steal the presidency from the American people. Make no mistake, that is exactly what he intended to do.

We are a country of laws and of Constitutions. There are qualifications for office. So, for example, if a lot of voters wanted to vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger, they wouldn't be able to do so, because he is disqualified from running for president under the United States Constitution. I think this case is very similar. If the Supreme Court finds him unqualified or otherwise affirms the Colorado Supreme Court or declines to review the case, we would consider him not qualified, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger or someone who was too young to be on the ballot.

PHILLIP: Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, thank you again for joining us tonight with all of that.

GRISWOLD: Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: And joining me now to discuss this is Chris Wallace, CNN Anchor and Host of Who's Talking to Chris Wallace and the Chris Wallace Show. Chris, thanks for joining us again.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be with you, Abby.

PHILLIP: So, Chris, I wanted to get your reaction first to this breaking news that the Trump campaign is appealing Colorado's decision to kick him off of the ballot. Do you think that the Supreme Court will ultimately take on this challenge from the former president?

WALLACE: Oh, they have to. I mean, you can't have a situation where one state Supreme Court is taking a presidential candidate off the ballot. Another state secretary of state is doing it. A bunch of states are saying, no, he stays on the ballot. The court may end up deciding this on very technical grounds, but they've got to be able to decide whether or not Donald Trump, who, at this point, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, should be on the ballot in all 50 states. I just can't imagine a checkerboard where he's on the ballot in some states and not in others.

PHILLIP: Yes. And certainly time is of the essence here. I mean, this is not the kind of thing that they could wait six months for given that the primary is underway, and speaking of, we're in this final countdown now to Iowa, and Trump is, as you said, the clear frontrunner. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are battling it out for second place. They are now turning from attacking each other to saying that they are the ones who are going to take on the former president. Listen.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In his commercials and in his temper tantrums, every single thing that he said has been a lie, every single one.


I looked for (INAUDIBLE), every single one.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think Donald Trump ultimately can win an election. There are just going to be so many voters that are activated to come out and vote against him that it's not even related to policy. It's related to other things.


PHILLIP: So, do you think that that argument ultimately is going to convince Iowa of voters? And what do you make of the fact that suddenly now they think it's important for them to make it clear that they are willing to take on Trump?

WALLACE: Well, it's awfully late in the game. I mean, how many months has this campaign been going on? And you hear a little thing from DeSantis about, well, he can't win or Trump didn't keep all his promises as president, and from Nikki Haley about chaos.

But, I mean, let's put this in perspective. No Republican has ever won a contested race in the Iowa caucuses by more than 12 points. Right now, Donald Trump leads both Haley and DeSantis by more than 30 points. So, it seems awfully late for them to come to this recognition. But I know one of them wants to be second, the other third. If you finish second but 30 or 32 points behind the frontrunner, you're a loser. You are not the second place finisher, you're the first loser.

PHILLIP: Yes, there's no participation trophy here for these guys.

WALLACE: Yes. So, I just think that they have to -- although I just think it's so late now. I mean, we're less than two weeks before the caucuses to start taking shots. And there's a reason they didn't take a shot against Trump, particularly DeSantis, because a lot of his people, they like DeSantis, but they also like Trump. And if you take on Trump, you run a risk of riling up people and maybe losing their support, people who like the former president, even if they weren't inclined to vote for him.

PHILLIP: Look, between now and New Hampshire and Iowa, we've got so many events, including a CNN Republican debate between Haley and DeSantis. Trump meets the credentials, he was invited. He will not be there. He's instead going to be on a town hall stage on Fox.

So, the DeSantis campaign has said that Trump is too scared to get on the debate stage because he'll have to finally explain why he didn't fulfill any of the promises that he made as president. Again, does this work in a Republican primary in which the Republican voters seem totally fine with Trump having not done the things that he said he was going to do as president?

WALLACE: Well, that and also this whole question of not participating in debates. There have been four Republican debates, and there was a lot of talk, particularly in the beginning, whether Trump would take a risk if he decided not to participate in them. He has skipped all four. His lead over Haley and DeSantis and all the others has only gotten bigger.

And think about it, look, as a loyal CNN employee, I'd very much like to see him in the debate, it would be great. But from his campaign's point of view, if you've got Haley and DeSantis, your two main rivals, beating up on each other, and you can have the field to yourself on a Fox town hall in Iowa, so you can't be accused of snubbing the state seems to me it's a pretty easy choice.

PHILLIP: Real quick, Chris, on the Democratic side, the Biden campaign, they are kind of refocusing in this New Year to target Trump and once again the threat to democracy that they say he poses. They have a slate of events coming up in the next couple of weeks. Do you think that this is their best bet in terms of messaging, focus on basically the things that Biden ran on in 2020, the threat to democracy from Trump, and restoring essentially the soul of the nation?

WALLACE: Look, for most of the last few months, Biden has been trying to sell himself. He's leaned into Bidenomics. He's tried to say, hey, look, the country is in really good shape. The economy is in really good shape. And in one of the recent polls, he was down at 34 percent approval. So, clearly, making the positive case for Joe Biden, his administration and his agenda isn't working.

He'll still do that. I mean, he's got the State of the Union in early February. He'll talk about what he's accomplished, what he wants to accomplish in a second term. But it sure seems like the best shot they've got at this point is to go after Trump very much of the way they did in 2020, the way they did in 2022 on issues of democracy, the Constitution, civil liberties in this country. In fact, some aides in the Biden campaign have half jokingly said, when are we going to go full Hitler? Meaning when are we going to start making a direct comparison between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler, comments on poisoning the blood and vermin. And it may come down to that.

PHILLIP: Trump makes it easy for them. He does quote Hitler. So, I mean, it's there.


WALLACE: That's right. It does make it easy. You've got the sound bites, and it's not going to be pretty, but it may be the most effective way for Joe Biden to get re-elected.

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, we'll see how that turns out. Chris, as always, thank you so much for joining us.

WALLACE: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And next, there is more breaking news. The Jeffrey Epstein documents have been unsealed and some of the names of the rich and powerful are included.

Plus, I'll speak with a Biden official who just resigned tonight over the president's support of the Israeli war against Hamas.

And a stunning attack inside a courtroom, the story behind this video.


PHILLIP: New tonight, we're learning more about the high-profile names connected to Sex Trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. They come in hundreds of pages of unsealed documents connected to Epstein released now for the first time.

For more, I want to bring in CNN Senior Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, hundreds of pages in here, lots to go through. What are we learning? SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this all stems from a lawsuit that started in 2015 by one of the victims against Ghislaine Maxwell, who was serving 20 years in prison in connection to this case.


This was a civil case. And for, really, years, journalists, specifically the Miami Herald, have been fighting to release these documents. And finally tonight, we're getting our first look at this case. And we're seeing names which are not new, like the former president, Bill Clinton. And this is all coming from depositions from an associate of Jeffrey Epstein, a woman who worked for him. And she describes how Jeffrey Epstein once told her that Bill Clinton liked them young, referring to young girls, she says.

And, of course, the former president has denied any wrongdoing. He has admitted that he's been on his plane back in 2019. He had said that. And, of course, again today, a spokesperson for him has denied any wrongdoing, that the former president wasn't involved in any wrongdoing.

The other thing we learned from this former employee's deposition was that the former president, Donald Trump's name came up as well during this deposition. They were going to Atlantic City, the employee with Jeffrey Epstein and one of the victims. They were on the plane heading to New York. They couldn't fly into New York for whatever reason.

And then they say -- Jeffrey said, well, we'll go to Atlantic City and we'll call Trump. And it's not clear if they ever made any connection with Trump. But she then goes on to describe how they were going to go to a casino in Atlantic City and then how Jeffrey Epstein said, great, we'll call up Trump and we'll go. And then she says she doesn't recall the name of the casino, but they eventually wound up in Atlantic City.

And we're seeing other names like Prince Andrew, which is not new as well. And in the coming days, we're going to be seeing more documents come out, potentially thousands more. But it's these depositions, there have been several depositions that were taken in this case that came out, and that is where we're finding some of the most significant information.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, the names are not new. We knew about these relationships and friendships with Epstein, but the details will be in these documents that will come out over the course of the next few days. Shimon, thank you very much.

And tonight, a Biden administration official says that he can't stay silent no longer. He's resigning now from his position, and he's citing the president's support of Israel's war.

His name is Tariq Habash, and he is here to explain more, next.


[22:26:18] PHILLIP: Tonight, quietly complicit no longer. A senior political appointee inside the Biden administration says he cannot turn a blind eye to what he calls indiscriminate violence against Palestinians bought and paid for by the United States government.

Meet Tariq Habash. He was the special assistant for planning and policy in the Department of Education. He held that role until today when he headed in his resignation to the secretary of education, Miguel Cardona. And he was the only Palestinian-American political appointee at DOE.

His letter sketches out a deep struggle with the decision but clear convictions. Habash writes, the actions of the Biden-Harris administration have put millions of innocent lives in danger. I cannot represent an administration that does not value all human life equally.

And joining me now is Tariq Habash. Tariq, thank you for joining us tonight.


PHILLIP: So, this marks three weeks -- three months now, since the October 7th attack and the start of this war. Why resign now?

HABASH: You know, Abby, I think it's really important to understand that we've seen so much destruction, so much death, and this is an issue that I've struggled with tremendously these last few months. I've asked myself that question every single day, and the reality is I worked tirelessly on behalf of this administration, on behalf of this president to enact his agenda.

I supported him when he was running for office. I volunteered on the campaign to help shape the education policy agenda. And for me, I tried to use every opportunity I could to raise alarm bells across the administration within the Department of Education and up to and through the White House. And, unfortunately, those alarm bells weren't heard.

And so I'm just trying to grab the biggest microphone I can to reach the president to emphasize how important it is right now to end the destruction and the violence that is sacrificing thousands of lives.

PHILLIP: So, my understanding is that you met with Secretary Cardona about this. How did he take your decision to leave the administration and the critique that you're making here?

HABASH: You know, the secretary has been extremely understanding. He's been very supportive of me putting myself and my family first at the end of the day. You know, we've had numerous conversations over recent months, and he's checked up on me periodically.

The reality is that, you know, the administration continues to support policies that are engaging in excessive violence against innocent Palestinian lives. And the refusal by the president to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire is untenable with the belief by millions of Americans across this country, the majority of Democratic voters who support peace and a ceasefire.

PHILLIP: Politico is reporting tonight that there is a letter from 17 anonymous Biden campaign staffers calling on the president to demand a ceasefire. Do you have a sense of why so many, it seems, of your contemporaries won't do what you're doing, put their name behind these demands?

HABASH: You know, it's a really difficult thing to sacrifice your career, your job security, your income, maybe your personal safety in these types of circumstances.


I totally understand where our people are coming from. It's hard, it's scary.

And you know, I hope that I'm inspiring people to use their voices, but I also know that there are people throughout the government, throughout this administration, who have repeatedly tried to use every avenue available to them to raise concerns because they care about this country, they care about this president, and they care about our democracy.

And I think what the president is doing by ignoring the will of the people and by ignoring all of these individuals who have continuously supported his agenda, I think it's undermining our democratic ideals and it's undermining America.

PHILLIP: Do you think that this issue could cost Biden the 2024 election? And if it does, would you be comfortable with that?

HABASH: Listen, I don't think that that's my decision to make. I think it's the president's. He's the one on the ballot. He's the one who has the power with a phone call to end this violence, to make demands of the Israeli government, to end the indiscriminate violence against Palestinians.

And so, I think if the president wants to ensure a second term, if he wants to ensure the support of millions of Americans who are part of his base who have supported him, you know, I think he needs to hear what the people are saying and I hope he does.

PHILLIP: If he doesn't support a ceasefire, would you vote for him?

HABASH: I think the president has a lot of time before the election, but there are millions of Palestinians who don't have a lot of time, whose lives are in immediate danger. And the president has that power.

PHILLIP: Yes. Your grandparents were expelled from Gaza in 1948. Are you afraid that something similar will happen today?

HABASH: I think we're already seeing the Israeli government take steps to do exactly that. I think we've seen Israeli leaders just in the last few days repeat ideas that they believe that, you know, it's time to move people out of Gaza and let settlers settle the -- that land. I think that's extremely problematic.

I think it's a violation of international humanitarian law. The ethnic cleansing that continues and persists every single day in the region is against U.S. policy. It's against international policy. And It's something that the president can and should be condemning and stopping.

PHILLIP: Tariq Habash, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

HABASH: Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: And next, see what happened in a river when a Republican speaker showed up at the U.S. southern border.

Plus, new tonight, the former Harvard University president writes a new op-ed warning about the right-wing war against academia.



PHILLIP: As the situation on the southern border spirals out of control, a war of words between the White House and Republicans about who's to blame and how to fix it. And at peak today, as House Speaker Mike Johnson led a delegation of dozens of Republicans to the border, this moment unfolded as they arrived in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Several migrants can be seen there, crossing directly in front of them. Johnson and Republicans calling for tougher border restrictions and slamming the Biden administration, calling it's not -- calling it out for not doing its job. But when asked about supporting President Biden's request to send billions in funding to the border for border security, the speaker says border agents don't want $14 billion.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett of the state of Texas. Congresswoman, thanks for joining us tonight.


PHILLIP: Congresswoman, your response to that statement from the speaker that border patrol agents don't want the $14 billion that the Biden administration is requesting. What they want is policy changes that stop the flow of migrants that come to the border.

CROCKETT: I disagree, I obviously wasn't there, so I don't know who it was that the speaker and his cronies were able to visit, but I can tell you that I've had these conversations. And what I hear is that they do need the funding.

We have so many officers that are having to leave their homes and be forced to go to the border because we are understaffed and they're telling me that is uncomfortable when they are not giving any discretion whatsoever to have to leave their families and go to the border and stay in a hotel.

So no, I will disagree and say that they need the funding, but I will also agree that there needs to be policy changes as well. It's not about doing one or the other. It's about doing both. And I can tell you that the money right now will help those cities that are struggling whether it's Eagle Pass or if we're talking about Chicago or if we're talking about New York, I can guarantee you those mayors would not turn down the funding that the president has tried to push through and the Republicans refuse to do it.

PHILLIP: Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona is sending a message along with other members of the Freedom Caucus during this trip. He says, shut the border down or we'll shut the government down. Here is what Speaker Johnson said when he was asked about this earlier today.


MIKE JOHNSON, U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm not going to address hypotheticals about what the scenario is, but I will tell you that we are resolved on that.


That and trying to cut non-defense discretionary spending because we passed an important and dangerous threshold today, $34 trillion in federal debt. We are in serious, serious dire straits as a nation.


PHILLIP: So that was not a no. Are you concerned that this is a serious threat?

CROCKETT: I am. I've been concerned every time we've approached this issue. Somehow, we've been able to avert a government shutdown two times before, but we do have two more looming deadlines over our head. And it's not been the Republicans that have governed.

I mean, most news media outlets have covered the fact that this has been the most unproductive Congress that we have ever had. And so, the idea that these unproductive people somehow are going to solve one of our largest crises, when I think back to the fact that a year ago today, this was the day that I was supposed to swear into Congress, and we couldn't get that done because they couldn't decide that they wanted Kevin McCarthy. It took them 15 rounds in three days, and now Kevin McCarthy isn't even in the House.

So let me tell you, I don't trust these guys to be serious about this. They are nothing more than a bunch of arsonists that are now wanting to have this hero complex and act as if they are also the firefighters.

We need to do what is smart on border protection. We need to make sure that those that absolutely need asylum are actually having their cases heard. And if they shouldn't be granted asylum, then they should be able to go back to where they came from.

But when we don't fund these people, when we tell those that are trying to work at the border, hey, we're going to shut the government down. I've got news for you, Andy Biggs. That means that you're not going to pay the people that you claim to be supporting. That means that people are going to start calling in. That means that we may actually end up with an even larger shortage when it comes to the people that we need on the border. So let me tell you what's not smart is shutting down the government.

PHILLIP: Do you agree with the Biden administration putting on the table changes to U.S. asylum policy? Do you think that should be? something that happens, making it harder for people to claim asylum?

CROCKETT: I don't agree with that at this point in time, you know, because I don't even think that that really is the issue. If for two seconds you can just put yourself into the shoes of some of these people, you're coming from a place in where you may be looking at losing your life, you may not be able to feed and take care of your family.

They're not studying U.S. law before they get here. In fact, you hear the majority of the people that talk about the border crisis, about the fact that most people can't even read English that are coming into our country. They're not studying whatever thousand-page bill is going to come out. All they know is that this is supposed to be the land of opportunity and the land of the free. And so, they're trying to get in. And honestly, they're doing it the way that you're supposed to.

People don't understand that these people are presenting themselves at ports of entry, which is what our law says they're supposed to do. They are going and saying, hey, I'm here seeking asylum. You know, they continue to talk about an invasion, but here it is, you see that the speaker was being interviewed. I didn't see invaders behind him.

You know, we've seen an invasion at the border and that isn't what this looks like. This looks like people that are in dire straits and we should be leading in the world to make sure that wherever it is that they're coming from, that we can help to stabilize those communities so they don't need to come to the United States, but instead they can stay at home where they really would probably prefer to be.

PHILLIP: Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett, thank you for joining us tonight.

CROCKETT: Good to see you.

PHILLIP: And Harvard's former president, Claudine Gay, is speaking out tonight after resigning under a cloud of controversy. What she's warning next.



PHILLIP: New tonight, former Harvard president Claudine Gay is speaking out for the first time since her resignation. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Gay apologizes for her handling of questions about anti-Semitism on campus. And while saying she should have cited other scholars, she defends

herself against allegations of plagiarism. She also says that she faced death threats and was called the N-word numerous times in those weeks leading up to her decision to step down. Gay also issued a warning, noting that what happened at Harvard is bigger than her.

For more, I want to bring in CNN political commentators, S.E. Cupp and Jamal Simmons. S.E., this is the first time we're hearing from her directly, pretty soon after she left that post. What do you make of what she had to say?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let me start with the bad news. I thought it was real offensive because she painted with a very broad brush and really left no room for criticism or people wanting to hold leaders like her accountable other than being motivated by racism and sexism.

I'm real offended by that because I am motivated by neither in this. I do, however, really agree with her headline. This is way bigger than her. She is not the cause of anti-Semitism on college campuses. Her resignation will not solve this scourge. It is a much bigger problem and it has to be examined. And these sorts of retaliatory takedowns are, I think, corrupting very complicated conversation that we're not really having.


PHILLIP: That's really interesting. I mean, on the point of the racism, I just want to read a little bit of what she said about that.

CUPP: Yes.

PHILLIP: She said, they recycled tired racial stereotypes about black talent and temperament, and they pushed a false narrative of indifference and incompetence. One of the reasons she's saying that is, contrary to what S.E. was saying, the reason that she ultimately was pushed out did not actually end up having to do with the accusations of how she handled anti-Semitism on campus. And I think that's what she's citing here.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think there are a couple of things that are happening here. One, it turns out that that there are real questions about whether or not she did plagiarize. There may just be citation problems. A lot of academics, I talked to a couple of them today, who said, well, if this is what we're calling plagiarism, there are going to be a lot of people who get in trouble that this is a problem.

Two, the president, the former president of the Hillel house at Harvard has come out and supported her and said that she was actually helpful and thought that she was trying to do things to be helpful to the Jewish students on campus. So, there is some question about her work on campus, not necessarily her testimony.

So, her testimony, she admitted was flawed. And when I read it as someone who had done communications for a long time for a lot of people, what I heard and saw is, this is the problem with the lawyers. The lawyers all got out of whack, and they had too much power in the preparation.

Because any communications professional would have had those statements when she said, I find these genocidal statements to be abhorrent, which she said earlier in her testimony. You do those at the same time that you talk about the legalistic problem of the Harvard code of conduct.

So, I just think there are a lot of different issues happening here at the same time. But what's the most, the most abhorrent to me after we talk about October 7th and how bad that was the attacks on Jewish citizens that everybody is recoiled by is that there are these people who hijacked anti-Semitism.

These conservative activists, Chris Rufo -- Russo, who wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal talking about how he wanted to use this issue to squeeze Claudine Gay out of that job because he thought she was unqualified. Other donors who talked about how she was unqualified, and it was just a diversity hire to start with, that they hijacked anti-Semitism anti-DEI political agenda.

PHILLIP: What about that, S.E.?

CUPP: That's -- well, that's abhorrent. And like I said, those kinds of actors are corrupting an already very complicated conversation. But other people, including the White House, including Democrats, including liberal academics, including black liberal academics, have also criticized her leadership, both because of what she said and what she didn't say on campus. She's not alone.

Listen, my alma mater, Cornell. I was appalled to see what happened at Cornell 20 years ago when I was there. It was and still is one of the largest Jewish student populations in the country. I cannot wrap my mind around the idea that my Jewish friends at that school now do not feel safe on campus.

That is not Claudine Gay's fault. That is a systemic problem. On college campuses, --


PHILLIP: But again, --

CUPP: -- wait one second, --


CUPP: -- where our young people are now more likely to be anti-Semitic than our parents and grandparents. That is a problem that we need to look at. We need to look at academic leadership. That includes professors, presidents, administrators. Why is this being fomented in a very specific place our college campuses?

Claudine Gay is not the problem, but she was part of, part of the problem. PHILLIP: So do you, I mean, to that point, I mean, why haven't we seen

the same kind of energy toward other universities where this is happening?

CUPP: Well, there was --

PHILLIP: I mean, in --

CUPP: At Penn.

PHILLIP: At Penn there was, right --


CUPP: There are two administrators, the president and another administrator.


CUPP: Both white, resigned pretty quickly after that congressional hearing. There is an attention on the MIT president, who also testified, to resign. There have been calls for reform in all kinds of places. Maybe Cornell dealt with their episode better than Harvard did.

But listen, Harvard has a huge spotlight on it. There is no question about it.


CUPP: And then so by default, so did Claudine Gay.

SIMMONS: So, what we did not have, though, what we did not have at MIT is when people are asking for the resignation of that president, we have not had people turn to the question of whether or not the president was qualified to be president at all. And that's the question when we get to Claudine Gay.


Why is it that once again, we have an African-American woman in a position of leadership when people said something she did substantively, which they have a right to be upset about her testimony. But the attack on her that ultimately does her in is the one about her qualifications and should she be taken down?

I mean, should she have even had the job to start with. And, you know, I said this before, I worked for the vice president. I have seen how people come after Kamala Harris, not just because of her substance or her positions on issues but they try to take after her because they say that maybe she just shouldn't be there. She's not really qualified.

They go after her competency. And look, she was D.A. She was head of the A.G.


SIMMONS: She's the A.G. for the largest DOJ outside of the federal DOJ in California. She's got other problems you can talk about. Qualifications and competency are not really one of them.

PHILLIP: I think the point you're making, S.E., is really important but Jamal is right to a certain degree.


PHILLIP: This is a big game about. So it became about more than just the anti-Semitism on campus.

CUPP: Jamal is 100 percent right. These are layers, --


CUPP: -- and they're all in there. But my only word of caution is, if you cannot criticize a black woman because she is a woman and because she is black, substantively, --


CUPP: -- that creates a chilling effect that is kind of anathema to what we are trying to do in academia.

PHILLIP: All right. We'll have to leave it there. S.E. Cupp and Jamal Simmons, thank you both.

And a stunning attack in a courtroom today caught on tape. See what happened after this.