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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump And Team Argue Before Court That He's Above The Law; Michelle Obama Says, If Indicted Trump Was Black, Couldn't Run; Boeing Working With Investigators On The Alaska Airlines Plane Incident; Aaron Rodgers Triples Down On Feud With Jimmy Kimmel; Democrat Borrows From The Trump Playbook In The Face Of His Own Federal Charges. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 09, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: The storm has been so disruptive, it caused Air Force 2, as it was carrying Vice President Kamala Harris, to divert to a different airport in the Washington area tonight other than Joint Base Andrews. A source familiar told CNN that the plane encountered wind shear, and that was the reason for that diversion.

Also affecting other flights for passengers tonight, more than a thousand of them were canceled. So far at least 6,000 nearly have been delayed today. Of course, we'll continue to monitor the storm here on CNN and the effects of it. Continue to watch here.

And thank you so much for joining us tonight. The news will continue right now with CNN Newsnight with Abby Phillip.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Donald Trump has a litany of legal excuses, and his new one might just take the cake. That's tonight on Newsnight.

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

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, immunity on murders? Donald Trump lists a few of his favorite reasons why he's not a criminal. At this point, Trump is a collector of defenses like some people collect Pokemon. But there's almost too much to count at this point. And trust us, we tried.

He says he's immune, presidents can't obstruct justice. His intent wasn't corrupt. The case is moving too fast or moving too slow. It's an unfair venue. The judge is biased, and so are the clerks. The jury is too. He's never met her. He doesn't know her. She's not his type. It was his personal account, political persecution, witch hunt, perfect phone call, the deep state. It wasn't an insurrection. He wasn't notified that it was a crime. His lawyers advised him double jeopardy. The speech was peaceful. The students weren't defrauded. The Presidential Records Act. He was too busy. They were his documents. They're declassified. They aren't even classified at all, the First Amendment and the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, and Tenth Amendments too.

Now, if you're wondering where some of those reasons even came from, just look at the client, Donald J. Trump.


JOHN SAUER, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: To authorize the prosecution of a president for his official acts would open a Pandora's Box from which this nation may never recover.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's the opening of a Pandora's Box and it's a very sad thing that's happened with this whole situation. When they talk about threat to democracy, that's your real threat to democracy.


PHILLIP: Now, today, Trump's lawyers talked a lot about their newest reason why he's not guilty of anything at all, and its blanket immunity. And they took it to extremes about what it would allow a president to do.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I asked you a yes or no question. Could a president who ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival who was not impeached, he'd be subject to criminal prosecution?

SAUER: If he were impeached and convicted first. And so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So your answer is?

SAUER: My answer is qualified, yes.


PHILLIP: But let's be real. Is any of this even legal theory? Do Trump's lawyers really think that the courts will buy an argument that he can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue as president and just get away with it or is this an elaborate game of delay and distract?

Let's talk about all of this with Tim Parlatore. He's a former lawyer for Trump who knows a little something about getting an earful from his client.

Tim, do you think that there is anything that was said today that the Supreme Court will agree with that basically the president can do anything, there is a broad presidential power to do anything without any criminal consequence?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: You know, I don't think that that argument is going to fly either at the circuit or at the Supreme Court of just the blanket immunity. I would expect that the circuit, if they don't outright dismiss the appeal on timeliness issues, I think that they'll probably take somewhat of a middle road. They're not going to adopt either what Mr. Sauer said or what Jack Smith team said and instead implement something more like a qualified immunity. And I think that the Supreme Court will also probably take that and kind of slice it up as to certain actions taken by a president should have immunity attached to them, but certain actions should not.

PHILLIP: So on that front, I want you to listen to what one of Trump's attorneys, John Sauer, argued in court today.



SAUER: Could George W. Bush be prosecuted for obstruction of an official proceeding for allegedly giving false information to Congress to induce the nation to go to war in Iraq under false pretenses? Could President Obama be potentially charged with murder for allegedly authorizing drone strikes targeting U.S. citizens located abroad?


PHILLIP: But both of those examples are actions that were pretty clearly part of Bush and Obama's presidential duties. Isn't that a bit of a red herring here in this argument?

PARLATORE: Well, I think that what he's doing there, to a certain degree, is countering Jack Smith's argument that there's no immunity at all for a former president. And so those types of things that he listed that should have immunity attached to them, if you accept Jack Smith's argument, then when the White House changes hands, the next administration could theoretically prosecute somebody for those things.

I don't think that he's really saying --

PHILLIP: I mean, wouldn't they only be able to prosecute them if they actually illegal? I think that's the point I'm making. Those actions that were described there, where is the illegality? You may not like them, but they're not illegal.

PARLATORE: Well, and that's really where the immunity comes. I mean, a lot of things that presidents do by the standards that you and I have to be held to are illegal, ordering strikes that are going to kill people, if you were I did that we would go to jail but not by nature of the office.

PHILLIP: Yes. I guess, Tim, I'm not -- to kind of press you too much on this, I just think that the issue of a president ordering a strike in the context of a war, that is very clearly within the bounds of what is legal.

PARLATORE: Correct, correct. It is something that because of the nature of his job, it is something that he's permitted to do just as our military members are permitted to do the exact same thing, and yet you know some military members, if they do shoot somebody in the combat zone and it's likely outside of the rules of engagement, they are prosecuted for murder. I've defended those cases.

So, you have the same type of thing here if a president orders a drone strike and they later determined that that person shouldn't have been killed, you know, could that open the box to it? And that's really kind of the argument here, is that we want to make sure that presidents do have some level of immunity so they can make those decisions without worrying about what's going to happen, you know, when the administration changes hands, but it's definitely not going to be a the blanket immunity that anything and everything you did while you're in office is untouchable. I don't think that the courts are going to go for that.

PHILLIP: Yes, to be continued. Tim, thank you very much for joining us.

PARLATORE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And joining me now for the big picture here is legendary journalist Carl Bernstein.

Carl, you were in the thick of Watergate and a witness to Nixon's absolutist view on power, that if a president does it, it's not illegal. It was what you heard today in court from Trump's lawyers. I mean, essentially, as we've been discussing, more Nixonian than even Nixon imagined.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was preposterous, as your earlier guest just pointed out, in polite language. But I think we better take a look at what's really going on here, and nobody understands it better than Donald Trump, that his potential nightmare, that what could really stand between him and seeking and running and succeeding at winning the presidency, is this case that Jack Smith has brought.

And he is doing everything in his power to delay and obfuscate and make sure that this case does not go forward before the election. Because he knows, as do his lawyers, that this is a terrific case that the prosecutor has assembled against him.

It has Mike Pence, his vice president, testimony from Pence in all likelihood against the former president of the United States for attempting a coup to prevent the orderly transfer of presidential power, his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, also a witness against Donald Trump, his counsel, Pat Cipollone, again, a witness against Trump.

This is a huge case in which the government is in a position to win and convict by all accounts a very good chance of convicting Donald Trump. Trump doesn't want it to go forward. And what we're witnessing and what the press ought to be much more aware of is why Trump counts this one as the big kahuna and why he's doing the kind of fighting he's doing and why he's in that courtroom today.

PHILLIP: Well, let's listen to a little bit more of what Trump said when he came out to the cameras.



TRUMP: I think they should know this is the way they're going to try and win and that's not the way it goes. It will be bad for the country. It's a really bad thing.


PHILLIP: That last part, Carl, do you read that as more of a signal for even more political violence? It seemed almost like a veiled threat.

BERNSTEIN: It is a threat, and he's done it before, and he did it before January 6th. This is Donald Trump. This is why he indeed is set to be on trial for this kind of conduct. That's what this case is about.

Look at what one of these charges is. It is about obstructing an official proceeding of the United States government. What was that proceeding? The election of the president of the United States on January 6th, as called for by the law, the one time that the presidential electors meet and elect the president, Donald Trump organized a conspiracy to prevent that from happening. That's what this is about.

And why the case is so strong is because there are 13 at least aides to the president of the United States who are prepared to testify against him in Jack Smith's case. Trump understands all this. Trump also knows that the narrative of what he has done is one of sedition. He attempted a coup to keep the president of the United States, Joseph Biden, who was duly elected from taking office, a coup such as we've never experienced, an act of sedition.

There is a narrative to this case that Donald Trump and those around him do not want to see explored. Because if it is explored, if it is made public, if it is done tick-tock one hour after another so that we see how he obstructed that election on January 6th, how he prepared in the months before to obstruct that election, we will get a picture of criminality of a president of the United States such as we have never seen in our history.

Trump knows that. His lawyers know it. The 14 Republican lawyers who filed an amicus brief, some of whom have been on this network today, who filed a brief against Trump, they know this. They know the strength of this case. This case is much more important than the others because if it occurs before the election, then we have the full narrative of what Donald Trump has done to obstruct our ordinary democracy in this country, as we have known it for more than 250 years. No president has done what is alleged in this case.

PHILLIP: And to your point, this is January 6th and this case, go to the very heart of American democracy, the peaceful transfer of power.

Carl Bernstein, as always, thank you very much.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And next, Michelle Obama says that a black man indicted like Trump couldn't run for office. Charlamagne tha God and Angela Rye join me. We'll also talk about Charlamagne regretting his endorsement of President Biden. And is it possible that there were no bolts in that door plug that fell off midflight? The startling new revelations, ahead.




MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: The bars are different for people in life that I've learned.

Other people can. Other people can be indicted a bunch of times and still run for office. A black man, can't you just learn to be good? And in the end, you benefit from that extra resilience.


PHILLIP: As Donald Trump argues that he is above the law, that was Michelle Obama saying that if Trump were a black man, he wouldn't be allowed to run for any office, let alone the presidency.

Joining me now is radio and podcast star and co-host of The Breakfast Club Charlamagne tha God, along with politics and culture commentator and host of the Native Land Pod, Angela Rye.

So, Angela, Michelle Obama has this great skill of being able to shade Donald Trump without ever actually uttering his name. But is she right?

ANGELA RYE, POLITICS AND CULTURE COMMENTATOR: Of course. I think that what we know and what I think she got baptized by fire with in 2008 when Barack Obama was running for office, and she said, and I'll never forget because I was like, finally somebody's saying something that I agree with, she said, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country and got dragged. We are finally at a place on the other side of a Donald Trump presidency where people can a little bit, they can kind of understand on the other side of an insurrection what she might have meant. And so now --

PHILLIP: I don't know. I mean, do you think they understand?

RYE: I think somebody might, maybe a majority, right? You would get fooled if you look at some of the social media. But I think a majority understand what she means, even if they don't like it.

PHILLIP: But they're asking for Joe Biden now to be impeached even though Donald Trump is under --

RYE: No, that's not the day I'm talking about.

PHILLIP: Yes. But I want to just ask you, Charlamagne, I mean, you made some waves in a recent interview saying that you regret endorsing Joe Biden. Why?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, RADIO AND PODCAST HOST: It's not that I regret endorsing Joe Biden. It's just that I think that we all can get burned by politicians. Because when I say endorsing, like I put my name and my reputation on the line with my listeners, and when my listeners feel like he didn't deliver, they come back to me and they say, hey, man, you're the one who told us to vote for Joe Biden. You're the one who told us to vote for Kamala Harris.

So, I care about my listeners and what my listeners think, but I do want to say that I think President Biden, historically, has been, lack of a better word, a shitty elected official, but Donald Trump is the end of democracy as we know it.

PHILLIP: So you'd vote for Biden again?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I'm not saying either/or, but I think since you all ask answers, because that's what you are all doing on CNN, you like to ask answers, like you asked.


What I think you asked is if Donald Trump was black, you know, would he get locked up, you know, we know the answer to that.

PHILLIP: But, I mean, I don't know the -- so you are going to vote for Joe Biden?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I think it's simple and plain, like, you know, if you -- Donald Trump is the end of democracy as we know it. I mean, I don't know I don't know what to tell people. And I know it sounds when you say that now in 2024, you've heard it so much because every time you know there's a Republican candidate, people say, oh, it's the end of democracy, you know, he's the -- (INAUDIBLE) saying he's the anti- Christ, like but this is one of those times where, you know, it really actually positively is true.

PHILLIP: So, Angela, what he's saying about his Breakfast Club listeners and the disappointment, I guess, that there might be with the Biden administration? Do you see that being understood by the Biden campaign? Are they taking that seriously?

RYE: I think that there are folks in the campaign. I think there are folks in the White House. There are folks in the V.P.'s office that certainly understand and have stressed these points to them ad nauseam. I think Madam Vice President understands.

I think that the real test will be what they do with that understanding, right? I think Lenard is absolutely right. It's hard to get people to do something that they already were very reluctant about doing. Don't forget they were overcoming a pandemic, like the rest of us, overcoming George Floyd's death and murder for 9 minutes and 30 seconds on camera. There was a lot that folks had to overcome to get there.

And so when you have to sacrifice so much, the least you can do is meet us in our sacrifice. And I think that's really what he's saying. It sounds like a reluctant endorsement you got out of him.

PHILLIP: It does sound that way.

RYE: But I think the reality of it is --

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I will always vote for democracy, you know? And what I keep trying to --

RYE: So, that is a binary choice.

PHILLIP: Can you talk about the vice president? She just mentioned Vice President Harris. You've also kind of pulled back from that endorsement as well. What specifically do you see her not doing right?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Well, when I said that about her disappearing, it wasn't even about her, you know, what she's done as vice president, the duties of a vice president, it was about how she would interact with people who supported her, you know?

And I think that even when I say it disappeared, I'm talking about the person that I spoke to in 2020. You know, when I speak to her, it didn't seem like, you know, she was as much of a politician as she seems to be now.

You know, I feel like -- you know, Bakari Sellers has said it a million times, they've given her a trash portfolio, and, you know, they kind of keep her in the tuck, and they don't let her be who she is willing to be. But I think at a time like this, man, if we're having these serious conversations about, you know, democracy being on the line, I think that all of us should realize the language of politics is dead.

And I think, you know, new normals call for new things. So, I think now is not the time for her to, you know, be a politician.

PHILLIP: Do you think it's a communication issue that she has?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: The Democrats suck at messaging, period. We know this already, though, like the Democrats suck at messaging. Like it's not like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris haven't done a lot of great things. They just don't know how to message it to the American people.

PHILLIP: Who is a politician that you could support that, for the presidency, a new age politician, in your words?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Does it matter if our only choice is right now, Biden and Trump?

PHILLIP: It does. What do you see out there? Do you see anybody fulfilling what you think needs to be done at that level?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: No, not in a little bit. Because, like I said, the language of politics is dead. And I think that's one thing Trump did do. Like Trump made it to where you could speak truth to power if you want to, but I think that a lot of folks choose not to.

Like nobody is stupid. Like we're all sitting --

RYE: That wasn't truth he was speaking.

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I'm not going to say it was truth, but it's true for the people that he's speaking to. Like, you know, whenever you can get on T.V. and you can say, hey, I'm going to be a dictator on day one, and, you know, nobody gets upset about that, in fact, that, you know, just causes you to go up in the polls, they like clearly the things that he's saying. Maybe saying he's speaking truth is the wrong thing to say, but he's definitely speaking to his, you know, his constituents.

RYE: Speaking to the fear and stoking the fear of an electorate that is very concerned about what Tiff was even saying earlier about a rising majority, we know that that is indeed the case. I think the hard thing about going back to Kamala Harris, Madam Vice President, we say a lot of this, they won't let her.

And I take issue with the language, right? I think that she does need to be empowered and she has that power to walk in that power. She has owned and requested a lot of what is in her portfolio. I think what is unfortunate is the way that she sounds alarm, a lot of the folks on her team sound the alarm, it is not being echoed by folks in the way --

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: What's important is sounding the alarm behind the scenes. Like if we're talking about the --

RYE: I don't think it's all them behind the scenes, like even today, right? Her being in Atlanta talking to voters, talking to folks that run voting rights organizations, talking to a base that they need, that they --


CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Shouldn't they have been doing that for months?

PHILLIP: When you say -- I mean --

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Like why wait for President Barack Obama to come out to light a fire under the campaign and for you all to go out there and start doing things? And then when it comes to President Biden, the first thing you do is go to a beautiful black church, Emanuel AME, in my birthplace, Charleston, South Carolina, and then go to the soul food spot, Hannibal's restaurant. Like that is the thing that Democrats have been doing for years. Like that's not effective anymore, just showing up to a black church and then going to a soul food restaurant.

PHILLIP: If the election were held today, I mean, do you think Biden wins or loses?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: The polls say he loses. That's what the polls say. And even when we have this conversation about black voters, the reason that so many of us are sounding the alarm the way we are, because it's not just black voters, it's the vote, period, it's black voters, Latino voters, independents, and he's losing to somebody who has 91 criminal charges, four indictments, two impeachments, how are you losing into the polls to somebody like that?

PHILLIP: On the Republican side, we've seen Nikki Haley rising in the polls. She, at the debate attempted, or the CNN town hall, she attempted to clarify what she said. Listen to what she said.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you grow up in South Carolina, literally in second and third grade, you learn about slavery. You grow up and, you know, I had black friends growing up. It is a very talked about thing.

In the south, we're very comfortable talking about it because we know that's what it is. But the goal was always to make today better than yesterday.


PHILLIP: What did you make of that, Angela?

RYE: Nothing. It's a nothing burger. I mean, seriously. Lenard, you're mad at Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and Dems, rightfully so, for being bad at messaging, but they're piss poor on addressing racism, right? Like for her to even --

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Just to be clear -- no, I'm not. But when Tim Scott said this is not a racist country, when Senator Tim Scott said it's not a racist country, Vice President Kamala Harris agreed with him and so did my O.G., Jim Clyburn. I'm just saying.

RYE: I'm not defending any of this.

PHILLIP: What's the point that proves in your mind?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: What do you mean?

PHILLIP: What does that prove in your mind that Vice President Harris and Clyburn --

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Clearly all politicians are pissed poor on speaking about racism in this country because they care about those hypothetical swing voters.

RYE: Let me just bring it back right to you. You talked about Mother Emanuel. One of the things of the few that I think Joe Biden did well yesterday is he addressed the Confederacy and slavery and the Civil War, unlike Nikki Haley and Donald Trump have done in a real way. Like they sound like they are a part of the critical race theory undoing of black history in this country, or American history, really. Joe Biden took it right to them and was like, no, that's not what it is. Her saying she got black friends does not justify, right, what she pulled on the stage recently.

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: And I laughed because when she said nothing, she was absolutely right. Nikki didn't say anything.

RYE: I had black friends. I grew up here. So, you grew up near a plantation and we're supposed to (INAUDIBLE).

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: everybody still use. I'm telling you, the language of politics is dead. You have to talk straight to people. People are afraid to talk straight.

PHILLIP: So, Angela, you have a new podcast coming out. Tell us about it. And Charlamagne, I think, is involved in this.

RYE: Yes.

PHILLIP: Why is this necessary in this moment?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I think that what he said throughout this interview, this is his messaging tonight, the language of politics is dead. And I think where I've thrived, even maybe to my detriment in some situations, is in truth. I don't like that either. I don't like when people are speaking out of both sides of their mouth. I love watching you because you don't take it either. You're like, no, what did you say? I think that's important.

And so we founded Reason Choice Media to give people real talk about politics. We want folks to know that politics are everywhere in every aspect of your life. The flagship show is Native Land Pod, and it is with Andrew Gillum and Tiffany Cross. And we're elated to be friends and to be having these conversations with the culture.

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Because Angela's voice is so necessary. When I used to watch Angela Rye here on CNN, I say it all the time, like there's not too many people who shifted the culture of political pundits like Angela Rye. What I'm talking about is people showing up and being themselves. Angela Rye has always showed up on these platforms and been herself. And she has a way of speaking the language of politics in a way that is very digestible for people like myself.

RYE: I'm Angela Rye and I approve this message.

PHILLIP: The language of politics, is that what you said? The language of politics is dead.

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: The language of politics is dead. And I want to say, too, that we should be able to criticize President Biden and this administration. I think it's like we discredit ourselves intellectually when we say we can't criticize them and also know what's best for us as far as who should be in charge in this country.


PHILLIP: Well, we love having you on the show. Angela Rye, Charlamagne tha God, thank you both very much.

RYE: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: Still ahead, Aaron Rodgers is tripling down on his feud with Jimmy Kimmel, once again spouting conspiracies and insults, and caught in the middle of all of this -- ESPN and Disney. We'll speak with someone who is uniquely qualified to discuss that -- Jemele Hill is next.



DAVID CALHOUN, BOEING CEO: I didn't know what happened to whoever was supposed to be in the seat next to that hole in the airplane. I got kids, I got grandkids, and so do you. This stuff matters. Everything matters. Every detail matters.


PHILLIP: That was the CEO of Boeing talking about those first moments, looking at the pictures of that Alaska Airlines plane, where a panel known as a door plug ripped out mid-flight. The company is saying that it'll work with investigators to ensure that it never happens again.


And tonight, there is an urgent search for what's left of that plane. Let's watch.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An astonishing question raised by federal investigators. Could it be that the plug which burst free of that Alaska Airlines plane, forcing an emergency landing, was not properly locked into place? After all, the National Transportation Safety Board has the plane, the plug, and lots of other evidence, but --

CLINT CROOKSHANKS, AEROSPACE ENGINEER, NTSB: We have not yet recovered the four bolts that restrain it from its vertical movement, and we have not yet determined if they existed there. That will be determined when we take the plug to our lab in Washington, D.C.

FOREMAN (voice-over): While such plugs are not normal doors, each can be opened somewhat like a door for maintenance, according to this website by a former 737 pilot.

UNKNOWN: As it shows in this photo here, they hinge -- they open outwards and hinge downwards.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Two bolts at the top and two at the bottom are supposed to prevent that, but the holes that would have held those bolts, aviation experts note, show no signs of tearing or stress.

UNKNOWN: There's no apparent damage to the inside frame.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And both Alaska and United say their inspections of plugs after the incident revealed loose hardware on other Boeing 737 MAX nines. Ed Pierson is a former Boeing employee turned sharp critic.

ED PIERSON, FORMER SENIOR MANAGER, BOEING 737 PROGRAM: It's completely unacceptable to leave loose bolts or anything like that. So, if one person makes a mistake, they might make a mistake on another plane and another plane. This is really disturbing.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Four times in the past two months, pressurization warnings appeared on the jet involved. The last just a minute before the plug flew out, causing explosive depressurization. At least it wasn't cruising at 30,000 feet, says the Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Folks don't have seat belts on. They're going to restrooms. The flight attendants are providing service to passengers. We could have ended up with something so much more tragic and we're really fortunate that did not occur here.

FOREMAN: Boeing has now held a company-wide safety meeting in which the CEO has pledged complete and transparent cooperation with investigators and he said Boeing will admit its mistake. Although exactly what that mistake may be, we still don't know. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


PHILLIP: And next, Disney has a big mess on its hands. NFL star Aaron Rodgers appeared on ESPN again, but he did not apologize to Jimmy Kimmel, and he continues to spout conspiracies. Jemele Hill will join me live to discuss that.




AARON RODGERS, NEW YORK JETS QUARTERBACK: -- the bullshit that has nothing to do with winning needs to get out of the building. Flush the bullshit that you need to move forward away from, and then refine your focus moving forward.


PHILLIP: Despite Aaron Rodgers lecturing about distractions there, the master himself continues to be one. Rodgers says that the mainstream media is censoring him while he touts unchallenged conspiracy theories on, you guessed it, the mainstream media during his weekly appearances on the mainstream media.

Now, one week after the NFL star was accused of defaming ABC's Jimmy Kimmel on a sister network, ESPN, he was invited back to give more than a half an hour to peddle even more conspiracies and insults. He says that his words about Kimmel were twisted and he continues to spout off against vaccines.

He even named checks an ESPN executive and says that he doesn't care what Kimmel says, despite referencing Kimmel's words over and over again. Looking for an apology? Well, you won't find one here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RODGERS: I think it's impressive that a man who went to Arizona State and has 10 joke writers can read off a prompter. I don't give a shit what he says about me. But as long as he understands what I actually said and that I'm not accusing him of being on a list, then I'm all for moving forward.


PHILLIP: My next guest has a unique history with ESPN. Jemele Hill left the network in part for not sticking to sports. Jemele, I have to do it. I have to do it. Back in 2017, this is what you tweeted.

"Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists." So, what do you make of Aaron Rodgers not sticking to sports at all? And ESPN basically saying, come on back, do it all over again.

JEMELE HILL, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, it makes me wish that I would have said it on "SportsCenter" instead of tweeting it, because people seem to think that anyway, because back then the company guidelines, that's the best way to put them, were a lot different. And now every week when you see Aaron Rodgers on Pat McAfee's show, it's like you're watching Newsmax.

And I don't -- and so I'm just trying to figure out where is all of this going. Look, at the network is so funny because they spent a lot of time trying to remove themselves from being considered to be political because they were accused mostly by a right wing conservatives of being too political or being too liberal. And now they seem to kind of embrace and run in a different direction.

And look, Aaron Rodgers -- one of the things that makes him one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game is that he has great pocket awareness, great situational awareness, but he has zero awareness when it comes to real life.


I saw the entire interview that he did on Pat McAfee's show that kind of kick- started all of this drama and what he said about Jimmy Kimmel. And he totally inferred. We know what Jeffrey Epstein -- we know what he has link to. It is trafficking under-aged girls.

So, when you say that Jimmy Kimmel should be concerned about being on the list that are supposed to be clients of Jeffrey Epstein, what do you think you're saying? You know exactly what you're saying. So, now, he's just playing these fancy war games, kind of like when he lied to everybody about being vaccinated, it's the same thing. It's like, Aaron Rodgers, we all heard it.

And what really is annoying, I that he's on a weekly mainstream media platform complaining about the mainstream media centering him. Sir, you're not silenced. It's just that people think a lot of the things that come out of your mouth are stupid.

PHILLIP: Look, I mean, Jimmy Kimmel could sue for that kind of allegation. It's a really serious thing for ESPN. You know, Pat McAfee signed for ESPN for $85 million over five years. Is this a case of the star here, Pat McAfee being so big that they cannot reprimand him?

HILL: Oh, they could, but then they know that Pat McAfee also doesn't need ESPN. And this is just basically him making a leverage play. He's making a lot of money. He's got an enormous audience. And they brought him in there to appeal to that young, bro sports culture.

That's what they wanted to that tap into when they decided to tap into certain parts of that culture, that is going to come with very specific headaches, particularly when you have Aaron Rodgers, who is known to kind of go off on his own tangents about the vaccines and Dr. Fauci and all these other things that have nothing to do with sports or the NFL or any of the issues or topics of sports in the day. So, you know exactly kind of what you're signing up for.

I think the problem for ESPN going forward is going to be what type of precedents get set along the way. Right now they're trying to play a very parsed game of, well, we're just licensing "Pat McAfee Show". He's the one paying Aaron Rodgers. This is not technically our show.

But for all intents and purposes to the naked eye of people and the perception, it is your show because it's on your air and therefore you're going to be responsible for the things that happen on air.

And so, if you're another person that's an ESPN talent and you see that they've allowed Pat McAfee to basically go off on his bosses and Aaron Rodgers to go in on another ESPN executive, then when something happens that you don't like, what is to stop you from going on air and saying those same things? It's just going to create a lot of unnecessary dissension.

PHILLIP: I don't know if anybody could take that there's a blanket immunity here for those types of things if you're not Pat McAfee. But real quick, Jemele, what's going through Bob Iger's head right now? He recruited Pat McAfee. And these are two of his networks.

HILL: Well, you have to think on some level, there was some of this that he expected. Now, I don't think he expected it in this form. Like he probably did not expect Aaron Rodgers to single-handedly launch this kind of, you know, defame -- to defame one of his biggest personalities at the network in Jimmy Kimmel or come close to doing it, however you want to look at it.

So, and talent on talent crime, as you know, at big networks, is very frowned upon, okay? And so, I think right now what he's hoping is that after this week that this will die down and that Aaron Rodgers stays away from Jimmy Kimmel, so to speak, in terms of talking about him, that maybe this is the last of it, it will run its course and everything will sort of go back to as normal as they can be.

But there were a lot of important precedents that are said here and I know from speaking of people who are still there and just former ESPNers, I think it'll be interesting to see how this plays out if some similar situation pops up because it almost always does. PHILLIP: It probably will, yeah. Jemele Hill, thank you very much for

all of that. And I should say that CNN reached out to ESPN for a statement we've yet to hear back at this hour.

Up next -- Donald Trump. He isn't the only politician speaking out about the charges that he's facing tonight. In fact, Trump and one Democrat sound a lot alike. The video -- next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, a Democrat borrows from the Trump playbook in the face of his own federal charges. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez says that he's not a prop of foreign governments. He'll get his chance in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion, their rhetoric sounds awfully alike.


BOB MENENDEZ, U.S. DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: The United States Attorney's Office is engaged not in a prosecution, but a persecution. They seek a victory, not justice.

DONALD TRUMP; REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, if you can't beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute him. We can't let this happen in America.

MENENDEZ: In so doing, the government's tactics harm not just me, but each of you, my colleagues, the political establishment, and most importantly, the electorate of New Jersey.

TRUMP: They are coming after me because I am fighting for you.

MENENDEZ: Why did the government not proceed with all of these accusations from the beginning? The answer is clear to me.

TRUMP: This trial could have been brought years ago, but they waited till I was right in the middle of my campaign.

MENENDEZ: This is an unprecedented accusation and it has never, ever been levied against a sitting member of Congress. Never.


TRUMP: It's a very bad thing. It's a very bad precedent. As we said, it's the opening of a Pandora's box.

MENENDEZ: I'm innocent and I intend to prove my innocence not just for me, but for the precedent this case will set for you and future members of the Senate.

TRUMP: There's never been anything like what's happened. I'm an innocent man. I'm an innocent person.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: The context here federal prosecutors hit Menendez with a superseding indictment accusing him of taking bribes from Qatar just last week. And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts next.



LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: All right. So, what happened in Donald Trump's immunity hearing? It comes down to just one word. I'll tell you what it is tonight on "Laura Coates Live".