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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

U.S. Carries Out New Strikes Against Iran-Backed Rebels; Trump, Rivals Cancel Iowa Events Due to Bitter Weather; 21 Policy Questions Trump Has Avoided Answering; Abby Phillip Discusses Trump Standing In Polls; Abby Phillip Talks Politics With Representative Dean Phillips. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 12, 2024 - 22:00   ET



FMR. REP. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): That's not the base of the Republican Party. So, you take an already tough, governable group, pull it down to a margin where you've got to get 98 percent to get it right, and then add to that the Trump faction, and, yes, you've got a tough governing body.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It is a tough governing body. I think Speaker Johnson would agree that is an understatement.

Mark Sanford, thank you for coming back. I know we had some issues, but we hope to have you back again soon.

I want to thank you all for watching. I hope you have a great weekend. We'll see you on Sunday night. CNN Newsnight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: The U.S. hits the Houthis with a second flurry of strikes. That's tonight on Newsnight.

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

And this hour, evidence that it's really hard to close the Pandora's war chest once it's been cracked open, tonight, a unilateral U.S. strike on a Houthi radar facility. It is retaliation to retaliation after the Iranian-equipped rebel group targeted commercial vessels near the south of Yemen.

Now, the Houthis did that hours after coalition fighter jets bombarded targets inside of Yemen, a signal that American patience with Houthi provocations had simply run thin.

Now, the second consecutive day of strikes underlines the tense moment that we are in, in the Middle East, as protesters in Tehran used American, British and Israeli flags as kindling. It is a moment that some here at home fear may metastasize into something far greater and far more dangerous, a war without end.

Now, today, the White House sought to assure the world that this is a response designed to stop exactly that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We have no doubt that the targets chosen or targets that were meant specifically to degrade the Houthi's ability to launch drones, to launch missiles, to store them and other capabilities that they would have, including, for instance, their radar sites, to be able to guide these missiles into targets.

We know people are anxious there about escalation. We are too. And, again, everything we're doing and everything we're trying to do is to prevent any further escalation.


PHILLIP: Earlier, the president himself fielded rapid-fire questions from reporters about this as well.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I've already delivered the message to Iran. They know we're not going to do anything.

REPORTER: Will you continue with the strikes, sir?

BIDEN: We will make sure that we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous, along with our allies.

REPORTER: Are we in a de facto proxy war with Iran?

BIDEN: No. Iran does not want to war with us.

REPORTER: Are you willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group, sir?

BIDEN: I think they are.


PHILLIP: The Biden administration is clear, they do not want a war with Yemen or Iran, for that matter. They do not want a conflict really of any kind. But the question now is, where exactly will he draw the line?

I want to start now tonight with Alex Plitsas. He's worked and served in the Army and in the region. And he's also a board member of the Special Operations Association of America. Alex, always great to have you on. Tonight, is the second round of strikes after what we saw from U.S. forces just yesterday, really a flurry of them, 30 strikes. Now, they've come back around again. What does that tell you?

ALEX PLITSAS, SENIOR NON-RESIDENT FELLOW ATLANTIC COUNCIL: It says a couple things. So, there was a missile launch a little earlier today. So, they clearly didn't get all of the Houthi capabilities they were looking to get in terms of demilitarizing the organization, And so additional strikes were required. So, there was an expectation that Houthis may retaliate again after the initial set of strikes. That did, in fact, happen and now the U.S. has conducted further missions.

PHILLIP: Yes. Let's just take a look at some of the -- this is from last night, just the bombardment over the skies of Yemen. But this is also what the Red Sea has been seeing over the last few days. What's the significance, if any, that tonight's strike, maybe singular, the night is still young though, was carried out just by the United States, not that coalition that they had announced yesterday?

PLITSAS: Well, I think it was a singular target, is what it sounds like. It sounds like it was a radar station by the reports that have come out so far. And so if we kind of take a look at the Red Sea here in terms of the area, right, we see this massive flurry of attacks here. And what that's done is shut down commercial shipping lanes here that then go up through the Suez Canal and then empty into the Mediterranean for shipping.

And so the actions the Houthis have taken have had a significant economic impact as well as attacks against U.S. forces and ships in the region here. So, tonight's strike in the singular one, hopefully, will be limited, but I guess it will depend on what the Houthis continue to do.

PHILLIP: And I want to show now just what's been going on in the streets of Tehran. This is the scene there. What's been the reaction in the region, in particular from the Saudis, a key player in a conflict, recent conflict with the Houthis?


PLITSAS: Now, that's a great point. I mean, so the Saudis and the Iranians had a proxy war in Yemen for quite some time. And as you're seeing here reflected in the streets of Tehran, you'll see protests burning U.S., Israeli and British flags, the U.S. and the British flags, because of the strikes, in Israel, because of the ongoing war in Gaza. And the Houthis are part of the Axis of Resistance, as the Iranian militant groups are called across the region.

So, from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, militias in Iraq and Syria that have attacked U.S. bases in the region, and, finally, the Houthis in Yemen who only control half of the country. And they are looking for legitimacy and they're looking to strike back and earn some respect in the region, for lack of a better term.

PHILLIP: And perhaps this helps give it to them.


PHILLIP: Alex Plitsas, thank you very much, as always.

PLITSAS: Thank you.

PHILLIP: General David Petraeus served as the director of the CIA under President Obama, and he joins me now. General Petraeus, thank you very much for joining me.

What is your takeaway from seeing those images of the strikes last night?

DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTCOM: precision, substantial munitions, and I suspect that some of those targets, the most important ones, there were several aim points on them, because, as you know, there were over 150 precision munitions employed on over 60 different targets.

So, a very substantial package, very substantial damage, and very considerable precision. Reportedly, no civilians killed, five Yemeni soldiers killed.

PHILLIP: And just a short time ago, President Biden said that he has already delivered his message to Iran and that they know not to do anything further. Do you see any evidence here that Iran has been successfully deterred?

PETRAEUS: Well, I don't see Iran taking actions directly. And I think we've seen since the beginning that Iran is very happy to see its various proxies engage. It's happy to fight to the last Houthi, for example, or the last Lebanese Hezbollah fighter or the last Shia militia member in Iraq. But it does not want to take on the U.S. directly. That would be very serious, of course and it would have a vastly greater effect on the global economy, because it could actually reduce the flow of oil and gas from the Gulf. But we see no signs of that so far.

PHILLIP: So, the strike on the Houthis, as some have pointed out, is a new conflict for the United States in a way, unlike other places that it's been engaged in, you know, for years. Lawmakers on the left, and even some on the right, are saying that President Biden should have brought this to Congress beforehand.

We spoke to Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna last night, and this is what he said.


REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I think that this has increased the risk of retaliation against our embassies, retaliation against our troops. And that's why I don't understand how they did not come to Congress. How do they -- the White House, have the time to talk to the Canadians, the British and the Australians, but not to members of Congress, when Article 1 says that Congress needs to have that role?


PHILLIP: You've served in the senior levels of the military and national security infrastructure. Do you believe that that's a valid point, that the White House skipped a step?

PETRAEUS: I have a lot of respect for him, but I disagree with him on this issue. I think he needs to refer to Article 2, which assigns the commander-in-chief responsibilities to the president. And, of course, in that role, he is absolutely authorized and should ensure that self- defense actions are taken out, especially in a case like this. And I'd also note that the big eight of the Congress, the top four, the top two in each of the House and the Senate, and then the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees were notified, which is appropriate.

Now, it will be interesting to see if there's a follow-up action with where powers resolution notification to Congress here in the next 24 or so hours. That's supposed to take place within 48 hours of this kind of action. And I suspect that that will be forthcoming as well. But there's always been a tension between the Article 1 powers assigned to Congress and the Article 2 powers assigned to the president as a commander-in-chief. In this case, I think he's absolutely justified and it was appropriate to do this.

PHILLIP: So, while all of this is happening, the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, is still hospitalized. He's recovering from complications, from a procedure to treat a form of cancer he has been diagnosed with. The president said today that Secretary Austin failing to disclose his cancer diagnosis was a lapse in judgment.


Do you agree with that?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think I do, first of all. But I think Secretary Austin agrees with it as well. He has said as much. He's apologized for it, he's acknowledged his mistake and he's pledged to do better in the future.

PHILLIP: Well, what about the pace of the conflicts that are occurring globally right now? Are you confident that the defense secretary, as he is dealing with these very serious health issues, can keep up with these kinds of demands? My sense is that you understand how difficult it would be as defense secretary. Do you think that that is something that will pose a challenge for him as he continues to deal with his health issues?

PETRAEUS: Well, he's reportedly very much on the mend. I'm pretty certain I know where it. Is that he's actually ensconced in Walter Reed, as I've had a number of procedures in there myself. And you can set up all kinds of communications and a SCIF and everything else to enable him to do just that.

I should note, look, I had prostate cancer when I was the commander of U.S. Central Command, the command that's responsible for this area, the greater Middle East. I obviously told those who were above me that I was going in for surgery and so forth, and we had all the communications set up for the period of time that I was under, if you will. My deputy was in charge.

But depending on how well his recovery goes, I don't see any issue that keeps him from, again, doing his responsibilities, just as if he was on the road, where you set up all of these kinds of communication measures and secure compartment intelligence facilities as well. We definitely have the technology to do that and to enable him to carry out his duties. PHILLIP: And I know that we share the sentiment that we hope that he makes a swift recovery as well as he battles this cancer.

General David Petraeus, author of The Conflict, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

PETRAEUS: Good to be with you, Abby. Thank you.

PHILLIP: Ahead, more on this breaking news, including a fact check for critics who say President Biden broke the law with these strikes.

Plus, there is record-breaking cold in Iowa just days before the first votes. How will this impact turnout? And just in, a surprising revelation about Ron DeSantis' strategy after Iowa.



PHILLIP: And to the campaign trail now, where the candidates would normally be making their frenzied push to lock down any vote that might still be up for grabs in Iowa. But there is no frenzy tonight. Why? Well, the weather, it is brutally, and I mean brutally cold in Iowa. And it might chill who actually ends up coming out to the caucuses?


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The weather is a concern. I'm concerned because I want people to be safe on caucus day. It's going to be negative 28 wind chill. And so what we hope is that they will wear layers, that they will bring their photo I.D. and that they will come out in caucus. We hope they get out. This will be the coldest caucus in history, I think. And so we'll see what happens. But I have faith.


PHILLIP: The coldest caucus in history, indeed.

CNN's Chad Myers is live in the CNN weather Center. So, Chad, what are they expecting over the next couple of days?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I mean, wind chills of-30 all day long, temperatures not getting above zero, even in the heat of the day. Here's where we are right now. 13 degrees below zero is the feels like in Des Moines. I-80, live look from the Iowa Department of Transportation, those trucks have been there a very long time. That is going to be a very cold night. That is just to the west of Iowa City, not moving at all.

Temperatures are falling as we speak. They'll continue to go down because more cold air is being reinforced. It will be a very cold night in Kansas City, a snowy night in Buffalo, and a very cold couple of days here in Iowa. This is the air temperature at voting time (ph), Des Moines, nine below, Sheldon, Okoboji, nine below. The wind coming out of the north at 20 to 30 making it feel between 25 and 40 degrees below zero, Standing there or driving there just to get to these caucus locations, Abby?

PHILLIP: Iowans, they're tough, but these are numbers that I've never seen, I've never experienced, certainly. It's certainly dangerous.

MYERS: Very, very dangerous.

PHILLIP: Chad Myers, thank you very much.

MYERS: You bet.

PHILLIP: And there's some new reporting tonight about Governor Ron DeSantis' plans after those caucuses in Iowa. Instead of going to New Hampshire, usually, the next stop, he'll first go to South Carolina. That state's Republican primary won't take place until February 24th.

Hal Lambert joins me now. He's the founder of investment advisory firm Point Bridge Capital, and he is a Ron DeSantis supporter. Hal, thanks for joining us.

First of all, are you concerned about this weather and the effect that it will have on turnout for Governor DeSantis?

HAL LAMBERT, DESANTIS DONOR: I'll tell you, I'm here in Iowa actually right now. I flew in today, one of the few planes that actually got in, and it is cold, I'll tell you that. But the DeSantis supporters are fired up.

So, Governor DeSantis is going to be doing events tomorrow. Donald Trump has canceled. He's not even coming into the state, but Governor Santos is here and he's going to keep going. So, it will be interesting. I think it's going to be who has the real support out here and whose support is soft, because I think soft support is going to stay home.

PHILLIP: So, tell us about this strategy. The governor is going straight to South Carolina basically after Iowa, a concession that he doesn't have the support in that state. And will this work?

LAMBERT: Oh, no. He's going up to New Hampshire shortly after South Carolina. But he's got huge support in South Carolina. He has over 74 endorsements from current and former state elected officials in South Carolina.


Nikki Haley has 14, by the way, just as a comparison, in her own state. He has currently 19 state legislators, current elected officials that have endorsed him to her 11.

So, he has a lot of support in South Carolina. He's just going to shore that up and then also immediately go up to New Hampshire. So, he'll be back and forth. We're playing the long game and he's going to be going to both South Carolina and New Hampshire for the next several months.

PHILLIP: So, talk to me then about the expectations here for the caucuses just a few days away now. We've got some recent polling, somewhat recent polling, although, day-to,-day this changes, Governor DeSantis, according to this poll here, neck and neck with Nikki Haley for second place, but really very far behind Donald Trump.

What does Governor DeSantis have to do in Iowa in order to have the momentum that he needs to even get to South Carolina?

LAMBERT: Well, I think he needs to come in quite frankly a strong second to have that momentum. I think he could win it here. I mean, I suspect that his support is much stronger and with the weather, I think there's a lot of people that stay at home that are quite frankly not that interested necessarily in some of the other candidates and they're willing to say something on a phone call, but they're not necessarily going to be willing to go caucus at, you know, negative ten degrees.

So again, we're going to find out who has the strong support and who has the soft support. And, again, I think a strong second, that will propel him straight into New Hampshire, where I suspect he'll move past Nikki Haley at that point in New Hampshire. So, that's where we're expecting to be at least a strong second and I think he'll win it actually.

PHILLIP: So, if that doesn't happen then, do you think his campaign survives?

LAMBERT: Well, certainly, if he comes in, let's say, third, is I think what you're saying, or a distant second, and Trump's safe, over 50 percent, I think that's going to be hard on everybody. I think if Trump comes in over 50 percent tomorrow or Monday here in Iowa, that's going to probably lead to him winning New Hampshire as well, and I think it becomes very difficult for everyone.

So, to answer your question, yes, I think if Trump comes in over 50, that will be a negative for everybody except for Trump. And, again, I don't see that happening. But if that does happen, I suspect everyone will go on and go to New Hampshire. But then if that same thing happens in New Hampshire, I think it will be difficult for everybody to continue after that.

PHILLIP: And how I get the sense you're a realist. Real quick, I mean, if that scenario you just laid out happens and Donald Trump is still on top after New Hampshire, would you ever consider going back to supporting him? You once were a supporter and then you switched to DeSantis, or are you looking for someone else?

LAMBERT: Well, there's not going to be anybody else that can jump in at this point. So, no, I mean, if Trump's the nominee of the party, I'll support Trump as the nominee of the party. I can't fathom having another four years of Joe Biden in the White House. So, I think that's going to be the case, that people will ultimately, reluctantly move towards if you were not supporting Trump already. But, you know, again, I've always said from the beginning, when I just started supporting DeSantis early on, I think it's going to be tough for Trump to win the general election, and I still believe that. But I would support him absolutely if he's the nominee.

PHILLIP: Hal Lambert, thank you for your time tonight.

LAMBERT: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, Brian Stelter joins me on DeSantis saying the Fox and right wing media are protecting Trump to juice their ratings.

Plus, the 21 policy questions that the former president has avoided answering so far in his campaign.



PHILLIP: Tonight, I've got 21 questions, all of them, about policy. They're questions that Donald Trump hasn't answered, questions that voters in Iowa might just want to know three days before they caucus, questions the former president has evaded in town halls on those friendly networks, questions Trump won't fill in the blanks on in interviews, questions we have little clarity on, partly because Trump has dodged debates.

Number one, how exactly does Trump plan to repeal Obamacare? Number two, what exactly does Trump intend to replace it with? Number three, will he allow the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies? Number four, how many American tax dollars will it take to pay for that border wall? Number five, will Trump attack Mexico if they don't do his bidding at the border? Number six, Trump says he wants to get abortion right, but does that equal a federal ban, and at how many weeks? He won't say. Number seven, will Trump turn off the tap on American dollars flowing to Ukraine, and how quickly? Number eight, what does a fair deal that will end the Ukraine war in 24 hours even look like? Number nine, will Trump really pull out of NATO? Number ten, what about a strike on Iran? Number 11, will he send American men and women to defend Taiwan if China invades? Number 12, will Trump take money from foreign governments, just as he did during his first four years in office? Number 13, does Trump favor expelling Palestinians from Gaza? Number 14, does he intend to shrink the national debt? 15, will Trump reduce the tax burden for American middle class families? Number 16, will he push the Federal Reserve to drop interest rates? 17, is there any Trump plan at all to combat climate change? Number 18, does Donald Trump stop at deporting migrants or does he intend to build internment camps? Number 19, will the former president follow through on a promise of retribution and prosecute the current president? Number 20, just how deep will Trump trim the federal workforce? How many jobs exactly will he eliminate? And number 21, will he pardon himself if he's re-elected after being convicted of federal crimes.


Love it or hate it, right now, Trump is on top of the GOP race and he's gotten there largely without going beyond this 50,000-foot overview of how he would govern.

So, who should Republican voters hold accountable for the missing answers, the non -answers to have sentences from the front-runner to every issue that we just listed? Well, Ron DeSantis thinks that he knows.


RON DESANTIS, REPBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's got basically a Praetorian guard of the conservative media -- Fox News, you know, the websites all these stuff. They just don't hold them accountable because they're worried about losing viewers and they don't want to have the ratings go down. And that's just -- that's just the reality, that's just the truth and I'm not complaining about it. I'd rather that not be the case but that's just, I think, an objective reality.


PHILLIP: Joining me now, Special Correspondent for "Vanity Fair" Brian Stelter. He's also the author of "Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump and the Battle for American Democracy." So, Brian, he's not wrong. I guess maybe the surprise is that he said it.

BRIAN STELTER, AUTHOR, "NETWORK OF LIES": Yes, he is right and it's nice to hear a Republican governor say it. Media reporters like yours truly have been saying this for years. You've been playing this out for years. And clearly, the incentive structure of right-wing media is warped and it causes these strange outcomes.

But it is strange, especially to hear DeSantis say it, because he was the chosen one of Fox News and the right-wing media. DeSantis, for basically two years, was the beneficiary of this coverage. It's not news coverage, but looks like news coverage of this commentary that was supporting him.

He was the great white hope for 2022 and 2023 until Fox and others decided he just didn't have the mojo anymore. So, there's something ironic and cynical about what he's saying, even though he's right to be pointing to these flawed incentive structures.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, there's just a little sour grapes there. And by the way, I don't think he can really get away with blaming just Fox News. I mean, he gave Trump a pass for quite a few things.

STELTER: Yes, he did.

PHILLIP: But speaking of Fox, Mike Lindell. My Pillow Guy, his ads won't appear on Fox anymore. So, Lindell says he's being canceled by Fox. Fox says he won't pay his bills.

STELTER: Correct. PHILLIP: So, what does that signal about Fox News? I mean, this is not

necessarily a principled stance against Lindell's continual lies about the last election.

STELTER: Right, and in this case, Fox is right. He's refusing to pay his bills. He hasn't paid up for several months, and that's because there are many indications that the MyPillow guy is broke, that he is completely out of money. He's facing these lawsuits from Dominion and Smartmatic and others, and even before those go to trial, he's not able to pay his bills.

So, Fox is saying, look, we're happy to run your ads the moment you pay your bills, but right now you're not willing to pay. He's trying to make it into a cancel culture moment. And this speaks to the tension more broadly, I think, within the fringe far-right media. If you're out there promoting Trump's lies and then you get sued for it.

People are trying to bankrupt you for it. They're trying to punish you for your sins, Then who's going to help Trump next time? Who's going to be out there lying for him next time? And that gets to what DeSantis is saying about the incentive structures.

There's an amazing email, you mentioned my book, "Network of Lies", there's an amazing email from the Dominion documents that nobody noticed, from the head of Fox's News Media, Suzanne Scott, where she says, yeah, we should go out there, we should probably go on the air and say, Biden's President, let's all move on in January of 2021.

But quote, "We need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers." That's what they were worried about, that's why DeSantis is right about this.

PHILLIP: What did you make of that town hall that they did with Trump just a couple days ago, done by two of their anchors who I think they like to position more of a news space.


PHILLIP: But it was criticized as still being softball. In some ways, that is what DeSantis is referring to because it happened at the very same time that he was sort of in a Mortal Kombat moment with Nikki Haley on CNN.

STELTER: Yes, a hundred percent. And that town hall is exactly what we are seeing from the Republican Party writ large. They are looking past his lies and excuses. They are now making excuses. And that's what Fox was doing. Trump was out there with full of falsehoods.

There was no fact-checking. There was no follow-up the way you see on CNN or other networks. There was just a capitulation. And we're seeing that, of course, across the GOP. That's what this weekend and the next few days is going to be all about. Tonight, Mike Lee -- Senator Mike Lee coming out endorsing Trump.

A person who wanted Trump thrown off in 2016. So, we're seeing it across the landscape because it seems Abby, that Trump is not a candidate. He's a religion, right? He's a cult-like figure, and I think we have to, you know, be able to view that it that way and be honest about the situation and the GOP.

PHILLIP: There's a certain inevitability that it feels like even Republicans have about Trump and his candidacy.


PHILLIP: We heard from a DeSantis supporter, he's ready to jump back on the Trump train if DeSantis doesn't go the distance.


PHILLIP: One final thing, I mean, today a judge ruled that Trump now has to pay "The New York Times" $400,000 for filing basically a frivolous lawsuit against the newspaper.

STELTER: Yes, yes.

PHILLIP: It's such an interesting window into the Trump strategy, which has for decades been extremely litigious, but especially against news organizations.


But is it a slap on the wrist, or is it a serious sanction, you think?

STELTER: It's important because it all adds up over time. Look, I remember when I was at CNN, he sued CNN, this case was thrown out. All these cases get thrown out, right? Trump usually loses, but he wants the headline. He wins the headline and then he loses later, by the time the law catches up, it's almost too late.

But I think the next week is actually the big deciding -- the big moment where people are going to catch up to this story. You mentioned DeSantis voters are going to fall behind Trump. That's true, but I think there's a lot of people that have not tuned in yet.

I was talking to someone I trust this morning who said, is Biden really running for re-election? This is someone I really trust in my life, and I'm thinking, you know, it's time to tune in. It's time to see what's about to happen. I think people are in denial about what's about to happen in Iowa with Trump on Monday. We won't be able to anymore.

PHILLIP: Yeah, and very interesting CNN reporting saying that the Biden campaign is seeing exactly that in their data --


PHILLIP: -- that voters don't believe that Trump might be the nominee, but we'll soon --

STELTER: I think it's real. I think it's real, but not for much longer.

PHILLIP: We will soon find out. Brian Stelter, great to see you.

STELTER: Thank you.

PHILLIP: Thank you for joining us.

STELTER: Thanks.

PHILLIP: And next, President Biden's Democratic challenger says that he's being blackballed by the President's campaign. Dean Phillips joins me next. Plus, more on the breaking news -- the U.S. striking Iran-backed rebels tonight for a second time. What the White House can and can't do on its own.




PHILLIP: President Biden's Democratic challenger says that he is being blackballed. Dean Phillips is accusing the Biden campaign of pressuring networks to block him from appearing on their air. When CNN reached out for a response to the accusations, the Biden campaign spokesperson simply replied, quote, "LOL."

Congressman Dean Phillips joins me now. Congressman Phillips, thank you for joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire. We appreciate it.

REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): My pleasure, Abby. Good to be with you.

PHILLIP: So, this allegation that the Biden campaign is blackballing you from some networks, why do you say that?

PHILLIPS: Well, look, Abby, we know how the game works. You know, when you're in the incumbent, especially right now, not debating, not showing up in campaigning, not answering questions of the press. And of course, it's an age-old tradition to try to de-platform any competition, and that's exactly what's happening.

And I think we all know that to be the case and not having one invitation from MSNBC since I declared my candidacy, despite being a member of Congress and despite being the Ranking Member of the Middle East Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs while there's a war in the Middle East, we know how the game works.

And that's how the media environment is and it is what it is and I'll find my way onto platforms. But I think it's true. And when the response from the Biden campaign is LOL, well, I think it goes both ways.

PHILLIP: So, are you saying that the Biden campaign is directly asking or communicating with the networks to prevent you from showing up on their air?

PHILLIPS: Oh, I know as a fact, the Biden campaign is asking donors not to meet with me or attend my events or give me platform. Absolutely. I know that.

PHILLIP: But the media is what I'm wondering about.

PHILLIPS: But Abby, let me talk about your network. CNN has given a full hour town hall to Ramaswamy, to Christie, to Haley, to Pence -- all polling in single digits, most of them at least, none of them at 26 percent in any state as I am in New Hampshire right now, other than Nikki Haley, and there hasn't been a single town hall for a Democratic candidate, including me. And I find that to be a little strange, and I think it's worthy of some coverage, at least a one-hour town hall.

So, yeah, that's part of the environment right now. "NewsNation" has been extraordinarily generous, including the first Democratic debate today, the one that the DNC did not want shown. So, that's just how it works.

PHILLIP: Well, we appreciate you joining us tonight and we've had you on the show in the past. Look, you hosted an event this week where zero voters showed up to see you. We're showing an image of it here.

Couldn't it also be fair to say, and some critics are saying this, that you're not getting the same media attention as other candidates because you're not meeting the requirements that they may have in place, such as polling or fundraising?

PHILLIPS: Well, Abby, you know, look, you're a professional. And I would have hoped you did a little research on the photo that you're probably showing right now, which is a me sitting at my coffee truck. That was an event, the college convention, hundreds of delegates inside that truck shot where I was sitting in my coffee truck was right in front of the hotel. And we thought buses of the students were coming and we were offering coffee. They were all inside because they parked in the parking ramp.

So, that was not an event. It wasn't where we thought voters were going to show up. We knew there were no voters, but reporters who follow us around, especially young reporters, it's all focusing on the clickbait because if you don't have a headline that grabs some attention, you know how it works, Abby. That wasn't a campaign event and it went viral with about five million views and there are a lot of Americans that think, poor Dean sitting in his coffee truck all alone with no voters. We -- that's not the -- that wasn't the truth, Abby.

So, that's what's going on right now and I wish reporters and journalists were doing their real work instead of looking for clickbait and that's the environment in which we live. And by the way, like I said, the last poll I hope you saw shows me at 26 percent and Joe Biden in the 50s.

The incumbent President of the United States and the first in the nation primary in the 50s. I think that's newsworthy and being at 26 percent in just 10 weeks, not having a big name around the country, I think that's not so bad. I think we're going to surprise, but that's where we're at.

PHILLIP: I want to ask you about the ballot access because tonight, a federal judge just rejected a bid that would have placed you on Florida's primary ballot. What's your reaction to that decision?

PHILLIPS: Well, first of all, I'm not an attorney. And the report I read that you probably did as well indicates that the federal -- I think that a judge actually filed that suit himself and he intends to take it to the Supreme Court.


But I got to tell you, what really saddens me, Abby, is that the Democratic Party that I have been a part of and supported and enabled and I'm proud of, literally is keeping us off ballots and in the state of New Hampshire, where I am right now, Abby.

The New Hampshire Secretary of State or the Department of Justice had to send a letter to the Democratic National Committee, a cease and desist for the unlawful suppression of voters. And I haven't seen much coverage on that, but that's what's happening right now.

And Democrats should not be taking people off ballots, suppressing voters, suppressing candidates and not even asking the President of the United States to do one debate. So, I don't know what's going on with the hypocrisy of democracy.

But it's real. And I do believe, Abby, deserves some coverage. And I'm not criticizing you. I'm certainly criticizing other in the media outlets that are literally stonewalling the dissemination of information. Instead, doing clickbait stories about which people really have no interest. And it's kind of saddens me that we live in that era, but that's where we're at.

PHILLIP: I want to turn to the tensions growing in the Middle East before I let you go. You are a member, as you mentioned, of the Foreign Affairs Committee. What do you make of the Biden administration's decision to carry out additional strikes on a second day against the Iran-backed Houthis? Is President Biden doing the right thing here?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I respect the President's decision. We appropriately warned the Houthis. By the way, I hope most Americans know, the Houthis are an Iranian proxy group, one of their hedges, including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis in Yemen. They've been provoking us for a long time. We've issued warnings to them.

And I think it was very appropriate that the President of the United States initiated action. The entire world has lost a lot of respect for the United States. They don't think we mean business. They don't think that we will actually meet force with force.

And I think it was important that we send a message because Iran is destabilizing the Middle East and the entire world, and the Houthis are simply their proxy. So, the answer is yes, I do support the administration. And I think that was a job well done.

And sadly, I don't think we've seen the end of this yet, and it's going to be very, very delicate to ensure that this conflict does not spin out of control, which is what I think Iran wants. PHILLIP: You said the world has lost confidence that the American --

that America means what it says. Do you blame President Biden for that?

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, we drew the red line in Syria, I believe, when he was Vice President. We allowed Vladimir Putin to just walk into Crimea and take it when he was Vice President. The Afghanistan withdrawal was an unmitigated debacle that lost a lot of credibility for our allies around the world and certainly Afghans who supported our effort.

Yes, we have lost a lot of esteem, -- the United States of America, and that's why I think it's time for new leadership. It's time to pass the torch. Joe Biden and Donald Trump are leaders of the past that the country wants to turn the page from. And that is my contention. That's what's the data showing.

I think a Nikki Haley-Dean-Phillips matchup this November is exactly what the country needs and looks forward to. And frankly, that's what I'm pulling for, because at least if Nikki Haley is a GOP nominee, I don't think democracy is at risk. If Donald Trump is, we are surely at risk.

And Donald Trump is going to beat Joe Biden, Abby. We all know that. There's a democratic delusion going on right now that somehow there will be some magical recovery. He's losing nationally. He's losing in every battleground state. His approval numbers are in the low 30s, historically low and there is no recovery from this.

And instead of inspiring a competition with a number of next generation Democrats, for some reason, a handful of people at the Democratic Party believe that a coronation of an 81-year-old man, a good man, who's going to lose to Donald Trump is in the best interest of the country? We all know that's wrong. I'm saying the quiet part out loud, and I will continue to do it because there is no other option.

PHILLIP: Congressman Dean Phillips, thank you. You're welcome on the show anytime.

PHILLIPS: Abby, I appreciate the invitation and I appreciate your professionalism. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And next, speaking of those strikes, we have a reality check for you on claims that President Biden broke the law when he attacked those militia -- militias.




PHILLIP: Big question tonight. Did President Biden break the law when he struck these targets? Here's the context. Some progressive Democrats and libertarian Republicans, they are livid that Biden did this without congressional approval. They call it illegal, violating Article one of the Constitution. The problem is they apparently aren't aware of Article two or the War Powers Act of 1973.

Now, Article two gives the President the power to take action without the approval for defense purposes. Now, while the War Powers Act says that he might -- must give Congress 48 hours notice -- so, which Biden did, it also limits the length of the operation to just a couple of months. So far, this was not longer than that and the power is something that Biden has pretty consistently talked about throughout his career.


UNKNOWN: The President has the authority under the proper circumstances, under the existing treaties.

UNKNOWN: There's a suggestion now that Iran may be involved in the bombing of the U.S. service barracks in Dehran. An act of war.

UNKNOWN: It's an act of war.

UNKNOWN: And so the United States does what?

UNKNOWN: It could take whatever action it deems appropriate.


UNKNOWN: Until authority is granted, the President has no inherent power to send forces to war, except, as I said, in certain very limited circumstances, such as to repel sudden attacks.


PHILLIP: Now, despite this, you've probably seen an old tweet floating around from 2020, when Biden reminded Trump of the limits on his military power. The Trump administration had just taken out an Iranian commander, prompting bipartisan backlash.

Now, despite the rebuke, Trump himself made sure to clarify what he was legally covered to do.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.


PHILLIP: But despite his attempts to reassure, Congress passed a new resolution limiting a President's powers when it comes to Iran. Trump would go on to veto that. We'll be back in a moment.