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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

CNN Reports, Trump's PACs Used $50 Million In Donor Money On Legal Fees; Senate GOP Debates Whether To Ditch Border Deal; Biden Says He's Decided How To Respond To Drone Attack; Justice Department Investigates Congresswoman Cori Bush For Misuse Of Funds; A Judge Throws Out Elon Musk's Massive Tesla Pay Package. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 30, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Lin-Manuel Miranda called her the trailblazer for Puerto Rico on Broadway, and that she was when she created the role of Anita in West Side Story, a role that was later played by another legend, Rita Moreno, in the movie.

She was the scheming Velma in the original production of Chicago, a role that later won Catherine Zeta-Jones and Oscar, I should note. Tonight, Jones is calling to dim the lights on Broadway in her honor, and we agree.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Do Trump donors know what they're buying? That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in New York. And tonight, we'll start the show with a number, $50 million. Now, that is a lot of money. And it would pay for a lot of campaign commercials or online advertising or staffers going door to door asking for votes, or if you're Donald Trump, it pays for legal fees, lots of legal fees. Sources tell CNN that $50 million is how much the PACs supporting Trump have raised and then donated to the cause of keeping Trump out of jail.

Now, mind you, this is all legal, but a spokesman for one of those PACs insists tonight to The New York Times that every dollar being raised by MAGA Inc. is going directly to defeating Joe Biden in November. But at least some of those dollars and cents are, as of this moment, being siphoned off for courtroom costs. It's part of the bargain if your preferred presidential candidates faced indictments and trials of all sorts.

Now, right now, at any moment, a judge in New York is expected to reveal just how Trump will be punished for committing fraud. Will his empire in Gotham be completely shut down?

And, second, speaking of his businesses, will he be forced to pay nearly $400 million in that case, and nearly 90 million more for the E. Jean Carroll defamation verdict just this week? Now, third, we're awaiting an appeals court decision on Trump's argument that presidents deserve absolute immunity. Is he above the law?

Fourth, will Fani Willis be the one to prosecute Trump in Georgia? She herself is under investigation for an alleged affair with one of her prosecutors.

And, finally, the Supreme Court justices are weighing whether Trump can be kicked off the ballot all together over the 14th Amendment.

And tonight, there's a group of former Republican governors who are bucking the trend of their party. They are arguing before the Supreme Court that Trump is, in fact, disqualified.

Former Montana Governor Marc Racicot joins me now. Mr. Racicot, thank you so much for being here and for joining us tonight.

Let's start with your reaction to what we were just laying out. Trump's PACs, we're now learning, using $50 million in donor funds to not pay for his actual campaign, but to pay for all of these legal bills. What do you make of that?

FMR. GOV. MARC RACICOT (R-MT): Well, it's a mess. And, obviously, I wonder about the contributors who pour in all of these contributions in small dosages over the course of time are aware of the fact that it's going to provide a defense to all of these different actions, paying lawyers and expert witnesses, and not going into efforts to try and make certain you communicate with the public and the people that you want to serve. So, it's unfortunate, sad, and, in some respects, I think it's disgraceful.

PHILLIP: How does this play, do you think, with Trump's base?

RACICOT: Well, it depends on how many of them really stop to think about. You know, we've all been astonished, I think, over the course of the last several years, about how it is that he gets away with what he gets away with.

In the times that I have been involved in politics prior to the last eight years or so, there was a code of conduct, and focus upon the moral basis upon which you grounded your campaign. And there were certain rules of etiquette, and we tried to observe civility being provided to one another at this moment in time.

Of course, he has lanced all those bubbles, and pretty much they have dissipated because of his behavior and his actions and his verbiage over the course of time has been cruel and insensitive, and at the end of the day has made us a coarser society.

So, that's what I think has happened, and I think we've got to regain the kind of values that are infused into the Constitution.

PHILLIP: Meanwhile, Governor, you are also a former RNC chairman.

[22:05:00] The person that's currently in that role is Ronna McDaniel, and she's faced some backlash when, last week, after just two primary and caucus contests, she came out and said Nikki Haley should just drop out of the primary race. She called on your party to coalesce around Donald Trump. What do you make of her doing that in her role as RNC chairwoman?

RACICOT: Totally inappropriate, in my judgment. You're a neutral and detached magistrate when you're serving as RNC chair. You don't favor any of the candidates that are running in your party. It's a rule that obviously is not a part of the formal rules of the party. It shouldn't have to be. It's recognized as a measurement of loyalty to the process and to your party, all of those who are involved in your party, not a selected few. Another distortion, frankly, demanded and expected by the main candidate who's running for president, Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: I want to talk about this legal brief that you and a group of other former Republican governors have signed onto. You're saying to the Supreme Court that Trump is, in fact, disqualified from running for office under the 14th Amendment. What makes you so concerned about a second Trump term?

RACICOT: Well, I'm not so concerned. There are all kinds of potential disasters that I can foresee. And they're planetary, in some respects, how we behave in foreign affairs and what we do here at home, how we treat them, those who are the lowliest among us and those who are the most disenfranchised, all of these different topics that Trump, over the course of time, has provided a sense of disregard to and an inability to address on behalf of the nation. Those are all issues.

What I'm really terribly concerned about is the violation of the Constitution here and the inclination to try to gloss over it. The fact of the matter is you don't have a right to be a candidate in America. You have a right to vote in America, but you don't have a right to be a candidate. And to be a candidate, you have to meet certain qualifications that are set out by the Constitution. They focused upon birth, age, residence.

And the 14th Amendment, Section 3, says you cannot have been an office holder, under oath, (INAUDIBLE) with the Constitution, and then, thereafter, engaged in an insurrection against the Constitution, without being disqualified from ever being able to run again.

PHILLIP: We're having some technical difficulties with the Governor here. That was former Governor Mark Racicot of Montana. We'll have to finish this conversation with him again another time.

Governor, I think you're back here for a second, but thank you for joining us tonight.

And tonight, so goddamn dysfunctional, that is an exact quote, and it's what one senator is calling Washington, D.C. It is an indictment of the people who work there, and their inability to get bipartisan things done, specifically a border bill anywhere near the finish line.

And Democrat Senator Jon Tester, he's not the only one who thinks that. John Thune, he's the number two in the Senate, and he told reporters tonight, quote, people are just waiting. They're sitting on their hands until language for a bill is finalized.

Now, there's a debate among Senate leaders about just scrapping the border bill all together. That plan would be to shelve the border bill and just move ahead with a separate bill that includes money for Ukraine and Israel.

So, what's the takeaway in all of this? Well, doing things in Washington isn't something that people there are great at. And blaming people for not doing things is something that they are. Lawmakers can teach a master class in that. Just listen to Republicans.


SEN. BILL HAGERTY (R-TN): The Biden administration was in the Supreme Court just last week seeking permission to take down the razor wire at our southern border that Greg Abbott put up. That is not good faith.

REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): Why would we do anything to try to help improve that dismal number with a border bill being drafted in the Senate that isn't really serious about border security?

We don't have to do a damn thing.


PHILLIP: There's no mention there, of course, of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who wants to use the border as an election year cudgel against the incumbent president, or Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker, who wants to keep Donald Trump happy by killing any bill that comes out of the Senate.

But there are some Republicans who are still interested in legislating, believe it or not, what your tax dollars pay them to do, and they're not okay with this plan.


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Swing borders in swing states for whom the borders in the number one priority have every right to look at us and go, you blew your opportunity. We were ready to give you a shot and you blew it.


PHILLIP: Now, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford is one of the Republicans leading these bipartisan border talks, but now he's finding himself in some hot water for working across the aisle with Democrats on immigration reform that hasn't been accomplished in this town in decades.


So, some Republicans in his home state are supporting a resolution now that would actually condemn and censure him for that. For more, I want to bring in Nathan Dahm. He's the chairman of the Oklahoma GOP. Nathan, thanks for joining us.

You weren't present, it was my understanding, at this meeting that was discussing a resolution against Lankford. But what do you say to your fellow members of the Oklahoma GOP who do want to censure Senator Lankford for engaging in these bipartisan immigration talks?

NATHAN DAHM, CHAIRMAN, OKGOP: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for having me on. Actually, I was reminiscing that on Saturday was a decade since my first appearance on CNN with Pierce Morgan when he had his show before it failed. And so glad to have you back. I'm glad that you're having me back on with you all.

But with what took place on Saturday, it shows that, yes, there are Republicans that are disgruntled with the border policy, with the Biden border policy. And people are very frustrated and very upset and concerned about it. It was not an official OKGOP action, but people are very frustrated and upset.

Regarding what Senator Lankford is working on, we haven't seen any final language. We don't know exactly what he's working on. So, I would say that it's presumptive to go ahead and condemn someone who is trying to find a solution.

Personally, I would say 5,000 people crossing the border is too many. I would say zero people should be allowed to be crossing our border. We should secure our border. I'm of the aside that if we can't shut down the border, we should shut down the government. But this will have conversations at least taking place.

And so, yes, there are people that are very disgruntled. But Senator Lankford is trying to at least stop the hemorrhaging that has been created by this Biden border policy, where they are allowing thousands of people to invade our country every single day.

PHILLIP: How is it productive then, I mean, to your point, to punish someone, or at least symbolically punish them for simply trying to solve the problem? Maybe you don't agree with everything that they're doing. But, clearly, not just in the Oklahoma GOP, but broadly in your party, there are many who don't even want those conversations to happen.

DAHM: Well, and to your point, to try to punish someone preemptively before they've actually done anything, you don't know what it is. I haven't heard what the actual end result is of what they want to accomplish through this censorship. If they just want Senator Lankford to not negotiate at all, if they want to shut down the government, we haven't heard any specifics on what they want other than they're upset.

And so, yes, people are getting very upset, and we're seeing more and more that as the Biden regime pushes these ridiculous policies as they work against the Constitution, as they keep our borders open, people are going to get more and more upset, understandably so. And so I'm not going to condemn Senator Lankford for trying to come up with some sort of a solution to stop this hemorrhaging of letting so many people invade our country until we actually know what the deal looks like.

PHILLIP: You know who is weighing in without having seen any details? It's Donald Trump. And he's called it a disaster, and he said it's horrific. We're also learning that Senate Republican leaders are debating whether to just not deal with it at all. The reporting is that that is because Trump wants to run on this issue.

Is that something that you're comfortable with, just not dealing with a problem so that it can be used for political purposes?

DAHM: Well, first of all, I appreciate that you at least admit that the reporting is that I don't know that the President Trump has actually said that himself. And for months, if not years, the reporting has been that there is no border crisis because we see those not just in the media --

PHILLIP: Trump has basically said that, though, just to just to point out. I mean, Trump has said that, that he does not want this bill to go forward, because this is something that he thinks will make Republicans look bad politically.

DAHM: Well, he also did work to secure our border. He did work to build the wall. He did work to do all these things. And on day one, Biden came in and he undid all those things. He issued executive orders. He ended stay in Mexico, all the things that were working. This is Biden's faults, absolutely.

PHILLIP: But why can't Republicans do something about it? Isn't this the question I'm asking? Why would you take the position of don't do anything at all versus --

DAHM: Because Republicans don't have control of the Senate. They don't have control of the White House. They can try to negotiate something, which is what Senator Lankford is doing, but right now, we have a slim majority in the House, we don't have control of the Senate, and we don't have control of the White House.


PHILLIP: So, you disagree with Trump then? So, you disagree with Trump then that nothing --

DAHM: They have the White House and they have the Senate, and they have not secured the border.

PHILLIP: Do you just do you agree or disagree then with the position of not doing anything at all? I think that's Trump's position, don't do anything at all. Do you agree with that, or do you think that that's misguided?

DAHM: I think Joe Biden should do his job as president of the United States, and he should uphold his oath to the Constitution, which says that they are to guarantee every state in the union, not only a Republican form of government, but they are to protect us from invasion.

And instead of doing that, Joe Biden has left the border wide open and is doing the exact opposite of that, encouraging invasion of the states. And when the states like Texas are trying to defend it, Joe Biden is working against them, literally suing them, trying to open the borders to allow these hordes of people to continue to flow into our country.

PHILLIP: Well, look, the Supreme Court has ruled about the razor wire. Texas, I think, is subject to the same laws as everybody else. They have to abide by the Supreme Court.

But I think the broader point is that on Capitol Hill, they understand that it is the role of Congress to legislate around the border. Like that is their job. So, for them to say they're not going to do anything, I think, is not really -- that's not really how this works.

But, Nathan Dahm, thank you so much --

DAHM: And it's the job of the president to execute the laws of the --

PHILLIP: Exactly. It is the job of the president to execute the laws. It is the job of the Congress to make them. Thank you very much for joining us.

DAHM: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, President Biden says that tonight he has already decided how he's going to respond to the deaths of three American troops. It's one of the most volatile times in the region in more than half a century.

Plus, why a judge just rejected Tesla's massive payout for Elon Musk.

And how one Republican is reacting to the investigation of his black Democratic colleague tonight.


NEHLS: But the idea to pay her thug money to try to help protect her, for what? Maybe if she wouldn't be so loud all the time, maybe she wouldn't be getting threats.




PHILLIP: Is the United States living through a year that will live in infamy? Well, tonight the world is waiting to see what President Biden will do and what American military officials might accomplish with this promise.


REPORTER: Have you made a decision how you'll respond to the attack?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. I don't think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That's not what I'm looking for.


PHILLIP: Now, Biden is admitting there that he does need to thread that needle. However, he decides to pay back Iran after Tehran's proxies murdered three American service members, but that is not going to be an easy task. Just ask his Secretary of State Tony Blinken.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is an incredibly volatile time in the Middle East. I would argue that we have not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we're facing now across the region since at least 1973, and arguably even before that.


PHILLIP: A danger unrivaled in at least half a century, a half century that featured three American wars fought in the Middle East. And so if the past is a powder keg, here's a reminder of what that anxiety of 1973 felt like for a world living on the edge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an all about war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know why you are attached so much importance to this involved (ph) going to the United States, really. Why should you care about that? You are not short of wine (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A band of five Palestinian guerrillas who began their murderous rampage at Rome's airport yesterday finally surrendered in Kuwait.

32 known dead, 11 of whom were known to be Americans.


PHILLIP: And joining me now is veteran correspondent, author and award-winning documentarian, Sebastian Junger. Sebastian, thanks for being here with us.

How does President Biden thread this line here, right? I mean, he's so concerned about this expanding into a broader war. This is a president who really wanted to get the country out of Afghanistan, and now this is at his doorstep.

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR: I don't envy him. So, he's got to do four things simultaneously. It's like he's got to get four tumblers on a lock lined up so he can open the lock. He's got to get the tactical level right, right? If he's going to kill someone with a missile, it's got to be the right person. He can't violate international law. So, he can't kill them and kill a bunch of civilians.

He also has to win at the strategic level, meaning this tactical succeeds, but he doesn't enter a wider regional war.

And finally, he's running for president again, right? He's running for re-election. So, if he gets us into a regional war, then he stands to be charged of that. But if his response is too weak, he's also liable for that in the election.

So, I don't know quite how you do all that, but I think that's what he has to juggle.

PHILLIP: Is it clear to you that the next move has to be aimed directly at Iran in some way?

JUNGER: I mean, I don't know what their intelligence is. Of course, the proxies were the ones that, you know, at the tactical level, committed the act. If he wants to follow that back to Iran, I mean, ultimately, that's where the responsibility is, I believe, I haven't seen the intelligence, but it depends what kind of message they want to send.

The bigger the message, the more the likelihood of a regional war, and then the greater danger in the election. So, all of these things go up and down related to each other.

PHILLIP: And we haven't even talked about the Gaza, of it all. And many people say that that is at the heart of this, how Netanyahu, a completely separate government, is carrying out its war in Gaza.


Does President Biden, in your view, have options here to address that part of the equation?

JUNGER: Well, I think what he doesn't want to look like is doing what some people accuse Israel of doing, which is mass bombing of civilians. Like he doesn't -- I'm guessing he doesn't want to look like he's doing that.

I'm going to borrow another man's brilliance, Peter Bergen. He had an amazing piece on the CNN website today about what the solution might be. And, basically, what Peter says is we have to use our leverage to get a ceasefire deal in place so that Israel can get their hostages back and then we use our leverage for a two-state solution and then we can be done with this nonsense. And I think actually that that -- in the long-term, I think that is actually a really, really smart strategy.

PHILLIP: Yes, it seems like that is at the heart of the matter.

I want to talk about a piece that you wrote recently. It's called When Journalism Dies. It's a really interesting piece. It just looks really broadly at where we are in the world in terms of confidence in the practice of journalism. This isn't naval gazing, you and I as journalists, but it's about democracy and about governments. But I wonder when you think about Gaza and the challenges as a war correspondent of covering a conflict like that. Do you worry that the limited access that international journalists have in Gaza is changing people's understanding of the war, maybe hampering their ability to fully understand what's going on there?

JUNGER: Well, access is always an issue in all wars. And so the piece is in National Review. And the full title, the subtitle, is when journalism dies, the truth dies with it.

And what I would say just broadly about journalism in war zones and domestically is you need to have an objective press corps. And it can't be a press corps that everyone accuses of bias, right? I mean, if there were no referees, there would be no football, no basketball, no baseball. The idea that there's an independent referee judging things, they might have their own opinion, but they don't apply that to the outcome. That is crucial to the press.

And the idea -- I find it very hypocritical that people accuse the press of bias, but the news consumers themselves are enormously biased, right? So, when people in the different political camps reject information because it's disfavorable to their candidates, you can't then accuse the press of bias, right, because the consumers themselves are thinking like that.

So, the nation will not survive without reality, right? Journalism is about reality. And I feel like that's a core issue for any free society.

PHILLIP: Yes, it certainly is. Sebastian Junger, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

JUNGER: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, a member of The Squad is defending herself against the possibility that she misused funds. And one of her Republican colleagues is using some choice language to describe her.

Plus, tonight, Elon Musk's massive pay package is shot down by a judge. I'll be speaking with Kara Swisher about the details of that ruling ahead.



PHILIP: Tonight, the Justice Department is investigating a member of the so-called squad who's in Congress, and one of her Republican colleagues is using some choice words to respond. Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush is now denying allegations that she misused funds for security services.

CORI BUSH (D) MISSOURI: As a rank and file member of Congress, I am not entitled to personal protection by the House, and instead have used campaign funds as permissible to retain security services. I have not used any federal tax dollars for personal security services.

In accordance with all applicable rules, I retained my husband as part of my security team to provide security services because he has had extensive experience in this area.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Republican Strategist Joe Pinion and CNN Political Commentator Jamal Simmons, who's the former Deputy Assistant to President Biden. Jamal, Cori Bush says that she hired her husband's company because he could provide those services cheaper, but she has to know that at the very least looks bad. What do you make of these allegations? And by the way, a real federal investigation into this.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think clearly the Ethics Committee has looked into this. So, it doesn't appear that she violated any rules. I just wished all these public officials would stop hiring family members. It just seems like --

PHILLIP: Yeah, it's really -- a great rule of thumb.

PINION: Absolutely.

PHILLIP: And nepotism doesn't work.

SIMMONS: It raises these questions that don't really -- we don't really need to have in the public sphere. It is true that he's an Army veteran, her husband Mr. Merritts is an Army veteran. It's true that he had a security company. It's true that she's been paying him for a long time. He's been providing services. It looks like they're beneath the cap of where he's supposed to be.

So, it does seem like it's all above board from an ethics perspective. It just doesn't look very great. But then you've got other people who are lobbying insults and it doesn't seem like that's very great either.

PHILLIP: But there is a federal investigation. And Joe, the part of this that I want you to respond to, a lot of Republicans say that the Justice Department is politicized.

The Justice Department is investigating Cori Bush, is investigating Bob Menendez, investigating Hunter Biden. This seems to be pretty clear evidence that the Justice Department is doing what they're supposed to be doing, whether Republican or Democrat?

JOSEPH PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I just want to start off by saying, look, I think when you have the Department of Justice looking into anything, it should be taken seriously. Obviously, she denies the charges.

But I think part of the reason why there is such consternation on the right side of the aisle is because when you have somebody who has called for effectively disarming police and preventing everyday Americans from being protected, then perhaps using public funds and abusing them to protect yourself that comes this type of, you know, what in the world is going on here.

But I think to your broader point here, if we're just trying to make sure that we can have a Justice Department that works for everybody, I think we need to have as much transparency as possible.


Certainly, there has been politicization of our courts. I think we see that at the federal level and the state level, but I do think that hopefully, we can get back to a place where people can actually trust.

SIMMONS: Can I just say this really quickly? I will say from on the substance of this, these members of Congress don't have personal security. We know that the political rhetoric is ramped up to 11. We saw what happened on January 6th at the Capitol. And I know members of the squad, and they are under an intense amount of pressure and getting lots of threats. They do need security.

PHILLIP: Let me play what Republican Congressman Troy Nehls said about this question of whether Cori Bush really needed security. Listen.


TROY NEHLS (R) TEXAS: She doesn't even support the police. But the idea to pay her thug money to try to help protect her, this and that, for what? Maybe if she wouldn't be so loud all the time, maybe she wouldn't be getting threats.

UNKNOWN: Are you saying she deserves to be threatened?

NEHLS: No. What I'm saying is, is that when you're out there talking the way she does, I'm surprised that people are probably pretty upset because she's a pretty radical. She's pretty radical. And maybe she should tone it down a little bit.


PHILLIP: And just as we're sitting here, Cori Bush has responded to that, demanding an apology from her colleague, but also making the point that this is the kind of rhetoric, she says, that endangers black lives.

PINION: Look, I'll just say this. I think that there is certainly a rhetoric that needs to be tamped down on both sides of the aisle. This is not a matter of simply saying there's too much rhetoric on the right, too much rhetoric on the left. We have seen now that we have worked the American people up into a fever pitch.

And yes, I would say that the solution to this overheated rhetoric is not more overheated rhetoric. This kind of ends justify the means approach to public policy. So, yes, I think that she is right to say that those comments were out of order, but I also think that she should also be examining her own rhetoric when it comes to making sure that we just have civility in the public square.

SIMMONS: Well, that's just not fair, right? Because it is true that there are people who identify with Democrats or who maybe support progressive causes, who've done things that we may or may not like. It is not true though, that Democrats is a party, that there's a democratic movement, that there -- that Democrats are out here claiming that we should do violent things or we should be -- we should take on the government in a violent way as we saw on January 6th. It's just not equal.

PINION: I'll just say this. I don't want to get into an either or situation here, but I will say this. That if you're sitting here talking about the type of anti-Semitic rhetoric that we see flying in broad daylight --

SIMMONS: Rhetoric is one thing.

PINION: And what do you mean rhetoric is one thing? No, no. To be clear, again, I think that the reality is we have a justice system that has had one of the largest kind of round-ups of people we've seen in the modern history of this country, the great vast majority of Americans.

PHILLIP: Are you talking about January 6th?

PINION: Yes, January 6th.

PHILLIP: I mean, they're prosecuting people who were charged with crimes --

PINION: Correct.

PHILLIP: -- on January 6th. They're not just rounding people up.

PINION: No, no. What I'm saying is that they are -- that is what accountability looks like. And what I'm saying --

SIMMONS: Joe, you know better. Joe, you know better. These guys broke into the Capitol. They were taking -- in the Capitol.

PHILLIP: You're saying that they are -- it's accountability.

PINION: What I'm saying is that is what accountability looks like, that people are being held accountable. But what we're talking about right now is the manner in which we have rhetoric on both sides of the aisle that is completely out of control. And part of the problem we have right now is that people in the squad are trying to talk about things that in many ways are inflammatory.

We have what I call -- but has become mainstream acceptable bigotry. We have mainstream acceptable extreme rhetoric. And I think that just because it's coming from the side of the aisle that one actually prescribes to you, that doesn't actually make it okay.

SIMMONS: Congressman Nehl seems like he used mainstream bigotry. He called the Congresswoman's husband, who was an Army veteran, called him a thug. He doesn't know anything about this man, as far as I know, but he called him a thug. I wonder why. Probably because he's a -- maybe because he's a large black man, he

called her loud. That is a term that is laden with so much history. But you know, if the MAGA forces are successful, we won't teach history anymore, so we won't know the bad history that he's referring to.

PHILLIP: Look, you're totally right about the trope. I mean, the tropes of her being angry, loud, or whatever, as a black woman. That's pretty clear, and honestly, it struck me as something that was intentional in his comments, but we'll find out if he clarifies.

SIMMONS: I think it was beyond the pale. I think, again, I think when you're trying to tap into some of the oldest kind of dog whistles in modern history, it's probably a bad thing. I'm only simply saying that when you have the Senate majority leader in Chuck Schumer saying on the stairs outside the Supreme Court that we will inherit the wind, and then a man shows up with cuffs and a bullet on the doorstep of a Supreme Court justice, that is inflammatory rhetoric.

So, if we're going to talk about having civility in the public square, yes, let's have civility in the public square, but we have to demand it at all times from all people.


PHILLIP: All right, Joe and Jamal, thank you both very much as always for joining us here tonight. And up next, a judge is throwing out Elon Musk's massive Tesla pay package. It comes on the same day that Musk says that his company has now implanted a chip in a human brain for the first time. We have Kara Swisher here to explain all of this for us next.


PHILLIP: New tonight, a Delaware court judge ruling in favor of Tesla's shareholders, striking down Elon Musk's $50 billion Tesla pay package. Shareholders had argued that Musk's compensation was excessive.

For more on this, I want to bring in CNN Contributor and host of the podcast "On" and "Pivot", Kara Swisher. Kara, thanks for being here.



PHILLIP: So, what is your reaction to this pretty significant ruling against Musk and a huge chunk of his enormous wealth?

SWISHER: Yeah, it's his compensation package. I mean, they're just saying that the board of Tesla -- has many companies -- has no control over him and then he, in fact, controls it, which I think most people have thought for a long time. They don't have, you know, they've tried to reign in his behavior, but not really. They've tried to do all kinds of things. But in general, it operates at the behest of Elon Musk, which is, it's a public company and they're not actually supposed to do that.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, and there were some questions raised about whether the people on the board, including friends and family members of his, enabled that. He is just responding not long after this ruling came down. He tweeted, "Never incorporate your company in the state of Delaware." But --


PHILLIP: I mean, is this about Delaware or is this about Elon Musk?

SWISHER: No, of course not. It's sort of like Trump after the ruling, the recent ruling, the $83 million judgment. They just have to like trash whatever just ruled against them. And this is a very clear -- Delaware's a -- he's had a tough time in Delaware when he was trying to buy then Twitter with a judge forced him into the buying of it because he had an ironclad contract to do so. He tried to get out of it, which he couldn't do because he had agreed to do it.

So, you know, Delaware is a great state for corporations. There's very clear laws about how to run them. And the way he runs, this company is run by the board. It shouldn't even be a board. It's a rubber stamp board. Most people think that. This is not a fresh new idea about the Tesla board or any companies that Elon runs.

X happens to be private, so he can do whatever he wants. But in this case, it's a public company incorporated in Delaware, and they have to follow the rules of Delaware. That's just that simple. It's not very complex.

PHILLIP: Yeah, and they've got to follow a judge's ruling when it comes down. You know, Elon Musk started this day with some pretty good news, I would think. He made a significant announcement about his other start-up, Neuralink, implanting its brain chip in a human brain, which is really crazy to even think about. But that's the other part of Elon Musk. I mean, how big of an achievement is this? And I mean, does he deserve credit for helping it get to this point?

SWISHER: Well, when he shows proof that it works, sure. He's just said it. There's a bunch of other companies doing this neuro -- it's called neuro technology, I guess. There's a whole bunch of them, one's called Synchron. There's another that's implanted an electrode on top of the brain with wires in the brain There's a lot of work being done on this.

So, it's not a fresh new thing. Just to be clear There's quite a few of these of it are actually a little further along. This is to put the chip in the brain and to let -- right now they can do these things and people can do emails or they can use their mind to think, make -- they get their arm to move and things like that. It's very promising and exciting.

He's not the only one doing it. We've talked a lot about it. But, you know, right now it's in its very nascent stages. He tends to promise, over promise, early on, even if he's going to achieve certain things. But it would be great if, you know, I think this was a quadriplegic, or it was put in someone who can't, a lot of this stuff is around people who can't walk or use their limbs or things like that, and that's exciting.

And there's a number of startups doing this. And it would be great if it did work. It'd be great for researchers to see the actual proof that it works. I'm not too sure that he has proof that it works yet. What did he say? That it was showing some signs of something or other?

PHILLIP: Yeah, and that it went to this stage, which is, as you pointed out, it's not the only company doing it. But I wonder, as someone who's known him for so long, as you have, Kara, I mean, this is a very complicated man, he's very controversial, his personal behavior is repulsive to many people.

And yet there are all these other things that he's doing, whether it has to do with space or even electric fuels and this brain start-up. How are people supposed to understand Elon Musk with all of this that's going on?

SWISHER: Well, I always say I like Space Karen a lot more than SpaceX. I'm kidding. No. No, I like SpaceX. I think it's a great company and it's doing a lot of innovative stuff. The Neurolink thing has been dogged by a little controversy. There's some very significant articles about abusive animals in this or how they were treated. This is -- again, this is something that's not uncommon to the whole industry but he certainly has attracted some controversy for Neurolink.

But you know this is exciting. Some of the stuff is exciting and interesting. Some of it's kind of outlandish. A Hyperloop thing that he was doing is an interesting idea but it didn't really go anywhere. He kinda comes up with ideas and then some of the more work and then some of them don't. One of the things I just said to someone, I said one of things I was attracted to him when i first met him, that he was thinking big ideas whether it was energy or cars or space.


And that was exciting cause everyone else was creating a dating service or quicker laundry to millennials or something like very small-minded. So, that's exciting. At the same time, you know, how he is on X -- on Twitter and how he behaves in various places. And now, of course, he's been demanding from the Twitter board more stock compensation. And they've been waiting for this ruling to figure out what to do next, because they couldn't add on.

But he wants even more control of Twitter. I mean, excuse me, Tesla. He wants even more control of Tesla as if he's the king of it. But it's a public company and he just can't do that. He's threatening to walk away and all this stuff and you know, we'll see if he does that.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean the erratic behavior seems to never end when it comes to him.

SWISHER: Well, he's a genius Abby, he's a genius and he gets to do that. Not you and I.

PHILLIP: I guess so, I guess so. Kara, thanks for being here, always good to see you.

SWISHER: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot.



PHILLIP: Wayne LaPierre says that after three decades as the face of the gun rights group, it wasn't about the money. But let's follow that money. And I'll note that these are all expenses that the former NRA Chief confirmed himself while on the witness stand this past week.

Chartered flights, private jets, helicopter rides to avoid traffic, the wedding of his personal assistant's son, suits at a Beverly Hills boutique, thousands spent at Bergdorf Goodman, and hair and make-up sessions for his wife at $10,000 a session. Now a reminder, he is on the stand in this fraud case against the NRA. We'll be back in a moment.