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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Damning Indictment Of The Cynicism In American Politics; Migrants Attack NYPD Officers, Freed And On The Run; Politico Reports, Biden Calls Trump A Sick F*** Behind Closed Doors; Donald Trump Re- Tweets Old Jon Voight Video About Him; Nikki Haley Says America Is Not A Racist Country; Michigan School Shooter's Mother Takes The Stand; Award-Winning Singer And Songwriter Tracy Chapman Take The Stage At Grammy Awards. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is demanding that Omar be kicked out of Congress, lose her American citizenship, and be deported. Congressman Tom Emmer calling for an ethics investigation into the comments. And Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a resolution today calling for Omar to be censured.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Representative Omar has revealed herself to be a foreign agent acting on behalf of a foreign government.


COLLINS: There is no evidence that Congresswoman Omar has done anything of the sort, and you can't deport a U.S. citizen, I should note. Omar says that she believes these attacks are rooted in Islamophobia, and as for that resolution, she told CNN, quote, I hope she finds peace in her mind. That's insane, truly insane.

Thank you all for joining us tonight. CNN NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillip starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: In Washington, the quiet part is getting louder and louder. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

Good evening, I'm Abby Phillip, and we begin with a damning indictment of American politics. At a time when the nation severely lacks a functioning, capable and competent government, the House, which just completed one of its least-productive years ever, just did something rare. The chamber actually passed a bipartisan tax bill. That bill enhances a child tax credit for lower-income families, and it boosts tax breaks for businesses. Now, it moves to the Senate.

But if you ask at least one Republican there, it's a no-go. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says, quote, I think that passing a tax bill that makes the president look good may allow checks before the election, means that Biden could be re-elected, and then we won't extend the 2017 tax bill.

Now, he's talking about checks there that could lift thousands of children out of poverty. That's pretty cynical. And the same sentiment extends over to that border bill that bipartisan senators have been working on.

Now, as you know, Donald Trump is sabotaging it because he doesn't want to hand Biden a win during an election year. And House Republicans are falling in line.


REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): Why would we do anything right now to help him with that 33 percent?

Do you believe if Joe Biden's approval rate was at 53 percent we would even be talking about the border?


PHILLIP: And so after demanding that Biden do something about the border, Republicans are now condemning him for doing exactly that. And they're refusing to help because it may help Democrats. And so for the group of Americans elected with the task of governing, they're failing spectacularly and they're doing so for political purposes, which makes Biden's message to both parties today at the national prayer breakfast all the more ironic.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: At a moment of deep division in our nation, President Lincoln said, we are not enemies. He said, we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.


PHILLIP: Now on to the battleground state of Michigan, where, tonight, it's not Republican lawmakers that Biden is courting, but rather his own base. The president is spending this week selling himself to union workers, but the bigger challenge may very well be with the state's Arab-American community. Many of them are furious with Biden over America's role in Israel's war in Gaza, and they say that it may cost him the White House in November.

Joining me now is Abdullah Hammoud. He's the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to one of the nation's largest Arab-American communities. Mayor, thanks for joining us.

President Biden is in your state courting union members, but he did not meet with Arab-Americans during this trip. Was this a missed opportunity?

MAYOR ABDULLAH HAMMOUD (D-DEARBORN, MI): I absolutely think it's a missed opportunity whenever dialogue can happen, constructive dialogue that can help save lives because that's the conversation we want to have, and calling for a ceasefire and ending the bombing and unrestricted military aid to Israel, we want to save lives. We believe no innocent man, woman, or child should be killed.

PHILLIP: And to that end, the White House says that it's deploying senior administration officials to Michigan this month to discuss a number of issues with community leaders there, including this war. If the White House does extend an invitation to meet, will you accept it?

HAMMOUD: You know, for anybody who wants to have a conversation about how we change course, that's the only condition, that there has to be a willingness and an openness to change course on what's unfolding now.

Secretary Blinken just last week said that the Middle East is at most volatile as it's been in 50 years.


And that's due in part because of this administration's decision- making. So, if they're willing to come to the table with an open mind on how to change course, that's a conversation and dialogue that we can partake in.

PHILLIP: So, you're saying that you really only want to sit down if they say in advance that they are willing to change their strategy? Is that what your position is?

HAMMOUD: You know, if you had a disagreement with your congressional official and you said you wanted to voice your concerns, and if they said, hey, I'll come listen to you, but I'm never going to change my mind. I think you yourself would say, hey, you know what, let's just pass in this conversation and save both our times.

But if there's a willingness and an openness to say, hey, you and Dearborn, you might know a little something, we come from these Arab countries that everybody keeps talking about online. The largest portion of the city of Dearborn is largely Lebanese immigrants, Palestinian, Yemeni, Syrian, Iraqi. In each one of these countries, we have lived through the firsthand accounts of apartheid, of occupation, of oppression, of bombardment, devastation and bombing. And so we can speak from a firsthand account of what's actually unfolding on the ground.

PHILLIP: Some Michigan Arabs and Muslims have launched a campaign. They're saying, abandon Biden. And they're urging members of their community to show up to the polls, but not cast their vote for Biden. These efforts are also happening in other key states. This is, as I'm sure you know, going to be a very close election likely. Do you agree with this strategy, abandon Biden?

HAMMOUD: You know, for me, the question has to be put back to the candidate, to President Biden. You know, it's on the candidate. It's his responsibility to earn the trust and respect of the voters. I've run for office before. I've never pointed at the voters of my district and said, you're at fault if I'm not elected. In fact, it's me as the candidate, it's President Biden as the candidate to put forward a policy platform that is receptive to all of Americans. What we're asking for a ceasefire is not something that only the majority of Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans support. In fact, over 60 percent of Americans support a ceasefire, over 80 percent of Democrats. And so, for me, I would urge President Biden to heed the calls of Americans from coast to coast.

PHILLIP: Yes, I understand. I mean, certainly you want the president to change his position. I think one of the things that I'm sure, and I know you've gotten a lot of questions about this, people are wondering about, realistically, what is the alternative and what does that alternative mean for the Palestinian people? Does it worry you about what a Trump presidency could mean for those lives that you said earlier? You're concerned about each and every one of the innocent people who shouldn't die being saved?

HAMMOUD: Absolutely. I think Trump is a threat to American democracy. So, the question should stand. What will President Biden do to prevent the unraveling of our American democracy? Why is being aligned with Benjamin Netanyahu and the most right wing government in Israel's history worth potentially sacrificing our American democracy?

You know, I had a resident that came before a city council meeting who had lost over 80 family members in Gaza. And the question in everybody's mind is, while we send our condolences for your loved ones, we want to know how you're going to vote come November.

And I think that's extremely dehumanizing to think of Palestinian lives only in the context of polls, Arab-American lives and Muslim American lives outside of the context of just polls.

PHILLIP: Well, yes, I totally understand that. I think, but really what I'm wondering about is not about the polls, but do you believe genuinely that President Biden -- I think the White House would say this behind the scenes, that they're trying to put pressure on the Israeli government to reduce the loss of innocent lives, do you believe that at all or do you think that that's not happening?

HAMMOUD: I believe all their political talking points. There's never been a war in history in which 80 percent of the country is absolutely decimated, where 100 percent of the population has been displaced and where 50 percent of all the deaths are children. That has never happened.

For us, we want action, not lip service. If President Biden wants to take a firm stance, he could begin by restricting military aid to the state of Israel. He could begin by calling a ceasefire, because right now, nearly, 200 civilians are killed each and every single day.

These are tangible steps that can be taken, because what we understand is only diplomatic efforts can lead to lasting peace and justice.

PHILLIP: All right. Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

HAMMOUD: Thank you. PHILLIP: And is the most consequential matchup actually the one that nobody is talking about? There are new CNN polls showing Nikki Haley beating Joe Biden in a general election matchup by a wide, wide margin.

In the race that's likely to actually be on the ballot in November, it's tight, a lot tighter. Donald Trump has a slight edge over Biden, but the majority of Americans aren't happy about this either.

So, for more, I want to bring in Pollster and Communication Strategist Frank Luntz. Frank, good to see you.

Both Trump and Biden have sky-high unfavorability ratings in this poll, both above 50 percent, but Trump also seems to be just driving this election on both sides. 68 percent of Biden supporters say their vote would be against Trump.


And if you do the math there, 60 percent of Trump voters say that they are voting for him and not against Biden.

Every which way, Trump is at the center of it. How significant is that?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION ANALYST: It's exactly what he wants. He wants to be the son of attention. I've heard it said that at every wedding, he wants to be the bride at every funeral. He wants to be the groom. He wants all eyes on him.

And there's two numbers in this survey that I found remarkable. That four-point advantage for Trump right now is the flip. It's the opposite of eight years ago, sorry, four years ago, when Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 4, 4.5 percent. So you've seen these 8 percentage shifts, even though Joe Biden's been president for the last three years. And the other number that I find interesting is that 66 percent, two-thirds, believe that Joe Biden has not earned re- election.

Both candidates have to see this as bad news. Both candidates should realize that the American people want something different. And one more thing, 40 percent, just over 40 percent of Republicans and Democrats would like to have an alternative rather than voting for Donald Trump or Joe Biden. So, it's a really discontented electorate.

PHILLIP: At the same time, there is Nikki Haley. She's presenting herself as an alternative. The polls show her beating Biden by a pretty wide margin in the general election. Republican voters don't seem to be buying that. Do you think that she's a safer bet? And why don't Republican voters agree, if you do?

LUNTZ: Because they rallied around Donald Trump. And if your numbers are anywhere near what is actually happening, which I believe they are, the Republican primary is over and Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. And so the public now has to come to grips of one candidate who they believe is too old and the other candidate who they don't like his personality. They're going to have to suck it up. And, again, for the third election in a row, the American people are going to be choosing the person they dislike least rather than the candidate they like most. And that's kind of tragic.

PHILLIP: Some Americans may very well choose other. You know, there's the possibility of a third party or independent candidate. Is that, you think, a realistic X factor that could shape this next section of the race here as we go into the general, potentially?

LUNTZ: Absolutely. We know that No Labels will be launching a campaign in about six, maybe eight weeks from now. We know that a candidate, an independent candidate, a unity candidate, will probably start with somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the vote. And we know that two-thirds will at least consider voting for a third party.

It's incredibly difficult. It has never been successful, but this election and the electorate has never been so angry, so polarized, and so disappointed with the conditions in the country. So, if there ever was a shot at a third party campaign, this is the election cycle for it.

Before you go, Frank, I want to ask you about what's going on with the RNC today. There's a new report showing that the Republican National Committee had just $8 million in cash on hand at the end of 2023. That's its worst fundraising year in ten years.

As a Republican, I mean, what does that say to you about the health of the GOP, their ability to even execute this 2024 election cycle at a high level?

LUNTZ: It says to me that Donald Trump is hoovering up all the money. Trump's campaign, I get at least ten emails a day, minimum, I'm now starting to get texts as well from the Trump campaign asking for money, me of all people.

And they're successful in the small dollars. Now, where's the money going? To his legal fund, not to his campaign. And so, at some point, Republicans are going to have to face the choice, do you want to bankroll Trump's felony charges or do you want to bankroll a campaign for the Senate, for the House, for local races? It is a problem for the GOP.

I have never seen an electorate so angry, I've never seen an electorate so frustrated with conditions in the country and the candidates that represent them. I truly believe that this is going to be the most difficult nine months in electoral process that we have faced since 1968. And I remind you, we lost Martin Luther King, we lost Bobby Kennedy. This is going to be a very, very difficult time for the country.


PHILLIP: What are you suggesting? What are you worried about the most?

LUNTZ: I'm worried that we can't talk to each other. I'm worried that we can't communicate. The governors right now have an initiative that's called Disagree Better. Please check it out on the NGA website.

There are attempts by some elected officials to lower the decibel level. I'm just afraid that the average American isn't listening, doesn't care, and basically wants to have a fight. And they agree with --

PHILLIP: Do you think violence is on the table here?

LUNTZ: I do not think violence is on the table, but something almost as bad, which is contempt, which is a simple dismissal of the electoral process. Your questions are the correct ones. It doesn't have to be violence. If we say, to hell with everyone, then we have lost our democracy. And I'm very afraid that tens of millions of Americans are going to say, to hell with this process, by the time we get to November.

PHILLIP: Yes, those are sobering words there, Frank. Thank you for joining us tonight, as always.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And ahead, a new reporting tonight about what President Biden says about Trump behind closed doors.

Plus, Nikki Haley tripling down on her remarks about racism in America. The history of why her argument doesn't hold up.

And the four migrants accused in the assault on NYPD officers are now said to be fleeing on a bus to California. We'll have the details, next.



PHILLIP: An attack on two NYPD officers here in New York is sparking controversy and a fierce debate about migrants, violence and, of course, bail reform. The NYPD officers were trying to break up a disorderly group outside of a migrant shelter near Times Square last weekend.

Now four of the seven migrants charged in this attack have now left the city and they may very well be fleeing to Mexico, according to sources that talk to CNN.

How were they able to just walk free in this case? Well, they weren't required to post bail.

Joining me now is Felipe Rodriguez, a retired NYPD sergeant and a detective and now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Felipe, thanks for being here. So, what do you think when you hear that violent defendants here were just left to go back on their own recognizance? What's going on here in New York?

FELIPE RODRIGUEZ, PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: It's mind-boggling. We've never seen this before in the past. And while I understand the need for bail reform, you know, certain things needed to be fixed, no way, know how could we have thought that bail reform would apply to someone that was involved in a gang assault, which we had here.

This was a little gang attack, according to the penal law, assault on a police officer, obstructing governmental administration. And the judges, at no point, saw this as a threat. Judges have the ability to assign bail if they feel the person is a threat to society.

PHILLIP: And so our John Miller's reporting that four of the seven, as we mentioned, are on a bus headed to California. The goal, presumably, is to get to Mexico. Is there anything that can be done about that? I mean, if we know they're on the bus, can they be brought back?

RODRIGUEZ: It depends on the conditions under which they were released. If it's what they called an ROR, release on your own recognizance, there were no stipulations put on their release. So, basically, unless something else is warranted or they're found to be guilty or suspects in other crimes, I think they're going to have a difficult time trying to bring them back.

PHILLIP: New York City Mayor Eric Adams, he was asked about this on a radio show. I want to play what he had to say.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): We need to make sure that judges look over the seriousness of the case, and I don't believe this should have been released. I do want to make one point.

The overwhelming number of immigrants, migrants, asylum seekers, they want to be here and do what's right. Those violent ones, we need to immediately have them removed from our city.


PHILLIP: There are so many people now making this about solely about the migrants, but is that really fair when it seems like whether they were migrants or not, we might be facing this very same issue with anyone?

RODRIGUEZ: It could be. But before the way the laws were cited and the way they were done, an individual had to be first identified. You know, we had -- we looked and investigated if they had ties with the community. Then sometimes bail was set.

This could happen to anybody. But the fact that the migrants were able to so easily escape and just released, you know, how do we identify these people. Obviously, when they attempted to escape again, they used another false name.

So, this is not normal behavior for individuals that are not into a criminal activity. And we've seen it by the prior arrest that some of them already had.

PHILLIP: But does that really have anything to do with whether or not they're migrants? I mean, obviously, the number of migrants in the city is an issue, but all those things that you described could have been done by American citizens.

RODRIGUEZ: No, that's true. We can't really make this a migrant issue. The situation is that right now the way they're living. You know what, things aren't perfect, and sometimes people do turn to criminal activity. But as a criminal justice system, we have to look at gang assault and the severity of these crimes. You know, we just can't say everyone should be released.

PHILLIP: Yes, a fair point. I mean, that's the question I think so many New Yorkers are asking today.

Felipe Rodriguez, thank you for joining us tonight.

And next, President Biden has some not so nice words for Donald Trump. My political panel is here, and they'll be discussing all of that.

Plus, the historical context behind Nikki Haley's multiple attempts to answer the question, is the United States a racist country? That's ahead.



PHILLIP: President Biden saying how he really feels about Donald Trump, at least in private. According to Politico, Biden has purportedly described Trump to longtime friends and close aides as a sick F, fill in the blanks there. The president also reportedly calling Trump an effing A-hole.

Trump's campaign responding to his alleged comment saying, quote, it's a shame that Crooked Joe Biden disrespects the presidency both publicly and privately. But then, again, it's no surprise he just respects the 45th president the same way he just respects the American people with his failed policies.

For more on all of this, I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator Ana Navarro and also Rolling Stone Columnist Jay Michaelson.

That's pretty rich, Ana, coming from the Trump campaign about the use of foul words, no less.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What can I tell you? Listen, I'd rather a president who curses than one that makes me curse, right, which is what Trump did.

Look, we've all known who Joe Biden is. Joe Biden is a very authentic guy and he's a guy who uses curse words. And so that he's doing it in private, if that's the case, with people close to him, you don't want to know what I call Trump in private to my close friends in three languages.

PHILLIP: What do you say, Jay, about just the fact that this is in private? I mean, frankly, look, both presidents curse at the White House.

JAY MICHAELSON, COLUMNIST, THE ROLLING STONE: Well, one curses and the other is a curse.

PHILLIP: But what do you think about Joe Biden doing this in private? Is this a side of him that some people in the Democratic Party would like to see?


MICHAELSON: Yeah, I'd like to see more of this, right? I mean, this is very -- just as Ana said, I mean, this is very humanizing. It is who he is. It's who he's been for, you know, 50 years of his public life.

And I think it's worth mentioning, like, the context was they were talking about Paul Pelosi and Donald Trump making jokes and laughing at the fact that a completely innocent human being, you know, almost practically died in an act of attempted assassination.

And Donald Trump thought that was fun to laugh about. That is sick. I don't know if I'm allowed to drop the F-bomb, but like, it certainly is not morally well to laugh at someone's misfortune that way.

NAVARRO: And you know, I was -- I attended an event in Miami this week where they were raising funds for Joe Biden and I was a guest of the host. And he spoke. I'm glad to report he's not frail, not dead, and not weakened, not Bernie's, so far from the narrative that's built in the press.

And what he did call him at that point was a loser. And he is a loser. He lost an election. So, that is, he wasn't calling him any of the four letter words or the F-bomb or any of that. But I think he rather enjoyed calling him a loser several times.

PHILLIP: It's almost as if Joe Biden is, you know, he's sort of leaning into his true feelings about Trump after all this time. I mean, back in 2020, he ran on this idea of make America normal again, basically. We're going to take the temperature down.

We're going to make you not want to turn off your TV because politics is so stressful. Is that still a message that he can run on this time around even if he's facing Trump again?

MICHAELSON: Not when Trump is the nominee. Not when he's indicted, you know, how many times and how many hundred counts at this point in different cases, and not where we've kind of thrown normal out the window. I mean, it's wishful thinking to think that we can get normal just from a presidential campaign, from this presidential campaign. Now, and again, I think this is like how a lot of people, this isn't

that different, the language is different, but it's not that different from the theme that this is not somebody who's morally fit to be President.

NAVARRO: If Donald Trump had accepted his defeat like a normal human being and gone away like a normal human being, like a George W. Bush or, you know, some of the other Presidents that we've had, and done good things for America, I think Joe Biden would not be saying anything about him. I think Joe Biden wanted to turn the page, wanted to find ways to bring unity to America.

But frankly, Donald Trump, I think, has made it impossible. He has spent the last three years talking about how Joe Biden stole the elections, how he's an illegitimate President, and continuing to build hostility and pit Americans against each other. So, I think this is Joe Biden accepting the reality that this is the guy that I have to run against and this is how I feel about it and I'm going to tell America.

PHILLIP: I mean, it's such an important point. The breaking of the norms was not Joe Biden breaking norms. It was Donald Trump breaking norms by not accepting an election. In -- today, in "Bizarre Things" or this week in "Bizarre Things", there's the whole Jon Voight of it all. Donald Trump, out of nowhere, re-tweets this old Jon Voight video about him. Just watch it.


JOHN VOIGHT, ACTOR: Believe that the man that can help this nation, the one man that was ridiculed, destroyed as Jesus -- Trump, can come back and save the American dream for all and make America great with the dignity, with the power of who she is, the land of freedom.


PHILLIP: Yes, that's John Floyd comparing Trump to Jesus, and he seems to like it. What do you make of the fact that he decided to put this back into his social media feed this week?

MICHAELSON: I mean, I wonder which campaign aid or who, what bizarre, you know, white supremacist Twitter account he found us on in the first place to then, you know, to re-social it. But I think, look, what -- I'm not so focused on the comparison, Trump-Jesus comparison, because I mean, he was just saying he's like Jesus in this one way.

But I am really interested in this kind of Christian nationalist rhetoric, that there can be, that the dignity of our country depends -- is a religious issue and it depends on a certain kind of dignity for a certain group. And that I think is what's really disturbing and dark about this video.

It was really interesting to watch, just the way it was delivered, kind of as a sermon or as a homily, and it was this very religious feeling, you know, I'm a scholar of religion, it's a very religious feeling speech, and yet it was a presidential endorsement. PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, that's not, to me, that is the crux of the

Trump appeal is that he does almost have this religious-like fervor that follows him with his supporters.

NAVARRO: Well, he's got a religious-like fervor and he's got a Jesus complex, a Christ-like complex, right, which is so bizarro that people can see him as almost a religious figure when you have got a President who has cheated and lied his entire life for the love of God -- cheated on the first wife with the second wife. Cheated on the second wife with the third wife.


Cheated on the third wife with a stripper and a playboy bunny. And this is the person that we're going to be comparing to Jesus? The person who just last week was found liable for $83.3 million for defaming a woman who was then -- he had been previously found liable of committing sexual abuse on? I mean, it's really just so bizarre.

But I think it works for him in a strange way. This idea of him as the martyr, him as this Christ-like figure being crucified for the rest of you. I'm taking the pain. I'm taking the abuse so that you all don't have to do it. I'm what's standing between you being the ones crucified.

And people accepted his base, accepts it to the point where he's paid $50 million in legal fees with funds that these folks who see him as this quasi-religious leader are sending to him. It is --

PHILLIP: That's supposed to be for the campaign.

NAVARRO: I mean, it's very difficult to understand.

MICHAELSON: Are you saying -- are you saying that Jesus was not a multimillionaire who took from the poor to give to the rich? I missed that part in the gospel.

PHILLIP: You know, what's not lost on me also is that this particular celebrity endorsement comes at a time when conservatives are spinning this whole conspiracy about another celebrity endorsement. It's fine for Jon Voight, but not for Taylor Swift.

MICHAELSON: You know, I feel like if we look at the cultural capital of John Voight and Taylor Swift, I'll kind of take those odds.

PHILLIP: I don't know. Donald Trump seems to disagree with you.

NAVARRO: Abby, we have, you know, in the last several years, we have heard and seen and read so many stupid conspiracy theories, right? I mean, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton running a sex ring from the basement of a pizza shop that did not have a basement.

I mean, the things we have read and heard but frankly, this conspiracy theory about Taylor Swift is the stupidest one of them all. And that is such a high bar. I hope it has a backlash because I can tell you, I care nothing about football and I know very little about Taylor Swift. Frankly, I'm a Ricky Martin pit bull person, but you know what? I'm

rooting for Taylor Swift's boyfriend just because I can't stand to see mostly men bullying this young woman who's had such success and whose greatest crime is encouraging other young people to vote. Shame on them.

MICHAELSON: My conspiracy theory is that this conspiracy theory is a conspiracy, right, from the Democrats. This is going to totally backfire in the Republicans, right? This is a Democrat's dream. You're going to go up against Taylor Swift, the most popular woman on the planet right now, with this mean-spirited bullying campaign. This is great. I'm just getting -- reaching for the popcorn.

PHILLIP: It's like a Trojan horse of a conspiracy theory.

NAVARRO: And if Taylor Swift were making videos comparing Trump to Jesus, guess what? She'd be the Virgin Mary.

PHILLIP: Some people would lose their minds if that happened. Ana Navarro, Jay Michaelson, thank you both very much. And next, Nikki Haley is yet again defending those comments that she's made about the United States and racism. There's a history behind that, and we have it in "NewsNight Explainer", next.





NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that our country was founded to be racist. I don't. I think that it was meant to be this amazing experiment to see if we could have freedom and democracy in a way that all men are created equal.

PHILLIP: It's been a somewhat surprising 2024 campaign divide, race and racism. Nikki Haley tried over and over to thread the needle on this question. Is the United States a racist country?

HALEY: But I refuse to believe that the premise of when they formed our country was based on the fact that it was a racist country to start with.

PHILLIP: But there are obvious facts that undercut that answer. The U.S. Constitution held black people were only three-fifths of a person. South Carolina, her home state, cited slavery as the reason for seceding from the union. Segregation, Jim Crow, and then there's the not-so-obvious ways that racism is woven throughout the entire American experience.

Here are just a few. In wealth, the median wealth for a typical white family clocks in at $285,000. Now, the median black family? More than six times less than that. About $44,900 according to the Federal Reserve.

Now in the stock market, roughly 40 percent of black people invest in the market. That's dramatically less than the percentage of white people, 66 percent, who own stocks.

In housing, real estate agents steer black homebuyers into certain neighborhoods. And a report from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers says that lenders reject black home loan applicants more than twice as often as they do white home loan applicants.

Now, when the New Deal gave Americans a shot at the American Dream, with a government-backed mortgage loan, that helped a lot of Americans, but not black people.

The government, they drew up color-coded maps to separate out neighborhoods from least risky to most risky. The most risky areas were colored in red and given a D grade. Those areas, according to the government, were predominantly black neighborhoods.

Now, go back even further to Lincoln. He signed off on giving freed slaves 40 acres and a mule, confiscated land from the Southern slaveholders that fought for the Confederacy. Andrew Johnson took it all back after Lincoln was assassinated, returning 400,000 acres in total to the plantation owners.

In work, black workers earn less than white workers, the wage gap has only gotten worse since 1979, and nearly 28 million people were able to work from home during COVID, but less than one in five black workers were able to keep doing their jobs from home.


In education, black students are disciplined more often and more severely. They accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of students referred to law enforcement. Brown vs. Board of Education desegregated schools, but racial and economic realities have basically re-segregated many of them.

A civil rights project found that white students attended schools where 69 percent of the students there are white. It's the most pronounced right here in New York, where about 65 percent of black students attend intensely segregated minority schools.

The end result? Poverty, food insecurity, housing insecurity, and incarceration inflict African Americans at much higher rates than other demographics. The system, you might say, has long been rigged against black people in ways that you can see and those that you can't.


PHILLIP: Ahead, the first mother in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting by her child. She takes the stand. What Ethan Crumbley's mother revealed. Plus, it could have been lost to time, but here is what happened to one of the last remaining schools in the segregation era to give black children a chance at an education. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



PHILLIP: Today is the first day of Black History Month, and this week, a history-making school in Tennessee is not moving closer to becoming a monument thanks to its graduates. It'll commemorate a movement to educate and advance Black children in the segregated South, well before the Civil Rights Acts in the 60s. CNN's Isabel Rosales has more on that.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Memories. Pack the halls of this nearly century-old schoolhouse.

UNKNOWN: Ms. Radcliffe, this was her side and that was a hallway and the window was not there.

ROSALES (voice-over): Now in their 70s and 80s, these former students walk us through the ruins of their school.

UNKNOWN: This was the entrance way.

ROSALES (voice-over): It may not look pretty.

UNKNOWN: All of this was desks.

ROSALES (voice-over): But this dilapidated structure stands tall in the pages of not only black, but American history.

GEORGIA HARRIS, FORMER ROSENWALD SCHOOL STUDENT: Just to thank a lot of people and children don't know how it was and how important education can be.

ROSALES (voice-over): A unique partnership between Booker T. Washington, a former slave and Black education pioneer, and Julius Rosenwald, a first-generation Jewish-American philanthropist, led to the construction of nearly 5000 Rosenwald schoolhouses throughout the Jim Crow South.

The state-of-the-art schools, a major force in improving the quality of education for black children in 1928, one in every five rural schools in the South was a Rosenwald School.

RACHAEL FINCH, HISTORIC PRESERVATIONIST CONSULTANT: It's a place of community and it bridged the gap for African Americans during a time when separate was definitely not equal. The schools not only revolutionized black education in the South, but alumni like Maya Angelo and the late Congressman John Lewis went on to make their own mark in the history books.

But when the Supreme Court ruled separate but equal education was unconstitutional in 1954, Rosenwald Schools slowly became obsolete. Only 10 percent of them still stand. Located about 30 minutes outside of Nashville, Lee Buckner is the last surviving Rosenwald School in the region.

MAUDY ADKINSON JOHNSON, FORMER ROSENWALD SCHOOL STUDENT: This little box sitting here on the side of the road, it might not mean a lot to a lot of people when they ride by. I always would come by and hope that it wouldn't just sit here and fall down.

ROSALES (voice-over): And it was special to these former students, when a day of missed class, helping their parents work, was a sad one.

ROSALES: All of you guys worked the tobacco field?


ROSALES (voice-over): After years of planning, the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County is restoring the one-room schoolhouse. Lee Buckner will be relocated to downtown Franklin.

UNKNOWN: I think that we can have a better future if we understand even the difficult parts of our past.

ROSALES (voice-over): Crafted to be a springboard to a better future and home to those who walked its hallways.

HARRIS: I don't want them to forget where we came from. We didn't have a lot, but we had teachers who cared.

ROSALES (voice-over): Isabel Rosales, CNN, Franklin, Tennessee.


PHILLIP: Such an important piece. Our thanks to Isabel for that. And up next, a surprise announcement about the 90s. Tracy Chapman song that has now become a huge hit more than 30 years later.







PHILLIP: Award-winning Singer and Songwriter Tracy Chapman will take the stage at this weekend's Grammy Awards, joining Country Superstar Luke Combs for a duet of her song, "Fast Car".


PHILLIP: Now, Combs won multiple awards for his cover of that song, which is nominated for Best Country Solo Performance. And this would be only the third time that Tracy Chapman has performed on camera in about 15 years. Looking forward to that one. And thank you for watching NEWSNIGHT. "LAURA COATES LIVE" starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: The chilling words of the Michigan mass shooter's mother, tonight on "LAURA COATES LIVE".