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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip
Trump Loses Claim Of Absolute Immunity For Ex-Presidents; GOP Imploding Tonight Amid Failed Votes, RNC Chair Exit; Former Fox Host Tucker Carlson In Moscow To Interview Putin; Abby Phillip Discusses Border Policy With Representatives Malliotakis And Cuellar. Aired 10- 11p ET
Aired February 06, 2024 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: He was a staple for so many, including me growing up. I always asked my parents to play his songs on the radio when we were in the car, even though my siblings wanted to listen to whatever was popular in pop music at that time.
But tonight, country music fans and stars alike, and myself, raising a red solo cup in Toby Keith's honor. I'm thinking of his family and friends tonight.
Thank you so much for joining us. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillips starts right now.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Where Donald Trump won't go and why, that's tonight on NewsNight.
Good evening. I'm Abby Philip in New York.
And tonight sources say there is one court that Donald Trump doesn't want to turn into a campaign circus. That's the Supreme Court. Sources are telling CNN that the former president plans now to avoid the room where it happens when the justices hear arguments about whether his name belongs on the ballots in November.
Now, Trump may want to stay out of the legal spotlight, but he cannot avoid the harsh glare of yet another potentially crippling legal loss. Just today, an appeals court asked and answered in airtight detail a question with historic implications. Are presidents immune from prosecution? The D.C. Circuit answered it unanimously, no.
The three-judge panel took 57 pages to spell out all of the ways that the former president's lawyers failed to convince them that crimes are not crimes just because you're the leader of the free world. And they often turned the former president's words against him.
The decision drips with derision for Trump's legal theories. They quote, it would collapse our system of separated power and set up, quote, a striking paradox by making presidents who are entrusted with executing the law the sole officer capable of defying those laws with impunity. And joining me now for his reaction to this historic finding is John Yoo, the former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general in the Bush administration and a professor at law at U.C. Berkeley. John, what's your reaction to this really decisive decision by the appellate court here?
JOHN YOO, FORMER BUSH U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I hope President Trump and his lawyers take away the lesson that this appeal has no chance. This is, as you said, Abby, a watertight opinion. I was reading it carefully today. It is a very thorough and very good opinion.
It goes through in great detail, not just the text of the Constitution, the policy arguments, the views of the founders, the federal's papers. And I think it does a pretty good job of rejecting the idea that a president, not just President Trump, but every president, including the current president, President Biden, do not have some kind of lifetime immunity from federal criminal prosecution.
I think it's a real blow to President Trump's efforts. But I don't think, and I think most legal observers would agree, I don't think that this argument had much chance. I think most of the court's precedents were against President Trump. I don't think that there's a lot of support for this kind of claim that a president has criminal immunity. He's going to have to challenge Jack Smith's prosecution for January 6th on some other kind of grounds in this one.
PHILLIP: Yes. And the judges, they were clear that they do think he can be prosecuted. They wrote, the former President Trump's alleged efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election were, if proven, an unprecedented assault on the structure of our government.
He allegedly injected himself into a process in which the president has no role, the counting and certifying of the Electoral College votes, thereby undermining constitutionally established procedures and also the will of the Congress.
It was notable to me, John, that the judges here, they were clear that they weren't making a determination about his guilt or his innocence, but they did put a lot of weight on just the seriousness of these allegations against him.
But what do you think that means for the legal fight ahead against this case that the federal government is bringing against him?
YOO: One way to think about what President Trump was doing here, he was trying to throw a Hail Mary pass to try to eliminate all the prosecutions against him simultaneously. And as you say, Abby, now that this immunity claim has been rejected, he can go to the Supreme Court.
He might be able to delay his criminal trial maybe another three or four months pressing this immunity case all the way to the Supreme Court.
[22:05:00] But I think once that claim is rejected finally by the justices, then the criminal trial can go forward.
He's got all the defenses that any American you or me have when we are put on trial. He has the right to due process. He writes to Miranda hearings, reasonable search and seizure, counsel, so on. Jury, he has the right to a jury of his peers to, decide on whether there's proof beyond a reasonable doubt, whether he committed any of these crimes.
And he's going to ultimately claim, I think, that these charges don't fit what happened on January 6th or that he never did anything on January 6th other than give a speech. He still has all of that time, all of the foray (ph) in the federal district court to make these claims, and Jack Smith will now have the opportunity to bring out all the evidence that he says he has out into the public form. And a jury's going to see it and you and me and all the other Americans are going to see it and we can make our decision.
PHILLIP: Just like any other regular citizen, which was really something that was emphasized in this decision.
John Yoo, thank you very much for joining us.
YOO: Thanks, Abby.
PHILLIP: And for more, I want to bring in former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman, along with former SDNY Chief and Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah.
You know, Mimi, the court really rejected not just the broad immunity claim, but all of the various arguments that had been presented. They wrote, it would be a striking paradox if the president, who alone is vested with the constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, were the sole officer capable of defying those laws with impunity.
What is striking to me about that is that it's just plain common sense. You don't have to be a lawyer to understand that that makes no sense.
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER CHIEF OF SDNY: Yes, and actually, I think that's part of what all of us are sort of in awe of this opinion about, is that it relies on legal precedent, relies on the Constitution, relies on history, but also so much of it makes sense. And one of the main principles of that is no one is above the law. That's what we're all talking about. That's what John Yoo was talking about.
But it's also -- and especially the president, isn't above the law, the former president. Because he's the person who, in the Constitution, he or she is delegated with the duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully followed. So, you would be the last person that we would say is immune.
And they really do such a good job of eradicating Trump's favorite argument that his team put out even today about the -- you know, this is going to open, this slippery slope, this floodgates of criminal prosecutions by any -- against any former president by the opposing political party. And they basically really eradicate that, again, in such a good way, both using common sense and history to say, but this hasn't happened before because other presidents haven't engaged in this kind of conduct.
And even if there's some chance at that, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe we should use the criminal law as a deterrence.
PHILLIP: I think they haven't engaged in this kind of conduct principally because they believe that they were not immune from prosecution.
Nick, the court is very clear. Trump is a private citizen. He's not protected in any way. One former Trump attorney, not in this particular case, but made the argument that they could see potentially this court coming down with some kind of partial ruling about immunity, maybe some things they're immune from and other things they're not. That didn't happen here, a unanimous decision saying no immunity, period.
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: But they were really focused on what the allegations were in this complaint and the indictment. They were focused on what he did. And if you read through this opinion, you really -- it's almost chilling to read through what he is alleged to have done with respect to trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power in this country and how he did it and what he did.
I mean, as you read through this, you realize that Judge Chutkan, who is the district court judge now, who is going to be presiding over the trial, I mean, she's basically been told, you don't treat this individual like any other citizen who's been put into the federal criminal justice system. You treat him just like everybody else. He has all the same rights. He has all the same privileges, but he has no special status.
And that is really important. Look, back in the day when I was doing the Watergate case, it was never even conceived in any fashion whatsoever that President Nixon couldn't be charged with a crime. I mean, we were looking to charge President Nixon. We were investigating President Nixon.
The only reason he wasn't charged in the first Watergate cover-up trial was because we deferred to the U.S. Congress with the impeachment. And then after the impeachment we had a number of different cases including even tax evasion. And he was pardoned. And once he was pardoned, that was the end of it.
So, it was never ever assumed or even considered that there was any kind of presidential immunity for that kind of activity.
PHILLIP: That's fascinating. And, Mimi, the Supreme Court will probably get an appeal, though Trump lawyers have just a few days, to do that. Do you think that this actually would be something that they would take up an appeals court decision that is as airtight, as all these lawyers say that it is, unanimous?
ROCAH: So, I think the safest I can say is that the Court of Appeals here did everything it could possibly have done to try to ensure, frankly, that the Supreme Court didn't need to take it up. They don't need to. It is a novel issue, but there is not a disagreement amongst different courts of appeals. They could let this opinion stand. It stands on its own times ten, as we've all been discussing.
Does that mean they won't take it? I cannot safely sit here and say that. I don't think they need to. I hope that they don't for a lot of reasons.
And, again, I think the Court of Appeals, you know, we all myself included, you know, handwringing why is this taking so long. But it actually is a remarkably fast time for a Court of Appeals to have such a thorough airtight decision.
And, remember, the Supreme Court did not -- Jack Smith tried to get them to take it and they didn't. And that is in part to give the Court of Appeals a chance. So, they have an opinion to rely on either to say, we don't need to take this or to say, okay, affirmed. I mean, they can do that. They can.
So, there are a bunch of different routes here. And again, the Court of Appeals did also put in this mechanism by which Trump can't do the, I'm going to seek en banc and do that, and then go to the -- they're trying to keep things moving.
AKERMAN: Yes. I think they've gone up in a way and say, they are not going to take it. Donald Trump could not have picked the worst time to bring this case up before the Supreme Court when they have to consider whether or not he can be a viable candidate under the 14th Amendment.
PHILLIP: They already have other things, other matters involving Donald Trump to deal with.
Nick Akerman and Mimi Rocah, thank you both very much.
And ahead, you will hear from Chris Christie on the immunity decision and whether he will endorse Nikki Haley in the presidential race.
Plus, a massive embarrassment tonight for the Republican Party by their vote to impeach the head of the Homeland Security Department failed.
And breaking news, the head of the RNC is looking to be on her way out of a job. Hear on who may have replaced Ronna McDaniel.
PHILLIP: The Republican Party seems to be imploding tonight, and one man is calling the shots. After months of investigating and villainizing the Homeland Security secretary, a vote to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas over the border crisis has failed in the Republican-led House.
Now, after that, a standalone bill to provide aid to Israel, that also failed. And after days of being publicly thrown under the bus by Donald Trump, The New York Times is reporting that the head of the RNC, Ronna McDaniel, is planning to step down. And, apparently, Trump is likely to back an election denier to replace her.
Mark McKinnon joins me now. He's a former Bush campaign media advisor and former McCain presidential adviser.
Mark, what do you make of this, extraordinary, back-to-back, you know, drubbing, frankly, that the GOP took tonight in their own house, no less?
MARK MCKINNON, FORMER BUSH CAMPAIGN MEDIA ADVISER: Well, you'd think that people might look at that and say, these are not serious people. It's a humiliating for a speaker of the House to take a vote to the floor and fail, particularly on something this significant.
And let's remember this was a vote over impeachment. Impeachment is for high crimes and misdemeanors. There's no alleged high crime or misdemeanor committed by Mayorcas. It's just simply a disagreement over border policy.
And that's a terrible precedent to set in American politics or anywhere for that matter is that you throw somebody out or you impeach them simply because you disagree with them. So, it's a terrible precedent to be set.
Now, obviously they weren't successful today, unsuccessful on another vote. You never saw Nancy Pelosi -- I mean, a lot of politics is just straight math and you got to be able to count the votes, and Speaker Johnson is having a pretty miserable time of it.
PHILLIP: Yes, you have to be able to count, for sure. You know, another two failures of the Republican leadership in the House was that there was already an ongoing list of complaints against Mike Johnson and his leadership and just how he was handling everything, some on the far right threatening his job as speaker.
Do you foresee this coming back to Mike Johnson and revisiting this idea of a motion to vacate, which would essentially kick him out of the job? Are his days numbered?
MCKINNON: Yes. I mean, the problem is that Mike Johnson got the keys of the gates of hell. With the motion to vacate rule in place, we know that it just takes literally a single vote to get deposed. And it's clear that the Republican caucus doesn't have a lot of interest in actually passing legislation, actually solving problems. They had a an immigration bill that Donald Trump, I guarantee, would have signed in a heartbeat if he'd gotten it as president, but they don't really care about that. What they want is a political weapon for Donald Trump.
But the problem for Mike Johnson is that he's in a pincer move between the centrist Republicans, for example, from New York State and the Freedom Caucus members. And the real problem at the end of the day is that, for most of those Republican constituents these days, they don't really want them to do anything, and that's the problem.
They literally would just rather have them fail.
PHILLIP: They want a lot of messaging bills, frankly, and also they want to please Trump.
Speaking of, though, there's new reporting tonight by CNN and The New York Times that the RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, is offering to step down after this month's South Carolina primary. This is in response to some criticism from a lot of Republicans and from Trump.
Trump is also potentially planning to install his own leader, including potentially an election denier. I mean, what is there even to say about that? I mean, we already knew that this was at the heart now of today's Republican Party.
MCKINNON: Well, what there is to say about it is that there's no question anymore in the Republican Party that the only thing that matters is the loyalty test to Donald Trump, and the ultimate loyalty test, and that is, you know, how forward-leaning were you in the Stop the Steal movement, and the guy that he's considering from North Carolina was a leader in that movement.
Ronna McDaniel served for a very long time, but the fundraising numbers were pretty anemic. And the writing was on the wall. She made the right move and got out of the way before the axe fell. But this is just the way things roll in Trump land.
PHILLIP: Yes, it certainly is. Mark McKinnon, good to see you. Thank you.
MCKINNON: Thanks, Abby.
PHILLIP: And up next, Chris Christie, in a candid interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, talking about the decision on presidential immunity and the 2024 campaign. I'll speak to Anderson about it next.
Plus, what's Russian for P.R. stunt? And is that something that Tucker Carlson is about to learn? And we'll discuss that with an expert on Russia, just ahead.
PHILLIP: Tonight, an endorsement of a court decision and an explanation of why an endorsement won't be coming anytime soon for Nikki Haley. CNN's Anderson Cooper sat down with former Republican Presidential Candidate Chris Christie for a remarkably candid interview about the campaign, the court cases that might upend it, and much, much more.
Christie is also a former federal prosecutor, I should remind you, who tells Anderson that the appeals court decision that was handed down today about Donald Trump got that immunity question just right.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: think it's a very tight, concise decision. I don't think there's any grounds for appeal. I don't know why the Supreme Court would want to take it. And I think it's what's going to lead to is a trial later this spring in Washington.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you think the trial will actually take place before the election?
CHRISTIE: Oh, I absolutely do. Look, you have a couple of things.
COOPER: Will he try to delay? I mean, even if there's not ground for an appeal, I mean, he'll try.
CHRISTIE: When I read the decision today, one of the things the circuit court did was say, if he wanted to appeal to the Supreme Court, he had until Monday to do it. Usually, it's 90 days. They gave him until Monday, and said, if you don't, then we're just going to lift the stay.
So, I think he's going to have some decisions to make regarding how he wants to proceed. I'm sure he's going to try to appeal to the Supreme Court.
COOPER: You don't think they would take it up?
CHRISTIE: I don't. I don't. I think it's a very tight, narrow ruling. And I don't think that the Supreme Court would be looking to take it up on a 3-0 decision that, in fact, I think is the correct decision.
PHILLIP: Now, Christie weighed in also on a lingering campaign issue, why he will not try to help Nikki Haley defeat Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Would it have helped if you had endorsed her?
CHRISTIE: I don't know. I mean, I don't know how much endorsements really matter, quite frankly, but that wasn't really the way I made that decision.
COOPER: If -- you're still not willing to endorse her?
CHRISTIE: Because she's not running against Donald Trump. And I think that the people who support me in this enterprise expect that if I'm going to support someone, they're going to be as aggressive and as honest and direct about Donald Trump being unfit for the presidency. During the time I was in the race in New Hampshire with Governor Haley, she wouldn't even say that she wouldn't accept the vice presidency from him. So, that hardly seemed like someone that would be a natural fit for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: And Anderson Cooper joins me now. You've interviewed Chris Christie several times. It's not really that surprising that, in addition to what he told you there, he had that hot mic moment just before he got out of the race. It's not surprising he wouldn't endorse Nikki Haley in that sense.
But does it surprise you that after Haley has ramped up her attacks on Christie that that's not enough for him, or her attacks on Trump, I should say?
COOPER: Yes. I think his, you know, belief is that, in the end, she will endorse Donald Trump because she wants to have a future --
PHILLIP: And he's probably not wrong about that.
COOPER: Right, in his party, and he doesn't want to be, you know, endorsing somebody who's then going to go and endorse Donald Trump.
PHILLIP: Right, and one of her top surrogates, Chris Sununu, has basically laid the groundwork for what that endorsement could look like.
You also talked to Christie about his book on Ronald Reagan. I want to play a little bit about what he said about the Republican Party past and present.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In the book, you write, many Republicans have abandoned their common sense and discernment and jumped into a shabby cult, denying plain reality, ignoring proven facts, promoting ridiculous conspiracy theories and pledging allegiance to a blustery loser who can't remotely be called a conservative and who cares solely about himself. It's about as far as you can get from Ronald Reagan.
CHRISTIE: I like that. That's pretty good.
COOPER: And yet, this is the party you want to head.
CHRISTIE: Well, look, I mean, what I want to do is change it. And, you know, listen, Anderson, if you took those words and you went to any number of leaders of our party privately and ask them if they agree it, they say they did. The problem is they don't want to do the hard work that's necessary to lead and change the party. It means that if you don't raise your hand at the debate in Milwaukee, you're going to get booed. We're going to be willing to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: He's talking there about the raising your hand on the debate stage and saying you'd vote for Trump in spite of a conviction, in spite of the charges against him. It seems like this Republican Party, according to Christie and just the facts, suggest that you're seeing way more caving to Trump than anything else on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the landscape.
COOPER: Yeah. And I, you know, he makes the point that, you know, I think anybody looking at the Republican Party today knows that this is not the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan. And it's very doubtful Ronald Reagan could win our primary in some of these states in today's Republican Party.
If you look at the battle, you know, what's happened in Congress over the border bill that the Senate has, you know, I asked Christie about that. He was saying, look, Ronald Reagan would have made a compromise. Ronald Reagan would have gotten people together, made a compromise.
He wouldn't have gotten everything that he wanted to get but he would move the ball forward. And that is something which that is just not what the game is today on Capitol Hill.
PHILLIP: You have to wonder how much longer the pining for the Reagan era is going to last in this Republican era.
COOPER: I don't know that there is a lot of planning. I mean, I think maybe among a certain subset of the Republican Party but if -- it's a different party now. And it's, you know, they have to figure out what comes next as opposed to thinking that somebody -- how they're going to drag it back to be the party of Reagan.
PHILLIP: Yeah, I know Chris Christie is making the case with his book that perhaps there's still a little bit more room for the Reagan era. Anderson, thanks so much for sticking around for us. We appreciate it.
And where in the world is Tucker Carlson? The former Fox host shows up on the map in Moscow, spewing lies and getting ready for a sit down with an accused war criminal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FORMER FOX HOST: We're here to interview the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Tucker Carlson is lying from the streets of Russia, no less.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Not a single western journalist has bothered to interview the President of the other country involved in this conflict -- Vladimir Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: That's a lie. Serious news outlets, including CNN have requested Putin to interview, over and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine or where those goals are now. You never heard his voice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Another lie. Serious news outlets including CNN have covered and of course reported on Putin's words since this war began, including one of his baseless justifications for the invasion of Ukraine, which he initially claimed was to stop the Nazis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: First, because it's our job. We're in journalism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Tucker Carlson is not a journalist, not even close. And his former employer in a court case actually agreed, quote, "The general tenor of the show should then inform a viewer that Carlson is not stating actual facts about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in exaggeration and non-literal commentary."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Two years into a war that's re-shaping the entire world, most Americans are not informed. They have no real idea what's happening in this region here in Russia or 600 miles away in Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: For two years, real journalists have risked their lives to report from the ground each and every day in Russia and in Ukraine, including two U.S. journalists who are right now baselessly being detained by Vladimir Putin.
And joining me now is founding partner and Washington correspondent for "Puck", Julia Ioffe. Julia, thanks for staying up for us. What is in it for Putin to do this interview with Tucker Carlson, both from an American audience perspective and also, of course, his audience back home in Russia?
JULIA IOFFE, FOUNDING PARTNER AND WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "PUCK": Abby, thank you so much for calling out so many of Tucker Carlson's lies. There are so many of them in that four and a half minute video that it's hard to get at all of them, but I'm glad you dismantled some of the most important ones.
But I think what's really shocking is the way he kind of just walks right into Moscow and presents himself on a silver platter to the Kremlin, doing the Kremlin's job of misinforming, disinforming the American population.
Putin, from the very beginning of this war, has angled to basically create a bridge to American right-wingers and conservatives like Tucker Carlson, saying that he's fighting gender-neutral bathrooms in Ukraine, saying that he's fighting queer gender roles in Ukraine, basically signaling to them that there's an ideological affinity and that I'm your guy.
And in fact, if you recall shortly before Putin invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, Tucker Carlson went on his show on Fox News and said, hey, why are we allying ourselves with Ukraine when we should be the allies of Putin? We have the same ideas as him and he should be our friend.
PHILLIP: Who do you think is winning this propaganda war right now, given everything that you laid out and also just, by the way, the fact that right now, USAID for Ukraine is stalled in Washington because of Republican opposition?
IOFFE: Well, I think so far, or right now, Putin is winning, mostly because people in the West are tired. They have war fatigue. There's another war, horrible war happening in Gaza right now.
And a few Republicans on the right are doing, or actually a lot of them are doing Donald Trump's bidding because he does not like Ukraine. He likes Vladimir Putin and he has told them to hold off funding for Ukraine, that there should be no more money for Ukraine.
So, all of that disinformation, all of that buttering up of the American right wing and of Donald Trump and people close to him has really paid off handsomely for Vladimir Putin because Ukrainian troops are, right now as we speak, running out of ammunition, running out of men in the middle of a horrible, deadly winter.
PHILLIP: Yeah, and Tucker Carlson doing the propaganda work of basically Russian state media for them, here, as well. Julia Ioffe, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
IOFFE: Thank you, Abby.
PHILLIP: And up next, the Senate's immigration deal is now apparently on the verge of collapse and President Biden directly calls out Donald Trump. We'll talk to two lawmakers who are on both sides of the aisle about what's going on Capitol Hill.
PHILLIP: Tonight, a Republican failure to follow through on a border promise. The GOP-controlled House, they tried to impeach the Homeland Security Secretary. They did not. And it's an irony-laced outcome. Republicans, they want to hold someone, especially Biden, accountable
for the borders -- for the border but the point man responsible for the migrant crisis. And yet, Republicans, they also don't want to hold themselves accountable for a border bill that is stuck now on a road to nowhere.
And joining me now is Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas and also with us Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis of New York. Congressman and Congresswoman, both of you, thanks for joining us tonight and thanks for joining us together from Capitol Hill.
Congresswoman, I want to start with you. "The Wall Street Journal" is calling this bill that's being considered right now the most restrictive migrant legislation in decades. My question to you is, do you support it?
NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): If you're talking about the Senate bill, I don't support that bill as is. I think there are some good components to it. I think that our Border Security Act, which we passed in May, is much better and stronger because it requires the President to reinstate the Remain in Mexico clause. It also requires that he take action to end catch and release, and those are the two biggest issues that we're facing at our border.
PHILLIP: This current bill, my understanding is, does deal with catch and release. But, I mean, the fundamental question still is, if this is the only piece of legislation that is dealing with border security, and even "The Wall Street Journal" calls it the most conservative, basically, piece of legislation on this issue in decades, why would that not be enough to get your support right now?
MALLIOTAKIS: Well, because it still allows for thousands of individuals. And you've got to remember, every individual that crosses through that southern border is paying the drug cartels to be smuggled in.
The only individuals that should be coming to our border are Canadians and Mexicans. Everyone else should be going to the next safe country and then applying for asylum there. That would be the safest thing for everyone involved, including the migrants.
Now, as I said, there are some components that I do support, certainly increasing standards for asylum and then expediting those cases so people can know either they qualify or they don't. If they qualify they get work authorization and if they don't they get deported. I think that's really important.
And also, increasing visas, employer sponsored visas, family sponsored visas, to meet our labor shortage and economic needs here in the United States, incredibly important and we can agree on that, as well. But it is not the only bill because we passed the House Board of Security Act in May. Chuck Schumer won't bring that bill up for a vote either.
So, what I would say is, we pass our bill, let the Senate, if they're going to move forward, and pass their bill, if that's what their priorities are, and then we can reconcile the differences. But to say that we should be taking the Senate bill without any input from the House, I don't think that's fair.
PHILLIP: I should note that the Senate bill that we're talking about is one that was negotiated between both Republicans and Democrats, so that's one of the reasons why this is such a topic of conversation.
MALLIOTAKIS: But none in the House. That's the issue.
PHILLIP: That's fair, too.
MALLIOTAKIS: None in the House. And there were two Democrats and one Republican, so it didn't include the majority of the Congress.
PHILLIP: I want to go to Congressman Cuellar on this because Congresswoman Malliotakis is on the right side of this issue expressing a similar sentiment that I've heard on the left, which is that this bill doesn't have all of the priorities of people on both sides, of the extremes here, frankly.
At this point, it seems like this bill is dead already before it's even launched. Would that be, in your view, a missed opportunity to do something on this issue rather than nothing?
HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): Yeah, you know, if you look at when we've dealt with immigration or border security, there's been certain times where we've had great opportunities to do something. I think this is one of them.
I do agree with my colleague that I don't agree -- I will support the Senate bill, but I do want to have a little bit of input since I live at the border. And I think we can work out some differences, but you're right. This bill is probably one of the most conservative border bills that I've seen.
It's gotten a lot of Democrats away from their comfort zones. Now, it doesn't mean that the left is happy with this, but at the same time, I think it's something that we need to address.
PHILLIP: Congresswoman, President Biden today was pretty clear that he would blame Republicans for failing to do anything on the border security part of this, despite complaining about it for years. Given that this is a rejection of quite a lot of border security measures, isn't he right?
MALLIOTAKIS: Look, as I said, we are looking for a solution, but it has to be between both the House and the Senate. Not that the Senate gives us something where we have no input and doesn't fully address the issue. And President Biden knows that he has authority right now to end this crisis today.
He created it via executive order. He passed 60 policy changes and that's why we have this mess that we have today. We never had under any other President, Republican or Democrat. So, quite frankly, he, with the current authority he has, can end
catch and release. He can make sure that people apply from the next safe country and not take this treacherous journey and pay the drug cartels. He has the ability to do this right now. We don't even need legislation. The only reason --
PHILLIP: But Congresswoman -- but Congresswoman --
MALLIOTAKIS: -- because the only reason we're looking to --
PHILLIP: I do have to ask you, though, why won't Congress just do their jobs? I don't understand why --
MALLIOTAKIS: We did do our job, Abby.
PHILLIP: I don't understand why the answer is always, President Biden should just do it. It is also Congress' responsibility.
MALLIOTAKIS: Abby, the laws on the book --
PHILLIP: Why won't both the House and the Senate come together -- to come with relevant legislation that can actually pass?
MALLIOTAKIS: Yeah, the question should be, why won't President Biden do his job because he has the existing authority? And the only reason why the Senate and the House have to do anything here is because he won't do his job using that authority. So, now we have to try to pass something to require the President to do it. Because right now, it's his discretion to take these very actions.
PHILLIP: Congressman Cuellar, I want to bring you into this because both you and the Congresswoman are actually complaining about the same thing fundamentally, which is that the process here that Congressional leaders took was one that did not involve adequate consultation, perhaps with border states or with the House. Congressman Cuellar, was this a leadership failure on the part of leadership in both chambers to do this the right way?
CUELLAR: Well, listen, the Republicans passed H.R. two without input from the Democrats. The Senate right now is trying to pass a bill without the input of the whole House. If we let the process work, we can sit down because I've looked at H.R. two and I've looked at the border bill, not read every single page, but the general concepts.
There's actually a lot of points that we agree on. We do agree. We just got to figure out what are those points, catch a release, and we got to put funding into the appropriations. I will say this, that we got to put funding because you can't say, President, just stop, close the border, because if we don't have the beds to hold people, then they're going to be released.
We don't have enough beds. We don't have enough airplanes to deport people. We don't have enough judges -- immigration judges. We don't have enough asylum officers at the border. So, it's a policy change and a funding area that we need to look at. PHILLIP: Congressman, woman, Malliotakis, could you just for a second
respond to what the Congressman was just saying, that you cannot close down the border. That's something that I hear a lot from your Republican colleagues that they want to see happen. He says it doesn't work.
MALLIOTAKIS: Well, you can make sure that there's only the people that are supposed to be coming to the southern border, meaning the Mexicans and Canadians, that can claim asylum from the next safe country.
And so, I agree with Henry that there are things that we agree on. I'm certainly for trying to come to a resolution. And I think he's right about needing to add immigration judges. These cases, we have a 10- year backlog. I have a constituent who applied for asylum in 2017, and she has been pushed further down the line.
We do need to resolve this backlog. But how do we do that if we continue to allow an unsustainable flow, which is why we, you know, we have to get to an agreement there?
PHILLIP: All right, Congresswoman Malliotakis, Congressman Henry Cuellar, thank you both very much for joining us on this issue.
MALLIOTAKIS: Thank you.
CUELLAR: Thank you so much. Good evening.
PHILLIP: And polls have just closed in Nevada's Democratic and Republican primaries. We will have the latest from there, next.
PHILLIP: And just moments ago, polls closing in Nevada in the Democratic and the Republican primaries there. The first results are expected in just a few hours, but it really doesn't matter much, at least on the Republican side, because they also have a caucus this Saturday.
And the GOP has chosen to award their delegates via the caucuses, not through today's primary. Trump also chose not to appear on the primary ballot, but he will be on the caucus ballot. And thank you for watching "NewsNight". 'Laura Coates Live" starts right now.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: A huge legal smack down for Donald Trump and the word he least likes to hear, tonight on 'Laura Coates Live".