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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Definitive Autopsy Of D.C.'s Stunning Failure To Govern; Should Trump Be Disqualified, Supreme Court To Hear Case; U.S. Kills Militia Leader Blamed For Deaths Of U.S. Troops; Family Member Of A Hamas Hostage Reacts To Prime Minister's Netanyahu Press Conference; Nevada Race Indicates President Biden's Strength In 2024 Presidential Election. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 07, 2024 - 22:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: This just in, as Marianne Williamson has announced that she is suspending her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, ending her long shot bid after ten months of campaigning.

Also a quick reminder tonight, I will be anchoring special coverage of the Trump ballot battle at the Supreme Court with Jake Tapper. That starts right here on CNN at 9:00 A.M. tomorrow.

But for now, CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip begins.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: The definitive autopsy of Washington's latest failure to govern, that's tonight on NewsNight.

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

And four months for years for the better part of a decade, the Republican Party has made the border issue number one. They demanded change, legislation, any kind of fix. And there is, in fact, a crisis on the border, whether Democrats want to admit it out loud or not, and new laws are needed to keep up with the influx of migrants.

The problem is, though, Republicans latched onto this issue for political reasons, and there's proof of it. To explain how this border deal died the quickest of deaths, I'm going to use the inverted pyramid to help convey the who, the what, when, where and why Republicans ended up tanking the very type of legislation that they demanded.

First and foremost, the who, of course, Donald Trump. The where, Capitol Hill. The why and the when, and while Republicans will tell you that they're rejecting this deal because it doesn't go far enough, even though it's the most conservative bipartisan immigration bill in recent history.

But that excuse is just a cover. The main reason that they don't want this bill is because Donald Trump doesn't want to give Joe Biden a legislative win during an election year. It's that simple. Not only has Trump actually admitted this out loud, but so have his allies over on Capitol Hill.


REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): Joe Biden's approval ratings at 33 percent. 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?


PHILLIP: If you need any more proof, well, it was Donald Trump who once said, it's the job of Congress to solve the border.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The only long-term solution to the crisis and the only way to ensure the endurance of our nation as a sovereign country is for Congress to overcome open borders obstruction.


PHILLIP: Now, back in the fall, Republicans refused to support any more aid for Ukraine or Israel unless that money was allocated for the border. They were essentially holding foreign aid hostage. So, a group of bipartisan senators, the ones actually trying to govern, they got together over the last few months to try to bridge the divide.

They reached a deal. It was backed by key players, including everyone, from Mitch McConnell to Joe Biden to the Border Patrol Union. And then in the course of just a week, poof, Trump sabotaged the deal, effectively killing it.

Now, by the way, this isn't the first deal, bill or even law that Trump has blown up, threatened many times without any real replacement in mind. There was Obamacare, the Iran nuclear deal infrastructure, the Paris Climate Accord, DACA, the 2020 stimulus. This week, the Heritage Action Group, it's a conservative advocacy

group, they went full Orwell or Marty McFly, however you prefer your history to be rewritten, and they said this, quote, senators and the Biden administration can no longer camouflage the truth. They're leveraging the border crisis and the needs of our allies in Israel and Taiwan to extract more than $60 billion in additional unaccountable aid for Ukraine.

Well, first of all, Ukraine is an ally of the United States. And, second of all, that's just a lie.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Any national security package has to begin with the security of our own border.

We have to affect real policy change at the border and that is a necessary condition to anything we do going forward.

I have also made very clear from day one that our first condition on any national security supplemental spending package is about our own national security.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I will not help Ukraine, Taiwan or Israel until we secure a border that's been obliterated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to consider the other package of Israel and Ukraine aid, even though I support both of those, until and unless we deal with the border.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's broad agreement on support for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific. We've got to get something on the border.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think it's important for Israel, for Ukraine, for Taiwan, and also to secure the border.


PHILLIP: I also find it fascinating that Mike Johnson is dismissing the Border Patrol's endorsement of this deal considering his own previous words.


JOHNSON: You don't need to take my word for it. Listen to the deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.

The president should come to the border. What an idea that would be. He should talk to the Border Patrol agents who are down here.


PHILLIP: And just to get back to our inverted pyramid here, here's the how of it all. Well, this party, the Republican Party, has now become MAGA. And Trump leads it, despite the very real possibility that he could be a convicted felon, and soon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Donald Trump calling the shots here, Mr. Speaker?

JOHNSON: Of course not. He's not calling the shots. I am calling the shots for the House. That's our responsibility.


PHILLIP: Well, if he's not calling the shots, he is calling Mike Johnson.


COLLINS: How often do you speak to him?

JOHNSON: Pretty frequently now, you know, every, I don't know, few days or so.

He and I have been talking about this pretty frequently. I talked to him night before last about the same subject.


PHILLIP: Also on the how, there's the echo chamber, the right wing outlets at hammer home this border crisis hour in and hour out, but especially during election years.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You judge with your own eyes if the United States is being invaded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stunning exclusive new Fox video of a train packed car after car filled with cheering people from all over the globe coming our way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign nationals are breaching our shores by boat and then sprinting through the beaches and just disappearing onto the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing more or less than an invasion on that border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are being overwhelmed. There is no word to describe this except invasion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrorists and others are coming across our southern border, not to mention the scourge of fentanyl that are killing Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have an invasion, and they've refused to keep us safe.


PHILLIP: That same urgency for any kind of solution suddenly becomes much less urgent just in time when MAGA decided that the whole thing can suddenly wait until November.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMAN (I-AZ): After all of their cable news appearances, after all those campaign photo ops in the desert, after all those trips to the border, this crisis isn't actually much of a crisis after all. Sunday morning, there was a real crisis at the border. Monday morning, that crisis magically disappeared.


PHILLIP: And finally, what now? Well, this was probably Congress' best shot at getting a deal done, getting something done this year. It also made it less likely that level-headed lawmakers will even want to work together in the future, since doing so evidently makes them a target.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): I had a popular commentator four weeks ago that I talked to you that told me flat out before they knew any of the contents of the bill, any of the contents, nothing was out at that point, that told me flat out, if you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you because, I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election.


PHILLIP: So, the autopsy shows that this wasn't an honest policy disagreement, everyone working in good faith toward a solution. It was a red-blooded political murder. The clues are there, like in the game. It was Donald Trump over at Mar-a-Lago holding the bullhorn who ordered the hit.

And for more, I want to bring in former South Carolina Governor and former Republican Congressman Mark Sanford.

Governor, we've heard adjectives like chaos, embarrassment. How would you describe just these last 24 hours for your former Republican colleagues in the House?

FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): Well, to state the obvious, a mess. I mean, both on the House side with the failed impeachment attempt, which I think was about in messaging and what was going to happen or not happen on the border and consequences thereof, and obviously on the Senate side with the bill crumbling and falling apart, it's -- I mean, I think it's probably a more complex story than the one you laid out, but the bottom line is it's been messy over the last 24 hours.

PHILLIP: This bipartisan deal was declared dead by Mike Johnson in the House, yet other Republican members were ready to negotiate to get something done.


I mean, at the end of the day, everybody has to be willing to give up their sacred cows. Democrats certainly did. They gave up, honestly, quite a lot. Is this a leadership failure of congressional leadership, particularly in the House, to come to the table?

SANFORD: I don't know if there's a leadership failure. I think it's probably a couple of different things. I think it's, one, a reminder of Trump's clout within Republican circles in Washington. I think that that's real. I think it's a reminder of the weakening grip that McConnell has on the Senate side. I mean, historically, he's had a very strong hold of his membership. And you saw with the way that it fell that hand at least in this deal seemed to be weakening, and that's atypical. But most of all, I think it shows well beyond the fine print of the bill, which is just zero trust on either side. And in fairness to the Republicans, and, again, I'm not a MAGA guy and I'm certainly not a Trump supporter, but in fairness to where those folks are coming from, again, at the membership level, people are saying, well, wait a minute, you know, Biden had the tools. He dismembered a number of policies that were working under the Trump administration. There were far fewer encounters during that time. You know, you can have laws, but if the executive doesn't actually implement them, then they don't do you any good.

And I think that the breakdown here was ultimately well beyond the confine to the legislation itself, but to the larger issue of trust, which is, okay, we passed this thing, and what if they don't push it in the last 10, 11 months of this year. And I think that that's probably the most telling of all.

I mean, take for instance, this notion of certain triggers being hit after their 4,000 apprehensions per day, you know, for seven consecutive days. A lot of people say that's a giant loophole. I don't want to have 4,000 people rolling across the border with that.

PHILLIP: Just to be clear, that's not what that provision is about. It's encounters and I think the number is 5,000. It's encounters, which is not necessarily anybody coming in at all actually. So, look, I mean I take the point that you're making that there's a lot of --

SANFORD: Well, you're encountering them because they're crossing the border. You wouldn't be encountering them without them crossing the border.

PHILLIP: Well, you can encounter them and not -- if there's an encounter, they can be sent back across the border. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're coming in.

SANFORD: Which means they crossed border. I mean, that is sort of one in the same from my perspective.

PHILLIP: You're saying that people are just being let into the country and allowed to say that. That's not necessarily what that number means. Don't take it from me. I mean, take it from Senator Lankford. He was the one who tried to correct the record on that very point. He's the Republican who negotiated this bill.

My point was only separately. The lack of trust is one thing but it's pretty clear that this bill had some really stringent border security provisions. And the main reason even McConnell acknowledged was an unwillingness to do it in an election year when it seems that Trump would be the nominee. So, maybe it's about Biden, but it seems for a lot of Republicans, they acknowledge it's more about Trump.

SANFORD: No, and I wouldn't dispute that. I mean, for many Republicans it is. I mean, Trump says that's north or that's south, and they're going that direction. I mean, I totally get that and would see that point. The only point I'm making in fairness to some House and Senate members who had, I'm sure, legitimate disagreement with the bill, based on what Heritage Foundation, a variety of other -- you know, of those type groups had said, was that there were provisions, whether from the standpoint of sanctuary cities, or from the standpoint of NGO funding, or from the standpoint of thresholds with regards to certain tripwires being hit, that they felt uncomfortable with.

And, you know, and I would give former members that pass in terms of belief, because, again, I take it back to one thing, there is a broken level of trust in believing that the Biden administration will heavily implement a tough border policy, given those last three years of history.

PHILLIP: Well, I would add one more thing that's broken and it's Congress. They've got to pass laws. That's their one job. And they can't seem to do that these days.

Mark Sanford, thank you very much.

SANFORD: Yes, ma'am.

PHILLIP: And, by the way, who was that commentator who threatened James Langford as he just revealed? He just revealed himself, that's ahead.

Plus, just hours from now the Supreme Court showdown. The justices will hear the case about whether Donald Trump should be kicked off of the ballot.

And in Georgia tonight, Trump's lawyer accuses Fani Willis of racism and wants the judge to dismiss the case.

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Tonight, it's the calm before court. Tomorrow, Donald Trump's 14th Amendment fight, a fight to stay on Colorado's ballot, goes on to the justices docket.

Now, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board has weighed in on oral arguments. They write, a nine zero decision would send a unified message to the country. The Colorado is wrong on the law.

Joining me now to discuss that is Elie Mystal. He's the justice correspondent and columnist for The Nation Magazine. He also hosts a new podcast, Contept of Court with Elie Mystal.

So, Elie, what do you think will happen tomorrow inside of that court? The Journal seems pretty confident that it'll be a essential dismissal of Colorado's case.

ELIE MYSTAL, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: What I think will happen, what I think should happen, are two different things, right? What I think will happen is that the Republican justices, all six of them, will defend their boy and keep Trump on the ballot. But that's going to require them to abandon their own principles, right?

If we think about what Republicans say they care about, they care about the original definition of the Constitution, reading the text as it's written, and giving states the rights to determine their own ballot access and voter initiatives, right?


On all three of those levels, the 14th Amendment is clear textually that insurrectionists should not be allowed to run for office. The original meaning of the 14th Amendment, when it was written, meant exactly that, and Colorado has determined in its own state's rights court that Trump is an insurrectionist ineligible for the ballot. So, if the Republicans were honest with their own philosophy, they would kick Trump off the ballot.

What we're going to see tomorrow, what will happen tomorrow, is a level of intellectual gymnastics from the conservatives that, I swear, Simone Biles will copy in Paris this summer. That's how much twisting and turning they're going to have to do to keep Trump on the ballot.

PHILLIP: So, here's one option that is available to the court. They could all together avoid this question of did Trump engage in an insurrection? Do you think that they'll do that?

MYSTAL: Again, they should because, see -- and this wasn't reported as much as I wish it had been, Colorado had a trial, right? It's not just some random person saying like, I think Trump is an insurrectionist. Colorado had a trial there was evidence there were witnesses. And the Colorado court determined that Trump was an insurrectionist. And all the Colorado appellate court did was apply that trial court decision to Colorado and federal law.

So, there's no reason for the court to overturn the finder of fact in our system, which is the district trial court. But, again, what they should do and what they will do are two different things because the conservatives on the Supreme Court are now and have always been concerned about the political outcome of their decisions as opposed to the law underpinning their decisions.

And so in this case because their pet conservative philosophies do not get them the outcomes they desire, we will see them shoo those conservative print principles to get the outcome they desire, which is that Trump stays on the ballot.

PHILLIP: So, in another of the cases that Trump is facing, his lawyers are arguing in Georgia that the D.A. there prosecuting him acted improperly when she said this. Listen.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I hired one white man, brilliant, my friend, and a great boy (ph), and I hired one black man, another superstar, a great friend, and a great boy. Oh, Lord, they're going to be mad when I call them my own this nonsense. First thing they say, oh, she going to play the race card now. But no, God. Isn't it them who's playing the race card when they only question one?

Why is the white male Republican's judgment good enough but the black female Democrat's not?


PHILLIP: So, here's the argument that the Trump lawyers are making. They're saying that she, quote, stoked racial animus. What do you make of that?

MYSTAL: The Republicans are overplaying their hand. I don't agree with what Willis is just saying, the black man she hired she allegedly had a relationship with them the white man she hired she allegedly didn't have a relationship with. If she had a relationship with all of them, maybe we'd have a different conversation, and she had a relationship with none of them we would certainly be having a different conversation.

So, I agree with what she said. But Republicans are overplaying their hand to suggest that what that was stoking racial animus or, in some way, impinging her ability to prosecute this case. There is simply no evidence that Fani Willis hates white people or orange people or whoever we want to call the people that that are sending trial in her court, and they have brought no evidence of that, they've got quotes that they don't like.

And so this is what's happening in the Georgia case right now. Republicans found something that they think Fani Willis did wrong which, in some ways, I think finally Fani Willis did wrong, and then they are overplaying that hand to try to get 19 people off of their -- out of their charges in a case where people have already pleaded guilty conspiring to defraud the voters of Georgia. And that is the part of this that's actually ridiculous.

PHILLIP: Yes. We'll see what comes of this interesting argument, but also the situation that I guess Fani Willis put herself in to a certain extent.

Elie Mystal, thank you very much, great having you on here tonight.

MYSTAL: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIP: And breaking news tonight, the U.S. says that it has killed the terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of three American troops. There's new video of that strike.

Plus, families of hostages are livid after Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a ceasefire counteroffer by Hamas.

I'm going to speak to a relative of one of those hostages about it next.


PHILLIP: Tonight, the United States takes a terrorist allegedly responsible for the deaths of an American service member off the board. The Pentagon confirmed that it tracked and targeted a Kata'ib Hezbollah commander to Baghdad, and the drone did the rest, hitting the side of his SUV.

Now, CNN teams on the ground heard at least two loud explosions back- to-back around 9:30 P.M. Baghdad time. CENTCOM says in a statement that there are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties.

Also tonight, dismissals, delusions and decisions with potentially deadly consequences for those families caught in the middle of a Middle East war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a hard no on a Hamas counterproposal that would have set up another ceasefire.

Now, the offer would have paused the bloody war that has been ongoing for 45 days and guaranteed a gradual release of the hostages held by terrorists.


Netanyahu called it crazy after vowing complete victory inside of Gaza. It is devastating news for dozens of families awaiting the return of their loved ones and also the millions of Palestinians living under siege.

Joining me now is Moshe Lavi, Moshe's brother-in-law, Omri Miran is a Hamas hostage. Moshe, I can only imagine that it's really difficult to hear that there will be no counter proposal. One of the other families suggested that this might not end with the hostages coming home at all. Do you feel that way? Are you worried about that?

MOSHE LAVI, BROTHER-IN-LAW OF HAMAS HOSTAGE OMRI MIRAN: On one hand, yes, it was a difficult day and I think the press conference held by the Prime Minister, our Prime Minister, laid out clearly that the current counter-proposal is not acceptable to Israel. These were statements that were similar to what President Biden said yesterday and Secretary of State Blinken said today.

But I take it also with a grain of salt, because we do know that there will be negotiations starting tomorrow in Egypt, that Israel will send representatives there. So, my hope is that what was said in a press conference will not translate to actual policies and hopefully behind the scenes Israel continues to negotiate for the release.

PHILLIP: Do you think Netanyahu and his government are doing enough to prioritize bringing back your family member?

LAVI: I think the government is not cohesive. There are members of the government who seem to oppose any proposal that is on the table, whether one that is proposed by Israel and its allies or one that comes from Hamas. I do believe that members of the war cabinet and especially Gadi

Eisenkot, Benny Gantz, are pushing for a deal. The Prime Minister in meetings with families and in other statements does say that this is a primary objective, still a primary objective.

I want to believe them that this is what they're trying to do. But we do -- we will continue to push for our policy makers to do what they can to provide counter-proposals on their own and understand that victory alone in the battlefield will not provide victory for our society. It will be a period victory for Israel because it will lead to a breakdown of the social contract that bind us together as citizens.

PHILLIP: That's such an interesting observation on your part. I mean, when Netanyahu talks about absolute victory, do you feel like he really has a plan and do you agree with whatever plan that might be?

LAVI: I'm not a policy-maker or the military strategist. I'm not there in the decision-making table. So, I can't really comment on what plans are being executed. I think I differentiate rhetoric that is directed to public, to actual policies and the implementations of those policies.

I do think Israel has a right to defend itself. They need to protect us, the citizens who were attacked savagely by a terrorist organization on October 7th. And to be honest, has been attacked by this organization since its foundation because its goal is our destruction.

But at the same time, they need to prioritize what can be achieved in the short term and what needs to be a long-term plan. And we also need to remember that any actions on the battlefield -- there is a military strategy close which argued that military action is an extension of politics, of diplomacy. And so, that might need to be part of the equation.

PHILLIP: What would you say to Netanyahu today for your brother-in-law and all those other families who are still in Gaza?

LAVI: I want to stress that the Prime Minister does meet the families on a regular basis. So, we're able to tell him what we feel, provide criticism, provide our demands, as well. Well, we do it with other ministers, and we do it with policy-makers all around the world. I did it here in the U.S. My other members of the families and Omri's father Dani are traveling in Europe.

What we say to them is again that irrespective of the long-term goal of dismantling Hamas, you need to understand that prices will need to be paid for the failures of October 7th.

The failure of protecting the citizens like Omri, civilians who were abducted from the home. The failure to bring them home early enough because they're going through torture, abuse, violence, deprivation of food, water, sanitation, et cetera. Their testimonies are horrific.

So, that's what we share with them. He knows all of it and other members of the cabinet knows everything. In our interactions from what I can see, from what my family's interactions, we see that they understand our pain and are empathetic.


But we need to see results sooner than later because they don't have time. Omri, my brother-in-law, doesn't have time. Time is of the essence for them. Every second in captivity is eternity.

PHILLIP: I hear your frustration, and I know that anyone listening can hear that, too. Moshe Lavi, thank you very much for joining us tonight, and we certainly hope that your brother-in-law is brought back safely.

LAVI: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And just in, President Biden is making it clear who he believes this election is really about. Plus, why is he refusing to do a Super Bowl interview? I'll speak with his campaign about both topics coming up next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, new and scathing comments behind closed doors give us a look through the glass at the Biden campaign's strategy to win in November. Keep Donald Trump's name in his mouth.

Now, Biden ticked through a checklist of Trump comments at a New York fundraiser on mass shootings, on immigration, on a potential economic crash, on job records, and he challenged all Republicans to, quote, "show some spine" and decide to serve the country, not their MAGA master.

And I'm joined now by Michael Tyler, the Communications Director for President Biden's re-election campaign. Michael, thank you for joining the show tonight. The primary results from last night confirmed, of course, a decisive victory for President Biden, but we should note, technically, he is not actually running unopposed in this race.

I wonder, does the campaign -- do you think that candidates like Dean Phillips are hurting the President with his constant attacks and by virtue of that, the Democratic Party?

MICHAEL TYLER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, listen, this campaign is focused on the general election and taking on Donald Trump at this stage in the race. I think we want to look at Nevada as an indicator of the President's strength right now.

It builds upon the enthusiasm that we saw in states like New Hampshire with the grassroots writing effort in South Carolina where the backbone of the Democratic Party black voters turned out to the tune of 96 percent for the President in Nevada. You get to Nevada and you continue to see that growth.

PHILLIP: I want to play what President Biden said this week about the border deal that basically is now dead in the Congress. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S PRESIDENT: I'll be taking this issue to the country and the voters are going to know that it's not just a moment -- just at the moment. We're going to secure the border and fund these other programs. Trump and the MAGA Republicans said no because they're afraid of Donald Trump.


PHILLIP: This is true in a certain sense that Trump opposed the bill. A lot of Republicans opposed it. But it's also true that a lot of Democrats opposed it to not just in the Senate but many in the House, including some that I've spoken to. Isn't that also part of the reason why this is not happening -- pressure from the right and from the left?

TYLER: This is not happening right now for one reason and one reason alone, and that's because Donald Trump chose to blow up the process. The President himself, Joe Biden, said, "Deliver me a bipartisan bill that secures the border and helps fix our broken system." That's what the Senate did in a bipartisan manner, then entered Donald Trump.

And he blows it up because he's not actually interested in securing the border. He's interested in using this issue as a political weapon in the 2024 election because he doesn't care about solving it. He only cares about serving himself. He's talking about erecting mass deportation camps. He's talking about ending birth right citizenship. He's talking about fundamental -- go ahead.

PHILLIP: Well, what is President Biden -- how is President Biden going -- how is President Biden going to simply just run on what Trump might do when the border really is in a need for actual intervention right now? Is he not going to have to show that he has done something to deal with what is in fact a crisis at the border and now a crisis in a bunch of cities inside of the United States?

TYLER: He's going to continue to present solutions, right? He's going to continue to call on Congress to present bipartisan solutions to actually solve the problem.

PHILLIP: But he doesn't plan to actually do anything differently as President? He's just going to call for solutions?

TYLER: The President has made clear. He's doing everything that he has in his power to solve this on his own. What we need right now is legislation -- federal legislation through Congress to act. And the only reason that is not happening is because Donald Trump is trying to blow up the process because he thinks it helps him politically. It's clearly Donald Trump who's standing in the way right now.

PHILLIP: Here in New York on a different topic, there is going to be a special election that will be held just in the coming days to replace and embattled Congressman George Santos. And that Democratic candidate in the race told our Manu Raju that he does not want President Biden to come to his district.

He says it won't be helpful. He says it's just as unhelpful to him as Trump would be for the Republicans. That is quite a statement to make of the leader of his party. What's your reaction to that?

TYLER: My reaction to that is every time that Joe Biden and Joe Biden's vision has been on the ballot from 2020 to 2022 to just last fall in 2023, it has won. And so, the choice for the American people in 2024 is going to be exactly the same. It's going to be Joe Biden who wakes up every single day fighting for the American people.

And Donald Trump and his MAGA extremism that is only concerned about one thing. They don't care about how much damage they cause, how much harm they cause as long as it serves Donald Trump and his own personal self-interest. So, that's going to be the fundamental choice confronted with the American people in the battleground states across the country.

PHILLIP: So, in a nutshell, you're saying Tom Susie the candidate there is wrong?


TYLER: No, I'm saying that when it comes to the 2024 general election, it's going to be a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And we are confident that we represent that choice to the American people, that they're going to side with Joe Biden.

PHILLIP: Before you go, I want to ask you about the upcoming Super Bowl. The President is notably passing up an opportunity to reach what could be more than a hundred million viewers during the Super Bowl itself, maybe ten million or so, watching that pre-game interview. Why is that? Why would he pass up the opportunity to speak directly to the American people when all of those eyeballs are tuned into one big event?

TYLER: Well, listen, I think the American people, when they tune in Sunday, they're tuning in to watch the Niners take on the Chiefs. They're not tuning in to watch politics. And so this campaign is --

PHILLIP: I mean, they have, for a lot of other Presidents -- President Obama, even President Trump, did those interviews because it was a major opportunity. Here's actually what former Obama adviser David Axelrod said about this when I asked him earlier this week.


DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA ADVISER: I really don't know why they didn't accept it, but it plays into Trump's hands because his case is that somehow Biden is, you know, overmatched, that he is not in command. And this just lends to the narrative --


PHILLIP: Is David Axelrod wrong about that? TYLER: Yeah, we're not going to win or lose this campaign by chasing

shiny objects in February of 2024, pre-game interviews during the Super Bowl when nobody's actually tuning in to watch politics. We're going to win the election by taking our case directly to the voters who are going to decide this election.

We're confident that we're going to win it. We have the tools at our disposal, that we have the candidate with the vision, the message, and the accomplishments who's going to continue to make the case directly to the American people from now until November.

PHILLIP: All right, Michael Tyler, I have a feeling we'll see a lot more of you over the coming months. Thank you for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.

TYLER: Thank you for having me.

PHILLIP: It was a moment that played out on live TV. A New York City vigilante group talking about migrant crime and then tackling a man that they called a shoplifting migrant. But there's only one problem, he wasn't a shoplifter nor was he a migrant. Oliver Darcy will explain, next.



PHILLIP: It was supposed to be made for TV moment. Yesterday, Fox News was interviewing Curtis Sliwa, the head of the New York City-based vigilante group known for targeting migrants. And they were discussing migrants in New York City when suddenly this happened.


CURTIS SLIWA, HEAD OF THE NEW YORK CITY-BASED VIGILANTE GROUP KNOWN FOR TARGETING MIGRANTS: -- guys have just taken down one of the migrant guys right here on the corner, 42nd and 7th while all this is taking.

UNKNOWN: Can you pan the camera?

SLIWA: They've taken over. They've taken over. You light the camera over there if at all possible.

UNKNOWN: Yep. Oh, you got your key open,

UNKNOWN: It's out of control. Out of control.


PHILLIP: So, later, he was brought back for an update.


SLIWA: Well, he had been shoplifting first. The guardian angel spotted him, stopped him. He resisted, and let's just say we gave him a little pain compliance. His mother back in Venezuela felt the vibrations. He sucked in concrete. The cops scraped him off the asphalt. He's on his way to jail.


PHILLIP: So, according to the New York City Police Department, none of that is true. Senior media reporter here at CNN, Oliver Darcy is here to tell us what actually happened there. Oliver, Fox News, very willingly stepping into this set-up.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yeah, and I think this is actually really representative, Abby, of how the Fox News universe and really the right wing media universe at large operates. They hypostory, right? Hours later the story falls apart.

You know, in this case, there is no migrants that according to the New York City Police Department. There was no shoplifting, according to the New York City Police Department.

This guy was just interfering, I guess, with the camera shot, and there was an altercation is what happened, according to, again, the police department. And so, the story falls apart, and then they just move on.

PHILLIP: And pretend like it didn't happen.

DARCY: They just pretend it didn't happen, right? So, Fox News was hyping it this morning on the front page of their website. The story just gets quietly edited. You know, they don't put a correction on it.

You know, Sean Hannity I was watching tonight, he doesn't mention that this entire episode that was viral on his show was built on a lie. He just moves on and he's going back to more anti-immigrant rhetoric, just a different story.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, it's pretty remarkable and this random person just caught up in the middle of it. So, earlier today we just showed this video of Senator James Lankford talking about a conservative commentator threatening him for working on this border deal. Now, we know who that person is. Who is it?

DARCY: It's Jesse Kelly, and he's this right-wing radio host, but his name really doesn't even matter. I think there's two important points to make here. One, it shows that there were a lot of Republicans and MAGA media allies of Donald Trump who did not want this border bill to pass.

They didn't care what was in it. And Lankford said that this threat came before they had any details about what the border bill was. And so, that's number one. And number two, I think it shows how powerful these right-wing media figures are.


You know, people might wonder, why are we talking about these people? It's because they are in the driver's seat of the Republican Party. They hold the keys to this car. It's not Mitch McConnell. It's not Mike Johnson. They're in the back seat.

They're hoping it doesn't crash. These guys are the ones who dictate where the Republican Party goes. And so, if you want to understand why Donald Trump has a firm grip on the Republican Party, if you want to understand why so much of the Republican Party believes these lies about the election and so many other things, you need to understand the heavily polluted information environments in which they are getting their news.

And that's coming from people like Jesse Kelly. That's coming from Sean Hannity, who we just saw there. And that explains, you know, really why the Republican Party is where it is right now.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, it used to be, you know, the kind of power of lobbyists and special interest groups. Now, it's just people with a microphone and a podcast or a radio show or what have you. Oliver Darcy, great to see you. Thanks for coming on and staying up late for us tonight.

DARCY: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And thank you for staying up late for us and watching "NewsNight". You can watch me and Laura Coates tomorrow night at 10 P.M. for special coverage of Trump's ballot battle at the Supreme Court and also the Nevada Republican caucuses. Stick around, though, cause "Laura Coates Live" starts next.