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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Tempers Flare As Fani Willis Testifies In Trump Georgia Case; Trump's First Criminal Trial Set For March In New York; Ex-FBI Informant Charged With Lying About Biden's Role; NEWSNIGHT Tackles 1023 Form; White House Confirms A New National Security Threat. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 15, 2024 - 22:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight in Kansas City, a vigil was held for the victims of yesterday's mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl parade. More than 20 people were hurt, including a lot of young children, some of them as young as eight years old. A mother and a local radio D.J., Lisa Lopez-Galvan, was killed in that shooting.

Investigators say tonight that the shooting stemmed from what they believe was a dispute that there's no indication what happened was motivated by terrorism or extremism.

Right now, police say two teens are in custody, a third person was let go today, and right now prosecutors have until tomorrow to file charges. We will obviously be paying close attention to what they do here.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Fani Willis takes the stand and fights to keep her case against Donald Trump alive. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

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

And, well, that was awkward. An in decent affair attracts the harshest of spotlights today, lots of hard feelings inside of that Atlanta courthouse. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Trump's lawyers, Steven Sadow, sparred in a cross-examination that was defined by tense, probing questions, sharp elbowed answers, and the former president's legal team wants Willis and her office booted from the Georgia case against Trump.

The testimony was deeply personal. It touched on sex, money, power, and if all of that wasn't enough in a workplace that could disqualify Fani Willis from running point on one of the most important prosecutions in the United States.

Now, Trump does face 13 counts connected with the plot to steal the election in Georgia. And we start our coverage from outside of the courthouse with CNN's Nick Valencia.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I've been very anxious to have this conversation with them today, so I ran to the courtroom.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A defiant Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis taking the stand today after weeks of fighting allegations that she personally benefited from a romantic relationship she had with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she handpicked to spearhead the sprawling racketeering charges against Donald Trump and his allies.

WILLIS: I probably had some choice words about some of the things that you said that were dishonest within this motion. So, I don't know that it was a conversation. As you know, Mr Wade is a southern gentleman, me not so much.

VALENCIA: Willis not hiding her anger over the allegations, at one point being called a hostile witness by the defense.

WILLIS: I'm very glad you want to be here, so I'm not a hostile witness.

VALENCIA: While both Wade and Willis have admitted to the relationship they had, they say it began only after Wade took the job. That timeline also a major point of contention in the hearing today. Before Willis took the stand, the first witness of the day directly contradicted Wade and Willis' previous statements to the court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no doubt that their romantic relationship was, in effect, from 2019 until the last time you spoke with her?


VALENCIA: That's three years earlier than when Wade said in an affidavit their relationship started. But Wade holding firm to that date when he took the stand.

NATHAN WADE, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR IN TRUMP'S GEORGIA ELECTION INTERFERENCE CASE: 2022 was the start of any intimate sexual relationship with a district attorney.

VALENCIA: As did Willis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you start dating?

WILLIS: When I started dating Mr. Wade? It was right around then --


WILLIS: '22, yes. It was around then. I don't know, like, you know, it's not like when you're in grade school and you send a little letter and it says, will you be my girlfriend and you check it? VALENCIA: And then there's the money trail, defense attorneys pressing on whether or not Wade paid for Willis when the two vacationed together, trying to suggest that he used money he made from his taxpayer-funded contract at the D.A.'s office on Willis. Both maintain that they split their vacation expenses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, all of the vacations that she took, she paid you cash for?

WADE: Yes, ma'am.

VALENCIA: Willis confirming the same in her testimony.

WILLIS: And we went out multiple times. That probably went to the level of more than a hundred dollars. But if we're doing tit-for-tat like that, I probably paid for as many meals as he paid for, and so I did not receive any gifts from him.

VALENCIA: And at times, forcefully pushing back with the defense attorney who first launched the allegations.

WILLIS: People are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.


VALENCIA (on camera): Willis' testimony is expected to continue on Friday at 9:00 A.M., but it could be days before we hear a decision on whether or not she's disqualified. The judge in this case has already said he's not going to rule from the bench. Abby?

PHILLIP: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you.

And for more on this, I want to bring in Criminal Defense Attorney and former New York Prosecutor Bernarda Villanova, former Senior Investigative Counsel for the January 6th committee Temidayo Aganga- Williams, CNN Senior Political Commentator Ana Navarro and CNN Political Analyst and Host of Conversations with Coleman Podcast Coleman Hughes.


Now, with that all out of the way, this was quite the hearing. I mean, Ana, do you think that she did herself any favors by deciding -- I mean, she said she ran to the witness stand. She decided to take the stand.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I don't know, maybe she should have gone a little slower. Look, I -- oh, God, Abby, there's so much to unpack here. First of all, what she said there, she's not the one on trial, and we got to keep the eye on the ball that this is a trial about Donald Trump trying to steal an election in Georgia. That part is true.

But, look, this was just incredibly salacious. I couldn't stop myself from watching it. I did nothing productive all afternoon other than sit there and learn about Fani Willis, her preferred liquor, how much she paid for her vacations, the cash she keeps in her house. I hated myself, but it had me shooketh. It had me -- you know, it had me embarrassed for her. And I think that's part of what's going on here, trying to humiliate her and embarrass her.

And I have to tell you this, I think she screwed up. I don't think that you have a relationship like this, in a case this important, where you are a woman who knows is going to be at this level of scrutiny, and you don't disclose it.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, Temidayo, that is a key thing. First of all, I want to underscore what Ana just said. The case against Trump was not what we were discussing today. That is separate and apart from this. But when it comes to Fani Willis and whether she helped herself in both the question of the disqualification and also she is now being blasted, her whole life is being blasted to the world, including a jury pool potentially.

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: Yes, I agree that she made a mistake in entering their relationship. I think the judge also made a mistake by allowing this hearing to go off the rails. The judge could have decided this on the papers. There was briefing.

The fact today really did not shift in any way that's important for the critical issue. The issue is that, is there a conflict of interest in that does she hired Mr. Wade in order to basically get state fees to pay for her lifestyle? There's no support for that. It's ridiculous. The idea that she hired him so he could take it out to lunch and she didn't really pay him back, or she traveled here and all this is to get money from him, there's no support for that.

So, I think there is a sideshow here, but that's because the judge allowed this to be a sideshow. And, frankly, that is the objective of Donald Trump's lawyers and Mike Roman's lawyers by bringing this motion. They want this sideshow. They don't want the evidence to be on what former President Trump did around the election. So, I think it's incumbent upon us to not allow that to become the sideshow.

There's no conflict of interest here that anyone can point to that would lead, I think, to justify her or her office being disqualified. And what today showed that we learned a lot about her personal life, but not much about an actual conflict of interest that is supported.

PHILLIP: Bernarda, what do you think about that? I mean, on the conflict part, did you hear anything that could support a case for disqualifying her or disqualifying this office from being able to prosecute these cases?

BERNARDA VILLANOVA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND FORMER NEW YORK PROSECUTOR: Not at all, not at all. All you heard is about her personal life, but I don't see -- I didn't see any evidence showing that she gained a financial interest by engaging in this personal relationship at all. So, I don't think she's going to be disqualified.

All you heard is, and all you saw was a woman that was human. You saw a strong black female attorney that was sick and tired of her name being dragged through the mud. She's sick and tired of being attacked by Trump's people, by Trump, in general, his defense team and these attorneys.

So, I'm glad that she took the approach that she did, where she used the stage that she was on to say, look, the focus should be on these men, on these people that try to steal an election. It's not about me. I'm not on trial. Bring the focus back to what this case is about.

PHILLIP: And there's no question, I mean, Coleman, you literally just wrote a book about the racial politics in this country. The fact that she is a black woman being attacked in this way, she's accused the Trump people of basically using racial attacks against her. And the Trump people have accused her of using racial attacks against them. So, I mean, this is all tied up in that.

COLEMAN HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'll respectfully be the odd man out on the panel. I agree that this is about Trump and whatever happens here, the case against Trump is likely to continue whether it's with Fani Willis or not.

But putting that to the side, there does look like -- there's quite a bit of smoke here.


And one thing they were able to get her to concede at the hearing today was that in the ten months or so prior to appointing Wade as special counsel that he came over to her condo more than ten times and no one else she worked with came over to her condo even once.

PHILLIP: Yes. But I think the issue here though, and I'll let you jump in, the issue has to be about a financial benefit. Is that right?

VILLANOVA: It is. It has to be.

HUGHES: And on this point, the only written records we have are him paying for almost everything. Now, what she said today, and what he said as well is that she paid him back in cash. The problem is there's no written record of that. There's not even a single visit to the ATM, right, that she's attested to here. So, again, this looks rather sketchy.

NAVARRO: Look, I think there's two different issues, right? One is the evidence of an actual conflict of interest. But the other is, is there evidence, does this smell unethical, does this look and smell unprofessional?

And I think it's hard to argue that the answer there is no. And I -- and you were asking about racial politics, and I'd also say gender politics, because I'm not sure if it was a man who was in charge and was sleeping with somebody there being the same scrutiny.

But we as women know that the scrutiny level is higher. We as women of color know that the scrutiny level is higher. So I don't let her get off the hook. I don't think she's got clean hands here. I think she knew better, should have known better, and should have kept herself above board as -- you know, while she was doing this.

PHILLIP: Bernarda, I'll give you the last word. I mean, she probably knew better, and she also knew that she was about to try probably the biggest case of her entire career.

VILLANOVA: Absolutely. She exercised poor judgment, but in the end, it doesn't matter who she's knocking boots with. Did she gain a financial interest by hiring Mr. Wade and by engaging in a personal relationship?

In terms of ethics, we'll leave that for the State Bar Association. In terms of, for this case itself, a disqualification, there is not enough on this record to disqualify Fani Willis.

PHILLIP: All right. Everyone, stand by for us.

One of Trump's other cases is up next. We have a date now for his first criminal trial. Plus, hear which of the questions for potential jurors his lawyers are now fighting.

And breaking tonight, why the entire impeachment case against President Biden that Republicans have been pushing for months is suddenly collapsing.

You're watching a special edition of NEWSNIGHT.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the question Donald Trump's lawyers don't want jurors who will decide Donald Trump's legal fate to answer, do you believe that the 2020 election was stolen? Now, today, Trump's attorneys objected strongly to asking the men and women charged with rendering a verdict in the former president's hush money criminal trial if they buy into his conspiracies about 2020.

Also on the don't ask list for the defense, questions about the affiliations the juror may have to fringe ultra right groups, organizations like, the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys or even QAnon.

But Trump's lawyers do want to know a couple of things. For instance, do jurors watch the news? And have they seen the coverage of the E. Jean Carroll trial? And do the jurors listen to podcasts like the ones called Lawfare? Also, have the jurors read books, say, ones by former Trump fixer Michael Cohen or Mike Pomerantz, the former lawyer inside the Manhattan D.A.'s office?

My panel is back with me. That's a lot of very specific things that they are trying to include, Temidayo, or exclude. But on the question of basically, do you believe in the election conspiracy theories, are you affiliated with extremist groups, the fact that they want to keep potentially jurors who believe election lies or maybe are affiliated with those groups, that seems like that would be a total giveaway to Trump in this case. AGANGA-WILLIAMS: For sure. I mean, the core responsibility of a juror is to be impartial. The juror is there as a fact finder, but they have to be able to look at the parties fairly take the law as the judge provides it and apply to the facts.

And I do think it's a fair question to ask these jurors. Do you think election was stolen? Because at its core, what that says is that the former president has led you to believe things by all objective measures that are false. So, I think it shows your ability, frankly, to perceive reality accurately, if you ask me. And it shows your ability to whether you can be impartial, which, in this case, you have to be impartial not only to the defendant, to the former president, but also to the government. The government also has a right and an interest in an impartial jury.

And I think on the right wing extremist groups, it is going to be relevant, because even though this is not a January 6th related case, these groups have been -- throughout the former president's tenure, been used as almost like armed groups on his behalf. He told the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by. These are groups that have taken directives from the former president. So, if someone is affiliated with them, I think it does undercut the ability to be impartial.

PHILLIP: Coleman, do you think that even if the D.A. is successful in keeping these types of individuals off the jury, it seems like Trump, no matter what, is going to claim that this is an unfair process because his people are not allowed onto the jury. I mean, his lawyer basically argued this is half of the country.

HUGHES: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is just one of 10 or 15 different ways he's going to argue that it's unfair. He's already arguing that it's unfair. And many of the reasons he has for why it's unfair are fanciful inventions in the mind of Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, jury selection for these kinds of cases is actually a very, very difficult thing simply to find people that don't watch the news, which is what you want. I mean, ideally, you want someone that really has never thought even about the election, right, hasn't even thought about Donald Trump, hasn't thought about any of this stuff, and is coming to it with a blank slate, essentially. And that's very difficult to find.

I think, in some way, New York is the worst possible city because, a, it's a liberal city, so you're going to have many people biased against Trump, but, B, it's also the Trump -- the city where Trump was a celebrity for decades, so you're going to have lots of Trump fans.


And you have to try to screen all of that out and find a couple lonely people in New York who just, you know, don't get out much. It's tough to do.

PHILLIP: It's tough to do, but, I mean, it has to be done. This is the only way to have a fair jury, is to not have people who have these strong opinions on either side of this. HUGHES: Absolutely.

NAVARRO: You're looking at me. And I'm just sitting here thinking about how incredibly surreal this entire thing is. Just today, on today's news day is about Trump's trials, you've got Georgia where he tried to steal the elections by finding 11,000-plus new votes, you've got the Stormy Daniels hush payment case and you've got the civil fraud case in New York.

And we are acting -- we're like doing legal analysis here and talking about jury like if it was at all normal that the person who's at the center of all of these cases is practically the Republican nominee already. Because I mean, anybody who thinks Nikki Haley's got a chance, I would really like to partake in whatever recreational drug they are consuming.

So, you know, it's just as simply surreal to me that this is where we are in America, that this is where we are in the Republican Party, where none of this that we are talking about, which is highly irregular, seems to matter. I can't even talk to you about juries because I'm stuck on that part.

PHILLIP: I mean, but from a legal perspective, I mean, you're right, Ana. It is so unusual. It's so out of the ordinary. But this is going to be a real trial. And this kind of jury selection is going to happen several times for Trump. So, they've got to find people, and they've got to agree on questions.

I mean, what's the D.A.'s strategy here for trying to find a jury who's both acceptable to Trump but also acceptable to the government's perspective on this?

VILLANOVA: So, when it comes to selecting a jury in New York, the whole goal of a jury is to find a fair and impartial jury. It's going to take some time, I agree. In terms of the questions, they're going to have to lay out questions to try to get any prejudices out of any of these potential jurors. And the judge is going to try to seed out and take out those that already have preconceived notions.

So, in terms of whether you're a part of a certain organization, whether you have these extreme views, a judge is going to question, can you put that aside and judge the evidence that's presented in this room fairly and be impartial and not partial to any of the parties here, because it's going to be a deep conversation with each of these potential jurors.

Aside from thoughts, how about their safety? There are going to be many potential jurors that are going to be there and say, I don't feel safe. I feel threatened, because these jurors are not going to be suppressed.

PHILLIP: And they have reason to believe that they could be threatened. I mean, that's the problem in this case. There's a history here.

All right, everyone, thank you all for an interesting conversation here.

Also breaking tonight, the feds accusing that informant who claimed that there was a Biden bribery scheme of lying. What does this do to that entire Republican impeachment case?

Plus, Neil deGrasse Tyson joins me on the concerning new Russian technology involving space-based weapons.



PHILLIP: Tonight, what Republicans swore up and down was true turns out to be a lie. For months, the House GOP told the country that Joe Biden took bribes. It's a stated reason why they want to impeach the president. They said it in press conferences and over and over on T.V.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We know from the FBI sources that Charles Grassley found that they got this credible document, this 1023 form that said Joe Biden had been involved in a bribery scheme.

The FBI had an unclassified record that details an extortion and bribery scheme involving then-Vice President Biden.

We haven't gotten anything from the FBI and DOJ. Now, remember this 1023 that was released by Grassley last week.

Now, we know about this form 1023 that alleges bribery.

You have the actual crimes the Bidens have committed, which range from money laundering to bribery.


PHILLIP: Now, that evidence that FBI form you keep hearing about, well, it's all B.S., at least according to a new federal indictment today. The feds have arrested the informant who accused the president of pocketing millions of dollars. That indictment alleges that Alexander Smirnov made it all up, that there's no truth whatsoever to what he told investigators about connections between Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and that foreign energy company, that Smirnov strung together, quote, otherwise unremarkable business meetings and contacts into a nonexistent scheme about the Biden family.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman from Florida Jared Moskowitz. Congressman, simple question, should Republicans end their impeachment inquiry in light of these charges?

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Yes, thanks for having me, Abby.

Yes, thoughts and prayers to James Comer and the fake, frivolous, faux Biden impeachment that they've been trying to run. It's been so successful, you haven't heard him talk about it for the last couple of weeks. They had to switch to Mayorkas because there's no evidence in Joe Biden. And now what do we find out? What we've known all along that this 1023 form that they cried over for months and months was all a lie. It was all a lie. And the guy who made it up has been indicted.

By the way, it's not their first informant that was indicted. Let's not forget the Chinese foreign agent who was doing Iranian oil sales and selling arms to the Libyans was indicted as well. This makes two Comer informants on this fake Biden impeachment that had been indicted. So, yes, they should end it because it never should have began, Abby.

PHILLIP: So, he is saying that all of this, the impeachment that they want to do against Biden, is not reliant on this particular informant.


Is there any truth to that, as far as you know?

MOSKOWITZ: This was the birth, this 1023 Form and the quote, unquote $5 million to Joe Biden, which never happened. And we know now, it was all made up was the birth of this whole fake impeachment.

And look, I actually don't think they're ever going to impeach Joe Biden because there's no evidence to that. I don't think they have the votes to do it, which is why they pivoted to Mayorkas to try to please the base. They're just going to try to continue to do this in the press and on TV, on social media with, you know, with the Hunter Biden deposition that's coming up in the next couple of weeks.

But to be clear, this continues the fact that there is no evidence on Joe Biden. And this entire thing has been a sham, just like the chaos of the 118th Congress.

PHILLIP: So, do you believe that Comer had any reason to believe that this was all false and ignored it?

MOSKOWITZ: Oh, that's a great question, Abby. In fact, I'll ask it a different way. When did James Comer know this was false and how long did he conceal that from the American people? I mean, are you telling me he just found out through the indictment or has he known all along, or at least for a period of time that this 1023 Form was made up?

Those are real questions we need to get to the bottom to. In addition to, you know, Speaker Johnson ending this sham impeachment, he should be looking into that and whether James Comer should even stay as chair of the Oversight.

PHILLIP: So, do you have any evidence that he knew in advance that this was not a legit informant?

MOSKOWITZ: No, no, look, I don't have any evidence of that. But, you know, Abby, you know what they like to do. Some people are saying perhaps, maybe it's the Bidens. I mean, I don't know what James knows or doesn't know, but he should tell the American people.

When did he find out that this 1023 Form was a lie? When did he find out that his informant was lying to the American people and they were still using that information? I'd like to know. I think James has to answer that to the American people.

PHILLIP: All right. Democratic Congressman Jared Moskowitz of Florida, thank you very much.

MOSKOWITZ: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And next, the revelation that Russia is developing a space- based anti-satellite nuclear weapon. It's raising fears about the future of warfare in space. Neil deGrasse Tyson joins me live in moments.




PHILLIP: Tonight, the White House is confirming a new national security threat. The Vladimir Putin's Russia is hell-bent on putting an anti-satellite system into space. The Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee first set off alarms.

And now a U.S. official tells CNN that the threat may not be a weapon designed to attack humans, but it is still cause for concern inside of the Pentagon. For more on this, I want to bring in Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He's the author of "Accessory To War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics And The Military".


PHILLIP: Scary stuff.

DEGRASSE TYSON: It's all scary.

PHILLIP: You have been raising concerns about this for years. So, these new revelations, what do you make of where this fits in?

DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, so people have been concerned forever about the militarization of space. But in fact, ever since we've had access to space, in a way, it's been militarized because it's been used as a high ground for spying. And it turns out to be not especially useful for parking weapons that you would then deploy later.

Because space, you can't just stay there, you're in orbit. And if you want to deploy a weapon, you kind of have to be near where your target is supposed to be for you to hit it. Meanwhile, we already have intercontinental ballistic missiles.


DEGRASSE TYSON: You can launch a missile from any place on Earth and hit any other place within 45 minutes. So, space-based weaponry has been overplayed in movies and in our fears. But really, another factor is, if you're going to go up and start smashing satellites, that's, forgive the expression, but it's like peeing in your own bathtub, because you make a mess of all of space.

PHILLIP: Yeah, well, I mean, explain -- just to take a step back here --


PHILLIP: I mean, we're talking about what is being described as a nuclear-powered device that could jam satellites. What does that mean for just a regular layman?

DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, I haven't seen the reports, so, and there's a lot still to be disclosed. But there are multiple ways of disabling other satellites. One of them is to smash it, but that's bad, because then you create particles that could hurt your own satellites that might be passing through that zone.

Another way is to just disable them electronically. They all use electronics. And the worry that it's nuclear-powered to enable it, you don't need nuclear. There's plenty of sunlight there. You use solar panels to give your energy.

So, the idea that it's nuclear-powered, I find -- I'm not entirely convinced that that's like a strategic move.

PHILLIP: Maybe there's something that we don't know about.

DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, plus, if you detonate a nuclear device in a vacuum, most of the damage that you would ever have on Earth comes from a blast wave moving through the air.

And if there's no air, the only damage the explosion would give you is you can get an electromagnetic pulse out of it, or there would be sort of radiative damage. But you can -- but then that's so messy. I'm just thinking militaristically.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean --

DEGRASSE TYSON: You could target a laser at a sensitive part of a satellite and disable it. You don't have to, like, blow stuff up.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, I think that this is part of the story that I think might be confusing to people which is --


PHILLIP: -- what's the point? What could Russia be trying to accomplish? And, I mean, with all things -- we were talking about the Space Race earlier, there's going to be a competitive nature of this.


If you start to see Russia doing it, you're going to start to see China and the United States. What are the implications of that?

DEGRASSE TYSON: Hence, the birth of our Space Force, right?


DEGRASSE TYSON: They're tasked with protecting our assets in space and making sure that our -- not only protecting the pre-existing assets, but making sure that our future access to space is not denied by an adversary. So, this is, like, part of the prime directive in the service of American security.

I can tell you that the -- in terms of destroying another satellite, like I said, there are already ways to do that. There are these sort of what they call kinetic kills where you can take a missile, no explosives necessary at all because the satellite's already moving 18,000 miles an hour. All you have to do is get in its way, and the thing explodes.

Russia has done it. China has done it. We've done it. India has done it. So, to -- and then you can target the satellite at will. If you're stuck in orbit, you might not be near a satellite that you want to take out. You have to wait until the orbits line up.

This just seems so inefficient.


DEGRASSE TYSON: So, I'm just skeptical of how dangerous this thing can be relative to everyone's emotions attached to it.

PHILLIP: It seems to suggest that there's probably some more to the story here about what's really going on. It seems like also the United States is not super concerned about this in this moment. They say this could be some years away for whatever this is to actually materialize and be deployed out into space, into the universe.

DEGRASSE TYSON: Right. Like I said, anything that people fear of it, we already have the capability of accomplishing.

PHILLIP: It's just maybe a different version of it.

DEGRASSE TYSON: Possibly a different version. Electromagnetic pulse is interesting. You can send a pulse of electromagnetic energy that basically fries all electric circuits in a region. There's some movies that have portrayed this, by the way. One of them was Ocean's Eleven, by the way.

PHILLIP: Okay, okay.

DEGRASSE TYSON: They created an EMP that --

PHILLIP: That's not the movie I thought you were going to say.

DEGRASSE TYSON: It knocked out the power grid to Las Vegas --


DEGRASSE TYSON: - so they can complete their heist.

PHILLIP: All right. DEGRASSE TYSON: But if you do that, then you're taking out -- you know how many satellites there are? There are thousands of satellites.

PHILLIP: Yeah. It's a little imprecise.

DEGRASSE TYSON: Not all of them are just your enemy satellite in one zone. Everybody's got satellites crossing. It should be viewed as sort of sacred international space.


DEGRASSE TYSON: And it's not. It's international waters. Hence the reason why we have Space Force, as you pointed out.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Neil deGrasse Tyson, always a treat to have you here.

DEGRASSE TYSON: Thank you. I'm finally here in person.

PHILLIP: Thank you for explaining astrophysics to us. We needed that tonight.


PHILLIP: And up next for us, the outcry is growing tonight after Israel attacks the largest hospital in Gaza, where they say that Hamas was holding some hostages. But we're now learning that none were actually found. Stand by.




PHILLIP: Outrage tonight over what Israel calls a legitimate raid at Gaza's largest hospital. This is Nasser Hospital, which the IDF says is a Hamas hotbed, and hostages are being held there.

Israeli forces blitzed the medical facility, claiming to have found IEDs and other explosives, but no hostages. Palestinians say ambulances are destroyed and ICU patients are being denied care, while some witnesses say Israeli snipers shot some running from the raid. CNN has not been able to independently confirm claims by either side.

And here with me now is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Ambassador Greenfield, thank you so much for being here. We want to get to a really important conversation that you had over at the U.N. today.

But first, I want to get your reaction to the reports that we are getting out of the Nasser Hospital in Gaza. When you hear what happened there, does this fit into what President Biden said was over- the-top actions by the IDF in some cases in Gaza?

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: President Biden has been clear that while Israel has a right to defend itself, it has to take measures to protect civilians. And he has said that in no uncertain terms from the beginning of this conflict to as recently as the past week.

PHILLIP: And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still discussing an operation that would take the IDF basically into the last refuge for Palestinian civilians down in Rafah. You yourself have said that this cannot happen. The international community has said much the same. If Netanyahu does it anyway, will there be any consequences?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, I can't say in advance what actions the U.S. will take or whether Netanyahu will actually make the decision to go into Rafah. Our position has been that the conditions in Rafah at this moment with 1.5 million people would not allow for that kind of action to take place. And we have been consistent.

Secretary Blinken, as you know, was in Israel this past week. President Biden spoke to Netanyahu earlier this week as well, and they have been consistent in conveying that message to him.

PHILLIP: So, here in the United States, there is this raging debate.


You know, is -- Jewish people, Arabs, Muslims in the United States over at the United Nations today -- you had a really interesting conversation with young people from each of those groups about how they can talk to each other, which seems to not really be happening in so many parts of this country.

What conclusions did they come to in that meeting, which I should say was closed to the press, off the record, with the intent of fostering a real conversation? What conclusions did they come to that can help the rest of the country bridge these divides?

It was interesting. Second gentleman in half hosted this with me and we had an opportunity to listen to these young people. And I said to them at the end of their conversation, words like compassion, passion, understanding, love, kept coming up in all of their conversations. They shared their pain. They shared their anguish.

One young person told me that she hid the fact that she was Jewish because of fear. And a Palestinian woman said her mother stopped wearing her scarf because of fear. And what I left that meeting with was a sense that these young people want to find solutions.

They have different pathways to that solution. They have different understandings of the suffering that they each have gone through. But they have a common interest, a common goal in finding solutions.

So, I left the meeting with them hopeful. But one thing that came out that I thought was extraordinarily powerful was the power of hate, the unifying power of hate, that the same people who hate Palestinians, hate Muslims, hate Jews, hate blacks, are unified in their hatred.

And we need to be unified in our understanding and in our love to find a path forward. And I am hopeful, having had this conversation, and I look forward to continuing similar conversations so that we can find a path to peace.

PHILLIP: The Council on American-Islamic Relations, they are the country's most prominent Muslim civil rights group. They have said, and this is a quote, nothing is more important to the American Muslim community at this moment than a ceasefire, and nothing will be more impactful in the fight against surging Islamophobia.

You know, can the Biden administration fully mend that relationship, which I think is, you would agree, is sort of under some under strain right now? Can he mend that relationship if a full and a permanent ceasefire is not really on the table?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, look, what we have been doing on the ground, Abby, is something no one else has been doing. We're working every day to find a path to get to an extended pause that will allow hostages to get out, to allow needed assistance to get in. When we have the pause back in November, hostages were released.

Assistance did get in. And so we talk about a ceasefire, a permanent ceasefire. That takes two. It's not just Israel. It's Hamas as well. And I find it a bit difficult that people don't talk about Hamas when they talk about having a ceasefire.

We support Israel's right to defend itself and we support their right to defend themselves against Hamas. And a ceasefire -- a permanent ceasefire, is only in the cards if Hamas decides to give up its weapons and stop its fight against Israel.

PHILLIP: Last thing, Ambassador, before I let you go, the U.N.-- UNRWA, the U.N. agency that provides humanitarian assistance in Gaza, the United States has said that they will not fund UNRWA at the moment.

The Palestinians have called this decision a death sentence. Is there a plan for what happens? Who can provide this kind of assistance if UNRWA is not able to continue doing it?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, UNRWA has a strong, strong presence in Gaza. They have the infrastructure. They have the people who can get humanitarian assistance directly to Palestinians.

And UNRWA is the only organization that has the capacity to do that. We were very pleased when the Secretary General made the decision immediately to fire the individuals who were identified as having participated on October 7th.

And then he also called for a full investigation that is taking place on the ground right now.


And we commend him for doing that. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. We will continue to find ways to ensure that that assistance get directly into the hands of Palestinians.

PHILLIP: All right. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas- Greenfield, thank you very much for joining us here in studio.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, Abby. It's great to be here with you.


PHILLIP: The state where shots were fired during the Chief's Super Bowl rally has become, frankly, a wild, wild west for gun laws.


In Missouri, there are no background checks for gun purchases. There is no ban on assault weapons. You can carry a concealed weapon without a permit if you're 19 or older.

And there are no restrictions for someone who is convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors. And firearms are not required to be locked up and kept away from children.

And tonight, in a state in which it is the ninth highest rate of gun deaths in the U.S., families and friends, they are mourning their loved ones and sitting by their bedsides of those who managed to survive. Thank you for watching NEWSNIGHT. "LAURA COATES LIVE" starts right now.