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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Russia's Resurgence Comes As U.S. Aid For Ukraine Dries Up; Neo-Nazis March In Nashville During Black History Event; Trump's Gold Shoes Join Long List Of Surreal Products; Former President Unveils "Trump Sneakers"; Beyonce Announces A New Country Album During The Super Bowl. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 19, 2024 - 22:00   ET




FMR. REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I know that it's a bummer that right after you got the test and you show that you weren't the quitter, you got into that little accident. Look, a body cast ain't much.

When Jesus and President Trump will make sure that you're back on the road soon and you're going to be amazing.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: In this lawsuit, Santos is alleging that Kimmel misrepresented himself and violated copyright laws by broadcasting Santos' videos on his show. The expelled congressman is seeking at least $150,000 in damages. We'll see where that goes.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight. CNN's NewsNight with Abby Phillips starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Europe stares down a Ukraine ruled by Russia. The United States stares back blankly. That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Urgency, that is what war demands and what, right now, the United States is not willing to give to Ukraine. Tonight, Ukraine is arguably in its worst shape since the early Russian assault nearly encircled Kyiv. The frontline is nearing a breaking point. Ukrainian soldiers have abandoned a critical city in Donetsk following a months-long siege.

Now, Russia is advancing and Ukraine is retreating and the United States is sitting, watching it happen. Funding is frozen, which means the weapons are sitting there in crates, in warehouses. Europe is panicking.


VICTOR PINCHUK, UKRAINIAN OLIGARCH: There is no time to wait until the United States and Europe figure out who is ready to give what and when.

PETR PAVEL, PRESIDENT, CZECH REPUBLIC: We shouldn't wait for the United States. We all have to act now.

KAJA KALLAS, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER: History rhymes, but we also have the possibility to change that.

METTE FREDERIKSEN, DANISH PRIME MINISTER: They are asking us for ammunition now, artillery now.


PHILLIP: So why? Why after supplying and then resupplying Ukraine after welcoming Ukraine's president in Congress like a conquering hero, after painting Vladimir Putin as Stalin incarnate, a threat who had to be beaten back, why is the United States now content to do nothing?

It's not for lack of trying by President Biden, but it might be because of a lack of will among Republicans who are caught in Donald Trump's unbreakable chokehold.

Now, some might want you to believe that Trump isn't the tail wagging the elected Republicans.


REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): This is what I know. Donald Trump's political rallies don't really translate into Donald Trump's actual policies.


PHILLIP: But the funding has dried up and Trump says this over and over again to his voters.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I know President Putin very well. I know Zelenskyy very well. I'm going to get him in. We're going to get it solved very quickly.


PHILLIP: Now, are there legitimate concerns that the United States may, you know, spend its way to oblivion because of Ukraine? Maybe. Well, lawmakers have directed upwards of $75 billion there already, and many say the U.S. can't afford just a blank check. But is the Trump resistance about money at all or is it about the Russian dictator that he wants to like him?

Now, just remember, Trump is the man who promises to end this war in 24 hours, the man who calls Putin smart, the man who refuses to condemn Putin, no matter what vile atrocity he commits.

Putin gave the world a reminder of who he is when Alexey Navalny died suspiciously. Putin is now refusing even to release the body. Trump gave the world a reminder, too, in his first reaction to Navalny's death. He talked about his own legal problems in a social media post that was supposed to be about Navalny, and instead of, say, Putin, or even Navalny's family.

Now, speaking for Donald Trump is probably never really a good idea, but for those Republican senators who are willing to do it, like J.D. Vance, they say there's not enough bullets for the U.S. and for Ukraine.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): I can't speak for Donald Trump. I can speak for myself and I think that he agrees with what I'm going to say, but I can't speak for the former and I think likely future president of the United States.

There's no clear endpoint, and fundamentally the limiting factors for American support of Ukraine, it's not money, it's munitions.

We don't make enough munitions to support a war in Eastern Europe, a war in the Middle East, and potentially contingency in East Asia.


PHILLIP: Now, some Republicans also argue that the United States is under invasion, too.



SEN. PETE RICKETTS (R-NE): Your country is being invaded. You've got 300,000 Russian soldiers on your territory. Put in perspective of, again, the millions of people trying to come into the United States illegally, not quite the same thing, but it's a pressing issue for our country. But it's a pressing issue for the United States.


PHILLIP: Now, those statements came at the Munich Security Conference in front of world leaders, in front of Zelenskyy himself.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: If Trump, Mr. Trump, if he will come, I'm ready even to go with him to the front line. We have to demonstrate people who are decision makers. What does it mean, the real war?


PHILLIP: Munich was given a glimpse of that real war from a Ukrainian medic.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See high rises with graves of children in the courtyards, mothers burying their babies. Imagine, I had children die in my hands, civilians, elderly. I don't know how you can forgive that. Thousands of soldiers have gone through my hands, thousands of civilians, streams of blood, the rivers of suffering.


PHILLIP: We start here at the wall with veteran foreign affairs correspondent Reena Ninan. Reena, Ukraine does seem to be very much on a pivot point in this war. This war with Russia has really kind of expanded and gone on much longer than perhaps some people thought. What is the significance of the loss of this city in Donetsk here as a result of this latest Russian operation?

REENA NINA, VETERAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was an area that Volodymyr Zelenskyy actually visited back in December. And you see by gaining this territory, it pushes back the frontlines a bit. But also what was so important was that this is really a great example, Abby, of the firepower up in the skies that the Russians were able to have. Very difficult, when you're struggling for artillery, for ammo, it's very hard to counter what's coming down from the skies above when you're on the ground and you don't have the basic supplies you need.

PHILLIP: Yes. I want to just give people a closer look here at what we're talking about. This is pushing back the frontlines a bit, but the damage.

NINAN: Damage is incredible.

PHILLIP: This has been a territory that Ukraine has basically been defending for years now.

NINAN: This was a population about 33,000 now down to about 1,000, if that. And what ultimately became one of the signals for the military was they were losing so much manpower, which is the difference between the Russians and the Ukrainians. They knew they had to retreat at that point.

PHILLIP: Yes. We also have the latest developments in Alexey Navalny's death and his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, she has put out this really powerful statement, basically taking over the resistance from her husband. What does it say to you that she has been willing to do that so quickly after his death?

NINAN: Not only willing to do that, that she knew that her husband would eventually be a martyr. I mean, it was hard to go back and not know that that was some sort of a conclusion eventually.

One of the greatest things that Yulia, that she inherits here is this vast network that Navalny had helped to build and create, incredible investigators, people on the ground fighting corruption.

The other thing to watch is their daughter, Dasha, someone who --

PHILLIP: She is?

NINAN: Yes, this is from probably a few years ago. She is Stanford- educated, early 20s. She is likely able to translate what is happening inside Russia, not just to the Russians, but to a global audience.

Remember, they've got millions of followers. And it was only once that he was allowed to actually be on a ballot. He ran for mayor of Moscow once, Abby, and he came in second. His name never returned to a ballot again and you can see why.

PHILLIP: This could be really the next generation of the resistance for Russia.

Reena Nina, thank you, as always, for joining us.

NINAN: You bet.

PHILLIP: So, Chris, it took the former president almost three days after the death of Alexey Navalny to even so much as acknowledge it. He finally weighed in on Truth Social, but there was no reference to Putin. He even tried to compare Navalny's death to his current legal problems, suggesting that it's the same thing, essentially a political persecution. Is Trump trying to create a way for his supporters, for Republicans to address Navalny in some way without actually talking about Putin's role in all of this?

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: I'm not sure they even want to address know. It's quite extraordinary that Donald Trump would somehow equate what he's going through in American courts of law with the full due process that he's accorded to what Navalny went through, being consigned to the gulag, to a Siberian prison, where he died under extremely mysterious and, frankly, suspicious circumstances.


Anybody who covered Trump during his presidency, let alone since, has to be struck by the very kid's glove approach he has given to the Russian president throughout.

PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it is incredibly striking. There's also not just Putin. There are other authoritarian leaders this weekend as well. Trump shared a video of the Hungarian leader basically endorsing him for president. Viktor Orban is a close ally of Putin's. He's widely regarded to be a strong man.

Trump once again doing this, but no one seems to really bat an eye in the Republican party, whether we're talking about voters or actual lawmakers, the sort of people who are setting the agenda in Washington.

WALLACE: Yes. I mean, again, we need to point out Viktor Orban, the head of Hungary, this is a person who has tried to undercut freedom of the press. He's been extremely hostile to LGBTQ rights. He talks about creating an illiberal society, and yet here he is. One, he's endorsing Trump, and, two, Trump is bragging about the endorsement.

Over the weekend, Liz Cheney was on with Jake Tapper and talked about the Putin wing of the Republican Party. And there does seem to be a sizable part of the GOP, the party of Ronald Reagan, you know, who fought the cold war and defeated the Soviet bear that is sympathetic to defensive of Putin and Orban and the damage that they do around the world.

PHILLIP: We've been talking about this for a while now, but the question of aid to Ukraine is back on the desks of Capitol Hill leaders once again. But this moment feels different. It's not just a game of delay and protest. This seems like a critical moment for Ukraine.

Do you think that Speaker Mike Johnson is feeling that pressure, that this war could very well hinge on whether this support comes in the coming weeks and months?

WALLACE: I completely agree with you that this is a critical moment. I saw a very alarming statistic the other day that for every missile or shell, artillery shell that the Ukrainians are able to fire because their stocks are so limited, the Russians are firing ten. So, it's ten to one that they're being outgunned. And yet here is critical aid, about $60 billion that has been passed bipartisan approval by the Senate, and the House decides to go on vacation for two weeks. And Mike Johnson, the speaker, says, when I get back, my priority, and rightly so, is to fund the government but no talk at all about doing something to help Ukraine, which really is in serious trouble here.

And part of the reason, I think, is his own interior politics. The only way he could pass this because there is not enough support among Republicans to pass it, is with Democratic support. And when you pass bills with minority support from Republicans and majority support from Democrats, that's how Kevin McCarthy became the former speaker. And I think that's what Mike Johnson is looking at, not the situation of a freedom-loving country in Eastern Europe, and that really is in trouble right now against the Russian invasion.

PHILLIP: Yes. Meanwhile, for President Biden this weekend, Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, she told voters in Michigan to write uncommitted when they go to the ballot box because of how Biden has handled the Israel-Hamas War. Remember, she shared that video that called Biden Genocide Joe. This is becoming a major issue for President Biden as Michigan is home to the largest population of Arab- Americans.

Is this something that is maybe spiraling out of the Biden campaign's control here as we go into the general election here?

WALLACE: Well, they're very concerned about it. They send a bunch of top cabinet officials, and we're not talking about the campaign. We're talking about people with actual responsibility for foreign policy to speak to the Arab-American community in Michigan and try to persuade them of what the administration is trying to do. Yes, support Israel, but also trying to get them to worry about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. [22:15:01]

I was talking to a top Michigan Democrat over the weekend who said, know, it's not just Arab-Americans. They're young people. They're people of color, blacks and Hispanics who have a lot of doubts about, and you know, where another candidate like Dean Phillips might not be able to put on much of a show against Biden.

This Michigan Democratic official was saying, I'm worried about uncommitted. It's really a vote of no confidence or lack of confidence in Biden. And this official was worried that it could do well enough in the primary a week from tomorrow to embarrass Joe Biden.

PHILLIP: Yes. And this is a state where, of course, every single vote will probably end up mattering yet again.

Chris Wallace, thank you very much for joining us.

WALLACE: You bet. Thank you, Abby, always a pleasure.

PHILLIP: And up next, neo-Nazis, they showed up at a black history month event in Nashville. Hear what happened from one man who was at the scene.

Plus, a Chiefs fan who was wrongly labeled as an illegal alien shooter by a Republican lawmaker, he's now speaking out to clear his name.

And as the bad news for Donald Trump piles up, so do the anxieties of late night hosts. We'll discuss.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know how numb we've become, but it's not normal.




PHILLIP: Tonight, an ugly glimpse of what America looks like in 2024. Right here, swastikas, racist chants and salutes to Hitler all in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, well, a chief of staff to a Tennessee lawmaker caught it all on camera, outside of an event to honor Black History Month.

Now, we should warn you that these videos that you're about to see are pretty hard to watch.

Extremism experts from the Anti-Defamation League who spoke to CNN identified at least two neo-Nazi groups in that group, the Blood Tribe and the Vinland Rebels. They were both seen on that video.

Joining me now is Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones, who was there and saw all of this with his own eyes. Thank you for being here.

How shocked were you to go outside and see that in your home city?

STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): Well, even just hearing it right now, Abby, it's still unsettling. We had just left an event honoring a black sorority here during Black History Month and were confronted by these neo-Nazis marching with swastikas. At first, we didn't even know what they were chanting about until they got closer and could clearly hear them saying, save the white man, deport every Mexican.

And it's something that was very unsettling but I'm sad to say it was not surprising because it's the same rhetoric that I hear from my Republican colleagues in the legislature who have weaponized hate against immigrants. Our governor just went to the border with Greg Abbott and instigated this hate.

And so we see this type of hate being normalized, and so we see this call in response with Nazis showing up in our community in broad daylight in the heart of Nashville. And it's disturbing, and we must call it out. And we must also address how it's being given a platform by those in political power.

PHILLIP: Save the white man, deport Mexicans. It's incredible to even hear that. But have you talked to law enforcement, the FBI, or any other agency, federal agency, about what you saw there?

JONES: We heard from city officials that this was something that took them by surprise. I think these groups came in U-hauls and then abruptly left. And so we've heard a lot of statements vaguely from every local, state official condemning this. But, once again, we have to talk about how this is becoming normalized in our state and how it's a warning sign to the nation that we see.

Just in the special session, Abby, we had Proud Boys show up at the Tennessee legislature with armed assault rifles. We had KKK flyers distributed in Columbia, Tennessee, and here in East Nashville. We've seen this rise of swastikas in our community, and we see them showing up, and so we know that this is becoming normalized.

And I just want to say to the people of America that Tennessee is the tip of the spear. We have to sound an alarm, because we have to take this seriously, that there are folks trying to bring us back to darker days in our history, and we must resist that and speak about, particularly in the south, a south that is a new south that is multiracial, multi-faith, multi-generational, and that's what we're fighting for.

PHILLIP: Your chief of staff, who recorded some of this video, is Jewish and Mexican. A good deal of your constituents are black. Do you feel safe? Do you think they feel safe, given what we just saw?

JONES: I don't think any of us feel safe. I mean, it still touches my heart to see that as my -- I was walking with my chief of staff, he literally started crying when he saw this and spoke about that today at a press conference. We had with clergy and multi-faith leaders. Do I feel safe? No. But it's something deeper, I just want to say, too, is that this is -- once again, this week, in a few days, Donald Trump is coming here to Nashville to have an event, and he espouses the same ideology as these hate groups. And so we haven't felt safe for a long time, to be honest, Abby.

We see people who are protecting confederate monuments, amplifying this type of rhetoric that is xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-black. We see it being normalized. We're in a state where we're banning books about black history. That's why these Nazis showed up. We're in a state where we're protecting monuments to KKK leaders and confederate generals. That's why the KKK showed up. We're in a state where we made it legal for adoption companies to discriminate against Jewish couples who want to adopt children. That's why the KKK showed up. They have rolled out the welcome mat. They have not done a dog whistle. They've done a call and response with a megaphone. And that's why the KKK showed up -- that's why the neo-Nazis showed up here in Nashville, Abby.


PHILLIP: All right. Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones, thank you for joining us tonight.

JUSTIN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And just ahead, $400 for those? Donald Trump plays Footlocker for a weekend, adding to a lengthy history of shilling for all sorts of things.

Plus, a case of hypocrisy, the Biden campaign ignoring the president's White House's own warnings about TikTok.

More on NewsNight after this.



TRUMP: That's the real deal.


PHILLIP: The presidential candidate moonlighting as a shoe salesman. Donald Trump introducing a new sneaker line at a shoe conference in Philly over the weekend. Those gold shoes at $400 a pop arrive as Trump is facing a serious threat to his cash stockpile.

Just 24 hours earlier, a judge had ordered him to pay more than $350 million as punishment for his company's fraud.

PHILLIP: Now, this is hardly the first surreal product that the former President has promoted with a T inscribed on it. There was Trump ice and ice trays, vodka, coffee, steaks, a cutting board, cookies, jelly beans, red solo cup, a flask in the shape of a football, a honey dipper, urine test kits, a magazine, a board game, a speaker in the shape of Trump's body, gold-colored earbuds.


Cologne, his and her luxury robes, scented candles, mattresses, pickleball paddles, a USB drive in the shape of a gold bar, mortgages, diplomas, for which he was accused of fraud, NFTs, and "Never Surrender" merchandise, of course, featuring his mugshot, which is the very existence of signals surrender.

For more, I want to bring in "Rolling Stone" Columnist, Jay Michelson, along with Republican Strategist and Political Commentator Joe Pinion. Jay, that is quite the list. I mean, is this about making money? Is this about trying to reach the demographic that attends these sneaker conventions? What's going on here?

JAY MICHAELSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm happy to hear that the sneaker head response is pretty negative, kind of a knockoff of another shoe, basically. But he does only need to sell one million of those pairs of shoes in order to pay his legal bills. So, you know, kind of growth market.

PHILLIP: Easy, peasy.

MICHAELSON: Yeah, no problem.


MICHAELSON: I mean, Joe, I actually want to play some of what Trump received when he was, you know, at this convention. It was kind of a mixed reaction.

There's a little bit of booze here, a little bit of cheers from his super fans. Do you get the sense that there's any strategy at all here? Or is it just Trump kind of liking to see his name on things?

JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I genuinely think that it has very little to do with the trials and very much somebody in Trump world trying to appeal to a different demographic. We see that Joe Biden is eroding support with young people.

We see that he is starting to lose support with certain minority groups. And so, I think whether you think it will work or not, I think that there was a plan put in place to say, hey, this will be unique. It'll be kitschy.

Some people will hate it. Some people will love it. But everybody will talk about it. We're sitting here now talking about it. So, look, I think on that standpoint, it worked.

And as it relates to the court cases, I think the unfortunate reality of 2024 is that all of these court cases are going to come cascading into the course of everyday business along the presidential trail for President Trump. And that's going to impact this entire actual year.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, I think we can all agree on that. I mean, do you think it worked? MICHAELSON: Well, I think, you know, as Joe said, I think it's kind of

bad timing by mistake. You know, I remember in some of the Trump times, we're talking before, like there's kind of a usually times one of these moves to deflect attention from something else.

This kind of backfired, right? It just called attention to the fact that he was just found liable for 350 million. But Sneaker Con is when it is.

But there's not going to be a good week in 2024. Like Joe just said, there's not going to be like a week where there's not some legal travail that's in the news. So I don't think it worked as a distraction.

But, you know, I don't hold it against them. I mean, at least unlike some of these nutritional supplements that folks on the far right sell, this one isn't going to kill you.

PHILLIP: Well, there's that.

PINION: And the ties. Don't forget the Trump ties. Those Trump ties at Macy's. They were -- they were a big hit.

PHILLIP: How can we forget the Trump ties?

MICHAELSON: People love the Trump ties at Macy's. Joe Pinion bought one of those ties. I don't know if he's going to --

PHILLIP: That's why he's an expert on them.

PINION: Look, everyone had the Trump ties at Macy's. Anyone who tells you they didn't is lying to you. It's just a fact.

PHILLIP: Gentlemen, meanwhile, over late night television, Trump has really become a major focus. I mean, look, he's been a focus for a long time, but he's become a major focus in the last couple of weeks. Just take a listen to what's been said over the last couple of days.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": It's just (BEEP) up. Look, I know, I know how numb we've become, but it's not normal. No other candidate for presidency has ever had to pause his campaign to defend himself in multiple courts.

And the media is covering it like it's any other political story, like it's all horse race. But in this horse race, one of the horses is old. While one of the horses is old, has hoof and mouth disease, and keeps quoting horse Hitler.

JOHN OLIVER, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": Justice Thomas, we have a special offer for you tonight. We are prepared to offer you $1 million a year for the rest of your life if you simply agree to leave the Supreme Court immediately and never come back.

It is that simple. Just sign this contract, resign, and the money is all yours. You have exactly 30 days from midnight tonight to make your resignation effective.


PHILLIP: Joe, what do you make of that? I mean, on some level, they're expressing the sense of urgency, but how does that play?

PINION: Look, I think the cake is fully baked for most Americans as it relates to whether they hate or love Donald Trump and whether they will support or not support Joe Biden.


You're talking about a tiny sliver of persuadable Americans that I think are going to be more concerned about the ebb and flow of the world on a foreign policy level and domestically than they will be with some of this other stuff.

Yes, so, I think perhaps it's funny to listen to John Oliver offer a Supreme Court justice $1 million to step down. It seems like that's a bit concerning to me for people who are trying to get back to normalcy and civility in the public square, but look, to each their own.

MICHAELSON: Yeah, I would just do a mix, you know, a mix of those two clips, right? It's not normal to have a Supreme Court justice who has accepted so many lavish gifts over such a long period, you know. And I would agree with Joe, you know, that that segment maybe is the indecent proposal.

I don't know if that makes him Robert Redford and Justice Thomas' demeanor. I don't know if I want to go there exactly, but that does show a certain disrespect for the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court has earned that disrespect by failing completely to put into place mandatory ethics rules, all kinds of disclosures that other branches already have.

So, they're reaping what they sow. Justice Thomas should not be hearing these cases that have anything to do with January 6th because his wife was involved in the insurrection itself and he has brought disrepute onto this court. And so those jokes are at the Supreme Court's expense, but he deserves it.

PHILLIP: One last thing before we go, Joe, Nikki Haley is going to give a speech tomorrow ahead of the South Carolina primary. We're just a few days away from that.

Look, what we're hearing is that she's going to just make the case for her candidacy, but this could be a very consequential week in which in her home state, it looks like she's likely to lose again to Donald Trump. Where does she go from here?

All you can do is take the former ambassador at her words. She says that she wants to help bring people to the party. She says that she believes she can beat Donald Trump and she thinks that she is hurting Trump by staying in. I would agree that she is probably hurting President Trump, not politically speaking, but I think on the financial front. Every time we're spending more dollars on a primary going nowhere,

that's money that doesn't go to people running for Congress, people running for U.S. Senate. At a time that Republican --

PHILLIP: It is money that doesn't go to his legal fees, apparently.

PINION: Well, look, I think President Trump certainly has a hefty legal bill, but there are broader concerns here when it comes to who is going to control the House, who's going to control the Senate.

And if we don't have donors who are pouring money into Nikki Haley's campaign for President that's yielding no delegates, willing to put up the same amount of dollars for those people running up and down the ballot, it's going to be a real problem for us.

MICHAELSON: That's certainly true if you think some of those donors are also on the more moderate side of the party, right? So the Trump, you know, the MAGA faithful, they're already, like you said, baked in.

But it is true that she's sort of taking some of the energy away from some more moderate voices that might actually rescue the party from complete insanity.

PHILLIP: I mean, it's unclear to me if that is still possible if Trump ends up being the nominee. I mean, he's going to want the party to be what he wants.

PINION: I think the reality is that every party has a standard bearer. Every standard bearer wants to remake the party in their own image. In the end, the issues that we're facing around the world are so pervasive. The issues that we're facing here at home are so incredibly overwhelming.

I think there are a lot of people who, you know, whatever their opinion on is, President Trump are going to be looking for candidates in Congress, in the Senate, in those state legislatures that are going to prioritize their needs above everything else.

PHILLIP: All right, Jay Michaelson, Joe Pinion, thank you both very much. And why President Biden is being hypocritical about the use of a popular social media app. Plus, Beyonce, she's crossing over into country.

We will ask one billboard topping black woman what it means for her and other black artists in the genre that is usually dominated by white men.



NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America can't be the last country to ban TikTok. Let's end it now and stop it so it doesn't hurt our children any further.

PHILLIP: That's Nikki Haley on the Chinese-owned social media app talking about the national security concerns there. It's something that she and the Biden administration actually have in common.

Well, they used to, anyway. Not even 14 months after the President signed legislation banning TikTok at the federal government level, he's now actively promoting it to help his re-election bid.


UNKNOWN: Basically plotting to rig the season so the Chiefs would make the Super Bowl or the Chiefs just being a good football team?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: You'll get in trouble if I told you.


PHILLIP: The President right there on TikTok, despite his own ban, it flies in the face of what his administration has been saying.


JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: All I can tell you is it's banned on U.S. government devices and we follow that guidance.

GINA RAIMONDO, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Certainly TikTok poses national security risks, to be clear.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I have very significant security concerns about TikTok.

JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY DEPARTMENT: Well, it's that private information could potentially end up in Chinese hands and used in ways that would negatively impact Americans.

MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), U.S. SENATOR: Could they use TikTok to control data on millions of users?

WRAY: Yes.

RUBIO: Could they use it to control the software on millions of devices given the opportunity to do so?

WRAY: Yes.

RUBIO: Could they use it to drive narratives, like to divide Americans against each other?

WRAY: Yes.


PHILLIP: And just to be clear, the Biden TikTok appearances are courtesy of his campaign, not the White House. But at best, that's mixed messaging. And in reality, it's hypocrisy.

The campaign says it's, quote, now on TikTok because frankly, that's where people are. Having a presence on TikTok gives us the chance to maximize the reach of the President's vision. But it's also where the Chinese are.


And according to the very bill that he signed, that's exactly the problem. Up next for us, is there a color barrier in country music? I'll ask one of only seven black women to ever crack the Billboard country charts about that.






PHILLIP: Beyonce, the Queen of Country Music. Well, after the music icon announced a new country album during the Super Bowl, she dropped two singles. And now she is the first solo black female artist on Billboard's country charts in eight years. The success is, predictably, sparking a conversation in that genre about race.

And joining me now is Grammy-nominated Country Artist Rissi Palmer. She's also the host of "Color Me Country", a podcast that promotes underrepresented voices in country music. Rissi, good to see you. Thanks for being here.

Even Beyonce, she's a huge global superstar, initially didn't get airplay on country radio when these two singles dropped. Why, in your view, is there so much resistance to seeing this kind of music as country music?

RISSI PALMER, GRAMMY-NOMINATED COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I think that, you know, country music is at a really interesting place right now and that it's trying to figure out what it wants to be and what it is and where it's going.

And I think one of the beautiful things about Beyonce dropping these songs and kind of calling everybody to the carpet, is like, if white artists can use 808s and can use trap beats, why can't Beyonce, who is from Houston, Texas, who grew up in a Southern family and a country family, why can't she do country music?

PHILLIP: Yeah, I think that is actually a really good point. I mean, what is country music even? What's interesting also is that you and Beyonce share something in common.

You're both among just seven black women to hit the country billboard charts. That's an astounding fact. But what do you think it means for other black women artists like yourself who've been in this genre for a while now? PALMER: Gosh, I have I've been thinking about this a lot.

And while I think that this initial frenzy is most likely -- it's -- it's Beyhive and it's her fans and it's people that love her. And rightfully so. I mean, she is, like you said, internationally famous. So, I think a lot of this groundswell initially is people that are just always going to be Beyonce fans.

PHILLIP: You mentioned something, though, about the fan base, the Beyonce fan base prior to this. These are probably a lot of people who have rarely if ever listened to country music. They probably think that they don't like country music.

You know, growing up, I used to listen to a lot of country music. And as I got older, it kind of got harder and harder to do that because so many people I was around didn't.

So, what do you want people who -- they're used to listening to hip hop, they're used to listening to R and B. What should they know about what country music really is?

PALMER: Well, I say this. I think that to all the artists that are out here, especially black women country artists, I think that what country music means to us is it's a way to tell stories.

It's a way to tell stories that are hopeful. It's a way to tell stories about where we come from and where we hope we're going. And I think this moment is really important because there's not just one type of country music.

You know, you only hear about country music in the mainstream when something bad happens. So, like, it's, there's so much more going on over here. And we're here and have been here throughout the entire history of this music. So, you know, I'm excited that --


PALMER: Country music is having a moment. But more importantly, I'm excited that black country music is having a moment.

PHILLIP: You've used the phrase musical redlining to describe why country music is considered to be white in the first place as a genre. What do you mean by that?

PALMER: So, I got that phrase from Dr. Jada Watson, who made an incredible study called "Redlining in Country Music" and she outlined just the huge disparities in radio airplay. And just when you're not played on the radio, you can't be considered for awards.

You can't be considered for major festivals. You can't be considered for major tours. And so being shut out of this one thing can keep you from having a career.

There's only been in 50 years, there's only been eight black women, solo black women to chart on the Billboard country charts. And there's only been five black women to write number one country songs. And that's a problem.

That's extremely problematic to me. And it's not because we're not good. It's not because we don't write good songs that because we're not great singers. There's something else because that just sounds that sounds strange.


PHILLIP: And it's not because you're not in the genre as evidenced by the fact that you are --

PALMER: Right.

PHILLIP: -- with us here tonight. Rissi, really interesting talking to you about this. Thank you so much for joining us. I know that you have a busy night ahead. You're working on some new music. So, we're looking forward to hearing that when it comes out.

PALMER: Yeah. Thank you.

PHILLIP: Thank you so much for joining us.

PALMER: Thank you for having me.

PHILLIP: And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts next.


LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: What it' like to speak truth to power? Tonight on "Laura Coates Live".