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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Delays And Insults, Trump's Legal Strategy Working For Him; Trump's Shifting Abortion Stances May Now Include National Ban; Biden Says, U.S. Insists That Israel Allows More Aid Into Gaza; Missouri GOP Moves To Oust Self-Proclaimed "Pro-White" Candidate Given An "Honorary" KKK Membership; Tuberville: Immigrants "Know Nothing About God"; Laura Coates Interviews Van Jones. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 01, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KATIE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The women since her have been sort of a theme has been reluctance except for believing their husband could win.

So, the key to this role is to stick to your -- to what you're comfortable with and be a polished messenger or not the role is optional.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The book is incredible. I loved it. I'm so glad you joined me on it. It's worth for everyone to read. So, thank you for coming in, Katie Rogers, great to have you.

And thank you all so much for joining us this night and every night this week. CNN NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillip starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Proof that Donald Trump's legal strategy is working. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

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

And go all the way back to Donald Trump's very first legal filings, and you can spot his legal strategy in plain view. One, make villains out of the people who are bringing the cases against him, and, two, delay any and all legal proceedings until the latest possible day, a day that he hopes comes after the 2024 election.

Now, tonight, the former president appears to be winning his two-front war on the calendar and on the prosecutors seeking to try him. Take Georgia, for example. Fani Willis sat there and listened as Trump's attorneys accused her of systemic misconduct. Prosecutors don't act like this, they said. They don't hide affairs with co-workers, they said. And because she did, according to Trump's lawyers at least, they demand that she be cast out of that courtroom.

Now the judge overseeing the trial suggests, at a minimum, Willis may face a reprimand at the state bar, but consider her reputation in the media and among the public, the jury pool, you could say, tarnished.

So, what does that do to her case against Trump? Well, likely, it's already delayed it even more. And whether she's disqualified or not, Trump has succeeded in turning the attention from him to her.

Now, that's just the Georgia case. In the Mar-a-Lago case, Trump seems to be closer and closer to getting his way there too. The judge that presides over the federal classified documents trial hasn't set a new trial date, but when she does, she hinted that it won't happen for quite some time.

Now, Judge Aileen Cannon, she threw cold water on the special counsel's timetable that would have kicked off the trial in July already in the heart of the political convention season.

Now, Cannon says that July is unrealistic. It's already an elaborate case, a complex case that will likely require drawn out fighting over redactions, over what can be made public and what can't. So, every day, of delay makes it more and more likely that this case won't end up wrapping up before November.

So, taking a step back here, Trump's two goals were smear the prosecutors charging him, and, two, to slow walk the actual trials and when they happen. So far, check and check.

Ultimately, these cases may not go his way, but for now, he and his attorneys have made it more likely that few of them will be resolved before voters go to the ballot box in November.

And joining me now is Temidayo Aganga-Williams. He's a former senior investigative counsel for the January 6th committee. And Chris Staszak, he's a former New York State attorney general and former senior investigative counsel for the House Oversight Committee.

Temidayo, when you look at that calendar, the campaign dates, the potential court dates, the hearings, the -- you know, the trials, there's not a lot of room. It does seem like Trump has already effectively succeeded in cramping the available space for these trials into the smallest possible windows.

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: Well, he certainly had a lot of successes with this calendar, but I don't think it's over yet. The judges really have a lot of power, and that goes for the Supreme Court and how they handle the speed of the appeal. Because in the D.C. January 6th case, it's very possible that that case will happen in the fall.

In Florida, Judge Cannon, frankly, a lot of the delays that we've seen are really about how she has managed the court's calendar. And federal judges have almost on vital authority over how they run the courtrooms. But it's really about the judges here.

Frankly, you go to the Georgia case. Again, I would argue it's about the judge. Yes, Fani Wallace, in my view, engaged in some lacks of judgment in getting the relationship, but the judge in Georgia has allowed this to turn into a circus. He's had days and days of testimony about affairs and cell phones and a winery payment.

PHILLIP: Yes, he could have made a bench judgment.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: He could have. And in all these cases, it's about how the judges are choosing to manage dockets.


And, frankly, I think the only judge that has managed a docket both efficiently and recognizing a series of the charges that the former president is facing is Judge Chutkan.

PHILLIP: And that's in the federal case.

And Judge Aileen Cannon, as he was just discussing, she has basically said that just July 8th date, it's too ambitious, it's unrealistic. I mean, what do you think that ultimately means for the calendar? I mean, do you think that it could happen at least start before November?

CHRIS STASZAK, FORMER NEW YORK STATE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't think it's going to happen in July 8th. And there was a lot of discussion today, and we were talking just before he came in here. If they push -- even if they agree today, and I think Trump's lawyers said today they would agree to a July or an August trial, even if they did tomorrow, it's still going to get pushed back after that. And I actually think that there's more incentive there to push that trial back.

I think the most exposure with everything that's going on that Trump faces is the classified documents, because it either happened or it didn't. I don't have classified documents in my bathroom. He and I both had top secret security clearance in the government, and we didn't take anything when we left. And even though he was the president, you have a lot of explaining to do as to why you have classified documents in the ballroom and the bathroom and the bedroom. So, it's going to be a tough one.

PHILLIP: Let me get your take on this. I mean, the Trump team called it, quote, completely unfair to have to prepare for basically multiple trials at once, the Florida classified documents case and the New York hush money case, which we didn't even touch on, but that case too. Is that a fair argument, though? I mean, does he have a right to have the attorney -- his attorneys have the space to try these cases apart from one another?

STASZAK: With respect to a criminal trial, he does have the right to attend the criminal trial. In some cases, you require it to be there. And he is also -- any defendant in any case is allowed the opportunity to prepare for those cases.

However, in a case where the defendant hammer herself is the one causing the delay, that's where you run into a problem. And as you mentioned, that's where the judges have to take charge of it and make sure that everything is running on schedule or neither party, the prosecution or the defense is taking advantage of any scheduling issues.

PHILLIP: And, Temidayo, the special counsel's office tried to keep some witness information for this trial out of the public view. The prosecutors saying that there's a possibility of threats toward witnesses and it's not hypothetical.

That's pretty extraordinary. The judge called it unprecedented. Do you think that's the right move?

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: I think it's 100 percent the right move. I think what's been shocking is the fact that Judge Cannon initially was going to seemingly permit the disclosure of the witnesses' names, which would be unprecedented. It would be shocking, and I think terrible judgment by the judge.

And I think the motion that, for reconsideration, that the special counsel files basically telling Judge Cannon, you're going to make a huge mistake. People's lives have been in danger.

And, frankly, the judge has the order all wrong. As someone who was a prosecutor and did trials, you should be setting a trial date before you're exposing witnesses to the public. What purpose would be served?

The former president, his legal team, has the names of these witnesses. They're able to prepare. They have all the information they have. Frankly, the federal rules don't even require the special prosecutor to turn this information over at this time, but he did.

So, Judge Cannon, looking to disclose that, I think it's frankly reckless, and I think Jack Smith was right to challenge her on it, and to push her to say that, no, it's too early and it's not safe.

PHILLIP: I mean, look, it doesn't have to be a directive from anyone associated with the trial. Just the political environment that we are in, sadly, makes it unsafe for people's names to be out there as it relates to this stuff.

Temidayo Aganga Williams and Chris Staszak, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

And those are Donald Trump's legal predicaments, but now onto his political ones. Two weeks after The New York Times reported that he supports a 16-week national abortion ban, he's now confirming much the same out loud.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Largely they're coming in with a certain number of weeks. And the number 15 is mentioned. I haven't agreed to any number. I'm going to see.


PHILLIP: Donald Trump seems to view abortion from a politically strategic lens instead of a policy one. And if you need proof, there's this, his ever-evolving stance on the issue itself that is frankly tough to even follow.


TRUMP: I am pro-choice in every respect and as far as it goes, but I just hate it.

I'm pro-life.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're pro-life. But you do think that there should be exceptions for rape and incest?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe in punishment for abortion? Yes or no? Is it principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

COLLINS: But that's not answering the question about a federal abortion ban. You did not say yes or no to that. You did not say who many weeks.

TRUMP: It depends what the deal is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were re-elected, would you sign it at 15 --

TRUMP: Are you talking about a complete ban?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A ban at 15 weeks?

TRUMP: Well, I would sit down with both sides and I'd negotiate something and we'll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.


I mean, DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you support that? Do you think that goes too far?

TRUMP: I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.

I believe in the three exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. I believe in that.

Now, I happen to be for the exceptions, like Ronald Reagan, with the life of the mother, rape, incest, if you talk five or six weeks.


PHILLIP: Trump has acknowledged many times that the issue hurts Republicans politically, and yet he still floats a federal ban. It's also worth noting that a national ban runs counter to what he and Republicans have been arguing for decades.


TRUMP: We got it back to the states. If it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.

I would have liked to have seen, you know, this be a states' rights. I would have preferred states' rights. I think it would have been better if it were up to the states.


PHILLIP: Joining me now, Ben Carson, he's the former Housing and Urban Development secretary under Donald Trump. He's also endorsed Trump again in the 2024 Republican-nominating contest. Dr. Carson, thank you very much for staying up late for us tonight.

Donald Trump says that he is open to a 15-week national abortion ban. He said that just this week. Would you support that?

DR. BEN CARSON, FORMER HUD SECRETARY: Well, thanks for having me, Abby. You know, I support anything that's going to save lives. And I think the people who are at different places in terms of timing are still under the same umbrella, marching toward a time when we have respect for life.

PHILLIP: Don't you think it's important also, just from the perspective of voters, to know where their elected leaders stand on such an important issue to so many Americans? It's not a question within the Republican Party just of whether they're on some continuum of voters, especially women, want to know at what point would you pass a ban? Would it become criminalized to have an abortion?

CARSON: Well, recognize that with the reversal of Roe v. Wade, that has been placed in the hands of the people and the state. And that's exactly where it should be.

PHILLIP: So does that mean that that's a no to a national ban then? Does that mean that a national ban should be off the table if it's something that should be handled at the state level?

CARSON: I think handling at the state level is the appropriate place to do it, absolutely.

PHILLIP: In the past, back in 2015, you likened women who have an abortion to slave owners. That's clearly, based on the polling, not where most of the country is. Is this an issue that might be a blind spot for you and where the American people are today in 2024?

CARSON: Well, what I actually said is that the issue of slavery made me begin thinking differently about abortion because slave owners believe that they could do anything they wanted to the slaves, beat them, rape them, kill them. It didn't matter. It was theirs, and they could do it.

And then I started thinking, what if the abolitionists had said, well, I'll tell you what, I don't believe in slavery, but you do what you want to do, where would we be today? Maybe there is something that is right. Maybe there is something that's wrong. Maybe we should stand up for the right.

PHILLIP: I guess one would argue that the issue here is that women are the ones who are deciding what to do in the case of abortion, whereas slave owners were making choices about other human beings, and that's a completely different thing.

CARSON: I think what we need to do is make sure that women have appropriate choices. It's extremely difficult to adopt an American baby. It's extremely expensive. We need to make that into something that's very easy.

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of families, who are just dying to have a baby and would love to adopt and give that baby a very, very good home. We need to work on issues like that.

PHILLIP: In that same vein, Alabama, as I'm sure you saw this week, their legislature did decide to protect IVF, in vitro fertilization, and those procedures that families use to start families to have babies. Do you believe that IVF should be illegal?

CARSON: I think it's a very good scientific advancement, making it possible for people to have babies who previously could not have them.


And we need to be very careful when we do blanket things, like saying all of it is going to be curtailed.

PHILLIP: The liability issue, I think -- I mean, obviously the legislature, if they thought that this judge's ruling would have allowed IVF to continue unfettered, the judge ruled that embryos are people, children, if they thought that that wouldn't affect IVF, they wouldn't have moved to protect it. So, did they make the right decision to protect the procedure in Alabama?

CARSON: No, I don't think it was the right decision because, again, we're talking all and blanket decisions. This is not a situation where we should be doing blanket decisions. We need to be parsing out what is appropriate in certain cases. We had to look at the reason for the law and not just say, this is the blanket statement and this is what you're going to have to abide by. It's not appropriate in this situation.

PHILLIP: I want to move on to something else. Last week you were honored at an event for black conservatives. And at that event, I want to play what Donald Trump said about black voters in this country. Listen.


TRUMP: And a lot of people said that that's why the black people like me, because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against. And they actually viewed me as I'm being discriminated against.

The mug shot, we've all seen the mug shot. And you know who embraced it more than anybody else? The black population. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Do you agree with him that black people related to him better because of a mug shot?

CARSON: Well, you have to understand what he was saying. What he was saying is that there's been a history of black people sometimes being prosecuted because of who they are rather than because of what they did. And, therefore, since that seems to be the case with him as well, they could identify with that. I don't think it has anything to do with racism.

PHILLIP: I didn't say anything about racism. I mean, he said black people related to him because of his mug shot. The implication there is that there's some kind of, you know, attraction to Trump, because he was briefly booked in a jail and taken his picture of -- at -- you know, in a county jail.

I mean, why would he make that broad statement about black people in this country who, frankly, I'm sure you know, are fighting to keep their family members and their friends and their relatives out of jail?

CARSON: Well, remember, it wasn't Clinton, it wasn't Bush, it wasn't Obama, it wasn't Biden who instituted situations where we had criminal justice reform. It was Trump, and I think people remember that.

PHILLIP: Are you confident that Trump will stand by the criminal justice reform, the First Step Act that he passed as president? Will he stand by that if he's re-elected?

CARSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I remember the discussions around that and it was very heartfelt.

PHILLIP: All right. Dr. Ben Carson, thank you very much for joining us.

Next, President Biden's sharp words for Israel after catastrophe unfolded at a Gaza food line. Why he's not -- why he's saying now, no more excuses.

Plus, a Republican candidate for governor in Missouri was made an honorary KKK member. I'll speak with the black Republican who's calling him out.



PHILLIP: No excuses. Those are the sharp words tonight from President Biden to Israel just 24 hours after that deadly catastrophe at a food line in Gaza. The U.S. will now be air dropping aid to Gazans who are starving.

112 people were killed and hundreds more hurt when Israeli forces opened fire during a desperate scene around those aid trucks. Joining me now is former U.S. Mission to the United Nations Spokesperson and former NSC Director Hagar Chemali.

Hagar, look, President Biden's new statement today, no excuses, do you hear that as a shift for Biden rhetorically and is that shift also going to be followed by policy?

HAGAR CHEMALI, FORMER U.S. MISSION TO THE U.N. SPOKESPERSON: There's definitely been a shift in his tone publicly. We saw it when the King of Jordan visited. Suddenly, there was this shift where he was trying to show more compassion for the Palestinians, more empathy with their pain, and certainly a more frustrated and harder tone with the Israeli government, and we certainly saw that now.

And I agree completely with his statements. There are no excuses for this. Any argument that we're hearing from the Israeli government is frankly weak and not justified. There's no justification for what happened.

PHILLIP: Does Netanyahu care?

CHEMALI: He cares most -- Netanyahu cares about -- the number one thing Netanyahu cares about is his domestic support inside Israel. That's the number one thing he cares about, his power first. And he does, of course, he cares about the security of Israel, but that comes secondary when it comes to this, as John Kirby said, that the Israelis pay attention to the U.S. perspective, and they do. But it doesn't play out always in their decision making because Netanyahu only cares so much.


PHILLIP: The fact that the United States is now taking the extraordinary step to airdrop aid, it's dangerous, it's unpredictable, it's difficult, it's not even that effective, they can't get as much in, what does that signal to you? I mean, you could look at it as a step forward, that something more is coming in, or it almost seems like a sign of desperation on the United States' part.

CHEMALI: It is a sign of desperation on the United States' part. So, first, I'm glad you highlighted how difficult it is to airdrop aid in. It is extraordinarily difficult. This is something you do as a last resort because it's not effective, it's not efficient. It can't carry as much aid that could be carried in a truck convoy. And it's dangerous in a war zone to do something like that. In general, it's extraordinarily expensive.

The U.S. is doing that from the beginning. They've been stressing the need for humanitarian aid. And Israel promised, the Israeli government promised 200 trucks per day. And according to The New York Times, the latest average is 96 trucks per day. But even then, there are days where it's as low as 20, 50 numbers of this kind. It's not enough aid getting in.

So, for the U.S. to do this, it shows that it's a last resort, that they know how dire the situation is on the ground. But it also highlights how difficult the Israelis are being in letting aid get in.

PHILLIP: To that point, I want to play what Eylon Levy, he's an Israeli government spokesperson, what he said earlier today on CNN.


EYLON LEVY, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: Convoy of the week trying to take aid into Northern Gaza and being mobbed by desperate civilians who then got killed in a stampede.


PHILLIP: He then went on to blame Hamas for hijacking aid, saying that's the reason that aid hasn't gotten to the Palestinian people. Do you buy that?

CHEMALI: Well, U.S. officials have said that Hamas has taken some aid, but that the vast majority has gotten to civilians and that Hamas has only skimmed some here and there.

Now, that is always a concern with any terrorist organization, whether it be in Gaza or Somalia or elsewhere, it's a common practice of terrorist groups to try and take aid and sell it or hijack it for themselves. But in this instance, I'm going to believe the U.S. officials when they say that the vast majority has gotten to civilians.

PHILLIP: And, of course, it doesn't justify withholding aid when people, children, are starving. I mean, that's not, I think, enough in this particular instance when you're talking about 2 million people.

Hagar Chemali, thank you very much for joining us.

And next, a candidate for governor in Missouri named an honorary KKK member, whatever that means, according to court documents. I'll speak live with the black Republican who has called him out for this.



PHILLIP: This week, a self-proclaimed pro-white candidate, who was once made an honorary member of the Ku Klux Klan, filed to run for governor in the state of Missouri. Darrell Leon McClanahan, in a 2022 lawsuit against the ADL, he described himself as a pro-white man.

And he was provided an honorary one-year membership to the Klan by the group's state coordinator, but he said he's not and has never been a member of the KKK. McClanahan says he did attend a 2019 private religious Christian identity cross lighting ceremony falsely described as a cross burning in an ADL article. The ADL described Christian identity as a racist and antisemitic religious sect.

Now, the Missouri Republican Party is responding with a post saying this. "The Missouri Republican Party has been made aware that Darrell Leon McClanahan III filed for governor as a Republican despite his affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, which fundamentally contradicts our party's values and platform. We've begun the process of having Mr. McClanahan removed from the ballot as a Republican candidate. We condemn any association with hate groups and are taking immediate action to rectify this situation."

McClanahan today told CNN -- quote -- "I have not been removed from the Missouri ballot. I filed legally and lawfully. The GOP knew exactly who I am. They will need to file a civil complaint to remove me. And I will say it again, I am not a member of the Ku Klux Klan nor have I ever been."

Joining me now is former Missouri State Representative, Republican Shamed Dogan, who blew the whistle on all of this and McClanahan's filing for a run for governor.

Shamed, this is extraordinary, but McClanahan was called out by the ADL for this in 2022. A picture of him had surfaced doing a Nazi salute while standing outside of a -- alongside a hooded man in Klan robes. He described a cross lighting in these innocuous terms. I mean, I don't know who's running around lighting crosses on fire except for the KKK, but his campaign website describes him as the conservative voice for governor and promises to oppose -- quote -- "the woke agenda."

Is this what represents the values of the Republican Party of Missouri today?

SHAMED DOGAN, FORMER REPUBLICAN MISSOURI STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, thanks for having me on, Abby. Of course, it doesn't, and that's why when I found out who this guy was, I hadn't heard of him until the day after he filed, when I saw somebody post on social media the information from the ADL about his background and that picture of him burning a cross while giving a Nazi salute, and when I saw that information, I tweeted about it.


And then I heard very soon afterwards from the Republican Party here in Missouri, and they, like I, had no idea who he was before he filed.

PHILLIP: So, well, you say that, but in his statement to CNN, he says, the GOP knew exactly who I am. Is he lying about that?

DOGAN: I would not put him -- put it past him, given that he's denying his KKK membership when there's photos of him. He's gaslighting and trying to say that he wasn't in front of a burning cross when we can all see that picture.

So, I would not be surprised if he wasn't just making up the fact that he thought people knew who he was when he got, I think, a thousand votes when he ran for Senate. So, it's not surprising that he wouldn't have been on hardly anybody's radar screen.

PHILLIP: Why does he feel that he belongs in the Republican Party, someone with these kinds of views? DOGAN: Well, you would have to ask him about himself personally, but I am disturbed by the fact that people like this think that they have a home in the Republican Party, and I think that the Republican Party has to make a choice. We can continue to try to do outreach and try to earn more support from minority voters or we can try to wink and nod at people like this.

And I have never been a Donald Trump fan, and one of the reasons that I did not endorse him in 2016 and have never voted for him was because he played footsie with this kind of white supremacist stuff. And this kind of garbage cannot be what the Republican stands for, ever.

PHILLIP: Well, as you alluded to, I mean, does this give you pause about your continued affiliation with the Republican Party? Clearly, the choice hasn't been made between what you're describing the GOP should do and what they are doing right now, which seems to allow people like Mr. McClanahan to think that he has some place in that tent.

DOGAN: Well, the actions of the party since this information came out have been what I would expect and have been pretty universal in condemning him. Everybody from the governor's candidates on down has said this is not the values of our party, and the party has taken the legal steps necessary to get him off the ballot.

We had a similar incident in 2022. There was a candidate for state representative who tried to file, and they did know because he had run before, that he had some pretty disturbing associations and had made some pretty inflammatory remarks, and they refused his filing fee in 2022.

So, they weren't able to do that this time because I think if they would have known ahead of time, they would have rejected his filing fee this past week.

PHILLIP: Shamed Dogan, thank you very much for joining us on that.

DOGAN: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And next, as the border crisis spirals out of control, Senator Tommy Tuberville says immigrants don't know God. We'll discuss that.

Plus, the University of Florida firing all of its DEI employees to comply with the state's ban. We'll speak live with Van Jones who's here ahead.




PHILLIP: What do migrants God and -- quote-unquote -- "judo" have in common? Well, apparently, very little, according to the senior senator from Alabama, in an error-riddled exhortation to conservatives on immigration.

Tommy Tuberville's remarks start off like he lifted from one of Donald Trump's anti-migrant speeches, but then it veers into the xenophobic. Listen.


SEN. THOMAS HAWLEY TUBERVILLE (R-AL) (voice-over): We live in a constitutional republic that's trying to do things without our Judo- Christian values. The biggest thing right now, I will tell you, is what's going on at our southern border. When you've got a country without borders, you don't have a country."

"We have to get moral values back into our country. And you can't do that when you have a million people every couple of months come into this country that know nothing about God, that know nothing about our laws and constitution."

Tuberville said that on a weekly conference call hosted by Bishop E.W. Jackson's "National Awakening." They post their audio on their website, and CNN has reached out to Tuberville's office late tonight, but has yet to hear back.

Joining me now is Leah Wright Rigueur. She's a senior CNN contributor and a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. Leah, first of all, it's Judeo-Christian values, not judo, of course. But secondly, what is he talking about?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Okay, so, first of all, leave it up to Senator Tuberville to actually get the entire phrase wrong, which is no surprise because this is somebody who has described himself as a Christian nationalist and before has actually fended off, right here on CNN, kind of accusations of being a white Christian nationalist.

So, this is very much in tune and in keeping with his understanding of what nationalism is and what Christianity is. And essentially, what we're seeing from somebody like Tuberville is a dog whistle. In fact, it's not even a dog whistle, it's a megaphone.

And it's really meant to be this kind of call to arms, not just from MAGA -- you know, MAGA followers across the country, but really for white Christian nationalists who believe that the United States is a place that is founded on Christian values and really should be a space that is for white people, right?


It is a deeply xenophobic, at times bigoted and racist ideology. This is what Tuberville is referencing.

PHILLIP: If you're white, you're not Christian, even though actually -- it could very well be many of these migrants are deeply religious, actually. Many Latinos are deeply religious when they come in to this country. WRIGHT RIGUEUR: Well, you know, what's actually shocking about this is that, one, many migrants actually have higher levels of religiosity than white Americans and their white American peers.

But not only this. You know, the number of people who self-identify as Christian nationalists among white people is actually really quite high, like white evangelicals, it's like 66%. The second highest group, Latinos.


WRIGHT RIGUEUR: So, the idea that these are godless people, that there's no morals left in this country is, in fact, completely wrong, but it is a calling card of white Christian nationalism in the world that they want to see.

PHILLIP: We're talking about this, I think, more and more because it's becoming a bigger part of today's Republican Party. We saw just in the Alabama Supreme Court's decision about IVF, the chief justice in his concurrence wrote a whole thing about the root of his belief that these embryos are people and it's God. He says the people of Alabama took what was spoken of the prophet Jeremiah and applied it to every unborn person in this state.

Another example of how this is not just part of the political rhetoric, it's part of the law.

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: Right. It's incorporated into the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Alabama. And I should say that almost 50% of Alabama natives say that they identify as Christian nationalists, right, with a lot of that being white understood.

But the other part of this is that, you know, when we talk about Christian nationalism, what I think makes it so insidious and what makes it so remarkable that it has moved into the mainstream is that it's not just about espousing the ideas of Christianity or nationalism. It's about putting people in places that can ensure that government is run by nationalists, that we're run as a theocracy. And the IVF ruling is 100% that.

PHILLIP: And there has been some recent reporting that if Trump is reelected, there are -- there's at least one outside group that considers itself a Christian nationalist group that's planning to do exactly that, to build a government with those exact values. It's just something that we've got to keep an eye on.

Leah Wright Rigueur, thank you very much for joining us on all of this.

A new video just in to CNN. Senator Joe Manchin squaring off with climate protesters at Harvard, literally. We'll speak with Van Jones about that.



Tonight, some really crazy video of a fight nearly breaking out between one of the most powerful men in the United States Senate, Joe Manchin, and a protester on Harvard's campus.

The incident, according to the Harvard Crimson, happened when six protesters from Climate Defiance interrupted a Manchin talk at Harvard's Kennedy School.

I should warn you, there is an F-bomb in this. Listen to the insults and watch Manchin look ready to enter the ring.


UNKNOWN: Joe Manchin, you've sold our futures and you've gotten rich doing it. You, sick fuck.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): How dare you?


PHILLIP: Now, Harvard, in a statement, acknowledged protesters disrupted the event with the senator. Police, the university says, instructed protesters to leave the campus, and they complied.

Joining me now is CNN political commentator Van Jones. Van, full disclosure, I'm on the senior advisory committee of the IOP over at Harvard. Stunning to see that unfold in that IOP study group room. What do you make of that encounter?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm glad it didn't get worse than it did. Obviously, a U.S. senator should be able to go to a campus and talk, and whatever the disagreement is should be handled differently than that.

I will say that there is a growing level of alarm on the ecological left about what's happening. There -- you know, right now, the weather is just totally nuts. You've got Texas burning. California is freezing. There's a lot that's going on. There is a sense of frustration that not enough is being done. And so, whether it's extinction rebellion in Europe, you have all these groups who are trying to raise the temperature. And by doing stuff like this, they get more attention.

I think it's a dangerous approach because that's not the right way to do it. You can sing, you can disrupt, you can chant, but to physically get that close to a U.S. senator, to insult him in that way, that's not the right way to do it. So, I understand the young people's concern and their frustration, but that is not the right way to do it.

PHILLIP: And you know quite a lot about the concerns there on the ecological side, as you just pointed out, and also know quite a lot about activism as well. So, that comment really probably ought to be taken to heart.

But Van, I brought you on because I want to talk to you about your new episode of "The Whole Story."


It's really important because it focuses on that deep political divide that has been unfolding for the world to see in your home state of Tennessee.

You spoke with the Democratic state representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, who were both expelled from office for their involvement in a gun protest at the state capitol, and they were voted back into office after all of that. But I want to play a little bit of your conversation with them.


JONES: Do you feel like you can be effective lawmakers in an environment like this?

REP. JUSTIN PEARSON (D-TN): A good lawmaker isn't the one that just gets a law passed, because if we wanted to pass a law to allow everybody to get an AR-15 tomorrow, that might pass. Does that make you a good lawmaker?

PEARSON: We're heading to the Shoeshine Place, an arcade where the sit-ins were.

REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): A dissent is a message to the future. We may not have the votes now, but each time we dissent, we are letting the future know that there stood somebody who would not bow down, that there were people who fought to make this state what it ought to be.

JONES: I'm just sitting here listening to you talk, and I just feel like -- I feel proud, you know, and also a little bit ashamed because I don't think that my generation kept that same fire.

PEARSON: We talk so much about ancestors. You think about what they endured and what they were called steps away from earth's (ph) capital.

JONES: I think part of why people are so impressed with you, young people, is that you didn't back down.

J. JONES: Tennessee is the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, but also the Nashville student movement. So, we have this dual history, and I think that's really the history of America.


PHILLIP: Van, that's really powerful. And Tennessee, I mean, I've spoken to both of those state lawmakers, it feels like a deeply divided, a uniquely toxic political environment. What did they tell you about what's been going on there?

JONES: Well, you know, it's crazy. I was born and raised in Tennessee. That state legislature is where I got my start in politics. I was an intern for Jimmy Naifeh, a legendary figure in Tennessee politics. By the way, an Arab-American who was the longest serving speaker of the House we ever had. Nobody ever raised the issue when I was growing up. Shows you how far we've come. Al Gore was elected there. Shows you how far we've come.

Now, it has been completely taken over by a radicalized Republican Party that has redistricted and gerrymandered things so badly that they now have a permanent supermajority, don't have to listen to any Democrats, including those two young men, and are just running the state in such an iron-fisted way that these two young lawmakers had to try to speak out.

It was heartbreaking to go back to that building, such a beautiful building on the outside, and see how ugly it has become on the inside. And yet here these young people are, really, again, doing it the right way. They protested and everything. They didn't curse anybody out, though. They didn't almost get in the fisticuffs. You see the difference between what you saw at Harvard and the way you feel looking at that and the way you feel listening to those young men.

There is a way for this generation to stand up. I think those young Justins are showing the right way forward. And we need to hear more from them. But profanity and near physical threats is only going to draw a backlash. It's not going to move anything forward.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, you mentioned, though, your generation. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but effectively dropping the ball, I guess you might say, in terms of the fire underneath some of this activism. Tell us more about why you think that's the case.

JONES: Listen, I just think that the baby boomers were such a big generation. And now, the millennials, you know, you guys are such a big generation. Those of us in the middle of the Generation Xers, we never really got a chance to do that much. We were kind of answering the fax machines and getting the coffee for the boomers. And then all of a sudden, you guys took over.


And in the meantime, we somehow dropped the ball. And so, it's like -- I think it's up to the next generation. I think it's important for us. I can never speak for the young people, but I want to speak up for the young people because their passion is correct.

They should be able to buy houses, they should be able to get cars, they should be able to have normal weather, they should be able to live in harmony with each other. They shouldn't live with all this division and this stress and this worry, and that's our fault.

But I encourage everybody, watch this thing on Sunday night. You're going to see what happens when one party takes things too far and what that means for grassroots people. And plus, my family members are there at the kitchen table.


PHILLIP: I love that. JONES: You can hear from my cousins, too.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I love that. Van Jones, thank you so much. And like you just said, be sure, everyone, to tune in to Van's all new episode of "The Whole Story" with Anderson Cooper. It airs Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only here on CNN.

And tonight, we are going to try something new. Looking back on the news this night, on this day in history. Journey all the way back to 1932 when one of the country's most infamous kidnapping cases broke out across the wires.


The 20-month-old son of the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh abducted from his family's home in New Jersey.