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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

The Six States That May Decide A Trump Vs. Biden Nail-Biter; New York Offers 30-Day Delay In Trump Hush Money Trial; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Under Fire For Calling On Israel To Oust Netanyahu; Nominees Of Each Party Ahead Of The General Election Traditionally Are Given Classified Security Briefings; Vice President Kamala Harris Makes A Historical Visit To The Planned Parenthood St. Paul, Minnesota Clinic; Tornado Hits Logan County; Abby Phillip And Guest Panel Discuss Kate Middleton And Meghan Markle's Media Coverage. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired March 14, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It's such a good point that he wouldn't even have to formally pull out of NATO. He could just do it --

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: If he says, like he said the other day, Russia, do whatever the hell you want in an Eastern European country, he's the man who would have to order those troops in.

COLLINS: Jim Sciutto, the book is fascinating. Thank you for coming up here and to talk to us about it. Everyone should read it.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: The places and the person who will likely decide the most consequential election of our time. That's tonight on NEWSNIGHT

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

And welcome to the official start of the general election. It's shaping up to be a rematch for the history books. In the red corner is Donald Trump, twice impeached, indicted, insurrectionist, depending on who you ask, and in the blue corner, Joe Biden, older, unpopular, and beset by questions about his ability to do the job for four more years.

But there is a third man in the ring too, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., more on him in a moment.

But, first, a reminder, this election will be close and it will be decided by a few thousand votes in roughly a handful of states, six to be exact.

So, here is where it could all come to a head this November. Six states where, let's face it, each ballot might make a bigger impact than in the rest of the country, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These are the swingiest of swing states. They are the very same states where Biden flipped the map in 2020.

And it all starts with Georgia, where Biden was the first Democrat to turn that state blue in 28 years, and where activists are now warning that he's at risk of seeing his 11,000-vote margin disappear. There's also Nevada, Biden won there by 33,000 votes, but Trump consistently a polling favorite in 2024. Arizona, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump there by only 10,457 votes. Michigan, Biden's margin of victory there, 154,000, bigger, but back in the primary, the uncommitted campaign caused some loud problems for him there. Pennsylvania, another Trump 2016 state that Biden turned blue in 2020, and, of course, Wisconsin, where the president was just this week and where he hopes that his blue wall just doesn't crumble.

But here is another factor in all of this. Whether or not this man makes the ballot in six of those states, that could decide who ends up sitting behind the Resolute Desk in January. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says that he is very close to picking a vice presidential running mate, and he might settle on Aaron Rodgers. That's the Jets quarterback who believes in a lot of conspiracies, conspiracies that include that vaccines don't work, or as CNN has reported this week, that the Sandy Hook shooting was an inside job, that the victims, families were crisis actors.

Yes, that is the same conspiracy that cost Alex Jones millions of dollars, because it's a lie, it's defamatory. Rodgers responding to CNN saying that he doesn't believe in those things, not then, not now.

And today, Kennedy's campaign stated the truth. Sandy Hook was horrific. They affirmed that children did in fact die. But if that's the case, why even float Rodgers' name? Here is what their candidate said just last night about the man he's considering putting a heartbeat away from the presidency.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Aaron Rodgers is battle-tested, he's stood up, he's been hammered by the press, stood up for things we believe. And I like that part of his character, he's a critical thinker.


PHILLIP: A critical thinker. A critical thinker or just a conspiracy theorist like RFK. Jr. himself?

Joining me now, Howard Dean, he's the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He also ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004. Governor Dean, thanks for joining us tonight.

Who do you think poses the most threat to Joe Biden in this election? Is it No Labels or is it someone like RFK Jr.?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, 2004: I think it's no labels. No Labels is basically a conglomeration of really big money people like Harlan Crow, who gave a lot of money to Clarence Thomas as well, and a whole lot of dark money that nobody knows where it came from.


And it's pretty clear that their only intention is to disrupt the race and help Trump. All this hocus-pocus about we're going to have a third way and a third candidate and all this stuff, it's just not true. And it's a pretty bold face attempt by people who have a gazillion dollars to influence the race and get their person elected.

PHILLIP: But help me out here. I mean, they don't even have a candidate. Like they don't even -- and several of the potentially most damaging potential candidates to President Biden have said, I don't want anything to do with it. So, how could they have an impact if we don't even know who they could put up?

DEAN: Well, first of all, they have so much money they can do anything they want. They could put up a frog and get some votes. In fact, that would probably be Peppy the Frog, and they'd get a lot of votes, although those would be out of Trump's hide.

But just most of the serious people have turned them down. Joe Manchin has turned them down. Larry Hogan's turned them down. They're not going to get a serious politician because it's such a -- you're not really a serious politician if you run for president of the United States and you get 2 percent, which is what they're going to get. The problem is that 2 percent might come out of Joe Biden's hide and that would be enough to put Trump into the White House.

PHILLIP: So, also this week, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., he said he's going to pick a vice presidential running mate. He needs it, because it's an important part of the ballot access process. 26 states require a running mate.

So, when you see a short list that includes people like Aaron Rodgers, he shared Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, Jesse Ventura, he's a former wrestler turned Minnesota governor, when you see that short list, what goes through your mind?

DEAN: Look, I think Bobby Kennedy is a sad case and he used to do really good work. I actually went to an event of his about 25 years ago when he was running Riverkeeper and it was terrific. But something is derailed in him and I don't know what it is. And I think it's very sad and I think his family thinks it's very sad and I wish he wouldn't do it for the sake of the Kennedy name. The Kennedy family has been really quite terrific in terms of what they contributed to this country but this Bobby is really making it tough on the rest of the family, I think.

PHILLIP: And all of these conspiracies, it's going to take a lot to get voters to really key in on that. Some of these polls are showing him in double digits. Isn't every dollar that goes to an effort to tamp down on RFK Jr.'s support another dollar that can't actually be spent on the race at hand, which is Joe Biden against Donald Trump? DEAN: I don't think there's going to be any limit to dollars spent in this race. Trump has got every -- the gazillionaire in the country apparently, is now breathing heavily whenever Trump walks around and, you know, that's their candidate, he is the gazillionaire class. And then Biden is working people who are now raising a ton of money over the web from small donations, and that's the way it's going to be.

I think Bobby Kennedy might do some damage with conspiracy theorists and they're going to vote for Trump anyway. So, I just wish he wouldn't run for his own sake and for the sake of his family.

PHILLIP: When it comes to this race, obviously, these elections, the presidential elections, they're on a razor's edge, and it's going to come down to a handful of states and probably a few tens of thousands of voters.

One of them is the state of Michigan. Just look at this Quinnipiac poll that's out today that finds the state of the race looking like this, 41 percent Trump, Biden at 36 percent, and all those other candidates. It adds up to 17 percent, and it seems to be coming out of Joe Biden's bucket, or at least enough out of Joe Biden's bucket, that it causes him to lose, according to this poll right now, to Donald Trump.

It's not just RFK Jr., the Jill Steins, the Cornell Wests, all of this. Should this be making the Biden campaign really nervous?

DEAN: Well, I think it does. I mean, Jill Stein crossed Hillary Clinton, the presidency, and elected Donald Trump. And I'm sure she'd have no trouble with that again. Don't forget the famous picture with her having dinner with Vladimir Putin, apparently one of Trump's favorites as well. So, you can't do much about that.

I don't think many people who are going to vote Democratic are going to vote for Jill Stein. I think she's a well-known quantity now. Cornell West is a sad case. He's not going to do a lot of work. He could peel off some votes.

But, again, you have to think about whether these are protest votes that aren't going to vote at all if they don't vote for these candidates. And it's just not clear yet. I don't believe that if the actual election were held today in Michigan, I think Biden would win clearly because Donald Trump is a disaster for the state of Michigan, and everybody knows it.

PHILLIP: The DNC just this week also, you know, they made a couple of hires to try to deal with the third party factor here.


I mean, you ran the DNC at one point. Would you have done this earlier if it were you?

DEAN: Well, we didn't have this problem. When I was a DNC, I was the referee between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, two very strong candidates. PHILLIP: A very different problem.

DEAN: A very different problem, yes. So, no, I think they're doing fine. I think they should do this. And I don't -- I think we just get too panicked. You know, inside the beltway, as I always say is middle school on steroids, smart people, hardworking people, but it's all about them all the time. I just would relax a little about these candidates.

PHILLIP: All right. Howard Dean, thank you very much, as always, for joining us tonight.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on, Abby.

PHILLIP: Tonight, the only criminal trial of Donald Trump's that is all but guaranteed to actually happen before the election is now likely to be delayed. Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg says that he'd be willing to push this hush money trial a month to give Trump's lawyers some more time to look at the tens of thousands of documents that were just released in this case. But, once again, Trump strategy of delay, delay, delay, it seems to working just fine.

Joining me now are Jon Sale, a former assistant special Watergate prosecutor, and former assistant attorney at SDNY, Mimi Rocah also is with us, former division chief at SDNY and district attorney of Westchester County, New York.

Mimi, this trial was supposed to be the one that was most likely to happen on a quicker timeline. How significant is this potential delay and what do you make of the fact that Bragg is willing to give it to him?

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER DIVISION CHIEF, SDNY: Well, I think that D.A. Bragg had to agree to something. When you have of documents, however significant or insignificant they are being turned over to the defense, even if you believe that they are not core to a case or material or whatever your position is as a prosecutor, you're going to say, of course, we're going to give time for you to go through these.

Because otherwise, when there's a trial and if there is a conviction, that could be something that could cause an issue on appeal if you don't. And it's the right thing to do, to allow them to have time to go over the documents.

So, I really think that nobody should yet read too much into D.A. Bragg agreeing to not (INAUDIBLE) of what Trump was asking for. They're giving a reasonable amount of delay.

In terms of how important it is, I think we don't know yet. We will know when the defense does have a chance to go through and see what's in the documents and it very likely could be that the trial could proceed after 30 days or, you know, the defense could make arguments of why they need further delay but that's to be.

PHILLIP: They are asking, Jon, for 90 days, or to dismiss the case entirely, they would love for this case to just go away. How likely, how quickly do you think the judge has to decide? I mean, the case was supposed to start two weeks from now.

JON SALE, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, the case is not going to be dismissed. But I had occasion on Friday at the ABA meeting in San Francisco to give a talk. And I called Donald Trump an existential threat to the rule of law and democracy.

Notwithstanding, that being said, he's entitled to very Constitution that he wants to suspend on day one. He's entitled all of those protections. One of them is the effective assistance of counsel.

We don't know what's in those documents. I presume they relate to Michael Cohen, who it could be have what we lawyers call Brady material, exculpatory. It certainly is going to deal with information that they can use to cross-examine him. So, they have a right to confront witnesses against them.

And I think whether or not that delay is a reasonable 30 days, 60 days, 90 days depends upon those documents. And they said there are more coming. So, I think the judge is going to be a fair referee and is going to give the appropriate amount of time that's necessary so that Donald Trump, like everyone else, will get a free trial.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, a reality check, it could be -- I mean, the delay could happen and it could be perhaps longer than 30 days.

Down in Florida Judge Cannon, who's overseeing the documents case, she pretty quickly dismissed one of the arguments that the Trump campaign was making that he was charged under a law that was too vague. But on the second issue of the Presidential Records Act, she still has to decide where she stands on that. They want the case thrown out based on this idea that Trump could have held onto these documents because of the Presidential Record Act. That's a pretty significant ruling that she needs to make here.

ROCAH: It is. But I think she's expressed skepticism about that as well, that issue, and seems to be -- I mean it's reading tea leaves, and we'll see when she rules on it.


But she seems to be saying that's an argument for you to make to the jury, which is what she said with respect to the first argument as well.

And we'll see what she rules, but if she goes the pattern of what she did with the first issue, her skepticism that she's expressed might indicate that she will not grant that motion.

PHILLIP: And, Jon, what do you make of how Judge Cannon has handled this case so far? There have been a lot of questions about whether she has the ability to be fair here. She also has to decide when this case is going to happen. What do you make of all of that?

SALE: I'm a Florida lawyer. And I think that what's going to save our republic against Donald Trump are the courts. And I think that it's very dangerous when we jump all over Judge Cannon. I still believe she's going to do the right thing. I don't care who appointed her.

We talk about she's inexperienced. You don't want to sign cases to judges, according to their experience. I think she's going to rule. She's going to deny the motion to dismiss, but she's going to say that it's a factual question, meaning if Trump wants to testify and say, hey, I believed I could do this, he can't say what the law is. He can't say the Presidential Records Act provides. That's a legal question. But if he wants to testify to that, as to his intent, his state of mind, I think it becomes a jury question.

PHILLIP: Yes. And, look, I mean, that's very questionable based on people who look at that Records Act and say that's not really what it's meant to say, but again, the jury --

SALE: It's a post-Watergate statute, and they're just wrong in that regard. The records belong to the people. And when President Obama left office, about 3 million documents were turned over to the National Archives immediately and put in a SCIF, and that's the way it's supposed to be done.

PHILLIP: That's where it's supposed to be. Jon Sale, Mimi Rocah, thank you both very much.

SALE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And a stunner tonight in the Senate as the top Democrat is now calling on Israel to oust Benjamin Netanyahu. Fareed Zakaria will join me on the backlash.

Plus, do Trump's legal issues disqualify him from a national security briefing that all presidential candidates get? I'll discuss that with someone who says that it should.

And as the conspiracies run rampant over the drama involving Kate Middleton, we will compare the coverage of her to Meghan Markle.

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Tonight, regime change. It's usually what you hear U.S. politicians demand of the world's worst governments. Think Iran, North Korea, Sudan. It's something lawmakers barely say above a whisper when it comes to Russia.

So, today, you can understand the shock rippling across Washington after the highest-ranking Jewish official in the United States now says that Israel needs a change at the top.

Chuck Schumer is the Democrat in United State Senate, whose record of supporting Israel at every turn is decades long. His message today was urgent. He believes Israel risks becoming a pariah if the only democracy in Middle East continues under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Nobody expects Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the things that must be done to break the cycle of violence.

I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government.


PHILLIP: Republicans reacted with disbelief and disgust.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): What is Leader Schumer doing injecting himself is Israel politics. Again, I think it's just beyond the pale.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I'm very upset I don't think that Leader Schumer should be inserting his ideas and throwing them at Israel when they are in the middle of a war. We should on the side of Israel. We should be showing support for Israel. We know that Hamas has to go.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Fareed Zakaria. He's the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. Fareed, great to have you on tonight.

Can you put this into perspective for us? How important is this for the U.S.-Israeli relationship?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I think it's a watershed. Senator Schumer is not somebody who is likely to freelance. As you point out, he's the most senior Jewish-American official in the United States. He's also very close to President Biden and to Biden's team.

I suspect that this was -- that there was some consultation here. And what it reflects, I think, is a very deep frustration that the Biden administration has had with the Netanyahu government. They have provided really unqualified support on a scale that is unprecedented.

In Israel, Joe Biden is wildly popular for the extraordinary and unqualified support he gave. But in return, he has tried to counsel the Netanyahu government to be proportionate, not to launch a major ground invasion, not a level 50 percent of the buildings in Gaza, not to do in the south what they did in the north. And at every turn, the Netanyahu government has defied and disagreed and gone on and done whatever it's wanted.


So, I think this comes after a very long period, months, of the Biden administration patiently and quietly counseling the Israeli government to take a different course and recognize that they're paying an enormous price internationally. And the United States is paying an enormously price because, as IDF generals point out repeatedly, without American support, none of these operations would be possible. And so it is -- I think that this may be the straw that broke the camel's back as it were, but it comes after months of frustration.

PHILLIP: I wonder what the import of it is at the end of the day. I mean, as you pointed out, Netanyahu has basically been ignoring the Biden administration on all of their lines drawn in the sand, on all the things that they put on the table and said, do not do this. What are they going to do now?

ZAKARIA: That's a very good question. They don't have those many choices. This is, after all, a senator who is expressing an opinion. And he's not calling, as some people have said, for the overthrow of the regime or anything like that.

He's simply saying Israel faces a completely new security situation, and they should have new elections. That's his opinion, he is not the administration, he is the legislative branch. And at this point, the administration has to ask, is it going to do something?

What could it do? President Biden could make a speech in which he focuses on Israeli policies and where they should go and whether they're going wrong. The United States has vetoed almost every call for a ceasefire in the United Nations. It's been often the lone vote supporting Israel. It could change that.

It also could condition the aid that it gives the military aid and say these weapons cannot be used, for example, in any further offensive such as an invasion of Rafah.

So, it does have various tools at its hand. I think this was a way of trying to signal their displeasure without the administration formally escalating along the lines I was describing.

PHILLIP: A warning of sorts, perhaps.

I wonder, though, I mean, look, the fate of Netanyahu, when this war ends, it seems based on polling inside of Israel, he would not remain in power. So, what happens next? Is there any coalition government that you see in the waiting in wings that is capable of bringing this war to an end and moving Israel and Gaza and the West Bank into a future that actually leads to peace?

ZAKARIA: Oh, absolutely. Israel has many very seasoned political leaders who have views different from Netanyahu. Many of them have served in the military in senior positions, which Bibi Netanyahu has not. No, Israel is full of political talent.

You know, the question is, as you say right now, there is, as far as we can tell from the polling, a deep dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I think that some polls I've seen, up to 70 percent of the people think he should not be prime minister after the war is over. And in a way, Schumer was reflecting that feeling. There are certainly people in Israel who believe that they can find a more lasting way to achieve security for Israel than a kind of endless and intense ground operation that levels more and more of Gaza, more and more civilian casualties. So, there are people out there saying that, for sure.

PHILLIP: Yes. All right, Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much for staying up for us tonight.

ZAKARIA: A pleasure.

PHILLIP: And you can catch GPS on Sunday at 10:00 A.M. Eastern Time.

And up next, he is the Republican Party's nominee. But should Donald Trump actually receive security briefings? I'll speak with someone who says it is a national security risk.

Plus, Vice President Harris has become the highest ranking American official to visit an abortion clinic. More on that visit ahead on NewsNight.



PHILLIP: This is a tradition that is awarded to the nominees of each party ahead of the general election. They get classified security briefings, which of course means access to the nation's most sensitive secrets.

But Donald Trump is different than most candidates. He is facing several criminal trials, including one that delves with this exact issue, national security and classified information. And my next guest says that this tradition needs to pause this year.

Tom Nichols joins me now. He's a columnist for "The Atlantic" where you can find his piece. Tom, ultimately, this is up to President Biden to -- whether to give this briefing to Donald Trump or not. It's been a tradition since 1952. That would be pretty extraordinary if Biden were to deny Trump that kind of access.

TOM NICHOLS, STAFF WRITER "THE ATLANTIC": These are extraordinary times. Donald Trump is under indictment for mishandling classified information. But more than that, his behavior over the past four years -- excuse me, over the past seven -- eight years in office and then afterwards shows that he can't be trusted with classified information.


Now, if he's elected, you know, we're not going to have any choice. I mean, he'll be the President and he can demand any classified information he wants. But I genuinely believe that he should be kept away from classified information for as long as possible.

Because there's no telling, I mean, he'll blurt it out, he'll use it as a campaign tool. He'll, you know, I mean, there's any number of things he could do that are destructive to national security. There's just simply -- there's simply no point in doing it this year.

PHILLIP: You've pointed out, and it's true, that any other federal employee with his record, with these charges against him, that would not be granted access to anything close to classified information. But he is the Republican nominee.

It seems pretty clear that Biden would be immediately accused of playing politics if he doesn't give Trump, who was President at one time, access to this kind of briefing.

NICHOLS: Yeah, Biden's going to be accused of that. He'll be accused of politicizing intelligence. But what haven't Republicans accused Joe Biden of at this point? And really, would it make any difference in the general kind of hurricane of noise that surrounds the Biden administration that comes from the Republicans and from the right-wing media ecosystem?

You're absolutely right that if he were a federal employee, he wouldn't be allowed anywhere near classified information. And I think I have some standing to say that because for over 25 years, I was a federal employee with the Defense Department holding a security clearance. And every year, we had to sit through briefings about insider threats and the people among us who might be dangerous to national security.

And every year, I know I wasn't alone sitting there and saying, well, I can think of one insider who's sitting on top of this ladder. And so, I think the Republican criticisms of this are just not to be taken seriously.

PHILLIP: Yeah. You do make an interesting point here and it's about Trump's debts, his finances. He owes half a billion dollars in court judgments at this point. You've done people who've had their security clearances yanked because of all kinds of other financial troubles, credit scores --

NICHOLS: Because they have big credit card bills.

PHILLIP: -- debts, all kinds, yeah, yeah.

NICHOLS: There are so many red flags. If Trump were just an ordinary American citizen applying for access to classified information, which by the way, is a privilege for federal workers, not a right, all of these flags would go up.

Debt, foreign entanglements, deceptiveness, you know, lying, I mean, there are just so many things that would ping concerns about him that I think there's no point in risking any of that before the moment that we have to.

And I'll add one other thing. Donald Trump doesn't care about briefings. He doesn't listen to them. He doesn't pay attention to them. So, it's not like anything will be lost by not giving him briefings that he won't pay attention to and that he won't understand anyway. And it's better to, I think, to just wall off that possible problem until the very last moment. PHILLIP: That's really interesting. These are the kinds of things we've got to think through as a country in these unprecedented times. Tom Nichols, thank you very much.

NICHOLS: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, Kamala Harris becoming the first sitting Vice President or President to visit an abortion clinic. I'll speak with a doctor who she met with there. Plus, as the mystery over Kate Middleton deepens, we'll examine the coverage of her drama versus Meghan Markle's. Stand by.




PHILLIP: As Democrats look to make the fight over reproductive rights a driving issue in this election, tonight, a historic first from Vice President Kamala Harris. She becomes the first sitting Vice President or President to ever visit an abortion clinic. And while she was there visiting that Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota, she declared the battle a, quote, "health crisis".

Joining me now is Sarah Traxler, Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood in North Central States. Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. The Vice President visited your location today and you had an opportunity to talk to her and to meet her. What did she have to say to you personally? And why did she choose this particular clinic to make this visit?

SARAH TRAXLER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER. PLANNED PARENTHOOD NORTH CENTRAL STATUS: So, it was incredible meeting Vice President Harris today and having this historic moment in Minnesota where she came to speak to all of us and our staff about what's happening across the country when it comes to abortion access.

And what she talked to us primarily about was that this is a really critical moment in our history because reproductive rights and bodily autonomy are something that we should care deeply about in this country. She reminded us that she and President Biden care deeply about this and that this is something that they're going to champion.

PHILLIP: You mentioned to the Vice President today that patients and health care providers are severe -- at severe risk. Can you just explain to us what that looks like for you today in 2024?

TRAXLER: So, one of the things that I see on a regular basis is that patients are really having to have to uproot their lives in order to access health care.


When we have someone who is 800 miles away from the nearest abortion clinic or have to drive through precarious blizzard situations, that for patients is a lot of upheaval.

There's a lot of logistical challenges for them getting to the clinic. It costs a lot of money. They have to find child care. They have to leave their jobs and might not get paid for that time that they're away.

And for health care providers in particular, we often find ourselves in conflict with laws if we're practicing in states where abortion is illegal. We find ourselves having to debate whether or not we would provide adequate medical care that is ethical and necessary versus being in conflict with the law and getting our license revoked or even being charged with a felony.

PHILLIP: You've been working in this field for a long time. I wonder, did you ever think that you would see a sitting President or Vice President come to an abortion clinic? And what does that say to you about what this issue is going to mean for this country in this coming election?

TRAXLER: I don't think I ever imagined that we would have a President or a Vice President or a Vice President ever visit a Planned Parenthood. And today is the first day that that ever happened.

And while it is historical, it shows and demonstrates how critically important reproductive health care is for people across our country. And it demonstrates to all of us that the Biden-Harris administration think that this issue is extremely important.

They understand that the vast majority of the United States believes that this is a private decision that should be made by individuals and their providers, and that the government should not interfere.

PHILLIP: Sarah Traxler, thank you very much, doctor, for joining us tonight.

TRAXLER: Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: And tonight, a close-up view of a monster tornado.


UNKNOWN: That is a huge tornado. Wow. Oh, my God.

PHILLIP: That was the scene just hours ago in Mercer County, Ohio. A funnel cloud swallowing up the sky, save for those orange bursts that you see there of lightning.


PHILLIP: In nearby Logan County, similar scenes unfolded and similar scares sent families fleeing for their safety. At this hour, emergency management officials say that it is unclear how many homes were actually hit and how many people were ultimately hurt in these incredibly dangerous storms.

And up next, there are questions growing louder about Kate Middleton's whereabouts. Is there a contrast about how she's being covered compared to how Meghan Markle has been covered? We'll discuss that next.




PHILLIP: Tonight, a royal rift against the backdrop of a royal scandal. Prince William honoring the late Princess Diana in London today at the 25th anniversary of the charity that was formed in her honor. Meanwhile, Harry joining virtually after the Prince of Wales left the event. The separate appearances for the estranged brothers come as public speculation about Kate, the Princess of Wales, grows worldwide.

And Kensington Palace, they've been dodging questions after distributing a manipulated Mother's Day photo on Sunday. But the ongoing controversy has also now ignited a conversation about the disparate coverage and treatment by the British press of another former royal, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

Joining me now is Vanity Fair's Erin Vanderhoof and CNN Contributor Cari Champion. Erin, the tabloids were so eager to say to Meghan, please don't talk, don't say anything, right? Were you silent or silenced, as Oprah said. But now they want her to use her voice to defend Kate or to say something. I mean, damned if she does, damned if she doesn't.

ERIN VANDERHOOF, STAFF WRITER, "VANITY FAIR": I think the idea is just that if you can get Meghan's name into a headline, like you're guaranteeing clicks. And so I feel like you've been seeing a lot of British tabloids. You know, they don't want Meghan to speak, but they do want to be able to use her name.

And so that's, you know, one of the things, the first thing that happened, you know, in a couple of days of shock. And then, you know, you started seeing tabloids bring up the picture of -- that they claimed was manipulated that Meghan and Harry did to the point where the photographer, Misan Harriman, shared the original, you know, image and was like, nope, there was no manipulation. All I did was put a black and white filter on it.

And there's a sense in which, you know, even if they -- even if the brothers weren't, you know, fighting there, I think that there is, that people would still want to kind of fuel that rift because that's just like, it's what we will follow the rails for.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, it does seem like there's all this, like, upside for the tabloids and just talking about Meghan Markle. But today, as she released this new Instagram account for her upcoming lifestyle business, these were the headlines that were showing up on the tabloids, really slamming her yet again.

[22:55:00] It almost seems like they can't quit the hate, the vitriol when it comes to her.

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's interesting because I think that she has done something that is so bold. And you, and correct me if I'm wrong, because you have understood this family in a way. I applaud her for deciding that this isn't the life I'm going to live. Also for Harry as well, saying, I agree with you.

Let's move to the United States, start our new life, start something that makes us feel good about what we're doing. And then there is this -- there are these silent rumors or words of, she should be supporting Kate during this. And to your point, were you silent or were you silenced? And she's like, we are out of this. We have nothing to do with this.

And it really disturbs me because it goes to this idea that this woman should speak up and save someone. And I think if she wasn't black, we wouldn't be having that conversation. There's this, like, we're holding you to a different standard. You were holding you to some different type of accountability. And I don't feel like that is fair.


CHAMPION: And I think that the way she's handling herself saying, we are not in this. That is your drama. You fix that. It's fair. And there's a humanity through all of this that we are not even addressing at all.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, Erin, look, what Cari's talking about, it's not just talk. I mean, look at these headlines. This is just one example. "The Telegraph" on March 11th, "The shameful speculation about Princess of Wales has to stop."

"The Times" says, "Meghan is trying to smash the royal family's contract with the public. We pay, they pose." We pay, they pose? But I mean, there is actually a huge list of these headlines comparing how these two have been covered. But now it seems like that double standard is there for the world to see, even if you wanted to deny it.

VANDERHOOF: Yeah. I mean, I think that's the thing is that it is so, you know, I think there's a way in which Kate is getting the normal treatment that you would expect of somebody who's going to be the future queen.


VANDERHOOF: We're all so used to seeing Meghan get this kind of treatment that was just so different that I think that Americans are feeling shocked by looking at the way that Kate is getting treated right now because it is the British press is being a lot more deferential, whereas, you know, if this were Meghan, we were used to them.

PHILLIP: What's happening in the U.K.? I mean, do you have any sense of how this is all being interpreted there? VANDERHOOF: I mean, once again, like the -- I think the picture

really changed a lot. I think that there had been a sense that the papers were not reporting on too much speculation. You know, even British papers did not publish the picture of the paparazzi picture of Kate and her mother from last week out of respect for Kate's privacy.


VANDERHOOF: And there's a sense in which, you know, because William has been out, the King has been doing his he's been doing, you know, content, creating videos and sharing images and sending messages that Kate was kind of allowed to have a little bit of this privacy that, of course, like when Meghan was, you know, gave birth to Archie in 2019, that was the headline that you were seeing that she wasn't letting everybody into every event, though she was scheduling her own events where she could post.

CHAMPION: You know, like, why are we not allowing her to have the privacy? I thought, in fact, they said she would come back after Easter, which is March 31st. We still have time. Why does it matter? Is it because of the photo? I feel like it's unfair that we're not allowing her to have this time to recover from whatever she's recovering from.


CHAMPION: And here we are across the pond deciding whether or not this is real or not.

PHILLIP: Well, you know, I mean, as Erin just pointed out, the picture --

CHAMPION: --is really --

PHILLIP: -- changed a lot for people to put that out.

CHAMPION: I mean, but do we really think that she was at home? Like, let me just put the Paris filter on.

PHILLIP: I think that's exactly the question.

CHAMPION: I mean, that's just not at all feasible.

VANDERHOOF: She's an avid photographer. She's done this. I think I would be --

CHAMPION: I would be shocked. I would be shocked.

VANDERHOOF: I would be shocked if somebody else at the palace got away with that job. Like, I would be really shocked if anybody else was like, oh, yeah, this is good.

CHAMPION: So, she's at home, let me fix my zipper. I don't like the way this looks over here. I think it's ridiculous.

PHILLIP: I do want to ask about Meghan and the timing of this. I mean, she has stayed off of social media. She talks a lot about how she's not comfortable with how social media exacerbates hate.

CHAMPION: Exactly.

PHILLIP: But she chose this moment, perhaps the most toxic moment for the royal family, to put this out there.


PHILLIP: What does that mean?

CHAMPION: I think that she has said in so many ways, I do not care about what your rules are. I live by my own rules. I also know that she was at South by Southwest last week, that she has been making these plans. And South by Southwest is not something you decide to do at the last minute.

PHILLIP: It was a big appearance.

CHAMPION: It was a big appearance. I think that she had been waiting for this moment. It just so happens that photo, I mean, it's a coinkydink, but it just so happens this photo comes out just four days ago while she had all this planned. I think Meghan is like, I'm doing what I want to do. You will not tell me what to do. This is ridiculous. It doesn't make sense. I will not adhere to your rules.

I don't feel as if she's trying to take anything from this moment. It just so happens that it fell out that way. I do believe, though, I mean, you just said what I said. Do we really, honestly believe?


And you -- it sounds like you think Kate is at home fixing zippers. I just don't feel like she's doing it.

PHILLIP: Kate is entitled.

CHAMPION: She can do what she wants.

PHILLIP: She's probably entitled to her privacy. Meghan's entitled to be left out of it.

CHAMPION: Yes, correct. To be left out of it.

PHILLIP: Cari Champion and Erin Vanderhoof, thank you very much, both of you. And before we go tonight, on this day in history, 20 years ago, a 51-year-old Vladimir Putin won his second term as President of Russia.


UNKNOWN: The only real question about these elections was, would Russians go to the polls knowing there was almost no doubt President Vladimir Putin would be reelected?

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Well, history is set to repeat itself as Russians are voting right now, and Putin is running against no real opposition. Thank you so much for watching NEWSNIGHT. "LAURA COATES LIVE" starts right now.