Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Posts $175 Million Bond As Judge In Hush Money Case Expands Gag Order; Florida Supreme Court Allows Six-Week Abortion Ban, Allows Abortion Initiative On November Ballot; Axios Reports, Trump Allies Prepare To Fight Anti-White Racism; Abby Phillip And Political Experts Discuss Different Platforms And Beliefs Exhibited By Top Politicians; Senior White House Officials Confirm Pressed Israeli Counterparts For Alternatives To A Major Military Operation In Rafah; Iowa Clinches A Return Trip To The Final Four Vanquishing LSU 94 To 87. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: There are fewer seats in the women's Final Four, but their tickets are actually more expensive than the guys. It's just -- it's remarkable.

Bob Costas, as always, it is great to have you on.

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's a good thing.


COSTAS: Thank you, Kaitlan, and congratulations to the Tide.

COLLINS: Let's -- I don't know. You just kind of had a little bit of a -- we will see what the prediction looks like for Saturday for Phoenix. Hopefully, things will get wells for us.

COSTAS: I was being sincere. By the way, South Carolina, you shouldn't overlook them, 36-0 under Dawn Staley going for the third national title with her as the coach. There you go.

COLLINS: Bob Costas, as always, thanks for joining us. We'll continue to watch that.

And thank you all for joining me tonight. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: A gag order grows, and Donald Trump drops $175 million. That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in New York. And tonight, two late- breaking legal developments dealing directly with the former president of the United States, one, family is off limits. The judge overseeing Donald Trump's hush money trial just expanded a gag order forbidding the defendant and former president from attacking his own family and that of the district attorneys. A gag order was already issued last week, but it only outlawed Trump's tirades directed at witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff. It intentionally left out Judge Merchan, the judge's family, the D.A., Alvin Bragg, and also Bragg's family as well.

Now, those limits are dramatically bigger. Why? Well, after this Easter weekend that was colored by Trump's rage-filled Truth Social failings at, well, mostly everyone, including the judge's family.

Also tonight, Donald Trump buys time to appeal a record-shattering civil fraud judgment by posting a record-breaking bond. The former president finally found underwriters to say that he is good for $175 million.

Now, that pauses financial ruin by pausing the state attorney general's ability to move against the Trump empire, at least until September. That's when an appeals court will set the timetable to hear Trump's appeal of that nearly half-a-billion-dollar judgment in the civil fraud case.

Joining us now to discuss this, Temidayo Aganga-Williams, former senior investigative counsel for the January 6th committee, also with us, Adam Pollock, the former assistant New York attorney general.

Adam, was this the right move by Judge Merchan?

ADAM POLLOCK, FORMER NEW YORK ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that it's understandable. Judge Merchan is a very serious judge, and he wants to have a trial that's a serious trial, and not a circus, not going after witnesses or family in a way that can interfere with the trial.

PHILLIP: So, Temidayo, this is what Judge Merchan writes. He says, it is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The threat is very real. Admonitions are not enough nor is reliance on self-restraint.

It seems to go directly at the Trump lawyer's argument that this was sort of -- you know, you're sort of pre-gagging Trump before he's ever had to do anything. Well, he did something this weekend. And the judge has sort of suggesting that there would need to be some kind of punishment.

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: Yes, I think he's preparing for what's coming down the road. I think it's important to zoom out and just realize that what the former president is doing here is preposterous. I was a former prosecutor, and he's out on pretrial release, meaning otherwise he would be detained, but he's out if he abides by the law and the conditions of both the New York court and the D.C. court and the Florida court.

He has three criminal cases. If this were any other defendant, I think, frankly, the prosecutors are moving for remand, which means putting him into custody, where he would be going to Rikers instead of going to Florida.

So, I think what we're getting down the road up is that, are these judges going to hold him accountable, because we all know he's going to cross the line. But the question becomes, what is the red line? What is the final time where Trump will be held to account here?

I think the next step you'll probably see are going to be fines. But after that, you talk about the possibility of remand, and I think that's a hard idea for people to think of a former president in custody. But if he can't abide by the law, that's what happens to every other defendant.

PHILLIP: I mean, what are the repercussions available? I mean, Temidayo makes a really important point here. Trump complains constantly that he is being treated differently, and he is, because he's being allowed to do things that no other defendant would be allowed to do. If you're the judge, what does he do next?

POLLOCK: I think it's really difficult. Ordinarily, a normal defendant, you'd send him to Rikers. Very quickly, he'd figure out in Rikers what the right way to behave before a trial is. But President Trump is not every other defendant. It would be very practically difficult for the staff of Rikers to have Trump there.


I think it's very difficult.

On the other hand, he does speak money. He is interested in money, and he is worried or scared of fines. And so there could be a fine that's commensurate with his wealth that could put him into place.

PHILLIP: Yet again, more money that Trump will have to come up with.

The legal system is really struggling here to deal with both someone of extraordinary wealth and someone of extraordinary power who has this crazy megaphone that he uses in really irresponsible ways. This weekend, he said the men and women prosecuting him are evil, sick, and deranged, corrupt, and crooked. I mean, what this rhetoric does, not just to the legal system but to the country, what do you think?

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: I think, you know, we know that his words have power. January 6th was something that he put into motion. Attacking the Capitol is what he put into motion. So, like Maya Angelou says, right, if someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.

And I think that's what courts have to do with Trump. They have to believe him when he says these things. He's not acting. He may act at times, frankly, a bit deranged, but I think he knows what he's doing. He knows how to call the supporters. He did it with January 6th. I think that's what he's doing now.

That's why he's highlighting court-staffed members. That's why he's doing all these tweets. It's not because he's acting without thought. I think it's because he's acting very precisely. And I think we have to heed that warning now because there will be violence. He's caused violence before. He's not worried about causing future violence.

So, the courts do have, I think, a big responsibility. And, yes, it is difficult to talk about remand or talk about some kind of increased restriction on his liberty. But if you don't do that, you're going to have someone dead. You're going to have someone hurt. Judges, family members have been assassinated before. And that may seem hyperbolic now, but I think if we don't talk about that way right now, it's going to be too late in the future.

PHILLIP: Your thoughts on that?

POLLOCK: Perhaps I'm more confident in the money angle, but I do think that fines can be effective here.

PHILLIP: Yes, because that is the language that Trump speaks, essentially.

POLLOCK: That's the language that Trump speaks.

There's the hush money case. He's going to be in trial in just a couple of weeks there. There's a potential witness list that includes Hope Hicks, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels. What do you think we could learn from these individuals? I mean, these are people in Michael Cohen and Hope Hicks who know Donald Trump extremely well, Stormy Daniels, who is at the heart of this case in general, what could we learn?

POLLOCK: I think that we're going to learn a lot about what was happening during the last election season when these payments were being made, why these payments were being made, what the motive was, what the intent was. And I think that we're going to learn a lot about how the payments, the mechanics of how the payments were made and how Donald Trump directed those payments.

PHILLIP: Yes, there's a lot coming up down the pike. Every single day there is something new. And a lot of times, it's incited by Trump himself.

Temidayo and Adam, thank you both very much.

And up next, just moment -- at the moment that Trump was in the need of some financial infusion, his social media company's initial public offering, IPO, helped add some $7.5 billion to his net worth, at least on paper, that is.

Now, as many people predicted, it was all short-lived. Now we have the numbers. The new filing shows that that company, Trump Media, may not be much of a company at all. It lost $58 million in 2023 and brought in just $4.1 million for the year.

Now, that is astonishing, and Wall Street apparently agreed. The stock plunged more than 20 percent in trading today. So, the question is, how on earth can a company that makes less than some social media influencers be valued at $8 billion?

For that, I want to bring in CNN Contributor and host of On and Pivot podcast Kara Swisher. Kara, he makes less than your podcast, as you said. So, where's your $8 billion?

KARA SWISHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I know I make more money and we can lose money, we make money, I don't know what to say. It's not a business. It's not an ongoing concern as it was noted today in their filings because they spend a lot more money than they make. They don't make much money. They're losing subscribers. I mean, it's just not a business. It's a billboard of some sort, I guess, a billboard for him, but it's a very expensive one.

PHILLIP: A very expensive one. Trump owns 57 percent of the company's shares, which is a huge majority, and it's made him, on paper, a very rich man, even richer than he was before. But what about some of the other people behind this? I mean, it's a hodgepodge of potentially some shady characters, some regular Trump fans, even some Republican donors. Does that explain why we are at this point of a company that is public now, valued at this much that makes almost no money?


SWISHER: Well, things are value to what people will pay for it. So, people are paying for this stock to own it for whatever varies and sundry, and I mean sundry, reasons for owning it. They may want to support them. They may want to have influence with them.

There's a very small float so you can make it go up and down quite a bit, but there's also a lot of shorts arrayed against this, which we're putting on the squeeze here. That's what happened today. And it didn't even need a squeeze because the results were so ridiculously -- it's just comedy here. It's comedy. It's not a company.

And so I think that's what's going to happen and continue to have it. It may go up and down like GameStop did. It's sort of dumb money, dumb or money looking to influence. And even though it is worth that, and it certainly is, I think it's $5 billion now or something like that, I mean, he'd be better off paying $8 to Elon Musk for Twitter Blue at this point. But you know if he can sell it or get out, but it will be investigated pretty quickly if he starts doing things like that, because it looks like a --

PHILLIP: Yes. I actually wondered -- I wondered about that. Because, I mean, look, we can call it whatever you want to call it, a scam, not a real company, but at what point does it go from just being a bad investment or a questionable investment to something more nefarious? I mean, is there a risk here?

SWISHER: Well, there will be shareholders that will sue and say, I can't believe this didn't make money, although you can look at his record of his other businesses is like this and have an idea of it, but people will be able to sue. I'm sure the SEC is looking at it carefully. There's all kinds of lawsuits among and between the founders. That's still, I think, going on. And there's old questions about how it was created and continues to be.

And so this is going to his next court case. This is my feeling. This where this is going. But at the very heart of it it's not a business. It's just not business. It is simply not business. They can call it whatever they like, but they're spending enormous amounts of money for hardly any revenue.

And I guess people would direct their money, their advertising there. I guess maybe some Trump-supporting institutions would. But it would be pointless. It's not real advertising. And so it is what it is, but it's worth what it's worth.

PHILLIP: It is not really reaching anyone. But what's --

SWISHER: No, no, no, but that's okay.

PHILLIP: I guess o. I mean, what's also puzzling about this is that, you know, the Trump mode of operating for most of his life is through private companies. I am confused. Why would he, knowing probably what the financials are, even bother to take this public?

SWISHER: Because it was going to be a SPAC, and it had a limited time before they had to do it. They combined it with the SPAC because it running out of money, because would have closed down. It needed some cash. And I think it got $300 million, which you might as well just burn in a fireplace at this point, because they'll run through that money pretty quickly, given how much money they're losing.

There's no prospects for making money here, except as a way to prop up Donald Trump. It's just not a business.

By the way, social media is not easy. Elon Musk has tried very hard, and he's not doing great. Reddit just went public. It has $800 million in revenue, but it still isn't profitable. It's a difficult business in the first place. But there's a big difference between 4 million and 800 million, which is what Reddit has, and Reddit growing amounts of subscribers, I think 776 million daily a day. And Trump Social has no growth, has negative growth. They're losing subscribers and they didn't have many to start with.

It just not -- I don't know what to say. It's just -- you know, if your child had a lemonade stand, it would make more money than this. But if people are willing to pay for it, this is what people pay for. I know it's inexplicable actually.

PHILLIP: I'm looking forward to my child having her $4 million lemonade stand. I want to put that $4 million. I want to put that into the future. Kara Swisher, author of Burn Book out right now, thank you very much, Kara.

SWISHER: Thanks.

PHILLIP: And up next, Florida's Supreme Court will let a six-week abortion ban become law, but voters can weigh in on the issue in November. We will speak with the person who's organizing that campaign that brought full abortion to Florida's ballot.

Plus, new reports that Trump's allies will use a second term to push back against racism, anti-white racism. I'll explain.

And the Biden administration pressing Israel to limit civilian casualties with plans to go into Rafah, but will Israel listen? You're watching NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Tonight, two decisions by Florida's Supreme Court have left abortion access now in the hands of voters. The first will allow a strict six-week ban to take effect in May.

Now, to be clear, six weeks is before many women even know that they are pregnant. But the second puts the initiative on November's ballot that would enshrine abortion access in the state's Constitution.

That ballot initiative was spearheaded by Floridians Protecting Freedom, a coalition of pro-abortion groups in Florida. And its campaign director, Lauren Brenzel, is joining me now. Lauren, what do you make of these two decisions, one, allowing this proposed amendment to be on the ballot, but the other one, letting a six-week ban to go into effect in 30 days, basically until the voters speak?

LAUREN BRENZEL, DIRECTOR, YES ON 4: We anticipated that our initiative would be ruled constitutional because our lawyers put a lot of work into making sure that our language held up to what the courts were asking for. What we did not anticipate was that we would also see the ruling on the 15-week abortion ban today.


And it really speaks to just how important this initiative is for Floridians. We cannot keep a six-week ban on the book. Floridians have the choice in November to end the six-week abortion ban and to remove politicians from their private medical decisions.

PHILLIP: Florida is one of the -- right now, one of the only states in the southeast with more abortion access. So, give us a sense of what that ban will do. How will that change reproductive access in Florida?

BRENZEL: This will be the largest public health crisis that will be created after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. We are the third most populous state in the nation, and we are surrounded almost entirely by water.

Where we aren't surrounded by water, we're surrounded by bans -- or states that already have abortion bans in effect. So, traveling out of state will be the only option for many women, but they'll have to travel an incredibly far away. We're talking about states like New York and Illinois just to access safe and legal care.

PHILLIP: So, this amendment that is going to be on the ballot would allow abortion until what's considered the point of viability.

Now, Florida State House Speaker Paul Renner, he's a Republican, he said this, this amendment goes far, far beyond what most Floridians -- where most Floridians would land on this issue. He's saying that and the truth is that you'll need 60 percent of voters to get that amendment approved and into the state Constitution. How confident are you that there is that much support for allowing abortion up until the point of viability and whatever that point -- I mean, can you let us know, I mean, what would that point be in terms of weeks for people who want to understand?

BRENZEL: Yes. Viability is a determination that's made with a doctor. It's a medical term. It's not an arbitrary term, like politicians are utilizing for things like passing a six-week abortion ban. There's no medical basis for that. That's based entirely on wayward political ideology. This initiative would simply allow providers to be the best counselors of their patients and it really removes politicians from medical decisions, which is a major concern for us.

We're seeing that Florida politicians can't be trusted on this issue. It's why they passed a six-week abortion ban. It's why they passed a 15-week ban with no exemptions for rape or incest. They need to be removed from these private medical decisions.

PHILLIP: I'm curious about what you're hearing from voters down there, especially any Republicans about the six-week ban. Because when it was passed, I mean, I remember the signing was kind of a private affair by the governor.

Florida is a diverse -- it's a state that has a lot of different kinds of people in it. What are you hearing? Is there backlash that is not being picked up by the national media, by the national narrative?

BRENZEL: The main backlash that we're seeing right now is to the implementation of a six-week abortion ban. That's wildly unpopular policy. People in Florida are excited to know that they're going to have a chance to vote on this in November.

And it's important to note that 35 percent of our signers for this initiative were Republicans or independents. We had an amicus brief filed by former Republican lawmakers. This isn't a cut and dry partisan issue. It's health care. And people are tired of seeing politicians involved in their health care at all. They just want to go to their doctor's office.

PHILLIP: And in a memo, the Biden campaign suggested that the six-week ban and this amendment being on the ballot could make Florida a state that is in play. It has been kind of drifting away from Democrats in recent years. Do you agree with that?

BRENZEL: It is, and I know that this is rough to say, but it's irrelevant to us. We aren't in this because we care about candidate elections. We're in this because there are 84,000 patients that politicians have failed. We have to secure access to abortion in the state of Florida. That's not based in candidate work. That's based in the need to make sure that Floridians directly have the decision in their hands.

They can vote for whichever candidate they want to at the polls, but they need to know that they can stop the six-week abortion ban and that they can return sensible policy to the state of Florida by removing all politicians from their private medical decisions.

PHILLIP: All right. Lauren Brenzel, thank you very much for all of that.

BRENZEL: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And joining us now are CNN Political Commentators S.E. Cupp and Jamal Simmons as well.

Jamal, Democrats did pretty well in the midterms, driven by a lot of anger and just motivation from the Dobbs decision. Do you agree with the Biden campaign's assessment that suddenly, like that, it puts Florida in play?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I think this is a tragedy for the women of Florida. And so we all have to sort of figure out what's going to be the right thing to help them manage their health care. But, secondly, the politics of it, it's absolutely true that this is going to give Democrats something to talk about.


The question in the state of Florida, if we were being totally frank about this, is that Democrats have been getting their butts kicked in Florida for the last few cycles. Republicans have investing money in this state. They've got infrastructure in state. So, it's not just about the big issue on the table, but it is also going be whether or not there is even an infrastructure for Democrats to grab hold to in order to win.

Now, this gives the Democrats a much stronger case to make. Rick Scott also is going to have to defend this. He's got some Social Security problems, in addition to the abortion question. So, Democrats have some issues to run on, but it's going to be more than just the issues. They've really got to have a structure that makes sense in that state.

PHILLIP: Is this a mistake on the Republicans' part? So much of the abortions issue has been like, did they bite off more that they could chew?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if you take the emotion out of this issue, and it is an emotional issue, I get it, I'm pro- life. It just means I won't go and get an abortion. But it's an emotion issue for both sides.

Take that out, it is an issue of math, and the math is not there for this issue. If you talk to most Americans, they're in the middle. They want legal abortion with some restrictions, and most American think that a six-week ban is too extreme. In states, red states like Kansas and Ohio, where they tried these effective bans, they were rejected by red state voters in states where Trump won.

So, try this at your peril, especially at a very fraught time and election year when there's a lot on the line, and Biden and Trump are pretty much running, you know, neck and neck. This seems very, very risky. PHILLIP: One of the interesting factors here is DeSantis of it all. He did the six-week ban, but then he stopped talking about it for a while when he was running for president. Now, this is going to be associated with DeSantis probably for the rest of his political career.

SIMMONS: Absolutely. Listen, this going be -- I mean, they're going running against this in Florida, but also this a national campaign. The thing about campaigns now is it's not just about state by state politics the way it used to be 10 or 20 years ago. These things happen on a national scale and are going to defending it. What happened in Alabama in a state Supreme Court decision is going matter in Michigan and Wisconsin and Georgia and all these other states.

So, what's happening in Florida, what is happening Alabama, all of these restrictions on these questions, IVF, women's right to abortion, people who are having miscarriages being pursued by prosecutors in Ohio, rape victims who are ten years old, not being able to get their health care, all those things will matter to women and to the men who care about them all over this country.

CUPP: And to that point, it will be interesting to see what Trump does with this. Does Trump say, well, that was my idea? Does he take credit for this, or does he distance himself, as he has in the past, from the six-week ban? We'll have to see?

PHILLIP: Or maybe a little bit of both, a lot of mixed messages with Trump sometimes.

But, everyone, there's some new reporting that I want to discuss next. If President Trump is elected in November he will be a champion of the fight against anti-white racism. That is according to a new report from Axios that says the Trump allies are plotting anti-racism protections for white people. It's an issue that Trump has not shied away from on the campaign trail. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will terminate every diversity, equity and inclusion program across the entire federal government.


PHILLIP: Now, in the wake of last summer's Supreme Court decision that gutted affirmative action for college admissions, a CBS News poll from last fall found that 58 percent of Trump supporters feel racial minorities are favored more than white Americans, while 67 percent of Biden supporters say whites are more favored.

S.E. and Jamal are still here with us.

So, you know, what's interesting, I think, about that question, going all the way back to 2016 when Trump was running, if you looked at the crosstabs, the voters who talked about whites being the victims of racism, that was the tell that they were Trump supporters, right? And now here we are in 2024, it makes perfect sense that this would be a big part of his re-election bid.

SIMMONS: Yes. Donald Trump has decided he's not playing for the broad middle, or the broad swath of the American public. He's going after a pretty small slice, and he needs this to get every single person who agrees with him all the way down that ladder and then get them to turn out in the polls. That's the only math that he has. There's no way he competes with everybody else.

Listen, we know the numbers don't actually math out, right, when it comes to, you know, what's happening to blacks and whites and Latinos in the country. We know that people of color still need help to get ahead. We know we've made a lot of progress in helping people of color get ahead, but the reason we made progress is because we have been trying. And when we stop trying to make progress, we're going to stop making it.

So, we've got to make sure that we are paying attention to getting more people in the game because we pulled back the lens. The question is, what kind of country do we want? Do we want to country where everybody gets to participate or do we want one where only a few people get to have all the benefits?

PHILLIP: I mean, S.E., give me a reality check on this, because sometimes this feels like, you know, when Ron DeSantis was first running for president, all of the anti-woke stuff and all consultants were saying, oh, this is the new thing.


And then he stopped talking about it because real Americans actually did not care.

CUPP: Yeah, right.

PHILLIP: So, I wonder, I mean, do you think that this anti-DEI push is just some kind of elite social media conversation that the campaign is getting caught up in?

CUPP: Yeah. Ron DeSantis making anti-woke his entire personality did not work. It wasn't a platform. It wasn't enough of a platform. This is a big part of Donald Trump's voting base, and this is a big part of his message, reaching out to aggrieved white voters who feel like their lives have gotten worse because other people's lives have been getting better.

On the one hand that this idea is deeply disturbing, and the reason why we got minority protections in the first place, because of this idea that white people needed to be protected. But on the other, the reality check, I think, is the good news is I don't think he's going to do any of this, right?

He floated so many dumb ideas that got his base animated and excited and did nothing with them because he's not disciplined. He doesn't care about policy. There would be a lot that would have to go into this effort. He'd have to get a lot of help and support.

PHILLIP: I mean, Stephen Miller is working on it.

CUPP: Oh, I'm sure they're working on it. But I'm not all that concerned that this is a serious policy suggestion as much as it is a get out the vote.

SIMMONS: Let me give you one example where it could matter --

CUPP: Yeah.

SIMMONS: -- because it mattered when he was president the last time.

CUPP: Yeah.

SIMMONS: Right? Colin Powell was our first African-American Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We didn't have another one for decades, right? When Donald Trump was in office, there were 41 senior military officers who could be chosen from to be Joint Chiefs Chair. There were only two African-Americans when Donald Trump was in office. Today, there were five, right, in the Biden administration.

That's not an accident. That happens because the people who are trying to figure out who we can find, let's find the people who are qualified regardless of race and gender, and let's try to bring them up and we're going to make this important. They found people who were different.

When Donald Trump was in office, he didn't. He wasn't looking for them. He didn't find them.

CUPP: Well, he does when he wants to. That's when he wants to say, look at all the diversity I have in my cabinet. He does it to use them, right, because he's a user.

PHILLIP: This is all happening at the same time that President Biden is trying to tackle the challenges that he has with voters of color. I mean, this focus of Trump's on DEI, it almost seems maybe like handing Biden a bit of a gift here to make the contrast pretty real.

SIMMONS: It does make the contrast very real. I mean, I think voters want to know what you're going to do, and they're looking for Joe Biden to be able to talk about how he's going to help make the country a place where we can all participate.

The question he's going to have to get to with Donald Trump for the president is how does he make this real, not just for the two, three, or four, five generals, right, and admirals who are going to make it to the inner circle, but what does he do for the people who have been feeling they've been left out, not just in the last four years, but for the last 40 years?

And those are the people that Donald Trump is talking to. He's trying to go after the people who said, the system hasn't been working for you, and I can try to make it work. And Joe Biden's got to say, I've got a plan that's going to make it work for you, too.

PHILLIP: You know what the other thing is, S.E.? I mean, look, experts, studies for years have pointed out white women have actually benefited from Affirmative Action, from diversity initiatives. The Biden administration need only point out that when you talk about diversity in corporate America, in higher education, you were also talking about women --

CUPP: Yes.

PHILLIP: -- white women.

CUPP: Listen, there are enough arguments you could make about Affirmative Action in some of these policies. There are decent arguments to make around policy and who this is helping and who this is hurting. The problem is Donald Trump is going after women and minorities with this, you know, anti-reproductive rights and now anti- DEI and anti-woke, to have a campaign just built for white guys, older white guys. And that is a terrible election strategy. It's also deeply cynical and pretty destructive.

PHILLIP: At a time when he is also struggling with, I mean, the suburban educated voters. I mean, I wonder, Jamal.

SIMMONS: I'm sorry, can I say this really fast? A friend of mine a while back said something to me that was very important. We think about blue collar workers and we think about the, you know, the white guy at the lunch counter with a, you know, lunch pail ordering a cup of coffee, right? That's the person we're talking to.

Democrats, it's not the person who's drinking the cup of coffee. It's the woman who might be serving him the cup of coffee, right? There are a lot of other workers in the economy that we're talking to and we're not all talking to the same people. And Democrats have to be sure they're focused on the voters who are gettable for them and not ones that Donald Trump has in his pocket.

PHILLIP: Yeah, there is a risk. Just real quick, I mean, I asked earlier whether this was a gift to Joe Biden, but it could also be a sideshow.


Because as you pointed out, I mean, the woman pouring the coffee, she wants to know when her wages are going up.

SIMMONS: That's right.

PHILLIP: She doesn't care about the DEI right now, not in this --

CUPP: That doesn't cut for Biden, right? I mean, Biden's got economic policy issues, immigration issues. He's got some issues that don't help him. And yes, I mean, there's a lot that goes into identifying these voters that are gettable.

People that feel like they've been ignored by both parties. It's a weird amalgam and Venn diagram of things that don't always cut for Democrats or Republicans, but it cuts down the middle. And you've got to find a way to capture these people without sending them running or telling them basically stay home.

SIMMONS: Well, and to complete the circle, that woman also cares about having reproductive freedom.

CUPP: Exactly, right.

PHILLIPS: All right, guys. S.E. Cupp, Jamal Simmons, thank you both very much. And next, Israel is insisting that they must enter Rafah as they fight Hamas. But will the White House be able to convince Netanyahu otherwise? I'll discuss that with my experts next.



PHILLIP: Senior White House officials are confirming that they've pressed their Israeli counterparts for alternatives to a major military operation in Rafah. The IDF insisting that they must enter that city in order to rout Hamas.

But the administration has warned that Israel's military needs to limit civilian casualties, a concern that is even greater after Israel ended its 14-day siege on Gaza's largest hospital today. At least 300 bodies have been recovered. One eyewitness telling CNN that the scene resembled a horror movie.

And further worries about a widening war after a deadly airstrike in Damascus. Iran says it was near an Iranian embassy in Syria, and that multiple IRGC officials were killed in that attack. An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment.

Joining me now is "Bloomberg" editor and foreign policy specialist Bobby Ghosh, and former "New York Times" Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. She's editor in chief of "The Forward". Now, these images from the hospital in Damascus are inflaming the Arab world, but I mean, really at this point, it's far beyond that. Has it actually put any pressure on Israel, just the reaction that all of this is bringing?

BOBBY GHOSH, SENIOR EDITOR, "BLOOMBERG": Well, there is pressure, but Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, has consistently said since the 7th of October, that Israel will act on what he perceives to be Israel's best interests, against -- which also tends to, in his mind, coincide with his own political best interests.

He's proven himself immune to pressure, despite repeated, as you said at the top of your program, this has become a kind of routine where we hear from the White House and from officials in Washington that they're putting, they're trying to put more pressure on the Israelis.

For about a New York minute, we get a sense that the Israelis are taking that on board. And then Netanyahu makes a decision that takes the White House completely by surprise and risks escalating the situation. What we saw happen in Damascus today is an example of that.

PHILLIP: Yeah. GHOSH: So, Netanyahu is calling the shots according to his calendar, no matter how much the Biden administration, the President himself, no matter how much pressure they try to bring upon him, no matter what the International Community is saying, Netanyahu is marching to the drum in his head and nowhere else.

PHILLIP: So what is, Jody, the calculus here for Netanyahu? In Israel yesterday, thousands of people, they're on the streets, they have tents out. There is a groundswell of anger there about the hostages, about how the war is carrying out -- is being carried out, about the sense that maybe Israelis don't feel safer even after all of this. What's the end game for Netanyahu?

JODI RUDOREN, FORMER "NEW YORK TIMES" JERUSALEM BURREAU CHIEF: Well, I mean, Bobby is right that Netanyahu is not yielding to pressure and that he has his own political interests at heart. But this is the first time since October 7th that we've seen this kind of groundswell and that it has been directed at Netanyahu as opposed to purely a call for bringing the hostages home.

And so, they've said they're going to be out there for four days. They're sleeping outside. It's raining there. And I think, well, I mean, I think this may be a turning point. You know, you don't want to get too predictive.

But while most Israelis do strongly support the war, and despite the level of devastation that it has wrought in Gaza, they don't support Netanyahu. I mean, poll after poll after poll shows that he would barely get 17 seats if there were another election today that his party would not be able to make a governing coalition.

PHILLIP: But, do you think that maybe he would be replaced by somebody who is not more moderate?

RUDOREN: Well, he would likely be replaced by someone whose basic framework for Gaza and for the Palestinian question feels familiar. But the coalition that they would put together would likely be very different. It would not include the right-wing nationalists that are in this government.

And there's another big divide over how the Orthodox are integrated into society. And I think they would likely have a different position there and not include the Orthodox parties. So, it wouldn't look exactly the same, but it's not like they're going to, you know, put down their weapons the next day if there's an election.


GHOSH: Yeah, I think Jodi is exactly right. No matter who is in power, there is a common consensus around what needs to be done about Hamas. And it is very close to Netanyahu's own position on the matter of what needs to be done in Gaza, how the Palestinians are to be dealt with. There's not a lot of daylight between Netanyahu and some of his opponents.

So, he may go, and mind you, his departure would be a major moment in Israeli politics. This is a man who has loomed large over Israeli politics through most of the adult lifetimes of the large proportion of the population. So, it would be a big deal.

RUDOREN: He is the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history. But I think what you are seeing on the street today, and it hasn't really shown up in polls, and it certainly hasn't shown up in response to questions about the war, but you do get a sense of this anger and anguish and a little bit, I think, beginning to see an exhaustion from the war and from the international reaction to it.

So, all of this is happening, and Netanyahu is making some moves, particularly when it comes to the press. A lawmaker in Israel passed a law this afternoon that would allow them to shut down any foreign media outlets that they deem to be a national security risk. This is something that is viewed as being targeted right at Al-Jazeera.

Netanyahu, today, called Al-Jazeera a terrorist channel. The Committee to Protect Journalists obviously pushing back on that, saying that this contributes to a climate of self-censorship and hostility toward the press, a trend that has escalated since the Israel-Gaza war began. There is a bit of a pattern here when leaders feel under threat, they go after the press. I mean, is that what's going on?

RUDOREN: For sure. I mean, let's remind ourselves that a year - before almost a year before the October 7th attacks, Israel was roiled by protests over Netanyahu's move to undermine the democratic infrastructure of the country.

PHILLIP: And judicial reform.

RUDOREN: Correct. And this is another anti-democratic, anti-free speech, anti-freedom of the press move that is shocking to the West and to many Israelis. Now, why does he want to shut down Al-Jazeera? What does he say that makes it a terrorist network or an inciting network or a threat to national security? They're showing what's going on in Gaza, which is not available widely on the T.V. news in Israel.

PHILLIP: And it's a huge part of how this story is being perceived around the world. When you see the images, pretty raw and unfiltered.

GHOSH: Yeah, and especially in the Arab world. And I would add that apart from being thoroughly undemocratic, there's also from the point of view of Israel's own interests in the Arab world, this is counterproductive. Al-Jazeera is one of the few Arab channels where Israeli spokesmen actually go on their air and try to explain Israel's position. Other Arab channels don't even make that much effort.

So, if Israel wants its case to be made in the Arab world, and remember, Israel now has many more allies in the Arab palaces, if not in the street, than it did thanks to the Abraham Accords. If Israel wants its point of view to be heard, Al-Jazeera is probably its best bet in the Arab world.

So, shutting Al-Jazeera down, demonizing Al-Jazeera like this, makes no sense. You can't be calling a channel, oh, this is a terrorist channel. Meanwhile, your spokesman is going on that channel and talking to their anchors and presenting your point of view. If it's a terrorist channel, why are you even engaging with it?

PHILLIP: Yeah, why bother? Yeah, such a good point. We have to leave it there. Bobby Ghosh and Jodi Rudoren, thank you both very much for the interesting conversation. And just moments ago, a rivalry game for the ages just wrapped up. We'll tell you all you need to know about Caitlin Clark's Hawkeyes and Angel Reese's Tigers facing off for a spot in the final four.



UNKNOWN: That will do it. This time, it's Iowa.

PHILLIP: Revenge is a dish best served cold, and behind the arc tonight, Iowa clinched a return trip to the final four, vanquishing LSU 94 to 87. That win avenges last year's title game loss to Angel Reese and the Tigers. Now, this go-round, the story is all about Caitlin Clark, and it was inevitable. She bombed her way from distance to a game high of 41 points.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is joining us now from Albany, outside of that stadium. Brynn, you are a former Hoops star yourself. What was it like in there, and what's next for Iowa?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, Abby, it was surreal. Listen, Iowa is now bound for Cleveland, the final four, where they are going to match either UConn or USC. That game is going on. It was tied at the half, so they went into the second half, just as these two teams did, tied, but it does look like UConn is ahead at this moment, but that's who they'll play.

One of those two teams when they get to Cleveland, but this game had all the hallmarks of what everybody was talking about, comparing it to last year's national championship game, and that's exactly what this felt like, a national championship game, with the pace, with the drama, with the fact that LSU's Angel Reese put a crown on the bench while Caitlin Clark was warming up, when Caitlin Clark would hit a three, how she would just stare Angel Reese in the eyes. I mean, it had so much drama, and I got to tell you, Caitlin Clark, she hit a record, NCAA all-time record for three-pointers in this game, hit nine three-pointers.


And I have never seen an arena erupt the way it does when Caitlin Clark hits a three-pointer. So, it was just an incredible game, and of course, they got to cut down those nets and they're headed for Cleveland, and I think really the coolest thing to see out of all of this, Abby, I know you have kids yourself, was the fact that there were just so many young girls and boys waiting, pleading, screaming Kaitlin Clark's name, just trying to get her autograph at the end of this game, and she of course signed as many as she could.

It just shows you what impact that one player and really the others in this women's basketball have really brought to this game, the fact that so many people admire all of these amazing players and changing women's basketball for the better, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yeah, look, nobody can question Caitlin Clark at this point, okay? The conversation is over. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much for that. And thank you all so much for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts next.