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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Reverts To Same Playbook Ahead Of First Criminal Trial; Trump, Embattled Speaker Try Manufacturing A Crisis; Vice President Says, Trump And Friends Trying To Pass National Abortion Ban; CNN's Donie O'Sullivan Talks About The New Movie "Civil War"; U.S. Expects Iran To Attack Inside Israel As Fears Rise Of A Wider War In The Middle East. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 12, 2024 - 22:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, James Patterson, I love all your books, but I am especially excited about this one. Thank you for joining us to talk about just how important it is.

PATTERSON: Okay. And we're going to get together for the Alabama- Wisconsin game next year, all right.

COLLINS: Yes, we are. We are. I'm going to have you --

PATTERSON: For this year, actually, late this year.

COLLINS: I'm going to have you wear an Alabama t-shirt.

PATTERSON: I don't think so.

COLLINS: James Patterson, great to have you. Thank you for joining us.

And thank you all so much for joining us. CNN's NEWSNIGHT with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR Donald Trump's recipe for loyalty and lies, that's tonight on NEWSNIGHT.

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

And tonight, it's a new season of The Donald Trump Show, but the plot is painfully familiar. Today, there was a new character brought in to play out, an old storyline. Mike Johnson, he made that Mar-a-Lago pilgrimage today, traveling the same route as Kevin McCarthy once did.

And the deja vu doesn't end there. Johnson's job is in jeopardy. It's under threat from the far right flank, just like McCarthy's was once upon a time. So, Johnson recycled the old formula, kissing Trump's ring and lending legitimacy to the illegitimate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): They want to turn these people into voters. When you go to a welfare office, they also ask you if you would like to register to vote. And so many people, we think, are going to do that.

And you know what, the numbers are so high. There're so many millions of illegals in the country that if only one out of 100 voted, they would cast potentially hundreds of thousands of votes in the election. That could turn an election. This could be a tight election in our congressional races around the country. It could, if there are enough votes, affect the presidential election.


PHILLIP: Did you catch that? We think, if only, it could.

Republicans doing Trump's bidding want to turn fiction into fact, and maybe into probably, but too bad for them, none of what you just heard is true. Here's what actually happens when you register to vote.

According to decades of cold hard data, you provide your driver's license or your social security number, and your identity gets checked against a database, you swear under penalty of perjury that you are who you say you are, and that you're a citizen.

Non-citizen voting almost never happens. And if you don't believe me, how about the Heritage Foundation? They're a right wing think tank, and they track confirmed cases of non-citizen voting. They found that fewer than 100 cases have happened, not hundreds of thousands of cases of illegal votes.

And that's not in one election either, or even two elections, or even three elections, but in every federal election since 2002, that's more than 20 years, barely enough votes to swing a race for dogcatcher, much less president of the United States.

Now, Donald Trump is a one-hit wonder. He's been producing the same press conference for nearly nine years. Think back to that June day in 2015. Trump's gold escalator ride might feel like forever ago, but his lies about immigrants today are a carbon copy of his script from then. Just listen to the overlap.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems. And they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some are your silver good people.

But I believe you could have 15 million already in. Some are terrorists. They come from jails and prisons. They come from mental institutions and insane asylums.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: The Trump Show simply has not changed. The themes are all the same. The props, like the speaker, are the same, the rambling, ridiculous claims are a track that no one laughs at anymore. And his promises are the same too. Trump again says he'll testify that he would take the stand and that he would tell the truth.


REPORTER: Mr. President, do you plan to testify in your trial in New York?

TRUMP: Yes, I would testify, absolutely. I'm testifying. I tell the truth. All I can do is tell the truth.


PHILLIP: Today, Trump is talking about his Manhattan hush money trial that starts on Monday. And when he does, he'll shatter history as the first ex-president to be judged by his peers for 34 felony criminal counts.


But just throw the what, the where, and the why into a blender and Trump might as well have been talking about Robert Mueller, or impeachment, or E. Jean Carroll, all venues that he has said he would happily testify in, and never did.


TRUMP: I would have no problem testifying. I didn't do anything wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If any of these things get to trial, will you testify in your own defense?

TRUMP: Well, I have a lot of good lawyers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, if you have to go to trial, will you testify in your own defense?

TRUMP: Oh, yes, absolutely.

HEWITT: You'll take the stand?

TRUMP: That I look forward to.

HEWITT: I think that obstruction charge is going to get to trial, Mr. President. I think that --

TRUMP: I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me.

REPORTER: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of this event?

TRUMP: 100 percent.

REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually.

REPORTER: You just said you're more likely to sit for an interview now?

TRUMP: My lawyers are working on that. I've always wanted to do an interview.

I would love to speak. I would love to go. Nothing I want to do more.


PHILLIP: A classic Trump promise that is classic B.S.

And new tonight, the judge that is presiding over that Manhattan hush money trial just denied another Hail Mary effort by Trump's legal team to delay its start.

Joining me now is Anthony Scaramucci. He's known Donald Trump for years, and he once served as White House Communications Director. Thanks for staying up with us, Mooch. I appreciate it.

So what do you think? Donald Trump offering to testify, do you take it literally, seriously, anything?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes. No, I mean, there's a zero percent chance that he's going to testify, but it's right out of his playbook. You know, the interesting thing, though, is the data is going against him. His base is getting louder. He's getting a little louder, but it's shrinking on the edges. And the money that he claimed that he raised, he didn't really raise. So, he's in trouble there. There will be way more field offices for the Biden campaign than the Trump campaign in the swing state.

So, the playbook is tired. But the real question is, and you can't get any of these guys to join you, Abby. But you have to ask somebody like Speaker Johnson, what are you doing standing next to that guy? And what happened to the backbone of the Republican Party? How did you let this guy hijack the entire party, the party of Lincoln and Reagan, and throw it in the toilet like this?

You know, the guy is a criminal. You know, he's about to get convicted in New York because Alvin Bragg would never be bringing this case. You have to think about the guts to bring a case like this. It's the first case to be brought against a president, a former president. And, you know, he's got overwhelming evidence. And you're standing next to the guy ruining the Republican Party.

So, it will be interesting to see what happens, but there's no chance, Abby, that he testifies in this or anything coming up in the following -- you know, the upcoming trials.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, look, all good questions, and trust me, the ask is out for people to come on the show and answer them. But, you know --

SCAMARUCCI: Well, I'll answer quickly for him. I have no backbone and I'm so afraid of his base. And so I expect to be speaker for like 20 Scamaruccis, which are like 220 days. I'm just trying to outlast Kevin McCarthy that lasted 24.5 Scamaruccis. I mean, that's basically what he would try to say.

PHILLIP: During the speakership and Scamaruccis is definitely a new one.

But, look, there is a fundraising email that Trump and his campaign sent out today to supporters. Here's what it says, on Monday, all hell breaks loose. On Monday, all hell breaks loose. I mean, you know him, you know his supporters. What is he trying to do here?

SCAMARUCCI: He's trying to foment anger. He's trying to claim that they're coming after him unfairly. He's trying to play the victim to people who unfortunately feel aggrieved by the system. Either they're not doing well, and I've talked about this with you before, we have a lot of people in the country that were once economically aspirational. They're now economically desperational. They see Donald Trump as an avatar for their anger. He wants to tap into that. He wants to upset them. He wants to cause bad situations.

PHILLIP: Do you think that they'll respond?

SCAMARUCCI: But more importantly, he needs money.

PHILLIP: Do you think that the MAGA types will respond to that message the way he wants them to?

SCAMARUCCI: Well, I think what he's hoping for, thing number one is money because he wants to use their money to defend himself. The second thing is violence, and I don't think anybody is ready to do that for him right now. But I think the country has to gird for when he loses in November.

And he's going to lose in November. He'll claim that the election was rigged. And he'll try to foment the same type of violence that he fomented on the 6th of January in 2021.


I don't think that letter is going to cause anything on Monday, other than some money coming into the coffers. But, again, he's bled those people out already, Abby, so there's not a lot of money coming in.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, it actually is a little bit of a sign of financial desperation, you know, to put it mildly.

There is on Monday this trial starting. Michael Cohen, you know him well. He teased that there would be surprises at this hush money trial. Do you think, knowing Cohen, that he will actually have something to say on the stand that really would rattle Trump and that really would make a difference in this case? SCAMARUCCI: I do. And, listen, I'm very proud of Michael Cohen because I was with Michael Cohen in 2012 working with him on the Romney campaign. And, of course, I was with him in 2016 when he was one of Donald Trump's right hand people working with him.

And the evolution of Michael Cohen, I think he is one of the people that history will look back upon and say, wow, America came very close to fascism. He had a well-organized campaign from a proto-fascist running who lost in 2020, tried to reclaim the situation in 2024, and there were people in the country like Michael Cohen that had the courage to speak out against the man and hopefully knock him through the ropes. And so we'll see.

I predict he'll get convicted in this case. We'll have to see whether or not there will be a jail sentence tied to that. And then the real question is, come November, do you want a convicted felon to be the president of the United States? And I'm hoping there's enough independents in the country and enough very smart, rational Republicans and good Democrats that will make sure that that doesn't happen.

PHILLIP: All right. Anthony Scaramucci, thanks for joining us tonight.

SCAMARUCCI: Happy Friday, good to be here.

PHILLIP: And also tonight, a public quid pro quo, Mike Johnson went to Mar-a-Lago and he got a version of what he wanted, protection from the man who needs it the most.


TRUMP: We're getting along very well with the speaker, and I get along very well with Marjorie.

It's not an easy situation for any speaker. I think he's doing a very good job. He's doing about as good as you're going to do, and I'm sure that Marjorie understands that. She's a very good friend of mine, and I know she has a lot of respect for the speaker.


PHILLIP: Also joining us tonight, former Virginia Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman. He served as a special adviser to the January 6th committee.

Congressman, is that enough to save Speaker Johnson's job from a very angry Marjorie Taylor Greene? But just not just her, lots of members right now in the sort of Freedom Caucus wing are very unhappy with how things have gone over the last few months of his speakership.

FMR. REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R-VA): Hey, Abby, you know, it's great to be here. Happy Friday night. And I'll tell you this, it didn't save McCarthy. I almost laughed, you know, and when Anthony was talking about 24.5 Scaramuccies. That's about, I think, where we're going to see, you know, Mike Johnson at the end of this. But, you know, having to make the pilgrimage, you know, Little Moses making the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, I think that's what you had today. They have to do this. Everything runs through Mar-a-Lago.

And I tell you, that speech had so many bizarre things in it. I know that we probably don't have enough tonight to go after all the idioms and all the non-sequiturs that happened during that speech. But I think -- I don't really think -- I don't think this saves, Mike. But again, you know, he's hoping it does, but they have to go to Mar-a- Lago. That's just what they have to do. They have to show fealty and that's what you saw Mike Johnson do today.

PHILLIP: It was so interesting to watch him try to take this anti- immigrant message and this election lie message and try to put them together in this sort of Frankenstein-type thing. But it's lie after lie about this stuff.

I mean, at what point does this just kind of not make any sense at all? And voters at this point must -- the ones who are not deep in the election lies, the ones who are in Earth One must see this and say, where is this coming from?

RIGGLEMAN: Well, first, you know, Abby, it wasn't subtle xenophobia that you saw there today. You know, there was something else that Mike Johnson said, he said, well, if one in a hundred illegal immigrants vote, that's hundreds of thousands.

Well, guess what? If a UFO crashes in my yard, I can prove there's aliens. You know, if cows fly, you need a stronger umbrella. I mean, you could say this over and over again. It makes no sense. If you look at stats, you look at sourcing, you look at the non sequiturs there, it's just fear-based politics.

And you also look at the words they're using, like election integrity and things like that. They're just forecasting how they're going to talk about the stolen election in 2024.


This is exactly what happened in 2020. You are so right about them replaying the hits. It's the same playbook. It's xenophobia, talking about a stolen election.

And talking about him going to testify, my goodness, Abby, I mean, you know, he cannot tell the truth. But, again, it goes back to everything is a non-sequitur. Everything hits people in the amygdala.

And when you're talking about this, inconsistency is really not a bug at all. It's a feature when it comes to what they're talking about with their conspiracy theories and people coming over the border and crashing the border and taking jobs. This is where they're going. And I think people need to understand right now that the argument for the stolen election is being really, really being laid right now.

PHILLIP: Real quick, Denver, before you go, you probably heard Trump today talking about abortion and kind of making a muddle of it, frankly. Do you get the sense that he's worried that this political damage has been done and that it will hurt him in those key swing states that he needs to win?

RIGGLEMAN: You know what, I think he's thinking, Abby. I think he's thinking that women are actually going to beat him. I think women do save the election in 2024, and I think they have a huge problem. And I know, you know, I have a wife and three daughters, Abby. I can tell you right now, what's happening in Roe v. Wade, all the things that are happening with IVF, what you're saying with the 1864 law, things like that. Women are taking notice.

And I think what he's trying to do is he's trying to appease his base, and also he knows he has to get back to the women and say, oh, I don't mean this or I don't mean that. Again, it goes back to lying. That's what he does. But, again, I'm going to tell you this, Abby, I think women actually save the country in 2024 if Biden were to win. I don't think it's a guarantee. I think Trump still has a great chance to win the election. But I think it comes down to he understands that women will be the voting bloc that takes him out in 2024.

PHILLIP: All right. Denver Riggleman, always great to have you on the show, thanks for joining us tonight, have a great weekend.

RIGGLEMAN: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And up next, are Donald Trump and Republicans having remorse over Roe versus Wade? Hear their comments then and now.

Plus, after years of questions about parole in the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris is now on the offense.

And is a second American Civil War more realistic than we all think? A new movie is raising that very question.





KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Donald Trump's friends in the United States Congress are trying to pass a national ban.

And now Trump wants us to believe he will not sign a national ban. Enough with the gaslighting. Enough with the gaslighting.


PHILLIP: Fascinating moment in the presidential race tonight as the vice president hits Arizona just days after that state put abortion rights at the very center of this next election. The swing state's high court reestablished an ancient law from 1864 that bans nearly all abortions. And now Donald Trump and Republicans are facing a be careful what you wish for moment. For years before Trump, quote, proudly overturned Roe versus Wade, whenever he was asked about the aftermath, there was a simple refrain.


TRUMP: The states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land.

It's all about bringing the issue back to the states, pursuant to the 10th Amendment and states' rights.

We have it back in the states, and you work with the states, and many of the states have solved the problem.

The greatest progress for pro-life is now being made in the states where everyone want it to be.

We got it back to the states.

If it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states.

I will say this, it will go back to the states and the states will then make a determination.

I would have preferred states' rights. I think it would have been better if it were up to the states.


PHILLIP: And fast forward to now, when states are able to revert to the extreme, Trump doesn't like the political consequences of that.


REPORTER: Did Arizona go too far?

TRUMP: Yes, they did, and that will be straightened out. And as you know, it's all about states' rights and that will be straightened out. And I'm sure that the governor and everybody else are going to bring it back into reason and that will be taken care of, I think, very quickly.


PHILLIP: And when it comes to right wing media, second verse, same as the first.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: There's nothing extreme about individual states regulating abortion.

The Supreme Court ruling was a momentous decision that returns abortion law back to the states where it belongs to individual voters. You will now decide abortion law at the state level per the 10th Amendment of our Constitution.

He rightly believes, if you believe in the Constitution, that it should be left up to the states and for the people in every state to decide. That is called, oh, democracy. That is called states' rights, for example.


PHILLIP: What about now? Fast forward.


HANNITY: Now for an Arizona Supreme Court ruling that upholds what is a Civil War-era law banning abortion. This will be fixed in the next week or two. Let not your heart be troubled. I can pretty much assure that that will happen.

Trump opposes the law and this ruling.


PHILLIP: For more, I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator and former Senior White House Communications Aide Jamal Simmons along with CNN Contributor Leah Wright Rigueur.

Leah, you can hear the tremor in Hannity's voice in that last clip. I mean, he sounds scared.


LEAH WRIGHT RIGUER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would be scared as well because, you know, in a lot of ways, Republicans have just handed Democrats a free gift.


They've pissed off a lot of people who didn't -- they didn't need to piss off.

And I want to point out one thing that I think is really important for us to remember, which is that there's been all of this emphasis that the states should decide. That's what democracy is about. The people should decide. Well, the people in Arizona have largely said over and over again that they support expansive abortion and reproductive rights. And here comes this really obscure law. Here comes the Supreme Court, Arizona Supreme Court, stating that, you know what, we're going to uphold this law and we're going to have a complete and utter ban on abortion.

People are angry. People are mad. And now Democrats get to capitalize on, and as Republicans are running from it (ph).

PHILLIP: And when Trump says he's not going to pass a national abortion ban, I mean, how seriously should that be taken? RIGUER: You know, I think at this point, anything that Trump says we have to take seriously, but we also have to consider the fact that at different points in time, he has shown an indication and a willingness to pass a national abortion ban.

I think more important is that Republicans, including Republicans in think tanks, policy groups, lobbying groups, Republicans in Congress, have shown extensive support for a nationwide abortion ban. So, more likely than not, if we see a Trump presidency, we will also see a nationwide attempt at an abortion ban.

PHILLIP: So, your former boss was out on the trail today. She really went hard on this issue and has been going hard on this issue for months now. This moment, though, for her, what do you make of it?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, back in the beginning of the Biden administration, there was all these questions about what about Kamala Harris? People have called her the Kamala conundrum, right? Like she's somebody who seemed to have so much promise, but she was having so much difficulty.

Ever since Dobbs, she has found a way to really channel both her legal experience, her political values, her personal interests in a way that's been very forceful on this issue. And in 2022, when people were arguing that Democrats should not be talking about abortion, it was an economic election, right? We should be talking about the economy. She talked about abortion several times a week. Democrats ended up doing pretty well in that election.

This is what the campaign is doing now. And it's making sense again, because there are a lot of voters, some of them who pollsters will tell you, call themselves pro-life, but they believe that Roe should be the law of the land. So, it's not like as even as people like to say, this is a very good -- it's a bad decision, but for the politics, the raw politics of it, it's good for the Democrats.

PHILLIP: And for the vice president, who a lot of Republicans thought they could run against her, now she's spearheading maybe the biggest offensive issue that the Democrats have.

SIMMONS: And this is her -- I mean, it's just a strong political voice, right? I mean, from the moment -- I was in the White House when she found out about the Dobbs leak. I was in her office. I was there when we talked about the conversation when the Dobbs decision came out. These are things that she really understands at a very core level, political values, legal experience --

PHILLIP: Did she knew immediately what the political consequences were?

SIMMONS: She did. And, in fact, she started asking questions in the very first meetings of the lawyers to talk about what does this mean for IVF? She brought IVF up in one of our very first meetings. What does this mean for LGBTQ couples? What does this mean for men who are having challenges about, you know, who are in family relationships and they're trying to figure this out? What does this mean for the women and young girls? What does this mean for medication abortions? She started asking all the piercing questions.

Now, she wanted staff to come back and tell her what was happening, but she had a real keen understanding about what was at stake with this decision.


RIGUER: And I think what's also important to keep in mind here just as well is that Americans over the course of several months, several years, tend to forget things. And at precisely a moment where the Republican Party wants people to forget about the Dobbs decision, about the implications and ramifications of abortion, where they don't want a bunch of angry women and people who support reproductive rights on their agenda, that's what they've signed up for.

And so what we've seen is Trump really waffling back and forth over the issue, on the one hand taking credit for it and saying, look, there are, you know, 15 states that have passed really restrictive abortion laws in the ensuing years, and there are six states that are about to pass even more, and on the other hand saying, wait, you've gone too far, I'm not responsible for that. And the problem is, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

PHILLIP: Yes, they're burned by their own success and all of these really conservative judges at the state level are putting the issue on the agenda every single day it seems like in this country.

Jamal Simmons and Leah Wright Riguer, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

And up next, my next guest says that the new Civil War movie may be a warning for some but an inspiration to MAGA extremists. We'll discuss that.

Plus, breaking news tonight, we are learning that Iran is now moving military assets as Israel braces for an attack.

You're watching NEWSNIGHT.




PHILLIP: Could there be another civil war in America, and could it be soon? Those are the questions that are pretty far-fetched. It seemed that way at least a few years ago, but experts say that the nation's deep divisions make it much likelier now.

And Hollywood is putting that possibility on the big screen in the just-released movie called "Civil War". CNN's Donny O'Sullivan joins me now. Donny, a lot of Americans will watch this movie as a warning. Some Americans might not. What -- what's your take?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, so I went to see this movie earlier this week, and look, I guess, my beast, I talk a lot about extremism and disinformation and everything like that.


So, I guess this movie very much is supposed to serve as this warning of what a civil war in this country might look like today. I mean, it's got these kinds of graphic scenes of Washington, D.C. getting blown up. Not to ruin the ending, but the President gets shot.

PHILLIP: Way to ruin the ending, Donie.

O'SULLIVAN: This movie doesn't end well. But look, I think a few years ago had this movie came out, we would have all just said, that's extremely far-fetched. But I think the people I went to see this film with, everybody felt a bit weird coming out of it because it felt less far-fetched than it might have, you know, some time ago.

And look, I think there's just so many people that I speak to when I'm out on the road in the country that are chomping at the bit for some kind of conflict. And I remember just two days before January 6th, January 4th, 2021, we were at a Trump rally in Georgia. And this is what somebody told us.


O'SULLIVAN: Will you accept Joe Biden as President?

UNKNOWN: No, he'll never be my President.

O'SULLIVAN: Okay. But you know, you accept that he's going to be inaugurated.

UNKNOWN: No, I don't.

O'SULLIVAN: I mean, how could that change at this point?

UNKNOWN: Well, it could be a civil war. You never know.

O'SULLIVAN: You don't actually want a civil war, do you?

UNKNOWN: I don't. Show us the voting machines, show us ballots, show us that this was a fair election, or we'll never accept another vote again, ever.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And it's that belief in the lie of a stolen election that helps fuel talk of a second civil war.

BARBARA WALTER, PROFESSOR, U.C. SAN DIEGO: They see themselves as true patriots, the defenders of American identity, and they see themselves justified in using whatever means necessary to safeguard America's identity.


O'SULLIVAN: And look, I mean, I think it's difficult to have this conversation without sounding hyperbolic, because this idea of civil war is so remote, I think, to all of us. I mean, we don't want, but I think that is really what this movie really confronts us with, right, is that there is this conflict that is simmering underneath the surface right now.

And so, yeah, it's pretty stark. I should mention the gentleman we saw in that piece. I haven't spoken to that man since the 4th of January 2021. I don't know if his opinion has changed in that time.

PHILLIP: Exactly, he said he would not accept another election again. I mean, there have been some.

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, in that time. But that just is to give you really a sense and a flavor, I think, of how people talk about this.

PHILLIP: So, when you watch this film, and we've talked to other people on the show about it who were kind of just struck by it. Did it seem completely unrealistic to you what they were laying out?

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, I mean, this is my first time doing a movie review on CNN, Abby. But I think at any other point, even 10 years ago, this would have just seemed so dumb. Because, I mean, I think that the movie is deliberately ambiguous by design, actually, in terms of you don't really know who's the good guy, who's the bad guy. You don't know how the civil war started. And you don't really know how it ends.

And so, there isn't that much of a story there in terms of a traditional movie plot. But I think that in itself kind of leads us all to wonder. And I think anybody who watches this movie takes from it maybe what they want to see in it. And that's what got to me. Because I was like, I know a lot of guys who will see this movie and will say, hmm.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it's like a game plan in a way.

O'SULLIVAN: Maybe we can do this. Yeah.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Donie, thanks very much for joining us. Have a great weekend.

O'SULLIVAN: Thank you, Abby. I'll be back next week with a review of whatever next movie is coming up.

PHILLIP: We'll have you for more movie reviews coming up on the show. But we've got some major breaking news tonight. We've been hearing warnings about Tehran immediately attacking Israel. And now the U.S. expects that Iran will strike inside of Israel imminently. Retired General John Allen will join me next on NEWSNIGHT.




PHILLIP: Breaking news tonight. Sources tell CNN that the U.S. now expects Iran to attack inside Israel as fears rise of a wider war in the Middle East. So, here's how we got here. Iran is looking for revenge after the Israelis struck targets inside of Syria, taking out Iranian commanders. Remember, since October 7th, by that attack by Hamas, Iranian-backed militias have been constantly launching attacks across the region, including against U.S. troops.

Now, the tensions between those two countries have boiled for decades. But a strike inside of Israel would escalate the situation beyond imagination. Just today, Israeli warplanes carried out several airstrikes targeting likely Hezbollah military buildings in Lebanon. Not long after that, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a barrage of rockets fired at northern Israel, all of them intercepted by Israeli air defenses.

And tonight, the Pentagon is moving warships to defend Israel, if necessary, as CNN learns that Iran is moving military assets of its own, including drones and cruise missiles. Now, nations around the world are responding to this, including the U.S. They are warning their citizens to avoid traveling to Iran.


And for his part, President Biden suggests that actions may not be inevitable, but imminent.


UNKNOWN: How imminent do you think an attack on Israel is from Iran, Mr. President?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to give a secure information, but my expectation is sooner than later.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is retired four-star general and former NATO Commander John Allen. General, thank you for joining us. As we just laid out there, there has been quite a road to this moment, but it feels like a pivotal moment. Could it have been avoided?

JOHN ALLEN, RETIRED FOUR-STAR GENERAL AND FORMER NATO COMMANDER: I think that the Israeli decisions to make -- to attack the IRGC leadership in the consulate was one that they had come to a very careful decision on. They didn't tell us that they were going to do that, and that's created a source of friction.

And they didn't do it probably because they didn't want us to talk them out of it or to give us the opportunity for plausible denial. But these tensions have been growing, as you said, properly. These tensions have been growing for some period of time. The surrogates and the proxies in the region have been attacking American troops, and the Israelis have been trading blows with Hezbollah in the southern part of Lebanon.

So, I think this has been building over time, and the Iranian government, frankly, has to do something with regard to this attack. It doesn't have a lot of popular appeal on the streets in Iran, and to do nothing shows that it's weak. So, this is a difficult moment. It's a pivotal moment. I think the Israelis are going to do everything they possibly can to prepare.

I'll just make another point. You know, there's a deep culture of pre- emption in the way the Israelis think about war. In 1967, they pre- empted, and there was a certain outcome in that war. In 1973, they didn't, and there was a certain outcome in that war. I would be very surprised to see if the Israelis have clear indications that an attack is imminent, really about to happen, whether they would take that punch, and whether we'd let the Iranians deliver that punch.

PHILLIP: A preemptive punch is what you're implying there. Yeah.

ALLEN: Could be.

PHILLIP: Yeah, so what about, I mean the Israeli defenses? What does that look like? Is it the Iron Dome? Could civilians ultimately be at risk if there is an attack inside of Israeli borders?

ALLEN: Sure. There could easily be a real threat to the civilians. The Israeli air and missile defense system is layered. We have Iron Dome, and it is supported by the Arrow ballistic missile, anti- ballistic missile system. They're very sophisticated. They're networked. And as you might imagine, the Israelis have deployed that system, all of them in a layered manner, to defend the northern part of Israel and the principal population centers.

It's also important for the Iranians to remember that, you know, the American people and the Israeli people are inextricably linked in many different ways. And there are thousands of Americans in Israel. And so, an attack on Israel, in many respects, is an attack on the American people. And President Biden has a second amendment, or an Article Two responsibility under the Constitution to protect Americans.

And that's why he said to Iran today, he gave them both advice and a warning. He said, don't. Don't attack Israel because of the likelihood to be great, not just that there would be loss of Israeli life, but loss of American life, as well.

PHILLIP: Given what you just laid out, that Article Two responsibility and power, how likely is it that the United States could end up having to defend Israel if this becomes a wider, hotter conflict?

ALLEN: Well, that decision will have to be made by the President. And of course, he'll consult with his military leadership and make sure that the Congress is informed on the matter. We'll be consulting, and we are right now, the CENTCOM commander, Central Command Commander, is on the ground in Israel, consulting with the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff, the Israeli Defense Forces.

So, that conversation is on-going. The forces that we're moving into the region are there to protect American troops, to protect American installations. But many of those forces have the capacity to augment Israeli air and missile defense capabilities, as well. And we're positioning some of those in the Eastern Mediterranean to be able to do that. What's the likelihood of the attack? Only the Iranians know. But the fact that we've made it clear in the intelligence -- from the intelligence that we have been talking about, the President in particular, should be a very clear message to the Iranians that we know what you're doing, we know you're preparing something, and you should know that we're ready to react if you do to defend our ally in Israel and to defend our own people and our own installations in the region.

PHILLIP: Is it likely, do you think, that the attack would come directly from Iran or perhaps from one of their proxies in the region?

ALLEN: I think there's a number of different ways this could unfold.


It could unfold where there's no attack at all. And some of this is intended simply to drive up the tensions in the region. You know, the Iranians have proven to us over the years that they're pretty patient in their vengeance and their revenge.

And an Israeli mission, an attack on an Israeli mission in Europe, for example, or some other place in the world, might ultimately be the reciprocation or the retaliation that Iran meets out. In terms of whether Iran would directly attack Israel from Iranian territory, that's a big risk for them. It's an enormous risk for them.

They should know that should the United States enter this conflict, the target list in Iran is long and it's well-rehearsed and the United States knows exactly where to go and what to hit and how to hit it. And so, this is not theoretical for the United States in terms of how we might respond if they attack American forces or American installations or kill American citizens in Israel.

But the proxies that you're talking about may well be the first line of alternative, whether it's Hezbollah in southern Lebanon or attacking American forces through proxies and surrogates in Iraq or in Syria, or as we've already seen, the Houthis are attacking shipping and disrupting shipping in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb. The Iranians have a large number of options available to them.


ALLEN: Coming from Iranian territory and attacking Israeli territory is an escalatory measure we've not seen in this region and the Iranians need to think that over very clearly before they launch that attack.

PHILLIP: General John Allen, thank you very much for all of that. And tonight, months after hundreds of Palestinian Americans were evacuated from Gaza. One U.S. citizen says that he has been left behind. His name is Khalid Mourtuga and he is a 21-year-old business student born in Oxford, Mississippi. His family left for Gaza roughly 20 years ago. But today, he's lost his home and has been displaced multiple times, caught in the crosshairs of this war, along with two million others. Khalid's attorney says that he has been approved by the State Department to leave Gaza, but he has not appeared on a final exit list which is controlled by Israeli and Egyptian officials. Now, as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows, so do his pleas for safety.

Khalid Mourtuga joins me from Rafah, Gaza's most southern city, along with his lawyer, Maria Kari. Thank you both for making the time to be with us. Khalid, can you tell us, first of all, where you are and what you and your family are going through from inside of Gaza right now?

KHALID MOURTUGA, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN IN RAFAH: I am in Rafah. We came to Rafah about four months ago. It's very difficult for life here in Rafah. Everything is expensive. And, you know, the food, we have suffering for available food and clean water. And escape, escape from place to place, looking for safety.

PHILLIP: I just want to explain, as you're talking there, Khalid, to the audience that you're coming to us from Rafah, where, as you've just been saying, it's very difficult to live. But the connection is difficult as well. You're saying that you're in a dental clinic with your family, afraid, obviously, as the war continues.

Maria, I do want to bring you in here. You've been working to evacuate other Palestinian Americans out of Gaza since the beginning of this war. These families have faced all kinds of challenges in escaping there. But we're now six months in. I'm surprised that there are still Americans actively trying to get out that can't. Why is this happening?

MARI KARI, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: That's a good question. I was surprised when Khalid contacted me just a few weeks ago. So, Khalid has been begging the State Department for help evacuating for about four months now. And at this point, every high-level official at the State Department and the White House is personally aware of the dire situation Khalid and his family are facing. And I can tell you that the whole process has been a black box and an absolute nightmare.

To date, the Biden administration has not made any meaningful progress to ensure the safe evacuation of Palestinian Americans like Khalid. In fact, I've continued to hear of Americans trapped in Gaza, and all of them are getting a run around, just like Khalid and his family.

PHILLIP: Yeah, so, Khalid, I just want to ask you very simply, do you feel abandoned by your government, by the United States?

MOURTUGA: Yeah, of course.


I want to leave Gaza as soon as possible. And I contacted the embassy in Jerusalem and the embassy in Cairo, and told us that we want to leave this horrible fate in Gaza. But actually, no one helped us. They told us that we cannot help you, actually, for four months. And in the beginning of December.

PHILLIP: That's really sad to hear. I'm incredibly sorry that this is what you and your family are going through. Khalid, thank you very much for being with us. Maria, thank you also for facilitating this.

KARI: Thank you.

MOURTUGA: Thank you very much.

PHILLIP: And thank you for watching NEWSNIGHT. "LAURA COATES LIVE" starts next.