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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Seven Jurors Seated So Far In Trump Trial, Dozens Others Dismissed; How Fox Pushed Trump's Lie About Son's Graduation; Is Supreme Court On Verge Of Letting 1/6 Rioters Off Hook; USC Valedictory Speech Cancelled; Another Republican House Member Says Johnson Must Go; Bob Graham Passes At 87; CDC Says America Has Birth Crisis. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 16, 2024 - 22:00   ET


DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR: Up to this point, but it's going to get much worse.


Donald is not a strong internal person. If he sees he's going to go to jail, even if it's for a couple of days because he can't conduct himself in court, he will have a tough time, a very tough time.

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Wow. David Cay Johnston, I know you're a great author, you're a Pulitzer Prize winner. Thank you, just nice to sit next to you. That's great. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

All right, and thank you for joining us.

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Is Donald Trump the candidate who cried wolf? That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Just ahead, what we know about those seven Trump jurors who were seated in that trial, their digital footprints, and how the judge, again, scolded the defendant, the former president of the United States.

But first tonight, Donald Trump is complaining. But does he really mean what he says? Here is what he told reporters as he strode out of that Manhattan courtroom today.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I should be right now in Pennsylvania, in Florida, in many other states, North Carolina, Georgia, campaigning. This is all coming from the Biden White House because the guy can't put two sentences together.

He can't campaign. They're using this in order to try and win an election, and it's not working that way. It's working the opposite way.


PHILLIP: Now, Trump says he is not where he wants to be. It's something that he's said before about his legal problems and why they are problems for his 2024 chances.


TRUMP: So, instead of being in South Carolina and other states campaigning, I'm stuck here. It's an election interference case. Nobody has ever seen anything like it in this country. It's a disgrace.

I'm sorry, I won't be able to go to Iowa today, I won't be able to go to New Hampshire today because I'm sitting in a courtroom on bullshit because his attorney general charged me with something.


PHILLIP: But if Trump weren't sitting in that courtroom, would he really be on the campaign trail? Well, tomorrow, the trial won't keep Trump in Manhattan, and yet he has no plans to go somewhere like Michigan or Georgia or any swing state, as far as we know.

Instead, he's going to spend the first day that he could be campaigning having dinner at Trump Tower with the Polish president.

Now, when Trump had the chance to campaign during the E. Jean Carroll trial, he also chose not to. He chose instead to appear in court regularly.

Trump campaign officials tout their great airplane, but they don't really fuel it up and fly it out any more than Joe Biden uses Air Force One.

Count the Trump campaign events since the calendar flipped over to 2024, and he's done at least 27 events like rallies or going to watch parties or, you know, live-filled speeches at the border.

But what about his contention that Joe Biden doesn't really campaign, that he can't? Well, that's not really true either.

Biden, on top of his White House schedule, has held 23 campaign events, including visits to union halls, campaign office openings, canvas launches, rallies.

So, what's the truth here? Well, Donald Trump, as he often does, he has said the quiet part out loud. He does like the courtroom chaos, and he thinks it works better for him. Just listen to him say it.


TRUMP: They want to keep me off the campaign trail. But based on what I'm doing, I think there's more press here than there is if I went out to somewhere like this nice location. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Joining me now to discuss all of this are Robert Ray, he's a former federal prosecutor and was counsel to Donald Trump during the first impeachment, also with us, CNN Legal Analyst Michael Moore, he's a former U.S. attorney. Gentlemen, thanks for being here.

It's Day 2 and we have seven jurors. Not bad, right? Are you surprised by how many have been seated so far?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with you. I'm I am a little surprised. I thought the pace would be a little bit slower. I didn't anticipate we would have seven already. I think that means that we're not -- we don't get into opening statements until about midweek next week.

But, clearly, they've got folks who are saying they can be unbiased and that they can sit on the jury and pay attention to the facts. That will yet to be determined as they go forward. But I'm surprised we've got seven folks in the jury box today.

PHILLIP: One of the interesting things that we are learning a little bit about some of the jurors, most Americans, they're not called up for cases quite like this. It's usually stuff that's not quite so high-profile, but a lot of the jurors, their social media posts are apparently part of the conversations about whether they will be struck or not.


Walk us through how that works. How do jurors have their social media posts become part of the evaluation process?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER TRUMP COUNSEL DURING THE FIRST IMPEACHMENT: I think the answer is a simple one. It's called jury consultants. I think lurking behind the scenes, I mean, I don't know what the president's legal team has as far as who they've lined up, but it would be incredibly surprising to me that he doesn't have jury consultants.

And one of the things that they do in addition to helping you run mock trials and run through a mock jury and present arguments and sort of test your arguments that you would make a trial, in addition, they are very adept at advising counsel about how to select a jury based upon experience.

And they're also in the data collection business, which is one of the function, investigative functions that they perform. And one of the first things they go to now in the modern world in order to explore, yes, you say you can be fair, but let's probe a little.

Let's do a little background work. And the first place you go to in today's world is go to social media. What have they posted? What is it more revealing about who they truly are and what they think about issues? And is there anything there that you can use?

Here's the kicker. Is there anything that you can use that you could then present to a judge to say, Judge, this juror, even though they profess to be someone who can be fair and impartial, actually has evidenced bias and you're looking to have that juror excused for cause.

PHILLIP: So, you go straight to the judge and you say here's, the evidence?

RAY: Correct.

PHILLIP: You lay it out for him?

RAY: Or you confront that juror with their prior post. Well, what did you mean by that? Do you think you can really be fair in a case in which you've said that Donald Trump should go to jail? It would almost be malpractice not to make an inquiry and to look for this kind of stuff.

PHILLIP: But it has to be done in advance, because once you're in the courtroom, you're not on your phone.

MOORE: No, that's somebody's --

RAY: And I think, you know, just so the viewing audience knows, you don't have a whole lot of time to gather this. I mean, you're not even, --you're sort of faced with, you know the name of the person, you know a little bit about their background. Now, you're asking your jury consultants to go very quickly to the most readily available sources to find out more about that juror and pass that information into the courtroom with notes to the defense team or the prosecution team. And it's not unheard of for prosecutors to have jury consultants too. That's also done.

PHILLIP: Talk about another example of why an affluent defendant is such a huge advantage. That's got to be expensive.

MOORE: It's extremely expensive and it's almost unheard of not to use it in a case of this magnitude, certainly, but even smaller cases at this point. We use the jury consultant. We use them all the time. And, I mean, it's just something that's invaluable to for you as you get ready to try your case.

PHILLIP: Another moment today, Judge Merchan really reprimanding Trump for speaking audibly or murmuring audibly in the courthouse. Judge Merchan said he wouldn't have any jurors intimidated in the courtroom. Trump also wants to be allegedly there for sidebars about jurors. How is this all going to play out?

RAY: It's not unusual for defendants to make that request. I have seen judges accede to that request and have actually the defendant on trial present for those sidebars. Typically, it's not done. It's handled by the lawyers, obviously, out of the hearing of other prospective jurors, but also out of the hearing of the defendant who remains at counsel's table.

So, I actually don't know how they've handled it here, but that's not unusual. PHILLIP: Do you think it's an information tactic, if Trump were to actually do that? And also that his demeanor in the courthouse falling asleep yesterday, the murmuring today, I mean, some of this kind of smells of sideshow.

MOORE: Yes, Abby. I think everything about this has got to be intimidated to jurors or perspective jurors. People don't like getting called into court. They're not used to the system without the circus that's surrounding this case.

But if you think about it from the time they get to the courthouse, when they come in the courtroom sitting at the table, they've got security, they've got blockades, they've got Secret Service standing around, then you've got the former president of the United States who, you know, I mean, is the former president. Whether you liked him or not, he was still the president of the United States.

RAY: Yes. Let's not forget about the fact that most people in this country have not met a president of the United States or a former president of the United States and you are now sitting as a prospective juror in a case in which you are literally within arm's reach of the defendant and probably the most high-profile case that comes recently to mind, maybe perhaps since O.J. or even before and, you know, that's in and of itself a sitting story thing. But you shouldn't forget about the most basic thing is most people have not met a president or a former president of the United States.

MOORE: It's intimidating on his face. And so standing up there next to him while they're trying to give their explanation to the judge or answer questions, that's sort of just sideshow silliness.

I mean, really, I mean, most of the time the client sits at the table, the lawyers go to the bench, you take your issue up at sidebar, then if there's a question, you say, let me speak to my client, you step back, talk to your client and resolve it.

You don't have a --


RAY: I have found, though, the jurors don't look -- I mean, this is a high-profile case. It's a little different. But most jurors don't look to the lawyers, don't look to the defendant on trial, don't look really to anything else.

The one thing that they do look for for signals about how things are going to go is to the judge. That's who they pay attention to and they rely on and who they take comfort from and a certain measure of security in the courtroom as a result of how the judge conducts the case his or her courtroom.

PHILLIP: Such a smart point. Robert Ray, Michael Moore, thank you both very much.

RAY: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And tonight, tracing a Trump lie from outside the court to the friendly confines of Fox.


TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) graduated from high school. And it looks like the judge will not let me go through the graduation. I was looking forward for years to have graduation with his mother and father there. It looks like the judge wouldn't even allow me to escape the scam.


PHILLIP: That was the former president immediately after day one of his Manhattan trial, lying about a decision that the judge had not made. He did it again on Truth Social, claiming that he's been, quote, prohibited from attending my son Barron's high school graduation.

And almost as those words escaped the former president's lips, they went straight to the Fox airwaves.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: That means Donald Trump isn't even allowed to attend his son Barron's high school graduation. If he tries to go, the judge will throw him in jail for that too.

Could you believe this judge might not let Trump go see his son's graduation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump said the judge will not let him attend his son's graduation?

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Mike, former President Trump today said he may have to miss his son Barron's graduation due to this trial, and he's currently under a gag order from the judge. Your reaction?

MIKE DAVIS, FORMER LAW CLERK FOR JUSTICE GORSUCH: That shows that this Democrat Manhattan judge, Juan Merchan, is a partisan activist in a robe.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The former president can attend his son Barron's high school graduation scheduled to take place next month. Clearly, this is nothing more than another political smear campaign.


PHILLIP: But what Trump and his friends say was already decided has not been decided at all. Merchan said it is too early to say if Trump can go watch his son walk on the stage to pomp and circumstance. Read the transcript. And Merchan sounds like he actually wants to let Trump go if the trial can stick to schedule. Quote, if everything is going according to schedule without unnecessary delays, then I'm sure we will be able to adjourn for one or both of those days. But if we're running behind schedule, we will not be able to.

And up next for us, legendary journalist Carl Bernstein is here. He joins me live on set about the impact of this trial on the election.

Plus, is the Supreme Court about to let January 6th insurrectionists off the hook? The arguments that may also help Trump.

And I'll speak with a pro-Palestinian valedictorian out of USC after the university canceled her speech over security concerns.

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Tonight, is the Supreme Court about to let hundreds of insurrectionists off the hook? While the justices heard oral arguments today in Fisher versus United States, Fisher is this man, Joseph Fisher. He's a former Pennsylvania police officer who was indicted for storming the Capitol.

His lawyers argue that he wasn't really part of the mob, that he just got squeezed in by the crowd. He's also charged with trying to obstruct an official proceeding to stop Congress from doing its job and certifying the 2020 election.

Now, that is the piece that the justices will ultimately decide whether or not the Justice Department can actually charge him with obstruction. They're doing it under a 2002 law that was meant to corral white collar criminals.

It was originally designed to stop the smartest criminals in the room at Enron and other companies like it from destroying evidence.

Now, of the nearly 1,400 people who were arrested for participating in the insurrection, 350 are facing obstruction charges, including Donald Trump.

So, today, Fisher's attorney argued that the law is ridiculously limited. That unless you're talking about documents or records, unless you are tampering with evidence, it really doesn't apply. And so you can't charge obstruction, no matter what proceeding you may be impeding.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor did the Supreme Court equivalent of laughing at that idea asking this.


JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: There is a sign on the theater, you will be kicked out of the theater if you photograph or record the actors or otherwise disrupt the performance. If you start yelling, I think no one would question that you can be expected to be kicked out under this policy, even though yelling has nothing to do with photograph or recording.


PHILLIP: Now, the conservatives didn't go hook, line and sinker for Fisher's arguments, but their questions of the government suggest that insurrectionists are going to get a pass, or at least dramatically reduced criminal exposure.

Questions like these from Neil Gorsuch, a Trump pick to the bench, about what else might fall under the law.


JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Would a sit-in that disrupts a trial or access to a federal courthouse qualify?


Would a heckler in today's audience qualify or at the State of the Union address? Would pulling a fire alarm before a vote qualify for 20 years in federal prison?


PHILLIP: Sit-ins, hecklers, fire alarms, they might be an impediment but it is not an insurrection. For everyone that forgets, this is what the mob looked like. It's hard to see how anyone can argue that the intent here was not to obstruct a constitutionally important official proceeding. But the court's conservatives seem ready to do just that.


JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Protesters blocked the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and disrupted traffic in San Francisco. What if something similar to that happened all around to the Capitol so that members, all the bridges from Virginia were blocked and members from Virginia who needed to appear at a hearing couldn't get there or were delayed in getting there?

JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT, U.S. SUPREME COURT: What if on January 6th the Capitol itself had not been breached?

JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: There have been many violent protests that have interfered with proceedings. Has the government applied this provision to other protests in the past?

JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, U.S. SUPREME COURT: There are six other counts in the indictment here.

And why aren't those six counts good enough just from the Justice Department's perspective?


PHILLIP: So, who is the court poised to help here? Well, someone like Pauline Bauer.

For more, I want to bring in veteran journalist Carl Bernstein. He's also the author of Chasing History, a Kid in the Newsroom.

Carl, what's your takeaway from what happened at the Supreme Court today, yet another hugely important case before them? CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I wouldn't overestimate the importance of this case. It affects perhaps several hundred of those who were arrested. I think we need to look at January 6th as a moment in our history in which an incumbent president of the United States attempted to undermine our very democracy and to encourage this insurrection and encourage and impede the free election of president of United States and the president of the United States' duly elected taking office.

That's what all of these cases and even the case in New York is about a criminal president, Donald Trump, before he's president trying to undermine the electoral system.

PHILLIP: And the court basically is saying on the official proceeding part, they're saying that this may not even count as a criminal charge.

BERNSTEIN: This is one part of charges against a great number of rioters. We don't know how many will be affected by it if the conservative majority indicated today and their indications hold up that they'll decide in favor of dismissing some of these charges.

I would put this in the heading of a big footnote. I don't think that it's the big news today. I think what we need to keep our eye on is Donald Trump is a criminal president of the United States. Those charges against him on January 6th, and, incidentally, there's very little indication that what the justices were saying today would have any effect on the charges against Donald Trump.

You're absolutely right that some of these charges against the rioters could be dismissed as a result of this, but I don't think it's the big story and I think that that we need to overestimate what may be a decision that will circumscribe the punishment and the charges about some of those defendants.

PHILLIP: One of the things that were just a moment moments ago got the official transcript from the Manhattan hearing today that we were just discussing earlier in the show, and so now we have a little bit more of a window of what the judge actually said.

Here's a quote from Judge Merchan. He's talking about Trump's demeanor in the courthouse. He says, so, Mr. Blanche, while the juror was at the podium, maybe 12 feet from your client, your client was audibly uttering something. I don't know what exactly he was utterring. He was audibly gesturing, speaking in the direction of the juror. I won't tolerate that. I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear, the judge there really reprimanding Trump and his attorneys pretty strongly for his behavior in the courthouse.


What do you make of what Trump might be trying to do by how he is kind of treating these proceedings, maybe trying to delegitimize them in a certain way? BERNSTEIN: No. I think, you know, it's intended for his audience. Again, I wouldn't attach too much importance to it. What I would say is that this judge intends to run a very strict courtroom, and he's not going to treat Trump differently than any other defendant. And if there's going to be these kinds of theatrics, he's going to put a stop to them.

Again, I think we need to keep our eye on a president of the United States, such as George Washington warned us about when he said that there will be cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men who will enable to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.

That is what all of these cases in one way or another go to. This thing about falsifying records in the New York case is about why did he falsify the records? Because he did not want the voters to know the facts, and he obstructed justice, as it were, to keep the voter from having a record of what had actually occurred.

So, all of these alleged crimes by Donald Trump, a seditious, the first seditious president of the United States, which is really what January 6th is about, and what Donald Trump and the Republican Party don't want us to know and don't want us focus on is what occurred on January 6th, an attempt by a president of the United States to stage a coup, here earlier, before the election, an attempt by a candidate for the presidency to undermine the very election system. It's all consistent. It all fits together.

PHILLIP: As with so many things that Trump does, this was perhaps the opening salvo as he was running for president the first time, but it continued on in the years that followed. And that's why --

BERNSTEIN: In much more egregious ways.

PHILLIP: And that's why he's facing not just one, but several criminal trials that could go on this year and in the following year.

Carl Bernstein, always great to have you on the show, thank you very much for staying up with us.

And just to note about tomorrow's show right here on NewsNight, I'll be joined by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. That will be live 10:00 P.M. Eastern Time only here on CNN.

And next, she is the pro-Palestinian valedictorian and who just had her speech canceled by USC. Does she believe that the school's reasoning is actually what was behind it? And what about those controversial links on her social media page? She joins me to speak out in moments.



PHILLIP: Security or censorship? Israel's war in Gaza continues to test the limits of free speech here in America. Backlash tonight after the University of Southern California cancels this year's graduation speech by its own valedictorian. Asna Tabassum is a medical engineering student who is also Muslim, and she beat out nearly a hundred other students for this year's top spot.

But now the university says the discussion of her selection took an alarming tenor. USC blames unspecific threats to safety as the reason for scrapping her speech. Joining me now is Asna Tabassum, University of Southern California valedictorian.

Asna, thank you very much for joining us. My understanding is that this week you met with university officials to address security concerns. What happened in that meeting? Did they tell you about any specific threats?

ASNA TABASSUM, 2024 VALEDICTORIAN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC): No, actually, they did not tell me about any specific threats. And my request to ask for the details of such threats were denied. And so, it leads me to consider whether the decision to revoke my speech was made on the basis of safety alone.

PHILLIP: Do you have a sense of whether there was a concern for your safety or perhaps the safety of other students?

TABASSUM: The safety, I think, is a priority for all students, including myself. And so, it was made unclear to me because I received no details about what specifically the security threats were directed to.

PHILLIP: So, the university has said that this is not a free speech issue. Do you view it that way?

TABASSUM: I think there's a nuance here. I think, you know, I expressed an opinion through a link that I had on my Instagram. The hate and the vitriol that was unleashed towards me after, I think, was part of the reason that the university caved in. And so, when it comes to being a free speech issue, sure, maybe my valedictory speech is a privilege.

And it's a privilege I do not take lightly and other students and evidently people around the world do not take lightly. But at the end of the day, my views, the views that I have expressed and the views that USC has instilled within me, as well, were stifled and were subject to hate.

PHILLIP: You just brought up a link that was posted through your social media page. I do want to ask you about that, since you did bring it up. One of the items in this post calls for the complete abolishment of Israel. Is that a position that you endorse?


TABASSUM: If you're asking me if I stand for human rights, if you're asking me if I stand for equality and unequivocal and unconditional right to life for all people, including Palestinians, then I'm not apologetic. I believe in what I believe. And it is because of the people around me that I've met at USC, the classes that I've taken, the professors that I have learned from that have led me to look at the world in this way. And, you know, it's unfortunate that, you know, human rights is controversial.

PHILLIP: The reason I'm asking is because that's what the link said. It called for the complete abolishment of Israel. Abolishment of Israel was in the actual language. Is that something that you endorse?

TABASSUM: So, the abolishment of the state of Israel, I'd like to clarify, is the abolishment of an apartheid system. It inherently is a system that subjugates Palestinians as dehumanized and it subjugates Palestinian life as not worth the same as other human life. So, when the link says --

PHILLIP: So, is that a yes then?

TABASSUM: I think a yes or a no would be an injustice to the issue. And I think that any sort of ideological debate or any sort of academic discourse is worth clarification and worth discussion.

PHILLIP: You're in a university environment and as a Muslim student, your experience is important and it matters and as you said, you want the university to protect you. But I wonder about your Jewish classmates. Some of them have said that your selection to speak at their graduation has turned that event into an unwelcome and intolerant environment for Jewish students. What do you say to them?

TABASSUM: I believe that every Jewish student at commencement deserves to be represented just as every other student at commencement. The position of having a valedictorian honor is supposed to be a unifying honor. And I believe that my commitment to human rights and my commitment to equal treatment should not be signified as or not be manipulated into an expression of disunity.

I think what I say to my Jewish classmates is that your feelings are heard and I think that you're entitled to your own positions on an ideological or on the basis of academic discourse. But when it comes to human rights and when it comes to the unequivocal and unconditional right to life, then I think that all USC students, because I have faith in my university that instilled these values in us, I believe that all USC students believe in that.

PHILLIP: Did you plan in your speech to talk about Israel and its actions? And if you had the opportunity to give it, what would you have said?

TABASSUM: That's a great question. So, I actually had not started working on my speech at all if I were to be able to give a valedictory speech, you know, a message of hope. When it comes to me saying a speech, again, me taking a valedictory speech that is supposed to be unifying, I would definitely encourage.

And I would challenge. And I would implore my peers to reconsider and to consider the ways in which their education can allow them and offer them the responsibility to look at matters of the world and take them into their own lens, make their own decisions and make their own, I want to say, you know, not be told what to believe and then use those conceptions to make a change for the greater good.

PHILLIP: Asna Tabassum, thank you very much for joining us and I should say congratulations to you on being the valedictorian at USC. Thank you.

TABASSUM: Thank you.

PHILLIP: The knives are out tonight for Mike Johnson in what is quickly becoming the sequel to the Kevin McCarthy ouster. So, will Democrats now save the Republican speaker in this GOP civil war?



PHILLIP: The date is April 16th, 2024. So, here is your snapshot of the current Republican party tonight. Its presidential nominee is spending his days in court as the first former president is sitting for a criminal trial. The Republican-led House just sent impeachment articles against the Homeland Security Secretary over to the Senate where it has zero chance of advancing. And for the second time in two years, the party may be booting its own speaker.

Now, after Mike Johnson decided to split up foreign aid bills, yet another Republican House member says Johnson must go or he'll join the effort to remove him. Johnson would need Democrats now to keep his job. But what's notable here is that just days after Donald Trump caught Johnson to kiss the ring at Mar-a-Lago, this is how the former president responded to all of this drama.


REPORTER: Mr. President, how do you plan to protect Speaker Johnson?

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we'll see what happens with that.


PHILLIP: Did you catch that? Let's play it again.


TRUMP: Well, we'll see what happens with that.


PHILLIP: Not exactly a ringing endorsement.


In fact, it is the exact same tepid response that Trump gave when he realized that Kevin McCarthy's future was in doubt. Quote, "We'll see what happens. We'll see how it all works out." Joining me now is Josh Barrow, co-host of "The Serious Trouble" podcast and senior White House communications aide, Jamal Simmons. JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Former White House communications aide.

PHILLIP: Former.

SIMMONS: I don't want anybody thinking I'm speaking for those guys.

PHILLIP: I'm upgrading your title here.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

PHILLIP: But Josh, look, is Mike Johnson going to survive all this?

JOSH BARRO, CO-HOST, "THE SERIOUS TROUBLE" PODCAST: I think probably. I mean, we've seen a couple of Democrats come out, say explicitly. I mean, Jared Moskowitz from Florida saying that he's going to act to protect Mike Johnson. Tom Suozzi, the new congressman from New York has suggested that he will.

I don't think Democrats see an advantage in the chair being vacated right now, especially because I think they think they're likely to get some sort of foreign aid deal or at least that they have a chance to get to that pretty soon. I know that Hakeem Jeffries was sort of suggesting today that they want some outlines from Mike Johnson about exactly what this nomination, excuse me, what this legislation is going to contain for Ukraine, et cetera.

But the relationship seems significantly warmer than it did with regard to Kevin McCarthy some months ago. So, I think that you only had eight Republican votes to dethrone McCarthy last time around. And so, I think that you'll likely see enough Democrats here stick up to support Johnson because they don't really gain anything from the chair being vacated.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, well, is that the surprise of the century that all of a sudden Mike Johnson is tolerable to Democrats? And in addition to what Josh is saying, I mean, there is the sort of what they're getting out of the bill, but there's clearly a relationship there that they feel like they can work with this guy.

SIMMONS: I think the question is, what are the alternatives, right? And at some point, the President does have to pass legislation. You've got to get a bill that's going to aid Israel and get some humanitarian relief into Gaza. You've got to get a bill that's going to aid Ukraine. People are watching in China to see how we're treating our allies because who knows what's going to happen in Taiwan.

But, you know, I was struck by the video you just showed of the former president. You know, these Trumps ain't loyal, right? Right? I mean, they really are not. Right? Like, I don't know why people feel the need to go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss the ring of this guy and only to have him pull the rug out from under you as soon as it's in his best interest.

We saw with Chris Sununu on Sunday, in Sunday's show, trying to say that he was now going to support Donald Trump after being opposed to him. And now we're seeing, you know, we're seeing Mike Johnson. It just goes on and on every single time and Trump decides, you know, I'm done with you.

PHILLIP: It's a one-way street. We know that. That's a fact. That's not even an opinion because Trump has done it so many times. Now, separately from that, I mean, we've talked about this impeachment that they want to do of the Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas.

There's a lot that doesn't make a lot of sense about that, but it's going to the Senate. Is this something that, even if it doesn't go anywhere, still could be damaging to the President and to the Biden administration?

BARRO: I mean, I think immigration has been a very difficult political issue for the President. And so to the extent that it's in the news, I think that's a problem for the White House. I think that's part of the reason that Republicans did this impeachment.

It's a way to keep the crisis at the border in the news.

That said, the Senate is busy right now. They have a number of things they need to do. This renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. If the House acts on a foreign aid bill, the Senate will have to act on it, too, because the House probably won't pass exactly what the Senate already passed.

And so, it's not just Democrats in the Senate who are eager to get onto other things. You have a few Republicans in the Senate who have been irritated about the impeachment itself and what a waste of time they see it as. But more broadly, you have a lot of Republicans in the Senate who have other priorities for their time.

There is supposed to be a recess that starts on Thursday afternoon this week, and so, they probably can't make that in any case. But those senators are really itching to get out of town on both sides of the aisle. And so, you'll see maybe some number of hours devoted to this, but I think they'll dispense with it pretty quickly.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, Josh makes an important point that at this point, it's almost like you're hearing more and more Republicans being like, what's going on in the House chamber is ridiculous. I mean, I noted Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, tweeted today that it's effectively embarrassing. The Senate is going to just kill this once and for all. Meanwhile, Trump is on trial -- criminal trial. It really seems like the GOP right now is still in a state of chaos at the very moment that they don't need to be.

SIMMONS: It's absolutely in a state of chaos. As you just said, the head of their ticket is in court. You're hearing from people who are working in states who are saying there is some reluctance on behalf of candidates in some of these states to do agreements with the RNC about, you know, they usually raise money together.

People are saying, well, maybe we shouldn't do that because we don't know what's going to happen to that money. There's reluctance about, are we building up the coordinated campaign infrastructure inside some of these states? Because so much attention is being given to Donald Trump out of the Republican Party.

PHILLIP: And the money is going to his legal defense.

SIMMONS: And money is going to his legal defense. So, it's trickling down in a way that I think is very concerning for I think a lot of those candidates. Now, people on the Democratic side are happy to see it. The one thing Republicans are starting to do, you're hearing about, is getting a lot of these self-funders, right, to run in office because they don't think they're going to have the money to run from being able to raise it.


PHILLIP: All right. Jamal Simmons, Josh Barrow, thank you both very much. And just in to CNN, Bob Graham, the two-term governor and three- term United States senator, has passed away with his family by his side. He was 87 years old.

Graham was an original. He carried a notebook jotting down a minute- by-minute record of his day, everything from giant legislative wins to the smallest story from a constituent. His family celebrated Graham in a statement tonight, saying goodbye by saying, "Bob Graham was so much more than really good." We'll be right back.



PHILLIP: America has a birth crisis. According to the CDC, black women in the United States are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. But a coalition of women and their families are looking to change those numbers one mother at a time.

And these are some of the facts behind the birth -- the faces behind the birth fund -- Serena Williams, Chrissy Teigen, Ayesha Curry, and yours truly. This is deeply personal to me and to all of these women who you saw there. I've opened up about my own home birth journey right here on CNN. And tonight, I want to share with you a new initiative to prevent pregnancy-related deaths and save lives.

And here with me now is the founder of the Birth Fund, Elaine Welteroth. She is an advocate, an author, and the former editor-in- chief of "Teen Vogue". Elaine, so great to have you here in New York. And this project, I know, is so close to your heart. When you first told me about it, I said, absolutely. Tell us about the Birth Fund and how you got to this point.

ELAINE WELTEROTH, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF TEEN VOGUE: Well, you were my first call. So, thank you so much for saying yes and for having me on your show tonight. Birth Fund is a coalition of families that are tired of hearing these sad stories of mothers losing their lives unnecessarily during and after childbirth. And we were ready to take action with our own resources and with our own network.

So, we are coming together to invest in and raise funds for midwifery care, for families all across this country who want access to this lifesaving, affirming model of care, but can't afford the out-of- pocket costs.

PHILLIP: You've got, as we just laid out there, some huge names behind this, as well. One of them is Serena Williams. You wrote an op-ed with her in "Time" magazine. And this is the part that really struck out to me. You wrote, "Having babies in America was a wake-up call for both of us.

We have both accomplished a lot in our lives and careers, from grand slams to history-making career appointments. Needless to say, we can do hard things, but nothing made us feel as disempowered as being pregnant and Black in America." A lot of people will be shocked to hear you say that.

WELTEROTH: I think people might be shocked to hear that, but I think there's a lot of moms out there who are nodding their head and could relate. Because I do think that a lot of us go into childbirth thinking, how hard could this be? And then we're met with a very broken maternal healthcare system. And over 50 percent of mothers in this country label their births as traumatic. And while that number is staggering, we can't normalize that.

That's not how it should be, and it's not how it has to be. And so, I think we need to lift up solutions and alternative pathways to having beautiful, joyful, empowered, and safe births.

PHILLIP: And one of those alternative pathways is home birth. I had a home birth. You had a home birth. We talked about this in my documentary. Why do you think midwifery is part of the solution here?

WELTEROTH: Well, I think that the stats tell the story. The U.S. right now is the deadliest country in the Western world to give birth in. And the thing that all these other countries have in common is that midwifery is their default birth care model.

PHILLIP: It's so much more normalized in other parts of the world.

WELTEROTH: Absolutely. And yet here in America, it's not even covered by insurance.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Yeah.

WELTEROTH: So, it's a model of care that we need to be investing in as a solution to this crisis. And it's going to take people like us talking about our stories and our positive experiences with midwifery to help reframe it for a whole new generation of moms who may not have even heard of it.

I don't want to shortchange the dads here because you have some pretty big deal dads as part of the birth fund, including your husband, Jonathan, but also Serena's husband, as well.


PHILLIP: What's the role of fathers who are often left not just with the grief, but with the advocacy for their partners who didn't make it after childbirth? WELTEROTH: Absolutely. We cannot underestimate the role of partners,

of men and dads in this conversation and in this movement. When you think about it, there is no one who is more impacted than the fathers and the partners that are coming home from these hospitals without their partners left to raise their families on their own. There is no reason that men should not be part of this.

We need to lift up their stories and we need to help educate men on their role as advocates for their partners who are going through one of the biggest transitional moments and most vulnerable times in our lives.


PHILLIP: And of course, Elaine, it's not just us. You've got so many other partners who are stepping in to help these families in all kinds of different ways. We can't list them all now, but just to show people there's a lot that's going on behind the scenes and every single person has a role in doing something about it.

Elaine Welteroth, thank you so much for being here. It's been just such an honor and a privilege to work on this with you.

WELTEROTH: Thank you for your support.

PHILLIP: And you can watch my full report on Black maternal health for the whole story with Anderson Cooper. That episode is available now streaming on Max. And thank you very much for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.