Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

GOP Eating Its Own, Republicans Threaten Speaker Over Aid; Israeli Minister Calls For Attack That Rocks Tehran; Arizona GOP Blocks Effort To Repeal Near-Total Abortion Ban; Arizona Senatorial Candidate Calls On Her Supporters To Strap On A Glock As The Elections In November Nears; CNN Investigates The Alleged Burial Of Inmate Bodies Without Organs. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 17, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KARA SWISHER, CNN HOST: Yes. Well, he's an emotional support social network. You know, that's what he needs. This thing is very important to him to express himself. You know, he's got a kind of like a lot of id and not a lot of impulse control, and so that's what he does, and this is how he feels better. So, let him do it.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I'm going to write that down, just like that. A lot of it, not a lot of impulse control. I'm going to steal that line. I will give you credit though.

Kara Swisher, I'm grateful for your time tonight. Thank you very much.

SWISHER: Thank you.

KING: And thanks for your time at home. And thanks for joining us.

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Who will blinked first? That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in Washington.

Tonight, a special NewsNight interview with Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. We have a lot to ask about, and we'll get to that in just minutes.

But, first, the staring contest between the Republican speaker of the House and the Republicans who don't think that he should have a job. On CNN tonight, Johnson defended his decision to put forward a massive foreign aid package that pairs billions for Israel with billions for Ukraine and billions for Taiwan.

Now that earned him praise from the Democratic president and scorn from the Republicans. That is a good recipe for dysfunction here in Washington and for setting a timer on how long Johnson can keep the gavel.

Tonight, Johnson wants to turn the debate over what to spend into a debate over whose shadow looms larger over today's GOP. Is it Ronald Reagan's or Donald Trump's?


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I'm a child of the 80s. I regard myself as a Reagan Republican. I understand the concept of maintaining peace through strength. That's one of our guiding principles. It's a really important philosophy, and it's a big part of our party and our worldview. And I think here is an opportunity to make that stand at a really critical time in world history.


PHILLIP: Now that doesn't appear to be anything that will stop the tensions from boiling over and setting the caucus essentially on fire with a motion to vacate.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I don't know how long people are going to tolerate this because he's doing nothing but serving the Democrats.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I met for hours last night and proposed different paths for the speaker that would have avoided the abject surrender represented by his strategic choice here. There's no other way to describe it. It's surrender. It's disappointing. I won't support it.

REP. ELI CRANE (R-AZ): It's disappointing. It's completely detached from what our base wants, what our voters want.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): The strategy is not to try. I think the strategy is to fall on a sword.


PHILLIP: Joining me now for a NewsNight exclusive, Speaker Emerita Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California. Speaker Pelosi, thank you for being here.

I do want to start on this very important foreign policy issue. Speaker Johnson has this four-part plan that he laid out to approve funding over Ukraine that's been stalled, funding for Israel, funding for Taiwan and other priorities. Should Democrats actually help him move that forward?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, I think what he is doing gives his own party a choice. If you want to support the security for Israel, which we all do, but if that's all they want to do, they can vote for that. There are plenty votes in the Congress to support Ukraine, and it is strongly bipartisan. But all of them don't want to support it, so they don't have to. And, again, the Taiwan is very bipartisan. That's not so much of a challenge.

So, I don't know if their objection is that he's giving them all the choice that they could want, but they don't want us to have any choice, then they don't understand what the role of speaker is.

PHILLIP: If ultimately there is a border component of this, which I know some of his members want to add into this, what do Democrats do then?

PELOSI: Well, they may have a border component, but it will be its own separate bill, and then their members can vote for the border component. They have a majority of the House, and they may be able to pass that.

But you have to remember, we are the House of Representatives. We have a Democratic Senate, a Democratic president, and if we're going to really help the people of the Middle East and Ukraine, we have to have a bill that is signed.

And I think that they're working -- I hope that they're working with the Senate for a bill that will pass the Senate.

PHILLIP: The speaker -- excuse me, Speaker Johnson on CNN today with Jake Tapper, he did an interview, and he said that the United States should stand with Ukraine for freedom to make sure that Vladimir Putin doesn't seem to roll across a European country.

Do you give him credit for that? I mean, you hear the anger in his conference over this issue. Do you give him any credit for coming forward now and saying this is a matter of historical importance?


PELOSI: Well, I think it's courageous of him to say, because you have to understand that in his own caucus, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, two leaders, respected on both sides of the aisle, have said that Russian propaganda has infiltrated the Republican side of the aisle.

So, he has to deal with that. And for him to say that the democracy in Ukraine is an issue that we must support is a bold statement.

PHILLIP: If he --

PELOSI: And I don't want to praise him too much, because that will turn off some of his --

PHILLIP: Well, you know, there's nothing wrong with praising your opponents necessarily, and it's something that you've done --

PELOSI: No. It is in terms of the reaction that he might get on this side of the aisle.

PHILLIP: I mean, if this aid doesn't pass, and Ukraine is in this dire situation, do Republicans deserve the blame for a failure of Ukraine?

PELOSI: No question about it. The facts are that the president and the bipartisan legislation from the Senate has carefully put forth what is needed to help Ukraine protect democracy, win in that fight, and other provisions of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, assistance for Israel to protect itself, the issue that relates to Taiwan.

This has all been passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate. The president stands ready to sign the bipartisan Senate bill. For months, we've been asking the House to pass the bill. At one point, we'd have had over 300 votes for it. That is diminishing, but nonetheless still a strong majority in the House.

So, yes, I know it would be right at the doorsteps of the Republicans who have, again, been in a show -- there's a Putin caucus on the Republican side. You have to understand that, and that's what unfortunately the Speaker has to undergo, a Putin caucus which just espouses what Putin is saying there. It's really a tragedy for our country.

PHILLIP: Is Ukraine losing this war?

PELOSI: Well, hopefully not. But if we can act now, I think, with enough distance, with enough speed, with enough heft in what we send there, then I think they can win the war.

PHILLIP: Was it a mistake for the Biden administration in the early stages of this war, there was a lot of deliberation and hemming and hawing about whether they send certain types of weaponry in and what sequence, and is it too soon? Would it provoke Putin? Was all of that back and forth wasted time in the --

PELOSI: No. I think that the president deserves a great deal of credit because of the initiatives to help Ukraine have been multilateral. It's been the E.U., it's been G7, even other countries outside of Europe, Japan and some other countries in Asia have been very supportive. And so you have to move in a way that not only enables you to send your support but to have the support of other countries as well because they need a great deal of support.

PHILLIP: Do you think on the issue of Israel that where things stand right now between the United States and Israel, this relationship has been tense for several weeks, maybe months now? Is it too late to repair that relationship between President Biden and Netanyahu?

PELOSI: No, of course, it's never too late to repair a relationship. But Netanyahu has to come around. He has not been a peace-oriented person.

PHILLIP: Do you think it's possible for him to be?

PELOSI: I've always questioned that for decades now as to whether he was capable of peace, wanted to do peace, or was afraid of peace.

And I feel so sad about what happened on October 7. It was brutal. What Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, did in Israel was horrible. And the response that Israel has made is one that has serious humanitarian concerns.

And so we'd like to see support for Israel to defend itself as in our interest for them to be secure in that dangerous neighborhood, but also for us to prevent starvation and famine and dehydration among children and families.

PHILLIP: You've said in the past that you do not think that the United States military aid that they provided since October 7th has been responsible for some of the serious attacks, frankly, on civilians that have occurred in Gaza.

But when you look at the World Central Kitchen attack that happened, that really shocked the world, if it turns out that American weaponry was involved in that, would that change your view about what needs to happen going forward as it relates to the provision of lethal aid to Israel?


PELOSI: Well, what we have said in our letter a week ago or so was that there has to be an investigation of how that happened. And we shouldn't be giving any more weapons until that happens.

Now, the Israelis are conducting an investigation. I myself think we have to go beyond that. I think there should be an independent investigation of how that happened. And it was beyond the pale.

But, nonetheless, the letter that we sent was very discreet in terms of you must investigate this, because we need to know how this could have happened.

PHILLIP: Is it still true in your mind, given where things stand, that Israel is still one of the United States' closest allies?

PELOSI: Well, we are close allies, yes, and for a long time it has been in our national security issue for us to support Israel. We have shared values. We have shared security concerns and the rest. And make no mistake, Hamas is a terrorist organization, and they have in their criteria that they will, the destruction of the state of Israel, so understand that this is a dangerous kind of situation.

However, the response to that is managed, has to be in a way that doesn't produce famine and starvation and dehydration and dislocation for people. There has to be a more discreet way to secure Israel.

PHILLIP: I want to -- just putting this all together, I mean, ultimately these votes on Israel on Ukraine could cost Speaker Johnson his job. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of -- you heard her there earlier, but she said whether it happens two weeks from now, two months from now or in the next majority, Representative Mike Johnson will not be the speaker. Do you think ultimately that's true?

PELOSI: I don't think that -- look, for 20 years I was leader or speaker, and we have to respect our caucus and the rest. But we also have to respect the House of Representatives, the integrity of the House of Representatives.

These people who are using the motion to vacate show a bankruptcy of their own ideas to prevail in the marketplace of ideas that they would have to resort to that. And it all traces back to the previous speaker who shrunk the speakership by enabling people to take it down to one person can vacate the chair because that's what it took for him to become speaker of the House.

PHILLIP: Would it ever be considered for Democrats to actually step in and save Mike Johnson? Do you think it should be?

PELOSI: That is not enough reason in our caucus and I --

PHILLIP: Would you do it?

PELOSI: Would I vote him? Well I have been prepared to do that in the past, not that this group because this is a very this is a different, I would say, breed of cat, except my daughter has a cat and she would not like me divide identifying cats with these people.

But, nonetheless, the institution is very important. You cannot have one person decide that they're going to take it.

Now, understand this, they don't have a big majority. I didn't have a big majority. I had two votes. They have two votes. And so -- but a speaker cannot make the tough decisions that have to be made unless he is willing to risk his or her job that's and we come to do a job not to hold a job. So, I think that the speaker has an understanding.

Now, again, I came up through the ranks. You know, I was the whip, I was the leader and I was the speaker. So, I understood what needed to be done. This is all new to him.

PHILLIP: A very, very quick rise for Mike Johnson, who just before this was virtually unknown, even by his own colleagues.

I do want to get to another huge issue, which is the issue of abortion. As you know today in Arizona, Republicans failed to take up a potential repeal of this 1864 law that bans virtually all abortions in that state.

I mean, just taking this from a political perspective, I fully -- I know you understand the impact on women. But having failed to now do this, despite Trump saying that they should repeal that law, are Republicans basically handing Democrats the issue of this next election on a silver platter?

PELOSI: Well, let's put it this way. I think Donald Trump is going to, if he were to be president, God forbid that that should happen to our country, but if he were, he'd be for a national abortion ban.


Make no mistake, I don't care what he says, but that's what he's about. And that is what's happening in Arizona now.

He may, from a political standpoint, want to hedge that, but the fact is, this is about an abortion ban, and it's about damaging the survival of women who may be in a situation where they need to terminate a pregnancy.

I say they should, I don't know, take a lesson in the birds and the bees. I don't think these guys even know what's going on when it comes to all of that. But I do know that disrespect for women, not understanding that a woman's right to choose is a democracy issue. It's a freedom issue. It's about people making their own decisions. It's an economic issue. It's a kitchen table issue about the size and timing, if they want to have a family or not.

So, this isn't just about whatever the political issue they want to call it. Make no mistake, therefore a national, a federal ban on abortion.

PHILLIP: Before you go, the Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in a case that is important when it comes to the people who have been charged with January 6th related offenses. It's called Fisher versus United States.

We talked about it a little on the show yesterday. The court seemed very open to the possibility of really stripping those charges from -- it could be some 350 January 6th insurrectionists. What do you think the impact of that would be if they do rule in that way?

PELOSI: Well, as a victim of January 6, when they were out to get me to put a bullet in my F-word brain, and seeing the quest they had for the vice president and the danger, five people died that day, police officers died that day, many injured, some permanently. It was a terrible thing that happened to our country, our Constitution, our Congress, our Capitol.

But as a victim of that crime, I think it is inappropriate for me to just talk about what the legal aspects of it are. That's up to the courts and the lawyers to decide. But I will say, the facts are these, it was very dangerous. It was planned in advance. It was motivated. It was, again, instigated by the president of the United States. And, again, not to question the legal discussions of the court, because I think it's inappropriate as a victim of that crime for me to talk about the specifics of the law.

PHILLIP: All right. Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you.

PHILLIP: I appreciate it.

PELOSI: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, breaking news in Donald Trump's criminal trial, what prosecutors are prepared to do if he decides to take the stand in his own defense.

Plus, did Trump just, just now, violate his gag order with a social media post tonight? We'll discuss that.

And Kari Lake tells her supporters to take up arms in preparation for the election. It's just the latest round of violent rhetoric from her.

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Breaking news tonight. Just hours before jury selection resumes in Donald Trump's criminal trial, the former president may have just violated his gag order. On social media, quoting Fox host Jesse Waters, Trump wrote, they are catching undercover liberal activists lying to the judge in order to get on the Trump jury.

For more, I want to bring in former federal prosecutor Gene Rosse. Jean, is this witness tampering? Is the gag order once again violated?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I have to take a deep breath. If this were the Eastern District of Virginia, where I rolled for almost 20 years, he would be in deep hurt. Either he would be fined or he would be in cuffs, remanded. But because we're in New York City and the judge is trying to stay focused on the trial, does it violate the gag order? Yes, it does. Is the judge going to do anything about it? No, because I think Donald Trump is trying to bait the judge to get a mistrial or to get some appeal issue.

So, I don't think the judge is going to do anything other than probably tomorrow Friday verbally take him to the woodshed Look at his attorney and say this is it. If there's one more close call, he's going into lockup or I'm going to fine him. That's what's going to happen. But did he violate the gag order, in my view, absolutely.

PHILLIP: But, I mean, this is ultimately about the safety of jurors.


PHILLIP: And he's kind of putting a target on their backs here. Seven of them have already been seated.

ROSSI: He is acting like a thug because he is sending out messages to his supporters that there's some cabal, some conspiracy, sort of like the theory that Antifa started January 6th. He's trying to poison his jury pool, number one, to get Trump jurors on the panel. But also, if he gets convicted, he can say that this jury pool was the subject of a bunch of people lying.

PHILLIP: One of the other issues in this case that Trump has been raising on social media is whether or not or why his attorneys don't get unlimited strikes of the jury, which is, tell us, Gene, is that a thing?


ROSSI: Okay. That is the most absurd thing in the world. If a defense attorney had unlimited peremptory strikes, which means you can strike a juror for any reason except race or gender, right, if they had unlimited bullets to take out jurors on a panel, we would never have trials.

So, the ten peremptory strikes that Donald Trump has been given is what an ordinary citizen who was named Donald Smith would get. He is getting treated just like anybody else and it is driving him crazy.

PHILLIP: And part of the play, as is the case often with Trump, is taking things that are normal and ordinary and presenting them to his supporters as if it is some kind of conspiracy against him, which it is very clearly not.

ROSSI: Right.

PHILLIP: Gene Rosie, thank you very much for joining us.

And just in, speaking of Donald Trump, he wants to cut a cut of the money from his campaigns that are using his name.

Plus, how political rhetoric is becoming more and more violent as one Senate candidate is telling her supporters to arm themselves ahead of the election.

And tonight, a haunting CNN investigation inside of America's deadliest prison system. Bodies of some of the inmates are being returned to their families without organs. We'll tell you what we found.



PHILLIP: Casual talk of violence has become the currency in American politics these days, especially on the right, whether it's dreams of civil war or talk of taking up arms in the name of a politician. And many are repeat offenders. Just listen to Arizona Republican Kari Lake, who is running for the Senate seat in that state. Listen to her talk about the upcoming election and Donald Trump.


KARI LAKE (R-AZ), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: This will be sacrifice everything that I am, that's whether come after us with law fear, they're going come after us with everything, that's why the next six months is going to be intense.

We're going to strap on our seatbelt, we're going to put on our helmet or your Kari Lake ball cap, we are going to put on the Armor of God. Then maybe strap on a Glock on the side of the case. You can put one here and one in the back or one in the front whatever you guys decide. Because we're not going to be victims of crime.


PHILLIP: And this is Kari Lake last year after Trump was indicted for his handling of classified documents.


LAKE: We're at war, people. If you want to get to President Trump, you're going to have to go through me and you're going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me. And I'm going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA. That's not a threat. That's a public service announcement.


PHILLIP: Look, Kari Lake is not an anomaly. Just this week, as pro- Palestinian protesters were shutting down U.S. landmarks, Senator Tom Cotton suggested that people take matters into their own hands, whether it be throwing them off bridges or ripping off their skin.

Joining me now is Amanda Carpenter, writer and editor at "Protect Democracy", and a former senior staffer to Senators Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz. Also with us, Mehdi Hasan, the editor-in-chief and CEO of the media company Zeteo, and author of the book "Win Every Argument, The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking". Thanks both of you for being here.

Amanda, Senator Cotton, he actually defended his language today. And then the next day, and the very next day as well, I mean, it just is so striking to me that this is, it's not even just these one-off things. It's also just that this is what the base is demanding, and the members of Congress or the candidates are giving it to them. It is a thirst for violence.

AMANDA CARPENTER, WRITER AND EDITOR, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: Yeah, I find the case of Tom Cotton especially disturbing because he is a person with a military background who certainly knows of what he speaks. I mean, this is not a one-off from Tom Cotton. You recall that the op-ed that he wrote in the "New York Times" during the Black Lives Matter protests, in which he supported invoking the Insurrection Act to send troops to U.S. cities to put down these protests.

And when I look at someone like Tom Cotton, you know, you don't put those words to a page with his background without knowing very deliberately what you are asking for. And he saw the blowback. And he still says things like this, I essentially want political violence to put down political speech I do not like.

And so when you look at a figure like him, and then you look at the prospect of a Trump second term, Tom Cotton is someone that could play a very prominent role in a second Trump administration.

And so, you know, I think we need to pay very special, careful attention to that.

PHILLIP: The harbinger of things to come, perhaps.

MEHDI HASAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AND CEO, ZETEO: Tom Cotton loves violence. Let's just be clear about that. Amanda mentions June 2020. He talked about no quarter, giving no quarter to protesters. No quarter means kill them all for war crime. He also recently about Gaza, he said, let bounce rubble in Gaza, which means destroy it all.

And now he's talking about basically using violence against pro- Palestinian protesters.

[22:35:00] I would remind you all that at the start of this conflict, a little six-year-old boy in Illinois, Wadia, was stabbed to death multiple times in what was a hate crime because of incitement like this. This is a kind of language has consequences. Words matter. When Kari Lake talks about strapping on Glocks, when Tom Cotton talks about taking action into your hands, people act on this stuff. When Donald Trump says, fight like hell, people go to the Capitol and fight like hell. Republicans say this stuff, and then there are consequences.

PHILLIP: It is, though, a very Trump-ism to basically treat words like they don't matter, like it's all just wordplay and fun and games. I mean, has that just become the way that Republicans are expected to operate? I'm talking about the Republican Party in particular, because this is where we are seeing this kind of rhetoric escalating the most.

HASAN: But it's not. I mean, they know what they're doing. Kari Lake, this is not MTG or Lauren Bober. Kari Lake knows what she's doing.

Tom Cotton, Harvard grad, knows what he's doing. And the consequences are very clear. This is not just fun and games. When Mitt Romney goes on the record and says, there were members in the House who wanted to vote, GOP members who wanted to vote to impeach Donald Trump, but they were scared for their families.

They were worried about the safety of their wife and kids, a lot of these Republican men. That is a deliberate tactic by Trump, the mafia boss, and the little mafia bosses below him to enforce order both within the party and now within the country. One in three Americans tells pollsters, one in three Republicans, excuse me, has said that they believe that patriots need to resort to violence to save this country.

One in three Republicans. That's a scary statistic.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And that's been increasing. There's been increasingly this idea among, you know, Trump supporters that violence is in fact inevitable, that it's perhaps the answer to the discord in the country.

January 6th was the opening salvo for some of them -- of that. Where does it go next?

CARPENTER: Well, I think this is why you see a lot of the so-called smart set that is positioning around Donald Trump, Project 2025, Heritage Foundation, et cetera, talking about things like invoking the Insurrection Act. I mean, this keeps coming up and, you know, you talk about like, well, how does this manifest itself? One of the things that I encounter a lot talking to Republicans is the idea they push back is like, it's just rhetoric.

I can separate the rhetoric from the policy. And I push back on that every single time because the rhetoric is how you explain the policy.

You know, when he talks about calling the January 6th rioters hostages and patriots, that is a policy that translates into pardoning them and then providing a license for more political violence to advance his political aims.

And so, like, you just have to put down this idea that, like, he's just saying things because words do become action. It's specifically within this role that he wants to play in a second administration.

HASAN: And you can't even give the benefit of the doubt, because this is not 2015 when he was saying, I'm going to pay the legal bills for anyone who punches a protester, which he didn't, by the way, pay any legal bills.

Then we saw an entire term, you were talking about the opening salvo. I mean, we saw an entire term of Donald Trump in office before January 6th, where people went into synagogues and gunned people down using the same language as Trump. A guy in New Zealand went and shot up two mosques and said, Trump's my hero.

The Walmart shooter used the invasion language, great replacement theory. All of this stuff happened on Trump's term. And now Trump is, what did he share recently, the picture of Biden gagged and bound at the back of a truck? If we did that, I think the Secret Service would be coming to our door, but that's Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: Speaking of Trump paying or not paying legal bills, his campaign is now in their thirst for money, asking Republican candidates and committees who are using the Trump name and likeness to fundraise to give at least 5 percent of what they raise back to the Trump campaign. Just a reminder, some of this money is going to pay his legal bills here. That's according to a letter obtained by CNN.

I mean, how, is that unusual? How unusual is that?

CARPENTER: Yes, of course it is. Yes, it's totally, and I just picture all his Trump campaign staffers going through the FEC reports that campaigns have to file to me, like, okay, they had a good year, kick up your 5 percent. I mean, really, where does this end? Why is it only 5 percent? Why didn't he start sooner? Apparently, if everybody's going to roll over and say, sure, I'll kick it up, it isn't going to end with just 5 percent. You are a part of this deal.

PHILLIP: Well, here's a thing --

HASAN: I mean, you've got to admire him for only asking for 5 percent. For Donald Trump, I'm amazed it was only 5 percent.

PHILLIP: Here is the other part of the letter, okay? It says, any split that is higher than 5 percent will be seen favorably by the RNC and the president's campaign and is routinely reported to the highest levels of the campaign.

HASAN: I mean, I'll be honest with you, Abby, I'm not bothered by this. I actually think, take five, take 10, 15, it's his party, right? It's his personal fiefdom. It's his personal property. His daughter- in-law runs the damn thing. Take five, take 15.

CARPENTER: It's your choice if you want to give him 50 percent.

HASAN: Exactly. Exactly.


HASAN: And if you don't give 5 percent, maybe he'll send round the goons. Maybe you'll get the death threats. I mean, look, this is the Republican Party now.

PHILLIP: It does say so much about the RNC and the Republican Party that it's like, the message is Trump will find out whether you've given us five or 10.


CARPENTER: Those are the funders and emails I get in my impacts every day from the Trump campaign. It's always these kind of like heavy pressure tactics. We're watching you. Why haven't you donated yet?

HASAN: But there is no Republican Party left anymore. It's a Trump MAGA party. It's his private property. This is how he does business. His entire career is based on licensing his name and getting cut back. Why wouldn't you do that to the GOP and let them pay him?

PHILLIP: I mean, to be fair, they are all using his name and likeness.

HASAN: That's true.

PHILLIP: He has control over that.

CARPENTER: That is traditional. In most campaigns, when you're looking for leadership in the party, traditionally an incumbent president would be happy to lend his name and likeness to bring the party up.

HASAN: Joe Biden would love it if people were using his imagery right now.

PHILLIP: Slapping a 5 percent tax on top of those contributions.

HASAN: Or else.

PHILLIP: Amanda Carpenter and Mehdi Hasan, thank you both very much.

And if you've ever heard someone fawn over their boss, you haven't met former White House adviser Stephen Miller. The greatest hits are next.



PHILLIP: In American politics, there is a time-honored tradition of aides lavishing praise to inflate the egos of their bosses. And then there is Stephen Miller.


STEPHEN MILLER, FORMER SR. ADVISER TO TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: The most stylish president and first lady in our lifetimes are Donald Trump and Melania Trump. Donald Trump's a style icon. He changed American fashion in "The Apprentice". People spent the next 10 years trying to dress like Donald Trump.


PHILLIP: I'm not confident there's a decade in which oversized ties resembling airport runways were a fashion statement. But regardless, the former White House adviser's penchant for the over-the-top flattery of Donald Trump is, well, unparalleled.

Here's a selection.


MILLER: Donald Trump has an encyclopedic memory.

President Trump's the most gifted politician of our time.

The president is a political genius who won against a field of 17 incredibly talented people who took down the Bush dynasty, who took down the Clinton dynasty.

He is the leader of this nationwide and worldwide populist movement.

Donald Trump is the only man that people know has crossed that Rubicon, burned the ships to cinders.

I saw a man who was a political genius, somebody who we would be going down, landing in dissent. There'd be a breaking news development. And in 20 minutes, he would dictate 10 paragraphs of new material.

They say that the eyes are the window into the human soul. That blazing set of eyes that we saw in that photograph revealed a soul that is literally burning with a righteous flame on behalf of 300 million Americans. That is one of the most powerful images that I have ever seen. One man and his two eyes looked straight into the hearts of the American people and said, I will not give up, I will not back down, I will not surrender, I will see this through no matter how it ends, they will not break me.

He's the best orator to hold that office in generations.

A self-made billionaire, revolutionized reality T.V., and tapped into something magical that's happening in the hearts of this country.

The whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

We don't know how this battle ends, but we know that we will be riding in this battle, in this struggle to save democracy with a real man.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The only person who has called himself a genius in the last week is the president.

MILLER: Which happens to be a true statement. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: That's really something.

Up next for us, a haunting CNN investigation. America's deadliest prison system has returned the bodies of some inmates without their organs. What we discovered and what was caught on tape.



PHILLIP: Now to a haunting CNN investigation tonight.

The families of Alabama inmates are outraged after receiving their loved ones' bodies back for burial without their organs. It's happening in America's deadliest prison system, where the homicide rate in 2019 was seven times higher than the national average.

CNN correspondent Isabel Rosales investigates.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a funeral home that first alerted Sara Kennedy something was wrong with the body of her brother-in-law, who died while in prison.

SARA KENNEDY, FAMILY MEMBER OF INMATE WITH MISSING ORGANS: They said, did y'all realize he came back without his organs? And I'm like, what do you mean he came back without his organs?

ROSALES (voice-over): The funeral director told Sarah everything was missing inside Jim Kennedy Jr.'s body. Everything but his eyes.

S. KENNEDY: Liver, heart, all of your major organs, they were gone.

ROSALES (voice-over): She says those organs were taken without the knowledge or permission of Marvin Kennedy, Kennedy Jr.'s brother and legal representative.

MARVIN KENNEDY, FAMILY MEMBER OF INMATE WITH MISSING ORGANS: But yet they made the decisions for you, or represented you without your permission.

ROSALES (voice-over): Sara repeatedly tried to contact the prison and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which is among the providers that conducts autopsies for the prison system.

S. KENNEDY: I had a lot of questions, I had a lot of questions but no answers.

ROSALES (voice-over): Eventually, she says she spoke over the phone with someone who identified himself as an autopsy department supervisor for the university, and she secretly recorded that conversation.

SUPERVISOR: We've never had this request done before.

S. KENNEDY: To have the organs back?

SUPERVISOR: Yeah, yeah.

S. KENNEDY: Who cares about their organs?

SUPERVISOR: Well, we do it all the time.

S. KENNEDY: We don't want to do it, as far as our religious preference, we don't want to do that.

SUPERVISOR: Now, I will tell you this, is that UAB is a teaching institution. And any teaching institution that does autopsies keeps their organs.

S. KENNEDY: Well, we did not, we did not, and you did not want that. We have not agreed with the prison for his body to be turned over for no study. And we want those organs back.


ROSALES (voice-over): Five months after Kennedy Jr.'s death, Billy Stapler made his own alarming discovery.

BILLY STAPLER, FAMILY MEMBER OF INMATE WITH MISSING ORGANS: It's just insane. It's like a horror movie that I can't wake up from.

ROSALES (voice-over): The private pathologist he hired to perform an autopsy on his father, Arthur Stapler, was unable to perform it.

STAPLER: She said he had an empty cavity. There was nothing there.

ROSALES (voice-over): Stapler says he held the power of attorney for his father and never authorized the removal or retention of the organs.

STAPLER: I just want him to be whole again.

ROSALES (voice-over): Stapler says he spoke with this same UAB supervisor. Eventually, his private pathologist received what was said to be his father's brain and heart back. But some organs, like his lungs, came back in pieces. The rest were gone.

STAPLER: And I'm asking, where's the rest of his organs? And he tells me that they possibly got thrown away. And I'm like, how do you throw away organs? Why did you even take them out of him?

ROSALES (voice-over): Funeral experts tell CNN after an autopsy, organs are normally put in a bag and placed back inside the body. But that's not what happened in the case of these seven inmates.

The families of five of them now suing the Alabama Department of Corrections and UAB. The university conducted the autopsies for all the inmates, but one says attorney to the families, Lauren Faraino. She tells CNN the families insist none of them were organ donors. So how in the world did this all happen without family consent?

The Alabama Department of Corrections tells CNN it does not comment on pending litigation, nor does it authorize or perform autopsies.

But UAB tells CNN, ADOC does approve them and says it's ADOC's responsibility to get family approval.

ROSALES: What do you think is your most damning piece of evidence?

LAUREN FARAINO, FAMILY ATTORNEY OF INMATES WITH MISSING ORGANS: The contract between the Department of Corrections and UAB is just about all the evidence we need to show that illegal activity is happening. That contract shows these parties empowering a warden to make a decision about taking out organs and keeping them from loved ones. The law directly contradicts that position. The law says very clearly a warden does not have that right.

ROSALES (voice-over): CNN reached out to the Alabama legislature for clarity. A legislative attorney saying in a memo a warden has no legal authority to approve an autopsy and their agreement may be illegal.

And just what happened to those organs? UAB told CNN in a statement in some cases their pathologists keep organs for further testing to come to an accurate cause of death.

Faraino claims organs serve another purpose at the school.

FARAINO: Right now we have concrete evidence that the students are using some of these organs for training in medical school.

ROSALES (voice-over): A group of 13 UAB medical students questioned the ethics of the school's retention of some inmate organs without consent as far back as 2018.

They wrote this letter to school administrators saying in part our concern is not with the practice of autopsy but with the process of consent for the retention and use of tissue samples.

Two of those former medical students tell CNN their instructors acknowledged that many of their teaching samples came from inmates because inmates tend to have more developed disease easier to see and learn from. The students agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity fearing career repercussions. One saying it's plainly and obviously wrong. There is no understanding of medical ethics in which this is permissible.

UAB accused the student whistleblowers of inaccuracies in a statement to CNN, something the students deny.

Despite the accounts from former students the university tells CNN it does not use inmate organs to teach medical students.

So we went back to them and asked have you ever showing them their own report from 2018 that states they do, but UAB refused to answer.

For the families left frustrated and without answers nothing short of accountability and policy changes can make them whole.

M. KENNEDY: What made it right for them to just go ahead and just give away a person to somebody else and say here you can play with this person's body like that?

ROSALES: The attorney to the families Lauren Ferreno tells me at least two more lawsuits are being prepared. And Abby, back in 2021 an Alabama law was passed that requires medical examiners to notify next of kin if they will retain someone's organs to determine identification or the cause or manner of death. It also requires next of kin approval to keep organs for quote research or other purposes. Faraino will be leaning heavily on that law in court. Abby?

PHILLIP: Thanks to Isabel Rosales for that report, a very disturbing report indeed. You can go to for much more on this story.

And thank you for watching "Newsnight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Did Donald Trump just violate the gag order in the hush money trial? We'll tell you what he posted about the jurors that's raising some serious concerns, plus Maggie Haberman is here to answer your questions about the trial.