Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Trial Opening Statements Begin Monday as Jury Seated; Jurors Face High-Pressure Trial With Trump Looking On; CNN Fact-checks Biden's False and Misleading Claims in His Campaign Swings; HGTV's Property Brothers Tackle U.S. Mortgage Rates. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 19, 2024 - 22:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really opens everything up to have more discussions and, you know, solutions.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: It's pretty interesting. Be sure to tune in. CNN Film presents Blue Carbon, Nature's Hidden Power. That premiere, Sunday, 9:00 P.M. Eastern and Pacific, right here, only on CNN.

Thanks for your time tonight. I hope you have a great weekend.

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Will the pressure make the Trump jury crack? That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in New York. Week 1 of Donald Trump's historic trial is now etched in the history books and it ends with a full jury box. Week 2 starts with opening statements and we lead into it with a defining question. Can the men and women who've been selected to decide the former president's fate withstand the Trump high waves that will swallow their entire existence for the next six to eight weeks?

The jurors come from all parts of the city, West Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, Upper West and Upper East sides. Some work in sales, others in finance, others are lawyers, and they all say that they can be fair despite what they've read or said about Donald Trump in the past.

Now juror number 11 quipped at one point, I don't like some of my coworkers, but I don't try to sabotage their work, fair enough. And from the minute the judge gaveled in on Thursday morning to the minute the court adjourned today, reporters witnessed details big and small about the jury and about the crucible that they are all in.

Some potential jury members got a pass because they provided a reason to doubt that they could do the job. One prospective juror who agreed he couldn't be impartial, likened Trump to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and just as a refresher, Berlusconi threw Bunga Bunga parties where he allegedly paid for sex. He was dismissed.

Now, one who said that she could be fair listened to her own social media musings read back to her out loud, tweets in which she labeled Trump a racist, sexist, narcissist, anathema to everything instilled in her by her faith, she acknowledged that sounded bad. At another point, she had to explain the internet to the lawyers. That's a meme she told them.

Now, that was the comedy and this was the tragedy, a wave of potential jurors reckoning with the real stakes of surviving a trial where their every movement is the subject of national scrutiny. Today, multiple people broke down in court succumbing to what one woman called high anxiety. One prospective juror sobbed in full view of the court when she was passed the microphone. I'm sorry, I thought I could do this, she said. This is so much more stressful than I thought.

Another confessed for the record and for everyone watching that she had a criminal record. The judge summoned her to the bench, listened as the defendant Donald Trump watched. Merchan then dismissed her, but not before pleading with the lawyers and the reporters in the room, please be kind to this person.

Another seemed on the verge of panic, telling the judge that seeds of self doubt had set in, that she simply was not up for this.

Now, it's easy to see why you or me or really anyone could falter under this enormous pressure, the scrutiny and the controversy that comes with any Trump trial. With opening statements slated to start on Monday, the prosecution wants its witness list to be kept secret.

We're not telling him who these witnesses are, the government's top attorney says, because he believes that the second that those names are made public, they'll become victims of a Donald Trump truth diatribe, a screed like the one that Trump gave about the judge moments after he exited court today.


DONALD TRUMP (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The trial starts on Monday, which is long before a lot of people felt like the judge wants this started, to go as fast as possible. That's for his reasons, not for my reasons.


PHILLIP: Former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland is here to break down the jury box for us. So, Jeremy, what sticks out to you?

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN PROSECUTOR: Most people thought, including myself, this was going to be a far longer process. But thanks to Judge Merchan, who summarily removed some of the jurors, which were significant numbers, who could not and would not be willing to be a part of this process, we left us with a far more efficient process. Well, we have 12 jurors now. And what do we know about these 12 jurors? That the prosecution and the defense felt that they were the right fit for this case.

We also have two lawyers. We have a corporate lawyer. We have a civil litigator. And why is that important? Routinely, both sides are concerned when you have a lawyer on a jury. Why is that? You don't want that lawyer to take what they believe the law is and their training experience and use that to pursue that case.


Ultimately, there's a concern as well that the other jurors may look to those lawyers and say, what do you think? What does your experience tell you? What should we do? We all know, and they've been instructed, it is not the role of any juror, no matter your career, to make that decision. It's listening to the court and listening to the judge.

But what's interesting about this jury is they all, or many of them have higher educations. For example, we have an investment banker. We have a speech therapist. We have a retired wealth manager. I can go on and on with all these different people, but they have higher level of educations, but they also have jobs.

For example, the speech therapist, we have that teacher as well, the physical therapist, they have to read people's reactions, read how people behave. So, they're using that common sense in addition to that higher level of education to understand the more complex issues that the jury may hear during the course of this case.

But it's not just the jury that's important because you have the alternates. And the alternates have some of the same characteristics, but why are they important? Well, they're not going to deliberate with the jury if it ultimately gets to that point, but you run the risk that a juror or jurors over the course of this trial will not want to be a part of that process.

Ultimately, there may be an accident, there may be an emergency, there may be a healthcare issue. And those jurors might be removed, and at that time, any one of these people, any one of them could be a part of the jury selection -- pardon me, could be part of the deliberation where they will make that decision with the rest of that body to decide the guilt or innocence of the former president.

So, they play a critical role just as much as all the other jurors of the 12 that were seated.

PHILLIP: Fascinating. Jeremy, stand by for us. I want to now bring in CNN Anchor and Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates, also with us, Senior Editor for Above the Law Joe Patrice, to break all of this down.

Joe, we went through just really -- today was a really emotional day in that courthouse because I guess things were getting very, very real for some of these jurors, understandably. Is it typical to see that kind of emotion as people go into a case like this? JOE PATRICE, SENIOR EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW: You know, no. And I think that's still roiling, I think, in a lot of jurors' minds, but I think a lot of jurors don't vocalize it as much. In a lot of ways, I think this was the gravity of it being a former president and being historic is bringing that out. And I think, in some ways, that's a really good thing that I don't think any criminal defendant deserves to have a juror who's very nervous about the weight of awesome power of what their job is.

So, in some ways, I think it's good that we had this kind of honesty, these people recognizing that they might not be up to it and helping form a jury of people who hopefully are able to deal with that.

PHILLIP: As a former federal prosecutor, Laura, when you see that, what do you see? And do you think that this is something that could potentially weigh on the jury as they are actually deliberating this in a way that could jeopardize the case?

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Such a great point. You know, uncertainty is what I think everyone who believes in the justice system kind of wants a juror to feel when they go into a courtroom because you don't want the deck totally stacked against the defendant.

Presumption of innocence requires people to go into that courtroom and think, you've got to prove the case to me. I'm uncertain whether the prosecution can carry their burden of proof.

What you don't want is the uncertainty that jurors might be feeling of, will my anonymity be compromised? Will I be --

PHILLIP: Yes, that's more like fear.

COATES: Right, that's now fear. Will I be intimidated? What will happen afterwards? One question that was asked by the prosecution of the potential jurors over the course of the week was, can you look at this defendant, can you look him in the eye and declare he is guilty if we prove our case?

Now, you're not going to have that most often happening, but the person and the defendant here is a former president of the United States, a particularly polarizing figure who has larger than life in places like Manhattan.

And so this is a really unique matter. But the prosecution, their routine proof has to be there still, beyond a reasonable doubt, even if it's the defendant, Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: I'm curious what both of you think of the presence of lawyers on this jury. I can see it either way, frankly. What about you?

COATES: Everyone wants lawyers everywhere. What are you talking about?

PHILLIP: I mean, lawyers, no offense or anything.

PATRICE: I'll be honest, so truth, I actually have been on a jury as a lawyer. I was shocked. I said, I'm a criminal defense lawyer and I still was put on a criminal trial. It is weird to be in that room and to have everyone look at you and say, well, you understand all of this stuff and be like, that's not my job here.

But I do think there's a little bit of being the lawyer in the room, helping people refocus, when people go off on emotional things, being like, well, no, remember, we had this evidence.

PHILLIP: What's your take, Laura?

COATES: I mean, lawyers are supposed to be presumed generalists. They have to know a little bit about everything. Are these practicing attorneys, or are they law degree-holding people? It can be distinct.


But, you know, at the end of the day, what I would want as a prosecutor, I don't want someone turning to another juror and saying, did they get that right? Is that what's supposed to happen? As a defense attorney, it's exactly what I want. I want the lawyer to be like, you know what? They're missing here, this element of the crime.

PHILLIP: Yes, that's -- if I were a defense attorney, I'd be like, actually, this may not be so bad. They can deal with some legalistic parts of this as opposed to, you know, critical common sense.

Everyone hold that thought. I want to bring Jeremy Saland back in. Jeremy, opening statements start on Monday. Can you give us a preview of what we could be seeing?

SALAND: Everyone has been waiting for this moment, the opening statements. Leading up to this, we've had jury selection. There's been a lot of boring, if you will, mundane type of back and forth between the parties.

But now it's time to hear what we should expect, the theories of the case and the narrative. Who starts? The prosecution starts. And what might they start with? They're not going to say, this is the Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels show, but they are going to be relevant to this case.

And they're going to take this opportunity to say, as important as these two are, as relevant as they are, and as much evidence as they have, it is not resting on the two of their shoulders.

But, yes, there's been issues with credibility. Yes, there's been issues with lying, but Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen, you should listen to them, but not alone. Why not? You also have checks, for example. And those checks will show that these payments were, in fact, made.

You have someone like David Pecker, who can give background and context as to what was going on about a possible, what we call a catch and kill, to avoid the election and consequences to it in the event that it was found out that Stormy Daniels, if true, had an affair with the former president. It's not solely, again, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. It's not solely David Pecker. And for that matter, it's not solely the checks. It's a combination of all these different factors, even if it's shared in a more general context, to reach the point that at the end of all this, after all the fraud was completed, after there was the defrauding of the business records, to hide, what were they trying to hide, this underlying crime. And that underlying crime is what? That was to cause some disruption in the election to protect the former president, to commit that other crime.

Now, you also have the defense. And the defense has their opening as well. And I would expect them to be more general. It's not going to get into the same degree of the weeds, because not only do they not have to have the defense, they don't have to have their theory out there and will listen and respond to the prosecution as that case moves forward.

But they're going to take a different approach to these two people. What are they going to say? Do not trust. They are liars. They are dishonest. They are deceitful. And they are the actual fraudsters who perpetrated crimes, not the former president of the United States.

Well, who is the former president? We all know Donald Trump. But did Donald Trump know what was going on? Was he a passenger, if you will, in this whole ride, unaware of what was happening next? Was it his intent? Did he actually take the steps to defraud? Did he actually take the steps to try to avoid the consequences of his election or what might happen in that election?

Ultimately, will Donald Trump testify? I don't expect you to hear much, because there won't be a promise from the defense that, yes, you will hear from my client. They may leave that more open. But it will certainly be lurking in the back of jurors' minds as will we hear from the former president? I expect no promise from the defense team as they move forward.

PHILLIP: All right, Jeremy, thank you very much for that. Laura and Joe are back.

Laura, the prosecutors initially did not, as we said, want to give this witness list to the defense. They might give a name on Sunday, right before opening arguments. Is that fair?

COATES: Well, first of all, they likely know who the witnesses are already on the defense. And Jeremy did a such a great job of laying all that out. They want the order of the witnesses though, and that's where the strategy comes in. They want to know who's first because it will shape the theory of the case. Are they going to go chronological from, say, David pecker back in 2015 being asked to be the eyes and ears for catch and kill opportunities, then comes Karen McDougal, somebody who was paid a certain amount of money, they say, to also hide what she alleges to be affair that Donald Trump denies. Or do you begin with and lead with the so-called Trump of the Stormy Daniels, of the Michael Cohen?

That will shape the way you're going to defend and actually present your own defense and your own opening statement. That's what they really want to know.

So, on a separate matter, Joe, the New York attorney general is asking for this bond for Trump's other trial to be voided, basically saying that the insurance company that backed it is not actually financially stable. This is yet another salvo in this whole thing. What do you think Judge Engoron is going to do about that?

PATRICE: Yes. I mean, the bond is a little weird, right?

PHILLIP: It's a little unusual.

PATRICE: Let's be honest. It's weird. And you can contrast it even with the bond in the Carroll case, right? That is a bond that is backed by Chubb, a company everybody knows and trusts.

This bond, coming from a company that is not in New York, that nobody really knows, there were some questions whether there was any money behind it.


It's structured weird as though it's actually Trump's money as opposed to the surety company's money. There's a lot of reasons to be worried about this bond.

PHILLIP: And it's $175 million, so it's not chump change.

PATRICE: No. I mean, maybe compared to what it could have been, it's chump change, but it is not chump change.

COATES: And, by the way, the reason you want a bond is because, on the one hand, you don't want the defendant who's responsible for paying it to then go through the process of paying the person who they owe the money to and then having the appellate rights go through and they end up not having owed it in the first place. It helps the defendant.

If you're the person who's bringing the case, in this case, the attorney general's office, the people of New York, if you were going through the appellate process and they never had the money or spending it all and don't have it in the end, then the people of New York have often lost. And so the bond is supposed to give some level of assurance either way, and if it's not there, it's not there.

PHILLIP: Somebody has to have the money. Laura Coates and Joe Patrice, thank you both for being here.

And don't miss more of Laura Coates Live coming up next at the 11:00 hour Eastern Time. I'll be there. I'll see you there.

Up next for us though today, a disturbing scene did unfold outside of that courthouse. A man set himself on fire. Is security at the courthouse adequate for this trial as it begins on Monday?

Plus, breaking news out of Iraq, we are getting word of explosions at a military base south of Baghdad. And you've seen them on HGTV. The Property Brothers will join me on set to discuss the economy and whether there's a housing bubble in America.



PHILLIP: It was a historic moment in American history this week, and we'll continue on Monday as Donald Trump's criminal trial is set to officially begin with opening statements.

So, what was it like inside of that courtroom today?

Let's talk about it with someone who was there, Washington Correspondent for New York Magazine Olivia Nuzzi joins me now.

Olivia, you saw it all transpire and we went through a lot of the details of what happening. What was Trump doing today in court? Like what is his demeanor like?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: So, I was here for the afternoon session. He, it's hard to see the way that they have it, you know, his back is turned toward you. There is a feed of his face, but you're really craning your neck when you are in there on those benches trying to get a good look at him.

When he walked in, he seemed like kind of peppy, and he turned and he smiled to some of us sitting there, on the left-hand side. And then by the end of the session, which was only about an hour, he was so depleted. He sort of popped up when the judge said that they had concluded, and the judge had to reprimand him and tell him to sit back down. This was news to me, but, evidently, it's the case that the judge leaves the courtroom first. Everybody else leaves. I guess it was news to Donald Trump as well.


NUZZI: As he was walking out, I mean, he looked like he was sort of hobbling. He looked very tired and he looked to like it had been a very long day, which I suppose it was for him.

PHILLIP: Yes. And the jurors today seem to really kind of, the gravity of it all, really descended on them. What was that like to kind of see that emotion sort of boiling over, maybe the nervousness, the anxiety that was there?

NUZZI: Well, I think for a lot of these people -- I mean, in theory, one of the jurors said this today, but in the theory, it seems like one thing, and then in practice, the seriousness of it all really dawns on you. And just walking into that courtroom as a reporter, walking in that building as reporter, it is sort of staggering to be there and observe all of that.

So, to there with the former president, with probably one the most famous men in the world, one of the most powerful people in the world to be being questioned about your biases, maybe having to read your mean tweets in public in front of him.

PHILLIP: (INAUDIBLE) criminal conviction?


PHILLIP: Did Trump -- I don't know if you were able to see or observe any of this, but did Trump have any reaction to those moments?

NUZZI: I wasn't able to see him. He did look to be sort of scowling at different times, as he does. He looked quite bored sometimes. And then other times he looked, and it was hard to tell if he was just trying to prove that he was not asleep, but he did look to be paying quite a lot of attention and sort of looking up at the judge, looking at his attorney. He spent a lot of time whispering to his attorneys. And, yes, he just looked very, very tired by the end of it all.

PHILLIP: And yet, he leaves the courthouse and once again attacks the judge and the process, and, I mean, he is under a gag order still.

NUZZI: Yes. But walking into the court today, walking in to the court this morning, he was posting on Truth Social, or whether he or one of his aides were, it was in his name, And then right when the lunch break happened at the same time, unbeknownst to us in the courtroom, someone was lighting themselves on fire outside of the courthouse, which was just horrible. As that was all happening, he was posting, attacking the judge, attacking prosecutors. So, he's violating this gag order left and right.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. And, I mean, do you have any sense of does he just not care? Does he not what the consequences could be for how the case goes on, about the gag order effectively has no effect?

NUZZI: It seems like that. I mean, it's very difficult to have another interpretation other than he must just not care. I mean, obviously, these fines don't mean much to him, although I was thinking earlier today this is a man Spy Magazine as a bit once sent him a check for 13 cents and he did cash it.

So, the idea that this was some insignificant amount of money and who doesn't care, the history refused that.

PHILLIP: I wonder what you think about his lawyers, though, how they carried themselves? I mean, Trump's lawyers publicly and on cable T.V., there's a lot of bluster. What are they like in the courtroom?


And is it different?

NUZZI: Well, it was interesting today, during this hearing, the Sandoval hearing this afternoon, the lawyers really gotten reprimanded for fighting the judge on very little thing. The judge said basically enough is enough. If you think that you're going to delay this trial, you are wrong. This trial is going to begin on Monday. And it was really sort of a smack down moment with this judge and with Trump's attorneys. PHILLIP: Yes, very notable, indeed. Olivia Nuzzi, thanks so much. Your tweets this week have been colorful and entertaining. We appreciate you.

And up next, it is a truly surreal question did cannibals eat President Biden's uncle during World War 2? We will actually have a fact check for you on that, believe it or not.

Plus, as Biden talks about the economy, the Property Brothers are here to talk about real estate in America and the value of your home. You don't want to miss.




PHILLIP: While Donald Trump has been in court, President Biden is on the campaign trail, and he's talking about everything from the economy to cannibals. And CNN's Daniel Dale put together a fact check of some of his claims. Now, bear with me here.

First, Biden tells a surreal story about his uncle in World War II, who he says died at the hands of cannibals.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He got shot down in New Guinea, and they never found the body because there used to be, there were a lot of cannibals for real in that part of New Guinea.


PHILLIP: Biden's account here is just a little different than the Pentagon's version of events.

The Defense Department says it's not clear why the plane went down in the first place and that it crashed in the ocean. Three men died, another survived, but no mention of being shot down or cannibalism.

Next, there's his claim about war zone trips.


BIDEN: I was in, I think, 36, 38 times in Iraq and Afghanistan as a senator and as a vice president.


PHILLIP: That one's false. According to the numbers released by his own campaign, he visited Iraq and Afghanistan 21 times during those time periods.

Claim number three. This one is about his wealth.


BIDEN: I hope you're all able to make $400,000. I never did.


PHILLIP: That one's false too. Now, while he made less than that for most of his career, Biden is right now, at this very moment, making $400,000 a year as president.

And as a private citizen, after the vice presidency, he made millions from speeches and books. Joint tax filings show the Bidens made $11 million in 2017 and more than $4 million the following year.

Next claim, about the wealth of other people.


BIDEN: Do you know what the average federal tax rate for a billionaire is today in America for real? 8.3 percent.


PHILLIP: That one is misleading. His economists are factoring in unrealized capital gains.

But that is not how the tax system works. And despite how you might feel about billionaires, the Tax Policy Center says the top 0.1 percent of households paid an average tax rate of roughly 30 percent in 2020.

Next claim.


BIDEN: A lot more to do, but guess what? During the whole time I've been able to cut the federal deficit at the same exact time by over $1 trillion. $1 trillion.


PHILLIP: Also misleading.

Yes, the deficit was lower in 2023 than 2020. But that is, of course, because of emergency COVID spending. And while Biden can argue that his policies have driven a strong recovery, some of his initiatives like student debt forgiveness, for example, have eaten into deficit savings.

Next claim.


BIDEN: When Trump was president in 2020, 55 of the largest corporations in America, the Fortune 500, made $40 billion in profit and paid zero, zero on federal income taxes. Well, guess what? I came along and took care of the sin. Not anymore. Thanks to the law that I wrote and signed, big corporations now have to pay a minimum, they should be paying more, a minimum of 15 percent tax.


PHILLIP: Not anymore? That's false.

This tax only applies to companies that make at least a billion dollars every year. Fourteen are on that list, to be exact. So many big companies will still be paying zero.

And of course, the final claim.


BIDEN: For example, seniors beginning in 2024, no matter how much their prescription drug costs are, they'll never have to pay more than $2,000 a year, no matter what.


PHILLIP: That is also false in two ways.

The $2,000 cap takes effect in 2025. There is a $3,000 cap in place this year. The White House says that he misspoke on that one. And also, he says seniors won't have to pay more than $2,000 no matter what, but the cap is impacted by inflation. So it's likely to end up being higher in the future.


And speaking of the economy, a new level of pain for potential homebuyers this week. Mortgage rates soaring above 7 percent. That is the highest since last November. And the median price of an existing home is also on the rise. All of that raising the question, is there a housing bubble that is about to burst?

Well, we have two guests from another part of the parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery, to explain it all for you.

Joining me now are Drew and Jonathan Scott, better known as the "Property Brothers" from HGTV. Their new series is called "Backed by the Bros". Jonathan and Drew, thank you both for being here. First of all, I should disclose that I've spent amounts of time that I will not...


PHILLIP: I will not specify watching your show.

D. SCOTT: I think it's borderline stalker.

PHILLIP: Yeah, my husband is sick of me always wanting to renovate. But putting that aside, the housing market is such a huge part of what's going on in this economy. What is going on there? Is this some kind of bubble? D. SCOTT: I mean, it's so hard to predict what's going on. But I think

when we look at the issue right now, there's a housing crisis, there's a density issue on top of the rates, and people are looking for ways to be able to afford their house. I think that the big thing for us is trying to help homeowners figure out how they can afford to be where they want to be.

PHILLIP: Does it make sense to you that we would see those trends at the same time that we're seeing all these factors that are actually intended to reduce spending on big ticket items?

JONATHAN SCOTT, HOST, HGTV'S PROPERTY BROTHERS AND BACK BY THE BROS: Well, it's weird because the rates have come down a little bit. And so we've seen the rates come down and we've seen a little bit of activity. But even where they are right now, there's still potential to do well in real estate.

And our show, "Back by the Bros", that's what it's about, is people who wanted to dive in. Some of them didn't calculate because the higher the rates go, the tighter your margins are going to be. You've got to be really, really careful. You've got to pad yourself a little bit.

But everything's so erratic right now because even during COVID, nobody expected that things were going to boom the way they did. Everyone thought, OK, no one's going to overspend on their home. I've never seen more renovations happen than what happened during and post- COVID.

D. SCOTT: Being in the same room as your kids 24/7 isn't a reason to renovate and put up walls.

PHILLIP: And then also seeing all the flaws in your home and you're like, oh, I've got to fix that.

D. SCOTT: Doing your Zoom calls with your husband walking naked through the background. There are reasons why people dove in.

PHILLIP: So the National Association of Realtors, they also have this big shift happening in how people pay for commission. Buyers and sellers, that's now being split up. They each kind of have to pay their own way. What are you anticipating that's going to have in terms of the effect on the housing market and consumer behavior?

J. SCOTT: Well, we've predicted for a long time that there was going to be a correction when it comes to commissions in some way.

Frankly, there are a lot of real estate professionals who are not that professional. There are a smaller percentage of people who are amazing and they're worth every dollar. You need somebody who's going to protect you. This is the largest investment you're ever going to make. We have never had a problem, whether it's something Drew represented us on most of our purchases and sales, but also we've worked with other real estate professionals, too. I am OK to pay a full rate to somebody who's doing the work. I think discount brokers kind of came in years and years ago and you didn't see that take over the whole market. You still saw people paying larger commissions if they had a relationship that was worth it.

PHILLIP: Most buyers, they're not thinking about that $15,000 or $20,000 that they might have to pay a real estate agent for first-time home buyers. Is that a concern for you?

J. SCOTT: That's going to be a huge concern. That's going to make it more difficult for a lot of people. And so bundling those fees into the purchase price actually made it more manageable, which is one thing that I have a real hard time with because real estate, the idea of getting into real estate for a first-time buyer, is already so difficult in this country.

It's so expensive to get into a home, especially in a large metropolis city. And so any of those barriers that you put in the way, it's just going to make it even harder. So we're going to start to see, I think, more creative types of financing come up, which then again, pre-2008, that's what you had a big problem with.

There were all of these creative financing tools that made people over-leverage themselves that all of a sudden when there was a bust, everyone lost it.

D. SCOTT: And I think, I mean, I am a real estate agent. And so I know, you know, commission structure and this is my business. And I never, I never say to any professional, you should undercut the value of your business. But let's be honest, some of the transactions we do, do I need to have a 5 to 6 percent split with the other agent? No, it's a lot. But I think if you think our duty as a real estate agent is to work out or work for our client, our fiduciary duty is to do what's best for the client.

J. SCOTT: Regardless of commission.

D. SCOTT: Yeah, regardless of commission. And is it really best for us to steer towards things that pay me more? Is it best for me to go for the highest possible commission? Not always, because a first time home buyer, like you're saying, it's really going to be tough for people to get into some markets.

PHILLIP: So can you tell us a little bit about this show? I assume we're going to be spending a ton of time watching HGTV.

J. SCOTT: "Back by the Bros" is unlike anything you've ever seen. If you've watched a lot of HGTV, it's almost like we're coming in and it's a no B.S. look at people who have literally lost everything.

We have one couple who they've spent their life retirement savings. They've spent their children's college funds, five children. They've spent everything on a property that it turns out will never be zoned for what they intended, wasted all that money. And they were on the brink of losing everything.

PHILLIP: So what do they do?


J. SCOTT: They call us. We come in and every episode we're meeting different ambassadors. We're hearing their stories. We're putting our reputation and all our resources on the line, bringing our crews in. We have a warehouse full of furniture and supplies that we have for our shows.

D. SCOTT: Yeah. And this is another part, too, just like what we're talking about with where we are with interest rates. Debt is so expensive right now. People are trying to get creative for how they can afford where they live. And that's what we're seeing on the show. Some of these episodes, people have dove in without any plan.

They didn't realize how much it was going to cost. And when they don't have professionals working with them, making sure that their trades are all lined up, they're getting their permits lined up the way they need to. They end up spending double what they were planning.

J. SCOTT: And the most maddening part is if you had us at your home, the expertise that we've done, we've done a thousand homes. If you had us there and we gave you advice and said, if you don't do this, it's all going to go to. Would you listen to us?

PHILLIP: Yeah. Yeah.

D. SCOTT: Some of these people don't. They're so stubborn.

J. SCOTT: They don't listen.

PHILLIP: So you are volunteering yourself.

J. SCOTT: I want to talk to everybody right there down the lens. Come to my camera right now. If we are there to help you and we have 20- plus years of experience and all the resources to help you, please take our advice.

D. SCOTT: Get out of your own way. And if you're going to be successful, you'll learn something from this show.

PHILLIP: This is so interesting. And look, it also just underscores real estate. Property ownership is still such a huge driver of wealth in this country. It can be for the smart investors backed by some smart property brothers, perhaps a really good way for families to move into the next.

J. SCOTT: It also highlights that some people are just idiots.

PHILLIP: Well, that might be.

D. SCOTT: It really does. But I like what you're saying, though.

It is a way to create generational wealth. And hopefully this is a way that people can learn from our shows and get into real estate investment as a supplemental part of their income. PHILLIP: It's just don't be an idiot.

D. SCOTT: Don't be an idiot. Number one tip. Don't be an idiot.

PHILLIP: All right. Jonathan and Drew Scott, thank you both for being here.

J. SCOTT: Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: It's a sobering question that will define the world for decades to come. Is Ukraine now losing the war against Russia? The alarming new warning from the U.S. And I'll speak with Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who just returned from Ukraine and says the war is taking a desperate turn.




PHILLIP: It's the question that could define the world for generations to come.

Is Ukraine losing its war against Russia?

Top U.S. officials are now suggesting that it is happening and happening fast. Just listen to their dire warnings that if Ukraine doesn't get American aid, this is what could happen.


WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: There is a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024, or at least put Putin in a position where he could essentially dictate the terms of a political settlement.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think we're already seeing things on the battlefield begin to shift a bit in terms of in Russia's favor.


PHILLIP: That badly needed aid has been held up by Republicans in Congress for months now. But now House Speaker Mike Johnson has changed course and will have a vote tomorrow on another $60 billion for that war. And tonight, Ukraine is making a desperate plea. President Zelenskyy says that without more air defense systems, Ukraine won't be able to hold off Russian attacks.

With me now is retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He's the former European Affairs Director for the National Security Council and is a senior adviser now to VoteVets. He also has just returned from a trip to Ukraine.

Colonel Vindman, thanks for joining us. You've been to Ukraine quite a lot throughout this war. How is the situation on the ground today different?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET.), FORMER EUROPEAN AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: I think this -- this was a bit of a wakeup call, this visit. You could sense it in the engagements with the armed forces. They're having a hard time contending with the Russian onslaught.

The lack of artillery ammunition being provided by the U.S. and the West has really was one of the contributing factors to this. The fall of the city, Avdiivka in the southeast of the country. The lack of interceptors, the air defense missiles to shoot down Russian cruise missiles, to put pressure on Russian aircraft flying bombing runs.

The absence of those systems allows Russia to bomb with impunity. A lot of the reason that the Ukrainians are under pressure is because of the fact that the U.S. cut off support for the past six months. So let's be clear. The Republicans are complicit in the condition of this war to date, and the Republicans can play a critical role in at least making an adjustment and enabling the Ukrainians defend themselves more efficiently.

So that's why you're hearing the sense of urgency from senior policymakers. This has to happen. It has to happen soon to allow the Ukrainians to effectively defend themselves and at least start to position for down the road, not anytime soon, a more successful counteroffensive, a more successful push to liberate territory. It's not all doom and gloom, but it is a very, very tough situation right now, absent U.S. support.

PHILLIP: I mean, you say the Republicans in Congress are complicit, but does that include Mike Johnson, the speaker who now is saying that Ukraine aid is needed, but up until this point had not been at that place?

VINDMAN: Yeah, that's very true. I think the fact is that the Speaker Johnson and the far-right wing of the Republican Party were taking their marching orders from Donald Trump, who was in every way looking to obstruct aid to Ukraine. He did it, resulting in his first impeachment when I reported his corruption. He's been supporting and cheerleading Vladimir Putin throughout the years. And I think he was the main factor for the lack of support over the last six months.


I think what's changed is that it's now clear that the effects of suspension of U.S. support has resulted in an enormous pressure on Ukraine, where Russia has seized the initiative. And this could really go badly. And that's not just badly for Ukraine. That's badly for Europe. That's badly for the U.S.

It is in U.S. national security interests that Ukraine succeeds and Russia loses. Otherwise, Russia is emboldened and will continue to pursue military aggression in other corners.

PHILLIP: How long can Ukraine's military hold Russia off at this point?

VINDMAN: Well, so I think we accept now that the $60 billion will come through, that very quickly additional artillery will flow in.

F-16s are going to come in. That will alleviate some of the pressure with these cruise missile and drone attacks and Russia's ability to kind of bomb along the front lines. With those conditions in place, Ukraine has some additional breathing room.

Ukraine has some things that needs to do. It's absolutely essential that Ukraine mobilizes hundreds of thousands of troops. It has the population to do that.

It needs to follow through with the will to make sure people are not doing end runs and evading conscription. It needs to mobilize its economy. Ukraine accounted for about 25 percent of the Soviet Union's military industrial base. It has not fully mobilized. So Ukraine has some things to do. And then the U.S. has some things to do. The $60 billion is just the leading edge. The U.S. has to do more with training the Ukrainians to fight combined arms, the ability to resource artillery, armor, engineers.

All of these things bring them together at the exact point in time to make a difference. So we both need to work together to achieve our mutual aims. Ukraine's survival and Western security.

PHILLIP: Just about a minute left. Colonel Vindman, what's morale like right now on the front lines in Ukraine?

VINDMAN: Morale is tough. I think the fact is that there are way too many folks that have been in this war for two years that have not been able to rotate off the front lines because Ukraine hasn't secured enough troops. So it's difficult. I think absent the support from the U.S., it looked pretty bleak with the $60 billion coming in. I think that's going to buoy morale. And, you know, as difficult as I paint the picture for the Ukrainians, the Russians are performing in a lot of ways worse.

They have more resources. They're mobilizing their economy. But in terms of military performance, the Russians are worse. And that's really one of the saving graces for the Ukrainians. As difficult a time as they're having.

PHILLIP: It's great to have this perspective really straight from the front lines this week where you were in Ukraine. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, thank you for joining us.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And next, an explosion at a pro-Iranian military base. And no one is now claiming responsibility as tensions are running high in the Middle East. Stand by.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIP: Tonight, a Middle East mystery and a pair of denials. Explosions rocked Iraq just hours ago at the base of an Iranian proxy. But right now, there is no clear picture of who did it. The United States says it did not carry out strikes. Israel also denying that they are behind the fresh flurry of missiles.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has the latest from Beirut.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, we first got word of this in the early hours of Saturday, a huge explosion at a military base just south of Baghdad. Now, the military base belonging to the Iranian-backed PMF, the Popular Mobilization Forces.

We understand at least three have been injured. There were five explosions. The images you can see are quite dramatic, as we believe that this is at an ammunitions depot at this point. So we know there's an investigation ongoing. There has been material losses and damage. This is one of the groups that has been carrying out attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq over recent months.

Now, there have been two fairly swift denials of involvement, one from Israel, one from the United States. An Israeli official telling CNN that Israel has no involvement in the reports of this explosion.

A U.S. Central Command also saying that they have not carried out any strikes in Iraq today. They're not involved in this, but they say that they do remain prepared to support our Iraqi partners.

And just the fact that they feel the need to deny responsibility really goes to show how tense the situation is in the region at the moment. Israel doesn't often carry out or give these denials of responsibility. But of course, it does come just hours after Israel carried out that retaliatory strike against an army base in -- in Iran. So the fact that they felt they did have to publicly deny involvement shows how tense the situation is here. Abby.


PHILLIP: Paula Hancocks, thank you very much for that. And we'll give you those updates as we get them.

But thank you for watching "Newsnight" this week. "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: I know there was a historic trial happening today.