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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Prosecution, Trump Defense Spar In Opening Statements; Officers Move Into Pro-Palestinian Protests On NYU Campus; FBI Notes, Trump Co- Defendant Was Told He'd Be Pardoned; Trump Violates Gag Order; Protests And Anti-Semitism In U.S. Campuses Soar; Faculty Of Columbia University Walk Out; Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) Is Questioned About The Protest And Rise Of Anti-Semitism In U.S. Campuses; Bakari Sellers Weigh In On The Racism And Hate In U.S. Campuses. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 22, 2024 - 22:00   ET



TIMOTHY PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: And I personally would suggest that he probably should not.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: does it increase or decrease the chances of a conviction if he testifies?

PARLATORE: Oh, I think it would significantly increase. Because if the jury disbelieves him on anything, however, small, that's something they're going to hold against him and be much more likely to come back to.

COLLINS: Tim Parlatore, I got more questions for you. We'll be back with you and join you as we got much more coverage of this coming up. Thank you for joining tonight.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump show makes its main character a bystander. That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Tonight, Donald Trump becomes a voyeur in his own story. Today, the country heard the beginnings of a story about Donald Trump, but this time, he no longer controls that narrative. Instead it's New York prosecutors who are painting a picture of an alleged hush money cover up scheme where the victims were the American public.

Now, in Trump's own version of events, he says he's innocent, a victim of Michael Cohen's vendetta and Stormy Daniels' opportunism. But he's not in control of that narrative either. Trump, who believes he is his own best spokesman and defender, will now have to leave it to his lawyers.

Now, as you can imagine, this is why we've seen Trump letting loose outside of the court. He's trying to take back control, to take his own story in his own hands, even if it means risking his freedom and running roughshod over the rule of law.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen the last trial? He got caught lying in the last trial. So, he got caught lying, pure lying. And when are they going to look at that?

I just want to say before we begin, these are all Biden trials. This is done as election interference.


PHILLIP: CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson is at the magic wall to break down the key moments in the prosecution and defense's opening statements. So, Joey, what stood out to you?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, what is this case about? What stood out is the facts and the evidence. And let's start with the underlying theme of the case, the violation or no violation of New York Penal Law 175.10, that is falsifying business records, right?

Now falsifying business records, how do you get to that issue in this case? You get to it because you have to have an intent to defraud. But it's not only that, you have to have a further intent, right, not only to defraud, but because you're intending to commit another crime or aid or conceal in the commission thereof.

That's significant. That's relevant because it gives the prosecution two burdens, one, that we have false documents, and, two, why were they doing it to cover up the election. So, let's start talking about what this is all about.

Prosecution's case in a nutshell, prosecution came out swinging speaking to the issue of this being a conspiracy and a cover up. Now, important to note, conspiracy is not something that's charged. But what does it bring to mind? It brings to mind a number of people involved in an event that was illegal.

Who are those people? We see them there. We see Donald Trump. We see Mr. Pecker. We see Cohen. We see Stormy Daniels. The objective is to establish that they collectively work together to do what, to influence the election.

What do we see right here? This is a ballot box. And if they were acting in conjunction, Trump being the mastermind, to otherwise interfere with the election, that gets you falsifying records with the intent of committing another crime, influencing that result.

Now, you don't have to believe, says the prosecution, anything that Stormy Daniels says, anything that Michael Cohen says. Look at the hard evidence. And what is that hard evidence? This is a check right here. And who's that signed by? Donald J. Trump. And here's another check. And that's made out, right, revocable trust account, another check, hard evidence, prosecution says, don't rely upon those two, right? These two, Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, rely upon the cold, hard evidence. That's their argument.

Now, we pivot to what the defense has to say. And what do they argue? They argue that nondisclosure agreements, nondisclosure agreements happen every day and twice on Sunday. That's an important part of litigation. You want to settle a case? You settle it by having people not talk, perfectly legal and legitimate.

And what else do we know that they say? Donald Trump knew nothing about this. He was in the dark. And, by the way, he was running for president. And if you want to talk about the issue of influencing an election, so what? It's a democracy. And not only is it a democracy, but this is what the prosecution brings to bear.


These two witnesses, you know they're going after Michael Cohen, as they did, perjurer, liar. You know, they're going after Stormy Daniels. They do that. What's the issue? The issue is beyond the reasonable doubt is not proven. They have their acquittal.

Broken down like a pro. Joey, stand by for us. I'm going to come into the studio.

Joining me now for more is former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Acerman, Assistant Law Professor at Brooklyn Law School Alexis Hoag, and former New York State Assistant Attorney General Chris Stazsak.

He broke it down pretty well there, Nick. What do you think the skill level was in terms of the prosecutors actually hammering that home to the to the jury, that this is a criminal conspiracy and cover up, emphasis on the cover up,

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Right. But they also didn't just say that the evidence was Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. The fact of the matter is there's much more to it than that. It's also David Pecker. It's also various people who were working for Pecker, people who were working for Trump. Hard evidence is not just the documents. It's also a tape recording in which Donald Trump is heard discussing the payment to Karen McDougal on tape, in his own voice, talking about even paying her in cash.

So, I think this really just distorts what the evidence is and what the government's claiming. They're not saying the hard evidence is Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. It's all of this evidence together that all supports each other.

That's why they have David Pecker is the first witness. He lays the groundwork, sets out the entire scheme. And from there, it's almost impossible not to believe Michael Cohen, especially after they bring in this tape, which they've already alluded to in their opening, which was kind of a weird thing to begin with, because you have to ask, why did Michael Cohen ever tape Donald Trump? I never knew the answer to that until it came up in the opening. It was because he had to convince people Pecker that Trump would still pay the money that was owed, the $115, 000, for Karen McDougal, or $150, 000. So, he taped him in order to get Pecker back on track. So, Pecker is going to say he heard the tape, and you're going to hear the tape through Michael Cohen. What's there for the jury not to believe?

PHILLIP: What's there for the jury not to believe? I mean, the defense would say, what part of this is -- which part of this is a crime? I mean, people are influencing elections all the time. Catch and kill is not a crime. To that you say?

CHRIS STASZAK, FORMER NEW YORK STATE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think the big, the biggest problem Trump is going to have is Michael Cohen. But the biggest problem the prosecution's going to have is Michael Cohen. Because we all know, whether you like Donald Trump or don't like him, Cohen used to be his lawyer, so that would make a reasonable juror think, well, this guy has got something to say that's valuable. He represented him, Trump trusted him. Sure, that's one.

On the other hand, though, these are just the facts. Cohen is a convicted liar, convicted felon, lied to Congress, tax evasion. And what the defense is going to do, Abby, like what you just said, when it's their turn to cross-examine him, they're going to say, don't you have -- and I think you used this word in your intro, isn't it true you have a vendetta?

So, I think even as early as last night or this morning, Cohen was tweeting at Trump. He's been on T.V. every day, which is his right to do. But if I were the defense, what I'm going to do is play for the jury some of the statements that he's made on all the major networks recently saying how much he doesn't like Donald Trump. And they're going to say, see, he doesn't like our client.

AKERMAN: Well, I don't think liking is really the issue here. It's whether or not he's telling the truth. And what Michael Cohen is going to say --

STASZAK: And he's a convicted liar.

AKERMAN: Right. But he's going to say the reason he lied, he was lying for Donald Trump. That's why he lied. The lies were all before he was caught and brought to justice and pled guilty.

PHILLIP: Another element of this, though, is about Trump himself. You know, part of what Trump's lawyers and Trump himself is arguing is that I didn't -- I'm the CEO of this company. I didn't know how these records are being created. That's not my job. I hire all these people and pay them a ton of money to do that.

ALEXIS HOAG-FORDJOUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF LAW, BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL: And that's where we have the phone conversation that Nick is talking about. And we have the people, the state of New York, letting us know what we're going to hear is evidence. And the state, they are all very well versed attorneys. They are not going to overpromise and underdeliver. If anything, they will underpromise and overdeliver here.

So, we know we're going to hear Trump's own voice on a recorded conversation speaking about how much do we have to pay. And, of course, he's speaking about Daniels, the other individual who he's alleged to have sexual encounter with.

And so we've got, we've got Trump's statements, we've got conversations with Cohen, we have his signature on documents and it would be disingenuous for the defense to say that Trump knew nothing about this. And this idea, too, of there having to be some other crime at issue is that he had an intent to defraud.

And so, you notice that this other crime that's alluded to in this top charge isn't actually charged and it doesn't need to be.


It's just a --

PHILLIP: This is the conspiracy part?


AKERMAN: Well, it's not a conspiracy. It just has to be an intent to commit a violation of the election laws, both state and federal and an intent to commit tax fraud. You don't have to prove that. All you have to do is really show the intent.

PHILLIP: You don't have to actually have done it.

AKERMAN: Right, but it's also combined with motive.

And what people are confusing here is motive and intent and what you actually have to prove is elements.

PHILLIP: So, all of this raises a really important question, which is about the jury. I think some people have reasonably asked the question, is it the simpler argument that has the upper hand here? If you say to a jury, they're all corrupt, they're all trying to influence elections, what part of that is illegal? Is that easier to understand? Is there a risk here that the prosecution, what they have to do is more complex and more difficult?

HOAG-FORDJOUR: I mean, what the jury has to figure out and what the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is basically that Trump was cooking the books. And that these things 34 documents, invoices, ledgers said something that they didn't actually reveal. And cooking the books is all this jury has to decide.

STASZAK: Cook the books is a great way to say it. And if the prosecution can demonstrate that, definitely. The problem is going to be, Abby, to your point, politicians, literally, since George Washington, have been trying to cover up bad information about them, about themselves. Press secretaries do it every day, they call up a reporter and say, you know, this isn't really what it looks like, we don't think you should run with this story. That's one thing. It's not criminal. But if they can link it to cooking the books or federal election violations, then you have a case. The only other thing that I would point out, and, again, I worked for Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrat on House Oversight, and Ed Towns, all Democrats. So, I'm just saying what if I was going to be on the defense team, which I'm not, the other issue is going to be if, if in addition to, to Cohen's issues with credibility, the problem is going to be if Trump can say, well, I really did it. It wasn't to commit a crime, violate New York state law. It was, and they, he's not going to testify, I don't think, but saying it was to, so I didn't hurt my wife. I didn't hurt my family.

AKERMAN: And if you look at the testimony today, you look at the transcript, what they're saying is, after the election, they wound up taking back these nondisclosure agreements. They let McDougal free and clear of that.

PHILLIP: In the indictment, they, they provide evidence that Trump actually didn't want to pay Stormy Daniels. Ultimately, he wanted to push that off as far as possible because he figured after the election, it doesn't really matter whether the information --

AKERMAN: This trial is so simple in the sense that I used to do these all the time with accomplice witnesses. I had one guy who must have committed 12 murders. He admitted to that right out of the box, and I still convicted everybody. And it's because I was able to show that what he was saying was truthful through other witnesses, through other testimony, through documents, through people who had no axe to grind, all people from different parts. Like you're going to hear Hope Hicks talk about this. She's going to corroborate Michael Cohen. Pecker corroborates Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen corroborates Pecker. From my standpoint, this is an overwhelming case.

And you have the documents as well. And so, Cohen, of course, he's got to get up. And any good opposing counsel is going to impeach him. Any witness that is on the stand is open to impeachment, to cast light on their character for untruthfulness. So, we know that's going to happen, and it's no surprise there. But all the other elements, the other testimony we'll hear, the recorded phone conversations, and the documents, all hang together and corroborate the evidence that the people are presenting.

AKERMAN: But don't forget, we haven't heard all the evidence yet. This is just the opening. It's fun to talk about though.

HOAG-FOURDJOUR: It's 30 minutes of Peckers testimony.

PHILLIP: Day 1, just Day 1 of what will be four to six weeks of this trial.

Everyone, stand by for us. We've got some breaking news coming up. We are now getting word that one of Trump's co-defendants in his classified documents case was told that he would be pardoned once Trump was elected. But what does that mean for that case?

And we have more breaking news now after the (INAUDIBLE) protests erupted on college campuses across the country. The scene tonight at NYU in Manhattan is turning chaotic and chaotic fast. We do have a reporter in the crowd. Stand by for a live report.

And breaking news --



PHILLIP: We have breaking news as protests have been erupting on college campuses across the country over Israel's war in Gaza. Tonight, they are turning chaotic in the middle of New York City, officers moving in to arrest members of the crowd at NYU.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in downtown New York City. Shimon, what's happening now?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, so we're outside the business school, NYU, in the West Village. I just want to show you the massive police presence here. This is on the school grounds. This is just outside the business school. You're seeing this massive police presence after the school had asked the NYPD to come on school grounds to remove a number of protesters who had set up an encampment.

And what the school says is there were about 50 students who were on school grounds in this encampment, and they told them they needed to leave.


And when students have refused to leave, what happened was they say that outside elements, people who were not part of the school, came onto school grounds, and then they asked the NYPD to move in, clear the encampment, and remove the students.

I want to read something that NYU says that what sort of shaped their decision to bring them onto the campus. They say that there were anti- Semitic chants, that there were other disturbing chants, and so as a result, this is why they asked the NYPD to come in. They said that it was just becoming too dangerous, and so they needed to get the students out.

I want to show you what's going on across the street as well. There are other people who have gathered, and they've been out here chanting. They are in a standoff, they are right now, with the NYPD, who for now is allowing them to remain on the street. We did see NYPD officers moving down the steps at one point, and the protesters backed off. But right now, this is a standoff.

The other thing that's significant here, and I'm told this by the NYPD, is that faculty members were also arrested, that what the NYPD says, that when they were moving in to make arrests here behind me, you could see the NYU now cleaning this area after they removed the protesters from their camp grounds.

Faculty members were actually locked in arms. They stood in front of students, in front of the protesters to prevent, the NYPD says, to prevent them from making arrests. So, that's certainly something very different from what we saw at Columbia last week, where a number of students were arrested. Here, we now have students, faculty members, as well as protesters who are not part of the school, the NYPD says, that were also arrested.

So, for now, the NYPD remains here. We'll see how long they're going to allow the protesters here to remain in the streets before they put them or perhaps maybe even threaten more arrests.

PHILLIP: Yes. And, Shimon, I know you've been over at Columbia all day. This is a story that is playing out here in New York City, over at Yale. One of the issues, it sounds like, at NYU is, according to the school, reports of intimidating chants. As you've been on the ground there, do you have any indication of what might have prompted that kind of crackdown? And since the arrests have been made, have you seen any confrontations that have turned violent?

PROKUPECZ: No. I mean, there have not been any confrontations since we got here. We got here a short time ago after the arrests have been made. We saw some of the protesters pushing on the barriers here. But the police officers are standing their ground. They're just standing there at this point. They've not been ordered into the street to move the crowds. There are some people you can see here that are across the street. And right now, the NYPD is just allowing them to remain.

To your other question, Abby, the school, NYU, issued a statement a statement, and they said that they didn't really want to do this. They didn't want to order the NYPD to come in and remove protesters and students. But they say that because people had refused to leave, they had to do it.

And they say that they learned that there were intimidating chants and several anti-Semitic incidents reported. We don't know exactly what that is. NYU has not told us what that is. But, certainly, there was enough indication that things were escalating. And so they asked the NYPD to come in.

You know, there's a whole process here to allow police officers onto the school campus to remove students and you have to write a letter. The school has to write a letter to the NYPD and work with their lawyers to get them onto the school, onto school property to make arrests. So, all of that was taking place throughout the day, according to the NYPD. And then finally tonight, in consultation with the school, they decided to move in and begin the process of arresting the protesters. Some students and interestingly enough faculty members as well were taken into custody.

PHILLIP: That is very interesting as we're seeing faculty both there at NYU and also up at Columbia, starting to weigh in on how their institutions are addressing these protesters as well.

Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for being our eyes and ears on the ground there.


We'll be back with you as things continue to unfold there.

But up next for us, breaking news in Trump's classified documents case. Hear who received a pardon promise and how that impacts the charges against the former president.

This is NewsNight.


PHILLIP: Tonight, Person 16 and the big problem, whomever this individual is, for President Donald Trump. So, CNN is now learning tonight from a redacted summary of a November 2022 FBI interview that the former president offered someone a clear quid pro quo to Walt Nauta, his valet, don't worry about lying to the FBI because I will pardon you.

Now, that information came from an interview with a witness who worked in the Trump White House, not as attorney tonight is not talking to CNN, and lawyers for Trump have also not responded to CNN's inquiries. Joining me now is former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz.


Jim, I would love to know who you think person 16 is, but you've seen this document. Does it give you any clues?

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: No idea who person 16 is. I mean, look, we have to look at this in context. And, you know, the last read that I had, there was a -- first, we got to know who made that representation. Was it actually Donald Trump that made that representation to him? Was it staff that made that -- former staff that made the representation to him? What was the context of that representation?

All of those questions need to be asked. Was it somebody that said, don't worry about it, he'll give you a pardon, right? Was it actually the president, the former president, speaking directly to Walt Nauta? I think that remains to be seen. The reporting says that could possibly be the case. But either way, I think more facts have to be developed before you just jump to conclusions that there was potential obstruction in this case.

PHILLIP: Yeah. So just a little bit more from the document itself. Here's what one of the notes from the witness interview says. It says "Nauta was also told that even if he gets charged with lying to the FBI, POTUS will pardon him in 2024." I mean, somebody told him that this would be a sort of Trump second term promise and insurance policy, if you will. How significant is that in your view?

SCHULTZ: Again, it matters who said it, right? If it was someone at the direction of the former president, again, how did this information come about? Did this witness have direct knowledge? Did this witness actually hear that? Can this witness testify to it? Is it just hearsay testimony that wouldn't be admissible?

There's a lot of things that are going to go into this. Just from one particular -- a little bit of notes from an FBI interview doesn't mean it ends up being admissible at trial. And we still have -- we don't know what it was. I don't believe it has been acted upon by the Justice Department in terms of charges.

PHILLIP: So meanwhile, just going back to the trial that is playing out in New York City this week, this trial involves the hush money payments that Trump made to Stormy Daniels. Trump, after the court session today, came out to the cameras. He started talking about Michael Cohen, his former attorney and fixer and a witness in this case. He also said this tonight about the jury in this case. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That jury was picked so fast, 95 percent Democrats. The area is mostly all Democrat. You think of it as just a purely Democrat area. It's a very unfair situation that I can tell you.


PHILLIP: Trump, as you know, is under a gag order. He keeps repeatedly violating it. How does Judge Merchan handle that?

SCHULTZ: Well, look, Judge Merchan doesn't have all that many, you know, things at his disposal, you know, tools at his disposal, if you will. He could sanction him. He could admonish him. He could fine him. He could make things tough on his lawyers. I don't think he'll jail him and I don't think he will jail someone who is running for president United States. I don't believe that's something he will do. The threat there --

PHILLIP: But that might be the only possible deterrent for someone like Donald Trump. And to your point, it's probably not going to happen.

SCHULTZ: No, I agree. I don't think it's going to happen. And I think he's going to continue time and time again to go out and, you know, in the political context, go out there and talk about this case and talk about how skewed the jury may be because you're in New York City. It's a largely Democratic area.

But again, I think he does have a pretty good jury there as it relates to like background experience, those types of things. I think he's going to get a fair shake from this jury.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, they certainly seem to allow in some people who you might think might be disqualified for other reasons. But they put together a jury pool in Manhattan, which is actually, look, it's Manhattan, but it's still a lot of different types of people are in this city and they're represented on that jury. Jim Schultz, thank you very much for all of that.

And up next for us, Donald Trump is telling his MAGA supporters to protest outside of the court as he calls out pro-Palestinian crowds. And speaking of, more on our breaking news tonight. Big protests and arrests are happening on NYU's campus tonight. I'll speak with a Columbia University student who shot this video when he and his brother and some other Jewish students tried to go out and prove that it was safe on the campus to be Jewish. He says the university has completely lost control.



PHILLIP: Tonight, Jews across the globe mark Passover. But looking at the scenes playing out at American universities, Seders this year are being accompanied by fears of anti-Semitism and the presence of police. College campuses are seemingly proving in real time just how difficult it is to protect the First Amendment rights of students protesting for Palestinian rights while cracking down on the insidious spread of anti-Semitism.

Ongoing this evening, we are witnessing dozens of police put protesters, professors and students at NYU in handcuffs. The crowds there are refusing to move. They refuse to vacate an encampment of pitch tents near the Washington Square Park. And tonight's arrests are just the latest in an ever-escalating ladder of tensions over Israel's war in Gaza.

Columbia is the most notorious example. More than 100 were arrested there last week. And today, tensions placed student life on hold, interrupting graduation photo shoots with pitched shouting matches. Classes were held remotely. Students were encouraged to stay home.


Columbia and last nine other schools have staged Gaza solidarity camps. That in and of itself is not actually the problem here.

The problem is the people who are in those encampments, some of them, or infiltrating them, who believe reprehensible and unconscionable things. Just take a listen.




PHILLIP: The Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-Semitic attacks shattered previous records in 2023, reaching an all-time high of 8,873. Now earlier tonight, I spoke with David Jonah Lederer, a Jewish student at Columbia University. He is among those who have chosen to leave campus this Passover. He and his brothers say they were targeted by pro-Palestinian protesters when they went out on Saturday night.


PHILLIP: David, thanks for joining me. First, I just want to ask you, what happened on Saturday?

DAVID JONAH LEDERER, JEWISH COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Saturday, this is after four days, the anti-Israel protesters in Columbia had a -- they were still in the encampment, and so many Jews were feeling threatened. So, me and about 15 other students decided to go out on campus with Israeli flags and to just stand there, sing peacefully.

And we stood there for one hour, and in that course of an hour, we were harassed. People threw water at us. A student was -- my brother was assaulted. Someone came and grabbed his Israeli flag, and when he ran to go grab it back, he was surrounded by a mob. People threw things at him. They threw a rock at his head. Someone stood there with a sign saying, these are al-Qassam's next targets, which are the Hamas military wing.

I'm saying, essentially, they want us to die. And so just one hour on campus, we felt tremendously unsafe. There was no public safety, and it's just -- it's become an untenable situation.

PHILLIP: You just mentioned that before you even went out there, you said you felt threatened. Did something happen? What made you feel threatened?

LEDERER: Yeah, so people - - a lot of people are portraying these protests as anti-war protests. I think that's been the largest injustice of, like, the coverage of what's going on, because they openly support Hamas. We've been saying this for six months now, that the protesters on campus have signs supporting Hamas. They've been calling for intifadas with very violent rhetoric, saying, we don't want no two states, we want all of it.

But the worst part was that over the last six days, that masked, fully masked individuals, fully covering their faces, were sneaking onto campus, and we could tell they were agitators. And it's just been -- we can tell it's been a very unsafe situation and the university's lost control.

PHILLIP: Those masked agitators, as you described them, do you believe that those people were not students, that they were not affiliated with Columbia? Because that's been the response from some of the pro- Palestinian protesters, which is that, you know, they believe that they're being falsely accused of these things when this is being done by people who are not even within the Columbia community. What do you think?

LEDERER: Yeah, so we know for sure that there are students who, like some students who harassed my brother, for example, or people who splashed water on us, they were students. But, like, we can't confirm, we have no idea whether or not the person who threw rock his head, right, the more aggressive or violent individuals are students or not, because everyone's fully masked.

And it just goes to show and indicate the problem of what's going on on campus, of you have -- they closed the campus to non-students, officially. But now they're claiming that we brought in non-students who are aggressive and agitators, and it's not the students who are creating the problem. But when we asked President Shafik then to bring in the police to make sure that we're safe on campus, she refuses to do so. PHILLIP: I'm just wondering, I mean, you mentioned Columbia's

president. Do you think that she should resign as some Republicans in Congress have asked for?

LEDERER: I'll say it doesn't necessarily matter who's in the seat of power. It just matters that they enact the correct policies and ensure the safety of their students. So, for example, I'll commend President Shafik for taking a strong stance Thursday in which she arrested many of the students who erected those tents trying to bring a sense of control.


But there was just -- ever since then, they've totally given up on any control of the campus. There's been a tremendous amount of violence and anti-Semitic hatred and slurs. When people are yelling at us on campus, go back to Poland, right, they can't be confused with anti- Zionism, right? That's just straight anti-Semitism.

And so, we just want the policies, because it doesn't matter. Even if President Shafik resigns and another president comes in, they may not change how they engage with any of this.

PHILLIP: And David, just real quick, because just today the faculty, some of the faculty at Columbia actually staged a walkout. They were protesting against the action of sending police in to break up the pro-Palestinian protests last week. Are they wrong? What's your message to them?

LEDERER: My message is, where were you when the Jewish students were being harassed and anti-Semitic slurs are being shouted at us left and right, where the Orthodox rabbi had to say that we shouldn't stay on campus for Passover? So why are they not walking out for us?

And additionally, I would say that the university's, like, insistent or inconsistency with enforcing its own policies when it came to these universities, organizations which were suspended over the last six months, has fomented this environment of hatred towards the Jewish students on campus because it's gone on for six months with impunity.

And so, it's time, that's why President Shafik was in Congress, that there has to be action and the university has to enforce its own policies. And if it doesn't, then we have anarchy on our campus as we've seen over the last four days.

PHILLIP: All right, David Jonah Lederer, thank you very much for joining us.

LEDERER: Thank you for having me.

PHILLIP: And lawmakers across the aisle have also swiftly condemned reports of anti-Semitism at Columbia on their New York campus. Among them is my next guest, Democratic Congressman Jared Moskowitz of Florida. He toured the campus today along with several other Jewish House Democrats. Congressman, thank you very much for making time to be with us

tonight. As we're coming into this interview with you, Columbia announcing that they are going to close the campus to in-person classes until the end of the semester, which is scheduled to be next week. That's a pretty extraordinary indictment of what is going on on that campus right now.

My understanding is that you were there for part of the day today and you had a pretty stark message that you think that there is a double standard when it comes to protecting Jewish communities from anti- Semitism. What makes you say that?

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Well, thanks, Abby. Thanks for having me. Thanks for talking about this on the eve of Passover. So let me say a couple of things. First is I was at the university today and it's clear to me that while they are establishing a perimeter outside the university, once inside the university, there is almost no security.

They have completely lost control of the situation and are just letting it ride, which now you've confirmed by this new policy that they're just going to try to run the clock out by going fully virtual at the end of the year. I can tell you between the students wearing masks and them going full virtual, bringing back the policies of COVID is not going to slow the spread of anti-Semitism.

But I'll tell you what I meant when I said that on campus today. Tonight, at Passover, this was the conversation around the table. Families are together, extended families are together, and what's going on at Columbia and what they're watching happen now at NYU as it spreads just around the city, this is the conversation. And Jewish parents are asking this question because I talked to them whose students go to Columbia.

The question they're asking is they feel that if this was a minority group, a protected minority group, which Jews are not, they don't think that this would have gotten past lunchtime on the first day. But for Jews, because we don't fit in this box, even though there's only 15 million of us, you know, in the country, at the end of the day, you know, we're looked at as differently.

And that's why universities have struggled with this. Because yes, while there is protected speech, free speech, hate speech is not protected. And we are well into the realm of hate speech, right? I mean, let's just look at what's happening. We were mad years ago when we saw Charlottesville and Jews will not replace us and Donald Trump saying good people on both sides or Mexicans are rapists, right? But somehow, we don't have the same anger of go back to Poland?


My grandfather's entire family was killed in Poland. He was the sole survivor, right? All Zionists should be killed? Bomb Tel Aviv? I know the people saying this aren't, you know, white Aryan males with tiki torches, but they have the same message.

These students that are participating in this, and it's not all of them, but the students that are allowing this to go on with the Hamas flags, letting these people onto campus, the professors that are participating in this, it's the same message, which is Jews are not welcome here.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, I think you raise such an important point, which is maybe it's not everyone, but if there are some people in the ranks doing that, should they be expelled? Should there be a willingness to do that? I wonder what you think about the university's leadership in this moment. Do you think, as some of your Republican colleagues do, that the Columbia president should actually resign as a result of how this has been handled?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, I mean, listen, I don't like guilt by association, but if I was participating in a protest, and I was trying to do it peacefully, right, and my ceasefire now protest became a bomb Tel Aviv protest, maybe I would leave. Or if we were holding up the Palestinian flag, and all of a sudden people started screaming pro-Hamas things, maybe I would leave. But that's not what happened, Abby. That's not what happened.

They were integrated, and it took five days for them to make a statement saying, oh, that's not us. The only reason they made that statement is because they're losing the narrative, because unfortunately, they're being exposed. And so, look, what should happen to the university president? Here's what I recommend to the president of Columbia.

I don't know what the right thing to do is. But if she wants to know what the wrong thing to do is, she can call the former presidents of Harvard and UPenn, who let this nonsense go on on their campuses, and Columbia is way past those two universities.

And so, while I want students to be able to protest, while I want them to be able to point out injustices, while I want them to be able to talk about people in Gaza, because that is something we should talk about. We should talk about October 7th, and we should talk about humanitarian aid. We should talk about a two-state solution. We should talk about a ceasefire in exchange for release of hostages.


MOSKOWITZ: But that is not what is going on. What's going on is anti- Semitism, to make Jews not welcome. When it was announced that classes were going virtual, and thus, Jews weren't going to be on campus, these students celebrated. It's not anti-Semitic. It's not anti- Semitic to disagree with Israel.

But if you're only pointing out Jewish kids, if they see a Jewish kid on campus, and then they go after that Jewish kid, right, and surround him and blame him for Netanyahu, they targeted that Jewish kid. That's anti-Semitism.

PHILLIP: Congressman Jared Moskowitz of Florida, thanks for being here tonight and staying up very late for us, but we needed to hear what you saw today on Columbia's campus. Thank you.

MOSKOWITZ: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And Bakari Sellers has a unique perspective on some of this. His father was a key figure in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He was actually shot during a college campus protest. He joins me live on that and his upcoming book.



PHILLIP: More now on the protests that are rocking college campuses. Bakari Sellers, CNN's political commentator, is here with me in the studio. He is the author of a brand-new book that will be on bookshelves tomorrow. "The Moment: Thoughts On The Race Reckoning That Wasn't And How We Can All Move Forward Now." This moment, Bakari, is not exactly about the race reckoning, not exactly about that, but it is about protests.


PHILLIP: And it is about kind of how the country deals with that. And your father was a key figure in stick (ph) in the civil rights movement. He was shot on a college campus. He was there for a major moment when student protesters were killed.


PHILLIP: So, how do you see this?

SELLERS: So, one, I think that anti-Semitism is on the rise and we have to quash that. There's no excuse for the anti-Semitism that we're seeing on Columbia, Yale, Harvard, you know, the campuses that we're seeing. But also, I mean, to Kathy Hochul, I believe is the governor's name here, to Eric Adams, for example, there's -- law enforcement and college students don't mix. There's really no reason for them to be on the campuses.

And so, for me, I think that there is a balance that has to be had. And Jelani Cobb, for example, Dean of the School of Journalism at Columbia, is doing a great job listening to students and trying to find a balance. I think a college campus is an exchange of ideas. But right now, what we're seeing is the ugliness and the ugly belly of what has become.

PHILLIP: Well, look, I wonder what you think about what Jared Moskowitz said, which is, he was basically saying if this were, you know, a protest that turned racist, and it was about, you know, black students being vilified and targeted because of their race, that the outcry would be immediate. Do you think there's any validity to that?

SELLERS: Yes, I think Jared -- Representative Moskowitz was on point today. I mean, I think he was actually accurate today. I think you've had a lot of people who have tried to make this a political statement. I think Eric Adams has tried to make this a political statement. I think that the governor of New York has tried to make this a political statement. They just have put optics in front of what the real issue is.

And what we're trying to do is have a conversation that is necessary because there are people who believe that the response to October 7th is disproportionate.

PHILLIP: Which is a totally valid point of view.

SELLERS: Valid argument, correct. And there are also individuals who recognize that October 7th should never happen again. And that, you know, negotiating with Hamas and negotiating with the people who do not believe you should exist is just, is a non-starter. And so, I think college campuses are where you should have that discussion. The problem is that there are a lot of outside voices that are infiltrating.

PHILLIP: A lot of yelling, not a lot of discussion happening. I do want to talk though about your book. And one of the key points of this book is this racial justice movement that was kicked off by George Floyd and --

SELLERS: We wanted -- we were hopeful.

PHILLIP: It was supposed to be that.


PHILLIP: And it was supposed to be a moment when maybe the country went into the next level on dealing with race. What has happened since then? Was it all for nothing?

SELLERS: I actually think that we've -- I don't know if it's all for nothing. I mean, I don't want to go that far. But I do believe that there was a moment. I was on with John Berman. I was on with Alisyn Camerota. And we talked about after Philonise Floyd and Ben Crump, we talked about where we were as a country. And I cried and I gave you my all.

And I wanted to believe that we were on the brink of change. And I think that what we're seeing tonight on the campus of Columbia, what we have seen in Arizona, what we've seen through legislation that's been passed, the attack on DEI, the messages you receive just by doing your job. I mean, Abby, you are one of the most brilliant, amazing, beautiful anchors that we --

PHILLIP: I didn't pay you to say that, but thank you.

SELLERS: No, you didn't. But I mean, just cash at me. No, but you are one of the most amazing people we have right now. And the attacks you receive because of the way that you look, the way that your hair is, the way that you raise your children, the way that we are trying to be better, I think is indicative of the fact that we've taken steps back and so that's why I wrote the book.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, and look, we have to recognize that these things are still happening. We can't pretend it's not happening, right? SELLERS: Right.


PHILLIP: And there's a sense in which some people want to do exactly that and pretend that there is no race so that we can move beyond race. But there's still definitely racism happening in this country.