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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Turmoil Erupts At U.S. Campuses Over Defiant War Protests; Testimony Set To Resume, But Next Witnesses Remain Mystery; Abby Phillip Discusses With Political Experts Why Trump Remains Popular Among Voters; Hunter Biden Team Threatens To Sue Fox News; RFK, Jr. Kennedy Announces His Name Will Appear On The Ballot In The State Of California. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 29, 2024 - 22:00   ET


OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Among the, the Trump advisers that this had sort of disqualified her.


I think Trump was maybe right that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, but he could not have shot a dog and gotten away with it. People feel very strongly about animal protection in this country.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Indeed they do. And so do I.

NUZZI: And so do I, definitely.

COLLINS: I hope it lets anyone think differently. Olivia Nuzzi, thank you for always joining us on the most bizarre of headlines.

And thank you all so much for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow for special coverage of Trump's trial, 9:30 A.M. Eastern.

Right now, CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Echoes of the Vietnam era for this generation's protest movement. That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in New York. Tonight, America's universities are losing control of their campuses. Suspensions, arrests, tear gas, schools across the map are cracking down now on pro-Palestinian protests. But should they? Or, by doing so, are they setting a precedent that undercuts a fundamental American tradition and an American right?

Breaking tonight, CNN crews have witnessed dozens of arrests at the University of Texas, Austin campus where officers are apparently using force to take people into custody. Students from inside an encampment there are alleging that police deployed mace and other so-called chemical munitions.

Now, take a look at where this is happening. Well, just over the last two weeks, Columbia is the epicenter of this, and tonight the school announced that they are starting to suspend students who ignored a deadline to vacate that encampment. It echoes decisions to crack down from the past, from 1968 when Columbia uprooted Vietnam protests, and in the 1980s when campuses were consumed by students who were arguing for divestment from South Africa, to send a message that apartheid there must end.

Now, the tactics this time around in 2020 also don't approach those extremes of the past, even if the attitudes do. Back in the 1960s and the 1970s, those protests devolved into riots. Students locked themselves inside buildings. It ratcheted up until the tensions were ending in tragedy at Kent State, for example.

Now, the tensions here are not that high yet but universities are now preemptively choosing to crack down. And it's in part to make sure that things don't escalate. And partly, also, because of the truly vile, anti-Semitic things that are being said by some protesters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zionists, they don't deserve to live comfortably, let alone Zionists don't deserve to live.


PHILLIP: Look, if these movements want to be taken seriously, they cannot accept students and people who hold these opinions among their ranks. But the schools that they're attending are already picking sides. They are deliberately going against the grain of American history that is about the First Amendment. It's about your right to say something that the decision makers disapprove of.

Joining me now is Noa Fay. She is a Jewish student at Columbia. She believes that the university is not doing enough to protect Jewish students like her. Noa, thank you for coming in tonight.

You told the Times of Israel that I can't walk around my own campus looking visibly Jewish without preparing myself for the possibility that someone might spit on me or attack me. That's an incredible thing to say. What have you experienced? Have you experienced being physical threats to your safety over the last few months?

NOA FAY, JEWISH STUDENT AT BARNARD COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: So, my main experiences with anti Semitism occurred in the first semester, because that's when I really was quite outspoken, I would say. I ended up speaking in D.C. amongst other, you know, media opportunities and that resulted in a lot of backlash from my peers.

I'm an R.A. and in my dorm hall, my every single bulletin board of mine was ultimately vandalized with, you know, like pro-Palestine rhetoric, stop supporting genocide, cease fire now, all of these things that we've been seeing. More than that, my personal white board was also vandalized and on side chat, which I'm not on. But my friends saw many, many instances of threats of further harassment. People were banging on my door in the middle of the night.

PHILLIP: Were they explicitly anti-Semitic? FAY: In my opinion, yes. Because a lot of this rhetoric was claiming that I support genocide, simply because I support the Jewish state of Israel, and that I consider to be blood libel, absolutely.


PHILLIP: So, you describe yourself as black, Native American and Jewish. You've talked about how your feelings of feeling accepted on the campus changed after October 7th. What has that been like?

FAY: It's been really difficult. Again, I went through a lot of this grief process and primarily experiencing this issue in the first semester. That's when I learned that the community that I felt previously so accepted by, specifically because of my identities, all of this was actually conditional, and the one condition is my Jewish identity, which I assumed was also another reason why I was so uplifted, because the Jewish people are a significant minority.

PHILLIP: One of the things that your classmates will say is that they are protesting Zionism, which is specifically this movement to create, to develop, to support a Jewish state. Is it legitimate, in your view, to protest Zionism specifically?

FAY: Absolutely not. And there are many different ways you can look at this, but number one is that Zionism makes -- the Jewish people -- 80 percent of them identify as Zionist potentially more. I would have to check the statistics, but I know it is at least 80 percent, more than that though, I can't explain the 20 percent that don't identify with that, and I won't try to. But we know that Zionism, which is the Jewish right to self-determination in our historic homeland, is inextricably linked to our religion.

PHILLIP: Do you think it's synonymous effectively with being Jewish?

FAY: Absolutely. Absolutely, it is. But more than that, though, taking away the Jewish aspect of it, at least at Columbia, we do not protest any form of any person's right to self-determination. There's no other movement, there's no other self-determination movement that is protested that I've seen, definitely not at Columbia.

So, for this to be the only movement that is taken issue with amongst the students, and that it's the Jewish movement, it is inherently anti-Semitic.

PHILLIP: When you see your faculty members, professors, they today linked hands and arms, and they blocked the entrance to the encampment. When you saw that, what do you think of their position?

FAY: I am disgusted, honestly, if only because, again, the situation has gotten so out of hand that no matter how you look at it, even if we're taking out the political element, the anti-Semitic element even, it is just absolute anarchy on campus. And to see that faculty are supporting this and in a way that is at in this instance today, they were barring students who, in my opinion, you could consider them to be paying for these lawns, they're barring students from enjoying the resources that we all have a right to. So, that alone is just absolutely inexcusable to be seen from faculty.

PHILLIP: As I'm sure you know, there are Jewish students who are a part of the pro-Palestinian protests. You've compared them to blacks for Trump, gays for Trump.

FAY: Absolutely.


FAY: Yes, of course, it's fair. I mean, I, I say take them as seriously as we all take blacks for Trump and gays for Trump. And I think it's absolutely a fair comparison. It's the same thing tokenization that we're seeing. And in terms of our perception of them, that's absolutely how seriously we should take them. They don't represent our community and they've been tokenized.

PHILLIP: I wonder what you think is the balance for the university to strike at this moment between, I think you would support, which is an idea that protests are a legitimate form of freedom of speech or just a legitimate form of citizenship, frankly, in this country. And what you're saying is a strain of anti-Semitism. What should Columbia do right now?

FAY: I think Columbia needs to enforce their own codes of conduct, which we do have in place to deal with issues of harassment and discrimination and everything.

PHILLIP: So, police on campus, is that something that you think is the right step to take?

FAY: I think it's the right step to take if we're going to allow the police to do their job, which is to say, protect the Jewish students and, frankly, get the students on the lawns off campus so that, first of all, I and my friends can enjoy the resources that we help to fund, but also so that I as a senior can graduate alongside my peers.

PHILLIP: Well, you are graduating this spring.

FAY: That's the plan.

PHILLIP: And then Columbia says they're going to have commencement ceremonies.

Noa Fay, thank you very much for joining us. And even with all this turmoil, you are graduating, which should be a moment of celebration for you. So, I hope you get to experience it. Thank you very much.

FAY: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: The political impacts of these protests are undeniable, no matter where you stand on the issue.


BILL MAHER, HOST, REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER: Small matters when activism merges with narcissism, less about the cause and more about me.


Look at me, watch me, and if you like the way I'm fighting injustice, remember to like and subscribe.


PHILLIP: Joining me now to discuss all of that, Brian Stelter, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair. He's also the author of Network of Lies, also with us, CNN contributor Leah Wright Rigueur. She's an associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican, Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power, also with us as CNN political commentator, Reihan Salam, he is the president of the Manhattan Institute and a National Review contributor as well.

We need all three of you actually for this conversation. But, Leah, I want to start with you because both on the -- you heard what she said there about what she calls the tokenism of Jewish people in these pro- Palestinian movements, but also the history of protests on these college campuses, which goes way back. What did you think of what she had to say?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think that the idea of this being the equivalent of Jewish support for the pro-Protestant cause being akin to blacks for Trump is actually something that doesn't hold up under scrutiny. One, because the number of protesters, I think, that are directly involved in these kind of protests by far exceeds the actual number of black support for Donald Trump, even as we see that support rising in the polls.

What I do think that she's onto in this is this argument about Columbia University not protecting students and mass in terms of how they are handling this environment. There are multiple groups of students that don't feel safe. And this includes Jewish students, but it also includes Jewish students who are protesters. It includes people who are part of these encampments and students who have the right, who have a constitutional right to express how they feel to assemble and to be in these spaces.

Colleges are supposed to be bastion of expression of freedom, right? This is what the ACLU, this is what FIRE, they're all talking about when they were looking at Columbia and saying, absolutely the wrong response to crack down and have police wrap up these spaces.

So, yes, we're seeing a lot of that. But I think it's also true that we're seeing what is at the root of this is how the university has absolutely mishandled disagreement on its campus.

PHILLIP: What do you think has been, we just played that Bill Maher clip where he kind of -- he makes the point, it's not -- this is an oversimplification. It's not what they're protesting, but the idea that this has become performative. How do you think that the protests at this point are being received by the vast majority of the country that is not on these college campuses, that's not at the heart of this turmoil?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it seems awfully noxious. I think it seems like a group of young people who are entitled and behaving in ways that are incredibly dangerous. So, I respectfully disagree with Leah a bit in that I do think that some universities are getting this roughly right. The University of Chicago, for example, is saying that we're all for freedom of expression in an orderly way that allows people to learn.

When you look at the Columbia campus, when you look at the UCLA campus and a number of other campuses, what you have is really violence, intimidation, harassment that has become really systematic and really quite terrifying.

And if you're someone who's at home and you're watching this unfold, then I think that you're thinking a lot about our supposedly elite institutions, institutions that are meant to lead our society, that are meant to be exemplars of knowledge and truth seeking, instead descending into this chaos because you have university leaderships that do not have backbone, that have not actually demonstrated real viewpoint neutrality.

You have faculty members at Columbia who are cheering on students who are, again, just harassing, intimidating, threatening other students.

PHILLIP: I do want to -- I mean, what is happening at Columbia, I mean, we have a little bit more visibility there. But there is a sense in which, now, and I think this is part of the point we were trying to illustrate, is that there are a lot of protesters who are doing none of those things that you just described.


PHILLIP: And they're still being dragged off of the campus and put in handcuffs. So, both things are happening at the same time.

STELTER: This is happening across the country. And we're not hearing about all these other campuses where this is happening at the same time. I think it's right to criticize university leadership, but I think we should try to remain as free of judgment of the students as we can because many of us were students a long time ago. Students, it's a time for education. Education can be learned in a very hard way. Some of these students are getting a very hard, but very real education.

I don't think these young people mostly are seeking global media attention. Some definitely are, by the way. Some definitely are. And there have been some hateful slogans chanted. But there are a lot of students now caught up in this who are not seeking that attention, who are just with their classmates.

And, by the way, Bill Maher's right when he says that, you know, there's some narcissism that comes with activism.


But I think as a country, we're better off with more protests, not less, as long as the safety concerns are acknowledged.

SALAM: I just really think that the institutions that are getting this right are institutions that have articulated clear principles about what free speech looks like, and they're even handed in the application of those principles. And what we see, I think, are many institutions, Columbia very much included, where they're basically tolerating lawlessness. They're imposing supposed deadlines and then letting people brush right through those deadlines.

This is bad for the students. If the students get some clarity, if they get some real guardrails, that would actually be much better for them, but instead they're not allowed.

STELTER: Chicago was brilliant. Chicago said, you know what, an encampment, it is a form of force. It's a show of force, but that was an interesting framing.

RIGUEUR: But I actually think -- so there are some schools that are actually doing this right. Michigan State, for example, came out, president of Michigan State says, you know what, according to our rules, these encampments are illegal. However, if we shift the boundaries and we allow students to protest and we say, hey, all you have to do is get a permit, that changes it.

And part of the thing that we have to recognize is that the universities that are doing the best job on this are the students are the universities where presidents and administrators are actually engaging the students.

There's absolutely no reason why in the United States of America, when we are coming up on the anniversary of the Kent State shootings, that there should be police on college campuses, like on Emory, that are tackling professors and arresting them simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

STELTER: U.T. Austin will just cause more people to protest, violently grabbing these students, yanking them to the ground.

RIGUEUR: It actually increases opposition and the number of protests when you meet this protest with force.

SALAM: We don't know what they knew. We do not know what those law enforcement officials knew about. We do not know about the threats that they were made aware of. So, I would just urge us to be a bit cautious before judging them too harshly.

PHILLIP: All right. Guys, I'm going to have you stand by for us. We have a lot more to discuss.

Just ahead, does the absence make the heart grow fonder? What is behind the Trump nostalgia inside an alarming new poll for President Biden.

But next we'll speak live with a Stormy Daniels friend and fellow adult film actress about Daniels' upcoming testimony and how she'll do as a witness. Stay with us.



PHILLIP: Tonight, a mystery over who will be called to testify in Donald Trump's hush money trial. When trial testimony resumes tomorrow, will Stormy Daniels be called to the stand?

My next guest is a friend and colleague of Stormy's. In fact, Alana Evans says that she was almost in that room that night. Evans says that Stormy and Trump asked her to join them in Lake Tahoe, that Trump told her over the phone to come to party. Evans decided that she would eventually speak out publicly after the two initially denied that affair.

Alana Evans joins me now. Thank you so much for being here. I know that you've talked to Stormy in recent months, maybe not in the last few days, but how do you think that she's mentally preparing for her appearance at this trial?

ALANA EVANS, ADULT ACTRESS: Thank you for having me, Abby. Stormy is an incredible woman. She's been steadfast through this entire process. She's been very solid. So, honestly, I would imagine that she's ready for this. We have all been waiting for some sort of justice to come out of this situation. So, I would imagine that she's ready for it to go through.

PHILLIP: So, Stormy has been very vocal about how this whole saga has upended her life in horrible ways. What kind of witness do you think she will ultimately be on the stand?

EVANS: Stormy has been incredibly honest since day one, as soon as she was allowed to be, you know, once they dealt with the NDA issues. I think that Stormy is going to be a strong witness. At this point, I don't think anyone is denying the idea of what happened when we were in Tahoe. I don't think that people still believe that there's no truth. So, I think that Stormy has a lot of support with her time on the stand.

PHILLIP: I guess I have to say, Donald Trump does still deny that this happened. So, he's denying it. His attorneys will also be cross- examining her when she's on the stand, calling into question her credibility, reminding people that initially she denied this as well.

What do you think will be going through her mind when she's in that room? She's in a courtroom face-to-face with Donald Trump really for the first time since this affair.

EVANS: I think what's going to be going through Stormy's mind is this is the moment that she has to look him dead in the face and call it out for what it is and finally be able to put her voice to the truth in a way that we've all been waiting for.

I realize that Trump has continued to deny this, but I think so did Michael Cohen for a long time. Michael Cohen called all of us liars and we see exactly where Michael Cohen is now, standing on the side of Stormy supporting his role in this. So, I think there's a lot of players at hand and I think that justice will prevail.

PHILLIP: Would you have any advice for her?

EVANS: I think my advice for Stormy would just be to stay strong, take a deep breath and tell your truth.

PHILLIP: You know Stormy very well. You know this story inside and out. I mean, you were a part of it. But you've also said that this case ultimately won't hurt Donald Trump.


Are you talking about politically, in other ways? And why do you think so?

EVANS: In my mind, Donald Trump has fans. His supporters are fanatical. They don't care. They've made it very clear it doesn't matter what he says or what he does. They're going to stand by him. They're going to support him. And I think that the concern is they'll just continue to excuse this as lies. They'll continue to accept him for who he has presented himself, and it's not going to change their mind. And that's something everyone really should be concerned about.

PHILLIP: I heard you use the word justice earlier in one of your answers. I wonder, you yourself, an adult film actress, you're caught up in a situation with Stormy Daniels, a friend of yours, and a man who is now the former president of the United States. What does it feel like to you to be characterized in that way to the entire country while Donald Trump is running for president, and according to some of the polls is tied or maybe even winning?

EVANS: You know, since all of this came out back in 2016, it's been a very strange experience simply because, for us, it was something that happened. It was a story that happened with a man who was lifestyles of the rich and famous. He was from television. And he wasn't someone you would ever think would become president and moving forward to when he was inaugurated and when he took those steps as this news was coming out and being labeled a liar, being told that what I had to say didn't matter and that it wasn't true.

It was hard. It was scary. I stayed out of the limelight other than talking to CNN or the news. So, moving forward to now, I use the word justice because I am happy to see that with everything that stormy has been put through, all of the times that we have been accused of being a liar, it brings so much happiness to me to see that now the truth is all going to be put for everyone to see through this trial. And so I'm pleased that we're finally here.

PHILLIP: Alana Evans, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate your time.

EVAN: Thank you. PHILLIP: Voters are now seeing Donald Trump in a Manhattan courthouse hallway almost every day, but do they still miss him? The nostalgia some are feeling.

Plus, Hunter Biden is now threatening to sue Fox News. His attorney joins me live. That's ahead.




COLIN JOST, CAST MEMBER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": The Republican candidate for president owes half a billion in fines for bank fraud and is currently spending his days farting himself awake during a porn star hush money trial and the race is tied? The race is tied. Nothing makes sense anymore.


PHILLIP: Well, technically, it's not even tied, at least according to CNN polls. Donald Trump is leading the presidential race in general election polls and on the question of their preferences for the presidencies, 55 percent of Americans now say Trump was a success compared to 39 percent for Biden.

So, what's going on here? I mean, is it Trump nostalgia? My panel is back with me. I mean, there is a little bit of maybe not nostalgia, but there's amnesia that could be at play here.

STELTER: I call it trauma. I think there's short term memory loss as a result of trauma. But I do think -- I talked to Trump and Biden insiders over the weekend. I think Biden has the stronger hand for the following reason.

The Democrats have almost endless amounts of money to deploy to remind people about Trump's years, to remind people about the unpleasant memories, to make the amnesia go away. The amount of fundraising they're doing, right? The amount of money they're raising. They're going to be able to deploy that money. They've barely started yet. So, I think this is real right now, but I don't think it'll be real in the fall. I don't think that short term memory loss will last.

PHILLIP: I mean, the reality is that, that poll is so interesting to me because Americans did not feel that way when Trump was actually president. They did not.

RIGUEUR: But also we have to remember that there were something like, you know, 50 to 100,000 people dying, what, in a day, in a week. We were in the midst of COVID. We were in the thick of things. We were also in the middle of a one of the largest mass protests that the country has ever seen, right? The Movement for Black Lives, which had transformed itself into a voter registration act.

People were very unhappy with Trump and now they have had four years to forget about it. And one of the things that we don't really --

STELTER: And they get unhappy with Biden instead.

RIGUEUR: Right. And Biden has a lot on his plate, as well, that he has to be accountable for. But one of the things that we -- we have to remember about this country is that we have very short memories when it comes to presidents. It is very -- we can actually look at the data and we can see that when presidents lose -- leave office almost immediately, their popularity goes through the roof. Best example of this is George W. Bush, a hugely, hugely unpopular figure.


And within two years outside of office, people are starting to look at him and say, wow, I really miss George W. Bush. Really? One of the greatest economic recessions of that moment, the downturn of 2008 and you're missing him? And part of it is about the experience of being in it and then being removed from it.

PHILLIP: I want to play a little bit more from Saturday. This was the White House Correspondent Center. But this is President Biden. This is his message to the room that night.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: And you, the free press, play a critical role in making sure the American people have the information they need to make an informed decision. I'm sincerely not asking of you to take sides, but asking to rise up to the seriousness of the moment.

Move past the horse race numbers and the gotcha moments and the distractions, the sideshows that have come to dominate and sensationalize our politics and focus on what's actually at stake. And I think in your hearts, you know it -- what's at stake. The stakes couldn't be higher.


PHILLIP: So, look, he's not wrong about the real, what it seems to be, threat to democracy that Trump himself kind of puts on the table. But what did you make of that comment?

SALAM: Well, look, I think American politics is thermostatic. When Donald Trump was president, there was a reaction against his rhetoric on immigration issues, for example, and a great many other things. Democrats suddenly became way more supportive of NATO when Donald Trump was in office.

But now with Biden in office, what you see is very straightforward. He was above water in the polls until the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ever since then, he's been below water. He's been net negative since then. And that's continued to be true.

Now, it is absolutely true that President Biden and his allies are raising prodigious, enormous sums of money. The challenge is that to some degree, I think a lot of the public tunes that out. He has the support of a great many influencers. When you're looking at, you know, cultural luminaries, he has an overwhelming amount of support.

Whether he knows it or not, he certainly has a supportive prestige media, as well. But despite that, I think that, you know, one big issue is that, you know, post-COVID, you had the American relief plan, which sparked a massive surge in inflation. It seemed that that was abiding to some degree.

But then the most recent inflation print we have shows that actually there was yet another uptick in that. There are a lot of people who feel as though, gosh, I did not buy a home before 2020. Now, I am locked out of homeownership.

If you look at younger voters in particular, including younger voters of color, these are the folks who are attriting. These are the folks who are leaving Biden behind and have losing faith in them. So, all sorts of ads are going to be out there. There's going to be a deluge. But that is a fundamental problem for the president.

PHILLIP: Is it -- is it as Biden kind of suggested in that clip, the media's fault that this race is tied?

STELTER: It's complicated, right? Because people -- I look at that poll and I think people are remembering that the price of a coffee was cheaper four or five years ago, right? They're remembering the impact --

PHILLIP: The price of coffee has gotten higher.

STELTER: And the price of everything. There are understandable reasons why people look back and say, those were easier years on my wallet. I look at this, though, and I think to myself, who is waking up today and becoming a MAGA loyalist? Who is waking up today and deciding, I'm going to go to my first Trump rally?

The people who go to Trump rallies have been going for almost a decade now. He's not developing new supporters, new followers. Maybe some people will still vote for him in November, but he's not creating new support. So, is this partly the media's fault? It is absolutely partly the media's fault that Donald Trump gets a pass on most of the lies and crazy claims that he makes.

PHILLIP: I mean, is it so?

SALAM: I think he is gaining new supporters, by the way.

STELTER: You think he's gaining new supporters?

SALAM: I absolutely think he is.

RIGUEUR: I think he might gain a small portion of new supporters but that part of what we're not talking about is what is it that is driving people away from Joe Biden, right? And it's not simply a matter of they are flipping over to Trump and saying, hey, I'm joining the Trump train. But also that eight percent number, with that number, we also don't measure the number of people who are saying, you know what, I'm just not going to show up. STELTER: That's the big issue.

PHILLIP: That eight percent in the poll is unsure. They're not giving a preference.

SALAM: And that works for Biden because Biden does exceptionally well with voters who turn out for every single special election, primary, you name it, race for dog catcher. It's Trump who does well with the lower propensity voters. And now you have this very unusual, uncomfortable situation for folks on the progressive side, which is that they're depending on a low turnout election.

PHILLIP: Oh, look, that eight percent is, if you're a smart political operative, an opportunity, is it not?

SALAM: Well, for Donald Trump. It's not necessarily for Joe Biden.

PHILLIP: You don't think it's an opportunity for Joe Biden.

SALAM: Just look, because Joe Biden, when you're looking at those lower propensity voters, that's exactly where he's weakest. And I think that that's going to be a tricky issue for them. And it's a big adjustment because a lot of folks on the left have thought, hey, those are the voters we need to get to register folks.


We literally have "The Washington Post", you know, a progressive non- profit, you know, data analysts saying, guys, we can't just register voters blindly because guess what? You register those voters and a lot of them are going to be Trump voters.

PHILLIP: Fascinating, guys. Thank you very much, Brian, Leah, Reihan. Thank you very much. And up next for us, Hunter Biden's lawyer will join me live on why they are suing or threatening to sue Fox News for revenge porn.


PHILLIP: Tonight, a very public demand from lawyers for President Biden's son.


Hunter Biden's legal team is telling Fox to take down or stamp editor's notes on a raft of stories that relied on the allegations of a now indicted FBI informant. They're saying it's defamation and that Fox knows it. They also want the network to remove a fictionalized series about Hunter Biden that has featured sexually explicit images that Biden says were private, according to a letter obtained by CNN. Now, it's a very public step that accuses the network of breaking state laws against revenge porn.

Joining me now is Tina Glandian. She is an attorney at Geragos and Geragos, whom Mr. Biden is now hired to handle this Fox case. Defamation, when it comes to a news organization, is typically really difficult in our court system. And for good reason, why do you think this one will be successful?

TINA GLANDIAN, ATTORNEY FOR HUNTER BIDEN: So, this is not your typical defamation case. This is actually, if you read the letter carefully, it's more of a conspiracy to defame and paint in a false light. And why that's significant is when it's a conspiracy case, that actually eliminates a lot of the classic defenses something like a media organization would have against defamation claims.

So, that's what definitely sets us apart from other cases. And this is obviously so much more than just a conspiracy to defame. As you just mentioned, there's the fictionalized docu-series that Fox Nation has created and produced just for entertainment value. There's absolutely no newsworthy purpose to this.

PHILLIP: I wondered about that, though. I mean, if it is fictionalized, we all agree. You agree. They agree. And they have all the disclaimers saying, this is not real. This is essentially made up, I mean, because some of the things are literally made up. Isn't it just art? You know, I put that in quotes, but essentially.

GLANDIAN: No, because - so, you have pure fact, which would be protected. And you also have pure fiction that might be protected. But this is a very bizarre kind of marriage of the two. So, it's basically blending in fact and fiction in a way that doesn't allow viewers to decipher what really is fact and what's fiction.

So, if you watch the docu-series, you see some real life characters from kind of this, whether you want to call it the laptop saga, but these events that are actually occurring. And they play themselves, you know, they act as themselves as witnesses in the docu-series.

So, even though there's a disclaimer at the outset, you then see these real individuals portraying themselves. You see actual images of both Hunter Biden, the President, and other individuals that are involved with them. You see actual emails.

And so, they present a lot of factual information, but they distort it and they don't give the appropriate context. And then they have, you know, fictionalized dialogue surrounding it. So, for an average viewer, it's really impossible to know what is fact and what's fiction. And that is very harmful because then, the portrayal is perceived to be true, even though it's not.

PHILLIP: Was it a mistake, and does it hurt your case, that Hunter Biden's attorneys, not your firm, but the other attorneys involved in this case, claimed that this was the product, that laptop and the information on it was a product of Russian disinformation? They suggested that it was fake.

GLANDIAN: Well, and this doesn't actually say anything to contradict that. I mean, I'm not going to comment --

PHILLIP: It purports that these images are real, that the information that comes from the laptop that is in these Fox reports are real.

GLANDIAN: No. So, these are referred to as hacked, stolen, and or digitally manipulated material. So, certainly, nobody could dispute that when you when you see these images, it depicts Hunter Biden. Now, the source of that, again, that has no bearing on the fact that Fox Nation is improperly using that to commercially exploit Hunter, both for monetary gain just from the series, but also to humiliate him and, you know, to maliciously injure him by using images which they know are not with his consent.

PHILLIP: And just to be clear, I don't want to belabor this, but for clarity's sake, the position is still that some of these images or information from that laptop is digitally manipulated?

GLANDIAN: Nothing in our letter takes -- yes, the position that we have taken, which is that these images clearly depict Hunter Biden and they're explicit images. And these are exactly the type of images that the state, I mean, almost every state at this point has what has been labeled as revenge porn laws. And New York State enacted these in 2019.

There's both a criminal component and a civil component. And it protects exactly this -- images depicting an individual that are intimate, sexually explicit without that person's consent. And that's exactly what this is.

PHILLIP: So, who are the worst offenders, in your view, at Fox who are responsible for this?


GLANDIAN: So, there was obviously Lev Parnas' congressional testimony last month and which was really explosive, we thought. And he detailed this BLT team, which included media personalities. And it was in concert with Giuliani and others to basically spread this false narrative, knowing that it was false.

And they would have these meetings. The reason it's titled as the BLT team is they were having these meetings at the BLT Steakhouse at Trump's hotel in D.C. at the time. And these were strategy meetings that they were having there to see how they could spread this information. And one person from -- he said this involved a lot of Fox news personalities, but he named Sean Hannity. So, that's one person that Mr. Parnas implicated last month, which was interesting.

But part of what this letter really does is it's a preservation demand so that they -- so, Fox doesn't destroy any of the critical internal communications, emails, text messages, as we saw in Dominion. That's critical to seeing their state of mind and that they knew what they were doing was wrong and they did it anyway.

PHILLIP: There's a retraction demand. But if that is met, are you still leaving open the door that there could be a suit here?

GLANDIAN: Absolutely.

PHILLIP: For monetary damages.

GLANDIAN: Sure. So the letter, again, includes various different claims. So, part of it is the retraction demand. There's the debunked bribery allegations that the indicted Smirnoff was peddling. And now those have been proven to be false. So, that's one component of it.

We want them to correct the record as to that. We want them to take down the mock trial of Hunter, trial of Hunter Biden from all streaming platforms. And of course, we're seeking monetary damages.

PHILLIP: All right. Tina Glandian, thank you very much for joining me tonight. And up next for us, Donald Trump and RFK, Jr. Their friendly relationship is now turning sour. We'll look at how it went wrong for all of that next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the 2024 election feud that you're suddenly reading a lot about. It's Donald Trump versus Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Now, consult the Google and you will get a slew of headlines sketching out the bad blood between the former president and the conspiracy mongerer with the famous last name.

"The New York Times" -- Trump turns on RFK, Jr. "Politico" -- Trump rails against RFK, Jr. "The Hill" --Trump, RFK, Jr. feud heats up. "Salon" -- RFK is now openly gunning for Trump voters. So, what happened here? At one point, they were mutual admirers. It was in their self-interest, of course. And now, well, you can really measure the tone shift in Trump's words. So, let's go back to the start or close to it. Last summer, June 2023, former President Trump basically admitted that he kind of had a political crush.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will say RFK, Jr., who I've known not very well, but I've known for a while and I respect him. A lot of people respect him. He's got some -- some very important points to be made. No, he's a respected person.


PHILLIP: Trump, he quoted Kennedy on his Truth Social with a glowing review of his debate skills that included one of Trump's favorites, a Lincoln comparison. Trump was also so intrigued that he reportedly whispered with his advisers about bestowing RFK, Jr. with a vice presidential nomination. Now, RFK says Trump's emissaries actually reached out about a phone call on that topic. Trump now denies it. But even before the he said, he said back and forth, you could hear the signs of breakage. Listen.


TRUMP: They say he hurts Biden. I think I'm not sure that that's true. I think he probably hurts both. But he might hurt Biden a little bit more. You don't know.

(END AUDIO CLIP) PHILLIP: Then there was this. It was clear that Trump was struggling to sort through his feelings just this month.


TRUMP: RFK Jr. is, as you know, the most radical left candidate in the race. He's more so than the Green Party. He's more so than even crooked Joe Biden. But he's got some nice things about him. I happen to like him.


PHILLIP: That's quite the vibe shift. Trump torched Kennedy on Truth Social, labeling him a Democrat. He put there that to help the current president win another four years in office. And RFK, he didn't try to spare Trump's feelings when he wrote this, calling Trump frightened, unhinged, barely coherent.

So, why now? Why have these two suddenly gone from potentially celebrity political couple to plain enemies at this point? Well, the polls like this give us a clue. Quinnipiac last week, it says Trump and Biden are now tied. And RFK, Jr. is lurking right there at 17 percent.

In Trump's words, he suggests that he thinks a lot of that 17 percent is actually stealing from his vote share. Now, again, the Truth Social post spells it all out. A vote for Jr. would essentially be a wasted protest vote, Trump writes, that could swing either way, but would only swing against the Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him -- him being RFK Jr. Now, if you think the problem will just go away, Trump may evolve again.


Kennedy is proving there are new reasons why it won't. He just announced tonight that his name will appear on the ballot in the state of California. Thank you for watching "NewsNight" tonight. "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.