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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

400-Plus Arrests At U.S Colleges As Campuses Lose Control; Trump Tells 30-Plus False Claims In Return To Trail Amid Trial; Trump Rails On Crooked Judge Hours Before Gag Order Hearing; CNN Opinion Columnist Shares Why He Wants To Leave America If Donald Trump Wins In November Polls; Police Standing By As Protests In UCLA Have Declared An Unlawful Assembly. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 01, 2024 - 22:00   ET



ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I just think I know that they did this act, but for the next 90 days, women still won't have access to reproductive justice. But the important thing is that they're doing it right now for politics because they don't want to lose the election.

What happens after the election? That's what voters need to pay attention to and keep that energy around for November.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: We'll see what it looks like, of course, the administration taking full advantage of it. Ashley Allison, Margaret Hoover, great to have you both here on set tonight.

Thank you all so much for joining us tonight. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Protests sweeping campuses across the country put President Biden between a rock and a hard place. That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Tonight, the presidential vacuum Donald Trump wants to fill and to exploit.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The radical extremists and far left agitators are terrorizing college campuses, as you possibly noticed. And Biden is nowhere to be found. He hasn't said anything. But they're his political base.


PHILLIP: Now, Trump's characterization of what's happening across universities from coast to coast is not the whole truth. But look for words from President Biden on what's happening on these pro- Palestinian encampments, on defending the right of these protesters to exercise free speech, on the need to protect Jewish students, police arresting some students. And you won't find much.

But what is unquestionably and politically painfully clear for the Biden campaign is that the problem shows no signs of going away. Tonight, CNN has obtained new body-worn camera footage showing the minute-by-minute view when officers entered Columbia University last night.

And we're also watching Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where officers appear to be arresting protesters on that campus. So, where does this all go next?

Joining me now to talk about this is Duke Professor Frank Bruni. He is a New York Times op-ed columnist and the author of The Age of Grievance. Frank, great to have you here, very timely subject for your book.

I want to start kind of with the big picture here, because we've been seeing these images from the schools. But what's beneath them is what I see as the strain of absolutism. What do you see and where do you think that that comes from?

FRANK BRUNI, PROFESSOR, DUKE: No, I think you're absolutely right. Some of what we're seeing is specific to the war in Gaza, right? Some of it is particular to the environment of a college campus. But I think a lot of this is about a larger culture in context and a way in which every disagreement in American life right now gets raised to or near the boiling point.

And that happens because the opposite sides dig in. Nobody really wants to understand where the other side is coming from. We confuse conviction and confrontation.

And then, as you saw in what Donald Trump was saying just then, you have various political actors come in to score political points, right? And they have no interest in calming the situation. They just want to exploit and inflame it. Right now, you have the right saying this shows an entire generation brainwashed by wokeness. And you have the left saying that this shows the dawn of an oppressive police state.

It shows neither of those things. But when you shout those complaints in the public square, you guarantee this is going to go on and get worse.

PHILLIP: Yes. I'm so fascinated by the pro-Palestinian movement in this country. I mean, of course, what's happening in Gaza is important and it's important to point out, when you have 34,000 dead, many of them children, that's notable.

But one of the things about the protesters is that they don't want to talk about the complexity of the long running issues in this conflict. And you talk about how you tell your students, it's complicated. Right now, there's an allergy to complexity. BRUNI: There's an allergy to complexity, there's an allergy to nuance. It is really complicated. This is a difficult situation. We cannot condone or be silent about anti-Semitism, right? That's non- negotiable. We also do protect the right to free speech. And when protests are peaceful, that's really important. There's a grand tradition of that, and that's an important American value.

Figuring out how to protect Jewish students and faculties, how to fight anti-semitism, but at the same time, how to protect free speech, that is not easy. So, we never say it's complicated. We never acknowledge it's difficult. What we're trying to do right here right now is difficult.

I also think it's important to say, although this is spreading and we just saw Dartmouth and where I live at UNC, there's a big problem right now. We haven't seen this at Duke. We aren't seeing this on every campus. This is not an entire generation. This is not every college campus. This is not America going crazy or whatever. This is a particular situation.

PHILLIP: Is it a little over indexed because, you know, maybe it's New York City, it's easy to see what's happening there?


Are we overfocusing on what's happening on these college campuses? And is that distorting our understanding of how widespread these sentiments are?

BRUNI: A little bit, yes, I think we're extrapolating from them and we're making comments about the entire country, you know, that are not entirely true. While they reflect a wider culture, they don't reflect the normal behavior of most Americans every day. We do not see most people behaving this way.

And, in fact, if you kind of look at what people are paying attention to on social media, a lot of people aren't nearly as dialed into this as Donald Trump would have you believe, or as Mike Johnson would have you believe when he came to New York and said, maybe we should call out the National Guard. That was not helpful. That's pouring gas on the situation, not trying to settle this.

PHILLIP: Speaking of Congress, today, lawmakers passed this bipartisan bill that defined anti-Semitism to include targeting the state of Israel. It's a fairly broad definition that even some Democrats pushed back on saying that it really chilled speech against the government of Israel. Is that kind of stuff even helpful in this environment? Is it performative?

BRUNI: Not something that broad isn't helpful. You used the right word. I don't know how we're supposed to interpret that and I don't know who's going to determine what is simply opposition to Israel and what's anti-Semitism. That's a really hazy judgment to make.

It is performative. Politicians are looking to appease certain constituencies. They do that all the time, but at certain junctures, that's very dangerous.

PHILLIP: On this issue of Zionism, anti-Israel, et cetera, Zionism has been around for a long time, right? I've noticed, especially looking at the posters, Zionism has become a descriptor for people as opposed to an ideology. That seems to signal how this has become kind of personal for these protesters in a way that it seems different.

BRUNI: It's personal and the whole thing is being waged in caricature, right? What you were just talking about is the death of nuance, the death of complexity. And I don't think we can afford that in this particular situation.

We can't afford it in a lot of situations. And it's one of the things that is really thrusting this country into a kind of dysfunction when it comes to civic discourse, when it comes to political debate, that I think is really dangerous.

PHILLIP: Does President Biden need to say something?

BRUNI: I think he needs to say a little bit more than he has said. But I think one of the reasons he's not saying -- some of it's just political caution, but one of the reasons he isn't saying something is because of something you said earlier, it's complicated. I think he's having a hard time figuring out how to weigh in in a manner that is constructive.

PHILLIP: Yes, especially given the pressures that he's facing from his own base, some of whom don't even want to talk to him about this.

Frank Bruni, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

And also tonight from the trail to trail, Donald Trump playing some of his greatest hits during his recess day in Michigan and Wisconsin. CNN's Daniel Dale will join me now to fact check. Daniel?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, there's a lot. He said Democrats rigged the 2020 election, did not happen. He said he won the 2020 election, absolute lie. He lost. He said today's Wisconsin rally was the first time he's publicly said he doesn't think the country will survive if he doesn't win in 2024. He's actually said that over and over again.

He said he's been indicted more than gangster Al Capone, who he said only got indicted once. In fact, Capone was indicted at least six times more than Trump. He said all of his criminal and civil cases have come out of the Biden White House. Zero evidence for that. He said Nancy Pelosi rejected his proposal for 10,000 troops on January 6th. Complete fiction. Pelosi never got such a proposal, wouldn't have had the power to reject it if she did. He said the January 6th committee destroyed all of the evidence. No.

He said he defeated ISIS in one month. In fact, ISIS's so-called caliphate was declared fully liberated two years into his presidency. He said nobody released for an immigration hearing, Abby, actually comes back to court. In fact, federal stats show a large majority do actually return. He said the economy is right now in stagflation. It simply is not. He said he left office with the price of gas at $2 and under. In fact, the national average was $2.39. He said cumulative inflation under President Biden has been 30 percent, then said it's actually 50 percent. In fact, it's about 19 percent. He said no other president has taken in 10 cents from tariffs on China. Actually, the U.S. has had tariffs on China since the 1700s.

He said the bipartisan infrastructure law signed by Biden was, quote, fake, extremely real. It's funded tens of thousands of infrastructure projects. He said he rebuilt the whole military. Defense experts have told me he did not. He said the Biden administration wants all- electric army tanks. The military is moving toward using other electric vehicles, but not tanks.

He repeated his abject nonsense that there are many cases where Democrats will allow executing babies after birth. That is infanticide, murder, illegal in every state, including those run by Democrats. He said every legal scholar wanted Roe v. Wade overturned and abortion returned to the states, not even close to true, as multiple legal scholars have personally told me.

He repeated his usual shtick about media outlets turning off their cameras as he criticized the media, again, pure fiction. He repeated his false claim that the Biden administration is trying to take away people's gas stoves, is not happening.


He claimed there's a Biden war on American energy. In fact, U.S. oil production is at the highest level, Abby, of any country, including the U.S., in world history.

He said he built 571 miles of border wall. Official federal stat show was 458. He said he ended Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline. No, Russia resumed the project after his 2019 sanctions. He spoke of NATO members having failed to pay bills wrong. NATO's defense spending guidelines do not create bills at all. He said that before him, the U.S. was paying 90 to 100 percent of NATO. In fact, U.S. defense spending was 71 percent of NATO's total.

He said he didn't think that before last month there had ever been a single month where zero manufacturing jobs were gained. In fact, manufacturing jobs were lost in numerous months of his own presidency, even pre-COVID, and actually lost over his entire presidency beginning to end.

He said that under the gag order on him in Manhattan, in the criminal case, he shouldn't even be talking to a rally crowd. In reality, that narrow gag order does nothing to prevent him from doing political rallies. He claimed Detroit had more ballots cast in 2020 than it has voters. Totally wrong again. He told a story about African and Asian countries emptying their prisons so prisoners can migrate to the U.S. Even his own campaign could not substantiate that to me. And, Abby, he said he's winning in every single national poll. He is not.

PHILLIP: You must have these memorized by now, Daniel. Thank you.

DALE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: All right. Now, here is a provocative question. Does Donald Trump actually want to go to jail? Because he is once again flirting with that line.

Plus, one of my guests says that if Trump wins this election, he'll likely leave the country for good. We'll discuss.

And a bizarre demand by RFK Jr. Hear about the pledge that he wants President Biden to sign.

This is NewsNight.




TRUMP: There's no crime. I have a crooked judge. He's a totally conflicted judge. So, I got indicted four times. Then I have civil trials, too, all coming out of the White House, everything, like a third world country.

And the good news is people get it. Most importantly, people get it. And my poll numbers are higher than they've ever been, I mean, higher than they've ever been.


PHILLIP: Well, that was Donald Trump railing tonight against his own legal problems and taking aim at the judge in his current hush money trial, the very same judge who has threatened Trump with jail if he continues to violate his gag order, and the very same judge that he'll see in just a few hours will hear arguments about these four potential new violations by Trump.


TRUMP: And what are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen did in the last trial? He got caught lying in the last trial. So, he got caught lying, pure lying.

That jury was picked so fast, 95 percent Democrats. The area is mostly all Democrats. You think of it as just a purely Democrat area. It's a very unfair situation, that I can tell you.

Michael Cohen is a convicted liar and he's got no credibility whatsoever. He was a lawyer and you rely on your lawyers.

And has been a very nice guy.


PHILLIP: That David he's referring to is David Pecker, who was on the witness stand last week.

Now, it's worth noting that Trump made all of those comments before yesterday's punishment.

Joining me now is CNN Political Commentator Jamal Simmons, former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey, CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp and a former New York State Assistant Attorney General Chris Staszak.

So, Chris, do these new comments reach the bar for Judge Merchan to say something, to do something?

CHRIS STASZAK, FORMER NEW YORK STATE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Based on what George Murtron already decided on the last gag order hearing, I think they do. But I think unlike in this case, a typical defendant who doesn't want to be held in contempt, a typical defendant doesn't want to go to jail while he's in his trial.

And I would defer to our political experts, but I think there's a part of Donald Trump that his diehard supporters, if he is incarcerated, it's probably red meat and he probably likes it. But a typical defendant would not want to be held in contempt.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To say the least, right?

PHILLIP: Because this is not a typical defendant, he knows he's probably not going to jail.

CUPP: He's probably not going to jail. When he talks about there's two-tiered legal system, he is right, he's just got it the other way around. He is doing stuff that anyone else would be in jail for the rest of their lives for, and he really still hasn't been held all that accountable.

But, politically, look, half the country has decided he is guilty of all of it. The other half has decided he is innocent of all of it. It's rigged. And anyone that's left is not paying attention. So, he's speaking to the audience that matters to him.

PHILLIP: Anyone that's left is on the jury.

CUPP: It's like they're on the jury that were not caring. So, he's speaking to the audience that matters to him, the MAGA crowd, the Fox crowd.

I tuned into Fox the other day, just for S's and G's. And they were just parroting everything he says. This is rigged, this is a witch hunt. This judge is crooked. It's like they want a gag order. So, he's got his audience completely with him on all this stuff he's saying.

BETSY MCCAUGHEY (R), FORMER NEW YORK LIEUTENANT GENERAL: Well, I think the ACLU is also with him on something very important, and that is that a gag order against a defendant violates our Constitution. The Bill of Rights --

CUPP: Oh, you sound just like Fox. MCCAUGHEY: No. I'm not used to doing constitutional history, and I'm speaking the truth. The fact is that the Bill of Rights was written to protect the little guy, the defendant, the accused, against an all- powerful government.


So, to gag a defendant and not the prosecution's witnesses puts the whole Bill of Rights --

CUPP: Are you calling Donald Trump the little guy?


CUPP: Oh, okay.

MCCAUGHEY: Yes, I am, because he is the accused. And the system of justice should work for any accused.

I'm telling you that all the Democrats here, if you took Donald Trump's name off this gag order and put somebody else's name on it, they'd be outraged that a defendant is gagged from defending himself when the prosecution's witnesses are going on television and on social media and making their case.

CUPP: He's not gagged from defending himself. He's gagged from attacking judges and clerks and witnesses, which any other person would be to.

MCCAUGHEY: No, that is not true. I just explained to you that the ACLU even says gag orders against defendants in cases like that are a violation of the Bill of Rights. It doesn't matter whether the defendant is Donald Trump or Joe Schmoe.

PHILLIP: So, if a regular Joe Schmoe is attacking witnesses in a criminal case against him --

CUPP: Judges and their families.

PHILLIP: -- what is the judge going to do?

STASZAK: Joe Schmoe is going to get in trouble, Abby. I'm going to go out on a limb. Yes, Joe Schmoe is going to get in trouble for doing that. You can't attack witnesses. You can't attack jurors is the most important thing.

So, there's a jury pool. There was a jury pool out there. So, that was the original concern with the gag order when the jury was being selected. Now, there's actually, obviously, a trial. So, gag orders are designed to protect jurors and other witnesses.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And we already saw a juror take themselves out of the jury pool because they were concerned about their own health after people began to figure out that they were on this jury. Listen, Donald Trump is not a typical defendant. We can't treat him typically either. I think what he knows is that he is not going to go to jail. And so you've got to find some way to try to corral him and keep everyone else safe.

And I will tell you, it is a troubling -- I've heard stories from people, particularly in Georgia, about prosecutors being followed, about witnesses to the case getting unsolicited emails and voice messages. This is a very tinderbox moment in the country, and we've got to do whatever we can to keep --

PHILLIP: Here's another way of looking at this. Donald Trump is trying to make a mockery of the legal system, the court system. He is succeeding because he is violating the gag order every day, and there is actually nothing that will be done about it.

So, I do wonder, what is the point of taking time from this trial to deal with these issues when the consequence is irrelevant to him?

STASZAK: I think the value is -- those are good points. I think the value, because it is the former president of the United States and unprecedented trial, I think in our country, in New York, every other state, you still have to follow the form.

And I understand in the end, if he's not going to go to jail, there is an outside chance. If he is going to be incarcerated, the judge has the option to wait until the end of the trial and punish him then, not during the trial.

But I think to your question, Abby, there's value in the sense that there's value to still believing in the process. And even though if he's not going to be incarcerated like I would or you would, it's still worth having the hearings and gathering everything on the record.

SIMMONS: Let me just say this because we are talking about the law, but let's also talk a little bit about the politics here. And I just think we started off here saying whether or not this is going to be helpful to his election prospects, there is just no way being incarcerated, being in jail is helpful to someone running for president United States. And if that's true that means the country has taken a really far turn than the one that we're off.

PHILLIP: I think he seems to like the threat of jail as something to rile his base up.

MCCAUGHEY: The Emerson poll that came out Tuesday had Trump ahead in all seven swing states. Now, that's just one poll. But it's amazing that he is stuck in a courtroom four out of five weekdays, an only campaign on Wednesday and he keeps going up in the polls.

I did want to take issue with just one thing my friend, Jamal, here said. He said, well, he's no ordinary defendant. I do believe in our system of justice. Every defendant is accorded the same rights. You don't make exceptions because somebody is a politician. You know, I think there were -- SIMMONS: But he's not getting the same penalties. Because anybody else would have already caught a brick on one of these charges, right? They would have already been either put in jail or had some other sanctions put against him.

MCCAUGHEY: Well, I disagree on that because I think we you'll find on appeal that those gag orders will return --

PHILLIP: Well, being held contempt -- Trump has been held in contempt of this court. Any other defendant, there would be consequences for that. But the judge is aware, is cognizant, that he's dealing with a former president. And jail right now is apparently not on the table.

CUPP: No, and I think that's because of who he is and the politics. And the judge doesn't want to wade into the politics of someone running for president and the appearances of that. And he knows Trump will use that.

But this is all still important.


What if we as journalists said, what's the point of covering him? Honestly, he doesn't care. And he lies. It's still important that we do that. What's the point of holding him accountable and putting him through the legal process even if he doesn't care about it and he makes a mockery of it? It's still important.

We can't go to where he wants to take it. We have to stay up here and hope that at the end of the day the checks and the balances work.

MCCAUGHEY: Well, there weren't enough checks and balances because, as you may recall, Letitia James and Alvin Bragg both campaigned for their jobs on a promise to get Trump. They didn't even have a crime yet, but they were already pledging to get Trump. That's not American.

PHILLIP: Everyone, stand by for me we've got more coming up.

I'll speak with the person who says that if Trump wins the election, he'll probably leave the United States for good. And he says that he's not alone.

Plus, we're also following the breaking news on college campuses where police and protesters are clashing across the country.

Stay with us.




UNKNOWN: I know everyone's always idly threatening this but I'm a hundred percent moving to Canada.

UNKNOWN: If any Republican gets elected I'm going to move to Canada with my entire family.

UNKNOWN: I'd meet the coming to your country if you let me in or Canada.

BRYAN CANSTON, AMERICAN ACTOR: It wouldn't be a vacation. I'd be an expatriate. Come and join me. I would I would definitely move.

UNKNOWN: If that mother (explicit) becomes president I'll move my black ass to South Africa.

UNKNOWN: My act will change because I'll need to learn to speak Spanish because I will move to Spain or somewhere.

UNKNOWN: The reason I bought my house in Whistler, Canada was I bought that house on FaceTime about three days before the 2020 election because I was really scared that Trump was gonna win again.


PHILLIP: No this is not the plot of "Handmaid's Tale". They all said that they would leave the country if Trump won but he did and they are still here. My next guest though is echoing that same sentiment but this time for 2024. David Andelman is considering making the choice to make France a country that he frequents, his permanent residence. David is here with us. Hi. So tell us about it. Why this time and not maybe the last time?

DAVID A. ANDELMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I've been going over there to France, living there for 44 years right now. I'm nearly 80 so you know it's time for me to really look at what America is and my concern is that it's, I'm a deep believer in America, I'm a deep believer in democracy, but my concern is that the American democracy that I've grown to love over so many years may not long, may no longer be the core of the American system going forward after November.

So I have to look at what is my alternative. My alternative for me is France and when I began writing this column for CNN this morning, you know the number of people I found who were really echoing the same sentiment, not only for France but all over the world, to Mexico, to Italy, to Greece, to Spain, to Portugal, an amazing number of people and even since the column ran this morning, this real estate broker we know very well in France who specializes in moving Americans to France, she got 45 requests for appointments.

PHILLIP: Since your column went up.

ANDELMAN: Yes, in my column this morning. Just this morning when it went up on CNN about 5 a.m. Eastern Time, since then she got 45 requests for conversations with people who want to move.

MCCAUGHEY: Make sure you get a commission. Well I can think of many Democrats who are gonna regard Donald Trump's election as good news and I'll tell you why. Democrats in big blue cities like Denver, Chicago and New York were so distressed with the impact of the migrant crisis on resources in their cities. You hear about it every day from them, especially in Chicago, very

outspoken against the open southern border and Donald Trump has promised to close it on day one. So not all the Democrats will be saying bye-bye. I agree with you, France's food can't be beat.

ANDELMAN: There's no question about that. We can agree at least on that. But you know there's a tremendous migrant problem in France, in Europe in general.

They have found a way of solving it that Biden, it seems to me, is really anxious to solve and not simply closing the borders and throw everybody out. That is not a solution that works for democracy.

SIMMONS: I'm not sure they found a way to solve it. I mean I spent a fair amount of time in France and if you talk about the migrants who are in the Benelux, the you know the suburban parts of Paris where they're kind of housed together in these you know tall high-rises like 1968 Chicago.

And so I'm not sure they feel like the problems been solved. You've also seen right-wing politicians, (inaudible) part of the world, come up and they say the grass is not always greener. And I'll tell you as an African American who's traveled the world, I don't know that I have the privilege of saying I get to go anywhere else because if you look at how people treat some of the migrants in their countries, particularly darker-skinned migrants who show up in those countries, they're not always so welcoming. I mean Italy hasn't been, I love Italy, but I think they're nice to me because I'm an American, not because I'm black.

Even places like the Dominican Republic where Haitians right now can't get into the D.R. Like so I think we've seen around the world it's not quite the same.

PHILLIP: But David, whatever happened to fighting for your country?

ANDELMAN: Well I will fight for my country.

PHILLIP: I mean I'm not talking about necessarily physically fighting, but I'm saying-

ANDELMAN: No, no, no. At 80 years old, nobody wants me to fight for my country.


That train has left the station. But no, you have to understand that I feel as deeply about America as French people do about France and so on. And the America I see is not the America that I really want to have going forward as my hometown, as my home country. But my son, for instance, he married a French lady, okay. He just got his 10-year carte de sejour, carte de residence, his residence card.

Today, actually, coincidentally. He is committed to France right now. But you know he goes back, he's a film director, he goes back to Hollywood a lot to work. But that's where he has made his home and he really believes deeply in that.

And I believe deeply in an America that I would love to see come back.

CUPP: You know, I mean we make fun of the Hollywood types because it's easy to. But there is something to be said. And I don't think it's Trump. But this country feels on a precipice. It feels on edge. And I say that as someone in the news. So I see it more, I think, than the average person.

And that's why I feel it more, says my therapist. But also, I mean, as a mom, mass shootings feel inescapable and inevitable. And I know statistically they're not. However, they are on the rise. And it feels scary. That's one issue among many issues that feel at a fever pitch.

I spent a month last summer in Belgium with my family. We had an opportunity to go for a month. And when I say the difference in just taking the temperature down, no one there cared about politics. Not our politics or even their politics all that much.

They had lives. They weren't worried about their safety. They weren't worried about their kids who they sent to run in the town square without adult supervision.

There is something that feels easier in other places.

ANDELMAN: I do feel safe in France.

PHILLIP: I do wonder about the catastrophizing on the left and the right. That on the right, there's a sense that the country is on a precipice.

CUPP: Yes.

PHILLIP: That Biden being reelected is going to be the worst thing in the world. And the only option on the right is to physically fight. That they're warning of World War III. Okay. So on the left, I mean, isn't this a different version of that? I mean, isn't the answer somewhere in the middle? To stay and to participate in the political process?

SIMMONS: Absolutely. Because the question is, let's say all of us have the opportunity to leave. What about everybody else? And so we all have families. We have friends. There are generations of people.

PHILLIP: Is it a little visual--

SIMMONS: The idea for me is, hold on for a second. The idea for me is, we all have to, like invest in making the country a better place and stick with it. Like stay and fight.

MCCAUGHEY: That's what we're doing.

ANDELMAN: But the brain drain, I must say, the brain drain is one issue that really does come up a lot when I talk to people.

They worry about what is going to happen if Trump comes in and the country does, you know, shred, if you will, the democratic fabric of the country shreds. Are we going to lose really a vast majority of our country that really we should be keeping? Much as Russia has been doing lately, the brain drain from Russia has been dramatic.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I think that's that would be obviously the consequence of all of this. David Andelman, thank you very much for joining us on that. And thank you to everyone else.

Stand by for us. Up next, why is President Biden on the sidelines when it comes to these nationwide protests? And is that hurting him politically? We'll discuss that.

Plus, RFK Jr.'s bizarre demand of Biden that would require him to drop out of the race.



PHILLIP: More on our breaking news, we're getting word that the protests on the campus of UCLA have been declared an unlawful assembly, which is essentially the final warning before police move in and take control.

The process are hitting a boiling point not just there, but across the country as well. And President Biden has been essentially radio silent on these tensions. Democratic State New York State Representative Zohran Mamdani joins me and the panel is back here with us.

So, State Representative, thank you for being here. Why have these protests gotten to this point of not just tensions with the universities, but the accusations of anti-Semitism, the violence in some cases? How have we gotten to this point?

STATE REP. ZOHRAN MAMDANI (D-NY): I think we've gotten to this point because for months students have been very consistent in their call, which is a call for the end of this war. They are concerned by the fact that more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and they've seen their universities as part of this war effort given the investments that many of these universities have.

And yet for many months their call has been denied, it has not been heard, it has been ignored, and we've gotten to this point here.

PHILLIP: Do you think at this point, just looking at these pictures here, UCLA, I mean last night's total chaos, especially on the West Coast, have we lost sight of the, I mean, the cause here that you were just talking about, which is what is happening in Gaza?

MAMDANI: You know, I think these students have actually forced many of us to reckon with what's happening there because for too many Americans this has been something that is actually getting out of view.

An example is that when students renamed the hall in Colombia from Hamilton Hall to Hind Hall, they were honoring a six-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in her car watching as her parents had been killed by the Israeli military prior.

And for so many Americans that was a name that they hadn't heard until these students made it one.

MCCAUGHEY: I think this is a, forgive me for saying, preposterous explanation for what the students are doing. The hubris involved in thinking that as Colombia goes, so will go Rafah.


That the Middle East is watching what happens on these campuses. It's just simply not true. In my view, these college students, and perhaps some outsiders, but mostly these college students, have violated what a university stands for.

Research, learning, civil discourse. It's one thing to express your concern about what's happening in Gaza. It's another thing to disrespect or shut out the microbiologist who can't get to his lab, who's working on cancer cures, or the law student who can't get to the library to finish his exams.

This is a university and people, other people at these universities, have rights whether they're concerned about Gaza or not. I think these students who refused to leave the big grassy area at Columbia days before they seized Hamilton Hall should have been expelled because they showed so little respect for the rest of the university.

PHILLIP: Go ahead.

MAMDANI: Well, the issue for me is that these students, in their actions, they were calling upon a tradition that's existed at Columbia for decades. In 1968, students set up these similar kinds of encampments to ensure that their call for an end to the war was being heard. So, this is not a new tradition. Rather, it's calling upon one of the older and greatest traditions in student discourse across this country.

MCCAUGHEY: May I just answer that and say, in 1968, when those students went into Hamilton Hall, it was before the era of computers, they emptied the files and burned the papers. Some of my colleagues at Columbia lost 10 or 15 years of research when those students did that.

Nobody's talking about the impact of that kind of damage to the rest of the university, but I was in the history department in the 1970s and there were professors there who had to start over on a book they had spent years writing.

PHILLIP: Jamal, I want to bring you in on 1968. I noted Roger Stone, of all people, he tweeted that in 1968, divisions in the Democratic Party opened the door for Richard Nixon to be elected, and he says, today, divisions in the Democratic Party over a war will open the door to Donald Trump being elected. Is there truth to that?

SIMMONS: It's something to be concerned about, for sure, for the Democrats to pay attention to. People who were around in 1968 on the left will tell you the country's a very different place. These are very different kinds of protests.

They're not as massive as they were in 1968. The country is much more used to seeing this kind of protest than they were in 1968, when back then this was something that was really sort of the first time these kinds of big protests had occurred.

I talked to my dad, who was an anti-war protester during the Vietnam War. One thing that he said that he would counsel the students who were in the middle of this to do, is they had to police some of the extreme elements that showed up at those anti-war protests. In his case, there were socialist worker party type folks who would show up and try to distribute things. They had to confront those people and move them out of the way, because they knew they were catnip for the media.

If you want your message to get out, if you don't want to get tied up into some of the more extreme elements like we're hearing about right here, which I do not think are indicative of the entire protest, the protesters themselves have to police that, which will help keep the law enforcement from having to come in and deal with those elements.

PHILLIP: Is there any validity to that, Representative?

MAMDANI: I think that it is critical that there be a sense of agreements as to what you are entering the space to, and what we saw at Columbia was they were very firm about the fact that if you enter this space, you enter a space with no hate, that there is no tolerance for acts of anti-Semitism or things of that kind.

What concerns me is that the real danger that occurred in that situation was when the police came in, many of them guns drawn, introducing a risk that previously had not existed on that campus.

CUPP: So in a lot of ways this is a complicated issue, and others it's very uncomplicated. You have on one side, people who deeply want to peacefully protest for innocent victims. That is a tradition, it's a grand tradition, and it's something that should happen on college campuses and in other places of intellectual thought. There's nothing wrong with that inherently. On the other side, you have people wearing Hamas headbands, hanging Intifada flags, calling for death to Zionists, and prohibiting Jewish people from getting an education. Those two things cannot coexist.

You can't be anti-war and anti-Semitic. You can't be peaceful and violent and call for violence. You can't have free speech and hate speech. Those things are separate, and I wonder where the adults are, parents, administrators, faculty members, to tell these kids your purpose is good, your cause is right, what you're doing is wrong and awful, and now you're shifting attention to the protection of Jewish students away from the protection of innocent Palestinians.


PHILLIP: In moments like this, Jamal, typically the country looks to the President of the United States to set the tone, to help us understand what's going on, typically. That doesn't seem to be on the horizon right now, but should it be?

SIMMONS: Well, there is talk of the President doing a speech next week on anti-Semitism and making sure that's still going to be addressed. The President does need to speak up and do this. We also know the President's going to be at Morehouse College for commencement on May 19th, which is where I went to school.

PHILLIP: Which could also be very controversial because there's a pushback from the faculty.

SIMMONS: Which could be a controversial thing. Maybe by then we'll have a peace agreement in place, which would make that a very different engagement, but he will have some opportunities to address young people, and I think we need him to do that, and to address the rest of us about what's going on. But I think we also, SC, we have to be able to have a free speech where we allow people to say things, even if they're uncomfortable, and even if they make us feel uncomfortable, and even if they're unpopular.

CUPP: What if they make us feel unsafe?

SIMMONS: Well, the question is, are they doing something that makes you feel unsafe? Because it's not, listen, I may not agree with all the things that the protesters are saying, but it's not, it's not their job to not make you feel uncomfortable.

CUPP: No, no, no, but please, I'm warheads on foreheads when it comes to free speech. I'm a journalist, but there is speech that makes you feel unsafe, and when Claudine Gay can't say, of course it's a violation of campus bullying and harassment to call for the genocide of the Jews, that sounds to most people like crazy talk, and it is a distraction from the message.

And to people who are, you know, can't bother looking me up online, I'm with an organization that's raised millions of dollars for the children in Gaza. This has nothing to do with those, you know, different factions or politics. This is common sense, and if we are ignoring how unsafe Jewish students feel, we are doing a huge disservice and adding to an already dangerous rise in anti-Semitism.

SIMMONS: If I were to say, if a protester were to stand up and say, we've got to eradicate Zionism, I may disagree with that, but eradicating Zionism is a maybe protected speech. If they say we have to eradicate Zionist --

CUPP: They say we have to kill them.

SIMMONS: -- then that feels like crossing a line to me.

CUPP: I agree.

PHILLIP: I do wonder, is that a line that's crossed when their speech, kill the Zionists, or even to say the Zionists are not allowed in here, in wherever you are. I mean, is that crossing a line? MAMDANI: I think language like kill the Zionists is crossing a line,

and I don't think that there is any room for anti-Semitism in our society or in our protests. And what concerns me is that that same belief in the fact that we shouldn't have that kind of hate present, oftentimes is not extended towards anti-Palestinian hatred.

We are thinking about UCLA, where just for the last few days, a number of pro-Israel protesters have shown up to those encampments with baseball bats, threatening genocide and ethnic cleansing on those students.

CHURCH: We got to go guys, but thank you very much everyone for a great discussion.

A new challenge from the independent presidential candidate RFK Jr. to President Biden. Face-off in a poll against Donald Trump. Loser drops out of the race. Does that make sense to you? Well, Harry Enten will join me next to explain what's going on there.



PHILLIP: RFK Jr. apparently thinks that President Biden is the spoiler in this election, not him. "The Independent" is demanding that Biden sign a pledge that by mid- October, the weaker of the two in the polls will drop out, while the other one faces Trump. But there are some problems with this logic, and CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten is here at the Magic Wall now to tell us exactly what that is.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SR. DATA REPORTER: What the heck is he talking about?

PHILLIP: What is he talking about?

ENTEN: What is he talking about? Look, here's the choice for president right now. We're looking at an aggregate of polling. We see a close race between Donald Trump at 41 percent, Joe Biden at 40 percent. Well, within any margin of error, right? Where is RFK Jr.? He's at 10 percent of the vote. Him calling on Joe Biden to potentially drop out of the race reminds me of when Ted Cruz named Carly Fiorina as his V.P. nominee back in 2016, when he was well on his way to losing the Republican nomination.

PHILLIP: Not to mention that this is a national snapshot, not even state-level polls. He's not even on the ballot in a lot of states.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. He's not even on the ballot in a lot of states. And I will tell you, in the states that he's on the ballot, it's not like he's polling really far north of this 10 percent. And more than that, why would Joe Biden want to make a deal with RFK Jr.? When you look at who RFK Jr.'s supporters say are their second choice, right? Who is RFK Jr. helping by staying in the race?

He is in fact helping Joe Biden because RFK Jr. voters say that their second choice is Donald Trump by a clear margin here. 47 percent to 29 percent in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. And this matches a lot of the polling that we've seen, where RFK Jr. supporters prefer Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

PHILLIP: Tells you everything you need to know, including why Donald Trump is the one who wants RFK to drop out of the race.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. And you know, it's not really surprising to me, right, that we see RFK at only 10 percent of the vote.

Because I want to go back through history, right, and just sort of say third-party candidates who got at least 20 percent of the vote.


Look, whenever you put Millard Fillmore on a slide, you know you have to go way back in history. Back in 1856, he was part of the Know Nothings of the American Party.

Teddy Roosevelt, progressive boomers in 1912, he of course actually came in second place. But the truth of the matter is, Abby, third- party candidates in this country, it may be entertaining, but they oftentimes really don't get very far.

PHILLIP: Yeah, they really don't go anywhere in the polls. Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

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