Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

President Biden Speaks With CNN About Pausing Arms Shipments To Israel; Biden Defends Economy To CNN, We've Already Turned It Around; Georgia Appeals Court To Review If D.A. Willis Can Stay On Election Case; Presidential Contenders Biden And Trump Are In A Close Deadlock If RFK Jr. Is Included In A Latest Poll; Students In Limbo As FAFSA Rollout Might Be Derailed Soon. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 08, 2024 - 22:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt hopeless. I wanted to take her to the hospital. I was trying to stop the bleeding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oscar Pistorius tried to save her. Others there tried to save her, but there was nothing that they could do for her.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Be sure to watch How It Really Happened, Oscar Pistorius, The Blade Runner, this Sunday at 9:00 here on CNN.

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

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: It's just wrong, the president of the United States drawing a red line in Israel's war in Gaza. That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Tonight, a CNN exclusive, Joe Biden sending a message that will echo across the globe and rattle the normal order of things inside of the Middle East, the commander-in-chief making an admission, and a promise. The admission, that American military might has been used to kill civilians in Gaza.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: I know that you have paused, Mr. President, shipments of 2,000-pound U.S. bombs to Israel due to concern that they could be used in any offensive on Rafah. Have those bombs, those powerful 2,000-pound bombs, been used to kill civilians in Gaza?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers.


PHILLIP: And the promise that should Israel flaunt a Biden demand to stay out of Rafah, instead of just stepping on the hose that allows U.S. military aid to flow to Israel, Biden will turn off the tap all together.


BIDEN: I made it clear that if they go into Rafah -- they haven't gone on Rafah yet. If they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, to deal with that problem. We're going to continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently. But it's just wrong. We're not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells used that have been used.


PHILLIP: The president's handling of the Israel-Hamas War remains a thorn in his campaign's side politically, but there is another persistent problem, a stumbling block for the president, as he heads into this November election, and that is obviously the economy. The president again tried to refocus the conversation, pivoting away from how Americans might feel to how he believes that they should see the choice that they face this November.


BIDEN: He's never succeeded in creating jobs, and I've never failed. I've created over 15 million jobs since I've been president, 15 million in three quarters' years. And secondly, Microsoft is a serious player, and they're very much engaged in making sure that they pick this area as sort of the home base for their A.I. initiative in the nation, and they're going to do it.

And just like -- and, by the way -- well, I shouldn't go into it, but Trump is -- he started off with a golden shovel.


PHILLIP: I want to start with former Biden and Obama adviser Jay Carney. Jay, good to see you.

Look, tonight on the big news on in the Middle East, Biden says he's going to stop shipments of U.S. weapons to Israel if Netanyahu does go forward with this major operation in Rafah. That is a pretty big step, given that typically, especially in times of war and conflict, that has not been the United States' response. How significant is this threat from the president tonight?

JAY CARNEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Abby, thanks for having me. I think it's a very significant threat. And it's a reflection of the fact that he has tried everything else. He's gotten on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He's urged him, controlled him, you know, attempted to persuade him to desist from launching a full scale invasion of Rafah. And given the early signs that they were preparing, that Israel was preparing to do just that, I think he clearly saw this as using the most significant leverage he has, which is to at least slow down the flow of weapons to Israel from the United States.

It's not completely unprecedented. President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush also put a hold on the sale of weaponry to Israel at different times in their administrations for different reasons, but it is a major step.


PHILLIP: Yes. And, look, this war in Gaza has been one of the most politically challenging issues. It has really divided the Democratic Party. But this is a major shift for President Biden. I mean, he really resisted getting to this point. It's a result of all this political pressure, I think you would agree.

So, does Biden need to go even further? I mean, Bernie Sanders earlier tonight said this was great, but he wants to see more, too. Do you think that the base is going to keep demanding more until he does even more on this issue?

CARNEY: Well, I think there will be people in the Democratic Party, both elected officials and rank and file members, who want to see more and want to see stronger assertion of our leverage against Israel. But I don't think it's for that reason that he's principally doing this. I think he has long been a supporter of Israel throughout his entire political career, one of the most stalwart in Congress when he was in the Senate, and certainly when he was vice president.

And he feels that the actions that the Netanyahu government is taking right now are actually damaging to Israel in the long run, hurting its relationships, not just with the United States, but with the allies in Europe and in the region. And I think he fears very much for Israel's future if those relationships are so seriously afraid that they lose allies in the future.

And that includes the United States not losing us as an ally entirely, but if you, if you harm that relationship to the point where we can no longer have any kind of persuasive power with the prime minister, I think the risk becomes pretty profound in his mind.

And he comes at this from a place, and I know from having worked for him, you know, where he deeply believes that the United States must continue to support Israel, but not in a circumstance like this and not unconditionally.

PHILLIP: We were just playing his comments on the economy, which is really domestically the biggest issue for him in this election, but I noted there's a Quinnipiac poll out today. It shows Biden actually leading Donald Trump among registered voters in the state of Wisconsin, a battleground state, 50 percent planning to vote for him over the 44 percent for Trump. This is a little different from what a lot of polls have shown suggesting maybe things have stabilized for him. What do you think is happening here? What are the trends in your view showing about where this election is headed as we go into the summer?

CARNEY: Well, I think two things. This is a state that has been incredibly close for a long time. Donald Trump won it by less than 1 percent in 2016. Joe Biden won it by less than 1 percent in 2020, and it will probably be a low single digit race an outcome in this cycle.

So, you know, these polls, really, as you know, Abby, you know, sort of measure the margins pretty narrowly. I think it is a positive sign, though, and I think it's a sign that voters are beginning to focus on the reality of the choice as opposed to the, you know, hope that there might be a different option, both in the Democratic and the Republican Party, that some members of those parties have felt.

And I think that, ultimately, elections do tend to be decided by economic factors, not just how voters feel now, although that's very, very important, but how they feel the candidate might do in the future. And there's reason to believe, and certainly evidence that Biden can point to that shows he has done a lot for, you know, workers in America for, you know, manufacturing in America. And I think the Microsoft announcement today in Racine was a big deal for that state, especially in contrast to what President Trump tried to do with Foxconn in Wisconsin and that failure.

So, I think it's a good day. It's one poll, but it's certainly a positive sign for the campaign.

PHILLIP: I'm sure they'll take it. One poll, one good poll day by day, I think, is really probably their approach.

CARNEY: But in a really key bellwether state.

PHILLIP: Yes, a very important one.

CARNEY: We watch Wisconsin closely for a reason, yes.

PHILLIP: Jay Carney, great to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight.

CARNEY: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And President Biden's Trump visit to Wisconsin today wasn't just about his own record on jobs and the economy, it was also about how it compares to Donald Trump's. Listen.


BIDEN: He's never succeeded in creating jobs and I've never failed. I've created over 15 million jobs since I've been president, 15 million in three quarters' years.


PHILLIP: I want to now bring in former Republican Congressman Ken Buck. Congressman Buck, that's a pretty bold talk on the economy from the president.


Some of it is political, but, generally, he's pointing to a true trend. He has created more jobs than Trump. Isn't that something that you think voters ought to factor in as they go into November's election?

FMR. REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Well, I don't think there's any doubt that President Trump had a stronger economy pre-COVID than President Biden has now. Even the CNN website talks about how that statement by President Biden is misleading because he's comparing his job creation coming out of COVID with President Trump's job creation or lack of job creation -- job losses during COVID. So, it is a misleading statement.

And I think what voters are going to decide on are the very pocketbook issues, when they go to the grocery store, when they go to the gas station is. Are they better off now than they were four and a half years ago?

PHILLIP: Yes, and I want to get to that. But on the visit to Wisconsin today, one of the big reasons that he was there was to create this contrast. I mean, Trump did promise, you know, some 13, 000 jobs at a Foxconn plant there that never materialized. That too is something that they are going to be reminding voters of as well.

Why are voters supposed to believe that anything different might happen in a second Trump term compared to what he promised and failed to deliver when he actually was president?

BUCK: Well, I think what the voters see right now are a lot of people coming across the border that are taking jobs and lowering wages in America. They're seeing a president who is not taking on China for the intellectual property that China steals or not taking on China for the trade violations that China engages in. So, I think those are issues that voters will look at when they look at these two candidates.

PHILLIP: I want to go to what is happening on the Hill tonight. In Congress, the speaker was facing another threat to his speakership. He survived it, but Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene putting up that resolution. What do you make of her willingness to do that despite Speaker Johnson spending quite a lot of time trying to talk to her, trying to work with her? Some of your colleagues said they were surprised. Were you surprised?

BUCK: I wasn't surprised at all. I think she had boxed herself and she's been talking about filing this motion to vacate for so long that she had to come through and file it. It was a huge victory for Speaker Johnson. He received a lot of support from the minority party. He received a lot of support from his own party. And I think it was clear that the job he's done in keeping government open and the job that he did in making sure that the Ukraine funding bill passed were appreciated by folks in Congress. And I think Marjorie represents a very small, very small, marginalized fraction in -- or faction, I'm sorry, in Congress. PHILLIP: So, notably, former President Trump sent out a message on Truth Social urging to kill the motion to vacate, but he did it after the vote had already happened. So, he weighed in when it didn't really matter at all.

But here's the important point. He, he says, not at this time. He really left an open door to this happening again, and Marjorie Taylor Greene took that to mean, I'm going to try it again. She essentially said that tonight.

Is President Trump, in your mind playing a constructive role here in the Republican Conference as they're dealing with all of this internal turmoil?

BUCK: I think President Trump is distracted right now, and I'm sure he is trying to maintain his presence on social media and the campaign trail. But the reality is that Mike Johnson is in a very strong position as a result of what Marjorie did. I think that Marjorie Taylor Greene helped Mike Johnson with this move because he now can point to a very successful vote to keep him in office. I don't think that President Trump influences most members of Congress in, an issue like this.

PHILLIP: Anymore? Because there was a time when he did.

BUCK: Well, when he's president, he certainly can go out and campaign and raise funds for candidates. Right now, folks are worried about their primaries. They're focused on the general election in their own district. And most Republican members in the House outperformed President Trump in their own district. So, there is very little coattail effect from President Trump on the Republican side in America.

PHILLIP: Former Congressman Ken Buck, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate it.

And up next, Trump's legal team getting yet another court delay, this time in the state of Georgia. We're going to discuss all of that with our legal experts.

Plus, high school students and their families are now in the lurch, unsure if they're going to be able to afford college thanks to a botched rollout of a key financial aid form.


We'll have an update on that.

And The New York Times reports that RFK Jr. battled a brain-eating worm. What that means for his health.

You're watching NewsNight.


PHILLIP: If this ultimately was Donald Trump's plan, it seems like it's working. The former president's attorneys have delivered the former president with yet another win. This time it's in the state of Georgia where an appeals court agreed to hear arguments that may obliterate any hope that he goes into trial in that jurisdiction this year.

Here to help us understand all the crisscrossing Trump cases, former New York Assistant Attorney General Adam Pollock and CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen.

So, in this Georgia case, they're taking up the issue of whether or not Fani Willis has to be taken off the case essentially because of alleged conflicts that she has.


The appeals court says they're going to take it up. Was that the right decision, you think?

ADAM POLLOCK, FORMER ASSISTANT NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that the decision in the first place to appoint somebody as a special prosecutor who she had a relationship with was a mistake. It was a mistake. It was an own goal. It shouldn't have happened. Here we are, and it doesn't affect the case at all but it really affects the optics of the case. It seems to me that it's not surprising that the appellate court is taking it up and will stall out the case even more.

PHILLIP: If they do rule that she has to be taken off of it, or even just with the burden of all of this hanging over the case, is it even possible for someone else to take this case to trial? I mean, does it have to be Fani Willis at this point?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It would be very challenging, Abby. at this point in the case to hand it off to another prosecutor. You could find someone in Georgia to do it. But remember, all we have now is a clear lack of a legal conflict for Fani Willis. She's very likely going to win this battle. The appellate court has said they're going to look at it, but there's no stay in place so you can continue moving the case forward.

It's daunting to think about launching this case against a former president. I think it's unlikely to go in 2024. But it's not 100 percent foreclosed, so we need to let it unfold.

This much is for sure, I agree with Adam, the relationship was far from smart, it was the right call for Wade to go, but there really is no basis for her to be conflicted out of the case. And so the appellate court may say, no, we're not staying things and they can continue to move forward.

PHILLIP: But still, three out of the four cases now really in a place of almost standstill. It really suggests that none of those cases, except for the one that we are currently living through, is going to get to the finish line or even close to it by Election Day. I mean, is that the reality that people need to have sink in right now?

POLLOCK: It's absolutely the reality. These cases are not going to move forward. The Georgia case is not moving forward. The Florida case is not moving forward. The D.C. case is not moving forward. None of those cases are going to happen, I believe, before the election. D.A. Bragg's case here in New York is the only case moving forward this year.

PHILLIP: Justice delayed, justice denied. I mean, even for Trump, I mean, he will have this hanging over his head. I think this is ultimately a P.R. win for him. He wants to just not have verdicts, but this is going to be now hanging over the entire country for God knows how long.

EISEN: Two things. First, it places even more importance on the 2016 case, which prosecutors allege is an election interference case. They claim this same pattern of voter deception to grant the 2016 case here in New York. The prosecutors say it's deceiving voters to grasp power and cover it up, similar pattern to the 2020 election interference. It makes this case more important.

I've been there in court every day, as you know, prosecutors are not arguing this is a hush money case. They're not arguing it even primarily as a documents case. They're saying what were those false documents covering up? Campaign and election conspiracies. This was an assault on our democracy.

I'm watching the jury. It puts the jury on the edge of their seat. So, this case becomes even more important as a function of delay and I wouldn't write off the Supreme Court if they apply the same schedule that they've applied to other important democracy cases, watch the date, May 20th, that's the amount of time in the 14th Amendment case, from argument to decision, it's in their hands.

This case could still move if the Supreme Court treats it like they do other important cases. If they slow roll, then they're complicit in that delay that you're so right, hangs over the country and calls into question, whether a wealthy and powerful defendant can stall justice.

PHILLIP: It also calls into question whether the judicial system is operating the way it ought to be in this really critical moment. I mean, the American people deserve answers and they're not going to get them in a lot of cases.

POLLOCK: I think that's right. And, unfortunately, these cases have reached a trial or near to trial in an election year. The reality, I think, is that complicated, complex criminal trials take time and are hard to rush into a cycle that's driven by the election. This is the reality, and Trump is taking full advantage of that and trying to stall and delay it every turn he can, much like any other criminal defendant would, but, of course, much more is on, at stake here.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, anytime you're dealing with a former president, it seems you're getting into complex territory that the courts have to sort out really for the first time.

Adam and Norm, you guys are going to stand by for us.

[22:25:01] We have more. Stormy Daniels will be back on the witness stand tomorrow in that hush money trial. We'll discuss what to expect as she takes the stand once again.


PHILLIP: Tomorrow, Stormy Daniels takes the stand once again. She will start under cross-examination from the former president's attorneys, and then the prosecution will have an opportunity, perhaps, to address some of what legal observers called a glaring miscalculation in their presentation of evidence and what they allowed her to say on the stand yesterday.

My panel is back with me. So, Norm, what we're hearing is that the defense had initially planned to not spend too much time on Stormy, and they changed their mind. They thought yesterday went really well for them. Is that a miscalculation on their part?

EISEN: I think it is a miscalculation.

I believe that part of what goes into that is the former president was visibly angry. He was chastised by the judge for speaking in tones that the jury could hear and gesticulating.


And he may have instructed his attorneys, and Abby, it's not always good lawyering to badger a witness. They've scored the points that they need, that she has a financial motivation, that she has not been fully forthcoming or honest about this in the past, that she hates Trump.

They made those points. They don't need to make them again and again and again with her.

And they risk alienating the jury. I thought she was very, we talked about this yesterday. I thought she was very good on cross, better than on direct. She stands up for herself. She threw out her script. People could see her real personality.

PHILLIP: Shorter answers, crisper responses.

EISEN: She was much better. So they may just be making their own situation worse if, in fact, the former president has said, hammer her.

PHILLIP: But maybe the calculation is also that they, maybe she was stronger in terms of how she came across. But what she had to say, the most notable of which was that she hates Trump. She wants to see him in jail. They think perhaps that there's more they can get out of her on that. What do you think?

POLLOCK: I think that they think she's biased. She is a biased witness. She wants to see him in jail. She doesn't like him. They're going to want to take that and a hundred other places where they're going to say her story has changed or they'll try to show that her story has changed, that she's an inconsistent witness.

And at the end of the trial, they'll try to line up a sort of a cast of not so nice characters, a little bit sleazy characters, and say that they're all problematic witnesses. They can't be trusted. So I think she's just one in a row of witnesses that the defense is trying to paint as problematic.

PHILLIP: I mean, she is the first course. Because what's coming after, we all know, is Michael Cohen. And if we think that this was dramatic and there was a lot going on with Stormy Daniels, I have a feeling it's going to be a lot worse with Michael Cohen. Do you expect to see both the defense and the prosecution, when it comes to Michael Cohen, learning some lessons from how Stormy Daniels went?

EISEN: I do. I think you'll see a more crisp presentation by the prosecution. The questions were really, were not as tight as they needed to be on that direct examination. It improved over time.

And the defense is going to come after Michael Hammer and Tonks. He was my first witness when I investigated these identical allegations for the first impeachment of Trump. I spent days with him. His story has never varied from that first time I talked to him about these issues at the beginning of 2019. Expectations are low.

I think he will, like before a presidential debate, when both sides want their expectations to be low for their candidate, I think he will exceed expectations. He's genuinely remorseful. But that is going to be a very historic cross. That is going to be a cross-examination for the ages in what I think is shaping up as the trial of the century.

PHILLIP: I mean, it might be the very one trial that we have this year. And Michael Cohen is the star witness. He is someone who has been proven to be a liar, convicted of that. He has a clear vendetta. He has a book called "Revenge". It's about Trump. But he is the guy who has to connect these dots. Have prosecutors left a lot for him to do on that witness stand, in your view or is it just enough that you think he can land the plane?

POLLOCK: There's one final fact that prosecutors need to get from Michael Cohen, which is Trump knew what these payments were for and knew that he was falsely recording them or directing them to be falsely recorded. That's a key fact. And that hasn't really come out yet.

The fact of the scheme has come out. But Trump's true involvement in making these false records hasn't completely come out. Trump is likely knocking testifies. So who's left to testify? It's Michael Cohen can testify about Trump's knowledge. And he's not a great witness for all the reasons that you just mentioned.

PHILLIP: Norm, since you have spoken to him in this kind of context, not in a court, but in an interview, I don't know if you would call it a deposition before the January 6th or before the impeachment investigators. He is also technically an attorney. Do you think he has the ability to have the kind of discipline that prosecutors might need from him to really get to all of the things that he needs to get to without going too far?


EISEN: In the civil fraud case that Adam's former office, New York A.G., brought against Donald Trump, Judge Ngoron wrote in his final judgment, Michael Cohen told the truth. There were some bumpy spots in that testimony, just like with Stormy Daniels, just like with Keith Davidson, even Hope Hicks, who testified in this trial, who's a communications professional, had rough spots in her testimony.

The same with Pecker. He had the fewest. He was very well prepared to testify. I think that Michael Cohen has the ability to come across to this jury as a truth teller. It's going to be a tough cross. No question. Yes, I think he has the intelligence, the discipline, and he's genuinely remorseful.

Look, prosecutors have to make cases when there's a conspiracy with former participants in the conspiracy. Michael is better situated than the cooperators in some of my cases because he's not working off any jail time. There's one less vector of attack on him. So I think he's going to exceed expectations.

PHILLIP: All right. We will find out. Adam and Norm, thank you both very much.

And new tonight, the "New York Times" reports that independent presidential candidate RFK Jr. experienced multiple previously unknown health issues, including damage from, believe it or not, a worm in his brain. We will discuss that next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the 2024 election just got a little weirder. The "New York Times" is reporting that in a 2012 deposition, independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. revealed that a doctor told him he had health issues, quote, "caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died".

Yes, you heard that right. Kennedy says that since then he's recovered from his memory loss and brain fog and that the parasite didn't require any treatment ultimately. But that's not all that RFK Jr. had to say on the matter.

He posted on X earlier today, I offer to eat five more brain worms and still beat President Trump and President Biden in a debate. And I feel confident of the result, even with a six worm handicap.

Joining me on all of this, Republican strategist Joe Pinion, CNN contributors Natasha Alford and Leah Wright Rigueur. What a thing to joke about. Weird. But just his campaign spokesman also says this questioning Mr. Kennedy's health is a hilarious suggestion given his competition.

But this is a really serious thing. I mean, it's not just the worm. I mean, there's atrial fibrillation that was disclosed in the story. I shouldn't even say disclosed, revealed in this story. There is apparently some stuff here about his health that he is not talking about.

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, I mean, I think as somebody who I have chronic health issues, I try not to be judgmental of others about, you know, things that they cannot control. But the truth is, this is a presidential election. And so the level of scrutiny is going to be much higher.

We've seen with some candidates it works in their favor. John Fetterman, people, when they saw him being attacked over his health, they actually rallied around him.

Hillary Clinton, she couldn't even get a stumble out after pneumonia without people jumping all over it. So I think at the end of the day, it comes down to the candidate. How invested are people in this candidate? What do they -- what do they get excited about in terms of this candidate? And he's a very odd candidate, someone who I think people are actually projecting their hopes onto him rather than being able to articulate what about him is so special.

PHILLIP: He's also making his candidacy about how he is so much healthier than the other guys running.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And the other thing I think it's worth pointing out, which is it's not just the heart condition. It's not just the parasitic worm in the brain. It's also the side effects that his physician talked about, including brain fog, which he said he'd had for not just several months, but over a year.

In an area where we're scrutinizing and we're paying heavy attention to things like Joe Biden's age, his health, we're thinking about Trump's weight in his fast food habit and perhaps lack of exercise. All of these things are on the chopping block. They are under -- everyone is under the same amount of scrutiny. So it does matter.

So the idea that he could laugh it off and kind of run his campaign as the healthy one, all of that goes kind of up in the air. And I think it does matter, too, because what we've seen from polling is that Kennedy actually does have an effect on the race. He does. His candidacy does actually matter.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, to that very point, Quinnipiac poll out today is pretty good for Joe Biden. He's winning, except when you add in all the other candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., he's a 12 percent when you add in the third party folks. And that brings the race essentially to a tie.

Trump has been really concerned increasingly about RFK Jr., but both of these candidates ought to be concerned, it seems.

JOSEPH PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think first and foremost, everyone has the right to run for president. I don't believe this election will be decided by a worm on the brain. It will be decided by whether people feel secure about the southern border, whether the economy actually works for hardworking Americans who are still dealing with the inflation that was supposed to be transitory and now has been stubbornly persistent.

So, yes, I think you look at those people running for president. You look at somebody like Cornel West, who was run out of the Democratic Party, somebody like RFK, who was run out of the Democratic Party because they circled the wagons around Joe Biden, even though there were deep concerns amongst many died in the world Democrats about his ability to seek a second term.

So, yes, I think this is going to be a close election. It was 78,000 votes back in 2016 that determined the outcome for President Trump in his favor. It was close to 48,000 in 2020. Anyone who is telling you this election is going to be a blowout is probably getting paid to tell you so.


But I think, again, coming down the line here, everyday Americans, those swing voters will decide. And the health, unfortunately, because of the health issues across the board, I do not believe will be the deciding factor.

ALFORD: And just reacting to that, the margin of error is very small. You already have uncommitted voters who are saying that for political reasons they won't vote. And then you just have people who aren't inspired, who don't feel like it's worth it to come out at all.

So every sort of messaging attempt will really matter. And I thought it was fascinating, this poll that says Donald Trump's actually getting credit for infrastructure accomplishments that Joe Biden actually accomplished. Right. So there is a need for better messaging here. And RFK, you know, his effect on this campaign or rather this election, it can make the difference unless Joe Biden intervenes and makes it clear what his difference is.

WRIGHT RIGUEUR; But I also and I also want to add on to, I think, Natasha's point that we do have to be careful in terms of thinking about what is the role that third party candidates play. So historically, third party candidates haven't had that much of an effect on elections except for the points where they have had a significant amount or a significant effect.

PHILLIP: They're not important until that one time that they are.

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: Until they are important. And often it's retroactive, right? We can look back, we can go and look back and say, wait, these people actually did have an impact. Now, it may not have been the way, you know, to Joe's point, a spectacular blowout, right? These people are not a third party candidate is not going to win the race.

But what they can do is take away strategic votes in strategic places that may cast or may be decisive.

PHILLIP: And that's why the ballot access issue for RFK Jr. is hugely, hugely important. PINON: I mean, I would say respectfully, we talk about these votes

often. I think all of us collectively, when I say that, as if the votes belong to the Republican Party or they belong to the Democratic Party, if they belong to Joe Biden or they belong to Donald Trump, they do not. They belong to the people. And if you're having difficulty getting people to understand why they support your candidate, it's probably because you haven't learned from history.

I mean, Van Jones famously wrote in his book about the fact that people who were basically on the front lines of Barack Obama had no idea where the campaign office was for Hillary Clinton in 2016 in Michigan.

And so issue by issue, you have a Biden administration that refuses to even acknowledge that mistakes were ever made on their watch. A Trump administration that whether you hate him or love him can point to seven million jobs pre-COVID and say things were better when we were there. So that's where the election will be pitched.

And I think that pretending that, oh, don't vote for this person because they're going to be a spoiler is exactly why so many people are turning to them in the first place.

PHILLIP: Look, nobody owns any votes there. They have to be earned out there. Everyone, thank you very much for all of that.

Coming up, many high school students are still waiting to see if they can afford their dream college after the botched rollout of the new financial aid form. We'll have an update on what parents can expect next.



PHILLIP: Many high school seniors are stuck in limbo this week. They're still wondering whether or not they will be able to afford college. Now, this is happening after the botched rollout of this year's new FAFSA form. That helps determine how much financial aid a student can get. It is the gateway to billions of dollars for students who need help affording college. It's now, in theory, simpler, with as few as 18 questions. That's down from a maximum of 108.

But there have been problems, processing problems, glitches that have led to major delays. So many students don't even know what their financial aid will look like next year.

CNN's Rene Marsh has been following this very closely and joins me now. Rene, this is a big deal. If you have a kid who's a senior who's heading off to college next year, where do things stand at this point?

RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, you know, it depends on who you talk to. So the education department's framing on this is positive. They're saying that the agency has come a long way and they've made a lot of progress. But the 10,000 foot view on this is some high school seniors are still feeling the impact from the agency's bungled rolled out of this new simplified version of what has been a historically burdensome financial aid application known as FAFSA.

Now, students typically receive financial aid awards letters from schools in March and they commit to a college by May 1st. And here we are, May 8th, and some students still have not received financial aid packages to determine whether they can afford to go to a specific school. And some students are deciding to essentially make a decision without knowing whether they will get financial aid or not because they fear losing their slot.

But as you mentioned at the top, there are students who remain in limbo. They're unable to finalize their higher education plans for the fall. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was on Capitol Hill yesterday. He was answering some tough questions from lawmakers on this. And he had this message for students and parents. Take a listen.


MIGUEL CARDONA, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Even the better FAFSA, which is frustrating and as challenging as it has been, delays and I apologize to the students and families that have had to deal with delays. I know how frustrating that is. This is all intended to fix a system that for too long have kept people out.


MARSH: Well, he told lawmakers that the agency has caught up on processing applications, and he says that new applications are being processed in one to three days. Abby?


PHILLIP: And so he's saying that this is supposed to fix a problem. But Rene, what does the data show us about the impact this has already had on the utilization of this really important tool?

MARSH: Yeah. So, I mean, we are seeing data from a couple of sources. There is real concern that the technical glitches and the delays with this year's FAFSA application will ultimately impact the number of students who will enroll in college this fall. Now, the National College Attainment Network, which is a nonprofit that's been tracking application submissions, they tell CNN that as of the end of April, application submissions have gone down nearly 25 percent.

Now, the Department of Education tells CNN its data shows a smaller decline, down 16 percent. But either way, this represents a decline in the number of students applying for financial aid. And the worry is that some students may forego college altogether when you really drill down on the data. The drop in application submissions is not the same across the board. There has been a bigger decline among low income students, according to the National College Attainment Network.

PHILLIP: Wow. That's a really, really troubling fact to hear from you, Rene. Thank you very much for staying on top of this and for joining us tonight. MARSH: Sure.

PHILLIP: And thank you for watching "Newsnight". "Laura Coates Live" starts after this.