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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump's Defense Spars With a Defiant Stormy Daniels; Stormy Daniels' Friend Talks About Today's Testimony; Where Prosecutor's Case Stands in Trump's Hush Money Trial; CNN's Post-Analysis on the 14th Day of Donald Trump's Hush Money Trial. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 09, 2024 - 22:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Welcome to a special edition of NewsNight. I'm Abby Phillip in New York alongside Kaitlan Collins.

Tonight, combat in court, Day 14 of Donald Trump's hush money trial provided a lesson in how not to make friends, how to alienate the judge and how to maybe alienate the jury as well. Stormy Daniels took the stand yet again under cross-examination for the defense for Donald Trump and spent a whole lot of time asking questions about what they originally objected to, the details of her alleged tryst with the former President of the United States.

Now, the crescendo of this hours-long stint on the witness stand all led up to this. Trump's attorney, Susan Necheles, heavy handedly asserting that the adult film actress had made it all up. Necheles, and you've bragged about how good you are about writing porn movies and writing really good stories and writing really good dialogue, right? Daniels, yes. Necheles, and now you have a story you've been telling about having sex with Donald Trump, right? Daniels, and if that story were untrue, I would have written it a lot better. There was laughter in the courtroom.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Daniels, however, of course, is not the only headline witness to take her turn under the oath. The jury also heard from Madeleine Westerhout, the former gatekeeper, really, to the president and the head of Oval Office operations. She sat right outside the Oval Office when Donald Trump was president, and she recounted how she functioned as this unofficial delivery service at time, running these checks between Trump Tower and the White House.

She also gave the jury a window into something that we haven't heard up to this point really the Trump marriage and Donald Trump as she described it, his sweet sometimes doting relationship with his wife, the former first lady, Melania Trump.

The judge, Juan Merchan, also taking off multiple reasons why the prosecution annoyed, even angered him with what the defense didn't object to as Stormy Daniels was on the testimony, was on the witness stand. Judge Merchan asking the Trump defense why they didn't object to the mention of a condom, saying that he couldn't understand their ask for a mistrial with all that they let go during the presentation of evidence.

PHILLIP: And tonight, also a challenge directly from Stormy Daniels herself to the president of the United States. The adult film star and a key witness for the prosecution posting this on X, real men respond to testimony by being sworn in, taking the stand in court. Oh, wait, never mind.

Here with me to break everything down that we learned today inside that courtroom, Lee Zeldin, Joey Jackson, Anna Navarro and Brian Stelter.

So, let's start with Joey because, Joey, you've got the goods. Give us a little bit of what happened in the courtroom.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What didn't happen in the courtroom, Abby. All right, so let's start with the cross-examination. I want to talk about Necheles, defense counsel, and Stormy Daniels.

So, let's get into it. Necheles, defense attorney for Trump. So, just so I can be clear on what you were saying, you've acted and had sex in over 200 porn movies, right? Stormy Daniels, 150-ish, yes. Defense Counsel Necheles, and there are naked men and naked women having sex, including yourself in those movies, right? Daniels, yes. Necheles, defense attorney, but according to you, seeing a man sitting on a bed in a T-shirt and boxer shorts was so upsetting that you got lightheaded, blood left your hands and feet and you almost fainted, right? Daniels, yes, when you are not expecting a man twice your age to be in their underwear. I have seen my husband naked almost every day. If I came out of the bathroom and it was not my husband and it was Mr. Trump on the bed, I would probably have the same reaction. Defense Counsel Necheles, and that made you feel like you were going to faint. Stormy Daniels, absolutely. If I came out of the bathroom and I saw an older man in his underwear that I wasn't expecting seeing there, yes.

So, the question becomes, Abby, why have this contentious cross- examination? My argument is that the cross examination was not for the jury, It was to satisfy Mr. Trump, the client. The fact is, is they got everything in through Stormy Daniels yesterday that you can argue to the jury. It's a bias witness. She's here and motivated by that bias. You can't believe anything she said. I think the play was for Donald Trump to say, I want you to humiliate her, number one, I want you to reestablish my credibility, I want you to deny that affair, totally unnecessary to go in on her like that. Who got the better of this exchange? Let the jury, and let the 13th juror at home, you decide who got the better.

COLLINS: I mean, Ana Navarro, I have to know your response to that, because obviously, you know, what Stormy Daniels does for a living doesn't translate to the fact that she should just be comfortable with seeing a half dressed man anywhere she goes.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, first of all I would really like to nominate Joey Jackson for dramatic reading.

[22:05:00] I think he deserves a Tony nomination. I'm going to work on that.


NAVARRO: But, as to your question, Kaitlan, look, I think the reason that she felt lightheaded, I think the reason she had that reaction, first, let's remember that this is a woman in her 20s. Yes, she does what she does. But when you see a man in his underwear you thought you were going there for dinner, and all of a sudden he's sitting in a bed in his underwear, that's telling you what the expectation from him of what should come next is obviously sex. And so I think it's a pretty big deal for her to process as she's reacting to what she's saying. So, you know, to me, it's a very credible reaction.

PHILLIP: And not just any man.

NAVARRO: And I'll tell you this, I suspect for a lot of women who've dealt with sexual harassment, who've dealt with men doing power plays on them, this may have resonated. It resonated with me.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, you don't even need necessarily the specter of this being some kind of coercive dynamic. Donald Trump is an extremely famous, powerful man. And that, I think, is the elephant in the room. It's almost like this exchange, and so many of these exchanges with the defense, you can really read them both ways.

I mean, I think the defense could easily have listened to that exchange and been very happy with how Stormy Daniels explained herself in that moment.

BRIAN STELTER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: It does seem like we're seeing 2024's post-MeToo, kind of a cultural awakening, all the progress this country and other countries have made in the last six, seven years, collide up against decades-old attitudes about men and women, right.

And we have to remember, this was in 2006. This was so early on before the MeToo movement. Here we have, as you said, a woman in her 20s, a man who's about 60 years old. And what does she say? She says, quote, my own insecurities made me feel like I had to sleep with him. Not pressure necessarily from Donald Trump in a physical way, nothing violent, just her own insecurities. It was one of the most revealing moments I thought from Stormy Daniels today.

NAVARRO: How many cases like that, how many examples like that have we heard of women who had that kind of experience with Harvey Weinstein, who had that kind of experience with Charlie Rose that they allege, right, where they go in supposedly for a meeting, supposedly to meet somebody and end up seeing a guy in his bathrobe,

COLLINS: Yes, but --

NAVARRO: An old guy in his bathrobe.

COLLINS: And the reason the Trump team was so incensed about the Day 1 of Stormy Daniels is testimony is kind of they didn't want that comparison because Stormy Daniels in her interview -- in her testimony and in her interview with Anderson Cooper said this wasn't that kind of moment, this was consensual, I wasn't forced into this, I wasn't coerced into this.

And so, Congressman, I kind of wonder what your reaction was as you were listening to how the cross-examination went today and the point the judge made at the end, which was why did you linger on this part so much because you're only kind of drilling it into the jury's ears, as he phrased it? Did you think that was a smart tactic?

FMR. REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): It's a tactical decision to be made. I wasn't in the courtroom today and they would be the best ones to talk strategy on any day, prosecution and defense. I would say that each day that I'm watching, I was a prosecutor as well, never served on the defense side in a case, anything like this, of course. And what you see is a really difficult to prove charge. These are misdemeanors that carry a two-year statute of limitation.

The theory is that in order to be able to charge it now, the district attorney is going to have to demonstrate that this was done in pursuit of another crime. The district attorney has not yet said what that other crime is. And you get to the heart of it, we're now three weeks into the trial. And I think the time has come. I would have argued that this is something that should have been cleared before the trial started, but the time has come for Bragg, Bragg's office, to indicate to the defense counsel how it is that a misdemeanor that has a two year statute of limitation that expired many years ago can get brought now. Now is the time, if it hasn't come already, to indicate what is the underlying crime.

JACKSON: So, I can answer that question. First of all, that ship has sailed. It's been litigated. The reality is, is we know towards COVID and as a result of that --

ZELDIN: What's the underlying crime?

JACKSON: Let me speak. First, that and then I'll address that. The first issue is with respect to the statute of limitations. There was a tolling of the statute during COVID for all cases, not just Donald Trump's cases. And as a result of that, it's told. And so you can make the argument that it's statute of limitations out, you lose. Because the reality is we're here and we wouldn't be here but for the statute of limitation to the issue with respect to the underlying crime, I think we all know.

The reality is that all the evidence is going to show the issue of the election of boosting the election prospects. The challenge, these are all talking points. What you said most respectfully that have been rebuffed, rebuted, we're done, we're done.

ZELDING: All I was asking what the crime that's being charged.

JACKSON: Look, the reality is, is the crime being charged relates to the election. That's not a mystery to anybody, right?

ZELDIN: Says who? With the respect that says you, not the district attorney.


JACKSON: No, no, no. I don't say anything. I'm here to analyze the case. I said nothing. What I'm doing is looking at the case. Let's look at the case, because that's what we're here to talk about. We're here to talk about the fact that they're arguing that that's boosted election prospects. It boosted it as a result of an end around, right, and using this for campaign purposes to bury and hide a story.

And, by the way, you know, you could say what you want, but for a person who didn't have sex with Stormy Daniels, for a person who said, you know, this deny, deny, you spent an awful lot of time trying to cover up something that never happened. In the event it didn't occur, let her tell her story, and then you come out and you say, nonsense, is she kidding me? Instead, you hide it, you hush money, and then you use your personal checking account in order to make a payment for it.

You could speak about statute of limitations, you could speak about what crime, I think the crime the prosecutor is demonstrating is pretty clear to me.

ZELDIN: I have to jump in. You have to prove a crime. And how do you prove a crime, and how are you, innocent until proven guilty, any defendant who's in the court of law, how do you go through the process of preparing for a trial where the district attorney has to prove a crime, and they won't even tell you what the crime is?

Now I understand that you're saying what you think the theory is. The Department of Justice investigated this and didn't prosecute. The FEC, the Federal Elections Commission, did not pursue this.

PHILLIP: Just one second. I just want to settle this first, settle this down for a second. They don't have to say it's this X, Y, and Z statute. They have to prove that a crime was committed. And one of the crimes could absolutely be that Trump tried to use Michael Cohen to make a payment to hide the fact that that payment was made that would have otherwise needed to have been reported as a campaign contribution.

ZELDIN: But you know what's unfortunate though is that -- so we're all here guessing, you could say educated guess. You can say this is where I think the district attorney is going. And I understand that and I respect that opinion that you have to come up with a theory.

All I'm saying is, I believe that the district attorney should be stating what is the underlying crime that allows you to bring 34 misdemeanors, elevating them to a felony, to bring them now. All I'm saying is that we're three weeks into the trial, and I think the time has come, it should have come already, to make it clear what it is, because the prosecution is going to have to prove that there was a pursuit of a crime, and the defense is going to have to put up a defense.

JACKSON: So, two things. The first thing is, is we've heard the argument repeatedly that it was passed on by the federal government, they could have prosecuted this. Let me tell you, first of all, I'm a defense attorney. I believe in the presumption of innocence. Mr. Trump is presumed innocent until proven guilty. I have tried cases, right? And I had tried a case in the Southern District, right, not so long ago. Where, right? The Bronx D.A. and the Eastern District passed on the case.

So, the fact that somebody passed on a case means nothing, means nothing, that's the reality, number one. And number two, the other reality is, as it comes to proving or establishing what the underlying crime was, they said at the outset, this case is about a conspiracy and a cover up. And so what were they covering up and what were they conspiring to do? The case is not over.

And I think at the end of the day, there'll be more proof submitted, and it'll be up to the jury to make the determination.

COLLINS: Luckily, we have plenty of time for this robust debate.

ZELDIN: But I just want to say that the D.A.'s office declined to prosecute. Vance's office looked into this. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute.

PHILLIP: First of all, the case is not over yet. We still have more to come on that, more to come on the show as well.

Everyone, stick around for us. Coming up next, we'll speak with a friend of Stormy Daniels who has come up in court twice this week now. We'll ask her about the grilling that her friend faced on the witness stand.

Plus, with Trump's former personal assistant set to return to the stand tomorrow and Michael Cohen still ahead, we'll take a look at where the prosecution stands.

You're watching a special edition of NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Stormy Daniels is back on the witness stand today, concluding more than seven hours of testimony that started on Tuesday. Trump's lawyers spent their entire cross-examination attacking Daniels credibility and repeatedly suggesting that she lied about her story. They also highlighted her work in the pornography industry to discredit her.

My next guest is a friend and a colleague of Stormy Daniels' whose name actually came up in the trial on Tuesday and was referenced again today in court. Alana Evans says she was almost in that room that night in 2006 and says Trump told her over the phone to come party. Evans decided not to and would eventually speak out publicly after the two initially denied the affair.

Alana Evans joins us once again. Alana, good to see you. Before we get into Stormy's testimony, which I definitely want to get your take on, your reaction to your name coming up in court again, it wasn't really by name explicitly, but here is what the defense said to you to the court about this gag order.

She said she was on television last night talking about what happened and also corroborating what Ms. Daniels said. This isn't President Trump, again, being able to say this never happened. This isn't true. It's now him having to not be able to respond to this new version of events that now deals very deeply with a very different issue than a sexual event that took place in 2006.

What's your reaction to that?

ALANA EVANS, ADULT ACTRESS, PRESIDENT OF ADULT PERFORMANCE ARTISTS' GUILD: It's funny to me because Trump has had full opportunity to talk about this ever since it came out in 2016 and 2017, and their choice, and his choice at that time, was to continue to speak through Michael Cohen and say that it was all lies.


It's not as if he has anything new to add to this, which is telling the truth, and as Stormy so eloquently put earlier, he can take the stand and testify himself if he wants to get his voice out there so badly.

PHILLIP: You said earlier this week that you had not been reached out to by anyone to be a part of this case. Is that still true?

EVANS: That's correct, not yet.

PHILLIP: Have you had a chance to speak at all with your friend, Stormy?

EVANS: Not since the case has begun within court. And, honestly, I've made the choice to stay back and not attempt to interfere in any way while she's giving her time and her testimony.

PHILLIP: What did you make of how she was on the stand today? did you think, based on what you've seen and heard, that it was a different demeanor than how she was a couple days ago.

EVANS: I think today she was directly challenged by Trump's lawyer and again told that she made this all up. The comments about her being an actress in the adult film industry and being able to create stories about sex was a very crude remark against our profession. The two are very different things.

Stormy is talking about something that happened to her and sharing details that are very explicit because it's the truth and being accused of lying yet again. It's just incredibly frustrating for her, I would imagine.

PHILLIP: As someone who works in that adult film industry, did you view the questioning from the defense as an attempt to shame Stormy?

EVANS: It definitely feels as if now the defense is being given their time to shame Stormy, to attempt to harass her. One of your commentators earlier just mentioned about how this was Trump's lawyer's opportunity to humiliate Stormy, and it really seemed as if that was their agenda today. They weren't getting anything out of her with those questions. It was just an attempt to shame her.

PHILLIP: All right. Alana Evans, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate you taking the time tonight.

EVANS: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, one star witness off the stand, another one to go with Michael Cohen yet to testify. Where does the prosecution's case stand in Donald Trump's hush money trial? We'll discuss that with our panel.

Stay with us.



PHILLIP: We are in Day 14 of the Donald Trump Hush money cover-up trial, and the prosecution has called 14 witnesses to the stand so far. But the question is, have they done enough to convince the jury that Trump falsified business records to cover up hush money payments to help his presidential campaign. And another big question, when will Michael Cohen, the alleged facilitator of this hush money payment, actually testify?

But let's take a step back and take a deeper dive into where things stand. Our panel is back with us along with Stacy Schneider, an attorney as well, also someone who knows Donald Trump well, former contestant at on The Apprentice. What's the name of that show?

STELTER: The Celebrity Apprentice.

PHILLIP: So, Stacy --

NAVARRO: Pre-Celebrity Apprentice.

PHILLIP: Pre-celebrities. So, we've heard from these 14 witnesses so far, how do you think the prosecution's case is progressing now that Stormy Daniels has wrapped up? And then, also importantly, it didn't end there. There were a couple of just fact -- quote/unquote, boring fact witnesses that came after that today.

STACY SCHNEIDER, NEW YORK CITY CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, in my opinion, this is the Michael Cohen versus Donald Trump show. And that's where the D.A. is going to tie this entire case together, because Michael Cohen is going to be the witness who establishes the alleged deal or the scheme with Donald Trump.

And so far, all these witnesses, including Stormy Daniels, her testimony wasn't that necessary to make the case. The person who, so far, has really made the case for the prosecution was Hope Hicks, when she revealed at the end of her testimony, that the following year, Donald Trump had come to her, in 2018 actually, and said he knew about the deal with Michael Cohen, because Donald Trump's whole, um Defense and his press statements are all trying to distance himself from having to do anything with this.

I have to point something out that happened way at the beginning of the case that no one has really mentioned, which was Donald Trump foreshadowing exactly what he would say if he got on the stand. And he said it was about -- I think it was the day that David Pecker had begun his testimony. So, it was either Day 1 or Day 2. And he had come out and it was during one of those alleged gag order violations and he was making fun of Michael Cohen. And he said Michael Cohen is a terrible lawyer but Michael Cohen is a lawyer. And all that's happened here is Michael Cohen, a lawyer, submitted an invoice. They put it on the books. They, presumably, meaning his employees at the Trump Organization, and this is what they're indicting me for. They put it on the books.

So, I think Donald Trump was basically signaling and he was frustrated that he had his -- he's listening to witnesses testify against him.


He wasn't quite used to the process yet that the prosecution goes first and he does not get to speak unless he chooses to take the stand.

But he was kind of signaling like, I took away, I had nothing to do with this, they submitted a receipt to my business and I signed off on it. And the prosecution has done a really good job with these facts that don't seem that important right now about Trump's methodology in his business.

I sign every check, right?

BRIAN STELTER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, "VANITY FAIR": You're reading from his books, using his own words against him.

SCHNEIDER: Right. I sign every check. I check every invoice because I don't want to get ripped off, you know, and I'm an eye for an eye, a tooth for, I go after people who go after me.

PHILLIP: And that's why Madeleine was such an important witness today. Even though she's a super sympathetic witness to Donald Trump, she really corroborated that main fact, which is that Donald Trump understands everything that's going on in his business, even when he was in the White House. He wanted to know everything, including the cost of the Tiffany picture frame that I presume he could afford, but may or may not have wanted to pay for while he was in the White House.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He was signing off on $6,000 in fees to a country club that he wasn't going to use it for, I mean, when he's a billionaire.

STELTER: When he's supposed to be one of the government.

NAVARRO: Literally, you know, somebody asking me to sign off on a 31 cent check.

STELTER: But that is what's so revealing about using, what you call the boring witnesses, using Trump's words against him. Looking today, for example, Trump said, I want to be able to speak out. I want to be able to respond to Stormy Daniels. I want to be free of this gag order. And in the judge's response, the judge said, well, we know what you've said in your books. You attack people for the good of your business. We know your techniques. And we're reading that from his own books against him.

LEE ZELDIN (R), FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN; I was going to say, the point about Michael Cohen, he is the star witness. So to this prosecution, they are relying on Michael Cohen to establish so much about the elements of what they need to prove to make this case.

And, you know, to have the Hope Hicks point or Madeleine point and some of the small things that we can talk about tonight, because we don't have Michael Cohen's testimony yet. I mean, really, it comes down to Michael Cohen to establish a lot of what is a difficult to prove crime, no matter who the prosecutor is.

PHILLIP: What do you want to hear from Michael Cohen, Lee?

ZELDIN: So if you're the prosecution, you're going to have to go element by element, and you're going to have to also be establishing intent. And you're going to have to go further, remember, to our conversation in the last block, not to rehash all of it here, about the pursuit of another crime, and then the cross-examination.

The fact that Michael Cohen is a convicted perjurer is going to be something that is going to result in a hit on his credibility that if you're a juror listening to it, you might decide when the testimony is over, maybe they established this or that, I think, but maybe this star witness isn't somebody who I can believe because he's already been convicted.

He's lost his law license. He went to prison because of what's happened in the past with him lying to others. So I think that there's, for the prosecution and the defense, it's something that when both sides get their turn at it, I mean, this is a big uphill battle.

PHILLIP: Hold on, let me let Joey in.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Okay, so let me say something very important. I think the fact that Michael Cohen is the star witness is going to make or break is a farce. Yet I said it, it's a farce. Here's why. The prosecution has done everything and anything to make him as irrelevant as possible. What do I mean?

The witnesses that have testified have essentially corroborated everything he's going to say with respect to creating this entire deal, with regard to catch-and-kill, with regard to the impetus of why it was necessary following the "Access Hollywood", we don't need another bad story coming out, with respect to these invoices and ledgers and checks, with regard to Donald Trump signing it in a Sharpie, with regard to checks being sent to the White House and being sent back. What am I saying?

Yes, people want to hear from Michael Cohen, but the prosecution has done everything they could with regard to establishing the elements of the crime through every other witness to eliminate and nullify the argument that he's a convicted felon, he lied before Congress, you can't trust him. You know what, ladies and gentlemen? You don't have to trust Michael Cohen, and here's why.

Because Mr. Pecker got on the stand and he talked to you about catch- and-kill, because Hope Hicks got on the stand and she spoke about the issues with respect to what was happening in the campaign and why they'd want to kill the story. Because the bookkeeper talked to you about how he micromanages things, he signs these checks, etc.

They're going to, that is the prosecution in closing argument, say don't believe the hype about Michael Cohen being a criminal, it doesn't matter, because everybody else corroborates him, so if he's lying, it doesn't matter.

NAVARRO: Can I say something also that I haven't heard talked about? The two young women who worked for Trump, who have some loyalty towards him still, who are definitely sympathetic towards him, Hope Hicks and Madeleine, whose last name none of us can remember, ended up crying on the stand.


SCHNEIDER: Well, I can tell you why they were crying, because they know they're going to say something that's going to incriminate or make Donald Trump look bad, and that is a very scary thing. I was on his TV show, if you don't want to cross Donald Trump, it's frightening.

NAVARRO: So I'm not in that courtroom, but that's my assumption of why they're crying. That these two women feel bad and are crying because they think that they are saying the truth, and in saying the truth, they're proving the prosecution's case and doing Donald Trump who they're sympathetic to harm.

PHILLIP: It's such an underappreciated point. I think there's been a lot of focus about how well they present, how genuine they are about their love for Trump, but the tears, how the jury reads the tears, is going to be critically important.

SCHNEIDER: I mean, I think they're tears of fear, but I want to get back to something Joey was saying.

NAVARRO: Hope Hicks is no shrinking violet, right? She's no marshmallow.

SCHNEIDER: But I have to say something about Michael Cohen. I don't agree with you, Joey, because I think we're underestimating the defense here, and there was some earlier testimony that Michael Cohen, when he was trying to negotiate these deals, I think even the Stormy Daniels deal with Keith Davidson, Stormy Daniels' attorney, and even David Pecker, at one point he said, I don't have authority to pay for these things. My boss is on the campaign trail, he's in different states, and I have to get back with you on the money.

And there was sort of this implication that Trump didn't want to pay, so Michael Cohen was trying to delay after the election. But don't, you know, a possibility that the defense could come back and say, again, Donald Trump distancing himself from the alleged scheme with Michael Cohen, which is what the underlying crime is about. It's the act of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, not the Karen McDougal story, it's the act of buying allegedly Stormy Daniels' story.

So Michael Cohen, they can come back and say, Michael Cohen went rogue on this and did this on his own, and I don't have knowledge of that. I just signed the check, but I didn't know.

JACKSON: Very quickly, but yet, there's a meeting with Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in the White House, and yet subsequent to that, there's a Sharpie pen where he has checks that he's reimbursing Michael Cohen on a deal he knows nothing about.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, but we need to hear from Michael Cohen about what happened in the meeting.

PHILLIP: We will be back a little bit later in the show. Everyone, stand by from us.

We're turning next to the fallout from President Biden's warning that he'll hold back on weapons for Israel over a Rafa invasion. Israel's prime minister is already responding. We'll discuss that next.




PHILLIP: Tonight, political shock waves happening here in the United States and also abroad after President Biden's comments in an exclusive CNN interview threatening to halt U.S. weapons to Israel if it moves forward with a major ground operation in Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah. Those comments sparked the wrath of Republicans over on Capitol Hill. Listen.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AK): Joe Biden object -- objectively favors a Hamas victory over Israel. It's just that simple.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): This is an existential threat for the people of Israel. The United States needs to have their back. We'd have their back. The American people have their back.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I just want to emphasize one thing. This is all about President Biden and Lloyd Austin trying to take over the war from Israel. I got one message for Israel. Don't let them do it.


PHILLIP: Already, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responding and he is striking a defiant tone.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have said that if necessary, we will fight with our fingernails.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is former lieutenant governor for the state of New York, Betsy McCaughey, also with us Democratic New York State Representative Zohran Mamdani. Zohran, I want to start with you because I know that you are in tune with where the left is on this issue.

President Trump weighed in on Truth Social saying taking the side of these terrorists like he has sided with the radical mobs taking over the college campuses is what he is saying Joe Biden is doing. But how is actually this being seen by the people who have been pushing for President Biden to do something?

REP. ZOHRAN MAMDANI (D-NY): This is being seen as the president taking a step towards what most Americans want. We see in poll after poll that a majority of Americans want to see an immediate ceasefire. And this conditioning military shipments to Israel is one step towards it.

However, what Americans want to see is the president go all the way in honoring his previous pledge because the Israeli military for all intents and purposes is already invading Rafah. We have every major aid organization on the ground saying Israeli military tanks are circling hospitals.

They have killed 60 Palestinians in the last 24 hours. 80,000 have been displaced just since Monday.

PHILLIP: By the way, just before I let you in, Betsy, the fact that President Biden made this threat and it has not actually changed the reality on the ground, doesn't that undercut this idea that he can just snap his fingers and stop the fighting?

MAMDANI: You know, I don't think it does because he's paused one single shipment and put two others out under.

PHILLIP: Yeah, but Israel has said they don't need any more shipments to do what they want to do in Israel -- in Gaza.

MAMDANI: Well, I would believe that when we stop sending the multi thousand pound bombs that they can drop to kill Palestinians.


PHILLIP: So, Betsy, at the end of the day, this is within President Biden's right to do. He's not the first president to condition aid specific arms shipments to Israel. Back in 1981 and 1982, Ronald Reagan did it twice. BETSY MCCAUGHEY (R), FORMER NEW YORK LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: That's

right. It is within his powers as commander in chief. So, those in Washington who are talking about impeachment, I would say, put that aside. We don't need any more impeachments.

But the fact is that first, let me point out that the latest Harvard- Harris poll shows that 80 percent of Americans, 80 percent, a large majority on any issue, but particularly on this one, 80 percent of Americans do not want a ceasefire until Hamas surrenders the hostages and lays down its arms. That's what the poll says.

This is a betrayal of Israel, a stab in the back, and also to the hostages and their families, including five American hostages. It emboldens Hamas at the negotiating table, the bargaining table to get those hostages back, and it also emboldens them on the battlefield.

MAMDANI: But let me just say it's the hostage families themselves who have the slogan everyone for everyone. They have called for the release of all the hostages in line with the release of Palestinian prisoners as well as those unjustly detained. It is Benjamin Netanyahu who has refused that deal, and the former spokesperson of the hostage families said that this deal was on the table before the invasion of Gaza.

MCCAUGHEY: Some of the hostages, but I wanted to make it clear that the American people are not in favor of a surrender to Hamas or a ceasefire until the hostages are returned and Hamas is eradicated from Rafah. There are still three military battalions of Hamas in Rafah, and until they're destroyed, Hamas can wage another attack.

Let me remind everyone watching why the fighting is going on, because on October 7th, Hamas broke the ceasefire. They came in, they put babies in ovens, they had gang rapes for women, they brutalized people, they rolled them up in barbed wire and set them on fire.

When you talk about standards of war, there has been no atrocity this great since the Holocaust.

PHILLIP: Lieutenant Governor, obviously the atrocities that occurred on October 7th are critically important, but you said something that I think was also important. Three battalions left in Rafah. I'm not understanding the argument that somehow not going into a city with 1.3 million people, mostly civilians, is suddenly going to embolden this tiny remnant of Hamas.

MCCAUGHEY: It's not a tiny remnant. Three battalions is not a remnant. They have fighting power, and they are trying to rebuild their fighting power. Let's just take a pause and ask ourselves what war is. Because we're imposing on Israel a standard of warfare that has never existed.

Just wait one second, Zohran. During World War II, when the United States and Britain were fighting Germany, fighting Hitler, right, and they wanted to end the war and free the camps, they bombed Dresden. Did they evacuate Dresden first? No.

PHILLIP: Go ahead, I'll let you.

MAMDANI: I'm sorry. The idea of advocating for another Dresden is unfathomable to most people in this country. That is the reason why we have international law and the idea of what war crimes are. We have seen more than 14,000 Palestinian children be killed in the last few months.

MCCAUGHEY: And I regret that.

MAMDANI: But you're advocating for more of it effectively.

MCCAUGHEY: No, I'm not advocating for more of it. We must finish this war off in a strong way. And if we do not eradicate Hamas within that population, go in and get them out and finish this, it will go on and on and on. They will invade Israel again. They've already said they will do it at every opportunity.

PHILLIP: Lieutenant Governor, the condition that the Biden administration set was that Israel needs to have a credible plan to keep the civilians safe. And the reason they oppose a Rafah invasion is because that plan doesn't exist. So why isn't it in Biden's interest to ensure that that happens before a major military operation occurs?

MCCAUGHEY: Because he's weakening Israel tremendously. All the countries around that area of the world are watching, and they see, oh, the United States does not have Israel's back now. Israel cannot be guaranteed the ammunition it needs. That's a message to Iran. That's a message to every enemy of Israel. And by the way, every country in the world that is depending on its alliance with America is taking this lesson, second time, when the United States snuck out of Afghanistan in the middle of the night without telling its allies, and now this.

MAMDANI: I'm a little bit confused because the last time we were on the show, you spoke about the importance of law and order.

MCCAUGHEY: We like being on together, by the way.

MAMDANI: We like being on together. But the last time you were on the show, you spoke about the importance of law and order.

MCCAUGHEY: Yes, of course.

MAMDANI: And President Biden has now come out and said that the Israeli military is using American weapons to kill Palestinian civilians, which is against the law of this country.


So on one hand, you're telling students to follow the law. And on the other hand, you're asking the United States government to break it. And I don't understand why.

MCCAUGHEY: It's not against the law. I read that clause. Yes, it says that ammunition cannot be provided to allies or other countries when the intent is to kill civilians. But the intent here is not.

I don't think most people realize that Israel has set up health care tents, food tents all along the evacuation route. The reason there are still so many people in Rafah is Hamas won't let them leave. It's using them as human shields.

PHILLIP: No, the reason there are so many people in Rafah is because the Israeli government told them to go there, Lieutenant Governor.

MCCAUGHEY: But now they have created a route out and health care tents and food tents. Take a look at the pictures. I've never seen a war before where -- where the adversary is providing food tents and health care tents for the people fighting. These are civilians that we are taught.

PHILLIP: Well, these are civilians we are talking about. I want to emphasize that.

MCCAUGHEY: That's true.

PHILLIP: The Israeli government is fighting Hamas. We are talking about the civilian population. And that is what has made this whole debate as tricky as it has been. I appreciate the two of you coming on having a civil conversation and we are the friendship between the two of you. I do appreciate that.

We need -- we need a lot more of that on this topic. Betsy McCaughey and Zohran Mamdani, thank you both very much.

And up next, the president's gatekeeper in the Oval Office, Madeleine Westerhout, will return to the stand tomorrow. I'm going to what we can expect from her with my panel that's ahead.




PHILLIP: Donald Trump's hush money trial resumes tomorrow morning. So what should we expect to happen in that courtroom next? Ana Navarro and Brian Stelter are back with us.

Madeleine Westerhout is going to go back to the stand. She is a really important witness, but a super sympathetic one to Donald Trump. I was talking to one of the reporters who was in the courtroom who's been following this all along, and he says we haven't gotten to the sort of the heart of what her testimony is going to be. And we might get there tomorrow.

STELTER: If Stormy was the emotional climax, there is still a lot that we need to learn. The details about using the Sharpie pen, about his -- his attention to detail, all of that is going to matter a lot to the jury.

PHILLIP: And what about Ana, Michael Cohen? I think you both sort of know him to a degree.

STELTER: Oh, yeah. We've both been bullied by him, I think.

NAVARRO: Actually, we probably he did at one point. I had forgotten that part.

STELTER: We've forgotten a lot.

PHILLIP: I wonder about Michael Cohen and how prosecutors need to handle him on the defense stand, on the witness stand, because that's going to be really critical. They had some missteps with Stormy, for sure. Are they going to be able to control their witness this time around?

NAVARRO: You know, I think Michael Cohen does remorse very well. He's had a lot of practice now being remorseful about the things that he did with and for Donald Trump. He's done it in Congress. He's done it in court. He's served time. There's nothing like jail to affect people's emotions and demeanor. I suspect that Michael Cohen will be under control. I think he will control himself.

STELTER: I feel like it's going to be the liar Olympics, though, meaning Cohen, a known liar, Donald Trump, a known liar. It's going to be chaos in some ways. I remember the last time I talked to Cohen, I was on his podcast. He told me if Trump wins re-election, he swears on a Bible he was going to move to Canada. That's the kind of guy Cohen is, right? He's got a short fuse.

He'll say anything.

NAVARRO: Oh, Brian, if everybody who promised to move to Canada, by the way, the new in spot is Portugal, was accused of lying, we'd have a very long list.

STELTER: Portugal sounds great, but I think Cohen has a very, very short fuse.

NAVARRO: But what happened today with Stormy Daniels, and I think it could also happen with Michael Cohen, they went after her, Donald Trump's attorney went after her for being a grifter, which is actually exactly what he is, right? Oh, you're selling candles. Well, what hasn't he sold trying to make money? Steaks, vodka, mug shots, NFTs. You name Bibles, for God's sakes, he's out there selling it.

And so, oftentimes, when you're dealing with these people, and you're trying to accuse the witness of being X, Y, or Z, it's a lot of self- reflection on what your actual client, Donald Trump, is. I think that's the same thing that happens with Michael Cohen.

PHILLIP: Trump is also chomping at the bit to get at these witnesses. His attorneys went to the judge today and said, let him out of his gag order so that he can talk about Stormy Daniels. And Stormy Daniels comes out of today's testimony and basically pokes him in the kidneys, essentially. Michael Cohen also, who had tried to back off talking about Trump, also talking about this case again. At some point, do you think Trump just, the lid just comes off? STELTER: That he just erupts, you mean?


STELTER: I think that idea of jail time is actually scary to him, actually a fearful thing. I think at ground level, we're talking a lot about womanhood, Stormy Daniels, what was she thinking? This is about manhood.

It's about what it means to be a man. Who was Donald Trump trying to be? And who is he trying to be now? And how does he want to behave now?


We know how he behaved in 2006, according to Stormy Daniels. How's he going to behave in the next couple of weeks? Is he going to testify? Is he going to speak on his own behalf?

NAVARRO: This is not about manhood. This is about criminal activity.

STELTON: I don't think the audience cares as much about the business record. Unless you're getting paid to follow this trial, most Americans are not.

PHILLIP: This is at the end of the day, this will be about whatever the jury thinks about all of that. Everyone, thank you so much.

And thank you for watching a special edition of "Newsnight" on Trump's hush money trial. Our coverage continues with a special edition of "Laura Coates Live", next.