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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Diddy Seen Assaulting Ex-Girlfriend In Surveillance Video; Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-TX) Slams Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) As Racist After Fight In Congress; Abby Phillip And Guest Panel Discuss The Explanation From Justice Samuel Alito About How This Upside-Down American Flag And Symbol Of Election Deniers Across The Country Ended Up Flying Outside Of His Home Just Days After The Insurrection; Former ABC News Anchor Carole Simpson Comments On The Biden-Trump Scheduled Debate. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 17, 2024 - 22:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that organized crime was involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's talk of, you know, Whitey Bulger, who was one of Boston's most notorious gangsters. Could he have been involved?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But if you're in Boston on the morning of March 18, 1990, and you hear that not one, not two, but three Rembrandts have been stolen, you think of only one person. You think of Myles Connor.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tune in this Sunday at 9:00 P.M. for How It Really Happened, Gardner Art Heist, Stealing Beauty.

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: A CNN exclusive, the bad boy caught brutalizing his girlfriend on tape. That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening, I'm Abby Philip in New York.

New tonight, video exclusively obtained by CNN offers a direct contradiction to Sean Diddy Combs' claims that he did nothing wrong. The rap mogul insisted back in December that people were assassinating his character, destroying his reputation with sickening allegations for a quick payday. Quote, I did not do any of these awful things being alleged.

But it turns out he did do precisely what his former girlfriend, Cassie Ventura, alleged in a lawsuit that she has since settled. Ventura claimed that in that suit, the rapper followed her around in a hotel hallway that was back in 2016. He yelled, grabbed her, threw a glass vase at her. The surveillance footage from that newly shuttered intercontinental hotel in Los Angeles mirrors exactly Ventura's words in horrifying detail.

Representatives for Combs have not responded to that video as of tonight and the hotel says it doesn't have access to any footage or incident reports. But the silent and shocking surveillance video of the rapper beating and kicking and throwing his partner tells an undeniable story of abuse.

I want to warn our viewers that what we're about to show you is graphic. But it is also the dictionary definition of domestic violence.


ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: New surveillance footage obtained exclusively by CNN appears to corroborate some of the allegations of abuse against music mogul Sean Diddy Combs. The video captured on multiple cameras shows Combs wearing only a towel, assaulting his then-girlfriend Cassie Ventura in a hallway at a Los Angeles hotel in March 2016.

A lawsuit filed by Ventura in November last year and settled the next day referenced actions that seem to match those seen in this video. There is no audio.

According to the complaint, Combs became extremely intoxicated and punched Ms. Ventura in the face, giving her a black eye, which, according to the lawsuit, prompted Ventura to try and leave the hotel room.

The surveillance video obtained by CNN begins as she enters the hallway. The complaint says, as she exited, Mr. Combs awoke and began screaming at Ms. Ventura. He followed her into the hallway of the hotel while yelling at her. The complaint goes on to say he grabbed her and then took glass vases in the hallway and threw them at her.

In the surveillance video, Combs can be seen grabbing Ventura and throwing her to the ground. As Ventura lies on the ground, Combs then kicks her twice and attempts to drag her on the floor back to the hotel room. Ventura is seen picking up a hotel phone. Combs seems to walk back to the hotel room, then returns and appears to shove her in a corner. Moments later, he can then be seen throwing an object in her direction.

According to Ventura's now settled lawsuit, the pair began dating several years after they met in 2005. They parted ways in 2019. Combs attorney said the decision to settle was in no way an admission of wrongdoing. Ventura declined to comment on the video, but her attorney told CNN, the gut-wrenching video has only further confirmed the disturbing and predatory behavior of Mr. Combs. Words cannot express the courage and fortitude that Ms. Ventura has shown in coming forward to bring this to light.

The video hasn't been seen publicly before and comes on the heels of a series of civil lawsuits alleging Combs' involvement in sex trafficking and sexual abuse, allegations that Combs has repeatedly denied.

Authorities searched Combs' homes in Los Angeles and Miami in March as part of an ongoing federal investigation carried out by a team that specializes in human trafficking crimes. In a December 2023 statement, Combs responded to the claims in some of the lawsuits, saying, sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday.


Let me be absolutely clear. I did not do any of the awful things being alleged.


PHILLIP: Elizabeth Wagmeister, thank you for that report.

Let's discuss this massive outcry over the story with former editor in chief of Ebony Magazine, Kierna Mayo, Manhattan Criminal Defense Attorney Stacy Schneider and Entertainment Attorney Donte Mills.

Stacy, I just want to kind of put a button on really the events that we saw unfold here, which is the lawsuit was settled almost instantaneously. And I have to wonder if it's because that video was out there somewhere, maybe they had it, maybe they knew it existed, but that video is such clear corroboration, it seems, of what was written in that lawsuit. It's very hard to deny what is there.

STACY SCHNEIDER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's true. First of all, with the video, word is that Sean Combs, or P. Diddy, purchased that video for $50,000 from the hotel. Now, that's a little odd because when a lawsuit starts, both sides have subpoena power to gather evidence, and it can be subpoenaed -- surveillance video can always be subpoenaed into a lawsuit.

But it is very unusual, like you pointed out, that this lawsuit was settled so quickly. Usually there's time -- things don't go that fast in civil court. You know, there are allegations made, there are responses, there are attempts to settle their attempts to get the plaintiff who's asking she was asking for $30 million to get the number down, to see if there can be a settlement. It is very unusual how quickly it went.

As to the video, which is obviously disturbing, the thing that I see in the video, which had this gone to a criminal court, and right now the statute of limitations, she didn't press charges in criminal court, Ms. Ventura, she brought the civil lawsuit, the statute of limitation in Los Angeles would have run to bring criminal charges.

But had she done that, and you watch that video, I see at least three counts of assault, one for the first punch, two additional counts for the second, the two kicks that followed, then I see a count of potentially unlawful imprisonment for when he grabbed the back of her jacket, what it looked like, and pulled her along the hallway. He restricted her -- unlawfully restricted her ability to move. And then I see even another crime when he picked up her belongings and took them with him, that could potentially be a threat -- sorry, a theft charge. It could be even a robbery if he intended to keep the property unlawfully or retain it. So, he would have been in serious trouble had she gone a law enforcement route.

PHILLIP: I mean, Kierna, the other thing that you see in that video is just what he would do in a hallway.


PHILLIP: I think everyone is imagining what happens behind closed doors, which was really what Cassie's lawsuit was all about.

MAYO: Exactly. It's exactly what she alleged. And, you know, Abby, for me, what it brings up is what we have to witness in order to believe women. Cassie gave us the color play by play. We knew this without this.

But it's only in this instance when so many people are now understanding that what she's alleging, and I'm imagining that what she alleged is only a fraction of the story. It's not the entire story. It's not everything that Puffy has been known to do.

I was rocked by it. I was nauseated and I could only think about all of the Cassies, one in four women in this country, women are more than half of the population in this country, 25 percent of us know that moment.

When this video happens, for me, it's a trigger. And I'm imagining for many women, it's traumatizing in ways that is really hard to articulate. I'm even shaky right now thinking about it. And I mean to be because I don't think that we should lose the humanity here.

You know, we often talk about the legal perspective, the legal aspect, our common sense isn't legislated in that way. We know better. We know right from wrong collectively, individually. And not enough of us call a thing a thing when it's happening.

So, it's really unfortunate. I'm hoping and praying that Cassie didn't discover this any much the way that the rest of the nation did online, on television somewhere. I hope that there was some prior notice. I hope that we will consider the human beings that actually suffer at the hands of violent people as people and that we're not so quick to forget that real lives are impacted.

I think about Puffy's children, namely his daughters. I think about how many times he's been on the cover of Essence Magazine. You know, I could go on and on and on. We've shown him the kind of love that he clearly has not reciprocated.


PHILLIP: Yes. And to Kierna's point, I mean, not just women in general, but there are a lot of people who have accused him very recently of wrongdoing. I'm looking at a list here, sexual assault accusations, rape allegations, sexual abuse, all kinds of different allegations that have been brought forward just since 2013, just in the last year.

So, there's that. There's the raid on his homes by a sex trafficking unit, essentially. There's trouble ahead, it seems, for Diddy.

DONTE MILLS, ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY: Well, there should be, and I'll say this. I happen to be the only male on this panel now, but I'm going to look at this camera here and say, Sean Combs does not represent real men. Sean Combs does not represent black men. What he did was unacceptable and is not what a real man, a black man, any man should do to women, period, full stop.

Now, we can talk about the legal aspect of it. There is a statute of limitations thing that we have in place that's three years. Sometimes there's a way around it if a crime is recently found out, or if there's an assault victim who was afraid to come forward. So, there is a possibility that they could still move forward and advance this case, even though there is this three-year statute in California.

The other part to this, though, is, as you, as, Kierna, you were talking about it's very difficult when you have someone who has high standing for victims to come forward because they don't think they're going to be believed. I would hope that with this video, it empowers anyone who had any similar experiences with Sean Combs to speak up. And I think I would hope that people would believe them, back them and try to get justice on their behalf because that's what they deserve, and there's no good in this video at all. But if it empowers people to come forward knowing they're going to be believed, you would hope that that's something that they can do.


SCHNEIDER: And I want to just say something. I think The lawsuits that are now -- the other lawsuits that are pending against him, the four or five lawsuits now, with similar types of allegations, including the human trafficking, including sexual assault, all those things, I think those lawyers will -- and I appreciate your message to women very much, there's another angle here also that the lawyers in those cases now, I think, are really going to scrutinize those cases a lot more closely, because if that's out there, what else is out there? Maybe they should be looking for surveillance video in the areas where their alleged acts were said to have occurred.

PHILLIP: We do have to go, but I just want to leave just one word for the enablers, because you don't get what we saw on that video without a lot of people enabling this to happen.

MAYO: It's true. A friend of mine, dear friend, her name is Sil Lai Abrams. She's a high profile survivor. She sent this to me. It's not just that it happened to her, to you, to me, to hundreds of millions of other women. It's that an entire community stood by, knowing this about him, and continuing to support him as long as it was financially and socially beneficial. Abusers don't act alone. There are a large group of sympathizers and enablers that allow this to become the reality for far too many. And so this is not just about high profile folk. This is about your sister. This is about your roommate. This is about everyday women and everyday men. It must be disrupted. We have to speak out loud about these instances. We cannot enable and turn blind eye when people are violent against women.

PHILLIP: Yes, it happens way too often every single day. Kierna, Stacy and Donte, thank you all very much.

And we want to remind everyone that there is a National Domestic Violence Hotline online at or by phone at 800-799-SAFE.

And up next, the congresswoman at the center of that fight with Marjorie Taylor Greene over on Capitol Hill will join me to tell her side of the story. Why she's calling Taylor Greene a racist. Jasmine Crockett is next.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading.

REP. JASMINE CROCKETT (D-TX): No, ain't nothing --

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Hold on, hold on. Order.




PHILLIP: Tonight, Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett is not backing down, calling her Republican colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene racist. After a contentious committee meeting, a late night House oversight markup last night was derailed for nearly an hour after Greene mocked Crockett. You can see for yourself.


GREENE: Do you know what we're here for? I don't think you know what you're for.

CROCKETT: Well, you're the one talking about --

GREENE: I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading.

CROCKETT: No, ain't nothing --

COMER: Hold on, hold on.

CROCKETT: Listen --

COMER: Order. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, that's beneath even you usually to gain order of your committee.

COMER: Order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, there's a point of order.

COMER: We have a point of order. Mr. Lynch --

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I do have a point of order and I would like to move to, to take down Ms. Greene's words. That is absolutely unacceptable. How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person.

GREENE: Are your feelings hurt?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Move her words down.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh girl, baby girl.

GREENE: Oh, really?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Don't even play.

GREENE: Baby girl? I don't think that --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We are going to move and we're going to take your words down. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I second that motion.


PHILLIP: Now, after that, there was a failed vote to strike Greene's comments from the record and she was allowed to continue her remarks, and that's when Crockett stepped back into the fray.


CROCKETT: I'm just curious, just to better understand your ruling, if someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody's bleach blonde, bad built, butch body, that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?

COMER: A what now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chairman, I make a motion to strike those words.

COMER: Order, order.

CROCKETT: I'm trying to get clarification.

GREENE: Look it. Calm down, calm down.


CROCKETT: No, no, no, because this is what you all do. So, I'm trying to get clarification because --

COMER: Ms. Crockett, you're not recognized. Ms. Crockett --

GREENE: I can't hear you with your yelling. Calm down.

CROCKETT: No, don't tell me to calm down, because you all talk noise and then you can't take it, because if I come and talk shit about her, you all are going to have a problem.


PHILLIP: Greene brushed off any criticism that she got over the last 24 hours, writing this, AOC isn't intelligent. Jasmine Crockett has fake eyelashes. These aren't attacks on personalities. These are just facts.

Congresswoman, thanks for being here. First of all, I wonder, in that moment in the hearing room, why did you react the way that you did to the comment that Marjorie Taylor Greene made about you?

CROCKETT: So, I want to clarify that I actually did not react instantaneously. I actually was trying to allow the process to work. So, you heard from AOC, who is our vice ranking member, and you heard from Jamie Raskin, who's our ranker, as we attempted to go through the process. And there was an agreement, and, of course, Marjorie has to be Marjorie, and she refused to actually apologize. Therefore, I needed clarification as to why the chairman refused to actually take her words down, which meant that she would be kicked out of the committee room for the rest of the hearing, which would have been appropriate.

PHILLIP: Now, the part that I think really kind of frankly afire is when you described Greene in this way request for clarification as a bleached blonde, bad built, butch body, which I had to look at my notes to read. Any regrets about that kind of language, especially given that you were trying to make a point, frankly, about decorum in the hearing room?

CROCKETT: I have no regrets, and I'll tell you why. Because Marjorie Taylor Greene is the type of person that if you give her an inch, she'll take a mile. And the fact that they continue to allow her to break the rules of decorum over and over and over, whether it's the State of the Union that the president is delivering and she's wearing a MAGA hat or otherwise.

The reason that she didn't have committee assignments before was because she did not know how to conduct herself as a member of Congress. And so if I just sit there and say, oh, well, Marjorie said it about me, what's to stop her to continue to do it again and again? And at the end of the day, I was elected as a representative of Congress, but that doesn't mean that I'm supposed to be somebody who's doormat.

PHILLIP: Michelle Obama famously said, when they go low, we go high. Are those days basically over? CROCKETT: I don't know that we can even call this a low. I mean, she goes to hell and then I do my best to remind her as to why she should not cross me.

PHILLIP: So, one of your colleagues, Jamie Raskin, actually suggested that some members might have been drinking. Others have said that as well, making that suggestion. That's a pretty serious allegation. Do you think that that played a factor here?

CROCKETT: I think when Marjorie Taylor Greene, it doesn't require alcohol for her to be unhinged. I'll be perfectly honest. I don't know. I don't have any facts to that. So, you know, I won't say and I won't participate in rumors when I don't have any facts behind it.

PHILLIP: So, you also called Greene racist for what she said about you. Why is that?

CROCKETT: Yes. Because as I've received so many amazing compliments from MAGA America throughout my time in Congress, a lot of times when I would go viral, instead of them trying to address the things that I laid out in a very factual way, what they would try to do is say, oh, look at her hair, look at her nails, or look at her lashes. And they would all then associate anything that I do as a form of beautification with being, quote/unquote, ghetto.

And so, to me, she was just basically repeating the nonsense that MAGA world is constantly putting out there because I am not the only woman in Congress that wears lashes. And there are women on her side of the aisle that wear lashes as well, as well as hair extensions. But she's never felt like that was a dig that she needed to take at anyone except for me, a black woman who sits on the committee. And then, of course, she went after AOC and called her unintelligent, a brown woman that sits on the committee.

PHILLIP: CNN actually asked her for comment and this is a statement that we received. She said the only member that brought up any reference to color was Congresswoman Crockett. She's putting that on you.

CROCKETT: I brought it up when? When we were in committee, it definitely did not come up. When I was asked about whether or not I felt like she was being racist, I told the truth, which was, absolutely, yes. But, ultimately, in committee, that was not part of the conversation whatsoever.


PHILLIP: So, House Speaker Mike Johnson weighed in on all of this. He called the situation regrettable. He stressed the importance of decorum. Here's part of his statement. He said, it's something that I talk about often with all of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and we'll continue to advance that important principle. I think it's important for us to show that to the country that job done, and even when we agree and disagree vehemently, we've got to treat one another with dignity and respect. How do you think that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries would have handled the situation? And, frankly, actually, did you hear from Leader Jeffries about what transpired in that committee room?

CROCKETT: I did not speak to Leader Jeffries. As you know, we were there until almost midnight last night. We came on the floor and we only had one vote. So, it was kind of an in and out. But I will tell you that I had an opportunity to speak with Speaker Emeritus Pelosi. She was actually the first person that I saw when I walked onto the floor.

I was unaware that she was aware of what transpired, but she absolutely basically gave me a high five in a series of words, explaining that, you know, these people are crazy and that she specifically basically needs to be put in her place. So, she had seen it this morning on T.V. and definitely told me, great job for standing your ground.

PHILLIP: So, that was the reaction from, from the former Speaker Pelosi. But here's your Democratic colleague in the Senate, John Fetterman. He tweeted this, this morning. In the past, I've described the U.S. House as the Jerry Springer Show. Today, I'm apologizing to the Jerry Springer Show. Were you surprised at all to see him weigh in in that fashion about it?

CROCKETT: I don't know why the senator decided to weigh in, and it's weird that he would weigh in specifically on decorum when there are plenty of people that complain about the fact that he wears a sweatshirt to the Senate. I mean, it's just one of those things. So, you know what? Until you have walked a day in my shoes, I honestly would prefer that you give us the benefit of the doubt, especially as colleagues on the same side of the aisle. He has never had to deal with a Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Now, I applaud those that have pushed back against her, such as the Kim Bucks of the world that decided, you know what, I want out of here, and so many other Republicans that have just decided that they can't deal in a space that involves her, but I think the American people deserve better. And I'm just ready for the American people to rise up and say, this is not the type of politics we want. We want people that will focus on us and not focus on pleasing this radical, few people in the country, but instead will focus on the many of us and try to make our lives better.

PHILLIP: All right. Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CROCKETT: Absolutely. Have a good one.

PHILLIP: And up next, Justice Samuel Alito is now blaming his wife for the MAGA symbol that was at their home. He's offering a curious new explanation involving slurs. We'll discuss that next.


[22:32:32] PHILLIP: The real MAGA housewives of the Supreme Court of the United States. Today, more explanation from Justice Samuel Alito about how this upside-down American flag and symbol of election deniers across the country ended up flying outside of his home just days after the insurrection.

Now, Alito claimed, again, in a conversation with a Fox anchor, that his wife was the one who hoisted the flag. He explained how the incident was the result of a neighborhood dispute, and he also says that his wife was called the C word by a neighbor. The justice said his wife flew the inverted flag in response to another flag put up in the neighborhood bearing the words F Trump.

Joining me now is former lieutenant governor and columnist for "The New York Post" Betsy McCaughey, Coleman Hughes, author of "The End of Race Politics", Associate Professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, Leah Wright-Rigueur, and Donte Mills is back with us. Leah, what do you make of the second bite at the apple by Justice Alito about explaining how this insurrectionist symbol ended up outside of his house?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, you know, I don't buy it. I'm sure the lawyers on the planet, on the panel, will tell me that I have to buy it, that it's, you know, it's a good legal strategy.

PHILLIP: You don't have to buy anything.

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: A good legal strategy. It's a good defense. But, you know, I'm incredibly disturbed by the idea that in response to getting into an argument, a very nasty argument with a neighbor, that the, you know, the response is to put up an insurrectionist flag, right, or to support an insurrectionist movement.

And so I think that, you know, part of what Alito is trying to do is to make -- to find a plausible explanation that works. The point that I think is important here is that it actually doesn't matter what explanation he comes up with, because there is no mechanism for holding anyone on the Supreme Court accountable other than the mechanisms, the actual guardrails of this other Supreme Court justices.

So, they have a code of ethics that they instituted in 2023, but it actually doesn't mean anything besides they all sign on to it and they say, we will try and be ethical in our jobs. So, you know, this is, I think, part of the court of public opinion and trying to make an explanation, but it's not actually necessary for Alito to do it.

PHILLIP: It may not be in the letter of the law, so to speak, when it comes to ethics, but should there not be just standards of basic conduct that say, we are going to try to stay as far away from partisan politics while I'm sitting on this court. And by we, I mean me and my immediate family.

COLEMAN HUGHES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. It's a bad judgment call by Mrs. Alito, to be sure, but we don't actually, and shouldn't have a standard that says your spouse can't have political beliefs. [22:35:00]

PHILLIP: Yeah, but how are we to know that it's actually his spouse? That's his word. It's flying outside of his home where he lives.

HUGHES: Well, he says it's his spouse. I don't have any information to the contrary.

BETSY MCCAUGHEY (R) FORMER NEW YORK LT. GOVERNOR: That's right and let's -- let's look at the setting of this because ever since the Dobbs decision regarding abortion, the neighborhoods surrounding Justice Alito's house, Justice Alito wrote the majority decision in that case, has been swarming with neighbors who are very angry and outside protesters, as well.

And it culminated one day in this very angry argument when some of the neighbors called Mrs. Alito the C word. And according to the justice, Mrs. Alito went home and flew the flag upside down, which is a symbol that would cause many people concern. But let's put this in perspective.

There is so much push from the left to convince Americans that the court is in Donald Trump's pocket. But if you look at the facts, four cases have been decided by this court regarding Donald Trump. Four already. He lost three of them. He lost the two cases in 2020, Trump versus Mazar and Trump versus Vance, right?

In 2021, he lost the Pennsylvania election case about how votes were counted in Pennsylvania during the presidential election. He's only won one case, the Colorado ballot case decided this March, and that was decided unanimously. Even the far left jurists on that court decided that it was farcical.

PHILLIP: It's not just about the court generally.

MCCAUGHEY: So, it is not.

PHILLIP: It's not just about the court, generally. I mean, obviously, it is or is not Alito alone. There are nine justices. But -- but I mean, look, it's not just Dobbs either. It wasn't just about policy or anything like that. Apparently, according to Alito, this was about Trump.

And the court is now dealing with two case that have to do with Donald Trump. And maybe it's enough for you to take Alito's word for it. But a lot of Americans are going to say, he's trying to put this on his wife. And we have no idea if that is the case.

MILLS: Absolutely. And perception is what we want to be clear here. We want to look at our Supreme Court justices who make these important decisions that impact our laws and how -- how they're interpreted, and know that they're going to be fair, or at least believe that if your Supreme Court justice, and then you're saying in retaliation, the first thing that happened was you put a flag upside down to support stopping this deal.

MCCAUGHEY: He didn't do it.

MILLS: Well, it happened in your home, then how can anyone in the nation look at you and believe you're going to be fair in anything that involves Donald Trump? That's what we want to avoid the perception of this. And that's what he allowed to happen.

HUGHES: When I grew up, my mom loved Karl Marx, and my dad loved Ayn Rand. Could not be further different. It's not so abnormal in couples to not agree on every last --

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: No, but you guys aren't on the Supreme Court, right?

MCCAUGHEY: Impute the motives or ideas of one.

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, look, when it came --

MCCAUGHEY: It's sexist. It's 19th century. It's so backwards.

PHILLIP: Listen, I tend to agree with you. When it came to Hillary Clinton, her views were reflective of Bill Clinton's views. Michelle Obama's views are reflective of Barack Obama's views. It's about public perception, in part, and those are politicians. Those are not Supreme Court justices.

MCCAUGHEY: That's right. And Supreme Court justices are entitled to political views, but when they decide a case, they are supposed to decide what is the law of the land. A Supreme Court justice can have private political views just like a heart surgeon can have private political views and still do a perfect heart operation on you. The role of the justice is to decide what the law is.

MILLS: You're overlooking the fact that they're a pillar. They're a pillar in the legal community. These are the top justices in the land. You have to handle yourself that way, and yes, it may be that his wife put it up, but if that happens in your household, we don't know that that's the case or not. We're going to look at your opinions and believe that they are swayed because of your political beliefs, and as a Supreme Court justice of the United States, you should not allow that to happen.

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: But there's also the belief that the Supreme Court justices have that they present to the public that they are objective. So, Clarence Thomas has gone on record as saying, no, no, I am apolitical. I am an objective person. His personal life is very different, and in a moment where only 40 percent of Americans have faith in the Supreme Court, 53 percent do not believe that the Supreme Court to actually be an ethical institution, I do think that the court is very concerned about how it looks and how it is perceived. This does not help that argument, even as we know that the justices are inherently political.


They were picked for political reasons, and it's not just right justices. It's not just left justices. All justices are picked as a political project. MCCAUGHEY: Yeah, let's point out that although about half the nation doesn't have confidence in the court. The court holds is much higher in public opinion than the Congress or the White House, or many other institutions.

UNKNOWN: That's right.

MCCAUGHEY: When you look at this constitution, the Supreme Court has held up far better than the other branches of government.

PHILLIP: But look, I mean, Coleman, look, the politics of the court right now are what they are, but the institution does need credibility. And it does seem like we are straying further and further from a world in which they really try to stay away from partisan politics.

I mean, even Clarence Thomas, when I covered the Trump administration, he would come to the White House to have lunch with Mike Pence almost annually. Shouldn't there be just on principle, a principle that they just stay away from the politicians while they are sitting in those chairs?

HUGHES: Absolutely. Couldn't agree with you more about that. My disagreement is the assumption that he can control his spouse. I think it's a bit regressive, right? We all understand nowadays that spouses can be independent of one another.

PHILLIP: I'm a journalist and would never let my spouse put a political sign outside of our home.

HUGHES: You have a very wise spouse.

PHILLIP: My standard should not be higher than the Supreme Court Justice's standard.

HUGHES: You chose very well and you have a wise spouse. But that does not mean that he could have controlled what she did. We can't assume that.

MCCAUGHEY: I don't want to take her First Amendment rights away. She was outraged and offended and she used a symbolic way of talking to her neighbors and repudiating them.

PHILLIP: If he had left it up, if it was up there today, he would be okay with it?


PHILLIP: -- for a week or a year?

MCCAUGHEY: Because that would signify a long-term acquiescence, whereas he came home and found the flag up.

UNKNOWN: But he left it up for days.

MCCAUGHEY: He had to work it out. WRIGHT RIGUEUR: It is also out of the norm of what justices have

traditionally done. Sandra Day O'Connor, right, was a state senator from Arizona. Her husband ran for governor and she said, I will recuse myself in anything that has to do with what my husband believes because I don't want it to be a reflection on the court. Why can't Alito do the same?

MILLS: We've got to hold that standard.

PHILLIP: Yeah, those choices can in fact be made.

MCCAUGHEY: I know the left is pushing very hard with these recusals. They want to get rid of Clarence Thomas now or Alito.

MILLS: Well, Trump wanted his judge recused because of what his daughter did.

MCCAUGHEY: These Trump cases, the court has already demonstrated its neutrality regarding Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: Lieutenant Governor, I mean, he makes an important point. The standard on the right, according to Trump, is the judge in New York should recuse because his daughter -- his daughter who is a grown adult who doesn't live in his house anymore, has a job in partisan politics. Is that fair?

MCCAUGHEY: I don't know about his daughter.

HUGHES: There's a gotcha moment.

MCCAUGHEY: You know, I'm not sure. I haven't said anything about Judge Meacham because I don't know.

PHILLIP: But that's the accusation that people are making against him.

MCCAUGHEY: I don't think in this day and age --

MILLS: You don't think it's a good accusation.

PHILLIP: I don't. But his daughter doesn't live in his home, doesn't -- you know, is way more removed than his wife who lives in his house.

HUGHES: I don't think you can assume a husband and a wife agree. In fact, quite often, that's the way it is.

PHILLIP: I'm not assuming that they agree. I'm just asking about the propriety of leaving that symbol outside of the home.

HUGHES: It's improper by her because she ought to know that she shouldn't do, as the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, you should do the wise thing in all cases. But let's not pretend that every one of these Supreme Court justices' spouses has their own opinions that they privately talk about at home. We all know that's --

PHILLIP: Of course they do.

HUGHES: Most of them are just wise enough to never signal that to the public.

PHILLIP: Well, we'll see.

MCCAUGHEY: You know, you ought to be a marriage counselor. You're really good at this.

PHILLIP: All right. This is a lesson in working our differences out. Everyone, thank you very much. And just in tonight, new developments involving CNN's debate with President Biden and Donald Trump. That will be next month. We'll be back in a moment.



PHILLIP: Tonight, a new bullet point about the must-see T.V. event of the political year. The first presidential debate, Donald Trump versus President Joe Biden, hosted by CNN, will be made available now to simulcast to all other networks.

Joining me now is former ABC News anchor and the first woman to moderate a presidential debate, Carole Simpson. Carol, great to see you. I wonder what you make of that decision by CNN, the network that we are on right now, to make this debate available to all of the networks and not just right here on this network.

CAROLE SIMPSON, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, you shouldn't hog it all to yourself. It's the right thing to do, to share with the networks. I mean, it's so important. People looking at other channels certainly need to have the opportunity to watch this.

PHILLIP: Do you think that not having an audience is the correct choice?

SIMPSON: Yes, I do, after watching the debates. First of all, I have to let you know that every four years, I get dusted out. I get out of the cupboard and dusted off to talk about debates. So, I haven't been on live T.V. for four years, since the 2020 ones. But anyhow, I make a point of watching all the debates, even the primary debates. I'm a debate girl.

So, yes, if you look at some of the debates and saw what happened with, you know, the Republicans shouting more for the Republican candidate and others booing, you can't control the audience.


You can tell them to be quiet and no demonstrations, but they don't adhere to that. So, yes, it should be quiet. Nobody's there. Nobody making favor to one candidate or the other.

PHILLIP: And since you both are a pro and a vet at this and you study these debates, what do you expect to see this one candidate or the other? And since you both are a pro and a vet at this and you study these debates, what do you expect to see this time around when these two meet once again on the debate stage? SIMPSON: Well, I have to let you know, Abby, that I'm not sure there's

going to be a debate in June. This thing happened so quickly. Remember, Biden makes the challenge, OK? He wants to debate. Trump comes back fairly quickly with, yes, I'll accept. And here are two networks that say, we'll broadcast it. And then they name the anchors. This was all in, you know, hours.

I've never seen anything happen with governmental politicians or government officials happen this quickly. So I think something's fishy about it all. And when Trump said, yes, I'll debate, I'm not sure he's going to show up. He didn't show up for any of the Republican primary debates. And what, he's ahead, what does he have to gain by doing the debate?

PHILLIP: It is a good question. They both seem really eager to put some points on the board. And especially Trump seems eager to have not just those two debates. They are the ones who are clamoring, allegedly, for even more.

SIMPSON: Allegedly, right. Allegedly.

PHILLIP: I think you have reason, Carole, to be skeptical of anything, frankly, in this election cycle. But we will see what happens in June. Either way, I'll be here and we'll have you back to talk about it.

SIMPSON: I also want to say that I think the trial, the trial in New York, the hush money trial, may have a lot to do with whether he comes or not.


SIMPSON: If Trump is found guilty, I can't imagine that he'd want to do a debate and have questions asked about what happened at the trial. And if he wins it, well, he always liked to trumpet things. So, he might want to trumpet it. But, you know, he does that all the time, anywhere, anyhow.

PHILLIP: And we could learn very quickly when that trial ends very soon. Carole Simpson, great to see you, as always. Thank you very much.

SIMPSON: Thank you.

PHILLIP: We'll be back in a moment.





PHILLIP: Be sure to tune in tomorrow at 9 P.M. Eastern time for Champions for Change, one hour special right here on CNN. And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.