Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Defense Rests Without Trump Taking Stand Despite Teases; What Trump Has Promised For Second Term While Eyes On Trial; The Trial's Political Impact As Jury Close To Deciding His Fate; Netanyahu Gives A Defiant Response Over Potential Charges Against Him From ICC; Blue Origin's New Shepard Rocket Lifted Off With Six People On Board. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 21, 2024 - 22:00   ET



MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: If a pilot gets one of those reports that that light goes up to buckle your seatbelts, by all means, buckle it while you -- your seat.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: I mean, after seeing that video, I think everyone is doing that, especially people who are watching this from a plane right now.

Miles O'Brien, it's great to have you. Of course, our hearts go out to the passenger who was killed on that flight. Thank you, Miles, for that.

Also, a programming note, because tomorrow here on The Source, we will be joined by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, his first interview here on The Source. You won't want to miss it.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, though. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: The headlines you might have missed about Donald Trump's second term plans, that's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Philip in New York. Tonight, the final countdown to closing arguments in Trump's hush money trial is on. Summations are set for next Tuesday, and then the judge will hand this case off to the jury. Those 12 men and women are charged with deciding whether the former president remains a free man. It is a heavy decision, but no less consequential than the one that every day Americans will face in November.

Now, virtually every word uttered in that courtroom, every movement by the judge, the jury, the defendant, scrutinized, dissected. But outside of the courtroom, Trump has given the country plenty of new evidence about what he plans to do if he captures the Oval Office.

So, let's go headline by headline. Lawfare, Trump plans to prosecute his predecessor Joe Biden for all of the many crimes that Trump says Biden has committed but refuses to actually name. Saturday night massacres, well, Trump says sure. He told TIME Magazine he would fire U.S. attorneys who don't follow his orders to prosecute his opponents.

Consider hiring someone under federal investigation as attorney general. Well, yes, Trump says that Ken Paxton is on his list of possible A.G.s. Fire the Fed chair? A close Trump confidant says. From jail, mind you, you can bet on it. Spark a trade war that could take money from middle class wallets? That's under advisement, too. A billion dollar quid pro quo offered up to oil executives? That's now under investigation by House Democrats. A plan for sweeping immigration raids, deportations, internment camps? Those are also being drawn up. Monitoring and prosecuting women who have abortions? It's up to the states, Trump says. Contraceptive bans? Trump now says, never, but that's just hours after saying, we'll see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you support any restrictions on a person's right to contraception?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we're looking at that and I'm going to have a policy on that very shortly.

Things really do have a lot to do with the states.


PHILLIP: Withhold funds from Congress, Trump says he can do that. Deploy the National Guard to cities on a whim, Trump believes he has the power to do that too.

But the same election deniers who tried to discard the Constitution in charge of upholding the Constitution, that is also part of Trump's plan. The civil service, you can expect that to be gutted. Social media posts borrowing language from Nazi Germany, well, it happened during Trump's first term, and it's happening again now. Add it all up, and Trump has given the American people a pretty clear picture of how he plans to govern.

Joining me now, Pollster Frank Luntz, Sara Fischer, senior media reporter at Axios, Jamal Simmons, former deputy assistant to President Biden, and Coleman Hughes, author of The End of Race Politics.

Frank, you know, it used to be said that once you're in the general election phase, the candidates move to the middle. Donald Trump seems to be doing quite the opposite.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: There was two minutes of a very impressive indictment, and I'm looking at this wondering how can Americans support this guy? But the fact is, half of the country who's made up their minds support Trump in the key swing states, six out of seven support Trump. So, clearly, there's something that he's saying is connecting.

Now, the way that you're present it here is really powerful and it's an indictment, but to the public, they look at the border and they say, chaos, and they want someone to fix it. They look at affordability and they say, I can't even buy my food, my fuel, my homes, my healthcare. They want someone to fix that. They look at China and they see the China is a threat. All the things that you point out, you did a fantastic job. And some of it is in his own language, except there's a lot of Americans who want that to happen, want accountability, want responsibility, and they want someone to get really, really tough.


PHILLIP: Yes, okay. So, I think that that's undoubtedly true. Plenty of Americans, Trump supporters especially, want to see all of those very things happen. But this is also a Trump who, like last time, keeps flirting with the fringe this whole thing about the Nazi, you know, return of the Reich or unified Reich in this video is pretty outrageous and they keep making it sound like an accident, but how many accidents could there possibly be?

I want to play what President Biden said about that as the Biden campaign is now seizing on it.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This on his official account? Wow, a unified Reich? That's Hitler's language. That's not America's. He cares about holding on to power. I care about you.


PHILLIP: All right. Vertical video for TikTok, is it going to work?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I think what we know now is like half of Americans are getting most of their news scrolling on a phone. And so the campaign is trying to communicate with those Americans in the language and the culture that that occurs. Donald Trump is telling us what it is he wants to do. He's telling us where his inclinations are. He's certainly telling us -- not telling us what he won't do, right? It's not like he's saying, oh, I'd never do that. That's nuts.

The reality of this is Donald Trump is willing to throw out all of the norms and cultural things that we think we've sort of settled as long as it means that he gets to have power in the American system. And that's ultimately what this is about. Because even when he's asked the question about contraception, it's clear he didn't know what that guy was talking about. He didn't actually have a policy. It's just, we'll get there, oh yes, so we'll figure it out.

PHILLIP: At this point, you really think that Donald Trump doesn't know what he wants his policy to ultimately be on contraception or is he just telling the truth that it's open for discussion, that he would consider banning it if the states wanted to do it?

SIMMONS: I think it's open for discussion because there might be a group of people who are willing to vote for him who want to hear him say something, and he doesn't quite know yet what they want him to say. So he's got to go back and figure out what the deal is like he did with the judges. He's got to go back and figure out who he can cut the deal with and give them something and whether or not that'll help him get elected.

COLEMAN HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think Donald Trump is bad enough that we ought not exaggerate. So this, this Nazi thing, for example this is a classic case of, I think, people seizing on interpreting something in the worst possible light. So for example, the word Reich in this context was pulled from Wikipedia talking about the Reich before Hitler was born, right? It wasn't Nazi. It wasn't Hitler.

PHILLIP: Wait, I'm sorry, Coleman, are you trying to suggest that the The use of the term unified Reich, which by the way, literally no one uses, no one talks about Reichs unless they're talking about Hitler, in modern day, you really think that that was some kind of obscure reference to the Reich before Hitler?

HUGHES: No, this is a reporting. This is a reporting. This is in the New York Times, this is, the reporting was that they lifted from the Wikipedia page of pre World War I Germany, referred to as the Second Reich, Hitler was the third. And they just lifted some language, pasted it in there. Has nothing to do with Nazis.

PHILLIP: That's what I'm saying is --

SIMMONS: We're the editors for this, because on any normal campaign, any normal part of life, when you see something that references the Reich, you are thinking about Hitler and Nazi Germany.

PHILLIP: But this is the point.

HUGHES: He probably has incompetent staffers. That should surprise nobody. And I don't think he's very much on top of his campaign. I mean, this is Donald Trump we're talking about. This is a person that accidentally tweeted covfefe. So, I think, you know, don't attribute to malice what can be explained by just incompetence.

SIMMONS: But his incompetence often becomes the reality of his world.

SARA FISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and he's still a very effective communicator. Like I think what Frank was saying about all the people who are listening to this message and they feel excited about some of it, it's because of the way that he knows how to deliver a message and knows how to test a message.

Part of what I think, to your point, about this conflicting messaging around what he would do around contraception, is he's trying to figure out what's going to resonate with the base, what's not going to resonate with the base. And a lot of the stuff that he communicates around deploying the National Guard, these are buzzwords, right? Americans here deploy the National Guard and that signifies power. So, part of what Trump is doing is very strategic in testing the messages and also deploying the right words that he knows are going to trigger people.

LUNTZ: So, I know I shouldn't play host, but I still don't understand that two minutes that you started was damning. It was fantastic if you want to make the case against Donald Trump, and yet the guy is still tied or winning.

PHILLIP: Well, let me ask you then.

LUNTZ: And he's been indicted 91 times. He's in court right now. It's embarrassing. It's kind of pathetic for this country.

PHILLIP: Well, let me ask you then. Is it because Americans see and hear all of these things, and they simply do not take him seriously?

LUNTZ: They look at -- and I don't want to say that they look at issues, because it really isn't issues anymore.


And I apologize every time I sit next to a journalist because they want it to be issues, but it's really attributes, character traits, who we are as people. And in the end, they look and they think our country is going to hell. You know, this is the most negative we've ever been in terms of division, the most pessimistic we've ever been in terms of the next generation. And they think that Trump is better able to address that even with all the crap that he says.

And it's my warning to viewers that they're not going to pay attention to whether it's the Second Reich or the Third Reich. They're not going to pay attention to those details. They are going to think, who's going to put more money in my pocket? Who's going to secure the border? And in the end, who's going to improve my quality of life?

PHILLIP: Let me ask Coleman this. I mean, when you -- okay, let's put aside the alleged Nazi reference. When you see that, I mean, do you believe that Donald Trump is, in fact, actually planning a potential second term that is far more extreme than even his first term? And do you believe that that should be something that voters are concerned about?

HUGHES: Yes and no. My guess is that When he talks about these insane and beyond impractical, but, you know, plans to deport 20 million people, which have, in addition to ethical issues, practical issues, my guess is it will probably again end up like the same plan when he said it in 2015 then ended up deporting fewer people than Obama did.

On the other hand, I do worry about the retaliatory prosecutions, the idea that he will weaponize -- yes. I worry more that he could vindictively weaponize the legal system against his opponents, against those who were disloyal to him, against the long list of enemies he's made in the past four and eight years. I mean, that seems to me the more serious possibility.

FISCHER: And make no mistake, that's his number one priority. The first thing he will do when he gets to office, he has said this, is bring in people who have proven loyalty to him, and get rid of everyone, including, to your point at the top, civil servants, that he doesn't think prioritize the needs of Trump over everything.

PHILLIP: Yes. He's been --

SIMMONS: Can I tip her one thing for Frank? This isn't all about Trump. It's also about Joe Biden. There are a lot of Democrats and Democratic voters who haven't come home to Biden. It's not like Trump is winning a bunch of extra votes. Biden just hasn't closed the deal yet.

PHILLIP: Yes, we've seen that in the polls too. Everyone, stick around for us.

Coming up next, as the Trump defense rests its case, why legal experts say their witness blew up in their own faces.

Plus, we will talk about which side is leading ahead of closing arguments next week.

And Trump and his allies are riled up tonight over language in the Mar-a-Lago search warrant that authorized the use of deadly force, if necessary. We have a reality check on that, next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, a surprise everyone saw coming. Donald Trump did not and will not testify in his own defense at the hush money trial. That's despite weeks of saying that he would.


TRUMP: Yes, I would testify, absolutely. It's a scam. It's a scam. That's not a trial.

I'm testifying. I tell the truth. I mean, all I can do is tell the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you more or less likely, you think, to take the stand in the Manhattan case right now?

TRUMP: Well, I would if it's necessary.

Probably so, I would like to. I mean, I think so.


PHILLIP: The jury is now one step closer to deciding Trump's fate as the defense rests its case. Prosecutors ultimately called 20 witnesses over 15 days of testimony, while Trump's lawyers called just two, including one who legal experts called a disaster on the witness stand. The jury is now expected to hear closing arguments next week.

Joining me now to discuss this former Trump White House Attorney Jim Schultz, also with us, former Federal Prosecutor Gene Rossi.

So, Jim, both sides rested closing arguments next week. This is, I think, going to come down to how much can the prosecution simplify this case for the jury, because, ultimately, it can get pretty messy.

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: This is going to be a very difficult closing argument for the prosecution. And the reason for that is just what you articulated. It's a very complicated case. The jury instructions are going to be confusing, no doubt about it. They are confusing. The presentation has to be succinct, short, have appropriate timeline, and also tie everything together and kind of make up for the fact that Michael Cohen isn't the greatest witness, right? He's got all the baggage. He has all the things that were identified. So, they're going to have to work through all those issues and kind of tie this case together in a way that, you know, doesn't make it entirely hinging upon the testimony of Cohen, which is tough to do.

PHILLIP: So, what's your gut tell you at this stage about what the jury might ultimately do here?

SCHULTZ: Tough to say. You're not in a courtroom watching the jury. You're not seeing what the jury is -- what their reactions are to everything. But I would not be surprised in any way, shape, or form if this came back with a hung jury. That someone is saying, absolutely, no way, you know, we're not going to convict him and someone is going to say, absolutely, he should be convicted, and I think that you're going to have -- you know, I wouldn't be surprised if you had that push and pull and you end up with a mistrial.

PHILLIP: So, you only need one person technically to hang a jury, but it's also not that common.


I mean, do you think that's a possibility?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: If I had a bit of money right now and read the tea leaves, tasseography, reading the tea leaves, I would say there's going to be a hung jury, if I had a bet money right now. Could he be found guilty of multiple counts? Sure. I don't know if he's going to run the table and be acquitted.

But I want to follow up on what Jim said. You know, I've done tax cases. I've done fraud cases. And I've been trying to think about the theme that the prosecutor is going to have in what I call the final mosaic, the closing next Tuesday, and it's so complicated that many lawyers can't understand it. And even though there are two lawyers on a jury, I got to tell you, when that jury gets in at the liberation room, they're going to have an epiphany. They're going to say, listen. This is the former president of the United States. We have a Herculean task. We are going to have to find him guilty of something. And if they don't understand the crime for which they're supposed to find him guilty, you're going to have a lot of questions during deliberations, and you could have one or two jurors holding out, maybe more.

PHILLIP: So, okay, let me play devil's advocate here since --

ROSSI: Go ahead. PHILLIP: Ultimately. I mean, a simple presentation of the case. This is Donald Trump didn't want this to come out before an election. He, you know, directed his staff to reimburse Michael Cohen so that it wasn't -- didn't show up on the FEC records, that he paid out a porn star. That's the simple case, is it not?

SCHULTZ: It is. But in the end, you really have to show that Donald Trump had knowledge and directed that that business record be recorded that way. That hinges on one person at this point to corroborate it, it's Michael Cohen, and if they don't believe him, if they think he's a liar. And, look, we've seen a lot of times where there are liars on the stand, people know they're liars, they still believe their testimony. But if they believe he's a liar and there's one person that says, no way am I believing Michael Cohen, case is over.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, Michael Cohen is a liar. Do you think that the defense adequately invalidated all of his testimony? Because, I mean, he's owned up to his lies.

ROSSI: Well, I was telling Jim Sam The Bull Gravano killed 19 people, and he was John Gotti's henchman. He basically told on a wiretap said to his henchman, if you go to afford a grand jury, you should lie 50 percent of the time, tell the truth 50 percent of the time. The jury believed everything he said. So, a liar can be believed by a jury. And I had that in my cases where liars were believed by a jury.

For Michael Cohen, here's where the rubber meets the road. It's what you said. Can you place Donald Trump's mind when he signs those checks and his criminal intent that when he had the false invoice that it was connected somehow to affecting the election? He may not have known there was something shady with the souffle invoice, but he has to have the mens rea, the intent to connect it to a crime such as election violation. And other than Michael Cohen, you have to rely on circumstantial evidence, that may not be enough.

PHILLIP: Yes, with two lawyers on the jury, that's going to be an interesting picture.

Gentlemen, I want to move on to something slightly different, because today we actually got an update on that other case that Donald Trump is involved with. This is the documents case. New unsealed documents show that the FBI authorized the use of deadly force in the Mar-a-Lago raid. Trump, his allies are making a big thing of this. They're saying that this was some kind of, you know, attempt by the FBI to authorize them to harm Trump. What are the facts?

ROSSI: Okay. I did a lot of search warrants, reviewed them, wrote them. It's standard operating procedure for the FBI or any, any federal agency or state agency. When they execute a search warrant, they have the authority to use deadly force if necessary. So, if Donald Trump is complaining about how in an affidavit or, procedurally, they had the authority to use deadly force, join the club. You're just like any other citizen. You shouldn't be treated any differently.

PHILLIP: And it feels a little bit like playing with fire to insinuate something like that about what the FBI is doing, which is basically what they do with everyone.

SCHULTZ: Absolutely. Like Donald Trump is not for political points here and so are his advocates. And, you know, in the end, remember, Secret Service is there. Secret Service knew this was coming. Secret Service is on site. They're law enforcement at the end of the day. And, again, this is standard operating procedure. This is kind of a yawn to me.


ROSSI: I agree.

PHILLIP: I agree. And they should stop lying about it too.

Gene Rossi, Jim Schultz. Thank you all very much.

So, that is the legal part of this. Now, the political part, more of Trump's red tie allies showing up at court today, including one who likened Trump and his crowds to the pope.



REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): There's not another person on the planet that can do that other than the pope, the pope. And when do people go, they visit the pope. What do they say? Pope, what can you do? Would you bless me and my family? That's what they want. They want blessings for their family when they go see the pope. When people come to Donald Trump's rallies, they're saying, Donald Trump, we need you more than ever before. Our country is burning.


PHILLIP: Okay joining me now is host of CNN Smerconish, Michael Smerconish. That's interesting, Michael. But separate and apart from that, there are no cameras in this courtroom.


PHILLIP: What a shame. So, all you've got, people like me and you reading transcripts, interpreting what was being said. Do you think Americans are paying attention to all the nitty-gritty details of what's been transpiring in the last --

SMERCONISH: I know some Americans are. The people in my orbit, those who listen to my radio program, the folks that I associate with, we're all kind of caught up in all the detail of it. But I have my fear or concern that for other folks, you know, they're putting food on the table and their minds are in a lot of different places.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, undoubtedly, right? But in addition to that, this is all stuff from 2016. I mean, that's an eon ago in the life of American politics. So, is this dredging up old memories of who Donald Trump was in that time, or does it just feel like same old, same old? SMERCONISH: I think it's baked in. I was mindful of the polls when the trial began that said that 20-some percent of those voting for Donald Trump said, but if he's convicted of a felony, then it's a different story. I didn't believe it then, and I certainly don't believe it now. I think already baked in the cake is any outcome, even if it's a conviction. I don't think it moves the needle.

Abby, I talk about this case every day ad nauseum on radio. The next person who calls me and says, I was for Trump or I was against Trump, but now will be the first caller. Everybody is exactly where they were when it began.

PHILLIP: Yes. Look, Trump also Has himself made this about whether or not you believe Michael Cohen or whether you believe him. He did not testify though, as is his right He doesn't have to incriminate himself But does he hurt himself by not being willing to really put his credibility up against a Michael Cohen?

SMERCONISH: I might have said yes, except for the way the evidence has come in. I think the revelation in the trial that Michael Cohen stole from Donald Trump is all the sound bite they need so that if he's convicted, he can go out, his surrogates can go out and say, what a sham that trial was. Can you believe they convicted me, even though the lead witness against me is someone who acknowledged having stolen from the Trump Organization? So, it's a sound bite waiting to happen.

PHILLIP: So, if you're a federal prosecutor right now, if you're Jack Smith, if you're Merrick Garland and you're watching this transpire, what's going on?

SMERCONISH: I think you're having conniptions. I said it when Alvin Bragg was the first to bring an indictment. I said, this is going to poison the well. This, this will be the impression that's created for Americans in all the indictments to follow if there are other indictments. And you just have to believe that Jack Smith is watching this unfold, hoping that he gets a shot before Election Day. In all likelihood, he won't. But I think this has cast the die for the perception of Americans.

PHILLIP: In what sense? I mean, you're implying also that the Jack Smith case is a stronger case. So, if the evidence is there --

SMERCONISH: Oh, I absolutely am.

PHILLIP: If the evidence is there for Jack Smith, it shouldn't matter what happens in New York.

SMERCONISH: It shouldn't matter. But I think that the perception among many is that here's Donald -- well, let me, let me quote Fareed Zakaria. I mean, if he weren't Donald Trump, would he be being prosecuted in this New York courtroom? I agree with Fareed. He probably would not. And I think that that's the perception of many.

PHILLIP: But at the same time, sure, if it weren't Donald Trump, but this is an indictment that is about Donald Trump doing something in service of trying to become president of the United States. That's a one of one kind of situation. And that's probably why it's only a Donald Trump.

SMERCONISH: I mean, I have to, I have to say, is that what it's really all about? I mean, today they had the charge conference, and there's still not an articulation as to what the felony is. I'm an attorney, I've never heard of this before.

PHILLIP: The judge said it doesn't have to be articulated. That's how New York law works. The jury just has to find that there was a crime. They don't have to say which one it is. They don't have to say that it was committed. They just have to find that there was a crime committed.

SMERCONISH: I know that you're right on the law. It still doesn't make sense to me. I'm an attorney. I tried cases for more than ten years. Donald Trump name checked me a week ago today because I made that observation on radio. I'm not here to carry his water, but there's something wrong with that that you can sit there for a month long trial without any clear understanding of what's the crime that I'm defending myself against, I'm troubled by that.

PHILLIP: So, if this is a hung jury, do you think that that's -- first of all, do you think that that's likely, as one of Trump's former attorneys believes?


SMERCONISH: I think -- I think it's as likely as guilty. I see zero prospect for acquittal.

PHILLIP: All right. Michael Smerconish, great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Abby. Thank you for having me.

PHILLIP: And you can catch Michael's show Saturday mornings, 9 A.M. right here on CNN. Don't miss it. Still ahead, late-night hosts openly campaigning with and for Biden in this election cycle, we'll discuss. Plus, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to CNN -- on CNN, to his potential arrest warrant for the war in Gaza. Hear why his defense includes FDR and George W. Bush. We'll be back in a moment.



PHILLIP: New tonight, a defiant response from Israel's Prime Minister over potential charges against him from the International Criminal Court for Israel's war in Gaza. Here's Benjamin Netanyahu with CNN's Jake Tapper.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: They're beyond outrageous. This is a rogue prosecutor that has put false charges and created false symmetries that are both dangerous and false. And the first false symmetry is he equates the democratically elected leaders of Israel with the terrorist tyrants of Hamas.

That's like saying that, well, I'm issuing, you know, arrest warrants for FDR and Churchill, but also for Hitler. Or I'm issuing arrest warrants for George Bush, George W. Bush, but also for Bin Laden. That's absurd.


PHILLIP: Here to discuss this with me is "Washington Post" foreign policy columnist Josh Rogin. Josh, good to see you. So, Netanyahu there in that interview, he called it anti-Semitic and a slander to say that Israel isn't going out of its way to minimize civilian casualties in this war. Do you think that that is supported by the facts?

JOSH ROGIN, FOREIGN POLICY COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, a couple of things. First of all, you know, it's very clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu is doubling down on his determination to defend his government's treatment of the civilians in Gaza. And in a way, he's trying to take advantage of the fact that the ICC is considering leveling these charges to play the victim and to pretend that he's under attack.

And I think that makes sense for him politically, although it doesn't, to your question, answer the real questions and the real disparities between what he said in that interview with Jake Tapper and the reality on the ground.

And the reality on the ground is that for over seven months, the Israeli government has had a policy of preventing food from getting into Gaza and other supplies through arbitrary and onerous restrictions on aid passing into Gaza, according to everybody who's involved, including the aid organizations, the U.S. government, the Palestinians, and everything that we see, everything that everybody can see on their phones every day, all day.

So, there's a huge gap between what he's saying and what your lying eyes are telling you. But I also, you know, think it's just counterproductive in my personal view to say that attacks on Israeli policy are anti-Semitic. The two have nothing to do with each other. Lots of Jews have nothing to do with Israeli policy and are very critical of it, including this Jew right here.

PHILLIP: So, there's also the question about what happens to Gaza after this war is over. He addressed that. He talked about a potential for IDF occupation and basically ruled it out. Here's what he said.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You're taking off the table on Israeli occupation?

NETANYAHU: If you mean -- if you mean resettling Gaza, yeah, it was never in the cards, and I said so openly, and some of my constituents are not happy about it, but that's my position. What I would do is have a reconstruction of Gaza, if possible, done by the moderate Arab states and the international community.


PHILLIP: Do you think, Josh, that that is something that is possible or likely, given where we are?

ROGIN: You know, possible but not likely? I mean, again, I think Netanyahu is playing a political game with this issue because everybody knows that his war cabinet is completely divided over the issue of what happens the day after the fighting ends in Gaza, and the Biden administration for months has been trying to convince Netanyahu to accept some sort of arrangement that involves Palestinian authority from West Bank coming over and another mixture of gambits that would allow Palestinians to run Gaza.

And basically, Netanyahu has his own plan, and his own plan is that the Israeli military stays there as long as he wants and that nobody else can come in and somehow it all gets fixed by the Arab countries. So, again, it makes sense from politically, it doesn't match the reality, but he doesn't really seem to care about that.

PHILLIP: And the timeline is really important there. As you pointed out, when would Israeli troops leave? He doesn't really say that. But I do, Josh, want to get to your most recent reporting, really fascinating, about what is happening with former President Trump.

Trump's former ambassador to Germany, Rick Grinnell, he had a private dinner with a group of Arab-American donors and activists. Tiffany Trump's husband is also involved in this. It's one of many that they are organizing in battleground states. Are they serious here about trying to appeal to Arab voters and are you actually hearing receptiveness to that among Arab voters who might be disenchanted with President Biden?

ROGIN: Yeah, crazily enough, it's true that the Trump campaign is not only devoting a huge amount of resources and time into courting Arab- American and Muslim-American voters in key battleground states, they also are making traction.


And I talked to several of the attendees at that dinner in Oakland Hills, Michigan, which is going on right now, actually, as we're on the air right now. And some of them, you know, are willing to hear out Trump's envoy, Rick Grennell, his former ambassador.

Some of them, which is going on right now, actually, as we're on the air right now, and some of them are willing to hear out Trump's envoy, Rick Grennell, his former ambassador. Some of them are already on board with the Trump train, and their logic is pretty clear. They said, well, you know, Joe Biden didn't do anything for us when our family members are getting killed in Gaza, so we might as well take a chance and roll the dice on Trump, too.

And they know that the best way to get in with Trump is to get in early. So, you might not think that Trump, who has said so many horrible things about Muslims and Islam over the years, or Rick Grennell would be a natural envoy to the Muslim or Arab-American community, but here we are. That's 2024 for you. According to "The New York Times" in battleground states, Trump is leading Biden with Muslim and Arab-Americans 57 to 25. And if that number doesn't blow your mind, nothing will.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, crazier things have happened, I suppose, but we'll find out. Josh Rogin, thanks for bringing us all of that reporting.

ROGIN: Anytime. And next, a sign of the times. Late-night hosts, they're openly appearing on the campaign trail to help President Biden. My panel will weigh in on all of that, next.




SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": There's a Dark Brandon conspiracy meme. And this is something that you seem to have a lot of fun with. You've co-opted. You've co-opted Dark Brandon. This is a yard sign. And do you enjoy playing around with the Dark Brandon meme?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: No, I resent the hell out of it.


PHILLIP: Another late-night comic riding the Biden campaign wave, Jimmy Kimmel, is set to moderate a conversation between Biden and Barack Obama. Tickets for next month's fundraiser start at $250. Not bad. This comes on the heels of Stephen Colbert hosting a similar event in March which went on to raise $26 million for the Biden campaign.

And while some are hosting events for Biden, others are having him as a guest on their shows. As you just saw, my panel is back with me. Coleman, I actually heard you chuckle. Did you chuckle?

COLEMAN: Yeah, that was pretty funny.

PHILLIP: Did you think, is it working?

HUGHES: Yeah, you know, it might be. It certainly can't hurt. At the end of the day, though, I think a lot of late-night comics have become more and more political over the past four years, certainly starting in 2016 with Trump.

And as a result, the comedy has taken a hit, which is to say all the Trump jokes are still funny because they're willing to go at him really hard, but I think they pull punches with Democrats, they pull punches with Biden, and there's a lot to make fun of there, too.

On the right, you have a guy like Gutfeld where he's basically doing the opposite, right? There's a lot to make fun of in Biden, and he gets his ribs in there, but he's not going to go hard after Trump. And so, at the end of the day, my preference as a political independent, I like someone like Bill Maher, I like someone like Jon Stewart, someone that's really going to try to make fun of both sides.

PHILLIP: But at the end of the day, I mean, both of those guys are no fans of Donald Trump. I mean, Jamal, what do you think the late-night hosts are even accomplishing by doing this? I mean, is it mostly actually succeeding in helping them raise money? Because, I mean, $26 million, that's pretty decent for a one-night fundraiser. Are they moving votes?

SIMMONS: Well, you know, celebrities don't move votes for candidates, but what they will do is provide a platform for the candidate to be able to kind of show some part of themselves that they, you know, people would want to see. Again, I love the show, but a lot of people don't really watch big television. People are watching things on their phones.

PHILLIP: Video clips.

SIMMONS: And even when they watch the show, they watch it in clips because they're seeing it from other people sharing it. And so, what they're trying to do from a political perspective is get in as many people's palms as they possibly can through these platforms that are much more entertainment, or even if they're gardening or they're makeup shows or relationship advisors, they got to find a way to tap people who aren't paying attention to the rest of us.


FISCHER: Yeah, it is. And I think we have to also think about it from the comedian side and from the late-night host side. Look, they've always had a progressive bend. There's no question that Hollywood and Democratic politics have gone together for so long. What's changed is that there's a little bit more advocacy in the post-Trump years.

So, you saw Colbert hosting that huge fundraiser or being a part of that huge fundraiser with Biden and Obama a few weeks ago. You had Colin Jost glorifying Biden next to him at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. A lot of us actually felt that that was somewhat awkward, sitting in the room for that.

And then, of course, you have Kimmel hosting this event. You have all of these late-night hosts bringing these candidates on. Trump obviously didn't show on those shows. And so, what's shifted is that there's more advocacy from these comedians. Whether or not it's effective, to your point, I don't know if it's helpful for them and their ratings so much as it's helpful for the candidates taking advantage.

PHILLIP: So, Frank, I'm told that you have a poll where you asked registered voters who they respected more. Thirty-nine percent said Trump, thirty-six said Biden, and 25 percent said Taylor Swift.

LUNTZ: Yes. PHILLIP: I guess it's not really that surprising. Taylor Swift has the

support of a quarter of the country.

LUNTZ: And she's got a plurality of voters, 18 to 29. And I think, here's the warning. Bruce Springsteen went around doing concerts for Hillary Clinton with hours to go in the election in 2016. Tens of thousands of people were showing up.


He was up on stage. The whole cultural elite of America were up there screaming, Hillary, Hillary. And they voted against her. This does not represent mainstream America. You talk about working class. You talk about union members. You talk about Latinos. That's not who they're looking for. They don't want someone who's famous.

But Taylor Swift is different. And if she goes at Trump, as I think she will in the end, I'm then watching, will Joe Rogan get involved? Because could you imagine the battle royale between Taylor Swift and Joe Rogan? It will be so entertaining, it'll make it worth watching the election.

FISCHER: But, my yes but is she went hard after Marsha Blackburn and Blackburn still won.

LUNTZ: Exactly. And so, there's a limit to what cultural people can do.

PHILLIP: And there might even be backlash to cultural icons kind of telling people what to do, how to vote. Yeah.

LUNTZ: This is the most serious election that we've ever had in my lifetime. I know they say it all the time, but I think we can agree that there's never been a bigger difference between Trump and Biden. If you throw a singer into that and throw a podcast host into that, I don't think it's going to be received well. That said, this is going to be decided by thousands of votes, not millions of votes, and anything can make a difference.

PHILLIP: I mean, do you agree with that?

SIMMONS: Here's what I think. There is evidence in the people on the left who believe that Donald Trump is autocratic, right? There is some evidence that the way you go after an autocrat is to make fun of him.

And that the more you make fun of him, the more you bring him down in a way for people to not admire him so much. And so, I think part of going after Trump so much does kind of remind people of the things they don't like about him and they laugh about it, which doesn't add to his cultural cachet.

PHILLIP: We have to go in a second, but isn't the risk here also that 50 percent of the country, roughly, supported Trump, okay? A lot of those people don't like being lumped in with being made fun of for that support. HUGHES: Sure, sure, yeah. But, you know, I think Jon Stewart made a

very good point about a month ago when he came under criticism for making fun of Biden on his first show back. And he said, look, if you really believe that it's important to beat Trump, what we have to do, I'm paraphrasing, is to get some credibility back by being able to make fun of Biden.

The problem is that so many of those voters that you're talking about, the reason that they don't care what Bruce Springsteen has to say is because, for them, the elites have lost all credibility by being advocates. They say, okay, fine, I know you're Democrats. Why should I listen to anything you say? So, I think it's important to restore that credibility.

LUNTZ: And be careful that you're not attacking the voters when you're attacking the candidates. You attack the voters, they'll punish you.

PHILLIP: All right, guys. Everyone, thank you very much for being here. A historic space launch over 60 years in the making. Why this one was so special and what JFK has to do with it, that's next.




UNKNOWN: Five. Four. Command engine start. Two. One. Zero. Ignition.

PHILLIP: It's a ride more than six decades in the making. On Sunday, Blue Origin's new Shepard rocket lifted off with six people on board. Now, at first glance, it might look like any of the other 37 successful Blue Origin launches. But this one was different. It was the trip that Ed Dwight had waited 63 years to take. The 90-year-old. Yes, 90 years old. He became the oldest person to go into space. But that is not the only thing that makes this ride the trip of a lifetime for Dwight.


PHILLIP: Back in 1961, he was chosen by the Kennedy administration to join the space program to become the first black astronaut. He graduated in the top half of his class. But after Kennedy was assassinated, Dwight was ultimately passed over. Leadership at the pilot school felt his selection was political. It would take another 15 years for NASA to finally accept black astronauts. And another five years after that, in 1983, for Guillaume Bluford to become the first African-American in space.


ED DWIGHT, FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN IN U.S. AIR FORCE TRAINING PROGRAM: I was going to be the first black astronaut. I completed astronaut training. Everything that we did, I did, and I did it well. Everybody has this thing about how angry I must have been, how disappointed I must have been. As I look at it philosophically, my role in the whole process was to open up a conversation about blacks in space. And so, I served a purpose, and I was very, very proud of it.


PHILLIP: And he should be proud. Many black astronauts accredited Dwight for paving the way for them. After putting his space dreams on hold for decades, Dwight became an Air Force pilot. He worked for IBM. He started a construction company. He became a restaurateur and a real estate developer. He also has a master's degree in sculpting and has dedicated most of his life to art and to depicting black history.


Now, that is quite a life for any person. But now he finally got to cross, become an astronaut off of his bucket list.


DWIGHT: There are a lot of people that are happy, and I'm more worried about making other people happy than making myself happy. So, that all worked out.


PHILLIP: If it were up to Ed Dwight, this would be just the beginning. When he was asked what else on his bucket list is there that he wants to do, Dwight says he'd like to go into orbit. Thank you so much for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.

The jury in the Trump trial gets ready to finally have its say. Plus, Trump says one thing about birth control restrictions, only to then say another. So what does he actually believe? And there's a new twist in the death of Matthew Perry, why a criminal investigation has now been launched.