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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Closing Arguments Wrap In Trump Trial, Jury Gets Case In Hours; Prosecutor Says, Mountain Of Evidence To Back Cohen's Story; Trump Defense Says, Cohen Is The Greatest Liar Of All Time; Hollywood A-List Actor Robert De Niro Speaks Outside Of New York Courthouse On Trump Hush Money Trial; Deadly Strike On An Israel Tent Camp Kills More Innocent Civilians. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 28, 2024 - 22:00   ET




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

Donald Trump's fate will soon be decided at the hands of a jury of his peers. And the prosecution wrapped up late tonight, just about two hours ago, following the defense earlier this morning.

Now both sides tried to condense five weeks of testimony into their closing arguments today. It was their last and final chance to make their case to the jury before those 12 New Yorkers decide whether to let Donald Trump walk or make him the first president with a criminal conviction. The jury is expected to begin deliberating tomorrow after hearing the judge's instructions to them.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You can see Trump earlier walking into Trump Tower. He did not speak, as he typically does when he leaves court today. But inside that room, jurors first heard from Trump's defense attorney, Todd Blanche, who laid out what he said were the top ten reasons to doubt this case against Trump. Their biggest focus was the prosecution's star witness, Michael Cohen, and they did not hold back, repeatedly slamming MVP of liars, the GLOAT, which Todd Blanche said was the greatest liar of all time, the human embodiment of reasonable doubt, and also telling the jury that Cohen lied to them, in particular, often.

Prosecutors immediately began to try to reverse that when it was their turn to make their closing argument, reminding that same jury pool, and I'm quoting now, this case is not about Michael Cohen. This case is about Donald Trump. They also argue that Cohen is just part of this case against Trump and that there is a mountain of evidence in their view corroborating his testimony, saying it's difficult, quote, to conceive of a case with more corroboration than this one.

PHILLIP: And in case you're wondering where Donald Trump's head was during the prosecution's argument, well, of course, he gave us some insights into that, posting twice on Truth Social during the break, writing, filibuster and boring.

Remember, the jury isn't being asked to decide whether Michael Cohen is a liar. They're not being asked to decide whether or not Trump has had a one night stand with Stormy Daniels or not, or even the legality of the hush money payment itself. Their job is to decide whether Trump falsified business records in order to help his 2016 campaign, full stop. So, question is tonight did prosecutors prove that beyond a reasonable doubt?

We've got a whole bunch of lawyers here to help us sort that out. Our panel is with us. Joining us now, former counsel to President Trump during his first impeachment Robert Ray, former assistant special Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, criminal defense attorney Mercedes Colwin and criminal and civil defense -- civil attorney Donte Mills.

So, panel, this was a big day and I believe that you were in the courthouse today, right?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I was there for both summations.

PHILLIP: The good, the bad and the indifferent. What did you take away at the end of the day? It was a very long, grueling day for this jury. Did any of it penetrate more than others?

AKERMAN: Well, let me just say from the start with the defense's summation, I thought they did an effective job with what they had. I thought they stuck to what they said in their opening statement. They tried to argue, and this is the big issue, whether or not those payments of $35,000, the ten payments over 2017, were really for legal fees or were they a reimbursement payment for the monies that went to Stormy Daniels, which in turn led to the falsification of the bank records.

And I thought they did what they had to do. They made the argument that it was for legal fees, but the problem was that when the prosecution got up, they were able to show basically from two documents, Exhibits 33 and 34, which they referred to as smoking guns, that basically took out that $420,000 that made up the ten times -- 12 times $35,000, and showed how the money that was paid to Stormy Daniels came out of that. And I thought that was extremely powerful in terms of breaking that down.

PHILLIP: Let me just follow up on that, because one of the things that I don't think has been talked about enough, and maybe this was one of the strongest moments for the defense, but they suggested that this was all Michael Cohen's fault. That Michael Cohen was the guy who created the invoices, who sent them in to the Trump Organization. The accountants did what accountants do, which is just take the invoices, log it as they received it.


He was responsible.

AKERMAN: Well, but see that's the whole point of those two exhibits. Because those two exhibits are in the handwriting of both McConney, who was the comptroller, and Weisselberg, who was the, you know, chief financial officer. And so they actually put that together. Cohen did testify that that was done with the approval of Donald Trump, but it's hard to believe Weisselberg did this on his own.

PHILLIP: It's hard to believe. But is that enough for the jury?

AKERMAN: Yes, I think, I think it is when you take all the other circumstances into account on this.

COLLINS: Robert, you read both, the transcript of both arguments that --

ROBERT RAY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I can't say both arguments. I got through the entirety of the defense summation and I started into the --

COLLINS: Well, it's like reading Moby Dick. It would have taken you a while to get through what happened this afternoon.

RAY: The trial lasted five weeks, and I know it was only eight hours today.

PHILLIP: One hour per week.

RAY: But it seemed like it was an entire week worth of summations --

COLLINS: But, anyway, but as the prosecution was going today, they were, you know, making at one point an argument that Michael Cohen spent more time under cross-examination than he did in his hours of legal work for Donald Trump in 2018 or in 2017 when it came to how they were trying to restore his credibility.

I know that you obviously don't see the prosecution's case here, but did you think that they made any strong arguments in their closing today in front of that jury?

RAY: Well, let's start with the first premise of this, which is you asked whether it's been proven to the jury that Donald Trump falsified records. The answer to that is no. And that's not exactly what he's charged with, but he didn't falsify the records. And I think he got --

COLLINS: causing them to be falsified was an argument that the prosecution didn't take.

RAY: So, that's the argument, and that's the question that you would expect the prosecutor's summation to revolve around. Did he cause this to happen?

I think inevitably, though, contrary to what he says in the beginning of the transcript of his summation, this case inevitably is about Michael Cohen. I mean, obviously, it's about Donald Trump, who is the defendant on trial, but, you know, there are parts of this case, that being one of them, in terms of being able to find that Donald Trump caused those records to be false with intent, that you have to rely on Michael Cohen's testimony. It's unavoidable to be able to convict. And you could make a plausible argument, which the prosecution did in fairness to their argument that common sense will tell you plus the corroboration that is present in this case that they are able to find and convict beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether they will do so, though, is entirely up to them. And I don't think at this point it's safe to say one way or another where that's going to come out.

PHILLIP: Let me ask you guys about one of the most explosive moments. The jury didn't see the explosive part, but they heard it. Here's what Todd Blanche said as he got to the very end of his closing arguments. Blanche says, you cannot send somebody to prison. You cannot convict somebody. Objection. The court says sustained. Blanche rephrases, you cannot convict someone based upon the words of Michael Cohen.

I say it's explosive because it's a real double-edged sword. I'm curious whether you guys think it was intentional or maybe a slip of the tongue, but how this plays with the jury -- they heard the objection. They heard the word prison. They heard the objection. They heard the judge sustain it. It's being -- and then they were given instructions about it. So, it's been reinforced in their minds many times at this point. How is that going to go down?

MERCEDES COLWIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, Abby, as a practitioner, you never want your summations to be interrupted because the judge is upset with you because it definitely diminishes your argument. You never want to be the focus. You're all about putting in your narrative on behalf of your client. When the judge does say a sustained objection like that, you're exactly right and they get a curative instruction, then the jury is -- secondly, well, they understand that that practitioner did something wrong, because now the judge is not leaning into that objection, plus a curative instruction, because he shouldn't have talked about prison. That is strictly in the purview of the judge.

AKERMAN: I buy that one though.

PHILLIP: Okay, but if you're a juror right now, how are you not thinking this guy is trying to put pressure on us to keep his client out of jail?

DONTE MILLS, NATIONAL TRIAL ATTORNEY, MILLS AND EDWARDS, LLP: Absolutely, and technically you're, you're right. These defense attorneys have a client to represent. And I think the best part of their closing argument was that line, because the jury has this weight of, we are deciding if a former president of the United States will become a felon. That's a heavy weight. And he just told them, do not put someone in jail --

RAY: I think there's a better way to say that.

MILLS: But wait for a minute. He said, don't put someone in jail for that. It's not just anyone. It's a former president of the United States. And he understands we can nitpick this case, right, but common sense, Trump did this, right? Trump is -- common sense, it happened. What he's pleading with one person on that jury to do is say he's a former president and he shouldn't go down through this. [22:10:02]

That's all he's asking for.

RAY: And you're not going to put him in jail for this. Or the better way to say it is, and I have said this in summation, and it is intentional, it's not a slip, is to say, you know, this case is weak and you're talking about someone's liberty that's at stake. This is not a civil case. This is a criminal case. And the prosecution wants to take somebody's liberty away on the evidence based upon a reliance on Michael Cohen. That's absolutely appropriate.

And I have to say --

COLWIN: But once you talk about sentencing, that's when you start to get the judge upset. And that's exactly what took place. It was not done articulately. That's all.

RAY: Most of the cases that I've tried, pretty much it's obvious that prison is at stake. Now, my response of how Blanche had gotten the response that he got from the people on that was also, I guess, it means to suggest in the event of conviction, you're not going to be asking for a sentence of imprisonment because that was their position. Judge, this is unfair, because this is not a case that calls for a prison sentence.

COLLINS: I would note that when they did return after the break, it was the, the people, the prosecution who typed up what the instruction they wanted read to the jury to be, Todd Blanche should not object. And he, the judge then read it to the jury once they got in the room.

RAY: And I wouldn't have objected either. I mean, at that point, you know, it's going to happen with or without your objection.

COLLINS: Overall, what they heard, because that was one moment and it was important moment, but it wasn't everything. But the way they handled the closing arguments was very different today. Todd Blanche was kind of throwing everything in the wall, mainly focusing on undermining Michael Cohen and eviscerating his credibility. The prosecution went much longer, obviously. That was the main difference. But he also tried to kind of tell a story and to put it in this chronological order. Which one typically sits better with a jury?

AKERMAN: Well, I think what happened was the story was what unraveled what the defense put forward. I mean, they had some good arguments on the surface, but once you got into the nitty-gritty details, it was that long story of what happened that really unraveled the defense's arguments.

And particularly one that I think is worth talking about is the Costello element in this that I think really has had a big impact on this case. They have shown by putting Costello on, I mean, they referred to him as a double agent. And the emails are just terrible. I mean, it sounds like he's trying to keep Cohen from cooperating and he's trying to basically not act as an attorney in the best interest of Cohen. PHILLIP: So, you're saying basically that Costello effectively became a prosecution witness?

AKERMAN: Well, yes. And not only that, I think he basically -- whatever the, you know, defense did in terms of making some progress, I think Costello just pushed it all back.

MILLS: It's better not put in the case than to put in a bag, right?

AKERMAN: This is terrible from the standpoint.

COLWIN: They probably listened to their client as opposed to because every practitioner that you've heard from said the same thing, don't call Costello. Don't put him on the stand. It is problematic. And sure enough, that's what exactly --

AKERMAN: I'm sure that was Trump that pushed that.

MILLS: Kaitlan, just to go through the third questions, there were two different styles, but it's necessary. The prosecution has to walk through and make sure they check every single box.

COLLINS: Yes, they have the burden of proof.

MILLS: The defendant, yes, their job is just to say, one box is not checked, right? So, they don't have to go in order, they don't have to go through a whole story. All they have to do is point things out and hope that the jury latches onto one.

PHILLIP: And that's actually not what they did. They didn't say one box is not checked. They said --

MILLS: Well, you never say one. You say all.

AKERMAN: They take the whole story.

PHILLIP: The boxes are not checked. And that's actually the critique that we've been hearing all day long, which is that sometimes less is more. And there was a lot that the defense put on the table that perhaps they didn't have to. Why did they dispute whether Donald Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels? It's not even clear to me why they disputed the idea of whether the records were actual legal fees or not. They were trying to argue that Michael Cohen was acting as a bona fide lawyer for Donald Trump, which seemed not what they needed to do in order to poke reasonable doubt --

RAY: I don't think it's entirely about a scattershot approach, I think that's what most people have said in its defense does. Like, you know, you're defense, so you try anything that you think might work. Some arguments are better than others. I still think it gets down to attempting to show in a narrative that Donald Trump's motivations were not about in this regard doing what the prosecution is alleging that he did, which was that it was all about trying to influence voters in the 2016 election.

You know, politics once again has sort of crept its way back into this trial, among many other things when it comes to Donald Trump. And I think that part of the defense strategy has been to humanize. Donald Trump, which they attempted to do an opening as a preview and to, and to put forward mixed motivations for why he would have acted the way he did, including among other things to protect his family.


And so disputing things about like what happened with regard to Stormy Daniels, I think a jury exercises a fair amount of common sense about that. And you would expect the defendant to do that. There's nothing criminal about that. And so you would expect Todd -- I want to say Blanche in summation to be making that argument. You know, that's just one of the arguments you'd be making.

PHILLIP: Best interest of Donald Trump, the client.

COLWIN: So, Donald Trump didn't take the stand, but what was so effective, what the prosecution did is it went and used admissions that he had written in his books, The Art of a Deal. He said in his The Art of a Deal, that he is a frugal micromanager. And by the incentive business owners, make sure you sign every check. You need to know the finances of your company. So, when they're introducing all those documents and they keep showing Donald Trump's signature after one, after another, after another, that's how they're trying to create the intent part by saying, this is a man by his own words, said that he is this micromanager, and he needs to know everything that takes place in his business.

RAY: It's a little hard to do that though.

COLWIN: Obviously, he knew the purpose behind these --

RAY: It's a little hard to do that though. When he, you know, I think as the defense effectively pointed out in summation, he's signing those checks and reviewing these things supposedly while he's in the Oval Office, while being president of the United States in the first year of his term. He's a pretty busy guy during that time. That may have been true during Art of the Deal days. It's a little different to be trying to make that the same argument once he's removed himself from the Trump Organization.

COLLINS: Was he busy enough? Because there's also testimony that Michael Cohen was invited to the White House and they had a conversation about these checks. David Pecker was invited to the White House and Donald Trump walked alongside the colonnade and asked him about how Karen McDougal was doing. I mean, you're busy as the president of the United States, but Donald Trump is a micromanager.

RAY: I don't really know the point of this, though. He signed the checks. The checks --

COLWIN: But there was testimony that came in, Bob, that said clearly that even his assistant said that he knew what was taking place because he wasn't signing up --

RAY: No, wait, wait, wait. Hold on. No, not knew what was taking place. He knows what's in front of him. The checks say retainer on it. That's not really proof of anything.

MILLS: I don't think there's a solid argument that he didn't know what was happening. I think the defense made it clear with their summation style, don't do this to a former president. And if you need a reason, well, here's a globe, right? Here's a quote that you can tell people. Here's why I didn't find him guilty. They gave you excuses if you needed an excuse. But, ultimately, they said, not for this. Don't take down someone, a former president, Donald Trump, for this.

I think that was the defense. I truly believe that was the defense. I do think they thought that they can convince the jury that Donald Trump didn't know what was happening with these payments, but they said, don't take them down for this.

RAY: And I do think that prison moment -- I mean, I don't want to go back to it.

MILLS: It was huge.

RAY: But I think that was a big moment. I don't think it was accidental. I think it was intentional. It was not a slip. Again, you can sort of quibble over whether there's a better way to phrase it, but it is important for the jury to know, Judge Merchan notwithstanding, I don't think I agree with his reaction to that. It's important for a jury to know, not that they have any sentencing role, it's important for a jury to know the consequences of convicting somebody in a criminal case, period.

COLWIN: But the jury does know that.

PHILLIP: The jury does know that.

RAY: But it's the job of a defense lawyer to hammer that home.

PHILLIP: One of the interesting things about this case and about this jury is that you've got two lawyers on the jury. They understand that that's off limits. It will be interesting to see how they interpret the choice --

AKERMAN: Well, not those civil lawyers. That's not true. That's not true.

COLWIN: They do know.

PHILLIP: Maybe they don't know. But it will be interesting to see how they interpret that slip of the tongue or intentional message to them. Everyone, thank you very much for all of that conversation.

Coming up next, former Trump insider Anthony Scaramucci, reacts to today's closing remarks and the Trump children who showed up today in court.

Plus, speaking of surprise appearances, did the Biden campaign's decision to put Robert De Niro at court land or was it a flop?

And we have more breaking news internationally, serious new questions tonight about Israel's deadly strike on a civilian camp, including why the U.S. says it does not cross President Biden's red line.



PHILLIP: My next guest says that there's no doubt that the former president is worried about the outcome of the trial, and you just have to look at the social media posts to see it. Through the holiday weekend and today, Donald Trump attacked the judge, the gag order, and the case itself on his platform, Truth Social.

Anthony Scaramucci served briefly as the White House communications director during the Trump administration, and he's the author of the new book, From Wall Street to the White House and Back, Anthony Scaramucci joins me now.

So, Anthony, look, we've heard the closing arguments from both sides, long day for the jury. What do you think? Is Trump closer, further away from an acquittal after today?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, he's closer to a conviction, but it will really be up to the 12 people on the jury. But I just want to point out two quick things. Number one, Todd's closing argument had some inconsistencies in it. If he's calling Michael a liar, and, again, we're just talking about Michael's testimony now, not previous Michael, the documents and all the other prior testimony corroborate what Michael's saying.

Additionally, the $420,000 in fees that they're talking about, it's either legal fees or Michael stole the money. It can't be both. And so I think it's very important to point out those nuances. It's also important to point out that that wasn't his best strategy to go after Michael Cohen.


But I guarantee you, Abby, that that was Donald Trump's strategy. I'm certain the same way Costello was brought to the stand because of Donald Trump, the strategy of going after Michael Cohen in those closing arguments was also a Donald Trump strategy. So, he's nerved up and he's offering guidance the way a NFL football owner would offer to a coach and most of the NFL football owners that do that end up blowing the game.

PHILLIP: I mean, to that point, it was clear at certain points that Trump wanted his attorney to address the jury in the courtroom, but also really the court of public opinion. There were many times, I mean, I was there for those closing statements by the defense where you saw Blanche really disputing things that he probably shouldn't have, most notably that Trump had this affair, that there was sex involved with Stormy Daniels.

I mean, what does that do to an attorney's credibility to have him deny something that, frankly, most of the available evidence out there suggests is actually true? SCARAMUCCI: Well, again, so that was a third point that you're bringing up, that, you know, you don't give $130,000. I think. Senator Romney said it better than I could ever say. You're not paying $130,000 to somebody that you didn't have sex with.

But remember, Mr. Trump has two things going on at the same time. He wants to get exonerated from the case and he wants the lies that he's told his family and the lies that he's told his campaign and his followers to stick as well, and so he's trying to thread that into the case.

So, for those reasons and other reasons, I think it's beyond a reasonable doubt in terms of the guilt. But, again, you know, we know so many people that have gotten off on cases like this and we'll have to see what the jury says. But that was three or four direct inconsistencies, Abby, and all of those were driven by Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: So, today in the courtroom, where Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Tiffany Trump, but it's really about who we haven't been seeing there. We haven't seen Ivanka. We have not seen Melania Trump. What do we make of that?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, in fairness to Ivanka, I think she has more or less stated from the beginning that she has had her stay in Washington, doesn't want to be involved with the campaign. I think as it relates to the former first lady, I think this is, prima facie, a very tough place for her to be given the facts of this case. And so it's understandable to me why she isn't there. And you're just proving my point further, the reasons why Mr. Trump wanted his attorney to say the things that he said in the court to make sure it got into the transcript.

PHILLIP: So, you have a new book, From Wall Street to the White House and Back, and you talk about the lessons that you learned throughout your career, including in your very brief stay at the White House. What was the biggest lesson, the biggest takeaway of working for Donald Trump in the White House? But I should note for people who are not familiar with you went into the White House briefly, but you were by Trump's side for a long time before that. What did you learn from that experience?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I worked on that campaign. I did 70 or so campaign stops with the candidate, now the former president. I also did hundreds of hours of media advocacy on behalf of the campaign.

But, you know, the thing I learned and the central thing that I learned is that if you go with your ego and your pride in your decision-making, you can have devastating consequences to yourself. And there's a very close personal friend of mine. I won't name him, but he was interviewed for a series of jobs, and he wanted the job desperately, and he wanted to serve the country. But after meeting with Trump for five or six hours, he came to the conclusion that it wasn't the right fit for him in terms of their two personalities. And that was great self-awareness, great maturity, on that person's part.

And while this doesn't reflect well on me, I do put it in the book. I made that decision based on pride, and I made that decision based on ego. And listen, it cost me. But I think the other lesson in the book is that you have to live your life without regrets. I don't wake up in the morning with a millstone of regret on my neck, thinking about what happened back then. I'm more interested in learning from it, sharing what I learned with other people, but I'm also more interested in getting on record what I saw. And what the president, the former president, is capable of, because I think it's a danger to the country. I think he represents a systemic threat to the country.

And whether or not I can influence the election or not, it really doesn't matter, Abby, it's more important for me and for the reflection on my family that I get on record what I saw, what the danger is. And so people can make that choice come November, whatever they want to make it. But it's very important for me.

And again, there's 40 of us that feel the same way, including the Vice President of the United States that was on the ballot with him two times. So, those are the lessons -


PHILLIP: Yeah, I'm -- you took the words --you took the words out of my mouth.

SCARAMUUCI: Take your ego out of it.

PHILLIP: You join a very long list of former Trump officials, people who have worked for him, who don't want to see him back in the White House, and that's incredibly notable. Anthony Scaramucci, always great to have you on the show. Thank you.

SCARAMUCCI: Hey, good to be on.

PHILLIP: And up next, the Biden campaign, taking a page out of the Trump playbook. We'll show you what happened and all the chaos that ensued when Biden campaign surrogates, including actor Robert De Niro, showed up.



PHILLIP: -- hour of Donald Trump's trial, President Biden's campaign shifts its strategy and turns to a g good fellow for help. Oscar- winning actor Robert De Niro appearing at a news conference outside of that Manhattan courthouse, where closing arguments were underway in the hush money trial of Donald Trump. Now, De Niro minced no words, slamming Trump as a clown and issuing this chilling warning.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR AND BIDEN SUPPORTER: If Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted. And elections, forget about it. That's over. That's done. If he gets in, I can tell you right now, he will never leave. He will never leave. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: For more, I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp. Also with us, former Democratic Congressman of New Jersey, Tom Malinowski. Okay, so I'm trying to wrap my head around this one. I'll start with you, Congressman. What do you think was the strategy here? Was it wise? Did they have to bring De Niro to get the attention they wanted?

TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ) FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Look, I think Robert De Niro was probably atoning for all the mafia guys that he played in the movies by actually standing up for the rule of law today. And I was kind of happy to see that. But look, imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. It's 2020. And Trump is President, Biden is on trial. Like, can you imagine how many tweets per second we would be getting from the President of the United States?

President Biden has been completely silent on this, which is the appropriate response. I don't think anyone's going to care or remember what Robert De Niro said in two weeks. We're going to care about some other things that happened at that rally, which I think are much more important, the way in which those police officers were attacked. I think that's what we should be talking about.

PHILLIP: Can I just play a little bit of that? There was a big back and forth between the MAGA crowd. I mean, things got pretty heated. Let's play a little moment of that.


UNKNOWN: Go. Leave New York State.

DE NIRO: What are you telling me?

UNKNOWN: Those two traitors behind you.

DE NIRO: Excuse me?

UNKNOWN: Those two traitors behind you.

DE NIRO: They lied under oath? What are you saying?

UNKNOWN: They're traitors.

DE NIRO: They're traitors. You don't know -- don't even know how to deal with you, my friend. I don't even know how to deal with you. They stood there. They didn't have to. And there were other ones in there who probably were in with them a little bit, too, and they found a way to get around. Not these guys. They stood there and fought for us, for you. For you.

UNKNOWN: They weren't fighting for me.

DE NIRO: No. No, they fought for you, buddy. You're able to stand right here now.


PHILLIP: Standing behind him, Michael Fanone, Harry Dunn, two Capitol Police officers. Heroes, really, on January 6th. And this is how they were received by the Trump crowd.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this was a bad idea. This entire thing was not a great idea. I get wanting to take advantage of cameras at this spectacle, but this had the impromptu feeling that most Trump rallies have. Like, sort of all over the place. We don't know where it's going. We don't know who's showing up. It could be Kid Rock or a cabinet member. You never know.

And that's what happened here. You had an actor who's obviously very angry at Trump, but I don't know why his opinion would matter more than someone else. And then you have these two heroes who almost gave their lives on January 6th at the insurrection. It was a mismatch and a mixed message. And now this actor is in a position to have to defend these police officers. I just didn't get it.

And surrogates are best when they have an important story to tell. And like I said, Robert De Niro's angry at Donald Trump. He's not a victim of Donald Trump's, right? He's going to be fine. There are lots of victims of Donald Trump's. And if I were team Biden, I'd bring those people out to tell those stories. Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone and add the fallen family of Brian Sicknick to that group. Those are victims of Trump.

E. Jean Carroll is a victim of Donald Trump. Shea Moss is a victim of Donald Trump, an election worker in Georgia who was accused of election fraud. Her life was ruined because of the lies Donald Trump told. Trump's own voters who have had to hand over their own money to help stop the steal and it's gone to offset his legal fees. There are millions of victims of Donald Trump. Robert De Niro isn't one. I would tell their stories.

PHILLIP: A lot of Democrats I know have been wanting to see the Biden campaign play fire with fire. I mean, every day practically of this trial, Trump's surrogates have been outside saying really outlandish things in some cases about this trial. They're just there to take up some oxygen, to do what the candidate cannot do. But I mean, to S.E.'s point, is that -- that might feel good, you know, from a cathartic perspective, but is that really the right political strategy?


MAKOWSKI: Well, there's an argument that needs to be made. And let's get back to these police officers and the way in which they were treated. The whole argument that Trump is making and that he has brought most of the Republican Party along in making is that we need to discredit and denounce law enforcement in America, calling FBI agents dirty, filthy cops, promising to pardon the convicted felons who almost killed those police officers that day, almost killed me and my colleagues, campaigning on rally stages with rappers who have been prosecuted for murder.

This is a guy who is embracing criminality. And that's something that I do think the Biden campaign does need to get out. I think they will. I think it's something that makes a lot of Republicans, moderate Republicans in my congressional district and across the country, very, very deeply uncomfortable. They do not recognize a party that, you know, that prefers Putin to the FBI.

PHILLIP: Very quick last word, S.E.

CUPP: Yeah, look, like I said, there are important stories to tell. Biden, I don't think, has been great at connecting the dots to real issues, real pain, and why Trump is such a threat. Robert De Niro is not, I don't think, is the mechanism to do that. I'd get some real folks.

PHILLIP: All right, S.E. Cupp, Tom Malinowski, thank you both very much. An international fury is enveloping overnight over Israel's airstrike on a camp for displaced refugees in Gaza. Now, there's a CNN analysis that shows that the bomb that was used there was American made. That's next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, innocent people are dying, families and children caught in the middle of a war that was first started by Hamas terrorists. Now, for the next few moments, I'm going to take you through the searing images and ask a series of questions that will determine where this tragic story goes next.

I want to start with this image. It's former Republican candidate Nikki Haley in Israel meeting with the survivors of the October 7th Hamas attack. But then she took out a marker and wrote, finish them. America loves Israel on the surface of an Israeli bomb.

Now, that message comes after Israel's deadly strike on a tent camp and what the prime minister calls a tragic error. Now, since missiles are carrying messages, here are a few serious questions tonight to accompany each and every one of those bombs.

First, how many tragic errors can occur without end? For months, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been on the move, forced from their homes by war if death didn't strike them first. On Sunday night, one of those areas, a tent camp near Rafah, desperation is high there. Food and water are scarce. Here's how CNN's Jeremy Diamond describes it.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Makeshift shelters housing displaced Palestinians engulfed in flames. The screams of women pierce the smoke-filled air as bodies are pulled from the blaze.


PHILLIP: Now, at the time of the bombing, some families were said to have been asleep. Others were just getting ready for bed. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND (voice-over): Their blood-curdling screams tell the story of the unfolding horror more than words ever could. But it is only as bodies are pulled out of the inferno that the scale of this attack becomes clear.


PHILLIP: When the strikes hit, some died on impact, some reportedly burned alive. Others right now are in unimaginable pain. They're alive, but barely. And that includes children. I have to warn you that the images that you're about to see are horrific, but they illustrate the brutal reality on the ground.



PHILLIP: For those who never made it to the hospital, their families are left behind.


DIAMOND (voice-over): And then there are the mourners. The occupation army is a liar. There is no security in Gaza, says this man, whose brother was killed in the strike. Here he is with his wife. They were martyred. They are gone. For one man, a brother. For another, his sister. She was the only one, he says. She was the only one, and she is gone.


PHILLIP: At least 45 people reportedly died in that strike. And since October, while the numbers vary depending on the sources, some 35,000 have been killed in this war, which leads to the next question for these bombs. How many lost innocents are acceptable? Israel says two Hamas terrorists were killed in this strike. But at what cost?

Children, as you just saw, are bearing the brunt of this war, either by mistake or by being human shields. And that leads to America's response. How many times will the U.S. repeat the same defense after these incidents?


This was the Biden administration today.


JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: There should be no innocent life lost here as a result of this conflict. Israel must take every precaution possible to do more to protect innocent life.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: And this has been the administration since October.

SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: It's absolutely devastating to see the loss of life.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Far too many civilians have been killed as a result of combat operations.

PAT RYDER, BRIGADIER GENERAL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY AIR FORCE: We will continue to consult with our Israeli partners and urge them to take all necessary measures to protect civilians. We regret any loss of life, and any loss of life is tragic. We've engaged with our Israeli partners, have continued to encourage them to do everything possible to mitigate civilian harm.

No one wants to see innocent civilians killed in this conflict, whether they be Palestinian or Israelis. You know, again, we think it is tragic when any innocent civilian is killed, whether that's Palestinian, Israeli. We will continue to communicate with our Israeli partners on the importance of taking civilian safety into account in their operations.


PHILLIP: But here's another question tonight. What exactly is President Biden's red line?


REPORTER: So, how does this not violate the red line that the President laid out?

KIRBY: As I said, we don't want to see a major ground operation. We haven't seen that at this point.


PHILLIP: But is that line ever changing? Is the line movable? Is the line more yellow than red? Is it blurry if the bombs continue to drop just as long as U.S. boots don't have to hit the ground? Is the line more dependent on whether there is a bigger story in the headlines? Now, that tense exchange in the briefing room continued.


REPORTER: How many more charred corpses does he have to see before the President considers a change in policy?

KIRBY: We don't want to see a single more innocent life taken. And I kind of take a little offense at the question. No civilian casualties is the right number of civilian casualties. And this is not something that we've turned a blind eye to, nor has it been something we've ignored or neglected to raise with our Israeli counterparts, including it this weekend as a result of this particular strike. Now, they're investigating it. So, let's let them investigate it and see what they come up with. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Which sparks the next dilemma. Israel is investigating itself in these instances. The government says the extent of the camp's destruction is not from their bombs, but possibly due to a stockpile of Palestinian weapons. But it's worth noting that this strike comes two days after the U.N.'s top court demanded that Israel immediately stop its operation in Rafah.

It comes less than a week after the International Criminal Court said it's seeking arrest warrants for Israel's Netanyahu and Hamas leaders. And, of course, it comes after two months after Biden's red line. But what's notable above all is that today, just 48 hours after Israel's strike on that camp, the Palestinians say the Israelis have struck again.

Twenty nine people killed in two separate attacks at displacement camps in Rafah. These new strikes killing civilians, as well, as Israel's self-investigates its previous strike that has also killed civilians. Now, another question for these bombs. That red line, it's even foggier since Netanyahu has warned over and over again that Israel will, in fact, defy the U.S. and hit Rafah.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will enter Rafah because we have no other choice. We will complete the elimination of the Hamas battalions, including in Rafah. Rafah is the last stronghold of Hamas terrorist battalions. We'll defeat them.

NETANYAHU: Yes, we do have a disagreement on Gaza and rather on Rafah. But we have to do what we have to do. And, you know, sometimes you have to, you just have to do what is required to ensure your survival in your future.

NETANYAHU (through translator): The Hamas proposal yesterday was intended to torpedo the entry of our forces into Rafah. It did not happen.

NETANYAHU: We will defeat Hamas, including in Rafah.

NETANYAHU (through translator): I made it supremely clear to the U.S. President in our conversation that we are determined to complete the elimination of these Hamas battalions in Rafah, and there is no way to do it except by going in on the ground.


PHILLIP: And speaking of the ground, the next question for these bombs is where do the civilians go?


ANSAR MAHDI, DISPLACED FROM RAFAH (through translator): The displacement is repugnant. When people move from one place to another, they want to live. They need money. They've lost their savings. [22:55:00]

They told us to move from the north to the south. We did. We stayed in tents in abysmal conditions. No words can convey what we went through. Where else can we go? Where will the next displacement be?


PHILLIP: And finally tonight, looking forward, how many of these attacks will further isolate Israel? No objective party is arguing that Israel can't or shouldn't defend itself from terrorists, nor save the hostages who are still in those evil hands. But we just saw the graphic photo of IDF soldiers who were captured by Hamas that were released by their families to put pressure on Netanyahu. Are any of them closer to being brought home today?

So, every question tonight is challenging, and both Israel and Palestinian innocent lives hang in the balance based on the answers. And that includes the legitimate question of whether Israel's tragic errors end, and how long American support through those mistakes will last. It's a new question now for President Biden, who has yet to publicly comment on any of this, especially since a CNN analysis shows that the munitions used in this camp strike were American made. We'll be back in a moment.