Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Assails And Biden Praises Rule Of Law After Verdict; GOP Lawmakers And Right Wing Media Fan Flames After Verdict; V.P. Contenders Flock To T.V., Railing Against U.S. Legal System; Voters React To Donald Trump's Conviction; "The Apprentice" Producer Says Trump Called Their Contestant A Racist Slur; Biden Pressured On Israel And Hamas To End The War Through A New Ceasefire Deal. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 31, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: The former first lady described her mom as the family's rock, talked about her time inside the White House, living with them while he was president. And tonight the Obamas say that they are comforted by the understanding that she has returned to the embrace of her loving husband, Fraser. Our thoughts are with all of them tonight.

Thank you so much for joining us to cap off this busy week. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Two presidents, two speeches, two alternate realities, that's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening, I'm Abby Phillip in New York. Tonight, two stories with very different tones from the men who are vying for the same job. First, the sobering President Biden's appeal to end the violence in Gaza. Hamas is hobbled, Biden says, and the time to end this war is now. Biden announcing a path forward for tomorrow and the day after in hopes of a lasting peace.

Now, to the response from Donald Trump to his conviction on 34 counts in his home state of New York, Trump pulled out some of his best words, rigged, scammed, et cetera, to describe how this hush money case, mostly papering over the fact, that this jury of his own peers found him guilty of breaking the law.

Now, Trump's words today also clash with the Trump in all of our memories. Once upon a time, he claimed that Hillary Clinton couldn't run, shouldn't run for president because of the specter of a trial that would break the government.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She shouldn't be allowed to run.

If she were to win this election, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. We could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial.

It would grind government to a halt.


PHILLIP: Now, Trump claims that his own conviction is a sign that the system is corrupt, not him.


TRUMP: This is a case where if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone. These are bad people. These are, in many cases, I believe, sick people.


PHILLIP: Now, in 2016, it was, lock her up.


TRUMP: She should be locked up, I'll tell you right now.

For what she's done, they should lock her up.

Hillary Clinton will be under investigation.

Lock her up is right.

How guilty is she?

If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because you'd be in jail.


PHILLIP: Then in 2020, it was lock him up.


TRUMP: Lock him up. You should lock them up. Lock up the Bidens.


PHILLIP: Now in 2024, it's, how could they even think about locking me up?


TRUMP: It was a rigged trial. We wanted a venue change where we could have a fair trial. We didn't get it. We wanted a judge change. We wanted a judge that wasn't conflicted. And, obviously, he didn't do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: President Biden was asked about the trial today and gave pretty much just the facts recitation of the process. It was a process that owed respect, in his view.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This juror is chosen the same way every jury in America is chosen. It was a process that Donald Trump's attorney was part of. The jury heard five weeks of evidence, five weeks. After careful deliberation, the jury reached a unanimous verdict. They found Donald Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts.

Now, he'll be given the opportunity, as he should, to appeal that decision, just like everyone else has that opportunity. That's how the American system of justice works.


PHILLIP: You already heard Trump, but make no mistake, this is not just him. If you happen to flip over to Fox tonight, you saw this across the bottom of the screen, quote, Biden convicts Trump, then smirks. That's just a lie. 12 jurors convicted Trump. And there's no proof that Biden had anything to do with it.

But, if you listen to Republicans, like soldiers, they are falling in line, they're making promises of payback and talking about a country that's in tatters.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: That's what it feels like, yes, a banana republic.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I have a travel advisory for New York City. If you're a conservative or a Republican or a Trump supporter, beware.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think lawfare is far too soft. It's far too benign. This is warfare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it may be the undoing of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this will not only solidify the base, it will radicalize it.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: We're not going to go down, that we're going to get back up, we're going to regain our strength, and then we're going to vanquish the evil forces that are destroying this republic.


PHILLIP: Lots to discuss. We've got our panel here in New York. Is it dangerous for Republicans to be doing what they're doing right now? Biden called it dangerous and reckless. Is that how you see it?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's absolutely dangerous because if nothing else is going to hold the country together, it's going to be the rule of law. We're going to make sure that we have courts that are going to be independent and make sure that someone who has authoritarian principles is not going to be able to use those authoritarian ways to take over. Like Donald Trump, who has said he wants to suspend the Constitution. He said he'll be a dictator on day one.

The thing that Donald Trump has met this week is that the courts have finally held him accountable in a way that no other institution in the country has. And I think he is wrestling, personally, it seems, he's wrestling with that. We as a country now have to wrestle with what do we do with a dangerous politician, and how do we make sure that he stays out of the White House, and that's the Biden campaign's job.

PHILLIP: But, Robert, I mean, a lot of people disagree with this verdict, they disagree with the case, but to say what some of these folks are saying, I mean, is that dangerous in your view?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT TRUMP DURING THE FIRST IMPEACHMENT: I still believe and have faith and trust in the criminal justice system. There are problems with the criminal justice system. I think it's -- look, we used to be a country where when there was a trial victory, the victor was magnanimous and the loser, while not necessarily agreeing with the result, at least came to respect the fact that a result was delivered. We're talking about, I think, is working within the system. He has every -- as the President Biden, I think correctly said, Donald Trump has an appeal like everybody else.

But, you know, the fact of the matter is when this whole process started more than a year ago now before the New York District Attorney's Office, I said then, and also with regard to the other three cases, that the country is going to rue the day that we've ever traveled down this road, I still think it was an exceedingly bad idea. If you listen to Todd Blanche last night, I mean, they got discovery in this case that indicated that after Donald Trump announced for the presidency, he, Alvin Bragg, impaneled a grand jury less than two months after that announcement. This is unavoidably going to be tainted with politics. I don't particularly like that result, but it's just so.

DONTE MILLS, NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYER, MILLS AND EDWARDS, LLP: But whether they brought the case or not, you have to acknowledge whether this case should have been brought. It was, right. And it was 12 jurors who decided this case. And I believe -- I'm an attorney. I have to believe in our judicial system, I have to believe that when we bring in jurors who don't know each other, have different backgrounds, they come together here. All of that information pore over for days they were in there, asking for follow up questions. We have to trust what they saw what they heard and the opinion that they came out with. If we don't trust that, then the system doesn't exist. We have to trust in our jury.

RAY: It's not improper to challenge. There's nothing wrong as part of that appellate process. There's nothing wrong with challenging the fact.

MILLS: But it's nothing political about it either about a jury.

RAY: There is something political about the fact that Donald Trump is in a unique situation. He's a candidate for office. He believes that this process was not fair. You can use the adjective, rager (ph), just stay out of the negative connotations and just say that, you know, he has an illegitimate appellate argument that he did not receive a fair trial. There were rulings that were made in this case that I think many observers have questioned, whatever the results may be.

But I do believe to answer your question, the way to handle that is not to sort of drift rogue out of the process. I think the legal system and the constitutional system is capable, your point, is capable of handling this in the appropriate way. There's going to be an appeal. Unfortunately, that appeal obviously is not going to be resolved by the time the election occurs. And there are implications to what happened here that's going to affect the election.

PHILLIP: I mean, to your point, Robert, I mean, it's moving beyond the legal system. It's not like these folks are saying, okay, let's go through the appellate process. Marco Rubio, a senator, maybe one-time V.P. contender, says, it's time to fight for fire with fire. You've got Tucker Carlson saying that Trump will win and anyone who defends this verdict is a danger to you and your family. Another right wing commentator, Matt Walsh, says that Trump should make a list of Democrats to arrest when he takes office. And the first on that list should be Joe Biden.

I mean, this is well beyond the sort of scope of the legal system. I mean, these folks are basically saying, forget about the legal system.


SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: This is a public perception problem. It's an education problem. So, trusting the judicial process means you have to understand the judicial process. I mean, one of the things to know here is that Donald Trump's team got to select which jurors they did not want to be a part of this process if they thought they were going to be biased. This went through all the right systems. But when you have an echo chamber, you know, society, it doesn't matter if you're going through all the right systems. If they're listening to these types of voices, discount the process, that's what they're going to believe.

And, by the way, let's take a look at the media from last night. During the 5:00 P.M. hour when this verdict was announced, where did the vast majority of Americans tune in? Fox News. Then followed by the other cable and broadcast networks. I think it just shows you that where our attention lies is where we're getting our perception, and that's going to shape potentially what happens in November.

SIMMONS: Abby, we're also in a really delicate time politically. And so we know that there are right wing sites that are talking about doxing the jurors, finding their information and putting it out. We know they're talking about going after Alvin Bragg. We saw the former president of the United States going after the judge himself on when he was in the middle of his press conference.

These are all things at a time where we're at such a delicate moment. There could be something more than just a judicial process. There could be something violent and we've got to be careful.

PHILLIP: Well, look, we have a July 11th sentencing and the issue is going to be whether this is going to be a talk of prison or something else. What do you think?

MILLS: I think you should go to prison. He's a convicted felon with on 34 counts. And when you look at this case, when I'm representing someone and I go into the sentencing, there're things that I bring up that will make a judge give me the minimum sentence or even relax from what the minimum is. Those things aren't here for Trump. You can't say he's remorseful. You have to say he's in the same -- he was convicted 34 felonies for a case that involved trying to influence an election. He's now running in an election. That's like me saying my client is convicted of being a bank robber, but, Judge, don't sit in the jail because he has to go to a banking convention. You can't do that.

PHILLIP: I mean, Todd Blanche was on television again and was actually very soberly saying, you know, we really hope that Judge Merchan is going to look at the law and is going to not give him a prison sentence. And Trump, though, is really not doing anything to make his lawyer's life easier when it comes to that. I mean, is there anything that can be done --

RAY: Well, he hardly ever does, but he's in the middle of a campaign too. And so everything he has to say has to be viewed not just through the lens of what an ordinary defendant might say in connection with the sentencing, but also, you know, there's a public platform here and he's running publicly for office. And, you know, with all due respect, the other half of the country doesn't agree with you with regard to this.

And I will just say, first and foremost, because I wasn't as clear as I should have been last night, that is not meant to suggest or to send any signal to anybody by me that I condone violence with regard to any of this. I still have great faith. I've spent my entire professional life in the pursuit of justice as a defense lawyer and as a prosecutor and as an independent counsel working within our constitutional system. I intend to continue to do that. And I have said from the beginning of this thing, even though I don't agree with this prosecution and I think that there are some real fundamental questions about whether or not Donald Trump got a fair trial, nevertheless --

PHILLIP: But you still think that he might get a prison sentence from the judge?

RAY: I don't.

PHILLIP: You don't?

RAY: I don't and I think it's nuts to suggest otherwise. But fine. You know, look, you put up the, the thing about what was said in the past, and I guess we're going to go through the sort of tit-for-tat exercise.

MILLS: And take away the fact that he's a former president, what argument do you have that would make this judge say, I'm going -- the prison sentence generally right here is about six months.

RAY: Oh, come on. It's a books and records case of a first time offender who's 77 years old with regard to with regard to an E felony. Well, first of all, you can talk about any sentence you want. It ain't going to happen. And if it were imposed, it's certainly not going to run.

MILLS: And how can we say the law apply to anybody if not --

RAY: It's not going to run during the pendency of this campaign because it would interfere with an election. And anybody who thinks that that's going to be allowed is going to get a lesson in a hurry from the Supreme Court about the supremacy clause. They will step in and put a stop to this.

PHILLIP: Let me ask you about that. On what grounds, because Todd Blanche talked about this too, going straight to the Supreme Court, what grounds will the Supreme Court take this up?

RAY: If there are conditions, either through imprisonment or probation that interfere with a candidate who's running for president and his ability to run for office, they're going to put a stop to it.

PHILLIP: Temporarily.

RAY: Temporarily.

PHILLIP: Until he is no longer in that situation.

RAY: Yes, correct. I'm not suggesting that he wouldn't ultimately be subject to justice, but presidents are unique, okay, and people running for president are you unique.

SIMMONS: But hold on, he could have probation and would have to check in with his probation officer before he moves to any state, does anything outside of New York State?

RAY: Theoretically so. But if it becomes onerous and it interferes with his ability to run, that's not an interference just with a candidate, that's an interference with the electorate. And I am telling you, the Supreme Court's going to step in.


SIMMONS: It's clear he deserves to go to jail. The question is whether or not it's the best thing for our democracy for him to go to jail. And it's something I think a lot of us (INAUDIBLE) whether or not we ought to do that, even if he should go.

PHILLIP: Sara, just real quick. I mean, Fox News is really pushing the extremes of this, as per usual, but they've been burned by this stuff in the past with the big lie in 2016. Are they venturing into that territory again?

FISCHER: No, I think they know where the line is now, because that was a $787 million loss. They've got lawyers all over it. They're not venturing into this territory. They're not calling -- you know, calling something -- saying you don't agree with the trial is very different than saying that an election was unfairly stolen. But you do bring up --

PHILLIP: But to say that Biden convicted Trump is also a lie.

FISCHER: Yes, it is a lie. It's misleading, 100 percent. And I think that I think that they know where the line is and what you're seeing is that they're going to tow and get up as close as they possibly can because that's what's good for ratings and that's what's good for their audiences.

The challenge though, Abby, is that what's different now versus after 2020 is there's actually a lot less energy around this. I mean, look at the television ratings. Look at -- I look at media all the time, like the digital clicks and all of that, there is so much less interest in this and that's because we're not just in, you know, of course, his first criminal case, yes, but we have four indictments later, right? People are exhausted from it. And I think that, you know, it's just Fox is not going to have the same outcome that they did in 2020.

MILLS: But they need a better argument than saying somebody was convicted of trying to influence an election, but be leaning on him so he can run in another election. That doesn't make sense to me.

PHILLIP: We're going to hear a lot of this --

RAY: The other part of it is $50 million that he raised as a result of the conviction.

PHILLIP: That's definitely going to be a factor in this election. Everyone, thank you very much, great discussion.

Coming up next for us, Chris Wallace will join me about how the V.P. contenders are now flocking on television to fan those very flames we've been talking about.

Plus, Bill Maher on his surprising prediction for the next election.

And also, what voters think about that verdict and what happens next. Frank Luntz joins me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you really thought that Donald Trump was innocent? Raise your hand.




PHILLIP: Donald Trump is tonight calling himself a political prisoner and his possible running mates are helping him fan the flames of retribution.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): You cannot say that this trial was anything more than politics masquerading as justice.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): This was certainly a hoax, a sham. This was devastating for the average American watching.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Politically, I think Trump benefits from this. I think they elected a president last night.

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): The president is still in good spirits. He's going to fight on.

VANCE: I will help Donald Trump, however, I think that I can.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Chris Wallace, host of The Chris Wallace Show and Who's Talking to Chris Wallace. Chris, great to have you on, as always.

I wonder what you make of this decision by the Trump campaign, essentially, to take away the teleprompters and allow him about 35 minutes to just kind of ramble? What does it portend for the next couple of weeks of the campaign, which culminates in a big debate with Biden?

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, it's the let Trump be Trump, and I'm not sure that, given the emotions from yesterday, that there was any way you were going to be able to control that. The thing that has always surprised me about Donald Trump is that he keeps winning the same voters over and over again. If you're a member of the of the Trump base, the MAGA crowd, and you love him, and you were outraged by yesterday, well, then what he had to say today was catnip, you know, it was red meat.

But, you know, there was no attempt, as you'd get with most politicians, to try to reach out to other voters. So, you didn't hear a lot about what Donald Trump was going to do for you. You heard an awful lot about what had been done to Donald Trump. You know, it seems to me, just as a matter of smart politics and in a very close race, and especially with the debate coming up, he's got to change that focus from what's on his mind, his grievances, the past, what's been done to him, to what he's going to do for voters, because that's what they vote for.

PHILLIP: Yes. And sources around the campaign are telling our reporters that this is the campaign message. This is what Trump wants it to be about, in large part, because he thinks that it's working. But to your point, it's very early in this race, when a lot of the persuadable voters are not plugged in yet. And so that's what's going to ultimately matter.

And for those persuadable voters, the rhetoric around this verdict has really been ratcheted up. You're hearing people talk about banana republics, about fascism, suggesting even that there could be violence directed at Trump as a result of all of this. What is the impact, do you think, of the freak out on the right over this verdict right now?

WALLACE: Well, there's sort of the political impact and then what I would call the impact to our country. The political impact is it certainly, and you see it in the, in the fundraising, tens of millions of dollars raised in the 24 hours since the verdict, you know, the right really is rallying around Donald Trump and around the argument that this was a politically inspired trial to try to take down the leading Republican opponent to the president, you know, despite the fact that it was a state trial, not a federal trial, and Joe Biden had no direct control over this whatsoever.

The thing that concerns me more is the impact on the country.


And, you know, when you have -- one would say, think pretty responsible people, senators figures of former secretary of state, about that this raises huge questions or just shows that the justice system is a sham, and then you're starting to hear some people on the right more, the talk T.V. or talk radio people say, you know, instead of giving us a list of his Supreme Court nominees, Donald Trump needs to give us a list of the ten Democrats he's going to put in jail when he becomes president.

PHILLIP: We also have the vice presidential contenders who want to be on Trump's ticket going out there. We had Tim Scott on this show last night and not wanting to address what we actually have heard from Trump, which is that he wants to prosecute his political enemies if he is elected. There is a desire among the people who want to be Trump's running mate to ignore all of that and try to paint this broad conspiracy where there really is no evidence of one. I mean, right now, you've got a bunch of Democrats who are being prosecuted, including by Joe Biden's own Justice Department.

WALLACE: Look, as Donald Trump decides who his running mate is going to be, there's very little reason to doubt that the number one qualification is going to be loyalty, to being on the Trump train. And right now, that means saying that this trial was a farce, that it was a political takedown of the president's leading opponent.

And to give you a sense of just how highly charged this whole thing is, you have Larry Hogan, who's a moderate Republican, who gives the Republicans a really good chance to flip a blue seat to red in Maryland, a very liberal state, which might be the margin by which they take control of the Senate. He had the audacity to say yesterday, after the verdict, you know, we should respect the decision of the jury. And for that, one of Trump's campaign managers said, his campaign is finished.

So, there is very little room for anything other than the Trump party line inside the Trump party at this moment.

PHILLIP: Yes. And, Chris, I know that you had on your show Bill Maher, who is really in the middle of so much of this political conversation, kind of irritating both the left and the right at different points. I want to play a part where he talks about Trump's chances in this next election.


WALLACE: Starting in 2018, you started predicting with some regularity, that if Donald Trump lost his bid for re election in 2020, that he wouldn't leave.

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: I said it before he was elected the first time. I kept saying, slow moving coup. It's, it's happening and it's going to happen, and we see, I mean, the stages of it, we just keep going down this road. And I noticed that the right wing now has sort of talked themselves into this idea, that he's just this buffoonish comedian, he says crazy things, you know, he's always said crazy things. It's like he's not a serious person, so they don't take it seriously. And that's the problem we have, is that this is very serious. And he's running a much more serious campaign this time.

WALLACE: So, what do you think happens if he loses this time?

MAHER: Well, on January 20th, 2025, he's going to show up on inauguration day, whether he wins or loses, because he will claim that he won. That is the one thing I can absolutely predict with utter certainty. He will never, as I kept saying all those years, will never concede an election. He's certainly not going to concede this one.

WALLACE: So you also have a podcast called Club Random. And on it recently, you told Jerry Seinfeld that if he wins, not loses, but wins, you're not going to go nuts again. So, is it that you think Trump 2.0 wouldn't be as bad, or you just don't care as much?

MAHER: Oh, I care. I just -- what I'm not going to do is just lose my nervous system at every step of the way. I think he just thinks of power. He just wants to get that back. This is the guy who's going to be probably president again. So, I think --

WALLACE: You think so?

MAHER: I think it's probably odds on, yes. I mean, he's certainly winning now. And Biden does not look like a very good candidate.

WALLACE: So, January 20th or, or maybe Election Day --

MAHER: I mean --

WALLACE: -- that's when you'll lose your mind?

MAHER: We could lose a lot more than my mind.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIP: You know, Chris, I don't even know if at the end there it was a little bit of ambivalence that you heard in Bill Maher's voice and in what he had to say, but it made me think perhaps he's reflecting what a lot of Americans feel as they approach this next election, another rematch between Trump and Biden.

WALLACE: No. He's clearly not thrilled by the choice, but he obviously thinks Trump is a much greater threat to the country than Biden is.


And you know, I would say that that's kind of the conventional wisdom right now among most people in the chattering class, that if you had to bet right now, well, maybe before five o'clock yesterday afternoon, you would have bet that Trump was the favorite and more likely than not to be elected president.

What's going to be interesting to see is how big a difference yesterday's verdict is. According to the polls, about 7 percent, which isn't very much, but 7 percent of people who say they now support Trump say they either will not vote for him or reconsider voting for him if he were convicted. Now, that was an if. We'll have to see what happens now.

And you know, as sad as it is, this was a big deal. The first convicted felon president, former president we've ever had. You don't even know how big a deal this is going to be five, six months from now when we get to the November election. How many different things, Abby, are going to happen between now and then that people will lose their minds over?

PHILLIP: Yeah, I cannot emphasize enough. It is so early in this race, and we've seen this before, 2016 and in 2020. There are so many things that can happen and do happen in these elections. Nobody knows anything. Let's -- let's put it right there for now. Chris Wallace, great to see you. You know a lot, but just not who's going to win. Great to see you.

WALLACE: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: Catch more of Chris's conversation with Bill Maher on "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace", available exclusively on Max. And don't miss Chris' show tomorrow, 10 a.m. Eastern Time, right here on CNN.

And next, pollster Frank Luntz will join me on what voters told him immediately after the verdict.

Plus, a former Apprentice producer is now saying he heard Trump use a racial slur about a black contestant. We will speak with that contestant ahead.



PHILLIP: Four weeks now until the first debate of this presidential cycle, six weeks until the Republican Convention and five months until Election Day. So how are voters feeling tonight about one of the candidates now becoming a felon? Pollster Frank Luntz asked 11 of them who previously voted either Republican or Democrat.


FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: How many of you really thought that Donald Trump was innocent? Raise your hands. 1, 2.

How many of you thought he was guilty? Raise your hands. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Give me one word or phrase to describe your reaction to tonight's verdict.

UNKNOWN: Surprising.


UNKNOWN: Uneasy.

UNKNOWN: Chalky.

UNKNOWN: Partisan.

UNKNOWN: Unaffected.

UNKNOWN: Not surprised.

UNKNOWN: Uneasy.

UNKNOWN: Ooh, validated.

UNKNOWN: Satisfied.

UNKNOWN: Uneasy.


PHILLIP: And Frank Luntz joins me now. Frank, so of the 11 voters, only one said that they are now less likely to vote for Trump because of this conviction. How do you think this reflects where the broader electorate of undecided voters will stand on Trump more broadly?

LUNTZ: Well, first off, maybe, maybe 4 percent of Americans are still undecided. There are only seven states that are truly in play.

So you're looking at less than 1 percent of the American people who are going to decide the future of 330 million people.

Second, the trial for Trump people was just the evidence once again of things being rigged. For those anti-Trump, he was guilty from day one.

What I found fascinating is that more money was raised by Donald Trump in 24 hours than ever online in a single day in presidential history. And second, the idea that it had no impact. 34 charges, 34 guilty verdicts had no impact on Trump's support


That ought to tell us that we're going to have the meanest, toughest, most divisive campaign we've ever had in this country.

PHILLIP: So multiple of the voters in this focus group, they mentioned that they are afraid about what is going to happen next. One of those concerns is obviously violence.

LUNTZ: It's never happened. By the way, I want to emphasize, this happened 90 seconds after the trial was announced. We convened those voters. They were swing voters. They had not made up their minds. They came from key states.

And they were for the first time afraid of what could happen on election day and in the period before that. It is frightening to me where we stand right now as a country, because there's no one saying enough.

On the Democratic side, on the Republican side, they're doing everything they can to energize their votes. They're succeeding at the expense of the country.

PHILLIP: That's really fascinating. Frank Lentz, thank you for bringing that to us.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And next, a former producer of "The Apprentice" says publicly, for the first time, that he heard Donald Trump use a racial slur about a black contestant. I'll speak to that contestant, Kwame Jackson, and get his reaction next.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the salacious, serious, and potentially crippling story to Donald Trump's campaign that you likely missed. In an essay for "Slate", a former reality television producer gave Americans a view of the Trump that he knew, an ugly, misogynist, race-baiting mogul who struggled to lead.

Bill Pruitt, just in the last hour on CNN, says that he and other Trump employees heard Trump use the word, the worst racial slur possible.


BILL PRUITT, PRODUCER: Trump seemed to have an issue with this idea all along. You could see him reacting and shaking his head, wobbling his head, grimacing, wincing before he said, yeah, but would America buy, and then he said the n-word, winning.

And I remember I was looking right at Carolyn when this was spoken, and she is a very pretty, blonde woman whose skin went bright scarlet. And then I looked at Trump to see the reaction that he was giving, like it was some sort of joke, and he was still wincing and bobbing his head, and he was serious.



PHILLIP: Now, CNN cannot verify that claim, and the Trump campaign in a statement called Pruitt's story, quote, "completely fabricated".

Joining me now, "The Apprentice" contestant who was the alleged subject of that racial slur, Kwame Jackson. Kwame, thanks for joining us again.


PHILLIP: There have been rumors about this story for years, but now we have Pruitt coming forward and saying that he actually heard Trump use that word. Have you heard about this before? And what's your reaction to now knowing you were allegedly the subject of that comment?

JACKSON: Well, first I want to say thank you for having me on your show as always, Abby, and I wanted to celebrate tonight. I'm in a mood of jubilation. I have on my 34 sweetness jersey for the 34 convictions for Donald Trump. I do think it's a moment of jubilee for the African- American community and people who have been long trumpeting the ills of Donald Trump, and even in the spirit of Walter Payton, who was called sweetness. This is a sweet day. This is a sweet victory.

And he had a saying that he said, never die easy. And I think that's what we've done in terms of fighting this fight, bringing it to the courts, and making sure there was a conviction. The next step is to make sure there's a just sentencing. So I want to celebrate those 34 convictions first.

In regards to what he said about the N-word, one, let's be clear, he did not say it to my face because it would have gone down much differently. So I cannot verify that he said that. I don't know if the tape exists. I do believe Bill Pruitt. He is a friend, and I'm happy that he finally came forward.

I cannot give him a red badge of courage or profiling courage like John F. Kennedy for doing that 20 years later. But we are where we are. And because of that, we are in a situation where we're not asking the right question. It's not whether he called me the N-word. The question we should be asking is, because he did call me the N-word, what kind of permission structure has been created downstream to make racism flourish in America?

So all the ills that we think about that have come from that allegation, now America feels a permission structure to be more racist, to roll back DE&I efforts at my alma mater, the University of North Carolina, our joint alma mater, Harvard, where Claudine Gay was fired over racist allegations as well. And so I think it's about the permission structure and the climate and

the storm that's been created around racism, not whether Trump called me the N-word or not. That's very kind of like fifth-grade energy, you know, your mama joke.

PHILLIP: Sure. I guess I wonder, though, I mean, do you think that this is something that actually voters should listen to and hear and say, this is who Donald Trump is? And what do you want to say to people about what his use of that comment might represent about him as a person?

JACKSON: Yeah, and I do think that on the margin, you know, going back to your previous segment, on the margin, this may make a difference. If that tape did come out and there's an ability for people to hear it, like they heard, you know, the unfortunate comments about grabbing by the P-S-S-Y, if they heard those types of things, maybe on the margin in the seven key swing states where we know there's going to be very slim margin voting in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in the suburbs of Milwaukee, in the suburbs of Phoenix, we know that that's where it's going to make a difference with voters who are still on the margin undecided.

But beyond that, the base is the base. And they've been given a permission structure to be racist, to do things like Charlottesville, and to do things that really deny the truth and reconciliation that's often needed in America. So what's really needed at this point is for America to do the hard work.

PHILLIP: I wonder, Kwame, whether you think that Donald Trump, who is reportedly considering, you know, Senator Tim Scott, Congressman Byron Donald, Ben Carson, do you think that he would actually pick a black person to be on his vice presidential ticket?

JACKSON: I've never known Mr. Trump to be comfortable around black people. I think he might be comfortable around a certain sliver of black people, a certain type of black people, but I've never known him to be comfortable in our general company. I remember when I was on "The Apprentice", there was always this stilted interaction between us where he couldn't quite figure me out.

I was that, you know, unicorn negro, and I'm trying to figure out how do I interact with this guy? Do I dap him up? Do I talk about sports? Do I, you know, refer to his Wall Street experience? He can never quite figure out my background and where I fit in. And so I've never known him to have comfort around anyone who's not just in his small box.

And so I would think it's very unlikely that, you know, no matter how much, you know, Tim Scott acts like a buffoon, no matter how much Ben Carson acts like a yes man, no matter how much they say, you know, we sick boss, there's not an opportunity for them to, you know, go and basically, you know, slide their way into that opportunity or that job.

[22:50:05] PHILLIP: And those men, all of them have suggested that black voters can actually relate to Trump more because he is facing prosecution because he's now a convicted felon. What's your response to that?

JACKSON: You know, that's a sad, sad reality. I do think that Trump has an appeal to black male voters in very, very small percentages. And what I mean by that is black male voters are often prey to his false bravado, his false swagger, his false kind of like, you know, DMX type energy that he's bringing into the arena. And they see that and they say, okay, this guy's got swagger. I can relate to that.

Or some of them are prey to the fact that they have an economic reality, whether it's a lower tax rate or taking more money home in their pocket, that Trump's going to take care of my pockets and that's all that matters. So that's a very selfish reality. And I don't think it's a one that's shared by a larger black populace. But I do think there's a small percentage of, you know, brothers that we can't save. You know, Harriet Tubman used to often say, or there was a saying about Harriet Tubman that says, never argue with somebody that Harriet Tubman would have shot.

So I'm not going to argue with those African-Americans. I'm going to let them do them and continue to pursue folks who I know are in our camp and on the margin and who can be saved.

PHILLIP: Kwame Jackson, thank you very much for joining us.

JACKSON: Thank you for having me, Abby.

PHILLIP: And a major inflection point tonight in the war in Gaza as President Biden pressures both Israel and Hamas to end the war now. Hear how Hamas is responding tonight. That's next.



PHILLIP: President Biden clearly has had enough.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is truly a decisive moment. It's time for this war to end.


PHILLIP: So tonight he is putting pressure on both Israel and Hamas, talking up a ceasefire deal that is on the table right now. Hamas now says that they welcome that proposal.

Here with me to discuss it is veteran foreign affairs correspondent Reena Ninen. Reena, it is so interesting to hear President Biden and the White House set up this press conference to announce this potential deal that Israel has agreed to. But Israel is not the one who announced this deal. How did that happen? REENA NINAN, VETERAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The timing was

really interesting to me and quite surprising. It's in the middle of this Trump news cycle that the White House could have just sort of laid low. They did it in the afternoon, which was Shabbat in Israel. Families were gathered around their TV already, in many cases, or having dinner. They had a great captive audience over in Israel.

But the thing is, President Netanyahu, because of the situation of it being Shabbat, didn't address the cameras, couldn't address the cameras.

What was interesting to me, there were two big surprises out of this to me, was Netanyahu's team did release a statement where they said, yeah, this is our proposal. It's the Israeli proposal and we think that this works. And then you hear Hamas, which has frequently come out and said that they're not into these proposals, respond positively. So these are two good signs about where this is going.

PHILLIP: Yeah. It's really important and positive that we are here. What do you make of the tone and the timing? It strikes me as really the first time that Biden and the administration has said, now is the time to end the war, not whenever Israel wants to do it, down in the future, now.

NINAN: Absolute victory. It's something that Netanyahu says, we're going to do this until we get this victory. It's really hard to define what that is. And what Biden was trying to convey is a sense of urgency. This is the moment. Take it now.

One of the things Hamas has been incredibly successful in is turning world opinion against Israel. And they have been successful in doing that. So this allowed the president to set the narrative and say, listen, if Hamas doesn't abide by what we have agreed on here, not only do you have the right to fire back militarily, we're going to help arm you on that.

So it gives Netanyahu some cover in that regard as well, but it also sets the tone of the stage of where this is headed.

PHILLIP: And talking about the day after, which is so important, how to rebuild Gaza. Who is going to rebuild Gaza is going to be a huge part of the conversation going forward. Reena, do you think that the signs, you call them positive, are you feeling like hearing from your sources momentum?

NINAN: Momentum for sure. I think it's incredibly wonderful that both sides are saying, yes, we're for this, but having watched the region for so long, you're always cautiously optimistic. And it's pretty remarkable at how far they've been able to get this together. This isn't some deal that the White House has put forward. The Israelis had this proposal. It's been workshopped with Hamas and through their mediator of Qatar.

So you'll have to watch and see where this goes. But it's interesting that they've had this moment to say, if Hamas doesn't abide by this, Israel is in the right to defend themselves and we will help. PHILLIP: And obviously the hostages are still a huge issue in this --

NINAN: The big focus on this.

PHILLIP: -- have returned. Reena Ninan, great to see you. Thank you so much.

And next week, President Biden and dignitaries from around the world will head to northern France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D- Day. In his new documentary, Jake Tapper takes a look at their fight.



UNKNOWN: We were locked in a battle with fascism. We were fighting for our freedom. For the freedom to think as we wish, talk as we wish.


UNKNOWN: They gave their life to preserve and protect that Constitution.

UNKNOWN: They died for our democracy. That wasn't the thing they were thinking about when they ran out of the landing craft, whatever, but at the end of the day, that's what they were protecting.


PHILLIP: You can watch "D-Day: Why We Still Fight for Democracy" on an all-new episode of "The Whole Story". That's this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern only, right here on CNN.

And thank you so much for watching "Newsnight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now. Have a great weekend.