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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Evangelicals Rush to Trump's Defense After Conviction; Bali Trip and Beyonce Tickets, Justices Disclose Lavish Gifts; May 2024 Jobs Report Smashed Expectations; Pat Sajak Signs Off from Wheel of Fortune for Good; Appeals Court Blocks Grant Program for Black Women Business Owners. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 07, 2024 - 22:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was 100 percent convinced that communism was the right thing, that the world eventually would wind up being one happy communist family.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: The fascinating new episode premieres this Sunday night at 10:00 P.M. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining us. Have a great weekend. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillips starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: The patron saint of MAGA. That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Tonight, Donald Trump loves to be worshipped. That much has been clear since he came down those golden escalators. But this week was especially notable because it gave us a mountain of new evidence that he remains idolized by evangelical voters. Even after 34 felony counts for crimes associated with hush money payments to an adult film actress, the support is ironclad. 80 percent of evangelicals say they support him today.

Now, let's start with what happened last night in Arizona. Donald Trump held a town hall in a Phoenix mega church. Now, the opening homily called for the crowd to pray over the presumptive nominee. But it was the smite thy enemies message that really rang out loud and clear. Listen.


LUKE BARNETT, PASTOR, DREAM CITY CHURCH: We do pray for our leaders, but, Father, if our leaders will not turn to you, if they will not turn to your word, if they will not return to justice, we pray that you would bring those leaders down. All of those people, all those individuals who are conniving and they're trying to frame right now him and bring him down, we pray that all those lives will be exposed, and, Lord, that it would just be exposed for what it really is.


PHILLIP: Trump also vowed vengeance from the pulpit, but that is perhaps not much of a surprise. What is stunning, though, is the profane call and response that came next.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't like using the word bullshit in front of these beautiful children, so I won't say it.


PHILLIP: Well, actually, he did say it, and so did everyone else. Again, this was in a church.

We also this week heard from the former president himself about how he would describe his own relationship with God.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your relationship with God like and how do you pray? That's Sharon from Alabama.

TRUMP: Okay. So, I think it's good. I do very well with the evangelicals. I love the evangelicals. People saying they pray for me, I can't even believe it. And they are so committed, and they're so believing.


PHILLIP: It's a revealing clip. But here is one more thing that is true. More and more, you see Trump's evangelists holding Trump up as a prophet. Take Natasha Owens, for example. She is a MAGA Christian singer who has a new song, which Trump himself shared on Truth Social. Take a listen to that.

Or there's Julie Green, an internet preacher, who says God delivered her divine messages about the former president.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These cases are nothing against me and they are nothing against my David.

The celebrations against my David won't last long.

Woe to the enemies of almighty God. You are laughing, thinking you got what you desired. I will tell you, I will have the last laugh.

Your verdict is a joke, an illusion. It's not real because it's not true. I will show you whose verdict really counts. My son is not guilty and the world will see that as true. They will see your kangaroo courts and how they are a joke and how they are nothing against me.


PHILLIP: That is like the gospel to Donald Trump's ears. And sure, he may be selling Bibles, but, really, it's his word that he'd like his supporters to follow religiously.

Now, joining me is Peter Wehner. He served three Republican presidential administrations, and he's now at the Trinity Forum and a contributor for The Atlantic.

Peter, first of all, why does Donald Trump get away with doing things that normally would cause Christians to turn away?


If he were anyone else, if he were asked a question about how he exercises his faith, and he simply does not answer the question but talks about his political support, that would be probably disqualifying, would it not?

PETER WEHNER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, once upon a time, it would have been. I think the explanation for this is that it he has a cult-like hold on these evangelical and fundamentalist followers. You know, it's moved, if you track this from 2015-2016, when the evangelical world began to rally around him to where they are now, it's gone from support to idolatry.

And what was once a bug is now a feature. So, when they hear Donald Trump and they see the cruelty, the crudity, the lawlessness, the rage, the hatred, the vengeance for an awful lot of people who claim to be followers of Jesus, it's life-giving, it's energizing, it's vivifying. It's a sad story. I say that as a person of the Christian faith, but it's we have to be able to name these, these things, we've not seen anything like it.

And I would say that Donald Trump is now the personification of what they want. It is not as if they're willing to tolerate some of his vices, it's that they celebrate them.

PHILLIP: I mean, is this even about faith anymore, or is it just cultural at this point?

WEHNER: It's cultural. I would say, you know, I have a friend, Russell Moore, who's used the, the phrase that for a lot of people who claim to be Christians, Jesus is a hood ornament. And so I think for a lot of them, faith is an add-on, it's a supplement. They proof text the Bible to affirm, validate, confirm these fiercely partisan and ideological views. So, their core identity shouldn't really be understood as faith. I think it should be understood as sociological, psychological, political, and the faith is a mere instrumentality. Now, they won't say that, but I think that is, in fact, the reality. That's how it's playing out. PHILLIP: I want you to listen to what one evangelical pastor said about this verdict. Listen.


HANK KUNNERMAN, AUTHOR: God said there would come a time when things would begin to be heated up in our country. But there would be a boomerang. In other words, those who would seek for indictments, they themselves would be indicted. God said, you will see things flop. It will look like it is absolutely over and then it will flop and then flip, and it will turn in the way of the favor of God.


PHILLIP: He also likened Trump to Daniel in the lion's den. You actually heard the Daniel reference in that other clip that we played earlier. I mean, this is a theme here. Why is it that so many evangelicals are openly now describing Trump as this saint-like figure, someone who is more than just, you know, a person that they admire, but somebody who is divinely brought to them by God?

WEHNER: Yes, it's a complicated question. It's an unsettling one. I think what's happened, the thing to understand is that there were for decades of pulsating grievances and resentments within a lot of the evangelical and fundamentalist world, and they built up, and Trump tapped into those things. And once he won them over just because he's a person who, who doesn't abide by any norms, he crashed through one guardrail after another and they saw it and as I was saying earlier, I think it energized them.

And I think they view him as a person that'll bring a pistol to a cultural knife fight. And their hatred for the left and the story they tell themselves in terms of the existential fear of the Democratic Party and of Joe Biden, they frame this as the children of light against the children of darkness, God versus Satan. And if you've convinced yourself that you're in a struggle like that, then there are an awful lot of ethical lines you're willing to cross. And they view Donald Trump as their warrior, their fighter, in a sense, their savior, their quasi savior, their savior of life on this Earth.

And so it's almost impossible to overstate the fealty, the allegiance that that they, that they have. But you see it in these clips, and you could play a hundred other clips that, that demonstrate this. It's bad, very bad, and it's only going to get worse.

PHILLIP: Trump likes that just fine. I mean, it actually works very well for what he tries to do, which really fundamentally is about asking people to believe him more than anything else, including the facts in front of their eyes.

Peter Wehner, thank you very much for joining us tonight on all of that.

WEHNER: Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me on.

[22:10:00] PHILLIP: The Supremes famously saying love don't come easy. It's just a game of give and take. And that is now the question that is facing Supreme Court justices. Just how much can they take before it starts influencing what they're giving?

Tonight, the financial disclosure forms that are just out from the justices reveal a trove of luxury gifts and six-figure book deal payments and a Beyonce ticket or two. But, really, all eyes are on Justice Clarence Thomas. He amended his disclosure form from 2019 with two new additions that he says were, quote, inadvertently admitted at the time of the filing.

Now, we should note they were only brought to light publicly because of a ProPublica investigation. The first was a trip to Bali that was paid for by GOP mega donor Harlan Crowe and his wife. Thomas also then disclosed a trip paid for by the Crowes to a private club in Monterey, California. That same month, he did not place a value on either trip in the disclosure form because it's not required.

But the watchdog group, Fix the Court, said that over the last 20 years, when it comes to both the disclosed and undisclosed gifts, Clarence Thomas is really in a league of his own. Thomas has reportedly received 103 gifts amounting to $2.4 million in value and it's not even close. Next in line is Justice Antonin Scalia, and he still accepted $2.2 million fewer than Thomas.

Joining me now is Justice correspondent for the nation and host of their new podcast, Contempt of Court, Elie Mystal, and also with us the former Trump attorney, Tim Parlatore.

Elie, inadvertently omitted, what's your reaction to that?

ELIE MYSTAL, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT AND COLUMNIST, THE NATION: Yes. So once again, we caught Clarence Thomas in a lie, because when these allegations, when these gifts first came out, were first reported by ProPublica, Thomas said that he was not required to report them on his disclosure form. Now, he's saying not reporting them was an inadvertent omission. Well, which one is it, Clarence?

And, frankly, it doesn't matter which one it is because there will be no punishment. And so while we can talk about all of these gifts, the $2.4 million, the money that he is raking in, the important thing to remember is that Congress refuses to do anything to stop these people. Congress will not pass ethics legislation. I do not know why Republicans in Congress oppose minimal basic ethics requirements for the Supreme Court. But they do, and so we don't have them. And so nothing, squadoosh, is the number that is going to happen in terms of consequences for Clarence Thomas' corruption and lies.

PHILLIP: Members of Congress' staffers, Tim, are subject to more stringent ethical requirements, apparently, than the Supreme Court of the United States. How could that be? And to Elie's point, I mean, is this not now crying out for Congress to act if they really care at all about preserving even just the appearance of impartiality of the court? TIM PARLATORE, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I agree with Elie completely on this. You know, this is something that, you know, congressional staffers, you mentioned, if you look at the executive branch, I've represented several senior executive branch officials with investigations from the Office of Government Ethics. You know, military officers are only allowed to accept gifts up to $20. NYPD cops, they get written up if they take a free cup of coffee.

You know, there are rules in place for federal judges that limit the gift that they can get at $50. But it specifically exempts the Supreme Court. In the states, you know, it can be even worse. I once had a state Supreme Court justice that I was in front of, that during the case had a third party come to me and ask for a campaign contribution for that judge.

Any type of, you know, thing where they're taking these large gifts, it's an appearance of impropriety. It's something that does, in my opinion it degrades, you know, the image of impartiality. And I think that I agree with Elie. This is something that the Congress should act and try and put in some reasonable regulations on.

PHILLIP: So, you know, Elie, we talked about the Beyonce tickets. I mean, apparently there were a lot of people going to the Beyonce concert last summer, fine. But is there a difference between, you know, Beyonce gifting tickets and somebody who has apparently strong ideological interest in the outcome of key cases that are before the court? And how do you deal with that? I mean, it seems just difficult to draw that line, but it seems also that maybe there is a line that needs to be drawn there.

MYSTAL: Yes, well, two things. One, I would not make a false equivalency between Beyonce tickets and taking vacations with rich billionaire donors.


But here's the thing. If Beyonce happened to have a case in front of the Supreme Court, I would expect on the basis of this disclosure, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to recuse herself. That would be the appropriate thing for Jackson to do, right? If Sam Alito is taken -- gets free tickets to Hootie and the Blowfish, and Hootie and the Blowfish have a case in front of the Supreme Court, I would expect Sam Alito to recuse himself.

Like one of the ways that we could reform our ethical system here is to simply require, not leave it up to their discretion, not leave it up to like their best of intentions, but simply require justices to recuse themselves from cases where they have a puritan financial interest or some other political, you know, connection, right?

We have nine of these people for a reason, right? We can have cases with eight justices. We can have cases with seven justices. So, even though I don't think there's any equivalency between Ketanji Brown Jackson's disclosures and Clarence Thomas' disclosures, the underlying ethical issue here is still quite clear to me. If Beyonce is in front of the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson should step aside, and I'm sure she would. Can't say the same about Clarence, can't say the same about Alito.

PHILLIP: So, Tim, for weeks, we were hearing from Republicans that Judge Juan Merchan here in New York could not possibly be impartial because he made a $35 contribution to Democrats in 2020. Only $15 of that went to Biden, the Biden campaign, I guess, specifically. So, how can Republicans make that claim while not even batting an eye at what's going on in these disclosure forms?

PARLATORE: You know, that's the problem that I have, is that to be intellectually honest, you have to apply it to both sides. And so if you're going to say that, you know, Justice Merchan, you know, Judge Merchan, he has to recuse himself, you have to kind of go both ways on it. And that's why I do think that having some type of reasonable regulations in place that would, you know, really limit all judges and keep them, you know, any appearance of impropriety, and I'm not going to make any specific comparisons between these justices, but I agree. If there's a case from Beyonce up at the Supreme Court, yes, that is something that would be an appearance of a conflict.

It'd be easier if Congress simply put in a limit so that there are no gifts at all that you don't have to deal with that to begin with, hold the justices to the same standard that we hold, you know, every military officer that they can't take any type of, you know, gifts like this, every other executive branch employee, every congressional staffer, every judge from the lower courts district and circuit courts. I don't see why the Supreme Court should be any different.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it's really perplexing.

I mean, Elie, that $2.4 million is an eye-popping number. I mean, it's really extraordinary, but especially when compared to the other justices. The chief justice, John Roberts, I mean, he has a role here, why won't he take it? Shouldn't he be deciding, you know, for the good of the court, which he -- it seems like when you look at his rulings, when you look at how he conducts himself, he wants to think of himself as playing that role. Shouldn't he do more in this moment? And what should he do, even if Congress doesn't act? Is there anything that you think that he can do unilaterally on this?

MYSTAL: No, Abby. I think John Roberts wants you to think of him that way. I don't think John Roberts holds himself to that high standard, because if he did, he would have done something already. John Roberts says that the Supreme Court has its own ethics rule. There was that ridiculousness that happened earlier this year, basically when the ProPublica stuff first came out, where John Roberts allegedly released a code of ethics, but you'll note that that code of ethics released by John Roberts has no teeth, as in, it has no penalty for when the justices violate those ethics rule.

And so that's the twist here. Roberts is willing to talk a good game, but he's not willing to put his back on it. He's not willing to put his foot on it. He's not willing to actually stop anybody and hold them accountable on his own court. Personally, I think this will go down this -- the ethical quandary, that is the Roberts court, will be part of his legacy. He won't be in the first line of his obituary because I don't get to write the obituaries, but, you know, by paragraph three, we're going to have to talk about the ethical malfeasance Roberts presided over while he was chief justice.

The issue is that what the Supreme Court has proved is that it can't police itself, right? It's like when you tell your kid, all right, you can come home at a reasonable hour, right?


And then they show up at 2:00 in the morning. Well, what do you do? You grab the car keys and you say, okay, you abused your privileges. Now, we're putting in a curfew and that, again, the parents in this room, and it pains me to say it, but the adult in the room needs to be Congress, needs to be the first branch of government with the constitutional authority to reign the Supreme Court justices in because they have proven that they are unable, unwilling and incapable of policing themselves.

PHILLIP: Well, if only Congress could get its act together to do, well, just about anything, this might be on the agenda, but it doesn't seem to be.

MYSTAL: Hank Johnson has got a bill right there.

PHILLIP: Yes. Let's see what they do with it. We'll see what they do with it.

Elie Mystal, Tim Parlatore, thank you both very much.

And up next, 50 Cent, Chelsea Handler, and an outburst by a Trump V.P. contender, Tim Scott. Well, we'll tell you what that's all about ahead.

Plus, speaking of contenders, Harry Enten will break down the prospects of Trump's finalists and how often underdogs actually win.

And the typical CEO now makes 200 times more than their workers. What that means for this economy and this election.

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Always one for a show. Donald Trump says that he's not going to reveal his running mate until the convention, which is a little bit out of the ordinary. But now that we know who some of the contenders are, what are their actual chances of being his pick?

CNN's Data Reporter Harry Enten is at the magic wall. Harry, so what are the betting markets telling us about these candidates and their chances to be Trump's V.P.?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, let's take a look at the betting markets, because this is sort of like a measure, I would say, of conventional wisdom, all right? And so we have here is the chance of being Trump's V.P., and the arrows indicate the change from last month on May 6th.

And what we see is the leader right now is Tim Scott with a 21 percent chance of being Trump's V.P. nominee. And a very close second is Doug Burgum, who is steady. We notice, of course, with Tim Scott, the arrow is up. The bonding market, the conventional wisdom, thinks he has a better chance than did last month. Also up is Marco Rubio with a 14 percent chance.

Interestingly enough, Abby and I, you and I were discussing this in the break, J.D. Vance's chances have actually dropped. He is now tied with Rubio at 14 percent. Last month, he was at about 17 percent. But, of course, here's the thing that I would almost take away from this is, it's sort of an open ball game here, right? There's no real clear favorite. Even though Tim Scott leads the pack, he has just a 21 percent chance of being the V.P. nominee for Trump.

PHILLIP: Something tells me maybe the betting markets just don't know.

ENTEN: They may not. They may not. Getting inside of one guy's head is awfully difficult.

PHILLIP: So, what kind of resume has ultimately had the most success at actually getting on the V.P. ticket?

ENTEN: Yes. So, I went back in time and essentially said, okay, who are the people that actually get nominated? It turns out members of Congress are the ultimate plurality, the top choices for major parties since 1868, 39 times members of Congress get chosen, senators far more often than members of the House governors, 14 times. So that might give you an indication maybe why Doug Burgum is sort of holding on where he is, right? And cabinet secretaries, I don't know if there's a cabinet secretary currently in the mix, but eight times the cabinet secretary as the highest position has been the V.P. nominee.

But at this particular point, I think it's a pretty good bet, even if you're not sure which member of Congress it's going to be, that a member of Congress is most likely going to be Trump's V.P. nominee.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, look, I have a theory about that. Some of it has to do with, you know, presidents don't like other people who want to be executives on their ticket. But what about some of the people who were considered underdogs but then eventually actually became the choice, maybe the dark horse of the race? Where were they at this point in the race?

ENTEN: Yes, you were saying, you know, maybe the betting markets don't exactly know what's going on. It's very difficult to get inside of somebody's head, right? So, the chance of being V.P. at this point, here was the betting markets and the cycles that they were chosen going back to '08 on the Republican side. The highest was actually Palin, 15 percent, but Paul Ryan was just at 5 percent. Mike Pence had just a 1 percent chance.

So, this idea that we can really get inside and understand where folks are going, it's really anybody's ballgame, because, ultimately, it comes down to one person and one person alone, and that is the GOP nominee, Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: That's right, and everybody has a theory about what the V.P. needs to do, and most of the time, it's nothing. It's really nothing.

Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And tonight, we have a brief story for you about a senator, a rapper, and a comedian. So, here's what happened. 50 Cent spent much of Thursday on Capitol Hill talking to both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. And while he was talking to reporters outside of the Capitol, he made this comment about the upcoming election.


REPORTER: Have you made a decision?


REPORTER: What do you see as the significance of African-American men in this election for both of you?

50 CENT: I see them identifying with Trump.

REPORTER: Why do you say that?

50 CENT: Because they got RICO charges.


PHILLIP: That sparked social media to resurface these comments by 50's ex-girlfriend, Chelsea Handler, back in 2020. Now, that came after he then supported Trump's tax policy.


CHELSEA HANDLER, COMEDIAN: And I had to remind him that he was a black person so he can't vote for Donald Trump and that he shouldn't be influencing an entire swath of people who may listen to him because he's worried about his own personal pocketbook.

An entire swath of people who may listen to him because he's worried about his own personal pocketbook.



PHILLIP: Now, Senator Tim Scott responded to that on Twitter, writing, yes, by all means, please tell another black man how to think, white lady.

Now, I know that all that sounds like I made it up, but I promise you this really happened. This is really happening in this country. Joining me now is national political reporter Jessica Washington. Underneath all of that craziness is actually a story about black voters and Donald Trump and whether or not there's really momentum there. What I think is most interesting is that Tim Scott decides he wants to jump into this fray and, you know, get into it with Chelsea Handler. What do you make of how he responded, though?

JESSICA WASHINGTON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, I mean, it was quite an aggressive response. I mean, and talking about race in a way we really haven't seen up until very recently, Tim Scott talk about race.

I mean, calling her white lady, you know, how like really calling her out. It was kind of it was a little unexpected from Scott in a way. But I mean, it is becoming he is talking about race more and more now. But it was kind of jarring.

PHILLIP: I mean, he's also it almost seems like he and you've got Byron Donald's all doing the same thing. They're trying to pitch themselves as the person who can deal with this issue for Trump. I mean, Tim Scott is putting his money where his mouth is. His PAC has raised $14 million to try to recruit black and brown voters for, you know, Republicans and for the Trump campaign. Do you think, though, that it's working? I mean, you had Byron Donald's today bringing up or this week bringing up Jim Crow multiple times. I mean, it's getting a little weird.

WASHINGTON: Yeah. I mean, I don't think it's working for the average black person. Now, are we certainly seeing particularly some with Biden? Some black Americans are moving away from Biden. We're seeing some pick up with Trump, with black men, some. But this idea that all of a sudden black Americans are going to say, oh, actually, you know, side with Tim Scott, who said, I believe that welfare was potentially worse than slavery. The idea of the average black person is going to side on to that seems unlikely to me.

PHILLIP: There's also I mean, just to take a second about what 50s had to say that statement outside of the Capitol. What is this idea that all these black men are criminals with RICO charges and for that reason they want to vote for Donald Trump? That is very bizarre.

WASHINGTON: Yeah. I mean, personally, I think it's insensitive. I mean, obviously, we know in our society that African-American people in the United States are over criminalized. Right? So that's something we can most people can agree on. It's like that is certainly an underlying thing. But this idea that the average black American is going to say, oh, you have RICO charges, me too. Like that's just like I don't think we're all living in the same reality about that.

PHILLIP: I mean, yeah, exactly. I mean, it's so it's so interesting that that is where they go. I mean, there are so many other avenues. But for some reason, the criminality is the one that they go to black voters for on.

WASHINGTON: Yeah, no, it does seem very I mean, it's bizarre. I mean, many people have it racist. I mean, there is this idea that, OK, black people are celebrating criminality, which is very different from talking about the fact that black people are over criminalized. I think those are very different things and saying, oh, we love criminals. And it's just that mixed messaging, which feels very racially insensitive, is just kind of out there.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, could argue it's racist as well. Let's just let's call it what it is. Jessica Washington, thank you very much for being here.

And up next, we know about inflation. We know about housing. But is there another reason that no one talks about, really, that explains why Americans are so sour on this economy? We'll discuss that.

Plus, we're going to show you just how long Pat Sajak has hosted "Wheel of Fortune." And there's a twist. Hint it involves both Biden and Trump.




PHILLIP: Despite a mostly sweet jobs report, a number of Americans are still sour on the economy. But first, let's give you the sugar part of it. Once again, the latest jobs report surpassed expectations.

272,000 jobs added in May, and more significantly, wages rose for the first time in months. So why are Americans feeling so sour?

Well, there may be a few reasons. One of them, obviously, is inflation.

Despite falling from its peak of nine point one back in 2022, prices are still up by 3.4 percent annually. Items like food, shelter, transportation services, they're all hitting American pocketbooks the hardest.

Now, the second reason, the housing affordability crisis.

The average price for a home now is coming in close to $408,000. That is nearly a 6 percent increase from last year.

And three, the growing gap between the haves and the have nots.

The average S&P 500 CEO makes almost 200 times as much as their employees in 2023. They're making an average of $16.3 million compared to the $81,000 average of the employee that they take home.

For more on that, I want to bring in CNN economics and political commentator Catherine Rampell. Catherine, this economy is good, getting better in some respect. And it's not like inequality is a new phenomenon. But I mean, when you look at this job support and you see all this data, what do you think is happening here to make Americans really feel fundamentally unsatisfied with the direction of the ethics?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Why have been so grumpy? Why have Americans been so grumpy when on paper the U.S. economy looks so fantastic, at least in many respects?


Obviously, inflation, big part of it, even though inflation has cooled, meaning that prices are not growing as quickly as they had been. We've already seen a lot of price growth to date, and people are constantly hit by sticker shock.

You know, if you look actually at grocery prices, for example, they're pretty flat, close to flat year over year. So technically, inflation in grocery prices is pretty good right now.

But people remember how much cheaper milk and eggs and hamburger meat and everything else that they bought at the grocery store were not very long ago. So they're still getting that kind of sticker shock.

PHILLIP: I mean, I don't mean this to be dismissive, but there's a little bit of psychology. For sure.

RAMPELL: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I get why people are ticked off. Their wages are going up. Their wages are going up for some of the same reasons that prices are going up, right, that when people see the cost of living going up, they negotiate for higher pay.

But I think the typical person quite reasonably sees a wage increase as something that they earned, whereas inflation is something that happened to them, right, that it's stripping away that well-deserved promotion or raise.

PHILLIP: Let's talk about these CEOs, because I mean, look, it's not like this idea of a pay gap between the CEOs and their employees is new, but it is getting to ridiculous levels. I mean, it's just, it is absurd. So is that part of it, and do you think that that might actually change how people view the policy of this? I mean, Democrats typically are the ones to say, let's actually tax the rich more. I mean, do you think that that helps, or are voters not taking that into consideration?

RAMPELL: So I'm a little skeptical of the argument that the reason why people are grumpy about their own personal finances is that they see that some private equity CEO is making a lot of money.

Yes, it is a huge amount of money that you see on these lists, but I don't know that that's really the point of comparison that's driving people bonkers, or at least getting resentful.

PHILLIP: Some people do believe this argument that companies are opportunistically taking advantage of the willingness to pay of consumers and raising prices.

RAMPELL: No, but demand has been strong. People are willing to buy stuff, so companies are trying to maximize their profits. They're always trying to maximize their profits.

I would like to come back to a point that you just made about taxing the rich. It is absolutely true that taxing the rich is a very popular thing to do, and if you look at polling, the number one thing that Americans say bothers them about the tax code is not their own tax rates. It's not how frustrating it is to file taxes, which is very frustrating.

It's the fact that they think that the wealthy and corporations don't pay their fair share. So this is a winning issue for Democrats. It's interesting because if you look at the polling about which party or which presidential candidate is trusted more on taxes, it's generally Republicans and Trump rather than Democrats and Biden.

PHILLIP: Because people want to pay fewer. They want to pay less taxes in general.

RAMPELL: Right, but if you look at their actual policy proposals, both Biden and Trump have promised to essentially lower taxes for at least the bottom 90 percent of Americans, or not raise them in any event.

But Trump and the Republicans want to cut taxes also for the wealthy, for corporations.

PHILLIP: To make those Trump tax cuts permanent.

RAMPELL: To make those Trump tax cuts permanent, which affect pretty much everyone, but Trump wants to make them much more generous for corporations and the wealthy. So it's interesting. This is definitely a winning issue for Democrats.

PHILLIP: Yeah, all right. Catherine Rampell, thank you so much.

And speaking of jobs, a guy who has kept one through 516 of those jobs reports is finally calling it quits.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): And now, here's your new host, Pat Sajak.

PAT SAJAK, LONG-TIME WHEEL OF FORTUNE HOST: Thank you, thank you Jack Clark. Good morning everyone. Welcome to "Wheel of Fortune."

What an honor to have played even a small part in all that. Thank you for allowing me into your lives.


PHILLIP: Pat Sajak's last episode of "Wheel of Fortune" aired tonight after 41 seasons. Now, just for some perspective, this is how long that he has been hosting that show. In the year of his first episode, 1981, Diana and Charles tied the knot. NASA launched its first space shuttle mission. MTV launched, and so did "Indiana Jones." Bette Davis Eyes was the top song. Sandra Day O'Connor joined the bench of the Supreme Court. Iran released the hostages. The champ retired. DeLorean cars debuted. And making their debuts into the world, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Meghan Markle, and Paris Hilton.

Now, Sajak hosted through seven U.S. presidents, records, cassettes, C.D.s, computers, the internet, the iPhone, 50,000 wheel puzzles in all, and nearly 8000 Vanna White outfits as well.


But as much as things change, so much is still the same. Joe Biden still works in politics. He still works in Washington. And Donald Trump is still facing lawsuits and is still talking about what it takes to be a politician.


UNKNOWN: For some people, the ultimate goal in life has been becoming the president of the United States. Would you like to be the president of the United States?

SAJAK: I really don't believe I would, but I would like to see somebody as the president who could do the job. And there are very capable people in this country.

UNKNOWN: Why wouldn't you dedicate yourself to public service?

SAJAK: Because I think it's a very mean life. I would love and I would dedicate my life to this country, but I see it as being a mean life. And I also see it that somebody with strong views and somebody with the kind of views that are maybe a little bit unpopular, which may be right, but may be unpopular, wouldn't necessarily have a chance of getting elected against somebody with no great brain, but a big smile.


PHILLIP: Interesting. And up next, I interviewed actor Wendell Pierce this week after he said that he was denied housing. That's because he's black. That's what he says, at least. We'll dive more into the reason that he actually decided to reveal that story at all.




PHILLIP: In a victory for opponents of affirmative action, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has blocked a black-owned venture capitalist firm from awarding grants exclusively to black women entrepreneurs. In the opinion, the court found that the firm substantially likely to violate provisions of Title 42 in the U.S. Code, which ensures equal rights under the law and prohibits the use of race when awarding and enforcing contracts. Now, this case was brought by members of the same group, the American Alliance for Equal Rights, and they claim that they were excluded from the grant program because they weren't black.

Arian Simone is the CEO and the founding partner of the Fearless Fund, and she joins me now from Cape Coast, Ghana, where she is traveling. Arian, thanks for joining us. This ruling has been part of a long legal journey that the Fearless Fund has been on. What's your reaction to the 11th Circuit making this sweeping claim that your fund violates equal protection laws?

ARIAN SIMONE, FOUNDING PARTNER AND CEO, FEARLESS FUND: My reaction to the ruling is that I'm very disturbed by this. The reason why is saying that we are violating the law of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which is a law that was clearly put in place post- slavery for black people to have an opportunity at economic freedom by giving them the legal right to enter into contracts. So, yes, I am disturbed.

PHILLIP: You know, we've seen some analysts and, you know, scholars talking about this, and they're saying essentially that these laws that were put into place to protect black Americans, to give them equal rights, they are being weaponized now against black Americans. Is that how you see it?

SIMONE: Yes, it's how most people see it. They have flipped this law on its head. It was clearly put in place to protect and provide, and now it's being used through court systems as a way to dismantle diversity.

PHILLIP: Your program, it aims to help black female entrepreneurs access capital to grow their businesses. We know that, you know, black women are just an infinitesimal fraction of the V.C. funding that is out there. What impact do you think this ruling will have on that landscape, not just the recipients of the Fearless Fund, but just venture capital in general?

SIMONE: You are correct in that this is a precedent case, and people are looking to see this as a benchmark as far as what the future of V.C. will look like.

Right now, black females are the fastest growing entrepreneur demographic that exists, and black and brown women, women of color, are the most founded but the least funded.

And this is very concerning when only a fraction of a percent of those funds in venture capital go to women of color. And if you were to ever stop an organization like the Fearless Fund, our organization, this means that you now have precedent to stop others, and we cannot allow that.

PHILLIP: What do you think should be done at this point? I mean, the courts are going to do what they're going to do. What else can be done?

SIMONE: You're correct. The courts are going to do what they are going to do. But right now, I would like to send a signal and a request to the President of the United States of America to issue an executive order to stand up for DEI.

We deserve the right to protect the ability to fund marginalized communities and demographics that can be shown that there are clearly racial disparities.

We deserve that. We need an executive order. We need a signal to the DOJ. We cannot just rely on the court systems right now. We need elected officials to state and show and put pen to paper to say where they stand on the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Diversity is one of the values that this country prides themselves on. And we would like to see that our elected officials that we have in office take a stance.


PHILLIP: All right. Arian Simone, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SIMONE: Thank you for having me.

PHILLIP: Coming up on "Laura Coates Live," a dramatic moment in Hunter Biden's trial when his daughter took the stand. We'll be back in a moment.