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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Rants Against The Government He Wants To Run; V.P. Contenders Parroting Trump's Conspiracies In Auditions; Source Says, Trump Answered All Questions In Probation Interview; "NewsNight" Tackles Rudy Giuliani's Life And Career Over Time; Team USA Announces Roster For Next Month's Olympic Games In Paris; Donald Trump Tells Conservative Christians That Democrats Are Against Their Religion. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 10, 2024 - 22:00   ET



RENATO STABILE, JURY CONSULTANT: And you would have to acknowledge it. He's not there as the president of the United States. He's there as the father of Hunter Biden.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Yes, I mean, it is remarkable. Abbe Lowe going 90 minutes today with the jury was closing their eyes at some points. Is that a bad sign, a good sign, no sign?

STABILE: Look, it's not great, but you can't read too much into that.

COLLINS: Yes. Renato Stablie, we will be waiting to see if there is a verdict tomorrow. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Thank you all so much for joining us as well as we continue to monitor all the news here at CNN.

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: The Donald Trump, his rally diehards. That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Another American first, the convicted former president who is now running to oversee the country again just met with his probation officer. And in just moments, I'll speak with ABC News Anchor and former Clinton White House insider George Stephanopoulos. We'll get some unique insights into what a second Trump term may look like.

But, first, a play by play of what Donald Trump said in Las Vegas. Let's set the scene for you. The heat spiraled to 100 degrees, six people were sent to the hospital. Two dozen others were treated at the scene. Call it the heat or Donald Trump feeling hot under the collar, but the content of this rally veered wildly into topic after topic. Now, some that actually might matter to you, the voter, and others that matter to Donald Trump and maybe no one else.

So, here is an incomplete sampling of what you heard if you happened to have stood in that rally and sweated through all of it, starting with a joke about voters.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't want anybody going on me. We need every voter. I don't care about you. I just want your vote. I don't care.

He's a deranged, dumb guy. He's a dumb son of a bitch.

He's a corrupt, very dumb person. He's a low I.Q. individual.

There's just something missing, and there always has been.

If this guy just, you know, goes to the beach all the time, somebody thinks he looks good in a bathing suit. I don't think so. And he has that little chair that weighs about like seven ounces. It's meant so children can lift it and very old people can lift it. And you know what? He's not old. He's incompetent.

It's weak. It's ineffective. It's bullshit what he signed.

They're totally destroying our black population. They're totally destroying our Hispanic population.

I pay all this money to teleprompter people. And I'd say 20 percent of the time they don't work. I don't pay contractors that do a shitty job, and that's a shitty job. That's a shitty job. You can't read a word.

What would happen if the boat sank from its weight, and you're in the boat, and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery's now underwater, and there's a shark that's approximately ten yards over there? By the way, a lot of shark attacks lately. Do you notice that?

Those J6 warriors, they were warriors, but they were really more than anything else. They're victims of what happened. All they were doing is protesting a rigged election. That's what they were doing. And then the police say, go in, go in, go in.

What a setup that was. What a horrible, horrible thing. And, you know, that blows two ways.

If we win Nevada, we win the whole thing. I hope the military revolts at the voting booth and just says, we're not going to take it. He should take a drug test because I'm willing to take one.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is George Stephanopoulos, ABC News anchor. He is a veteran of the Clinton White House, and he's also the author of a brand new book, The Situation Room, The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis. George, it's great to have you on -- in this book. It chronicles --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Great to be on, Abby. PHILLIP: It chronicles six decades of crisis management from the Situation Room, a place that you know well from your time in the White House.

One of the interesting things is also these interviews with officers who were in the Situation Room on January 6th. This is at a time now when Trump is actively running to be back in the White House and fundamentally change how the government works, how the so-called deep state works. Did you hear any concerns from these duty officers about what a second Trump term would mean for the kind of continuity that the national security apparatus has relied on for all these years?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely. I mean, duty officers and others who served in the Trump administration worried that the institutions would crumble. I spoke with a White House situation duty officer named Mike Stiegler, who was actually on point on January 6th.


And he said, you know, people have to understand how close we came to losing the vice president at the time.

And he was horrified by this, also horrified by the fact that he and his fellow officers in the Situation Room that they had to start implementing the continuity of government procedures, which were designed to make sure the government survives a nuclear attack. They were put into place on that day because of the threat to our institutions on that day as well. And, of course, President Trump famously never called down to the Situation Room even once all during January 6th.

And, you know, you talk about it's not just how close we came to watching our institutions crumble that day. The threat is real. I mean, look at what happened just Saturday night in Las Vegas, when the former president, called the January -- the convicted felons from January 6th, those who rioted on January 6th and tried to block the peaceful transfer of power, he called them warriors who were somehow set up by the police. He's called them hostages. He's called them patriots. He's promising to pardon them. He's not promising to abide by the results of the next election. So, this is past threat is very real right now.

PHILLIP: Ever seen, I mean, in your research and your time in government anyone run for office really running against the very government that they are supposed to be overseeing?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely unprecedented, Abby, absolutely unprecedented. We have never had a former president or a presidential candidate who refuses to accept the peaceful transfer of power, who refuses to say that he will abide by the Constitution, who's been indicted and impeached for trying to block the peaceful transfer of power.

That is something that is absolutely fundamental to our democracy. It's one of the things that's made our democracy work for over 250 years, the idea, the simple fact that the former president continues to lie about the last election, that he did whatever he could on that day to block the peaceful transfer of power is absolutely unprecedented in all of our history.

PHILLIP: And you on your show on this week, you've had some of these Trump V.P. shortlisters on there. Some of the other hosts of this week have also had them on. I want to just play a little bit of what they've been saying on television of late.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Do I think there were problems in 2020? Yes, I do. Do I think it was a problem that big technology companies working with the intelligence services censored the presidential campaign of Donald Trump? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, Governor, you have said the election wasn't stolen and you're supporting someone who says it was.

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Well, I know that we've got -- certainly we've got irregularities.


PHILLIP: Do you get the sense that this is one of the requirements to be on that shortlist?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't have to get the sense. It's out there. It's plain as day. I actually, you know, talked to Senator J.D. Vance, who's reportedly on the shortlist as well. And, you know, every indication he gave was that he would do the same thing that Mike Pence -- I mean, that he would not do what Mike Pence did in 2000.

I mean, it certainly seems to have become a requirement for those who are running to accept President Trump's lie, former President Trump's lie about the last election to suggest that he did nothing wrong now on January 6th, to say that somehow that is not an important issue at this point, and to suggest that it was actually Vice President Pence who did the wrong thing in 2020.

I mean, this is just -- again, this is astonishing. You know, we've never really had a former president run before whose own vice president refuses to endorse him because of the actions he took on those days.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, that alone maybe it says it all. You know, as a journalist, when you have these potential V.P. candidates on the show, you've had them on, we've had them on the show here, they rarely, if ever, concede ground. You know, this seems to be kind of also another litmus test for how to be in MAGA world. I mean, is this the new reality for this MAGA era of politicians that they don't back down when they're confronted with facts?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Perhaps it is, but I think that poses a test for all of us in journalism as well. I've made it a point, if they will not accept those facts, I don't go on to other issues. I'm not going to go to, to participate in some kind of a sham where you somehow equate the legitimacy of an election or the peaceful transfer of power with a debate over tax cuts or environmental regulation. If you can't pass that fundamental threshold of saying, yes, the last election was not stolen to I will abide by the results of the next election, then I think that's all voters and viewers need to know.


I don't think if you're willing to lie about something as big as that, why should anything else they want to talk about be given any credence?

PHILLIP: It's such an important point. I mean, we've got a presidential debate coming up right here on CNN later this month. As a journalist, as an American, what do you think is the most important question that needs to be answered from both candidates?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who won the last election?



PHILLIP: Yes, and --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who won the last election? Let's discuss and debate.

PHILLIP: And we'll see. I mean, look, it's been asked by Donald Trump. He refuses to answer it correctly, but we'll see what he does when he's given that opportunity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In front of 140 million people. You know, it's a little bit different on a stage like that.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And when it's an actual debate.


STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's a real test.

PHILLIP: I do want to play a little bit of what the vice president, Kamala Harris, has been saying, actually, on this very point. I mean, she seems to really be taking this issue on head on.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Donald Trump openly tried to overturn the last election. And now he openly attacks the foundations of our justice system.

Cheaters don't like getting caught.


PHILLIP: It's a different tone than we've seen from her, but it also speaks to that question that you just raised. If Trump doesn't sort of pass the truth test on that issue, is there room for the Biden administration to even move on to some of the other stuff, maybe the bread and butter issues, maybe the economy? Do you think that they are settling on this idea of a character test for Donald Trump on this issue of the election?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Presidential candidates have to do it all. But, I mean, I think that is the threshold question of this election. You know, certainly, the Biden campaign is going to have to address voters' concerns about the economy, voters' concerns about inflation. Those are important as well. But it is fundamental, as I said at the start, the very question of whether or not you accept election results, whether you accept the peaceful transfer of power. That is an absolutely fundamental issue that people should be confronted with as they go to make their choice in November.

PHILLIP: You know, when it comes to the potential of a Trump administration, I mean, what do you think his conduct on January 6th tells you about what he might do next, not just around the election but just in general?

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's saying what he would do next. He says it every single day. He says he would pardon what he calls the January 6th hostages. He's talked about retribution, using his Justice Department as an arm of retribution. He's talked openly about dropping the prosecutions against himself. That's an act of obstruction of justice in and of itself. It's no secret. When President Trump says he wants to do something, we should take him at his word.

PHILLIP: George Stephanopoulos, thank you very much. And, again, George's book, The Situation Room, is out right now.

Next, breaking news about Trump's legal issues, hear what happened inside of his meeting with a probation officer ahead of his sentencing.

Plus, one of Trump's allies gets a new mugshot. We'll discuss with Rudy Giuliani's biographer.

And the former president says that he stands side by side with a group that wants to eradicate abortion. Did he just give Democrats another flashpoint in this race?

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Tonight, more evidence that Donald Trump is a defendant like no other. The now convicted former president did, as other felons do, he met with a probation officer prior to sentencing. But that's where the similarities stop. And the differences get real. Trump got to have his lawyer, Todd Blanche, in the room, a special accommodation not afforded to the average defendant. And it's one of a few notable examples of how the legal system really bent over backwards for Trump, where it would not have for others. Ten contempt violations normally merit more than just. No bail restrictions for a defendant of his means, also an anomaly. A carefully choreographed search of his home to spare him from having cameras capture agents of the law wearing FBI jackets. That's a nicety really given to no one else.

Joining me now are Robert Ray, who was counsel to then-President Trump during his first impeachment, and Donte Mills, he's a civil and criminal attorney and a law professor at Temple Beasley School of Law.

Donte, this probation hearing lasted about 30 minutes, we're told. What kind of information are they trying to get from Trump?

DONTE MILLS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Let's just walk through so everybody understands the purpose of this and why they do it. Most times, judges don't know the defendant. These trials happen, normally they're a day or two. The judge doesn't get to know the person they're going to have to sentence.

So, what you do is you have an investigating officer come in, ask questions about the person's background, get an understanding of who they are, where they come from, who their family is, what kind of jobs they have, and then they present a report to the judge who says, based on this report, it's going to influence my decision one way or the other, or it won't because it's pretty standard.

So, it happens to everybody, but when you do it to a former president of the United States, everybody knows who he is already. So, it's not necessary, I don't think, in this case, but you have to go through the process.

PHILLIP: So, then why have his lawyer present? I mean, what's the concern there on Trump's part?


ROBERT RAY, FORMER COUNSEL TO TRUMP DURING THE FIRST IMPEACHMENT: I don't know about New York State practice, but I will say in federal practice, it is actually typical to have a lawyer present during the pre-sentence interview. In fact, it's almost always ordered by the judge upon request of the defense that --

PHILLIP: To prevent them from saying anything that might hurt them in sentencing.

RAY: Right, particularly -- well, not so much that, but particularly in a case that goes to trial where the defendant has an appeal. I think the concern always is to not talk about the, quote/unquote, instant offense, meaning the offense of conviction, because you might say something there that potentially could jeopardize an appeal.

MILLS: And I think everybody --

RAY: And so that's why the lawyer -- often the lawyer is there to just simply -- and I've done hundreds of these essentially to let me handle discussions as your lawyer with the probation officer about the offensive condition.

MILLS: There's a fine line between wanting your client to be forthcoming and not be obstructive against the person trying to get information, but also not crossing the line and saying, but I did this or slipping up and saying something that can be used against them.

PHILLIP: I mean, being obstructive to the person trying to get information is definitely something I would be worried about with Trump. I mean, just in general, Judge Merchan is going to weigh who is Donald Trump, which everybody knows to a certain degree, but also the lack of remorse here, frankly, in this case. I mean, ultimately, how does that all come together to influence the judge's decision in sentencing?

MILLS: I think the judge knows what he's going to do, but he'll get this -- I think he's already made up his mind. But he'll get this report and he'll see what's in this report. And he may use that to justify something. If he wants to put Trump in jail, he'll say, well, Trump wasn't forthcoming. Look at this report. He didn't even provide this information. If he wants to give him probation, he'll say, well, Trump was -- you know, he was, he was cooperating with this investigator. So, this is a sign that he's learned his lesson and we don't need to put him in jail. I think this will be used kind of to bolster whatever side the judge wants to lean on.

PHILLIP: Do you think the judge has already set his mind to some decision here?

RAY: You know, I honestly don't. I think that obviously all judges have views about a case, particularly when they've sat through a trial about what they might do in the event of a conviction at sentencing, but I do think the judges take very seriously both in guilty plea cases as well as cases that go to trial and result in a conviction in evaluating a third parties review, which is the probation office, of the defendant's personal characteristics and history and the investigation that they conduct. They're very good at it.

I have found judges don't always agree. They don't have to agree with what the probation office recommends, but I imagine the probation office will recommend whether or not in this E felony case, a sentence of imprisonment is warranted or not.

MILLS: Generally, I would say that in this particular case, I don't know if we're going to find any or learn anything new about the former President Trump that we don't and the judge doesn't know already.

PHILLIP: So, I do want to move on just briefly to what's happening down in Florida with Judge Aileen Cannon. I mean, she's got a lot of motions to deal with she dealt with one issue today -- well, one-and- a-half. Let's call it that. One of them was whether or not to throw out some of the counts against Donald Trump. She ruled against that. But she did say that this so-called talking indictment, in which the prosecutors laid out this description of Trump's handling of a classified map and how he talked to somebody in his campaign about it, she basically said that was unnecessary and she struck it from the indictment. What do you make of that?

RAY: It is something that judges, federal judges, increasingly I have seen as a defense lawyer have problems with. I mean, they don't try to trim the sails of the government too often about speaking indictments, but they do expect that speaking indictments, if they speak, speak to facts that the government expects with some degree of certainty will be offered into evidence and received into evidence at trial. And this was a situation where I think the sense was that what was excised from the indictment was problematic. The judge hasn't ruled on it yet. It may or may not. This is other similar acts evidence, not conduct that's actually --

PHILLIP: It wasn't charged.

RAY: -- part of the charge. And that shouldn't really be in the indictment ordinarily unless you're pretty certain or the judge has made a ruling that's admissible (ph).

PHILLIP: Speak to Trump's handling of classified documents, which is the case.

MILLS: It does. But I'll tell you why this was put in there. The prosecutors who bought this case knew they were bringing a case against the former president of the United States and they will be scrutinized, right? People are going to go through it with a fine tooth comb. And I believe they wanted to include things that would pass the smell test for anybody reading this indictment.

They threw extra facts in there. So, if you just read the indictment on its face, you said, oh, they have a case, oh, they have a reason for bringing this forward. So, I do think they went overboard a little bit. I understand why they did it, and I also don't blame the judge for saying, all right, just take this part out.

PHILLIP: And striking it, does that have any impact on the case at all at this point, that the indictment is --

RAY: Well, a couple of things. One is the jury will be specifically instructed at the beginning of the trial, during trial, and at the end of the trial, that the indictment itself is just a charge and it's not evidence of anything.


But it is fairly often the case that judges will allow the indictment into the jury room. Not all judges will do that, but in federal cases, some judges will. And so you don't want anything in the indictment that the jury really shouldn't be --

MILLS: And the judge is going to tell you the most important thing is the jury instructions. The judge is going to tell them what the law is, what they have to base their decision on. So, I think that will be more important than the indictment itself. But she was right for cleaning up that indictment and just not having facts that may or may not come in.

PHILLIP: And that case is a slow moving train, but here we are. Robert Ray, Donte Mills, thank you both for being here.

And next, the man who was once known as America's mayor posing for his second time mugshot in less than a year. A Rudy Giuliani, biographer, joins me live. Plus, why Giuliani decided to call Fani Willis a hoe at a Christian event.



PHILLIP: There are a number of images of Rudy Giuliani's life and career that stand out over time. His mobster prosecution pressers in the '80s and the '90s, the day he was sworn in as New York's mayor in 1994 while his son yawned there on the podium, walking the streets after 9-11, earning the title of America's mayor, the image on the cover of "Time" when he was named "Person of the Year".

At the wrong Four Seasons in Philly after the 2020 election when he pushed the stolen election lie, and this viral hair dye moment just a few days later, and speaking moments before the Capitol insurrection in Washington. And now, you can add yet another mug shot to the list. On the left, this one is from Georgia last year. And on the right, that's the new one from today in Arizona where he pleaded not guilty to conspiring to overturn Arizona's election.

Joining us now is Andrew Kirtzman. He is the author of Giuliani, the Rise and Tragic Fall of America's Mayor. That is exactly the topic of conversation today because, I mean, two mug shots in a year, for any rational person, that would be extraordinary. For the man who used to be -- he thought at one point he could be President of the United States, America's mayor, I mean, quite the fall.

ANDREW KIRTZMAN, AUTHOR: Well, anyone who was around in the '80s or '90s, you know, saw Giuliani even long before he was America's mayor, right? He was the most famous lawman in America, right? He was a crusading prosecutor in the United States Southern District of Manhattan, the scourge of, you know, Wall Street crooks and mafia bosses.

And, you know, the trajectory of Giuliani's career, you know, it's pretty extraordinary. I mean, with Trump and Giuliani, you know, long ago we've lost the ability to be shocked by them. But those mug shots of Giuliani are jaw-dropping. If you know who he was, someone back then who had such a reverence for the law, he saw the court system as, you know, his church. Someone who has now been reduced to that, it's pretty tragic.

PHILLIP: And on top of that, I mean, a lawman, that's a perfect example of the image that he portrayed of himself. And yet, in this Arizona case, he was literally running from the law. He literally tried to escape being served. I mean, the Rudy Giuliani of today would be completely unrecognizable of the Giuliani of 20 years ago or 30 years ago.

KIRTZMAN: There's no question about it. I mean, his fall, it's not that he's had just a career collapse. He's had a total moral collapse, as well. He is just a shadow of himself. And, you know, today or tonight, I was listening to his nightly webcast. And there he was, you know, railing against Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, engaging in character assassination. And, you know, there's a certain kind of almost fanaticism to him that's caused him to do as much damage as he's done, and also to be as shameless about it.

PHILLIP: And it continues. I want to play for you what he said at a Christian event about the Georgia district attorney, Fani Willis.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Then I've got two prosecutors, "Fani the Hoe". I'm sorry.


PHILLIP: I mean, what is there to even say anymore about comments like that?

KIRTZMAN: Right. I mean, it's horrible. It's horrible. And it's not just, you know, deplorable character assassination, which has kind of been his hallmark all the way back to his prosecutorial career. But it also is a complete undermining of who he once was, as someone, as I was saying, who had such reverence for the law that you're talking about a person who almost became a priest when he was a young man. He saw the court system as kind of a similar moral kind of adjudication area where you declared right from wrong. I mean, look at him now. I mean, it's disgraceful.

PHILLIP: As with so many people in Trump's world, it's almost like he gives them a permission slip to just no holds barred, no inhibitions. They get to kind of go with their most base instincts. And I think that's what we're seeing with Mr. Giuliani. Andrew Kirtzman, thank you very much for joining us.


And up next, Donald Trump tells conservative Christians that Democrats are against their religion as he supports a group that wants to outlaw abortion and IVF. My political panel will discuss that next.


PHILLIP: Religion and politics, two dinner table conversations you are supposed to avoid, but the mixture of those two is one that Donald Trump is happy to use as a cudgel to attack Democrats. Just listen to the presumptive Republican nominee arguing why voters should choose him in November.



TRUMP: We can't afford to have anyone sit on the sidelines. Now is the time for us to all pull together and to stand up for our values and for our freedoms. And you just can't vote Democrat. They're against religion. They're against your religion in particular. You cannot vote for Democrats and you have to get out and vote.


PHILLIP: Now, what makes the comments notable are where they happened, which was in front of an extreme anti-abortion group. The Danbury Institute wants to outlaw all abortion, even in case of rape and incest. They also claim that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a mother.

The group also opposes IVF treatments to help women get pregnant. Now, remember, Trump insists that he doesn't want to ban all abortions and he says that he supports IVF. But today, he told those anti-abortion activists that he'll stand by their side, side by side with them.

Joining me now is Republican strategist Joe Pinion, former Communications Director for Vice President Kamala Harris, Jamal Simmons, and former Press Advisor to Speaker John Boehner, Maura Gillespie. Joe, this is probably a strategy of, you know, no one is going to pay attention to what Trump is doing, but we're paying attention. Why would he do this?

JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think we have two issues here. Do you have an issue with the organization or do you have an issue with the message? I think we'll start with the message. Well, I mean, I think the issue is, does Donald Trump believe that abortion should all be illegal, like this group believes, or does he believe what he says he believes?

PINION: The President has been quite clear that he does not want to have a federal ban. I think he's been very clear on the fact that he wants to have the issue remain with the states. And so, either we can take him at his word or you don't. It's quite clear that people want to tie him and tether him to the organization and all of their beliefs.

It is quite clear that we are in the business of coalition building here in American politics. If you have an issue with the coalition, you can bring that up on the campaign trail. But it is interesting to me that we never asked Democrats to disavow any of their supporters. We never asked Democrats to effectively find the most extreme elements of their party and then answer questions about them. This only happens with people on the political right.

PHILLIP: That's --

PINION: And so, I think that, look, I think --

PHILLIP: I don't think that's true.

PINION: I think that is. I think that is.

PHILLIP: The squad comes up all the time. Democrats are always asked, they are often asked to disavow. I mean, Black Lives Matter.

PINION: There is a difference between asking whether you agree with the issues and then saying whether you have to disavow the group. I think, again, the broader issue here is, is the Democratic Party a party that is hospitable to the beliefs of Christians? I think there's plenty of polling that shows that there has been an erosion of faith in America. But there is a greater erosion in the Democratic Party and many of the policies that they're advocating for -- to Democrats.

PHILLIP: So, when --

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, this is a place where you guys are completely off base. Because the Democratic Party is fueled by African-Americans and particularly African-American women who are the backbone of large Christian churches all over America.


SIMMONS: And so, if you take a look at where the Democratic Party stands and the teachings, as someone who is a child of a minister, and the teachings of Jesus, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of those who are needy and dispossessed, that is quite right in the middle of the home plate of the Democratic Party platform.

So, I think to make the argument is an argument that is being made on behalf of a various particular subset of Christianity that in historical terms has not been on the side of African-Americans at all. Because that part of Christianity has been on the side of, in the old days, slavery, segregation, many gay members. It's a very different kind of Christianity.

PINION: If you want to have an a la carte conversation about religion, sure. Democrats like to pick and choose when they want to go down to the black church like Kathy Hochul and get their anointing and say that I am not here to be the mother of all 62 counties, that she's going to be, we're all her apostles.

There is a real serious conversation in the Democratic Party where if Barack Obama goes to Boston and says that, you know, we have some people worshiping God in the blue states, an awesome God in the blue states. But when Eric Adams goes and says that I believe that God's plan for my life has led me to become a mayor, he gets mocked. He gets mocked by the media. He gets mocked over there when we have all of those --

PHILLIP: Can I just raise also, I just, I don't want to lose this in the conversation. It's important, though it is. Donald Trump describing, first of all, your religion. I thought that he described himself as Christian. But then to say that it is against your religion, Christianity, to vote for Democrats, that seems like crossing a line.

MAURA GILLESPIE, BLUESTACK STRATEGIES FOUNDER: But I also think what just happened here, too, is you're saying you guys, Donald Trump is saying all Democrats, your blanket statements. That's what's frustrating, I think, to the American people is these blanket statements assuming that all Democrats think alike, that all Republicans think alike. And that's inaccurate.

And so, what Donald Trump did here is interesting because he's pandering to Christian conservatives, but yet his lifestyle, we know, violates most, if not all the commandments that he, you know, that the Christians abide by.


But that's Donald Trump. That doesn't speak for all Republicans. Not all Republicans believe to ban abortion. And not all Republicans want, you know, to attack women. Just like I don't think all Democrats are, you know, pro-Palestine and not all pro-Hamas. I don't blanket statement that because I think that's a frustration in politics.

PHILLIP: From a political perspective, I mean, you talked about the big tent. I think that's one way of looking at it. But from a political perspective, Donald Trump trying to argue, he understands abortion's a political problem for Republicans. He's trying to argue he's not the extremist President. He's not going to have a national ban. But then to go before an organization that is even to the right of the right on this issue, does that really undercut his message, giving Democrats an opportunity here?

SIMMONS: It does give Democrats an opportunity, not just because he's talking to this group. I mean, he may not think he's being extreme, but all the extremists think that he's extreme enough for them, right? He is the President who took credit for putting the three Supreme Court justices on the court who got rid of Roe, who helped end Roe v. Wade protections for abortion.

He wants credit from groups like this about getting rid of abortion in the country. And if he's going to take credit, that means he also has to take the blame from 65 percent of the country who has decided that they are for abortion rights. They are for women having the freedom to exercise control over their own bodies. And if he's going to take the credit, he also has to take the blame.

PINION: I would agree that there are individuals who will be offended by the choice of the venue. And so, if Democrats want to raise that as an issue, that is fair game in politics. But that does not deal with the fact that, again, we're not having this conversation, to your point, when we're talking about people on the Brooklyn Bridge yelling from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, which is a call for the eradication of Jewish people. We don't have these same nuanced conversations.

SIMMONS: I think Josh Gottheimer would disagree with you on that.

PHILLIP: I'm sorry, but I don't want to belabor that point, but that is definitely an issue that Democrats have to confront.

PINION: I do not think that it is an issue that the Democratic Party has to own, right? Those are those Democrats. That is not indicative of who we are as a party. I think it is disingenuous to sit here and pretend that we don't have a Senate majority leader for this nation that has gone and undermined Benjamin Netanyahu.

It is disingenuous to say that we don't have a President that on one day says he's going to support Israel, and on the other day says he's going to get rid of funding. I get that this is a completely separate issue, but my point is that if we're going to have people own a particular faction of their base, then we should do it across the board.

And we're here having this conversation about abortion because it is clearly an issue that Democrats think they can run on, and the only issues they can run on is abortion on Monday, abortion on Tuesday, January 6th on Wednesday, and nothing else.

PHILLIP: Abortion on Monday and abortion on Tuesday worked pretty well for them, particularly in 2022. So, Maura, how do you see this?

GILLESPIE: Republicans are going to struggle, as we have on this issue of women's rights. When we talk about abortion, we fail to talk about the resources that aren't available to women who are now in these states that are being told they can't do IVF, which, I'm sorry, if you want women to have more children, IVF is a wonderful opportunity to do that.

So, you're banning things like that, and you're not giving them the resources then to have children to support women going to those appointments. Having children is expensive. Childcare is expensive. We don't do anything about that conversation. We stop. And I think that two things can be true at once. You can believe in the sanctity of life, but you can also believe in medical freedom for half the population.

PHILLIP: Some of the places in this country where it's the most difficult to have an abortion, it's also the most difficult to raise a child. It's a good point, Maura, Joe and Jamal. Thank you all very much for that conversation.

Up next for us, the Olympic rings -- they're officially unveiled in Paris, but not without some controversy, of course, over who will be on the court for Team USA. Bob Costas is here, and he'll weigh in on Caitlin Clark not making the cut. That's next.



PHILLIP: The WNBA is celebrating the most popular opening month in its history. The league is reporting that on average, a whopping 1.3 million people have been watching their games on national broadcasts. That is a 286 percent increase over last year. Game attendance, merchandise sales, social media engagement, they've all been off the charts.

Now, it's unclear exactly how much credit Indiana Fever star Caitin Clark deserves for this jump, but it is safe to say that she has had a significant role in the success of the league. Now, that being said, all of these numbers come as the Team USA announced its roster for next month's Olympic Games in Paris.

Now, let's just take a look at the team. You'll see that someone is notably missing. Yes, Caitlin Clark was omitted from the list, and social media didn't take kindly to that. So, should she be on the squad? Joining me now to unpack all of this is CNN Contributor Bob Costas. So, Christine Brennan, our friend on the show here at USA Today and CNN Sports Analyst --

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She broke the story.

PHILLIP: She broke this big story. She won't be on the team. Is it a snub, or is this just the way it goes?

COSTAS: Well, there are no rookies on the team. They're all veterans. If you wanted to make a case, you could say Diana Taurasi, who's an all-time WNBA great, been in the league since 2004 for two decades, 41 years old, has five Olympic gold medals already, you could say you could put Caitlin Clark on in place of her.


You could make that case. But Caitlin Clark --

PHILLIP: I don't know that people would make that case.

COSTAS: Caitlin Clark herself says, I get this 100 percent. I'm young. I can work toward the next Olympics and an Olympics after that. Caitlin Clark has faced some resentment for a variety of reasons. People, according to whatever narrative they want, want to attribute everything to one thing, whatever it is.

But as we discussed last week with Cari Champion, it's a combination of things. But say anything you want about Caitlin Clark, she, in addition, they should understand, this high tide of Caitlin Clark is raising all boats, as you just pointed out. In addition to that, she has done everything the right way.

She said, you know, I don't want an apology from Kennedy Carter. It's just the way the game is. And then she praised Carter's play. She says, the game is rough. I've got to adapt to that. She signs every autograph. She doesn't whine and complain. She didn't complain about being left off the Olympic team.

Some of this, and it's not just a white, white thing, but maybe she is in terms of attention now. There have been many white stars in the league over the last quarter century. Maybe there's some similarity between her and Larry Bird. When Larry Bird came into the NBA, there was some skepticism. Oh, he was fine in college. He's a white guy. He can't be that good.

Turned out he was one of the all-time greatest players, one of the 10 greatest players conservatively in the whole history of the league. When Dennis Rodman, who's always been a little crazy, said if Larry Bird was a black guy, just be an average player, everyone was up in arms, right? Here's what Larry said. I don't care. Let's just play.


COSTAS: He diffused the whole thing. He won everybody over by just being about basketball. And Caitlin Clark, I think, has been not just a really good and exciting player. She's been a classy person to this point and good for her.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Actually, let's play what Caitlin said about being left off the team.


CAITLIN CLARK, WNBA PLAYER, INDIANA FEVER: Honestly, no disappointment. I think it just gives you something to work for. You know, that's a dream. You know, hopefully, one day I can be there. And I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. And, you know, hopefully in four years, when four years comes back around, I can be there.


PHILLIP: And honestly, likely she will. I mean, just so people understand, Bob, I mean, what you were just talking about, this is what the Olympic team looks like in terms of their accolades. I mean, you've got WNBA champions. You've got all-stars. You've got Olympic gold medalists. You've got people who have basically been at the highest levels, playing at this level for a long time already.


PHILLIP: It seems that she understands that.

COSTAS: She understands that. And what coaches and players around the WNBA have to understand, I think most of them likely do, that, yeah, I understand the resentment. They've been there a long time. There are many good players. She's getting a disproportionate amount of the attention. But none of that is her fault. Some of the resentment toward her has a racial element in it. We'd be naive to deny that. But some people want to make that the entire narrative, as we discussed last week with Cari Champion.

Some of this is, as Cari has said, as Stacey Dales of ESPN, who played in the league, happens to be white, she has said, hey, we've been around a long time. Notice not just our excellence, but it's a physical game. Now, we have to make distinctions.

What Kennedy Carter did against Caitlin Clark is outside the bounds. It should have been a flagrant foul. They upgraded it to that. Last week, I made the point that when Alyssa Thomas threw Angel Reese to the floor, that was, that involved two black players.

Had it been Caitlin Clark and Alyssa Thomas had thrown her to the floor, everyone would have made that a racial incident and only a racial incident. I did a bad job, however, on context because that was immediately called a flagrant two and Alyssa Thomas was ejected. Plus, it was on a small cable outlet and not viewed as widely.

PHILLIP: A lot of people didn't see it. And also --

COSTAS: Right. The Kennedy Carter-Caitlin Clark thing was out of bounds, and it's pretty clear that for whatever reasons, Kennedy Carter harbored some resentment toward Caitlin Clark. PHILLIP: Yeah. Whatever the cause, I mean, one of the things is that

all these kind of new fans, right, to the game --


PHILLIP: -- are coming in. And everybody wants to be a sports analyst of the WNBA, and they've just now started watching. And they're not even watching all the games, apparently.

COSTAS: Right. And when people say in a simple-minded way, oh, she's a white star. There have been many, many white stars over the years, past and present. There's Breanna Stewart now. There was Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Sabrina Ioniscu, who almost matched Steph Curry in a three- point shooting contest this past February at the All-Star Game. What is it about Caitlin Clark? It's not just that she's white.

Steph Curry stood out from other great black stars in the NBA because he played in a way that was appealing and relatable, shooting from the logo. Dr. J was more appealing and brought in more fans than his teammate Moses Malone, who was a three-time MVP, because Dr. J's game was more flamboyant. Michael Jordan wasn't just great, he was fun to watch. Caitlin Clark is fun to watch.

PHILLIP: Yeah, and she is going to be a star pretty much no matter what. Do you think she'll ultimately be an alternate for the Olympic team?


COSTAS: I think she could be.


COSTAS: I think that's possible. And, you know, the concern that because she'd be a reserve and she wouldn't play that many minutes and therefore her fans would be up in arms, just put the point out there. Educate them.

It would help the Olympics. Christine Brennan made the same point. More eyeballs. The Olympics draw a lot of eyeballs to begin with, but it's a global event. More eyeballs on those games, how can that be bad? Caitlin Clark is good for the league. She's good for everybody in the league.

PHILLIP: And she'll be good for the Olympics, too, perhaps, if she gets there. She will -- she will, eventually.

COSTAS: If not, she'll be there in four years. Yeah. Absolutely.

PHILLIP: Bob Costas, thank you. Great to have you as always.

COSTAS: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.