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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Justices Unbalance Checks On The Presidency; Supreme Court Says, Trump Has Immunity For Official Acts; How Supreme Court Immunity Ruling Will Impact 2024 Race; Biden Family Brushes Aside Any Calls To Change The Top Of The Democratic Ticket After Unsatisfactory Debate Performance. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 01, 2024 - 22:00   ET



SAM MANGEL, STEVE BANNON'S PRISON CONSULTANT: Can he call into a show? Yes, but he cannot conduct business while he's in prison. If he gets caught conducting business, he could wind up losing all privileges.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Oh, that's fascinating. Sam Mangel, I mean, you obviously were the prison consultant for Peter Navarro, that's who you're referencing there, fascinating to have you back for this. Thank you for joining tonight.

MANGEL: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much for joining us for this very busy night. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Did the Supreme Court just shove the scales of lady justice? That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

Tonight, the Supreme Court plays kingmaker. Just hours ago, the president of the United States charged American voters with doing what he said the justices wouldn't, stop Donald Trump from doing whatever he wants.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Today's decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do.

The power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the Supreme Court of the United States. The only limits will be self-imposed by the president alone.


PHILLIP: In 43 pages, the majority essentially gutted the idea of checks on the presidency, making commanders-in-chief unequal under the law. Back in 1977, when Richard Nixon said, if a president does it, it means it's not illegal, he was wrong. Now, if he said that this morning, after the court's ruling, he would likely be right. The court, in a 6-3 ruling, dramatically expanded what a president can do without fear of legal consequence.

The immunity is not absolute, but it gets pretty close. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said, with respect to the president's exercise of his core constitutional powers, this immunity must be absolute. As for the remaining official actions, he is also entitled to immunity. But the definition of what is official and thus immune from judicial scrutiny, is a Grand Canyon. Any discussions between the President and his Justice Department, like the ones that Trump had with Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, well, that counts as official, quote, readily characterized in light of the nature of the president's official relationship to that office, and even when those discussions concern a criminal conspiracy to undo the will of the voters.

Now, Roberts foresaw how this decision would land, especially on the other side of the political aisle like an anchor (INAUDIBLE) the ocean floor. So, he cautioned against the dissents that, quote, strike a tone of chilling doom that is wholly disproportionate to what the court actually does today.

Doom pretty accurately describes the forecast from Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She painted a picture of presidents entirely unbridled by virtue of these liberties to free to essentially act like Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, goons of yesteryear posing as leaders. She wrote, orders the Navy SEALs Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune, immune, immune, immune.

Breaking tonight, Donald Trump wants his felony convictions in New York tossed. And he says the Supreme Court's ruling means that he was immune from prosecution when he conspired to silence Stormy Daniels.

Also tonight, Joe Biden is working to restore Democrats' shaken confidence in him by putting a familiar message at the center of his campaign democracy. In a teleprompter speech that bore none of the miscues of that 50-plus million Americans saw on that CNN debate stage last week, Biden pleaded with voters to think of November as a choice, not between two old guys, but a choice between one who would put democracy first and one who would bring democracy to its knees.


BIDEN: The American people have to render a judgment about Donald Trump's behavior.

The American people must decide. They want to entrust the president once again, the presidency to Donald Trump, not knowing he'll be more emboldened to do whatever he pleases whenever he wants to do it.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is former congressman and former member of the January 6th Select Committee, Adam Kinzinger. Congressman, we're learning tonight that President Trump, he's already started this process of getting his criminal convictions in New York tossed out. Do you think that that will work in light of the decision today?


ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, because that literally, even with a broad interpretation that the Supreme Court did about immunity, all of that happened when he wasn't president, can't be -- you know, so this is a completely different thing. But, of course, they're going to try everything because every legal maneuver they have tried so far, including delaying cases have all worked. So, why wouldn't they? Yes, it's disappointing and, and we'll see.

PHILLIP: What about Jack Smith's case? Do you think that it still survives another day after all of this?

KINZINGER: I mean, look, as a not law expert myself, I have to listen to those that are, and I think there is a way it can get done still. But here's the curious thing is the Supreme Court basically said the assumption is immunity, but there are also unofficial acts that are not immunized. But, by the way, the court has to decide what's unofficial acts, which means every time a court makes a decision now, particularly in Jack Smith's case that X, Y, and Z was not an official act, in theory, then Donald Trump can petition that all the way up to the Supreme Court again, because the Supreme Court left the definition open, which ultimately they're going to have to answer anyway.

And so what you got out of this was, frankly, more questions than answers, but the answers we got were that a president of the United States can do whatever he wants and somebody like a Richard Nixon shouldn't have resigned because what he did by definition was legal even if he was breaking into the DNC headquarters.

PHILLIP: When President Biden says that the court has essentially now ruled that presidents are basically kings, I mean, is he exaggerating?

KINZINGER: No, I don't think it's overdramatic. Because, listen, if Donald Trump would have -- I mean, if, if he makes a decision to say -- let's say, let's just take this thing. Let's say he gives an order to a member of the military. Somebody was saying this on Twitter and that member of the military found that to be an illegal order. You know, as members of the military, we cannot execute illegal orders no matter who gives them. Is it technically an illegal order because the president, who can do nothing illegal now gave it?

That's a little bit of an extreme example, but those are the kind of things we have to think through because every one of those will have to be determined by the Supreme Court.

PHILLIP: Let me play what former Attorney General Bill Barr said about that similar scenario, the SEAL Team 6 example that was utilized by Justice Sotomayor. Listen.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the one that makes no sense whatsoever is the idea that he can use SEAL Team Six to kill a political opponent. The president has the authority to defend the country against foreign enemies, armed conflict and so forth. He has the authority to direct the justice system against criminals at home. He doesn't have authority to go and assassinate people.


PHILLIP: I mean, I guess the thing that I wonder is who gets to decide whether the person that he's assassinating is a threat or not. If the president gets to decide that, then there are no checks.

KINZINGER: Well, that's exactly right. If the president has somebody assassinated, again, according to the Supreme Court, the presumption is that he is immune. So, in order to then say this assassination or whatever we're coming up with is not immune, that would ultimately have to be litigated to who? Probably the Supreme Court.

I mean, I think it makes sense to say if the president is doing something on behalf of the entire country, like executing a war or like, you know, whatever those examples are, there is immunity with that. There has to be. But when he's personally himself trying to seize power from the American people, not on behalf of all the American people, but on behalf of a political party or his own ego, how could that be immune? How can that be in public interest? The Supreme Court left that open to interpretation today, which, ultimately, if it's challenged, they're going to have to be the ones to decide and likely will from the January 6th case.

PHILLIP: All right. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you very much for joining us. Good to see you.

KINZINGER: You bet, you too.

PHILLIP: And joining me now, our panel of legal experts, Donte Mills, Robert Ray, Stacy Schneider, and Michael van der Veen. Robert, presidents, are they above the law now?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT TRUMP DURING THE FIRST IMPEACHMENT: They weren't before, they weren't under President Richard Nixon, and they are not after the Supreme Court decision. Look, I would just caution everybody to like slow down the idea of using a dissent to try to figure out what the majority held. You know, I've listened to this nonsense all day long today. It's gotten way out of hand.

PHILLIP: Well, what do you think that Nixon Would have, you know, been found to have done nothing wrong if this ruling were in place?

RAY: No. Look, here's some things that are clear. With regard to the president's core function, things like, for example, the Saturday Night Massacre, where Richard Nixon essentially fired the Justice Department, or essentially tried to do so, the answer is, he has core presidential immunity for that. You cannot prosecute a president for that conduct, any more than Bob Mueller could have prosecuted President Trump for firing the FBI director.

[22:10:08] PHILLIP: What about ordering a government official to break into, you know, the DNC headquarters?

RAY: That's different. A conspiracy, for example, during the Nixon era to create a slush fund using the Justice Department and the attorney general to pay off witnesses to obstruct justice.

PHILLIP: I mean, the Supreme Court just said that any interactions like that would be official.

RAY: You weren't listening. They said that that would be official action, and that it is presumptively subject to immunity, that doesn't mean the presumption can't be overcome. And just like the SEAL Team Six example, the answer is that those matters would be subject to prosecution, notwithstanding what Justice Sotomayor said, because that's not what the majority said.

PHILLIP: So, the other part of this is that, just as Robert just said, the presumption of immunity, however, it would get litigated in the district court, which, in and of itself, is a procedure that allows the action to take place and relies on a sort of after the fact adjudication of it to determine whether it's legitimate or not, which a lot of people, including one of the Supreme Court justices, Amy Coney Barrett, thought was problematic.

DONTE MILLS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I don't see that as problematic because listen, the president when you talk about separation of powers, the president of the United States is separate in that power. No one should be able to second guess them as long as they're acting within the scope of their authority.

Now, what the Supreme Court said, I believe, in this decision is if they act outside of that, there is an avenue to challenge that. There's a presumption of immunity. However, prosecutors can step up and say, here's why that was outside of the scope. And I think the most important part of that decision by Chief Justice Roberts is when he said, this is not about former President Donald Trump. They have to look at the construction of the Constitution and say, we have to protect the power of the president. We can't be outcome determinative, which is what I think Justice Sotomayor is saying, this person is dangerous, but you can't formulate a decision in the Supreme Court trying to stop one single person, because that's going to last a long time.

STACY SCHNEIDER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, I think Chief Justice Roberts is talking out of both sides of his mouth, saying this isn't about Donald Trump. This opinion is so tailored to the events of January 6th. The Supreme Court is supposed to come up with a blanket decision that governs what happens to former presidents, whether they can be prosecuted for criminal offenses. And what this decision does is it leaves open, well, you can impeach a president for high crimes and misdemeanors. But now, there's immunity.

And there's two kinds of immunity. There's absolute immunity for acts that are done when a president is engaging in his constitutional duties. That's reasonable. And I'm with you on that, Robert. But where I'm not with you is the second part of this decision, which gives presumptive immunity for official acts.

This is a perfect storm for somebody like Donald Trump and who is the first and only president to be accused of these types of crimes. And so this is a case of first impression for the Supreme Court. But the court is now saying you have presumptive immunity. You can be presumed immune from criminal acts as long as you're engaging in your official capacity.

So, what can Donald Trump do now with his January 6th charges? He can say what he's been saying from the beginning, although it's been a little bit subtle. Now, he can come right out and say, I was protecting the American election in my official capacity as president.

PHILLIP: So, let me, let me read what Elie Mystal is a political, or a legal commentator we have on the show from time to time. He says, even a cop can be charged with, say, murder, even if they argue that killing people is part of their jobs, but not presidents. Presidents can murder, rape, steal, pretty much do whatever they want so long as they argue that murdering, raping, or stealing is part of the official job of the president of the United States. There is no crime that pierces the veil of absolute immunity. Your thoughts?

MICHAEL VAN DER VEEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: That's really a perversion of what today's decision was. Today's decision, I agree with Donte, today's decision was really about interpreting the Constitution, protecting the separation of powers and trying to draw a black letter rule in one area, but not the other.

What people don't really understand is this decision talks about the president and his official capacity. It does not talk about the president candidate. It does not talk about the president father. It does not talk about the president as a person acting outside the scope is clear. There's no immunity for unofficial acts.

PHILLIP: Trump's lawyer tonight said that the alternate slates of electors, they believe that Trump trying to organize that to challenge the real slates of electors was an official act.


Do you think that will fly?

MILLS: I maybe not. But here's what I know will happen now based on this decision. You can't have prosecutors popping up everywhere trying to bring criminal cases against the president. I think that's dangerous. So, what the Supreme Court has now said is it's not blanket immunity. They said that it's not blanket immunity. You can challenge that presumption of immunity if you show us outside the scope. So, that puts the onus on the prosecutors to say, if I'm going to prosecute a president of the United States for his actions as president, I have the burden of showing he crossed the line. And if they can do that, then they can prosecute.

PHILLIP: It strikes me. I'm curious about your thoughts on this. Look, the president of the United States has quite a lot of powers, you all would agree. This particular scenario involved the president allegedly wanting to use his official power to pervert the actual exercise of democratic institutions. If the president uses his official power to do those things, what is the recourse in the eyes of this court?

VAN DER VEEN: Well, I've got to tell you, first of all, that premise is wrong because Justice Roberts really addressed it in the opinion. What President Trump did on January 6th was give a speech at The Ellipse. It's been taken snippets and out of context over and over again.

PHILLIP: I wasn't talking about the speech on The Ellipse. I'm talking about the goal, which ultimately was, he was being advised to -- listen, this is both what happened and also what could happen. He was being advised to seize the election machines. to just simply take them to try to alter the vote count. He was pressuring his vice president to do something that he is constitutionally --

MILLS: I'll jump in and help Mike here. That was wrong. That was wrong. And I believe it was wrong. But my only issue is that was absolutely wrong and I think Trump -- he stepped way over the line. But you cannot have every president from now until the end of this nation be under the scrutiny of anybody, any prosecutor who wants to challenge one of their decisions. I think, big picture, we have to protect the president's power in his role.

Now, unfortunately, we have somebody who crosses that line, crossed it as president and may cross it even more if he's voted in again. But we can't isolate that in a Supreme Court decision.

RAY: And the answer to your question is that it's a complicated exercise, which, by the way, the district court and the court of appeals refuse to engage in about sorting out the difference between official action and private action in connection with the prosecution of a president.

PHILLIP: And now they're going to have to do it.

RAY: As it should be. I mean, the notion that the district court and the court of appeals completely just sort of flew past official action, which many pundits, including on this network, concluded was unassailable legal reasoning has now been shown to have been misguided. And, in fact, there wasn't a single vote on the Supreme Court for that result. Even the justices who dissented, I think, conceded that there is a zone of immunity that a president possesses.

And so, you know, we shouldn't let the moment go by to recognize that that is why this decision is going, I think, to turn out to be one of the most significant decisions of the 21st century.

SCHNEIDER: Oh, it is. It definitely is.

PHILLIP: Thank you very much. It certainly will be. Everyone, thank you.

And up next, we're going to discuss the political fallout of this Supreme Court decision. Plus, as some Democrats are worrying over whether or not to replace President Biden on the ticket, Jill Biden gets a new spread in Vogue Magazine, where she defends the president's debate performance.

And what options are there for voters who don't want Biden or Trump? I'll speak with the chief strategist at third party advocate, No Labels.

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Come November, will we be looking at the past week as one of the most important of the election so far? It was just five days ago that President Biden's debate performance sent Democrats into a frenzy, some of them calling to remove him from the ticket all together. And now, the Supreme Court's immunity ruling hands Trump another major win. It's something that he is already using, unsurprisingly, to help his re-election bid.

Joining me now, CNN political commentator and former communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, Jamal Simmons. Also with us, former senior communications strategist for Ben Carson's 2016 campaign, Jason Osborne, and also, editor-at-large for the Reason Magazine, Matt Welch.

When it comes to the re-election, Jamal, I mean, this ruling is just yet another stone being thrown into the pond here, abortion, you know, just Trump in and of himself, Project 2025. How does this ruling factor in?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this ruling heightens the stakes for the election. I think a lot of Democrats who aren't paying that much attention, this is one of these things that just might break through because people will be talking about it on TikTok and Instagram. I have been surprised in the last week how many people who aren't in our kind of political circle who brought up Project 2025 to me.

It's amazing how many people know about it. I think the TikTok videos, the Instagram videos are now starting to break through. Steve Bannon goes to jail. He wants to deconstruct the administrative state. The Chevron ruling happens, which basically says no more regulation. Now, you've got immunity so the president can do whatever he wants. These things are starting to stack up as a real right wing attack on the government that we all know and people may be starting to pay attention to it.


PHILLIP: Could it backfire, Jason?

JASON OSBORNE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I don't know if it backfires, actually. And to your point, I think that's all speaking to inside the Beltway crowd, right? So, middle America, who's for four years now, or three-plus years, have been listening to Donald Trump talk about the justice system being a biased and going after him each time a ruling like this occurs. Even though it wasn't a complete legal ruling for Donald Trump, it feeds into the narrative that he's been pushing out there that this is -- everything that he was doing was legitimate. And now you have the Supreme Court saying that at least half of what he was doing was legitimate, and it has to go back to the lower court. All that kind of nuance is lost on Middle America. All they're hearing is him saying, I was right.

And so I think that helps him with his base, and also I think it helps with that 10 to 15 percent of the folks that we need, or Republicans need on the swing side to come back to him and leave Biden.

SIMMONS: Well, I think middle America might be a couple of different camps, and there's a camp of middle America that hears it and says, wait a minute, you're saying Donald Trump can be president, and he can do anything he wants, and the courts can't do anything about it? That's what I think.

OSBORNE: But it wasn't anything he wants. It was --

SIMMONS: But now you're getting into the weeds.


SIMMONS: Immunity sounds like, hey, if I've got immunity --

OSBORNE: You know, weeds are important here in the U.S.

PHILLIP: All right. Well, okay, here's the, the opposite of the weeds. This is President Trump, former President Trump, on Truth Social, big win for our constitution and democracy. He says, it clears the stent from the Biden trials and hoaxes. He also says the Supreme Court totally dismantled most of the charges against me. Joe Biden should now call off his dogs.

MATT WELCH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REASON: Yes, it didn't totally dismantle, but we're not going to Donald Trump for nuance. We're hopefully going to CNN and other kind of adult conversation for nuance. And part of that is that it was a mixed ruling, right. As a civil libertarian, when I hear more immunity for a president, I get hives. Of course you do. But also they did send a bunch of this back down to the lower courts. There are different categories of behavior that are explicitly covered and not covered with this decision.

It doesn't have anything to do with Donald Trump's conviction in the case, no matter what he's saying tonight about who he's going to try to challenge it. It's not going to go anywhere. It's possible that of the January 6th related cases, there's going to be one that will be thrown out because of this, but the other ones might proceed. They'll just go a little bit slower.

Part of the thing that I'm worried about here always is I don't really love Joe Biden's speech tonight, his teleprompter read tonight talking about sort of the courts writ large as being something to run against. Yes. you can always rally your base saying this, Republicans did this for years about the burger court and about the Warren court and everybody else. And the Democrats have been doing this for the last 10 or 15 years as well. But we want some civic institutions in this country. We don't want everyone to act like Donald Trump. We don't want to say that the Supreme Court is, by definition, invalid because there, I'm afraid, madness lies.

PHILLIP: We're hearing from AOC that she's going to bring up articles of impeachment against these justices. I also saw, I mean, Senator Tina Smith talking about expanding the court. I mean, it is really kind of bringing up some conversations that we haven't heard from for a while among Democrats.

SIMMONS: The expanding the court argument is really gaining some traction on the left. I am hearing about it. People are shooting me direct messages on TikTok -- I mean, on Instagram.

PHILLIP: I mean, if the president can do whatever he wants, I guess, you know, I mean --

SIMMONS: Yes, this is the thing. And the question is, if Biden wins or Biden has a few months left, the Democrats should do whatever they can to fight this back. Why do the Democrats always play by the, you know, gentleman rules and the Republicans go for the throat?

OSBORNE: But why do we resort to the fact that, all right, we've got a Supreme Court that's got nine justices on it, and every time there's a ruling that comes out that the Democrats don't like, they say, well, we're just going to expand the court, because that's the way that makes it more fair.

WELCH: To save democracy. But to save democracy, we're going to change our institutions. That has struck me as madness this entire time. If you want to --

SIMMONS: But what if the institutions are undermining democracy, which is what people are arguing about --

OSBORNE: But your side says that they are undermining democracy. I'm not saying that you're wrong. I'm saying if the knee jerk reaction is to all of a sudden say, you know, we're going to change it to 13 seats on the court or 15 seats on the court because we don't like a ruling. Well, elections matter and this is the case of where an election mattered and he was able to appoint Supreme Court justices.

SIMMONS: I will just say --

OSBORNE: What happened the next time around?

SIMMONS: I will just say we did have a president who didn't like an election and an entire mob tried to take over the Congress to stop it.

OSBORNE: And I'm not disagreeing with that.

SIMMONS: So that's very different than people saying we should pass a bill versus (INAUDIBLE). PHILLIP: All right. Everybody stand by for us. So, you folks will be coming back later in the show.

Up next though, Jill Biden tells Vogue that she and the Biden family are urging the president to stay in this election. I'll discuss her influence with the president with two experts.



PHILLIP: The Biden family is brushing aside any calls to change the top of the Democratic ticket after last week's abysmal debate performance. Now, advisers are telling CNN that at a weekend gathering at Camp David, the family encouraged Biden to keep going, something First Lady Jill Biden reiterated to Vogue magazine for a new cover story today. She said, they "will not let those 90 minutes define the four years that he's been president. We will continue to fight."

Joining me now is Kate Anderson Brower. She is the author of "First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies". Also with us, Chris Whipple. He's the author of "The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden's White House".

Kate, I want to start with you. Look, it's no secret that Jill Biden has a major influence on President Biden's decision making. Some of the organizations even describe her as the decider -- the decider. How big of a role is that really in these conversations about not just what he does for the next four months, but the future potentially of the entire country?


KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, we haven't seen a presidential family like this since the Kennedys. They are incredibly close. And Jill Biden and Joe Biden run, you know, the show. And she's been married to him for 47 years. He's been in politics for five decades now.

And they've been knocked down before, they've been counted out before. So, I am not at all surprised that she is out there crisscrossing the country on his behalf. And, you know, she genuinely thinks and believes that her husband is the only person at this moment who can defeat Donald Trump. And her opinion means so much to him. And first ladies have always been their husband's greatest allies and protectors. So, I would be stunned if she wanted him to get it out of the race.

PHILLIP: Is there anything you think, Kate, that would change her thinking about that?

ANDERSEN BROWER: I think the only thing that would have an impact is if she saw if she really did believe that he couldn't do the job, if his health was really failing and it took a toll on him. I mean, you saw her, you know, during the 2020 campaign, those famous moments when she came out and physically defended him against protesters on stage. She's somebody who really cares about his physical well-being. And so, I think that that would have an impact. But she's waited to be first lady for a long time. And I don't think she wants to give that opportunity up.

PHILLIP: That's very interesting. Chris, in the studio here, Biden is now getting it from all sides, his base, "The New York Times", the pundits, all of the people, some of whom he respects, even, you know, cable T.V. news folks that he watches and listens to. Is any of that penetrating, you think?

CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR: Not a bit. I mean, it's been fascinating. It's been a kind of collective nervous breakdown among the mass media from "The New York Times" to "The Wall Street Journal" and others. But no, I don't think it has any effect. In fact, nothing will make Joe Biden more determined to continue his reelection bid than a "New York Times" editorial telling him to drop out. You know, this is like oxygen to Joe Biden. You know, he's repeatedly counted out, underestimated. He thrives on that. I mean, this just redoubles his resolve to keep on going.

PHILLIP: I just wonder, I mean, you know him well as a biographer of his. This idea that he is always under siege and underestimated. You can imagine that that can sometimes steer you wrong when maybe, in fact, you need to take a different course. Do you think that there's any failsafe in the sort of Biden family system that allows them to see another path?

WHIPPLE: Well, Jill Biden would be the person. I mean, I think that unless there is something seriously wrong with Joe Biden that we don't know about, he is going to be the nominee. And I think that it would almost require a kind of family and good friends' intervention to change that.

You know, this is not 1974. There's not going to be a delegation led by Barry Goldwater and a bunch of senators who tap him on the shoulder and say, Joe, it's time to go. The only thing that would achieve that would be maybe an intervention led by Jill and Hunter Biden and Val, the sister.

PHILLIP: And they might be the last to do that.

WHIPPLE: And they'd be probably the last to do that, I think.

PHILLIP: Yeah. So, Kate, this last couple of days, CNN's Isaac Dover, she spoke with a dozen or two dozen Democratic officials, political operatives, donors tied to the Biden campaign. They were afraid not just about keeping Biden on the ticket, but also what the alternatives could be were worried about this, quote, "the bedwetting brigade".

That really upset some of these officials. I wonder if you get the sense from anything that you've seen that inside of Biden's inner circle, his family circle especially, they grasp how widespread the concern is about what the American people saw last week.

ANDERSEN BROWER: You know, I've heard the bedwetting remark from other Democratic consultants for and strategists for, you know, months now that there has been concern. I mean, in some ways, Thursday night's debate confirmed a lot of Democrats worst fears about Joe Biden, right? So, I think there's a little bit of arrogance and hubris there inside the White House.


I think that they do feel like they can weather this storm. They have weathered other storms in the past. And to Chris's point, there's such a small group of people, Hunter, Jill Biden. I think Ted Kaufman is one of them. Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti, a really small group of people. And it is the family. It is the sister and the wife and the son, Hunter, who are the only people.

And why would they tell him to get out at this point? I mean, it doesn't unless they were worried about his health, seriously worried about his health and what the presidency was doing to him. I mean, look at what it did to Obama, who was so youthful. He even got gray hairs, right?

It really weathers anybody and affects them. And when you're already in your 80s, it takes a very big toll on you. And I think that that's the question. And if they're not telling him to get out, then that tells me that they think that he can he can withstand the next few years.

PHILLIP: All right.

WHIPPLE: You know, Abby --

PHILLP: Yeah --

WHIPPLE: Having said all that, there was real consternation, I can tell you, within the family on that on that night, that Thursday night, it was a terrible night for Joe Biden. And I think there was -- you know, there was certainly finger pointing at the debate prep team. But this was not Ronald Reagan in 1984 when he had -- just had a bad night and Nancy Reagan blamed the briefers, tried to fire Dick Darman, the poor guy who actually prepared him. This was Joe Biden having a really bad night. Something was wrong. And if the campaign knows what it was, I think they ought to tell us.

PHILLIP: Well, they should have -- if it was the cold, they said it was, a lot of people were saying they should have said that before, not in the middle of the debate as they did. Kate Anderson Brower, Chris Whipple, thank you both very much for joining me.

And so, what are the options there outside of the Trump-Biden matchup? Are there any at all? I'll speak with the chief strategists of the third party group, No Labels, to find out what, if anything, they plan to do next.


[22:46:26] PHILLIP: Is there room for a third party candidate right now? The dust is settled after Biden's debate performance last week and No Labels, that group that earlier this year abandoned its efforts to find an alternate to Biden and Trump, is now back in the headlines. But did the debate change anything for them?

Joining me now is the chief strategist for No Labels, Ryan Clancy. Ryan, thank you for being here. On Friday, No Labels put out this statement that says, "to help safeguard the fairness and integrity of our democratic process, you'll have some important news". So, are you going to run a third party candidate?

RYAN CLANCY, CHIEF STRATEGIST, NO LABELS: So, we're not. We've had since the debate Thursday night, we've been looking into whether, in fact, there is still an opening. And unfortunately, because of the coordinated effort against us in which we announced in April that we'd be shutting down our effort, it doesn't look like there's going to be a chance to put up a ticket.

PHILLIP: So, what now?

CLANCY: Well, look, we're going to be focusing a lot on Congress and trying to find leaders who are willing to bring the country together during what we think is going to be an unbelievably volatile time.

PHILLIP: So, walk us through what you have seen in the months leading up to April, that decision that you just mentioned. There was a determination that no one was willing to take the hellish job you were offering.

That's one of the reasons that this didn't go anywhere. But if Democrats are, in fact, looking for someone to replace President Biden at this late stage, do you think, as someone who's gone through some of this, that there is actually a path?

CLANCY: I think the first thing they have to do, there has been this organized effort for two years now to short circuit democracy. So, whether it was the Democratic primaries or not wanting to have debates or the entire coordinated effort that was against us at every step of the way, there have been really powerful forces that have tried to prevent meaningful competition to President Biden. And that is why we are in the disastrous situation we are in right now.

PHILLIP: Do you think that there are any people out there who have what it would take to actually be an alternative, even if they're in the Democratic Party?

CLANCY: I mean, look, at this point, I think every -- every stone needs to be unturned. Like you've seen the same thing I have seen. Public betting markets, which were actually more accurate than the polls in the 2020 election, currently show President Biden with just a 20 percent chance to win in November.

And look, this is what happens when you avoid Democratic accountability. It is not as if what happened last Thursday was a surprise to a lot of people. It certainly wasn't a surprise to voters who for two years have been saying we do not want this election. They have been saying it so clearly. There were certain people that didn't want to listen. And now, we're really stuck. This is this is a bad situation we're in as a country.

PHILLIP: So, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, he was sort of asked about this. And he said, obviously, the decision is President Biden's, but that if President Biden were to step aside, he'd be willing to do it Do you think he would have what it takes?

CLANCY: Look, I don't -- he might. There's obviously a pretty big bench that the Democrats have. I think the first thing that has to happen, Abby, is there's got to stop being such a disconnect between what's being said privately and what's being said publicly. So, you've talked to all the sources.

You read all the articles and every article is some anonymous source and the Democratic Party panicking. And then we look at the Sunday shows this weekend and it's a bunch of people out saying, it's fine. Well, so there's a disconnect. Somebody is not telling the truth.

PHILLIP: So, what are you hearing behind the scenes?

CLANCY: I'm hearing -- look, I'm hearing the same things that you're hearing, which is that you can't talk away that debate that we saw on Thursday, which, by the way, it was a terrible debate for President Biden, which sort of, you know, overwhelmed the fact that it wasn't a debate for President Trump either.


There is a reason that when No Label started this effort two years ago to try to find a ticket. And we saw two thirds of the public saying, please do not give us this election. That Thursday night debate, in Technicolor, for the whole country to see is exactly why people felt that way.

PHILLIP: All right, Ryan Clancy, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

CLANCY: Thanks for having me, Abby.

PHILLIP: And next, new CNN reporting on what the Biden campaign is saying about that debate performance. I'll speak with my panel. That's next.



PHILLIP: Welcome back. President Biden's campaign isn't backing down after his poor debate performance last week. CNN reports in the last hour that the campaign chairman, Jen O'Malley Dillon, she offered a very strong defense of Biden's health during a call with donors earlier tonight.

She added that Biden was probably in better health than most of us. And she pledged that Biden would be better prepared to take on Trump in the next debate, which, as we know, is far from a certainty from where I want to bring back my political panel.

Another official on this call stressed tonight that the campaign was not concerned about public polling because they have their own polling, which was strong. What do you make of it? Are they taking it seriously?

WELCH: That polling wasn't strong. It showed them losing in swing states. It's kind of a weird flex, like, look at this poll. We're actually not doing that great, but a little bit better than the other people. You know, you know how I know that they must be telling the truth about Joe Biden is when they say he's actually healthier than all four of us. Then it really seals it.

Oh, so you know him and I don't. And you're saying in this political moment that he's so super healthy, you must be telling the truth because you work in politics. It's nonsense. He's an unpopular candidate right now.

Seventy percent of the country thinks that he's too old to run for president, period. Ryan Clancy, who he had on before, might be wrong about what to do about all of this, but he's not wrong to say that people don't love this election at all. Democrats are denying reality if they think that he's a good candidate right now.

PHILLIP: Isn't it telling, though, that no labels, even after all of this, they still, they're like, we're out. Sorry, guys.

OSBORNE: Well, I don't even know if they were in at any point in time, right? And I think the bigger story is if I was a Democrat, if I was Biden's campaign, I'd say, look how healthy Biden is, because in less than 24 hours, he beat the cold that he had during the debate. And he was energetic. He was in North Carolina. He was here in New York. He was in New Jersey. How -- of course, he's healthy because he was never unhealthy.

SIMMONS: Look, here's the thing. Everybody saw what they saw of the debate. It is incumbent upon the president and the White House and the campaign to show us Joe Biden at his -- at his best self, right? Put him in front of some voters where he can do a town hall meeting, have him at a roundtable where he can have a give and take and back and forth.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, the teleprompter is not exactly going to allay these concerns.

SIMMONS: Yeah, he's had he's had a great couple of days of starting it back. North Carolina was great. Today was very good in terms of his presentation. But that's not what the question is on the table. And so people actually want to see the president be able to hold forth in the conversation without having a teleprompter.

And to know that that's the same person that when I was at the White House two years ago that we used to see, and that foreign leaders have said that they've seen and members of Congress who've negotiated have seen. We need a camera that can show us what that looks like so that we can get past this story and get back to talking about the threat that Donald Trump presents to the country.

PHILLIP: Let me play real quick what Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, who is a Democrat. He is a Southern Democrat. Here's what he had to say about all this with Joe Biden.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): It was a very bad night for the president, but he is still the candidate. Only he can make decisions about his future candidacy. And so, as long as he continues to be in the race, I support him.


PHILLIP: He also suggested that if Biden did not stay in the race, he wouldn't mind putting his hand up. Not very many Democrats would say that.

OSBORNE: I think every Democrat would say that if Biden was dropping out. I mean, I think look at the last in 2016, how many Democrats were in the race. I think Andy Beshear is a great governor. I think he would probably be a very good president. He's led a red state.

PHILLIP: And just so folks at home know, you're a Republican.

OSBORNE: But I mean, I can still admire somebody's ability to --

PHILLIP: I know. I'm just making sure people --

OSBORNE: I think the dynamics or the optics of and Jamal and I were talking about this earlier, the optics of picking a Southern white male instead of who the vice president is right now in the place of, I think is a really bad optic. And if I'm Republican, I know the ads that I'm going to run and I'm going to target the African-American community and say, you aren't going to vote.

PHILLIP: He's not like being chosen for the ticket.

SIMMONS: True. I've actually moved away from where many people in my party are now. I actually think we should have an open convention. If the president's not going to do it, have an open convention, have multiple rounds of voting. It's -- remember reality television? Vanderpump Rules got 11 million viewers in the last season over the Scandoval.


Let's have people and more people know about that. They know about the Supreme Court, right? Let's have people get attached to these candidates in a way that they're used to seeing. And then we can go ahead and run a campaign.

PHILLIP: That was not on my bingo card tonight --"Vanderpump Rules".

OSBORNE: I'd love to see an open convention on the Dems side. Because you're guaranteeing Trump wins.

PHILLIP: Well --

SIMMONS: No, I don't think so. I think it's a way to capture the public and people would have their imaginations.

PHILLIP: All right, guys, thank you very much. And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.