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CNN TONIGHT

Alex Acosta Resigned Amid Scandal; Same Story with Two Different Pictures; President Trump Fires his Counterattack Against Paul Ryan; President Trump Gives Labor Secretary the Easy Way Out; R. Kelly's Publicist Speaks Out; Tropical Storm Barry Expected to Make Landfall as a Hurricane. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 12, 2019 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Laura Coates sitting in for Don Lemon.

The chaos we've seen in the White House this week is stunning. And the president is trying to keep into you nothing to see here. Case in point, in the wake of the Epstein's plea deal blowing up in his face, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is out. And the president would like you to believe he wasn't pushed, he walked the plank himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD Trump, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I just want to let you know, this was him and not me, because I'm with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: I'm with him. Well, you know what they say with friends like that.

And it's probably no coincidence that in the wake of a very public defeat on the census citizenship question, the president is doubling down on those ICE raids in nine American cities, raids that are spreading fears in communities all across this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Trump: It starts on Sunday and they're going to take people out and they're going to bring them back to their countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: A senior administration official says it's head scratching that the president would publicly confirm the raids, and says it could jeopardize the entire operation.

Now, that as Vice President Mike Pence went to the border today along with Republican senators and reporters and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: What we saw today was a facility that's providing care that every American would be proud of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Proud? These are certainly not seen that most Americans would be proud of. The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey tweets this picture of nearly 400 men confined behind chain-linked fences sleeping on concrete with no pillows, no mats. They told him they hadn't showered in weeks and needed food and needed toothbrushes. They said they've been there for 40 days or longer.

Reporters were made to leave that facility within 90 seconds -- 90 seconds, the vice president who entered briefly and the Secret Service objective. But he tweeted about what he called humane and compassionate care along with a photo of a separate facility, one for families that appears to be clean and uncrowded.

The contrast is shocking. Just look at this video of the desperate men being held in the facility for single adult migrants. One of the men pleading I'm not a terrorist.

CNN's Pamela Brown asked the vice president to explain the obvious difference and how the two groups are being treated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Should there a different level of care for the families versus the adult migrants? Single adult migrants?

PENCE: I think it's all the same standard of care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: The fact is thousands of migrants are being held under deplorable conditions. We can't look away. We've all seen it. And this administration is playing politics and blaming Democrats, the vice president talks about compassion.

Well, what you are seeing on the border is far from compassionate. It is a stain on America. And it's time we do something about it.

With all this chaos coming from the White House, let's go big picture with David Swerdlick, Elie Honig, and Michael D'Antonio. I'm happy to have all of you here on a Friday night. Michael D'Antonio is the author of "The Truth About Trump." Hello to each and every one of you.

I'll start with you, David, you're not here with us. David, President Trump was totally defiant today. He was acting like he was winning really big, but the truth is, as Politico pointed out today, this is just one increasingly, erratic presidency.

David, Congress has now pushed back and has had this moment in time. Tell me what do you see this point as being? DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the value for

Trump in this week is the idea that his administration is still fighting the establishment. They have that press conference earlier in the week where they went out into the Rose Garden to declare defeat on the census issue.

You only declare defeat in that public away if you want to signal to your core supporters that you're still fighting. The Supreme Court shot them down on the census question, then they got shot down by another judge saying they couldn't take a second bite at the apple. But they want their supporters to know that they are still fighting.

When you have the vice president out there in those clips you just played saying well, this facility looks great with migrants in detention and then another facility that we see my Washington Post colleague Josh Dawsey tweeting a picture where people are crowded into facilities, no toothbrushes, no showers.

[23:05:06] The administration is basically drawing a line in the sand and saying we are not going to give in. Because what they want to convey to the 35 to 45 percent of the public that still supports them is that they don't care what the Washington establishment says, they don't care what the media says. They are sticking to their guns no matter how shotty (Ph) their policy choices have been.

COATES: And they won't go down without a fight which is they're trying to convey here.

SWERDLICK: Right.

COATES: But David, you know, Congress has now pushed back on another fight. Special counsel Mueller testimony was supposed to be in a week.

SWERDLICK: Yes.

COATES: And now they delayed it. Is this a win for Trump, are we just delaying the inevitable and kicking the can down the road?

SWERDLICK: I don't think it's a win for Trump but I think it's a little bit of a loss for Democrats. If you look at some of the reporting it's coming through that part of the reason they delay this was, so that they could squeeze more question time in for some of the junior Democrats on some of these committees.

It's understandable that everybody wants to get questions in, in such a high-stake hearing like special counsel Mueller. But look, you have special counsel Mueller teed up for this week. Democrats need to figure out who the best prosecutors are amongst them and ask the basic questions. You don't need 20 people asking questions. Volume one of the report, Donald Trump, Jr. met --

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: David, do you mean them not getting a chance to actually be on a soap box in front of the camera in front of the American people. Maybe we are asking too much right now, David, about what we're doing. (CROSSTALK)

SWERDLICK: Apparently, you're asking too much of politicians. Look, ask a couple of questions of special counsel Mueller about volume one, ask him about volume two. Donald Trump, Jr. wasn't guilty of a crime. Why? The president wasn't guilty of obstruction of justice, why, and move on. That's what the American public want to see.

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: Well, Elie, I want to move on to Elie right now. Thank you, David. I want to ask you, Elie. You have this issue of Mueller of course. And you know, Trump said this today about Mueller's testimony. Let's listen up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There is nothing he can't say. He has written a report. The report said no collusion and it said, effectively, no obstruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Effectively no obstruction. Eli, what is effectively no obstruction mean to you?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Interesting word choice. Because effectively means almost, kind of no obstruction, which means there must be some obstruction. Both of those things we just heard the president say is wrong, even no collusion which has become this refrain just through sheer repetition is not really true.

Mueller goes out of his way in the report and he needs to clarify this when he testifies it. He say, nothing in this report has to do with collusion. He takes a paragraph early in the report, and says collusion is not a legal term. Collusion is a non-legal term. And in fact, there's plenty of things in the report that I think very reasonably can be construed as collusion.

The dozens of contacts between the campaign, and Russia all the lies about it. And on obstruction, just saying no obstruction is even -- even it's too much for the president to try to put out there. Effectively no obstruction is some obstruction and I think we'll hear it from Robert Mueller. We need to hear it from Robert Mueller just how much did you find and what was your conclusion.

COATES: But who we heard from today, of course, Michael, in another chaos. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has now resigned in disgrace because of blowback from his, we call it a sweetheart deal with Jeffrey Epstein. That's even being a little bit gracious with that. But the Trump confidant Chris Ruddy told Don this just on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: I think the plea agreement he did is indefensible. I think that he's not going to stay for long. I don't want to make a whole judgment on every position that he's taken. I haven't spoken to the president about it. But I do think, and we are

reporting on Newsmax actually, tonight our White House correspondent says he will be out in the next couple of weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Well, even that was generous, Michael. It would happen much sooner.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it was convenient President to get rid of him as soon as possible. One of the things that I think stitches all of this together, all of what's been happening this week whether it's Acosta and the terrible deal he made to let Epstein off the hook or what's going on at the border and Mike Pence's defrayed denial of the reality down there.

Is that, these people don't categorize certain human beings as fully worthy. So, Epstein's victims weren't full worthy. So, Acosta could make a deal and ignore their interests. Mike Pence can go down to the border and paper over the scandal there and deny that six children have been killed in U.S. custody or have died in U.S. custody because certain human beings don't qualify for them.

And I think this is where we all need to keep the focus is, how do they regard humanity. And this is an administration and a kind of access between Palm Beach, Washington and New York where depraved behavior can go on and they're going to deny it.

COATES: Depraved denial. Elie, I mean, the president doesn't have Acosta very soon to be the labor secretary anymore. But does this mean that the president has shaken the association with Epstein?

[23:09:59] HONIG: Not at all. I mean, the Epstein's case and scandal is going to continue to grow and I think mushroom, I think more and more people are going to get charged, I think more and more people are going to be implicated.

COATES: Should that fall on Trump's association as well?

HONIG: Well, yes, because his administration supposedly vetted and still nominated for, to the cabinet, Acosta, the guy who made this indefensible deal. And the real shame of the deal and I think Michael was talking about this, is the way it treated the victims. Like, really keeping in the dark and even misleading them about this deal and that's what I think Acosta ultimately can never shape that same look.

When you nominate someone for better or worse, you own them, you own their past record. It's on Trump that he nominated Acosta. This is why he has to go. Because as this scandal grows, it would have been all back to Acosta and hands back on to --

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: Gentlemen, he hires the best people, I don't know what you are talking about right now. Don't you remember that? David, I got to ask you, Dan Coats -- no relation to me. But he might

actually be also on the chopping block and he is frustrated with Wilbur Ross. And just look at all the other Trump administration departures.

What -- look at this list of people. Look at these actual like class photo at this point in time. What are all these departures, and the fact that there had been so many people in acting positions tell you about the president of the United States.

SWERDLICK: So, two things. One is that, I think President Trump has a central casting idea in mind of who he wants in his cabinet. I think Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is sort of the model of that and everybody else who doesn't meet up to that model, sort of the robust person who speaks calmly but appears forceful on camera and articulates the president's vision no matter what the president's vision is, is what the president wants.

Secretary Ross and Secretary Acosta fell short of that. I think DNI Coats also fall short of that mark from the president's point of view.

Here's the other thing. When you're focused on policy and a policy agenda then you get people moving toward that agenda. When all you're focus on is who looks good on TV and who makes the president look good, it's hard for those people to continue to do that day in and day out when the president bobs and weaves on policy.

COATES: Bob and weaves but maybe this time against the ropes. Thank you all of you, gentlemen. I appreciate your time on a Friday night.

The president absolutely unloaded on Paul Ryan today. We'll tell you why he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Paul Ryan let us down. Paul Ryan was a terrible speaker, and frankly, he was a baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: President Trump offering some surprisingly kind words for Speaker Nancy Pelosi while lashing out at the former speaker, Paul Ryan. That after Ryan criticized the president in the new book "American Carnage." According to author Tim Alberta, Ryan suggested his retirement was what he called an escape patch to avoid serving another two years with Trump. Here is the president earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So, Paul Ryan was not a talent. He wasn't a leader. When the people in freedom and great congressmen wanted to go after the Dems for things that they did badly, he wouldn't give subpoenas whereas Nancy Pelosi hands them out like they are cookies. Paul Ryan was a lame duck for a long time as speaker. He was unable to

raise money. He lost control of the House. The only success Paul Ryan had was the time that he was with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Well, he didn't pull any punches. Joining me to discuss, Mark McKinnon and Joe Trippi. Welcome to you both. Glad you're here with me tonight.

Mark, you know, you said it was only a matter of time before Trump attacked Paul Ryan. But you actually agreed with him on this one, tell me why.

MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: Well, it was an arranged marriage from the very beginning. Paul Ryan is the perfect model of an establishment Republican which was never going to work with Trump.

And the fact is that, Paul Ryan really gave some bad advice to start the administration by making sure that legislatively he'll start with the healthcare bill which created an incredible volatility with the Democrats instead of coming -- starting off with something like the infrastructure bill.

So, it doesn't surprise me at all. I mean, the only thing that surprise me that took Trump this long is back at Ryan. I mean, there's no punch that Trump won't respond to, and it was an amazing press conference today.

I worked for presidents before who hate talking to the press. I was driving when that press conference happened. I went to get something to eat and came back in the car and it was still going.

COATES: So, were you surprised of his praise on Pelosi, at the same time he criticized Paul Ryan?

MCKINNON: It's one of the really interesting things in trump politics, which is that one of the few people that he actually has deferential to beyond foreign autocrat is Nancy Pelosi.

So, I think -- I think he genuinely admires her strengths and fortitude and holding together the Democratic caucus. She's somebody who fights back and I think he responds to that.

COATES: Well, Joe, let me bring you to the conversation. You know, Paul Ryan also told Tim Alberta look, we've gotten so numbed by it. Not in government but we -- numbed by it. Excuse me, not in government but where we live our lives and we have a responsibility to try and rebuild. Don't call a woman a horse face, don't cheat on your wife, don't cheat on anything. Be a good person, set a good example.

It seems like the speaker is trying to burnish his tarnish legacy of enabling the president. Is it better if he just stayed silent, or is he involve in a little bit of revisionist history here?

(CROSSTALK)

MCKINNON: Well, I think --

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, look, I think what's going on here is -- I think what's going on here, though, that Ryan is just -- look, the model of the Republican Party, too many of them in Washington in office has been to praise Trump, get what you can and leave or just hold on until he's gone.

[23:19:59] And what Ryan is doing now is trying to -- you know, he may be young enough but he thinks he can come back in politics someday. But this is a split in Republican Party that's got to be confronted and not on a few pages on a book.

I mean, Donald Trump is not going to go anywhere. He is even when he leaves no matter how he leaves office, as long as there is Twitter and rallies that he can go to, he is going to be out there and the Republican Party has got to confront that at some stage, I think.

COATES: So, Mark, here is a few times that Paul Ryan was asked about something the president said or did and said he was in the dark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, FORMER UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't have any content of that conversation. I didn't read the article. I am a little busy today, I haven't been looking at Twitter. I'm not familiar with the statement. Sorry, I was pretty busy in the house today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: So, where was he? Under a rock or something here?

MCKINNON: Yes. I mean, that's just testament to how difficult and how awkward it was for Paul Ryan to be speaker at all under President Trump. I mean, there is two things that Paul Ryan wants, he wanted to be speaker and he want to pass the tax bill.

And so, he saluted and he was conveniently ignorant about things that were happening around, so that he could ultimately achieve what the legacy piece that he wants which was the tax bill in which he did get accomplished.

COATES: So, Joe, the president also weighed in on the feud between Alexander Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker Pelosi. Listen up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make of the in-fighting going on among Democrats in Congress between Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez and her squad?

TRUMP: Well, I think Cortez who kept Amazon out of New York and they don't like her for that, thousands and thousands of jobs. I think Cortez is being very disrespectful to somebody that's been there a long time. I deal with Nancy Pelosi a lot and we go back and forth and it's fine.

But Cortez should treat Nancy Pelosi with respect. She should not be doing what she is doing.

And I'll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi. But you know better than I do. She is not a racist, OK? She is not a racist. but for them to call her a racist is a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Well, first of all, Joe, it's odd to hear the president who basically run a campaign of being outside of the establishment saying to respect people who have been in the game for so long.

But why is the president going out of his way now to say such nice things about Pelosi, even being her advocate when she was accused of racism?

TRIPPI: Because there is any -- is there any divisive thing that goes on, that the president can't try to jump in -- doesn't try to jump in and further the divide? Of course, he's going to jump in to this. Particularly if you can inject race into it or exacerbate that, he's going to do it.

But it's a twofold reform because he gets at the same time to diss Paul Ryan as a loser and in a strange way kind of almost invoke that he wish he had a speaker like Nancy Pelosi that could have gotten more of his agenda through that knew how to count votes and other things. It's pretty astonishing. But yes, of course, it's a twofold for him. He's going to -- he relishes in it.

COATES: Strategic paths stirring. Gentlemen, thank you for joining the show today. I appreciate it. Alex Acosta is resigning today as we heard. But the president gave his labor secretary the choice to stay in his job even with all of the information coming out about Jeffery Epstein allegedly abusing children and the role Acosta had in brokering his sweetheart plea deal. The question is why? I'll make my case, next.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: You know, I find it curious that the man with the signature case "you're fired" gave Secretary Alexander Acosta the choice to resign. And not in one of those I'll let you save face by saying you resign when I really fired sort of choices. No. More like in a, let me repeatedly emphasize on the White House lawn that you don't have to do this kind of choices.

It makes no sense when you look at the way in which the president has treated other powerful men serving at their pleasure for their perceived lapses of judgment.

Let's play a little game here of compare and contrast. Shall we? We'll take Acosta for starters. Makes a controversial decision not to prosecute Jeffery Epstein based on the investigation led by career officials. The handling of that decision undermines the public's confidence.

And now as a cabinet secretary, those actions brought unwanted scrutiny that distracts from the agency's mission and made the president looked bad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: Because I look forward, I did not think it is right and fair for this administration's Labor Department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today.

And so, I call the president this morning I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: So, when Acosta's case, the president says your choice. You've done a good job. You don't have to go. Now bear with me. Let's think back to James Comey. He too made a controversial decision not to recommend prosecution that time against Hillary Clinton based on an investigation led by career officials.

The handling of that decision and particularly the press conference he gave to announce it and his subsequent letters to Congress of course just before the election undermine the public's confidence no matter which side you were on.

[23:30:05] And it too, brought unwanted scrutiny that distracted from the agency's mission, in that case, the FBI. And eventually, Comey's decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton while the investigation to Russia continued into the Trump presidency became the pre-text for Comey's firing.

Now, obviously, there are huge differences in the facts of each of these cases. But why is the ultimate outcome so different? Well, let's answer that with a question. What personally threaten the president more? The handling of both his biggest political opponent and the alleged Russian interference into the 2016 election or the handling of a sweetheart deal for a convicted sexual predator against children, and the fact that the president had an old friendship with that predator?

Well, apparently the first. And that is the sad commentary on where we are as a society that should never go unnoticed. How can it be that we compartmentalize predatory behavior or excuse those who don't do everything within their power to punish it?

Trump compartmentalized the work of Acosta as labor secretary from his role as U.S. attorney in that ridiculous plea deal for an abuser of children. No, I am not going to make people feel any better about it by saying or calling them "young women." You should be uncomfortable with what is disgusting. Compartmentalizing has no place here.

But perhaps even more odd is that the president ignored low-hanging fruit. Do you mean to tell me that a man accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct -- it was not even two weeks ago we were learning about a new allegation, this time of rape, a man who had to contend with an Access Hollywood tape that showed him vulgarly bragging about grabbing women by their genitalia a few days before an election, frankly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: He wouldn't cease on this chance to prove that he is a man that respects women and even beefed up his claim of being the law and order president. That's the man who gives Acosta that choice to resign. That's the man who says his departure has nothing to do with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just want to tell you this is a person that I've gotten to know, that hasn't been an ounce of controversy at the Department of Labor until this came up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: And for that transfer of power, no one bats an eye. Well, that tells me what society must really think about victims of sexual violence and the unjust influence of wealth and privilege and entitlement on the criminal justice system. Allegations of sexual misconduct piled high but pushed aside, it doesn't hurt my presidency.

A decision not to prosecute a rich guy for child molestation and sexual assault, it's a judgment call made long ago. A decision not to prosecute my political rival while pursuing an investigation against me, the president, well, you're fired. Well, if that's the game, I am not playing.

Another powerful man was accused of sexual assault and he's behind bars tonight. I will speak with R. Kelly's publicist about his arrest, next.

[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COATES: R. Kelly is behind bars tonight after being hit with new sexual abuse charges, this time from federal prosecutors in New York and Illinois. I want to get right to Darrell Johnson. He is R. Kelly's publicist, and he joins me now. Welcome to the show, Darrell. Nice talking to you.

DARRELL JOHNSON, PUBLICIST FOR R. KELLY: Thank you very much.

COATES: You know, the charges against R. Kelly, they are mounting. You got five-count indictment from the Eastern District of New York. You got 13-count indictment from Illinois. That's on top of the other charges from earlier this year. What is R. Kelly saying about all this?

JOHNSON: Well, Mr. Kelly is very concerned about these new charges. However, you as a former prosecutor, you know. Some of the charges that were brought before him today are some of the same charges from the state attorney. The new charge is rigging a jury which -- I am so confused about that because if they thought he was rigging a jury back in '08, they should have charged him back then, not now.

COATES: Darrell, it's odd you say that, the idea that what's odd to him or thinking about is why not before. Is he professing innocence or not or just concerned about the timing of these charges?

JOHNSON: He's absolutely innocent. He has professed his innocence. He has declared that. This is America. You are innocent until proven guilty. He's going to go to the very end with innocence. That's what he says and we believe him.

COATES: Darrell, as you said, I was a federal prosecutor and I focus on sex crimes as well. Federal prosecutors, look, they don't bring charges like this unless they are pretty confident they are going to be able to at least get a conviction. So tell me, why do you think R. Kelly is so sure, as he seemed to be, that he's going to be vindicated in this case?

JOHNSON: Well, an accusation -- as we always say, it's an accusation until you can prove it.

[23:40:00] If you look at the charges, there is white-collar crime. And then there is sex unit (ph) crime. It kind of almost looks like the same thing that is going on in New York, if you think about it.

COATES: New York, you mean with Epstein, you're talking about?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. Either it is going to be sex crime or it is going to be financial crime. So, that's what we are. Mr. Kelly says he's innocent. We are gearing up. We have great attorneys from across the country, new attorneys that is going to be brought on board, and we are ready to fight.

COATES: It is clear to see we try to draw any parallel between Epstein because, as you know, Epstein is accused of preying upon young girls. Kelly is accused of preying on girls as young as 12 or 13 years old. There is videotaping himself, allegation with sex with minors, paying minors and their families, lying to investigators, exposing one woman to an STD without her knowledge. These are pretty serious charges. Why make that comparison at all if you think he is innocent?

JOHNSON: The difference is Mr. Kelly, 24 people, twice, said he was acquitted. The difference with Mr. Epstein, he had been convicted. He spent 13 months. Mr. Kelly has not been convicted of anything.

COATES: So for you it's the idea of -- look, a jury has already found him innocent before on similar charges. Therefore, it should be same thing now.

JOHNSON: Same thing, same charges, different format. That's what we believe. We are going to prove it. Mr. Kelly is going to have to stay in court, and we'll see what happens. Mr. Kelly declared his innocence. He declared it and that's what it is. He has to be proven guilty. He's innocent in the United States of America until he's proven guilty. You know that.

COATES: That is absolutely true. Unfortunately, as you know, as a public figure as he has been for decades, there is that court of public opinion, Darrell, that has weighed in very heavily. According to prosecutors, it is more than just the accusations about sexual misconduct.

There are also discussions about him being accused of getting women and girls, rules they are required to follow, talk of a sex cult, talk about they had to call him "daddy," they weren't allowed to leave, they need permission or had to ask to even go to the bathroom, they had to wear baggy clothes and turn around when a man -- I mean, these are pretty disturbing allegations. Are any of these true?

JOHNSON: All those things have to be proven. Like I said, an accusation is an accusation until proven in court.

COATES: I hear you, Darrell, but my question to you, is it true?

JOHNSON: Absolutely not. He declared his innocence. He said none of this happened.

COATES: So declaration is enough for the people? How can people be -- I mean, I'm asking a lot of you, Darrell, here. Obviously, it is not the court of law. But people have a lot of questions and this is a theme that's played time and time again. We even heard R. Kelly talked about how this has been a continuous theme in his career.

JOHNSON: Right.

COATES: So, what more than the declaration of innocence do you think people will need to be convinced that what he's saying is true?

JOHNSON: This drama will be played out in the courtroom. FBI and Homeland Security have their evidence. They need to bring it. All the accused victims, accusations, they have a day in court. The public matters, but the truth matters, too. So you have to bring evidence to prosecute Mr. Kelly. If you don't have the evidence, Mr. Kelly is going to be acquitted again. That is just the fact.

COATES: Darrell, you were confronted by the parents of Jocelyn Savage, who was one of Kelly's girlfriends at a press conference. I want to play a clip of that moment for people to hear.

JOHNSON: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNSON (on camera): He was arrested. Nothing new. The same charges a decade ago.

TIMOTHY SAVAGE, FATHER OF JOCELYN SAVAGE (voice-over): Don't want to hear all that bro, where is my daughter at? R. Kelly is in there, right now in jail. I want to know where my daughter at. Where is she at? Answer that question! I got a question. Where is my daughter at? Where is Jocelyn Savage? We don't want to come and hear your lies!

JOHNSON (on camera): OK, let me tell. First of all, I know nothing --

SAVAGE (voice-over): You don't know nothing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COATES: So why don't you answer the question now? You were a little bit caught off guard earlier. They said they haven't heard from their daughter since 2016. They haven't spoken to her since 2017. Do you know if it is true or why they have not been able to contact their daughter?

JOHNSON: First of all, I was not caught off guard. I knew they were there. I was told they were there. I have no beef with the Clarys. Their daughter met Mr. Kelly long before I hit the scene. And I made the attempt earlier on six months ago to make the initial call to the Savages so the daughter can talk to her parents. I did that.

COATES: What happened?

JOHNSON: Jocelyn called her parents. They had a phone call. They talked. No presence of Mr. Kelly. He was not even in the building that day. They talked to her. Did they get what they wanted? I can't say that. I made the initial call. After that, it was supposed to be a meeting setup. The meeting never happened. It fell apart.

I am -- Mr. Kelly is my client, OK? Azriel and Jocelyn are not my clients. I feel really bad for the parents. They want to see their daughter. I have a daughter. I would want to see my daughter, too, under the circumstances. But they're grown women. These are not girls.

[23:45:00] At the end of the day, it is their choice to see their family. I am not a handler. I don't -- I have not been a part of any type of aiding and abetting or whatever they were suggesting. Am I worried about the FBI? Absolutely not. I have a job to do.

I am doing the same job you do tonight. I have a job to do and that's what I do. I have no beef with the Clarys. I have no beef with the Savages. None whatsoever. My job is to help my client navigate from point A to point Z. I am going to do that.

COATES: Darrell, I guess we'll see. At some point, a day in court, we will see how the job plays out.

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

COATES: I do appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Darrel Johnson.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

COATES: Joining me now is CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, the author of "Make It Rain." Areva, I am glad you're here particularly tonight. Areva, tell me, you are listening just now. What's your initial reaction to what you just heard from R. Kelly's publicist?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He said he has a job to do, and he's doing that job. I am so glad you told him that as a former federal prosecutor, these kinds of charges, the serious charges that were brought against Mr. Kelly today, are not the kinds of charges that will be brought unless there is a trove of evidence that can be proven in court.

Prosecutors aren't going to bring these kinds of charges. Now, we have sex trafficking. We have allegations that Mr. Kelly took girls across four states, that he is soliciting young girls, that he was engaged in obstruction of justice, and that he intimated witnesses.

So these are beyond the charges that Darrell mentioned that were brought against Mr. Kelly back in the early 2000s. We not only have those state charges of sexual assault against young girls, but now we have these federal charges. Really, you got to have some kind of map (ph) background to keep up with all of the allegations, all of the indictments. Needless to say, Mr. Kelly is in a lot of trouble.

COATES: By the way, your statement there, back in the early 2000s, this is idea -- that old phrase, when there is smoke, there is fire. I mean there has been a lot of smoke and sustained for a very long time. How is that going to play out for people who are going to be part of the jury poll number one, Areva, and also this court of public opinion?

MARTIN: I think in the court of public opinion, people are happy. They are excited. They are glad that women are finding their voices and that they are coming forward. And finally, there is some accountability for decades. These rumors about R. Kelly and young girls have been swirling around.

And people have been asking, how come, how come he has not been indicted, how come he hasn't been held accountable. So I think in the court of public opinion, the victims are sighing relief tonight. Finally, these girls, most of them African-American girls who were subjected to this conduct that Mr. Kelly has been accused of, are finally going to get justice, finally going to have their day in court.

For me, Laura, the question is, why did it take so long? Do you have to be a part of the documentary? Does there have to be some television or program produced before prosecutors take the kinds of allegations made in these cases?

COATES: Areva, that's the million-dollar question, the idea of the number of people who have come forward in this case. Areva, I am glad you lifted your voice tonight in particular as always. We will stay with the story. Thank you so much, Areva Martin.

Tropical storm Barry is taking aim at the Gulf Coast and it is expected to be a hurricane by landfall. We will have the latest, next.

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COATES: Louisiana is bracing tonight for tropical storm Barry as it spins towards the coast. The National Hurricane Center warning that Barry is gaining strength and will likely be a hurricane when it makes landfall tomorrow. High winds and rain are already hammering residents. And storm surge is starting to swallow low-lying areas all along the coastline.

Derek Van Dam is tracking the storm for us in the CNN Weather Center.

Derek, I am glad you're here. When will the storm make landfall and where is it heading next?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Yeah, you know, we're expecting landfall about 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, so local time 6:00 a.m., right along the southern Louisiana coastline, about 50 miles west of New Orleans. That does put New Orleans in a bit of a precarious position.

But I just want to show you this live camera view of the French quarter downtown, incredible. There are still a few people milling about, quite surprising, but no mandatory evacuations for that particular part of the city.

Nonetheless, latest information from the National Hurricane Center has Barry unchanged, still a tropical storm. But as you mentioned just before tossing to me, Laura, this storm is expected to become a hurricane before making landfall.

You can see the hurricane warnings in place from Grand Isle through Morgan City, New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain into the Baton Rouge. You have a tropical storm warning. That means tropical storm conditions expected within the next 12 to 24 hours. That's what we anticipate with this particular system.

Let's time it out for you. You can see over the next 12 hours, it strengthens to a Category 1, just prior to making landfall. What is really important about this graphic is that you show -- that you see this slow forward movement of this particular system as it makes landfall, makes its way across central and northern Louisiana.

It takes about 24 to 36 hours for this thing to traverse the entire state of Louisiana. Why that's important? It is because it's going to pull in a lot of moisture and produce a lot of rainfall. So, let's not get lost in the minutia. Is this a tropical storm or hurricane? Is this a hurricane?

[23:54:56] The main story here, Laura, is the flood potential for this area, 10 to 15 inches, even locally higher amounts expected with the storm.

COATES: Derek, thank you for the report. Thank you, everyone, for watching. Our thoughts are with Louisiana today. Our coverage continues.

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