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Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) Was Interviewed About The Decision By The Democrats To Push Impeachment Against President Trump; Former Obama Officials Backs The Squad; Former Obama Staffers Pen Op-Ed; Kamala Harris Defends Role As Prosecutor To Black Voters; New Fox News Poll Shows Vice President Biden With A Commanding Lead Among Democratic Candidates; Three College Students Posed With Guns By Emmett Till Memorial. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired July 26, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Remember this. This is my favorite line from Romeo and Juliet. One pain is lessened by another's anguish. Thus, if the Democrats believe they can make a compelling case to the American people that this president is responsible for the kinds of wrong they keep suggesting. Any fallout for them should be nothing compared to what this president will have to answer for.
That's all for us tonight. Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with Laura Coates, in for D. Lemon, a.k.a., the upgrade starts right now.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Look, Cuomo, you're the only person I know who can call William Shakespeare Willy and get away with it --
CUOMO: My man.
COATES: -- and sound profound.
CUOMO: Willy S.
COATES: But you know what? They say all the world is a stage. Then men and women merely players. I wonder who is getting played here. Is it the American people or is it this word play that keeps happening about, is it a rose, is it not a rose? It's not smelling very sweet right now.
CUOMO: I'm with you. You know, to me, as we -- the state where I grew up, they're faking the funk right now, counselor.
COATES: Shakespeare also said that, Cuomo, by the way.
CUOMO: He did.
COATES: He did. It was part of it.
CUOMO: He said fake the funk. I thought that all the world is a stage there was from a Rush song. I had no idea it was Shakespeare who quote -- COATES: You are classic, you are. I love it.
CUOMO: So, I think that -- look, we know what's going on here, right? They've got two points of resistance. First one is in House. Second one is out of the House. And they're playing hedge. I'm just saying this is isn't a situation to play because the ultimate commodity the currency here is the integrity of your purpose.
COATES: I couldn't agree more. You know, they say democracy is not a spectator sport. But it's not supposed to be a game. I think the American people are tired of being pawned. They're wondering if it's actually moving across. Is it going to be a check mate? I mean, this entire thing is really confusing, it's frustrating, it's exhausting. We'll going to try to clear it up tonight, though.
CUOMO: They have the right person to do it. Laura Coates, I look forward to watching.
COATES: Have a great night. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates, sitting in for Don Lemon.
And Democrats are taking a big step towards impeachment tonight. The House Judiciary Committee suing in federal court to get that secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller's report. Arguing they actually need it because they are, quote, "investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment."
A significant development. Also planning to enforce, by the way, the committee to subpoena a former White House Counsel Don McGahn. You remember he defied that subpoena way back in May on orders of the White House.
So, he may now be the big kahuna witness in all this in another hearing. That as a 101 House Democrats and one independent have come out in support of an impeachment inquiry which is why the president is steamed tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think it's a disgrace what the Democrats are doing. I watch Bob Mueller and they have nothing. There's no collusion. There's no obstruction. They have nothing. It's a disgrace.
We want to find out what happened with the last Democrat president. Let's look into Obama the way they've looked at me from day one. They've looked into everything that we've done. They could look into the book deal that President Obama made. Let's subpoena all of his records.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: The book that Obama made? Well, that is deflection at its finest. You're calling for an investigation on President Obama for his book deal? It's odd that the man who claims to be the author of "The Art of the Deal" -- we know he had a ghost writer -- would have a problem with his predecessor's book deal. Well, maybe it's not so odd.
And speaking of former President Obama, 148 African-Americans who served in his administration have written a brand-new op-ed and it's in "The Washington Post" tonight. The title, "We are African Americans, we are patriots. And we refuse to sit idly by."
He's a quote from that op-ed. "We stand with Congresswoman -- Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump, along with supporters and his enablers who feel deputized to decide who belongs here and who doesn't. There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country by citing their immigrant roots or ancestry or their unwillingness to sit and in quiet obedience while democracy is being under mined."
We'll talk more about that in a moment. But the thing the president is really steaming about tonight, the reason he's trying to deflect and distract with his attacks on those four congresswomen of color and now with the attacks on President Obama and his book deal. Well, it's all because of the I-word, impeachment.
[22:04:56] Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler trying to thread a very fine needle saying what his committee is doing is in effect an impeachment inquiry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're saying there's no difference between what you're doing now in an impeachment inquiry, correct?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): In effect we're investigating all of this and we are going to see what remedies we can recommend including the possibility of articles of impeachment. We're not limited to that. But that's very much the possibility as a result of what we're doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: In effect? The possibility? Well, that as Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We won't proceed when we have what we need to proceed. Not one day sooner. The decision will be made in a timely fashion. This isn't endless and when we have the best strongest possible case, and that's not endless either. I mean, it maybe endless in terms of the violations of the law that the president is engaged in. But that's what I say to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: But as far as other members of the committee are concerned, the impeachment investigation has already begun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (D-OH): This is an impeachment investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are now officially entering into an examination of whether or not to recommend the articles of impeachment. So, we have crossed a threshold.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I would say we are in an impeachment investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: That was Congressman Jamie Raskin and he joins me now. How are you doing tonight? How are you, Congressman? I'm glad you're here in the program tonight. I want you to clarify so much for us today. So, thank you. You know, your committee is suing to obtain --
RASKIN: Thank you for having me.
COATES: I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're here. Your committee is suing to obtain the grand jury material and you're saying we're in an impeachment investigation. So why just formally launch it? We're talking about is this semantics, is it a method somehow to the distinction?
RASKIN: Well, we were just confronted with overwhelming evidence of presidential obstruction of justice. Ten different episodes in this astonishing unprecedented occurrence of a presidential candidate openly welcoming foreign government support in the middle of a presidential campaign.
So, if this is not impeachable, I don't know what is. The president is upset about it. He should be upset with the founding fathers because they are the ones who built four different provisions mentioning impeachment into the Constitution.
Not just in article one or Congress, but in article two right after he is told his job is to take care of the laws faithfully executed. And if he doesn't, he can be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors like treason and bribery. And now obstruction of justice is one that's been validated by history to be just on the same par with bribery and treason.
COATES: So why is there confusion for people? Why is not just the same statement? It's an impeachment inquiry it's an investigation. Why is there a kind of back and forth about what to call it? Are we having the wrong focus here?
RASKIN: Well, yes, I think people shouldn't get hung up on the semantics of it. The Constitution doesn't have a name for probe or investigation or inquiry. There's no federal law that require you give it a particular name. And it's not in the House rules that it has a particular name or procedure. It can either arise from the floor and be sent to the House for
consideration and then sent back as articles or it can arise from the committee itself.
I think people are most familiar from the last presidential impeachment where it was sent from the floor. But there have been lots of impeachments, especially a lot of judicial impeachments that have arisen in the Judiciary Committee itself.
So I wouldn't get hung up either on the nomenclature or else on the process. We've got the chair of our committee and the overwhelming majority of the Democrats in the committee saying we are in an impeachment investigation. We're being bombarded and buffeted by all of the president's high crimes and misdemeanors.
What we need to do is to put it together to tell a coherent narrative to the American people. And I think that's really about a president who is converted the government of the United States into a money- making operation for himself, for his business, for his family and his friends. And it now pervades the entire executive branch of government.
COATES: So why is there a focus right now on the grand jury material? I know part of it is about of course Don McGahn and his statements getting him testify as well. But do you think there is some smoking gun? Something compelling that's in there that's actually going to facilitate that discussion on impeachment as the only option?
RASKIN: Well, I think we got to complete the investigation of what took place with all of the obstruction of justice. Don McGahn, of course was the White House lawyer who was told by Donald Trump to go out and fire the special counsel in order to sabotage the Mueller's investigation. And he refused to do so.
So, that was the only thing that remotely saved Donald Trump from the obviousness of his actions.
[22:09:54] But as Mueller emphasized in the hearing this week, it's obstruction of justice once you try to interfere with an ongoing legal proceeding. Once you try to coach a witness or to scare or intimidate a witness or to, you know, somehow persuade a witness.
All of those things are accomplished completed crimes even if somebody saves you from your own terrible instincts.
RASKIN: And some people did. But again, that's only an image. As matter of law he was not saved.
COATES: So, one of the concerns that I think we have after the Mueller hearing in particular, Congressman, is the idea of it's all in the report already. Why is it necessary, help me understand, why it's necessary to hear from Don McGahn to further get all of this evidence in the record? RASKIN: Well, it's the same reason that Congress has always insisted
on getting the underlying materials from special counsels or independent counsels in the past. It's one thing to get a generalized summary of events. It's another to get witnesses in their own words telling you precisely what happened.
And of course, that's what makes things come alive for members of Congress and for the public. We're a democracy. The people governed here and people want to want to know really what happened. And they don't want, you know, they want to give due process to the president but they also want to know precisely what's been taking place against the people of the country.
So, we need to know this in detail and we've got to add some vividness to the story so people understand it.
COATES: They don't want a game of telethon, of course, getting it from somebody else. They want to hear it directly. But one of the things the American people have responsibility to do and their right to do is the idea of voting.
You got a clock ahead of us. I mean, the 2020 election is upon us a little more than a year.
COATES: Are you afraid that there's going to be a deadline that you did not anticipate that will run out the clock on the idea of even inquiring about this process?
RASKIN: Well, sure. But think of it this way. In America there's always another election. I mean, it's built into the federal Constitution that we have a House of Representatives election every two years which tells you that the founders wanted the House of Representatives where impeachment investigation and articles arise to be very closely in tune with public sentiment and public opinion. And then we elect presidents every four years.
So, there's always another election around the corner. And yet, still, the founders insisted that there be impeachment as a weapon of last defense of the people's rights and the Constitution against a president who insists upon acting like a king and trampling the rule law.
This was really essential of the founders. Remember, they rebelled against centuries of monarchy of dictatorship. And we're living in an age of resurgent authoritarianism and dictatorship all over the world. All of Donald Trump's friends, whether it's Orban in Hungary, or Putin in Russia, or Duterte in the Philippines or Sisi in Egypt.
These are all strongmen dictators who want to control their societies in an authoritarian fashion. We're getting the same kind of attack on the free press, attacks on elections, attempt to extinguish people's voting rights, attacks on immigrants, scapegoating people including members of the opposition party. All of those are just trademark tactics of authoritarian despots all
around the world. And it's happening here in America. We've got to use the means that were given to us by our founders. We need every kid in America, every citizen to rediscover the Constitution of the United States. Go and find those impeachment clauses tonight.
COATES: Well, there's no deadline on democracy. You prove that point. Congressman, thank you for joining the program. We look forward to hearing more from you.
RASKIN: Thank you so much.
COATES: I want to bring in Max Boot, author of "The Corrosion of Conservativism." Also, Elie Honig, and Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth About Trump."
Max, I'll start with you since you're not joining in the studio at the moment. I want your reaction to what we just heard from Congressman Raskin. Democrats are essentially starting an impeachment inquiry without formally calling it that. What do you think about the word play?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think they're trying to split the difference because there is a difference of opinion between Chairman Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Because Speaker Pelosi is very concerned about her majority, she doesn't want to force members who won elections in purple districts to take a tough vote where she fears could come back to haunt them and possibly cost the Democrats their majority next year.
Whereas, Chairman Nadler is more focused on the right and wrong of the situation. And there's no -- there's no question in my mind that on the merits, President Trump deserves to be impeached. Because he has violated the law, he has failed to uphold his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.
But there is this big gap between how do you proceed it from this point when everybody knows that the votes are not going to be there in the Senate to remove President Trump from office and this whole procedure could backfire.
[22:14:57] And so, basically, what I see happening here is that Chairman Nadler is moving forward with impeachment through the back door without forcing all these members of Congress to take a tough vote.
And as we know, even though there's about 100 members of Congress who are in favor of impeachment, most of Democratic caucus is not. And so, what that suggest to me is that they will move ahead with the investigation but impeachment I think still remains very unlikely.
COATES: So, Elie, listen to what Chairman Nadler had to say today. And I want your reaction to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: I believe that the hearing with Director Mueller was an inflection point. We are considering the malfeasances of the president. We are considering what remedies we can do including the possibility of articles of impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, Nadler is saying that look, articles of impeachment are possible. he's looking maybe to Don McGahn. Are we talking about Don McGahn being the new John Dean here?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's the hope. The lawsuits that we saw today, the grand jury lawsuit and that Nadler told us today he'd be filing early next week to compel Don McGahn are going to be so crucial, really for two reasons.
Number one, they're going to force the Democrats to take a position. Where are you on impeachment? Can we please make a plea to everybody out there? Can we please bring back plain language? Plain English.
COATES: OK. You're just done already. You want Congress to act and also be clear, Elie.
HONIG: I know. Right.
COATES: You've bene in this country very long.
HONIG: Heaven forbid. Right. But we've seen -- and you know, you're right. We've seen so many times if you leave any wiggle room any gray area, Donald Trump and in some cases, Bill Barr will jump in and spin.
So, I think Democrats need to learn a lesson here. You need to be clear. And so, they are going to have to go on record in court and say -- because judges are going to ask. Where are you? Is this an inquiry? Do you have a resolution? And the more formal is it, the stronger their hands are going to be in court.
And then regarding McGahn, look, this is all or nothing with respect to whether these witnesses not just McGahn, but wherever that goes is where the ruling is going to go on Hope Hicks and Donaldson and Lewandowski and Sessions. If the Democrats lose on McGahn they're going to have no second act here.
COATES: I want to hear from after this break. I want to hear --
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.
COATES: You're smiling over there. I want to know why. I'm tickled by this. Michael, hold your thought this moment. We'll keep going with this conversation right after a quick break.
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) COATES: I'm back with Max Boot, Elie Honig, and Michael D'Antonio. I want to start with you, Michael. I mean, it's very obvious that the president's feathers are a little bit ruffled here.
D'ANTONIO: They sure are. I mean, this, you know, I was reminded of the president being on Saturday Night Live and dressing up like a chicken, fried chicken on that SNL.
COATES: I didn't mean that -- I didn't mean literally ruffled. I meant like figuratively speaking, but OK.
D'ANTONIO: He is very ruffled. I mean, this is -- he is really a wet hen, you know. This is -- he wanted to paint this as a good week for him. But think about the difference between Robert Mueller and Donald Trump.
Robert Mueller is the U.S. marine. The Cary Grant (ph) kind of American hero. He's reticent. He's contained. He's unemotional. You know, Donald Trump is the P.T. Barnum Bailey made of kind of American male. He's always hysterical. He's always upset. He's always angry.
There's such a contrast between these two men. One is a public servant. The other believes the public should serve him. This is a dramatic stylistic difference. And I don't think Mueller lost. I think over time people are going to say, pull back a moment, compare and contrast. Who do you like?
COATES: Well, let's hear what Trump sounded like. You call him a wet hen. I want to hear what one sounds like here. Hold on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: All they want to do is impede, they want to investigate. They want to go fishing. And I watch Bob Mueller and they have nothing. There's no collusion. There's no obstruction. They have nothing. It's a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, the president, Max, is talking about people who were impeding. And the word disgrace was used there. I'm going to put the irony aside for a second, Max, and just ask you what's your reaction to the president's reaction?
BOOT: Well, it's kind of typical Donald Trump. I mean, it didn't matter what was happening. He's going to claim a victory anyway. I mean, after the Mueller report came out which was the most downing indictment of a sitting president, I think we've ever seen from any special counsel in U.S. history.
Listing these 10 instances of obstruction of justice and laying out how Donald Trump welcomed foreign interference in our election. Donald Trump said he was exonerated that everything was great. This was a complete -- he was completely clear. All at the same time he was claiming that Robert Mueller was running a witch hunt. So, you know, he's very confused about whether Mueller is a witch
hunter or an exonerator. It's hard to be both. And now you saw that same confusion in spades this week after the Mueller testimony.
Where, again, completely predictably Trump claims vindication which has not occurred to any fair- minded American watching these proceedings, except in a very narrow sense in terms of kind of the optics of it and the political impact because there's been this apathy towards impeachment on the part of the American public and Democrats are hoping that Mueller could breakthrough that apathy. And sadly, I don't think he has done that at least based on the polls that we've seen this week.
There's still widespread opposition to going forward with impeachment. So, I guess in the sense of the politics and the optics Trump has something to crow about. He has won, but he has not won on the merits.
And let's not lose sight of the merits that this is a president who has trashed his office, who has trashed American democracy, who has been the most dishonest and despicable person to occupy the office of the president. And no matter what happens this week does not change that one iota.
COATES: So, you got to learn at some point, Max, to form an opinion about the president of the United States. It's not clear to anyone how you feel about the issue.
But, Elie, I actually read through the Judiciary Committee's petition for grand jury materials talking about the merit of the case. And they're trying to access what? Three things. Three categories. One, they want the grand jury material known as 6-E. Two, they want to have the redacted material that speaks to Trump's state of mind.
And if we did deeper you actually see that they want to look at these passages related to that 2016 Trump tower meeting with the Russians. They want to know whether George Papadopoulos told others in the campaign about Russia obtaining dirt on Clinton. They want to know about Carter Page's trip to Moscow, Manafort and the polling data.
[22:25:04] Erik Prince's meeting in the Seychelles. So much for, I guess three categories. So, I have to ask you, speaking about the merits, Elie, how likely is it they'll actually going to get any of this information? Will the court side with them or what?
HONIG: I do think the court will side with Congress here. Because Congress is exercising -- they make it clear in their papers, so their most important power, the power of impeachment. That's why Jerry Nadler maybe reluctantly had to go on record somewhat in front of the court and say again, with word games. But essentially, we are considering impeachment.
That is the top level of power that Congress has. And I think Congress could benefit maybe from Max Boot's level of moral clarity. Right? They're so calculated everything they say. But to me, the line of the week was when Representative Cummings got up and said this is our watch. And it was refreshing to hear someone just say straight up let's put
aside the politics and the polling and stop mincing words and just think about what the historic legacy is going to be here. This is our watch. I think that level of clarity would really help the cause.
COATES: Well --
D'ANTONIO: Well, and the courts know that Congress impeaches presidents. Presidents don't impeach Congress. So I think Elie is right. That Congress is first in line here. And I think they'll get what they want.
COATES: What's going to happen on our watch? We'll have to see. I can tell you that 148 African Americans who served under the Obama administration when it was their watch say they stand with Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. And why they say expect to hear more from us in a moment.
[22:30:00] COATES: A hundred and forty-eight African American former members of the Obama administration have a new op-ed in the Washington Post, and it's titled, "We are African-Americans, we are patriots and we refuse to sit idly by." Here's part of what they wrote. There's truly nothing more un-American than calling fellow citizens to leave our country. We are proud descendants of immigrants, refugees and the enslave Africans who built this country while enduring harsh of its original sin. We are red blooded Americans, we are patriots and we have plenty to say about the direction this country is headed.
Joining me now to discuss. Kyung Lah, Hilary Rosen and David Swerdlick. Happy Friday night to each and every one of you.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Laura.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Laura.
COATES: David, I'll start with you. It's a really, really powerful op-ed from these former Obama staffers. What was your reaction to it?
SWERDLICK: So, a couple things. First of all. All of us know a lot of these people and I think this is heartfelt message sent after two weeks of debate about President Trump's go back to Africa tweets. That says look, OK, we dealt with the racism component of this. But there's another component of this. Which is that African Americans, people of color, writ large, immigrant communities are patriots. And not just patriots, but have contributed to American progress every step along the way, who fought in all of America's wars, contributed to the economy. All the way up to the first black president who, you know, got the country out of a historic recession. Got Osama Bin Laden, on and on, I can go, you know, all day with the laundry list of things that had been accomplished.
And when you get to a point in this country where you have the slogan of the incumbent administration which is make America great again. Which is a front both to the idea that there was ever a time that America wasn't great and also in a front to the idea that there was a time when these communities didn't have as much as of a say than we people felt like they really had to speak out.
COATES: Well, you know, to mention it, people on the list. I mean, the names of the people who are on this. People like (Inaudible), you've got people like Drew Eelen, you've got people like, Kevin Beckford, I mean, the list is very long. I'm talking about 140 plus people who are on this list. Each of them had a very prominent role in the administration. Hilary, I have to know from you. You know, the president in spite of what David is talking about. In spite of fact checking and going beyond just why the phrase was offensive. Send her back and go back. Donald Trump has doubled down on his racist attacks on the squad. Is it going to backfire beyond just 140 plus African-American members of the Obama administration? What's the political consequence to this?
ROSEN: Interesting to me of course, is that the loudest African American voice on the page was the absent one, Barack Obama. And you know, I can't help, but wonder if he thinks sort of what I think. Which is, yes, keep calling him a racist. That is good because he is a racist. But are you playing his game if you prolong the story? His goal in keeping the squad on the front pages and attacking them for their racism is to identify, you know, Democrats with whatever the most progressive position is. Right or wrong.
And -- but I think the result -- the good news is that it is actually uniting Democrats to uniting members of Congress in the House. Uniting Democrats across the country to say this. But, you really do when you get back and forth into this kind of, you know, who hates people more. You really are on his playing field. And I'm not just sure that is where the country should be and where Democrats should be.
COATES: Well, Kyung, you have been following the campaign trail of these candidates of 2020. And you know that they are candidates who are competing for the black vote. Assuming that is a monolithic statement. The moment the National Urban League Conference, tell me like, the idea that she is talking about their punching down, they are playing on his battlefield. What has stood out the most to you?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you just from listening today. We heard from three presidential candidates, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris. The thing that you really notice is how different the conversation is this cycle. Remember back in 2008, when Barack Obama didn't really directly talk about issues of race right off the bat. We're now having conversations early on in this cycle about systemic racism.
Kirsten Gillibrand in particular talked about her responsibility as a white woman. Trying to break down systemic racism. Her white privilege and here responsibility in trying to assist black Americans. And that is what her job was. It was truly extraordinary to hear that level of conversation. And the specificity of some of these plans.
[22:35:00] Senator Kamala Harris unrolled a plan today. Two planks of her black agenda policy and one of it was $60 billion investment in to STEM education at HBCU. So this is just a level of conversation that is new and especially new among a very diverse Democratic field.
COATES: And of course, you know, we're talking Kyung, about Senator Harris. She was also by the way defending her career as a district attorney and also as Attorney General of California. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm acutely aware of what is wrong with the system. And I made therefor a very conscious decision to become a prosecutor. Why do we only have to be on the outside? On bended knee or trying to break down the door. Shouldn't we also have a role on the inside? Where the decisions are being made in a way we can influence the change that must occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Now, Kyung, I admit that I'm bias. As a former federal prosecutor. So, I understand what she is talking about having a seat at the table or being on the menu. But is that something we are going to hear more about at next week's CNN debate?
LAH: Well, certainly her campaign is preparing for it, because that is an entry point for the other candidates as far as attacking Senator Harris. Because of her prosecutor background. But remember when she was entering this field, there was a very different time. And so now she has to account for some of that.
That is what her campaign and her team is certainly preparing for. But you heard how passionate she was there. She's made this argument before. She's going to make it again and again and again, especially to black voters who are having this, as I said, this elevated conversation about systemic racism, about criminal justice. And whether she is the right person given her decade of service as a prosecutor, if she is the right candidate to make that argument to a 2020 field that relies so heavily on black voters.
COATES: Well, you know, Hilary, speaking of the voters themselves, there's a new national poll out from Fox News. And it shows Joe Biden with a commanding lead. We got an 18 points ahead of second place Senator Bernie Sanders. What do you make of this new poll?
ROSEN: Look, Biden has been ahead ever since he got into this race. He actually leads with black voters. I think it is important for white candidates today for frankly, you know, all white people to express how we feel about racism and how we approach racism. So, it's important that candidates be required to do that.
But I do think that, you know, trying to label Joe Biden a racist. You know, subtly as Cory Booker has done or Kamala Harris has done or attack his history. I just don't think that those attacks are particularly effective. You know, people are worrying about healthcare, they are worrying about jobs. They are worrying about their kid's education and future. They're not going to buy an argument that Joe Biden is just an old white racist. COATES: Well, we'll have to see. The election is coming up. I wish
I could hear more from you, David, I had to catch you next time, but don't miss the CNN Democratic presidential debate. Next Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper will moderate July 30th and 31st, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Now a shocking photo leads to the suspension of three OLE Miss students from their fraternity. But does there punishment match the desecration of the memorial for the young Emmett Till. I'll make my case next.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: Emmett Till would have celebrated his 78th birthday yesterday. I say would have, because he died at just the age of 14. He was tortured and murdered in a gruesome killing that shocked America. And helped to fuel the civil rights movement. And that fact makes this photograph all the more shocking. We first showed you last night. Three white students from OLE Miss posing with guns in front of the memorial of Emmett Till.
The photo was obtained by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. The memorial appears to be bullet ridden. Although it's unclear whether the students caused the actual damage. The University of Mississippi has identified two of the students. As John Lowe and Ben LeCiere. It's not clear at this point who the third student is or what his status at the University is. And we're blurring their faces, because despite our efforts we have not been able to yet reach them for comment.
Now all three have been suspended from the Kappa Alpha Fraternity. A spokesman for the fraternity saying quote, "The photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. It does not represent our chapter." University interim chancellor sent a message to students, to faculty, to staff and alumni this afternoon. Including this quote saying they do not speak for our institution. And they do not define us. What makes this different than other offensive, hurtful and disgusting things we see on social media every day is that at the very least, it belittles the price that a 14 year-old paid for being black.
Race and ethnicity are not choices. They are not political affiliations, decisions or attitudes. They are fundamental aspects of our dignity and who we are as individuals. Now the Justice Department Civil Rights Division is also reportedly investigating the photograph. And last night Don Lemon talked with a man who broke the story. His name is Jerry Mitchell. He is the founder of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and he spent his career investigating civil rights era killings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:45:00] JERRY MITCHELL, FOUNDER, MISSISSIPPI CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: I think one of the sad parts of this is you know, they don't completely know who Emmett Till is. Maybe they understand sort of who Emmett Till is, but you're absolutely correct. If they really understood, Emmett Till was, they wouldn't have anything to do with this. Because he, his death, as you all know, propelled the civil rights movement really in America. His mother's courage to stand up and say I wanted the world to see what was done to my baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: That is quite a benefit of the doubt. If they knew who he was. They wouldn't have. You heard Jerry Mitchell say that if those college students really knew who Emmett Till was, they would never have posed for that picture.
Well, let me remind you who Emmett Till really was. He was a 14 year- old African-American human being. The only child of Maine Elizabeth Till-Mobley, who sent him from Chicago to Mississippi to visit her family in the summer of 1955. Now, she, he's mother was born and raised in rural Mississippi. And she warned her son about the racism he would encounter there. Later, saying at trial, of her son's murders quote, living in Chicago he didn't know.
Just days after Emmett arrived in Mississippi, he was accused of whistling at a 21 year-old white woman. The woman's husband and his half-brother went to the House where Emmett was staying and dragged him out of bed in the middle of the night. And ordered him in to a pickup truck. They tortured him mercilessly, shot him in the head. And threw his body in the Tallahassee River. But not before putting a 75 pound cotton gin fan around his neck.
Now Emmett's grieving mother insisted on an open casket at his funeral. Why? So the world could not ignore what happened to her baby. The men who killed Emmett who were identified by eyewitness. And they confessed to kidnapping him, but they were acquitted by an all-white jury. Now a year later they confessed to a reporter that they did murder him, but double jeopardy laws prevent them from facing another trial. And prevented justice for Emmett Till and his family.
So, I ask you, where is the outrage when a memorial is desecrated? One with so much historical and culture significance that explains in part the heritage of this country? If I'm mistaken, it wasn't that the justification for the outrage over moving confederate flags and monuments? Where's the outrage that this memorial is being used as the backdrop for what looks to be like a hunting photo? Where's the outrage that this doesn't even violate the student's code of conduct at OLE Miss? Expulsion? Forget it. This is only enough to suspend you from your fraternity.
And 64 years after his murder, we are still asking, will there ever be justice for Emmett Till? We'll talk about that. Next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: Now, I want to speak to the cousin of Emmett Till, Deborah Watts, she is also the co-founder and executive Director of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. Deborah, thank you for being here and thank you for keeping this story and his legacy in all of our hearts. What did you think when you saw this photo? DEBORAH WATTS, COUSIN OF EMMETT TILL: Well, you know, that is been a
question that is been asked today. And I think it's appropriate, but I'll tell you that, you know, I think about those young men standing in front of the sign with guns. It is a spot that is a solemn place for us. And I just, you know, I am not surprised, but just deeply disappointed and saddened that they would take a place that -- and Emmett's place in history, which, you know, his death and his mother's grave and brave act to expose his body and the face of hate to this country. This is a place that, you know, started the civil rights movement.
And so for them to stand in front of that sign and with their guns and such a callus manner, it also gives me a pause to reflect that, you know, Emmett's tortured body and what he had to endure, it doesn't compare to the bullet holes that are in that sign. So I often think about, you know, what happened to Emmett. And I'm hoping that they think and now have a chance to reflect and have a chance to better understand what his place in history is. And that -- those are my thoughts about it. Not disappointed -- I mean, disappointed, but certainly not surprised that it happened.
COATES: So, Deborah, is it possible at this point to get justice? I mean, there was an acquittal from the men who kidnapped and killed him. You have this constant vandalism, this photograph, is it possible to have justice for Emmett? And what would it look like?
WATTS: You know Emmett's case is still an open murder case. It was revisited by the Department of Justice and the FBI in 2018.
[22:55:02] And so there is still a possibility of that there could be charges brought against those that were responsible for his murder. There needs to be accountability. That is what justice looks like for me and I think for many members of my family, as well, and I think the nation. You know, they want accountability. They want the truth. They want those that were a part of it, the perpetrators held accountable and anyone else that was involved.
COATES: I stand with you in that. And I have to tell you we all do collectively. It's just a horrific thing that keeps happening. And thank you for keeping his legacy alive and making sure that that justice continues to be pursued. I really thank you. And I thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.