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Don Lemon Tonight
Justice Served To Ahmaud Arbery; Arbery's Family Grateful To The Jury; Justice Comes In Different Forms; Former POTUS' Legal Team Set To Have Oral Arguments; Health Experts Warn Of Gatherings. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 24, 2021 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST (on camera): Thank you for watching. Have a great Thanksgiving. DON LEMON TONIGHT begins right now with Laura Coates sitting in. Laura, today's news, all of these headlines, right in your wheel house.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: And right in yours as well, I mean, I was listening to you on SiriusXM pod just a couple of hours ago, and here you are again. My goodness, you work hard.
COATES: Nice seeing you.
SMERCONISH: Unfortunately, unfortunately, that was the rewind. I hope the things that I said this morning stood up after the verdict came in.
COATES: Do you want them to have stood up, because I'll tell you they did. Yes, of course, they did. Of course, they did. You're Smerconish, of course they did.
SMERCONISH: You're nice, thank you.
COATES: Take care, happy Thanksgiving.
SMERCONISH: You too. Thanks, Laura.
COATES: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates in for Don.
Our breaking news tonight, three white men found guilty of killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, a man who was chased down and shot to death for running in a Georgia neighborhood.
The verdicts come in spite of the racist dog whistles. One defense attorney disparaging Ahmaud Arbery's appearance after another infamously said he wanted more, this is his words, more bubbas on the jury. No Black pastors in the courtroom, and compared a prayer rally in support of the victim's family to a lynching. President Biden today saying nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his
family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.
Let's get straight to CNN's Martin Savidge at the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, JUDGE, SUPERIOR COURT EASTERN JUDICIAL CIRCUIT: Count one, malice murder, we the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty.
WALMSLEY: I'm going to ask that whoever just made an outburst be removed from the court, please.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Loved ones for Ahmaud Arbery overcome with emotion this afternoon as all three defendants were found guilty of a murder, by a jury of nine white women, two white men, and one Black man. Judge Timothy Walmsley read through all nine counts for each defendant.
SAVIDGE: Travis McMichael the man who shot and killed Arbery claiming it was self-defense was found guilty on all nine counts. His father, Gregory McMichael was found not guilty on one charge but guilty on the other eight.
SAVIDGE: William Roddie Bryan, Jr., the man who took the video of the shooting was found guilty on six counts.
SAVIDGE: People outside the courthouse rejoiced.
LINDA GAMBLE, ARBERY FAMILY FRIEND: Today, justice was served.
SAVIDGE: Did you ever doubt this day might come?
GAMBLE: I did not. I felt good.
LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: The jury system works in this country and when you present the truth to people, --
UNKNOWN: Come on --
DUNIKOSKI: -- and they can see it, --
DUNIKOSKI: -- they will do the right thing, and that's what this jury did today in getting justice for Ahmaud Arbery.
SAVIDGE: The jury deliberated for over 11 hours after 13 days of testimony from more than 30 witnesses. The three defendants claim they were trying to make a citizen's arrest of Arbery, saying that they suspected he had burglarized to nearby home construction site, referring to the video of Arbery wandering inside that home months before being killed.
After the verdicts were read, Arbery's family spoke outside the courthouse.
WANDA COOPER JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: It's been a long fight. It's been a hard fight. But God is good.
MARCUS ARBERY SR., AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: I don't want to see no daddy watch his kid get lynched and shot down like that. So, it's all our problem. It's all our problem, so hey, let's keep fighting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): And Martin Savidge joins me now. Martin, what a day. When the jurors as you know began the day by asking to replay the video of his killing several times. How significant is that?
SAVIDGE: Yes, looking back at that, Laura, I think that was a pivotal moment in the whole decision making for this jury. They wanted to look at the video. They came back in the courtroom to do that. They watched that video six times in a row. Time and time and time again.
They also listened to the Greg McMichael 911 call from the very same scene. So, it appears that before the jury looked at that video, there may have been some division amongst them, but after they saw, they clearly had come to a conclusion. And that conclusion was guilty for all three defendants. A remarkable day just as you say, Laura.
COATES: It really is. Martin, thank you for your reporting. It's been phenomenal throughout. I appreciate it.
SAVIDGE: Thank you.
COATES: Today, 12 human beings saw the truth. A human being was hunted down and murdered by three strangers who felt entitled. Entitled to enforce the law without having the authority to do so, entitled to demand that a human being submit to their commands.
Entitled to kill a human being because he had the audacity to exist and the nerve, the nerve to try to run away from their threats. We often speak about the denial of a benefit of the doubt in this country. but this was a person denied the benefit of humanity.
But you know what, humanity made an appearance today in the form of 12 jurors who saw the truth. You know, much was made about the racial composition of that jury, which saw the dismissal of all but one Black juror in a jurisdiction that is 27 percent Black. And the nation was waiting with baited breath to see whether it would impact the outcome.
The prosecution, they were criticized in spite of their commanding presentation for not emphasizing race even more. And the defense, well, they complained about the presence of Black pastors in the courtroom.
They compared support for the victim's family to some modern lynching, and they even traded a dog whistle for a bull horn to appeal for more bubbas on the jury that would somehow look at a murder victim's hygiene as some excuse for murder.
And yet, in the end, it came down to 12 human beings who convicted three strangers who chose to disregard the sanctity of human life, chose to trap him, and tried then to blame Ahmaud Arbery for their choice.
This was the correct verdict. And they could very well spend the rest of their lives in prison for what they did. I can't but help think about a mother, a father who sat in the courtroom, feet from her son's killer, knowing that he would never come home. And today we have to recognize the inhumanity in that. But something did come home today to America, justice.
Now, I want to bring in Ben Crump, attorney for Ahmaud Arbery's family, and Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud's father.
Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to speak with me tonight.
The entire nation was watching this. The world really as you well know, not only what happened to your son, sir, but also this verdict. You know, I'm wondering from your perspective, sir, what does it feel like tonight to know that your son's killers have been found guilty?
M. ARBERY: Feel really good. It's just -- it won't bring Ahmaud back, but we do know those guys held accountable for the lynching they done to him. So that's what my family, we are grateful for.
COATES: You know, there was a moment when the very first of the verdicts was read for Travis McMichael, and you really exclaimed in the courtroom, you shouted, and what was that? I want to play for people what that was like because we were all waiting and watching with you, and I think a semblance of the same emotion. Let's play that for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALMSLEY: We the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty.
M. ARBERY: Whoa!
WALMSLEY: I'm going to ask that whoever just made an outburst be removed from the court, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): Now, sir, after that, and I certainly understand why -- I can't say I can understand fully the depth of what you must be feeling but take us back to that moment, and what that felt like.
M. ARBERY: It's been a long time coming, you know. When you sit and watch these three men that lynched your child and murdered your child wrongfully on account of the color of his skin, it just was the time of my life, it didn't matter what they did to me in that courtroom at that time, all I was just grateful for is a guilty verdict.
When they found he is guilty when I know he was the trigger man, that's what mattered to me. Because I know the rest -- there were two offenders because he's the one that did the shooting. The other two played a part in my son losing his life too, because they were accomplices of the crime together.
COATES: And you were taken out of the courtroom at that point in time, right? Were you able at that point to hear what happened with the rest of the defendants, how did somebody let you know what happened?
M. ARBERY: The guy kept telling me what was going on --
M. ARBERY: -- or reading out the verdict to the other two guys (Inaudible) give a verdict. So, at the time when they got the -- when they got the head gunman who did all the shooting, I already know everything else is going to fall in place, because those guys play a great part in my son losing his life too.
COATES: I want to bring you in, Ben, to this, because we have been watching you beside the family in support of the community and what has been going on in Brunswick, Georgia. And you and I have spoken about so many instances like this, and this one really, for so many people, is just so striking.
And Ahmaud Arbery's mother was actually on CNN not long after the guilty verdicts came in. Let's listen in. I want to hear your response after we hear from Mrs. Wanda Cooper Jones. One moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: It means a lot. It means that my prayers have been answered. Early back -- back early in the case, back in 2020, the 74 days without an arrest, and we finally were able to go through a lengthy trial and get justice for Ahmaud. The day was a very good day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: I mean, Ben, what an important point, 74 days or more without an arrest. It didn't come right away. You had two district attorneys who recused themselves, you have one who's now has been indicted for conduct related to obstruction, and then it was only after the video surfaced that the arrest even came in. I mean, she never gave up. And I know you did not in your pursuit as well? BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR ARBERY'S FAMILY: Yes, Laura Coates, it
was a historic day, as attorney Merritt, my co-counsel and I often talked. They meant for this to be swept under the rug, and it was the hard work and the prayers and everybody coming together as Marcus Arbery said, to get justice for Ahmaud.
I mean, there was a conspiracy to make sure that the truth was never known at the beginning, and so thank God we had that video so people would have ocular proof of Ahmaud being lynched by this lynch mob, just like his father said, and that jury, Laura Coates, those eleven white members and that one Black member spoke volumes with their verdict today to say, America, we must be better than this in 2021.
COATES: And you know, when you think about what they spoke to in this conviction and of course the racial composition of the jury was widely discussed and people were wondering what it would truly mean, and you had the D.A., Linda Dunikoski, as you know spoke to CNN and she talked about her take down of the idea that this was all self-defense.
I want you to hear what she had to say, because I know that this a point where this trial really came down to, this idea of self-defense, and as you said, the ocular proof that it was not. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNIKOSKI: And I wanted to make sure that the jury understood that the self-defense case was absolute garbage, that was what took place, and I was doing my best in the moment to dismantle, as you said, and I hope to achieve that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Now you've also often played a very complementary role in the symbiotic relationship between civil litigation and criminal prosecution, Ben, what did you think about the prosecution's performance in this trial?
CRUMP: I thought the prosecution did everything that they needed to do to get a conviction. Even if at times people couldn't understand why they didn't push harder, they understood where they were at and what they needed to do.
You yourself Laura Coates, being a great attorney and a former prosecutor, you know, strategy is the key oftentimes to getting success and they understood that historically in South Georgia, racial composition of juries has been an impediment to Black people getting justice.
And so, I think they strategically spent a lot of time trying to say the right words, use the right phrases and presenting the evidence matter of factually to this jury so nobody could dispute what we all saw with our eyes and knew in our heart that they lynched Ahmaud Arbery for jogging while Black.
COATES: Mr. Arbery, how do you feel the prosecution did and handled the prosecution of your son's killers, and every time I say that, I have to tell you, my heart just sinks and I'm very sorry for your loss. How do you feel they handled this trial?
M. ARBERY: They handled it very well. She put all the evidence out for the jury to see it to get this conviction on these three men, so I'm just giving all glory to God, and I thank God for them, and they did an extremely professional good job.
They kept it fair. They gave him a fair trial, because you can't say they had no fair trial. So, that's to me they gave a fair trial. And the prosecutors they put the evidence out there fairly well, laid it out on the table so there's no way in the world the jury could missed the evidence before they give the verdict.
COATES: Si, what you said is so poignant --
CRUMP: And Laura, if I'm --
COATES: -- and the idea of due process and a fair trial. And of course, it's not over with the federal hate crime trial still to come, perhaps. You wanted to conclude, Ben, go ahead.
CRUMP: Yes, I just wanted to say the prosecutors in this case just like Keith Ellison in George Floyd's killer's case did a good job. They had the benefit of video in both cases.
We want to make clear that we don't want this to be a precedent for Black people who were killed unjustly to get access to the courthouse and access to justice that we have to have this high bar of having a video to have visual evidence.
We still want justice for Breonna Taylor, and all the other Black people who have been killed unjustly, and for them to have their day in court, and hopefully this is another step on our mission where we can make equality and justice for all Americans.
COATES: Benjamin Crump, thank you for your time and your advocacy. Sir, Mr. Arbery, thank you so much for continuing to be a champion in a way that all parents hope they can be for their children. I'm sorry for your loss, sir. Thank you.
M. ARBERY: Thank you.
CRUMP: Thank you, Laura Coates.
COATES: All three defendants found guilty of murder today in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Is there a message here about race and justice in America? And if so, what is it?
COATES (on camera): Three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man out jogging. Is this a water shed moment or accountability for one senseless murder?
Joining me now, civil rights attorney Charles F. Coleman, Jr., and former Democratic Senator from Alabama, Doug Jones.
Thank you both for joining me tonight.
It has been quite a day and a verdict that has really -- was just around the nation, around the globe at this point in time.
Charles, let me begin with you here. Because as you know, these three men are now awaiting sentencing for murder tonight, and they could very well be in jail for the rest of their lives. Are you breathing a sigh of relief tonight? What is your reaction to this verdict?
CHARLES F. COLEMAN, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, Laura, I, like many people across the country am breathing a sigh of relief, and I do think that the jury got it right, and I'm glad that they did.
At the same time that I'm doing that, I'm also concerned because I need us to understand that the verdict in this case, what we saw happen in this case, does not necessarily affirm that we are where we need to be.
In fact, I think that it tells us that we have so much further to go. The fact that there were so many of us who held our breaths and waited with great anxiety going into today and going into the verdict was a sign that this was not guaranteed.
We knew that we could not take this verdict for granted and until this becomes the expectation, not the exception, we know that we have a lot more work to do. So, while I absolutely appreciate today's verdict, I think that we have to put it in proper context and understand that there's so much work that needs to be done.
COATES: You know, one of the things that the prosecutor said was the idea of if you tell people the truth, Doug Jones, if you tell people the truth, then they will do the right thing, and there was a lot of talk, as you know, about the racial makeup of this jury, and whether 11 white people and one black person would do the right thing in a case that we saw with our own eyes, frankly what happened.
But it didn't seem to matter in the end, right, these were 12 individuals who were told the truth, that the prosecution's burden of proof being met, and they actually gave a guilty verdict here.
And I know this really reminds you of the church bombing case that you tried. Can you tell me about that and why this has been so impactful for you, and resonates in the way that it does?
FMR. SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): I think, Laura, that the issue that you and Charles just talked about is that there are expectations, and expectations in this country today, and it's a sad state when the expectations are that white jurors cannot give justice and a fair trial to a Black victim.
And that is generally the expectation. It was the expectation in 2000 and 2001 when I tried the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing cases. but you know, throughout this, I felt like that this prosecution, as I watched them, I felt like that they really knew this jury.
They understood this jury, and they knew their community, and they knew this jury, and that's the strategy that you have to go. You have to know that jury and present your case to that jury, not to the public, not to the media, but to those 12 men and women that are sitting in judgment.
I think they did a wonderful job in doing that. It did bring back a lot. I'll tell you. These are cases that are important for the country. They are important for people to see, and at the end of the day, Charles is absolutely right.
This was a great day for justice in America, but we've got a long way to go. We celebrate tonight, but we got to roll up our sleeves tomorrow, and it's not just a criminal justice system, it's really across the United States because the criminal justice system is made up of people.
And until we make sure that people are the ones that are fair and use their judgment to do right, to do justice, like this jury did, that's when we will reach the pinnacle of justice in America. And we've got a long way to go, but this is a big step for sure.
COATES: Due process, plus a fair trial, the idea of having jurors be able to deliberate based on what has been presented to them, Charles. I mean, here's what Lee Merritt, an attorney for Ahmaud Arbery's family said today. I want you to listen and respond at the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRITT: I think what we witnessed was an anomaly. That's the reason that all the media and the people around the world are stopping to pause to say, my God, they got justice in this case.
So, that's not a good sign that people think that in a case as open and obvious, one that was recorded on a bright Sunday day and just last year that it was a big question mark, and there was a strong doubt that we would get justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): I mean, it's no wonder why they thought that justice was in doubt, right, Charles? I mean, two different prosecutors refused to even charge these killers. One happens to now be under indictment for her alleged actions, and this came so close, frankly, to never being heard. Imagine that.
COLEMAN: Absolutely. And I think that what my good friend Lee Merritt said in that clip is correct and more than it is incorrect. When you think about the people who are chanting how the justice system worked and it did what it had to do, you've just identified two different factors in addition to the fact that there was a video, that there's been an inordinate amount of emphasis place upon with respect to how the conviction came about.
You change any one of those factors, and we put the outcome of this trial in serious doubt. That does not necessarily suggest that our system is working the way that it did. Think about how many things had to go right.
You had a prosecutor who wanted to shield, three people who are now convicted murders. You had two months where there was no attempt to even make an arrest. Where it not for the love of a Black mother and a Black father who fought to have the Georgia Bureau of Investigations press forward and get this case moving, we might not be here today.
That to me is not a sign of a case that's working or a system that's working. That is a sign of this being more of an anomaly than not, which is why we all have to continue to press forward.
COATES: Stick around both of you, I want to get your reaction as well, Senator Jones on this very issue, was the system working or did the verdict come in spite of it. We'll talk a little bit more after the break. We'll be right back.
COATES (on camera): Civil rights attorney Charles F. Coleman, Jr., and former Democratic Senator from Alabama, Doug Jones are back with us.
I want to pick up with you, Senator Jones and the big issue, the big elephant in the room, in the court of public opinion and frankly in the courtroom was the issue of race, the motivation for following Ahmaud Arbery, of course there will be a federal hate crimes trial that might actually follow now that there has been a conviction. It was always in the works for that.
You know, I wonder from your perspective, the fact that the prosecution didn't really raise the issue fully until the end, talking about the 911 call, and the response, the emergency was a Black man running. What do you make of that strategy, the prosecution to limit the discussions around race?
JONES: Well, Laura, it was obviously a pretty good strategy because they got a verdict with 11 white people and one African-American on that jury, so I think it was a very good strategy. As I said a moment ago, that prosecution knew their jury.
I heard the prosecutor interviewed earlier, and she said all along that they felt that they had a very strong jury, one that was going to give them a fair shake, and that's what you want as a prosecutor, as a defense attorney.
You want somebody that's going to give you a fair shake, and when you can focus on what appeared to me to be overwhelming evidence, the video, the cross-examination, and inconsistencies of the defendant who took the witness stand, the 911 call. You put all of those pieces of that puzzle together, I think the focus
on the facts and doing their duty and their duty was not involved with race. Their duty was to the Constitution and to their oath as jurors and to follow the law.
And that's what they did. I think it was -- I think that they had a very good strategy, played to the jury that they had because they wanted to make sure that this jury knew the facts of the case and making sure that they could prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt.
COATES: You know, and that issue, of course, interestingly enough on the issue of duty, that was one of the main themes of the defense's case, that there was somehow a duty to pursue Ahmaud Arbery in the way that he did.
Another question for you, sir, if I can, and that is, as you know, the defense attorney who, her name is Laura Hogue, she made the really despicable comment about Ahmaud Arbery's toenails, implying something about his hygiene.
COATES: And she said that she was floored with a capital f at the verdict, that's according to the pool reporter. Another defense attorney said he was glad the jury wanted to look at the video again because he thought it would actually help their case.
It seems like there was a fundamental disconnect about knowing thy jury in this case, even to the extent that at one point they wanted to voir dire more bubbas, so to speak, and wanted people who were not college educated, of miscalculation thinking that if you were somehow not college educated and you were white and referring to some sort of socioeconomic status that you would excuse murder. What was that about?
JONES: Yes, no, that's all about the stereotypes that we were talking about earlier and the fundamental problems that we've got in this society right now, whether it's race or caste or however you look at it.
You know, I took that comment in closing arguments that she made as almost a Hail Mary, you know, sometimes defense lawyers don't play for acquittals, they play for a hung jury because that is a victory for defendants in a case.
And I think that was an emotional plea for one juror to do something that she felt like would be something that that jury could -- juror could hang their hat on.
I thought it was just a horrible tactic, stooping very low, and I think it was -- if they truly thought were floored at this verdict, then they were more than miscalculating.
There was almost malpractice in the way they handled the case. If they were that floored about a verdict in this case with the way the everyday came out and the testimony and the pieces of the puzzle that that prosecutor put together.
COATES: Charles, I don't want to leave you out here, I want you to listen and respond to what we heard from Robert Rubin today. He is the defense attorney, by the way, for Travis McMichael. He had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT RUBIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: I don't think any single case is a referendum on the criminal justice system in America. This case was about these people at this moment in time. We had good prosecutors, good defense lawyers, and a good judge all working hard to make sure justice occurred in this courtroom.
And whether the verdict had been the way it went or had been the other way, not guilty, justice would have happened in this courtroom, and it doesn't speak about the larger problems in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES (on camera): Is he right? Is there a larger message, Charles?
COLEMAN: I think that he is right. I think that on a lot of ways, this is a conversation that has much, much, much greater implications than what happened in Brunswick, Georgia. I don't necessarily know that I would call it a referendum on the entire criminal justice system but I will say this, Laura.
We have been throwing the term justice around all day, and I find that to be deeply troubling and almost problematic because I want to make something clear, justice is not what we are talking about. We are conflating justice with accountability.
What we saw today in Brunswick, Georgia, was not justice because justice would dictate that Ahmaud Arberying would be with his family for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and that's not going to happen. That ship has sailed a long time ago, unfortunately.
However, what we did see today was that three individuals were held accountable by our criminal justice system, and I think that that's an important first step, but we have to understand that there is a very big difference between the conversation that we need to have about justice and the conversation that we are having about what happened today, which is about accountability.
COATES: Well said. Important point, thank you to both of you for joining me tonight. I wish you both a very happy Thanksgiving with your families. Recognizing the inhumanity --
JONES: Thank you, Laura.
COATES: -- of one person who cannot. Thank you so much.
COLEMAN: Thank you, Laura. JONES: Thank you, Laura.
COATES: The former president's lawyers are trying to stop the release of documents related to January 6th, and you won't believe the argument they're now trying to make in court.
COATES (on camera): New details emerging about the former president's legal strategy as a federal appeals court will hear oral arguments Tuesday on his claims of executive privilege over January 6th documents.
Trump's lawyers writing in a legal brief that, quote, "the appellees clear disdain for President Trump is leading them to a course of action that will result in permanent damage to the institution of the presidency."
Joining me now to discuss, CNN's legal analyst, Elliot Williams. Elliot, nice to see you my friend, tonight. Wow, first of all, a day of extraordinary verdicts, but also, the president of the United States, the former president of the United States and his legal counsel trying to make the argument now and putting aside the irony that Trump is worried about somebody else damaging the institution of the presidency, there is irony in that, is there any merit to his argument?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He's got one point, and I think one quite valid point, which is that, look, Laura, going back decades, there's this question of to what extent can Congress and should Congress investigate a president, what kind of power and reach does Congress have, and do you -- is Congress's power limitless.
Now, the president in his brief, you know, I read through the whole thing, seems to be saying that the entire enterprise of the January 6th commission is itself partisan and political, and therefore it should not go forward.
Now, that argument is nonsense, but underlying it is a point, and you know, how much can Congress investigate a president, and I think that's what the court is going to sort out when they hear this next week.
COATES: It's also going to be about the issue of privilege, which of course is belonged to the executive branch, the president of the United States, it protects the actual institution, not just the incumbent, right, I think his thought, maybe if I'm trying --
COATES: -- to read too much into what they're saying, their thought is also that, look, there are some instances to which we want to honor the assertion of privilege but the person who's in the best position to actually do that is the current president of the United States, don't you think?
WILLIAMS: Right. Exactly, but it's a little complicated. Yes, because the privilege extends to the White House. The occupant, you know, the institution of the White House, not any one person. Now, it gets a little bit complicated because back in the 1970s, there was an open question as to whether Nixon held it or Ford did and so on.
Here because President Trump, as a former president has at least attempted to assert privilege there's a legal question as to whether what, you know, to what extent should a court credit that and consider it.
You know, there's a dispute here between these two, these presidents and also what the president, what former President Trump seems to be saying in his brief is look, Biden and Congress are in cahoots and they're all aligned against me. Therefore, my argument has more merit.
He's got a little bit of a point in that, yes, as a former president he has a say in the matter, but still, it appears that it's ultimately President Biden's call.
COATES: It almost feels like he's calling it a witch hunt by any other name at this point in time. Right? We have heard this before, and you know, a federal appeals court will hear oral arguments next week, and Trump was denied in the earlier ruling, the judge said presidents are not kings, and Trump is not president.
Both valid and true statements. What do you expect this hearing to actually talk about and how do you think it's going to go?
WILLIAMS: That's an excellent question. You know, look, but it's interesting, she didn't say presidents are not kings but she also did say as an aside, Congress's request here is, I think the words were overwhelmingly broad or incredibly broad.
At the end of the day, President Trump just doesn't have particularly great legal standing here, right? Because number one, take this argument to its extreme, that a former president can be protected for the things he does, he'd be providing himself a shield for wrongdoing, he could misbehave.
Future -- if you're talking about protecting the institution of the presidency, let's protect it against presidents misbehaving in office and sort of getting in Congress's way to investigate them. That's the thing we should be looking, you know, when it's a question of the future and what we want as a nation, and so we want, you know, anyway, you got my point.
COATES: No, I get your point, and you're right. You also think about the notion of, hey, the court took this in a timely fashion, but I'm sure that the Trump legal team will try to run out the clock in some way or drag this out as long as possible, including they want the documents requested by the committee to be gone through page by page, -- WILLIAMS: Page by page.
COATES: -- which could actually stretch on for months or years. So, is this plan at this point to try to stretch this out as long as possible?
WILLIAMS: That was the one, and you touched right on it, Laura, that's the one that struck me too, that they want the page-by-page review, saying, well, there's so many different documents in here, therefore the only way to make this work is for the court to go through it page by page.
Of course, that is nothing but a delay strategy, and it sort of highlights the weakness in the argument here. Now, look, it remains to be seen what the appeals court will do, but it's just hard looking at number one. And also most importantly, Congress here is investigating an attack on its own workplace.
There's no more legitimate basis for a congressional investigation. Probably even more so than either of the president's former impeachments, the two of them, but Congress really has a right and a duty and an obligation to investigate and seek documents here, and it just -- you know, a lot of these arguments fall flat, but yes, a lot of it appears to be a pretty clear delay strategy.
COATES: Well, you know, the tactics you resort to, often inform us about the strength of your case. If that's the only thing they have, well, that's not a very strong case.
Elliot Williams, thank you for your time as always. Nice talking to you, and happy Thanksgiving, even though you don't eat turkey, that's fine. Happy Thankfully, nonetheless to you.
WILLIAMS: I don't like turkey. I will eat it. I don't like it.
WILLIAMS: Big, big difference there. Happy Thanksgiving.
COATES: Just what a lawyerly statement to clarify, love it. Thank you so much.
WILLIAMS: Take care, counsel. Ba-bye.
COATES: COVID cases unfortunately are on the rise, though, as millions of Americans are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. So, what can you and your family do to stay safe? We've got our house call, that's next.
COATES (on camera): Millions of Americans are traveling across the country for the first Thanksgiving since COVID vaccines became available. The TSA is expecting around 20 million people that will fly for Thanksgiving.
And it's not just planes. More than 48 million people is expected to be driving for Thanksgiving, and that's sparking some real concerns with coronavirus cases rising steadily across the country.
Joining me now CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Dr. Reiner, always good to have you on to give us the information that we need.
And as you well know, this is the first time that many families are gathering to see each other since this entire pandemic began. But you got community transition -- transmission high. So how can we protect ourselves tomorrow?
JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, hi, Laura. First of all, I would say that it feels good to have Thanksgiving this year. I think the country is filled with a little bit more life this holiday season than last.
And in that spirit, I think if we are going to get together with the people we love, we need to protect them. And that starts with making sure that everyone who is attending dinner and all of the weekend festivities are vaccinated. That's where the protection starts.
And next, there are things that we can do to augment safety such as perhaps asking the guests to do some rapid antigen testing before coming over to the house. In the house you can open up windows in the dining room to increase -- increase ventilation.
So, there's a lot to do to sort of maximize safety. But what I would say is, if everyone is vaccinated, everyone should get together and really be thankful for, you know, where we are and how far we have come.
COATES: And what about if there are unvaccinated family members who want to come or are in the family already. I think to myself, I'm a mother of course and thinking about children --
COATES: -- in particular who may not have either been eligible yet to get their shots or only in the first course of the treatment or the first shot at this point in time, what can we do to protect the families if that's the case as well?
REINER: Well, I think that particularly if there are unvaccinated people such as children there, or folks who are immunosuppressed maybe as a consequence of illness or the treatment of the illness or the chronic medications, we need to protect them.
And again, if there are unvaccinated people who live in the home and are not unvaccinated by choice, then I think that you shouldn't have anyone else from outside of the home unvaccinated come to dinner. I think that's just a huge risk.
[22:54:55] And again, I think that we need to avail ourselves of these really readily available rapid tests which can be obtained at local pharmacies, 15-minute results, tests before you come over, then you know that the people coming to your home are not likely to cause an infection in anyone who is susceptible.
The other way of thinking of this is that when you have older folks in the home, you really want to do everything to protect them, because for, you know, older Americans, they have really the higher risk of having something bad happen to them should they have an infection or break through infection.
So, in the spirit of that, let's do everything we can to protect the people we love.
COATES: Very sound advice. Thank you so much, Dr. Reiner, for joining us today about these very important issues and helping us to better prepare for what's ahead this Thanksgiving, and eventually, holiday season. I appreciate your time always. Thank you.
REINER: My pleasure.
COATES: And I want to thank each of you as well for watching tonight. Coming up, a special edition of "CUOMO PRIME TIME." The Bill Maher interview. Happy Thanksgiving.