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Don Lemon Tonight

Steve Bannon Remains Loyal to Donald Trump; Secret Service Under Investigation; DOJ is on Hot Seat; Two GOP Endorsed by Big Bosses; New York State Release Lee Zeldin's Attacker. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 22, 2022 - 22:00   ET




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

Now, I bet many of you held on to maybe a glimmer of hope or maybe a glimmer of disbelief, not because you're naive but because you probably thought, man, there's no way the President of the United States really just did nothing. I mean, maybe he didn't do enough, but nothing? No. That's not possible.

Yet, there was that sneaking suspicion, we'll call it reality, that might indeed be the case. And last night we learned that, sadly, it was indeed the case.

Now, imagine, if you will, a foreign adversary attacked any part of our country, let alone a symbol of our democracy, and imagine there's an attack and the President of the United States, the only person that you can't taunt with the phrase you and what army, stands by and does nothing or stands by and stands back.

I mean, all the way back, back at the White House in the dining room for more than three hours watching it all unfold on TV. No calls to the military that he commands in chief, crickets. You'd probably tell me it's impossible. It would never happen. You'd probably say, look, if that were a show I'd stop watching. They'd jump the shark.

Only it did happen in reality. And we heard how the president ignored desperate pleas from his own aides, his allies inside and outside of the government, even his own family. Don't forget the fake electors plot in trying to weaponize the DOJ all in some attempt to hang onto power.

But imagine just because the attackers were Americans, well, that didn't change the duty of the president. It didn't change the duty of the officers to protect Congress and the capitol, which they did, and the fact that those officers were American didn't protect them against those rioters.

You know, nothing it seems to be a theme, along with inaction because apparently nothing is what the Secret Service turned in when it came to texts. Wait, no, not nothing. The Secret Service under criminal investigation over missing January 6th related texts, they did hand out one.

And the agency now identifying metadata on the phones of 10 individuals showing texts were sent and received around January 6th, but they were not retained. Now, nothing is also what was said to the January 6th committee when they subpoenaed Steve Bannon. Nothing is also what he produced for that subpoena, and what did he think Congress would do about? Well, if past is prologue, maybe from the Mueller years, nothing.

But today, Steve Bannon found out that inaction would not be excused by a D.C. jury. He was found guilty of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House select committee.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I will never back off. I support Trump and the Constitution, and I'm not backing off one inch. If I go to jail, so be it.


COATES: I mean, that actually is a distinct possibility, but what's next? Now that we know what inaction looked like from the Oval Office, what will accountability look like? Is it disqualification from running for office again in a future election or maybe a lost election or maybe a win in that election? A prosecution or a pass.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): We've proven different components of a criminal case against Donald Trump or people around him in every hearing, and I think taken in totality, this represents the greatest effort to overturn the will of the people to conspire against the will of the people and to conspire against American democracy that we've ever had, frankly, since the Civil War. So yes, I think we've proven that. It's up to justice now to make a decision.


COATES: So where do we go from here? Voters, prosecutors, you tell me. I want to bring in John Wood who was a senior investigator for the January 6th committee, and CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig. I'm so glad that both of you are here. I'll note, John, you also were a U.S. attorney and so you are quite familiar of the idea of the legislative side of things and the committee, but also as a prosecutor.


And Elie, we know your conspiracy as well. And I'm just wondering from your perspective, at least until this next round of hearings, you know, which are coming in September, the ball now is in the DOJ's court, and I'm wondering will they do anything? Has the case been made stronger to tip the scale such that they're compelled or are we still on this sort of bureaucratic track of dotting and, crossing at as frankly due process does require?

JOHN WOOD (I), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: Yes, I think the Justice Department is moving very deliberatively.



WOOD: I think it's really incumbent upon the attorney general to make sure that the investigation focuses not just on the people who physically attacked the capitol but also on people in Trump's inner circle, and in order to do that. I think he needs to take needs to take the politics out of it, and the best way to do that is to appoint a special counsel.

COATES: Well, I'll turn to Elie, as well. What do you think, Elie, about this issue? I know both of you in the coordination of the ties, by the way. I don't know if you can see, but I see both of you, what you're doing right now, it's good. Elie, what's your comment?

HONIG: Yes, we did this on purpose, Laura. The appointment of a special counsel is an interesting proposal, you know, it's supposed to be for a situation where there's a potential conflict of interest. The reason we saw Robert Mueller appointed a special counsel is because there was a belief by the FBI at the time, by the attorney general that there could be a conflict of interest because they were appoint -- they were investigating the very president who had appointed them.

Can -- could there be a potential conflict of interest here on the same basis that there could be an investigation of the prior president who would now be running against the current president? Perhaps.

It does strike me as quite a bit late, though, to appoint a special counsel. I mean, ideally, if that was going to happen, it should have happened in March of the 2021 when Merrick Garland took over.

So -- and look, the calendar really does matter here, Laura. I know we've talked about this. I've been critical of DOJ. I acknowledge there's no way we know everything the DOJ is doing. There are not a lot of overt signs. There are signs of a slowly expanding investigation, but we're about to hit the blackout period that we all know as DOJ alums, DOJ will not indict a major political case within 60 or 90 days, different people learn it different ways, of an election.

So, we are almost on that time. So, if they are going to indict Donald Trump, there's no sign that any such indictment is imminent. The earliest that's going to be is 2023. When is this trial going to be, 2024? DOJ is making this unduly difficult on themselves if they ever do get to that point.

COATES: Well, let me ask you on that point, though, I mean, I know we have the unspoken rule of it's the Labor Day-esque period, right, before the November midterm elections. But normally, I mean, the whole basis behind that, gentlemen, is that you're not going to interfere with something that's actually on the ballot. And as much as Donald Trump does have a big shadow over midterm

elections and whether he'll declare for the 2024 re-election bid, does it matter, John, that Trump is not on the ballot in terms of the DOJ having to stop the investigation? We heard Merrick Garland quite clearly and repeating himself to have that sort of crystal-clear moment hash tag few good men about no one being above the law. Does the fact that Trump is not on the ballot, does that mean they can go longer on their investigation without thinking about it?

WOOD: Yes, it's a really interesting question. That policy that the Justice Department has of not wanting to indict somebody right before an election is because they don't want to affect the outcome of an election and not have time for the trial to go forward and be resolved before the election.

Interesting question about what happens here. Normally, if somebody's not a candidate and not on the ballot, then they're fair game. But this is an unusual situation where Trump politically looms so large over the midterm elections and maybe is a matter of discretion, the Justice Department wouldn't want to do something very shortly before the midterm elections.

But I think they're not going to be doing anything before the midterm election involving Trump anyway. I think if they were anywhere close to bringing charges against Donald Trump, we would know something more. We would be hearing about people going into the grand jury. That kind of thing tends to get out. So, I'd be really surprised if they were going to do anything anytime soon.

COATES: One thing that did get out, right, Elie, was the idea that DOJ was looking for more information from the legislative committee. Right? The idea of I need what you have. And for many people they're looking at it and saying, number one, why wouldn't they hand it over, and also, why would DOJ need that?

And of course, one of their responses and you and I have talked about this, is look, I've got to be able to balance what you're saying to one committee versus what you may have said someplace else. I want to know if there actually is a credibility issue there.

When you think about what you're seeing, do you have concerns about the ability of the committee and DOJ to stand in one another's way?

HONIG: I have criticisms both ways here, Laura. I think, first of all, the committee has been very sparing in its sharing of information. They've played very tight fisted here. Look, the committee ought to turn over whatever DOJ needs. Prosecution should take precedence over any congressional investigation, and really, we've not heard the committee articulate a compelling rationale why they won't share.


I suspect it just boils down to the committee feels, hey, we got this evidence. It's ours. We have the spotlight. I think there's a little bit of politics at play here -- shocker -- involving Congress. On the other side, DOJ should be ashamed. (CROSSTALK)

COATES: One second, on that point, Elie.


COATES: John, I mean, let the cat out of the bag, you were working with the legislative committee. Was that the motivation? Was that part of it, the idea of, look, we have the spotlight? Was it really that sort of vain?

WOOD: No, it certainly was not that. The committee is going to end up sharing all of that information with the Justice Department. In fact, I expect that they're going to make all the evidence and the deposition transcripts public. They don't want to do that while their investigation is ongoing, which it is, but their preliminary report at least should come out sometime soon after Labor Day. So, we're just talking about a few weeks that the Justice Department has to wait. So, I really don't think it's a big deal.

COATES: Well, I don't know about that, John.


HONIG: Can I tell you why I have a question about that, though?

COATES: Yes, please. Please, because there's more hearings in September maybe?

HONIG: So first of all -- it's a tribute to the work that John and his committee have done just how much remarkable evidence they've gathered, but the idea that we don't want to share it now, I mean, at the same time the committee is routinely questioning and calling out DOJ, how many times has Adam Kinzinger, Adam Schiff, Jamie Raskin said, DOJ, where are you? DOJ, you need to do your job.

Yet at the same time, the committee is not willing to turn over its evidence, it's giving it sort of piece by piece by piece, so I think there's an inconsistency there.

COATES: I want to talk, inconsistencies, by the way, and I'll let you bot respond to this, remember the outtakes, there were some moments that were played in last night's discussion and the hearing where there was a message that Trump was giving on January 7th. In it you can hear Ivanka talking to her father in the background. You can't see her, but you hear her talking in the background. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But this election is now over. Congress has certified the results. I don't want to say the election is over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election's over. OK?

IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: But Congress has certified -- now Congress is -- TRUMP: Yes.

I. TRUMP: Now Congress is --

TRUMP: I didn't say over. So let me see. Go to the paragraph before. OK. I would like to begin by addressing the heinous attack yesterday -- yesterday is a hard word for me.

I. TRUMP: Just take it out. The heinous attack. Just say attack.

TRUMP: OK. Take the word yesterday out because it doesn't work with -- heinous attack.


COATES: John, why not simply just say the election is over? Does this, you know, forebode something different that between January 7th and the inauguration there was some anticipation of further acts?

WOOD: I mean, Trump still won't acknowledge that he lost the election, and as far as he is concerned, it's still not over. As I think you've reported just, you know, within the past couple of weeks he was reaching out to a state legislative official in Wisconsin to try to change the results of the 2020 election. He just for some reason cannot give up on the idea that he -- that the election is over, and he just keeps pressing this point.

I don't understand it. He had his chance to find evidence. He had his chance to litigate it. He brought 61 cases, and he did not win. Once the Electoral College voted on December 14th, 2020, the election over, that should have been the end of it.

COATES: It should have been. But Elie, we know that it wasn't, of course, and it seems odd that all the things that happened in 2020 that he wants to still relive those moments. Everyone wants to forget that whole year of our lives it seems. But there was a point that the Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman actually brought up today that the committee hasn't used their immunity power to get someone to talk. Is that a thing they should consider, Elie?

HONIG: So that's an interesting strategic decision, Laura, and what that means is if there's somebody who they want to subpoena and then this person says I'm going to take the fifth amendment -- and by the way, we've seen a couple of people take the fifth amendment, John Eastman, the crooked lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, the crooked lawyer, both of whom have been searched by DOJ. The countermove that Congress can --


COATES: Michael Flynn, also. Michael Flynn. Remember that moment?

HONIG: Michael Flynn, exactly. Right, are you OK with the peaceful transition of power? I take the fifth. That was a strange one. The countermove the committee has is, OK, we're going to give you immunity, meaning you can testify here and it won't be used against you.

The catch, however, is generally speaking as a matter of law, if Congress gives someone immunity, let's say John Eastman, that severely limits perhaps outright eliminates DOJ's chance to ever prosecute that person.

This comes out of the famous Oliver North case when we were all kids in the '80s. So, there is some risk. There's some upside to get the testimony. The risk is they could be giving the person a free pass.

COATES: I was the youngest of all the kids in the '80s of this particular panel, thank you very much.

HONIG: You were.

COATES: So, I just want to put that out there. Don't either of you try to disrupt what I just said about that very notion. Gentlemen, such a pleasure to speak with both of you. I want to hear more.


And again, we were told it was the last hearing last night, but something, all those lawyers were skeptical, really is it the last one? We'll see everyone in September on similar issues as well.

Up next, everyone, missing texts. Agents lawyering up. What exactly is going on inside the Secret Service? I'll talk to someone who knows just what it's like, next.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Because there's a lot of questions and quite a few serious concerns about the information we haven't received from Secret Service.



COATES: Secret Service investigators identified potential missing texts on the phones of 10 personnel, texts that were sent and received around January 6th that ended up lost. It comes as the committee has many questions about the information they have not received from the agency.

Joining me now to discuss, former assistant director of the Secret Service, Gordon Heddell. Gordon, it's nice to see you here this evening.


Now, look, let's be quite frank. We actually don't know what was in these text messages or how substantive they are. It could be something very, very benign, not at all intriguing, let alone sinister. But we know that they were not -- that they were actually sent, but they're not being received by the committee. What do you make of the fact that it was up to individual agents to

save these records, upload them in some fashion? Why was the onus on them to do that as opposed to an agency wide mandate that somebody else controlled?

GORDON HEDDELL, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: Laura, first of all, good evening. Glad to be here with you. You know, the Secret Service has found itself in the middle of a quagmire here over these lost text messages. You know, and this terms of how many there are in the first place, we still don't know. Some were deleted. The deletions we don't know whether they were intentional or by accident.

A year after they were requested by the inspector general and Congress, we think many of them are still not delivered. So, all of this has created doubt and suspicion in the Secret Service. And -- but it brings politics into this, Laura, and I'll get to your point about the individual agents here, but I believe things began to turn negative for the service even before the text messages when the former president brought a Secret Service special agent, one of the executives into the White House to serve as deputy chief of staff for operations.


COATES: You mean Mr. Ornato we've heard about?

HEDDELL: Yes, that's who I'm talking about. The Secret Service traditionally has tried its best to avoid -- to avoid embroilment into politics. A mistake by the Secret Service director perhaps by not preventing such a move, but we don't know what the Secret Service did or tried to do here.

I'm going to imagine that he must have been against it, but it happened regardless of what he may or may not have done. And it was a mistake, a mistake on the part of the former president because he believed that his personal politics were more important than his personal safety here.

COATES: Well, speaking --

HEDDELL: Never mind the reputation of the Secret Service. And so, we come to this kind to unraveling. On June 1 of 2020, the former president walks from the Oval Office across Lafayette Park to St. John's Church for a photo op. He was greeted by hundreds of demonstrators. They were there to recognize the death of George Floyd.

But allegedly the plan for -- allegedly the plan for the short walk was designed by the president's relatively new deputy chief of staff from the Secret Service. Things got out of hand as the former president delivered a speech, which he urged the governor to list various states to quell violent protests by using the National Guard and to dominate the streets.


COATES: Well, Gordon, before we go into that -- excuse me. HEDDELL: Or he with other one.

COATES: Excuse me, before we go into that, I want to just -- I want to bring us even more current than that notion.


COATES: Because one of the things I think is on the minds of so many people about the Secret Service, when you think about the idea as you're talking about, the integrity that is essential. I mean, these people are going to put their lives on the line for the president, for the vice president, for the line of succession for so many people, and they accept, as you well know the possibility that they will have to put themselves in between their protected person and danger.

But yesterday, Gordon, we heard this terrifying new sound from Pence's Secret Service detail on the 6th during a near miss with those rioters. I want you to listen to this, and I want to hear your reaction on the other side.


UNKNOWN: We have a clear shot if we move quickly. We got smoke downstairs. Standby. Unknown smoke downstairs by the protesters?

UNKNOWN: Is that route compromised?

UNKNOWN: We have (muted) is secure. However, we will bypass some protesters that are being contained. There is smoke unknown what kind of smoke it is. Copy?

UNKNOWN: Clear, we're coming out now. All right? Make a way.


COATES: Senior Pence staff said they didn't even know how scared these agents really were. I mean, some of them they were actually saying good-bye to family members we were told in the testimony. And I just wonder what your reaction was, the idea that there was such an elevated level of concern and that it was kept secret from the Pence staff. Is this an indication of just how much they were aware that they had to follow and stay the course?

HEDDELL: Laura, I spent 28 years in the Secret Service. I actually was the special agent in charge of the vice-presidential protective division for some time, but let me say something here.


Anyone who says that the Secret Service openly speaks about fear or takes time to reach out -- time to reach out to family during this insurrection, they haven't known many Secret Service agents. Danger and risk come with the territory.

This understanding is engrained into an agent's training, his or her intellectual and cultural makeup and their psyche. The willingness to sacrifice self becomes part of an agent's very existence. I think there's a -- somehow there's a disconnection here because I heard that tape, and -- but it's not consistent with anything that I ever experienced in the Secret Service.

So, I think somehow, we're misinterpreting this. Let's face it, as a practical matter, agents don't have time in this kind of a situation, even if they wanted to. It's not even practical. It doesn't -- it just doesn't happen. So, I kind of -- I'm very skeptical about this.

But let me put it this way. There was a significant breach in the outer perimeter. Hundreds of protesters and assailants were coming into the capitol. Secret Service was aware of this. They understood the danger. They knew that they had to come up with something very quick to get the vice president from his office in the capitol down to a safe pace, and they were --

COATES: Of course.

HEDDELL: That was their focus. Nothing else mattered to them. That was their focus.

COATES: Well, that -- and I'm glad you said that, of course, because that is what one would expect, the singular focus and the protection of those who would be in harm. If you are in a position to do something about it. Which one of the issues people are continuing to raise about what happened in the White House as well?

Gordon, thank you for joining us today. Gordon Heddell, we'll lean on your conspiracy again. Thank you so much.

HEDDELL: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Two rallies, two candidates, one supported by Trump, the other by Pence. The man we were just hearing about in his detail. Is it just a hint of a Republican rivalry that might be ramping up? We'll talk about it next.



COATES: So, there are dueling rallies tonight in Arizona's race for governor. Donald Trump, he's stumping for election denier Kari Lake whose campaign has really been centered around election lies and conspiracy theories, and there's Trump's former Vice President Mike Pence who's on the trail for Karrin Taylor Robson who's trying to appeal to establishment conservatives.

So, who will be the king maker, and who and what does this mean for the future of the GOP?

Joining me now, CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein and CNN political commentator, Scott Jennings. I'm so glad that both of you are here.

We probably should call it a queen maker at that point in time. I'm just saying, that seems like an outdated term. I did see two women. But you know, it's just me, I know that the phrasing is there.

Ron, let me ask you about it first, there's no question about it, this is a bit of a proxy war in Arizona. So, what is this race and this idea, this dueling involvement of Trump and Pence, what does it tell you about the direction of the Republican Party?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think it's revealing in a couple of different ways. Obviously these two candidates, Karrin Taylor Robson and Kari Lake represent different wings of the party, Robson comes out of much more of an establishment background. Pence and the governor, Doug Ducey are signing with her. In that sense it does represent a kind of the crossroads for the party in Arizona.

But I think in another sense you can make too much of that. Because it's not as if Robson is answering Liz Cheney's rather poignant question from the end of the hearing last night in the affirmative.

Robson is not criticizing Donald Trump. She said the 2020 election was not fair, and in that sense, she is kind of mirroring I think what has happened to so many figures in the Republican establishment who have chosen not to confront what Donald Trump is doing.

The most they will do is not echo it, not second it, but they are not calling it out, and as long as that is their posture, I think his power remains formidable in the Republican Party as you will see on other ballot tests --


BROWNSTEIN: -- in Arizona, with candidates like Blake Masters for Senate and Mark Finchem for secretary of state who are flat out election deniers and are favored I think at this point.

COATES: You know, it's interesting to think about the idea, it's almost like the idea I remember when obviously then candidate Joe Biden said he was fighting for the soul of the nation. Now you've got this idea, the identity crisis that both parties seem to be undergoing and in the midst of at different times over the last several years. And now you've got this idea of who will the Republican Party be? Who is it, and who will lead it and what are the philosophies?

Scott, you know the Republican Party very well. Speaking of what Ron was talking about, Pence is actually still praising Trump as recently as just last month, he said that Trump, quote, "invigorated our movement," even though we know that Trump, well, he didn't do much to save the life or protect the life of Vice President pence on January 6th.

I'm wondering from your perspective, why isn't Pence condemning him? I mean, in a world where politics means you've got to get an edge over someone else and put some distance there, why not, why not condemn in a way maybe even to curry more favor? Is it because it won't be that effect?

[22:34:53] SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, if you're Mike Pence, you have two things you've got to deal with. Number one, you were Donald Trump's vice president for four years, and you certainly want to take credit of all of the good things that you think happened during that period.

And at the same time, it's quite public and quite known that Mike Pence broke with Donald Trump on January 6th and has been very clear about why he did that in speeches since.

Now, I don't think he needs to dwell on it necessarily. I think he's been very clear when he's been asked about it. And there's no mistaking where Mike Pence versus Donald Trump as it relates to January 6th. But it would be asinine for, you know, Mike Pence or Robson or anyone else to go out and sort of run in a Republican primary as a Democrat. I mean, that -- that would not be a winning strategy.

And let me just say, there are going to be a lot of Republicans who voted for Donald Trump twice, maybe they gave him money, maybe they knocked on doors, who gave Donald Trump their best effort, but they don't want to lose to Joe Biden or any other Democrat in 2024. And I think that's ultimately the lane Mike Pence is in.

I did everything I could for this guy, but I don't want to risk losing again the way he lost before. That's a reasonable position to take, but it doesn't require you to essentially turn in your Republican card to do it.

COATES: Ron, what is your -- what do you make of that?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, to say -- to say that you are turning in your Republican card or running as a Democrat, if you say that the evidence of the January 6th committee means that Liz Cheney was right when she said that Donald Trump has shown that he should never be afforded the power of the presidency again, if that is your definition of becoming a Democrat is acknowledging, you know, kind of what is playing on your face from this, from the evidence the committee has put together, that in a nutshell explains why Trump maintains so much power in the party.

One of the reasons is that no other -- hardly any other elected officials will call out what he did as wrong, and that has allowed him to maintain the support of three-quarters of Republicans. You know, the elected officials will say we can't do this because the base, you know, isn't critical of Trump.

In fact, one of the reasons they're not critical is because they are not hearing any criticism, very different from what happened in Watergate when Richard Nixon's approval rating fell 40 points among Republicans from his re-election until his resignation, in large part because other Republicans acknowledged the significance of what was being unearthed. They're not doing that now, and in a way, they're condemning themselves --


BROWNSTEIN: -- to further -- furthering his influence and living under his thumb in the party.

JENNINGS: Let me address this.

COATES: Scott, you're agreeing with him everything he said, right, Scott? You agree with every single thing, I can see it in your face.

JENNINGS: Ron Brownstein is a great journalist and a terrible political strategist. You can't run -- you can't run in a Republican primary and denounce every single thing that happened because Donald Trump was the president. Because most Republicans believe, most Republicans believe that it was a good thing that he defeated Hillary Clinton, that it was a good thing that he did the Supreme Court, that it was a good thing that he cut taxes, like most Republicans including Mike Pence believe that a number of good things happened. You can't go out and renounce your entire party. So even if --


BROWNSTEIN: But who's asking anyone to do that?

JENNINGS: Even if you disagree with him on this issue, you can't go out and renounce your entire party. You can do what Mike Pence is doing which is to say we're not going to see eye to eye on this issue. It was wrong what he did. I did what was right and that's where we diverge, that's a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

COATES: But Scott, excuse me --


JENNINGS: But if you want to -- no, no, no, let me say --

COATES: Excuse me. One thing --

JENNINGS: -- one more thing. One more thing. You can't --


COATES: I want you to finish your statement, but I want to be clear, I thought he was asking you the question, though, of why is it that if you are going to say that the election lies are lies, why is that a renunciation of the Republican Party? That was his point.

JENNINGS: No, what Ron is proposing, as I understand it, is that you go out and center, center your entire Republican primary campaign --


JENNINGS: -- as a crusade against Donald Trump, and that is asinine strategy.

BROWNSTEIN: No. I'm not saying that --

JENNINGS: It sounds great on TV, but that's not a legitimate political strategy. BROWNSTEIN: No. Look, I agree. I mean, I'm not saying that, and

there's no need to renounce anything on policy that you want to support. The question is if no Republican elected official will say what Liz Cheney said last night, which is that the evidence regardless of what you think about the policies, the evidence is that this person should not be trusted with the power of the presidency because he represents a threat to American democracy.

If no Republican elected official will say that, and if, in fact, they go the opposite way and say, yes, we'd vote for him again if he was the nominee, even after everything they have learned, that ensures there is no challenge to his --


JENNINGS: Yes, OK. Great --

COATES: I got to wrap, gentlemen.

JENNINGS: I understand your point --

COATES: I want to hear you both, I have to go -- I have to go. I want to hear both of you, but let me just say this, Ron, I do think you're a great journalist, and I think you're a nice strategist, and I'm very sorry that my other guest tried to insult you and that I had to keep going.

I'm just kidding. Gentlemen, we're not going to resolve this today, but you know what? Guess what tomorrow is another day. Hash tag, Scarlet O'Hara.


COATES: We'll be right back.

A sitting congressman -- a sitting congressman was attacked at a rally. But the suspect who attacked that sitting member was released just hours later without bail. We'll discuss why next.



UNKNOWN: You're done, you're done.



COATES: Congressman Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for New York governor narrowly escaping harm just last night after being attacked during a campaign event. Zeldin was delivering a speech when a man attempted to come on stage and stab him.


REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): And there's only -- there's only one option.

UNKNOWN: What is he doing?

UNKNOWN: You're done, you're done. You're done.


UNKNOWN: You got it?

UNKNOWN: Get the knife!


COATES: And despite someone saying the attacker had a gun, a gun was actually not used in this incident. It says he was taken into custody, but he was released just a few hours later in accordance with New York's bail laws which were just revised in 2019.


Now Republicans have been criticizing legislation like that, and now Congressman Zeldin is ramping up his calls to change the laws following this attack.

I want to bring in the brilliant CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson. Joey, I'm so glad you're here.

Help us understand here. Why would this person be released after trying to attack him? And it was a nonviolent felony they say, but it seems violent to me. What's the difference?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Indeed. Good to be with you, Laura. So, what happens is as you noted a few years ago, New York state really tried to get it right. There was a real feeling amongst progressives that we were having a punitive system. That is that people at the bail level, right, you're accused of a crime, you're not being convicted, but you're simply accused.

You have, as you know as a former prosecutor, an arraignment. At that point a judge has to make a determination as to whether to set bail. Well, bail was being set, but it was disproportionately impacting people of color and people who could not afford to pay.

As a result of that, people were remaining in jail for excessive periods of time because they could not make the cash bail. And so, they designed a system in the New York state legislature with respect to allowing those for misdemeanor offenses, those that are punishable by less than a year in jail and for nonviolence felonies not to get bail.

It was felt, Laura, that that would really straighten out the system and not disproportionately impact others. And so, in this specific instance, I should note -- we don't have time to talk tonight -- but I should note that it's been amended in two other times, one to try to get more, right, crimes that would be, potential crimes that would be added to the law and another for judges to consider other measures. But at the same time, they're still tinkering -- that is the

legislature -- to try to do it. It eliminates at the end of the day judicial discretion to try to make it fair. But what you end up with is incidents like this where a person clearly engages in some kind of attack, you see it as violent, I see it as violent, the law, because it's an attempted does not see it as violent and therefore the person has to be released. And so, that is in large measure what happened here. Many would say that didn't make sense.

COATES: I remember when the law was talked about, because I think about the young boy, Kalief Browder and I think about the accusation --


COATES: -- he'd stolen a backpack and having to pay for the presumption of innocence and the tragedy that fell upon him and his family based on not being able to make that bail, and it's heart wrenching.

But as you know, this was not the type of incident that was contemplated about this. But what is being contemplated, Joey, is there is a lot of rise in politically motivated violence in activity. Where you have got a disagreement, you've got the insurrection, you've got the attempt to assassinate the Supreme Court justice. You've got the attacks on a Michigan governor.

Are you concerned that when you see things like this and see the idea of him being released, it might embolden others to think, you know, no accountability? I got away with it. I'll wait for a trial, but I can do something in the meanwhile?

JACKSON: So that's a great question, and that's the very issue. You need a system that's designed to make a system that's fair, that's just, that does not disproportionately impact people and leave them in jail, mostly people of color who cannot afford to make bail.

You don't want to have knee jerk reactions by saying, hey, wait a second, in this instance that we're looking at there on video, he should be in jail. There should have been bail. Therefore, let's reform the system again.

But I think you need some measure of judicial discretion. You need judges to evaluate and not the legislature just to make cookie cutter. You know, I know, that every case has its own nuanced facts, its own issues, and judges have to make determinations predicated on those facts to make good decisions.

Otherwise to your point, it emboldens other people. You're not going to set bail, OK, I'll do whatever I need to do, and some people will go overboard. So, I think they'll look at it again, Laura, the system. I think there will be further amendments to the system. You need a system that makes sense for everyone, but does not punish people of color and others who don't have the means.

You mentioned Kalief Browder, a horrible case, right? It should not have happened. He was in, you know, obviously he died in jail, but the bottom line is that I think the system will be reformed to make it more appropriate and to make it make more sense.

COATES: Yes, I mean he died when he was released after -- I mean, several times I just, I'll never forget that story, and I'll never forget that young man, a little boy frankly in my mind in who he is, but thank you. The idea of having, again, we talk about it, Joey, it's a -- it's a legal system aspiring to be a justice system. We're not yet there. Thank you. Nice talking to you, my friend.

JACKSON: Always. Thanks, Laura.

COATES: Ahead, a documentary maker who testified in front of the January 6th committee tells us what he thinks of the latest hearing. Stay with us.



COATES: This Sunday night a new CNN Special Report, deep in the pockets of Texas, looks how the state is in the forefront of passing hard right conservative laws. But because Texas has no limitations on individual campaign contributions, billionaires have an outsized influence on legislation. Here is a preview.


UNKNOWN: Wealthy people spend a lot of money to get policy made the way they want it and they get it.

UNKNOWN: Now to sign the law.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The average voter doesn't know what is happening behind the scenes.

UNKNOWN: A Texas bill targeting LGBTQ plus children.

UNKNOWN: They want to keep it secret.

UNKNOWN: The Texas law banning abortions.

UNKNOWN: They really believe they have been given a mandate by God.

UNKNOWN: He has set us free from the law.


UNKNOWN: They want to destroy the public school system.

UNKNOWN: We're not continuing against flesh and blood.

UNKNOWN: The money is all tied back to the same people.

UNKNOWN: Follow the money.

UNKNOWN: I am not comfortable with the transgenders.

LAVANDERA: More than 90 percent of your financing came from billionaires.

UNKNOWN: I think he would have any comment.

LAVANDERA: We're going to go inside and see if he'll talk to us.

Is it about control?

UNKNOWN: Senator Ted Cruz.

LAVANDERA: And power?

UNKNOWN: It is a Russian style oligarch, pure and simple.


COATES: CNN Special Report. Deep in the Pockets of Texas airs Sunday night at 8 Eastern.

Stay with us. We got the documentary film maker who trailed the Trump family throughout the 2020 campaign. What does he think of the January 6th committee's assessment of what Trump was doing during the attack on the capitol? I'll ask him after this.