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Don Lemon Tonight

FBI Search Of Mar-a-Lago Came After Suspicions Of Withheld Materials; Extremists Posting Violent Rhetoric After FBI Search; Democrat Wins Eclipsed By Trump Investigation Bombshells; WI GOP Primary Candidates For Governor Are Election Deniers; Grand Jury Declines To Indict Woman In Emmett Till Killing. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 09, 2022 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There are new details tonight about why the FBI searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. Authorities telling CNN authorities did not believe that the former president and his aides had returned all the documents and other materials that have been taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office.

I want to bring in CNN Sara Murray, who is covering the story for us, and Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida. Good to see you both. Sara, let's begin with you, because we are learning that this FBI search after suspicions of withheld materials. What else can you tell us?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. I mean, I think part of what made this so perplexing, especially to the people in Donald Trump's orbit, was that, you know, his attorneys were engaging on this issue, this notion that he took documents with him when he left the White House, that the Justice Department want it back.

But what we are learning is that authorities were suspicious that the Trump team was not being entirely truthful with them. They were concerned that the Trump team was holding back documents, that they were not putting forward everything that they had available. And they were also concerned that some of those documents could potentially have national security implications. So that is part of what led to the search.

COATES: You know, Dave, you've been talking to local law enforcement about this all, and I'm wondering what you're learning down there in Florida.

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: You know, Laura, first off, we in the state attorney's office did not know about this search in advance, neither did local law enforcement. But you can understand why, because when you're dealing with something so sensitive, something so unprecedented, you can understand why the feds would keep this close to the vest. And what I was told is that the Secret Service met them there and walked the plain-clothed FBI agents throughout the property where they collected the documents. They collected 10 boxes full of documents. It was pretty smooth. It was a very orderly operation.

So, when Donald Trump calls it a raid or a siege, those are political terms because he wants to be the MAGA candidate for president again in 2024, and the best way to do that is become a MAGA martyr. And he's on his way to doing just that. The question is, for how long?

COATES: The idea of plainclothes officers, Sara, is interesting. The idea of almost being a little bit under the radar. I've always asked the question of -- you know, this happened early in the morning. It took several hours before we were all aware and the nation this happened and only then through the former president.

We're also getting new information, Sara, about investigators going after Mar-a-Lago's surveillance footage. What do you know about that?

MURRAY: Yah, it is hard to know exactly how this fit in to what went on. What we are learning is Justice Department investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization and what they were looking for were surveillance tapes from Mar-a-Lago. We are told that the Trump Organization complied. They handed all those tapes over. And all of this happened before this FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.

What we don't know, of course, is what was on those surveillance tapes. If there was something on that, that perhaps led investigators to be concerned to want to move. We just don't know the answer to that at this point.

COATES: Do we know -- are we talking about external or internal, with inside the private residence? Are we still learning more information about where this footage may have actually covered?

MURRAY: I think we are still learning more information of where this footage would have covered. I mean, obviously, we have now learned that what they were searching was inside, you know, of Mar-a-Lago. They were looking into the former president's office and to some of his personal areas, into a closet at one point, Eric Trump said. But it is unclear what they might have seen on the surveillance tapes or what areas of Mar-a-Lago would have covered.

COATES: Dave, when you hear that, I mean, why do you think the DOJ wants that footage? What could they be looking for? Is it a matter of how easy it is to exit and enter the facility and the buildings, to figure out just how porous this may have been for information to come in and come out?

ARONBERG: Yeah, they are worried that these boxes of documents were so sensitive that they could expose national security secrets. They want to know who's going in and who's going out. And they don't trust the former president with safeguarding it.

In fact, that is why, in my mind, they issued the search warrant as opposed to a subpoena, because in most cases, they would just send a subpoena. But that means, the fact that they didn't do so, that they don't trust Donald Trump to respond to a subpoena honestly, that is a sad indictment of our politics, that a former president cannot be trusted to respond to a lawfully-issued subpoena.

So, they had to go by surprise, they had to go seize the documents themselves, and they had to look at all the footage to see who is going in and who is going out. It is a complete lack of trust between law enforcement and the former president.

COATES: Well, also, it is pretty prudent. If you think that there is something that might be fleeting or that might all of a sudden has legs, you would executed it in this fashion or just not extend the benefit of the doubt if somebody has already taken documents that are sensitive, and I wonder why you will continue to trust on that notion.

But Sara, you have some new reporting as well.


Republican Congressman Scott Perry's cellphone was seized by the FBI. Is this related to what we are talking about in Mar-a-Lago or distinct?

MURRAY: You know, right now, it appears to be distinct with the caveat that we don't know how swelling a number of these investigations are or where they will intersect. So, you know, that is always the caveat.

But, you know, what Scott Perry said in his statement today was that he was traveling with his family. He was confronted by three FBI agents who had a warrant and that they seized his phone.

What we have been learning from a source familiar with the contents of that warrant is that this appears to be related to the Justice Department OIG investigation into Jeffrey Clark. He is a former Justice Department official.

Scott Perry was the one who introduced Jeffrey Clark to Donald Trump, and then Jeffrey Clark went on with Trump to sort of buy in to all these election fraud claims, come up with this, you know, sort of crazy attempt to try to, you know, have a coup at the Justice Department.

So, what the DOJ OIG does, they investigate wrongdoing from former Justice Department or Justice Department officials. Scott Perry is obviously not one of those, but his interaction with Jeffrey Clark might be why this is of interest.

Here is a part of what Scott Perry had to say about this today. He said, I'm outraged -- though not surprised -- that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland's DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting member of Congress. My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government's business. We should note that we are told that his phone was imaged and that it was returned to him. That was pretty clear that investigators were going to have to go to a court and get a second warrant in order to actually be able to look at the contents of the phone, which suggests they are taking precautions to make sure that they are only looking for things relevant to their investigation, not just pouring over the entire contents of Scott Perry's phone.

COATES: I mean, privacy concerns are real thing. I understand your thought about that very notion. Sara, Dave, thank you so much. There certainly a lot going on at DOJ. We are going to continue to follow these stories.

The Mar-a-Lago search part of their investigation to Trump's handling of classified information as well, but the Justice Department is also in the middle of January 6th criminal investigation.

Here to discuss all of this is CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers and contributor Garrett Graff, who is the author of "Watergate: A New History.

Jennifer, let me begin with you because as you can imagine, there has been quite a visceral political reaction to all that we have heard about. I mean, you've got some republicans making out that the search was a raid and it came out of nowhere. But the DOJ had been pushing forward on this investigation for over a year. I mean, there were meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Trump lawyers. Is this just push finally coming to shove?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, we don't know, of course, exactly what the search warrant will uncover, and we don't know whether it had just to do with these classified documents or, as you said, the broader January 6th investigation. It seems to me it's probably the former. I just don't think they're quite there yet on the January 6th investigation in terms of search warrants into the former president.

But, you know, the thing that I've learned doing espionage cases is that if there are classified documents out there that are not in the proper place, not being protected, not in the possession of someone who is supposed to have them, the government is very, very serious in intent on getting them back, and that is their top priority.

So, if it came to the government's attention through whatever source, that the 15 boxes they retrieved in January was not the end of the story and there were more materials that needed to be retrieved, that would've been very important to them.

And if they decided that Trump and his folks were not being forthcoming with them, were not handing over these documents, there was this whole run around with respect to the meeting with the government, they would have taken an action and got in the search warrant.

So, of course, we are just speculating, but my best guess is that some of that is what happened and led to the search we saw at Mar-a-Lago. COATES: That is really important, Jennifer, because I think sometimes people think that the only result of the actions of the FBI in trying to seize or get back property is that it has to be a conviction or an indictment.

Sometimes, the goal is to actually get back what they believe need to be properly secured. Whether that will satisfy the public and the electorate who might have an appetite for prosecution, a very different story.

Garrett, to that point, I mean, you said the fact that this search in Mar-a-Lago was deemed necessary says a lot about the DOJ's case. Tell me about why.

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, AUTHOR: I think one of the things that we need to be starting to think about and focus on is why Donald Trump took these specific documents, and the ad -- the clearly adversarial nature of these conversations between the government and Trump and his lawyers and his staff at Mar-a-Lago.

There is currently something in these documents that Donald Trump thinks he needs to keep hold of, that the government thinks is a big national security secret.


It is hard to imagine the Justice Department and Merrick Garland taking an unprecedented step like this over sort of routinely classified documents. You know, as you and Jennifer know, the government classifies all manner of documents at all levels, you know, much of which is not actually all that sensitive.

This does not seem to be the case. This seems to be a set of documents that the government actually cares a great deal about. We have heard in early reporting this year that some of them were labeled top secret level. Some appear to be sensitive compartmentalized information, sort of even higher than top secret, more sensitive than top secret.

And that -- so I think part of what I imagine the DOJ is thinking about is, who stood to benefit from Donald Trump taking these documents, why did he want them, and why won't he give them back to the U.S. government.

COATES: That is the real question here. Jennifer, many people who first heard the story yesterday thought, no, no, we've already gotten the story about the 15 boxes and the National Archives. We can't still be talking about that, right? But in reality, we're talking about more and the idea of being entitled to the thought to keep them.

Just so we are clear, Jennifer, if he were still the president of the United States, he would be able to declassify something at his whim. Whether that is prudent or not, a different caution. But that is not grandfathered over once you are the former president of the United States, right? What you've got when you were the president doesn't become yours forever to classify and declassify at your whim, right? RODGERS: That is correct. So, as soon as he was out of office on January 20th, his ability to declassify ended. And, you know, for example, there were some suggestions by, I think, Kash Patel that he may have verbally declassified the documents that he took with him.

But there is more to declassifying than just saying, I hereby declassify. You actually have to change the markings on the documents. There's kind of paperwork or things that have to be done to ensure that the documents that you've declassified are now marked accordingly as unclassified documents.

And so, the government will be able to tell, as they reviewed these documents, whether or not they have been properly declassified just by looking at them, honestly. So, they will know whether or not he did that and whether they are dealing with truly classified information that was being mishandled or whether he actually did declassify some things before he headed out the door.

COATES: I can't help but think about that episode in the office when Michael Scott just declares bankruptcy by shouting out, bankruptcy, as if that is how it is done. So, that would be an odd thing to have happened at the presidential level if they can't corroborate that in some way.

Finally, Garrett, my last question to you on this, I mean, I just wonder, we think about the politics of this. The idea of the combination of additional criminal probes that are happening, the January 6 Committee, everything that's going on. I mean, you've written the book in part about Watergate and the politics surrounding it. When you look at this, what is the political implications and legacy of what we are seeing right now?

GRAFF: Well, I think there are two different ways of looking at it. I mean, one is is this was one of the most sensitive actions that the U.S. Justice Department has ever taken.

I mean, there are really only three analogues that come to mind in my memory of the modern government and Justice Department: The Watergate special prosecution has forced subpoena of Richard Nixon's White House tapes, the FBI's attempt to get a DNA sample from President Clinton amid Ken Starr's investigation of Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and the FBI raid and investigation of Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, while Donald Trump was actually in office.

This is one of the most sensitive things that the Justice Department has ever done.

The political implications, I think, are too soon to tell because we don't know where we are in the Donald Trump story, what other shoes may drop. Jennifer mentioned the chances that there are other subpoenas or search warrants to come.

You know, it is a remarkable statement about this moment in history that when word leaked last night about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, there were a half dozen possible cases turning their way through the federal government that it might have been related to, and it took several hours for us to even begin to imagine which specific case investigating Donald Trump this was related to.

COATES: And of course, remember, all we know is not from the DOJ or the FBI explaining that and being specific.


It's all coming from the person who has a copy of the search warrant and does not release it. Of course, Donald Trump.

Thank you, Jennifer and Garrett. Nice talking to both of you.

RODGERS: Thanks.

COATES: Speaking of the political fallout, they are calling for the attorney general to be assassinated. They are calling to kill all feds. And that is just some of the violent rhetoric from extremists on pro-Trump internet. Stay with us. I will tell you more.


COATES: Quote -- "lock and load" -- unquote. That was a top comment on an online forum dedicated to former President Donald Trump soon after he confirmed that his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort had been searched by the FBI.


CNN finding other violent posts from Trump supporters online. Many of them, very explicit like this one. Quote -- "I'm just going to say it. Attorney General Merrick Garland needs to be assassinated. Simple as that" -- unquote. Another user posted -- quote -- "kill all feds" -- unquote.

Let's talk about it now with Robert Pape, professor of political science at the University of Chicago. Also here is CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official. I'm glad to have both of you here.

I mean, it's not lost on me that a few weeks ago, maybe a little bit more than a month ago, you had the DHS bulletin coming out talking about the uptick of disturbing and increasingly violent rhetoric around political grievances, in particular. And Juliette, tonight, these are some extremely disturbing posts, and I wonder what your first concern is when you see language like this.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, it's obviously the base -- the violent base is agitated, radicalized, even more noisy. They're on everything from true social to Twitter in more public forums, threatening violence against public officials, threatening the generic civil war. That is what they've sort of focused on, language of civil war and what they call kinetic civil war.

So, these big threats obviously elevate the likelihood that one of those individuals would actually follow through with it. And that is, I think, the challenge right now, that the raid -- I'm sorry -- that what happened at Mar-a-Lago, whatever it is, because we don't know what it was, triggered this action, and Trump is certainly, as he has for the last six years, going to take advantage of it.

Because essentially, that is a lot of what he has now as his base is the violence or the threat of violence, as he is seeing the party through polling not necessarily move away from him but there are strong sentiments to not have him be the nominee in two years. There is this union and disaffection within the radical groups that support him.

These are the metrics that he judges success. So, noise, as it has been for the last six years, is how he judges power, and violence is his tool.

COATES: And speaking of those metrics, I mean, and of course civil war, Robert, I mean, according to CNN review of a service that tracks Twitter activity, there was actually a surge in tweets Monday mentioning civil war. And I just wonder what you make of that uptake in language. I know said the word - phrase of a kinetic civil war. What are you seeing?

ROBERT PAPE, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: So, Juliette is exactly right about need to be concerned. So, what we did at the (INAUDIBLE) is we did some analytics on Twitter feeds, looking at the phrase "civil war," going back about a week so that we could see the period before the raid and then after.

And what you see is that that phrase, "civil war," shows up in tweets about 500 times an hour. And it's just happening every hour for about six, seven days in a row. And, then at 7:00 p.m. last night, as soon as the news came out, it starts to spike.

And not just a little bit. Within three hours, it went from 500 an hour to 16,000 an hour. That was a 3,000 increase in potentially community support, online community support to be sure, for supporting and encouraging violence that could be turned into civil war.

And we know from studying political violence from around the world that these levels of change in community support can encourage, as Juliette said, the lone wolf. They can encourage individuals. Think the Buffalo shooter. This is not happening in a vacuum. This is happening when community support grows. And so, we do need to be concerned about that rise.

COATES: And Juliette, that is a stunning figure that you had just given, Robert, but it is also more particularized as well. I mean, CNN found that users were also encouraging others to post the address of the judge they believe signed off on the search warrant. And a comment under one picture of the judge read -- quote -- "I see a rope around his neck."

This is coming off of the heels. We've had Justice Brett Kavanaugh's life threatened. Somebody arrested there. You've got legislation pending by a New Jersey judge whose son lost his life when somebody tried to attack and assault her, also shooting her husband. And this is extraordinarily dangerous. [23:25:00]

KAYYEM: Yes. The attacks on public figures and judges as well. I happened to be married to one. It is serious and real right now. It requires vigilance by a whole apparatus of state and federal law enforcement to protect people who are just doing their duty. I don't even know, you know, is the judge a Trump-appointee or not? It's sort of irrelevant.

I think what is important for people to remember is that this -- we are not powerless in this. In other words, if we focus on the anger and the hatred that Trump has directed over the years, that core group is never going to be changed.

And so, the measure of success from a counterterrorism or counterradicalism standard, which is how I look at what's going on, is going to be, are there fewer people that angry? In other words, can we begin to minimize the ideology? Ideologies do not die in a fell swoop (ph). I know everyone wants -- everyone on Twitter, the liberals on Twitter want him in jail. They want some decisive action. That's not how to think about this.

This this is a long-term struggle against a dark, violent movement that has gotten a stronghold within our politics and the GOP. I don't know how this end, but I know how to measure success, and that is whether these groups continue to grow.

And the metrics right now are, they are not growing. They are finding it hard to recruit. They are finding it hard to raise money. Their leader is de-platformed, Trump. He is isolated. He cannot fill a room. I mean, look at these rallies.

So, the irony is he can either be the nominee for president of the United States or he could be in jail or alone at Mar-a-Lago. That is what this fight looks like. This is exactly how violent ideologies get weaker. They don't end. They lose.

COATES: Sadly, it can only -- sometimes, it only takes one person to act in a way that can devastate so many. Juliette, Robert, thank you so much.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

PAPE: Thank you.

COATES: A big day for the Biden administration. Legislative wins. I mean, international policy wins. With all the Trump discussion and drama, how exactly does Biden break through?



COATES: A historic day for the Biden administration. The president signing the CHIPS and Science Act into law. Signing documents ratifying the entry of Finland and Sweden into the NATO alliance. And it all comes on the heels of a huge win in the Senate for the Inflation Reduction Act. But with his predecessor once again in the headlines, people are wondering, can the Biden administration really break through?

Joining me now to discuss, CNN contributor Evan Osnos. He is also the author of "Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now." Evan, glad to have you here. Things were going pretty good for the president, the administration, then of course Mar-a-Lago happened. What issues does this raise, in your mind, for this current White House?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, AUTHOR: Well, I can tell you one thing, Laura, which is that Joe Biden always had this belief that for every high, there is a low in your life. It is a kind of natural balance sheet. You've seen it just played out over the last couple of days.

But I think we have to pause and just consider for a moment what they've actually done recently because there's a real theme that runs through it. You heard the president talk about it today at the signing of this NATO expansion. He said, and this phrase should be memorable, he said, we can write the future we want to see.

That is not just casual political language. That is a real response to the distress that you hear in surveys from Americans who feel as if we are in effect kind of captive to these forces beyond our control: things like the pandemic, the rise of China, the Russian aggression.

And expanding NATO, something that a few years ago people said was all but brain dead, is a sign that, in fact, we can do these things. That's the theme that you're going to hear more from him. It is not a silver bullet, but it's beginning to make that case.

COATES: And yet there are those who are sort of writing the chapters around the administration, sense of wanting to focus on something quite -- I mean, you are right. I mean, a few months ago, as we are covering more intensely what was happening in Ukraine, the prospect of NATO expansion would have been, I mean, the story of the week, the idea of thinking about what is going on.

Yet we see that with all of these sorts of legislative wins, with what has happened at Mar-a-Lago, with the talk and chatter around our elections, some of what I'm sure the Biden ministration wants to write is quite different. In particular, what they might want to say is different.

There have been calls, Evan, you know, from both sides for Merrick Garland to give some answers about just what this search of Mar-a-Lago was about. But even though the White House and President Biden knew nothing about it, I'm wondering, when we got this sort of level of mistrust, can they realistically stay silent about it and have a hands-off approach?

OSNOS: You heard them today pretty clear. They said, look, we were -- they were adamant about the fact they didn't know this was coming. I think any political amateur at home would say that a White House, if they even have the luxury of being able to schedule something like this, would not have done on a week that would have stepped right on top of their efforts to have a victory lap, to talk about the things they think are going well.

There is actually a long-term approach here, a strategy, which is to say, even at a time of real hyper-partisanship like this, there are things that are getting done in Washington that actually have appeal across throughout.


I will give you an example. Three of the biggest bills that have been passed recently were actually done with bipartisan support. The CHIPS Act, which you mentioned, NATO expansion, also veterans' benefits. And then just a couple months ago, you have the gun control bill. All of those were done with Republicans votes.

So, sure, there are people who are absolutely dug in on the other side, who will never vote for Joe Biden. And then there are other people in the middle who might be tiring of the psycho drama that we are drawing ourselves back into this week, involving the former president, who say, you know what, it is time to move on, these are not the kinds of things that are going to solve the problems in my life, and the kinds of things that actually seem to be happening in Washington might help me.

COATES: As Jordan Peele's psycho-thriller says, nope.


COATES: (INAUDIBLE). Thank you so much, Evan. Nice to see you. And speaking of --

OSNOS: My pleasure.

COATES: -- writing one's own future in America, it is primary night in America and there are voters across this country who are writing their choices. I mean, not really, but they are filling in the bubbles that will do so. In Wisconsin, it is Trump's candidate versus Pence's candidate, but both of them, well, they spat election lies.




COATES: All right, results are coming in from primary races in four different states tonight. There's been a lot of talk about the proxy war playing out between Trump and Pence and the race for Wisconsin's Republican candidate for governor. But both of the candidates in that race have actually embraced Trump's election lies.

Pence's pick, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, falsely claims the 2020 election was rigged. And then you have Trump's pick, Tim Michels, going even further, indicated he actually may look into measures to decertify Biden's victory in Wisconsin. I want to bring in now Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She is a history professor at NYU and author of "Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present." Ruth, I'm glad you are here. I mean, look, Wisconsin is just one example, right? There are actually countless election deniers that are on the ballots. I mean, is democracy on the -- wait, hold on, before you answer the question, we can now project that Tim Michels has won.

He's a construction company owner who was endorsed by Trump and had gone further in embracing 2020 election lies mostly by indulging efforts to decertify President Joe Biden's victory in the state. He has now been the projected winner, defeating Vice President Pence's endorsed candidate.

Ruth, this is an example of election deniers being victorious. What does that tell you?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT, AUTHOR, HISTORY PROFESSOR AT NYU: Yes, and it goes beyond even, you know, denying an election. It is highly subversive. It is following a trend set by the Texas Republican Party which passed a resolution saying that it not only didn't accept the 2020 results, it considered Biden a kind of illegitimate president and it calls him an acting president as though he is going to be leaving, you know, soon from office.

And so, you know, this is the fruit of Trump -- you know, people say Trump is lazy, but he is a highly-skilled propagandist any he worked ceaselessly for four years or five years to convince Americans that their system was rigged, that they couldn't trust their elections, and that prepped everybody to believe the big lie.

And then he made it kind of party dogma. So, anybody who want to get ahead in the Republican Party has to espouses this lie, and we see the results in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

COATES: We are also seeing the results of those who are running for secretary of state positions, those who might be in charge of actually running elections. But we also know that there has been a political price that has been paid by some who have dared to speak out against the former president.

GOP Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler tonight is now conceding her primary contest from last week's race in Washington State. She is now the third House Republican who voted to impeach Trump who has now lost a primary this year alone. Four are not taking reelection. Two have advanced. And, of course, Congressman Liz Cheney is awaiting her primary.

So, what does that tell you about the future of the GOP and where it might be headed?

BEN-GHIAT: I mean, I really see the GOP as having it exceeding democracy. It acts like an authoritarian party. If you look at other authoritarian parties, past and present, one of the things that distinguishes them is the leader cult. And you've got to be loyal to the leader above all. But the other thing that trump did, and we are seeing it in the results of these primaries, is that you can't have any internal dissent. You're not allowed to have any culture of democracy within the party.

And so, this started while he was still in office, where Peter Meijer, who's one of the people now who lost a seat, when he voted to impeach Trump in February 2021, he had to buy body armor because he got threats, and the whole RINO phenomena where you go after people in your own party who are not loyal.


This is not democratic behavior. This is authoritarian. So now these election results that we're seeing right now are bearing this out, that it is not possible to have any democratic dissent within the Republican Party because it is no longer a Democratic Party.

COATES: We'll, if that is the future, then I wonder what will hold in November at the general election when we're actually talking about a more varied electorate who has to actually decide who will be the leaders in these different states. A question, frankly, Ruth, I don't think anyone has a clear answer to today, tomorrow, and maybe not even in a few weeks from now and months for this very issue.

Thank you for your time tonight. Nice speaking with you.

Also, a Mississippi grand jury is now declining to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham. Now, that is the white woman whose accusations led to the brutal killing of young Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago. With this decision, will the family of the Black teenager ever see justice?




COATES: A grand jury in Mississippi declining to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham. If that name sounds familiar, she is the white woman who accused a 14-year-old Black teenager, Emmett Till, of making advances towards her nearly 70 years ago. Now, those accusations led to Till's brutal death, a murder that shook America to its core and frankly does to this very day.

And only after Emmett Till's mother decided to have an open casket funeral -- and a warning that this image is disturbing -- for the world to see what they did to her boy, the horrors done to her son, do you realize that Emmett Till would've turned 81 years old two weeks ago.

CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, she joins me now. Areva, nothing at all lessens the shock and the pain of seeing that image or thinking about this happening seven decades ago. And yet, after seven hours of testimony, the grand jury decided there wasn't enough evidence to indict her on kidnapping or manslaughter charges. Now, there is a difference between how people think about moral culpability, legal culpability, and what a grand jury would be deciding, right?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, absolutely, Laura. It is shocking as the story is and the horrors of it. As you said, even 70 years later, it is still as painful to think about what happened to Emmett Till.

I am not surprised that the grand jury did not come back with an indictment for Carolyn Bryant. We know that there have been efforts over the last 10 to 15 years to have the case, you know, reopened, to have it re-investigated, to have charges brought against Carolyn Bryant. But every time that there has been a re-investigation of the facts of this case, the outcome has been the same.

There's been a determination that there is just not enough evidence to charge her, even though we know that there is this alleged memoir where Carolyn Bryant apparently recanted her statement about what Emmett Till did. But even with that memoir being out in the public sphere, no district attorney has been willing to move forward with charges against her.

COATES: We also learned that back in June, there was an unserved warrant for her arrest that was found charging her and her then- husband Roy Bryant and brother-in-law J.W. Milam in Emmett Till's abduction.

I have to tell you, just saying their names just sickens me to think about what they did, what the two men -- who -- what they did to Emmett Till. It really -- it causes me a great deal of pain to even articulate that. They were arrested and they were acquitted on murder charges only to then confess later.

But Donham, she was never taken into custody. So, this wasn't followed up on? I mean, an arrest warrant until now? That's stunning to people.

MARTIN: It absolutely is stunning. And you talk about the system failing this family. That's exactly what happened, Laura. The system failed in the Till's family.

There was this woman who was apparently available. She was -- her whereabouts were not unknown. She did not leave the country. But to think that she was allowed to escape, you know, punishment and to not be held accountable for the role that she played in the lynching of Emmett Till is very disturbing.

And talking about Tmmett Till turning 81, he has a cousin who says he was an eyewitness to what happened, who talks about until this day how painful this entire experience still is for his entire family.

So, there are still people who are living, Laura, who were alive at the time. You know, who are alive, who witnessed this, who can still give testimony about what happened to Emmett Till.

COATES: So, what does that say, Areva, about this country that we are still searching for justice for this? I mean, this was a case. This was a person who has been so impactful in the overall civil rights movement. I mean, the story of Emmett Till is well known. It is something that is inescapable.

MARTIN: I think what it says, Laura, is that we have so much work to still do in this country. We've made, of course, a lot of progress. But we know that we still have a dual justice system. We know we have a justice system that treats African-Americans and people of color differently.


We know that the standards that are applied to African- Americans are different. We know that the life of 15-year-old Black Emmett Till does not have or did not have the same meaning, that the life of someone who is white, if that had been a white boy who had been killed by two Black men, had a Black woman been involved in this conspiracy with these two men to kill a 15-year-old white teen, we know that the outcome would have been different.

And that is the reality that we find ourselves in. It says to us, Laura, that we can't stop working, we can't stop fighting, we can't stop standing up, and we can't stop calling out the kind of injustices that we see with respect to the Emmett Till case, that we see played out in cases even in 2022.

COATES: So well said. Areva Martin, that young boy ought to become a man and should be a great grandfather this day. He is not.


COATES: Thank you, everyone, for watching. Our coverage continues.