Return to Transcripts main page

Don Lemon Tonight

Trump Team Point Fingers At GSA And National Archives; Classified Documents Were Declassified Prior To Packing; Mar-a-Lago Search Warrant Made Public; Trump-backed Candidate Poise To Win In Wyoming GOP Nomination; Death Threats Becomes Real For Salman Rushdie. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 12, 2022 - 22:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is Donald Trump. This is a man who millions upon millions, tens upon millions of people in the country adore, support, and think there is a conspiracy against him by a bunch of, you know, very smart, urban, liberal, lawyer types who are out to get him. Right?

So, one of the things I am struck by is while the Department of Justice has every legal right to do what it's doing, perhaps even a legal obligation, it is probably playing to Donald Trump's benefit. It is turning him into a victim. It is turning his, mobilizing his supporters. There's probably huge amounts of fundraising going on honestly the right because of all of this. You know, looking at the big, bad, deep state is out to get me again.

So, I would hope that Merrick Garland who is a very honorable man would take into account the political effects here, which is you can't win the battle and lose the war. You know? There is a -- if you discredit or you politicize the Justice Department in the eyes of 60 million Americans, you haven't gained that much even if you've got these classified documents.

So that's the balance that I think and I'm sure they're thinking about, which is very difficult. Because with anybody else you would just say, look. You broke the law or you seem to have broken the law. We have to get these documents back.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: You know, what strikes me when you say that is the idea of obviously it's a bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don't philosophy in having to think about these things. But the idea of the battle versus the war one could say something quite similar, Fareed, the idea of, you know, vilifying law enforcement and vilifying the agencies whose job it is to help support the enforcement of the law in the long run by doing that if you are a supporter of Trump, if you are Trump himself, if you those who are members of Congress who believe that there should be a benefit that extended to him in perpetuity, you know, there is still that challenge on that side.

So, I guess how does one reconcile? This is of course the $50 million question, Fareed, that I'm posing to you right now on this Friday evening. But how does one go about enforcing the law, showing no favor to one or political preference, et cetera, and then essentially overlook something because there might be a political backlash?

ZAKARIA: Well, we are having a very deep, philosophical conversation on network television. You are absolutely right. Because what Trump has done is he has politicized everything. Nothing is -- it's all about him.

And so, any time anything, anyone attacks him, he is happy to take the whole institution down. He is happy to accuse the FBI, the Justice Department, if some judge rules against him, he is going to vilify the judge.

So, you face this problem, which is that he has already done what you're describing. He has massively politicized all of this. Now there are people who say, you know, let justice be done and may the heavens fall. This was the, you know, kind of 16th century English jurist's line that people take.

You know, I tend to think let's be real. We all want to be politically shrewd and exercise good judgment. You know, one of the things that even in not in this current incarnation but the Supreme Court used to have that sort of political judgment, which is you don't just look at everything solely by the letter of the law. You operate within the political context in a country with millions of people.

And so, all I'm saying is, I think there has to be a balance. At the end of the day as I say Garland is a very serious guy and a very ethical and honorable guy. But what I would like to do, what I would like him to do is make sure that the majority of the country continues to see him that way and continues to see the department that way.

And if that means taking a few extra steps, for example, maybe coming on TV and explaining the dilemma and having exactly this conversation we're having and saying, look. I understand that this places us in an awkward position and I understand there are people who are devoted to him. But here are the things we were looking at. You know, don't -- don't leave it to these just very cold statements and, you know, most people don't understand. As you were saying, explaining about the Espionage Act. Most people don't get it.

You know? The simple thing that Donald Trump says, the FBI raided my house. They broke into my safe. Everybody is out to get me. So, there's got to be some simple, compelling story on the other side. And somebody needs to maybe talk about it. Don't just leave it to bland statements.


COATES: Well, I am one for a little bit of flavor in one's conversation. I will say that. But, also, having been part of the Justice Department, I got to tell you there is the set up for quite the catch-22 because we've seen in recent times what happened when people run to a podium hoping that transparency will be well-received. And we've seen the fallout there as well. Fareed, I am so excited to talk to you tonight, I'm also very interested in seeing your special episode coming up of Fareed Zakaria GPS, the fall of Kabul one year later. It's on this coming Sunday at 10 a.m. and also 1:00 p.m. So, please, don't miss it. Fareed, thank you so much.

ZAKARIA: Thank you so much.

COATES: I want to bring in now CNN's Sara Murray, national security analyst Steve Hall, and former deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman.

Look, I've had a deep conversation with Fareed. You all are next. I'd love to have this conversation with you all as well.

Sara, I'll begin with you. Because look, you've been going through this search warrant meticulously. And I'm wondering what more are you learning about what the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago, and perhaps more importantly why they take it?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think what's striking is this is all coming after more than a year of wrangling and even after all that, even all these discussions they've had about the documents, even after a subpoena to get the documents what they walked away with, with this search warrant, were 11 sets of classified information.

So that includes, you know, one top-secret SCI docs, you know, among the highest levels of classifications, four sets of top-secret documents, three sets of secret documents, three sets of confidential documents, and then of course something about the French president. We don't know what that is and some kind of document related to the pardon of Roger Stone. Donald Trump's long-time political strategist.

So quite an array there. Obviously not a ton of detail though, on what these documents actually are, Laura.

COATES: You know, on that last part, Harry, the idea of, I mean, the second to last part, I guess what the pen ultimatum, reflect my Shakespearian vocabulary for a second, Harry, what you have for a word.

Let me ask you this. You know, we think about the search warrant and the idea of what they identified. It's not like Roger Stone getting some form of clemency or a pardon was not known. I mean, he was pardoned before Trump left office and he avoided that three-year prison sentence and prison term.

So do you have, when you heard that as one of the possible documents, help us understand. Is there a bridge that you could foresee of why that would be connected under a warrant like this?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The short answer is no. They might have taken many things that were just described by the warrant, although when I heard about the prime minister of France I thought, hum. Is Trump looking to blackmail? But I really want to address a couple things that Fareed said. You

know, one that I agree with and have agreed with is it won't be enough just to show the facts and the law. There will be at the end of the day a best interests of the day analysis.

Second, however, the notion that, well, there are different violations under this statute and some are relatively benign, no, no, no. We are talking about materials. Imagine that these aren't pieces of paper but pieces of plutonium. And even if you carelessly smuggled them out the U.S. comes to you and says we need that plutonium back and you say, what plutonium? We need that plutonium back. And you try to destroy it.

This is inherently, that by actual definition, dangerous to the United States' interests and it's very serious. Finally, the point about publication. Yes, I take his point but it really is nuanced because there the DOJ is damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Because the things that they are protecting on the other side, the integrity in the investigation, the identity of the confidential informant, they uniquely can't willy-nilly ignore, which is why by the way the warrant was released with the redacted names of the FBI then Trump released it with their names and now they are under assault and need special protection.

COATES: I mean, and you forgot one important part of course here, Harry, that part of the reason you don't have these things public and you don't have the DOJ and FBI fronting the information about the search is because of the constitutional protections for the person who is being searched. That there is a presumption of innocence. There are the guard rails that ought to be there --


COATES: -- because as you know with the jury let alone court of public opinion, let alone a courtroom of law, the idea of, well, the FBI went there, if there wasn't something, you know there is that benefit extended. But I will say on that one point you raise the idea of the president of France, some sort of blackmail.

We're don't -- we're not there -- we don't have that information.

LITMAN: Right.

COATES: I know you're thinking about it just more broadly of what might be possibilities. We don't have that reporting. I don't think we have the information.

But Steve, I want to go here to you, because the Trump ally John Solomon he was just on Fox News and actually read a new statement from Trump's office. Check this out.


JOHN SOLOMON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JUST THE NEWS: This is from President Trump's office. It just came in a few minutes ago. As we can all relate to everyone -- as we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time. American presidents are no different.


President Trump in order to prepare the work the next day often took documents including classified documents to the residence. He had a standing order. There is the word I've been looking for. That documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residents were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them.

The power to classify and declassify documents rests solely with the president of the United States. The idea that some paper pushing bureaucrat with classification authority delegated by the president needs to approve the declassification is absurd.


COATES: Well, Steve, what's the absurd part to you in that statement?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Where to begin? You know, I will certainly leave the issue as to whether the -- whether the former president or any president can waive the proverbial magical wand to make something that was classified no longer. I'll leave to folks who understand better about that.

But the most absurd thing really about this and it gets to the, you know, the question of OK, what about -- what about the French and all of that, is the damage this continues to do to our foreign intelligence relationships.

So, it was bad enough when Trump was president and was doing things like inviting the Russian foreign minister to the Oval Office to talk about sensitive, you know, Israeli intelligence which the Israelis turned out to be quite upset about later on. It wasn't even our intelligence he was compromising but that was apparently Israeli intelligence.

And so, the hope and I think the thought was OK, you know. Well, this particular president and by the way it doesn't matter whether this is a Democratically elected president or Republican president. The party doesn't matter. Doing these types of things is the problem.

And I think our foreign partners thought OK, when President Trump leaves office at least we won't perhaps have to worry about it that much or that much. But the problem is this all now, you know, it's coming up again and I think it reminds our -- these very important foreign intelligence relationships about some of the weaknesses in the American system or it highlights them.

Overall, our system is extremely good at protecting classified information. But when the most senior person in the government the one who does and can declassify things, you know, shows that he is not responsible as the president has done several times, this is just a reminder it's going to cause our foreign allies to back off again a little bit, I'm afraid. COATES: Yes.

HALL: Even though that president is no longer in power.

COATES: Sara, I want to come back to you on this point as well. But Harry, let me get you in here, because I have to say, I mean, look, yes. As working people we've all brought work home from time to time. I don't know about you. But I don't bring home top-secret or SCI classified things. The idea of those scrutinized notions don't makes sense to me.

But, also, the word that's missing here in this conversation, Harry, is it's one thing if the current president brought work home with him to the Oval Office or the White House residence. This is a former president who has retained documents for whatever reason no longer living or residing at the White House.

Shouldn't that have occurred to the lawyers or the representatives before making that statement? This is a former president we're talking about?

LITMAN: It must have occurred in fact and people who helped and there had to be are possibly in the soup as well. Again, you know, we're talking about someone who -- there are people out there to back up what Steve said, wicked people in the world who would love, who might know about this, want to come steal it.

He's got plutonium there and it is dangerous and he knows it because he is told again and again. Anyone who has ever been the debate this today can be divided between anyone who's ever been in government and anyone who hasn't. Anyone who has ever been knows this classification is completely radioactive. You cannot even look at documents except in a secret room. They know how serious it is.

COATES: You know, you must have plutonium on the brain. It must have been a high school like periodic tables chart of some kind. There was the essay. I know it was. There's something happening here. Well, I know I remember tungsten was W. It's all I got. Sorry, high school Sara. I'm going to come back to you. I'm not going to ask about the periodic tables here. But I do want to know what else you're -- what else you are hearing from team Trump tonight.

MURRAY: You know, it's sort of interesting to see the statement come out from them tonight and use this as their explanation because they had a different explanation when a former Trump national security official was on television earlier today. Listen to what Kash Patel said.


KASH PATEL, HANDLING ISSUES RELATED TO TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS: The GSA has since come out, the Government Services Administration said they mistakenly packed some boxes and moved them to Mar-a-Lago. That's not on the president. That's on the National Archives to sort that material out.


MURRAY: A lot of different explanations from Trump allies about what may have happened here, and the GSA did respond by the way, and they said the responsibility for making decisions about what materials are moved rests entirely with the outgoing president, i.e., this is not our fault.


But I do think it gets to the idea that there are two issues here. I mean, one, what is the classification of these documents? And two, even if you may have declassified these documents or believed that you declassified these documents as precedent, that doesn't mean that you still get to take home reams and reams of documents with you when you leave the White House and not abide by any of the Presidential Records Act.

COATES: Steve, what do you make of the idea of, I mean, just the idea this is somebody else's doing, that it was, just happened to be there? I mean, I just think that myself, that the process by which you have gotten the documents to Mar-a-Lago would have involved a number of hands, a number of movers, et cetera.

So, there was access points all along that particular point in time. Let alone blaming it on the GSA or otherwise, the National Archives. We also know, Steve, that the top Justice Department counterintelligence official has been involved in this case. And, also, he visited Mar-a-Lago in June. I'm wondering what collectively does that person's role and their presence as a part of the investigation tell you about this very investigation?

HALL: Well, I'm not going to go plutonium but I'll go with another equally strange concept in those people which is counterintelligence. And I'm glad you mentioned it.

Let's not forget that not only is this not, you know, the walking distance between the Oval Office and the residence in the White House. This is Mar-a-Lago which is a very popular, you know, destination. Lots of people around. Lots of people to include two Chinese nationals who not too long ago tried, during Trump's presidency, tried to get in, tried to trespass, tried to get past the security to get into that location.

I don't think that is a coincidence. I think that foreign governments that are interested in targeting the United States and trying to spy on us know this kind of thing happens at Mar-a-Lago whether it's conversations that are extremely sensitive held in non-sensitive places or whether it's that type of -- that type documents or those types of documents, top-secret SCI stuff that is stored in the basement.

So that's certainly not lost on people. I do think there's -- if we step away from the weeds for a second there is really one important question. And it's why? Where is -- where is the narrative of innocence here? Where is, I mean, sure there's lots of people in the Trump camp saying, well, you know, it was -- it was GSA perhaps or it wasn't his fault or you know, this stuff just showed up. Who knows how?

Where is a real serious explanation, an innocent explanation that makes all of us, you know, in this country whether you're a Republican or Democrat say, OK. That makes perfect -- that makes perfect sense. Now I understand why he would have taken that stuff to Mar-a-Lago.

I, failing that I just don't understand it. And given Trump's mishandling of classified previously, and then thinking of rules that apply to him it's difficult for me to see an innocent narrative here.

COATES: Well, I mean, that's an important point. You wonder where the moment is during the course of the conversations. We believe you have information. Well come down and get everything. Take it all. What are you talking about? I don't have anything here that is a problem.

That would be, in many ways, the normal response to say if you think I have it come and look. Take everything you want. I don't need it. It's not for me. We haven't seen that yet. And because we talked about it a number of times, Harry, plutonium is number 94. OK? There you go.

LITMAN: Thank you.

COATES: There will now be a jeopardy category on that very thing, everyone. Plutonium is not a laughing matter just for the sake of the conversation, everyone. Thank you so much.

MURRAY: Thanks.

COATES: Look. There has been as you know, just yesterday, an attack on an FBI office. There's been violent calls for assassinations. Now federal law enforcement is investigating an unprecedented number of threats. And there is a new warning tonight.



COATES: Tonight, sources are saying the FBI is warning its 38,000 employees nationwide, 38,000 employees nationwide to remain vigilant. Why? Because there is a heightened threat environment following the search of Mar-a-Lago. The bureau is investigating an unprecedented number of threats made against personnel and property in the wake of the search.

I want to bring in CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, a former official in the Department of Homeland Security.

Juliette, good to see you this evening. But my goodness. I mean, first of all, this threat level directed at members of the FBI. Donie O'Sullivan, our own is reporting that Trump's social media platform sent a push alert this afternoon to an article with an unredacted version of the search warrant.

Now why is that important? Because it included the names of two FBI agents and now, they are being villainized on pro Trump social media and there might be extraordinary danger now. Just how extraordinary and how dangerous could this be, Juliette?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Very. I mean, and we just need to call it that. There -- they -- this is not a joke. And so much of Trump's circle and inner circle and the family itself view life as sort of this expendable thing for purposes of their political gain. They just throw this stuff out there. They know exactly what they're doing.

And I think it is incumbent on everyone to call them on it. You simply can no longer talk about both sides or talk about mere violence. This is a -- this is a form of targeted assassination against two named FBI agents who were doing their jobs, who cares what their politics are, in issuing a search warrant against the president, the former president of the United States that was approved by a judge.

Is the judge also under attack? He is the board member of a synagogue. That synagogue had to close their services this weekend because of the threat. The Trump family and I mean the family because the sons are on air doing this stuff. The Trumps know exactly what they're doing. They are inciting the kill. And I am not afraid to say that. It is exactly what their intention is and that's why they allow these platforms to repeat this information.


COATES: I mean, just the idea, just so we're clear on this, Juliette, the fact that the director of the FBI has said that his potentially number one priority now is the safety of law enforcement agents.


COATES: I mean, you and I both know that means in some respects the more that the law enforcement and the FBI are dealing with the number of threats against them, they cannot be dealing with the number of threats against other matters.


COATES: If you care about human trafficking, if you care about drugs and communities, if you care about arms dealers and guns and all things are happening and crime at a larger scale, do we really want the FBI to be concerned about what might happen to them or doing what we hope they will do?

KAYYEM: Right. It's exactly right. And their family. I mean, in terms of --

COATES: And their families.

KAYYEM: -- if you look, right. I mean, if you look at the cesspool it is not just them. It is a wife or a spouse or children. It is the personal addresses, and phone numbers. If I sound like someone who has been the target of these kinds of attacks, yes. Not like these guys, but you know, they find your cell phone. They print this stuff.

And so, look, you're always -- you're always conscious of the safety and security issues. But in this environment in which Trump sort of violent core and I'm very clear these are not all Trump supporters and certainly not all Trump voters, but that violent core saw Monday night as the beginning of what they self-describe as a civil war.

Now, a rational human being if we had one in the former president would say, I shouldn't do anything to give them, right, fuel to find the people who issued the warrant or approved the warrant or came to Mar-a-Lago. Instead, he does the opposite.

And I just think it is just, I mean, it's no longer incitement. This is just directed violence at this stage. And it's something we've never seen before obviously from a former president. But certainly, from a party that because they're not addressing it or condemning it, every well-meaning honestly or even Trump supporter GOP member, people on our network who try to wiggle out of what's going on, I think it is really important that that failure to condemn the violence is actually what breeds it because it's not being chained. It is being nurtured, supported on these online efforts.

There is just like you can't even, you know, it's like, at this stage it's very difficult to separate the sort of make America great movement with the violence now. And that's what we're going to have to do by protecting ourselves and by protecting law enforcement agents and focusing on the important things that matter, which is, you know, the sort of rule of law again in this country.

COATES: It is unbelievable that we're talking about it to level.


COATES: And again, this harkens back, Juliette, you and I we were having this conversation several weeks ago when the DHS --


COATES: -- put out the bulletin talking about the greatest threats essentially, they were focusing on were those from within the borders of this country.

KAYYEM: Right.

COATES: And the idea and reaction to political grievance and some sort of license people think they have that if you're angry about something politically that violence is a viable --


COATES: -- vehicle to do things. That's sort of the antithesis of what needed to happen for republic to be kept.

KAYYEM: Right.

COATES: Juliette, we have to talk again, I'm sure. It's unfortunate we are here now.

KAYYEM: Yes, unfortunately. COATES: And thinking about those families and all the law enforcement

who are impacted. Needless to say, everyone, it's been a dramatic week. A very dramatic week. I mean, it began with the search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence. Then you had the series of wins for President Biden.

You wonder how it is all going to play out with the midterms right around the corner. We'll talk about it next.



COATES: I mean, it's been a week frankly like no other we've seen in American politics. It was only Monday FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago and revelations since then are sending quite the shock waves throughout the entire nation.

Meanwhile, President Biden is signing two crucial bills into law. In just hours ago, the House passing the historic Inflation Reduction Act. But the real question is, I mean, how all of this is going to shake out in the midterms. And it's frankly far from clear what will actually happen.

Joining me now to discuss CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, and Mark McKinnon, former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain. He is also executive producer of The Circus.

I'm glad to see you both here tonight. Let me start with you, Mark because you've got the fancy hat on. And Ron, you don't have one on so you can't go first.


COATES: Let me ask you about this very thing. I want to talk about the warrant here. And this warrant, a lot of Republicans immediately defended Trump. I mean, right after the search. Before we knew any more information. Long before A.G. Garland ever came out.

It's been, I'm not going to say it's been crickets since the warrant was unsealed but it's been far more quiet relatively speaking. What do you think is going on right now inside of the GOP in those discussions about maybe what to do next?

MARK MCKINNON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the Trump loyalists are just exhausted from trying to defend him when the ground shifts every news cycle. I mean, tomorrow Donald Trump will be saying it was Hillary Clinton colonel mustard in the library with a knife unsealing the documents. Or that stored the documents.


It's really problematic for Trump long term. Listen, I mean, I'd still say it's a strong environment for Republicans but the dynamic has shifted a lot just in the last week with both these huge news stories. I mean, Trump has managed to claw his way to the bottom. You know, has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when they were on a roll. But President Biden also had his news that's here at the same time.

So, I think the one guy who is probably popping champagne right now is Ron DeSantis.

COATES: Well, I mean, this did happen in Florida. There is no connection we know of, of course on this notion. But I'm often wondering about who is sort of in the wings watching this and figuring out what to do next.

Ron, I mean, look. We know this mantra. The idea that all, you know, the fact that there's been a lot of bad news for Trump but he has this mantra that even bad publicity might be good for him to Mark's point. I wonder, I mean, given we are coming off a series of those January 6th hearings where you and I have discussed the potential for having a political toll and taking a toll on Donald Trump maybe from the exhaustion standpoint alone, does this sort of reinvigorate him and strengthen him politically?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think that within the Republican Party this comes at a moment where we have seen Trump consolidate his control over the GOP this summer and really break the remaining opposition.

You know, when Georgia happened and Brian Kemp and Raffensperger won it was a lot of kind of hopeful commentary among conservative pundits saying well, this is not the Trump party anymore. The Republican Party has moved beyond Trump.

That's gone this summer, Laura. I mean, we are seeing the Trump loyalists, election deniers win primaries for governor in Arizona and Michigan and Wisconsin. Secretary of state nominations. We are seeing the House Republicans who voted for impeachment, two of them defeated on a single night.

On Tuesday we're going to see Liz Cheney almost certainly be defeated by a large margin. You are seeing the Republican Party double down on its commitment to Trump even as the legal, you know, challenges mount on every front. And I think that is one of the things that has changed the dynamic.

Obviously, the biggest thing that changed the dynamic in the midterm is the decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Democrats still have a lot of head winds. But they -- I think they are, the prospect of a Republican Congress trying to grease the way for a return of Trump who was clearly the leader of this party, is now front and center in the midterm election.

COATES: Mark, I mean, to that point we know as Ron has been talking about, how you react to or how you protest the 2020 election and whether you, you know, repeat and become an echo chamber for the election related lies was a bit of a defining litmus test for the GOP. Will now the future be how you speak about this search? Is that the latest and maybe the next?

MCKINNON: Probably, yes, that would be the -- exactly right, Laura. Great point. That will probably be the new litmus test. Listen, I agree with everything that Ron said. That Trump has consolidated the party once again. And this may only ratchet that up as well.

But the point is, Ron knows more than -- knows better than anybody, that midterm elections, the most important thing is enthusiasm among the parties. And I will just say that I don't see anything that happened this week that is going to increase Republican enthusiasm and I see a lot that happened this week and before including Roe that is going to animate Democrats more than they were a few months ago.

COATES: Ron, do you think that is the case?


COATES: Even with the legislative win? Will that be motivating enough?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, look. I mean, historically that is the reason why the president's party has lost seats in almost every midterm since the Civil War which is that the party out of power normally is much more enthusiastic. There is still that disparity evident in polls.

But it's clearly different than it was a few months ago. Mostly it has been a negative. It has been the fear of Republicans taking away abortion rights after the Roe decision. The fear of, as I said a Republican Congress greasing the way for a Trump return. Now they have something more positive to run on, Laura, and particularly for younger voters.

I mean, the historic investments in climate that passed today with the potential to reduce climate emissions 40 percent over the decade is really the first thing they've had to go to young voters who were so critical in 2018 and 2020 and say your vote mattered. It changed policy.

In the longer run all of the investments in domestic manufacturing and this, the semiconductor bill and the infrastructure bill, I think is going to give Biden a chance to do what Obama did in 2012 which is go to the Midwest as he did with the auto bail out and say we are seating a new generation of manufacturing jobs.


But in the near term it really is the combination of abortion, climate, January 6th/Trump scandals that are allowing Democrats to close the enthusiasm gap and give them a fighting chance certainly at the Senate and the key governorships and maybe even holding down, certainly holding down their losses and in a long shot holding the House.

COATES: Well, look, we've got less than three months now to see what will happen. And if this week is any indication of how things can quickly change, we've got a long maybe three months ahead of us. Thank you both.

MCKINNON: Thank you, Laura.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

COATES: Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator late tonight after being stabbed multiple times just before giving a lecture. We'll have an update on his condition after this.



COATES: Author Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator tonight. That's from his aide telling the New York Times. Rushdie was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen while on stage in western New York state. Just moments before he was set to give a lecture.

As CNN's Shimon Prokupecz reports this attack comes after years of death threats.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Famed author Salman Rushdie was scheduled to speak at a lecture series at the Chautauqua Institution when witnesses say a man jumped on to the stage just as the event was getting under way and began punching and stabbing Rushdie.

One witness tells CNN she counted roughly seven to ten stabbing motions before fleeing for her own safety. Rushdie suffered stab wounds to the neck and abdomen according to New York state police. And was air lifted to an area hospital.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): There is a state police officer who stood up and saved his life, protected him.


HOCHUL: As well as the monitor -- the moderator who was attacked as well.

PROKUPECZ: The suspect was quickly taken into custody. New York State police identified him as a 24-year-old Hadi Matar.

JOYCE LUSSIER, WITNESS TO ATTACK: There was a lot of screaming and crying and everything. People rushing from the audience up on the stage.

PROKUPECZ: The 75-year-old author was born in Mumbai and later moved to the U.K. Rushdie is accustomed to living under threat. His controversial fourth novel "The Satanic Verses" published in 1988 sparked public demonstrations all over the world. Some Muslims considered the book sacrilegious.

In 1989, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a Fatwah, a religious decree on Rushdie calling for his death. Rushdie lived under British protection for nearly ten years before the Iranian government announced it would no longer enforce the Fatwah. Rushdie wrote a memoir about that era of his life called Joseph Anton, the name he used while in hiding. He has been out spoken over the years about living through that time.

SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR, THE SATANIC VERSES: The best way that I can, what I can do to fight this is to show that, you know, in the way the child shows a bully in the playground I am not scared of you. And the best thing I can do is to go on being the best writer I can be and to lead as open a professional and personal life as I can.

And that is just a way of saying that there may be this danger and it's a terrible thing and it's an ugly thing and we need to fight it and we need to defeat it but we don't have to hide under the bed.

PROKUPECZ: And Laura, his agent releasing a statement late tonight listing his injuries saying that the news is not good. That he will likely lose an eye. He suffered a stab wound to the liver so there is liver damage. There's nerve damage in his arm.

And obviously there are several other injuries that have yet to be really determined as he is still sedated, and on this ventilator and he can't speak. So, certainly, just a brutal attack. Brazen in how it happened. And now for investigators obviously the big question is, was this part of some bigger plot, some other thing going on here to try and assassinate him?

COATES: Shimon, thank you. Unbelievable. Thank you for your reporting.

Will Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of the fiercest critics of Trump's election lie, be able to keep her job? Voters in Wyoming decide just days from now. Stay with us.



COATES: The FBI search at Mar-a-Lago rallying Republican defenders at the former president's side and putting a renewed focus on his influence over the party this primary season like places in Wyoming where next week voters could deliver Trump a very key victory deciding whether or not the outspoken Trump critic Liz Cheney will get to stay in Congress.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.


HARRIET HAGEMAN (R), U.S. HOUSE CANDIDATE, WYOMING: I know Wyoming. I love Wyoming. I am Wyoming.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Harriet Hageman proudly wears Wyoming on her sleeve. And wields it like a hammer against Liz Cheney.

HAGEMAN: I am going to reclaim Wyoming's Washington seat from that Virginian who currently holds it. ZELENY: These days signs of trouble for Cheney are easy to spot here

in Wyoming as Hageman works to bring Cheney's time in Congress to an abrupt end. It wasn't always that way.

HAGEMAN: I'm proud to introduce my friend Liz Cheney.

ZELENY: Back when she showered Cheney with praise during her bid for Congress in 2016.

HAGEMAN: A proven courageous constitutional conservative, someone who has the education, the background and the experience to fight effectively for Wyoming on a national stage.

ZELENY: It's a telling book end of the Republican Party's evolution under Donald Trump who elected the same day Cheney first won and now he is at the center of her political fall in a state where he won 70 percent of the vote. His widest margin anywhere.

UNKNOWN: She's fighting against president Trump. She betrayed us.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is never an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.

ZELENY: Yet here in Wyoming Hageman is seen as far more than Trump's handpicked candidate. Before her fight with Cheney, she gained prominence as an attorney fighting the federal government to protect the state's water, land and natural resources.

HAGEMAN: It's absolutely critical that we protect the energy industry not just for Wyoming but for the United States.

ZELENY: That focus on Wyoming issues resonated with many voters we met like Scott Vetter who voted early for Hageman.

SCOTT VETTER, WYOMING VOTER: When you dive into the work she's done, it's just been stellar and you know, we appreciate what she did.

ZELENY: Was it more for her or more vote against Liz Cheney?

VETTER: No, it was for her.

ZELENY: Cheney's fixation with Trump and her leadership on the January 6th committee has also turned off many Republicans.


STACY JONES, WYOMING VOTER: A lot of the choices that she's made lately are not ones Wyomingites are behind.

ZELENY: And Hageman has sought to capitalize on that anger among Trump loyalist.

HAGEMAN: We're fed up with the January 6th commission and those people who think that they can gaslight us.

ZELENY: When we caught up with Hageman after a speech to the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce, she declined to answer our questions.

How has Liz Cheney betrayed Wyoming voters --


UNKNOWN: We're not going to -- you're welcome to report on what you --

ZELENY: If I can just ask you -- how is --

Before an aide stepped in. Just last week she embraced the former president's baseless election denial rhetoric at a campaign stop in Casper.

HAGEMAN: Absolutely the election was rigged. It was rigged to make sure that President Trump could not get reelected.

ZELENY: What Hageman doesn't tell her audiences is that she once opposed Trump and supported Ted Cruz in 2016. It's a sign of her own transformation from Cheney ally to Trump loyalist with her sights now set on Washington.

HAGEMAN: I will be taking that fight to D.C. just as soon as I defeat Liz Cheney.


ZELENY: Talking to Republicans here all week long you get the sense that Hageman is in a very commanding lead going into the final weekend of campaigning here.

Cheney supporters know her only chance if she has one at all is to get Democrats and independent voters to vote as Republicans on Tuesday, which they can do here in Wyoming. The question is, will that even be enough to overcome the big Republican surge in the red state here of Wyoming? Laura?

COATES: Jeff, thank you so much. And thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues.