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CNN Tonight

WNBA Star Brittney Griner Released From Russian Detention In Prisoner Swap For Convicted Arms Dealer; Paul Whelan Tells CNN He Is Disappointed That More Has Not Been Done To Secure His Release; Jan. 6 Committee Considers Criminal Referrals For At Least Four Others Besides Trump; President Biden Ignores His Critics; Prince Harry And Meghan Released Their Documentary. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 08, 2022 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates.


Brittney Griner is on her way home tonight flying halfway around the world from Moscow to San Antonio. You're looking live at the airport where she is expected to arrive very soon.

The Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star was released early this morning from Russian detention in exchange for a Russian arms dealer known as the Merchant of Death, but the prisoner swap left American Paul Whelan behind in Russia, where he's been detained for nearly four years.

In just a moment, I'll talk actually to the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. I'll ask her about those who say the negotiations failed because Paul Whelan was left behind, and whether expanded anti-LGBTQ laws in Russia added to concern over Brittney Griner's detention.

Also, first on CNN, four high-profile Trump allies could face criminal referrals from the January 6th committee. So, we'll tell you who they are and what that would mean.

A lot to talk about tonight for sure, but the big news is the release of Brittney Griner after 294 days of wrongful detention in Russia.

Joining me now, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Karine, I'm so glad that you're here. Thank you for taking the time after a very long day to join us this evening. I appreciate it.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you so much, Laura, for having me on today. You're right, it's been a very long day but I'm happy to be here with you.

COATES: I mean, especially about a day like today, most people woke up to the news that Brittney Griner had been freed, and there was a range of emotion. There was concerns obviously for the families of those who have not had that success diplomatically, but there's also elation for those who have been waiting for this day, not the least of which for the loved ones of B.G., as she's known.

I wonder what you say, Karine, to -- after a day of hearing the reactions, what do you say to those that this may have been perceived as a failed negotiation because it did not include Paul Whelan?

JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just first say, Laura, that these decisions the president makes day in and day out in this particular decision is not an easy one. He does not make these decisions lightly. He believed there was an opportunity to bring Brittney Griner home, and he took that opportunity. And so that is something that he wants American people to understand.

Look, the options that we were given is either we bring one American home which is Brittney Griner or we bring none, and so the president took that -- made that decision to bring home Brittney Griner.

Look, here's the thing. The president has promised since the beginning of his administration that he would do everything that he can to bring American citizens who are being wrongfully detained abroad. And he has kept that promise. And he's brought home, as we saw back in April, Trevor Reed, today Brittney Griner. And he understands and actually said that this morning when he spoke to the American people with Cherelle by his side and the vice president by his side. He said that he understands at this moment, that today is incredibly difficult for the Whelan family. And he is going to keep his promise. He's going to do everything that he can to bring Paul home, to secure his release as well.

But one last piece I want to say is that it was the last -- within the last several weeks, we realized that Russia was willing to do a -- to secure, to negotiate for Brittney's release, but they were not willing to do that for Paul. They were not negotiating in good faith, and they had categorized Paul very differently. They have falsely, illegitimately charged him with -- you know, with charges that we believe were false. And so because of that, they were not willing to negotiate for him at this time.

But, again, we're still in conversation. We are going to do everything that we can to bring Paul home, and that is a promise that the president has made.

COATES: Well, certainly, the family of Paul Whelan and others are hoping for that very result. I do wonder, you know, the issue you describe, the idea what it takes to have a good faith negotiation and really the bargaining power comes down oftentimes, as you can imagine to leverage. And many people are wondering, there's new reporting about what you're talking about, the idea of trying to do all that you can to bring him and others home.

What might be the process now in terms of a shift in the leverage, the idea that Viktor Bout has now win in that prisoner exchange? I know that John Kirby never spoke about Bout being the bargaining chip, but I wonder what leverage the United States has to try to compel that good faith bargaining and good faith negotiation by Russia.


JEAN-PIERRE: And I understand that's a very good question to ask. But as you can imagine, we have to be really careful here because we are currently continuing trying to have those negotiations, continuing to try and to secure Paul's safe return, so I don't want to lay that out or any conversations that are happening as it relates to Paul.

But I can say this. I just mentioned Trevor Reed, that the president was able to get released back in April. There's been about a dozen more from different countries of Americans who were wrongfully detained, held hostage abroad in his administration that he has been able to get released. So, this is a priority for the president. This is a priority, and he wants people to know -- he wants the American people to know this is an imperative for him to bring Americans home who are wrongfully detained.

I can't get into negotiations and negotiating in public, but, again, we have seen the -- what the president has been able to do, his administration has been able to do in successes in getting folks released, but, again, not going to get into details on this.

COATES: I understand the diplomatic prudence completely, Karine. I'm glad that you were willing to even address it.

I do want to focus on the person who was released today, and that is Brittney Griner. And earlier this week, President Putin actually signed into law even harsher legislation that was anti-LGBTQ in Russia. She obviously is an American, but she also has fallen into a demographic within Russia where she would have been marginalized, maybe even targeted as a black woman, as a member of the LGBTQ community. Her release certainly probably contemplated what the circumstances were like for her there.

Can you speak to the personal aspect of what it is like for this particular person to have been brought home knowing what she must have been facing? And I note in just a very few clips we have of her even crossing that tarmac, it appears that even her dreadlocks have been taken off, have been cut off. I'm wondering if -- just the holistic nature of it all, what is your personal reaction to what you have seen.

JEAN-PIERRE: My personal reaction, look, we are -- I am thrilled, we are thrilled. I am proud of this president, proud to be working in this administration, and the work that the president continues to do to get Americans home, continues to do to make sure that we are safe, that we are well-represented and that he works day in and out thinking about the American people. That's why I do this job. That's why many of us do this job.

You know, when Brittney, is ready we're going to give her the space and we're going to make sure that she has everything that she needs to get back on her feet, offering any mental -- mental health services or any, you know, physical health services that she may need to kind of reengage, get back into society. We're going to give her and her family that time. As you know, she's on her way to the states and will be landing in the next few hours. And when she's ready to tell her story, you know, we'll be happy to hear it.

I'm certainly not going to speak to her personal experiences, but for us, for me, today is a very good day. And we are going to keep -- the president is going to keep fighting for other Americans who are wrongfully detained.

COATES: Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you so much for your time.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks to you, Laura.

CAMEROTA: Great conversation. I just can't stop thinking about Brittney Griner on the plane, seeing that picture -- that photo -- well, video of her she looks different already, smiling. She looks younger. She looks like the weight of the world is off of her shoulders. However, how surreal it must be, that moment, right there, of her, how surreal these past ten months must be for her and she must think she's dreaming.

COATES: I bet it's not going to be real until she touches down and maybe in the arms of her wife and thinking, am I really safe. Because you can imagine, to have one's freedom taken away so quickly that you almost have the sense it can be done again to you.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes, I'm sure. And we're going to talk about the therapy and the psychological road that's ahead.

But right now, I want to bring in retired district Judge Shira Scheindlin, who sentenced Viktor Bout to 25 years after he was convicted of arms trafficking back in 2012. Judge, thanks so much for being here.

How do you feel about Viktor Bout walking free today?

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE (RET.): I'm okay with that because I'm so happy Brittney Griner is home. And whatever it took to get her home, I'm for it. So, I am not against Viktor Bout being sent back to Russia.

CAMEROTA: This is interesting to hear, because so many people say that this swap -- while everybody is grateful that Brittney is back, that the swap didn't make sense. He was -- everybody says he's a bad guy, okay?


And so let me just run through it for people who don't know his history. As you know better than anybody, he was caught in a sting operation, okay, after agents basically posed as terrorists, and he was willing to sell them hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, thousands of AK-47 machine guns, five tons of plastic explosives to the terrorist group who admitted they wanted to kill American pilots in Colombia. So, why should he be serving any less than the 25 years that you sentenced him to? SCHEINDLIN: I thought the 25-year sentence was longer than it needed to be when I sentenced him. I had to give that sentence. I had no discretion. Those are called statutory, mandatory minimums.

CAMEROTA: But why he didn't deserve that with all that I just spelled out?

SCHEINDLIN: Okay. I thought it was too high. Remember this is a businessman who was in the arms trade. He had been in the arms trade for years. But it seemed to me he'd stop being in the arms trade but he'd never been prosecuted. And our government was determined to bring him to justice and they created this sting operation, and they had to convince him to do it.

He really was reluctant at first, there's no question. There are tapes. And eventually said, okay, okay, I'll do it. And he was able to do it. And he said I can produce all these weapons that you ticked off, all those weapons. But remember the words came from the agents. They said, now you understand that these weapons can be used to kill Americans. And he said, I'm okay with that, they're my enemy, too, but he was really agreeing with them, as you would agree with a customer. If you were a businessman, you'd agree with your customer.

So, it wasn't as if he is an ideological terrorist, like the kind of people who flew a plane into the World Trade Center.

CAMEROTA: Though he is -- I mean, he was accused of selling arms to Al-Qaeda and Taliban, not in the one that you convicted him for but in the past. I mean, that's what part of his record is.

SCHEINDLIN: That's his record. But that was never a crime against the United States, and I'm not so sure about the way you're right about Al-Qaeda. There were other groups that he certainly sold to, many countries in Africa, both sides of civil war. The point is he really didn't care who his customer was. He was selling arms to whoever would buy those arms and that's different from somebody who has an ideology. Yes --

CAMEROTA: Yes, but he's still a bad guy.


CAMEROTA: And he's still a dangerous guy. And let me just -- well, let me --

SCHEINDLIN: Is he still a dangerous guy?

CAMEROTA: Good question. And so I'm interested to hear that you think that he was retired because earlier we had on the former U.N. trafficking expert. She is the woman who is credited with getting Viktor Bout arrested. She just talked on CNN to Erin Burnett. Here's what she said.


KATHI LYNN AUSTIN, TRACKED VIKTOR BOUT FOR 15 YEARS: He is what I call a weapon of mass destruction personified, and he's on -- he will be ready for Putin to deploy him, especially in Ukraine, in Africa and other warzones. That is really heartbreaking for me.

I do think Viktor Bout is a security threat, and we cannot minimize this issue even though it's very important that Brittney Griner came home. We need to be very proactive here. Putin is going to be ready to deploy Viktor Bout. He comes with years of experience, years of contacts. He started in Ukraine, and I think that's one of the areas we have to be concerned about right away. Viktor Bout will be a major asset for Putin.


CAMEROTA: So, she doesn't think he's retired. She thinks he's going to be a national security threat.

SCHEINDLIN: That's right, she does. But, remember, he's now been in jail for 12 years. He's been cut off from his network. And before that, he hadn't been active for a number of years. So, if you have lost your network, if you have lost your suppliers, you have to rebuild that network.

I respectfully disagree but she's an expert in national security, I'm not. But from the evidence I heard at the trial, it seems unlikely to me that he can go back into business now. He's a marked guy. I can't see him going back in the business of dealing in arms.

COATES: It's interesting, and thinking about the idea of the mandatory minimum you had sentenced him to is a very important point you've raised. But for many, they're looking at this and saying, you know, there is an imbalance between the allegations against the two, which I'm sure you agree, the allegations against Brittney Griner, also known as B.G., and the allegations against Viktor Bout.

In thinking about the amount of time, would your position be different if he had not yet served any time compared to the idea of having now served more than a decade?

SCHEINDLIN: Absolutely, absolutely. That I couldn't go along with at all. Surely this man needed to be punished, needed to be sentenced, needed to serve time in prison. But the question for any judge in any sentence is how much is needed to deter and protect the public. I think he's 55 years old. I think he's been in jail a long time. I think he basically is going to get home to the wife and kid. I don't think he's going to be an active arms dealer.

Now, Russians have to replenish their supply of arms.


They are low on arms. So, maybe this guy can be useful in finding who has arms. They found Iran. So, maybe they'll find more with his help.

CAMEROTA: And, Judge, what about the argument they should have also gotten Paul Whelan for this, that Viktor Bout was such a big fish that they should have gotten Paul Whelan? SCHEINDLIN: Well, the answer to should have is they would have if they could have. They certainly tried to negotiate for the release of two for one. That's something many of us advocated when I talked about this in August when it was first raised. I said it had to be two for one because she didn't commit any crime at all. In New York, it wouldn't be a violation. We're talking less than a gram of cannabis oil, which is good for your knee and your shoulder and you back. I mean, it's nonsense. That was not a crime.

This guy was a serious arms dealer who, as you said, supplied arms to the worst people in the world. So, of course, there was a disparity. And if we could have gotten both of them free, that would have made more sense. However, as the Whelan family said, you do what you have to do, and they have agreed if it was one or none, let's go with one.

COATES: You're very keenly aware of the difficult choices in trying to balance, you know, the different outcomes, but it seems to me, if he really is retired, I do wonder why Russia wants him back so badly. That's the million dollar question and only, frankly, I'm sure Vladimir Putin and his administration can answer.

SCHEINDLIN: I don't have such a problem with that. You know, most countries want their own back, and this man was well-connected at the top. Sure, he knew Putin, he knew other high level officials and they wanted him back. He's their guy. I get that.

CAMEROTA: Judge, let's hope you're right. Judge Scheindlin, thanks so much for coming in.

SCHEINDLIN: Thank you for having me.

CAMEROTA: We really appreciate it.

COATES: We've got a lot more to come on Brittney Griner's release as we await her arrival in touching down in Texas.

Plus, first here on CNN, the January 6th committee is considering criminal referrals for at least four Trump allies. We'll discuss who and why.



COATES: Brittney Griner is on her way home tonight after a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, bringing an end to more than ten months in captivity. But concerns remain over American Paul Whelan who is still in Russian custody.

Plus, first right here on CNN, four high-profile Trump aides could face criminal referrals from the January 6th committee. A lot to talk about to go to, and we're going to bring in our panel, CNN Anchor John Berman and CNN Political Commentators S.E. Cupp and Van Jones.

What a day. The idea that this -- first of all, in context, you guys, this is now even longer, frankly, than the invasion into Ukraine. Remember, it was a week before that she was actually detained. We didn't know about it for quite some time, and we woke up this morning with this brand new news, and there has been a whole mixed bag of reactions, mostly great knowing that she's home but still a lot of concern for those who have been left behind. What is your reaction to this, Van?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Joy, just joy. Because I understand this is a result of two kinds of power, the power of black women who just fought like hell for this. This was not just some act of grace from above. African-American women saw themselves in her and fought and fought and fought. And the WNBA women forced everybody, including all the NBA guys, to stand up and be a part of this.

So, there's that kind of power and then it met the power of a president who knows who brought him to the dance. Black women are the backbone of this party. You can put Griner's name right up against the first African-American female vice president, the first African American female Supreme Court justice. This is a president who understands the value of black women and will fight for that. And you put those few things together, you have tremendous joy. Of course the heartbreak of anyone being left behind, but there is joy tonight.

CAMEROTA: S.E., go ahead.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree. I think there's a little danger in what you're saying, though, for Biden. I think he cares about folks Paul Whelan, too, he cares about guys, he cares about white guys. And so I don't think this was a choice that he made.

I think you can believe two things and you should believe them both, that this is an unequivocal success for Joe Biden. And he did everything he should. He made the right decision. You know, if your choice is one or none, you take one. But at the same time at a huge cost, huge, it's a cost to Paul Whelan. I spoke to people who work in this space today and they said essentially the clock starts over for Paul Whelan potentially. That's awful.

Viktor Bout, not a great guy, a very dangerous guy. I love what the judge had to say. It was adorable, but he's a dangerous guy, and folks have said he could be unleashed to Ukraine in a week.

CAMEROTA: And furthermore, I mean, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says that this is bad for national security, that it's an incentive for finding more American targets to hang onto.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All of these things can be true at once, but I think the way you are both framing it is so important. This is not a choice between Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. This was a choice between Brittney Griner and nothing. That doesn't mean that there's still not an important discussion about whether or not the United States engages with rogue nations, like Russia, over getting hostages back. That's an important discussion to have, whether that should happen ever. And, you know, I think it is happening, and I welcome it.

I will say there was a distinct change in U.S. policy over this issue. When? The Trump administration. This all changed between 2016 and 2020 when Donald Trump made it a point to do things the United States hadn't really done this overtly before, which was work to get hostages home no matter what the cost. Now, John Bolton said today they were offered Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan and they didn't take it. Donald Trump himself seemed to go off the rails and indicate that wasn't the case today.

But, you know, Trump exchanged Taliban -- for senior Taliban prisoners for two westerners held in Afghanistan. He exchanged 300 -- he worked to exchange 300 Houthi rebels in Yemen for a couple of Americans being held hostages.


That just wasn't done for a long time because of what S.E. talking is about. And maybe it's a good change but it's important to acknowledge that it is a change and it does put people at risk potentially.

COATES: Let's be clear, too, just the idea of, yes, it is true that she is a black woman, a member of the LGBTQ community, all the intersectional identity there, and what may have been even more impactful that she very well may have been targeted while she was in Russia for those very reasons.

But it's also important to think about taking a step back. This was somebody who was accused of a crime and was not provided the due process we would want for our citizens abroad or even domestically, and we would guarantee to people like Viktor Bout who had a trial based on charges. And that is kind of the fundamental notion of the rule of law in our country.

We underscore that in our Constitution and beyond and thinking about that very notion that's why thinking about these discussions around committees in Congress right now, the January 6th committee, in particular, looking what happens when we are dismissive of those sort of constitutional virtues and what we hold dear.

And I'm wondering what you guys think about the fact that we are now learning about potential criminal charges and referrals coming out of that January 6th committee and the fact that, as you mention, a win for Biden, what does this say unequivocally perhaps about the prior administration?

CUPP: What do the referrals say?


CUPP: Well, I think it's good news. I mean, they don't really mean anything. It's symbolism, and we hope that the DOJ has already begun working on some of this stuff and isn't relying on the January 6th committee of lawmakers to suggest it because we all heard the stories. But it's good that we're seeing some accountability. I hope this is like step one of many.

CAMEROTA: Let's look at the pictures of the people that CNN can report that the January 6th committee is considering for criminal referrals. So, here they are. They're Donald Trump at the top there, Rudy Giuliani, and then there's John Eastman, and then there's -- and Mark Meadows.

BERMAN: Good luck, as I would say.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I like that we all had to put on our glasses and get out --

BERMAN: It does look like Mark Meadows.

CAMEROTA: But what do we think about those -- that choice of those five people, Van? Does that seem like -- I mean, why wouldn't the DOJ charge those guys?

JONES: I mean, look, you can take those five and you can multiply them by five and you can throw five more in there and you still wouldn't have all of the people who were responsible for taking this country to the brink. And, you know, I think that for -- you're talking about justice, you're talking about rule of law. It does -- this particular situation underscores the sense that there are two systems of justice.

There are people who are in jail right now for such minor stuff for so long. They didn't run up in the Capitol in the middle of a joint session of Congress and beat people up and attack cops. You know, they had some petty drugs on them in this country and are in jail in this country. And so when you look at that situation and you say, well, what do you have to do to just get charged with something if you --

CUPP: And I've said this before, I think, with you, John. Someone said, look, Trump is not above the law. And I think -- yes, he is.

JONES: So far.

CUPP: As of this moment, he 100 percent is. To a normal person who's not a legal scholar you think, well, he is above the law.

BERMAN: But Congress -- here's the thing about this, the criminal referrals. In this case Congress really isn't the law. And I defer to the people at this table with law degrees, Van Jones and Laura, who worked at the Justice Department itself. My sense from talking to people like you have worked there is that what's going to happen with the investigators over at DOJ and Merrick Garland and the special counsel are going to be like, whatever, we're just going to do what we're going to do, thanks, Congress, for your time, but this isn't going to directly impact our investigation.

And our friend, Elliot Williams, someone else who's worked in DOJ, put it to me the other day. He said Congress is doing this because it's right for Congress. They're not necessarily doing it because it's right for the investigation. That doesn't diminish the work the January 6th committee has done. The work the January 6th committee has done, I think, is surprising to a lot of people.

CAMEROTA: And it's also right for posterity, by the way.

BERMAN: That's a different thing, right? If they want to make a statement about this, that's political, and I'm not just saying political is bad --

JONES: I do think there is a value to normalizing the idea that there can be criminal referrals of any kind against a former president or his henchmen, because I do think this is a mixed question above law and politics. And so to the extent that one branch of government says, hey, we think there's crimes here, it might make it easier for the executive branch to say that.

So, I don't think that these things can go together. Obviously, it's not Congress' job to put people in jail, but, so far, nobody is trying to put Trump in Jail.

COATES: But their job is to have legislative oversight and think about maybe there's a way to fortify aspects of our Constitution and aspects of our laws in this country.


And we're waiting for that report.


COATES: I think it's coming out will they say what the 21st.

CAMEROTA: The 21st, that's right.

COATES: We will see. That's right.

CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you all very much.

Meanwhile, bringing Brittney Griner home is just the latest in a string of victories for President Biden in the past week. Are people underestimating him at their own expense? That's next.


CAMEROTA: It's been a winning week for President Biden. He secured the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner from a Russian jail today. He also supported the landmark legislation to protect same sex and interracial marriages.


COATES: And that's not their only wins, by the way. I mean, of course, the administration. I mean, in recent weeks it also managed to avert a rail strike, as well as defy midterm history. But despite these accomplishments, it still seems that Biden is, well, he's being underestimated. The real question is why.

Back with us, John Berman, S.E. Cupp, and Van Jones.

CAMEROTA: John Berman?

COATES: Berman.

(CROSSTALK) CAMEROTA: He does like that.

COATES: He does like it.

JOHN BERMAN, HOST, CNN: I'm just lucky to be here.


COATES: I was thinking in my mind --

BERMAN: You can call me anything you want.

COATES: You know what? I was thinking, I heard it and I said it, and I was like, I should have said feared man


COATES: Johnny B.


COATES: So, I'll start -- I'll start with you since I've given you a different name this evening. Why do you think he's being underestimated?

BERMAN: I think Joe Biden, and this really started during the primaries, there's a little bit of a tortoise in a hair phenomenon. He was counted out every stage of the way after Iowa and New Hampshire. And he was just, I'm going to stay the chorus. And then sure enough he wins. And then we've seen it in the administration too. My God, everything is going straight. He's like, I'm just going to stay the course. And it turns out OK for him.

I think I don't know whether he doesn't care about the frenzy and tizzy that's going on around him, or he doesn't hear it, and I'm not being pejorative there. He doesn't, he's not aware of it, but he just, he stays going forward and he's managed to be effective at what he wants to do.

What may make him an incredibly odd for this Twitter moment, the, you know, the Twitter society may make him a good fit for like real life society and getting actual stuff done.


CAMEROTA: You know what's so funny, S.E., there's another network that devotes hours of programming to montages of his bumbling, his word finding difficulties and they yuck it up about, you know, how senile or old he is. And then --


S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think I know that network.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you may be familiar with it.

CUPP: We're both a little familiar.

CAMEROTA: And then he pulls off all of those legislative wins.

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And a midterm victory.

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And gets, you know, Brittney Griner home. It's like, I think they might be snowballing missing there.

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Like buffaloing their viewers --

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- into thinking that he's not as effective as he is.

CUPP: That he's weak. That he's an easy target, that he's an easy takeover, that he's incompetent. And I also just think there, they're sort of, Republicans are misdiagnosing. Misdiagnosing Biden and their own problems.

I heard a former colleague of ours, Newt Gingrich this week taking a stab at it. Tomi Lahren, a Fox News personality, taking a stab at it, and both said a version of we should be beating these socialists and communists and we're not.

I think most people don't see the socialism in the communism is the problem. They're using these words that sound really scary. And I think most people are like, where is it? Where is all of that?


CUPP: That you're talking about. The woke-ism, the, you know, where is it all? And so the culture wars are effective, but only at agitating their base. They're not really affect -- affecting this mass electorate who I think they started to see through all that stuff.

COATES: I mean, Van, you think about it. I mean, there's that old saying, underestimate me, this will be fun.


COATES: For Biden, he's probably having fun at the notion of every time they're underestimating, well, then you overestimated a red wave, you overestimated the inability to get things done. You've overestimated the ability to get Herschel Walker elected. You've overestimated so many aspects of it.

Perhaps it's more of a, maybe an inadvertent strategy at this point to be under that radar.

JONES: You remember Colombo, you know, he's always -- it turns out -- (CROSSTALK)

CUPP: One more thing, yes.

JONES: You know, so there is -- there is a value to being underestimated, but I think it's not just Republicans that are underestimating him, for a bunch of Democrats have been as well.

I think there's this cognitive dissidence between someone who looks so feeble. I mean, he doesn't -- he again, those of us who've known Joe Biden, I worked for him in the Obama White House. You know, he was a -- he was a more, you know, vigorous figure. And now he's older and he looks older, and yet his record is that of a colossus.

I mean, he has pulled off more stuff in the two years he's been in office with this little tiny, little majority than a lot of presidents get done -- get done in a whole term. And so, when you look at somebody, hold on a second, your record, it's like, you got the most basketball points in the game ever in the first half. In the first half. But at the same time, you look like you are, you know, grandpa.

And so, I think Democrats are just now realizing, wait a minute, we've got a winner here. We've got a winner here.

CUPP: I think it's all true, but I also just want to call, I'm not sure he's a very strong candidate going into 2024. He has every right to run. Every right.

CAMEROTA: Right. But the approval rating support what you're saying. I mean, everything that Van said --

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- is not being reflected in the approval rating.

CUPP: Well, I would put him up against Trump again, that worked great last time. But a Ron DeSantis or someone else, I don't think he's got it. And it's not just because of Republicans, but Democrats.


He was elected to be a transitional president, not a transformational one, and I don't think he can take the party or the country where it ultimately wants to go.

BERMAN: And he has a saying, actually I think which describes why he's had some of the success and what he wants to do. I just want to make clear. People can judge whether or not they like what he's gotten done, but what he's wanted to do, he's gotten done.

He always says, don't judge me against the almighty. Judge me against the alternative.


BERMAN: Right? And so that's where he's benefited a lot. CUPP: Yes.

BERMAN: Up until this point. Who he's been running against, what he's been fighting against, you know, that may change at some point. Don -- the best thing he's got going for him is Donald Trump.

CUPP: Right.

BERMAN: You know, if Donald Trump doesn't want to go through with this election, things may be very different.

CAMEROTA: OK, guys, thank you.

CUPP: Yes.

COATES: I'm going to -- I'm going to call him John Bierman (Ph) from now on.

CAMEROTA: I think it's spin.

COATES: It had a whole different vibe for prime time.



COATES: I liked it. Well, look, Harry and Meghan are now calling out the Royal family in their new docu-series, and if you haven't had a chance to watch yet, well, you should stay tuned. It's coming up, next.


CAMEROTA: We've got clips.



COATES: Tonight, we're hearing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's side of the story, the first three episodes of their six-part docu-series Harry and Meghan hitting Netflix today.

CAMEROTA: It includes pictures and stories from the early days of their relationship and Meghan's first meeting with the royal family, they also addressed their relentless media attention, which Harry says has a race element when it comes to coverage of Meghan. Let's watch.


PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: As far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well. So, it was almost like a rite of passage and some of the members of the family was like, right, but my wife had to go through that. So why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected? And I said the difference here is the race element.


CAMEROTA: Back with us, John Berman, S.E. Cupp, and Van Jones. That's interesting.

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So, Van, I thought that was just very insightful to hear that they all said, well, we all had to go through it. It was a rite of passage. And the difference is the race element. Is it? I mean, the paparazzi, tell me what your thoughts about that, or since all I see is paparazzi swarming all of the women at all times.

JONES: I think this is a, a case of trauma meeting tradition. I think you have two people who have really significant trauma. You know, Harry lost his mom at a very young age. There's not a bunch of royals that had their mom basically killed by

paparazzi. And so, you just can't say, well, you know, get over it.

And then with Meghan, she's a black woman. And once you start throwing out racial stuff, we have a 400-year history of that leading to a lot of violence. And so, you have this new modern couple managing a personal trauma and historical trauma and the royal family could get past a tradition and so you guys just act like everybody else. You should act like everybody else. You want some special privileges?

No. We are in a unique situation with special trauma and you guys need to respond. And the failure of the tradition to give way to the trauma result in this whole mess.

COATES: It doesn't sound like either from the documentary, I think they're exposing that it was something that was like a, inadvertent or an ignorance of it, but maybe intentional that we have chosen intentionally not to provide through some sort of, you have to go through what we went through.

But there is something different in it. I mean, she is a black woman entering the monarchy. It's -- it is -- it is different.

JONES: And I --

COATES: The history of the monarchy is different. There are aspects of it as a black woman --


BERMAN: Difference one way to put it. But go ahead.

COATES: I mean, different, I mean, the idea of what she would have --


JONES: And they deserve --

COATES: -- to think about. JONES: And here's the reality. They deserved the support of their family. They deserved a family that could listen and could adapt, and they didn't get that. And now people want to say that she --


CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, is that asking too much?

JONES: And now people want to say that she's a crybaby and she's a prima donna, et cetera, et cetera.

COATES: That is the narrative people --

JONES: But I ask anybody, you put yourself in that situation and you imagine all those people coming at you and you live in a co -- you live on a continent with actual Nazis, et cetera, and say that you would be happy to have no protection. I don't agree.

CAMEROTA: Yes. All I'm saying is that she, and she was asking at whatever 88-year-old traditional woman to adapt. And I don't know if that woman was --


CUPP: Also, we live in a country with actual Nazis. I just want to point that out too.

JONES: Yes. Fair enough. Fair enough.

CUPP: But listen, I --

JONES: How do you see it?

CUPP: Well, like I said last night, I don't really watch the royals and that's my right. We won a war over it. But listen, I'm glad that they're telling their story and what they went through, and I think it is eye-opening and it's a good reckoning. What I don't like is how broadly they painted this story.

I mean, they throw the whole of the U.K. is racist. The media is racist, the paparazzi are racist. Brexit supporters are racist. They're very broad about how they talk about what they went through very personally, what they went through. And I wish they were a bit more surgical unless they truly believe that everyone is like that and everyone there is awful and out to get them.

CAMEROTA: Well, maybe, do we have time to play one more clip abou tthe --


COATES: Yes. I didn't see it that way.

CAMEROTA: OK. Here's the unconscious bias that Harry talks about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRINCE HARRY: This family sometimes, you know, you're part of the problem and part of the solution, and there is a huge level of unconscious bias. The thing with unconscious bias is it's actually no one's fault. But once it's being pointed out or identified within yourself, you then need to make it right.


COATES: What's interesting to me is the idea of, I mean, we were talking about the monarchy and painting with a broad stroke. I mean, his family, which normally would be your personal family you think about it. If your family is synonymous with a country, how can you avoid painting with the broad strokes?


BERMAN: So, there's -- I've been doing a lot of research, which is to say I watched two of the episodes with a mixture of like rage on we at arousal. It's crazy what's going on there, but there's a quote from a guy James Holt, who is a former palace spokesman who says there's a family, there is this family anointed by God and by blood to rule over our country and other countries around the world.

It's a difficult conversation to have, he says. Which encapsulates my whole feeling about this. Sometimes just take a step back and it sort of makes my hair hurt. It's insane.

CAMEROTA: I know you've always felt this way.

BERMAN: It's insane what we're talking about.


CAMEROTA: Always felt the monarchy.

BERMAN: And so, what I like about this documentary is that it's at least bringing up the conversation about the whole thing again.


BERMAN: And making people look at it and go, wait a second. What are we actually talking about, let alone talking about in America?

CUPP: Yes.

BERMAN: Whereas, S.E., my favorite Massachusetts girl points out like, we fought a war to like get --


CAMEROTA: You thought you'd be done with it.

BERMAN: I thought I'd be done. A whole war.

CAMEROTA: All right, friends, thank you for all of the different perspectives and we'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: We want to highlight the good stuff happening across the country by celebrating real heroes.

COATES: Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa to find out who will be the 2022 hero of the year. CNN heroes all-star tribute begins Sunday at 8 p.m.


UNKNOWN: Sunday, it's the time of year to be inspired and honor some of humanity's best deserve.

UNKNOWN: We have found homes for almost 3,000 dogs.

UNKNOWN: Our community engagement center used to be the community drug house.

UNKNOWN: I want my grandchildren to have it better than what I have it today.

UNKNOWN: It has always wanted to serve other people.

UNKNOWN: Human suffering has no borders. People are people, and love is love.

UNKNOWN: Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa live as they present the 2022 hero of the year.

UNKNOWN: Join me --

UNKNOWN: -- in honoring --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: CNN hero of the year.

UNKNOWN: CNN heroes, an all-star tribute Sunday at 8.


CAMEROTA: Most inspirational night of the year. I can't wait for Sunday.

COATES: Really nice.


COATES: It's really good.

CAMEROTA: OK, so up next, a close personal friend of Brittney Griner speaks out about Griner's release. Griner is supposed to touch down in San Antonio very soon. We'll be right back.