Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Tonight

McCarthy Faces Tough Speaker Fight In Divided Party; Griner Is "Heartbroken" That Whelan Is Still In Russia; Twins Accused Of Cheating Win Defamation Lawsuit Against Medical School; Air Travel: What It Would Take To Get You In The Middle Seat? Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 23:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We are less than three weeks away from a new Congress but Kevin McCarthy still does not have the votes to be speaker. We'll tell you what he might have to give up to get them.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Plus, Brittney Griner is heartbroken that Paul Whelan is still detained in Russia. That's coming from her agent tonight. So, what's the U.S. doing to try to get Mr. Whelan home?

CAMEROTA: And we're going to talk about this story. They are identical twins who are accused of cheating on their medical exams. They sued their school and they won, and wait until you hear their defense. So, we are going to talk to a doctor who helped prove their case.

COATES: I want to bring in now CNN political analyst Astead Herndon, senior political analyst John Avlon, and political commentator Margaret Hoover as well who is joining us.

Let's begin, first of all, with the fact that we are, in congressional terms, days away from a new Congress happening, and yet on the democrat side, they certainly have their leadership in place, on the republican side, McCarthy is not a shoe in, he's still fighting to get the numbers, I wonder what you make of the fact that he saw it as an uphill battle, Margaret.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, PBS HOST: I was down in Washington today, had conversations with Republicans all over, and my sense is, you say we're days away, but in dog years, we're years away.


HOOVER: And the truth is we may not know until right around the time of the vote. We may not know until the day of the vote. What it demonstrates is something very different is happening in the House of Representatives and is happening in the U.S. Senate. Republicans in the Senate are very organized. They all voted to return Mitch McConnell to leadership, not all of them intended -- but, you know -- so, the leadership and the organization in the Senate is very fine. There are two types of Republicans. There's sort of -- there is a polite word for the troublemakers in the House of Representatives, and then there's the Senate. So, you have two different kinds of the Republican Party on the Hill. And on the House is unquestionably chaotic, disorganized, and Kevin McCarthy is just fighting for his life to get that brass ring.

CAMEROTA: It's ungovernable. Let's face it. And so, I mean, basically --

COATES: One of the nice words coming --

CAMEROTA: Yeah, that's one of the nice words. But as Margaret alluded to, the uber right wingers are basically saying that he doesn't have the votes.


CAMEROTA: And I think that they want to extract something from him to get the votes.


For instance, Marjorie Taylor Greene --

AVLON: Yeah.

CAMEROTA: -- wants some committee -- I don't know. Chairman Schiff or she wants to be on committee, I guess.

AVLON: Yeah.

CAMEROTA: And so, is he going to strike those deals?

AVLON: Look, I think he's going to have to because, look, he has only got a four-vote margin on a good day. The big day is going to be January 3rd. We already have more than four votes against him ostensibly backing Andy Biggs for speaker, which is a nonstarter for the caucus but it's a protest vote.

He is still best positioned, let us be clear, because he's the person who, you know, can basically unite the center and the far-right to the extent that is possible. But he's going to have to cut a lot of deals, and those deals are going to weaken his ability to control his caucus.

And so, what we saw afflict Paul Ryan and John Boehner, where they really couldn't control their crazy caucus, is going to be on steroids for McCarthy if he wins.

COATES: One of those, you know, deals with the proverbial devil seems to be the idea of saying, look, it's going to be tit-for-tat. And just as Democrats remove some members of the Republican Party from committees, including one Marjorie Taylor Greene among others, there is the thought that Kevin McCarthy, if elected to speaker, will do the same. We have at least one Republican, a moderate, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, telling to CNN that she's going to oppose kicking Democrats off their committee assignments. And I'm wondering, of course, will that end the cycle? Are there more Nancy Maces in the -- on the horizon about issues like this or it this essentially what we have to expect, the tit for tat retaliation?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you have kind of conflicting interest for McCarthy here. You have a base that wants that tit for tat, that wants the republican Congress to really extract almost everything that they can to get back at Democrats for what they perceive happened in the Trump administration.

And then you have some moderate Republicans who are especially looking towards the results in November and saying that strategy didn't really work out for Republicans.

And so, you have a different incentive base for different sides of the Republican Party. That's really what is driving this political conflict. I think you're right that McCarthy is still best positioned to be the person who can unite those wings, but the question is what is he going to have to give up to make that happen, and that very well might be appeasing that kind of tit-for-tat.

CAMEROTA: Margaret, let us listen to what Nancy Mace have to say because I think she is interesting. I think the fact that she is saying all of this out loud and what she really stands for is helpful. Let's listen to Congresswoman Mace.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I am going to be consistent regardless of who is in power. That's really up to voters. Voters get to decide who serves them when they are in Congress, not members of Congress after they've gotten here. I'll support resolutions for people who have been bigoted in their remarks, those kinds of things, but I'm not going to support kicking people off of their committees. I didn't last year, and I won't be doing it again next year.


CAMEROTA: The issue she was talking about like the (INAUDIBLE) who, you know, made from -- by the white to be, you know, boogeyman (INAUDIBLE), and she said, I don't support taking them off their committees.

HOOVER: Yeah, First Amendment. Look, one of the things you said, you said that was constructive thing for her to say. There should be more people like him. Are there going to be more people like her? There are some. And the reason she is saying what she is saying is because she's from a swing district.

She's from the district, Charleston, South Carolina, that has basically gone blue for every president in the last -- well, every three -- three cycles now, it has been a blue district in South Carolina, deep red South Carolina. You get reasonable Republicans from swing districts. We need more of Nancy Mace, more competitive --

CAMEROTA: We need to gerrymander less.

AVLON: Yes, we do.

HOOVER: That's the key to my husband's heart.

AVLON: That's the bottom line here, if we have more competitive districts, less safe seats, we have more members of Congress who cared about reaching out to win over the reasonable edge of the opposition and less obsessed with playing to the base, and you see that in Nancy Mace, 100%.

COATES: We wonder though, in terms of -- I mean, yes, we should agree that we should gerrymander not at all, not just less, but just stop with the gerrymandering as part of what we can possibly do. But in thinking about this, I mean, there is an appetite because of what we were talking about.

There's the appetite, the perception that Republicans have been wronged, that Republicans were targeted, that they were canceled unjustifiably, that Kevin McCarthy, in order to gain power, is going to have to dilute it by making a number of deals that essentially will make, maybe, his need to talk to Democrats all the more evident.

Does that make the democrats more powerful, that they will likely be relied upon to bring home what the outliers do not?

HERNDON: I think Democrats are playing with a better hand than they expected going into this next Congress without question. That is because of the small -- the small margin that Republicans are going to have and that matters because of just the wide range of Republicans we're talking about here.

But these tensions that are kind of messing with Kevin McCarthy right now, they are going to play out in Washington on one piece, but this really is going to play out in the 2024 presidential campaign. That is going to be where Republicans kind of sort out just how big that faction is, just how small the Nancy Mace faction is, but until we get that, we're not getting a really full accounting of that question.

AVLON: I want to resist the temptation to skate ahead in 2024.


HERNDON: That primary, yeah, that's going to happen.

AVLON: Yeah, but -- right. I mean, we've got two years of governing ahead of us, and we have divided government which in recent years has been dysfunctional government, but it doesn't need to be. The American people actually would like to find ways for the parties to work together. And there are probably a couple of areas where they could.


AVLON: So, we should be talking more about that. They should be talking more about that, too.

HERNDON: That is a should, but that has no evidence in this Congress.

HOOVER: I think that actually this has been an enormously productive Congress, especially in the last six months.

AVLON: Bipartisan margins.

HOOVER: But where this all started? It started in the Senate. It starts in the Senate. So, it's a matter of what happens in the House. What you are talking about is right. All the deals that Kevin McCarthy is going to have to cut may ultimately undermine his ability to hold on to power. Then what?

So, if Kevin McCarthy is able to put the votes together, how long does he have it? Who governs after that? And then, can they do anything with what the Senate sends them?

CAMEROTA: Particularly if he agrees, as part of the deal, on this motion to vacate. Where they can, like, get rid of him at a moment's notice. That's the thing that they're suggesting.

COATES: He doesn't want that.

AVLON: Let me tell you, if that's the condition by which he gets the speakership, his biggest problem is a lack of enthusiasm among his own caucus, that is signing your own self-destruct notes. That's absolutely nonworkable, non-governable, nonstarter.

HERNDON: The best thing Kevin McCarthy has going for him is that no one else wants the job. The job is hard for a reason and they do not -- the person who can put together that caucus is still -- that list is still very small.

And so, even though he is a wounded speaker, a potential speaker going in, who is going to have to make up very tight amounts of votes to get that job, what he can say is there are very few people who can get those numbers, even if they are small.

COATES: You know who was one person today, of course, Speaker Pelosi, who as she has spoken about, you are present at the White House, she spoke about the idea of how proud she was to have as one of her final acts as speaker of the House be in support of the Marriage Act.

HOOVER: You know, it is really -- it was amazing because it was also her first speech in the House. When she came to the House of Representatives was about the AIDS epidemic and about these issues because, of course, she represented San Francisco. The LGBTQ community was a huge part of her consistency. Frankly, her political base from the beginning. So, it is a real full circle for her.

CAMEROTA: That's very interesting bookends. But what was it like, Margaret?

HOOVER: I just want to say, one of the things that has gone a little too little attention about this bill today -- I stood there on the south lawn of the White House.

I had -- members of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints, National Association of Evangelicals, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the orthodox union, religious organizations across this country, supported this bill, because not only are they in favor of freedom to marry, they are also in favor of what the bill did, which restate its position to protecting religious organizations' ability to not have to conduct marriages that they disagree with in their churches and not lose their 501C3 status.

That is a fabulous example of how we can reason together in a pluralistic country and have diverse religious backgrounds and groups of people come together for a bill that was supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. This is such a fabulous example of progress in this country and it was a really wonderful part to be -- wonderful thing to be part of.

COATES: It's also a way though to -- I mean, I hate to damper it, but it also kind of a way to think about taking some of the teat and bite out of legislation as well. The idea of having the exemptions available. It is almost lie, hey, the people who are here and support in showing it tell you it was safe, it was safe to have evidence (ph). That is one of the comments people had about not really codifying.

AVLON: You could have that or you could not have the bill.

COATES: Oh, no. I understand that. I get the politics of it. But one of the issues --

HOOVER: Everybody still gets to get married. You just say you don't have to be Catholic and force somebody to get married in your Catholic church.


HOOVER: That is -- this is -- but here's the deal. As you know --

COATES: But they also have to, in some places, leave the state they want to get married in to then go someplace else and have it reciprocally recognized in their home state. That's still there.

HOOVER: Every state recognizes marriage.

COATES: I understand, I understand, but it is not the pure codification of Obergefell, which politically, it could not be.

HOOVER: But that's not because of First Amendment. That's not because of religious organizations. Frankly, this thing would not have passed if you hadn't had that religious statement in it.

CAMEROTA: Is this called compromise?

AVLON: Progress, yes. Progress, not perfection.

COATES: I don't think we're seeing something different.

AVLON: That's what we do at a pluralistic society.


COATES: Well, there you go. Well done, John Avlon.

AVLON: Thank you.

COATES: Brittney Griner, everyone, is back home, but heartbroken that Paul Whelan is still detained in Russia. Our next guest says it's great she's free, but he calls the hostage bizarre and needs to come to an end. We'll discuss, next.




COATES: There's encouraging news tonight about Brittney Griner. Her agent says the WNBA star is -- quote -- "upbeat, thankful, and hopeful as she recuperates at an army medical center in Texas." She's now getting physical and psychological support. She is spending time with her wife, also eating some barbecue, and hitting the basketball court.

CAMEROTA: Brittney Griner's agent tells Anderson Cooper tonight that Brittney Griner is -- quote -- "heartbroken" that Paul Whelan remains detained in Russia.

I want to bring in Max Boot now. He is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has a new column in "The Washington Post" and he writes that while it is great that Griner is back home, the hostage bazaar has to close. John Avlon and Margaret Hoover are back with us also.

So, Max, when you say the hostage bazaar has to end, you mean prisoner swaps?


MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, SENIOR FELLOW AT COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Yeah. I mean, there has just been so many in recent years and it is kind of ironic to see former President Trump and his supporters attacking this deal when Donald Trump himself bragged that he was the greatest hostage negotiator in human history.

CAMEROTA: And he made a lot of prisoner swaps.

BOOT: He made a lot of prisoner swaps with the Taliban, with the Houthis, with a lot of repugnant regimes. And this has been a trend going back many years now. The problem is that each individual case, our hearts go out to them.


BOOT: We want to see these Americans come home because they are being unjustly detained. The problem is, when we are making all of these deals, making all these concessions, including letting somebody like Viktor Bout, this notorious arms dealer out of prison, to get somebody else who was unjustly detained home, it creates incentives to seize more American hostages.

CAMEROTA: Max, I understand, but what's the option? Let Brittney Griner stay in a Russian penal colony?

BOOT: No, no. I mean, I'm very glad that Brittney Griner is out, but I think we need to have a serious debate about whether we want to continue doing this or whether we should say -- you know, the State Department has a list of countries where it advises Americans not to travel, including Russia, Iran, Syria, some of the obvious candidates.

And maybe at some point, we need to have a president who says, okay, I'm going to work to get the people out who are currently in prison, but in the future, if you choose to go to Russia, you are on your own, we are not going to make concessions to get you home.

By the way, I might add, there is still like 30 American basketball players who are still playing in Russia as we speak. That is not very wise. That is creating the potential for yet another hostage crisis down the road.

COATES: What I think is fascinating about it is the idea of -- some people ask the question. They will say -- and I remember when she was first detained, when we first learned about her detention, when we learned she was a basketball player there, they would make comments about, what someone doing there? When learned about her during the invasion, she had already been detained, or questions about, this person -- not a traveling place, it's on the do not travel area.

But your point really is the idea of hold on, if people are intending to do it anyway, they ought not to be able to have the luxury of having the government support them and have their safe return guaranteed. What do you guys think about that?

AVLON: I respectfully disagree. I understand the point that Max is making, but I think the privileges and responsibilities of American citizenship, of a government to its citizens, don't stop simply because someone has found themselves in an unwise or dangerous place.

I haven't yet seen the point that Max is making, which is that, you know, if you negotiate for one hostage, that it creates an incentive to get another dozen. On the surface, obviously, trading someone whose nickname is the merchant of death for a WNBC star who was improperly detained is an imbalance.

But American presidents, going back decades, as Max points out, have made it a priority to try to get Americans out of harm's way. That is a basic responsibility of the government and the president. And the fact that she was being used as a pawn within the context of the runup to the invasion of Ukraine, Paul Whelan is still there, he should be released.

But I think we need to celebrate as Americans. What we need to avoid is the situational ethics we see, Republicans who celebrated every hostage released by Donald Trump condemn this one as making America weaker. It does not make us weaker.

BOOT: Well, no, I mean, I agree with you, there is massive hypocrisy on the part of Republicans here. There is no way around that. But I think at the end of the day, there is a legitimate point that these hostage swaps do make us weaker. The problem is that both parties have done it. It's a bipartisan problem.

COATES: Margaret, what do you think?

HOOVER: What do you do? I'm willing to give a lot of leeway to the people who run the negotiations and who have the intelligence, who know the details about what was being offered between Brittney and Paul Whelan. I'm delighted that she's home. Of course, we have been following it.

But I recall President Trump swapped many, many dozens of Taliban prisoners, which struck me as an outrage at the time in order to get Americans back. But you are right, there is this precedent for American presidents doing what they can in order to get Americans back.

I was struck, frankly, that her statement -- that she took time in her statement to update the country about how she was, but then to also make note of Paul Whelan, who is still there in Russia. And there has been a degree of criticism about him being left behind and some commentary about that. I was not part of the negotiation. I don't know.

AVLON: Sounds like Biden wanted to keep him.

BOOT: There is a lot of opportunities in there, obviously, because everyone wants Paul Whelan home, but he was captured in 2018, when Donald Trump was president.

AVLON: Yeah.

BOOT: And now, Trump and others are suggesting that Biden did something wrong by not getting him out. Why did Trump get him out in the first place?

CAMEROTA: Yeah, great point. Friends, thank you very much for talking about all of this.

COATES: Very interesting.

CAMEROTA: We have to get to this story. Identical twin sisters are accused of cheating on their medical exams. They then sued their school, and they won. And we'll tell you how they prove their case and what makes twins so special, as the mother of two.





CAMEROTA: Identical twin sisters won a $1.5 million-defamation case against the Medical University of South Carolina. Kayla and Kellie Bingham were accused of cheating on their year-end medical exams by the school after earning extremely similar test scores. In fact, the sisters had identical answers to 296 out of the 307 questions on the exam, including getting the exact same 54 questions wrong.

COATES: It's unbelievable. I mean, it's stunning. And the question is, how did they prove their case then to allow them to win? They were leaning on the theory that it is common for identical twins to perform similarly on tests.


And joining us now is the twin's attorney, James Smith. Also with us, the director of the Twin Study Center at Cal State Fullerton, Dr. Nancy Segal, who also testified in this case. I'm so glad that you are both here.

I want to start with the research because I think this is fascinating to think about, the idea that they could have tested so similarly overt time, not just on these exams but in the SAT, I believe, another standardized testing. The research, you say, Dr. Segal, actually -- it would surprise you if they didn't have similar results. Tell us why.

NANCY SEGAL, DIRECTOR, TWIN STUDY CENTER: That's correct. The vast number of psychological studies as well as life histories, do show that identical twins perform at amazingly similar level, even identical twins raised apart from birth.

And how do we explain this? Identical twins have similar DNA. They come into the world with exact same set of genes. And we know from our research studies that genes predispose us toward certain people, places and events. They (INAUDIBLE) the way that we process information, the way that we perform solutions, the way that we solve problems.

And so, it came as no surprise to me that Kayla and Kellie would perform so similarly on these tests. In fact, I would've been surprised have they not. And for me, the vital error that was made in this particular case was that when the scores were submitted to a test and security (INAUDIBLE), they claimed that the twins scored more alike than they should have, given any two other pairs of people.

But in fact, they are identical twins, and that was a key factor not taken into consideration. We see these kinds of things all the time. And so, these are real hard scientific facts that are supported by a good amount of quantitative data.

CAMEROTA: But James, it is interesting, you see why the school would be suspicious, okay? Because without all of that background that Dr. Segal just laid out, to get 296 questions out of the 307 exactly the same answer, including the 54 wrong answers, of course, that arouses suspicion. And so, how hard was it to make your case to the school?


CAMEROTA: Yes. Sorry, James.

SMITH: Okay, no problem. You know, it was not hard. There was never a doubt. It has been such a privilege to represent these two courageous young ladies, Kellie and Kayla, in their desire to make sure this never happens to another pair of identical twins ever again.

From the outset, so very confident in the truth at which they spoke. And really, when you look at their entire life experience, you can see that every time they have come together to take tests, where they are in the same room or in a different location, they've performed virtually identical. Identical SAT scores. They've been within a fraction of a point throughout their entire academic careers.

So, really, the fact spoke for themselves. Even before having the benefit of Dr. Segal's expert witness testimony and the myriad of tests that have been performed, I had a great deal of confidence that the court would see and understand that they performed exactly as they should. There is an old saying that great minds think alike and certainly genetically identical minds are predisposed to do that.

COATES: This is a defamation case. And so, thinking about this, James, I mean, we're talking about a reputational harm. I understand that these two twins, they suffered from having the accusations leveled against them. They actually did not end up pursuing a career in medicine as a result.

CAMEROTA: That's incredible.

COATES: Tell me about -- the idea of stress, mental anguish, panic attacks they've experienced, post-traumatic stress disorder. Tell me about the impact has been on their lives.

SMITH: This was absolutely devastating. It was a circumstance where it should've been kept confidential. But, of course, in an environment like this, it was not. Even the dean who ultimately overturned the original decision made the recommendation to them that they would be better off if they left the school, because it gotten so intolerable for them.

They found that wherever they turned, their story was known across the country and they couldn't find another school to enter despite their remarkable scores and academic history. And ultimately, they turned to the law.

And as you might imagine, these two very talented young ladies went to law school, very successfully graduated with high marks again within a fraction of a point of each other within two different sections of the law school.

So, they took a terrible experience, stood up for themselves, fought for their reputations, had it declared and vindicated in court. Now, they want to make sure that the rest of the world understands that this is often (INAUDIBLE).


SEGAL: I need to inject something right here and follow up on something that the lawyer so appropriately said. This is not an isolated case. In my career as a psychologist and a twin researcher, I have encountered other cases like this. And I can say that it not only damages the twins' reputations, it creates havoc in a whole family and it really derails twins who are just trying to perform to the best of their ability.

I think that what is shameful about this is that here you have a fine medical school with outstanding faculty who admitted that they knew nothing about twins and it seems to me that they had not done their research prior to bringing this case to the test and security (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Dr. Segal -- yeah?

SEGAL: I'm just very happy that other twins out there who may be suffering the same kind of accusation will now have a place to turn. I think that in the past, they simply did not. But with all the research behind us, we are going to help these twins get through some very difficult and uncalled for situations.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting. Dr. Segal and James, thank you very much for sharing the story with us. You are right. None of us did know how they could score within a point or a decimal of each other. It's really interesting. And also, it's just sad. They won this award. They won $1.5. They gave up their dream.

COATES: And you know what? You hear people talk about this. And the initial reaction is always -- I wonder what they were accused of. People have this image that twins are, I don't know, doing telepathy. This is happening in these instances, right?

CAMEROTA: Is that so wrong? If they do telepathy?

COATES: Well, we do that. The whole show has done that.

CAMEROTA: Fraternal twins.

COATES: Fraternal journalistic twins. You heard it here.

CAMEROTA: That's adorable.


COATES: It is the breaking news. Listen, everybody, it's also breaking news that there is a place that few ever people want to be. It's a dreaded middle seat on an airplane. But it turns out some people love being stuck between two strangers in a tight space for hours. Just who are those people? We will tell you who, next.

CAMEROTA: Are we going to meet them next?

COATES: No. We are going to talk about them.

CAMEROTA: We are going to talk about them.




CAMEROTA: What's your least favorite seat on a plane? Well, Twitter is buzzing over this tweet from Zach Bernstein (ph) -- quote -- "losing my mind, just offered the aisle seat to the guy sitting between me and my girlfriend on a flight, and he said he's rather stay in the middle seat between us.


COATES: Something else is going on there. It is pretty shocking, right? listen, our friends at "The Washington Post" thought so, too, especially that story. They have an article titled, "To the People Who Willingly Chose the Middle Seat: We have Questions." And we also have questions, too.

Back with us now, Astead Herndon, John Avlon, and Margaret Hoover. Who among us doesn't want the middle seat, right?

HERNDON: Nobody.

COATES: Nobody!


HOOVER: Sometimes, you want the middle seat. I've been traveling with small children --


HOOVER: It is better to be with your kid rather than have -- if you move the guy who wants to break up with people, who want to be in the middle --

AVLON: That is the story.

CAMEROTA: There are other people who like the middle seat. Here's one. This is an awesome one. There have been times when flying during the day, I like the middle seat because I'm a talker.


HERNDON: Do you want to be in the middle seat? Do you want to talk to people in the middle seat?

AVLON: Absolutely not.

HOOVER: No. That's horrible.

AVLON: That's a rejected Seinfeld episode.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So, listen to this. Virgin is offering people inducements to take the middle seat because they know nobody wants it. So, tell me if you would take any of this. It's a lottery. Five-night cruise to Tasmania.

AVLON: What?


AVLON: I mean, sure.

HOOVER: Is that a prize?

AVLON: Yes, it's a prize.

CAMEROTA: Platinum Status upgrade, one million 'velocity points,' whatever that means.

COATES: You get there faster, velocity.

CAMEROTA: Shot out of a cannon.

CAMEROTA: Free flight for two people for each month of the year.



CAMEROTA: This is a good lottery.

AVLON: That's the incentive structure we need, or Virgin can innovate and just get rid of the middle seat. How about that, people? No middle seats. That's the best logo for an airline ever.

HERNDON: Outside the pandemic, Delta was doing no middle seats.

AVLON: Right.

HERNDON: That was not the most important thing at the time, but I did appreciate it.

AVLON: And the reason to take a middle seat is if you're traveling with your child, you want to sort of keep them sort of over here.

HOOVER: Do you know anything about that?

AVLON: I know a lot about that.

AVLON: A little bit.


AVLON: Listen, that's not even how it goes down usually. But --

COATES: Tell us more about how this goes down.


COATES: We only care about this segment.

AVLON: How do the (INAUDIBLE) travel with small people? Look, people who like the middle seat, that's a peculiar crew.

CAMEROTA: Here's another one. I'm five feet tall and petite. The middle seat is not uncomfortable for me at all. And I find people walking up and down the aisle to be extremely distracting if I'm trying to sleep or work. So, there is somebody who likes the window.

HERNDON: Yeah, I was saying there's another option. The window also exists.

CAMEROTA: But you can also get a year of lounge access if you take the middle seat. I like that.

HOOVER: That's a winner.


COATES: I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Two night-stay at a luxury resort? How about that?

COATES: I will take it (ph). I like swag. Also, I was the person who wants to be in the middle, sitting between John Avlon and Margaret Hoover.


COATES: You know what, actually, I'll take my chances. I will do that. You tell me your story and you will tell me yours. That doesn't happen there.

HERNDON: Shut it down, shut it down.

CAMEROTA: You know what my (INAUDIBLE)? I'm in the middle seat and somebody has asked for the window. And they shut the window.

HERNDON: You cannot sit in the middle seat and not be willing to take on what the rest of the row wants. If someone asks to open up the window, I don't care if you wanted the window closed, you need to open it.

COATES: Except the Amtrak because they have the old-school burlap curtains. If you close it, it's like touching your face and -- oh, I'm alone.

HOOVER: That's great, the hygienic part of it.

AVLON: Wow, we are going deep cut here, people. I think the main thing is, people who proactively choose the middle seat, you might want to talk to someone.

HOOVER: There's a lot of people like that out there, John Avlon.

COATES: We will be right back.


AVLON: That is the joke. Did you get the joke I made?




COATES: Tomorrow will make 10 years since 20 children and six adults were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

CAMEROTA: In a new CNN special report, I revisit the parents who turned their grief that day into power. We look back at their decade- long fight to prevent other families from suffering the devastation that they felt on that awful day.


NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: In one room, I could see first graders sitting down with crossed legs. And I kept looking at all the faces. And I did not see any of Dylan's classmates. And I didn't see Dylan.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): There's an entire class that has not come out of the school yet.

CAMEROTA: Nicole Hockley kept scanning the crowd for her six-year-old son.

HOCKLEY: I remember just looking and staring at each one and just not understanding why he was not there. People were holding signs in classrooms. And I found someone holding Ms. Soto's sign, but it wasn't Ms. Soto.

And there were just a couple of kids there, including Dylan's reading partner. And I walked up and I said, where is the rest of the class? And I looked down at Dylan's reading partner and she just -- her eyes were like wide-like saucers, and she was just staring. And I thought, oh, gosh, this isn't good.

CAMEROTA: Scarlett Lewis was also there, searching for her six-year- old son, Jesse.

SCARLETT LEWIS, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I remember being told repeatedly, if you can't find your child, go into the back room and put his name down on the list. And I'm like, I'm not going to put my child's name down on a list. I'm just going to find him. I tried to go up to the school. They would not let me.

MARK BARDEN, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: It was surreal. It was frightening. It was just -- it was hard to process. And at that point, the governor brought everybody into a room in a firehouse. And that is where we got the news.

HOCKLEY: He said that if we were still in that room, that our loved ones were not coming back. The room erupted. It was chaos. There was wailing. There was screaming, yelling. The gentleman who was to my right was on the ground pounding the floor.

BARDEN: It was just catastrophic beyond recognition.



CAMEROTA: I know. I mean, this is actually a hopeful hour. I know that that is devastating to go back and remember that day. We all remember where we were on that day. But what these families have done, I spent time with these families, and I did not leave feeling drained or depressed or exhausted.

I felt -- I left feeling empowered and hopeful because they did turn their grief into action. And what they will tell you is the changes that have happened in various states in this country over the past 10 years and the actual school shootings that we never report on because they have been stopped --

COATES: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- by the things that they have done. So, we don't know the names of various little towns because, through their actions, they have set up crisis counselors, they have set up hotlines. They know how to stop some of these once the warning signs are shot off. And they have stopped school shootings. So, it's actually hopeful. But, you know, it is so intense to have them have to go back and relive that day, as we all will, tomorrow.

COATES: They treated every other child as there is as well. Every parent has benefited now from their advocacy. It's tireless. And I think it's so poignant and beautiful. You almost can't believe it has been 10 years. It feels like time froze. But they did not freeze interaction.


COATES: They kept going.

CAMEROTA: Don't miss this hour. It's very special. It's called "Sandy Hook: Forever Remembered." It begins tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN, and then we'll be on right after that.

Thanks so much for watching us tonight.

COATES: Our coverage continues.




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. After more than six months of investigations involving approximately 1,000 witness interviews, including top officials at the White House and Department of Justice and analysis of tens of thousands of documents, the House Select Committee investigating January 6th attack on the Capitol announced today that it will deliver what is essentially its closing statement next week, a full report as well as possible criminal referrals to the Justice Department.

The announcement comes weeks before the new republican majority control of the House. They are expected, of course, to dissolve the January 6 Committee, but that does not end the inquiries into what happened.

Just today, the Department of Justice special counsel, Jack Smith, issued more subpoenas for local election officials in key 2020 battleground states asking for any and all communications with the former president, his campaign aides and allies from more than seven- month span.