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CNN Tonight

Inside The Special Counsel Investigations Of Biden And Trump, Where Both Cases Are, And The Differences Between Them; Political Controversies Surrounding Rep. George Santos (R-NY) And Gas Stoves Make Their Way Into Proposed Legislation; Ana Walshe Filed A Police Report In Washington In 2024 Claiming Brian Walshe Threatened To Kill Her; Growing Evidence Points To Ana Walshe Husband On Her Disappearance; Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) Is Interviewed About The Situation In Selma, Alabama; Second Largest Jackpot In Mega Millions Draws In Friday The 13th. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 13, 2023 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening everyone. I am Laura Coates and this is CNN TONIGHT.

And there are new developments into the investigation into the classified documents from President Joe Biden's time as Vice President Joe Biden. We are learning more about his private office where ten classified documents were found. Now, more on that in just a moment. We also got some new CNN reporting on the classified documents found in that office including a memo from Biden to then President Barack Obama, two briefing memos preparing Biden for separate phone calls and one with the British prime minister, the other with the president of the European Council.

Now, look, it is unclear how much of this material actually remains sensitive and whether that is really going to be the point in the end. But tonight, we're going to go dig deep into what we know about the special counsel's investigations of President Biden and former President Trump, what the special counsel in each case is looking at and the key differences between them.

Plus, the two stories everybody cannot stop talking about this week, the GOP's George Santos problem and the firestorm over gas stoves, gas. Yes, these are two big stories this week. You see what I did there about the fire storm? It was a moment. It's a Friday night, everyone. Congressman Santos got caught in what looked like a never ending series of whoppers about his own resume and it doesn't stop there, as they say. But wait, there's more. It also includes whoppers about his education, even his own family.

Now, CNN's own KFile has learned about his work for a company that was later accused of running a Ponzi scheme. Meanwhile, all the brouhaha over gas stoves, it shows no signs of dying down. There is something these two stories have in common that, well, you might not have noticed. And we're going to thread that particular needle when we come back a little later, and we'll tell you about it later on tonight.

Lots to talk about tonight with CNN Political Analyst Alex Burns, the former Independent Counsel Michael Zeldin, and former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams. I am glad you're all here with me tonight.

Let me begin with you, Michael, because you, at one point, were an independent counsel. And I'm wondering, when you are looking at these scenarios, taking a step back, everyone is focusing on, look, there are two special counsels but they have different roles because the facts might be different even though the headline is the same. How do you see it?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, Smith steps into the middle of an ongoing investigation, a multifaceted ongoing investigation. Hur, who is the Biden newly-appointed one, has to set up his own office. He has got to get a SCIF. He has got to hire a staff. He has got to figure out what his mandate is. And then he has got a very narrow set of issues to look at. How did these documents get out? Why did they get out? Were they disseminated? Was there criminal intent? And so it is a much more circumscribed issue. Smith has got a big deal on his hand. Biden's guy, Hur, has a much more narrow focus.

COATES: In the past, Elliot, you've said when you compare these two, I remember a very poignant remark. You said, look, right now, Trump has got a legal problem. Biden has got a P.R. problem. Do you still feel that way?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. What former President Trump has is a series of steps going back to August and frankly even before that, where's he made the situation worse for himself legally based on his own statements and, frankly, the conduct of folks around him including his attorneys. That is the reason why, as we talked about the other day, one of the bases for the search warrant of his property was possible obstruction of justice, acts to get in the way of the Justice Department.

Right now, what folks -- if you noticed, if you're reading between the lines about what people were complaining about with Joe Biden, it is, well, they didn't tell the media fast enough. The story switched a little bit and they weren't totally forthcoming. That is public relations.

Now, look, it can spiral into a legal problem. If it -- evidence comes out that the Biden team was either hiding information, was aware of what it was, was deliberately trying to conceal documents, of course, there is possible criminal liability there. But right now, it is just not clear that it's there.

COATES: Let me stick there for one second, because, of course, arguably, when special counsel is involved from DOJ, you have got a legal problem no matter how you want to talk about it, there is a problem. But I want to show you the layout of Biden's office again for a second here. And I think it is important just to try to take a step back and look at what we're talking about here of where these documents were supposedly found. This animation actually shows where White House documents were found. I believe this is at Biden's office.

But I also want to show you -- do we have the animation of where we found them -- not we -- I mean, the royal we -- where they were found at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate as well, just to think about the contrast here in terms of where they may be. This is Biden's office. I don't know why it is not showing up right now. But we remember, Alex -- well, here it is -- the contrast here. And I point these two things out because both one have been, Alex, to look at where we are talking about to figure out, should it raise any eyebrows all of a sudden about where these documents were found. There was that indelicate moment yesterday with Biden talking about his corvette and that seeming to intimate, look, my corvette is in a locked place. They're safe. The documents may have been. When you look at this and how people are going to process the information in the reporting, what stands out to you about these contrasts?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in some ways, I think having them side by side is, in some ways, it's helpful to Joe Biden, in some ways, unhelpful to Joe Biden, right? Because on the one hand, it is very clear that the Biden case, based on what we know about it now, is far, far less legally dangerous than the case involving former President Trump.

At the same time, it is a little bit misleading just to consider sort of the facts of the Biden situation in contrast to Trump. This isn't an election where one of these guys is going to get indicted and the guy who has the much worse facts of the case is probably going to be that guy, no. Joe Biden needs to handle this in absolute terms. Either stuff was done improperly or illegally or it wasn't.

Look, I'm with Elliot here. Based on what we know right now, we are clearly not in a position to say that Joe Biden is in profound legal jeopardy. At the same time to the point about public relations and like what we know is they weren't fully forthcoming and there were questions about why they didn't answer certain things at certain times, those are the kinds of gaps that lead you, in my view, sort of to withhold judgment on the seriousness of this because we clearly don't have all the information.

WILLIAMS: I think you would really go further than what's the whole judgment (ph). I think people get suspicious when they feel like their politicians aren't being straight with them.

BURNS: I mean, just like don't to the jump -- let's just not assume that based on the information we have right now, it is not that serious.

COATES: This is us talking. Michael, in your position before, I mean, obviously, there is room for the honor system in some fields. This is likely not one of them. What will they be looking at in terms of the special counsel's office to assess whether there really was the requisite intent or really it's the knowing nature, did he know this was the case, not just willful but was it knowing?

ZELDIN: Right. It's really the who, what, when, where, why. How did they get out? Why did they get out? Who had knowledge of them? Was there any dissemination? Was there any effort to alter or destroy, as was in the case of Sandy Berger who was prosecuted under this statute for taking documents and then when they sort of realized that he had them, he sort of altered them, or in the case of Alberto Gonzalez, where he had them but didn't disseminate them. They determined that there was no criminal liability because there was no knowledge or intent. Petraeus also prosecuted under this statute. He took them, he gave them to his biographer, who he was having a relationship with, and they determined that that dissemination tipped it over to being criminal.

So, all of those things are what the special counsel has to look at before he can determine whether or not this is inadvertent, non- intentional, not willful, therefore not criminal, or whether it implicates criminal law that requires the national security section and him collectively to make a determination does this fit in the norms of prosecution.

COATES: All really good points to compare because I think a lot of people forget. They think this is only beginning with, say, Trump's alleged mishandling or confirmed mishandling and think this is a confined universe of this never happens. Of course, it does go back to the idea of why is this consistently happening.

I keep going back to the moment. I know you and I have talked about this before, Elliot, if it were a trial, in a criminal trial, you would have problems getting into evidence that which you could not show had a chain of custody that preserved the integrity of the evidence. You have custodians of record. In this instance, it seems there are just documents unaccounted for until all after sudden, oops- a-daisy, someone finds them.

WILLIAM: Look, it is no accident, we talked about this, that Joe Biden, in that very first press conference, said, I was surprised to know of these documents and my staff hasn't told me, in effect, what is in them. That is distancing himself from sort of criminal -- the level of intent they needed to charge him with a crime while it exposes a bigger problem though that a former president of the United States can have documents at his house and not know they are there, right?

And this is far beyond Joe Biden or Donald Trump. It is a simple fact that we need as a nation, as a government, to get a better system for tracking classified information that is not electronic, right? Like if it is on an electronic device, there are ways to encrypt and so on. Papers can migrate out of White Houses, and that is a problem.


And we've seen it now with two different presidents.

ZELDIN: Well, the thing that is interesting to me, though, what the Biden case sets as potential precedent, if you will, and I think they are really disconnected cases, is Biden is saying and his staff is saying, look, Joe Biden worked until the last possible minute before the Obama administration ended and then he left and there was chaos around some of these documents and they inadvertently got there. Trump is saying the same thing. He's saying, I'm working to the very end. I don't think I've lost this election. Then it turns out that I've got to leave and they're packing up boxes furiously. And he says I didn't know they were there. Biden says I didn't know they were there.

And so I think that --

COATES: Yes. But Trump says they're mine and I'm keeping them, essentially.

ZELDIN: I understand that. But at that threshold level, there is similarity. Where they digress is when Trump says, I'm not giving them back. I'm potentially hiding them and I may be obstructing your investigation.

WILLIAMS: And they're mine, he literally said, they are my property.

ZELDIN: I understand that. But I am not sure that that raises the criminal responsibility that he has. The obstructing of the investigation is what his criminal liability is.

WILLIAMS: But it's knowing possession of the documents. Once he knows that there --

ZELDIN: After the fact. After the fact, right.

WILLIAMS: But even still, it is willfulness or knowledge are going to be relevant to any charging anybody with a crime. When you are saying, these are mine, this is not the government's property, that is itself evidence of intent.

Look, I'm not saying you can convict the guy tomorrow of anything but what prosecutors do is build cases and you establish intent when somebody says that a document that isn't his is actually his.

COATES: These are the lawyers' conversation politically, I mean, the nuance has to be so explicit and also an appetite to actually receive it for the electorate.

BURNS: Sure. And I do think that one of the things we have seen actually with both Trump and Biden over the years is it's actually pretty hard to change voters' mind about these guys. You know, we in the media love covering these investigations and we should cover these investigations. But I remember -- I am actually old enough to remember when Ken Starr was going to bring down the Clinton presidency, when Patrick Fitzgerald was going to bring down the Bush White House. And we all remember the Mueller investigation very, very clearly. And at the end of the day, people have a pretty developed view of the president.

Now, what I think personally as a political reporter talking to sort of sources who are on the political side of things, the question for Biden is does this undermine the sort of impression of competence, which already has been through the ringer a bit in the presidency and also does it sort of this notion that he was just working really hard, he lost track of his papers? Like does it reinforce the kind of like absentminded grandfather side of the Biden image, which the White House is not super enthusiastic about, right?

But we have seen some really, really tough hits delivered against both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And at the end of the day, it takes an enormous amount to move the needle because voters know them both pretty well.

COATES: Very true to I think about all of that. And we have more ahead, so stick around. Don't worry. We're going to talk next about two other stories that also got everybody's attention this week, not so much about the competence but credibility and trust certainly has come up yet again.

George Santos, the Congressman out of New York, is still defiant after lie after lie, and we'll add a third one, after lie about his background and there is also the uproar over gas stoves. Now, why am I even connecting these two? Is it a fourth analogy? No. There is something really in common. I'll tell you what it is in a moment.



COATES: Well, two of some of the strangest political dramas of the week now finding their way into new proposed laws. And some, shall we say, well, inventive and maybe descriptive acronyms. We have got two Democratic representatives from New York introducing, and if you look at it, the SANTOS Act. It stands for the Stopping Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker Act, or for short, see, the SANTOS act.

Meanwhile two Republicans taking a cue from the heated controversy over gas stoves this week introduced their own STOVES Act. Now, what is that short for? Look at it. Stop Trying to Obsessively Vilify Energy Act. Are these political micro aggressions? I don't know. That would prevent the banning, of course, this one of gas stoves or ranges.

So, back with me now, Alex Burns, your name is not the pun in this conversation, I'm going to put that out, Mr. Alex Burns, also CNN Political Commentator Ashley Allison and former National Republican Senatorial Committee Aide Liam Donovan.

So, look, obviously, it is understandable how the Santos discussion continues to concern so many people because it is a sitting member of Congress. What is more surprising for people, though, is the quick pace at which the gas study that was released back in December and commented on and revealed earlier this week had even the president of the United States, I would say, arguably responding quicker than he did to the allegations about mishandling classified documents. It tells you the power of what, special interests, the concerns, what do you get out of this?

LIAM DONOVAN, FORMER NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE AIDE: To me, it taps into a caricature of the left that the right has, that they are trying to take away all these things, it fits into -- oddly, it's an interesting cultural totem, but 40 percent of America has gas stoves and the idea that that will be taken away, this is from an idle comment by an unknown, which has a familiar name in Richard Trump Jr., but triggered the sorts of, I think, aggressive cultural wedge issue attraction of the right to use it and put Democrats on the defensive.

COATES: Will it be successful?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think so. I think this is going to be an issue that Dems can get ahead of messaging-wise and not be a deciding factor for the 2024 presidential election.

I do think, though, why it is happening is that we are in a time when the amount of information people are receiving is coming at them so quickly and it seems like everything is a crisis. And when you think about the SANTOS Act and the STOVE Act, those are very different issues and yet they sometimes get conflated as though they're the same level of issue.

I've said this on Wednesday, I would prefer a gas stove if I really like to cook.

COATES: Is that a big if? If I wanted to cook? Okay.

ALLISON: I would prefer a gas stove. I think that there are other ways to prevent the ventilation issues around gas stoves.


But George Santos is a liar and needs to be removed from office.

COATES: These are separate absolutely issues. I mean, obviously, somebody, a sitting Congressman lying, the idea of somebody else talking about the attack that they perceive on the gas industry very different. But, really, the point also is the way it is perceived and the idea of they're coming after -- it's always the government against someone, against an industry or you or someone. And there is a positioning that people have of, look, it is really me they're coming after, you they're coming after, I am in the way, and gas, Santos as some odd proxy in terms of this argument. What do you say?

BURNS: So, Laura, I'm going to speak some truth to the American people here.

COATES: Wait. We'll wait for it. Okay.

BURNS: In the last couple -- how many times over the last five years have you heard people say, I wish life could just get back to normal, right, that the Trump years were so chaotic, we had a pandemic that killed millions of people, we had global economic -- I just want to get back to normal. This is normal. This sort of firestorm about like a preposterous, off-hand comment, stuff buried in a report by some federal agency nobody has ever heard of before. It rockets around social media on to like real media. All of a sudden the president is responding to it. We remember when Barack Obama was going to come and take your light bulb, right? Like that was not that long ago, the idea that we are in week -- I don't know what it is, three or four of this, I mean, not to totally trivialize the Santos story, it is bad when somebody who is a giant liar is elected to Congress, but he's like the most backbencher in the House of Representatives.

The idea that we're fixating on this like screw ball character who is clearly way, way out of his depth, that is also a return to normalcy in its own way. Like the idea that the temperature of politics and the stakes of politics is a little bit lower now at the point where we can spend this much time talking about stuff that just doesn't really matter certainly on the level of the pandemic or a global recession or chaotic sort of presidency careening all over the road, that kind of is a return to normal.

DONOVAN: Something has to fill the vacuum. And if you don't have a main character in American politics or on Twitter, or anywhere else, something does fill the gap and it is going to be the STOVES Act and the SANTOS Act, the small outrages.

ALLISON: I want a new normal. I'm sorry. I don't want this normal and I don't want the Trump normal. We deserve something better than -- I hear you, like Santos is not a major party player but it is an indication of who and how the leadership of that party is responding to behavior, which is fraudulent, lying, and enabling other people in the party i.e. a former president to lie and be fraudulent and potentially commit crimes. So, I hear you. I would rather talk about gas stoves than COVID any day but I'm trying to find a new normal.

BURNS: I think that is totally fair. But if you have to choose between like waking up in the morning and like maybe the president has threatened nuclear war on Twitter versus like maybe a guy lied about working at Goldman Sachs, right, like one of those is much more sustainable as a lifestyle.

ALLISON: Unless working at Goldman Sachs and then he passes some type of bill that collapses our economy, like there is some type of effect that he still has legislative authority and I don't think we should just like sweep it under the rug as a nonissue.

DONOVAN: It all does feel a little bit trivial in light of the fact the secretary of the treasury issued a letter to Congress today saying that we are nearing our federal saturated debt limit. So, I do think there are things that are going to eclipse the more trivial items in the near future and I guess we have got to enjoy these while they last.

COATES: I do wonder if that is the point, though. When we're talking about a lot of what the Trump presidency informed a lot of people about was the idea of you would see, this idea of the bright, shiny objects put up as a distraction from what was in the periphery happening, and many wondered, hold on, why are you focusing on this over here? It is what you are not looking at over here that is the issue. And sometimes the return to normalcy in politic is getting people triggered, riled up about a particular issue, and my immediate skepticism says, what is it you don't want me to be thinking about? What about the debt ceiling? What about issues surrounding a man who has lied in Congress and still has a seat? What about the concessions that happened, oh, about a week ago? Where is all that information? So, that, in a way, is the normal, but we have more to talk about there. Don't worry. We'll have plenty. And I know you are all eager to continue the conversation.

We're going to move on a little bit though, everyone, because there is the trivial politically but then there is the real important issues in terms of even human life. And you've seen the reports about a missing Massachusetts mother. The question many are asking, looking at prosecutors and law enforcement alike, how do you solve a possible murder without the body?


That's what investigators in Massachusetts are trying to do that right now. We're going to break it down for you what that looks like, next.


COATES: Now, as the search goes on in Massachusetts for a missing mother, Ana Walshe, we are learning she filed a police report right here in Washington, D.C. nearly a decade ago claiming that Brian Walshe, who would later become her husband, had threatened to kill her. Now, that case was never prosecuted. Co-workers reported Ana Walshe missing on January 4th.

Now, Brian Walshe is in police custody charged with misleading investigators. And those investigators have found potential -- well, potential evidence in her disappearance including a bloody knife found in the couple's basement and a hacksaw at a nearby garbage transfer facility. But, still, no sign of Ana Walshe.

I want to bring in Chief Law Enforcement Analyst here at CNN and Intelligence Analyst John miller and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson who is also a criminal defense attorney. Gentlemen, thank you for being here tonight.

This story is so difficult and so sad to think about.


This is a mother of three children, her whereabouts unknown. You have got her husband who is being pegged as maybe the prime suspect here. But there is a lot to consider. And the evidence, John, seems to be growing against Brian Walshe. But without a body having been located or her being having been located in any manner, I mean, this is very difficult to fully proceed, or is it?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORECEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I mean, among prosecutors, the old adage was no body, no murder. You had to have a body to prove that someone was actually killed. That has changed a lot over the years. And if you think about some of the cases that we all know, the disappearance of Etan Patz, one of the most famous child kidnappings in history, a suspect convicted without the body ever being recovered.

You think of the case of Irene Silverman, the New York socialite who disappeared. And Santa Kimes and her son Kenneth convicted. The body has never been found. But more to the point of this case. You look at the Dr. Robert Bierenbaum case in New York where he murdered his wife, strangled her, and then flew her in an airplane over the ocean and dumped the body. The body has never been found and he has been convicted. And at a recent parole hearing, finally confessed to doing just that.

But most on point, I think the case, John Smith. John Smith murdered his first wife in New Jersey -- in Ohio. Murdered his second wife in New Jersey. Was on to his third wife when a dedicated FBI agent, Robert Hillen (ph) who never let go of that case, kept stringing together the circumstantial evidence, led to the recovery of one body not the other. But Smith is in jail in Marion federal prison and doesn't see parole until 2029.

So, we know this can be done. And in this case, with DNA, blood evidence, cell phone, you know, easy pass, all of the things that string together for circumstantial evidence that didn't exist just a short while ago, it's not what defense lawyers used to have the advantage on. But I'll leave that to Joey.

COATES: Well, let's bring you in here, Joey. And the buzz words I'm sure you were picking up on circumstantial evidence, circumstantial evidence, thinking about that and how one is able to even conceptualize a defense. But I do want to know, I mean, this is someone because he was already awaiting sentencing, I believe in some kind of art fraud trial, he had an ankle monitor.

I mean, the idea of these monitors, obviously, is to know where one's whereabouts are and if they are not where they're supposed to be. That is not beneficial to somebody who if he, again, is a suspect and has the presumption of innocence, of course, but as a suspect could be easy to track down where he was.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, you know, Laura, we have this thing as you know very well as a former prosecutor called consciousness of guilt, right? Well, what is consciousness of guilt? It means you do things because you're guilty and that's the explanation. And so here, John pointed out, right, very appropriately all the cases throughout the course of time.

And there is more, right? This country has been successful at prosecuting people who hide bodies since the 1800s. But when you talk to investigators and you give misleading information with respect to your wife's whereabouts, when you have ankle bracelets and you are, right, pursuant to that federal conviction that he had on probation, and as a result of that you have to stay home, and you could leave to pick up your children but you left and your children didn't have school, all of those thing's kind of circulate to the consciousness of guilt issue. In addition to that, we talk about the circumstantial evidence. You

know, Laura, circumstantial evidence is evidence. It's powerful. People don't get credit because they're smart enough to conceal their crimes. So as a result of that, what you do is you string together things that make sense. So, what are you going to do in this case? Factually, you're going to examine the specific facts.

Why did you make the misrepresentations? Was it because you killed her? Why did you say she left the house when the cell phone was pinged to the home? Why did you go to Home Depot and pick up supplies? Why was there blood in the basement, right? Why, why, why. So, you put all of those issues together and all of those issues really seemed to suggest that she is missing and she's not going to return because it was at your hands.

So, yes, there are challenges as you know associated with any prosecution particularly when you don't have the body, but those are not challenges that cannot be overcome predicated upon the evidence which is not direct. No one saw you. But the circumstances strongly suggest that you did it.

COATES: You know, John, it is as difficult as you all were talking, we were seeing images of Ana Walshe and just the contrast of how we are discussing this is striking to so many. And that's really the most significant and unfortunate and sad aspect of this. We're talking about a body.


We're looking at a human and a woman and a mother and wondering if she will be found. But there is also this record. There is a police report we're learning about where apparently, she, at one point, said that he had threatened to kill her. Tell me as a law enforcement how this is factoring into the investigation?

I know if you are prosecuting a case like this, I would look at this as the idea of maybe a prior bad act or thinking about to Joey's point, as a type of evidence that I'd be trying to be able to get in, but for law enforcement, how would you gauge this?

MILLER: Well, I mean, one of the things we go by is the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So, the idea that he made threats allegedly to kill her and that that was reported to police in Washington, is what we call a clue. On the other hand, and this happens in the District of Columbia where you were a prosecutor, you're going to be fighting the idea that it happened in 2014.

After that they had a relationship, they got married, they had three children. And you know, on the night before she disappeared, she writes a letter in red marker apparently, you know, on a champagne bottle box that says, you know, love, perseverance, and you know, we'll have a great 2023 because we're still together even though she knows he's going to prison.

So, she is messaging, if that's her handwriting, that everything is okay and there is a future. It underscores that when you look at a house, a Facebook page, a happy family in photos, you never really know what's going on behind the scenes.

COATES: It's so true, gentlemen. And that's where law enforcement has to unpack. Joey, you wanted say anything? Go ahead.

JACKSON: Just very quickly. You know, Laura, that defense attorneys when the appropriate time comes, they're going to be moving to preclude, right?

COATES: Right.

JACKSON: (Inaudible) mean in English. In the event that there was some 2014 case, they're going to argue, number one, it's not relevant to the particular circumstances here because it happened in 2014. Number two, it's prejudicial. The fact is that if you admit this in front of a jury, they aren't going to want to hear anything else. They're just going to want to convict.

So, it's an open question as to whether that will see the light of day in terms of ever getting before a jury. So, I think that the authorities are going to rely upon other evidence to piece together that's compelling and admissible for the jury that goes to show that he is the responsible party in the event, again, that she is indeed dead.

COATES: And the event this ever goes to a trial if the charges are filed. Thank you, gentlemen. Nice to see you both. We are going to follow this story.

Also, a story we are following, homes and businesses, I mean, gone. And at least nine people dead across the southeast. Selma, Alabama absolutely devastated by tornadoes. Look at the images we're seeing here. We're going to go there, next.



COATES: Tonight, residents in Selma, Alabama are trying to put their lives back together. Just one day after severe storms and at least one powerful tornado slammed the city and others nearby in Alabama and in Georgia. The governors of both declaring states of emergency in the impacted areas to help with cleanup efforts.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Terri Sewell who is from Selma and has been in the area since yesterday. Welcome congresswoman. I'm glad that you're here because I'm so interested in hearing about what has happened down there. You've been there since yesterday and even got an aerial view. What did you see?

REP. TERRI SEWELL (D-AL): I have to tell you, Laura, that it was just heart-wrenching. You know, as the person who represents the city of Selma in Congress, it's much more personal for me because Selma is my hometown. And to see the destruction of homes and businesses, businesses that I frequented as a child, school -- elementary school that several of my friends went to. You know, these are my neighbors, these are my church members, these are my teachers. It was just really gut-wrenching. But I can tell you this. The fact is that in the light of day today, we were able to have the governor come and declare a state of emergency. I really do believe -- we had Senator Katie Britt come as well.

You know, it's really about trying to make sure that we have a coordinated effort to bring back the city of Selma. And my hope is that we will continue to see these kinds of coordinated effort on the state and local level so that we cannot only, you know, rebuild, but we can build back better if you will.

COATES: Really important to hear about that coordination. And to the fight, I mean, you've got the mayor of Selma knowing the tremendous damage in the city and also asking residents to conserve water after power outages actually affected the treatment facilities. How are people coping with this right now? Is the water conservation request still out there?

SEWELL: No, it's not, thank God. But, you know, initially when it hit, there were over 10,000 households affected by the power outage. And thank God for surrounding communities because they rally to give us generators in order to make sure that we didn't have that problem with the water pump.

I just -- I just want to thank all of the volunteers, the first responders, our neighboring communities that really came and helped us. You know, I can tell you that the city of Selma has seen some horrible days. People know the city of Selma because of the civil rights movement. I can tell you that we are resilient people.


A people who will come together in a time of crisis and work together. We will work together to make sure that our city is rebuilt. I just, you know, my hope is that we can have a coordinated effort and I know that we can. We did so, you know, just in the most recent crisis here in Alabama. This is a time to unite all Alabamians in the effort to help. The trend is --

COATES: Congresswoman, I want to ask you, excuse me. I want -- I'd like to know what help do you need from the federal government? What will be -- what will the help come in terms of the coordination? I mean, the state of emergencies haven't been declared. What do you think Selma needs most right now?

SEWELL: Well, right now we need help in removing debris and we've had surrounding cities and counties offer that help. You know, the FEMA, I've been in contact with FEMA, the Small Business Administration. I've been in touch with obviously the White House. We really are going to need emergency resources and assistance and we really need it now.

We know that to get FEMA, we have to do a damage assessment and that's what we're doing right now. We are very much in the mode of recovery. And, you know, right now there is a shelter. My old high school is now the shelter that the Red Cross is running to offer displaced citizens of Selma and Dallas County an opportunity to have a cot and a bed. And the whole town is really rallying behind. But I think that yesterday we were just all, it was gut wrenching to see the tremendous, widespread damage.

COATES: Congresswoman Sewell, thank you so much for stopping by especially at a time like this. I certainly hope that Selma gets the help that they need. And thank you for being there to give us the information as well. Thank you.

SEWELL: Thank you.

COATES: Up next, we're going to talk about, well, in happier times, what would be the chance if you were able to have really all the money in the world it seems or over a billion dollars? Well, you might get the chance to find out soon with just a few more minutes until that Mega Millions drawing from the $1.35 billion or 35 billion jackpot. Stay with us.



COATES: Well, it is Friday the 13th, but it might end up being someone's lucky day, maybe even my lucky day. The Mega Millions drawing is in just a few minutes with the jackpot reaching an estimated $1.35 billion, yes with a B, billion, the second largest in history. Now, the last jackpot you remember was won at $502 million back in October, but in just a few minutes there could very well be another winner.

And CNN's Harry Enten is here to break down the odds with us tonight. Harry, I already got my tickets. I actually have three of them here today. Thank you very much. I'm not going to tell you the numbers because I don't want to share it with you in case I do win, but it's a lot of money and a lot of people are waiting to see what's happening. We've been getting a lot of jackpots this large lately though. Why is that?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah. So, look, I mean, the fact of the matter is if you look at the top Mega Millions jackpots ever won, you'll notice something going on. They're all from 2018 or onward. You know, right now we're at the second largest at $1.35 billion. It was just earlier this past summer, right, where we had $1.337 billion in July 2022.

So, basically, we've been seeing a lot higher jackpots recently. Now, why is that the case? Well, it turns out there was a rule change -- a rule change back in 2017 that made it more difficult to win. But of course, when it's more difficult to win and fewer and fewer are winning, it drives up the jackpot.

So, what exactly happened? Well, what the Mega Millions folks decided to do was that they decided to take the Mega Bowl which must be matched to win and that went from 1 to 15 the potential possibilities to 1 to 25, and that took the odds of winning from 1 in 259 to 1 in 303 million. 1 in 303 million. Of course, maybe it is my lucky day to quote Clint Eastwood.

So, here's some advice, though, if you want to win and want to get the largest jackpot possible, right, you don't want to have to share the money. So, what do you want to do if you don't want to share the money? Remember, you must share if more -- if two or more tickets win. So, pick a regular ball that goes all the way up the numbers well past 31. Pick a regular ball that's larger than 31.

You want your regular balls to be larger than 31. Why? Because when people play, they tend to play dates and of course no month has more than 31 days. So, pick numbers 32 and up on the regular balls and that will give you the best shot of not having to share, which of course, Laura, I know you don't want to do even though it may be with me.

COATES: I'm looking at my tickets, I'm going, is everything over that number, hold on, let me think about that. Oh-oh, hold on a second. And of course, I would share with you because, and I (inaudible), because in case you do win, I'd like to know what do you -- what would you do if you won the lottery except of course you can give me that first answer about how would you and I share this money together.

ENTEN: You know, I -- let me tell you. If you won the lotto jackpot, would you share the money with friends and family? I think most Americans, the polling indicates yes, 87 percent say yes. And I would share it with you. Would you quit your current job? 62 percent of Americans say yes, they would do that. I would not be in that group.

I happen to love playing a little fun with you on a Friday night like talking about lottery, maybe something we'll talk about football next time around. Who knows?


But what would I do if I won the lotto jackpot, selfish answers only here. You know, yes, I'd give money to charity, blah, blah, blah. A little boring, I might say. But here's what I would do. I would bring triple cereal back. I don't know if you remember that from the 1990s. It was kind of like a rice crispies thing that General Mills tried to do.

I really love the taste of triple cereals, but it's no longer around. So, I would try and bring triple cereal back. But Laura, I have a question. What would you do if you won the Mega Millions jackpot?

COATES: Well, looking at that magic why, I would pay you and never to use that photograph of me again. I hate that haircut. What is that? Can I pay you a million and a half not to show that again? But seriously, there you go. Take that off, number one. But other than that, I got to tell you, I would do all that. Yes, try to solve a lot of problems, but I would just spend it wisely.

And I would leave that umbrella for me to do in that respect, but I might bring a couple food choices back where I would just tell you I do love my job but you might for a couple of weeks see just a spinning anchor chair because that's probably where I'm heading for a little while. ENTEN: You know, I'd just say if we do in fact -- if either of us win

maybe we can get better photos, or photos of ourselves that we enjoy better. Perhaps that's what we could do, Laura.

COATES: I mean, we look good in those pictures, Harry, it's true. It's just that, you know, there are other ways. Anyway, I've gotten my ticket. I hope you have yours as well. If I should win on-air, I will call you privately, my friend. Thank you so much.

ENTEN: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

COATES: And now to someone who is not so lucky tonight, President Biden. He's dealing with a special counsel investigation. So, just how should a White House act when dealing with a crisis like this or others? We're going to talk to a former press secretary who ought to know, next.