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Tennessee House Votes To Expel Two Democrats Over Gun Protests, Third Survives Vote; North Carolina Democrat Switches Parties, Giving Republicans Veto-Proof Supermajority In Statehouse; State Politics Shaping Laws That Govern Millions Of Americans; North Carolina Democrat Switches Parties, Giving Republicans Veto-Proof Supermajority In State House; Partisan Struggles In State Capitals Impacting Major Legislation; Stormy Daniels Speaks Out After Trump Indictment. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 06, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Just into CNN, President Biden now weighing in on what's happening in Tennessee tonight, calling the expulsion of the two black Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee over their protests of gun violence, quote, shocking, undemocratic and without precedent.
Alisyn Camerota has the third who narrowly avoided expulsion and CNN Tonight starts right now. Thanks for joining us.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN Tonight.
Turmoil in the Tennessee statehouse tonight, two Democratic state reps were expelled for so-called decorum violations, but there's much more to this story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): What we're seeing is a very dangerous step in Tennessee that should signal to the nation that this is -- if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.
REP. JUSTIN PEARSON (D-TN): The status quo is not working. It's hurting people. It's killing people. And they're treating things like this is normal. We can never normalize the ending of democracy.
REPORTER: Should America be worried about what we've seen here today?
REP. GLORIA JOHNSON (D-TN): America should absolutely be worried about what we've seen here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Okay. In a moment, I will speak to that woman live, Representative Gloria Johnson, who narrowly survived the expulsion vote. This controversy started last week after three children and three school officials were shot to death at the Covenant School. The Democrats demanded action, and today, the Tennessee legislature took action, not to pass gun safety measures but to expel those duly elected Democrats for protesting on the House floor. We'll tell you what's next for them.
Plus, outrage in North Carolina over the longtime Democrat who won her district by nearly 20 points less than six months ago and now has suddenly declared herself a Republican, creating a veto-proof supermajority in that state. I'll talk to the top Democrat who says this is a deceit of the highest order.
And Stormy Daniels is speaking out tonight about Donald Trump being indicted on criminal charges. She says she does not think he should go to jail. We'll tell you what else she's saying.
But let's begin with what's happening in the Tennessee statehouse tonight. Two state reps, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both Democrats, expelled for protesting on the House floor over gun safety. A third Democrats State Rep. Gloria Johnson surviving that expulsion vote, she joins me now. Representative Johnson, thank you so much for being here.
You survived by one vote, so what are your thoughts at this hour?
JOHNSON: You know, it's bittersweet. I'm glad that I made it through. I did not expect to. But my colleagues are amazing young men. They have so much to offer. They're just brilliant men who are working so hard for the people in their communities. And so I think that we're going to do absolutely everything we can to get them back, and I actually think that's going to happen.
CAMEROTA: How is that going to happen? What happens next?
JOHNSON: So, what happens is there's a literal -- our law -- the law on this is kind of interesting. Initially, your metro council and Davidson County or the commission in the Shelby County will appoint someone to the position, and they can appoint Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.
CAMEROTA: Okay. And are those councils inclined to do that, meaning, like are Democrats running them?
JOHNSON: I think they are.
CAMEROTA: You seem you seem tickled by this possibility.
JOHNSON: A little tickled. But the law that -- I think there could be a debate. One legal person here says that, well, they can't be appointed for the 113th General Assembly but they can in 114th. So, I think that's a legal issue to be to be solved but we're ready, ready to go at that. But I do think that, you know, we're betting that that they have a majority in both Shelby and Davidson. My situation was a little different. We only have 2 Democrats out of 11 on our county commission.
CAMEROTA: So interesting. And so before we get to what might happen, why were those two expelled and you weren't?
JOHNSON: Well, I think it's pretty clear. I'm a 60-year-old white woman and they are two young black men. I am listening to the questions and the way they were questioned and the way they were talked to, I was talked down to as a woman mansplained to -- but it was completely different from the questioning that they got.
And this whole idea that, you know, why -- that you have to almost assimilate into this body to be like us.
CAMEROTA: Can you give us an example? I mean, how were they spoken to that that struck you as racist?
JOHNSON: And just in a demeaning way and saying that, you know, if you're going to come into this body, you have to act like this body and that sort of thing. You know, one of the things was Pearson, when he got sworn in, he wore a dashiki. And there's a -- oh, you can't dress like that on the floor. Well, for him that is a formal wear, and he had a suit over it, but they had such a problem with that.
You know, this younger generation, they do things a little bit differently, but they're passionate and they're smart and they're advocates for their community and they're going to fight for their community. And I think some of our members just are a little old and it's something new they're not used to, but they're going to have to get used to it because these two young men are so powerful.
Their speaking ability is just amazing. And the way that they connect with the voters, and I'm talking about from kids to grandmothers, it's really, really amazing. And they're just brilliant, caring people who love their community and want to fight for it.
CAMEROTA: Yes. And, I mean, let's just say that their voters who chose them were disenfranchised, obviously, by this vote. It's so interesting, Representative, because in the history of the Tennessee legislature, this has only happened twice, in 1980 a state rep was found guilty of taking a bribe and was expelled, and then in 2016, a state rep was accused of allegations of sexual harassment and was expelled. So, how does speaking out of turn compared to those?
JOHNSON: Well, it was really interesting because even the three of us thought that we broke a rule and going to the well without permission. And then we find out that's not even in the House rules. So, at this point, I'm really curious what role it was that we broke.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, didn't they say it was disorderly conduct and the other two were using a bullhorn, which you didn't do, and maybe that's a distinction?
JOHNSON: Maybe. But, I mean, you know, we stood up there together. And I think that they were under the impression that this was a lot more planned and we had this plan and it was so organized. It was spur of the moment. Our frustration with being cut off once again, especially when we wanted to recognize those people that were there that care desperately about doing something about gun violence and the three of us being cut off and not allowed to speak, and we just decided we were going to go to the well and try to recognize those thousands of folks that were there, recognize their issue and let them know that we saw them and we heard them.
CAMEROTA: Representative Gloria Johnson, we really appreciate your time. We know it's been an incredible day for you. This story is not over. So, we will be checking in with you throughout the future steps of what's going to happen next. Thanks so much for your time.
JOHNSON: Right. Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Okay. We need to talk more about this, because here with me, I have my panel, former Trump White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin, former, we also have Linette Lopez, a columnist for Insider and Senior Political Analyst John Avlon. Great to have all of you here.
Senator, what are your thoughts as you see what happened in Tennessee tonight?
FMR. SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN): The whole Republican Party is just kind of going nuts, anti-democratic. They're already talking in Wisconsin, some state legislators about basically doing a recall of the Supreme Court justice. That was because they have enough votes to do that, who is elected by a wide majority on Tuesday.
CAMEROTA: So, voting doesn't matter anymore, apparently. You can just change it after you vote?
FRANKEN: In Georgia. And that, of course, was about abortion. In Georgia, the state legislature -- Republican state legislators are talking about taking away -- boating out Fani Willis and other prosecutors they don't like so that she can't prosecute President Trump, former President Trump. This thing in North Carolina, I don't know how that's going to go.
CAMEROTA: Yes. And we are going to talk about that in a minute. But this thing in Tennessee one, of the things that I'm struck by, Alyssa, I'll bring you in, is they're going to be voted back in. I mean, I like what she said that there's this process by which they can be appointed back in. So, we've just gone through this exercise and who knows how much taxpayer, you know, money or energy wasted or whatever, and it looks like they may still get their seats back.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It feels extremely poorly thought through. I mean, at the end of the day, these are elected members. So, they were put in by the voters. The easiest thing to do if -- listen, I'm a little disappointed in the fact that I feel like all sense of decorum has kind of left, especially like the U.S. Congress. I don't take as much issue here. But, listen, you could have censured them. You could have given him a slap on the wrist and kept them in office.
But at the end of the day this is happening because the voters of Tennessee are saying, you have to do something about gun violence after this tragic shooting last week. And the fact that they're the legislature is unwilling to move on anything, they need to force the conversation. And I think that they felt like there wasn't another way to do it.
LINETTE LOPEZ, COLUMNIST, INSIDER: This is a huge mistake. These young men are folk heroes now. They're TikTok viral now. I didn't know their names yesterday. Now I know their names. I know they're speaking style. I know what they stand for. I know their social and they're going to have a platform on every network to say what -- well, not Fox -- I mean, to say whatever it is they want to say.
And so now, they are national leaders of the anti-gun movement, which is now of movement that isn't just young kids, it's people who are appalled that their legislatures are using anti-democratic methods to silence those. So, it's now it's not just the crime of not passing anti-gun legislation. It's the cover-up. It's the way they squash Democratic representation. In order to silence people who want to make change.
CAMEROTA: And as we just mentioned, this is the action they took after three nine-year-olds were killed. This was what they felt deserved their energy, John.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think that's the right way to frame this action. It's the only action they have taken. And the frustration that folks are feeling outside the state legislature is what those representatives were reacting to. It's a degrading of representative democracy by design. And this attempt to squash these three folks and only two of them got expelled is an expression of that.
But now it's kind of -- you know, the doors are open, people can see what's happening. And they haven't been paying as much attention, some of these other states, but a slow boil. But this is really hard to not to ignore.
GRIFFIN: But, by the way, I probably disagree on what they're proposing in terms of gun reform. I'm likely as a Republican think it goes too far to have the conversation. And we all agree, I think, as a country, I mean, most of the country agrees, we have to do something to address gun violence, especially in schools. So, then put up a solution. The fact that this legislature is basically sitting on their hands after this mass shooting and saying, we can't do anything, well, then get out of office.
LOPEZ: So, what is the Republican solution to gun violence, though? What is the platform? What is the --
GRIFFIN: In Tennessee specifically, this -- every red flag was ignored, and they don't have any red flag laws. By the way, she was having mental health struggles. She reached out, none of that was addressed. They don't have wait periods if you're somebody who's struggling with something, they don't have basic background checks. Background checks are an 82 percent issue. That is many Republicans, myself included, who support them. People who want to commit crimes should be harder for them to get guns. That does not impede on my right to be a legal gun owner, which I am.
AVLON: Senator? No, I defer to the senator on the table.
FRANKEN: Well, I was just say I vast majority of Americans believe in background checks. After Sandy Hook, the fact that we couldn't get background checks was amazing. And it's the NRA and I'd love to know all your views on guns. There's no reason for assault weapons, no reason to have them.
AVLON: And here's where I think our debate has gotten dumbed down. There's a clip of Ronald Reagan in 1989 that's been going around. He gets asked a question about this then-proposed assault weapons ban. And he says, look, I'm a strong defender of the Second Amendment, people should be able to have weapons for sporting or self-defense, but nobody needs a machine gun or a weapon of war for sporting or self-defense. That would be a considered a Democrat position today, but that was Ronald Reagan at the time. So, we need to have a little bit more flexibility.
FRANKEN: And they are weapons of war. They are weapons of war.
LOPEZ: But there is no Republican even skinny bill or anything.
GRIFFIN: Well, Thom Tillis and Chris Murphy did pass some pretty comprehensive reform several months ago, which didn't go far enough. We've had several mass shootings since, but I don't want to demonize incremental change when we're able to have it.
And I think it was notable that he was -- and I do -- I will shout out Chris Murphy, someone I agree with on virtually nothing. He -- I actually support assault weapons rifle ban. Most people don't in the Republican Party. But he even said he would compromise and do greater background checks and training if you want to own one. That, to me, is a Democrat like inching towards trying to find a compromise, because he's so heartbroken over what's happening, and I would implore my party, like let's try to inch that way as well.
CAMEROTA: Great, great context. Thank you, everyone. Stick around, if you would.
Next, the longtime Democrat in North Carolina, who shocked her voters this week when she suddenly switched to becoming a Republican. I'll talk to a top official who calls it deceit of the highest order.
CAMEROTA: Democrats in North Carolina are crying foul after Democratic State Representative Tricia Cotham suddenly switched to the GOP, giving Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in that state. Some Democrats accused Cotham of being deceitful, pointing out that she was elected as a Democrat less than six months ago and claimed to be a strong believer in Democratic policies.
Joining me now is Anderson Clayton, chair of North Carolina's Democratic Party. Chairwoman, thank you so much for being here. You know, Representative Cotham. What happened here?
ANDERSON CLAYTON, CHAIR, NORTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Yes, thank you for the opportunity to be on tonight. We really appreciate the opportunity to highlight what's happening in North Carolina at this moment. For viewers that may not be aware of what happened in the last 72 hours in my state is that a Democratic majority or a pet representative actually end up switching her party affiliation to the Republican party this week, giving the Republican the supermajorityity in both our statehouse and state senate now, meaning that abortion rights voting rights, our fundamental human rights are on the line again in North Carolina.
For those of you who may not been keeping up with North Carolina politics, we were one seat away from a supermajorityity in the state legislature, in the statehouse, in particular, from the Republican Party by Representative Cotham's decision to deceitfully and, you know, for the voters of 112, switched her party affiliation this week.
And we have seen a real decline, and I think a lack of hope, honestly, in our state right now for what is the come are Republican-led general assembly.
CAMEROTA: And what do you think her motivation was? Do you think the Republicans were, you know, kind of courting her for a while? Was this sudden? How long do you think this has been going on?
CLAYTON: I think that this is absolutely premeditated, but I do believe that the Democratic Party has an obligation going forward to ensure that Representative Cotham upholds the values that she ran on and the values that voters voted her in on, to be honest with you. HD1 12 is a 60 percent Democratic district and they didn't vote for a Republican in that seat, they voted for a Democrat. And so we fully intend to, like we do with our Republican legislature every day, hold them accountable and plan to hold Representative Cotham accountable to the voters that she has honestly left behind in this.
And what I really want to tell people, especially folks that are listening right now, you know, I'm from a rural part of the state of North Carolina, I talked to folks all the time who feel fearful, honestly, to call themselves the Democrat in a rural part of the state, someone out of Mecklenburg County should have no problem wearing that title and wearing it very proudly right now across North Carolina. And so for Tricia Cotham, to do this to us, I think is an extreme and sign and a sign of showing that she is really playing power and instead of playing for our people at the end of the day.
And we want to make sure that the Democratic Party is standing up for working families because we know what's on the line this cycle, and that includes everything, from abortion rights to LGBTQ rights, to voting rights, to our basic human rights are on the line. And so we want to make sure that voters are extremely educated about that and understand what this is doing in our state right now.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about some of her positions, because she was a longtime Democrat. So, she was quite clear about her position on abortion. True?
CLAYTON: Yes, ma'am, absolutely. I said it multiple times that, you know, she does not feel that a legislature should be deciding what a woman should or should not do with her own body.
CAMEROTA: And, in fact, I believe she shared a personal story. I mean, she was passionate about this.
CLAYTON: Yes, ma'am, absolutely. And we hope we hope that she will stand by that. We really, really do. I think that everyone across our state expects Representative Cotham to uphold those values, and that is why we asked her to resign if she was not able to do so. But voters deserve to know where she stands on these issues.
And that is also part of what we are expecting her to do. What we were asking her to do is make sure that she is coming out on the side of that you will protect a woman's right to choose, you will protect reproductive freedoms throughout our state, you will make sure that you are standing up for the folks that elected you to that position, to begin with.
CAMEROTA: She was saying that the reason she did this was because she was starting to be -- she didn't recognize the Democratic Party that she used to know. She said she was starting to be criticized for having -- using the praying hands emoji on her social media platforms and on bumper stickers that she has and using the American flag. Do you think there was a different motivation? I mean, when we were talking about how the Republicans might have courted her, have you seen any evidence of that?
CLAYTON: I'm not really at liberty to say, and I don't really know what her personal interactions have been with the Republican Party. What I do know is that she's done a disgraceful thing to the voters in HD1 12. Like I said earlier, they didn't vote for Republican in that seat. They voted for a Democrat, somebody who was going to stand up to corporate interests, stand up for working people. And Tricia Cotham, with aligning herself with the Republican Party of today's North Carolina state legislature is denying every single bit of that.
She has aligned herself in a position that we do not think is going to bode well for the folks of her district, and that's what we want to make sure the voters of her district knows that we are speaking for them when we're speaking on the fact that we want her to resign. But also if she's not going into, which I do not honestly expect her to, we want her and we expect her to uphold the values that she was voted in under, because the people of her district deserve that. They deserve to be told and deserve to be -- I think it's such a big deal when we talk about, you know, going back on your values right now and public service, it's so easy to do that, it's so easy to bend the knee to the hand that's in power right now.
And I think that, you know really, what we're trying to do is telling people that we're not going to lie to you in the voting booth. Democrats are going to stand on what they always have, and we expect Republicans to do the same.
CAMEROTA: Chairwoman Anderson Clayton, thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate talking to you.
All right, so what will this mean for things like abortion, gun rights voting rights in North Carolina and what other states are having similar battles that could shape the future of America? We're going to take a look at all that, next.
CAMEROTA: All right. Let's talk about what's going on in the states. As you just heard at the beginning of the program, Republicans in Tennessee just expelled two Democratic state lawmakers tonight. A North Carolina Democrat just switched parties to become a Republican and thereby giving Republicans a veto-proof majority in that state. Then there's the victory of a liberal judge in Wisconsin's Supreme Court election, which marks a significant political realignment there. It all shows that partisan fights in the states are shaping the laws that affect millions of Americans.
I'm back with my panel, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Senator Al Franken, Linette Lopez and John Avlon.
Senator, I know you're chomping at the bit to talk about this. So, what do you think about what's happening in -- I mean, pick your state, about North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin?
FRANKEN: I want to talk about North Carolina. Abortion is a huge issue because it's the only state in the southeast that allows abortions. So, the number of abortions there has gone up, I don't know what the percentages, but by an enormous percentage. She, you referred to her personal story, which is she had a life-saving abortion.
CAMEROTA: The lawmaker who just switched from being a longtime Democrat to this week declaring herself a Republican, and then thereby giving a veto proof majority in North Carolina. She had a life-saving abortion, and you just heard the chair of her party said that she's not -- we're not sure if she still will hold the same positions that she held as a Democrat.
FRANKEN: Well, she ran on that six months ago and on upholding abortion and rights.
And so, that's enormously important, of course. And it's a mystery to me why? I don't think you change on - what was it that she changed on?
LINETTE LOPEZ, COLUMNIST, INSIDER: The emojis, the prayer emoji. Yes.
FRANKEN: The prayer emoji.
LOPEZ: I think it's really stark when you're looking at what's going on in Tennessee and what's going on in North Carolina today. You have a Representative stabbing her party in the back over the use of a prayer emoji.
CAMEROTA: That's what she says it was about.
LOPEZ: Yes, so, allegedly. And then, in Tennessee, you have young Representatives being expelled in order to draw attention to children getting murdered in schools. That's the serious miss, difference that we're dealing with these two parties here. We have one party that's fighting to keep children alive, and we have another party that is really taking issue with how you're judging my emoji use.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: My - I would say, I think we need to see how she votes. I mean, she is someone who served many times as a Democratic lawmaker. I think we need to see if she has held outspoken positions. Let's see what she does on the Republican side. I do take a bit of issue with running with one party and getting votes as that party and turning out Democratic votes and then going the other direction.
CAMEROTA: Doesn't it seem deceitful?
GRIFFIN: It - to me, it feels deceitful. But, keep in mind, this used to be like Blue Dog Democrat Central. I think if Heath Shuler who served in North Carolina, and that wing of the Democratic Party is shrinking. There are not quite as many as there would have been even 10 years ago. So, I do think there is a bit of a wake-up call there of maybe you're losing some who could be trusted Democrats on some of the issues that they just feel like the party is out of step with.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But, she also could have said, look, I'm going to become an independent. Right? The critical factor here is that she is crossing lines six months after the last election to give Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the state legislature. And we're talking about the national trends here. It's not just the nationalization of local politics. It seems like it's happening in North Carolina, because in North Carolina in 2016 is where Republicans began to do an end run after Roy Cooper's elect, Democrat-elected governor, they started doing a pulling power from the governor, which was then replicated in Wisconsin two years later.
And so, this is this trend of state legislatures trying to remove power if the governor is a Democrat. That's about undercutting representative democracy. That's a sick level of hyper partisanship.
FRANKEN: And again, that has to do with gerrymandering.
AVLON: Yep. 100 percent.
FRANKEN: In Wisconsin, it's amazing for Democrats to have a 50:50 chance to - winning the majority in the state legislature, they have to win by 10 points, essentially.
FRANKEN: Yes. It is crazy the gerrymandering they did. And that goes way back to the 2010 census. That was the census cycle. And also, the Republican lies about the Affordable Care Act, helped them pick up a lot of seats in the state legislature and in the House, and they gerrymandered the hell out of the place, and it's been that way ever since. And the Supreme Court now has flipped. So, there'll be a Democratic or a progressive majority.
CAMEROTA: But, are you saying they're trying to recall that judge?
FRANKEN: I think in a couple of Wisconsin--
GRIFFIN: But, by the way, in this North Carolina seat, I don't understand what her endgame is. I believe it is two-year term. She is going to be up for re-election in the same district she ran in where she was elected by Democratic voters, even if she is now on an A Committee as a Chairwoman and has more of a fundraising capacity, you're still not going to win in a deeply blue district. So, it seems short sighted.
FRANKEN: A lot of it is just very--
LOPEZ: Excuse me. It is new neighbors.
FRANKEN: I wouldn't say that a lot of it is just very mysterious.
FRANKEN: Her motivation to me, you were talking about the cording of her, and it just seems just very mysterious to me.
GRIFFIN: We've seen people flip parties in the past, but they usually showed a bit. It was somebody who was like a consummate moderate, and they flipped to the other side. It doesn't sound like this is--
CAMEROTA: Yes. Kyrsten Sinema.
CAMEROTA: Just out of curiosity,--
FRANKEN: And became an independent.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Indeed. Can voters recall her? Is that possible for sort of deceiving them?
AVLON: That's-- FRANKEN: Takes a lot of work.
AVLON: That's a state by state.
CAMEROTA: All right. Forget I suggested it. Thank you all very much.
Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels is speaking out in her first interview since Donald Trump's indictment. We're going to tell you what she is saying, next. Plus - Stormy Daniels - plus, singer Jewel is here with an important message for us. Can't wait to talk to her.
CAMEROTA: Stormy Daniels speaking out for the first time since Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to that hush money payment scam. Daniels tells Piers Morgan that she is absolutely willing to testify against Trump saying, "I think having them call me in and put me on the stand legitimizes my story and who I am. And if they don't, it almost feels like they're hiding me and people automatically assume - I would - that, oh, she must not be a good witness. She is not credible." My panel is back.
Joining us is Karen Friedman Agnifilo--
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, & FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT DA, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: Agnifilo.
CAMEROTA: --Agnifilo, former Chief Assistant DA in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Karen, great to have you. So, would you put Stormy Daniels on the stand?
AGNIFILO: So, that's a tricky question for a different reason. This is at its heart a white collar case. This is about bank records and falsifying business records case. It's not really about a porn star sleeping with Donald Trump, and that is a little salacious, and in some ways isn't - is beside the point, right? So, it's a tough call. We'll see if they end up putting her on or not, but it's not necessary.
It's about a conspiracy.
CAMEROTA: I feel it's about like calling an accountant, not Stormy Daniels.
AGNIFILO: Well, it's about the conspiracy between the former President, Michael Cohen, his fixer, and David Pecker, the CEO of American Media Inc. that owned the National Enquirer, and the conspiracy that they - the criminal conspiracy that they formed together to catch and kill negative stories, to promote positive stories about Mr. Trump and negative ones about his opponents. And it was all about that and then falsifying business records.
AVLON: Yes. Falsifying business records maybe the technical crime, but I think it dramatically under sells the context, right? I mean, we're talking here about trying to keep information from the American people weeks before, days before the election that could have absolutely swayed the election in a different direction. That's the context here. And if a Democrat had done this, there'd be an entirely - there'd be a righteous outrage, of course, from Republicans, and they'd have a point. So, I mean, I understand that this is about banking records. But, the context, the reason why it matters is because it could have bet the arc of American history in a fundamental way by that hush money payment.
CAMEROTA: And wouldn't it be helpful to hear her say the conversations that she had with Michael Cohen are the conversations that she had with any of these people?
AGNIFILO: Potentially. I mean, there was also, at one point, she denied having an affair with Donald Trump, and then she admitted it. So, she'll get cross examined about changing stories. They may very well call her and Karen McDougal and the doorman. We just don't know. A grand jury presentation is a lot less - it's bare bones, as they say. This one was a little bit more because it turned into a mini trial, because they put on a defense. And so, there was a rebuttal with David Pecker. This one was a little bit bigger than a typical grand jury presentation. They may very well call these witnesses. We will see.
FRANKEN: I think Pecker would be a good witness. I people know what the story is. This is -
CAMEROTA: But, I don't know what conversations she had with Michael Cohen. I'd like to hear that. I think that would be - might be interesting.
FRANKEN: Michael Cohen could testify to that too. I think there is a little danger in putting her on. And, it's this little - it - they know - we know it. We know what the case is about. So, it's a little beside the point. And I think that we want to - I don't know. I'm not a district attorney. But,--
CAMEROTA: I hear, yes, Alyssa.
GRIFFIN: From the DA's perspective, I completely agree. I don't think that it would make sense necessarily or necessary to put her up. However, there is kind of a vital public interest there. She would be under oath. So, she has given tons of media interviews. Michael Cohen has given countless media interviews. I - with these kinds of characters that involved in these cases that we've heard from so much, it's important to hear when they are under penalty of perjury. I think that there is some interest there. And by the way, what we can't forget in this whole discussion is a lot of people decided, in my party, in 2016, to turn a blind eye to the Stormy Daniels affair and to kind of plug their nose and vote for Donald Trump. But, I think that it's kind of a necessary reminder of what happened in the circumstances heading into 2024. So, I'm not sure that--
FRANKEN: But, they didn't know, though.
GRIFFIN: Well, they - it was out there in some ways--
CAMEROTA: Just the access Hollywood--
GRIFFIN: Oh, that's actually - you're right.
FRANKEN: That was why it was so important to bribe her.
AVLON: On top of that, it would have been--
CAMEROTA: Yes. Great point.
AVLON: --one two punch.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Let's talk about the judge in this case, because the judge - it turns out, the judge in this case gave a whopping $35 to a political contribution. He gave $15 to the Biden campaign, and $10 to progressive turnout project, and $10 to something called Stop Republicans. Karen, that's not a lot of money that he gave, but it does - does this in some way taint him and I guess disqualify him from this case, do you think?
AGNIFILO: This was one - this was very upsetting, because Judge Merchan is one of the great judges sitting in Manhattan Supreme Court. He is a fair minded, down the middle. You don't know if he is pro- prosecutor or pro-defense. He calls balls and strikes kind of judge. He is not overly friendly. He is not over - he is just a judge. Like, he is a really serious solid judge. And it was disappointing to see and find this out because there are specific rules about judicial conduct. And judges, in general, are prohibited from having any political activity or affiliation or participating in politics at all--
AGNIFILO: --unless there is a slight exception if you run for office--
AGNIFILO: --and then there is a window, but he is not an elected judge.
CAMEROTA: So, John, what's your feeling? AVLON: My feeling is what a dumb mistake to diminish your credibility. Was it worth 35 bucks? I mean, we'll see what the implication is for this case, but there is a larger problem in this country about the politicization of the - of judges--
AVLON: --and the courts.
This is a really small example, but it hurts his credibility.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Later in the program, we're going to talk about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who took a half a million dollar gift to go on a super yacht and a private plane. So,--
FRANKEN: At least he told everybody.
CAMEROTA: --$15, he did not anyone, but $15 seems different. But, in any event, you - as you point out, it's - this rule is a rule.
AGNIFILO: I mean, we should also--
AGNIFILO: There is a caution of make sure it was him and someone didn't donate in his name.
CAMEROTA: Yes. There he buttoned up.
AGNIFILO: If he did, it's an unforced error.
CAMEROTA: Yes. All right. Thank you all very much. Next, singer songwriter Jewel is going to tell us what society has all wrong about happiness, and what we need to get right about mental health.
CAMEROTA: Singer and songwriter Jewel is also a huge advocate for mental health support. And in her songs, she writes about her own mental health struggles, and her personal search for happiness. She also has a new opinion piece at cnn.com where she talks about the programs she supports that offers help to others. She recently co- founded Innerworld, a peer-to-peer virtual mental health community. And Jewel joins me now. Jewel, it's such a delight to have you on the show.
JEWEL KILCHER, SINGER, SONGWRITER, AND AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.
CAMEROTA: So, your CNN piece this week, it's an OpEd, and you say what our society gets wrong about mental health. So, what's our biggest mistake?
KILCHER: We just haven't advanced technologically with our mental health challenges. We haven't seen the same growth in innovation that we have in other areas. And that's actually one of the reasons I co- founded Innerworld, was to try and solve that problem. We're in this tremendous bottleneck where there are not enough therapists. So, even if people are seeking help, we don't have the therapist to match that. And so, we need better solutions.
CAMEROTA: Before we get to the solutions. I just want to talk a little bit about your own history, because I think that it's fascinating, particularly because so many of us love your songs and love your music, and it's interesting to know what you were going through as you wrote them. And so, in particular, well, first of all, I think some people know that you left home at 15, and obviously that was a challenge for your mental health, and there were, I'm sure, plenty of risks for that. And your songs "Who Will Save Your Soul" that we just heard, and "Hands", which we all know, how did that play into or help you process whatever you're going through mental health wise?
KILCHER: Yes. I knew that being raised in an abusive household and moving out at 15 didn't look good for me. I knew that statistically I should end up repeating the cycle. And that really bothered me. I wanted to feel like I had access to happiness. But, I didn't have access to traditional support systems like therapy, or even a family network at the time. And so, I was very determined to see if happiness was a learnable skill. Was it a teachable skill? And was it something I could learn by myself just by being very observant? And writing was one of the things that really helped me do that. "Who Will Save Your Soul" is obviously about me trying to come to terms with can I save myself.
And "Hands" was my journey through shoplifting, believe it or not, while I was homeless and saying, it's not enough. I own my hands. Nobody can make me steal. I have to change what my hands do.
CAMEROTA: I was so fascinated to read about that, Jewel, because we think of shoplifting as a crime, not as a mental health symptom.
KILCHER: I would personally say it's a real mental health problem, because it was, for me, a real addiction. At first, it started with food, which sounds reasonable. I was homeless, and I was stealing food. But, it soon escalated to things that I didn't need. And it was a way of comforting my anxiety. It's because I had such an intense amount of anxiety, I needed something more intense to drown it out. And that's an intensity addiction. And there is all kinds. It could be shoplifting for somebody. It could be a sex addiction for somebody else. It could be self-harming for somebody else to - all together.
CAMEROTA: So, in terms of solutions, you'd like to see every company and family have a chief mental health officer. So, just in practical terms, as a mother of three teenagers, as I am, what would that look like? If I'm the chief mental health officer of my house, what would I do? What's my job?
KILCHER: I think of it a lot like fitness. It used to be in the 40s, having a fitness trainer was an unheard of idea. And now, it's very common. If you want to learn all the techniques of how to get stronger, you go hire a trainer. You go to a gym. There is readily available facilities now. I want to make that as popular with mental health, where we can have as much access and it's destigmatized to that level, not to mention where it's scaled where we have access. Every company should have a chief mental health officer. Every household should have access to tools that are going to work for them and their family.
CAMEROTA: So, tell us about Innerworld.
KILCHER: Yes. Innerworld is a peer-to-peer cognitive behavioral immersion site where it's a completely bully free safe zone. People come in and they learn tools instead of having therapy done to them. There are just, as I mentioned, are not enough therapists. And CBT is inaccessible to millions of people around the world because of that. So, we developed CBI. It's Cognitive Behavioral Immersion. It's a form of psychological intervention that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems, including depression, anxiety, disorders and more.
CAMEROTA: Jewel, people can find out more at Innerworld. I think this will thousands and thousands of people. Thank you so much for your songs, and for sharing your story with us. It's a delight to talk to you.
KILCHER: Thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.
CAMEROTA: You've got much more ahead, including a report showing several luxury trips that a Supreme Court justice took on a billionaire's yacht. He also happens to be a Republican donor. We'll explain.
CAMEROTA: A startling new investigative report about a Supreme Court justice.