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CNN Tonight

A Manhunt Is Underway After Convicted Murderer Escapes Pennsylvania Prison; One Inmate Killed And Two Injured In Mass Stabbing At Fulton County Jail; Is There A Two-Tiered Justice System In America?; Trump Files New Motion To Sever His Case From Co- Defendants Seeking Speedy Trial In GA; McConnell Seeks To Reassure Allies After A Health Scare; North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Sues, Accuses State Of Suppressing Her Free Speech. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 31, 2023 - 23:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And also -- but really -- I mean, is this false advertising?

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, the way that it smashed on Hatch burger, I don't know who served that to you, but they clearly --

PHILLIP: This is --

COATES: -- didn't like you when they handed it to you in this moment.

PHILLIP: This is what they gave us.

COATES: It's pitiful. I have to tell you, though, I actually do love a Whopper. My daughter loves a Whopper, and I'm old enough to remember when they had the whole French fry taste test. They swapped the formula for it. So, I'm actually still mad about that. So, if there's a lawsuit about that moment, count me in that class action because the fries were fine. Now --

PHILLIP: Yeah. Well, we have some fries, too. I'll send them to you virtually over the screen.

COATES: I'd like to see you eat that Whopper right now because I think that looks so unappetizing.


PHILLIP: Laura, have a great show.

COATES: Oh, there you go.

PHILLIP: I'll see you later.

COATES: That's what happens, everyone. Good evening. I'm Laura Coates, and we are apparently in Lala Land. But this is CNN TONIGHT. It's a very busy news night, and we're covering all of it for you.

We've got our breaking news. The manhunt going on right now for a convicted murderer who broke out of a prison in Pennsylvania today. Danelo Cavalcante is on the run after escaping the Chester County Prison, which is about 30 miles west of Philadelphia.

Now, he had been sentenced to life without parole last week for the murder of his former girlfriend, stabbed 38 times, everyone, in front of her two young children. The DA says -- quote -- "His depravity knows no bounds, and this is someone who has nothing to lose" -- unquote.

We have the very latest on the manhunt with dozens of law enforcement agencies. Canine units are out, drones are out, helicopters, and I'll talk with that D.A.

Plus, the very jail where Donald Trump turned himself in just one week ago in Georgia is now the scene of a deadly violent act. An inmate was killed and at least two others injured in a mass stabbing. And this isn't even the first in custody death at the jail this month, let alone this year. The big question is, why is this jail so dangerous and what does this say about justice for all?

And on the docket, the 45th president of the United States pleading not guilty today in the sprawling Fulton County election interference case, and he wants to sever his case from his co-defendants, all 18 of them, some of whom want a speedy trial, as in October, which Trump definitely does not.

His attorney is saying that he wouldn't have enough time to prepare for the trial by October 23rd, which is the scheduled trial date for Kenneth Chesebro, claiming forcing the date -- quote -- "would violate President Trump's federal and state constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law."

Now, we're also learning tonight that the judge will allow this case to be livestreamed and televised, everyone, though that wouldn't apply to any portions of the case if it were moved to a federal court. We've got more to come on all of this. So, let's begin with our breaking new. A manhunt going on right now for that extremely, dangerous, escaped inmate in Pennsylvania.

Joining me now, CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller. John, a manhunt. This is somebody convicted of stabbing someone 38 times in front of two young children, sentenced to life without parole just last week. The question, of course, is, what are you learning? How did this even happen?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, we don't know how it happened, and we're waiting to hear word from the Chester County Prison where he escaped. We have been told that they're investigating what happened there.

What do we know about the -- what do we know about prison is they have staffing shortages, the sheriff's department has staffing shortages, they're short 40 deputies, people talk about having to work long overtime and things like that.

But what we do know is the hunt is on with the Chester County detectives who investigated this case and they want to back the United States Marshals, who are really the experts in manhunts and escape prisoners and, of course, the Pennsylvania State Police that have a lot of experience in this, Laura. Why? Because we had the two escaped prisoners from the Philadelphia jail, we had Mr. Burnham who escaped from the Warren County jail.

Pennsylvania is having a serious problem with escapees who are wanted for murder, and this is just another case, and not all from the same facility.

COATES: So, we don't even know how this person escaped? Was it going through the actual yard itself? Did somebody aid him? I mean, how do we -- transport somewhere? Do we know any of that?

MILLER: Well, that's part of a criminal investigation, which is why they're being very tight-lipped about it, because -- what do they want to know? Did he have help from the inside, from other prisoners? Did he have help from the inside, from staff? But he's also a unique prisoner. He's five-foot tall and 120 pounds, so he may have been able to fit in places that your average prisoner could not.


COATES: Thinking about these shortages, is there a reason why there is such a short staffing? I mean, frankly, this is a problem that we've seen, John, all over the country in terms of various reasons that have led to that, whether it's the conditions, whether it's the morale, whether it's salary, union, whatever it might be. Do we have a sense as to why there would be these shortages in this particular area?

MILLER: You know, Laura, law enforcement across the country is experiencing this.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

MILLER: It's just not a time when people are looking to go into law enforcement and they're having trouble hiring people. In the case of jails, even more so. Here's a case where you can get hired with just a high school diploma. They make $24 an hour, but if you add that up, it comes to almost $50,000 a year. So, it's just not the greatest place to work. I mean think about it. Who wants to work inside a prison who doesn't have to?

The sheriff's department, though, is suffering the same problems. I mean, if you go to the Chester County Courthouse, they're saying they're not even getting one deputy per courtroom, they're having to wait for transports to bring prisoners to the court and away from the court.

So, shortages could be a factor here or it could just be a crime of opportunity, a door that was left open, a post that might have been unmanned or something carefully planned. What do you do? You go forwards and you get out to that neighborhood and you say, here's the picture, lock your doors, don't leave your keys in the car, it's not like yesterday even though you're in the country. And then you go backwards.


MILLER: Who was on his visitors list? Who was the last person to visit? Who were his phone calls? Let's go over those tapes. Is there coded language in those calls that didn't mean anything at the time, that now that we hear it and see what happened, can unravel this case?

COATES: Unbelievable. John Miller, thank you so much. Yet again, this is happening there, although a different facility.

Joining me now, I want to talk about this issue with the district attorney for Chester County, Pennsylvania, Deborah Ryan. I'm glad that you're with us tonight.

It's unbelievable in some respects to know that this man convicted of this crime, this heinous act, sentenced just last week, I think, to life without parole for stabbing his former girlfriend 38 times -- I want to underscore that point -- in front of two young children.

While you and I are talking right now, he is still on the run. What is your immediate message to the public?

DEBORAH RYAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: Well, this is an alarming escape, something that we never expected, and he is extremely dangerous.

And as I indicated before, he's a depraved individual who brutally butchered this woman 38 times in front of her four-year-old and her seven-year-old in broad daylight. And then he fled the scene from that area, and we were able to locate him hours later in Virginia with the belief that he was headed toward Mexico and Brazil.

He's also wanted for another murder in Brazil. He's alleged to have shot someone to death over a debt owed to him.

So, this man has nothing to lose. He really is going to do everything and anything we think to escape. He has managed to evade law enforcement on numerous occasions, including during the domestic dispute he had with the same victim back in 2020.

He was -- he managed to evade a service for protection from abuse order despite law enforcement from multiple agencies attempting to locate him. So, he's really good at hiding from law enforcement, and we believe that he'll do anything in his power to attempt to evade us now.

We have an extensive manhunt under way with local, state, federal authorities on the lookout. We have military involved. We have helicopters, drones, canine units. There are hundreds of people on the ground and in the air looking for him right now.

COATES: You know, I remember, I prosecuted domestic violence cases and one of the things you would always look at if there was ever a murder in the jurisdiction was to look at the domestic violence history and the interaction between the person who was the defendant and one who is a victim and the -- just what officers are even trained to do going on the scene for crimes alleged like this.

I mean, this is somebody who was found guilty of murder just two weeks before his escape. Is there any thought or any idea of how he managed to escape the Chester County Prison? Is there an issue with security or staffing? Do you believe right now that there was help from the inside, help from the outside? Was he impersonating anyone? Do you have any information we could use to try to figure out where this guy might be and if somebody helped him get there?

RYAN: So, we're still investigating that right now. The detectives from my office are conducting interviews to find out what happened. I don't have anything that I can report to you at this moment in time, but they're certainly investigating it and looking into every avenue.

This may be a crime of opportunity, where he managed to escape. I don't know at this time whether he had someone helping him on the outside, but we're investigating every single avenue possible to figure it out.

COATES: I want to show the viewers again the wanted poster that we have.


If you see this man, Danelo Cavalcante, please call 911. Look at the type of crime he is accused of having and convicted of having done, and now having escaped. District Attorney Deb Ryan, thank you so much. We're showing everyone this wanted poster. So dangerous. So important. Thank you.

We're also learning now about a deadly incident inside the notorious Fulton County Jail. One inmate is dead. Two others are injured after a mass stabbing this very afternoon at the jail. Now, you may remember, of course, this is the same jail that Donald Trump and 18 other co- defendants were booked into just last week.

Now this is -- this might shock you. This is the fifth death of a Fulton County Jail inmate since, not this year, since the end of July, everyone. End of July.

Joining me now, retired lieutenant commander at the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, Charles Rambo. He ran for Fulton County sheriff in 2020 unsuccessfully.

You know, let me ask you, Charles, you're very familiar with the Fulton County Jail. So, what are your sources telling you about what happened? And for many people hearing this, they're almost thinking, how could this be the fifth time someone has been killed since July, it's not even September, until tomorrow?

CHARLES RAMBO, RETIRED LIEUTENANT COMMANDER, FULTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Well, thank you for having me on this evening. I'm having limited intelligence that's provided to me other than what you guys have received. But I do understand that the incident happened on a maximum-security floor that I coincidentally did have the opportunity to supervise back in the day and restored order when we had similar type of violence in 2009 through 2016.

COATES: How did you do that? How did you restore violence? Restore from violence?

RAMBO: We restored order by a system called CompStat where we held commanders totally responsible and accountable for day-to-day operations. You had to know your inmate counts. You had to know their behaviors. You had to know your manpower. You had to know exactly the use of force incidents. You had to give that in weekly control meetings.

And it was a no-nonsense environment where we were under a federal consent decree and actually passed with flying colors in 15 key compliance areas.

So, I'm just very shocked in all the fact that this type of violence is rampant throughout the jail and there is no immediate strategic plan to deal with it forthrightly in a law and order manner.

COATES: Now, when I hear federal consent decree, of course, that makes my ears perk because, obviously, the Department of Justice would have to be involved in some respect to have there be either an investigation and, of course, a decision and agreement between the two entities, DOJ normally or the law enforcement department itself, to have a judge sign off on what's required of you in order to not be in violation of that consent decree.

And yet, we've heard a lot about Fulton County Jail and the reputation for its dangerous conditions. As we're speaking right now, we're actually showing images of what it looks like, some of the deplorable conditions, the unsanitary environment.

The DOJ has now launched a civil rights investigation, and they even pointed to the death last year of an inmate by the name of Lashawn Thompson, whose family has blamed the unsanitary conditions, which include bed bugs and lice infestation that contributed to his death.

Is there a way, given your shock that this is still going on, that there have now been at least all these deaths this month alone, can this jail be revamped?

RAMBO: Of course, it can be revamped, and I can guarantee you it could be done in a very short period of time. Overcrowding in itself --

COATES: Why hasn't it?

RAMBO: Well, overcrowding with inside of itself is not the constitutional issue. It's the conditions that it creates. So, we now have to come back, and you would understand as being the D.A., we would have to come back and look at the slow-moving criminal justice system where inmates are not getting into court. We also have reports from ACLU that says over 1,100 inmates are still housed in that facility and have gone beyond 90 days without being indicted.

So, it's not just squarely upon the sheriff, but it's also squarely upon the judges and the prosecutors to get these dockets moving towards speedy trials. Whether you've got a solid case or not, you cannot keep people inside this jail forever.

COATES: You're so right about the presumption of innocence. That 90- day window also referencing the amount of time that you can hold somebody prior to indicting them which, again, they are still presumed innocent until there is a conviction by a jury.

Charles Rambo, thank you so much for your time tonight.

RAMBO: Thank you for having me.


COATES: You know, I want to take a step back for a second, everyone, because we've been hearing a lot about the conditions, woeful is the nicest way to put it, inside of the prison system. They're not frankly exclusive to Fulton County or the jail.

And joining me now is the director of an investigative documentary. It's called "Exposing Parchman." Rahman Ali Bugg joins me now. The documentary actually explores the efforts to reform the Mississippi correctional system.

I'm very glad you're here because everyone has been taking a step back recently. They've been talking about a two-tiered justice system, and they've been talking about it with reaction in relation to what's happening in Fulton County in the Fulton County nine for the latest indictment.

But you and I both know that if you're having a conversation about a two-tiered system of justice between the haves and the have-nots, those with money and those without, those with privilege and those without, even before you get to a trial, there's a lot to be said about this two-tiered system. What do you see?

RAHMAN ALI BUGG, DIRECTOR, "EXPOSING PARCHMAN": Well, what's clear or rather what I think will become clear, especially with respect to what's happening in Fulton, is that there are those who are ingratiated into the system one way, are dealt with one way in the system, and then there are others who are dealt with differently.

I think, you know, a lot of the inmates, the residents at Parchman Prison at Fulton, you know, a lot of them are experiencing heinous conditions, whether it's the water, whether it's the food, whether it's -- just the conditions of living next to someone going through mental health issues.

You know, there are all those kinds of challenges to just existing within that system and it doesn't necessarily impact those who don't look like me.

You know, Fulton County jails, Parchman Prison or Rikers Island are prisons filled with more people who look like me. So, like the gentleman was saying before me, all the conditions that lead -- that get them into the system are kind of what need to be dealt with at the same time as the conditions inside the prison, because he's right, the bail system is failing a lot of our citizens.

You know, I think policing is failing a lot of our citizens, which puts mental health services -- health services outside of prisons of -- impact the people who go inside. And once they go inside, once there are no resources, once that society -- you know, we have to understand that once -- prison has its own culture.

You know, yes, this mass stabbing happened, but hopefully, when the investigation happens, we'll learn more about the dynamics of that society that lives within that system.

There is a matter of survival, you know, when it comes to living in a prison, you know. And I think the -- you know, when we all live in our own communities, there's a guy who does this, there's a person who does that. I think it's the same within a prison community, you know?

And I think that in order for those folks to survive and figure out, you know, how to make it to the next day, how to make it through the next hour, you know, it is a challenging situation for all of them and you never know when it's going to explode, you know? And I think we'll be completely --

COATES: I don't want to cut you off, but your documentary about Parchman Prison actually shows, frankly, what's happening in Fulton. It's so powerful, I have to say, when I watch this. It's neither unique, what's happening in Fulton, nor maybe even as bad as it can get. I want people to watch a clip from exposing Parchman.


UNKNOWN: There are Black people dying in Parchman right now, Black people who were dying at Parchman when it was created.

UNKNOWN: At Parchman, another inmate has been killed there around the camp.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We can't get no help down here or (bleep).

UNKNOWN: There is something bad wrong at Parchman Penitentiary.

UNKNOWN: I'm going to miss you, boy (ph).

UNKNOWN: This place needs to be closed because, you know, people are dying.


COATES: What is your reaction when you see all this? I mean, obviously, you are the filmmaker for it, but just as everyone is leaning in right now and talking about at times a two-tier justice system as a political talking point, what do you want them to know?

BUGG: You know, Laura, I think it's that -- the experience of creating a documentary was traumatizing for me, right? Listening to those family stories, watching all those videos, having conversations with men imprisoned and hearing what they want to convey to their families, their daughters.

These are people who were part of a family. You know, their son. You know, their father. You know, all those things are real. You know, my trauma from going through this is real.


So, I imagine, like, I think about the guy who has been there for 5, 10, 15, 20 years. What has that person seen, dealt with? What have they transmitted to their families by nature of their experiences, by nature of their emotions? You know, all of this transmits to our society, like the daughter, the son of the father locked up is hearing these stories. He's living his day today with his father's experience, with his father's pain, with his father's aggression, and he has to go out into the world like that.

That's the main thing I really want to convey to people. These are pictures of my family around me. Family is everything. And when people are locked into these institutions, we forget about them. Sometimes, the family is forced to forget about them just based on their need to survive. Just based on, I need to go to work, I need to do this thing.


BUGG: So, these are human beings. These are our neighbors. These are fathers, sons, daughters, et cetera. That's the main thing I want everyone to understand, that these are real people. You know, inside, they aren't forgotten digits. And these things take a toll on everyone when it takes a toll on an individual inside a prison.

COATES: So well said. And somewhere, I read in the Constitution about cruel and unusual punishment. I wonder if it's a time to revisit that very issue as we're talking about a two-tiered system of justice. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

BUGG: Thanks for having me.

COATES: You know, several of Donald Trump's co-defendants in Fulton County, they won a speedy trial. I'm talking as in October speedy trial. The former president? Eh, not so much. But one of the chances he's actually going to be able to sever his case from those who really do. We'll talk about it next.




COATES: Well, on the docket tonight, everyone, Donald Trump pleading not guilty in the Georgia election subversion case. Now, of course, that was expected. He wasn't going to plead guilty today to it. But he's asking the judge to sever his case from co-defendants who want to have their trial at the end of October. This speedy trial, as they say. So, what does that mean? And will the judge actually grant this request? Well, that's the big question of the night.

We're also learning that tonight, the judge says America will be watching because this trial is going to be televised, everyone. That means every single person around the country, well, really around the world, will have the opportunity to see how the legal process is playing out in Georgia.

I want to bring in CNN political commentator and former lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, and former Georgia prosecutor Chris Timmons. Gentlemen, I'm glad you're here.

Geoff, let me begin with you. Loo, we have already known the unprecedented nature of having a former president indicted not once, not even twice, but four times. Now, we're actually going to be able to see the former president on trial for conspiracy, RICO, beyond. Is this good for the public to be able to watch this?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER GEORGIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Well, I think it's important for the public to watch this. We've got to get this right. We've got to get the facts out there. We've got to make sure Americans know what really happened so that this never happens again.

I think America is going to be shocked to see some of these facts really start to surface the deceptive techniques, the overwhelming disillusion of the facts, and quite honestly the un-American nature of all of this. It's going to be an important part of the healing process. I hope it plays out in three dimensions for America to see and never to be repeated again.

COATES: I mean, Chris, there has been a number of trials in recent American history where we've been watching on television. Of course, O.J. comes to mind, most recently Alex Murdaugh as well, and just a variety of trials in between. People lean in to see how the system is actually working.

I would note, neither the defense nor the prosecution is actually appealing the decision to have it televised. But from your perspective, is there a downside either for witnesses or just the scrutiny for the judge and the prosecution to actually have it televised?

CHRIS TIMMONS, FORMER GEORGIA PROSECUTOR: I mean, Laura, I don't think so. I mean, I've done some, not nationally, but locally televised trials. I think when you do those, you understand how reality TV shows like "Big Brother" work. You just figure out that the camera fades into the background and you do your job.

I think just with witnesses, I mean, there's going to be enough pressure in this case coming in to testify in what would be the trial of the century, if not the trial of the millennium, whether there's a camera there or not.

So, I don't think the cameras are going to affect the dynamics of the courtroom itself, but it's great that everyone in the entire world will have the opportunity to see how the American justice system works.

COATES: Hopefully, in terms of witness security, it won't present an issue. There's always a concern in that realm as is the idea of making sure that certainly every "T" is crossed, every "I" dotted.

But Geoff, to you, there's a severance question that's still lingering. The question, of course, is, will the judge here allow Trump to sever his case from co-defendants who want a speedy trial? Fani Willis says that she wanted to try them all together, all 19 of them, when she first announced it within six months. Do you think this is going to be granted to have that severance?

DUNCAN: Well, I think it's ironic that Donald Trump is the one that wants to have his case severed from the others and not have a speedy trial. The only box of classified documents he must have left at the White House when he left was the ones that convinced everybody that the election was rigged. You know, this should be a slam dunk, according to him.

But the reality is, I think, being serious, that it is interesting to watch the diverging legal strategies start to develop amongst all 19 that are indicted. And 18 of the 19 that are indicted could care less about Donald Trump's future. The only one that cares about Donald Trump's future is himself.

And so, watching Mark Meadows and watching all these other co-indicted individuals come up with their own legal strategies, it's going to only get more intense and more cutthroat as time goes on.

COATES: I mean, unless they think about, which is pretty evident, the inextricably intertwined nature of a RICO charge against them.


Right, Chris? And also, there is a bit of timing issue, right? Whoever is going to go first is not going to have -- they're going to have the evidence go before a jury or a pool, et cetera, and be televised, but no one's going to be there to advocate for the defendants who aren't there. And you can imagine the finger pointing then down the road that says, look who's not here next to me, they're the ones who really did it.

But I have a technical question for you, for the audience, Chris. If they are allowed to sever, if one person is allowed to sever, does that mean that all 19 then have to be tried separately in Georgia?

TIMMONS: No, Laura. You know, as a former prosecutor, I mean, one of the big issues with any judge in any courtroom is judicial economy. And so, they don't have to sever everyone. It just depends on whether they're antagonistic defenses. But to the extent folks' defenses are aligned, they're going to be tried together. But Laura, I don't realistically expect this to be severed, at least on the grounds that Mr. Sadow can't be ready after doing another trial. And you know as a former prosecutor that sometimes, that's the breaks. Sometimes, you actually end up trial weeks back to back. So, I think -- I mean, as a former prosecutor, we all know that sometimes, you've got to go forward even if you feel you're not ready. Even defense attorneys as well.

COATES: Absolutely. I mean, I remember being pregnant and telling the judge, I actually can't try the case on that day. And she said, really? Is the entire government pregnant? So, I already know how this might go down for people, everyone.

Thank you. We're all very fungible. As they say, it is, after all, the government or the people of the jurisdiction, not the individual prosecutor or defense counsel at times. Gentlemen, thank you both.

TIMMONS: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Well, Senator Mitch McConnell has been trying to reassure allies that he is in fine health and fine enough to keep his leadership position. But not all convinced. Stay with us.




COATES: Tonight, serious health questions surrounding one of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. The Capitol physician says that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is -- quote -- "medically clear to keep working."

The 81-year-old had another disturbing episode just yesterday. Remember, he was freezing for about 30 seconds after he was asked a question. It's the second public episode in just two months.

I want to bring in now CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He was former Vice President Dick Cheney's cardiologist. Dr. Reiner, thank you so much for being here.

I've been really wanting to pick your brain about what we're seeing here because this phrase that he was -- quote -- "medically clear to continue with his schedule," just vague enough to tell us nothing, but what does it mean to you?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It means to me that they've seen this before and they've evaluated him before. Any person who had experienced a sudden cessation of speech and sort of staring off into the corner for 10 to 30 seconds should go to the hospital, right? If that happens to you for the first time, you need to be scanned, you need to be evaluated, you need a full neurologic exam.

So, after seeing the senator do that for the second time -- well, first of all, it's very safe to say that the first time he had this done, he was evaluated. So, having seen it multiple times, they sort of know the cause.

COATES: We can't assume that the last time we saw it was the first time.

REINER: Well, that was the first time we saw it.

COATES: We saw it.

REINER: So -- but we do know that this episode has happened now multiple times and it would have been evaluated thoroughly the first time by a really super competent group of docs who work at the Capitol called the Office of the Attending Physician run by actually an old medical school friend of mine, Admiral Brian Monahan, a terrific physician, great group of people there. So, I'm sure the senator was thoroughly evaluated.

So, when they saw it this time, he was feeling well, we really know the reason why he couldn't resume his test.

COATES: Well, President Biden did weigh in and made a comment about him being his old self on the telephone. But we know for a president of the United States, we have to have some transparency and daylight into their medical records, their history, their current physical condition, of course.

We don't have that same requirement when it comes to members of Congress. And so, we rely on these statements and not an honor system of sorts but one in which they can choose to tell us or not because they're on privacy. Should that change?

REINER: Well, I think the public -- I think every patient has the right to privacy. And I think you give that up once you run for public office. And he's the leader of the Senate Republicans, very high profile, and has wielded a tremendous amount of power. And the people who vote for him, I think, deserve to understand, first of all, whether he or any other candidate is up to the job.

Are they well enough to do the job for which they are being elected? And also, whether they are likely to have significant health issues that could interfere with them finishing their term, fulfilling the full term.

You know, we struggle with this every cycle when we evaluate people who are running for president. This year, we have two candidates, two leading candidates who are fairly old. We'll hear more about this, I think, you know, going forward.

But I'm a strong believer that any sort of salient medical issue -- I'm not talking about a rash when they were 15. You know, any salient medical issue, the public really --

COATES: (INAUDIBLE) to what they may be performing.

REINER: Right. Exactly. You know, the major medications they're taking, surgeries, have they had cancer, is there concern about severe heart disease? [23:40:04]

The public should understand -- or mental health. Most diagnoses are not disqualifying with the exception of maybe a few, but the public has the right to make that decision.

COATES: An important point. And, of course, we're following along to figure out if this is rooted in the concussion or otherwise and what has been happening. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, nice to see you in person. Thank you so much.

REINER: My pleasure.

COATES: Well, North Carolina, everyone, is investigating a state Supreme Court justice over her comments about the state's lack of diversity in the judicial system. And guess what? She's suing them. Her lawyer joins me next.




COATES: In North Carolina, Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls is suing the state's ethics panel. Why? Well, to block the commission from stopping her from speaking on matters of public concern. This is all following statements that she made about a lack of diversity in the state's judicial system.

Now, in a June interview with "Law 360," Justice Earls discussed the Supreme Court's record related to diversity, saying -- quote -- "I certainly think that now that I'm on the bench, I see ways in which I'm treated differently by my colleagues and during oral argument, and sometimes it's hard to separate out: Is this race or is this gender or is this because of my political views? Any one of those three or the combination of all three might be the explanation."

Now, following that interview, the state's judicial standards commission launched an investigation into her public comments. Justice Earls is the only Black woman on North Carolina's highest court and only one of two Democrats.

Joining me is her attorney, Press Millen. Thank you so much for joining us this evening. Mr. Millen, so, what is it about your client's assertion of possible racial or gender bias and her own personal experience of what she's observing that seems to have triggered an investigation?

PRESS MILLEN, LAWYER FOR JUSTICE ANITA EARLS: Well, Laura, it's -- first of all, thank you for having me. I think first things first, what I need to say is that in an ideal world, my client would be here herself talking to you. The problem we have is that our concern is that if she were to make another public statement, including a public statement on your show, there's a real potential that there could be even a further investigation based on what she said here. So, it's necessary instead for me to substitute for her.

She made some comments that are, in my view, very measured. They are matters of public concern. They concerned an issue that has been broiling in this court for a long time, which is the very small number of advocates who come before the court who are female and from a minority background.

She was asked questions, she talked about it, and somehow, this has triggered an investigation, a formal investigation, by the state judicial standards commission into whether what she is doing is somehow undermining the public confidence in the judiciary.

COATES: You know, even beyond that -- and I would note, of course, that the reason she mentioned her politics is in North Carolina -- this is an elected position, I would note -- but the state's ethics commission attorney sent a letter to your client saying that she may have violated the code of judicial conduct, which states that a judge should conduct herself -- quote -- "at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."

What about her statement undermined that? Do they say?

MILLEN: Not one -- not one thing undermines it. Here's the problem. There's another canon that no one mentions, and it's the canon that says judges have the right to talk to and educate the public about the administration of justice and about the judiciary.

If judges' ability to talk is squelched or stifled or chilled, then the public isn't going to know what's going on in the judiciary. No one knows better than judges how the judiciary works.

And as one court that dealt with his situation said about a judge who was criticizing some imperfections in the court and then was disciplined for doing that, the court said, you don't increase confidence in the judiciary by throwing a cloak of secrecy around what's going on.

COATES: And I'll note from her statement, she wasn't commenting on a particular matter before her or a case in controversy. She was talking more generally about what she saw in her own observations in the oral argument procedures.

And I want to say that the commission itself, the Judicial Standards Commission, sent CNN a statement. And here's what they said. Quote -- "The North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission is a non-partisan investigative body comprised of members appointed by the chief justice, governor, general assembly, and State Bar Council. The commission is statutorily obligated to investigate all instances of alleged judicial misconduct and cannot comment on pending investigations."

Well, we'll follow this story. It's very important to see what's happening. Thank you so much, Press Millen, for your time.

MILLEN: Thank you, Laura. COATES: We'll be right back.


COATES: Thanks for watching, everyone. Now, before we go tonight, a preview of this incredible new CNN film, "Little Richard: I Am Everything," taking a closer look to reveal the black queer origins of rock and roll and the man who brought it all to life. His name, Little Richard.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): It is just like a shock of a cannon.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): His voice (INAUDIBLE). He created the rock and roll icon.

UNKNOWN: Sorry, you all. It wasn't Elvis.

LITTLE RICHARD, SINGER: I am the king of rock and roll!


UNKNOWN: The first songs that you love that your parents hate is the beginning of the soundtrack of your life.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Little Richard's lyrics were too lewd to get airplay on the radio.

LITTLE RICHARD: It was just as clean as you were.



UNKNOWN (voice-over): He was very good at liberating other people. He was not good at liberating himself.


LITTLE RICHARD: Michael was inspired by me. Prince. James Brown, I discovered him. Jimi Hendrix was my guitar player.

UNKNOWN: I used to stand on the desk and do Little Richard.

UNKNOWN: Everyone was beholden to him.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): "Little Richard: I Am Everything," Labor Day, on CNN.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight on "360," America's best-known traveling defendant and former president decides to skip the flight this time and plead to his latest charges from a distance.