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CNN Tonight

Auto Workers Strike After Contract Talk With U.S. Car Giants Fail; Hunter Biden Indicted On Three Gun Charges; Trump Says He Considered Pardoning Himself; Judge Shuts Down Effort To Try 19 Defendants Together. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates. Welcome to "CNN Tonight." Our breaking news, we are less than one hour away, everyone, from what looks like maybe thousands of auto workers walking off the job. The deadline is midnight. I mean, you see the countdown clock right now on your screen.

Don't turn away. That's going to be very important because it could mean that production could actually grind to a halt at General Motors, at Ford, at Stellantis, the company that builds Jeep, Ram, Dodge, and Chrysler brands.

Now, the UAW president Shawn Fain saying just a little while ago, if there's no deal by midnight, that means that three plants are going to go on strike.


SHAWN FAIN, PRESIDENT, UAW: Tonight, we call on three units to stand up and go on strike at midnight if we do not reach a tentative agreement in the next two hours. We're calling on GM, Wentzville Assembly, Local 2250 in Region 4 to stand up and strike, we're calling on Stellantis, Toledo Assembly Complex, Local 12 in Region 2B to stand up and strike, and we're calling on Ford, Michigan Assembly Plant, Final Assembly and Paint only, Local 900 in Region 1A to stand up and strike.

These three units are being called to stand up and walk out on strike at midnight tonight.


COATES: That's 57 minutes away, everyone. We've got much more to come as that midnight deadline is quickly approaching us.

Plus, for the first time now in American history, the Department of Justice has now filed charges against the son of a sitting president, an adult child, I will note, of course. But Hunter Biden is accused of lying when he bought a gun. Why? Well, they say he falsely swore that he was not addicted to illegal drugs even though he was struggling with a crack cocaine addiction at the time. Now, there's the threat of a trial, upending, of course, his father's reelection campaign.

And we have news on another trial that could upend, well, another presidential campaign. A Fulton County, Georgia judge has rejected D.A. Fani Willis's plan to try Donald Trump and all of his co- defendants together on October 23rd. That's like a month away, everyone.

Now, there's no trial date set as we're sitting here today for the former president, but it's likely that Trump won't actually face a trial until we're thinking maybe next year which, of course, brings us right into the heat of the race for the White House.

But I want to begin with the looming autoworker strike. This deadline is now less than an hour away. CNN'S Vanessa Yurkevich is in Detroit as we speak at the UAW headquarters. What's happening?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Laura, we are outside UAW headquarters here in Detroit where just moments ago, UAW president Shawn Fain made the announcement about which three plants the UAW will be targeting in the first wave of their strike. Those three plants are Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio, a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, and a GM plant in Missouri.

That will represent about 12,700 members who will be walking out at midnight if the UAW cannot come to an agreement with the big three automakers in the next hour. Here is that announcement from Shawn Fain.


FAIN: We've been clear. Midnight on the evening of September 14th is a deadline. UAW family, that deadline is nearly here. Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the big three at once.


YURKEVICH: And we are hearing from Ford right away that they received a counterproposal at 8:00 p.m. this evening from the UAW after waiting days for that counter. Ford saying that the UAW only came down slightly in their wage demands. Ford, of course, offered 20% in wage increases over four years.

We know the union from the Gecko (ph) has been asking for 40% in wage increases over four years, and Ford saying that the UAW made it clear that if they did not agree to the union's counterproposal this evening, they would head on strike.

And we are expecting Shawn Fain, UAW president, to be in Wayne, Michigan at that Ford facility at midnight if this agreement does not come together in the next hour. [23:05:03]


COATES: Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much. I want to bring in a man who knows a lot about what is going on in these negotiating rooms. He's the former UAW president, Bob King. He joins us now. Bob, thank you for being here.

I mean, you heard Shawn Fain say they're going to strike all of the big three all at once. This is historic. It could be extraordinarily significant. As you well know, this is a very big deal. Take me inside the negotiating room because you've certainly been there before. What's happening tonight?

BOB KING, FORMER PRESIDENT, UAW: Well, hopefully, the parties are really working hard to find an agreement that would be good enough to be ratified by the membership. You know, it's frustrating because in my view, the companies have played a lot of brinkmanship bargaining rather than good faith bargaining. They delayed and delayed and delayed giving their proposals to the UAW. There were minimalist proposals to begin with, and they would never ever, ever get ratified by the membership.


KING: And, you know, that's the other thing that people have to realize. These are member demands. These are Shawn's demands. Shawn has visited every plant. He had been talking to the members. He had been doing Facebook live. So, he is reflecting the frustration and anger of the membership. I hope the companies listen to him and give a far better offer than they've put on the table so far.

COATES: The point you raise is not lost on me. I mean, the idea, we're talking about the UAW president, Shawn Fain, you've been in that position, and the minimalist notions of what's being offered, the delay, he has been very vocal about as well.

But you also heard likely earlier today the Ford CEO talking about Farley, and he had been blasting that very president, Shawn Fain, and he is claiming that Fain is not negotiating in good faith. In fact, here is the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board. I want to read a quote from what they have to say. They say -- quote -- "Fain is the most belligerent union boss we've seen in a long time."

So, my question to you, Bob, do you think that Fain has gone too far in his negotiating tactics given, of course, as you say, these are member demands?

KING: Not at all. You can see that bias in the Tribune right away. He's not a UAW boss. The boss of the UAW is the membership. Shawn was elected by the membership. He reports to the membership. He's got a responsibility to negotiate an agreement that he thinks honestly can get ratified. And it's sad to me that the companies aren't really responding to what he is expressing to them on behalf of the membership. COATES: So --

KING: I think that's a really unfair characterization. I think Shawn and the rest of the leadership team. Chuck Browning, Mike Booth, Richie are all doing a great job -- Richie Boyer -- are all doing a great job for this membership in presenting their demands. They're voicing their concerns and their frustrations.

COATES: Clearly, the frustrations are being heard. We are 51 minutes away from a potential strike against all the big three, all at once, to use his own words. At the end of the day, people do want to work. They want to be able to have -- and they describe in terms of what their demands are, the dignity of work that is appreciated financially and other ways that's comparable to what it ought to be.

And one guest earlier on our programming talked about being elevated beyond not just the -- to the middle class but beyond the upper poor is what is felt for so many people thinking about how hard they're working.

But I want to understand, given that people want to work, is it advantageous to have someone holding a hard line like this at the very top? Is this what should happen in these negotiations?

KING: I think, absolutely, given the situation and given these companies made $250 billion in the last 10 years only because of our sacrifices. I was there. We made the sacrifices. And to me, it's a tremendous level of injustice that members have been left with five different tiers.

Nobody believes you should be doing the same job at an assembly line and getting different rates of pay. The same job, working for the same corporation, the same union, have different rates of pay. That's just not, to me, morally sustainable. It has a tremendous impact in employee morale.

Again, Shawn is expressing on behalf of the membership, what it will take to get an agreement that can get ratified. It doesn't do -- they should be wise enough and experienced enough to understand this.

I'm disappointed with Jim Farley, honestly, making the comments he did today. He got to understand, he should understand, that Shawn's got to get an agreement that can get ratified by the membership. They're far away from that right now, in my view.


COATES: Well, we are 49 minutes away from when they could actually walk right now and it could be debilitating, as you well know, which is part of the leverage that the people who actually are keeping the company afloat certainly have right now. What will happen next, we'll have to wait and see.

Bob King, thank you so much.

KING: Thank you. COATES: I want to bring in Stephen Delie, everyone. He's the director of Labor Policy at Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Thank you for being here on what is really a significant moment in history.

The idea, to quote the words of Shawn Fain, going against all the big three all at once, we haven't seen this before even in a summer, frankly, where you've had strike after strike in a variety of different sectors or even the threat to strike in some significant business sectors of our economy.

Now, Stephen, you say that if the UAW gets what they're asking for, though, it's going to hurt them in the long run. Can you explain why you feel that way?

STEPHEN DELIE, DIRECTOR OF LABOR POLICY, MACKINAC CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY: Absolutely, and I think I'll offer a counterpoint to former President King, which is while the UAW has to have a contract that it can ratify, Stellantis, Ford, GM each need a contract that they can compete with. And the terms that are being proposed by the UAW, if accepted, would put all three of the big three at genuine risk of going out of business in the near future.

COATES: Well, when you look at that, we did hear from Farley at one point talking about, if you had that significant pay raise, although he was challenged and rightfully so about the pay raise that people in his own position are in, in leadership roles of these big three, but that he said that it would go bankrupt, that they could not possibly compete. It would take a huge toll, not just the bottom line, but really take the bottom out from underneath them.

Is that true, though? Because for some, they might say, well, hold on, isn't there a price markup on some of these vehicles? Aren't there ways to account for the elevation of salaries in other areas? Is the CEO, at least Farley, correct that there could very well be a bankruptcy in the future if they were to submit and meet these demands?

DELIE: I genuinely think so. So, currently, the big three pay $65 an hour in labor cost for workers in the domestic manufacturing industry. Foreign competitors and non-unionized environments pay roughly 55. Tesla pays 45.

If the UAW's demands are met, that's going to result in labor cost of over $100 an hour. That cost has to be built into electric vehicles that are already expensive, that are sitting on lots longer than traditional internal combustion vehicles, and that just don't seem to be in particularly high demand right now.

So, when you look at that kind of market incentive there with demand and supply, I think you're in a scenario where unless EVs become significantly more profitable for the big three, increased labor costs and diminished sales could very rapidly eat into their very existence.

COATES: Well, certainly, the union must be aware of obvious electric vehicles and some of the issues in terms of how long they're on the lots, the market incentives, the way, in fact, the supply and the demand have to be met to have a fair market value of not only labor but also the cost of goods in this economy. Do you think that the union is negotiating in good faith then?

DELIE: Well, I think they're trying to get the best deal for their membership that they can --

COATES: Of course.

DELIE: -- and that's perfectly understandable. But when you look at the market and how EVs have gone so far in this transition with the incentives, the mandates that various states are issuing, the money coming in from the federal government that's propping this industry up, despite all of that, Ford still lost $4.5 billion on its EV division this year, and that's in a year of record profits.

Well, as we move away from those internal combustion vehicles and into a purely electric market, if that trend continues, that's a huge problem for the big three.

COATES: Stephen Delie, thank you. And again, this is part of a targeted strike. And so, this is even historic within the historic nature of what we're talking about right now. Countdown clock is on. What will they do? So good to talk to you, Stephen. Thank you so much.

DELIE: Thanks for having me.

COATES: We've got a lot more to come on the looming autoworker strike. This is so significant, everyone. The deadline is now less than an hour away. And one of the big questions everyone's asking now is, what would this do? What could this do to the U.S. economy?




COATES: There's no deal yet and we are less than now 45 minutes away from a potential United Auto Workers strike. Now, it will not only upend the auto industry, but likely the U.S. economy as well. I mean, just a 10-day strike could cost the economy -- get this, $5.6 billion. I did say a 10-day, $5.6 billion. It could also send the state of Michigan into a recession and even drive up inflation.

I want to dive into this with Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, because you don't want to hear me try to recite the laws of the economy, everyone. I got the supply, demand. That's it. That's where it goes, Justin. But I want to talk to you about just how long before the U.S. economy could start to feel the pressure of a strike this significant.

JUSTIN WOLFERS, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AND PUBLIC POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Laura, here, I really want to try and calm some of the viewers down a little bit.

COATES: Okay. WOLFERS: One thing that's important to recognize is the company got a big stake here in trying to convince the federal government this is a big deal, that if the federal government doesn't help solve this problem, it will tank the economy. The union got a big stake in trying to convince everyone this is a big economic deal because they want Ford and GM stockholders to put a lot of pressure on them to solve it.

The reality, though, is this is not a manufacturing economy that we live in.


The auto sector as a whole is 0.7% of the entire U.S. economy. The unionized sector is half of that. If they shut down the plants, that will definitely inflict some pain. But for most people, if it's hard to get a car this month, what are you going to do? Probably wait till the strikes over and buy the car then, or maybe buy from a different company who's not closed.

So, I think the overall macroeconomic impacts here, the impact on your viewers directly, for them, is not going to be that great.

COATES: Well, what about the fact that this is a targeted strike? I mean, not every single facility is being looked at. The notion of a targeted strike, I think, for many people is quite unique in that this is a -- I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, a few blocks away from a Ford assembly plant, and I remember thinking about, this is just one small part of the overall pie of everything that's going on. They are strategic in being targeted here of particular areas.

Does that impact how we should view this from part of the 10,000-foot view?

WOLFERS: Absolutely. So, Laura, I was talking about the big picture, the whole economy, because you've got viewers all over the country. Now, I'm coming to you from Michigan. It's a much bigger part of our economy right here. And so, I feel quite confident that the effects throughout most of the country on average are not going to be very large.

Of course, the effects on the striking workers, the effects on the auto parts manufacturers and the surrounding cities, and the effects in particular parts of the economy, and in particular the Midwest, are going to be a lot more intense.

I still think we don't want to overstate the case, but we're going to feel the pain here in the Midwest. And if you're somewhere else, you're probably enjoying a warmer winter and you're not worrying quite as much about the strike.

COATES: Well, that's part of the interesting notion of our national economy and the leverage, and why it's so significant to certain parts of the population.

That's part of what they're talking about, though, in that they can feel as though they're being disregarded because what is acutely felt and experienced by workers in this industry, and as you call a non- manufacturing economy, because it's not universally experienced for the workers. They feel as though they get the short end of the stick time and time again.

But then, the people of the economy lean in when they talk about prices of cars, of course. And you mentioned, you know, buying a car as one example. How much could a strike hike -- strike hike prices for new and used cars?

WOLFERS: Well, we've actually had a really nice experiment of what happens when it's really hard to get cars. Not a nice experiment. It was a miserable one. It was the COVID pandemic and that shut a lot of factories throughout the country. It also shut the international trade as well. And we saw that caused car prices to spike a lot.

Laura, can I come back to something you said? Because I think it's really important. For a lot of people throughout the economy, as inflation has risen, a lot of them have enjoyed some wage rises to try and catch up a little bit. That's not been the case for the UAW --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

WOLFERS: -- because it's a union sector. They signed a four-year contract. They signed it way back four years ago, before we'd ever heard of COVID and before we ever saw the post-COVID inflation research. So, workers throughout a lot of the rest of the economy have actually had a little bit of a chance to catch up to some of the worst of the pain of inflation. That's not been true for these folks because they've been on a very long run contract.

And interestingly, that last contract had no cost of living clauses in it at all. So, they've really fallen behind more than other workers have, which is why some of the numbers you just showed on your screen might strike some of your viewers as looking pretty big, but that's because those folks really have fallen behind a little more than other workers have.

COATES: That's such an important point. I'm glad that you underscored it because, you know, especially when you talk about the union contracts, the cycle in which you sign them. You know, not being able to contemplate.

One of the biggest impacts to our economy and I would say probably modern American history, obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic, at least one thing, not to have that contemplated, and now on the back end trying to resolve it. Really important.

Justin Wolfers, thank you so much for breaking it all down for us. I appreciate it.

WOLFERS: A pleasure.

COATES: Everyone, we're going to be live following this impending strike. We're going past midnight because I don't need to sleep. I need to hear from you all and help us to underperform what's going on and what's happening in the world around us. Also, there's a new first in Washington today. For the first time ever, a sitting president's son has been indicted. We're going to tackle that next and figure out what Hunter Biden could be facing.




COATES: Here we are, back to unprecedented times, everyone, because for the first time, a son of a sitting president is now facing federal charges. Not hypothetical. Actual indictments now.

Special Counsel David Weiss hitting Hunter Biden with three gun- related felonies. If he is convicted of all those counts, the president's son could face years in prison for allegedly lying on a form about his drug addiction when buying a gun back in 2018.

I want to bring in CNN correspondent Kara Scannell, also CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, also former federal prosecutor and contributing writer for "Politico," Ankush Khardori. I'm so glad you're all with us. I want to bring you in here, Kara, because help us understand.


I mean, we remember this plea deal over something that really imploded in the courtroom, but how did we get from that implosion to these serious charges so soon after it all fell apart?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, this plea deal that was initially announced in June was, um, Hunter Biden would have pled guilty to two tax misdemeanor charges and then avoided prosecution on the gun possession charge if he agreed to meet certain conditions for a period of 24 months.

Well, the Republicans in the House had said that that appeared to be a sweetheart deal. Then when he showed up in court in late July, the judge had a lot of questions about it. She had questions about how it was structured and whether it was constitutional. So, she told both sides, the government and Hunter Biden's team, to go back and try to work it out.

And in that time, that is when then U.S. attorney, David Weiss, a Trump-appointee who held over, asked to be elevated to a special counsel, and that is when the prosecution team said that they could not reach a deal with Hunter Biden and that they were going to move full steam ahead.

That brings us to today with this indictment of three felony charges. And one of the reasons why this was sped up a bit also is because the statute of limitations would run out next month because that's when Hunter Biden bought this gun in 2018 of October. And that is when he allegedly made these false statements on the ATF form, that he was used to purchase the gun by saying he wasn't using or addicted to drugs, and that same form was given to the firearms dealer. And then, of course, he was also charged with possessing the gun, all of them serious felony charges.

Now, his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has come out swinging tonight saying that essentially prosecutors are bending to the MAGA right side of the Republican Party. Abbe Lowell was on Erin Burnett earlier tonight, and he says that even the nature of the charges that were filed today were very unusual. Take a listen.


ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR HUNTER BIDEN: This office has never brought a charge like this against anybody. When they are bringing this charge, it's either because somebody has had the gun in the commission of a crime, they have bought multiple guns, they are straw purchasing for somebody else, or they are felon in possession. That -- none of that is true about Hunter Biden.


SCANNELL: Lowell says that they will fight this in court. He does think that their earlier deal is still valid, and he is going to question the constitutionality of the charges. Laura?

COATES: When is he in court again?

SCANNELL: So that hasn't been decided yet. I mean, we're waiting to see when that's going to hit the docket. Usually, the person who is charged comes in at some negotiated time to have an arraignment where he will be asked what his plea is. He'll enter his plea, which we expect he not guilty.

And then the question of bail. In this case, there's not expected to be any government request to detain him, so he'll be released. And then this case will be working toward trial, which will fall during his father's presidential campaign. Laura?

COATES: So important. Let's get to the panel as well on this point. Thank you, Kara. Elliot and Ankush, I'm glad you guys are both here because I think the big question so many people are asking, number one, is, everyone keeps saying this is unheard of. There has never been a case like this. You don't charge this outright. Maybe it's an add-on, maybe it's just for a felon in possession, but not for a user.

Is it strange that these are kind of the standalone charges? Not that it's not maybe violative of the black-letter law if you do this, but is it strange that this was a standalone?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I would say it's strange in so far as it's not often charged, but there's any number of crimes in the federal code that are still unlawful conduct. Right? You can still be prosecuted for the conduct. It's just the Justice Department doesn't charge it very commonly. I think the far bigger question related to that is that there's sort of a bit of a legal cloud over the particular statute he's charged with. In the Fifth Circuit down in Texas, it has -- you know, they've already issued a decision calling into question even the ability to bring this charge in the first place. That's going to come up again. I would be shocked if the judge threw it out, at least the possession charge there. We can talk about that a little more.

COATES: Well, that case you're talking about for everyone's sake is really about what is the criteria for disarming someone, what is the criteria for deciding who is able to have their Second Amendment rights there. Is it enough that you had engaged in prior behavior that's nonviolent, that's drug related?

Is that what the founding and the framers thought about when they talked about it? Or is it a matter of, look, as a government, they can put all sorts of boundaries around your right to actually possess?

But there's the question that Abbe Lowell is talking about, Ankush, and that is the idea of it being that this charge, these three, violate the plea agreement. And we saw it all implode in that courtroom, right? Well, we didn't watch because it wasn't like Georgia had actually televised cameras, hinted judiciary, put cameras in the courtroom. But if you're thinking about it being violative of the Constitution or that it violates that agreement, is he right?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CONTRIBUTING WRITER FOR POLITICO: So, I agree with Elliot, right? I mean, the fact that there is an unusual charging theory doesn't necessarily make it invalid. I do think the constitutional issue is going to be litigated. It's going to be a live one.


But in terms of like the other potential defenses that he might be able to bring out, I mean, this is going to be a hard charge to sort of defend against, absent some sort of constitutional sort of defense because he has essentially admitted it already in the course of his book.

So, I think this is going to be somewhat of an unusual uphill battle for Hunter Biden. And, you know, it's also not the end of this story because prosecutors have said that they intend to bring additional charges against him related to the tax charges.

As to the diversion agreement, whether or not that's still in effect, that's Abbe Lowell's point, an argument that they intend to advance. I think that's another one that they're going to have an uphill battle. The agreement was not fully executed by the court.

The judge had serious concerns about it, including constitutional concerns. She's presiding over this case. I find it very hard to believe she's going to say, oh, this agreement that I had all these problems with that you guys signed but I never signed is going to somehow bind me and prevent this Constitution. COATES: There's one issue on that, though. I want you to jump in here. But I just want to be clear. When we talk about the constitutional issues that the judge raised, it wasn't that she thought -- she didn't seem to think it was a sweetheart deal, the way the talking points go. She's talking about they essentially wanted her to be a part of a contractual agreement to do a fact-finding mission to figure out whether he had actually complied with the terms of it.

I know we were talking about this, but that's so important to really underscore that it's not -- the judge was not somehow thinking the political aspect. It was more so, this isn't only what I do. Do you guys know what you're doing here? And it turns out there was a problem. But the point you were going to make?

WILLIAMS: No, what I was going to say, a counterpoint, let's all three of us take off our prosecutor hats for a second and put on defense attorney hats. I actually think they have some defenses here legally, too. And particularly, just the fact that if what he did was admit to something in the book, said that, yeah, I smoked rock for a lot of my life, I don't know if that's enough to get you a conviction for that possession offense.

What he could say in court, this is just as a defense attorney, how one could defend it, what you would say is, well, he has acknowledged his substance abuse in the past, but no one can acknowledge that either at the time he possessed the firearm or the time he filled out the form, he was high or smoking or addicted at that time.

It's just how a defense attorney would plant a seat of doubt in a jury's head that I think you might -- it's plausible. It's not outside the realm of possibility. But, yeah, I mean, look, he said, I was addicted to drugs at some points in my life. So, it's -- you know.

KHARDORI: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, sure, every criminal defense can be stood up on the basis of just fighting every element.


KHARDORI: Right? The government has the burden of proof on every single element, including all the elements in seemingly simple crimes. So, yeah, you can try to sort of take a stab at any one of those elements, including as Elliot described them, but it will be hard.


KHARDORI: I mean, cases like this are hard for people to defend against. A drug user being charged in this way, very unusual. Abbe Lowell is right. But the more common fact pattern, like the straw purchaser case or the felon in possession case, these cases plead out all the time.

COATES: There could be some strange bedfellows ahead in terms of the gun rights advocates and those who are talking about this very case. Ankush, Elliot, thank you so much.

Stick around, though, everyone. Donald Trump is admitting that he thought about pardoning himself. Hmm. Would it have worked? We'll talk about that next.

And stick around because that countdown clock, you see, we're now minutes away from the United Auto Workers' strike and we'll be live on the air if, looks like maybe when, that strike happens.




COATES: Tonight, former President Trump is admitting for the first time that he, in fact, did consider pardoning himself while he was still in office. He told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he's not actually ruling out a pardon if he's reelected in 2024.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could have done a pardon of myself. You know what I said? I have no interest in even thinking about it. I never even wanted to think about it. And I could have done it.

And all of these questions you're asking me about the fake charges, you wouldn't be asking me because it's a very powerful -- it's a very powerful thing for a president. I was told by some people that these are sick lunatics that I'm dealing with. Give yourself a pardon. Your life will be a lot easier. I said, I would never give myself a pardon.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Even if you were reelected in this moment?

TRUMP: I think it's very unlikely. What did I do wrong? I didn't do anything wrong. You mean, because I challenge an election, they want to put me in jail?


COATES: I'm back now with Elliot Williams and we're joined by CNN legal analyst and former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore.

Let me begin with you here, Michael, on this very important point here. I mean, first of all, a president cannot pardon for state level charges. Of course, we know there's two cases that he's indicted, obviously, in New York and Georgia. But the idea that he might be able to or considering to pardon himself is really wild, wild west territory. What do you make of the possibility of that being constitutional?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with both of you. I don't think it's a subtle question on whether or not a president can self-pardon. There was an old 1974, I think, opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice that said, in fact, a president could not do that. But it is uncharted waters. And so, I'm not sure that the legal scholars are as certain of his ability to do it as he seems to be here. You're right, it would have no effect whatsoever on the state charges that he faces. And the truth is he may not need it. If, in fact, he is to get elected, he could simply direct that the cases be dismissed or that the prosecutions be terminated at some period of time.

So, you know, it's a lot of talk and the question I guess remains as well whether or not he even has the Constitution within himself to acknowledge that he did something wrong to where he might need a pardon.


That may be his biggest obstacle yet.

COATES: Well, you heard it, Elliot. I mean, we talked to Kristen Welker about this very point. And Michael is totally right, right? The idea that you would be able to have to consider pardoning yourself. If he wins the presidency, he says he will try to direct his DOJ on a number of things, including trying to indict his political rivals, which is part of it.

Let's focus on Georgia for a second because one of the cases, if he is convicted, there is no pardon power available. Georgia tonight, they already have a case there, 18 defendants strong. They're going to have only two trials, October 23rd, only two defendants in one trial. What do you make of what the lawyers are thinking tonight knowing they're going to have an advance notice on everything else?

WILLIAMS: Right, look, you get a window into the logistics of getting a case to trial, Laura, and it was never going to be the case that they were going to try all 19 people in five weeks. That would have been ludicrous. It would have been totally absurd.

So, I think all of the other 17 attorneys are watching how this plays out. How does the judge rule? What -- you know, what deference -- not deference but what space does he give to the prosecutors to argue their case and so on? Those rulings are going to potentially have an impact on what happens for the rest of the case.

But this is sort of a mess brewing when you have these many defendants, that much law, that many witnesses. We're going to see a lot more confusion, I think, as this gets closer and closer.

COATES: Put your defense cap on, Michael, as well because, you know, every great prosecutor has to contemplate, as Elliott has done as well, what the defense and what the other side is going to be thinking about, trying to have a bit of a chess move. You know, you move this direction, I'll then do this.

They have already expressed interest to talking to grand jurors. And the judge was open to that if they could vet the questions in advance. Think like a defense attorney right now as to what benefit those interviews and those questions could actually provide in your defense.

MOORE: Well, yeah, I do think and you know from seeing the indictment that the names of the grand jurors are public and so that's out there. The defense has really another benefit and that is that they were likely get all the transcripts from the special grand jury proceeding, something that we don't see in Georgia very often because we don't use a special purpose grand jury. So, they'll get reams of information if they get those transcripts and they'll have testimony and sworn testimony that they can then rely on.

If I were going to talk to the grand jury, the body that actually indicted the case, I might be interested in what particular pieces of information they found the most compelling. Remember, they saw only a slice, only a very little bit of the case. And, you know, the presentation to this grand jury, the criminal grand jury, was small compared to the eight months of testimony that went on before the special purpose grand jury.

But if you would still want to know what pieces did you find compelling, why did you find it compelling, were there questions that you had at the end of the day, the judge is not going to allow them to get into grand jury deliberations. But getting some feedback is almost like having a focus group or a mock jury. If you're prepared for trial, you'll get the benefit of their gut impression before they had their vote.

CAMEROTA: By the way, that's exactly what prosecutors are accused of always doing, indebting a ham sandwich. They have access to a kind of focus group and asking those very questions. And grand jurors themselves can actually ask questions. So, I'll be curious to see what questions they may have had. And if I were the defense counsel, I'd be trying to pick that all apart.

Elliot Williams and Michael Moore, thank you both.

MOORE: Glad to be with you.

COATES: Now, look at this clock, everyone. We are literally minutes away from the United Auto Workers' strike. Today, we're going to go live as people are gathering now for the strike to begin. We're seeing live pictures right now in Wayne, Michigan, one of the areas that will be striking if there is no agreement. This is what's happening. We are 10 minutes away.






(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COATES: We're seeing a lot right now, just moments away at this point from that strike deadline. The deadline to avert it is just about five minutes away, everyone. This is a consequential moment, as you can imagine.

We already heard them talk about the idea of three -- attacking all three all at once, the big three, with this looming now strike. The significance cannot be overstated. We now are going to go on site right now in Wayne, Michigan.

Gabe Cohen is on the scene right now. Minutes away, Gabe, from the UAW contract expiring. What's the scene like out there?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, it's upbeat. It's even a little bit frantic. I mean, you're watching history play out behind us. Take a look behind me. These are the first demonstrators who have been pouring in since the news broke just about an hour ago that this would be one of the first three locations where this strike would begin in, well, just about 6, 7 minutes from now. We've seen hundreds of people arriving.

We know that Wayne is just one of three. As I mentioned, Wentzville, Missouri is going to be one of the other locations. Toledo, Ohio, a Stellantis plant there, is going to be one of the locations. Just 13,000 UAW members are going to be on strike. Obviously, a small fraction of their total membership, about 145,000 people, but they say this tactical strike Laura, is just the beginning.

And that's what we're hearing from people here outside of this Ford plant, that this is just the start, and they wanted to be here right at midnight when we're expecting Shawn Fain, the head of the union, to also be on this picket line to send the signal that they are in for the long run.



COATES: I mean, this is four minutes away, a significant moment. You see the signs that are behind you, talking about what to do next. Gabe Cohen, thank you so much. We're going to come right back to you after this short break with the strike about to begin. Everyone, stay here for our live coverage.


COATES: Breaking news tonight, everyone. It looks like thousands of workers are on strike against the big three automakers. We are just moments away, really, from the deadline. Seconds, really. I want to go right now to CNN's Gabe Cohen at the Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan.


Gabe, the UAW members, excuse me, are now officially on strike. You can hear the horns right now. You are there in Wayne, Michigan.