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Senator Bob Menendez And Wife Were Indicted On Bribery Charges. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 22, 2023 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates. A week that began with Merrick Garland being accused of weaponizing the Department of Justice against Republicans ends with one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, D.C. now indicted for corruption.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, stands accused of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, essentially using his official position to force someone to give him something of value.

Tonight, we are taking a deep dive into all of it from the investigation to the indictment and, of course, the political fallout. Here are the big questions I've been asking all day after seeing all the reports. Let's cut through all of it. Here are the real questions. Number one, did he do it? Right? Did he do it?

Could a senator who left a hung jury in his last trial for conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud, sounds familiar, laid to allegedly personal favors, really have been so brazen a second time around? Is this how the political structures really made or is this corruption at its very finest?

And, of course, now that the Senate rules force him to step down from his position as chairman, should he also step down from the Senate? Or maybe the better question is, will he actually do that?

And, of course, you've heard a lot about the two-tier justice system, right? And witch hunts and beyond? Well, will the very same Republicans who have alleged those political witch hunts and a two- tier justice system come sprinting to this man's defense? Or will this be proof that lady justice might just be, well, independent?

And what will the people in the court of public opinion, let alone the court of law, make of yet another allegation of an abuse of power by the very people who we were told to trust?

I want to bring in John Miller, CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. John, I have been champing at the bit to talk about this all day because, look, this is extraordinary right now. There is an extraordinary level of detail in this indictment. It goes back years, all the way to 2018. Full stop, there is a presumption of innocence. We know this very, very well. And yet, this is damning as it's written. So, what is standing out to you most of all?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: What's standing out to me is not just the shocking allegations or, Laura, the fact that as you -- as you pointed out already, here is a member of Congress and now a leader in the Senate who has literally been in the shadow of various investigations for more than 20 years, but behind all of that is not just the basics of an allegation of businessmen giving alleged bribes to a significant public official, but the specter of a foreign government being behind that.

Just imagine the back end of this case, and this is not something we see charged, which is that a U.S. ally, a significant player overseas in the Middle East, someone who has been a partner with us in the formulation of U.S. and Mideast policy going back decades, that that country would be behind recruiting a United States senator who is the head of the foreign -- who has been the head of the Foreign Relations Committee essentially as an operative through cutouts businessmen supplying him with cash and other goods.

It's on that level more shocking than your average bribery case. It's people allegedly possibly acting as agents of a foreign government and a foreign government trying to recruit a U.S. official is very important.

COATES: You know, I remember when I was a federal employee and just thinking about the cyclical times that you have to have, obviously. They're running your credit, right? They're talking to friends. They're talking to neighbors. They want to know all the things about whether or not you might be vulnerable to somebody looking at you, knocking on your door, contacting you and saying, this is someone I can work with here.

There's some vulnerability. This is something that's very, very important for a security clearance, and that's somebody who's a federal employee. I was DOJ. That was a part of it. And you were actually at the FBI during an investigation into the Senator when he was actually in the House. So, what has been your reaction now given your particularized experience with this person even years ago?


MILLER: Well, I remember that, that was back in 2006.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

MILLER: And when you talk about, you know, how these various ships pass in the night, that was a federal investigation into alleged benefits he was receiving in the form of a house that he was renting from an organization. He was also lobbying for the time when he was in Congress. Interestingly, Laura, back then in 2006, the prosecutor who was bringing that case was Chris Christie, now a Republican candidate for president, and that was a case that was investigated by the FBI. The bureau believed it was ready for prosecution, so did the U.S. attorney in Newark.

But it was sent across the street and the judgment of the attorney general and the public corruption section was to pass on it. After that, of course, you saw the other case that ended with a partial acquittal and a hung jury. And now, this case. So, he has really been under the spotlight for a long time.

But something else you pointed out, he's entitled as the head of the Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking member at various times to extraordinarily classified --

COATES: Right.

MILLER: -- sensitive information. Members of Congress don't get a secret clearance. Their clearance when they're on one of these committees is by virtue of the fact that they've been elected. So, what you were talking about, what you went through as an assistant United States attorney, what I went through as an assistant director of the FBI, that thorough background investigation, that polygraph examination, having your first- grade teacher interviewed --


-- none of that happens for a member of Congress.

COATES: Yeah. It's very true. And, you know, I wonder what they would say. Probably, Laura Coates, she talks a lot, but she's got good teeth. John Miller, thank you so much. Nice to see you, of course.

I want to turn now to former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi and also litigation attorney A. Scott Bolden, a former chair of the D.C. Democratic Party.

Gentlemen, here we are on a Friday night. We began the week talking about Merrick Garland and this weaponized system of government --


COATES: -- and the DOJ attacking just Republicans and what a fair shake they wanted to have for people. We've been combing through this indictment and looking at it and all the different charges.


COATES: And, of course, it's something you have in front of you. We've all been talking about it behind the scenes.

UNKNOWN: Uh-hmm. Yeah.

COATES: I want to know what your reactions are to this indictment. I know you say this is a problem.


COATES: Which part, the indictment or the allegations? BOLDEN: The indictment and the allegations. The allegations. The indictment, I'm not impressed, because from a criminal defense standpoint, I want to see where the "there" is. So, for example, it's all conspiracy under 371. Okay, this is like Governor Bob McConnell (ph) indictment. It's shiny, it's new, it's going to be in the press and what have you. But the government still has to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.

We know McConnell's case went to the Supreme Court. One thing about honest services and bribery, you have to have an official act. I dare you to find in that indictment what official act Menendez did in exchange for gold bars, money, cars.

By the way, it's got a wife too, and the wife was friends with these two individuals. And all they were doing were talking to their senator about helping them, whether it was unseemly or not, and all he did was go to bat for them in each one of these instances. I don't see one official act.

And by the way, can a legislator -- can a legislator have an official act? He can release money for the Egyptians, for the military, those funds and what have you. But any senator can hold that up. And if it made sense, remember, Egypt is an ally of ours. So, I don't see any official acts here. That's a problem for the government.

COATES: Well, you know, it's interesting when we talk about official acts. And I've interviewed Mr. McConnell, formerly as the governor of Virginia, about instances like this and what this looks like, and he believes to this very day, of course, that he got a raw deal.

The Supreme Court said, look, I don't know how to discern between the official acts and what you've actually done, in some respect, although it's more nuanced. But look, many people have been hearing time and time again, Gene --


COATES: -- that this is how the sausage is made. This is what congressmen do.

ROSSI: Yeah.

COATES: This is all of it. You can't wait to parse out what's right and wrong. But the allegations here are not. I advocated on behalf of a constituent. The allegations are much more serious than that. How do you see it?


ROSSI: I love my partner here.


COATES: Oh-oh.

ROSSI: We are 180 degrees apart. BOLDEN: You're going to disagree with me.

ROSSI: Yes, yes, even though you're a Morehouse man.


But here's the thing. I worked in EDVA, okay? For 16, 17 years. I was there when they did the McDonnell, the Bob McDonnell case. I was there when they did the William Jefferson case in 2009.


The congressman, low-level congressman who had $90,000 in his freezer in packages of cereals and poker burgers, okay?


The official acts that Congressman Jefferson did as a low-level member of the Congress tail into comparison to the official acts of Senator Menendez, allegedly.

Let me give you one big whopper. I am absolutely offended, if this allegation is true, that he used his official position in vetting a U.S. attorney, and he has that U.S. attorney come to his house, the nominee or candidate, and that incident involved him talking about a pending federal case. That is disgusting in addition to being illegal.

And the timing is important. Bob McDonnell got -- let me finish. Bob McDonnell, he had tawdry things. He got use of a car and a house, but there was no nexus. Here, the timeline is devastating, allegedly. He meets with somebody. He gets a gold bar. Before he meets with somebody, he gets cash. There's a clear nexus between what he is going to do or what he has done.

And the official acts are very broad, the definition. It could be, I'm trying to arrange a meeting. It could be, I'm taking a position on appropriation. It's very broad and my colleague respectfully disagrees.

BOLDEN: That is just not true. That is just not true. An official act, that is exactly what the Supreme Court struck down in the McDonnell case. It said setting up a meeting, if you would, for any other constituent, it's not an official act. Advocating in McDonnell's case in regard to an FDA approval, state FDA approval, is not an official act. He would do that for anyone.

And by the way, before we get caught up on the whole Egyptian piece and what he did to help one of our allies, those documents that he passed off, they may not have been public, but they were not top secret. He was not passing secrets because they surely would have charged him with that. And so, what did he do? You're upset because he sat down with a U.S. attorney?

ROSSI: I'm not upset.

BOLDEN: Okay. Well, maybe I am because you don't agree with me. Sitting down with a U.S. attorney candidate, right, and asking then, if you become U.S. attorney and if I recommend you, it's up to the president, by the way, it's not up to Bob, that can't be an official act, and I want you to look into this case and give it some real scrutiny and stuff. And if you don't, he didn't say to him, even in the indictment, if you don't do it, I'm not going to recommend you.

He wound up recommending. He, being Menendez, wound up recommending somebody else. That's not an official act because ultimately, the official act is the president appointing him. By protocol, the two senators make a recommendation. President doesn't have to listen to that. I think the government has got problems here, rooted in the lack of official acts that they're going to try to make out.

ROSSI: Can I have -- can I have her bottle?

COATES: Well, first, let me bring in Senator Menendez, his statement into this. First of all, he says in part of the statement today that he issued, he is accusing the prosecutors of making false claims and -- quote -- "misrepresenting the normal work of a congressional office" --


COATES: -- and this is part of what we've been talking about today, the official act capacity. I have to say, though, it's not as if the prosecutors in this jurisdiction have never heard of the governor of Virginia case in the Supreme Court.

UNKNOWN: Uh-hmm.

COATES: And one would have to assume --


COATES: -- although there is a presumption still, you know, I only give credit when it's due, that given their knowledge of what it takes to prove an official act, given the level of scrutiny on a case like this, I certainly hope they've dotted the Is and crossed their Ts. But they've also said, guys, and I've got to go, but they all said, the investigation is ongoing. The two of you have got to go ahead and arm wrestle --

ROSSI: We'll fight it out.

BOLDEN: They need cooperators, too, to make -- connect the dots. That's the ongoing investigation because there's no one linking these gold bars and money to these -- quote -- "alleged official acts that don't exist."

COATES: Well, we'll have to see if that's the case. But there's two defense attorneys who might be interested in the job.


Gene Scott, A. Scott Bolden, thank you so much.

BOLDEN: We will, we will, we will.

COATES: Listen, there are growing concerns and calls tonight for the senator to resign. But, I mean, what if he decides to ride it out? Wouldn't be the first time you saw this in politics. We'll talk about the political aspect of this, next.




COATES: Well, as one might expect, there are calls growing tonight for Senator Bob Menendez to resign amid the new corruption charges, calling the allegations deeply disturbing. The New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, saying -- quote -- "The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation."

And Governor Murphy is not the only one calling on the senator to resign. Other New Jersey Democratic leaders, emphasis on Democratic leaders, are calling on him to step down and they include the state's General Assembly speaker and the Democratic State Committee chairman.

But tonight, Senator Menendez is pushing back on all of those calls to resign, saying this in part, "It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere."

I want to bring in former chief White House ethics lawyer, Richard Painter. So glad to see you this evening. And a fellow Minnesotan. Go, University of Minnesota, in particular.

Richard, I have to ask you about these charges. You know he's facing three federal conspiracy charges. Talk to me about how you view the seriousness of these because the allegations are far more than your garden variety, if there ever was one, of kickbacks.

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: I agree strongly with Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who was the first Democrat in Congress to announce his demand that Senator Menendez resign, and that's what needs to happen here.


This is not about partisan politics. This is about corruption in our government and our national security. We have a senator who was indicted six years ago. He had a trial. He was at a hung jury, so he got off. But then they make him chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And of course, foreign governments are going to be attracted to that situation. And he has the payments here in gold bars and cash.

The government, of course, does have to prove an official act. Under the Supreme Court case law, bribery cases are very, very hard to prove. But the United States Attorney's Office brought this case for a reason. They have overwhelming evidence.

And, once again, this is very dangerous for our national security, to have the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee appearing, at least, at this stage. The United States Attorney's Office has brought this case because he appears to be in the pay of a foreign government.

And I don't care whether Egypt says they are an ally or any other country. It does not matter. We cannot tolerate this in the United States. This should not be a partisan issue. And I believe the governor of New Jersey, also a Democrat, is correct in calling for Senator Menendez's resignation. And I believe more Democrats will continue to call for his resignation over the weekend.

COATES: You know, Richard, just playing devil's advocate to the point that you just raised, he was, in fact, an interesting point you raised, that he was still named that chairman of that very consequential committee nonetheless in spite of the track record. We have this presumption of innocence in this country. It's a good thing that we have that presumption of innocence.

It sounds like you're suggesting that by virtue of the allegations alone, that should be enough to have him step down. And there has been a lot of politicians who would try to ride out the scandal, waving the flag of presumption of innocence. But because it's a politician, because it's an elected official, does that somehow make the decision distinct for you?

PAINTER: Well, yes, this is a position of trust, a very important position of trust. And that's why the founders put the emoluments clause in the Constitution, prohibiting any person in position of trust with the United States government from accepting any profits or benefits from a foreign government.

I was on CNN and other networks, timeless, over and over again, talking about Donald Trump and his receipt of foreign government payments, his disregard of emoluments clause. And unfortunately, Republicans rallied behind him, and it would be tragic to see Democrats play politics with our national security here. This is not a partisan political issue.

Second, we cannot have a major political party running for the United States Senate or for any other position, someone who is under criminal indictment. And I know that's an issue for the Republican Party if they do not find a candidate other than Donald Trump. And I believe they will go down and lose in 2024 if they run Donald Trump.

But for the Democrats, to have Senator Menendez under criminal indictment for taking bribes from foreign governments in the United States Senate, the Democrats will have absolutely no credibility if he is not out of the Senate very, very soon.

COATES: Richard Painter, thank you so much. So good to see you. I want to bring in former National Republican Senatorial Committee aide, Liam Donovan, and also CNN political commentator Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist. You know, what Richard and I were just conversing about, it sounds like the moral high ground conversation that politicians like to have to say, hold on a second, if we do this, we're going to lose the ability to play this card down the line. You know, talking to fellow Minnesotan, this conversation happened around Senator Al Franken as one example in a very different context, obviously.

But this notion of a moral high ground and the idea of whether a politician ought to resign right now, you actually know the senator. What's your stance on the fact that he is vehemently pushing back on calls for him to resign?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look. This is tragic. Let's just keep that in mind, right? This is something that the senator is going through. His family is going through this, too. His voters are going through this.

Senator Menendez has been a loyal servant to the people of New Jersey. He has been a tireless advocate and champion for the Latino community. Nothing will change that, but it could taint his legacy if he stays there. And look, it doesn't mean that he doesn't --

COATES: In some ways, though, his legacy -- I don't want to cut you off -- has been compromised by the hung jury now --

CARDONA: That's correct.

COATES: -- which is the past.

CARDONA: That's right. But I think if he stays here now under all of this, you know, shadow of the charges, it's going to make it worse.


And look, that doesn't mean that he doesn't have the right with every fiber of his being to go out and fight this in the courts. Absolutely, senator, go do it. Clear your name. If you're innocent, by all means, go do it and show us, right? Show the public, show his voters that these charges are absolutely wrong.

And he should absolutely be able to do it with 100% of his energy and his focus. He won't be able to do that if he continues to want to keep his Senate seat just for the sake of saying, look, they're wrong. I'm going to be right. That's not serving the voters that he so lifts up and is so proud of the service that he has given them. That's doing them a disservice if he stays.

COATES: I mean, how do you say -- if he does stay -- and again, we have seen politicians say, you know, I'm going to ride it out. Like, I'm not going anywhere. He's actually said he's not going anywhere on this issue. Also, that can often change when certain pressure gets exacted on somebody and they can't talk and absolutes. But what happens to his Senate seat if he does? This is not a huge majority that makes majority leader Chuck Schumer. It's a slim one, and people know it. LIAM DONOVAN, FORMER NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE AIDE: It is not a huge majority. This is probably going to determine the control of the Senate, perhaps, through the decade. There are three opportunities for Republicans to pick up seats. This adds a fourth in a situation where, let's say, a dinged-up Senator Menendez tries to ride it out. That is about the only way you can imagine a seat in New Jersey coming into play in this coming cycle.

But it's another headache that Chuck Schumer doesn't need. I think if he listened to Maria's advice, it's something that his colleagues would appreciate, the Biden administration would appreciate. They do not want cartoonish images of officials and their families engaging in corruption. I think it plays into images that the public already has, a cynicism that the public has, and that about half the country has suspicions about more broadly. So --

COATES: I do wonder about the cynicism, because a lot of it is tied towards the idea that it's weaponized, that this is --


COATES: -- attacking Republicans exclusively. I'm not saying this is going to counter every single talking point that's ever been raised on behalf of Donald Trump. But I mean, this is the last two weeks. You got Hunter Biden charged. You've got Senator Menendez charged. Certainly, Trump has four indictments and he's been waving a flag at political witch hunts. Does this balance in a talking point way as a strategist?

CARDONA: I think it absolutely does, which is why I think it's important for Democrats to continue to make that point and to hopefully convince Senator Menendez to go and do this now and leave this seat for somebody who can completely compete for it, right? Clear of any of this shadow.

It's important to note that what just happened does prove that there is no two-tiered justice system, that no one is above the law, not the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, not the president's son, and certainly not the former president of the United States.

COATES: How do you see it?

DONOVAN: Well, I think what's funny about this is the difference between 2015, the first time these came around, and we didn't have these same calls, and you want to know why that is, it's because there was a Republican governor of New Jersey named Chris Christie, who would have been in a position to make that appointment.

So, you know, I think we can talk about two-tiered justice. I think it is tougher, but I think, you know, the president -- the former president, is not one that is bound by consistency or coherence. It's very easy just muddy the waters and say it's all a rigged game.

COATES: Really quick, Maria, what did you make of the senator referencing that he feels that it's targeting, especially as a Latino in office? CARDONA: I talked to a lot of my Latino friends and frankly, a lot of them were offended that he mentioned that. I think it was frankly a cheap shot. And again, like I said, kind of takes away from the massive legacy that he does have in being a huge champion for the Latino community.

COATES: Both of you, thank you so much, Liam Donovan, Maria Cardona. And I don't know if you saw Maria's dress, but I did. Look at the sleeves, everyone.


The gold bars and the cash are certainly drawing a lot of attention but maybe the most worrying aspects of this case if we had to break it down is that Senator Menendez allegedly gave sensitive government information to help Egypt. There are national security implications after a long line for months now about conversations about sensitive documents and data. We're going to break that down, next.




COATES: Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, the chair of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, indicted now on federal bribery charges. Prosecutors are alleging that Senator Menendez -- quote -- "provided sensitive U.S. government information and took other steps that secretly aided the government of Egypt." Menendez was under investigation since last year. But why was he allowed then to continue as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

I want to dive into this with Susan Glasser, staff writer at "The New Yorker." Susan, it's so good to see you. I've been wanting to pick your brain about this matter in particular because the prosecutors are alleging here that Menendez misused his power as the Senate Foreign Relations chair, giving sensitive information to the government of Egypt. What is your reaction to that allegation?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yeah, I mean, this indictment contains some pretty eye-popping details. And I noticed that, you know, among the calls for Senator Menendez to step aside tonight, there was, you know, even the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, specifically referencing the national security nature of this case.

It's not just -- you know, you're in Washington long enough. You've seen a lot of corruption cases involving Democrats and Republicans. You know, that has been a fact in our politics.


But it's rare, very rare to have someone in a position of this level of seniority, being the chairman of the storied Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and really what he was doing, according to the government's allegations, was to misuse his official position in a very specific way.

I mean, this harkens back to some of the legendary, you know, corruption cases of the past. I'm thinking of the ABSCAM case, you know, in 1980, which again, involved this nexus between foreign money and taking actions on the part of members of Congress.

There are some specifics that are contained in that indictment. They, for example, say that Chairman Menendez passed non-public information through this intermediary who's also charged to the government of Egypt, things like involving military weapon sales to Egypt that they wanted to get restarted.

And, of course, this is not a free country right now, so we're talking about a military dictatorship where human rights abuses have frequently caused the U.S. to put a hold on, in effect, some of our dealings.

COATES: That was a really important point, especially, because a lot of people may be wondering and trying to understand the gravitas or the significance of it being Egypt in particular. Why is this the particular country where -- we don't know all the machinations of the conversations or anything like that, it's still an ongoing investigation, but the fact that it was involving that particular country, should that give people additional pause into understanding the context here?

GLASSER: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, there have been enormous amount of backstage lobbying in recent years involving Egypt because its human rights abuses are such that there are various laws that are in place that Congress has passed, that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed, in order to make sure that the U.S. is not doing business with human rights abusers and the like.

And so, often, it requires the State Department to certify that Egypt and other countries are meeting certain criteria. There's a big dispute about that because really, it's not. And yet, nonetheless, it's a very important strategic partner of the United States and Israel in the Middle East.

And so, we have a long history of giving aid, military assistance, weapon sales to Egypt to the tune of billions of dollars, billions and billions of dollars since Egypt and Israel first made peace with each other decades ago. And so, at times, we've had to calibrate that partnership when you're balancing human rights versus its strategic needs.

So, somebody like Menendez, if he was really in Egypt's corner, pushing things along behind the scenes, that's a very significant matter because this was a subject of real dispute here in Washington.

COATES: That's such a fine point. I'm so glad that you illuminated that particular point. I've been wondering a lot about this today as many people have. I do want to say that you did mention the fact that he was allowed to remain a chairman. He is not right now, obviously. Under the democratic conference rules, a member in a leadership position or with a chair must resign if charged with a felony, but they can be reinstated if the charges are cleared or dropped to a lesser charge.

Susan, this is going to continue. Thank you for joining us this evening. I appreciate it so much.

GLASSER: Thank you.

COATES: Well, Senator Menendez is set now to appear in court on Wednesday. That's the same day as the next Republican National Committee primary debate, of course. I'm sure it'll be on the actual discussion. But how should we expect the prosecution and defense to present their case? We're going to do a little bit of a mock trial here on this Friday night with two of our legal eagles, next.




COATES: Well, Senator Bob Menendez is going to be appearing in court next Wednesday after his indictment now on federal bribery charges. So, what will the case look like for the prosecution and for the defense?

Well, joining me now is Renato Mariotti, he's a former federal prosecutor, and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney. Gentlemen, I'm glad you're here.

I just want to dive in for a second to help people understand what we're talking about. These allegations are quite serious. He is being accused of taking and including 13 gold bars, nearly half a million dollars in cash, $80,000 in his wife's safety deposit box, home furnishings, home mortgage payments, compensation for a low or no-show job, and Mercedes-Benz as well.

Part of the evidence is that he even Googled, apparently, with respect to the gold blocks, how much is one kilo of gold worth? It's actually a Google search. And there's evidence of text messages, emails between Menendez's wife and the co-defendants. Again, the web search, not just to name a few of the things.

And so, I want to take a second and draw on both of your legal expertise. I'm going to ask you, Renato, to be the prosecutor, and Joey, you to be the defense counsel here, because I want to understand what would be your position here.

Renato, I'll begin with you. Given the evidence we're seeing, this could all play out in court based on what we currently know, what is the strongest way to present this case?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, look, I have an easier job than Joey here because the evidence that you just laid out is pretty strong. Ultimately, corruption here, bribery, is where you're trading something that's official. You take an official action in exchange for a thing of value.


Obviously, he receives a lot of value. You just laid it out, Laura. Gold bars, cash that was in -- you know, Jack is bearing his name. He was literally -- there's a connection between him and the gold bars because, of course, he was conducting a search to see how much it was. His wife was getting basically a job where she didn't have to show up and she was getting that money.

So, what are the official acts? Well, there's some really key things. He was telling, for example, a secret to the Egyptians, letting them know about the personnel that were at the embassy. He was assisting them in trying to move along payments for military equipment, trying to get them, you know, the foreign aid that they would need, for example.

He actually wrote a letter. He ghost-wrote a letter that was arguing their cause. Why didn't he put his name on it? Well, he didn't put his name on it, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, because he knew that if he did, it would have outlaid bear his corruption.

COATES: Yeah. Well, Joey, I mean, you might not have the easier job, but Joey Jackson got to make it look easy. So, tell me, what would you argue as the defense?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, a lot of smoke, very little fire. Okay? Here is the reality. Senators are paid to represent constituents. And when you represent constituents, what do you do? You advocate their interests. Look at fundraisers that congressmen and senators have all the time. What are they for? So that people can pay money and you not do anything for them so that you don't represent the interests?

The issue is not the extent to which he got gifts, the extent to which there were dinners or lunches or text messages. The issue is to what extent that influenced his official action would he not have engaged and the behavior of doing the best job he could for the interest he thought and sought to protect.

And to the extent that he might have intervened as it related to Egypt, to the extent he might have intervened in criminal investigation, it was his role as a senator to do so, to advocate and to use all of his abilities on behalf of the people of the state of New Jersey to be the best senator he could.

Unless you connect the dots and establish that it was a this for that, you can talk about all the gold bars, you can talk about all the Mercedes, you can talk about all the hundreds of thousand dollars you want. Where is the nexus or connection that motivated him to engage in the behavior he did? I would suggest it does not exist.

COATES: Oh, bravo, gentlemen. I'm telling you, I know they're going to hear both these arguments, of course, in any upcoming trial or conversation. I will pretend I'm the judge here and take it under advisement.

But the bigger issue here, of course, is there's a lot to consider. The government has got to prove their case. The defense will make the arguments you rightly raised, Joey. The question will be, to what extent has the Supreme Court's authority on what means to be an official act, how is that going to weigh in all of this?

Renato, Joey, we're going to have to continue a mock trial on another day. It's Friday night after all. Thanks, gentlemen.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

JACKSON: (INAUDIBLE) in court, Renato.

COATES: Well, chef, author, and humanitarian Jose Andres is a culinary master who has fed millions of people from clientele to fine dining restaurants across the country to victims in disaster zones all around the world.

Well, now, he's taking a very special trip back to his home country of Spain to share the food, to share the culture and the people with his American-born daughters. The journey was documented on our sister platform "Discovery Plus" in the series "Jose Andres and Family in Spain." which is now coming to CNN. Here's a preview.


JOSE ANDRES, CHEF (voice-over): Hello, people. I am Jose Andres. A chef who loves to feed the world. Spain is the land where my passion for cooking began.

What you hear is the happiness of all the ingredients.

(Voice-over): I moved to America three decades ago. And now, I'm taking my daughters Carlota --


J. ANDRES: Ines --


J. ANDRES: And Lucia.


J. ANDRES: All around my beloved home country. I want them to see it all, learn it all, and taste it all, from the most simple, iconic foods to the more sophisticated and unique food of my homeland.

UNKNOWN: This is the most amazing meal.

J. ANDRES: This is a trip filled with adventures, traditions, celebrations and, of course, lots of delicious food.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): "Jose Andres and Family in Spain," premieres Sunday at 9 on CNN.




COATES: Well, this week CNN hero watched as a teenager her son, Nik, lose his battle to cancer. The one bright spot during his treatment was his "make a wish" trip to Hawaii. When Nik found out that kids can age out of "make a wish," he was devastated.

The night before he passed away, he asked his mom to make sure that older kids can still get their wish. So, this mom has dedicated her life to granting once in a lifetime experiences to young adult cancer fighters.




Guess what, Annie (ph)? Come on out here if you can. Congratulations! Yes! Surprise!



When I get to see somebody saying, my wish was granted --

I'm going to go to Hawaii!

Sometimes, there's tears. Sometimes, there's joys, there's hoots and hollers.

Did we surprise you?

UNKNOWN: Really did.


UNKNOWN: Oh, my God.

UNKNOWN: But for me, it's Nik smiling down and saying, thank you, mom. Thank you, mom.

UNKNOWN: My health has been getting worse, so this is just everything to me.


COATES: Hmm. That one got me. For the full story, go to Everyone, thank you for watching. Our coverage continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)