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CNN Tonight

McCarthy Removed As Speaker, Sending House Into Chaos; Judge Issues Limited Gag Order Against Trump; Hunter Biden Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Gun Charges; Laphonza Butler Sworn In As California's Newest Senator. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 03, 2023 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates, here with Abby Phillip, and this is a special edition of "CNN Tonight." Kevin McCarthy ousted as House speaker, and he says he's not going to even run again.

Now, the House will be in recess for a week. They're not even planning to return until next Tuesday night for a conference meeting before then a potential vote later that week on electing a new Speaker. So, that means the House will be closed for business, and they don't even have a Speaker.

Meanwhile, McCarthy, who lost that speakership gavel today, well, he said this tonight.


KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: These are the same people that never voted for me. They thought it was big. They went to present after we went through 15 rounds. I'm not quite sure those individuals are looking to be productive.


COATES: Well, this is certainly a moment in American history and a string of a number of moments. We've never seen anything like this before. Never before has a speaker lost the job in a vote on the House floor and it happened with the pounding of a gavel.


REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-AR): The Office of Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant.


COATES: But it started pretty much from the moment Kevin McCarthy was elected speaker in the early morning hours of January 7th after 15 rounds of voting. I know I was up for it all. Hardliners in his own party have been threatening to dump him ever since. And the GOP civil war, well, it all came to quite the head today.


REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): We need a speaker who will fight for something, anything, besides just staying or becoming speaker.

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): They're willing to plunge this body into chaos and this country into uncertainty for reasons that only they really understand. I certainly don't.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Chaos is Speaker McCarthy. Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word.

REP. TOM EMMER (R-MN): Now, it's time for us to stand together stronger than ever so we can get back to the work our majority was elected to do. I'm proud to support the speaker.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Kevin McCarthy has been rock solid. We have passed the bills we told the American people we would pass.


COATES: Well, now, the House will be paralyzed until they can actually elect a new speaker. And you remember how long that took the last time. Now, there are a lot of words to describe what we've been watching, frankly, all day. Chaos is one, disruption, insanity, but I think dysfunction may actually describe it best.

The House of Representatives, the people's house, is not functioning the way it was designed to. Can we all agree on that? And there's so much at stake when it does not, so many huge challenges our country is facing, so many things the House is actually not doing right now.

I mean, there's aid for Ukraine, fighting to keep its own democracy alive. There's funding the United States government. Let's remember the last-minute deal that was hammered out just Saturday night only funds the government through, what? November 17th? You got the immigration crisis at our borders. The epidemic of gun violence is killing thousands and thousands of us every single year. The climate crisis is fueling wildfires and floods and monster storms.

None of that is being addressed right now. That's just a sliver of the things.

But do the hardliners have a point of some kind? I mean, they are talking about the debt, which is reaching unimaginable levels. But the question is, how much of all of what we're seeing is politics and how much of it is principle? Is it all really about the attention economy and the spotlight or are they standing up for what they truly believe? Well, maybe the answer might lie somewhere in the middle.

Well, joining me now, Republican Congressman Dan Meuser. He voted against removing Kevin McCarthy as House speaker. Thank you for joining us tonight. I spoke to you this morning as well on radio. So, here we are, the bookends of a long conversation, congressman. I have to ask you, who do you -- who should take the mantle of leadership next?

REP. DAN MEUSER (R-PA): Hey, great to be with you, Laura. I appreciate it.


To answer to your question, I want to support as our next speaker, and yes, very unfortunately, today was a very historic day and not for the right reasons. It was historic in that we created a situation where we really have a setback for our party and for this body and for our nation. We weren't constructive today. In many ways, we were destructive.

So, to answer to your question, we need a new speaker that first of all can do the job, that's got the capability and the experience to do the job.

Secondly, that has the character, moral fortitude that we can trust in because we saw today that there were a lot of activities and antics taking place that I think were little bit questionable, that maybe we're a little bit selfish and we're based upon a vendetta.

And thirdly, we need an individual that can win, that can win over all the portions of our Republican Party, which is pretty diverse, as we're seeing, and can in the end lead.

So, I know we've got that individual. We'll see who it turns out. You know, you mentioned chaos. We had chaos today. I'll grant that. But you know what? Within a couple of days, we'll be back working on truly the priorities that the American people sent us here for. I'm confident of that.

COATES: Well, hopefully -- hopefully, that is, in fact, the case. I do wonder and, you know, many people are watching this and wondering how deep that bench really is because when it came to Kevin McCarthy being sworn in the first time and getting that gavel, I remember there were a lot of different rounds, as you well know, and there were names being thrown around. They did not have the 218 votes.

It didn't seem like everyone was raising their hand immediately to say, pick me, put me in, coach, I'm ready to play. And play they must, congressman, because in 40-some days, the next potential government shutdown will be here again, another potential crisis and moment for potential chaos. So, I mean, how long will this process of trying to find that person that you say is ready actually set back those discussions?

MEUSER: Well, Patrick McHenry is, of course, the speaker pro temp, and it's a great choice, extremely intelligent, capable member. So, he'll guide us through the next several days.

We will be voting come Wednesday. We'll be reconvening Tuesday. And part of that, by the way, the recess is due to, I understand, Senator Dianne Feinstein's funeral.

So, we'll be handling this come next week. There's a number of things that need to be done, organizational planning as well as those members who are going to decide to enter this race and seek the votes. So, I know there's at least two or three that are on my short list.

COATES: Who? Who's on that list?

MEUSER: Well, you know what? It's a little bit too early to say, but I'll go ahead and mention --

COATES: It's early in the night, congressman. Who is it?


MEUSER: I do believe majority leader Steve Scalise is certainly highly capable, a great human being and knows the operation of this and certainly meets the criteria I mentioned. I also think Jim Jordan is a strong leader who I respect very much. So -- and there are probably a couple of others. But I offered a couple of names there and my guess is they very well may run. But I can't speak for them. I haven't heard that for certain as of yet.

COATES: Well, we heard our own Manu Raju in the hallway asking Congressman Jim Jordan. He said about whether he in fact would run. It was up to the caucus. So perhaps his name is floating for a number of reasons. I didn't hear you mention Matt Gaetz, although his name is coming up for other reasons, congressman, because a number of your colleagues are trying to expel him. Nothing can be done, of course, until a speaker is in place.

But what's your opinion of Matt Gaetz tonight? You mentioned antics and things that you thought --


COATES: -- were disingenuous.

MEUSER: Right.

COATES: Would you vote for him to get out of Congress?

MEUSER: No. That would be up to his constituents. And look, we had a long day. It has been some frustration, certainly. And I really believe that this wasn't done for the right reasons. I think there was -- it was very much -- you mentioned whether it was politics or policy or principle. I think a lot of it was politics. I think some of it was personal.

And the idea that they really couldn't articulate, I mean, they talk a lot. Let's face it, Matt Gaetz can talk a lot in an articulate manner. However, there's very little detail to it as to what the reasons were for this initiative and, in fact, on the others. But what's done is done.

So, they joined, the eight joined with all the Democrats to overthrow our elected speaker. That was -- took 15 rounds, but we elected him. So far more -- over 200 Republicans in our caucus were favorable to Kevin McCarthy, myself included. [23:10:00]

And today, what we did is we focused on something that the American people had no interest in us focusing on because Kevin was capable. And we were working on border security. We were working on, frankly, all the crises created by this White House as well as far too many in the Democrat conference.

So, we have inflation that's rampant. We have border security issues. We have gasoline prices at the highest levels. There aren't solutions to these problems. That's what we should be focusing on. This, again, as I started saying, is a setback of a day.

COATES: Well, certainly, one administration can't take the blame for all that you've mentioned, but I wonder whether it will be assigned to this party right now given what took place this week and this day. Congressman Dan Meuser, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Thanks, Laura. And let's just pick up where you just left off there. Joining us at the table is John Avlon, CNN's senior political analyst. Still with us, Jamal Simmons, Andrew Yang, and Coleman Hughes. John, what happens to Republicans -- what happens to Republicans next?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not a return to highly productive governing, as the previous guest said. There's going to be a week of jockeying and trying to figure out who can carry the mantle, Trump will pick his candidates, and it will be a big week of finger- pointing and horse racing.

I think Steve Scalise is probably -- Steve Scalise is probably in pole position because he's widely respected. He's got a degree of moral authority and is the most qualified of all the potential folks and probably the least divisive.

But at the end of the day, the problem here is structural. Right? We saw history today. First speaker taken out of office because of the scandal, that he kept government opened and had the temerity to do it with Democratic votes. That's a firing offense in Washington today.

And you add this to the legacy of John Boehner basically leaving the speakership because he couldn't corral the far-right. Paul Ryan doing effectively the same thing. Eric Cantor being forced out. Now, all the young guns are gone. All because of a structural problem within the Republican Party. They cannot corral their far-right. And so, it's not going to get better.

PHILLIP: So, I want to read just what Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, longtime Republican and running for president as well, he said, what happened today on the House floor is a gift to Democrats. It sets off alarm bells as 2024 approaches. You agree?

COLEMAN HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, absolutely. And Democrats must be feeling this. They must be feeling that, you know, the Republican Party looks like it cannot keep its own house clean right now. And so, on the one hand, this is a huge victory for Democrats.

On the other hand, I'm not sure this should be seen as a victory from anyone's perspective because ultimately, the American citizens -- the House governs all of us, right? And you want to be willing to see people put governing the country over partisan politics. And sometimes, that means crossing party lines and joining a vote on the other side, whether that be to fund the government or to keep a speaker in power, and we're just seeing far too little of that on both sides, frankly.

ANDREW YANG, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a loss for the country. And Laura's list had Ukraine aid number one. Imagine if you are one of the U.S.'s partners around the world or Ukraine itself saying, hey, guys, we're fighting Russia here, and then you see that aid to your military falls into this abyss of American dysfunction.

I mean, our debt got downgraded just the other day. And you think if you're a ratings agency right now, you have confidence in America's credit moving forward. So, this is just a huge "L" for the country. I dearly wish that our parties actually had those interests first and foremost instead of hey, we're going to look good relative to the other guys. It's a disease that's destroying the country.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's the problem. The Democrats, it's so hard for them to do a credible deal with the other side because these guys really don't want to govern. They don't want to do anything that's going to be beneficial. It's like they're trying to be Fox famous. They're on television.

Remember Trey Gowdy? He was a leader in the House. He chose to leave the Congress to go be a talk show host. He thought it was more important to be a talk show host than to be a leader in the United States Congress. I just think this is not -- they're not a credible group.

So, if you're a Democratic leader and you want to do a deal with a partner --

AVLON: Yeah.

SIMMONS: -- you need somebody on the other side that you can trust to actually fulfill --

AVLON: Yes, but, right? I mean, look, I think that's actually a lost opportunity for Democrats ultimately as well. I understand why they didn't throw Kevin McCarthy a lifeline out of the gate. They probably thought that he would have been re-nominated and they could have maybe gotten better terms, something resembling, you know, more bipartisan structural issues.

But they chose not to do that, and now Republicans are trying to blame for what happened to Kevin McCarthy. No one should be fooled by that. This is about the far-right. But we need a party that's consistently adult in this country. It's not the Republican Party right now, structurally. [23:15:00]

And I think that whatever the long game was for Democrats, they could have risen above the partisan noise a little bit more and maybe gotten some favorable terms to have more genuine bipartisan governing going forward.

PHILLIP: So, Jamal and John, you know who made the point that you're making here. Here is Republican Congressman Austin Scott. If he's not a household name, that's okay. Take a listen to what he's saying.


REP. AUSTIN SCOTT (R-GA): Those eight people are anarchists and they're chaos caucus members. And the fact of the matter is they get their power from the 212 Democrats voting with them all of the time. The conference is going to have to figure out how we deal with, you know, eight people that are here that candidly aren't interested in governing. They're more interested in, you know, grifting.


PHILLIP: The story has been up until today, always about these eight or 10 or however many there are. The story tomorrow and toward the end of this week is going to be about what folks like that congressman do. He is angry. His face was red with fury because he is sick of this. And they're going to have some concessions that they want, too.

HUGHES: Uh-hmm. Yeah. Well, I mean, they must be sick of this because they're -- I mean, this is -- don't make too much of this analogy, but the whole logic of like not negotiating with terrorists, for example, is that the crazy people can determine policy if they're stubborn enough. And I'm not comparing any U.S. congressman to actual terrorist.

PHILLIP: That's okay. Other people have to.

HUGHES: The logic -- the logic is the same. And as the more sane people in the party, you have to get sick of this.

SIMMONS: But remember, elections are choices between the people you have and the other people, right? So, the idea that there's going to be kind of a magical unicorn that shows up that makes everybody feel better doesn't really show up.

AVLON: No, no, no.

SIMMONS: Doesn't really show up. So, if you're -- on one hand, you've got Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the president and vice president, who today were dealing with lowering prescription drug prices for seniors, swearing in Laphonza Butler in the Senate of United States.

AVLON: Okay, okay --

SIMMONS: So, you had a very credible governing party happening in the executive branch of the Senate. AVLON: Nobody is saying --

SIMMONS: And then in the Congress, you had ridiculousness.

AVLON: Everybody gets the contrast and Biden could point to 300 bipartisan bills when Democrats had unified control of the House, Senate, and Washington in the first two years of his term. But this is a point that Andrew makes all the time. We actually need to see the center hold for our politics to work.

Those 18 Republicans who were in districts that Biden won, they should be exerting at least as much influence, if not more than the Matt Gaetz and the extremists on the far-right who don't represent the party, let alone the country. We need the center of both parties to hold and work together. And structurally, that's not getting done.

YANG: Jamal, we all know the nature of today's Republican Party. The Democrats in Congress know the nature of today's Republican Party. So, if you say, look, let's let them bring the country down and ha-ha, we're going to look good, again, relative to them, I mean, that's bad for the country. If you'd had 20 Democrats just vote present and then go to Kevin McCarthy and say, we saved your bacon, here's what we want, we're having a very different conversation now. I'm going say it's much better for the country.

PHILLIP: Here's the reason that didn't happen. Just as a reminder, because we just talked to Ilhan Omar about this in the last hour. Kevin McCarthy used democratic votes on Saturday. Then on Sunday, he turns around and says, they are the bad guys. It's not just --

YANG: It's political theater. It's (INAUDIBLE). Everyone knows it.

PHILLIP: It's not just bad faith. But if you're a Democrat, how do you go forward and say, well, I can work with this guy?

SIMMONS: You can't. And let's keep in mind, again, this is this person or that person nature. So, these Democrats are going to go out and run campaigns next year, and they're going to be able to run campaigns against this chaos-MAGA wing, and you might get a democratic House back. What happened the last time we had a democratic House? You got infrastructure legislation, you got environmental legislation, you like dealt with child techs, for childcare, for working people. You had all sorts of things that happened. You got people nominated.

YANG: Even what you're saying, Jamal -- what you're saying is -- look, you can take a short term hit to the country because it will be good to your party in the next cycle. And that's what we lived over and over again.

SIMMONS: That's not good for your party. It's good for the country. The country actually will have a governing coalition.

AVLON: I think, you know, the larger point here that I think was trying to be made is that Kevin McCarthy, right, there was the debt ceiling deal again. Democrats and Republicans got us off that, then he reversed himself. This is what kiss in the ring at Mar-a-Lago a couple weeks after January 6 got you. Nothing. Right?

Kevin McCarthy went down and helped re-legitimize Donald Trump. The idea that this would help him corral power and gain the speakership. He gained it by a read for a couple of months. And look, it's not worth it.

PHILLIP: It's a question of whether Kevin McCarthy could even have led in a bipartisan fashion. I think Democrats cast their votes because they didn't think he could.

YANG: Well, Democrats cast their votes because they were told to cast their vote in a particular way. I mean, we all know that there was probably a diversity of opinion within the Democratic Party, but then the word came out saying, guys, we are not going to bail out Kevin McCarthy, we're going to vote with Matt Gaetz and the hardliners for partisan reasons. Now, what happens next?


It's a dice roll. I, as an American citizen, would prefer not to have that kind of dice roll because anyone who says again that they know what's coming next -- this is unprecedented. We don't know. We do know that the government runs out of money in 45 days. We do know that there are vital priorities like Ukraine aid that are now subject to us having a speaker.

PHILLIP: We don't know.

SIMMONS: I've supported Democrats my entire adult life. I would love to have a Republican Party that was a responsible negotiating partner, but we don't have one.

PHILLIP: We'll see where this all goes. Everyone, don't go anywhere just yet. Coming up next, how frustrated are voters by all of this chaos as we've just been discussing. I'll ask a pollster next.


MCCARTHY: You can't do the job if eight people, you have 94% of, or 96% of your entire conference, but eight people can partner with the whole other side. How do you govern?




COATES: Breaking news tonight, there is what's being called a preliminary report of four individuals shot on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore. That's according to the Baltimore City Fire Department.

Now, our affiliate got this shot of a window showing the glass broken. Students are being asked to shelter in place. ATF special agents are assisting the Baltimore Police Department. Police and school officials are asking concerned family members of students at Morgan State University to avoid the campus area.

PHILLIP: We will be keeping our eye on that story. Thank you, Laura. And back to Washington now, Kevin McCarthy is, as you know, out as speaker of the House. Business in the House is now effectively paralyzed until a new speaker is elected, which won't be until maybe another week from now.

With me now is Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Frank, I know that you are a longtime friend of Kevin McCarthy's. Have you spoken with him tonight? What do you make of what unfolded today in the House?

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: I spoke to him just before the vote, and he was pretty seriously concerned about the outcome. I think that this reminds me of George Orwell in 1984. The people who tell the truth are accused of being liars and the liars are thought to be telling the truth.

And it's a sad day for my friend. But I look at the country and I look at -- and I'm here right now in London and the challenges that are happening with their government and the challenges to other democracies, it seems like we are becoming more and more extreme. You're ignoring the wishes of the American people.

I want to emphasize this to everyone who's watching right now. The American people wanted the government open. They want to end wasteful Washington spending. They want a more efficient, a more effective government. They wanted it open. They wanted it to work.

The Speaker of the House did exactly, to the letter, what the public wished of him, and yet he lost his vote. He lost his job.

PHILLIP: Do you think that McCarthy should have cut a deal with the other side, created a bipartisan path forward? Is that what the American people would have wanted to see?

LUNTZ: The public wants the job to be done. And they wanted the government open. And it's not an issue of cutting -- I keep hearing this phrase, cutting a job with the other side. We're on the same side. Those are members of Congress. Whether you agree or disagree with them on a majority of issues, we have become so divided that we see it as us versus them. And I think that that's the greatest tragedy of all. And I wonder just how chaotic things have to get before they stop playing this way.

PHILLIP: Yeah --

LUNTZ: These are political games. And I remind you, the person who brought this up is under -- we can't talk about it. I don't even know what the exact charges are. But Matt Gaetz is under -- he has been charged by the Ethics Committee for improper and from what I hear, awful behavior. And now, he gets rewarded. These eight members who are following (INAUDIBLE), who (INAUDIBLE) from what I hear could be removed by the House for just ridiculously awful behavior, and he has dethroned the speaker of the house.

So, congratulations, Mr. Gaetz, on your success. I know he has been celebrating tonight. But I'll say to the American people, from what I hear, those charges, you have now followed someone, those eight members of Congress, who has done awful things in private, and that's why the Ethics Committee is looking into him.

PHILLIP: I should note that Matt Gaetz has denied that this has anything to do with the ethics investigation against him. But I will say, Frank, you've spoken to a panel of voters about how they view Congress right now. You are also someone who has worked in conservative politics for a long, long time. This is a fundamental structural problem with the Republican Party.

What message do those voters have, do you have, for Republicans as they figure out a path forward here? Because the Matt Gaetz of the world, maybe it's not Matt Gaetz, but the Matt Gaetz of the world are not going away.

LUNTZ: No, and it becomes impossible to govern, which is what the vast majority of the American people are asking for. It's 90%, they may disagree on the details, they may disagree on the solutions, but they agree on the problem. Then you've got this 10% that just wants to burn it down and blow it up. And to me, the goal should be to get the partisanship out of the system and have people trying to get the job done.


And frankly, the thing I'm also disappointed with is all these Democratic members of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Not one of them voted with Kevin McCarthy. And I thought that there was a sincerity in the effort to work together side by side, Problem Solvers Caucus, to get the job done.

And the fact that they followed, that they did exactly -- 100% of the Democrats tells me that we have a system in Washington that's completely broken and that the people, they have every right to be mad at the politicians who represent them because they choose politics over people.

PHILLIP: Maybe they didn't see Kevin McCarthy as part of the solution to the problem. Isn't that a possibility?

LUNTZ: Well, I know what's coming next. As so many knows on the inside, I know what's coming next. If they didn't like Kevin McCarthy, they're not going to like the next step. And by the way, for those Republicans watching tonight, who's going to donate to your campaigns based on how you treat the will of the American people? Who's going to write a check going forward? And maybe that's a good thing. Get the money out of politics.

But I'll tell you that tonight, the future of Congress has been sealed and it is going to be a democratic future that Matt Gaetz and those eight members will be responsible and will be held accountable for turning the House over to the Democrats. And, you know, let what happens, happens.

PHILLIP: Right. LUNTZ: I do think that this is a tragedy.

PHILLIP: Frank, I hear the emotion in your voice. You've been friends with Kevin McCarthy for quite some time, very close for all these years. We appreciate you coming on with us tonight.

LUNTZ: Thank you.


COATES: Back to my table here. We were reacting and listening to what was happening. I mean, that last point that he just raised about who was going to write a check and the donations, I mean, McCarthy was a very big -- very big --


COATES: -- prolific --

Prolific fundraiser.

COATES: -- fundraiser. So, who's going to donate now?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know. I can tell you this. Two months ago, I hosted an event, co-hosted an event for the speaker to protect the House for Republicans and Republican challenger candidates across the country. We raised a significant amount of money. It was actually the most money raised in the DMV for Republicans.

McCarthy raised his money well. Mega donors, one in particular, I won't name the person's name, wrote a million-dollar check, top of this year for Republicans. They like McCarthy. And all of these folks are talking about these agendas and they want to have this republican majority.

You have to win elections. You have a majority. So, I don't buy this argument from Gaetz and the others that they're doing this for the furtherance of conservatives' ideas. I don't see that.



FINNEY: I was just going to say, I think, though, this is what we've been seeing playing out within the Republican Party for some time now, right? You've got the MAGA wing and then you've got the people who consider themselves Republicans but not MAGA, and then you've got sort of the folks who are never Trumpers who say, I don't have a party anymore.

And you could hear it in Frank's voice, and it is boiling over. And as Democrats, we have been trying to say for some time, you guys have to work this out because it's ungovernable, and we cannot let the MAGA right wing lead everybody around and try to just enforce their will on the country. And that's what happened.

I mean, they won, frankly, in January when it took 15 rounds for Kevin McCarthy to become speaker. They won and they knew it and they used their power tonight.

COATES: Well, you react to this, Sophia, but also, former President Trump did react to the news of tonight. And here is what he said. Why is it that Republicans are always fighting amongst themselves? Why aren't they fighting --

BARBARA COMSTOCK, FORMER VIRGINIA REPRESENTATIVE: He trashes every Republican every day. He's out there trashing everybody. It comes from Trumpism. This is MAGA. That's all he does every day. He's much more likely to trash Republicans than he ever is to trash Putin or -- you know, attacks General Milley. Why Republicans haven't been saying anything about how he attacked General Milley?

NELSON: I want to bring us back to what matters. Governing. I want the American people to hear me. Do you remember your civics? The speaker of the House is second in line to the presidency. Right now, we have a vacancy in that spot. Yeah, we have the pro temp dude that beats the hammer and did some petty stuff tonight, but the reality is, is that right now, we don't have a governing party that's functioning in its role in the majority.

And I think that what is problematic here, Laura, as we go forward is what happens with Ukraine. That's a big issue. Are we going to leave Ukraine hanging? Because if Jim Jordan is speaker, we ain't getting no Ukraine money. If Steve Scalise has to cut a deal that he will not allow money to be put into a bill for Ukraine, what happens?

You're talking about the NATO alliance. You're talking about pre-World War II footing. And what happens if Putin realizes there's a weakness and then goes to Poland and then to Czechoslovakia and other places?


Then what are we doing? So, this has really serious -- I don't give a rat's ass about who's raising money. I care about who's governing.

COATES: Well, unfortunately -- I do want to play for a second. I want you to respond. I want to get in what a congressman had to say about this, Kelly Armstrong, and the very points you're raising right now. Listen to this.


REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): The incentive structure in this town is completely broken. We have descended to a place where clicks, TV hits, and the never-ending quest for the most mediocre taste of celebrity drives decisions and encourages juvenile behavior that is so far beneath this esteemed body.


COATES: What's your take? COMSTOCK: These are the people who are picking a celebrity apprentice guy as their nominee.

FINNEY: That's right.

COMSTOCK: So yes, that's a problem. And we need to get back to things like if we want to have a deal, we need to be having things. They want border security. The deal that's there for the taking that Senate Republicans have laid out and worked with Democrats is to have border security money, to have disaster relief, and then have Ukraine money. That is a solid conservative deal, bipartisan deal that's there for the making.

And if you're concerned about crime, things that are happening every day here, Republicans should be talking about those issues, not --

NELSON: They're not.

COMSTOCK: -- Matt Gaetz's latest problems or whatever is going on. That's the problem.

FINNEY: Let's just reconnect the dots back to why, for example, Ukraine money is a problem. And the people who are opposing the Ukraine money also happen to be Trump people, Trumpers.

COMSTOCK: Pro-Putin, Trumpers, yeah.

FINNEY: And to Donald Trump, Zelenskyy is an enemy. This is a way for him to exact revenge.

NELSON: Got impeached the first time over it.

FINNEY: He is using Republican House members to do it.

COATES: An enemy because he was (INAUDIBLE) first impeachment hearing, you believe?

FINNEY: Yes, because he would not go along with the scheme to dig up and create some dirt on his soon-to-be, at that time, Joe Biden, who he was going to go up against in 2020. And so, to him, he's an enemy, right? I mean, that's how -- Donald Trump is very -- it's very black and white for him. You're an enemy or you're not. And he is an enemy. Putin is somebody who we know he cares about very deeply. He talks very favorably about him.

So, I agree with you, Sophia, but I would just say, look, I -- as a Democrat, I think this is bad for the country, that the Republican Party is so broken. I think our country is stronger when we have two strong parties and we're actually arguing about ideas, not, you know, all this petty, you get out of your office and you lied to me and all this kind of stuff.

But, you know, again, some folks want to blame it on Democrats. We can't save you. You guys have -- your party has to get together and figure out what are you going to do about Donald Trump and the MAGA wing in your party. Otherwise, we're going to keep coming back to this.

COATES: You know, voters are very sophisticated, I believe, and they are an educated body. And they know what matters to them. There's no one more well-versed in what they want than themselves. However, I do wonder about the stank and the stench of one party bleeding on to the other.

I mean, at some point, even though we're talking about Republicans, and we'll be talking about Republicans next week as well when this vote happens and there'll be cameras on the floor, as we saw off those 15 rounds before, at some point, the American people go, Congress, get it together.

SINGLETON: Congress in general. I mean, I was going to say on the Ukraine funding issue, there was a poll conducted by SSRS for CNN August 4th. Fifty-four percent of the American population are saying, we don't want additional funding for Ukraine. So, this idea that Republicans are somehow on an island on this issue isn't backed by actual data. And that data isn't limited to just Republican-leaning individuals.

NELSON: That's not true.

SINGLETON: But that's not true, though. It's not true.

NELSON: Who ran the poll? Fox News? I mean --

SINGLETON: It was a CNN poll. I'm looking at it right now. I mean, I don't think Democrats have done a good enough job articulating to the American people, why are we supporting Ukraine? How long is this going to last?

NELSON: I explained it earlier.

SINGLETON: I'm not saying that I disagree. I'm not saying that I disagree.

FINNEY: The president has multiple speeches about why it is --

COATES: Hold on. It's horrible. I mean, I don't know what's happening right now. We're all adults at this table. Hold on. One after another, one at a time. Everyone wants to hear your very valuable insight.

But let me redirect you for a second because Frank Luntz's point was talking about not just Ukraine, which I know is the issue you're talking about, but his point was about donations because he believed that they were being punished for having given the American people what they wanted on Saturday, which was to keep the government open. And thinking about that, what do you think the voters feel now?

COMSTOCK: Well, I think voters do want us to work together. They want us to support our allies.

NELSON: They want the government open.

COMSTOCK: They are supporting -- they want the government open. And I think they do support us supporting our allies. And regardless -- these are issues of principle and when people are out there supporting --

FINNEY: Not all of the voters, because remember, there is a third of the Republican Party, half of the Republican Party, they will vote for Donald Trump no matter what.

NELSON: You're right.

FINNEY: They believe that what he says is the gospel, it is the truth --

NELSON: It's a cult.

FINNEY: - and that the rest of what they are.

COMSTOCK: And if he switched his position, they would agree with him, too.


FINNEY: So, to Laura's question, though, I think what that brings us back to is, you know, Frank, unfortunately -- I mean, he's partially wrong. Broadly, the majority of the American people, absolutely, that's what they want. The problem continues to be that one third, that 33% who -- they don't care. They're with Matt Gaetz, right? They don't care if it blows everything up. They think that's a good thing.


COATES: Hold on. I'm hearing something. Hold on. I'm hearing something. The New York panel is screaming. They want to get in, too.


Okay, I'm going right now. Thank you, everybody. They apparently want to be heard today, too. With Republicans in chaos and the House basically paralyzed, they want to weigh in. What are the next steps? Well, a congressman who calls the motion to vacate rule insane is up next.

Plus, why the judge in Donald Trump's fraud trial issued a limited gag order against the former president.


PHILLIP: A historic day in American politics with the House voting to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his post. Tonight, McCarthy announcing that he will not run for speaker again. But he's not counting himself completely out, at least not yet. Here's what he had to say when asked if he's considering resigning from Congress.


MCCARTHY: I haven't thought about that. Give it as good as I get it. So, you know the challenge. I knew going in. You would take a poll all the time. Is he going to get thrown out this week? But you know what? If I lose my job over doing what I truly believe is right, I'm very at peace with it.


PHILLIP: And joining me now is Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez of Florida. Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight.

REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): My pleasure.

PHILLIP: Your party now has to elect as soon as possible, really. Are you comfortable with everyone leaving and everything in the House being on hold for a week while you all sort this out?

GIMENEZ: I think we have to sort it out. Unfortunately, 3% of our caucus and 100% of the Democrats in Congress decided to have chaos over an orderly functioning of government, which we had. We probably had the best functioning House of Representatives in a long, long time. And again, like I said, 3% of our caucus along with 100% of Democrats decided to throw that into chaos.

PHILLIP: But why take so much time?

GIMENEZ: Well, because -- look, people have to get prepared, announce that they're running. We have to vet all of these folks that want to be speaker. Maybe there's going to be some kind of a railroad effect where you have somebody running for speaker. Maybe then we have to get somebody to be the leader and all that. So, I think that the best thing to do is take our time.

You know, emotions are a little raw right now, and so we need to cool down a little bit. And so, yeah, I think that it was probably a good thing to give us a little time, calm down, and then start looking at these candidates and see which way we're going to go.


PHILLIP: Right now, who do you think has the most support for the speakership?

GIMENEZ: I have a faintest idea right now. I'll tell you right now, I know that I've heard some names. Nobody has my vote. The person that wants my vote and maybe, you know, a number of us, has to agree to put on the floor a change in the rule of how the motion to vacate happens. I think that the one-person motion to vacate, I actually frankly think it's a little bit insane.

And we cannot -- we cannot continue to be governed this way, that a speaker can't have at any time a motion to vacate, especially a speaker in our case that had 96% support in his own caucus, in his own conference, and that he has been taken down this way. That's insanity and that should have never happened.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, it's a good point. This is a central issue here. What do you think is a reasonable level to prompt a motion to vacate at this point? GIMENEZ: I think it should be, you know, 50% of the majority conference.

PHILLIP: Do you think that something like that could get support from enough people to actually elect a speaker who supports that level?

GIMENEZ: I don't know, but that's what it's going to take to get me, and I know it's going to -- that's what going take to get a lot of my colleagues. And so, now, we're not going to be giving up on this.

And so -- look, I think the rule that the Democrats ruled under last Congress, the Congress that was here, I'm fine with that rule. And so, maybe the Democrats, if it was good enough for them last Congress, maybe it's good enough for them this Congress, so maybe we need a bipartisan effort on that side.

But if we can't get the Democrats to help us -- look, I don't blame them for not helping us, it's really our problem -- then we're going to have to get commitment from the next speaker to be, if they want to be the next speaker, that they're going to put that on the floor so that at least we can vote on it, and other rule changes that will make us run better, make this conference run, and this Congress run better.

I'm not going to be and I don't think a lot of us are going to be held hostage anymore. We're tired of it.

PHILLIP: So, McCarthy said today that the Republicans who ousted him, eight of them, are not truly conservative. But are they now more empowered than ever?

GIMENEZ: No. They're only as empowered as if we let them be empowered. And I certainly do not want to be in the group that allows the eight to control the other 210 -- 212 of us. And so, the 212 of us that were not party to this need to stand firm. And no, we're not going to be governed by eight, I'm sorry. The majority rules. That's what democracy is all about.

And so, we need a speaker that is actually going to stand up and speak for the entire conference. And, you know, we need to have regular order where amendments are debated and the democratic process, you know, grabs hold. All the rules have to be applied to every single entity, no matter if you're in a freedom caucus or whatever caucus you are. That's the way it should be. And that's what we're going to be demanding of the next speaker.

So, I don't expect the next race to be easy. We have divisions. Not deep divisions. We only have divisions between 96% and 3% of our caucus. But because of our narrow margin, you know, that 3% carries a heck of a lot more weight than they probably should.

PHILLIP: A very loud 3%. Congressman --


PHILLIP: -- are you worried that all of this chaos will hurt Republicans in 2024?

GIMENEZ: Yes, I am, and that's why I don't actually think that these eight are actually true Republicans. You know, the greatest president in my lifetime and a true Republican was Ronald Reagan who said that if you got 75, 80% of what they wanted, then that was good. These eight, this fringe group, they need to get 100% of what they want or else they get nothing, which is kind of really counterproductive.

And so, I don't think they're true Republicans. If they really believe that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of our lifetime, then maybe you should follow some of his principles and know that every once in a while, you have to compromise not only with the Democrats but, more importantly, you have to compromise inside the party itself because not all of us have the same point of view.

And so, you know, we need to come to that realization and let the process work out and let the chips fall where they may, and when those votes come up, all right, we had our say, this is the way it came out, we're going to have to now vote in unison in order to make sure that we get those priorities that America needs, those bills, and the change in America that we really need in order to make American lives better, they pass and they get passed on to the Senate.

PHILLIP: All right. Congressman Carlos Gimenez, thank you for joining us tonight.

GIMENEZ: It's my pleasure.

PHILLIP: And John Avlon is back with me. A lot of bomb throwing there from a moderate Republican.

AVLON: Yeah.

PHILLIP: I really haven't seen this kind of animus play out so publicly. We haven't seen this very much in our politics. But he said we're sick of being kind of led around by, you know, the terrorists among us.


They want that motion to vacate level to be at half of the conference. That's a high bar considering that Bob Good told Laura Coates earlier, he wants it to be one member, which is what it is right now.

AVLON: But that directly led to this chaos. And what he was saying is, look, it's time that the moderates in this caucus start strength and start actually making demands and insisting on showing the real strength of their numbers as opposed to having the conference directed and led around by the nose by 3%.

That frustration is real. It's understandable. Those folks have a disproportionate of influence. And it's this insane, you know, 1% number which bought one vote number which, by the way, used to be the standard as you and I were doing some history.

PHILLIP: We've done deep into the motion to vacate history here. AVLON: But politics have changed.


AVLON: So, it should be a majority of the majority to let that go forward, and that's a reasonable demand on the part of people who want some degree of stability in governing going forward.

PHILLIP: It used to be one --

AVLON: Uh-hmm.

PHILLIP: -- and it wasn't used really --

AVLON: Right.

PHILLIP: -- at all.

AVLON: Which is a sign of how much our politics have changed.

PHILLIP: So, earlier, we were talking to Frank Luntz --

AVLON: Yeah.

PHILLIP: -- and he was obviously very fired up because he's very good friends with McCarthy.

AVLON: Yeah.

PHILLIP: But was making a lot of points about the Republican Party going forward from this point and just what message this sends to the voters. What did you make of what he had to say?

AVLON: He was clearly angry, aggrieved, acting as an ally of McCarthy, saying McCarthy had done what the vast majority of the American people would have wanted, kept government open, kept military posts being paid.

PHILLIP: And that might all be true.

AVLON: Yeah, and it is all true, by the way. And that's what is so outrageous about this, with any sense of perspective. You know, politics is history in the present tense. We're seeing that right now. But the fact that the scandal that toppled the first U.S. speaker was keeping the government open with democratic votes shows how crazy things are.

The added irony though is, and I think Frank is entirely sincere about his desire to find a way to come together again as a country, God knows I agree with it, but, you know, he was a big part of how we got here by writing the "Contract with America" with Newt Gingrich.

You know, every government shutdown since Newt Gingrich, last 30 years, has been when Republicans control the House. And it is usually bipartisan votes that get us out of that mess. So, we need the Senate to show more strength and it's good to see Republicans in the center trying to say, you know, let's not allow 3% of the caucus drive the entire party, but it ends up driving the whole country into the ground.

I will say this, too. Nancy Pelosi had a five-vote margin herself.


AVLON: The Democrats governed just fine, passing 300 bipartisan bills.

PHILLIP: And look, Republicans are pining for that kind. They bring up Nancy Pelosi all the time in a favorable way.

AVLON: Which is bizarro world, right?

PHILLIP: They think that she was able to govern better than Kevin McCarthy ultimately was.

AVLON: So, it's a point to yes.

PHILLIP: Crazier things have happened. John, thank you for joining us tonight. Laura?

COATES: Well, there are new developments tonight, Abby, in former President Trump's civil fraud trial. The judge overseeing the case rebuking Trump after he attacked a court clerk on social media. The judge issuing a gag order and scolding the former president, saying, personal attacks of any member of my court staff are unacceptable and inappropriate, and I will not tolerate them.

Let's talk about it now with CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen and Ankush Khardori, former federal prosecutor and contributing writer to "Politico." So, number one, surprise, surprise, Trump made this statement, there's a gag order in place. What will happen in this case or others if he does not follow it?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He'll be sanctioned in the first instance, likely financial sanctions. But there is a slippery slope. And if he keeps doing this and in particular, hitting that nerve, the judge's staff, someone he works with every day, exposed to danger, that could also include, in the extreme case, confinement under New York law.

COATES: Jack Smith had raised it in his case in D.C., what he did in other cases as well. Is there some connective tissue that one judge in one case may say, you offended us all?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think if not in that way, I think that there is some connected tissue, and so far, there has been this huge debate for weeks now about whether there should be a gag order in D.C. This judge just did it, right? And just demonstrated that it doesn't have to be a big to do. It's not that uncommon, particularly when you have someone behaving as outrageously, quite honestly, as Trump has been behaving in and outside of court in the last couple of days.

And so, it might kind of soften the ground a little bit for some of these other judges to just kind of sort of hop on board and say, look, if he's doing it, it has not caused the world to implode. These are criminal cases. It's equally important here.

COATES: And it's more pointed. This attack was on someone. The person identified was the phrase. It was used by the judge as well. I do wonder in the New York case, he didn't have to show up. He's there. Not required. Is he going to testify or should he?

EISEN: Well, I think his presence in court signals the seriousness of the threat. Criminal prosecutions are one thing. They're subject to appeal. The federal ones, if he or a Republican is re-elected or elected, there could be pardons. This goes to his financial empire, his sense of self-worth, his name.


The judge has said he's yanking his business licenses here. And he's appointing receivers. Laura, it's as if we're arrested for drunk driving. We're taking away your driver's license and your car. I'm from L.A., my car is a very big part of my identity.


So, this signals the seriousness and that's why his lawyer has said, he has said, I'm going to testify. He feels that he's up against it. He says a lot of things that don't come to pass. Right now, I think it's more likely than not that he will to try to defend himself.

COATES: And, of course, he did not appear for the E. Jean Carroll sexual misconduct and defamation suits where he also is not required to be, but didn't show up. But interesting, he's been talking about this political witch hunt against him.

Interestingly enough, he has been going after the president's son, Hunter Biden, who was in court himself today, pleading not guilty to his gun charges. He is saying that they are targeting him in particular and going after him and part of the weaponized and reverse order. Where do you see that case going?

KHARDORI: Well, look, I think there is something to the notion that this is a case that really wouldn't have been charged under ordinary circumstances. It's a very aggressive charging theory. It's a charge that you really don't see on a standalone basis. So, there is something to that.

However, that's kind of now all in the past in terms of what the prosecutor's discretion was. There's now a case. We have the four corners of the indictment. And he's got some arguments, the constitutional arguments about whether or not these charges are still appropriate under Supreme Court law.

But these are challenging cases for defendants. I mean, people get charged with crimes like this, prohibited persons, you know, felon in possession, all day, every day, all across the country. These cases plead out. They're usually not that hard for the government to win. COATES: Well, the last time there was a plea discussion, it imploded in the courtroom where we hear back again if that happens. Norm, Ankush, so nice to see you this evening. Thank you so much.

And up next, as one member of Congress loses his job, another gets one. The other piece of history in Washington, D.C. today.


PHILLIP: You've seen a lot of history in the making today. You're probably so sick of it at this point. For the first time ever, the speaker of the House was removed via a vote on the House floor.

But there was another moment that is worth your time today. It is that Democratic Senator Laphonza Butler made history when she was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris as the first out Black lesbian to enter Congress and the only Black woman presently serving in the United States Senate.

COATES: Now, Senator Butler was appointed, as you know, by Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Senator Dianne Feinstein. Now, she does become only the third Black woman to serve as a U.S. Senator.

And I have to tell you, Abby, my daughter whose nine is always joking with me and saying, mommy, you guys always say historic. History seems to happen every single day. That might be true in some contexts. But today, this really was a historic occasion given the fact of who is even swearing her in.

PHILLIP: Yeah, yeah. Look, some people are wishing for some precedented times, no more unprecedented times.


But this picture right here on your screen is historic.


And also, just a note, the ties between these two women, Laphonza Butler, a key former aide to Kamala Harris in her presidential campaign, Kamala Harris, the first Black woman vice president, it's a major moment, and it's important to market as well.

COATES: It is. And, of course, that doesn't mean that there's not going to be other conversations surrounding who will ultimately hold on a permanent level that seat that will be left vacant by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein. So, we will see what happens next. Abby, always a pleasure to sit next to you.

PHILLIP: Good to see you, my friend.

COATES: Thank you, everyone, for watching. Our coverage does continue.