Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Tonight

Congress Paralyzed As House GOP Scrambles To find Next Speaker; Trump Attacks Judge, Attorney General Hours After Gag Order Issued; Official Skips Giving Medal To Only Black Girl At Gymnastics Ceremony; Jury Hears Dueling Narratives In Sam Bankman-Fried Trial; A 104-Year- Old Becomes Oldest Woman To Tandem Skydive. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 04, 2023 - 23:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, some people don't have a sense of irony.


Luckily --


PHILLIP: Luckily, that is why we are here.

COATES: We will take the irony --

PHILLIP: Point out -- and the facts as well.

COATES: And all -- I'm just -- I'm just glad that you don't want me to talk about Taylor Swift right now. Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: You can.

COATES: No, no, no. Good evening. Thank you so much, Abby. So nice to see you.


PHILLIP: Have a good night.

COATES: I'm Laura Coates, everyone. And listen, right now, you are looking at Capitol Hill. That's the home of the United States House of Representatives, called the People's House, the place where you would expect the people that you elected to legislate your actual priorities. Your number one is supposed to be, well, their number one.

Well, let me ask how many of you out there, either party, had as your top priority or even on your bingo card today Nancy Pelosi getting kicked out of her office in the Capitol Building. Show of hands? Anyone? Yeah, I did not think so.

But tonight, sources tell CNN that the now former Speaker McCarthy was behind the interim Speaker Patrick McHenry's move to kick former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of her office space.

It's things like this that drive voters crazy. You're telling me that within hours of throwing out a speaker, with no clear succession plan, 44 days away from yet another manufactured government shutdown with concerns over the economy looming, the border, national security, funding for Ukraine, with all of that, that was the priority. See, this is what we call the disconnect. Shouldn't the first priority be, well, to function?


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I hope whoever the next speaker is gets rid of the motion to vacate. I think it makes the speaker's job impossible, and the American people expect us to have a functioning government.


COATES: I guess a functioning government is actually the floor, though, not even the ceiling. And yet the chaos of the past 24 hours has some about to take it to the floor. One congressman telling CNN, a meeting of Republicans last night, it got so heated. If it lasted any longer, it would have devolved into -- quote -- "physical attacks."

So, what's next? When cooler heads prevail, who will be at the head of the table? Well, tonight, we do have some names for you, notably Steve Scalise and also Jim Jordan.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think we're a conservative center-right party. I think I'm the guy who can help unite that. I think my politics are entirely consistent with where conservatives and Republicans are across the country.


COATES: Okay. Well, the question really is, though, is the politics consistent with actual governance? Well, I have the perfect guests to talk about all this. We got Maura Gillespie who was press advisor to Speaker John Boehner, and also John Lawrence who was chief of staff to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He is also the author of "Arc of Power: Inside Nancy Pelosi's Speakership, 2005-2010."

Maura, John, I'm so glad you guys are here because, you know, when you bring on a member of Congress, oftentimes, they're going to give you the party line, they're going to tell you their angle.

I want to know what really is happening behind the scenes because that's where really the meat is on the bone and rubber hitting the road. They have a -- quote, unquote -- "week off" right now. It's not really a week off, though, is it? What are they doing right now to try to secure who will be the next speaker?

JOHN LAWRENCE, AUTHOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Well, you know, the rule is that you need 218 votes to be elected speaker. I think the reality is based on the confusion that occurred yesterday, and the unprecedented events of yesterday is that nobody has that 218 votes.

I think an even bigger problem that the Republicans are going to have to confront, it is a Republican issue to choose their own speaker, is what's going to be different when they do have a new speaker.

That is -- I remember when John Boehner had run into these problems in 2011, 2012, 2013. He and I would speak about the problem that he faced, which was that he had a group of people in his caucus who were making it virtually impossible to govern. When he left in 2015, a lot of people asked me, well, that's going to change, right, with Ryan? It doesn't change. There's an endemic problem.

And I think whether it's Mr. Scalise or whether it's Mr. Jordan or someone else, they're still going to have to face a continuing resolution. In the middle of November, they're still going to have to pass appropriation bills. And because it's divided government, they're going to have to deal with Democrats.

That's presumably the reason that the speaker lost his job. The next speaker is going to be right back in the same soup.

COATES: Well, Maura, you used to work for Boehner and, obviously, he had the Tea Party challengers. He also ultimately resigned. A big question right now is, is anything going to be different right now? Are there really no lessons learned? Because at least then, there was not a looming vacancy that would last at least a week.


MAURA GILLESPIE, FORMER PRESS ADVISER TO HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Right. The situation is different. You know, John Boehner had plans of retiring. He had wanted to. Eric Cantor lost his primary. We saw that happened. And who was the then majority leader? And he realized he had to stick around.

This Republican Study Committee, which then turned into what we know as the Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party, delved into this kind of faction of the party, they have continuously moved the goalpost to make it super challenging for the speaker and just for leadership in general to get things done.

And so, for John Boehner, he constantly looked to find ways, to find compromise, which was not a dirty word and nor should it be, but --

COATES: Now, it seems like it's taboo.

GILLESPIE: Now, it seems like it's taboo because we view each other as enemies, Democrats versus Republicans, whereas that shouldn't be how we view our fellow Americans. We should be looking at it as we have policy differences.

But so much of what we're seeing right now on Capitol Hill feels personal and that political divisiveness is what I think really frustrates people at home watching this, that they feel like nothing is getting done because it's just fighting to fight and not on actual policy issues, because what Matt Gaetz did -- he had no plan. He had no plan of what would happen after he ousted McCarthy. He just wanted to oust McCarthy.

COATES: Well, there's a lot of anger now towards those Republicans, the eight of them who ousted him, including Matt Gaetz. In fact, I want to play for you as a little bit of what has been said about these eight Republicans because they did stand in contrast to the majority of Republicans. Listen to this.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): I think there needs to be a reckoning within the conference. There needs to be accountability for the eight individuals who selfishly upended our House majority and put their own interests above the country.

REP. ANTHONY E'ESPOSITO (R-NY): These individuals need to be held accountable and realize that you cannot continue to act in the manner that they are because once they have one disagreement with the next speaker or the next leader, we're going to be headed down the same path.

REP. DAVID JOYCE (R-OH): I don't see how they can really be part of a conference when they stand -- they come on the inside, listen to what's going on, and go outside and lob bombs in the middle.

REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-(LA): I think it was done for narcissistic, for selfish reasons, for fundraising reasons. I don't think it has anything to do with actually advancing conservative causes.


COATES: So, you know McCarthy thinks it is personal, right? You mentioned the idea of the dysfunction, the fighting just to fight, but what are the consequences? What could they realistically do?

LAWRENCE: Well, here's the problem. You only have a margin of five seats. And if you're going to disenfranchises people by throwing them out of the conference or taking them off their committees, you lose your operating majority. Whoever the new speaker is, is going to have to put together the votes.

And I think the vast majority of Republicans on policy grounds are still going to demand legislation that is probably going to be anathema to a lot of Democrats.

This has made inestimably more difficult than Mr. Boehner had or Miss Pelosi had in her first term because they only have a five-seat margin. And so, taking vengeance on these eight people is operationally going to make life very, very difficult.

I realized the anger. You know, one of the things that you say in Capitol Hill is everybody wants leadership but nobody wants to be led. And I think that's one of the problems that the Republican majority is going to face. They somehow are going to have to select a leader who can come back and get 218 votes, maybe get some Democrats to participate in supporting legislation. But they're not going do that if they are constantly being held at the mercy of people who are demanding 15, 20% cuts below what they already agreed to. That's just not going to work, and they're not going get Democrats, they're not going get a majority of Republicans.

COATES: By the way, unlike Pelosi, for example, who did not have that motion to vacate rule and order --


COATES: -- in a way the others did, that was not the sort of Damocles all the time. But it's also a matter of trust, right? It's coming down in many respects to not just the policy considerations, but it sounded like they didn't trust McCarthy, Democrats or Republicans.

In fact, let me just -- some of the complaints about McCarthy from Democrats include that he accused Democrats of wanting the shutdown after they voted to avoid the shutdown, that he gave Democrats 30 minutes to review short-term spending bills. They reversed the decision about holding a vote for an impeachment inquiry or as he called it, an inquiry.

He made a deal with Biden on debt limit that he backed out. He helped craft the microchip bill, then whipped his party to vote against it. He delivered votes for COVID relief, then he criticized it and worked against the creation of January 6th Committee.

So, you've got what those eight Republicans are talking about. He's accusing Democrats of being problematic in all this and not supporting him. Maybe that's why he's going after Pelosi in the office. But what do you say in terms of this issue of trust? Have we hit rock bottom when the person who took 15 rounds to get the gavel, no one trusts at all?

GILLESPIE: I have thought we hit rock bottom on January 6th, and we continued to show me that maybe we hadn't.


And what happened this week with Kevin McCarthy and the fact that Matt Gaetz, a congressman who has been accused of sleeping with a minor, is under House ethics investigations, successfully ousted the speaker of the House and without any plan of how to resolve the situation, with no aspirations to come up with a solution to keep the House operational, and he had it with the help of Democrats. And now, he's just fundraising off of it as he did all, you know, all weekend.

And that's where we are in politics. Is that -- is this the best we have to offer? And I think this goes to ego, it goes to trust, and our responsibility as Americans to vote in our primaries, to get involved, because we let ego-driven people, like a Matt Gaetz, get in Congress, and then feel empowered to do what he did because of the motion to vacate acquiesce that Kevin McCarthy made it in January.

COATES: Well, he's walking around, I think, feeling quite proud of himself, right? I mean, he and the seven others feel as though they were able to accomplish something, which is why, in part, those who were in the majority of the Republicans voting against this are enraged by it.

But talk to me about this office thing with Speaker Pelosi, former Speaker Pelosi. I mean, really, of all the things to prioritize, one of the first orders of business, John, is to move her out of her office. She's not even here, by the way. She didn't even vote. She's at Senator Feinstein's funeral. What's this about?

LAWRENCE: I wish I knew. The notion of giving a former speaker an office actually originated with Mrs. Pelosi. When the Democrats won control in 2006, she offered the outgoing speaker, Mr. Hastert, a room in the Capitol, a very nice room, I might add, to use as his office until he decided that he was going to leave. That's usually not a problem because most speakers leave after they've left their term as speaker.

And so, Mrs. Pelosi was given that same courtesy by Speaker McCarthy when she left the speakership in 2021 and 2023, and she has been occupying that office. I think that the -- and by the way, they not only threw out Mrs. Pelosi but threw out Steny Hoyer, the majority leader as well, who is known as a very collaborative person who worked very closely with Republican leaders both in the majority and in the minority.

My feeling about this is, you know, Nancy Pelosi, her reaction to losing her office, I'm sure, is going to be what she used to when people would ask her, how do you feel about this situation? It's not a big deal for her, I'm sure. What it is, is an enormous missed opportunity. Here you had a new person come in. The dust has somewhat settled from yesterday.

McHenry is not going to be the speaker long term and all like that. He could have come in with no risk to himself and said, why don't we start off just as a reset? Why don't we try to start talking to each other and find some symbolic way of getting people into the room and figuring out something that will restore people's confidence in the system and restore people's confidence in the Congress?

And instead, you take what I would feel is just sort of the cheap shot to go after Mrs. Pelosi -- as you say, she wasn't even there, she was in Senator Feinstein's funeral -- and start off with an adversarial act that I think is naturally going to only inflame passions. I don't see the point, and I think it just was a missed opportunity for that reset.

COATES: Well, the point was peak, and we're talking about it. Maura, John Lawrence, thanks for talking to me about it tonight. Very important to hear both of your perspectives.

Coming up, what Donald Trump -- speaking of peak -- what Donald Trump said outside of court today that could get him in trouble with the judge. I'll make my case, next.




COATES: Well, the judge in Donald Trump's civil fraud case issued a gag order yesterday and rebuked him for a social media post attacking his clerk. So, what did the former president do then? Well, just hours later, he turned right around and he attacked the attorney general, Letitia James. And not stopping there, he also attacked Judge Arthur Engoron himself.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd rather be in New Hampshire, South Carolina or Ohio or a lot of other places. But I'm stuck here because I have a corrupt attorney general that communicates with the DOJ in Washington to keep me nice and busy, because I'm leading Biden in the polls by a lot. The judge already knows what he's going to do. He's a Democrat judge out of the clubhouses, he's controlled, and it's a shame.


COATES: So, here comes the rhetorical question that we all inevitably end up asking whenever Trump, well, pokes the bear. What would happen to you or any of us if we did this? Well, people, including elected officials who ignore a gag order, they can find themselves either fined or even in jail.

I mean, pro-Trump attorney and election denier, Lin Wood, was found in contempt and fined for violating a gag order by disparaging his former partners. Baltimore City State's attorney, Marilyn Mosby, was fined $1,500 for violating a gag order about a controversial homicide case in 2022.

Donald Trump, remember him? Well, he was fined $10,000 a day by this same judge when he did not turn over documents to the A.G.'s office, to the tune, I should mention, of about 110,000 bucks.

Now, Trump can't actually pretend that he's not on notice. The judge was very clear. Here's what he said. Consider this statement an order forbidding all parties from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any members of my staff. Failure to abide by this will result in serious sanctions.

So, what is stopping the judge from bringing down the hammer? Well, maybe it's the power of the gavel.


Remember, this is a bench trial, meaning there's no jury to impress or perform in front of for the lawyers. He alone will decide this case and it's his decisions that are going to be reviewed on appeal. And they will be reviewed on appeal. He knows that. And he likely sees that cheese that's sitting at the end of a big old trap. Take the bait of personal attacks and validate Trump's claim that the judge is motivated by a personal vendetta? Wow!

Normally, a judge imposes a gag order so that he does not poison the jury pool. But this judge is the jury. There's no jury coming in this case. And isn't there an irony in Donald Trump now being the one to argue to an audience of one? You've got to know your audience, right? In a jury trial, go ahead, try to win that Tony. In a bench trial, the theatrics are not going to cut it. Perhaps that's why Attorney General Tisha James is calling this whole thing a show.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will not be bullied. And so, Mr. Trump is no longer here. The Donald Trump show is over. This was nothing more than a political stunt, a fundraising stop.


COATES: Well, but maybe Trump does know his audience. And it's not the judge. It's the voters. But does he understand the difference between a vote and a verdict?

I want to bring in national security attorney, Bradley Moss. And during the conversation -- listen, Bradley, look, he has violated the order. We probably had that all on our bingo cards. The question is now, he's got other cases where he has gag orders in place or at least some level of a gag order. Does this open the door for those judges now to think more seriously about somebody who has been poking the bear?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: Yeah. You have to think of anybody who took a sigh of relief. It's Judge Chutkan out here in D.C. because, and this is obviously the criminal case tied to January 6th and the election interference, she won't have to be the first one to cross that proverbial Rubicon if she imposes the gag order that Jack Smith has asked for because now, the judge in New York has already done it. There's a judge in Colorado who has already done it.

There have already been people to take that initial step and look, the sky did not fall, the world did not end with the gag order on Donald Trump.

And so far, it's in that, whatever, 24 or 36 hours, he has not gone after the staff, at least to the clear letter of that gag order. He has stayed off and not made additional comments about them. He has commented about the judge. I don't think the judge cares at this point about whatever Trump says about him. He stayed away from the staff.

COATES: You know, also James, who already came out earlier and did talk about not being bullied, she has a new statement out tonight. And she says -- this is on -- I think it was on Twitter or formerly known as Twitter, now X, saying, um -- I'm going to toss to what she actually had to say. Listen to this, the video.


JAMES: Dangerous and racist comments will not deter me. The laws of this great state and nation apply equally to everyone, even Donald Trump. And it is my duty and my responsibility to ensure that the law is enforced and upheld. And I refuse to back down or to be bullied.


COATES: Why do you think she issued this?

MOSS: I think she's trying to still show herself as the adult in the room. Look, this was the Donald Trump show for three days. He went out every single time there was a break in the court proceeding. He came out and he ran his mouth and he said everything he wanted to talk about the judge and Mar-a-Lago being worth a billion.

She had to come back out and establish some control over saying this is a civil litigation proceeding, this is a trial, we're all adults here, here's how this is going to work, here's what the law is, here's how I'm enforcing it, I'm doing my job as the New York attorney general.

COATES: Well, somebody who also in front of the camera is Rudy Giuliani.


You know that he is now suing President Biden for defamation. Why? He says Biden calls him -- quote -- "a Russian pawn." Now, Giuliani is a well-known public figure. There's a different standard, of course, for those who are in the public sphere in terms of defamation. Why this case?

MOSS: One, the biggest thing I thought of when I saw the lawsuit was, wait, you're filing this in New Hampshire. What the heck is this have any connection to New Hampshire? You still have to have jurisdiction to bring a lawsuit in a particular state.

COATES: Why New Hampshire then?

MOSS: I say, no idea where he thinks he's got a connection to New Hampshire. He doesn't live in New Hampshire. The Bidens didn't live there. The debate was in Tennessee, I think, where this comment was made. I have no idea how he thinks he's got a lawsuit there.

The only good thing for him is there's no anti-slap rule in place in New Hampshire in terms of lawsuits where you can get back damages for someone who deliberately brought a lawsuit frivolously against the public figure. Beyond that, this is garbage. It's going to go nowhere.

COATES: Hmm. Well, we will see. Bradley Moss, thank you so much. So, it was the viral moment that prompted Simone Biles to weigh in. A young Black girl in Ireland passed over in a medal ceremony. Now, her parents are speaking out, and they join me, next.


COATES: Well, we first brought you this story last week. It was that heartbreaking moment when an official appeared to skip over a young Black gymnast during a medal ceremony in Ireland in March of last year. Now, the recently resurfaced video logging more than 50 million views, the young girl only received her medal after the ceremony ended.

Now, since going viral, the organization that ran the event, Gymnastics Ireland, has now issued a statement, saying, what happened on the day should not have happened and for that we are deeply sorry." The organization also, knowing the official in question, stressed that the action had -- "not been intentional" -- unquote, and provided a written apology to the gymnast and her family.


Well, tonight, that young gymnast family is speaking out about their daughter's experience. Tayo and Ken Raji join me now.

Thank you to you both for joining us today. We have been thinking about your daughter and your family. I personally have. My daughter is a nine-year-old and she's a gymnast. And ever since I saw this, I just could not get out of my mind the expression on her face and what she must have felt in that moment.

Mom, let me begin with you, mother to mother here, what was your reaction when this initially happened to your daughter?

TAYO RAJI, MOTHER OF BLACK GYMNAST PASSED OVER IN MEDAL CEREMONY: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I was filled with disgust. I couldn't - I couldn't -- I couldn't believe it happened. It was -- it was really unbelievable. It was the most mundane thing ever I could imagine.

COATES: Was it the first time that you or your family had experienced this kind of racism in this space?

RAJI: Well, in the sporting field, it would be the first time, yes, absolutely.

COATES: But you've experienced it in other places?

RAJI: In the past, my husband would have experienced it, yeah.

COATES: Well, dad, let me turn to you. I mean, it has been a year and a half since this happened. You were there. I believe you actually filmed the moment. I think you shot -- you shouted from a distance a little bit in the moment. What were you doing at the time?

KEN RAJI, FATHER OF BLACK GYMNAST PASSED OVER IN MEDAL CEREMONY: I was just disgusted because I was far from the stage itself. So, I was actually capturing the whole moment. So, when I saw the whole thing happened, I couldn't believe it. I was talking in the middle, I was yelling from afar, but it was so loud, nobody could hear me. You know, I just -- I couldn't continue to -- I just left it at recording. You know, I had to call (INAUDIBLE) and say, come look at what's going on. But nobody could hear. Everything just kept talking. So, we just kept calm.

COATES: Well, take me --

K. RAJI: Nothing would help us at the time.

COATES: Take me to that moment when you and your daughter are finally together again and she's away from that stage, away from that ceremony. In that moment, did she express what she felt? Did she know what had happened?

T. RAJI: Absolutely. She did. And like I said, it has been a huge, huge, huge level of support we've been giving to her. As a 10-year- old, the good question is, did she realize what happened? If you look at the video, you could tell she was the only Black child --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

T. RAJI: -- in that whole competition. We are the only Black family in the competition. So, it was quite obvious what happened. She did -- absolutely, she did understand what happened. Well, as parents, we kind of supported her through explaining why you never let incidents like this put you down ever.

COATES: I have to say -- I have to say watching her, she has her head held high the entire time. She's got an expression of pride on her face the entire time. You can tell their disappointment, but it's really a tribute and a testament to the types of conversations we have to have with our children in preparation for the potential for moments like this. Did -- what did you say to her to reassure her? Because I can only imagine what my baby would have been feeling.

T. RAJI: Well, as a family, one of our morals is never to give up. So, we usually just say in situations where, you know, things like this happen negatively, you never let that affect you. And we understand how sensitive things could be. So, as a family, we kind of work ahead of time to inculcate such values in them and to say, for example, giving up would be a major weakness.

So, I suppose, yes, you did see that through her. And she had a head of high. And I have to say, she has her highs and lows, but one of the highs would be, mom, it's going to be fine. She will never put me down.

COATES: A high must have been, dad, the fact that U.S. women's gymnast and Olympic champion Simone Biles actually saw what happened. I think she saw the video after the fact, obviously. She sent your daughter a private video message about what had happened. And of course, today, she led the U.S. women's gymnastics team to earn its seventh consecutive world championship gold.

Talk to us about how your daughter must have felt receiving a message from someone like Simone Biles, the goat, really. T. RAJI: Absolutely.


Can I just say, really, we have no words -- no words to actually explain and how delighted our daughter is. The whole family is very, very delighted. It's such -- it's such a great honor. Now, in the case where she seems to have little or no support, having such support from Simone Biles, it's just beyond words.

We talk about it every day once we got the call saying -- once we watched the video. It was just screaming. We kept screaming in the house saying how supportive she has been in all of this. So, it's beyond words. And like I said, it is very fantastic to have likes of Simone Biles actually speak up and saying, you know, such a lovely message of support.

COATES: To have Simone Biles reach out to me, if you were a fan of hers before, to know that she would have felt connected in that moment, to have experienced or maybe vicariously felt that emotion.

I have to ask, because this happened a year ago, more than a year ago now, dad, and Gymnastics Ireland did issue an apology letter for what happened, but it wasn't in real time. What do you make of their apology now?

K. RAJI: Well, as far as we're concerned, it came too late because if not for the fact that the video went viral, we probably wouldn't have got any apology later. They would have forced the world, forced them to write an apology later to us. So, to me, like my wife said before, it's useless, you know, as far as we're concerned.

COATES: So, even that day, even the next day, even in the time last year, there was never an apology until recently?

K. RAJI: Not at all.

T. RAJI: Until Sunday last.

COATES: Is your daughter discouraged or is she continuing with gymnastics?

T. RAJI: She is continuing. Yeah, thankfully she is. What happened shouldn't have happened, especially at a very young age. But it did happen. Now, I wish I could erase it. Unfortunately, we cannot erase it. So, we can only support her through because it's what she loves doing.

COATES: Well, let me tell you something. I am a huge fan of your daughter and I'm going to take some of the lessons that I saw through her. And that level of self-confidence, that level of enthusiasm, that level of pride, and that level of tenacity, I'm going to take it and carry forward in my own life. She now is an inspiration to so many people. So, thank you so much for sharing --

K. RAJI: Thank you. COATES: -- and bringing your daughter to the world, but sharing her and this experience with all of us. We have a lot to learn. Thank you.

T. RAJI: Thank you.

K. RAKI: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

COATES: Such a sweet little girl. Well, the man who now led a now collapsed crypto empire, he's on trial in New York. Is SBF or in other words Sam Bankman-Fried a greedy businessman who defrauded his customers or a math nerd who flew into a perfect storm? We'll discuss who he really is.

Plus, the 104-year-old skydiver, you heard me, 104-year-old skydiver who set a record and says she wasn't afraid of jumping out of a perfectly fine airplane.




COATES: Well, the trial of a former crypto tycoon, Sam Bankman-Fried, it kicked off today. Prosecutors say that Bankman-Fried stole billions and cheated customers by illegally diverting massive sums of their money from his crypto exchange FTX for his own personal piggy bank.

The 31-year-old has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of fraud and conspiracy, and if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

I want to bring in now founding partner at Puck. Teddy Schleifer, who interviewed Sam Bankman-Fried when he was under house arrest. Teddy, this man is a very fascinating creature, a character to say the least. You spent time with him even on house arrest. You've covered him for many years. Tell me about him. What's your impression of this personality?

THEODORE SCHLEIFER, FOUNDING PARTNER, PUCK: Sure. So, the word that keeps coming back to me is math. Sam is a guy who I first met three years ago, who is constantly thinking about the math in everything. Should he talk to this reporter? Should he go to jail? Should he risk going to jail? Should he leak documents that are given to him by prosecutors?

Every question that Sam has encountered in his life, he thinks can be solved with math. The flip side of that is I think there's almost an arrogance to Sam that, you know, anything can be reduced to a math problem. And it encourages you to take risks if you believe that the math can justify the risk.

I won't get too nerdy here, Laura, but in the philosophical community that Sam has kind of aligned with himself with, which is called effective altruism, there is this belief in what's called expected value. And what that means is if you're deciding whether or not to, you know, risk going to a trial like this, let's say you have a 20% chance that you think you'll win the case --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

SCHLEIFER: -- or you have a 100% chance of winning the case if you basically don't contest it, you basically are assessing the odds of these two scenarios. And if you run the math on these things, you've been a prosecutor, you know why people don't take plea deals --

COATES: Absolutely.

SCHLEIFER: -- it boils down to a lot of times arrogance. Do you think you can win?


And the one thing I've always been struck by with Sam is his belief that some risks are worth taking. And sometimes, that works fantastically well, right?

COATES: It did for some time. I mean, he was able to elicit the support and really convince many a figure that we do know in the world, including Tom Brady, Larry Davis, to name a few.


COATES: How does -- I mean, how does that translate his, as you call it, the arrogance and focus on math? How did that translate to being able to be so compelling, he was convincing?

SCHLEIFER: I think for a lot of people who were outside of this community, outside of crypto, who were, you know, older, who were in sports, who wanted a connection to kind of the pizzazz of this new hot industry that was crypto, they saw Sam as the coolest kid on the block. Believe it or not, Tom Brady is saying Sam Bankman-Fried is the coolest kid on the block.

But you're right, it wasn't only Sam working his angles and other people. I think to the entire world of sports, fashion, you know, celebrity culture, they saw Sam as a link to an audience, right, of young people, people around the world who saw this guy as a crypto icon, and he can deliver them credibility.

I know that sounds ridiculous in retrospect because, you know, today, we watched this person sit in federal court accused of orchestrating a massive financial crime.

COATES: Well, it doesn't sound incredible to me because I think if you were to take 10 extremely smart people, put them all in one room and then say, one of you define crypto, you'd hear like a lot of bubbling, right?

SCHLEIFER: Mumbo jumbo.

COATES: Mumbo jumbo and go, oh, I think is this. So, the question now is, where do things go? He has run the cost benefit analysis.


COATES: He is in trial right now. He's got a star witness who is his former girlfriend. She's now a cooperator, has struck a deal.


COATES: The math ahead of him now is the rest of his life in prison. And there's long polls that are extended away from him that say, I don't know this guy any longer. So, what's next for him?

SCHLEIFER: So, today was the opening arguments in a six-week trial. And I want you to think about this as a series of coin flips. Sam Bankman-Fried has always been to double or nothing. He says, you know, if -- there's this famous quote he gave a long time ago where he said, I can flip a coin and let's say the world doubles or the world explodes. And the question was, will we keep flipping the coin? And the answer is Sam said, according to the math, he'll keep flipping that coin for forever.

This case is essentially a coin flip. Sam, it's not a coin flip oddswise. It's not like Sam is going to, you know, has a 50% chance of winning this case. But Sam is essentially betting that if he flips the coin 12 times, there are 12 jurors in this case, can he get one heads or one tails? Can he only convince one juror that he is innocent? And if you think about it that way, it's like, oh, yeah, sure, why not go to trial?

Obviously, the preponderance of evidence against him is astounding. You know, hearing prosecutors outline their case today. It was overwhelming. But if you flip it 12 times and you combine that with the arrogance and the sense of like -- the word I often come back to with him is he's almost like a schemester. He has always got an angle. And you think maybe, maybe he can win this one.

COATES: Well, we'll see about that coin toss. It's sad to think that that's what justice might come down to for some people. But Teddy Schleifer, thank you so much. Really fascinating conversation.

Coming up, the 104-year-old who decided to, well, jump out of a plane and set a world record while doing it. She's my guest, which is next.




COATES: They say that age is just a number and Dorothy Hoffner is living proof. You are watching this 104-year-old woman jump from more than 10,000 feet out of an airplane. Now, once certified by Guinness, she will officially become the oldest person in the entire world to tandem skydive out of a plane.

But don't be fooled, everyone, as she's waving to you. This is not her first dive. Dorothy first gave skydiving a try back on her 100th birthday. Joining me now to talk about her record-breaking jump is none other than Dorothy Hoffner. Dorothy, I'm so glad to see you. And I have to ask you, how does it feel now to have this record? You are going to be the oldest person in the world to tandem jump out of an airplane. How does it feel?

DOROTHY HOFFNER, OLDEST WOMAN TO TANDEM SKYDIVE: Not good. I didn't realize I was going to get all this publicity because it's not --


It just isn't fair.

COATES: Well, tell me why you wanted to do it. Not once, but twice.

HOFFNER: Well, it was fun. I enjoyed it the first time. And my pseudo grandson happened to mention he was another one when he was a very young man. And when he was doing his work in the farm fields, he saw there was a place there where they were skydiving. So, when he got old enough, he went there. And you know how they did it then? They didn't have a companion with them.


HOFFNER: And he said something about the wings of the plane. They had like stairways or something that held on that, until they were told to just let go of the wing. And then they just dropped down. And I thought that was -- but I don't think I'd want to do that --

COATES: Well --

HOFFNER: -- because I keep thinking, if -- well, a long time ago. But if I were to be -- if I were to be in charge of pulling that cord, what if I pull that cord too early and the parachute opened up and got caught on the plane?

COATES: I have to ask your advice because it sounds like you are an incredible daredevil at this point. What do you say to people who -- you know, I like leaps of faith, but weren't you scared? How did you overcome that?

HOFFNER: No. No, I wasn't scared.


COATES: Not at all?



HOFFNER: No, because if everyone else is doing it, it had to be safe. Nobody had any problems.

COATES: Well, that's a positive attitude. HOFFNER: So, if no one else had problems, why should I? I wasn't scared of anything. And now, I would like to take a hot air balloon ride. But somebody was looking into that and they said it would be a three-hour ride up in the air and three hours is too long to just -- to just look at the scenery.


The scenery is lovely, but three hours, uh-uh.

COATES: Well, you have survived everything from the Great Depression to the coronavirus pandemic.

HOFFNER: Yes, yes.

COATES: Where does this moment stand in all the things that you have seen and experienced in your 104 young years?

HOFFNER: Yeah. Well, I've enjoyed that jump and it was a lot of fun because -- well, as I say, I would have to have someone with me. I wouldn't want to do it alone. I wouldn't have the nerve enough to do it alone.


COATES: If I ever jump, I might trust you because you've got a lot of spirit and spunk, and you've really been a testament to so many people. We needed a feel-good moment in the weeks that we have been having. Dorothy Hoffner, thank you so much.

And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.