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Laura Coates Live

Supreme Court Agrees To Quickly Decide Whether It Will Hear Trump's Claim Of Presidential Immunity In 2020 Election Case; Emergency Abortion Is Blocked By Texas High Court; Decision On Harvard President Claudine Gay Is Expected Tomorrow. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 11, 2023 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, Jack Smith calls Donald Trump's bluff. Next stop, the Supreme Court. Tonight on "Laura Coates Live."

So, this is a very big deal. You've got nine justices, you have them appointed by the then-president, Donald Trump, and they're being asked to decide what comes down to one very simple question: Is a president of the United States above the law?

Now, it should be simple. You've heard that phrase how many times. And, of course, we say nobody is above the law. Correct? It's why the lady justice wears that blindfold.

But that's not what Trump's legal team thinks. They've been arguing for a long time along the lines of what you'd call maybe the Nixon Doctrine. If the president does it, it's not illegal. You know how that worked out for Richard Nixon. Don't we?

But how will it work out for Donald Trump? Well, Jack Smith does not want to sit around and wait to find out. He's going straight to the Supreme Court to decide whether Trump is, in fact, protected by the presidential immunity in the election subversion case in Washington, D.C.

And tonight, a preliminary win of sorts will explain why, for special counsel, they are saying now they're going to fast track at least the pondering of whether to actually take on the request for information and a ruling.

Let's read the tea leaves a little bit tonight because the Supreme Court is about to make a very big decision about what a president can and cannot do, what is presidential behavior, what's covered and all of these things and, of course, what does it mean for Trump's other cases.

I want to bring in now to you a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams. Also, here, Ian Millhiser, a senior correspondent at Vox focusing on the Supreme Court and the author of many books as well. I want to begin with you for a second because you and I have talked a lot about the Supreme Court over the years and what's taking place there. This is significant to go from the district court's ruling that says, you do not have presidential immunity, Trump. Everything you did is not presidential, so to speak, to saying now the Supreme Court will rule. I mean, look at how a case normally goes through to get to the Supreme Court. This is significant, Ian.

IAN MILLHISER, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, VOX: Yeah, it is. And I think Jack Smith is being very smart here in trying to make this move as fast as possible. You know, you don't want a situation where like on October 20th, the Supreme Court throws out a conviction because of some procedural rule that no one anticipated.

Ordinarily, I advocate for this Supreme Court to do as little as possible. You want narrow dissent. That's not just because I don't like the Supreme Court. I mean, that's good judging. You don't want judges to overreach. You don't want (INAUDIBLE). But in this case, I think we want the court to give us as much guidance as possible as to how this trial is going to be run. It's an unprecedented case.

COATES: Right.

MILLHISER: It's a case where the stakes are enormous. The voters need to know if this man is a convicted felon when it comes time for the election.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

MILLHISER: And so, I am hoping that the Supreme Court is going to tell the trial judge what she needs to know so that she can conduct the trial. She can then follow the rules that are given to her and then, you know, we'll see if he's convicted.

COATES: And that trial is in March as part of the issue here. Right, Jack Smith? And I know you smirk because you're probably like, that's an ambitious trial day. It's three months away at this point, really, thinking about it.


COATES: It's in -- it's in March. Supreme Court -- he's got air quotes today. Okay, there you go. Well, tell me, saying it does go through, say -- assuming the Supreme Court says, I want to decide this before that March trial date, we'll give that deadline, it's before --


COATES: -- the Supreme Court term ends, tell me what the merits of this are.

WILLIAMS: Sure. I think -- well, even if it -- even if it's not all resolved by March, it certainly resolves the whole appeal on a timeline far faster than it would have been. And to Ian's point, if you were, and you had that graphic up, if you were --

COATES: Let's put that up for people to see.

WILLIAMS: Sure. If you were to have run through the entire process of appealing to the district court, perhaps the whole D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on up to this point, that could be months, if not years, tied up in litigation. So, what -- by fast tracking it will move things along very quickly.

Now, on the substance of the arguments, there -- you know, the former president has two arguments. One, that he's immune from prosecution by virtue of being a former president or having --

COATES: Because he says, plus that for us, because he's saying, whatever I did that I'm being accused of was when I was the president and therefore --

WILLIAMS: It was in the outer -- what was the term? The outer limits of my presidential duties.

MILLHISER: Oh, yeah.

WILLIAMS: Right? Nixon. That's actually an extension of the argument raised in the Nixon case. It's part of my duties as president, at least an extension of them. The other one is that based on this concept of the double jeopardy that's in the Constitution, I can't be tried twice for the same thing. Because I was impeached and acquitted, you can't try me.


Now, these are both largely nonsense arguments. We were talking about this, Ian and I, in the green room a little bit. They're really not good arguments and this gets to the point of, is the Supreme Court going to actually take them on, figure out a way or just figure out a way to resolve this and make it go away in some way?


WILLIAMS: But they're really not -- and this is not a criticism of the former president. They are just not strong legal points. Um, it is hard to see how you win on either of those -- either of those arguments.

COATES: First of all, don't ever discuss anything we talked about here in the green room. I want to own the microphone.


I want it all on the microphone, one and two. But this is an actual risk. And we're talking about the arguments as on one hand, novel. On the other hand, like this Supreme Court may or may not find in Jack Smith's favor and thinks to himself, well, yeah, you know what? Trump got a cop too (ph) or be accountable for whatever he did as long as on the outer skirts of his presidency.

What do you think about the risk that Jack Smith is taking, particularly with this second argument? Because that one, I think, has a lot of people leading in. We know that, obviously, double jeopardy attaches for criminal prosecution.


COATES: But this was a legislative impeachment. Why should it?

MILLHISER: Yeah. So, double jeopardy shouldn't be an issue here at all. And the reason why is because in order to have double jeopardy attach, in order for double jeopardy even come into play, there has to have been criminal consequences in the first proceeding.

Being fired from your job, you know, is not a criminal consequence. Being disqualified from having a job in the future, even if that job is president, is not a criminal consequence. So, jeopardy doesn't attach when he was impeached because that was not a criminal proceeding.

The immunity claim is slightly stronger, but I want to be clear just slightly here.


COATES: Uh-hmm.

MILLHISER: Um, there are cases showing that in some cases, a president can be immune from some civil lawsuits.


MILLHISER: The main reason for that is because anyone can bring a civil lawsuit against anyone. I could sue you tomorrow. Elliot could sue you tomorrow. You could be sued by 10,000 people tomorrow.

COATES: Let's not --

MILLHISER: Let's not, yeah.

COATES: Thank you.

MILLHISER: And so --

WILLIAMS: There's a lot of lawyers. We like to sue each other.


MILLHISER: It's kind of what we do.


MILLHISER: But the idea behind these presidential immunity decisions is you don't want the president to be so bombarded with lawsuits, he can't do the job of president. That just doesn't come up in the criminal context. The only people who can bring a federal criminal prosecution is the Department of Justice. So, you just don't have the same issue.

WILLIAMS: And a broader point, just sort of why we impeach as Americans. What the point is, it's not to punish someone who did something wrong. It is to ensure integrity of our systems of government. The point of an impeachment is to remove someone from office --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

WILLIAMS: -- if they have transgressed in office. The criminal process is about sending people to jail on something totally different. Now, as to -- to push back a little bit on what this Supreme Court might do, it's a conservative court and so on, we're not talking here about abortion or the death penalty or these sort of --

COATES: Controversial --

WILLIAMS: Controversial social issues on which you can kind of predict where the members of the court are going to fall out. These are sort of integrity of government points and just far more straightforward and I think far more emotionally fraught than some of the things.

COATES: Well, speaking of the integrity of government, Rudy Giuliani who, obviously, used to be America's mayor, as they say --

MILLHISER: That guy.

COATES: -- that guy --

WILLIAMS: That guy.

COATES: -- he is in the midst of a defamation damages portion of a trial for what he said about two election workers. He wanted election workers to be there. He is -- the jury section is actually beginning and thinking about all these things.

One of them is they were asked if they've ever used the phrase, let's go, Brandon. We all remember what that means, of course. It's used in a lot of right-wing circles to insult Joe Biden, the president of the United States. What does that tell you that that's being used?

MILLHISER: I mean -- look, there's a lot of strong rhetoric that obviously gets thrown around. That's not a thing that -- I mean, if I'm going to analyze it as a defamation case like you can insult the president of the United States and that's not defamation because you're not making a factual claim, I think that Rudy Giuliani has bigger problems.


MILLHISER: And like -- I think, you know, the bigness of what Trump has done, the attempts to overturn the election, the size of the conspiracy, one consequence of this is like I don't think that this presidential immunity thing is going to have legs. I think even this Supreme Court is probably going to turn that away.

But this case, like these prosecutions, could have many trips to the Supreme Court. And I'm more worried that they find some narrow issue to rule in Trump's favor in the future than I'm worried that they're going to have a sweeping declaration that if you're the of the United States, you can commit crimes with impunity.

COATES: Well, we'll see when it comes to this. It's not big mess. It's huge, huge. Elliot and Ian, thank you both so much.

Joining me now to talk about Donald Trump's looming legal issues, and there are many, former Trump attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. He is the host of the "Mea Culpa" and "Political Beatdown" podcasts.


He's also the author of the book, "Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics."

Michael, good to see you here tonight. Look, I have to say, first of all, when it comes to Trump, you called it. He did not testify today. You were adamant that he probably would not. Why do you think he ultimately did not?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Because he is scared. And he is rightfully scared. Everyone is talking about how -- you know, potentially, the lawyers gave him the right advice, that he finally took the right advice. Knowing Donald for a decade and a half, I can assure you, it had absolutely nothing to do with advice of counsel.

He knew that this was going to sink him. He knew that he could be brought up on a perjury charge. And so instead, he decided to go with the easy way out and make the claim that he has already testified, he has already given enough.

And then look to see what he did. He starts to put out on his social media platforms all the attacks because, again, Donald cannot be at fault. He attacks Judge Engoron, he attacks Attorney General Tish James, he attacks me, all in one single post.

COATES: You know, when you look at all that combined, you're right, his counsel did allude to the gag order. But, of course, one could avoid offending a gag order in testimony. And he certainly knew weeks ago that he had already testified. That can't be the reason.

But I'm really curious about this, Michael, because as you well know, Trump's image as a successful businessman, it was very crucial to his win back in 2016. This serves to maybe be an instance when he would not have that power, would not have that brand anywhere near where it was even in 2016 in the public's eye. How will all of this impact the 2024 campaign?

COHEN: Well, you would think that it would have the same effect. Right? They voted for him because he portrayed himself as this great businessman. I'm really rich. I'm much richer than people even know. And they bought the brand of Donald Trump. It is irrefutable that that brand is completely tarnished.

But that's not going to stop the loyalists. They're now loyal to the brand, even though the brand is tarnished. So, they're not stopping. And I'm talking about the MAGAs that are so entrenched into the cult of Donald Trump that they don't care. They're more about the brand of racism and sexism and misogyny and xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism than how much money Donald has.

COATES: Well, we'll see ultimately how that turns out. But let me ask you. I mean, you heard this lead story, you heard about the news tonight about Jack Smith leapfrogging, going right to the Supreme Court, saying, I'm not going to wait for the appellate courts to weigh in on whether Trump has presidential immunity for everything he did while he was in office.

He leapfrogs. It's not Trump's motion. It's not Trump's team's filing. It's Jack Smith. Is he outsmarting what is likely to have been Trump's strongest claim here?


COHEN: It doesn't take much to outsmart Trump's legal team. And Jack Smith is a beast. Jack Smith -- Jack Smith is a beast when it comes to this. He knows exactly what needs to be done. And he's doing it really incredibly well. He's not going to let Trump do what we all know Trump does best. And that's delay, delay, delay.

And so, he -- yes, you're right, Laura, he beat him to the punch, he beat that whole legal team to the punch, and he is now going to have the Supreme Court weigh in on it for an ultimate decision.

I mean, could you imagine that a president is entitled to immunity for life on anything that they do? I mean, it just -- it goes against the very fabric of our Constitution and American democracy. They're making the president into a king which, of course, is exactly contrary to the, you know, Constitution.

COATES: That's the exact argument of the lower court, the district court, who said, look, basically, just because you're a president, it doesn't mean everything you do then becomes presidential, so to speak.

But let me ask you about Mar-a-Lago because we've got some pretty exclusive reporting tonight, Michael, that a former Mar-a-Lago employee, now a witness in the classified documents case, there are a lot of cases, that that former employee was contacted by Trump and his associates in the months after he quit his job and offered, of course, legal representation to this person.

He got complimentary tickets to a golf tournament offered, repeated reminders he could come on back to work for Trump.

What do you see when you hear about these interactions and these come- on-back moments?


COHEN: Donald needs to understand and so does his team that Mar-a-Lago is a cesspool for leakers and people who don't want to get caught up in Donald Trump's problems.

[23:15:05] And so, there's -- as many people as that are there are as many people who are potential witnesses for Jack Smith and other investigations. And I'm shocked. First of all --


You know, when he offers them free tickets to a golf tournament, you realized that those tickets cost Donald Trump less than if he got him a burger at Mar-a-Lago. It cost him absolutely nothing. They're generally at his golf course with LIV Golf. It cost him absolutely nothing to have the guy go there.

I mean, there are thousands of people that show up for these tournaments. What's the difference if two, four, six, eight people additional show up? There's no cost within which to get on. So, he's offering the guy nothing. Absolutely nothing.

COATES: Well, how about the lawyers, though? How about offering lawyers, Michael? How about offering them lawyers?

COHEN: Good. So, I'm glad you brought that up because that was next on my list. Remember, when Bob Costello reached out to me, and what they tried to do is they will load you up with a lawyer for the sole purpose not to protect you, but to protect the king, to protect Donald. They are passing along all the information.

And let's also not forget, this happened with Paul Manafort, with his lawyers, when his lawyers were passing to Donald's lawyers all the information that they were supposed to provide to committee, to the congressional committee in the interrogatories. They are not doing anything to benefit anyone other than Donald.

And this man was smart. I don't know who it is, but this man was smart to walk away. He has already seen the damage that Donald Trump brings to people's lives, like mine, like other people. He was smart to walk away.

COATES: You know, Michael, I have to ask you. You know Rudy Giuliani is in the middle of the damages portion of that defamation trial. When you look at between the gag order in New York and what's going on with Rudy Giuliani's case, it must hit pretty close to home.

COHEN: Well, it hits very close to home. And the amount of vile that gets spewed on social media as a result of Donald's posts as well as the comments by Alina Habba, Chris Kise, Cliff Robert, it doesn't just affect me, it affects my family.

And personally, to tell you the truth, Laura, I would prefer not even to be involved in the upcoming Alvin Bragg case if at all possible. Let somebody else handle it. I've already done, in my opinion, more than my share. Let somebody else now step up and have to deal with the repercussions.

COATES: That says a lot. You have a subpoena, but that tells a lot about what it's like to be a witness, a testifying witness in these cases, and that's really the point of all the conversations around the gag orders and not intimidating or threatening witnesses for those very reasons.

Michael Cohen, thank you so much. Bye.

COHEN: Good to see you, Laura.

COATES: Now, do you remember that $16 fast food burger that went viral a little while ago? Well, is that how the economy feels to you? Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary is here to explain what's really going on, next.



COATES: Well, tonight, there are some new concerns for President Biden in the race for 2024 because fresh CNN polling shows the president is losing ground to Donald Trump in two key battleground states. I'm talking about Georgia and also Michigan which, by the way, were two of the five that Biden turned from red to blue in 2020, if you can remember.

The new number shows President Biden may have quite the Achilles heel. And according to CNN polls, the majority of voters in both Michigan and Georgia say that Biden's policies have contributed to a worsening personal economic view for them.

Joining me now for more perspective, Shark Tank judge and chairman of O'Leary Ventures, Kevin O'Leary. So good to have you here today. Thanks for joining me tonight.

I want to talk to you because you are the absolute expert on this. I want to talk about feelings, about everyone's feelings. I know you know them well. But the feelings that people have when it comes to the economy. Despite that there are some positive signs, people don't feel like it's going well. Why is that?

KEVIN O'LEARY, CHAIRMAN, O'LEARY VENTURES: Well, let's think about something that occurred over the last nine months, 10 months actually. So, if you think about the economy, we've never taken rates from basically zero up this fast before, to five and a half percent terminal rate.

And so, there's a hundred million people in America, third -- almost a third of the voting population, that have never lived through inflation, never seen rate hikes like this, never dealt with the consequences of them in housing and food costs and everything else.

And now, their feelings are hurt because they don't know what this is, never lived through it. They're the younger cohort, but they vote. And they're not feeling so good right now.

And that poll, you're talking about the Wall Street Journal poll, I think, which, by the way, went all around the world in the last 48 hours, had some real consequences in terms of what's going to happen next.

COATES: Well, next, you mean for maybe the November 2024 election or what the feds might do? What are you thinking?

O'LEARY: No, no, it's a rather interesting thing that's occurring. Think about this. If you're the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund or the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Abu Dhabi, which makes $500 million every 12, 14 hours, where do they put it?


They put it in the United States. That's primarily where they put it to work. And they're looking at these poll numbers trying to decide, what sectors do I really want to put it into? And so, they can't vote. They don't care about voting. They're trying to figure out, are we going to get Biden's policies or potentially Trump's policies? They'll know more on January 15th when he becomes or not the candidate.

But the point is if it's going be less regulation and more pro-energy and basically an environment which is very pro-business for small companies in America, which is (INAUDIBLE) economy, you want to put your money to work in American companies that are, you know, smaller like the Russell 2000.

And remarkably, and this is what I find so interesting over the last two months, fund flows into small American companies in Russell 2000 are extraordinarily high. The money is betting before the voters do on the political outcome. Not because they vote, but they're looking at policy. Policy drives money, drives capital.

And it has no allegiance. It doesn't care who wins. It looks for the path of least resistance with the highest returns. And right now, that money is loving America and small businesses because they think there's a 50% chance Trump is going to win.

COATES: Well, which means a 50% chance that he might lose. How do you project something and think about the economic picture when the odds are 50-50? I mean, what do you think the economic picture looks like in 2024, November specifically? Because as you can imagine, yeah, there are the primaries, there are the votes beforehand, but until the next president is installed, not a lot of that policy can actually get fully implemented.

O'LEARY: No, you're right. But, you know, think about this. If you're trying to allocate capital, I do this every day, I have to take chances, I have to make bets.

And right now, I looked at those poll numbers and that -- by the way, those results, I've never seen so many phone calls from countries outside of -- I'm an investor, so I'm a sovereign wealth advisor, et cetera.

So, that thing went out there and people went, wow, hmm, what do we do about this? Why don't we put some bets on? Not all of it. Let's say you're going to allocate 40% to the U.S. Maybe I'll put 15%, 20% to work. And that's what's happening.

Nobody knows with certainty and elections are crazy outcomes as we know with certainty. But let me give you an example. Go back to the numbers in that poll. There are material differences around the economy around crime, border security, inflation issues, the war, all that stuff. And again, you don't care about the politics, you care about the policy.


O'LEARY: And so, you look at it and say to yourself, well, I think right now, there's more or less a 50% chance. So, I'm going to allocate something. The economy is doing quite well actually. We look like we're having a soft landing. But if you're betting money, you're starting to realize that, wow, this outcome is at least 50-50 and you're going to put 20, 30% to work now before January 15th.

I know these are crazy times and everything else, but if you have (INAUDIBLE) money, work every day, you're betting on the American economy like you didn't two months ago.

COATES: Well, I guess you probably can't bet on, say, what's going on X. I want to ask you quickly about this because Elon Musk, you've been very vocal about what's going on with X, and he has now reinstated the account of the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. They are already having a hard time with fleeing advertisers. We know this is the case. Does allowing this person back on that platform makes sense to you financially?

O'LEARY: So -- oh, my goodness. That's a tough question. You brought up a really good issue. The only platform in America on social media that's not growing right now is X, formerly Twitter.

COATES: Right.

O'LEARY: I spend about two million a month on social digital buys with my 40-plus companies, they're all private. But nine weeks ago, we stopped investing in Twitter and only because it wasn't giving us good CAC, Customer Acquisition Cost numbers, and ROAS, Return on Advertising Spend. So those numbers were the worst of all the platforms.

Maybe it's because of this, probably it is, but we review this every Tuesday morning at 10 o'clock, and I would put money to work if they could fix this mess. I mean, I don't know what to say, it's not working. And I don't know what Elon is doing, but it's not helping advertisers. These are very controversial issues. But I'm agnostic. I just put money to work where it returns customers.


And Twitter right now is a -- well, I try to be kind --


-- when I say this, but it's a cesspool. It's a cesspool right now. And I think he can fix it. And I -- look, I'm a huge fan of his. Look at what he has achieved in space and EVs and everything else. But this thing is a -- this is a walking nightmare. COATES: Well, you heard it here. Kevin O'Leary being nice, cesspool. Thank you so much. I told you, the right person to talk to about feelings, everyone. Thank you for joining us tonight.

O'LEARY: Thank you.

COATES: Well, don't miss CNN's two Republican presidential town halls. They're happening in Iowa this very week. You got Governor Ron DeSantis making his case tomorrow at 9 p.m. East with Jake Tapper moderating. And Vivek Ramaswamy joins Abby Phillip on Wednesday at 9 p.m. That's only on CNN.

Well, the Texas Supreme Court ruling against a woman who was trying to get an emergency abortion. She's now out of the state in order to get the procedure. And her attorney joins me, next.


COATES: Well, there are some major developments tonight in the case of a pregnant Texas woman who was fighting a legal battle to get an emergency abortion.


Tonight, the Supreme Court in Texas ruling against -- ruling against Kate Cox, reversing a judge's order that came just last week that gave her permission to get the emergency abortion.

Now, her doctor had argued that not allowing her to get the procedure would jeopardize her health and her future fertility. We are also learning that Cox now has left Texas to get an abortion. She discovered just two weeks ago that the baby she was carrying has a fatal genetic condition.

Joining me now is Marc Hearron, an attorney for Kate Cox and senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights. Mark, thank you so much for joining. I want to ask you more about the Texas Supreme Court ruling in a moment. But first, what is her status tonight and how is Kate doing?

MARC HEARRON, ATTORNEY FOR KATE COX: Well, Kate is again focused on her health, which has been, you know, in deteriorating condition. She needed urgent care and couldn't continue waiting for Ken Paxton to stop trying to exercise medicine and trying to practice medicine instead of her doctors. She couldn't continue waiting on the Texas Supreme Court to issue its decision, which finally issued tonight.

And so, she has to go seek care out of state, and it's understandable. But unfortunately, although she had the ability to do so, fortunately for her, many, many women all across Texas and in other states where abortions are banned are trapped in their states even when they need medically necessary abortions to save their health, to save their lives and preserve their health.

COATES: Does she want to state which state that she went to? Are you comfortable sharing that? HEARRON: We're not going to say that this time.

COATES: I understand. Well, listen, part of what the Supreme Court had to say, the Texas Supreme Court ruling, I want to read a portion of it to everyone to get an idea of what was said.

"The exception requires a doctor to decide whether Ms. Cox's difficulties pose such risks. Doctor Karsan asked a court to pre- authorize the abortion, yet she could not or at least did not attest to the court that Ms. Cox's condition poses the risks the exception requires."

I'm talking obviously about the language in the statute in Texas that suggests that they must have an emergency abortion or a medical emergency in order to have one. What do you make of that Supreme Court statement from Texas?

HEARRON: Right. So, the Texas Supreme Court made clear a few things in this ruling. One is that apparently, in order to meet the exception, the condition has to be a life-threatening physical condition. The exception goes on to say, however, that the exception applies to impairments of major bodily functions, right?

We've argued that preserving Kate Cox's fertility and her ability to have kids again in the future, that's clearly a major life function and should clearly follow the exception.

But the way the Texas Supreme Court appears to be reading this is it only applies to life-threatening physical conditions. So, this whole other part of the exception, I don't know what it means anymore.

The other thing that I think has really made clear from this decision is, even if a doctor believes, strongly believes that their patient fits within the exception, politicians, district attorneys, the state of Texas can come back and second-guess their judgment.

And even if you go to court and get approval from a court, Ken Paxson is going to come after you anyway. He is going to threaten the hospitals because he apparently knows how to practice medicine better than doctors across the state of Texas.

COATES: This case is unbelievable to think about. And I will just mention the court is calling on the state medical board to provide more guidance on that terminology of the medical emergency exception at the very heart of this case. Marc Hearron, thank you so much for joining us.

HEARRON: Thank you.

COATES: As you know, Harvard's president is under fire after backlash over last week's comments at a congressional hearing on antisemitism. But many are defending her, including my next guest. Harvard professor, Randall Kennedy, joins me in just a moment.


COATES: The fate of Harvard's president, Claudine Gay, is hanging in the balance with a decision on her future potentially coming as soon as tomorrow. And why? All because of testimony to Congress last week that led to the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania president, Liz Magill.

Now, to remind everyone, testimony was widely criticized for failing to effectively denounce calls for the genocide of Jewish people as it relates to university policies against bullying and harassment. Let's listen.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I am asking, specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?


CLAUDINE GAY, PRESIDENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: It can be, depending on the context.

SALLY KORNBLUTH, PRESIDENT, MIT: It targeted at individuals, not making public statements.


COATES: Now, following all of that, more than 70 members of Congress called on Gay to resign. The next day, she apologized. And today, parts of the Harvard community are coalescing around her. Eight hundred plus signatures in support of Gay from Black alumni, the Harvard Alumni Association Executive Committee, and more than 700 signatures from Harvard faculty. And one of those who signed that letter, Harvard University Law Professor Randall Kennedy, who joins me now.

Um, professor, thank you for being here this evening. I do want to read a part of this letter for everyone to understand as well. In it, you say, "We, the undersigned faculty, urge you in the strongest possible terms to defend the independence of the university and to resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard's commitment to academic freedom, including calls for the removal of President Claudine Gay."


It's clear that you call for academic freedom. I'm wondering, do you agree with the criticism that she received or what she had to say?

RANDALL KENNEDY, LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: No, I don't agree. I think that President Gay is being -- is being targeted. She's the obvious target of a smear.

The politicians who called her and the other presidents to the House of Representatives had made it clear that they had already determined that there was an antisemitism problem at these universities. They weren't exploring this. They had already determined in their own minds that there was a problem and that they were going to rake these presidents over the coals and try to embarrass and intimidate them. And unfortunately, they have been all too successful thus far.

There was nothing that President Gay said that was objectionable. She said over and over and over again that the sentiments that the congresswoman expressed in terms of attacks on Israel and antisemitism, the president said over and over again that she finds those sentiments abhorrent.

She also said, however, that Harvard University is committed to the broadest type of freedom of expression and that unless that expression devolved into direct attacks on individuals or devolved into violence, it was permissible. And I think that she took just the right track (ph) in saying that.

COATES: There are those who do not agree at all with that particular assessment. But let me ask you, we've all heard this phrase of, your rights end when mine begin. We've also heard about a college campus being the marketplace of ideas and having people in young minds shaped to have opinions across the spectrum.

There is a tension, though, professor, between the university's responsibility to have people and make them feel safe and the expression of terms or expression of thoughts that might undermine those feelings of safety. Are you seeing that play out in real time, not in the intellectual sense, but in terms of how a university is supposed to contend with both?

KENNEDY: I think, obviously, there are various tensions. I would ask people to think long and hard about the function of the university. Imagine a student coming to Harvard with a button saying, I believe in communism. The history of communism over the 20th century is a terrible history. Many millions of deaths.

If a student came to Harvard University with a button saying, I love communism, should that student be expelled? I don't think so, although I abhor communism, just like there are students and, for that matter, faculty members who utter all sorts of abhorrent ideas.

A few years ago, there was a student at the Harvard University who put a confederate flag in her window. There were some people who said, oh, this student should be disciplined. The Harvard University authorities said, no, we object to, you know, the ideas being expressed, but this student is within the policy of Harvard University.

COATES: When you talk about that, it describes it in many respects -- go ahead.

KENNEDY: What about -- what about -- what about professors who have written books that are sensibly viewed as racist books? Are we going to expel those people or are we going to have a university community that is committed to open expression and debate even when that involves contesting horrible ideas? COATES: What you described sounds a great deal like what they appear to be intimidating when they talk about context and the idea of responding with the word "context" consistently on these issues. But there is perhaps a distinction for many between thinking about a confederate flag, communism, and the term "genocide," which people will associate with an immediate straight line, through line, to death.

Now, I understand, obviously, the confederacy and what it led to, the idea of communism and, obviously, what you talk about and what it has led to as well. But is it that more immediate through line that caused this distinction and caused this response that has been so visceral to try to remove her?

KENNEDY: Frankly, no.


The people who had President Gay and the other presidents hauled before Congress knew what they wanted to do. They wanted to embarrass them. They wanted to intimidate them. They wanted to say to them, yes, no, answer yes or no. They wanted to make it seem as though a nuanced, careful answer was somehow a weakness, was somehow being toned deaf.

It was not tone deaf. These presidents were acting responsibly and were acting intelligently, and we are taking seriously, maybe too seriously, what the congresswoman was saying.

They wanted to say to them, yes, no, answer yes or no. a nuanced, careful answer was somehow a weakness, was somehow being tone deaf. It was not tone deaf. These presidents were acting responsibly and were acting intelligently and were taking seriously, maybe too seriously, what the congresswoman was saying. This was a hit job and it should be understood as a hit job.

COATES: Quickly, do you know, have you spoken to the president, Gay, is she intending to step down? Are there calls for her to do so that might actually lead to her leaving?

KENNEDY: No, I have not spoken with President Gay and do not know what the authorities are thinking about or saying.

COATES: Well, we should soon find out. Thank you for joining us and offering your insight. I appreciate your time.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

COATES: Well, we're going to be right back.



COATES: At the top of the show, we talked about former President Donald Trump's many, many legal troubles. Well, now, there is another elected official, I should say a former elected official, with his own troubles with the law.

Yes, he's back, the lying ex-congressman, George Santos, whose last words on being kicked out of the job -- he lied his way into, in the first place -- were, why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place. Well, he's now in talks with federal prosecutors in the hopes of striking a plea deal, according to a court document released just today.

He has pleaded not guilty to a long list of charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making materially false statements to the U.S. House. No word from the Baruch College volleyball team on its most illustrious, well, not really, member.

Thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues.