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Laura Coates Live

Rudy Giuliani Doubles Down; Could Impeachment Backfire On GOP?; House Set To Formalize Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Zelenskyy Pleads For More Ukraine Aid From Congress; A Wrongful Convicted Man Is Freed; New Movie Gives Gay Civil Rights Visionary His Due. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 12, 2023 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, Rudy Giuliani is doubling down the lies that landed him in hot water in the first place, lies that have a mother and daughter fearing for their lives, tonight on "Laura Coates Live."

So, there's a lot going on in the world. We all know this. You've probably been drinking through a fire hose when it comes to all the important news. But let me just tell you, if you're looking for the one thing to take away from all of this, what I think is the one thing? Well, here it is. Rudy Giuliani. I cannot get this story out of my mind. That's why I'm going to focus on it with you right now.

Do you realize that somebody who was the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a very familiar prosecutor, is refusing to stop defaming and lying about election workers, election workers who've been proven, proven to have done absolutely nothing wrong?

In fact, the federal judge who was overseeing that case has already ruled that Rudy is spreading false information about Ruby Freeman and Wandrea "Shaye" Moss. He is falsely claiming, and you remember this, that they were passing around USB drives -- quote -- "as if they're vials of heroin or cocaine." Interesting use of that particular description and analogy, is it not? When in fact, it wasn't a USB drive. Remember, it was a ginger mint being passed between mother and daughter.

Now, it's a matter of how much the man who was once known as America's mayor will have to pay for defaming them, not whether he did, but how much he has to pay for having done it, the damages portion of it. But even knowing that he's in court today, this week, in the midst of a trial on that very issue, it's not stopping him. I mean, I remind you, he was the former U.S. attorney. He should know better than this.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Do you regret what you did to --

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Of course, I don't regret it. I told the truth. They were engaged in changing votes.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): There's no proof of that.

GIULIANI: Oh, you're damn right there is. Stay tuned.


COATES: How about you just tell us right now? Because stay tuned to me means you're trying to find a reason to reverse engineer. Just tell me right now what the evidence is, or maybe last month, tell us, or a month before that, or at any point in time when you had opportunity to demonstrate there was any evidence whatsoever.

I mean, I deal with the court of law. He knows that quite well. I'm not staying tuned unless I want to hear more about the damages portion of the trial. And there are very real-world consequences to all of this. I mean, it wasn't just a theoretical thing whether Ruby Freeman or Shaye Moss would somehow have been attacked by people verbally, they wouldn't have felt in fear of their lives or their livelihood.

Just listen to this example of threatening voicemails left for Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. They were actually played in court today. They were voicemails full of obscene and racist threats. I'm going to play some for you, but I'm going to warn you, not only are they disturbing, they were directed at people who just raised their hand to serve the community as election workers.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): You're going to jail, Ruby. You're going to get locked up, Ruby. That's election fraud, Ruby! What was on the USB drive, Ruby? You're all going to (bleep) jail, you piece of (bleep).

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Hey, if this is Shaye, hey ((bleep). I hope you like jail because that's where you're going on your way to hell.


COATES: And based on what were these taunts relayed? I mean, imagine if you picked up your phone and there was a message like that on it. And frankly, some of the other ones are so riddled with obscenities, so riddled with vicious racial slurs. We actually had to beep out most of them, making it entirely incomprehensible.

Today, we actually heard from Shaye Moss herself, and she said that her worst fear, and now imagine this, after being an election worker, after having what was said about her and the defamatory statements that were made, that she's now fearing that her son would find out that her mother would be maybe hanging from a tree or getting the news at school that his mother had been killed.


Can you imagine what that was feeling like and what it still does? I mean, she had to tell him that racism is real and that she felt like the worst mother ever. Now, I have to say directly to someone like Shaye Moss, and I hope that she hears this because nothing that you have done warranted that behavior. I haven't planned to stay tuned nor shall we all about some figment of one's imagination that was not presented in a court of law and a ruling already issued.

Telling the truth, setting up to powerful people to protect your son and do what's right for your country and help democracy by actually being an election worker? What were you supposed to do? And to think about how personal the attacks have felt, what it's felt like to you to now question your own ability and perception of yourself as a mother.

This is where we are. And the next election day is 328 days away. And guess what? Stay tuned for this. You're going to need election workers to protect our fair and free and fair elections. But who would raise their hand to do this kind of job after just an example like this would happen to Shaye Moss or Ruby Freeman? I mean, the big question is, why, why won't Rudy Giuliani stop the behavior? What's behind it?

That's what's got my mind spinning tonight. Through all the different news, this is where I'm focused, thinking about what on earth is the motivation. Well, let me ask Ken Frydman because he was the campaign spokesperson back in 1993 during Rudy Giuliani's run for New York mayor. He's also a consulting producer for the CNN Original Series, "Giuliani: What Happened to America's Mayor?"

You know, I'm glad that you're here. I really had been racking my brain, thinking about just the idea of stepping on the rake time and time again, knowing you already had a defamation finding. I mean, you heard what Shaye Moss had to say today. Tell me, why do you think Rudy Giuliani is doubling down now?

KEN FRYDMAN, 1993 GIULIANI MAYORAL CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: I think he's taking the page out of Trump's playbook. You know, Trump is defiant. He has been trashing the state attorney general, Letitia James, after every court session. And Rudy is doing the same. He has given to excess, that's for sure.


FRYDMAN: And, you know, I wrote a column about him in October 9, 2019 where I advised him to stay away from Trump, to stay away from Fruman and Parnas. And instead, he returned to Ukraine the next day -- returned to Ukraine the next day.

He doubles down, as you said earlier. If you told him he made a bad hire, he would give that person a raise and a promotion. So, if you want him not to do something, you tell him the opposite.

COATES: So, reverse psychology would have worked. Maybe telling him, go ahead and defame them, then that would have been maybe having him say to stop it. Well -- but talk me, here's what I'm asking, though.

(LAUGHTER) Walk me through that psychology because what is it -- what's at the core for him? Is it that he's trying to emulate the courthouse steps, conversations to Trump, as you say, or is it something about it? Is it an ego that says, you can't tell me what to do, I'll do whatever I want? Is that where it's coming from or something else? Is he trying to please? What?

FRYDMAN: Well, you alluded to it earlier. He's -- no one knows the law as well as he does. And, you know, I spent -- we spent two years researching the documentary on Rudy. I knew a lot about him already, but I learned a lot more, including the fact he was best of class in the U.S. Attorney's Office, he was number three in the Justice Department at the age of 38, and he was a very effective first-term mayor.

You may not like his bedside manner, but he really turned the city around. He was transformative. And he did it through sheer force of will. And he's used to willing people to do his bidding the same way Trump is. And it's not working anymore.

So, he's just flailing around, you know, desperately trying to, you know, stay out of jail, frankly. I've said on CNN and elsewhere that his only goal should be to die a free man. I think, you know, he and Trump are -- yeah, if their lawyers are telling them anything other than that, they're not -- they're not giving them good counsel.


And I think he's banking on Trump becoming president -- becoming president again. Not that he could pardon him in a state case, but I think the two of them are convinced Trump is going to become president and they're going to put the band back together again.

COATES: Well, I don't know if that needs to be a cover band and somebody else pretending to be or what.


Let me ask you, you mentioned the bank. Um, this is a damages case. This is not --


COATES: -- just a run of the mill finding of whether or not somebody has actually done what they are alleged to have done. This is also about --


COATES: -- what it's going to cost them. And we're talking about millions of dollars at stake here. And word on perhaps the Manhattan streets is that he doesn't have it. Is that part of the motivation? What is the impact of him not having the funds, you think, on his behavior?

FRYDMAN: Well, he's desperately lashing out. He doesn't have the money. Everybody knows that. But they're never going to collect the money the same way the Sandy Hook families are not going to collect millions and millions of dollars from Alex Jones in spite of his bankruptcy. So, I think he knows that he's not going to -- he's not going to live to pay out millions and millions of dollars.

He can't even afford a new car, frankly. I know that. That's how low on funds he is. So, it's a question of collecting, right, Laura? It's not just the number. You have to actually collect the money.


FRYDMAN: So, the damage -- I don't see that. He doesn't have tens of millions of dollars --

COATES: Well, maybe that's part of the --

FRYDMAN: -- even if he sells his apartment.

COATES: Well, maybe -- I think that's probably in the cards, but that's why I wonder about the doubling down, when one does not believe that jail is in the immediate future and that someone can't collect on the payment, then maybe being --


COATES: -- defiant is his way of punching out. You know, I'm just -- just to really understand you and your relationship with him, I mean, this is somebody -- he married you and your wife. You carry around a picture of Giuliani for years, in that picture with you and your wife for years.


COATES: And here you are now very vocal about who he is today. Why do you feel it's so important to speak out?

FRYDMAN: I feel an obligation because I did know him when he was a terrific mayor. And I -- you know, I've seen the devolution of him over the years. And I feel it's my, you know, obligation, frankly, to share what I know and to try to, you know, prevent democracy from being overturned. That was a big part of our documentary.

If you recall on January 6th, he said, let's have trial by combat. And that can only mean one thing. Let's overthrow the government and let's take the Capitol. And that's exactly what happened.

You know, words matter. He should know that. Frank Luntz was his pulpit. Frank Luntz wrote a book called "Words Matter." And Rudy doesn't seem to understand that or doesn't seem to care about the effect of his words and his behavior.

COATES: Well, that's the crux of this particular case, right? The words, the idea of making statements that defame someone, that are false, that diminish someone's reputation or standing in a community. He has already been found to be liable for having done that. Now, it's about the damages. And even now, he says he doesn't regret a thing. Ken Frydman, this is a fascinating, at least, psychological study for a lot of reasons. Thank you so much.

FRYDMAN: You're welcome so much. Thanks for having me.

COATES: And, of course, I'm not going to forget the fact that we're talking about Rudy Giuliani. The focus should be on the people that he was doing that, too, and what they're going through tonight and yesterday and every day since it happened, apparently.

Also, Republicans, they are on the verge of taking the next step in their impeachment inquiry into President Biden. But here's a little thing that maybe no one's really talking to you about yet. Could it backfire on them? That's everyone's talking about tomorrow, I bet you. We'll cover it right here, next.



COATES: All right, so, time is of the essence and voters are already making up their mind. Look, the first caucuses are just weeks away. Ron DeSantis is finally, apparently, seizing the opportunity to take the shots at Donald Trump that many wondered why he hadn't taken before because he was, of course, trying to become the frontrunner. Well, here he was at CNN's town hall tonight.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the first three years of the Trump administration, the economy is better than it has been. But that last year with COVID, I think, was mishandled dramatically. I went to the rallies with Donald Trump. He said he was going to build the wall and have Mexico pay for it. And that didn't happen.

I think, though, one thing in this race that I think is important to point out is Donald Trump flip-flopping on the right to life.


COATES: Hmm. I wonder where this person was maybe a couple months ago. Let's talk about it with, of course, our two esteemed guests, former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh and also CNN political commentator Karen Finney, who was a senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2016.

Seriously, people have been wondering about not just him, but all of the candidates as to why they were not addressing in a very pointed and direct way the faults of Donald Trump. One would assume you would in an election year. Why do you think it's happening now, Karen?


KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think he recognizes time is running out and this was an opportunity to reintroduce the reintroduction of Ron DeSantis 2.0 with his cowboy boots and all, right? And it was not --

COATES: He watches Yellowstone like myself and is now hooked. That's fine. I'm not going judge him. Go ahead.

FINNEY: Okay. As you know, as a tall woman, I've dated men who wear cowboy boots --


-- and it all means one thing, but that's okay. Anyway --

COATES: That's a different show entirely.

FINNEY: No, look, I think he recognized it's an opportunity. The question is, can he close, what is it, 40-point gap? I think Paul Begala earlier this evening made the point that it's a 70-point swing from where DeSantis was a year ago. So, he was clearly trying to show, you know, a kinder, gentler, more empathetic, more -- quote, unquote -- "human," as we would say, particularly on abortion.

You know, it was really interesting how he didn't quite take the bait on answering the question that Jake asked him about the situation in Texas where the woman has just had to leave the state to have an abortion.

COATES: Thirty-one years old, mother of two, has a fatal diagnosis for a genetic disorder for a 20-week-old fetus, and now had to leave the state for an emergency abortion.

FINNEY: Right, and he used it both as an opportunity to attack Trump for flip-flopping, but also to try to, again, seem more compassionate. But it was interesting that I noticed he talked to -- he said the legislature had put -- did you notice that?


FINNEY: The legislature had put forward this legislation that had a bunch of different exceptions and that he went ahead and signed it --


FINNEY: when in the past, he was, I did, and it was about me. So, and you know, there were some other places where he kind of embellished, let's say, the facts, but --

COATES: Well, that seems like he's downplaying his own role. Even when it happened, when he signed it --


COATES: -- he had an event that night, remember, and he did not address it fully at all.

WALSH: It is an issue Republicans do not want talk about at all. Laura, it's too late. He got into the race like -- Haley got into the race months ago not to beat Donald Trump. They decided from the get go, we're not going to beat him, we can't beat him, we're just going to wait to see if we can be the alternative if something happens to Trump. Something didn't happen to Trump. He has increased his lead in Iowa. It's just too late.

COATES: Well, you know, he's still going to go. If it's too late, he would go against President Joe Biden in a rematch, and you've got Republicans trying to now secure an impeachment inquiry against him.

We are hearing about the reverse engineering. We haven't heard about what the high crime misdemeanor is. Silly me, I thought one had to come first. Chicken, egg, which one comes first. Apparently, now, it's the inquiry itself. Is that going to backfire, you think?

WALSH: Yes. Yes, it will.


COATES: Okay. I will --

WALSH: Short answer.

COATES: Yes. Yes, it will. Okay? Why?

WALSH: This is all -- this is what the base wants. This is what Trump demands. And truthfully, this -- Joe Biden would love this. You know, an impeachment --

COATES: You think he would love it, really?

WALSH: Oh, gosh, because politically, this will be anathema to most of the American people. As you said, there's no reason for this. And most Americans don't know the difference between the beginning and impeachment inquiry. Look, they're beginning an impeachment of Joe Biden. There's no reason for that. That's going to backfire against Republicans.

COATES: What do you think?

FINNEY: I completely agree. I think a couple of things. Number one, it's going to be particularly bad for Republicans and those 18 districts where --

WALSH: Yeah.

FINNEY: -- Joe Biden won because their right-wing colleagues have been trying to convince them, hey, you're just going to be voting to agree that we should have an inquiry, you're not really voting for impeachment. Guess what? The ads make themselves --

WALSH: Yeah.

FINNEY: -- because they're all going to face ads that say, you voted to impeach Joe Biden. And districts that are very competitive where they have voters who will say, but what did you do for me? I'm sorry. I mean, they're going to go home at the end of this week having not really finished their work, but they had time to vote to impeach on an impeachment inquiry for Joe Biden. How's that going to square up for a lot of those folks?

WALSH: And the speaker, Laura, the speaker was asked today, what do you want your biggest accomplishment these two years to be? He said, increase our majority. It was no legislation. It was no policy. It was all political. We want to increase our majority. That's what they're trying to do with it.

COATES: But there is a big part of the base that suggests that Democrats did this very thing to Trump and that he rebounded effectively because they thought there was no reason to impeach him. Now, there's certainly not the same level of reverse engineering by far, but that's the concern about how this might play both ways. Do you see that?

FINNEY: Well, I see something slightly different which is, remember all of the moderate Republicans and Republicans like Joe Walsh who migrated away from Donald Trump towards Joe Biden or just to not vote during both of those years.

WALSH: You could argue that Trump did something, and then there was an impeachment. We could debate about how serious it was. This is an example, Laura, where they're going to impeach and then try to find out if Biden did something.

COATES: Hmm, reverse engineering. And not one of us has anything -- you have a B.A.?



COATES: Where did you go? What do you have? B.S.? What do you have? Are you engineers?

FINNEY: No, we're not an engineer.

COATES: Well, that's the point I'm trying to make. We're not engineers here, people.


FINNEY: We got you. We're with you.

COATES: It's 11:24. Let's all sip from our mugs. Karen, Joe, thank you so much. The point was we're not engineers. Tomorrow, be sure to check out the CNN town hall with Vivek Ramaswamy in Iowa. Abby Phillip hosts at 9 p.m. Eastern. And don't miss Dana Bash's joint interview with Nikki Haley and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who just endorsed her. That's at noon on "Inside Politics."

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is coming back into Washington. In fact, he came today. But this time, it was a very different Washington, D.C. He did not get the warmest reception. So, what has changed since the last time he came to make the case for aid in his fight against Russia? Some are obvious, some not so. We'll dive in, next.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine.


We must, we must, we must prove him wrong.


COATES: President Biden trying to make the case to skeptical Republicans to push forward more military, more economic aid to Ukraine. His plea coming during Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's now third visit to Washington, D.C. since the war, and he came with his own sales pitch.

The difference this time? Well, an increasing number of Americans are no longer interested in buying in. You see this purple line? That shows steady growth and how many Americans say the United States is paying too much. And it may not be that surprising when we look at the actual map of Ukraine. The yellow here shows Ukraine's gains in the recent counteroffensive. And you perhaps would not be wrong in asking, is that it?

But we'd be wrong, perhaps, to think of it that myopically. Those small gains are now raising big questions like, how much of an impact giving more aid would actually have? Republicans in Congress are holding up a new aid package, as you know, and trying to tie it to increase security at the southern border.

Now, regardless of what you believe, the war in Ukraine does have huge implications. It's about determining America's role and what's happening across the world. And what we do or don't do doesn't just impact other countries. It also influences the shape of our lives here at home.

I've got just the right guests to talk about all of this because here with me tonight, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. I'm so glad you're here, ambassador. It is such a different, perhaps, Washington that Zelenskyy has now come to. And I want to go right there with the question. There is pushback. If there is no aid and Ukraine succumbed to Russia, what's next?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So, Laura, that's a great question. First of all, in Europe, that will mean that Russia is right next to Poland and right next to Romania. It's already right next to Lithuania and Latvia and Estonia. But Russia will be that much farther into NATO's area. And if Russia challenges NATO, we're obligated, we're committed, we're obligated to support our allies.

People will be asking at that point -- well, I think people will be asking, why did -- who lost Ukraine? Where were the people who were supporting Ukraine at the beginning? As you said, when President Zelenskyy was here the first time, standing ovations in the Congress, and they will say, what happened to that?

The Ukrainians have been fighting bravely for like 20 months.


TAYLOR: You remember, people thought they wouldn't last a week.

COATES: We were very confident about the military might of the Russian army, only to find the unbelievable heart and strength of the Ukrainian military force.

TAYLOR: Unbelievable heart and strength. That's exactly right. And our support was crucial. And our support -- and Europeans. Let's be clear. I mean, Europeans have provided as much or more than we have at this point. Yes, we do more weapons. They do more overall in terms of the support.

But what the Ukrainians have done themselves without any U.S. soldiers, they don't want our soldiers, they just need the tools to be able to push the Russians back out. And if they don't, if the Russians are able to overcome them because we get tired and we let the Ukrainians down, this democracy who wants to join Europe, then people will ask, who caused that?

COATES: But it's the why. You heard in the town hall earlier hosted by Jake Tapper with Governor Ron DeSantis, he talks about, you've got to take care of your own home first. And that has been a common refrain when people have talked about the aid that goes other places. Taking care of America first, whether that's the phrase or not.

When you have been an ambassador and trying to be that liaison between these two countries and entities, how do you balance the need to provide at home an aid and also address the needs to create and provide those buffers?

TAYLOR: You absolutely have to do both. There is no doubt that we have to be secure here in the United States. First of all, we are more secure if Europe is secure. And Europe is more secure if Ukraine is the buffer, is the block between Europe, the rest of Europe, NATO Europe, and Russia. And that's what Ukraine is doing right now. That's number one, that we are more secure.

But number two, we can do both. We have a defense budget and that defense budget is to protect us, make us more secure in the face of two big enemies, frankly, the Russians and the Chinese.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

TAYLOR: That defense budget is focused on that. Five percent of that defense budget is what we've given Ukraine. So, for 5% of our overall defense budget, which is designed to secure us, to protect us from the Russians, the Ukrainians are doing that job.


COATES: Yeah. Well, really quick, I want to -- I can't help think about Putin and what has been going on. When you see the attention that the world has shifted towards what has happened in Israel, in the Israel-Hamas war, and now the conversations around aid for both Ukraine and Israel, Putin stands to gain from the divided attention.

TAYLOR: He absolutely does and has. That's why I'm so glad you're paying attention to this issue right now, and I'm so glad it has come back into focus, at least, with President Zelenskyy's visit. I mean, you're right about the different greeting, but he has refocused a lot of our attention on something that is necessary now. The assistance is necessary now.

COATES: Really important to think about what one action today, what the domino effect will have, because you can bet your bottom dollar that military operatives are thinking about the next step and the next step and what we do here. And the time is running out in Congress. It has been this very calendar year. Really important to hear your perspective in particular. Thank you.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Ambassador Bill Taylor, everyone. Thank you so much. There is also news right now, we'll be right back, and the very latest of what's happening, next.



COATES: Breaking news, the Israeli army says that seven of its soldiers, including a battalion commander, have been killed in a single incident in northern Gaza. An eighth soldier died in a separate incident on Tuesday, according to the army.

It is among the biggest losses of life in a single incident for Israeli forces since the ground defensive began in earnest on October 27th and takes the total number of soldiers killed inside Gaza since October 7th to now 112.

I want to turn to a Minnesota man who is free tonight after spending nearly 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't even commit. Marvin Haynes was 16 years old at the time. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2005. The police charged him with the murder of a flower shop owner during an attempted robbery.

This week, a judge overturned his wrongful conviction on the basis of unconstitutional witness identification. The judge writing in part -- quote -- "There was no physical evidence linking petitioner to the crime scene. There was no DNA evidence, fingerprint evidence, physical evidence, surveillance evidence, or other forensic evidence."

Marvin Haynes, now 36 years old, has always maintained his innocence, and he joins me now. Marvin, good evening to you. I can't imagine what you must be feeling to know that it took nearly 20 years. But tonight, you are a free man. Tell me about what that moment was like, Marvin, when you first heard the news. MARVIN HAYNES, RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER CONVICTION OVERTURNED: First of all, thank you for having me on your show. I appreciate you. It was -- it was joyful. I was extremely overjoyed with emotion. I knew this day was going to come, but I had no idea how it was going to come.

I got the news on my birthday, on my 36th birthday. So, I'll never forget that day that my lawyer called me and said that my sentence was vacated, and I'll be coming home like an exonerated man.

So, I'm just so appreciative of the new administrators in the Hennepin County and my lawyers, the Innocent Project, the Great North Innocent Project. They saved my life. The evidence was there to show that I was innocent. It just was ignored for 19 years.

COATES: I mean, just to reiterate, not that you were released early, but you were exonerated. You did not commit this crime. They have recognized this. But 20 years of your life since the age of 16, you are now 36 years old, I just wonder first how this all started. Did you reach out to the Innocence Project? Did you reach out to certain attorneys to say, look, I need help to try to convince and persuade and get everything filed? How did that relationship even start, Marvin?

HAYNES: I was -- I was sentenced to 33 years, which was like in Minnesota, plus additional charges for assault. I went to prison and I had no idea of being in a wrongful conviction. So, I thought I was the only man that was, you know, child at that time that was wrongly convicted. I was dumbfounded about wrongful conviction. I didn't even know what the word exoneration means. So, I was lashing out as I was innocent.

So, when I got -- when I got to prison, I went to the hole (ph) and I read about the Innocent Project, and I contacted them. They looked into my case and they've seen that I was innocent. They never stopped fighting for me. And I'm so appreciative for them.

COATES: I mean, you know, you -- obviously, I see the smile on your face. You seem like you are. Still a very -- I see it right now. It's coming. I know you can't help it. I don't blame you for smiling.

HAYNES: I can't help it.

COATES: I know. Who could blame you? I'm smiling, watching you, just knowing that you have --

HAYNES: Thank you.

COATES: -- the opportunity to be free and to have your name cleared in this way. But I do wonder, how does the mind stay positive? I mean, you must have had some very dark times over the last 20 years knowing that you did not commit this crime.

HAYNES: That can't even describe what I've been through. You know, a dark can't even describe it. But it was faith that got me through that, and it was just perseverance, relentless. I was relentless. I never was going to stop until I got justice.

When I got wrongly convicted, I told the judge, I'm an innocent man, and I'm not going to stop fighting until I get justice. I did this at 16 years old. I told him that. And it is just a shame that these people that are supposed to be for justice administrated this injustice and sent a child to prison.


You know, it's just a shame that these people did me like this. But at the end of the day, I can't look in the past, I'm looking in the future, and I'm an exonerated man. I'm happy about that.

COATES: I'm happy for you, Marvin. And if your smile is any indication, your future will be very bright. Mr. Marvin Haynes, nice to meet you. Congratulations.

HAYNES: Thank you. Thank you so much.

COATES: Up next, the civil rights icon that you may not have heard about. The director of the new movie, "Rustin," joins me now to talk about the incredible life of Bayard Rustin, who helped organize the march on Washington.




COLMAN DOMINGO, ACTOR: Thirty years ago, Gandhi walked to the sea, picked up a handful of salt, and inspired a movement that brought down an empire. The time has come for us to do the same. We are going to put together the largest peaceful protest in the history of this nation.

UNKNOWN: How big?

DOMINGO: One hundred thousand people.


COATES: Well, that was Colman Domingo in the new movie, "Rustin." He plays Bayard Rustin, an unsung hero of the civil rights movement and a gay Black man, a Quaker who never apologized for who he was. He advised Dr. King on non-violent tactics and organized what you heard him talking about there, the march on Washington, a little more than 60 years ago.

Joining me now, the director of that film, George C. Wolfe. I'm so happy and delighted that you are here with us today. I've always been a very big fan of your work, so thank you for joining us.

And this, of course, is no exception today. This actually could be an Oscar-winning performance from Colman Domingo, and I'm just curious, what was it about Bayard Rustin that pushed you to make this movie in particular?

GEORGE C. WOLFE, DIRECTOR, "RUSTIN": Well, because I think he was -- he was a phenomenal figure, he was a phenomenal American, he was curious about other people, he was very inclusive, he believed so deeply and so fundamentally in democracy that he also -- and because of that love of democracy, any place he felt as though that it was not living up to the standards, he would challenge it and spent his whole life doing that. And so, he's a phenomenal figure that we all should know about and celebrate.

COATES: I want to play another clip. This is the scene between Bayard Rustin and the then executive director of the NAACP. Watch this.


DOMINGO: Gandhi brought an empire down to its knees.

UNKNOWN: Will someone please tell this man that this is not India? For decades, the NAACP has been legally leading the charge, and now you're proposing 100,000 Black folks invade Washington, D.C. Have you talked to Martin about this?

DOMINGO: I lost his number, he lost mine.

UNKNOWN: Well, Dr. King, who hasn't lost my number, has come to understand that mass lobbying is sheer madness.

DOMINGO: Brown versus Board is the crowning glory of this organization, yet all across the south, when Negro children sleep, they see whites only signs instead of their dreams. Counting on the courts to eradicate racial inequity, that's madness.


COATES: Hmm. That is so revealing. Number one, I see that voice. I know that face. I see you have some really strong actors in this movie as well, including Chris Rock who, of course, we saw. But organizing the march on Washington, you see there. No walk in the park. It didn't just come together with a snapping of the fingers.

WOLFE: Talk to me about the fight to actually even get the idea off the ground and, of course, the skill in bringing together people around this idea.

Well, Bayard was a brilliant organizer. And the thing which had just happened in response to the violence that was happening in the south, John Kennedy presented a bill which was later to become the civil rights bill, but he ended up, unfortunately, dying before he passed, and LBJ did that.

And Bayard and the various civil rights leaders were concerned that the Dixiecrats in the south would dilute the bill and it would not pass. So, they decided, Bayard in particular with A. Philip Randolph, to have this march to celebrate -- to celebrate American democracy and to celebrate the need to move forward with what was happening in the south and to make the muscle that was democracy stronger and bolder and braver.

So, this coalition of people who were all very committed to the same cause but different beliefs -- NAACP believed heavily in the court. You know, other organizations claimed power was involved (ph). So, he was fighting in Congress. And so, they all came together and they came together in essence and the organization -- the organizing of this event was led by Bayard Rustin.

There have been many marches on Washington since this time, but this was the first time it was put together. And Bayard did it with a group of kids, I mean, 18, 19, 20 years old, and they organized it in eight weeks.

COATES: Look, we are in a very trying and divisive time. I'm being generous even when I say that. So, to have this --


COATES: -- seem to be looking backwards. But really, not in the rearview mirror for us. It's really in the forefront of our minds. I mean, Rustin himself was a huge proponent, in spite of all of these things going on, of nonviolent action. And we're seeing threats and acts of political violence all over this country.


What should our nation take away from his approach?

WOLFE: I think we should take away the fact that the understanding that by virtue of living in a democracy doesn't mean that you just get to experience that which is great about it. You have to be engaged in making sure that the muscle that is democracy is protected and honored and fought for passionately.

Fought for does not mean with weapons or with guns, but with heart and with conviction and with making sure we elect the people who need to be elected and using the power of the vote and using the power of our hearts to make sure that we take a stand when we are in the presence of injustice.

COATES: So well said, unbelievably so. You talk about the muscle of democracy in tandem with the heart being our strongest muscle. So, that's no coincidence.

WOLFE: Absolutely.

COATES: George C. Wolfe, what a pleasure getting a chance to speak to you tonight. Thank you so much.

WOLFE: Thank you.

COATES: And thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues.