Return to Transcripts main page
Laura Coates Live
Judges Appear Skeptical Of Trump Immunity Claims; Is Pandora's Box Already Open?; Trump's Courtroom And Campaign Calendars Slam Int Each Other; Laura Coates And Guests, Tia Mitchell And Charlie Dent, Discuss The 2024 Presidential Race; GOP Rep. Thomas Massie Endorses DeSantis; Boeing Meeting Includes Acknowledging "Mistake" In Alaska Airlines Incident. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired January 09, 2024 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: All right, so what happened in Donald Trump's immunity hearing? It comes down to just one word. I'll tell you what it is tonight on "Laura Coates Live."
Okay, so today's word of the day -- take that Merriam Webster -- is concede, meaning to admit that something is true or valid after first denying or even resisting it. Why is that the word of the day? Because a court of appeals heard a major concession -- see what I did there -- from the lawyer, from a former president who has refused to concede that he lost the election, and he did lose that election.
Now before today, Trump's lawyers were absolutely -- what's the word? Adamant. Totally convinced, seemingly, that the president has absolute immunity for Trump's conduct while, of course, he was in office. In fact, they wouldn't even budge on this point.
Well, at first, they wouldn't budge. But then, right out of the gate, with questioning from one of the judges in the circuit court, they were forced to make a powerful concession that, of course, there is not absolute immunity, meaning you can never charge a former president for action taken while in office. If it was criminal or otherwise, they can see that you can, you can prosecute under certain circumstances.
And they only admitted that after the judge gave them a whole string of hypotheticals that could really -- I mean, only have one legitimate, truthful answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORENCE PAN, JUDGE OF THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT (voice-over): Could a president who ordered S.E.A.L Team 6 to assassinate a political rival, who was not impeached, would he be subject to criminal prosecution?
JOHN SAUER, TRUMP'S LAWYER (voice-over): If he were impeached and convicted first.
PAN (voice-over): So, your answer is no.
SAUER (voice-over): My answer is qualified yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: A qualified what? A qualified yes. Now, look, sometimes, a judge throws you a softball, right? A moment for you to answer a question and a yes or no so they know what they're working with. Are you a delusional attorney who can keep a straight face while making any argument whatsoever no matter how absurd the argument may be, or maybe are you reasonable, willing to admit that one and one really does equal two?
But instead, a qualified yes, hmm, over the mere thought of a president of the United States. Remember, we call our president the leader of the free world. Whether they could assassinate a political rival, that was the hemming and hawing and the qualification. Was that worth the credibility of the other arguments that you want to raise?
This is where common sense has got to come into play. I mean, I know you call on lawyers for a lot of things, but some things just require the common sense of every person who knows what yes and no actually means and, of course, a hypothetical. You have to be willing to actually admit the obvious because if you do not do that, you will lose your credibility forever in front of the court.
But Donald Trump, back to my word of the day, he still refuses to concede that, which is obvious to his advisors and obvious, if you hear Jack Smith tell you, that he refuses to concede, he refuses to concede and admit that he lost the election, and the conduct taken, hmm, problematic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Now, I use the word "problematic." Well, it leads up to a jury if it truly was criminal or otherwise. But Trump's counsel says that Jack Smith, it's Jack Smith who opened Pandora's box.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAUER (voice-over): To authorize the prosecution of a president for his official acts, would open a Pandora's box from which this nation may never recover. It would authorize, for example, the indictment of President Biden in the Western District of Texas after he leaves office for mismanaging the border, allegedly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Now, let's, of course, stay with this theme of Pandora's box, shall we? I like Greek mythology. Let's talk a little bit more about it. Now, Jack Smith believes that he's closing Pandora's box because if you give a president carte blanche, democracy dies.
The question in all of this, of course, politically speaking, why now? I mean, we know why now. Literally, for the legal reasons that Court of Appeals had an oral argument today. But why now? Why does Donald Trump double and triple and quadruple and whatever the next iteration, is is quintuple? I don't really know. Does it again is my point. Is it because we're only six days away from the Iowa caucuses? And he knows because, of course, he knows. But taking his campaign to court makes his polls go up. Quite the inverse relationship.
Now remember how he fundraised off of his mugshot in Georgia? I know. Does he genuinely believe that he is entitled to immunity? I'll tell you what. He is entitled to knowing what the court will actually find here and what they will decide.
So, does every member of the electorate deserve to have an answer as well?
I want to bring in two brilliant legal minds to help us game out the arguments that we heard today and the ones, frankly, that we did not hear today. I've got Norm Eisen, a CNN legal analyst and former House Judiciary special counsel in Trump's first impeachment trial, and Harry Litman, former federal prosecutor. I'm glad that you're both here. They're going to help us understand what's in play by making the case for both sides.
Yes, gentlemen, it's time for you to do a little bit of devil's advocacy in my mind because we, of course, only heard the arguments today. They won't let cameras in. So, I'm going to have both of you walk me through in the audience, what the best arguments maybe ought to have been, the strong points, the weaknesses as well, and I'll have you flip because I like a little game playing it that night. There you go.
So, Norm, I'm going to begin with you. I want you to take the side because I know it might pain you a little bit. Trump's lawyers, if you don't mind. Okay? How do you respond to this DOJ argument on what presidential immunity would mean? Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES PEARCE, ASSISTANT SPECIAL COUNSEL (voice-over): It would mean that if a former president engages in assassination, selling pardons, these kinds of things, and then isn't impeached and convicted, there is no accountability for that, for that individual. And that is -- that is frightening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: All right, that the DOJ argument. What is the response from the Trump team? What ought maybe it should be? NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The government is distorting the well- established rules that the United States Supreme Court has articulated in the case of Nixon v. Fitzgerald.
It's already the law, Your Honor, that a president is not immune for these wild hypotheticals we've been hearing today. No, the United States Supreme Court has said that a president is immune for their official acts.
Well, if there was an assassination or all these things, that's not an official act, that's what we call ultra vires (ph), that's beyond the bounds. We simply want to take this well-established rule that works, Your Honor. It's in civil cases. It should apply even more in criminal cases.
The danger to the normal functioning of our country is greater. We don't want Bush prosecuted, we don't want Biden prosecuted, we don't want Obama prosecuted for ordinary activities, we don't want President Trump prosecuted either. But let's just apply the rule.
We're not even asking you to prejudge the rule. District court refused to even apply this rule. Let's just see how it goes. Please remand to district court so they can follow common sense.
COATES: Let me hear from counsel for the government here. You've heard this argument.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have.
COATES: We have. You play that role, Harry Litman, because, of course, you've been a U.S. attorney before.
LITMAN: Yes. I've been there.
COATES: What's the argument?
LITMAN: With respect to my friend's stride and see, I think, betrays his lack of confidence. Look, we have these other rules. As he said, we've never had occasion to do this one because presidents haven't broken the law before.
But the difference between a republic that punishes its highest officials after they've left office, this is not while he's in office or she's in office, which could be a problem, but after they've left office, not only is there no reason to withhold the criminal process from them, there's every reason because that is the delineation between a rule of law and a rule of person, a rule of autocracy, as my friend's client, I think, would want to establish.
COATES: You want a rebuttal?
EISEN: Well, Your Honor, we don't object to that. There is a rule. The Supreme Court has said, official acts protected, unofficial acts. These crazy S.E.A.L Team 6 assassinations, not protected. I reject those hypotheticals. I simply want the law to apply to have that balance for the normal functioning of the presidency. COATES: So, tell me, now that we've heard both these little sides quickly, what do you really believe? Harry?
LITMAN: Yeah, I believe my position. Norm believes my position. But the main thing is --
-- what he's talking about is the civil law. And now, we're talking about something where there's really something very grave on the other side, a criminal violation. This -- it is true, that's the standard for the civil law, but we're talking about crimes.
COATES: So, talk to me about double jeopardy. Let's go there now because I think it's important. And by the way, is your phone on because you might get a call from the president's table?
I don't know if you have it on.
EISEN: You know I practice.
COATES: Should I give your number? Norm Eisen's telephone number is --
EISEN: You know, Laura, I practice law with John Lauro --
COATES: I know.
EISEN: -- who is a -- and as criminal defense lawyers, we have to make those --
EISEN: -- impossible arguments. I really thought they did not do service to the president today. But now --
EISEN: -- the president's new lawyer --
LITMAN: I'm ready.
EISEN: -- Harry Litman --
LITMAN: I'm ready.
COATES: Well, okay, then you're going to play Trump's lawyers for the issue of double jeopardy which, of course, is this concept that you cannot be prosecuted twice for the same crime. Their argument, of course, everyone, is that the impeachment qualified as the first instance of a prosecution. And now, this prosecution by Jack Smith is the second iteration.
Make your case --
LITMAN: Sure. Look, it's the --
COATES: -- Trump's attorney.
LITMAN: Okay. It's the impeachment judgment clause, Your Honor, and it's very specific. It says if you have been impeached and then convicted, then you can be tried criminally. It's not, by the way, some kind of wooden distinction. What you have when that has happened is a political judgment across the whole spectrum of American life because, otherwise, what you have without that kind of protection is exactly President Biden indicting President Trump, the very parade of horrible we're worried about.
So, you need that kind of judgment by the Congress as a whole in order to green light a very grave action that is of criminally prosecuting a former high official.
COATES: What's your response to that, government? Because, of course, we have heard from Senator Mitch McConnell, as an example, after the impeachment, the second impeachment, that he was almost expecting there to be a criminal backstop. Here, Trump's lawyers are saying something different. What's your statement?
EISEN: Your Honor, I happen to have my pocket Constitution --
-- right here with me, and it doesn't say what my distinguished friend claims it does. What it says is, a party convicted in an impeachment trial shall nevertheless be subject to prosecution.
LITMAN: Original quill pen, it looks like, actually.
EISEN: Nevertheless, not only if. So, as is so often the case, and it saddens me, as is so often the case, the counsel for president -- former President Trump is turning the facts, and in this case, the law, upside down. There is no such thing. And frankly, It's frivolous. It's not worthy of this distinguished advocate to even try to make this argument.
LITMAN: Quick rebuttal.
COATES: Quick rebuttal, of course.
LITMAN: Okay, he misconstrues what I'm saying. It's not the logical point. It's the political policy point of having some threshold judgment. It's a very serious thing to indict a president by the polity as a whole. It's not the nevertheless argument that I believe somebody else did make today.
COATES: So, let's talk big picture, gentlemen. First of all, it takes a great and brilliant legal mind to do both of what you've done, the devil's advocacy to actually think about. And the reason we did this is because there are reasons to have and know the legitimacy of the underlying arguments. You just don't want to dismiss them outright because the court is grappling with this.
Big picture, what did you take away from today, knowing that concession has been made and they are doing it under review now? What's your big picture takeaway?
LITMAN: Two points. The concession was atrocious. He was sort of a dead man walking after that because it really does destroy his whole kind of claim. So, at the top level, Trump is losing.
But I did see kind of ripples below where the judges were kind of talking among themselves, trying to figure out the right standard here. If they depart even a little bit from what Judge Chutkan has said, they might remand and my concern there is it could potentially occasion after Judge Chutkan applies what they tell her to do, a new round and more delays. That's the worry. They did seem to me to be talking to themselves and trying to puzzle out the right answer.
COATES: By the way, remand, of course, means going back to the lower court judge to decide the issue after that.
LITMAN: Here are the rules. You apply them.
COATES: Here are the rules. What are you going to do?
COATES: What's your big picture takeaway from today?
EISEN: Donald Trump's conduct here is so extreme in attempting to keep a hold of the Oval Office after he lost an election, that his lawyers were forced to back away from the kind of reasonable commonsense answers and defend a completely untenable position, because only by distorting American law can you justify what Donald Trump is alleged to have done and what I believe there's very strong proof of.
So, they couldn't take a reasonable position because if they had, it would result in a concession when they get back to that district court and they get in front of the trial judge and ultimately the jury. They can't go there.
LITMAN: Which we all hope is soon.
COATES: Look, gentlemen, I will take it both under review. I love hearing you calling me "Your Honor."
Norm Eisen, Harry Litman, thank you both so much.
LITMAN: Thanks very much.
COATES: Quite a pleasure. Look, you heard Donald Trump's lawyers say that this case could open what? The other theme of the day, Pandora's box. But isn't the box already open? I'll talk to a Democratic congressman and ask about what are the political consequences of all of this. And believe you me, there are aplenty.
COATES: Pandora's box, floodgates, unprecedented. These are just a few of the terms used to argue the implications of what it would mean if you had absolute presidential immunity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAUER (voice-over): To authorize the prosecution of a president for his official acts, would open a Pandora's box from which this nation may never recover.
PEARCE (voice-over): So, this notion that we're all of a sudden going to see a floodgate, I think, you know, again, the careful investigations in the -- in the Clinton era didn't result in any charges. The fact that this investigation did doesn't reflect that we are going to see a sea change of vindictive tit-for-tat prosecutions in the future. I think it reflects the fundamentally unprecedented nature of the criminal charges here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, the real question, could this case unleash political prosecution, persecution, as John Lauro argues, when it comes to Donald Trump?
Let's talk to Congressman Glenn Ivey, a Democrat out of Maryland. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
He also served as counsel to Senator Paul Sarbanes during the Whitewater investigations as well. Always glad to have you here, congressman. Thank you.
Look, I hate to exhaust this term Pandora's box, but it has been used so much today. I'm going to ask you about it. One side says it will open Pandora's box if you don't give Trump or presidents immunity. The other side is saying, no, no, you have to close it by withholding immunity for actions that are criminal. Who's right here?
REP. GLENN IVEY (D-MD): Well, I mean, I think you have to make sure that you have some criminal responsibility. I think the arguments that Trump's lawyers made today were just way farther than they needed to go and hit the point of being a bit ridiculous, frankly. That's why they were so vulnerable to the extreme scenarios, the hypotheticals like, you know, S.E.A.L Team 6 killing the rival.
But, you know, I do think that there's going to be -- continue to be some level of immunity for presidents and every other public official, including like police officers who are doing things in their official duties, as long as they're acting in the proper capacity and the proper role.
In the Trump scenario, you just have conduct after conduct after conduct that is, you know, way beyond the scope of, frankly, anything almost any other presidency has presented to the country. That's why he's got 91 criminal charges over his head as well as a couple of civil verdicts against him as well.
So, I think he's a bad case to try and use, to try and set limits on presidential immunity, I think.
COATES: I like your example in terms of law enforcement because you're right to point out, when most of the conversations up till now have been about immunity for somebody who is, you know, a law enforcement official or a member of the executive branch, which under obvious law enforcement falls, you talk about qualified immunity or otherwise. We recognize that there are times that official acts should never be prosecuted.
COATES: Then there's times when somebody has gone rogue and trying to decipher when it's official. When it's not is the crux of this issue. Is this something that you think is clear to the courts, or what are the rules in terms of what is presidential behavior and what is campaigning behavior, and what is, as he says, I'm just trying to faithfully execute the laws and enforce them because I think there's voter fraud?
IVEY: Yeah, I mean, I think the issue at some level is something that all elected officials deal with because we all have lines that we can't cross. For example, for campaign conduct or political activities, you have to keep those separate from official activities. You know, if you're a member of Congress, if you're a governor, if you're the dog catcher, you have to keep it separated out.
And the presidency, I think it should be even easier to do because he has entire staffs around the campaigns and the presidential office to help you draw those lines to make sure that you don't cross them.
In the case of President Trump, frankly, I think he wanted to cross those lines and didn't even think about them in many instances, and that's why he's in the deep trouble that he's in.
COATES: Well, you mentioned the former president. There is the current president, Biden, and, of course, a member of his own cabinet, Mayorkas, as well, who we can think of another word, impeachment. You've got an impeachment inquiry when it comes to Biden. You've got impeachment looming over Secretary Mayorkas as well.
Some have argued that Democrats opened a kind of Pandora's box by having back-to-back impeachments of Trump in what, two years over time, in an era when we never actually had them for longer periods of time. When you look at what Trump is saying about, you know, kind of be careful what you wish for, if it's happening to me now, it could be Biden next for things like the border and beyond, do you have concerns that if immunity is not granted here and say the election goes Trump's way, what's next is Biden under that microscope?
IVEY: I don't think it matters for Donald Trump. I think he'll do whatever he wants to do, regardless of the precedents. I think we saw in his first term that he was willing to break with history, tradition, norms, and the law repeatedly. So, I don't think that's the right way to try and draw the line.
I do think the difference, though, is, you know, if you're doing something -- for example, the Mayorkas case, basically, they don't agree with his policies at the border. There's no allegation that he has committed bribery, treason, high crimes, misdemeanors, anything like that. Same thing with President Biden. They don't like, you know, the things that Hunter Biden has done. They keep trying to tag the president with those, but they've been unsuccessful.
And the interesting thing, you know, at the beginning of the impeachment hearings with respect to President Trump, they brought on a panel of experts to inquire about it, the House Republicans did, and all three experts said, you don't have enough here to impeach, there's not enough evidence.
One of those same experts, Jonathan Turley, sent a letter today for the Mayorkas hearing that starts tomorrow and said the same thing: You don't have enough evidence to impeach Mayorkas. The fact is that there's just not evidence to do it in these cases, whereas, I think, the misconduct connected to President Trump is pretty clear-cut.
In fact, could it be more clear-cut than January 6th? I mean, if you had a T.V. and you are watching that, what else could you think? I mean, I just --
COATES: Well, you're going to believe me. Me or your lying eyes.
That's what it comes down to. Jonathan Turley, of course, is a professor at George Washington University who has been relied on in a number of conservative circles --
COATES: -- to try to flush out these issues. Is Mayorkas -- they have the votes to impeach him?
IVEY: We'll see. I know that they've got moderate Republicans in President Biden districts, districts that President Biden won. They're worried about losing those guys. And if they do, we'll retake the House. It's a totally political calculation at the end of the day for the House Republicans. That's how they're going have to decide it. But, you know, when it gets to the Senate, they're not going to impeach him anyway --
COATES: You don't think so?
IVEY: -- or they're not going to remove him anyway.
COATES: There you go. Well, a lot of reverse engineering, trying to look for those high crimes and misdemeanors. I remember a time it had to come first, the --
COATES: -- horse, then the cart, right? But we'll see. Congressman Glenn Ivey, nice to talk to you. Thank you so much.
IVEY: Thank you.
COATES: Donald Trump's courtroom and campaign calendars looking mighty similar these days. In fact, is there even a difference? We'll talk about it next.
COATES: We're in the final sprint to the first actual votes. Can you believe that? The first actual votes in the race for the GOP presidential nomination because the Iowa caucuses are just six days away. Now, our public contenders are all over the state. They are trying to win over caucus goers. Well, everyone except for the person you see on the far right there or in the center of my screen there, Donald Trump.
Today, he was in the campaign -- not in the campaign but in a courtroom instead in Washington, D.C. and, of course, choosing to attend this very consequential court hearing on whether he has presidential immunity for some of the federal charges instead, of course, stumping across the campaign trail.
Now, the reality, though, is maybe he was on the campaign trail because the courtroom shows a bit of his political currency, does it not? I mean, look at these numbers. Look at these numbers. According to a knowledge panel poll, Trump's mounting legal troubles have not even dented his status as a GOP frontrunner. In fact, the indictments have perhaps strengthened his position.
I want to dive in now with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and Tia Mitchell, Washington correspondent for "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution."
Can we put those numbers back up for a second? Because I think they tell a very compelling story here. Look at those numbers of before and after. Pre-indictments, 47%. Now, 63%. That is striking for a lot of reasons. What do you make of that, Charlie?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what I think about those numbers is that Trump has successfully portrayed himself as a victim, a victim of the deep state, it has turned this whole thing into a partisan issue, and I think that's why he has been successful.
What also helped him is the fact that his opponents have not torn the bark off him for his behavior or misconduct. They, too, often would defend him when he's being -- in the New York case when he was indicted over the hush money payments of Stormy Daniels, they defended him. Well, all they're doing is elevating Trump.
I mean, it's just acts of political malpractice by his opponents. The only one is Chris Christie, the only one who seems to take him on his conduct. I think that also contributed to Trump's separation from DeSantis and the other candidates.
COATES: I mean, he has fundraised. I mean, his two biggest fundraising nights here were on April 4th. Why is that important? It's when he was arraigned in a Manhattan court. The other one was August 24th when he was booked into Fulton County jail. These are huge fundraising days. There's the mugshot, he also fundraised off of that.
I mean, the idea that people are seeing him perhaps as that victim of the deep state, as Charlie alluded to, or that he is just defiant and he is against this, what people perhaps perceive as a political persecution, the fact that he is fundraising so heavily and it's not derailing at all, significant.
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yeah, I think it's interesting because both of those dates you mentioned were also huge spectacles. I happened to be in New York, I was outside the courtroom, it was chaotic and pandemonium and people lined up.
Trump knows how to harness the spectacle for campaign and political purposes. And normally, we think about that in terms of rallies or public events. Well, now, these court cases, these hearings, are part of the spectacle. It's why he would leave the campaign trail to go to a court date that he didn't even have to be there in person for.
And again, you mentioned the fundraising. I think it's not just the victimhood of himself that he's fundraising on. He also tells his supporters, you're being persecuted, your right to elect me is being taken away by these cases.
And so, that's part of his messaging and it seems to be working. There are a lot of Republican voters who became more resolute in their support of Trump as part of this act of defiance that they consider themselves partners with him on.
COATES: What do you make of Nikki Haley slimming that lead for Trump, though, in places like New Hampshire? Now, I guess we're talking about the Iowa caucuses.
We've got a great debate coming up this week, moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. But what do you make of Nikki Haley slimming that lead?
DENT: Well, I think she's got some real momentum. And look, Iowa really doesn't determine much of anything other than the evangelical.
COATES: Don't tell Iowa that. They wouldn't like to hear that.
DENT: Well, it does determine evangelical support for a GOP candidate. But that's about it. I mean, if were going determine presidents, we could be talking about presidents Santorum, Huckabee, and Cruz, none of whom won the nomination. But New Hampshire is a better bellwether. So, when Iowa zigs, New Hampshire zags, and it's a better bellwether.
And it would seem to me that By Haley cutting that lead to single digits, she is starting to consolidate some of the non-Trump vote. And so, she comes out of Iowa in second place. She comes into New Hampshire with momentum. You know, she has a shot at winning in New Hampshire. She's a real shot.
COATES: She is doing well with undeclared and independent voters in particular. That's like --
COATES: -- everyone wants that.
MITCHELL: Right. I mean, that bodes well should Nikki Haley become the candidate of choice in a general election.
COATES: But --
MITCHELL: -- But we're talking about a primary. And not all states run their primaries like New Hampshire. You know, the polls show her struggling in her home state of South Carolina in a more traditional primary. So, I agree, she has momentum, I think, particularly if she can get some of her other competitors to bow out, the Chris Christies, the Ron DeSantises, which it could definitely become that head on. One-on-one against Trump would probably benefit Nikki Haley greatly.
But the other thing is, again, Trump is the one -- Nikki Haley has the momentum, Trump is the front runner.
COATES: Important to think about and what's going to happen next. I don't know if she can convince the DeSantis to step down, but we'll see. Charlie and Tia, both, thank you so much.
I mean, the fact of the matter is Nikki Haley is on the rise. But is it getting close to Ron DeSantis's swan song to the 2024 campaign? Someone who's out there campaigning with him, GOP Congressman Thomas Massie, joins me next.
COATES: Tonight, Donald Trump racking up more endorsements. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming becoming the highest-ranking Senate Republican to support Trump's reelection bid.
But my next guest, well, he's defying the former president. He is hitting the campaign trail for Governor Ron DeSantis. Republican Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky joins me now. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us right now.
You've heard a number, obviously, of top Republicans in the House and beyond endorsing Trump. You're not taking that path.
REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): Yeah.
COATES: And some would say it's the path less frequented. Is it a problem, do you think, in terms of your own political ambitions and career?
MASSIE: Well, you know, I've been against the president before. During the CARES Act, I made everybody come back to Congress and vote. He called up and was very not happy with me at that time. Called me a third-rate grandstander and said I should be thrown out of the party.
But I got 81% in that re-election, so I like to say I've got the Trump antibodies. I've survived an attack and now fully immune, I think. But there's a --
COATES: In the past, he has also endorsed you.
MASSIE: Yeah, and then he turned around and endorsed me last time. So, there's really no animosity there. I'm backing Governor DeSantis because I think he's the best candidate. And, you know, I'd like somebody who grew up in their 80s instead of somebody who's in their 80s to be president.
COATES: Well, hi, I'm an 80s baby. But, no, thank you.
MASSIE: Me, too.
COATES: I got to tell you. But listen, Donald Trump, according to polls, is the real true -- I mean, by leaps and bounds, frontrunner. DeSantis is not quite where he is. According to polling, they have not cast a vote yet.
COATES: Do you have reservations and concerns about supporting Ron DeSantis over somebody who is thought to be someone who will secure the nomination?
MASSIE: Well, I like an opponent who's overconfident. I've been on the ground twice, two different weeks for Ron DeSantis, just recently, this last weekend. And on the ground in Iowa, it feels different than what the polls say.
I mean, the support is organic. We had stops where there were only supposed to be 50 people, and 200 people showed up. We didn't even have microphones ready to talk to a crowd that big. So, what I saw on the ground says that, you know, Ron DeSantis is doing better than the polls say in Iowa.
COATES: He has really invested. He talked about it at his last town hall, about going to so many different counties. He contrasted himself with Donald Trump, who really has not invested in Iowa. Of course, there's the endorsement of the governor there. But it seems like he's all in for Iowa. What if he doesn't fare as expected? Will you still support him for New Hampshire?
MASSIE: I'm going to support him until the end. I mean, I think he should stay in through the convention. A lot of interesting things could happen between now and then.
MASSIE: And again, he's the best candidate. Like he says, Donald Trump is running on his issues, Nikki Haley is running on her donors' issues, and Ron DeSantis is running on the people's issues.
And the biggest contrast that I see is under Trump, we saw our national deficit, our debt, go up $8 trillion, whereas in Florida, in that same period of time, Ron DeSantis brought their debt in Florida down 25%.
COATES: This is really important to you. If you're looking at the Congress where you're sitting, the little bar, but right above it, he has -- there you go. Right above --
MASSIE: All right.
COATES: Move that thing there so they can see it. Thank you so much. He's got this clock. He has this little tabulation going. It says, the U.S. national debt end by, like, the millisecond. Tell me what this is that you have on your lapel.
MASSIE: So, I'm an engineer, so I designed a debt clock so that my colleagues would have to look at it all the time. In fact, I gave one to Governor Ron DeSantis. I was hoping that he would wear it. But he wants me to re-engineer it to display Florida's debt. But I said, I don't know if it will count down the way I've built it, because his debt went down 25% since he was there.
COATES: Well, look, you've got Speaker of the House Mike Johnson now really concerned about this issue, it seems, because, of course, the government has this two-tiered potential shutdown that might be happening. Do you have confidence that he'll get the job done? Do you think your peers believe in him? Because we know we've had more than one speaker recently.
MASSIE: And his margins are even thinner than when Kevin McCarthy was Speaker.
MASSIE: So, it's going to be tough. You know, we got some promises to reduce spending when we voted to increase the debt limit. I'm worried that in this new deal that he has struck with Schumer, that they may get rid of those promises or go back on those promises to do those cuts.
COATES: If -- final question for you. If not DeSantis, then who?
MASSIE: I'm staying with DeSantis the whole way.
COATES: You're all in?
MASSIE: I'm all in.
COATES: If he leaves the race, you're going to vote a write-in for DeSantis or you're going to bubble in someone else?
MASSIE: I will see what happens at the convention.
COATES: All right. Well, we'll see. We'll count down the clock as well. It's very, very interesting. Thank you so much, Congressman Thomas Massie.
MASSIE: Thanks, Laura.
COATES: Well, be sure to tune in to CNN tomorrow night, just five days before the Iowa caucuses, a make or break night for Republican presidential hopefuls. The CNN Republican presidential debate is live from Iowa, moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Eastern.
Up next, an all-hands safety meeting at Boeing tonight, and the company is acknowledging what they're calling a mistake over the door plug that blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight. What is that mistake?
COATES: Tonight, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun publicly speaking out, acknowledging what he calls -- quote -- "our mistake."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE CALHOUN, CEO, BOEING: We're going to approach this, number one, acknowledging our mistake. We are going to approach it with 100% and complete transparency every step of the way. We're going to work with the NTSB, who is investigating the accident itself to find out what the weak cause is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: This comes as the 737 MAX 9 inspections are delayed after regulators told Boeing to revise its instructions for how airplanes or airlines should actually inspect the jet. Both United and Alaska Airlines now say technicians have found loose hardware on some of their MAX 9s.
Federal authorities have grounded most now of those planes after the Alaska Airlines mid-flight blowout on Friday that left a gaping hole on the side of the fuselage. Now, there are more than 200 MAX-9s in service all around the world, but most of them operate right here in the United States.
CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien has been following every twist and turn of this story, and he joins me now. Miles, I got to tell you, every time I hear about this case, the statements make me a little bit more nervous each and every time about our mistake and the cause and grounding aircrafts.
There's also a source inside the Boeing safety meeting, says that this mistake, they're calling it, happened in the aircraft's manufacturing supply chain. How would quality control checks have missed something like this?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I'm stunned, Laura. And they keep saying mistake, singular. It's mistakes, plural. That's the problem here. This is not an isolated event. Boeing, not too long ago, was warning operators of loose knots in the tail section of the 737. They had some problems with the pressure bulkhead. And, of course, most notoriously, the two fatal crashes related to some software designed to keep the aircraft flying properly.
This is a series of mistakes by once the gold standard manufacturer of airlines in the world. It's just mind-boggling to anybody in aviation that these bolts would not be turned properly to the right torques and little wires put through them to make sure they don't get loose. And as far as we know, there weren't any bolts on the door, which was ejected from that aircraft, and that is just stunning.
COATES: I mean, well, a three-year-old can tell you righty-tighty lefty-loosey. I'm just telling you right now about in terms of it's not even an airplane at this point in time.
But listen to this. I mean, the NTSB says that the Alaska plane that lost this fuselage, code for a side door, flew out of an airplane. It was not being used over water because a pressurization warning light had gone off during three recent flights. I just don't understand how the conditions could be, all right, fly it, just not over water. How does that possibly make sense?
O'BRIEN: Well, what you have in that scenario is you have a pressurization system that is triply redundant.
And the first layer of that system was blinking, saying there was a problem. Now, it's likely now, as we look back on this, that some sort of leak had developed in that door, which was causing that light to go on, but they couldn't figure out what it was.
Alaska Airlines had a policy that if you didn't have triply redundant pressurization systems, you don't do that long flight over water which is, by the way, the longest flight over water on the planet without an alternate landing site. So, that was the airline's decision, out of an abundance of caution, not to do that.
Why they flew over land is they could because they had two more systems to ensure the airplane stayed pressurized. What was happening, however, possibly, is that door was causing a leak and the airplane was screaming at maintenance to do something about it but they didn't know because they didn't have any sensor there telling them that it was a problem.
COATES: Wow! There's a lot more to learn about what's going on here and gives a lot of people pause. We need your expertise to help us feel comfortable, knowing the investigation continues in this moment. Thank you so much, Miles O'Brien. And hey, thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues.