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Laura Coates Live

Dixville Notch To Cast First Votes In New Hampshire Primary; Dixville Notch Votes: All 6 Votes For Nikki Haley; DeSantis Drops Out Of 2024 Race, Leaving Trump And Haley To Face Off In New Hampshire; Fulton County DA Fani Willis' Deposition On Hold in Deputy's Divorce Case. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 23, 2024 - 00:00   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN HOST, LAURA COATES LIVE: Kicking off the first-in- the-nation New Hampshire Republican primary. CNN's Eva McKend is live in Dixville Notch to tell us what to expect there.

Eva, walk me through the process there. How is all of this going to go down?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Laura, don't blink because you might miss it. It's all going to be over within just a few minutes here. So much anticipation from midnight. So, six residents in this community, four Republicans, two independents, are going to make their way down here. And some of the town officials sitting, they also get up and vote, and then they sit back down. That's how small this community is.

They're going to vote behind these American flags here, and then they're going to come out and then they're going to cast their ballots in that box here. And then, when it's all said and done, the votes will be written up on that whiteboard. And we are going to know how the first community in New Hampshire is feeling about these candidates here in the first-in-the-nation primary.

So, it's all getting started right now, Laura. The first voter here about to cast his ballot. This is really an exciting process. This all started because the former owner of The Balsams Resort here, he wanted a way for the people in this community to be able to participate in this process, without having to drive nearly an hour away in the snow, in the winter. And so, that is why he made this possible, and he pushed for Dixville Notch to be incorporated so that people in this community could vote.

COATES: I love the fact that they're able to have the same process that you would see in a larger jurisdiction, people going behind a curtain, this time the flag, to cast their vote. There are only six people there. You're watching them actually put the actual ballot into the box, doing it with a handshake and moving on. And, of course, that means five other people are now going to have a chance to cast their ballot. And we're seeing democracy at a smaller level. But, certainly, in action, there are six total. What do you know, Eva, about their political backgrounds, in general?

MCKEND: So, four Republicans, two independents. One of the voters that I spoke with earlier this evening, he told me that he's a lifelong Republican, but he did vote for President Biden in 2020. And that is reflective of some of what you hear from these New Hampshire voters. Many of them moderate independents, especially the ones that have been turning out to Nikki Haley rallies. I don't know how instructive he is of the rest of the five, but at least one person sort of leaning in the moderate lane here, Laura.

COATES: Eva, standby. We're going to keep watching this voting. Thank you so much.

All right. We'll get right to our political commentators Kate Bedingfield and Jamal Simmons; CNN contributor Leah Wright Rigueur, and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh is also -- are also here with me right now.

But, we're watching this very small town, Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. Obviously, there are only six people talk about a microcosm of the greater democracy. But if you were to scale this experience, I think a huge takeaway is the benefit of watching democracy in action, Joe, because we're talking about months and months and years at this point of people challenging this system, doubting this system, wanting to have transparency. You've got site in line -- a site in there right now.

JOE WALSH, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It's cool. These are the first six people --

COATES: You say it's cool. I had this whole eloquent thing, and you're like, right on.

WALSH: You floored me because it was beautiful. These are the first six of what will be millions of Americans who will vote in primaries, and we get to watch the first six vote. I don't know how old they are, Laura. But -- so, I'm hoping that this jurisdiction can stay alive for a while.

COATES: Well, I'll tell you --

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One other thing about this election in Dixville Notch is, and I've been there, and we are that far north in New Hampshire. It's a long way away from Manchester, which is kind of the population center. In the old days, all the candidates used to go up there, like, they go talk to these voters, get them -- to get to know them a little bit. And the trick was, you would win Dixville Notch. That would get you a spot on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. So, all the candidates who wanted a little extra juice going into the Election Day, they got it by winning Dixville Notch.

It's not quite the big to do as it was maybe 15 or 20 years ago, but it is still something that's remarkable.


SIMMONS: Absolutely. Yeah.

RIGUEUR: Add Dixville Notch to the list.

COATES: Okay. It's -- it is like, I read though that they have been able to predict every Republican primary race since from 1968 to 2012.

WALSH: Dixville Notch?

COATES: Dix -- that's what I am telling you. It's a whole thing. They -- look at all the people. But now, of course, it does stop with people who are more recent, as you can imagine, but it is quite telling. But let's just talk broadly --

SIMMONS: Because nobody predicted Donald Trump. That's why.

COATES: Well, even Dixville Notch.

SIMMONS: And Dixville Notch was not different than anybody else in the country.

COATES: Dixville Notch, Punxsutawney Phil --

SIMMONS: Nobody predicted --

COATES: No one saw it coming. Let me ask you, though, when you are talking about New Hampshire more broadly,


I mean, this is now between Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. That's what Haley has wanted. Trump doesn't seem to be fazed by it at all. When you look ahead, this is the first of all the voters in New Hampshire going to cast their ballots. When you look at what might happen, what do you see?

RIGUEUR: So, I want to push back a little bit, because I think Trump is fazed, because originally, he was like I'm not putting money into the state. Couldn't care less. And all of a sudden, in the last minute, he's pumping up the attack ads. He has been pouring money into the state. He's there in New Hampshire right now campaigning, pounding the ground, meeting with these people, right? Social media hasn't killed that much. And I think part of it is not just one and being concerned about Nikki Haley. I think he knows he has this wrapped up. But it's also about how he wins. Is it going to be a large sweeping win? Is it going to be a small win? Is it going to say something about the state of the Republican Party?

And one thing that is fascinating about New Hampshire is that it is a different kind of Republican Party. So, we're not talking about --

COATES: Didn't say Iowa.

RIGUEUR: Didn't say Iowa, right, or even South Carolina or even California, these various other things. I think the voters in New Hampshire in the Republican primary really pride themselves on being independent. Many of them are socially liberal. And they fall into these Republican camps in really different ways.

So, for Donald Trump, this may look like it's wrapped up. But there's still work to be done. And I think one of the things that we can pull, even though as an academic, we would say, this is statistically irrelevant, this is all coincident, this is the same chase as Groundhog's Day. There is something that we can pull beyond the kind of exercise of democracy, which is that sometimes the voters showcase startling surprises. We were talking during the break about how, one year, Michael Bloomberg won this contest. Bernie Sanders coming out first and surprising everyone. And so, sometimes, I think it can be a bellwether of these kinds of very different or microcosm of these very different emotions and ideas and values that voters are feeling on the ground.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I do think for Nikki Haley, she's going to have a really practical problem coming through tomorrow unless she really overperforms in a way that blows everybody away --

WALSH: Yeah.

BEDINGFIELD: -- which is, she's not going to be able to keep raising money. I mean, this is kind of her last stand to say to people --

WALSH: Yeah.

BEDINGFIELD: -- I'm a viable Trump alternative. And if she doesn't absolutely blow the doors off it tomorrow night, it's going to be hard for her to keep raising money.

COATES: Well, the door is coming off the ballot box, as we speak. The lock has been taken off. They're getting ready to count. Let's go back to Eva McKend. What are you seeing?

MCKEND: Yeah. So, everyone is --

COATES: Eva, what are you seeing, Eva? There you go.

MCKEND: -- and they are now starting the tally here. Yep. They're now starting the tally here. And this should be over within a matter of minutes, Laura. From 1968 to 2012, this community has picked primary winners. And so, everyone sort of looks to see what Dixville Notch is going to do.

But earlier tonight, one of the residents here told me is, don't spend so much time focusing on the fact that they pick primary winners, and more the fact that they track through the wilderness to be able to vote, and they want to send a message to other New Hampshire residents to get out and vote to, and send that message to voters across the country as well.

COATES: Are you able to hear them as they're tallying right now? Are we getting --

MCKEND: So, we will be quiet. I can hear the tally.

COATES: Yeah. Let's hear it for a second. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they said they just want (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They also love --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a -- that was a vote for Nikki Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another vote for Nikki Haley. So, that's two votes for Nikki Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. Two votes for Nikki Haley.

MCKEND: Two votes for Nikki Haley.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Five to six, yeah, Nikki Haley. Nikki Haley, three votes for Nikki Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three votes for Nikki Haley.

MCKEND: Half of the votes so far have gone to Nikki Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three votes for Nikki Haley.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four for Nikki Haley so far.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now she has the majority.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a vote for Nikki Haley.

MCKEND: Enough of votes for Nikki Haley. Five in six for Nikki Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Waiting for the results.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a vote for Nikki Haley.


MCKEND: Nikki Haley has captured all six votes here in Dixville Notch. I know from the residents here that she did reach out to the residents in this community and invited to meet with them privately. That seems to have paid off, as every resident in this community has supported Nikki Haley. So, those are the results from the first community in the first-in-the-nation primary, Laura.

COATES: COATES: So important to think about this.


I want to bring back up that graphic we had that kind of yearbook photo for a second of all the people who had that predictive value. We were talking about the years that Dixville Notch predicted the Republican nominee. I'm seeing some presidents in there, obviously, some who did not ultimately win the presidency as well.

I wonder, Joe, when you look at this, and you know, of course, it's just six people.

WALSH: Just six, Laura.

COATES: Five, though. She'd be -- but small. She is mighty. I'm just saying. What do you think?

WALSH: I want to believe. Laura, you know what I think about Trump. I just -- I think it's too late. New Hampshire is her best chance to win a state. I think Trump is going to win by more than people think. I think then she is going to get out within a week or two. It's just too late.

COATES: Well, you guys --

WALSH: I would love a surprise.

SIMMONS: What I would say is, I think this is the bigger impact on what's going to happen in the fall, right? This is a vote of no confidence in Donald Trump, if there is anything --

WALSH: These are moderates. Yeah.

SIMMONS: These are moderates. In New Hampshire, obviously, they're more libertarians --

WALSH: Yeah.

SIMMONS: -- than they are liberals, right? People who say you do what you do and let the government stay out of your business. And so, I think that is the problem for Donald Trump. He lost the state last time. He's probably going to lose it again.

BEDINGFIELD: Absolutely. I mean, I -- this kind of overperformance is the kind of overperformance she is going to need tomorrow to continue to have a viable campaign, unfortunately for those of us who love democracy and don't want to see Donald Trump be the Republican nominee.

But yes, I mean, I agree with Jamal. This is -- as we start to look toward the kind of what seems like inevitability of him becoming the nominee, he has significant general election vulnerabilities. He is not appealing to those moderate swing suburban voters who are going to be decisive in the key states that are ultimately going to decide the elections. So that's going to be a problem for him.

COATES: We're looking at the actual official votes now. Obviously, we've said there's six. It's very rare that you're going to have a candidate get 100 percent of anything.

While we're talking about this, I mean, I often wonder about the path forward. I mean, it's one thing, obviously, we've got 50 states, and a piecemeal approach where the eating an elephant one bite at a time might be conceptually okay. But when it comes to getting those delegates, you actually have to have a path forward beyond not just this step, but two or three steps down the road.

When you look at the path, does she -- if this were to portend the future, is there a path following New Hampshire?

SIMMONS: I mean, Kate made a -- the most interesting point of any political campaign. You don't stop campaigning when you lose. You stop campaigning when you run out of money, right? And so, she's going to have to raise money to keep this thing going.

And so, the question is that you do well enough that her donors decide to put a little bit more money in. But what's happening in the Republican Party that we're seeing is that everybody is scared of Donald Trump. And I think a lot of people who may be interested in finding somebody else to take him on have decided this thing is already cooked. Let me just get out and get on board, so I don't get punished by the guy who is the authoritarian trying to take over the country.

RIGUEUR: So, I agree with what everyone said. But I have to put in, again, the Hail Mary perspective. And I think one of the things that we've seen over the past couple of weeks is that the number of Republican donors, Republican moderate donors and kind of independent donors who've been willing to contribute has actually gone up for Nikki Haley. And that's because they see some sliver, a possibility or pathway for her.

Now, do I think it's there? No. But a lot of that rests on Trump being disqualified from certain states, or Trump's legal troubles catching up with him. And so, I think, again, this is part of this completely inconceivable, probably most likely won't happen. But it is, I think, valuable or at least the donors are putting some value in this. But ultimately, it does come down to when does the money run out? Right.

COATES: What I like about this in particular, I have to tell you, coming from some place that -- as a Minnesotan, not coming from the New York's, the Washington, D.C., the Chicago's, the LA's, where it seems that everyone wants to focus on the biggest cities in the country they say, and you've got smaller jurisdictions. Obviously, Minnesota is not as small as a Dixville Notch. But the emphasis being that candidates have to go around the entirety of this state makes me wonder how that is playing with those candidates who say, well, you know what, I'm far enough ahead or maybe I'm the incumbent President, and I don't have the same luxury, maybe have time to do so. Does this tell you that there should still be the emphasis on what is "the flyover country?" SIMMONS: Well, this is what's charming about New Hampshire, right? Anybody has ever campaigned there just probably enjoyed it a lot, because it is charming to be able to go there and do it. The problem is the predictive nature of New Hampshire isn't what it used to be.

And so, particularly in the Democratic Party, where we're a much more diverse party, people of color, African Americans, Latinos have much more of a say, New Hampshire ain't really it, right? Like, those people aren't really as much in a state like New Hampshire.


SIMMONS: So, the Democrats have decided let's go to states where we have more representative voters who really represent our coalition. And that's why you're going to see a real contest for the President, the first one in South Carolina.

COATES: We'll see what happens there. Everyone stick around. Don't worry. And where's that accordion player, because I liked it. I am not going to -- I liked it. You all saw Nikki Haley sweep all six votes in Dixville Notch. We'll talk to the Town Manager right after this.



RON DESANTIS, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I can't ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources if we don't have a clear path to victory. Accordingly, I am today suspending my campaign. It's clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance.



COATES: Ron DeSantis bowing out of the presidential campaign days after vowing to remain in the 2024 race.


DESANTIS: You helped us get a ticket punched out of the Hawkeye State. We have a lot of work to do. But I can tell you this. As the next President of the United States, I am going to get the job done for this country.


COATES: So, what exactly happened? My panel is back with me. I mean, first of all, you look at maybe a year or a year-and-a-half ago at all of the potential trajectory of this man's career, potentially as being the President of United States. He was an early frontrunner. Then it seemed to go downhill from there. What happened?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, he had two big problems, both of which I think are illustrated by that video dropping out, right? One is, he never made a compelling case, differentiating himself from Donald Trump. He basically spent the bulk of the campaign saying, Donald Trump is kind of great, but I'm also pretty good. You should maybe vote for me. He never said -- he never made a clear case. He never took on Trump in a meaningful way.

And then, two, he was lacking in charm and an ability to connect. I mean, typically, when a candidate drops out of the race, it's one of the -- actually one of the most sort of human and relatable moments, and it's like perfectly emblematic of the problems that Ron DeSantis had connecting with voters that it was this -- that he dropped out with this incredibly sanitized, impersonal video --

WALSH: Unlikable.

BEDINGFIELD: -- video, unlikable video where he basically said --

WALSH: Yeah.

BEDINGFIELD: -- Donald Trump is great and you should go vote for him.

WALSH: What happened was DeSantis happened, partly. And those of us who know him, he's just -- he's an unlikable guy who doesn't like to be around people. But the other thing that happened, Laura, is my former party became a cult. Trump is the cult leader. I don't think anybody could have beaten him for this nomination. And certainly, Kate is right. DeSantis made no case to try to beat him.

COATES: But he has been elected twice as Governor of Florida. He also has been elected as a member of Congress. So, clearly, there is some pull. There is some draw, and he has proven that maybe not at the presidential level. So, is there something about obviously that next step out of the statewide office that makes it such that what qualities he projected are just not viable to the general, or is it really Trump?

SIMMONS: One thing also is he is hubris (ph). Right? I mean, it just reminds me of Jeb Bush, who also was a Florida Governor, right, who ran for President, and it didn't work out, and everybody in the Republican Party was supposed to be there for Jeb Bush, and he was the candidate in waiting.

And hubris never really works. You really do have to campaign like your life depends on it. You have to get out there and push and push and push. And I think one of the things we saw from DeSantis, see, he talks about himself. He narrowcast it very early. He tried to prove that he was the most pure Republican MAGA person other than Donald Trump that was out there. And really, he never had a message that spoke to the rest of the country about what he wanted to do, where he wanted to take us. And I think he paid the price for that.

COATES: You're right. It's like the Coke -- Diet Coke, like, everyone kept talking about, why choose one of the other.

RIGUEUR: Well, and why choose DeSantis when you have Donald Trump right there.


RIGUEUR: And I think that's even true prior to Donald Trump being the frontrunner, right, because everyone forgets, like, two years ago, Donald Trump was not in this race. We were talking about where is he going? Is he going to feed off into oblivion? Is he going to start his own network or something like that? And there's this resurgence that happens really over the course of the last 18 months -- 12 months that I think really centers around the indictments, the various indictments that he's facing.

But even before that, Ron DeSantis is a cheap imitation of Donald Trump. And so, I think the Republican race that once Donald Trump or at least once Trumpism, they may actually want -- they may not want Donald Trump, but they may want Trumpism. They don't want an imitation. They don't want someone coming in in costume and pretending to be Donald Trump, because the only person that can be Donald Trump is Donald Trump. It looks very, very poor when someone steps in and tries to act as if that's their demeanor.

The other thing I think that is deeply problematic is that as DeSantis started slipping in the polls, right, he has all this money. He starts mismanaging it. And there's a real, like, implosion within the campaign about what to do with that money, how to spend it, where to go, what to do. And the fact that there isn't really a vision tells us a lot more, I think, about his fitness, right, irrespective of the policy, but his fitness to actually run a successful presidential campaign. He wasn't ready in 2024 and he's certainly not going to be ready in 2028.

SIMMONS: Then there is the most malpractice moment of the campaign. I'd said it before. I'll say it again. I do not understand why they spend any time whatsoever debating Gavin Newsom.


SIMMONS: Gavin Newsom was not running for President. It would be like debating me, right, just because I'm on television, talking about DeSantis. It just did not make any sense to me.

COATES: Maybe a preview to maybe 2028. We'll see what happens. Everyone, stick around. Next, the Town Manager for Dixville Notch joins me to discuss Nikki Haley's six-vote 100 percent sweep there.


COATES: Well, voters in Dixville Notch have cast the first votes in the New Hampshire primary. All six voters have chosen Nikki Haley.


Joining me now the Dixville Notch Town Manager, Tom Tillotson. Tom, thank you so much for joining us. We were watching it all unfold, and we saw the results. A six-vote 100 percent tweak tonight. Why is it that Nikki Haley resonated so much in your community?

Tom, are you able to hear me? TOM TILLOTSON, DIXVILLE NOTCH TOWN MANAGER: She's young.


TILLOTSON: Yes, I am. Can you hear me okay? Yeah.

COATES: I can hear you. Thank you.

TILLOTSON: I think the most important -- yeah. I think the most important point of the results were the two independents that voted for her. And now, New Hampshire is in a situation where like a lot of the country doesn't want to see Biden-Trump rematch, where -- but the independents who represent 40 percent of the vote in Dixville -- in -- not in Dixville, but in the state overall, having been told for months that, you know, they don't count because it's going to be Trump and it's going to be Biden.

And I think the most important takeaway from our lean towards Nikki Haley is that that doesn't necessarily have to be the way it is. And if the independent voters get out tomorrow -- today -- well, later on, we'll be getting to bed about the time they're getting up. But when they go -- when they get up and if they have any doubt about whether to go vote, please consider what we -- we got up at midnight to vote and did our part. It's now time for all the other 40 percent of the voters in New Hampshire to get up and do their part.

COATES: A very --



TILLOTSON: Well, in this divided -- yeah, I was just going to say, this divided country, the people in the middle have -- for their -- their voices need to be heard. And in our system, that's the ballot box. So that's the most important, I think, takeaway from what happened here and little Dixville Notch to know.

COATES: Well, little Dixville Notch making a big impression.

Tom Tillotson, thank you so much. It's a really important point, particularly about independent voters and not taking anyone's vote for granted. Thank you so much.

TILLOTSON: You're welcome. Have a good evening.

COATES: You too -- or good morning.

Next, more from my exclusive interview with Vice President Kamala Harris. Her candid reaction to the Republican narrative that a vote for President Biden is actually a vote for her.




COATES: Welcome back. I sat down with Vice President Kamala Harris earlier today to talk about a host of issues, including the Republican narrative that a vote for President Biden is actually a vote for her. Here's what she told me.


COATES: You hear candidates suggesting that a vote for President Biden, because of his age, is somehow a vote for you. And that is hurled as an insult. It's intended to demonstrate some negative viewpoint towards you. What is your reaction to this thought that with your background, in particular, with your career, that there is some thought that you are incapable?

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I think that most women who have risen in their profession, who are leaders in their profession have had similar experiences, to be elected District Attorney. I was the first woman to be elected (inaudible) and I'm the first woman to be Vice President. And I love my job.


COATES: Back with my panel now. What is your reaction to the intimation that this is really focusing on a woman in power?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Look, she's right. She's right. I mean, can you remember another campaign in modern history where the attack was so directly focused on the Vice President or the Vice President was singled out in this way?

She's right. Of course, there's an element of sexism to this. Now, I would argue that doesn't mean that the response is just, well, it's sexism and that's it. And I actually thought the way that she handled that was great, which is to say, listen, women -- you know, a lot of women have experienced this, but you know what, I love my job. And then she can go to and, here all the things I've done and here all the ways that I'm getting things done for you.

So I -- you know, I think that the way she kind of touched on it and acknowledged it and talked about it in a way that resonates with -- with women across the country who, by the way, are a very important voting bloc that the Biden-Harris ticket needs to win the election. I thought that was smart.

I thought by sort of taking it from just her and making it about the collective experience of women who've experienced sexism, I thought that was smart. But I think the answer can't stop there. And I think she needs to, as she did there, kind of go to, but I love the substance of my job and here's what I'm doing every day to get things done.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, let me tell you, obviously I was the Vice President of Communications Director. I spent every day with her for a year, the most part. Everywhere that we went and I was with her, I saw women from young

girls who looked at her like she was wonder woman who want to shake her hand to older women who would grab her hand and say, I never thought I would see the day.


Even some who were Republicans, I didn't vote for you, I never thought that I would see the day that a woman would be in the White House.

And I think there is something about this attack on her that is not going to ring well -- ring true and ring well for a lot of women in the country who even if they may not like the policies of the Biden- Harris Administration, they do feel a certain amount of pride that we were able to go -- get to this class barrier, and she was able to do it.

COATES: Is there a fair criticism towards her?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, I do think it is fair to point out that Vice President Harris has low favorability ratings. But I think it's actually -- it's not a smart strategy. One, because people do not elect presidents based on who the Vice President is. They never have. You know, we always have these debates around, you know, who the Vice President is going to be, et cetera, et cetera. And yet, that's not when people go into the voting booth, they actually vote for the President of the United States. That's what makes the determination.

COATES: But here you're arguing -- I don't want to cut you off, but --


COATES: -- the way they're arguing that because of Biden's age, it becomes relevant for a brand-new reason, and that's why it's a new strategy.

RIGUEUR: Right. So it's a relatively new strategy, and yet it's built on an old one that doesn't necessarily work. The other thing that I think -- is to point out is how it may actually backfire, which is, one, we do know that women will rally around this, particularly in feeling like women in professional settings who have often heard about unlikability or likability and those kinds of things of that nature.

But it's also true that one of the things that has been happening is that black women have been rallying around Kamala Harris in a way that I think is really important for mobilizing and organizing Democratic voters who have been less enthusiastic this cycle.

So the last thing that you want to do if you're a Republican, is excite the other side around something that should be a non-issue. So why stick it to the first, the Black and Asian woman Vice President and use that as a strategy when effectively it may incur a rather large backlash?

COATES: Why Joe? Why? JOE WALSH, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, because the other

point is -- and it is an attack on her. But you mentioned it, Laura. It's an attack on Biden. It's an attack on his age. And I think team Biden and Harris could do -- could go a long way if the President embrace the age issue. And -- I mean, it's the elephant in the room. I wish he'd embrace it more. I wish he'd have fun with it. I wish he'd acknowledge it because it's also an attack on him. He ought to diffuse it.

SIMMONS: I know he makes more jokes about this than we are giving him credit for at the table. I mean, he seems to be kind of leaning into --

WALSH: He should, I should.

BEDINGFIELD: I would agree. He has started to lean into it more and has started to kind of joke about it and sort of make self-deprecating jokes that, sort of to your point, Joe, that kind of helped take it off the table, sort of puts people at ease. But he has --

COATES: But does he do that?

BEDINGFIELD: He has started to do that more.

COATES: I mean, does it have that effect? I mean, it's one thing to talk about it. But if you are seeing an aging -- I mean, this is a Congressional issue more broadly, this is a government issue more broadly. And I think it's not for many voters a Biden-specific issue. People are wondering what and who is the future of their parties.


COATES: And so I do wonder by mentioning it, does it diffuse it or does it just --


WALSH: He should be the nominee, and he's got a hell of a record. But everybody is wondering about this. I wish he would come out, Laura, and say, I wish they --

COATES: Say what (inaudible) --

WALSH: Laura, here's what. Yes. I wish they'd let them out more and I wish he'd say, I'm going to mess up some names, I'm going to make some way. But damn it, look what we've done. Have fun with it. Everybody's got a parent or a grandparent like this, but he's doing a lot.

BEDINGFIELD: But here's the other -- the other thing he's doing and the other way that they take this on is by talking about the wisdom that comes with experience.

WALSH: Yeah.

COATES: Yes. BEDINGFIELD: Right. I mean, it's that's the other way to attack this.

There is the self-deprecating piece, which I agree is -- is -- it puts people at ease and it's helpful. But, you know, the other substantive way to take this on is to say, you know, yes, have I been at this a long time? I have. And because of that, I know how to do it, I know how to reach across the aisle, I've been able to get bipartisan work done.

WALSH: Look what we've done. Yeah.

BEDINGFIELD: Look what we've done. So, that's the other way to wrap around it, and that's -- you hear the President. You hear the President do that.

RIGUEUR: And I think too, it's also true that the American public says we want young presidents, we want young presidents. And then when they're given the option of having young presidents, they very rarely choose the young president. There are few notable exceptions, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, Jr. But it's between somebody who's really young and somebody who is really old.

BEDINGFIELD: That's right.

RIGUEUR: They choose the one who is experienced because Americans say time after time, they want experience, they want wisdom, and they value that as opposed to, for example, when Al Gore first entered into the Democratic primary, they said, oh, we're going to have a boy President, he's too young. He was knocked out. And it was 100 percent because of his age.

SIMMONS: You know, I'll also say this, Laura.

The Vice President has been a very key ally partner to the President. She's in meetings in the Oval Office. She's in meetings in the Situation Room. She's been traveling back and forth to Europe around questions around Ukraine. She does meetings with all these foreign dignitaries around -- from around the world.


So, what we've seen over the course of her time in the White House is somebody who has really gotten more comfortable in the role. She's really started to have a substantive impact. I think there are stories about the President really feeling like he can turn to her to ask certain questions and know where she's headed. So I think this attack on her is a dated attack.

It's an attack that's probably built on something from like a year- and-a-half ago or a couple of years ago where people had a sense about her. Over the last year-and-a-half, I think you've seen this Vice President really come into her own as a leader inside the White House.

COATES: Well, we will see. Wasn't it, Rigueur, who made that comment that he was not going to take a shot at his opponent's age and, of course, he was the older of the two? That's what acting in Hollywood can get you people. Thank you, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us.

And hey, I know you're new to the family, Leah. Thank you for being here and for your viewpoints. Thank you.

The District Attorney in the Georgia elections subversion case against Trump facing some big conflict of interest questions over an alleged affair with the lead prosecutor that she hired. Now, a judge is unsealing that prosecutor's divorce records.




COATES: Tonight, a judge pausing Fulton County DA Fani Willis' deposition in divorce proceedings involving her lead prosecutor in the Georgia election subversion case. But she's not in the clear yet, as she herself face the allegations that they had an affair. The Judge saying that he wants to hear Nathan Wade's testimony first, and also announcing that documents related to Wade's divorce will be unsealed.

Joining me now, CNN Legal Analyst, Norm Eisen.

Norm, I'm so glad you're here, because when you look at this issue, it's not a matter of whether there's been criminal conduct alleged, this is in the umbrella of ethical violations more broadly. You are the White House ethics Czar. What do you say?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I see a situation where some unwise decisions appear to have been made. But when you look at Georgia law, over the weekend, I read all the disqualifications. And the fact pattern here, including a consensual relationship between two prosecutors, has never been a basis for disqualification under Georgia law.

I know of no case nationally where that has ever led to disqualification because the key test for disqualification is what prejudice is there to a defendant. Now, when you have a prosecutor who has a relationship with a witness, that's different. It goes to the evidence in the case. So I don't think they're going to be disqualified. That doesn't mean it's smart.

COATES: But what about -- why is the money aspect a part of this conversation? How funds were used and paid for? Does that signal anything to you?

EISEN: Mr. Wade has been paid the standard rate for special counsels, $250 an hour. There's another one of the special counsels on the case who's made that rate. No cause for suspicion there. He's done a great job up until now, Laura. He's defeated some of the most prestigious lawyers in the country. Him and the team he's led under the DA's supervision, he's secured for guilty pleas from hardcore former Trump followers. He's been worth every penny. There's no issue there of quality. Nevertheless, this has become a

gigantic distraction from what is one of the most important criminal prosecutions alleged wrongdoing in American history. And for that reason, I think Mr. Wade should follow that record of success by saying, hey, I've become a distraction, time to step away.

COATES: So, not an ethical violation, not one based on criminal conduct, or as you're saying, that goes to the heart of the facts in this case, but under the guise of, look, if you were a judge, you'd ask him to recuse for a hint of impropriety. This is enough for you there? Was that -- is that it?

EISEN: Well, when you -- you have to distinguish between Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis.

COATES: Right.

EISEN: She was democratically elected. Again, I think they've done a very competent job on this case, beyond competent. The evidence is powerful. There's no question about the basis for filing charges here. But we live in the real world, not in the ivory tower of these abstract legal principles where there will be no disqualification according to the law.

It has become right thing to do for the case for the DA, and really for the public interest and the interests of miss -- of justice is for Mr. Wade to follow his other successes by saying, the time has come, you got to know when to hold them, when to fold them. It's time for him to fold them.

And I think, with Judge hearing -- the Judge hearing this case, having an evidentiary hearing, get all the evidence out, today the divorce records were unsealed. Guess what? There was nothing new in those divorce records going to the issues. I think when we have that ventilation, if Mr. Wade is willing to step away, that will help us get past this, get back to the evidence that is so strong.


COATES: Who knew that almost 1 AM, I would hear Kenny Rogers from Norm Eisen.

Thank you so much. No one to hold them, no one to fold them. Look, we know when to fold them. But before we leave tonight, here's a classic moment from The West Wing. Their fictional version of Dixville Notch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- purest. They all gather at once --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: at a gas station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a gas station. It's nice. There's a registrar of voters. Names are called in alphabetical order. They put a folded piece of paper into a box. See? This is the difference between you and me. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a sap?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those 42 people are teaching us something about ourselves that freedom is the glory of God, that democracy is its birthright, and that our vote matters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're getting the pizza or --?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I should call ahead.


COATES: Enjoy your pizza, everyone. Hey, listen. I'll be live on Instagram @thelauracoates for my after-show in just a couple of minutes. Be sure to tune in. Our coverage continues.