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Laura Coates Live

More Delays Encountered In Mar-A-Lago Classified Documents Case; Actress Leah McSweeney Sues Producer Andy Cohen And Bravo For Psychological Warfare; College Basketball Player Caitlin Clark Announce Her Final College Season As She's Enters The WNBA Draft. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 01, 2024 - 23:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: The 20-month-old son of the feigned aviator Charles Lindbergh abducted from his family's home in New Jersey. A ransom note was found on the nursery window sill demanding $50,000 -- that's the equivalent of nearly $1.1 million today. It was dubbed the "Crime of the Century".


UNKNOWN: Not a single suspicion, unverified, in the search for the most famous baby in the world.


PHILLIP: That case ended in tragedy. Two months later, the baby's body found just a few miles from the home. A German-born carpenter was ultimately found guilty and was executed. The crime led Congress to pass a law that made kidnapping a federal offense. And thank you for watching "NEWSNIGHT". LAURA COATES LIVE starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: What a week, and it's only the first day of March. Tonight on LAURA COATES LIVE. You know, the stakes really could not be any higher. And Donald Trump's preferred legal strategy, it comes down to a single word. Well, actually, three words. Say it with me, delay, delay, delay. And you know what? It looks to be working.

The Mar-a-Lago classified documents case could get pushed back until now, maybe even after the election in November. And there has been no decision today from a judge in that make or break hearing of whether D.A. Fani Willis out of Fulton County should be removed and disqualified, frankly, from Georgia's election subversion case.

The judge says that he will rule within two weeks, but the clock is ticking. So, now they're adding another D word to the strategy. This time the word is -- distract. A parade of defense attorneys in Georgia making the case all about Fani Willis and Nathan Wade's relationship, about who lived where, when, for how long they stayed and visited, about who paid for what and how. Well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN MERCHANT, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She put her boyfriend in the spot, paid him, and then reaped the benefits from it, that she created the system and then didn't tell anybody about it.


COATES: Lawyers for the D.A.'s office insist that there was no conflict of interest.


UNKNOWN: We have absolutely no evidence that Ms. Willis received any financial gain or benefit. The testimony was that Ms. Willis paid all of the money back in cash.


COATES: And the judge, let's just say he's got some questions.


SCOTT MCAFEE, SUPERIOR COURT OF FULTON COUNTY: If someone, you know, buys their boss a stick of gum, is that per se, disqualifying because there's no materiality requirement?

MERCHANT: Well, no, I don't disagree that it may not meet a materiality requirement, but it's a personal benefit.


COATES: Is it a stick of gum? First of all, if you're buying your boss a stick of gum, well, I have questions about that, as well. But let's not forget what this entire case is really all about. The former President of the United States and others allegedly made efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state."


COATES: So, on Monday, nearly every Trump case may have been in a forward motion. Now tonight, nearly every Trump case is up in the air. The judge in the Mar-a-Lago case didn't even tip her hand when she might even set a new trial date, but she did ask questions about the prospect of holding a trial close to Election Day with you-know-who potentially on the ballot.

The Special Counsel D.A., Jack Smith, or Special Counsel Jack Smith, wants a July 8th start date. And then there's a Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments the week of April 22nd on Trump's claim that he has immunity in Jack Smith's election subversion case. And the clock is ticking for Trump to come up with now 454 million

bucks in his New York civil fraud case. And that also adds interest on a daily basis. And oh yeah, Super Tuesday, remember that? Well, that is four days away.

Let's bring in two prominent defense attorneys who know what it's like to have the weight of the government against them. Former Trump Attorney, Tim Parlatore is here, and Criminal Defense Attorney, Randi Harden.

So glad to have both of you guys here. First of all, you all know how difficult it can be, obviously, to go against the government, right? It's the United States versus, there's a lot of resources at play, et cetera.

The strategy has to be either attack the timing of the trial, obviously the defense is going to be key, but what is going to be the main strategy? I mean, Trump is one defendant, but really his tactics are not very unique, are they?


TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: You know, I mean, it is one of those things where you want to try to attack the evidence. You know, this is a unique situation because of the election and because of the possibility of him becoming President again, where I think that they are going for more of a delay tactic to see if they can push it out past that. Yeah, but it's -- it's a very odd situation and not something you normally have to deal with.

COATES: Well, it seems very transparent, Brandi. I mean, if we're all speculating about the idea of the motivation to push beyond the election, which is interesting in and of itself, wouldn't a judge be able to see right through that?

BRANDI HARDEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: I would think so. And it's clear that in all of these cases, what's happening is delay, delay, delay. In every single one of these cases, I think his legal team asks for more time. They ask for different dates. I think today in the Florida case, initially, Jack Smith said that he could do it in July and they said, oh, well, I mean, we really don't want to do it this -- we don't want to do it this year at all, but if we have to do it, we can do it in August. And I think there's a strategy reason behind that --


HARDEN: -- because that would keep the case that's in front of Judge Chutkan in U.S. District Court here in D.C. from happening really at all. Because I think the government said today they're going to call about 40 witnesses in that case in Florida. And if you have 40 witnesses at a trial, there's no way there's going to be enough time for another trial before the election.

COATES: And of course, the Supreme Court has until the end of June to decide what they want to do. They're taking their sweet time already. I mean, April 22nd, oral argument for a case he took up right now, not a whole lot of urgency.

So, if you do the math or do the calendar, looks at that, Tim, that would mean maybe June, you might have a holding and a ruling from the Supreme Court. Then you've got a trial date in July or August. That's only room for one before the general election.

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, and that presumes, you know, that you're able to get to a trial that quickly. I mean, there still are, you know, motions and discovery and all of the other things that you normally do in a case.

And you know, one of the things here, when they are asking for adjournments out past the election, it does really tip your hand. I mean, the reality is cases like this, cases with this significance of discovery, they don't get tried within a year. They don't get tried within two years.

But here's the thing. We don't ask for adjournments in that length of time. You know, we asked to push it out for four months. And then at the end of the four months, we say, you know, judge, we've gotten this much more discovery. This is how far we've gotten. We've had this problem. We've had this problem. These are the reasons why we need to push it out another four months.

COATES: You're describing lip service, right? And the gamesmanship of trying to strategize and say, you know, let me kick the can a little bit more down the road.

PARLATORE: It's how these cases are normally done. But the thing is for the judge, every four months or six months you're coming in and you're giving factual-based updates of here's where we are, here are the obstacles, and here's why we need it, you know, pushed out so that all sides can be ready for trial as opposed to, you know, what's going on with an election.

COATES: Well, speaking of election, how about election subversion and RICO cases? I'm tapping down to Georgia right now. Why? Because tonight and today was a hugely significant moment. It was the closing argument on the D.A. Fani Willis' disqualification.

Now their job, not Fani Willis' job, but those people who are moving to disqualify her, got to keep it straight, defense, prosecution, it's all flipped right now, they have a burden to prove that there was a conflict of interest.

The judge today had a lot of questions about whether they connected those dots. When you look at the fact that the judge, Brandi, was focusing on whether an appearance of impropriety would be enough, does that bode well for Fani Willis?

HARDEN: It does not. But I don't think that they met the standard. I think that's why the judge has a lot of questions. I think that the state certainly argued that they think that you need to have an actual conflict. And here, I think that they not only have not established an actual conflict, I don't think they've established even the air of impropriety. However, if they do establish air of impropriety, I do think that

that's going to be enough to disqualify her. While I don't think that she should be disqualified, I think if the judge goes with the standard of air of impropriety, she might, in fact, get disqualified.

COATES: That's a big part, right? If the case law really says that or not. But then there was this moment, and I want you guys to listen to this. It was Steve Sato, who is the Trump attorney in this instance. And he was focusing on that now infamous church speech, where she spoke at a historically black church down in Georgia.

And she questioned as to why they were only focusing on the black prosecutor, Nathan Wade, although it's part of a larger team. Listen to what the Trump attorney had to say about this, what he perceived as an ethical disqualification.


STEVE SADOW, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: D.A. Willis took it upon herself to go to a historic black church in Atlanta, having not responded at all to the motion of Ms. Merchant's client, Roman.


And she made what we now call the church speech. It was a calculated determination by Ms. Willis to prejudice the defendants and their counsel. How so? By making an issue out of the fact that the person that was challenged in the Roman motion was black.


COATES: This was a big moment. I mean, translation, he's saying she played the race card. Now the jury thinks that everyone is against this particular group. And here's the issue. Did you think that was compelling at all, that the idea of the jury pool being tainted? Did that play?

HARDEN: I don't think so. I don't think that that's an argument that holds any weight. I do think that that's what they want to try to put in the public, you know, out to the public, is that this is a race issue.

And quite honestly, I think when he starts to mention that it was at a black church, that's not really relevant to anything. Only what she says is actually relevant. And I think that they're just trying to muddy the waters with that argument. I don't think it holds much weight.

COATES: Well, they played the religion aspect, too, to suggest that she was quoting parts of scripture, that God was on her side, that she was righteous in her pursuit of justice. So, they played the race and the religion aspect of it. Would that have been the effective charge that you would have employed?

PARLATORE: You know, I would have probably brought that up as a minor point, relevant only to her credibility. Because ultimately the issue here is, you know, the misconduct that is alleged. And, you know, when she's saying, well, I paid them all back in cash, you know, that's a question of credibility.

And so, if you can then go and show these other situations where she's going around doing things that bear on her credibility in the situation, I think it's relevant for that purpose.


PARLATORE: But should she be disqualified because she's going to a black church and saying they're only targeting the black prosecutor? Absolutely not. No, it's not relevant to that purpose.

COATES: Well, you know, interestingly enough, we're saying her being disqualified, right? But if she is disqualified, the entire team, you've got this prosecuting counsel that comes in and then assigns, and I do mean assigns, because it's not like a really plumb position to have this scrutiny, to have security, to have people attacking you in a variety of ways.

So, everything could go away. And the stakes are that high. You make a good point. Maybe it's death by a thousand credibility cuts. And the point was made. We'll see. Thank you both. Tim Parlatore, Brandi Harden, thank you so much.

You know, ever since a Fulton County Grand Jury indicted Donald Trump, and by the way, 18 others back in August, Fani Willis has been in the spotlight and under a whole lot of pressure. There's a lot more to know, though, about that D.A. going toe-to-toe with the former President. We'll tell you what you don't know about her -- next.




COATES: Fani Willis is the face of what's likely the most sprawling legal case against Donald Trump. And through the effort to disqualify her, we've been learning a lot about her. It's brought a lot of attention to her. It isn't her first rodeo, though.

She's taken some of the most high-profile cases as Fulton County's first female D.A. And those who know her say that her resolve is unmatched. Here's a look at who she is from those who seem to know her best and how we got here.


REGINALD JACKSON, BISHOP AT BIG BETHEL AME CHURCH: I just remember from the campaign when she ran that her whole premise was we can do better.

COATES: Doing better and doing the right thing. That's the motto so many of Fani Willis' friends and former colleagues say she lives by. The Fulton County District Attorney was elected to office in 2020, unseating a six-term D.A., Paul Howard.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Tonight, Fulton County has spoken up loud and clear.

COATES: Willis has been a lawyer for 28 years. After attending undergraduate school at Howard University, she went on to Emory University Law School. She says that ever since she was a little girl, the only thing she ever wanted to do was practice law. Her inspiration, she says, was her father.

WILLIS: From the time I was seven, eight, or nine, I was putting my father's files together, which were mainly murders and drug cases.

COATES: Born in Inglewood, California, Willis spent time between divorced parents, but John Floyd raised her as a single father in Washington, D.C., where he practiced law as a criminal defense attorney, which led to many days spent with him in the courtroom when she was a child.

WILLIS: As so many single women or fathers know, he wouldn't have anywhere to take me on Saturdays, and so our routine would be that on Saturdays, he would go to court because he was a criminal defense lawyer, and guess what? On Friday night, a lot of folks get locked up. And so, he would be there Saturday for those first appearance hearings to represent the clients, and I would just sit in the courtroom.

COATES: Before Willis became the D.A., she was in private practice for five years, then an Assistant District Attorney, the Chief Municipal Court Judge of South Fulton, and then she had one failed attempt at running for Superior Court Judge.

WILLIS: And then people started coming to me saying, we need a D.A. that's going to be fair.

COATES: She's led more than 100 jury trials, and the RICO case she's brought against Trump and his allies is not her first. She co- prosecuted a massive RICO case, the longest criminal trial in Georgia history, in the Atlanta public school's cheating scandal, which ended in 11 of 12 convictions. That's around the time Bishop Reginald Jackson met Willis.

JACKSON: I was immediately drawn to the fact that this sister is ready to fight because this issue was that important to her.

COATES: Now, as the highest law enforcement official in Fulton County, she's facing scrutiny over a relationship she had with Nathan Wade, the lawyer she handpicked to be the top prosecutor in the sprawling Georgia election subversion case she's brought against Donald Trump and his allies.


UNKNOWN: So, this is the only receipt that you have to show that she paid for travel.

COATES: One of the defense attorneys in that case filing a motion in January, alleging Willis financially benefited from appointing Wade to the post. A defiant Willis, refuting those claims when she took the stand in her own defense.

WILLIS: Do you think I'm on trial? These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.

COATES: Georgia Attorney Gabe Banks says he was offered the top prosecutor job before Wade was. He's known Willis since he started working at the D.A.'s office with her in 2007.

GABE BANKS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FRIEND OF FANI WILLIS: She supported me when I was a young prosecutor in that office. I mean, just go out of her way to help me. And it is one of the reasons why I am who I am today, just because of that friendship.

COATES: He says he knows the influence Fani's father has had on her.

BANKS: I think that Fani's hero is her father.

JOHN CLIFFORD FLOYD, III, FORMER ATTORNEY, FANI WILLIS' FATHER: As a matter of fact, I gave my daughter her first cash box and told her, always keep some cash.

COATES: To this day, Willis' relationship with her father remains very close.

WILLIS: The only man who's ever foot my bills completely is my daddy.

COATES: Charlie Bailey and Fani Willis have been friends since he was a self-proclaimed baby prosecutor in the DA's office 10 years ago.

CHARLEY BAILEY, ATTORNEY FANI WILLIS' FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE: She's a daddy's girl. She says it, you know, her love of the law and her sense of justice that no one is better than anyone else. I mean, that is, you know, that is her father.

COATES: Marvin Arrington, a Criminal Defense Attorney and a Fulton County Commissioner was friends and classmates with Willis at Emory Law School. He says they've been friends ever since.

MARVIN ARRINGTON, ATTORNEY, ATTENDED LAW SCHOOL WITH FANI WILLIS: She is definitely a competitor. She likes to compete, but she knows how to temper that with fairness.

COATES: LaDawn Blackett says she's been friends with Willis almost 20 years. She met her when she was a young prosecutor in the District Attorney's Office.

LADAWN BLACKETT, ATTORNEY AND FRIEND OF FANI WILLIS: She just seemed so intelligent and confident about what she knew about the law, but more than anything, it was clear she was passionate about her job as a prosecutor.

NICK VALENCIA CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is a formidable force.

COATES: CNN Correspondent, Nick Valencia, has covered Fani Willis since she took office.

VALENCIA: I spoke to the judge who presided over the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal and he described Fani Willis to me as a bulldog and said to me that he would never want to be on the other side of her if she was a prosecutor.

COATES: Her friends say that bulldog didn't get to where she is without having to make sacrifices along the way, especially when it came to raising her two, now grown daughters.

BANKS: I think the single most sacrifice that any single mother makes is working long hours and trying to raise two girls in a respectable way. Fani did that and she did it well.

BLACKETT: I watched her as her girls got older and older where she had to balance and shuffle being a mom while raising two girls. It took a true village of her friends and families and co-workers to make sure that she could do her difficult job while raising her girls. They're beautiful, brilliant girls.

COATES: And not least of all, the security risks she has had to face since taking on the role as district attorney, particularly since her office began investigating the election subversion case against Trump soon after she was elected as D.A.

JACKSON: I can just imagine the kind of pressure that she's been under, but also not to be able to really have a personal life. You know, when you can't be at home, you can't go out to eat, you can't go to a movie, you can't have people come over, that's a tough life.

BAILEY: There's no real comparison I can make with anything approaching what she deals with on a day-to-day basis. She never anticipated this, but whoever anticipated, you know, a President trying to overthrow the government.

VALENCIA: I don't think other prosecutors that we've covered would be able to survive this kind of pressure that she has been able to withstand for years now.

COATES: And her friends all agree, none of this will stop Fani Willis.

BLACKETT: I knew from the very beginning, when the entire issue came out about whether or not she was going to indict former President Trump and any of the co-defendants. I knew she wasn't going to bring a case unless she had a case.

It did not matter how much people were pressuring her to bring a case unless she thought she had some good basis to go forward, she wouldn't go forward. And now that she's gone forward, she's not going to back down just because they're slinging mud.

BAILEY: You know, there might be some prosecutors that say, well, I'm just not going to do that because I don't want the threats. But that is not something Fani Willis could ever do because it's not her. She's much braver than just about anybody I've ever met. (END VIDEOTAPE)


COATES: Now, the big question tonight that will be decided in what, about two weeks? Will Fani Willis be able to fend off the push to disqualify her? And by the way, what message does it send if she is disqualified? My next guest is a former D.A. also in Georgia. And you know what? He, too, faced a motion to disqualify. Robert James joins me next.


COATES: So, we've been talking about the Georgia election subversion case against Trump. And of course, these efforts to disqualify the D.A. Fani Willis, and her whole office, if she herself is disqualified. So, the big question many people are asking is what is it really like to face disqualification as a prosecutor? Is this truly a novel concept?


Well, my next guest, Robert James, is a former DeKalb County Solicitor General. And he has faced disqualification before. Robert James joins me now. Good to see you. In fact, Robert, you have been a subject of a disqualification motion.

And I think there's a familiar attorney in that courtroom against one Fani Willis. But I do wonder what that process was like when you are faced with somebody trying to remove you from that position. Is the appearance of a conflict enough to do so?

ROBERT JAMES, FORMER DEKALB COUNTY SOLOCITOR GENERAL: Well, so the case law says the appearance of a conflict, you know, is enough, or at least it's suggested. There are cases on both sides. But speaking practically, you know, when I went through it, when I was the District Attorney in DeKalb County, and I sat in the same seat that Ms. Willis sits, just in a different county, it's uncomfortable, you know.

Lawyers aren't used to being, you know, cross-examined. And, you know, if you're -- if someone is trying to exclude you from a case or disqualify you from a case, if it's a high-profile case, and my case was. There are cameras in the courtroom, everyone is staring at you and the lawyers on the other side are being aggressive. And, you know, it's not fun. It's uncomfortable. And the hardest thing is to keep your cool and be a lawyer, be the public official, and not be wounded as the individual and react.

COATES: That's a great point, because you did hear a little bit of this today in terms of whether Fani Willis was a disinterested or interested party. You know, a legal way of describing whether somebody, in fact, was going to be, you know, objective, taking a step back, having the professional approach, or having a more personal stake in what was happening in the actual proceeding, you know, they even mentioned that she herself has been disqualified in the past. It was back in 2022. And she was blocked by a judge from developing a

case against a fake Trump elector because she had hosted a fundraiser for one of the political rivals of that fake elector.

When you look at that, and they've mentioned it in court today, are there any parallels from her behavior there to the current case? And I would note, the judge in that matter seemed to say that was a kind of a, what were you thinking kind of moment. Is that applicable here?

ROBERT JAMES, FORMER DEKALB COUNTY SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yeah, I don't think so. And I don't necessarily agree. I mean, I understand Judge McBurney's ruling, but look, the reality is that when you're a D.A, when you run for office, you make friends, and the D.A. is not just a prosecutor.

The D.A. is also a politician. And, so you have to run for office every four years. You have to raise money. You have to shake hands and kiss babies and go to community meetings, and you have to have political allies. And so, you know, the public trust that the D.A. will be fair and impartial and prosecute someone, you know, even if that individual, you know, has some sort of connection to somebody they have a connection to.

I don't really see the parallels with this case because this case is involving, you know, a personal relationship where she's alleged to have personally benefited from that personal relationship -- a personal romantic relationship. And so, it was really hard to draw the parallels other than they were, you know, the lawyers in both cases were asking for her to be excluded from the case.

COATES: You know, thinking that she is elected, I think is an important part here. Really quick though, in the limited time we have left, Robert, how is this playing in the legal community in Georgia? I just can't help but wonder what everyone's thinking.

Well, you know, I think that, you know, the fact that she was having a relationship whenever it started, I think a lot of lawyers understand that because it happens in law offices and it may not be wise, but it does happen. I think the biggest challenge is, you know, the sort of idea that someone may have been untruthful.

And I think lawyers are coming down on both side of that, you know, of that issue, whether or not, you know, she was untruthful, whether or not Nathan Wade was untruthful and for the court and, you know, all of the ethical implications and legal implications that come along with that. And so, it's pretty controversial. The legal community is split and we just got to see what happens.

COATES: Well, we have less than two weeks to actually see that result. Robert James, thank you for your candor and your insight tonight. Thank you.

JAMES: Thank you.

COATES: Up next, "The Real Housewives of New York City" turning into the real legal drama of New York City. One of the stars of the show now suing Andy Cohen and Bravo, alleging what they're calling psychological warfare and a quote, "rotted workplace environment". You know you want to listen to more.




COATES: Tonight, turmoil in the reality TV universe. Former star of Bravo's Real Housewives of New York City, Leah McSweeney is suing Andy Cohen, Bravo and others, including NBCUniversal and Warner Brothers Discovery over what she calls a hostile work environment.

McSweeney alleging in a new civil lawsuit, quote, "Defendants established a rotted workplace culture that uniquely depended on pressuring its employees to consume alcohol. Defendant Cohen tends to provide the housewives with whom he uses cocaine with more favorable treatment and edits."

Now, in a statement to CNN, representative for the Bravo host has said this, quote, "The claims against Andy are completely false." NBCUniversal says that they are conducting an investigation into the recent allegations and we should note that Warner Brothers Discovery is one of the defendants named in this lawsuit, a division of which produced "Real Housewives of New York".


WBD is also the parent company of CNN and we have reached out for comment. Let's talk about all this now with CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. I'm so glad that you are with me here today. Listen, Joey, this is actually not the first time that this reality TV franchise has been accused of toxicity and substance abuse.

However, Leah McSweeney has gone further. She claimed that the producers discriminated against her mental health disabilities and sabotaged her sobriety by encouraging her to drink, causing her to relapse. On its merit, how significant are these allegations?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Laura, good evening, good to be with you. It's a blockbuster lawsuit, let's say that, and you're right to call them allegations because we know in a lawsuit, you can say anything and boy, does she. And so with regard to the merits, that's yet to be determined because there are allegations, but it goes on for 109 pages, very specific details.

There are 35 different legal claims about hostile work environment and retaliation and not letting her go to her alcohol anonymous meetings and not letting her go to visit her grandmother and the funeral, et cetera. I mean, wow.

And so, the issue is going to be, as I see it, on the one hand, with reality TV, Laura, you know what you're getting into, right? It's not new. You know that it's really train wreck TV. There's a lot happening. And so, to the extent that you may have these ailments or maladies, right, perhaps that's not the venue or forum for you, so why subject yourself to it, right?

On the other hand, you don't want housewives gone wild and an employer has an obligation to have an environment which is conducive to those who are participating and you don't forfeit your right to have an employer do the right thing.

So, those are the competing interests here. Ultimately, they have to be proven and we'll see what happens in discovery as people start to get deposed and answer questions and give evidentiary value to the allegations as they exist now.

COATES: And I had to tell you, everything you mentioned in that laundry list of things, I remember actually watching unfold in part, watching the housewives franchises, but you know, somebody tells me there'll be cameras nearby regardless, but you point to a very important thing because Bravo has frankly long been committed, they argue, to maintaining a safe work environment.

That's the crux of what your position was just now, saying that, and they've said in a statement to CNN, and I'm going to quote here, "Bravo has long been committed to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace for all cast and crew on our shows. For the last several years, we have been working with our third-party production companies to enhance our protocols, including stricter guidelines on alcohol consumption, direction on when to intervene to maintain the safety of cast and crew, increased psychological support, enhanced workplace trainings, more serious consequences for physical violence on set, and a requirement to provide cast and crew with a direct line to NBCUniversal to raise concerns. A number of claims that were made by Leah McSweeney were previously investigated and unsubstantiated."

COATES: Joey, when you hear me read what their statement is, just think of the disclaimer sort of things that you are signing, knowing that this is all enveloped in the conversation. What's your reaction?

JACKSON: Yeah, well, that's very true, right? Because when you're entering into something like this, it's television where it's reality, right? People are engaging with each other on a different level. That's what makes it for entertainment, the unscripted nature of what happens. And so, you know, on the one hand, yes, right?

You know that you want to provide, as that statement provided, an atmosphere where people have guidance and direction and it's safe and it's healthy. On the other hand, kind of anything goes, right? So, the last part of that statement also struck me because they said that they investigated and they were unsubstantiated.

So, you know where they're going with that, Laura. They're going to talk about the fact that she's disgruntled, that, you know, she wasn't on the show any longer, that there's no proof to the assertions that she's making, that this is something that she's just doing because she didn't get what she wants. That's certainly coming. But at the end of the day, if you sign up for reality TV, read the contract, read the clauses, know what you're getting into, and it is no secret that reality TV is what it is. COATES: Well, you know, you make a good point about what you're

signing up for. On the other hand, that goes both ways. Those who create the content for reality shows, the networks and beyond, must know what they're signing up for, as well. And that's maybe the employee-employer relationship and a workplace environment. That comes as part of it as well.

Joey, this is a civil case, as you well know. So, I suspect this is going to be a lot of discovery. What will be public and not? Well, I'm going to lean in either way.


Joey Jackson, thank you so much.

JACKSON: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: I know you watch the franchise. I know you do. Whatever. You watch the "Housewives'.

JACKSON: If I do, I'm not saying.

COASTES: Well, I do what I'm saying. Thank you, Joey Jackson.

JACKSON: Always, thank you.

COATES: It could be the weekend of records. I'm talking basketball records. Will Caitlin Clark make NCAA history? Will LeBron James, already known as "The Goat", hit a huge points milestone? Guess who's next? Cari Champion.




COATES: The basketball world is all abuzz right now with extraordinary anticipation. Why? Because two of the game's biggest stars take to the court this weekend, each with a chance to make their own history. You got the Lakers, LeBron James, and the pride of Iowa, Caitlin Clark. They are each set to add to their already mind-boggling list of milestones. I'm bringing in CNN contributor, Cari Champion, because she can do this best.

Caitlin Clark, number one, first of all, just announced this is going to be her final college season. She's entering the WNBA draft this year. She's only 18 points away from owning the all-time college scoring record. And that, by the way, that's for women and men's basketball. That's extraordinary, Cari.

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Caitlin Clark, and this is what I will say about her. I don't want to get into just yet, but I will. I don't want to get into why everyone loves her so much, but what I will tell you, she is a pure athlete. And what I mean by that is you can tell that as a baller, all she cares about is the game. She doesn't care about the outside, the fame, the frills that come with it. She wants to be the best that has ever done it.

And when you look at someone like her, you have to appreciate her excellence. And there have been these questions about whether or not she's the greatest. I do think it's too early for that. And I would say the same for, I know it's difficult for us to talk about Patrick Mahomes. Is he better than Brady? Let's just pump the brakes.

Let's enjoy what she has done for the college game, but more specifically, how she's grown the sport for women. Caitlin Clark has more attention than women do in the WNBA. And I think that can only help as she announces that she wants to go pro.

COATES: Listen to actually her making that decision to enter the WNBA draft, Cari.


CAITLIN CLARK, COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER: I think just going into senior night, having that decision clear, not only for myself, but our fans, my teammates, I think that was super important. And honestly, just, I don't know, getting the weight of the world off my shoulders and being able to enjoy this last month with my teammates, I think is the biggest thing.


COATES: I mean, in many respects, if people are comparing you and thinking you're the greatest, there's a different weight that's added to you and a different level of scrutiny added to you. By the way, according to ticket sale prices, the prices to see Caitlin's last regular season home game are the most expensive for any woman's basketball game ever, I mean, college or WNBA. Now, in the idea of talking about her as an athlete though, there has been some criticism about the amount of praise bestowed upon her. What's your reaction?

CHAMPION: I believe that's fair. I think it's fair criticism. It's the same debate that we would have if someone said, who's greater, LeBron or Jordan, LeBron or Kobe, Kobe or Jordan. The reason why it's too soon to heap this praise on Caitlin Clark is because I really don't think there's been a full record, a fair record, if you will, of what has happened in the collegiate level as well as the WNBA.

For instance, I think Asia Wilson, who plays with the Las Vegas Aces is arguably one of the best players that we've ever seen in the women's game. She doesn't get the same amount of attention and there's a reason why. So, just stick with me here, Laura, and I don't want to offend anyone, but there's a story here.

Caitlin Clark is middle America. She represents the majority. She looks like your sister. She looks like your daughter. She looks like a friend. There are people who have never watched the sport in a lot of parts of this country that really do enjoy who she is.

And the sport that has been predominantly dominated by black women now has someone who feels familiar to the majority and she's getting more attention than others who probably are better than her are getting. And it's not because it's a race issue, but it was exemplified and highlighted in last year's final.

They had this versus, Angel Reese versus Caitlin Clark. Why was Angel Reese so mean to Caitlin Clark? Well, she wasn't. It was the optics of a black young woman taunting a young white woman. And it made people who weren't familiar with the game uncomfortable. Although they became a fan of Caitlin Clark, it grew the sport.

But trash talking defeats all color lines. It is a right of passage as a champion. And I'm speaking for myself and those who play this game well. It is a right of passage to trash talk. But Caitlin Clark brought many people in.

Some would say the same way that Larry Bird brought many people who didn't really pay attention to the NBA end as opposed to Magic Johnson. While we love Magic Johnson, people loved Larry Bird because they were like, wait a second, he's -- different.


Same way -- the same exact way Tiger brought many blacks to the sport of golf. It's interesting. It's different. I'm paying attention.

COATES: Well, I'm leaning in as well. And for some reason, it reminds me a whole lot of when Christian Laettner was put on the Olympic team. I don't know what it is. There's something about that. And those who remember that time know exactly what I'm talking about. We didn't even get to LeBron James, but you know what? Man, there's not enough time in any show to talk about LeBron James.


COATES: Oh, look, Jemele Hill. Yay, hey girl, hey, how are you? Look at this. I love the sweatshirt.

HILL: I'm good. And Cari is broadcasting live from my dressing room.

COATES: Oh my goodness.

HILL: So, this is an amazing -- we're breaking the fourth wall right now.

COATES: I love the fourth wall. Why are we here anyway? Break it. Who cares? Break it all day long. I'm so happy to see you, too. We're everyone's friends in our head and I'm jealous that I can't be there. If that's the dressing room, okay. Well, tell the "Today Show".

HILL: Laura, you interrupted our girls' night. You got to come sing now.

COATES: I'm -- I'm sorry. I'll bring the Cheetos, the flaming hot ones. I'll be right there.


COATES: I got to go.

HILL: Flaming hot Cheetos. Let's be specific. Flaming hot Cheetos.

COATES: Okay, I got to go. I got to go join Cari and Jemele. Goodbye, everyone. Enjoy your Friday night. Girls' night coming. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.