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Laura Coates Live

Prosecutors Willing To Delay Hush Money Trial Of Trump; Michigan School Shooter's Parents Both Convicted; Disqualification Of Fani Willis To Be Decided; Docuseries "Quiet On Set" Describing The Work Environment On Nickelodeon. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 14, 2024 - 23:00   ET



CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And it sounds like you think Kate is at home fixing zippers. I just don't feel like she's doing it. She can do what she wants.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Kate is entitled to -- she's probably entitled to her privacy. Meghan is entitled to be left out of it.

CHAMPION: Yes, correct, to be left out of it.

PHILLIP: Cari Champion, Erin Vanderhoof, thank you very much, both of you. And before we go tonight, on this day in history, 20 years ago, a 51-year-old Vladimir Putin won his second term as president of Russia.


UNKNOWN: The only real question about these elections was would Russians go to the polls knowing there was almost no doubt President Vladimir Putin would be re-elected.


Well, history is set to repeat itself as Russians are voting right now, and Putin is running against no real opposition. Thank you so much for watching. "NEWSNIGHT." LAURA COATES LIVE starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Hush money, classified documents, and a ruling that could change everything in Donald Trump's criminal cases. Tonight on LAURA COATES LIVE.

Well, look, if you had March 25th on your bingo card looks like you are out of luck my friends because that's when Donald Trump's first criminal trial was supposed to start. Now I say supposed to start because it so often happens in the universe of Trump legal cases. It's delayed, delayed, delayed, in this case delayed all over again.

He should actually put on some t-shirts just a thought there like he did when he was with his Fulton County mugshot. See, you thought I was kidding for a second. That was a real thing. Now, Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg says that he is willing to delay Trump's criminal hush money trial for up to 30 days after U.S. Attorney's Office turned over a whole bunch of documents, 31,000 pages to be precise. And there are apparently more to come next week.

Now, I probably have to remind you this is the trial of the former president are charges related to the hush money payment to adult film star and actress Stormy Daniels in 2016. So, what exactly is in those 31,000 documents and even more to come and what does all of that say about the criminal case that was supposed to, operative word, supposed to be the first one right out of the gate.

The first one but not the only one. There are also all those classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, you know, the ones in ballrooms and bathrooms on all of the president's Florida resort. Well, today, judge Eileen Cannon tossed out team Trump's motion that was attempting to have the case thrown out.

They had argued that the espionage act itself was just too vague. Let's not forget the judge in Fulton County says that he'll rule in a matter of at this point hours from now on whether Fani Willis will be disqualified or not from that sweeping RICO and election subversion trial against Trump and of course over a dozen co-defendants in the state of Georgia. But that could be the most consequential case of all many say.

Now, McAfee says that his decision will not be based on politics. Well, times a-wasting because you got 235 days away from well the political Super Bowl called Election Day. Joining me now, Jeremy Saland, who was a former Manhattan prosecutor who also knows D.A. Alvin Bragg. Jeremy thank you so much for being here this evening.

You know, look, it's giving me flashbacks of being a litigator and an associate at a law firm when someone has a document dump. Someone's got to go through all this stuff but the question of course is why it took so long and I want to begin by making it very clear about who had these documents. Who was the one to be delayed in turning these over?

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER MANHATTAN PROSECUTOR: Well, it's not Alvin Bragg's fault. If he didn't have them, he didn't have them. That being said he did provide some back in June. Donald Trump didn't challenge that or say you weren't doing a diligent job to try to get if there's anything remaining. He provided them back in June, June of 2023, and now just in January Donald Trump turns around and to subpoena this. So, he's clearly waiting to delay.

He had opportunities to do so and he didn't push the feds as I read and understand to get the documents to him whatever they may be. So, this is not something within the control of the District Attorney's Office. This is something that's with control of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

COATES: I'm glad you made that distinction because I think it's lost on a lot of people. I think D.A. Alvin Bragg had tried to get them from the U.S. Attorney's Office. They didn't give them over. They had the opportunity to do so over I think a year ago. But why is there daylight? Explain to people about why there is this is not the same entity. Obviously, everyone knows that Alvin Bragg was prosecuting in an eye towards this very case. Surely, the U.S. Attorney's Office knew that, but they're -- these are separate entities all together. [23:04:56]

SALAND: Absolutely. They're incredibly distinct and for example if Donald Trump was convicted by a federal court, a district court, theoretically he could turn around and get rid of the case himself and say I'm all right but he couldn't do that in this state. He couldn't be pardoned because the state case.

They're two totally different systems of government just like your congressperson is not the same as your state senator, so it's vastly different. There are rules different in civil -- criminal procedure. The statutes criminally are different. There may be some overlap and substance in crime.

But they're very distinct and people need to understand that Alvin Bragg cannot tell the Southern District give me X. You can subpoena them and try or they can cooperate, but he can't really force them.

COATES: I wonder how much of their decision not to hand them over initially was a little bit of arrogance about how they viewed the Alvin Bragg case as opposed to their own assessment of whether to bring charges. I have to wonder I know it's called the Sovereign District of New York at times especially as relates to the D.A.'s office, but these documents, I mean we're talking about 31,000 new documents and maybe even more coming next week. What do you think might be in these documents?

SALAND: Well first of all when you hear that number, you know, someone who doesn't know any better and I mean in a rude way, but someone may not be practicing law, 31,000 could be a lot -- 31,000 could not necessarily be a lot. It's the substance that matters, what the context and content what matters.

So very well that could be information about witnesses who testified in the grand jury. It could be materials that were subpoenaed by the grand jury. It could be the grand jury minutes themselves that were provided. So, very well could be very important information. There could be exculpatory or just shed light and relevant information on Michael Cohen. And was that case prosecuted? Pardon me, why wasn't the president prosecuted on these charges in the federal government in that system?

So, there's a lot of reasonable questions Donald Trump should ask, but delaying and villainizing is what his tactic is. It shouldn't have come to this point. And again, to your point before, it's not in the control of Donald Bragg -- D.A. Bragg and he's turning those materials over as quickly as he can.

COATES: You know, and again, they could contain what's known as exculpatory material with which actually could help to prove that Trump did not do anything wrong. It could include inculpatory which tends to show his guilt in these cases. Well, it's really what's in these documents is going to be the rubber meeting the road.

But the U.S. Attorney's Office back at this point, unlike D.A. Bragg, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the federal office, they declined to bring charges against Trump back in 2018. So, to what extent do you think that this -- these documents could include some of the reasoning behind that? I mean that thought process often ends up in these memorandums of why you declined to prosecute.

SALAND: I think there's a certain argument to be made that they could be there but to think that there's going to be a proverbial smoking gun for Donald Trump that the Feds have been sitting on all this time while giving D.A. Bragg some of it, is I think is an overplaying of the hand.

His attorneys have a responsibility to their client period and there should be no question that they have to advocate no matter the circumstance, but I don't. Do I expect it's going to be something what we call Brady or exculpatory that'll say, you know what, this didn't happen and now he goes free? I don't expect that.

I don't expect that and I don't expect the judge is going to dismiss this case either on some discovery technicality because the prosecution in the state of New York is required to turn over that discovery if it's not even in their physical control, but if it's in the control of someone that they have the control over, and they don't have the control over the feds. So --

COATES: A really important point.

SALAND: -- I think they're doing their job, but we'll watch.

COATES: And of course, you know the trial hasn't started so it's not as if they're looking at this with the rear-view mirror and saying my goodness what would I could have been able to do with those documents. It does delay potentially from 30 days the question is how much longer it will be. Jeremy Saland, thank you so much.

SALAND: My pleasure.

COATES: I want to bring in CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen who is the White House ethics czar under President Barack Obama. Also, Seth Berenzweig, a trial and compliance attorney as well. Gentlemen, so glad to have both of you here. Before we get to what's happening in Mar-a-Lago the fact that you have the feds not giving over information to Alvin Bragg's team and now he has to be the one in court saying actually your honor I might need a little bit of a delay. That's not where he wants to be.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not and it's unconscionable. Alvin Bragg asked for these materials. It was over a year ago to hold them back and to wait for a subpoena from Donald Trump and then dump. So far, we had an initial dump of 70,000, then in the past week another 30,000 plus with more coming. I really fault the federal prosecutors here.

The Southern District of New York has some of the best federal prosecutors in the country but they're known for hubris, for arrogance and that's what we see here. Alvin Bragg and the Administration of Justice and Judge Marchand and all of us are the victims of that.


COATES: Well, we will see what this judge ultimately decides. Of course, the fact that two parties are willing to have a delay and of course Trump's team wants the delay. Now that Alvin Bragg's team is saying I guess up to 30 days, it's gonna get pushed back undoubtedly. Seth let me turn to Mar-a-Lago though because Trump speaking of delays how about the other D word? Dismissal.

He is trying to dismiss the case against him in Mar-a-Lago and he went to Judge Eileen Cannon today and his first argument he made is that the Espionage Act is unconstitutionally vague and therefore he can't be prosecuted under it at all. She was skeptical of that and instead said, this ought to be maybe a jury instruction or way to clarify it. Why do you think she was so skeptical?

SETH BERENZWEIG, TRIAL AND COMPLIANCE ATTORNEY: Well, I think she wanted to punt on the issue. There are a total of nine motions to dismiss and you have to credit Team Trump. They're quite good at filing motions and while they lose on the substance they win on the process because they're running the clock and they've done it in a very effective way.

What happened today was that the judge said that she was very skeptical and was likely going to dismiss the argument with regard to unconstitutional vagueness on the statute and also that somehow President Trump, then President Trump and then former President Trump, had the right to be able to retain these records under the Presidential Records Act.

None of those arguments are strong. And what's frustrating about this case is that it's supposed to be one of the simplest cases. This is not a complex case. This is not one of those cases that really is going to take a long time to put on, but the fact that they are --

COATES: And yet.

BERENZWEIG: And yet, delay, delay, delay. So, you know, it's really kind of a microcosm of what's happening in the Supreme Court right down the street from us here where the Supreme Court is holding back Judge Chutkan and I know we're not getting into any depth on that tonight. But you have to hand it to Team Trump when it comes to filing and delays, he really has the all-star team.

COATES: I mean, you're a defense attorney so the idea of making a prosecution team prove their case part of that is the motion practice, part of that is making sure every I is dotted and T is crossed, and if there's even like a faint ink blot, that's it.

But in this case, he's talking about not only the Espionage Act, but he's trying to draw comparisons to himself and Biden and saying wait hold on a second, Biden had notebooks. You talked about with the Hur's special counsel hearing this week. I had no books, same thing. She was not buying it though.

EISEN: No. She -- even Judge Cannon who has been so partial to Donald Trump that she's been reversed twice by the extremely conservative 11th Circuit, even Judge Cannon gave Trump's lawyers a hard time today. There's no comparison between what Biden did with following along. It was wrong what Biden did.

He should not have kept those classified documents, but there's a long pattern of presidents hanging on to documents, he cooperated. With Donald Trump, you have a vast number of documents and a refusal to cooperate, alleged obstruction.

Then he has this insane Presidential Records Act argument. It was one of my jobs when I was ethics czar to make sure we all complied with those rules. He's saying that official secrets about military preparedness and nuclear weapons, that those somehow can become personal? That's like saying it's the opposite of personal. That's not what the law means at all. She pressed on that.

COATES: And by the way.

EISEN: And she threw out his vagueness argument at the end of the day.

COATES: By the way, there was that moment. There was -- do we have the sound of him talking about, from Bedminster I believe it was, saying that in fact he was aware that -- well, let's just play it. Let's play it.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I was just saying, because we're talking about it. And you know, he said, he wanted to attack Iran and what. These are the papers.

STAFFER: You did.

TRUMP: This was done by the military and given to me. I think we can probably, right?

STAFFER: I don't know, we'll have to see. Yeah, we'll have to try to --

TRUMP: Declassify it.

STAFFER: -- figure out a -- yeah.

TRUMP: See as president I could have declassified it.


TRUMP: Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.

STAFFER: Yeah. Now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn't that interesting?


COATES: As president, I could have declassified it, now I can't and it's still a secret. It sounds like notice in terms of your notion of this being pretty clear-cut.

BERENZWEIG: Yeah, exactly. And one of the elements that Judge Cannon said today is that with respect to the vagueness issue and some of that went to the word of intent, she said, well, we can raise this on jury instructions during the trial so she kind of punted. But the thing that's interesting is that when you go through jury instructions, those have to be based upon and foot to the evidence.

So, where is the defense going to be able to point to evidence with regard to intent that reflects favorably on Mr. Trump? Now, in fairness to him we don't know exactly how the trials going to unfurl so we'll see. But when you look at evidence like that and the jury gets an instruction on intent, I think that's one of the reasons why I think this is one of the most compact cases which is one of the reasons why it's so surprising that it's taking so long.


I think it will get tried before the election as well the case in New York, but this is just dragging on. It's like watching paint dry. These things really ultimately have to get up on the docket.

COATES: As if I said, have a watch pot never boils. We'll see to boil water and time it. But tell me, do you think that's true, it's going to go before the election?

EISEN: I do think that there is room for two cases to take place before the election and you have the Brad case. It may be slowed down by this document dump but probably not for very long. And then that case will finish. It will take let's say two months. That case will finish. And then you have the summer and the fall with three contenders like three race horses. Will it be the Mar-a-Lago documents case? Will it be the Jack Smith federal election interference case? Or will it be Fani Willis's Georgia case?

Of course, tomorrow we'll decide if she's disqualified. That case comes off the board and it's either Mar-a-Lago, so do Jack Smith case.

BERENZWEIG: My money's on Judge Chutkan. I think that even though the Supreme Court's hearing this presidential immunity case and in the last possible moment in the last week of hearings, she's gonna be ready to go. And I believe that this is going to be a trial that will happen after New York and she's definitely focusing. Her approach is fundamentally different than that of Judge Ken.

COATES: All right. Well, we got three racehorses. Get your mint juleps ready. Norm, Seth, that was a Kentucky Derby reference. You guys kidding me right now. Okay, I'm funny. Anyway, moving right on. Thank you so much, Norm and Seth.

You know, tonight we learned just earlier this evening that there was a verdict, the Michigan school shooters father found guilty of involuntary manslaughter a month after the shooters mother was also convicted. Up next, I'm gonna talk to another mother, one whose son survived the shooting.


BUCK MYRE, FATHER OF TATE MYRE: No parent should go through the hell we're going through.

STEVE STA. JULIANA, FATHER OF HANA ST. JULIANA: Our children are dying on a daily basis in mass murders and we do very little about it.




COATES: Tonight, James Crumbley father of the Michigan high school shooter convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that carries a maximum punishment of up to 15 years in prison which could run concurrently. The jury deliberating for about 10 hours.

Joining me now, Meghan Gregory whose son Keegan survived this horrific mass shooting and Ven Johnson attorney for families suing James and Jennifer Crumbley and Oxford Community Schools. Thank you both for being here and it's nice to see you both again.

Let me begin with you Meghan because we have been transfixed as a nation, Megan, about what has happened here. And you were inside the courtroom today. Can you just share what you are feeling now that this second verdict, guilty for now both parents has been returned?

MEGHAN GREGORY, SON SURVIVED OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL MASS SHOOTING: I'm definitely feeling a sigh of relief. Waiting up to it was so nerve- wracking and the longer that it went the more nervous we were all getting, but when they read those guilty verdicts, it was definitely all of our emotions just kind of came forward and gave us a sigh of relief. I'm feeling much better tonight than I was this morning that's for sure.

COATES: Was there a moment that you thought that this could go differently?

GREGORY: There was. You know, for me I am more of a person that likes to read people's faces and I remember with Jennifer Crumbley when, you know, they walked in, I'm looking and I thought, oh, we've got this one. But today their faces were all much more poker faces that I had no idea what was about to happen and my heart was racing while we were sitting there waiting.

COATES: I can only imagine. We were watching his face. We were trying to get a shot of what he looked like in those moments when James Crumbley had that verdict read. And there were moments at the time when it was read, he began to shake his head. When you -- were you looking and noticing what he was doing during the time?

GREGORY: I did not. I was not looking at him at all. To be honest, I was looking over at the man reading it from the juror (inaudible).



COATES: Yeah. Well, when you think of, I mean, all the loss, the heartache, what has happened as a result of this, including with your own son who did survive the shooting, but certainly has been impacted so severely. How does it make you --

JOHNSON: Who came home (inaudible), who came home today.

COATES: Who came home today. Now tell me about that. He came home today. This has been something that your family has been grappling with. Tell me about that.

GREGORY: Yeah. He, after sentencing for the shooter he started to struggle with all of the emotions kind of coming forward at one time and he had pushed them down for so long. I think it just flooded him. And so, we found a treatment center that would take him to work with PTSD and trauma and he's so -- he's been there since December working to try and heal. And he's worked hard, but he definitely feels ready. He's excited to be home. So, we're excited to get home and see him.


COATES: I'm so happy to know that he is home and with your family. I know that it's been very difficult for you as an entire family and community. And then, I mean, in this case in particular, prosecutors they leaned into the security of that firearm or really the lack thereof. They leaned into James's awareness of Ethan's mental state. And the defense, they tried to say, look, he did everything he could. He had no way of knowing. Why do you think that did not sound convincing to this jury?

JOHNSON: He bought him a gun. He did not secure the gun. He called 911 and said the guns missing and I think my son may be the shooter. He was in the offices of this school. I can see your face, sorry. He was in the offices of the school with two school employees and never said anything about that they just bought him a gun.

No one in that room, two school employees and the shooter's parents, never even talked about access to firearms and weapons and things that could hurt the shooter and others. So, there was so much evidence I think overwhelmingly that he was guilty and the jury did an amazing job.

COATES: The jury clearly agreed with the sentiment and although we don't know all the reasons and the moments that may have convinced them they returned for guilty verdicts in this against him. And you are representing the families who are suing, by the way not only the Crumbleys, but the Oxford Community Schools.

So now that these two criminal trials, well, really three now convictions have happened with the son and now the parents, what's the next move Ven?

JOHNSON: Well, thanks, Laura. It's to do what Meghan and the Myre family and the Shilling family and others. Our other clients have asked me to do from day one, hold every person, every entity, everyone that had anything to do with this that blew the signs and it could have been prevented.

The Oxford Community Schools paid for a report way too late that came back guideposts or you know, a whole story, and it buries them and says that they including the two people who testified in this both criminal cases, buried them and said by name, called them out by name, that they should have prevented this from happening and instead they gave him the backpack with a gun in it, with ammunition in it, and never even searched for it.

And I can see by your face, that's the overwhelming evidence here that and this is my point. Don't -- I don't want to hear about that we have to worry about parents being charged for something that they didn't do anything. That's not what happened here at all. We are holding each of these folks accountable criminally. Prosecutor didn't charge the school district, that's fine, or the people that work there. Now we hold them liable civilly.

But we need our day in court, Laura. We need our right to a jury trial, and so far under Michigan governmental immunity law, we haven't had that yet, but we need to go get that at a peak (ph).

COATES: You know, my facial expressions really internally they're conveying that as a parent and just thinking about how we send our children to school Meghan and what that is like and the trust that we place in officials and the hope that our children, you know, are learning, are safe, people are treating them well, that they are going to really be the replacement for parents.

I know it's a lot to ask of schools, but listen, it's the way that it is and it's heartbreaking to think of what you and so many other families are enduring. And Meghan, both Jennifer and James Crumbley will be sentenced on April 9th. The maximum that they're facing is 15 years. What do you think the sentence ought to be?

GREGORY: I believe that they should get the full sentencing that they deserve. I mean, if they can get 15 years obviously, they've served two years already so they'll probably get those two years served, but I would love to see them get the full sentencing that they deserve.

COATES: You know, I'm so glad that both of you have come and we're meeting yet again and you know Meghan, your son's story is such a reminder to our nation than we talk about the school shootings, the mass shootings. So often we fixate on and for good reason, those who have lost their lives, but he represents what happens the lives that are forever changed as well as a result of their proximity to this violence. And we thank you for being so willing to share your family's journey with us.

GREGORY: Thank you.


COATES: By this time tomorrow, we will have a very big decision in the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump and co- defendants. Here's the question. Will District Attorney Fani Willis still be on the case or will she be disqualified. Two award-winning investigative journalists who know this case inside and out are gonna join me.

Plus, an inside look at a new docuseries that uncovers abuse allegations during the golden era at Nickelodeon.



COATES: All right. Just a few hours from now, a judge in Georgia is going to decide the fate of the Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis as it relates to that sprawling case against former President Trump and his more than a dozen co-defendants. Will she be disqualified or will she remain on the case?

I want to bring in the co-authors of "Find Me The Votes: A Hard- Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President and the Plot to Steal an American Election." Here with us now Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman.

I'm so glad both of you are here. I mean, how -- first of all, how prescient it was to write this book? I'm sure you could have never anticipated all this happening right now. Let me begin with you Michael since you're here with me in studio. Judge McAfee, he told local affiliate WSB that his decision will come down tomorrow.

Now, we knew there was already a self-imposed deadline of two weeks and time is up, coming tomorrow. Where do you see this going? Do you think she'll remain on this case?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CO-AUTHOR, "FIND ME THE VOTES": It's all about whether Judge McAfee adopts the standard of whether it was an actual conflict of interest and if he adopts that standard, he almost has to not disqualify Fani Willis because the Trump defense lawyers clearly did not present evidence that, you know, goes that far, or an appearance of a conflict of interest which is a loosey-goosey standard that can be interpreted in the eye of the beholder and you can just say, I don't know whether who's telling the truth here, I don't know what the facts are, but it looks bad and so therefore there's an appearance.

And if it's an appearance he could disqualify here. If he does that, this case is done. There is no prospect in any time in the foreseeable future that another district attorney's office in Georgia can take up this case because of the disqualify -- sorry -- disqualifies the whole Fulton County D Office. So, this whole case which I think and we argue in this book is perhaps the most significant case of all against Donald Trump and his confederates.

It's the only one that goes after his confederates on the election interference aspect of this, goes out the window. So, it's a very big deal tomorrow. COATES: Daniel I want to talk -- bring you in here because the gravity of this case is not lost when you read this book and thinking about this sweeping investigation that led to this moment, you spoke to a lot of people who know Fani Willis personally. Did anyone see this coming, this being the way this case could ultimately be decided based on prosecution?

DANIEL KLAIDMAN, CO-AUTHOR, "FIND ME THE VOTES": Look, we spent two, two and a half years reporting this book. There was no hint at all that the case would come to this kind of a climax or anti-climax if that's what's going to happen. You know, look, Fani Willis is a force of nature. She is combative. She is a deeply original American character and very human. And sometimes people who are very human also have human flaws.

So, is it shocking that there were allegations of improprieties, no. But no one expected it to end like this of course, if that's what happens. 0I will say that Fani Willis is enormously resilient. She's been through a lot -- a lot in some ways more than this in the case so far.

Because let's remember the horrific threats that have been rained down upon her over the course of this investigation and around the time of the indictment including threats to her own daughters, which were really quite chilling. And she fought through all of that and she may live to fight another day. We'll see tomorrow.

COATES: I mean, you make a profound point in terms of what this has cost someone in this level of -- under this level of scrutiny. I mean, the idea of pursuing any case as a prosecutor is daunting let alone one that involves a former president and then over a dozen co- defendants with the nation watching and during an election year by the way.

When you look at this case going forward though in the candor issue and who to credit and that's part of the judge's decision going down, what -- will he look at this case, as you and I have discussed, through the lens of who he thinks is credible or not? If he makes statements about how he views the lawyers in this case is credible or not, that's gonna have a profound effect even if they're not disqualified on their ability to bring this case.

ISIKOFF: Right. Look, if he -- he could not disqualify her but then say but there are serious questions of -- about her testimony and it should be investigated by others like the state bar or the state legislature or some state ethics commission.


If he said that, that would be quite damning and damaging to Fani Willis. It's hard to imagine him doing that though because, look, he's the judge in this case. If he has serious questions about the credibility and the candor and the truthfulness of the chief prosecutor, you know, I think it's gonna be pretty hard for him to continue with her on the case. On the other hand, what was the testimony? And when you look at the testimony, the witnesses against her were not terribly credible and did not present really strong evidence that undercut her story and Nathan Wade's story.

COATES: Yeah. And by the way Daniel, I'll leave with you, by the way, when you look at this, none of that trial -- I want you to talk, but none of that trial actually went to the heart of the actual allegations against any of these people. It was all about the idea of a perceived conflict of interest. And we talk about the politics of this, I mean, that 11,780 votes that infamous line now, you know, I went back to look and see how Fulton County performed on Tuesday and what it did in terms of the election.

And surprisingly for some, Haley who's no longer in the race outperformed the Republic -- in the Republican primary with over 19,000 votes in Fulton County, Cobb County as well, even when she has already dropped out, which could spell some trouble for one Donald Trump. But you wanted to respond about how the politics of this could be touched and beyond.

KLAIDMAN: Yeah. Look, at the end of the day, I do think Georgia is gonna be close the way it was in 2020. Georgia's a purple state. Georgia's pretty evenly divided despite what the polls say right now. But I want to make one other point. You said something important, which is that none of the allegations against Fani Willis or Nathan Wade go to the constitutional rights or the due process rights of the defendants.

At the end of the day, that's something that may weigh heavily on this judge. Are you going to make this decision which could, as Mike said, mean that this case never comes to trial on the basis of something that had no real impact on the case itself or on the defendants? I don't know.

I think there is one sort of potential off-ramp for Judge McAfee, a kind of a split the baby solution here, and that is if he finds an artful way to suggest that perhaps Nathan Wade should step aside. He can't -- he wouldn't be able to order it, but he could suggest that perhaps Fani Willis ought to think about a change in her leadership team. I think that's something to look for particularly if he does not disqualify her.

COATES: That is a possibility. We will see what happens. Again, we don't even know who was intending to be the actual face of the trial attorney in these matters. Michael Isikoff, Daniel Klaidman, what a phenomenal book and so prescient indeed. Thank you both.

ISIKOFF: Thanks.

KLAIDMAN: Thanks for having us.

COATES: Well, it was the defining T.V. era for really millions of kids. I'm talking about Nickelodeon in the early 2000s. But there's a new docuseries that alleges all was not well at the channel during that time. The darkness behind the scenes at Nickelodeon, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COATES: In the '90s and early 2000s, Nickelodeon ruled cable television. Shows like "The Amanda Show," "All That," "I Carly," "Zoe 101," and others had kids glued to their televisions. But a new documentary series is shedding light on a different view of that time and the alleged toxic work environment behind this golden era. It's called "Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids T.V."

It features child actors from that time now ready to share their stories. And one is Drake Bell of "Drake and Josh" fame. He says he was abused by Brian Peck his dialogue coach at the time. Here's a clip from the docuseries where Bell describes how Peck tried to divide him and his family.


DRAKE BELL, ACTOR: I think Brian got a sense that my dad was on the watch and so he started to really drive a wedge between my dad and me. He started talking about how my dad's stealing my money, nobody likes that my dads on set, he's a real problem. So, he just started making me believe that he was horrible for my career, I wasn't going to be able to move forward with him in it.

And coming from someone like Brian, I was believing it because he's been in this business for so long and he must know more than us. Also, because I was spending so much time more so around him than I was really my dad.


COATES: It's important to note in 2003, Brian Peck was arrested and later convicted on a charge of lewd acts with a child as well as oral copulation according to court records. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison. Now CNN has reached out to Peck for comment, but received no response. Nickelodeon has commented on the docuseries saying this in a statement.

"Though we cannot corroborate or negate allegations of behaviors from productions decades ago, Nickelodeon as a matter of policy investigates all formal complaints as part of our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct. Our highest priorities are the well-being and best interests not just of our employees, cast and crew, but of all children, and we have adopted numerous safeguards over the years to help ensure we are living up to our own high standards and the expectations of our audience."


Nickelodeon also simply commented on Bell's allegations against Peck saying, "Now that Drake Bell has disclosed his identity as the plaintiff in the 2004 case, we are dismayed and saddened to learn of the trauma he has endured and we commend and support the strength required to come forward."

"Quiet on the Set: The Dark Side of Kids T.V." will air March 17th on Investigation Discovery which shares the same parent company as CNN. Here with me now are the directors of the documentary series, Mary Robertson and Emma Schwartz. Ladies, thank you so much for being here with us this evening.

There are so many people watching who remember these shows, remember this golden era, certainly are looking at these different people and saying, my god, I can't believe this was happening at that time as alleged. I mean this is the first time that Drake Bell is actually speaking out. What did he tell you about his experience?

EMMA SCHWARTZ, DIRECTOR, "QUIET ON SET: THE DARK SIDE OF KIDS TV": Yeah, I mean, you know, I first reached out to Drake about a year ago. We had begun looking into the experiences of many child actors and, you know, came to understand that he was the victim in the Brian Peck case. And you know, one never knows when someone is a survivor of child sex abuse if they are open and ready to share their story.

But over the course of many months, we began a conversation and he was at a place in his own life where he was really trying to grapple with and deal with the trauma that he had endured and not fully process from 20 years before. And I think, you know, part of sharing that story is part of that healing process that he is trying to go through after all of these years.

COATES: I mean, you know, just thinking about this, Drake Bell is giving just one example of what was going on at the time and certainly one of the most extreme examples, but independent of even that incident, you guys also learned about the work environment at Nickelodeon more broadly. Emma, what did you find or Mary?

MARY ROBERTSON, DIRECTOR, "QUIET ON SET: THE DARK SIDE OF KIDS TV": Thanks, Laura. You know, we were inspired to undertake this project when we noticed videos that had gone viral. There were compilations of clips that were recorded on sets that Dan Schneider presided over and, in these clips, you saw child actors engaging in scenes that were arguably sexual. There were arguably evocative of pornography. In one viral moment you see Ariana Grande as a child actor leaning over the side of the bed pouring water on her face on her chest in a manner that is evocative of pornography. And another you see Ariana Grande squeezing a potato in a manner that is arguably evocative of pornography.

And in yet another, you see Jamie Lynn Spears receive a squirt of a viscous liquid on her face in a manner that is again arguably evocative of pornography. And there were many online at the time who said they were aghast. They said I grew up with these shows, how is it that I didn't see this at the time? How is it that these clips were, you know, that these scenes were made? How and why did the adults that were surrounding the recording of these scenes not say something? Do they try to say something? What was the power structure that maybe prevented them from being heard?

So, there were so many questions and Emma and I really felt -- feel as though those questions are deeply meaningful, not frivolous or trivial because they concern the making of culture itself. So, they -- it's important to look at the conditions on these sets because we're deeply invested in supporting those who are working on these sets and it's important to understand what's transpiring on these sets because what is made on these sets is then transmitted to the world and received by an audience of children and it shapes their sense of normal.

COATES: And maybe even shapes their own behavior and conduct or what they think is appropriate or not. And Emma, I want to play another clip from your docuseries that speaks to what the environment was allegedly like under Dan Schneider who created many hit shows on Nickelodeon during this period. Listen.


UNKNOWN: He liked to play pranks and jokes, which at first seemed fun.

UNKNOWN: In the beginning I would see no instant message pop up. Dan would send a message for you to say out loud. Scream hammers, and you scream it. And then it would be, you know, more degrading like scream I'm an idiot or slut. And if you didn't, he would send you the message again, caps, exclamation points, he would scream out say it until you did.


COATES: It's uncomfortable to hear to say the least. I mean, did those former employees tell you how long they say this all went on Emma?

SCHWARTZ: Well, the story that we have of these two female writers that worked on the first season of "The Amanda Show," the first show that Dan Schneider created on his own is a really disturbing story where they talk about the way that they were sexually harassed, the way that they were -- they were sexualized inside of the writers' room.


And I think one of the most telling moments about how culture is created and what is really happening behind the scenes is the story of the creation of a character Penelope Taint who's this young girl on "The Amanda Show." And in the writer's room, Dan Schneider told them that he was choosing a last name that was a vulgar word.

And when asked by standards whether that was the case, he said it was not. And that Christy (ph) had said in the documentary, that was power, power where you are making a dirty joke about children on a children show.

COATES: CNN has reached out to Dan Schneider but we have not heard back. A spokesperson for Schneider did tell NBC in a statement and I'll read from it, Dan had, quote, "Dan has said himself that he was a tough boss to work for and, if he could do things over again, he would act differently. But let's be clear, when Dan departed Nickelodeon, a full investigation was done and again, all that was found is that he was a challenging, tough and demanding person to work for and with, nothing else."

Was there any effort then, Mary, to address these allegations during Schneider's tenure?

ROBERTSON: I guess it depends on the nature of the allegations and certainly we reached out to Dan on multiple occasions and extended him an opportunity to participate in the film and we've included some of his responses in the film. You know, we've tried to engage in really careful reporting that gets close to the truth and sort of how power was functioning on these sets, right?

It's often hard to understand those dynamics, but we tried to get as close as we possibly could to understanding the ways in which, you know, Dan influenced others, influenced the children, and ultimately created this culture that was consumed by so many.

COATES: Mary Robertson, Emma Schwartz, it's so important that this is out there and it's -- it strikes me that for so many people who grew up watching these shows as children are now parents themselves and are now trying to shape their own children's lives and coming to terms with what they were seeing perhaps even unbeknownst to them. Thank you so much.

ROBERTSON: Thank you, Laura.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

COATES: Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.