Return to Transcripts main page

Laura Coates Live

Trump Secures $175 Million Bond Through Insurance Company; Judge Expands Gag Order After Trump's Attacks On Daughter; Hope Hicks Will Testify In A Criminal Trial; FL Supreme Court: Six-Week Abortion Ban To Take Effect In 30 Days; RFK, Jr. Argues Biden Bigger Threat To Democracy Than Trump; New Report Links "Havana Syndrome" Cases To Russia; Laura Interviews Jemele Hill About March Madness. Aired 11p- 12a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Donald Trump bailed out in the civil fraud case and hit with a new gag order in the criminal case. But is it really out of the frying pan and into the fire for Trump? Plus, how the abortion law that Ron DeSantis signed could now hurt Trump come November. Tonight on "Laura Coates Live."

All right, think back. Remember when we asked you who wants to bail out a billionaire? Well, tonight, we got our answer. Thanks for the dramatic music, everyone. Donald Trump posted the $175 million bond in the New York civil fraud case. Well, not him exactly, but an insurance company did it, and they're providing that and promising to pay. Let's just call it his knight in shining armor because the name, Knight Specialty Insurance.

Remember, the original judgment was supposed to be more than $450 million. Plus, you got to add the interest. But Trump got it reduced. Not the actual judgment, but the bond he had to pay to appeal. And he had until Thursday to pay up.

So, all the talk of the attorney general in New York, Letitia James, seizing potentially his assets, sits on ice for a little while now while Trump appeals the actual ruling. Now, again, the ruling was that Trump lied for years about his finances and overvalued his assets to secure favorable loan terms.

Now, in a moment, we're going to get a reaction from businessman Kevin O'Leary on this lifeline that Trump just got.

But first, we got to talk about what happened in the criminal case in New York. That's the hush money one. Yeah, I know, you got to have a flow chart to keep up with all these trials. I get it. That's why I'm here. So, Trump is now at risk of having to pay some, well, more fines if he's not very, very careful with what he says next.

Why? Because Judge Juan Merchan tonight actually expanded the gag order against Trump to now cover his family and family members of the court. Judge Merchan writing, and I quote here, "The average observer, must now, after hearing defendant's recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well."

But you know who it does not cover? And I want to be very clear on this point. It does not apply to the judge, Judge Merchan, or Alvin Bragg on the left side of your screen. That's the prosecutor and the D.A. overseeing this case. Trump is still free to attack them as he wishes.

But the new gag order just means he can't attack the judge's daughter like he has been doing, by the way. A daughter who, again, by the way, has nothing to do with the legal proceedings.

At some point, I hope that starts to sink in for Trump. It's like attacking the guy outside who runs the hot dogs outside the courthouse. He also has nothing to do with the case. But I digress.

And Trump also can't say anything against one of the people that he used to cherish most. Spoilers on the screen right now. His former aide, Hope Hicks. Now, why would he even consider saying anything against her, you ask? Well, it's because we've now learned that she's expected to testify in the hush money trial.

Remember who she is. She was part of Trump's 2016 campaign at the very same time that Michael Cohen was paying off Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their alleged affair, which Trump denies.

In other words, we got a lot to get to tonight. So, time for some sidebar with two great lawyers, CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen, who's author of the brand-new book coming out soon called "Trying Trump, along with the guy who has, well, defended Trump, his former lawyer, Tim Parlatore. I'm so glad to have both of you here tonight. Looking forward to reading your book as well, Norm Eisen.

Let me begin with you here, Tim. So, Trump is arguing that he's got this First Amendment right to defend himself and say what he wants to say. It's all sort of campaign speech. So, does the fact that he can no longer post these comments about the judge's daughter, in his mind he'll say, but is it really infringe on those rights to say what he wants, First Amendment wise?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, I think that under the case law of the state of New York, the order is overbroad. I mean, they are very disfavored towards prior restraints on free speech. It has to be narrowly tailored under New York case law only to things that would substantially prejudice the trial rights of the defendant.

And so, when you get into these types of things, it does go kind of outside of the scope of what New York law does permit and what also a federal law would permit in gag orders.


COATES: So, you think it's fair game, Tim? I was going to say, is it a fair game then to just say whatever he wants about anyone but the judge and the DA?

PARLATORE: There is a difference between that which is legal and that which is advisable. You know, I don't think that there would be a situation where it would make sense to attack the daughter of the judge that's about to sit in your criminal case. So, you know, while I do think that, you know, legally, the order is overbroad, practically, it's not a good idea anyway.

COATES: I want to bring you in here for the practical, legal, right and advisable, Norm Eisen, because one of the reasons Trump is saying he is doing it is because he thinks that the judge is compromised, that's his word choice, because his daughter is a political consultant.

Um, yhere are instances when, obviously, witness tampering, trying to intimidate witnesses, that's all part of maybe language you could say. That can't be fair game to attack.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, Laura. And I agree with Tim that it's inadvisable, but I disagree that it's protected by the First Amendment.

And the judge on page three of his new order that came out tonight provides a very clear rationale for that. He says Trump is sending a message that if you're a witness who participates in this proceeding, if you are a member of the court staff, if you're a juror, and if Trump finds out about you, your family is fair game.

Given Donald Trump's history, remember, this is the individual who issued the tweet, be there about January 6th, will be wild. His words on the ellipse that led to that violence, his follower, Ricky Shiffer, who attacked the FBI in Cincinnati after Mar-a-Lago, and the stream of invective and the threats that follow when Trump attacks you.

I think the judge has an ironclad First Amendment argument, and he lays it out very clearly in his order. We can't have that kind of intimidation through family members.

COATES: Well, you know, somebody who's of his family or not, I don't want to overstep, I don't know their relationship, Tim, but Hope Hicks and him were close in the sense of she used to work for him, right? She was the former campaign press secretary.

We are hearing from our own reporter, Kaitlan Collins, that she is testifying in the hush money case. The FBI officials believe or allege that she was involved in conversations about (INAUDIBLE) her silence and whatnot.

I can ask you, when you -- when you look at the statements being made and you know the track record of Trump, he doesn't like people to testify against him, he's going after the judge's daughter and beyond, um, should he be worried about her testimony?

PARLATORE: Well, we don't know what she's going to say. That's part of the problem here, is that without knowing what she's going to say, you have no way of knowing if it is something to worry about. Maybe she's just going to connect the dots on some minor ministerial issue.

You know, does -- you know, as to whether the order should extend to her, you know, that's a little bit different because that is a witness in the case.

And so, certainly, it does seem to me to be something that under existing case law, you should have some protection. Don't intimidate the witnesses that are coming in. But as to what she's actually going to say, who knows?

COATES: I mean, look, I subscribe as a prosecutor to the adage that I never asked a question I did not know the answer to no matter how open-ended my questions appeared to be.

When you think about this, you know, Norm, the idea that the prosecution would call her as a witness, potentially, or even the defense, if you are the prosecution calling her as a witness, it's not because you think she does anything favorable about Trump, it's because you want information that she actually has.

EISEN: I was the lead counsel examining Hope Hicks in the impeachment proceedings. She came in. I found her to be careful, but truthful. And she answered the questions we had. If the prosecution is calling her, it's because she did the same thing. In our case, she cooperated. She respected privilege, but cooperated. They have determined that she has information that will help convict Donald Trump.

You know, Laura, and it's the subject of my new book, I thought one of the most interesting parts of the judge's order today was he wrote right at the top, the charges arise from allegations that defendant attempted to conceal an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election.


He doesn't characterize it, then it's through the payment of hush money. The prosecution must have determined that she can prove that scheme. We know --

COATES: Or contribute to testimony that could do so.

EISEN: -- that she can corroborate or prove it up directly. This is a very careful, very expert squad of prosecutors. They know what they're doing. There's a reason they intended to call her.

COATES: You know, really quick, do you think that there's a chance that Trump will try to get rid of his current legal team to delay the case?

EISEN: New York law is very strong that while every defendant has a right to pick and choose their lawyers, if you're obviously doing it for the cause of delay, there's case after case in New York that says so, it will not be allowed.

All of these delay ploys have failed with Judge Merchan. That would be so transparent at this point. I don't think even the brazen and shameless Donald Trump and his lawyer, Todd Blanche, was pretty brazen. I was there in court for it a week ago Monday. I don't think even they would dare try it. But if they do, the judge will slap it down and he's got strong precedent backing him up.

COATES: Stranger things have happened. Norm Eisen, Tim Parlatore, thank you both so much.

I want to turn now to yet another huge development and yet another huge Trump case. Trump posting bond in his New York civil fraud case. Joining me now to discuss Shark Tank Judge Kevin O'Leary. He's also the chairman of "O'Leary Ventures." Gosh, it has been too long, Kevin. I feel such peace. Nice to see you again.


How are you?

KEVIN O'LEARY, SHARK TANK JUDGE: I'm glad to be here with you. I've enjoyed this narrative with you, I must admit. And, you know, people have focused on it being some kind of a very partisan issue. You love Trump, you hate Trump, you like Biden, you don't like him.

I've never thought this case was about partisan politics. I thought it was about the law and the baseline by which we live in our economy. It has been so successful. I've always thought that was what was at stake. And I'm glad we've maintained that narrative.

COATES: Well, you know, unfortunately or fortunately, people view the world through political lens, especially 270 days away from general election.

But when you look at what's happening right now, um, he has avoided the seizure of his assets for now. He has been able to post a bond. It was not the high $454 million fraud-fine bond that you said was too high. They gave him a lower threshold to meet. What do you think about that lower threshold? Was it truly a crisis averted for Trump?

O'LEARY: I'm elated by what has occurred here, not because it's supporting Donald Trump or it isn't, it's because the system is working, Laura.

You've got to think about what's so important here about the American brand. A hundred and seventy-five years of attracting trillions of dollars, number one economy on earth because of the transparencies of our laws, the Constitution, which represents and discusses property rights over 25 times, and the appellate court system that allows you your second time in court if you thought you've been done wrong.

Now, if you believed that the infraction did not match the penalty, which many people on a bipartisan basis thought was a little out of whack in that $500 million penalty, which made it very hard to get a bond in the first place, which did not allow the appellate system to kick in, that was a big problem. But that's been alleviated.

And there's a big sigh of relief. And why did that happen? Because the adults came in the room and realized it was bad for the American brand and bad for our system and bad for New York.

And this is just -- the best way to think about it is the analogy of a mother pearl. That's what I like to think of. And our economy is the mother pearl and a little piece of sand got in it in New York. And the mother pearl protected it by creating a pearl around it. And now, that irritant is gone and the system keeps working. Thank goodness, Laura. Thank goodness.

COATES: Well, you obviously can't see my hands. I like diamonds, baby. Let me tell you about diamonds.


The idea that you have to go through some stuff to ensure that everything cannot essentially be ruined and crumbled. Think about that. The market can work in such a way. The laws can work in such a way. People can rely upon the funding apparatuses and loans by virtue of having a solid system that punishes and deters to prevent people from doing anything fraudulent.

Now, you and I are not going to convince one another about whether this is victimless or a problem, but I am curious about the idea of the knight in shining armor. Again, the diamond metaphor continuing with the shine.

Knight Specialty Insurance, they stepped in and basically said they're going to be good for the money if Trump loses his appeal. There were many who turned down the (INAUDIBLE) opportunity for them to step in.


Why did they? Was it the lower amount or was it the cause?

O'LEARY: I think what matters here is that it allows the appellate system to move forward. Now, what the final outcome is unknown, but at least the system worked, that the trust in the American system of fairness and transparency and the appellate system of appeal all the way to Supreme Court is what allows me as an investor to get on a plane on Wednesday night, fly all around the world to go raise $3.6 billion, tell these investors as they have for years trusted America, let me bring that $3.6 billion back here to do a real estate development in data centers.

Now, I have removed the slide that had New York in it because right now, we don't want to talk about New York risk. Things are still a little funky chicken, as you know, and people don't want to take any risk in New York. That's just I'm just one investor. But believe me, that deck, everybody running around the world raising money, I'm just one of them, is not talking about New York right now. We're waiting to see how this plays out. Why take New York risk? New York did that to themselves. I didn't do it to them. They did it to themselves. This money is going to one of seven other states where we've identified it's safe to deploy $3.6 billion. Not New York. But I'm hopeful --

COATES: But Kevin, you do -- that seems counterintuitive to people. I mean, I would -- and granted, I don't have those rich money problems, but we're to invest the money. But I do have concerns. I'd rather invest my money in a place where the laws would protect against somebody committing fraud against me, where what they tell me they have before I make an investment deal, how they evaluate their property is actually in line with what the valuation is. That would make me feel safer as an investor. But maybe that's different between me and a gazillionaire. But speaking of investments, I want to ask you this because while I have you, Truth Social comes to mind, the Truth Social stock specifically. It plunged today. It lost more than 21% after its owner disclosed the company, lost more than $58 million back in 2023. And I'm really curious from somebody like yourself, so focused on investments, is that a stock you would invest in?

O'LEARY: I think all social media stocks are under tremendous scrutiny as a result -- with the process going on in TikTok right now, Laura, you can't ignore this bill that's going through Congress. I mean, TikTok is under fire and under siege, but it's just another social media site. And whatever happens, whether this bill passes or it doesn't, and it's highly likely to pass, it has put tremendous pressure on the social media industry.

And I think one of the casualties is a new stock like this, which is going to be very, very volatile. It's not profitable yet, but we don't know the outcome of the TikTok situation. And so, what will the laws look like on social media post TikTok?

And whether it gets acquired by an American owner and it turns from TikTok China, everybody knows it's basically spyware. I mean, nobody is even debating that anymore. And they would never let us have a TikTok USA in China, so we're not going to let them have one here. But that is part of the problem with the volatility.

COATES: I hear you on volatility, Kevin. But I -- but I -- but the TikTok scenario is quite different because, one, it's a prospective ban based on a potential divestment by Chinese owner ByteDance and whether they will actually do that or not.

Also, Truth Social has a fraction of the users. It's being, frankly, panned as a result of the losses that it has had. It might be prospectively profitable, but it's not now. So, would you now invest in it?

O'LEARY: Well, obviously, it's another platform and it has got into the controversy around Trump. And yes, it's volatile and it's smaller, but it's not the only one that's lost. You know, you said 21% decline today in today's trading. I mean, Twitter, now X, it's down 66% and it's private from its 44 billion valuation. These companies are volatile and that's no different than what Trump has got.

And, you know, whether it's a good stock or bad stock, you have to wait to see the outcome. But it is a viable platform. It has got millions of people following it. You may not like the fact that it's so tied to Trump or maybe you do. It depends on the way you look at it.

I'm kind of agnostic to all that stuff. I just look at it as participating in a sector that is really taking over media. TikTok is one of the largest media companies in America.

COATES: Why are you talking to me about TikTok, though? I'm talking about Truth Social. I hear you talking about the volatility and the profitability. I'm just curious. Do you have stock in any of the other social media platforms? And if you do, why not this one? If it's just about volatility and prospective profits.

O'LEARY: No, I do not own it. I buy indices. It's not in an index yet. It has just gone public. It'll find its way into an index. That way, I don't have to be exposed to one large position, one stock. I'm an ETF guy. I buy indices.


So, I get the market trend. And I don't get caught up in a narrative around one stock. But, you know, when you talk to me about declines in social media stocks, I have to point out that there are others that have lost even more. So, I don't think it's specific to the Trump stock or it isn't.

But the most important thing that you and I have been on this narrative for the last six weeks about is our system works and the American brand is safe. Yes, New York is in a penalty box for a while. I'm confident it'll come out.

I'm not going to go sell New York right now nor is anybody else with a lot of money or trying to raise money because it's still in a situation -- we're waiting to see the outcome of this. But the appellate system is safe, the American brand is safe, and the adults came in the room. I am proud of that. I know -- I know, Laura, you're happy for me on this one. I know you're happy for me.

COATES: I'm thrilled. I'm waiting for my mother of pearl necklace that will look wonderful on my next outfit.


Thank you, Kevin O'Leary.


Nice to talk to you.

O'LEARY: Take care.

COATES: Up next, Florida's Supreme Court has issued quite the ruling. It puts abortion on the ballot this coming November. So, the question now is, could it actually put the state in play for President Biden?

Plus, a new mystery around the Havana syndrome. That's that bizarre health (INAUDIBLE) that has been impacting U.S. officials. Well, the new evidence is pointing to Russia and why it's dividing America's intelligence community. I'll explain next.



COATES: The Biden campaign is saying tonight that they think Florida is in play. You heard me correctly. They think Florida is in play. The state that Trump won back in 2016, and then won again in 2020 by an even wider margin. The state where, according to CNN senior reporter Harry Enten, Donald Trump is currently ahead by seven points. Yes, that state.

The Biden campaign says Florida is now winnable for Biden. And that's in part because of abortion legislation. Just today, the Florida Supreme Court allowing one of the country's strictest abortion bans to take effect. They decided the state's constitution does not protect abortion rights. So, this six-week abortion ban the state lawmakers approved of will now take effect in 30 days.

But hold up for a second, because there's more. In a separate ruling, the court also deciding abortion can be on the ballot this November. So, voters will be able to choose whether an amendment to enshrine abortion rights should be added to the state's constitution or not.

Here's how Planned Parenthood is responding to Florida's Supreme Court. They say -- quote -- "This decision triggers a near-total abortion ban, hindering access to care for Floridians. It particularly endangers vulnerable communities, including those with low incomes, in rural areas, and facing discrimination."

I want to bring in Karen Finney, a CNN political commentator, and Rina Shah, a former senior GOP congressional adviser. Glad to have both of you guys here. Thanks for joining. Karen, let me begin with you here --


COATES: -- because if this does become law, that would mean that Floridians would have to cross likely four states to be able to have access to a legal abortion. And I wonder, a big part of this has always been about access and inequity, and in addition to reproductive rights, of course. What do you say to that inequality that's going to result?

FINNEY: Well, it may -- all of this taken together is basically reducing women to the lesser sex, right? Because it means it's another way to say we don't have control of our own bodies. I mean -- and I think what's important about this Florida decision is so important. This affects women throughout the south because, you know, there were women who were traveling to Florida to get abortions.

And this six-week ban is the most -- one of the most extreme we've seen. And it really says a lot about the way that women's lives are so devalued by this legislation.

And again, it's a reminder -- but it's also a reminder for women what's at stake in this election. And that's part of why you are seeing the Biden campaign.

And frankly, I got emails very quickly from several other candidates in the state who are now saying -- seeing this as potentially winnable, at least worth investing in.

COATES: And Rina, on that point, I mean, abortion, frankly, has been on the ballots in several other states.


COATES: And by the way, Nikki Haley thought this was a problem because she knew that it was vying well in other places and the idea of a nationwide abortion ban couldn't happen. Do Florida Republicans really want to face this on the ballot? It could really go the other direction.

SHAH: Short answer is no, they don't, because they know how vulnerable they are. But I talked to a good friend of mine who's a brilliant lawyer. She has been anti-abortion for a long time, came up really in the pro-life movement. She is down there in Florida. She said something to me that just stuck with me and will always. She said the Florida GOP is the dog that caught the car.

That's it. That's what happened here. They have overstepped. And now, you're going to have draconian, punitive six-week ban, which is so strict that you might as well be a total abortion ban.

I myself have had four pregnancies, and only one of out of four have I known at the six-week mark. It is ridiculous for these Republican men to want to control women's bodies this way. There are Republican women in Florida tonight who are incensed, who understand what this means.


But now, putting on my political operative hat for a second, this is ridiculous on every level for Republicans because they're going to spend the money, honey. So much money is going to come with this. I mean, every dollar spent in Florida, which is a very expensive state to play in, that's a dollar that could have been spent elsewhere on a swing state.

So, you've got districts within Florida that are already swinging and going to get swingier, and now money that's going to pour into Florida to fight all this.

COATES: By the way, Trump, who's really the head of the Republican Party, I want to play for a second and have you responds, Karen, to what he said when this was first raised to his awareness. He thinks it's a horrible idea. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Would you support that? You think that goes too far?

TRUMP: I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.


COATES: So, does that flip it on its head, the ability for this to be winnable, if Trump, of course, is saying, no, no, no, this is not what I'm thinking about?

FINNEY: No, because he's now talking about a 16-week ban. And one of the things we've seen consistently in the states where these measures have been on the ballot, people understand a ban is a ban is a ban. And so, as upset as people are today about the six-week ban, they are energized to be able to vote on this in November.

COATES: I want to talk about RFK, Jr. because he was on with "Erin Burnett OutFront" earlier today. It was a great interview that she did, by the way. I want you to listen to this moment because, well, the fact-checkers of the world are all over it. Listen.



ROBERT F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can make the argument that President Biden is a much worse threat to democracy. And the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history, that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent.

You know, I can say that because I just won a case in the Federal Court of Appeals, and now before the Supreme Court. It shows that he started censoring not just me, but 37 hours after he took the oath of office, he was censoring me.


COATES: Now, of course, Daniel Dale, who's our fact-checker, there's no evidence that Biden has been involved in censoring candidates by taking down their social media pages. There is a Supreme Court case about what misinformation can be regulated by the branch or otherwise, but that is false, according to Daniel Dale. How should Biden be going at this issue?

FINNEY: You know what? I think the party has to take him seriously as a candidate. Biden should just not worry about him because here is the thing. It is so intellectually dishonest for RFK, Jr. to say what he said on the day that you have Donald Trump talking about undoing the civil rights legacy that his father actually helped to put in place.

So, don't -- you know, it's too much disinformation. Don't waste your time trying to fact-check him.


SHAH: Oh, so many thoughts about RFK, Jr.


I mean, how do we even keep it tight? But I do agree with you that Biden does not need to engage mano a mano right now. I think tapping Nicole Shanahan was very interesting because one line from her announcement really stuck, and it said, I used to be a Democrat, too, right?

But this is a pair that kind of traffics in lies. We get it already. They're already crying victim, too. I see them taking that page out of Trump's playbook.

So, at this point, he's not on enough ballots. I mean, look, we'll get there when we get there about how he's going to peel off electoral college votes. But at this point, I think it is beneath the president to engage this guy who is, I believe, a laughingstock to even his family.

COATES: Hmm, some harsh words. I do wonder that delicate dance between when to take account and when to ignore, especially in politics. Karen Finney, Rina Shah, thank you both so much.

Hey, up ahead, a new investigation that points to Russia as the culprit of the Havana Syndrome mystery. But then why is the U.S. government saying otherwise?



COATES: Well, it's a mystery that has stumped diplomats, the intel community, and journalists alike, frankly. The unexplained Havana Syndrome dating back to 2016. That's when the first publicly reported cases emerged in Cuba. Diplomats reporting things like headaches and dizziness, nausea, and also ear pain.

Now, several experts wondered if it was caused by some sort of a sonic weapon. Sounds a little like -- this is how it sounds. And don't worry, it's not going to hurt you.


COATES: So, since then --


-- there has been some 1,500 reported cases in 96 different countries. Now, a five-year, a new one, a new five-year joint investigation carried out in part by "60 Minutes" is pointing the finger at Russia.


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are we being attacked?


PELLEY: By whom?

EDGREEN: Russia. This was happening to our top five 10% performing officers across the Defense Intelligence Agency. And consistently, there was a Russia nexus. There was some angle where they had worked against Russia, focused on Russia, and done extremely well.

PELLEY: What has been the impact on American national security?

EDGREEN: The impact has been that the intelligence officers and our diplomats working abroad are being removed from their posts with traumatic brain injuries. They're being neutralized.


COATES: The investigation goes even further, attributing the attacks directly to a Russian intelligence unit. The Kremlin now, for its part, says the claims are baseless. But despite this new probe, big questions still remain. Why? Because U.S. officials said it a year ago that it's unlikely a foreign adversary is to blame.


The Department of State is still sticking to that today in light of this report. And on top of that, the NIH published studies just last month that compared brain scans between reported Havana Syndrome sufferers and healthy people. And guess what? They said that no significant differences were found.

Joining me now, retired CIA officer Douglas London. Glad you're here. So, what is the disconnect now between the NIH, the U.S. government, and now this investigation?

DOUGLAS LONDON, RETIRED CIA OFFICER: When you look at what assessments have been declassified or redacted and put out, they seem to rely very heavily on a medical cause and effect. They're looking for some medical smoking gun.

The investigation that the "Insider" did with "60 Minutes" and Der Spiegel looks more at operational circumstances. You see them examining traditional analytic methods by taking a timeline, trying to look at associates, travel patterns, and finding some rather disturbing coincidences. Coincidences are rare in the intelligence world.

COATES: Look at what Bolton had to say. He, at the time, was the national security advisor, by the way. In 2016, he saw things a little bit differently. Listen to this.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I did then and do now think that there's very likely some hostile adversary behavior here, whether it's Russia, China, maybe somebody else. More than likely, Russia.

Some of the people who were affected actually were National Security Council staff when I was there. And the idea that these people had some kind of psychosomatic experience was not credible to me.


COATES: So, who's getting it wrong here?

LONDON: I frankly think the United States Intelligence Community is getting it wrong. I think it's very compelling when you look at the evidence, which operationally places members of this GRU, Military Intelligence Russian Unit, 29155, and happens to be in the same places at the same time these incidents occurred. In one case in Tbilisi, it was the son of the unit commander, Averyanov. That's a bit suspicious, if you would.

And you look at the ties between the targets that they went after. The people generally had something to do with Russia, often with counterintelligence, as if it was directed effort to disrupt intelligence collection against them.

COATES: So, if it were Russia, why are we not seeing more attacks on their adversaries?

LONDON: I think it's fair to look at the whole wide scope. But again, the United States is always the principal enemy. It's the United States Intelligence Community, particularly, which is the leading element, which has the resources, and that has the most to hurt Russia with. So, it would make the most sense they would focus what finite resources they have against the United States.

COATES: So, when you're doing these sorts of investigations, trying to identify the source of an issue such as this, obviously, the public wants to know and there's that timeline, then there's a timeline it takes to fully investigate something. Which governs?

LONDON: What's troubling is how quickly they abandon the investigation. It should be at least an ongoing. The matter is, intelligence is imperfect because it's a big jigsaw puzzle. You're always getting additional pieces. So, why the heavy confidence that they could just terminate the investigation and just walk away and say, we don't see a foreign adversary?

The Russians for years have used directed energy to collect intelligence, using technical efforts to collect our vibrations, sounds, voice, which is why inside embassies -- we work in these, you know, these cells, these SCIFs is what we call them, to shield our power, to shield our typing, to shield our voices.

The Russians have also used substances such as METKA, which was a carcinogenic spy dust, what people might remember from the 80s, which causes cancer in people. They used it to track our operations and our contacts.

So, you put this together with the movement of the GRU personnel at the same times and same places, it's awfully compelling and it makes you wonder, why did the U.S. Intelligence Community rush to their findings and why they were so quick to go ahead and say, okay, we're done, there's nothing left to see here?

COATES: I wonder why they did. My God, I think I need like an hour and a half with you to like pick your brain longer about these. It's like a living Robert Ludlum book. Thank you so much, Douglas London. Thank you. That's the "Born Identity" series for those. Don't Google it. It's fine.

Also, a neck and neck game, everyone. LSU versus Iowa. Caitlin Clark versus Angel Reese. Only one came out on top. Guess who's here next? Jemele Hill has been trending all day because of her commentary about these two teams. You got to stick around to hear why. And look at her. She's there. Yay! We're coming up next.




UNKNOWN (voice-over): This time, it's Iowa!

COATES: Survive and advance. It's March, after all. Well, actually, now it's April, but we're still in the throes of March Madness. And tonight, Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes got their revenge against the LSU Tigers. Two of the best in the biz, Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, they faced off again in the highly-anticipated rematch of the 2023 finals.

The teams have a storied rivalry recently. You may remember the you- can't-see-me hand motions from Angel Reese last year. Well, tonight, we got a crown on the LSU bench. But this time, it's Clark's turn for celebrations. She had 41 points tonight, 41.

Now, everyone wants to dramatize the rivalry, but at the end of the day, it was just about two excellent competitors bringing out the very best in each other, animated by memories of playoff history. It was a huge moment as well for women's sports. It was a big deal for sports in general, frankly.

Joining me now is Jemele Hill, a contributing writer for "The Atlantic" and the host of the podcast "Jemele Hill is Unbothered." Jemele, I'm so glad that you are here tonight. What a game. It was neck-and-neck for most of it, but then Iowa got its revenge. What does this mean for both teams given this history of rivalry now?


JEMELE HILL, CONTRIBUTING WRITER FOR THE ATLANTIC: Well, first, I mean, think about it. It's not often that the sequel can live up to the original.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

HILL: And in this case, I think the sequel really did. You know, for both of these teams, LSU comes in as the defending national champion. Iowa, you know, with Caitlin Clark, they've been close. Obviously, they were close last year, didn't quite get there, couldn't get through LSU. And now, they sort of are able to take down the team that was defending the crown. And so, for Caitlin Clark, as we've seen her break record after record, and she broke even more tonight, this is just another step in her incredible journey, to have 40 points on this stage the way that she did it. I mean, she completely controlled the game.

And there were just points in the game where she was absolutely demoralizing LSU with the way that she was playing. So, I think she made an even stronger statement that she has made as an all-time great women's college basketball player.

And for LSU, you know, there's nothing for them to be ashamed of. I mean, Angel Reese, she played her heart out. I mean, she got hurt. I think after she got hurt and dinged up a little bit, she wasn't quite the same. She carried the team as far as she could. It has been kind of a bit of an up and down season for them in some respects. And so, they got as far as they were meant to go, and they got beat tonight by the better team and by a player the likes of which the game hasn't seen before.

COATES: You know, Jemele, I want to play for you because, first of all, a lot is always discussed about Caitlin Clark. I want to talk about Angel Reese for a second because she was emotional tonight in the postgame interview because, frankly, she has been scrutinized to no end, as many of these players are, including Caitlin Clark. But listen to what she had to say when she got a little emotional tonight reflecting on what a year it has been.


ANGEL REESE, BASKETBALL PLAYER FOR LSU TIGERS: I just try to stand strong, like, I've been through so much, I've seen so much, I've been attacked so many times, death threats, I've been sexualized, I've been threatened, I've been so many things, and I've stood strong every single time.

And I just try to stand strong for my teammates because I don't want them to see me down and like not be there for them. So, I just want them to always just know, like, I'm still human, like all this has happened since I won the national championship. I said the other day, I haven't had peace since then. And it's tough.


COATES: Jemele, I mean, uh, can you -- what's your response? It is heartbreaking to hear not only the emotion in her voice but what she has endured since winning last year and really as she reflects on what it's like to be a woman in the spotlight.

HILL: Yeah, I mean, that was what was also sort of the back story. I wouldn't even call it a back story because it was right in front of our faces, of this game. You know, one of the things that I think people were really confronted with is just the level of vitriol, in some cases hatred, that LSU has faced, you know, for a number of reasons.

They have a very polarizing coach in Kim Mulkey who tends to stir a lot of emotions in people. And then you have Angel Reese and the way that she has been characterized, the whole team has been characterized.

You know, obviously, one of the bigger stories surrounding this game was, you know, LA Times columnist had to apologize for how he characterized LSU going into their matchup against UCLA, calling them the dirty debutantes, calling them villains.

You know, all these characterizations because LSU -- you know, Angel Reese is a confident player. She's brash. She's bold. You know, she talks her trash, as people saw in the championship game last year, and if you followed her career, and there is this idea, fictionalized idea, conditioned idea of how women are supposed to compete.

And by the way, who is allowed to show that competitive instinct in what way? You know, Caitlin Clark gets emotional. Caitlin Clark -- I mean, she talks a little bit of trash, too. She has all those elements that when men do it, it's okay. And a lot of times, they try to sort of put these women against each other, be it the fans. And certainly, the media was also complicit in doing this.

You know, these women, they compete and they compete hard, and they're going for meaningful accolades that are putting stamps on their careers. Of course, they're not going to be nice inside of the lines of basketball, and it seemed like Angel Reese was penalized more for that.

I mean, certainly, people have criticized how Caitlin Clark talks to the official and in other demonstrative ways. She has -- she has shown her emotion. I don't think either one of them should be criticized because, again, these are components when it comes to male athletes that we accept all the time.

But yet, when it comes to women, I guess they were expected to be more demure and less demonstrative. And because people are bringing these preconceived notions into their competitiveness, you see what is the brunt of what she has been dealing with in addition to -- let's be honest, there is a racial element as well.


And so, she has had to shoulder all of this ever since they won the national championship. Any time you summon her name, it is just -- even -- anytime I even tweet something about her, the level of reaction, people calling her ghetto, a thug, like all of those things. And, you know, these players are young. I mean, Sarah (ph), they're absorbing all of this.

They're on social media, too. The people who have these things to say can go right to their Instagram page or right to their Twitter feed and say it directly to them. So, it has a different impact on them psychologically. And I think in the wake -- in the weight of all this, you saw Angel Reese break down tonight.

COATES: Not to mention this is a college student, this a young woman who is also a student, who is also growing and maturing, and the weight of a franchise essentially on their shoulders. And, you know, I think people underestimate on a daily basis what that pressure is like. And you add on the element of race, you add on the other scrutiny as well.

Look, from one non-shrinking flower to another, you all can have the roses, I'll be a thorn any day of the week. Jemele Hill, thank you so much.

HILL: Always a pleasure, Sarah (ph).

COATES: Thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues.