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Laura Coates Live

"Angry" Biden To Have Call With Netanyahu; NYT: Trump Spoke Secretly With Saudi Leader Mohammed Bin Salman; Special Counsel Rebukes Judge's Request In Classified Docs Case; New Video Shows Raid On Diddy's L.A. Home; New Poll Signals Warning Signs For Biden, Trump; Philadelphia Man Is Freed After 34 Years In Prison; Harry Enten Reports On Solar Eclipse. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 03, 2024 - 23:00   ET



GAYLE KING, CNN HOST: If I didn't know better, I would think you were blowing me off. Charles has never been to a Broadway play. That's why I'm just thinking, can we just go see "Lion King?"

CHARLES BARKLEY, CNN HOST: We are going to go see Lion King, and I got to go see "Hamilton.

KING: Okay.


KING: I'll do that, too. I would do that, too. You heard it. You heard it. And you never lied to me.


KING: And you're not going to start now.

BARKLEY: Thank you, guys, for joining us. Hey, you can see Gayle at 7 a.m. in the morning.

KING: I'll be there, but we'll see you both. Both of us will see you next Wednesday. Have a great week. We'll see you next week.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, President Biden faces a red line moment and a high-stakes call over the deadly strike against aid workers in Gaza. Will it change anything? Plus, new video from inside the raid on Diddy's home and the new reporting on the interviews the feds are now conducting. Tonight on "Laura Coates Live."

In just a matter of hours, President Biden will be speaking on the phone with Benjamin Netanyahu. It's their first phone call since the deadly Israeli airstrike in Gaza that killed seven people, innocent aid workers with Chef Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen, a strike that Chef Andres now says was the deliberate targeting of his workers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSE ANDRES, FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: This was not just a bad luck situation where, oops, we dropped the bomb in the wrong place or not. This was over 1.5, 1.8 kilometers with a very defiant humanitarian convoy that had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colorful logo that we are obviously very proud of. That's very clear who we are and what we do. What I know is that we were targeted deliberately, nonstop until everybody was dead in this convoy.


COATES: You can hear the emotion and the grief in his voice, the anger, frankly. These are people who travel in some of the world's biggest disaster zones with the purest of missions: Feed the hungry. They were in Gaza to feed starving people, and it cost them their own lives.

Now, Israel is blaming misidentification for the attack. But CNN analyzed video and images of the aftermath, which show the attack, appears to have consisted of multiple precision strikes. The question now is whether this could serve as a red line moment for the president. So far, Biden has expressed his frustration, his outrage, his heartbreak. But will that evolve into a changed stance on his support for Israel?

What we know for sure is that a senior administration official says the president is angry that he'll be -- quote -- "expressing his frustration" -- unquote -- tomorrow to Netanyahu directly. So, what exactly does that mean, expressing one's frustration? And will Netanyahu even care?

But for the president's critics and the tens of thousands in critical states who have voted uncommitted or what was the other one? Uninstructed in primaries, frustration expressed may not be enough.

And new tonight, we've learned the pressure on Biden extends all the way to his personal residence. "The New York Times" is reporting that First Lady Jill Biden has privately urged the president to end the conflict. According to an attendee at a meeting with Muslim community leaders last night, the president said that the first lady had been telling him to -- quote -- "stop it, stop it now, Joe."

I want to bring in CNN contributor Evan Osnos. He is the author of "Joe Biden: The Life, The Run, and What Matters Now." Also here, CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier. I'm so glad that you're both here.

Let me begin with you for a second, Evan, because the president is angry, ready to express his frustration, we're hearing. You have talked one on one with the president at length in recent months. How will that conversation go?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's going to be pretty tense, Laura. I mean, I think there is just no question now that the United States and Israel are really at odds over the conduct of this war. I mean, the fact is that when Joe Biden says he was outraged and heartbroken over this, there are a lot of people who say, well, how does that turn into action in this call tomorrow? Look, as we know, in a diplomatic call like this, we're not going to get every detail about what they talked about, but one thing to look for is whether you see any changes on the ground afterwards in terms of access for humanitarian aid.

For instance, does the IDF provide escorts to humanitarian workers to be able to operate more safely? Does the Israeli government talk about evacuating people from Raffa? These are the kinds of things that will give us a sign of how far President Biden is willing to go in putting pressure on the Israelis.

COATES: Can we turn to you here because you heard the reporting from "The New York Times" that Dr. Jill Biden is urging that President Biden stop it, stop it now.


You had Chris Van Hollen, a senator who is a close ally of Biden as well, saying that he hopes this will be the moment where the president changes course. You talk a lot about red lines. We hear that oftentimes. Is this that?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that this is hammered home to the White House that Israel is saying one thing but doing another. They have, however, been asking Israel behind the scenes, asking the IDF to be more precise, and this gives them ammunition to say you're not living up to your promises, you're not living up to your own ideals of accuracy.

We're paying attention to this because it was a foreign aid convoy and everyone knows Chef Jose Andres. So, unlike when the Israelis say, oh, it was a U.N. convoy and they were lying, they can't say that this time.

And they have their own internal reporting that one side of the IDF knew where this convoy was, but another part of the IDF systematically targeted these three vehicles down.

Andres describes how the vehicles were spread out over a one-mile area. The first car got attacked. Everyone ran out of that, went to the second car. The second car got attacked, they ran to the third. The third was obliterated, and they were all killed. Can you imagine their terror?

And so, this has happened to U.N. aid workers, but now we're all finally paying attention to it in a way that the White House will be able to say to Bibi Netanyahu, you've got to change course.

But Netanyahu is hoping that he'll have a Trump administration in a few months, and the Netanyahu government is allowed to stay in office for three years as long as Bibi can keep his right-wing coalition together.

COATES: Evan, on that point, you know, Biden started out with a pretty full-throated support for Israel. But his message has changed as this war has progressed, as the civilian casualties have increased, and famine imminent. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Full stop.

0We have made it clear to the Israelis and are aware that the independent -- the safety of innocent Palestinians is still of great concern.

The conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip has been over the top.

I've been working nonstop to establish an immediate ceasefire that would last for six weeks to get all the prisoners released.


COATES: Evan, what do you make of this evolution?

OSNOS: Yeah, there is a very clear trend line here. One of the moments that was not in that montage, which is important, too, is in December when he started talking about Israel doing indiscriminate bombing. That was a term that was chosen by choice. That that means something.

And I think what it is a sign of is of real frustration. You know, when I talked to the president not too long ago about the war, you could see it in his body language. There is a level of -- it's a problem that he has not been able to solve. And you could see it in the way he talks about it.

He said, Israel had at the time -- he said, don't underestimate the desire, as he said, to go after Hamas with every ounce of capacity. And he said, but that doesn't mean it should be continued, it doesn't mean it should be right.

And what he's walking is this line between putting pressure on Israel in a way that his political career tells him to. And look, I know that there are people who say, why isn't he calling Bibi Netanyahu out more aggressively, more powerful, more forcefully? Why is he breaking with him? Because his view today has been that the way that you can get them to do anything is by working with them, not by arguing publicly against them.

But I think we're approaching this point now, as Kim said, in which the events on the ground have become so unmistakably contrary to American interests and values that this is reaching the point where you're going to see a more forceful -- a more forceful response from it.

COATES: And Kim, I mean, it's every campaign stop. It's every official moment as well. And it's not just the United States, not just in terms of an election. There is a growing global backlash and reaction to what's happening. And we're talking a lot about Netanyahu.

But there's also reporting from New York Times' Maggie Haberman tonight that the former President, Donald Trump, actually comes into this mix. He spoke recently with Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The context of the conversation is unclear, we don't know all of it, but this is the first publicly disclosed conversation since Trump left the White House. What do you make of this meeting?


DOZIER: I think Trump is reaching out to former allies and saying, you know, hold fast, I'm on my way back in, because he firmly believes that.

And while Trump is reported to have said some disturbing things to a right-wing Jewish group of people that he thinks the fighting in Gaza should stop, I think once -- if he does win the White House back, the people who advised him on the Middle East, they've remained loyalists, they didn't become never Trumpers, they're likely coming back in, and I think that they would very quickly convince him that he's got to stay the course with Israel, allow it to do whatever it needs to do to fight Hamas.

And Biden is in the tough situation of, yes, he's got to keep the Democrats together, but he also has to keep that wide middle ground of America with him to win the next election. Many of them are still pro- Israel and don't want to see military aid cut off.

COATES: Really, what a conundrum. What the call will happen tomorrow. I'll be very curious to see. Evan Osnos, Kim Dozier, thank you both so much.

And now over to Trump legal world, where Special Counsel Jack Smith is delivering his sharpest rebuke yet against Judge Aileen Cannon in the classified docs case, in a filing just late last night, Smith saying Judge Cannon had ordered briefings based on -- quote -- "fundamentally flawed understandings of the case that has" -- they call it "no basis in law or in fact."

Now, in plain English, what does that mean? Special Counsel Smith is telling Judge Aileen Cannon that she has no idea what she is talking about. So, what's this all about? Well, Judge Cannon requested jury instructions from both sides.

No, you didn't miss anything. The trial has not started. No, they haven't even picked the jury. I mean, the trial date itself is written in pencil, not ink. But Jack Smith wants the judge to reject Trump's claim that he cannot be prosecuted because he transformed somehow classified documents into private property under what's called the Presidential Records Act.

Now, last month, the judge seemed to signal that she thought that defense was absurd. But then, here's a confusing part for Jack Smith's team, she asked for jury instructions that would say the opposite. So now the big question is, where do we go from here?

Well, National Security Attorney Brad Moss is here with me at the magic wall. As I understand it, Brad, we have got three options here, three doors. So, what is behind door number one? What happens if Judge Cannon does not agree with Special Counsel Smith?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: So, this is sort of the nightmare scenario for the government. If Judge Cannon disagrees with how Jack Smith outlined everything in his filing and sends this to a jury with that jury instruction, it's basically an open-shut case in Donald Trump's favor.

His lawyers could sit there, play Candy Crush on their phones the entire time because the way the jury instruction is currently set out, it would not allow for the government to win.

That's why Jack Smith outlines this in the beginning of his filing, saying it is vitally important that the court promptly decide whether the unstated legal premise, this idea about the Presidential Records Act underlying the recent orders, does, in the court's view, represent a correct formulation of law.

They're saying, this is what Jack Smith is saying, you've got it all wrong. You don't -- you certainly don't understand how this Presidential Records Act works with respect to the Espionage Act. Trump's whole legal theory is garbage. If you send this to a jury like this, jeopardy will have attached. We won't be able to appeal a directed verdict in his favor, and we can't even proceed to trial at that point.

COATES: So, she's got to decide as a matter of law that this defense cannot be available. She's trying to punt to the jurors to say, hey, what do you guys think about it? She's supposed to decide.

All right, well, how about door number two? Because now the question is, if the judge does change the jury instructions, what does that enable Jack Smith to do?

MOSS: So, this is sort of the reverse. This is Donald Trump's nightmare. This is what the government wants to see. This is the way the Espionage Act cases always proceed. Is it simply an issue of, was there unauthorized possession? Did you have the records and did you fail to return them when confronted about it? That's the essence of their case.

And this is what he outlines, Jack Smith's team outlines in the filing that the question of whether the Presidential Records Act has any impact on the element of unauthorized possession under Section 793(e), which is the Espionage Act provision, does not turn on any evidentiary issue.

This is basically the DOJ saying to Judge Cannon, this is a strict question of law. It's not a question for the jury. You're the judge. You have to decide this now in the pretrial motions.

Do you agree with Donald Trump? If you do, go ahead, rule in his favor, we'll appeal in the 11th Circuit. But if you don't, you've got to reject his motion, you've got to throw out this jury instruction, and we proceed to trial with standard jury instructions in an Espionage Act case.


COATES: So, under door number two or behind it, the case could still move forward compared to --

MOSS: Absolutely.

COATES: -- if they choose the jury section that Trump would want. This case could be DOA.

MOSS: Correct. If it's door number one, this may -- it may will not have a case. The thing is over.

COATES: Hmm. How about door number three? I hate to even click it. Let's see what's going on in door number three. The question is, if Cannon sticks to her initial points, what are the special counsel's options then?

MOSS: So, this is --

COATES: You mentioned the appeal.

MOSS: Yeah. So, this is where I think we're likely headed to, is it's a question of, does she simply dismiss it through the pretrial motion as a matter of law or does she say, I'm going to try to keep with these jury instructions, but I'm going to tell you now in advance of going to trial?

That's why the government was very clear here. The government must have the opportunity to consider appellate review before jeopardy attaches. They have to be able to bring this to the 11th Circuit now if she's going to go this way before they start their case because once they start their case, double jeopardy attaches, and if there's a directed verdict in Donald Trump's favor, they have no appellate options.

That's why they're saying, pick what you're going to do. At this point, just decide what you want to do as a matter of law, we'll go to the 11th Circuit if we need to do so.

COATES: So, reminding people that the jurors are called fact finders, right? They decide issues of fact, but the court decides the legal issues. And so, if she does not rule on this motion to dismiss, then they would not be able to go to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then they get to go to a trial, and then it could be all bad?

MOSS: So, this is where this is interesting. If she does -- if she tries to punt this now --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

MOSS: -- they're going to seek what's called a writ of mandamus. It's a very extraordinary option. It's very rarely granted.

COATES: Don't speak Latin to me tonight.

(LAUGHTER) Tell me what it means.

MOSS: Writ of mandamus basically means it is extraordinary relief. It's telling an appellate court the district court is messing up, they're doing something. It's an abuse of discretion, completely misunderstanding the law, you need to come in and intervene now.

That is what they will likely have to do if she tries to continue to punt this to the jury. They'll seek what's called that writ of mandamus. Tell the 11th Circuit, you've got to set her straight right now.

COATES: You know, setting her straight. Some people are talking about that might mean considering whether she should remain on the case. That's going to be a pretty lofty ambition.

MOSS: Well, I'll be waiting to see. I don't necessarily know if they're going to go that route --


MOSS: -- but that would be part of the discussion, no doubt.

COATES: Well, we'll see. The gloves seem to be off so far. Bradley Moss, thank you so much.

Also coming up, a new video from inside the raid on Diddy's L.A. home and brand-new CNN reporting on the interviews the feds are now conducting, who they might be talking to and what they might know.



COATES: Tonight, CNN learning law enforcement officials are actively interviewing witnesses to build their case against Sean "Diddy" Combs. Those witnesses are people described in the multiple civil lawsuits against Diddy as being present or having material knowledge of the crimes alleged against him.

And that's not all. We have dramatic new video tonight of the raid on Diddy's L.A. home. That video posted by Misa Hylton, the mother of one of Diddy's sons, Justin Combs. You can see him there with his hands up in a hallway with guns pointed at him. The video added to circle what Hylton says are laser beams from firearms pointed at his chest.

Hylton saying -- quote -- "If these were the sons of a non-Black celebrity, they would not have been handled with the same aggression." She goes on to say, "How many times have we seen young unarmed Black men not make it out of these types of situations alive?" Hylton also saying that she has retained an attorney to investigate what she is calling an excessive use of force.

I want to get right to John Miller, CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. He served as the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism at the NYPD. Also joining me is Neama Rahmani, the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers. He's also a former federal prosecutor. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining me this evening.

Let me begin with you, John, because you've got some new reporting. I understand that officers are in the process of interviewing witnesses. Who are the witnesses and what about?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, this investigation is based on two successful models that Homeland Security investigation has used before. One, of course, is the R. Kelly case, which was brought to the federal courts as a racketeering case in the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn Federal Court, where he was convicted and sent away for 30 years.

And that was a case that started with agents reviewing claims that were made in civil suits, finding those plaintiffs, finding people who were present during the things that occurred, interviewing them, in some cases giving them grand jury subpoenas, and basically recreating the civil cases as criminal investigations where they gathered that evidence and presented them in court to a jury.

So, in this case, they're going down the same route.

COATES: You know, I do wonder which came first. Are you building your case on a parallel track or is one prompting the other? It sounds like perhaps the catalyst might be the civil litigation, so far as we know.

Neama, let me bring you in here because there are a number of lawsuits that are surrounding Diddy. And so far, we know that he has held at least one with Cassie Ventura. If there is a criminal investigation to Diddy, though, if there is an NDA in that subject, which I assume there would be one, she could still be compelled to cooperate with investigators, right?

NEAMA RAHMANI, PRESIDENT, WEST COAST TRIAL LAWYERS: Laura, that's absolutely right. An NDA can't prevent a victim from reporting a crime to law enforcement. And Congress passed a law last year that actually invalidates NDAs related to sexual assault and harassment. So, Diddy can't use an NDA to silence the victims in this case, whether it's inside the courtroom or outside.


COATES: Well, that's really helpful for investigators if they're compelling someone to actually testify. I mean, we also saw earlier the video, John, that was posted by Misa Hylton, one of -- the mother of one of his sons, of the raid. It's scary to watch, to see what took place. And the point that she's making about these encounters is certainly not lost on me.

Even though everyone was ultimately safe, at least physically, there is a lot that could have gone wrong. People are wondering why there was such a presence of force applied in this way in the sense of the presence of law enforcement. Did that strike you as odd?

MILLER: Well, based on the allegations that were being investigated, and I think it's a good time here to say both Sean Combs, through his attorneys, have denied all of those allegations, as has his son, Justin, who is named in another one of the lawsuits and who is seen here being confronted by armed federal agents from Homeland Security.

But if you read the narratives in the civil cases, which are part of this investigation, particularly in the Rodney Jones investigation, you hear him talking about Sean Combs allegedly going to closets in the home in Miami and in Los Angeles and handing out weapons to people who were either private security or part of his entourage, in one case allegedly gang members.

In the Cassie Ventura lawsuit, she filed under oath that Mr. Combs had her carry his pistol wherever they went together in her purse. Again, all things that Combs has denied.

But when you're hitting a large property like this, that has cameras that can see you coming from a mile away, that can monitor your movements inside, where you have reports of guns being stored there and guns being carried there by people, your tactical plan is probably going to include a show of force which has a tactical advantage in case you face gunfire, and we've seen that before, and at least a psychological advantage when you're trying to conduct a raid with the element of speed and surprise so evidence isn't destroyed and so you don't meet resistance.

In this case, none of that happened, but you can certainly understand a mother's feeling, watching this video, that that's a traumatic experience for anyone.

COATES: Really quick on that point, John, as well, when they were applying for a warrant, obviously, it's a probable cause standard, that they believe that there's likely going to be evidence of a crime located in a particular area. As part of that tactical plan then to execute that search warrant, there would have been planning surrounding how they would have used force or the number of officer present, right?

MILLER: Right. And I mean, there's a lot unusual about this warrant. You know, usually, as you know, as a former federal prosecutor, these warrants are set to go at 6:00 in the morning or later. This happens in the middle of the afternoon. But that's because at that time, there was a lot of movement. Was he in Miami? Was he in California? Was he headed to the airport? Was his private plane waiting?

As we know, he was stopped at the airport and an individual who was named as someone who allegedly carries a weapon and drugs for him was arrested at the airport, allegedly with drugs. So, they were moving very swiftly to make sure that they were able to get the evidence they believed they would find there.

COATES: Well, swift is a question I have, Neama, on this point in terms of what you think ultimately might occur. I mean, obviously, there has been no -- there has been no criminal charges against Diddy at all. There have been no criminal charges. He has denied everything. Based on what you're seeing and using your expertise as a former prosecutor, what's a timeline that you're expecting to see from here? RAHMANI: Laura, I expect an indictment in a matter of days or weeks. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, they don't go to a judge and get a search warrant for two residences unless they are close to an indictment.

This is the final step of an investigation. I believe that they've interviewed the witnesses, either proffers at the U.S. Attorney's Office or potential grand jury testimony, and this is just the final step of the investigation.

They're looking for the videos that Diddy allegedly recorded of the sex act. We know that there appears to be hidden cameras in the homes that may have captured these alleged acts. Once those H.S. agents review the video, I expect that grand jury indictment to be unsealed and Diddy or others to be arrested.

COATES: Well, if that isn't the case, it'll be more than the mother of one child who's retaining counsel for that effect. John Miller, Neama Rahmani, thank you both so much.

Well, ahead, new polls in several battleground states show a tight race between these two men, Biden and Trump, and Trump making big gains with a key demographic. I've got pollster Frank Luntz here with me to explain the trend and what it could mean come November.



COATES: A razor-thin margin between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. It's happening in seven key battleground states. And as you can see, excuse me, there's no clear leader. And there are about 215 days left until Election Day in America. But, you know, who's counting? What's a campaign to do?

Joining me now, pollster Frank Luntz is here. Frank, good to see you. Look, at this point in the race, voters in the key swing states believe Trump can best handle the economy, immigration by a pretty wide margin.


Look at this poll seven months away from Election Day. What is the Biden campaign going to do with that?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: Well, it got to change the issue agenda. The language that they've been using on the economy, talking about Bidenomics, they dropped that approach as inflation.

Even though it has come down significantly, the public perceives that it's still a problem. Even though the crisis at the border does not appear to be as bad right now as it was 30 days ago, 60 days ago, but the public sees it as a problem.

Trump is beating Joe Biden clearly on those two critical issues. Where Biden is strong is on abortion. And Florida is the latest state to allow a vote on Election Day.

And mark my words, if Biden is able to get the abortion issue on the ballot in state after critical states, that's going to bring out younger voters, going to bring out female voters, going to bring out voters that are stronger for Joe Biden than they are for Donald Trump. So, that's their playbook. But still, inflation and immigration, that's Trump's playbook. And right now, that's what voters are talking about.

COATES: Hey, does that mean, based on Florida and abortion, does that mean that Florida might be in play as a, you know, up for grabs kind of state?

LUNTZ: I don't see it. Ron DeSantis has been -- despite Donald Trump tearing him apart month after month after month, Ron DeSantis has been a good governor. The state has changed its political stripes over the last eight years. And now, Florida is reasonably reliable as a Republican state.

Where this matters, and same thing with Ohio, where these matters is Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona. Those are the seven key states, and Trump is tied or slightly leading in all seven.

COATES: You know, "The Wall Street Journal" survey found that Trump has support from 30% of Black men, 40% -- 47%, excuse me, of Latino men. It's striking because Trump is seeming to win the Latino men vote outright. Of course, they're not a monolith, but I do wonder what is driving the Latino community's frustration with the Democratic Party.

LUNTZ: It's a good question. And one of the issues is that it seems that the Biden administration is focused on African Americans, and they're leaving Latinos, Hispanics behind. And I know in my focus groups, what I hear is that they feel ignored, forgotten, even betrayed, that they're not part of the black-brown coalition that elected Joe Biden in 2020. And that's a big challenge for the Democrats right now because that's a core vote.

There's a second group that has moved away from Joe Biden, which is labor union members. Even though the leadership is endorsing Biden, union after union after union, in place after place, the actual membership themselves, they are either tied, Biden and Trump are tied, or Trump has a small lead.

Now, the group that Trump is losing are upper middle-class women in suburban communities, say outside Philadelphia or some of the major cities.

So, we see a realignment that's happening right now, and that's having a big impact in some of these key states.

COATES: That's fascinating. I wonder if the power of endorsements is dwindling by that discussion of individual members versus the union itself.

I do want to ask you about comments that Hillary Clinton said about the voters' choice in this election and the reaction of Stephen A. Smith just last night on CNN. Listen to this.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Get over yourself. Those are the two choices.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah, I love that.

CLINTON: Yeah, right. And --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah, good.



You know, it's kind of like one is old and effective and compassionate --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

CLINTON: -- has a heart and really cares about people, and one is old and has been charged with 91 felonies.

STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN HOST: I don't think it was a very wise statement on her part. How did that work out for her in 2016?


COATES: Is that the message to inspire voters for Biden? What do you think?

LUNTZ: I think viewers should pay attention to Stephen A. Smith because he is at that nexus of voters that are going to matter for both Trump and Biden, of people who are changing their votes, younger African-American men.

You have never seen this in my lifetime, 30% of them supporting the Republican candidate for president. That has never happened. One of the reasons is they identify with Trump being attacked by the government. Another reason is that they, too, feel betrayed, that they've been promised things by Democrats that have never come to fruition.

In the end, it is these small groups, these small movements, that are going to have a huge impact on the elections.


LUNTZ: We're tracking all of them.

COATES: Frank Luntz, thank you. We'll be watching so closely. Thank you so much.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

COATES: Up next, a Philadelphia man exonerated after 34 years.


Evidence was hidden at his trial, and witnesses were allegedly coached to have their statements aligned. He's here to tell his story next.


COATES: Well, tonight, in our exonerated series, I want to introduce you to Mr. Ronald Johnson. He served 34 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Last month, a Philadelphia judge vacated his sentence and reversed his conviction.

Johnson had been convicted of the 1990 murder of Joseph Goldsby, who was shot to death in his car while police say he was dealing drugs. Johnson's conviction rested on two witness testimonies, which changed over time.


Initially, neither witness placed Mr. Johnson at the scene of the crime. And according to the D.A., detectives coached the witnesses to change their statements. There were no fingerprints, DNA, or forensic evidence that tied Johnson to the scene of the crime. During the trial, law enforcement and prosecutors withheld evidence, according to Johnson's lawyer.

For over three decades, Ronald Johnson and his family tirelessly fought to prove his innocence. He was 27 years old when he entered prison. He's now 61 years old.

And Ronald Johnson, he joins me now as a free man, along with Attorney Jennifer Merrigan. Thank you both so much for being here. Mr. Ronald Johnson, thank you for being here in particular. Hearing your story and thinking about three decades of what you have been through, you are now a free man released on March 4th. Can you tell me what this month has been like for you?

RONALD JOHNSON, EXONERATED AFTER SPENDING MORE THAN 34 YEARS IN PRISON: Well, it has been kind of wild for me because everything had changed so much out in the world. So, like, working the phones, just driving down the street, people just walking down the street, everything is different. So, it's like a big shock to me. But I'm adjusting, but it's slow.

COATES: It must be, on the one hand, scary and exciting, but I wonder what you have been feeling all this time knowing you were innocent, you didn't do it, and you were there for over 30 years?

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes.

COATES: What has that been like for you?


COATES: Go ahead. JOHNSON: And I ain't thought I was going to ever get out, neither. So, that pressure there is a lot.

COATES: You never thought you were going to get out?


COATES: Why did you think that?

JOHNSON: Because all the corruption that was in my case, I ain't thought I ever was going to get out. I ain't thought nobody would believe me.

COATES: We're showing a picture now of you with your son before you were incarcerated. You also have two sisters, and you lost a brother while you were in prison. I mean, so much has happened, you say, in the world, but also in your family as well. So many experiences that you were completely deprived of. How do you keep your mind and your faith going, knowing that you didn't do it and you were innocent all along?

JOHNSON: Well, my mom gave us the faith that we always had. But you're still in all -- you still won't break down. You just can't run from it. You're going to break down. But, you know, you just got to take it one day at a time. You got to get back up. You know, you're going to have a lot of bad days. You're going to have some good days. But you just got to hope for the best. But it does not come for everybody.

COATES: It's so inspiring to hear you talk about getting back up and just trying to take it day by day. Jennifer, there were no fingerprints, no DNA that linked Ronald to any of this. Evidence, you say, was withheld by police and prosecutors during his trial. How in the world did this happen?

JENNIFER MERRIGAN, ATTORNEY: So, you know, what happened in this case is that police -- as you mentioned, there were two witnesses who made inconsistent statements. But what Mr. Johnson and his trial attorney never knew is that they also were shown a photo lineup that included Mr. Johnson. They did not, you know, identify him. They identified somebody else. And then for reasons we don't know, the police buried that photo lineup and instead went after Mr. Johnson.

And none of this would have come to light had the Conviction Integrity Unit of D.A. Krasner's office not opened up its file and taken a look inside to find the hidden evidence.

COATES: Well, what prompted the office to take this case above all else?

MERRIGAN: Well, for one, Mr. Johnson, he was diligent. He and his family, for over three decades, were -- just dogged in their efforts to prove his innocence. And so, they wrote the Conviction Integrity Unit. They talked about what, you know, the travesty that was his case.

And I think that the fact that there was absolutely no evidence of his guilt, aside from these two witnesses who were completely unreliable, made the Conviction Integrity Unit think that there was something that they needed to look into.


COATES: I mean, the fact, Mr. Johnson, that law enforcement deliberately withheld evidence, how does that make you feel?

JOHNSON: In the neighborhood I grew up in, they do that every day. Like you'd be scared to even walk down the street. You don't know what they're going to do back then, in 1990 and '89, and even going back. So, you know, you just hope it's not you.

And I'm like -- when I got locked up, I'm like, nah, they can't do this, but they did, you know? And I'm thinking that, okay, by the time I go to trial, they are going to get somebody else because I know I didn't do it, you know? And it just -- it didn't work like that. Not in that -- not -- I had the 39th District and they were just corrupt, really bad.

COATES: It's unbelievable to think about that. And just as you're painting that picture of thinking every day that someone will get it right or do right by you is unbelievable. And Pennsylvania, I understand, Jennifer, is one of the few states that offers no compensation to individuals who are wrongfully convicted. So, what is next here?

MERRIGAN: Well, next, you know, I think that Mr. Johnson will have a decision to make about pursuing a civil lawsuit against the city and against the officers who hid evidence against him and falsified his conviction.

COATES: Mr. Johnson, I really thank you for joining us and letting people hear your story and your journey. But I thank you mostly for fighting as long as you did. And I'm just so sorry of what you've had to endure. And I look forward to us meeting one day fully on the other side. Thank you.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

MERRIGAN: Thank you.

COATES: We'll be right back with what to expect for next week's big solar eclipse that won't happen again for another 20 years.




COATES: I love that song. A total solar eclipse coming to skies near you, maybe on Monday. But make sure that your bright eyes are protected when you're looking at the sun. It's a phenomenon that hasn't actually happened in this country since 2017. And frankly, won't happen again for another 20 years. And I bet you didn't know it could actually get dangerous.

Well, here to break it down is CNN senior reporter and data reporter Harry Enten. I was going to say it's Bonnie Tyler, but it's you, and that's good enough, too. Hello, Harry.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Hello, Laura. I am prepping for the eclipse right now and --


-- I must admit to you, I have the gear, but the truth is, I do not have the voice of one Bonnie Tyler. I don't have it, Laura. I'm sorry.

COATES: Well, you've got your special voice. And I want to hear it right now because now we have to worry about eclipse dangers. What are those?

ENTEN: What are these eclipse dangers that we talk about? Well, number one, do not be like our former president. Do not look directly into the sun because you could get blurred vision if you stare at the sun.

It also turns out that there are car crashes. Car crashes rise with the rise in travel to the eclipse with so many people potentially going to them.

And perhaps the most dangerous thing that could happen, slow public Wi-Fi with lots of tourists around those spots. So, if you're traveling to western New York such as myself, get ready for slow public Wi-Fi. Your texting may not go nearly as fast, Laura.

COATES: Something tells me it's going to be a really big sore spot for you in particular. Harry, how can we be prepped? I mean, you're already ready to go, I see the glasses, but how can I be prepped and ready to take on this eclipse?

ENTEN: How can you be prepped? How can our audience be prepped? All right, experts' best advice on the eclipse -- this is actual prep advice. I'm not making this up, Laura -- number one, get your eclipse glasses. Number two, plan your eclipse route on the road because these roads could get busy. Allow extra travel time if you're going to the eclipse. Make sure your car is fully fueled.

How about this? Pack snacks, water, and an emergency kit in case something happens on the side of the road. And, of course, get proper childcare. If you're going to leave your children at home, make sure they have a babysitter or nanny or a member of the family to look after them because the eclipse should be a familial experience.

COATES: I've got the snacks in the car. Does that work? I mean, I take the ones from CNN's little booths. I put them in my car and I hoard them with like a little squirrel. Does that count?

ENTEN: Those pistachios are fantastic, so I think that they would work. COATES: I mean, they're already shelled, so let's just -- that's just -- that's convenient at this point in time. Thank you very much. Listen, since you are also our CNN resident myth buster, can you bust some of these eclipse myths for us?

ENTEN: Yes. If there are dangers associated with the eclipse, there are also some false beliefs, false dangers. More than 10% of Americans actually believe this, that solar eclipses cause sleep problems. They do not. Mental health issues, they do not. Natural disasters, they do not. So, there are a lot of myths that are out there.

Perhaps what's most interesting to me about this, Laura, is that somebody actually polled this, and I will tell you it is a reputable pollster that did so.


But these are all myths that people believe in. Folks, don't believe in them. The only thing you should make sure of is get your protection.


COATES: I believe in you. I do believe. I do believe in Harry Enten in his glasses. Can you see anything out of those, by the way?

ENTEN: You can see absolutely nothing. So, when you look up at the sun, it will actually block it. I actually do see the lights in the studio here. It's the one thing I can see through my wonderful ISO- approved glasses. And make sure they're ISO-approved, Laura.

COATES: We love you so much. Don't go toward the light, Harry Enten. Stay with us. Stay with us, please. Thank you so much.

Hey, listen, be sure to join CNN on Monday for "Eclipse Across America." We are on the air with special coverage starting at 1 p.m. Eastern on CNN and also streaming on Max.

Hey, thank you so much for watching. I hear Bonnie Tyler. Our coverage continues.