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Laura Coates Live

Trump's Defense Hammers Cohen; Houston Faced Storm; Laura And Panel Answer Viewers' Questions; "Stop The Steal" Symbol Found In Justice Alito's House In 2021; TX Governor Pardons Man Convicted Of Killing Black Lives Matter Protester. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 16, 2024 - 23:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: That is exciting. It definitely means folks need to tune in when this documentary airs. Sanjay, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it, Abby. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And don't miss it, Sanjay's full documentary, "The Last Alzheimer's Patient." It premieres this Sunday, May 19th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, on "The Whole Story," only on CNN and on Max.

And thank you for watching "NewsNight." "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. I think it was a very interesting day. It was a fascinating day. And I just want to thank all the lawyers involved because they've been really working hard.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, if the goal today was to please the client, well, consider them pleased.

Welcome to a special edition of "Laura Coates Live," on Day 18 of Donald Trump's criminal trial, a trial that has had a lot of numbers to keep up with, right? I mean, 34, the number of the felony counts against Trump for falsifying business records, 130,000, the amount of dollars Stormy Daniels was actually paid to keep quiet.

But the number that might be sticking with the jury tonight is, well, 96, the 96 seconds of a critical October 2016 phone call that is now in question. On Monday, Cohen testified that he made that October call to Trump's bodyguard, a man by the name of Keith Schiller, to try to talk to Trump. The whole point of that call? To tell Trump that he was planning to pay off Stormy Daniels.

Now, from Tuesday's transcript, here was the question: Why did you need to speak with Mr. Trump at that point in the evening of October 25th? Cohen then responded, to discuss the Stormy Daniels matter and the resolution of it. Now, that testimony is important to the prosecution's allegations that Trump directed Cohen to pay off Stormy Daniels.

But today, today, the defense took a sledgehammer to that story. They suggested that Cohen may have made it all up. They referenced texts that Cohen sent before making that phone call. And in those texts, Cohen was complaining about a teenager who was prank-calling him. Cohen texted Schiller -- quote -- "Who can I speak to regarding harassing calls to my cell and office?" Schiller responds, call me.

From the transcript, Blanche says about that call -- quote -- "That was a lie, you were actually talking to Mr. Schiller about the fact that you were getting harassing phone calls from a 14-year-old, correct?" Cohen responds, part of it was the 14-year-old, but I know that Keith was with Mr. Trump at the time and there was more than potentially just this. That's what I recall based upon the documents that I reviewed.

Now, keep in mind, the jurors have also had it drilled into their heads that Cohen is a liar and is out for revenge. The defense played his own words from his own podcast to make that point.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY (voice-over): Revenge is a dish best served cold and you better believe I want this man to go down and rot inside for what he did to me and my family.


COATES: That music in the background was part of his podcast. I did not add it for dramatic effect, although I do add dramatic effect of things. The defense also may not be done hammering Cohen's credibility, and sources tell CNN that Trump's team next week, they may call a witness. Cohen's former attorney, Robert Costello, as that witness. Now, why? Because he is ready to say that Cohen, yes, his former client, is lying.

I want to bring in a reporter who was in court today, law enforcement reporter for "The Washington Post," Devlin Barrett. Devlin, so good to see you. I have got to know how that moment was playing out in the courtroom. The inability to actually have eyes and ears for the general audience is so frustrating because I want to know, like, was the jury leaning in? Did they get the nuance that people have been talking about all over the airwaves? What was that moment like over this phone call?

DEVLIN BARRETT, LAW ENFORCEMENT REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: It was very dramatic, so dramatic you did not need dramatic podcast music to know it was dramatic.


So, at that moment -- you know, Todd Blanche, Trump's lawyer, has been very calm and measured through most of this questioning. But at that moment, he's really just screaming at Michael Cohen, and he's state court screaming. He's not federal court screaming, he's state court screaming. COATES: Hmm.

BARRETT: And I thought it was very effective, I think, to an average person. The idea that the defense laid out here, that this was about harassing phone calls, actually made a lot of sense. Now, the prosecution will try, I'm sure, when they get to question Cohen again, to repair that, but I think a lot of damage was done to Michael Cohen today.

COATES: How about the fact that it was a 14-year-old who was allegedly harassing him?


I mean, when I saw that come in, in terms of the reporters in the courtroom, a part of me had to pause for a moment and then catch back up, thinking, wait, are we talking about a teenager was harassing you? Is that why you called the president's bodyguard?

BARRETT: Right. And there was a series of texts that they showed into evidence preceding his text with Schiller where essentially what they said was that this person who had been harassing him accidentally did it without blocking their caller ID at one time. So, that's how Cohen knew who it was. Cohen starts angrily threatening them, texting them back, saying, you've got to stop this. And the person on the other end says, I'm just 14, I'm sorry, I didn't -- my friend told me to.

There's no way of knowing if that person is actually 14, to be clear.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

BARRETT: Um, you know, it's just one of the dumbest things. And it's also, I've got to be honest, it's a very Michael Cohen thing to get in an argument with a 14-year-old and then have that become like part of a criminal case.

So, you know, again, this -- again, this was not his finest day. The one good saving grace for Michael Cohen in all this is that he did stay calm. He was flustered in that moment. He seemed to sort of like take a moment to try to figure out what his next answer would be, but then, he did come up with an answer that at least was coherent.

COATES: Well, look, Devlin, I've been a 14-year-old girl. You didn't want none.

BARRETT: No, nobody does.

COATES: It was an old thing. These movies made about it. I was not a mean girl. I'll bring my panel into this and get myself out of trouble for a second. Devlin, stay around. We've got criminal defense lawyer Brandi Harden with us, former Trump attorney Jim Trusty, CNN legal analyst and former deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, Elliot Williams is here as well.

Okay, I'm not going to ask anyone here about themselves as 14. But I do want to ask Brandi, beginning with you. We know that Blanche, who is the defense counsel leading this cross, this was a cross of a lifetime in terms of the expectations. You have to land punches, and solid ones because they believe that this all hinges on whether the jury believes him. Tuesday, I mean, Vaseline was on the face of Michael Cohen. He didn't land a punch. Did he do it today?

BRANDI HARDEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Absolutely. Credibility is destroyed, I think, in some ways. I think some of the things that Michael Cohen said and the repeated times that the lawyer was able to catch him in lies, I think that they absolutely landed punches today that they didn't necessarily land yesterday.

So, I do think, once your credibility is sort of lost, the government will do what they can to try to get it back. But I think they landed punches. I think there were things that make the jury look at Michael Cohen in a certainly different light and will say, we know that he has told several lies, and so why would we necessarily rely on him in terms of deciding this case in favor one way or the other because it's clear that he's making some things up?

COATES: Now, it's a difference between the lies that he's being impeached with in terms of actual convictions, some about tax evasions, some about campaigns and, of course, now this question that he was asked, in part, about whether he took accountability for those guilty pleas. That was a moment where he could have just said something like, I pled guilty, I own up to it, and moved on. He was really defiant and seemed to be very defensive about his guilty pleas.

JIM TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: He wants to have live perjury to go with the historical perjury.


I mean, it's really kind of amazing. And I think, you know, we may see this play out with Bob Costello. Costello may well get into the opinion of his truthfulness and just say in probably an inimitable way that Bob will come up with that. I'm not knowledgeable about --

COATES: Before you go on, though, I think people -- we heard about Bob Costello. This is not really a household name for a lot of people for many reasons, all the names, people who have been listed. Who exactly is Bob Costello? And why would it be the case that if he was the attorney of Cohen, he can talk about him?

TRUSTY: Right. He is a New York lawyer for 51 years, no rookie, very street smart, very kind of prototypical New York brash lawyer. He and his partner were representing Cohen. And the substance that really is devastating in terms of rebuttal -- potential rebuttal testimony is that Cohen was on the hook with the Southern District of New York, and this lawyer pushed him, saying, if there's something you can do to cooperate, if you can give us anything on President Trump, I can get you out of all your trouble.


TRUSTY: And he's a former SDNY prosecutor, so he kind of knows the terrain. And he will say, and he said this in front of the Hill the other day, at the Hill, that I must have pressed him 20 times with, do you have something you can say about Trump doing something dirty?

COATES: Uh-hmm.

TRUSTY: And what he got every time from Cohen was, I swear to God, I'm not sure he knows who God is, but I swear to God that there's nothing, there's absolutely nothing. And so, what happened in the context of that failed cooperation, because ultimately it did fail entirely, was Cohen decided, well, I'm going to go to SDNY and tell them Costello and Giuliani are dangling a pardon from Trump in front of me.

COATES: That came up today.

TRUSTY: Right. And it's going to come up again, I have a feeling. And so, they basically said, it's an outrageous lie, never happened.


And in the course of that failed cooperation, the Southern District asked Cohen to waive his attorney-client privilege so they could talk to Costello. And when they talked to Costello, he apparently convinced them, this is a sinking ship, get off. But he never had the opportunity to convince Alvin Bragg because Bragg wouldn't meet with him.

COATES: And now, Alvin Bragg is the one bringing this case, Elliot. And if he does come up and talk about these issues, in addition to catching Cohen in perhaps some lies, I do wonder from your perspective, are these the kinds of lies that may sway a jury to say, okay, well then, the documents, I don't believe either because that's the case's sudden substance?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: These -- no. You know, I -- it's hard to know what will sway a jury. Think about everybody up here has dealt in some way in criminal prosecutions and seen people be convicted over the testimony of really disgusting witnesses, far beyond perjury and lists of lies and so on.

So, it's hard to say that because a primary witness in a trial gets his credibility, I don't even want to say shredded, beaten up pretty aggressively, that the whole thing is thrown out. Now, remember how much of the testimony that he gave is corroborated in other places in the form of documents and checks and so on. And so, I don't think it's all over for the prosecution.

Now, to be clear, does one ever wish to have happened to their witness what happened to Michael Cohen today, if you're a jury? No, absolutely not. This was bad, and the prosecution has some explaining to do come Monday. But I would not go as far as saying that absolutely, you know, on account of Michael Cohen getting slapped around today, that it's all done.

COATES: Let me bring back in Devlin really quick. I want to have him in part of the conversation as well. You were in the courtroom, Devlin Barrett. Let me ask you, what was the reaction by the prosecution team? Do we have Devlin still?

BARRETT: Yeah, I'm here.

COATES: I want to know what the reaction from the prosecution was when this was happening. I mean, I know you want to be stoic when you're at the defense table, at the trial counsel table. You don't want to let on at all that there is an Achilles heel that might be in full view. But did they demonstrate or show some moment when they didn't expect this?

BARRETT: I mean, I think they were being careful in the moment, specifically in that moment when Blanche is yelling at him. But they tried to help Cohen by mounting a lot of objections. They tried to essentially -- and a lot of times, you know what it's like in trial. You try to like slow the other side down.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

BARRETT: You try to give the witness a chance to catch their breath and think through the answer. They did a lot of that today. But at the key moments, you know, Blanche -- this moment of yelling will be important and is important. There were other moments, though, in quiet, calm testimony where Blanche also hurt Cohen.


BARRETT: And so, the prosecution did what it could to slow that down. But, you know, Blanche was effective for significant chunks of the day.

COATES: One of those calm moments, Brandi and Jim, was the idea of whether you were -- if you were personally invested in a case, would it impact your willingness to lie or your effect on it? And he seemed to concede that he would be personally impacted by this case and it had an influence on his truthfulness in the past if he was personally involved in the matter.

Let me ask both of you, as my consummate defense attorneys. How do you rehabilitate him? If this were your client on the stand, right?

TRUSTY: Please, go first.

COATES: There you go. Okay, there you go, Brandi.

TRUSTY: Absolutely.

COATES: If you were -- if this was your client on the stand and you saw this happening, obviously, he's not the defendant, it's Donald Trump, but how, if you're the prosecution, would you try to rehabilitate that lack of credibility?

HARDEN: I think one of the things he has to do is just he has to admit what the weaknesses are. Like, whatever the thing is, he has to just come out and say, yes, I have an interest, I'm not lying about certain things, there are things that I have done wrong or there's a way in which I feel -- I feel invested in this case. Whatever the thing is, you cannot maintain your credibility without just coming out and admitting it. That's what he needs to do. And I think, you know, that comes in the form of witness prep. You have to talk to your client, you have to talk them through whatever the weaknesses are, and you have to bring out the bad stuff.

I just learned something recently. There's a new acronym called BOBS, Bring Out the Bad Stuff. That's what you have to do. You've got to advance whatever your theory of the case is, and you have to make sure that the witness explains why there are bad things or why they have an interest in the case or why it's going to affect them. Without that, again, you lose your credibility. Once your credibility is lost, you can't really get it back.

COATES: I'm going to talk to the millennial a second before I come to you and just say, as Brandi said, if you don't BOBS, you may FAFO.


Don't google it, don't google it, don't google it. No. leave it alone, leave it alone. Go ahead, Jim.

TRUSTY: My BOBS, my "S" stood for something different. But -- I mean, look, in real life, in a normal case, you know what happens at this point for rehabilitation?


The prosecutor goes, hey, well, you're going to take a misdemeanor by any chance because this case -- I mean, look, I don't know how this jury -- you know, whether to have a lot of faith in how this jury views the case. And jury instructions are still a huge component of how this plays out.

But Cohen is a horrific witness. I mean, let's be honest. The guy came in -- to Elliot's point, I used to -- 27 years as a prosecutor, I put gang murderers on the stand all the time.



TRUSTY: And I'll take a shameless sociopath who sits there and says, oh, yeah, I killed him. Did you feel bad about it? No, I probably should have killed him twice. I'd rather have that witness than a dissembling fraudster.


TRUSTY: And this fraudster literally touches every potential cross- examination you're allowed to do. Interest in the outcome, bias, convictions for perjury, convicted of lying to Congress, lying to a special prosecutor, inconsistent statements. He is the definition of cross-examination. We were joking around. Don't you wish you could do a case in D.C. where Cohen testifies? He is the most fun cross- examination in history.

I think for most of Todd's cross, my last point, I think for most of Todd's cross, it was very disciplined in terms of keeping it tight because Cohen is the type of witness who look to make a speech to turn things around. Now, he got real fired up and theatrical about this kind of pivotal moment about the 96-second phone call.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

TRUSTY: And I think that in some senses, that's a danger zone because you go too far, you think you're on "A Few Good Men" or something, you can't handle the truth, and the guy makes a speech and you've lost a whole bunch of progress. But I think he survived it. From what I can tell, he got through that okay, made the point.

And keep in mind, Cohen never said anything indirect about, I think it was that time I was complaining about a 14-year-old. He looked at phone records, (INAUDIBLE) his testimony, and then he gets crossed on it. He's like, well, it could have been both. He didn't mention indirect anything about the 14-year-old.

COATES: Well, the question will be how consequential these tidbits will be for the jury who's seeing the overall picture. Everyone, please stand by. We have a lot more to discuss.

And up ahead, you've got questions about the Trump hush money trial? We've got your answers. We'll take your live calls and questions.

Plus, there is breaking news out of Houston. We have now learned at least four people are dead after a powerful storm rolled through the city. The wind was so bad that there are reports of damage to skyscrapers downtown, some windows blowing out completely. Local officials say close to a million people in and around the Houston area are without power. Tonight, we'll bring you updates as soon as we get them.



COATES: Well, we're in the middle of the most crucial point in Trump's hush money trial, and you all have a lot of questions about what has been happening. And tonight, we are taking your calls.


And we've got the panel here to help answer them all. And if you want to ever participate, you just go to You fill out the form, you type in your question there, and then we'll reach out to have you call in as the trial continues to unfold.

Let's get to our first caller of the night. Helen from Longmont, Colorado, what's your question? Hi, Helen.

HELEN, CALLER FROM LONGMONT, COLORADO (via telephone): Hi, Laura. So, the judge in Donald Trump's recent civil fraud case stated point blank in his verdict that -- quote -- "The court found Cohen's testimony credible" -- end quote. Is there any way at all that the prosecution can put that important piece of information before the jury in the business records criminal case?

COATES: That's a great question. Let's ask and bring in Elliot Williams here because there was actually a moment I want to just bring to people's attention. Here's what Judge Engoron had to say about his testimony. He said, although the animosity between the witness and the defendant is palpable, providing Cohen with an incentive to lie, the court found his testimony credible. Michael Cohen told the truth. Elliot?

WILLIAMS: I don't think so. Different trial, different proceeding, different judge, different court. I mean, it's -- you know, you have a federal court versus a state court -- oh, no, pardon me, this was another state court. No, you would not be able to do that. Now, the prosecution here can certainly try to do what they can to bolster Michael Cohen's credibility.

Frankly, in the break, we were talking about some of the ways they could ask him questions that he can answer effectively and clearly and honestly. But you couldn't really have a judgment call made by a judge in another case apply to a defendant in a another -- a witness in another.

COATES: And that did come up as well in terms of if Donald Trump were to testify, they asked whether they could bring in that prior ruling about the other cases as part of it. But as it relates to Donald Trump testifying, not necessarily Michael Cohen.

Mark from Cleveland, Ohio, you got a question. Hi, Mark.

MARK, CALLER FROM CLEVELAND, OHIO (via telephone): Yeah. Hi, Laura. How are you?

COATES: I'm good.

MARK (via telephone): Why can't Allen -- why can't Allen Weisselberg testify?

COATES: It's a great question. Jim Trusty, why can't he testify?

TRUSTY: That is a great question. Well, he probably could. I mean, it's really going to be an interesting moment here because there was this focus on the process of who actually approves of ledger entries, checks. There wasn't much help for the prosecution from the controller, I guess he was, and from others. There's this overall flavor of President Trump micromanages. But there wasn't really direct testimony. That came down to Cohen.

I think the problem for the government is Weisselberg is basically a failed cooperator. I mean, they punished him because they didn't get what they wanted from this guy to flip on President Trump. If he comes in now post-Fifth Amendment, he's going to come in and he's going to be a wild card. He's got no interest in prepping with the government. So, if they called him, most likely, he backfires and he says, I did all this stuff, President Trump didn't have anything to do with it, good to see you, Don, and walks out while the prosecution scratches their head. I don't think they'd get anywhere with it. COATES: And, Brandi, he's in Rikers right now. The fact that he's in jail doesn't mean you can't bring him out. But for the reasons, would you bring somebody like this out who could maybe only plead the Fifth?

HARDEN: So, it just depends. I mean, obviously, if somebody is going to plead the Fifth, it doesn't benefit your case.

COATES: Right.

HARDEN: But I think the other thing is what he's saying is absolutely right. He's just not going to help their case.


And I think, ultimately, if you can't meet with a witness before you put them on, you take a risk that you destroy your case. What if he says all the things that you wouldn't want him to say? So, there's really no reason to put on a witness that you can't prep, you can't talk with, and who ultimately hasn't helped you already.


HARDEN: No real reason.

COATES: That's a good point.

TRUSTY: You might hear his name in argument as kind of a missing witness argument.

COATES: Yes. I was going to say, I mean, the idea that he's not there and everyone's talking about him, I mean, I know for all the parents out there, sometimes you've got to talk about Bruno. That's a Lin- Manuel Miranda reference.

Gene from Fresno, California, what's your question?

GENE, CALLER FROM FRESNO, CALIFORNIA (via telephone): Hi, Laura.


GENE (via telephone): This week, there are many politicians showing up at the courthouse to support Trump. Do they get preferential treatment as far as seating inside the actual courtroom? Aside from the two trial parties, how are the seats allocated?

COATES: Oh, I'm so glad you asked that question because I think so many people are wondering because we don't have eyes in the courtroom, but we do have people who've been there. I've been there as well. And Devlin Barrett is actually -- he has been in this courtroom consistently. Let me ask you that answer. First of all, there has been a lot of people who have come and gone. Do they get preferential treatment to be able to go closer to the action?

BARRETT: They don't get preferential treatment from the court. What they get is Trump is allotted essentially two benches in the courtroom for people who want to attend on his behalf, essentially. So, Trump gets two rows of seats.

And what you are seeing is these politicians making their pilgrimage to the courthouse, you know, supporting Donald Trump, and going into those seats. Prosecutors today, in fact, complained that some of the people in Trump's benches have been coming in mid-testimony with security details, and they think that's distracting and, you know, it's unfair to the process to have, you know, this sort of security- laden people coming in.

You know, people talk about this as if this is like an audition for the vice presidency on the ticket. I get the politics of it, but to be honest, if sitting in court made you vice president, I would have been vice president like 20 years ago.


Like, it doesn't really -- I don't think -- there's a lot of noise around big, high-profile trials. I don't think it ultimately matters very much. But it is true that because of those two benches, Donald Trump can get essentially whoever he wants in the courtroom with him.

COATES: I am surprised they're able to come and go whenever they feel like it or interrupt later on. I mean, I'm so accustomed to judges having maybe the tightest of shifts and not having the distraction, and this judge certainly has been that. These are very recognizable figures for most people who are walking inside of these rooms. I mean, well, maybe to the D.C. bunch, they are, anyway.

BARRETT: Recognizable to us.

COATES: That's true. Thank you so much for the panel, and I'm sorry that no one has made to the vice president yet, but it's okay. Well, thank you to all of you as well for asking your questions and to my panel for answering, everyone who called in. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the Trump trial, we want to hear from you. Submit your questions at

Well, up next, an upside-down flag used as a symbol by those who think the 2020 election was stolen. Tonight, a new report says that flag was seen at the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. And the controversy it's now creating, we'll talk about, as well as Alito's defense.

And we have an update to the breaking news out of Houston where there is --


-- widespread damage from a powerful storm. New video just in, showing what it was like inside the Wells Fargo Plaza in downtown. Four people are dead, the mayor canceling school for tomorrow and telling people to stay home. More updates as we get them.



COATES: Well, "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that they have obtained a photograph of an upside-down American flag at the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito back on January 17, 2021. That was just days after the insurrection at the Capitol.

Now, for those of you wondering, what's the big deal? For generations, flying the flag upside-down has been a symbol of distress. But it has also been adopted by the "Stop the Steal" movement. It was held by rioters at the Capitol as they tried to stop the certification of the Electoral College votes, again, just days before it reportedly appeared on Alito's lawn.

In an email statement to the "Times," Alito says -- quote -- "I had no involvement whatsoever in flying of the flag," adding, "It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor's use of objectionable and personally-insulting language on yard signs."

I'd love to be a fly on the wall now that that statement has come out in their marriage. But a spokesperson for the Supreme Court has not responded to CNN's request for comment. CNN has not independently verified the image.

Elliot Williams is back with us along with CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Also, here, former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. Let me just bring in for a second here Elliot because the Supreme Court, they're in the middle -- they were in the middle of debating whether they should hear an election case --


COATES: -- at this time as well. And so, there's already, well, maybe a popularity or approval rating issue for the Supreme Court. This doesn't help.

WILLIAMS: It does not help. Now, what also doesn't help is that there's really no mechanism for getting a Supreme Court justice off a case if there's a problem. It's really, number one, up to them to police themselves. And two, they set their own rules. There isn't really an ethical code of behavior for Supreme Court justices that there is for the lower courts.

And so, sure, perhaps a justice ought not be on a case where there is even the appearance of bias for the integrity of the court, but who's going to tell him he can't?


COATES: Well, you know, I know there's a saying called happy wife, happy life. How happy is his life right now?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think very. I mean, come on, blaming his wife? He said that he had no -- no decision was his in terms of flying the flag that way. But from the reporting that I've seen, it was there for a couple of days or more. And so, he didn't see it when he came home or in the morning when he went to work? So, that's just not credible.

And what's interesting to me is that you have this situation, and then we've all heard about Clarence Thomas' wife, Virginia Thomas, who was literally involved in the strategizing to steal the election. And all of this to me is like how hypocritical are Republicans and especially Donald Trump when he's focusing on saying that the current judge of the current trial that he's in needs to recuse himself because his daughter has some Democratic leanings. And now you have this? I mean, the hypocrisy just could not be.

COATES: I'm surprised as well he didn't just come out and say, this is not at all trying to, you know, support that message of "Stop the Steal." He could have said that.

JOE WALSH, FORMER ILLINOIS REPRESENTATIVE: Because, Laura, this is like really serious. That upside-down flag is the symbol of an attempted coup.


WALSH: And the Supreme Court justice had that up at his house while, as you said, they were hearing challenges to the 2020 election. This is really, really serious. And maybe Elliot is right, there's nothing they can do, but, my God, you talk about trust in this court.


COATES: There's also an important moment that's happening tonight as well. You are a former member of Congress. You know, while everyone has been focusing on what's happening obviously in the Manhattan courtroom, there was also some pretty big news today, and that was that they are trying, obviously, to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress because he refuses to hand over the audio recording of the interview between President Biden and Special Counsel Robert Hur, which obviously dealt with his, you know, retention of documents and the conclusion of why they chose not to pursue prosecution, talking about his age and how he would present to a juror. This has been a real moment of contention.

And just breaking tonight, the House Oversight Committee has approved to go forward, I believe, with this contempt. It has to go to the full House, of course. And this is the split screen when you've got members of Congress. They had to delay this --

WALSH: Yeah.

COATES: -- because they were in court today --

WALSH: Yeah.

COATES: -- for Donald Trump.

WALSH: It's all political. I think I said in November that Trump's campaign will be in and around a courthouse all of this year. And that's what it is. And so, all those Republicans, my former colleagues, at that courthouse, they're all leaning into this. They think, I believe, this trial helps Trump. And, Laura, I think it does as well. But on that -- on holding Merrick Garland in contempt, they have the transcript. They only want the audio to play politics with it.

COATES: Well, you've been -- you work in this actual department, right, the Department of Justice in this decision.


COATES: And there is precedent to suggest that by asserting executive privilege, there has been precedent that you have not, as a DOJ, prosecuted an attorney general for withholding information. Eric Holder, it was the same. And also, Bill Barr.

WILLIAMS: Right. And, you know, to step back a little bit, this was my office at the Justice Department. And, you know, their basis for holding this particular recording back, as Joe said, they've given transcripts, interviews, other information. They made the report available to Congress immediately and provided materials even without Congress having asked. There's a longstanding back and forth between many committees in Congress and the Justice Department over which documents to provide. They usually work it out. It's called the accommodations process.

And, you know, the Justice Department's letter lays out all the things they did to accommodate the requests of Congress here. So, expecting this one recording could chill, this was their argument, could chill future people from even talking to the Justice Department in the first place. So, you know, it's sort of all, like Joseph was saying, it's sort of a silly political season. This is well within the norm of how congressional oversight would work.

COATES: But in political season, I wonder what you think about this, Maria, because not only were there Republican members of Congress, there has been, I think, maybe 19 or so who have shown up over the course of this trial. Not only one member of Trump's family has actually appeared, I think Eric Trump.

But there was one congressman, Matt Gaetz, who actually posted this message on his "X" account today, invoking this famous line, saying, you know, this famous stand back and stand by. I think he said standing back and standing by was what he was doing for Trump. He said standing back and standing by Mr. President, seeing the blurred image behind him. This is -- why would -- why would Gaetz do this?

CARDONA: Because I think that he is someone who thinks that by doing that, he is going to continue to be in Trump's favor. And you know Donald Trump loved that.


You know he did, because that, for Donald Trump, is an indication that he was right, right? And all of these members of Congress parading to his side like lemmings, like a cult, is something that they know Trump loves. He says jump, they say how high. I think, and I agree with Joe, that I think this helps Donald Trump, but only with his base. I don't think this helps with independent voters, and I don't think this helps Congress. And it certainly doesn't help Republicans in Congress who want to keep their majority. This is going to be a huge message for Democrats. They're not doing the business of the people. They are only there to genuflect at the altar of Donald Trump.

COATES: You agree?

WALSH: No. But we don't have time.


I think it will help Trump beyond his base, but that will be for tomorrow.

COATES: Oh, look at that cliffhanger. Okay.


CARDONA: You'll have to have us back.

COATES: Okay, there you go. All right, well, there you go. Thank you, everyone, so much.

Next, Daniel Perry. He was sentenced to 25 years for killing "Black Lives Matter" protester Garrett Foster. You know what? He's got a pardon from the Texas governor. Garrett Foster's mother joins me to react.



COATES: Tonight, a man convicted of murder for killing an armed "Black Lives Matter" protester is walking free. Former U.S. Army sergeant Daniel Perry was serving a 25-year prison sentence for fatally shooting Air Force veteran Garrett Foster in 2020. Today, Perry was pardoned by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

And just to remind you what happened, prosecutors say that Perry drove his SUV through a red light into a crowd of protesters in Austin. He was apparently approached by Foster, who was openly carrying an assault-style rifle, which is legal in Texas. Foster then motioned for Perry to lower his window, at which point Perry shot Foster with a handgun.

The defense argued that Perry's actions were justified as self- defense, but the jury, they went on to convict him.

Now, Governor Abbott made an unusual request for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to carry out an expedited review before Perry was even sentenced. Now, that board unanimously voted to pardon Perry and restore his firearm rights earlier today. I want to bring in Sheila Foster, Garrett Foster's mom, and the attorney representing her, Quentin Brogdon. Sheila Foster, thank you so much for joining us this evening. It is heartbreaking every time I hear about and remind the audience about what has happened to your family, to your beloved child. He was convicted of murder, Daniel Perry, on April 7th of last year. The very next day, Governor Abbott was speaking openly about wanting to pardon your son's killer. What is it you're feeling tonight?

SHEILA FOSTER, MOTHER OF GARRETT FOSTER: Um, reading the governor's pardon, it appears as though nothing that was done in trial and nothing that was reviewed by the pardon board was included in his pardon. That is all stuff that was said by the defense attorney in the beginning. It's not anything that the pardon board discovered. All of that stuff was debunked at trial. Everything the governor put in his pardon letter was proven wrong during trial.

COATES: Did you feel -- when the conviction happened and he was found guilty, how did you feel about losing your son and justice and accountability at that point?

FOSTER: When they -- when they announced that he was guilty?


FOSTER: That was -- that was a relief. That was a relief. And I slept better that night than I had in nearly three years. And I woke up the next morning, and it was so peaceful. And then I literally was basking in peace that morning and thanking God that we finally got justice. And then I got a text message from my friend telling me about the governor's tweet. And I thought, there's no way he would actually do that. There's no way he's actually going to do that. And then here we are.

COATES: Is that how you found out? You mean, this is the way that you found out, through a tweet? The governor's office didn't contact you or you didn't have the advance notice?

FOSTER: No. It was through a tweet. When I found out that my son was murdered, I found out by Whitney's mother, the authorities didn't even contact me, his next of kin. I had to find that out from his wife's mother. And my daughter had previously already learned it on Facebook.

So, nothing involving this case is normal. Nothing is ethical. Nothing is right. Everything that has happened is wrong on so many levels. And I don't understand why. It is so crystal clear to me that this man needs to be in prison for the rest of his life, not a mere 25 years, while he wouldn't even have to serve a year. I don't understand. I don't understand. Governor Abbott wouldn't pardon him --

COATES: I mean --

FOSTER: He wouldn't pardon him if this was a Trump rally.

[23:50:00] If this was a Trump rally and somebody drove into that crowd and gunned one of those people down, do you think Governor Abbott would pardon that killer?

COATES: Your question, I think, is swirling around so many people's minds, and I think they have their answers quite clearly.

I want to bring you in here, Quentin. It's unbelievable to think of how this mother has had to learn about a pardon for someone convicted of killing her son. You were considering filing a civil case even before the murder conviction. Is she without any legal recourse now? Are you going to be able to pursue any legal action now that he has been pardoned?

QUENTIN BROGDON, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR GARRETT FOSTER'S FAMILY: Laura, thank you. We decided, Sheila and I, and Sheila is one of the bravest clients I've ever represented, not to go forward with a civil case because there was accountability in the wake of the conviction of Daniel Perry.

But now, the governor has turned the rule of law on his head. He seems to have forgotten a basic truth that our founding fathers knew well, namely that respect for the rule of law begins with respect for the will of citizen jurors. And in this case, there were 12 citizen jurors who gave up two weeks of their lives to consider the evidence. They heard from 40 witnesses. They deliberated 15 hours. And at the end of that, those same 12 citizen jurors voted unanimously to convict Daniel Perry.

And assuming the governor or anybody else who would say this is a travesty of justice is correct, then there are two separate courts of appeals in Texas that can be allowed and should have been allowed to weigh in on this and potentially reverse it if it needed to be reversed.

But when the judge steps in with two big feet and undoes the will of citizen jurors, a legitimate question arises. Is this based on the merits or is it based on some crass political calculation?

COATES: Sheila, I'm so sorry for your loss, and that we have not had a chance to meet your beloved son. And I -- as mother to mother, I'm just heartbroken for you. And I commend, as your attorney is saying, your absolute bravery in continuing to fight and continuing to make the world know who your son is. Thank you so much.

BROGDON: Thank you, Laura.

FOSTER: He was a good person. Garrett was a very good person.

COATES: I believe that with all my heart. Sheila, Quentin, thank you so much. We'll be right back.


[23:57:15] COATES: All right, well, tonight, in our "Champions for Change," we meet a fashion designer returning to her Navajo roots. She is adapting indigenous values to apparel and giving back to a changing industry.


AMY DENET DEAL, FOUNDER, 4KINSHIP: Everything we do here at the shop is based on working with vintage, things that have already been here on the planet. So that's a way just for me to really approach sustainability from an indigenous lens.

I was an active wear designer for major corporations. I decided to leave corporate fashion and start my own company. Back in 2015, I rebranded in 2021 to the name 4Kinship. My indigeneity has been really a big part of how the brand has evolved.

Growing up in Indiana, in a very rural area, being adopted into a white family, but being native, there was always a void. And as I got older, it became a stronger need for me to really know my identity. So, I found my mom and birth family.

Who's that?

UNKNOWN: Your aunt and mom (ph).


It has just been this continual journey of learning more about all those sides of my families and their stories.

UNKNOWN: Is that her?

DENET DEAL: That's her.

It came with understandings, not just saying I'm part of my community but actually putting that into motion and taking an action. It's just wonderful to find ways to be part of a positive change in our community.

Kids in the remote areas of Navajo Nation, they have so few resources. So, we've built a skate park. Skateboarding is there in so many ways as a sport that can really, truly help the mental health and wellness of our kids. Just FYI, I had no idea what I was doing when I thought, oh, let's build a skate park. But there's so many things that we can be creative as native people by simply reimagining stuff that we already have.

For our young people, a lot of them don't know people within creative industries that could help them. So, I think that is my job, as someone that comes from the outside, that comes back with different gifts, is to use that to create bridges.

BRYAN ROESSEL, DESIGNER: I met Amy Denet Deal through the Navajo Cultural Arts Program. She just wants to flip this script (ph) on native art, native fashion, and that allows me the freedom to kind of step outside the box. [00:00:00]

There are so many makers that haven't had space in other places to sell, that we open our house to that opportunity for them to get a start. It's a really beautiful compilation of all different tribes coming together in the shop. The fun part of my job is to revolutionize the performance space for indigenous peoples.

Please never take this off.

UNKNOWN: I love this.

DENET DEAL: It's a new way to reinvest in our young people because instead of creating events that make money for the event organizer, it's to create events that distribute to the performers, the creatives that are part of that show.

I've been in the fashion industry for a long time and to actually be in this place to honor my indigeneity and to practice reciprocity for everything that we take, we find a way to give back.


So, we are a sustainable brand that simply found ways to be of service through everything I do through my creative world.


COATES: Be sure to tune in Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern for the "Champions for Change" one hour special.

Hey, thank you all so much for watching. Our coverage continues with "Anderson Cooper 360."