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Laura Coates Live

Laura Coates And Former Politicians Discuss The Risks Of Having Another Trump Government; Judge Cordell Weighs In On Judge Cannon's Approach On Trump Case; Congressman Byron Donalds Tries To Explain Jim Crow Era Comments; Suspect In The Gilgo Beach Killings Facing Charges For Murdering Four Women Could Be Charged For Two More Murder Cases. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 05, 2024 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, tonight, some pretty major victories for this guy, Donald Trump, in two of the major cases against him. Plus, hear him in his own words when he's asked if he will go after his political opponents.

Also tonight, the alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer, accused of having hunted even more victims years before the others. The new murder charge is expected to be handed down. And a forgotten hero of D-Day. Eighty years since the storming of Normandy, a Black Army medic is forgotten no more. His son is here to share his remarkable story tonight on "Laura Coates Live".

All right, not one, but two of the major legal cases around Donald Trump are now in a kind of legal quicksand, and they're going nowhere fast, including the one that brought us this infamous mug shot, the one down in Fulton County.

Now, the chance of a trial happening there this year, let alone before the November election, it basically evaporated today. A Georgia Appeals Court put the election interference case on hold indefinitely until it rules on the appeal to disqualify the D.A., Fani Willis. And let's be honest, that is going to take months.

And we are, what, 153 or so days away from the election? The bureaucracy moves pretty slowly. The Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, that's also stalled and appears to be in some sort of pre-trial hearing purgatory and limbo. Just today, Judge Aileen Cannon came up with a new hearing schedule for different motions that could delay the case some more.

Mind you, this case doesn't even have a trial date yet. Now, Trump and his allies have railed against all of these cases collectively. But lately, their anger has been focused on the one prosecutor who had a trial and secured a conviction.

I'm talking about the Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg. And in a preview of what they say is in store, should Trump win, his ally Steve Bannon told "Axios", "Of course, Bragg, should be and will be jailed." For what? How? For what and when? Well, that's, I guess, the details. And it's not just Steve Bannon. Trump allies on Capitol Hill say that they're ready to retaliate.


RALPH NORMAN (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Things have consequences. They're going to have consequences as they should. They've convicted a wrong -- innocent man.


COATES: Well, jurors disagreed. Donald Trump has talked about retribution since, well, ever since his indictments came out. But tonight on Fox News, he said people who think he'll use the justice system to prosecute his enemies are, quote, "wrong". But then he followed that up with this statement.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (R) AND CURRENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): Look, when this election is over, based on what they've done, I would have every right to go after them. And it's easy because it's Joe Biden and you see all the criminality.


COATES: Well, joining us now, former Homeland Security Advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, Olivia Troy, and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. I'm glad that both of you are here. I'm just going to go back to that statement. I would have every right to go after them. You were in the Trump administration. You were, frankly, an outspoken critic. What do you make of that statement? Do you feel concerned?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Absolutely. I think that we should take that very seriously. I think one thing Donald Trump does is tell you exactly what he's going to do out loud. He is the king of projection, I would say. And he tells us all what his plans will be.

So, when he tells you that he's going to do something or he says something to that effect, you should take that very seriously. And, look, am I concerned? I'm concerned for myself. I'm concerned for my family. I'm concerned for many of us who have spoken the truth about the danger that he is. And, you know, I'm concerned for these judges and everyone else who have really just been doing their jobs.

COATES: I mean, there was the concerns you faced when you were getting threats. I mean, it's been years now, Olivia, that you've been combating this whole issue. And now, this idea of the perspective as he's relaying this, a perspective, maybe even a prosecution, for what? I mean, the idea of that concern, has that exponentially increased it for you?

TROYE: It has. And, look, I think what is really disturbing here is he goes, you know, on Fox News and he says, oh, no, we've now become a banana republic. No, Trump, that's what you want us to be. That's the direction that we would go in should you come back into office, because you will be holding prosecutions.

You'll be holding people in jail because you're vindictive and you're angry at them just for following the rule of law, just for following the judicial process. I mean, if you committed a crime, you should have due process and you should be held accountable.


JOE WALSH (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Laura, we can't mince words. And this isn't the first time Trump has said something like this.

TROYE: Exactly.

WALSH: This is fascism. If I get elected and I am running the government, I'm going after my enemies. I'm going to use the powers of government to go after my enemies. He's said this a number of times. This is fascism. The American people need to wake up to this.

COATES: You know, I remember, it was like a pearl clutching moment to think about somebody having an enemies list, right, a political enemies list and the idea of that being so stunning to a democracy. And remember when John Dean raised it and talked about this use of it and even what IRS audits and beyond, now we're talking about using the justice system in a way that he is saying is happening to him.

But I want to turn to the issue of classified documents as well as but one other issue. And you, Olivia, of course, you're paying very close attention because you've been somebody who served in national security for a long time.

This is one of those cases that I think people are very unsettled about that -- what happened to the documents? Who has been has seen these documents and beyond? And this is being slow walked in a particular methodical fashion. Do you have concerns about this case in particular not happening before the election?

TROYE: I do, because, look, this is a case where it deals with matters of serious national security. These are people's lives. These are people's sons, daughters, people who are deployed in the field. These are members of the military, members of the intelligence community that I served in. And when you look at that and you think this person could be possibly the commander in chief again, that's why this matters, because it wasn't just that he took the documents and he obstructed the entire process after it, right?

It was the obstruction. When you do something wrong, you're like, oh, my, my bad. I did not mean to take this. I don't even know what I'm doing with those. You try to be at least appear to be remorseful about the situation.

WALSH: And Laura, here's the bigger, broader picture. Trump's, I mean, bad for us. Trump's the luckiest S.O.B. in the world. Think about it. Three and a half years, he tried to overthrow an American election. He will not be put on trial for that before this election. He tried -- he used the powers of his office to try to force Georgia to overturn their results. He will not face trial for that before this election.

And as Olivia said, he stole and then obstructed the retrieval of classified documents. He's not going to be put on trial for that before this election. The only thing he's on trial for is hush money to a porn star he had sex with 15 years ago. The American people deserve better than that.

COATES: Well, they found falsified business records in that case alone that had a -- that had a connection to the election.

WALSH: Yeah.

COATES: But I hear your larger point. I've always been sort of flabbergasted by the idea of doubling down to keep the documents. I mean, I think about it as a mom, right? If my children had something in the cart at Target and I walked out and they say, excuse me, you didn't pay for that. I wouldn't be like, well, it's mine now. It's in my car. I would give it back, right?

This is not a true story. My kids do not take things from Target. I'm just using that as an example. But he doubled down on very important documents, as well, and continues to do so. But then there are those who are supporting him even through all this. And the GOP vice presidential veepstakes continues to this very day.

On this list of people we're hearing from CNN tonight, you've got Governor Doug Burgum. We've got Senators Marco Rubio and J.D. Vance, Tim Scott, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congresswoman Byron Donalds and also Dr. Ben Carson. They've all apparently received some vetting materials from the Trump campaign.

You served in the Vice President's office and, of course, and your reaction to this. We saw how Vice President Pence was treated, particularly in the end. Are you surprised so many people are raising their hands now?

TROYE: You know, I think political cravenness and opportunistic people -- that's what they're going to do. And I think that they think they go into this and I think especially in Trump circles, they go in and say it'll be different for me. It'll be different than it was for Mike Pence. Well, guess what? Mike Pence was extremely loyal to Trump -- Trump -- I would say even to his detriment. I mean, I know his character --

COATES: -- judgment in many ways.

TROYE: Yeah.

WALSH: Yeah.

TROYE: And then at the end, his most loyal soldier, what does he do? He completely throws him under the bus and puts him and his family and all these other people at risk and doesn't care at all about it, right? And so, I think, you know, I think it's pathetic to see some of these people angling. I think some of those people whose pictures you just saw up there could be credible voices. They could be credible voices in creating a different path for the Republican Party and a different future for it.

WALSH: We don't know who he'll pick, but he'll pick somebody who will say the 2020 election was stolen and every one of these indictments is unfair. And Donald Trump's a great victim. That's what he's looking for.

COATES: Well, the likely challenge, of course, one of the familiar and popular narratives is about the mental fitness of the person who is in office. I just want to ask you really quickly about this, because President Biden is on a high profile trip overseas. It's the 80th commemoration of the forming of Normandy.

But, of course, back here, there's the Wall Street Journal public piece titled, "Behind Closed Doors, Biden Shows Signs of Slipping". And they spoke with more than apparently 45 Republicans, Joe, on this point and Democrats over a course of, I think, several months who were in meetings with Biden and beyond and also included officials.


And you -- you worked in many ways for the Trump White House. This is part of what the concern is, Olivia. And I want to hear from you as well, Joe. No administration wants this kind of coverage. The White House has pushed back, of course, saying that, "Congressional Republicans, foreign leaders and nonpartisan national security experts have made clear in their own words that President Biden is a savvy and effective leader who has a deep record of legislative accomplishment.

Now, in 2024, House Republicans are making false claims as a political tactic that flatly contradict previous statements made by themselves and their colleagues." Let me ask you both quickly to respond. Is this a tactic that will win?

WALSH: Biden has one obstacle, Laura. He has to show the American people he's not too old and he's up to the job. He has to do that. Don't -- don't lie and insult the voters and say I haven't slowed down a little bit. He's 81 years old. Acknowledge it and say I'm better than the other guy.

TROYE: Yeah, I guess. And I would say, well, you know what? Yes. Biden is older, but he's sane and he will be surrounding himself with people who are sane, who care about the rule of law of our country, who actually understand and respect national security and understand foreign diplomacy and what's at risk. I mean, look at the other guy. He's old, by the way.

WALSH: And he slowed down.

TROYE: He slowed down.

WALSH: And he says crazy stuff.

TROYE: And he's been saying crazy stuff even while sitting in the Oval Office. So, when I look at the two of them, there's only one choice here. And when you think about what does a Trump cabinet look like, look at the people that are going to surround him. All right. Look at the lunacy of that. That's what I look at.

WALSH: Biden needs to own it. Look at all he's done.

COATES: Yeah, that's a campaign slogan. Older, but saner. There's the T-shirt. Olivia Troye coined it. Joe Walsh, thank you both so much. There are major, major legal questions in Florida and also in Georgia tonight, as we've mentioned, after Trump's big legal wins in both places. So, why is the judge in the classified documents case scrambling up the schedule and delaying it yet again? My next guest says that Judge Cannon knows exactly what she's doing. And we'll talk about it in just a moment.



COATES: Well, what a difference a week makes. It was just last Thursday, can you believe it, that Trump was convicted on 34 counts of falsified business records. But his wins in Florida and Georgia today, well, they have drastically changed the entire legal picture ahead. So, why is Judge Cannon in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case once again throwing a wrench in the schedule?

Well, here to help try to answer that question, retired California Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell. Judge, thank you so much for being here. I've been wondering and waiting to talk to you about this. Is there any legitimate judicial purpose for Judge Cannon to be slow- walking the case in the way that she is?

LADORIS CORDELL, RETIRED CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: Well, thank you for having me back again. So, Laura, subtlety is not in Judge Cannon's toolbox. Quite the opposite. She is blatantly following the Trump playbook, which is delay, do everything, no matter how legally ridiculous, to stop Trump from going to trial in this classified documents case and to keep him from being held accountable.

So, her latest delay -- the trial ploy, is to hold a hearing, this time on the constitutionality of Jack Smith's appointment as special counsel. Ridiculous. It's already been taken care of, ruled on by other courts. But no, she wants to hold a hearing. And in addition, she says, well, why don't I drag it out an additional hour and a half by having three outside individuals? They're not witnesses. They're not parties to this case to participate in the hearing. They give her so she can hear their expertise in this whole area.

COATES: Now, excuse me, Judge, on that point, I do wonder for some people that listen, they may say, hold on. That's -- that specific part sounds like the amicus briefs that a Supreme Court might entertain. How is this different than, say, these friend of court briefs where people are not parties to the action, but they have some vested interests and they want to share their thoughts the way that might be helpful? Why and how is this instance different?

CORDELL: Yeah, I mean, in this instance, the judge herself is reaching out and saying, oh, come in and be a part of this hearing, not allowing the lawyers to first come in, make their arguments and then present if they want to at the hearing. These -- some individuals -- or some more expertise in this issue. Instead, she's -- she's just kind of, no, I'll just open it up and we'll just drag this out some more.

But, you know, most importantly, Laura, Judge Cannon has not made any rulings on any substantive issues when she could have. And by that happening, this means she can't be reversed or taken up on appeal because you can't appeal anything until the judge has made a substantive ruling. So, that means she can then slow walk everything without any repercussions.

This woman, this judge really knows how to manipulate the judicial system. And she's doing it very, very effectively, although blatantly and right -- right in front of us in plain sight. And she's getting away with it.

COATES: Will the special counsel, Jack Smith, have any recourse?

CORDELL: Well, again, what recourse if she hasn't made a ruling? So, she'll listen to these issues. And, well, I think I want to have another hearing or I want to add something more. And still not making a ruling, just like the gag order, Jack Smith's request for a gag order, right?


And so, what does she do? Well, we're going to have to hold a hearing and, you know, we'll have to see about where I go on that. And by the way, at that hearing, let's hear other stuff, too. Let's hear about the prosecution of the defense wants to interrogate federal witnesses who were maybe a part of the search. I mean, it just goes on and on. And remember, early on, she asked them to propose jury instructions on an issue that's not even relevant to the case.

COATES: And there's no trial. There's no trial date in this case. I want to remind everyone that. I have very limited time, Judge, unfortunately. But I do want to ask you quickly, since you mentioned gag orders, there is still one pending in the Manhattan case. Under Judge Merchan, there is a request that's been made for that to be -- to go away. Now that the conviction has taken place, the appeal will obviously be pending. Would you modify or remove the gag order at this junction if you were Judge Merchan?

CORDELL: Okay, very quickly. Judge Merchan has jurisdiction over Trump not only through the sentencing, but even afterwards, if he places Trump on probation. In my view, the judge should not do away with, should not lift the gag order, because the purpose of lifting the gag order is Donald Trump's decision.

He's going to attack jurors and he's going to attack the witnesses who testified against him in order to encourage others to make threats of violence against him. The First Amendment does not protect that kind of speech. So, as long as the judge has jurisdiction over Donald Trump, the judge has every right to and should continue the gag order to protect jurors and witnesses for the period of time that the judge has jurisdiction over Trump. COATES: Gee, I wonder if his legal counsel will have an issue with

that judge. It's obviously rhetorical. They certainly will. We'll see what Judge Merchan has to say about all this. Your Honor, always a pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much.

CORDELL: Thank you.

COATES: Well, Republican Congressman Byron Donalds is defending himself after saying that black families were, quote, "together during the Jim Crow era". Democrats accused him of claiming that life was better for black Americans. Then he says his words are being twisted. A conversation about race in America, next.



COATES: Well, tonight, Congressman Byron Donalds trying to explain comments that some people believe, frankly, glamorize life for black families during the era of Jim Crow. Now, here's part of what he said during a campaign event for Trump in Philadelphia to try to court black voters.


BYRON DONALDS, U.S. HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE (R) FLORIDA: You see, during Jim Crow -- during Jim Crow, the black family was together.

UNKNOWN: That's right.

DONALDS: During Jim Crow, more black people were not just conservative because black people always have been conservative-minded, but more black people voted conservatively.


COATES: Well, he's right about one thing. During Jim Crow, black people were together. It was called segregation. They were literally only together. That's part of what was supposed to change. But I digress. Those comments triggered an immediate backlash from the Biden campaign to black lawmakers. And some called the comment, quote, "ignorant, revisionist history".

And I'm quoting Congressman Bennie Thompson here, "Anyone who believes what Congressman Donald says is sick in the head", unquote. Now, just last hour, Congressman Donalds explained to my colleague and friend Abby Phillip just what he meant.


DONALDS: Frankly, what that is, is about the empirical fact that before the Great Society, before Lyndon Johnson's policies, there was more black families united. The marriage rate in black America was significantly higher before the Great Society.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Well, that's true. Marriage rates, frankly, have dropped since Jim Crow ended. But rates have actually dropped for all races since 1970. Joining me now, Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP. Derek Johnson, thank you so much for being here today.

Now, of course, I have to tell you, this is not the first time we've heard a playbook about trying to appeal to black voters by talking and attacking the black family unit to suggest that it's a fractured population among what's not a monolith. Are you surprised this is the particular vehicle of choice for this congressman?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Well, he comes from a long line of grifters, black people grifting on their race for self-benefit. There's a book written about it. You know, you have two lines of black Republicans. You have Douglas Republicans who actually cared about community, advocated for policies for the community, went up against Abraham Lincoln, who was a white supremacist, because he said that if he could free -- stop the war without freeing any slaves, he would have done that.

And then you have individuals like him who are seeking to self-benefit based on a false narrative. Jim Crow, majority of black people who lived in the South couldn't even participate and vote because of Jim Crow laws. So, here we are now, someone seeking to be a V.P. nominee, trying to capture national headlines, tap dancing, so to speak, just so he can be considered.

COATES: Do you think, I mean, obviously he would disagree and suggest that this is exactly why Democrats, I'm not putting words into his mouth, just hearing his interviews in the past, this is what Democrats do. They're trying to gaslight black voters, he has believed, into believing that there's only one path to being a righteous member of the electorate through the Democratic Party. What do you say to that?

JOHNSON: I say, if you want to be an elected official, stand on actual policies, advanced concepts that will make America a better country across all racial lines, don't try to use your racial identity to feed into a false narrative about who we are, what we should do and where we should be. And that's what he's doing, he's feeding into a false narrative.

Our history is clear that African-Americans, we are not a monolith, but we vote together, we vote our interests, we are concerned with public policy outcomes and we align with political parties who care about the issues that we vote for.


COATES: In fact, I mean, looking at the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a lot of the work that was being done to try to segregate and discriminate for that reason was in recognition of racial voting blocs, even without a monolith. And so, you've got this acknowledgement that certainly you're trying to undermine by gerrymandering, by other ways to dilute the strength of particular populations. I certainly hear you when you say that. You know, I'm curious because

we all remember, well, I mean, I'm very young, but some remember the President, Ronald Reagan, we're talking about in his campaign. You know, are you better off than you were four years ago? Now, that has resonated with a lot of people. But the idea of romanticizing and being nostalgic about being better off during Jim Crow is confounding to me.

JOHNSON: Well, it is. It's not factual. You know, as you quoted Congressman Bennie Thompson, if you look at the South, African- Americans did not get elected to Congress in whole until after the 1990 redistricting cycle. That was over 14 years and multiple trips to the Supreme Court just to break the back of Jim Crow laws or how congressional lines were drawn. And that's across the South, in Florida, in Mississippi, in Texas.

If you look at the class of 1992 is when you've seen the increase of members of the Congressional Black Caucus because they had to overcome the remnants of Jim Crow laws. And so for him, who a member of Congress, not to understand the history that put him in his seat to try to align a narrative that's misinformation so he could be a V.P., is not only disingenuous, it's unfortunate. I was going to use another word, but it's unfortunate.

COATES: Well, you have intellectual nuance on all these issues, obviously. Do you think this will resonate with some voters where the polling suggests that there has been an increase of black support for Trump, certainly at a much slimmer level than it has been in that sustained period for President Biden?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, the polls have been wrong on multiple election cycles, right?

COATES: It certainly has.

JOHNSON: And they have always been inaccurate when it comes to African-American voters. So, I don't even look at polls. The only poll that matters is on election day. And Congressman Donalds -- the long line of grifters who was in Congress, they had their headlines. We don't hear from them. Where's Mia Long? Where is J.C. Watts?

COATES: Mia Love.

JOHNSON: Mia Love. Where is the former Congressman West? They come and they go because they're not representing the best interests of the communities they come from, and they don't have a natural constituency base unless they pander to a conservative movement that really don't care about people, more or less black people.

COATES: Well, you highlight a tension between the ideologies and those who, you know, are trying to placate, to pander or think for themselves in different ways. And sometimes I agree it's difficult to understand which one is accurate. Thank you so much for joining today.

JOHNSON: Thank you. COATES: Ahead, the suspect in the Gilgo Beach killings is already facing charges for murdering four women. Now, we're learning that he will be indicted in the deaths of two more. We'll go through the evidence, next.



COATES: The suspect in the Gilgo Beach killings, Rex Herman, who was already charged, as you know, in the gruesome serial murders of four women, is now connected to two more. Sources telling CNN additional charges are expected tomorrow in the murders of 20-year-old Jessica Taylor and 24-year-old Valerie Mack. Now, these expected charges come after police recently searched Long Island's Manorville, where the partial remains of Taylor and Mack were first found more than 20 years ago.

I'm going to get right to John Miller, CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst. John, this story continues to evolve, even more of a mystery here. You've got remains of these two women were first found in Manorville, Long Island, in 2000 and also 2003.

This is long before the other victims were found or thought to have been killed. More partial remains found in Gilgo Beach in 2011, less than two miles away from the other four victims. Put this together for us. What is all this telling you?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: What this is telling us is that the Gilgo Beach serial killer investigation, where Rex Herman is the charged prime suspect, is expanding exponentially. How and why?

First, because they're looking at someone who the offender characteristics would suggest probably started killing before the murders that they know about from the Gilgo Beach burial site or even the one in Manorville. Those victims go back to the early 2000s.

Studies show, Laura, that most serial killers start killing when they're 20. So, that would put us back into the clock of 1985, 1987. So, they're looking at unsolved murders, missing persons who never turned up, bodies that were recovered in burial areas or dump sites that might have similar offender characteristics in how they were tied or how they might have been dismembered and left at more than one location.

COATES: It's really stunning to think about the scope of this investigation continuing to expand. And, in fact, a few weeks ago, police were seen carrying boxes out of Herman's Massapequa, Long Island home. I mean, do we know what new evidence might connect him to more of these murders?

MILLER: Well, we know what they were looking for. The search -- the nature of the search, where they spent a good deal of time in the basement, where they believe that some of the murders may have taken place. They have good reason to believe that many of these murders occurred in Herman's house while his family was away. But they also spent a good deal of time digging around in the backyard.


So, they're operating on the idea that perhaps there are earlier killings that occurred in the house where the bodies never made it to a dump site far away or an extended burial ground. We don't know exactly what they found, but they know between the searches they did in Manorville, the searches they did in the house, and the material they took from before, they've gathered enough evidence to add two more cases. And they're looking for more.

COATES: I mean, these six bodies, they've all been found in a strip a little less than, what, three miles long. So, are they still looking to connect even more bodies possibly along this stretch to Herman?

MILLER: Well, they have bodies that are unaccounted for at the same burial site where you have an Asian male. Many of these victims were people who were involved in sex work that telephone records show human work reached out to.

You have an Asian male. You have an infant child and another female. So, what they're looking at is, was it just sex workers and women he encountered or were there other people he killed for other reasons, including ones that they know about and they're looking at ones that they don't know about, those missing persons and so on.

COATES: It's just heartbreaking and so terrifying to think about somebody engaged in this serial behavior and the grisly nature of these murders. John Miller, please keep us up to speed. This is pretty unbelievable. Thank you so much.

MILLER: Thanks, Laura.

COATES: Ahead, 80 years after the invasion of Normandy, America finally recognizing a true hero. A black medic who treated hundreds of soldiers on those shores after he himself was gravely injured. He's finally getting the honor that he deserves. The story of Corporal Waverly Woodson is next.



COATES: Eighty years ago, some of America's bravest were getting ready to invade France. Almost 133,000 troops landing on Normandy's shores, ready to fight to defeat Axis forces. This was D-Day, the largest invasion from the sea in military history, with over 850,000 ultimately joining the fight. Every soldier on those beaches has a story. And this week, those soldiers are returning to where it all happened, honored for their courage and their bravery.

But there's one soldier I want to specifically bring to your attention. This is the story of 21-year-old Black Corporal Waverly Woodson. A part of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only black combat unit to take part in the D-Day invasion. Now, Corporal Woodson spent 30 hours treating over 200 injured soldiers on Omaha Beach. And it wasn't without his own injuries.

Upon arrival, his battalion's landing craft hit a mime. Corporal Woodson had shrapnel in his back, in his groin. But he made it to the beach and set up a first aid station. The only one on that beach, treating soldiers while taking enemy fire.

Corporal Woodson's heroism reached the ear of a White House aide who recommended him for a Medal of Honor. He didn't get that medal. In fact, not a single black member who served in the Army in World War II was awarded one of the 432 Medals of Honor. Thankfully, that's not where Corporal Woodson's story ends.

His family pushed for his bravery to recognize for decades. You know, after 80 years, after a decade of research, the Pentagon and Senator Chris Van Hollen finally awarded Waverly Woodson the Distinguished Service Cross. The nation's second highest honor that can be awarded for combat bravery.

And here with me now, we have the honor of having the son of Corporal Waverly Woodson, Stephen Woodson. Along with him is Garrett Graff, who was the author of When the Sea Came Alive, An Oral History of D-Day. And he is profiling Corporal Woodson's story with his article, "The Forgotten Hero of D-Day".

Steve, I'm so glad that you are here today and what an honor to learn more about your father. The idea of this recognition, and I understand the Army is going to bring the medal to the Omaha Beach, that before it's handed to your family, it is literally going to touch the space and the place where he should have been rightfully honored. How is that feeling for you?

STEPHEN WOODSON, SON OF CORPORAL WAVERLY B. WOODSON, JR.: Oh, it's incredible. I had the opportunity to go to Omaha Beach last year. I was part of filming with a documentary. And when I got on the beach lower, quite honestly, I wasn't prepared for that. And the emotion just ran wild. So I can -- our family is so thankful for the honors that are being bestowed upon him.

COATES: What made you feel so emotional? Was it just a realization in the weight of the moment or just knowing that this was the space where your father was so valiant?

WOODSON: It was a little bit of both, actually. My father was really reclusive, as most World War II vets were. And he didn't start to actually open up and tell us little tidbits here and there about what he experienced. The reason I got so emotional that morning was that I followed right in his footsteps.


And I was actually starting to feel his emotion through me. It was unbelievable.

COATES: Did he ever express to you how it felt not to be recognized or what that was like these years? And let alone how it felt to be in that moment. WOODSON: Yes, he did in the later years start to talk about how he was somewhat bitter because he didn't get recognition. But it really wasn't so much for what his valor was for that day. I think it was in general that the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, as well as thousands of other black soldiers, were never really properly recognized or awarded any of their valor. So, he was somewhat disgruntled about that.

COATES: Well, from what we've learned about your father, as any true hero, that's what he is, he wasn't seeking praise, but respect. Respect could have been conveyed much sooner. Garrett, why did it take 80 years for this moment to come to be?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, some of this has to do with how the country reckoned with a segregated military in World War II. More than 1.2 million black soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guard, Marines served in World War II. But as you said, not one of those 432 Medals of Honor of World War II went to a black soldier.

The Clinton administration tried to remedy this to a certain extent in the 1990s. Corporal Woodson's case was actually passed over at that time because by then the Pentagon had lost his personnel records. And that this has been a real journey for archivists and historians with the First Army.

Another historian, Linda Hervieux, whose work to try to resurface some of these stories of black soldiers and their heroism in World War II. And I think to me, part of this story is how our understanding of D- Day is still evolving, you know, even now, 80 years later.

COATES: And of course, what it's like to go to fight for the promises of what was being denied even at home. I mean, the indignity of returning. There were soldiers who returned and had the audacity to wear their uniforms and were either killed or harmed or vilified for having done so. I can't help but ignore what's in front of me right now. Tell me what I am seeing, because I am feeling like I'm in the presence of something that is so beautiful. What am I looking at?

WOODSON: This is the Bronze Star. He was awarded this originally in 1945 when he was stationed in Hawaii. It's kind of ironic how it took place, because he didn't have a dedicated ceremony. They just basically gave him the medal and said, hey, job well done. Thank you. And that's the last that anybody had heard of it.

Well, recently, over the last couple of years, there's been a lot more notoriety towards this. So, it was very, very important for our family to receive this posthumously. It means the world to us.

COATES: In fact, you, I understand, you keep your father's picture, his dog tags in your vehicle. What made you start doing that, and how does it feel to have that momentum?

WOODSON: It's incredible. It's something that I never really gave thought to doing. It's just something that just happened one morning. And I was sitting in the car, and I had it, and I put it on the seat, and it's remained there to this day. And I say, good morning to him every morning. I talk to him a lot, so his spirit lives on.

COATES: I think that's a beautiful sentiment, just thinking while we're sitting here today, it will soon be morning in Normandy. And that honor, that medal will be on that beach, waiting to touch where your father, you know, just demonstrated an extraordinary amount of valor and bravery, and that will soon come to your family, as well. I'm immensely proud to hear about his father. And I can't help but wonder how many more stories are not being told like his.

GRAFF: Yeah. And I think that to me was a big part of trying to write this book this year, was that this 80th anniversary is this poignant moment where in many ways we are marking the final passing of the greatest generation. You know, a million Allied Personnel in motion in England and across the English Channel on D-Day. Just a few thousand of them remain. England now believes that there are just six living D- Day veterans left in Great Britain.

And so, my goal with this, and it was where I discovered Corporal Woodson's story and was able to sort of find some of his testimonials of that day to tell his story in this book, was to try to tell the story of D-Day in the first person, in the voices of those who experienced it and lived it, sort of as we lose those voices and D-Day shifts permanently from memory into history.


COATES: What was it about that generation that made it as you describe?

GRAFF: I think to me, one of the things that really stands out when you look at the legacy of D-Day and why it matters to us still today is that this was an invasion that was launched unlike almost every other invasion in human history. This was an invasion not to seize or conquer, but to liberate. The men who fought on D-Day were fighting for one of the most noble causes humans have ever fought.

And Ronald Reagan, who did so much to valorize the veterans of D-Day in his famous speech at Pointe du Hoc, you know, he said, democracy is only ever one generation away from extinction. And I think that that's the legacy we have to wrestle with today, is what are we doing today to carry forward the legacy that the D-Day generation left us.

COATES: Well, let me shake the hand of one generation from a hero.

WOODSON: Thank you.

COATES: Thank you for allowing me to hear more about your father. It's really an honor. Thank you so much.

WOODSON: Thanks so much. Thanks for having us.

COATES: Thank you. And thank you, Garrett, for bringing this, as well, to me. Garrett Graff, also son of a hero. Thank you so much. Thank you both for being here and thank you so much for watching. "Anderson Cooper 360" is next.