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Laura Coates Live

House Votes To Hold Garland In Contempt Over Biden Audio; Trump Campaign Emails More Unhinged, Haul Out The Guillotine; Trump To Return To Hill In First Public Visit Since Insurrection; New York Governor Kathy Hochul Talks About Anti-Semitic Incidents Handled By NYPD; SpaceX Founder And Company Sued For Gender Discrimination And Sexual Harassment Allegations; Florida Teacher May Lose License Over Support For Black Lives Matter Movement. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 12, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: We're seeing the first images tonight from the high school graduation at Newtown High in Connecticut. About 60 of the survivors of the Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012 are among those receiving their diplomas. They wore green and white ribbons on their gowns. Each had the inscription, forever in our heart, in memory of the 20 classmates who never got to leave the first grade. Six educators also killed in that mass shooting as they are witnessing a bitter milestone tonight.

Of course, our congratulations to the graduates and also made the memories of those not on that stage tonight be a blessing.

Thank you so much for joining me. This hour of Laura Coates Live starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: So, another attorney general, another vote to hold him in contempt, but is it symbolic or actually sincere or is that rhetorical? That's all tonight on this special two-hour edition of Laura Coates live.

Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates. Abby Philip has the night off.

Now, remember that saying, you can't have it both ways. Well, it's applicable tonight for some members of Congress who have two very different approaches to whether congressional subpoenas or subpoenas, in general, are sacred and whether they're a party in control may have a whole lot to do with their viewpoints.

The Republican-controlled House voted today to hold Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt. Republicans, well, they want to roll the actual tape. The paper receipt of a transcript, they say, is insufficient. They actually want to pry the audio recordings of the president's interview with special counsel Robert Hur out of the DOJ.

Garland and DOJ, though, say that the transcripts, they are more than sufficient to meet your legislative purpose. But now that Garland has refused and the House has found him in breach of a duly authorized subpoena, some want him to go to jail.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We just held him in contempt of Congress. Is he -- they're putting Steve Bannon in prison. Peter Navarro is in prison. Merrick Garland evidently deserves to go to prison.


COATES: Are Republicans consistent about what exactly should happen when Congress hits send on a subpoena? The answer, that was rhetorical as well, no. Jump in the hot tub time machine with me for a second to back to 2022, not that long ago, that's when Jim Jordan decided the rules on Congress, well, that didn't exactly apply to him. That's when he said the attempt to compel his testimony was, quote, a dangerous escalation of political vendettas. But listen to Jordan and his colleagues when the subject of the subpoena is Merrick Garland.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): He is refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena, and that's a problem under Article 1. We have to defend the Constitution. We have to defend the authority of Congress.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Attorney General Garland's willful refusal constitutes contempt of Congress. This resolution upholds the institutional power of the House by recommending that the House find Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the committee's subpoena.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he's not going to give it, give us the evidence, we have really no other option other than to hold him in contempt.

JORDAN: We have a constitutional duty to do oversight.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): If he doesn't comply with our reasonable request, With our subpoenas, then I think he should be held in contempt.

JORDAN: Attorney General Garland's will for refusal to comply with our subpoena constitutes contempt of Congress.


COATES: Joining me now, fresh off of a Republican primary victory, South Carolina Representative Nancy Mace. Congresswoman, thank you so much for staying up late with us tonight. I appreciate it.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Thank you for having me. I appreciate it as well.

COATES: A hard fought victory.

MACE: A very hard fought victory, but a great victory last night. COATES: You know, I want to get to that in just a moment because I am really curious because there was a lot at stake and there was a pretty powerful previous speaker of the House who seemed to want you not to win in that. I want to get to that in a moment. But in the House today, there was a very significant moment involving the Attorney General Merrick Garland, who now has made history yet again, the third attorney general who has been moved to be held in contempt by Congress, right?

I want you -- you voted in favor of this.

MACE: Yes, I did.

COATES: Why did you believe this was the appropriate choice?

MACE: Well, Congress, both the Oversight Committee and Judiciary had requested the audiotapes, they requested information and documentation that wasn't provided. And it wasn't covered under executive privilege because the transcript had already been released by the White House and it was our right to get the rest of the documentation, to get the audiotapes, to make sure the audio matched the transcript, et cetera.

At some point Congress has to take action. We can't always pay lip service to an issue.


You're seeing that with the border, for example, all these illegals coming across the border, nothing happening.

And, you know, I just had a resounding victory last night. I've been talking to people for months now regular, everyday hardworking Americans. They're tired of do nothing. They want Congress -- whether you're Republican or Democrat or independent, they want people to take action and be held accountable for their actions. And that goes both ways.

COATES: Well, I'm glad you said that because some would look at that and listen to you in a vacuum makes total sense. Then there are actual members and colleagues of yours who have said, we don't agree. Even if there is a subpoena that is outstanding, they haven't followed it. Congressman Jim Jordan is but one example. Do you think the American people can have confidence and suggest that, look, if it's all fair, and everyone has to abide by the same rules, then why didn't everyone have to answer?

MACE: Right. But, constitutionally, members of Congress are protected from that subpoena power as well. So, we have to abide by

COATES: Executive privilege does that for, not constitutionally, of course, but it would do a lot for Merrick Garland and other A.G.s.

MACE: It would have, except for the White House waived its executive privilege because it already released the transcript. And so we wanted the audiotape to make sure that it matched the transcript, which is I believe a normal thing to ask. It's not unusual, and Congress should have been able to receive it. But I talk to Americans every day, and they see bureaucrats, or secretaries, or elected officials not being held accountable. No one ever gets fired for wasting $500 million on some sort of software system, for example, some federal agency. We continue to waste money, and no one ever is held accountable, and I think that's what the American people want, it's what they deserve.

COATES: Well, what's odd about the idea of having, and I take you for your word, at your word to suggest that you want to see if there is actually corroboration and confirmation of what was said and what was actually written. But this can't be looked at outside of the political lens as well because, obviously, there was the written transcript handed over. And to confirm that it's non-executive privilege would actually require more litigation for that point. It seems for many that this is just a way to have some way to have this played in a campaign ad, as some way to target President Biden to suggest that a clip could, you know, protect the narrative that he somehow is not as mentally acute as he once was. Is that really the motivation?

MACE: Well, I think that -- no, it's not the motivation, but when you hear that the transcript might not match the audiotapes, you'd want to verify that information and requesting the audiotapes is not an unusual thing.

COATES: But where is that coming from? I haven't heard that there is a discrepancy between what was said. It wasn't favorable by the special counsel, Robert Hur, about hiding --

MACE: No, not at all.

COATES: So, where is it coming from if there is a discrepancy between what was said and how it's said?

MACE: Well, I mean, take for example, oversight last year. We had this 1023 document. The FBI said that the witness was, was trustworthy and credible, six months later, says that they're not trustworthy and credible. So, being able to verify the information, being able to verify the transcript, is something we should be doing to make sure the information we are getting is truthful, is trustworthy.

And I think there are two types of people in this country. There are people that have to be right and there are people that just want the truth. And if the audiotapes make sure and ensure that you are getting all of the truth and 100 percent of the truth and nothing less, then it shouldn't be a problem to share that information.

And because the White House, because the transcript was already released, then the executive privilege was already waived, what's the big deal with just, you know, bringing the audio tapes along with it? I don't see it as a big deal.

COATES: Well, some look at the executive privilege aspect of it, not just in terms of the words themselves, but the idea of the deliberative process being at play. There are, you know, some, in fact, one of your colleagues, congressman, I believe it was Joyce, who said that he couldn't vote in good conscience in favor of holding someone in contempt, because as a former prosecutor, I believe he is, the concern was this could have a real chilling effect on people who are going to be willing or even compelled to give testimony to the Department of Justice and having the words out there very different than maybe their voices. And that is part and parcel to why we protect some of that.

Is that a convincing enough reason for you knowing that that could have a chilling effect to simply have the words?

MACE: Look, I work on a little lot of civil rights issues. I was the ranking member on the Civil Rights Subcommittee last session on oversight. Due process is a really important issue. But when we want to verify the transcript when we have been misled by the federal government, by federal agencies, like the FBI in the past, ensuring that we have the absolutely correct transcript, nothing was taken away or edited or changed, is really important in the process of showing transparency, accountability and showing the truth to the American people. Let them decide what happens next.

COATES: Well, certainly, I hope if that's the philosophy, that it's across the board, and I'm not sure that it currently is --

MACE: Look, I'm someone who's -- I've gotten in a lot of trouble for voting to hold people in contempt, members of my own party. I've taken a lot of heat even in the last couple of days. But I want us to follow the Constitution, whether you have an R or a D by your name, everybody should be treated the same.

COATES: Well, this is aspirational.


That's part of the problem for the American people and the electorate on this point. But speaking of having a certain letter by your name, you have the words representative next to your name when you run your primary. And this was a hard fight, as I mentioned, because the former speaker, McCarthy, he did not appreciate your lack of support in different instances of your career with respect to him. He tried to make sure that you were primaried. What is your message to him knowing that that failed, well, almost miserably?

MACE: Well, I message to anyone who watched the race last night. Kevin McCarthy spent $7 million against me in this Republican primary. It will go down as the most expensive primary in South Carolina history. We ended up winning by 30 points because I've worked extremely hard to earn the trust and the support of South Carolina voters.

But also what it says is that there's a place for people like me in the Republican Party. I march the beat of my own drum. I tend to be very fiscally conservative, socially sensible. There's a place for me. There's a place for MAGA. There's a place for centrist. There's a place for right of center. There's a place for women in our party, even vocal women. I've been very vocal on women's issues. And folks in my district in South Carolina, they respect that there's a place for everyone in our party.

And that's what it says to me. Whether you're moderate, conservative, right of center, all those things, MAGA, there's a place for each of us in there. And the voters spoke resoundingly to have a 30-point win. I have never had that kind of margin. I've never had that kind of enemy fire coming against us, $7 million. That is significant. It stings it hurts. Sometimes you cry going to bed at night because it's an awful experience. It got personal.

But I ran my race. I ran it. I was my campaign manager. I ran it how I wanted it to be done. And at the end, we won huge because that's what the voters decided. They wanted the truth over the lies, and we won, the truth won resoundingly.

And it's a true honor for me. I got my start at the Waffle House on the side of the interstate serving customers in and now I'm serving my constituents today. And as the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, I've come a long way. I don't take a single day for granted. I don't take a single fight for granted. And I work really, really hard to serve South Carolina and I'm honored to continue to do so.

COATES: There was a, I'm sure you've seen, a New York Times report or discussion talking about records that were reviewed that suggest that there is -- you own a townhouse in Washington, the records that were reviewed seem to suggest that you repaid $23,000-plus dollars in lodging costs. That includes expenses for insurance and taxes and also months' bills for the townhouse. There is a discussion whether an ethics probe is warranted based on the repayment or reimbursement of those fees that would be tied to homeownership. What can you tell us about this investigation? Are you presently the subject of one?

MACE: I haven't heard anything about it so far. Again, I've been focused on my race. But I will tell you, I follow all the ethics rules and all of our ethics guidelines. I'm one of about 300 members of Congress that rely on lodging per diem to help us live in D.C., to do our jobs. And then the second thing is this was a last minute Hail Mary hit job done the weekend before our primary on Tuesday.

And it was very clear the voters saw it for what it was and decided it wasn't it wasn't truthful and that I follow all the ethics rules and they voted overwhelmingly despite all of the lies, despite all of the negative ads and voted overwhelmingly in favor of us. We won by 30 points last night. That was just fair.

COATES: So, you would be open to having -- being very open with the investigation?

MACE: Oh, absolutely. There's no reason not to, absolutely. And this is the first time, up until last year, members of Congress didn't get a per diem for travel expenses to Washington, D.C. So, if there's confusion, let's clear it up, because there are hundreds of members that either rent places up here or own property up here and live in it, that sort of thing. I'm sure everyone would welcome that.

COATES: Well, I'll certainly hold you to your word about making sure that you're open and accountable to the people. And, of course, abide the same things of Congress as well.

Congresswoman, nice to meet you here, thank you so much for joining me tonight.

MACE: Thank you.

COATES: Well, next, is it time to maybe hollow out that, was it a guillotine actually on the mall? How Trump campaign emails are getting more unhinged.

Plus, what to expect when Trump returns to Capitol Hill for his public visit, well his first since the insurrection.

And breaking news tonight as the FBI warns of potential threats. A man is found with weapons and armor in New York City. I'll speak with the governor of New York.



COATES: Well, tonight, a trend, escalation over and over of rhetoric in Trump fundraising emails. And if they started at DEFCON 3, they might very well be on DEFCON 5 right about now. On May 7th, Trump painting the stakes in life or death term saying they want me silenced forever. Now look at this, from May 22nd, Biden's DOJ was authorized to shoot me. Also, this not so subtle hint that Trump wants you to believe that Democrats want him dead, saying, quote, they're just itching to do the unthinkable.

Now, the day Donald Trump was convicted, his ghostwriters implored would-be donors to pray for America, calling himself a political prisoner. And then finally, today, borrowing from Robespierre, haul out the guillotine.

Joining me now to discuss is George Conway, a contributor for The Atlantic, and Jonah Goldberg, the editor-in-chief for The Dispatch. And shout out to my seventh grade teacher. I remember how to pronounce Robespierre. There you go, says, what happened.

Let me begin with you for a second, George, because you're not with us on set here, I wonder what you make of this hyperbolic language in these emails.

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY: It's amazing that it's continuing to get worse. I mean, we've seen inflammatory rhetoric from the Trump campaign and his fundraising emails in other contexts in the past.


But this idea of a guillotine, I mean, it does not seem to be any depth to which the Trump campaign will not sink in order to raise money. And what this is, is just -- it is an attempt to inflame the public in order to bait to raise money for, to defend the campaign of a convicted felon and an adjudicated rapist. And I -- the fact that a Republican fundraisers think that this is actually effective, and it must be because they wouldn't be doing it if they wouldn't be doing, using this kind of language and weren't effective in raising money, is really just something astonishing to behold.

COATES: I mean, Jonah, it's not only making money, I mean, after the conviction alone, and even aside from the E. Jean Carroll case that he was referencing from just last year, $50 million-plus since the convictions alone. But then there's this reporting that some of the money that was being used, saying that there was actually being gained, that Trump shifted nearly $5 million from his campaign to private businesses. He hasn't really donated a lot of money to his own campaign. What does this tell you in terms of what his mindset is?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I actually think the two stories are kind of related. I mean, George and I go way back. I'm not shocked by this, right? It's the logic of an addict. And they're feeding an addiction, which is, eventually, you get used to the dosage, you have to up the dose. And that's true of all sorts of addictions. The outrage machine that Trump raises money off of and uses as an ATM constantly needs the rhetoric to go to 11, 11.1, 11, just keep going higher because otherwise people become inured to it. And so you have to say, they tried to kill me. You have to say, bring out the guillotine, all that kind of stuff.

And it's not just that you keep your people running on hot. It's that you have to do the stuff to say something new and fresh to get attacked fresh. Because if he just said the old rhetoric, people wouldn't attack him, and he makes money -- he monetizes the attacks on him as well.

COATES: This is bait then, you think?

GOLDBERG: Yes, it's a tactic, and it's worked for them. I mean, and, and, I find that I'm as appalled by it as George is, but it works.

On the money thing, look, almost ten years ago now, I said the problem with Donald Trump is that character is destiny. Donald Trump has always been a self-dealer. He has always tried to sort of get -- you know, earn a buck from every conceivable angle, squeeze every penny out of things. He did this as president, making money, monetizing the presidency. Why wouldn't he try to monetize his own campaign?

COATES: Well, George, I want to bring you into that point because not only the amount of money we're talking about, but part of the ratcheting up of the rhetoric, and of course the commensurate increase in campaign funding that's coming from it, you know, he's still able to have people like, well, Speaker Johnson suggests that this is a man, in spite of all this, believes in the transfer of power. Listen to this.


REPORTER: Well, really for the first time, Republicans are both the House and Senate meeting with him since the January 6th attack on the Capitol, are you committed or have you spoken to him about basically not doing anything like that again and committing to respecting the sort of American tradition of a peaceful transfer of --

JOHNSON: Of course, he respects that, and we all do, and we've all talked about it ad nauseam.


COATES: Well, we've talked about something ad nauseam, but not his respect for the transfer of power, George.

CONWAY: Yes. I mean, I think Jonah's addiction metaphor, or actually it really is, there really probably is a dopamine aspect to it, is really apt even to this, because the Republican Party has become addicted to lies under Trump. And this is just an example, the pretense that Donald Trump is a cares about the Constitution, the pretense that he didn't try to overthrow the Constitution, the pretense that, as Donald Trump has been saying, the people who went up to Capitol Hill on January 6th were, and then were prosecuted or hostages.

I mean, in light of that, it's just impossible to say that Donald Trump -- with any honesty, to say that Donald Trump supports the Constitution and doesn't, and it's impossible to say that and Speaker Johnson manages to do that. And he does that because the Republicans just lie casually now. And that's just become a way of life for the Republican Party.

COATES: Jonah, what do you say to that? Because there are many who would look at this and say, well, hold on, which kind of Republican are you talking about? There's obviously some different identities within some who sign up to emulate Donald Trump and others who say, no, I'm still a part of the Republican Party. I see a vehicle that Donald Trump represents. What's your say?

GOLDBERG: Yes. I think it used to be that there was too few, but some vocal people.


I mean, Mitt Romney, I still think, tells the truth about Donald Trump and all that kind of stuff. And you can find a few others. But the real distinction was between the people who would say things like Speaker Johnson said on camera, and those who wouldn't say them off camera.

Like the number of Republicans, what I used to call closet normies, that they would say -- you know, the T.V. cameras turn on, and they'd say stuff like Under Comrade Trump, we will have the greatest wheat harvests we've ever seen in the Urals. And then the cameras go off, and you're like, this guy is such a pain in the ass, I can't stand him.

The problem is, is that our brain -- we are not wired to be permanently cynical and to lie all the time. And over time, we start to believe our own B.S. And so now more and more and more people in the Republican Party, honestly, you know, five years ago, they would all say, yes, I just got to say this because it's politics. And now the cameras go off and they still say it.

And I think Speaker Johnson is more in that camp. But even if he's not, he has to say this stuff because he'd lose his speakership like that if he turned on Trump. Trump is the guy who gave him his speakership.

COATES: I mean, that's interesting, the psychology of becoming the true believer, to your point, and maybe these different emails that are coming out, I wonder to what extent it is galvanizing people towards that or not.

Jonah Goldberg, George Conway, both of you, thanks so much.

There is breaking news tonight out of New York as the FBI warns of terror threats in the coming months. A man is arrested with weapons, ammo, body armor and axes. New York's governor joins me.

Plus, Elon Musk is being sued tonight by former SpaceX workers who alleged harassment and animal house-like behavior. One of the accusers is going to join me live.



COATES: Tonight, chilling new scenes of anti-Semitism across New York City. The home of the director of the Brooklyn Museum, who was Jewish, was vandalized overnight with red paint and a sign accusing her of being a white supremacist Zionist. Aggressive fights between pro- Palestinian protesters and police in the subway system. And then there was this that happened on a car.


UNKNOWN: Raise your hands if you're a Zionist. This is your chance to get out. Okay, no Zionists for good.


COATES: And next to an exhibit memorializing the Nova Music Festival where the Hamas attack that killed hundreds, protesters speaking about those who were attacked like this.


UNKNOWN: We're Zionists decided to rave. Next to a concentration camp. That's exactly what this music festival was.


COATES: The NYPD reports anti-Semitic incidents are now up 84 percent across New York City from the same time just last year. Joining me now is New York Governor Kathy Hochul. Governor Hochul, I want to talk about these threats in just a moment, but I do want to first get to this extremely breaking story tonight that the NYPD governor is investigating whether a man was planning some kind of attack in the New York City area.

I guess he was pulled over and arrested with a loaded gun, more than 100 rounds of ammunition and other weapons. And he also alarmingly seemed to have NYPD uniform gear. Governor, what can you tell us about this?

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): Well, we're working closely with the NYPD and, of course, the Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate this further. But there is no tolerance for this behavior. This is criminal. And I have confidence in our system that these individuals will be prosecuted and handled to the full extent of the law.

This is unacceptable in the state of New York. It's frightening, but it's important to know that the police are on top of this. And more will be reported as we're able to disclose this to the public.

COATES: Governor, do we know sitting here today whether he was, in fact, plotting an attack?

HOCHUL: I cannot speak to that at this time. I certainly hope that all the safety measures are in place to deter anything like this from happening, and we'll hopefully have more information from you in your office at the appropriate time. You've also commented on the different events that I have just described right before we started talking about this new reporting tonight, about anti-Semitism, about vandalism.

You called it abhorrent and other things as well. And just the tone, the aggressiveness of the incidents that we are seeing, Governor, they seem to have truly escalated, and they are where commuters are and beyond. What is the state doing to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers?

HOCHUL: Well, this is textbook anti-Semitism. These constitute hate crimes. And I'm proud that our administration has taken this on. Before I became governor, hate crimes were not even bail eligible. I mean, you couldn't hold someone for committing one of these horrific crimes. I changed the bail laws so hate crimes are now eligible. So, judges and prosecutors know this.

Secondly, in the legislative session that just ended a few weeks ago, we added 28 more offenses to our hate crime list. I've also beefed up security at vulnerable places, particularly places of worship, $35 million of support there. Our Joint Terrorism Task Force has strong representation from our state police.

We also had to do a lot on college campuses to make sure that our commencement events and graduations went off as best they could under the circumstances. So, it's an unsettling time. These are despicable acts.


And particularly what happened at that memorial to young lives, people who were slaughtered and raped and brutalized. This is so inhumane. And this is not who New Yorkers are. And we should not descend to this chaos and allow any tolerance for this disgusting, abhorrent behavior.

COATES: Governor, there is a tension that many leaders are facing in their own local jurisdictions. New York, not an exception. Between those who would say, well, hold on. As abhorrent and as vile as the speech may be, you have the right to say it, and trying to balance that against people's right to feel safe, not threatened, not victimized or villainized in the way that the speech indicates. How do you reconcile those tense moments?

HOCHUL: It is not difficult for me because someone wants to stand on a street corner and peacefully protest, they can do whatever they want. You go onto a subway train and threaten people and frighten them. You vandalize a home. Those are illegal acts. That is not even close to being speech. So, it's clear to us that these were crimes that must be prosecuted.

COATES: There's also a call some have talked about. Some Jewish leaders actually in New York are calling tonight for a mask ban, saying that covering faces allows protesters to have some level of anonymity, to be more aggressive, to be more entitled to say what they want because they don't fear repercussion the same way. Would you support that endeavor?

HOCHUL: There was a ban on masks before the pandemic, that you couldn't have face coverings that didn't serve a purpose. For example, a surgical mask if someone's elderly or ill. The pandemic removed that from our state law. It was repealed at the time. But I absolutely will go back and take a look at this and see whether it can be restored because it is frightening to people.

You're sitting on a subway train and someone puts on a mask like this and comes in. You don't know if they're going to be committing a crime, they're going to have a gun, or whether they're just going to be threatening and intimidating you because you are Jewish, which is exactly what happened the other day. Absolutely unacceptable in the state of New York.

COATES: Finally, Governor, I do want to ask you, because you stopped New York City's planned congestion charge, a charge for cars that were traveling into central Manhattan. This was just weeks before it really was set to start. And you cited potential unintended economic consequences.

But there are reports that say it's because this really got a lot of backlash. It was disliked in some of the key districts that Democrats may need to take control of the House. Is that the motivation behind why you have paused this? Or was there, in fact, a political reason?

HOCHUL: The only motivation I need is to spend time listening to real New Yorkers, the working men and women, our teachers, our firefighters, our police officers, health care workers, hospital workers. I have heard from thousands of New Yorkers through countless means that they just can't take any more economic pressures. Life is hard enough.

And to at this time, at this very moment, when their bills are going up, everything is escalating, that we now say it's 15 more dollars to drive in the city. I will always be the MTAs, the transit system's strongest supporter, which is why I engineered a bailout of it last year to keep it strong and viable. I will have the resources. The legislature and I are working out having the resources to do those improvements.

We're also going to continue fighting to protect our environment, reducing emissions, dealing with congestion as it's existing today. But we can't do it at this time on the backs of New Yorkers who are just crying for some relief. We cannot be tone deaf to these individuals because I have heard from them, and they need our help at this time.

COATES: Governor Kathy Hochul, thank you so much for joining me.

HOCHUL: Thank you.

COATES: Up next, a former SpaceX employee says that Elon Musk evaluated women based on their bra size. But that's not all. I'll speak with one of the workers who is now suing the company for what they say they experienced. Stand by.



COATES: Tonight, Elon Musk is running a, quote," animal house". The SpaceX founder and his company being sued by eight former employees who allege that they were illegally fired for raising concerns about gender discrimination and about sexual harassment. They were fired back in 2022 after their open letter criticizing Musk and urging the company to make some culture changes.

This lawsuit alleges that Musk trumpets himself as, quote, " -- the leader to a brave new world of space travel, but runs his company in the dark ages, treating women as sexual objects to be evaluated on their bra size, bombarding the workplace with lewd sexual banter, and offering the reprise to those who challenge the animal house environment that if they don't like it, they can seek employment elsewhere."

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this lawsuit. Paige Holland-Thielen is one of the plaintiffs in this case, and she joins me now. Paige, thank you so much for joining me this evening. I do want to go through each of these allegations one by one because they are, frankly, extraordinary. One is that people are evaluated on bra size. What's happening? Can you elaborate?

PAIGE HOLLAND-THIELEN, SUED ELON MUSK, SPACEX FOR SEX BIAS, UNFAIR FIRINGS: There was a very popular tweet from a little while ago where Elon claimed that he was starting a university with what he considered humorous acronym.


And I won't go into what that is, but that got very popular and got repeated all over the workplace. And one of the follow-up tweets was that Ds get degrees, which was a joke about breast size due to the acronym of the fake college. So, things like that were widely shared on all internal chat channels and talked about in meetings and used as fodder in professional environments. And that's just one of many, many instances like that.

COATES: You also talk about lewd sexual banter. Did that play off of a similar theme, as well? What kind of things would Musk say?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: Most of the interactions that I'm familiar with from Elon Musk himself are just, you know, his widely shared Twitter feed, which is written into the employee handbook as a source of SpaceX approved news. We were encouraged in our orientation to follow him on Twitter.

COATES: Really?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: Tweets were shared. Yes, SpaceX will retweet Elon Musk's Twitter and he will retweet them. And so, it becomes impossible to separate his personal non-sense from the actual day-to-day life of an actual working environment where engineers are working hard and trying to get things done.

So, anything that is on his Twitter is considered official news. So, anything that he says may as well be written on an official SpaceX letterhead and distributed as a company update.

COATES: Official news or official policy? Because I wonder what the impact of that was working at the organization to know this was being shared or talked about. Were people repulsed by it or did it become part of the culture?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: It's very much part of the culture, but people like me were pretty repulsed by it. It's hard not to feel targeted in a scenario where you know, might be the only woman or the only minority in a room and people are laughing about, you know, sex jokes and potty humor in a place where it really doesn't belong.

COATES: You know, SpaceX, they don't normally respond to queries from news organizations. But back in 2022, the SpaceX COO said that she would enforce SpaceX's zero tolerance standards against employee harassment. But the New York Times reported that she said the employees had been fired for making other staff feel, quote, uncomfortable. How do you respond to that?

HOLLAND-THIELEN: I can't discount anyone else's lived experience any more than anybody else should be able to discount mine. I guess it's a bummer that somebody felt uncomfortable that I asked them to sign a letter. But the letter was a very small step to trying to improve the lives of a lot of people.

And I think just the sheer volume of support and signatures that we got on the letter is really strong proof that this wasn't an isolated, small, angry mob of people. We had a lot of support and a lot of people really shared this sentiment. And a lot of people still experience this every day at SpaceX. And we just were trying to support each other.

And it's -- it's really unfortunate that the spin and the twist was that we made people feel uncomfortable because I just that was the reality of my everyday life was how uncomfortable I would feel in situations that were much, much more damaging than that one.

COATES: The irony of that narrative. Paige Holland-Thielen, thank you so much for joining. I know these are very significant allegations. We'll continue to follow and what their response may be, as well. Thank you.

HOLLAND-THIELEN: Thank you so much. Well, in part of Florida's war on woke efforts, you know, a teacher is now at risk of losing her license over a Black Lives Matter flag and an anti-Confederacy face mask. Her story is next.



COATES: Well, tonight, a beloved teacher in Florida may lose her license over her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Here's CNN's Carlos Suarez.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amy Donofrio was one of those teachers who made a difference in her students' lives.

AMY DONOFRIO, TEACHER: I just love them.

SUAREZ (voice-over): For nine years, she taught a predominantly Black student population at a high school in Jacksonville, Florida, named after the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a constant reminder of the city's oppressed past.

UNKNOWN: So she was a warrior for us. She still is.

SUAREZ (voice-over): Donofrio said she worked to create a safe space for her students to talk about their experiences.

UNKNOWN: For her to be able to make teenagers feel comfortable enough to come in her classroom and express the trauma that they have gone through voluntarily. That's -- that's a gift.

SUAREZ (voice-over): In 2015, she began running a program called EVAC, helping mostly Black male students deal with their experiences with violence, racism and the justice system. They traveled to the White House to meet with congressional leaders, gave presentations at Harvard. And they also met with then President Barack Obama when he visited Jacksonville.

DONOFRIO: Honestly, the most beautiful thing I have ever been a part of.

SUAREZ (voice-over): But in 2020, as there was a racial reckoning in the country, Donofrio's school was changing, too. As she'd done in years past, Donofrio stood with her students who declared their Black Lives Matter. And she also supported changing the name of the once segregated school to one that better reflected the current student population.

In one community meeting, she wore a face mask with the message, quote, "Robert E. Lee was a gang member, I'm not a gang member" was a slogan used in the EVAC movement, according to court documents.

DONOFRIO: We turned human compassion into something that's controversial.


SUAREZ (voice-over): But in the fall of 2020, her principal asked her to stop displaying a BLM flag outside her classroom, saying the flag violated a school policy. The flag had not been a problem before then.

MARK RICHARD, DONOFRIO'S ATTORNEY: There was no position opposite to this.

SUAREZ (voice-over): For five months, Donofrio didn't take the flag down, according to court documents, because she believed it didn't violate any school policy. So, the principal did. The following day, Donofrio was reassigned outside the school. And Florida's then Commissioner of Education said this.

RICHARD CORCORAN, FORMER FL COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION: It was an entire classroom memorialized to Black Lives Matter. We made sure she was terminated.

SUAREZ (voice-over): At the time, Donofrio was not fired. But a month later, she said she was out of a job. In response, her students collected nearly 18,000 signatures on a public petition to bring her back.

DONOFRIO: I wasn't removed for anything having to do with my teaching.

SUAREZ (voice-over): State education officials accused Donofrio of bringing her personal views into the classroom. An administrative judge disagreed. But she said Donofrio did violate school policy, which required teachers to remain neutral on politically charged issues when she wore the Robert E. Lee mask.

The judge recommended she receive a written reprimand. But a state education commission will have the final say and could pull Donofrio's teaching license for good. The case against her has unfolded against a backdrop of Florida policing teachers amid the state's, quote,"anti- woke law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis".

RICHARD: We do not want to be caught in these culture wars.

DONOFRIO: My students matter. Teachers who care about students matter.

SUAREZ: Laura, we reached out to Florida education officials to get a sense of where they stand ahead of tomorrow's meeting. Whether they would like the commission to sign off on the administrative judge's recommendation of a written reprimand, or whether they want Donofrio's teaching license pulled for good, we have not heard back from them.


COATES: Thank you to Carlos Suarez. We'll be back in just a moment.