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Laura Coates Live

Trump To Return To Capitol Hill For First Time Since January 6; Laura Coates Interviews Jon Meacham; Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Delivers Speech At Nixon Presidential Library; New Battle Over Return Of Confederate Names; Denmark Recalls Instant Ramen Noodles. Aired 11p- 12a ET

Aired June 12, 2024 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: We're back for another hour of "Laura Coates Live," and we begin with a major moment in the making for Donald Trump and his re-election campaign. Tomorrow, we're going to see Trump exercise or see whether he still has the grip he says he has -- he probably does -- on the Republican Party in the most remarkable way. And why remarkable? Because at one point, it may have seemed completely impossible.

But tomorrow, Trump is going to huddle with House and Senate Republicans just a few feet from the Capitol, that same Capitol that his supporters stormed on January 6th. This kind of blew my mind to think about. This will be his first public visit to the Hill since that day, nearly three and a half years ago. Isn't that surprising to think about? It has been the first time publicly?

Now his critics are calling it a return to the scene of the crime. But his supporters, well, they're all ears. And some of the lawmakers that he will speak to tomorrow had at one point suggested that they were completely done with him after January 6th, and that includes, by the way, the then-majority leader, Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.


COATES: Now, that was McConnell then. But this, this was McConnell today.


MCCONNELL: I support him. He has earned the nomination by the voters all across the country. And, of course, I'll be at the meeting tomorrow. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COATES: Hmm. Well, it's not just McConnell who seems to have changed his mind. Back in 2021, 51% of Republicans strongly disapproved of the mob's attack on the Capitol. But today, that number has gone down to just 32%.

Now over on the House side, Speaker Mike Johnson is hyping the meeting with Trump, and he says it's about plotting the first 100 days of Trump's agenda if Trump wins. But what if Trump doesn't win? Well, today, a reporter asked Speaker Johnson about avoiding a repeat of January 6th.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Are you committed or have you spoken to him about basically not -- not doing anything like that again? And committing to, um, respecting the sort of American tradition of a peaceful transfer.

MIKE JOHNSON, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Of course, he respects that. And we all do. And we've all talked about it at nauseam. We're excited to welcome President Trump back.


COATES: Of course, he does. Hmm. Well, joining me now, former 2024 GOP presidential candidate and former governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson. Governor, thank you so much for joining us this evening. I mean, you heard from Speaker Johnson just now the statement of, of course, he does support the peaceful transfer of power, obviously is belied by what we've seen in the past in this commentary.

But Speaker Johnson, governor, actually helped shape the legal arguments for keeping Trump in power back in 2020. And in fact, "The New York Times" called Johnson -- quote -- "the most important architect of the Electoral College objections."

So, I wonder, do you take Johnson and Trump at their words this election cycle?

ASA HUTCHINSON, FORMER 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Speaker Johnson has grown into his position. You can see that by calling the vote for support for Ukraine where it was stymied.


He brought it to the floor for a vote, and he cobbled together even Democrat votes, Republican votes to have that success. And so, these are maturing and growing decisions that he has made.

This meeting tomorrow is one truly about the policy, what they want to be able to campaign on this fall, which is going to be focusing on immigration enforcement. It's going to be talking about the economy. And I think the members will be encouraging former President Trump stick with that message and get off the angry, get off the chaos, get off the -- the fearmongering that really cost the Republicans' vote.

And so, I think that will be the --


HUTCHINSON: -- honest discussion that is happening tomorrow.

COATES: Well, let's assume he has indeed matured into that position and role. By the way, part of that was by getting bipartisan support. And surely, one is not going to maintain that in the endeavors you just mentioned if there -- he's not going to admit that or say that Donald Trump does not, in fact, has not demonstrated that he believes in a transition of power.

Do you think it will be possible for Speaker Johnson to keep Trump on the line that you just spoke about?

HUTCHINSON: Well, Speaker Johnson has certainly shown that he is his own person there. But there's going to be a divided opinion about it tomorrow.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

HUTCHINSON: And I am very worried about the election deniers. I'm worried about their view of January 6th and how it has changed. But that is the reality of it. And this is more about the future. And this is a little bit like, for some of them, they're a shotgun wedding where they're -- you know, Trump is the leader, he controls the apparatus of the party and, therefore, he's going to be the nominee.

They're forced to march with him whether they like it or not. And so, they're binding together to win in November because whether you like President Trump or not, you want to be able to win Republican seats in the House and in the Senate, both.

So, it's very pragmatic in the choices that are being made right now. I think there'll be some honest discussions, but also be some real glossing over of what happened --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

HUTCHINSON: -- on January 6th and some of the controversies of the past.

COATES: Well, what might be politically pragmatic also could read the electorate as particularly disingenuous because many remember what was said back on January 6th. But I understand the idea of being practical.

I am curious. Is the shotgun wedding analogy, you think, what's motivating someone like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who famously ridiculed -- he was ridiculed by Trump and has ridiculed in the past? He'll be at tomorrow's meeting, and he is saying that he will, in fact, vote for Trump. But he is stepping down from leadership at the end of this year. What does McConnell gain from endorsing Trump? Is it the idea of the Republicans -- you know, a rising tide will lift all their votes?

HUTCHINSON: Well, that is exactly the quandary that I find myself in. All Republicans that believe in Republican principles are distressed by this. I mean, some of them are ardent supporters of Donald Trump. But there's a vast number, including Senator McConnell and others, that would have preferred a different nominee. But the people, the voters said, no, Donald Trump is going to be the nominee this year. I fought against that, I challenged that, but we lost on that. He is the nominee.

So, now, what do you do? And, of course, Senator McConnell and others said, we're team players, the voters said he's our choice. And so, they're signing up for it. And that's where I have the analogy of a shotgun wedding. It's not necessarily a happy day. It's a forced marriage in some of those instances. But they're going to be able -- and it's -- it is pragmatic. And I don't think it should deserve all of the criticism because they make that choice, because they see Republican solutions better than what Joseph Biden is offering.

COATES: Governor Asa Hutchinson, thank you so much for joining us.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Good to be with you, Laura.

COATES: Thank you.

With me now, former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, and also Chuck Rocha, Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. All right, Joe, I want to ask you, because there are a lot of people who are going to be meeting with Trump tomorrow. I mean, you don't have to be very old to remember a lot of their commentary and statements before. I see you nodding as a beautiful, active listener. But also, I think you were disagreeing in some respects with what Hutchinson was saying.

JOE WALSH, FORMER GOP CONGRESSMAN: Laura, I love Asa Hutchinson and God bless him. There's nothing pragmatic. This is not pragmatism.


WALSH: This is cowardice. Donald Trump, Laura, has repeatedly said within the last three months that he will refuse to accept the results of an election, this election, if he loses.


He's doing it again. Pull us out of the context we're in. Three and a half years ago, for the first time in American history, an American president lost an election and refused to concede, refused to participate in the peaceful transfer of power, and then tried to overthrow that election. Three and a half years later, he's the leader of the party, he's the nominee. There is nothing pragmatic about what my former colleagues are doing. This is utter cowardice.

COATES: Now, Chuck, there are some who would listen to that and say, well, hold on, let's take away, and I know it's a big takeaway, take away the January 6th or the transfer of power, and talk about the electoral, maybe absence of extraordinary excitement. The people have chosen who the nominee is going to be. You got to get on board the actual ship.

What do you say to that? Is that part of what's motivating even Democrats who might not be as excited for their own candidate? But once the people have spoken about who has won these different elections, that's the person you got to get behind for January -- excuse me, for November?

CHUCK ROCHA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think what we're looking at here is in the House, particularly. What effect does Donald Trump have on all of these House members? We all know, we talk about it. Most of these House members are in safe districts. They have no worry about being beaten and being hugged up on Donald Trump. Don't hurt them a bit. January 6th. None of the above. They don't matter because 90% of our districts are safe Democrat or safe Republican.

But what I'm going to be watching tomorrow is there's about 50 congressional seats that are marginal. They swing a little bit left or a little bit right. And we can win a lot of those as Democrats. And we have a best shot of winning back the House than any other chamber of our government. That means the president or the Senate.

So tomorrow, I'm going to be looking at what members are up next to him talking to him, out front talking to him, because the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will probably use this as an advantage for them to say these members in a district that Joe Biden probably carried are all buddied up with Donald Trump.

COATES: So how does the vote today to hold Merrick Garland in contempt in the House, how does that impact the ability for Democrats to use that as fuel for their own campaigns?

ROCHA: I think Joe said it best, this showed their radicalism. They've admitted themselves that it's a do-nothing Congress. All they're doing is having these fake hearings, trumped up charges on this and that. And I think it plays in the Democrats' favor because we can say, look, they're not even worried about putting bread on your table or making gas prices go down. They want to have these fake hearings.

COATES: What do you think, Joe? I mean, when you look at the, you know, the -- how it's being called the weaponization of the government, this is now the third attorney general who has been held in contempt. Previously, there was Eric Holder. Also, of course, you had Bill Barr as ones in the past. They've all held the same statement of the executive privilege, and that you've got to have a legislative purpose, not a political, you know, campaign slogan you want to run at our expense.

How do you think the voters are going to see this, as a wash that whole system is corrupt or that Republicans are responsible?

WALSH: No, this is just the latest evidence of absolute chaos in this republican two years. Laura, Republicans promised us, if they got control of the House, they would enact retribution for Donald Trump, they'd investigate everybody. Biden, they try to impeach Biden, Garland, everything. This is all retribution for Trump. And it's not going to play well with the American voters because they haven't been doing the people's business.

COATES: Talk to me about -- I mean, the one thing that of an issue that came up in the last couple of months, frankly, is the IVF issue. You know, there are a lot of reproductive rights concerns among voters, obviously, immigration, the economy. You can go down the list.

IVF was not on the bingo card for most people as an issue. Democrats had a chance as well today. They blocked an IVF bill that was proposed by an Alabama Republican senator, Katie Britt. She said it was only blocked because Democrats want to use fear tactics. What's your stance?

ROCHA: I think for Democrats, they know that abortion is an important issue for women all over the country. And what makes it different is it's a right that all women have had for a long time that was taken from them about their own bodies. IVF is just another part of that, saying, we want to take this away from you, something you already have.

When we're in focus groups, we don't hear about Garland, we don't hear about this, but we do hear about women, madder than hell, about something being taken away from them that that was their right for a long time. And when you take something away from somebody in politics that they're used to having, that's bad juju.

WALSH: It's a freedom issue. Democrats would be smart to position this as a freedom issue.

ROCHA: Which used to be a Republican issue back in the 90s when I first started. This is where we would argue back and forth all the time. We'd say, government is good. They'd say, freedom this and freedom that.



COATES: I think you can take them (ph).


I don't know. I thought you'd punch him. He didn't move.

WALSH: I'm moving.



COATES: Anyway, I don't encourage violence. Joe, Chuck, stick around, though.

Ahead, President Biden on the world stage, facing divisions over Ukraine, Israel, and far-right victories in Europe. The big question is, will he be able to strengthen Western alliances before November? Well, that's the question I've got for Jon Meacham, and he's up next.



COATES: Well, tonight, President Biden is in Italy for what will be his final G7 meeting before Election Day, aiming to strengthen global alliances and provide critical support to Ukraine. He's also hoping to announce a $50 billion loan agreement for Ukraine as early as tomorrow. And he's eager to showcase his leadership on the world stage compared to what he says was the chaos and the uncertainty of the Trump years.

Now, all of this in the wake of far-right victories in European Union elections, which, frankly, have rattled nerves in Europe and also here at home.

Joining me now to help put all this into perspective, presidential historian Jon Meacham. He is also the author of the new book, "The Call to Serve: The Life of an American President, George Herbert Walker Bush: A Visual Biography."


So glad that you're here with us today. I cannot wait to hear more about your book as well and for everyone to partake in it.

As I mentioned, this is one of Biden's last public chances to solidify alliances overseas before the November general election. What is at stake for you?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The perennial struggle between isolationism and a more internationalist stance is something which is being tested. We're seeing this drama play out both in the United States and, as you said, around the world, in Europe as well.

We've been doing this since the 1790s. We've been trying to figure out in each given era how forward leaning we should be and to what extent should we try to stay more on our side of the ocean.

What history has taught us again and again and again is that isolationism does not in the end work because we are inevitably drawn into conflicts that are about perhaps our values, perhaps our trade, perhaps both.

And I think what President Biden is doing is acting in the role of a fairly traditional role. And in an argument that really since 19 -- certainly since 1945, the idea that we would have an Atlantic alliance against an expansionist authoritarian force based in Russia or the Soviet Union wasn't really up for debate. It was, for some folks, always some on the edge.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

MEACHAM: But this is a more prevalent feeling right now, obviously, because of the Republican nominee for president. COATES: Well, I wonder what also must be prevalent. I mean, we're talking about the November election and 140 plus days at this point. Our allies surely remember quite a few infamous moments, particularly when -- when Trump sided with Putin over U.S. intelligence at the Helsinki summit. There's also the photo of an obstinate Trump meeting with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the 2018 G7. And then there was that awkward moment when he shoved the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way.

I mean, Biden is saying that world leaders tell him that they're worried about the return of Trump. I wonder how much you think that weighs on the president in this moment.

MEACHAM: I think it's extraordinarily -- I think it weighs on him with a great heaviness. I take President Biden, who's my friend and I help him when I can, so take this for what it's worth. Joe Biden is kind of like a upside down iceberg. You see most of what's going on. I'm sure there's something we don't see. But by and large, most of us are icebergs and most of us is hidden. He is sort of the opposite.

And when he quotes Macron saying in that early meeting when President Biden said America is back, and the French president says, but for how long, totally rational question for Europe to ask.

Remember, the former president, the Republican nominee, rose in many ways to the republican nomination in 2016 not only on immigration, but on a kind of, if you will, seemingly elective attack on NATO. One of those things that was sort of NATO was not maybe for you, was not a, you know, big subject in the minds of a lot of folks, but President Trump in that era was insistent on countries paying their fair share. It was sort of an interesting kind of isolationist argument.

So, what I think you see with President Biden, who's returning to Europe, is a man who grew up in and has governed for a long time in a world of alliances, an Atlantic world that, by and large, has kept the peace after the greatest cataclysm in the history of warfare in the 1940s that began with an expansionist European force taking countries that did not belong to them. This is not that complicated. This is pretty straightforward. It's not simple. These are complicated questions.


MEACHAM: But the basic point is, if you don't confront aggression early, history tells us we confront it later in worse circumstances. I know that's what President Biden wants.

COATES: I mean, the eventuality of it is foreboding at best to think about and where -- and where this all leads. We're watching what's going to happen overseas.


And you also have a new book, as I mentioned. It's called "The Call to Serve." It showcases the life of President George H.W. Bush in photos. And you're actually in College Station, Texas commemorating what would have been his 100th birthday.

And I wonder, as this election is looming, what are the lessons that we can learn from the 41st president? Frankly, some would look and say, perhaps, even today's Republican Party would not have highlighted him even as the nominee, and yet he was our 41st president. What lessons can there be?

MEACHAM: There is no chance on God's earth or --


If you're not religious, there's no chance on earth that George Herbert Walker Bush would be nominated for president or the Republican Party today.


MEACHAM: Just no, and we could have a really interesting conversation about whether the 43rd president could be. I don't think he could. George H.W. Bush, it represents a kind of dignity and a kind of decency in the public arena that is not sentimental. It's not nostalgic. It did just happen 20 minutes ago. You know, I used to think that we all used to think that 30 years was a long time until we all got a little older.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

MEACHAM: Now, it doesn't seem like that long ago. And one of the things that I think we have to remember about President Bush is, in context of the conversation we were just talking about, he believed deeply in that same Atlantic order. He has been on enormous amount of time working on our alliances, managing the end of the Cold War. He believed in what Franklin Roosevelt called the science of human relationships. President Biden believes the same thing.

Much more, George H.W. Bush and President Biden, on foreign policy questions and on questions of demeanor, have enormously -- have a great deal in common.


MEACHAM: And so, that's an interesting sign, given where the parties are. President Bush, born on this date in 1924, really had more in common to some extent with the founding fathers culturally than he does with our own era because he did embody a sense that however ambitious, however imperfect we are, you have to put in critical moments the country first. And to his own political detriment, George H.W. Bush did that. Tough competitor, tough campaigner, not a perfect man, but a good and decent man who left the country in better shape than he found it. And I think that's the charge for all of us.

COATES: John Meacham, thank you. Looking forward to reading the book. Thank you so much.

MEACHAM: Thanks, Laura. COATES: Up next, RFK Jr. delivering a foreign policy speech tonight as he tries to have a breakout moment in the 2024 race. But just who are the people who are supporting him? We'll discuss it in just a moment.



COATES: Tonight, independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. trying to make the case that he is a contender in this race by giving a speech to the Nixon Presidential Library on foreign policy. He said this just a few moments ago.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Virtually, all the great empires of the last 500 years have collapsed from the weight of overextended military commitments abroad. The same pitfall is now undermining the American experiment with self-government. As we poured our wealth into one military operation after another in the pursuit of global empire, our nation began to decay from within.


COATES: Now, Kennedy is considered a long shot to win the presidency, but recent polling shows that he has gained enough support to have an effect on the race. The question on everyone's mind, though, is, which candidate would he pull voters from and just who are RFK Jr.'s supporters?

Well, joining me now is CNN national politics correspondent Eva McKend, who has been covering the RFK Jr. campaign. Also, Joe Walsh and Chuck Rocha are back with me. Eva, a lot of people -- first of all, welcome, glad you're here. A lot of people know RFK Jr. for his more controversial stances like on vaccines, for example. But you've been talking to his supporters, and I was surprised to learn that doesn't factor in as largely as people might imagine. What do they support?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It's not the central issue that comes up when you talk to these voters. There is an ideological diversity here. So, you're getting former Trump supporters, Biden supporters, people who supported Bernie Sanders, people who sat out 2020 altogether.

And, you know, just tonight, he said in that speech, military spending is a constant strain on our nation's vitality. You know, that is something that progressives might agree with. That is something with the increasingly isolationist wing of the Republican Party might agree with. And so, Democrats have to, who are challenging him most forcefully, have to contend with aspects of his campaign that do have some broad appeal.

Another group that we're seeing attracted to the Kennedy campaign, young voters, 22% among young voters, 18 to 34 years old, and many of them tell me that they learned of his campaign on YouTube or TikTok. And then also there is an economic diversity here as well. More than 20% of voters making less than $50,000 a year, according to that same polling, Laura.

COATES: So, I wonder if that surprises you, you were part of Bernie Sanders campaign, to think that Bernie Sanders supporters are going at some respect for RFK Jr. Does that surprise you?

ROCHA: It does surprise me because they were fighting back against the system. That was like -- let's be clear, I helped run Bernie's --

COATES: Right.

ROCHA: -- campaign and I'm riding with Biden. Let's get clear on that.

COATES: Uh-hmm.

ROCHA: But the folks that were with Bernie were folks that were, you heard, rigged system. That's what we ran our campaign on, is that the system was rigged, not the electoral process but that rich people are getting richer and poor people are getting poorer. So, it was the thing that worked.


But Eva brought up three things that are really important in her reporting, which was great reporting, is that every one of those aspects of the demographics that she talked about, whether it was age or income or the folks that are drawn to him, are the lowest propensity voters.


ROCHA: So, when you ask who are the people that are supporting him, it's folks least likely to vote.

WALSH: We're living in a moment where a lot of Americans believe the system is broken, our political system is broken. It is what garnered Bernie a lot of appeal. It's what got helped get Trump elected in '16. RFK Jr. appeals to the same thing. And a lot of people who don't vote, but they're just -- they're sick of both parties, they're sick of a broken political system, and so they tend to listen to demagogues like a Trump or an RFK Jr.

COATES: And yet it might be motivating for them. They have a candidate that they would like and they might want to turn out to vote on that. I do wonder, is he on many ballots so far?

MCKEND: So, he is on six. He's qualified in six states, officially on the ballot. California, Utah, Delaware, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Michigan. And, of course, we know Michigan might be the most consequential --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

MCKEND: -- of the bunch so far because Biden won Michigan in 2020 by just about 150,000 votes. He has submitted for ballot access in about a dozen other states, but this is something that we're monitoring closely.

COATES: So, when you're looking at this, Chuck, and thinking about him on the ballot, I mean, it's not enough to maybe win the race, obviously, to the 270, but he could have an impact. If you are a Biden campaign strategist, what are your concerns as opposed -- for somebody like RFK Jr. compared to what it would be like as a Trump supporter or a Trump campaign?

ROCHA: We haven't seen in the history of our election, since Ross Perot, some third party --

COATES: Right.

ROCHA: -- have a big effect like this. And so, what you have to look at is the margins are so small in these states. In Michigan, the number was so small, we just talked about it. And it also has the largest concentration of Muslim Americans --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

ROCHA: -- with what's going on with the Gaza Strip. So, with people that do what I do for a living, you're looking at the margins of the folks that were putting people in categories. We know these people are crazy Trumpers. These people are dyed in the wool.

Joe Biden -- who is that little group in the middle? And how do we start talking to them earlier? Expand the universe for folks that are more infrequent. And what are the things that would drive them out to vote? And then, what are the different parameters of things that could happen between now and Labor Day? What could happen during the convention with the protests and things that could affect slivers of each part of that electorate?

WALSH: He helps Trump, and I think he knows he helps Trump. If you want Biden to win, you want there to be only one alternative to Trump. This gives voters somewhere else to go.

COATES: Well, then we need to rely continuously on Eva McKend --

WALSH: Yes, absolutely.

COATES: -- and her reporting. Thank you for covering his campaign so well. It's really important. Eva, Joe, Chuck, thank you all so much.

And look, ahead, four years after a Virginia school board renamed schools honoring confederate leaders, they voted to change them back. Now, the NAACP and five students are suing. And one of those students joins me next.



COATES: In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in 2020, many school districts across the nation faced a moment of racial reckoning. A decision needed to be made. Keep the names of confederate leaders on schools or change them entirely.

Well, in Virginia, Shenandoah County, the school board decided to take an action, voting five to one to change the names of two schools that link to Stonewall Jackson. You had Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby, all men who helped to lead the pro-slavery states in the Civil War. But just last month, the school board, they reversed this decision, and in another five to one vote, ordered the names to be restored.

Now, five students, along with the NAACP, are suing the school board, saying the decision creates a discriminatory environment for Black students. And with me tonight is one of the students who is suing. Her name is Briana. I'm not going to give her last name. But, also with me is Kaitlin Banner, Briana's attorney with Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, along with Reverend Cozy Bailey. He is the NAACP Virginia State Conference president.

Let me begin with you, Brianna, and thank you so much for being here. You're a student. You go to the newly-renamed Stonewall Jackson High School. Bring me into this moment when you first learned that your school was going back to have that name again. What did that feel like for you?

BRIANA, STUDENT, PLAINTIFF IN LAWSUIT AGAINST SHENANDOAH COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: Honestly, it just felt like a huge step in the wrong direction. You know -- I mean, we did all of this, I mean, to change the names and to make it feel like a more inclusive environment for every student that wants to come and be a student at, you know, not just Mountain View but at Shenandoah County public schools. And it just felt like we were part of a bigger, you know, political agenda that, you know, shouldn't have any place in the schools.

COATES: Uh-hmm. Briana, it's a pretty extraordinary step to decide to join in any lawsuit and certainly a moment of history to think about that you are now a part of. You are a student athlete. You -- you wear the school jersey. You're in advanced classes. You're extremely sharp, I understand as well. What motivated you to take this step?

BRIANA: Um, it really just -- I felt like this was my duty to, you know, not just the students I go to school with now, but the students who come after me. It's important to make them feel like they're welcomed in a place that is supposed to help them succeed. And it's just such a big part of, you know, our -- our history that can't be ignored.


COATES: Wow. To think about it as a duty, Brianna, thank you so much. And then I want to turn to Kaitlin for a moment because, Kaitlin, the vote was about a month ago --


COATES: -- I understand it, right? And we're showing actually images right now of the school sign. It's already restored to Stonewall Jackson. Um, tell me what is behind this. I mean, this just changed, by the way, in 2020. It's only now 2024. What was the reason that they were being stated to have it go back now?

BANNER: So, you know, I can't speculate as to why the school board made the change, but what we can talk about today is what we know is the impact of these names on students at the school like Bri and like others. The impact is that students are feeling unwelcome in school. They see this as a message that their community doesn't think they belong and they don't want them. And frankly, it carries the same message as when the school was originally built in 1959 as a school for only white students and named Stonewall Jackson the first time.

COATES: I mean, we reached out to the school board as well for comment. We have not heard back on this. But I am worried about the loss in particular. I mean, obviously, you found it important to have students who are a part of it and thinking about this. And what are the specific rights? You mentioned the impact. I'm assuming discriminatory impact is part of the theory of the case. But what are the rights being violated and what is the likelihood of prevailing in a case like this?

BANNER: Yeah. Well, we feel really strong about our right to prevail. We think greatness is on our side here. Our claims are in sort of two legal buckets. One of those buckets is what I'll call the anti- discrimination bucket. So, their claims under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, under the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and under the Equal Education Opportunities Act. And these are all core civil rights laws coming out of the civil rights movement that say that states and schools can't discriminate against students. So that's part of our claims.

We're also bringing claims under the First Amendment because here in America, of course, we have the right to disagree with the government and the right not to be forced to carry the government's message.

But right now, students who are going to Stonewall Jackson High School, they have to identify as Stonewall Jackson rebels in order to have access to their -- excuse me, Stonewall Jackson generals in order to have access to their education, in order to play sports and all of that. And so, they have a right to not carry that message that they disagree with and that carries such a hateful -- hateful message to them and to their classmates.

COATES: Let me turn to you, Reverend Bailey, on this because this actually -- there was an earlier push, I understand, to bring these names back. But two years ago, that failed. What has changed now that this was ripe for the result it has now?

REV. COZY BAILEY, STATE CONFERENCE PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA NAACP: Well, from our perspective, what we think has happened is that the continuation of change in the school board, actually folks who are interested in serving and not everybody is --

COATES: Uh-hmm.

BAILEY: -- and they finally got to the point where they could get a majority of folks who wanted to push this through and then make this change. COATES: What do you think the message that they're trying to send is?

BAILEY: Well, I'm not sure what the message that they're trying to send --

COATES: What's received.

BAILEY: -- but I can definitely tell you the message that they're sending.


BAILEY: The message that they're sending is that they want to return the Commonwealth of Virginia back to the days of Jim Crow. This is absolutely the types of things that occurred during the Jim Crow era. And what I mean by that is that, for instance, on Monument Street in Richmond, they built monuments to those Civil War generals and who they called heroes when in reality they were secessionists and traitors.

And so, as I heard a good speaker this past weekend, there's a cold wind blowing across the country, and that wind has now come to the Commonwealth of Virginia, specifically to Shenandoah County. And what that wind is carrying with it is the seeds of the past injustices and racial discrimination. But we are here to stop that.

COATES: Well, let me turn back to you, Briana. I'd love to give you the last word on this because your mom grew up in the same school district. I wonder, what do you want people to know about this community that you were a part of and that, frankly, you both know so well.

BRIANA: I want people to know that this is such a wonderful community. There are so many wonderful people that live here. There's so much that this area has to offer. I mean, the scenery, the national parks. And it's just very concerning and it just -- it makes me very sad that people, you know, are afraid to come here because they don't think that they'll be accepted or they don't think that they're safe because of actions like this, changing back to the names of the schools.

And, you know, I just really want this area to feel welcoming and inclusive to everybody. And I would love to see some more diversity here. And yeah, I just want people to know that if they ever come visit the Shenandoah Valley, there are -- there are people here that will accept you and not everybody is reflective of these ideas.


COATES: Well, you prove that case very well. If you represent that Shenandoah Valley, what a beautiful place it really is. Briana, Kaitlin Banner, Reverend Cozy Bailey, thank you all so much.

Well, ahead, the instant ramen noodles that are so spicy, an entire country just recalled them. I'm serious.


COATES: All right, well, how spicy is too spicy? Well, for Denmark, some noodles in the grocery store shelves are so hot, they took them down. The country is recalling three varieties of "fire chicken" instant ramen noodles. Denmark's Food Administration claims the spice levels are so high, they could poison people who ate them.

Now, we don't know any incident that actually prompted the recall. And the South Korean company that makes them is saying not so fast here. It's suggesting Denmark just can't handle the heat, saying there are no quality issues and simply because the noodles are too spicy.

Now, for comparison, the original "fire chicken" ramen scores about 4,000 on the Scoville scale, roughly the heat of jalapenos. These recalled varieties can be two or three times as hot, which on the upper end would put it in the range of serrano peppers. Now, these noodles have been a thing since they were popularized by the fire noodles challenge on social media. Cardi B reignited the craze back in March.


CARDI B, AMERICAN RAPPER: But it's not bad.

UNKNOWN: It's not terrible. I would get you ready.

CARDI B: I like six, five. It's fun. It's cool.


COATES: Fun and cool, but probably not cool enough for Denmark.

Well, thank you all for watching. "Anderson Cooper 360" is next.