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Laura Coates Live

New York Times Reports, Biden Tells Allies He Knows He Has Days To Save Campaign; Democratic Governors Express Support For Biden After Meeting; New Polls Flash Warning Signs For Biden After Debate; President Biden Keeps V. P. Harris Pretty Close; Criminal Racketeering Case Against Young Thug Now Postponed Indefinitely; WNBA Players Keep Their Unrelenting Activism Front And Center Ahead Of November. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 03, 2024 - 22:00   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Welcome to a second hour of Laura Coates live on this Wednesday night, 124 days until the election. And right now, Joe Biden's presidential campaign finds itself on a cliff's edge, I mean, one misstep away from a free fall that could end his campaign.

President Biden, in private, now appears to recognize at least some of that. Sources say that he's told allies that he knows the next couple days will be so critical for him to prove to voters that he can do the job. But in public, there's none of that. He told staff today on the call that he's running and is in the race to the end. His White House press secretary made it clear when she was asked.


REPORTER: Is President Biden considering stepping down?



COATES: Now, before Biden can try to convince the American people that he can do the job, that the debate was just a, quote, bad night, he's got to convince his own party that he may have missed the kick that night, but he can still make the field goals that count. Earlier tonight, he faced Democratic governors and top congressional leaders at the White House. And the governors, they asked for this meeting to see and hear from the president directly. Three of them said the conversation was candid and that they left hopeful. Governor Tim Walz said the president was fit for office.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): What we saw in there today was a guy who is the guy that all of us believed in the first time who could beat Donald Trump and did beat Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: But all the public got to see from the president today, well, was this, President Biden at a Medal of Honor ceremony reading from a teleprompter. He also connected to radio interviews. One of the hosts told me last hour it went just fine. He was very lucid and he was answering quickly.

Now, the president often says, watch me, when he's asked about his age. The problem tonight seems to be that he's not offering the public that immediate chance to really watch him. And that has everyone from party members to the all important donors to the extraordinarily important voters perhaps worried.

New tonight, we're told several Democratic lawmakers told Hakeem Jeffries that he needs to go tell Biden to drop out. So far, two members of Congress have now openly called for Biden to quit the race. And reporting suggests the number who feel that way but haven't actually voiced it yet is much, much higher, which, of course, is nothing short of frustrating for voters who just want a straight answer and opinion from their representatives. How do you feel in public and in front of the camera?

And the polls are trending in the wrong direction. In a minute, Harry Enten will walk us through new data on that in just a sec. And then, then there's the money. Donors appear fed up. The co-founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, says Biden has got to go, and perhaps he's not alone. Well, The New York Times reporter who broke that story will be my guest as well.

So, to recap tonight, Biden's facing signs that he's losing support from voters and donors and some of the elected leaders in his own country and his own party, arguably three groups that any candidate needs desperately in order to win an election 124 days out. And, really, it begs the question, how does Joe Biden fix this? And can he course-correct in time?

For insight tonight, we turn now to Chris Whipple, an award-winning author who covered Joe Biden in the book, The Fight of His Life, Inside Joe Biden's White House.

Chris, good to see you again. A lot has taken place over the last week. I mean, the Times reported that Biden, quote, understands that he may not be able to salvage his candidacy, unquote, if he can't convince voters. So, what does that tell you about where his mindset is?

CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR: Well, color me skeptical about that report. I think it's quite possible that Biden might have said the first part of what was reported, namely that he has to do well this week. But I can tell you that contrary to the drumbeat of reporting, suggesting that Joe Biden is about to drop out, he's not going anywhere, at least as of now.

You know, on Thursday night, there was consternation within the family. There was finger pointing at the debate prep team, but they are really all-in with Joe Biden on going forward, and I'm not even aware that there's been a discussion of dropping out of the race, much less Joe Biden somehow coming to grips with that fact.

COATES: It's his call. He's got the delegates. We've had primaries. He is the presumptive nominee, all but the confetti has fallen on his shoulders and his head. But we are learning tonight that several lawmakers on a leadership call were telling Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries that he should tell Biden to leave the race.


And we also know that Hollywood and some mega donors are also speaking out. Do any of these figures move the needle?

WHIPPLE: No, not yet. And in any case, look, this is not 1974, where Barry Goldwater is going to lead a delegation of senior senators and tap Joe Biden on the shoulder to step aside, at least not yet. I think that we would really need to see a critical mass for that to happen.

And, frankly, all of this just gets Joe Biden's back up. I mean, the Biden and his family have always felt that he's been underestimated time after time after time. This kind of thing just makes them want to prove once more that Joe Biden is a winner and that he'll prove them wrong.

COATES: Look, I am a subscriber to the notion of underestimate me, it'll be fun, but, look, I'm not trying to be the president of the United States. And so you've got people who are looking at this idea and I do wonder whether it will be motivating or demoralizing in the end and the voters will make that call. But we're also hearing from the East Wing tonight, the first lady's communication director telling CNN that the president has plenty of political and policy advisers. That's never been Jill's role.

Do you really think that she would be sitting on the sideline at a time like this? I would imagine as his life partner and how much he has respected her and has respect for her, that it would be her who could be as influential as his own voice.

WHIPPLE: Yes. Look, hats off to Jill Biden wanting to be modest about this, but the reality is that she is his most important and influential adviser, period. And that's just simply a fact. And, frankly, if Joe Biden were to drop out, it would, it would really be the result of some kind of family intervention led by Jill and perhaps Hunter Biden and Val and some influential friends, like his old friend, Ted Kaufman, Mike Donilon, perhaps, but there's just no sign that they are anywhere near that kind of decision.

As I say, both the family and the inner circle, I believe, are all on board. And there is no -- at this point, no plan B. I mean, Joe Biden intends to be the nominee.

COATES: Well, then what do you make -- I know we have to go, but what do you make of that reporting that we've heard earlier this evening, that he is keeping Vice President Kamala Harris close to him. And she's attending various meetings, including the governor's meeting today to show and demonstrate that he's with her? There seems to be an intimation that it's because if he were to pass the baton, it would elevate her almost immediately, is that just because she's the vice president and his running mate?

WHIPPLE: Well, I don't know about that. I don't know that he's trying to send a signal that he's supporting Kamala in the event that he should step aside. But, look, I don't think there's a plan B. But if there were, I think that it would have to be Kamala Harris. I mean, does anybody want to seriously suggest taking the nomination away from the first black vice president in the history of the United States? How would that play with the Democratic base? I think it would be a suicide mission.

COATES: Chris Whipple, thank you so much for joining.

WHIPPLE: Good to be with you.

COATES: Polls, polls, polls, one of the barometers that may tip the scale on whether President Biden steps aside. So let's go to CNN's Harry Enten at the magic wall for the very latest numbers. Harry, good to see you. What are you seeing in the latest polls?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, nothing good for the incumbent president, Joe Biden. As I note here, Biden's awful polling week, and there's a reason why I use that descriptor. I don't use it loosely. Take a look here, Biden versus Trump margin. We got a bunch of polls that have come out post-debate. Most of them are not good news for Joe Biden. They are very good news for Donald Trump, the former president of the United States. Look at this, a-six point lead in the New York Times/Siena College poll for Donald Trump, a six-point lead in the Wall Street Journal poll for Donald Trump, our CNN/SSRS poll, another six-point lead for Donald Trump. The only good poll for Joe Biden, and I use good in quotations, is a tie in the Ipsos/Reuters poll.

But when you average it all up, you have all of these polls, what do you see right now? Post-debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, it's Donald Trump up by three points. That is a jump from where we were pre-debate, where Trump was up by just a point. But I honestly think the comparison pre and post-debate loses a big part of the picture. The idea that Donald Trump is ahead by any percentage points is amazing, is astounding, if you go back through history, because four years ago at this point, Joe Biden had a lead of nine points. We've literally had a 12-point switcheroo and a matter of four years at this particular point.


Donald Trump is polling better than he has at any point in either the 2016, 2020, or 2024 campaign. These numbers, if you had shown them to me four years ago, I simply put, would not have believed them.

COATES: I'm so glad you put that up there, that plus nine points. because you have to wonder what happened to the six and over the, over the course before the debate even happened and what the voters are thinking about. And, I mean, is the age question an inescapable problem for the Biden campaign?

ENTEN: I mean, in my opinion, you know, it's a big problem. Age is a huge problem for Joe Biden. Look at this. Biden is too old to be an effective president. Look at this number. 74 percent of the electorate post-debate. I don't know how you escape a number like that. I should note that that is up from where we were pre debate when it was 69 percent but 69 percent is still pretty large. Compare that to four years ago, when it was just 36 percent at this point, this number has more than doubled over a four-year span. This is a big reason why Joe Biden is behind at this point. And I should note only 42 percent of voters say that Donald Trump is too old.

And one little last thing for you, Laura, you have these numbers here. We showed you how different from where we were four years ago at this point. I want to put this in a little bit of historical context for you. Who led an early July presidential polls? Right now, it is Donald Trump. You go back 2020, 2016, 2012, 2008, you have to go all the way back to 2000. I have to walk all the way to this side of the screen to find a time in which a Democratic was not ahead in the polls at this particular point.

Donald Trump is not just in a good position for a Republican, for himself, he's in a good position for a Republican, the best position since 2004. There are people who are going to vote in this election who weren't alive to see a Republican as in a strong opposition at this point in the cycle as Donald Trump is.

COATES: That's fascinating. Harry Enten, thank you so much for bringing that perspective.

Yoda versus Jabba the Hutt, well, that's the analogy that some donors are latching onto as they try to keep money flowing to the Biden campaign. According to The Wall Street Journal, some donors see Biden as the Yoda, frail yet wise and influential, and Trump as Jabba the Hutt, a gluttonous and powerful gangster.

But sources suggest the force is not on Biden's side right now. The New York Times Teddy Schliefer reports big donors are turning on Biden quietly. You know what? He joins me now. Don't worry, I won't ask you any analogies for Star Wars, if you want. I mean, you know what I mean. Ask many questions I could, but I won't.

Teddy, Netflix co-founder was calling for Biden to step aside and a top Hollywood producer is proposing, quote, a dembargo, no checks written, no ActBlue links clicked for anyone until there's a change at the top of the ticket. This is just two weeks, by the way, after that star-studded fundraiser. How bad is this that this is happening now?

THEODORE SCHLEIFER, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So, immediately after the debate, let's say Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it was hard to find a Democratic donor who was not overcome with anxiety. What's happening now over the last 48 hours, based on my calls and my colleagues calls to major donors, is people are beginning to act on that anxiety. We're seeing things like boycotts. We're seeing things like promises to hold money aside for a replacement candidate. Donors are acting on this anxiety and donors also speaking on the record.

You know, Reed Hastings, who must a year ago, gave $100,000 in support, Joe Biden 2024 him and his wife have given, you know, over $20 million Democrats over the last five years, he's coming out and saying that Joe Biden should not be the nominee. He didn't have to say that. People a couple of days ago were scared, you know, when we wrote that donors were quietly feeling this way. That's so 24 hours ago. Now, people feel empowered. And this is just the first of -- we're just getting started here. I think it's very possible by the end of the week, or when, you know, after this debate or after the interview that Joe Biden does, that we might see most major donors speaking up one way or the other. So --

COATES: What about grassroots donors? I mean, is that obviously the amount of money you just articulated can far surpass what any individual person, the average person could ever give? Could it balance out? Are these donors enough to put their thumb on the scale to influence not only Biden, but the pressure campaign against him?

SCHLEIFER: That's a good point. I mean, I think lots of major donors right now are unsure of their own powers partly because there are tons of small donors who see Joe Biden getting attacked and this age of partisanship. They rally to the flag and, you know, the Biden campaign has posted some of its best fundraising days of the entire race on some of the worst days of the entire campaign for Joe Biden. That's not a coincidence.

And then the fact that all these small donors are coming beat up Trump and boost up their guy makes all these major donors, billionaires and people who are so used to being kings of the universe question, like can we even do anything?


And that's a pretty unusual position for these, you know, pretty arrogant people, I'll say, to be in where they're looking for Joe Biden's cell phone number just like anyone else is.

And, look, this is not a vote of Joe Biden's donors. This is a dictatorship where Joe Biden and Jill Biden get to decide to do whatever they want. And whether or not there's pressure from these major donors, it's interesting and I think it sets the context that Joe Biden is making this decision within. But they don't really have that much control. And that leaves wealthy donors to, to threaten boycotts. We're going to set aside money for Kamala Harris. The Biden brass says, who cares? This is up to him.

COATES: You go to follow the money. That's some would say the oversized role of money in politics, but it does do a lot of talking, and you're right to describe it tonight. Thank you so much, Teddy Schleifer, for your time.

Well, if President Biden stays on the ticket, could it keep Democrats from winning the House? One Democratic candidate running in Colorado says yes. Adam Frisch joins me next.

Plus, CNN learning a potential succession plan may very well be in the works if, and that's a big if, Biden steps aside, and, of course, involves who you're seeing on the screen, the vice president, Kamala Harris. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COATES: President Biden getting a much needed boost from Democratic governors during a meeting at the White House tonight.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): President Joe Biden is in it to win it. And all of us said we pledged our support to him because the stakes could not be higher.


SCHLEIFER: But fears are mounting that a ticket led by Biden could cost the party, the White House, and perhaps a chance at controlling Congress. One Democratic lawmaker told CNN, candidates running in competitive districts embracing and fearing for the worst, quote, they are saying they are going to lose if they have to run with Joe Biden.

Well, joining me now, Adam Frisch, Democratic Congressional candidate from Colorado's 3rd district, and he has publicly called for President Biden to withdraw from the race. Adam, thank you so much for joining me this evening.

You just heard some of the governors coming out after meeting with President Biden tonight and they were enthusiastic in their support. They said they understand that this is all about winning. What is your response?

REP. ADAM FRISCH (D-CO): Well, if it's about winning, we need to find a new candidate. You know, listen, I'm not a political pundit, but I have driven 57,000 miles over the past couple years. And the boots on the ground Democrats, independents, Republicans, know full well that what these 27 polls are saying, and, unfortunately, the president is not fit to serve and he's not going to be able to win.

I'm not sure when I spoke out publicly about this whether it's good for my campaign, but it's certainly good for the nation, and that's what I'm focused on. It is really bad that not only Republicans but now Democrats are saying one thing publicly and a different thing privately. And that is why so many people are frustrated with both parties. And I'm trying to run based on the country, not a party. And it's really, really disappointing to see what's happened over the past couple of weeks.

COATES: You're right. Voters who were frustrated for years about the idea of what people said in private versus in public, and that can sour voters about participating overall in a democracy. And God knows having the couch as a third party candidate is essential (ph) to our entire democracy. But I wonder about the down ballot races like yourself, are you really concerned about other Democratic races of people aligned with Biden, or do you think that, you know, voters are going to distinguish the nuance between those who might be in Congress and those who would be in the Oval Office? FRISCH: No, thanks for asking that question, Laura. Listen, first I, first starting off running against Lauren Boebert over two years ago, it's been a story about focusing on Team Colorado's third district, not Team Red or Team Blue or Team Democrat, Team Republican. I am out there trying to talk about securing the border, trying to get inflation under control and try to figure out how to get more mental health care in rural parts of America.

And so I'm not really that focused on who's on the ticket on the presidential, whether it's a Republican or Democrat, I'm just focusing on convincing people that I'm the best person to be in the House of Representatives representing them and their families and their businesses.

COATES: You know, I do wonder about the clock. I mean, obviously, time is not on anyone's side when you think about the overall arc of one's life. There is a real clock, a political one right now, if Biden decides to step aside. It could create some chaos of a contested convention. Now, that could, on the one hand, be a catalyst, people leaning in all the more, and hearing the speeches, hearing galvanizing messaging as well. On the other hand, it could show some uncertainty, which is not what either party really wants going into a convention or an election.

Do you have concerns that this fallout and continued conversation about that debate performance is creating chaos among voters, even for races like yourself?

FRISCH : Yes, and this is what I'm hearing again, from Democrats, Independents, Republicans, as I drive around Southern and Western Colorado. And it's why I said two years ago that I was with the 75 percent of the people in the country that do not want a rematch. The Republicans went through an open competitive primary, the Democratic Party should have done it in itself, and now it's coming back to bite them.

And there's still time to figure out how to have a different candidate. I'm not going to get into horse racing in different levels of that conversation. I'll leave that to the pundits. I can just tell people that the current president, with all due respect, needs to step down from the race and try to figure out how this next generation of candidates can rise, and that's what we want to focus on. There's a lot of exciting things out there.

Listen, I would love both candidates that are running for president of the major parties to go to the convention and step aside.


I know that's not going to happen with one. We need to figure out what to do on the Democratic side before the convention for sure. And that's why I've asked President Biden yesterday with a heavy heart that he needs to step down.

COATES: You know, Democrats are sometimes accused by their own voters of eating their own. You know, there is a circular, circular firing squad mentioned by former President Obama during the, I think, 2020 debate process and beyond. And there's a concern that Democrats often look for the so-called political moral high ground over what might be in their own party's best interest compared to Republicans.

I do wonder if there is an unfair focus on 90 minutes versus three and a half years of governance, or do you think that's the absolute appropriate thing to consider given the timing of another four years, prospectively?

FRISCH: Laura, the issue is this. Only in politics is stating the obvious so hard to do. I just don't get it. I mean, this was not a one-off night. It was obviously a horrible night. But there's a reason, I guess, the president did not want to go up for what is considered a softball interview on the Super Bowl and has ducked a lot of press conferences compared to the last presidents.

Again, this is the punditry conversation. I'm just relaying back that this is not a one-off thing. It's obvious that the president, with all the respect, is not ready to serve another four years, and as well, he can't win. And we need to figure out from our deep bench of a wide variety of personalities and perspectives to get out there.

I'm not going to get involved in who that is. I'm not really focused on that. I'm very excited after this last conversation I've been having over the past day and a half with a lot of viewers out there to get back in the pickup truck and start talking again to the Pueblo Steel workers and the people that are producing energy in the western slope of Colorado. And its party, it's truly time to put party away on both sides. And I wish more people did that running for Congress.

COATES: The polls that matter, the voters themselves. Thank you, Adam Frisch.

FRISCH: Happy 4th of July, Laura.

COATES: Thank you. Well, President Biden is publicly saying that he is going to stay in this race. But CNN is learning a succession plan may be taking some shape if he steps aside. We got the details for you next.



COATES: Well, the ground is rumbling beneath the Biden White House, but while the president is adamant that he is not leaving this race, CNN is learning tonight that Biden is keeping Vice President Kamala Harris pretty close.

Several party officials and advisers say a succession plan is starting to take shape and if Biden steps aside, he will immediately throw his support behind Harris and release his Democratic delegates. A top campaign advisor saying of Biden, quote, "He's with her."

Let's break this all down now with Meghan Hays, former special assistant to President Biden and Sophia Nelson, a CNN opinion contributor and former House GOP investigative committee counsel. Let me begin with you tonight, Meghan, on this. Are you concerned that these conversations are even taking place? Do you think they really are? Or is he keeping her close because she's the vice president?

MEGHAN HAYS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I think he's keeping her close because she's the vice president and of course he's with her. He chose her to run as his running mate and they successfully beat Donald Trump in 2020. So, of course there's a succession plan. He will get reelected and then she can run and he will support her in four more years. Like this is not, I don't understand why this is a surprise to anyone.

I do think that what people don't see behind the scenes is the vice president's always been around. She's always been part of our, part of their administration, excuse me, my former boss. And so, I just think, you know, I think that people are just reading into the tea leaves a little too much here.

And I think that people just need to give him space, let him do his interview on Friday and like let the chips fall where they may and just let him decide what he's going to do. But he's been making it very clear and she's also been making it very clear that she is supportive of him.

COATES: Is this about to do about "Nothing"? It doesn't feel like that performance. Is that Shakespearean "Nothing"?

SOPHIA NELSON, CNN OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, tomorrow is our 248th birthday.

COATES: I see by your outfit. I love it.

NELSON: This is a very serious moment. I'm going to take the president at his word that he's running again. They put out a statement. That's what they've said. I believe him. But I think to answer your question, this is not "Much Ado About Nothing". We in the fourth estate have a duty to question the fitness of the president after a performance like that.

However, we also have a duty to question the fitness of the other candidate running. And I'm concerned and I've been frankly upset over the last number of days because I feel like it's a pile on to President Biden. It's good to question him, but we're not questioning Donald Trump and his fitness. These Epstein files are something we in the media have got to cover.

know we're busy with other things, talking about naps and things like that. But the reality is Donald Trump has a moral character problem. He's a convicted felon. The Supreme Court has gone rogue. Our Article 3 branch out of control. The Congress has been out of control. And now, the executive is in question. We're in a crisis as we head into our 248th birthday tomorrow. And I think this is a very serious moment.

COATES: Well, many would look at this not as a pile on, but as a mountain of concern that if there is a chance, for the reasons you speak about, if the opponent is Donald Trump, as he is going to be, he's the Republican nominee, then one must climb and overcome that mountain to make sure he does not become a president again. Is it piling on?

HAYS: I mean, I think the people are piling on. I think that, to your point, the criticism is fair. But I think also the president, since Thursday night, has gone out every day and been in front of the press and done an incredible job fighting for the American people and showing the people that he is capable of doing this job.


So, I think, you know, I understand the criticism. It's totally fair to do that. But also, he needs to show the voters that he is capable of having that job. He doesn't need to show the chattering class that he is capable.

NELSON: Laura, I agree with that. The other guy has to show that he's deserving of the office. And sitting there and hurling names and tweeting ungodly things and just, again, I'm going back to the Epstein files. I'm not going to talk about them on T.V. because they're distressing. But we have got to take seriously these type of allegations against someone that wants to hold this office.

January 6th has happened. Indictments have happened. Convictions have happened. Donald Trump is not morally fit to be president. So, we ought to be on that every day. And we ought to be having questions of his campaign staff every day about what is going on with your candidate. And we're not doing that. That's why I feel it's piling on.

COATES: Well, walking in chewing gum is possible. You're certainly right. And there are also a number of top Democrats, Sophia, who are calling for a kind of, I guess you'd call it a speeded up mini primary and an open convention, perhaps. I want you both to listen to what they're saying.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): I do think we need to have an open democratic process if Joe Biden is not the nominee. And I do think Vice President Harris would be a very, very top contender in that process.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): We need to have the kind of competition and open process rather than some backroom deal to get us the best possible candidate.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): The process is already in place to make it a mini primary. And I would support that. Absolutely.


COATES: Meghan, are there risks of having a kind of mini primary? Because some would question that sort of the backroom deal of, okay, I voted for one person. You've got delegates. Now, hand them to somebody else. HAYS: Well, the problem there is that the vice president's name is on

those ballots. And so, they also voted for her. She also is entitled to the financial fruits of the labor that they've raised all this money together. So, I just, I mean, I don't actually know what the rules are with the convention, et cetera.

But I just think that we have to take, she has a higher name I.D. She's beating him in some of the polls, the early polls that have come out. She has a financial advantage here. And so, I'm not sure that doing a split primary or having that kind of conversation is really what the party needs.

The party needs to focus on beating Donald Trump. And they need to let the president decide, because right now he is not stepping aside. So, this is like all premature conversations and kind of just eating up airtime that we should be focused on how they are going to beat Donald Trump.

COATES: Well, I think the politics of a hypothetical become relevant when the voters are mistrustful of the fact that it is really a hypothetical. And that's the investigation of every prudent journalist to figure out what is really being told and what it means.

I want to play for both of you an ad that's made by a Super PAC for Kamala Harris back in 2019. And by the way, according to "Politico's" Jonathan Martin, it seems to be floating around some Democratic circles now. Listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, THEN-U.S. SENATOR (D) AND CURRENT U.S. VICE PRESIDENT (D): I'm asking you a very direct question. Yes or no?


HARRIS: I do want you to be honest.

JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Kamala Harris exposes Republicans. She makes them nervous and leaves them unable to defend their lies and corruption. She'll do the same to Donald Trump.


COATES: Of course, Meghan's point, she was on the ballot when they were voting as well for the Biden-Harris ticket. And you have written about this, as well, and the idea of her being a force to be reckoned with if she should elevate to that particular role.

But as a vice presidential candidate, she already -- these, these discussions are already happening. Remember Nikki Haley saying a vote for Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris, as well. What do you make of this sort of thing floating around even now? NELSON: I think the vice president's been clear. She is the vice

president. She's backing her running mate, Joe Biden. She's been firm and loyal. Look, obviously, I believe what Jim Clyburn said. You cannot go around the first African-American woman vice president and just skip over her if he steps aside. I think she's the person and she's the one.

COATES: We will see. Thank you to you both. The competition definitely will continue. Next, the other big case for Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis, and it's running into just as many problems as the one against Donald Trump and his co-defendants. Young Thug's gang trial on pause after a series of delays. And the rapper's dad is now speaking out in a CNN interview.


JEFFERY WILLIAMS, SR., YOUNG THUG'S FATHER: I say the indictment is bogus because -- period.




COATES: The criminal racketeering case against Grammy-winning artist Young Thug has now been postponed indefinitely. And it's in part because the defense is accusing the judge of misconduct, wanting him to be recused from this case.

That's not the only irregular occurrence in this now 18-month trial. Young Thug's lawyer, Brian Steele, sentenced to 20 days in jail after he was found in criminal contempt just last month. And still, there's more. CNN's Nick Valencia has the story, as well as an exclusive interview with Young Thug's dad.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't take much to get any loving dad talking about his son, especially one who feels partly to blame for getting them into trouble.

WILLIAMS, SR.: I say the indictment is bogus because I taught my son loyalty instead of friendship. This is why he's going through this, because he was loyal to people.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Jeffery Lamar Williams has taken that idea of loyalty and turned it into a worldwide image as the artist Young Thug, a Grammy award-winning rapper who promotes his YSL brand, Young Slime Life. Prosecutors allege the term is euphemism for a life filled with street crime.



VALENCIA (voice-over): Young Thug's dad claims it's a gangster rap gimmick, and the reason Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis wants to make an example out of him. Prosecutors have used testimony from co- defendants already tried for their crimes, as well as rap lyrics from Young Thug's own songs as purported evidence the violent crimes were committed at the rapper's behest. He denies the charges.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It is our allegation that they operated as a criminal street gang and commenced to do havoc in our community.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Willis and her team are juggling a lot, including prosecuting Donald Trump in a separate racketeering case. In the same courthouse, just five floors above.

UNKNOWN: Why do you think the D.A. is trying to use Jeffrey Williams as an example?

WILLIAMS, SR.: If he didn't have a name, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Speaking to us from his podcast studio, Williams, Sr. said his son is no gangster or crime boss shot caller involved in a street war. As alleged by investigators, he insists his son's only wrongdoing was hanging with the wrong crowd.

VALENCIA: Is there any merit to this indictment? Was there ever a war going on between Young Thug and YFN Lucci? Were you ever targeted? Was your safety ever at risk?

WILLIAMS, SR.: I ride by myself every day. I go to every part of town every day. I can go anywhere in this city by myself every day.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Young Thug's trial is already the longest in Georgia history. The jury selection process alone took nearly 10 months. The RICO case has been unwieldy, featuring no shortage of bizarre moments. A co-defendant accused of a hand-to-hand drug exchange in the courtroom.

Another co-defendant stabbed multiple times inside the county jail. And earlier this month, a secret meeting with the prosecutors, the judge, and a key witness without any of the defense attorneys.

UNKNOWN: That's attorney-client privilege.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Which led to the case being paused indefinitely. While motions are heard on the judge's possible recusal, the president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says the meeting itself is grounds for a mistrial. Ashleigh Merchant represents Young Thug's attorney Brian Steele in the matter.

ASHLEIGH MERCHANT, BRIAN STEELE'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It has gone off the tracks. There's too many charges. There's too many defendants being charged. There's too many witnesses being called. And obviously the state has a right to prove their case, but they also have to ensure that there's due process.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The case has dragged on for months. That's a major concern to some defense attorneys who spoke to CNN who wonder if D.A. Willis is misapplying the RICO statute. Fulton County District Attorney's Office told CNN they can't comment on the case at this time. But former Fulton County Prosecutor Tanya Miller says casting a wide net with the RICO charge was the right move.

TANYA MILLER, FORMER FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: It allows you to get at crimes that perhaps were committed in the past, right? Even if someone has already been convicted of it.

UNKNOWN: Murder, extortion.


UNKNOWN: They're alleging that they all happened at the behest of your son.

WILLIAMS, SR.: But my son did not convict the felon.

VALENCIA (voice-over): And as any loving father would, he hopes for his son's case, it stays that way.


VALENCIA (on-camera): Millions across the country have followed this case closely. Hundreds of thousands of whom have tuned in to watch this case live to see all the twists and turns. Currently, a Superior Court judge here in Fulton County has been assigned to review whether or not Judge Glanville will be allowed to stay on this case.

If he is recused, that would be a nightmare scenario for Fani Willis. The bottom line here is that the Fulton County D.A. has had her criminal case against Donald Trump paused, and now this one is, too. Laura?

COATES: Nick Valencia, thank you so much for that reporting. And ahead, the WNBA taking center stage in the fight for reproductive rights.



COATES: On and off the court, WNBA players are keeping their unrelenting activism front and center ahead of November. And the issue driving the conversation? Reproductive rights. They're joining forces with my next guest, voting rights advocate and former top Democrat in the Georgia House, Stacey Abrams. I also want to welcome WNBA P.A. vice president, pro women basketball player, Brianna Turner. So great to have you both here this evening. How are you?

BRIANNA TURNER, WNBA PLAYER, CHICAGO SKY: I'm doing well. Happy to be here.


COATES: I'm glad you're both here. And there is so much to talk about, including what you've decided is the mantra just recently, Brianna, and the "Get Out The Vote". So important. Stacey, let me begin with you here for a moment, because, you know, the "Get Out The Vote" initiative is going to be very important. But there is a bit of a panic that is happening right now in the Democratic Party. This following the debate that happened just last Thursday, and they're deriding the performance of the president of the United States. Should Biden step aside? Should he remain on the ballot?

ABRAMS: President Biden is our president. He will be our nominee and he will be our president in 2025.

COATES: Well, I love that you have very -- a lot of confidence about this issue. I do wonder, Brianna, from your perspective, when you hear this and think about not just this particular race, but if there is a lack of enthusiasm at all on a number of issues, you have a concern about voters wanting to turn out and actually vote.


And I know one of the reasons you all have been so instructive about getting people motivated is about turning to social justice movements and why they've been so important. And I have to commend the WNBPA for doing that these past at least a few years. This time it's about reproductive rights. Why did you choose this message at this moment?

TURNER: We're athletes in a women's league. We play in twelve different states across the country, so, we know it's such an important issue. We know our rights change depending which state we're playing in, which city you're in. We already know that for the states we currently play in have either totally banned or restricted -- heavily restricted abortion access. So, we want to make the voters know, the fans know that our bodies are on the ballot this fall.

COATES: This is the first presidential election, Stacey, where Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Do you think that it's still going to motivate voters to get out knowing that Supreme Court justices aren't really on the ballot in terms of the consideration of who will be appointed? Will people really still be motivated in spite of Roe v. Wade no longer being the law of the land?

ABRAMS: In the last presidential election, we had a candidate, Joe Biden, who stood up for women's rights, believed that women should be protected at all costs. We had a president who was sitting at the time who had put in place three Supreme Court justices, and those three justices helped overturn Roe v. Wade. So, it is not hypothetical that reproductive freedom, that a woman's right to control her body is on the ballot. We have seen it happen.

We saw the last time that Donald Trump was in the White House. He stripped women of their bodily autonomy. And because of his decisions, women in 21 states cannot make decisions about their reproductive choice. We know that if he is reinstalled in the White House, he intends to strip us of access to IVF, access to contraception. And this is not hyperbole. It's what he said.

And so, it is absolutely on the ballot because the president of the United States signs those bills that will take away our rights, appoints those judges that will deny us our rights. But we can also have an opportunity to put in place a president who has protected those rights, expanded access to contraception, expanded access to reproductive choice, and believes that a woman's right to choose is inviolable.

So, it's not only on the ballot. It's going to be on the hearts and minds of every woman casting a ballot. And if we do our work, led by the women of the WNBA, we will get the job done and we will make certain that we can protect our right to choose.

COATES: Let me turn to you on this issue, Brianna, because, you know, many people would shy away as either a league or as an entity, individual players, as well, would want to extend a 10-foot pole away from politics. They don't want to be rolling in the mud or being perceived as such. And yet the WNBA and the WNBPA has been very resolved to lean into matters of such consequence. Why have you all chosen to do that?

TURNER: We believe that reproductive rights are human rights. This doesn't seem like a political issue to us. This is just a human issue to us. We want to advocate for people to have rights over their bodily autonomy. I mean, we're athletes in a women's league. These impacts impact us so much. And we just see it as a human issue. It's not even political for us. It's just speaking out for human rights.

COATES: Brianna, the whole point of democracy really is to get people to participate in their own destiny, to have a say. And this is a time when you've used your platform in a variety of ways to shine spotlights on various issues.

And there's also a huge spotlight right now on your league, at least since the entrance and the arrival of players like Caitlin Clark and your own teammate Angel Reese. Do you have any strong feelings with how people have been perceiving this rivalry and the impact of it on your sport and league?

TURNER: I think for me, just watching them, I see two competitive players that just want to go out there and win and do it all for their team. I think a lot of people try to put them against each other and compare them, but I really think comparison is the thief of joy. I mean, these kids just came out of college. They walked across the stage a couple of months ago, and now they're excelling.

I think they're really taking advantage of the moment, the momentum and the movement. And I think they're just excelling and really bringing a lot of eyes and fans to our league. And I'm really excited to see how their career progresses.

COATES: I'm going to write this down. Comparison is the thief of joy. And I'm going to staple it and tape it everywhere I find it, because that's going to be the thing I'm going to say to everyone from now on. I'm so glad that you're both here and you're using the platform in a way to inspire people to engage and participate and be the change they want to see. And again, that t-shirt now, I want to come in comparison is the thief of joy. Stacey Abrams, Brianna Turner, thank you so much.

TURNER: Thank you.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

COATES: And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight on 360, Democratic governors just left a meeting with the president at the White House and now voice their support for him and his fitness for office. Even in those news CNN is reporting from the highest levels of the administration indicates that serious doubt among some is setting in about his candidacy.

Also tonight in our ongoing series, the 53 percent, how President Biden's debate performance affects the undecided women --