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CNN TONIGHT: Pentagon: Russia Could Invade Ukraine "With Little To No Warning"; Judge Overseeing Palin's Defamation Lawsuit Says Her Team Did Not Prove A Key Element Of Its Case; Eminem Takes A Knee During Super Bowl Halftime Show. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 14, 2022 - 21:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: And the government also said, they are implementing sweeping financial measures that will block funding for the protests. This comes, as the Ambassador Bridge, North America's busiest land border crossing, reopened Sunday, as Ontario province announced plans, to loosen pandemic restrictions.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Laura Coates, and CNN TONIGHT.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Thanks, John Berman. Nice to see you on a Monday. Happy Valentine's Day!

BERMAN: You too.

COATES: I am Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

There's a heavy feeling in the air. Russia has amassed forces, on three sides of Ukraine, with an estimated 130,000 troops. And now, according to the Pentagon, this could be the week, Putin strikes.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I won't get into a specific date. I don't think that would be smart. I would just tell you that it is entirely possible that he could move with little to no warning.


COATES: It's a scary thought. But there's still so much uncertainty.

And the U.S. isn't taking any chances. They're now closing our embassy, in Ukraine's capital of Kyiv, and temporarily relocating remaining diplomatic personnel, to a city now in the western part of the country.

The only one, frankly, who knows what Vladimir Putin is going to do? Well, it's Vladimir Putin. And the only one who knows what Putin actually wants with Ukraine, is Putin. He staged a televised meeting, with his Foreign Minister, Lavrov, today, by the way, another awkwardly long table, for some reason, saying Russia's still open to diplomacy. And the Kremlin now adding tonight, Putin is still quote, "Willing to negotiate."

But one thing we know about Comrade Vlad? He isn't a peacemaking kind of guy. The authoritarian, well, he does what he wants. He wasn't bluffing, when he annexed Crimea, back in 2014. He now wants to send some kind of signal to the world, yet again.

But the big question here is, what in the world, is his endgame, when it comes to Ukraine? And frankly, I know many of you are also wondering out there, what would a war there, mean for America, here? We're going to get into all of that, answer all those questions, tonight.

And the U.S. forces, by the way, aren't going in, if war breaks out. President Biden has already ruled that out. But he is now sending a few more thousand troops to Poland, to try to help bolsters, NATO's defenses.

Now, the NATO factor is definitely a big part, to all of this tension, as you well know, because Ukraine is not part of the 30-member Alliance. But it most certainly wants to be, which is exactly what Putin feels so threatened by.

See, Russia, they see NATO's growth, across Europe, and expansion eastward, and they view it, at least Putin does, as a giant threat. But the question is, even if it is a threat, would he wage an all-out war, to try to push the West and well, democracy, and fair and free elections, back as well?

I want to get the view, from the ground on, in Ukraine. CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance, joins me live, from Kyiv.

Matthew, what are you learning there?


Well, as you mentioned there, tensions are extremely high, right now, near Ukraine, inside Ukraine. More than 100,000 Russian troops have gathered, near the borders.

And that capability, of Russia, to strike at the heart of this country, is building, on a daily basis, according to U.S. and indeed Ukrainian Intelligence assessments. In fact, there's no dispute at all, when it comes to the capability that Vladimir Putin, the Russian President has, to do whatever he wants. He can invade at a moment's notice.

But the real question that isn't answered is does he intend to do that? We know he's got the capability. We don't understand what his intent is. And so, there's a lot of speculation about, will he invade, or won't he? And, as you mentioned, the truth is the way Russia operates, in the autocracy that is that country, it can be the 11th hour, the 59th minute of the 11th hour, and only then, one man, Vladimir Putin could decide whether or not, to pull the trigger.

And so, you'd expect, wouldn't you that, in a city, like Kyiv, which is the Ukrainian capital, and which is said by U.S. Intelligence assessments, for instance, to potentially be a target, of any Russian attack, there would be concern, and there would be panic? But we're not seeing any of it, on the streets here.

It's been Valentine's Day, of course, today. And I've been seeing the hotel, where we're staying at, had a big party, for young couples, with big red heart-shaped balloons, in the daytime. The cafes were full. People were going about their ordinary business.


What ordinary Ukrainians say, is that they have been confronting, this kind of threat, for eight years. They've been fighting Russia, or Russian-backed rebels, for that period. And they don't see a significant increase, in the risk. That's been backed up, of course, by the Ukrainian leadership, who are at odds, to some extent--


CHANCE: --with the United States Intelligence assessment. They're saying that the country should not panic, people should remain calm, and that the threat is not as acute, as Washington is making out.


COATES: I mean, it sounds like, in some respects, the boy who cried wolf, if you're already having the presence always there? On the other hand, I mean, how do you not panic? How do you avoid feeling as though it's alarmist, when you have 100,000 troops, outside your border, and the uncertainty of a Vladimir Putin?

Matthew Chance, in Ukraine, thank you so much.

The anxiety over this entire thing, in Ukraine, is clear, when you see how Senators, from both parties, reacted, just this afternoon, to a briefing, from Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor. Listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): This is a very dangerous situation.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): The concern is very high. The only good news is that diplomatic exchange continues.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): The forces that Russians have amassed, they could launch at any point.


COATES: I want to bring in Susan Glasser, and former congressman, Mike Rogers, who was House Intel Chair, when Russia invaded Crimea.

I'm glad you're both here, because I want to try to unpack a little more, here.

Let me begin with you here, Susan. Because, on the one hand, you hear Jake Sullivan, you hear John Kirby, you hear, everyone talking about, it could happen at any moment. There's a feeling of imminence and urgency.

Then, you have reporting, on the ground, about the average Ukrainian, who's saying, "Well, it's been eight years of this," and not really batting an eye.

Can that - can both be true, in terms of the impact, of what's being felt, on the ground there, Susan?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, look, I think you're right, to point this out, Laura that, at a certain point, there is a moment of reckoning, coming in sooner or later.

COATES: Right.

GLASSER: And the Intelligence assessment suggests that the Putin build-up, on the border, is reaching maximum capacity, more than 130,000 troops.

There's reporting to suggest that many of those have actually left their bases, and move, to forward-attack positions. Along the border of Ukraine, there's three sides, on which it's vulnerable, to Russian attack, including from Belarus that would, really be even only a few hours, away from Kyiv, in the capital.

So, I think the military threat is real. I think Ukrainian officials do not dispute that. A senior administration official, here in Washington, assured me today that we are, in fact, on the same page, with Ukraine that this is mostly about President Zelensky not wanting to induce panic, for understandable reasons, among his population.

He's now declared Wednesday, a day of national unity, in Ukraine. They're going to be, hanging the flag, and singing the national anthem, and, recruiting in a very urgent level, additional, essentially National Guard, to help defend the country.

But what we don't know is whether Putin has decided, finally--

COATES: Right.

GLASSER: --on the go, no-go decision. But this is not an idle threat. As someone said to me, if it was any other leader in the world, you don't just idly assemble, an invasion force, of 100,000, and not intend to use it.

COATES: I mean, of course not. And, Mike, that's a question. You were in office. You were a congressman, and you were a member of a very important committee, thinking about these very issues, back in 2014. And I wonder, from your standpoint, I mean, yes, Putin is known, in many respects, diplomatically, and being nice here, as a provocateur. But it's not as if he hasn't backed up a threat, in the past.

When you're looking and comparing, then to now, are you seeing similarities? When you hear members of Congress being briefed, what are they being told you suppose? And is it much like what you remember, you think, back from 2014?

MIKE ROGERS, (R) FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well, I don't think this is like 2014, for a couple of reasons.

One, the Crimea event was more of an opportunity. He didn't have that same massive build-up that you see, happening today. It was an opportunity that he took advantage of. He had troops in the region. They moved in. They assessed at the time, they being the Russians that they thought this was going to be a quick move.

And remember, in Crimea, he had already established separatist forces. These were clearly proxy forces, for the Russians. Well he's done the same thing, in Eastern Ukraine.

He actually holds two regions that are calling themselves separatist regions, in Eastern Ukraine. Lots of ethnic Russians, east of the Dnieper River, which would put them clearly, in the sphere of those three-attack prongs that you see. So this is, to me is very, very different.

And what I think people are talking about today, and what they're getting today, and if you have, they're trying to assess what this means, is he's moving these artillery pieces, and his missile forces, forward.


And those missile forces are highly lethal, and will be destructive, in a way that you didn't see in Crimea. You really didn't even see in his invasion of Georgia, the country of Georgia.

This will be different. And if he decides, to go over, it will be that shock and awe that you hear about often, in a very big way. He is not going to go timidly, across that border, if he decides to do it.


ROGERS: He is. Will he decide it - what he's getting a lot what - that he wants right now by just being on the border, doing these exercises?

COATES: Susan, what is he getting from all? But, I mean, the question, for many people is, what is the end game, for Vladimir Putin? Obviously, we can all speculate, as to what that would be.

But, for the average person, looking at it, you're - maybe you're wondering why Ukraine, in particular? What will you get out of this?

And if Mike is correct, which I believe he is, the idea of using the sort of lethal force, the discussions about the air bombing, et cetera? At the end, wouldn't you have to then rebuild the very area you're trying to capture, under tremendous debt? I mean, what's the end game here for Vladimir Putin? Just the flex?

GLASSER: Well, you're right, to ask this question and, to be very skeptical, because, of course, it is madness, to invade another country, in the 21st Century, and that death and destruction would not just rain down on Ukraine, but of course, on Russian soldiers.


GLASSER: There would be great unhappiness, if the coffins started coming home. Vladimir Putin would then have to spend huge amounts of money, potentially, to maintain any territory that he held. The United States has promised to, you know, how to support the resistance, inside, a Ukraine word, to come under Russian occupation.

So, it's a mess. We can, tell him that the experience of Iraq, and others, suggests that imperial ambitions, like this, do not work out well, in the modern era. So, on the one hand, it seems madness, that Putin would even be conceiving of it.

But remember, for Putin, this is almost an emotional issue, as well. He - I recommend to everyone, to look at this essay, right there on his website that he wrote, last summer, essentially making the argument that Ukraine shouldn't even be an independent country that it arguably, it should still be part of Mother Russia.

He's re-litigating the collapse of the Soviet Union, the collapse, even before that of the Russian Empire. And in that sense, it's an emotional issue. It's a legacy issue, for Putin, who's already been in power, for more than 20 years.


GLASSER: He's 69 now. This is - it's not something - it's often mischaracterized, I think, as just a matter of NATO, not NATO. That's not really the right issue.

COATES: It's very - it's very personal.

GLASSER: That's not all this crisis--

COATES: Well, it's very personal, to somebody, who wants to take over, and be powerful. The idea of not having the power in hand is obviously very offensive to him, and one that's emotionally. It's a great point.

Mike, let me get the last word from you here, and the idea of how you think President Biden, the Commander-in-Chief, is handling all of this right now. We know it's not a part of NATO. As Susan talked about, it's not just about NATO membership or not.

How do you think the Biden administration is dealing with this? Less that only six months, after the Afghanistan withdrawal, we're talking about having a presence somewhere else again. What do you think the Biden administration is doing about this? Good job, or bad? ROGERS: Mediocre, at best, and I don't say that lightly. Diplomacy is really the only option you have, at this point.

But one of the things, I think, they swung and missed, and they did this the last go around, in Ukraine, by the way, when so many other national security people were there, is that the Ukrainians were saying, "Let us fight against this high-tech weaponry that we know the Russians are amassing, on our border." And it's been trickling in.

If you wanted to send a message that Putin is going to pay a very heavy price, other than this non-conventional kind of rebellion-type fighting that he's going to see, coming up, which will happen, by the way?

They needed sophisticated weapons, to fight back against their missile brigades. They needed, against this really long-range artillery. They needed actually more sophisticated weapons. And they've been asking for them. They haven't quite been getting them.

And my argument is, if you want to tell Putin that "This is going to be really costly to you. We're going to give the Ukrainians everything that they need to fight against your technical army that's amassing on that border," and the administration just hasn't done it.

And here's a couple of things he's going to factor in, unfortunately. When they took SWIFT, which was the access to international money change, banking system, when they took that off the table, for sanctions, that was a huge relief to Putin.

And so, he knows that there won't be direct military action. He knows that the SWIFT won't be a part of it, if he invades. All of these things, he's going through his calculus. "I think I can sustain sanctions." He's already amassed some $600 billion in reserves. He's reengaged his Chinese trading and natural resource sales.

So, he's looking at this like, "OK, you guys are dwindling. You keep telling me what you won't do. And then, it allows me to figure out what I will do." And that's what I worry about.


ROGERS: I would have changed that, early on--


ROGERS: --three months ago, if I were the Biden administration.


COATES: It's more than worrisome. I mean, the idea of calling bluff with all the stakes that are part of it, obviously. Sounds like you just described the perfect scenario, for leverage, which is concerning, for everyone.

Susan Glasser, Mike Rogers, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

ROGERS: Thanks, Laura.

GLASSER: Thank you.

COATES: There's a major development in the trial of Sarah Palin versus the "New York Times."

So, why would a judge now say that he's going to dismiss the former vice presidential nominee's defamation suit? And why is he still allowing the jury, to deliberate, if he's going to dismiss it anyway?

This is quite a twist, in the case. We'll take apart, next.


COATES: Well, something happened unexpectedly, today, in Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit, against the "New York Times."

Now, the jury, mind you, the jury has not yet come back with a verdict. But guess what? That might not matter, because the U.S. district judge says that he's going to throw it out, the verdict that is, the case, in fact.


And Judge Jed Rakoff says that Palin's attorney failed to prove that The Times actually acted with, what's called, actual malice, or knowledge that it published false information. But he will wait officially, to dismiss the case, until after the jury returns with the verdict.

So, what does all of this mean? Let's talk about with constitutional and First Amendment attorney, Floyd Abrams.

Mr. Abrams, so good to see you here tonight. On this issue, in particular, I have to ask you, what do you make of a judge throwing out this case? Did you think that Sarah Palin had actually even met her burden of proving not just that it was false, but that they did it with actual malice? What do you make of it?

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL AND FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY, PARTNER, CAHILL GORDON & REINDEL: Well, I think the ordinary way to do it, I know, the ordinary way to do it, is to let the jury have its say first.

And if a judge disagrees with it, if a judge thinks that what the jury has done is doesn't take account of the First Amendment affected instruction that he gave them? He can set it aside.

What Judge Rakoff has said is that he wants to give the Appellate court - everyone knows this case is going to be appealed.

COATES: Of course.

ABRAMS: And so, he has said he wants to give the Appeals court, a chance, to hear what the jury thought, and what he thought.

COATES: No. But on that--

ABRAMS: But it's really not the ordinary way to do it.

COATES: It's not. And here's the interesting part.

ABRAMS: Yes, go on.

COATES: The idea of sort of the timing of it. He could very well have come to the same conclusion--


COATES: --after they returned a verdict.

They could have said, you know, they could have found the "New York Times" not liable. And then, it would have sort of been well, he needs to say nothing. They could have said and finding in favor of Sarah Palin. And he could have weighed in then.

Because the timing of the judge's statements here, does it provide fodder, to help Sarah Palin on appeal now, to suggest, "Well, hey, he wasn't even going to wait. He made up his mind already."

ABRAMS: I don't think it hurts, what he believes, the right result is, in that sense.

I think the practical problem here is that we made - being watched by members of the jury that that this broadcast, or other broadcasts, or the like, and it might have already have told members of the jury what Judge Rakoff thinks the right result is.

And so, the effect of that could be that the jury could be said to be unduly and thus unfairly led by the court. And the jury verdict, therefore, discarded, I mean, treated, as if it were unduly influenced, unfairly influenced, all of which, confuses things.


ABRAMS: And makes it - puts us in a position, where what could go up to the Court of Appeals, then, is only--

COATES: But is it - so?

ABRAMS: --Judge Rakoff's decision, which--

COATES: But, Floyd, let me ask you a question. Excuse me?

ABRAMS: Yes, go on.

COATES: Isn't that - is the decision the right one, though? I mean, the judge has come to a conclusion about not being able to meet the burden. As you know, it's not enough, for Sarah Palin, to show that what was said was false. It was false.

ABRAMS: Right. COATES: They have corrected the actual editorial as well. There's someone, who's testified, to say it was false. They corrected it later on.

But the idea here that it was false was not enough. They had to actually prove malice. And she's a public figure, which is why there's a higher burden here. Do you think that she had any opportunity to have tried to prove that? And if so, what would she have had to have shown?

ABRAMS: Well, she had every opportunity, to try to prove it. She called witnesses. She interrogated, through her lawyers, the "New York Times" executives, former editor, who was in charge of this.

So the, I mean, the evidence is in. She's had her fair shot at demonstrating--


ABRAMS: --what you rightly called actual malice, but what the Supreme Court has later explained, means, really publishing something, you know, is false, or that you have serious doubts, about its truth or falsity, not malice, in a way, you and I would use the word.

So, the judge, has decided, for himself. And there's nothing wrong with him, coming to that conclusion. The judge has decided for himself, the case is over. They simply have not submitted enough evidence, to meet this very heavy burden.

I mean, the Supreme Court phrased it, you need clear and convincing evidence. And so, the judge is saying, first to himself, they haven't come through with that sort of evidence.

This verdict, even if it is for Sarah Palin, cannot stand. And all that makes a lot of sense. The problem is now, we're in a new procedural situation--

COATES: Right.


ABRAMS: --where, we're waiting for a jury, to come back.

The jury, as I said, might have heard what the judge thought, which could lead an Appellate court, to say "Well, look, we're not going to take account of that jury verdict at all." So, what we've got in front of us is what will then be an opinion--

COATES: Well, you know?

ABRAMS: --of the judge. And it wouldn't be a real loss--


ABRAMS: --not to have a jury verdict sort of totally untainted. COATES: That's true. And it goes back to every law student can tell you what everyone says. The number one course is civil procedure. Whether you like it or not, all comes down to process, Floyd, in the end, every single time.

But you know what? I wonder, just given what she was unable to prove, Floyd? And I'm glad you stopped by today. You know what? I wonder, if her success definition was the idea of taking the "New York Times" to court. I mean, they haven't had a court--


COATES: --a trial going to - a trial, in this instance, for what, 50 years now. Now she's got them in court, having to apologize. They've taken a real blow, in many respects.

But you're right. This is waiting for appeal. It's begging for an appeal. We'll see what happens, once we've got a verdict.

Floyd Abrams, thank you so much.


COATES: I appreciate it.


COATES: Look, that's not the only big trial that's happening today. I mean, these other two are very, very big, and we're watching them tonight. Because even with murder convictions, in the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the legal battles are far from over.

What makes these newer cases, so important? I'll explain next.



COATES: Well, the men involved, in the murders, of George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, have a lot more they have to answer for. And it's coming in the form of two federal trials that are underway right now.

Now, while Derek Chauvin, already pleaded guilty, for violating Floyd's civil rights, this moment now focuses, on the three other officers, who were on the scene, some of whom you see right there, the two, who helped keep Floyd down, and the other, who had a form of crowd control, while he spaced the crowd.

Now, all of them, prosecutors say, all of them, deprived Floyd, of his right to medical care, and his right to life. The same right that prosecutors argue was denied to Ahmaud Arbery, on the basis of his race.

Now, this moment puts our legal system to the test, really. How will it deal with people, who have a wanton disregard, for human life, particularly Black lives, it seems. I want to bring in Elie Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor, to help put all of this into perspective.

Elie, it's so good to see you, and have this conversation, with you, in particular.

Because, a lot of people don't necessarily realize. They're wondering, "Now, hold on, first of all, in the case of the three officers, who were charged, in depriving George Floyd's civil rights, why was that not part of the state murder trial? Why are they separate and beginning with a federal trial?"

What's the answer?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes, so it's a good chart - it's a good question. And it's a procedural decision.

These three officers are facing both federal and state charges. But they're starting now with the federal case. And, I think, strategically, it's smart to do that, because in some respects, the theory, in the federal case, is broader than in the state case.

In the state case, they're charged as accomplices, meaning essentially, they helped Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd. But, in the federal case, they're charged under this really expansive theory that their liability is because they failed to help, they failed to intervene, they failed to render aid.

So, in some ways, Laura, that's actually a broader theory of liability, and no conviction's ever easy, but an easier basis for prosecutors to get a conviction.

COATES: And speaking of the ease of prosecution, and conviction, here, right? One of the things that's going to throw a bit of a wrench, in the prosecution's plan, frankly, is the idea that at least one of these officers, we remember from the state homicide trial, was said to have essentially said, let's - "Should we move him in some way?"

That prone position that was such a part of the last trial for Derek Chauvin now about what role he played. And, of course, these officers were less senior. They were of lower rank than Derek Chauvin.

How is it all going to factor in here, in terms of the way that the prosecution goes to this case?

HONIG: Well, Laura, as you know, when you have multiple defendants, in this case, and we have three, what sometimes happens, is the defendants will say, "OK, who's the most sympathetic? Who can we most likely put up on the stand with the least risk?" And the one--

COATES: It's not Derek Chauvin.

HONIG: --who it seems like is going to testify here, is this officer--

COATES: It's not Derek Chauvin, in this case, right? HONIG: No.

COATES: We know it's not him.

HONIG: Absolutely not. No Derek Chauvin here. Right, right. No, he would be the worst one, to put on the stand, for sure.

The one they're going to put on is this Thomas Lane, who was in his fourth day, on the job, when this happened. And he's the one who said, "Hey, shouldn't we roll him, on his side," or something to that effect. So, I think that what the defendants are going to do is offer up Thomas Lane, as their sort of spokesperson.

COATES: Let's get to the Arbery matter as well, because that case, of course, we know there was a plea.

They were on the cusp of having a federal plea agreement that would have at least 30 years in prison, at a federal level. That was tanked by the judge. The family was not at all in favor of a federal plea, going to federal prison. They wanted a full trial.

But this is one that is based on racial animus here. This is a difficult case for even the most seasoned prosecutors, to be able to prove racial intent. Is this going to be a very difficult case, you think, here?

HONIG: It is going to be a difficult case, Laura. And it's going to be a very different case, from what we saw the first time.

Because, in the first trial, of these three defendants, the issue of race was sort of there and, in the background. But the prosecution, in that case, down in Georgia, made a tactical decision to de-emphasize race. The prosecutor barely mentioned race, if at all.


Here, race is going to be front and center, and that's because of the law. These defendants are charged with federal hate crimes, meaning they attacked, they killed, Ahmaud Arbery, because of their racial animus. And the prosecutors have said they have evidence that these defendants used racial epithets, in the past.

So, the defendants are going to have to walk a very fine line here. They have to concede that they used those racial epithets. And they're going to have to somehow argue, "Well, maybe they use racial terms. Maybe they are racists. But that's not why they killed this young Black man." That's a tricky sell.

COATES: Well, that's what the prosecutor came out to say, "It's not about hate. It's about racial animus," right, trying to distinguish that notion of walking that line.

You don't have to hate. But I don't know how people are going to decipher the two. If you have racial animus to hunt and kill someone, I think, hatred is sort of a foregone conclusion, perhaps, in many respects there. But Elie, you and I talked about this case, when it first came out, the idea of, I wonder what was behind the motive of the state prosecutors, not to bring up race. Maybe because they knew this was on the horizon, and didn't want to do anything, to compromise it, down the road.

Elie Honig, we'll stay with it. Thank you so much.

HONIG: Thanks, Laura.

COATES: Let's turn to a much different conversation, right now, although, maybe there's a similar elephant in the room, when it comes to race.

History was made at the Super Bowl halftime show. And hip-hop finally got a voice, on the most-watched stage, on the planet. So, how effectively did stars, like Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre, and Mary J. Blige, and Eminem, to name just a few, balance the music, and well, the symbolic messaging?

We'll postgame with Bomani Jones, next.



COATES: So, for the first time, hip-hop took center stage, at the Super Bowl halftime show.

Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, and a couple of other surprises. 50 Cent, well, he literally dropped in, recreating a scene, from his very first music video, 20 years ago. I can't believe that was 20 years ago, by the way!

But one of the most talked-about moments is this one. Eminem, taking a knee, seemingly referencing former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick's stance, against racism and police violence.

Bomani Jones, joins me now. He's the host of "The Right Time with Bomani Jones" podcast.

So, speaking of the title, of your podcast, you've been waiting a long time. You actually tweeted about this. You've been campaigning, for a decade, to see this performance. Was it everything you hoped it would be?

BOMANI JONES, HOST, "THE RIGHT TIME WITH BOMANI JONES" PODCAST, HOST OF UPCOMING HBO SHOW "GAME THEORY": Oh, yes, I mean, look, the mere idea, if you were around, while they were hot, like very idea that they would be in a place, to be treated, honestly, with such an iconic status, is almost bananas.

Except, if you remember that time, you realize how broadly accepted that music was, in spite of the discussion of the controversial nature. By the time you get to the end of the decade, Dr. Dre set a 7 million (ph) records with 2001. So, like you think about the Super Bowl halftime, that's a place where you see like Paul McCartney and "The Rolling Stones." And you saw Dr. Dre, in Los Angeles, basically taking the biggest victory lap that none of us could have imagined, at the end of the 1980s and in early 90s.

COATES: And again, I mean, just how in the lyrics, we're talking about, I mean, he had this line, where he says, "Still not loving the police." Of course, that's a line that back then was so controversial. Now, it's evergreen. It's part of an overall conversation, right now.

What did you make of the ways in which, frankly, there was different tones happening?

There was Kendrick Lamar's tone, in terms of what he was talking about. There was a lyric dropped. You had Eminem, the only White performer, who took a knee, in this biggest thing. But you had Dr. Dre, paying an homage, in the keyboard, to Tupac Shakur, at one point.

What did you make of the different symbolic speech that was happening that night?

JONES: Well, I don't know if it was nearly as much symbolic as much as demonstrating varying levels of privilege. The dude that had the least money is the one that had to bleep out his police reference. The one with the most--

COATES: That's Kendrick?

JONES: Yes, yes. The one that had the most money got his through.

And then the rich White man, hey, man, if he wants to take a knee, what was they going to do? Send a security guard, out there, to tackle him, in the process, of doing it? Like there was fundamentally nothing you can do, to stop this element, of what went on there, like I thought it was interesting that Eminem decided to do that.

And I think the NFL made the right play, even if they weren't going along with it, acting like they were like peeved by - was not going to be something that ultimately won.

COATES: Did they - wait. Did they know, Bomani?

JONES: But the thing about Dr. Dre--

COATES: You think, they actually knew in advance it was actually cleared? Or that he just did it, and they weren't going to make a statement? If he - even in the past, he has been actually outspoken, about supporting Colin Kaepernick.


COATES: You think they were actually not knowing about it, or that he cleared it in advance? What's your thought?

JONES: I don't think that he was clearing anything. I think that he was like, "Hey, let me tell you about this thing I'm going to do." "Yes, we'd really like it, if you didn't do that." "Yes. OK. See you guys later." And then it winds up happening.

But, with Dr. Dre, one thing Dr. Dre never been about is actually making any sort of statement, like I think it would have been a bad look for him, if he had been - come out there, and bleeped out the line about the police, because it's actually like that ain't the real line, about the police that he and his people had offered, over a course of time.

But who was going to stop him, at that point? If he wanted that, and it was to put my foot down, "Either this is going to be it, or I'm not doing the performance," then it was going to get through.

COATES: Now, of course, this is on the backdrop, with the Brian Flores lawsuit.

And, by the way, the Brian Flores' lawsuit's on the backdrop of another issue, we've talked about, in the past, Bomani, about the disproportionality, between the number of Black players, and players of color, and those among the coaching ranks and, of course, ownership.

Does this move a needle forward for you? Or is this just to be compartmentalized, in the grand scheme of thing, for entertainment, and the NFL has a whole another thing they have to worry about, and a really important one?

JONES: Oh, yes, and that was just the concert, right, like, they had just reached a point, where people were feeling like the halftime show had gotten a little bit lame.

And so, they decided to bring in some cooler people, and get themselves a cooler halftime show. And that's what they got here. That don't really have anything to do with anything else that's going on, I don't think.

And part of it, for me, is I don't think the NFL cares that much about whether or not the public at large thinks it's a racist institution. If they did, it wouldn't have gotten to the point, where people are talking about it so much.


They want to put on a halftime show. They went ahead and did that. What they do want to do is stay out of court. And nothing about that halftime show was going to keep them out of a courtroom, when it comes to Brian Flores.

COATES: For the record, J.Lo, and Shakira, I'm not the one who called it lame. I just want you to know. Bomani, I'm not with you on that one.

JONES: Oh, oh, hold on, hold on.

COATES: I'm going to leave you alone. JONES: I didn't want you to point out that I didn't say no names. And you just decided to sabotage me--

COATES: You did not. I'm just thinking about--

JONES: --before America.

COATES: --I'm just thinking about the most recent ones. All I'm saying, because I'm a forever J.Lo and Shakira fan. But I love them too.

Bomani Jones, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

JONES: Yes. I'm--

COATES: He did not, for the record, call anyone out. This is Laura Coates saying it, what Laura Coates--

JONES: Yes, I'm about to say--

COATES: --has said it.

JONES: --I guess I'm going to thank you now. You just took a tire (ph) for me that got a little risky.

COATES: No, it's not risky. No risk. Risk-averse, here. Thank you so much, Bomani Jones.

JONES: All right, Laura.

COATES: Listen, four years ago, today, we had 14 students, and three staff members, who were murdered, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida.

It's been four years, since that day. And yet, promises to help curb gun violence, from some of our leaders, since then, well, they've been just that. Promises. So what happened to action?

I think Congress, well, it's time you could use yet another reminder. And I'll bring you one, next.



COATES: So today, I wished my children a Happy Valentine's Day, as we scrambled through our morning routine. Backpacks were packed. Lunch notes were written.

More than a dozen kids, at the bus stop, excitedly showing each other their Valentine's Day shoe boxes, they made, to hold their Valentine's treats. Each of them was giggling, as they climbed up the bus stairs. And, as parents, well, we stood there, waving at them, talking amongst ourselves, as they drove away.

Four years ago, today, parents, in Parkland, Florida, wished their children, a Happy Valentine's Day. Then, the phone calls came, the sirens, the breaking news bulletins, the screams, the reunifications, the silence, the coffins.

Every day, in America, parents say goodbye, to their children. And on the one hand, we take for granted that they will be safe, inside of a school, in a classroom. On the other hand, we know all too well that there's simply no guarantee.

I remember holding my 3-week-old son, while I watched the news that 26 people, including 20 children, had been killed, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Three years ago, I held my kindergartener's hand, as she was proudly showing me around, her classroom, her desk, where her crayons would be.

And I had to try to collect myself, when I saw that her seat was directly in front of the classroom door. And the first thought that came to mind is, if a shooter found their way into her school, my daughter would be directly in his path.

Now, these are the thoughts of parents, today. And not just because of Sandy Hook. But because of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Parkland, Oxford, and the more than 850 incidents of gunfire, on school grounds, over just the past decade, that have killed at least 281 people, and injured hundreds more.

This rise in gun violence isn't imaginary. It's not media hype. The reality is, back in the 70s, mass shootings took eight lives a year, on average. That average has now shot up to 51, from 2010 to 2019. That's according to a nonprofit, funded by the DOJ.

So, while we, adults, mark our time, according to some five-year plan, our children often think, in groups of four. Four years of high school. Four years of college.

And I suppose there was some renewed sense of hope, when President Biden asked for the opportunity, to lead for the next four years, when he said things, like this, on the campaign trail.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're now working on making sure that we provide children the ability to avoid being shot at school. What does that say about our soul?

I'm so tired, the people talking about, your prayers. Dammit, we have to protect these kids.


BIDEN: If you elect me, your president, not only am I going to get the assault weapons ban back, and limitation on clips. I want to say to our friends, gun manufacturers, "I'm coming for you."

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: And yet today, a Parkland father climbed a crane, above the White House, unfurling a large banner, with an image, of his son's face, to try to get an audience, with that President.

And it's not just the President, by the way. Far too many parents, and students, have had to grace the halls of our Congress, hoping to get legislation passed, to keep our children safe, to protect them. And still, it's not enough.

Because instead of kissing their children, good night, they are getting more promises on gun reform, inaction in Congress, and lip service, from the NRA, about a civilized society.

Why should it be on our kids, the victims of such tragedies, to push for meaningful solutions?



DAVID HOGG, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR, FOUNDER, MARCH FOR OUR LIVES: Frankly, if I could say one thing to the President, it's that we need you to go out, and act, right now, before the next Parkland happens, because there are things that you can do, right now, to help prevent it that you have not done.

We need you to make good, on your promises, because kids are dying.


COATES: Now, I'm going to tell you, I talked to my children, into bed, tonight. And I got to giggle with my daughter, when we made sentences out of candy conversation hearts. I got to watch my son pretend to get sick as he read the love notes, from his fan club, in his class.

And two parents, my husband and I, we still got to hear themselves, and ourselves, being called "Mommy" and "Daddy."

But tonight, I want to honor those, who didn't. Honor you for your fight, for your children, for what today means to you that you will no longer just be extended thoughts and prayers, but action, prevention, change, and love.

We'll be right back.


COATES: Thanks for watching. I'll be back, tomorrow night.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.