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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN TONIGHT: Panel Member Zoe Lofgren Defends Comments On Guilfoyle's $60,000 January 6th Rally Speaking Fee; Proud Boys Storm Kids' Event, Prompting LGBTQ Hate Crime Probe; Biden Blames GOP For Blocking His Plan To Fight Inflation. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 14, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Officials say, Yellowstone National Park, it's going to be closed, to visitors, until at least tomorrow.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Laura Coates, and CNN TONIGHT.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much.

Once again, it's an Election Night in America. And once again, we are waiting to see what message, exactly, is resonating with Republican voters, in places, like South Carolina. There's also some new key tests of Donald Trump's power, over his party, there and, of course, elsewhere.

Now, they say that revenge is a dish best-served cold. Well, let's see whether voters, in states, where Republican incumbents, refused to precisely follow Trump, will find themselves now, on the menu.

It's not that this is the first time that Trump's personal persona non grata has had been challenged. But these are the first so-called Trump revenge primaries, you could say, at least since the January 6 committee hearings have gotten underway.

Now, the first time, since the broader electorate has had an opportunity, to at least hear testimony, about the events, leading up to the insurrection, and Donald Trump's possible role in fomenting and pushing known election lies. Known, because even his family members, and top Republican aides, well, we're learning, were adamant that there simply was no there-there.

Now, Trump is not on any of these ballots. But the connective tissue is a platform that echoes his sentiments.

But as much as the committee has tried to convey that what we saw, on January 6, is a continued threat? The question is whether these hearings impact the voters, at all, perhaps giving them any pause, about electing a Trump-backed candidate, assuming, of course, they even watched these hearings. And even still, the 2020 lies are casting a very big shadow, over many of these 2022 races, particularly in South Carolina, where the polls have now closed, but votes are still being counted.

So, here's where that revenge part comes in, again. You've got two incumbent Republican members of Congress, in this deep red state, and they're fighting to stay, after breaking with the ex-President, over his lies.

Tom Rice is one of 10 Republicans, in the House, who voted to impeach Trump, for incitement of insurrection. Then, you have Nancy Mace, who bucked Trump, and voted to certify President Biden's victory, on just her third day, in the U.S. Congress. So perhaps, unsurprisingly, Trump has now thrown his weight, behind both of their challengers.

His debunked fraud claims are also at the center of GOP contests, in the swing state of Nevada, tonight. Polls there are still open, till the end of this hour. So, stay tuned on that.

And running for Senate, with the Trump's stamp of approval, is former State Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who once filed lawsuit, attempting to overturn Trump's loss, in Nevada. It's a key race that could impact who controls the chamber in November, and a good chance, frankly, for the GOP, to flip a Democratic seat. Now, Laxalt is running against Army veteran, Sam Brown.

And then, there's the race for Secretary of State, over there. The question now is will voters choose a vocal proponent, of Trump's stolen election claims, to oversee future elections, now, in Nevada?


JIM MARCHANT, (R) NEVADA SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATE: The difference between myself and my opponents, I'm the only one who believes that there was election fraud.


COATES: That's Jim Marchant, who attended QAnon conventions, and is now known for supporting conspiracy theories. He said, on the campaign trail, that if he were Secretary of State, in 2020, that he wouldn't have certified Biden's victory.

Now, many voters have already nominated dozens of Republican candidates, for state, and also federal office, who have backed Trump's false fraud claims. In fact, at least 108, according to a new tally, by "The Washington Post."

So, the question for the committee, and everyone watching is, will the revelations we've learned, through these hearings, stop that in its tracks? Stop the trajectory of it all? Well, the thing is, the art of persuasion requires those revelations, from the committee, to be fully accurate.

Remember when the panel accused the Trump campaign, just yesterday, of using election lies, to swindle supporters of money? Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren calls it "The Big Rip-off," and later on CNN, pointed to one example, of Donald Trump Jr.'s fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle, getting paid about $60,000, to speak for about two and a half minutes, at the Stop the Steal rally, on January 6.

Now, sources tell CNN, today that it was actually conservative pro- Trump organization, called Turning Point Action, who gave Guilfoyle that big paycheck. So, CNN did its due diligence, and it went back to Lofgren, and she said this.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH BLITZER: Did you mischaracterize that payment?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, I don't think so. It's one - it's a part and parcel of the Trump campaign.

But the question is, are Trump individuals benefiting, from this whole enterprise, of raising money, around the so-called Stop the Steal? And the answer is yes.



COATES: Let the voters decide, whether it was a "Think so," or a "Definitely not."

The committee also just released more testimony, of Trump campaign attorney, Eric Herschmann, talking about how he warned conservative lawyer, John Eastman, to back off his plans, to file appeals, in Georgia, back in 2020.

Now, we heard some - some of this yesterday, but not all.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I said to him, "Are you out of your effing mind?" I said, "I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth for now on. Orderly transition."

Eventually, he said, "Orderly transition." I said, "Good, John. Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life. Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it." And then, I hung up on him.


COATES: Remember the sound bite stopped yesterday, at the "Only tell me two of those words."

This is all really coming down to a test of credibility, both Trump, of course, and what we've been hearing, from the January 6 committee, themselves. And ultimately, it's up to the voters, to decide what they believe, and who they believe, and whether they want to move past January 6, or beyond it, or have a yearning to learn even more.

I'm joined now by Michelle Cottle, from "The New York Times" Editorial Board, Kasie Hunt, our Chief National Affairs Analyst, and Ramesh Ponnuru, the Editor for "National Review."

I'm glad you're all here with me, today.

I'm wondering, first of all, when you hear and think more about this test, of all these primaries, a lot of focus has been on Donald Trump. He's not on any of these ballots. He casts quite a very big shadow, but also a wide net, on those, who have gone against him.

Do you think that he will be triumphant in being able to serve that revenge?

RAMESH PONNURU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I think we're finding that in these primaries, Trump's endorsement matters more than any other person's endorsement.

It is valuable. It is very valuable to these candidates. And these candidates will do a lot, sometimes at the cost, of their own dignity, in order to get that endorsement. But other things, like the quality of the candidate, the issue, the nature, of the particular electorate, they matter too.

Right now, for example, in those two South Carolina races, Nancy Mace is running ahead of where Tim Rice is running - excuse me, Tom Rice is running, because partly it's a different district. Mace got a more moderate district than Rice.

And partly because Mace just basically, just criticized Trump, and didn't vote with him on some issues. Rice actually voted to impeach him. And I think that's a different kind of line, for a lot of Republican voters.

COATES: Here, they have the same fate in many ways, right? You can say, "Third day in Congress, I'm going to certify the President of the United States of having won." But that's a bridge too far. And she has the same fate, in terms of not being endorsed by Trump. Is that the new standard?

MICHELLE COTTLE, EDITORIAL WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, she also has a different kind - I mean, the person that Trump endorsed, against her, has run before in that district, and lost.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: To a Democrat. She lost to a Democrat.

COTTLE: So, it - yes. So, it's a different kind of district. It's a different kind of setup. And Trump has endorsed candidates before, who just haven't cut it.

I mean, David Perdue, in Georgia, was an absolute disaster, running against Brian Kemp. Now, my contention - Georgia was a question of a governor versus a congressperson, which tends to be a little bit different. Governors have their own brand that people tend to kind of already have a little bit of brand loyalty.

But again, also with the Secretary of State, down there, Brad Raffensperger, Trump endorsed his opponent, and kind of recruited Jody Hice, to get in there. And he lost in that case as well.


COTTLE: So, it does matter what the candidates are like, kind of what their records are, and also just kind of what the district and, the constituencies are.

HUNT: I think we have to be a little bit careful about reading too much Trump into every single political thing that's going on. Because, he's clearly a factor. I mean, he's become "Are you Republican enough? Are you to the right enough? Are you Trumpy enough?" is now the test, right?

And so, in one of these races, tonight, it looks like Congressman Rice, who voted for impeachment, is on track to lose. He may not even make it into a runoff, which would really be kind of a rebuke and repudiation.

But you got to keep in mind, again, the geography. I mean, he's up in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina. It's more conservative. It's more populist, honestly. I'm looking for kind of the right word to say "Trumpy," without describing it exactly that way.

And also, the former President has really taken it upon himself, to particularly target those, who were willing to vote, for impeachment. I mean, that is like the ultimate sin, in his view.


HUNT: The other race, I mean, Nancy Mace criticized him. She also, to a certain extent, tried to make some amends. I mean, she went up to Trump Tower, and shot a video of herself, in front of it.


Rice has not done that. He's not shown any remorse or any kind of concern about what he did. That district, as Ramesh pointed out, it's more moderate. It's Charleston. Part of it is, there's a lot of transplants done there. There're kind of Country Club conservatives. Maybe some of them are never-Trumpers.

If you're looking at some of the early results that have been coming in so far, tonight, the areas that are to the north of Charleston, a little bit more rural, a lot more conservative? Those are going for Katie Arrington. She's someone, who was like a particularly Trumpy candidate, all the way along, to the point that she lost, to a Democrat, in this district.

And, I think, that's what Republicans writ large are concerned about, right? They are concerned that Trump will select candidates that are, frankly, like not OK, for some of these other areas. I mean, that's what Mitch McConnell was worried about, in Georgia. They lost two Senate seats, in Georgia, because of this.

COATES: Well, one of the concerns I have, and maybe that's a reason, you were unable to find, another word, for Trumpy, because you hear the committee - and, frankly, it's been written into everything.

They were getting - before the committee hearings, there were thoughts of "Will they focus on Trump? Will they try to make this a singular focus? Will that be the goal, here, or to make it more broad?"

And in doing so, I've often wondered, is this feeding into the hands of being able to say, "Hey," the same former President would say, "They're after me. They're after you. Trying to go through me, they're after you though?"

Does this actually legitimize some of the claims that people, who might not be watching, are saying, "See, it's all about Trump for you all? So, why not make it about Trump?"

HUNT: But it is about Trump, right? Because the committee hearing is mostly about honestly, 2024. And there were--

COATES: Well, no, the committee hearing is about Trump. But should these primaries be about Trump?


COATES: You yourself talk about the idea of not reading into every situation.

COTTLE: Well, but Trump has worked so very hard, to make these primaries, about him.

HUNT: Right.

COTTLE: I mean, he has put money into them. He has gone to rallies.


COTTLE: He talks it up in terms of, "They're backing me. They're loyal. They're perfect." And he is working the entire field. I mean, he has handed out tons of endorsements, I mean, mostly to frontrunners, and incumbents, so that he can rack up--

HUNT: Yes. He's been calling--


HUNT: "Hey, I support you, Susan (ph)."

PONNURU: Implored (ph) his members to say that he's--


COTTLE: He wants a good record.

HUNT: Yes. COATES: Exactly.

COTTLE: It's exactly it. He's taken - he's gone out on a limb, in only a few cases. And sometimes, he's changed his mind, when it looks like his original candidate--

HUNT: I mean, look at Alabama, like "I'm sorry, but we're back and forth, and back again"--


HUNT: --in the Alabama Senate race.

I mean, I think, when you're - when you're talking about the January 6 committee hearings, and kind of how they relate, to the midterm elections? I honestly think the reality is they don't relate much at all. Because people, who are voting in these elections, have pretty much made up their mind about it.

But what the committee is trying to do is make a case that this guy shouldn't be the nominee in 2024, right?

COATES: Well I have to say--

HUNT: And that matters.

COATES: What was interesting is the only thing we all agreed on was that Trump was patting his margin. I don't know what that says about anything about other discussions. But OK.

Stay with us. There's more to come, in just a moment here.

And coming up, not even our libraries, our libraries, are safe from hate. The Proud Boys storming in, and spreading fear, at a "Drag Queen Story Hour." Did social media inspire them?

We're going to get an update, on the criminal investigation, and what the performer is saying about all this, next.



COATES: A hate crime investigation is underway, tonight, after a group of men, with ties to the hate group, the Proud Boys, stormed a San Francisco area library, while it hosted a Pride Month event, known as "Drag Queen Story Hour." Now, keep in mind, children were inside of that room.

Now, the police say that the group of at least five men, wore offensive T-shirts, and shouted anti-gay and anti-trans slurs, while also flashing "White power" hand signs. They directed their aggression, toward drag performer, Panda Dulce, as she read a storybook, to children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PANDA DULCE, "DRAG QUEEN STORY TIME" PERFORMER: They said, "Who brought the tranny? It's a groomer. It's a pedophile. Why do you bring your kids to this event?"

A lot of people are asking me, like "Do you feel safe? Are you OK?" And the answer is "No, I don't." I don't feel safe in my own home.


COATES: Remember, this wasn't the only threat that involved a far- right group, in an LGBTQ event. That same day, in Idaho, police arrested 31 white supremacists, who planned to riot, at a local Pride event. They were arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot. So, the question is will there be charges, in this California case?

Lieutenant Ray Kelly is the spokesman, for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the entire incident.

Lieutenant, thank you for being here today.

When we hear about, what has happened there, I keep thinking in my mind, of course, that there were children, who were, at this event, children, who were witnessing the Proud Boys, arrive on scene, and do this very thing.

I understand that you actually - you had some hate crime protocols that were then followed, and even investigating, this incident. Tell me about that.

LT. RAY KELLY, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, ALAMEDA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Well, absolutely. When we learned of this incident, initially, when we got there, the disturbance had kind of dissipated and de- escalated itself. And we didn't know a lot of the dynamics, of what had gone on, until we began to have conversations, after the fact.

Our subsequent investigation into this has caused us some concern. And so, we did activate our hate crime protocol, which will take us on an investigative course, looking at this case, through a hate crime lens, in particular, against our Pride community, and our LGBT community, here, in Alameda County.

COATES: Now, how were you first alerted to the incident itself? And if you could describe a little bit more about what that hate crime protocol looks like?

KELLY: So, we first learned of the incident, after 911, our deputies responded to that scene, for a report of a disturbance. Upon arriving there, the scene was much less chaotic than it has been described by Panda Dulce, in the previous video. It was much more benign.

We were able to contact five individuals, who identified themselves as members of the Proud Boy organization. And they had told us that they took exception, at the library story hour, and that they were there, to protest that event.

[21:20:00] We began to be concerned, when - in talking to the organizer, when they expressed the threats of violence, the threats of fear, the transphobic and homophobic language that was used, against our event organizer. And so, that is bringing us in a different direction.

Right now, we're trying to focus on, getting all the information. There's video out there. There's video, from the library. There's video that's been taken by people involved in the event. And so, our investigators are compiling all of that information.

We'll collect all that data, and information, and reports. And then, we'll send it to our District Attorney, and have those legal experts look at this case, from a hate crime's perspective.

COATES: And, of course, we'll have to balance the notion of what will be the obvious retort of, "Hey, under the First Amendment, I have every right to be in this public space, in a library."

KELLY: Right.

COATES: But, of course, if there were threats of violence, if there were other charges that could be brought, they'll explore those.

But tell me about these individual men, who were involved here. Are they from the community?

Because it might surprise people to know. I mean, we're talking about an area that really, near the Bay Area, the epicenter of the Pride movement. I'm shocked this is happening there, in particular, as if it should be OK in any place, in the world, of course. But there, in particular.

Were these men from your community?

KELLY: So they're not from Alameda County, in particular, which is the eastern portion of the Bay Area. But we know that they're from certain communities, within the Bay Area. They're a small group of individuals. And they do not represent this.

We've had - we are the epicenter of Pride. And a lot of the Civil Rights actions that have taken place, over many decades, has started here, in the San Francisco Bay Area. And so, we - usually, Pride month, in June, is very uneventful for us. There's hundreds of events that go on, throughout the Bay Area. And they are - they go off without a hitch.

We were very surprised that our Little Library, in San Lorenzo, became kind of a point of contention, with this group. And so, that's been very disturbing to our library workers, and the people that go to that library.

And so, thankfully, we've already spent a lot of time at that library, ourselves. We host a reading program there. And those relationships have paid off. But there's a lot of uncertainty. And then, this has stirred a lot of debate, nationally. And so, the library has been the focal point of a lot of, for and against this issue. COATES: Well, Lieutenant, it's also disturbing, of course.

And the focal point, I want to play for you a little bit more of what the performer, Panda Dulce, had to say about how this particular incident, really, was triggering, for a number of reasons, and felt different than previous instances that she had - he was aware of, at some point.

Here it is.


DULCE: I think what felt different about this time is how emboldened they were. They marched right in, with their cameras.

They were just very confident in what they stood for. And whereas before, it was just a small smattering of folks, wielding Jesus signs. This time, it felt very close to violence.


COATES: When you hear - and excuse me. Her pronoun, is she.

When you hear what she had to say, about that, and the idea of the proximity to violence, how are there ways, to reassure this community, in particular, in your area that this is not on a different trajectory?

KELLY: Well, I think that's very - that's very true. And I think that when - people have feelings, and how they feel is important. And I know that, in this particular incident, some of the individuals, were wearing shirts that had weapons and rifles, on the shirts, and then had language about killing pedophiles.

And I can imagine that, when they entered the room, with children, in a peaceful area, like a library, that it was very aggressive and very alarming. And I'm sure that those feelings that she experienced are very valid.

And so - but that is one of the main concerns too, is the fact that you cannot go into a library, and annoy, or harass, or cause a disturbance, with children, in California. It is a crime. And so, that's one of the angles, we'll be looking at also looking at any criminal threats that might have been made, during this situation.

And so, we're taking all that into account. I think our community knows us pretty well, in Alameda County. They know their Sheriff's Office pretty well. They know how serious we've been taking this. We've put out very strong statements, in regards to this.

And tomorrow, we'll be meeting with Congressman Swalwell, we'll be at the library, to reassure the community that they're safe, and that their Sheriff's Office, and their local law enforcement, is going to be there, to support them, in future endeavors, during the Pride Month.

COATES: Thank you, Lieutenant Ray Kelly. I appreciate your time.

KELLY: Thank you.

COATES: We're actually going to look at your threats, across this country, including the Supreme Court. New details, in the alleged murder plot, against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.


And former Homeland Security Secretary, excuse me, Janet Napolitano, joins me, to talk about the growing domestic terror danger, next.


COATES: Just one person may have stood in the way of last week's alleged murder plot, against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The police say that in the moments after suspect, Nicholas Roske, arrived outside of Kavanaugh's Maryland home, he texted his sister, about his intentions. And she was the one that convinced him, to call 911, on himself. That makes today's passage of a bill that would extend security protections, to Supreme Court justices' immediate family members, all the more significant.

Joining me now, Janet Napolitano, former Homeland Security Secretary, under President Obama.

Secretary, thank you for being here tonight. It's alarming to hear that this was the one person, who possibly was able to foil, an assassination plot, by convincing this person, to go to authorities.

But we're seeing an enormous increase from the DHS' bulletin, last week. It talks about the rise of people, willing to turn to violence, to address personal or political grievances. What's been your reaction, to all this news, unfolding?

JANET NAPOLITANO, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, UC BERKELEY: Well, domestic extremism has been a problem in our country, for decades, if not centuries.


I remember, in 1995, working on the Oklahoma City bombing case, with Tim McVeigh. But what we're seeing now seems to be of a different quality, and kind. The number and types of incidents seems to be proliferating.

And from the segment you just showed about the invasion, of a children's hour, at a public library, to the arrests, in Idaho, over the weekend, to the individual, who actually, in a way, turned himself in, but who had crossed the country, in order to attack Justice Kavanaugh? These are all of a different, as I mentioned, quality, and kind, than we have seen before. The increase is alarming.

COATES: And the increase - I want to show the audience. And I'm showing them right now, Secretary, is that the threats and the inappropriate communications, against the judiciary, it's actually increased, since 2021 - 2021, it's up 587 percent. I mean, up 587 percent!

I wonder what you attribute, although this has been, unfortunately, perpetually evergreen, the notion that people are willing to at least have some form of the domestic terrorism, you're speaking about?

What's different now? Is it the proliferation of social media, and the ability to sort of find one's echo chamber, and be able to galvanize, in that way? Is that what might be different now?

NAPOLITANO: That's certainly a big part of it. Social media has become like gasoline, on a fire. It's an accelerant.

And in terms of the attacks, on the judiciary, part of it may be the fact that the judiciary seems evermore, in the news, on evermore controversial items. So, they've become bigger and bigger targets.

And it's unacceptable in our country that this should happen. Judges need to be able to do their jobs, without having to have marshals, outside, in their driveways.

Librarians ought to be able to have children's hours, without worrying about Proud Boys coming in. Parades ought to be able to happen, without 31 armed men, coming in, to try to disrupt them.

And where it really gets worrisome is when it goes from active protests, all the way, now, to attempted violence or acts of violence.

COATES: Secretary, I mean, to paraphrase James Baldwin, he often said, "I love this country more than anyone else, than any other country, which is why I reserve the right to perpetually criticize it."

I emphasize the word, "Criticize," using the ballot box, of course, and elections, and being able to vocalize one's position. But you're right. We have turned a very different corner, now, the idea of people using the redress of grievances, in this way.

What should be done in terms of preparing for this, though? If this is the trajectory, that criticism is no longer in the Baldwin-esque space, and now turning to violence, in a more prevalent way, how does the government prepare? How does the government try to deter and prevent?

NAPOLITANO: So, I think, from a federal government perspective, the Department of Homeland Security, needs to do all it can, to share relevant information, to local communities, particularly to police departments and sheriff's offices.

The FBI needs to be leaning forward into this. This clearly needs to be the top priority, from a law enforcement perspective, as we head into what could be a long hot summer.

COATES: Secretary Napolitano, thank you so much.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

COATES: Well, President Biden is trying to reassure Americans about the economy as we go towards that perhaps long, hot, expensive summer, acknowledging the painful realities, of our current inflation crisis. And whether anything good can come out of his plan, to meet with Saudi Arabia's MBS, given his record, on human rights?

I'll be back with Michelle, Kasie, and Ramesh, next.



COATES: So, here is the oxymoronic statement, or a state of our economy and our politics.

Tomorrow, the Federal Reserve is set to enact the largest interest rate hike, in decades. Meaning, the biggest move, yet, to fight higher prices, is to make Americans pay more, for a home, a car and, of course, a credit card. This, at a time, when you keep - you're keeping paying more, every time you fill up.

So news, today, at the Producer Price Index, another key inflation measure, showed a slight slowdown is actually little comfort. That even as more people go back to work, companies are struggling to fill jobs. Even as workers make more money, it's still harder, to feed your family, or keep a roof over your head.

This is uncharted territory, for politics, as well. I mean, going back to Reagan, as unemployment goes down, a president's approval numbers, well, they usually go up. But, under Biden, unemployment has dropped quickly. Yet, his approval numbers, especially on the economy, and inflation, well they're deep underwater.

We'll try to make sense of all this with Michelle Cottle, Kasie Hunt, and Ramesh Ponnuru, who are going to break down, and solve all the world problems, in this time slot, right now.

It's very difficult, though, to think about this. I mean, why is this sort of inverse happening? Is it the confluence of everything else? Or is this Biden just not getting it right?

PONNURU: So, I think that we have had some exceptions, to the rule, where when we've had unemployment drop, and we've had economic growth, but we've also had people thinking the economy was very bad.


And what those periods tend to have in common, is that wages are dropping, that the what - what you can command for a paycheck is going down.

And that's been true of this economy too, because wages have been growing, but they have not been keeping up with prices, because prices are growing even faster. That's something that makes people unhappy. And more people are paying money at the pump. They're paying at the grocery bill, then are struggling with problems of unemployment. And so, it hits more voters.

COTTLE: Yes. You can--

COATES: So "It's the economy, stupid," still?

COTTLE: You can tell people--

HUNT: Always.

COTTLE: --that the economy is doing well. You can tell people that wages are fine. And you can tell them that unemployment is really low. But when they go to the store, they know that what they're making is not covering things.

Plus, you have supply chain issues. You have such shortages of everything, from baby formula, to now there's some new tampon shortage. It's one of these things, where people know things aren't working well, in their life. Plus, everybody is still extremely sour, about this pandemic.

HUNT: Yes.

COTTLE: I mean, we are tired--

HUNT: I mean, I'm sorry, like, is anyone at this table, like, is this the happiest time in anyone's life? Like, I mean, let's be real. It's been a miserable two and a half years. And people are miserable.

And things are starting to get a little bit better. But every time it seems like we take one step forward, it's like there's two steps back. And many people, who make the least amount of money, are the ones that are most affected, by this, because inflation is just so regressive. It affects people, who don't have extra cash, to - or have to take out loans, for example, to cover - to cover basic needs.

COATES: If they qualify for the loans, right?

HUNT: If they can, sure.

COATES: And that's even part of the conversation.

HUNT: Or they had to put it on a credit card, if that's something that's available to them.

COATES: If they can.

HUNT: And if not? Then they're in even worse straits.

PONNURU: And actually, I was talking to a politician, who started his career, in the late 70s, during the last great burst of inflation, in the United States.

And he was making this point that it's not just the economic consequences of inflation that matter to voters. As important as those are, there's also another layer, which is that it undermines people's sense of control, and order, and stability. It makes it feel like the ground is shifting, beneath their feet.

COATES: And it probably wants to--


COTTLE: --we heard a lot of--

COATES: They probably want to enhance as well--

COTTLE: --in the last couple years.

COATES: --who they want to blame for it. Because thinking about that, I want to play for you, what Biden had to say, about an issue, because he has been trying to, in many ways, assign the blame, in other directions, about why people are so unhappy. And by telling them, "You're happy, you're happy," it's not making them happy, all the sudden.

Let's hear what President Biden had to say.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm doing everything in my power to blunt Putin's gas price hike.


BIDEN: Exxon made more money than God this year.


BIDEN: Ted Cruz and the other ultra-MAGA Republicans are going to vote on whether you'll have Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.


COATES: So, is he pointing the blame, in the right direction? Is this feeling like deflection, displacement? What do you think?

COTTLE: It doesn't really matter. The reality of politics is if you are the president, you are going to take the blame, for this sort of thing.

If people are feeling bad, about the direction, the country is going in, if they are feeling bad, about how much their paycheck, can get them, how expensive gas prices are? You can talk to them, all day long, about the war in Ukraine, about supply side shortages, about China, you can talk to them about whatever, the President's going to take the hit for.

HUNT: And the reality is Democrats were wrong about inflation. I mean, Janet Yellen acknowledged as much, just a few days ago. I mean, she said, yes, like they insisted it was going to be transitory. It probably wasn't going to be that big of a deal. And like that was incorrect.

And, I think, voters saw that happen. They know, who's running the government, and they're going to take it out on the people in charge. It doesn't really matter who else might be to blame. That's the main strategy going into a midterm is to say, "Well, the other guy would be a lot worse." But the reality is, it's just not that effective.

COATES: Well, there's also a time, when sometimes, if you're a flip- flopper, or not acknowledging you got something wrong, or talking in absolutes, can be problematic, as a politician.

But then there's this new issue that's happening with President Biden, where he is talking about going to have a visit, in Saudi Arabia, with MBS. And I remember, if you remember, as well, there was a time, on the campaign trail, when he spoke about wanting to make this nation, a pariah, and spoke in very absolute terms, on this issue.

And now, he is going there. I want to play for you, what some of the people, in his own party, have said, about this very issue, and how they would not go. It's not just Republicans against Democrats. This is an intra-party conflict, now.

Let's listen in.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I wouldn't go. I wouldn't shake his hand. This is someone, who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces, in the most terrible and premeditated way.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I will support President Biden in his outreach to MBS, and to the Saudi Kingdom.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I have every confidence that Senate - that President Biden will handle this very well.


COATES: He has every confidence. What do you guys think?

HUNT: I mean, I think this is about politics more than anything else, and that it just underscores how difficult the politics are, for the President, right now, of what's going on, with gas prices.

It shows you it's really everything. Because they are having to give up a lot. They're losing a lot of faith. They're - I mean, this is - D.C. is renaming the street in front of the Saudi Embassy, Khashoggi Way, right? Like, that's what's going on here in this country. And the President's still willing to go do this?


COATES: Well, if that's what's happening, and you think about how this is going to play out politically, down the road, and what goes on next? I mean, politics is going to have its place. And it still is today. We'll wait for the primary results, as well. Michelle, Kasie, Ramesh, thank you so much, for being here, tonight.

Up next, a Black driver, behind the wheel, was speeding. A White police officer pulls the car over. Now, if you think you know where this is going, just wait until you learn what happens next. Frankly, it's one of the most heartwarming stories, you've probably heard, in a while. And we all need it.

And we have two very special guests, who are going to help share that important moment, next, and explain this picture.


COATES: A traffic stop with a twist! CNN writer, John Blake, brings us the story, from South Carolina, where Ashlye Wilkerson, was driving, with her father, Tony, back in March, when a state trooper, pulled her over, for speeding.


Now, as she apologized, her father started defending her, mustering his strength, to tell the trooper that his quote, "Baby girl," unquote, was driving him home, from his chemotherapy treatment.

Now, that detail touched the officer's heart so much that instead of a speeding ticket, he offered instead a prayer.

Ashlye described the encounter, in an Instagram post, honoring her dad, Tony, writing, quote, "The officer took a deep breath. He sighed and" he "said that he too had loved ones who battled cancer as well. He asked if he could pray with you." And "When you all were done, there was a small silver cross that he placed in your hand for you to keep with you as a symbol of your faith."

Now sadly, two months later, Tony lost his battle with cancer.

But Ashlye is still in touch, with the trooper, who was so kind to them both. His name is Jaret Doty. And he, and Ashlye join me now.

It's so nice to see both of you here, today. It's so often that we don't have as feel-good stories about traffic stops. But this one, when I read about it, it just touched my heart.

I wonder, from your perspective, Ashlye, what went through your mind, when you first heard those sirens, and saw your - and heard your father, trying to defend his baby girl?

ASHLYE WILKERSON, CAPTURED POWERFUL MOMENT BETWEEN STATE TROOPER AND HER FATHER: Well, first, let me say thank you so much, for having me, today, to be able to speak about the man that is near and dear to my heart, my dad, especially this Father's Day weekend that's upcoming.

Obviously, you never want to hear sirens. And you never want to see the blue lights flash behind you. And so, the first question was, you know, "Ash," that's what my dad will refer to me as, "Ash, is that - is that for you? Is that behind you?" And I said, "I don't know, Dad. Let me check. Let me look," and saw, looked at my speed. I looked for a speed limit sign, to my right. And I said, "Yes, Dad, I'm speeding. That's for me."

And so, I immediately pulled over, to the right side, so that I could be summoned, by the officer, at that time.

COATES: And he's here with us now, that, very officer who was behind you.

And I know that you have said that you don't want to make this about you, and really wanted to honor not only Ashlye, but also her father. But something about the way he stood up for his baby girl really touched your heart. You felt a kind of kinship with him, in that moment. Can you tell us about that?

TROOPER JARET DOTY, NORTH CAROLINA STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: Yes, ma'am. Again, I echo what Ashlye said. Thank you for having me here. It's an honor to be on your show.

Yes, I did relate to him, in that manner. I have a 12-year-old daughter myself. And she's my little princess, like Ashlye is - was to her daddy.

And when I first approached the vehicle, I introduced myself to her. I told her who I was, and why I stopped her. I requested for her driver's license and registration.

And while she was getting those things, is when Mr. Geddis spoke up, and told me that that was his baby girl, and he was bringing - or she was bringing him home from chemotherapy, at Duke Hospital.

I noticed he was laying back, in his seat. He was - he was very soft- spoken. His voice was a little raspy. He just looked like he was tired, and a sick man. And, at that moment in time, my heart just went out to him.

COATES: In fact, you've battled your own health conditions, as well. And so, you had recognized some parts of yourself, within his experience. And you didn't even realize, I understand, Ashlye, you were so taken aback, by the fact that he came back and asked instead.

He gave you a warning, first of all, for speeding, allegedly.


COATES: I will say, allegedly. I'm a lawyer. So, allegedly speeding. He gave you that warning, of course.


COATES: And then, he asked if he could pray with you. And you snapped that photograph, he wasn't even aware of that very moment. What made you want to take that picture and capture that moment?

WILKERSON: Well, for two reasons. The first reason, my dad was very, very private person, about his journey, battling cancer. He battled colon cancer, for two years. And so, he was very private.

And I was actually shocked that he disclosed that information to the officer. Matter of fact, I asked him, "Dad, why did you tell the officer, your condition?" And he said, "I wouldn't want you penalized for taking care of me. I never want you to get in trouble. I wouldn't want that on my conscience."

And so, that was the first and foremost reason, is because even in his sick moment? As you mentioned, he passed away two months, after that date. He was still working to defend me, and protect me. He didn't want me to get in trouble, at that time. So, that was the first reason.


But the second reason, is because, the officer, Officer Doty, leaned into his humanity, in that moment. Oftentimes, when we are tasked, to do a job, especially a job like that, where you're trained to give a ticket, to give the citation, he leaned into his humanity, at that moment.

He listened. He heard my dad's voice. He saw his ailing condition. He recognized the pouch that was on my dad at the time that signaled that he had been in treatment. And he was concerned. And so, he took it a step beyond. And he cared, in that moment.


WILKERSON: He nurtured us in that moment. And he offered prayer, with my dad. He said, "If it doesn't offend you, is it OK, if I pray with you?"


WILKERSON: And my dad was a chairman of the Deacon board. And so, he welcomed the prayer.

And I took it. Neither one of them knew, at the time.

COATES: Right.

WILKERSON: And my dad did not like social media, so.

COATES: And yet, Ashlye, I'm going to leave--

WILKERSON: He did not know.

COATES: --I'll leave with this moment. Because, you say he leaned into his humanity. And one thing that you've kept is what he leaned in, and put into the palm, of your father's hand. And it's the picture we have here--



COATES: --of this cross that he gave--

WILKERSON: The cross.

COATES: --to your father.


COATES: I know you treasure it, today. A family man himself!

Ashlye Wilkerson, Trooper Jaret Doty, thank you both, for this story. I think we all needed to hear it, about someone leaning in, for humanity, today.

WILKERSON: Thank you.

COATES: Thank you so much.

WILKERSON: Thank you, Officer Doty.

DOTY: Thank you. Good to see you again, Ashlye.

COATES: We'll be right back.



COATES: Thanks for watching.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts, right now.

Hey, Don?