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CNN TONIGHT: Mulvaney: Matthew Pottinger Is A "Credible Guy"; Deputy A.G.: DOJ Investigation Into Trump Won't Stop If He Declares 2024 Run; Secret Service Gives Thousands Of Docs To January 6 Committee, But Hasn't Found Potentially Missing Texts. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 19, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: There are also these new photos, giving us another view of Europa, and two other moons. And, in another image, you can see Jupiter's hard-to-see rings.

It's proof that Webb can pick up pale objects, while also capturing detail on bright fast-moving objects, both of which, will come in handy, as it explores Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Laura Coates, and CNN TONIGHT.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Thanks, Anderson. And thank you all.

I am Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

So, look, guess what? The missing texts, from Secret Service, from January 5th and January 6th, they are still missing. And no, they have not been handed over to the January 6th committee. And now, the National Archives wants answers, about what they call the quote- unquote, "Potential unauthorized deletion."

Now, forget about Trump's closest advisers. Secret Service was omnipresent. Full stop! So, those texts, written by the agents, who would have been, by necessity, in the rooms, where it happened, could be the key, to the investigation, as the testimony, of course, of them themselves as well, giving evidence about the coordination, of Trump's plans, leading up to and on the day, of the riot, about who spoke to the president that day, who also was in the room, where things were happening, and what the President might have told them.

Maybe communications about what exactly was happening, inside of the White House, over those nearly 187 minutes, well over three hours, filling in the gaps, gaps between when Donald Trump, told his supporters, to go to the Capitol, and when he tweeted a video, to the rioters, telling them that he loved them, and to go home.

Now, we know that's the very focus, of Thursday's primetime hearing. And we have someone, tonight, who knows the people, who were in the White House, with then-President Trump, during those three hours. And he knows them quite well.

Trump's former acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, will join me, in just a moment.

He knows Matthew Pottinger, one of Trump's Deputy National Security Advisers, who is scheduled to testify, on primetime night, Thursday. And he is still in contact, with some of the people, who were in Trump's orbit, on that very day. Suffice to say, each one of these moments is very critical, every single moment of any failure to act.

But I want to zone in for a moment on a key one. That's the moment, I mean, it was 2:24 PM, the moment that Trump sent out this tweet. I mean, it's up on your screen. But I don't have to read it to you.

I'll let this rioter do it.


VOICE OF CAPITOL RIOTER: Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.


COATES: That was outside of the Capitol.

Well, this was inside.




COATES: And the reaction, from the Oval Office, hearing chants of "Hang Mike Pence!?" Well, here's Cassidy Hutchinson, retelling a conversation, about Trump's reaction, to it.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WH CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: Mark had responded something to the effect of, "You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong."


COATES: Deserved what, exactly? I mean, keep in mind, there were gallows being built outside, and chants of hanging, the person, who was the next in line of succession.

Unless you think Trump wasn't aware at all, of the violence, at the Capitol, in that moment, as we were all watching it unfold? Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): The testimony further establishes that Mr. Meadows quickly informed the President, and that he did so, before the President issued his 2:24 PM tweet, criticizing Vice President Pence.


COATES: Mark Meadows, as in Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Well, Trump's former Deputy Press Secretary, Sarah Matthews, is also going to testify, on Thursday, apparently. Now, remember, she already testified to this.


VOICE OF SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WH DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The situation was already bad. And so, it felt like he was pouring gasoline, on the fire, by tweeting that.


COATES: And Matthew Pottinger, that former Deputy National Security Adviser? He testified that he resigned because of that tweet.


MATT POTTINGER, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That's where I knew that I was leaving that day, once I read that tweet.


COATES: I'm wondering what other holes Pottinger might be able to fill in, now that we won't have access, at least by Thursday, Secret Service text messages. What else can you tell us, about what was happening, in those rooms, in those hallways? Maybe you can speak to Trump's alleged failure, to call up the National Guard.

I mean, this is from Jonathan Karl's book, called "Betrayal," where he says "Pottinger... could see Trump wasn't there. He was still in his private dining room watching television while the Capitol was being ransacked by his supporters... After several minutes, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows rushed by.


Pottinger stopped him and asked if it was true that the White House was blocking the deployment of the National Guard. Meadows said the report was false. "I have given very clear instructions to" the Guard - "to get the Guard over there to control the situation," Meadows told him, and then rushed back in to see Trump."

Now, let's be very clear. There is no evidence that we've seen yet that the President actively delayed the Guard's deployment.

But we do know that according to Joint Chiefs Chairman, Mark Milley, it was Pence, who issued the order, even though Milley was told to say that it was Trump, who gave the version of the Code Red. And the Guard didn't show up until 5:20 PM, according to the Select Committee. For those of you, trying to keep track of this timeline, at home, yes, that's nearly three hours, after that tweet.

Pottinger and Matthews, they both resigned, on January 6th. So too, by the way, did Mick Mulvaney, Trump's former acting Chief of Staff, who was at the time Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.


COATES: Mick, thank you, for joining us, tonight.

It's interesting, because we're on the cusp, frankly, of the January 6th primetime hearing event. We're learning, of course, that one of the witnesses, in fact, two of them, are people, you might actually know, or at least the nature of their positions, in particular.

I'm talking about Matt Pottinger, and also Sarah Matthews, both former colleagues of yours. Give us a sense, about what roles, they would have been playing, in the White House, to kind of hone in, on why their testimony, might be so impactful.


I'd have to guess a little bit. Because they're, in my mind, they're somewhat unusual people.

Sarah was a - makes sense. She's in the communication shop. She's in the press shop. And she would be interacting with the President, relatively frequently, especially on a big media day, like January 6th. So, it makes sense that she would be testifying, or that she may have seen something.

The press shop is right around the corner, from the Oval Office. The proximity is considerable. So, the fact that she might have seen something, or heard something, directly, makes some sense.

Matt Pottinger is a different story. I know Matt. Matt was there, when I was in the Chief of Staff's office. The young lady was not. And Matt is a Deputy National Security Adviser. He's an Asia-China specialist.

He's a very unusual sort of witness. When I saw his name pop up, I said to myself, "What - why was Matt even involved in this?" Now, it may be that he was filling in, for Robert O'Brien, on that particular day. As the Chief Deputy, he would do that. So, it'd be curious to see what he saw, and what his vantage point was, because his office isn't anywhere near the Oval Office.

So, it'd be curious to see what both of these folks have to say. They're very interesting witnesses, in my mind, for the last hearing, and the primetime hearing, because of their distance from the President.

COATES: Obviously, this is a committee that has two very prominent Republicans. I know they're named as RINOs, at this point in time. Congresswoman Liz Cheney and, of course, Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

But do you perceive this committee as really just a Democratic committee, and a partisan one? Or more of a bipartisan effort, to uncover the truth?

MULVANEY: I don't describe it as partisan or bipartisan. It's anti- Trump. It just is, regardless of whether or not the people in there are Democrats or Republicans.

There's nobody, defending the President, from the podium. There's nobody defending the President, in the interview room. There's nobody defending the President, when the folks give testimony. So that's what I say, when I say it's the Democrats.

It's, I wish very much that Nancy Pelosi had seated the Republicans that Kevin McCarthy had asked for. I think, in a roundabout sort of way, it would have accomplished more of what Pelosi wanted to accomplish here, which is, I think, more people would have watched these hearings, if Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs, were on the committee. And, I think, those people needed to see some of the testimony, about how Trump really lost the election, in 2020.

But because of the way it shook out, with Nancy Pelosi, rejecting some of Kevin McCarthy's requested Republicans that it turned off half the country. And I think that's unfortunate. I think everybody would have benefited, from watching this testimony, over the course of the last seven hearings.

COATES: Jonathan Karl reported that Matthew Pottinger rushed to the outer Oval Office, just before about 3 PM, on January 6th, and had an interaction, of some kind, with Mark Meadows, asked him about the National Guard, in particular, and he drafted his resignation, after that interaction, and also seeing Trump's tweet, about Mike Pence, and the lack of courage, et cetera.

Does that square with the Matt Pottinger, you know?

MULVANEY: It does. Matt's a very credible guy. He's a very honest guy.

I think Matt had not been one of the most pro-Trump people, going into 2016. But that doesn't - that describes a lot of Republicans, if they had worked for another Republican, during the 2016 election.

So, he wouldn't be hardcore-Trump, to me. But he certainly supported the President, and worked for the administration, for several years. But if he saw something that day that encouraged him to, or forced him, to resign, much as I did? I respect that.


He has no reason to lie. Matt Pottinger was probably off, professionally, to just sort of sail off in the sunset, and continue to do a lot of his academic work. It doesn't benefit him, by coming forward, at this point, and saying, "I have something to say." It's probably bad for his career to do this, because of the public attention that it's going to get. So, I think that if Matt says something tomorrow, under oath, I will believe it, or at least I'll put a great deal of credibility, on that, until somebody else, comes forward, and says something else, while they're under oath. So, no, Matt's a very credible guy. And it will be curious to see what he's got to say.

COATES: Well, this coming Thursday will be this primetime hearing. And I'm curious as to what you make of Mark Meadows' behavior, as it's been described, so far, from Cassidy Hutchinson that he was essentially texting or thumbing through his text messages.

You can't tell, if she's describing him as more aloof, or disengaged, or somehow demoralized, or just completely disregarding, what's happening, there, at the Capitol, and in the White House.

But what do you make of the conduct of - that's the Chief of Staff, on January 6th, not being able to go to the President, and convince the President, of anything, or just weigh in, in a significant way?

MULVANEY: Yes. Actually, the thing that caught my attention, during Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, when I first started paying attention, really closely, to these hearings, I've been watching them, but not really deep-diving, into them, was when she said something that I doubt many other people paid attention to, which is that she said the President was very upset, about not being able to go to the Capitol, when he was in the limousine, because Mark Meadows told him that he was.

And what that told me was that the Chief of Staff had failed in the very first part of the job, which is the Chief of Staff gets paid, to tell the President things that he doesn't want to hear. If you cannot tell the President of the United States, something that he does not want to hear, you have failed in that job.

And when Cassidy mentioned that, that's when my ears perked up, and said, "Oh, my goodness gracious! What was going on in that West Wing?" And the testimony that she gave after that sort of reinforced that Mark had lost control that Mark was not comfortable, telling the President, things, he didn't want to hear that Mark had sort of disengaged.

COATES: You had friends in the room, where this was happening. People, who were around Mark Meadows that very day, I believe. What was their impression of Mark Meadows' behavior, his demeanor, in that moment?

MULVANEY: Yes, I was actually texting back and forth, some friends of mine, who were still in the building. Of course, I was gone by then, on January 6th. But they were in the building, on January 6th.

I was texting back and forth with them, during Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony. And I said, "Was Mark just completely incompetent, or was he having a nervous breakdown?" And the response, the person gave me, was that it was a little bit of both.

Again, that's based on Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony. It's based on the tweet, from somebody, who was there. There's no hard evidence of that yet. We're unlikely to get Mark Meadows' side of the story, because it looks like he's not going to testify. And, I think, that's unfortunate.

But if you have a Chief of Staff, who's detached, who's sitting on the sofa, all day, tweeting, while Rome burns? That is a sign of a broken White House.

And while the President is ultimately responsible, for his own actions, and the President's ultimately responsible for the people that he hires, the Chief of Staff has a great deal to do, when it comes to the responsibility, for how a West Wing is run.

COATES: Now, Mick, you're uniquely positioned, and qualified, to talk about how the West Wing, under Trump, would have run, as Chief of Staff, and the ideas of how that would go down.

Given your experience, what would it have been like, in those moments, to try to talk to Donald Trump, the President of the United States, at that time, about what was happening? What would it take - would have been Herculean efforts? Or would it have taken a receptive audience?

MULVANEY: It would have depended, Laura, on the relationship, up to that point.

If there had been a track record, of going to the President, and saying, "Mr. President, we need to talk about this. This is wrong. We got a problem with this," "Mr. President, this hurt us a little bit today," "Mr. President, we have to fix this," then that groundwork gets laid, and the President is used to hearing that, from somebody. Ideally, it would be the Chief of Staff.

If the history, up to January 6th, is "Oh, Mr. President, things are great. What would you like to do now? Oh, that's great. That's fabulous. Everything is wonderful. Yes, no, it's not a problem," then it's very difficult, to change gears, in a critical moment, to say, "Mr. President, you lost the election," "Mr. President, we can't be doing this rally," "Mr. President, this is a problem," "Mr. President, we could be in trouble with this."

That's very difficult, to shift gears, like that, if the foundation is not set, and the relationship is not set. If the President doesn't expect the Chief of Staff, to tell him stuff, he doesn't want to hear? He's unlikely to be listening to it, if it comes, at a very late moment.


COATES: Our conversation, with Mick Mulvaney, continues. He may have had lost interest, in being part of the Trump White House. But the question is, would he support, putting Trump, back in the White House, say, in 2024? That's coming up.



COATES: Welcome back.

The Secret Service, today, turned over thousands of documents, to the January 6th committee, as part of a subpoena that was issued, to the agency, last week. But a Secret Service official tells CNN that none of those thousands of documents included those missing text messages, sent on the day, prior to and on January 6th.

Now, the agency insists that the records were lost, during a phone migration program, and they're still working on recovering those messages. Now, whether or not they were improperly and purposely deleted is now the key question that several federal agencies, including the National Archives, definitely wants answered.

So, how does Mick Mulvaney see it? Here's the rest of our interview.


COATES: We're learning a lot about the idea that Secret Service text messages have seemed to have gone poof, in the night. They're not able to retrieve certain aspects of them, from January 5th, and of course January 6th.


There was supposed to be some sort of a data migration. The onus was on the Secret Service, to upload, to some sort of internal server. That did not happen. Overwhelmingly, we're learning more and more about.

What do you make of the fact that we're not going to be seeing text messages that seemed to have gone away, from those dates, in particular?

MULVANEY: Yes. I'm not quick to sort of ascribe guilt, or at least underhandedness, here. Secret Service is a bureaucracy, just like any bureaucracy is, and they make mistakes, like this. This happens, all the time, unfortunately, in the federal government.

And I do happen to know - I had a federal - I had a Secret Service detail, for about a year and a half. Some of the best and most honest and highest integrity people I know sort of, are attracted to that part of - that area of service.

So, I will be slow to sort of see something underhanded, here, until I see something more than what we've got. It certainly looks bad. There's no question about it. You'd love to have everything out in the open.

Of course, the Secret Service has said, number one that, they have been cooperating, with the January 6th committee, from the very beginning. I've not heard anybody say anything to the contrary. I think they've released several 100,000 emails, and other communications, from January 5th, and January 6th.

So, while it looks bad, I encourage people to sort of take a deep breath, on this one, before we ascribe any sort of guilt, here. Keep in mind, the Inspector General, who reported this, was actually a Trump appointee. And, by the time, February rolled around, the folks, running DHS, which runs Secret Service, were Biden appointees. So, this doesn't fall neatly, into any sort of category.

I don't see a conspiracy, yet. I don't see anything underhanded, yet. But certainly, it bears investigation. Because you can't do that. You can't not - not disclose information. The government has to be entirely transparent, every chance it gets.

COATES: Keeping an open mind, in Washington D.C., well that might be Herculean, after all, Mick. I haven't heard that before, I have to tell you. But, as you mentioned, full circle.

This committee you believe is anti-Trump. It seems that their focus, is to ensure that the American public, through transparency, no longer believe that he could be the viable President of United States, if he were to run for reelection, yet again. We don't know if he intends to do that.

But if he is, in fact, the RNC nominee, do you intend to vote for him?

MULVANEY: I've answered that question, this way, which is that I'm one of those Republicans, who hope the President - former President Trump doesn't run. In all fairness, we don't need him anymore. He changed our party.

We will have a lot of folks, a new generation of folks, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, go down the list of folks, who could give us, the same policies, the same energy, the same defensive, the middle-class that Donald Trump gave us, without the baggage.

I mean, face it, as a Republican, I'm sitting here tonight, thinking myself, "Well, if the election were today, and Joe Biden, was the nominee, for the Democrats, or Kamala Harris, or Gavin Newsom? There's probably only one mainstream Republican, who could lose. And that's Donald Trump."

But knowing, what I know, now, I'd be really hard-pressed to support Donald Trump, again.

COATES: Well, obviously, your thought of the Republican Party no longer needing Donald Trump, might not be the view of millions of people, who did vote for him, as part of his base. So, if he ultimately decides that "I intend to run, and none of the other people do," you'll have quite a choice on your hands, whether to vote for him.

MULVANEY: Yes. Keep in mind, I think we've moved beyond that.

I think we've moved beyond Donald Trump clearing the field. I think that is one thing that the January 6th committee has accomplished. Don't know if that's what they want to accomplish. I sort of thought they wanted to crime - bring criminal charges, or encourage the Department of Justice, to bring criminal charges. I don't see that yet.

But to the extent, they wanted to wound, him, politically, I think that's happened. There's been some polling data out recently that, for the first time, say that a majority of Republican primary voters, would prefer somebody, other than Donald Trump. That's a big change, over the course of the last six weeks or eight weeks.

Eight weeks ago, I doubt very seriously that any top-tier Republicans, again, Pence, Pompeo, Tim Scott, DeSantis, were considering, running for president. I think now, many of them are. I think, Nikki Haley, even today, hinted that she might run, in a speech that she gave in Israel. So, I think that is something that has changed over the course of the last six weeks, eight weeks. And it's changed, because of the committee.

So again, I think they were out to sort of get him, and try and throw him, in jail. I don't think that was ever going to happen. I certainly don't think it's going to happen, based upon the evidence that we've seen now.

But if they wanted to damage him, to the point, where he might not win, or might not run? I think that that may be an outcome of these hearings.

COATES: Wow! Well, to paraphrase, you hold, "Great Taste Less Filling," it sounds like same policies, less drama, would be the way to go, in your book.

Mick Mulvaney. Thank you so much.

MULVANEY: Thanks, Laura.


COATES: Critics, of these hearings, claim that they're a waste of time, with nothing new to show. But I have someone here, who served on legal teams, in both impeachments, against Trump, including the one, for what happened, on January 6th.

I'm wondering, what does he see, from the committee's work, and what will he be watching for, Thursday night? That's next.



COATES: So, one question hangs, pretty well, over the January 6th hearings. Will any of the evidence, lead the Justice Department, to indict Trump?

You heard a statement, from Mick Mulvaney, just before the break, about what his expectations were, or were not. I mean, admittedly, it's an unprecedented prospect, an idea that would normally be unheard of.

But then, again, when it comes to what we've seen, over the past, I don't know, six years to eight years, perhaps, it's been quite unprecedented. I mean, Donald Trump often entered uncharted waters. He was the first U.S. president, to be impeached, not once, but twice, and the first president to, well, incite, as they say, an attack, on the U.S. Capitol.

We'll get some perspective now, from Barry Berke, the Chief Counsel for Trump's second impeachment trial that was the result of January 6th.

Barry, good to see you here.

I'm curious, about your perspective, in particular, because of the fact that some have really been critical, of the hearing, of the committee, in general. They view it as a second bite at the Apple, a failed attempt at the impeachment number two. Now, this is the new avenue to do this.

I'm curious as to what your take has been, about what the committee has been able to produce. Specifically, are there things that you wish you could have known, or had, for the impeachment, involving January 6th?



And I have to tell you, it's very gratifying to me, as Chief Impeachment Counsel, for the second impeachment, to see what the committee has been able to do.

You will feel very proud about the case of the evidence, we presented, to establish Donald Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors. We showed how he perpetuated the lie that the election was stolen, summoned the crowd, incited them, and then refused to act and, in fact, encouraged them on.

And what the committee hearing has shown is the power of having congressional subpoenas that can be enforced with an independent Department of Justice that was prepared to hold witnesses in contempt, like Steve Bannon, and others.

That forced all these other insiders, who had first-hand information, to come forward and testify. And once they did, that, they were going to tell the truth, or else they'd be committing a crime.

So, I am in awe of the great work that committee did. Those witnesses were not prepared to voluntarily come forward, at the time of the impeachment. But they were compelled.

They came forward, and have provided compelling evidence that fully supports everything we did, in the impeachment, and goes beyond that, and raises questions, about Donald Trump's criminal intent, and whether he could or should be prosecuted, for the acts that he did. So, I watch it with-- COATES: The truth--

BERKE: --again, appreciation, and gratification, of how it supported, what we did.

COATES: Well, do you think that he should and will be held accountable, this time, knowing that there is arguably, there's more information has come out, from these hearings, than it did from the impeachment?

Obviously, the impeachment trial was shortly thereafter, January 6th. We're now more than a year after. And we have a thousand witnesses, who have probably been tested - who've been given depositions, at some point, in time, with this committee.

Do you think that now, given the breadth of what we've seen, is there enough, not just for the high crimes and misdemeanors? That's sort of passed. But the idea of actual trials or actual charges, against Donald Trump, or anyone else, in his direct orbit?

BERKE: Laura, what I will tell you is I have had clients, as a criminal defense lawyer, who have been prosecuted, for a shadow, of the evidence, against Donald Trump.

There is overwhelming evidence that he took steps to interfere with the election. And now there's equal amount of evidence about his criminal intent that he knew what he was doing was wrong, when he told the senior leadership of the Department of Justice, "Just say there's fraud. Leave the rest to me."

So, I do believe in the principle that no person is above the law. And if the evidence is there, they should be prosecuted. But most importantly, it's the deterrent value that often determines whether cases are brought.

And here, there's an incredible incentive, to bring this case, for that reason. There are people, who are not only saying that they're going to interfere with future elections. They're running for public office, with that campaign promise.

So, the Department has an obligation, to send the message, "If you engage in crimes, to interfere with the most important principle, underlying our democracy, free and fair elections? You will be prosecuted, regardless if you're elected public official, present, or former."

COATES: Well, that would be the theme, no one being above the law.

And you're right, there are campaigns whose entire platform, is about this very notion, in positions that will actually oversee elections, across this country. It's arguable, and wondering whether or not Merrick Garland will actually go forward, with those, in full scope, at this point in time.

But I'm wondering, about timing, in particular. One of the things that sort of hung over the impeachment trial, against Donald Trump, about January 6th, was the idea of timing.

In that case, it was about the fact that it was an outgoing president. Should you still have an impeachment for somebody who will no longer be in office momentarily?

Now, the question is about timing, when it comes to DOJ, in terms of this rule that is in the Justice Department, where they don't want to be seen, as interfering, in any way, with upcoming elections. They have a certain sort of cut-off date, before they believe the public will perceive their investigations or announcements thereof, in a way that would impact the elections.

Listen to what Lisa Monaco, the Deputy A.G., had to say, about the question of whether they will continue to investigate, knowing that that sort of Sword of Damocles, and timing is ahead of them.


LISA MONACO, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're going to continue to do our job, to follow the facts, wherever they go, no matter, where they lead, no matter to what level.

And we're going to continue to do our job, to investigate, what was fundamentally, an attack, on our democracy.


COATES: When you hear that, what do you think that this is a saying that they're going to continue with any investigation, even if it means someone like Trump, who's not on the ballot? Or is it something more broad?

BERKE: I think they're going to continue with the investigation, and bring the charges, when appropriate. But what they won't do is let an election interfere with their decision-making.

They won't rush it. They shouldn't delay it. But they should be aware they don't want to do something short of bringing charges that could have an effect on the election that's unintended.

COATES: Really important point, Barry Berke. Thank you so much.

So, the question now is where are the Secret Service text messages, from on and around January 6th? Where did they go? Select Committee thought they were going to get them today. And what is the Service now saying?

Well, the questions are growing. And political and legal pros are going to try to help me answer them, next.



COATES: So, here's a question. What happens, if Secret Service's, their text messages, from January 5th and January 6th, are never recovered? Will it hurt the Insurrection investigation? And will anyone be published - I mean, punished for that?

Let's discuss now with former Democratic senator, and U.S. attorney, Doug Jones. Former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu. And former RNC Communications Director, Doug Heye.

I'm so glad you're all here.

First of all, I'm wondering when you think about these Secret Service text messages, the fact that, I mean, of all the days, kind of the Casablanca thing, of all the days, in the entire world, these are the ones that seem to have gone away? What do you make of this?

Mick Mulvaney said, "I'm not going to read into anything nefarious, just yet." I noticed the word, "Yet."

But skeptics, are you there?

DOUG JONES, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I'm skeptical about, you know, regardless of what, you know, Mick Mulvaney also said that, Nancy Pelosi removed all the Republicans, off the committee. And she didn't. Kevin McCarthy did that.

So, look, I think you have to have a healthy dose of skepticism here. It's either something nefarious, or pure incompetence, in which heads need to roll.

Everybody knows that those text messages should have been preserved. It is a document that should have been preserved. They should have prepared for that, and planned on that. And I'm assuming that they did. And so, how, we don't know. I think there's a lot of questions here.


COATES: Is it - are we putting too much emphasis though on? I mean, obviously, the people, who typed the text, the thumbs are still there, right? We know that people. "What did you write? What did you text? What did you actually say to one another?" You could ask that question. Is that kind of much to do about this form over substance?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think that's really important point. I mean, they have to do those kinds of--

COATES: Well, thank you, Shan.

WU: They really have to. Spoken like a true former prosecutor! If you're doing the investigation, you'd be talking to those thumbs.

They have to do that, because they may never get those messages. I mean, I find it hard to believe, in this day and age that something can really be wiped that way. But the Secret Service seems like they're able to do that. So, they need to talk to the people.

The sort of the gibberish that was coming out from the Secret Service today saying that they are not sure that that data has been lost, or that data wasn't lost, like how do you even know, which messages were lost, if you're saying, you can't find them? So that's very confusing.

DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: And when Mulvaney was talking about the bond that he would have, with his Secret Service agents, whether that's on Capitol Hill, with security details, or those, who get Secret Service protection? That's a very real bond.

But it doesn't change the fact that this has been a troubled organization, the Secret Service, for several years now. Karen Lanning's (ph) book has especially documented a series of blunders, and mistakes, and ignorable - ignoring of problems that they have. So, this doesn't immediately pass the smell test.

And then, you have the other problem, which is Donald Trump's candidacy, and Donald Trump's presidencies, from day one, didn't pass the smell test. And a lot of Republicans were willing to go along, as far as January 6th, or beyond, or at least when they saw that it was all over.

But Trump started in a place of dishonesty. And we come to where the very things that we may need to see, just happen to be disappeared. It doesn't pass the smell test.


JONES: But Laura, let's not put too much emphasis on this. I mean, these are text messages. They're not court reporters, taking down everything that was seen and heard.

They're talking about security. But the odds are, they're also talking about their kids, or what - when the hell they're going to get away, or somebody said something stupid, another agent. Think about how people use text messages today, even when you're on the job.

So, in every trial, in every investigation, there's always holes. We always see it, every time. There's always some gaps. So, I don't think we need to put all the evidences, on this that this is going to make or break your case, because I don't believe it is.

There may be some just absolutely dynamite stuff in there, which would bolster a case. But I think the fact that they're not there, I don't think, is going to hurt the case.

COATES: Not to mention, I mean, we've all seen in the past, when Congress was interviewing, and having a hearing, for some of the social media giants, and they need to basically have a vocabulary glossary for it.

It's probably going to be a lot of acronyms, LOLs, et cetera, in there, maybe, or maybe not. But again, you can always ask the person.

The real question for me is, on Thursday, we're going to have, in primetime, which you already tell me - you tell me, primetime is happening? My expectations are already through the roof.

HEYE: Right. COATES: Which is always a dangerous thing. Because, I think, primetime, you're ready to show me something. I'm going to sit back. I'm waiting to be shown something.

I wonder, because the last hearing, we saw, was about the idea of, I'm going to connect the dots, between these extremist groups, and Donald Trump, and the administration. And, in a way, there was the over- promising, the under-delivering, on that notion.

But will this be something? What do you want to hear? What are you waiting to hear, in this last hearing? Is there something you're thinking, "God, if I were doing this? I'd want this." What is that nugget?

JONES: I don't - I'm not expecting anything. I'm not waiting to see anything.

What I'm waiting for them to do is just to complete the investigation, finish it up. And I think the way to finish that up, with the way that they have set forth this entire thing - it's been well done. I mean, the way that they have moved, from one subject to the next.

The last part of this is what was going on inside the White House, as this was happening. And I think that that's all that that's going to be. And, I think, your people are going to be shocked.

But I think we've already heard a lot of that. We've seen the tweets. We've seen other things. I'm not sure there'll be a ton of blockbuster. But there might be something there to surprise. But it's going to be the completion. It's going to be the final chapter of what the committee has done.

COATES: And then, of course, the report, right? You're not going to have the ultimate--

JONES: Right.

COATES: --being as a trial attorneys, the idea of not to leave you out, Doug, as has--

HEYE: It's OK.

COATES: --trial attorney, trial attorney. I'm glad you're here too. But the--

HEYE: Leave me out of the legal here.

COATES: --but the idea of, this is not a time you're going to ask for a verdict, at the end of it, where you're going to know, right now, what the--

JONES: Right.

COATES: --what the people think.

But Mick Mulvaney, we'll talk more about this, seem to think that the verdict essentially was to clear the way, for other RNC nominees. I'm not sure that's going to be the case. But what do you think?

WU: Well, I think I would never agree with Mick Mulvaney, on anything. However, I would say that--

COATES: Well, there you have it.

WU: Yes.


WU: The closing part of this hearing, at least, for now, in primetime, it's not going to put the prosecutorial nail, in the coffin, on Trump.


And they are a congressional committee. And it's going to end on that political note, which is to really point out, what he was thinking, and have people saying that he didn't want to do anything. And I think that does end on a very strong important fact-finding note. But it's political. It's not going to be a prosecutorial final note.

COATES: Guess what, we're going to come back to, Doug Heye. He's like, "Ooh! I think I have something to say, about this very issue."

HEYE: I was thinking!

COATES: Stick around, everyone.

Because, coming up, all of the fake Trump electors, in one state, who were part of a plan, to subvert the will of the voters? Well, they just got put on notice. And if I were any of them, well, maybe I'd be looking for a lawyer, ASAP.

Plus, the Steve Bannon contempt trial, he's letting his lawyer do the talking, inside the courtroom. But outside? No. His gums are flapping. He's making up his own witness wish list, and you'd be surprised who's actually on it!

Right back, with that, in just a moment.


COATES: So, all 16, yes, 16, of the fake electors, in Georgia, who were part of the plan, to overturn the 2020 election, on behalf of Donald Trump, are now targets, in a criminal investigation, tonight. That's according to the Fulton County, Georgia prosecutors, looking into Trump's election interference, in the state.

So, does this mean they're closer to deciding on criminal charges? And is the probe drawing any closer to Donald Trump, himself?

Back with me now, Doug Jones, Shan Wu, and Doug Heye.

I start here, because you think about the ways, in which Georgia, you know this, Doug--

HEYE: Yes.


COATES: --pretty unique, in terms of all of the sort of states that have had discussions, around the lies, around the election. Georgia didn't seem to be buying it, when it came to, obviously, Perdue versus Kemp, Kemp did not have that angle.

HEYE: Yes.

COATES: Is this an example of there being the Trump fatigue that Mick Mulvaney was talking about? The idea of "Look, he sort of cleared the way for others because they're not buying anymore. They don't want to deal with it."

HEYE: Yes, what we see, when Donald Trump goes all-in, for a candidate, is it guarantees him about a third of the vote. And then the rest of it is up to those candidates.

And what you had was a popular governor, who took on Trump, on one thing, but otherwise, was very firmly in line with, by and large, Trump policies, against somebody who had not only lost their Senate race, so in Donald Trump's parlance, a loser, but somebody, who ran a terrible campaign, and had lost two years, earlier, with some help from Trump.

Republicans are trying to inch away from Donald Trump. They know they can't run from him.

But what you hear, on Capitol Hill, privately, sometimes, in a very coded language, sentence or two, by Mitch McConnell, something that suggests Republicans, moving forward to 2024, can do other things.

And that's where you're seeing more and more Ron DeSantises. Tim Scott's got a book coming out. A lot of those people that Mick Mulvaney talked about, who all want to run.

And politicians are often self-interested. Big shock! Getting Trump out of the way would help.

COATES: No offense to you, former senator. We don't mean you. We don't.

JONES: Yes, not but--

HEYE: Often. Not always.

COATES: Everyone, but you.

JONES: None of those - none of those people are condemning Trump's actions, though. They're still wrapping themselves with Trump.

Every candidate out there, in Alabama and everywhere else, they're wrapping themselves in Trump, and saying that, the election was stolen, and they're not condemning what they've heard out. It's just nothing but crickets, coming from Capitol Hill, on the actions that were took--

HEYE: Yes.

JONES: --and the threat to democracy that we saw. And that, I think, is a real tragedy.

HEYE: Yes. What you hear privately--

JONES: I mean, like real tragedy.

HEYE: --and what you hear publicly is unless they're Liz Cheney, or Adam Kinzinger, often mirror images of what reality is.


COATES: I always hear that. And I can tell you, as somebody, from the electorate, and thinking about the idea of the public versus the private conversations, I associate those, who sort of shirk away, publicly, as the shrinking violets, who wouldn't be asking for the chance to lead.

If you want to be a member of Congress, I always think to myself, "Well, maybe you should be the person, who, consequences be damned." And that's naive, perhaps, in the way of Washington, D.C. You're shaking your head.

But the idea of, why do you think still, at all this time in, there is the reluctance, to say publicly, about just something as basic as what Mick Mulvaney even had to say? The idea of "Look, there's a fatigue."

JONES: Because of what Doug just said that there's 30 percent of the people out there that regardless of what you say, is going to be a Trump voter, and they're going to be there for him, and they're going to defend him at all costs.

And every one of those politicians do not want to alienate that 30 percent of the vote. And that's why you got all of that list that Mick talked about. Not a single one of them has condemned the actions of Donald Trump, and what happened before, during and after.

They have talked about, and said, "It's time to move on." But hell, everybody says that. "It's time to move on," that when you know, you've got a problem, you say, "We don't need to look at the past. We need to look forward."

Folks need to step up, and they need to put this country first, and start talking about democracy, and wrapping themselves, in that flag, instead of the Donald Trump flag of silence.

COATES: Well, you know, who wasn't silent today, was Steve Bannon, on the courthouse steps, right? I mean, he was looking for a microphone. He found one.

There was this moment, when he tried to call out Bennie Thompson, and others, to say, "Come on now. You're the next contestant on the," I don't know, "The Partisan is Right." Here it is.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Bennie Thompson sent a staffer over here. Where is Bennie Thompson? We subpoena Thompson, and they're hide behind these phony privileges.

He's too gutless, to come over here himself. He's made it a crime, made it a crime, not a civil charge, of wanting my testimony, but a crime. And he didn't have the courage, or guts, to show up here, and he sent a staffer.

I challenge Bennie Thompson today, to have the courage, to come to this courthouse. If he's going to charge somebody with a crime, he's going to be man enough, to show up here.


COATES: Well, we all understand (ph) that Bennie Thompson, I think, has COVID, right now. But there's also the idea of that statement.

Shan, Bennie Thompson is not prosecuting anyone. He's in a different branch of the government entirely, right?

WU: Right. And I think that a deal was cut there, between Bannon, and his lawyer, which was his lawyer said, "Look, you really got to keep a lid on it, in the courtroom. Let me do the talking. But I'll let you chat some, on the courtroom steps."

COATES: You know the lawyer, right?

WU: I know the lawyer.

COATES: You used to work with him, at our same office?

WU: Right, right.

COATES: And - but, so isn't it surprising you that he's that vocal outside? I mean, certainly the judge is going to be - judge is a Trump appointee.

WU: Yes.

COATES: The judge is going to know that they're talking on the courthouse steps, at some point, right?

WU: Right.

COATES: That's not going to offend the judge, or get him in trouble?

WU: Oh, I think it will. I'm a little bit surprised, the judge didn't basically tell them, "Don't talk outside the courtroom." I think that is problematic for him. I think Bannon's probably a very difficult client, to control, though.


COATES: That was the understatement of the year! I want to tell you about what might be said. What do you think?

JONES: Look, I think it's a mistake, always, to let a client, speak to the media, especially like that.

And what was so bizarre to me, listening to Steve Bannon, is that he challenged, and he said that Bennie Thompson, didn't have the guts to show up at court.

Steve Bannon didn't have the guts enough to show up in front of Congress, pursuant to a lawful subpoena. He just basically thumbed his nose - he didn't have the guts, enough.

He didn't have the courage. He can hide behind a microphone, for his podcast, and Breitbart? But he didn't have the guts enough, to stand in front of a committee, and be questioned, about what he did.

COATES: As they say, "Details! Details!" about the facts of life!

And since I did reference "Price is Right," I should remind the population to have your pets spayed or neutered, as he says, at the end of every single show. Yes, I used to watch with you, grandma! Thank you so much!

Doug Jones, Shan Wu, Doug Heye, thank you everyone.

We'll be right back.


COATES: Hey, thanks for watching, everyone. I'll be back, tomorrow night.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

Hey, Don Lemon?


COATES: You were?