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CNN TONIGHT: Polls Close In Michigan, Kansas & Parts Of Arizona As Voters Cast Ballots In Five States; Garland Says DOJ Would Investigate Missing Texts If There Are Criminal Allegations; Atlanta Music Festival Canceled. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The news continues. Let's hand it over to Laura Coates and CNN TONIGHT.


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

I'm Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

And as they say with, what, 98 days to go, into the midterm elections, which is like tomorrow, or a long ways away, depending upon how you view politics, it's Election Night in America, once again.

The polls are now closed in Michigan, in Kansas, and parts of Arizona. Five States have primaries today, including key battlegrounds that could shape the race for which party will be the majority. Democrats, once again, or Republicans, yet again?

No, Donald Trump is not on the ballot. That's true. But he is casting a pretty big shadow, as he continues to endorse some. It's not always clear, I might add, who he is endorsing. But more on that in just a moment.

And the timing is going to be pretty interesting, here. I mean, it isn't just post January 6th. It's post the first series of January 6th hearings, about to see whether it actually impacted voters, and in which way it did.

It hasn't seemed to impact the platforms though of candidates, in several swing States. Some continue to echo the baseless fraud claims, and there's a whole slate of them, in Arizona, who are running for top positions, like Governor, and Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Senate, consequential officeholders, for those who maybe are running elections.

Also being closely watched the Senate race in Missouri. Trump's endorsed an Eric. OK, but which Eric, did you mean to endorse, sir? Rivals, Eric Greitens, and Eric Schmitt, will, they both claim that Trump meant them? And Trump, for his part, really has yet to clarify. I mean, even now, on Election Night. And it seems to be causing a lot of chaos, and some confusion, into an already tumultuous race.

Meanwhile, you got the fates of a trio of Republicans, who voted to impeach then President Trump, over the Insurrection. And their seats, well, they hang in the balance, tonight.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Chief National Correspondent, and Anchor of "Inside Politics." John King is at the Magic Wall.

Look, John, polls have already closed, in Missouri. So what can you tell us about the race, there?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: One of the Erics, Laura, is leading, in the Senate Republican primary. That would be the State Attorney General, Eric Schmitt. Only about 4 percent of the vote counted. So, we need to count a lot of votes tonight.

But Eric Schmitt, one of the Erics, is leading, with 40 percent of the vote, 41 percent, if you round up. Congresswoman Vicki Hartzler in second, with 27 percent. Eric Greitens, the former governor, who resigned, in disgrace, and amid scandal, is running at distant third, at the moment, at 17.2 percent. But again, a long way to go in the vote count.

You see a lot of yellow here. That's Congresswoman Hartzler. She's a Republican congresswoman, Laura. This is about where her district is out here. Some of these counties are out of her district, these to the south, these to the east. But the chunk of them right here, that's her congressional district. So, she's running strong at home, if you will. But a long way to go, as we count the votes here.

That we're even talking about this race is what is significant. This is a Republican-held seat. Roy Blunt is retiring. Republicans should hold it in November. Democrats think it's possible if Republicans have all that chaos you're talking about, it's possible to keep an eye on this one. But we'll keep counting votes.

COATES: I mean, who knew that the name Eric was the new Cher, John King? We have a one name now. That's the new thing. It's a new fad. I'm setting it up here.

You also have three congressional Republicans, who voted to impeach Trump. They're facing primary challenges, tonight. How are things looking for them?

KING: So, let's bring up the State of Michigan, where we have some votes, in one of those races. Two of them were out in Washington State. We don't get those results till later.

But right here, let me come right in here, just Grand Rapids, Michigan area, right here, again, results are early, only about 5 percent of the vote in.

But Peter Meijer is the incumbent. He is one of 10 House Republicans, who voted to impeach Donald Trump. Donald Trump has vowed to exact his vengeance, on him. Trump endorsed John Gibbs, the challenger, who has 63 percent of the vote, at the moment. You see a little, about 1,000 votes ahead. Again, this is only 5 percent of the votes, so we have a long way to count.

But as you watch this district fill in, Republicans around the country, watching this, tonight, to see even after the January 6th hearings, even out after all this damning testimony, from Donald Trump's own aides, and allies about that he knew it was a lie, do Republicans still want to punish those who voted to impeach him? We'll keep counting.

COATES: John King, stay close. Glad to have you here.

And here to help us pack all this in, and put it all into perspective are former Democratic congresswoman, Abby Finkenauer. Also, CNN Senior Political Analyst, Ron Brownstein. And former Special Assistant to George W. Bush, Scott Jennings.

We've got like - we've got Iowa. We've got California.


COATES: We've got Kentucky.


COATES: This is a focus group, in and of itself. People pay to have these moments here. So, let's talk about this moment here.

First of all, I wonder, I mean, what does it say that Trump still casts this very large shadow. Are his endorsements really that impactful? I wonder, sometimes, are we giving him too much credit? Do we overtalk about the influence he may have? I know the Eric thing is funny. But is it oversized?



If you've looked, where he's had the biggest amount of movement, in candidacies, take Ohio, for example, where J.D. Vance was sort of at third or fourth place. And he came in late and, I think, delivered the nomination, in Ohio, to J.D. Vance.

So, in Missouri, he's endorsed one Eric, or the other, or maybe both of them. And it's likely, I think, Schmitt will win. We'll see. We got a lot of votes, you have to count.

COATES: Right.

JENNINGS: Don't want to over-speculate, while we're counting them. But he'll obviously want to claim credit for this. Same thing, in Arizona, multi-candidate field, and he obviously came in for Blake Masters. So, I think, he does cast a big shadow. It's most helpful in bigger primaries. We've got lots of candidates, and people are trying to sort out, because a lot of these - and Ron knows.


JENNINGS: You've run. In these big primaries--

COATES: And you've won. I'm going to give you the credit.

JENNINGS: But - but--

COATES: You've run, and you've won.

JENNINGS: But in party primaries, a lot of the candidates, all saying the same thing. Same issue, same talk. So, when somebody comes in, that people trust or think they trust, and says, "This is my person," it can make a big difference.

COATES: I have a very serious question for you, Ron. I want to know which Eric, do we think, he was endorsing? I'm going to have a full screen here. I think these are the different people, who it possibly could be. And I'm wondering which of these people do you think?


COATES: It must be - is it Eric Holder? Is it Eric Cartman? I mean, it could be any one of them.



COATES: Clapton?



COATES: Eric Church is up here.



COATES: We're doing them all?

BROWNSTEIN: He hedged his bets. The point--

COATES: I didn't know that (ph).

BROWNSTEIN: To Scott's point, I think, looking at Trump's personal win-loss record is the wrong metric, because it's not only his like tap on the shoulder. It's the fact that he has reconfigured the Republican coalition, over these last six years, in a direction that makes it more likely, for Trump-style candidates to win. The party is more dependent on the kind of voters who respond to a Trump appeal, culturally conservative, non-urban, non-college, older, evangelical voters. And the kind of white collar culturally-moderate economically-conservative voters have been drifting away from the party.

So, the entire baseline, I mean, it's not only who Trump is endorsing. It's who's endorsing him. There are very few candidates anywhere in the country that are running and saying the party has got to move away from him. And I know Scott and I have had, I've argued about this before.


BROWNSTEIN: But the entire baseline has moved in a Trump direction. And that has implications, not only for the primaries, but as we'll talk about in a minute, for the general elections as well.

FINKENAUER: Yes. That's exactly right. And what I'm thinking about is less his impact on these particular candidates, and more so just his impact on the Republican Party, and what it says now, about the Republican Party, that these are who your people are.

I mean, regardless of which Eric we're talking about, in Missouri, they're both pretty terrible. I mean, they both believe the election was stolen. They believe, in conspiracies, and lies, and they peddle them, for their own personal gain. And that is who the Republican Party, sadly is, now.

COATES: You know?


COATES: On that point, I want you to - I want to play what Kari Lake had to say about the idea of--


COATES: --pushing the baseless claims. It's kind of a page out of what Trump said--


COATES: --more than a year ago now, about the idea of "If I should lose, here's what happened."


KARI LAKE, (R) ARIZONA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: The only way they can win is if they load up the voter rolls, with dead people, people who've moved, and imaginary friends.


COATES: So, when you hear that, of course, it's a bit of a deja vu. But the real issue, to me, as well, and Abby, this is your point about this is who the Republicans are.


COATES: I do wonder if that's going to backfire on, for Democratic voters, or for Republican voters, in the long run.

Because, there was a time, not too many years ago, when it was, "I need you to have a platform. And I'm going to go towards the platform," as opposed to, "I'm going to go towards not voting for someone in particular."

And I wonder if the focus is consistently on, "Look, these are the Republicans, it's who they are," as opposed to "Democrats, you're going to talk about the economy? Are you going to talk about the issues that matter to people?" I mean, is that a real concern?

FINKENAUER: Well, look, I mean, Democrats, you can have policy differences in a platform.

But what we're talking about, when we're talking about the Republican Party platform? They're literally changing it, like in States, in Arizona, where if you don't essentially believe that Trump won the election, you're not a Republican anymore. There is a very big difference, there. And again, it is really horrifying to watch this continue to happen.

And it's going to be on Democrats, do we educate voters enough to talk about how extreme this is, and where these folks have gone? Because it's not attached to reality anymore. And that's a terrifying thing.

We already have people in elected office, who believe, in these conspiracies, who are not attached to reality. And are we going to have more people like that, elected, and what does that mean for the future of our democracy, if they are?

COATES: I want to ask you, Scott, about reality. But you just told me that you have a pet pig now. So, I'm not really--

JENNINGS: Yes, yes that's true.


COATES: I don't know how tethered you are to reality, in this moment in time. But it's real. I'm giving you a hard time. But it's a cute story. But seriously, when I think about reality, I mean, is she right?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, my rebuttal to that is Republicans would argue that Democrats aren't tethered to reality, on the economy. I mean, they're passing a bill, right now--


JENNINGS: --in the Congress.

FINKENAUER: There is a difference here. JENNINGS: It says - it says we're going to reduce--

FINKENAUER: Which we--

JENNINGS: It says we're going to - we'll call it the Reduce Inflation Act.

FINKENAUER: Oh, come on!

JENNINGS: It doesn't reduce the inflation.


FINKENAUER: Come on! Come on!

JENNINGS: We've got tax increases now identifying as tax cuts or so. I mean, they're not tethered to reality, on the issues--


JENNINGS: --that matter to most people.

FINKENAUER: We're talking about--

JENNINGS: Everything she - everything she just said--

FINKENAUER: --democracy here.

JENNINGS: --everything--

FINKENAUER: And it's facts about an election.

BROWNSTEIN: Right, right.

FINKENAUER: We're talking about facts here, not policy differences.


FINKENAUER: Just, cold, hard facts about an election.

JENNINGS: You're not terribly familiar with my views on this.


JENNINGS: And there's a big difference, by the way.

FINKENAUER: No, no, no. And I respect--

JENNINGS: Between Eric Schmitt and Eric Greitens.

BROWNSTEIN: Well look?

JENNINGS: But the reality is--

COATES: Well hold on--

FINKENAUER: But Eric Schmitt--

JENNINGS: --this election is about the--


JENNINGS: This election is about the economy.

FINKENAUER: --traveled around the country.



COATES: I hear - I want to - hold on.

BROWNSTEIN: That story.

COATES: I want to - I want to hear all of you.


COATES: It's important the audience does, as well.


COATES: But I want to--


COATES: You poll in this all the time.

BROWNSTEIN: Right, so look? I mean--

COATES: What is the reality in the polls?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, by most objective measures, this should be a very rough election, for Democrats. The first midterm is always tough. 9 percent inflation has not been the case in 40 years. The President's approval rating is 40 percent. There's a lot of headwinds working at Democrats.

But I will say, as a declarative statement, if Democrats avoid the worst, in November, especially in Senate and governor's races, it will be because of what we are seeing tonight, which is that Republicans have the potential, to nominate too many candidates, who simply are not good fits, can't compete, and particularly in the white collar suburbs that have been moving away from the party in 2018, and 2020.

They have the potential to have a slate in Arizona, and in Michigan, that is going to be relatively easy to portray as extreme up and down. Now, they may get through anyway. I mean, the underlying current is such that some of these candidates, who are out of the mainstream, are probably going to win.

But Republicans are making it much tougher on themselves than it might have been by nominating some of these candidates, who I think are going to be very hard sells, in places like Maricopa County, Oakland County, Michigan, the suburbs of Philadelphia. That is a consistent pattern, and it is linked to Trump's influence in the party.

COATES: Let me ask you, how does abortion rate, in these conversations?

BROWNSTEIN: Very much. Very--

COATES: Is it galvanizing people out--


COATES: --you think?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I mean?

COATES: If it was a settled issue, at this point?

BROWNSTEIN: But in these states--

COATES: Settled.

BROWNSTEIN: --it is not settled.

COATES: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: And also there's the issue, what's going to happen at the national level? Look, there's no - I'd say, if Democrats avoid the worst, in November, it will be primarily, I think, principally because Republicans continue to lose ground, in white collar suburbs. And abortion is a big part of that. It's helping Democrats, recapture.

There were a lot of center-right, white collar voters, who voted for Biden, in 2020, because they didn't like Trump, had been disillusioned with Biden's performance, were open to Republicans, and are now moving back, because of the confluence of issues, like abortions, guns, January 6th, and the nature of some of these candidates.

JENNINGS: Now, do the Hispanic voters, in Texas and Nevada.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, right.

JENNINGS: Because you've got whole other blocs of the electorate that are--


JENNINGS: --that went for Democrats huge, in 2016, 2018, and 2020 that are moving towards the Republican Party.


JENNINGS: So, you're right. We do have a realignment. But it doesn't all benefit the Democrats.

BROWNSTEIN: No, no, you're right. You're right. COATES: I'm glad you--

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely.

COATES: --I'm glad you validated him, before he went back to California. That was--


COATES: --that was a tender moment. Do you feel--

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I feel - I feel--

COATES: That was - that was nice.


COATES: That was a nice moment. Ron Brownstein, thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

COATES: Everyone, Scott, Abby, stick with us. We'll be right back.

There are brand-new developments, tonight, on missing text messages, sent on or around January 6th. Go figure! But not from Secret Service phone members. We don't know why we're phones wiped of key Pentagon officials. Yes, it's true.

A CNN first is next.



COATES: The trail of deleted January 6th texts, well, they now stretch all the way to the Pentagon. CNN was first to report on court documents showing that phones of several key Trump aides were apparently wiped, at the end of the administration.

Now, we know specifically, Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, former Chief of Staff, Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, were among the officials, whose phones were wiped. All are considered key witnesses, to January 6th.

DOD is just the latest department, unable to suddenly find text messages from that day. We know the texts of multiple Secret Service agents were also deleted. Homeland Security also can't seem to find texts of the acting Secretary, and his top deputy. That's in addition to a seven-hour gap, in the White House Call logs. Same for the White House Diary, on January 6th.

Well then, there are the reports of documents being burned by the White House Chief of Staff, flushed documents, found clogging the White House toilet, or torn-up, so that they had to be taped back together, preferably not after they were in the toilet, because I'd feel bad for the person do that. But boxes of classified documents were also sent to Mar-a-Lago, instead of where they're supposed to be sent. It's called the National Archives.

I'm joined now by a digital forensic investigator, Gary Kessler, who I'm glad to speak with, right now.

Gary, I'm so glad you're here. Because while people are wondering where these messages have gone, and oh, they're just gone, they've gone poof, into the ether, I'm always wondering, is there a way to get it back? Are these really gone? Or are they gone for now? Because when you delete a text message, they don't really go away fully, right?

GARY KESSLER, DIGITAL FORENSIC INVESTIGATOR & CYBERSECURITY EXPERT, PRESIDENT, GARY KESSLER ASSOCIATES: Well, it depends how efficiently the wiping was done, if, in fact wiping is the correct term.


So, on a cell phone, as you just observed, with your question, if all you do is delete a message? Then the message is somewhere still on the phone. And, even if, it's not accessible, to the user of the text message app, for example? There's still fragments and snippets of the message, again, probably somewhere, on the phone, although they can be difficult to find, unless you have the right tools.

Now, on the other hand, if they truly wiped the phone? The most effective way to do that, is, of course, Android phones, and iPhones, for the last at least five years, the operating systems are automatically encrypted. And there's a decryption key, in the System area, of the memory, of the phone.

So, the most effective way to wipe all the user data is go into the System area, and delete the decryption key. And then, it doesn't matter what's in the user area. It's never going to be retrievable.

COATES: So what you've described would have to be an intentional act. Is that a common thing to have done with somebody?

Is it more likely in the work that you've done that people are just sort of deleting it on their phone thinking, they can't actually see it? Is it difficult to go in, and the wiping, as you're talking about? And do you know if that's what's normally done, in the course of a change, in administration?

KESSLER: Well, I can't speak at all to what the administration might do.

In the work that I've done, when some - usually, you have somebody, who is not terribly sophisticated. And they're just trying - they're just deleting messages. And very frequently, we can get them back, either from the phone, or we can get them back from, say, an iTunes backup, or a cloud backup or something like that.

If in fact, I want to reissue a phone? And that's been one of the comments that's been made. You would possibly want to wipe the phone, so that no remnants of the old user continue on with the new user. And so, yes, it's a deliberate act, and that it's purposeful. It is not necessarily a nefarious action.

COATES: That's an important distinction. And we should note that we don't have information yet that this is somehow nefarious. But the idea of sort of the details of how one were to do this, I think, is fascinating, because just the idea of, of deleting it versus wiping is going to be the key inquiry, going forward.

Gary Kessler, thank you for your expertise.

KESSLER: Thank you.

COATES: I want to turn now to Miles Taylor, who was Chief of Staff at Homeland Security, during the Trump administration. And also, Elliot Williams, who served at both the DOJ and the DHS.

So Miles, Elliot, he made a good note moment there. The idea of look, just because you delete it doesn't mean it's nefarious or wiping it. It could be a part of the course of things.

However, this sort of notion of all these coincidences? I mean, at some point, if it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, I mean, quack, quack? So, where are we, right now?

MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO TRUMP DHS SECRETARY NIELSEN, "ANONYMOUS" AUTHOR OF OP-ED CRITICAL OF TRUMP: Look, we all know this. If you delete a text message, it's kind of a sketchy behavior. So that right away is a red flag.

And when I just heard him speaking, I mean, what stood out to me is that we were talking about wiping, you were talking about flushing things, down the toilet? One thing is clear. In the Trump administration, there was not good preservation of records. It's clear, procedures weren't followed. And this is a problem.

However, I will caveat this by saying when I saw the news about DOD, today? I started to think that this is less a big criminal conspiracy, and more a culture of incompetence.


TAYLOR: You have these senior officials, who turn in their phones. They kind of just wipe them. They put them away. The presidential records provisions have not kept up with the 21st Century.

I'm actually more interested, not on the text messages, of these senior officials, but in their depositions. What were these people doing? And we need to start interviewing them, and getting those records.

Also, has anyone asked for their personal phones? I knew a lot of people in government used their personal phones for this. And Elliot, I'd be interested in your take on--


TAYLOR: --on whether they're asking for their personal text messages.

WILLIAMS: And it's an official record, if you're conducting government business, on your personal phone. Look, it's not just incompetence. But this idea - and we would have both seen it at the Department of Homeland Security.

A lot of these folks believe they are the men on the wall saving America from tyranny and utter ruin. And the idea that investigators, from Congress, or the Justice Department, can go poking around your emails, or your text messages, it's just offensive to them. And so, "Of course, we're going to delete our things."

Now, the problem is for it to be a crime, there has to be an investigation. There's got to be a subpoena or something like that. And as of January 6th, on that day, investigations, criminal investigations haven't really been opened yet. And so it's, you're going to have a hard time, right now, based on the information we have, charging any of those folks, with obstruction of justice.

COATES: I mean, that's true.


COATES: And I note that. But, the same token, I feel like there's something odd about a moment, where most people were watching?


COATES: And it was essentially like frozen, like almost like a mosquito, in amber?

WILLIAMS: Oh, it's--

COATES: I watched it in "Jurassic Park!" The idea of thinking about that, and those are the days that you don't think to preserve.

I mean, I want to play for you, what the Attorney General--


COATES: --Merrick Garland had to say about this issue. He was asked about whether he was concerned about the missing messages. Here's what he had to say.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about the missing texts, though? I mean is that something that's on?

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't - I don't want to talk about particular cases. I mean, with - and with respect to our own investigations, we will pursue all facts, as far as we need to pursue them. And we'll pursue them with all the tools we have under the Criminal Law.


COATES: So one of those tools, of course, are the Inspectors General.


COATES: I mean, at this point, I'm not - I'm not always focused, although I'm a prosecutor, I'm not always focused on--


COATES: --the only end game is criminal prosecution. Sometimes, it's the investigation, to find out what happened, of things. How do you feel about the IGs overlooking at this right now?

WILLIAMS: Oh, and - so heads need to roll! Let's be clear.


WILLIAMS: Even if people aren't charged with crimes, individuals have been fired or resigned from their jobs for far less than this. I think, it was 2012, the Head of the General Services Administration, GSA, resigned because the U.S. government funds to hire a clown, literally. And this is - this is far more nefarious and terrible than that, so.

COATES: Well Miles is afraid of clowns! And so, you realize--



COATES: --it's now - it's now triggering.

TAYLOR: I may have hired a couple! Let's not make it about clowns.

WILLIAMS: Look, let's not make it about - I'm conflicted about clowns. They make me happy. But I'm a little frightened of them, too.

But needless to say, you can lose your job, for that?


WILLIAMS: You ought to lose your job for overseeing the destruct - the possible destruction of evidence.

TAYLOR: But I got to key into something--


TAYLOR: --that Elliot said earlier. Again, if on your personal device, you sent an official communication? Then that official communication should be preserved.

COATES: Well, what does that mean, official communication? TAYLOR: Well let's think back in time.

COATES: Like does that mean I'm talking to a colleague, or what?


TAYLOR: What did Hillary Clinton get knocked for, for years and years and years? The emails! The emails! Why were they knocking her for the emails? Because they were on a private email address.

The thing that I think, in fact, I've heard no one talking about this yet, is I know some of these government officials were conducting official business via text messages, because it's what they used to do, during the administration.

WILLIAMS: "Let me - let me send this - let me send this Word document to my personal email, so I can work on it at home." That becomes a government record, even if you're using your Gmail account.

COATES: But does that mean the entire phone becomes the record that can be obtained validly by the government? Or is that mean the record itself? Because that's the - I mean, is it - is it text by text they'll go through? Is it page by page? And if everything's gone already, how do you begin?

TAYLOR: It's a great question. Look, it was widespread practice--


TAYLOR: --in that administration to use encrypted message apps to communicate. People were using that. I'm not saying that we know for sure that senior officials, during January 6th, were doing that.

All I'm saying is that, if people are really worried about private email being used for official business, text messages, which we're looking at now, absolutely, were between senior officials. And that should be something that is probed, in this instance.


COATES: You wonder - go ahead.

WILLIAMS: Look, it might - it might be lawful, but it's awful, literally. It's conduct, and to use a cute little catchphrase, but it's conduct that even if you can't be charged with the crime for it, even if maybe you can't lose your job for it, our government should not be engaged in. Full stop!

TAYLOR: Awful and lawful, your new bumper stickers.

WILLIAMS: Look at that! Oh, yes!

TAYLOR: I love them!

COATES: I mean, we've covered clowns. We've got to hope that - we're rhyming now. This is - this is a beautiful Tuesday. TAYLOR: We've got to keep playing.

COATES: It's Tuesday, right?

WILLIAMS: I don't know.

COATES: It's Election Night in America. Of course, it's Tuesday. You weren't listening to John King!

Miles Taylor, thank you.

Elliot, stick with us as well.

Up ahead, one of the country's most popular music festivals has just been canceled. Music Midtown in Atlanta called off this year, in a decision, likely linked to gun laws. We'll take on the controversy with the President of the Atlanta City Council, next.



COATES: Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Future, and Jack White, those were just a few of the headline performances that tens of thousands of music fans had hoped to see, at next month's iconic Music Midtown festival, in Atlanta.

Organizers, however abruptly called the event off, just yesterday, citing circumstances beyond their control. No more details were offered.

But sources say that Georgia's gun laws are what's to blame. And there's one law in particular that allows firearms to be permitted in public spaces. And that includes parks, I might add, which gun advocates say, conflicts with the festival's weapons ban.

Joining me now, is Doug Shipman, President of the Atlanta City Council.

Doug, thank you, for being here, this evening.

For people, maybe just learning about this, the first time, it's quite the intersection, between what the gun laws are doing, and saying, and the impact, possibly, on entertainment, on the economy.

What's the issue here that the festival, a private entity, wanted to ban weapons, and the Georgia laws said "No. Bring in the weapons. It's you're entitled to do so in a public space." Is that it?

DOUG SHIPMAN, PRESIDENT, ATLANTA CITY COUNCIL: So, we've had consistent laws that had been opening up the access to guns, the ability to carry guns, in various spaces.

There was a 2019 Georgia Supreme Court ruling that basically said on private property and on long-term leased public property, you could have weapons restrictions. But on public property, you could not. And so, in this case, the music festival doesn't have a long-term lease. It's there for a couple of days, to have the event. And there was a concern that there would be legal jeopardy, because of the restrictions against any restrictions on public spaces.

COATES: And they can't contract away that requirement or that ability to bring it in? They can't say as part of like an entertainers' rider, "Look, there can't be weapons," and that's enough to trump this?

SHIPMAN: So, I came out of the entertainment industry, before I was in elected office. There are often riders from artists. They're also insurance issues related to security plans. And so - those things did not have any impact on the state law.

And this state law has been written in a way that limits local officials from being able to make more restrictive laws. So, in essence, the state has said "We're going to make the law and you can't change it at the local level."

There's one other issue here. More recently, this year, we also have a permitless carry law that passed in Georgia. So, the proliferation of those, who can carry, without a license, without training, has expanded.

So also, the fact that you couldn't have a restriction on weapons, also in a situation where we know there are more guns that people are carrying around, naturally, I think led to a lot of questions around liability.

COATES: I mean, it's hard to think about this in a vacuum, right? We know what happened in that horrible, tragic Las Vegas shootings that took place. There was a music festival going on. There were concerts happening. So, there is the natural concern that one would obviously think of.


But there's also the economic notion here. I mean, the cancellation, it means a $50 million loss, they believe, to the Atlanta economy, according to some reports, about this. It was supposed to take place next - in next month. It featured 30-plus artists. It was going to host local food venues.

What is the impact of this, economically? And does this forebode harsher conditions, going forward, in a sense that this might make people say, "Well, let's not go to Atlanta."

I mean, even the North Carolina governor, just tweeted out, in response to what's going on. He tweeted out a reaction to this very notion saying, "Come on up to North Carolina. We're ready to welcome you to one of our amazing outdoor spaces to help you host a fun and safe festival."

When you see this, and what it could mean, for the economy and, for businesses, or entertainment going elsewhere, what's your reaction? SHIPMAN: It is a major concern. There was a study done a few years ago that you cited, $20 million in direct spending, $30 million in indirect economic impact.

This festival hosted 50,000 people a day, for two days. We know that people come nationally for it. It's a major festival that's been going on for 25 years. But it's not the only one. We have a festival called Shaky Knees that happens in another park. We have one called SweetWater 420 Fest that happens in another park.

And so, this may not be the only festival that can no longer happen in a public space. They might be able to find a private space. But we don't have a large outdoor private space that really makes sense, like some other cities. And so, it may have to move out of the city.

And so, these economic ramifications are significant in big dollars. But they're also, as you pointed out, very significant, on small businesses, a lot of locally-owned food trucks, small businesses, folks connected to our music industry, which is a very vital part of what we do will be impacted.

And I would say one more thing, and the tweet that you pointed out, we know we're always in competition with other cities, like Austin, and Miami, Nashville, for music, and for economic development, more broadly.

And I do have a concern that people are going to maybe not even bring new things that could be coming here, because of what they're seeing. So, I think the economic ramifications could be quite extensive, and could be much larger than just the Midtown Music cancellation.

COATES: But will it shape policy? I mean, I wonder, are you hearing from your constituents, and the voters, and the electorate, more broadly, in Georgia, reaction to this? Has there been some backlash in resulting this?

SHIPMAN: Well, this festival is really focused on young people, but it's also one that a lot of us have attended, over the years, who have been in Atlanta. It's really one of those memory-maker kinds of moments. So, I have been hearing from folks that are quite upset.

We do have an election here, for state legislature, Governor, other constitutional offices. So, I'm hopeful that no matter who's elected, next January, when our state legislature comes back into session that we'll really look at the implications of this policy, whether it was an intended or an unintended consequence.

Clearly, there are economic implications. And so, there are ways. We know we have gun restrictions, in airports, and stadiums, and other private venues. We certainly could have a carve-out for ticketed events, for larger events, for music festivals. I hope that we'll look at those policies, because this is going to damage the Atlanta economy going forward. No question about it.

COATES: I wonder if it's going to be the blueprint too, for other States, who may have similar conflicts, and for entertainers, to think about that, and where they choose to go and, of course, where they spend their money, and, of course, the overarching concern of safety, at the core.

Doug Shipman, thank you so much.

SHIPMAN: Thanks for having me.

COATES: Look, it's now tomorrow, in Taiwan. We're going to take you live, to the other side of the world, for the very latest, on the storm, over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's historic visit. China is still threatening retaliation.

An update on the flaring tensions will be next.



COATES: Just minutes ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a historic address before Taiwan's parliament. She is now meeting with Taiwan's President.

And in making this trip, Pelosi defied hesitation, from the White House, and also threats of retaliation from China. In her address, Pelosi spoke of America's friendship with Taiwan. And she pledged more cooperation.

Here with me now, with more, is CNN Senior International Correspondent, Will Ripley, who's always on the story.

Tell us what you know.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are, just like everybody else, watching very closely, to see how Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, second in line to the U.S. presidency, is received here, in Taiwan.

And so far, it has been a very warm welcome, even though the Taiwanese government was pretty much radio silence, before her plane landed. Once it did, Taipei 101 lit up with a welcome message.

She, as you said, she's meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen. She also had a chance to meet earlier with members of Taiwan's parliament, where she gave a speech, and she talked about the reasons, why she's here.

And, really, in stark contrast to what we're seeing right now, from mainland China, with these Military exercises happening, just off the shore. Listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We come in friendship to Taiwan. We come in peace for the region, and our Vice Chair - our Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Mr. Takano, representing our veterans, understanding the value of peace and the avoidance of conflict. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RIPLEY: Pelosi made it very clear that her - the reason why she's here is to show solidarity with the Island of Taiwan, which has been under an increasing amount of intimidation, both militarily, diplomatically, and economically, from mainland China, Laura.

COATES: There's been a lot of conversation around that trip, as you well know. And I - there was that piece she wrote in "The Washington Post" as well, talking about why she was there.

But you mentioned the flight, and we see images of her landing. And speaking of that flight, there's some new reporting that CNN has, about that flight to Taiwan. What did you learn?

RIPLEY: Yes, I mean, that's a flight that I've taken myself. And normally, if you're - if you're flying the normal direct route, it's only about four and a half hours. It's under - it's at least under a five-hour flight, for sure. And that's how long it would normally take.

But Speaker Pelosi's flight took more than seven hours, according to CNN reporting. And the reason for that is they were trying to avoid potentially, this - and I don't know if we have the map handy or not, but the six locations around the Island of Taiwan, where there are Military drills that have been taking place, since the overnight hours, here, shortly after Speaker Pelosi arrived.


These Military drills, some of them so close to the shore that it's possible that people living along the coast could actually hear them.

And certainly, if anybody were used, to try to head out in the water, a little bit closer, to these drills, they'd find a large amount of activity, which is very provocative, certainly. Especially because, some of these drills, the coordinates that they were released, by the People's Liberation Army, might have actually gone into Taiwan's territorial airspace.

Now, we don't know if that has happened. We don't know if that's going to be publicized, by the Taiwan Military and the Defense Department, if it does happen, because, they certainly don't want to dial up the tension here.

And they've actually been uncharacteristically quiet, when talking about these latest provocations. Even though usually Laura, they tell us, two times a day, how many planes have flown into a Taiwan self- declared Air Defense Identification Zone.

But I think the strategy from the Taiwan side is to keep everything as low-key as possible, even while they try to show Nancy Pelosi around, and hope that the experiences that she has here, she'll take back to Washington, and it'll help shape American policy, if and when the time comes, that China does make a Military move on Taiwan. COATES: Well, they may be uncharacteristically quiet. But you know who is not? And that's Speaker Pelosi. I hope that she addresses the idea of why there was the diversion, if there's a broader issue, at stake.

Will Ripley, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.



COATES: Look, they don't call her Queen B for nothing! Beyonce's new album "Renaissance" is already breaking chart records. But it's also buzzing with controversy. A song on the album called "Heated" is being criticized, for including an ableist slur. Listen.



Yada, yada, bom-bom, kah-kah Spazzing on that ass, spaz on that ass Fan me quick, girl, I need my glass


COATES: Disability Rights Activists say the word "Spaz," which was used, in that particular lyric, is offensive, towards people living with spastic cerebral palsy. According to the CDC, people with spastic cerebral palsy have increased muscle tone. This means their muscles are stiff, and as a result, their movements can be awkward.

A rep for Beyonce tells CNN she's updating the song. The word, can quote, "The word, not used intentionally, in a harmful way, will be replaced."

Abby, Elliot, and Scott, are back with me, right now.

And I should say that the person most excited to talk about Beyonce is Scott Jennings, in an odd revelation of sorts.

But I bring this up, because look, and it can be uncomfortable, at times, to talk about the things that people react to that have visceral reaction that can lead to what we know is the so-called cancel culture of things.

And Lizzo just changed a lyric as well. It's not unheard of, for people to be enlightened that the use of a term--


COATES: --is offensive, and to no longer use it.

But, I think, you put it best, Elliot, the idea of look, sometimes you get the information, you realize it's offensive, and what you do then is up to you.

WILLIAMS: Yes, no, I agree. Language evolves over time.

Oh, OK, you're - I'm going to give you the floor for a moment.

JENNINGS: No. I'm listening.

WILLIAMS: I want to hear what--

COATES: Yes. You had a - you had a smirk. We knew you were like--


COATES: --"Tell me more."

JENNINGS: I'm listening.

WILLIAMS: You were ready to pounce on this--


JENNINGS: How would you defend the Thought Police?

WILLIAMS: I'm not defending the Thought Police. OK, well, let me - let me use a better example, for you.

The state song of Kentucky, My Old Kentucky Home, for 130 years, had the word "Darkies" in it, until over time, people realized this is not language that we in a civil society ought to be using. And they changed it. And I think there ought to be room for people to recognize it.

You know what? I've grown my whole life saying the word "Spaz." But maybe that's not language that we ought to be using. It doesn't take anything away from any of us to purge the word "Spaz," from our vocabulary. You can still use most of the English language. So my question is how are you affected by it?

JENNINGS: Well, I think we're all affected when people who are creative artists?


JENNINGS: Beyonce, one of the most renowned artists, in our culture, one of the most talented people that alive today, when they have to go around policing, their artistic expression, because they may, might possibly offend a handful of people.

I'm not denigrating these people that have the disease. I don't - not at all. But it's obvious she was not intending to hurt, harm or offend anyone.


JENNINGS: And - and - I'm just saying, when you start bending over, for the Speech Police, on one small issue? The floodgates are open. And how are you going to have artists, expressing themselves, if they're constantly calibrating, against these people, who are sort of professional, you know, professionally being offended by everything?


COATES: Abby, what's your thought?

FINKENAUER: I hate calling it the Speech Police, here. What we're talking about are disability advocates.

And when you look at where the term comes from, spastic cerebral palsy? I mean, I think there are a lot of folks, who don't understand that, or even know where that comes from. But now that you do, and you're hearing from these advocates, we should listen, right? And we should have respect for that.

I mean, heck, you watched - there are so many things that you look back, and go "Oh, man that didn't age well." Even something like "Gilmore Girls," right, like the first season of that you have Rory using the R-word, and just very nonchalantly. And I watch that now, and I go, "Oh, my goodness! This should not be happening." But it did. Because once you learned, right, what that word meant, and why it was offensive? You took it out of our vocabulary.

And I think, again, kudos to the disability community, who continues to actually lift this up, and explain what it is, because, I think, right now, we're on CNN, talking about spastic cerebral palsy, when I think a lot of folks didn't even realize what it was.

JENNINGS: I think this is - this is where the American Left is failing.


JENNINGS: Because they are speaking a language that, and they are thinking about things in a way that most people in America don't even recognize. And this idea that we're going to go around, and nitpick every - I mean--


JENNINGS: --they're trying to cancel Beyonce--


WILLIAMS: Scott? Scott? Scott?

JENNINGS: --for goodness sakes!

FINKENAUER: Beyonce fixed it.


JENNINGS: This is where - this is where the Left is falling short--

FINKENAUER: Beyonce fixed it. WILLIAMS: I got to--

JENNINGS: --in connecting with the American people.

WILLIAMS: No. No, I got to--


COATES: Well, first of all, the Beehive is not going to cancel Beyonce. You hear the buzzing, right now? Buzz! Go ahead.

WILLIAMS: Yes, the beehives (ph).


WILLIAMS: But I want to get back to the evolution of language point, right?


WILLIAMS: And it's just and - but explain to me how--

JENNINGS: Are you offended by this?

WILLIAMS: What? It doesn't matter whether I'm offended by it. That's not the point. I mean--

JENNINGS: But do you understand--

WILLIAMS: --Scott, I'm--


JENNINGS: --there is a constituency that could be offended by virtually everything.

WILLIAMS: OK. But explain--

JENNINGS: So, how are you going to--


JENNINGS: Eventually, is this the goal to have anything?

WILLIAMS: I'm not - I'm not intending to Zen you, by making this about Kentucky, your home state. But literally, you have a state song, where--

JENNINGS: And you're comparing that to this?

WILLIAMS: I am, because over time language evolves. Think about all the terms, the R-word that all of us probably used, in childhood, right?


WILLIAMS: That we now know is abhorrent, and should never be used. And you just don't know it.

JENNINGS: Who's going to be in charge of giving us the list of the things you're not allowed to say?

WILLIAMS: But it's not quite--

FINKENAUER: It's about educating, though.

WILLIAMS: But I think - I think - I think we're making--

FINKENAUER: We're having the conversation.

WILLIAMS: I'm sorry, Abby.

FINKENAUER: It's about educating though. I mean, we're having the conversation, right now. And it's also about having grace, right, when folks aren't aware.

And the fact is Lizzo changed her lyrics. Beyonce changed her lyrics. I understand it was really frustrating to see, this happen, just six weeks, after Lizzo was told, what happened, and why it was wrong. And then, you have Beyonce doing it. And I understand that frustration. But she changed it. And she apologized. And I think it sets the tone for the rest of the music industry to pay attention.

COATES: Scott's Christmas card, this year, is also the album of Renaissance. He's on top of a clear horse as well! You didn't know. I've exposed you. Everyone--

JENNINGS: I am from Kentucky.

COATES: You are. You are.


COATES: Abby Finkenauer, Elliot Williams, Scott Jennings, thank you for this conversation. It's important one to have.

We'll be right back.


COATES: Hey, that's it for us, tonight.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

Hey, Don Lemon?