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CNN TONIGHT: Sandy Hook Family's Lawyer Confronts Alex Jones About Damning Texts His Own Attorneys Accidentally Leaked; KS Voters Protect Abortion Rights; NFL Appealing Cleveland Browns Quarterback Deshaun Watson Ruling. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us. 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 look, I got to get right to it. I know we're supposed to think about politics, and other notions, today. But I got to tell you about Alex Jones, because I have been thinking about it all day, since I heard and watched that testimony.

Alex Jones spent so many years, trying to get people to believe, in his conspiracy theories, to pretend that Sandy Hook, the tragedy never even happened that, the precious lives that were lost, that they somehow never even existed.

He even said, at one point that the parents were actors. I mean, obviously, that's not only cruel, it's absurd, because it did happen. And they obviously existed.

Well, there might have been a kind of poetic justice that occurred today then, because something else he claimed never existed, text messages and communications about Sandy Hook? Well, it turns out, they also exist.

And the attorney, for the parents, of one victim, suing Alex Jones, for damages, over his defamatory statements, made sure that we all knew who was lying.


ALEX JONES, DEFENDANT, HOST, THE ALEX JONES SHOW: So you did get my text messages, and then said you didn't. Nice trick.

MARK BANKSTON, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: Yes, Mr. Jones. Indeed. You didn't give this text message to me. You don't know where this came from. Do you know where I got this?


BANKSTON: Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago - 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up, and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you've sent for the past two years, and when informed, did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protect it in any way.

And as of two days ago, it fell free and clear into my possession, and that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn't have text messages about Sandy Hook. Did you know that?

JONES: I - see, I told you the truth. This is your Perry Mason moment. I gave them my phone.

BANKSTON: In discovery, you were asked, "Do you have Sandy Hook text messages on your phone?" And you said "No," correct? You said that under oath, Mr. Jones, didn't you?

JONES: If I was mistaken, I was mistaken, but you've got the messages right there.

BANKSTON: You know what perjury is, right? I just want to make sure you know before we go any further. You know what it is.


COATES: I know what perjury is. I think laymen know what perjury is.

I'm just going to recap that moment for a second. And we're going to ignore the attorney, for Alex Jones, chewing on the fingernail, or the pictures of the judges on the wall, who were smiling, for their portraits, and yet looking down on this moment, which I can't help but imagine, was anything other than, "Really?"

Well, Alex Jones' attorneys apparently sent all of their client's text messages, to the opposing counsel, by accident, it seems. They didn't claim they were somehow privileged. I'm not sure what privilege would have attached to his, own communications, to people, who were not lawyers, of course.

Then, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents used that information, to catch Alex Jones, in a lie. And he couldn't wriggle out of it. Even a mention of Perry Mason wasn't going to get you some sort of score and points. I think we call that all receipts. That's the legal term, for what happened just now.

And his attempt to spin it like he wanted them to see those all along? Pitiful, cruel, or what was the question he asked about at the end, perjury, right? We'll see what comes of that. After all, they asked him if he knew what it meant, and even offered the chance, to have him know his Fifth Amendment rights.

But you want to know what you can buy, these days, with a day late, and $1 short? A pretend epiphany! Because Jones now says that he's a believer that the 2012 shooting happened.



JONES: It's a 100 percent real, as I said on the radio, yesterday, and as I said here, yesterday. It's a 100 percent real.

And the media still ran with lies that I was saying it wasn't real on air yesterday. It's incredible. They won't let me take it back. They just want to keep me in the position of being the Sandy Hook man.


COATES: Wait, we will let you take it back, the media? Really? I'm - I guess, I'm trying to ask, how exactly do you take back years, of reporting, the spreading, of outrageous lies, like the ones you told?


JONES: My gosh! It just pretty much didn't happen.

The whole thing was fake.

The whole thing is a giant hoax. And the problem is how do you deal with a total hoax?


COATES: To top it all off, just before the jury began deliberating today, this clip from Jones' InfoWars show was played, in court, of him actually mocking those jurors.


JONES: Extremely blue collar folks. I mean, half that jury panel does not know who I am. They said that. And when they were asked, during the jury impaneling, yesterday, "You believe the media has ever got anything wrong about Alex Jones?" they all unanimously said "No."

So, it's people do live in all these different bubbles, and there's the bubbles that are awake and the bubbles that are questioning, but then there's the blue city bubbles, where people do not know what planet they are on


COATES: Who doesn't know which planet we're on?

And I'm going to leave alone the fact that he's talking about in a pejorative way, those with blue collars, the man's in an electric blue shirt! So you technically have a blue collar. That's the jury of one's peers. But I'll leave that out for a second.

I just wonder if that will stick with those jurors, in the deliberation room, because deliberations are now underway. And they say the truth shall set you free. Well, the funny thing is perjury has a way of locking you up. And the families, I think, we all agree, still deserve a lot more.

Let's take this around the table, to my guests.

Elliot Williams served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General, at the DOJ.

David Swerdlick is a Senior Staff Editor at The New York Times Opinion section.

And Scott Jennings served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Gentlemen, I'm not even going to ask the question, whether any of you agree with what Alex Jones has done.

I'm going to just take it for granted that we all agree that this happened, Sandy Hook occurred, the tragedy is deplorable, especially on the backdrop of thinking about Uvalde, and Parkland, and so many other school shootings.

But I wonder, from the more broader context, how is it that misinformation, like this, could have lasted this long? And how it's not until right now that it's held to account?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR CAMPAIGN COMMS ADVISER TO SEN. MCCONNELL, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: There are people, in this country, who appear to be desperate, for an explanation, for anything, just to defy what actually happened. If it's being reported by the news media, they're desperately looking for something. And then there're absolute evil people, like Alex Jones, who are willing to come along, and feed it to them.

Now, I know what planet we're on. And I know what planet he's on, Planet Moron! And the most evil guy, in America, today, deserves to have the dumbest lawyers, because that's what we saw.

And I'm glad they had his text messages. And I'm glad this jury is seeing what this guy is. And I hope they do everything to him that they can possibly do, both in the civil side, and then possibly on the perjury side. Elliot's the lawyer.

But I - this guy deserves everything, everything that he gets out of this. I mean, these people lost their kids, and were terrorized by this guy, for years? It's outrageous. I mean, it's easy to think society is falling apart, all around us. This jury can strike a blow for common American decency by doing everything they can do to this guy.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Oh, it's not just this jury. It's another one in Connecticut, coming up, after this because no matter--

COATES: Right. This is in Texas. WILLIAMS: This is Texas, right? So, no matter how this ends up, for him, which it doesn't look like it'll be pretty well, he still goes on to another state, and another defamation suit.

Look, there has got to be a cost for defaming and hurting innocent people. This wasn't political speech. And then a lot of what his attorneys were talking about, as well as the First Amendment, he had a right to engage, on this - but it's not, because - you're targeting innocent individuals, and not speaking out on a big sort of broader political point.


But no, it's terrible. And it's perjury, based on what - based on what we saw there. I mean, it's he's lied, under oath, with an intent to deceive. That's the perjury law, in the State of Texas, and it's very straightforward. It's usually not as easy as just pulling an email.

COATES: I mean, the judge admonished him, a couple times, about the idea, especially, because, at one point, I think he sort of criticizes her, on the InfoWars, as well. I mean, there's - if you could have had, like a screenshot, of a person, who goes, "Oh, expletive," here, right? That was what you saw, just now.

I mean, I am nosy. So, I wanted to be the fly on the wall that saw that conversation, between the attorney, for Alex Jones afterwards that went, "What do we mean, we handed over everything?" And yet, that's the duty of an attorney, during discovery.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, SENIOR STAFF EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES OPINION: Yes. That plaintiffs' lawyer really put some mustard on it, when he laid into Alex Jones, on the stand there.

In that clip, you played, Laura, I agree with Scott. People believe what they want to believe. And this is a situation, where there was a market, for a conspiracy theory. And Alex Jones, according to the judgments that he's already lost, fed that market need. And now, this judgment, this jury rather, has to decide how much it's worth.

I will just add that in the bigger context, like you were talking about, whether it's birtherism, whether it's some of the things, we saw, on January 6th? We have a market now. People have free speech, to be a right-wing talk show host. And people have a right to go to court, and say, "What you said, defamed me." And I think that's where the rubbers meet the road.

WILLIAMS: And I think--


WILLIAMS: --and I think many people don't understand the difference between your conspiracy theory uncle, on Facebook, and people, who are actually presenting news and information.

COATES: Not your personal uncle.

WILLIAMS: It's all kind of pulled together.

COATES: He pointed at you, and he said that.

WILLIAMS: No, no. I did - I did--

COATES: He didn't mean your personal conspiracy uncle. I just want to make sure.

WILLIAMS: Well here's the thing. I don't--

SWERDLICK: We don't have look that we are uncles (ph).

WILLIAMS: I don't know what goes on with Swerdlick family Thanksgivings. However, were you to have an uncle, with conspiracy theories, a lot of people can't - don't know the difference between the things and the lies that he's pushing, and what's actual fact and real news. So, I think--

COATES: So, that's the problem.

WILLIAMS: --Alex Jones fed into that, yes.

COATES: That's the problem. I mean, we're talking about more broadly.


COATES: Take a step back, away from the tragedy, of even Sandy Hook.


COATES: And that - and I can't even think about conspiracy theory and Sandy Hook in the same breath.


COATES: But there is a market. And there's an appetite--


COATES: --for misinformation, as long as it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, and feeds what you want to be true. I mean, that's what people are saying about from January 6th, to election-related lies, and beyond.

JENNINGS: And remember, when someone is feeding you something that feeds into your belief, or hope that it's - that what you're being fed by the institutions is totally a lie? They're not doing it to help you. They're doing it to help themselves. I mean, we've learned, in this case, he was making 800 grand a day, at one point--


JENNINGS: --selling merchandise, while peddling this garbage, and hurting these innocent people? I mean, I got a 6-year-old. Those parents that testified had a 6-year-old kid.


JENNINGS: I got a 6-year-old kid backstage, right now. And I can't imagine what would have happened, to me, if something happened to him. And I certainly can't imagine if somebody came along behind that, and terrorized a family, like he did.

So remember, he's not doing it - anybody feeding you this kind of conspiracy garb? They're not doing it to help you. They're doing it to help themselves, on your back. How does that make you feel?

COATES: I mean, imagine a mother having to say on a stand that their child existed?


COATES: I mean we talk about the controversies of whether lives matter. Imagine having to say that your child existed, because somebody wants to make money off the lie that they did not?

More on this, in a moment, everyone.

Elliot Williams, thank you.

David, Scott, stick with us as well.

Look, barely after a month - barely a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and the Dobbs decision, a Red state, known as Kansas, sends an unexpected message.

So, what do Republicans do now, after Kansas voters shut down a bid, to end abortion rights? I'm going to ask a former U.S. Attorney, for Kansas, appointed by then-President Trump. You know what? His personal views might just surprise you. That's next.



COATES: Voters in deep-Red Kansas resoundingly voted against an amendment to strip abortion protections, from the state constitution.

President Biden today, sounding pretty confident that it's a harbinger for the midterms.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And the voters of Kansas sent a powerful signal that this fall, the American people will vote to preserve and protect their right, and refuse to let them be ripped away by politicians. And my administration has their back.


COATES: I wonder if he'll be right.

After all, you have to consider, this took place, in the state that hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, in more than a half a century, since the Texan LBJ, but voted for Donald Trump, as you know, by a margin of nearly 15 points, back in 2020, the same president that gave the High Court the super majority that then overturned Roe v. Wade and the Dobbs decision.

And yet, having said all that, the outcome far exceeded expectations, thanks to a very high turnout. More than 900,000 voters showed up. That's counts for nearly half, nearly half of the state's registered voters. A level, you'd usually see, in what, a general election? The fight however, is not over.

And I want to bring in Stephen McAllister, a University of Kansas law professor, and the former Solicitor General of the State of Kansas.

Stephen, I'm glad you're here. Because, you actually argued, as Solicitor General, in Kansas, in the case that the Supreme Court in Kansas ultimately said, "Hey, there is a recognized right to abortion in Kansas." That was what started this now ballot initiative.

What's your reaction that this was not passed?



When I argued the case, there was federal law in place that would protect a woman's right, to an abortion. Kansas Supreme Court had never decided whether there was such a right under the Kansas constitution.

My job at the time was to argue the position the Attorney General took, which was to argue there was no such right under the Kansas constitution. So that was the position we argued.

But I also assumed, as a personal matter, that there would always be a federal level of protection. I never anticipated that the court would overrule Roe and Casey, like it did, this year.

COATES: So many people had that same philosophy that there was always going to be sort of that backdrop of a 50-year precedent of Roe v. Wade. And, of course, that did not happen. It was overturned, as you know.

But the fact that you're overjoyed, the idea that many people are, by the way? But there was a huge margin. And for many, that's pretty stunning.

I mean, it seems that there's a disconnect, as was always thought, between what Justice Alito wrote, about the idea of returning to states, and the notion that people were not overwhelmingly against abortion access. Did Kansas sort of prove that?

R. MCALLISTER: Well, I think Kansas did sort of prove that. And, I think, what Dobbs did is energize the people, in Kansas, just fortuitously had this on the ballot.

It was actually set up for this ballot, back in the January session of 2021. So, it had been planned way in advance of Dobbs that when the legislature put this up for a vote, they did not know that Dobbs was going to happen. So, it's sort of fortuitous. But once Dobbs happened, it really energized a lot of people in Kansas.

And I think what we saw was at least three groups, young voters, Democrats, and Independents, who flocked to the primary polls. And those three groups generally don't, because the only-contested primaries, in Kansas, typically are Republican primaries.

COATES: Right. You don't think though that although this was not started, the catalyst was not Dobbs, you don't really think that it was a genuine effort, by Republicans, in Kansas, to try to get this amendment? You think there was something more to it?

R. MCALLISTER: Well, they wanted this amendment, because they wanted to overturn the Kansas Supreme Court decision.

But I think, when they started that process, they didn't realize that if they could do that, they could actually ban abortion, because they assumed the federal-level protection would still be there. So, I think, they were probably delighted when they saw that Dobbs overruled Roe and Casey, because now the real end goal was actually achievable, in their view.

But what they did is engage in a misleading campaign, in which they kept saying, "All this will do is allow us to have our current laws be enforceable." They would not say "We're going to ban abortion in the next legislative session," although it's clear, that was the goal.

COATES: Well, on that notion, I mean, you were a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.

And I wonder, your perspective, given his opinion, where he spoke about going even further than Alito, the idea of where Alito tried to say, "Look, I'm just talking about abortion here," which I don't know how you're going to carve that out, in reality? He wanted to go farther, to same-sex marriage, possibly, and other, birth control and contraceptives.

What did you make of that decision, and that statement to go even further than what was written in the majority?

R. MCALLISTER: Well, I think Justice Thomas has always had a different view of where these rights come from.

So, if I could - if I put on my constitutional law professor hat, the majority is talking about something called substantive due process. He's looking at the privileges or immunities clause in the 14th Amendment, which the court got away from way back in the 1870s. So, he's willing to revisit everything going all the way back.

Nobody else seems inclined to join him in that enterprise. So, I'm hoping they stick to that view, and that he's the only one that's interested in revisiting that territory. So, I may have a little more confidence than some that he's alone in that potential endeavor, and that the rest of them have no desire to revisit those other precedents.

COATES: I mean, I hope, we're banking on more than fingers and toes crossed, though, on something like that.

It's personal to you, as well. I mean, I know that in the past, you have been demonstrative of your principles, when you don't think it should go beyond that.

R. MCALLISTER: Right. And I have - so, I mean, this mattered a lot to me. So, the one time, when I was working for the Attorneys General's office that I refused to participate in a case, was when we were defending the ban on same-sex marriage.

And I offered to resign, if I was asked to defend that ban, because I said, I could not do that, because I had family members, and friends, and I would not defend that. He said, "You don't have to resign. I have plenty of lawyers." But I would have resigned.


R. MCALLISTER: And with this one, having five daughters, and now with the protections of Roe and Casey gone? For the last three weeks, I've been pretty much non-stop, in interviews, and things, basically trying to say the proponents are misleading people.


It started with the name of the amendment. It's the wording of the amendment. And all of the campaign literature, and the money that's being spent, is an effort to fool the people of Kansas. But obviously, yesterday, they were not fooled.

COATES: They were not fooled. Dorothy Gale woke up in Kansas, and she recognized, everyone in the room, for what they were!

Thank you, Stephen McAllister. I appreciate it so much.

R. MCALLISTER: My pleasure.

COATES: Let's take what we just heard, and consider the fallout, with tonight's political experts. Do reproductive rights become - excuse me, even more of a deciding factor, in the midterms? Right back with that.


COATES: No surprise Democrats and Republicans are offering two different takes on the Kansas abortion vote, and its political impact.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): What happened, in Red Kansas, last night, is a reflection, of what is happening, across the country, and what will continue to occur, through the November elections.

REP. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): I think, voters, come November, will be very focused, on the cost of gasoline, and groceries, and - and rail.

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): This is not going to make any difference.

I don't think it'd be bigger than inflation.


COATES: I wonder who's right!

Let's ask my guests, Abby Finkenauer, and David Swerdlick, and Scott Jennings.


Listen, first, I want to get your reactions. I mean, we see the different sort of inkblot tests happening, on what happened in Kansas. But it's a pretty big deal that this did not pass.


COATES: You're smiling!


COATES: You're like, "Yes, that's right."

FINKENAUER: I mean, dare I say, I had some hope, last night. And I think that's one of, not just women, and their health care and abortion rights being protected, as a win, but also just the hope that it's given to Democrats, across the country, that we can get these wins, and we need them.

I think the other big thing too, when you look at this is we've got to be looking at it, also about how they talked about it in Kansas. I think, there's a lot of lessons to be learned.

It was talking about government mandates. It was talking about the extremism. It was talking about, keeping women safe. And that is something, again, I think, is important for Democrats and, folks, across the country, to pay attention to, and how we move forward, here, and get some very big wins, in November.

COATES: So, how do you message it differently on the Republican side?

JENNINGS: Well, couple things that stood out to me. The turnout was large. I mean, it was a lot of votes, in this election. And it was a big price tag. Both sides spent a lot of money. And so, it drove up - drove up the vote totals.

I did read the ballot initiative, today, several times, in preparation for our discussion. I still don't understand it. It was extraordinarily confusing. And I think - and I think the-- SWERDLICK: But Scott, voters weren't confused, though, Scott.

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, how do you know? I mean - I mean, I'll be honest with you. I think most people on constitutional amendment start out at a default no. And if they don't understand what they're reading on the paper, they're going to stay there. And I will also--

COATES: Well that's why they give you the sample ballot, for people, who are walking in, they go, "What am I doing here?" and they read down. I know we're all educated voters. But you've had the moment, when you go "Sample ballot, please. Oh, here's the? Oh, this is the answer? Great." It happens.

I don't think it happened here, though, you're saying?

JENNINGS: I think there were a number of reasons why it went down. And I do think that people, who are pro-life, walked into that thing, yesterday. Some of them had to have voted against it, because there are people, who describe themselves, as being pro-life, but don't necessarily want to take part, in a ballot initiative that they think wouldn't allow, for reasonable exceptions.


JENNINGS: And I think that - and that's where the political reality of the pro-life movement, I think, is going to run into--


JENNINGS: The pro-life movement is going to run into political reality of America. That's where the equilibrium is going to be some - someday in the future.

SWERDLICK: Yes, those exceptions are the things. So, I think, both of those members of Congress that you played the clip, Laura, were both right.

This is both not the most important issue. Gallup just came out with its numbers, and the abortion issue ranked fourth, in their latest polling, behind the economy, and overall government leadership, and inflation.

On the other hand, I think, Republicans here lost the slippery slope advantage they had, before the Dobbs decision. Before the Supreme Court got rid of Roe, Republicans had the slippery slope argument. Is it going to be 20 weeks that it's allowed? Is it 22 weeks? Is it late term?

Now, Democrats have the slippery slope argument, where their voters and some swing voters are saying, "Look, what's going to happen next? Are we going to have travel bans?"


SWERDLICK: "Is there going to be no exceptions for rape and incest? Is the court going to do away with the Obergefell decision? Where does it all end?"


SWERDLICK: And that, I think, is playing, to Democrats' advantage.


SWERDLICK: I don't think it's going to save their House majority.


SWERDLICK: But I do think they have something to run.

COATES: Well, on that note about who it saves?


COATES: And, remember, I mean, Kansas is overwhelmingly Red. So obviously, this was not Democratic voters alone, who were voting, in this way, whereas how you think that it is.

But, we think about that reasonableness, or the bipartisan endeavors? Listen to what Congressman Adam Kinzinger had to say, about the idea of "Look, don't come to me in the future about having and complaining where are all the good Republicans, so to speak?"

Here's what he had to say.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I mean, here's the thing, don't keep coming to me, asking where are all the good Republicans that defend democracy, and then take your donors' money, and spend half a million dollars, promoting one of the worst election deniers that's out there. I mean, the DCCC needs to be ashamed of themselves.


COATES: You made the point, Scott that there was a lot of money on both sides, in a variety of issues.

I think, to his point, if the idea of, I mean, are Democrats now, in slippery slope argument, are they cutting off their nose, to spite their face, and alienating those who might otherwise be more agreeable?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, he's speaking about these races, where Democrats have invested in these people that they have heretofore claimed are threats to democracy that are "Fundamentally going to destroy America, as we know it. But here, take our money, and we'll promote you." I mean, where does this end?

I'll tell you where it ends, with Democrat strategists deciding in 2024 that "We should run against Donald Trump. He's the weakest Republican. So, let's prop him up," just like some people did in 2016. That's where this ends. So if you want to tell us, Republicans, "You've got to get rid of these people out of your party?" Don't prop them up! Let our voters get rid of them instead of what happened--


JENNINGS: --like in Michigan and elsewhere.

FINKENAUER: Well, hear me out. Just kick them out of your party. I mean, when they are--


JENNINGS: How do you that? How do you that? When a guy in Michigan raises $0, and your party shows up--


JENNINGS: --with hundreds of thousands of dollars--


JENNINGS: --to prop him, how do you defeat him?

FINKENAUER: You are allowing this guy, into your primary.

JENNINGS: What do you mean, allow?

FINKENAUER: As long as this guy--

JENNINGS: He's allowed to run.

COATES: Hold on, I want to hear her voice.

FINKENAUER: --is associating himself with the GOP, and your party is allowing him, to be a Republican, and he is not attached with reality? That is the problem you are going to continue to face, because these election deniers, have become so mainstream, in this Republican Party.

JENNINGS: And how do you get rid of them?

FINKENAUER: It's who they are now.

JENNINGS: Beating them. You beat them. You beat them.

FINKENAUER: I wish there were more Liz Cheneys.

SWERDLICK: Let me - let me see--

FINKENAUER: But there's not.

SWERDLICK: Let me see, if I can split the difference between the Congresswoman and Scott here.


SWERDLICK: Look? If this--

COATES: This is going to interesting!

SWERDLICK: If this backfires, on Democrats, and they don't win some of these races, where they've funded the Trumpier candidate? Then come November, they will look bad.

OK, on the other hand, Democrats, right now, and I think this is partly to the Congresswoman's point, are both the progressive and the moderate Party, and the Republican Party is mostly captured by Trumpism, except for a few Republicans, on there.


FINKENAUER: Oh, no, yes--

SWERDLICK: Just wait - wait a second. So--

COATES: I got to go. But I think very sure I got to go. I left the cliffhanger there, and you want to watch the next thing, don't you? Stick around everyone.

Abby, David, and Scott, thank you.


COATES: The next question, of course, is can former Trump lawyer, Pat Cipollone, offer more insight than what he told the January 6th committee? We'll look at the DOJ's new subpoenas, in the criminal probe. That's next.



COATES: Federal prosecutors are going to get to court, to - and get some pretty interesting testimony, and evidence, from big names, in the Trump administration.

A pair of, top Trump White House lawyers, Pat Cipollone, and his top deputy, Patrick Philbin have been subpoenaed. The DOJ wants them both to testify, before a federal grand jury, investigating what happened, on January 6th.

My next guest is a former federal prosecutor, who is now running for Congress, in New York. He also served on the opposing side of Pat Cipollone, as counsel to the Democratic House in the first Trump impeachment.

Daniel Goldman, welcome to the program. How are you?


COATES: I'm glad you're here. I've been wanting to pick your brain, about this, in particular. Because I know that the way people speak about a Pat Cipollone of the day is the idea of being forthright, and candid, and talking about all these measures, although it took some time, post Cassidy Hutchinson.

But I bet you have a different recollection, of his role that he's played, in the idea of transparency. Am I right?

GOLDMAN: You are exactly correct. And, in my view, Pat Cipollone is no hero, simply because he tried to stop the President of the United States, from inciting a riot, on the Capitol, on January 6th.

In fact, during the first impeachment, as you remember, Cipollone was very involved in both the Ukraine scheme that Donald Trump was executing, as well as the cover-up, where he facilitated placing that whistleblower complaint, in the super-classified system, so that nobody would be able to see it.

And then, he was involved in creating and drafting the memo to cover up and prevent the Intelligence Community's Inspector General from turning over the whistleblower complaint.

So, he both had a factual knowledge, of Donald Trump's abuse of power. And he also was integrally involved, in covering it up, during that first impeachment.

COATES: Interestingly enough, many of the players, you're talking about now, agencies, Inspector General, Secret Service, communications, all these things, have somehow found their way back into the discussion of today.

And I do wonder, on those issues of privilege, or confidentiality, what does it say to you that there seems to be this ramping up of sorts, to prepare for, and anticipate, somebody asserting a privilege, of some kind? I mean, I know that he had the testimony from the January 6th committee.

But is there some validity to the proposition that they actually might be able to assert a privilege?

GOLDMAN: I don't think that ultimately, the privilege would bear out, if this were to go to court. And that the Department of Justice is much better-situated to litigate the privileges that Cipollone seem to claim, during his deposition, before the January 6th committee.

You do not have attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, if you are - if you are having conversations, related to misconduct, or crime, or fraud. And there's a very good argument to be had that many of Cipollone's relevant conversations, with Donald Trump, about his efforts, to overturn the election, were not kosher, so to speak.

And so, the Department of Justice could press Cipollone, to give more information, than what the January 6th committee did. And if he refuses, they can go to court, and they can litigate this, to where Cipollone would have to tell the court what privileges he was using, for what testimony, or documents, and the court would decide whether or not there's exception to those privileges. But remember, Laura, the privilege, executive privilege must be claimed and asserted by the President, not by the person, who was - the President spoke to. So, we're going to have to actually have a formal assertion of executive privilege, by Donald Trump, which then Joe Biden will rule on before, ultimately the Department of Justice presses Cipollone further.

COATES: Well, as they say, it's good to be the king. And the person, who actually has that role, of the President, is President Joe Biden. And he's already said he's not going to assert the privilege. But I am really curious to see how this is going to go, going forward.

Daniel Goldman, I'm glad to talk to you. I had a feeling you had a different viewpoint, about how this might go. Thank you for being a part of the program.

GOLDMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

COATES: So, look, we know what Trump and his inner circle called the investigations, into January 6th. Remember this?




REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): This is a partisan political witch-hunt.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): It is absolutely a witch-hunt.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Nothing but a political witch- hunt.


COATES: Well, let me remind you what a real witch-hunt once looked like. Can we go back to 1693 for a second, the Salem Witch Trials? 19 people hanged, for stating the obvious that they weren't witches.

55 others confessed, obviously, under extreme pressure. They were convicted, but spared. One of them, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., the only woman, whose name had not been cleared. Why am I talking about it? Because now her name has been cleared. It took an eighth grade civics teacher, and her students that convinced state lawmakers, to finally clear Johnson.

So as much as Trump and his allies, do like to use the term and, perhaps others, more colloquially, the term, "Witch-hunt?" The only part of January 6th that really resembles what happened, say, in Salem, well, was this shot, of a gallows, erected for Mike Pence.




COATES: Coming up, a much different legal battle. The NFL is now appealing the suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Is his punishment for alleged sexual misconduct too light?

Bob Costas joins me next.



COATES: The NFL, tonight, is appealing the six-game suspension, handed down to Cleveland Browns quarterback, Deshaun Watson.

The decision comes, after a former judge found that he violated the league's personal conduct policy, in various private meetings, with massage therapists. Those meetings led dozens of women, to file sexual harassment, and assault lawsuits, against him.

Originally, the league pushed for a full-season suspension. So what will Commissioner, Roger Goodell decide now?

Let's talk about with Bob Costas, tonight.

Bob, nice to see you.

I got to know, I mean, first of all, when we learn about an appeal, who are they appealing to? Is it back to another sort of arbitration, or a retired judge? What's the--


COATES: --what's the deal?

COSTAS: No. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, or at least the portion of the agreement that concerns cases, like this, if there is an appeal, it goes either to Commissioner Roger Goodell, or his designee. And whatever either Goodell or the designee decides is supposed to be binding on both sides.

In theory, if the NFL Players Association didn't like the outcome, of the appeal, they could go to a civil court. But that would appear to be unlikely. So, it's either Goodell, or his designee, who will make the decision.

The league had asked for a full-season suspension, actually an indefinite suspension, because they feel there's a possibility that additional accusers could come forward. And they might have a different view of the severity of the case. Now, Judge Robinson, the former federal judge, who decided this case, termed Watson's behavior as both predatory and egregious. But she based what seems to be a relatively light sentence on the fact that previous penalties for what she termed non-violent sexual misconduct did not exceed six games. So, she gave him the six games.

The league feels that A, just as a matter of what's right, that's too light. But also they have a public relations concern. This looks terrible, for the league, especially, not solely, but perhaps especially, among its ever-growing female fan base. So, they know that they have to address this issue. Otherwise, they have a public relations problem.

COATES: I mean I even heard, I think, Robert Kraft made the comment, this was an embarrassment. Of course, there's - we can leave aside sort of the glass house that might be involved, in that commentary of him.

But the idea of it being the embarrassment, to the league, do you think that they will cave to the pressure? And is it appropriate to do so?

COSTAS: Well, I think they will decide. Either Goodell, or his designee, likely will decide, on a more severe penalty. Keep a couple of things in mind.

First of all, for whatever it may be worth, two grand juries, in Texas, declined to indict Watson, on any of these charges. He remains almost defiant, say he - saying he never did anything wrong. He never disrespected any woman. He's innocent of these charges.

Meanwhile, last year, he was, in effect, on administrative leave, while some of these things were adjudicated, and he received $10 million in pay, from the Houston Texans, then his team, never played a single game.

The way his current contract is structured, he received a $45 million signing bonus, which cannot be touched, during a suspension. And they purposely arranged it, so that this first year of the deal, anticipating suspension, he makes barely a million dollars. So, the deal itself is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And he's pocketed $45 million up front. And all he would lose, in a six-game suspension, is $340,000.

Taking all of this together, and the pattern of behavior, and the number of accusers? The public isn't buying this as an equitable penalty. At least I wouldn't think so.

COATES: And Bob, I mean, this deal, the contract he has, which includes guaranteed money, as you're talking about, it was signed, when these allegations were at least in part out there. It wasn't as if they were blindsided by this, right?

COSTAS: That's right. That's right. Look, we know this. They can say all they want. "We believe in Deshaun as a person, and he'll be his best version of himself," what they're really looking for is the best version of Deshaun Watson, the football player.

"And let's hope he stays out of trouble, and stays off the front pages of the newspaper, and confines his activities, to the sports pages," that's what they're hoping for, because he's a good player, when he's playing, at his best. But this is something that doesn't sit well with most of the public.


Now, what the league could do? They could say, or Goodell, in this case, Goodell, or whoever he designates, could say, "Look, we'll make it 10 games or 12 games, and we'll add a substantial fine." And maybe the baseline for that fine is $10 million, which is the amount he collected, from the Houston Texans, last year, without playing a single game.

COATES: So then, he only gets 34 - $35 million left. I mean the idea of just the way that the money makes the world go round, Bob Costas, really fascinating to think about.

Because, I wonder, is there - what are the other players saying about this though? You're getting a sense of how this is impacting, how other players, in the league, are viewing this?

COSTAS: It's very rare for players to speak out publicly, like, "Hey, this is terrible, and we need a harsher penalty." Some may feel that way. By and large, once a guy is in the locker room, and he's your teammate, if he can help you win? Then people are generally on board with that. And if they have private misgivings, they generally keep it private.

COATES: I guess some would say "That's the way the game is played!"

Bob Costas, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.

COSTAS: Thanks, Laura.


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

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

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