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CNN TONIGHT: 18 Top Former Trump Admin Officials Dismiss Trump's Document Defense; Federal Judge Blocks Florida Gov. DeSantis' "Stop-Woke" Law; Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson Suspended 11 Games, Fined $5 Million In Sexual Misconduct Case. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 18, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Bright note, to end the program. Earlier this week, in San Antonio, a group of strangers, rushed to rescue a driver, involved in a rollover crash. At least nine people worked together, to flip over the car, and get it upright, according to our affiliate, KENS TV.

A Military veteran, with a broken hand, led the rescue. He then flagged down other drivers, to stop and help. And they did. The drivers rushed to the hospital. NBC (ph) News says he's recovering.

We wish him well, and applaud those good Samaritans, for their actions.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Alisyn Camerota and "CNN TONIGHT."


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Anderson, thank you very much.

I'm Alisyn Camerota. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

Will we all get to see the extensive affidavit, behind the FBI's retrieval of 20-plus boxes, containing highly classified documents that Donald Trump took with him, from the White House, to Mar-a-Lago? A judge says maybe, but not yet. And we may have to read between a lot of redactions.

The battle to unseal the affidavit, meaning the justification behind the FBI search, played out, in a Florida courtroom, today. The same federal judge, who approved the search warrant, to look for all of those classified and top secret documents, opened the door, to the possibility that portions, of the affidavit, could be made public, as soon as next week.

But first, he's giving prosecutors, the opportunity, to propose redactions, and explain why, each piece of information should be kept from the public. The Justice Department says all of it needs to remain sealed. They say releasing it could quote, "Cause significant and irreparable damage to the ongoing criminal investigation," as well as to witnesses. The judge did unseal four new documents, tied to the search warrant. And there is some new info in there. Last week, we learned the possible crimes, the prosecutors, were looking into, violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, and criminal handling of government records.

So now, we're learning a little more about what those mean. Prosecutors say the potential crimes are number one, the willful retention of National Defense Information, as well as the concealment or removal of government records, and obstruction of a federal investigation.

Prosecutors also argued that they needed to keep the paperwork secret, before last Monday's search, because the integrity of the ongoing investigation might be compromised, and evidence might be destroyed.

CNN also has new exclusive reporting, involving Donald Trump's evolving defense. You'll remember that the former President claimed he had some kind of standing order, to declassify whatever documents he took out of the White House.

Since Donald Trump is an avid golfer, we know he will appreciate the term 18 holes! And there are now 18 holes in his story! 18 former Trump administration officials have put holes in it. Much more on that in a moment.

I'm joined now by three super-savvy legal minds. We have the former Democratic Governor and Attorney General of Montana, Steve Bullock; conservative attorney, George Conway; and former White House lawyer, during the Trump administration, Jim Schultz.

Gentlemen, thank you so much, for being here.

OK, so our Jamie Gangel reports that there were 18, as we just said, former Trump officials, all of whom said they've never heard of any such blanket standing order, given at the time, to declassify documents.

So, some of them, like Mick Mulvaney says he was not aware of it. John Kelly, Trump's former Chief of Staff says "Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given." And another official says, "Where is the order with his signature on it?"

So Jim, you were in the White House. Did you never ever know of any standing orders?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: No, I was there, the first year, long before all this kind of came about. But I do think that, that all of those folks are right. I mean, there is a process, for declassifying documents, involves DNI, the CIA, the agencies that classified those documents.

And in addition to that, could you imagine the outrage, on the Hill? Because, it would have gotten to the Hill. Could you imagine the outrage, on the Hill, if such a standing order existed? The Hill would have everybody down there, doing - having oversight hearings, right away. So no, I don't see it. I don't see it.

CAMEROTA: Governor when you were Governor of Montana, could you just wave a wand and say, "Poof, I declassify you?"


And look, we've known all along, when Trump doesn't like the facts, he makes up new facts, started day one of the administration, from the crowd size. When Hurricane Dorian wasn't going to quite hit Alabama, he redrew it.

There's a reason why "The Washington Post" found 30,000 times, literally, in four years that either false or misleading statements. And I got a feeling that we're going to find out that this is yet just another one of those.

CAMEROTA: George, It's hard to find 18 people, who agree on anything. But somehow, Jamie Gangel, and her team, found 18 former Trump officials--


CAMEROTA: I actually count that.


CAMEROTA: I'm going to count that.

CONWAY: All right.

CAMEROTA: Who all agree that this is impossible?

CONWAY: Yes, it's ludicrous. It's completely ludicrous. It shows you how desperate he is, at this point.

And it shows you - I mean, frankly, I mean, as I always say, he's a pathological liar. He just makes things up, as he goes along. And then, the next day, he'll try something else, and throw something else and see what will stick.


So, it's not surprising to me at all that he would say something that absurd, and it's not surprising at all that everyone would say that's nuts, because it is nuts.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, let's talk about what happened, in court, today, with this affidavit. So, publicly, as you all know, President Trump, and his team, on social media have demanded that the affidavit be made publicly.

And then something strange happened, in court, George. The lawyers, for President Trump, didn't say anything about wanting it to be made public.

CONWAY: Not strange at all! CAMEROTA: The cat had her tongue!

CONWAY: Not strange at all!

CAMEROTA: So, why? Why is that not all?

CONWAY: They're a three - they're being three-faced about it, not two- faced, but three-faced about it.

CAMEROTA: What does that mean?

CONWAY: There are three faces here, going (ph).

One is they'd love to see the document. Trump would love to see the document. His lawyers would see the - love to see the document, because they want to know who's ratting on him.

Secondly, they don't want you to see the document, or you, or you, or me, to see the document, because we'll point out what the evidence is that this app - this is just a mountain of evidence against him.

And thirdly, they want to create an issue for the base and the people they're bilking of money by raising - by using - raising on these fundraising emails. They want to say "See, they're hiding something."

So that's - those are the three things that are going on at once. And that explains why you had the lawyer in the back of the room saying nothing, and why they keep saying, "Oh, we need to see this. We need to see this."

CAMEROTA: Makes sense. I mean, Governor, do you think that any judge is really going to release any significant portion of this affidavit?

BULLOCK: Well, look, it's clear that the judge wants to release something, right? Or wouldn't have said, "OK, DOJ. Let's redact it. Let's see what we can show." And I think there is a public interest in seeing what we could see.

CAMEROTA: Oh, for sure, there's a public interest. But I just don't know that a judge is going to think that it's in the public interest, because there's - it's about classified documents and witnesses.

BULLOCK: Yes. I don't think the judge would have even said, "Come back to me, next Thursday, DOJ," if he didn't want to release something.

Now, the redactions may be such that at the end of the day? And there should be some, right? We need to protect witnesses. We need - this is, as the DOJ lawyer said, just the early stages of an ongoing investigation. So, you want to protect all that.

But if we can see anything, I think that just helps dispel some of the things that Trump and his allies have thrown out there.

CAMEROTA: Well, speaking of Trump and his allies, Jim, one of the questions is, what did he want to do with all of this classified information? Why was he keeping it at Mar-a-Lago? And one of his advisers, Kash Patel, really wanted to get his hands, on this classified information, even the stuff that was being kept at the National Archives. So, let me play for you, what Kash Patel said, last month, and two months ago.


KASH PATEL, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: I can tell you now that I am now officially a representative for Donald Trump at the National Archives. And I'm going to march down there - I've never told anyone this, because it just happened, and I'm going to identify every single document that they blocked from being declassified at the National Archives and we are going to start putting that information out, next week.



SCHULTZ: So, I don't know is the answer to that, right? I don't think any of us know. But what we do know is that if DOJ was going after this material, there were folks at the NSC, CIA, DNI that all said "We need this material back."

CAMEROTA: Because it's the - it's the material of the government. It's of the public--

SCHULTZ: To send 40 agents.

CAMEROTA: --American public's.

SCHULTZ: But forgetting about the - yes. Yes, we want the material back, for the government purpose.

But in order to send 40 agents there, I guarantee you that the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the NSC, are all looking at this, and saying, "We need this for our purposes, because it's dangerous for this country to get out."

CAMEROTA: Right. So, why do you think Donald Trump wanted it? What was he going to do with it, George?

CONWAY: I think it's always a mistake to put in Donald Trump's mind, a complex plan. He's completely impulsive. He's a sociopath. He's completely impulsive.

And he's also a narcissist. And his pronouns are I, me, my, mine. And everything belongs to him. "Those were my generals over at the Pentagon. This is my government." I mean, he's basically the epitomization of the Tasmiyah (ph). And he thinks all of this stuff belongs to him.

CAMEROTA: He said that. He said "It's not theirs."


CAMEROTA: "It's mine."

CONWAY: It's his, yes, he said. He's basically a 5-year-old. "This is my toy. You can't take my toy away for me." And you can read him a statute. It's not going to matter.

The only thing that would matter is you tell him, "You're going to go to jail." But I don't think they emphasize that strongly enough to him, when he was in the critical moments, or refusing to give this stuff back. And now, he's in deep, deep trouble.

CAMEROTA: You agree?

BULLOCK: Yes. I do agree. And I also agree, look, this is more than certainly, as Jim notes, Kim Jong-un's love letters, like this is important stuff, or DOJ wouldn't have done this.


So, now we certainly can't even speculate what those documents are. But we can speculate that there are some of them that are sensitive enough that these measures had to be taken. And nobody is above the law, certainly not Donald Trump. And it's more than just taken a few M&M's from the White House, here.

CONWAY: And if any of us had done this, we'd already been arrested. I mean, it's crazy. If they had asked for the stuff back and we had refused? I mean, come on! We wouldn't have - we would not have a snowball's chance.

John Bolton, who was on here, in the last hour, if he had taken this stuff home? He'd be in chains, right now.

BULLOCK: That's right.

CONWAY: I mean it's absurd.

CAMEROTA: Anybody would be!

OK, gentlemen, thank you very much. Everyone, stick around.

And another top figure, in Trump-world, will be heading to jail. Why do so many people around Donald Trump end up behind bars? That's next.


CAMEROTA: The CFO of the Trump Organization is going to jail. Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty, to 15 felonies, in a tax scheme that allowed him, to avoid paying taxes, on almost $2 million, in perks.


Prosecutors struck a deal, with Weisselberg, to testify against the Trump Organization, at trial. But they did not get him to flip, on his longtime boss, Donald Trump. Weisselberg was facing 15 years in prison, but he ended up only with a five-month jail sentence, he could serve as little as 100 days. Let's bring back our legal geniuses.

So, George, back in February, you wrote in "The Washington Post" about this day. You wrote about this Trump Org case. And you said, "Could this be at long last the beginning of the end for Trump? As always, don't bet on it. But this time, don't be surprised if it is."

So, is it today?

CONWAY: No, no. And I mean, again, as I said, don't be surprised, if it is or isn't. But he's certainly - I mean, this - a lot turned on Weisselberg.

I mean, it was clear that the prior prosecutors, the ones, who resigned, Carey Dunne, and Mark Pomerantz, wanted to go ahead and indict Trump, without getting Weisselberg's cooperation. And clearly, the incoming D.A. decided that he wasn't going to take that risk. And that I think meant that that made the difference.

And whether or not who's right, we can't possibly tell, because we don't know what the evidence is. That being said, I mean, Weisselberg - it's still a serious charge against Weisselberg. He's going to - five months sounds, a 100 days, it sounds like a go-quickly. But he's got to spend that at like, I don't know, Rikers Island, I mean?

CAMEROTA: Yes, Rikers.

CONWAY: You would not want to spend five hours, on Rikers Island! And he's going to testify against the Trump Organization. And if the Trump Organization is convicted, there are all sorts of remedies a court could impose, on the Trump Organization that could be quite serious.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I do want to talk about that, in a second.

But first, Governor, you're the only former prosecutor, here. A five- month sentence, he'll serve 100, basically, days. And it didn't work all the way up to Donald Trump. Is this a win for the D.A.?

BULLOCK: Now, look, I mean, Weisselberg had a great deal. His kids got free college. He got a condo. Everybody would want those employment benefits!

CAMEROTA: Five months in jail's worth it!

BULLOCK: Yes. Everybody would want those employment benefits!

I don't know that I would consider - as George said, we don't know everything that the D.A. was looking at. I wouldn't consider it necessarily when until you actually got him to turn against his own boss. But clearly, they evaluated, they said this is the best we're going to get, and they took it.

CAMEROTA: OK, Jim, now to the Trump Organization. So, the Trump Organization, as we understand it, made $278 million in 2020, OK? So, I would think that if the case ends up bringing down the Trump Organization, which is one possibility, that would really hurt Donald Trump.

However, it has $300 million worth of debt coming due. So, does Donald Trump care if this goes up in flames?

SCHULTZ: Of course, he does, right? That's - he built the Trump Organization, right? His ego is not going to permit him, to let that go. So, of course, it's going to hurt Donald Trump. Not about--

CAMEROTA: But is this his main business anymore? I mean, now that he's in the business of politics, is he still as tethered to the Trump Organization, as he was, when he was a real estate mogul, here?

SCHULTZ: Yes. I mean, look, you saw him get out of the car, in New York, just a couple days ago, waving to everybody. I mean, he looks at that as his - that's his creation. That's his organization. That's his business. And certainly, an attack on that is an attack on him.

CAMEROTA: George, why are so many people, so loyal to Donald Trump?

CONWAY: It's beyond my comprehension. It's something that I see, and I know, and I can predict, but I can't fully explain.

But I'm going to say, in my defense, you read that piece from earlier, I was actually talking about the civil case, there, and the fact that the accountants had abandoned him. And that was going to make it harder for him to refinance the debt that you just mentioned. And that civil case is still hanging over his head, here.

CAMEROTA: And why do you think that's the case that could bring him down?

CONWAY: Well, I - well I don't - I think the case that's going to bring him down as the document case, which I guess we'll get to. But I think the civil case is very dangerous for him, because he's pled - he pled the Fifth, last week. We tend to forget it. He pled the Fifth--

BULLOCK: 400 times.

CONWAY: --440 times! And like, oh yes, it's overshadowed by all the other news. That, in a civil case, those assertions of the Fifth Amendment can be used to impute bad facts against him. So, the civil case against the Trump Organization, and Trump, is very strong, and could put him out of business.

CAMEROTA: But put the Trump Organization out of business?

CONWAY: Well, and him too.

CAMEROTA: But what does that mean? I mean?

CONWAY: What does that mean? He's - it's not - he's - the thing that he values the most the thing that has his name on it, the Trump Tower? I mean, you could - I mean, he could end up paying huge fines.

And they could, under the Martin Act, which is this incredibly broad law, against civil and financial fraud, in the State of New York, they could dissolve his company. So, they could do all sorts of things to him. And he's still - he's not out of the woods, in New York, yet, even though he may - I doubt he'll ever be indicted.

CAMEROTA: OK. Because the other side of the coin is that every time he's in some sort of legal trouble, he fundraises on it - off of it, and makes more money. I mean, this is, with the FBI search, he's made millions of dollars, in the past week, Governor.

BULLOCK: Look, which is actually another way that he's breaking the law. He's sitting on $100 million Political Action Committee, PAC money, right now.


Said over a year ago that he's running for president, said that to Hannity, in July of 2021. Guess what? If you're committed to running for president, and you're raising money, you actually have to file to run for president.

I'm part of a group, we actually sued the FEC, to say "Let's enforce the laws," because he just in like in business, in dealing with these documents, he wants to play by his own rules.


BULLOCK: If he's going to run for president, the actions should follow the Federal Election Campaign Act.

CONWAY: You can't just raise slush funds for, you know?

BULLOCK: Which is what he--

CAMEROTA: He did that (ph)?

BULLOCK: Which is what he has, right now

CAMEROTA: Because he is?

SCHULTZ: Yes, he is doing it. And yes, he can do it, until he declares for president, and that's the question. Did he declare it?


SCHULTZ: I think, look, I've been around politics a long time, a lot of people have gone right up to that line, as certainly as far as Donald Trump, and have not declared, and are still raising money in PACs, and the lot.

BULLOCK: But he literally said a year ago, "I've made up my mind." Couple - probably a month ago, he said the only decision is before the midterms or after. He introduces himself as the 45th and the 47th President. Look, this guy, we know he's running for president. And we know that you--

SCHULTZ: He stands at the line, all day long.

BULLOCK: --actually have to start--


BULLOCK: --following the rules of contribution limits, once you've made up your mind. And that's why we're suing him. And, I think, at the end of the day, hopefully the Federal Election Commission does what it should.

CAMEROTA: I didn't know he introduced himself as the 47th President. I'm going to start doing that.


CAMEROTA: That's a great introduction.

Thank you very much.

CONWAY: It's like declassifying documents, while putting them to your head.

CAMEROTA: Exactly.

Governor, Jim, thank you very much.

George, stick around, if you would, we have more to talk about.

All right, it's almost back to school time. And this year, parents are worried. Up next, a candid conversation, with parents, from across the country and, across the political spectrum about, their biggest fears, as their kids head back into the classroom.



CAMEROTA: As kids, around the country, get ready, to go back to school, their parents are getting anxious. Between school shootings, teacher shortages and culture wars, there's a lot to worry about.

In the latest CNN poll, education ranks as the fourth most important issue, to voters, in this country, tied with gun policy.

So, we wanted to understand why parents are so worried. And we assembled a cross-section of parents, from across the political and geographic spectrum.

Here now are a Pulse of the People.


CAMEROTA: You've all said that education is one of your personal top issues. So, let's just talk about what you mean by that. What most concerns you?

ROXANNE BECKFORD HOGE, CALIFORNIA MOTHER OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, FORMER L.A. COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS CANDIDATE: The number one thing that's salient, in my mind, in the mind, of all my mom friends, is school being open, and kids experiencing normal life.

WESLEY DONEHUE, SOUTH CAROLINA FATHER OF PRE-SCHOOL & ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS: Honestly, for me, right now, it's school safety. And, as a parent, I have a lot of jobs. But my top primary job, above every other job, is to make sure my kids are safe.

ACQUANDIST UY, FLORIDA MOTHER OF MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: Honestly, the same, it's the school safety. That along with just what is being taught in schools, like what's being banned from schools.

VANESSA SPENCER, CALIFORNIA MOTHER OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: I think my biggest concern is just teachers feeling supported. Obviously, safety within schools is a major issue.

ROBIN SCOTT, VIRGINIA MOTHER OF ELEMENTARY & MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS: My biggest concern for education is that the children return to a safe, inclusive, equitable, productive environment.

CRIS CANDICE TUCK, VIRGINIA PARENT OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS: Seeing an inclusive school environment and, really, removing the politicization of teachers, contents, topics. I think, parents' involvement, but also recognizing that our schools are a diverse place that students need to feel safe, to attend, and be themselves. And that's been a real issue here.

CAMEROTA: OK. So let's dive into that, critical race theory. Roxanne, I know you have strong feelings about CRT.

BECKFORD HOGE: I'm an immigrant from Jamaica. And I would just say that being taught, from an early age, and I've seen this, again, across the spectrum of my friends that America is a bad place that Thanksgiving is something to not be celebrated, kids no longer say the Pledge after Middle School? As someone, who took an oath, to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, when I became a citizen, it's sad.

CANDICE TUCK: I'm kind of shocked. Because our high schoolers say the Pledge of Allegiance. My kids have never been taught that being White or being Black was a bad or a good thing. They've never been taught that Thanksgiving isn't to be celebrated.

They do the same things that I did, when I was a kid. They do book reports, on Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln. There's no evidence students are being taught to be oppressed or feel oppressed or feel guilty.

UY: No one's teaching critical race theory. All they're wanting to do is just to add more truth to the history, because a lot of the truth is not there.

BECKFORD HOGE: The fact is that when there's so much focus on the things that are tangential, as opposed to, here's history, here's reading, writing, and arithmetic. And it's really a crying shame that we get distracted. And we also - that we tell Black kids, essentially, "You can't get anywhere unless a White person gives you permission to do so."

CAMEROTA: But just help me understand like, what have your twins been told, just so I have a concrete example?

BECKFORD HOGE: So, I try not to talk about them, because they have their own lives, and that's their own business.

DONEHUE: I'm sitting in Charleston, right now. I'm in a 210-year old building. And I'm three blocks from the slave market, where the majority of slaves came into America. Here, slavery, and the history of slavery, and racism, is embedded into our culture. We have to acknowledge it.

But we shouldn't be teaching our kids that one, White people are inherently racist, because that's not true.

SCOTT: We need cultural competence training, we need implicit bias training, we need tolerance, inclusion and awareness, to go into the world, and to communicate and connect, and we are preparing our kids for that. What's wrong with that?

CANDICE TUCK: If CRT is bad, show me a concrete example. Show me the policy.


BECKFORD HOGE: I've seen elementary kids be divided into groups, on the basis of race, and told - and, by the way, it's 2022. There's a lot of miscegenation here. How do you pick whether you're Black, whether you're White, whether you're an ally? The fact is that I happen to think segregation is bad, and I'm not going to let that go.

CAMEROTA: Let's move on. Let's do the gender, sexuality, transgender issues of kids, in school, and whether or not - just how it's being addressed.

UY: One of my children is gay. They're trying to push the "Don't Say Gay," and it upsets me, because I just want her to go to school, and learn. All I care about is giving great education to her, and I want her to know that she has opportunities in this world, and she shouldn't have to care about the color of her skin, or who she wants to love, and just live a normal life. But we don't get that chance, because people are telling her she can't be who she is.

CANDICE TUCK: As someone, who is transgender, I know that the vast majority of arguments, against gay and Trans kids, and talking about them, it's made up. And sadly, it's just a lack of awareness. People are afraid of what they don't understand.

And, under this law, under the "Don't Say Gay" law that is in Florida, my son, when he was in kindergarten, he got recognized, as a star student, and he was supposed to bring in a poster that talks about him, his family, and all of his favorite things. And on that poster, he put a picture of me.

Under that "Don't Say Gay" bill, that teacher would have had to take that poster from him, in the middle of his class, and be like, "I'm sorry. We can't talk about your parent, because they're Trans. And I don't want to get sued." This is not the environment we should be creating for kids.

BECKFORD HOGE: They claim that the Florida Bill 1577 will stop the poster from being put up from a kid's family. No, no, it won't. It was specifically to address things.

And Alisyn, we're old now. So, these things didn't happen, when we were young that there were a legion of young activists, who wanted to sexualize conversations, in kindergarten.

CAMEROTA: What do you mean, they wanted to sexualize kindergarteners? Can you give me a concrete example?

BECKFORD HOGE: Well, you can just look at any one of the many videos that's shared by Libs of TikTok, on Twitter, where it's actually people, in their own words, on TikTok, elementary teachers, saying "This is what - I tell all my kids, to choose a new name, to choose a new gender."

CAMEROTA: You're saying that on - your source is TikTok, with people, on there, saying, claiming to be teachers, or whatever, and saying what they said, to little kids? Is that what is bothering you?

BECKFORD HOGE: Yes, and saying that my job is to - is to definitely open up the whole conversation, of the monopoly of sexuality.

SPENCER: It's incredibly important for children to see their families and themselves represented, and the books that are in their classroom library. No teacher, no teacher is sitting down to sexualize children in kindergarten.

DONEHUE: Well, I disagree with Vanessa, in that no teacher is sexualizing children, because if that were the case, then you wouldn't see these videos that Roxanne talked about. The real question is how many of those teachers are sexualizing? Just need to find out. Is this widespread? Or is it - are they rare occurrences?

UY: Did you ever ask their teachers are they teaching that? Are you teaching sexualized content? Are you going to schools within your county instead of looking at TikTok? Go to those schools, and talk to those teachers. And, I assure you, it is not happening.

DONEHUE: Yes. To answer your question, I have talked to my teachers, my principal. I have talked to the community leaders. It doesn't happen here, where I am, in South Carolina. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen across the country.


CAMEROTA: We have a lot to talk about. And up next, we're going to continue this conversation, with our own personal parent panel, George Conway, Scott Jennings, and Maria Cardona, all with thoughts, on the culture wars, in the classroom.

Plus, there's a very timely headline, a judge rules, on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' so-called "Stop Woke" law. That's next.



CAMEROTA: You just heard from six parents, across the country, sharing their concerns, about their kids, going back to school, and how they expect teachers, to address the topics, like critical race theory, and gender identity.

Let's discuss all of it with our own personal parent panel. We have George Conway; Scott Jennings, who is a former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Not sure what this has to do with your parenting. But I'm sure we'll get into that.


CAMEROTA: And Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona.

Great to have all of you guys.

So, I learned, so much, from my panels. I mean, I truly learned so much from them.


CAMEROTA: And I thank them so much, for their candor, because they're just being honest about what they're feeling. And they're feeling anxious.


CAMEROTA: And they're feeling scared.


CAMEROTA: And it's sort of a free-floating anxiety. I mean, everybody's obviously afraid, of gun violence, and school shooting. But then beyond that, with the culture wars that they were talking about, there is a feeling that their kids are being indoctrinated, somehow. I shouldn't say that. Not their kids.

Here's where the rub is, Scott.


CAMEROTA: They have a hard time explaining whether their kids have ever experienced it. But they feel it in the air, because it's on the internet. And they've heard stories about this, and it causes anxiety.

JENNINGS: Yes. Well, of course, a lot of videos have been posted. I know one of the panelists referenced the Libs of TikTok. I mean, they've gotten quite famous, posting videos of people from schools. And so, you get influenced, by seeing that. It may not be happening in your own backyard. But you think potentially it's happening in a lot of different places. I mean, just I've got four kids, three are in school, one is in the last round of preschool.

For the three that I have there in school-school, right now, my biggest issue is just continuing to worry about the learning loss, from the Pandemic. I mean, these cultural issues, and these other ancillary things aside, that's what gives me anxiety.

CAMEROTA: Because that's real, Scott.


CAMEROTA: That's real. I mean?

JENNINGS: And, at the same time, though, I think that anxiety is there, and then you throw in these other cultural anxieties.

CARDONA: That's--

JENNINGS: And so, it's what's I think a lot of parents are just feeling overwhelmed, right now, about wondering, is the school going the way I want it to go?

CAMEROTA: I agree. I understand. I am sympathetic to that. But it's the free-floating anxiety. What do we do about that? This is real. Anxiety is anxiety. They are truly anxious. But it's about, as we were saying, videos that they're seeing.



CAMEROTA: What are you supposed to do about that? And it's taken route in schools.


CAMEROTA: And it is affecting the curriculum now. Teachers are skittish, also.

CARDONA: That's exactly right, Alisyn. And the misinformation and disinformation that is out there is a pandemic, to me. Because that is not just making students and their parents anxious, but it is frankly spreading untruths and it is spreading lies.

And I got to say, you talk to all of those parents that are anxious, but they were anxious about different things, right? You had some of them that were anxious about the critical race theory, about the sexualization, which we know is not happening. And then you also had parents, who were, of different backgrounds, who were concerned, because their kids look different, and how are they going to be treated.

CAMEROTA: Well also, their kids if - they're worried about their kids being ostracized, because one of those moms--

CARDONA: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: --does live in Florida. And so, they were having to confront the Parents Education Rights Act, which some people call "Don't Say Gay."

CARDONA: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: And I should mention that literally, just a few hours ago, a Florida judge blocked, Governor DeSantis' anti-woke law in education. And I think we have a little portion of the law - of the decision, from the judge that I can read.

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case. But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents. Because, without justification," the Individual Freedom Act, OK, I guess that's what it's called, "attacks ideas, not conduct."


CAMEROTA: George, your thoughts?

CONWAY: Well, I just, I think the judge is exactly right. I mean, you have to - I mean, part of the things that we - things that we have to teach our children is that there are other people with other different kinds of views. And you have to account - you have to have some empathy toward other people's views, and you have to listen to them.

And I think that to actually try to enforce some kind of a prohibition, on teachers, in a blunderbuss fashion, isn't going to work. I mean, you have - the schools have a right to set the curriculum, and set the focus on the curriculum. But to basically, pass laws, saying that particular subjects are off limits, I think, is just - it's not constitutional. And it's not wise.

CARDONA: I think - I think it goes further. I think it's dangerous. I think what DeSantis is doing is poison. And it is poisoning the kids. It is poisoning the school system.

What he is passing, is actually putting some of those kids in danger. Kids, who are gay, kids, who are transgender, who have parents that are and, frankly, kids who are Black, kids who are Latino, who, we just heard about a teacher, who quit because her colleagues took down pictures of Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, because it went against what DeSantis is trying to do on Florida.

JENNINGS: Now, wait a minute. Ron DeSantis did not pass a law saying you have to take pictures of Martin Luther King down off the walls. That's just - that's just--

CAMEROTA: No. But it's the--

JENNINGS: --this is not--

CARDONA: The message though, Scott--


CARDONA: --is poison, and that is what people are getting from it.

CAMEROTA: It's also that teachers are skittish.

JENNINGS: But what?

CAMEROTA: They don't know. It's so vague. One of the complaints, about this law and, in fact, I believe the judge has said it, it's so vague--

CONWAY: That's the fundamental problem.


CAMEROTA: --it's so vague that teachers--

CONWAY: That's the fundamental - the first--

CAMEROTA: --don't exactly know what they're supposed to be teaching or what's illegal now.

CONWAY: Right.

JENNINGS: But the - what conservative parents, I think, are worried about is what is the focus of the classroom? What is the focus of the school?

Are we spending most of our time on reading, writing, arithmetic, and the fundamental building blocks of an education? Or are we spending most of our time, on some other cultural ideological, whatever - however you want to label it?

CAMEROTA: Sure. But what's the answer to that?

JENNINGS: Other kinds of topics.

CAMEROTA: I mean you have kids in grad school. What's the answer?

JENNINGS: Well, my view is my kids spend most of their time, where we live on the things that I want them to be spending time on.

CAMEROTA: Reading, writing, arithmetic.

JENNINGS: Learn - and principally, I have two kids that have some learning differences. Reading is our issue, like we have to learn. And that's what they do there.

But you can't deny, there have been some anecdotes, some examples, of teachers, who have tried to inject some of these things into - I'm not saying--

CAMEROTA: Are you talking about Libs of TikTok?


JENNINGS: Yes, of course, it's all over--

CARDONA: Where are the examples of that, Scott?

JENNINGS: It's - they're--

CAMEROTA: Scott, where?


CAMEROTA: You can't use that as your source.

JENNINGS: I'm saying there are anecdotes.

CAMEROTA: You can't--

JENNINGS: I'm not saying it's - I'm not saying it's in every school in every classroom.

CARDONA: But when you say anecdotes, or stories of teachers, injecting, are you talking about teachers, who are actually teaching the history of slavery, and what slaves have suffered throughout that history?

JENNINGS: No. I'm not--

CARDONA: Is that what you mean?

JENNINGS: I'm not talking about teaching slavery. But I do think there are people out there, who would like to teach our children that somehow because of their racial background, they are - they are going to be treated differently, or should be treated differently.

CARDONA: They are treated differently because of their racial background, Scott.

JENNINGS: And that they are inherent - and that they are inherently bad. That is an ideology--

CARDONA: Yes, that's where I disagree with.

JENNINGS: --that is an ideology that some people have. And they would like to put it in the classroom.

CARDONA: Show me - show me the--


JENNINGS: I'm not arguing it's widespread.

CARDONA: --teachers that are doing that.

JENNINGS: But that ideology does exist. And it is a concern, for conservative parents, and that's what DeSantis was reacting to. CAMEROTA: Yes, I hear you that it is a concern. But I just want to say one thing, about Libs of TikTok. I didn't know about it. I mean, I think I knew about it, but I didn't pay attention to it, until I did this parenting panel. And then I forced myself to watch it.


CARDONA: It's awful.

CAMEROTA: It was indecipherable!


CAMEROTA: Indecipherable, because they do find little sort of hidden- camera moments. But some of its pixelated, there's--

JENNINGS: They're not hidden cameras. There's people filming themselves in many cases.

CAMEROTA: Well, the one that I saw was at a school, and a child wasn't wearing a mask. And it was like sort of like a gotcha, aha little cell phone video. But all the faces were pixelated, the audio was cut. It was a lot of video of sneakers. And you have to piece together what's happening in the video. This cannot be your - a credible source--


CAMEROTA: --that people are using. It's just can't.

CARDONA: And that--

JENNINGS: This - in the Virginia governor's race, last year, this became a huge issue. And we were told, night after night after night, "This isn't real! This isn't real! This isn't real!" And the more that parents and the Youngkin folks dug into it, they were finding out that these things were happening, in the Virginia schools. It was a big issue, in that race.

CAMEROTA: That's true.

JENNINGS: And so--

CAMEROTA: And I'm not saying none of its real. I'm saying that it's hard to sift through it.

CARDONA: I think--

CONWAY: I think you have to draw the line.


CONWAY: I mean, I think, look, there is - there's going to be a spectrum of approaches to dealing with these issues. And some are going to be too far to one side, and some are going to be too far the other. I would draw the line, for example, where Scott is, where you don't want to teach people that they have some kind of intergenerational guilt--


CONWAY: --for what people, their ancestors did in the past. It doesn't even make any sense.

CARDONA: That's - that's not happening.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Hold on, guys.

CONWAY: But it's something--

CAMEROTA: We can talk about this truly, all night. And I appreciate all of your perspectives.

CONWAY: I mean, it's happening somewhere.

CAMEROTA: You know what? Here's good news.

CONWAY: You know it's happening somewhere.

CAMEROTA: I have some good news for you.

CONWAY: Not everywhere.

CAMEROTA: We're doing this, again, tomorrow night, because everyone stick around, part two, of Pulse of the People. Our conversation, tomorrow night, is happening, also, and that's when we look at parents' thoughts on school safety, and guns. So, please stick around, for all of that.

Coming up, the NFL quarterback, accused of sexual misconduct, by more than two dozen women, Deshaun Watson just learned his fate. Does the punishment fit the crime? How does the NFL even come up with these punishments? That's next.



CAMEROTA: The NFL said it wanted a tougher penalty, for star quarterback, Deshaun Watson. So, is the one they handed down tough enough?

Under a settlement, with the Players' Union, Watson will sit out, in a 11-game suspension, and pay a record $5 million fine. He will also have to undergo behavioral treatment.

At least 30 women have accused Watson of sexual assault or misconduct, during massage appointments. This is while he played for the Houston Texans. He's never been charged with a crime. And he has settled lawsuits, with 23 of his accusers.

Watson now plays with the Cleveland Browns, who put out this statement, earlier today, on his behalf. Quote, "I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made."

But here's what Watson said, just a short time later.


DESHAUN WATSON, CLEVELAND BROWNS QUARTERBACK: I've always stood by my innocence and always said that I have never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone, and I continue to stand by that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you apologize to?

WATSON: For anyone that was affected about this situation. There was a lot of people that was triggered.


CAMEROTA: All right that was hard to hear. But basically, he was saying, "I've always stood up for my innocence." Basically he said, he's not guilty of--


JENNINGS: He said a lot of people were triggered.

CAMEROTA: Back with us to discuss, are Maria Cardona, George Conway, and Scott Jennings.


CARDONA: So, if he really doesn't mean that he apologizes for anything that he might have said?

CAMEROTA: Well, sure. I can't talk--

CARDONA: I mean, the whole thing is just I think indicative, I think the NFL has a problem. I mean, this is not the first time that they have had to deal with something, where it shows how they devalue women.

And this is clearly underscores that issue right there. I mean $5 million? That's chump change for him, right? That's nothing. And he's going to continue to get to do what he wants to do.

And sure, they'll say, "Oh, but he's innocent until proven guilty," all of that, "He deserves a second chance." Sure, he might deserve a second chance, so he doesn't go to jail. Doesn't mean he gets the privilege of being a sports hero and making a gazillion dollars.

CAMEROTA: Well he's had more than a second chance. I mean, there are two dozen women.

CARDONA: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Who have said this.

CARDONA: Thank you. CAMEROTA: George, your thoughts?

CONWAY: I mean, if one-tenth of what was said - what has been alleged about him is true, he deserved a lot more than what he got.

And I do agree. I mean, the NFL obviously has a problem, because the arbitrator, the former judge, Robinson, who issued the first decision, which was much more lenient than even this, basically said she was constrained by looking at past precedents at the NFL. And, that means that they just - they're not doing a very good job of policing their players.

CAMEROTA: But I think they're all over the map, in terms of the NFL penalties. We have a graphic of some of them. I mean, so he gets an 11-game suspension, $5 million fine. Then, DeAndre Hopkins, for performance-enhancing drugs, a six-game suspension. Tom Brady, for Deflategate, four games and a $1 million fine. Martavis Bryant, marijuana use, a one-year suspension, indefinitely, since 2018.

It just - what do you think, Scott? I mean, it's all over the map.

JENNINGS: Well, all over the map, I think, how can you judge if something is fair, if there's no standard for punishment for the different things? I mean, my view is we're going to treat women with respect or we're not. He didn't, according to the women. Never been charged with a crime, but obviously, there was a lot of instances.

I agree with you, I think the NFL does have a problem. And, as a public relations person, with that in my background, today, I was like, "Look at this statement. This written statement is amazing." And then, they put him in front of a camera, and then we learned what he really thinks.


JENNINGS: And that's - and that's ultimately negated all what they were trying to do with, "We're setting up a fund to do this, and we're going to donate to that." And then he shows up in front of a microphone. And so, it added to the credibility problem that they have, in my opinion.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Roger Goodell called Watson's behavior quote, "Egregious" and "Predatory." But I don't know how you put a price tag on that or what that means for sitting out games. I just don't know how one translates to the other.

CARDONA: That means--

JENNINGS: And he's coming back, by the way that when he comes back?



JENNINGS: He gets to play--

CONWAY: Right in the playoffs.

CARDONA: Yes. Against his--

JENNINGS: He gets to play against his old team.


CONWAY: Right.

JENNINGS: It's going to be a huge, like marquee.



CARDONA: It's going to be a big PR thing.

JENNINGS: Just remember business always wins, right?

CARDONA: Right. Well, it's interesting that you say business.


CARDONA: Because Alisyn, if he had done this, in any other company, he would have been fired.

CONWAY: Exactly.


CARDONA: He should be fired. If Goodell really believes what he said about it being egregious and predatory? He should be fired. Because, no CEO would want an employee that is egregious and predatory. He should be fired.

CAMEROTA: Why aren't they firing him?

CONWAY: I mean, I guess it's the economics of it. I mean, it's sort of the football is a big business and--

JENNINGS: It is interesting. Watson's saying "I'm innocent," and his boss saying, "You're a predator," I mean, he's basically challenging Goodell.


JENNINGS: It's an interesting dynamic.

CONWAY: And it's interesting too because the NFL--

JENNINGS: The power dynamic between the management the players is really interesting.

CONWAY: And the players - the NFL Players Association agreed to this settlement, which was an increase, over what the arbitrator had agreed to, which means even they realized? JENNINGS: It was bad-bad!


CAMEROTA: All right, folks, thank you very much.

CARDONA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Great to have these conversations with all of you.

And we'll be right back.


CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for watching, tonight.

And join me tomorrow, in the "CNN NEWSROOM" with Victor Blackwell, from 2 PM to 4 PM Eastern. And I'll be back here, with you, tomorrow night.

And with that "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: I've watched you today, and I could not I believe, you had so much energy, in the afternoon. How is that possible? Lots of coffee? What's going on?

CAMEROTA: Caffeine!

LEMON: What are you doing?

CAMEROTA: It's Caffeine. And I'm enjoying it, Don. That's what's happening. You're seeing my brilliance, the joy.

LEMON: I know.

CAMEROTA: I'm enjoying my job!

LEMON: You wait, for these 30 seconds, between us, and that's why you're all excited about it. Is that correct?