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CNN Live Event/Special

Manson Family Killer Freed After 53 Years In Prison; DOJ Says, Trump Wants Classified Documents Delayed Until After Election; Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) Now Admits White Nationalists Are Racists; North Korea Fires Long-Range Ballistic Missile From The Area Near Its Capital City; Actor Hill Harper Announces His Senate Candidacy; Coates Discusses Code Of Ethics Among U.S. Supreme Court With Nina Totenberg; Jury Rules A Handwritten 2014 Will Found In The Late Singer Aretha Franklin's Couch The Valid One. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 11, 2023 - 22:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. CNN Primetime with Laura Coates starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kaitlan, nice to see you and thank you, everyone. Good evening. Thanks for joining me. I am Laura Coates.

And, look, there are some of the most gruesome, some of the most infamous murders in the entire history of our country. And tonight, a convicted killer from the Manson family is walking free. Leslie Van Houten released on parole after 53 years behind bars.

Now, she was, of course, a part of the group that terrorized Los Angeles over two nights in 1969, killing seven people in some of the most gruesome of ways, including Actress Sharon Tate, who at the time was pregnant. Van Houten was convicted of killing a couple in their own home, stabbing the wife 16 times at the crime scene.

Now, she wiped her fingerprints at that crime scene. She changed her clothes. She even drank chocolate milk from her victim's refrigerator. And she says that she did it as a follower of Manson's.


LESLIE VAN HOUTEN, FORMER MANSON FAMILY MEMBER: I believed that he was Jesus Christ and it was his view and belief that all of this would happen. And part of his thing was not to not have individual thinking and don't ask questions. And I bought into it, lock, stock and barrel. So, I never asked him, how is that going to happen?


COATES: Now, California's Governor Gavin Newsom had previously rejected her parole three separate times, but this time, he didn't fight it. I want to bring in Anthony DiMaria. His uncle, Jay Sebring, was one of the victims of the Manson family. Anthony, thank you for joining me this evening. There's been a lot that has been talked about and said over the years, five decades worth and more. The nation, of course, has been fascinated by all that happened. It is unbelievable to think this is a member of your own family who was one of the victims.

Before we even begin, tell me what you're feeling on a day like today, knowing that one more person is now freed.

ANTHONY DIMARIA, NEPHEW OF JAY SEBRING, MURDERED BY MANSON FAMILY: Well, the first thing is, obviously my thoughts are with the victims, all the victims and all of our families, because, as Leslie collectively tortured, conspired and killed her victims, so, too, our families are collectively bound by the loss and suffering of her crimes.

And it's clearly that Leslie Van Houten's release is it profoundly impacts our families. But I fear that a very dangerous, pernicious precedent is established today that will impact millions of victims of violent crimes throughout the state of California today and in the years to come.

COATES: What is that precedent that you are talking about? Because, of course, you have been very critical, understandably, of the idea that she considers herself to be a victim of Charles Manson, and I wonder, what is the precedent you're speaking about that the governor has decided not to stop this appeal or stop or appeal once again, what is the precedent?

DIMARIA: The precedent is established now. You have -- Leslie Van Houten has always kind of propped herself up as a Manson follower. But she's anything but. She is a cold blooded killer in one of the most notorious murder rampages in United States history.

So, with her release now, any other violent criminal or killer whose crimes fall beneath the bar of Leslie Van Houten's very extreme, very -- crimes that also have historical impact, that opens the door for them. And it is our fear that the floodgates in the California penal system will be unhinged.

COATES: I am curious. Has she ever reached out to you or members of your family? I mean, she spent more than 50 years now behind bars. There are others, obviously, who have been convicted. Has there been any contact between the now released woman and yourself or your family?

DIMARIA: No. With Leslie Van Houten, she committed the crimes on Waverley with the Rosemary and Leno LaBianca and was not present at my uncle's murder on the evening of August 8th.


As I understand it, there are certain CDCR rules that prohibit the offenders to contact the families. So, no, I haven't received any outreach from Leslie. COATES: What's your view now of Governor Gavin Newsom, knowing that he did not, at this occasion, fight?

DIMARIA: You know, I appreciate that question. I certainly have respect for Governor Newsom and the attorney general, but our families strongly, vehemently disagree with their decision not to file an appeal.

COATES: Anthony DiMaria, thank you for joining us. And thank you for shedding some light on your family members. And we will think of them as a part of your family, not just in the gruesome way that all of this has been described. Thank you so much.

DIMARIA: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Tonight, there are three major developments in the cases against the former president, Donald Trump, who is vying to, of course, become the president yet again. First, there is a reversal by the Justice Department. The federal lawyers now say that the former president is no longer entitled to the immunity in the defamation case against him, the one involving E. Jean Carroll. Now, this basically means that Trump now has to defend himself without the DOJ stepping in on his behalf.

And it essentially paves the way now for a second, yes, a second defamation trial against Trump involving that same plaintiff. And on top of this, you've got a grand jury in Georgia that was chosen today to decide whether to indict -- remember, it's a probable cause, not beyond under reasonable doubt, but whether to indict Trump and others for trying to overturn the election.

But wait, there's more, as they say, because in the classified documents indictment already against him in Florida, his legal team is now arguing that his trial ought to be moved not a month or two months or even six months, but after the election, the one that's a year-and- a-half away. And among the arguments that he's, one, too busy running for president, and also that a jury, they believe, will be too biased against him.

But you know what's clear, this seems to be part of a political strategy, and it seems to now go hand in hand with his legal strategy.

Joining me now is somebody who knows his strategies quite well. It's a lawyer who just left the Trump defense team in this very case, Tim Parlatore. Thank you for joining me this evening. Nice to see you.

Listen, I'm so fascinated by all that's happening right now. You have been intimately involved in the classified documents up until, of course, leaving that defense team. The fact that he would like this to be moved until after the election, we're talking about more than 400 days away, does that surprise you at all that he wants to delay it in that way, knowing that there's the election?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: It's interesting because the election is there. Assume for a second that there was no election, and you look at how fast federal cases go to trial. It wouldn't seem like that long of a delay. You have federal cases that they go on for years before they ever get to trial.

So, it doesn't seem like that much of a delay in the context of the larger federal criminal system. But certainly when it's being framed this way as being around the election, it does kind of feed that narrative that the whole purpose would be to push it out past the election.

COATES: I mean, did you ever talk to him about a strategy involving -- I mean, certainly you were aware this was all ruminating in the prospects of an indictment and a trial. Was it ever discussed, or would you have advised him to try to delay and push it out past the election?

PARLATORE: Well, obviously, I can't talk about my specific conversations with him, but it is something that you would consider. I mean --


PARLATORE: Well, with any politically-charged case -- I've done this in cases before where it's not a candidate but it is somebody that there's political aura to the case and you know that the administration is about to change and therefore the U.S. attorney involved is about to change, and the next administration may take a different view of things --

COATES: Or be more favorable to you in the long run.

PARLATORE: Sure, they could be. And also by moving from one administration to another, that could have a tendency to take the original prosecutor who brought the case, who's emotionally attached to it, and all of a sudden have a different decider.

COATES: We prosecutors don't have any emotions. What are you talking about? That's a myth, first of all. But when you talk about that, I can't help but think about the comments that he constantly talks about there being two justice systems in America and the luxury of that strategy, though, the luxury of thinking about, well, could we delay in time to have a political appointee who might be more favorable and beyond, isn't that really the tale of the two justice systems that people are talking about. Not the idea of the haves and the havenots that everyone has to deal with in the most basic of cases, but in a case like this, this really feels then like it's an advantage that no other defendant would have with the prospect of maybe saying they're a candidate.


PARLATORE: It is a very unique situation. And I always kind of looked at it at the time that I was on the team the opposite way that how hard would Jack Smith and DOJ be pushing on this case if he wasn't a candidate? And I always kind of saw it as kind of by announcing his candidacy, when he did, that it was something that actually could have turned DOJ into being much more forward-leaning in trying to indict him, to try and prevent him from becoming president. COATES: Wait, just to be clear, you think that by announcing early that that would have had the effect of Jack Smith and special counsel saying, okay, now we have to get him before the election cycle, or that this was something else?

PARLATORE: No. And, again, when he announced Jack Smith wasn't in the picture, that happened right after. But when you have a situation like this, and you got to remember at the time, we were looking at it saying, this is a failure of process. These documents were not taken out with any malice or intention. It was just bad record keeping procedures. And so, really, this is the kind of case that shouldn't be brought. But --

COATES: That was then.

PARLATORE: That was, then certainly at the -- well, let me finish this one first, because my concern was at the time that if the narrative about DOJ under Biden and Garland is going to try and take out the political opponent, if he doesn't run for office, then he's not really the political opponent. He's not somebody that they need to indict to prevent from going back to the White House. So, it can cut both ways in that regard.

COATES: I do hear you on that, but I just want to be a little bit persnickety, if I may, on the word need to indict him. Is there some basis by which you are suggesting that they would have some motivation to target him other than the reason that he has allegedly committed crimes?

PARLATORE: Oh, sure.


PARLATORE: Sure. I think that -- and this does go to some of the two systems of justice. There are prosecutors out there who they like to try and get the biggest names that they can, whether they're Democrat or Republican or non-political people, to further a prosecutor's career, to try and put that biggest scalp on the wall that they can. And Donald Trump would certainly qualify as being one of the biggest scalps that any prosecutor could ever have to put on their wall. Whereas if it's an ordinary citizen, maybe it's somebody who was more of a low level staffer that found documents and it would not be as much zeal to go after them, perhaps.

COATES: Well, I mean, Jack Smith was with The Hague. So, one would argue the idea of international crimes matter, but I'll play --

PARLATORE: Well, he was also at the Public Integrity Unity.

COATES: He was, which is why I say that very notion.

PARLATORE: Yes. He went after a lot of big names.

COATES: He did. But excuse me one second. I'll play in this part of it with you in the notion of let's assume that there is some enticement about it being a name like Donald Trump. Trump didn't do himself any favors. It's not the average person, right, who just said, oh, this was a bookkeeping issue. Here you go, here are the documents back for you. It was, this is mine, you can't have it. And, oh, it seems to be in the indictment or the affidavit, at least one of his co-defendant, his co-defendant, Walt Nada, the removal of boxes and not returning them.

So, there is certainly the talking point to suggest, oh, this is motivated in some way for the biggest notch on the belt. But haven't we gotten past that now based on what has been alleged?

PARLATORE: Certainly, reading the indictment, as I've read it now, versus the information that we had pre-indictment, I can certainly see if there's evidence to support all of those things that are in the indictment where a prosecutor would say, okay, this is something that we need to move forward on. And I'm talking very specifically about the movement of the boxes, which you mentioned. And if you have actual evidence to back that up, then it is certainly something that makes more sense to do.

If it is a situation where a former resident of the White House has moved out and GSA moved a whole bunch of boxes to have a mixture of documents, well, that happened to every single administration going back as far as we've tracked it. So, their documents went to Jimmy Carter's house, documents went to Joe Biden's house, documents went to all of these other places.

Now, most presidents, the boxes didn't go to their house because they were going to form a presidential library. And so the boxes instead went to a NARA facility where the future presidential library was to be built.


So, it never actually got to the house.

COATES: Well, there are obvious distinctions, obviously, in the way that he has been allegedly handling the material from here out.

Real quick, your prediction, is this trial going this year?

PARLATORE: No, absolutely not. I mean, even if there wasn't an election, given the complexity of this case and the volume of discovery and the significant legal issues to be litigated, I don't see how it would go before the election, no matter what.

COATES: Well, we're in the Wild, Wild West. Jack Smith disagrees. We'll see what the judge has to say about all of this. Tim Parlatore, nice to see you. Thank you.

PARLATORE: All right. You too, thank you.

COATES: Look, also tonight, Senator Tommy Tuberville changing his tune now on White Nationalists. We'll discuss next what that means.

Also, plus, CSI Actor Hill Harper, he is launching a Senate bid. He is challenging fellow Democrat Elissa Slotkin and some in the Democratic Party aren't too happy. He's going to join me live.

And a jury is delivering and has done so a decision over the handwritten will found in Aretha Franklin's couch. Is it valid? I feel bad even talking over her great voice. We'll be back in a moment.


COATES: After 24 hours of backlash, Republican Senator Tommy Tubberville finally condemning white nationalists and admitting that they are racist, says the definition actually instructs.


It culminates a series of evolving comments, shall we say? Well, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mentioned the Biden administration trying to prevent white nationalists from being in the military. Do you believe they should allow white nationalists in the military?

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.

My opinion of a white nationalist, if somebody wants to call them white nationalist, to me, is an American. It's an American.

REPORTER: It is the definition.

TUBERVILLE: -- racism bad. Next question.

REPORTER: The definition is that the belief that the white race is superior to all other races.

TUBERVILLE: Racism -- totally out of the question.

REPORTER: So, do you believe that white nationalists are racist?

TUBERVILLE: Yes. If that's what a racist is, yes.


COATES: Tuberville's about-face comes after backlash from Republican lawmakers all the live long day, including from the Senate minority leader.


SEN. MITCH MCONNELL (R-KY): White supremacy is simply unacceptable in the military and in our whole country.


COATES: I want to bring in Michael Eric Dyson, distinguished professor of African-American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University. My friend, I am so glad to see you. I have been almost champing at the bit, wondering what your mind has made of all of this. Tell me what has been your reaction to all of this, and, of course, the timing, Michael Eric Dyson, that it took that stretch of time to do that old come around.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND DIASPORA STUDIES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: You're right, Attorney Laura Coates, you are absolutely right. It ain't an about-face. It's a half turn. The fact is this is a man who, as the coach of Ole Miss and Auburn, made $25 million on the backs of black players. And yet he has showed them little more than contempt and derision since he has ascended to the Senate of the United States.

This man is smart enough to know what he's doing. He's sending dog whistles out. He's signifying that, hey, I'm with you, even when he is forced to turn around, the compatriots of his who are white nationalists understand that he's doing so as a matter of forced compulsion, political correctness, to cooperate with the stream of the times in order not to be seen not out of that stream.

So, the bottom line is that Tommy Tuberville doesn't convincingly tell us that he is not a white nationalist or that he's not involved with or sympathetic to them. He simply was forced to say, yes. At the end of the day, those who claim to be racist are not in my league, but I think that the white nationalists are not racists. Then he says, okay, they are racist. He's giving us a mumble jumble of confused rhetoric. And at the end of the day, we are not convinced that Tommy Tuberville is not in league and indeed in bed with white nationalists, if not formally, at least with their impulse and their ideals.

COATES: Naturally, the senator, I'm sure, would resent and reject the notion that you just suggested. But I do wonder about this taking a step back, Michael Eric Dyson, in that I feel like I can say at this point, I'm perhaps old enough to remember a time when politics also required you to be prudent enough to anticipate backlash in a way that would make you, at least in front of a camera, espouse a very different viewpoint than maybe one you held privately.

But what does it say to you now the ease and comfort of the rebuttal, the disdain for even trying to articulate a position against it right now?

DYSON: You're absolutely right. It's eloquently articulated. And, yes, he would reject my premise, but I think he'd have a lot of evidence to counteract what he's talking about.

Look, at the end of the day, we are living in a time where loose lips don't sink ships, but rise fortunes. The point is that you used to be ashamed to admit that you had any racist inclinations or racist beliefs hibernating inside your skull, that if they slipped out through your tongue, you were immediately horrified at the prospect, and you convincingly apologize, no, not in this case.

White supremacy has become new again, has become a vibrant alternative to many viewpoints that are mainstream in this society, whether on those who are Democrats or Republicans. And the truth is that in the far right wing, there is a vicious kind of reengagement with those who are seen as pure Americans.

Look at what happened January 6th. We had a Confederate flag being drugged through the most hallowed territory in American civic life, and yet they were being defended by the likes of Josh Hawley and many others on the right.

So, the point is that it used to be a source of shame.


Now it's a sense of pride. Yes, you can say, oh, no, no, no, I'm not down with the white nationalists and the white supremacist, even as you espouse their very beliefs and you wink and nod at them to suggest that they've got to keep going.

Maybe not with Donald Trump, like stand by and stand ready, I'm misquoting him, but you get the point, the point is, though, that Tommy Tuberville has strengthened the outlook of white supremacists. And, yes, Mitch McConnell and others have said racism has no place, and yet many of them continue to embrace ideologies and politics that give succor and sustenance to those who hold such beliefs.

COATES: It occurs to me as we're talking fluidly about these terms and often interchangeably, I wonder if people are aware of and do you see a distinction or a conflation of these two terms, white supremacy, white nationalism? There seems to be those who are trying to extend some big divide between the two, but are they distinct in your mind?

DYSON: Well, one is the Lakers, the other is the Celtics, but they're all the NBA. So, the point is --

COATES: Now, the NBA is furious, tell you that right now. Now, they don't want to watch the show. Thanks a lot, Michael. Eric Dyson. But go ahead, Lakers, Celtics. Let's go. Even Red R., about from back in the day, is wondering what happened here. Go ahead.

DYSON: Well, NBA no brothers allowed. So, what's happening here is that, yes, white nationalism is the espousal of a belief in the inherent superiority of white culture, that it is the ethnic basis and the political aggregation of white bodies, beliefs and ideals and perspectives as the dominant thread of American democracy. White supremacy is the conscious or unconscious belief in the inherent superiority of one group over the other.

So, yes, you can make political and ideological distinctions, but at the end of the day, they're bedfellows. They're riding together. One is driving the car, one is riding shotgun, but they all both are aimed toward the same direction, which is to hurt people who are not white.

COATES: Michael Eric Dyson, I'm so glad you came on. Thank you for breaking this down for everyone. I appreciate your time. Thank you. Nice to see you.

Well, from gifts to luxury travel to book sales, there are new revelations tonight about the ethical behavior of Supreme Court justices on so-called both sides of the ideological spectrum. We're going to talk about it all next with Nina Totenberg.

Plus, breaking news tonight, we're getting word that North Korea has fired what appears to be a long range ballistic missile. Everyone, stand by. We'll bring you the latest.



COATES: We have breaking news tonight. North Korea has fired what appears to be a long-range ballistic missile from the area near its capital city. That's according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, which says that the missile was fired into waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. I want to turn right away to CNN International Correspondent, Will Ripley. Will, what can you tell us?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, this ICBM was launched from a pretty familiar place, the Sunan Airport in Pyongyang. It's a place I've flown into many times. And basically, in addition to being an airport that they occasionally would use for civilian flights, they also use them for missile launches. And Kim Jong-un can get there very easily from his palace. And he can observe the early morning launch and watch this big rocket go up, and they take all the video, and then they release it as a big news bulletin maybe 24 hours later, sometimes sooner.

This missile followed a pretty typical trajectory for these ICBMs from North Korea. You know, they've been talking about firing an ICBM at a regular trajectory, which would actually have it kind of crossing over possible continents. I mean, large numbers of potential countries could have a North Korean missile flying overhead if they were to launch one of these ICBMs at a normal trajectory. But they did a lofted trajectory, which basically sends it very far up in the space and back down, only traveling total ground distance, about a thousand kilometers.

That is less provocative, for sure. It follows the pattern that North Korea has used for previous missile launches and it comes at a time, Laura, that there has been a real uptick in tension on the Korean Peninsula. I mean, it was just this week that the sister of Kim Jong- un, the North Korean leader, put out a statement warning that they would shoot down American military reconnaissance planes that had been operating in the area.

North Korea accused those planes of crossing into their, not their airspace, but sort of like an economic zone that they control, you know, near the North Korean coast. The U.S. denies this. There's no evidence offered on the North Korean side. But they are basically, you know, sending out warnings and this ICBM launch is certainly intended to be that for the United States, because that missile well within range of pretty much every major city there, Laura.

COATES: Well, Ripley, it's not lost on any of us that this is, of course, happening during the NATO Summit, as well. And surely the NATO leaders are watching, as well. Keep us updated, please. Thank you so much. But we all know Actor Hill Harper from his roles on CSI New York and "The Good Doctor", among other roles, as well. But in the future, he'd like to be known as Senator Hill Harper of Michigan. He joins me next to talk about his candidacy, where he's challenging Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.




COATES: Actor Hill Harper, known for his work in shows like "CSI" and "The Good Doctor" is now going for a new role, politician. Harper announcing this week that he will run as a Democrat in the 2024 U.S. Senate race in Michigan. He made the announcement in a video dedicated to his adopted son.


HILL HARPER (D), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE TO MICHIGAN: I believe our government should work for the people, be a force for good, and protect our freedoms. And that won't happen if we keep electing the same type of people to office. That's why I'm running for United States Senate to represent Michigan. I love you, son, and I hope to make you proud.


COATES: Hill Harper joins me now. Good to see you, Hill. Thank you for joining us. Listen, this has been quite a week, an announcement of this magnitude, really significant. Tell me, why are you hoping to become the next senator out of Michigan?

HARPER: Well, I'll tell you, Laura, today has been an incredible day. And the reason why is because of a day like today. We started in Detroit early. We've done three different events. Thousands of people showed up. We were in Detroit. Then we went to Pontiac, a community that's experienced a lot of struggles, a lot of factory closings. And then we ended up in the western part of the state in Grand Rapids to a packed house. And a young girl, you ask me why, a young girl named Kennedy Sands handed me this from Kennedy's creations. She's probably nine years old, Hill Harper from Michigan. And that's why I'm running for people like my son and people like Kennedy Sands and then all the great people of Michigan who deserve bold leadership.


I mean, you know, we have the amazing Senator Stabenow stepping down and this state needs bold leadership to continue to double down on the work that we've seen the triple blue do in our state capitol of Lansing where they've done so much good work getting rid of right to work, rebuilding the water infrastructure, expanding voting rights. We need that in Washington D.C., as well.

COATES: You know, you, for many people who have followed your career know that you have done a great deal of activism in Michigan in particular, as well. But many people know you as an actor. And obviously, there have been very famous actors before who've already become the President of the United States. We can name at least one in the past 30 or 40 years at least. But I do wonder, when people see you and they will identify the creative work you're doing, what do you intend to do to expand people's idea of who Hill Harper is and who he can be from Michigan?

HARPER: No, I think that's the question. That's why we have to go to all 83 counties throughout the state. I've -- last three, four months, I've visited so many different places. I've been in union halls, I've been at farmers' markets, have been at people's dining tables and hearing the same thing about what type of representation they want. They want representation of the people as opposed to lobbyists, as opposed to big-dollar donors and backroom deals and so, that's what we want to provide.

That's what I want to represent for the folks. But to your point, folks need to look you in the eye and know whether you're genuine or not and know whether they feel. You know, I've done for years a lot of work in the prison system, fighting against mass incarceration and people said the same thing about that. They -- man, you weren't in a gang. You never went to prison. How do you connect with the brothers?

And they can feel whether, you know, when you say, I love you and I want to support you, they either know you're telling the truth or not. And that's the way people see it. So, you've got to look at the folks in the eye, you've got to have meanings, you've got to meet people where they are.

COATES: I understand that, certainly. And when you meet them where they are, looking them in the eye, what is the issue you specifically take issue with? What are you hoping to propose or change? Because you are not happy right now with what Democrats and the government are doing with respect to Michigan. What is your specific issue and platform that you hope to achieve?

HARPER: Well, I hear from a lot of Michiganders across the state that they don't feel adequately represented in a strong, bold way. We want to fight for people's freedoms. We want to fight for economic development and small business. I'm a small business owner in downtown Detroit. I have a great coffee shop in downtown Detroit. You know, I've had that for seven years and we want to create jobs in communities because we know small business is the engine for that.

We also want to make sure we're protecting our water. Twenty-one percent of the world's surface water supplies here in Michigan, folks feel very personal about our Great Lakes here, and we wanna protect those at all costs. And, you know, we -- Student Loan Debt. You know, we wanna fight against this last politicized Supreme Court ruling against the President's Student Loan Debt Relief.

And so, those are the types of things we wanna do, and -- but we can only do that through a grassroots campaign. And that's why we need people to go to and support us directly, because this is not going to be a funded campaign through big dollar donors and lobbyists. It's going to be a funded campaign through individual donors, grassroots donors on our website. COATES: Now, there is an incumbent in Congress right now who,

according to recent polling, of course, is the front runner as of now. She's a moderate Democrat. You just entered the race yesterday. It's of course Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. She was on our airways, Elissa Slotkin, excuse me, on our airways earlier with Kaitlin Collins. What is the contrast with her specifically? Because of course, this will be a primary challenge.

HARPER: Yeah, it's a massive challenge. And I think that when we talk about contrast, when we talk about candidates, we don't even know who all the candidates are gonna be in the race. What we do know is it's an open seat primary, and it's the greatest opportunity for people to articulate what they believe, to represent people, and to battle. You know, my former classmate, Barack Obama, when he won his senator race in Illinois, it was an open seat primary. I think there were nine or ten people vying for that and I think seven people ended up on the ballot. He won with twenty some percent of the vote. I do know one thing, Michiganders don't want Washington D.C. and the establishment picking who their next senator is gonna be. And I'm excited to have conversations with folks all across the state about that and really let them look me in the eye and decide if they want me to represent them.

COATES: Real quick, is it true, I've seen some reporting that some Democrats and incumbents have tried to tell you not to run because they had who they thought should be in the race already picked out. Has that actually happened? And what's your reaction if so?

HARPER: It has happened. But that's part of the process. I mean, you know, I mean --


COATES: You know, I'm nosy. Who told you not to run?

HARPER: I'm not gonna tell you, but I'm not a politician. That's the good thing. And I think that's what people like to hear. It's a little refreshing. I'll just tell the truth. I mean, I just got into the race today and the NRSC just put out a lie about me that came out, you know, like an hour ago. And I was like, wow, that was fast.

So, the one thing that we got to deal with is truth in this process and I'm committed to telling the truth I'm committing to just being honest and talking about how I want to represent people and not fall into the political games because I don't even know how to play the political games but I'm not a politician.

I'm just gonna be me and if folks want a representative like me who knows they're gonna fight for it and we're gonna have a campaign powered by the people. That's what we're gonna do. We're gonna get people to believe in better than do the work to make it so. That's the type of work we're gonna do. And if folks want that, and I do believe Michiganders do, I'll be the next U.S. Senator from the state of Michigan.

COATES: Well, Mr. Smith went to Washington. Why can't Hill Harper go to the Hill? That's the title, I'm just telling you. Here we go.

HARPER: No, Laura --

COATES: I'm just saying there's a creative genius. I don't know. I mean, you have to just give me credit and royalties. Thank you so much, Hill Harper, nice to see you, and good luck in what you're doing. Thank you so much.

HARPER: Thank you so much, I appreciate you.

COATES: Well, just ahead, the battle over Aretha Franklin's will. Is the version that was the handwritten one by the Queen of Soul and discovered under a couch cushion after her death actually valid? Well, a jury has reached a decision. We'll tell you all about it, next.




COATES: Gifts, luxury travel, now, book sales. The Supreme Court's been under fire of late, and you probably noticed, all over the behavior of the justices when they are off the bench. You've heard about Clarence Thomas and John Roberts. But now, questions about Sonia Sotomayor. Her aide is reportedly demanding that colleges and universities buy more of her books for events with her. A lot to talk about now with Nina Totenberg, Legal Affairs Correspondent for "NPR".

Nina, I'm so glad to see you. I have to say, we have been looking and hearing about the Supreme Court and the disapproval now, the polls about the trust in the institution, the cloud is growing and the drip, drip, drip is not stopping. What is the impact on a court that used to hold, be held in such high regard?

NINA TOTENBERG, LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, you know, there are gradations of all of these issues. And I think Justice Thomas is on one end. Some of the other justices are more or less on the other end. But people understand that the court has a very special place. And if they're suddenly getting gifts from people and very special treatment and being showered with attention and vacations and invitations from very wealthy people, the average American, even the average, moderately wealthy American understands, that isn't a good look for the court.

That it looks like they're being, if not bought and paid for, at least that they may have what we all have, which is we tend to believe our friends. We tend to favor the views of friends. We can't believe that they would do something inappropriate or wrong. And for most Americans, this doesn't look good.

COATES: Nina, you're right about the gradation and we'll take a step back and speak in more generalities obviously for that reason because each specific case and reason is very distinct. But critics, particularly on the left, have been calling for reform and for a long time about ethics and about regulations. Neither Congress nor the court itself was primed to make any changes.

We do see some discussions happening in Congress right now. But the idea of the Supreme Court saying, no, we're going to change our ethical guidelines, our reporting requirements and disclosure, and we're going to match the other Article 3 judges doesn't seem to be happening, at least with the will of the Supreme Court. Is there a course correction on the horizon?

TOTENBERG: Well, it certainly doesn't look that way. I think it's apparent to, I think most of us who cover the court, that the Chief Justice would like to create some sort of an ethics code. I don't know whether it would be satisfactory to you or me, but that would at least be an ethics code. And he clearly doesn't have the votes to do that.

And I think at this point, it's more than just one or two people. It may be more than that, that he may not even have a majority of people who want to really sit down and try to hammer out an ethics code. And the reasons for that are multitudinous and we don't have the time to discuss them. But unless he has the votes, really the votes, and probably more than five, four, he can't get it done.

He's the only member of the court who, as far as I can tell, declares every gift imaginable, lists every real estate transaction of any kind, doesn't give much in the way of speeches. And the ones that he gives are for obvious reasons. They're at major universities on a rare occasion or they're at the American Law Institute. He's really the only one, and even he has come in for some criticism because his wife is a recruiter for law firms.

COATES: Yes. Nina, that's, I mean, thinking about that and just the fascination of, it seems that no one has either clean hands or the avoidance of the hint of impropriety in all this.


It does not bode well for how we look to the Supreme Court. But maybe there is change on the horizon. Nina Totenberg, another day. We'll have a longer conversation. Thank you so much.

TOTRNBERG: Thank you. Bye.

COATES: Ahead, everyone, a big day on the Hill tomorrow as the FBI Director is sitting in the hot seat. John Berman and CNN Tonight starts the top of the hour. But first, is Aretha Franklin's handwritten will valid? A jury decided. We'll tell you what they said, next.


COATES: Well, the verdict is in, a jury ruling today that a handwritten 2014 will found in the late singer Aretha Franklin's couch is the valid one. The verdict brings an end to a more than four-year family battle over Franklin's estate. The 2014 document was one of two wills at the heart of the legal dispute. The other was from 2010 and was found in a cabinet in her home. Aretha Franklin died in 2018 of cancer. Let's talk more about this case with Litigation Attorney A. Scott Bolden. Good to see you here --


COATES: -- and to lean on your expertise here. First of all, is this the right decision that jury came to the conclusion of?

BOLDEN: Yeah, there were two wills, the 2014 will and the 2010 will. And under Michigan law, it's a rebuttable presumption. If you have two wills, the one that's dated later is the one that you ought to go by. Now here, lots of facts, lots of witnesses and what have you. But the 2014 document had several initials and several signatures on it from the Queen of Soul and that was the right decision by the jury.

I'm surprised that it got this far. They mediated. And there were no references in the media, at least the reports I read, of witnesses to either one of these documents. Now, you can have a holographic will under Michigan law, and that's what we had here. But it's a shame that the family members, one, couldn't work it out in mediation, but two, and most importantly, that she and her advisors did not do estate planning like so many celebrities we know.

COATES: We keep hearing about this, don't we?

BOLDEN: Yeah. They essentially drive this narrative of the family dispute from the grave because when they were alive their advisors and them simply didn't work it out. And whether you make a hundred thousand dollars a year or a thousand dollars a year or millions a year, you got to do your estate planning, put your assets in the trust or create a will, secure it, right?

Make sure it's legal and your lawyer or your accountant or even someone in your family that you trust who's going to be the executor is the one that needs to have that will. So, there are no disputes, no litigation, whatsoever.

COATES: You do hate to have a family dealing, grappling with the grief on top of the monetary legacy having to be figured out. A really important point you raise even if you're not with, you know, multi- million dollar estate of a Queen of Soul, the impact is important, nonetheless.

BOLDEN: Absolutely.

COATES: Great to have your expertise. Thank you so much.

BOLDEN: Thank you for having me.

COATES: A. Scott Bolden, everyone. Well, CNN Tonight starts right now with John Berman.