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CNN Live Event/Special

Clock Ticks For Trump To Respond To Target Letter; Scandal Exploding At Border Over Treatment Of Migrants; Georgia Lawmakers Switches Parties, Now A Republican; State Rep. Mesha Mainor Phone Receives Hundreds Of Letters Of Support; Country Music Television Pulls Jason Aldean's New Video Off The Air; DOJ Assesses Reports Of Possible Mistreatment At Texas-Mexico Border. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 19, 2023 - 22:00   ET


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Tuberville, who complained on this show, last week, about a lack of contact, from the White House, or the Pentagon, has now spoken, with the Defense Secretary, twice, I should note. But it hasn't changed his mind.



SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): There was no offer of a compromise. It's their way or the highway.


COLLINS: Senator Tuberville has shown no sign, as he alludes to there, of letting up and affirmed that he plans to, quote, stick with it.

Thanks for joining us tonight so much. CNN Primetime with Laura Coates starts right now. Laura, a lot of news going on.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: A lot. I'm surprised the senator isn't even going to really entertain a conversation with somebody who is so high up like that to have this conversation. It is stunning to me from last week's interview to now, Kaitlan, that we are still here with this senator. Isn't that crazy?

COLLINS: Yes. And, of course, their fear is that it's going to go on for months now, maybe even until September, October, when the Joint Chiefs chairman is set to retire.

COATES: Unbelievable. Well, you'll be on the case. Nice seeing you, Kaitlan.

And good evening, everyone, I'm Laura Coates. And, look, the clock is ticking tonight before what could be the now third, yes, third indictment against Donald Trump. The former president has until tomorrow, Thursday, to respond to the special counsel's letter which confirms that he is a target of the January 6th investigation. He is being given the chance to testify before the grand jury, which is supposed to be back in court tomorrow. Now, in a few moments, I'm going to talk with the lead investigator from the January 6th committee, who initially recommended charges. Also, Chris Wallace will join us tonight on the political fallout and the impact on the race for the presidency.

But, first, CNN is learning that Trump and his team are scrambling, trying to figure out what evidence Jack Smith has, and maybe which witnesses he has spoken with. Does he have the upper hand? What does he really know?

And tonight, we're now hearing which potential charges Trump is facing. The three statutes that the letter reportedly included include things like conspiracy to commit an offense or, again, to defraud the United States, which likely includes the plots to overturn the election, the second one, deprivation of rights, or, plainly speaking, when someone tries to take away your constitutional or legal rights, and, third, tampering with a witness, which, by the way, that phrase, that title could actually include an effort to interfere with an official proceeding, like the certification of the electoral vote, of course, which you know was interrupted by the insurrection on January 6th.

I want to bring in right now a former federal prosecutor, Timothy Heaphy, who is also the former chief investigative counsel to the January 6th committee. Timothy, I'm glad you're here, because I want to pick your brain on, frankly, we remember when the committee recommended charges after the investigation. Now, we're hearing from that letter, which, again, the letter is not a closed universe of all the things that could be charged, or if they will be charged, your evidence. Are these the kinds of categories of charges that you would expect to see here?

TIMOTHY HEAPHY, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL TO THE JAN. 6 COMMITTEE: Yes, Laura. Thanks for having me, first of all. Look, the select committee evaluated the entire federal criminal code and compared those offenses to the evidence that we had developed. And the lead count that emerged as the most likely charge is conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

As you said earlier, that tampering of the witness, the 18 USC 1512 covers that course of conduct (ph), the ample evidence that the president a group of others, I think this is likely a conspiracy case over the course of many weeks before January 6th and on January 6th, tried very hard to prevent the certification of the election. The statute asks whether or not there's evidence that a person specifically intended to obstruct, impede or interfere with any official proceeding -- is pretty clearly, yes.

Now, the special counsel might have additional evidence from additional witnesses that we didn't talk to. So, I think we're heading toward an indictment on at least that count and likely some others.

COATES: What is interesting is if it does line up and you were able in that position to recommend these charges and a lot of time has now transpired since the January 6th hearings, where before the public, that investigation, we're talking about months and months and months since even those were recommended. I wonder what you attribute to the span of that thing. And also what do you think is missing here? Is there anything that stands out to you, particularly you talk about conspiracy? That says others would have to be involved.

HEAPHY: Yes. So, I think my guess is, Laura, that the special counsel has gotten some information evidence beyond that which was available to the select committee, because they have procedural tools with a criminal grand jury that were not available to a congressional committee, right?


So, if we had a witness come in not come in or come in and assert privileges that we didn't credit, we had to go to court and go to file a civil lawsuit or wait for them to file a civil lawsuit. And that took too long. Witnesses were able to essentially assert privileges. And we knew that we could not really litigate that.

The special counsel, if there's a privilege assertion, it goes immediately upstairs to the chief judge who supervises the grand jury. That judge makes a ruling. It goes immediately to the court of appeals. So, the special counsel can essentially overcome or rebut those privileges.

He also has the hammer of threatening charges. So, it could be, talking to some of these people involved in the conspiracy, laying out for them, hey, you face possible culpability if you don't cooperate and tell us the truth, has led some of them to tell the truth. We don't have -- obviously, Congress doesn't have the ability to charge anyone and didn't have that leverage.

So, my guess is they've taken our foundation of evidence, the select committee's, and have built upon it, have an even stronger showing if indictment issues of criminal conduct.

COATES: I mean, can you imagine if your investigation was the floor, not the ceiling, of the facts and the universe of facts that were there? But I'm honing in on this conspiracy again, because as much as we've now heard from Donald Trump receiving a target letter, there's a whole list of names that we have not heard have received it, or may or may not be charged. For example, I'm wondering where is Giuliani in this, where is Eastman in this, maybe Mark Meadows and others. That's just to name three. Do you have a sense or are you surprised we have yet to hear anything about either or any of them being targets?

HEAPHY: Yes. You're putting your finger on the precise names that we had identified, the select committee identified as possible co- conspirators. The fact that they haven't yet done a target letter or haven't and haven't been disclosed, it doesn't mean that they are or are not included.

I think the special counsel has a hard decision to make about how broadly to charge the conspiracy. There were some people all the way down in a very sort of ministerial level that did something that facilitated this intentional plot to disrupt the official proceeding. My guess is he focuses on the control group, kind of the people at the very top, the president and other top advisers. Those are likely the ones to be charged. But in any conspiracy, the contours of it could potentially be really broad. So, those are the kind of hard decisions that the special counsel has to make as he evaluates who to include and what are the charges.

COATES: I mean, discretion really is about choosing your battles, because, of course, the government is expected to have its full weight, as you already articulated, the idea of all the benefits you have with the notion of the United States versus someone's name.

But Mark Meadows, he has been pretty quiet lately. And you've called him one of the key witnesses here. Do you think that Mark Meadows has been cooperating with this team?

HEAPHY: No idea. There's been reporting that he appeared before the grand jury. I don't know if he appeared and provided fulsome, truthful testimony or he appeared and asserted a Fifth Amendment privilege. I just don't know.

He refused to come in and interview with the select committee, although he gave us some of our most important evidence in the form of those text messages that gave us a really clear window into how central he was personally involved.

All of the precursor acts, the pressure on the Justice Department and on the vice president, the contact with state officials, Mark Meadows is right there in the room when all of that happened. And then he's present all day on January 6th when the riot is raging and the president is sitting there watching television, not reacting. He could be a really, really crucial witness if he is cooperative with the government.

COATES: And real quick, this is not obviously the end of the story because we don't even know sitting here whether the target letter will result in an indictment. But if you look ahead and think about what you know from the evidence gathered in the January 6th investigation at the congressional level, is this a difficult case to prove against Donald Trump?

HEAPHY: Look, we found that there was ample evidence. As I said, the special counsel likely has more. You never know as a prosecutor if a case is or isn't a slam-dunk or strong. You don't bring it unless you're confident that you can approve it. Jack Smith is a careful lawyer. He's not going to issue that indictment, Laura, unless he is confident that the evidence will sustain proof well beyond a reasonable doubt and a very closely scrutinized case.

COATES: We'll have to talk about this again, because something tells me it's not the end of the story.

Timothy Heaphy, thank you so much for joining us.

HEAPHY: Thank you. COATES: As Trump faces a third indictment, his 2020 rivals aren't exactly pouncing, shall we say, on his legal problems. Just listen to the variety of reactions we hear.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I want to focus on looking forward.


I don't want to look back. I do not want to see him. I hope he doesn't get charged.

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't keep dealing with this drama. We can't keep dealing with the negativity. We can't keep dealing with all of this.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not want to see my opponents eliminated because of the actions of a corrupt federal administrative police state.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): I still believe that the DOJ is, in fact, weaponizing the tools of our country against their political opponents.


COATES: Joining me now is Chris Wallace, host of Who's Talking to Chris Wallace. Chris, good to see you.

I'm wondering, what do you think this potential new indictment might mean for the next year given what we're already hearing? It doesn't seem like anyone is pouncing on the opportunity to capitalize on it.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: Well, you know, there are a couple of points, I guess, I would make, Laura. One is when your opponent is digging a hole, don't stop them. Let them keep digging. And, obviously, they don't need to pile on Trump when he's the subject, apparently now, it looks like of three indictments and maybe more to come.

In addition, I thought it was very interesting, particularly the comment from Governor Nikki Haley, Ambassador Nikki Haley. You know, it's hard during the middle of a Republican primary race to take the side of the Justice Department, the Biden Justice Department, and the FBI against Donald Trump, particularly, you know, given the suspicion inside the GOP now, formerly the party of law and order, about the top law enforcement agencies.

So, I thought her point was less about the merits of the case and more about the politics of it, that whether Trump is being rightly or wrongly accused, that all of this drama increases the chance that he's going to have too much baggage in 2024 and that he's going to lose to the Democrats.

So, instead of going after the merits of the case, they're basically saying just the politics of the case, we need to win in 2024, and is Donald Trump our best candidate.

COATES: It did speak to the notion of Trump fatigue, so to speak, the anticipation of it's going to continue, it's going to be yet another thing and the distraction away from what she and other candidates want to be speaking about.

But as you mentioned, a really interesting aspect of all of this is from a real political standpoint, of course, because with all the focus on Trump's legal issues, guess what we're not hearing about Chris. We're not hearing about the specific policy issues, where he stands particularly on issues. We heard a little bit on the unitary executive. But watch this moment in Iowa as just an example of when we're not hearing about policy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd like to know how you can help us in Iowa save our farmland from the CO2 pipeline.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, you know, we're working on that, and, you know, we had a plan to totally -- it's such a ridiculous situation, isn't it? But we had a plan. And we would have instituted that plan, and it was all ready. But we will get it better. If we win, that's going to be taken care of. That will be one of the easy things we do.


COATES: I mean, that's not really an answer to the question. But that also is reminiscent of 2016, isn't it?

WALLACE: Yes. I mean, look, first of all, people didn't vote for Trump because of policy specifics. There were broad themes, whether it had to do with, obviously, the wall, with big government, with draining the swamp, and, of course, people now know Donald Trump by his record.

But what has been pretty extraordinary so far as he has spent so much more time talking about 2020 than he has about 2024, interestingly enough, last week, I interviewed Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Party, and that was a key point she made is she said people don't want to re-litigate the past. What they're concerned about is their future and what you're going to do for them.

And at least so far, we've heard precious little from Donald Trump about that, what his plans would be for a second term.

COATES: Very true. Chris, stand by, we have a lot more to talk about.

And developing right now, a massive scandal at the border. Whistleblowers say that Texas officials are pushing back migrants into the river when they try to cross. They're setting booby traps and they're denying them even water to drink. Congressman Castro joins me live, next.

Plus this just in, New York City is telling migrants there's no more room. You have 60 days to leave shelters or you will be kicked to the street.

And later, I'll talk with the Georgia lawmaker who just switched parties from a Democrat to now a Republican. We'll hear why.



COATES: Well, tonight, there is a scandal that's exploding at the border, and the DOJ may be rushing to step in. There are new complaints (INAUDIBLE) disturbing claims about the treatment of migrants.

Now, he is alleging that they have been told to withhold water from migrants and physically push them back into the actual Rio Grande, including children, even at the risk of them drowning.

He also alleges that state officials have been setting up razor wire as booby traps to deter people from crossing. In one instance, a four- year-old little girl fainted after being pushed back into the water as she tried to cross a section of some of these traps.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is following this story. Shimon, this has caught the attention of the United States Justice Department. Is there an investigation underway about these allegations?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Laura, all the Department of Justice is saying is that they're sort of assessing what's going on. They're monitoring certainly what's going on. The Department of Homeland Security, which has their Border Patrol agents there are also monitoring. So, everybody is watching.

But, really, Laura, what makes this so significant is that this information is coming from a Texas State Trooper. This is not coming from migrants. This is not coming from groups that monitor the situation. This is coming from an individual who was so upset by what he saw, by the way state troopers were treating these migrants that he decided to write this memo to his superiors.


And that is what's so significant about this. And I'm told he's not the only one. There are several other memos that have been filed with the inspector general for the Texas Department of Public Safety, and they have launched an investigation.

And this really what this is about is the fact that you see this razor wire, this kind of concertina fencing. It's really military grade fencing. And what's happening there under the governor, Governor Abbott, it's been placed all along the border, it's been placed in the water, in particular in this Eagle Pass area, kind of close to the shoreline where the water isn't so deep. And as people come in, they're getting caught on the razor wire.

And you could see some of the injuries. Some of them are just so horrific. There's one individual where there is a laceration across his stomach and you could just see the number of staples.

The other thing that's significant here, Laura, is that because of where they're placing the wiring, people are going, trying to get to land through the deeper side, and therefore they are drowning. And what this trooper alleges is that they need to light the area. He also says that they need to remove this wiring and help people instead of creating these booby traps where they can't get out. And so that's what is so significant here.

And it certainly caught the eye of many people in Washington, D.C., who are saying something needs to change.

COATES: Shimon, I mean, the fact that this is coming from a trooper, but likely there are others who have witnessed this, the investigation obviously heading right now.

Shimon, thank you so much for this reporting, because just ahead, we're going to have congressman from Texas, Joaquin Castro, join us live to respond to what Shimon has been talking about. The congressman is actually currently in votes. He will jump out soon and will join us here. He's calling now on President Biden and the administration to act based on these allegations and this investigation.

But next, I'm going to speak live with the Georgia lawmaker who switched parties from a Democrat to now a Republican. We're going to hear why and also about the death threats that she has now been receiving based on that.

Plus, a country music superstar is being accused of a pro-lynching, pro-violence song and video. The question we'll ask is, is the criticism fair? What's it based on? And let you decide and we'll discuss it next.



COATES: In one of the bluest districts in this entire country, Atlanta voters will now have a Republican representing them. But they didn't vote her in, at least as a Republican. She was once a Democrat and has decided to now leave that party to join the GOP instead.

Georgia State Representative Mesha Mainor recently announced her decision to do this, claiming legislative Democrats drove her out by, quote, relentlessly trying to sabotage every single thing that she had done, unquote, for her district.

The move is now historic, as she's now the first black woman to serve as a Republican in the Georgia General Assembly.

Representative Mainor joins me now. Welcome. I'm glad that you are here. I'm looking forward to hearing your insight and your views on this.

And many people are wondering, why did you leave the Democratic Party? STATE REP. MESHA MAINOR (R-GA): I think you said it spot on. I'm just trying to represent District 56, the people of Atlanta, Georgia, in Fulton County. And as a former Democrat, it was quite difficult to get things done if you have groups of people continuously and relentlessly trying to stop every single move I did for my community. I could give you a plethora of examples, but along the way, I got things done anyway, really, because of the help of my Republican counterparts, and I'm appreciative of them as well as my community.

COATES: There have been issues in terms of police funding and cross control (ph), discretion issues of school choice. I know that you have been at odds with many Democrats and the General Assembly. But one of the questions people have is if you feel as though the Democratic Party was not supportive of you and your colleagues, your colleagues not supportive of you, why choose to go Republican as opposed to, say, independent? I understand that as recently as last year, you said you would never switch parties. What changed to go Republican rather than independent?

MAINOR: So, in Georgia, it's not really easy to be an independent. Last year or at the last election, I got about 19,000, 20,000 votes. To be independent, you have to get thousands of signatures to even be on the ballot. So, it really is impractical to be an independent in Georgia.

COATES: Well, given that, does it sound like, are you truly a Republican now or was it just politically expedient to be that now then based on that?

MAINOR: So, when I came into office, I came in as a Democrat. I've been a Democrat my entire life. That's all I knew. It wasn't until becoming a policymaker, actually looking at the policy, digging in into the fine details, that many people said, okay, you're actually not a Democrat, you are a centrist or you are a moderate, as a layperson had no idea that that was such a thing. And now I am still a moderate and still a centrist. But just on the Republican side.

COATES: You are up for re-election, I believe, in 2024, and I do wonder what your constituents that you are representing must feel about it. I recognize it's not a monolith. I can't say what do all the people represent actually believe about a particular issue. But I am curious as to how you intend to either seek reelection or what will be your stance, knowing that you have done quite a switch from the Democrats or Republicans.

MAINOR: So the beautiful thing about this, Laura, is I campaigned on public safety as a Democrat. I campaigned on parent choice, school choice as a Democrat. I campaigned on victim rights as a Democrat. Those are the things I fought for inside the Capitol. Those are the exact same things I'm gonna fight for on the Republican ticket. I do plan on running again and once the decision was made and it was announced, I immediately got a flood of text messages saying, I'm still going to support you Representative Mainor.

Phone calls, emails, I know that you've been seeing all of the hate emails and text messages online, but for every one of those hate emails I'm receiving, I'm receiving hundreds of letters of support. Local media, they've been out in the community asking people, how do you feel about this? The responses are, I can't wait to see what she's gonna do with it. So, I plan on winning District 56. I've won it twice with multiple people in my race without a runoff. They voted for me. They did not vote for the alphabet next to my name.

COATES: That's interesting. I'm very saddened to hear as well about the death threats that you have been receiving, and I know that you have been focusing on the positive reactions you've gotten. Something you said strikes me as interesting from the perspective of the electorate. You didn't know there was such thing as a centrist or a moderate. Could you not have been that as a Democrat, or was it the underlying policies that you no longer agree with and have only learned about while in office? Or is it really the bureaucratic process that was surprising?

MAINOR: I would not call it a process, first and foremost. I will say this, it's not about party. I am not expecting the Republican Party to be perfect. My Republican colleagues have said, welcome Representative Mainor, please know that we are not perfect. It really is a policy issue.

So, if you are against children being able to have a choice, when 97 percent of the kids don't know how to read, that's a policy issue. If you want to defund the police, that's a policy issue. If you want to put prosecutors or systems above families that are seeking justice, that's a policy issue. So, once my colleague started putting up $1,000 checks on social media for anybody to run against me, I did some self- reflection. Self-reflection said, okay, why is this happening? It's a policy issue.

Every single policy issue that is important to my community was a policy issue that the Republican Party was supporting. So, it's not party, it's really policy. Who is supporting my community? Who is trying to uplift my community? I tell people, look around you. The schools are failing. We have high crime. There is not a Republican in office, so we can't blame Republicans. Democrats need to blame themselves for the problems in our community and I'm just trying to make a difference, honestly.

COATES: It certainly is your choice in how you want to run and your constituents' choice on who they want to lead. There are, of course, there's a Republican majority already in your assembly. This widens that particular gap. But final question, now that you are a Republican, the head of your party happens to be the former President Donald Trump, at least in a de facto sense. Do you support his bid for the White House?

MAINOR: I would say Governor Brian Kemp is the head of our Republican party. I'm in Georgia and former President Donald Trump is not in office right now, so I'm going to have to disagree with you on that one.

COATES: Will you support him if he becomes the RNC nomination? Obviously, Georgia has been a very important state. Brian Kemp has been a key part of the importance of that and it's been looked at for a number of reasons including, it happens at the federal and congressional level. If he is the RNC nominee, will you support him as a Republican?

MAINOR: I would say that there are 12 candidates. I have been in office for two seconds as a Republican. I have not looked at any of the candidates extensively because I was a former Democrat. So, I was looking at what is President Biden doing. So, ask me again, invite me back in a few months if you want to ask that particular question.

COATES: It'll be the same one. Thank you for joining us today, Representative Mesha Mainor. Thank you for joining us.

MAINOR: Thank you.

COATES: Up next, everyone, Country Star Jason Aldean now defending the lyrics of his controversial new single, "Try That in the Small Town". Is the criticism valid? What's it about? We'll talk about it next.



COATES: So, is this anti-crime or is it pro-violence? Country Music Television pulling Jason Aldean's new video off the air as the song is sparking backlash all across this country. Now the song is called "Try That in a Small Town". In the video you can see footage from police brutality protests, riots, and surveillance videos from robberies. The images play over the lyrics that critics say evoke vigilantism and racism, as well as so-called sundown towns. Posted were outsiders and people of color face violence if they remained after dark.

I want to tick through a little bit of these specific parts. You've been hearing about this story. Let's go through it for a moment, because listen to what the song says could happen if you, quote, "cuss out a cop in a small town".



Cuss out a cop, spit in his face. Stomp on the flag and light it up. Yeah, you think you're tough. Well, try that in a small town. See how far you make it down the road. Around here, we take care of our own. You cross that line, it won't take long. For you to find out, I recommend you don't try that in a small town.


COATES: See, I want to make sure you are hearing the full context of what this is being discussed and understanding what the conversation is about, including this part where critics also take issue with rhetoric that they say is reminiscent of that come and take it attitude that's often espoused by gun enthusiasts in reaction to the Second Amendment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Got a gun that my granddad gave me. They say, one day they're gonna round up. Well, that shit (ph) might fly in the city. Good luck. Try that in a small town.


COATES: But it's also not just what's being said. It's even the backdrop of the video that is soaking some outrage. What you're seeing there is the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, behind Aldine. And it was actually the site of a 1927 lynching of a young black man, also of a race riot in 1946. Now, the production company who made the video says, look, this is a popular filming site.

And by the way, Aldine did not choose this location. He's also defending himself saying in part, quote, "My political views have never been something I've hidden from. And I know that a lot of us in this country don't agree on how we can get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to, that's what this song is about."

Joining me now to discuss Tre Johnson, a writer on race, culture, and politics. I'm glad that you're here. You have undoubtedly been hearing about this song all throughout the day. It actually came out back in May, but the video is new, and that's why it's getting a lot of attention. I wonder, just seeing that all be laid out, do you think the criticism is fair?

TRE JOHNSON, WRITER ON RACE, CULTURE AND POLITICS: Absolutely, and thanks for having me on, Laura. I mean, I feel like just in general as a writer, anytime you put art in the public space, it's gonna invite questions, and I think, frankly, when you do questionable art, it's gonna invite even more questions. And given the context that you laid out already for everybody, it's up for reason that people want to examine why Aldean is choosing this set of messages, this set of images to put across like what is clearly an antagonistic song.

You know, playing devil's advocate, many people have spoken about the other side of this and just reading through, if you look at social media, if you hear other networks talk about this, if you hear those who are true Jason Aldean fans and beyond who are well versed in country music, which has its own set of sometimes controversy. Is there some reason to believe that he was aware of, say, the actual location or its history with lynching? And is this more of a political statement than it is one based on racial vigilantism?

JOHNSON: I don't know if you need to separate those. I think as a political statement, it is racialized. You know, you look at the context. I'm not moved by whether he did or didn't know the context of the setting of the location. He certainly knew the context of what he highlights in terms of the song lyrics. I am curious about the act of omission in these lyrics. Like, he could have chosen to comment on Charlottesville or on several of the mass shootings that have happened inside of the country.

But instead, this very much all plays out as something I feel like could be a gangbuster title or a song at like the RNC. This is something that is playing to a very specific demographic that's speaking to a very specific sentiment and so this idea disavowal about its intentions feels totally disingenuous to me.

COATES: You know, interestingly enough, Country Star Sheryl Crow actually called out Jason Aldean on Twitter saying, and I'll read this for you, "Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There's nothing small town or American about promoting violence." And she also pointed out that Aldean was on stage, as you mentioned, mass shootings, when the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas happened that killed 58 and hundreds more.

You don't necessarily see a contradiction though in what he's saying. Is that right in terms of the discussion about come and take it, that notion of taking one's guns, confiscation versus control, and obviously being somebody who was on stage during that horrific tragedy in Las Vegas?

JOHNSON: No, I mean, I feel for Aldean and for everyone else who both fell due to the shooting in Vegas, but also who has survived it.


You know, that's a horrific set of circumstances I can't imagine going through. And at the same time, I feel like part of the sentiment that he's speaking to is that in a perfect world setting, we'd actually be armed enough to fight back in these situations. This is not about, like, I actually think these are separate things, that the mass shooting is an injustice in part because here is an opportunity from his worldview perspective to fight back.

And I think a lot of this is about this kind of simmering, boiling over antagonism about the need to want to fight back about lots of circumstances in the country that feel like they're being robbed and taken away from people. And again, you know, I think the curiosity here is about what sort of situations he's not looking at versus the one that he's -- once he is looking at.

COATES: It's fascinating. I tell you, he's number one, like on iTunes, I think. I mean, it certainly is in the national zeitgeist and people are paying attention. And I wonder, you know, whether this will become that rallying cry in other ways. We'll have to see going forward. Tre Johnson, fascinating to talk to you. Thank you so much.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Laura. Up next, Texas Congressman Castro joins me live on the intensifying scandal at the border as whistleblowers sound the alarm on how migrants are being treated there. Plus, a woman is reported missing. She was found. And now cops are suggesting that there are, well, more than a few cracks in her story. And suspicious Google searches in her phone. That's all ahead.



COATES: Back now to the developing story we brought you earlier. The DOJ is now assessing the situation along the Texas-Mexico border amid troubling reports of mistreatment, shall we say, of migrants by Texas troopers. Now, among these serious allegations are that Texas officials are setting razor wire traps and are also pushing people back into the water. For more, I want to bring in, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro. I'm very glad to see you. Congressman, what has been your reaction into these allegations. What have you personally heard about treatment of migrants at this border?

JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX), REPRESENTATIVE, U.S. CONGRESS: Well, it is just barbaric, what we're seeing there, and it shocks the conscience. It started about a month or so ago when Governor Abbott ordered that razor wire be placed along the banks of the Rio Grande and continued with these barrel traps.

So, taken together, the razor wire and the barrel traps are basically death traps for migrants. But, an insider, a DPS trooper revealed recently that not only were -- did they set up those death traps but troopers were instructed to push people back into the water and there was a case of a four-year-old girl who passed out and it looks like was still pushed back into the water towards Mexico.

Another woman who got stuck in the razor wire and had a miscarriage. Somebody else that broke their leg and was struggling to survive. And so, this is just heinous, heinous behavior. And Governor Abbott has encouraged this through his policies. So, we are asking that President Biden step in and stop Governor Abbott from what he's doing.

Now, I will write, I'll put up on the screen for people. There was a joint statement issued by the governor on this issue. They are denying that they gave any orders of any kind and instead say that they are prepared to detect and respond to any individuals who may need water or medical attention. I'll let the viewers read the remaining part of that. But it is legal to seek asylum in this country. The action of providing these and putting these booby traps to even be generous in the term. Do you see this as illegal, and are there actions going to be taken legally against Governor Abbott? And is President Biden prepared to do what you're asking?

CASTRO: Well, first, I hope that the President will speak up soon and condemn this action. I know the White House Press Secretary has done that, but the President should speak up and condemn it. And also, the Department of Justice should issue a cease and desist order right away and do everything they can to stop these inhumane, barbaric practices being carried out by Governor Abbott and his administration.

And he did deny it, you're right, but more reporting tonight has confirmed that other troopers and other border patrol agents have essentially said similar things about what's going on at the border. And remember, this is a governor, along with the Director of the Department of Public Safety, Steve McGraw, who lied to the world about what happened in Uvalde, Texas. Lied for weeks, tried to cover up evidence, never came clean fully. That's who we're dealing with here.

COATES: The idea of what happened in Uvalde is still haunting, and just the thought of the timeline for an investigation, it wasn't that long ago we were looking at what happened to Haitian migrants on the border, and it took nine months to have an investigation even come out about unprofessionalism, I think was the term that was used. Congressmen, we'll be watching to see what is done, what the President will say, and what the course correction might be. Thank you for joining us this evening.

CASTRO: Good to be with you.

COATES: Next. There are cracks and they're emerging in a young woman's claim that she was abducted for two days. And now, she's no longer talking to police. What her cell phone records the police are saying are showing, we'll tell you next.



COATES: Now, this story has been really captivating me. Police in Hoover, Alabama are trying to solve a mystery. Was a young woman actually abducted as she claims, or was the entire story a hoax? Carly Russell called 911 Thursday night claiming that she spotted a toddler walking alone on the side of the interstate. Then she disappeared for 49 hours. When police arrived on the highway, they found her car, they found her cell phone, but they didn't have any sign of Russell or any child.

Now, her phone revealed searches about Amber Alerts and bus tickets to Nashville and info about the movie "Taken", which, of course, is about an abduction. Russell did return home Saturday night and told police that she was kidnapped. But now she's refusing to talk and, well, police are frustrated.


NICK DERZIS, CHIEF, HOOVER POLICE DEPARTMENT: When someone says something like this, we put every available resource, everybody comes together from like to say state, local, federal. It's just a lot of work. It is a little frustrating to think that all this has been done and we can't find anything out.


COATES: A community and really, a nation took interest. What really happened? The Chief says only Carly Russell can tell the truth about what indeed happened to her. Thank you for joining me, everyone, tonight on CNN Primetime. I'm Laura Coates. CNN Tonight with Alisyn Camerota starts right now.