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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Poll Shows Trump In League Of His Own In Republican Field; Proud Boy Leader Gets 22 Years, Longest Riot Sentence Yet; Special Counsel Says, Trump Trying To Prejudice Jury Pool; Abby Phillips Discusses Senator Mitch McConnell's Health; Elon Musk Issues A New Threat Today; Priscilla Presley Opens Up About Relationship With Elvis When She Was 14. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 05, 2023 - 22:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Jorge Vilda, the head coach of the Spanish National Soccer Team, that just won the women's World Cup last month, has been fired. He was pushed out, but the soccer chief, Luis Rubiales, of course, the one who is facing a lot of the fallout from that unwanted kiss, his fate still hangs in the balance tonight.

What we do know is that Montse Tome was made the first female head coach for Spain's national team, a former member of that team. We'll keep you updated on that story.

Thank you so much for joining us. Seeing him prime time with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Thank you so much, Kaitlan. Have a good night.

And good evening, everyone, I'm Abby Phillip.

Donald Trump's path to the Republican nomination is not only getting more dominant, it's becoming more bulletproof. And as the indictments against him grow, so does his stranglehold on the field. And new CNN numbers show one of the reasons why, voters just aren't worried.

A majority of Republican voters and conservative-leaning Independents say that they aren't concerned that the charges against him will hinder his ability to win the general election, nor would the case hurt his ability to serve for another full term.

Now, at least one of his rivals, Nikki Haley, suggests not putting too much stock into what these polls say.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are not going to vote for a convicted criminal. The American people are going to vote for someone who can win a general election. I have faith in the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: But Nikki Haley herself may be one reason why that blind faith in the American people may not be warranted. This was the former governor of South Carolina on the debate stage just a few weeks ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him as your party's choice? Please raise your hand if you would.


PHILLIP: Haley raised her hand. She and her fellow Republican candidates, not named Trump, are in a bind.

The numbers keep rising for Trump among the very voters that she's trying to court. And in that hypothetical general election matchup that she mentioned with President Biden, a Biden win is hardly a given. The two are neck and neck, at least at this very moment in time.

And joining me now is former Republican Congressman in South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Governor Sanford, thank you very much for joining us.

So, as you look at these numbers, do you see it the way it seems to be, which is that Trump's support is pretty locked in right now in the Republican Party?

FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): I think the operative thing that you just said was right now. And it is so early in the process. I mean, I've been through my share of elections over the years. And, you know, at this point, I'll just give you one quick antidote that I think tells the whole story.

I went to the debate there in Milwaukee. And the next morning, I got in the cab and I asked the cab driver, and he told me, you know, who do you think won the debate? And he sort of paused and he says, you know, I think it was that Indian guy. I kind of liked him. But, you know, I also kind of liked a couple of women. But I liked that woman that was wearing the white dress best. Of course, there was only one woman. It was Nikki Haley. And I did like that black guy. That was about as detailed as he could get.

And so at this point in the campaign, what we're really measuring is sort of name I.D., wherein Biden and Trump will stand way out front. But we've got a long way to go. And I think it's telling the caucus process in Iowa and how that can upset the apple cart and the degree to which, you know, Governor Christie -- excuse me, Governor Sununu, has said I'm going to make it my job to make sure Trump doesn't get elected.

So, I think we've got some potholes in the road to this being a coronation. PHILLIP: Perhaps. But I mean, those two fellow South Carolinians that you mentioned that that man described in that way, Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. I mean, they're in single-digit support in our latest poll. No other Republican is even close to Trump. And that includes Ron DeSantis.

At this point, what do you think that they should do to make defeating Trump a possibility? Is there anything that you can see them doing that would actually change this dynamic in the race?

SANFORD: Hit and contrast. I mean, you talk about -- I mean, that clip that you just played a moment ago, you talk about a lack of leadership, where everybody sort of tepidly raises their hands, sort of looks to the left, looks to the right and it's like you're back in kindergarten and, okay, they're raising their hand, I guess I will too.


This was not if Trump was the nominee, it was if Trump was indicted, convicted and the nominee. And the fact that you would have that three-fold punch and still raise your hand is crazy world.

So, I mean, people need to say no, I disagree, he shouldn't be, which Nikki is now saying, but she wasn't saying on the debate stage. People need to make contrast. People respond to contrast in these debates and respond to how -- you know, hey, Trump has said a lot, he said he was going to have the Mexicans build a wall but he didn't have them build a wall, he said he'd eliminate the debt and the deficit if he got elected. Well, he didn't do that. Make contrast. And I think people would make a real headway if they did so.

PHILLIP: So, I want you to respond to something, because this happened just earlier today. Former Vice President Mike Pence seems to be doing exactly what you're suggesting, making a contrast by making this pitch against populism. Listen.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I believe that now we have a choice our party is facing, whether we're going to produce leadership that is grounded in that timeless conservative agenda that's defined our movement for more than 50 years or whether we're going to follow the siren song of populism and move our party away from those same principles.


PHILLIP: Just not to put too fine a point on it but he ran with Trump on a populist message. Does that work if you are Mike Pence?

SANFORD: No, it doesn't. I mean, you know, right message, wrong warrior. I mean, the fact that he would stand there at press conference after press conference after press conference with this fawning and adoring look as he had looked on as Trump would say whatever the next crazy thing that Trump was saying and yet now he's going to make the, you know, sort of the pitch against, well, no we need to go a different way. Well, you stood there for four years adoringly looking at your, quote, leader. I just think it's a tough sell from his standpoint.

PHILLIP: It's a tough road ahead, I think, for Mike Pence and probably most of those other candidates on that debate stage. Governor Sanford, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SANFORD: My pleasure.

PHILLIP: And it's the longest sentence yet to be handed down in the January 6th insurrection cases, a judge giving Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio 22 years behind bars in the sedition case for his role in that Capitol plot.

Now, Tarrio followed his other Proud Boy defendants in recent weeks emotional begging for mercy in the courtroom. He apologized to the judge saying in part, quote, my candidate lost. I felt like something was personally stolen from me. Every media channel that I turned to told me I was justified. He went on to say, I am not a political zealot.

Now, remember, Donald Trump has suggested that he'll pardon some of these guys.

And joining me now is Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen. Michael is now principal of Crisis X. He's also the host of two podcasts, Mea Culpa and Political Beatdown, and The New York Times bestselling author of Revenge, How Donald Trump Weaponized the U. S. Department of Justice against his critics. Michael, thanks for being here, as always.

I want to start with one of the latest pieces of news to come out today, which is that a number of the January 6th defendants, they've been receiving significant sentences for their actions at the Capitol that day, including Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio who just today was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Some are trying to walk this fine line of regret at this moment. Maybe they were hoping for a pardon or hoping for leniency from the judge. On the question of pardons, do you think that Trump will try to pardon some of these people who already have gone through the justice system and the justice system has said, you need to be in prison for decades?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Yes. Well, that presumes that Donald ends up winning the general election, even presumption that he becomes the nominee for the GOP. There's plenty of time and there's a lot of indictments and a lot of cases that are still confronting.

But, yes, I do. I believe that some of them not all but I do believe that some of them, like an Enrique Tarrio, would end up receiving a pardon or some form of commutation if Donald should enter the White House yet again.

PHILLIP: And for these Proud Boys, one of the things about the sentencing is that they all cried and seemed to beg for mercy. What do you make of that?

COHEN: Well, now, unfortunately, for them, they are confronted with the reality of the gravity of what they did on behalf of Donald J. Trump, based upon him blowing the dog whistle for them to attack the Capitol.


They are now seeing the damage that Donald J. Trump has caused to their lives. But let's not forget the damage that Donald has caused to so many others' lives, mine included. So, the reality is setting in.

And it should be a warning to all of the 18 co-defendants in the Georgia case that this is going to happen to them as well. It's why I constantly say on social media or coming to see you here, Abby, on CNN that the time period that these people are going to get is going to be significant.

So, if they think that the January 6th cases are isolated, they are not. And I suspect that the Fulton County, Georgia determinations will be equally as painful.

PHILLIP: You just brought up the Georgia case. Now, all 19 of those defendants have pled not guilty in that case.

With all of these defendants in Georgia and the unindicted and unnamed co-conspirators in the federal cases, we are starting to see a lot of finger-pointing playing out in the legal filings. Do you think that they will make a break with Trump, like you eventually did?

COHEN: Well, my hope is that they take a look to see what just happened with Enrique Tarrio, where he got 22 years, then the other insurrectionists got 17 years. These are real sentences. Not that mine wasn't at a 36-month, three-year sentence. That's pretty significant also, especially based upon what the crime was.

But these are real long sentences. And if they want to be part of that club of people who spend basically the rest of their lives behind bars, my recommendation for them would be speak now. Because as soon as the guy next to you or the woman next to you starts speaking and spilling the beans, your information is not as important. It's not as significant. So, the person really who starts to speak first is the one that will get the benefit.

PHILLIP: A big part of this in the Georgia case, and actually in the federal case as well that looks into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results is former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

He provided testimony last week in the Georgia case and he put a lot of his actions at the feet of Donald Trump. Do you get the sense that Meadows could be considering turning against him as well?

COHEN: Sure. Again, if Mark has half a brain, then, yes, he would be speaking right now because he knows that Donald will point the finger at him on any opportunity that he gets. No difference. And you may have seen in the deposition that Donald gave with the New York attorney general. He pointed the finger at his own son, Eric, throwing Eric under the bus.

What is -- if Eric can be thrown under the bus by Donald, what do you think Donald will do with someone like Mark Meadows or somebody like Rudy Giuliani or, you know, Sidney Powell or any of the other co- defendants? Donald doesn't care about anyone or anything other than himself and he will point fingers and throw anyone under the bus to save himself.

PHILLIP: You know well how expensive it is to deal with the legal challenges that face people who are embroiled in these things with Donald Trump. But right now, it does not appear that in the Georgia case Trump is paying any of the legal bills for these folks, even for someone like a Rudy Giuliani. And now, CNN is reporting that some of Trump's co-defendants in Georgia, they are struggling to even afford the legal issues that they haven't even really gotten into yet. It's just the beginning.

That cash crunch, do you think that cash crunch can incentivize people to flip?

COHEN: Like I said before, Donald doesn't care about anyone or anything other than himself. He's not going to waste a single penny on any of these people.

And he's going to use the line that, oh, it wouldn't look right if, in fact, that I paid your legal bills. It will look like we have some form of a joint defense agreement or there's collusion going on between us. He will use anything that he can in order to continue to grift off the American people, his supporters, for himself, not for the benefit of others.

But, yes, once the bills start pouring in, and, as you said, Abby, I certainly know what that was like, it's devastating. I mean, nobody, unless you're a billionaire, can afford to fight with the government because the government has unlimited resources.


And they continue to use them, and they then expand upon them. So, at the end of the day, you know, these people are sunk.

PHILLIP: All right, Michael Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And just in, Special Counsel Jack Smith is accusing Trump of trying to prejudice the jury pool. This as we learn his investigation is expanding. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson joins me live.

Plus, more Republicans are voicing concern about Mitch McConnell's health as the Senate returns. Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, joins me live next on the age of lawmakers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIP: And new tonight, Jack Smith said in a court filing that when it comes to the 2020 election interference case, former President Trump has made daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to prejudice the jury.

Now, this new allegation comes as CNN exclusively learns that the scope of Smith's investigation continues to expand with a new focus on those post election fundraising and voting system breaches and how the former may have paid for the latter.

Now, prosecutors are currently honing in on former President Trump's lawyer, Sidney Powell. Remember, she was also a codefendant in that Georgia election case.

Jocelyn Benson is Michigan's secretary of state, and Michigan was, of course, one of the states where voting systems were targeted.


Secretary Benson, thanks for joining us.

You have spoken to investigators in both the state and the federal levels about this push to access voting systems. What can you tell us about what these investigators have been most interested in in those conversations?

SECRETARY OF STATE JOCELYN BENSON (D-MI): I think two things -- first, thanks for having me -- the connection between what happened in Michigan and a national conspiracy in a very detailed way. So, a lot of things that happened in Michigan, whether it's the voting machine breaches, the cases out of Antrim County, fed into a national conspiracy that jettisoned into the trashgate our U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

So, drawing those connections really with a meticulous focus on the facts and what was true and what was not and what was alleged and said versus what actually happened. It was a lot of what we unpacked in our conversations with everyone at the state and federal level investigating these incidents.

PHILLIP: And it appears that Sidney Powell is a figure that is at the center of so much of this. Did they ask about her in particular?

BENSON: I don't want to comment too much on the investigation itself in those discussions, but I will say it's very clear that Sidney Powell was an active part of both what happened in Michigan and nationwide and the lies that she fed the public and lawmakers and others throughout the country really hit hard here in Michigan, and, in my view, formed the backbone of a lot of the illegal attempts to, among other things, breach our election equipment.

And so it's not a surprise to me to see her play a central figure in the legal proceedings as well given what we experienced here in Michigan, it's all firsthand.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mentioned earlier that Jack Smith is now accusing Trump of making statements that would prejudice a potential jury, and you've been the target of Trump's attacks in the past. Do you see this as the start of him being held accountable to a certain extent for his attacks on individuals and on groups of people?

BENSON: Yes. I mean, I will say since these indictments have come down both at the federal level and at the state level and in Georgia, it's really been the first time in years that I've and others have begun to feel a little relief in feeling like protected and that someone is seeking justice and accountability.

And as we prepare for another attempt of potential election interference in the 2024 cycle, the fact that these legal proceedings are happening now, for the first time, give me some semblance of confidence that we won't have to go through this again. But we'll see how it all plays out.

PHILLIP: So, the last couple of weeks, there's been a growing effort in some states, including in your own, to find ways to keep Trump off of the 2024 ballot using the 14th Amendment. The argument is basically that his actions on January 6th constitutionally disqualify him from running for office again.

Senator Tim Kaine just this weekend said, it's probably going to be resolved in the courts, but perhaps not before, you know, attorneys general in your state and in other states are faced with this question. What is your prediction about whether that's possible and how this all might end?

BENSON: Well, I think, you know, I'm going to follow the law and I'm going to uphold the Constitution. And I know and expect my colleagues around the country, both secretaries of state and attorneys general to do the same.

But we all are aware and expect that the final say on this issue of eligibility both on the former president or any candidate will be decided as it typically is in the courts, both at the state and federal level. So, you may see some secretaries of state making an initial determination based on our view of the law or what the law allows us to do. But no matter what determination is made, it will ultimately be fully resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, we hope sooner rather than later, to give us all clarity moving forward for this election cycle.

PHILLIP: Just quickly, in the meantime, do you expect to have to make some kind of judgment before the Supreme Court weighs in about whether Trump shows up on the 2024 ballot in your state?

BENSON: Potentially. I mean, our decision for the primary election plays out in just the next few months. And Nevada and several other states will be making decisions even before that. So, we may see some decisions made prior to any clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court.

But before it's all said and done, at the end of this, on the other side, the Supreme Court will make a determination. We just hope it's in time for us to ensure our ballots are printed effectively and correctly for any upcoming primary election. And then we anticipate potentially another run of it based on who gets nominated in the summer conventions next year.

So, this is far from resolved, but you will see it play a central role in the conversation around the 2020 election for some months ahead.


PHILLIP: All right, Jocelyn Benson, thank you so much for joining us.

BENSON: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIP: And tonight, Senator Mitch McConnell is speaking out about his latest health episode as his own party voices concerns. Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, joins me live to talk about our aging politicians. That's up next.


PHILLIP: Members of Mitch McConnell's own party tonight voicing concerns about his health. It comes as the Senate minority leader briefly addressed his second freeze in public during his return to Capitol Hill today.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Now, one particular moment of my time back home has received its fair share of attention in the press over the past week. But I assure you, August was a busy and productive month for me and my staff back in the commonwealth.


PHILLIP: And while the 81-year-old didn't give any details about what happened, the Capitol physician did shed a bit more light in a statement today, writing, quote, there is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experience a stroke, TIA or movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.


But these incidents have raised some questions about McConnell's health and his future as the longest serving party leader in Senate history. And here to talk about this and other things is Patti Davis. She's the daughter of President Ronald Reagan, and she's the author of the book "Floating in the Deep End".

Patti, great to see you, and thank you for being here. I want to get to your really fascinating op-ed that you had recently in "The New York Times" in just a moment. But just to ask about what we've seen now with these two moments with Mitch McConnell that happened right in front of television cameras. What did you think when you saw him freeze in that way?

PATTI DAVIS, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Well, I'm not a doctor, so I can't diagnose anything. But I think both -- both the situation with Mitch McConnell and with Dianne Feinstein bring up, you know, things that need to be addressed and need to be discussed. Medical transparency with elected officials. We expect that with the president.

So, I don't know why we shouldn't expect that with other elected officials. And I think, you know, probably term limits is something for many reasons, not just age and infirmity is something that should be on the table and be discussed.

I don't think age itself should be the main criteria, because I would like to point out that Paul McCartney is 81 years old, and he's out, you know, doing concerts, and Mick Jagger's 80. So, age is not always, you know, the one barometer that you can use.

PHILLIP: Yeah. You make a really interesting point. I mean, your father, Ronald Reagan, was 77 at the end of his presidency. President Biden is now 80. If he serves the second term, he'll be 86 at the end of that term. Nikki Haley, who's running for president right now, she says that she doesn't think that Biden can finish a second term. What do you think? I mean, should he be running for a second term at the age that he is? Does it matter?

DAVIS: Well, I mean, he seems pretty together to me. And where's -- how is Nikki Haley capable of saying that? And by the way, Nikki Haley also made a comment a few days ago saying that the Senate is a nursing home for privileged people, which is a really mean thing to say. You know, I just think it's really sad that cruelty has become currency in our political landscape, right? Those are both kind of mean things to say. And what is the point of that? Right?

PHILLIP: It is a good question. Look, you wrote this really fascinating piece that I mentioned earlier about Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose health challenges have been really out in the public. She has had these moments after an illness where she seemed confused and disoriented in the Senate. People are actively asking her to leave her office. What should families do when, you know, perhaps, there's evidence of serious health decline while their loved one is in a position of power.

DAVIS: You know, it's really complicated, and that's why I wanted to write this piece, because losing someone to cognitive impairment, no matter what the cause, whether it's dementia or encephalitis or a brain injury, it's like nothing else. That person becomes unrecognizable, and you're mourning that you as the caregiver and the family members, you're mourning the loss of that person in ways that we usually do after someone dies but that person is not dead, they're physically here.

So, it's very complicated and I wanted to illuminate what caregivers go through. She's obviously a very public person, but there are people in living private journeys by the millions who go through this day after day, you know, and I think don't get enough attention paid to them and don't have enough advocacy. So, that's why I wanted to use her experience to illuminate that.

But just to make one other point, you can't, it's not so simple as to say to someone, I'm sorry, you can't work anymore, right? It doesn't work like that. People want to stay with what's familiar to them. And I don't think that's a cognitive thing or an intellectual thing. I think it's a primal thing. This is where she feels rooted. This is her life, you know, and she wants to -- and she wants to stay with that.

PHILLIP: Patty, can I ask you this? I mean, when your father was serving as president, there were questions later about whether perhaps he was showing symptoms of Alzheimer's while he was still in office.


And it just makes me wonder, how does -- how do you handle that? Is there a way to handle it if you don't know if there is decline, but you see just things that are troubling, in the case of Dianne Feinstein?

DAVIS: Well, what we've seen in Dianne Feinstein is not anything that we saw with my father when he was in office. So, you know, people are going to have the opinions that they have about my father. I do not think that he was exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's when he was in office. You know, it started when he -- when he -- actually it started when he fell off the horse and had a brain injury, which is often how dementia announces itself with a head injury, oftentimes with anesthesia. So, I do not think that that --


DAVIS: -- it's about that he was ill when he was in office. Well, a really fascinating discussion with you, Patti Davidson, a great op-ed that you wrote in "The New York Times". Everyone should go and take a look at it. Thank you for joining us tonight.

DAVIS: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, if more than a quarter of Alabama's population is black, why is there only one congressional district with a majority of black voters? Sherrilyn Ifill joins me live on a major rebuke that happened in court today. Plus, what Priscilla Presley is revealing happened when she met Elvis at the age of 14.



PHILLIP: And tonight, Alabama says that it will appeal a federal court's decision to strike down a new redistricting map that would undercut the power of black voters. The back story is this, that the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama's existing map violated the civil rights law.

Now, the state redrew a map over the objections of Democratic lawmakers, and today a panel of three judges, two of whom, by the way, were appointed by former President Trump, not only rejected that map, but rebuked those behind it for blatantly ignoring the higher courts ruling.

Joining me now on all of this is former president and director of counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill. Sherrilyn, this is really an incredible legal saga here. The Supreme Court said months ago that Alabama needed to go back to the drawing board, rewrite this map. They refused to do it. And then today, officials were ordered to do another map that has to be independently drawn. I mean, what's your reaction to all of this?

SHERRILYN IFILL, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE: Well, Abby, there's a saying among civil rights lawyers that Alabama is going to Alabama. Essentially, Alabama is in a state of resistance to the Supreme Court. But let's take it all the way back.

After the 2020 census, it was apparent to everyone what the demographics of the state have become, that the black population is 27 percent, that those congressional districts, there are seven congressional districts, one has been majority black, and it was clear that it was possible to draw a second district that would give black voters an opportunity to influence, strongly influence the outcome of elections in that district.

Alabama refused to do so. That's the first act of defiance. Then they get sued. It goes to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court stays a positive ruling for black voters. It goes back to the drawing board. Then the Supreme Court issues its decision in the Milligan case, which surprised everyone. Alabama thought they were going to win this case in the Supreme Court.


IFILL: They did not. Chief Justice Roberts actually surprised everyone. And it goes back to the drawing board. And, Abby, a month ago, they were slapping each other on the back. There were calls that were revealed and discussions at meetings among members of the legislature and the attorney general saying that they were so happy they didn't just knuckle under to the highest court in the land and that they were stringing this out. Now they've been rebuked again, but they insist that they are appealing to the Supreme Court. I expect that they will seek a stay of the three-judge court's decision, and they will keep grinding this out.

PHILLIP: I mean, this is the perplexing part. They seem to want to go back to the same Supreme Court that's already told them to redraw their map. What is the enforcement mechanism here, if they continue to stonewall?

IFILL: Well, what's so ironic about this, Abby, is that 10 years ago, this very Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roberts struck down a critical feature of the Voting Rights Act that was designed for places like Alabama and to prevent this from happening. The pre-clearance provision would have required Alabama to have its maps cleared by a federal authority before they tried to put them into place.

It was designed to avoid this kind of recalcitrance at the expense of this litigation. Who pays for this litigation? Is it the K.I.V., the governor? Is it the secretary of state? Is it the attorney general? No, it's the people of Alabama, including the black residents of Alabama who pay for a state to continue to try and oppress them.


IFILL: And in the meantime, they are without the representation that they deserve.

PHILLIP: Justice delayed is justice denied is how the saying goes. And obviously, today's ruling is not a new phenomenon in the state's history. It's just another instance where the court has forced these state officials, particularly in the south, to just follow federal civil rights and voting rights laws. Just two decades ago, a lawsuit forced the creation of that seventh district, the state sole majority black district in southwest Alabama.


What do you really think is behind this kind of resistance in the year 2023?

IFILL: Well, I think it's partly politics. I mean, I certainly think that they believe that, you know, if they keep knocking on the door of the Supreme Court at some point, it's going to open for them. But I also think this show of defiance, much like massive resistance to desegregation in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was designed to cater to the base, was designed to keep voters passionate and riled up around issues of race and representation.

And I think they are playing this game and they're playing this game with democracy in Alabama. I hope the courts will stand strong and compel Alabama to comply, but they are playing politics with the right of black voters to be full and first-class citizens and to participate equally in the political process, and it is no joke.

PHILLIP: Sherrilyn Ifill, can't really think of a better person to talk to about this on this particular day. Thank you for joining us.

IFILL: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, the Anti-Defamation League says that it found thousands of examples of anti-Semitism on Twitter in one month. And now, Elon Musk is threatening to sue them for, get this, defamation. The CEO and National Director of the ADL joins me to respond next.


ASHER: Elon Musk issuing a new threat today. He says that he has no choice but to sue the Anti-Defamation League for defamation. The owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, claims without evidence that the group's assertions about rising hate speech on his platform are to blame for the company's 60 percent drop in advertising revenue. But it's not just the ADL. Other organizations have also noted that there's been a jump in hate speech across X since the billionaire took over.

Musk is no stranger to taking legal action against his critics. Last month, he sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which reported hate speech on X has sharply risen since Musk took the helm.


Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO and National Director of the Anti- Defamation League. Jonathan, first of all, thanks for being here. And also, what's your response to Elon Musk's threat to sue you all?

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well, look, Abby. ADL is the oldest anti-hate organization in the country. We've been focused on fighting anti-Semitism and racism and all forms of bigotry for over 110 years. There is a problem across all social media services. We've talked about it before. I've talked about it on this network. I've talked about it with Elon Musk. And the reality is this claim that Elon wants to sue us.

Look, I can't really tell you what's in his head. I've read the same tweets that you have. But what's alarming is the rise of anti-Semitism across the country. Like we've got to see the big picture here. Literally, anti-Jewish acts have reached historic levels in the United States, the highest number we've seen in 40-some-odd years of tracking it.

In the last month alone, Abby, there have been over 50 bomb threats and swatting attacks against synagogues and Jewish institutions across the country. This past weekend in Florida, we had Nazis marching out in the open. And then, of course, we see this grotesque anti-Semitism on Twitter.

I mean, it started with this hashtag, ban the ADL. That was initiated after I met with, you know, ex-president, CEO, Linda Yaccarino. So, when I tweeted about that, it spawned this hateful campaign. And so, the truth is, is that I'm concerned about what's happening in this country. I'm deeply worried about the anti-Semitism affecting American Jews, frivolous lawsuits, wild claims. I can't respond to them. I've got to do my job, which is to fight hate.

PHILLIP: Have you talked to Elon Musk directly about this particular topic, about whether it's the anti-Semitism on the platform or his amplification of the ban ADL? you know slogan that we've seen.

GREENBLATT: Well, I have certainly spoken to Elon Musk in the past, not over the last several days, but you're making a really important observation here. It is the amplification of this hateful slogan, this sort of hashtag campaign. And let me tell you, the people who were promoting it were a number of very bad actors.

And one of the most influential people in the world, the owner of the platform itself is engaging with some of these actors who are notorious anti-Semites or conspiracy theorists or other sort of -- again what I would describe as bad actors with very hateful intent that energizes them, that emboldens them, Abby, and that's what we do at ADL. We track these people.

So, literally when in Florida over the weekend you had a group called the red shirts which is sort of an all-star team of Nazis marching in the open with swastika flag saying awful anti-Semitic and racist things, and then repeating that hashtag slogan, very problematic to see it jump into the real world.

PHILLIP: Elon Musk has -- the way he describes himself is as a free speech absolutist.


PHILLIP: When the ADL looks at Twitter as a platform, do you see free speech actually being a vehicle for basically just anti-Semitism in many cases?

GREENBLATT: Well, look, I actually am somewhat who deeply believes in the First Amendment, and I think hate speech, speech we don't like, that's the price of free speech. But the question is, are you elevating it? Are you expanding it? Are you making it easy to see for children or other people? Or are you finding ways to de-amplify it and tamp it down?

Now, I don't have access to all of the Twitter data. I know Linda Yaccarino has told me directly that things are improving on the platform. I think Elon's made similar tweets. What I know is what we see and what we study at ADL and we're deeply concerned. And again, I don't mean --

PHILLIP: Are they improving? Do you think they're improving? We've seen an increase in kind of QAnon hashtags. We've seen a lot of notorious anti-Semites re-platformed. And this weekend alone was exhibit A in ugly, grotesque, poisonous anti-Semitism. So, I've got to look at what we see and what we see is deeply troubling.

PHILLIP: All right, Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

GREENBLATT: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: And up next, an extremely dangerous escaped conflict is still on the run in Pennsylvania. Coming up, we'll have an update from an official there. Plus, what Priscilla Presley is saying about her physical relationship with Elvis when she was just 14.




PHILLIP: Priscilla Presley is opening up about her relationship with Elvis. Despite meeting when he was 24 and she was just 14, Presley says, quote, "People think, oh, it was sex. No, it wasn t. I never had sex with him. He was very kind, very soft, very loving, but he also respected the fact I was only 14 years old. We were more in line in thought, and that was our relationship."

Now, that candid quote, all in response to the new Sofia Coppola movie about the relationship, "Priscilla", which comes out on October 27th. And that's it for me in CNN Primetime. CNN Tonight with Laura Coates starts right now. Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I've been to Graceland. I --my mom was a big --

PHILLIP: I have not, actually. COATES: You have to. First of all, Tennessee -- lovely area, Memphis



COATES: -- included and Graceland, it was very -- they had a whole car thing. I'm not into cars but I did taste all that. Whatever the peanut butter sandwich thing he had. It wasn't for me. It wasn't for me.

PHILLIP: That's not where I thought -- that's not where I thought this was going.

COATES: No, but it came back to food. That's what it came back to.

PHILLIP: That's actually very wholesome and I love it. Great.

COATES: Oh, good. It's a family show and a family hour, Abby. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

PHILLIP: You too. Have a good show, Laura.