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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Doubles Down On Immunity Claim Even If Criminal; Haley Rejects Trump's New Presidential Immunity Claim; What Did Voters Think?; Who Will GOP Sen. Tim Scott Endorse?; Jamie Dimon Praises Trump, Warns MAGA Criticism Hurts Biden; DOJ Releases Damning Report On Uvalde School Massacre Response. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 18, 2024 - 23:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Nikki Haley says that no one is above the law, but that she would pardon Donald Trump if he is convicted. I'm Laura Coates in Washington, D.C.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Abby Phillip in New York. Haley tonight rejecting the former president's claims of total immunity.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, if a president is doing something and it's related to, you know, whether it's terrorist threats or something like that and people die, that's one thing. But do you get just total freedom to do whatever you want? No, that's never the way it was intended to be. There needs to be accountability. No one is above the law.


COATES: Well, I don't know what you were doing personally at 1:59 a.m. this morning, Abby, but I'll tell you where Donald Trump was. He was on social media and claiming that even presidents who -- and these are his words -- "presidents who cross the line" -- that's the quote -- "should get total immunity." And he doubled down again tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to leave immunity with a president. If a president is afraid to act because they're worried about being indicted when they leave office, a president of the United States has to have immunity, and the Supreme Court is going be ruling on that. If they don't have immunity, no president is going to act. You're going to have guys that just sit in office and are afraid to do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Well, joining me now is CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. John, I'm so glad you're here. I can't think of a better person to have this conversation with.

You and I frequently talk about this entirety, this entire issue. And Trump, as you know, is trying to suggest that the need for immunity when making hard decisions is more important than the prospective danger of a president who might break the rules and then not ever be held to account. Do you buy this argument from Trump?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Not at all. He has gone further than any president has ever even thought he might -- one might go.

Of course, Nixon famously or infamously said, if a president does it, that means it's not illegal. But what he was talking about was something in the area of national security, much like the way Nikki Haley cast it tonight, her understanding of what presidential powers are, that there are some areas in national security where he might have to step outside the boundaries of the law.

Several presidents have done that. Bush-Cheney were indicted in Malaysia for their torture activities. They could have been theoretically indicted here. But there's also a norm that's long existed around the presidency, that presidents don't get indicted when they just are in the normal course of official duties, have to take actions that might otherwise be on the other side of the law.

COATES: It's a really important point. And you think about the fact that there is not this chilling effect, prospectively, that Trump is talking about, that a president would just sit in his, or eventually one day her, Oval Office and twiddle the thumbs because they can't do anything because they might actually get prosecuted.

There are whole lots of boundaries, are there not? For what constitutes an official act and when one would ultimately never be convicted or prosecuted in a case.


I mean, cops are one example, right? We talk about the different things people can do while in law enforcement. Aren't there actual bounds of not only presidential immunity but also presidential official conduct?

DEAN: Absolutely. In Trump's tweet last night and maybe his remarks again today, he is making an allusion to the fact that police people, rogue policemen, uh, get away with all kinds of activity. Well, that's not true. He's just not being specific. There are instances where there are qualified immunity for police to undertake certain actions.

But they don't have blanket immunity. Nobody does under our system. There is just no blanket area where anybody in an official or unofficial capacity gets that kind of immunity.

COATES: I mean, if you had that carte blanche to do whatever you want, then you would essentially have someone being above the law and really completely immune to it for whatever reason they choose. Not quite how I think it has been contemplated, but the court will decide.

But separately, you know, Trump's legal team, they've actually officially warned the Supreme Court essentially that if states are allowed to kick him off of the ballot, of course, this is talked about in Colorado, talked about in Maine, all about the 14th Amendment and the alleged engagement, that's what he says, in any insurrection, that if they are allowed to kick him off a ballot, there'll be -- quote -- "chaos and bedlam."

Now, as far as legal arguments go, I wonder what you make of that, I think, threat.

DEAN: That's not a well -- that's not a well-received argument by most courts, that somebody is going to have a tantrum or provoke a tantrum if you don't make them -- uh, give them the decision they want.

I'm in the process of wading through that briefing before the Supreme Court. Most surprised that 200 Republicans signed on to an amicus brief to support Trump. But they were all due today.

And so, they're starting to come in, and we've got a pretty good look, and nobody really has made a very persuasive argument, although I can see the Supreme Court giving some process argument in this area of the 14 Amendment and its application, whereas I cannot see them giving him immunity that he really seeks much more so than anything else.

But I also doubt this court is going to enforce Section 3 of the 14 Amendment and declare he is ineligible.

COATES: By process, you mean that they'll say something like, this issue should not rightly be before us, it has to go to maybe Congress or someone else. They want to pass that can or that hot potato down the road, right?

DEAN: That -- the more I've studied it, the more I've read the briefs, the more I'm inclined to believe that's what's going to happen. This isn't a decision they want to make. I'd find it fairly shocking if they enforced article -- Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and said he'd engaged in an insurrection and his office as president is included under the 14th Amendment. It's possible, doubtful.

COATES: Well, they're not a fact-finding trial court, so there is a real possibility, as you say. But there are many other cases they're looking at as well. John Dean, always so nice to speak to you and pick your brain. Let's go back to you, Abby.

PHILLIP: Thanks, Laura. I want to bring in my panel here in New York, and John Avalon joins the table as well. I want to start, though, with this idea that Nikki Haley presented. So, first of all, she is pretty clear, she doesn't think that there's blanket immunity.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Uh-hmm. PHILLIP: But then she says she would definitely pardon Trump, but only after he were convicted. Why is she carving out these kinds of qualifications for that?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: So, listen, I'm about as anti-Trump as you can get on the right, and I didn't actually hate this answer. I think saying that let the course of the courts play out, let him be convicted, but then her point of -- just think historically what it would do to our country to actually put an 80-year-old man behind bars, somebody who had access to the most classified information, co- housed with criminals. It is very unprecedented.

And I know some people will come for me for saying we shouldn't put him behind bars if he's convicted and we need, you know, to equally apply the rule of law. But I think that there is something to be said for if you can pardon him and he's out of public life and he's done. I think that would resonate with quite a few people.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Does anybody think if you pardon him, he'd go away?

PHILLIP: She says it would be very healing for the country.

GRIFFIN: Well, that's the problem. We wouldn't go away.

AVLON: Look, this goes back -- we just had John Dean, but this goes back to sort of Ford's pardon of Nixon, which he took a lot of political heat for, probably cost him reelection. And yet, decades later, he won the John F. Kennedy Library Profiles and Courage Award for doing just that, because it was unpopular, but in the light of history, it was seen as the right thing in terms of healing divisions.


I think the point Nikki Haley was making was, it's essentially a commutation. That's what it should be, not a pardon.

GRIFFIN: Yes, not a pardon.

AVLON: It's he needs legal accountability, but she is saying, as a Republican, she would spare him the indignity of jail in order to heal the nation. Look, good people can disagree about that. I think the key point is there needs to be legal accountability, and she probably should use (INAUDIBLE), not pardon.

FINNEY: But again, the problem is he will not go away. He will never go away.

AVLON: Sure.

FINNEY: Right? So, you can -- you know, Ford did that to Nixon, and we didn't really hear from Nixon. That's not going to be that. So, in terms of healing, it's not going to be healing, particularly with him out there saying, oh, there's going to be chaos and riots and --

AVLON: In a legal argument, yes.

FINNEY: Right, and so that's part of the problem. But Nikki Haley was doing something else here. I hear what both of you are saying. She is trying to thread that needle between conservative voters, MAGA voters, and the eyes on the prize in New Hampshire, which is the 300,000 Democrats who've registered as either independents or right, and the actual independents.

So, part of this is the dance that all the Republican candidates have been having to do between, I can't totally anger the MAGA --

AVLON: Hadn't worked out so well for her. No.

FINNEY: No, but that's the other piece of what she was doing politically. Let's call it out.

PHILLIP: Joe, you suggested that maybe she doesn't mean pardoning, but maybe she does mean pardoning because she knows what that word means to the MAGA base.

JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, look, I don't know if there are a bunch of people who are keen on this particular issue, who are making that distinction between pardon and commute. In fact, I think there are a great many people who don't necessarily even understand that commute is something akin to pardon but slightly different.

So, I think ultimately in the end, I think what she is tapping into is this duality of this issue, that there are people who recognize that we need to have accountability. You cannot have a president who has blanket immunity.

But at the same time, if you recognize as all of the, you know, people, the economists, and all the people who are the historians say that we are at a fever pitch when it comes to our politics, then how do you throttle that down?

And we have been trying to inject more politics into a wildfire when at this juncture, there has to be some adult in the room at some juncture who comes in and tries to tamp down those flames.

PHILLIP: That adult is not going to be Donald Trump who --


I mean, look, he is warning of bedlam.


PHILLIP: So, this is getting ratcheted up. Meanwhile, all of the other people running against him are basically saying, well, we're just going to forget this all ever happened.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, look, I think she may actually believe it's the right thing to do to pardon him if he's found guilty of what he is alleged of. And I don't think that's a negative idea. I don't think it's a misnomer. I mean, the reality is, to Joe's point, there are significant tensions in this country politically.

And do you run the risk of allowing this guy who received 74 million votes be thrown into prison and just this idea that all of those people or a third of those folks just going to go home and say, well, it's no big deal, it is what it is? That's likely not the reality.

And so, to her point, I think it is important for someone who's trying to be the president of this country to try to instill unity and not further division, and I think that's Haley's point.

AVLON: Yeah. I think that where the cynicism comes in is that we've seen a lot of folks on the right after Donald Trump destroys democratic norms say, you know what, accountability would be too divisive for this country. We shouldn't -- we shouldn't -- we shouldn't impeach him.

GRIFFIN: Oh, yeah.

AVLON: We shouldn't pursue legal remedies. It's too divisive to hold Donald Trump accountable. And that's essentially what they threatened the Supreme Court with today. Try to hold him accountable with the U.S. Constitution, there will be bedlam, there will be riot.

GRIFFIN: Which by the way is --

SINGLETON: But you have to hold him accountable, John.

AVLON: Correct. So, there weren't agreement, there weren't agreement.


AVLON: And I think that's what's been missing. People calling for calm and healing after he has destroyed a democratic norm whenever accountability is attempted to be applied.

SINGLETON: You can't allow the healing until after the process is complete.

AVLON: Correct. It's truth, then reconciliation.

GRIFFIN: And that was an important distinction Haley made. She was not going to do a blanket pardon. She wasn't going to do an advance. She wants the courts to convict him, and then it would be -- and that's significant in a Republican primary. Ron DeSantis has not said that.

PHILLIP: All right, everyone, stick around for us. What did voters think when they heard from Nikki Haley tonight? I'll ask a pollster, Frank Luntz. He's up next.




PHILLIP: Nikki Haley answering voters' questions at CNN's Town Hall tonight with five days before the New Hampshire primary. I want to bring in now pollster Frank Luntz.

Frank, you were there at tonight's Town Hall and you spoke with some of the voters in the audience. What were they saying about Nikki Haley's performance?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER, COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: Well, I interviewed them before they walked in, and they all wanted in a single word, clarity. Not just answers, but clear answers to questions that were on their minds. And they got that tonight.

In fact, as they were leaving, they were very happy that they were there. The Haley people were ecstatic over her performance. Those who were undecided moved in her direction.

But here's the problem. For Republicans, I ask the question, if Nikki Haley isn't the nominee, will you vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden? And more than half the people at this town hall didn't know or would be Biden voters. And that raises a very big question. Who exactly is coming into this primary?

If it is dominated by independents that aren't traditional Republican voters, she's got a shot. But if this is the typical New Hampshire turnout, which is 80% Republican, 20% independent, then Donald Trump is going to win next Tuesday.

PHILLIP: As you're there on the ground in New Hampshire, do you get the sense that voters there believe that this is still a live race? I mean, Donald Trump every day is saying, this thing is over.


LUNTZ: They don't believe it. They're not sure, but they don't believe it. They believe that their vote matters. They believe that New Hampshire -- if Iowa makes a statement, New Hampshire makes the difference, and they believe that their vote matters.

That said, there is a gap, a polling gap between Trump and Haley right now. That gap is significant. And Haley is going to need more events than just what happened tonight for her to close that gap.

PHILLIP: All right, Frank Luntz, it's always good to see you. Thank you.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

PHILLIP: Over to you, Laura.

COATES: Well, I want to bring in CNN political commentator and Republican pollster Kristen Soltis-Anderson here with me at the magic wall. Kristen, I want to start with what's so important here. We're all wondering, of course, about the latest polling out of New Hampshire. What can you tell us about this? KRISTEN SOLTIS-ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, when we reallocate people who originally said they were voting for either Chris Christie or Vivek Ramaswamy, candidates who have since dropped out of the race, we see that Donald Trump winds up with a very slim lead in New Hampshire.

That's what's making next week's primary so exciting. This race is still close. Ron DeSantis, he says he's still in the race, but he is not currently a factor in New Hampshire.

COATES: I mean, this is quite a differential between DeSantis and Trump, let alone Haley. But tell me, among moderates, does that make a difference here?

SOLTIS-ANDERSON: Well, one reason why New Hampshire is such a good state for Nikki Haley and such a tough state for Donald Trump is that he does really well with conservatives and not as well with moderates. Iowa, only 17% of voters there are moderate. In New Hampshire, it goes all the way up to 36%. Much better terrain for Nikki Haley.

COATES: So, tell me a little bit about the New Hampshire GOP. Is it unique in and of itself or is there something different about that compared to, say, in Iowa?

SOLTIS-ANDERSON: Yeah. So, this primary is really interesting because independents make up a huge portion of who participates, especially in years when there's nothing going on the Democratic side.

If you look at 2012, that was a year where Barack Obama running for re-election, no reason for independents to participate in that primary, so they all came out in the Republican one. That's why we expect in 2024 a pretty large number of independents to make the decision there.

COATES: How about the party I.D. (ph) issue here? What's going on there?

SOLTIS-ANDERSON: Well, so the reason why these matters so much is Donald Trump has been giving Nikki Haley a hard time, saying, you're only winning because you're so good among independents. But the reality is he actually won independents in 2016, way back then. The fact that he did so well among independents in this primary is exactly why he beat Ted Cruz, who was just coming off that Iowa win in 2016.

COATES: Does it matter about college education in New Hampshire?

SOLTIS-ANDERSON: So that is also a big factor here, and this is one thing that Nikki Haley is doing well with in New Hampshire, but has to work on nationally if she wants a path forward.

In New Hampshire, she wins among college-educated, likely GOP primary voters by 12 points. But she's not winning them nationwide. And that's a number that's going to have to change if she has a path forward.

COATES: Really important. Thank you so much for all the information. Kristen, stay with me, of course. Look, Trump and Haley reportedly trying to nab a very key endorsement. It's from someone from South Carolina. They used to be in the race. What's the guest? Senator Tim Scott. So, who is he going to go with? We'll talk about it next.




COATES: Axios is reporting tonight that Donald Trump and Nikki Haley are battling for the endorsement of one senator from South Carolina by the name of Tim Scott. This ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Now CNN was the first to report that Trump called Scott right after the Iowa caucuses, and Haley and Scott have reportedly been texting but haven't yet connected by phone. Hmm, how very millennium about them. That's interesting.

Everyone, let us talk about this now. I have not only Rina Shah, Kevin Madden, CNN's Eva McKend, of course, our magic wall extraordinaire, Chris Hilton, as well.

Let's just talk about for a second this battle for Tim Scott's endorsement. He, of course, was running for the presidency not too long ago. He did not fare well. He dropped out a long time ago relative to them. Who do you think he goes with? And the why to me is so important. What do you think?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I would say Trump. When he exited the field, the sense that I got from his team was that he had no appetite to endorse Nikki Haley. Certainly not right away.


MCKEND: Well, I think that there might be some history there. And then also, he constantly criticized her while he was running as way too moderate to win in a republican primary. And then when he entered the race, Trump was very, very favorable towards him. Trump -- he was one of the few people that Trump did not criticize.

So, I think someone as ambitious as Senator Scott. I covered his campaign closely. I think that he sorts of sees this field right now and he lines up behind the former president.

COATES: What I find interesting is the idea of too moderate to win in a republican primary, but that seems to where you have to go to win in a general election. Being a polarizing figure is not going to bring in an envelope and make your tent bigger. But this idea of the history there, I mean, didn't Haley, wasn't she responsible for Scott even going into the -- he is in?


COATES: Right?


SOLTIS-ANDERSON: She appointed him.

MADDEN: The tensions in New Hampshire politics -- I'm sorry, in South Carolina politics run very deep, right? We do know that. But, look, I don't think this is as big an endorsement as we think in the way we usually look at endorsements like, oh, this is going to bring a wave of evangelical support, a wave of, you know, cultural conservative support or donor support even.

I think this is different because we've all been wondering, like, hey, how is the field going to consolidate to finally take on Trump?


And like this endorsement, which I think it will be of Trump, is going to actually show that the consolidation is taking place on the other side. Like there's a reckoning going on and a realization amongst a lot of Republican voters that, like, look, Trump is going to be our nominee.

Tim Scott wants a future in the party, probably wants to be VP, knows the gravitational pull inside the party is with MAGA crowd. He is going to get there before everybody else.

COATES: Oh, you think he might be thinking about it in the sense of not just --

MADDEN: He wants a future in this country.

COATES: -- maybe being a VP.

MADDEN: He wants a future.

COATES: I heard VP. That what you think?


RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think so, and that's why he even might be waiting until after New Hampshire. Some people close to him are saying that perhaps before this Tuesday. But look, there's a lot of time. February 24th is when South Carolina is the first in the south primary for the Republicans. So, there is time.

But I think a couple of things can be true here. I think Tim Scott being the person of faith he is, always leading with faith, might also feel like Donald Trump is the man for the moment. I think he's that kind of guy who would go back to such simplistic thinking.

And then also I do think that he and Haley have a lot of bad blood from those debates. I mean, they got nastier each time they met on the debate stage and it seemed rather personal at some point.

So though privately Scott may acknowledge that she has what is needed to win in a general, beat a Democrat, there's a fair degree of positioning here that leads you to think that maybe this guy is really just looking to pull the evangelical vote towards Trump.

COATES: I mean, look, when you talk about the contest of who demands and requires loyalty more, I think Trump wins in any event on that very idea of, look, you got to owe me, maybe I'd be the other person. But what's important to me here, too, is, you know, there's the new Ariana Grande song. Yes, and I'm bringing pop culture because it's night at night.

What about -- what happens if she does not win South Carolina? If you're Nikki Haley, you came in third, although she says two firsts are raised in Iowa, even if she captures New Hampshire, yes, and can you actually then win your own state? If Senator Tim Scott does not endorse her, is that all the marbles?

SOLTIS-ANDERSON: This has always been the buzz saw that she is headed directly for. New Hampshire was always going to be a state where she had maybe a better shot, especially if other folks like Christie got out. But South Carolina, especially because it's her home state, the stakes are really high. You can't lose your home state. It looks bad. And especially if Donald Trump is already -- seems like he's romping to the nomination. You cannot have the kind of like stench of loserdom on your campaign, especially if it's your home state.

I want to say one other thing quickly about Tim Scott as a potential pick. There's a lot of talk lately about Donald Trump wanting somebody who's going to be totally loyal to him, but also someone who's not going to necessarily outshine him.

He's not necessarily looking for someone who has their eyes on a big, big prize themselves, but I think he'd be foolish if he overlooked Tim Scott, because Tim Scott has this very calm demeanor to him.

It's a very interesting counterbalance, almost kind of the same role that Mike Pence played in 2016. I'm going to try to set people at ease. I'm going to bring over voters that I think I can hold on to, that might be nervous about my candidacy. So, we'll see if Donald Trump is thinking --

MADDEN: I just hope that anybody who's making that pitch in there for him doesn't say, hey, this is just like Mike Pence.

SOLTIS-ANDERSON: I know. That's probably the worst possible thing you could say.

COATES: But, you know, who is that? I mean, who is this elusive figure that might be the running mate for a Donald Trump?

MCKEND: Oh, gosh. I do not know. We know that Kristi Noem name has been floated. Kari Lake is out there, was out there in Iowa stumping for him. I will say --

COATES: It's not Chris Christie. We know that.

MCKEND: It won't be Chris Christie.

(LAUGHTER) MCKEND: But speaking of Christie, I think that there has been sort of an overemphasis of Christie voters moving over to Haley's camp. So, I've been in New Hampshire, I've been speaking to these supporters, and they think that she is doing too much to placate the MAGA wing.

So, there's a man in Washington, New Hampshire. He ran this pro- Christie Facebook group. He says he's still going to vote for Christie even though Christie has dropped out of the race, because he told me tonight that she lacks integrity and that she's a Trump enabler.

So, these comments that she made tonight at our town hall, that she would eventually perhaps pardon Trump, it's really a liability with some of those voters, especially in New Hampshire.

COATES: That's a fascinating point. Can you think about this? Christie's whole spiel, his whole platform, in part, aside from the issues on the economy and beyond, was a complete and total opposite to the idea of pardoning or not having accountability. So, it makes sense that if you were buying into what he stood for and what he wanted, the idea that she would say that would be anathema to you for a lot of reasons.


COATES: But you keep talking about what happened. I mean, does she have a path to victory? DeSantis or Haley?

MADDEN: I haven't heard one. I mean, look, part of this is me sort of like the scar tissue from when I worked on campaigns. I worked on three. Reporters used to hold me to a very high level of scrutiny. They used to say, okay, how does Mitt Romney win the nomination and demonstrate that? And I would.


I would, for 45 minutes, go through my spiel, charts, graphs, polls, you know, the whole talking points. And I would usually walk out with a lot of reporters saying, okay, well, you have a shot.

We don't really have what the path looks like to 1,236 delegates. That's -- at the end of the day, this is a delegate hunt for that many delegates. And until you can show me how you do that, where you're going to find the resources to do it, all the way through, you know, March 19th and beyond, it's a long shot argument.

COATES: A respected skeptic.


I like that in Washington, D.C. Everyone, thank you. Stick around because next, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase has a message to Democrats: Be careful about all the MAGA bashing.



PHILLIP: The CEO of one of the biggest banks, JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, has a warning now for Democrats. He told CNBC that the Democratic Party should not be dismissing Trump voters.


JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JPMORGAN: I wish the Democrats would think a little more carefully when they talk about MAGA. The Democrats have done a pretty good job with the deplorables hugging on to their bibles, and their beer and their guns.

I mean, really, could we just stop that stuff and actually grow up and treat other people with respect and listen to them a little bit? I think this negative talk about MAGA is going to hurt Biden's election campaign.


PHILLIP: He's talking a little bit there about civility, but is that also kind of a secret warning to Democrats?

FINNEY: That's also a little bit of Jamie Dimon hedging his bets just in case Trump gets back in.


You know. I mean, come on, Jamie. It's not -- I mean, I was there when basket of deplorables was said. That is not the same thing that we're talking about with MAGA at all in terms of the violence, in terms of the belief system and the behavior.

And look, I don't think -- I think what's helpful to Joe Biden is to continue to try to listen to everybody. But when you have a group that has said, I don't want to talk to you, I don't want to hear from you, I don't care what you have to say, and that has perpetuated violence in this country, then it's okay to call them out. I mean, that's the other part of it. You have to call that out as well, particularly in drawing a contrast.

SINGLETON: I mean, I think you can call it out, but I think some of those people are still seeking some type of a restitution of their dignity, which is what I think Jamie Dimon was speaking about, and not every person who is MAGA --

FINNEY: You mean all the people who attacked our Capitol or --

SINGLETON: Well, can I finish, Karen?

FINNEY: Of course, you can.

SINGLETON: I don't think everyone that's MAGA are extremists. I do agree that some did act illegally. That's why they're in jail.

But I think there are a whole lot of other people who think Trump is a representative, if you will, of some halcyon days that are now long gone for those individuals, these folks who are living in the Rust Belt, these folks who are living in middle America, who have now seen the country change drastically and are wondering, well, what does this mean for us? And I'm not saying Trump is the greatest arbiter or articulator of these views, but that's how they perceive him.

And so, Jamie is simply saying, don't disrespect these folks, and I don't think he's wrong about that.

AVLON: No, look, we obviously need folks who can build bridges in our politics, but there's a fundamental asymmetry here, right? He's talking about one comment made by Hillary Clinton once, one comment made by Barack Obama once that were made famous by right-wing echo chambers, saying that that represented what they saw as the condescension of folks on the far left against what Donald Trump does in terms of his fundamental divisive rhetoric every single day that seems to get a pass.

And I think the challenge is how can you say -- look, obviously, not everyone who supports Donald Trump is an extremist or a hater, and you do need to reach out to folks and build broader coalitions, and Democrats need to be doing that. And that does say -- that does require feeling their pain, to use a Clintonist --


AVLON: Right? It does say, not demonizing people you disagree with. But to pretend that's a problem primarily on the left when the greater -- when the greater accelerant of national divisions intentionally is Donald Trump on a daily basis, that misses, I think, the full spectrum.

PHILLIP: And Trump, I mean, did and does regularly say that the enemy of the United States is coming from within.


PHILLIP: It means other Americans.


PHILLIP: People on the left. He says that all the time.

PINION: Look, and Nancy Pelosi has said that the enemy is quite literally in the House, referring to her colleagues. So, look, I just think if we want civility, we have to choose it. If we want civility, then we have to demand it.

I think that you can take President Trump out of the equation. A MAGA has become a slur that can be used by the left to paint as a broader brush or as narrow a brush as necessary.

AVLON: But that's a term people call themselves on the right. That's not a pejorative.

PINION: Look, you can take the same word. It means different things to different people. And so, for instance, you can have Joe Biden show up in Westchester and say that Mike Lawler is the type of Republican that he used to be able to work with. And in 30 minutes, you have the DNC sending out emails saying that MAGA Mike is at it again and that we have to elect a Democrat to replace him.

So, what I'm saying is that, again, these words -- I mean, look, even me --

AVLON: It sounds like -- first of all, Biden --

FINNEY: But John's point is important, though. We are talking about people who call themselves MAGA. That's one part of it. So, we're not supposed to call them what they call themselves. That's one thing.

PINION: First of all --

FINNEY: Hold on. Let me finish. That's a definition of peace (ph). And the second piece is, to what Shermichael was talking about, yes, we saw after 2016, the largest determinant of Trump voters were people who had fears about the changing world, right?


FINNEY: And we have tried to reach out to them. And people --


FINNEY: Are you kidding me? How about the infrastructure bill? How about -- that's trying to create more jobs?

PINION: I'm talking about what Shermichael is talking about, and I think what most people are talking about is dignity and their humanity. And so, yes, you can sit here and say that there are people -- look, I think I have said, I think Shermichael has said, I think the vast majority Republicans have said, if you went down to the Capitol, you used our flag to try to break glass at the people's House, you went into that building, you should be held accountable.



FINNEY: -- who are threatening, you know, individuals in the name of Donald Trump.

PINION: I don't remember seeing that email coming from the RNC. I don't remember that --

FINNEY: Are you kidding me? Let me just show you my feed. There's plenty of it.

PHILLIP: Let me just ask a question here. Shermichael, you can get in on this. Ahead of the 2022 midterms --

SINGLETON: Yeah. PHILLIP: President Biden gave a speech where he denounced, you know, the MAGA wing of the Republican Party. And he was really criticized for it. And the argument was that voters would hold that against him. He was alienating people. The midterms rolled around. Republicans' wave was squashed, essentially. It didn't exist.

I mean, is this really the electoral issue that matters the most to voters or is this just something that people say because talking about civility is, in that context, is special?

SINGLETON: I mean, I think it's an important factor or component of modern politics, if you will. But I think most voters care about the economy. I think they care about immigration. I think they care about other issues that are more kitchen-table that impact them daily.

PHILLIP: And by the way, a lot of voters care about democracy, too.

FINNEY: A lot of voters care about extremism taking over our country.

SINGLETON: But what I'm saying is that I just don't believe that that particular component will change anyone's mind. But from the eyes of many MAGA Republicans, I think that does matter.

And I think there is a considerable amount of those individuals who do believe, as Harvard professor Michael Sandel calls it, that there's these East Coast elitists with this meritocracy hubris that looks down upon them. And we hear it very often that they look down upon them. If only they would have done better, become more educated, they would be well-cultured, well-read, well-traveled, well-versed --

FINNEY: Who's saying that? Who's saying that?

SINGLETON: Karen, it's the idea. I'm not saying that anyone is directly saying that.

FINNEY: But that's part of the caricature that the right wing puts on the left.

SINGLETON: That goes back to Barry Goldwater.

PINION: There is a vocal, vibrant mainstream portion of the Democratic Party that unilaterally labels people on the right insurrectionist. It is dishonest to sit here at the deck --

FINNEY: Only the people who actually were insurrectionist --

PINION: That's not true. That's a blanket term. That is certainly not true.

AVLON: Even what Abby quoted the President Biden is saying, saying the MAGA wing of the Republican Party. It took him pain to say it's not everybody.

PINION: It's not everybody when they don't want it to be everybody. And then when they campaign with the brass knuckles, it most assuredly is everyone, including the person on the edge. PHILLIP: Guys, I got to -- we have to leave it there. This was a fascinating discussion. Probably use another hour to talk about all of that.


Everyone, thank you very much. And up next for us, the damning report on the Uvalde Elementary School massacre. But what will it end up meaning for those families of the 19 children and the two teachers who were killed that day?




COATES: An unimaginable failure. The DOJ releasing a damning report today on wide-scale law enforcement failures that played out during the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The nearly 600-page report ticks through failures in leadership, in tactics, training, in the police response to the massacre at Robb Elementary. It paints a picture of confusion and cowardice.

Nineteen children and two adults, their teachers, died that day. One of the nation's worst school shootings.

Joining me now to discuss, Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde. Texas State senator, thank you so much for being here today.

When you see this report, I mean, the description, talking about acting with no urgency, cascading failures, the attorney general saying that the people of Uvalde, the community, deserved better. When you look at all of this, what stands out to you in this first full official account?

ROLAND GUTIERREZ, TEXAS STATE SENATOR REPRESENTING UVALDE: Well, thank you, Laura, for continuing to tell this story because it needs to be told. I think that what we see more than anything, it justifies everything that we've said, it justifies and gives support to everything that your own network was able to break along the way.

There is not a whole lot of new evidence here. We -- all along, we've been seeing this failure. But what it does do is it codifies it all into 600 pages for the first time ever in black and white. And on the front of this document, there's a seal from the Department of Justice that tells us exactly that all of the law enforcement on this scene failed and failed miserably, and failed these children.

And yes, they deserved better from those law enforcement officers, but they also deserved better from policymakers that were too weak and too cowardly to ever have avoided this in the first place, cowards like Ted Cruz and others who have failed to put an assault weapons ban in place to keep guns like this away from a young man who just needed to have -- we just -- we cannot allow this to happen again, Laura. We must do something --

COATES: You know --

GUTIERREZ: -- and we need to get politicians to do the right thing here.


COATES: Gosh, it makes -- you have to almost close your eyes just trying to process and contemplate what those 77 minutes were like. Terrified students, terrified children, adults and parents begging for law enforcement, more than 300 of them to go on to the scene.

And the attorney general says, had they just followed generally accepted practices, lives would have been saved. I mean, the report, senator, specifically calls out then-School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, then-Acting Uvalde Police Chief Mariano Pargas, and Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco who, by the way, is now running for reelection.

I understand that family members are absolutely frustrated. They are demanding accountability for those failures. So, what should accountability look like at this stage?

GUTIERREZ: Well, Laura, it should be even beyond those three gentlemen, it should be about the Department of Public Safety who had 96 officers on site.

Steve McCraw, the head of that agency, said in a private memo that your network uncovered, relax, nobody is going to be fired here, and indeed nobody was. The one man that they said was fired was given retirement benefits. The other, Texas ranger, is still on the force getting paid while he sits on his couch by the citizens of the state of Texas.

Accountability is absolutely firing these people that failed these children so grossly. Accountability is absolutely bringing criminal charges for some of those officers that should have taken command and control of the situation, including DPS agents.

But sadly, the district attorney in this community will not do any of those things because it means going after state officers that should be held accountable, and she simply will not do that.

COATES: I certainly wonder what the outcome and result of this report will be. But for all of the parents and the families of those loved ones who have passed, if they could just have one second, one minute back with them, what it would do.

Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, thank you so much for joining me this evening.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: I want to thank you all also for watching our special coverage tonight. The news continues right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)