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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Two Tennessee Democrats Ousted For Protesting For Stricter Gun Laws While Another Survives; Israel Launches Strikes In Gaza After Barrage Of Rockets Fired From Lebanon; TN House Votes To Expel 2nd Dem. Over Gun Protests, 3rd Survives; Trump Under Mounting Pressure As Multiple Investigations Close In. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 06, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: This is the culmination of that.
This is a historic moment right now as you're see playing out. State Legislature there in Tennessee. We will continue to follow these breaking developments, this breaking story that is happening right now and unfolding before our eyes.
Our breaking news coverage continues right now with AC 360.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER: 360": Good evening.
A remarkable scene tonight in the Tennessee House of Representatives. We are awaiting for a vote, I should say actually, a vote has just taken place on whether to expel the last of the three Democratic legislators.
We're still waiting on the results of that vote for a gun violence protest that they held the last week on the floor of the House in the wake of the mass shooting at the Covenant School just a few miles away.
Representative Justin Pearson of Memphis who has just been speaking, he now, his fate hangs in the balance. It'll be up to Republicans who control a two-thirds majority needed to expel him to decide his fate.
Expelled earlier today Representative Justin Jones of Nashville. We will talk with him in just a moment. A measure to expel Representative Gloria Johnson of Knoxville failed by a single vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA JOHNSON (D), TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: To the nation, keep watching. We're losing our democracy. We need to make sure that we stomp out this march to fascism.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely and we cannot forget that.
As on everything, folks.
REPORTER: Gloria, what do you feel like there was a difference in the outcome?
JOHNSON: I will answer your question. It might have to do with the color of our skin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We should point out that Justin Pearson now, the vote has just taken place, has been expelled as well. So two Tennessee Democrats have been expelled. Gloria Johnson as you saw, the third, she survived her vote just by one vote.
What happened today, the expulsion of two Representatives in the Tennessee State House has only happened twice since the 1860s. The last expulsion in 2016 was for a lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct. This time, it was for a violation of the rules of decorum.
Gary Tuchman is inside the State Capitol, just outside the House chamber, he joins us now.
So Gary, talk about what just happened.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, as we speak, behind me there are about 150 very angry people, angry that two legislators have been expelled from the House of Representatives.
Right here, I'm standing between NC State Troopers right here. The people back here are the reason, they're standing here. It is because the legislators are coming out of the door now of the legislative chamber and they are responding to what they saw, any possibility of bias, but so far everything has been peaceful.
I don't know if you can see, there are people playing dead lined down right here. With signs like, "The people are watching you." And "Fighting fascism is a moral obligation." These people are very angry.
And all day long, there have been hundreds of people outside and inside the Legislature Building at the capital. There are like 250 people inside who are now leaving. They are coming out here.
Basically in a nutshell, there is one of the legislators coming out right now. But that in a nutshell, this is a political story and here is the man who was just expelled. This is Justin Pearson, I don't know if you can see him. But Justin Pearson is now walking out to talk to the people. Let me see if I can word from him.
Representative Pearson, how do you feel what -- sir, how do you feel right now, sir?
He is not talking right now.
Let's see if we can get a word. Mr. Representative, how do you feel right now? How do you feel right now, sir?
It's pretty chaotic as you can see. I'm going to get back towards our camera. It's a chaotic scene. But to put this on a non-political nutshell, these people have been expelled from the House of Representatives because they talked out of turn last week, seven days ago. They've walked out of turn.
They are not allowed to walk into the well of the House of Representatives without permission from the Speaker of the House. They did that to protest this, and they also talked out of turn, and one week later, they're expelled.
Listen to what people are saying. "No justice. No peace." Take a look.
(CROWD chanting "No justice. No peace.")
TUCHMAN: So two Representatives expelled. The other one, Gloria Johnson survived by one vote. Gloria Johnson who is white and Justin Jones was Black. Both have said on the record, they believe it has something to do with skin color. We don't know the answer to that.
But two of the three legislators expelled are no longer Representatives. They were elected by tens of thousands of people in their districts, but they've now been expelled from the House of Representatives by Tennessee State legislators.
Anderson back to you.
COOPER: And Gary, what are their options now? The two legislators who had been expelled, will they run again?
TUCHMAN: So here's something very interesting, Anderson.
You're going to talk to Justin Jones shortly. He will tell you if he's going to run again. But, according to -- talking about Tennessee law, if he decides to run again, and he wins again, he can't be charged on the same counts again. That's what's interesting. It's double jeopardy.
If the constituency decides to elect you again, you can't be expelled again on this charge, however, they could find other charges to expel him. That doesn't mean he wouldn't be expelled again, he just can't be expelled of this charge of disorderly behavior.
That's what the Republicans are saying. He could have disorderly behavior. These people just said they wanted to get their words across about the gun issue, and they weren't being allowed to talk, and that's why they walked into the well. That's why they talked in order to get their words out that the constituents wanted them to say, that's what they say, and they weren't being permitted to do so.
What's remarkable about this, Anderson, it was only one week ago, when other people here were expelled from this legislature. We know of only three cases since 1866 and we think because of crimes or issues of bad morality. There has never been an issue where it is breaking a rule.
Now, I've come to a lot of State Legislatures in my career, 40 years, people break rules all the time, that don't get them expelled. This is very unusual.
The Republicans we talked to said it is necessary, because it disrupted the House of Representatives here, but that being said, it is most unusual.
COOPER: All right, Gary Tuchman, we're going to come back with you. We're going to continue to follow this, continue with this. We're going to reposition our camera.
President Biden is following this story. Quoting now from his tweet a short time ago: "Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting, and what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action." The President adding: "It's shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent."
Now shortly, we're going to talk to Justin Jones, who is one of the Representatives who was expelled just a few hours ago. The representative who was just expelled as Gary Tuchman was talking about and was just leaving the House floor, that's Justin Pearson.
Gloria Johnson, as you know, a third representative who also took part in this protest last week, she survived the vote to expel her by one vote.
Let's see if we can hear some of what Justin Pearson is saying.
JUSTIN PEARSON (D), EXPELLED TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: ... is not working. It is hurting people, it's killing people and they are treating things like this is normal. We can never normalize the ending of democracy. We can never normalize that the tyranny of the way that these people in positions of power operate due to White supremacy and due to the maintenance of patriarchy.
That's what we're up against, but we have to fight it because we believe that there is a future that we can live into that is better than the prison that we are currently at.
Any other questions?
PEARSON: Yes. We're going to keep fighting for people in Nashville.
COOPER: So again, that's Justin Pearson, who has now been expelled.
Again, this is from a protest that took place last week. These three members stood up, approached the well to speak. They didn't have permission to speak. They used bullhorns to try to get their point across. They were speaking in the wake of the mass murder of nine people at the school in Nashville.
Do we have Justin Jones?
Okay, we're waiting to hear from Justin Jones. Gloria Johnson, as we said earlier spoke to reporters after she survived her vote, unclear why she survived her vote just by one vote, where the other two Representatives did not.
I'm also joined by "The Atlantic's" Ron Brownstein.
Hey, Ron, talk a little bit about -- put some of this in context and perspective. Is this just about a violation of House decorum rules that took place last week?
Clearly, they violated the rules. They used a bullhorn. If everybody did that, that would be chaos. But this is an unusual and an extreme reaction to it.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I mean, it is unprecedented in Tennessee and possibly in the country to remove a legislator, to expel a legislator, effectively erase the votes of their constituents for this kind of infraction.
I think, Anderson, you have to see this in the context of what has been happening across the Red States on a wide range of issues where you see Republican controlled legislators and governors whose political power is rooted in their domination of non-urban predominantly White areas, using that statewide power to override the decisions of racially diverse blue leaning big cities and counties on a wide range of issues.
I mean, you can look at what's happening in places like Texas where they've taken -- the State has taken over the School District in Houston and may do so in Austin; in Florida, where Ron DeSantis has fired one elected Democratic prosecutor and is moving against another; places like Georgia and Missouri and Tennessee, where they have taken over preempted prosecutorial and policing powers of local governments and taking that power to the State and obviously, working in these States on curriculum that effectively override the ability of localities to set their own rules on talking about race or gender or sexual orientation.
It is a very consistent pattern across the Red States where Republican coalitions rooted in non-urban predominantly White places are using their power in the most -- and this may be the most dramatic and egregious example to override the decisions of local government.
COOPER: Ron, I just want to interrupt.
Joining us now is Representative Justin Jones, who was a few hours ago, expelled from the Tennessee State House. I know it's very loud where you are. I appreciate you joining us.
In your mind today, were you expelled because you violated the rules of decorum last week or is this about something else?
JUSTIN JONES (D), EXPELLED TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Thank you so much for having me on. This is a very dangerous day for democracy, not only in Tennessee, but across the nation.
In Tennessee, they just expelled the two youngest Black lawmakers in a predominantly White Republican supermajority because we stood with our constituents --
COOPER: I am sorry, Representative Jones, we've got to get a better mic to you. We're just -- we're going to get a better microphone to Representative Jones.
Audie Cornish is also with us.
Audie, if you will, you've lived in Nashville. You've covered politics in the South for many, many years. Talk a little bit about what is going on tonight.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, after the -- after President Obama was elected, Tennessee was one of those State Houses that actually flipped to kind of Republican power.
Moreover, over the last decade, you've seen something like 900 or a thousand State lawmaker seats kind of flip to Republican. So there has been such a growth of Republican-held State Houses.
What makes the Tennessee issue and what's happening here so striking is that there have been several attempts to kind of rein in the power of the metropolitan areas, Nashville and Memphis tonight, but Nashville also had its local government slashed in half. They're fighting that in Court.
They've had their congressional districts split among three different parts, and voters there are starting to feel alienated from the State House.
And as Ron has pointed out, in other States, there are echoes of this, this battle between cities that may be democratically led, and State Houses where Republicans have consolidated power and are now exercising it.
COOPER: But Audie, how much of this is -- I mean, is this also a generational issue given the -- I mean, both of these Representatives, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones are very young by comparison to probably many people in the State House.
Obviously, not all legislators can bring bull horns to an argument that they feel they have the moral high ground on, if they feel they're being unheard. But there's plenty of other measures that the Republicans could have taken to censure them in some way are there not?
CORNISH: Yes. Many people who have gone to speak on the floor and have spoken today have mentioned the fact that the only other people who have been expelled from the Tennessee State House, you know, dealt with kind of sexual violations or bribery.
So obviously, this is kind of an outsized response in a way compared to reasons past that people were expelled. I really want to underscore this point you're making about essentially Generation Z, because both of these lawmakers --
COOPER: Audie, if we can -- I'm sorry, we do have Representative Jones. I'm hoping the mic is better this time.
Representative Jones, if you can hear me, I appreciate it. Was this in your mind about the violation of decorum rules last week? Or is this about something else?
JUSTIN JONES: This is something much more egregious. Today, Tennessee expelled us, myself and Representative Pearson, the two youngest Black lawmakers in a predominantly White Republican supermajority because we stood with our constituents, these young people you see gathered here who are demanding that they act to end school shootings, that is why we are being expelled, not because of a crime, not because of the ethics violation, but because we stood with these young people who are demanding that we act to end school shootings a week after Nashville was terrorized by a school shooting at Covenant Elementary School.
And rather than address the issue of banning assault weapons, my former colleagues, the Republican supermajority are assaulting democracy and that should shake -- you know that should scare all of us across the nation.
COOPER: The Tennessee State House Speaker, Cameron Sexton, he likened your behavior during the protests last week to the January 6 insurrection.
I just want to play that for our viewers, and then ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMERON SEXTON, TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE SPEAKER: Two of the members, Representatives Jones and Representative Johnson, have been very vocal about January 6th in Washington, DC about what that was and what they did the day was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse, depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Was what you did worse than or equivalent to the insurrection in the Capitol?
JUSTIN JONES: I mean, it is a completely ridiculous statement from Speaker Sexton that is trying to incite a reaction.
What we were doing was the opposite. We were calling for the end of violence. We were standing with our constituents, demanding that we take action on gun violence in our community, because it's not the first mass shooting in Nashville, and it won't be the last until this body acts. So we stood with our people, demanding that the legislators take the grievances of these young people. You hear the chants going on right now, people want action from this body. And until they get it, we will continue to show up and hold this legislature accountable, whether I'm inside the body or outside the body here in the hallway.
COOPER: Do you regret at all doing what you did? I mean, obviously, you could have stood outside with demonstrators and made your point. The fact is, you were doing this on the House floor with a bullhorn, and it is probably a violation of the rules of decorum. Do you regret it at all? Was there some other punishment that would have been acceptable to you?
JUSTIN JONES: No, I mean, this came after the Speaker shut off our microphones, will not call on us, as Democratic lawmakers to speak. And so it was our only way to uphold our constitutional duty.
Tennessee Constitution, Article II Section 27 says that lawmakers have a right to dissent from and protest against any action or legislation that is injurious to the people.
And so while I broke the House rules, upheld my oath to my constituents, 78,000 constituents in my district, District 52, many of them, these young people here who are demanding that we act and demanding that we do something, and that we needed to say that on the House floor.
We needed to make sure that those young people, their voices, their demands, their grievances were held, and were heard on the House floor. I didn't go there as an individual. I went there as a Representative of 78,000 people in District 52. And that's why I went into well, reminding my colleagues act on this crisis of mass shootings that is plaguing our nation.
COOPER: Representative Gloria Johnson, your Democratic colleague who stood with you, protested with you last week was not expelled today. She survived by one vote. Did that surprise you? Why do you think she survived?
JUSTIN JONES: I mean, it was surprising, but you know, we are united as Representative Gloria Johnson said, I mean, the only difference is our skin color. I think you have to be honest about that, that again, this predominantly White Republicans supermajority expelling its two youngest Black lawmakers, because it's filled with young people demanding that this body act.
And so we still stand unite it together, but what happened today is threatening not just to Tennessee, but across the nation. This usurping of the democratic, you know, voters will have my district, of silencing of 78,000 people in my district, the most diverse district in the State of Tennessee. I mean, it's very scary for the nation to see what's happened here.
If I didn't know that it was happening to me, I would think that this was 1963 instead of 2023.
COOPER Personally, what do you do now? Would you run for your seat in the next election? Is there another election to be held?
JUSTIN JONES: I mean, there is a step to fill the vacancy that the council -- the Metro Council National Council will have to address. There is also going to be a special election.
But you know, I'm looking at legal remedies, because what I believe is happening here and after talking to attorneys, I mean, it was unconstitutional. The violation of due process was the overturning of the will of voters, silencing of my district, the most extreme measure, to expel a member not for an ethics or criminal violation, but because of a rule of decorum. And so that's what we saw.
And so again, what happened today was to distract from the real issue, which was that a week after a mass shooting a national, rather than it pass laws, to pass common sense gun laws, my colleagues expelled myself and Representative Pearson because they're afraid of what we're giving voice to, which are all these young people you see gathered around the Capitol, demanding this body change, Gen Z, Millennials, saying that it's our time now, and that we need substantive and urgent action to address this crisis of mass shootings.
COOPER: State Representative Justin Jones, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
JUSTIN JONES: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Joining us now CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. He's senior editor at "The Atlantic." Also, Audie Cornish, who is with us here at CNN.
So Audie, let's just regroup here a little bit.
For folks who are just joining us Justin Pearson, Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, all three took part in a protest on the House floor using bullhorns last week. They said they weren't being heard. Their microphones were turned off, so they protested. It was a violation of the rules of decorum.
Just today, there were votes to expel two of them and as we said, Gloria Johnson survived just by one vote.
So explain if you can, we were talking before this. I mean, what happens next here?
CORNISH: Well, what happens next is there are Special Elections for the two seats that were vacated. Already, in Nashville, the Metro Council, which is the local government is planning to call a special meeting on Monday and they do plan to sort of re-invite Mr. Jones, who you just heard back to that seat.
So in terms of the stakes, not that much has changed, but I really can't underscore enough how significant the tensions are between Nashville, this metropolitan area, mostly led by a Democratic kind of Council has been kind of at odds with the Republican State House, and how -- Ron will talk about this -- how that is really reflective of a trend that's going on across the country. COOPER: Yes, Ron, it is interesting and we see this on Election Night, you know, when John King was at the Magic Wall, and we're all waiting for votes, it is -- you know, big cities voting Democrat in States that are largely red.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, Joe Biden won 91 of the hundred largest counties in America, and Donald Trump won 2,600 or so of the other 3,000. The dynamic you see in State after State is Democrats, you could draw an imaginary beltway around every large metro in the country, and Democrats are consolidating their strength inside of that, and Republicans are strengthening their hand outside of it.
But I think what we are seeing in the Red States, that political pattern extends from blue, you know, which is true in California, as it is in Texas, but what we are seeing in Red States is this systematic effort to use this statewide power to preempt the ability of those blue metros to make their own decisions, and for, you know, voters in those places to set their own course.
You know, you talked before about the generational transition. In many of these States, the generational transition and the racial transition are completely overlapping. They are essentially the same thing.
I mean, if you talk about places like Florida, or Georgia, or Texas or Tennessee, or Arizona before they elected a Governor, places where the preemption has been most powerful, generally speaking, you have a Republican coalition that is rooted in the older generations that are predominantly White in those states, and a Democratic coalition that is rooted in the increasingly diverse younger generations in those States.
And what we see not only on preemption, but on issues like LGBTQ rights, and voting and abortion bans and book bans and classroom censorship, you see these Republican coalitions moving to impose on their States the values of their older, White, predominantly Christian coalition, before this demographic change, possibly alters the balance of political power in their States.
I've likened what is happening, Anderson, to these Republican Legislatures are stacking sandbags against a rising tide of demographic change, and I think this is one of the most dramatic examples of that, that we've seen anywhere in the country.
COOPER: Audie, do you think these protests will have an impact on the legislature there?
CORNISH: I don't know if it will have an impact on the legislature so to speak. I mean, it certainly brought more scrutiny on their activities. But I also want to come back to a point that Justin Jones said about Gen Z and Millennials. They have entered the chat so to speak.
We are seeing this generation of activists start to enter the lawmaking process just like the generations before them, some out of Fisk University, right, and Nashville in the 60s who ended up being lawmakers. What's significant about that is, they are generation that watched Occupy Wall Street. They are a post Trayvon Martin generation. They are a Black Lives Matter generation. And they are a kind of Parkland era generation.
They think about gun policy and the politics around shootings differently. Their politics are more confrontational, and they really do feel as though this is their time to make a mark, and they are very media savvy.
And I think that Justin Jones in a way in particular, and Pearson also from Memphis, they really embody kind of that mix of savvy and politics and approach to progressive politics that is distinct to this generation.
COOPER: Ron, Audie, does that -- I mean, on the protests that they did, they clearly believe that -- you know, they have the moral high ground. It is difficult to legislate if Members of -- if a Representative bring bullhorns.
CORNISH: Yes, and I understand what you're asking, but I think what I'm saying is that there is a generational preoccupation with decorum. There is an era of what was called respectability politics. If you dress the right way, if you acted the right way, people would consider your politics serious and take you seriously.
I think this generation thinks that that is not totally true. They think that they should be respected for their politics no matter what they look like, and in some ways, how they behave.
And the pushback you see, especially in Republican and conservative circles, is that like, that's not right. That's not appropriate. You hear this a lot about the Black Lives Matter protests, that those protests were kind of out of control and wild and wrong, and should have been sort of put down in some way.
And I don't think it's an accident that right now, this kind of spark of this fight is around decorum, right? All of the kind of code we use for how should we conduct politics in this country? And how there is a clash of generations and the thinking about that.
COOPER: That's interesting. Ron? Go ahead.
BROWNSTEIN: Real quick, I just think we can't lose sight of how fundamentally the Red States and Blue States are diverging. I mean, the Red States really are in many ways, building a nation within a nation.
The general trend in American life from the 60s until around 2020 was to nationalize more rights and reduce the ability of States to restrict those rights, everything from abortion and contraception to one person, one vote, the ADA, Title IX, you know, the Voting Rights Act. And what we have seen since 2020, with the support of the majority on the Supreme Court is States moving across a whole series of fronts, like I said, LGBTQ rights, free speech rights in the classroom, voting rights, abortion rights, to roll that back and set their own rules on civil rights and civil liberties.
And this, I think, is just a powerful symbol of the way in which the Red States are departing from what had been kind of a centralized notion that there was a baseline of rights available to all Americans. You certainly could punish them for their actions in that protest, but there's a lot you can do short of expelling them, and by expelling them they are sending a very clear message about what they feel about dissent, not only this case, but in general.
COOPER: Yes. Really interesting discussion. Audie Cornish, thank you. Ron Brownstein, thank you so much.
We're going to keep monitoring this, check in again with our Gary Tuchman.
There is also breaking news tonight after heavy rocket attacks earlier from Southern Lebanon. Tonight, Israeli airstrikes in and around Gaza, more rockets fired into Israel. We will have a live report from the region.
COOPER: We continue to monitor the situation at Tennessee State Capitol. Two lawmakers ousted for protesting for stricter gun control after last week's school massacre. Third survives the vote. We'll check in with Gary Tuchman shortly.
But first, we have more breaking news. Israeli warplanes hit targets tonight in Gaza, followed by Hamas rockets aimed back at Israel. All of it in the week of -- the wake of nearly three dozen rockets fired at Israel earlier today from Lebanon.
CNN's Hadas Gold is in northern Israel for us tonight. What is the latest?
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, up until within the last hour, the exchanges of fire were still ongoing to the south of here in Gaza. The Israeli military saying that this evening its fighter jets were striking what it called Hamas targets, including tunnels and weapons manufacturing sites in Gaza. And militants there responding with even more rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. No injuries have been reported on either side.
Here where I am, I'm very close to the border with Lebanon, between Lebanon and Israel. It is a very tense quiet because just a few hours ago, Israel experienced the largest barrage of rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel that Israel has seen in decades.
GOLD (voice-over): Streaking across the sky in northern Israel, dozens of rockets fired from Lebanon Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.
GOLD (voice-over): Which said it intercepted most of them, but some made impact. This car hit in the Israeli town of Fassuta. And in Shlomi, the storefront of this bank was destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear the siren. I hear the bomb. I was in my home. It was very, very scary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm still shaking because it's -- children not supposed to see this in this age.
GOLD (voice-over): The Lebanese army says it found these rocket launchers and rockets close to the Israeli border Thursday and is working to dismantle them. Israel has pointed the finger at Palestinian groups and doesn't think the Lebanon-based Hezbollah was responsible. The Israeli military said it would, quote, decide on the place and time of its response.
Not since the war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006 have so many rockets been fired across the border, a worrying sign of escalation in an already tense time for the region. Israeli police stormed the Al- Aqsa Mosque multiple times this week as Palestinians gathered for Ramadan.
Footage from inside the mosque showed Israeli police beating some worshippers with batons and rifle butts. Police say they moved in after Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque through rocks and set off fireworks. Jordan, the custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque told CNN that it believed Thursday's rocket attacks were a response to Israeli actions at the mosque.
AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The two are obviously interconnected. We're, unfortunately, at the exact moment, have dangerous moment, which we worked for months to avoid, which is a moment where violence is erupting.
HADAS (voice-over): As the first day of the Passover holiday came to an end, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting of his security Cabinet.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will strike our enemies and they will pay the price for any act of aggression.
HADAS (voice-over): Multiple hotspots flaring up at once, just as Easter begins in this holy Land and all three main religions are supposed to be celebrating.
COOPER: So Hadas, we know there have been strikes in Gaza. Have there been -- you said there have been or there have been any more rockets from Lebanon tonight, because obviously that would be very significant? GOLD: Yes, there's been no more rockets from Lebanon, nor have we heard of any Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon. Now, the Israeli authorities have been rather careful to point the finger not at Hezbollah, but more on Palestinian militant groups, especially Hamas. And that's why I think we're seeing these targets in Gaza versus Lebanon.
Because keep in mind, Israeli security officials I speak to, they talk about what a war with Hezbollah could lead to. That devastation is something I don't think that they want to see. Keep in mind, Hezbollah's arsenal is much bigger and stronger than anything Hamas has. And so there is, I think, a lot of concern about trying to keep down any sort of escalation that could build up with Hezbollah.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning Israel's response he says tonight and in the future, keep in mind, in the future will exact a heavy price. So keep an eye on the skies here close to Lebanon. Anderson?
COOPER: Yes. 2006, the last time they crossed the border to fight against Hezbollah.
Hadas Gold, appreciate it. Thank you.
New York Times Foreign Affairs Columnist Thomas Friedman is with us tonight among his many bestselling books appropriately tonight, "From Beirut to Jerusalem." Tom, what do you make of it? I mean, obviously, significant escalation of tensions in the region.
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: Well, you know, everything is so fragmenting, Anderson. Watching these events, I was reminded of the lead I wrote of a story back in Beirut in the late 1970s that four different armies, militias fought each other on eight different fronts for six different reasons.
You know, you've got so many cross cutting conflicts right now. Palestinians in Jerusalem. Hamas, Iran, Palestinians in Lebanon. It's an extremely unstable situation.
COOPER: As you know, as we've reported, the rocket strikes constitute the biggest attack since 2006 when Israel and Hezbollah were at war. I think we reported from there for six weeks on CNN. How concerned should people be about this violence expanding in scope? Because that was a really tough fight.
FRIEDMAN: Yes. You know, Hadas made the point and I think it's the right one that what the Israelis would be concerned about if these rockets had been launched by Hezbollah and that if we were going to have another Hezbollah-Israel war, which was extremely a deadly war for both sides and could bring Iran in.
And let's remember Iran now is not that they're going to use a nuclear bomb, I don't think, but they're not two weeks away from having fissile material they need for a bomb. So the fact that this was apparently Palestinians in Lebanon working with or for Hamas, suggests that it is containable.
But, you know, this is a time of such utter fragmentation. You have a divided Israeli policy. You have Israel's defense minister has been fired by Prime Minister Netanyahu now apparently being at least allowed to stay for a while. You have the Palestinian authorities really lost control of its youth. You see that in them taking over the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
You have a very hardline Israeli police minister overseeing the police now, Minister Ben-Gvir and it's just a recipe for an explosion.
COOPER: Yes --
FRIEDMAN: There's nothing good going on, Anderson, on any front in that region right now.
COOPER: Yes. And you recently wrote an op ed, very critical Prime Minister Netanyahu. I mean, given all that fragmentation within Israel itself, the huge protests we have seen, which, you know, had calmed down somewhat prior to this attack, but all the ingredients are still there for this fragmentation. How does the potential for violence fit on top of that?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, watching your show to The Lead, and I didn't know whether I was watching the Lebanese parliament or the Israeli parliament and watching the Tennessee parliament because, you know, I've always had this view that Israeli politics is to American politics what Off-Broadway is to Broadway.
You can see a lot of trends there that start there and then come to Broadway and sometimes in reverse. So what's going on in Israel? You basically have a government of extreme nationalists, extreme religious that won by mere 30,000 votes less actually than 50 percent, given the way the Israeli system works, trying to lock in their majority by basically overhauling the judicial system in Israel, to give total to control to the political majority in Israel right now and to put the judiciary under their thumb.
It's the exact same trend that Ron Brownstein was talking about, Anderson, that's going on in Israel right now. And, of course, in Lebanon, they've lived with this. Their parliament has been paralyzed because their new majority, the Shiite Hezbollah group has basically blocked a president from being appointed in Lebanon unless it's the president they want. President in Lebanon has to be Christian. So a lot of these trends are quite universal right now.
COOPER: And what role -- officially, unofficially, what role do you see the U.S. playing?
FRIEDMAN: What role? Just spectator. I mean, the last thing the United States wants to do is get embroiled in this right now. We've got our hands full with China. We've got our hands full with Russia. The U.S. has been trying to disengage from the Middle East from these conflicts, and all they want to do is tamp down the violence, make sure it doesn't threaten our Arab allies. Right now, it spills over into Jordan or Egypt and try to contain it all. But this is all such a tar, baby. It's the last thing the Biden administration wants to put its hands on.
COOPER: Yes. Tom Friedman, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
FRIEDMAN: Thank you.
We'll get a live update from Nashville next, where Republican lawmakers just expelled two Democratic members in the State House of Representatives for their gun violence protest last week.
COOPER: We return to the breaking news out of Nashville. Two state House members expelled, Democrats Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, third Democrat Gloria Johnson was spared by a single vote. Let's listen right now to Justin Jones.
JUSTIN JONES, EXPELLED TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: -- who are demanding that we take action on the crisis of mass shootings.
JUSTIN PEARSON, EXPELLED TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Yes.
JONES: We said we want to ban on assault weapons. They said we're going to assault democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JONES: Shameful. Shameful.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Yes.
JONES: And those people don't realize that what happened today is that they cemented their legacy on the wrong side of history.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Yes.
JONES: That when their grandchildren read about them, they will be ashamed to say that Speaker Cameron Sexton was their relative.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Yes.
JONES: They'll be ashamed. I mean, that's why they're trying to ban history now.
PEARSON: Come on, tell them.
JONES: And so as we come back, we hope people return to this Capitol on Monday, because this is just the beginning. That when they expose us, it wasn't about us individually.
PEARSON: That's right.
JONES: It was an attempt to expel and silence a movement.
JONES: But they've done the opposite because we stand here with these young people who continue to stand in and sit in and die and whatever we have to do to elevate the issue that this shooting that happened in Nashville just a week ago, a week ago. Rather than pass laws that will address red flags and banning assault weapons and universal background checks, they passed resolutions to expel their colleagues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
JONES: And they think that the issue is over.
JONES: We'll see you on Monday.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Yes.
COOPER: Inside the state capitol too our Gary Tuchman standing by. Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, and it has gotten very quiet, especially compared to about 45 minutes ago. Everyone, all the protesters have been told to leave the Capitol building. There were about 350 protesters inside here, about 220 inside the chambers behind me in the inspected area, about another 120, 150 in this area. So it's quiet now.
What I can tell you is because it was quiet, Republican leaders just talked to us a few minutes ago inside here. I talked to the Republican Caucus chairman, asked him this question. I said, if they would have apologized to you, these three representatives, would you have been able to say, OK, you could stay as representatives of this legislature?
And he thought about it and he said, if they apologized and if they were contrite and if they said, we won't do this again, I would have considered that. So that is a possibility. When we were listening to it today, there is a possibility they could have stayed if they did that. But it's clear that these three representatives were not planning to be contrite.
They were asked several times during the hearing, do you think you did wrong? Do you think you did wrong? And they said, yes. Stepping into the well is against the rules. Talking without being told you could talk is against the rules. But we needed to do it for the constituents in our district who elected us.
What they just told me was they have constituents in their districts too. And their constituents in their districts did not like the fact that the House of Representatives was interrupted in that fashion one week ago today. Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Gary Tuchman, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, two veterans of the Watergate era discuss why the former president's inner circle is reportedly most concerned about the DOJ's special counsel investigation. Also, Stormy Daniels speaks out. Will she testify in the New York criminal trial against the former president? That answer next.
COOPER: In a new interview, Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress at the center of the New York criminal indictment against the former president, says she is absolutely willing to testify. Daniels also tells Piers Morgan that threats against her are, quote, way more specific and graphic than in the past.
Also, while she says she does not believe the former president deserves incarceration for his alleged role in falsifying business records as a part of a scheme to cover up hush money payments to Daniels, she did say that when she saw images of him in a courtroom, she thought, quote, the king has been dethroned. He's no longer untouchable.
But even as the former president has defended himself in this case, he's taken swings at the Special Counsel overseeing separate federal investigations into him because, according to multiple sources who've spoken with CNN, it's the probe into the former president's potential mishandling of classified documents that particularly concerns his inner circle.
My next two guests understand better than most why we now have a Presidential Records Act which was enacted after the Watergate scandal. Journalist Carl Bernstein is the author of "Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom" and CNN Contributor John Dean, former White House Counsel to Richard Nixon.
So, Carl, what does it say to you that among other laws, the Presidential Records Act is looming so large over the former president's legal fate?
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALISM AND AUTHOR: It has all along because among other things, the President of the United States, and as he was leaving the presidency, seems to have directed the illegal movement of these documents at Mar-a-Lago. But I want to take a little bit of an issue in the following way with what you said.
His lawyers may think that this is the primary vulnerability, but in fact, he has three locomotives bearing down on him, Former President Trump legally, and probably the most serious is the January 6 insurrection that the Special Counsel is looking at. And that investigation is premised on the huge volumes of fact about the insurrection, about Trump's role inseditiously, trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power to the next President of the United States.
That case itself, there is a record like the Senate Watergate Committee developed a record that led to the impeachment and the likely conviction in the Senate and eventual resignation of Richard Nixon. The January 6 Committee has established almost a slam dunk record that is so damning in terms of Trump's legal vulnerability that that's really the ones Special Counsel is investigating it. That's really the ones that most of the lawyers I talk to think is really potentially fatal for Trump.
COOPER: John, as a former White House Counsel, how big a deal of it -- deal is it that the former President's own lawyer is being compelled to testify in the documents case?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a big deal because, first of all, lawyers are pretty good witnesses, which is something that's painful when they're testifying against you and the fact that his privilege didn't hold. And a judge found at least a prima facial basis that there was a criminal act being portrayed between the two of them, either unknowingly by Trump on the lawyer or maybe the lawyer was involved. We don't think so at this point, but we don't know. So this is a problem for him.
And the documents case, I think, is very serious because they're looking for obstruction of justice, and they've got probable cause to get a subpoena, to go in to Mar-a-Lago and seize documents, if you will. And that's a case that has shown a judge already that there's a case, there a criminal activity of some sort. So that's why I think they're worried.
COOPER: And Carl, Jack Smith, as you talked about, I mean, he's not just investigating the documents case, also the efforts to overturn the January 6 or the efforts to overturn the election in January 6. He subpoenaed a number of people in the former president's inner circle. Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Vice President Mike Pence. Their testimony is -- I mean, especially Meadows, his testimony is potentially explosive.
BERNSTEIN: As well as the same lawyers that we're talking about in the documents cases also are being compelled to testify in the January 6 insurrection case. And you also have a grand jury in Georgia with a very damning series of facts that shows in a telephone call that was recorded that Donald Trump, while President of the United States, said to the Secretary of State in Florida, find me 11,000 votes and the intimidation of a secretary of state to bring about a faulty election intimidation. That's the other case.
So these locomotives are all bearing down on him at once. But meanwhile, he and his lawyers are losing in their motions, case after case after case, the attempt to cite privileges. Now even the lawyers are being forced to compel and being compelled to tell what they know before the special counsel and his grand jury.
So what we saw in New York this week is just the beginning. And what we're going to see through the next year is a whole litany of terrible, corruptive facts about Donald Trump and his conduct of office and attempt to stop the legal transfer of power to his successor, who was duly elected. This is not about the big lie. This is about Trump trying to stage a coup and stay in office in a way that no president of the United States has refused to let the orderly transfer of power take place --
BERNSTEIN: -- as Trump has done. And the facts are there through that January 6 committee.
COOPER: And, John --
BERNSTEIN: Keep your eye on that.
COOPER: John, I mean, it's incredible the extent to which the former president just continues to go after the people who are investigating him. Jack Smith, he called a totally biased thug on Tuesday night, obviously going after the judge in the case in New York, talking about the judge's wife, the judge's daughter.
DEAN: It's true. He likes to belittle the process. That's part of he plays politics and doesn't follow the rules that prosecutors and judges are forced to follow where they can't respond to most of these charges he makes. And it's very difficult for a judge say this judge warned in New York, he warned Trump's lawyers, and Trump was right there listening to it.
But the problem is, Anderson, there's really little ways to enforce it. It's not likely he can bring Trump in and put him in jail, particularly for the offenses thus far. If Trump did something horrendous, he might, but it's just very remote.
BERNSTEIN: So judges have great difficulty enforcing this sort of gag and keeping people behaving.
COOPER: Yes. John Dean, Carl Bernstein. I appreciate it tonight. Thank you.
Up next, more violent demonstrations in the streets of Paris. Why people are upset and demanding changes, coming up.
COOPER: Protesters on the streets of France for the 11th day turning violent. More demonstrations over the government's controversial new pension plan. Estimates are upwards of half a million people taking part. They're upset over the government's plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 for many workers and push the legislation through parliament without a vote. About 100 demonstrators storming the Paris office of the American investment firm BlackRock, some of them with red flares and smoke bombs. The world's biggest money manager has no role in the reforms, but a protester says they targeted the company for its work for private pension funds.
Nearly 12,000 law enforcement officers deployed across the country today in France. Now the authorities say more than 150 were injured. That was France today.
This was Nashville tonight, Tennessee's State Capitol. Peaceful protest, but an outpouring all the same after Republican state House members who hold a supermajority in the chamber used it to expel two Democratic legislators, one representing Memphis, the other from Nashville. Now a third Democrat from Knoxville narrowly avoiding expulsion by one vote.
All three took part in a gun violence protests on the House floor itself using a bullhorn last week has only happened twice since the civil war that legislators were expelled from the House. It's already gotten national attention and the tension it represents between red and blue states in America. That tension is certainly not going away.
The news continues. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Kaitlan Collins starts now.