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At This Hour

U.S. Supreme Court Issues First Opinion Of Term; 10 Killed In Rampage At Southern California Dance Studio; Kremlin Warns Ukraine "Will Pay" If Germany Sends Tanks. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Supreme Court is back in court issuing its first opinion of the term in a case about veterans' benefits. This is the first time as well since the pandemic began, the justices are issuing opinions in person, rather than virtually.

Joan Biskupic is watching all of this for us from Washington. Joan, not only is this the first time in nearly three years of their reading opinions from the bench, but you've also noted it's taking them longer than ever to even get to it to deliver this ruling, what's going on?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: That's right, Kate. Good morning. And it was great to be there this morning when they for the first time in so long. We're in their dramatic setting to at least read aloud the new opinions.

But you're exactly right. Since October when cases were first heard, they hadn't had a decision until the day. And usually by this point, were you know, in mid-November, in December, the justices would have been able to reach some resolutions and put them out.

There are a couple of reasons likely. One is their lingering divisions at the Supreme Court from the abortion case last term, and then also the leak -- the premature leak of that reversal of abortion rights. That has caused all sorts of new security protocols to be put in place for the distribution of the opinions and for how the justices negotiate.

That could have been a factor also. And then finally, we have new Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has been quite active during oral arguments, and we're not sure how much writing she might be doing behind the scenes, how much more time she might want for deliberations.

This opinion, though, Kate, was in a case that was argued just the second day of the term back in early October. And it was very straightforward, 11 pages, it rejected a disability request from a veteran, and it was unanimous. But we never know what went on behind the scenes in this.

And finally, I would just tell you that between the security shortfalls that were evident in the leak report last week and the delay in this decision, it sort of is a bad sign for what's going to happen going forward. We're not even in June yet, which is the last month of the term and when the really big decisions will come, Kate.


BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. All right, buckle up, Joan, it's going to be a long one. It's good to have you here. Thank you so much.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So, in the next hour, we're also going to focus in on this. The failed Republican candidate accused of targeting Democratic officials in New Mexico, he's going to be -- appear in court again. The judge is expected to rule on whether Solomon Pena should remain in police custody.

Police allege that Pena was the mastermind behind a series of shootings at the homes of four Democratic officials. He is facing multiple charges, including attempted battery and conspiracy. On Friday, the New Mexico Attorney General's office said that it is also investigating his campaign finances after police indicated some of the money raised may have come from narcotic sales. Much more to come on that.

There's also a huge investigation underway right now as police search for a motive in the deadly mass shooting in California. And the country at the very same time sees a major rise in gun violence more broadly. What is fueling this? That's next.



BOLDUAN: Now, welcome back. Authorities have identified two victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a Lunar New Year celebration in California. All 10 of those killed were over the age of 50, making them the latest victims of America's gun violence epidemic.

In the first three weeks of this New Year, there have already been 36 mass shootings, just in January. According to the gun violence archive, as you see here on this graph, mass shootings in the United States have risen dramatically since the pandemic began.

Joining me now for some more perspective on this is CNN contributor Jennifer Mascia. She's a senior news writer for The Trace which focuses on gun violence in America. Thanks for coming in. California -- just folks starting there from what we know from this mass shooting.

California is known to be a state with some of the strongest gun laws in the country, mandatory waiting periods, mandatory background checks, a ban on so-called military assault weapons. It was also one of the first states to pass a Red Flag Law. This shooting is proof that gun laws aren't stopping all gun violence, of course, but what do you see here? JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I see a country with 400 million guns and I see people who can go out of state to get guns. Now, there's a number of things we don't know about this particular shooting but these are the things that I'm looking at, where he got this gun and when he got this gun, several mass shooters recently like the Laguna Woods shooter and the Gilroy garlic festival shooter, they went to Nevada to get their guns because Nevada does not have the universal background checks and registration scheme that California does next door. So, that's one possibility. That's the way he could have evaded California's strong gun laws.

The other one is that this is a very old gun. This gun was -- the same model was used in a few mass shootings 30 years ago, but we haven't really heard much about it since then. And the gunman may have been sitting on it for years. California's assault weapon ban was passed in 1989.

You know, California had strong gun laws, but not always so he could have kept his gun off the radar for decades. And then the only way to disarm him would have been California's red flag law as you mentioned. That was passed in 2014, though.

And that would require him to come into contact with the police or a family member would have had to alert the police. And if those people weren't in his life, that shows the shortcomings of those particular laws.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it really does. I mean, I want to put that chart up also, once again, because I wanted to use data from the gun violence archive of just showing -- it shows -- and I'm not trying to -- I don't want to put two things together just because it's a coincidence if it is, but that's what I wanted to ask you this jump in gun violence since the pandemic set in. What is the research and conversation around that now? I mean, what has happened in this time period?

MASCIA: Everybody's looking at the gun sales. We had something like, you know, 40 million guns sold in the last few years. This is a surge unlike we have ever seen. And you know, we had a social event in this country, we had a possible social breakdown. People got really scared in this country.

When people get scared, they buy guns for self-defense. Researchers have said the more guns that are out there, the more guns that are available to be abused. And that's something the research shows over and over.

BOLDUAN: I did want to ask you because I want to play something that the California Congresswoman Judy Chu said after the shooting. The questions she says still remain. Let me play this.


REP. JUDY CHU, (D-CA): I still have questions in my mind, which is, what was the motive for this shooter? Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns? And was it through legal means or not?


BOLDUAN: So they're, of course still investigating the motive. She mentioned though a possible question for her is domestic violence. What is the relationship that you see between domestic violence and gun violence in America in your research?

MASCIA: Domestic violence and mass shootings have intersected in a number of ways. The first modern mass shooting began with domestic violence, University of Texas at Austin. He killed his wife and mother first. There are those types of shootings.

There are shootings that start at home and move to the public realm. There are shootings where someone will target a partner or former partner and bystanders get killed as well. There are domestic mass shootings that target only family members and take place at home. And those are the ones that we tend to not see on the news very often, but those are some of the mass shootings that are happening day in and day out, the ones that don't make the news.


MASCIA: More and more regular incidents of gun violence are turning into mass shootings.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Jennifer, it's great to have you on. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

MASCIA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And your research, I really do. Thank you so much.


Russia is issuing a new warning if Germany sends tanks to Ukraine. How Western allies are now reacting to this latest threat? That's next.


BOLDUAN: The Kremlin is now warning that Ukraine will pay if Germany and others provide tanks to help them in the war effort.


Western leaders are still debating if and when to send the German name -- German-made Leopard2 combat tanks over there as President Zelenskyy has really been pleading for them now for weeks. Fred Pleitgen is live in Kyiv with more on this for us. Fred, what are you hearing about this latest threat from Germany -- from Russia now over these tanks?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this threat was actually made by the Kremlin earlier today, Kate, and it was the spokesman for the Kremlin Demetry Peskov who said that if these western main battle tanks, no matter where they come from, but of course especially these Leopard 2 battle tanks that are made in Germany, go to Ukraine that the Ukrainians would then pay. Obviously, the Russians are saying that there would be massive retaliation on their part. This is, of course, something that we've heard from the Russians in the past.

If you recall, when the U.S. started sending those HIMARS, multiple rocket launching systems to Ukraine, the Russians were then threatening to hit decision-making centers in Kyiv and in other cities as well. So far, that really hasn't happened to the extent that Russia said that it would. Nevertheless, these main battle tanks are a huge topic here in Kyiv among the Ukrainians that we've been hearing from Ukrainian officials.

We've spoken to some who said that they absolutely need them because they're actually running out of spare parts for the Soviet main battle tanks that they have also running out of ammo as well, very difficult to source that internationally also.

The Ukrainians say they need about 300 to 400 modern western battle tanks to really be able to turn the tide. And as you correctly said, right now it's still difficult internationally, especially for those German-made ones, the Leopard 2.

The Poles are saying they want those to be sent. They own them, but they have to ask Germany for permission to send them. The Germans are saying they'll allow those tanks to be sent if the U.S. sends Abrams tanks. Now, we know the U.S. is not there yet.

They think that the Abrams are not suited for the battlefields here in Ukraine, the maintenance is also difficult. The Germans say something's been worked out at the moment, they're simply not there yet but certainly, a lot of these countries do see the necessities of these western battle tanks to come here to the battlefields in Ukraine, Kate.

BOLDUAN: If they didn't before, there's definitely a change in tone that they're -- they see it now. That's for sure. It's great to see you, Fred. Thank you for being there.

Joining me now for more on this is Democratic Congresswoman from Pennsylvania Chrissy Houlahan. She sits on the foreign affairs committee. Congresswoman, thank you for being here. When you hear the Russian government say Ukraine will pay if anyone sends in tanks, what do you make of that threat?

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN, (D-PA): As what the person who was previous to me said, it feels as though we've heard this threat before, and frankly, the actions of the Russians are inexplicably aggressive. And I think that they should totally expect that we would answer with these kinds of weapons systems.

I have actually been not only on the Armed Services Committee but also on the foreign affairs committee advocating for us as Americans, as the United States to make sure that we are equipping the Ukrainians with everything that they are asking for and that includes at this point tanks. I don't think the saber-rattling from Russia should be something that

should stop us or our allies from being able to be supportive of Ukraine as they fight for democracies around the world.

BOLDUAN: And, Congresswoman, if it is saber-rattling, as we've said, we've heard this threat before, it's not like -- it stopped Russia from being ruthless. At its core, then what do you think is driving the hesitancy from Germany? What is the hesitancy drive -- what do you think is driving the hesitancy from the U.S. to send tanks at this point?

HOULAHAN: So, it really does sound as though there is some work to be done in terms of the conversations between those allies, both the United States and Germany.

And I am heartened by the conversation that comes out of the Armed Services Committee for my chairman, Chairman McCaul, who recently said that we need to make sure that we are answering the call from Ukraine for everything that they need and that there is a process that needs to happen here domestically to educate both our Congress and also our administration and our DOD to make it possible for us to be able to do that.

And then I believe that Germany will follow along or follow suit. That has been sort of the pattern since the beginning of the war, a few hundred years -- sorry, a few hundred days ago.

BOLDUAN: I want to play for you kind of run along lines of what you're talking about. I play for you how the Republican chairman of foreign affairs, Michael McCaul, how he responded to the concern that the new Republican majority might not be as supportive of sending aid to Ukraine in the future. Let me play this.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R-TX): We have to educate our members. I don't think they quite understand what is at stake. If Ukraine falls, Chairman Xi in China's going to invade Taiwan. It's Russia, China, Iran, is putting drones in Crimea, and North Korea just putting artillery into Russia. They have to understand the case.


BOLDUAN: Do you see that as well? I mean, what is it going to take to convince the skeptics?

HOULAHAN: Absolutely. And I hope that now that the Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives, and I hope that now that Chairman McCaul is chairman, that those folks on the other side of the aisle, the Republicans on the other side of the aisle will start really listening to the chairman as he articulates I think very, very well, what's at stake here.


This is not just about Ukraine. This is, in fact, the world watching what happens for Ukraine to Ukraine so that we can make sure that we protect, as I mentioned, democracies around the world. And the implications of a failure in Ukraine are global.

And so, I am very grateful that the very committees that I sit on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs have been resolute in their unification and their unity with both Republicans and Democrats alike.

I know recently, another trip to Ukraine. A congressional delegation from Ukraine just came back. I had the opportunity to go myself and speak with President Zelenskyy very early on. And nothing has changed really other than we need to continue to support Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It is -- it is also important to point out that when there is bipartisan support around these issues and we see that in the work that you're doing on the committee. Thank you so much, Congresswoman. I appreciate your time.

HOULAHAN: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for watching AT THIS HOUR. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this break.