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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Tennessee Democratic Lawmakers Defend Themselves Ahead Of Expulsion Vote; Rockets From Lebanon Fired At Israel After Police Raid Mosque; Violent Demonstrators Clash With Paris Police In 12th Day Of Protests; Report: Supreme Court Justice Thomas Accepted Several Luxury Trips Paid For By GOP Megadonor; Tennessee House Expels One Democrat, Discussing Resolution To Expel Another. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired April 06, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So if for no other reason you want to get both of them in there and let me just share with you quickly. But if you look at men and women --
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Yeah.
GUPTA: -- the likelihood of wearing sunscreen, 12.3 percent of men only wear sunscreen even on sunny days.
GUPTA: Higher for women, but still less than a third. This is easy folks, especially with summer coming up.
WHITFIELD: I know. But it's probably easier for women, too, because a lot of our makeup has sunscreen in it now.
Okay, got to go. Thank you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much.
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: They called it a protest for gun control. Their Republican colleagues called it breaking the rules of decorum.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Debates and voting underway right now, as Tennessee state house Republicans try to expel three statehouse Democrats. They protested on the statehouse floor in the wake of the Nashville school shooting, but should they really be kicked out of office?
Plus, airspace over northern Israel shut down after rockets were intercepted, fired from Lebanon. This is just one day after Israeli police raided a mosque in Jerusalem, all of the moves sparking fears of a greater conflict.
And, luxury trips, travel on yachts, all on the dime of a Republican mega donor. A new bombshell report alleging that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted at all and disclosed almost none of it.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start in our national lead. Any moment now, the Republican- controlled Tennessee state house will be voting on whether to expel three state house Democratic lawmakers. This is after those three lawmakers joined protests calling for gun reform, which disrupted activity on the state house floor. They engaged in behavior that Republicans are calling disorderly.
Right now, each Democratic lawmaker is being given a chance to defend him or herself. Here is one of the lawmakers, State Representative Justin Jones, speaking in his own defense just a few minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN JONES (D), TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE: No violence, no death threats but simply saying that until we have action, there will be no peace or safety in our communities. They respond with the most extreme measure of expulsion. A state in which the Ku Klux Klan was founded is now attempting another power grab by silencing the two youngest Black representatives and one of the only women, Democratic women in this body. That's what this is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Hundreds of protesters are standing outside the Tennessee state house today, and the pouring rain to stand in solidarity with the three Democratic lawmakers. If expelled, those seats would go to a special election and those expelled state representatives would be allowed to run for those seats again.
CNN's Ryan Young is in Nashville for us, outside the state house.
And, Ryan, we're expecting lawmakers to vote on the expulsions anytime now. What's the reaction outside the state house?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, as you can imagine, the passion that's been out here shown all day long since really early this morning before first light. People were lining up here because they wanted to wait in line to get their chance to go inside, so lawmakers could hear from them. Some people waited in line more than 2.5 hours to get inside all day. That passion could be heard as they surrounded this building.
They told us they wanted lawmakers to hear them. Not only for these three lawmakers that might be expelled, but for the children that have been killed in the last week and a half. And that's what people are sort of upset about here, Jake, that we're focusing on these lawmakers and their actions on the floor, a decorum violation. But obviously, what they want to see is gun right laws in the state so you can feel the passion here in terms of the people who arrived here and trying to get their voices heard, Jake.
TAPPER: How historic is this? Does this take place often in the Tennessee state house?
YOUNG: No, this has never happened for a rules violation. And I think that's the part that is surprised so many people who have been long term members of politics in Tennessee.
Look, there's a supermajority here for the Republicans, and so they can make this happen. And in fact, a lot of people who are Democrats in the state believed today that all three members will be expelled. They think this is going to set a terrible precedent, because if you can't have a sort of rules violation, and it leads to someone being expelled, they think people will not want to talk.
And the passion behind gun rights is something that we obviously know across the country. People feel strongly about.
One of the things that we learned last hour is that when each member is expelled, they will be escorted from the floor at that moment, Jake, so this could happen anytime in the near future.
TAPPER: Ryan Young, outside the state house in Tennessee, thank you so much.
Let's bring in Holly McCall, the editor in chief of "The Tennessee Lookout", as well as CNN's Jeff Zeleny here with me in studio.
And, Holly, right now, the three lawmakers are being given the chance to defend themselves before their colleagues. What do you make of what they're saying and how they're defending themselves?
HOLLY MCCALL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, TENNESSEE LOOKOUT: I think whoever decided that Representative Justin Jones should be able to defend himself first made probably a poor choice for the prosecution. Justin Jones is an eloquent speaker. He is a -- he did go to Divinity School, and I think he makes a very compelling argument. So I don't think that was a good choice for the prosecution, but he's doing a masterful job of defending himself and his right to speak on the house floor.
TAPPER: And, Jeff, House Republican, state house Republicans brought these expulsion measures because they said the three Democrats created disruptive behavior in the House. I mean, they did. They did create disruptive behavior in the House. I guess the question is this really more outrageous than the six people that were murdered last week?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, it might be disruptive behavior by sort of traditional sense. But in this day and age, it was really anything but that. It was four words that these lawmakers were really screaming with bullhorns on the floor, saying, "no peace, no action", things like that. But it wasn't -- the House Republican leaders compared it to the insurrection on January 6th.
TAPPER: That's crazy.
ZELENY: This is not compared to that at all, and they could only ask some Republican members of Congress what it was like on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. It was far more disruptive. No guns were drawn.
So the reality here is they're trying to make an example of this. They do not want to talk about the underlying issue, of course, which is guns. So, yes, they disrupted the procedure, but that's why you're gaveled down. That's why there are sort of other matters to deal with it.
But it was hardly, you know, something as disruptive as the January 6th insurrection, which is what the rights been calling it. It just does not make sense. It's just absurd.
TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene yelled out something to President Biden during the State of the Union. You don't kick them out of Congress for it. I mean, you know, there might maybe some punishment.
Holly, State Representative Jones said on the House floor that this expulsion measure is targeting them, in his view, because the three of them are -- two of the -- two of the youngest Black representatives and one of the only women in the state house.
Do others in the statehouse feel that way?
MCCALL: I would say, certainly, every Democrat feels that way. I think there are plenty of people outside the state house who feel that way.
I don't think it's any coincidence that two young black men and an outspoken woman were targeted for two reasons. Tennessee was the home where of the Ku Klux Klan. It was founded here. And in fact, there's a courtroom in Tennessee that was just recently ordered to take their Klan memorabilia out.
But also it is one of the homes of the civil rights movement, where John Lewis, the esteemed former congressman, started his career just blocks from the Capitol. And you know, Justin Jones has been, I would say, I hate to use this analogy, but he's had a target on his back by Republicans for several years.
He has been protesting about, you know, sort of authoritarian behavior ever since the protest of 2020 after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.
TAPPER: And, Jeff, a lot of Democrats on social media are using the occasion of this vote to point out how gerrymandered the state house districts are in Tennessee. It's -- look, it's obviously a majority Republican state, no one disputes that.
But it's not that Republican. I mean, it's like 3 to 1 in terms of representation in the statehouse.
ZELENY: Right. In this -- whenever we have incidents like these, it's certainly shines a light on gerrymandering across the country. And there is a supermajority. That's why they're able to do this. But as you said, there's not a supermajority in terms of any statewide election. The reality here, though, is what the Republican leaders have done is
sort of made heroes, at least in the eyes of liberals and Democrats of these three members, and they can run for their seats again. If they indeed are expelled today, they can run in special elections.
So really, this is a bit of a waste of time, some people think, and again, what is not being addressed as an issue that crosses all party lines. The majority of Americans want their elected officials to do something on guns. Every poll shows that that is not being done. This is just, you know, a procedural matter of fanning the flames. This is not going to advance.
The reason that they're protesting was that shooting at Covenant School.
TAPPER: Yeah. And we just had State Representative Pearson on the show yesterday. I believe in that. We're hoping to have him on again today. When I asked him what gun laws he wants -- I mean, the first thing he talked about was a red flag law. That's hardly a radical proposal.
Let's bring in Liz Crampton, a state policy reporter for "Politico".
And, Liz, these lawmakers as Jeff just pointed out, they can run to fill their own seats in the special election if they are ultimately expelled, and one would think they're going to be able to raise a lot of money because of how the Republicans are turning them into martyrs nationally among Democrats.
LIZ CRAMPTON, STATE POLICY REPORTER, POLITICO: That's right. This is really turned into a fundraising boom for these three Democrats. You know, there's already a GoFundMe covering their potential legal fees if they decided to challenge this lawsuit if the vote is successful, and like they're turning into hometown heroes.
And Representative Gloria Johnson just told me the other day that she will run again if she believes that her constituents want to see her back in office, and they would be allowed to run again and the state constitution protects them. You know, it states that members can't be expelled twice for the same offense.
TAPPER: What, Liz, what might this mean for other state legislatures around the country? Does this create some sort of precedent?
CRAMPTON: I mean, it could. That's the fear that these Democrats have stated. I mean, I just want to say that this is such an extraordinary move for its political brazenness and like truly is an unprecedented use of power. It's rare but not unusual to see expulsion proceedings like this, you know, what happens in statehouses. But usually, in cases involving like criminal charges or ethical violations, and, vote is the result of an internal investigation that often takes months or years, and it's always -- almost always bipartisan process.
But here in Tennessee, it's happened very swiftly. You know, just last week, there was a gun protest and it's been entirely partisan, which is something that we haven't been in Tennessee or any other statehouse.
TAPPER: All right. Liz Crampton, Holly McCall, Jeff Zeleny, thanks to all of you. We're going to continue to watch this pending vote at the statehouse in Tennessee. We'll bring you more as it happens.
Also ahead, the alarming scenes coming out of northern Israel today as that country, fended off rocket attacks and closed off its own airspace.
Plus in Paris, protest against the French government's plan to raise the retirement age are turning violent. CNN is there live.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our world lead, a cross border rocket barrage not seen in nearly two decades. More than 30 rockets were fired from Lebanese territory into Israel today after back to back Israeli police raids at a holy site in Jerusalem, sacred to both Muslims and Jews, amid overlapping religious holidays.
Israel's police force beat and injured some Muslim demonstrators at the Al Aqsa mosque. Muslims had been barricading themselves inside, they shot fireworks at Israeli police, all to protest calls from a far right extremist Jewish Israeli to bring back an ancient Passover tradition of slaughtering goats on the mosque compound, which Jews referred to as the Temple Mount. No goats have made it up so far.
CNN's Hadas Gold is in northern Israel as Prime Minister Netanyahu vows to fight back.
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Streaking across the sky in northern Israel, dozens of rockets fired from Lebanon Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces -- which said it intercepted most of them. But some made impact.
This car hitting the Israeli town of Fassuta. And in Shlomi, the storefront of this bank was destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear the siren. I hear the boom. It was in my home. It was very, very scary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still shaking because children aren't supposed to see this in this age.
GOLD: 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, threw rocks and set off fireworks.
Jordan, the custodian of the Al Aqsa mosque, told CNN that it believed Thursday's rocket attacks were response to Israeli actions at the mosque.
AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The two are obviously interconnected, where, unfortunately at the exact moment of dangerous moment, which we've worked for months to avoid, which is a moment where violence is erupting.
GOLD: As the first day of the Passover holiday came to an end, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting of his security cabinet.
Multiple hotspots flaring up at once, just as Easter begins in this Holy Land, and all three main religions are supposed to be celebrating.
GOLD: And, Jake, just in the last few minutes, that security cabinet was convened and Benjamin Netanyahu did give a short statement at the top. In part, he said, we will hit our enemies and they will pay a heavy price.
Now, what's interesting is Israeli authorities are not directly pointing the finger at Hezbollah, instead blaming Palestinian groups. So I think we should not only potentially expect to see some sort of maybe very targeted response in Lebanon, but also we should -- we should keep in mind that there may be an even bigger response in Gaza, targeting Hamas -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thank you so much. And she's in northern Israel rather -- sorry.
Let's bring in a former United States ambassador to Israel under Bill Clinton, Martin Indyk. He also served as special envoy for Israeli- Palestinian negotiations under President Obama.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.
A top Jordanian official says Israel is, quote, making it impossible to engage, unquote, and regional cooperation after the Israeli police stormed the Al Aqsa mosque for the second time on Wednesday. We're seeing these videos from social media of Israeli police force beating demonstrators.
I wonder if you think it unreasonable that Muslim protesters are concerned. That under the current Netanyahu government that this far right group this religious extremists could actually ultimately slaughter a goat on the mosque compound and get away with it.
MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATIONS, OBAMA ADMIN.: Well, I think it's a -- it's a good example of the way in which tensions are really rising during Ramadan and, of course, the beginning of Passover now. They're coming together at this moment where both sides are engaged in prayer and in manifesting their national feelings, and I think that that the police, the Israeli police, determined to kind of empty out the mosque of these 400 or so young worshippers who were staying there overnight, and out of concern that that they'd come out and attack the Jews that they were escorting there the next morning.
Not to sacrifice goats as it turns out, but to pray up there, which in itself is highly controversial thing that no Israeli government up until recently has been prepared to do.
So you've got a real class there and added to that, of course, as Hadas reported, we've got these rockets coming in for the first time from Lebanon, although it looks like they're from Hamas in Lebanon. That's never been heard of before. Hamas normally firing rockets out of Gaza and it has the potential to blow it even higher because Hezbollah could get involved as a result of Israeli retaliation in Lebanon.
INDYK: So I think it's a really dangerous situation now.
TAPPER: Yeah, Hezbollah, which would we should note not only has a presence in Lebanon, but it's backed by Iran, so this is a real risks of a regional conflict here beyond the borders of Israel and Gaza and the West Bank.
This escalation unfortunately, I have to say it's not surprising considering the year of unprecedented violence we've seen between Israelis and Palestinians. The overlap of Passover in Ramadan, as you noted, and the unrest following not only Netanyahu's proposed judicial reforms but also his having far right extremists as part of his cabinet, as part of his governing coalition.
What would you recommend to bring down temperatures right now?
INDYK: Well by the administration did a good job of bringing the Jordanians and the Egyptians in, with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to try to create a kind of contact group that would that would keep the lid on here, but it's obviously not working. We have to try again. The Jordanians are clearly upset that what the Israeli police were doing, beating up demonstrators in the third holiest mosque in Islam, which they ever responsibility for.
But we've got to get them all engaged in trying to calm the situation down as best as possible. There's nothing else to do in the short term, but urge restraint on all sides. Get the Qataris, who have influence with Hamas, and get them to back off. The Lebanese government is going to be very worried that they can't going to be the sacrificial lamb here rather than the goat on the Temple Mount, that Lebanon is going to pay a price.
So I think that we have to be just very actively involved in trying to get everybody to back away and calm down.
One additional thing, I'd like to say about the judicial reform. What the judicial reform did was causing deep division in Israel with the -- and as a result of that, the Iranians, I think and Hamas see a weakness, which they're trying to exploit.
TAPPER: Former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, thank you so much. Happy Passover to you and your family, sir.
Now to our other world lead, a total of 154 police officers were injured today during protests across France, in Paris. Some protesters forced their way into the building that houses the world's biggest money manager, setting off smoke bombs. For weeks, the Macron government's decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 has prompted these widespread demonstrations.
CNN's Melissa Bell is in Paris for us right now.
Melissa, what have you witnessed there today? And why does the violence seemed to be increasing?
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's definitely been a ratcheting up these last couple of weeks, Jake, simply since the French government announced it was going to be pushing through this reform without a vote in parliament that really led to anger on the streets, riled the unions, and, of course, therefore, are just afterwards, Emmanuel Macron announcing that he was going to hold firm regardless of what happened on the streets.
And so, you've really seen a definite uptick, Jake, in the amount of violence that we saw on the streets of Paris. Tonight, calm has largely been restored in the French capital, but some pretty dramatic scenes earlier, scuffles over the course of the day, fires lit along the march's route, much as we've seen in the last protest, and the one before that.
We now know that it is next week that the next protest will be held. The unions calling for another massive day of strikes and protests.
Whilst the numbers were slightly down on the street today, just over half a million people in the streets of France, fewer than we've seen on the streets last week, we expect to see how many will turn out next week. But again, it is that violence that we've seen really taking central stage that these protests. That's been a definite shift and something that we expect to see continue, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Melissa Bell in Paris, thank you so much.
A bombshell off the bench. Reports that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas never disclosed numerous luxury trips paid for by a mega rich Republican. We're going to talk to the reporter who broke the story, next.
TAPPER: Right now, you're watching Tennessee state lawmakers. They are close to voting on whether to expel three Democrats there, including Representative Justin Jones, one of the three state lawmakers who joined unruly protests calling for gun reform. It disrupted activity on the House floor. The question, of course, is does the punishment fit the crime? We're going to bring you results of that vote when it happens.
Until then, we're going to turn to our politics lead right now, and a new bombshell report from "ProPublica" revealing that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas, without disclosing most of it, have gone on luxury vacations paid for by a megadonor in the Republican Party conservative businessman Harlan Crow.
For nearly two decades, the Thomases have taken trips to Indonesia and New Zealand and California and Texas on Crow's dime, including using his private jet, his 162-foot luxury yacht, staying at properties owned by Crow and his company. Many of these trips went undisclosed on Thomas's ethics filing, despite that being required by law. Only one trip on Crow's private jet did Thomas disclosed that we know of in 1997.
Joining us now, one of the "ProPublica" reporters who helped break the story, Josh Kaplan.
Josh, congrats on a really astounding of work of journalism.
In a statement, the mega donor Harlan Crow told you, quote, the hospitality we have extended to the Thomases over the years is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends. Justice Thomas and Ginni never asked for any of this hospitality, unquote.
What did you learn about the types of trips the Thomases we're taking with Harlan Crow and his family? And has he ever had any influence before the court on any specific case?
JOSHUA KAPLAN, REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Yes, so we found that Thomas has been taking luxury trips from this Dallas billionaire virtually every year for over 20 years. So we found private jet flights around the world international cruises under the super yacht, regular vacations at an invitation only luxury resort. You know, one example, recently is in 2019, the businessman, Mr. Crow,
flew Thomas to Indonesia on his private jet and then took him island hopping for nine days on his super yacht staff by stewardesses and private chef. And we talked to we talked to, you know, we're told that if you were to charter that jet and that yacht yourself, it could easily cost over $500,000.
TAPPER: And it's not just the gift, though, right? It's the fact that he didn't declare almost all of this.
KAPLAN: Yes, all of this. Everything we found since the year 2000 happened in secret. None of these trips were disclosed, and that matters to lawyers because it affects their ability to understand potential conflicts in a case, but it also matters in terms of the law that Thomas appears of violated.
So there was a -- there was a law passed after Watergate that requires most like high level government officials from members of Congress, to Supreme Court justices to disclose most gifts and report them to the public, and we talked to ethics lawyers and they told us that -- by not disclosing these trips, Thomas appears to have violated the law.
TAPPER: Just how out of the norm are these trips. I see a lot of supporters of Thomas on social media talking about how Justice Brennan, 30 or so years ago, getting a big gift, although he did disclose it we should note.
Is it -- is it is it unusual for justices to take trips and accept gifts of this magnitude, and is it unusual for them to not declare them?
KAPLAN: So, there are other justices that you go to Europe to teach classes that, you know, fly around the world to give lectures? And you know, people have raised questions about that. But in terms of -- from a private individual at this scale, this lavishness, this frequently to a justice, there is no known precedent for this in the modern history of the Supreme Court. And so --
TAPPER: All right. I'm sorry to interrupt you there, Josh, but they have just in the Tennessee state house. They have just voted to expel State Representative Justin Jones.
This is because of a disorderly protest that he and two other Democratic colleagues held last week in the wake of the shootings in Memphis, Tennessee. Six people died. There were a lot of people who are very angry about those six murders. They converged on the capitol. Three of those state representatives, three Democrats Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson were disruptive on the floor of the state house.
They've -- one of the three has now been expelled from the statehouse and the other votes on the other two will happen imminently.
Let's go to Ryan Young. Ryan they did it. I'm have to say, I'm -- I've -- it seems like a rather harsh punishment for being unruly on the floor of the statehouse. But when you have a supermajority, you know, your party can do whatever it wants.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jake. I'm not surprised by this. Based upon what Democrats have been telling us all day long. They believe this vote would happen. In fact, we've learned there are plans for all three members to walk outside and doing news conference after their expelled.
We do believe Justin Jones will also be escorted from inside the chambers after this procedure happens. There's hope that he's allowed to go to his office to clear it out himself. But there's also a belief that he may be walked directly out and not even get a chance to pack up his own items.
This is shocking to so many people, because obviously the focus now, especially a lot of the media focus is on this going on and not the six lives that were lost just last week, and even the heroic off officers who went in to neutralize the threat. So now you can hear those protesters screaming in the background. We thought this would happen.
We're also told more people might be swelling into the area because they want to participate in the rally that's going to be held here after all these proceedings are done.
But, Jake, this is quite a shock when you think about the fact that no one has ever been expelled for a procedural matter. This comes down to decorum, and it wasn't followed, giving the Republicans a chance to pull this off. And like you've noted earlier, these members will have a chance to run for their seat again.
So we might be back in the same situation with the same members back here in a few months after they probably will get expelled today -- Jake.
TAPPER: So, there -- there was a motion to adjourn, but that has been defeated in there now. The Tennessee state house after expelling Representative Justin Jones, who you saw there in the -- who you see there in the white suit, who was holding up a fist a second ago.
They are now proceeding to House Resolution 64 to expel state Representative Gloria Johnson. There you see a state representative -- former I should say, ex-State Representative Jones, speaking to reporters there.
And Ryan Young, it is shocking as you know, the idea that what has motivated a state legislative body in Tennessee a week after this horrible attack on a Christian school were disturbed person entered with guns, killed three 9 year olds, killed three faculty and staff members before police officers, law enforcement from the Memphis area, bravely charged in and killed the -- killed the shooter. That what is actually prompted action is the fact that three statehouse Democrats were unruly on the floor of the state house.
And, look, obviously they violated the rules. Obviously, they were disruptive and unruly, and I'm not saying that they shouldn't be punished. But it is just stark.
You see, I believe that is Gloria Johnson there on the left. State Representative Gloria Johnson, a Democrat. The action that they're taking right now is to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans, who will now not have state representation in the statehouse. That's a former State Representative Jones, embracing with soon to be former State Representative Gloria Johnson on the floor of the Tennessee state house in Nashville.
What is motivating the legislators is this act of civil disobedience, this act of violating legislative decorum and not the murders of these three individuals, three students, nine year olds at a Christian school in Memphis or the three faculty members, six individuals murdered. That is not prompting the state legislature to act. It is these state representatives -- these three Democrats being rude.
I mean, that is unusual. I would think that -- I'm not talking about gun control, but I would think there would be some action taken to try to figure out how to protect the students and faculty.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, let's -- first things first, Jake, when you think about it, Jones's sharp tongue. So there's a lot of people that he's tussled with within the state house, who I think are sort of happy the fact that they get a chance to take away his seat.
We saw today how he was able to defend himself so very well as he was talking back and forth with lawmakers. But a lot of people believe before we even got here today that this was a done deal, that he was going to be gone, at the least. And so many people have been trying to change things.
But here's the thing -- we've been talking to teachers all day long who spent their entire time to come down here imploring lawmakers hopefully to change their mind on this one, and maybe focus more on gun legislation.
I talked to a Republican woman off camera who said she didn't want to go on camera, but she said, the whole idea here, look, we live in the south. I don't expect them to take away our guns, but she wanted to see something changed to make school kids safe. And so, we heard that over and over from people saying maybe the Republican Democratic talking points needed to go away just a little bit in order to make some sort of space here to help children now.
We had teachers crying on air with us today, begging for change because they don't know what to tell their students because they say their own students expect for something to happen in school now. It's that sad fear that we should be dealing with front and center, according to the protesters who came here. And then you have this action taking place, a change in state history really, when you think about how this is going to move forward. And, of course, with that Republican supermajority, they make the rules. And so these three lawmakers pretty much challenged that rule
governing body and decorum is going to win out in this one in terms of them being able to make this change.
Now you hear people on the floor right now, saying this is a change for America and democracy, and that's something we're going to think about moving forward -- Jake.
TAPPER: Right now, what we're watching on the floor of the Tennessee state house. You see State Representative Gloria Johnson leaning against the dais there and her attorney is speaking in her defense, and that he is chastising and urging the body to not expel her as they expelled State Representative Justin Jones. I want to bring back in Holly McCall, editor in chief of "The Tennessee Lookout", along with CNN's Jeff Zeleny.
Holly, what is your reaction to what we're seeing here on the side -- on one side of the screen, on the left, you see State Representative Justin Jones in his white suit, holding up his fist. He was there for a second outside the chamber.
He has been ejected. He has been expelled from the state legislature for the unruly behavior from last week. And we see on the right side of the screen, State Representative Gloria Johnson, who is about to be expelled.
I -- Holly, are you surprised that that this is what the state legislature is choosing to act on, even though six innocent people were murdered in a Tennessee school, in a Christian school, and that would seem to me just as a citizen to be more offensive than the rude behavior, we saw?
HOLLY MCCALL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, TENNESSEE LOOKOUT: No. I'm a native Tennessean, and I'm sadly not -- this is not a surprise to me. It's very -- it's very upsetting to me as a Tennessean.
And, what this is about is the fact that the Republican supermajority his never liked Gloria Johnson. They don't like Justin Jones. And they don't like Justin Pearson, and this has given them an opportunity to take some action to take revenge on them for speaking up.
TAPPER: Let's listen --
MCCALL: Tennessee has some of the laxest gun laws.
TAPPER: Yeah, let's just listen -- let's listen into State Representative Jones, former state Representative Jones, let's listen to him.
STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D), TENNESSEE: The others are still in there. TAPPER: All right. I'm sorry, Holly, I didn't mean to interrupt
there. But he was doing the chant. No action, no peace. That's a -- you know, an evolution from the "no justice, no peace" chant of protests past. This is about how in his view, the state legislature does not act when there are acts of gun violence -- no action, no peace. That's what he and the other two state Democrats were chanting on the floor of the House that has now gotten them expelled.
Holly, I'm sorry I interrupted before. Holly McCall from "The Tennessee Lookout".
You said you were not surprised. This is -- this is the state of play in Tennessee these days.
MCCALL: I am not surprised. The Tennessee legislature, the supermajority is deaf to their constituents want. I don't know who they listen to. I'm not even sure they listened to lobbyists.
They passed the laxest gun laws in the nation, the strictest abortion law. I think this is a disgraceful day for Tennessee and I speak as a native Tennessean. My family's been here since the 1700s, and this is just one of the worst days in Tennessee history. I think it's disgraceful.
Jeff Zeleny, I have to say, I mean, it's just it is remarkable and again, they were without question unruly. They were without question were violating the decorum of the statehouse, but they're being expelled. They're being kicked out. Hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans will now be without representation, at least until the special elections are held.
I have never seen anything like this before. Have you?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We certainly have it in modern times, and the vote wasn't close. The vote was 72 to 25, only 66 votes were needed to expel. This is clearly a case of Republicans locking arms and doing this.
And it clearly has a whiff of retribution, potentially racism and other matters.
But no, we have not seen this in legislatures. But this speaks to one of the core problems with our politics. And it is gerrymandering. It is that -- you know, all these legislative districts and in some cases, congressional districts are drawn to a represent not necessarily the masses in the middle. It's the partisans on each side.
So when you have a red state like Tennessee, it is a red state. But Nashville, of course, is like is a blue city.
ZELENY: So that is the tensions here that are playing out. So we've not seen it happen in other legislatures like this, but certainly you can imagine majority legislators in majority states like Wisconsin or perhaps blue states like California also sort of getting an idea for this. But that is what -- this is exhibit A of what is a rotten core of our politics in the country today because of gerrymandering. That's what we're seeing there play out.
TAPPER: Yeah, it makes a legislators play to the extremes, so that they don't feel like they have to reach to the middle. They don't feel like they even have to have a civil relationship with people on the other side, Democrats or Republicans. They can just own the libs or own the cons.
Let's listen in on state representative -- former State Representative Jones on the left side of the screen if we can pump up the volume there.
JONES: This doesn't seem like America. Expelling voices of opposition and dissent is a signal of authoritarianism. And it is very dangerous, and I hope that as a nation watches that we -- that we put this light on Tennessee to say that this should sound the alarm across the nation that we're entering into a very dangerous territory.
REPORTER: Your two colleagues in there who are still face questions, what would you say to them, your other two members of the Tennessee three?
JONES: I mean, we're in this together that we -- the three of us, the Tennessee three, we stand together, so I'm going to the balcony to go support them. You know, I can't go on the House floor right now. So I'm going to go to the gallery and stay for the hearing because we're in this together.
And it's so important that we represent. You know, we're multiracial, intergenerational. We represent Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville. We stand united and the people across the nation are paying attention to what's happening because this is not the end.
But what they did was signal that that if we don't act, we will -- we will lose our democracy. Today was a signal that we have lost in Tennessee. And that we are on the path toward authoritarianism, to be quite honest.
REPORTER: Will you run again?
JONES: I have no idea, you know, what are my next steps in terms of responding to this extreme measure, but I will continue to show up with people and continue to demand action on common sense gun laws because what we were saying was, let's -- let us pass an assault weapons ban. Let's take action and they responded by assaulting democracy.
So thank you all so much.
REPORTER: Thank you, Representative Jones.
JONES: I don't have any next steps. But I will continue to show up in this capital with these young people, whether I'm in that chamber or outside. And so we don't know what's next. I'm going to consult my legal team
because I believe that what they did was unconstitutional. I believe that it violated you know many of our rights. And so, it's silence more important than just me, my district, 78,000 people have lost their votes and their voice because of the extreme actions of this body.
So, I'll continue to show up and we must continue to hold them accountable.
REPORTER: Thank you, Representative Jones.
TAPPER: That's State Representative Jones, former State Representative Jones, who was just expelled. He's 27 years old, born in Oakland, California. He came to Tennessee to attend Fisk University and became an activist there. He included, he participated in a 62 days sit-in outside the Tennessee state house regarding the Dakota pipeline construction at Standing Rock.
He is an activist, and he behaved on the floor of the statehouse as an activist and violated rules and these supermajority of Republicans have taken the extreme step of expelling him, and they're about to take the steps of expelling two of his colleagues as well. You see there on the left side of your screen, State Representative Gloria Johnson, who was also going to face a vote.
Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- steady decision -- steady decisions of thousands of Tennessee voters.
The charge today, the only charged is that Representative Johnson and the other members violated the House rules. I like you have lived by those rules. Now, today, I heard what happened, called a mutiny.
Give me a break any of you that have served in this body more than a handful of months knows that when tempers are high, rules are bent, rules are broken.
I have personally been in this chamber -- when on multiple occasions, members came to blows, when members took videos improperly in violation of the rules. I have been here when members were locked in the chamber when the speaker had to gavel down members who were directly against the rules engaging in personal insults. I have been in this chamber when a member was so fearful he had to be guarded by a group of state troopers.
In none of these situations did anyone ever even suggest that because the rules have been violated, there should be a significant sanctioned for a member. No, they just returned the chamber to calm and the chamber got back onto its business.
Certainly, no one ever suggested the ultimate sanction that you are proposing today. Often these sorts of things I described happened as here when the body is confronting highly charged critical issues. For Tennessee and the Covenant School shooting, it's not just a national tragedy. It's a personal issue.
For us in Nashville, we know these people. We know the victims or their teachers or their friends. Representative Johnson is a teacher as you -- many of you know, she spends an enormous amount of time counseling and working with teachers here in Nashville and elsewhere. For her, the events at the school were a crushing personal tragedy, a huge burden.
We saw tape today. It represents the complete lack of due process and this particular proceeding. We've never gotten a straight answer about who took that tape that we were provided. But what did it show? It showed some members came to a well almost immediately. I hear after five seconds a recess was called.
The members came to the well. Representative Johnson stood here, did not shout as a stated, did not pound at the table, and after a short period of time engaged in a discussion with leadership and then peaceably left the chamber. Nobody was hurt. Nobody was threatened.
This is -- this is the sort of situation that has often occurred on the floor of this house, and no one has ever suggested these grave sanctions expulsion under these circumstances as all of you know, I would have no precedent in Tennessee or elsewhere.
TAPPER: Let's bring -- we're listening to the attorney there of State Representative Gloria Johnson. There will be a vote soon on, expelling her for disorderly behavior on the floor of the statehouse.
You see some angry Tennesseans on the left outside the chamber upset not just at these three Democrats being expelled. One has been expelled. Two are about to be expelled, but at the fact that there has not been any action by the state legislature to do anything about what motivated the unruly behavior by the three state representatives, that horrible school shooting at a Christian school in Tennessee, where six people were killed, three 9 year olds and three adults, faculty members and staff.
No action taken by the state legislature to do anything in terms of any prescription, whether it is armed guards or metal detectors or red flag laws or any sort of gun laws instead of focus on these three state representatives.
Let's bring in Liz Crampton, as I said, state policy reporter for "Politico".
Is this the future of state legislatures, Liz? Is this what's going to start happening around the country where other states who have supermajorities, Democrats and Republicans, to start injecting people they don't like for rule violations?
LIZ CRAMPTON, STATE POLICY REPORTER, POLITICO: There's no doubt that lawmakers and other states are paying close attention to what's happening in Nashville today. The question is, if there's the will to do something similar, but we know that there are numbers. [16:55:09]
You know, more than half of states now today are controlled by a supermajority and the vast majority of those are held by Republicans. We saw real consolidation of power in statehouses among Republicans in the South in states with similar in the midterm elections and state similar political climates as Tennessee, so whether extreme measures like this happens in other states, it remains to be seen.
But we are at the point in the legislative calendar in these sessions where Republicans are leveraging that power to use their supermajorities to do things like bypass governors, we're seeing that in North Carolina, in Kentucky and in Kansas. So I mean, it's a real possibility that this is the way that Republicans, you know, control government. They can steamroll other branches and their own numbers as long as they have many states.
TAPPER: Ryan Young, you're outside the statehouse right now, really shocking step taken by the state legislature there. How are -- how are the protesters? And how's the crowd reacting?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, so we're now in the state capital itself, been able to work our way in here. You can see the protesters who were outside who are now inside who are making their voices heard? You can see the signs like "how many dead kids until you say no to the NRA?"
These protesters have been energized all day long. There's another group of protesters who are downstairs. And they are trying to get their way upstairs, but they can't. They have been limiting how many they're going to be in this space right now.
On both sides, there are state troopers and calendar police here who are trying to limit how many protesters can be in this hallway at a time. So you can just feel the passion right now has been going on all day long here in Tennessee.
TAPPER: All right, Ryan.
Jeff Zeleny --
YOUNG: In fact, Representative Johnson --
TAPPER: Go ahead, Ryan.
YOUNG: Representative Johnson just walked past the second ago. So some of these lawmakers are actually walking out as we're here, Jake, and that's what's getting this crowd even more excited as we speak.
TAPPER: State Representative Gloria Johnson just walked by. Is that what you said?
YOUNG: Yes and she walked down the hallway and that's when people were just screaming left and right because they wanted to obviously give her lot of the teaching is going on -- as you can hear people nonstop. (CHANTING)
TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, you know, we talked about this earlier about how gerrymandering leads to extremism, Democrats or Republicans, running rough shot over their opposition. But this is a rather stark example with a supermajority just expelling three representatives for disruptive behavior on the floor of the House. And as we have discussed, we have seen disruptive behavior on the floor of the House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats being disruptive, Republicans being disruptive.
It has -- as far as I can tell, never not in the modern era ever resulted in expulsion, or even kicking people off their committees. This is a -- this is just by its own definition. This is an extreme, take extreme action by the Republican supermajority in the state legislature.
ZELENY: Without a doubt, and it's just an example of just how broken American politics are, and it was a four words that those three legislators were saying over and over, no action, no peace.
By worldwide standards -- I mean, on the floor of parliament, for example, the United Kingdom, there are, you know -- you know, outrageous debates, outlandish debates. So this is nothing. This is not the -- they aren't being expelled for the words they were saying.
But, Jake, this is one of the things that points to mind, we are now a patchwork of red and blue states. But if you look at Tennessee, in the year 2000, that presidential campaign you and I both covered very well, George W. Bush won it narrowly by 3 percent. That was the first year that Republicans started winning Tennessee in presidential races. Before that, Bill Clinton carried it.
Since then, last time Joe Biden lost by some 23 points.
ZELENY: So this is a sign of red and blue America has changed so specifically Democrats, largely in cities on the coast of this country, the middle, and the south certainly is read.
What that means is there's no trust among lawmakers. There is no sort of reason to get along. And yes, this was disruptive behavior, no doubt about it.
You can also say as I've been, um, hearing from some Republicans pointing out these Democrats, are they doing the best thing to get legislation forward?
ZELENY: They're obviously trying to draw attention to this. The question is what happens after this.
TAPPER: Let's listen --
ZELENY: Will there be a discussion or trust about gun bills?