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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Bank Employee Opens Fire In Louisville, Kentucky; Nashville Council Soon Votes To Reinstate State Rep. Justin Jones; TX Governor Moves To Pardon Murderer Of BLM Protester; Trump Files An Appeal To Stop Pence From Testifying; Source: Trump Appeals Judge's Order Forcing Pence To Testify; Dem. Ocasio-Cortez, GOP's Mace Urge FDA To Ignore Abortion Pill Ruling; Biden: "I Plan On Running" But Not Announcing Yet; U.S. Detained WSJ Reporter "Wrongfully Detained" By Russia. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 10, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're learning the names of the victims whose lives were tragically cut short, Thomas Elliot, James Tutt, Joshua Barrick and Juliana Farmer. And the interim Louisville Police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn Villaroel also shared more information about the injured earlier.


JACQUELYN GWINN-VILLAROEL, LOUISVILLE METRO POLICE INTERIM CHIEF: The officer who is in critical condition today, Officer Nicholas Wilt, 26 years of age, just graduated from the police academy on March 31st. I just swore him in and his family was there to witness his journey to become a police officer. He was struck in the head, engaged in this incident. Nick has come out of brain surgery and is in critical but stable condition, as we speak.


TAPPER: Our coverage of this tragedy starts with CNN's Adrienne Broaddus, who's in Louisville, Kentucky for us there. Police say the gunman was a current employee of the bank, and a law enforcement source says the gunman knew he was going -- knew he was going to be let go from his job.


ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least four people are dead, nine others injured, including at least two police officers after a mass shooting at a bank in downtown Louisville.

GWINN-VILLAROEL: Three, which are in critical condition including our officer. Three, who are listed in non-critical condition and three who have been treated and released.

BROADDUS: Police say one of the two injured officers is a rookie. GWINN-VILLAROEL: The officer who is in critical condition today,

Officer Nicholas Wilt, 26 years of age, just graduated from the police academy on March 31st. I just swore him in. He was struck in the head, engaged in this incident. Nick has come out of brain surgery and is in critical but stable condition.

BROADDUS: It started around 8:30 this morning when Louisville Metro Police say they received a report of shots fired and a possible active shooter at Old National Bank.

UNKNOWN: Within three minutes of being dispatched, officers arrived on scene and encountered the suspect almost immediately, still firing gunshots.

BROADDUS: Officers exchanged gunfire with the 23-year-old shooter who died at the scene. Police say the shooter was shot and killed by officers.

GWINN-VILLAROEL: Tommy Elliott, 63 years of age; Jim Tutt, 64 years of age; Josh Barrett, 40 years of age; and Juliana Farmer, 57.

BROADDUS: A federal law enforcement source tells CNN, the gun used in the shooting was an AR-15 style rifle. Two law enforcement sources say the shooter started as an intern in 2018 and later became a full-time employee. Police say he was still working at the time of the shooting but had been notified he was going to be terminated. That's according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation. This man says his wife works at the bank and called him as everything unfolded.

CALEB GOODLET, WIFE WORKS AT BANK: I got call from my wife, panicking that she was locked in the vault, that there was an active shooter in the building and call 911. Just a very traumatic phone call to get, right at 8:30. I haven't heard about her co-workers yet or anything, but I have talked to her and seen her. She's fine.

BROADDUS: Tonight, investigators say they're still trying to determine a motive. Kentucky's governor says this hits very close to home.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Today, I'm hurt and I'm hurting. And I know so many people out there are, as well. We lost four children of God today, one of whom was one of my closest friends.

BROADDUS: Tonight, this community and those outside of this community are hurting. We also learned earlier today that the 23-year-old shooter live-streamed the incident. Back to you, Jake.


TAPPER: Adrienne Broaddus in Louisville, Kentucky for us, thanks so much. Also topping our National League right now, hundreds are gathering in Nashville to protest the expulsion of two Democratic state representatives. They were removed from their jobs last week after state legislative Republicans said that they broke the rules by bringing a boisterous gun reform protest to the floor of the statehouse. In just minutes, Nashville's Metropolitan Council is going to hold a

special vote on whether to appoint one of those ousted lawmakers, Former State Representative Justin Jones, to fill his own seats on an interim basis until a special election can be held.


CNN's Isabel Rosales joins us now from outside city hall in Nashville. And Isabel, you're standing among supporters of Former State Representative Jones. What's the mood like outside the building?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN REPORTER: Jake, there's an energized focus toward addressing, first of all, what many consider, an injustice. This is a matter of democracy for so many people that are out here. What happened is Justin Pearson and Justin Jones expelled from the statehouse for breaking decorum rules for speaking out of turn without being recognized. Many say that they were simply speaking, being a voice for their constituents and demanding gun reform. But now they have been punished, completely expelled. So, they're looking to get them back into those seats.

And then the second point, take a look. You can see it in the signs. They wanna go back to the issue at hand and that is six dead at the Covenant School, three 9-year-olds included. They want action on guns and they can't do that, Jake, without the representatives. Right now, between Nashville and Memphis, more than 140,000 people have no representation, as we speak in the statehouse, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. I wanna get in the weeds here for a second, Isabel, because for Jones to be appointed today to fill his own seat on an interim basis, the Memphis Council rules would need to be suspended and it would only take two council members to stop that. What's gonna happen?

ROSALES: Right, Jake. That's gonna be a critical vote, the suspension of a rule that does not allow the council to both nominate and appoint somebody within the same meeting. So, it just takes, as you mentioned, two council members who object and then that measure fails.

What does that mean? That means that we're gonna have to wait four weeks in order to nominate Jones. When it comes to -- and -- actually appointing Jones, I'm told by council members that they are confident that they have the support there. And also, new reporting, Jake, we are hearing from a metro official that the mayor's office has quietly been encouraging council members here not to object.

So, here in the next couple of minutes, that council meeting is going to start, that special meeting, and what we're gonna see afterwards is this large crowd of people marching over with the council meetings to the statehouse, demanding that their voices are heard.

TAPPER: All right. Isabel Rosales in Nashville for us. Thanks so much.

One of the council members who will be in this special meeting joins us now, Council Member Brett Wither. Council Member Withers, thanks so much for joining us. The meeting is just minutes away. It's only gonna take two council members to oppose suspending the rules which would stop Justin Jones from being appointed to fill his own seat today. Do you have the votes to have him become the interim state representative?

BRETT WITHERS, NASHVILLE METROPOLITAN COUNCIL MEMBER: I believe that we do and we've had hundreds, if not thousands, of e-mails, not only from District 52 constituents but constituents throughout Nashville and Davidson County and the State of Tennessee, asking that we do just that.

So, I believe that not only do we have the votes to confirm Justin this afternoon at 4:30. I would strongly encourage any of my colleagues to avoid objecting to the suspension of the rules. There are just so many people who are hurting right now and are angry, justifiably angry and that this is not an appropriate time to play political games like that. We need to get Justin Jones back to his rightful place, representing House District 52 in the general assembly.

TAPPER: And either way, whether it's the rules are suspended or this vote takes place in four weeks, you have the votes to re-appoint Jones, right? It's just a question about whether t's going to happen today or in four weeks.

WITHERS: We do. That's correct. However, our general assembly could potentially have already adjourned by the time that he would be in under that four weeks scenario. So, we have critical votes at the general assembly is taking that pertain to Davidson County, many of which are harmful to Nashville and Davidson County. We need Representative Jones back in his seat, at least to be able to cast votes on those critical measures that are before the general assembly this evening and tomorrow.

So, I implore my colleagues not to play political games, to listen to the will of all of the voters and the place Justin Jones back in his rightful place in the general assembly this evening.

TAPPER: And just to remind our viewers, last week there were three state representatives up for expulsion. State Representative Justin Jones and State Representative Justin Pearson were expelled. State Representative Gloria Johnson was not. Now, when she was asked why she thought she was spared expulsion, she said, quote, "It might have to do with the color of my skin." Do you agree? Do you think that played a role?


WITHERS: I think that we have seen so much racism, frankly, from our general assembly that that definitely plays a role. I will say, as well, that Representative Johnson had a legal defense and it is true that she focused her defense little bit more on evidence of what she did and did not do during the proceedings.

But nevertheless, the results speak for themselves and really speak to the level of racism that we've seen from our general assembly for quite a long while now and seemingly getting worse and worse every year. So, Tennessee is telling and -- I can't speak to -- why we need to get representatives back in.

TAPPER: The Tennessee State Legislature is made up of 75 Republicans and 22 Democrats in the aftermath of the expulsions. Many were -- have been quick to blame gerrymandering for the super majority Republicans holding Congress and that's the action taking and expelling the lawmakers. The Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted, quote, "Without gerrymandering, there would be no expulsions."

Now, to be clear, Tennessee is a largely Republican state but it doesn't seem to be a 75 percent Republican state. Do you think gerrymandering is to blame?

WITHERS: I think gerrymandering definitely has played a role in a lot of our state districting. We also recently lost our Nashville congressional seat that we've had for 150 or some years due to that very same gerrymandering policy. But there's no question that in drawing the state senate and statehouse lines that gerrymandering played a role to make it very, very difficult to elect Democrats, women or persons of color in many areas where otherwise they would be able to support them throughout Tennessee.

TAPPER: All right. Council Member Brett Withers, you have a vote to take. Good luck to you. Thank you so much.

WITHERS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up. We're gonna bring you the latest live from Nashville when that vote happens in just a few minutes.

Plus, an unusual legal move. The Texas governor promises to pardon a convicted murderer before he'd even been sentenced.

Then, will your gas car be an antique in just a matter of years? The new rule that is meant to drive people into electric vehicles.



TAPPER: International lead, a Texas man convicted of murder on Friday could soon walk free after becoming a conservative-cause celeb. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, seems quite eager to pardon Daniel Perry, whose case is now under review by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Perry is a white army sergeant and Rideshare driver who was found guilty of shooting and killing Garrett Foster, another veteran and white protester at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020.

Tony Plohetski joins us now. He's an investigative reporter with the Austin American Statesman. Thanks so much for joining us. Does the family of Garrett Foster, the victim, have any recourse here before or after the decision on the pardon comes down?

TONY PLOHETSKI, AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: So, keep in mind what is happening on the ground here in Texas is so unprecedented. But I can tell you that right now, they are exploring what their legal options are as our prosecutors here in Austin. And one of the things that they are trying to do, even as we speak, is a symbol evidence that then they can submit to the Board of Pardons and Parole, arguing against this potential pardon.

TAPPER: So, look, juries don't always get it right, I understand that, and governors have discretion. But why is this happening, do you think? Is it because this individual's cause has become a real charge on the right?

PLOHETSKI: Well, unfortunately, the governor's office really is not going beyond what they have said in terms of why they are seeking this and seeking this so aggressively, and in such a swift manner. The governor, for example, has not said, this is what I observed or this is what I know from the trial that really gives -- question -- calls this jury verdicts into question.

Instead, we look at the timeline of what exactly happened and that is on Friday afternoon, late in the day, jurors deliver their verdict around 4:30 in the afternoon. And by the evening on social media, we were seeing and hearing conservative voices nationally calling upon the governor to quickly issue a pardon. And then not 24 hours after this jury's verdict, the governor at 2:00 p.m. Central Time here in Texas goes on Twitter and says he intends to do just that.

TAPPER: So, Governor Abbott himself appoints members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. So, after they review this verdict, how likely is it that they will recommend a pardon?

PLOHETSKI: Keep in mind, this board rarely seeks to have someone pardoned here in Texas and it is even more rare that the governor actually grants them. We're talking about a handful a year, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. But I can tell you that the belief here in Austin and here in Travis County is that given the fact that the governor appoints members of this board, they are likely to do exactly what he is asking them to do, which is bring forward as quickly as possible a recommendation for a pardon.

TAPPER: So, the basic argument as I understand it, and please, Tony, correct me if I'm wrong, is Mr. Perry had a gun. The guy he killed had a gun. And the question is whether Mr. Perry shot him in self-defense. Is that right?

PLOHETSKI: That's exactly -- but importantly, here in Texas, and this is the point that prosecutors strenuously argued during the two-week trial. The law says that you can't instigate. You can't provoke an attack on yourself and then say, I acted in self-defense. I used deadly force in self-defense.

And as part of that, prosecutors brought forth a series of social media post, a series of messages on Facebook that Sergeant Perry had with a number of different people in which he seemed to indicate a mind-set, an animos toward protesters.

[17:19:58] And so, that became really signature evidence in this case that jurors apparently felt as though, indicated that he had it out for protesters and that that night actually went looking for trouble. Perry's defense team says that is absolutely not the case. He inadvertently turned into this protest. He felt threatened by Garrett Foster and this AK- 47. And so, according to them, he fired in self-defense.

TAPPER: Is there any suggestion that Mr. Perry -- Sergeant Perry didn't get a fair trial, that there was evidence that wasn't -- that was fairly -- I'm sorry that was unfairly denied to the jury. Any sort of malfeasance at all that would suggest that Sergeant Perry didn't get due process or justice?

PLOHETSKI: Look, it's so early in this process, right? We're talking about just a verdict that happened days ago. And so, attorneys -- his defense team has not brought forward any sort of argument that the trial was not fair or that there was some corruption in some way.

I will tell you that his defense team did attempt before the case even went to trial to have it dismissed, saying that there was an unfair presentation to a grand jury by the district attorney here in Austin. But it's very notable that that argument did not go very far, that the judge presiding over the case, quickly shot it down and ruled that the case would go forward.

TAPPER: Yeah, Sergeant Perry deserves justice. But Garrett Foster the victim, the murdered man, he deserves justice as well. I look forward to hearing more about this and whether or not Governor Abbott, you know, has some sort of grounds for why he wants to pardon this individual.

Tony Plohetski, thank you so much, really appreciate it.

PLOHETSKI: Thank you.

TAPPER: Donald Trump's attorneys are trying to stop Former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying about the January 6th insurrection. Will this Hail Mary past work?

And any minute, the Nashville City Council is gonna start deciding if they will reinstate Justin Jones to the state legislature after being expelled for being involved in unruly protest on the floor of the house chamber. We're gonna bring you that decision, live.




TAPPER: In our politics lead. Donald Trump has filed a long shot appeal to stop Former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying before a federal grand jury. According to a source, this is part of the special counsel's investigation into Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election. And CNN's Evan Perez joins us now, live. Evan, Vice President Pence could come before the grand jury theoretically as early as this week. What is the Trump team strategy here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, they're trying to make every effort to try to prevent this testimony from happening as they have done with any number of previous White House -- senior White House officials who have been brought before this grand jury. They keep filing these executive privilege claims and they keep getting turned away by these by these -- by these judges.

And so, it's unlikely they're gonna succeed here. But you know, if -- you know, for Mike Pence who has given up his right to appeal, Mike Pence already got a ruling that he believes protects at least some of his privileges.

The judge here, James Roseburg, he's the chief judge here in Washington, ruled that Mike Pence has to appear. He has to answer certain questions but he does have some limits including over when Pence was presiding over the senate as the president of the senate.

So, beyond that, he does have to sit and respond to questions about his interactions with the former president in those weeks before January 6. So, we expect that Mike Pence will have to show up and that the former president will lose again, Jake, as he has in a number of these appeals.

TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thanks so much. Let's discuss with my panel. I guess the first thing I wanna ask is you used to work for the Trump White House. You resigned in disgust on January 6th. Is that a fair description?


TAPPER: So, if you could ask Vice President Pence anything under oath about that day, assuming that he was willing to participate and tell you, what would you wanna know?

MATTHEWS: I think it's gonna be really important for them to ask the vice president what the president's mind-set was leading up to January 6th. What was his goal with the "Stop the Steal" rally and where his mind-set was in terms of whether he had thought he actually won or lost the election? And so, I'm curious if he had conversations on that, and it'll be interesting to see them shed light on that with his testimony.

TAPPER: What would you ask Vice President Pence under oath if you could, about January 6th?

MICHAEL LAROSA, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I'd wanna know if he -- the president had asked him to overturn the election.

TAPPER: Yeah, I'm just gonna ask all of you. Sorry , I didn't give you a heads up, but it just occurred to me. CATHERINE LUCEY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We know he called him a lot of names. I'd be curious to know exactly what Trump said, how he said it. I think that also speaks to a state of mind.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR'S WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY HOST: Yeah, I mean, I would like to know about the insults that were lodged at him. And just also, like, I would wanna know and I guess this less illegal thing, but like, how in fear was he for his life at that time, and did he really -- did he blame Trump like this is not a legal thing, but I just wanna know personally. Did you blame Trump for what was happening? You were there -- you were going through all this stuff. That's what I would --

LAROSA: And his family was there, too.


RASCOE: And your family was there.

LUCEY: And he didn't hear from Trump when he was going through that.

RASCOE: When he was going through it. But beforehand, like, did you feel like he was tearing all these people out and put you at risk?

TAPPPER: So, and Vice President Pence sometime in the last week or so guiltily (ph) disagreed with Donald Trump -- when Donald Trump talked about the January -- the January 6 victims, political prisoners, when he ran that choir, the January 6 choir right before the Waco rally. Are you surprised that so many Republicans still were voters, I mean, and also members of Congress are on Trump's side of what was very obviously a violent insurrection that Donald Trump incited?

MATTHEWS: Yes, it's actually really shocking to me. If you would have told me when I resigned on January 6 where we'd be at now, I have plenty of text messages and e-mails and everything from Republicans who were supportive of my decision to resign that day and were outraged and disgusted by Donald Trump's behavior. And so now to see where we are where many are willing to -- are unwilling to speak out against it is appalling to me.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the ruling on mifepristone, the abortion drug that's been legal for decades and also scientifically found to be safe. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned heads over the weekend when she called on the FDA to ignore the judge's ruling. She told that to Dana Bash of suspending the use of the drug. But now, Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who calls herself pro-life, although she's trying to find, I guess, some sort of middle ground where people can agree on this issue, she says she agrees with AOC and she has some strong criticism for her fellow Republicans. Take a listen.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I agree with ignoring it. This is an issue that Republicans have been largely on the wrong side of. We have over the last nine months not shown compassion towards women. And this is one of those issues that I've tried to lead on as someone who's pro- life and just have some common sense. In the state of South Carolina, just a few weeks ago, we had some folks in the state legislature that essentially wanted to execute women who had abortions.


AYESHA RASCOE, HOST, NPR'S WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY: I mean, you know, it's a huge deal to have Nancy Mace say this. But let's set aside because there are two issues here. Should you ignore court ruling, I think is like, you know, in a democracy, I think if you start ignoring court rulings that you don't like, that could have some very serious consequences.

But then let's focus on the abortion issue, which is an issue where Nancy Mace was saying, look, we are on the wrong side of this with the public. We keep losing, Republicans keep losing because we are going against something that is really health care. When you look at the, you know, the mifepristone, that is not just for abortions, that's for people who have miscarriages. And if people who get pregnant, they have miscarriages and then they need medical help. You're telling them they won't be able to get medical help.

So she is saying, look, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, we have to step back from this. That's what she's saying.

TAPPER: So, Ramesh Ponnuru was here last week, and were talking about the vote in the Wisconsin --


TAPPER: -- State Supreme Court election where the progressive candidate. And look, Wisconsin is a 50-state --

LUCEY: Absolutely.

TAPPER: -- but this was not a 50-50 election she won. And I think it's agreed that she largely won or at least a lot of the motivation was abortion. And Ramesh was saying that this isn't -- you know, this wasn't about a 20-week abortion ban or 15-week abortion ban, this was about a zero week abortion ban that would happen. Are Republicans not reading the room, do you think, when it comes to that middle ground that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was trying to find on a 15-week ban?

LUCEY: I think that's the question here. And we saw this in Wisconsin and we saw this in the midterms and from talking to voters and from polling that a majority of voters are very uncomfortable with outright bans. They see this as a taking away of health care. They are concerned when you hear stories about people not being able to get the health care they need. This is deeply unpopular.

And I think you are hearing more from Republicans like Mace saying, look, we have to figure this out. We are going to keep losing on this issue. This is a winning issue for Democrats.

TAPPER: What do you think?

MATTHEWS: I agree. I think that the Republican Party needs to find a coherent message on abortion, whether that's, you know, a 15-week ban settling on something, because right now they're allowing Democrats to fill the void and say that they're for a total ban. And as we saw in Wisconsin, a total ban is a total loser for battleground states. And heading into 2024, I think that just is going to be a lot of issues for Republican candidates.

TAPPER: This ruling by the Texas judge banning mifepristone nationwide really undermines the argument from conservatives that overturning Roe v. Wade was just about sending it back to the states. That's a nationwide ban, not a Texas ban.

MICHAEL LAROSA, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes, for sure. It's a little disingenuous. But I think what you're seeing is, and we saw in 2022 at my home state of Pennsylvania and the state of Arizona, what they did was they took the people who voted for this judge in the first place and replaced them with Democrats. That seems to be the only way that we're going to have to distinguish ourselves from the Republican Party on whether it's guns or abortion rights is that you just have to elect a Democrat to the Senate and to the White House, because otherwise -- look, elections matter, judges matter, and you're seeing that they have an everyday, tangible, livable effect on your life, at least women.


TAPPER: I want to ask you, as a former Biden White House official, earlier today, Al Roker was at the Easter egg roll, and he asked President Biden about his reelection plans. Take a listen.


AL ROKER, NBC TODAY'S WEATHER ANCHOR: Help a brother out. Make some news for me.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, no, I have plan on running now, but we're not prepared to announce it yet.


TAPPER: I mean, what is that? I plan on running, but we're not going to announce it yet. So he's running?

LAROSA: Yes, he's running.

TAPPER: So, what are we waiting for? I don't even understand. What is -- he's not going to announce it. He just announced it.

LAROSA: Sure. I don't know what everybody's waiting for. I don't know what everybody's talking about. I mean, I don't think he has to announce until January, if you ask me. I would let the Republicans and the media, no offense, just focus on the debates every month coming up and every Republican trying to out maggot each other until January, Trump's December court date. There's lots of things that he can just focus on, and he's proven to be a successful first term president but just focusing on legislative politics, not campaigning.

TAPPER: But why the kabuki?

LUCEY: I think -- well, I think when he says, I have not reduced it, they're talking about a formal announcement, be it an e-mail or a video or a rally where he declares this and that trigger certain, you know, fundraising rules and such. And it seems to me from the people I talked to that the White House or, you know, the president's advisers don't see a lot of urgency in doing that. You know, they -- there's -- they're not facing any kind of challenge in the primary. They think the Republicans are beating each other up over on that side.

And they think that the President is busy being president. He's doing foreign travel, he is working on legislation, and so they are -- they don't seem to see a lot of urgency in taking this step.

TAPPER: He's also pretty unpopular right now, we should point out, President Biden.

RASCOE: He's unpopular but there --

TAPPER: No offense, back to you.


TAPPER: Back to you.

RASCOE: Well, that hasn't stopped him before.

TAPPER: Right.

RASCOE: And he is, you know, he has continued on. And, I mean, they may be looking for the strongest point to make this big announcement. When can they make the biggest splash? They clearly want to be cautious about that.

But, yes, I think everybody wants to know when he's going to do it. The Easter bunny was probably out there asking, trying to get some news out of it.

TAPPER: What Democrat do you think, as a Republican, what Democrat do you think would be the strongest candidate to run in 2024?

MATTHEWS: Certainly not the vice president. I think she would be the weakest candidate for them to put up. I think in terms of a strong candidate, Pete Buttigieg is someone that I think Republicans would probably be worried about if Democrats put up. but if, you know, Biden chose for some reason not to run, which I think all signs point toward him running.

I think for Republicans, I would hope that it's not Donald Trump, because I think that we will lose. And that has been proven not with just him losing in 2020, but with him losing or his backed candidates losing in 2022. So I really hope that will put up anyone else. But right now no one seems to be taking him on. TAPPER: Yes. I was just going to say Donald, just to be fair, Donald Trump polling at 25 percent popularity on the ABC News Washington Post poll. Traditionally not a good poll for him, but still, that's pretty low. Go ahead.

LAROSA: Yes, I was going to say the reason why nobody has decided to challenge the oldest president in history is because he's been one of the most successful presidents from a domestic policy standpoint in terms of getting things done since LBJ. And --

TAPPER: OK. So let me discuss --

LAROSA: -- who would want to challenge him?

TAPPER: We only have a few seconds left. Who would the strongest Republican be? I asked her who the strongest Democrat would be.

LAROSA: The strongest Republican is anybody who's an X factor. Nobody -- you want Trump because at least we know that Independents do not like him.


LAROSA: What we don't know is how Independents will feel about other candidates.

TAPPER: All right, thanks to all. Appreciate it.

Any moment, the Nashville city council is going to vote on reinstating one of the expelled state lawmakers. We're going to go there live.

Plus, an update from the U.S. State Department on the Wall Street Journal reporter being held hostage, essentially, in Russia. Stay with us.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justin Jones has been elected as the interim successor for the vacancy of Tennessee House District 52 pursuant to the state law and the rules governing the metro.


TAPPER: So, just moments ago, the Nashville City Council voted to appoint Democratic former state representative Justin Jones back to fill his seat on an interim basis. This is after, of course, he was expelled from the state legislature in Tennessee last week. Jones and another colleague were forced out of their jobs by their Republican colleagues after participating in a rather boisterous, if not unruly, gun control protests on the floor of the State House. The Republicans say he broke the rules of decorum on the State House floor days prior. CNN's Isabel Rosales is in Nashville for us. And Isabel, a quick and unanimous vote.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's exactly what city council members who spoke with me and the community here at large were hoping for. This is such a big moment not only for Justin Jones being sent back to his job, but also for nearly 70,000 constituents, people here in the Nashville Davidson County area who he represents, who for days now have not had a voice, have not had someone to represent them before the State House. So just moments ago, we saw the votes tallying up by machine, 36 council members out of the whole 40 metro council voting yes to go ahead and appoint Justin Jones back to his seat as an interim successor. Zero of them that were present voting as an objection.

And so now he is the interim successor. The meeting, by the way, Jake, opening up with the mayor, John Cooper, calling this an unprecedented moment and saying this is what was needed because of what we saw at the State House, two of them being expelled on decorum rules for leading a protest there on the House floor, calling that unprecedented and urging his members to react quickly. And that is exactly what we saw.


Even the nomination of Justin Jones was symbolic as well with Delishia Porterfield who ran against Jones for District 52 and lost nominating him to his position, giving him back that seat again, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, great. Thank you so much, Isabel Rosales.

Let's go to Ryan Young, who's outside also to talk about this.

So, it's almost like a game of tennis here. The Republicans hit the ball towards the Democrats of Nashville, and they hit the ball back.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. So now the march has already started. They're going straight to the Capitol from what we're being told. This march is going down here for a purpose because they want to make sure that the State Capitol realizes that he is coming back. We are behind this crowd now as we're trying to catch up with the representative.

There was a prayer vigil before this all started. You can feel the excitement from this crowd, who's just excited about the fact that they've been able to turn back what they feel was like an assault on democracy. So, this is all happening right now live.

We believe they may stop -- oh, be careful with the stairs there. We believe they may stop to do some sort of news conference at some point, Jake. But the excitement in this crowd is just palpable because they really wanted to send a message.

So we're going to walk to try to get in front of this crowd as they march to the Capitol. And at this point, they do plan to talk. Justin Jones going back to the State House. TAPPER: All right, Ryan, keep us abreasted (ph) of developments there. Keep us abreast of developments there so we can bring that news conference.

But in the meantime, let's turn to our world lead, because not long ago, the U.S. State Department formally declared American journalist Evan Gershkovich, quote, "wrongfully detained." The Wall Street Journal reporter has had zero consular access ever since he was arrested by the Russians 12 days ago. Russian investigators Friday formally charged him with espionage. It's a claim that the White House calls ridiculous.

Jeremy Berke is with us now. He and Evan Gershkovich were college friends who lived together in Brooklyn.

Jeremy, thanks so much for joining us. I want to ask about your relationship with Evan, but first tell us what you're hearing about Evan's current situation. We heard he was able to meet with his lawyers, but has he been able to make any sort of contact with any other officials or with family?

JEREMY BERKE, FRIEND OF DETAINED JOURNALIST EVAN GERSHKOVICH: Sure. Thank you so much for having me on, Jake. Really grateful for the opportunity to share Evan's story.

From what we understand, Evan was able to see the Russian legal team working on his behalf last week. And we also understand that he has received a few letters that were translated into Russian that myself and a few other of Evan's close friends and family have written him. So, that's what we know right now. As we understand it, he's still being held in solitary confinement, and no U.S. consular officials have been able to see him yet. So that's what we know right now.

TAPPER: So you saw a letter from Evan. Is there anything you could tell us about it?

BERKE: No, no, I did not see the letter from Evan. Letters that we have written have been sent to him --

TAPPER: Oh, Ok. Got it.

BERKE: -- to clarify that. Yes.

TAPPER: When was the last time you heard from him in any way?

BERKE: Evan and I spoke a little under three weeks ago now. We were just joking back and forth about attending a mutual friend's bachelor party this weekend, and we were, you know, gossiping about former classmates and, you know, other people we know in our network. You know, it was very regular, normal conversation that we have a lot. You know, we're in very close contact.

TAPPER: Evan's parents are former Soviet Jews who fled the Soviet Union to come to the United States. Their son went back. By all accounts, he loved his job, he loved his life in Russia. Now he's wrongfully detained in a Russian prison. What is this like for your friend to be going through this nightmare?

BERKE: Yes. One can only imagine what is going through Evan's head and what he's thinking right now. This is a horrible, awful situation. And not only that, Evan is one of the most extroverted, gregarious, friendly people I know.

And you hit the nail on the head, Jake. He really loved his life in Russia. He loved the Russian people. And he went back there to both explore his roots and because he felt like he could make an impact as Russia was changing and becoming more isolated over time. He felt like he could really share their stories in a way that the Western audience could understand.

So, you know, I can only guess as to what he's thinking. I'm sure he understands the gravity of his situation. But at the end of the day, we want to center Evan's humanity in this situation, and we really just want to get him back home as soon as we can and as safely as we can.

TAPPER: All right, Jeremy, we'll have you back, and we're going to keep telling his story. Thanks so much for joining us.

BERKE: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: Coming up, the Biden administration taking aim at gas cars. Stay with us.



TAPPER: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release strict new proposed rules that could make up to two thirds of new passenger vehicles electric by 2032. CNN's Bill Weir is here.

Bill, how significant would this be?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: This would be massive, Jake. This would be some of the strictest air pollution laws anywhere in the world. It would be the most ambitious environmental set of regulations in the United States history in one swoop here.

If the announcement comes from Michael Regan, as expected, they would take U.S. EV sales, which are now less than 6 percent, up to 66 percent in less than a decade. And that, of course, means ramping up charging station, manufacturing, filling the energy grid with renewable power, a smarter transmission line system. It takes about half as many laborers to build an electric car as it does a gas powered car. So there's a huge labor piece of this at the heart of it. But in all, it is part of what science says must be done to decarbonize as soon as possible to keep the earth from dangerous tipping points in the climate space.


California already voted to eliminate new gas car sales. By 2035, it looks like Europe, Canada, the U.K. will follow there. And this might be part of a movement to sort of tie together federal policy to California's, the auto manufacturers like one set of rules instead of several. But this is a huge, hugely ambitious idea, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Bill Weir, thanks so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD whence you get your podcasts. All 2 hours sitting there like a giant peach cobbler.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I'd like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.