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Don Lemon Tonight

Supreme Court Draft Opinion That Would Overturn Roe V. Wade Published By Politico; Russia Continues To Strike Ukraine; GA Grand Jury Convened To Investigate Potential Election Interference By Then- President Trump; Arrest Warrant Issued For Corrections Officer In Escape Of Inmate From Alabama Jail. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 23:00   ET



JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, SUPREME COURT BIOGRAPHER: He was, however, Don, ready to uphold the Mississippi law that was in dispute before the justices, which is a 15-week ban on abortion -- ban on abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

So, what "Politico" has gotten its hands on and published and just, you know, a real earthquake of news in women's rights and court protocol -- I mean, I'm sure the court right now, the nine justices are just so shaken by having this information out here in this draft form, before everything is completely resolved, is that this court is ready to roll back rights by a narrow 5 to 4 vote, which would be stunning nationwide because what Roe v. Wade said in 1973 is that women have a constitutional right to end a pregnancy before about 23 weeks.


BISKUPIC: And then just to get to what you asked again about the chief, you know, the chief justice likely was going to separate himself from this opinion for institutional reasons.

And just think, Don, how he must feel right now about the institution and integrity of the Supreme Court to have news of what's coming likely by the end of June to be -- to burst on the scene like this and so disturb so many women, so many people on both sides of this debate to see this haphazard announcement of sorts or release of sorts of information that's going to affect so many lives, the political scene across America, and what the court -- how the court operates going forward, Don.

LEMON: You know, John, this is going to mean really immediate repercussions, have immediate repercussions. What are some of the conservative states going to do the minute Roe is gone?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are as many as 26 states that seem to be ready to overturn Roe and ban abortion, some at 12 weeks, some at six weeks. Many of the recent laws that have been passed in states like Ohio don't even have an exception for rape or incest. So, this is a very draconian future for people living in states. It has been against the backdrop of a lot of conservative states passing laws in anticipation of this kind of a decision.

But as Joan said, this will further damage the court in terms of its undermining its reputation by making it seem more political. Conservatives for a long time -- remember, Roe v. Wade was passed 7-2 with Republican justice writing that decision. It was reaffirmed.

This is something that Brett Kavanaugh said was precedent upon precedent. And now, if this report is accurate, that would be precedent upon precedent would be overturned.

And the reality has political ramifications not only for the court, not only for the midterms, but for basic consensuses that it existed. This is not simply going to be devolved to the states in a way that people said, let's take it off the culture war menu. This is going to be elevated.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that some Republican senators are talking about a heartbeat bill that would try to nationalize a ban on abortion past six weeks.

So, this is going to inflame the culture wars, massive implications not only for people's right to privacy and self-determination. It is also a position that is very politically-unpopular, according to most polling. Only around 20% of Americans said they should ban abortion entirely in this country.

LEMON: Yeah.

AVLON: So, watch out. This is going to be fuel on the fire unfortunately.

LEMON: Listen. We know what the justices, at least when they were nominees, what they said during their confirmation hearings, right, that doesn't necessarily don't jive with what they're saying now. But would this have happened without the three Trump justices, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and weigh in on what they said during their confirmation hearings as well?

BISKUPIC: Absolutely not, Don. This is exactly -- it's cliche that elections have consequences. Donald Trump said when he was a candidate in 2016 that he was going to name individuals to the Supreme Court who would roll back Roe v. Wade and leave it to the states.

And guess what. He did. He appointed Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. And, you know, you quoted at the top of the hour, you know, just exactly how they had vowed, you know, to have an open mind on abortion rights.

But this draft document, it appears to be, as I say, in sync with what we had been hearing, shows that despite what they told senators, despite whatever vow they said about neutrally looking at this and showing regard for precedent, and this is a precedent that's a half century old, that they have gone in completely the opposite direction. And again, it just goes to show, Donald Trump promised something and Donald Trump delivered.


And one other thing, Don, when you think back to 2016 of how many Republicans were initially suspicious of Donald Trump and what got the republican establishment to accept Donald Trump as the GOP nominee, was the fact that the Supreme Court had a vacancy then and they believed that he would deliver justices that would vote for, you know, socially conservative outcomes. And this is exactly what we appear to be headed for.

And I just want to add one caveat. What "Politico" obtained was a first draft.


BISKUPIC: These things go through many drafts. I mean, I have watched these justices closely and sometimes there could be as many as, you know, 10 different drafts going back and forth. There's usually about five on a major battle such as this. And each justice then gives some feedback.

And occasionally, occasionally, Don and John, a justice in the dissent can pick off someone from the majority. And I think that's what the chief was trying to do with justices Barrett and Kavanaugh, those two who seemed like they might be in the middle, such as there even is a middle on the Supreme Court anymore.

And he clearly was not successful at that. He did not succeed in any kind of compromise. And now with this so public, it looks like things are locked in.

WALLACE: John, I want to ask you, what was the (INAUDIBLE) when said it looks like this is -- when she mentioned Donald Trump and his appointment --

AVLON: Well, because this is, I think, goes beyond simply elections have consequences, right? The context for the politization of the court, which creates this coalition, is based upon the refusal to have a vote for Merrick Garland for that open seat.

BISKUPIC: That's right.

AVLON: And then reversing that alleged principle of not having justices voted on before an election to push through Amy Coney Barrett. That is -- this is a Republican -- this is something republicans own and social conservatives will cheer it, but it will not have the effect of decreasing the pace and the tone and the tenor of the culture wars in this country and it will certainly not remove any idea that the court is not political.

This is going to be a very divisive decision if it holds as anything resembling currently written by this apparent draft by --

LEMON: Alito.

AVLON: -- Justice Alito.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you, John. Thank you, Joan.

AVLON: Bye, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it.


LEMON: I want to bring in now CNN contributor Steve Vladeck. He is a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law. And also, CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. I'm so glad both of you could join us this evening. Thank you very much on our breaking news here.

Steve, I'm going to start with you. What is the legal argument Justice Alito is making to overturn Roe v. Wade?

STEVE VLADECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Don, it's an argument that I think a lot of us have been expecting, that I think the conservatives have been previewing for a few years now.

And the argument is basically that, you know, the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion, that the Supreme Court errored in 1973 when it recognized under the due process cause of the 14th Amendment a right for pregnant individuals, pregnant women to obtain pre-viability abortions, and that the court is righting the wrong, that its predecessors made 49 years ago.

Don, I think one of the many, many, many layers here is not just what this opinion if it becomes the law of the land means for abortion in America, but what it means for other rights that the Supreme Court has tied to the same constitutional provision, to the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, rights that we take for granted, rights to contraception, rights on the part of same sex couples to get married.

You know, I think that part of -- this is such a bombshell not just for abortion and not just for the court institution, but for what it portends beyond abortion if this court continues to exercise this kind of power going forward.

LEMON: Jennifer, Alito said that the notion of stare decisis does not compel on ending adherence to rose abusive judicial authority. That is according to "Politico." What do you say to that? Explain what that means.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Stare decisis is the court's adherence to precedent. It is the notion that once the court makes a decision on a matter of law that it will continue with that decision and subsequent decisions and subsequent considerations.

And so, throwing stare decisis out the window, this court says that it is not -- you know, it wasn't right in the first place really is kind of a thumb in the eye towards this notion of judicial precedent and judicial restraint.

And in fact, you know, the examples that Justice Alito gives are almost offensive. You know, he talks about Plessy v. Ferguson, which of course is the famous separate but equal decision saying that African-Americans, as long as they had a space for doing whatever it was, traveling, eating, et cetera, that it is good enough as being in the same space as everyone else. That was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education.


So, he says, oh, you know, look, sometimes we get it right in the end. But taking something like that and equating it to this where you have a progression across the years and the decades where, you know, women couldn't, you know, vote at the start of our country, they at one point couldn't enter into contracts or they couldn't own property, I mean, we have progressed.

And so, the notion that we progress and women have rights now and those rights are now being taken away and that's to be equated with the overturning of a decision that was clearly wrong from the get-go like Plessy v. Ferguson is frankly offensive.

LEMON: Steve, I want to hear again from the three Trump justices during their confirmation hearing. Here it is.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Is Roe a super precedent?

AMY CONEY BARRETT, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: How would you define super precedent? And I'm answering a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates that Roe doesn't fall in that category.

And scholars across the spectrum say that doesn't mean that Roe should be overruled, but descriptively, it does not mean that it's -- not a case that everyone has accepted and doesn't call for its overruling.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey been reaffirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent, which itself is an important factor.

NEIL GORSUCH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator, as the book explains, the Supreme Court of the United States is held in Roe v. Wade that a fetus is not a person for the purposes of the 14th Amendment, and the book explains that.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Do you accept that?

GORSUCH: That's the law of the land. I accept the law of the land, senator, yes.


LEMON: Steve, I want to get your response to that. As we are looking at -- as you respond, I want our viewers to take a look at the screen because this is what's happening outside of the Supreme Court of the United States. There are protests going on right now.

So, they said one thing during their confirmation hearings, Steve. And now that you see this draft, if it indeed holds up, what do you make of it?

VLADECK: Well, you know, Don, I mean, I think not to parse the words too finely -- I mean, I don't think any of the three, you know, most recent justices ever actually said, and if I'm on the Supreme Court, I will vote to uphold Roe and Casey. And so, they would probably say, well, we weren't dishonest.

But, Don, we all knew that this was a parlor game. We all knew that this is a big part of why these were President Trump's pick for the Supreme Court. You know, with the possible exception of Senator Collins, I think, you know, folks understood exactly what the implications were.

And Don, if I can go back just for a moment, I think this is why, you know, it wasn't just such a big deal when Justice Kavanaugh replaced Justice Kennedy in 2018, but why, you know, when Justice Ginsburg died in September 2020, she was replaced by Justice Barrett. You know, I think this is the result that so many folks looked to as to where this was going to end.

And, you know, to me, Don, one of the most revealing pieces of the reporting thus far is that it's not a 6-3 vote, that the reporting by "Politico" is it's 5-4, which as you were discussing with Joan at the top of the show, suggests that Chief Justice Roberts is no fan of the court's abortion jurisprudence, wasn't willing to go as far as at least this draft.

Don, that's a pretty damming indictment of his fellow conservatives. It's not typical for the chief to split from them in such a highly divisive, highly visible case. And it's just, Don, one of the many, many ways in which this decision, whenever it comes down, is really going to break so many precedents, both literally and directly and indirectly, not just for the court's jurisprudence but how the court operates as an institution, and frankly how it's perceived by the public.

LEMON: Uh-hmm. Listen. I would like to get more of a readout of exactly they were asked a question that you were asked. But I think that, you know, especially when it comes to Dick Durbin, who was questioning Neil Gorusuch, and he said, do you accept that, and he said -- Judge Gorsuch said, that is the law of the land, I accept the law of the land.

That's coming pretty close to saying that it is what it is and I'm not going to change it. But to your specific words, I'm not sure if they were asked that or not. I would like to see a full transcript. You make a very good point.

Thank you, Steve. Thank you. I appreciate it. And thank you as well, Jennifer.

VLADECK: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

Now, I want to bring in Democratic governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker. Governor Pritzker, thank you so much. So, you responded on Twitter, saying, hell no, in Illinois, we trust women. How are you feeling tonight?

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): Well, if this leak is true, this is a terrible day for our nation and a disgraceful decision. It's a scary day for women. In Illinois, we took steps to protect women's reproductive health because we feared that this day would come.

And let's be clear, after the Supreme Court decision, women will still be getting abortions. But in 26 out of 50 states, those abortions will be unsafe and potentially deadly.


And in my opinion, Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. For a party that says that they're all about individual freedom, they're hell bent on taking away freedoms from so many women.

And remember, if they come after Roe, they're going to come after everything. Gay marriage is next. And then they'll come after protections for minority and marginalized communities. If this stands, it won't end here.

LEMON: You know, listen, you bring up a very good point because, you know, I think even I and many others, especially those of us who are reporting every night and commenting and talking about these issues, have thought that Roe v. Wade -- that it was, you know, a long shot and probably would never be overturned, there had been precedent, and that it was a battle or a fight that had been won. I should say a battle that had been fought and won already.

But when you bring up the next possibility of same-sex marriage, that tonight is indeed, as we look at these pictures of the protests outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., that is a real possibility, governor, among other things.

PRITZKER: Well, when Donald Trump was elected, the writing was on the wall. They zeroed in first on women's reproductive rights. And this has been their ultimate sinister goal, the entire series of taking away people's rights.

Illinois is already an island in the Midwest that protects women and protects minority rights. We've seen thousands of women here who have been left with no other choice than to cross state lines into Illinois to exercise their rights.

And I think now what you're going to see is every candidate for governor, every candidate for state House or state Senate needs to be asked where they stand on this. Do you intend to be like Oklahoma or Texas or will you be like Illinois where we trust women to make their own decisions about their own bodies? And what about the next set of rights that are going to be under attack?

LEMON: Is this a galvanizing factor for Democrats who believe, especially when it comes to the upcoming midterm elections and the enthusiasm that Democrats need so much? Because there is a lack of enthusiasm, the polling shows, by Democratic voters.

PRITZKER: Look, I think there are people like, as you described yourself, who didn't think this day would come and who tonight are realizing that it's coming, it's here.

And so, I think that the protests that you're seeing in front of the Supreme Court is just the beginning. I think, you know, you saw the women's march in January 21 of 2017, I think it's going to be like that.

LEMON: Governor Pritzker, thank you so much. Be well.

PRITZKER: Thank you.

LEMON: We have a lot more to come on our breaking news tonight. The Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade published by "Politico."

Plus, Ukrainian soldiers in the Mariupol steel plant still fighting back. How long can they hold out?





LEMON: You're looking at live pictures outside of the Supreme Court.

"Politico" obtaining what it calls a draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that would strike down Roe v. Wade. The leak, a stunning breach of Supreme Court confidentiality and secrecy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer putting out a joint statement, and I quote here. "The Republican- appointed justices reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history."

"Several of these conservative justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and Supreme Court's reputation -- all at the expense of tens of millions of women who could soon be stripped of their body autonomy and the constitutional rights they have relied on for half a century." Let's discuss now. CNN senior political analysts Krysten Powers and Ron Brownstein are here, as well as CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp. Good evening to all of you. Thank you so much for joining.

I'm so glad to have you on, especially S.E. I'm happy to have you on because you bring a different perspective to this. I think an important perspective because we just heard from the Democratic leaders that there are millions of pro-life Americans who are going to be thrilled in this draft opinion if this draft opinion becomes a reality. A lot of people have moral objections to abortion or religious objections. And for them, this will be very welcome news.

Can you speak to that, please?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First, I would say to my friends on the right, what would you think if the Supreme Court overturned D.C. versus Heller, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby? If you can't count on the Supreme Court to rule on landmark cases and be -- quote, unquote -- "settled law," then I don't think you can have much faith in the judicial branch of our government.

To the other point, I am pro-life. I don't like abortion. But I have never lived in a country -- since 1979, I have never lived in a country where abortion wasn't legal, where Roe v. Wade wasn't settled law.


I accept settled law because I believe in democracy and the judicial branch. So, I have fought for abortion to be legal, safe and rare. The majority of the country believes that abortion should be legal but with restrictions. So, the far-left want no restriction, the far-right wants no abortion.

The majority of the country believes that abortion should be legal, safe and rare. If you are the majority of the country, your rights were just overturned perhaps as indicated by this brief. That's going to be very unpopular.

And lastly, just to get to the politics, I think very good news for Democrats who are looking at a bloodbath in November and now might have a fighting chance because this ruling might give them everything that they need to get turnout where they needed to be.

LEMON: You believe that -- you know, David Axelrod was on earlier making that point. I think Gloria weighed in and agreed as well. You believe that this could actually galvanized Democrats and actually help them commit midterms?

CUPP: Well, like all of the republican draconian abortion laws in various states that essentially banned abortion, which weren't even popular in some of those states, I think that took a big issue off the table for Republicans.

So, they can't really run on those successes because they -- quote unquote -- "won them." And for Democrats, I mean, to have the Supreme Court indicate they might overturn Roe v. Wade is the biggest galvanizer of votes that I can imagine, I couldn't literally three hours ago, turning a lot of voters out to the polls.

So, I think this -- I don't want to be (INAUDIBLE) about it because this is actually devastating. But, you know, for politics, this is good news for Democrats.

LEMON: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, I think that the most important thing right now, separate from the politics, is just to acknowledge how shocking this is and how extremist it is. This is really extreme behavior from the Supreme Court if this is accurate. I don't know how the reputation survives this, frankly. It's wildly out of the mainstream.

Most Americans, as S.E. was just saying, support Roe v. Wade. They do not want it overturned. Even many pro-life Americans feel that way, as S.E. just articulated.

So, what they're doing is extremely radical. It's not just about abortion. It's about quality. I think that is something that a lot of people don't understand about the fight for reproductive rights.

It is about -- it is fundamentally a question about whether or not women in this country are full human beings who have control over their bodies and their abilities to make their own decisions about their reproductive choices, regardless of what other people think about them.

It is fine to be pro-life, be pro-life, don't have an abortion. It is not fine to say that women are not full human beings, people. They're so obsessed with how a fetus or an embryo is a person.

Well, guess what, women are people. And women are people that have the full rights in this country. And that's what this is about. And so, it's not just some culture war issue which we want to turn it into, it is about women's fundamental rights.

LEMON: Let's put this up, Ron, and have you weigh in to both S.E. Cupp and Kirsten's point. Roughly 70% of Americans. This is CNN poll.


LEMON: CNN poll found that 70% of Americans do not want Roe overturned. Democrats hoping that this is going to push people to the polls this fall. Republicans have been promising to do this for decades, right? If it didn't motivate pro-choice voters before, why would it now?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, a couple of thoughts, Don. First of all, when S.E. was kind of quoting the famous Bill Clinton intro that abortion should be safe, legal and rare, I think the most powerful word of those three is legal. As you point out, over 2/3 of the country believes Roe should not be overturned. And when you look at the specifics of the kinds of bands that are being passed in red states, as I wrote recently, of a dozen abortion restrictions that have been approved in this legislative session in 2021 and 2022 in red states, nine of them have no exception for rape and incest.


And that is a proposition that probably has support from about 15% of the country, banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. And what Republicans have been betting is that this is like what the NRA always said about gun issues, that the only people who care about it were the people who oppose gun control.

And, for many years, that seemed to be the case certainly on abortion because Roe, as S.E. was talking about, has been the law of the land for two generations. And the thought that it could be removed really was abstract and immaterial to most voters.

Now, this is very different. This concentrates the mind. And it's not clear to me that this will completely erase the turnout enthusiasm gap that the party in the White House always faces in the midterm. But I agree there is nothing that could have the effect more powerfully than this.

I mean, Alito in his draft opinion, according to "Politico," as I've read their decision or the decision, draft decision, compares this to Plessy. The real comparison is Dred Scott in 1857 --

POWERS: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- where you have a Supreme Court appointed by an earlier political majority trying to block the agenda of a new emerging social majority. Seventy-seven percent of people under 35 opposed overturning Roe in that CNN poll. That is the generation that the Supreme Court has put itself on a (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Fascinating conversation. I love having this conversation. S.E., I love hearing from you, especially someone who is pro-life and who is also a conservative. It is good point of view to have. Thank you. Thank you all. I really appreciate it. We will be right back.




LEMON: In Ukraine, tonight, the battle in the east is heating up with both sides pressing forward. And with Russia pouring more troops into Ukraine, their possible and game for the Donbas is becoming clear.

I want to bring in now CNN military analyst retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, good evening to you. A senior U.S. defense official says that Ukrainian forces have pushed the Russians back roughly 25 miles east of Kharkiv in the last two days. I, mean we know this battlefield is fluid. Will Ukraine be able to hold on to these gains in the northeast?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: They might just be able to do so, Don. It's really interesting to be able to see this because when you look at what has happened here, this is the area in which the Ukrainians have been able to push the Russians back a bit.

Now, there is some danger for these Ukrainian forces because they have Russians on three sides of them. But they may be able to bring this out this way and move the Russians back. We will see what they do.

Of course, the Russian border is right here, so it's going to be difficult for them. But it's certainly possible for them to move the Russians back, especially from Kharkiv.

LEMON: So, colonel, we're getting this new video of a missile attack on Odessa tonight that officials there say have killed at least one person. According to the regional head, this was an attack on an infrastructure target. Is Russia zeroing in on Odessa?

LEIGHTON: Yes, in part I think they are. And the reason they're doing this is because they believe that this is a critical area for them to capture. When you look at the big maps here and especially here in the south, you see that Odessa really guards this part of the coast line. That's the remaining part that Ukraine has.

So, it's important for the Russians to capture it, but it's also important for the Ukrainians to hold on to it. And if they can hold on to it, then the Russian ambitions to make Ukraine a land lock country are stopped in their tracks.

LEMON: All right. Colonel, thank you so much. I appreciate it. We'll see you soon.

Remember this?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voice- over): So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes.


LEMON: Now, a special grand jury in Georgia is being convened to see if the then-president illegally interfered in the 2020 election. That's next.




LEMON: So, remember when then-President Trump called up Georgia secretary of state to -- quote, unquote -- "find votes" needed for him to win the election?


TRUMP (voice-over): So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.


LEMON: Now, 26 people in Fulton County, Georgia have officially been picked to serve on an investigative special grand jury to determine if the former president and his allies committed any crimes in their efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.

So, joining me now to discuss, the former U.S. attorney for the middle district of Georgia, and that is Michael Moore. Michael, here we are. Good evening to you. Some experts are saying all of the legal cases the former president is facing, this is the one that he should be worried about. What do you think?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: You know, he's had a remarkable way to escape some pretty tight traps. This is a little different in the sense that there is Georgia statute that prevents somebody from trying to solicitate election fraud.

Now, the question here really, I think, is going to roll down to a lot of the same arguments that we heard before but maybe in a little bit different context, and that is things like executive privilege, presidential immunity, whether or not the state actually ought to hear these charges as opposed to have them removed from federal court.


We will see that, I think, as things go on. The one thing I will remind everybody who is watching is separate this. This is just the start. This is simply an investigative branch that has ability to hear witnesses, issue subpoena, take in evidence, but they can't issue an indictment.

So, this just advises the district attorney on whether or not she wants to move forward with the case or has the ability to move forward with the case, and ultimately then she can present the case to a regular grand jury. If she gets an indictment, the floodgates are going to open on the appellate court.

LEMON: The district attorney, Fani Willis, was on CNN just a short while ago and spoke about the unique powers the special grand jury has. Listen to this.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Special purpose grand jury does have some special powers. And one of those is that they can on their own ask for certain documents to be subpoenaed or they can say that they'd like to hear from certain witnesses. If one witness we bring in mentions someone and they think it is relevant, they can request that those people be brought in and not request but actually have a subpoena issued to bring those in. So, that's an awesome power and responsibility.


LEMON: Michael, so, Willis said more than 50 people have declined to talk voluntarily. How could the grand jury help prosecutors finally get some answers that they have been looking for?

MOORE: Well, she's bringing the investigation to this point at a time when we're in political season. And so, you've got people who are both in office, maybe who are running for office, folks who are associated with candidates for office who are thinking, you know, I don't want to have to come forward right now and talk without a subpoena.

So, they said, I'm not talking to you. I don't want to give the appearance that I'm cooperating. I don't want to give the appearance that I'm Republican in name only and willing to come and talk about the election or acknowledge that it wasn't stolen.

And so, the subpoenas that the grand jury can issue can help that and maybe give them a little bit of cover as we go through. It's not unusual to have people who don't want to talk.

The special purpose grand jury, though, when we talk about the powers that it has, it's like a federal grand jury. That's typically the difference between the state and federal system. The federal grand juries have investigative powers. State grand juries typically don't. Most of the time, there has to be an indictment actually laid on the table, we call it, that is the charges have to be laid out and the grand jury votes on those charges.

This is a case of a situation where the grand jury can sort of the say, look, it's like an octopus, this tentacle, I might want to move it around here, I might want to hear from this person, I want to do that, we might want to think about this, have you about this crime.

But that is not something that's anomaly when you compare it with the federal system. You just don't see it a lot in the state prosecutions at all. You see it sometimes, but not very often. Just another unique factor in this case.

And when you complicate things, when you make cases more involved, when you do things that are out of the norm, that's when you also create issues that could be heard by courts of appeal. And in this state, those courts are controlled by Republican appointees.

LEMON: Michael Moore, thank you much. Michael Moore, not the filmmaker. Thank you.


MOORE: I appreciate that.

LEMON: I saw someone refer to you that way the other night and it gave me a chuckle. Thank you very much, Michael, I appreciate it.

MOORE: Good to be with you.

LEMON: You as well.

An Alabama corrections officer said she was taking an inmate charged with murder for a mental health evaluation. Now, both are missing. Investigators say she may have helped the inmate escape.




LEMON: Tonight, a manhunt is underway for an Alabama corrections officer and an inmate charged with murder. They disappeared Friday after the officer checked the inmate out of jail, claiming she was taking him to the county courthouse for a mental health checkup. An arrest warrant has now been issued for Officer Vicky White. And authorities say it appears she acted willingly.

We get more now on this developing story from CNN's Ryan Young.


RICK SINGLETON, SHERIFF, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: I'd be surprised if they're still in Alabama.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a manhunt is underway for a dangerous murder suspect and correction officer Vicky White, who may have helped the inmate escaped.

SINGLETON: If she did this willingly -- all indications are that she did. I guess we're trying to hold on to that last straw of hope that maybe for some reason she was threatened and did this under coercion, but absolutely you feel betrayed.

YOUNG (voice-over): Friday morning, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office says Assistant Director Vicky White told her coworkers she was taking inmate Casey White to the county courthouse for a mental health evaluation.

Casey White is awaiting trial on murder charges. Investigators say security video shows the pair never arrived at the courthouse and no evaluation or court appearance was even scheduled.

Several hours later, White's patrol car was found abandoned in a shopping center parking lot less than a mile away from the detention facility.

SINGLETON: We've gotten a couple of tips on the possible vehicle. We're still pursuing that.

YOUNG (voice-over): Investigators say they still have no evidence of a relationship between them.

SINGLETON: We're still looking into that, reviewing phone calls, reviewing video from the jail.

YOUNG (voice-over): CNN got a first-hand look at security procedures inside the detention center.

(On camera): You can see how all this works. There's security at every single level. They have to radio in.

(Voice-over): The sheriff says Vicky White actually violated protocol when she removed Casey White from the detention facility.


(on camera): This is the hallway where the inmate would walk down, go through this door where they would be loaded into a car. Normally, it's two deputies per van, but this time, it was just the deputy and the inmate.

(Voice-over): The sheriff says since Vicky White is in charge of the detention center, no one questioned her. The sheriff's office says last week, after about two decades with the department, Vicky White put in her retirement papers. Friday was supposed to be her last day.

Casey White was already serving 75 years for crimes. Next month, he is scheduled to go on trial on two counts of capital murder for the stabbing death of Connie Ridgeway in 2015. Tonight, investigators are hopeful he will soon be back behind bars.

UNKNOWN: Keep in mind that Casey White is a large individual, six feet, nine inches tall. He will stand out.

YOUNG (on camera): Don, the story is getting a lot of attention. In fact, the sheriff was telling me that the attention has actually helped turn things out when it comes to the tip line. So many phone calls are coming in from as far as away as Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee. People are saying they think they have seen these two.

But at the end of the day, the sheriff said that the investigators will have to try to track down which one of these calls are real and which one of these are just people thinking they see someone when they really don't.

But you also have to think about the people who work inside this facility that's behind me. They are so very upset. You're talking about the second in command here who has worked nearly 17 years at this facility. No one ever saw this coming. And to walk someone out of this jail, you have to go through all of the proper steps. And then she drove maybe about a mile and a half away from this location before switching into another car.

We believe there might be more evidence from the sheriff's department tomorrow because they do have some video surveillance that they may share with us. But at this point, it's anyone's guess where these two are. Don?


LEMON: Ryan Young, thank you so much. I want to bring in now Chris Swecker. He is a former FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division.

Chris, good evening. Thank you for joining us. So, this arrest warrant is now out for Vicky White. The sheriff says that all indications are that she did this willingly. Is that how it looks to you?

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Sure does. I think she set up -- it sounds like she set up a phony doctor's appointment to take him to. She had sold her house. She had retired or put in retirement papers. This is all looking extremely collusive, if you will, between her and him.

LEMON: She was known as an exemplary employee with an unblemished record. She was just about to retire. And she helped him escape. How does a corrections officer with almost two decades experience go down this path, Chris?

SWECKER: Yeah, this is not -- it is an everyday occurrence, but it is not terribly unusual. We saw this in Dannemora (ph) with the escape up there a couple of years ago which CNN covered aggressively. It happens from time to time. Exposure to inmates.

She was in a position where she was, I guess, coordinating transportation that put her in direct contact with inmates. They established a relationship. And, you know, some people get compromised at that point.

LEMON: So, we understand that authorities currently do not have a description of the vehicle they may be traveling in. But Casey White is six feet, nine inches tall. I mean, you can't exactly hide in a crowd, right? So, looking at a car, they won't know. But if he is out and about walking or as he goes to the rest room or whatever. What do you think officials are doing to find them?

SWECKER: Yes, I mean, this is a marshals fugitive task force operating out of Alabama. They do this day in and day out. They will go into communications, cell phone coverage if he has a cell phone or she has a cell phone. They will look into their past communications, what's up in the Cloud, emails, texts. There's social network, if you will, both of them, because people tend to work their own networks when they're on the run, credit cards, financial transactions, tracking -- they get a vehicle, they can track a vehicle.

As you pointed out, Don, the mere fact that he's 6'9" traveling with a blonde female is going to get the public's attention. The press is covering it pretty well. I don't see this couple being out there very long.

LEMON: You know, Casey White is considered armed and dangerous since Vicky White had a gun. I mean, he had already been serving 75 years for various charges awaiting capital murder trial. How dangerous is he, do you think?

SWECKER: Armed and dangerous, absolutely. This guy presents a danger to her even if she willingly did this, which it looks like she did. She still is very much in danger. She may love this person, may have a relationship with this person, but this guy is capable of anything. And, you know, it's very possible along the way that he may dispose of her. She is a witness.

LEMON: Chris Swecker, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us.

SWECKER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: And thank you for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues.

UNKNOWN: (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.