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Docs Show Wife of Supreme Court Justice E-Mailed Trump Attorney; Election Officials Worry About Physical Safety Ahead of Midterms; 3 Killed in Birmingham-Area Church Shooting; FDA Authorizes Moderna and Pfizer Vaccines for Young Children. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The House committee investigating the Capitol riot says they have e-mails that show that the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist communicated with Trump attorney John Eastman in the days leading up to January 6th. They say she may have been involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

CNN's Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic is here with us. So, another problematic element for the justice, the actions of his wife, what position does that put the court in?


JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good afternoon, it's just such a difficult time already for the Supreme Court right now, Victor. Figure they've got 18 more cases to go in the next couple of weeks, abortion, guns, religious liberty, and now they're again thrust back to the turmoil of the 2020 election and potential conflicts of interest between, you know, politicians' effort to throw out the selection to hand it over to Donald Trump, and one of the justices.

The latest revelations involved communications between Ginni Thomas, the wife of Clarence Thomas, and John Eastman who as you say was, you know, at the lead of encouraging Vice President Pence not to certify the election and to give Donald Trump a second term.

Now, Ginni Thomas has said that she and her husband, you know, don't talk about work, they are in separate legal lanes, as she put it. But they were on parallel tracks at the same time, Victor, just as Ginni Thomas was involved with Trump's legal team, her husband, Clarence Thomas, was standing out among the nine justices for someone who wanted to emphasize some of the Trump-backed theories about election fraud, about problems with mail-in ballots. He alone dissented in a particular -- he wrote by himself in this one Pennsylvania case in February of 2021 emphasizing the problems with election fraud. You know, some flames that have really been rejected by experts as baseless.

But he highlights the erosion of public confidence in the polls just kind of echoing where the Trump team was at. He was also, as you probably remember, Victor, the only justice who publicly dissented earlier this year when the Supreme Court allowed the January 6th Committee to obtain Trump White House documents from the National Archives. So, he's set himself apart from the other justices just on these particular issues that his wife has been involved in.

But I do want to stress that she has -- she said yesterday after the committee said that it would be asking her to come and appear before the committee, to talk to the committee, that she looked forward to doing that, and she stressed, again, that she and her husband are in different legal lanes. But irrespective of what she says, there are, you know, appearances here, and they come, once again, at this very difficult time for the Supreme Court when it's about to -- it stands on the cusp of reversing some, you know, half century of abortion rights law, looks to be expanding the Second Amendment. All sorts of cases that have already caused the Supreme Court to have to put up this 8-foot, non-scalable fence around its perimeter with these concrete barricades. So, you know, this latest controversy couldn't have come at a worse time for these justices, just as they're finishing up this term -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a very tumultuous time for the court. Joan Biskupic, thank you for the reporting.

So, we're learning more about a classified meeting this year between national security officials and elections officials from around the country. Now, those elections officers are concerned about the safety of state and local election workers. CNN's cybersecurity reporter Sean Lyngaas is with us now. What more are these officials cautioning? What are their concerns?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Victor, we kind of got a behind the scenes look at an April briefing between, you know, FBI, intelligence officials and state and local election officials. Now these briefings happen pretty regularly to say, now here's what's going on in the Russia/Ukraine war, et cetera, and here's what you have to keep in mind as we head to the midterms.

But what's different about the briefing happening this time post 2020 is that the security -- the physical security and safety of election officials came up as a concern. It's something that they have been dealing with ever since 2020, where you have this rampant mis- and disinformation environment and lies being told about the election. And that has led to an increase in death threats and other types of threats towards election officials.

On Thursday, we just had a Nebraska man plead guilty to threatening an election official on Instagram. So, this has risen to the floor in terms of the concerns of election officials but the other challenges that they face in terms of turnover and cybersecurity concerns, those haven't gone away either. So, it's kind of compounded the pressure that's on them.

Now the good news, Victor, is that they have a lot of expertise and experience dealing in this field. So, they're building on relationships they've had for years with law enforcement and intelligence officials and then amongst each other on the local level to try to sort of work together and rally sort of morale, if for lack of a better word.


So, there's a lot going on, and the point is that administrating elections is not getting any easier and the funding is in short supply as well -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we certainly have seen those threats called in to officials across the country. Sean Lyngaas, thank you.

So, we're learning new details about the man who police say went into a church in Alabama and shot and killed several people. Stay with us.


BLACKWELL: A third victim has now died after a shooting inside a church near Birmingham. Investigators say the man just started shooting during a pot luck dinner on Thursday. CNN national correspondent Nadia Romero is here with the latest for us. Nadia, what have you learned?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, as you mentioned, the third victim now dying from the shooting that happened last night inside of the church behind me, and what's a really nice tree lined neighborhood. People tell me that they just didn't expect it to happen here. We know that there was a potluck dinner for boomers. So, we're talking senior citizens that would come out, bring their own dishes and fellowship inside of the church, and this happened on a regular basis.

The 71-year-old suspect who hasn't been named yet was a regular. He would come to these kind of church events. So, it wasn't suspicious to see him there, until of course he pulled out a handgun and started shooting, killing three people just last night. Two of those people later dying at the hospital, including a person today.


Now, we spoke with the bishop of the church, and she says that everyone is just heartbroken that this could happen in their community. Take a listen.


REV. DR. GLENDA S. CURRY, BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF ALABAMA: They're sad, a little bit scared, a lot scared. In shock and disoriented by the whole thing. They were having dinner, and they were having fun, and then the next minute, they weren't. And so, I think they all feel -- the ones I've talked to feel pretty disoriented and overwhelmed.


ROMERO: A lot of people in mourning right now. Different faith communities coming together for a large prayer vigil. Hundreds of people coming out this afternoon to pay their respects to the lives lost. And we know that the bishop here says that they are going to have church services as normal this weekend, and she doesn't want anyone to be afraid to come out. But, Victor, when I talk to people in the neighborhood, they tell me, this was their safe place, their place of worship, inside of a church, and now that sense of peace and tranquility has been ruined because of this shooting -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: So many places ruined by shootings like this. Nadia Romero for us there near Birmingham, thank you so much.

Well, the focus now turns to the CDC, the FDA has given its approval for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children as young as six months. When kids could get those shots, next.



BLACKWELL: 17 million children under the age of 5 are one step closer to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Today, the FDA gave the go- ahead to expand Emergency Use Authorization for both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in young children. CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard joins us now. So, Jacqueline, What's the next step?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Well, the next step, Victor, right now, CDC vaccine advisers are meeting tomorrow to discuss recommendations for the vaccines. And then we expect to hear from CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky once she signs off, once the CDC recommends the vaccine, then we could see shots going into arms for this young age group.

And here's what the vaccine rollout could look like. We could see vaccines being administered as early as next week. We know that 10 million doses of vaccine are available for states and territories to preorder. And most of these vaccines will be administered at pediatrician's offices and pharmacies. So, the rollout, Victor, will look very similar to what we saw for older kids, you know, when the rollout happened for older children and adolescents.

And then what we know about these vaccines based on the authorization, first, we know that the Moderna vaccine is given in two doses, four weeks apart. The Pfizer vaccine is given in three doses. So, between the first dose and second dose, there are three weeks and then the third dose is given eight weeks later. And these are child-sized doses of vaccine. So, for the Moderna vaccine, for the youngest age group, the dosage is 25 micrograms, and you see here that it's 50 micrograms for ages 6 to 11 and then 100 for adolescents and older. And then for Pfizer the child size does for the youngest age group is three micrograms. And as we see here, it goes up to ten for older kids and up to 30 for ages 12 and older. But overall, Victor, like I said, we could see shots being administered possibly as soon as Monday or Tuesday. And right now, we just have to wait to hear from the CDC.

BLACKWELL: All right, we will stand by and wait for that. Jacqueline Howard, thank you.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claims the West's attempt to crush the Russian economy failed. While also urging the elite to stay and invest.

Also, a quick programming note. This Sunday night, join some of the biggest stars for "JUNETEENTH, A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM. It starts live at 8:00 only on CNN.



BLACKWELL: Days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, CNN hero Aaron Jackson traveled to Poland to help refugees coming across the border. His nonprofit recently took over an animal shelter in the city of Poznan.


AARON JACKSON, FOUNDER, PLANTING PEACE: And when the dogs were already enroute to it, they told us two refugees had joined the convoy and asked if we could help them. When Valerie and her mother first got to us, I could definitely tell they were nervous and scared. I couldn't help but notice that all the dogs really loved the two refugee ladies that had accompanied them.

And then I learned these dogs had been in a bomb shelter with Valerie and her mother for the last 40 days before coming to us. 40 days with hardly any access to food, hardly any access to water. Valerie was so good with dogs, so we gave her and her mother a job, which we are excited about. The dogs helped her get through the worst 48 days of her life and she helped get those dogs get through the worst 40 days of their life.


BLACKWELL: Aaron estimates that he's helped 300 refugees find housing. Now, to learn more about their journey with the dogs, go to You can also nominate someone who you think should be a CNN hero.

Thanks for being with me for the last two hours. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.