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Erin Burnett Outfront
Soon: Tennessee Votes On Whether To Expel Third Democrat Over Gun Protests; Israel Launches Retaliatory Airstrikes In Gaza; D.A. In Trump Case Accuses Trump Allies In House GOP Of "An Unprecedented Campaign Of Harassment And Intimidation"; Now: Third Tennessee Democrat Speaks Ahead Of Expulsion Vote; Report: Justice Thomas Secretly Accepted Luxury Trips From GOP Donor; Tennessee House Votes To Expel 2 Of 3 Democratic Lawmakers. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 06, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news: Republicans in Tennessee have voted to expel one Democrat and right now, they are about to vote on expelling another Democrat. They're accused of violating House rules after they took the house floor, demanding action in the wake of the Nashville school massacre.
Plus, more breaking news. Rockets fired into and from Gaza tonight. Tensions there at a breaking point. We'll take you there live.
And the district attorney who indicted former President Trump tonight, taking on Republicans, accusing them of attempting to undermine his criminal case.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
GOLODRYGA: And good evening, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga, in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, expelled. The Republican-led Tennessee House has voted to expel one Democrat and just moments ago it failed to expel a second. And now, the Tennessee house is about to take action against the third.
What is taking place is a dramatic act of political retaliation after the Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson took to the floor last week to rally for stricter gun control after six people, including three children, were killed during a mass shooting at a Nashville elementary school.
And just moments ago, Johnson spoke to reporters after she narrowly survived the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA JOHNSON (D), TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE: The nation, keep watching, we are losing our democracy. We need to make sure that we stomp out this march to fascism. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and we cannot forget that -- as on everything, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Johnson, who is white, unlike the other two men who are Black, was asked why she thinks there was difference in the outcome of her vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: I will answer your question -- I might have to do with the color of our skin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Now, earlier, Jones, who was expelled, took to the mike to slam his Republican colleagues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN JONES (D), TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE: For years, one of your colleagues who was in a minute child molester sat in this chamber. No expulsion. One member sits in this chamber who was found guilty of domestic violence. No expulsion. Remember p in another members chair in this chamber? No expulsion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And tonight, President Biden responding to what is taking place in Tennessee tweeting this: three kids and three officials gunned down and yet another mass shooting and what our GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action. It's shocking, undemocratic and without precedent.
Expulsions from the Tennessee house are extremely rare. In the past 157 years, as you just heard from that representative who has been ousted, only two people have been kicked out, one for soliciting a bribe, the other because of sexual -- allegations of sexual misconduct.
Ryan Young is OUTFRONT live in Nashville.
Ryan, I don't think we've seen anything like this anytime in our recent history. You were there for all of it. Tell us about that.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. The twist and turns have been quite amazing to watch all day long. We arrived here at 5:00 a.m. and watched as slowly despite the rain and terrible conditions here, thousands of people showed up here to protest. And then as the day went through, we saw more important people sort of gathered to make their voices heard.
Look, at the end of the day, this is about gun violence. That's what we heard from teachers, from parents, from all the people who showed up here to protest today. But this is really turned. This is now about a political battle. This
is blue versus red. This is Republicans who have a supermajority, really what we've been told by Democrats is putting their thumb on them. And as you look behind me, you can see everyone who's lined up in this hallway. This has been the case all day.
Now, we've talked to each one of these members today. Justin Jones was just talking to us in the last half hour about the fact that he is now been expelled. He will decide his future sometime in the near future, but he says he will continue fighting for the rights.
You also talked about the fact that Gloria Johnson walked out, and she said it may be about race.
But as we speak right now, the last, Justin Pearson, is in there and he is fighting for his sort of his seat inside that state capitol room.
Now this is what we're told. This is all about the quorum. These three members took to the floor with their passion, had a plea to really stop. And think about gun violence. And that's what a lot of people who showed up here today wanted to talk about.
As this moves forward, how does this work? I asked every single member, every person who has been elected the same question.
Is there an olive branch that can make this work out? Each one of them said to me today, this is the first time in years that they felt like each one of them could have a chance to speak on the floor. Things are so fractured inside here that people think this will change democracy as we know it across the country. As more supermajorities get elected, they feel that members could be picked off one by one, when the other side see something they don't like.
So there's a lot of confusion in terms of what happens next. But we do know that vote could happen within the next hour or so. These situations in terms of each member talking and then the vote has been taken about 35 to 45 minutes, and we're already 20 minutes into the cycle.
So, it should be interesting how this plays out over the next 15 to 20 minutes or so.
GOLODRYGA: And it appears Gloria Johnson survived her seat by just one vote. As you mentioned Ryan, things are very fluid there.
YOUNG: One vote.
GOLODRYGA: One vote. Things are very fluid. We are waiting for the third vote, and obviously we will come back to you as soon as that happens.
Thank you so much.
And OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee.
Congressman, quite an eventful day there in the state. What is your reaction to what you are seeing transpire?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): I served 25 years in that capitol building. And I'm embarrassed about what's going on. It is injustice. It's unfair. It's an offense to due process and free speech.
While the three Democrats did violate the rules, the punishment is in consistent with what they did in light of the murders at Covenant Presbyterian School that caused demonstrations from students and parents in Nashville, pretty much unheard of in the last 27 years, wanting gun legislation passed to protect their children, to protect all of us because these shootings happen at schools and churches, at shopping centers in the middle of Las Vegas.
And they want to deal with what really makes it happen was his automatic weapons, which seemed to be sacrosanct that too many people on the Republican side of the political equation.
And they need to get over it and they need to come to the table and passing meaningful legislation. But what's happening today is a disgrace to the Tennessee general assembly, a disgrace to the state of Tennessee and what's got -- they got supermajority, it allows them to take some one of the finest members of Congress, Jim Cooper, and divide his district, which has been Democrat and provided many great congressman over the years and divided up towards minority part of three conservative Republican districts that are predominantly rural.
They did that because they had the power to do it, and they did it.
GOLODRYGA: You're talking --
COHEN: Lord Acton said absolute power corrupts absolutely. What we're seeing is absolute power.
GOLODRYGA: You're talking about gerrymandering there in your state.
You mentioned, though, that these three representatives did break the rules. How should members there have treated them and responded. What should their cons -- their consequences have been instead of being expelled?
COHEN: I wrote Speaker Sexton and suggested that while they violated the rules, the punishment was not consistent. People have been rejected or expelled from the Tennessee general assembly were Confederates, during -- right after the Civil War. One person to be convicted of bribery, another person committed a lot of sexual harassment, sexual violations of ethics as a member. And they should have been expelled and they were.
This is a minor inconvenience, not a major infraction, and they should have at the worst been censured or had their committee assignments taken from them for a short period of time, where nothing else being told, here are the rules start to abide by, or else. And they should have been given a second chance, some grace, considering the fact that we city of Nashville, state of Tennessee, but really the city of Nashville has been under such emotional jolt from that shooting and killing six people at the Covenant School. And they should have taken that into consideration.
But this was just an exercise of raw power. People drunk with their own power, and they gone and taking this and the fact that they had to African Americans that a woman made it kind of easier to have them a spoils for their activities. And then for the constituents and most of the people have, they'll be judged partly based upon who they were against, and a lot of people won't care about them.
And the two African American men, young Justin Pearson, who was one of my interns, who is a phenomenal talent, and Mr. Jones from Nashville. I didn't know, they are in the mainstream of African-American politics, coming through the grassroots and being an activist.
And Justin Pearson led a great effort against environmental issue the last year. One took on big environmental group trying to put a pipeline through his community, my community, too.
It's part of my district, and they did it, and these people don't relate to that. And they went to the floor. But they think -- the punishment just doesn't fit the crime.
GOLODRYGA: We're watching your former intern, Justin Pearson, on the floor now speaking.
I want to go back to what you just said. Do you agree with Gloria Johnson and her view that race played a role in the decision, not to remove her by just one vote, but to vote to remove Justin Jones?
COHEN: It could have. It certainly could have. I mean, there are -- on the other hand, you know, I don't know the people that made the difference. There were three Republicans absent, and then there were a few other folks that voted not to fine her, it was picked up about six votes, and I don't know who those six people were and where they were from.
Gloria has been in the House for a longer period of time than the others. She's had the opportunity to be closer to some people for them to know her and her to know them. And they might have been more women. I don't know if there was a gender factor that was included there.
I'm not saying race wasn't but I haven't looked at the numbers to see if gender might not have had to play in it, and also maybe some seniority, or maybe some folks who are in committees with her. I just don't know.
GOLODRYGA: So, what happened to Just -- what happens now to Justin Jones' constituents? Do they not have representation?
COHEN: Well, they don't immediately but you know, that the Davidson County local election, local elected legislative body will vote for replacement and have a temporary replacement. Then there'll be a special election.
And I'd be shocked if the Davidson County group, which is still a Democratic majority, won't appoint Justin to the position. I think they basically made him a hero. He might have should have been one before. I don't know that much about it, but he's certainly been jumped on here and I think he will win the election in a landslide. They elevated his political popularity quota by 40 percent.
GOLODRYGA: Congressman, what is this send? What message does this send to the country that just days after yet another mass shooting at a school, where three babies, three 9-year-old children were killed, three adults were killed as well, the consequence the most significant consequence of that has been the expulsion of at least one state representative, perhaps two now? Those same people that had been fighting and yes, they broke house rules, but they had been fighting against loose gun restrictions and regulations. What message does that send?
COHEN: It's a bad message for Tennessee. Tennessee's estate has been a growth state in this country. People of the moving into the state, different reasons, business has been moving here.
It might make them question some of what they're doing. But it just it's not justice. It makes the general assembly look very much like an antiquated out of -- out of context -- out of the mainstream legislative body, which it is. So that's unfortunate.
GOLODRYGA: Congressman --
COHEN: It's a bad day for --
GOLODRYGA: And things are still developing there as we see your former intern Justin Pearson, speaking on the floor. Congressman, if you could stand by for us, and we'll come back to you once we have any new developments.
GOLODRGYA: In the meantime, I want to bring in Karen Finney, who was a former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, and Alice Stewart, former communications director for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign.
Alice, let me begin with you. You say that the expulsion was likely an overreach by Republicans. Can you give us more detail there and about thought?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's first really important to look at what the actions actually were, and there's videotape out there that shows the actions that they did that got them into this situation in the first place, and they did violate the rules. They did violate the rules of decorum in terms of how they went about a really fighting and advocating for gun control. And there should be consequences for that.
But I do think expelling, at least one so far and potentially a second, this evening -- I think that's a little bit too far. I agree with the congressman. There could be some censures. They could be taken from other committee assignments.
But the reality is what has happened is once Republican legislators in the state of Tennessee took a look at the video, they recognize that this was a violation of decorum and the rules of the state legislature. And another, I spoke with one Republican member of the state legislature, and her thought was they not only showed no remorse for what they did, they also didn't act acknowledge that what they did was wrong.
And the fear was that if there weren't any consequences for this kind of behavior that would just invite another mutiny at the state capitol.
But then again, this is not -- this is the tense situation. I do think expelling was a little bit too far. But clearly the idea was to make sure that this didn't happen again.
GOLODRYGA: I just want to let our viewers know that what they're seeing right now is the video from March 30th that we had just been playing of those protests that you, Alice, say we should have seen more of because in your view, you don't think race necessarily played a role here. You think it was these actions.
Karen, I'm curious to get you to respond first to what Alice said that perhaps if they had shown a little bit more remorse, that consequences wouldn't have been so severe. What do you make of that?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICWell I don't think it's about whether or not they showed remorse. I mean, this is an absolute abuse of power by the Republicans and the Tennessee state legislature.
These members thought they were supporting. I heard them earlier in interviews supporting the will of their voters. I mean, let's remember this is about the murder of innocent people, innocent children and a call for gun safety reform, real reform -- clearly thought that they were trying to support that effort.
You had high school students and college students from all across the state who came to plead their case to the legislature and the legislature frankly didn't want to hear it. And these members were trying to help make sure that they heard.
So I agree with the congressman. It absolutely didn't, you know, fit the nature of the decorum infraction. And this is the kind of abuse we're likely to see going forward from these Republican supermajorities. If you say something they don't like they'll just get kick you out.
GOLODRYGA: Alice, we've already heard from President Biden sort of saying that that this is a shame that this is where the attention is going from the Republicans, instead of focusing on any sort of common sense gun reform legislation. They're expelling members of the state Senate there for violating rules that perhaps they should have just been censured for. We don't yet hear from GOP leadership. What do you expect them to say?
STEWART: Again, GOP leadership will look at this from the lens of there are -- there's decorum. There are rules. There are ways that you engage in meaningful legislation, and these people clearly didn't -- didn't abide by the laws or the rules of decorum for Tennessee legislature.
And again, I think the fact that we have one that face serious consequences that the second was not expelled, and potentially, we don't know what happened with the third, that goes to show me what I'm hearing from Republicans in the legislature, they're carefully looking at the information they have, the evidence, which is the videotape and making a conscious decision.
But here's another important point. That is, one of the things that they're saying is that what happened in Nashville is an awful tragedy and it's heartbreaking and it shouldn't happen. But the key to remember that Republicans in Tennessee and across the country look at situations like this as an opportunity. Not just for gun control, but gun violence prevention and they wanted to have meaningful conversations with across the aisle on ways to prevent gun violence, and that that goes with not just the guns, but mental health hardening these targets, making sure that the schools are safe, their school resource officers. So there's more to this than just simply gun control, and that's what Republicans wanted to have a meaningful conversation on.
GOLODRYGA: And we should just note that these three representatives weren't outliers just there for the sake of their own three voices. They said that they were there representing the many, many young students and the younger generation there that have been calling and demanding for gun reform legislation as well.
Alice Stewart, Karen Finney, thank you so much.
STEWART: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, OUTFRONT next, we are going to continue to follow the breaking news out of Nashville. We are standing by for the Republican house to vote on whether to expel Justin Pearson.
Plus, a new explosive report alleging Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted a number of luxury trips and yet disclosed none of them. The reporter who broke the story is my guest.
And breaking news, Israeli forces now striking Gaza after facing a barrage of rocket attacks. We'll bring you the latest.
GOLODRYGA: And more breaking news. Israeli fighter jets striking multiple targets in Gaza tonight, according to Israel's defense forces, including two weapons manufacturing sites controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Rockets also now being fired from Gaza toward Israel through Hamas, though, Hamas has been taken responsibility for the retaliatory strikes.
Tensions now at a breaking point after Israeli four polices stormed Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque two separate times this week alone.
Elliott Gotkine is OUTFRONT in Jerusalem.
So, Elliott, what more can you tell us about this escalating violence?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN REPORTER: Bianna, it has been a night of escalating violence. Israel said that it was going to retaliate for this barrage of rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel, for which it blamed Palestinian militant groups either from Hamas or Islamic jihad, both of whom operate in the Gaza Strip, which, of course, Hamas controls , and I suppose this we're not sure if this is all of the retaliation that Israel is going to be carrying out, but certainly it would seem to be some of it.
And as you say it's been bombing sites in the Gaza Strip. Two underground tunnels it said that were controlled by Hamas and also to weapons manufacturing facilities as well. And we've seen rockets flying out from the Gaza Strip towards Israel towards the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip as well, sirens have been sounding throughout the evening, too.
And at the same time as all of this was going on, Israel's security cabinet finished its meeting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying afterwards that Israel's response tonight and in the future will exact a heavy price, and I suppose the big concern here is that we could see this violence escalating further, either into some kind of all out war between Israel and Hamas militants of the Gaza Strip or potentially if there are further retaliatory strikes from Israel against those positions in southern Lebanon, something that could potentially drawing Hezbollah.
So we've heard concerns from UNIFIL, the U.N. body that monitors the border between Israel and Lebanon, from the United States and also from Jordan's foreign minister, whom spoke with CNN earlier today.
GOLODRYGA: Tensions are extremely heightened right now.
Elliott Gotkine, thank you.
And also, tonight, an unprecedented campaign of harassment and intimidation. That's what Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is accusing House Republicans of, saying that they are attempting to undermine his criminal case against former President Trump. Now, it comes after House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, a top Trump ally, subpoenaed a former senior prosecutor with the Manhattan D.A.'s office. It comes to CNN is learning that the judge overseeing the case donated $35 to Democrats in 2020, including $15 to Joe Biden's presidential campaign. And OUTFRONT tonight. Karen Agnifilo, former chief assistant district attorney at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, and CNN legal analyst, and Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo News.
Welcome both of you.
So, Karen, let's start with you. You say these political donations by the judge are, quote, an unforced error. What are the consequences we could see from this?
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, the -- it's very clear that judicial ethics uh the rules say that judges cannot engage in partisan politics, period, full stop. There's a tiny exception if the judges themselves elected, then they can run for office. And there's a window when you can engage in politics.
But this judge, Judge Merchan, is not elected. He's appointed. He was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City. So the consequences are there's an appearance of impropriety here because although the amounts are very small, he donated to Joe Biden in the 2020 campaign, so he literally donated to defendant Trump's opponent.
And so here there is an appearance of impropriety, which is so unfair because this judge is such a fair-minded judge. But now there's an appearance of impropriety even if the amount of dollars is so small. And I'm concerned that it distracts from the case now, and, in some ways feeds into Donald Trump's accusations that he is out to get him an unfair, because that's not who this judge is. This judge is a very fair-minded judge who calls balls and strikes.
I've been -- I've been in front of him, and he has a great reputation yet now we have that he didn't just donate. And violate the rules in some ambiguous hypothetical, you know, 20 years ago, it was in 2020 in the race between Biden and Trump. He donated to Joe Biden and I think that it's going to be a distraction and potentially going to question at least again give the appearance of bias and impropriety which you don't ever want in a criminal case, which is why these rules exist.
GOLODRYGA: So, in own goal at the very least. But could this be grounds for qualification?
AGNIFILO: I think that he would decide himself whether to recuse himself. Certainly, there can be a complaint made to the -- there's like a judicial ethics body that can review this and they will decide what to do. But it shouldn't even be a question. It shouldn't be a conversation. That's what I mean by an unforced error because --
GOLODRYGA: $50 and here we are.
AGNIFILO: It's $35 actually. It was 15 to Joe Biden and then two donations of $10 each two groups to get out the vote.
GOLODRYGA: And yet here we are talking about.
AGNIFILO: And here are, right. And one of them was called stop Republicans. I mean, it's just -- I just again, it they judges need to be totally unbiased in every way. And this is a judge who is like that. But now, here we are.
GOLODRYGA: Let me get to Michael.
Michael, Stormy Daniels, speaking out on camera for the first time since Trump's indictment. She was asked if she wanted to testify in the case.
And here's what she said -- she said: I do. I do. I think having to call me and put me on the stand legitimizes my story.
What kind of a witness do you think she'd be for the prosecution here?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: I'm not sure a great one. It's worth noting that the prosecutors never called her before the grand jury. They obviously felt that they didn't need her testimony to make their case, but it does raise questions about how much confidence they would have in her as a witness.
It's worth noting that Stormy Daniels did at one point deny having any sexual encounter with Donald Trump, and then later on in the closing weeks of the election began shopping her story, and trying to collect money for it from Donald Trump.
And, you know, I think you mentioned before that the House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan has subpoenaed Mark Pomerantz, who wrote the book, the former prosecutor wrote the book about this case. If you read that book, he argued, he struggled with how to find the underlying crime that could justify bringing the case against -- and what he came up with is it was extortion by Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump, that Donald Trump was the victim of Stormy Daniels' conduct. That's Pomerantz in his book, saying that. So that does raise questions about how effective she would be as a prosecution witness.
GOLODRYGA: And yet, D.A. Bragg, Karen, is slamming House Republicans for a, quote, unprecedented campaign of harassment and intimidation here. And this after House Judiciary Chairman, as we noted, Jim Jordan subpoenaed Mark Pomerantz, Pomerantz publicly resigned in 2022 after D.A. Bragg did not take up this case at the time against Donald Trump.
Now, Jordan -- Representative Jordan is arguing that that resignation somehow shamed brown. Tag into finally taking it up this time around.
How big of an argument do you think how winning of an argument is that for Republicans?
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it is at all. I mean, Mark -- Alvin Bragg has said he didn't choose not to bring the case. He just didn't want to bring it at that moment that Mark Pomerantz thought it was ready. He wanted to continue to develop the case and investigate the case.
And Mark Pomerantz then left and wrote a book. And the judgment of someone who would write a book about a case impacting the future of that case I think we have to take with a grain of salt, what he says about the particular case, and he also doesn't know what Alvin Bragg has developed over the last year and a half.
I mean, Mark Pomerantz wrote this book, and now, he's being called before the judiciary committee. I mean, that's -- it's -- again, he sort of brought that on himself.
GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and this committee threatened to subpoena Bragg before we even saw this indictment unsealed. This has been something they had been planning to do.
AGNIFILO: Bragg isn't going to talk about an open investigation, but Pomeranz decided to.
GOLODRYGA: All right. Let me get to Michael for this final question.
Michael, I know you believe the next charge Trump is likely to face is coming out of Fulton County, Georgia. I've heard others say the same. Obviously, this relating to Trump's efforts to overturn that state's 2020 election result.
When do you think that's going to come down?
ISIKOFF: Well, there's a new grand jury that gets impaneled in Fulton County in the first week in May. It's a two month grand jury, and given what we know about where Fani Willis is in her investigation, it's in the final stages, I think we can expect hard to bring charges before that new grand jury that will be convened next month, and it's a two month term.
So I'm looking at May, June period for those charges. And I should say, from everything. All the reporting I and others have done on this, it's a much stronger and consequential case than the one that Alvin Bragg has just brought.
GOLODRYGA: Could be coming up in just a few weeks.
Karen Agnifilo, Michael Isikoff, thank you, as always.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And OUTFRONT next, more on our breaking news. We are standing by for the Tennessee Republican-led House to vote on expelling a third Democrat after he and two others took to the floor to rally for stricter gun control. We'll take you back to Nashville next.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reportedly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of luxury trips but never reported it. The reporter who broke that story is next. Plus, how might this affect America's opinion of the high court?
GOLODRYGA: All right. You're looking at live pictures of the floor of the Tennessee state capitol, where the Republican-led House is about to vote on whether to expel another Democrat. One State Representative Justin Jones, has been expelled so far. Of course, this comes after the Democrats took to the floor to protest for gun reform after the Nashville school shooting that left three children and three staff members dead.
Let's go back to Ryan Young in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ryan, what are we seeing? What is happening right now?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, almost every five minutes or so, you can hear the people who are in this hallway yelling very loudly as they either agree or disagree with what's being said on the floor. These protesters have been pretty loud all day long in terms of making their voices heard.
Look, they believe we should be here talking about gun laws and changes to the system here in the state, so something like what happened about a week and a half ago never happens again. But instead, we're talking about something that's unprecedented here in the state of Tennessee and maybe across the country. You have a decorum issue that now has turned into the fact that one member has already been expelled. We talked to him about an hour ago. He focused on the fact that he says he will continue fighting for gun rights in the state and believes that should be the conversation as well, because so many young people are dying.
And then just maybe about 10 minutes ago, you had this impassioned speech on the floor here as people and you can watch it as we're talking right now, as the last member who may be expelled, is on the floor fighting to keep his seat. There has been so much conversation about what could happen next. We've also been told the Republicans plan to have a news conference after this is all said, and done to talk about why they thought making this move made so much sense -- Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: All right, Ryan. And as you've been speaking, we've been watching Representative Justin Pearson there, speaking on the floor, let's actually listening to what he's been saying.
REP. JUSTIN J. PEARSON, TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: And this body is hurting people. You just expelled a member for exercising their First Amendment rights for a house decorum rule when the last two people committed actual crimes, 22 counts of sexual assault, bribery. Is that you're having to see address ideas and people different than you're used to? You're having to answer questions that you're not used to having to answer. You have to see people in positions just like you that you're used to seeing.
That's now I understand Representative Hawk, what Representative Farmer was getting to about why I'm really here. It doesn't have to do it not following decorum, about fighting for the end of gun violence. It has to do with an idea and an ideology that says there's only one way that we're going to allow thinking up in here if you're going to be here, it's only one way that you're going to be if you're going to be in this house.
But the news for you and for every member in this legislative body is that this country is changing in magnificent ways. That the diversity of the state of Tennessee is changing in magnificent ways. That the voices and the people who are protesting aren't just black folk and ain't just white folk, ain't just rich folk or poor folk.
It is a multiracial coalition built on the solidarity that can break any institution that refuses to change. And so, because we need not clean to hurt, I suggest that this institution choose to change. Change the way that it is operating in order for justice to be possible here, for everybody's voice to be treated equitably here.
I would say this: Lois DeBerry, speaker pro tem, why was she never the speaker of this House? She deserved to be speaker --
GOLODRYGA: We're listening to Justin J. Pearson, representative there who is waiting to see what happens to him and his future there as a member of the legislature in that state, one of his fellow colleagues, Justin Jones, has already been expelled and then his other colleagues, Gloria Johnson, survived being expelled by just one vote.
I want to bring in Harry Enten who joins me now.
And, Harry, let's just pick up and what we heard from Representative Pearson, what he touched on the change in the demographics that change in the nature of the country and the legislature in the state of Tennessee itself.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah.
GOLODRYGA: He's 29 years old. He's an African American. Talk about what we're seeing transpire in the state legislature.
ENTEN: Yeah. I mean, look, I used to be, you know, when I was in high school, Tennessee was sort of this purplish state, right? And Democrats actually held the majority in the state house there. You go forward to today, Republicans hold a super majority in the House and Tennessee.
And right now, you know, that's the reason why they're able to expel at least one legislator is because Republicans just have such a stranglehold on power in the state house in Tennessee, a very different Tennessee than it was just 16 years ago at this point.
GOLODRYGA: And what lessons can we learn, perhaps for other states? And we've been talking about gerrymandering specifically for the state of Tennessee. But what should Democrats be looking out for other states when they see this happen here?
ENTEN: You know, I just, you know, see Tennessee being such a different state than the nation as a whole, right? You know, this initially started, you know, as sort of a discussion about guns right and whether or not we need to control gun ownership, and Tennessee is a state that has a far more guns than the nation as a whole, right? The majority of Tennessean voters have guns in their household. That's
very different from where we are nationally where it's less than 40 percent. So the fact is when we look at Tennessee and we compare it to the nation -- yes, it may be much like its southern brethren, but the fact is Tennessee as an outlier compared to where we are nationally at this point.
GOLODRYGA: Much looser gun legislation -- important point to make there.
The one lawmaker expelled so far was Black. How big of a racial split is there in terms of party identification in the state as a whole?
ENTEN: Huge, it's huge. I mean, look, if you tell me somebody's race in the state of Tennessee, there's a pretty good chance I can tell you what their party identification is, right?
Among white voters, Republicans overwhelmingly hold the advantage. You know, it's about a 40 point edge among African Americans. Democrats hold about a 70-point advantage. So the fact is, there's definitely some racial element.
You heard that in the legislative speech just beforehand, and the fact is, the numbers bear that out much like a lot of other southern states. There is a huge racial split in the state of Tennessee, and we're seeing that play out right now.
GOLODRYGA: Of course, we'll be following this closely as the vote gets underway. Harry Enten, always great to see you, thank you.
ENTEN: Nice to see you.
GOLODRYGA: And OUTFRONT next, a new explosive report alleging Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted a number of luxury trips and yet disclosed none of them. The reporter who broke the story is next.
GOLODRYGA: Tonight, Justice Thomas's luxury trips with the GOP megadonor. "ProPublica" revealing decades of perks the Supreme Court justice received from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, who owns a private jet and a superyacht.
This includes a lavish 2019 trip to Indonesia that would have cost Thomas more than $500,000 to charter himself. "ProPublica" reports Thomas hasn't reported any of the trips they identified on his annual financial disclosures. And while it may not be illegal, there are a lot of ethical questions about this.
OUTFRONT now, Justin Elliott, one of the "ProPublica" reporters behind the story.
Justin, this is quite an explosive, detailed piece I know you spent months working on.
So, you report that Justice Thomas has traveled all over the world with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. And in addition to trips to Indonesia, they went on an extended cruise to New Zealand, a river trip as well to Savannah, Georgia. Just how long has Justice Thomas been receiving these types of perks from this donor?
JUSTIN ELLIOTT, REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Yeah, well, we found this has been going on for more than 20 years and, you know, stretches back to the 1990s. And I think what struck us in this reporting was just the frequency of these trips. You know, they seem to be traveling together at least once a year, and just the lavishness and we're talking about flying around on a on a very fancy private jet. Harlan Crow owns a super yacht with a staff of chefs and waiters. So this is -- this is like living like a billionaire for a public servant.
GOLODRYGA: You're saying this has been going on for 20 years now? We should note that they are said to have been very close friends, the Thomases and Harlan Crow. Thomas has gone on Crow's invitation only private resort in Upstate New York and your article really goes into detail about what that property entails. There are three boathouses, more than 25 fireplaces, clay tennis court.
It has a life size replica of Hagrid's Hut, you can't make this up from harry potter and a 1950s-style soda fountain, where the staff makes milkshakes for guests.
This is an area that draws billionaires from across the globe. But "ProPublica" says that Thomas in recent documentary explained that he likes sort of the more quieter, low key parts of travel, which is quite interesting.
He said: I prefer the RV parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that. There's something normal to me about it. I come from regular stock, and I prefer that.
So quite the irony to see what this megadonor has in terms of his home and his facilities that the Thomases have been spending many years down into here. These words from the justice in terms of what his personal proclivities are. What other gifts has the justice received from Crow?
ELLIOTT: Yeah, no, just say, you know, another irony about that documentary is that it was funded in part by none other than none other than Harlan Crow. This was a very flattering documentary made by Thomas's friends with funding from Crow.
You know, what we found was travel on Crow's private jet. And that's not only, you know, for example, on the this trip to Indonesia around the world, but also for much shorter trips like a trip a few years ago that Thomas we found took from Washington, D.C. to New Haven, Connecticut, for just a few hours, going back and forth. So, you know, again, things that only -- only a member of like the 0.1 percent could afford. GOLODRYGA: And it's not just the luxury aspect of it. It's the privacy of that as well.
Harlan Crow sent you a lengthy statement in response to this article, and it says -- I want to read a part of it. He says: We have never asked about a pending or lower court case and that Justice Thomas has never discussed one, and we have never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issues.
But you've noted that other people invited on some of these trips include corporate executives, for example, from Verizon, from PricewaterhouseCoopers, a lawyer who served in the Trump administration and other top Republican donors. So what does this say about the possibility and perhaps even the optics that Thomas could have been influenced by some of these other guests?
ELLIOTT: Yeah, well, I mean, the striking thing about these trips, as you say, is that they take place in, you know, very private setting, so it's quite difficult to figure out what's going on behind the scenes. We have been able to figure out the other guests on some of the trips. There's actually a painting that Harlan Crow commissioned that shows himself with Clarence Thomas and a few other men at the Adirondacks Resort.
One of the other people in the painting is a guy named Leonard Leo, who's a head -- a long time official to Federalist Society, key person that conservative legal movement. So we don't know what sorts of things they're discussing, you know? Are they talking about football? All these conservative lawyers together or, you know, are they talking about law and politics?
You know, we don't know if there's an attempt to influence a justice or even if there's not an attempt to, you know, he's there's still, you know, this sort of waters. He's swimming in really matter a lot, given the power that the Supreme Court wields.
So there's a lot of open questions about this that, you know, we're still very interested in and reporting on.
GOLODRYGA: Fascinating report. Justin Elliott, thank you so much for your time.
ELLIOTT: Thanks so much.
GOLODRYGA: And we should note, the Supreme Court and Harlan Crow did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment. "ProPublica" says Justice Thomas did not respond to a list of detailed questions they sent to him as well.
We want to go back to the breaking story in Tennessee's right now where the Republican led house is about to vote on whether to expel yet another Democrat. One has already been expelled so far after Democrats took to the floor to protest for gun reform.
Ryan Young is OUTFRONT live from Nashville with us again, and he has a Nashville council member with him. So, Ryan, what more can you tell us?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely. So we know Justin Jones has already been expelled from the House we actually bumped into a council member here from the area.
Look, Freddie O'Connell, you represent parts of Nashville. What do you want the public to know about what your body plans to do on Monday with Mr. Jones?
FREDDIE O'CONNELL, NASHVILLE COUNCIL MEMBER: So, my hope, and what I intend to do is I intend to vote to send him right back up here to the state house.
YOUNG: Is that possible based upon the rules of the state?
O'CONNELL: Right now, we think, and we got an email just this afternoon, telling us we have a special meeting on Monday to consider this matter, and I believe from all the legal traffic I've seen today, that that will be what occurs, is that we will have a meeting and I believe it will follow the metro council, our local legislative body here in Nashville, Tennessee, to send him back and I intend to vote to do just.
YOUNG: Optically, how has this appeared to you today to watch what's happened here and to see all this play out?
O'CONNELL: Look, y'all are a national news network. You're here.
This is a spectacle. This is antidemocratic. This is the actions of our state legislature, the state legislature of Tennessee. I'm a second generation Tennessee and raising two third generation Tennesseans.
And this is embarrassing. It is astonishing. It is frankly unconscionable that this is the legislative response to somebody killing children in Nashville last week.
YOUNG: Are you scared about how race may play out in this?
O'CONNELL: I'll just say this -- if they choose to expel two Black members of that body and not the one white woman who stands accused. This is the cells quite a bit about where their outlook is.
YOUNG: Thank you so much for joining us.
This is ever evolving. We wanted to bring this to you as fast as we could. So you heard that there's a potential to send Jones back into office of all this plays out legally, but no one's really sure because this is never really happened before.
GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and that could come Monday, as we just heard from that council member.
Ryan, stay with us.
I want to go back to the house floor. We had just finished this hearing from speech from Justin Pearson.
He's continuing to speak. Now we've heard some cheers earlier, indicating perhaps that a vote is imminent. Let's listen to what he's saying.
JUSTIN J. PEARSON, TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Fighting for the marginalized, fighting for the LGBTQ community, fighting for those who are single mothers, fighting for those who are ostracized, fighting for those pushed to the periphery, my savior, my Black Jesus. He was lynched by the government on Friday.
And they thought that all hope had been lost. All the outside, it rained and it thundered and everybody said everything was over, and it was some Black women who stood at the cross. It was some Black women who watch what the government did to that boy named Jesus.
They were witnesses. As you have been witnesses to what is happening in the anti-democratic state of Tennessee. They were witnesses to what was going on, and I got to tell you, it got quiet on Saturday.
Yes, I tell you, it was a sad day on Saturday. All hope seemed to be lost. Representatives with thrown out of the state house, democracy seemed to be at its end. Seems like the NRA and gun lobbyists might win.
But all that was good news for us. I don't know how long this Saturday in the state of Tennessee might last, but, oh, we have good news, folks, we've got good news that Sunday always comes. Resurrection is a promise.
And it is a prophecy -- it is a prophecy that came out of the cotton fields. It's a prophecy that came out of the lynching tree. It's a prophecy that still lives in each and every one of us in order to make the state of Tennessee, the place that it ought to be in.
So I've still got on because I know we are still here, and we we'll never quit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of order. Out of order.
We're voting on House Resolution 63. All those in favor vote aye, when the bell rings, those opposed vote no. Has every member voted? Has any member wished to change their vote?
GOLODRYGA: -- now on whether or not to expel Justin Pearson will be announced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aye, 69, 26 nays. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I received the concurrence of two thirds of
members to which the house is entitled in the constitution of the state of Tennessee. House Resolution 63 is hereby adopted without objection. The motion rest the chair's table. Pursuant to article 2 Section 12 of the constitution of the state of Tennessee, I hereby declare Representative Justin J. Pearson --
GOLODRYGA: Here's Justin Pearson, as you're just sitting right there, has been expelled, with 69 votes in favor to expel him, needed 66 vote to announce a formal expulsion. He has now been expelled, joining Justin Jones, who had also been expelled.
Gloria Johnson survived her seat with 65 votes. Just one vote saving her seat.
Folks, I have to tell you the optics there, as Gloria Johnson referenced herself, perhaps the only white out of the three Congress members there and representatives that had been saved her seat. So there you see it.
Tennessee House voting to expel two of the three Democratic lawmakers for their objection to gun legislation two weeks ago. This is the culmination of that. This is a historic moment right now, as you're safe playing out state legislature there in Tennessee.
We will continue to follow the breaking developments, this breaking story that is happening right now and unfolding before our eyes.
Our breaking news coverage continues right now with "AC360".