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Police: Gunman Kills Judge -- McConnell, Whitmer Also On "Hit List"; Pro-Herschel Walker Group Distributes $4,000 Worth Of Gas Vouchers; "The Wizard of Oz" Returning To The Big Screen. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired June 06, 2022 - 07:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Renewed calls this morning to better protect our nation's judges. This coming after a former Wisconsin judge was killed at his home on Friday in what authorities are calling a targeted attack by a suspect who once was sentenced by the judge. Officials are also saying the man had a hit list that included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.

Our next guest knows the terror of these kinds of attacks all too well. U.S. District Judge Esther Salas' son Daniel was killed almost two years ago in an ambush attack at her home. The shooter, who was targeting Judge Salas, also injured her husband. And Judge Salas is with us now to talk about this.

I can't believe it's been almost two years, Judge, and I'm sure that feels more true for you. What was your reaction to this news as you -- as you heard about it?


JUDGE ESTHER SALAS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE, SON KILLED IN 2020 AMBUSH ATTACK AT HER HOME (via Webex by Cisco): Good morning, Ms. Keilar, and thank you for having me on.

My reaction was just heartache. This is an open wound that Mark and I have. Daniel was our only child. We had four miscarriages and he was considered a blessing from God. To lose him the way we lost Daniel, it's never -- it's a -- it's a womb, again, that will never heal.

And to hear that another judge now, Judge Romer, has lost his life. And let's call what happened Friday what it is. It's an assassination. It was an assassination of a retired judge. And we have seen judges being assassinated now for years.

And my son lost his life. He was only 20 years old. He would have graduated from Catholic University just a few weeks ago.

Judge Lefkow's husband and mother were killed in 2005 in an attempted assassination on her life. And there have been so many judges now -- Woods, Daronco, Vance. Judge Daronco was gardening and the killer came up and started shooting him.

How long are we going to tolerate judges being assassinated? We have to do something and we have to do something now. And that -- the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Private Act is the solution that we must act on. And I am begging members of Congress to do something to protect judges throughout this nation.

KEILAR: It is -- it's a bipartisan bill. It is stalled right now. It was up for approval in the Senate for unanimous consent and Sen. Rand Paul blocked it, saying that he wanted to extend it to members of Congress.

What do you say to that, especially considering the fact that when you see the hit list of this particular suspect, it did involve members of Congress?

SALAS: What do I -- I say -- I am in no way saying that members of Congress shouldn't take measures to protect themselves and their families. But what I am saying is that the Daniel Anderl bill has been ready for months and we're not moving it because we say me, too? No, that's not the American way. The American way is that we do whatever we need to do to protect the rule of law and democracy. And we do what we need to do to protect judges because that is what our Constitution and the democracy -- and democracy mandates.

So I say let's pass Daniel's bill. Let's get that through. Mirror your bill and start pushing yours through. But I think that the more we wait -- the days that we allow to go by without actions says so much to the American people, but it also says so much to the world at large. We have to say and send a symbolic message that we are going to protect our judges, that we are going to uphold the Constitution, and that we are going to stand for democracy in the United States of America. That's what it says.

KEILAR: You can rattle off the names of these judges. There are so many who have been targeted here. What is it like for judges to sit on the bench day in-day out and know that they or their family could be at risk just because they're doing their jobs?

SALAS: Yes. I -- you know, if you would have asked me before July 19, 2020, when my son was murdered in our foyer, it was always something that was in the back of my mind. Now I dare say it's something that's forefront for all judges.

And we want to do our jobs. We want to make the tough calls. And by the way, we want our calls to be transparent. And we want, if necessary, for people to appeal us or to do whatever they feel necessary. But we shouldn't have to give up -- give -- you know, do our jobs and give up our lives or the lives of our family members.

And people have to understand judges are in a unique position because we deal with cases and litigants directly every single day, and sometimes we have to make calls. In Judge Roemer's case, he had to sentence this individual. That is what we have to do. And in other cases, we have to make calls that people aren't happy about. And we deserve to have -- know that our leaders believe in the rule of law and believe in protecting us.

And so, for me, I can tell you that it is now something that we better start thinking about in terms of an independent judiciary. And we better start thinking about what's at stake here -- not only judge's lives but I really do believe that the rule of law is in jeopardy at this point in time. And we can decide to take this one way or take it another.

And I strongly urge Congress and members of Congress to do the right thing. To pass the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act to ensure that judges' lives are safe, and to tell the American people that our government works. That we work together in a bipartisan way.


And when there's a common-sense solution -- a common-sense solution that is narrowly tailored to address this compelling government interest, I say to members of Congress this is, in my opinion, a no- brainer. Why are we not doing this by now?

Daniel's been gone 22 months and 18 days. And yes, I'm counting and I'll be counting for the rest of my life on Earth.

Let's avoid tragedy. Let's now do something. No other judge should lose their life because they're doing their job. And they have the power.

KEILAR: And their families, like yours, should not be in jeopardy. We know that next month is going to be two years without Daniel and I just want you to know I will hold your family in my heart as you go through this very difficult milestone. I'm so, so sorry for your loss still.

SALAS: Thank you.

KEILAR: Judge, thank you so much.

SALAS: Thank you, Ms. Keilar. Thank you.

KEILAR: Yes, thank you for being with us.

So, was it illegal or is this just campaigning, or was it unethical? A gas giveaway by a pro-Herschel Walker group fueling outrage among Democrats in Georgia.

Plus --


BON JOVI, ROCK BAND: Singing "Livin' on a Prayer."


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Goodbye to one of the band's founding members.



BERMAN: New reporting from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that drivers in Atlanta were handed $25 gas vouchers by a political action committee supporting Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia. A total of $4,000 in gas vouchers were distributed.

With us now, Patricia Murphy, political reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst.

Patricia, let me just start with you, and explain in detail what happened.

PATRICIA MURPHY, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION (via Webex by Cisco): So, we got word late last week that 34N22, which is the super PAC that is supporting Herschel Walker, would be giving $25 gas vouchers away in a southwest Georgia gas station -- excuse me, a southwest Atlanta gas station that's a heavily Democratic area of the city. And they said that they will also be handing out literature about the candidates. When we saw pictures from the event it showed a huge line of cars lining up to get those gas vouchers.

The super PAC said it was not illegal because it was not a condition of voting for Herschel Walker. They didn't ask people their voter registration status. But they definitely said here's $25 in free gas. Here is literature about Herschel Walker -- what he's doing for you and what Raphael Warnock, his opponent, is not doing for you. Obviously, Democrats in the state have a huge problem with that.

BERMAN: So, $25 in gas and we also think you should vote for Herschel Walker, but not $25 in gas if you agree to vote for Herschel Walker, correct?

MURPHY: That's right.

BERMAN: So, Jeffrey Toobin, how legal is that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's actually pretty legal. I mean, just for the reason you stated, which is that you can't pay people to vote and you can't pay people to register to vote. But if you just give $25 to random people on the street you are allowed to do that, even if you also give out campaign literature.

The problem here is what Walker appears to be doing himself, which is taking credit for this expenditure of funds because this is a PAC expenditure, not a campaign expenditure, and they're not supposed to coordinate that.

I mean, this is one of the crazy things about American politics is that there are these PACs designed to support candidates but they are not allowed to coordinate or work with the campaigns or the candidates themselves. And if he is working with the PAC that's a violation of federal election law.

BERMAN: Right, that's an if. If he is working with the PAC. TOOBIN: Right.

BERMAN: I think, Patricia, in the article it noted there were supporters of Walker there who were talking about him, but I'm not so sure the campaign has said we did this or necessarily are behind it, right?

MURPHY: Yes, that's exactly right. We, of course, asked the campaign and we asked the super PAC does Herschel Walker know about this because there was a volunteer at the event who said Herschel Walker told us to come here.

TOOBIN: Right.

MURPHY: Herschel Walker said we should give you free gas because he wants you to know that he cares about you.

Now, the super PAC said Herschel Walker played no role in the planning. And a spokeswoman said he had no idea about the event before it happened because that would, of course, be a huge violation of federal law. And they were promoting this like crazy, so I think they were trying to be extremely careful not to break the law in the process.

BERMAN: So, one of the things that you're hearing out of Georgia, and it was in this article in Patricia's paper, Jeffrey, is that voters in Georgia -- you're not allowed to give water to voters in Georgia who are waiting in line to vote, right?

TOOBIN: Right.

BERMAN: You can't give them water to drink but you can give voters gas vouchers?

TOOBIN: Well, this is -- you know, the water reference that you're making is this incredibly controversial Republican bill that has limited voting rights in Georgia, which included a ban on supporting people who are waiting in line to vote. That is now Georgia law. And this is -- you know, give -- the $25 is not changed by this Georgia law but it just shows how many loopholes and who's in charge of voting -- of voting law in Georgia, which is Republicans who want to stop mostly African-Americans and poor people from voting.


BERMAN: Patricia, I do have to say, $4,000 in gas vouchers -- $4,000 actually isn't a lot in campaign expenditure terms in a city like Atlanta where advertising time costs way more than that. So, this super PAC is getting a fair amount of play for this activity.

MURPHY: Yes. We got a text that said that's the best $4,000 this super PAC ever spent. So I think they're absolutely getting a ton of publicity, although Democrats are really pushing it out to their voters as well to say look at this ridiculous patchwork of laws here in Georgia. These people are in charge and this is what they are limiting. Of course, you can't give water away to voters waiting in line within

a certain distance of a poll, as Jeffrey said, because of that Senate election law passed here in Georgia. But you can give away free gas, you can give away free guns, and that happens down here all the time, too.

TOOBIN: And even if you had a federal election law violation, the FEC is the most ineffective federal agency. So if there was a fine two years later in connection with this, who would care? I can see why the PAC is very pleased by the -- how this story has played.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, Patricia Murphy, thank you both so much for being with us this morning.

So, the CMA Music Festival banned Confederate flags for the first time. Plus --


Clip from "The Wizard of Oz."


KEILAR: Why Judy Garland is heading back to the big screen.



BERMAN: A big week for politics in late-night. With that and much, much more, "EARLY START" anchor Laura Jarrett. Good morning, Laura.


The president is headed to Hollywood. Jimmy Kimmel has snagged President Biden's first in-studio late-night appearance since taking office. Kimmel delivering that news on Twitter, saying "Our very elected President Joe Biden visits "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!" Wednesday night. No malarkey."

The president will be in L.A. to attend the Summit of the Americas with leaders of Latin American countries.


BON JOVI, ROCK BAND: Singing "Livin' on a Prayer."


JARRETT: One of the original founders of Bon Jovi, Alec John Such, has died at the age of 70. The band said in a statement, "We are heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of our dear friend Alec John Such. He was an original as a founding member of Bon Jovi. Alec was integral to the formation of the band. We'll miss him dearly."

No details on when or how Such died. Well, for the first time ever, the Country Music Association has banned Confederate flags from the upcoming Country Music Festival. Organizers say this. "Any behavior that causes one of our attendees to fear for their personal safety will not be tolerated, and that is inclusive of any displays of the Confederate flag."

The 4-day festival is set to begin this Thursday in Nashville.


Clip from "The Wizard of Oz."


JARRETT: And lastly, fans of "The Wizard of Oz" can skip down memory lane and see the yellow brick road on the big screen in honor of what would have been Judy Garland's 100th birthday. Screenings of the iconic film, including a special musical number, are happening in select theaters around the country today, John.

I love "The Wizard of Oz." Who doesn't?

BERMAN: I was going to say, of all the dozens of times I've seen it, I've never seen it on a big screen.

JARRETT: Oh. Well, there you go. Now you know what you should do this afternoon.

BERMAN: The scariest villain in any film --

JARRETT: Oh, terrifying.

BERMAN: -- the wicked witch of the west.

JARRETT: Terrifying.

BERMAN: No question about that.

Laura Jarrett, thank you very much.

JARRETT: You're welcome.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now.

KEILAR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

On this new day, Boris Johnson may soon be out of a job as he faces a confidence vote just hours from now.

And a deadly weekend in America. Ten mass shootings in just three days. What is Congress prepared to do, if anything, when they return this week?

BERMAN: In Uvalde, Texas, a teacher falsely accused of leaving the back door open may be taking action against the gunmaker.

And why moviegoers in Taiwan erupted in cheers over something spotted in the new "Top Gun."

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Monday, June 6.

No state -- no state and no street corner safe from the scourge of gun violence that is shaking the nation. There were at least 10 mass shootings in America over the weekend. Ten of them here in the last three days.

On busy South Street in Philadelphia, multiple gunmen opened fire into a crowd, leaving three people dead and wounding 11 people. Right now, police are still searching for the shooters.

BERMAN: Mass shootings also taking place in Chattanooga at a nightclub; in Arizona at a bar; in South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas at graduation parties; in Phoenix at a strip mall; Omaha, near an apartment complex. All told, 12 people were killed and more than 60 people hurt. The victims included all ages, including teenagers and senior citizens.

So far, in 2022, the U.S. has seen 246 mass shootings -- 33 of those since the elementary school attack in Uvalde, Texas.

Guns now at the forefront of a national debate. Congress is expected to take up gun safety this week.

CNN covering the crisis from all angles.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Polo Sandoval in Philadelphia at the site of one of about 10 shootings that we saw throughout the country.