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Supreme Court Stops Abortion Pill Restrictions From Taking Effect; Texts: Trump Operatives Considered Using Breached Data To Decertify; GOP Bill: TX Public Schools Forced To Display 10 Commandments. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 21, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much.
Busy Friday night, and tonight, the mostly highly-anticipated abortion ruling, since Roe v. Wade was overturned. The Supreme Court has handed down the decision. And women, in America, will continue to have access, to a widely-used pill, to end early pregnancies, and also used after miscarriages, that's a point that's often missed, while the appeals process plays out.
The conservative-leaning High Court that tossed out the constitutional right, to an abortion, has frozen lower court rulings that placed restrictions, on a drug, called Mifepristone. That's a pill, used in more than half of abortions, in the United States.
Justices Alito and Thomas publicly dissented.
And again, this battle, it is not over yet. The next step, in the litigation, will be at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, on May 17.
But this tonight, it's a big win, for the Biden administration, after its emergency request, to keep the FDA's approval of the drug, when a federal judge blocked it.
The President has issued a statement tonight, saying, quote, "I continue to stand by FDA's evidence-based approval of Mifepristone. The stakes could not be higher for women across America. I will continue to fight politically-driven attacks on women's health."
More now, from CNN's Paula Reid.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Pamela.
Well here, the Supreme Court has ensured that this commonly-used abortion medication will remain, widely available, while larger lawsuits, about its FDA approval, work their way, through the system.
Now, at the heart of this case, is this drug that you just mentioned, Mifepristone. It is one of two drugs that is used, in medication abortions, which account for more than half of all abortions, in the United States.
And last summer, after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right, to an abortion, medication abortion became a real focus, particularly in conservative state legislatures, and also in litigation.
So, just a few weeks ago, we saw a judge, in Texas, invalidate the FDA's approval, of this drug. That was of course appealed. It's pending at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
But the Supreme Court needed to ultimately decide, all right, well, what happens to that decision, what happens to the availability of this drug, while this issue works its way through the courts. And they have decided to just put that decision on hold, while this goes forward.
Now, the next step, the next stop, for this case, will be the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where they have put this on an expedited schedule. But Pamela, whatever happens there is likely to be appealed, to the Supreme Court. So, they are expected to probably have to weigh in on this, again. Whether they'll take up the case is still an open question.
Now, as you noted, Justices Alito and Thomas dissented.
And in Alito's -- Justice Alito's dissent, he even questioned whether the FDA would even obey any sort of order that would force them, to restrict their approval, of this drug, saying specifically, "The Government has not dispelled legitimate doubts that it would even obey an unfavorable order in these cases, much less that it would choose to take enforcement actions to which it has strong objections."
Now the next move, in this case, will be oral arguments, before the Fifth Circuit. Those are scheduled for May 17.
BROWN: Yes, that was an unusual dissent, and really interesting. We're going to talk about more of that.
Paula Reid, thank you so much.
Let's bring in our team of CNN All-Stars, on this Friday night, Joan Biskupic, Audie Cornish, Dana Bash, and Elliot Williams.
Joan, I'm going to kick it over to you, first, because you have closely covered the court, for years. You know that Justices better than just about anyone.
It's really interesting here. Of course, as we know, this is the majority of conservative court, in this case, two dissents, five in favor, two, we don't know how they voted. What do you make of this?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST, AUTHOR, "NINE BLACK ROBES": I think this demonstrates what a different case this was than what the Justices did, in June, when they rolled back a half-century of abortion rights. This case has to do with the authority of the FDA, to regulate, and make its own scientific determinations, for drugs. So, I think the Biden administration made a very compelling case, for the chaos that would arise, if the Supreme Court, did not put these lower court orders on hold.
Secondly, though, if you go back to the June decision, in Dobbs, the Justices said then, specifically, and even Samuel Alito wrote that the court was sending it back to the States. And Justice Kavanaugh, who apparently provided the key fifth vote, made an effort, in a separate statement to say, "We are specifically not outlawing abortion, and we are not going to allow judges, to impose their own policy and moral preferences here."
And I think that if they were going to be true to that premise, they had to, at least, at this preliminary point, without any full briefing, or oral arguments, say "Wait, let's just hold off on here."
Just think of how this has burst, so suddenly, on the American scene. It's only been in the last few weeks when Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the District Court judge, in Amarillo, suddenly rolled back all of the FDA's authorization, for Mifepristone. And two judges, from the Fifth Circuit, upheld that.
BISKUPIC: So, I think, this was frankly the sanest thing to do at this point. It doesn't say that the Supreme Court itself is never going to put some sort of restriction, on what the FDA can approve. But, at this point, I do think this was the most likely outcome.
BROWN: So, this isn't the final word, on Mifepristone. And I think it's important, with that as the backdrop, of what you just said, when you look at the dissent here, from Justice Alito, he is trying to argue that "This is going to happen really fast, and it wouldn't really change anything." But that's not exactly true, right?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They could have changed a lot. And certainly, what Joan has mentioned here, when we talk about full briefing? That's actually quite important.
It's a very important point, which is that the court really hasn't heard, and seen briefs, and papers, from the parties, on this matter, really assessing the merits of the case. What they were just deciding here was whether to preserve the status quo, while this matter works, its way, up through the courts.
So, what happens next? Number one, this goes to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It's an appellate court, in New Orleans, Louisiana. They'll rule on it. And then, I think, it's pretty -- it's a safe bet, to say this is going to the Supreme Court. And eventually, they will rule on it too.
Now, look, to take Justice Alito, at his word, perhaps the court will work quite quickly, on this, given how important it is, how important it is, to many people, and the litigants (ph) and around the country.
Another point to mention, before we move on, is that because of the fact that there's other litigation, in Washington State, right now, that touches on this issue, access to Mifepristone, it sort of puts it on a fast track, to the Supreme Court.
Really, the Supreme Court doesn't ever have to hear a case, doesn't have to resolve anything. And one of the surest bets, for when the Supreme Court will take a case on, is when there's a dispute, across the country, as to the law. So, perhaps the Washington case makes its way up. This is not the final word.
BROWN: But no one knows for sure how quick, right?
BROWN: And we know how the courts--
BISKUPIC: No. And I just want to reinforce that this is -- this is the new chapter, of the abortion dilemma, in America.
BISKUPIC: It's over medication abortion.
BROWN: Yes, yes.
BISKUPIC: And that's exactly what we're going to start seeing, because there are several cases percolating out there on this. And the reason is because the women, in America, who end pregnancies, today, their main method is medication abortion, as opposed to surgical abortions. And especially, in the States, where it's still legal, this has become more important, in the wake of the Dobbs ruling.
BROWN: And I want to just note, for our viewers, and I said it, in the open, it's also for miscarriages, you know?
BROWN: I've known people, who they were pregnant, the pregnancy wasn't viable, and this was the route they wanted to take, in the comfort of their own home. And so, it's not just about abortion.
BROWN: It's for women with miscarriages.
And it's interesting I was speaking to Representative Nancy Mace, last night. Audie, you were there, part of the conversation. And we talked about abortion.
Here is what she said, regarding her party, when it comes to this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): That is not where the American people are. And we need to have a conversation is, where are we, and where are -- where is the middle ground?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And she reiterated that last night, when we were talking. But what do you think about that? Do you think more, in the GOP, will follow suit?
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT, HOST, "THE ASSIGNMENT WITH AUDIE CORNISH" PODCAST: It was interesting that she of all people were on the panel, answering this question.
Because, Tim Scott, who's from her State, someone that she knows, and who is trying to run for president, literally just got tripped up on this question, just a few days ago, where he was asked point-blank, "Should there be further restrictions, on abortion access," and he was sort of fumbling around a little, trying to give an answer that would work for both the primary and a general election.
So, I think that this is going to, as you said, continue with the concerns, about medication, and also travel and travel restrictions, States that will try and put things in effect to prevent people, from moving across borders, where it is legal.
And all of this is a conversation that's going to go on, before the voters, where they're actually going to start to see both enforcement mechanisms, as well as new policies, pass, right as they're kind of heading into election season, and decide, if that's the sort of regulatory regime they want to live under, when it comes to abortion access.
BROWN: And it's interesting, you make that point, just choosing the words carefully, and how Tim Scott started tripping over it, because he knows how this issue has galvanized Democrats, across the country. You had the election, recently, in Wisconsin Supreme Court, the election of the liberal candidate, there.
Do you think this -- how do you think that this, tonight, this ruling, and also this case, moving forward, these cases, we should say, will impact that energy?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Well, this case, tonight, the ruling, tonight, definitely was eliciting a very big sigh of relief, from Republicans. You probably couldn't hear it, because it was very quiet. It was very private. But it was definitely there.
It is true that this is definitely not the end of this discussion. It's not the end of the road, as Elliot and Joan have described.
But what is also true is what you said, Audie, that it's not just Tim Scott, but other Republicans, who are trying to find a way to bridge what they think that they need to do, for the GOP primary electorate, and potentially for a general electorate.
On this issue, I can't think of one that is more disparate in terms of how it plays. And we don't need to sort of hypothesize on this. We have seen it. We saw it in 2022, in the midterms. And, like you said, Pam, we just saw it a couple of weeks ago, in Wisconsin.
And it is galvanizing, not just the Democratic base, but it is also sort of repelling, if it is on the ballot, and if it really, is it a important issue, or a determinative issue, in a State. It actually could pull Independents, and even some Republicans, away from the GOP candidate.
BROWN: Wow! So interesting. We're going to continue to follow this.
Joan, thank you so much.
Everyone else, standby, a lot more to discuss, tonight.
It turns out Trump allies weren't just trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election, in Georgia. Newly-obtained text messages show, they also tried to decertify the State's two Senate run-offs. And this was after January 6.
We're going to show you those checks, in a CNN Exclusive, right after this quick break.
BROWN: Newly-revealed text messages show that former President Trump's legal team didn't just try, to overturn the 2020 presidential election, in Georgia. They also tried to impact the Senate races, there, in an effort, to keep Republicans, in charge.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz is in Washington, with this Exclusive.
Katelyn, what have we learned?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, what we're seeing here, Pam, is that there's a pattern of the team, around Donald Trump, trying to disrupt the next election. Even after Georgia voted for President, in 2020, at the time, the State was then electing its U.S. senators, in a run-off.
And so, this reporting comes from, our colleague, Zack (ph) Cohen. He's obtained these text messages, between two men, who were working, on the team, around Donald Trump. One had been hired by Sidney Powell. And they were trying to find election fraud that just didn't exist.
They were talking about data, on voting machines, in this rural county, in Georgia, where people outside the government had gotten access, to the private information, of the vote.
And then, even after January 6, that riot in the Capitol, in Washington, Trump supporters, in Georgia, were still talking about that data, trying to decertify Georgia's next vote, for its next senator. Remember, the State was the one that helped flip the Senate, from Republican control, to the Democrats, in 2020.
So, the one man, in these text messages, Jim Penrose, he writes, "Here's the plan. Let's keep this close hold. We only have until Saturday to decide if we are going to use this report to try to decertify the Senate run-off election or if we hold it for a bigger moment," maybe something like a lawsuit contesting the election potentially.
And we know these texts are now in the hands, of the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, that her team is looking at many possible charges, related to the 2020 election.
We don't know exactly how this fits, into the investigation. But among many things, Pam, her office has been investigating the breach, of the voter system, the data that was obtained, by Trump-connected people, in this county, in Georgia.
BROWN: All right, we're going to talk about that with our panel.
Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much.
CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us, at the table.
Phil, we just saw Katelyn lay it out there. These texts, they were sent--
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
BROWN: --on January 19, 2021. Again, worth emphasizing, this was after January 6.
BROWN: What does it say to you that these efforts were still going on, even after the Capitol was attacked?
MATTINGLY: Just how dangerous it was, and just how close we were. And I feel like both of those things have been kind of washed over, over the course of the last two-plus years. The individual, who was driving it, and was the President of the United States, at the time, is currently the front-runner, in 2024, by a pretty large margin.
And the two things that strike me, one, the story that Zack (ph) Cohen wrote, here, if you track through the entire story, the full scale, of the pervasive nature, on multiple States, from this same group that was tied to the Trump campaign? I think it's known.
And yet, when you see it all put together, again, even this far into it, you think, "Oh, my goodness! This was so close, in so many different States that if a couple of cases had gone the wrong way, or a couple of public officials had gone the wrong way, that this could have been completely catastrophic for the country."
The other thing I can't stop thinking about is the Republican lawmakers, I talked to, on January 7, in the Capitol, who've said, one, they were done with now-former President Trump, and two, once they were done with him, everyone would just move on, right? He would be in the past, he'd be history, and we would move back to where the U.S. used to be. Neither of which were accurate.
And I often wonder how those Republicans feel now, as they watch this play out, in terms of his candidacy, and think back to that moment, or stories, like the Zack (ph) Cohen story.
BROWN: Meanwhile, he's gaining more and more endorsements, by the day.
BROWN: He is a front-runner, as you point out.
Audie, it makes you wonder, given this, and given these efforts, even after January 6, I just keep repeating that, because it's mind- boggling, what would happen, if it's another close race? Or if Trump loses again? What does this foreshadow?
CORNISH: That sounds like a rhetorical question. So, what I'll just--
BROWN: Bring out your crystal ball!
BASH: She's like "I'm not falling in that yet (ph)."
BROWN: Yes. Yes, yes.
CORNISH: I'll just say that this -- Georgia is the place to watch. This is the case to watch.
Obviously, the New York case, and the indictment, there's very important. It's about the idea of, colluding, with a media organization, to suppress information that you don't want out there, and to possibly harm your rivals, in the process, that there's a greater issue to that other than bribery of Stormy Daniels.
With this, this is actually about trying to disrupt the electoral process, on this level. And these texts speak to the kind of ongoing schemes, we were hearing, about that, came out of the January 6, testimony, including this idea of 1.2, "Hey, maybe we should have the Military jump in, in some way."
There were lots of kind of cockamamie things flying around, about what could be done. And this is one of them. And I don't think it's an accident that we're kind of hearing about this, as that case is moving forward. And moving forward, I think, pretty intensely.
BROWN: What do you think?
BASH: Yes, every -- I think, I was -- as Phil was talking, I was thinking the same thing, to myself, like if you transport yourself, back to where we were, January 6, obviously, January 7, even the day after that, it seemed as though every Republican, certainly privately, even if they weren't doing as much publicly, right?
BASH: Were like, "OK, finally!" like, almost like a "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead," kind of thing from The Wizard of Oz.
MATTINGLY: Those were their speeches, during impeachment.
BASH: Yes, yes, yes, absolutely.
MATTINGLY: Like, "This is over. He's gone. Don't worry about it."
BASH: Absolutely. And this is just another bit of evidence of data, this fantastic reporting, from Zack (ph) Cohen, about the fact that they just did not give up.
And Donald Trump, when it comes to, what he wants to do in the future, versus what he did, in the past, is he's a runaway train. And there's -- with regard to the Republican Party.
BASH: And there's nothing that it can do to stop him, now, because they didn't really try to stop him, then.
BROWN: But that's why. I mean, that's why I asked the question. And I understand why you didn't want to answer.
But you can't just look at this, as "Oh this was in the past. Wow! That was really scary! We got awfully close."
CORNISH: No. And to be clear, in a way, we're not saying that. I mean, in Georgia, they were able to get, to compel some lawmakers, to testify, who were fighting it, right? They were fighting, having to testify. We're talking about Lindsey Graham, et cetera.
So, the issue is that we are going to learn more, fairly quickly, about what else was going on. And perhaps people will feel the heat in a way that they didn't before, when they could kind of just tell the January 6 committee, "No, we don't think we're going to do that. And this is really partisan."
Because now, I mean, judges, like people, the legal process is involved, and the threshold is higher. And if they get over that threshold, then that means there's something to see.
CORNISH: And I think we're going to see it soon.
BROWN: That is the big question, because the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis said--
BROWN: --we're going to see it soon, in January. She said a decision is imminent. Here we are, months later, still no decision. What do you make of that, Elliot?
WILLIAMS: Oh, it takes a while, to figure out how to charge people, and to build cases. And so, I think, in the 24-hour news cycle world, yes, it's a long time. In the prosecutor world, it really isn't.
BROWN: Because we you hear "Imminent," and we go, "Oh."
WILLIAMS: "Imminent," right, "Oh, oh, next year, that's imminent," right?
MATTINGLY: Sir, you're on cable, right now.
WILLIAMS: Right. I know some part of it.
WILLIAMS: --news guest.
CORNISH: Look what happened to Alvin Bragg? I mean, I think the lesson is like--
CORNISH: --"It better be airtight, out of the gate."
CORNISH: "Or else you're just going to be hearing this," the incoming that is going to happen, and the criticism, once, of the former President, turns on that spigot is relentless.
WILLIAMS: Now, the interesting thing about these revelations, today, is that there's this talk about how she's building a racketeering case. And maybe -- when we talk about racketeering, you're talking about an umbrella, for a group of criminal acts, brought together.
And perhaps, you -- the goal may be to try to fold this conduct that the Senate election conduct into a bigger racketeering case, against the former President, and his allies. And woo-hoo, boy, text messages are good evidence! You can verify them. You usually have two people, one person on each end. You know who sent it. You know where it came from? It's just better than most things you get in court.
BROWN: And she's known for her specialty--
WILLIAMS: Yes, in racketeering.
BROWN: --in racketeering.
BROWN: So, all right, everyone, standby, thanks so much.
A new twist, tonight, in the investigations, involving the President's son, Hunter Biden. Find out who his lawyers are set to meet?
Plus, more on our breaking news, tonight, the Supreme Court protecting access, to an abortion pill, in a major win, for the Biden administration. What this means, for women, and their health care, up next.
BROWN: An investigation into the President's son is getting more intense, tonight.
Multiple sources, tell CNN that Hunter Biden's lawyers, are set to meet, with Justice Department officials, next week. The probe centers around potential tax crimes and a gun purchase, from 2018.
Paula Reid is back with us now.
So, this is exclusive reporting, from you, Paula. What more can you tell us?
REID: That's right. Well, it's exclusive reporting from me, and our whole team, which includes Kara Scannell, Sara Murray, and Alayna Treene.
But this is interesting, because this meeting was actually requested, by Hunter Biden's legal team. They're looking for an update, on this case. And, in attendance, we expect to see a top career Justice Department official, and the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, who stayed on, after former President Trump left office, to continue to oversee this investigation.
But Pamela, it's not clear if we're going to get any update, on the status, of this case, as this meeting comes, amid a lot of questions, about exactly what is going on, with the long-running investigation, into the President's son.
This investigation has been going on, since 2018. And last summer, CNN was the first to report that the case had pretty much narrowed down, to some potential charges, including a few tax crimes, and possibly one full statements charge, connected to a gun that Biden had purchased. But there haven't been any public developments, in this case, for the past year.
But, over the past few months, especially as this case has kind of gone dark, and Republicans took over the House, we've seen the Hunter Biden legal team taking a much more aggressive, forward-leaning approach. They've been much more litigious. For example, here, they're also leaning in, requesting an update.
But now, they have a whole another problem, on their hands, as an IRS agent, has sent a letter, to Congress, saying that he has information that this whole thing has been mishandled.
BROWN: Yes. How does that fit into all of this? Do we have any indication that that is why this meeting was set up? What's going on here?
REID: So, based on our reporting, this meeting was requested, several weeks back, before we certainly knew, or they knew, about this whistleblower. But this could potentially, depending on what this individual can actually show, this could be a real headache, for the Biden legal team, and potentially the Justice Department.
We know, from a letter, sent to Congress, and our sources that this individual says that they have evidence that this case has been mishandled, that there has been political interference. And they say they even potentially have evidence that the Attorney General was not honest, when he testified before Congress that there would be no political interference.
But Pamela, I want to caution, this person has not been granted whistleblower status, or whistleblower protections. They have not presented any evidence, so far, to support these claims.
And as we've seen, there have been big claims, about whistleblowers, connected to the Biden family, and others that have not really yielded what was promised. But we'll continue to watch and report out exactly what it is this person claims, and how they're going to support it, because, again, it could have potentially big ramifications.
BROWN: Right, what is the evidence to support the claims? Hopefully, we'll find out.
Paula Reid, thank you so much.
Back with our panel, now.
So, you just heard Paula, Elliot, layout, this has been going on since 2018.
BROWN: It's been -- it's been a while. Why do you think it is taking this long, on these potential tax evasion and gun charges, if that's all it is, as our reporting indicates? And what do you make of this outreach, for the meeting?
WILLIAMS: So, my guess is that the outreach, for the meeting, is that Hunter Biden, and his team, want to have an opportunity, to influence the Justice Department.
It's not uncommon, for people, who are under investigation, to come in and try to explain themselves and say, "Well, look, here's extra evidence and paperwork you may not have available to you. Here's what I was thinking, at that time," which is going to be a critical element of what the Justice Department would have to prove. It have to prove his intent.
And if he can make a case for saying "No, no, no, I did not have criminal intent here. Here's -- I was actually doing something legitimate," it might be in his interest to do that. So, that's probably what you're seeing here. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn't. But it's not uncommon at all for people, under investigation, to meet with the Justice Department.
BROWN: But are you surprised? It's five years on and?
WILLIAMS: A little bit. Because, look, if it is, in fact, a misdemeanor, or not very serious--
WILLIAMS: --maybe like a firearm charge, or tax charge, that shouldn't be that hard to build. It's a couple pieces of evidence and a couple elements of the offense. It's just not that hard. You're not talking about, like we were at the last hour, or, a few minutes ago, "Racketeering"--
BROWN: Right, and there's multiple people involved.
WILLIAMS: --or something like that. It's relatively straightforward.
WILLIAMS: So, I don't know if it's a political influence thing. I don't know if new evidence emerged, from a seashell in the ocean. I don't know.
WILLIAMS: And we'll just have to see what emerges.
BROWN: That's the thing is we don't know everything.
BASH: Yes. And the key point about you making clear that it's five years on, Paula mentioned this as well, is that this is a Trump U.S. Attorney holdover, intentionally so.
The Biden administration, make sure that the U.S. Attorney, in Delaware, which is the one, overseeing and investigating the case, was kept on, from the Trump years, in order to try to separate itself, from, basically recuse itself, from the investigation, without actually appointing a special counsel.
BROWN: Right. It knew what the optics would be, if they brought in a U.S. attorney, who was appointed by Biden, obviously.
But the reality is that this investigation is going on, at DOJ. The Republicans on the Hill, they have their own investigation going on.
And I asked Congressman James Comer. He is the Republican Chair of the Oversight Committee, about what they found now, two months into their investigation, of Hunter Biden. And here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: You have been investigating members, of Joe Biden's family, and their business with the Bidens. Have you found anything illegal while he was actually in office?
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Well, we found a lot that's certainly unethical. We found a lot that should be illegal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So he said, "We found a lot that should be illegal." What does that tell you about what they're really after here, where they are?
CORNISH: Well, he didn't answer your questions, right, so? He didn't say, "Yes, we have it, and you'll be seeing it shortly."
And part of the job, I think, of partisans, in particular, on an issue, like this, is to raise questions. And I think that that's going to overshadow any actual kind of legal ramifications, is this effort that is just deeply tied, to the President, and the dislike of the President, and his family, and the belief that they're corrupt. And that has to be kind of played out in public. And I think congressional hearings is where you're going to get the most bang for your buck--
BROWN: Right, muddy the waters, with these questions.
BROWN: That's what they're doing.
MATTINGLY: But here's the difficulty there. And this has been kind of what, heading into the new Congress, I really wanted to watch, and it's what's been kind of fascinating to watch play out behind-the- scenes, is you can raise all the questions you want, you can make all the promises you want, on a campaign trail. Running an investigation, even if you have subpoena power, is hard.
It takes real work. It takes real personnel. It takes real talent on the personnel side of things, to actually build these things and put them together, particularly when you've said unequivocally, and explicitly, on the campaign trail that this happened. Now, that's your bar. That's what you're trying to meet.
So, you can raise all the questions you want. You can definitely, at the hearings, I think that's kind of the moment that they want to have. But in terms of turning over evidence, in terms of finding things, whether it's evidence of criminality, or evidence of using influence, or using the former Vice President, now President, to garner influence? That takes real work.
And doing that on a committee level? And we all know committee aides that have worked on investigations. And they're the very talented ones, are very well-known. They're all in private practice now, making a lot of money, as well. But it takes time too.
And I think watching the dynamic of "We made all these promises, but we also need a lot of time," how do we find this middle ground here?
BROWN: I mean, what do you say in that middle grounds?
MATTINGLY: Yes. And I think that's where we sit, right now.
BROWN: And they may find nothing, right? But it's like well he's still the--
MATTINGLY: Right. And the big question is, do they ever find out something?
MATTINGLY: But also, do they ever have the capacity, and capability, on the staff side--
MATTINGLY: --to build something?
WILLIAMS: Yes. And--
MATTINGLY: To be able to find something?
WILLIAMS: But a big challenge here is that Congress isn't really subject to a lot of rules, over what they can and can't do in an investigation.
WILLIAMS: Really, what it comes down to is do they have the public, on their side, or a segment of the public that they are hoping to appeal to, in carrying out an investigation. As long as they have that?
WILLIAMS: For the most part?
WILLIAMS: They can kind of do anything in there in a criminal investigation.
BASH: It's the churn.
WILLIAMS: In a congressional, yes.
BASH: They like to keep the churn going.
BROWN: And they are today, right?
BROWN: They sent this letter, from the Judiciary Committee, and the Intelligence Committee, on the House, to Secretary Blinken, asking him what his role was, in crafting that letter that said -- that casts doubt on the Hunter Biden laptop. Worth noting, he wasn't in the administration, at the time. Others weren't in the administration. But it's all in an effort, right, to try to keep the intrigue, and raise the questions.
CORNISH: Right, and which as we know, is important, when you have an incumbent, who looks like he might be declaring, he's going to run for reelection. That's coming up in a couple of days.
CORNISH: So, this is not an issue that anyone wants to let go of, who especially, is a critic of the Bidens.
BROWN: All right, everyone standby.
Back now, to that breaking news, in the Supreme Court decision, on an abortion pill, used by millions of women, in America. Justices protected access, to Mifepristone, for now, while the legal battle continues to play out, in an Appeals court.
Joining us now is CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.
Elizabeth, we have talked about the legal and the political impact here. What about the medical part?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Pam, I think we can hear the sighs of obstetricians and gynecologists, all over the country, saying, "Good! I can keep using this drug, for my patients, who need abortions, or who are having miscarriages."
Let's talk a little bit about the two drugs. So, Mifepristone is the drug, where if the Texas federal judge had had his way, that would not be available. Mifepristone and Misoprostol are used together, for abortions, and miscarriages. And there's a reason why they're used together. They work best together.
If Mifepristone had been taken, off the table, all over the country, then doctors would have had to use Misoprostol, in States, where abortion is allowed by itself. It is not as effective. And it does not work as well. And it also can have some real complications and side effects.
So remember, this would have been very important, because 53 percent of abortions, in this country, are medication abortions. They're done with pills, not with surgery. So, taking that drug, off the market, would have affected many, many, many women.
And Mifepristone is a very safe drug. It's been used for 20 years, and it has a great safety profile. In fact, there are drugs on the market that are much more dangerous. Penicillin, Viagra, two very common drugs, they have more deadly side effects, than Mifepristone does.
So, this ruling basically says, "You know what, doctors? You can keep doing what you were doing." These are of course, doctors in States that allow abortion. "You can keep doing what you were doing." Having spoken to many of those doctors, over the past two weeks, they are certainly relieved, by this ruling.
BROWN: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.
Up next, a Russian warplane accidentally bombed, one of its own cities, a city of 400,000 people.
Plus, Republicans, in Texas, one step closer, to injecting religion, in public schools, with a new bill that would require the 10 Commandments, to hang in every classroom.
We'll be right back.
BROWN: Tonight, a stunning failure, in Vladimir Putin's war, on Ukraine.
A Russian fighter jet accidentally dropped a bomb, on a Russian city, right near the Ukrainian border. The explosion blew a car onto a roof, damaged buildings, and left a massive 65-foot crater, right in the middle of the street there.
It all happened in Belgorod, which is home to some 400,000 people, and it's just 25 miles from Ukraine. The accidental bombing comes as fighting rages across Ukraine's frontlines.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in the Zaporizhzhia region, where people are hopeful the Russians will be forced out soon.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Studying the silence, and the violence, that punctuates it. That's the job here, in Southern Huliaipole, where life in the ruins waits, for Ukraine's counteroffensive, to push the Russians, right out of their space.
Ludmila hasn't left since the war began, and knows her artillery.
LUDMILA, HULIAIPOLE, UKRAINE RESIDENT (through translator): When there is incoming there is an echo. And when you hear the cracking sound, that's outgoing.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): It's all they've had to do as they wait down here with only a radio. They say it brought their best news yet, this day, learning the Russians have bombed themselves, by accident, in Belgorod.
Recently, Nina thinks she's noticed a change, in the banks.
NINA, HULIAIPOLE, UKRAINE RESIDENT (through translator): The shelling is not as heavy as it was. Maybe it is further way, or different guns.
LUDMILA: The scariest was the start of the war. Now we are used to it. That's a bad habit.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): Drive out into the plains earlier this week, and the signs are there, in the tracks, in the berms that Ukraine might be aiming south, to cut Crimea off, from Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's far away -- about two or three kilometers.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): With the Russians firing from close by?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
PATON WALSH (voice-over): Drone operators fly in gaps between electronic jamming.
PATON WALSH (on camera): In these open fields, here, each side, trying to spot the other, weaken the other, ahead of this counteroffensive.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): One road is their target, the cars, the buildings, tiny changes, and signs of weakness.
PATON WALSH (on camera): Are they getting ready for the counteroffensive, or just doing nothing?
OLEKSIY, DRONE OPERATOR (through translator): They are preparing all the time. Constantly digging trenches. New ones appear all the time. Vehicles moving all the time, including mechanics.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): Yards, from his head, a Russian booby trap left behind. It's not clear if the Russians they're facing now have similar experience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They seem to be training. There is a rifle range there.
PATON WALSH (voice-over): After 90 minutes, each drone parachutes down again, soon replaced by another. Fly, spot, shell, and repeat. The waiting and watching will soon be over.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Huliaipole, Ukraine.
BROWN: Thank you so much, to Nick, for that great reporting.
Coming up, on "CNN TONIGHT," Erica Hill, and her panel take on the gun violence, plaguing this country. Why are people so quick, to reach for a gun, for no good reason?
And at 11:30, Bill Maher's "Overtime," airs right here, on CNN.
This is so interesting, this new bill, in Texas, it would require every classroom, to display the 10 Commandments. Is that constitutional? This is on top of a measure that requires Bible readings.
We're going to discuss that and more.
Plus, it's being called "Country music diplomacy." Are songwriters, in Nashville, the key, to solutions, on gun violence, in America? That's next.
BROWN: Well, every public school, in Texas, could soon be outfitted with the 10 Commandments, after the Republican-controlled State Senate, passed a bill, requiring it in every classroom.
Senate Bill 1515 now heads to the House, in Austin, for consideration. And it's just one of several attempts, by Texas Republicans, to inject religion, into public schools, one specific religion.
CNN's Natasha Chen joins us now.
Natasha, what exactly do these bills call for?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pamela, as you said, this is, mainly, to put religion, Christianity, back in Texas schools. One of the bills, talks about prayer time, in school. The other, which we'll focus on here, requires the 10 Commandments, to be put up, in every Texas classroom.
Now, the bill's sponsor actually talked about why this is the right moment, to introduce such a bill. He named even a Supreme Court case, out of Washington State, that makes him feel confident that any legal criticism, here that these bills could pass any legal scrutiny.
I want you to listen to what he said, during a Senate committee hearing, about this being the right moment, for such a bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL KING, (R) TEXAS STATE SENATE: I think this would be a good healthy step for Texas to bring back this tradition, of recognizing America's religious heritage.
Senate Bill 1515 restores a little bit of those liberties that were lost, and most importantly reminds students -- will remind students, all across Texas, of the importance of a fundamental Foundation of America, and Texas law, and that being the 10 Commandments.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CHEN: And let's take a look at some of the language, from the bill, itself. A part of it calls for a typeface that can be seen, legible to a person, with average vision, from anywhere in the classroom. And it also has to be 16 by 20.
And I actually brought a piece of board here, to show you exactly what 16 by 20, approximately looks like. So, imagine the 10 Commandments, on a board, like this, in every class.
Now, there was an opponent speaking, in that committee hearing, from a Baptist organization, talking about the role of parental rights that he feels that his kindergarten daughter shouldn't have to go into the classroom, and read about adultery, or coveting one's wife. He said that really the role of the parents, and the Church, are the people, who should educate children, on faith, and not the role of the State.
But that like you said, this did pass the State Senate. Now, it's in the hands of the Texas House.
BROWN: All right. Love the prop. Thanks, Natasha Chen. Appreciate it.
BROWN: It really does help visualize what this would look like, right, Elliot? So, give us a legal analysis of this.
BROWN: I mean, obviously, you have the First Amendment of the Constitution, right, says, to be separating Church and State. Do you think that this passes constitutional muster?
WILLIAMS: Based on what was described here, it doesn't sound like it.
Now look, let's go back to the Constitution. First Amendment says Congress shall make no law, respecting the establishment of religion, right? So, where this -- where the state, or a public school, or a charter school, is the one pushing religion, that's going to run afoul of the Constitution.
Now, it becomes a little bit different. And that Washington case, he's talking about, was a coach, praying at football games, but he was seen as a private citizen, not the school, forcing kids to pray.
The problem here, what it sounds like they're describing is putting the 10 Commandments in, but not contextualizing it, and saying, "Well, look, here's the Code of Hammurabi. And here's the 10 Commandments. And here's the U.S. Constitution," as a series of legal documents, over the history of humankind.
This is saying, "No. People should be Christian. And therefore, kids in school should learn to be Christians, or Judeo-Christians." And that on its face is problematic, under the Constitution.
BASH: I was really struck by something that Natasha just reported on. A Baptist minister argued against it--
BASH: --because of parental rights. And here we are, in a political environment, where you're having all of these debates, even within the Republican Party, about parental rights.
And so, for the most part, you're talking about the argument being for parental rights, saying, "Keep everything out of the schools," and that "Parents should decide." In this case, it's the opposite.
I don't know why we would expect total and complete consistency. And I don't know why we're surprised by some hypocrisy and contradiction. But the fact that you had a Baptist minister make that argument is very interesting.
BROWN: It's interesting, because initially, which she brought up a Baptist minister, you might think that that Baptist minister was in favor of it.
BROWN: But that's not the case.
CORNISH: I mean, there's long been a role of -- there's long been a voice, a clerical voice out there that has said, "We actually do approve of the way the Constitution deals with the Church and State, because we don't want the State interfering in what we do. We don't want a State religion imposed on us that is not our own."
I think the reason why that Washington case kind of nudged open a door that religious liberty folks are really excited about is because this coach was on the field, trying to draw people, into the prayer.
The school was saying, "Hey, you are working for us, while you're doing this on the field."
And basically, the High Court said, "Look, just because it's on the field doesn't mean it's a problem. And it's not your job, to go around and monitor, and try and suppress expressions of religion."
So, they did see that as a victory. They do see a door opening. And you're right, that there's the Venn diagram of religious liberty and parents' right. That's a circle.
CORNISH: So, those same people are going to have to have a debate amongst themselves, which I suspect will rest on, "What do we think is the more -- what do we think will be the more successful legal argument, to push our ideas forward, in the culture?"
Because that's the goal, right, to kind of seize more cultural ground back, from liberal, or wokeness, or their perception that something has been kind of taken from them, in the mainstream American culture.
WILLIAMS: And one more thing, and part of the legal argument that they're pushing here, is that "The fundamental foundations of American thought, and law, are Judeo-Christian. Therefore, it's not actually an establishment of religion to put the 10 Commandments somewhere, because everybody -- everything in America is based on the 10 Commandments."
That's really a stretch, even setting aside what the Founders, and the fact that they were Christian, and so on, it's really a stretch, to say that, if you simply put a religious relic, or a religious symbol, in a classroom, and don't contextualize it at all, that all you're doing is just -- it's just reaffirming who we are, as Americans.
CORNISH: And it depends on who does it. If it's State-mandated?
WILLIAMS: Yes, right.
CORNISH: Well, then, you're back in the column that is dangerous.
MATTINGLY: I also think it's interesting. And we're seeing this on several fronts. And I think your point about trying, culturally, to take things back, or to try and reestablish, you have a Supreme Court that is opening doors--
MATTINGLY: --or giving people the idea of "Let's try. Let's try." They're citing the Washington case, which isn't necessarily analogous. But they feel like a door is open. "Let's try, and let's see what happens."
And I think given the makeup of the Supreme Court, and the direction they have been, particularly on religious issue -- or religious liberty issues, you can't necessarily predict how anything's going to land.
MATTINGLY: At this time.
CORNISH: But given what they saw, with the abortion battle, of course--
CORNISH: --that is now a model for--
CORNISH: --a kind of bit by bit legal push, until you can get the result you're looking for.
BROWN: Yes, we'll have to see what happens on that front.
I do want to ask you, Audie, while we have you, about guns and country music, because you actually had a big interview, on your podcast.
As we know, guns and country music, they are deeply ingrained, right, in southern culture. This week, more than 60 artists signed this letter, asking Tennessee's governor, and lawmakers, to pass gun control laws.
Country Music Hall of Fame artist, Ketch Secor, signed that letter. And you recently spoke to him, on your podcast.
I'm going to listen to that. And then, we'll talk on the other end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KETCH SECOR, MUSICIAN, OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW, VIA "THE ASSIGNMENT WITH AUDIE CORNISH": We don't talk about guns.
We -- if we do, it's a song about, "I took my boy hunting for the first time." It's again, dealing in the nostalgia. What it's not saying is, "I've got an AR-15 in my collection."
But the reality is that many, many listeners do. And yet, it's a safe space where they are not confronted by the music to a changing reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: What did you make of what he had to say?
CORNISH: I mean, it's an intriguing moment, because Nashville, by design, is conservative. Period. Right? And by that I mean, it's not encouraged to speak out. Johnny Cash found this out. The Dixie Chicks found this out. They don't like it when you get political. And there is a real grip in that music, of radio programmers, or music publishers, who can kind of clamp down, in a way.
And what he's saying is that there could -- there is a duty, for cultural figures, who have an influence, with an audience, as he says, an audience that embraces gun culture, that may own the kind of weapons that people are talking about banning that they have a duty, to not shy away, from this conversation, completely.
And the trick is, can you actually get those artists, to speak up, without them being so fearful, of the consequences that they kind of back down, and scatter? I mean, you'll remember, with the Las Vegas shooting, when there was that big mass shooting? That was a country music concert, right?
CORNISH: And it did not spark a movement out of that genre, and from those artists. But Nashville is their home, many, physically, but also kind of spiritually.
And I actually, since we spoke, that letter came out, and I'm starting to wonder now, if there's being -- if a real movement, a nascent movement, is starting to kind of poke its head up.
BROWN: All right, thank you all so much, for giving up your Friday nights, to be here, with us.
"CNN TONIGHT" with Erica Hill, filling in, for Alisyn, starts, right now.