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The Situation Room

Police Plan To Release Video From Nashville School Shooting; Trump Grand Jury Adjourns For Day Without Vote On Indictment; Netanyahu Responds To Historic Political Crisis In Israel, Paused Controversial Judicial Overhaul; Russia To Station Tactical Nukes Outside Own Borders For First Time In Decades; Philly Officials: Water Should Be Safe Until 3:30PM Tuesday. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Also tonight, a New York grand jury just wrap up for today without voting on whether to indict former President Donald Trump. This after the panel heard from a key figure in the hush money investigation, the former National Inquirer publisher, David Pecker.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we're breaking down all the new details just released about the Nashville school shooting revealed by local officials just a little while ago.

Let's go to CNN Dianne Gallagher. She's watching all of this unfold for us. Dianne police say this was a targeted attack by the shooter, and they shared some of the clues she left behind.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. They say this was a targeted attack by 28 year old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who is a resident of the national area and a former student of the covenant school there at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Now I want to immediately talk about those six victims because police say that Audrey Hale shot and killed six people in that church this morning. They got the call around 10 13 A.M. about the shooting. This is a very small school, around 200 students that serves preschool through sixth grade.

The three of the victims are children, were told, two nine year olds and an eight year old who was about to turn nine. Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney and then three staff members. Cynthia Peak age 61, a substitute teacher, Mike Hill age 61, a custodian, and Katherine Koonce, age 60.

Now police revealed a lot of information in the past few moments here, Wolf, that we have talked about saying that there was a car nearby the scene that helped them identify Hale as the shooter, that she was armed with an assault style rifle, an assault style pistols and also a handgun, saying that at least two of those weapons were obtained legally.

They also said that they have been going over writings from Hale, that they've also interviewed her father and then in those writings, it shows how she targeted this school.


CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have a manifesto. We have some writings that were going over that pertain to this day. The actual incident, we have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place. There's right now, a theory of that that we may be able to talk about later, but it's not confirmed and so we'll put that out as soon as we can.


GALLAGHER: Now, they say that hale was able to get into the school by shooting out one of the doors. This is something that had been -- investigators have been talking about, because all of the doors on the outside of the school were locked, we are told by law enforcement. They also indicated that it was -- that perhaps the shooter had looked at another targeted location but had cased-out that place and determined there was too much security there and instead opted for this school.

And, again look, these images. Wolf, for the images that we unfortunately have seen so many times here in this country of small children holding hands being led out by teachers and law enforcement to escape a shooting inside their school, we're told that this happened in the upper level in a lobby-type area of the school.

Again, it is important to remember, this is inside of a church area. They did not have a school resource officer but law enforcement has been adamant about the fact that they received that call at 10:13 A.M. and the shooter was dead by 10:27 A.M. after being confronted by law enforcement on that upper level, Wolf.

They continue to say that there was no point they were going to hesitate going inside the building, obviously looking back at other shootings that have taken place at schools in this country, saying that they went in immediately so they can try and lessen the damage.

But, of course, three small children, three educators killed, three staff members killed at this school this morning in Nashville.

BLITZER: So, so heartbreaking indeed. Our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these six wonderful people. Dianne Gallagher, thank you very, very much.

We're joined now by the vice mayor of Nashville, Jim Shulman. Vice mayor, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, the police have now identified the victims of this truly horrific mass murder, the shooting, three children, all around nine years old, three adults, all around 60 years old. How raw is the grief in your community tonight?

VICE MAYOR JIM SHULMAN, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: It is, what a terrible day for Nashville and for this country. I mean, once again, we're seeing these things happen to school children. Nashville is really having some real problems today.

BLITZER: Really awful situation, horrific indeed. I understand, Vice Mayor, you were there at the reunification center with parents waiting to find out if their children were actually safe.


What was it like being in that room?

SHULMAN: You know, well, first I was outside when the kids were being transported by bus from their school to the church, and, you know, it's what you see on television all around when you see these horrible mass shootings, parents running terrified into the building, crying, trying to figure out what's going on. It's just -- it's such a horrible thing.

And, I mean, what -- you see it happen all over the country, and then it happens right here in Nashville. And then I spend most of the afternoon inside the church with the parents. What a horrible situation. Parents just waiting to make sure their kids are okay.

BLITZER: Yes, heartbreaking indeed. The police say they apparently found a manifesto connected to all of this and surveillance maps of the school. Can you fathom why this 28-year-old shooter, a former student, apparently, at the school with target this elementary school?

SHULMAN: I don't know. And I know the police are still working on the details. And the police did an exceptional job of taking care of the situation. And, you know, again, Nashville is a very caring place. It's a very -- it's a wonderful city and people came together to try to deal with this horrible, horrible situation.

I don't know why people do these horrible things. And we've lost, you know, six members of our Nashville community. We've lost three small children. It's -- I don't know. It's just a horrible thing. It is just horrible.

BLITZER: What goes through your mind, Vice Mayor, learning some of the -- that some of the weapons used in this attack were actually obtained legally?

SHULMAN: You know, this country has been talking about this for years in terms of the number of mass shootings and other things and now it hits home here in Nashville. And people getting assault weapons legally, we have -- this country has got to step up and do something about it. And now it's happened here and then just walking around, talking to people in the church today. You know, people are -- first of all people are just numb. I mean, it's such a tragic thing and people don't know what to say. And they're just -- I guess they're in shock, and so are the rest of us. We have got to do something to stop this.

BLITZER: So, let's talk about that for a second while I have you, Vice Mayor. What do we need to do as a country? Because, you know, people are watching us all over the world, and they're wondering what the hell is going on in the United States of America, where we see these school shootings going on.

SHULMAN: Well, I talked to somebody today who said they're over thoughts and prayers, that -- you know, why people can legally get access to assault weapons and walk around and do this type of damage and kill innocent people and kill children, I don't know. But Nashville is a -- again, it's a wonderful city, but now it's happened here. And people have to -- we have to step up and we have to stop this.

You know, thoughts and prayers don't do anything. I mean, you know, they're maybe good for bringing people together but this has got to stop. We are losing our children, and that's not acceptable.

BLITZER: Totally not acceptable. Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you and to all the folks in Nashville right now.

Just ahead, the Manhattan grand jury probing former President Trump adjourns for the day without voting on a potential indictment. We have new details on a key witness who just appeared before the panel earlier this afternoon.



BLITZER: A key player in the Trump hush money probe just met with the Manhattan grand jury investigating the former president. The source confirms to CNN that former National Inquirer Publisher David Pecker appeared before the panel earlier this afternoon.

Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us from just outside the courthouse in New York. She's got details. Paula, why did the grand jury want to hear from David Pecker?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Pecker was involved in these hush money schemes to get Stormy Daniels and at least one other woman to stay silent about alleged affairs with former President Trump.

Now, his appearance comes exactly one week after Attorney Robert Costello testified before the grand jury at the request of defense attorneys.

Now, during Costello's appearance, he attacked the credibility of a key witness, Michael Cohen. He also talked about how these hush money payments were arranged. And we know from our sources at the prosecutor's office has been considering whether they needed to bring in another witness to rebut Costello's testimony.

So, Pecker, we know has previously met with investigators earlier this year and he is someone, Wolf, who could potentially be used to rebut Costello's testimony.

BLITZER: Paula, how is Trump reacting to the latest news of a potential indictment?

REID: For the past few days, Wolf, he has been attacking the district attorney and his office in a rally in Waco over the weekend. He used pretty vitriolic language when talking about this investigation. Let's take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The new weapon being used by out of control, unhinged Democrats to cheat on election is criminally investigating a candidate.

Prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool, and they are willing to use it at levels never seen before in our country.


REID: He also posted quite a bit on Truth Social, including one photo of him with a baseball bat and next to the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

Now, Trump's own lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said publicly that he believes that that was ill-advised and deflected blame for that to the former president's social media team.


We're also seeing on Capitol Hill Trump allies rallying to his side, saying they're considering legislation to make it illegal for local prosecutors to investigate current and former presidents. Now, Bragg has responded saying it is inappropriate for Congress to get involved in ongoing investigations.

BLITZER: Lots going on. Paula Reid, thank you. Thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss all these latest developments with our political and legal experts. And, Norm Eisen, prosecutors were looking for a witness to refute Robert Costello's claims. Do you expect David Pecker was able to do that?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I do, Wolf. We know that in August 2015, Pecker, Cohen and Trump all met and Pecker has said in court papers that he agreed to help Trump with negative stories about women by assisting the campaign. That puts together all the elements that Prosecutor Alvin Bragg needs for his potential felony case to the extent that Costello came in last week and said, well, Cohen is lying. This rehabilitates Cohen because it shows what actually happened.

And I will say we investigated these hush money payments and the impeachment. I worked on. I talked to Michael Cohen many times. He has never varied from that story since he started cooperating. So, I think this was important corroboration for the grand jury.

BLITZER: Well, Shan Wu is with us as well. Shan, Pecker was clearly a central player in the hush money payments scheme. What do you think of the legal strategy right now to bring him before this grand jury in New York and specifically at this point?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, as Norm said, no question, he's the right man, substantively. Strategically, I'm a little bit concerned because the grand jury, you know, it's not a petted trial jury. The prosecutors don't need to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt. They don't even need a unanimous vote, and the more you put in before them in terms of testimony, particularly people who have already testified a great deal, the more potential there is for inconsistencies.

So, strategically, I'm a little bit worried that they're being too careful to rebut Costello's testimony, which, from the sounds of it, Costello's only reaction didn't go that well.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Gloria -- Gloria Borger is with us as well. As you just heard, Paula reported, some of Donald Trump's rather inflammatory comments over the weekend at that rally in Waco, Texas, the former president seems to be emboldened right now. What do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the president is always emboldened when he has an enemy that he can attack. And, you know, the last campaign used to be about people's grievances and particularly in 2016. Now, it's about Donald Trump's grievances. And he's emboldened as you put it because his poll numbers are going up, particularly against Governor DeSantis. And so he feels that he can -- that he is gaining in popularity here and that this is good for him.

I spoke with a Republican today who said, sure, it's good for him but it isn't good for the Republican Party. Because in the end, given what may be coming down the road with the Atlanta grand jury, with the special counsel, people are going to look at Donald Trump and say -- Republicans are, and say, look, we want to win. And so electability comes into play. But in the short-term, sure, it might benefit him.

BLITZER: It certainly does. You know, Elliot Williams, we previously reported that the grand jury wanted to hear from at least one additional witness. Do you expect Pecker answered all remaining questions for them or might we see more witnesses called now?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it's just hard to know, Wolf. By nature and by law, grand juries and what happens in them have to be secret. There are huge penalties for revealing what happens inside a grand jury room.

For that reason, it's really hard to know what exactly -- just sort of talking about with anyone particular witness for what a prosecutor's strategy might be for calling additional witnesses.

Now, look, backing up Norm's point earlier, if Michael Cohen's credibility was attacked in his prior appearances, it made sense to call on a witness that, number one, could help establish those facts, but also, number two, to go further than Norm here, establish possibly a pattern of conduct on the part of the former president, that this scenario had happened before, where there were potentially or allegedly embarrassing personal affairs that sort of needed to be paid off in some way. And that helps establish what could be prosecutor's case down the road.

Now, we've seen apparently one additional witness. It's hard to know if there will be more. It all comes down to whether the prosecutors are convinced that they can get 16 -- you know, pardon me, a majority of the people on the grand jury. 12, I believe, is the amount number needed for a vote, to vote in favor of moving forward with an indictment.


BLITZER: Yes. I suspect we'll find out fairly soon. Norm, I'm anxious to know what you think. Do you think there is a need for yet another witness?

EISEN: Wolf, I don't think so. In New York, it's not unusual in the endgame because potential defendants have stronger rights in that state than almost anywhere else. To themselves appear before the grand jury, to negotiate as they did for Mr. Costello to appear, to have some delays, to have a rebuttal put witness put in, I suspect that we are getting very, very close to the endgame here and no signs that this prosecutorial team is slowing down. So, we better fasten our seatbelts judging from those deplorable Trump comments for some drama ahead.

BORGER: I agree with Norm, but let me let me just also say, if you might be about to indict a former president, you probably want to tie everything up with a bow, particularly on an indictment that might be, let's just say, creative. And so I think that, you know, I don't know whether they're going to have another witness or not, but I think they don't want to leave anything untouched here. They want to make absolutely sure that they've done everything they can because of who they're dealing with.

BLITZER: Yes. Gloria Borger, Elliot Williams, Norm Eisen, Shan Wu, guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we will turn back to the breaking news we're following on the Nashville school shooting as police work to piece together a motive.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following tonight, Nashville police say they have a manifesto and other writings from the shooter who opened fire inside a Christian Elementary School today, authorities sharing new information about the female assailant who was killed by police, revealing that at least two of her weapons were purchased legally. They also identified the six victims who were killed, three children and three adults. This is this is the 129th mass shooting here in the United States so far this year.

Let's bring in our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, President Biden spoke out about this new act of gun violence. Tell us what he said. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there is a tragic familiarity to the president's remarks from earlier today, something he and many of his predecessors have had to give, deliver in public in the wake of one of these shootings, particularly shooting that leads to the death of children too many times. This was what the president said.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's just -- it's sick. You know, we're still gathering the facts of what happened and why. And we do know that, as of now, there are a number of people who are not going -- did not make it, including children. It's heartbreaking, a family's worst nightmare.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, certainly, a family's worst nightmare and one where, at least in Washington, there doesn't seem to be any prospects of legislative change coming out of it in the near term.

Now, to be clear, and White House officials acknowledge, they don't have enough information to know what this point in time whether or not anything they could do on a federal level would have prevented the shooting that killed six people in Nashville, but the president reiterated his call, which he has put out in public multiple times before now asking for Congress to act on an assault weapons ban, one that used to be in place and expired several years ago. They have also pressed for other legislative changes as well.

Now, keep in mind, the president signed off on multiple executive actions related to gun safety, got the first bipartisan gun safety legislation through Congress in the last Congress, one that was the first one in more than two decades. And yet this still happens in this country. This is still the only country where this continues to happen. And while they there's certainly a sense of hopelessness about the prospects of things given that reality, White House advisers say the president will continue to push forward on gun safety legislation.

However, with House Republicans in control of the majority of that chamber, no clear appetite in the Senate to find 60 votes in that chamber, certainly, at this point in time, it doesn't look like anything is going to change on the federal legislative front anytime soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's so heartbreaking indeed. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on this with our law enforcement and gun violence experts. And, Andrew McCabe, first to you, what stands out to you from this very disturbing new detail that authorities have provided? Police apparently found a manifesto and surveillance maps of the school connected to this brutal attack.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, as morbid as that may be, it's going to help investigators, tried to uncover what this person's motivation or intent was in targeting these people at this school. And, you know, Wolf, people say to me all the time. Why do we care? That person has been killed and the situation is over, well, it's important to understand those details of motivation and intent to try to understand what drives people to this length to engage in this sort of violence.

We -- the more we know about people who are pushed to act out in this way, to stage violent attacks in this way, the closer we get to being able to start to prevent these things from happening, which is clearly where we need to be.

BLITZER: We certainly do. Jennifer Mascia is with us as well. Jennifer, police say this shooter was a former student at this school who shot through the door in order to get in. What does that tell you?

JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the law enforcement response was extremely robust, the very opposite of what we saw in Uvalde.


The shooter was confronted in the second floor lobby, didn't even have a chance to get to the classrooms. You know, that is something that is, you know, very reassuring to parents across the country. However as we see even a robust police response is not enough. Unfortunately, the gunmen, the shooter got her guns legally, police believe.

The bar for that in Tennessee is very low. Private gun sales are unregulated. You could buy a gun from a stranger online. You can carry a gun without a permit. So, you can carry guns in public without ever having a background check.

School security is very important, but unless we are solving the problem at the source, which is being very careful who we give guns to, it's always going to be too late, as we saw, despite the robust police response, you know, six people were still killed.

BLITZER: Yes, three kids, three adults. Jonathan Wackrow is with us as well. The police say, Jonathan, they do have video of how all this unfolded and they say they will be releasing it either later tonight or tomorrow. What will you be looking for?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you know, listen, I think that from the video that will be released, what we're going to see is very swift action by law enforcement officers and public safety officials.

We're going to see how their tactics went in to try to address the threat. And you have to remember the immediate response by law enforcement is to stop that threat. Go to the sound of the shooting and neutralize that threat either by taking the suspect out or taking them into custody.

But I think very uniquely here, you know, Wolf, what we're also seeing is that law enforcement was paired up with fire and EMS personnel as well, again, allowing for the immediate medical attention given to victims on the scene while, you know, the entire environment was still unstabilized, the building wasn't cleared.

So, law enforcement in public safety have gotten really good at responding to these. Look at the time to response. Unfortunately, we have to, you know, look at this from a different perspective in how do we stop these acts of violence. That's where this manifesto is going to come in -- it comes into play, really researching this shooter. A female mass shooter is very anomalous. So, what was the motivation? What were they doing? We need to understand that a little bit better to put into the greater rubric of you know who are mass shooter and how do we prevent this from happening.

BLITZER: Yes, indeed. Andrew, we're just learning that one of the adult victims, Katherine Koonce, was actually the head of the school. How horrific is it to learn about the victims and to hear just how young these children were, three victims, each one around nine years old?

MCCABE: You can't quantify or describe how horrible this must be, not only for the families of these victims, but for every member of the school community that now has to try to pick up the pieces with their children, with their loved ones and move past this horrific, horrific incident.

And, Wolf, it's not new. There're communities all over the country that are going through the same thing, it's because we live in an epidemic of violence and mass shootings. And we are -- you know, we've yet to do anything effective to prevent them.

BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences to the families of these six victims. May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing, as we say. Thanks to all of you for joining us.

Just ahead, Israel gripped by a truly historic political crisis right now. We'll have a live report from Jerusalem on the massive demonstrations against the highly controversial move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.



BLITZER: Tonight, a new move aimed at pulling Israel back from a crippling and potentially very dangerous political crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hitting the pause button on the judicial overall plan that's been dividing his country.

CNN's Nic Robertson has our report from Jerusalem.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Teetering towards a constitutional crisis, the day began with the biggest anti-government protests so far. The sharp escalation in tensions, including the nation's largest ever general strike, grounding flights, shuttering malls, even McDonald's closed, as well as some government ministries and protests by some military reservists all triggered the previous day when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister, who had called for a delay to judicial reforms, and for the first time, creating a potentially combustible mix, pro-government protesters summoned by government ministers taking to the streets too, concerns both sides could clash not realized despite occasional minor scuffles. Late in the day, Netanyahu dialing down tensions calling for a pause in the reforms.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I say here and now, there must not be a fratricidal war. We're on the path of a dangerous collision in Israeli society. We are in the midst of a crisis and it endangers the basic unity among us. Such a crisis requires us all to act responsibly.

ROBERTSON: Within an hour or so of the prime minister speaking, many people at this pro-government rally leaving, but not all of them happy about what he said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be worse and worse if Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, going to pause the reform.

ROBERTSON: You wanted to push ahead right now?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want that he pushed ahead, because this is the reason that we go -- we went to the election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for a right state. It's important for me that my voice is heard and I want the reform to go through. And today, Bibi decided that it's going to be postponed and I came to say no.

ROBERTSON: But this is not a climb down by Netanyahu. The stakes are perhaps higher. Extreme right-wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was out in the protest Monday, and already has convictions for inciting racism and supporting terrorism, is to head- up a new National Guard. No word who will replace the fired defense minister, but going forward, Netanyahu demanding loyalty.

NETANYAHU: I demand that the heads of the security branches and the heads of the army firmly opposed the phenomenon of refusal, not containing it, not understanding it, not accepting it, stopping it.

ROBERTSON: For now, general strikes called for Tuesday have been canceled. Netanyahu has bought time and he says commitment from the opposition to discuss the contentious reforms. What there is not is any backing down from hard-line views.


ROBERTSON (on camera): So, what those opposition leaders are looking for is to see if there can be a real conversation. And this real conversation is something that the president here has said that he would moderate, that he would mediate.

But at the moment, it's an unknown question. What precisely is the prime minister willing to put on the table? What it what are the bottom lines for the opposition? And that, of course, leaves a lot for people to go out and to continue to protest about, Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect they will. Nic Robertson, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass. Richard, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu is now promising debate on these judicial reforms, as they're called, but only after historic backlash that's been unfolding in Israel. Will he listen to the voice, do you believe, of the protesters?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, he's got a problem here, Wolf. As you know better than anybody, he's got a government that is ideologically, shall we say, very much on one side of the political spectrum, those in the streets, for the most part, or on the other side. It's not quite at all obvious that there's a way to square that circle to come up with a compromise. That's enough for people in the streets and not too much for his government. That is the bind the prime minister finds himself in.

BLITZER: But these protests, they've spread to Israel's own military right now, prompting the defense minister, as we just heard, to speak out and then be fired by Netanyahu. Does this current crisis in Israel present a real national security risk for Israel?

HAASS: The short answer is yes, because this is a protest. The more I listen to it and watch it, Wolf, that's about a lot more than judicial reform and the authority of the judiciary, how judges are appointed, its power to -- vis-a-vis the parliament.

This is really much more a protest political movement about Israel's future. What is the balance between secular Israelis and the orthodox? What is the -- what is policy towards the Palestinians? What is the nature of Israeli democracy minority rights?

This is the most existential, internal political crisis in many ways we've seen in Israel's history, and I think it's the culmination of all sorts of demographic trends, the massive influx of people from Russia and elsewhere and in Europe, the relative growth of the orthodox community and so forth. This is a real question about the future of Israeli society, as a result, Israeli politics.

BLITZER: Do you believe President Biden now needs to more forcefully lay out the consequences if this overhaul, as it's called, is pushed through the Knesset?

HAASS: I don't think that's for the president of the United States to do. I think he can simply remind Israel that one of the reasons were as close as we are is for issues to do with common democratic values. But, no, I think this is for Israelis to decide, American Jews and other Jews around the world will want to weigh in because this will have implications for them. But I get pretty uncomfortable when the president of the United States wades into these kinds of internal political questions in other countries. I'm not sure we welcome it if it were vice versa.

BLITZER: I'm not sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu fully appreciates how much what he's doing in Israel right now is undermining not only U.S./Israeli relations but Israel's relations with several countries in Europe and indeed with countries around the world right now, and indeed is undermining Israel's own relationship with the American/Jewish community.


What do you think?

HAAS: Well, certainly undermining it with a big slice of the American Jewish community, though, which is divided. I think orthodox Jews in this country are more supportive of what's going on there, more secular, so called reform or even conservative Jews are much less comfortable.

I think again for Israel, its support from the United States and the West over the years has not been simply based upon narrow strategic calculations. It's been about something much broader, much less tangible. It's been about values, that's been around common commitment to democracy and human rights.

And that's why issues like this I think are very dangerous for Israel to essentially ignore because it does, I think, put in play and question the future of their ties to this country.

BLITZER: Certainly does.

Richard Haass, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, Vladimir Putin says Russia will stage tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, right next door to the war zone in Ukraine.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Tonight, Vladimir Putin is expanding his military footprint in Europe. The Russian president, announcing a new plan to stage tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, right next door to the conflict in Ukraine.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance has our report from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The front lines are brutal. Even Ukrainian towns with little strategic value, locking both sides into a bloody, stagnant standoff. One reason the Kremlin is again upping the ante. It was on state television that President Putin dropped his nuclear

bombshell. Tactical nuclear weapons will soon be deployed to neighboring Belarus he announced, that for decades has Russia stationed these powerful battlefield weapons outside its own borders.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The United States has done it for decades, they have placed their tactical nuclear weapons and their allied countries, and we had an agreement as allies do the same.

CHANCE: These are the Iskander missile systems capable of delivering a nuclear payload that Putin says are already deployed in Belarus. Silo for their nuclear warheads he says will be ready by July, prompting alarm and objections from Europe. But praise on the streets of the Russian capital where dissent from the Kremlin line is a risk.

I think NATO is to blame for all of this, says Tatiana. It is they who are marching towards us to our borders, she says.

The West thinks it can have its own way and do anything with us, says Vladimir. Now, it's time to demonstrate our capabilities to show we too mean business.

And there are airborne delivery systems, too. These are Russian warplanes flying sorties over Ukraine. But the Kremlin says Russian technicians have also converted 10 Belarusian aircraft to carry tactical nuclear weapons as well. It would be devastating and unstoppable.

But the U.S. officials say there's no reason to adjust America's nuclear posture, at least not yet.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We've, in fact, seen no indication that he has any intention to use nuclear weapons period inside Ukraine.

But Putin has every intention of tightening his grip on Belarus, whose own autocratic leader is already propped up by the Kremlin strongman.

To avoid nuclear proliferation, Putin says, command and control of the tactical weapons will be kept with Moscow.

Belarus already a reluctant military ally, will now host even more Russian troops on its soil.


CHANCE (on camera): But, Wolf, tonight, it's unclear exactly what Belarus thinks about hosting these Russian nuclear weapons. It hasn't even released a statement on it yet.

Ukraine has saying that it believes there is lots of opposition in Belarus to this and it could destabilize the country, and European leaders have called on Belarus to push back.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you very much for that report.

This note to our viewers: stay with CNN right after THE SITUATION ROOM for "ERIN BURNETT" for much more on the Nashville school shooting. Erin will speak with the Nashville metro councilmember at large. That's at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Chaos and confusion in Philadelphia today over whether the city's water is safe to drink, after a chemical spill just a few miles away.

Now, officials say the water is safe until 3:30 tomorrow afternoon.

CNN's Danny Freeman reports from Philadelphia.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Water whiplash in Philadelphia.

JOE SOLE, PHILADELPHIA RESIDENT: We're afraid to drink the regular water.

FREEMAN: The city, assuring Philadelphians the water coming out of their taps is safe to drink, at least for today.

MICHAEL CARROLL, PHILADELPHIA TRANSPORTATION, INFRASTRUCTURE & SUSTAINABILITY OFFICIAL: You do not need to go out to the store and buy water. There is not and has not been any contamination in the water that's coming out of your tap.

FREEMAN: But residents are not taking any chances after news of a nearby chemical spill.

Why don't you trust the city right now?

SOLE: Why? I mean, they sound like they really don't know what they're talking about.

FREEMAN: This all started Friday night when Trinseo, a manufacturing company 20 miles north of Philadelphia, had what it called an equipment failure, releasing an estimated 8,100 gallons of latex emulsion product into a creek that flows into Delaware River, one of Philadelphia's main sources of water.

By Sunday morning, the city said it could not be 100 percent sure chemicals wouldn't end up coming out of taps and sent this alert, recommending using bottled drinking water.

KIM KELLY, PHILADELPHIA RESIDENT: We got there were okay, go to the water. I'll see what's going on. It is bare.

FREEMAN: By the afternoon, a new alert from the city said, based on the latest sampling results in the time it takes for water to flow, they are confident tap water will remain safe to drink at least until midnight -- but encouraged residents to fill up using the tap, just in case.

CARROLL: There's nothing about the water you're buying at the store that it's better than the water that you can get from your tap today.

FREEMAN: Now, the city says tests show the water will remain safe until at least Tuesday afternoon at 3 30. The confusion, leaving Philadelphians prioritizing caution while waiting for clarity on their water.

GERALD BROWN, PHILADELPHIA RESIDENT: You can't take your chances down there. It's just got to take care of your family. You got to be sure.


FREEMAN (on camera): Now, Wolf, we're expecting our next update from the city tomorrow morning to determine if the water will be safe to drink past Tuesday afternoon, and officials told us today that the conditions in the river concerning the containment and the contamination should be over by Thursday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Danny Freeman, thank you very much.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.