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Soon: Vigil For Six Victims Of Nashville School Shooting; Police: School Shooter Believed To Have Had Weapons Training; Source: N.Y. Grand Jury Probing Trump Will Break For Most Of April; Pence: "I Obviously Have Nothing To Hide" On Jan. 6 Testimony; Soon: Vigil For Nashville Shooting Victims; First Lady To Attend; U.S.-Israel Ties Tested After Clash Over Judicial Reform; New Judiciary Ethics Rules Require Disclosure Of Private Travel Costs. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a vigil for the six victims of the National School shooting gets underway soon. The First Lady, Jill Biden, is set to attend as police reveal the shooter may have had weapons training.

Also tonight, we've learned that the New York grand jury investigating Donald Trump will take a break for most of April. How might that impact a decision on whether to indict the former president?

And the crisis unfolding in Israel right now is testing relations big time with the United States. We're tracking the tensions after President Biden criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's divisive judicial overall plan.

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

And let's go right to Nashville right now where mourners are gathering to honor the three children and three adults shot dead at the Covenant Elementary School there. CNN's Carlos Suarez is joining us right now. He's just outside the school.

Carlos, this vigil is being held tonight as police say they are deep into the shooting investigation. Give us the latest.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are getting a good sense of exactly where this investigation stands. The Chief of Police tells CNN that detectives they are still going through this notebook that the 28-year-old shooter left behind. They are looking at some statements and some writings in there, all in an effort to try to see if they can come up with a motive for this shooting.

Police officials also tell us that they believe that the shooter received some weapons training. It's something that they had hinted at earlier in the week when they described how the shooter took aim at officers from a window on the second story of this school building where this shooting happened.

Officials also told CNN that detectives are looking into whether or not the shooter made a stop between leaving the shooter's home and this school. Now, in some of my reporting yesterday, we were able to confirm with the city's police chief that a mall was mentioned in some of these writings and in some of these statements. And so, again, detectives are now looking at the possibility that the shooter may have gone to one place before coming to the school.

We're also hearing from an art instructor, a teacher who knew the shooter back in 2017, taught the shooter two semesters. The teacher described to us an encounter that she had in the classroom where the shooter became very frustrated with a task. Here's what she told us just a few minutes ago.


MARIA COLOMY, HALE'S FORMER TEACHER: She didn't know what it was asking for and she got really flustered, and she just like turned red, started crying. And I could see that she was getting upset, and I just said, hey, if you need to step out --


SUAREZ: All right. Well, Wolf, one final note here, the city's police chief also tells us that there were no problems at this school at the time when the shooter was a student here.

BLITZER: All right, Carlos, thanks very much. Carlos Suarez on the scene for us. Appreciate it.

Joining us now, the National Council Member at-Large, Bob Mendes.

Bob, thank you very much for joining us. Tonight's vigil, as you know, will be a very somber, very challenging occasion for your own constituents there in Nashville. How is the community reflecting on this moment?

BOB MENDES, COUNCIL MEMBER AT-LARGE, NASHVILLE: Well, we're a couple of days in now, and what I hear over and over again is just a deep sense of sadness. You know, like so many people in America, you start wondering whether this is just a matter of when and not if. But even with that knowledge, when it actually happens, it's just shattering and just so emotional for everybody.

BLITZER: What tangible changes do your constituents want to see in the wake of this truly horrific shooting?

MENDES: Well, the vast majority of people in Nashville, whether -- no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, are interested in common sense gun reform. Unfortunately, that's not what we have in the state of Tennessee, and we're not allowed to act with our local government to have rules like that. So I've heard a lot of frustration about that.

And you know, we've been -- we don't know exactly what the motivation for the shooter as yet. And so, there's a lot of speculation about that I'm not sure if it's useful until the police do their job.


BLITZER: We'll have to just wait and see. Police say the shooter did have weapons training. Even as we're learning the shooter had an emotional disorder and the parents didn't want the shooter to own any weapons at all. Does this point to a need for stricter laws where you are on who can actually own these deadly firearms?

MENDES: Yes, I mean, listen, Wolf, Tennessee is some of the loosest gun regulations in America, and it shows. I mean, right now, literally on Monday, a couple of hours after the shooting, the state legislature was set to consider legislation to allow open carry -- permitless open carry for people as young as age 18. Like, thankfully, they put off that hearing for a couple of days, I guess it's till next week, but we've got the loosest gun laws in America. And so, you know, violence is going to happen, unfortunately. It's terrible.

BLITZER: And as you know better than I do, as you well know, Republicans in your state, they say they're unwilling to consider gun reform right now. What's your message to them?

MENDES: Well, they accuse those of us who want common sense gun reform of talking politics in a time of sadness. And there's no question this is a time of deep sadness. But they need to do something. They need to do something. They can't just ignore it in bad times and good times.

The vast majority of Americans want common sense gun laws. That's what people in Nashville want, and they ought to just do it.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what the polls clearly show, not only in Tennessee, but all across the country.

It's truly heartbreaking to see these young kids, these students, running out of the school, out of the woods, across a highway to escape this shooting. How are you planning to support your constituents, Bob, as they grapple with the ongoing trauma of this attack?

MENDES: Well, luckily, Nashville continues to be a pretty tight knit community. And, you know, we're going to have as many formal and informal resources as we can for these families. You know, one of the things that we've got to see firsthand, unfortunately, is that when these things happen, families don't get immediately reunited with their children. It takes hours, agonizing hours, and there is going to be a lot of work to do to try to make sure that everybody can move forward.

BLITZER: Well, good luck over there. I really appreciate you joining us. The National Council Member at-Large, Bob Mendes. Appreciate it very, very much.

MENDES: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: All right let's bring in retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Steve Moore right now, along with Abene Clayton, who reports on gun violence for The Guardian.

Steve, your reaction, first of all, to the news that authorities now believe the shooter did have weapons training and may have actually made a stop before arriving at the Covenant School.

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: I guess this doesn't surprise me. The shootings that I've worked, the shootings that I've researched and read about frequently the shooter has had some kind of training and frequently and, in fact, the shooting that I was the case agent for, the shooter will look at other places and may have the target that was eventually hit as their second or third choice. And generally it's because they find security too tight elsewhere, which is kind of making me wonder why we are not making our schools hardened to the point where they wouldn't be the first choice.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. You've responded, Steve, to a school shooting yourself just before and you did so as an FBI agent and you used to teach active shooter responses. So what lessons are there to draw from this case?

MOORE: I think, first of all, the lesson that every law enforcement officer, the hundreds of thousands across the country should see here is the difference between this shooting response and the shooting responses that we've seen that didn't go well where lives weren't saved. This, to me, watching the body cam video seemed like a training video on how to do it. They were calm, they were efficient, they were doing exactly the right things.

And while we are trying to figure out how to keep assault weapons out of the hands of crazy people, law enforcement has to commit over and over again to what it takes to train and to train for these incidents and mentally go into a place where you hear gunfire.

BLITZER: Yes, it's obviously very, very dangerous.


Abene, there are deep concerns the shooter should not have had any access at all to deadly weapons. Are there any laws that could be passed to ensure someone like this shooter wouldn't be able to keep guns?

ABENE CLAYTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, you know, Tennessee is one of about 30 states that doesn't have any sort of red flag law, doesn't appear to have any sort of infrastructure for a family member, a doctor, a teacher to, you know, if they notice that someone is at risk of, you know, hurting themselves or someone else, there's really nowhere to report that and rest assured that it will be handled. I think we see time and time again in a lot of these high profile mass shootings that there were incidents, there were markers before the incident that could have been taken as a red flag and something could have been done about it. But so often we see that either the infrastructure doesn't exist, and in states where there are red flag laws, sometimes people don't know about them or are scared to pursue them. So, it doesn't appear that in this case, anything that Tennessee have on the books would have stopped us, unfortunately, by all accounts right now.

BLITZER: And, Steve, let me get back to you. Curious, your thoughts. How are investigators actually going to piece together the motive here?

MOORE: One thing that you find with these people, Wolf, is that do these kind of murders, I hesitate to call them shootings, they're murders. They tend to want to tell people about it in advance and they want to have a legacy behind them, as sad as that sounds. So there will be writings, there will be manifestos, there will be diaries, there will be social media. And the law enforcement has to dig in and dig in, you know, use the resources of FBI profilers, use all the resources we have to come up as a law enforcement world with some kind of way to understand the markers that they leave and how certain markers may be predictors. So, they are going to go in and all but write an autobiography of this murderer so that they can pass it on.

BLITZER: And learn the lessons that need to be learned indeed. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

As the first lady joins the vigil in Nashville, I'll speak live with the White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. That's coming up in the next hour.

Also coming up, the Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Trump is set to take a lengthy break for most of next month. So what does it mean for a potential indictment?

Also ahead, we've just learned about a timeline for John Fetterman's return to the U.S. Senate after being hospitalized for weeks.



BLITZER: All right, just in to CNN, Senator John Fetterman has set a date for his expected to return to work after being hospitalized and treated for clinical depression. A source now tells CNN the Pennsylvania Democrat plans to be back on Capitol Hill on April 17. We're told he's made progress after more than a month in the hospital, it's not clear when Fetterman is going home or if he's already been discharged. We wish him, of course, a speedy recovery and only the best.

Meanwhile, we're also learning new details now about the Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Trump over hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. A source telling CNN the panel will take a break for most of next month. CNN's Kara Scannell has the latest for us.

Kara, walk us through the calendar and what this potentially means.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. So, court administration sources tell us that this grand jury is expected to go on break after April 5. That is next Wednesday. Now, this grand jury is sitting for six months, so this has been a previously scheduled break to account for the holidays and the New York City school break. So, as far as we know, court sources tell us as it currently stands, the grand jury is expected to meet tomorrow, Monday and Wednesday, and then go on break. And these sources tell us that as of right now, they are not expected to currently hear any testimony related to the Trump investigation.

That said, the District Attorney's office has broad ability here to call the grand jurors in, to even bring in additional witnesses or other testimony if they want to, even though they're currently not scheduled to do that. So things are still very fluid. So, right now, they're not expected to hear anything.

They could, the D.A.'s office if they want to, could even ask them to move forward and vote on an indictment against the former president. But as of right now, things are very fluid. We expect, though, after this break, it will be for a week or so, and then they'll be back in business if they haven't done anything before then, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, Passover starts Wednesday night, followed by Easter, so there are a lot of holidays coming up. Kara Scannell, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more analysis right now from our legal and political experts. Evan Perez, you're with us. Even though the grand jury's upcoming pause was expected, what does it reveal to you that the investigation into Trump is now lingering?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think the fact is that every indication is that this investigation is nearly at the end. The former president was offered a chance to come into the grand jury. You had additional witnesses being brought including a witness that was suggested by the Trump team. So all of the indications are that, you know, they're nearly at the end.

And so, the question remains, you know, what exactly is left to do? And you know, if you're -- if you believe that you're about to bring an indictment, why wait till the grand jury comes back in a couple of weeks? There's a lot of mystery here. There's a lot of doubt, frankly, that is being sowed by the fact that there is this break and the fact that we don't have an action yet.

BLITZER: Norm Eisen is with us as well.

Norm, it had seemed like this investigation had actually reached a boiling point earlier in the month when Trump was himself invited to testify and then predicted he would be arrested. You remember that. Is this break that's upcoming now bad news for the prosecution's momentum?


NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, I don't think it is bad news. You'll remember that Trump himself turn that up to a boil by saying he was going to be arrested last Tuesday. The prosecution never said that they were going to arrest or incharge -- charge him on a particular day, and they've been cautious in the public signals.

I agree with Evan, though, that all the indicators you have the fact that Trump had the opportunity to put a witness before the grand jury, that typically happens before charges are filed. You had that witness, Robert Costello, go in. You had a rebuttal witness come in the form of David Pecker. You know, as well as I do that these holidays pass over Easter spring break. Those can be disruptive to the calendar in New York.

Wolf, when we were getting ready to put President Trump on trial in the impeachment, Nancy Pelosi announced we were going to be taking a long break and it occasioned weeks of additional time. Investigations have their own rhythm. I think it still is every indication charges are coming.

BLITZER: All right, we shall see.

You know, Gloria, I want to turn to former Vice President Mike Pence, who is responding to a judge's ruling that he must testify about his conversations with Trump before, before January 6. Let's listen to what he said.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We'll be speaking with our attorneys in Washington before the end of the week and sorting out what our next steps are. I obviously have nothing to hide. I've been speaking about those days, writing about them extensively over the last two years, but I think the American people deserve the whole story. And I've been sharing that truth with the American people.


BLITZER: So, he's apparently not giving a complete straight answer about whether he might appeal this decision, is he?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's not crystal clear, but I don't think that's the language you would hear from somebody who intended to appeal a ruling. If he intended to appeal and he was angry about it and, you know, he would just say, we're going to talk to my lawyers. I'm not happy about this, and we'll inform you about next steps at some point. But he didn't talk about next steps.

During the day, you know, he talked about how he was gratified about the ruling on the speech or debate clause when he serves as head of the Senate Chamber as vice president. And again, his aides earlier have always said, you know, at some point they thought that Mike Pence would have to testify. And so, you know, we don't know for sure, but he didn't sound like somebody who was going to take this to the next level.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much. Gloria Borger. Norm Eisen, Evan Perez, appreciate it.

I'll be interviewing, by the way, the former Vice President Mike Pence one-on-one tomorrow night right here on CNN. We'll cover a wide range of topics, including, of course, 2024 and the Trump investigations. You can see it tomorrow night on CNN primetime, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, we'll go live to the scene of tonight's vigil for the national shooting victims and get insight into the community's pain right now.

And later, we'll have an update on the condition of Pope Francis after he was admitted to the hospital with a respiratory infection.



BLITZER: We're getting closer to the start of a vigil in Nashville for the six victims of the shooting at a private Christian school. The first lady, Jill Biden, will be there, along with city officials and community leaders. CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher is already there on the scene for us.

Diane, what are you hearing from the community just ahead of this vigil, which begins, what, in about a half an hour or so from now?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And look, this is the first citywide vigil that they have held for those six victims who were killed on Monday morning inside the Covenant School. You can probably hear sound check happening right now. Nashville, of course, is the music city, and we expect quite a bit of music through mourning to happen today here in the public park in the center of the city of Nashville.

You can probably see behind me, we've got the media row here. We have up here is where we're going to see the different speakers. We're talking state, federal, and local officials. Mayor John Cooper expected to speak. We're also expecting the chief of Metro Nashville Police.

And of course, you mentioned First Lady Jill Biden will be in attendance as well. We anticipate many religious leaders. This was a school inside a church. This has also deeply impacted the Christian community here in Nashville. And we anticipate we're going to hear quite a bit about that during it.

Up until now, most of the people who've tried to pay their respects and want to publicly mourn this tragedy have actually visited this site outside of Covenant Presbyterian Church in the Covenant School, laying down stuffed animals and flowers. They are putting their crosses that have been put up and coming and just sitting in that space and mourning the loss of those six. We anticipate to see much similar scenes here tonight. We do know that Sheryl Crow is going to be appearing as well with several other musicians on the slate, Wolf.

The mayor has said that this is going to be community grieving. This is a way for them to kind of come together as a city and acknowledge what happened, grieve what happened, and talk about what they want to do next.

And we're not sure if we're going to see any family members, but we do anticipate seeing friends and other members of the community showing up to pay their respects and again, grieve together here.

BLITZER: Truly a heartbreaking, heartbreaking development. Dianne Gallagher, thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, Nicole Hockley, whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook School massacre over a decade ago. She now leads one of the nation's top school safety organizations, the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation.

Thanks so much for joining us, Nicole. You reacted to this latest school shooting by writing this and let me read it to our viewers. "My heart has broken so many times in the last 10 years. There is nothing but tattered remains. And every day, there are more people like me"

So what's your message to these Nashville parents who now join you in grieving their children taken so soon?

NICOLE HOCKLEY, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, SANDY HOOK PROMISE FOUNDATION: I am just sorry for their pain and I'm sorry that still 10 years after the murder of my son, that we have not progressed enough in this country to prevent these from happening all the time. And I know all too well what journey is ahead of them. And it is not easy. And it never gets any easier. The grief never goes away.

BLITZER: It never does. Nicole, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who represents your state of Connecticut, told me yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM, and I'm quoting him now, Congress is complicit by its inaction. But last year, Congress passed the first major gun safety legislation in decades. Why can't they do it again?

HOCKLEY: Well, they can. They absolutely can. And I think they need to remember what they were able to do when they came together last year. It was a good first step forward, and now we need to take the second, third and fourth step. This has to continue to progress because people and children and adults in every city and every town and in Nashville are dying.

And they have an ability and a requirement to help protect their constituents. So I urge them to take further actions. There's so much that we can do in our community, but there's also a lot that we need at the state level and at the federal level to help enforce and support gun safety.

BLITZER: More than a decade, Nicole, after you lost your son, Dylan, firearms are the leading cause of death among American children. You said my anger grows, your words, at those who stand in the way. Is there another path forward?

HOCKLEY: There is always a path forward. I am incredibly angry this week, but I still remain hopeful because I know progress is possible and I know that school shootings and shootings in general are not inevitable. They are fully preventable. And we just need to learn how to recognize someone who's going into crisis and take action, take it seriously, and intervene and also pass laws to support these behaviors.

And this is totally within our reach. This is not impossible. But we need to get over our division, our fear, and our inability to actually have rational discussions with each other and think about what binds us together, which is not guns. It is the love of our families and community. It is the love of children. And that's what we need to focus on so that we can create and deliver sustainable solutions.

BLITZER: Before we go, Nicole, I know your organization, Sandy Hook Promise, is dedicated to preventing violence in schools. Without action, though, from Congress, what could communities do to protect these kids?

HOCKLEY: There's a lot that communities parents can do, community organizations can do, and schools can do. We offer training in how to recognize the signs. We call it our Know the Signs programs. We offer them to at no cost to schools across the country. We've already trained over 18 million youth and adults, so we know that change is possible.

We've already stopped and averted 14 credible planned school shooting plots just as a direct result of our programs. So these are the sorts of things that can work. We're not the only organization that does this.

So I would urge people in their communities to find upstream violence prevention programs, not just focus on imminent danger, but focus on what we can do days, weeks, months, or years before someone reaches that horrible decision point. But we can intervene and get them help before they ever pick up a firearm to hurt themselves or someone else.

BLITZER: Yes, good advice. So we're grateful to you. Nicole Hockley, thank you very, very much.

And just ahead, Pope Francis is in the hospital tonight. What the Vatican is now revealing about his condition. Plus, the public rift between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is adding fuel to a growing political crisis. Our live report from Jerusalem, that's next.



BLITZER: Pope Francis is in the hospital tonight, receiving care for a respiratory infection. The Vatican says the Pope will need to remain admitted for a few days after complaining of respiratory difficulties. A medical exam has ruled out COVID-19 as a potential cause of his illness.

We're sending, of course, our best wishes to Pope Francis as he recovers. Let's hope for a speedy, speedy recovery.

In Israel tonight, President Biden's tough criticism of a highly controversial judicial overhaul in Israel is creating headaches for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. CNN's Hadas Gold is joining us now from Jerusalem with the latest.

Hadas, how is Netanyahu handling the enormous fallout? HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this massive judicial overhaul has not only sparked the largest and longest protest movement in Israeli history, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis regularly taking to the streets against this massive overhaul.


Now it's potentially causing a new crisis with Israel's longest and most important ally. Now, after President Biden came out yesterday calling on Netanyahu to essentially walk away from these reforms, Netanyahu issued a series of middle of the night tweets talking about how important the alliance is between the U.S. and Israel and how he does want to reach a consensus on these reforms.

Well, then he pushed back a little. I'll read you part of this tweet. He says, "Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends."

Then actually, today, in a confluence of timing, Benjamin Netanyahu actually participated in the democracy summit that was hosted by the United States. He gave a speech, virtually where he essentially said, the relationship is fine. We are doing just fine. Take a listen.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: You know, Israel and the United States have had their occasional differences, but I want to assure you that the alliance between the world's greatest democracy and a strong, proud and independent democracy, Israel, in the heart of the Middle East, is unshakable.


GOLD: Now, all today, it feels as though Israeli officials have been in damage control, briefing reporters left and right about how the relationship is fine. One official who I was speaking to, along with another group of reporters, said, this isn't a crisis, it's a two out of 10 on the real crisis. Everything is fine.

But he did chide the United States, saying that a democracy should let other democracies figure it out, but still trying to say, everything is fine, this isn't a crisis. But still, at the end of the day, Benjamin Netanyahu has not received an invitation to go to the White House. It doesn't seem as though one is coming anytime soon.

And the opposition leaders are really going after Netanyahu. Yair Lapid, the former prime minister, now opposition leader, tweeting, "For decades, Israel was the USA's closest ally. The most extreme government in the country's history has ruined that in just three months." Wolf?

BLITZER: Hadas Gold in Jerusalem for us. Hadas, thank you very much.

Let's continue the discussion right now with a contributing correspondent for Axios, Barak Ravid, he's joining us from Tel Aviv. Barak, thanks so much for joining us. One far right minister says Israel is not another star on the American flag. How is President Biden's message going over in Israel more broadly right now?

BARAK RAVID, CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: Well, I think, Wolf, as, you know, even better than me, you know, for the average Israeli, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is a big deal. Israelis have family members in America. This relationship is really deep and really strong.

And this is why, when an Israeli prime minister doesn't get along with the President of the United States, when there's a crisis, it matters for Israelis. And also Benjamin Netanyahu is a veteran when it comes to crisis and tensions with U.S. presidents.

He didn't get along with President Clinton, didn't get along with President Obama. Even President Trump used the F word at the end of his presidency towards Netanyahu. And now Joe Biden, you know, it would have been a surprise if we wouldn't have this conversation.

BLITZER: Is Netanyahu, Barak, at the point where he'll actually back down in order to get, for example, a White House meeting with President Biden?

RAVID: I think Netanyahu is sort of in the middle of deciding where he wants to go. On the one hand, he suspended the legislation. On the other hand, today he called on his supporters to come to a pro- judicial reform demonstration in Tel Aviv tomorrow. So it's not very clear where he wants to go.

I think the Israeli opposition that started negotiating with his advisers is very hesitant and very suspicious about his real intentions. And I think it will take some time, at least a week or two, to know if this suspension of the bill is real in order to get a deal, or it's just a trick in order to kill the protest and then try again in a few weeks to pass this legislation.

BLITZER: On that point, Barak, if Netanyahu is actually simply gearing up to push through this judicial overall down the road, could it actually wind up toppling his leadership and his government?

RAVID: I think that until now, in the last three months since he was sworn in, this judicial overhaul really took control over his agenda. This was not his stated intention when he came back to office. And actually, it is really eating away into his political legacy that had quite a lot of good things, like building the Israeli economy in the tech sector, like the Abram Accords, like the security of Israel.


But the fact that he's consumed in this judicial overhaul, that it's not really going anywhere. It's only creating problems for the economy, for the military, for the international standing of Israel, and it is really eating away at his legacy.

BLITZER: But how much is Netanyahu actually beholden to the far right in his government right now? RAVID: Well, you know, we have to remember, he chose to form a government with those people, with the racist, with the Jewish supremacist, with the misogynist. It was his decision to go into a government with them. And, you know, he can only blame himself for being now a hostage of the really most crazy, radical and extremist elements in Israeli politics.

And, you know, he people around him are telling him, his advisers are telling him, just, you know, just say no. Every time when those crazies come to you and try to blackmail you, just say no because they have no other alternative. Somebody like Bezalel Smotrich, (INAUDIBLE) of Finance, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, where are they going to go? They have more power than they ever dreamed of. And if they're not in government, they'll be back in opposition.

BLITZER: Yes. In the process, U.S.-Israeli relations are suffering and Israel's relationship with the American-Jewish community is suffering as well. Barak Ravid, thank you very much for joining us.

Coming up --

RAVID: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- we're waiting for the start of a vigil in Nashville where the First Lady and others will honor the six lives lost in that mass shooting at the Covenant School.

Plus, the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, she will join me live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM as the Biden White House pleads for Congress to act on gun reform.



BLITZER: As U.S. drug overdose deaths are hovering near record levels right now, the opioid antidote Narcan will become available on store shelves for the first time. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has the details on this major approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Elizabeth, this will now be widely available. How easy is it to use?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if it's really easy to use, it's just a nose spray and it's very, very effective at reversing opioid overdoses. Now, right now you can get it without a prescription, but you have to ask the pharmacist for it. It's behind the pharmacist counter. And that's a problem because people don't know it's there or they're too embarrassed to ask for it.

What's going to happen soon is that it'll be available just over the counter, just right there on the shelf next to the shampoo or next to the aspirin. It'll be just right out there. Let's take a look at why this is so important. If you take a look at this graph, these are opioid deaths from 1999 until 2021.

As you can see, they have just skyrocketed. In 2021, there were more than 80,000 opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. If you look from 1999 to 2016, about 9,000 children and teens died from opioid overdoses.

So Wolf, the two questions that remain is, one, why didn't they do this sooner? People were calling for this to be done years ago. And two, what will the cost be? If the cost is high, even though it's over the counter, many people won't be able to buy it. Wolf?

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much for that report.

Meanwhile, a new and very important book provides an eye opening look at how the Trump years drastically have reshaped the U.S. Supreme Court and why this change will have consequences for generations to come here in the United States.

CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic is joining us right now. She's the author of this really excellent new book, "Nine Black Robes" -- here it is -- "Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences."

Joan, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks for writing this really important book. And one thing, I -- you know, in going through the book, you have some real news on the impact that former President Trump had on the U.S. Supreme Court. Not just three conservative justices that he named, but also about his behind the scenes activities.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It's so true, Wolf. And first of all, thanks for having me. Donald Trump had an outsized impact on this court. You know, just think of how much disdain he had shown the judiciary from the start. Even when he was running for president, he tried to deride a judge as a Mexican judge.

And then he had that unprecedented clash with the president over the chief justice, over Obama judges. So he was always putting pressure on the Supreme Court. And Chief Justice John Roberts responded to that. He did not want the Supreme Court to look as polarized as the other two branches were.

So he worked behind the scenes to try to minimize the five, four rulings that would pit the Republican appointees against the Democratic appointees. He tried to provide off ramps for cases. When I went back and reexamined cases, tried to deconstruct what went on behind the scenes, I could see how much the chief was maneuvering to offset the pressure from the Trump effect.

And he was able to do that. He was able to do that up until late 2020, when all of a sudden, we had a supermajority with the departure -- the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the addition of Amy Coney Barrett. Until then, he really could control everything and try to counteract the Trump effect. That era is over, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are the justices at all sensitive to their declining approval rating right now? And if they are, what are they doing about it?


BISKUPIC: Well, you know, the whole legitimacy question takes place out in the public realm, as well as behind the scenes. You have justices like Elena Kagan saying the way to seem legitimate is to not vote along political lines. The chief says people complain about the court only because they don't like the rulings, but the truth is that they are divided inside over how to kind of address the idea of their legitimacy, should they have a formal ethics code.

The chief has been trying to do that behind the scenes, but, you know, they don't have a unanimity on that. They don't even have a clear majority yet. And I don't think we're going to see a formal ethics code for a while because they're so divided.

BLITZER: This is really an important book. "Nine Black Robes: Inside The Supreme Court's Drive To The Right And Its Historic Consequences."

Joan Biskupic, thanks so much for writing this really important book.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

BLITZER: Everyone should read it. Appreciate it very much.


BLITZER: We will all learn a lot from reading this.

Coming up, we're awaiting a vigil for the six victims of the national school shooting. The service scheduled to start soon, with First Lady Jill Biden among those paying their respects.