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The Situation Room
Nashville Council Votes To Reinstate Ousted State Lawmaker; Police Identify Bank Gunman, Say He Was Live Streaming Attack; Justice Department Asks Appeals Court To Freeze Block On Abortion Pill; U.S. Officially Declares "Wall Street Journal" Reporter As "Wrongfully Detained By Russia"; Senate Judiciary Democrats Call For Supreme Court Probe Of Justice Thomas. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 10, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, as Nashville rallies behind him, an African-American Democrat expelled from the Republican-led Tennessee statehouse was just reappointed. We're standing by for lawmakers to reconvene at this pivotal moment in a partisan fight that began with a gun control protest.
Also tonight, an employee opens fire at a Louisville bank killing four people and leaving nine others injured. We're learning more about the now dead shooter, the note he left behind and how he live streamed the attack as it was happening.
And new moves to freeze a ruling that could block access to a widely used abortion pill starting this week. The U.S. Justice Department asking a federal appeals court to intervene and slamming at Texas judge's, quote, misguided assessment of the pill's safety.
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 get right to the breaking news, one of two African American Democrats ousted from the Tennessee statehouse is getting his job back.
CNN's Ryan young is joining us live from Nashville right now where rallies clearly are already underway. Ryan, vote to reappoint State Representative Justin Jones happened only minutes ago. What's happening now?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're in the middle of this crowd right now. You can see the representative standing here at the top of the Capitol getting ready to go back into the statehouse. He stopped here, so he's getting ready to speak to the crowd.
Wolf, if you saw the crowd and how large it was to march from city hall to this location, there are hundreds of people who filed him back to the statehouse. Now, this is the moment he's going to talk. So, hold on, Wolf.
STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): Today, we're setting a resounding message that democracy will not be killed in the comfort of silence. Today, we send a clear message to Speaker Cameron Sexton that the people will not allow his crimes against democracy to happen without challenge. The people of Nashville have spoken today through their council members and democracy. We stand for the vision of a multiracial democracy. Democracy is our -- the vision we're offering to this body, this building that has forgotten it.
And so we're waiting now for the minutes from the city council meeting, but I want to thank everybody for coming out, the thousands of people from across the state and across this nation who showed up. Because this is not about one person, it's not about one position, but it's about a movement of people power to restore the soul and heart of what this building should represent, and that is democracy.
And so I want to thank you all for being here today, particularly the young people who are the heartbeat of this movement. It was students walking out of classes and taking to this Capitol that led us into the well that day calling for common sense gun laws, and the first thing I do when I walk into this building as a representative is to continue that call for common sense gun legislation.
Secondly, we are calling on House Speaker Cameron Sexton to resign as speaker of the House. He is an enemy of democracy and the people have spoken. And so we'll continue to speak up and resist and show up because this is the rebirth, the resurrection of a movement in Tennessee that's going to keep going not just today, but in the days ahead. We will continue to show out in berth a new south because, right here in Nashville, we've had movements before, led by young people that transformed this nation and is our time again, forward together, not one step back.
YOUNG: Justin, what has this meant to you to have the support? Justin what has this -- this kind of support, what has this meant to you?
JONES: It just shows that our movement is bigger than one person, that it's thousands of people from across the nation and literally across the world who showed up today to stand in solidarity with the crime that happened here in Tennessee and people are resisting. People are showing up. People are calling us to act and the decision to expel us yesterday was not the final decision -- excuse me, on Thursday was not the final decision, that they try to crucify democracy but you see here a resurrection of a movement, a multiracial movement for democracy happening in Tennessee, with my brother Pearson.
YOUNG: Justin Pearson, how are you doing, sir? Good to see you.
STATE REP. JUSTIN PEARSON (D-TN): Great to see you again.
YOUNG: What does this say, to see this happen?
PEARSON: Yes. Democracy still works and people power always wins.
YOUNG: What's the joint message that you all want to send to the to the nation right now who's watching this about maybe not giving up in a movement? PEARSON: It is never a good idea to give up on the movement led morally right. It is never a good idea to give up on the movement led by people that look like this who are committed to the ideals, but not just committed in heart but in body and spirit, and they'll show up for the movement.
They'll protest for the movement. They'll fight for the movement. And so to anyone who has doubted the south, anyone who's doubted the power of Tennesseans advocate for an end to gun violence, anybody who's doubted the movement to end assault weapons ban, anybody who's doubted the movement. here's your answer. The movement still lives.
I'll say a couple of things. They thought that they could turn our democracy into their Mobocracy. They thought that they could turn the people's chamber and the people's House into their own place of pontificating of a status quo that harms and kills us. They thought that if they could expel the voice of the people, that the people would not rise. They thought that if they could kick out Representative Justin Jones, that he would never again be Representative Justin Jones. But they were wrong.
And today, what we see is that having a moral center matters, having a vision for this state and this country that says justice is possible matters, having a voice and a vision in the statehouse that will choose to even get expelled in order that the vision that each and every one of us hold within our hearts of a pluralistic, multiracial, multiethnic, multi-economic democracy might live is way more powerful than the NRA or the gun lobbyists or anybody who told us we just need to shut up and sit down.
Because, indeed, what the Nashville Metro Council has done with a unanimous decision and sending Brother Representative Justin Jones back into his calling as an elected official, is that justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream. It will happen. You might try and silence it. You might try and expel it, but the people's power will not be stopped. The people power will not be stopped. The people power will not be stopped, because this is what democracy looks like.
YOUNG: Hey, Wolf. You heard the powerful words from the two members and obviously they are wrapping up right now. We are told the plan right now is to go inside the building there waiting for the minutes from the city council. Once they receive those minutes, then they will march toward that Capitol go back inside, and Jones plans to get his seat back. So, this is all happening right now.
I got to show you this crowd about this direction, as far as the eye can see. You can see people going all the way down the stairs. So, they plan to do a moment of silence, for them for the mass shooting that happened in Louisville today. So, that's what they're going to mark this moment. It's all about gun control.
BLITZER: All right. Ryan, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who's watching this very, very closely. Jeff, your reaction, first of all, to what we just heard?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it's extraordinary, really the speed in which the Nashville council unanimously sent former Representative Jones back to his seat temporarily. This is a two-step process. He's going to have to run for his seat again. But, Wolf, what it shows is that he now is something of a hero to the gun control movement, to youth activists, of course in Tennessee, but indeed across the country as well.
So, it really raises the question of what was this all for anyway. What did the speaker of the Tennessee House and his fellow Republicans do last week and was that in the best interest, in their best interest? It certainly has not moved forward the conversation about this epidemic of gun violence in the country in neighboring Kentucky. We saw again today, of course, another shooting.
So this, of course, the politics of this are very important. It shows that the youth activism is alive and well, and this movement of people standing up from across the spectrum, young and old, really pushing force the elected officials to do something on guns is going to continue regardless of what the elected officials do in terms of decorum or whatnot.
So, it really just resumes perhaps the conversation about the guns, but we should be honest here. It is unlikely that any individual shooting will have an impact. It's going to take a collective movement here and I think that's what we're seeing. We're seeing this right in the middle of this.
BLITZER: Yes. Jeff, stand by for a second. Ryan, if you can hear me, I'm anxious to get your perspective. You're there on the scene for us. How remarkable is it for a state representative to be expelled and then reinstated by his city just a few days later?
YOUNG: Well, when you hear about some of the state representatives who weren't kicked out before for offenses that are far greater than the ones that happened here, you understand why so many people here are upset.
I remember Jeff Zeleny a few days ago talking about John Lewis and how this kind of ties together. These young men are taking examples from John Lewis and Dr. King and they're using them. It's one of the reasons why they wanted to walk up John Lewis and Dr. King Street on the way up here. They are leaning heavily on the old civil rights movement.
I can tell you as you see everybody right now, as they're getting ready to go in, we were just told the minutes from the city council have arrived, Wolf. So, now this walk is getting ready to take place where all these people plan to escort the representative back into the people's House.
I don't know if I have everything seen anything play out like this, but you can see this groundswell of emotion as people started walking this way. So, we're going to try to catch up to the front. That way, we can be there when he walks in the front door.
Not sure if he will be met by any sign of security, is there any procedure that has to go on? No one has really ever experienced this before. And you saw that vote happened so quickly there in the city hall.
BLITZER: All right, Ryan, go ahead. Catch up with them. We'll get back to you shortly.
Jeff, while I still have you did this -- and you seem to suggest it did -- did this whole procedure actually backfire on Republicans? Did they essentially give these two state representatives and even bigger platform and a much greater following?
ZELENY: I think they absolutely did and really shined a light on the fact that the Tennessee legislature is one of many bodies that simply has not even debated or heard solutions or discussions on guns. So, yes, in the short-term, without a doubt, they have given a bigger platform and also really shined a light on the reality of racism that still exists on the reality of the -- essentially saying to young activists that you don't belong here, we're going to handle things in our own way.
The speed in which this happened, this was just a few days ago last week when they were expelled. Of course, they're coming back in. But, Wolf, what we're seeing again as yet another example of this urban and rural divide, this red and blue divide in the country. So, for the politics of this, I'm not sure, sadly, this is going to solve anything in terms of advancing an actual discussion on solving the underlying issue of guns and murders in this country.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, standby, Ryan Young, standby as well. We're going to continue to monitor this developing situation. That's coming up.
Also coming up, our new reporting on the deadly shooting at a Louisville bank and how the gunman was put on notice that he would be fired. Stay with us, lots of news unfolding right now. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: All right. We're watching those dramatic developments that just unfolded in Nashville, and you can see you can see in Louisville right now the police are piecing together -- We'll forget about that. Let's talk a little bit about Justin Jones, the state representative. He has just -- he is just now being sworn in only moments ago, being sworn in as the new state representative after he was expelled a few days ago because he was protesting in favor of gun reform. And Republicans in the state legislature expelled him, but now he's being -- he was just voted by the city council there to be reinstated in Nashville. And now he's just been sworn in, a very, very dramatic development, indeed. Not too far away from Nashville, in Louisville, tonight, police are piecing together clues about the potential motive in the deadly shooting at a bank. CNN has learned that the gunman who worked at that bank was put on notice that he would be fired.
Here is CNN's Omar Jimenez.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, police revealing new details about the shooter who killed four people and injured nine others at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky.
INTERIM CHIEF JACQUELYN GWINN-VILLARCE, LOUISVILLE METRO POLICE: Officers were on scene within three minutes. The suspect shot at officers. We then returned fire and stopped that threat.
JIMENEZ: Law enforcement revealing the name of the suspect who was also an employee of the bank.
GWINN-VILLARCE: The suspect has been identified as Connor Sturgeon, white male, 23 years of age.
JIMENEZ: And had live streamed the attack, according to police.
GWINN-VILLARCE: The suspect was live streaming. And, unfortunately, that's tragic, to know that that incident was out there and captured.
JIMENEZ: A law enforcement source telling CNN the shooter had also learned he was going to be fired and wrote a note to his parents and a friend indicating that he was going to shoot at the bank. Louisville's head of police solemnly reading the names of the victims at an afternoon press conference.
GWINN-VILLARCE: Tommy Elliott. 63 years of age. Jim Tutt, 64 years of age. Josh Barrick, 40 years of age. And Juliana Farmer, 57.
JIMENEZ: Among those injured in the attack, two police officers, including a rookie cop just days into the job.
GWINN-VILLARCE: The officer who is in critical condition today, Officer Nickolas Wilt, 26 years of age, just graduated from the Police Academy on March 31st. I just swore him in and his family was there to witness his journey to become a police officer. He was struck in the head.
JIMENEZ: That officer tonight out of surgery, in critical but in stable condition.
The shock of the attack also felt at the highest levels of the state's government, one of the victims known to the mayor and governor.
MAYOR CRAIG GREENBERG (D-LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY): One of them was Tommy Elliott, a very good friend of mine, of the governor's. GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Tommy Elliott helped me build my law career, helped me become governor, gave me advice on being a good dad. He was an incredible friend
JIMENEZ: Officials say the gunmen used an AR-15 style rifle in the attack. Investigators are still trying to establish a motive, as the governor paid tribute to those lost today.
BESHEAR: To honor those who have fallen and asked so many families grieve, I'm ordering our flags statewide fly it half staff until Friday.
JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, one coworker tells CNN she witnessed it all through a meeting, virtually, saying that shortly after the meeting started, a gunman burst into the conference room and started shooting. To use her words, I witnessed people being murdered. I don't know how else to say that.
As for those that are still recovering, three have been released from the hospital, according to University of Louisville Hospital officials, three remain in non-critical condition and three are still in critical condition, including that police officer. But, significantly, hospital officials say that no one they've treated at the hospital so far, Wolf, has died, but obviously that's something that people know can change very quickly, Wolf. So, it's something people are keeping a sensitive eye on.
BLITZER: And it's so, so heartbreaking to hear these stories. Omar Jimenez on the scene for us in Louisville, thank you very much.
I want to bring in CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller along with CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, the former Philadelphia police commissioner, also the former police chief here in Washington D.C.
John, let me start with you. You reported on this note the gunman left behind, and there's also the live streamed video of the attack. How are authorities combing through all of this as they investigate?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, they'll take a look at that note. The note, we are told by law enforcement sources, was addressed to the shooter's parents and to his best friend and that will go to the FBI's behavioral science people in all likelihood to see what they can glean from it. That is likely going to be a note of explanation because it's to his parents and his friend, maybe a note of about being sorry about what's about to happen.
The video is another story. That's a more aggressive way of telling the story on the shooter's part, which is, you know, the offender characteristics in these cases are usually someone who feels marginalized, who feels weak, who feels unheard. The video is a way of live streaming the shooting to an audience so they can say, now, I'm in charge, now, my problems are being fixed, now, the people I blame for my problems are going to pay.
It's what my intelligence analysts in the NYPD coined a phrase for. They called it dying live. It was kind of the final act in rewriting the life story of one of these people.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, how challenging is it for law enforcement when even a rapid response team, and this particular case, within three minutes here still isn't fast enough against an AR-15 style rifle?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's very challenging. I mean, Andy McCabe mentioned previously that you were always behind, and he's absolutely right. That first shot has already been fired by the time the 911 call comes in. And so it just goes to show that even with a quick response, and this one was exceptionally quick, less than three minutes, that weapon is so devastating that there're still a lot of lives that will be lost.
But on the other hand, their rapid response saved an awful lot of lives. There's no question about that. Had they not responded as quickly as they did, there's no telling how many people would have been seriously wounded or even killed.
BLITZER: It's so heartbreaking that these mass shootings seem to be taking place almost every day. Charles Ramsey, John Miller, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, the legal battle over a judge's ruling to suspend abortion pills, that legal battle is heating up right now. We'll break down the U.S. Justice Department's appeal to keep the pills on the market and where the case goes from here.
BLITZER: All right. Take a look at these live pictures from inside the Tennessee State Capitol, where Representative Justin Jones was just sworn back in.
I want to go back to CNN's Ryan Young. He's on the scene for us. He's inside the Capitol. Set the scene for us what's happening now, Ryan.
YOUNG: Wolf, he was sworn in on the Capitol stairs, and now you're looking at the moment where he's getting ready to walk back into that chamber that just said a prayer and were singing songs outside. I have never seen someone sort of sworn in on the steps. There were loud cheers. You also see fellow Representative Johnson, who was up for that vote before, standing next with him, getting ready to go back into chamber, where we're told those representatives are having their meeting today. It is the first day of an official gathering since that moment where this expulsion happened.
So, you can see all these folks standing around and they are now being held at this door, Wolf, getting ready to go back in for the first time after this emotional few days and all these people from around the country who have rallied behind this young man after what happened from paramilitary move, where he was basically thrown out of office, and now, after what Nashville has done, put him back into power, and hours later, he's getting ready to go.
BLITZER: It's a very, very fast moving development, indeed, very impressive, I must say. All right, we're going to stay on top of this. Standby, Ryan, we're going to get back to you, as more developments unfold.
But there's other important news unfolding tonight. The U.S. Justice Department is asking an appeals court to hit pause on a Texas judge's order to suspend abortion medication pills.
Our Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic is joining us right now. She is the author of the brand new book entitled, Nine Black Robes, Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences.
Joan, walk us through, first of all, this high-stakes legal battle.
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, it is a high-stakes legal battle. It's the first big case that's on a path to the Supreme Court since last June's ruling reversing Roe v. Wade and eliminating a constitutional right to abortion nationwide.
But it's important to know that the Supreme Court did not outlaw abortion throughout the country, and, in fact, many states still allow it. And the most common method of abortion is this medication abortion pill that's at issue in these cases. It also involves FDA approval of a drug that dates back to the year 2000. FDA expertise in this, the judge from Texas last Friday, rejected and invalidated it.
So, the judge put his ruling against the FDA and this drug on hold for seven days, and today, the Department of Justice went to the Fifth Circuit Regional Court of Appeals to say, give us a little more time to let appeals in this case go forward. Eventually, it will probably go to the Supreme Court where, as I say, it's a different kind of case, and I actually think because of what it involves, FDA authority and expertise over medicine and drugs in America, it has a stronger chance probably to prevail than what happened when we had the Dobbs case in the summer. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Joan, I want you to stand by. I also want to bring in our Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers, our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and our Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
Jennifer, the Justice Department is criticizing the Texas judge's what they called misguided assessment of the abortion pill's safety and saying the plaintiffs don't have legal standing here. What's your assessment of the Justice Department's argument in this appeal?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the Justice Department has a very strong argument here, Wolf. There are many vulnerabilities in this opinion. Standing is one. There's a statute of limitations argument. But the strongest argument is just on the merits. I mean, the notion that a 23-year-old approval process that has gone through again and again studies showing that it's safe and effective is now being called into question is ludicrous.
So, I think DOJ has a very strong argument on appeal. I think they'll get a stay for the rest of the litigation. And, hopefully, this will be overturned.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, how worried are doctors right now, based on your reporting, about the possible legal blowback for prescribing this medication?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're very worried. We don't exactly know what the penalties would be if this Texas judge's order lasts. We don't know what that will be. But we do know that for abortion bans that are already in place, that there are heavy criminal fines, prison fines, penalties, doctors are so worried that they won't even do an abortion when a fetus has died. That's how worried they are.
And remember that 53 percent of abortions in the U.S. are medication abortion. They are done with pills. And when you think about this ruling, let's put but in this context, it has been shown to be safe and effective, used safely for 23 years. If you look at deaths per million patients, it is way safer than common drugs, such as Penicillin and Viagra. Wolf?
BLITZER: Very significant numbers, indeed.
Gloria, Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace made news, important news, in an interview with our Kaitlan Collins earlier today, saying she agrees with Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that the FDA should ignore this ruling. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): This is an FDA-approved drug. I support the usage of FDA-approved drugs, even if we might disagree. It's not up to us to decide as legislators or even, you know, as the court system that whether or not this is the right drug to use or not, number one. So, I agree with ignoring it at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, Gloria, what do you make of Congresswoman Mace's stance against this ruling?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The Congresswoman is a pro-life Republican. And I think she is trying to kind of get away from this issue, like lots of other Republicans. She's just been more public about it.
She has said that the Republican Party has not been compassionate enough towards women after the Dobbs decision. And so the Republican Party finds itself in a very difficult position. They're kind of like the dog who caught the car. If you're pro-life, you won.
What do you do next?
And what they're finding out is that seven and ten Americans, for example, support the abortion pill, a majority support the right to choose, and so the party is kind of figuring out what their next steps are. And it's very, very difficult for them because they understand, and that's why you haven't seen vocal outcry here, you know, they understand that the public is not with them on this issue. And they're not quite sure how to walk away from an issue or be quiet about an issue that has been animating for the Republican Party for more than a couple of decades.
BLITZER: Yes, it certainly has been. All right, guys, thank you very, very much. Just ahead how much damage was done by the stunning leak of classified Pentagon documents revealing intelligence on Ukraine and much, much more? The former Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper will share his insights. That's coming up.
And we continue to follow the breaking news out of Nashville right now. Democrats Justin Jones reinstated only moments ago.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're continuing to follow the very important breaking news out of Nashville right now. Take a look at these live pictures inside the Tennessee statehouse after State Lawmaker Justin Jones was sworn in just moments ago, reinstated after he was ousted by Republicans over a protest in favor of gun control. We're monitoring this story. We'll stay on top of it and update us new developments unfold.
Other important news we're following right now, urgent investigations, very urgent investigations are underway into the leak of classified Pentagon documents exposing U.S. intelligence on its adversaries and its allies. Defense officials acknowledged they're still assessing the scope and the scale of the leak and the damage.
CNN's Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is working the story for us. He's here with us right now. How aggressively are officials working to get to the bottom of this?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials, Wolf, tell us that they are taking this extremely seriously, the Pentagon saying today that they're working around the clock. This is clearly the most significantly leak of classified documents in years, and it is particularly worrisome because the information contained in these documents is so recent.
And because these documents appear to come from the U.S. military, it is the Department of Defense that is taking the lead in terms of trying to figure out what happened here, how these documents were leaked and put online.
The Department of Justice has launched their own criminal investigation because these are the classified documents that were posted online. But there is now, we are told, an interagency process. So, agencies from across the U.S. federal government, they're coming together to try to figure out the scale and the scope of the damage being led by the Department of Defense, trying to figure out what in terms of U.S. national security was harmed but also how allies were affected.
But, Wolf, the Pentagon admitting today that four days after these documents came to light, weeks after these documents were first posted online, there's still a lot that they don't know. They don't know who took these out of any kind of secure space, who posted them online, how they were leaked and how many more are out there.
So, this is something that they're obviously digging into. It is something that they are trying to figure out. They want the answers, allies want answers and congressional oversight committees want answers. We know that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have asked for briefings. And today, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee got one and said that it is very concerning what is in these documents.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are very, very worried about it. Alex, thank you very, very much, Alex Marquardt reporting for us.
I want to get some more analysis right now from the former Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper. He is a CNN national security analyst. General Clapper, thanks so much for joining us.
How worried are intelligence officials tonight about the compromised sources and methods?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, that's always a concern in an instance like this whenever you have a breach of sense of classified information. It is early in this and so we don't know if there are other similar catches of classified information posted elsewhere in social media.
And, unfortunately, there was a history of this in this country. So, we do have a basis for some historical comparison. And the one previous instance that comes to my mind, most readily, of course, is the revelations of Edward Snowden, which came out publicly almost ten years ago in June of 2013.
From what I have seen, and, again, I was always stressed I don't have any inside baseball here, it would appear to me, though, that this is not a serious breach, at least from what we know publicly so far, as was the case with Edward Snowden. The volume and technical detail of what he revealed far more damaging over the long-term than this appears to be. A lot of this is current data, current intelligence, which, over time, will age off.
BLITZER: I've taken a closer, a close look at some of these leaked documents, and one thing that jumped out at me immediately was the new light they shed on U.S. spying on friendly countries, friendly allies, including, for example, South Korea, Israel and Ukraine. How much does this harm those key relationships?
CLAPPER: Well, it does so temporarily. And we had the exactly the same thing happened because of Snowden's revelations, where, you know, I'm shocked, they're spying here, and it was revealed that the U.S. spies on both foes and friends. Well, everybody does. Nations behave and conduct such activities when it is in their national interests.
Now, in my case, I had some pretty tough meetings with counterparts and the immediate aftermath of the Snowden revelations.
But most nations who deal with us in the intelligence realm realize how important that relationship is, and we'll get by the temporary setback and get on with business. So, yeah, it's temporarily -- on the temporary basis, it's awkward, embarrassing hard to deal with, but over the long term, I don't think it's going to do a lot of damage.
BLITZER: We shall see.
James Clapper, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, a new move by the United States and in response to Russia's arrested an American journalist accused of espionage.
BLITZER: The United States is taking a new step tonight, an important one, to protest Russia's arrest of an American journalist. The State Department formally declaring "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich as wrongfully detained.
CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is following the story for us.
She's over at the State Department.
Kylie, so what is this designation actually mean for the push to free Gershkovich?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, listen, it means a few things. First of all, Wolf, it means that the U.S. government believes there's no reason, no legitimate reason for Russia to have arrested Evan Gershkovich and to have charged him with espionage.
Essentially, they believe he's being held as a political pawn. The second -- the State Department deputy spokesperson saying today, journalism is not a crime. And now that they have this designation formally handed out, it means that Evan Gershkovich's case is going to be handled at the State Department, by the special envoy for hostage affairs and that will unleash the U.S. government to put forth all of the resources possible to try and secure his release as soon as possible.
BLITZER: So far, Russia is still denying us consular access to Gershkovich, right?
ATWOOD: Yeah, they are, and what that means is consular access is when diplomats are able to visit the U.S. official -- the U.S. citizen who is actually in jail. It's required by the Vienna Convention. Russia has not allowed U.S. diplomats to visit Evan Gershkovich. He's now been in jail for almost two weeks in Russia.
We should note that he has been visited by lawyers who are representing him on behalf of "The Wall Street Journal". They have reported that he is in good health, but the fact that he hasn't been visited by U.S. officials is really concerning the State Department is pushing for that that we should note that it's pretty typical that Russia tries to keep out U.S. officials for as long as possible when Brittney Griner was detained by Russians last year. It was months before she was able to gain consular access, see U.S. diplomats while she was in prison -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kylie, thank you very, very much. We, of course, will stay on top of this story. Very important story, indeed. Kylie over at the State Department.
This note to our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", right after THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll have much more on the Louisville, Kentucky shooting. Erin will speak with local officials who lost a good friend in the shooting. That's coming up right at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
And just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the growing pressure on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas over undisclosed trips he took with a Republican donor. Key Democrats are making new demands tonight. We'll share those details with you. That's coming up next.
BLITZER: Tonight, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are pushing for a U.S. Supreme Court investigation of Justice Clarence Thomas. This comes after revelations that Thomas took luxury trips with the Republican megadonor, trips he failed to disclose.
Our Brian Todd is following the fallout for us.
Brian, Democrats are already turning up the heat on Thomas, including a new call for him to be impeached.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. That call coming from Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, part of a multi- pronged offensive from Democrats tonight, seeking some kind of accountability from Justice Thomas.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Democratic lawmakers tonight, putting more pressure on Justice Clarence Thomas over luxury trips he didn't disclose.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez calling for accountability for Thomas.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): It's the House's responsibility to pursue that investigation in the form of impeachment.
TODD: With a Republican-controlled House, an impeachment of Justice Thomas is very unlikely. But top Democratic lawmakers are pressing Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): If Justice Roberts cares about the integrity of this court, and I believe he does, he needs to prove it with a thorough and complete investigation of what occurred.
TODD: The investigative news organization, "ProPublica", reports that Justice Thomas and his wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, have gone on lavish trips subsidized, at least in part by Harlan Crow, a Dallas billionaire who's a big Republican donor.
They've gone to a volcanic archipelago in Indonesia stayed at several high end properties owned by Crow, the report says, and have traveled around on Crow's super yacht and his private jet.
JUSTIN ELLIOTT, REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: We found this has been going on for more than 20 years and, you know, stretches back to the 1990s.
TODD: Thomas in a recent documentary which "ProPublica" says was funded partly by Harlan Crow said he had modest taste in vacation spots.
SUPREME CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT: I prefer the RV parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that. There's something normal to me about it.
TODD: But in reality, according to "ProPublica", this is where Thomas sometimes stayed. A stone lodge on the water in the Adirondacks in Upstate New York, owned by Harlan Crow.
With the exception of one trip in 1997, "ProPublica" says Thomas didn't disclose any of these trips on ethics filings.
Thomas issued a statement saying he was advised he didn't have to report them. But watchdog groups say some laws and ethics rules were likely broken.
DONALD SHERMAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHIGNTON: Here is this billionaire who's got lots of rich friends and can court the justice and bring his friends who are CEO to potentially influence the justice with his lavish gifts and trips and other benefits.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (on camera): Now, will the Supreme Court investigate or discipline Clarence Thomas in any way? Chief Justice John Roberts did not respond to CNN's request for comment.
In a statement to "ProPublica", Harlan Crow said, quote: Justice Thomas and Ginni Thomas never asked for any of this hospitality. We never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one, end quote -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, how is the Chief Justice John roberts addressed these sorts of controversies in the past?
TODD: We know that Senator Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has said recently, he has written letters to Justice Roberts asking about potential conflicts not only involving Justice Thomas but others, and asking whether the Supreme Court needs to do more to police itself. Roberts according to Durbin, wrote him back a terse letter saying they really didn't need to do that. But they're under more and more pressure to do that now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yeah. We'll stay on top of that story as well, Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.