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Source Says, Plans Under Way for Biden to Announce Second Term Bid Next Week; New Details on Extensive Notes Left by Louisville Bank Gunman; Prosecutors to Drop Charges Against Alec Baldwin in Rust Shooting; Prosecutors to Drop Charges Against Alec Baldwin in "Rust" Shooting; NATO Chief Says Ukraine's "Rightful Place" is in Alliance; Democratic Senate Judiciary Chair Invites Chief Justice John Roberts to Testify on Supreme Court Ethics. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 20, 2023 - 18:00   ET


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing growing pushback within his own party over his new plan to raise the debt limit. We're following this critical test for the speaker, for Congress and for the president as the clock ticks towards a potential economic crisis.

Also tonight, Alec Baldwin's attorney says criminal charges against the actor are being dropped a year-and-a-half after the deadly accidental shooting on the set of his film, Rust.

And Trump ally and My Pillow Chief Mike Lindell has been ordered to pay $5 million in connection with his false claims about the 2020 election.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Alex Marquardt, and you're in The Situation Room.

But we do begin with breaking news out of the White House. CNN Senior Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is here with details. Phil, what are you learning?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, we have known for several months that President Biden was planning on running for re-election, but they have not named a timeline. It was unclear when that announcement would actually be made. We now know there are plans underway inside the White House amongst Biden's close advisers to announce as soon as next week on Tuesday via campaign- style video.

Now, keep in mind, over the course of the last several months, the behind the scenes effort to build the infrastructure of the campaign to get things ready to go for that re-election effort has been very much underway in a very intensive manner. The president, the first lady have also been significantly engaged in that process throughout. But the timing of that announcement, which the president said late last year would come very soon in the New Year, seemed to continue to slip and be pushed, that may be nearing an end. Now, officials, people familiar with the matter cautioned that there is no final decision yet, the timing could slip, but the importance of the anniversary, the four-year anniversary of Biden's announcement in 2019 that he was going to run for president and what he has done over that period of time, both in that campaign and his first two-plus years in office is something that the president, we're told, is quite fond of. It also comes just a few days before top White House officials are expected to welcome top donors to President Biden to Washington, D.C. for a multiday conference, kind of laying the groundwork for what's to come.

So, this was expected. The president week in Ireland made clear that he had made the decision, that the decision and the announcement we're coming relatively soon. Now, even though things are not totally finalized, Alex, it looks like that maybe as soon as early next week on Tuesday.

MARQUARDT: And, Phil, the Republican race has been heating up, all kinds of candidates jostling, whether they're officially announced or not, but it seems like the White House has kind of been slow-walking this. They haven't really felt as much pressure to get into this race, instead letting the Republicans stay in the spotlight.

MATTINGLY: I think that's a really critical point. When you talk to people that are involved in the planning for this, the urgency or complete lack thereof has been a critical part of this. They don't see any significant real, primary challenges on the Democratic side of things. They believe fundraising will be there whenever they decide to launch.

And in the meantime, there has been a pretty, I think, visceral battle between the top two Republican candidates. They obviously have very real legislative agenda and battles and divided government on Capitol Hill with the president's day job here. So, the urgency of trying to launch, to try and either close out potential competitors, or trying to lay the groundwork for a general election battle, that's still more than a year away, just simply wasn't there.

However, the connectivity to that four-year anniversary, the reality that he's clearly planning to run again and wants to start getting things off the ground seems to be driving towards the possibility of this Tuesday announcement. So, we'll see, but, very clearly, the plans are underway, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Phil, stay with us. I want to bring in CNN Contributor Evan Osnos on more on this.

Evan, first, your reaction to what Phil was just saying, that President Biden appears to be not just wanting to run again but ready to get into this race.

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Well, as Phil said, you know, there has been a lot that has been sort of quietly going on behind the scenes, a lot of kicking beneath the surface of the water, meetings, plans about how this will actually unfold. There's obviously still some big question marks about what exactly we'll see on Tuesday, so I think it's important to be cautious about that.

But one of the key facts, and Phil mentioned this, is that, in some ways, I think the Biden team has been watching quite comfortably, confidently what's been happening on the GOP side. Look there's been tremendous churn and turbulence among GOP candidates and likely candidates.


You look at, for instance, Ron DeSantis' complex relationship with Disney and the way that that might be refracting through his image among Republican voters, and, of course, Donald Trump always remains in the news.

I think all of that has meant that they've been content to say, look, we can stay on the sidelines here doing the people's business, kind of staying in the on the governing side of things, because the moment that you announce, it changes the nature of the conversation around President Biden. He becomes once again candidate Biden, and that's a different kind of spotlight. So, in a sense, they didn't need to rush it and this four-year anniversary, in some ways, is a I kind of natural occasion if that's in fact what they choose to do.

MARQUARDT: All right. Evan, stay with me. I want to bring in our Abby Phillip. Abby, what do you think is going to be changing for the president as he gets ready to announce this after he's really been dragging his feet?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, honestly, I don't necessarily think that this will change a whole lot about President Biden's activities, about his strategy. I mean, when you look at the president's schedule over the last couple of weeks and months, you're seeing basically someone who was out there in battleground states touting his achievements, talking about the ways in which the legislation that has passed under Democratic leadership in Congress will benefit specific communities. These are all basically campaign stops in disguise.

So, I don't think a whole lot is going to change for President Biden. What I do think this allows him to do in some ways is more directly respond to the Republican opposition in more explicitly political terms and it might be that we will see more of a rhetorical change than we will see anything changing in terms of the president's schedule, or even how the White House operates. And, of course, the campaign apparatus has been churning along basically behind the scenes all along, so that will only continue and it will only accelerate.

We may also start to see, I think, more of a push to get Democrats to really vocalize unity. Behind President Biden because I think the White House and the president's campaign will want to show that this is not going to be a kind of Democratic primary situation that this is an incumbent president running for reelection as the leader of his party.

MARQUARDT: And, David Chalian, our political director, when it comes to doubt over whether Biden would or should run, it seems like most of that doubt came from well outside the White House, that there was less of that from within the Biden administration, particularly from the president himself.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, there's certainly no doubt about that. And I'm not even sure, quite frankly, how much doubt there has been. I mean, since the midterm election in November, when the Democrats outperformed expectations, Alex, the entire calculus and conversation inside the Democratic Party changed pretty significantly about Biden's candidacy.

And I would just note here. What I think you will see now most significantly and in the most immediate future is a big ramp up in the president's fundraising. I do not anticipate that you are going to see Joe Biden try to mix it up with Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis every single day now. I don't have a sense at all that that's their desire. They're still going to maintain that he's got a day job here.

And if they've been looking at the Obama -- obviously, there are a lot of similar people working on this -- but that Obama model for in 2011, he started his account pretty much around the same time here. He did a ton of fundraising in that year before the re-election. And it was not until they were turning the corner from the year out into the actual election calendar year that you saw the Obama team sort of move from the rose garden to the campaign trail. And I would expect that you're going to see a similar kind of calendar here for President Biden.

MARQUARDT: And, Ron Brownstein, when it comes to assuaging concerns, assuaging doubts, President Biden will have to step up to a podium when he announces that he is running again. What do you think he needs to say to Democrats and to the whole country?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a really good question. Because, consistently, we are seeing a majority of Americans, 60 percent or more often, saying they do not want him to run again. I think the key, Alex, is what he always says, don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.

We saw Obama -- many incumbent presidents have seen their approval rating rise when they are seen in the context of who their opponent is, and I think Biden very much needs that contrast, you know, to kind of solidify the Democratic base.


There are a lot of voters in the Democratic constituency that are not coalition, that are not usually enthusiastic about him running again but are hugely committed to preventing Donald Trump or even Ron DeSantis from becoming president.

You know, I think Biden views his political mission as essentially fitting almost through the eye of a needle. I mean, in his job, and you see it all the time, and everything he talks about is to improve a few points among blue collar working class voters in those key rust belt states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, above all by emphasizing his blue collar blueprint to rebuild America, protecting Social Security and Medicare, driving down prices for prescription drugs, saving you money on insulin, that is the core of how they hope to win a second term. And I think that is not going to change, he has telegraphed that very clearly and I think we're going to hear a lot more of that in the months to come.

CHALIAN: And I would just add what Ron is saying they're on the contrast, everything he just said about the blueprint, add in abortion rights, add in the protection of democracy in light of what we saw in the last cycle. They believe those two issues not just help rev up the base, but also significantly help them with keeping folks in the middle on Joe Biden's side.

MARQUARDT: But, Phil, the elephant in the room is, of course, Biden's age. So, how does the White House discuss that and how do they talk about it on the campaign trail?

MATTINGLY: Now, look, they bristle at the conversation and yet understand the reality of this being the oldest president in history. Already, he would be 86 by the end of his second term. I think what they point to is not that much different than what the president has pointed to when he is asked this question, which is watch him work, watch him operate, that should answer your questions.

And I think more importantly in their minds, while they understand that this is an issue out there, they don't believe that this is a deciding issue. They don't believe that this is the critical issue. What they believe instead will matter most are the legislative accomplishments of his first two years, and to Ron's point, who he's running against in the contrast that they're able to create on that front.

Look, it's a reality. There's nothing they can do to escape the fact that he is 80 years old and he's the oldest president in history. They don't necessarily try and dodge that fact. Instead they try and talk about what he's accomplished up to this point.

And I think you know if you want to think about the last several months building to this point, and why everybody inside the west wing has been very cognizant of the fact that this was going to happen at some point soon, just go back to the state of the union and the kind of the build through, trying to thread together the very significant legislative accomplishments and what that's producing out in the country right now, with the idea that, as he said over and over and over again in that state of the union address, finish the job.

They feel like there's more work to do with, the president does as well and that's going to be the message that they're bringing to the table with all of the very critical political issues that David was pointing out where they feel like, at least based on what they're seeing their polling and where they think the president is in his positions, they have a political advantage no matter who they run against.

MARQUARDT: And in terms of those accomplishments -- go ahead, Abby.

PHILLIP: Alex, I just wanted to say, I mean, we should also be clear that it's not a new thing that President Biden is old and that he was old in the context of the Democratic primary when he won in 2020. So, I do think that that's kind of always been part of his story, and, of course, it will only accelerate.

But one of the challenges for people on the Republican side running against Biden and certainly the challenges that his Democratic opponents faced back in 2020 was that, in a lot of ways, it has been enough for Biden to be kind of not terribly popular. It has not been enough for even his approval ratings to be in the low 40s.

I mean, look at the 2022 election, where Democrats outperformed even with a president who was very unpopular and an economy that voters believed was heading in the wrong direction. None of that really was in and of itself enough to turn voters totally away from the Democratic Party's message.

And so it needs to be at least that and then something else as well, and that's actually been one of the things that Biden has been able to succeed on. Voters don't have to absolutely love him in order to be willing to vote for him, and I do think that that's part of the reality that this campaign is going to be fought on.

There's no expectation among Biden's advisers that suddenly he will become extraordinarily popular or suddenly, his age is not going to be a factor. That's part of it, and they're just hoping that voters will factor that in along with other things, especially who he is running against, as they make a decision about who they're going to vote for in the presidential.


MARQUARDT: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I exemplify what Abby was saying? You know, Obama's approval rating as the incumbent president did not go back over 50 percent until September of 2012, like right before the election.


He was under 50 for most of the of the election period. But as Abby said, what we saw in 2022 was unprecedented in the history of exit polling. There was historically large number of voters who said they were unhappy with the way the economy was going and also a historically large number of voters who said they disapproved of Biden's performance, who voted for Democrats anyway because they viewed the Republican alternative at that point as too extreme.

And that is a dynamic that kind of keeps them in the game, even though his approval rating is at a level that historically you would say would be difficult for an incumbent president. I mean, they believe that they have a formula that will allow them to improve a few points among those swing voters, working class swing voters in those key rust belt, Midwestern states, and that Trump or DeSantis or almost anyone that Republicans nominate will solve the problem of generating a lot of enthusiasm among younger voters in particular, who have never been entirely wowed by Joe Biden. So, I think you're going to see a very we disciplined kind of approach to this candidacy, whereas, you know, David said, on the one hand, I'm delivering kitchen table benefits to working families, on the other, Republicans are dangerous extremists on the issues of abortion and democracy, the first one aimed at those blue collar voters, the second one more on the kind of white collar suburban independents. And that is their path particularly through those three states that Trump dislodged from the blue wall in 2016 but have pretty consistently turned to back to Democrats since, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

MARQUARDT: And, David Chalian, despite the fact that President Biden has had -- that his approval ratings haven't really budged and they've stayed pretty consistent, when Democrats look at, you know, the opposition, look at this field, how much do you think President Biden is going to be buoyed by the fact that Democrats are so motivated about questions of gun reform, about access to abortion and then you see things like Ron DeSantis, you know, talking about Disney, how much are they shooting -- are Republicans shooting themselves in the feet and how much wind does that give to President Biden?

CHALIAN: Well, there's no doubt that when you talk to people inside the White House, they are looking forward to letting the Republican Party play out on a very public stage divisions within it and watching the process of some candidates taking positions in the primary context that may make it tougher for them to sell their brand in a general election context. Ron DeSantis signing the six-week ban and Florida last week is a perfect example of that, Alex.

But we shouldn't mistake this as anything but a likely close election. I just want to remind people here, Joe Biden won the presidency by about a total of 44,000 votes across three states. I mean, this -- he had a very big popular vote victory, but the Electoral College, there is no doubt that this is still going to be a re-election campaign that is not likely to be one that's completely out of hand and seen as a fait accompli, that somehow his re-election is guaranteed. This is going to be a hard fought race.

MARQUARDT: I want to bring in The New York Times' Maggie Haberman, also a CNN contributor. Maggie, we are constantly reminded by former President Trump himself that he is the Republican frontrunner, and he leads the Republican field, primary field, by double digits. So, how do you think President Trump is going to react to this news that President Biden is planning on launching his re-election campaign?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's going to paint himself as the only person who can beat Biden, which I think a lot of Republicans do not agree with, but I think you're going to hear that over and over. I think that Donald Trump's main focus is going to be, you know, Ron DeSantis and the people who are coming at him in the Republican primary.

But it will be interesting to see how much President Biden's announcement breaks through. There has been, on the one hand, I think, content from a lot of Democrats to watch Donald Trump's problems, particularly legally play out because those are just not general election winners in their minds. And yet, I think there's been a lot of frustration by the White House that what Biden has been doing as president is not necessarily breaking through in the press and to the public. So, I think that you are going to see a bit of both in the next week.

MARQUARDT: Evan Osnos, can I go back to you on this question of legacy and how President Biden views this? I mean, in political terms, we've heard some of our colleagues here saying that he feels like he has unfinished business. So, where do you think he is in terms of shaping that legacy?

OSNOS: Yes. You know, when I've been talking to some senior members of his team who describe it as saying, in effect, look, we got it done in legislative terms, but now we have to make it real, making it actually a part of people's lives that they look around them, and they see that there is this attempt to try to bring back American manufacturing or to actually take meaningful steps on climate change or to bring down drug prices for more Americans.


So, that's sort of when he talks about finishing the job, in actual sort of functional legislative and political terms, that means, look, we have a team here that has been doing it for a while, that is seasoned, in effect, but it doesn't work unless we have a chance to see it through.

And, you know, talking about seasoned and talking about experience is one of their ways of addressing the age issue. They say, look, on the other side of the aisle, you're going to see a lot of lean and hungry candidates. And over here, you've got people who may never be running for office again. Let's just do this right. That's their argument.

MARQUARDT: And, Maggie, now we are staring down the possibility, very distinct possibility of you know the exact same candidates running as we saw in 2020. This is not necessarily a matchup that millions of Americans want to see. So, when you look at this potential matchup between Biden and Trump yet again, how different do you think this race would be four years on?

HABERMAN: Look, I think it's going to be much uglier. I think you're going to have Biden able to point to an actual record, which is going to be, you know, different than what we saw in 2020. He was running on the promise of a return to normalcy, and I think that this White House believes that they have largely accomplished that. They have also accomplished a number of other things.

I think that for Trump, you are going to see him described President Biden's term as, you know, being poorly waged. I think that he is going to hope that there is -- you know, there are other aspects in life in America that he can point to, such as saying that, you know, the economy was better under him. I think that, you know, right now we'll see how that plays out.

But I also think you are looking at two people who are, you know, 75 years-plus, Biden is older than Trump, but not by much. The voters in this country, as you point out, have not felt great about their choices, not just the last election, but in 2016 as well, and yet they have gotten these elections uglier and uglier, and that is really largely a product of how Donald Trump wages politics.

So, I expect that this is going to be incredibly nasty, and an X factor is what Biden running is going to look like. COVID so fundamentally -- campaign, we'll see what happens now.

MARQUARDT: We certainly will. I want all of you to please stand by as I bring in Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California. Congressman, first of all, your reaction to this news that President Biden is planning to renounce -- to announce, rather, his re-election as soon as next week.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I'm excited President Biden has delivered for the American people. Manufacturing jobs are coming back, $200 billion invested here. He's actually delivering what Trump promised. Trump said, look, we had the hollowing out of the middle class, of the heartland President Biden with Congress is delivering. And that's why I believe he's going to succeed and he's going to build on the victory he had in 2020.

MARQUARDT: And, Congressman, you have said previously that centrist Democrats could pose the biggest political threat to President Biden in the race in 2024, in a potential primary. What are your thoughts now given this news?

KHANNA: He has remarkably unified the Democratic Party. He's done it for two reasons, one, his agenda, which is helping working class Americans, helping bring manufacturing back, but, two, also the extremism of the Republican Party.

I mean, when you hear have someone like DeSantis signing an abortion ban at six-weeks and saying you have to provide proof of rape to be able to get an abortion, let's just understand, that is more radical than Ronald Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr. or Donald Trump.

And that's why the Republican Party has a real problem. I think those positions are unelectable in the general election. And you know who realizes that? Donald Trump, he's pleading with his party, don't cut Social Security, don't be so extreme on abortion. That's going to be the real problem heading into 2024.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Trump, notably quiet on abortion.

But as we were just saying, Congressman, Trump does hold a significant lead in polling among Republican primary candidates, at least those who have announced so far. When you look at a potential Democratic field, do you genuinely believe that President Biden is the only Democrat out there who could beat Donald Trump if he ends up being the Republican nominee?

KHANNA: He's the best Democrat who could beat him because of his blue collar roots from Scranton, Pennsylvania, because he's done it before, because he genuinely believes in helping the working class and manufacturing, bringing that back to the United States. But, look, I will say this, it would be foolish to underestimate Donald Trump. I was wrong about Donald Trump in 2016. I was wrong in 2020. I thought we would win by more votes than we did. So, we need to take his candidacy seriously and we need to unify behind the president.

MARQUARDT: And if you were, if I could ask you to put yourselves in the shoes of potential adviser, what would you advise him to do in terms of what he should run on?


Should he be attacking them for things like abortion and the lack of access that has been pushed by the right in the past few months? Would you advise him to put forward his accomplishments?

KHANNA: He should be a jobs Democrat and make the case that, for 40 years, we've seen the hollowing out of factory towns of rural America for industry. We let so much of it go to China. We lost our production. He's bringing it back. Now, it's shifting the Titanic. He understands that people haven't seen all the benefits in four years because he's trying to overturn policies of 40 years. But we're going to continue to make progress with the working class at the forefront, and I think that will be very effective.

And then he can have others also point out, as he should, the extremism of the Republican agenda. This is no longer reasonable debates. They are further right than Reagan, Bush or Trump on many of these issues.

MARQUARDT: All right. Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you so much for your time and your thoughts this evening. I also want to thank our panel for helping us with all of this breaking news.

Now, just ahead, more breaking news this time out of Louisville, Kentucky, what we're learning about what the gunman in the bank shooting left behind.



MARQUARDT: There is more breaking news right now, new information about the extensive notes that were left behind by the gunman in the mass shooting at a Louisville bank.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is here with all of the details. Omar what are you learning?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, two law enforcement sources are telling CNN that the shooter left two extensive notes, one of which was found on his body after he was killed in the shootout, and that these notes say that at least part of the motivation here was that he wanted to show how easy it was in America for someone with a serious mental illness to get an assault weapon. Now, we know this AR-15 that was used was purchased about a week before the shooting and all he would really need to do for Kentucky laws fill out an ATF form and go through a records check to show that he wasn't a convicted felon.

And we've reached out to the family attorney on this, and they haven't responded to this latest reporting. But we do know from the family that he is someone who struggled with mental health issues. It was something they have said they were actively addressing.

It's part of why the family says they are testing his body for CTE in that some of the symptoms associated with CTE include impaired judgment, impulse control issues and sometimes suicidal behavior, though it's not limited to that. And we do know that he had had many concussions in the past, some as early as middle school, according to the family as well.

But, again, these notes, offering at least part of the motivation. This obviously, you don't have to say, is an extreme implementation of any motivation there. Police have not released officially any motivation that they have found in regards to their motivation, but these notes again providing some clue. And we know that at least the mom, the mother of the shooter, was informed that a note was left the morning of the shooting as she relayed in some harrowing 911 calls, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right, a very scary note that was left behind by the shooter. Omar Jimenez, thank you very much.

I want to bring in our law enforcement analysts, Andrew McCabe and Jonathan Wackrow.

Andrew, I want to start with you. We have seen all kinds of notes left behind by shooters often airing different types of anger and grievances. Here, we have a shooter who wanted to prove how easy it was for someone with a mental illness to buy a gun. What's your reaction to that?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Alex, as you said, this has become a very common part of the aftermath of a mass shooting in America. The list goes on and on of individuals who left manifestos, the Poway synagogue shooter, the El Paso shooter, even the shooter in Nashville at the Covenant School left some sort of a note. We haven't heard many details about it.

In many of these manifestos, you see themes around racism, anti- Semitism, anti-immigrant sentiment. That doesn't seem to be what we have here, according to the reporting. But it is very common for these manifestos to also contain themes of narcissism and paranoia and suicidal ideation.

And I think that's kind of what you're seeing here, according to Omar's reporting, the absurdity of somebody trying to draw attention to a societal issue by committing a mass shooting is just maybe the epitome of narcissism and paranoia and allegedly the shooter mentions things and manifesto about wanting money to commit suicide. So, it's tragic and horrific but also common in many ways.

MARQUARDT: And, Jonathan, Omar, was just they're talking about the motive. Now, this writing, these notes they leave little doubt, it would seem, that this shooting the left five people dead was extremely deliberate and very much premeditated.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. But I think, broadly, you know, what we're looking at here is that there's a motivation to action imbalance, and that imbalance had led to this tragic outcome of loss of, you know, five innocent lives.

I mean, listen, think about like what they outlined here with Omar was saying, to prove how easy it is to get a gun. We know how easy it is to get a gun. We talk about it ad nauseam how easy it is to get a gun. You don't have to kill innocent individuals to prove that point, highlight America's mental health crisis, again, another key component of conversations both at the state and national level continuously. You don't have to kill people to, you know, to highlight that issue.

And, finally, you know, killing himself, right, that this desire, this philosophical desire to die, you know, again, that doesn't need to include other innocent people here. So, broadly, this manifesto, this explanation, this imbalance of motivation to the tragic actions that were taken only complicate the matter further and make a very tragic situation worse for those families and victims that were injured on that day, and the loved ones that they lost.


MARQUARDT: And, Andrew, in the wake of these shootings, these types of shootings, mass shootings, you always have the side usually on the left that say we need gun reform, we need fewer guns. You have the side often on the right side saying this is a mental health issue. Of course, there are many, many people saying that it is both. But when you see this note, which is unique, how do you think it's going to impact the discussion that we have every single time after these mass shootings?

MCCABE: Well, you know, Alex, I mean, either side will point to the aspects of this manifesto that support the proposition that they're exercised about and they can do that with, you know, pretty reasonably here based on what this person has allegedly written. But none of that changes the fact that mental illness is something that every country experiences. Everywhere around the world, there's a population that suffers with the same sort of mental illness challenges.

The thing that makes mental illness different in this country is that it's still very easy to arm yourself with unbelievably lethal military weapons even though you're struggling from a mental health challenge. Those two combinations don't exist together really anywhere else on Earth and quite the same way they do here in the United States, and that's one of the reasons why we have so many of these horrible tragedies.

MARQUARDT: Yes, this country is not unique when it comes to coping with mental health issues. Andrew McCabe, Jonathan Wackrow, thank you so much for joining me on this breaking news.

And just ahead, prosecutors prepared to drop criminal charges against Actor Alec Baldwin in the deadly shooting on the set of his film, Rust. We will have new reaction. That's coming up next.



MARQUARDT: A New Mexico court is confirming a hearing is set tomorrow in the case against Actor and Producer Alec Baldwin. Prosecutors are poised to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charges against him in the onset shooting that killed the cinematographer of Baldwin's film, Rust.

Here's CNN Entertainment Reporter Chloe Melas.


ALEX BALDWIN, ACTOR AND PRODUCER, RUST: So, my only question is am I being charged with something?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (voice over): Alec Baldwin soon to be no longer accused, at least for now, after New Mexico prosecutors plan to file a motion dismissing involuntary manslaughter charges against the actor, a move they call, quote, temporary pending further investigation. That's according to Baldwin's attorneys, who said, quote, we are pleased with the decision to dismiss the case against Alec Baldwin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were in the room when the lady --

BALDWIN: With the gun, yes.

MELAS: Baldwin admitted to holding the gun that fired the bullet killing Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer on Baldwin's film, Rust, but told police he did not know he was handed a loaded gun. Baldwin resumes filming on Rust this week with production moved to Montana.

This was Baldwin last year.

BALDWIN: If someone is responsible for what happened, and I can't say who that is, but I know it's not me.

MELAS: The dismissal would be a win for Baldwin's legal team, which challenged the motives in politics of one of the original prosecutors.

ANDREA REEB, FORMER NEW MEXICO SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It doesn't matter if he's a liberal Democrat and I'm a conservative Republican, my job has always been to prosecute crimes.

MELAS: In February, Baldwin's lawyers filed a motion to remove Special Prosecutor Andrea Reeb, who, at the time of the investigation, was running for state representative in New Mexico. In an email later revealed in The New York Times, Reeb suggested being involved in the case, quote, might help in my campaign. Both Reeb and the district attorney who hired her ultimately recused themselves. Their replacements dropped the charges against Baldwin. His attorneys also saying today, quote, they encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there live ammo that's kept on set?


MELAS: The film's weapons handler, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is now the sole defendant in the case, facing 18 months for involuntary manslaughter. Her attorney says she will plead not guilty and that Gutierrez-Reid, quote, has been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime.

MATTHEW HUTCHINS, HALYNA HUTCHIN'S HUSBAND: Are we really supposed to feel bad about you, Mr. Baldwin?

MELAS: Halyna Hutchins' husband has been a vocal critic of Baldwin, saying he should face charges.

HUTCHINS: The idea that the person holding the gun causing it to discharge is not responsible is absurd to me.

MELAS: But now, justice for Halyna Hutchins moves forward without a star defendant.

BALDWIN: And she was great at her job and she died. And that hurts me every day.


MELAS (on camera): So, an attorney for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed telling CNN that they hope that the charges against her will also be dropped and that she will be exonerated. I can tell you that Alec Baldwin has taken to Instagram this evening and he simply thanked his wife and his attorney, Luke Nikas. Back to you.

MARQUARDT: All right. Chloe Melas, thank you very much.

Let's get more on this with CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson and CNN Contributor and Entertainment Tonight Host Nischelle Turner. Thank you both for joining me this evening.

Joey, I want to start with you. A source is saying that these charges were dismissed because of evidence that the gun in this shooting was modified. But do you think that the missteps by the prosecutors in this case also played a role?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think a number of things played a role.


Alex, good to be with you, and Nischelle.

The bottom line here is that you could question whether charges should have been brought in the first instance. To be clear, you know, someone's dead here. She was very beloved. But there's a distinction, of course, between criminal behavior and otherwise negligent behavior.

And so when you look at the case, are you going to hold an actor accountable who relies upon a team to ensure that the weapon is vetted, to ensure that the weapon is not live? Who was told that there are cold rounds, et cetera?

And then you add layers on top of that, and the other layer is the gun itself. Was it modified? Did that modification affect its functionality?

So there were so many things, and then you turn to the political component. We just saw a special prosecutor having to get off the case. Another special prosecutor comes into the case. The district attorney leaves the case so fraught with difficulty.

Last point. You have to wonder why it was brought in the first instance. I think that's the question to ask. So it's no surprise that it's dropped now.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Nischelle, every other movie has guns, you know, basically. So what impact do you think this has had on the industry and how they handle firearms, even mock firearms on set?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's had a significant impact. I mean, just from, you know us covering this industry every single day and knowing that there are so many sets right now that our action type films that have weapons on them. I can tell you after this, the questions that we've been asking, and we do ask actors and crews on that set. They have been checking, rechecking not double checking, but triple checking everything over and over again to make sure there are no incidents like this on their sets.

I mean, they're you know, they put out a statement, "The Rust" -- "The Rust" production put out a statement today saying that there will be no live ammunition, there will be no live weapons or anything like that on the set as they resume production, which a lot of people are still scratching their head wondering why they would even try to finish this film with what happened there.

But, yeah, it's definitely made changes in this industry and will continue to.

MARQUARDT: And the person on a film set who is the one who handles the weapons is called an armorer and, Joey, the lawyers for the armorer for "Rust", and that armorer is still facing criminal charges. The lawyers say that they expect her to be exonerated as well. So what do you think is going to happen next?

JACKSON: So that may very well happen, right? But I don't think her and Alec Baldwin a similarly situated. What do I mean?

I mean, you have a person who's supposed to examine the weapon and sure that the weapon is certainly not a weapon that is live, right? Make sure it's cold as is known in the industry, follow all those requisite steps and protocols, and sure it's secured so that nothing happens to it. And something went terribly wrong here. And so what did you do, or did you not do such that it was a live gun?

At the same time, Alex, if indications are that there were modifications in the weapons such that it would affect the way it function and the fact that it went off in the first instance then how would you hold her responsible? So, to that extent, I think they'll look at it very closely, examine her conduct, examine the weapon as they did, and we certainly could see the charges dismissed as against her as well.

MARQUARDT: And, Baldwin, of course, has been a terrifically successful actor, both on TV and in movies.

Michelle, do you think that this has had some kind of impact on his career?

TURNER: Absolutely, 100 percent. I mean, you know, Alec Baldwin is a polarizing figure to begin with. And I think when something like this happens, although he had maintained and he still maintains that he never fired the weapon, and he doesn't know what happened with the weapon, I think that it has had an impact on his career. I think there are a lot of people that are skeptical and scared, maybe to work with him and going forward to get projects that he's involved with made.

He loves to act. That is something he is good at. But going forward, I think that that we may see less and less Alec Baldwin type projects.

You know, he wants to work and he wants to get back on the set. That's why he's doing it with this film. I think there's still a lot of people wondering why, that is happening, but they and they're still you know, he does still have this hurdle of civil litigation to get through because that is still pending, even though the criminal charges will -- we anticipate will be dropped.

MARQUARDT: All right. Nischelle Turner, Joey Jackson, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining me this evening.

We have much more news ahead. We'll be right back after this.



MARQUARDT: Now to Russia's war in Ukraine. Officials in Kyiv getting a visit today by the head of NATO, the secretary general, his first trip there since the invasion by Vladimir Putin's forces 14 months ago.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has our report from the Ukrainian capital.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A blunt message to Moscow, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Kyiv, demonstrating the military alliances' firm support for Ukraine, even though it's not yet a member.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO stands with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.

WEDEMAN: Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is the first NATO representative to officially visit Ukraine since the start of Russia's full scale invasion.

STOLTENBERG: Great to see you. I'm impressed.

WEDEMAN: An act once thought of as too provocative given President Vladimir Putin's warnings against the bloc creeping ever closer to Russia.

STOLTENBERG: We expressed our strong support, but Kyiv says it's looking for even more than this type of close cooperation with NATO.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We value support from NATO allies and support with weapons, but we want to know when Ukraine will be in NATO.


WEDEMAN: Stoltenberg promised that the topic will be, quote, high on the agenda at July's NATO summit in Lithuania, and emphasized the more than $160 billion of support already delivered to Ukraine. Allies are sending more jets, tanks and armored vehicles, but Ukraine says it needs security guarantees.

ZELENSKYY: We need something more than the kind of relationship we are having now.

WEDEMAN: Even still, that relationship and NATO's broader alliance are undoubtedly stronger since Russia's war began representing a major blow to Putin.


WEDEMAN (on camera): Stoltenberg's visit comes just a few days after Putin visited Russian troops occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine, his own attempt to display strength at a time when the conflict enters a critical stage.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Kyiv.

MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Ben for that report.

And this note for our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", right after THE SITUATION ROOM, Robert Zeidman, the man who debunked Mike Lindell's false election claims, he is Erin's guest tonight. That's coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

And now to the U.S. Supreme Court and a push for Chief Justice John Roberts to testify before the Senate.

Brian Todd has been following this story. Brian, this is more fallout over Justice Clarence Thomas and his ties

to of Republican megadonor.


So far, there's been very little accountability and no punishment from Chief Justice Roberts for the alleged ethics breaches of Justice Clarence Thomas. But if the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee gets his way, that could soon change.


TODD (voice-over): The pressure on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to hold his court accountable is surging tonight. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Judiciary Committee, has requested that Justice Roberts or, quote, another justice whom you designate testified before his committee next month.

Durbin wants to press Roberts on what Durbin calls a steady stream of revelations of justice is not living up to ethics standards.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): The Supreme Court doesn't need to wait on Congress to clean up its act. The justices could take action today if they wanted to, and if the court fails to act, Congress must.

TODD: Republicans on Durbin's committee are arguing Chief Justice Roberts should reject Durbin's request. Senator John Cornyn saying, quote, it would be a circus. It's rare for a Supreme Court justice to testify before Congress, but the court is under rare scrutiny at the moment.

A recent report by the investigative news outlet "ProPublica" revealed that Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, accepted luxury travel and gifts from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.

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: In another report, "ProPublica" reported that Justice Thomas had sold three of his family's properties in Georgia to Harlan Crow in 2014.

"ProPublica" said Thomas never disclosed the travel or the real estate deal in filings. Thomas responded that he was advised he didn't have to report them. But experts say some laws and ethics rules were likely violated.

DONALD SHERMAN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILIYT AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Here is this billionaire who's got lots of rich friends and can court the justice and bring his friends who are CEOs to potentially influenced the justice with his -- with his lavish gifts and trips and other benefits.

TODD: But some Supreme Court analysts say Chief Justice Roberts does not have the authority to investigate or punish Thomas or any other justice and no other body of government really does either. JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: You can remove adjusted to the United States from office only one way and that is through impeachment and conviction. There is no way that they can actually be investigated with consequence that would change their behavior.

TODD: And analysts say in the modern era of the court, it's shown no inclination to want to police itself. Given that, and the revelations about Clarence Thomas, has the courts stature diminished recently?

BISKUPIC: I looked at public approval polls. I look to commentary, look to watchdog investigations, I think yes, the Supreme Court stature in the American eye has been decreasing.


TODD (on camera): The Supreme Court has not responded to CNN's request for comment on Senator Durbin's request for Chief Justice Roberts to testify. The court has also not responded to multiple inquiries from CNN on whether Chief Justice Roberts will actually investigate Justice Thomas's activities -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much for that report.

Other news that we're following tonight, the most powerful rocket ever built, exploding shortly after liftoff today. SpaceX says it triggered the blast as its starship tumbled out of control around the same time that the spare spacecraft was expected to separate from the booster. It was the first test flight for this rocket, which was unmanned and not carrying any cargo. This explosion is now under investigation by the FAA.

I'm Alex Marquardt in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you so much for watching tonight. You can always follow Wolf on Twitter and Instagram @Wolf Blitzer and tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. THE SITUATION ROOM is also available as a podcast wherever you get your podcast.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.