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Justice Scalia's Legacy; Trump And Bush Clash In GOP Debate; Crisis In Syria Aired 6:30-7:00a

Aired February 14, 2016 - 06:30   ET




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For almost 30 years Justice Antonin "Nino" Scalia was a larger-than-life presence on the bench. A brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, incisive wit, and colorful opinions.

He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape. He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia silences the voice of the Supreme Court's most ardent conservative -- former CNN host, Piers Morgan sat down with Justice Scalia in July of 2012 for an in-depth interview. Here is just a portion of that.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Will you ever retire?

ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Of course I'll retire. Certainly I'll retire when I -- when I think I'm not doing as good a job as I used to. That will make me feel very bad.

MORGAN: And as we sit here now, what would you say your greatest achievement has been as a Supreme Court justice?

SCALIA: Wow. I think, despite the fact that not everybody agree with it -- I think the court pays more attention to text than it used to when I first came on the court. And I like to think that I -- I've had something to do with that. I think the court uses much less legislative history than it used to in the past. In the '80s two- thirds of the opinion would be discussion of, you know, the debates on the floor and the committee reports. And that doesn't happen anymore.

If you want to talk about individual --

MORGAN: I mean, on that point, on the legislative history point, again, critics would say to you, well, hang on a second, because you're such a Constitutionalist and always go back to the way they framed the Constitution and so on. They debated all that. I mean that is, in its way, legislative history, isn't it?

SCALIA: What is? What is? What is?

MORGAN: The framing of the Constitution.

SCALIA: The Federalist Papers.

MORGAN: The framing of amendments and so on. What's the difference, really?

SCALIA: No I don't -- I don't use the -- Madison's notes as authoritative on the meaning of the Constitution. I don't use that. I use the Federalist Papers, but not because they were the -- the writers of the Federalist Papers were present. One of them wasn't. John Jay was not present at the framing.

I use them because they were intelligent people of the time and therefore what they thought this language meant was likely what it meant.

MORGAN: Why do you have such faith in those politicians of that time?

You know, I mean these days, if the current crop of politicians created some new Constitution, people wouldn't have the faith, that young burning, unflinching faith that you have. Why are you so convinced that these guys over 200 years ago were so right?

SCALIA: You have to read the Federalist Papers to answer that question. I don't think anybody in the -- in the -- in the current Congress could write even one of those numbers. These men were very, very thoughtful.

I truly believe that there are times in history when a genius bursts forth at some part of the globe, you know, like 2000 B.C. in Athens or Cinquecento Florence for art. And I think one of those places was 18th century America for political science. You know, Madison said he told the people assembled at the convention, gentlemen, we are engaged in the new science of government.

Nobody had ever tried to design a government scientifically before. They were brilliant men. And --

MORGAN: Do you wish we had a few of them now?

SCALIA: I wish we had a few of them now. And I'm -- I certainly do not favor tinkering with what they put together.


ACOSTA: Very memorable interview.

And last night Piers Morgan sent out his condolences on Twitter writing, "Didn't agree with many of Justice Scalia's views, but he was a brilliant man of great principle and integrity. Rest in peace."

[06:35:09] And I just want to point out to our viewers right now the sun is starting to rise here in Washington. As you can see the flag of the flag of the United States is at half staff, outside of the Supreme Court. As we remember the life of Justice Antonin Scalia and talking about what's ahead for this country and for this city as a debate -- the replacement of Antonin Scalia.

And joining me on the phone right now the Honorable Lee Liberman Otis, senior vice president and founder of the Federalist Society. She clerked for Antonin Scalia when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals and after his appointment to the Supreme Court

I just want to thank you for joining us. And just wanted to get your reaction on Justice Scalia's passing.

HON. LEE LIBERMAN OTIS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY (on the phone): Well, it's obviously and enormous loss. He was one of the most consequential legal thinkers I think in the -- who has ever sat on the Supreme Court. And it's going to be an enormous loss for the court and for the country.

ACOSTA: And what you do think his legacy will be remembered as?

He was obviously an originalist. Some people might call that a strict constructionist. Is that painting with too broad a brush, do you think?

OTIS: Well he would never have said strict constructionist because he thought that you should interpret the law fairly, not strictly or generously but just fairly.

I think that that is fundamentally his most important contribution is basically the powerful case that he made for the view of the Constitution is a law and that judges and justices are supposed to follow it and not the other way around. And, you know, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court, almost everyone who was anyone thought this was hopelessly naive and that no smart person could possibly think anything like that. And I think he changed that dramatically. And mainly because he wasn't only smart, he was one of those powerful intellects in the country. And he was also one of the greatest writers who has ever sat on the Supreme Court.

So when he took the views that the Constitution was a law and when he made arguments based on the Constitution's original meaning and when he demolished arguments based on other considerations I think that made a huge impact and I think it changed the entire legal conversation.

ACOSTA: And he was a very outspoken figure obviously. What was it like clerking for him?

I remember seeing Justice Scalia speaking once at the College of William & Mary. And, you know, he is -- you know, he tells it like it is. That is his style.

OTIS: Very definitely. I mean I think, you know, one of -- one of the underrated facts about him is that he is a New Yorker. And, you know, people in New York, you know, do tend to say what's (ph) more what's on their mind probably than people do in Washington D.C.

But -- and actually that was -- that can come as a surprise to law clerks I think because you can get into a conversation with him. And he'll ask you what you think. And then you tell him and he says, oh, that's completely ridiculous. But the thing that was key to understanding about that is that he didn't really mean that's completely ridiculous.

ACOSTA: Right.

OTIS: But the thing that was key to understanding about that is that he didn't really mean, that's completely ridiculous. He really meant, explain to me why you are right and why my objection whatever it is is wrong. Because he really at the end of the day was about getting it right.

ACOSTA: And what do you think the president can do next now? Do you buy this argument that he could simple wait and pass this on to his successor, this opportunity to select a Supreme Court justice? I can't imagine any president giving that up?

OTIS: You know, I'm don't -- I'm really not in a position to talk about that. I really want to talk about the justice and his legacy and I think I will leave the political considerations and the what's next to others. Obviously Senator McConnell and Senator Grassley have laid down some pretty strong markers about that. And so, you know, we'll just have to see.

ACOSTA: All right. Well, there won't be another Antonin Scalia.

And Lee Liberman Otis, thanks for joining us in this conversation this morning. We appreciate it.

OTIS: Thank you very much for inviting me.

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you.

And the death of Justice Scalia has already turned political and took center stage as we all saw last night in last night's GOP debate. Republicans did not agree on much but they did stand united on when his replacement should be nominated and that is after when President Obama leaves the scene.


That conversation is next.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well this morning U.S. marshals who had been providing security for Justice Antonin Scalia are now helping to make arrangements to return his body to Washington.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Scalia died in his sleep at the Cibolo Creek Ranch. It's a secluded celebrity retreat in West Texas where he had been quail hunting. The closest town has just eleven people and this morning we are hearing reaction from some of the nearby residents.

Jerry Najera with affiliate KVIA has more for us.


JERRY NAJERA, KVIA REPORTER: As many were enjoying dinner and drinks word of Scalia's death is already spreading.

GARY (ph) CAIN (ph), MARFA, TEXAS VISITOR: One of my partners texted me.

NAJERA: In Marfa for a visit Gary (ph) Cain (ph) already knew Scalia had died at Cibola Creek Ranch only 45 minutes away. As a conservative -- news of the Supreme Court judge's death has him and others concerned about the future.

CAIN (ph): It's awful that it happened because he is one of those ones that form the opinions that really mean something for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our thoughts were with having Obama leaving office soon being able to appoint somebody on the more liberal side of the scale for a Supreme Court justice and that as a moderate Republican is not ideal.


BLACKWELL: Thanks to our reporter from affiliate "KVIA" in El Paso, Texas.

All right. Let's turn to last night's debate. And it was full of bitter political battles, heated personal attacks, but the field found some consensus in regards of the passing of Justice Scalia.

CNN's senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us with for this conversation along with "" politics editor, Jason Johnson, Republican strategist, Kayleigh McEnany. Good to have all of you with us.


And Jim, I want to start with you because, you know, these debates had been contentious but I think we saw a very different tone last night. Even the audience seemed to be more engaged. What do you make of that?

ACOSTA: Well, South Carolina, Victor, is known for its rough and tumble politics. And, you know, this was true to form down in South Carolina. And I think it was not too surprising that all of these Republican candidates were going to go after Donald Trump. This might be their last chance to take him down. If he wins the South Carolina primary and starts rolling in Nevada and all these other states, his candidacy is going to be very difficult to stop. I did think it was somewhat shocking to see Jeb Bush and Donald Trump clash over the presidency of George W. Bush. That attack line works for Donald Trump at his rallies. I don't know if it worked well down in South Carolina or on that debate stage. There were -- there were a lot of boos in there and so I'm anxious to see what the polling looks like after this debate. Because it's possible some damage was done to Donald Trump even though it worked really well with his audience I suspect.


Jason, let's look at that moment. Donald Trump was very aggressive in going in on George W. Bush as he comes onto the campaign trail at the start of the week about the decision to invade Iraq and 9/11. Let's watch it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes but that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.



JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I am sick and tired --


BUSH: I am sick and tired of him going after my family. My dad is the greatest man alive in my mind.


And while Donald Trump was building a reality TV show my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe and I'm proud of what he did.



BLACKWELL: These candidates all of them have called each other liar on the stump but now they are doing it face to face. What did you think about that exchange?

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: I thought it was a smart exchange for Donald Trump.

I think that no matter -- what people keep forgetting Donald Trump is not playing to who's in the room. He's playing to people watching and there are lots of independents and lots of Republicans, believe it or not, certainly (ph) his supporters who agree, who think the war was a mistake. And so we have to remember that Donald Trump isn't playing this like any normal Republicans. Not like his beliefs line up with any real Republicans anyway. He's playing to a certain audience that's frustrated in general with the government and for that audience he scored a lot.

BLACKWELL: But Kayleigh, you've (ph) got to play the game in front of him and that is South Carolina, right? So in South Carolina the Bush name is golden. Does this hurt him going into Saturday?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look I think it does. When you look at Donald Trump, he really had two tiered support. On one hand he has conservatives and evangelicals -- some of their support -- certainly important in South Carolina. On the other hand he has independents which again important in South Carolina. It's an open primary state, Democrats can vote. Donald Trump pulls in some of that constituency.

But here is the problem with what Donald Trump said. I happen to fall in the conservative line of his camp. And among conservatives George W. Bush has 83 percent approval. It is absolutely fine to say, we shouldn't have gone into Iraq. I happen to agree with him there. A lot of conservatives do. But to call George W. Bush a liar it is just a bridge too far. He had faulty intelligence. We can debate the merits of that all day. But George W. Bush is a hero to many conservatives and, you know, I wish Donald Trump would dial it back a tad because it could really harm him with this constituency.

BLACKWELL: Jim, is the Bush, love this Bush adoration. Is that transferable? I mean, how much support does Jeb Bush get simply for being a Bush on the ballot in South Carolina?

ACOSTA: Well as you know, Victor, this has been -- this had been difficult for Jeb Bush all along throughout his campaign. You know, all you have to do is look at his signs. They say, Jeb, exclamation point. They don't say Jeb Bush and it's because the Bush name is a bit of a drag on his candidacy. However, he is gambling big that George W. Bush will be an asset down in South Carolina. That is why he's coming in there.

If George W. Bush were an even bigger asset nationally I suspect he would have been on the campaign trail much sooner. It would not have been the much more popular Barbara Bush up in New Hampshire, it would have been George W. Bush.

So this is -- this can be a drag on Jeb Bush's candidacy. However having said that and I agree with what Kayleigh just said, you know, these attacks on George W. Bush saying that, you know, 9/11 happened on his watch. The World Trade Center came down on his watch -- that's an example of him not keeping the country safe. That might have been a bridge too far -- and it is going to be interesting to see if Donald Trump can handle this moving forward.

At the same time though you talk to his supporters. You talk to people -- I mean, people who are inside the Republican Party or as conservatives as you can find them will say that the reason why they like Donald Trump is because he tells it like it is. That is his brand.


The question is whether or not that brand can hold up after what happened last night. It remains to be seen.

BLACKWELL: All right.

Kayleigh and Jason, I just want a single name if you can give it to me because I've been given the wrap. The winner of last night's debate? Kayleigh first.

MCENANY: Donald Trump, but he needs to dial back the George W. Bush attack.


JOHNSON: Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: All right. Donald Trump both there. Jason Johnson, Kayleigh McEnany, and Jim Acosta -- we'll send it back to you in a moment. Thank you all for joining the conversation.

MCENANY: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We'll continue at next hour.

Coming up at the top of the hour, of course, we remember the life of Justice Scalia. His sudden death has created a political fire storm right in the middle of course this contentious election season. We'll look at how his legacy could affect the future of the campaign and the future of the country.


PAUL: Fifty-four minutes past the hour and the Kremlin reporting that Russian President Putin and President Obama spoke by phone this morning on a wide range of topics including Ukraine, Syria, ISIS. Of particular concern though to the White House is these Russian warplanes targeting opposition groups in Syria that the U.S. supports. The U.S. contends those attacks are also killing civilians.

CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is at the Munich conference.

So, I understand -- are the Russians listening to the U.S. complaints? What do we know about the conversation between the two leaders?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, you can certainly tell that the Russians are hearing the complaints and hearing them loud and clear from all around but they seem to be pretty impervious to it.


Really the -- what we have for the Russian prime minister yesterday heading (ph) back and accusing NATO of being unfriendly, opaque and that they're slipping towards a new cold war. And that seems to be Russia's defense against the criticism we're hearing.

Senator McCain who's been speaking here at the Security Conference and he's had a lot of support from a lot of people. It has been quite a number of (INAUDIBLE) of applause for him. He also joining the criticism of Russia's air campaign and also the lack of resolve from the White House to deal with this. This is what he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Russia has indiscriminately bombed civilians and moderate opposition groups for months with impunity. U.S. intelligence leaders have stated publicly that Russia's intervention has stabilized the Assad regime and helped it get back on the offensive. And now, as we sit here today, Syrian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian forces are accelerating their siege of Aleppo.

It is no accident that Mr. Putin has agreed on a cessation of hostilities when he did.


ROBERTSON: Well there's a wide sense of the Security Conference that it is the lack of sort of leverage that the United States has over Russia at the moment that's really leaving the floor open to Russia. That there was no way that anyone could get Russia to back down and give a cessation of hostilities in Syria immediately because there is no leverage and therefore that is why they are continuing the bombs. So a lot of frustrations we heard from the opposition -- we hear about that too.

PAUL: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you so much for the update we appreciate it.

And thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: We've got much more ahead on the next hour of your NEW DAY. It starts after a short break.