Return to Transcripts main page
President Donald Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch To Fill The Open Seat On The Supreme Court; Little Doubt President Trump's Chief Political Strategist Is One Of The Most Powerful People In Washington. Aired 11p-12:00mn ET
Aired January 31, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:45] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Donald Trump announces his Supreme Court pick as only he could, with a takeover of prime time TV. That's the way he does it.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
President Donald Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But do Democrats have a reason to not fight the nomination? Meanwhile, opposition is spreading to President Trump's executive order on immigration as the White House argues over whether or not the order is a ban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not, I repeat not a ban on Muslims.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not a Muslim ban. It is not a travel ban.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to have a very strict ban and we are going to have extreme vetting which we should have had in this country for many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Plus is this man the real power behind the throne, right there in the glasses? Why the "New York Times" calls Steve Bannon the de facto president?
We will discuss all of that.
I want to get right to CNN Supreme Court correspondent Pamela Brown.
Pamela, good evening to you. What do we know about Judge Neil Gorsuch, the president's pick for the Supreme Court?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that he has been a leading contender for some time leading up to the big prime time announcement tonight that he was Donald Trump's pick to feel Justice Antonin Scalia's seat. But what's interesting to note here, Don, is that during the campaign his name wasn't even on that initial list of possible Supreme Court nominees that Donald Trump released. His name on the second list. And then we are told recently as people within his circle started scrubbing his judicial record on the federal bench in Colorado they liked what they saw and we have learned that Judge Gorsuch met with Donald Trump just a few weeks ago in New York and clearly Donald Trump was impressed by him.
Conservatives like what they see with his track record on federal bench particularly when it comes to religious liberty, when it comes to separation of powers. He also wrote a book saying that he did not believe the law supported assisted suicide. And here's what Donald Trump had to say his Supreme Court nominee tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Brilliance sting assured. I studied every aspect of his life. He could have had any job at any law firm for any amount of money, but what wanted to do with his career was to be a judge, to write decision and to make an impact by upholding our laws and our constitution. The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute. He is the man of our country and a man who our country really needs and needs badly to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice. I would like to thank Senate leadership. I only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come together for once for the good of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And there have also been a lot of comparisons, Don, between judge Gorsuch and late justice Antonin Scalia, the seat that he might fill, of course he is confirmed, in terms of their judicial philosophy. Both of them believed that the constitution should be interpreted literally. That you should look at what the people who wrote the constitution, the founders, intended at that time.
Also we have learned that they were good friends. In fact, there was picture of the two of them together right here as we see here, they were fishing. And they have similar writing styles as well. So all of this also factored into this decision and was appealing to President Trump and his team, Don.
LEMON: So Pamela, why did the president make it seem like there were two finalists down to the wire here? Was the goal to add drama or was he really unsure about who he would choose?
BROWN: I think it was more to build suspense here. In fact, we were told that judge Gorsuch wasn't told notified that he was the pick until yesterday and then there was a sort of this cloak and dagger process to bring him here to Washington. In fact, were told he was able to evade the press and leave behind his house on a dirt road in unmarked car and then he was taken to Washington in military aircraft. So it is clear the White House wanted to do everything it could to conceal who the top pick was. And of course, as we know, that was Gorsuch.
And we were told from our sources that Judge Hardiman, the other contender was not told until today officially that he was not Donald Trump's pick but were told there are sources that there could be other opportunities for him down the road. As we know, Don, three of the high court justices are in their 70s and 80s. So this may not be Donald Trump's last time to nominate a high court justice, Don.
[23:05:14] LEMON: Thank you, Pamela. Appreciate that.
I want to bring in now CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum, attorney Alan Dershowitz, the author of "Electile Dysfunctions, a guide for unaroused voters," and saw your eyebrows raise here, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us via skype.
Gentlemen, good evening to you.
Senator Santorum, I know that you are pleased with this pick because you think it reassures Republicans who are concerned about maybe the rocky couple of days and the first rocky couple of days and maybe you think this pass some breathing room.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And look, Scalia is icon among Republicans and conservatives and this was big issue in the campaign for all conservatives.
And you know, when Donald Trump called me in June after Ted Cruz got out, he called and asked if, you know, I would endorse him, I said I'm going to vote for you. You know, you are going to be the nominee, but I said look, I need some assurances on the Supreme Court. And he said, well, I'm working on a list. And I said great.
You know, when that list comes out and you say you are going to support who you will pick from that list, I'll endorse you. And he did within a few days publish that list and that became the issue for every conservative. And so, the fact that he picked from that list, that he pick -- not the original but an expanded list which is also properly vetted is hugely important for the base who went out and turned out for a guy --
LEMON: Your guy didn't picked because Hardiman is your guy, right?
SANTORUM: Look. Tom Hardiman is a good friend of mine and I think the things you are saying about Neil Gorsuch, you could say about Tom Hardiman. But I think the fact that Gorsuch is more in the mold of Scalia, more of, you know, a flare for writing, more of a powerful writer, more of an intellectual, probably fits better than Tom who is more of a blue-collar kind of --
LEMON: Cab driver guy.
Listen. I want to go to the other panelist. But do you think this sort of gives him some breathing room, you know, in the uproar over the ban?
SANTORUM: Certainly - well, certainly, amongst the bas, it gives him breather and he rolled this out beautifully. Did a great job, picked a great justice. And now, hopefully it is a little bit of a reset button for this team.
LEMON: Jeffrey Toobin, I want to go to you know. What do we know about judge Gorsuch and how he might rule on issues like abortion, LGBT issues and religious liberty and other contentious topics?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he hasn't ruled on all of those issues specifically. But if you look at his judicial philosophy, you see someone who is going to almost certainly vote down the line the way justice Scalia did, against abortion rights, against affirmative action, against gay rights. And you know, this proved the value of the obstruction that the Republicans engaged in over the past year, during the last year of President Obama's presidency. They stopped Merritt Garland, equally qualified to Neil Gorsuch, and they got a nominee who will duplicate, as far as I can tell, Justice Scalia down the line.
LEMON: Mr. Dershowitz, how do you think Democrats will respond to this pick? They are still upset about the former president's selection Merrick Garland, that he never got a hearing or a vote.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there are two issues. One is qualifications. And as Jeffrey said he is equally qualified to Merrick Garland which means very qualified. The Democrats can't object to his qualifications and they will probably can't object to his ideology. If the president makes the nomination, he is entitled to pick someone whose ideology is close to him.
What they will object to is the fact that this vacancy should have been filled by a Democratic president and not Republican president and that they will make the same arguments that were made in the months past that there is nothing wrong with the four to four court. That was Ted Cruz's argument that the president can be denied his choice if there are institutional problems.
In the end that view won't prevail. Trump was smart. He picked somebody whose qualifications can't be attack and whose ideology is not so extreme like the for example, the Bork nomination that he will lose some of the Republican supporters. He is going to get all the Republican senators. And I don't think they are going to waste the nuclear option on this one. So I suspect we are going to Mr. Justice Gorsuch sitting on the Supreme Court before long.
Is it fair to give the Republicans this victory? Probably not. They don't deserve it. But that's the way politics are played in Washington.
LEMON: Yes. And also, remember Democrats played the long game because they were thinking that they are going to have a Democrat in the White House and that that person won't be able to choose the next Supreme Court justice. It didn't happen that way. They played the long way and they lost.
[23:10:05] TOOBIN: Well, actually that's not true --
LEMON: OK. Go ahead. Why am I wrong, Jeffrey? Go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, because Democrats were not playing a long game. They wanted their nominee to get a vote. I mean, they did not want to delay. They wanted --.
LEMON: Didn't make issue of it, though, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Wanted traditional way, president nominates someone, Senate holds hearings and then there's a vote. This was completely extraordinary what Mitch McConnell and Republicans did. Remember Antonin Scalia died on February 14th, almost entire year left in the Obama presidency. It's unprecedented to delay that long.
LEMON: OK Jeffrey --
TOOBIN: Republicans had control of the Senate and they were able to do it and they suffered no political penalty. But it's certainly wasn't the Democrats' choice.
LEMON: I realize you are in Skype and you can't hear. I'm trying to get in. My point is, though, is that Democrats could have made a much bigger issue out of it, much bigger deal. Like don't you think they could have fought harder? You are saying in February, which is almost a year ago and they didn't all through the campaign, all the last year they didn't make a big deal of this. I think in the back of their heads they were saying we are going to have Democrat president. Hillary Clinton is going to be president. She will get to decide. We'll let it slide, no?
DERSHOWITZ: But they couldn't have won even if they made a big deal of it.
TOOBIN: One thing - remember, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke at democratic convention in 2016, neither one of them mentioned Merrick Garland. So the issue did fall off the radar screen and you are right that though the Democrats didn't push this as hard as they might have.
LEMON: Yes. OK.
SANTORUM: They could have pushed it but they weren't going to win. They didn't have the votes to win. They weren't going to win. And number one and number two, it is not un-precedent, Jeffrey. And you know very, very well that openings like this at end of, particularly of eight year term are not things are going to be voted.
LEMON: And ultimately did think they are going to win the presidency. That's why.
SANTORUM: That's true.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
When we come right back, he was Donald Trump's rival for the Republican nomination, now Senator Ted Cruz is weighing in on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch.
[23:15:43] LEMON: Breaking news, President Donald Trump nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. I want to bring in now Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas who ran
the Republican nomination last year. He almost was in this position, could have been on this position but now it's Donald Trump.
Senator, welcome. Thank you for joining us so much.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Don. Good to be with you.
LEMON: I can see you are standing there right in front of the White House. What's your reaction to the president's pick for the Supreme Court?
CRUZ: I think it was absolute home run. Tonight was a very. Very important night for the country. It is the most important decision that President Trump has made in the two weeks in the office. In the course of the office he promised the American people that he would nominate a principled constitutionalist to replace Justice Scalia, and tonight in nominating judge Gorsuch, President Trump has honored that commitment. He has kept his word to the American people.
LEMON: Do you know judge Gorsuch personally? Do you know him?
CRUZ: You know, I don't know him personally. I know a lot of people who do know him well. And everyone I know who knows him thinks very. Very highly of him. What I have, Don, is I have reviewed a number of his opinions. This week and last, I spent reading some of his key opinions. And I will tell you, this is a judge who for a decade has a proven record of following the law, of demonstrating judicial humility, not legislating from the bench, not seeking a desired outcome, but simply following the law, following the constitution, upholding the bill of rights. And I think that's exactly what American people want and expect in a Supreme Court justice.
LEMON: Nancy Pelosi was on CNN tonight. She said, you know, elections have ramifications here, this is one of them. That the president, this Republican president gets to pick someone for the Supreme Court. There are some Democratic senators who already saying that they are going to oppose this nomination. If they try to filibuster the president's (INAUDIBLE). And from our reporting, they say they may not, because they may want to wait until the next time which is as of more importance to them. You say the nuclear option should be on the table, meaning that Senate Republicans change the threshold, creating a filibuster from 60 to 51 votes. Why do you say that?
CRUZ: Well, I hope Democrats don't choose to filibuster this nomination. We will see if they do or not. They shouldn't. You know, Judge Gorsuch, a decade ago nominated to the court of appeals. And he was confirmed by voice vote which means not a single Democrat spoke out or an opposition to his confirmation. And so, what I would ask my Democratic colleagues is what has changed. A decade ago, you are willing to confirm him to the court of appeals. And I think if anything his record has gotten much, much stronger by having a proven record of faithfulness to the law on the bench. But beyond that I think on the merits, judge Gorsuch has demonstrated that he is a fitting replacement, a fitting successor for Justice Scalia, a true lion of the law.
And let me say, Don, this process of nominating a Supreme Court justice is the most transparent process in modern history. A year ago during the campaign, Donald Trump laid out for the American voters a list of 21 potential nominees. He made iron clad commitment, he would nominate from those 21. That has no precedent in modern time. That meant the American people could vet those 21, no exactly, but Donald Trump was promised. And tonight, he delivered on that.
LEMON: Yes. And so, I mean, you know, you have been in Washington and you know how this works. Democrats, they are still angry that Republicans refused to hold hearings for Obama's pick, President Obama's pick Judge Merrick Garland. Do you worry that one day, one day maybe not with this appointment but perhaps the next one at the tables could turn.
CRUZ: Well, look. Anything is possible. You are right. A lot of Democrats are angry. They are angry at the results of the election and number of them will point to Merrick Garland.
You know, I will point out, Don, the situations are very, very different. Justice Scalia passed away last year right in the middle of a presidential election. It's been 80 years since the Senate has confirmed any judicial vacancy for the Supreme Court that occurred during a presidential election. And the Republican majority in the senate last year announced before Merrick Garland was nominated, before anyone was nominated, that we were going to keep this seat open and let the American people decide. That this, that the court really was hanging in the balance. And think this election was a referendum. It was a referendum for the American people. Do you want a principled constitutionalist who will honor the constitution and will uphold the bill of rights or do you want a liberal judicial activist which is what Hillary Clinton had promise? And the people spoke on Election Day. And my hope is that Senate Democrats will respect the will of the American people. And that judge Gorsuch will receive a swift hearing and a swift confirmation.
[23:20:17] LEMON: But Merrick Garland, you know, was not that - Merrick Garland was pretty centrist. People thought that he was fairly, you know, fairly centrist, no?
CRUZ: Well, I recognize that may be the sense in the CNN NEWSROOM. But that was not the sense in the rest of the country. I'm a litigator who has practiced in front of Merrick Garland. I spent a lot of years as U.S. Supreme Court nominee. And Garland is a smart capable person but also who had a systemic record of voting for very liberal outcomes. For example, voting to undermine the second amendment right to keep and bear arms. And Don, I think the voters went to the polls in November and they said we don't want a justice like Hillary Clinton has promised to take away our second amendment right. We want a justice who will be faithful to the constitution.
LEMON: Yes. I don't want to litigate that. That has been litigated back and forth.
But the only reason I said that it's not CNN NEWSROOM, it is just that he was confirmed with a lot of Republican support. So that comes from Washington and Republicans. It is not from CNN NEWSROOM. But let's - I don't dwell on that. Can we move on and talking --?
CRUZ: Well, you know, Washington gets a lot of things wrong.
LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about the president's executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim majority countries. You support the order but during the campaign when then candidate Trump called for an all- out ban against Muslims traveling to the U.S., you said that that wasn't your policy. Is this policy to you a form of a Muslim ban?
CRUZ: Well, Don, describing this executive order as Muslim ban is not accurate. What the president did is he enacted a common sense step to impose a four month pause on refugee admissions from nations that are warn-torn, that have high populations of radical Islamic terrorist, that have high concentrations of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. And the reason is, the head of the FBI, James Comey, who I would note President Obama appointed, told the president he couldn't vet those refugees to make sure that they weren't terrorists. And President Trump's decision to pause the refugee program to make sure we are not letting terrorists in this country, is a common sense step that the overwhelming majority of the American people agree with and I think it reflects an administration that is serious about keeping this nation safe and about defeating radical Islamic terrorists.
LEMON: Do you think that it could have been rolled out better? Because there have been a number of Republicans, high ranking Republicans who have criticized, but they do support it but they just say could have been rolled out better.
CRUZ: You know what? There are always a multitude of people in Washington who want to throw rocks. I'm grateful that we have president who has as top priority keeping this country safe.
LEMON: Let's talk about Obamacare because Senator Orrin Hatch today said that the president does not appear to have a separate Obamacare plan. Are you aware of a White House plan to replace Obamacare?
CRUZ: Well, I think those discussions are ongoing. What I believe is going so happen, is that Congress is going to follow through on the commitment we made to the American people and commitment that President Trump made to the American people to repeal Obamacare.
Obamacare isn't working. Millions of Americans they have lost their jobs, they have been forced into part-time work, they have lost their healthcare, their doctors. You know, I would ask folks at home, how many of you have seen your premiums sky rocket through the roof?
This thing is a disaster. That's why Bill Clinton called it the craziest things he has ever seen. And so, I believe this spring, Congress is going to follow through on our commitment. We are going to repeal Obamacare. And then we are going to pass common sense healthcare reform that empowers patients, puts you in charge of your healthcare, includes important reforms like letting you buy health insurance across state line.
LEMON: But you're not aware of the White House plan to replace Obamacare at this point?
CRUZ: What I'm aware of is ongoing discussions between the administration and Congress on the contours of a plan. But you know what? There's a lot of agreement on the principles. The principles are that you the patient should be in charge of your healthcare, not the federal government. And those are principles the American people had in front of them in the election and I think Obamacare like the Supreme Court was a major, major factor in President Trump defeating Hillary Clinton in November.
LEMON: I think it is foregone conclusion with the Republicans in control and the Republicans White House that it would be replaced or changed somehow, just wondering if you knew of a plan right now that is on the table.
I also want to ask you about the border wall which, you know, would have, of course, directly impacts your state. I know you support the actions the president is taking. But are you concerned that the U.S. may end up footing the bill here. And if the U.S. has to pay for this wall upfront or not, will you support it if it's not offset by spending cuts, new spending cuts.
CRUZ: We need to do everything necessary to secure the border. You know, Texas, we have got 1200 miles of border with Mexico. I have spent a lot of time now at the border. I have stood on the banks of the Rio Grande. As you can see, illegal aliens hurdled on the other side just waiting for border patrol to leave to they can cross illegally.
It doesn't make any sense particularly in an age of terror, in an age of ISIS that we don't know who is coming into this country. And you know, when it comes to wall, Don, federal law has mandated a physical barrier for years.
[23:25:16] LEMON: Senator Ted Cruz, thank you so much.
CRUZ: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come right back, he has never gotten a single vote but may be the most powerful man in Washington.
[23:28:51] LEMON: Tonight there is little doubt President Trump's chief political strategist is one of the most powerful people in Washington. CNN has learned that Steve Bannon was among those in Donald Trump's inner circle who pushed through some key components of the president's travel ban. With that and its position on the national Security Council, Stephen Bannon has influence most presidential aides only dream of.
Well, CNN's Brian Todd has that for us tonight. And there is a bit of racy language in this report. We have to tell you about. Here it is.
CROWD: Refugees are welcome here.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's hardline approach on immigration and terror causing protests, disruptions at airports and now a messy fight with the justice department.
The controversial moves have senior councilor Steve Bannon's fingerprints all over them. Tonight, there's new concern over Bannon's massive influence over the president and his aggressive style.
STEVE BANNON, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S CHIEF STRATEGIST: I think angry is a good thing. I think if you are fighting this country.
TODD: "The New York Times" editorial page today says Bannon has positioned himself as quote "the de facto president." And quote "we have never witnessed a political aide do quite so much damage so quickly to his putative boss' popular standing or pretenses of competence."
Analysts say Bannon has made a huge impact early in the administration getting himself a full seat on the National Security Council, leveraging the relationship he cultivated as at CEO of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign.
He's been the most influential Trump adviser in the first two weeks of the White House partly because he's got the president's ear and operates as sort of free-floating adviser without entanglements of others.
[23:30:00] RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Bannon has been able to be the most influential Trump advisor in the first two weeks of this White House. Partly, because he has got the president's ear and he operates this sort of free floating advisor without the entanglements of other aides.
TODD: The 63-year-old former banker also headed the far-right Breitbart news website and he is known for quotes like darkness is good, and Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan. That's power.
Bannon now has president's ear in a White House accused of discriminating against Muslims which the White House deny. Bannon himself has made some combative statements about Islam. In 2014, --.
BANNON: Where now I believed at the beginning stages of global war against Islamic fascism.
TODD: And in the 2010 radio interview discovered by CNN's K-file.
BANNON: Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of submission.
TODD: Bannon has called Brietbart a platform for the alt right (ph), a far right political movement which often champions white nationalist and anti-Semitic views. Bannon denies being anti-Semitic and a white nationalist but he isn't afraid to take on his own party. BANNON: What we need to do is bitch slap the Republican Party.
TODD: Bannon has loyal defenders.
JOEL POLLAK, SENIOR EDITOR AT LARGE, BREITBART NEWS: Steve Bannon is a national hero. We are going to see Supreme Court appointments of individuals who will uphold the constitution and for that America owes Steve Bannon a great debt of gratitude.
SPICER: He understands and fight for the working-class Americans out there who haven't their voices heard.
TODD: Kurt Bandella quit his job at Breitbart and is now critical of Bannon. He calls Bannon diligent, intelligent and intimidating.
KURT BARDELLA, FORMER MEDIA CONSULTANT FOR BREITBART: His governing style though is very much that of force. And I think a lot of what you saw and really how Trump react to controversy and criticism is really reflective of Steve's style which is all about confrontation, being provocateur, never backing down, never apologizing, never showing weakness and through sheer force of will bully your agenda through, you know, by all means necessary.
TODD: We asked for a response to that from the White House. They did not respond. Steve Bannon did not comment for the story. But a White House official, when we ask for a response to the "New York Times" editorial which suggested that Donald Trump consider reducing Steven Bannon's role, this White House official told us quote "if the "New York Times" editorial page actually matter then why did their candidate of choice lose the most electoral votes of any Democratic candidate since Michael Dukakis" - Don.
LEMON: Brian Todd, thank you very much.
I want to bring in now CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "Rightful Heritage, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the land of America" and Kurt Bardella who is we just saw in Brian's report, formerly worked at Beirtbart and know Steve Bannon.
Thank you gentlemen.
Douglas, let's talk about this. Brian Todd just mentioned president Bannon thing. We even had a guest say that on the show last night. It is really catching on. I Googled it, got about almost five million hits. Is calling him president Bannon overstating his influence?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Of course. It is overstating. There's only President Trump but Bannon is extremely powerful. I mean, we have had image makers in the White House before. People like Michael Deever (ph) with Ronald Reagan or (INAUDIBLE) with John F. Kennedy.
LEMON: Karl Rove. BRINKLEY: Karl Rove, yes. Exactly. But what he has different beyond
doing the image he is trying to float the idea of Donald Trump as Andrew Jackson like economic populist and all is that Bannon and Trump share a love of the media empire. I think if Donald Trump was something else besides president, he would be Rupert Murdock and Bannon has made documentaries, films. He is deeply into the idea of mass media. So the combination of them is going to be very potent I think in the coming years.
LEMON: Kurt, Bannon is where he is today because he understood the power of the Trump vote. What did he say that Trump's opponents and hi critics didn't see?
BARDELLA: Well, I think he saw, particularly at the time when we had a massive robust Republican primary field really full of traditional political Washington types, he saw in Trump as someone who talked like the average person, someone who could put into action the rhetoric you would sometimes see on really on the pages of Brietbart News and someone who is unafraid to go toe-to-toe with quote/unquote "conventional wisdom" and blow it up.
And you look at Steve's rhetoric before he entered the White House and the political terrain directly, and it mimics so much what you are hearing from - what you heard from candidate Trump and now President Trump. And I think part of the reason why you are seeing this president Bannon-type editorializing is because unlike lot of situations with other presidents and advisers, Bannon's record and rhetoric were so much more prevalent before there was a political Donald Trump. And it seems like, you know, what came first, that Donald Trump movement or Steve Bannon and Brietbart? And in this case really Steve Bannon and Brietbart came first. And so, now that they are in power and in office and able to put action behind their words it sounds like awful a lot like a Brietbart-type as presidency.
[23:35:20] LEMON: Yes.
Douglas, you mentioned image makers, we got image makers in the White House. Remember when people would say, you know, Karl Rove is President Bush's brain, right. And you know, you talked about influence of Karl Rove in the White House. My question is, though, how is Bannon different from your run of the mill conservative Republican?
BRINKLEY: Because he represents an entire new media movement, the alt-right. And that's what - and Donald Trump has declared a war. The opposition for Trump is establishment media and they want to destroy it. And his weapon in the destruction of the opposition is Steve Bannon. Because Bannon, because of his time with Breitbart and other projects is geared up to do that.
And it is not that they want to destroy just mainstream media but they want to win the media wars that are going on right now. And he is a fighter. He shares with Donald Trump a belief that take no prisoners, never apologize, scorched earth kind of policy. He is Navy man. And Trump and him I think will have great shorthand. They both talk in earthy fashion together in White House that might be filled with erudition. They are both are gut players. They are punchers. And so, they are going to be dynamic duo. Although Trump's role is obviously larger and Bannon could be dismissed at any moment.
LEMON: Kurt, I want you to listen now with Steve Bannon told "Vanity Fair" last summer. He said Trump is a blunt instrument for us. I don't know whether he really gets it or not. Is that an implication? Is he implying that Steve Bannon sees in Donald Trump a means towards his own end?
BARDELLA: Yes. I think what Steve sees is a president that he can control and manipulate and shape and really use the presidency and thereby his proximity to the oval office as means to implement the policies and the direction of the country that really Steve wants to see.
And again, you are seeing that with the immigrant ban and really the foreign policy, isolationist, antitrade type of agenda we have seen in the first really only week and a half now, the Trump presidency. And that mirrors exactly what Steve Bannon has been talking about and espousing for a good amount of time.
Just in the last few hours, different stories, "the Washington Post" and "USA Today" have come out detailing what Steve Bannon's foreign policy view is and it is very much anti-immigrant, anti-foreigners, aligning to perpetrate this idea that our country is under assault from immigrants that are lining up to take things away from Americans which by the way isn't true. But you are seeing this put policies coming to action now and it is Steve Bannon's words put in to policy and is shaping exactly what he wants from Donald Trump. Because he sees, as you pointed out in that quote, a candidate and then the president who didn't really have deep policy, deep substance, deep ideas and he is going to fill in all the blanks for him.
LEMON: Douglas, I want you to listen to Steve Bannon in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: But also to make sure we understand that we are at the very beginning stages of global conflict. And that if we do not bind together as partners with others, in other countries that this consulate is only going to metastasize. They have a twitter account up today about turning the United States into a river of blood if it comes in to try to defend the city of Baghdad. And trust me that's going to come to Europe. That is going to come to central Europe. He is going to come to Western Europe. He is going to come to United Kingdom. And so, I think that we are in a crisis of capitalism, underpinnings of capitalism. And on top of that, we are now I believe at beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Yes. That was a little longer than I thought.
So quickly, Douglas, he sees us in global war against Islam and capitalism in crisis. Is that extreme world view for White House counselor?
BRINKLEY: Extremely extreme. That's Alex Jones info war kind of material. That is nutty. I have to think that that's probably one of his worst sound bites he eve gave but he talk about the spirit thing. He feels of that he likes to talk about dark spirits and blood. And it's bizarre. And we are going to have -- the media is going to have to keep a very close eye on Steve Bannon because he often - he hates like any nefarious character.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
Up next, Democrats between a rock and hard place when it comes to President Trump's nomination for a judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court?
[23:43:46] LEMON: President making one of the most significant decision of his young presidency, nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
I want to bring in now CNN political commentators Kayleigh McEnany, Symone Sanders, Bakari Sellers and Matt Lewis. That was easy. I don't have to read off all the things, all the books. I know you guys were all accomplished. But any way, thank you for being here.
Bakari, for Democrats this Supreme Court announcement which is painful example of, you know, when people say elections have consequences. Nancy Pelosi said basically that tonight in the town hall with Jake Tapper. What should Democrats do now? What are you going to do?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, elections do have consequences. And the first thing that people have to realize is that this is not like a Bork nomination. I don't think that you can challenge the qualifications of (INAUDIBLE). But we do still have to stay in the mode of resisting. We do have to stay in the mode of channeling all of this energy that you have out there.
I think the Democrats need to do something that is pretty smart. I think that the Democrats need to sit down, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, whoever need to sit down and say look, it is next seat, what we will do is we will make sure that this seat is Gorsuch, the next seat, let's get Merrick Garland a good shake at it and try to come with some compromise.
This seat doesn't shift the balance of the court. In fact, we all know that the Kennedy seat is the one that shift the balance of the court. I think Democrats who take that tack first before they burn the house down. If not, then I would expect filibusters to as long as Republicans don't go nuclear. But when that happens, I expect every single Democrat to go out with a fight.
[23:45:14] LEMON: Gloria Borger and Mark Preston, they both said that was not going to happen like negotiating something off of this because they said this was more about what you believe in. This wasn't just a negotiation. Do you agree with that, Matt? MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look. I mean, Democrat
are - they are not in position to even negotiate. They have no leverage at all right now. I think what they need is time. They need to take the Senate back. And so, may be if, you know, there is going to be election in two years. There is going to be more elections in four years and we don't know when the next vacancy will come up. Democrats might be in a much stronger position even with a Republican president the next time around. But really are in a very weak position and zero leverage.
LEMON: So, I want to ask you about that Symone. And don't want to be Donny Downer here. But that's make a point. There's a Republican house, there is Republican Senate, there is Republican in the White House. The court could very soon the republican. He is not going to get impeached because Republicans are the majority. And so, I hear people all the time saying resist, resist. And of course you should, you know, protest and resist if you want. But there's a reality to what Matt is saying that is the consequences of some people not going out to voting or, you know, not being enthused about their candidate or what have you. But Democrats are not in a great position right now. They don't have much power.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, those are the facts. We don't have much power. But that doesn't mean shouldn't be resisting and we shouldn't be fighting.
Look. A Democrat insight, Betsy DeVos might right now be secretary of education. But we know there are some real issues with Betsy. Betsy isn't qualified and she might not make it. This is solely because of the outside pressure, the grassroots people have put on their Democratic senators and Republican senators but also the great questioning from the Democratic senators in the hearing. So the resistance does works. The resistance matters.
Look. You know, this nominee may very well make it through. But what I don't want to hear and what I have been hearing is Republican senators lecturing on how the Senate has to do their job and they shouldn't be obstructing when still Democrats reeling from the fact that Merrick Garland didn't even get a confirmation hearing.
Kayleigh, Sean Spicer said this today earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One of the things that's time honored tradition in this country is that we recognize that the confirmation process, the default is if you're qualified for the position should be confirmed, not the other way around. And I think that most Democrats realize that at some point having a court that is not fully operational is not the political fight to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So I think that's a point that Symone was making there that Republicans did not afford that same opportunity for the former president to get Merrick Garland through or even to be voted on and considered.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. I mean, and they made and very smartly they said let's make this next election a referendum on the Supreme Court. What kind of justice do the American people want? And I think that was a very smart tack to play. I was very wise and I do think we need to fill that seat. Look, I think for Democrats to think they are going to stonewall the Supreme Court for the next four to potentially eight years in just having eight person Supreme Court is a kind of a pipe dream. So I think the Republicans were right to say that but Democrats can't stall this.
LEMON: But does she have a point, though, that the former president wasn't afford that same opportunity and now they want -- Republicans want the Democrats to play fairly now?
MCENANY: No, because I think the president had one year left -- not one year, it was ten months left. He was essentially a lame duck president so instead of letting the president choose, let the American people choose. And the American people spoke in the election of Donald Trump.
LEMON: Is that fair, Symone?
SANDERS: No, the American people, three million more American people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump but that's over there. President Obama was president. It is his choice to put forth a Supreme Court nominee and it's the Senate's job to hold confirmation hearings. The Senate Republicans robbed President Obama of what was rightly his purview to do.
LEMON: So Democrats have been stronger in pushing to have Merrick Garland or were they just relying on Hillary Clinton made in the White House? Maybe more liberal choice did to me?
SELLERS: But I think that may be a fair point. I think that we all realized that Supreme Court wasn't made issue in the Democratic convention and -- it tells us that we should have a better job explaining the voters why this was important and why there is hang in the balance.
But the fact is the Republican obstruction, and I hate the way that it somehow been crystalized as being this very valuable thing that happen. That Mitch McConnell is all of a sudden some patriot because he actually withheld a hearing, withheld a vote for the longest period of time in American history. It was nearly a year and people tried to compare to other things. But this was the longest that we have sitting in the state.
And so, I think that the obstruction that they show Barack Obama was just, first of all, it was disrespectful. And second, it's very hard for anyone to have the moral high ground right now and say that senators should do something or senators should vote when just last year you were not in that same position. Ted Cruz is the biggest hypocrite that we have because Ted Cruz even said that Hillary Clinton would not get a vote if she was president of the United States.
[23:50:52] LEMON: All right. We will be right back.
[23:53:00] LEMON: Back now with my panel.
Matt Lewis, I want to bring you in since, you know, you didn't get to talk much. You just the opposite. But that's OK.
Matt, Gold Star father Khizr Khan spoke with CNN international today and he was asked about the White House denying that this is a Muslim ban. He called the president a coward for not having the courage to call it a Muslim ban. What do you think?
LEWIS: well, look. It becomes a matter of semantics at some point. But I don't think it is a Muslim ban for two reasons. It's sort of like the Holy Roman Empire, right. It is neither a holy nor Rome nor empire. It's fair to say it's a Muslim ban because it doesn't impact people who are Islamic who reside in other countries, other predominantly Muslim countries. And it is not a ban. It's a temporary ban or a pause. So I don't mean to be disagreeable, but I just think that is not the right word. And I know Donald Trump has used the terminology too and so did Sean Spicer. I just think it's imprecise.
LEMON: That was, I mean, you are going to need someone to help you get you out of that pretzel when you get off the air. You are like well --.
LEWIS: I'm just clearing the air here but I don't think it's a Muslim ban.
LEMON: Kayleigh, what do you think?
MCENANY: It's not a Muslim ban. It is not semantic. It is just purely not what it is. I mean, the fact that 56 Muslim majority nations aren't affected by this ban. If it is ban on Muslim, what about the 56 countries where every Muslim is allowed to come here just to (INAUDIBLE)? It's factually not a Muslim ban. And this is what I mean when I say people distort the facts and twist it. And that's what we tell people do all along when they said Donald Trump caught on that (INAUDIBLE). This when eliminated all the nuances from the statement and that's what people are doing now. And Donald Trump has the right to be infuriated about that.
[23:55:08] LEMON: Go ahead, Bakari.
SELLERS: Well, it does affect 12 percent of Muslims throughout the world.
MCENANY: What about the 88 percent.
SELLERS: But let's not act as if it just affect a few people. And I know that we are getting dragged down in semantics. I really want to talk about the effect that is having on people such as a family and then we just saw today where a mother actually died waiting in transit. But even more importantly, I mean, I think that you and Matt, I love you to death, but that's kind of like saying that it's not slavery because we only had it in a few states.
I mean, the fact of the matter is we need to call it what it is. And this is a ban, this is a Muslim ban. But we need to dig down deeper and figure out where he wants to go from here. And again, as a Democrat, with me and Symone and others, we need to make sure that we put all the pressure to let him that this is not what our country is built upon.
LEMON: Symone, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said today that President Donald Trump's extreme vetting immigration order was not a ban. He called it extreme vetting immigration order. It is not a ban on Muslims.
SANDERS: Well, look. The administration is playing the semantics game. The fact of the matter is Donald Trump himself called it a ban. The other fact of the matter is Rudy Giuliani went on national television, on FOX News Sunday and said Donald Trump called him up and asked him how to do a Muslim ban. So we know it's a ban.
We are talking about the wrong thing here. We should be talking about the hundreds and thousands of people whose lives are affected by this. We should be talking about the energy that this has injected into the grass roots Democratic Party, people who really want to stand up for the rights of all people who don't want to cherry pick and promote prejudice and discrimination. Folks that really want to uphold the American values.
MCENANY: But we should be talking about the 14 people who died in San Bernardino who deserve some sort of justice and some sort of --.
SANDERS: You know those people were killed by Americans! Right, Kayleigh?
MCENANY: Tashfeen Malik got here on a k-1 fiance visa. Something is a wry in our immigration system and we owe the families.
SELLERS: But you know, Kayleigh, you know, how disingenuous that is because this ban or the Muslim ban or temporary halt or whatever matt wants to call it, it would not have changed any of that.
MCENANY: Yes it would.
SELLERS: And you know that. And so, the thing here is --.
LEWIS: I don't think we should wait until the next bad thing happens to then go back and retroactively fix it. I don't like that argument, you know. Just because the seven countries were not behind San Bernardino.
LEMON: I got to go.
LEWIS: Or the Boston bombing or whatever, doesn't mean it is not a problem. Doesn't mean it won't be the next one. We should be cautious and careful.
LEMON: Matt, get a massage tomorrow to get all the kinks out. OK.
SANDERS: Don, we are cautious. It's very hard to get into this country. Let's not pretend like it isn't.
LEMON: Thank you everyone. I appreciate it.
That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I will see you right back here tomorrow.