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Trump Accuses Media of Not Reporting Terror Attacks; Trump Defends Putin: 'You Think Our Country's So Innocent?'; Court Deadline Looms in Travel Ban Fight. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 6, 2017 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to my friend Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Constitutional showdown. The Justice Department has just one hour left to file arguments in this latest effort to have President Trump's travel ban reinstated. Will this case redefine presidential power?

Hiding terror attacks? The president says they're happening all over Europe, but the American news media, he says, doesn't want to report on them. At the same time, top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway is under scrutiny for citing a terror attack that never happened. How many times has she done that?

Not so innocent. President Trump defends Russian President Vladimir Putin and suggests the U.S. also uses deadly tactics. How are members of his own party reacting?

And ad lib. Super Bowl commercials from some top U.S. companies take a distinctly liberal bent on immigration and other issues, putting them at odds with the White House. How are President Trump's supporters responding?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, including a looming deadline in the constitutional showdown over President Trump's travel ban. Government lawyers seeking to have the ban reinstated have until the top of the next hour to file their brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Also breaking, new attacks on the news media by the president. During a visit to the U.S. military's Central Command, he accused what he called "the very dishonest press" of not reporting terror attacks, and he tweeted, quote, "Negative polls are fake news."

At the same time, some top Republicans are distancing themselves and, in some cases, criticizing President Trump's defense of Vladimir Putin. And they're criticizing his comparison of U.S. tactics and the authoritarian Russian regime. We're also following political fallout from some Super Bowl

commercials that contain clear messages at odds with the president's stand on immigration and other issues. Some supporters of the president are now calling for boycotts against companies including Coca-Cola and Budweiser.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. And our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president visited U.S. military's Central Command in Tampa, Florida, today, but he spoke about a lot more than just the military.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly did, Wolf. President Trump is making it clear he is not letting up in the war on ISIS but also in his battle against the news media. In his first two weeks as commander in chief, the president has now attacked the press at two critical national security installations. The CIA, shortly after his inauguration and today at U.S. Central Command.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a wonderful election, didn't we?

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a visit to U.S. Central Command in Florida President Trump offered a dark world view of the global war on terrorism.

TRUMP: Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland as they did on 9/11.

ACOSTA: The president insisted to his military audience that the news media is intentionally downplaying the terror threat but offered no proof to back up his claim.

TRUMP: All over Europe it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump is also lashing out at recent polls that show the public is wary of his controversial travel ban, tweeting, "Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting."

Add to that, the president is upset with the federal judge who froze the travel ban in court, tweeting, "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad."

President predicted victory in the courts. Even GOP leaders are questioning the over-the-top rhetoric. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's best not

to single out judges for criticism. We all get disappointed from time to time at the outcome in courts on things that we care about, but I think it's best to avoid criticizing judges individually.

ACOSTA: Putting them at odds with Vice President Pence.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, the president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government, and we have a long tradition of that in this country.

ACOSTA: The president isn't holding back on other issues, maintaining widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote, despite overwhelming evidence he is wrong.

TRUMP: We can be babies. But you take a look at the registration. You have illegals; you have dead people.

ACOSTA: After his tough talk on Obamacare, Mr. Trump now concedes overturning the healthcare law won't happen overnight, as he once promised.

TRUMP: I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but we should have something within the year and the following year.

MELISSA MCCARTHY, COMEDIAN (AS SEAN SPICER): Radical moose-lambs.

ACOSTA: All of this political turmoil may explain why the country had such a good laugh when Melissa McCarthy offered her own version of the White House briefing.

MCCARTHY: I'm not here to be your buddy. I'm here to swallow gum, and I'm here to take names.

ACOSTA: Press secretary Sean Spicer handed McCarthy a few pointers.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Melissa McCarthy needs to slow down on the gum chewing. You know? Way too many pieces in there.

ACOSTA: And a few pointed criticisms.

SPICER: He's gone from funny to mean, and -- and that's unfortunate. "Saturday Night Live" used to be really funny. And I think there's a streak of meanness now that they've kind of crossed over into.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, getting back to the president's accusation that the news media is hiding the truth about terrorism. White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Air Force One that the president's point was that the attacks, quote, "aren't exactly covered to a degree on which they should be," but Spicer, Wolf, did not specify which attacks the president believes should have received more coverage. He simply did not have any of those specifics when reporters pressed him on this earlier today, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta over at the White House.

President Trump, meanwhile, is facing bipartisan criticism for defending Russian President Vladimir Putin and comparing the United States to Russia when it comes to using deadly tactics. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us with the latest.

Jim, president raised a lot of eyebrows with his remarks.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. And in part because what he's using is an old Soviet Russian propaganda tactic, to some degree, what about-ism. I'm familiar with it from years past. You would have Russia, when the U.S. criticized moves by the Kremlin, to say "what about" and fill in the blank of a past American mistake.

This is what's raising the ire not just of Democrats but of many Republicans on the Hill, calling these comments unpatriotic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): President Donald Trump defending Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting to FOX News that the U.S. behaves no better than its adversary.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Putin is a killer.

TRUMP: A lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?

SCIUTTO: President Trump's startling criticism of his own country puts him at odds once again with his own party.

MCCONNELL: I don't think there is any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does. Putin is a former KGB agent; he's a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election.

The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections.

SCIUTTO: In a reference to Putin suppressing and sometimes killing his political opponents, Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, quote, "When has a Democratic political activist been poisoned by the GOP or vice versa. We are not the same as Putin," signed "M.R."

Still, Trump told FOX that he respects Putin.

TRUMP: I respect a lot of people, but that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with them. He's a leader of his country. I say it's better to get along with Russia than not.

SCIUTTO: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, in an interview with NBC News, called for an investigation into Trump's relationship with the Russian president.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump. I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI into his financial, personal and political connections to Russia.

SCIUTTO: Intensified fighting between Russian-backed rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine is one issue that has resulted in a harsher response from the White House. Vice President Pence telling ABC News that Russia's actions are raising concern.

PENCE: We're watching and very troubled by the increased hostilities over the past week in eastern Ukraine. The president is looking for an opportunity to begin that relationship anew, but make no mistake about it, those decisions will await action, and they'll be very dependent on -- on how -- on how the Russians respond.

SCIUTTO: Trump raised the escalating conflict in Ukraine with NATO's secretary general during a phone call on Sunday. NATO is responding to Russian aggression with a show of force of its own in Poland, where thousands of U.S. troops are now deployed. And in the Black Sea, where allied warships plan exercises off the coast of Romania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: I spoke with a Republican senator this afternoon who said that it is his hope, Wolf, that over the next weeks and months that, as Donald Trump is sitting in the White House, that he will come to know the great care with which the U.S. approaches national security issues, whether it's bombing runs in Syria and elsewhere, so that he knows from experience that there is no comparison between how the U.S. does business and how Russia does.

[17:10:15] But that's a remarkable kind of criticism to hear from within the president's own party.

BLITZER: And it's interesting that he won't even speak like his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, spoke of Russia the other day before the U.N. Security Council. He refuses to go there.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And even staying, almost defensively, in a position of, if not praise, at least not even calling out in the simplest terms. I mean, Nikki Haley went very far. But not even the most anodyne criticism either. So it's a sharp contrast within the administration.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York is joining us. She's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: Thank you for having me, Wolf. BLITZER: What's your reaction to the president's drawing this comparison between the United States and Russia under Putin when it comes to killing individuals?

RICE: My reaction is the same as every single American that I have spoken to and that we've heard from. They're just outrageous comments. And we are seeing just a very troubling propensity for this president to say things without thinking about the consequences of his words.

Look, when you're on a campaign trail, you can say whatever you want, but once you are sworn in as the president of the United States, you have to understand that words have consequences. Every single word that you speak.

I'm so happy that people in his own party have chosen to react to his comments as patriots, not as politicians. Because the words that he says, it really begs the question, why is it that he can have such harsh words for Iran, Mexico, Australia of all places, and yet he can't say anything negative about Russia?

Now, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but the fact that he refuses to divulge, still to this day, his tax returns really keeps Americans in the dark about exactly what might be motivating his really alarming and disturbing comments.

BLITZER: So are you suggesting, Congresswoman, he may have some business ties with Russia he's trying to keep secret, that the Russians may have something on him? As a result he doesn't criticize Putin or other Russian policies?

RICE: The problem is we simply don't know. And look, there's a lot of talk -- and I've spoken to some of my Republican colleagues about whether or not they would support a bill that would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

The president of the United States owes his allegiance to the people of this country, not to his own private business dealings, family business dealings. And because he has refused to release these documents, we just simply don't know if -- if there are any more nefarious reasons why he makes such strange comments about a person like Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: But I just want to be precise, Congresswoman. You don't have any hard evidence to back up that suspicion you have? This is just a suspicion.

RICE: No. I think that his comments beg the question. And I think that these questions can be answered by simply releasing your tax returns. Audit or no audit. His priority should be earning the trust of the American people, not keeping his business interests in secret.

So that's my hope, that eventually, he will understand that, not just for him ,but he could set the precedent that every presidential candidate, as they have previously for the last 40 years, releases their tax returns. And hopefully, he will find his way to get there so he can stop people from wondering about whether there is another reason why he is saying such strange comments like this.

BLITZER: There are other voices in his administration, the U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the secretary of defense, the CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Do you think that those voices will convince the president to change his tune, if you will, when it comes to Russia?

RICE: That's my hope. I mean, I personally know Mike Pompeo. And I hope that he does have the president's ear.

And you know, I will say that it's only -- we're a month into -- not even. What is it? Two weeks? Into the president's first term. And I think he has the right to settle in and get counsel from the people he has chosen to put around him.

And there are some people who have -- think that someone like a Rex Tillerson or a Mattis or Mike Pompeo, they are voices that the president has chosen to put around him. Let's hope that he actually listens to them.

Because what we seen now are members of his administration, of his cabinet, very close advisers, who are saying -- speaking from one set of documents, right, so to speak, talking about Russia as the problem that it is and Putin, certainly, as the authoritarian figure that he is.

[17:15:12] And yet you have the commander in chief saying something completely different. So that's troubling, but hopefully, at some point, he will listen to those that he has chosen to put around him.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, the president's argument is he wants a better relationship with Russia, with Putin, because he believes that the Russians can help the U.S. in fighting radical Islamic terrorism. He keeps saying that all the time.

You're a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. Do you see evidence that the Russians could be a serious partner in this fight?

RICE: They have not been up to this point, and there's no reason to believe that they will going forward.

I -- look, I get it, all right. Donald Trump is the deal-maker. He's "The Apprentice." He can hire and fire people. But now we're in the real world here. And these are serious issues that we have to deal with. And he keeps pointing to, you know, "I want to keep the door open to Putin being able to help us fight ISIS." But what he needs to do is speak to the people in the intelligence community who can tell him that, up to this point, he has not been engaged in that fight with us. He being Putin.

So it's not just a question of making a deal. We have to look at the actions of Putin right now and what he's doing in Ukraine and all of the trouble that he's causing all across the world. And look at it, not through a tight lens but in the context of everything that he's doing.

BLITZER: One area you may be on the same page with the president, you voted against President Obama's Iran nuclear deal. You see what the president is doing towards Iran right now. Are you with him in a get- tougher approach toward the Iranians?

RICE: I absolutely am. In fact, even though I was against the agreement, I immediately jumped on board to say, "OK, now that it is in place, even though I personally disagree with it, we have to make sure that we have very strict oversight; and we have to keep the international community with his together on this issue, as well."

So I do agree with what the president is doing there. And let's see what steps -- what will happen going forward.

But we have to be very -- even though I was against the deal, as I said, there are a lot of people who feel that we have to make sure that it's being enforced. And any firing of, you know, ICBMs, their -- you know, all of the activity that they're going through now to kind of test what we're going to do as a country, the first steps that this president has taken I agree with. And let's see what he develops going forward, what kind of a relationship he develops going forward.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, Congresswoman, you don't want the president to rip up that deal right now.

RICE: I don't think that's a good idea. I think that most people on both sides of the aisle think that it's a deal that has to stay in place, but we have to figure out how to deal with acts of aggression around the world by Iran and how we're going to deal with them in the context of this agreement.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, there's more to discuss. I want you to stay with us. We'll continue our coverage.

Remember, we're waiting to hear from the Justice Department. They're about to file a brief. They have until the top of the hour to do so to try to reinstate the president's travel ban on those seven majority-Muslim countries. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:22:40] BLITZER: The breaking news this hour. The Justice Department has just a little bit more than a half an hour to file its brief asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate President Trump's travel ban. Regardless of the court's decision, the case appears likely, eventually, to go before the U.S. Supreme Court for a landmark ruling that could refine presidential power.

We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congresswoman, due to a ruling by a federal appeals court earlier, the president's travel ban, as you know, is now on hold. The administration says the courts don't have access to what the president has, namely, classified information, and are therefore, in the words of Justice Department lawyers, ill-equipped to second-guess the president's perspective justice about future risks. You're a former district attorney, a former federal prosecutor. You

know the court system well. How do you respond to that legal argument?

RICE: Well, I understand why they want to make that argument. Because they can claim that they have information that the general public does not have.

But it's very clear what the motivation was behind this ban. And that's exactly what it was.

We know what President Trump intended to do. He's been saying it for the past year and a half on the campaign trail. Specifically, that he wanted to institute a ban on Muslims entering the country, and he was able to do it through executive order. Not by reaching across the aisle and trying to work and having a public debate, which is what we would have hoped that he would have done. But he is taking the same route that, ironically, he was so critical of President Obama taking by doing it through an executive action that not even some -- executive order that not even some of the people closest to him in the White House even knew about.

What the courts are doing now is exactly what they should be doing, which is why there are three co-equal branches of government, the way our founders set it up, so there's a check and balance on each one so that one does not get more powerful than the other. And that the public can have confidence that, if something is being done that's wrong, that a court system can look at it and make a decision. And hopefully, if they want to keep this -- they want to have this ban reinstated, they're going to have to lay out the facts for this court.

BLITZER: They have another half an hour to do so. The deadline is 6 p.m. Eastern.

The administration also says, as you know, Congresswoman, they're relying on authority granted to the president by Congress through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Let me read to you a section of that law.

[17:25:02] Quote, "Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or f any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may, by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non- immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."

That sounds pretty far reaching. Does he have that power?

RICE: There's no question that the -- whomever the president is does have that power. There's no question. No one's questioning whether he has the power. We're questioning whether it is a violation of the Constitution. In my opinion, it is.

If you look at how specific it is -- look, the president right after he made the announcement, said that they were going to allow for exceptions like persecuted Christians. That tells you that it is a specific ban on Muslims, which is, I believe, going to be found to be unconstitutional.

But this is -- look, there's no question that the president has the power to do this. But what I hope that we are going to see more of -- well, at least see the president engage in more thoughtful activity, right? Use the people that you have around you. Get the advice of people from the intel community.

Maybe he would have found out that we have one of the strongest vetting procedures there are for any Syrian refugee trying to come into this country. It is -- it takes two years, almost two years, for a Syrian refugee to actually be able to come here and resettle here in the United States. This is not the way that terrorists, if they wanted to come here and do harm in the country -- there's a lot of other ways they could -- faster ways that they could find to get into this country than trying to infiltrate the refugee program.

So hopefully -- maybe he's unaware of that vetting process, but there is extreme vetting being done already. We actually strengthened that up in the last Congress by requiring all the heads of the intelligence community agencies to actually sign off on every single Syrian refugee who was accepted here in this country.

So that's my hope, that he will actually educate himself more about the steps that are already being taken in that regard.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, the president hasn't just attacked the reasoning behind the decision, the travel ban decision. He's questioned the legitimacy of the judge himself, referring to him as a "so-called judge" in a tweet over the weekend.

And as you know, the president made a similar attack on a federal judge last year when he questioned the legitimacy of Judge Curiel, who was born in Indiana, because of his Mexican heritage. He was the judge involved in the Trump University case.

Are you aware that the president's attacks on these federal judges represent a pattern of disregard for the judicial system?

RICE: I think that's exactly what it is. But i's even broader than that. You want to talk about the irony of all ironies. Here is a man who attacked a civil rights icon who said that -- questioned his legitimacy after this election.

And then he turns around and, because he doesn't like the court's decision, he calls the judge a "so-called judge." I mean, it's juvenile. It's actually an insult to actual juveniles to say that it's juvenile. I mean, I don't even know what category to put this in.

It's a disturbing trend that we see from this president, whether it's on Twitter, and you know what? I think it's a great way to communicate with people. I'm not saying he shouldn't tweet if he wants to. But there's a certain amount of decorum that we expect from our president. He represents not just himself and his administration but every single American. And I'm hoping that he recognizes that eventually and stops with the name calling and the attacking every time someone says -- if it's a poll he doesn't like, if it's a comment that he doesn't like, if it's a court decision he doesn't like. That's part of life. Right? You have to accept the good with the bad, and you have to roll with the punches.

And so my hope is that, as he gets longer in his tenure, he sees that there is a level of decorum that the president should assume; and hopefully, he will.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, some big businesses used the big game to get a bit political. We're watching the fallout from Super Bowl ads that took on President Trump's agenda.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The breaking news we're following, with the deadline now less than a half an hour away, we're standing by for word from the U.S. Justice Department that it has filed a legal paperwork to try to convince a U.S. appeals court to reinstate President Trump's travel ban.

[17:34:10] Let's bring in our political and counterterrorism experts.

Phil Mudd, you're a former CIA officer. When they argue, the Justice Department, working for President Trump, that courts do not have access to classified information about the threat posed -- these are the quotes -- "posed by terrorist organizations operating in particular nations. The efforts of those institutions to infiltrate the United States or gaps in the process." And as a result, leave it up to the president to make the decision who comes into the country and who doesn't. Do they make a good point?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, I've got a four-letter word for this one: What?

Let me be clear on this. If you take a classified complicated problem, any intelligence officer with experience in the business can go into one classified audience -- I've done it -- for example, a Senate or a House hearing -- and explain a complicated, highly- classified problem in that venue.

In this case, any officer could walk into a judge or a courtroom and say, "Let me give you a picture of the threat posed from individuals from these countries."

[17:35:07] But let's assume I'm wrong on this, Wolf, after 30 years of doing this. The president can pick up the bat phone, call Mike Pompeo at CIA and say, A, "I want a temporary clearance for the judge" or B, "I want you to declassify stuff so that you can talk to these people."

This explanation is a smoke screen. It doesn't work for an intelligence guy. BLITZER: What does it say that a little bit more than two weeks into the new administration, we're seeing a battle like this unfold, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That President Trump was elected promising to shake things up, to disrupt Washington. He is -- he and his aides are trying to make good on that promise. And he is running into the reality that the Founding Fathers created a government and a Constitution without one power center.

There are three branches of government, and checks and balances are actively working here. I mean, the wheels of that notion are -- they're being seen right out in front of us all, in a way that we haven't seen, frankly, in a very long time.

And what happens tonight, into tomorrow, depending on how long it takes, when the Justice Department presumably tries to file, to -- to get things going again with this travel ban and the judge, presumably, the judicial -- will continue to push back, but we'll see. It will remind President Trump and the people in the White House that this isn't the Trump Organization. This is the United States government and a democracy that was founded on checks and balances.

BLITZER: They have 24 minutes left to -- maybe they have already, but they're about to announce it. We'll, of course, have live coverage of that.

Mark, it's one thing for a presidential candidate to criticize a federal judge, as Donald Trump did against the federal judge involved in the Trump University case, Judge Curiel from Indiana, because of his Mexican heritage. He raised questions about his legitimacy as a federal judge in that case.

But it's another thing, when you're a sitting president of the United States, to call a highly-respected federal judge a "so-called judge" and claim his -- his analysis was ridiculous.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Right. So -- and let's just -- let's just refresh our viewers what exactly he said. Because it is really galling.

In one tweet he said about the judge, "The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others who do not have our best interests at heart." He goes on to say, "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and the court system."

BASH: That's the most amazing thing.

PRESTON: "People pouring in. Bad."

Goes on to say, "I've instructed homeland security to check people coming into our country very carefully. The courts are making the job very difficult."

Let me go to the White House website, which was very easy for me to do, to look at what they say about the judiciary. And they say, as we all know, that judges are appointed for life. Quote-unquote, "by design, because it insulates them from the temporary passions of the public and allows them to apply the law with only justice in mind and not the electoral or political concerns." This is his own website that says this.

BLITZER: And Rebecca, this is a federal judge who was appointed by President Bush more than, what, a decade or so ago. Highly-respected judge.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And so it's tough to take a credible case for this being what some people might call an activist judge or, certainly, an unqualified judge. This is someone who has very good credentials.

And so I think that's why Republicans are having to be very delicate in terms of their response to this. We saw Mitch McConnell come out over the weekend and point out this isn't necessarily the best course of action for Donald Trump to be criticizing this judge.

But it's sort of a nuanced situation for Republicans, because they do have concerns as a party over an activist judicial branch. They do have concerns over an overly active executive branch relative to Congress. But I think the number to watch in terms of the Republicans' response

moving forward is going to be this Republican approval rating of Donald Trump. And it still remains very high, as we saw in the CNN poll last week. And so they're going to continue to support him.

BLITZER: You would think Donald Trump would be more sensitive to branding a federal judge "so-called judge." His sister is a federal judge, too.

All right. Let's take a break. We're waiting for this brief to be filed by the Justice Department. They've got -- what, 25 minutes left. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:44:01] BLITZER: Breaking news we're following. Just a little while ago, President Trump returned to the White House after today's visit to the headquarters of the U.S. military's Central Command in Florida.

We're back with our political and counterterrorism experts.

Phil, you know, when he was there at the Central Command, it was very interesting. First words out of his mouth, speaking to the troops there, he said, "We had a wonderful election, didn't we? I saw those numbers. And you like me, and I like you."

It reminded me a little bit of when he was at CIA headquarters and started talking about the elections and poll results. He went into other issues, but is it appropriate at an event like that to start talking about partisan politics?

MUDD: It is really uncomfortable, whether you're an intelligence officer or military officer. It was uncomfortable for my friends at the agency. I suspect the same response you would find at CentCom today.

The reason is simple. You vote when you leave the office. When you're in the office you elect a Democrat, a socialist, a communist, a Republican, we don't care. We're paid to serve whomever the American people elect, because we're not the elected officials. Whether we're at the agency or in the military.

When he makes comments like that, it suggests to the people in the audience -- and this is why they squirm -- that somehow he believes that, when they're on the job, they're partisan. And that's trained in your DNA not to. Whoever is elected, we support him. And it's an uncomfortable moment for anybody in the business.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Dana, at that same event, at Central Command, he also spoke about what he called the very dishonest media once again.

I want you to listen to Sean Spicer on Air Force One on the flight back to Washington. He was questioned about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That story was so riddled with inaccuracies and lies that they owe the President an apology for the way that that thing was -- there were just literally blatant factual errors. And it's unacceptable to see that kind of reporting or so-called reporting. That is literally the epitome of fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was inaccurate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What part of the story was -- the details?

SPICER: Just detail -- I mean, you start at the top. I don't think the President owns a bathrobe. He definitely doesn't wear one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, he was referring to a story in the "New York Times" today --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BLITZER: -- in which it mentioned the President wearing his bathrobe at night, was talking about what was going on inside the White House.

BASH: Well, I should say that our friend, Jake Tapper, has already e- mailed around a picture of Donald Trump wearing a bathrobe. That was many decades ago, so perhaps it's not with him anymore, or maybe it doesn't fit or whatever. But, you know, it does exist.

But are we really having this conversation? About whether it's Donald Trump and bathrobes or, more importantly, it gets to the core, and this actually -- I'm joking but this is very serious. I have to say you can attack the media every time you don't like

something. You can and he does. And he has the freedom to do that, just like we have the freedom and the responsibility, I should say, to try to report out what is happening in this country. But like, come on!

At a certain point, it's going to be like, even people who support him and cheer him on for that are going to be, like, we don't want to hear it anymore. Just do your job.

BLITZER: Everybody stay with us. There's more news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

From subtle to in your face. Some Super Bowl commercials, what they say about President Trump's agenda, as they do say a lot about their products. Tonight, the fallout.

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[17:51:39] BLITZER: We are following some interesting fallout from the Super Bowl. Some of the biggest businesses in the United States used their commercials to push back against the Trump administration's agenda, but there is more going on than meets the eye. Let's bring in Brian Todd.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we're learning of some major brushback against President Trump from corporate America. Apple, Facebook, Google, all the big tech giants, and some 90 other companies filed a court motion declaring the President's travel ban unconstitutional.

Now, between that and the way some companies have pushed back at the President with their Super Bowl ads, this is shaping up as a very public battle.

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TODD (voice-over): On their arduous journey north, a young girl and her mother brave the rain, the desert, coyotes. They arrive at America's border to find an imposing wall. Undeterred, they push it open. At the very end, a message, "The will to succeed is always welcome here."

This three and a half minute ad is from 84 Lumber and was one of several Super Bowl commercials that took on a political tone and seemed to challenge President Trump.

NAT IVES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ADVERTISING AGE: We've never seen anything this confrontational. Politics has always seeped into the Super Bowl, but never before have ads so specifically targeted a specific policy, immigration, and a specific president sworn in a couple of weeks ago.

TODD (voice-over): The 84 Lumber ad was so controversial, at least to Fox and the NFL, that those two entities allowed only part of the ad to air on T.V.

IVES: The 90 seconds that they were enabled to show on T.V. by Fox stopped in the middle of journey of a mother and her daughter trying to cross the border in the United States. You had to go online to get the end of the story. But for those who did, you found a very strong anti-border wall message.

TODD (voice-over): Fox didn't respond to our request for comment. The most controversial Super Bowl ads all seemed to target President Trump's travel ban.

There was Airbnb's spot, set to music, showing several people of different backgrounds, with the message, "The world is more beautiful the more you accept."

Anheuser-Busch ran an ad depicting its co-founder immigrating to America in the 1800s to a hostile reception.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not wanted here. Go back home.

TODD (voice-over): The company said this commercial was not a political statement. As protest messages, one analyst says, these ads may not work as well as other tactics companies are trying.

ERIC DEZENHALL, CO-FOUNDER, DEZENHALL RESOURCES: If these companies want to really show muscle, it will happen in the political and legal sphere, not through soft focus T.V. advertising.

TODD (voice-over): Tech giants, Apple, Facebook, Google, and 90-plus other companies are taking that legal route. They filed a court motion, declaring that President Trump's executive order on immigration violates the constitution.

Eric Dezenhall, a strategic communications specialist who deals with large corporations, says legal filings and high-profile ads are the first steps some companies are taking to brushback on a president they're wary of.

DEZENHALL: Now, what you're seeing is corporations believing that one individual has the power to destroy them, largely because if the President of the United States tweets against you, that can send your stock price down by billions of dollars.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: In fact, several supporters of President Trump have quickly called for a boycott of some of the companies which took out those provocative ads in the Super Bowl, including Anheuser-Busch, Airbnb, and 84 Lumber for this ad. Ironically, that company's owner says she voted for President Trump, Wolf.

[17:55:06] BLITZER: Brian, you've spoken with people at 84 Lumber. Do they feel they've gotten their money's worth out of this controversy?

TODD: They do, Wolf. The company paid about $15 million for this 90- second T.V. ad. They did not pay for the portion that aired online, and they've gotten an avalanche of notoriety. They've got more than 50 million hits between people pinging their website and YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter views.

At one point last night during the Super Bowl, Wolf, a company spokesman tells us, 84 Lumber was trending at the number 4 spot, nationally, of any term used on Twitter. Not a company whose name is mentioned on Twitter but a term, number 4 during the Super Bowl.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting, thank you. The breaking news next. The deadline just a few minutes away for the Justice Department to submit its arguments for reinstating President Trump's travel ban. Will an appeals court grant the government's wish?

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