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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Appalled by Court Review; Sen. Warren Silenced in Debate Opposing Sessions' Nomination; Interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Democratic Party Struggles. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 8, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] JEFF WEAVER, PRESIDENT, OUR REVOLUTION & FORMER BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I mean Ted Cruz wants to deny the woman --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: OK.

WEAVER: Who had M.S. from her Medicaid. He wants to make sure that if you get sick --

BOLDUAN: We'll leave it there.

WEAVER: The insurance companies don't have to take you on. I mean it's terrible.

BOLDUAN: Guys, the debate over Obamacare is so far from over. We're going to leave it there.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We'll come back to see you.

WEAVER: All right, we'll come back.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you both. Thank you so much.

Thanks for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"INSIDE POLITICS" starts right now.

Thanks, guys.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcoming to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today.

President Trump says today is a sad day for America, but not because of any court ruling affecting his attempts to ban travel from seven Muslim countries. The president is irked because the executive action that he put out there is being second guessed at all. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments last night, hasn't ruled on anything yet, but the for and against back and forth that we heard, President Trump heard, last night did not make him happy, and today he vented at a gathering of police chiefs and sheriffs here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's sad. I think it's a sad day. I think our security is at risk today. And it will be at risk until such time as we are entitled and get what we are entitled to.

We need security in our country. We have to allow you folks to do your job. You are great people. Great people. Great men and women. And we have to allow you to do your job. And we have to give you the weapons that you need. And this is a weapon that you need. And they're trying to take it away from you maybe because of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, President Trump read the statute that gives presidents broad authority to regulate entry into the country, and to him it's open and shut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I understand things. I comprehend very well. OK? Better than I think almost anybody. And I want to tell you, I listened to a bunch of stuff last night on television that was disgraceful. It was disgraceful. Because what I just read to you is what we have, and it just can't be written any plainer or better.

You could be a lawyer, or you don't have to be a lawyer. If you are a good student in high school or a bad student in high school, you can understand this. And it's really incredible to me that we have a court case that's going on so long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Joining me now with their insights, four people who were very good students in high school, Glenn Thrush of "The New York Times," CNN's Sara -- he's shaking his head -- CNN's Sara Murray, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg Politics and NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

Thank you so much.

Now, as a candidate, Donald Trump saw the world as a scary place. Now that he is president, he sees it as even scarier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will work with you on the frontlines to keep America safe from terrorism, which is what I began this with, terrorism. A tremendous threat far greater than people in our country understand. Believe me. I have learned a lot in the last two weeks, and terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: All of you have spent a lot of time, as we all have, you know, covering Donald Trump on the campaign trail, and now as president. Sara, did anything he said today surprise you? SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think it was a

surprise. I think it's interesting to see how he seems to be sort of using a little bit of fear mongering to try to somehow move this through a court, which I don't think is necessarily going to sway judges. But it could also be a way for him to essentially abdicate responsibility if a terror attack does come though and say, look, I tried to prevent it.

Now there's -- I think it's unlikely that you would be able to point to this specific travel pause, as they call it, or refugee ban, as we refer to it, as, you know, linked to a specific terror incident. We haven't seen that yet. But I think you are sort of seeing Donald Trump lay the groundwork to say, you can't point the finger at me, even though I'm president, if something happens.

BASH: Fear mongering and pressure.

MURRAY: (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: Some people might say it goes beyond that and to bullying.

I want to play one other bit of the president's comments from this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And I don't ever want to call a court biased. So I won't call it biased. And we haven't had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what's right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN THRUSH, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's like Queen's "Jazz." Like -- but this is like a who's at ballet (ph) -- who's at ballet (ph) tempo today. It was a very ruminative kind of thing.

[12:05:04] I just want to expand on what Sara said, back to the terrorism thing. I don't think this is just about the court case. He has had a stumbling first two weeks. The roll-out of his executive order on the immigration ban was disastrous and poorly implemented and criticized by people in his own party. He barely got his education secretary by. We are hearing all kinds of stories about internal turmoil in the White House. I think I wouldn't quite call it fear mongering, but this very dark vision of the country, this isn't just about a court case, this is what he, I think, is going to in order to centralize his presidency and have people view them as being more presidential.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, NPR: Well, and Glenn would recognize Queens "Jazz." I'm part of the ban too. And I would just say that I -- that there have been lots of instances, though, when presidents have criticized the court.

THRUSH: Right. MONTANARO: They don't quite use this kind of language that Donald Trump does, if we want to, you know, talk about the -- his meter and tone and all that. But, you know, President Obama, at the State of the Union, which invoked, you know, Justice Alito to shake his head and say, no. You could go back to, you know, 2008, George W. Bush on Gitmo. 1974, Nixon on those Watergate tapes that he didn't want to release.

BASH: That's true.

MONTANARO: They don't usually do it in that kind of tone or call judges so"-called." And President Obama was pretty self-conscious about it, talking about, with all due deference to the supreme -- with -- to the separation of powers. So, you know, this is a kind of thing -- president get annoyed about it. They don't maybe do it in that way.

: So we're -- Margaret, if I just want to put this on paus for one second because we have been talking this morning, really since last night, about a remarkable exchange between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senate Republicans. This after Senator Warren was rebuked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for reading a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King opposing Jeff Sessions, who was nominated at the time for federal judgeship. Now, of course, he is the president's nominee for attorney general. And as we have it right now, senior congressional reporter Manu Raju has Elizabeth Warren next to him right now as his special guest.

Manu, take it away.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Hey, Dana. Thank you so much.

Thank you, Senator, for chatting with us.

So, last night, as you were carrying forward with your criticism of Senator Sessions, you were warned multiple times by the presiding officers, by senators that this could actually violate the rules of decorum in the Senate, but you carried forward anyway. Why did you decide to press on with your argument knowing that it could violate the rules of decorum?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, look, I went to the floor to debate whether or not Jeff Sessions should be the attorney general of the United States. And what I is I quoted from Ted Kennedy's statement, Senator Ted Kennedy's statement, in the Judiciary Committee from back in 1986 when Senator Sessions was being considered to be a federal judge. And Senator Sessions, now Senator Sessions, back then was a U.S. attorney who had brought a prosecution against civil rights workers for helping elderly black citizens vote.

So I read Senator Kennedy's statement. I thought that that was entirely fair game in the United States Senate. And I was warned. I thought, I don't see it, but all right. And then I turned to read Coretta Scott King's letter. As you know, she's the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King. And she wrote about senator -- then Attorney General Sessions -- U.S. Attorney Sessions. She wrote about him, and I started reading her letter. And she wrote, Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens. Mitch McConnell said that I was out of line and shut me up.

RAJU: So if you knew it was potentially a violation when they warned you, why not just move on?

WARREN: Well, I was moving on. I was moving on to talk about the facts of what Jeff Sessions had done when he prosecuted civil rights workers who were trying to help black citizens vote. And I thought quoting Coretta Scott King's letter to the United States Senate about that was absolutely relevant. It is a moving letter. It is a powerful letter. And it's a letter that tells us not only about our history generally, but specifically about Jeff Sessions.

RAJU: But, I mean, senator, you've served with Senator Sessions for several years. Do you really believe what that letter says that she -- that he could unfairly intimidate and disenfranchise elderly black voters?

WARREN: Yes. I believe the facts show that is exactly what he did. In fact let --

RAJU: You think he would do that as attorney general?

WARREN: Let -- let me read to you what she says he did.

RAJU: But, senator, do you think he would do that as attorney general?

[12:10:00] WARREN: She says he accomplished -- Mr. Sessions accomplished with a federal prosecution what the local sheriff's accomplished 20 years ago with clubs and cattle prods. She also talks about in here how many elderly blacks were visited multiple times by the FBI, who then hauled them over 180 miles by bus to a grand jury in Mobile when they could more easily have testified at a grand jury 20 miles away in Selma. Those are actions. Those are facts. And from that the conclusion that Coretta Scott King drew was based on his record.

I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect, not only on the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere, toward fulfilling my husband's dream that he envisioned over 20 years ago.

RAJU: What do you make of the fact that today some Senate Democrats read from that letter --

WARREN: Yes.

RAJU: And they submitted it for the record. They were not -- Republicans did not try to cite that rule of decorum. What's your reaction to that?

WARREN: I have no idea what the Republicans are up to. You should ask the Republicans about this. But I will say this part, I hope everyone reads Coretta Scott King's letter. When I was silenced, I went outside and I read it on a live feed and posted it on FaceBook, I tweeted it. I want -- I want everyone to read this letter, including the Republican senators who will be voting on his nomination tonight.

RAJU: Senator, as -- from -- after the election a lot of voters want people up here to work together. Is this kind of rhetoric, back and forth, really what voters are looking for right now, to fight Donald Trump tooth and nail?

WARREN: I don't think voters are asking us to ignore facts. I don't think voters are asking us to say, you know, we're just going to ignore what this man did to black citizens. Because it's not only the black citizens. The speech also talked about what he's done with immigrants, with women. The real question for an attorney general of the United States is whether or not he can be trusted in those hours when you can't review what he does, can he be trusted to do two things, to stand up strongly on behalf of everyone, not just those he agrees with, but everyone and, secondly, does he have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the president of the United States when the president issues an illegal and unconstitutional order? Those are the jobs of the attorney general of the United States. What Coretta Scott King said is directly relevant to the first of those.

RAJU: What do you say to some of your critics who think that you are doing this to help position yourself for a possible run in 2020?

WARREN: I say I'm doing my job. It is my constitutional responsibility to debate Jeff Sessions as attorney general of the United States.

RAJU: Is that something, though, you're open to right now, thinking about 2020?

WARREN: No. I am open to doing my job. And that is to debate whether or not Jeff Sessions should be attorney general of the United States. And that's why I wanted the opportunity to read Coretta Scott King's letter. It is a powerful letter. I urge everyone to go and read it.

RAJU: Did Republicans give you guys a political gift here by saying --

WARREN: You'd have to ask them.

RAJU: Well, this was something that you probably would not be talking about today had they not have invoked this rule.

WARREN: Look, I would be talking about it. I talk about it as much as I can. It is a powerful and moving letter, and it speaks to a moment in history in the 1960s, a moment in history in the 1980s, and a moment in history right now in 2017.

RAJU: And some of the Democrats are also trying to raise money off of this. Are you OK with that, doing this? And how much money has -- have you raised for your campaign out of this?

WARREN: I have -- I have no idea. This is about trying to get people to read Coretta Scott King's letter. I really believe, if all of my Republican colleagues would read the letter, there would be some who would say, I don't want to stand with him. I don't want to do this.

RAJU: Are you OK with any of Donald Trump's cabinet nominees right now? I know you voted for Ben Carson. Are you -- why did you vote for him? Why is he different than, say, Jeff Sessions?

WARREN: The secretary of defense. I supported the secretary of defense. I think that General Mattis is working hard. And I hope is going to be a strong and independent voice. But let's be clear, the kind of people Donald Trump is sending our way, I mean, it -- you have -- it's like a bad movie, right? He's sending us a secretary of education who doesn't believe in public education. He's sending us an attorney general who prosecuted civil rights workers for trying to help black citizens vote. He's sending us --

[12:15:01] RAJU: What about Andy Puzder? Do you -- do you not -- are you going to fight him?

WARREN: He's sending us a secretary of labor -- you bet -- a secretary of labor nominee whose whole profit model was how to squeeze the lowest wage workers in America, how to get them to work off the clock, committed labor violations. It's one after another. Secretary of treasury, Steve Mnuchin.

RAJU: But you were OK with Ben Carson?

WARREN: Look, there are important, important, important votes coming up, and I think we got to be in there ready to fight. Donald Trump has the power to nominate. Our power is the power to advise and consent. And, ultimately, if these people are OK with the Republicans -- look, I get it, we may not have the votes to stop them, but we sure as heck need to make it clear to the Republicans and to the American people exactly who Donald Trump is putting in charge of our government.

RAJU: Senator --

WARREN: That's what this is about.

RAJU: Senator, I know you have a busy schedule.

WARREN: Yes.

RAJU: Thank you so much for talking with us.

WARREN: Thank you.

RAJU: Dana, back to you.

BASH: Thanks, Manu.

And, Senator, before you go, I believe that you can hear me, I just --

RAJU: Senator, one question from Dana here.

BASH: Senator, if you can just hear me. I want to read to you one thing just to follow-up on what Manu just said, that your colleague Senator Sanders just tweeted. He said, "when I read the same letter as Senator Warren, no one prevented me from speaking. Senator McConnell owes Senator Warren an apology. -#letlizspeak." Do you agree with him? Does Senator McConnell owe you an apology? WARREN: You know, look, I think that this is up to Senator McConnell. He's the one who shut me up, and I am not allowed to speak on the floor of the United States Senate until after the vote on Jeff Sessions. Ultimately, what this should all be about is trying to get everybody, and I mean everybody, to read Coretta Scott King's letter. It is a powerful letter. I posted it on FaceBook. I've -- I've tweeted it. Get out there and read the letter. It's not just people all across this country. It's Republicans right here in the United States Senate. Read that letter before the vote on Jeff Sessions.

BASH: And, senator, before I let you go, just one final question. I am told that while the -- after you were reprimanded at first, some of your colleagues quietly came to you and asked you to retract your words, to try to sort of remedy the fact that you were told that you broke rule 19 of the Senate rules and you talked ill of a colleague and that you said, no, I want to go back out there and I want to keep doing that. Is that true? And, if so --

WARREN: No.

BASH: Why did you do that?

WARREN: Well, I didn't. I was giving my speech, and nobody spoke to me while I was giving my speech. Mitch McConnell then shut me down. I appealed the ruling of the chair. And that is a vote. And we went to a vote. That's what happened.

BASH: OK. All right. Senator Warren, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

WARREN: You bet. Take care.

BASH: Thank -- thank you. You too.

OK, a lot to digest here. Where do we even start with this?

MURRAY: What --

BASH: Margaret, you go. I mean I think as we sort of have this conversation, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know what she is trying to do, because she said it about 100 times, read the letter, read the letter. She is trying to use her fame, the moment and so forth to highlight something that wouldn't have gotten very much attention because Senator Sessions is almost surely going to be confirmed. And that is the letter from Coretta Scott King, which is quite critical of Jeff Sessions.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: I think there are two things that are going on. One is an example of a unified Democratic Party --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: And the other is an example of a completely not unified Democratic Party. The unified part is that the Democrats decided weeks ago that it would be impossible or near impossible to stop most of these nominees, but that the thing to do was to find areas that would be sort of repugnant or the most controversial or unappealing to both their base, but kind of the middle of America and to just elevate and hammer home on those so that they could at least diminish the appeal of these folks if they are to become confirmed, number one.

OK, that's part of the strategy. But the other part of the strategy is the jockeying for power inside the Democratic Party.

BASH: No question.

TALEV: And until there's a head to the DNC, until there's any clear pecking order for the next batch of presidential candidates, all of this jockeying is going to play out. What is the most successful path for the Democrats? Is it to elevate people like Manchin and Claire McCaskill? Is it to elevate Elizabeth Warren? This is the fight that's also playing out.

BASH: And you cannot underestimate the hunger, the passion, the need by so many people on the liberal base to have their voice, and now it is embodied in Elizabeth Warren and certainly has been, but with this moment heard that they feel frustrated and they feel that the Democrats aren't doing enough to try to protest the Republicans in Congress and more importantly Donald Trump.

MONTANARO: I mean unquestionably this is where all of this stems from. I mean the liberal base of the Democratic Party being outraged that they can't slow down or stop any of these nominees. Betsy DeVos was the best potential possibility for Democrats to be able to derail one of these nominees. They weren't able to do it, weren't able to get one more senator. You know, in some seven hours or so, Jeff Sessions is going to be confirmed as the attorney general. Democrats blew up the filibuster for anything below Supreme Court or legislation back in 2013, and that's come back to bite them now.

[12:20:25] BASH: Go ahead, Glenn.

THRUSH: This is party building. You know, we -- the Democratic Party had a real enthusiasm problem in 2016 with Hillary Clinton at the head of the ticket. What we have here is an example of a woman -- and you show the Bernie Sanders tweet, he wasn't shut up. Ted Cruz wasn't shut up when he had made his --

BASH: When he called McConnell a liar.

THRUSH: When he called McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. What you have here is a woman reading a letter by a black woman who was married to the most sainted civil rights leader in history being shut up on the floor of the United States Senate by a white male from the south. If that doesn't get the Democratic base riled, I don't know what would.

BASH: And yet the fact that she is a woman -- I was actually talking to our colleague Ted Barrett about this, and I -- he said this and I actually agree -- is almost secondary to the fact that she is a liberal icon. And this is about, you know, more about the liberalism.

I want to actually ask you about my kind of opposite semi-conspiracy theory or maybe strategy theory --

MURRAY: (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: And why not?

MONTANARO: Is the season for that.

BASH: It's the Trump years, right?

MURRAY: Yes.

BASH: So the question is whether or not you think that Republicans -- I mean, obviously, they couldn't convince Elizabeth Warren to read that letter, but once they saw this coming, they realized, oh, elevating a liberal who might want to run for president in 2020 might not be the worst thing for Republicans.

MURRAY: Well, yes, I think that -- that is certainly true. It does -- because it's baffling as to why you would want to pick this fight on the Senate floor, right?

BASH: Right.

MURRAY: I mean if you are Mitch McConnell, you basically know that Jeff Sessions is going to get confirmed anyway, so there might be some uncomfortable moments on the Senate floor, but otherwise you're going to get what you want. So there are some interesting, like you said, sort of jockeying for power, dynamics going on behind the scenes here. And I do think it's going to continue. There is no clear head to the Democratic Party right now. And it's funny to kind of watch them in this same position that Republicans were in in the Obama years.

BASH: Yes.

MURRAY: The base doesn't just want to protest, they want to be able to stop these things from happening. And there's really not anything that these senators can do to prevent Republicans from moving these folks forward.

BASH: So this discussion is about the politics of it. Why, what, what does it mean. But there's also the question of comity, c-o-m-i-t-y, not ha, ha, ha comedy, and also kind of the nature of the discussion and the dialogue here in Washington.

TALEV: There is this establishmentarian question, isn't it?

BASH: Exactly. And so the idea that she's saying what she's saying on the Senate floor and she's barred from saying that because that is the Senate rule to -- in order to prevent nastiness on the Senate floor, and yet we have a president who goes after other people, other politicians with regularity. Let me just give you one example.

From January 29th on -- talking about John McCain and Lindsey Graham. You can put it up. "The joint statement of our former presidential candidates, John McCain and Lindsey Graham is wrong. They're sadly weak on immigration. The two senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security, instead of always looking to start Would War III." And then a few days later talking about Democrats. "Nancy Pelosi and fake tears Chuck Schumer held a rally at the steps of the Supreme Court and mic did not work. A mess just like the Democratic Party."

So if he were on the Senate floor saying that, he would have an Elizabeth Warren problem, right?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. And the fact of the matter though is, that when everyone's talking about rule 19, number two, the like -- the -- the -- you know, it's --

BASH: Sorry. You lost me.

THRUSH: It's got to get to number two, right?

BASH: You lost me at number two.

MONTANARO: Number three, the State of the Union, is totally (INAUDIBLE).

But this was put in place, for all the originalists out there, because of a fight that broke out on the Senate floor.

BASH: Yes.

MONTANARO: Not because somebody was trying to oppose somebody's confirmation.

BASH: Like an actual fight.

MONTANARO: An actual fist fight --

BASH: Yes.

MONTANARO: Between two people who were friends, and there was a whole thing about Philippines and a treaty that one signed on to and he thought he was, you know, taken over by the other party, and they were mad at each other and they got into a fist fight.

Elizabeth Warren wasn't trying to fight anybody.

BASH: No.

MONTANARO: YO know, so this is a difference but also Republicans wanting to have Elizabeth Warren not talk about this stuff. And the -- the thing is, they should know that she can command as big a microphone as she wants. And maybe they do. I mean, Rick Santorum said it on CNN and said --

BASH: Yes.

MONTANARO: Hey, why not?

BASH: Exactly. And look what she did. I mean it was like pinprick precision that she went about this strategy after it happened. She went out. She did live stream. She just said it. She went on FaceBook. She got the hash tag. Well, I mean a lot of it happened organically, but she coaxed it along.

THRUSH: Well, you know, as I was watching that I realized, it's the only opportunity Manu will ever have to be taught by a Harvard Law professor.

[12:25:05] MONTANARO: And maybe not.

BASH: I'm sure he'd appreciate that.

THRUSH: He could really -- you could really see that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But there is -- yes, well --

THRUSH: But I think -- I think Mitch McConnell did it because Mitch McConnell didn't like to be usurped in his own chamber and he's angry at the Democrats for slow walking stuff. I think a lot of this stuff gets down to the personal stuff that we assumed was going to go out the window when Harry Reid left.

BASH: Yes.

MURRAY: Yes, I think the idea of comity in the Senate is, you know, maybe dying. Maybe this is just the new Washington. We've seen, obviously, the House move in that direction. We've seen Congress move more broadly in this direction with people not spending as much time in Washington and certainly not spending as much time fraternizing with each other.

BASH: That's right.

MURRAY: So that may be rule 19 --

BASH: That was the perfect set-up for the tease for the next segment, which there is some comity or at least discussion debate in Washington that matters. Coming up, what's going to happen with Obamacare, repeal and replace? Will it just be tweaked? We'll tackle that and look at a very interesting debate that we had right here on CNN last night.

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