Return to Transcripts main page
Warren Silenced in Sessions' Debate; Senators Read King Letter; Gorsuch on Capitol Hill. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired February 8, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
Right now, we're keeping an eye on two major stories developing this hour here in the United States.
Take a look at this. Live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room, where the press secretary, Sean Spicer, will be taking reporters' questions this hour.
And from the U.S. Senate floor where senators will decide later today on whether Senator Jeff Sessions should become the next attorney general of the United States. They've been debating his nomination on the Senate floor for nearly 24 hours straight.
Over at the White House, we expect to hear much more about the legal fight over the president's travel ban. The court's decision could come at any time. But as we heard from the president this morning, he thinks the decision is an easy one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. OK. So, you can suspend. You can put restrictions. You can do whatever you want. And this is for the security of the country.
So, there it is, folks. It's a plain -- it's as plain as you can have it.
I didn't -- and I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well. OK? Better than, I think, almost anybody.
And I want to tell you, I listen 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.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: And just moments ago, the president tweeted this. Quote, "Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas while our people are far more vulnerable as we wait for what should be an easy D." D likely short for decision from the court.
Meanwhile, as senators debate the nomination of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, at least one of them is linking that debate to the travel ban fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: In light of president Trump's cruel and foolish and badly executed executive order on immigrants and refugees, we need an attorney general who will be an independent voice beholden to the Constitution and the American people, not to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's get some more on the impending decision on the travel ban and the potential fall-out over at the White House. Our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is standing by. Our Justice Correspondent Pamela brown is with us. And in New York, our Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jim, you're at the White House. In his remarks today, the president spoke about how he wanted the order rolled out differently. Take us through that.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's very interesting, Wolf. We did hear the president say this earlier this morning to that group of law enforcement officials he was addressing, and he did say, and this is something we have not heard before, that he had recommended to his team, to the Department of Homeland Security, that there be some sort of delay to this executive order.
He said, at one point during his remarks, I suggested a month, and I said what about a week? And he said, they said -- referring to Homeland Security and the law enforcement, they said, you can't do that because then people are going to pour in before the toughness goes on.
Wolf, that is diametrically opposed to what the president tweeted and what some of his top officials said over here at the White House. Witness what he said on January 30th, Wolf, in a tweet. He said, if the ban were announced with a one-week notice, the bad would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad dudes out there.
And then, Sean Spicer echoed those remarks at a forum at George Washington University here in Washington last week. And so, what the White House has been saying, almost every day when it comes to these questions about the executive order, is that had we waited to put in this executive order, that we would have given notice to the world and there might have been a chance for people to come into the country.
Never mind the fact that a lot of law enforcement experts say that that would not have taken place because of the screening measures and so forth that are in place for some of these countries.
But, nevertheless, that is what the president is saying. It is a new wrinkle, in terms of what he is trying to say to explain how the roll- out of that executive order had problems, according to not just Democrats, but Republicans.
And, Wolf, you did mention, yes, that tweet that he just put out there a few moments ago. He saying that there's a big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas while our people are far more vulnerable as we wait for the decision, the easy D as he called it. We believe he's referring to a decision there.
[13:05:06] But, Wolf, you'll notice in that tweet, he's talking about certain areas. At this point, we don't know what areas of the world the president is referring to there. We -- you would have to think it's, presumably, from those areas that are affected by this travel ban that's been frozen in the courts -- Wolf.
BLITZER: As we're speaking, we're about to get tape, Jim. The president has been meeting with the CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich. We're about to get a little bit of that meeting. The president has been meeting with a wide range of business leaders and others who've been invited to the White House. And Brian Krzanich is just one of them.
We're getting that tape in, I think momentarily. I'm going to play that tape. We have it right now, in fact.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You've never seen so much paper on a president's desk. And it's because we're negotiating lots of deals for our country which will be tremendous. And I just want to introduce Brian Krzanich who is the CEO of Intel, a great, great company.
And Brian called a few weeks ago and said, we want to do a very big announcement having to do with our country, but also having to do mostly with Arizona and the jobs and the great technology that will be produced.
So, this is Brian. And, Brian, why don't you say a few words and maybe also talk about the product you're going to be making. It's amazing.
BRIAN KRZANICH, CEO, INTEL: Yes. Thank you, Mr. President. It's an honor to be here today, representing Intel. And to be able to announce our $7 billion investment in our newest most advanced factory, Fab 42, in Chandler, Arizona. And we'll be completing that factory to make the most advanced semi-nanometer semiconductor chips on the planet.
Intel is very proud of the fact that the majority of our manufacturing is here in the U.S. and the majority of our research and development is here in the U.S. While over 80 percent of what we sell is sold outside of the U.S. And we're consistently one of the top five exporters in the country, and one of the top two research and development spenders in the United States.
And we've been able to do that, even while the regulatory and tax policies have disadvantaged us in the past, relative to the competition we have across the world.
And Fab 42 is an investment in Intel, but also the U.S.'s future in innovation and leadership in the semiconductor industry. Fab 42 will employ approximately 3,000 direct high-paying, high-wage high-tech jobs at its peak, and over 10,000 people in the Arizona area in support of the factory.
And this factory will produce, as I said, the most powerful computer chips on the planet, powering the best computers, the best data centers, autonomous cars. All of these devices are the most powerful computing devices on the planet.
And at Intel, we have a simple saying that says, while other people predict the future, we build the future. And this factory is a great example of that.
I want to thank the president for this opportunity to be here today.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Brian. And we have something over there that will show a little bit about the new product.
KRZANICH: This is an example of the wafer that will be built in Fab 42. This is one of our newest 10 nanometer silicon wafers. Seven nanometers will be built in Fab 42. And this is the future of computing.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fantastic. Did you have any questions for Brian? I know you have none for me, so how about for Brian?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to bring back jobs -- you said that the other business you have is outside the country. Do you plan on bringing them back here?
KRZANICH: This is actually expansion. This is about growth. So, this position is actually about growth and new jobs in the U.S.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great thing for Arizona. Unbelievable company and product and we're very happy. I can tell you the people of Arizona are very happy. It's a lot of jobs and probably the investment -- what are you saying your total investment will be what?
KRZANICH: The total investment in just this factory is $7 billion. But if you take Arizona, we already have two other factories in Arizona. So, we have several 10s of billions of dollars of investments in factories in Arizona. We're the number one private employer in Arizona. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how long have you been planning this
KRZANICH: We've been working on this factory for several years. We've held off actually doing this investment until now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it something that President Trump did or said that made you want to do -- that made you want to announce this here and now?
[13:10:03] KRZANICH: It's really in support of the tax and regulatory policies that we see the administration pushing forward that really make it advantageous to do manufacturing in the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, all. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: All right. So, there it is. The photo op in the Oval Office. The president welcoming. Music to his ears, I suspect. Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel.
It's interesting -- and Gloria Borger is with me. David Gregory is with me. I believe he is one of those tech CEOs that opposes the travel ban that the president wants to see implemented.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Intel signed the amicus brief. And so, it was interesting, to both of us, that that was not either -- a question wasn't raised about it to him and nor did he mention it, during his little semi-advertisement about Intel.
I mean, he clearly looked a little uncomfortable to me just kind of standing there because I think he was waiting for that -- for that question.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The whole scene is bizarre. I mean, I've never seen the Oval Office used for this kind of dog and pony show like this, with the president seated and a very uncomfortable looking CEO literally selling his wears.
But the unconventional nature of it, if you are a supporter of Trump, says, yes, you know, president of action. More good news. And, again, I mean, I think you see the president with this, kind of, laser beam focus in his particular areas, when it comes to the regulation and promoting job growth. He's got his areas where he can keep, you know, jabbing and achieving successes. And I think he will argue that very strongly that's what we saw here.
BLITZER: This is going to be a big day, we suspect, in the whole issue of the travel ban. I want to bring in Pamela Brown, our Justice Correspondent. Pamela, if this court were to reinstate the ban and it would go into effect presumably immediately, that would potentially cause another level of chaos. And not only at international airports here in the United States, whether JFK or LAX or in Atlanta or Chicago, but airports around the world. Because, once again, a lot of people would be barred from coming into the United States. Are -- what are you hearing about that? Are people ready for this possibility?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly. I mean, it is a possibility, Wolf. And so, they have to be. Certainly, CVP is ready to re-implement the executive order and do what they did just a week ago.
But you could certainly see a repeat of what we saw when the executive order was initially signed, when people were on planes from all around the world coming to the United States. And then, suddenly banned, you know, when they arrived because they were from one of those seven countries listed in the travel ban. So, certainly, that could happen again.
And, you know, what was really interesting, if you listen to the oral arguments yesterday, not only did the DOJ attorney but also the judges, sort of, talked about how quickly this is all happening, how fast-moving this is.
And so, one option could be, Wolf, the Ninth Circuit could say, look, this is moving too fast. We're going to, you know, deny the stay from the Justice Department and have this go back to the district court.
It will also be interesting to see if Trump's latest comments about the fact that he wanted lag time with the executive order and he wanted it to be delayed will be brought up in this case. And whether states will use that to make the point that this was hastily done. We'll have to wait and see -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, all important issues we should know during the course of today.
Jeffrey Toobin, President Trump, he complemented that federal judge in Boston who originally ruled in favor of his proposed travel ban. But also said he was told that the Boston example couldn't be used in the appeals court argument. Why not?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's not that it couldn't be used. It's just it's not binding. Federal district courts, that are addressing the same issue, don't bind other courts in different jurisdictions. The court in Boston is part of the First Circuit and the court in Washington state is part of the Ninth Circuit.
They have different appeals' processes. One goes to the appeals court in Boston. The other goes to the appeals court in San Francisco. And, ultimately, they all go to the Supreme Court.
And one reason we have a Supreme Court is that it settles disagreements among these different courts. And that's what President Trump, I guess, was referring to is that, you know, these courts are not binding on each other. BLITZER: I'm going to have you stand by. And, Pamela, I want you to
stand by as well, in case we get that decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this hour. We're awaiting that decision.
Meanwhile, I want to go up to the U.S. Capitol right now. There's a debate involving the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to become the next attorney general of the United States. A vote is expected later today. These live pictures coming in from the Senate floor right now. The debate continues.
[13:15:07] Last night, the debate took a very dramatic turn. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren was rebuked for reading past statements critical of Senator Sessions, including a letter from Coretta Scott King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President -
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They are -
MCCONNELL: Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority leader.
MCCONNELL: The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama as warned by the chair.
I call the senator to order under the provisions of rule 19.
WARREN: Mr. President, I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate. I ask leave of the Senate to continue my remarks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there objection?
MCCONNELL: I object.
WARREN: I appealed the ruling -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The objection - the objection is heard. The senator will take her seat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our senior congressional reporter Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill.
Very dramatic stuff. Manu, you just had a chance to speak with Senator Warren. Is she feeling emboldened by the Senate rebuke by the majority leader? What's she saying about all that today?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Absolutely, Wolf. She is defending her move saying that even though the Senate did find her in violation of the rules of decorum, she believed that she was just trying to present the facts as she sees them against Jeff Sessions, even questioning whether or not he would fairly enforce laws involving - that could hurt and disenfranchise African-Americans. I asked her questions about why she carried on with this line of attack on the floor, even as she was warned last night that this could break the Senate rules. She strongly defended her decision and said that the reason why she did it was to prosecute the case against Jeff Sessions. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: 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?
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.
RAJU: 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 with 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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Wolf, she also acknowledged that the Democrats really do not have the votes to stop these Trump nominees, but she said that she needs to - Democrats need to do everything they can to shine a spotlight on some of the concerns that they have. Interestingly, I asked her about her support actually for Ben Carson to be housing and urban development secretary. She did not want to discuss that because that's something that actually has gotten her into some hot water among some of her supporters. She's also been criticized by some of the Republicans who believe she's using this to help catapult her to the front of the line for 2020. I asked her, is that something you're open to or thinking about, 2020? She said, quote, "I'm open to doing my job," strongly defending her move.
And, Wolf, the fact that she was found in violation of this rule exceptionally rare. Orrin Hatch, the long-time senator of the Senate, long time senator from Utah, told me he cannot remember a single time that this has happened in the past. So clearly it just shows how emotions are running very, very high in just - in the early days of the Trump administration, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we do expect a formal roll-call confirming Senator Sessions as the next attorney general of the United States later today, maybe during the 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.
All right, Manu, thank you very much.
Coming up, we're going to ask Senator Jeff Merkley, there you see him, he's up on Capitol Hill, about the Sessions vote and President Trump's Supreme Court pick.
[13:19:50] Plus, we're getting live pictures from the White House right now. Shortly, later this hour, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, he'll go back into the Briefing Room, take more questions from reporters. We'll have live coverage of that as well.
BLITZER: Here are the live pictures coming in from the White House Briefing Room. Shortly, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, will go in there. He'll make an opening statement, giving the president's daily schedule, if you will, and then he'll answer reporters' questions and there are plenty of them. We'll have live coverage once it begins.
Right now, though, I want to take you to the Senate floor. The debate over the attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions, now going on for roughly 24 hours. On the Senate floor, the biggest moment came last night when Republicans blocked Senator Elizabeth warren from reading a highly critical letter on Sessions written by Coretta Scott King. Since then at least four senators have taken to the floor to read King's words starting with Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
[13:25:17] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: And I quote, "I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence, and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Merkley is joining us now live.
Senator, thanks for joining us.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Oh, you're welcome. Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So why was Senator Elizabeth Warren shut down, prevented from speaking during the course of this debate, and you weren't?
MERKLEY: Yes, a group of basically white Republican legislators shut down a woman, Elizabeth, who was presenting information relevant to this nomination from a civil rights icon, Coretta Scott King. Testimony that was already in the Senate record because she gave this testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986. She was shut down because it is up to the chair to rule as to whether conduct is appropriate in terms of criticism of fellow senators, and my colleagues decided to interpret this in Jeff Sessions' role as a senator, rather than his role as a nominee.
BLITZER: So they allowed you to go ahead and read the exact words from that letter that she was prevented from reading? Is that right?
MERKLEY: I read 90 percent of the letter, but then characterized the rest of it and gave her final closing summation so that I would be slightly different spot than Elizabeth's was. But, yes, basically the answer to that is yes.
BLITZER: McConnell's - is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell's statement on Senator Warren last night included the words "nevertheless she persisted." And that's becoming a rallying cry for Warren supporters. Hillary Clinton, for example, tweeted about that among so many others.
You and three of the other supporters, once again, this is the Hillary Clinton tweet. "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." That's the quote from Senator McConnell that Hillary Clinton tweeted herself.
You know, this whole notion, though, is that Senator McConnell's action shutting her down has backfired because she's getting a whole lot more publicity on this issue right now than she ever would have received if people would have just been watching that floor debate on C-Span, for example. But here's the question. Senator Sessions, he's about to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and there isn't much of anything else you can do about that.
MERKLEY: Well, that's probably - that's probably right, but we have to fight. Or in the words of McConnell, we must persist. And Elizabeth did a great job of that last night. My caucus exchanged speaking through the night to make the point. That letter, by the way, what that was about was an abuse have power by Jeff Sessions when he was in the position to do so to launch investigations, to intimidate black voters who had started to use their franchise, their ability to vote to make a difference. And that is absolutely a trend, a theme that continues in the Republican Party of voter suppression. They want to prevent African-Americans from voting. They want to prevent Hispanic- Americans from voting. They want anyone to vote except their base - or not to vote except their base.
And this really is an assault on our constitution because our nation is founded of voter empowerment, not voter suppression. And that's why this is very relevant to this nomination because we have a vision of justice for all, not government by and for the most powerful.
BLITZER: Well, of course, the Republicans deny that. They say they simply want stricter voter ID to make sure there's no fraud going on at the polling booth. We don't have to get into a whole conversation about that right now, but I do want to ask you about the Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. He's on Capitol Hill today. He's scheduled to meet with three of your Democratic colleagues. He's already met with others, including the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. You describe Gorsuch as being on the, quote, "far extreme right." Are you open to meeting with him? At least sitting down and talking to him?
[13:30:37] MERKLEY: Oh, I am open to - to meeting. But the first thing I'm going to ask him is his opinion about the theft of this Supreme Court seat from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. This is the first time in our history that the Senate majority has stolen a Senate seat, put it in a time capsule, delivered it to the next president, and to do so in order to bias the Supreme Court. Ad this really is very destructive to the integrity of the court and it's very destructive to our we the people vision of government because this was done by the Republicans in order to sustain the flow of dark money