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Supreme Court Upholds Trump Travel Ban; Interview with Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 16:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the heroic acts of lieutenant -- of this Lieutenant Garlin Conner become for us a lifetime of strength.

We ask you always for your continued presence for all of our American heroes serving home and abroad in military service. Continue to pour your wisdom on our leaders and fill Pauline Conner, her family and our entire nation with your peace, today and always. Amen.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

You have been watching President Trump honoring the Medal of Honor to a World War II soldier, 1st Lieutenant Garlin Conner. We're going to have more on his remarkable story later in the show.

But let's begin with the politics lead today, what President Trump is calling -- quote -- "a tremendous victory" and a -- quote -- "moment of profound vindication" and what his critics are calling bigotry and, un-American and cruel.

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision upholding President Trump's third version of his travel ban. That ban started during the campaign, of course, as a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., just a proposal. The first actual ban after Mr. Trump took office was an executive action which halted visas for individuals traveling from seven majority Muslim countries and wreaked havoc at the nation's airports, as you might recall.

That issue -- that order was stayed by the courts and then the legal process began, of course. This third version, which the highest court in the land today ruled constitutional, restricts entry into the U.S. in varying degrees for individuals from five majority Muslim countries, but also those from Venezuela and North Korea.

The Supreme Court ruled today that the president has broad powers under immigration law to act to protect national security. The court also said that the ruling was not focused on public anti-Muslim statements made by President Trump.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us, and my panel of experts is here with me as well to dive into all of this.

But let's start with Kaitlan. The president called this vindication, but, to be clear, he's also

criticized this third version as watered-down and in fact last year he had to be talked into signing off on it.


Today, the president is touting this as a victory. But just a little over a year ago, the president was criticizing his Justice Department for narrowing this ban so it could have legal muster, because he believed that it was then too politically correct and watered down.

Now, he said all of that publicly, but privately he was telling his aides he didn't want to sign this version of the ban, this version that was upheld today, and that he believed too many foreigners were being allowed into the country.

Now, that is what he said one year ago today about this ban, and here is what he said today about it.


COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump triumphant today, declaring victory after the Supreme Court upheld his administration's travel ban with a 5-4 vote.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A tremendous success, a tremendous victory for the American people and for our Constitution. This is a great victory for our Constitution.

COLLINS: After months of court battles, there was an air of vindication inside the West Wing.

TRUMP: The ruling shows that all of the attacks from the media and the Democrat politicians are wrong and they turned out to be very wrong.

COLLINS: The decision seen as a major statement on presidential powers. Chief Justice John Roberts arguing that Trump acted lawfully, writing: "The president of the United States possesses an extraordinary power to speak to his fellow citizens and on their behalf."

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor issuing a stinging rebuttal, quoting anti- Muslim statements Trump had made in the past and writing, "That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected."

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of the Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

COLLINS: The original travel ban was one of Trump's first policies in office. This is a much narrower version after lower courts struck down the first two.

The first caused widespread chaos at airports nationwide. The second version also faced challenges and expired in October. And Third and final version of the much-debated ban, restricting entry from mostly Muslim nations, a measure Trump said was necessary for national security. It also prohibits travel by North Koreans and some Venezuela officials.

Senator Cory Booker blasting the ruling.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, this is what I can say is. Thank God we are not a nation of tyranny, because the president has tried multiple times, and his efforts have been diluted by the court system and by good-meaning people. He was not able to do what he wanted to do.


COLLINS: The decision coming as the president's zero tolerance immigration policy has caused controversy on the southern border. Asked if he feels emboldened by the decision, Trump saying this today:

TRUMP: We have to find a system where you don't need thousands of judges sitting at a border.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, the president made clear today he feels justified in his hard-line immigration policy.

It is an open question of how today's decision affects what is happening on the border, but he did sum up his desired immigration policy in just four words. Those were, "You can't come in."

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thanks so much.

My panel joins me now.

David Urban, let me start with you.

Generally, pundits are saying this is a win for President Trump, for his administration. However, he himself, when the -- this was all winding its way through the courts, said: "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down, politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court."

And "The New York Times" reported last year that the president yelled at his staff as to -- about having to water down this order, saying -- quote -- "This is B.S."

So I know that pundits think that this is a win for the president, but does he think it is a win for him?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Probably not. If those reports are correct, he probably doesn't view it as a win.

There is broad -- obviously, broad discretion for the president in matters of national security and immigration, as the court outlined, but not unlimited. And the court and the legislature serves as a check on that power, and this is a pretty narrow travel ban.

If you look at it, of the five countries that are represented, the five Muslim countries, they represent about 5 percent of the Muslim population in the world. You still -- you have about 140 million Muslims covered by that. There is still 1.6 billion Muslims that aren't covered by the travel ban. So if the president was looking for a complete Muslim ban, it is far from that.

TAPPER: Jeffrey Toobin, let me bring you in.

Justice Sotomayor, writing in a dissenting opinion, wrote -- quote -- "The majority here completely sets aside the president's charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant. That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected. And it tells members of minority religions in our country that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community."

Did the court, the majority at least, did they cast aside the president's own words? That is not how I read the decision.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one way of looking at this decision is that the majority wrote an opinion about the presidency, and the dissenters wrote about the president, because the -- the majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts I do think tried to avoid as much as possible Donald Trump's words, especially during the campaign, and talked about the order itself, which does not make any reference to religion, and refers only to a few countries, one of which or two of which, Venezuela and North Korea, have very insignificant Muslim populations.

So by the time they got around to the third version of the travel ban, it had lost some of its religious character. The dissenting opinion, particularly the one by Justice Sotomayor, very much was, who is kidding whom here? This is the direct descendant of what Donald Trump said during the campaign. The only reasons these countries are on here are because they are Muslim or a fig leaf to cover the Muslim nation -- nature of the travel ban.

And that was the -- that was the disagreement between the five votes and the four votes.

TAPPER: Ana Navarro, let's play the sound of President Trump declaring he wanted all Muslims to be banned from entering the U.S. This is December 2015.


TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.


TAPPER: Now, while this case was working its way through the Supreme Court, the Trump campaign removed the shutdown language from the Trump campaign Web site.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think, when I was watching your introduction, where you talked about it being a long-fought vindication for Trump -- and that is what he was saying.

TAPPER: His words. His words.

NAVARRO: And his opponents say it is racist and discriminatory. I think it is both.

I think it is racist and discriminatory. But the Supreme Court did not rule on that. And it is a long, hard-fought vindication for Donald Trump. This was one of his first policy moves.

I will tell you who else this is a win for. All of those anti- establishment Trumpers who hate Mitch McConnell, that is the guy they have got to thank for this. Remember that it was Mitch McConnell denying Merrick Garland a vote for the Supreme Court for almost a year by tying it up procedurally, and yet being able to get Gorsuch to breeze through very quickly.

Today, we have two decisions that were very narrow, very narrowly decided. One was on a choice, abortion case, and one was on this. And so all of those folks who hate Mitch McConnell viscerally because he represents country club Republicans, they should be saying (INAUDIBLE) and lighting candles to the man today.


TAPPER: And, Kirsten, something interesting.

Justice Kennedy, one of the swing votes usually, in a concurring opinion -- he was with the majority, but I think it is fair to say he was criticizing President Trump with what he wrote.

He wrote -- quote -- "There are numerous instances in which the statements and actions of government officials are not subject to judicial scrutiny or intervention. That does not mean those officials are free to disregard the Constitution and the rights it proclaims and protects. An anxious world must know that our government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward and lasts."

So even though he is siding with it, he seemed concerned about things that President Trump had said, if not enacted.


But I think that the rest of the quote would have done well to also consider and even he would have done well to consider more what the president had said.

So you could say, well, by the time it got there, it is only 5 percent Muslim population, but that is still -- he wanted it to be more, and he still wants that 5 percent to be banned. And so the point is, the intention actually does really matter. And

the majority was living in the sort of netherworld where Donald Trump doesn't say things.

And so they were sort of pretending that this was just a conversation about executive power, and he's just any president coming along, and they're just making a decision like it is an ordinary president, when he's not an ordinary president, and when he was quite clear about what his intention was.

So, just because in the end he only was able to harm a small percentage of Muslims, he was still able to harm them.


TOOBIN: Jake, can I just add one point about Justice Kennedy's comments?

I think they are especially important, given the timing and who Justice Kennedy is and how old he is. He's 81 years old. Tomorrow, we find out whether -- tomorrow is the last day of the term, it looks like. We find out whether Justice Kennedy is leaving.

That did not sound to me like a justice who is anxious to turn over his precious seat on the Supreme Court to Donald Trump. That was, I thought, a rebuke of the president.

Now, he didn't rebuke him with his vote, which is much more important. But that comment about how leaders should behave themselves certainly did seem directed at Donald Trump by Justice Kennedy.

TAPPER: You took issue, David, with something that Kirsten said.

URBAN: Just to what Kirsten said about keeping -- not keeping America safe, that is exactly what the court allowed in this case, right?

This is why the president has this broad latitude in these cases. These countries aren't picked out of a hat. These country are places where there are very lax checks on immigration and border security, where people are leaving.

Yemen, have you been to the airport in Yemen in Sanaa? It is not a great place, I can assure you. And so these were not picked out of a hat for places that we want to punish people. These were picked because these are places designed to keep Americans safe.


POWERS: So, you thought he was lying? What were his words then? Why did he say all this?

URBAN: There is campaign rhetoric and then is this order.

POWERS: Oh, that is baloney. I'm sorry. That is just absolute baloney.


NAVARRO: It was much more than campaign rhetoric.

This was -- I think this was also a good day for Rudy Giuliani. We will remember he began saying crazy things way back then. And it was around this Muslim ban.


URBAN: ... Muslim ban when 92 percent of the Muslim world, 1.6 billion Muslims, can come and go in the United States as they like.


NAVARRO: ... call it a Muslim ban because that is how it began. That's what it was intended to be. And they were forced through the process...


URBAN: Words matter, you say, so be specific.


The -- what was born as the Muslim ban that has since degenerated and deteriorated into what was ruled on today. Do you like those words?

URBAN: How about been rewritten to comply with the law?

TAPPER: Let's take a quick break.

Does President Trump have a valid point about national security concerns regarding these seven countries? The first Muslim elected to Congress will join me to respond to the victory for President Trump's travel ban.

Stay with us.


[16:17:58] TAPPER: As the White House celebrates its big Supreme Court travel ban win, Democrats and civil rights groups are outraged and promising to fight the ruling. One of those Democrats is Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. He's the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and one of two Muslim Americans in the U.S. Congress.

Congressman, thanks for joining me.

You called the ban bigotry against Muslims.


TAPPER: How do you respond to the fact that two of the seven countries on the ban, Venezuela and North Korea , are not Muslim majority countries? ELLISON: Well, in the case of North Korea, there is not too much

immigration directly from North Korea to the United States. Those folks usually come from South Korea. So that's kind of a red herring.

And then in Venezuela's case, it is not a -- it is not a ban, it is just certain elites that are targeted. So, that leaves you with those other five countries. They're all Muslim countries, majority, and they are banned because of that fact.

And I believe that that is in line with what President Trump said when he was a candidate. He said he wanted a complete and total shut down of Muslim entry into the country. He didn't get the complete and total shut down but he got something and he is celebrating that fact right now and that's sad because our country stands for religious freedom and liberty and we don't hold people's religious faith as a factor when we decide whether they could come to our country or not.

At least we shouldn't. The Supreme Court said they could for now. But I don't believe that that ruling will stand the test of time because none of the other bigoted rulings that I've seen in the course of American history have stood the test of time like Korematsu or Plessey or Dred Scott. All those ugly, bigoted rulings usually find the dust bin and I think this one will too.

TAPPER: So, let me ask you, in 2015, President Trump signed a law that contained provisions that restricted travel to the U.S. for people who lived in or visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. In 2016, the Obama administration added extra restrictions for travelers from Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Now, clearly, this Trump travel ban is much more severe. But it does beg the question, it does prompt the question: aren't there legitimate national security questions about travelers from these countries?

[16:20:05] ELLISON: You know, let me tell you. I really regard that as a Trump talking point, because the truth is that the President Obama never said we're going to ban people based on a religion. It was all rooted in factors that had to do with legitimate national security interests.

This one did not start that way. It was not the origin of it and it's not the purpose of it. So, to try to say that it is somehow equivalent or the same, I simply could not accept that as a false equivalency. And why don't we take Trump by -- at his word? He said it's a Muslim ban. Now, everyone is falling over themselves to say that it's not a Muslim ban, but he said it was.

I believe Trump on this.

TAPPER: Well, I'm not -- certainly not going to back what President Trump said about banning Muslims entering the U.S., but when they did craft the travel ban, one of the things they did lean on was previous acts by the Obama administration, that's what the Department of Homeland Security did, I'm not saying they are the same thing and obviously their origins are very different. But there is a tremendous amount of overlap when it comes to the countries affected, the added restrictions on travel under the Obama administration and the ban on travel in the Trump administration.

I get that they are different. I get the origins are different. I get that the men, Obama and Trump, are different. But does it not prompt the question that maybe there are some serious national security questions about these countries of which there is an overlap?

ELLISON: The fact is, is that we should not use religious faith as a factor. We should not use the religious faith of the people. We should root our decision-making in national security. Now, that is not what happened here.

So, that's the point I'm making, Jake, is that, you know, just because two things may look similar does not mean they are similar. They are rooted in entirely different purposes and origins and that makes a big difference because now we're going to -- because, look, Trump got what he could get, right? He couldn't get one and he couldn't get two.

Number three, he rings the bell with the Supreme Court. Well, where do we go from here, right? Do -- are we going to see an expansion, if you listen to his rhetoric, we would see such a thing as that. I mean, so I think the purpose is important and I think that we shouldn't lose sight of that.

And more than that, I think it sends an ugly signal to people who -- who look at our country as a beacon of freedom and a beacon of inclusion and I think that at the bottom line is that this -- this ruling today is the Supreme Court simply rubber stamping this Trump Muslim ban and I call it that because he called it that.

TAPPER: I get that, but again, when Obama adds restrictions on visitors, travelers from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, just empirically, do you have a problem with that? Forget Trump for a second. Forget what he said for a second.

ELLISON: No, you know, Jake -- I don't think we can forget Trump for a second because this is about his travel ban. But I will tell you this, that where in there are legitimate national security problems that are demonstrable and measurable, that I think the president should use those factors to safeguard the American people and that is clear.

But I will just say, Jake, that is not what this is all about and I think that we've got -- we cannot simply ignore intent, purpose and we can't ignore the way that this president has approached this entire issue. I think that it makes a lot of difference who would be exercising the discretion here, somebody who believes in our constitutional norms of equal justice for all and equality before the law or somebody who is really just sort of said that they are not about that. So, I think these things are important.

And I know folks would like to wish away Trump here, but we can't, he is the president, this was his measure in the beginning, and he's going to continue to be the president for at least the foreseeable future.

TAPPER: You've been decrying President Trump's bigotry. Obviously, you used to follow somebody who continually expressed sexist anti- LGBTQ and anti-Semitic bigotry, Lewis Farrakhan. You've condemned Farrakhan's bigotry --

ELLISON: I would disagree with that. I would disagree with that, sir.

TAPPER: What are you disagreeing with?

ELLISON: Sorry, that comes up in this context.

TAPPER: Well, you're decrying bigotry, and Louis Farrakhan is a pretty clear bigot.

ELLISON: Right. And I agree that that's true. And I think I made myself very clear.

But, look, that's going back to the false equivalency. You know, I don't have any support for the individual you just mentioned stands for, nor do I agree with Trump's bigotry either. But then again, any time somebody tries to say that something is unfair and bigoted, if you're going to say, well, one time you sort of said something or somebody said you said something and then --

TAPPER: But you are a follower of --


ELLISON: No, I wasn't --

TAPPER: You were a follower of Farrakhan, sir. You --

ELLISON: Jake, I'm sorry. That is not true, Jake.

But I just want to say to you, if anyone who raises concerns about bigotry then is put in a position to have to defend themselves, then we never get to talk about bigotry and I hope that's not what your purpose is, Jake, because you've stood for an equal society. But if you're going to try to put me on the spot and have to explain myself -- I didn't pass a Muslim ban.

TAPPER: No, I didn't --

ELLISON: This is not my --

TAPPER: You didn't let me ask my question. My question was, "The Washington Post" fact checker in March gave you four Pinocchios for your claim that you have no relationship with him and I want you to take a listen to Farrakhan talking in an interview about how you only --

ELLISON: That's wrong. That's not true.

TAPPER: And Farrakhan -- well, "The Washington Post" fact checker did give you four Pinocchios about that. That it's true.

ELLISON: They were wrong. TAPPER: They were wrong.

ELLISON: Jake, I have not -- it's untrue, Jake, I'm sorry. And I'm disappointed that that is why you called me on your show today.

TAPPER: I didn't.

ELLISON: You know, because the Supreme Court --

TAPPER: That is not why I called you -- yes?

ELLISON: Jake, the Supreme Court has ruled that the president's ban on Muslims and Muslim countries and what started in his campaign rhetoric, that that is OK. And now, Jake, you want me to have to justify myself --


ELLISON: Based on facts not true and always political. And so --

TAPPER: That is the question -- the question I had for --

ELLSION: -- it's a shame, Jake, because we can't have a real conversation.

TAPPER: It is a real conversation.

ELLISON: We can't a conversation about bigotry because -- we can't have a conversation about bigotry because you're going to say, well, what about you? Did you ever in any way or anyone -- know or see anybody who was ever bigoted and therefore, you have no moral standing to claim -- to decry bigotry. Jake, that's just not true.

TAPPER: I'm not saying that at all.

ELLISON: And I'm sorry we're having this conversation.

TAPPER: Well, the question I have about Farrakhan which you haven't --

ELLISON: Jake, I came on here to talk about the Muslim ban.

TAPPER: I understand that. The question I have for you --

ELLISON: And now, you're trying to put me on the spot. It's not fair.

TAPPER: The question I had for you that I've been trying to ask is, Farrakhan said in 2016, you met with him in his hotel suite in Washington, D.C.

ELLISON: That is a false -- that did not happen.

TAPPER: It did not happen. So, Farrakhan is lying?

ELLISON: That is untrue. I'm not -- I don't know if he's lying or not. I could tell you I was in no such meeting. I was in no such meeting. I've made that clear.

You know that, Jake. I have denied this because it's not true. But here I am on your show having to talk about this when the Supreme Court just upheld what the president said was a Muslim ban from the very beginning.

And so now I have to defend myself when that is not what the context of this discussion is about at all, Jake.

TAPPER: It was just a question I wanted to ask --

ELLISON: So, now, I was no such meeting.

TAPPER: OK. So, Farrakhan is lying about it. That's fine. If you're telling me that Farrakhan is lying --


ELLISON: Look -- maybe he is.

TAPPER: That is all I know.

ELLISON: But I could tell you this, Jake, I could tell you I was not in a meeting. What somebody subjective intent was, I will not speculate. I could tell you I was never in any such meeting as that. It's not true.


ELLISON: It's simply not true.

TAPPER: I wanted to get you on the record about it and that is --

ELLISON: And I wrote about this -- and I wrote about this months ago, Jake.

TAPPER: In 2017 --

ELLISON: And I think you know that.

TAPPER: You wrote about it in the Washington --

ELLISON: No, I was not in any such meeting with that individual. I simply wasn't.


ELLISON: If say lying -- I don't know. I mean, I wasn't in the meeting. I could tell you that.

TAPPER: He says that you and Congressman Carson met with him in a suite in his -- when he came to visit. You're saying it's not true. I will take you at your word. I certainly believe you more than I believe Louis Farrakhan.

ELLISON: I've said it repeatedly. TAPPER: OK. "The Washington Post" fact --

ELLISON: Well, I hope so. But, Jake, this is not the first time I've denied this and I think you know that.

TAPPER: Congressman, it was just a question, you were talking quite a bit about the bigotry in your view of President Trump, the bigotry in your view of this travel ban, I thought it was worth asking about somebody -- a bigot with whom you used to associate, though, you have distanced yourself and condemned him since.

ELLISON: No. Jake, I worked on the Million Man March and I was proud to do so. That's it.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman, thank you for your time and I appreciate it.

In the money lead, President Trump going hog wild, and talking about threatening an American icon, Harley-Davidson. He now says the motorcycle company is making up excuses.

Stay with us.