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Ruling on Transgender Ban in Military; Supreme Court Takes up Gun Case; No action on DACA; Dueling Bills to End Shutdown; Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired January 22, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:17] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Big news from the Supreme Court. The conservative majority allows the president's ban on transgender military service to take effect, but a big loss for the president on another front, immigration. And, the justices will debate gun control for the first time in nearly a decade.

Plus, partial government shutdown day 32. A second missed payday for 800,000 federal workers now all but guaranteed. Congress prepares for a week of debate that is much more about political positioning than getting a compromise.

And the raw politics of race in the age of Trump. A leading House Democrat offers this blunt take on the president.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: We have a hater in the White House. The birther in chief. The grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One of the thing that we've learned is that while Jim Crow may be dead, he's still got some nieces and nephews that are alive and well.


KING: Back to that provocative statement a bit later.

But we begin with the new, conservative majority on the Supreme Court delivering today a mixed verdict to the president. Today, critical decisions on a trio of issues critical to the Trump administration. In a narrow 5-4 ruling, the high court says the Trump administration ban that bars transgender people from serving in the military will now be allowed to go into effect. The justices did not -- this is important -- did not rule on the merits of the case. But they did say the policy should be in place while the low courts debate its constitutionality. Count that as a big win for the president and the White House.

And presumably this too. The high court says it will hear a gun rights case later this year, the first such case the court has agreed to put on its docket in almost a decade. At issue in this case, New York City handgun restrictions. But the morning session also included a setback for the president and his conservative allies on immigration, the issue central, of course, to the ongoing government shutdown fight. The Supreme Court, again, decided against acting on a Trump administration request to take up a case on its efforts to end the DACA program. The court's inaction means protections for 700,000 immigrant children brought here illegally will remain in place for at least the next several months.

With us to discuss these important decisions, their reporting and their insights, CNN's Joan Biskupic, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times," CNN's Ariane de Vogue, and NPR's Asma Khalid.

Let's get right to this. Let's do the nitty-gritty first. The justices say the transgender ban can go into effect. They're not ruling on the merits, but is it a hit?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes, because you needed five votes to lift the injunction that was blocking it, and the five conservatives, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, said, yes, and the four liberals, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said no. So you already saw that 5-4 fault line developing there. So and --

KING: Same question -- hang on, same question on guns. They're just saying, we'll take the case. But it's been nearly ten years since they took a gun control case. Is this the conservatives saying, we want another whack at the Heller case, which is defining reasonable restrictions?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Absolutely. And don't forget that since those big decisions came down, there have been many petitions at the Supreme Court. And the court hasn't stepped in, right? And Clarence Thomas complained about that, said you're thumbing your nose at the Second Amendment right. And now here we have Brett Kavanaugh on this court. The Supreme Court agrees to take it up. And that's a big deal for supporters and for people who wanted the court to get in on this again.

KING: All right, so transgender issues. Guns. Two culture issues. But they take a pass, for at least for -- they tell the president, no, we're not going to step in for you on the issue of immigration. What's the most consequential part of that?

BISKUPIC: Well, it means that for 700,000 people who wanted to continue the protections that were put in place by the Obama administration, they continue. The Supreme Court isn't taking up the Trump appeals at this point. Litigation going on throughout the country. And right now it helps, as I said, hundreds of thousands of people go forward with what's known as DACA, you know, the deferred -- people who came here as children undocumented.

DE VOGUE: Which means the court could still, right, agree to take it up next term.

BISKUPIC: Absolutely right. DE VOGUE: But what we learned today is they are not stepping in this term on that issue, as far as we know, and that's a victory for Chief Justice John Roberts, I think, who wants to keep the court below the radar maybe a little bit and keep these -- keep these issues maybe still in play but not --

BISKUPIC: He's got -- he's got some mixed tensions here, because, as we know, in November, right before Thanksgiving, he issued that statement to president -- invoking President Trump. There are no such things as Obama judges, Clinton judges. But, unfortunately, the court keeps showing its fault lines, just as I said in the transgender, it did split Republican justices versus Democratic justices.

[12:05:02] JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Anthony Kennedy really was the last of the dinosaurs, right? I mean --

BISKUPIC: That's right.

MARTIN: He was someone who probably would have split on these issues, I assume, right?

BISKUPIC: And you know what, he probably -- he cast likely the fifth vote on the gun rights case. Antonin Scalia, who wrote the landmark 2008 ruling allowing an individual right to handguns under the Second Amendment for the first time --

MARTIN: Right.

BISKUPIC: Probably had to navigate around Anthony Kennedy --

MARTIN: Right.

BISKUPIC: Who, as we all know, is not there.

KING: No, not on the court.

And so I want to come back to the -- what this says about John Roberts with Kennedy gone. The emergence, if you will, further emergence of John Roberts as the chief justice.


KING: But the president, not that long ago, just last week I believe it was, thought that he was going to get his win. He thought he was going to -- he thought the Supreme Court was going to step in, which would give him -- we'll get to the nitty-gritty of the shutdown a bit later -- but he thought -- the president thought this was going to give him some leverage in the immigration fight when he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's going to be overturned in the United States Supreme Court. And I think it's going to be overwhelmingly overturned. I mean nobody thinks that should have happened. We think it was a fluke. And it was a disgraceful situation that a judge ruled the way the judge ruled.

If we win that case, and I say this for all to hear, we'll be easily able to make a deal on DACA and the wall as a combination. But until we win that case, they don't really want to talk about DACA.


KING: They would actually be happy to talk about DACA, and right now they think they have a lot more leverage over the president.

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I mean this is what I think is so fascinating about the Supreme Court's decision to essentially say they're not going to really resolve anything around this case. It's like, one, it currently upholds the DACA situation which affects some 700,000 people who came into the country not legally as children. But, secondly, it really removes this bargaining chip that the president had banked on having during the government shutdown. And, you know, you look at public polling, and time and again the public seems to side with the idea of offering some sort of resolution to DACA or dreamer kids, as they're known.

KING: Right. And so we'll watch that play out in the shutdown.

What does it tell us -- let's -- guns, transgender issues, so sexual preference issues, immigration, the court saying, no, not now. What does it tell us about this court? Again, Anthony Kennedy is gone. The question has been, a, what would Brett Kavanaugh do? What would the second and third year of Neil Gorsuch bring us. But, more importantly, John Roberts now, does he have more freedom as chief justice because the swing -- it's a different -- it's a different ideological balance?

BISKUPIC: Well, to go to, you know, Jonathan's point about Anthony Kennedy, in some ways the chief himself could also say, Anthony Kennedy is defying labels by going on both sides and on so many social issues, culture war issues, he would go with the left. And now the chief himself is in the middle, but he -- his vote is not fluid that way.

MARTIN: Right.

BISKUPIC: He is definitely not going to be with the court on religion and gay rights and sexual orientation type issues. So it gives him more power with his vote. But it means more -- he's got more of the reputational interest to worry about. And what they didn't have done today, you know, they didn't take up an important religion rights case involving a coach who wanted to pray on the 50-yard line in Washington state. They haven't acted on a very controversial Indiana abortion laws. So they're dipping into some things.

And just so everyone knows, we're right at the -- only the halfway point of the court. We now know the contours of their case load, but we don't know what they're going to do with it (ph).

MARTIN: But John Roberts --

KING: Do they have a -- go ahead. MARTIN: No, I was going to say, if John Roberts is the closest thing there is now to a swing justice, it just underscores how much the center of gravity on the court has moved to the right post Kennedy.

KING: Right. Does this --

BISKUPIC: Absolutely.

DE VOGUE: But it also says one other thing I think. You look at John Roberts and they had been sitting on these petitions for a while, right? It takes four to grant (INAUDIBLE). It takes one justice to move it off -- move it off the conference list for down the line.

So what did we see today? We see the court saying, we're not going to hear DACA now. We're not going to hear this abortion case this term. There was another LGBT rights employment law case, we're not going to hear that this term.

But on the other hand, we see this newly solidified conservative majority on the Supreme Court assert itself today. We see the grant on that Second Amendment case. And we see the fact that the four liberals chose to say we would have kept that military ban off the books for now while it play out in the lower court.

And one other thing, they did not take up that religious liberty case. But the four conservatives, they wrote separately and they said, right, we shouldn't have taken up this case about this coach who knelt on the yard lines during a football game. However, we are troubled by some of the language that was in that lower court opinion. They sent major signals today.

BISKUPIC: And the court has already moved so much further to the right with -- on religion, even when Anthony Kennedy was there. So this is -- this is a very different, conservative Supreme Court than we had, frankly, in the '90s and the early 2000s.

KING: Some clues today. We'll continue to watch as this plays out. Appreciate both of you coming in for the court.

Up next for us here, federal workers prepare to miss yet another paycheck, while members of the Trump cabinet had to skip the World Economic Forum in Davos because of the shutdown, but still available for questions.

[12:10:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the shutdown over?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We all hope that it will end fairly quickly. Political fights in the United States are a time-honored tradition, as those of you who have studied our history know.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: It's day 32 now of the partial government shutdown and, spoiler alert, I actually think you don't need the spoiler alert, little to no progress is being made. Aides say Democratic leaders and President Trump, get this, haven't spoken in more than ten days. Both sides prepping proposals headed for the House and Senate floors. The president, however, showing no signs of giving in. on Twitter today accusing Democrats of playing, quote, political games, and praising the Republican effort. The president saying, never seen the senate majority leader and Republicans so united on an issue as they are on the humanitarian crisis and security on our southern border.

[12:15:03] One senior Democratic aide telling CNN, this is bigger than just negotiation. Bigger than just the next few weeks. Democrats saying this is about the next two years.

Now, I get that politically, but try explaining that logic to federal workers staring down their second missed paycheck come Friday.


FRANCIS NICHOLS III, PRE-TRIAL SERVICES OFFICER WORKING WITHOUT PAY: It's very difficult for -- my son is in fourth grade and his fourth grade class talked about this -- and for him to come home and ask, are we poor now, I don't need my extra milk at lunch, a 55 cent milk. I hope I didn't lie to my son and tell him that everything is going to be OK, because I'm really uncertain, but, you know, you have to keep that face on to make sure that you don't put him in pain (ph).


KING: Stories like that across the country.

CNN's Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill.

Phil, break down these dueling proposals that we'll see in the House and the Senate ostensively designed to reopen the government.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So what you have from the Senate Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today will introduce a plan that really mirrors what the president announced on Saturday, but also has some additions to it. It's $5.7 billion for a border wall. The tradeoff, at least in the view of Republicans, is temporary protection for DACA recipients, temporary protection for those with temporary protected status, about $800 million in humanitarian assistance.

What McConnell brought to the table, when this proposal was brought to him, was expanding it a little bit, $12.7 billion in disaster aid. It will also have all seven appropriations bills that were kind of discussed between the House and the Senate. Basically making it a very large spending package. The reality remains that Democrats, a, don't see it as a compromise, and, b, at least to this point, have not broken ranks at all. Remember, McConnell has 53 seats in the Senate. He's going to need seven Democrats if he wants to even advance this proposal. And as of now, he doesn't have any. He might pick up one or two. But this looks like it's probably going to fall in the Senate. The bigger issue I think right now when you talk to Republicans is, now they have a proposal, now they can talk about how Democrats have been intransigent or opposing something and they feel like that is helpful based on what they've been dealing with over the last four weeks.

Now, over in the House, House Democrats will say, look, for weeks we have been passing proposals to reopen the government, clean proposals. Once they are accepted or passed, we will be more than happy to have negotiations on border security. They will do it again this week, a similar package, as they have been in the past, with about a billion dollars more in border security funding, not funding the wall, to make the point that they support border security.

But I think the bottom line here is, more underscored what you said earlier about the conversations that aren't happening right now than the proposals that are on the floors that are. So long as the president and the Democratic leaders don't talk, so long as they don't move at all from their current positions, nothing's going to happen right now. I guess the bigger question is, can this start to jar things lose over the course of the week. Right now it seems like, no, but, as you know, John, things happen. They can happen fast. It just doesn't seem like it right now.

KING: Doesn't seem like it right now.

Phil Mattingly tracking what will be a very interesting week on Capitol Hill. Appreciate it, Phil. Come back to us if there's any news. We would like some

Joining our conversation, Rachael Bade with "Politico," Toluse Olorunnipa with "Bloomberg."

This is the Senate bill here. It's a bit of a prop to show it to you, but I just want to show it to you. Thirteen hundred pages.

As Phil said, you know, they put in some disaster relief in here, they put in some other things that Congress should pass anyway to try to get Democratic votes. You wonder those halls like Phil. It's not happening, right?

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, no, it's not going to happen in the Senate, but I think --

KING: So why do it?

BADE: I think that what you're going to see over the next 24 to 48 hours is, this is going to be a test for Democratic unity. Are they going to maintain this position of no negotiating until the president says, I'm going to reopen the government, or do they counter his offer that he made this weekend on three years of deferred deportation status for DACA recipients in return for some wall money.

And, you know, I have a story that's about to post right now on "Politico" and it's going to say that there's moderate Democrats in the House who are writing to Nancy Pelosi and saying to her, we want you to counter this offer, and we want you to offer the president specifically a vote on his border wall after he reopens the government sometime in February. Now, that is not a promise that it will pass. And, in fact, the letter says this will be amendable.

And, of course, Lindsey Graham proposed something like this in the Senate just a couple of days ago and the president totally panned it. So the president is not going to get behind this. We'll have to see what Pelosi does. But again it shows that some of these moderate Dems, they're feeling uncomfortable and they are not secure in this sort of position that they don't -- that Democrats are not going to negotiate.

KING: Right. And so that's an important point because, look, the president's plan doesn't have the votes in the Senate. One of the reasons Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican, will bring it to a vote is to show the president, sir, you don't have the votes for your current position. But there is another side to this. The question is, will there be cracks in Democratic unity? Will you see it in the Senate with these moderate House members? That's quite interesting.

"The Wall Street Journal" editorial board going after the speaker this morning saying Pelosi's refusal to negotiate even after Mr. Trump's new offer suggests that she's concerned that Mr. Trump might get some credit for a bipartisan immigration victory. Like restrictionist pundits, the left doesn't want to solve the problem. They want immigration as a perpetual campaign issue and TV-rating fodder.

Not just to that, but to the point of, what about the president's plan? Speaker Pelosi, a short time ago, said this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: At first when we heard the president was going to make a proposal, we were optimistic that he might be reaching out to open up government so that we could have this discussion. But then we heard what the particulars were in it, and it was a non-starter, unfortunately.

[12:20:07] This will be the ninth or tenth time that in the House of Representatives we have voted to open up government by putting forth bills that had passed the Senate with -- under the Republican leadership, but now they're not taking yes for an answer to their own proposals.


KING: Can she hold that? Her position is, and Chuck Schumer's position in the Senate is, open the government. We're not going to talk about any of this. Maybe in the end we'll give you some wall money or a little -- Nancy Pelosi said $1 in the House. Chuck Schumer's been willing to do $1.7 billion or even more in the Senate. But their position is, reopen the government, then we'll talk. Can they hold that?

KHALID: My understand from some of the more progressive Democrats is that they don't really see an incentive because this is -- you know, the proposal put forward by Trump, in their view, is a temporary solution to a problem that he created. The DACA program, just a reminder for folks, I mean this was created in 2012 under President Obama and in 2017 President Trump essentially wanted to nix the plan. You know, that's been held up in legal fights since then. But they don't see a three-year solution to DACA as a long term, permanent solution for a problem that they believe that President Trump --

MARTIN: You kind of wonder what this week would have looked like if they had done a permanent DACA solution. The trump folks on Saturday as their -- as their pitch. I think that would have put a lot more pressure on Pelosi and the House Democrats.

Look, I think that's not a bill right there --

KING: But will the president -- no, this is -- this is not a bill, but even part --

MARTIN: This is the opening entre to a --

KING: But is it the opening entre?

MARTIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: In the sense that the president took a lot of heat -- look, he could -- they could sell a permanent dreamer fix --

MARTIN: Right.

KING: To enough Republicans.

MARTIN: Of course he could.

KING: They could sell a bipartisan plan. But he blinks all the time when the D.C.-based anti-immigration chattering class --

MARTIN: Totally. Totally.

KING: Now, he could lead his base probably anywhere on this issue, the base out in the country.


KING: But those -- the chattering class, will the president go -- if the Democrats showed any indication of a move, they want a permanent dreamer solution, is the president prepared to go there?

MARTIN: If they give him money for a wall, I think he may be.

Now, look, I think you raise a very important point here, and this is the challenge for President Trump is that he doesn't appreciate the power he had with his own base because he's so wrapped up in the media coverage of everything he does that that distorts his juice with the rank and file conservative voters, right, because he doesn't like Hannity and Coulter, you know, whack at him. He doesn't know, for example, that last week -- this is a fascinating anecdote. Last week, on Saturday, when he gave that speech in the West Wing, a compromised pitch. Not a hardline, you know, attack, but a compromised pitch. He got a standing ovation and chants of "Trump" at a GOP conference that was taking place in Louisiana that simulcast his remarks in the ballroom.

Look, the point being, they're going to applaud at what he says. He's their president. They love him. They hate the enemies he has. And the point being that he will bring them along.

KING: Right.

MARTIN: I just don't know if he can get past, to your point --

KING: He's pulled back every time he's had the chance.

MARTIN: The critiques from the conservative media figures whose coverage he consumes daily.

KING: Right, well --

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": And this is a president who said, you know, I'm a great brander. I can market different things.

MARTIN: Right.

OLORUNNIPA: He could call this a win even if, you know, he has to compromise.


OLORUNNIPA: He hasn't done that. He's asked for more. He's asked for cuts to legal immigration. We've seen in this bill there's some changes to the asylum process that conservatives may want. But the president didn't campaign on or didn't advertise when he first put out this deal. So the fact the president putting out more things and asking for more things and not just accepting a wall for DACA tradeoff is part of the reason why we're at this standoff.

KING: And with no end in sight.

Up next, is the road to the Democratic presidential nomination run -- yes, it does -- but how much does it run through South Carolina?


[12:28:21] KING: Welcome back.

Iowa and New Hampshire traditionally, and understandably, get most of the early attention as the next presidential race gears up. But expect the states that come a bit later to get more attention this year. In part because of the crowded Democratic field makes this contest so unpredictable, and because the diversity of the Democratic field makes the contest both historic and fascinating.

Let's do a little bit of history as we walk through this here. This is the 2016 electoral results. This is why Donald Trump is president of the United States. Among the states, of course, South Carolina, which the president won quite handily. Don't expect in 2020 South Carolina is going to become a blue state. But it is critical in the Democratic primaries.

Up first, though, states that are much more white. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, the Latino vote, 13 percent of the vote in 2016 was African-American in Nevada. But it's a largely quite electorate that ticks it off for the Democrats.

Then, though, you move to South Carolina and into Super Tuesday and look at the percentage of African-American voters, this is 2016 data. A quarter of the voters in Virginia, a third in North Carolina, more than half in Alabama, six in ten Democratic primary voters in South Carolina African-Americans. Which is why the contest there, the fight for that vote is so important.

You saw some of this yesterday. Two candidates there on Martin Luther King holiday courting the vote there. Listen to Jim Clyburn. He's a power broker in the state. The number three in the House Democratic leadership. Close friends with the vice president. But this is an open primary, he says, we want to listen to everybody.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), MAJORITY WHIP: We want it to be a contest that everybody would be comfortable coming to. So I'm not going to single out any one of them at this point.

[12:29:58] We need to demonstrate that this party is open, people are welcome to debate it, the issues.