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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Speaks At Officers' Memorial Service; Trump Makes Political Points in Speech; Alabama Abortion Ban Could Provoke Challenge. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As his pastor has said, he wore a badge of love. And every time you were in his presence, you could feel that love. That's what they all say.

Investigator Farrah Turner (ph) was also fatally wounded. She passed away several weeks later. In her final days, hundreds of members of the community came to visit her in the hospital. They loved her. They spoke of the way she not only saved them from danger, but changed their lives through her grace, her support, and her prayers.

To Investigator Turner's mom, Katie (ph), and to sister April, and to Sergeant Carraway's (ph) wife Allison, and son Terence, brother Daniel, and sisters Sinovia (ph) and Nagozi (ph), your loved ones died the day -- it was a sad day, but they're looking down on you now. They died as they lived, fighting to protect innocent people. We will always remember them.

We will always profoundly be grateful to have with us two of the surviving Florence officers who were shot that October evening, Brian Hart (ph) and Travis Scott (ph). Brian and Travis, your continued service honors the legacy of your great friends. Thank you for being with us.

Please stand. Please stand.

Thank you very much. Thank you for being here.

The ambushes and attacks on our police must end. And they must end right now. We believe that criminals who murder police officers should immediately, with trial, get the death penalty, but quickly. The trial should go fast. It's got to be fair, but it's got to go fast.

And that's happening. Fair, but fast, right? Fair, but fast.

In the year before I took office, the number of officers killed in ambushes rose to the highest level in nearly 30 years. In the last two years, thankfully, the number of officers killed in ambushes has decreased by more than 70 percent. I'm very proud to have sent to all of the police departments all over the country, hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars' worth of military equipment that wasn't being used. Beautiful, wonderful, safe, great equipment that wasn't being used and other administrations didn't want to send it. Some day, you'll explain that one to me. But it's been sent and it's been used and I've had so many people tell

me how happy they were and how many lives it saved. We'll never back down when it comes to protecting our police, ever, ever.

In my administration we strongly condemn hateful anti-police rhetoric. And you're hearing it. You're hearing it. We don't understand it. We don't think it's even possible that they can think or feel this way. But there is some people out there that do.

In recent years, another dangerous trend has begun. A number of prosecutors in cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago have decided not to prosecute many criminals who pose a severe threat to public safety and community well-being. Every prosecutor takes an oath to uphold the law, not to advance a political agenda.

Last year, in Philadelphia, Rob (ph) was shot and gravely injured, a deli owner. He was a good man. He'll never be the same. But he may serve this criminal a sentence that is very short. In fact, they're looking at about three years, if you can believe this. Three years. Dangerous criminals must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. That's the only language they understand. And those who file false police reports should face full legal consequences.

[12:05:45] Every American child deserves to grow up in a community that's secure and safe from violence and free of fear. Here with us today is the family of California Police Officer Ronel Singh (ph). And I've got to know his family. They're an incredible family. They just left the Oval Office. We took pictures. And it's not an easy situation, what they're going through. Frankly, they're going through hell.

Ronel came to this country legally in 2003 with the dream of earning the badge of an American police officer. That was always his dream. And that's exactly what Ronel did. He devoted his life to defending the laws of our country.

On Christmas night, he took a picture in front of the family Christmas tree with his beautiful wife, their beloved son, and Sam, their loyal police dog. It's a picture that all of us saw. I remember it so vividly. I'll never forget it. I didn't know I'd get to know the family and greet the family and show the family the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. I didn't know that. But it's an extraordinary family. But I'll never forget the picture.

Then Corporal Singh headed out on duty, which he loved, to protect and to serve. You all know the story, because hours later, he was gunned down and killed during a simple traffic stop. He was a vicious killer, this man that crossed into our country from the border just a little while before, a vicious killer that could have been kept out with border security, with the wall, with whatever the hell it takes. He could have been kept out.

But we're getting it there. We're building the wall. We're beefing up like you wouldn't believe. The military is coming into action. People are trying to come into our country illegally because our country is doing well. They can't come in legally. They have to come in through the legal system. They have to come in through merit. They can't come in like this killer came in, just rode across the border, went through every sign he could go through.

But the family is special. Ronel was special. And today we're really grateful to be joined by Corporal Singh's wife, Annamika (ph), and their precious 10-month-old son, Arna (ph).

Where are you? They're right here some place. Stand up, please.

And also here are his great parents, Ronni (ph) and Vir (ph) and his brother. Where is Reggie (ph), his brother? Reggie. What a great family.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We're listening to President Trump. He's speaking today outside of the Capitol Building. It's the annual Peace Officer's Memorial Service on Capitol Hill. An important annual event. Presidents have done this for years to pay tribute -- to pay tribute to the police officers around this country gunned down in the line of duty.

President Trump still speaking, paying tribute to many of those individual officers killed in this past year.

Also, Abby Phillip joins us now live from the White House, using the opportunity to try to make a few political marks, if you will. Clearly he didn't name the case, but clearly a criticism of the Chicago prosecutor who did not bring charges against the actor, Jussie Smollett. And the president right there, just moments ago, before we dropped out, making his case for the wall, talking about the murder of a police officer in California by a man who had crossed the border illegally.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.

This is a president who has used these opportunities to push forward to some of his agenda items, which do include law enforcement as it relates to the border. That individual that he just called out a few minutes ago, Officer Singh, was killed by an illegal immigrant who had come to the United States. So that's why he called that individual out.

[12:10:18] He also talked about prosecutors needing to prosecute criminals, enforcing the law in that respect. He talked about his administration's efforts to give military surplus equipment to police jurisdictions around the country, which was something that the Obama administration had actually stopped.

But this is a bipartisan occasion. You'll see on that stage, or you saw earlier, that Nancy Pelosi was on the stage with President Trump as well. So it is one of those ceremonial moments for the presidency that transcends political party. But for President Trump, his support from police officers across the country, is not just a ceremonial thing, it's a major part of his political coalition. And the kind of rhetoric that he's tried to employ as president. So I think that's why you've seen President Trump really going a little bit further here in talking about some of these hot-button issues that he's tried to champion, because this is, for him, part of how he is trying to make the case that he is for law enforcement in this country. And he argues that his political opponents, because of immigration and other issues, are not.

So I think this has become ceremonial, somber in a lot of ways, but also political for President Trump as well, John.

KING: Abby Phillip, live at the White House, appreciate the context and the reporting there.

When we come back, conservatives in Alabama pass a strict anti- abortion law. They say their number one goal, get it to the Supreme Court.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:18] KING: Welcome back.

In Alabama today, supporters of a near total ban on abortion are gunning for a fight at the Supreme Court. Last night, the Alabama senate passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the country. The lawmakers and activists who wrote the legislation say they wrote it with the express goal of challenging and overturning the landmark decision, Roe v. Wade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Is this bill designed in any way to go to the Supreme Court or how is it designed, and do you anticipate --

STATE REP. TERRI COLLINS (R), ALABAMA, CO-SPONSOR OF HB 314: It's -- it's designed in every way to do just that.

ERIC JOHNSTON, ALABAMA PRO-LIFE COALITION PRESIDENT: This is the first time in 46 years that the makeup on the Supreme Court has changed where there's possibly enough conservatives on there who would believe Roe v. Wade is incorrectly decided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Exactly what would this Alabama bill do? Well, it bans abortion at every stage of pregnancy. A woman who seeks an abortion anyway would not be held criminally responsible for doing so. But her doctor or health care provider could face up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion and up to ten years for attempting one. The law only allows exceptions for serious health risks to the mother, for ectopic pregnancy, for example, and if the unborn child has a lethal anomaly. There is no exception for victims of rape or incest.

Alabama's Republican governor says she needs to read and review the legislation before designing whether she will sign it. Several other states already this year have passed or are considering new abortion restrictions.

And with these legal questions comes a fierce political debate just as we head into a presidential election. Democrats expressing widespread outrage today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a plan by the Republican Party, make no mistake, to overturn Roe v. Wade and turn back the clock on women's reproductive civil and human rights.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As the father of three daughters, what I care about the most is that we don't roll the clock back 40 years on the ability of women to make decisions about their health care and their reproductive rights.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us all agree that women's health care is under attack, and we will not stand for it!

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're trying to overturn Roe versus Wade. That's wrong and we will fight back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Eliana Johnson of "Politico," Jonathan Martin with "The New York Times," CNN's Joan Biskupic, and Aisha Roscoe with NPR.

Joan, let me start with you and your expertise at the court.

They say flat out, this is what we want. It's the most restrictive law in the country. We'll see if the governor doesn't -- the governor has to sign it.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Right. Right.

KING: She has six days to read it, to sign it. Then it would take effect in six months.

But it's one of at least a half dozen -- and there are already some other cases in the pipeline. When is this issue likely to land before this court?

BISKUPIC: OK, this is what they want, but this is not what they're going to get immediately. There are several different types of cases and abortion laws working their way up to the justices.

This is the most extreme. It's an outright ban. It flatly conflicts with what is now the law of the land under Roe v. Wade and precedents since then, in 1992 most notably, where the justices have said, government cannot put an undue burden on a woman's right to end a pregnancy before the fetus would be viable. And that's at about 24 weeks. So this ban would be totally unconstitutional.

The heartbeat six-week bans that you're also seeing, those would likely be blocked and they have been blocked by lower court judges, John. Not a single one is in effect right now. But what the justices now have before them, already part of sort of a

first generation of laws that they're considering, are access restrictions. You know, timing, physician requirements. Does a physician need to have certain admitting privileges at a hospital before he or she performs an abortion? And that's before the justices right now.

[12:20:03] So if you're thinking about the timeline, you're going to see lots of legal action and lots of talk about bans and about these heartbeat laws. But the real action at the Supreme Court is going to be more incremental at this point and involve a woman's access to abortion.

KING: But potentially at some point in 2020, and I want to come to the more political part of it in a minute, but I'm not -- it's hard -- it's hard sometimes, forgive me for stumbling, to separate the politics from the legal because in a decision that has nothing to do with abortion just the other day, Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the liberal justices, wrote this. I understand that because opportunities to correct old errors are rare, judges may be tempted to seize every opportunity to overrule cases they believe to have been wrongly decided. Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next. Stephen Breyer, clearly there, teeing up Roe v. Wade as a potential for this one.

So in that context, let's go back. The chief justice is John Roberts. The president of the United States has named two judges, Donald Trump, two judges to the Supreme Court. Here they are on the question at hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT (September 8, 2018): As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Do you view Roe as having super precedent?

JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT (March 22, 2017): Well, senator, a super precedent is --

FEINSTEIN: In numbers. Forty-four --

GORSUCH: It has been reaffirmed many times. I can say that.

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

GORSUCH: Yes, dozens.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: And there's nothing in my personal views, based on faith or other sources, that would prevent me from applying the precedents of the courts faithfully under principles of stare decisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: If you listen to that, then Roe is not at risk. But there are risks in listening to that.

BISKUPIC: That's right. What I would say is, don't just listen to what they say, watch what they do. And I'll just use Brett Kavanaugh as an example, and then I'll say something about the chief real quickly.

Brett Kavanaugh, before he said that at the Senate confirmation hearings, had voted on the D.C. Circuit to roll back abortion rights. He was in dissent. But he essentially took a very, very narrow view of Roe v. Wade. So that's why I say, watch what they do along the way.

Now, the chief justice, who has never cast a vote in support of abortion rights, is now in this new position, unlike Brett Kavanaugh, unlike Neil Gorsuch, he is the decider in the middle of a very divided court. And I have a feeling that he might shift a little bit to the left, move a touch more cautiously on abortion, precisely because of your point, John, judicial is looking like it's mixed up with politics and he does not want that message to go to the public.

KING: Well, if you listen to -- watch the Democratic candidates, even before this Kirsten Gillibrand has said, sorry, I will have a litmus test if I'm president. I will ask everybody, will you uphold Roe v. Wade? That was already an issue.

In our polling back in March, open-ended question, what's the issue most important to you, only 2 percent of Americans said abortion was their number one issue, in part because I think a lot of them, no matter where you are in the debate, think it is settled.

BISKUPIC: Right.

KING: Is this -- is this now likely to become and if it -- if it is more and more of an issue, does it, as most -- some people (INAUDIBLE) say, ah-hah, suburban women, ah-hah, that's Democratic. But if you're the president of the United States and you're looking at a certain map, Casey versus Planned Parenthood is Pennsylvania. That was a Democratic governor, Bob Casey. So it's not -- sometimes it's not as easy as we think when we look at national numbers.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think this is a reminder that the 2020 election could be a culture war election, as much as an economic referendum, right? And it -- there's so much talk about, well, the economy is going great, if there's a recession, they're not going to hurt Trump. But if it's key -- if it's going well next year, Trump's going to benefit from that.

I think it's more complicated than that. I think that Trump himself is on the ballot. It's about Trump. But it's also about identity and culture, too. And this really feeds into that. What kind of a country do you want going forward? And I think that's going to be what Democrats will present to, to what you said, allow the suburban voters, some of us who grudgingly voted for Trump in '16 because they didn't like Hillary Clinton, those Democrats will say, OK, you don't -- you don't love our candidates, you didn't like Hillary, certainly, but do you want to live in a country where Roe's at risk? KING: Right.

ELIANA JOHNSON CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And Trump himself, who for much of his life was a pro-lifer, has really embraced --

MARTIN: Pro-choicer, yes.

JOHNSON: Or, excuse me, a pro-choicer, yes.

KING: Totally pro-choice he said at one point, right.

JOHNSON: Has really embraced the pro-life position and is keenly aware of how important evangelical voters are -- were to his victory in 2016. And though he's not a traditional social conservative by any standard, he has not showed any compunction about diving into this fight or getting into the issue of abortion. He's made clear that he's pro-life when it comes to appointing or nominating Supreme Court justices and is comfortable talking about the issue, whether it's on Twitter or with lawmakers. He virtually yelled at -- got into a confrontation with the Democratic senator, Chris Coons, in the Oval Office and he's comfortable talking about it.

[12:25:01] KING: We'll watch as it play out. The next move, and politically is, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who, we'll see, she has six days.

When we come back, the president has a new immigration plan. A leading Republican senator has a new immigration plan. So something's going to get done, right? Probably not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:29:57] KING: There's a new immigration plan from a leading Republican today and word the president will online a plan of his own perhaps as early as tomorrow. An important footnote as we delve into the details, at the moment there are no, that would be zero, Democrats onboard with.