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Supreme Court Blocks Citizenship Question From 2020 Census for Now; Supreme Court Says Constitution Does Not Allow Courts to Weigh in on Gerrymandering; Big Takeaways from Last Night's 1st Democratic Presidential Debate. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:19] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

We have huge news out of the Supreme Court this morning. Two major decisions being handed down just minutes ago. The justices, in one, handing down the decision against the Trump administration, at least for now. And it is complicated and important in the administration's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Critics have long said that this effort with this effort, the administration has purely political motivations by attempting to reduce the head count of non-citizens.

The other big decision also is promising major political implications throughout the country and in Washington, of course. The Supreme Court saying the Constitution does not allow courts to weigh in on how voting maps are drawn, even in the most extreme cases that give one political advantage over the other. It's called gerrymandering. We'll get to it.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is outside the Supreme Court. She's joining me right now.

Jessica, let's start with the census decision. It is complicated. It is important. What are the justices saying here?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The justices are saying that the citizenship question on the 2020 census for now is blocked. The Census Bureau cannot move forward at this time with printing those questionnaires that contain a question asking of a respondent's citizenship.

That's not to say this administration cannot indefinitely add the citizenship question. But the Supreme Court here is saying that it needs to go back to the lower courts for determination.

Basically, the Supreme Court, in this 5-4 decision, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, is a saying that, yes, as it pertains to the Constitution and the Enumerations Clause, which is the clause that lays out the conditions for the census that's taken every 10 years, under that clause of the Constitution, the commerce secretary can, in fact, it is within his right to add this citizenship question.

However, it's come under some question as to the exact motivations, political or otherwise, as to exactly why this question was added. And the justices talk about this in his opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts puts it this way, he says, "The sole stated reason seems to have been contrived." Then goes on to say, "We cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given."

Again, the ACLU has presented evidence in recent weeks saying there were improper political motivations here, that maybe there was some influence from a now-deceased Republican redistricting expert that, if they had only counted the citizen voting-age population, it would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. That's been a big question clouding this entire case.

So now, Kate, the justices here saying, we are not going to decide this right now. Instead, we're going to toss it back to the lower court, the Southern District of New York. The federal judge there has already been presented with some of this evidence. He said that he was concerned, troubled by the evidence. But as it's been presented over the last few weeks, he said he would not yet step in, waiting for the Supreme Court to rule.

Now the Supreme Court has ruled. They have tossed it back. It remains to be seen whether or not the census question will be in and how quickly this could actually transpire. But for now, it's bounced back to the lower courts -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: For now, it's a no. How soon that could get back, that question could be added back in, how soon it could end up back at the court, that remains to be seen.

But the other very big decision coming from the court this morning has to do with partisan gerrymandering. And the court saying pretty clearly its position on this one.

SCHNEIDER: It is. It's saying it can't have a position on this question.

In a 5-4 decision, again written by the chief justice, and breaking along those ideological lines, it was five conservatives to four liberals. The chief justice here saying that it is not within the purview of the court. This is the purely political question. This is only for Congress, for state legislatures to decide.

The chief justice also saying that it's not that we don't think this is an important question. However, this is being handled, he said, by the states, by commissions within the states.

However, the liberals quite saddened. Actually, "saddened" was the word that Justice Elena Kagan used in her dissent. She took to the bench. She read her dissent, basically saying, "With respect but deep sadness, I dissent." And she said this, Kate, "Of all times to abandon the court's duty to declare the law, this was not the one." [11:05:03] Talking about how this issue of partisan gerrymandering,

whether or not politicians can orchestrate and kind of rejigger district lines for political gain, she said it is important for the court to weigh in. But they are not doing so here, leaving, instead, these maps intact and the decision really at the state level -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's fascinating though because it seems that in the majority decision, they do applaud the different types of efforts that there are commissions, independent commissions, kind of applaud those efforts, right?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, that's exactly what the chief justice said. He said let this play out in the states with those commissioners. They can figure it out. This is not a question for the courts.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

And I want to get into -- Jessica, thank you. Great amazing work. Keep bringing us this important information.

This stuff is complicated when you read through the decisions, but Jessica is doing an amazing stuff.

There's a lot to get here, a lot to break down into layman's terms, if I may say quite frankly.

Joining me right now to do that is CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, and Shan Wu, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Shan, let me start with you.

It's hard -- we need to break these into two things almost, but your general reaction into what the justices have handed down in these two decisions today.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Kate, I think this is a great example of seeing in the public view Chief Justice Roberts trying to kind of split the baby here. He's trying to continue to walk this line that makes the Supreme Court seem like it is non-political, trying to decide the law just on the law, and yet, at the same time, you'll see where he can utilize traditional jurisprudence mechanisms to help that image.

I'm trying not to be cynical here.

So if you look at the gerrymandering decision here, to sum it up, you could say the court, from a political sense, is saying the GOP is in power right now. We're going to let them stay in power and come up with some mechanisms to avoid having to get to the merits of how that power is taken.

With the census question, they're able to somewhat avoid the merits by utilizing this question of the record needs to be more fully developed.

But at the same time, interesting to see what Roberts is doing. It's definitely a slight at the Trump administration. You can sense a method of, a sense of distaste in terms of how controversial and how questionable Ross' statements have been.


WU: So I think you can read that in there.

BOLDUAN: Yes, you can.

But in the passage that Jessica read, John, when it comes to the census, I think it's fascinating when Roberts writes that the sole stated reason -- and this comes from the commerce secretary and justice officials defending it -- seems to have been contrived. That seems another way of saying, I don't believe you.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, because there's evidence they've been lying.

The argument they made to the court is they needed the citizenship question in order to further enforce the Voting Rights Act. But the emails that have come out -- and the administration has been trying to block subpoenas to gain more information about the underlying intent of the case.

But the things already out show a transparently political purpose. This was done to drive partisan gain, to increase Republican representation in redistricting, to hurt Democrats in funding allocation formulas. And that's just on the information already out.

Again, the Justice Department has been refusing subpoenas to put more information out there. So Justice Roberts is essentially is saying, the argument you've made to us in court doesn't seem to be the truth.

BOLDUAN: John, you're also really passionate about the gerrymandering decision.


BOLDUAN: Both of these decisions, really, they are all about politics. Politics are at the core of these questions. And it's all about the distribution of political power with the census. It has to do also with billions of dollars of money that would be going to districts. But it all has to do with the distribution of power going forward. Is this a political earthquake or is this a ripple?

AVLON: This is an earthquake. Make no mistake. If you are part of the super majority of Americans who believe that partisanship and polarization is hurting our country, things are about to get much worse.

BOLDUAN: Because, let's make it really -- break it down. Because the way they draw these districts -- and have some fun, go see how these districts are drawn. It's like the most ridiculous puzzle that you've ever seen in your entire life.

AVLON: Yes. BOLDUAN: The way they're drawn, and the way they're now going to

continue to be drawn or even more so, means the extremes are going to win. The left has got to be more left and the right has got to be more right. And those are the candidates that are going to win.

AVLON: That's right. The red states are going to get more red and the blue states are going to get more blue. Voters in the middle, who supposedly create the moderating effect in elections when people try to win general elections, they're increasingly an endangered species. That's bad for our democracy. And that's why the argument doesn't ultimately fly.

In the case of North Carolina, 53 percent of the popular vote went to Republicans, but they won 70 percent of the congressional seats.

So the reason our democracy isn't functioning as a deliberative body is you don't have to ability to bridge these divides anymore. Which is why the idea that Congress is going to solve the problem doesn't fly. It's the reason the idea this could be remedied --


BOLDUAN: Like Congress is going to bring about term limits.


[11:10:01] AVLON: Right. This is wolves deciding how to divide up a sheep. Now there's not moral equivalence on the issue with the two parties. Democrats have tried to highlight election reform. But this is a huge deal. This is going to drive our country further apart.

The Congress, what Roberts says, that you could reasonably conclude there are unjust results from this extreme partisanship --


AVLON: -- and we're not condoning that, by punting, he is not only condoning it but he's allowing folks to exacerbate it. We can fight it on the state level --


AVLON: -- but this is going to take polarization and hyper- partisanship and make it much worse.

BOLDUAN: And this just says that a ground swell -- like from the ground up, is where bipartisan will have to come from and changes --


AVLON: On a state-by-state level.

BOLDUAN: -- which also takes a huge amount of time.

We're fortunate now to have Joan Biskupic join us. She was inside the court. She's now outside. Joan, thank you so much for running out. She's a CNN legal analyst. She has written biographies on several Supreme Court justices, especially one most recently about Chief Justice John Roberts.

I want to ask you about John Roberts here. He's one of the things under the microscope and has been throughout this term, but also, specifically, with these decisions.

You've studied him. A major concern of his all along, Joan, has been to maintain the image that the court is a non-partisan independent body, they're above it. What are these rulings today do to that?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks, Kate. It was an amazing 50 minutes in the courtroom with the chief obviously playing this crucial role.

In the first one, the message he was sending was actually more political than he let on because, for the first time, the Supreme Court is saying, we are not going to police the extreme partisan gerrymandering, which mostly have been benefitting Republicans.

So that was a deeply divided case that prompted that very moving dissent from the bench by Elena Kagan that essentially said, pay attention to what's happening to democracy here.

So, Kate, first, you have that. And it went on for several minutes.

Just two things I want to close in on that with the chief. The chief has long had a personal project of trying to remove the judiciary from partisan gerrymanders. He has not wanted judges to review that. And today's decision completes that effort of his.

It also, I have to say, was made possible by the switch of Justice Kavanaugh for Justice Kennedy.

But then moving forward to the one where we did see some compromise on the part of the chief justice, moving over with the four liberal justices, in a very major decision having to do with the census. He conceded that, for now, the rationale that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has provided for adding that citizenship question simply does not scan.

He said, we're going to defer to the Commerce secretary to a point, but we're not going to be naive here. We're not going to be naive when the sole reason that the secretary has given for adding that question is better enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, and that was, in the words of the chief, "contrived." So he's letting the case go back. But this was a very big move on his part.

And I do have to add that, often, the chief sends successive signals so he can't be completely labeled. But for today, probably the larger ruling is shutting the door completely, once and for all, on any challenges to partisan gerrymanders.

BOLDUAN: Joan, thank you so much. It's so great to have you. And thank you also for fighting for -- you know, these are important cases when you have the protests for and against, happy and unhappy, on the steps of the Supreme Court is the way it works.

Thank you so much, Joan.

John, did you have one final thought?

AVLON: Yes, just the fact that the decision on partisan gerrymandering was a partisan decision, 5-4, that makes it especially complicated. As partisanship and polarization is basically unleashed, that kind of self-interest, the fact it's a partisan decision, makes it even, I think, more troubling for our democracy and the downhill events that I think are going to be felt acutely for a long time.

BOLDUAN: Yes, the ripple effects begin immediately.

AVLON: Right.

BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you so much on this important day with this breaking news coming from the Supreme Court.

There's also a lot more ahead. Because, remember, it is debate day again tonight and today in America. But first, the big takeaways from last night. The first Democratic presidential debate. Who shined? Who stumbled? And which issues took center stage?

[11:14:28] Plus, time is running out for Congress to do something, to agree on something for a bill to address the deadly crisis playing out at the border. And it comes amid reports of brutal conditions that migrant children are facing at government facilities at the border. Can Congress reach a deal?


BOLDUAN: Welcome back, friends.

Yes, I'm going to say the very same thing I said yesterday. It is debate night once again in America, folks. Round two of the Democratic presidential face-off is now about 10 hours away.

Round one is in the books. Elizabeth Warren playing the front-runner last night, standing center stage. And her progressive agenda dominating, really, at least the early part of the debate.

One big topic was the push for Medicare-for-All, getting rid of all private health insurance in the United States. Watch this.


[11:20:11] SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): So, yes, I'm with Bernie on Medicare-for-All.

There are a lot of politicians who say, oh, it's just not possible, we can't do it. A lot of political reasons for this. What they're really telling you is they just won't fight for it. Well, health care is a basic human right. And I will fight for basic human rights.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN political correspondent M.J. Lee, who was there for it all.

M.J., she had a good night by most reviews. Are you hearing anything from the Warren campaign? And also, who else was able to stand out?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. Speaking to Elizabeth Warren's advisors this morning, they said she definitely had a good night, and that's undeniable. And they are in a good mood this morning because they feel like they accomplished what she set out to accomplish on the debate stage last night.

They feel like they targeted two types of voters last night. One, are the voters who haven't really been paying attention to her candidacy and don't know her very well. And second, of course, are the voters who have been following her campaign from the beginning.

They feel like she was able to get out there and tell her supporters and anyone that she's trying to win over what her core message is. And that is the idea that the government should be working for working-class families and middle-class families and not just big corporations and the rich.

The other thing they're feeling pretty good about this morning is the 24 hours leading up to the debate. As you know, she had a town hall event in Miami the night before the debate. And then the morning after, they made a last-minute decision for Warren to visit the Homestead detention facility. And they feel like all of that coming together at the last minute shows and speaks to their organization and sort of what her priorities are.

In terms of the other candidates who joined Warren on stage and flanked her on stage, Cory Booker is probably somebody who is feeling pretty good this morning, just simply based on the fact he was able to get a good amount of airtime. He was able to really talk about his background and speak to some of the issues that are really important for him, like gun violence.

And the other candidate who I think had an undeniably good night is Julian Castro. The former housing secretary has not been able to really gain momentum in the polls, gain the supporters he probably wants to at this early stage of the campaign. But using last night and being on the stage last night to talk about an issue that is so important to him, immigration, that was clearly a breakout moment.

And he had actually this exchange with Beto O'Rourke where he took on his fellow candidate. I think that's worth playing. Let's listen to that for a second.


JULIAN CASTRO, (D), FORMER HOUSING SECRETARY & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Title 21 and 22 already cover -


CASTRO: If you did your homework on this issue, you would know --



LEE: We're already hearing from the Castro camp that they had their best night of fund-raising last night after the debate.

We're also hearing this morning from both the Warren and Castro camps that Warren sent Castro a text message after last night's debate telling him he did a good job -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: M.J., stick around. Many more questions for you.

Let me add to the conversation, CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, who is here with me.

Mark, let's start with Elizabeth Warren. It really seemed that her agenda -- I think our wonderful David Chalian said it this morning. She was like -- set the pace early on in the debate. Her whole, I've got a plan for that, which a lot of people, use it as a joke, oh, Elizabeth Warren says, I've got a plan for everything. It was a large part of the discussion. And that's what other candidates were having to answer for, what do you think of Elizabeth Warren's plan for this and that.

Did anyone make a dent, leave a mark? Did anyone cut into her progress last night?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so. But she was at center stage and she was very careful not necessarily, and don't take this the wrong way, but not to punch down.


PRESTON: Now is the night where you're going to have Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg. They're all the highest polling candidates right now, as was Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren was just lucky she was chosen for a night that she didn't have those on there.

I do think she was smart last night in, do no harm, explain policies, and let the fighting occur between others.

BOLDUAN: Let it play out.

PRESTON: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: M.J., the sound bite you ran -- that we ran of Elizabeth Warren, I think it's a really important one because it speaks to what we heard more than once last night was her answer to critics, was essentially, when you say it's not possible, you're not willing to fight hard enough for topic X, Y, Z.

I'm left wondering, is that enough of an answer because there are real questions about price tags of some of her proposals.

[11:25:06] LEE: That's right. I think that is a question she is going to continue to face. The critics who feel like, look, maybe it's good she has a whole bunch of plans, but is that actually realistic, especially as you said, when it comes to the price tag.

But this is a message she's going to continue to run on because she has said, from the beginning, this is a line you'll hear a lot when you go to her campaign event, I'm not talking about nibbling around the edges. These are words she'll frequently use. She's talking about big structural change.

And I think what was so fascinating about what we saw last night was sort of the breadth and the range of policy positions that we saw even between these 10 candidates on a myriad of issues, right, health care, immigration. We know there's disagreement when it comes to all of these issues.

And the fact we have such a big slate of candidates who are, on the one hand, some of them are more to the left and some are more to the center.

And I think what is going to shake out over the next couple of months is a sense of, is what the voters want a candidate who's wanting to sort of up-end the system as it exists right now or do we want someone more of a continuation of what they've been happy with in the past and going forward?

BOLDUAN: I also think -- that leads me to what we're looking at to tonight and I'm wondering more, Mark, M.J. is looking two months out of what people are looking for.


BOLDUAN: Are people going to be looking at basically -- is there an argument people look at basically two different debates? We saw, maybe you could argue, tell me if you think I'm wrong, a fight to be the most progressive last night.


BOLDUAN: And tonight is, I don't know, maybe it will be the fight to be the most electable to beat Trump. Because that's still the one people want most in their candidate.

PRESTON: I think, certainly, you'll see shades of that, but you will see two different debates.

What we saw last night, in the first half of the debate, it was very slow and then the candidates on the edges decided to get in and they basically --


PRESTON: And they took it over. I think what you'll see tonight is you'll see some of these candidates

at 1 percent will the same thing and they'll do it really early on. I think you are going to see a more spirited debate tonight. I also think you'll see more comparing and contrasting.

But if you look, specifically, if you look at the top four candidates, Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, on the stage, they all have a different task at hand for them.

BOLDUAN: Yes, yes.

PRESTON: And if they fail, either of them, any of them fail, they're in a lot of trouble.

BOLDUAN: I'm also fascinating to see Biden, to this point has been running a campaign, a general election campaign, not even answering to criticisms really, directly from any of the contenders. He's not going to have a chance to do that tonight. He will be faced directly with them. We'll see how -- I'm interested to see how that plays out.

Great to see you, Mark. Thank you so much. Get some sleep.

M.J., you as well.

Great to see you. Thank you, guys.

Coming up for us, we're going to talk to one of the presidential contenders on the big stage last night, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan.

Be right back.