Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Blasts Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) Discusses Trump Blasting Sotomayor, Congressional Intel Briefing, Schiff Leaks, Trump Considering Ratcliffe For DNI; Thousands Attended Memorial For Kobe Bryant & Gianna Yesterday; China Denies Detaining Muslims Despite Details In Leaked Documents. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is no stranger to attacking sitting judges and juries. As out of bounds as that long has been, he is now showing zero sign he sees the need to stop. This time, going after the highest court in the land. First tweeting and publicly attacking Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Here is what the president said this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just don't know how they cannot recuse themselves for anything having to do with Trump or Trump related. The right thing to do is that.

I think what she did say is she's trying to shame -- the way I look it, she's trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way. And that's so inappropriate.


BOLDUAN: This seems to be over a dissent that Justice Sotomayor wrote last week expressing her concern of the Trump administration continually asking the Supreme Court to step in and allow controversial policies to go into effect while cases on the policies are working their way through the court system.

Sotomayor writing this, in part, "Claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases."

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes, of Connecticut.

Thanks for coming in, Congressman.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Good to be here, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Writing a dissent and trying to convince fellow justices of your position is literally part of the job as Supreme Court justice. I'm curious your reaction to what we're seeing here.

HIMES: The president should stay out of the courts, full stop. I understand why he's angry. In the early days of the Trump administration, when they hadn't even begun to get their act together, court after court, whether it was on the Affordable Care Act or Muslim ban or you name it, was reversing illegal decisions by the Trump administration. I understand the frustration.

But, no, of course not. In a formal dissent, the role of a justice. And so it is hoping beyond hope he might stay out of the judiciary. As long as he's been president, he's been criticizing individual judges who render decisions at odds with what he wants.

But in any normal times, the president would go to great pains to stay out of these issues.

BOLDUAN: Do you have concern about the time it is happening? Part of Sotomayor's point in her critique is a critique of her fellow justices. She also put it this way, "It is hard to say what it more troubling, the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course or that the court would grant it."

She's making a broader point, but do you think -- does this threaten to play into what has worked for conservative Republicans in elections time and time again? The fear of activist liberal judges?

HIMES: First of all, the fear of activist liberal judges should, given whatever the number is, 170 or whatever the number is, when it's conservative judges, which he appoints every day.

I think the issue is not so much acting as activist liberal judges but activist conservative judges. We have seen that in a couple of decisions.

But I think the larger issue here is that the interesting question, of course, the president shouldn't be criticizing justices for their dissents or opinions.

An interesting thing here is that I think, while I may not agree with his philosophy, the chief justice, if you look back at his role in the last period of time in which he's been chief justice, he's profoundly concerned for the institutional integrity of the court.

So I think that Donald Trump sort of, you know, launching torpedoes at the court is likely to get a counterproductive, from his standpoint, reaction from the chief justice.

BOLDUAN: Good point. That's an interesting point.

I want to also ask you about the intel briefing you all received that we all have now heard so much about. The president this morning spoke about this. I want to play for you what he said and how he believes his view is

that classified briefing details from it came out.

Listen to this. [11:35:07]


TRUMP: Schiff leaked, in my opinion. He shouldn't be leaking things like that. That's a terrible thing to do.

But basically, they would like to see Bernie is probably winning and looks like he's winning and he's got ahead of steam and maybe don't want him for obvious reasons. So they don't want him so they put out a thing that Russia is backing him.


BOLDUAN: I know and appreciate you're going to say you can't tell me something that came out of a classified briefing. I want to know if you want to comment on anything, if you want to respond to that.

HIMES: This story broke because the -- apparently the acting DNI was hauled into the Oval Office and screamed at by the president because of this briefing. That was not an Adam Schiff leak. I know him very well. He doesn't leak.

We can have a much longer conversation about what the Russians might want. And, look, I said this before, the Russians aren't in love with Donald Trump. They're not in love with Bernie. This isn't a personal thing.

What they want is chaos. They want division and polarizing figures. And I'm speculating here, not something based on what I've been briefed on, but Trump is a polarizing divisive figure. Bernie could split -- we saw it in 2016 -- could split the Democratic Party.

This is not about Bernie or Trump. It is about Russians trying to do what they can do to create a rift in American society.

BOLDUAN: I also heard smart people say who Russia is for or against is completely missing the point. It's more about the chaos and just the disruption and the fact that they're interfering now and continuing to, that people need to focus more on.

You mentioned DNA, and there's new reporting into CNN I want to ask you about because, right now, Joe Maguire, he is out. There's an acting DNI Rick Grenell. He's in now.

And the president said he's considering a handful of folks to take the -- to fill the position. CNN has two sources saying that one of the people he's considering is Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe. Again, like, he would be revisiting the concept of putting Ratcliffe into that position. Your thoughts on Ratcliffe as DNA?

HIMES: I know John pretty well. I would say that at least John, unlike the current acting DNI, has some exposure and experience in intelligence. He's only been on the committee for over a year, but that's more than Ambassador Grenell has. And so --


BOLDUAN: There were issues with expertise and also padding of his resume. I believe. Why he dropped out last time.


HIMES: But again, when you put in place a guy like Rick Grenell -- this is not personal against Rick Grenell, I met him in Munich -- a guy with zero intelligence experience, known for being an aggressive supporter of the president politically. That's a bad appointment. I'm hoping we can get back to --


BOLDUAN: All things considered, John Ratcliffe a step up --


BOLDUAN: John Ratcliffe could probably name the 17 intelligence agencies. I'm pretty sure Rick Grenell could not.

So again, let's go back to the way -- the people who used to be appointed DNI, people with decades and decades of experience, inside the Intelligence Community.

And so I would think that the president would want, given coronavirus, given Chinese incursions into our I.T., given what Russia is going, I would think the president would want somebody that's at the top of their game, rather than someone who is going to spend six months coming up to speed on the issues associated with the Intelligence Community. But I'm not Donald Trump, thank god.

BOLDUAN: You are not that. That is breaking news.


BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you for coming in.

HIMES: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Something that doesn't happen very often anymore did yesterday. Sports and non-sports fans alike from around the world came together to celebrate life and mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the seven other people who died in that helicopter crash last month.

Thousands attended the memorial and it was incredibly moving. Especially when Bryant's widow, grieving mother and also Bryant's friends and former teammates took the stage.


VANESSA BRYANT, WIDOW OF KOBE BRYANT: God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together.

Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nani, Bibi and coco. We're still the best team.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi's face, Gigi's number.


BRYANT: Kobe was the MVP of girl dads, or MVD. He never left the toilet seat up.


BRYANT: He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough.


MICHAEL JORDAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. As I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died or else you wouldn't be here.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: The day Kobe gained my respect, the guys were complaining, said, Shaq, Kobe's not passing the ball. I said I'll talk to him.


O'NEAL: I said, Kobe, there's no "I" in team. Kobe said, I know but there's an (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in me.




BRYANT: We love and miss you, Booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in Heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you forever and always, Mommy.




[11:50:34] BOLDUAN: This just in. Sources tell CNN President Trump is once again considering nominating Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe to be the next director of National Intelligence.

A lot going on here. Let's get over to CNN's Kylie Atwood, at the State Department with this.

Kylie, what are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: As you said, Kate, we are reporting that President Trump is revisiting the idea of nominating Congressman John Ratcliffe to be the permanent director of National Intelligence.

This is someone the president said he intended to nominate last year, but the congressman faced some really, really intense criticism, both for his resume and for his experience, so he pulled his name from this post.

Now, President Trump has also talked to, in recent days, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. That's Pete Hoekstra. His name has come up as a possibility for option over the past few years in the Trump administration. President Trump is talking to him as well.

We don't know if there are others under consideration. President Trump, while speaking to reporters in India today, said there are five people he is considering, and that there will be a decision in the next week or two.

Now, this is a high-intensity moment for the Trump administration because they just put a Trump ally into that job, Rick Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, who has no experience with intelligence -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Kylie, thank you very much.

Coming up still for us, shocking details after a CNN report shines the spotlight on just how much the Chinese government is allegedly going to crack down on Muslim minorities in the country. How Beijing is responding, next.



BOLDUAN: You may remember last week a CNN reporter leaked documents detailing extraordinary surveillance of over 300 Muslim minority families in China, some who were thrown in what U.S. officials describe as concentration camps there.

Now CNN's Ivan Watson reports that China is denying it all.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Officials in China have taken issue with a report by CNN and a dozen other news organizations about leaked documents that appear to show the surveillance and roundup of minority Muslims in China's western region.

In a press briefing on Saturday, a Chinese official insisted that most of the 311 people listed on the document as having been sent to internment camps were actually living and working normally in society.

One man at the briefing said he was sent to what the Chinese government calls a vocational training center and says it fixed him. It's unclear whether the man was speaking under duress.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): My mind used to be filled with extremist religious thoughts. Not only did I not earn a living for my family, I also believed it was against practices for women to earn money, so I prohibited my wife from working outside.

After studying at the education and training center, I learned Mandarin as well as laws and regulations. I also learned about business management.


WATSON: The U.S. government accuses China of rounding up around two million Muslims and sending them to what they've called modern day concentration camps.

After initially denying there was a mass internment program, China officials eventually admitted the existence of what they call vocational training, aimed at stamping out the threat of religious extremism.

CNN has interviewed survivors of some of these facilities who say they were held in crowded prisonlike conditions and subjected to torture.

The leaked document in CNN's report last week appeared to show government surveillance of at least 311 families in one county and very arbitrary reasons for sending people into detention, such as for having a beard or holding a passport without traveling internationally.

CNN spoke to relatives living abroad who confirmed the authenticity of the details of at least eight of the families listed in the leaked document.

CNN also sent detailed questions to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the regional government, but the government still hasn't answered those questions.

Amid the crackdown in censorship in this part of China, it's very hard to confirm anything independently. CNN's Matt Rivers recently traveled to report but was routinely harassed and blocked from moving freely by Chinese security forces.

China's foreign minister recently called reports of the mass detention of Muslims fake news.

Ivan Watson, CNN.



BOLDUAN: Ivan, thank you so much for staying on top of this.

Thank you all so much for joining me today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.