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Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is Interviewed About Barrett Hearings; Confirmation Hearings for Barrett. Aired 8:30-8:50a ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 08:30   ET




CHRIS WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group. And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people ascribing to some kind of white supremacist type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, what he has said there is completely not controversial or frankly disputed by anyone inside the intelligence community, yet somehow it put him sideways with the president of the United States. So what does that tell you?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Well, first of all, I give Director Wray a lot of credit. He -- we all know he was in a tough spot and he answered my question and other questions honestly and in a forthright way.

I think that it's just another sort of round of just denigration of law enforcement, of people who work in the intelligence community. You know, these are professionals who care about protecting their country, who are just speaking about the facts, right, the number of open cases that they have. And it's just sad that we've come to a point where there's, you know, definitely chunks of people in the country who just automatically don't trust the FBI, who automatically don't trust local law enforcement. I think that's a real danger. And it gets to kind of the bones of democracy, right? If suddenly we don't believe that law enforcement, and the Department of Justice, the intelligence community, folks at the top take threats seriously and deal with them in a straightforward way, you start to question everything. And I think it's just a reminder how fragile our system of democracy is, quite literally.

BERMAN: So you're in the House, not the Senate, so you don't have a say in the Supreme Court nomination. There are hearings today. Democrats there plan to make health care and the protection of Obamacare front and center. This has become a very big issue in your re-election campaign in your Michigan district.

So I don't know if you're going to have time to watch the hearings over the course of the next few days, but what are you listening for in terms of health care?

SLOTKIN: Well, listen, I mean as soon as Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, we didn't even have a chance to mourn her and we were all thinking about the consequences of her passing away. And, for me, just having lived through some health care issues with my mother, November 10th being the beginning of the case to repeal the entirety of the ACA was first on my mind. And the fact that literally come spring 20 million people could lose their health care. And, in particular, people with pre-existing conditions can again potentially be gouged for, you know, having to be born with something. It just -- it -- it struck me intensely.

And, you know, now we know that the other side of the aisle feels like protecting people with pre-existing conditions is a good talking point, but they've had years to come up with a plan. No one can articulate it. And they're literally asking people who -- who, you know, have children and spouses who depend on that health care to just like jump out of the plane and hope that the parachute, you know, is handed to them mid-flight. And it's painful. I spent all of yesterday with my constituents hearing specific cases, real people who are terrified. They're asking me on town halls. So I hope that people remember that literally health care is on the ballot on November 3rd, quite literally.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, thank you for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

SLOTKIN: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: And we are just minutes away from that Judiciary Committee hearing in the Senate, the confirmation hearing for the president's nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. So we have that.

Plus, some big developments in the election. We'll discuss, next.



CAMEROTA: Confirmation hearings begin this morning for Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joining us now, we have CNN's chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN political director David Chalian, to get to even more news on this busy Monday morning.

OK, so, Jeffrey, we do -- today is opening statements. And we do have Judge Barrett's opening statement. And I want to read a portion of it for you and have you parse it for us, OK?

She says, "courts have a vital responsibly to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society, but courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people. The public should not expect courts to do so and courts should not try." When you parse that, does that spell doom for the Affordable Care Act?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think more specifically it spells doom for Roe v Wade because it really suggests that issues like abortion, like gay rights should be decided by political branches of governments, the ones directly accountable to the people. It is -- the code there is, don't expect the courts to enforce rights. If there are rights to be enforced, it should be the political branches of government to do it. So it's really more about social issues than about the Affordable Care Act in particular.

BERMAN: Health care will be front and center here, there's just no question about that. The Democrats have made clear they're going to bring it up whenever they can.

And, David Chalian, one other thing that's going to be interesting here, I've lost count, but there are like five or six or seven campaigns that will be going on right before our eyes during these hearings with members of the committee, who are in tough re-election battles, the chair of the committee, Lindsey Graham, his opponent just announced raising $57 million in the third quarter.


BERMAN: So there are all these campaign storylines today. What are you watching?

CHALIAN: No doubt about it. I mean the most junior Democrat on the committee, Kamala Harris, also happens to be the vice presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket. So she clearly already announced that she's going to participate remotely from her office there, making a clear statement. You remember it was just last week that she had asked to have Plexiglas installed on the debate stage.

So, again, health care and the pandemic, front and center. No doubt about that.


But, John, Lindsey Graham, who you noted, I mean his opponent, Jamie Harrison, that's just bonkers money. I mean it's like record-breaking by $20 million for a single quarter for a Senate candidate. But Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, four of the high profile Senate raises this cycle, these Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are going to hope to use these next couple weeks as a real base rallying donation moment here to get the grassroots enthused, to get people really excited about the conservative movement. And you know how much courts are a part of that and getting judges on the court, none higher than the Supreme Court. They really hope to use this to actually blunt some of that momentum you're discussing that the Democrats have demonstrated.

TOOBIN: But only under one condition, that they don't die because this is a hearing being held in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a hot spot. I mean Tillis has COVID. Mike Lee has COVID. Lindsey Graham refuses to get tested. Chuck Grassley, also on that committee, refuses to get tested. I mean this is so unbelievable that they are doing this. They're three members of that committee, Grassley, Pat Leahy, and Dianne Feinstein, who are in their 80s, who are exposing themselves to this virus. I mean the idea that they are doing this hearing now is so surreal and so dangerous that, you know, I think that's worth mentioning, too.

CHALIAN: Of course. Not just doing it, though, as you know, Jeffrey. I mean Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, they want to stop at nothing, not even a pause for the moment in the pandemic, not even -- I mean, yes, they've restructured the layout of the room, obviously, that the hearing will take place in, but that is literally to the side. The pandemic that the entire country is facing because of how important, as you know, this political mission is of getting Amy Coney Barrett on the court.

CAMEROTA: And I think we've just gotten confirmation that Senator Mike Lee, who had tested positive, will be there in person.

BERMAN: Yes, I have to tell you, this is once again like the president doing rallies to packed crowds, which serves as a reminder to people that he couldn't even protect himself from coronavirus. I know Mike Lee thinks this might sending an image of strength, but I think people may look at this as a reminder of the spread of this pandemic, David.

CHALIAN: Without a doubt. I mean this is the weight around the president and obviously it has an entire impact down ballot. His mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic for the last eight months and then, more specifically, if you look at all the polling in the last ten days, John, his total irresponsibility in the way he has handled his own infection with the virus and what that means for how he handled people who were around him, such as these senators that you're talking about right now at the event that rolled out Amy Coney Barrett's nomination, that has gotten such an enormous thumbs down from the public, more so than sort of the general partisan spread that we see. It is a real political problem, the way in which they are currently dealing with this pandemic.

TOOBIN: And how would you like to be Mike Lee's staffer, who has to sit next to him, or the police -- the Capitol police officers who have to -- who have to, you know, stand there, or the custodians who have to clean the floor. I mean the idea that they are putting all these people in literal mortal danger to get Amy Barrett confirmed before the election is -- is just beyond surreal.

CAMEROTA: Senator Ted Cruz, I believe, is still in quarantine and he said something really interesting, I think, on Friday, David, about the way that he thinks -- the two ways that this election could go.

Listen to this.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): People are going back to work, if they're optimistic, if they're positive about the future, we could see a fantastic election. But I also think if on Election Day people are angry and they've given up hope and they're depressed, which is what Pelosi and Schumer want them to be, I think it could be a terrible election. I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress, that it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions.


CAMEROTA: That's interesting to hear him say that out loud, David.

CHALIAN: It certainly is. Of course he framed it as if only people were depressed and angry. It also could be because the Democrats are super charged enthusiastic of trying to drive Donald Trump out of office may be the reason that we see a huge blue wave.

Again, that is not the -- a certain outcome of this election. But as Ted Cruz rightfully acknowledges, it is certainly a possibility.

BERMAN: Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Look, I'm leaving to Chalian like the political predictions. I've been wrong too often.

But, you know, the stakes for the Supreme Court are clear. This is the most consequential nomination in probably two generations.


You know, the idea of moving from the most liberal member of the court to someone who will probably be as conservative as Clarence Thomas to a 6-3 conservative majority is something that is going to affect this country for decades to come. And after most of the senators on that -- on that dais (ph) are forgotten, Amy Coney Barrett will be a justice on the Supreme Court deciding issues that we can't even envision today. And that's going to be of enormous, enormous consequence.

BERMAN: You know, David, some of the subtest here of Ted Cruz is, he may be right, I don't know, maybe it will be an electoral bloodbath like Watergate, but Amy Coney Barrett will be a consolation to, I think, a lot of Republicans, and maybe -- maybe even some will think it's worth it.

TOOBIN: Worth it. Absolutely.


CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, David, thank you both very much.


CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

ANC CNN's special coverage of the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing begins after this very short break.