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President Biden Urges Passage of Bipartisan Border Bill; Federal Court Rules Against Trump on Presidential Immunity. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired February 06, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: No immunity for Trump, an appeals court ruling the former president will have to answer for any of his efforts to overturn the last election. But Trump says that court shouldn't have the final say.

And hope for a hostage deal, Hamas giving a -- quote -- "positive response" for a framework agreement, as Secretary Blinken says the U.S. is reviewing that reply now and will hold talks with Israel tomorrow.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, country music saying goodbye to a legend with a complicated legacy. We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: A federal appeals court dealing a major legal blow to former President Donald Trump, the three-judge panel rejecting Trump's claims that he is immune from prosecution for alleged crimes that he committed while he was president.

The decision is now opening the way for special counsel Jack Smith to prosecute Trump on multiple charges, accusing him of trying to undermine the 2020 election. The judges in the D.C. Circuit Court not only sided with the Justice Department, but they repeatedly eviscerated Trump's behavior after his 2020 defeat.

Their ruling said, in part -- quote -- "Former President Trump lacked any lawful discretionary authority to defy federal criminal law, and he is answerable in court for his conduct."

With us now, we have CNN chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid.

Paula, a Trump spokesman says the former president plans to appeal this. How much time do his lawyers have?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So the circuit gave them until next Tuesday to tell the Supreme Court that they intend to appeal.

And then we will likely see a process play out where both sides of this case will be able to weigh in on whether they think the Supreme Court should get involved here. Of course, Trump's team would love to make another trip to the Supreme Court this year because their strategy is really about delay.

Former members of his legal team have said publicly that they don't believe this is really, truly a winning issue on the merits for Trump. So this is really about trying to drag this out as long as they possibly can and trying to get this trial pushed until after the November 2024 election.

I would expect, of course, to see the special counsel say that the Supreme Court does not need to weigh in, even though this would be an issue of first impression for the High Court. I think they're also likely going to be relying heavily on this opinion we got today from these three appellate judges, where they found -- quote -- "Any executive immunity that may have protected Trump while he served as president no longer protects him against this prosecution."

Brianna, one of the things that was so interesting about this opinion is, they went far beyond just the constitutional analysis, eviscerating Trump's theory of absolute presidential immunity and his actions in and around January 6, saying -- quote -- "Former President Trump's stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the president beyond the reach of all three branches."

So, as much as this is about constitutional questions, important, really untested questions of constitutional powers from the presidency, it's also about timing, Brianna. So now we're watching to see how long it takes for this appeals request to play out.

KEILAR: All right, we will be watching this critical period.

Paula, thank you.

Let's talk now with Joan Biskupic. She's our CNN senior Supreme Court analyst.

Joan, how likely is it that the Supreme Court is going to take up this appeal?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, it's a very strong opinion from the lower court, unanimous, well-grounded, and just hits all the right notes for these justices.

But as well-grounded as it is and how much it's consistent with court precedent in this area, they might feel it's theirs to decide. It is a question that has never been definitively answered, whether a former president can be absolutely immune from criminal prosecution after he leaves office.

And so I think it's going to cause some tensions behind the scenes, not just because this is an unanswered question, but because it's also Donald Trump. Now, we have, on Thursday, the justices already are scheduled to hear arguments in an important case on whether he can even stay on state ballots.

The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled that he should be disqualified because he engaged in insurrection on January 6, 2021. So there's just all sorts of questions that the Supreme Court is already going to be deciding, having to do with Donald Trump that will affect the upcoming election.


But this one, they could decide, look, it's been well-handled by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. We don't need to intervene.

But we're not going to know that right away. The justices have until February -- pardon me. Donald Trump has until February 12, next Monday, to let the court know that it wants -- he wants to appeal this. The justices then will set probably a very expedited briefing schedule for Donald Trump and Jack Smith, who's trying to currently prosecute, the former president for them to submit their filings.

The justices next meet in private in a conference on February 16. We could see some sort of order as soon as that or it could take some time. If the justices decide to hear this case, Brianna, they would likely let us know sooner, rather than later, because that would mean that they would have to set a new schedule of getting the more substantive briefs on the merits of this immunity claim to them.

And they'd want to do it before we get to summer, when the election is practically under way.

KEILAR: Yes, certainly.

Joan, thank you for that. We do appreciate it -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Let's bring in CNN anchor and chief legal analyst Laura Coates.

Laura, did some of the language in the ruling itself stand out to you?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They were very pointed in their language. They are not mincing words. They're not pulling any punches.

This was a definitive ruling by this court to say, you do not have a blank check. You do not have all the power. And you certainly need to have a system of checks and balances, where you cannot say that, just by virtue of being in office, you are not going to be held to account for things that happen that are outside of the official conduct.

That's the most important aspect here. They were not saying that there are no circumstances in which someone could have immunity from liability at the civil side for official performance of duties. What they were saying was that, if it's not an official act, if it falls outside of that scope, you can be held to account, which is exactly what this system of checks and balances really already contemplates, Boris.

The other big important part here was this idea of what role the impeachments had in the past to now influence this. Remember, before, there was the argument by the counsel for Trump to suggest, look, you can only go after a former president if they were first impeached, convicted and removed from office. That was already met with a lot of skepticism, Boris. But suffice it

to say, this court said, first of all, there's no double jeopardy attaching for a political action like impeachment. And, number two, that's not a criminal matter, and it's still fair game.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that line about Trump collapsing the separation of powers with his view of presidential immunity stands out.

The thing I thought was also interesting is that Trump's team plans to appeal. The court gave Trump until Monday to appeal to the Supreme Court. But I'm wondering, what options do they have now? Can they still put it in front of the entire panel of circuit appeals judges?

COATES: Well, they could take to have that full review, that en banc review. Remember there is a wider number of judges than the three that actually heard the case. That's usually done to streamline the process. You can imagine the volume of cases before the appellate court.

And they streamline it by assigning different random attorney -- random -- excuse me -- judges together to hear a particular case. But this will likely go to the Supreme Court. They want to have it before the Supreme Court if you're Trump's team because it might be a more protracted process.

They will have time to see if they want to take up the case. If they do, there's the oral argument calendar. Then there's the briefing. And, remember, their docket goes until June. And so you don't have that much of a window between June and then the November general election should he secure that nomination.

But, in reality, the Supreme Court could keep their hands clean here. I think one of the reasons why this opinion is so thought out, is so comprehensive is because it does invite the Supreme Court to say, well, hold on. What would we be examining on different grounds? Will we rubber-stamp this opinion? Is there actually a controversy before us? Do we somehow want to have a different finessed point or a totally different direction?

And with the cases -- with there not being cases in this area and with, frankly, the proposition of checks and balances being so clear, I wouldn't be surprised if the Supreme Court was a little bit reluctant to even weigh in, not just politically, but because it's so thorough in the court below.

SANCHEZ: Laura, I'm also curious about the argument we have seen from Trump -- it was put out there again by he and his surrogates moments after this decision -- that presidents could go on trial after they have left office for actions they took.


He specifically mentioned Harry Truman recently getting prosecuted for the atom bomb under this view of the law by the appeals court. Could ruling against immunity really open the door to that kind of prosecution? Do you think this sets that kind of precedent? COATES: Well, they have -- they were concerned about Pandora's box

being open.

But one would argue and they did effectively argue on the other side that Pandora's box is opened if you allow for there to be no check and balance, if you allow for a president to perform actions while in office that are not in line with their official duties and then have to just wait out the election period or keep it under the rug long enough to avoid a political consequence like an impeachment.

I think that's really what the court was concerned about Pandora's box being opened. But, remember, there are checks and balances on the civil liability and beyond that you can impose on someone for what they're doing actually as a part of their official duties.

Police officers, for example, are probably the most known example for conduct conducted while in office and having a kind of qualified immunity as a result. That's a very controversial area that is distinct from what we're talking about here, but the broader theme that we do protect people in their official line of duties.

To suggest that a president would be in a position unlike any other employee of an official matter to have absolute immunity would really stretch the bounds of our entire system. And so I think, in this instance, the Pandora's box hyperbole and the hypotheticals are just not applicable.

SANCHEZ: Laura Coates, great to see you. Laura, we will see you again at 11:00 p.m.

COATES: Good to see you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Coming up: Secretary of State Tony Blinken is back in the Middle East for a new round of talks, as the war rages in Gaza. What we're learning about those meetings and a key update on where hostage negotiations stand right now.

Plus, new signs that the bipartisan border deal may be doomed. President Biden set to speak at any moment. You see a live view of the podium at the White House right there. We will bring you his remarks as they happen.

And country music star Toby Keith has passed away. We're going to take a look at his career and legacy in just a few moments.



KEILAR: Right now, we are watching the podium there at the White House, as President Biden is expected to speak on this border bill as it appears that it is very much endangered, so endangered that it is looking like it is not going to pass this key procedural vote tomorrow in the Senate. To be clear, this agreement that has been struck between the White

House and Senate Republicans and Democrats and independent Kyrsten Sinema is one that would severely curtail the asylum process. And yet it's something that former President Trump has really come out against and House Republicans have as well.

And so it's looking very much at this point that it is a no-go, barring some kind of miracle.

SANCHEZ: It'll be fascinating to see what President Biden says, in part because there's a deep divide even within Congress. There are Senate Republicans that back this bill, not only Mitch McConnell, but also James Lankford, who helped negotiate this deal.

He was on "INSIDE POLITICS" moments ago with our Dana Bash, and he was talking about his disappointment in Republicans and their description of this bill.

Here's President Biden. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's long past time to fix it.

That's why, months ago, I instructed my team to begin negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators to seriously and finally fix our immigration system.

For months now, that's what they have done, working around the clock, through the holidays, over the weekends. It has been an extraordinary effort by Senators Lankford, Murphy, and Sinema. The result of all this hard work is a bipartisan agreement that represents the most fair, humane reforms in our immigration system in a long time and the toughest set of reforms to secure the border ever.

Now all indications are this bill won't even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? A simple reason: Donald Trump. Because Donald Trump thinks it's bad for him politically. Therefore, he doesn't -- even though it will help the country, he's not for it. He'd rather weaponize this issue than actually solve it.

So, for the last 24 hours, he's done nothing, I'm told, but reach out to Republicans in the House and the Senate and threaten them and try to intimidate them to vote against this proposal. And it looks like they're caving.

Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some spine and do what they know to be right.

So, I want to tell the American people what's in this bill and why everyone from "The Wall Street Journal," to the Border Patrol, to the Chamber of Commerce, the United States Chamber of Commerce, support this bill, because it's going to make the country safer, make the border more secure, treat people more humanely and freely -- and fairly, and make legal immigration more efficient and consistent with the values of our nation and our international treaty obligations.

It would finally provide the funding that I have repeatedly, repeatedly requested, most recently in October, to actually secure the border. That includes an additional 1,500 border agents and officers to secure the border, to physically secure it, in addition, 100 cutting-edge machines to detect and stop fentanyl at the Southwest border.

We have that capacity. An additional -- 100 additional immigration judges to help reduce the yearlong asylum backlog. You show for asylum, a judge is supposed to talk to you. It takes a year to get that discussion going.


This bill would also establish new, efficient, and fair process for the government to consider an asylum claim for those arriving at the border. Today, the process can take five to seven years, as you all know. They show up at the border, get a bracelet, told come back when called five to seven years, and now in country.

That's too long, and it's not rational. With the new policies in this bill, and the additional 4,300 more asylum officers, who spend hours, I might add, with each immigrant to consider their claims and whether they qualify, we will be able to reduce that process to six months, not five to seven years.

This bipartisan bill will also expedite work permits, so those who are here and who qualify can begin work more quickly. That's something that our governors, our mayors, and our business leaders have been asking me for and asking them for. All across the country, they have been asking for this.

It'll also create more opportunities for families to come together for business to hire additional workers. And for the first time in 30 years, the first time in 30 years, this bipartisan legislation increases the number of immigrant visas for people legally, legally able to come to this country through ports of entry, and ensures that, for the first time that vulnerable, unaccompanied young children have legal representation at the border.

This bill would also give me, as president, the emergency authority to temporarily shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. The numbers, they are talking over 5,000 people trying to get in, in one day. The bill, if the bill were law today, it would qualify to be shut down right now while we repair it.

Bottom line is, this bipartisan bill is a win for America, because it makes important fixes to our broken immigration system, and it's the toughest, fairest law that's ever been proposed relative to the border.

Now, it doesn't address everything that I would like, that I wanted. For example, we still need a path for -- of documentation for those who are already here, and we're not walking away from true immigration reform, including permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for young dreamers who came here when there were children and who have been good citizens that contribute so much to our country.

But the reforms in this bill are essential for making our border, more orderly, more humane, and more secure. That's why the Border Patrol union, which, by the way, endorsed Donald Trump in the 2020 election, endorses this bill.

These are the people whose job it is to secure the border every single, solitary day. They don't just show up for photo-ops like some members of Congress. They're there to do their job. This is the risk, the thing they -- many of them risk their lives doing every single day.

And they decided, they decided, the Border Patrol decided this gives them the tools they need to do the job, more personnel across the board. It's also why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed this bill, because they know this bill is not just good for the border. It's also good for American business and for the American economy.

And it's why "The Wall Street Journal" endorsed the bill, with the headline this morning which reads -- quote -- "A border security bill worth passing. The Senate has reforms Trump never came close to getting."

That's the quote from "The Journal."

This bill would also address two other important priorities. First, it provides urgent funding for Ukraine. I'm wearing my Ukraine tie and my Ukraine pin, which I have been wearing because they're in dire straits right now defending themselves against the Russian onslaught, brutal conquest.

The clock is ticking. Every week, every month that passes without new aid to Ukraine means fewer artillery shells, fewer defense -- fewer air defense systems, fewer tools for Ukraine to defend itself against this Russian onslaught, just what Putin wants. Ukrainians are fighting bravely.

You -- many of you that, I look around the room here, have followed me in this for a long time. I pulled together a coalition of over 50 nations that support them, on the phone talking to these leaders. We unified NATO. Remember, when we first came to office, NATO was in -- well, they're all together and actually increased the size of NATO.

We can't walk away now. That's what Putin is betting on. Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin. Opposing this bill is playing into his hands. As I said before, the stakes on this fight extend well beyond Ukraine. If we don't stop Putin's appetite for power and control of Ukraine, he won't limit himself to just Ukraine, and the cost for America and our allies and partners will rise.


For those Republicans in Congress who think they can oppose funding for Ukraine and not be held accountable, history is watching. History is watching. The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten. The position of the MAGA Republicans can be characterized by the "New

York Times" headline. First -- and this is the headline. It reads: "Trump First, Putin Second, America Third." That cannot pertain.

This bipartisan agreement also provides Israel with what it needs to protect its people and defend itself against Hamas terrorists. And it will provide the necessary lifesaving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people.

By opposing this bill, they're denying aid to the people who are really suffering and desperately need help. There's more work to get this done, over the finish line. And I want to be clear. Doing nothing is not an option.

Republicans have to decide. For years, they have said they want to secure the border. Now they have the strongest border bill this country has ever seen. We're seeing statements about how many oppose the bill now.

Look, I understand the former president is desperately trying to stop this bill because it's not -- he's not interested in solving the border problem. He wants a political issue to run against me on. They have all but said that across the board. No one really denies that, that I'm aware of.

The American people want a solution that puts an end to the empty political rhetoric which has failed to do anything for so long. We have to get the resources to the border to get the job done.

So, Republicans have to decide, who do they serve, Donald Trump or the American people? Are they here to solve problems or just weaponize those problems for political purposes?

I know my answer. I serve the American people. I'm here to solve problems. It was just months ago that Republicans were asking for this exact bill to deal with the border, to provide support for Ukraine and Israel. And now -- and now it's here. And they're saying, never mind, never mind.

Folks, we have got to move past this toxic politics. It's time to stop playing games with the world waiting and watching. And, by the way, the world is waiting. The world is watching. They are waiting and watching what we're going to do.

We can't let -- we can't continue to let petty partisan politics get in the way of our responsibility. We're a great nation. It's not acting like a great nation. So I'm calling on Congress to pass this bill, get it to my desk immediately.

But if the bill fails, I want to be absolutely clear about something. The American people are going to know why it failed. I will be taking this issue to the country. And the voters are going to know that it's not just a moment -- just at the moment we're going to secure the border and fund these other programs, Trump and the MAGA Republicans said no, because they're afraid of Donald Trump, afraid of Donald Trump. Every day between now and November, the American people are going to

know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends. It's time for Republicans in the Congress to show a little courage, to show a little spine, to make it clear to the American people that you work for them, not for anyone else.

I know who I work for. I work for the American people. At moments like this, we have to remember who in God's name we are. We're the United States of America. You have heard me say it many times. There's nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together. We're right on the verge of doing it together.

I hope, I hope and pray they find reason to reconsider blowing this up.

May God bless you all. May God protect our troops.

Folks, you're going to ask me questions. Hang on a second. I'm going to be back on Thursday. I don't want to prejudice what may be going on in negotiations now. So I'm not going to be answering any questions on this. I will be back Thursday to stand here with you and answer all the questions you want about this issue.

Thank you.


QUESTION: What needs to get done for the hostage deal to get resolved, sir?

BIDEN: This indirectly has a lot to do with the hostage deal and what's going on in the Middle East, the decision on what we do relative to Israel, the decision on what we do in terms of American funding, of whether we're going to engage with the situation in Ukraine.

It all goes to the question of American power. It all goes to, does America keep its word?