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Appeals Court Blocks Texas Law Again After Supreme Court Allowed It; Trump Seeks Absolute Immunity in New Supreme Court Brief; Lifesaving Therapy for Children With Rare Genetic Disease Will Be World's Most Expensive at $4.25 Million. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 07:00   ET




Now, the iconic role could be going to British Actor Aaron Taylor- Johnson, according to the U.K. tabloid, The Sun. You may recognize Taylor Johnson from his previous films, Kickass and Bullet Train. I have to admit, I do not, but I am excited to see him as Bond.

CNN has reached out to Eon Productions and Taylor-Johnson's team for comments. All right, thanks -- you ever want to try out and be James Bond?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'll pass.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, you're doing the real life stuff.

HUNT: All right. Thank you guys very much for being here today, and thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Don't go anywhere. CNN New Central starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, border whiplash, an appeals court blocks the controversial Texas immigration law that the Supreme Court had just given the green light to take effect.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning, no Republican is running against Donald Trump anymore, but a notable number of Republicans are still voting against him in primaries, including overnight. So, what's the message here?

A stunning allegation surrounding the royal family, a hospital worker is accused of trying to breach the private medical records of the Princess of Wales.

Sara is out today. I'm John Berman with Kate Bolduan.

CNN News Central starts now.

BOLDUAN: While you were sleeping, things got even more confusing in Texas. This is all about the state's controversial new immigration law that would allow state law enforcement to arrest and deport people suspected of entering the country illegally. And it's now the subject of a dramatic back and forth with the Supreme Court overnight.

Here's where things stand right now. The law is on hold once again. And here is how we got there. The conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for the law, and it is known as Senate Bill 4, SB4, to take effect, while the legal battle was playing out making its way through the court system. But then just hours later, an appeals court said, hold on, once again pausing these new law enforcement measures as they consider whether or not the law violates a Constitution.

Critics say that SB4 at its core, what this gets down to, critics say that it violates human rights, stokes racial profiling and overreaches government authority. The Texas governor though says it is necessary to slow the crisis at his border.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Arizona following all of this for us this morning. Rosa, there are a lot of moving parts. You have been following the path of SB4 from the beginning and a dramatic turn overnight. Where do things stand and where do things go?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, you were talking about the whiplash. Well, here's more. There's a hearing in the Fifth Circuit today, which means that this law could be placed on hold again or it could be made to go into effect, which means we would go right back to, you guessed it, the U.S. Supreme Court.

But here's the bottom line. The arguments from the Biden administration is that there is a supremacy clause in the Constitution and that immigration is of federal function and that it should stay that way.

Now, the state of Texas disagrees with that, says that it has constitutional authority to enforce this law and that it has the right to defend itself from a, quote, invasion, which is the argument that's been rejected by the lower courts.

But, look, no one has been whiplashed more than anything by what is going on in the courts right now than local governments and county governments. And here's why. It's because of how this law was written. This law doesn't just say that it's a crime to enter the state of Texas illegally, it also says that the illegal presence of a person in a state in Texas is also a crime.

And what does that even mean? And how do police officers and deputies out on the street even know what to do or what's probable cause to be an illegal presence in the state? That's why sheriff's offices from across the state and police departments from across state are pushing back.

The Austin Police Department is a good example. They took to X to say the following, quote, at this point, the Austin Police Department and anticipates that it will be unlikely that its officers will have cause to make warrantless arrests under SB4, again, queuing to that uncertainty.

Now, county governments are very concerned because this crime would be adjudicated in county courts. And the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, which represents Democratic and Republican counties across the state, has been sounding the alarm about this because they say it's going to clog the jails and it is going clogged courts.

Now, this organization says that there's about 6,000 to 7,000 county jail beds in the entire state of Texas, and that if this law were to go into effect, Kate, those jail beds would be filled up in days.


And we've been monitoring of course the number of migrant crossings through the state of Texas and they're very high. In the past three fiscal years, it's been more than 1 million crossings just through the state of Texas. So, imagine that if the state of Texas does start enforcing this law, where are they going to put all these people, how are they going to adjudicate these cases, where are they going to get the judges, where are they going to get the prosecutors to enforce the law? It's very complicated. And that's why counties and local governments are very concerned about this. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Rosa Flores tracking it all for us, thank you so much.

And what we see overnight is how quickly it can change, which is all that preparation or lack thereof, it could be in stark really very soon.

BERMAN: So, this law was not in effect that it was in effect.

BOLDUAN: For a few hours.

BERMAN: Now, it's not in effect, but it might soon be in effect again.

BOLDUAN: Good summary.

BERMAN: Thank you very much. So, what happens now?

CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic is with us. So, clear up what the path forward is, Joan.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Okay. First of all, I just want to, for our audience, let them know just how condensed this timetable has been and how condensed it will be today. It was around 2:00 P.M. Eastern Time that the Supreme Court first gave the green light to this law. And as you say, it was shortly before midnight that things reversed course.

We have a hearing going on at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals around 10:00 A.M. Central Time, 11:00 Eastern Time, but then it could come back up here.

And let me just say what the heat that was produced at the Supreme Court yesterday afternoon and that could come back to this and how it could be reignited at the Supreme Court. The majority, when it let this law take effect, did not explain its reasoning. Two of the justices broke off and referred to the procedural posture here. And I'm going to get to that. But, first, I think it's important to hear what the three liberal dissenters said and how much they thought it was wrong to let this law take effect, given how much turmoil is going on at the border. And they said that the chaos that the federal courts were creating were adding to that.

And our first Latina justice, Sonia Sotomayor, said something that was joined by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. She said, the court invites further chaos and crisis in immigration enforcement. Texas upends the federal state balance of power that has existed for over a century in which the national government has had exclusive authority over entry and removal of non-citizens.

This is the key part. This is what this all comes down to, is who's responsible. And for ages, of course, it has been the domain of the federal government.

But as I mentioned, John, I want to just refer briefly to the little word we did get from two of the justices in the conservative-dominated majority yesterday. Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh referred to the unusual procedural posture that this case was in. And just as they wrote, I think it unwise to invite emergency litigation in this court about whether a court of appeals abused its discretion at this preliminary step.

That, essentially, John, was a signal to the Fifth Circuit to go back and do something more formal, to actually review whether this state law, if it took effect, would actually bring more harm to the challengers, the Biden administration and immigrant rights groups, or more harm to Texas.

So, what we had, the action around midnight tonight, was just -- it's still preliminary. And after today's hearing, we will have a more formal order, presumably, that says whether this law should take effect while appeals on the merits of it play out.

But there will still be several steps and likely back up to the Supreme Court where the losing party would go. So, as I said, the chaos at the border is being matched, in part, by turmoil in the federal courts, John.

BERMAN: Again, as of this moment, the law is not in effect.

Joan Biskupic, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: So, former President Trump says rejecting his sweeping immunity claim would be the end of the presidency as we know it. So, what will the Supreme Court, speaking of, make of his argument for absolute immunity now?

New reports this morning of a possible privacy breach of Princess Kate's medical records at the hospital where she was treated in January and with it a new warning from the U.K. Health Minister today.

And it could be the world's most expensive drug, how a $4 million treatment may be helping children with a rare disorder live longer.



BOLDUAN: Donald Trump warns that rejecting his claim of absolute immunity would incapacitate every future president. This is from -- this argument coming from the new legal filing from his team, now part of his broader defense against the federal election subversion case.

Trump's team really claiming that a denial of immunity for him could fundamentally impact the office of the presidency, saying in the filing, saying, every future president will be forced to grapple with the prospect of possibly being criminally prosecuted after leaving office every time he or she makes a politically controversial decision.


CNN's Katelyn Polantz, she's following all of this. And, Katelyn, walk us through what they're trying to argue and what this means in this new filing.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kate, Donald Trump's team wants the Supreme Court to dismiss the charges against him in Washington, D.C., that federal case related to what he did at the end of the presidency before January 6th and the 2020 election.

What they're doing in their filing to the Supreme Court, this brief that lays out the argument that Trump's team is making to the Supreme Court is likely to argue to them in person as well, is that there is a massive fear that the justices should have about how this could destroy the presidency if someone who served in the presidency can be charged with a crime when they were in office.

So, this doom and gloom, fearful scenario that they're painting starts by saying that this would hurt the presidency because it would make presidents fearful whenever they are in office. They write, once our nation crosses this Rubicon, meaning a president charged, convicted potentially, every future president will face de facto blackmail and extortion while in office and will be harassed by politically motivated prosecution after leaving office over his most sensitive and controversial decisions. That bleak scenario would result in a weak and hollow president and would thus be ruinous for the American political system as a whole.

One of the ways that they are appealing to the justices here is they cite Brett Kavanaugh, a law review article that that justice wrote 15 years ago, saying it would be a worse -- it would be a situation where the president will do a worse job if he could be prosecuted.

All of this taken together is a hope where the Trump team has to appeal to the justices to dismiss that case. But if they're not willing to do it on the grounds that Trump or a president should be absolutely protected and immune from any criminal prosecution, they say, you could just add in more time to the case, send it back to the lower courts, have more fact finding to see if there is some sort of immunity idea that could come up through the court system, is there something more that could be done? That option would ultimately result in delay. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Which ultimately has been part of the plan, at least part of the strategy here.

It's good to see you, Katelyn. Thank you so much for the reporting, John?

BERMAN: All right. With us now, Defense Attorney and former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu.

Shan, I like the way the New York Times framed this, this morning. Let me just read you this quote. Legal experts said Mr. Trump was unlikely to prevail, but added that how and when the court rejects his arguments will effectively determine whether and when Mr. Trump's trial, which had been scheduled to start March 4th, will proceed.

I get the when. We understand that depending on how the Supreme Court rules and when they rule, the trial could be delayed. But what about the how, how they rule after these April arguments? What does that mean?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think what it means is on the face of it, the main argument that they're pushing, which Katelyn was just analyzing there, that's like really one of the worst arguments that I have ever heard. And it's really embarrassing that it's at the court. It's so far off base and in the left field that if that was the only proposition they put forth, likely to just be a quick slam dunk against them.

But the potential off-ramp for the Supreme Court would be to send it back, as Katelyn was saying, for some further factual development by the trial court, that aspect of the how would definitely result in further delay.

And what's dangerous about that for the prosecution, good for Trump, is that it's the kind of off-ramp that the Supreme Court would traditionally like, which is they can avoid put off such a major decision and do it more piecemeal and have further factual development on it, and that could be very appealing to them.

BERMAN: Facts about what? Does it have to do with this? Because when the Supreme Court said it was going to hear arguments on this, their ruling said, quote, they were going to determine whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.

Now, the word, official, there, to me, is the key word because If trying to overturn the results of the election was an official act. I mean, I guess, then you could argue this presidential immunity, but how is trying to overturn the results of an election an official act? WU: Yes, that's a great question, John, because I think that's really the rub here. Really, to me, this notion of immunity, that's more of a trial defense to me.


That's the sort of thing you'd put up and say, hey, I didn't do anything wrong, right? We hear Trump saying that all the time. I did what I was supposed to do.

But in order to help him, they need to push it into a threshold question, which is more of the traditional immunity. You can't even try me for this. I don't have to put on this defense.

So, the fact finding that could be involved would be exactly to that question they framed, which is he is saying some of these were what official acts. I'm supposed to oversee some aspect of the election, which I think is wrong, but he's been saying that, that's what they might ask for further fact-finding about to determine are some of his actions within this perimeter of being official or not.

BERMAN: We will see. All right, Shan Wu, great to speak with you this morning. Thank you very much.

Blockbuster reports in the British tabloids, a London hospital staffer accused of trying to breach the private medical records of the Princess of Wales. They have now launched an investigation.

And come on, who's happier than we are? Apparently, a lot of people, like a lot. For the first time, the United States did not make the cut for the top 20 happiest countries in the world. I got to say, that makes me really unhappy.



BERMAN: All right. This morning, the world's most expensive drug, it will cost more than $4 million for the very first FDA-approved therapy for a rare genetic disorder that mainly affects young children without any treatment. Children with this disorder rarely see their seventh birthday.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard has the details. What are we talking about here, Jacqueline? Why so expensive?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN MEDICAL REPORTER: John the treatment we're talking about here is called Lenmeldy. It's a gene therapy for a rare disease called MLD, that stands for metachromatic leukodystrophy. And this is a deliberating illness. I mean, it affects the brain, it affects the nervous system, mostly it impacts children.

But just this morning, the company behind the drug, Orchard Therapeutics, announced the price tag, the wholesale cost is $4.25 million per one treatment. And this is given as a one treatment, a one and done, so to speak. But as for why it's so expensive, Orchard Therapeutics says in a statement that it set the price tag at that number because it is, quote, reflective of the value the therapy may deliver to eligible patients and their families, as well as the potential long-term impact treatment may have on overall healthcare utilization, minimization of productivity loss for caregivers and life opportunities for patients.

But the number, John, is striking, I will say there are other expensive drugs out there that are taken more than once and over time they may add up to more than $4 million, and there are drugs in that million dollar price range. There's a blood disorder drug that costs about $3.5 million of muscular dystrophy treatment that costs about $3.2 million, but $4 million, $4.25, John, that's definitely up there when we look at drug price tags.

BERMAN: I mean, it gets to the question of how you value a life and then how these companies go about making and producing these drugs.

What does it do exactly, the drug?

HOWARD: Lenmeldy, it's a one-time infusion, and it's based on the patient's own stem cells. Those stem cells are genetically modified, and then they're transplanted back into the patient as a therapy.

And MLD, as it disease itself, like I said, it is rare, it affects about one in 40,000 people here in the United States, but having an approved gene therapy like Lenmeldy is definitely a game changer for these patients, if they can afford it, John.

BERMAN: All right. Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much for this report. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Blocked again. A controversial law that allows Texas to arrest migrants and deport them, arrest migrants who have crossed the border or suspected of crossing the border illegally, that now on hold again. Why one sheriff says he would not prioritize the law, even if it were to go into effect. K And markets are hitting another record ahead of today's decision from

the Federal Reserve. Could any interest rate cuts be coming soon?