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Confirmation Hearing for Trump's Supreme Court Pick; GOP Scrambles for Health Bill Support as Vote Nears; Police Investigating Incident Outside UK Parliament; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 22, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because of the times that we live in, because the time for bipartisan votes -- for a bipartisan vote for a Supreme Court nominees are a time gone by. But there's something more in this day and age, and that is what I think, Karen, you've probably experienced personally in and around the election, which is Democrats feel so incredibly upset and bitter and still stunned -- when I say Democrats I mean the base -- about what happened in the election.

And this Supreme Court nomination isn't just about a lot of people feel that it was stolen because Judge Garland was not -- was not given a vote. But also that this is the first real test of whether or not the liberal base, which is so upset about Trump's election, can really show that they've got the power to convince these Democrats.

And, you know, people like Dianne Feinstein, she's not a knee-jerk liberal even though she's from San Francisco. She's just not. And other Democrats, even from the states where Donald Trump won, they do face a threat like never before of a primary challenge.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very quickly, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I just want to say, and to that point, the Democratic base was angry yesterday after the hearing. They didn't think the Democrats were aggressive enough. They didn't think the Democrats were feisty enough, combative enough, and smart enough in their questioning. And so the phones rang off the hook last night for the Democrats to be tougher today.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Everybody, stand by. We're going to get -- continue our analysis. There's other major developments unfolding right now here in Washington including the battle over health care. The Freedom Caucus conservative group in the House of Representatives, they've just been called to go over to the White House. We're all over that as well. We'll be right back.


[10:35:53] BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is CNN's special coverage of another crucial day for the Trump administration.

President Trump puts his deal-making skills to the test. Only moments ago we learned that members of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group, will meet behind closed doors with the president next hour at the White House to discuss the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The president already giving Republicans this warning, if they fail to repeal and replace Obamacare during tomorrow's crucial vote on the House floor, they'll pay for it at the ballot box.

The next 24 hours clearly are critical, and the White House knows it. They're scrambling right now to try to lock in members of their own party before tomorrow's House vote. They can only afford 21 GOP no's.

Right now Democrats and former vice president Joe Biden, meanwhile, they are on the steps of the U.S. capitol, they're rallying for Obamacare. Today marks the seventh anniversary of the passage of the law. The vice president speaking right now -- former vice president I should say.

CNN's Phil Mattingly and MJ Lee, they're both live up on Capitol Hill. First I want to go to Joe Johns over at the White House.

A surprise meeting, just announced. Joe, set the scene.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly clear from the surprise meeting, Wolf, that the White House is worried and is hoping that they can change some minds in this Freedom Caucus about 27 members, we're not clear how many members of the Freedom Caucus are expected to show up here.

Our Jeff Zeleny reported just a little while ago that they are expected here. It's also clear that the White House is using a variety of methods, just about everything at play here in Washington, as it always is when there's a tough vote and it's very close. There's a certain degree of cajoling going on. There's also a certain degree of threatening. But also the president giving clear indications to conservatives and moderates who are not so sure about this bill that he's got their backs if they're Republicans.

The problem for the White House is they're running out of time, and it's not clear at all that members of that Freedom Caucus are going to back down. In fact, there was some reporting earlier today that the Freedom Caucus might even hold a news conference on Capitol Hill to talk about their feelings. I've reached out, and so far have not heard back from the Freedom Caucus on that. So a tight vote coming over here to the White House and the president and his administration will see what they can do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they going to allow any cameras into the top of that meeting with the Freedom Caucus that the president is having, a photo op?

JONES: You know, it's not clear. And I think that's a work in progress. It's been described as a closed meeting. We had anticipated taking cameras into a couple of the president's meetings here at the White House. But I can't tell you as I speak right now that I'm certain cameras are going to get in on that one.

BLITZER: All right. Joe, stand by. Phil Mattingly is up by Capitol Hill.

Is it your sense, Phil, that this Freedom Caucus will vote as one or there will be splits?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think at least right now there will be splits. I think you've got members of the Freedom Caucus who have actually already come out and supported the bill, not a large group, two or three that are there. And in talking to House leadership, they feel like they can peel off a number more.

There is a recognition, Wolf, that inside the Freedom Caucus, there are a number of members that just simply aren't going to come on board. Their big goal here, when you talk to Speaker Ryan, when you talk to kind of the House Republican leadership team, their whip operation, because they want to peel off as many as possible. Make sure they don't vote as a bloc, make sure they don't agree to oppose the bill en masse.

I think that's their big concern right now and that's why you see not only that they're going over to the White House. This is a very hand- in-glove operation going on right between the White House legislative affairs team, Speaker Ryan's team, his whip operation down here. But while you're seeing a lot of work behind the scenes from Speaker Ryan's allies meeting with these individuals one by one, trying to peel them off, keep them away from the group, if you will, to see if they can persuade them to come aboard.

[10:40:05] I think the big issue right now is there's a recognition that a lot of these guys are lean no. They likely will head to no. But they're not closing the door yet. That was the word I heard a number of times. I'm not there yet, I'm not a no yet. That means there's an opening there and there's an opportunity to try and get them aboard. And one of the ways that they're trying to do that, I've heard this multiple times from a number of sources involved in this process, is look at the broader picture here, look at the agenda going forward.

If you want tax reform, if you want infrastructure, if you want trade deals, you cannot serve to grievously wound your first-term president this early in the game, this early stage in his time in office. And I think that's an opportunity -- that's an argument they feel they can make that might be able to sit.

But, Wolf, there's no question about it. They still aren't there, they still don't have the votes that they need, and there's a lot of more work to be done behind the scenes here over the course of the next 24 or 36 hours.

BLITZER: All right, stand by.

MJ Lee, you're taking a close look at the House Rules Committee, it sounds a little arcane, but what they're doing right now potentially could sway some final votes.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a committee hearing that is expected to last hours. I've been talking to committee aides and they say that this is expected to be a long process, perhaps not as long as some of the markup hearings that we had weeks ago when things went well into the night and into the morning. But this is basically to be a hearing where we hear the most from Democratic lawmakers.

We are told that the chairman is going to allow Democratic lawmakers on this committee to speak out, essentially, against the bill. And this is a lot of optics that are going on right now on Capitol Hill. Republican lawmakers want to stress as much as possible that this is going through regular order, that members are being given the chance to speak out or speak for the bill as much as possible and Democratic lawmakers are not expected, I should note, to introduce any amendments, if any at all, because they believe -- this is how an aide worded it to me, this aide said they believed the bill is so flawed that amendments at this point are actually pointless, but they do want to seize this high profile opportunity to be on the record speaking out against this bill.

BLITZER: MJ Lee, thanks very much.

I want to get right back to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the confirmation hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee, is continuing. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont now asking questions.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: -- for the case, she was there. Two Royal Canadian Mounties escorted her. And I pointed out to the defense attorney, the evidence will show, she was trained to do these abortions working for the S.S. at Auschwitz.

So she could abort the women prisoners that they had impregnated so that they could keep on using these women that way before they put them in the gas chambers. He looked at the names of the people who would be the potential jurors; they sought a plea.

Now, on another -- so I applaud the senior Senator from California for raising the issue she did. Now yesterday I asked about your connection to billionaire super-donor Philip Anschutz and (ph) his role -- his very extensive role in lobbying the White House to get you on the 10th Circuit. And once on the court, you said you recused yourself from cases involving him and I commend you for that. You did the right thing.

But you wrote in your senate questionnaire that you currently follow a recusal standard broader than what is required by the Supreme Court and if you -- if confirmed you'd follow the weaker Supreme Court standard. Does that mean if confirmed, you would no longer recuse yourself from cases involving Mr. Anschutz?

GORSUCH: Senator, what is means is I -- I will -- if I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed, go through the same process I did when I became a judge on the 10th Circuit in which I committed to do at that time. Which was look at the applicable law, look at the facts -- I had a law clerk, I don't know if he's somewhere around here.

LEAHY: Well no -- no -- but let me -- let me get back to this. You found -- you found the such were such that you recused yourself...


LEAHY: With Mr. Anschutz when you were on the...


LEAHY: ... Court of Appeals.


LEAHY: If he had a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, would not the facts be the same?

GORSUCH: He is a former client and -- and I treated him as I treated my former clients, large and small. And -- and, Senator, I'd -- I'd have to look at the recusal standards that are applicable to Supreme Court justices.

LEAHY: Well, the federal recusal standards apply to both Supreme Court justices and other judges.


LEAHY: But the only difference is, of course Supreme Court -- whether they recuse themselves or not, that's not reviewable.


But would you -- again, you found enough reason recuse yourself from the circuit and I applaud you for that. Would not those same reasons apply to the Supreme Court?

GORSUCH: And, Senator, I -- I just have to study the law and the practice of the court, just as I did when I came on the 10th Circuit. And I -- I -- I commit to you that same process and the same integrity of the process. You look at the law, you look at the practice of your colleagues, you consult with your colleagues.

That's what I did. I had a law clerk, prepare an extensive memorandum for me, in which he analyzed all of the relevant precedents, the practices of my colleagues and the...

LEAHY: Well, I would note...


GORSUCH: ... the facts. That's...

LEAHY: OK. The federal recusal standard -- as studying the law, it's the same -- same law for the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court one exception. Supreme Court's aren't reviewable.

Now, I asked you yesterday were there -- there was any circumstance in which the president has the power to authorize torture or surveillance in violation of laws passed by Congress. You answered I thought correctly, no man is above the law.

Now I'm sure President Bush and his lawyers believed he was operating within the law when he authorized torture and warrantless surveillance. But they still thought they could violated a statute if they are exercising their Article II power. Is there any circumstance where a president could ignore a statute passed by Congress signed into law and still authorized torture or warrantless surveillance.

If you have a statute against torture and warrantless surveillance is any circumstance in which a president could ignore that statute?

GORSUCH: Well, Senator, I don't want to deal with a case that might come before me and those are the sorts of things that come before me. But I can speak generally. And I'm happy to.

LEAHY: Go ahead.

GORSUCH: Presidents make all sorts of arguments about inherent authority. They do, and that's why we have courts to decide. Presidents of both parties have made arguments, for instance, about the War Powers Act. Both parties.

And the Congress is taken a different position on that matter, for example, with both parties. And the fact is we have courts to decide these cases for a reason; to resolve these disputes. And I would approach it as a judge through the lens of the Youngstown analysis.


LEAHY: ... a case where -- where court has said a president could ignore a law that was on the books?

GORSUCH: Senator, I -- sitting here I...

LEAHY: Can you think of one off hand?

GORSUCH: I can't think of one off hand, Senator.

LEAHY: Thank you. Neither can I.


LEAHY: Now the architect of President Trump's Muslim ban has declared that there's no such thing as judicial supremacy. And the powers of the president to protect our country, quote, "Are very substantial and will not be questioned." The -- it was felt that he was signaling that the president could ignore judicial orders.

Any president, do they have to comply with a court order? Assuming -- I mean obviously they they can appeal one, but assuming it's been upheld, do they have to apply -- do they have to comply with it?

GORSUCH: That's the rule of law in this country, Senator Leahy. And presidents for a long time have said all sorts of things like that. President Jefferson said things like.

LEAHY: We're not...

GORSUCH: But president...

LEAHY: He was slightly before my time.

(LAUGHTER) GORSUCH: But presidents say these things, right? Congress says things, and then judges decide. And that's the way our system works. And senator, all I can commit to you again, I'm a judge now, I take that seriously. And you'd better believe I expect judicial decrees to be obeyed.

As I said yesterday, a wise old judge you're can hear from tomorrow, one of my heroes says the real test of the rule of law is where a government -- a government can lose in its own courts and accept those judgments.

LEAHY: I believe -- I believe in the rule of law too, that's why I've stayed on this for decades. I -- when I took my old before the Vermont Supreme Court, when I sworn into the bar, I took that very seriously. I did what our Second Circuit Court of Appeals in, and when I was sworn into our U.S. Supreme Court bar, I took that very seriously. I believe that ultimately, we are a country of laws, and we should follow them.


Now speaking of which, yesterday we discussed the relevance, what our framers meant in the Constitution, and may feel they want to prevent a president from being corrupted by foreign governments. Obviously, I'm referring to the emoluments clause. What is the purpose of the emoluments clause?

GORSUCH: The emoluments clause, senator, is not a clause that had attracted a lot of attention until recently, but...

LEAHY: Governor Randolph, the 1787 Constitutional convention pointed it out.


I mean, you want to go back to Jefferson; I'll go back to Randolph.

GORSUCH: Hey, I'm with you. And among other things, it prohibits members of the government of -- of -- of this country from taking emoluments gifts from foreign agents, and the question is what exactly does that mean? And that is the subject on which there is ongoing litigation right now, Senator, I believe.

Certainly threatened litigation, impending litigation, and I have to be very careful about expressing any views.

LEAHY: Well, what Randolph said it was done in order to exclude corruption and foreign influence to prohibit anyone in office from receiving or holding any emoluments in foreign states? Now hesitant to discuss it. You wouldn't be hesitant to discuss the Fourth amendment of the Fifth Amendment. Would you? GORSUCH: Well, I'm hesitant to discuss any part of the Constitution to the extent were talking about a case is likely to come before a court, pending or impending. And I do think that the emoluments clause has set in a rather dusty corner for a long time until recent headlines, and I know that there are cases that are least impending in that area.

I'd be happy to try and talk about things that aren't likely to come before me, but I can...

LEAHY: Let me ask you this, what does the Constitution say a president must do if he or she receives a foreign emolument?

GORSUCH: Well, Senator, I -- I -- I -- that's a -- that's a good question. I don't believe it's been fully resolved.

LEAHY: I thought it was quite easy. The cause prohibits receipt of any emoluments without the consent of the Congress...


LEAHY: Now you're a judge. I'm, as I said yesterday, a lawyer from a small time in Vermont but if -- if it says that you cannot receive any emolument without the consent of the congress, isn't the answer pretty simple? What a president must do if he or she receives a foreign emolument, they have to get the consent of the congress?

GORSUCH: Sure. I thought you were asking what would be the remedy if they violated -- I don't...

LEAHY: No -- no -- I'm asking what they have to do.

GORSUCH: You're absolutely correct, of course Senator.

LEAHY: OK. I appreciate that.


GORSUCH: Well, no I -- you've read the...


LEAHY: Because I understand your concern and I appreciate it as -- as a judge...

GORSUCH: I know you do.

LEAHY: ... answering questions about any pending litigation but you have been very hesitant to even talk about various Supreme Court precedents. I know that Chief Justice Roberts, when he was before, he said he agreed with Griswold and Brown. Justice Alito said he agreed with Hamdi and Eisenstadt.

So we've had Justices nominated by Republican presidents who have been willing to discuss past precedent -- I was just kind of hoping you'd be as transparent as these prior nominees were. During the campaign President Trump promised to appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia.

Now, he had every right to say what he wanted, he could of picked anybody. The vice president said you two are cut from the same cloth. But Justice Scalia -- was a friend of mine, he was intelligent and influential jurist. I voted for him, in case people wonder, and not just because we both Italian ancestry.

But his interpretation of the protections afforded by the constitution left our most vulnerable communities out.


Do you agree with Justice Scalia's characterization of the Voting Rights Act as a perpetuation of racial entitlement?

GORSUCH: Senator, the Voting Rights Act was passed by this body during the civil rights era in order to protect the civil rights...

LEAHY: It was also updated just a few years ago during President George W. Bush's tenure.

GORSUCH: 2006, it was reauthorized with the support of the president, that's right. And that -- that is true. And it designed to protect the civil rights of Americans.

LEAHY: But do you agree with Justice Scalia's characterization of it as a perpetuation of racial entitlement?

GORSUCH: Senator, I don't speak for Justice Scalia, I speak for myself.

LEAHY: OK, accept that. Others who -- you know there's a lot of people who, in the administration, have described who you are. One of the reason we have these hearings is so the American people and this committee can determine better who you are.

And that's why I am not -- I've made it very clear I'll be here at the hearing and -- and make that determination because I was concerned -- I knew that Steve Bannon was a strong advocate for your selection and with all due regard to Mr. Bannon, he's well known for giving a platform to extremists and misogynists and racists. At the CPAC conference a few weeks ago both Mr. Bannon and Reince Priebus praised your nomination.

And I'd ask consent that a report of that be included in the record.

GRASSLEY: Without objection, your article will be entered.

LEAHY: And Mr. Priebus said you had the vision of Donald Trump. And that -- by nominating you, Donald Trump was talking about change in potentially 40 years of law, suggesting you're coming in here as a Trojan horse. What vision do you share with President Trump?

GORSUCH: Senator, I mean no disrespect to any other person, in saying they don't speak for me and I don't speak for them. You know, I have great admiration for Justice Scalia, as we've talked about. I have admiration for every member of this committee, for the president of the United States and for the vice president of the United States.

GORSUCH: But, respectfully, none of you speaks for me. I speak for me. I am a judge, I am independent , I make up my own mind.

LEAHY: The reason I asked; Mr. Bannon, Mr. Priebus and the president had closed door interviews with you. And in these things, including this material I've just put in the record, they've promised they're donors a nominee that would bring a pro-corporate socially conservative agenda to the court. Are you saying they're speaking for themselves not for you?


LEAHY: Thank you. In your view, in the constitution it speaks about high crimes and misdemeanors. What kind of conduct does that include?

GORSUCH: Well, Senator, I -- I...

LEAHY: We've talked about the founders, they put that in, so...

GORSUCH: Yeah, I think -- you know, classically we've talked about felonies has been typically what this body has impeached individuals for.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're breaking away from the Judiciary Committee. I wanted to immediately go to London. There's been an incident outside of parliament. CNN's Max Forest is standing by.

I understand shots have been fired. What do we know, Max?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, we know very little at this point. We've just had this lockdown of the area. And we basically heard the story, Wolf, from our colleagues at the parliamentary press there in the Houses of Parliament. You can see it just to the right of the shot there. There's been some sort of incident on Westminster Bridge, which stretches from the Houses of Parliament over the bridge south to London. There's been some sort of firearms incident.

We're having to rely here on information from the official sources. I've recently been in briefings in -- you know, in terms of serious incidents happening in London, and they want us to rely on the sources coming to us from the police. And all they're telling us at the moment is there's been some sort of firearms incident.

Having said that, very reliable sources in the political reporting press based, you know, just yards from the scene that you're looking at now, saying there is a serious incident unfolding. The area has been completely cleared and from what you can see --