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Amy Coney Barrett Heading for Quick Senate Confirmation; Democrats: Trump Court Nominee Imperils Health Care Law; Trump Says It's Possible Supreme Court Could Rule on Abortion; Evacuation Orders in Northern California; Armenia and Azerbaijan Clash Over Disputed Region; Huge Crowds Protest Disputed Election in Belarus; Judge Says TikTok Can Still Be Downloaded in U.S. for Now. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 28, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court is heading towards one of the quickest confirmations in modern U.S. history. The Senate judiciary chair, Lindsey Graham, says he expects the committee to sign off on Amy Coney Barrett on October 22nd. That could set up a full Senate vote to send her to the high court just days before the November 3rd election. Democratic leaders say the President is in a hurry so his nominee can invalidate the Affordable Care Act. That is the health care law known as Obamacare. CNN's Jessica Schneider reports from Washington.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are really drilling into this idea that a confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, in particular, a speedy confirmation would be detrimental to healthcare in this country.

That's because one week after the election on November 10th the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, in particular whether that individual mandate which has been struck down to zero dollars penalizing people if they don't get insurance, whether that is constitutional, and if it's not, if the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down.

Now it was back in 2012 where the Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberals to save the Affordable Care Act, ruling that the individual mandate was constitutional because it was a tax. But in 2017, Amy Coney Barrett before she was on the seventh circuit, she wrote this about the decision saying --

Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.

And it's that line that's giving Democrats pause as to how Amy Coney Barrett would come down on the question of the Affordable Care Act. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying it could have huge practical effects all across the country. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It doesn't matter what the process is, here, what matters is what it means personally to the American people. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, that benefit will be gone. If you are woman, it will be back to time where being a woman is a pre-existing medical condition. If your children are on your policy, say your adult children on your policy no longer will they be and that in a time of a pandemic.

And if you have seniors in your family who are having long term care paid for by Medicaid, they are going to be pretty soon moving back home and living with you.

SCHNEIDER: The Trump administration is advocating for the Affordable Care Act to be struck down. In fact, the President tweeting on Sunday that it would be a quote, big win if the Affordable Care Act was struck down. Saying that they would come up with something to replace it.

However, the President so far has only issued an executive order with really no teeth about pre-existing condition, saying they will be protected but not really explaining how. Now the arguments while they will be one week after the election, a decision likely wouldn't come down from the Supreme Court until the spring of early summer of 2021.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Another contentious issue perhaps even more hot button than health care, if that's possible, is abortion, and the precedent set by Roe versus Wade. That landmark court ruling protects a woman's right to choose to have an abortion in the United States. Conservatives have been trying to overturn that case for decades and now with his new court nominee, President Trump is suggesting they may just get their way.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can say this, that she is certainly conservative in her views and her rulings and we'll have to see how that all works out. I think it will work out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think a 6-3 court with three of your picks on there, Mr. President, would potentially rule on a life issue, on a Roe issue?

TRUMP: It's certainly possible and maybe they do it in a different way. Maybe they give it back to the states. You just don't know what's going to happen.


CHURCH: Nancy Northup is the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights and she joins me now from New York. Thank you for being with us.



CHURCH: I wanted to start by getting your reaction to this very rushed nomination and inevitable confirmation vote of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

NORTHUP: Well, the Center for Reproductive Rights is quite alarmed both by the nomination of Judge Barrett and by this steamroll process of trying to get a vote through in the next five weeks. It's not enough time and it's not enough time or considering a lifetime appointment.

In the concerns about Judge Barrett are that she is quite conservative in her views. She's been very clear about her conservative judicial philosophy and in the two cases on abortion rights that she has already reviewed as a judge on the appellate court of appeals where she's been for three years, in both of those cases she was part of opinions against the abortion rights position.

So we have her nominated by President Trump who said he wants to put someone on the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe versus Wade. He has put two justices on who have voted against abortion rights are ready. So the concern about Judge Barrett is very, very high.

CHURCH: Right, so as you say, President Trump has made it clear that his motivation for nominating Amy Coney Barrett is to overturn Roe versus Wade automatically. To take away a woman's right to choose when it comes to her own fertility. When you look at Barrett's decisions to date, as you point, out on the issue of abortion, and some of her statements suggesting she would not allow her own religious views to influence her decisions, how likely is it that she and other conservative justices would actually move to overturn Roe versus Wade?

NORTHUP: Well right now, the Center for Reproductive Rights and other organizations have dozens of cases on abortion rights that are moving through the federal courts right now. And so, there are already over a dozen cases sitting at the court of appeals. So just one step away from the Supreme Court. And many of those cases are challenging Roe. There are bans as early as six weeks before a woman even knows she's pregnant. There are bans on the reason a woman would have an abortion and that's not something that the government can dictate or interrogate.

And that is what is concerning about Judge Barrett is she has suggested in an opinion she signed onto in the appellate court that she does think it's all right for the government to interrogate a woman's reason why she chooses to have an abortion before fetal viability. Which the Supreme Court has been really clear for almost 5 decades, that decision is for the woman. In fact, 1 in 4 woman in the United States does decide to end a pregnancy. And so, this is an issue of great concern and great impact for a lot of women in the U.S.

CHURCH: All right, Nancy Northup, thank you so much for talking with us, appreciate it.

NORTHUP: Thank you.

CHURCH: Hot, dry conditions are fueling new fires in California. The Zogg fire just began on Sunday afternoon but it's already charred at least 7,000 acres. CAL FIRE has issued multiple evacuation orders in northern California. Much of the state is under a red flag warning meaning high winds and parched ground can easily help fires spread. CAL FIRE says its crews continue to fight 25 major wildfires across the state. And CNN's Paul Vercammen has the latest.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another fire outbreak in Napa County. This one forcing thousands of evacuations from homes as well as the St. Helena Hospital. The grass fire roaring through some rugged terrain there. They had to go through neighborhoods and issue what they call the high low siren alert. Sheriff's deputy saying you hear that siren it is time to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Warning, fire evacuation in progress. Warning, fire evacuation in progress.

VERCAMMEN: And some tough news in Southern California. Since Thursday they've been searching for this firefighter, 35-year-old Carlos Alexander Baltazar. He's with the Big Bear Hotshots. His vehicle was discovered in the Big Bear area. It had been in collision with a guardrail. Baltazar's backpack was found nearby. Blood hounds are looking for him, the helicopter is searching. He's with the Big Bear Hotshots, as we said, the same unit that lost its supervisor in fire earlier this month.

And how about just one little glimmer of something positive. Firefighters rescued baby Yoda. They nicknamed this cat. She got a bath. She was cleaned up after she was in the road covered in ash and smelled like smoke. So Baby Yoda, reportedly doing fine. Many animals just flushed out by wildfire the season. Back to you now.


CHURCH: Thanks for that. Baby Yoda, well named there.

And just ahead, how a secret presidential inauguration sent tens of thousands of people into the streets in Belarus. We will have a live report next.



CHURCH: Long simmering tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to have flared up again. Both sides blamed the other for new fighting. They also accuse each other of attacking civilians. These images come from the Twitter account of an Azerbaijani official. They appear to show damage to a building and someone wounded. And this is from the Armenian Defense Ministry. It shows what are said to be destroyed tanks from Azerbaijan. The latest clashes center around the region seeing in green here. It's internationally recognized as being part of Azerbaijan but it's governed by a majority group of ethnic Armenians. So let's go now to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He joins us live from London. Good to see you, Nick. So what's the latest you have on this?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the casualty numbers are I have to say now for about 24-, 48-hours' worth of clashes rising. Armenia saying over 33 dead soldiers it appears Nagorno-Karabakh side. That's the name of the ethnic Armenian populated area. It is under international recognition part of Azerbaijan but has extremely strong links and support from Armenia.

Now Azerbaijanis haven't given a number for their military casualties but except they have lost some and there appeared to be over 20 Azerbaijani civilians caught in the fighting.

Who started? It really is at this point unclear. Both sides are claiming substantial losses inflicted on the other. Azerbaijan appears to have perhaps taken some territory back from Armenia although Armenia controlled areas -- although, I mean he disputes that to some degree.

The question is really how does this begin to calm down? And it appears to be going in the opposite direction. President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, calling out for partial mobilization.


That's essentially bringing reserves towards the front lines and Armenia calling for a broad mobilization of its forces in the Nagorno- Karabakh as well.

So a lot of escalating rhetoric here and frankly, the international diplomacy that would normally in the past flareups of this conflict, come into calm things down. And we saw wanted 2016 as well. Not quite as significant as this at this point. That international diplomacy is somewhat lacking or pushing in the opposite direction.

The United States has called for a lessening in hostilities but isn't quite forcibly interjecting itself in the situation at this point. Frankly distracted I'm sure by domestic politics. Russia playing a diplomatic role here in the phones who perhaps try and calm matters but firmly most observers think in Armenia's court here.

And then on Azerbaijan's side, the presence of Turkey, who through President Erdogan have very clearly offered on all fronts to be assisting the Azerbaijanis here. And Azerbaijan has for quite some time said that it wishes to retake Nagorno-Karabakh back. This is a very volatile conflict, one that is continually flared, one that is continuing to escalate despite hopes always internationally, that it will suddenly peter out and come down again.

Yet again it is Turkey and Russia often through proxies on other sides of the front line here, as they are in Libya and Syria as well. A deeply troubling situation to which frankly, much of the world is paying little attention.

CHURCH: All right, Nick Paton Walsh joining us live from London. Many thanks.

Well, it was the first weekend since the secret inauguration of embattled Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and it wasn't a quiet one. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the capitol Minsk and police detained dozens of people.

Tear gas was used in at least one city to clear the streets. Protesters have been turning out by the thousands to support an opposition candidate now living in exile and demanding an end to Lukashenko's regime.

So let's bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He joins us now live from Berlin in Germany. Good to see you, Fred. So what more are you learning about this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Rosemary. Well it certainly shows that the opposition still is very much capable of mustering very large crowds on these Sunday marches, these Sunday protests that of course, have been going on for seven Sundays in a row now there in Minsk and also in other cities in Belarus as well.

In fact, the opposition is saying that it's now 50 days in a row that there have been protests against Alexander Lukashenko since that election on August 8. And of course, if you will, the theme of the big protest that took place in Minsk over the weekend, and especially there yesterday on Sunday, was that inauguration, that secret inauguration by Alexander Lukashenko.

The crowds as they have been saying that Alexander Lukashenko is not their president. They're calling on him to step down. And you were talking about that mean opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. They were essentially saying that this should be her inauguration to become president. At some of the chants that you are seeing there from the crowds that were going through Minsk there on Sunday. Saying she was going to be their president. Of course, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya saying exactly the same thing as well.

If you look at some of the public messaging coming from the opposition, they are more and more picking up the position that, yes, they are now the legitimate government of Belarus. Of course, not operating, most of them at least, inside the country. But they are continuing to say that Alexander Lukashenko not the legitimate ruler of Belarus anymore. Despite the fact that obviously, he is still very much in power. And of course, being supported by the Russians as well.

Internationally this is something that continues to really be a big topic on the international stage. French President Emmanuel Macron saying he believes at Lukashenko should go. Lukashenko firing back at him. So certainly, the opposition still very much capable of mustering very, very large crowds that shows no signs of really slowing down -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, CNN's Fred Pleitgen, many thanks. Joining us live from Berlin. Well, hours before being banned from U.S. app stores, TikTok gets a green light to stick around, at least for now. We'll take a look at that.



CHURCH: A federal judge says TikTok will still be available in U.S. app stores for now at least. It is a temporary win for the social media giant which was set to be banned from the U.S. just hours before the ruling. TikTok's Chinese parent company is working to sell part of its U.S. operation to American companies in order to appease the Trump administration. So let's get more on this with Selina Wang. She joins us live from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Selina. So, TikTok safe for now in the U.S. but where's this all going?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary. That's right. This is just a short term win for TikTok. This really doesn't stop or halt's impending November 12th restriction set for TikTok. But what this does do is provide a little bit more time for TikTok to reach this potential deal with Oracle and Walmart and get approval from both U.S. and Chinese authorities.

If successful, this entire ban can be avoided altogether. But sticking points still remain around this deal especially when it comes to the question of ownership. Trump has said that he's not going to approve a deal unless Americans keep control of this company. But there's disagreement even from their own companies about what that's going to look like. Oracle says ByteDance will not have any stake in this new entity. ByteDance says it's going to have an 80 percent stake.

But Rosemary, all of this back and forth and drama around this deal really gets away from the underlying concern that started this whole mess in the first place. Which was Trump's worries about the national security risk that TikTok poses. And the experts I speak to say that this isn't the right approach to solving that problem. Instead, Trump should be more focused on creating standards and legislation that govern app collection, data collection from companies around the country, around the world including from the United States.


And even other large tech companies are criticizing the Trump administration's approach. NetChoice, which is a trade group that represents big tech companies like Facebook and Google said that quote, there is no previous example in U.S. history of a complete ban on a media platform that deprives 1/4 of the U.S. population access to information on that platform.

This group also warned that this ban could give foreign governments a reason to prevent American companies from accessing their markets basically providing a blueprint for how to make life difficult for American companies abroad. So the stakes here, Rosemary, are incredibly high. The outcome of this deal is going to shape U.S./China tensions moving forward, as well as potentially altering the course of the global internet landscape.

CHURCH: Yes, a lot of young people watching this very closely. Selina Wang, joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

Well, some NFL history was made Sunday when not one, not two, but three women worked in various sideline roles. The Cleveland Browns taking on the Washington football team with female coaches on both sidelines and a female official on the field. It was a first for a regular season game but for these women being first is not new.

Back in February Washington hired Jennifer King as a coaching intern making her the first black woman to coach in the NFL. In 2015 Sarah Thomas became the first full-time female NFL official and three years later Callie Brownson was hired by the Cleveland Browns as their chief of staff.

And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.