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CNN This Morning

Soon, Supreme Court Hears Trump Ballot Eligibility Case; Senate GOP Blocks Border Security, Foreign Aid Package; Biden Says Border Bill Collapse Illustrates GOP's Downfall. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 08, 2024 - 07:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Andy Scholes, I appreciate it, buddy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: CNN This Morning continues now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Supreme Court (INAUDIBLE) the question of keeping the former president off the ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of arguments at play. Everything is on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is one of the few self-defense mechanisms that the Constitution has to ensure that our democracy remains viable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican Party and in fighting after back to back humiliating defeats on Capitol Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill that's been put together has been a bipartisan effort. Welcome to the United States Senate. That's what we have to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democracy is messy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It turns out border security is not actually a risk. It's just a talking point for the election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. strike on the streets of Baghdad killing a militant commander who was blamed for the attacks on American forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see how precise and accurate this was. And the U.S. may go after other leaders of militant groups.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Major question whether these U.S. strikes will deter attacks by these militant groups.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The administration is making clear that what we saw is not the end.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY: Good morning, everyone, it's top of the hour. I'm Phil Mattingly with Poppy Harlow in New York.

We are just three hours away from the Supreme Court hearing arguments in one of the most consequential cases of our lifetimes, one that has huge implications for the presidential election. Can Donald Trump be thrown off the ballot for his role in the deadly January 6th attack on the Capitol?

Now, Trump, his legal team urging the highest court in the land to overturn a ruling in Colorado that he engaged in an insurrection that he's ineligible to run for president under the 14th Amendment that bans insurrectionists from office.

HARLOW: So, here are some of the key questions the Supreme Court is facing this morning. Does the 14th Amendment apply to Trump and the presidency? Another really big question is, because this was designed after the Civil War to block traitors, traitorous Confederates from being elected to office, another big question, did Trump in fact engage in an insurrection?

We all saw the bloody assault on the Capitol as Trump supporters attacked police officers and stormed the building while Congress was certifying Joe Biden's victory. In its ruling the Colorado Supreme Court pointed directly at what Trump said before the rally.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're going to walk down to the Capitol. You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.

We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.


MATTINGLY: Another critical question, should it be up to Congress to decide if somebody is ineligible to be president?

Let's bring in CNN Senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic, run point for us today on this massive story.

Joan, you have spent so much time looking into what could happen, what might happen, who's involved, what they're going to say, what they're going to do. What's going to happen today now that it's actually happening?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: I know, and as you said, in just three hours. Okay, so I put things in like two buckets, first, the issues. And you all laid them out really nicely.

Often when we have a case, the justices tell you what particular question they want to take on. They didn't at this point. They just said they want to take on the entire question of whether the Colorado Supreme Court aired in some way. So, it could -- we'll have to listen for, what do they focus on? What history and text do they focus on? Do they focus on just a particular word, for example? Is the president an officer of the United States who would be covered by this, or maybe he wouldn't be covered by this? Does Congress need to pass some legislation to allow section three of the 14th Amendment even to be invoked and enforced in this situation? So we'll have to hear what they focus on. And it could be a couple of different issues.

And the main thing in that whole bucket of possible issues is how much do they even talk about insurrection? As you can see there, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment covers someone who is then engaged in an insurrection or rebellion.

Lower courts in Colorado took that on. But would this Supreme Court actually get to whether Donald Trump engaged in an insurrection instead of just sticking with an off-ramp having to do with the earlier parts of the text and whether Congress or the states have more of a role here?

And then for the justices, that's kind of the second category or bucket that I'm going to need to be focused on. The chief justice sitting in the middle of this elevated mahogany bench is in a position to steer some of the conversation. He's at the strategic center also of the court in addition to being at the center of these nine seats.

And I'm going to be listening carefully for whether he has some option, some way to do something that could draw practically unanimity among these nine justices or at least a safer majority than the usual 6-3 split we usually see on this partisan divided court.

So, we'll listen to what he offers because, Phil and Poppy, a lot of people don't realize that the justices actually have not yet discussed this case.


So, this is, in effect, their first discussion of it too. So, what will he focus on? Will there be any takers for it?

And then finally, as soon as I cross the threshold of this great red velvet and white marble setting, I'll be looking for who's in the justices special guest seats. Often the chief's wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, comes. Often Ginny Thomas comes to arguments also. Will she be there? Who will be in those special seats?

And there's going to be just a lot of anticipation in the room as the teams of lawyers sit at tables before this elevated bench, and the chief then will call the first lawyer up, Jonathan Mitchell, who will try to make the case for Donald Trump and will try to steer the justices far away from the facts of January 6th.

When Jason Murray steps up to the lectern representing the Colorado voters, he is going to pound and pound and pound on the events of January 6th and Donald Trump's role in what happened that day and the fact that lower courts have said that he did indeed engage in an insurrection.

HARLOW: Pretty good time for people to read your book, The Chief, Joan, I think, because all eyes are going to be on Roberts. We'll get back to you soon. And, of course, you're a key part of our special coverage coming up at 9:00 A.M. Thank you very much.

Kristen Holmes outside Mar-a-Lago, where Trump is staying. So many interesting things. Among them, he's not going to go to this court. He went to his other trials recently. He's not going to be there. Talk about the strategy today.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and Phil. Well, yes, the biggest part of the strategy is, as you said, that he's not going. He has really used these various cases as campaign stops, opportunities for him to cry out election interference or political persecution, even if his legal issues had nothing to do with politics. But in this case, he's not going.

And, actually, he was going back and forth about whether or not he wanted to attend. Up until yesterday, when I was frantically texting them, asking, should I be getting on this plane, or is he not going to be in Palm Beach when I get here today?

But, ultimately, they did decide he's going to stay in Palm Beach, stay away from the Supreme Court. Instead, he spent the week talking to his lawyers as they were preparing for this. And it really shows, gives an indication of how much more seriously and how carefully he and his team are handling this.

Now, I am told that at Mar-a-Lago, he is expected to do something, unclear what exactly that would be. However, after that, he is going to Nevada, where he is going to the caucuses. He is expected to win there. They are trying to focus on the political.

Now, sources tell me that Trump privately has been talking about how he feels confident about this case in the Supreme Court, something we've also heard from his advisers, as well as his legal team. They believe they have a solid legal argument here. And they are trying, at least for Donald Trump, to just focus on his politics now, bringing home the nomination.

MATTINGLY: Politics and legal often converging, trying to separate them for today for the moment. Kristen Holmes, we're glad you got on the right plane. Thank you.

And as Poppy mentioned earlier, you're going to be able to listen live as attorneys argue before the nation's highest court. Join Jake Tapper and Kaitlan Caitlin Collins for special live cover starting today at 9:00 A.M.

Well, the Justice Department has notified Congress that Special Counsel Robert Hur has wrapped up his investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents by President Biden. The attorney general since the White House Counsel's office is reviewing the final report for executive privilege issues now. HARLOW: Arlette Saenz joins us from the White House with more. My understanding is that there's not concerns here about criminal charges, but major concerns in the Biden administration about optics. What does this look like? There might be photos of the documents where they were stored in this report. What are you hearing?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, White House aides have been preparing for the release of this report for quite some time. And Biden allies fully anticipate that Republicans will try to use this report, this review as political fodder against the president in the middle of a campaign election year.

Now, the existence of these classified documents from Biden's time as vice president first came to light a little over a year ago. That is when Special Counsel Robert Hur was appointed to look into the possible mishandling of classified documents that were found at a private office here in Washington, D.C., and at Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware. That review has now concluded.

Attorney General Merrick Garland notified lawmakers of that in a letter last night, writing quote, as I have made clear regarding each special counsel who has served since I have taken office, I am committed to making as much of the special counsel's 'report public as possible.

The report is currently in the hands of the White House Counsel's Office, which is reviewing whether there are any executive privileged concerns that they can cite in this matter. President Biden himself sat down for two days of interviews for this investigation four months ago today.

And it all comes as our reporting has indicated that we do not expect special counsel Robert Hur's team to include any criminal charges, but the report is expected to really provide a very detailed and a critical look at how Biden's team handled these secret government documents.


And Biden allies are fully prepared for Republicans to try to use this as an issue in the 2024 presidential campaign and also to try to conflate this with the way -- the questions about former President Donald Trump's handling of classified documents.

But one thing that throughout this process that Biden's advisers have tried to stress is the differences in these two cases. They note that they cooperated as soon as they discovered these classified documents, notifying the National Archives right away. That is something President Biden likely would try to stress once this report is out. But there are big questions about how this will play in the 2024 campaign, as we have seen Republicans quite eager to try to use these types of issues against President Biden.

MATTINGLY: and we await the release. Arlette Saenz live from the North Lawn, thank you. Also this morning in that building behind Arlette, President Biden trying to shift to offense after Republicans tanked a bipartisan border deal.

HARLOW: And with that deal failing, major cities across the country are still dealing with a huge influx of migrants. It has stretched or depleted their resources. New York's Governor Kathy Hochul joins us live on that and a lot more.



HARLOW: Welcome back. Lawmakers struggling to find a path forward this morning after Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping bipartisan border deal and foreign aid package after months of negotiations. This bill contained strict border security remedies that Republicans had originally demanded, but have now rejected under heavy pressure from Donald Trump.

It also includes more than $60 billion for Ukraine, 14 billion for Israel. Now, that critical aid is in jeopardy as lawmakers debate a slimmed down foreign aid package with the border portion totally out. It is unclear if even that is going to get the 60 votes needed to advance.

Lauren Fox is joining us on Capitol Hill this morning. Where does this go?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the conversations continue, and they're going to start back up this morning among Republican members who are holding a special conference meeting at 9.30 a.m. just off the Senate floor, as the party really tries to find a path forward and some consensus among its members.

I think right now what they're grappling with is the fact that some members still want to see border security as part of this process. The problem is they had a border security proposal, they didn't like it, they rejected it yesterday, and now there's sort of this question of what exactly are they going to be okay with.

And one of the things that can happen in these Senate talks is that members can get amendment votes and that that can really help to unlock any stagnant negotiations over these kinds of things. But one thing that you're starting to see is some members are just so frustrated with McConnell's leadership, people who have been long-time critics of him, people like Josh Hawley and Rick Scott, that it's really unclear right now what is going to unlock the 60 votes necessary.

Again, Republicans are going to huddle this morning behind closed doors. That's going to be a really crucial meeting to understanding whether or not they're ever going to be able to get to 60. This has been a longtime priority of minority leader Mitch McConnell to ensure that that $60 billion goes to Ukraine. But just taking a step back, it's important to note that even if this gets out of the Senate, it's so unclear what the path right now is in the House of Representatives. I was talking to a number of moderate Republicans yesterday in the House who said that they are really fed up with the fact that Ukraine funding has not been delivered yet, but they're not sure if Mike Johnson is going to put it on the floor. Poppy?

HARLOW: I also wonder, Lauren, what your reporting is on, are there fears among some Republicans that all this dysfunction, like three failures in a row for Mike Johnson and Republicans, could mean trouble for them in November.

FOX: Yes. I mean, I think that it's important to note that obviously the House and the Senate are separate chambers, but for American voters who are going to the polls in November, they might look at Republicans and overall make a judgment of whether or not they can leave.

You know, Markwayne Mullin yesterday told me he's not worried about the Senate Republicans being able to take back that chamber but he said the House does need to get its act together soon if they want to hold their own majority.

You also have people like Josh Hawley, again, a longtime critic of Mitch McConnell, saying he's worried that McConnell's leadership is landing them in a bad place to actually take back the Senate in November. Poppy?

HARLOW: Lauren, thank you for that reporting. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Well, Republican Senator James Lankford on the Senate floor yesterday with a powerful speech that didn't move the needle. What he was saying about what was happening as he served as the top negotiator for that border deal that has failed, it's important to listen to.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): I had a popular commentator four weeks ago that I talked to you that told me flat out before they knew any of the contents of the bill, any of the content -- nothing was out at that point -- that told me flat out, if you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election.


MATTINGLY: That has clearly been one of the Republicans' positions. President Biden now slamming those Republicans for blocking progress.

Now, Counter-Politics telling donors in New York City, the Republicans threw Lankford overboard. The president turning up the heat on Donald Trump behind closed doors. He told donors how he will use this tank deal in his re-election campaign. New York Governor Kathy Hochul joins us now live on set. You were with the president yesterday. You've heard some of those remarks. The idea that he can flip an issue that has been problematic, at least politically, and certainly from a policy perspective on the border, do you think it's possible?

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): Oh, absolutely.


HOCHUL: President Biden worked so hard to negotiate a deal for the American people that solved so many problems, stop the flow of fentanyl from coming into our streets and killing our kids, to stop the flow of illegal migration, and to help our cities, like New York City, which has 172,000 people.


It's a humanitarian crisis. He's trying to solve it.

But also, how do you turn your back on Ukraine? If Ukraine falls, that squarely on the backs of the Republicans refused to give a helping hand to our friends and our allies. They'd rather stand with Putin.

And how do we allow for the continuation of the existence of Hamas by not giving assistance to wipe out an enemy, not just of Israel, but to all of us?

So, Joe Biden is a national security president. No one has had more experience than him. He knows this border deal was critically important. He fought for it. Senator Schumer did everything he could. And, actually, a few profiles in courage from the Republican side of the aisle, which was actually refreshing to see. And they caved like a bunch of lemmings jumping off a cliff behind the chief lemming of all, Donald Trump.

MATTINGLY: And you don't think it three-plus years into his term, Biden securing this deal now, as there's been a crisis for a large bulk of that, it's not too late?

HOCHUL: There's nine months between now and the election. The Republicans are going to wear this, and it starts on Tuesday right here in the state of New York with a special election. And all you have to do is realize that Tom Suozzi's opponent, the Republican opponent, said that she would not have supported the Senate deal. That's all you need to hear. She would not have supported a solution to a problem that's hurting this very state.

MATTINGLY: I'm glad you bring that up. This is a -- every election feels nationalized at this point, a special election especially in a presidential year Everyone is watching it and I've watched the ads. I see the ads at home. It is about immigration. Suozzi is getting attacked on immigration. He made clear that the deal and its blockage should help him but he acknowledged that this is problematic for him. Why do you think he can overcome it?

HOCHUL: Because of this week.

MATTINGLY: That's enough?

HOCHUL: That's enough. That's enough. And I said before, you break it, you own it. They broke this deal. Now they own the consequences. So, they can no longer stand back and say it's the Democrats' fault, oh, those Democrats. Take down those ads because they're not telling any kind of truth at all. The ads should say, Republicans and including ten from the state of New York, if those ten Republicans, Congressmen from the state of New York stood up to their speaker and said, we have to look out for the New Yorkers, our state is being hit hard with this, other states are as well, if they banded together, they would have the political clout necessary to deliver for our state. We need resources. We need help. And they said no. They turned their own backs on the state, the people that sent them to office. And they are going to wear that.

MATTINGLY: The president's arrival in New York yesterday was a convergence of two things. New Yorkers love traffic and protests. And as I saw some of the protests, the video of the protest, it's a reminder that for the president and given his staunch and steadfast support for America's Middle Eastern ally and Israel, it's problematic given the scale of the conflict that's been ongoing. Are you concerned that that could hurt in November politically?

HOCHUL: President Biden does not look at this through a political lens. He's looking at the national security of our nation and our allies. So, I'm not questioning that at all.

I went to Israel days after the horrific attack. I went down to the kibbutz. I was one of the first citizens to go and see the slaughter of innocents. And I want to know why. We still don't have our hostages back, American hostage, Long Island hostage.

So, the president is doing what he has to do. I want people to understand. We stand with all people. We want no innocent loss of life. But we cannot aid and abet terrorists any longer, and Hamas has to go.

MATTINGLY: And you're not concerned about kind of your coalition, the Democratic coalition, which has pretty split views on this staying home in November because of this?

HOCHUL: I don't believe they're going to want Donald Trump as their president. He is hostile to all interests, including women's interests, the right to have an abortion. We have a Supreme Court that was handpicked by Donald Trump that has stripped away the rights of women, like my daughter and my granddaughter growing up in a country that doesn't allow her to have the same rights her grandmother had. Where are we going with this?

So, there's plenty to use against Republicans. I think the coalition will come back together. I understand the voices. There's a lot of passion. And I respect that. But this is the president who's looking out just as my number one priority as governor is the safety of New Yorkers. His is the safety of our nation. And that's what his focus is.

MATTINGLY: Speaking of that, there was this -- it was a moment that went viral and I think a lot of people, it was a combination of like stunning and also kind of funny in its absurdity, but it was when Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, a former mayoral candidate, was doing an interview with Fox News, and this happened.


CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: Well, he had been shoplifting first. The Guardian Angel spotted them, stopped them. He resisted. And let's just say we gave him a little pain compliance. He's sucking concrete.


MATTINGLY: The reason why I'm asking about this is the man was a Bronx native. So, we said he believed he was a migrant because he was speaking Spanish.


None of what they thought was that he hadn't been accused of shoplifting. There's been no evidence that he was. One, what do you think of that? And, two, what's that dynamic like right now in terms of this city, the state crime in general and how people are reacting to it?

HOCHUL: Right, right. You cannot take the law into your own hands. You know, NYPD, among the finest on this planet, they work hard every single day and we support them. It is their responsibility to take care of this, not individuals.

And so I reject the premise that anyone can take the law into their own hands. Then we have chaos. This is not the Wild West. This is New York State. But, yes, there has been a spike in crimes, petty crimes.

Now, I'm really proud that homicides, shootings, and murders are way down, down 28 to 30 percent, even in here in New York City, to pre- pandemic numbers. That took a lot of effort. But now we have more property crimes. People are going into stores and sweeping the shelves.

That's why my budget has over $700 million to fight crime in the state of New York, and we have $40 million being addressed to help our district attorneys and local law enforcement and help have security cameras, you know, tax break for businesses to protect themselves.

So, I'm not satisfied with where we are right now but we're taking this on. And we're going to make sure that we return our streets to New Yorkers and not to the criminals.

MATTINGLY: New York Governor Kathy Hochul, thank you so much for your time this morning.

HOCHUL: Thank you. HARLOW: A U.S. drone strike in Iraq takes out a Hezbollah leader believed to be responsible for the attacks on American forces.

MATTINGLY: And Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaving Tel Aviv after meeting with Israeli leaders. Did he make any progress for a hostage deal? We'll tell you more, next.