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Texas Immigration Law Blocked After SCOTUS Approves It; Melania Trump Teases Return To Campaign Trail; Wagner Begins March Madness With Win Over Howard. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a live look at the U.S. Supreme Court this morning. They are right in the middle of all of our political debates this election year.

Good morning. Thanks for being up with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

A controversial new immigration law in Texas is on hold again. An appeals court blocking what's known as SB4 late last night just hours after the Supreme Court voted to allow it to stay in effect. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear new arguments later on this morning.

The Biden administration has been making the case that the measure is unconstitutional and that it will invite racial profiling.

The law gives local and state law enforcement the power to arrest and detain anyone suspected of entering the country illegally.

Let's talk about it with Mychael Schnell. She's congressional reporter for The Hill. And Tyler Pager, White House reporter for The Washington Post. Good morning to both of you. Thank you for being here.

Tyler, you cover the White House. Let me start with you in terms of what the Biden administration is doing here. This -- it's a little bit confusing. The Supreme Court decides one thing and now it goes back to the appeals court. The appeals courts decide another thing. The bottom line is that it is back and forth over whether this law can remain in effect while the legal challenges play out.

This, again, allows police officers to essentially assess -- normally, they could arrest someone for another crime and then consider their document -- their documentation status. This allows them to simply detain people on suspicion of this. The Biden administration has been pushing back against this.

How do the politics of this cut for them, and what is the decision- making behind the scenes?

TYLER PAGER. WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. I think the politics of the situation are a) incredibly complicated because this entire issue is incredibly complicated for the Democratic Party.

And we've seen the president become much tougher on the border in recent months. Obviously, he was very supportive of the bipartisan effort to try to pass tougher restrictions on immigration. That failed in Congress after former President Donald Trump made clear that he did not want his party supporting it.

And so, as you look at the positionality of the White House on this issue, they are trying to be clear that they are not supportive of this sort of legislation that is much tougher and they argue would contribute to racial profiling and undue harm to citizens and non- citizens alike. And so, we've seen the White House push very hard against this.

But as you're right, it's quite complicated for the general public to watch because every few hours we're seeing different rulings have different effects on whether or not this law can go into effect. And I think that's part of the chaos that Americans are seeing when it comes to this issue because there's so much moving at the same time and it's hard to sort of keep all those things straight.

HUNT: Yeah.

I mean, the reality, Mychael, is that you've seen -- I mean, Gov. Greg Abbott, of Texas, has done a lot on this in terms of the program to bus migrants to blue cities and states has put pressure on President Biden. This is another instance where even if the Biden administration --

And a big part of the argument is this isn't up to the states, right? This is why the federal government should be involved. Like, our borders are a national issue. It needs to be something that's a national policy. There's some clarity there, at least from a legal perspective, but not from a political perspective.


In many ways, this really does create another set of problems for the Biden administration.

How does it play on Capitol Hill, especially considering what Tyler was talking about with the border bill agreement that they did have --


HUNT: -- that fell apart?

SCHNELL: I think at the end of the day, one of the takeaways you can get from this legal entanglement is that immigration and the border is going to remain in the headlines and remain in the news as a dominating story in the lead-up to the presidential election. Obviously, poll after poll -- we've seen that show -- them show that immigration and the border is the salient issue among voters.

It's going to be the issue this election cycle and give lawmakers up on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans, an ability to (audio gap) because if voters care about it they're going to have to make inroads on it to try to get their voters to agree.

Obviously, there was that bipartisan border deal that came previously that Republicans then pushed away because former President Trump said he wasn't supportive of that.

We're now likely, in the coming weeks, going to see some conversation about Ukraine aid. And obviously, Republicans have consistently said if we pass aid for Ukraine we need to address the situation at the southern border.

So at the end of the day, having this news story in the headlines and other immigration and border security beats give lawmakers an ability to try to figure out how to message on this issue, particularly Democrats because it's been a weak spot for the president. Of course, it's salient in the polls. So if Democrats want to have strong outcomes come November, they're going to have to figure out how to message on it. Keeping this in the news gives them an ability to do so.

HUNT: Yeah. I think there's definitely a perception that every day that the discussion -- the national conversation is about immigration is probably not the best day for Democrats.

I want to ask you about a moment that played out on Capitol Hill yesterday between Congressman McCaul and Darrell Issa. I'll just play it and then --


HUNT: -- hopefully, you can explain to us what was going on here -- listen.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): Do the Marines concur with the Army in this case?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): The gentleman's time has expired. Ms. Miller-Meeks is recognized.

ISSA: Oh, I didn't realize. Thank you.

MCCAUL: You've been keeping a five-minute --

ISSA: I thought I was done. I thought it was --


ISSA: I thought it was the closing act, Chairman.

MCCAUL: (Hushed tone) Eh, go (bleep) yourself.


HUNT: OK. First of all, not very many people in that hearing room, but what was that about? SCHNELL: Yeah. You've got to hear -- we listened a couple of times to

make sure that's actually what he said.

Essentially, what this was -- this was a hearing with the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the 2021 messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, something that Chairman McCaul, of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has been the leader on in that probe.

And this was towards the end of the hearing. It was a very long hearing at the beginning of what's going to be a very long week as we're at the beginning of another shutdown showdown. And essentially, McCaul had wanted to keep lawmakers to their allotted five minutes throughout the hearing.

You saw Congressman Issa there being a little chatty and trying to be a little facetious at the end of his time. Sources said that McCaul was just tired at the end of the day and he had that moment of candor -- essentially, telling Issa to shut up, let's move on and get on with our day. Issa sort of taking it in a -- in a laughing way, saying hey, McCaul, I've been called worse by people who I don't like.

So a moment of candor on Capitol Hill and no real fight there.

HUNT: A little window into how --

SCHNELL: A little window into how --

HUNT: -- people actually talk --

SCHNELL: Exactly.

HUNT: -- in Capitol Hill. Yeah, let's just be real about that.

Tyler, let's talk a little bit about the looming potential partial government shutdown at the end of the week and, kind of, the pressures going on in -- with Republicans.

Let's watch my colleague Manu Raju. He caught up with Congressman Chip Roy yesterday who told him this.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): I'm just disappointed about the spending deal. You know, not focusing on the speaker, per se. It's just not where the American people want us to be and it's certainly not where my constituents want us to be. And we'll see what happens over the next couple of days but I suspect it's going to be another one of those bills that has almost unanimous Democrat support and kind of half-half in the Republican conference.


HUNT: So another example of how the House Speaker Mike Johnson is having trouble with his right flank.

What is -- what is the White House thinking in terms of their expectations? I mean, do they think there is going to be a shutdown or are they confident that this is going to go through?

PAGER: I mean, they're confident that this will ultimately go through. The president put out a very terse statement saying there's an agreement. Let's get the bill done. Let's get it to my desk. There wasn't a lot of celebratory nature in that statement. It was like three lines, which is unusual. I think usually when we see this there is some relief and some celebration.

We have seen this play out many times over the last year.

HUNT: I know. PAGER: You would know much better --

SCHNELL: Several times.

PAGER: -- then I would up on the Hill. But I think in the White House, they just want to see this bill get done.

I was speaking with some White House officials over the weekend and they were expressing some frustration and some anxiety about let's just get this over with.

HUNT: Right.

PAGER: We have dealt with this far too many times.


But I think we're seeing exactly why, right? The Republicans that control the House are unable to get their party in line. So the Republican speaker, who is more associated with the right flank than many others, having to use Democrats to get the business of the House done.

HUNT: Yeah.

PAGER: Obviously, the --

HUNT: Do that thing that McCarthy got thrown out for --

PAGER: Exactly. So --

HUNT: -- for doing.

PAGER: And so, the White House is obviously pleased that they are using Democratic votes to get this over the line because they're going to get a little bit more of what they want than if it was just Republican-passed.

But I think it just shows the reflection of where the Republican Party is at this point, unable to do a lot of the job of governing because of divisions within their own party.

HUNT: Yeah. It's a -- it's becoming the tale as old as time here in Washington, or at least recent time.

Mychael Schnell, Tyler Pager, thank you guys both very much for being here.

All right. Coming up next, Melania Trump says stay tuned. What's she teasing?

Plus, Wagner College kicking off March Madness with a thriller. The Bleacher Report -- that's ahead.




JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": And Kate has not been seen in public since she had surgery back in January -- which, of course, led to all sorts of rumors about her whereabouts and well-being. Everyone's putting together clues to find the princess. It's like an international game of Zelda is happening right now.

I bet there's a -- I bet -- maybe she got a bad perm and is waiting for her hair to grow out, you know?

But this shows you how different it is in the U.K. Kate goes missing for a few weeks and the whole country goes berserk. Meanwhile, we haven't seen Melania since 2021.


HUNT: Former first lady Melania Trump did make a rare, as Kimmel points out, public appearance yesterday. She voted with her husband in Florida's presidential primary. She has not been in the political sphere since Trump's campaign launch event back in the fall of 2022. Might we be seeing more of her?


REPORTER: Mrs. Trump, are you going to return to the campaign trail with your husband?



HUNT: Stay tuned.

Tara Palmeri is here to help us stay tuned.


HUNT: She's senior political correspondent for Puck news. What's going on there? You've been reporting on, like --


HUNT: -- what Melania wants to do and doesn't want to do. What do you see there?

PALMERI: Well, Melania is obviously -- she doesn't love to campaign. We know that for sure. She likes the role of the first lady or at least the title, but she doesn't really like the duties that come along with it. You've heard some of the --

HUNT: Yes.

PALMERI: -- private tapes about how she doesn't really care about the pageantry and that part of it.

But she also is feeling very isolated within the campaign. It's obvious that they are charging forward, trying to get to the White House.

And she doesn't have any loyalists around her. Her former comms director Stephanie Grisham wrote a tell-all book about her. Her close friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who came to the White House with her, also has been writing against her. She doesn't have, like, anyone to protect her.

And so she's really been pushing to bring back Kellyanne Conway into the fold because Kellyanne has always been a very fierce defender of her and helped her try to turn her Be Best program into policy.

And also, there's the added benefit that Kellyanne and Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Donald Trump -- they don't really get along so well, and Melania has very little love for Jared and Ivanka. In fact, Katie Rogers, who just wrote a book about the first ladies -- from The New York Times -- she -- in her book, she says that Melania called Ivanka the princess and that's how she was referred to in the East Wing.

And she just doesn't want them around right now. So if there was ever a way to keep them out of the campaign, as Jared starts texting and offering advice, bring in Kellyanne.

Of course, Kellyanne has her Fox News gig she's pulling. Hard to say if Melania can make this one happen. But I could see her ending up back into the campaign in an official way or at least in the White House as well.

HUNT: So, Melania is going to actively try to keep Ivanka and Jared out of another White House?

PALMERI: Probably, yes.

I mean, there was -- you know, you should read Katie's book. It's really great. I just had her on my podcast and she was saying that there was a threat that Ivanka was sniffing out the East Wing as possible office space when she was living in Manhattan during the first year. And it made Melania really speed up her timetable to get to the White House so she could stake out her space and make sure that the first daughter didn't take over.

There's a little bit of rivalry there. This is the -- you know -- you know, the Trump world. And frankly, this is in all families -- political --

HUNT: Sure.

PALMERI: -- you know, administrations. But always a little bit more juicy.

HUNT: This is a serious -- there's a richness to this that is unique.

PALMERI: Oh, for sure.

HUNT: So, speaking of richness, in more ways than one, Donald Trump is down at Mar-a-Lago. You're talking about, like, Kellyanne potentially coming back into the fold. But there are, it sounds like, based on your reporting, a lot of questions about who is going to come back into Trump's orbit in the event there is another White House and why -- what criteria he may be looking for from those people.

What have you learned?

PALMERI: Well, it's interesting because everyone is like oh, you know, he's going to pick some super MAGA candidate like Marjorie Taylor Greene to be in the cabinet. I spoke to her recently and she said she wanted to be DHS secretary. But it's very unlikely -- or like a Matt Gaetz (audio gap).

But the truth is that right now, for these cabinet positions and for the vice president, Trump is sort of looking at people in ways where he's like what kind of donors can you bring to me because he needs money. He's in a serious cash crunch. He's about $50 million behind the DNC and the Biden campaign, and the Democrats have, like, over a billion dollars in cash commitments from outside groups. Trump is at a huge deficit, so he's looking at these cabinet posts things as sort of ways to, like, kind of trade favors and get promises from donors.


Even the vice presidential picks. Like, for example, Tim Scott has always had the Oracle backer Larry Ellison behind him. He wrote him a huge check -- $30 million for a Senate campaign. And I was told that, like, if Larry Ellison, who has been talking to Trump and has been going down to Mar-a-Lago. They've been flirting a little bit. He's a white-whale kind of donor -- said to Trump if you pick Tim Scott as your vice president, I'll write you a $100 million check. Trump would do it.

Like, Vivek Ramaswamy. I don't know if you saw the latest Bloomberg reporting but he's talking about putting Vivek in DHS. For him, he sees that he's an immigrant or a child of immigrants and he thinks -- and he's not a white person, so that might be a signal when he cracks down with his immigration policy.

But, really, Vivek can also raise money for him. And so, there is -- you know, Vivek comes from the tech world, VC, Wall Street.

So a lot of these positions -- John Paulsen -- he really wants a job. He wants to be the Treasury secretary. He's a hedge fund billionaire. He's throwing a lot of events for Trump in Palm Beach, bringing along his billionaire friends to fundraise.

And all these people -- they've come around and they're sort of kissing the ring. But Trump is looking at them and thinking, like, can you bring in some donors? Can you raise any money? He needs like $100 million right now, he's in such a deficit. And everybody is sort of -- he looks at them with dollar signs, essentially, rather than ideology, policy, even loyalty in some ways.

HUNT: Is it going too far to say that cabinet posts are for sale?

PALMERI: I don't know if -- we know this is politics, right? It works on both sides of the aisle a little bit like this, right? Like, major donors have --

HUNT: It's usually reserved for ambassadorships, but yes.

PALMERI: Technically, yeah, ambassadorships.

HUNT: Typically.

PALMERI: Yeah, exactly -- ambassadorships.

I wouldn't say they're necessarily for sale but you can definitely sweeten your ability. You'll get more calls from Trump. You'll have access to him. But that's why donors do this, right? They want to make sure --

HUNT: Yeah.

PALMERI: -- the door is not closed. It's just the door is, like, literally wide open right now for people to make plays.

HUNT: Is it money for Republicans and for airing ads and getting him elected, or is it money to save his legal hide --

PALMERI: Uh, I think --

HUNT: -- or both?

PALMERI: Both are kind of intertwined. It's not like they can give him money to post a bond on the $500 billion -- $500 million, essentially, that he owes. It's more about paying legal fees. But Trump sees the legal fees and his campaign as intertwined because, like, he thinks that he's being prosecuted because he's running for president and that this is just part of the campaign.

I don't think donors agree with that per se, but some of them --


PALMERI: -- have sort of come around to the idea that, like, this is baked into the Trump presidency is that you are going to have to pay for his legal fees.

HUNT: We are in a brave, new world. OK, Tara is going to stick around. But time now for sports. Then there were 66. March Madness gets underway with the first four and first nailbiter of the NCAA Tournament.

Coy Wire is here with this morning's Bleacher Report. Coy, good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Good morning, Kasie.

It started with 68 teams chasing one dream in one of the greatest sporting events in the world where anything can happen.

Wagner facing Howard. Wagner overcoming all sorts of adversity. They've lost four of their last five games in their conference and now they've found themselves shorthanded. Only seven active players against Howard.

Melvin Council Jr. had 21.

Wager was up 17 at one point, but Howard went on a 14-2 run. And with 10 seconds to go -- all they needed Kasie was a three to tie it -- no good. How about another chance, though? And, no. Well, come on, one more. You can do it. No -- they missed it.

So that's good for Wagner. They hang on for their first NCAA Tournament win in school history, embracing this moment before moving on to face number one North Carolina next.


DONALD COPELAND, HEAD COACH, WAGNER SEAHAWKS: A first win for your careers, man. Like, you know, is that the first NCAA --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first ever, baby.


COPELAND: And let's go give North Carolina everything we can, all right?


WIRE: Colorado State and Coach Niko Medved who said he wanted his team to play like cockroaches not only found a way to survive, they thrived, getting the school's first tourney win in more than a decade after dominating Virginia 67-42. At one point, Virginia went more than 50 minutes or real time without scoring a single point and shooting 0- 19. Colorado State -- they'll face number seven Texas next on Thursday.

Two more games tonight on our sister channel truTV. Grambling State in their first-ever tourney appearance facing Montana State at 6:40 Eastern. Then it's Colorado and Boise State at 9:10.

How would Anthony Edwards follow up the dunk heard around the world? Twenty-four hours after unleashing the thunder on the Jazz, the 22- year-old and his Timberwolves taking on fellow Western Conference powerhouse Denver, and Ant Man did more dunking, of course -- soaring for the putback jam. He scored 30 on the night.


Two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, though -- they weren't messing around. Joker dropping 35 points and grabbing 16 boards in a game that went to the buzzer. Edwards would have a chance to play hero again but it is no good. Nuggets escape with a 115-112 win.

Finally, the Phillies' spring training facility in Clearwater, Florida is a field of dreams for one lifelong fan. Seventy-four-year-old Michael Hutkin has wanted to play on that field since he was nine years old not as a player, only as a groundskeeper.

And during a recent heart surgery, Michael's doctors discovered he has lung cancer. So the Phillies are making his childhood dream come true.


MICHAEL HUTKIN, LIFELONG PHILLIES FAN: I remember the first time my dad took me to a game at Connie Mack. And we come out through the ramps and there's this vast, green, gorgeous outfield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's breathtaking.

M. HUTKIN: Never been anything greener.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. It's so amazing.

M. HUTKIN: But that site still will never leave my head.

CHRISTINE HUTKIN, MICHAEL'S WIFE: He's had a rough eight months health-wise, so a really important and very, very special day. I'm touched.


WIRE: The power of sports, Kasie. They let him cut the grass. He got to rake the infield. And clearly, it meant so much not only to him but to his wife as well.

HUNT: Just amazing.

Thanks for bringing us that story, Coy.

WIRE: You got it.

HUNT: I really appreciate it.

All right. Coming up next, how Donald Trump plans to use the Supreme Court to try to delay his federal election subversion trial. Plus, Trump's pick is the big winner in Ohio's GOP Senate primary. Why some Democrats might be celebrating right along with him. (COMMERCIAL)