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Texas Immigration Law Blocked after SCOTUS Approves It; Trump 'Thinking in Terms' of Federal 15-Week Abortion Ban; Snow for Northeast, Fire Danger in Texas & New Mexico. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Wednesday, March 20, right now on CNN THIS MORNING.


The controversial new immigration law in Texas blocked again, just hours after the Supreme Court OKed it.

Donald Trump's new strategy to get the court, the Supreme Court, to delay his election subversion trial, even if they don't grant him full immunity.

And a big win for the Trump-backed candidate in an Ohio Republican Senate primary. So why are some Democrats quietly celebrating, too?

Six a.m. here in Washington, a live look at the Supreme Court, where so much of our election is going to play out in this 2024 election year.

Good morning. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

The on-again, off-again Texas immigration law is off again for now. Late last night, an appeals court blocked SB-4 from being enforced just hours after the Supreme Court approved it.

This measure would allow local law enforcement in Texas to detain and arrest any migrant suspected of being in the country illegally.

Democrats argue that the law is unconstitutional and say it will lead to racial profiling and that none of this would even be necessary if Republicans were serious about dealing with the border crisis.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): It's a deeply troubling decision from the extreme conservatives on the Supreme Court. What we are seeing from many of our Republican colleagues is that they don't want to actually address the issue. They just want to engage in political stunts. We'll try not to solve the issue so they can weaponize the border and immigration issue in November.


HUNT: All right. With SB-4 now blocked, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is going to hear arguments later this morning to decide whether it can be implemented.

All right. Joining us now to talk about all of this, former Trump administration official Matt Mowers; Democratic strategist Christy Setzer; and Tara Palmeri. She's senior political correspondent at "Puck."

So Matt Mowers, obviously, Hakeem Jeffreys talking there about the fact that there was this massive border security bill that was agreed upon, negotiated by a very conservative senator, James Lankford. Donald Trump comes in, says, I don't want this, I don't want to fix this problem right now. This is easier if I have it as a political problem.

The reality, though, is that, you know, every day that we're talking about this issue as a day that, honestly, Republicans have a leg up. If you look at who trusts -- who is trusted in the country on this issue, it's Republicans; it's not President Biden.

What do you see here in terms of this decision and how this is actually playing out politically?

MATT MOWERS, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, look, you've got the Texas governor, Greg Abbott. You've got the Texas legislature saying the federal government hasn't handled this problem. We're going to step in and handle it. We have the right to do so. We're going to actually go forth and do it.

You now have President Biden and his administration being forced to try to take a softened approach towards illegal immigration by suing Texas. Now, they may have constitutional grounds and Tenth Amendment grounds and the rest of it. They may have a whole bunch of processes and reasons for posing it.

But politically, it's a problem for them. And you see this in poll after poll, after poll. You talked about the fact that voters are now saying they trust Donald Trump significantly more on the border. More and more voters, not only that, are actually ranking the border as the No. 1 issue. That's not just Republicans anymore.

Republicans for a long time now said the border's the No. 1 issue. It's independents and Democrats.

You also saw Joe Biden underperform in many border counties like Star County and Reeves County near the Texas border, in the Texas Democratic primary, getting less than 50 percent of the vote in those counties. He has a real problem on its hands with these.

HUNT: Christy, weigh in here. I mean, the -- the president, you know, obviously is trying to -- the administration, I should say, is trying to knock this down.

And Matt's right. I mean, there's kind of obvious reasons for it, honestly, right? Like, from a constitutional perspective, the idea is the federal government should be dealing with this. This should not be -- should be dealing with citizens with the actual borders of the country, that it's a federal, not a state issue.


But the reality is, I mean -- and the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has been pretty politically effective and basically saying, look, like the federal government's not dealing with this problem. So we have to do something.

How does it cut that the Biden administration is out there having to say like, no, don't do this?

CHRISTY SETZER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, I think that you're -- the Biden campaign has been somewhat effective in calling out Republicans by saying, you guys are just playing games here. This isn't -- you are doing this because you see that the economy is coming back. You know that you're not going to have that issue to run on.

So you're using this. You're playing games in Congress. And now you have obviously a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court that's going to back you on this law that, effectively, is you know, Texas's "show us your papers" law. That's going to empower vigilantes. It's going to, you know, sort of do all these terrible things and have all these awful consequences in terms of allowing local law enforcement to arrest who they think looks illegal, basically.

Where they have not been effective, I think, where Democrats have not been effective is in providing alternate messaging, which is to say that, you know, to the extent that Republicans have been successful in putting border security and the importance of it on the agenda, Democrats have pretty much embraced, you know, some of that position by saying, yes, yes, we agree that it's important. And that's why we're being so strong on it. And that's why we're backing the Lankford bill that --

HUNT: Right.

SETZER: All of that. So I think what Democrats need to do is something very different, which is to say -- to talk about immigration also, as of a benefit to the economy.

HUNT: Right.

SETZER: Pieces like that.

HUNT: Well, so President Biden has been doing this swing, Tara, through states where there are significant Latino populations. This is a group of voters he really needs, if he wants to maintain the coalition that landed him in the White House in 2020.

Let's play a little bit of what Joe Biden said about Donald Trump and Trump's -- he said that Trump basically despises immigrants. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): Here's what he said about immigrants: "Poisoning the blood of the country." He separated kids and parents at the border then caged the children. This guy despises Latinos. I understand Latino values, you know, they're like the kind -- we just celebrated St. Patrick's Day. I hope you're not offended by my saving this, but you know, the thing about the Irish that came here, they're about family, about faith, about decency.


BIDEN: And that's exactly what the Latino community is all about.


TARA PALMERI, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "PUCK": OK. So I think this is a very strong messaging, like poisoning the blood of our society is a terrifying phrase, right?

But at the same time, a lot of Latinos -- they're not monolithic. A lot of them have been in this country for many years. Many of them live in Texas, and they're second-, third-generation Latinos. And they don't really have a lot in common with the people that have just come over to the -- have crossed the border and come and live in this country.

Or coming from even deeper in South America than Mexico. They're coming from El Salvador, Guatemala. They're even coming from third countries outside of South America.

So I think that is part of the reason why you're seeing Hispanic communities becoming increasingly more Republican. I mean, they're winning -- Republicans are winning Hispanics over. Biden is losing right at this point.

And they're traditionally a more conservative group of people. They don't love the tone-policing from the far left. They don't like to be called "Latinx." They don't like, you know, a lot of the rhetoric you hear from the far left, which is actually a lot louder than Biden's rhetoric.

I would argue Biden is pretty moderate on immigration. But again, like, they're playing catch-up. In the past year, maybe past six months, the Democrats have seen their polling shows, whoa, Democrats are saying immigration is No. 1 concern. We better do something about this. Let's support a bipartisan border bill.

But like you said, it's baked in the brand of the Republican Party that they are just stronger on immigration and crime. And it's going to take years, not in the past six months to a year, to turn that around.

And the Republicans have, even though they made a cynical political play to block the border because of Donald Trump, the border bill, at the end of the day, they have images and videos of people crossing

the border in hordes every single day.

And this is kind of a last-minute attempt by Democrats, also realizing that they need to do something about the border for their political purposes. So I think it's a cynical political play by both sides, to be honest.

HUNT: Very brief last word.

MOWERS: I was just going to say the challenge for President Biden here, is that going back to inauguration day, when he signed an executive order to rescind the remain-in-Mexico policy.

Ever since that and immigration actions he took early in administration set the tone at the -- from the top about his position on the border. It's the reason why Americans aren't buying any discussion about this border bill right now.

HUNT: Well, it's hamstrung to a certain extent there. You know, if they wanted to do an executive order now on immigration, it would be like, well, why didn't you do that when you first came in? I do take that point.

All right. Coming up next, Donald Trump signaling he might support a federal 15-week abortion ban. We're going to dig into that.


Plus, a congressman who's been rescuing Americans from violence-torn Haiti joins me, just ahead.

And all systems go for another test flight of the most powerful rocket ever built.


HUNT: Welcome back. So just days after floating a possible 16-week national abortion ban, Donald Trump now toying with a different deadline, moving it up by a week. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15, and I'm thinking in terms of that. And it'll come out to something that's very reasonable. But people are really -- even hard-liners are agreeing seems to be 15 weeks, seems to be a number that people are agreeing at.



HUNT: All right. CNN's Alayna Treene covers the Trump campaign for us, and she joins the table.

Alayna, good morning. So what is going on with this? Why does he keep talking about this? He seems to know the political dangers around this. And yet here we are. And now he's shortening it from 16 to 15 weeks. Who's in his ear? Why are we getting this?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So there are definitely people in his ear. Some of the typical people that you know. I know that Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life, has been talking to him a lot about this. I know others have when senator Lindsey Graham is someone who consistently has been talking to Donald Trump about the abortion issue.

But the thing that's really interesting is that when I talk to the Trump campaign and his advisers, they repeatedly always tell me, we are not planning for some big policy roll-out on this, especially because they didn't even do that during the primary.

There were questions during the primary of whether Donald Trump needed to come out with some more firm policy on what he would do about abortion. And Donald Trump himself did not want to do that because of the political ramification -- ramifications of it.

So it is interesting that all of a sudden, we're hearing about abortion again, now that we're in the general. And everyone on his campaign does not think that the politics of this is smart or the rhetoric is smart.

And so what I've been told he's doing is he's kind of test met -- test messaging some of this language. And I do think he's being asked about it a lot. I do think there's a lot of attention on this, because it's such a key general election issue for Democrats and Joe Biden ahead of November.

But behind the scenes, again, I'm consistently told by his campaign that this isn't necessarily anything that he's going to actually be putting out any real policy around at any time soon.

HUNT: What do you see here, Tara?

PALMERI: This is typical Donald Trump. He does not want to be pinned to the wall on any exact abortion policy. He'll probably come up with some other number next week. It'll be like 21 weeks. Who knows?

And he'll continue to do this, because he knows it's not a winner. Right now, the people that they have the evangelicals in their pocket, they have the MAGA far right.

The people they don't have are suburban educated swing voters that care about this issue. Trump knows that. He's eyeing up his vice- presidential candidate based on their, you know, extremity on abortion policies -- policies essentially.

And so I don't expect you're ever really going to get a firm answer from Donald Trump on abortion. You definitely get a firm answer from him, really on anything, I think, except his immigration policies and the wall.

HUNT: You think? What do you think? TREENE: I think he's -- I think it's tough. I think he actually

eventually does want to go somewhere with this.

But I think you're totally right, Tara. I think the -- he recognizes that this is a political loser.

And it's interesting, because it depends on who he talks to. Behind the scenes, Donald Trump will tell some people, Yes, I agree. Like he often says, like, when does the baby feel pain? After that. He wants to be reasonable on some of this stuff.

And he doesn't want to tie himself down, as Tara said, to a certain amount of weeks.

But at the same time, he also recognizes that a big part of his base that -- and a lot of his donors who right now he's meeting with at Mar-a-Lago behind the scenes this week. He's trying to get as much money for his campaign that he needs. Also want him to be coming out and having some more firm language on this issue.

So I don't know if -- I think it's hard to predict that this would happen anytime soon, like I said, because of the politics around it. But I'm not so sure, as well, that this isn't something that he would eventually come down and put something out on.

HUNT: Because --

PALMERI: Didn't he get like a donor, Ralph Reed, gave him $62 million around pro-life issues, right? Isn't that the most recent?

TREENE: I don't know about the exact number, but yes. Ralph, I actually spoke with Ralph about this, this week.

He was saying, too, that the thing that's interesting is a lot of Republicans, even if they're super pro-life and this is their issue that they're going to vote on, when you -- when it comes down to it, Donald Trump is still the candidate that they were going to vote for.

HUNT: Right.

TREENE: Because he is the more pro-life candidate. And look what he did in office. And so that's where it's a messy political issue.

And it is interesting in the context of his remarks and when his remarks are being made, it doesn't really make sense to me when I talk to his team and other Republicans, why he's putting this out.

HUNT: Yes.

TREENE: Because there's so much -- there's so many landmines he could step on with so many voters, as you said, right?

HUNT: Well, and he'll also say when he's asked about this sometimes, Well, we also have to win elections.

TREENE: Exactly. It's very political. HUNT: Which is about this.

All right. Alayna, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

Coming up next. What we will see instead of Hunter Biden at a House Oversight hearing today.

Plus new revelations around the plea deal that was once offered to Alec Baldwin in his movie-set shooting case.



HUNT: Welcome back. Hunter Biden won't be attending today's House Oversight Committee hearing on the impeachment of his father, but Republicans are going to give him a seat at the table, literally.

They plan to have an empty chair with a Hunter Biden name tag on it to highlight the fact that he has declined their invitation to appear.

Hunter already testified before the committee behind closed doors last month.

All systems are go for the next SpaceX rocket launch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.


HUNT: Its third starship test flight blasted off successfully into space last Thursday, reaching orbit speed and flying for about 40 minutes before burning up on re-entry.

The company says it hopes to launch again in early May.

Our time now for weather. Scattered snow for the Northeast today and a heightened fire threat for parts of Texas and New Mexico.

Our Weatherman van Dam tracking all of it for us. Derek, good morning. What are we looking at?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. A bit of a reality check is what we're looking at this morning, Kasie. I think we're seven hours into --


HUNT: On the first full day of spring.

VAN DAM: That's it. Seven hours into spring, by the way. The vernal equinox last night happening at just past 11 p.m.

And here we are talking about snowfall totals. Yes, much of this is for the higher elevations and just downwind of the Great Lakes.

But hey, that's saying something. It's cold enough to snow. And this was all lake-enhanced snow. Remember, we've had one of the warmest winters on record for many locations across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes.

So what that does is allows for any of this cold air that's pouring in from the North to produce lake-enhanced snowfall totals. And that's exactly what we're reporting on this morning, thanks to a week clipper that's cooling our temperatures and bringing more snowfall to Northern New England.

But the good news is the I-95 corridor, Boston, New York to D.C., you'll stay dry today. Not anticipating any snowfall there. Look at those temperatures, well above freezing for these locations.

So we'll keep the snow away from you, and into Northern Maine, Vermont, and into New Hampshire where they like to see it in ski country.

But a wind out there, as well. So that's why we have the high fire danger today across the mid-Atlantic -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Keep an eye out for that.

VAN DAM: That is spring.

HUNT: Our Weatherman van Dam. Derek, thank you. I really appreciate it.

VAN DAM: All right.

HUNT: All right. Up next, a big win in Ohio's Republican Senate primary for the Donald Trump endorsed candidates. So why are some Democrats privately happy about it?

Plus Queen Camilla subbing in for the king, while Prince Harry's lawsuit against "The Sun" gets underway. We'll give you a royal recap ahead.