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Inside Politics

Remembering Sandra Day O'Connor; George Santos Expelled From Congress; Trump Legal Team In Georgia Court Today For 2020 Election Case. 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 01, 2023 - 12:30   ET



RONEN BERGMAN, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: The political crisis following the so-called judicial reform that Netanyahu initiated. They said to him, they will -- they might take the opportunity, they see this as a widow in which they can attack Israel. They want him again and again and again to stop this process. And he disregard, sometimes even refused to see them. And we know what happened next.

Let me just say that, in hindsight, we all know what happened. In real time. It was not just about the inability to believe that Hamas is closing the gap between the Jericho Wall plan as they -- where they wanted to be in their competence and where they were.

And only one analyst, only one woman analyst, veteran analyst, that spends years studying Hamas. At a certain point said, this is not an imaginative scenario. This is not a dream that they have.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: No, not at all.

BERGMAN: This is something that they are doing.

BASH: Yes. Ronan -- I'm sorry, Ronen and Adam. We're going to have to leave it there. This story is just -- it makes your stomach turn. Very, very important reporting. Thank you both for being on. Appreciate it.


BERGMAN: Thank you.

BASH: Coming up, remembering the life and legacy of the first woman in U.S. history to serve on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor.



BASH: Today, America lost a trailblazer. Former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, died at the age of 93.

The court says that she likely passed from complications related to advanced dementia. Chief Justice Roberts remembered his former colleague by saying, quote, Sandra Day O'Connor blazed a historic trail as our nation's first female justice.

She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability and engaging candor. Let's bring in our own Joan Biskupic to talk a lot about this. You covered her and knew her well.

And you have said that she was so important that even though she served largely on the Rehnquist court, it was the O'Connor court.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It was. And you know, when I was writing my biography of her in 2005, I talked about how she had come to Washington knowing how to count votes, because she had been a politician in Arizona, as I know you remember, Dana.

And so she was a woman of great influence, much more influence than Chief Justice William Rehnquist. She was the deciding vote on abortion rights. She was the deciding vote on racial affirmative action on campuses. She was the deciding vote on the separation of church and state.

And she also wrote those opinions. She was just a master of bringing together a real consensus on the court. And that recalls a whole different Supreme Court than we have today.

BASH: I mean, it's totally different. She was appointed by Ronald Reagan. It was -- I mean, who obviously just talk about the politics.


BASH: Not recognizes Republican Party now, but also wouldn't recognize the court now. And largely, obviously the majority is by Republicans. Republican appointed justices, I should say, who are far different from her.

BISKUPIC: So different. And that's really it. She -- you know, she might have -- she did inch a little bit to the left over her tenure. But when you think of her as someone who I identified to the very end in January 2006 when she retired as a conservative, she today almost looks like a lefty, because just think of what's gone of her legacy.

The Dobbs opinion in 2022 reversed what she wrote about the durability of Roe v. Wade. The racial affirmative action decision against Harvard, just this year, reversed a 2003 milestone that she had written in a University of Michigan case. The way the court has gone also on conservative religious liberty also undermines her legacy.

BASH: Let's listen to what she told our former CNN colleague, Judy Woodruff, back in 2003 about what her appointment and confirmation meant for women.


SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, FORMER ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wasn't too many years before I was born that women in this country got the right to vote in the 1920s for heaven's sakes. In my lifetime, I have seen unbelievable changes in the opportunities for women. I think it's important and that is for the public generally to see and respect the fact that in positions of power and authority that women are well represented. That it is not an all-male governance as it once was.


BISKUPIC: I just love that, for goodness sakes. She says that -- she used to say that all the time. She was so practical, down to earth. She brought, as I said, you know, this kind of western sensibility from her time in Arizona.

You know, she was reared on a ranch and she was just so down and practical. And, you know, the other thing she was with her colleagues was she was really the social glue. She knew that if she could make relationships with them off the bench, it would smooth the relations inside the court.


BASH: Which, as you said, probably came from her time as a politician beforehand.

BISKUPIC: That's right.

BASH: Thank you so much. Appreciate it, Joan.

BISKUPIC: Sure. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: And the House, as we were talking about at the beginning of the show, just made a historic vote to expel embattled New York congressmen, former congressmen now, George Santos. We're going to talk to Republican congressmen, Ken Buck, about why he voted to oust his now former colleague. That's next.


BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS today. George Santos became the sixth person ever to be expelled from Congress.

One hundred five Republicans voted to kick him out of the chamber. And one of those Republicans, Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado, is here with me now.


Let's start with the argument against it. And that we heard from other colleagues of yours including Matt Gates who said that this would be a bad precedent, that now is a bad precedent because until today, the only members of Congress who were expelled were actually convicted of a crime which George Santos is not or participated in the Civil War.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Yes. Well George Santos did a lot of things that were illegal and he will face that jury at some point in time, but he did face the ethics committee. He was given a due process and he didn't take advantage of it. He stalled. He did his very best not to provide information and provided answers that were vague and weren't helpful to his own defense.

And so I believe he had the due process. I didn't vote last time to expel him. This time, I did vote to expel him because I think that he had due process, didn't take advantage of it. And at some point, we can't wait on the criminal justice system.

When you have a two-year term and he was indicted months ago and won't face trial in -- on those criminal charges until sometime in the middle of next year, Congress just can't wait that long to make a decision.

BASH: House Speaker Mike Johnson voted, which is unusual for a speaker to vote, but he voted against expulsion. What does it say about the fact that he did so and his conference didn't follow?

BUCK: Well, I think obviously Mike is concerned about a five-vote majority becoming a four-vote majority and we have a member who's going to become president of a university and leave and we have other members who are talking about leaving and so --

BASH: Does this speak to his lack of influence?

BUCK: I don't think it does. I think it he made a decision on what he thought was best for the party and the majority. I don't think he made a decision that others agreed with in terms of the integrity of the institution.

I want to ask you about something else that's in the -- in the news. And that is the book that's coming out next week by your former colleague, Liz Cheney. You worked for her father, Dick Cheney. And she writes in her new book about Republicans who were signing on to the electoral vote objections.

And she recounted your colleague, Mark Green, of Tennessee saying, "As he moved down the line signing his name to the pieces of paper, Green said sheepishly to no one in particular, the things we do for the Orange Jesus."

What do you make of that?

BUCK: Well, she's bold for repeating something like that. I'm not sure that Mark really thought through what he was saying. But clearly, Donald Trump exerted a lot of influence on a lot of people during the decision to certify or de-certify the electors.

And there are a lot of us that felt that by voting to certify the electors, we were putting ourselves at risk of a primary opponent that would be supported by President Trump. And I think he made that very well known to those who were making the decision.

BASH: Yes. I mean he -- as you've said many times, he's -- he the former president now leader for the Republican nomination still exerts a lot of influence over your party.

BUCK: Right. And I think that's what Mark -- while I think he probably regrets being quoted on the Orange Jesus part, I think he was just acknowledging the fact that Donald Trump was powerful then and remains powerful.

BASH: Before I let you go, you are a former prosecutor and you obviously are somebody who has reverence for the law and the courts. Can you give us a quick memory of the -- or sort of a statement on the legacy of Sandra Day O'Connor?

BUCK: Yes. I thought, one, she broke a barrier obviously, and it was an important barrier to break. And I'm really proud that Republicans and especially a conservative Republican like Ronald Reagan was part of that breaking of that barrier of having a woman on the court.

Two, I think she came to the court at a time when there was a large feminist movement on the left and she really espoused conservative principles, small government principles that were important. And by elevating her to that position, I think it gave a lot of us the opportunity to say these are compassionate and important.

BASH: No, that's interesting. You can't -- sometimes don't think of it with so much history between then and now. Thank you so much.

BUCK: Thank you.

BASH: Good to see you.

And up next, we're going to go live to Georgia courthouse there where, right now, Donald Trump's lawyers are arguing to get the 2020 election case against him thrown out.



BASH: Right now, attorneys for former president Donald Trump are defending their client in a Georgia courtroom. They're trying to get the charges against him thrown out on First Amendment grounds.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now from outside the courthouse. Nick, what's going on inside that courtroom?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dan, we've yet to hear from the former president's attorneys, but that is expected to happen any moment now. It's worth noting that Trump is not in court today, but this is the first time that we're gonna hear from his criminal defense attorneys in this case.

And as you mentioned, we expect them to try to get this indictment thrown out on First Amendment grounds. What his criminal defense attorney, Steven Sadow, argues is that when Trump, after he lost in 2020, when he was peddling conspiracy theories and making claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, that at its core, it was political speech protected by the First Amendment.

Sadow wrote an illegal filing that the remedy for false speech and lies told by the president is not a criminal indictment by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.


Now, we should mention that First Amendment challenges have, you know, been made before and have failed in this case. A past, former or I should say former co-defendants in this case, Ken Chesebro, Sidney Powell, they tried First Amendment challenges as well.

You remember they took plea deals with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. They are now going to testify potentially against the former president in any future trials.

But what the presiding judge in this case said is that the facts and evidence first need to be established in court before those First Amendment challenges can be made. Those challenges are going to start any moment now. Dana.

BASH: Okay. Nick Valencia, thank you so much for that reporting.

And please tune in this Sunday to State of the Union. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is among our guests. I hope to see you. It's 9:00 A.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for joining INSIDE POLITICS today. CNN News Central starts after the break.