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Supreme Court Examines Health Care Reform; Slain Teen's Parents on Capitol Hill; Interview With Congresswoman Michele Bachmann

Aired March 27, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King.

Tonight: two giant national controversies at center stage right here in the nation's capital. The Supreme Court considers the mandate at the center of President Obama's health care law and the conservative majority sounds highly skeptical.

Plus, the parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin ask Congress for help. And as they demand an arrest, the special prosecutor tells us there's at least one eyewitness to the tragic shooting.

And a man pounding on a cockpit door during a flight across the country screaming there's a bomb. We will take you inside JetBlue Flight 191.

We e begin with the drama still unfolding as we speak up Capitol Hill. This afternoon members of Congress heard from the parents of Trayvon Martin. He is, of course, the Florida teenager shot and killed last month by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman who has not been arrested or charged with any crime. The grieving parents met today with House Democrats. They insist their son was shot because he was black.


SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: I would like to say thank you, thank you for the support. As I said before and I will say it again, Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon is your son.

TRACY MARTIN, FATHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: Thank you to everyone who is supportive of our family, everyone who has helped us stand tall in this matter.


KING: At a time investigators are asking for calm and for time, the Martin family supporters in Congress are only escalating their rhetoric.


REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: This investigation is laced with racial profiling, lies, and murder. Trayvon was hunted, chased, tackled and shot. Ill-conceived laws and lax gun laws all contribute to this tragedy. In closing, Mr. Zimmerman should be arrested immediately for his own safety.


KING: In a few moments, we will hear from Angela Corey. She's the special prosecutor in charge of investigating the Trayvon Martin shooting.

But now to a defining legal and political debate. President Obama's signature achievement, health care reform, may be in serious trouble. Attorneys defending the law ran into tough questions at the U.S. Supreme Court today, especially when they argued the Constitution gives Congress the power to force you to buy health insurance.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, long considered the court's major swing vote, joined the other conservatives in voicing doubts.


ANTHONY KENNEDY, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The reason this is concerning is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act.

DONALD VERRILLI, SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Once we say that there is a market and Congress can require people to participate in it, all bets are off and you can regulate that market in any rational way.

ANTONIN SCALIA: You can make people buy broccoli.


KING: CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan were in the courtroom today.

Kate, let's start with you. I was talking with Jeff yesterday and called this the Super Bowl. This is a huge case. Very tough questions and very quickly out of the box from the justices.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very tough questions. And from the sound bites that we just ran, it really sums up where a lot of the line of questioning was from the more conservative justices, specifically right at the solicitor general, Donald Verrilli.

They really hammered him on a lot of kind of the central questions that have been lingering. And from their line of questioning and from the sound bites that you heard right there from inside the courtroom, it definitely signals if not strongly suggests that the justices, the more conservative justices were not buying his argument, more buying onto the argument of Paul Clement, the attorney representing the states, that they believed possibly the law goes just too far in forcing people to buy something they may not need or want and also they seemed very concerned about where is the boundary, that's the kind of broccoli argument.

But again, it was a lot of hard questioning for Donald Verrilli. They can always surprise us, but it seems from the suggestions in the courtroom, like the individual mandate could be in real trouble.

KING: Jeff, you tweeted that had fact immediately after. You have been talking after by your math -- and you're one of the country's great experts on the court.

I want to listen to a little bit more, because some people at home are probably asking what if they're playing devil's advocate, what if they're just asking these tough questions to hide what they really think, but to ask the questions?

Let's listen here to a little split of a more liberal justice and a more conservative justice.


STEPHEN BREYER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I hook back into history and I see it seems pretty clear that if there are substantial effects on interstate commerce, Congress can act.

ANTONIN SCALIA, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: It's the insurance market that you're addressing, and you're saying that some people who are not in it must be in it. And that's -- that's different from regulating in any manner commerce that already exists out there.


KING: You study this court incredibly closely. Is what they say in the courtroom what they think or are they playing games a little bit?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is an example of how the court has changed over the past 20 years -- 20 years ago, they would do some devil's advocate.

You couldn't predict very accurately how they were going to vote based on what they said. These days, almost all the time you can tell what they're thinking by what they're saying. And today, the four conservatives who spoke were clearly very skeptical of the law. Clarence Thomas as he has for the past six years, didn't speak, but his views on this issue are well-known. That gets to you five and I think the individual mandate is gone.

KING: And you tweeted and then you were saying in our coverage you think this law and the mandate part is in grave danger. Democrats don't like that.

So the Democratic leader of the United States Senate, Harry Reid, decided to challenge our senior analyst.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I wouldn't bet on this, but I will bet I have been in court a lot more than Jeffrey Toobin, and I have had arguments, federal circuit, Supreme Court and hundreds of times before trial courts, and the questions you get from the judges doesn't mean that's what's going to wind up with the opinion.


KING: That was then, this is now?


TOOBIN: With all due respect to my fellow legal analyst Harry Reid, I'm sure he has more experience than I do. This court, they don't mess around. They don't talk to each other a lot except during oral arguments. They don't waste it on playing devil's advocate. They give it their best shot and it looked like 5-4 to me.

BOLDUAN: They came out with some pretty strong opinions.


TOOBIN: The four liberals were clearly not happy with the job Donald Verrilli was doing defending the law, so they were taking over the defense and they were making speeches. Stephen Breyer -- people almost laughed a couple times because he was speaking so much more than asking questions.

But he didn't look like he was changing any votes.

KING: Fascinating. We will talk a bit more about this later in the program and we will talk again tomorrow.

Jeff, Kate, see you in a little bit. Thank you very much.

Another scary moment in the skies today. Get this, a JetBlue flight had to divert after according to passengers the captain started yelling about a bomb.

Heidi Karg was a passenger on Flight 191 and it was heading from New York to Las Vegas. She was in row eight right up near the cockpit. I talked to her a little while ago about just what happened.


HEIDI KARG, PASSENGER: I was sitting watching the in-flight movie and all of a sudden I saw a bunch of flight attendants come running down the aisle towards the cockpit. And ahead of them was a tall gentleman in a JetBlue uniform.

I didn't know at the time that he was the flight captain. He started pounding on the cockpit door. He started pounding on the bathroom door yelling, I need the code, I need to get back in. When they were trying to calm him down, he was saying they're going to bomb us, and then they had to restrain him and a bunch of male passengers ran to the front of the plane to help them subdue him to the ground.

At that time, we heard over the intercom we need to restrain him, we need to restrain him and they got him down to the ground.

KING: But you have no doubt he said something about a bomb? KARG: Yes, I really -- pretty much everybody heard that part. It was pretty interesting to hear that coming from someone in a JetBlue uniform. We didn't know at the time he was a captain. So it was a little scary to be hearing those things and he was pretty freaked out banging on the cockpit door. So, yes, it was a very scary five minutes.


KING: CNN aviation and regulation correspondent Lizzie O'Leary is here.

The airline is saying the captain had some sort of a medical condition. What do you know?

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: They're saying this was a medical situation.

We know that local law enforcement, the FBI, the TSA, FAA, sort of an alphabet soup of agencies is looking in to what happened. But you heard Heidi talk about this. You certainly got a sense from among the many passengers, I have talked to three or four of them, of the fear that was going on.

The FAA also said that the co-pilot became concerned about the pilot's behavior and essentially the pilot left the cockpit, the co- pilot locked the door. That's one of the things that was going on. And then that dramatic run from the back of the plane up to the front where several passengers including a retired NYPD sergeant sat on him for about 15 minutes until they got the plane down.

KING: Great reaction by those on the flight.

Freak coincidence or something to be concerned about that we were talking just a little more than a week ago about the American Airlines flight attendant who had a rant into the speakers, the P.A. system on the plane about possibly a bomb as people were taxiing? People think Freak coincidence? Anything they can do about this?

O'LEARY: It's a little bit of both. Anything that happens on a plane get everybody's attention, certainly a plane that was at cruising altitude like this. I think it's important to remind people that pilots are one of the most screened and self-selected groups of people in the country who are fit, who undergo medical examinations to get their licenses, to get their renewals.

And one of the things we have seen actually is back and forth with the FAA about mental health and folks who fly. The FAA now allows pilots to fly on four different types of antidepressants and there are some questions about sort of opening up pilots to asking for help if they need it. We don't know that that was the case here. This is still being investigated.

It's a little hard to say this is a larger trend. We asked the FAA what are you guys doing about this? And we're waiting to hear. KING: It's not that I don't love to see you, but let's hope we're not talking about another one of these soon. We will talk about something else. Lizzie O'Leary, thanks so much.

In a little bit, one of harsh critics of the Obama administration's health care reform law. We will ask Congresswoman and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann what should happen to people who have insurance now and may lose it if that law is overturned.

But next, the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin shooting, who says today's sharp rhetoric from congressional Democrats isn't helping.


ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA STATE'S ATTORNEY: The political outcry makes our job harder because any time there is a misunderstanding of the process based on what we're required to do under Florida law, it does make our job more difficult.



KING: As we noted a few moments ago, the parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin were on Capitol Hill today at the invitation of House Democrats. Last month's shooting death is under both state and federal investigation and a newly released police account suggests that it was Trayvon who initiated the fight with self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

The leak of that police account has not only made the family furious, but also their supporters in Congress.


REP. CORRINE BROWN (D), FLORIDA: And I don't know whether it's incompetence or whether it's cover-up or all of the above.

WILSON: Trayvon is the victim of a botched police investigation full of incompetence or intelligent mismanagement.


KING: Just a bit earlier, I had a conversation with Angela Corey. She just last week was named special prosecutor in charge of investigating this fatal shooting.


KING: As we speak today, Trayvon's parents are on Capitol Hill. They're calling this a hate crime. They're demanding an arrest. You have met with them. Did you express to them at all any concerns that their public statements could complicate your effort to get to the bottom of this, the facts? COREY: John, we met with Trayvon's parents twice yesterday. I met them for the first time yesterday evening. We pledged our commitment to a search for the truth for them and we have asked that all public statements be limited to the process and not to the facts.

KING: Others have come in, too, whether it's Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, members of Congress who have come down to Florida in the community. They're doing it here on Capitol Hill, in the town I work in, in Washington.

Would it be best for those people to stand aside or does this political outcry not complicate your work at all?

COREY: Well, no, the political outcry makes our job harder because any time there is a misunderstanding of the process based on what we're required to do under Florida law, it does make our job more difficult.

So we would hope that people would give us a chance to get this task that the governor has given us accomplished. And we think that what they will see in the long run is that this is a complicated law. It's an affirmative defense, justifiable use of deadly force. But we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to seek justice for Trayvon and for his parents.

KING: According to the police account, they believe Trayvon attacked Mr. Zimmerman. They believe Trayvon banged his head off the ground and that was their encounter. Have you seen any evidence that contradicts the police report that's now been put in the public domain?

COREY: John, we're still -- that police report should not have been put in the public domain. We have strict rules in Florida with regard to when a document becomes a public record and that does not comport with Florida law.

We would ask that anyone who had access to these reports please stop putting these out there until it's the appropriate time. That would be when charges are filed and discovery is under way.

KING: But have you seen anything that contradicts it?

COREY: See, I can't comment on that right now because that would be a comment on the facts of the case, John.

So I'm so sorry, because I know those are some of the answers people are asking. But we really need our time to finish this investigation.

KING: Do you believe there are any eyewitnesses to this or just those who overheard things?

COREY: We believe there may have been one person who saw something, and we believe there are a lot of what we call ear witnesses. My lawyers are trying to track those people down. If anyone knows anything about this case, please let us know and we will get to you and make a proper interview occur so that this can become part of the official case file. And the other thing is we need people to remember that Florida law may be different from the laws in other states. And because this is an affirmative defense, it may be handled a little bit differently than in other areas.

KING: Another thing the family has been upset about in recent days is the release of some information about why their son was suspended from school. Is any of that relevant to your investigation?

COREY: Well, it's always something we determine, but it may not ever come in front of the trier of fact. So it's very dangerous to put different facts that may or may not become evidence out in front of the public.

At the very worst, it could cause a change of venue or it could damage Trayvon's reputation, when it may not be relevant to what we're doing. So we would ask people to please just filter information to us and we will as assimilate that into our case file and make legal use of it.

KING: Let me ask you lastly, you see the attention this is getting not only in your community, but across the country and in some ways around the world. And the issues of race have been brought into play. A lot of other questions that tend to divide people and cause controversy have been brought into play.

Does that in any sense urge you to speed up your timetable? Do you know when you will be able to say here's my report, here's what I believe the final facts are?

COREY: John, my lawyers are on their way back from Sanford now and as soon as I'm finished with this interview, I plan to staff this case with them and see where we go next.

I don't have that answer right now for you. But I'm hoping that in the next couple of weeks, we will be able to at least give a formal update to all of you who have been waiting. And thank you for your interest in this case.

KING: Angela Corey is the special prosecutor looking into the Trayvon Martin killing.

Thanks for your time today.

COREY: Thank you, sir.


KING: Next: Video from a French gunman's murderous rampage proves too inflammatory for TV news.

And later, the Romney's attempt to make political hay out of an embarrassing moment for President Obama draws a rebuke from the president of Russia. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: And coming up: President Obama's open mike mistake sparks an international incident with Mitt Romney.

And Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, she held court at a Tea Party rally here in Washington today. Find out what she's telling the government -- why she's telling the government hands off.


KING: In this half-hour, health care politics goes back to the future. What happens to you if the law is tossed out by the courts, and what would the politicians do next?

From Russia with love. President Obama tries to recover from an embarrassing open mike gaffe, and Russia accuses Mitt Romney of a Cold War mind-set.

And proof politics make strange bedfellows -- '60s anti-war activist Jane Fonda may be cast to play the first lady of the Reagan Revolution.

President Obama's highly embarrassing overseas encounter with an open microphone escalated into a name-calling match today between Russia's president and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney. It all started when President Obama in South Korea for a nuclear summit was overheard yesterday asking the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, for some space on NATO's plans to deploy a missile defense system in Europe, which the Russians strongly oppose.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.


KING: Here on CNN yesterday, Governor Romney labeled the president's comments terribly wrong.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Russia is not a friendly character for the world stage. And for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people, in his relations with Russia is very troubling, very alarming.


KING: When he saw the Russian president today, President Obama drew a laugh by stepping over to the microphone and covering it with his hand. But Medvedev wasn't laughing when he called Romney's criticism reminiscent of Hollywood.


DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I would advise two things to all U.S. presidential candidates, including the person you just mentioned.

My first advice is to listen to reason when they formulate their positions. Reason never harmed a presidential candidate.

My other advice is to check their clocks from time to time. It is 2012, not the mid-1970s.


KING: A Romney adviser says those comments, quote, "make it evident the Kremlin would prefer to continue doing business with the current incumbent of the White House. In contrast to President Obama, Governor Romney is clear-eyed about the geopolitical challenges Russia poses."

Let's discuss it with our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, who is now in front of the White House.

Hey, Jess, the Democrats are trying to quickly change the subject away from the president's gaffe to this spat between the Russians and Governor Romney. Let's listen to a little clip here of the Web video the Democratic National Committee put up.


GRAPHIC: Mitt Romney on the qualities a president needs to lead.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, if we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department and pluck out one of the tens of thousands of people who work there. But that's not how we choose a president. A president is not a foreign policy expert.

GRAPHIC: Mitt Romney is no foreign policy expert.

On Russia...

ROMNEY: This is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.

GRAPHIC: Russia?!


KING: Pretty quick action. Do they think this actually helps them score points or just change the subject?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're trying to change the subject, John, and it's clearly a snark fest all the way around. The Obama campaign also put out a statement saying that Romney hasn't really made clear his foreign policy goals so he should show his cards. They had advisers essentially mock his position that -- his statement that Russia is American's chief geopolitical foe.

But bottom line, let's be clear, that the political damage in President Obama's off-mike remark is not necessarily specific to Russia or to missile defense and foreign policy. But the damage that can be done will come in the general election, when the GOP can use this against President Obama to argue that he has purely political goals, to try to make the case that voters can't know what he would be capable of doing in a second term, which is a narrative other Republicans have tried to build in the past without any evidence and now they can try it say, oh, well, they have evidence here -- John.

KING: Makes us hopeful for the tone of the campaign ahead.

Let's focus on this spat at the moment, though. Oddly, the Democratic president of the United States got a bit of help today about the open-mike gaffe from the Republican speaker of the House. Let's listen.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, clearly the president is overseas. He's at a conference. And while the president is overseas, I think it's appropriate that -- that people not be critical of him of our country.


KING: A little old-school politics from the speaker there, right?

YELLIN: Yes. That harkens back to a Cold-War-era in Washington, D.C. of gentlemanly politics. My gosh. Remember that old saying, politics stops at the water's edge. Used to be everyone adhered to the principle never criticize the commander in chief when he's overseas. But that's clearly no longer the standard.

And remember, both candidate McCain and candidate Obama criticized one another when they were overseas during 2008 elections. Of course, neither of them was the commander in chief.

And this time around, Gingrich, Romney, neither of them listened to what Speaker Boehner was advising in this instance and went ahead and criticized the president.

KING: Old-school credit for the speaker of the House today. Jessica Yellin at the White House. Jess, thank you so much.

As you know, the Supreme Court today heard arguments in a case that hits home for all of us: whether the federal government can make you have health insurance and whether you can be punished for not buying it. It's President Obama's signature health care measure, his signature domestic initiative, and plenty of lawmakers jumping in to the big debate.

Here's what freshman senator Ron Johnson told our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.


REP. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Optimistic. I think certainly Justice Kennedy was highly skeptical. And I think they defined the issue right. I mean, can the federal government force Americans, free Americans to buy a product? Really, that's what this boils down to. This is a very basic issue of freedom.


KING: Let's go straight up to Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. Dana, is that the buzz? Republicans think the Supreme Court will do for them what they don't have the votes to do on Capitol Hill, and are the Democrats worried?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Largely, I talked to several Republicans who were smiling as they walked back across the street here to the hill after they were in the courtroom.

And I heard a lot of what you just heard from Senator Johnson, that they didn't think that the administration did a particularly good job arguing for the health-care law, but more importantly, they were very pleased with what Justice Anthony Kennedy said. Of course, he is a key swing vote on the court.

They were happy with the questions that he asked and the comments that he made. They thought that it was very much against the health- care law.

But, you know, it's very interesting. Not everybody was giddy. And hold onto your hat. I know you're going to talk to Michele Bachmann soon. She actually said something very similar to what the Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said, which is that you can't take anything or you should be careful not to take very much from the questions that the justices ask, because you never know what it's going to mean. They disagreed with our own Jeffrey Toobin.

But I can tell you that a Democratic source told me that there was a little bit of heartburn here based on what they heard from the administration. They didn't have the greatest day at the court today.

KING: You mention that don't take anything for granted. Now, we all assume this fight in some shape or form, regardless of what the court does, will continue. You went outside to a Tea Party rally today. A little bit of a "Back to the Future" deja vu?

BASH: That's exactly how I described it, sitting there, because I was sitting in a sea of thousands of people. You see pictures there right now. It really reminded me of the rallies right here on the Capitol in 2009 and 2010 that ultimately ushered the Republicans to control the House of Representatives. And it was a reminder of the passion of this argument. Look, of course we know that jobs and the economy are the driving issue in this campaign coming up here in 2012. But the whole idea of this health- care law really will crystallize what many people believe is the Democrats, particularly the Obama administration's heavy-handed government, and it does them. It energizes both parties. There's no question about it. But this is a reminder that this issue could still drive votes this coming November. And obviously, what happens with the Supreme Court will dictate that big time.

KING: Without a doubt. The court, one big decision to come but the politics of this will continue November and beyond. Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, thanks.

Minnesota congresswoman and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann led that Tea Party opposition rally to the reform health care act outside the Supreme Court today. And Congresswoman Bachmann is with us how.

Let me ask you a policy question. There are a lot of people who were in the courtroom today who say the conservative majority appears inclined, at least from the questioning, to say the mandate's unconstitutional. If that were to happen in June, what happens to people, a 25-year-old who now has coverage because they're allowed to be on their parents' or somebody who had a pre-existing condition?

I want you to listen to here, young Violet McManus. She's 3 years old. She has coverage now on her parents' health-care plan. And they think if they go back to the old rules, the pre-Obama care, as you call it, her health-care coverage would run out pretty soon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really scared, very scared. Like I can't sleep scared. Our daughter could die, and there's -- there's nothing we can do about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just imagine it happening to your daughter, because it can happen to anyone. So you never know. Life changes.


KING: There's a glimpse there at the fear some people have. What will happen?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Absolutely. And it's brokenhearted when you see your children, and you want them to have the highest quality care that there is.

I'm a mother of five children. We had 23 foster children. Health care is a very important thing to parents, because they love their children. They're brokenhearted for them.

And that's why I'm so concerned that we not have Obama care. Because the future of Obama care is denial of care. It sounds good, because it says everyone, poof, will have automatic health insurance coverage. You may be able to say you have health insurance coverage, but that's a far cry from saying you actually have access to care. And that's the future of health care in Obama care, denial of access.

KING: I have to assume you will concede, though, given how contentious the debate was last time, with divided government now, heading into a presidential election, if this law gets overturned, you don't see anything happening between now and November 2012.

BACHMANN: Sure we could. Absolutely. We could put forward a bill that will actually drive down health care. We could easily have that before the Congress, and then President Obama can sign it.

KING: I'm skeptical, shall I say. I want to...

BACHMANN: We'll offer it. The House Republicans would offer new health legislation.

KING: You have made, the Tea Party has made, repeal Obama care -- again, your term -- a rallying cry for some time. It was critical to you when you were running for president. But you've had different approaches as to how this should be done. I want you to listen. This is yourself earlier today at the rally.


BACHMANN: We believe that the action that the Congress took was at its very basis unconstitutional, and we are calling on the court today to declare this law unconstitutional.


KING: Calling on the court there. Just last week, you told this to the CNS News, "We're legislators. We believe in the voice of the people. That's why we're here. This repeal is not an issue that should be decided by the court. This is an issue that should be decided by the legislators. And we need to be the ones to pass the repeal of this bill."

BACHMANN: And ultimately that is what we have to do. It is before the court now. They will make a decision, and that's why I said...

KING: Would you prefer the courts not get involved?

BACHMANN: Well, they are involved. It's just a fact. But what needs to be done is that the Congress needs to weigh in. They need to repeal this and find it unconstitutional.

KING: But should -- why speak outside the court when you're on record saying you prefer that you do this in the halls of Congress?

BACHMANN: Well, remember, we are a system of government with three different branches. Today the bill is before the court. And so I'm calling on the court to declare it unconstitutional.

But that doesn't mean that the law will necessarily go away. Because there's four different parts of the bill that the court is taking up. The tax portion, the individual mandate portion, the severability clause and the spending clause. We don't know how the court will vote on any of them. I hope that they'll declare the whole unconstitutional. They may not.

No matter what, it's up to Congress to repeal this bill and replace it with true health care legislation that will drive down the cost of health care.

KING: Appreciate your time tonight.

BACHMANN: Thank you, John.

KING: Coming up, the truth about this week's battle at the Supreme Court. Guess what? It's about a lot more than health care.





KING: Supreme Court is tackling a question that goes well beyond the legality of the Obama health-care law.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: They say this is unconstitutional. Then you say Social Security and Medicare are also unconstitutional. I'm not sure the court's prepared to do that.


KING: The high court is very unlikely to declare Social Security and Medicare unconstitutional, but it is wrestling with what, years from now, will undoubtedly be a landmark case, and its decision will draw the court into the central political debate of our time. The role, the reach, the power of the federal government.


JOHNSON: And that is what is at stake: our freedom. This isn't about health care. It's about freedom.


KING: Democrats, of course, see it differently. Sweeping health-care reform, universal or near-universal access has been a Democratic rallying cry for decades.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), FORMER SENATOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: It is morally right; it's what this nation is all about. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now protecting the law is the left's primary focus.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love Obama care! We love Obama care! We love Obama care!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love Obama care! We love Obama care! We love Obama care!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love Obama care! We love Obama care! We love Obama care!


KING: Tonight's "Truth" won't satisfy either side. The high court's decision will settle the constitutional questions around this one very important health-care law. But the court won't settle the role of government debate. Hardly. That job rightfully falls on you, the voters.

Your verdict in 2008 was pretty clear. So was your verdict in 2010. Both were decisive election mandates. They just happened to be in direct conflict with each other.

So now it's on to 2012. You have choice to settle this clearly, or to continue the tug of war that is divided government.

Let's talk truth tonight with CNN contributor and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos; Obama campaign pollster Cornell Belcher; and Romney campaign advisor Kevin Madden.

Let me start here. To the sense that the significance of this case is what? And some people would argue if you're a conservative, you'd rather lose, have them uphold the law, for turnout in November.

KEVIN MADDEN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Well, I think that this law's going to be on the ballot no matter what happens in the Supreme Court. I think there is going to be a very big and robust debate about the size of and scope of government, its role in your life. I think it's not only going to apply to health care, but it's going to apply to a whole bunch of other different issues related to spending and deficits and the impact it has on our larger economy.

So I think that we're looking at the Supreme Court in a very political fashion while they're looking at it in a very clinical fashion. But the debate that's going to take place in November is going to be -- it's going to be much bigger about the role of government in people's lives on a whole range of issues.

KING: You crunched the numbers as well as anybody. Why is the country so divided still on this question? Our latest poll, do you favor or oppose the mandate that is central to the health-care bill. Forty-seven percent favor, 51 percent oppose. Throw in the margin of error, that's a tie.

CORNELL BELCHER, OBAMA POLLSTER: Well, it goes along with us being divided by a lot of issues. This is a shame that this has gotten so politicized at this point, because quite frankly, when you go back and look at the elections, you know, Democrats had clear advantage around health care. And you go back and look at the 2008 election, health care and sort of the ideals around health care sort of helped Barack Obama in the presidential election. So -- and it's something that we have to solve for.

Now, Republicans have politicized the mandate. Your guy had a mandate in Massachusetts because you know what? That was a practical solution to the problem. So we're in a situation right now where practical solutions to the problem, and we all know what the problem is, they get politicized and they become back and forth punching bags.

MADDEN: Just real quick on that, just real quick: that was for 7 million people. This was a one-size-fits-all standard that was applied to 350 million.

BELCHER: Was it a mandate? Was it a mandate?

MADDEN: It was a mandate. I don't want to argue the case here. But the unique health-care population of Massachusetts is much different than the unique -- than the larger health-care population of the 50 different states.

BELCHER: But it was a mandate, right?

KING: Did the political parties want the courts in on this question? You heard Senator Leahy. That's hyperbole. They're not going to throw out Medicare; they're not going to throw out Social Security.

But this has been the defining debate between the two political parties since before any of us were born. The role of government, how much activism, how much leave it to the states, whether the states should have the right to have a mandate on it. Do you want the courts involved in this question if you're a politician?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If you're a politician, my experience is you don't want to win by losing. You don't want to think that, hey, if I lose, I'll have an advantage politically. You win by winning.

Because at the end of the day, if Barack Obama loses this, this will be a defeat for his administration. He spent two years when he should have been working on the economy and jobs on this, and now it goes down the -- down the tubes? It will make him a weaker president.

And it will be a victory politically for Republicans, but that's not the point.

We do have a debate here about the role of government and whether government can make you buy things in a free country. And that is what the body -- that's something the court should fight about. Now, the last time this was a political issue was two years ago, and Republicans took Congress because of it. This is the kind of issue that not only energizes the base, but makes independents...

KING: But when that happened, Cornell, a lot of the criticism, Democrats is that they weren't embracing their own law, that they were running from their own law. We've seen it in the last couple of weeks to a degree from the White House. More importantly, from HFS and from the Obama campaign.

Sure, call it Obama care if you want. We're proud of it. This is ours. Is that a better political strategy than what happened in 2010 when I think it's fair to say I don't think you'd argue a lot of Democrats hid from this law?

BELCHER: Well, I agree with you. I agree with you completely. We should have done a better job of talking about it and talking about what's in it. You've seen the polling on this. You know that when you talk about sort of the overall bill, people are divided on it. But when you talk about -- break down what's actually in the bill, people support what's actually in the bill.

CASTELLANOS: But there's another way to look at that. You know? Hey, people like this window. People like this door. But do you want it in this horrible house, in the whole package, and the answer is no. The American people don't want it.

BELCHER: No, it's not -- no.


BELCHER: The problem is it has been politicized, and the mandate has become a sort of symbolized. You know what?

KING: The mandate is pretty important to the legislation.

BELCHER: You know what?

KING: If there's going to be a symbol, you think that would be it, right?

BELCHER: We have to be adults. I don't like mandates either, but I want the problem solved. And how do we solve the problem? Just like they did in Massachusetts.


MADDEN: No politics in policy. None whatsoever.

KING: All right. Everybody stand by. OK. You guys are staying with me. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour.

Erin, you're following a fascinating case. You're checking in on this meltdown of the JetBlue pilot. What do you know?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is going to be -- it's pretty amazing, as you know. JetBlue Flight 191 from the New York JFK Airport headed to Las Vegas. There was an incident with the pilot. I can tell you right now that within the next few moments that plane, which was diverted, is going to be landing.

We're going to be talking with some passengers who were there; going to talk about exactly what happened with the pilot allegedly. I guess went to the bathroom and then tried to re-storm (ph) the cockpit.

We're also going to be joined by Captain Sully Sullenberger. We'll talk about exactly what's going on, why we keep hearing more of these sorts of things and what pilots in this country are going through, whether safety is really at risk.

Also on the Trayvon Martin case, we're going to talk with C.L. Bryant, the man who said that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are contributing to a problem in this country. And he will be joined by Roland Martin. That should be a very spirited conversation.

Back to you.

KING: Looking forward to it. We'll see you in just a few minutes, Erin, thanks.

Next here, dramatic video of police chasing a stolen school bus. You'll see how it ended.

Plus, who would you pick to play the role of former first lady Nancy Reagan? Not Jane Fonda. Well, it could happen.


KING: Early this hour, we reported the parents of Trayvon Martin are here in Washington, meeting with lawmakers while the investigation in Florida continued into their son's tragic shooting death last month.

We're back now with our panel: Alex Castellanos, Cornell Belcher and Kevin Madden. I spoke to the special prosecutor earlier in this case, gentlemen. She said that it complicates; it makes it harder when you have this political outrage, when you have questions of race and inject it in the public debate.

She said she would like some time, and she needs a couple of weeks in the investigation. She wishes even the parents would dial it back a bit. But listen here. Clearly, that's not going to happen.


DARYL PARKS, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION: Trayvon was a kid. He was another unarmed black boy whose life was lost because of unfounded stereotypes, suspicions and fears.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: You're innocent until proven guilty under this law but arrested so that peace may come to these parents and proceed under a criminal justice system that is fair to Trayvon, his family as it would be to anyone else.


KING: There is no question the emotions are raw here, especially for these parents, who have the most severe and unique pain here. But where is the line? There is outrage because the police department says they should let this thing go and there was no charge. Then you do get a grand jury investigation. You do get the civil rights division involved. At what point, Cornell, should the politicians step back and at least say we're going to give you a couple weeks? We're not going anywhere. We're going to be quiet.

BELCHER: Well, I'm actually surprised and impressed that it hasn't become more politicized than it has. You have the Republican governor of Florida saying we have a problem here and looking into it. So I'm happy that it's not become as politicized as I thought it would.

I think there's a question of justice that is paramount in America, and I think this doesn't pass the smell test with America, where you're black or white, where you have a young man who is going home with Skittles shot dead, and the man who shot him dead doesn't get arrested. That rule doesn't pass the smell test with Americans when they're looking for justice. I know it's complicated, but in the end does it pass the smell test? And this doesn't seem to do so.

CASTELLANOS: Where you draw the line, John, and your question is look at what our president did. I think I can give my Republican union card yanked for this.

He spoke about this personally as something that he understood and felt, but he didn't get involved in the case itself. He took it to, I think, a higher place and said, "Look, this is important to work through, no matter who you are or where you come from." And he -- he let us know that it was serious without inciting anger, contributing to it and asking folks, I think, to trust the system and let it work.

I think a lot of leaders could learn a lesson from that, black or white, Democrat or Republican, right now.

KING: It's one of those stories everybody is talking about.

MADDEN: It is.

KING: In this town, people are consumed with the campaign. People are talking.

MADDEN: It is. And look, if there are microphones and cameras and newspaper reporters around, you can be sure that politicians are going to insert themselves into this.

But I do think that many of the folks at home that are watching this and talking about it, they are -- they're interested in learning more facts. They are interested in finding out more before they form a judgment. And I think many of the polar sides of this oftentimes aren't. I think people are starting to make up their minds. And I think what would be interesting to see is whether or not media and others and politicians can start to bring people together on this, because it clearly is causing a big division.

KING: Prosecutor was impressive in the conversation. She said a couple of weeks she'll have at least a preliminary report.

Kevin, Cornell, Alex, appreciate your coming in.

Here's Kate Bolduan now with the latest news you need to know right now.


Strong winds in Colorado turned a controlled burn into a wildfire that's killed at least two people. Some 900 homes in Jefferson County west of Denver have been evacuated, and at least 4,500 acres have been scorched. Federal assistance is expected to arrive tonight.

And speaking of homes, homes are now as cheap as they were a decade ago. Prices dropped for the fifth straight month in January, with the average home losing about .8 percent of its value. That's according to a price index in 20 major cities.

A little extra context for you. Home prices are down a little more than 34 percent from their peak in 2006.

And now check this out. It's newly released video from a police car dashboard camera, showing cops chasing a stolen school bus, of all things, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this month. As you can see, the bus kept going even after police used spikes to shred the tires under the bus. The bus fan-tailed onto a highway median, and the 27-year- old driver is now in jail facing -- surprise, surprise -- criminal charges.

Still no word on where he was attempting to go in a school bus.

KING: You can have your own network, Dashboard Cam Network. Just show that video all the time.

BOLDUAN: It probably would have a lot of viewers.

KING: All right. Now tonight's "Moment You Won't Want to Miss," likely to raise eyebrows from Hollywood to here in Washington. Jane Fonda is in talks to play Nancy Reagan in a new biopic called "The Butler." "Variety" reports the liberal actress, known for her antiwar activism, is set to cameo as the conservative first lady, the drama based on a long-term White House butler.

Makes no sense. All right. Kate has nothing to say on that.

That's all for us tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.