Return to Transcripts main page


Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Hobby Lobby Against ObamaCare; Mother Under Investigation in Death of Georgia Toddler; GM to Award At Least $1 Mill. To Families of Victims; Team USA to Face Belgium Tomorrow

Aired June 30, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.


BERMAN: Let's get straight to the business news this morning, the Supreme Court victory for Hobby Lobby. This was an important case, a major case, one that deals with some of the country's most contentious issues, including religious liberty and ObamaCare.

PEREIRA: Yeah. The ruling came just a short time ago. The arts and crafts retail chain will not be forced to pay to cover certain forms of contraceptives for their employees.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is outside the Supreme Court where a lot of people have gathered, and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is also with us. He's in Washington.

Pam, obviously, we want to start with you, the scene of where this all played out. Obviously, this is one of the biggest and most anticipated rulings. It was the one left for last, a little bit of drama before they end their session.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So much anticipation for this ruling today, it is the final day of the public session. The crowds were out, demonstrators on both sides of this issue, issues combining abortion, religious liberty, ObamaCare, corporate rights, all into this one ruling.

And today we heard the ruling from the majority, the five conservative justices ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, striking down this key provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring closely held, family- owned companies to provide comprehensive coverage of contraception to its employees.

Now the two companies that brought this case forward argued that four types of contraception in particular violated their faith because they equate it to abortion, and they said that they should not be forced by the government to provide coverage of these four types of contraception because of the faith, and today the justices acknowledging that these closely held family-owned companies do have religious liberty rights similar to individuals. They cited a 20-year-old federal law, saying that under this law that companies like Hobby Lobby, again, specific, closely held family-owned companies do have religious liberty rights and do not have to abide by this requirement to provide comprehensive contraception coverage to its employees.

As soon as that ruling came down, we heard a lot of jeers and cheers from all the demonstrators around. It's a very strong opinions here on a case that has sparked heated rhetoric on both sides.

And I think it's important to mention, Michaela and John, the argument from the Obama administration and its supporters. They contend that this ruling today could open up a can of worms, that now by acknowledging these closely held, family-owned companies do have religious liberty rights that essentially other companies could say that -- and could bring forth challenges saying they don't want to provide coverage for medical marijuana or healthcare coverage for same sex couples because it's a violation of their faith.

That is what the other side is arguing, and they have said that this provision is essential to women's health. It certainly is a big blow to the Obama administration.

BERMAN: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Let's talk about that can of worms you just brought up here, bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, to weigh in here.

Jeffrey, you know, the majority seemed to go out of its way to make this a narrow ruling, just applicable to closely held companies, but what are these implications?

Does it open the legal can of worms that Pamela was just talking about?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's really the heart of the dispute between the dissent and the majority opinion.

Just to focus on the obvious here for a second, the five justices in the majority were all appointed by Republican presidents. The four justices in the minority were all appointed by Democratic presidents. Three of the four women who have served in the history of the Supreme Court were in the minority in this case.

You know, this is a deeply political issue, and I think that's reflected in the voting here.

Now the question about where this goes from here seems to be very much up in the air. Justice Kennedy who provided the swing vote wrote a concurring opinion saying, well, you know, this is really not that big a deal. It only applies in these limited circumstances with companies that are essentially family-owned that have well-known, well established religious beliefs.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the dissenting opinion said no, no, no, if you read this opinion, the breadth is astonishing, that this essentially gives employers veto power over women's health insurance, over what kind of services they will or not get under their insurance policies.

Frankly, I don't know what the answer is. There's a -- that is a real tension between the two opinions. There undoubtedly will be more cases coming down the road, but that's the heart of the disagreement in this case.

PEREIRA: Jeffrey, I can't help but think that there are going to be people that will see this as religious freedoms, religious beliefs trumping women's rights and obviously what they can do with their bodies.

Is that too simplistic a view and you know, it's very significant to me that you say that three of the female justices dissented?

TOOBIN: The only female justices, yes, that's right. Absolutely right, and, look, you know, these are -- so many of these issues are about how you frame them, how you see them.

You know, the majority sees this as the oppressive hand of government telling religious people that they have to pay for things that they have moral objections to. That's the argument that prevailed with the majority.

The defense sees this as women showing up for work at this huge company with 3,000 people and, oh, by the way, because of the religious views of the owners of this company, people you've never met, you are never going to meet, you don't get the same health care coverage that the people down the street get, and working at another company.

That's how the dissenters see it, and you know, that's -- those are fundamentally views in conflict with each other, and that's why it was a close and difficult case. And that's why Democrats see this one way, Republicans see it another, in Congress and in the Supreme Court.

BERMAN: It opens the door for more decisions and discussions down the road.

Quickly, Jeffrey, there was another ruling today, also seen as a narrow ruling where the Supreme Court ruled on public unions and dues collection for public unions. Explain to me what happened here and the implications.

TOOBIN: Right. This was another decision written by Justice Alito, one of President Bush's appointees to the court, also five-to-four, and the decision was that home healthcare workers who are not -- who are covered by a labor union contract but don't want to join the union don't have to pay dues.

And the reason this case, I think genuinely is narrowly decided is because Justice Alito's opinion said this really only applies to home healthcare workers who have a peculiarly sort of public role but sort of private role, and it doesn't apply to all government employees. That really would have been close to a death knell for public employee unions in this country. It didn't address that issue, so that one is still coming down the line.

PEREIRA: Another blow to unions, though, to be sure.

TOOBIN: Yes. No question.

PEREIRA: Jeff Toobin, thanks so much for analyzing that for us. Great to have you with us @THISHOUR.

Take a short break here. Ahead, we are going to hear from both sides of the Hobby Lobby debate, what they're saying about the Supreme Court decision.

BERMAN: Then, he wants his city to make sure his keys still work. That's him right there. Rob Ford returns to work after being in rehab for two months.

PEREIRA: Everyone has a bad day once in a while. What if Facebook intentionally tried to make your day worse or better?

How the social media giant set people off by manipulating its content, that's all coming up.


PEREIRA: We've been watching this news out of the Supreme Court, the Hobby Lobby retail chain will not be forced to pay for certain forms of contraceptives to its employees. Obviously the Supreme Court deciding and ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. This is going to have quite a reaction in the White House.

We want to bring our White House correspondent Jim Acosta with reaction from the Obama administration, certainly a blow to the administration, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPNDENT: Absolutely. I mean this is probably the biggest victory for opponents of the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law.

Keep in mind that this was upheld at the Supreme Court just a couple of shorts years ago, and ever since then, conservatives have been looking for that symbolic victory, and they got it today. Even though it's not going to undermine or greatly damage the law, it's certainly that victory that they have been seeking.

And we should point out that right now the president right now is meeting with the president of Chile in the oval office. There's a pool spray, as we call it here at the White House. A limited number of reporters have been allowed in to get the president's comments.

Sometimes he has asked questions about news of the day in these circumstances, and he'll respond. I don't think that is likely to be the case. I don't think he's going to respond to the Hobby Lobby case in that case, but we'll wait and see. At the bottom of the hour, though, we should point out, Michaela and John, the White House briefing will be taking place, and I imagine we will be hearing from the press secretary, Josh Earnest, about this.

I would not expect the White House to get overly political about this. You're hearing that coming from Democratic allies. You heard from Emily's List, earlier this morning, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the DNC. They are really casting this in midterm political terms and saying that this is the reason why Democrats need to come out and vote.

And, guys, you know, we've heard the president time and time again over the last several months saying Democrats just don't come out and vote in midterms. They don't think it's -- they don't really think there's a big reason for them to come out and vote.

So you may hear from Democrats saying that this is a bit of a rallying cry, that it makes who gets to pick the Supreme Court justices and who is in the Senate to confirm those Supreme Court justices.

So this may take on a big political dimension as the days go on.

BERMAN: Jim Acosta at the White House, I guarantee you that by the close of today, in fact probably by the close of this hour, we will see fundraising emails from groups really on both sides based off of this issue.

It's already a political issue, but it's only going to get more so in the coming hours and days.

All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Hannah Smith, an attorney for the Becket Fund, which represents the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby.

Also with us, Emily Tisch Sussman, campaign director for the Center for American Progress.

First, Hannah, I want to start with you here. This is a victory for Hobby Lobby, a victory for your clients. Tell us what your reaction is.

HANNAH SMITH, THE BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: It's a great day for the Green family, for Hobby Lobby, for women, and for people of faith in America.

This was an astounding opinion, a great decision by Justice Alito joined by the chief, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, upholding the rights of family-owned businesses under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

PEREIRA: Emily, I want to hear your take on this because you know have called this ruling a slippery slope.

Talk about your reaction to this and how you see it as being a slippery slope. EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN, DEMOCRATIC COMMENTATOR: Yeah, absolutely. It

might be a great day for the Green family, but it is not a great day for their 17,000 employees. This is hardly a small, family business, and it's not a great day for the American people in general.

What this ruling does it moves in the direction this court has been moving already, which is talking about corporate personhood, really treating corporations like people, saying that the corporation has a religion itself and that that should be imposed upon its employees.

One of the things that hasn't really been discussed as much is what about the religious freedom of the individual employee? Previously we've seen cases that say that your religious freedom stops at my body. We don't know how far that's going to go now that we have this ruling. It may continue to go further. What if the religious-based employer, what if they don't believe in cancer treatments or vaccinations? This could go on. The language of this decision does say it's limited to contraception but now this ruling is out there, it could definitely go further.

BERMAN: Hannah, what about that? Do you think that your rights, the rights of these religious people who own these companies should it extend to things like vaccinations, should it extend to gay employees, for instances? Should they have the right not to hire employees who are gay?

SMITH: Well, look the court was very careful in its opinion today. In fact, it devoted several pages to disclaiming those scare tactics. It said very specifically this is a narrow opinion that applies to this contraception mandate. It does not apply to vaccine claims. It does not apply to other claims. So all of the scare tactic that people are saying, all of these things are going to happen now, the court was very clear that those things are not part of this opinion today.

BERMAN: Do you think they should be going forward? Is that something you think Hobby Lobby will pursue?

SMITH: Oh, no, absolutely not. Those are not claims that have been presented in this case. Those are not claims that have been presented in the last 50 years that we've had this same legal standard governing these claims. And, in fact, you know, courts are very good at weeding out those types of claims, and as you heard Justice Alito say from the bench today, I was in the court room when he was speaking, he said these are not -- these vaccination claims are simply ridiculous. They are not going to be affected by this opinion today. So all of those scare tactics I think we need to leave aside and look at what the battle really is going forward. That is the government continues to persecute the little sisters of the poor. These nonprofit religious ministries are still fighting these cases in the lower courts. And that is still a battle that we have to fight.

PEREIRA: And Emily, on your side, I imagine you still feel there's a battle that obviously needs to happen so that -- of the employees that do work there that are going to need or want these contraceptives, they then have to make a decision do I stay working for this company or find employment elsewhere? SUSSMAN: Absolutely. This is going to have a strong impact on the

employees themselves. But also, just to address the idea the it is ridiculous that it would go to vaccinations, it is actually not so ridiculous.

You don't have to take my word for it, you can take the dissent of Justice Ginsburg. She said that the breadth of this decision is really quite incredible. The fact that the contraception that is in question right now is actually not based on medical evidence that it's connected to abortion, purely on faith in general. So if you are using religion and faith as a standard it is absolutely something that could be widespread and applied across the board.

But, you know, this religious -- the contraceptive in particular that we are talking about, this is something very popular across the country. Since it's gone into effect over 24 million women have taken advantage of it. So I actually don't think that is it crazy when we start to talk about is this something that will impact the public at large. And on the political, will it actually be motivating people to turn out to the polls.

SMITH: Well, first of all, I want to say that Hobby Lobby does cover those contraceptives, 16 out of the 20 Hobby Lobby already covers. The garden variety contraceptives were not at issue in this case. It was simple Plan B and Ella and two forms of IUD's that act to prevent implementation of an embryo, which the Greens believe causes an abortion. So we're only talking about those four types of emergency contraceptives in this case. So to say that this is going to impact Hobby Lobby's female employees is ridiculous, they are covered for garden variety contraceptives, they always have been and they will continue to be after this opinion today.

BERMAN: This just proves that once the supreme court makes a decision it does not extinguish the passion in a case like this. Hannah Smith, Emily Tisch Sussman, thank so much for being with us we really appreciate it.

PEREIRA: No, it sure does not. Greta conversation ladies, thank you.

Ahead, expanding the investigation in the hot car toddler death. Police say both parents, both mom and dad, searched hot car deaths on Internet.

BERMAN: Then, it's supposed to deploy during an emergency, but this evacuation slide unfolded while a plane was in mid flight. Yikes! That's coming up @THIS HOUR.


BERMAN: A new twist in the investigation into the death of a Georgia toddler who was locked in a car for more than seven hours while temperatures just sizzled.

PEREIRA: Police now say the boy's mother is under investigation after admitting that she too researched hot car deaths on the Internet. Leanna Harris has not been charged. But the boys father, Justin Harris is being held without bond. He is charged with murder and child cruelty.

I want to bring in our college Ashleigh Banfield, host of CNN's Legal View. Good morning dear. All right, so this is an interesting development because previously we had not heard from the mother. We know the funeral happened over the weekend. She stood by her husband and backed him up. But now she to revealed she searched this information on the Internet. It's kind of weird. Is it fair to think that maybe they were just worried about the possibility of something like this happening and looked it up?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST, LEGAL VIEW: I have always been worried that I would do that, yet I didn't need to search online to find out how deadly it is. I just know it's deadly and I think that would be an argument for a lot of jurors. Now, by the same token, when you have two people doing this, it makes a lot of reasonable doubt. Whomever it was on the keyboard looking for this, for what reason, it's a tricky wicket to actually get through for prosecutors. They are going to need some other stuff here, they are going to need some other evidence, especially to get through that probably cause hearing, they are not tipping their hand to us. We only little bits and pieces. But I will tell you one thing that juries really want, prosecutors don't have to give it, but juries really subconsciously command it, a reason, give me a reason why you would do this to your own child. Were you in it for the money? Were you in it because you hated the kid? Were you in it because you were fighting over custody? Something, give me something, otherwise it's just flimsy and weird but it doesn't really scream murder.

BERMAN: Flimsy and weird, but to me at least, it means the police and the prosecutors are not about to let up here. This gives them, I think, motivation to keep investigating this hard as long as it takes.

BANFIELD: If I were on the prosecutor's team, I would have investigators giving me every single cell phone, text message, every piece of communication that went on, every single email that woman, that mother, Leanna, and that father, Justin, had with everyone. Any suggestion whatsoever. I also want to know was he on the phone the whole way between the restaurant and his place of work. And with whom, and also could he have just been distracted? Could it be that easy? This is not an easy case. Prosecutors don't like to bring case's that they can't win. So let's not forget that part either. They also don't like dead children.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. And that's what stuck in the craw of so many people. At the end of the day, this little boy is no longer with us. Here is a question, is timing on all this searching relevant and important? When they did and how soon before?

BANFIELD: Yes. Now you are thinking like a lawyer. What if early, say early In this child's life, they had a child and they were so overwhelmed by the emotion of it all, they wanted to know all the things that could go wrong, because we do that as parents. Maybe it was months or years ago, maybe it was a week ago, which would be a little more difficult to stomach. Again, for jurors, is it a direct tie to murder? It is not, but it is just one more thing that weights you, it weights you as your decision has to be made. But you know what, when the bar is beyond a reasonable doubt, that is a heavy bar to meet. Not preponderance, it's beyond a reasonable doubt. That's hard for jurors to do without some kind of reason.

PEREIRA: What reason.

BERMAN: Ashleigh Banfield great to have you. Legal View, of course, begins at noon.

BANFIELD: Yes, work that up for me.

BERMAN: Do your stretching exercises.

PEREIRA: She does that before every show.

BERMAN: Other top stories we are looking at @THISHOUR, GM has announced it will award at least a million dollars to each of the families of those killed as a result of ignition switch defects. GM will give another $300,00 for each surviving spouse and dependent, that is in addition to compensation for lost wages.


KENNETH FEINBERG, GM COMPENSATION CLAIMS ADMINISTRATION: Many of these accidents occurred years ago, a decade ago. What evidence, what circumstantial evidence can be produced that will demonstrate an ignition switch failure as the cause of the accident? Well, we have done quite a bit of homework on this, and there are six, seven, eight different examples of very valuable evidence that will help demonstrate a link between ignition failure and the accident.


BERMAN: At least 13 people died and many more were injured as a result of the faulty switch. GM employees first knew the switches were a problem ten years ago but the auto maker didn't issue a recall until a decade later.

PEREIRA: Some scary moments in the air @THISHOUR, United Airlines is trying to figure out why an emergency slide opened up inside the plane mid flight. Look at this.

BERMAN: It is not supposed to do that.

PEREIRA: It's not supposed to do that. At the back of the plane, playing out there, you see the chute crammed into the rear of the cabin. The plane was headed from Chicago to Orange County, California. It had to make an emergency stop though in Wichita because of this. Fortunately no one was hurt, we're told by United. No one tried to open the door during flight. So we don't know why that chute opened. The investigation continues.

BERMAN: All right it is time to go find your Flemish-English dictionary because you need to trash talk the Blegiums. They are all the stands between Team USA and a trip to the quarter finals of the World Cup. PEREIRA: He's not jazzed up about this at all. I thought you were going to say something about waffles and such, but no, you restrained yourself. Our Lara Baldessara is in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. She is there covering the big game. Knock out or be knocked out is kind of the name of the game, right now, isn't it, Lara?

LARA BALDESSARA, CNN SPORTS: It absolutely is, Michaela, and just on that waffle front for a second, you know that waffle house, the chain, obviously, in the U.S., it's declared that they want everyone to boycott Belgium waffles. Go in there and order American style waffles. I could use a waffle right now.

But anyway, yes, this game it is do or die. The USA has to win to stay alive in this World Cup. It's going to be a pretty tough game for the USA, but they are pretty evenly matched teams, they are both pretty young teams, average age wise 26 and 27 for the USA. In terms of experience, both are kind of limited in terms of World Cup experience.

But, guys, I think that the real key here is going to be the confidence that really comes from this USA coach, Jurgen Klinsmann. World Cup winner, former World Cup coach. This guy has been around. He's so confident. He's told all the families to rebook their tickets so they fly out of Brazil after the final of the World Cup. That confidence is spilling over into his players.

In just a few hours, I'm going to be heading on into a press conference. I want to see the mood to, not just hear the words come out of their mouths, but see exactly and feel what they are feeling, if they are confident, if they are laid back, maybe a little tentative, like we did see in the first press conference before the first USA game. That will be in a couple of hours and I'll have all the scoop for you after that.

BERMAN: We can't wait. We still don't know about Jozy Altidore, Jurgen Klinsmann playing that a little close to the vest. Will the U.S. star striker, will he take the field against the Belgians?

BALDESSARA: His leg injury is coming along. Of course, we haven't seen him since the first 20 minutes of the first USA game. And apparently, according to Klinsmann, everything is coming along very well and we can expect him to play in the game, but I don't know if he's not there, to me guys, it's not that big of a loss.

PEREIRA: All right. Hopefully they feel all of the energy that's coming from the U.S. Brazil almost missing out yesterday. That game was crazy -- or day before yesterday, I guess, it was Saturday. Brazil, I imagine, the country was on edge after almost being defeated and knocked out of the play.