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Supreme Court Announcement; Democrats Boycott Cabinet Votes; Furor Continues Over President Trump's Travel Ban. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 31, 2017 - 16:30   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: In the Hobby Lobby case, he sided with the corporations who claimed the so-called contraceptive mandate in Obamacare violated their religious beliefs.

And he penned a book arguing against assisted suicide and euthanasia, writing -- quote -- "The idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."

At 49 years old, Gorsuch could remain on the court for a generation and become one of Trump's most lasting legacies.

STEPHEN VLADECK, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF LAW: He serves for 30 or 35 years, he could certainly have an enormous impact on the law of the land, especially if President Trump gets another confirmation or two during his presidency, and someone like Neil Gorsuch becomes the center of the court, as opposed to Anthony Kennedy.

But it's still possible President Trump could choose Judge Hardiman, a well-regarded conservative with a blue-collar background.

THOMAS HARDIMAN, JUDGE: I'm going to try to channel my inner newspaper delivery boy, lawn mowing and taxi driving experience to see if I can be of service here to the panel.

BROWN: Hardiman has earned the approval of conservatives on issues such as guns and immigration. Last August, he joined an opinion that ruled against Central American immigrants detained on U.S. soil, something that could have been a big selling point for a new president drawing a hard line on immigration.

VLADECK: The Court of Appeals held that Central American my grants who were in the United States but out of status weren't even entitled to judicial review, let alone to be released from their detention. That's a pretty important precedent. And if you were to follow that on the Supreme Court, that could have obvious ramifications for questions of the rights of immigrants, especially under this new executive order.

BROWN: Hardiman also has a powerful ally, sharing the bench in the Third District with Trump's sister Maryanne, who is also a federal judge.


BROWN: And with three Supreme Court justices in their 70s and 80s, Judge Gorsuch may not be the president's last Supreme Court, or Judge Hardiman, depending who he goes with.

This is leading to discussions on the Hill about determine whether Democrats should hold their fire and save it for the next time when that nominee could shift the ideological balance of the court -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, because this is the Scalia seat, so to say, so to speak.

BROWN: Right.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Joining me now to talk more about the court, Joan Biskupic. She's a Supreme Court biographer and CNN legal analyst.

Joan, good to see you again.

Once President Trump announces his nominee, what will senators be looking for in the confirmation process? What kind of scrutiny do you expect?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good question, because tonight what we will see is we will see the individual with his family. If it's Judge Gorsuch, maybe we will see him with his daughters, his wife. It will all be a lot of glitter and pageantry in the East Room tonight.

Then right away it will be the sale on the substance of this judge with a look at his rulings, his speeches. Both sides will be digging up everything they have. The Republicans and President Trump will be trying to portray him as someone who would be very good for the country, not just succeed Antonin Scalia and his style of conservatism, but represent the American public, whereas the other side is going to probably paint him as him, or if it's Judge Hardiman as narrowly as possible, say he's not fair for consumer rights, he's not fair for employee rights.

He keeps people -- either individual could probably be accused of narrowly construing the right to bring civil rights cases to the Supreme Court. So, this is -- tomorrow will be the big day as this all really rolls out in a more substantive way.

TAPPER: My understanding -- and correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that neither Gorsuch nor Hardiman have ever weighed in directly on abortion, as opposed to the third individual, Judge Pryor, who is no longer on the list of potential nominees as far as we know.

Gorsuch did side with Hobby Lobby, however, which felt that the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare violated their religious beliefs. That might play out, right?

BISKUPIC: That's right. I think, first of all, you rightly hone in on abortion, because the

president said when he was running for office that that's exactly what he wanted to reverse, Roe v. Wade, the precedent from the '70s that made abortion legal nationwide. He said he wanted it returned to the states for them to decide when a woman has a right to end a pregnancy.

So, it's sort of a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump would be looking for someone who he believed would be against abortion rights. So, maybe there was some signalling back and forth in the vetting along the way, or the Trump team might have thought, look, Judge Gorsuch has ruled against reproductive rights in this way in the Hobby Lobby case that you mention, Jake, and that's good enough.

And whatever they got from Judge Hardiman and the people who were his sponsors who know him as more of a conservative would have vouched for him on that front.

TAPPER: All right, Joan Biskupic, always great to have you on. Thank you so much.

You can watch coverage of President Trump's Supreme Court announcement during "A.C. 360." Our special coverage begins tonight at 7:55 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


Coming up, he was the Iraqi translator for American sniper Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Now he lives in America, but he supports President Trump's immigration ban. He will explain why next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

More on our top story today in our world lead, the fallout from Trump's travel ban from seven Muslim majority nations identified as national security concerns.

We have two very distinct voices weighing in that we want to bring you. They're on opposite sides of this debate. Each has served the United States, but in different ways.

Joining me now, an Iraqi Muslim who goes by the code name Johnny Walker. He worked as American sniper Chris Kyle's interpreter during the Iraq War, and he supports the travel ban and restrictions. We also have with us Afghanistan veteran and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and language instructor Assal Ravandi, an Iranian-American who opposes the ban.


Thanks to both of you for being here.

Johnny, let me start with you.

Why do you support President Trump's travel ban? JOHNNY WALKER, FORMER IRAQI INTERPRETER: Because I want to support my

family. I want to support my kids.

I want to support my own people, the Muslim people to live in the United States. I want them to feel safe. And when their kids go to the school, no one threatens them. I don't want to have that feeling back to me. When I'm in Iraq, I have my A.K. underneath my head ready to kill people, and I don't think this is a good feeling to have it again.

TAPPER: So, Johnny, let me just ask you, one of the big debates is that the vetting needs to be better. Obviously, you were vetted. How thorough was the process?

WALKER: Process can take long time, but you know what? It's worth it, because you're coming to United States, the best country in the world. So, the time and the process, I wait for four years, five years to move to the United States.

I lost half of my tribe, half of my family, my brother. But you know what? My journey is worth it. My kids, they will thank me and all the generations for what I did.

TAPPER: Assal, let me turn to you. Tell me why you oppose President Trump's travel ban and restrictions.

ASSAL RAVANDI, FORMER U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Jake, as an immigrant and as an Iranian immigrant having to come to this country, having served my new country, and the only one that I know, I must tell you that I truly believe in a proper vetting process.

I believe the ban or the executive order was not based on a thorough, vetted intelligence gathering, but, instead, it was a symbolic gesture to make a political point, to maintain a campaign rhetoric.

And coming from the military intelligence background, it is not logical to base your safety based on a banner, an executive order without bringing all the pieces of the puzzle into play, not to mention the fact that individuals who have contributed to putting this executive order together are clearly not familiar with the demographics that are affected and impacted on daily basis.

And in my America, the America that I know, you do not come into a safe haven and shut the door behind you, Mr. Johnny Walker, and tell everyone else that I came in, I'm safe now, no one else can come in.

TAPPER: Johnny, go ahead and respond.

WALKER: For her or for...

TAPPER: Well, she just said -- well, the idea of you got in to the United States safely from Iraq, and she is saying that you got in safely and shut the door behind you. Obviously, there are a lot of people who were in your boat, Iraqi interpreters who helped the U.S. Army, helped the U.S. armed forces, and they want to get in.

Right now, they're on hold for several months. Are you getting in and shutting the door behind you?

WALKER: What you said, they hold for several months?

TAPPER: For the seven countries, including Iraq, there are several months that they can't come into this country, yes.

WALKER: So, they hold, right? So, what is the issue?

If Donald Trump, he want a clean Obama trash and chaos and mistake, and he want to make our guests feel safe in her house, just wait few months. What is the problem? I mean, everyone care about United States, he should agree with Trump.


WALKER: Hold on.

How about you will answer me, but I have two questions for you. One question, why you did not say anything in 2013, when Obama, President Obama at that time banned the Iraqi refugee Muslim program for six months because especially the al Qaeda members, they came to Green, Kentucky?

And another question, if you can guarantee all are refugees, they cannot come to the United States, 100 percent they are innocent, I will go with you and I will support your opinion.

TAPPER: Just a quick fact. I think the Iraqi slowdown in 2011 wasn't a complete ban, but it was a significant slowdown, indeed, after two immigrants were thought to have -- two Iraqi immigrants were thought to be have been engaged in terrorism and IEDs.

But that is the question, Assal.

WALKER: So, the question for her.


RAVANDI: What -- what is the question, Mr. Walker?

TAPPER: The question is, he wants you to -- he wants to know, can you guarantee 100 percent...


TAPPER: ... that anybody that comes in this country will not do...

RAVANDI: ... just like -- just like we couldn't guarantee when he came into this country whether or not that he was going to be -

WALKER: No. I guarantee.

RAVANDI: -- another element, just like I was not going to be one who was going to be guaranteed safety or who's going to bring safety to this country. This country has had 8,000 -- almost 8,000 non-citizens join its military on yearly basis. We have had Afghan and Iraqi citizens who have put their lives and their families' - their families' lives at risk so they can support the mission of the American Armed Forces. There is no guarantee, that is why we have a process. This process has been quite successful and the seven countries that are banned are not -- we cannot -- there is no one -- there has never been statistically shown that there have -- demonstrated a threat to United States, but the three countries that have, have demonstrated a threat, and they are not part of the seven countries that are banned.

And what I have an issue with, Mr. Walker, is that majority of the individuals -


RAVANDI: -- that are participating in the dialogue. Allow me - I allowed you to speak. Allow me to finish. What I have - what I have a fundamental issue with that we are politicizing -- there are two issues in this country that cannot be politicized. One, veterans issues, two, national security issues. We cannot bring politics into this. We can't go back and forth between President Trump and former President Obama. What we can talk about is start a dialogue and create clarity for the American people, so no one like me who has faced persecution in my old country, my home country where I was born, has to ever feel a threat in their new home country, which is the United States of America. And in this America, we should not feel threat or persecution or feel that we will not be able to enter back into our own country after we leave.

TAPPER: Assal and Johnny,


TAPPER: That's all the time we have. I'm sorry, Johnny, that's all the time we have. But there is one thing I do want to say, which is the United States owes both of you a great debt of gratitude for your work on behalf of the United States. And I'm really glad you're both, on that I hope all three of us can agree. Thanks for joining us today, I really appreciate it.

RAVANDI: Thank you, Jake. Thank you for having me.

WALKER: I have one -

TAPPER: Johnny, we have to -- you continue - you can continue with this all off line, but I have to take a commercial break. I'm sorry.

The first American combat death on President Trump's watch: new details emerging about what happened in the terror raid. Stay with us.


[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with more on our "WORLD LEAD". New details today on the first counter terrorism raid ordered by President Donald Trump that tragically led to the first American combat death under his watch, as well as the deaths of civilians. Today, President Trump spoke with the family of the fallen Navy SEAL William Ryan Owens. The White House described the conversation with Chief Petty Officer, Owens' wife, father, and children as somber and lengthy.


TAPPER: The raid took place Sunday in Yemen's (INAUDIBLE) province, an area ravaged by civil war and exploited by extremists. The mission? To gather important intelligence on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The Americans' ally in the fight, special forces from the United Arab Emirates. When it was all over, an estimated 14 Al-Qaeda terrorists had been killed, but along with them, a U.S. Navy SEAL, and according to U.S. Intelligence, some civilians. 36-year-old Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens of Peoria, Illinois, is the first combat casualty under Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump who personally approved the raid.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was kept in constant contact Saturday night of the status of the mission. Both the success that it had and the tragic loss of life that occurred to that number.

TAPPER: Also killed, eight-year-old Nora al-Awlaki, the daughter of an American terrorist. Her father was Anwar al-Awlaki. The New Mexico-born cleric who directed attacks against the U.S. and was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011. Nora's uncle said on his Facebook page that she was among those killed in the raid. News he later confirmed to CNN, who may have been caught in the crossfire, but there are other possibilities as well.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as other terrorist groups, use women and children as shields. So, whether this was the case in this situation or not, remains to be seen. But it stands to reason that either this young girl was used as a shield or she was there willingly in spite of her young age, although all precautions are taken to avoid killing them, it is often unavoidable.

TAPPER: It was a challenging fight. According to the Pentagon, several, quote, "female fighters ran to pre-established positions," during the raid, Sunday, taking aim at U.S. troops. Al-Qaeda terrorists then retreated into a building before U.S. Forces called in an airstrike.

LEIGHTON: It's rare for Al-Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula to use female fighters. And what this really shows is the fact that they are losing people. They're losing people at a rapid rate and they have to integrate females into their fighting battalions.

TAPPER: In addition to the death of Chief Petty Officer Owens, three U.S. service members were wounded in the fire fight. More were injured on route to support the mission. According to Central Command, their V-22 Osprey experienced a landing so rough it was unable to fly afterwards. That aircraft was then deliberately destroyed. In a statement, President Trump called the mission successful, adding that U.S. Forces were instrumental in, "capturing important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism." [16:55:00] LEIGHTON: What you're seeing here is that in a very difficult, very austere environment, our Special Operations Forces were able to do something that was very, very significant.


TAPPER: And our deepest condolences to the Owens family. Today is the last day to do something. What is it? It's our "MONEY LEAD", and it's next. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "MONEY LEAD", it is deadline day for Obamacare, maybe the last deadline day for Obamacare ever. If you're seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act, you have until midnight to sign up with some exceptions, even though President Trump and republicans in congress have already made the first moves to try to dismantle President Obama's health care law. Right now, it is still the law of the land. So far during this enrolment period, 11 1/2 million people have enrolled in the federal and state exchanges. That is up from this time last year. That is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'll be back at 8:00 p.m. for our coverage of President Trump's Supreme Court pick, and at 9:00 p.m. for our Town Hall with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM"

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, "BREAKING NEWS", the president' spick: President Trump will reveal the Supreme Court nominee three hours --