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Report: Sources Say Trump Supreme Court Finalists in DC; Steve Bannon Now on NSC; Some Christian Syrians Back Trump Travel Ban. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 31, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right you're watching CNN I'm Brooke Baldwin, President Trump is certainly keeping up the suspense about his supreme court nominee, he will make the big announcement tonight at 8:00 sharp at the White House. Of course, CNN will be broadcasting this historic moment live.

Sources say it has some down to two finalists with strong conservative records. They are Judge Neil Gorsuch, who sits on the federal appeals court in Denver, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of the third circuit court of appeals in Pittsburgh. Sources say Gorsuch has emerged as the leading contender, CNN has also learned that both finalists are in Washington ahead of tonight's big announcement. Check this out. CNN cameras capture Judge Hardiman pumping gas earlier today before leaving Pennsylvania. With me Carter Phillips who knows Judge Hardiman and has argued many cases before him, I know we've got cameras everywhere. This is high stakes, sir.

CARTER PHILLIPS, KNOWS POSSIBLE SUPREME COURT PICK HARDIMAN: You know as well as I did if he only said there's only one person in running and only brought one person out you guys would have followed him.

BALDWIN: We weren't the only ones too.

PHILLIPS: That's true.

BALDWIN: Did you know anything about this friend of yours being flown in to D.C. today. Did you get any scoop?

PHILLIPS: No, of course not they're very careful about keeping these things under wraps.

BALDWIN: Tell me about him about him personally we know the president has said, I'm quoting, "a person who is unbelievably widely respected." We know about his resume, tell me about him as a man.

PHILLIPS: He's a very down to earth person, very easy person to spend time with, from my perspective I see him more as an advocate though I've been on panels with him, but as an advocate he was a pleasure to argue in front of because he was somebody who read all the materials, clearly thought about the case, asked good questions and I think would fit in quite comfortably, there's a transition when you go from the three-judge court to a nine-judge court, trying to find time to get your questions in and it takes a little bit of doing but he would do well in that environment. BALDWIN: Do you have any stories anecdotally when any major decision

came down from the highest court or any justice in particular that you spoke


PHILLIPS: Only the one I actually argued a case where he had written the opinion in the court in the strip search case involving prisons, and we just chatted a little bit when that opinion came out and he was happy I did an adequate job of defending his position and the supreme court affirmed him.

BALDWIN: What about immigration is front and center, this travel ban, how do you think he would feel about it?

PHILLIPS: I think it's hard to know at this stage. Everybody worries about immigration issues but also everybody also worries about possibilities of religious discrimination so I think there's going to be cross currents, I don't think ideologically it doesn't make a difference, you're going to have to see what issue makes its way to a court on whose behalf and how it tees up before you can even decide how any of the justices would likely react to him.

BALDWIN: He does connect with the President with the fact he sat with the President's sister on a lower court as you know, what role do you think that might play here and did he ever speak about the President's sister?

PHILLIPS: Well, I never talked to him and his sister though I've argued in front of her as well. I don't think they were on the same panel in any of the cases I've argued in the third circuit, but figure it certainly doesn't hurt if she likes the judge and has the ear of the President but I seriously doubt he's going to decide on who the next supreme court nominee will be based on any family ties frankly at this point.

BALDWIN: I don't think he will either, but I think it is note worth nonetheless. Carter Philips, thank you much.

[15:35:00] PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Trump supporters thrilled by this executive order on refugees and immigrants. We'll talk live to a Syrian immigrant herself who says President Trump made the right call to keep the country safe.


BALDWIN: Nearly 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump some hoping to bring back jobs others promised he would make America safe again and that includes a wall and a ban so as he signs the executive orders a large swathe of this country is happy, relieved he is indeed keeping his promises.

[15:40:00] Here is how some of them including some immigrants are responding to Trump's travel ban. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are many immigrants that we have cause to suspect of being radical Islamic terrorist sympathizers so I think we need and first and foremost is to keep our country safe.

MICHAEL FITZGERALD, VOTED FOR TRUMP: It is temporary until we figure out a way securely vetted the people who are coming to this country. I think everyone wants to be safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am saying, there is the human side which we could have done differently but the intent I think is right.


BALDWIN: With me now a Trump supporter, a Christian immigrant who came to the United States in 1991, all of 19 years of age, he is now a U.S. citizen. And also, have Nolan Finley with us the editorial page editor from the Detroit News, he recently wrote About Trump Country, an editorial called "We Still Don't Get Trump

Voters." Thank you to both of you.

Aziz, I read about you this morning and really wanted to talk to you. I think it's fascinating that you have refugees or immigrants in this country who say what Mr. Trump is doing is a good thing, I want you to tell me why?

AZIZ WEHBY, CHRISTIAN SYRIAN WHO MOVED TO US IN 1991: Well, we are 100 percent with Donald Trump and redirecting the refugee situation, made a lot of concern. A lot of us were concerned about the refugee situation that was put by the previous administrations. With the new administration, some things very important to keep the United States safe and to come back to the right track in helping the refugees not only the Syrian refugees but refugees from all over the world.

BALDWIN: But let's talk Syrian refugees, you had this great opportunity to come to this great country in 1991, I want you to tell me why your Syrian brethren should not have the same opportunity?

WEHBY: Well, in Syria as we all know there's a religious war and the refugees that are coming to the United States of America, we have no background information about them since there's no communication between the Syrian government and our government and the United States of America. We like the refugees -- we like to help the refugees, by stabilizing the Syrian land by stabilizing them, not make them travel throughout the continent to the United States of America with a new atmosphere, new society and new language, so we really like to help the refugees to come back to their homeland in Syria.

BALDWIN: I think this is fascinating, Nolan you wrote, they forced us to notice them on election day, we should remember they are still here. I want you to explain to me, about half this country, they feel ignored.

NOLAN FINLEY, EDITOR, DETROIT NEWS: Yes, we had a great moment of reflection in the media when Trump won and we couldn't explain the why of it and didn't know the people who voted for him and we made a promise that we would get out there and talk to these voters who we don't normally talk to, try to understand, try to listen and that lasted a while, but I think for the most part since his election, we've done most of our reporting from the viewpoint of the people who are frightened and worried and fretful about a Trump presidency and not much from the people who say hey, we voted for him, this is what he said he was going to do, he's doing it and we're happy.

BALDWIN: You're right. We should. People above me send me to the middle of the country and listen to what's going on with these people, but I think another issue is fear. Some Americans who voted for Trump have been touched by tragedies whether it was what happened in Orlando or 9/11 and they think that this reexamination of our borders is necessary.

FINLEY: National security was a big issue, whether it's immigration, the border plays into it. They did not feel the last President Obama administration was taking their fears seriously and here comes a guy who says I'm going to do things to get tough on the border and immigration and I hear a lot of people saying this is exactly what I want.

[15:45:00] BALDWIN: AZIZ: Isn't a piece of your fear from what I read in the "Washington Post" is if a Syrian refugee were to come over here fresh out of this horrendous war and do something -- attack, you know, wage an attack here that you're worried you would be lumped in. It would be the Syrians right that would be the bad guys?

WEHBY: Brooke, we all know the Syrian community in United States of America have done a tremendous job. We are a very clean community we work by the law, 100 percent loyal American citizen. We swore to defend this country with honesty and stand behind it, but the immigration standpoint, we don't know the refugee situation, we are bringing them from the refugee camp to the United States of America. We do not have background check while living in Syria because we have no communication with the Syrian government.

People coming here, they will have the religious hate because the war in Syria was built on religious hate, it's a religious conflict so the people coming here for sure one way or the other might have a religious ideology because they got hurt from it. That's why we don't want to see a conflict here, special from my homeland that the people coming from Syria are progovernment and the people that may have been forced out of Syria for whatever reason.

BALDWIN: This is so significant. I think your perspective is so important and we should be listening as somebody coming from Syria and coming to the United States. Thank you for joining us, of course with the Detroit news, thank you.

WEHBY: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: President Trump restructures the National Security Council to put his chief strategist Steve Bannon at the table. Well get reaction from a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who has been front and center on the meetings. [15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A war of words around President Trump's travel ban. Centers around whether to use the word "ban". They're not saying it's ban. Sean Spicer referred to it that way. Semantics aside, some American universities are warning their students not to leave the country. Joining me now the President of Kansas State University. He served as former joint chiefs of staff under George W. Bush. General, an honor and privilege to have you on, sir. Thank you so much for your service.

RICHARD MEYERS, FORMER GENERAL: Thank you, Brooke. Good to be on. Thank you.

BALDWIN: So, just quickly on the note about some of these universities, at Kansas State, what advice are you giving to your international students?

MEYERS: Well, the first part of advice is I think since we have 67 students, 3 faculty that are impacted by the current executive order. We've tried to offer all sorts of support to include just knowing what's going on. So, we have an office set up to do that. And I think the community is rallying around these students and faculty who probably are feeling a little uncertain about their future right now, and we want to try to assure them as much as we can and take care of them in the appropriate way.

So, that's our number one goal at this point, is just to make sure they're getting all the information they can get, any advice we can offer them, and clearly, I heard you mention this is probably not going to be a very good time to travel abroad.

BALDWIN: Right, right. Also, given your past post, I wanted to ask your thoughts on the President's reshuffling of the National Security Council, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had this to say when questioned about the overhaul.


SEAN SPICE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs are by statute part of the NSE, full stop. What we've done is me sure on issues of homeland security and domestic policy they are always welcome to attend, 100 percent. However, if the issue is on pandemic flu or other domestic-type natures that don't involve the military, it would be a waste of time to drag the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over. If he wants to attend he's part of the committee, he can come any time.


BALDWIN: So, he's arguing that they don't have to be present at every single meeting. You had a seat at the table, sir. Do you agree?

MEYERS: Well, it depends. You know, I'm a little confused now because when it come to the National Security Council, I think the chairman ought to be at every National Security Council meeting and so should the intelligence voice as well, should be there. That's been my experience both as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs under President Clinton and chairman under President Bush. That would be expected. And the thing that would be unexpected there I think is to have a political voice in the room when you're talking about matters of national security. There is time for that debate, but not necessarily in conjunction --

BALDWIN: Do you think there should be a political voice? We now know the chief strategist Steve Bannon apparently will have a seat at the table. From everything I've read, that's never been done before.

MEYERS: Well, in my experience it's not been done. I can think of one time under President bush when we had that voice at a meeting, but it was probably not a formal national security council meeting t. Was right after the events of 9/11/2001. Those kind of voices, the political voice is not there. There's a time and place for it, but I don't know that it's when you're trying to give the President options on measures to take to ensure our national security. By the way --

BALDWIN: Go ahead, sir.

MEYERS: I was going to say in that little clip that you played there for your audience, pandemic, you know, the military is going to be involved in a pandemic because we've got the manpower and a lot of the skills that will be needed to deal with that if and when we're ever subjected to a pandemic in this country. So, like Katrina, you don't think of the military. You think about states and other agencies. But in the end when you need a lot of heft in terms of bodies and equipment and capability, the DOD plays a role and that's already well outlined in most of our disaster response plans. So, I'm a little surprised using that example because I think that's probably the wrong example to use. But on the other hand, the President can organize his meetings anyway he wants to organize. It will be interesting to see how -- the one thing you don't want to do is marginal eyes the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who by law is the principal military advisor to the President and the national security council. So, seems to me if it's national security, most of the issues are going to involve things that the current chairman joe is going to be concerned about.

BALDWIN: Sure. You would know, sir. You would know. General Richard Meyers, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

MEYERS: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Next the Pentagon has identified a Navy Seal killed in a special- forces raid in Yemen. What we're learning about how he died.


BALDWIN: CNN has learned the 8-year-old daughter of an American-born former al Qaeda leader was killed in the U.S. raid in Yemen over the weekend. The girl's father was a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AP. He was killed back in 2011 in a targeted drone strike in Yemen. Also, though, a U.S. navy seal was killed over the weekend in the raid. Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens. Let's go to our political correspondent Ryan Brown. What happened?

RYAN BROWN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, this was part of an operation what the military likes to call site exploitation, a raid designed to gather intelligence. Unlike a traditional drone strike trying to take out a specific leader, this is trying to get intelligence from the terror group so you can conduct future strikes down the road. That requires boots on the ground. As they were moving in, a big fire fight gun battle broke out. In the course of that, you saw one navy seal killed, three additional wounded and a strike that killed 14 al-Qaeda fighters in what appears to be some civilian casualties as a result of that strike as well. And then an additional U.S. aircraft had to take a hard landing injuring several other U.S. military personnel while they were leaving the area of the raid. So, it was a very complex operation. Green lit by Donald Trump, but it had been planned such a complexity that it had been planned for weeks in advance under the Obama administration.

BALDWIN: Obviously our thoughts with the family of this navy seal. So grateful for his service. Ryan brown, thank you very much. And that is it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. We're going to send it over to Jake Tapper, "The Lead" starts right now.