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WH Press Secretary: Americans Support Travel Ban; Jeff Sessions Vote Today; Questions About Travel Ban; Supreme Court Short List. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 31, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:30:55] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says, quote, "the majority of Americans support President Trump's travel ban." Is that true? Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.

David, great to see you. Do you know the answer to that?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't know the answer to that. There is --

CAMEROTA: Then get out.

CUOMO: Does Sean Spicer know the answer to that?

CHALIAN: I doubt Sean Spicer knows if that is factually true right now. Remember, this was rolled out Friday. Time for it to sink into the public consciousness. Obviously there's been saturation coverage. I would image that in the next few days, maybe over the weekend, we'll get some first polls showing reaction.

But we do know that issues of border security do poll really well. This is a popular sentiment in the country, and even more so after incidents like San Bernardino or what happened --

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes.

CHALIAN: So -- yes.

CAMEROTA: But I mean the last data point that we have is this Quinnipiac poll that was taken January 5th through 9th, so before the inauguration, well before the travel ban announcement, and that did show that by 48 percent to 42 percent, people favored suspending immigration from terror-prone countries. That's the last data point that we could find. So it may not be relevant anymore or it may be.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's also not more than half the country.

CHALIAN: It's not more than half the country, but it is a plurality.

CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE). CHALIAN: It is on the winning side of that equation. But, again, that is a non-specific question in terms of this policy that was rolled out from those seven countries. And so I think we just need to wait a little bit.

CUOMO: How you do something matters, right?


CUOMO: I mean the criticism of this ban goes to its conception, and its execution in terms of not dealing with any of the agencies. You've got your own guys. Mattis is supposedly upset. Tillerson, they used the word "baffled" in terms of doing this. So that's going to play into the perception also.

CHALIAN: I would also just say, Chris, I think we're going to see partisan divisions on this, as we see in many things. Like you will, through a partisan lens, will determine how people sort of respond to this question, respond to the implementation of it.

CUOMO: Although I don't know if you've got the same fault lines that you did when he first won the election. I mean they had that rundown of senators, GOP senators, and you had a group of like a dozen of them plus who are, well, I'm not ready to endorse this order yet. That's not the kind of cohesion that we're used to on the heels of an election.

CHALIAN: True. No doubt about that. There are some fault lines inside the Republican Party. I just think that what we saw right around the time of the inauguration is that partisanship was starting to take hold in terms of all views though Trump's agenda and I -- I would not be terribly surprised if we see that here.

CUOMO: The president has been tweeting this morning. One of them is relevant to this discussion. "Nancy Pelosi and fake tears Chuck Schumer held a rally and the steps of the Supreme Court and the mic did not work. A mess, just like Dem Party."

The spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi says that's not true. The mic didn't work for a second, but clearly there were tons of lawmakers and thousands of people whose voices have been heard about this. What do you make of this type of political tactic for the president?

CHALIAN: Well, first, let's note that the nickname for Chuck Schumer has gone from "crown" to "fake tears Chuck Schumer," so there's some movement there.

It wasn't like the most beautifully staged, managed press conference I've ever seen last night when the Democrats gathered at their protest. And we know that President Trump is somebody who pays keen attention to those kinds of optics and presentation -- presentational aesthetics, if you will. And I think that --

CUOMO: Why didn't he have better control over the rollout and execution of his executive order?

CHALIAN: Well, I'm not so sure he's so disappointed with the rollout and execution of this order right now.

CUOMO: Certainly didn't like what happened at the airport and how it was perceived. If he's worried about optics, that looked terrible for him.

CHALIAN: True. But there are those around him, like Steve Bannon and Steve Miller in the White House, that I think really want this fight. They are -- they are engaging in this fight.

I agree with you, Donald Trump can be persuaded by optics. In fact, we saw it during the campaign on this very issue of the Muslim ban. Remember, it rolled out as a Muslim ban and the reaction that it got from Republicans, Democrats, it actually made Donald Trump temper it and bring it back into a different -- into a different mode. Into a sort of an anti-terror policy. So it's not that he is immune to this kind of outpouring reaction, but I do think he is enjoying the fight.

COSTELLO: So what happens today, David, when these -- all of the -- this flurry of cabinet picks are up for votes, and what can the -- I mean obviously the Democrats don't like what they've seen with the travel ban. What can they do?

[08:35:10] CHALIAN: Make a lot of noise. I mean they really are not going to be able to prevent Donald Trump from assembling the cabinet of his choosing. Jeff Sessions is likely to get out of committee today and become the next attorney general, which is why I think what we saw last night was a little bit more theater than anything else, just because we're days away from Jeff Sessions becoming the attorney general. So quitting on behalf of Yates and then the fire -- you know, making the statement on behalf of Yates that she can't defend it and then the firing from Trump, I just think that was all Washington theater.

CUOMO: How much risk is the president creating of a pendulum affect? He got people whipped up, people who are angry, who feel disenfranchised, who feel forgotten. Now you've got the pendulum swinging the other way. You have a majority of this country that didn't vote for him that's being uniquely motivated by his first actions. How much risk is he creating?

CHALIAN: Here's where I think the risk is. Does -- and I don't know the answer to this, but I pose this question. Does Donald Trump envision himself, as he has stated, to be the president of all Americans? Is he -- we know he loves to be loved, as most politicians do. Is he eager to broaden out and actually become a president supported by a majority of the people he's leading, or is he now, in his mind, the leader of a 40 percent movement and that they're 100 percent devotion to him is actually all that matters to him. I think the answer to that question gets to your question about, if it's just being a leader for 40 percent, I think there's some inherent risk in that.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, thank you for "The Bottom Line." Great to talk to you.

CHALIAN: Sure. Thank you. CAMEROTA: Also tonight on CNN, Jake Tapper will host a CNN town hall with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Again, that's tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

CUOMO: President Trump is going to reveal his Supreme Court nominee tonight. He hyping it as a primetime showcase. Who's on that short list? We have a closer look ahead.


[08:41:06] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

President Trump firing acting Attorney General Sally Yates for failing to defend his travel ban. He also replaced the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

CAMEROTA: President Trump unveiling his nominee for the Supreme Court tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN has learned Democrats may not block Mr. Trump's nominee in order to avoid triggering a fight that could end the Senate filibuster.

CUOMO: Canadian officials calling the college student who opened fire and killed six people in a Quebec mosque a lone wolf. They say the terror attack would have been difficult to prevent.

CAMEROTA: It is deadline day to sign up for Obamacare coverage this year without having to pay a penalty. So far 11.5 million people have signed up for health insurance on the federal and state exchanges, which is higher than this time last year.

CUOMO: And the Boy Scouts of America are now accepting transgender boys to join its troops. The organization says it's going to look at the gender on the child's application instead of their birth certificate.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: All right, so President Trump tweeting this morning, and we think it's important to read it. "Nancy Pelosi and fake tears Chuck Schumer held a rally at the steps of the Supreme Court and the mic did not work. A mess. Just like the Democratic Party."

Well, a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi fired back this response. " The mic briefly did not work, but this thin-skinned president clearly heard the voices of the more than 250 members of Congress and thousands of others who gathered outside the Supreme Court last night. The president's immoral executive order is clearly unconstitutional -- no matter how many times he tweets or how many administration officials he fires."

We want to bring in CNN political director David Chalian on this.

David, what is shaping up to be this battle between Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, other Democrats in Congress and the administration? CHALIAN: Well, you certainly get a sense in talking to Democrats who

have been so back on their heels since the election sort of not knowing what hit them, wasn't expecting this kind of defeat, and they see an opening in these opening days of the Trump administration because of -- sort of the chaotic nature of what has been rolled out from the White House. And so they see an opportunity to jump in here and try to present an alternative vision. I -- obviously two weekends in a row you see these protests, right? One on the heels of the inauguration. One now on the heels of the travel ban. This is -- the Democrats are trying to figure out now how to seize that energy and actually convert it into political energy for them, not unlike what we saw with the Republicans back in 2010 when they saw the tea party energy and they went in and harnessed it and used it to their political will. It remains to be seen if Democrats can convert that energy on the streets into the voting booth.

CUOMO: Is Trump off his game or is he just learning how to play a new game? Because what he's good at is exploiting opportunity, right, and using it to melt with his own message. Here, he seems to be motivating his own resistance in a new way. I mean this is just taking a shot at political opponents. But in another tweet this morning he said, you know, look at what the Democrats are doing, no wonder D.C. doesn't work. Now, that's a hard case to make when the whole function of opposition for the last eight years was galvanized by Republicans and they were open about it. It's interesting that he seems like he's missing his mark with these attacks.

CHALIAN: Well, it's also kind of ironic, right, because it does sort of echo the complaints, even when the Republicans were in the minority in the Senate of the Obama administration, gumming things up and not -- and not making things work, as McConnell was sort of committed to that strategy. I think you now see President Trump dealing with Chuck Schumer, sort of pursuing the same kind of moment.

You are right, he is certainly giving sort of a boost of energy to his opposition. There's no doubt about that. Newt Gingrich, I think, described it best, what we're seeing right now. It's like somebody putting on roller skates for the first time. There's only so much that you can actually explain to them how it's going to feel and then you've got to do it, and that's what we're seeing in this very young administration right now.

[08:45:08] CUOMO: But he banked on voter fraud with this guy who's turned out to not stand up well to scrutiny, you know, and now --

CHALIAN: But that's not different than the campaign, Chris. None of that is surprising just because he moved from Trump Tower to the Oval Office. This is -- this is what we saw in Donald Trump throughout the campaign. I mean you certainly have to give him credit in the sense that he is delivering on the things he said he was going to do, and the promises he made to his voters.

CUOMO: Right, but the whole point is that's supposed to help you, not keep you limited to only your base, which it seems like where he's winding up.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, thank you.

CHALIAN: Sure. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, we want to let you know that tonight on CNN Jake Tapper hosts a CNN town hall with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. What will she say about all of this? That's tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

CUOMO: All right, so the next big move is going to be President Trump announcing his Supreme Court nominee. Who could it be? What have we learned about picks in the past, next.


CUOMO: All right, this is a big moment to look out for today, or actually tonight. President Donald Trump is going to reveal his choice to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. It's going to be a live, primetime announcement. It's reportedly down to two candidates. So, who's on the Trump short list and what have we learned about how -- the way somebody is presented isn't always the way they wind up being on the court.

We've got Joan Biskupic, CNN legal analyst and a Supreme Court biographer here to discuss.

[08:50:00] So, it's great to have you. Perfect guest.


CUOMO: Who are the main hopefuls heading into tonight?

BISKUPIC: Right now it's down to Judge Neil Gorsuch, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver. Neil Gorsuch has been a -- was a George W. Bush appointee. And has a pretty solid conservative record. Certainly in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia, who he would be succeeding. The other man is named Judge Thomas Hardiman from Pittsburgh, sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Two strikingly different stories. Judge Hardiman comes from a working class family. Was the first in his -- in his family to go to college and paid his way working as a taxi driver. Neil Gorsuch was actually a Senate page here in D.C. and is definitely -- has definitely inside the beltway credentials.

CAMEROTA: Smart money, I mean, I guess, is on Hardiman, if you believe that the sits on the same court, as we know, as President Trump's sister. And we've been told that he -- she likes him and perhaps supports him. So Donald Trump likes loyalty. Maybe that's who he would go to.

BISKUPIC: Possibly. And if he does, he will be able to roll out a pretty nice narrative tonight of someone who isn't an Ivy League trained jurist, as everyone else who's sitting on the Supreme Court is, somebody who, as I said, kind of scrapped his way up. But it's tough. I think it's a -- it's probably neck and neck. And going to what you said in the opening about how do these things turn out in the end, I think what the Trump team is looking for is not just a personal story, but someone who they can count on to rule in the ways that they want their appointee to rule. You know, they want the solid credentials.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes. I mean because --

BISKUPIC: One thing about Judge Hardiman is we're not sure where he'll go on some issues.

CUOMO: Right. Right.


CUOMO: Looking at some of his decisions last night --


CUOMO: You know, he -- he does seem to have a lot more of his own mind when looking at what the spirit of the Constitution has made manifest in laws of the day. So talk to us about that, what this means to be conservative. It's not the same thing as it means politically. And how has it played out with some of the big name appointments in the past?

BISKUPIC: Oh, well, you know, there's a mantra out there that -- from some conservatives that says no more David Souters. David Souter was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1990. George Bush's -- George H.W. Bush's chief of staff, John Sununu said, oh, Judge Souter will be a home run for conservatives. He knew him from New Hampshire. Turned out that David Souter was one of the most liberal members of the modern court, voted to uphold abortion, uphold affirmative action on campus. And when he retired in 2009, he left behind quite a liberal legacy.

Going back even before that, President Eisenhower was reported to have said, I made two mistakes and they're both sitting on the Supreme Court, Earl Warren and William Brennan. I'm not sure he actually said that, but it goes to your point that sometimes presidents aren't quite sure they have the conservatives they thought they had.

CAMEROTA: Right. I mean you can't always judge a book by its cover. Many presidents have learned that. Look at Chief Justice John Roberts. I mean he is not -- he ended up making decisions that people didn't anticipate.

BISKUPIC: That's right. Right on -- Obamacare would be the one. He -- he twice voted to uphold President Obama's health care overhaul. But I have to say, that has been a litmus test for many conservatives. But Chief Justice John Roberts has given the right-wing more votes than not through his decade on the court.

CUOMO: And then you have, of course, Anthony Kennedy, who has become such a pivotal player on the court, despite how he looked coming in under Reagan as kind of a rock-ribbed conservative politically.

BISKUPIC: That's right. And if you remember from 1987, the first appointee that Ronald Reagan put up, or the first nominee, was Robert Bork.

CUOMO: Bork, right.

BISKUPIC: And it was only after three tries that he was able to get Anthony Kennedy on the bench. But you know what, he was approved unanimously.

CUOMO: Right.

BISKUPIC: So probably there were enough Democrats who thought, maybe under that exterior we might get a few votes that we like, and they have.

CUOMO: Well, that's a big question for tonight too is, once you get the name, will the Democrats go all in on this time or are they going to wait for the next one, you know, and not waste their firepower and wind up changing the filibuster, getting McConnell to change it, and boxing them out altogether. What's your take on that?

BISKUPIC: Oh, that is -- that is going to be a really tough question for them because right now the individual whose named tonight, will succeed a very conservative jurist, Antonin Scalia.

CUOMO: Right.

BISKUPIC: But coming down the pike, it could be Anthony Kennedy, who is 80 years old, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who's going to turn 84 in March. So those seats are much more consequential because it would then give Donald Trump a very strong conservative majority without the leverage of swing vote Anthony Kennedy to give, you know, liberals, for example, on same-sex marriage, he was the crucial vote on that. So it's -- I think it's a tough call for Democrats.

[08:55:13] CAMEROTA: Joan Biskupic, thanks so much for being here and walking us through all of this.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

CUOMO: A lot of drama. How about a little "Good Stuff"?


CUOMO: Done. Next.

CAMEROTA: Let's do it.


CUOMO: This is a story that shows that America is a place that helps. A Utah man ends up homeless after he loses his job. Take a listen.


BRIAN SMITH: Rejection after rejection.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Rejection after rejection. That's the bad stuff in a nutshell. Brian Smith worked relentlessly to find a job. No one would hire him. Why? Mostly because of his appearance. So he found a store giving away suits for those desperate for a job. Here's the store's president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't put a price on confidence.


CUOMO: And how you look, right? First impressions are always the most important. Brian gave it another shot, applied for a job, showed up in a suit and hired on the spot.


SMITH: These last ten months I've lost faith in humanity. I didn't think it would happen to me, and it did. I owe them so much.


[09:00:03] CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that's a beautiful story. And you can look line and figure out where you can donate suits and dresses because they really do help people.

All right, time now for "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello.

Hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. A nice way to end the show. Thanks so much.