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Conservative Judge Named to Supreme Court; Defending the Travel Ban; Tom Brady Reflects On His "Challenging Year". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 1, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The political showdown over the still empty Supreme Court seat reigniting this morning. Democrats vowing a fight as President Trump reveals his nominee.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And in the face of growing criticism, the White House defending the rollout of the travel ban. But now, they don't even want to call it a ban. What's going on here?

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

[05:00:01] ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, the very first day of February. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

It's been the source of vigorous political jockeying for nearly a year now. The battle over the vacant Supreme Court seat begins anew. Overnight, President Trump announced his nominee, Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge from Colorado.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are cheering this pick. Gorsuch is a constitutionalist best known for the so-called Hobby Lobby decision where companies could avoid paying for contraception citing religious objections. He has another big selling point for conservatives, he is only 49 years old, and could tilt the balance of the court for decades after President Trump leaves office.

BERMAN: Democrats though looking at this and saying not so fast. They're very upset, upset over the fact that Republicans refused to even consider President Obama's nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland. Republicans wouldn't even hold hearings for nearly a year. Some Democrats called this seat a stolen seat, and they've already pledged for their opposition to Gorsuch, calling him outside the mainstream.

Both the president and Judge Gorsuch know they are in for a tough fight.


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: As this process now moves to the Senate, I look forward with speaking with members from both sides of the aisle, to answering their questions and to hearing their concerns.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I only hope that both Democrats and Republicans can come together, for once, for the good of the country.


BERMAN: And you hear him say for once, now that he's president now, it's not President Obama's nominee that is being discussed. So, sort of a different set of standards Democrats would say there.

Nevertheless, the first courtesy calls for Judge Gorsuch with senators begin in just a few hours.

For the latest, let's bring in CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett live in Washington this morning. You know, the White House did a very good job keeping this a secret. And sort of the theatrics surrounding it are very, very well-orchestrated.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, that's right, John. As the president mentioned in his remarks last night, Neil Gorsuch has a really impressive academic background. He's got degrees from Columbia, Harvard Law School, Oxford. He spent his teenage years in Washington, D.C., and incidentally, his mom was the first woman to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

He clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Kennedy. And his judicial philosophy isn't a secret. He's described as predictively socially conservative, much like in the mold of the late Justice Scalia. He believes in following an original interpretation of the Constitution.

Now, on some of his more notable cases he was one of the original judges in the Hobby Lobby decision where the 10th Circuit ruled that corporations can refuse to cover birth control under their employees' health insurance plans. That ruling was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

He was somewhat of a sleeper choice up until recently. He wasn't even on Trump's original list that was put out in last May. But in the past several days we heard he was rising to the top. And Republicans are just thrilled with the choice. The Senate Majority Leader McConnell came out last night saying this is an outstanding choice.

But Chuck Schumer was more measured, the Senate minority leader. He came out and said, look, we need to see how this goes. And we need someone who is going to stand up to president Trump. We'll see what happens.

BERMAN: Most Democrats, it does seem -- or at least willing to have hearings on Judge Gorsuch which is very different than what happened last year with Merrick Garland. So, we'll have to see the effect of that going forward.

All right. Laura Jarrett for us, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Let's discuss this nomination with former federal prosecutor for the middle district of Georgia, Michael Moore is back with us. He is an Obama appointee. He's live for us in Atlanta this morning.

Good morning.


ROMANS: So, what we're hearing about judge he has a really solid legal pedigree. No one is questioning the legal mind of Judge Gorsuch. But you hear from the right, is that he's an outstanding choice. What you hear from the left, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats, he's outside the mainstream.

Which is it?

MOORE: Well, I think you're right, nobody can question his credentials. He has a great academy pedigree. He's developed a reputation on the bench for writing well-reasoned opinions. They're scholarly.

He's an ardent textualist. In other words, he believes that the words mean something. He believes we ought to look at the framers' intent as we interpret the Constitution, but he also gives great deference to the legislative branch. He's been known to say in the past that really the liberals are counting too much on judges and courts to affect their social policy as opposed to the ballot box.

In other words, liberals maybe ought to look at how they win elections, let the legislators write the laws and let the judges interpret them as opposed to counting on judges, in fact, to legislate from the bench.

It's interesting, though, he's also known to say he doesn't think judges should pigeonhole themselves, and for one ideological group or another. He thinks that's a bad thing.

[05:05:01] He thinks that an ideologue misses what he calls the gray areas of the law.

So, I think we've got a nomine who is clearly academically qualified to sit on the bench. At the same time, we've got somebody who says, well, I don't want to be pigeonholed one way or another. But my opinions, if we look at them, seem to be more in line with a very conservative judge.

BERMAN: I want to listen to something Judge Gorsuch said last night. Here's a man who is known as a great writer, which is a lovely thing to be known at. You know, if you can get that title, a conservative thinker. But he's talking about what he sees as the importance of the Supreme Court and why his work is so important.


GORSUCH: The Supreme Court's work is vital not just to a region of the country but to the whole, vital to the protection of people's liberties under the law, and the continuity of our Constitution -- the greatest charter of human liberty the world has ever known.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: You know, it's interesting if he is confirmed it will mean that all nine justices, again, went to Ivy League schools which is interesting. He'll be the only Episcopalian on the bench. The rest of the bench will be Christian and Jews.

And one other notably about him is he will be western judge. Most of the judges, many of the judges, seem to comes from the East Coast. I think Anthony Kennedy is one of the expectations there. I think he is from Sacramento. But the rest of the justices come mostly from the east. So there will be some geographic diversity at least.

MOORE: Right.

BERMAN: It's interesting to see that. Do you think he will be -- you know, there will be hearings, we think. Democrats will allow hearings. And this is a man who clearly is good with words. Is he likely, do you think, to impress the Senate and the country when given a chance to answer questions in public?

MOORE: I think probably so. I think even from the rollout last night, and I give Judge Gorsuch in the remarks that he made. I think he's clearly an impressive nominee.

And I think he is a wordsmith. He has a way of getting his opinion across and make a compelling case for the cases he's writing or and his own story.

I think there's no question as we look back that I think anyone would say Merrick Garland were mistreated. He often didn't even get meetings with the senators as he was being considered for nomination. So, hopefully, moving forward, the Senate will at least meet with Judge Gorsuch, and I think ultimately, his nomination will advance. I think the Democrats need to weigh that out very carefully as we think about the nuclear option, and whether or not that's a rule change in the Senate that would affect the ultimate vote required for him to move through and receive confirmation.

But I think he's an impressive candidate. I'm not sure he's the one that the Democrats need to pick a fight over at this point.

ROMANS: All right. Michael Moore, so nice to see you, bright and early this morning. Thanks for stopping by.

MOORE: Great to see you. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is condemning President Trump's travel ban as, quote, "particularly unforgiving for women."

In a Facebook post, Sandberg writes this, quote, "The executive orders written over the past week defy the heart and values that define the best of our nation. Families have been separated. Frightened children have been detained in airports without their parents. People seeking refuge have been turned away and sent back to the danger they just managed to flee. This is not how it should be in America." And just this morning, we heard from Tim Cook telling "The Wall Street Journal" in an interview, the Apple CEO, you know, he's going to ask and has asked the highest reaches of the government to revoke that travel ban. It's been difficult for his employees. Hundreds of employees affected he said, and it's just wrong.

BERMAN: You wrote a piece on which I recommend to you all which discusses the fact that CEOs in businesses weighing in on values more than we have seen in the past.

ROMANS: Yes, that's shareholder values but moral values suddenly, you're hearing a lot of companies talk about how dignity and diversity are parts of their business culture and that they're concerned about the Washington culture.

BERMAN: All right. This, of course, all follows at least more recently the fallout over the travel ban. The White House trying to get out ahead of the optics of this now, and also trying to sort of shift the language, saying that the ban is not in fact a ban. So, what do they want to call it now? That's next.


[05:13:10] BERMAN: This morning, the Trump administration is defending the rollout of its controversial travel and refugee ban which they now say is not a ban. But that's a whole different story. The new secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, insists that he and his staff were involved in crafting the measure. But CNN has learned the department only got to see the final draft of the ban the day it was signed.

I want to bring in CNN politics reporter Dan Merica live from Washington.

I did think it was notable, Dan, yesterday that the administration really trying to get out in front of this story. The press conference with the new secretary of homeland security, along with several officials one after the other after the other coming to the microphone saying everything is under control here, we've got this.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, it seems like Kelly and Department of Homeland Security are trying to help him out here. Members of his own party are acknowledging, you know, this was a bungled rollout. It caused chaos at airports, and led to massive protests.

And this all comes while the White House seems to be focused on whether or not we should even call it a ban our not. Take a listen to Sean Spicer's exchange with reporters yesterday at the press briefing.


REPORTER: You say it's not a ban. This was President Trump's tweet yesterday, "If the ban were announced with a one-week notice, the bad were rush in to our country during that week." He says it's a ban. SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's using the words that

the media is using. But at the end of the day, it can't -- hold on, hold on, hold on. It can't be, it can't be --

REPORTER: Those are his words.

SPICER: Jonathan, thanks, I'll let Kristen talk. It can't be a ban if you're letting 1 million people in. If 325,000 people from another country can't come in, that is by nature not a ban. It is extreme vetting.

REPORTER: I understand your point. But the president itself called it a ban.

SPICER: I understand.

REPORTER: Are you confused or --

SPICER: No, I'm not confused. I think the words that are being used to describe it derive from what the media is calling it. He's been very clear that it's extreme vetting.


MERICA: Sean Spicer not exactly on solid footing here. Donald Trump tweeted, calling it a ban.

[05:15:02] And Sean Spicer himself said in multiple events that it was a ban. We'll see Sean Spicer and the president later today. I imagine this will come out.

BERMAN: No doubt. All right. Dan Merica for us.

And again Dan is reporting also, which is very interesting. The president appears to have cancelled a trip scheduled to Wisconsin to visit Harley-Davidson. There are reports of a protest there. Now, the president will not be going.

Dan, thanks for being with us.

ROMANS: I got to say, Harley-Davidson is a very good photo-op for president.

BERMAN: Oh, sure.

ROMANS: I mean, it's manufacturing, made in America. It's, you know, robust.

BERMAN: Wisconsin, swing state.

ROMANS: Wisconsin -- don't say Wisconsin like that. That's a North Dakota accent.

OK. Let's discuss with CNN politics digital managing editor, Zach Wolf in Washington.

Good morning.


ROMANS: I thought that that rollout, I've got to say, before we get to a ban, when is a ban not a ban or the three little letters, they're so politically charge.

I've got to say that the Judge Gorsuch rollout really was sort of the most presidential -- such a meticulous rollout in primetime, 8:00 p.m. He's getting high marks for this, isn't he?

WOLF: Yes, you know, it was interesting the way he pushed it into primetime. A lot of people thought it was going to end up being a reality show style of thing. But it was very presidential, despite the hour.

I think actually, you know, you said before you get to the ban if you compare the rollout of the Supreme Court nominee to the rollout of the travel ban, it's pretty stark the difference there. One, you know, was done in secret. And they didn't consult with anybody in the federal government, or within their own party.

And here with Gorsuch, they clearly had a methodical process where they went through and found a justice that was going to make a lot of people in their own party happy. So, I think that's an interesting contrast.

BERMAN: And I do think people will say the unity that this will create within the Republican Party. There's been chaos and people critical over the ban, they were always going to come together and support this pick, as long has he gets it right. As far as they're concerned he did get it very, very right.

Now, the Democrats with a way different view. Listen to Nancy Pelosi. She doesn't have a vote on this because she's not in the Senate. But she's clearly influential. She was part of the CNN town hall last night with Jake Tapper. Let's listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It's a very hostile appointment. Hail fellow well met, lovely family -- I'm sure. But as far as your family is concerned, and all the -- if you breathe air, drink water, eat food, take medicine, or in any other way interact with the courts, this is a very bad decision. Well outside the mainstream of American legal thought.


BERMAN: So, it's 5:17 a.m. on the East Coast, Zach. Do we yet know for sure how hard Democrats will fight on this?

WOLF: Well, I just want to say about Nancy Pelosi, it was interesting, that was less than an hour after he was nominated. There was a lot of secrecy. They didn't officially know. So, it was clear that Democrats were ready for this, ready for this particular pick to say as much as they possibly could about him. We've already seen -- and I think this is pretty remarkable -- we've already seen Democrats, you know, Sherrod Brown and some others say that they will oppose him without even having met with him.

A lot of this I think is going to be carryover from Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick who Republicans filibustered essentially for a year and denied even a hearing and wouldn't meet with the guy. So, there might be sour grapes that carry over into this, too.

ROMANS: Can we talk quickly about the talking points, with the White House, a ban is not really a ban? Where do we go with that story line today? Clearly, Sean Spicer is going to be asked again about that.

WOLF: Absolutely. You know, I think at some point, the word "ban" is going to become a semantic thing. There are people out there who used to be able to come to this country not able to come to this country. So, you can call it whatever you want. I think sometimes, we may get lost in the words here.

BERMAN: Words that were presented many ties by the White House and administration over time, but that aside.

Zach Wolf, great to have you with us this morning. Thanks so much.

WOLF: You, too. Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Tom Brady, he got emotional revealing that he's dealing with a family crisis. Hasn't for a long time, leading up to his seventh Super Bowl appearance.

Andy Scholes has the morning "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:32] BERMAN: So, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may look it easy. And by that, I mean, everything.

But yesterday, he revealed that it really has been a very difficult year for him.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


You know, Tom Brady wins on Sunday, there really is going to be no questions, he's the greatest quarterback of all time. No other quarterback has won five Super Bowls.

And Brady says this year's game extra special for him and not just because of the deflate-gate drama that he's been through, but also because according to CSN New England, Brady's mom has been dealing with a health issue for the past 18 months. Brady said she hasn't made it to a game all year. His dad has only been to one. And that's not normal for them.

So, to have them back on the stance, cheering him on on Sunday is going to make the game extra special.


TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: You just have different things that your family goes through in the course of your life. It's been a challenging year for, you know, my family. Just for some personal reasons. And, you know, it's just be nice to have everyone here watching us this weekend.


SCHOLES: And the last time the Falcons were in the Super Bowl, Atlanta native Vic Beasley Jr. was 6 years old, watching his hometown team with his father. But on Sunday, the star linebacker won't have his dad game at the game with him. Vic Beasley Sr. passed away last April at the age of 53. The younger Beasley having an amazing year, leads the year in stats and he's dedicated this season to his dad.


[05:25:00] VIC BEASLEY, JR., FALCON LINEBACKER: And just be so proud right now and say, go out there and leave it out on the field. You know, I'm already (INAUDIBLE) and the players.

SCHOLES: After your dad passed away, is winning the Super Bowl even more important to you now?

BEASLEY: Well, you know, I know my dad's very proud of me. He's proud of the man he helped me become.


SCHOLES: And, finally, here's one way to stay loose before the biggest game of your life, ping-pong. The Falcons have three ping- pong tables in their locker room. Players and coaches say it helps the team bond and improve hand/eye coordination. Quarterback Matt Ryan says the game before the game is just as important.


MATT RYAN, FALCONS QUARTERBACK: I've brought my paddle. I'm telling you, it gets pretty intense. It gets pretty intense in our locker room. So, we had some fun with that last night after media night. We played a little bit of ping-pong and had a good time.


SCHOLES: And, guys, of course, then walking around the Super Bowl here in Houston all week doing interviews. The common theme with the Patriots, Christine, ironically, they keep talking about the excitement of waiting for their number one fan to arrive in Houston later this week. I think Thursday night is the big arrival. They keep going on and on about it. How excited they are. BERMAN: We'll have live cameras at the airport for the arrival. I'll be there Friday with you, Andy.

I will tell you that if one of the Falcons pulled a muscle playing ping-pong in the locker room, you know, just saying, got to be careful.

SCHOLES: You have to be broken up about it, huh?

BERMAN: It went be so bad.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes, thank you. Nice to see you, sir.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

The political battles are shifting this morning, now that President Trump has named a Supreme Court nominee. Can that move shift the focus from the travel ban rollout?