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Trump Defending Putin; Trump Home Alone; Trump Reading Executive Orders?; Travel Ban Likely Heading to Supreme Court. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 6, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

Just a short time ago, President Trump addressed a room full of members of the military for the very first time as commander in chief, speaking at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. The had an audience that included the country's top commanders from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines.

The president promised to invest in the fight against ISIS, vowing to defeat the terror group, while doubling down on his travel ban to make sure only those who -- quote -- "love us" are allowed in the U.S. Here is a portion from the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be taking care of our great veterans. We will make a historic financial investment in the armed forces of the United States and show the entire world that America stands with those who stand in defense of freedom.

We have your back every hour, every day, now and always. That also means getting our allies to pay their fair share. It's been a -- very unfair to us.

We strongly support NATO. We only ask that all of the NATO members make their full and proper financial contributions to the NATO alliance, which many of them have not been doing.

We are up against an enemy that celebrates death and totally worships destruction. You have seen that. ISIS is on a campaign of genocide, committing atrocities across the world. Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland, as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino and all across Europe.


BALDWIN: Now to the Trump travel ban that was meant to keep out immigrants and refugees from these seven predominantly Muslim nations for several months. A court order has stopped that. And now legal experts say this fight

is on track to land before the U.S. Supreme Court. For now, the fate this travel ban is in the hands of what many consider one of actually the most liberal courts in this country, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

These three judges will rule on whatever is filed by 6:00 tonight Eastern time. That is the deadline. The Justice Department has respond to the order that halted the ban on Friday. The halt came from this federal judge on Friday, James Robart, appointed by President George W. Bush.

Judge Robart's ruling triggered President Trump to send a flurry of treats, including this one -- quote -- "This opinion of this so-called judge which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned."

Let's first go to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray.

That was the president's tweet. How has the White House responded to this formally today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are still waiting to hear any formal comment from them today.

Brooke, Sean Spicer is expected to gaggle with reporters shortly this afternoon. We may get more commentary from him then. But in the meantime, the Justice Department has until 6:00 p.m. tonight to file the government's legal argument essentially for why they believe this travel ban should resume.

They are likely to take aim at the notion that this federal judge has the authority to question the president or to second-guess the president's judgment doesn't when it comes to these national security issues on immigration.

That should give us sort of the clearest notion of how the government prance plans to push back on that. But, again, we are likely to hear something from Sean Spicer on this before that, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. We will look for the gaggle. Sara Murray, thank you very much.

Some background now on this federal judge who halted the president's travel plan -- travel ban. Friends say before joining the bench, James Robart was active in Republican politics in Washington State. He also did pro bono work for refugees. And when Robart aim under consideration for this federal job, the Senate confirmed her unanimously 99-0.

With me now, a close friend and former colleague of the judge's. I have Stephen C. Smith is with me.

I understand Stephen has also been in contact with the judge since Trump has attacked him.

Stephen, thank you so much for the time.

STEPHEN C. SMITH, FRIEND OF JAMES ROBART: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: You have known Judge Robart, I understand, for 30-some years. He is a close friend. You have been exchanging these e-mails. And I won't obviously ask for specifics in the e-mails.

But can you just, Stephen, talk about the tone from him?

SMITH: Judge Robart's tone is always very calm, very studious.

I can tell you our e-mails were primarily about constitutional legal issues that we often discuss, and that he is approaching this and the controversy that goes with it just like he approaches everything, in a calm, very studios manner.


BALDWIN: Stephen, the president has called him a so-called judge. Is your judge friend intimidated by the president?

SMITH: Jim Robart is not intimidated by anyone, whether it be a criminal defendant who threatens him in the courtroom or the president of the United States.

He is a lawyer's lawyer, a judge's judge, and he is approaching this case just like he approached the practice of law and all of his cases since he has been on the bench, very fair, very studios, very detailed.

And I think one thing that will happen is whatever decision that he ultimately makes, if it comes back to him from the Court of Appeals, is, it will be a scholarly and correct opinion.

BALDWIN: I understand, but, I mean, this is all anyone is talking about, and he is the reason why, you know, this ban isn't in effect as of now. I mean, can you just tell me the gist of his reaction or his message?

SMITH: Well, I think it's like everything else.

Like every U.S. district judge, he takes his responsibilities very seriously. He understands how serious this issue is. He understands that he has attracted the attention of the president. He has attracted the attention of the Department of Justice.

But like every case, and especially with him, he is a very, very calm individual, and is approaching it as he would do everything else. He is not letting these sideshow, so to speak, of tweets against him get to him. He is going to approach it as a federal judge and of an obligation he takes very seriously.

BALDWIN: I just found myself reading about him over the weekend just to understand, Bush 43 appointee, as we mentioned, Republican. He made last year, Stephen, as he presided over a case alleging excessive force by Seattle police brought on by President Obama's Department of Justice.

Can you tell me what he did in that courtroom and how that's just indicative of his demeanor?

SMITH: Well, I think if you watch the video which is all over the Internet and YouTube, he very carefully listened to the arguments of the Department of Justice, of the attorney general of Washington, and then he delivered a calm and reasoned opinion.

He listened carefully to the Department of Justice's suggestion that he stay the order or that he not apply it nationwide and denied it, because I think he really believes that there has to be a common application of this all over the country to avoid the chaos we have seen for the past week.

BALDWIN: And he took a breath and he said, you know, Black Lives Matter, which thrust him then in the spotlight for saying that in this courtroom.

Let me ask you this, Stephen, because we also know President Trump tweeted this: "Just cannot believe" -- this is back on Judge Robart -- "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and the court system."

What's your response to that?

SMITH: I would suggest the president should read Marbury vs. Madison, a very old U.S. Supreme Court case that makes it very clear that the federal judiciary has a very important role in our system of checks and balances.

I think it is absurd for our chief executive to suggest that anything that happens in the national security area is the fault either of a single U.S. district judge or the judiciary as a branch of government.

BALDWIN: Stephen C. Smith, thank you.

SMITH: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: You got it.

Coming up next, sources inside the White House say President Trump flat out did not know how unprecedented one of his executive actions was.

Plus, new details on what the president's nights are like home alone.

And Trump spokesman gets the "SNL" treatment. But can the White House take a joke? Sean Spicer has responded.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Home alone at the White House. We are getting new information on how

President Trump is taking to his life as leader of the free world. One Trump ally says he is governing like he campaigned, keeping long hours. With his wife, Melania, at home in New York, growing isolated, watching TV, and craving photo-ops to highlight his Supreme Court pick and a flurry of executive orders, all the while tensions arise among his closest advisers.

So, let me bring in David Chalian, our CNN political director, and Gloria Borger, our CNN chief political analyst, who, Gloria, reported on much of these great, great details behind the closed doors of the Oval Office.

And so, Gloria, you wrote in your piece today: "It is a staff searching for defined roles and a deliberative policy process in a president who likes to freelance."

Likes to freelance. I know the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is trying to get control of policy. What are you finding out?


They are trying to figure out chains of command. And there are ideological differences inside the White House. And then you have a president who tweets at will, in the evenings, when he is alone, or very early in the morning, before he heads into the Oval Office.


And I had one close ally to Trump who said, look, this is how he manages. He manages by conflict. And the reason he manages by conflict is that -- and this source says that in the end, if there is conflict, he likes it, because that way he can steer his own point of view.

So he brings in a lot of people, likes differing opinions and then figures out what he wants to do.

BALDWIN: That's exactly what Tim O'Brien, who wrote "TrumpNation," last hour told me. He thrives in chaos. Go ahead, David.


I was just going to say, and as Gloria knows from her excellent work in covering Trump through all the years, this was true in his businesses, this was true in his campaign.


CHALIAN: This is his management style.

Part of that is because he feels he can emerge the winner from the conflict. He can sort of declare a winner in his point of view, therefore being victorious. We all know he likes to win. But he also does think that the best ideas rise to the top in this kind of environment.

The question becomes, can you do that and smack up against the constraints of government all at the same time?

BORGER: It's hard.

BALDWIN: It is a different ball game.

Let's talk about some of these numbers too. The CNN/ORC international poll, this was released Friday. Americans gave Trump the highest disapproval rating for any newly elected president since pollsters actually began tracking the data. You see 53 -- or 53 percent disapproval rating that spurred President Trump to tweet this -- quote -- "Any negative polls are fake news, just like CNN, NBC, ABC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting."

He goes on: "I call my own shots largely based on the accumulation of data and everyone knows it. Some fake news media in order to marginalize. Lies."

Just am I getting this? He is calling fake news the media, Gloria, but then also numbers he just doesn't like.

BORGER: Right.

And I think he will continue to do that until there is a number that he does like. But, as we know, as we know, Donald Trump cares an awful lot about the polls. He cares a lot about his approval, whether it's how many people showed up at the inauguration, you know, or what his poll numbers are like.

BALDWIN: Or his ratings, your documentary on Trump with the guy from "The Apprentice."

BORGER: Right, or the TV ratings, exactly.

If the poll numbers continue to go down, and there seems to be a problem, it wouldn't surprise me if Donald Trump decided to shake things up a bit, because this is important to him. And at a certain point, he's going to want his approval ratings to go up.

And so, you know, I don't know at what moment that would occur. But I do know that he would probably deflect the blame to other people.

CHALIAN: And, Brooke, I think we have got some -- a divide inside the White House, some insight into a divide, because as Gloria just described, there is no doubt that Donald Trump does care deeply, despite the fact that he is trying to delegitimize poll numbers as fake news, which I'm sure we would all love to do when we get bad ratings on a show that was produced here.

But the press secretary, Sean Spicer, from the podium in the Briefing Room last week actually said something conventional, traditional that you would hear from the White House, which is, this is a marathon, not a sprint. He was indicating the poll numbers may not be exactly where they would like them to be right now, but that they are taking the long view here.

I'm not sure he and the boss are all lined up on that.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

You talk about potential infighting. We talk about Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus. We have some reporting on Steve Bannon, because it made huge news, the fact that he appointed Steve Bannon, his political operative, his chief strategist, to be a principal on the National Security Council, which had never, ever, ever, ever been done.

What exactly -- Gloria, this is Jeff Zeleny's reporting today. In signing his autograph on that executive order, he says he knew he knew what he was signing, but what was it he didn't fully appreciate?

BORGER: He knew what he was signing by putting Bannon on there, but what he didn't know was how unprecedented it was, to put a political adviser with a vote on the National Security Council.

And what he didn't know -- and I spoke with a former high-ranking Obama administration official who knows about such things -- he said, look, we also believe it's dangerous to put a political person there, because the discussions are pure policy. They are not political.

So, to be fair to Donald Trump, actually, somebody should have told him.

BALDWIN: I was going to say, who was supposed to tell him? Whose job was that?

BORGER: That's a good question. One would argue the person who -- the people who suggested that Steve Bannon be elevated to that position, whether it were Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus. It's hard to know. But if the president's inexperienced, comes from outside Washington, likes Bannon, wants him on an important group, somebody ought tell him, you know what, Steve Bannon doesn't represent any department in the government here, and it's inappropriate for him to be on it.


But, obviously, that didn't happen.

BALDWIN: Gloria and David, thank you both very much.


CHALIAN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, let's also talk Russia. Russia now is demanding an apology from Bill O'Reilly for calling Vladimir Putin a killer. But the real question is, why is the president still defending Vladimir Putin?

We will talk to one of the president's biggest defenders coming up.



BALDWIN: It is debate night again tomorrow with two former presidential candidates.

Senator Bernie Sanders faces off with Senator Ted Cruz over the future of Obamacare. See it live starting at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN.

Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Alec Baldwin is not the only Hollywood star taking a comedic stab at the Trump presidency.

Emmy Award-winning actress Melissa McCarthy has joined the "SNL" administration as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

In case you missed it, here is just one clip.


MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Before we begin, I know that myself and the press have gotten off to a rocky start!



MCCARTHY: All right! All right! All right! All right!