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Supreme Court Pick Calls Trump Attacks on Judges "Demoralizing"; Interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Senate Confirms Jeff Sessions As Attorney General; Trump Deflects Blame For Future Attacks; Trump: Justice System Should "Do What's Right"; Trump Blasts Nordstrom After It Dumps Ivanka's Fashion Line; TJMaxx, Marshalls Not "Highlighting" Ivanka Trump Brand; Melania Trump Defends Her Brand In Lawsuit; Syrian Refugees Reunited With Family In The U.S. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 8, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with breaking news, as President Trump continues to attack the judicial system for considering arguments about his travel ban. There's word tonight that his choice for Supreme Court is not thrilled. We'll speak with the senator who Neil Gorsuch met with in just a moment, made the remarks, too.

But, first, Jim Acosta joins me now with the latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. This was a pretty stunning development that occurred earlier this afternoon when it was revealed by senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, that during his meeting with Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch that basically the judge agreed with some of these concerns that have been voiced up on Capitol Hill about the president's comments on the judges' handling of the case of his executive order, trying to impose the travel ban in the seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Judge Gorsuch, according to Senator Blumenthal, said that it was disheartening and demoralizing to hear the president make these remarks. You recall, it was over the weekend when the president referred to that judge out of Washington state who issued the temporary restraining order as a, quote, "so-called judge".

Interesting to note, Anderson, that the White House is not denying this. As a matter of fact, the White House -- a spokesperson who is handling Judge Gorsuch's case up on Capitol Hill, his movements up on Capitol Hill, Ron Bonjean, says, no, those are the words that Judge Gorsuch used.

But consider this, Anderson. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, he apparently also heard similar remarks from Judge Gorsuch but Senator Schumer's office issued a statement sort of criticizing the judge for not going farther in condemning the president for his remarks. And so, you sort of get the outlines of the political dynamics that may be emerging during Judge Gorsuch's confirmation hearing. He may be pressed further on this as to why he's not going further and really condemning the president for going after the judges handling this case.

COOPER: And, Jim, I want to ask you another question, but we are expecting to talk to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut at any minute, who the judge made these remarks to. So, we want a firsthand account from him of exactly how this conversation transpired.

But, Jim, just be clear, you're saying the White House came out and confirmed that the judge in fact said this to Senator Blumenthal?

ACOSTA: That's right. The spokesperson who was handling judge Gorsuch's confirmation hearing process up on Capitol Hill, Ron Bonjean, when he was asked by CNN, did Judge Gorsuch say it was demoralizing and disheartening to hear the president of the United States refer to the judges in this case in the way that he has over the last several days, that is exactly what we were told is what he said.

So, the White House is not backing away from this. Now, you are seeing some chatter on social media from Democratic-aligned groups wondering whether this is a tactic from the White House to sort of get this explanation out sooner as opposed to having it spill out for the first time during a confirmation hearing. You can understand why it might be advantageous for Judge Gorsuch to say this now as opposed to waiting for these confirmation hearings to get underway.

COOPER: I mean, there's also -- I've seen, you know, some people saying, well, this actually may also be -- another way to look at it is the White House is confirming it quickly because it actually helps the White House in terms of the confirmation for this judge, because it can show to some Democratic senators whom they have concerns that he's independent and willing to criticize the White House.

ACOSTA: That's right. But I think at the same time, it is stunning because you never really see a president send a Supreme Court nominee up on Capitol Hill who then turns around within a number of days and then criticized the president for comments he's made about the judiciary. I mean, keep in mind, one of President Trump's siblings is a federal judge. And over the last several days and especially today when you heard the president say about those appellate court judges in the 9th Circuit that we've been talking about so much, that it was disgraceful to hear what they were saying in those oral arguments, that those are pretty scathing comments coming from the president aimed at the judiciary branch.

Now, keep in mind, this was a president who was in the private sector, a businessman, before he became president of the United States. So, he's not used to dealing with two other co-equal branches of government. But to hear Republicans, Democrats, now, his own Supreme Court pick saying that those comments are inappropriate, I think that is pretty stunning -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Joining me now us is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut of


Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for being with us.

If you can, take us through how this conversation with Judge Gorsuch went today. Did you ask him directly about the president's comments or did he bring them up on his own?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I said to Judge Gorsuch that I find these attacks on the judiciary absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable.

[20:05:00] And I asked him to express his criticism and to condemn these kinds of public attacks on an independent judiciary. And at that point, after some back and forth, he did say that he found them to be disheartening and demoralizing.

But my view is, this condemnation has to be public, direct, explicit, because he has to show the American people that he will be independent, more than just a rubber stamp for a president who has launched a series of blistering and bullying attacks on the American court, anticipating, in fact, to blame them for any terrorist incident that may occur if his side of this case on the immigration ban is not upheld.

COOPER: Did the judge say he would make his views public?

BLUMENTHAL: He was noncommittal and that's one reason why I remain deeply concerned about this nomination. This combination of the president's attacks on the judiciary goes to the core, absolutely to a foundational principle of our constitutional system and this judge needs to show that he is willing to stand up to the president and stop his bullying.

COOPER: So, did -- I mean, did his comments give you confidence? Clearly, you want him to go farther. You want him to make it public. But did it give you confidence if confirmed he would do his job independent of the president and the White House?

BLUMENTHAL: No, because it was behind closed doors with me personally, not publicly, and the American people deserve that he not only go farther and be stronger and more explicit and direct but that he do it publicly.

COOPER: Were you surprised, though, that he went as far as he did to you privately?

BLUMENTHAL: Not so much because he's already expressed those similar kinds of comments to at least one of my colleagues, that he finds it to be disheartening but less directly than even he did to me. And I feel very, very strongly as one who has been a Supreme Court law clerk, state attorney general, as well as a federal prosecutor and having argued cases before this court, that he has to come to the defense of the American judiciary strongly and explicitly and unequivocally, and that's really -- maybe he's moving in that direction but it has to be much stronger and more direct.

COOPER: You know, there are some in Washington who believe this could be a deliberate strategy to gain support from Senate Democrats, essentially kind of showing Senate Democrats, well, look, I'm willing to be independent, I'm not beholden to anybody.

Do you think that's possible or I mean, isn't this exactly what you and your fellow Democrats want to hear from the judge?

BLUMENTHAL: Anderson, here's what Donald Trump has done. He's not only attacked the American judiciary, he's set a litmus test -- in fact, a set of litmus tests -- that his nominee has to be, quote, "pro-life", end quote, quote, "very pro-Second Amendment," and, quote, "a conservative."

And having set those litmus tests, now this nominee has a very unusual, maybe unique obligation to show his independence and he's failed to do so, so far.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Senator, can I ask you a little about what you learned if anything about judge Gorsuch's judicial philosophy? Is he pro-life? Will he vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? Does he believe there's a right to privacy in the Constitution?

BLUMENTHAL: He avoided explicit or direct answers to those questions as well, as important as his answers on the independence of the American judiciary and his coming to the defense, equally so are his commitment to privacy rights, which he did not explicitly state, his commitment to Roe v. Wade, which is well established, long accepted precedent. He says he has a respect for precedent but is unwilling to commit to adhering to Roe v. Wade. And that's important to me as well as border and consumer protection.

TOOBIN: Did he say he wants to be like any particular justice? Is there someone he would like to model himself after?

BLUMENTHAL: I will let him talk about the details of who his heroes are on the court or in life, but I think what's important for the American people to know is that he will be open-minded and fair. We're going to be open-minded and fair with him. I have yet to reach a conclusion, I'm going to wait for the judiciary committee here hearing.

But I can commit if we find him out of the mainstream, if we oppose him, we're going to use every tool at our disposal and I will insist on a 60-vote threshold for this vote.

COOPER: So, yes, you just alluded to this. But based on what you heard today, you say you're still going to keep an open mind to hear what he says publicly. But, I mean, would you say at this point you would not vote for his confirmation?

[20:10:04] BLUMENTHAL: I have serious and grave concerns. I am deeply troubled by his failure to commit to certain responses, his lack of an explicit response and commitment to condemn these comments by Donald Trump publicly.

We're not talking about comments generally disagreeing with the result of an opinion the way President Obama did. We're talking about a very personal attack on the integrity of our judicial system, on the personal integrity of our judges and I really think he has to publicly condemn, to show he's independent.

COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: We're going to continue this conversation with our panel after a quick break.

Also ahead tonight, in his comments about the judiciary, the president is raising fear and deflecting blame for any future terror attacks on the United States.

He's also upset with Nordstrom department store. It's a whole other story we'll tell you about. The latest on that still to come.


COOPER: Welcome back.

We've been talking about President Trump's latest attack on judges and the pushback, at least in private, from his choice for the Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch called his attacks demoralizing and disheartening, according to a U.S. senator. He said in a meeting with Senator Richard Blumenthal, who I just spoke with before the break.


[20:15:03] COOPER: Take us through how this conversation with Judge Gorsuch went today. Did you ask him directly about the president's comments or did he bring them up on his own?

BLUMENTHAL: I said to Judge Gorsuch that I find these attacks on the judiciary absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable. And I asked him to express his criticism and to condemn these kinds of public attacks on an independent judiciary. And at that point, after some back and forth, he did say that he found them to be disheartening and demoralizing.

But my view is, this condemnation has to be public, direct, explicit, because he has to show the American people that he will be independent, more than just a rubber stamp for a president who has launched a series of blistering and bullying attacks on the American court, anticipating, in fact, to blame them for any terrorist incident that may occur if his side of this case on the immigration ban is not upheld.


COOPER: Well, lots to talk about with our panel. Joining me is CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, political commentator and Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany, Tara Setmayer, former communications director for GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and president of the Senate Conservative's Fund and former Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli.

Jeff, you heard what Senator Richard Blumenthal there said, essentially that the judge needs to go further and say it publicly. Is that likely to happen?

TOOBIN: I think Judge Gorsuch is nobody's fool and he has walked a clever line here. He has demonstrated some independence from President Trump, but he's also not really rubbed the president's nose in it. I think it's a good confirmation strategy for him but it's also probably what he thinks. And that's, you know, a pretty good deal.

COOPER: Attorney General Cuccinelli, do you believe there's any reason for President Trump or his allies to push back on the comments, or does it help the judge get confirmed and --


COOPER: -- therefore it's what the White House wants?

CUCCINELLI: A lot of what you guys talk about in the media, well, does it make sense for him to tangle with this person or that person, or to do that? The one person on earth that Donald Trump shouldn't be messing around with is Judge Gorsuch in part because he's his own selection to be the next Supreme Court justice.

And Judge Gorsuch appropriately and in a dignified fashion if the senator's comments are accurate, stated his beliefs.

I agree with Jeffrey Toobin. I think that he believes what he said. I also think that the use of phrases like calculated or clever really suggest that he's gaming this, that the judge is gaming this.

Look, this is a guy with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford. He is not going to come out and use flame-thrower-type language at anybody. You can read his ten years' worth of opinions and you'll find that.

I think the words he used are the ones that he believes are appropriate and they're fairly measured even in his criticism of the president. But it does demonstrate his willingness to be independent, and that's something that should be of interest with respect to every judge, no matter what president selects them or nominates them, is that independence is critically important.

COOPER: It does help, Kirsten, Democrats come around to the idea of perhaps voting for him, though?

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yes, I guess so. I don't think that Donald Trump should be tweeting the things he tweeted about the judiciary. I also don't think that it's quite the crisis that Senator Blumenthal was casting it as, and I think maybe he's looking for some way to, I don't know, harm Judge Gorsuch, who I think is a pretty good selection for Donald Trump in terms of his temperament and his qualifications.

They have issues about where he stands on this. You have abortion, for example, but I don't think it's quite -- President Obama, you'll remember Republicans were very upset when he criticized Citizens United as the justices sat in the front row. That was, you know, from the Republican standpoint was akin to what's happening here.

I think that was probably bad form, but again, it's not quite the crisis. I think Senator Blumenthal is using a little bit over the top language to describe what's happened.

COOPER: Paul, do you agree with that? I mean, Senator Blumenthal saying, look, he's got to go further. He's going to say this publicly.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's no appetite among grassroots Democrats to confirm this man. I think he plainly, what little I know, seems to have temperament qualifications but so did Judge Merrick Garland.

Republicans would not even meet with him. Senator Blumenthal, a Democrat, has already met with Judge Gorsuch.

So, there's enormous pressure from Democratic base. They see this judge, probably very qualified but as a stolen seat. The fact that Republicans stalled for over a year the nomination of Judge Garland, now to put someone who while highly qualified seems to be conservative.

[20:20:05] I also think the way the judge responded was very clever. It's all about POV, point of view. I'm not a Hollywood big shot, Golden Globe winner like Toobin but my friend directors talk about POV, point of view, which way is the camera casting your eye.

His point of view was about the feelings of the federal judges, these precious snowflakes, how can they be demoralized? Their moral. That's not it. It's about the institution being independent to stand up to an autocratic president. He didn't talk about the independence of the judiciary, just the feelings of these poor pampered judges. I thought that was kind of cheap grace.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, the judiciary is independent. That's why they have life tenure, a federal judge has life tenure, including the one who issued this bogus temporary restraining order.

BEGALA: So-called temporary.

MCENANY: But just as we heard Senator Blumenthal come on this program and call the president's actions abhorrent, just as we saw a legislator criticize the executive, just as we had a judge, the nominee for the Supreme Court behind closed doors, express discontent with the executive actions, likewise the president of the United States can criticize a co-equal branch of government. Senators criticize the president. The president can likely criticize a judge.

They're insulated by life tenure but he can criticize a judge who issued a ruling with no explanation for why the plaintiff would succeed on the merits, a legal standing for a temporary restraining order.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think anyone here would argue that judges are beyond approach. They are not. It's the way in which you do it.

And the fact Donald Trump has used elementary school language, very taunting language to talk about, you know, circuit court judges and federal judges in this way because he's not getting his way, because he wasn't happy with the way the hearing went the other day, that's the part that's concerning because what it does is it undermines the institution to Paul's point. You can criticize the judge and say -- plus the ruling hasn't even happened yet, so that's inappropriate to go after the judges and say even a bad high school student can understand the statute. And perhaps, but Trump not doing himself any good by going after the judges in this way.

COOPER: Although, let me push back on that. Jeffrey Lord, you know, a Trump supporter, obviously was on the program last, I guess last night or -- it all blends together and I said to him, you know, would you recommend politically Donald Trump go after these judges before there's a ruling and Jeff said absolutely.

SETMAYER: Good for the base.

COOPER: It plays into his base and continues his theme.

SETMAYER: As a conservative who believes there are a lot of activist federal judges out there, and that's been one of the issues conservatives have fought against for years, I get that, but he's president now and it's irresponsible for him to go --

CUCCINELLI: Circle back to the judge.

SETMAYER: -- federal judiciary when it's a co-equal branch. It makes it look like he has no respect for that. Perhaps he needs to read the Constitution again.

COOPER: OK. Attorney General Cuccinelli?

CUCCINELLI: Look, there's plenty to talk about with respect to President Trump. That's not new.

What's new is the exchange between the senator and the judge today. Let's not fool ourselves to extend out Paul Begala's comment. Blumenthal will never, ever, no matter what Judge Gorsuch says, vote for his confirmation. It is not going to happen.

So, it's a lot of crocodile tears coming from the senator here in an effort to try and get this judge to turn a flamethrower on the president, and this judge is too reserved, too mild a temperament and too intelligent for that to ever, ever happen. BEGALA: Is this judge entitled to a vote? You're already presuming

that he's getting a vote and that Senator Blumenthal --

CUCCINELLI: Of course, he is.

BEGALA: Why wasn't Judge Garland entitled to a vote?

CUCCINELLI: Oh, the Biden rule. Hey, live by the sword, die by the sword.

And I'll tell you what, this judge was known to the public last year when the presidential race was going on. It was a brilliant tactic, and I don't mean that like it was sneaky, it was a great idea to put names on the table and say, if you elect me, you get one of these, too.

This is the most open and publicly involved selection of a Supreme Court justice in the history of the United States, and it makes it very, very difficult both to deny him a vote and to vote against him.

COOPER: We get --

SETMAYER: Just real quickly, this hasn't been done in decades for the nominee in the year of a presidential election to get a vote like that.


SETMAYER: He was not nominated in an election year. It was before the election year that happened.

BEGALA: Vacancy in '87, confirmed in '88.

SETMAYER: Right, there's a difference. It didn't --

BEGALA: Such a baloney argument.

SETMAYER: No, it's not.

COOPER: Let's take a break.

Much more ahead, including much more breaking news. The Senate has approved one of President Trump's cabinet nominees. Perhaps the most controversial, Jeff Sessions, will be the next attorney general. Details on that.

And Donald Trump's latest comments about Nordstrom department store.


[20:27:48] COOPER: More breaking news to tell you about. A short time ago, the Senate voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as attorney general. He's been one of President Trump's most controversial nominees. And the final hours of debate sparked even more drama in the Senate floor.

Manu Raju joins us with the latest.

You're on Capitol Hill. Any congressional reactions, first of all, to Sessions' confirmation?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Mostly along party lines, Anderson. Immediately after when he went to the floor and gave his farewell speech, it was filled with Republicans and the Republican side of the aisle, but only two Democrats actually listened to Jeff Sessions bid farewell to a chamber, he served for two decades.

Those two senators, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who's the only Democrat to vote for the nomination. This is unusual in the Senate. Typically, senators embrace one of their own, think John Kerry when he was nominated to secretary of state and that vote was 94-3 in 2013. Not the case here, 52-47 along party lines, just shows how divided both parties are over Donald Trump's nominees, even one of their own.

COOPER: And last night, Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Senator Sessions' qualifications on the Senate floor. He spoke to her today. What did she say about his confirmation?

RAJU: Well, she was very concerned. Of course, she made though comments yesterday that actually prompted such an unusual move in the Senate for the Republicans to enforce a rule of decorum, saying that she was out of line and impugning the integrity of a fellow senator. And I asked her, why did she carry on with her criticism, knowing that she could be in violation of this role? She said she was just trying to present the facts, criticize his past record, criticism that Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King's widow, raised when Sessions himself was nominated for a federal judgeship in 1986.

And I asked her, do you agree with what Mrs. King said in that letter from 1986, that he could potentially disenfranchise and intimidate elderly black voters, something that you think he can do that as attorney general, and she said yes.

So, those are words too strong from a lot of Republicans who believed it was out of line, but it just shows how polarizing this debate has become over one of their own -- Anderson.

COOPER: Manu, thanks very much.

President Trump not only attacking some judges verbally, which as we reported, his Supreme Court quick calls, quote, "disheartening and demoralizing," he's raising the specter of a future terrorist attack and essentially saying if it happens, don't blame him.

Here again is senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.


[20:30:10] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is making his case to the court of public opinion thundering that if there's a terrorist attack the judges holding up his executive order imposing travel ban on seven majority Muslim nations will be to blame.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: So, I think it's sad. I think it's a sad day. I think our security is at risk today. I listened to a bunch of stuff last night on television that was disgraceful. But courts seem to be so political. And it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what's right.

ACOSTA: The president warns the legal delay could have consequences tweeting, "Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas while our people are far more vulnerable." But the president didn't offer any proof of his claims.

TRUMP: A bad high school student would understand this. Anybody would understand this.

ACOSTA: And what seemed like a response to the images of chaos and confusion at the nation's airports the president also tried to argue he never wanted his travel ban implemented immediately.

TRUMP: I said, let's give a one-month notice but the law enforcement people said to me, well, you can't give a notice because if you give a notice you're going to be really tough in one month from now or one week from now, I suggested a month then I said, what about a week? They said no you can't do that, because then people are going to pour in before the toughness goes in.

ACOSTA: But the president never mentioned his desire to wait until today. More than a week ago he tweeted, "If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the bad would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad dudes out there." A sentiment echoed by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't know when the next bomb is going to go off. And the last thing you want to do is to say, well, we could have done this Saturday but we waited one more day or we want to roll it out differently.

ACOSTA: Democrats contend the White House is missing the point.

REP. JIM HIMES, (D) CONNECTICUT: None of the terrorist attacks that have occurred in the United States since 9/11 have been undertaken by the refugees or immigrants from the seven countries that are named in the executive order.

ACOSTA: The president maintains he's right about the terror threat because of the intelligence he's receiving as commander-in-chief.

TRUMP: A tremendous threat, far greater than people in our country understand. Believe me, I've learned a lot in the last two weeks. And terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand.

ACOSTA: But shortly after the scheduled start of his daily intelligence briefing at 10:30 a.m., the president was tweeting that his daughter Ivanka had been treated unfairly by Nordstrom. The White House says Mr. Trump was free at the time the tweet was posted. The department store recently decided to stop selling Ivanka Trump's products citing the branch performance, drawing this ferocious response from the White House.

SPICER: I think this was less about his family business and an attack on his daughter. And for someone to take out their concern with his policies on a family member of his is just not acceptable.


COOPER: Jim joins us again. Before we get to Nordstrom's, the White House put out a list today highlighting people who have come from the seven banned countries and were later arrested. Can you kind of do dive on that list for us?

ACOSTA: Right, yeah, that the White House did produce that list earlier this evening it features 24 people who came from the seven countries that are mentioned in the president's travel ban, but we should point out that these are individuals who were arrested on terrorism-related charges, not these mass casualty events that have happened in this country since 9/11.

And Anderson, it is also worth pointing out that Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary during the briefing earlier today, he was asked whether or not the country is facing any kind of imminent threat to sort of back up the president's tough talk on terrorism we've been hearing lately, and Sean Spicer said no. Our country is not facing that kind of threat right now.

COOPER: And did Sean Spicer present any evidence that Nordstrom's is somehow attacking Ivanka Trump? I mean because the Nordstrom put out a statement saying, look, this is a business decision, the brand isn't selling well, and so we're not going to be selling it.

ACOSTA: That's right. Nordstrom did put out that statement. And no, Anderson, Sean Spicer did not say anything to that effect. He basically said that the president reserves the right to defend his daughter when she's attacked and White House obviously feels that she was attacked in this case. We should point out not only did the president tweet that on his personal Twitter account, the White House official @POTUS account that is usually reserved for government business, that retweeted the president's personal account when he tweeted that earlier today.

So the White House was not only using the president's personal account to get this out there but also using that official @POTUS account, which is a huge departure from what we've seen in the past that the previous president did not do that when he was in the Oval Office, Anderson.

[20:35:05] COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Jim thanks very much. Back with the panel. Kay, you know, a White House which, you know, they're all sort of concerns about conflicts of interest, doesn't this just revive that for the president on a day in which he was focusing on other things to then tweet about Nordstrom's, doesn't it revise the conflict of interest of -- I mean one other way to handle, they just let, you know, Nordstrom's stop selling Ivanka Trump products.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I don't think so, because as Sean Spicer said today this was not about business for Donald Trump, this was about him defending his daughter.

COOPER: Defending from what though?

MCENANY: Defending his daughter's product from being released from the stores for political reasons. You know, consider ...

COOPER: The way, that wasn't political reason. They said they're not selling.

MCENANY: That's what they're saying. The White House believe otherwise, Ivanka believes otherwise, I believe otherwise, because today or when the executive order was released a few days ago Nordstrom's put out a letter to its employees saying, we're confessing our faith in immigrants and those effected by the executive order, basically at the same time it became public that they're letting go of Ivanka's product. And there are other stores who also (inaudible) product co-incidentally right after Donald Trump became president. They can cite low sales but the White House and Ivanka chose to believe otherwise.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Or is it -- there is a boycott Trump movement going on right now in a whether a viral letter that was going around demanding Nordstrom's get rid of Ivanka's clothes.

So, actually I think they're probably -- could be a political element to this. I just don't think the president should be getting involved in it, right?

I mean, don't you think, Kayleigh, if you look at the what, Anderson is talking about, the sort of conflict of interest, I mean the idea that the president should be pressuring a public company whose stock, by the way, dropped, you know ...

COOPER: But just very briefly, but then it went up ...


POWERS: But the idea that he can affect, you know, what happens to other company.

MCENANY: Or Kirsten, but if we're so concerned about that we should pass a law saying the president is subject to conflict of interest laws because he's not subject to conflict of interest now. We need to change the law.


TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think then you guys should be really happy that there's not a law on the books already about that or else Donald Trump would not be president today. This is completely out of bounds for the president to be defending his grown daughter who is successful in her own right, who is being subject to capitalism and the free market.

There is a boycott going on and there are several companies that they decided if it's politically motivated or not, who cares, this is America and they're free to do that. And then we as consumers are free to decide to whether shop in those stores and buy those products or not.

For the president to come out and think -- this is the part where he forgets that this is a free and open society and that markets should be determined what goes on. I mean as Republicans we should be OK with the fact that if people want to have the freedom to boycott and don't want to spend their dollars in an open and free society then they should do that. I mean it wasn't only Nordstrom. It's Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, HSM,, T.J. Maxx, Marshall's, they're all saying that, look, the demand is down, we have -- we reserve our right to the remove products. And if it's because of a boycott then God bless the Maxx, welcome to America.

MCENANY: Maybe -- perhaps you misread the tweet. Because he did say that Nordstrom has been free to do it, he expressed his discontent. And just like Nordstrom's is free to do this, the president of the United States ...

COOPER: But Sean Spicer ...


SETMAYER: ... whether it's appropriate or not ...

COOPER: But Sean Spicer is saying that the department store is attacking his Daughter, I mean is attacking Donald Trump's daughter. There's no evidence the department store is attacking Ivanka Trump. They said, we've had a nice relationship with her, we've been in communication with him, she was informed about this in January.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And Sean Spicer doesn't work for the Trump organization. He works for the American people. And I don't mean to bang up Sean, God knows he's had a rough go of it and seriously I feel for him. But, it is the presidency here and for him to weigh-in on that. There's two problems.

First off, it's appalling for him to use the power of the most powerful position on earth to try to bludgeon a corporation, but almost worse as a political guy, it didn't work. Here's the talk about the stock dropping. Initially it went up four percent today. It could well be that Mr. Trump and his political machine is a paper tiger.

And I think now corporations and certainly politicians are looking and thinking, well, maybe he's not so bad after all, maybe he's not so ...

MCENANY: They know it's also going up is the president's approval rating. The president is now above majority approval ratings with Reuters.

So, the media and commentators get so ...

BEGALA: Wait, where?


MCENANY: That the American people -- Reuters, he got 50.1 ...


MCENANY: ... approval rating.


MCENANY: As the media gets in a rage that conflict of interest, the American people voted for Donald Trump because they believed in his policies despite the fact that they knew he had a multimillion dollar empire and a daughter who had a business as well.

SETMAYER: And the American people decided that they don't want to buy Ivanka Trump products anymore.



MCENANY: And you accept his ...


SETMAYER: He's free to say whatever he wants to and we're free to criticize ...

COOPER: Isn't just beneath the office of the president of the United States to be ...

SETMAYER: Absolutely.

COOPER: Again, I assume president, you know, it's the most important job in the world, the most powerful job in the world has got tons of responsibilities. I'm sure there's huge briefing books to read and stuff to do to be focusing on Nordstrom's department.

[20:40:02] MCENANY: He talks about terrorism today, right?

COOPER: Department store ...


COOPER: As most department -- I mean I don't know the stock, the history of the stock there but in most department store in the country are actually kind of suffering and doing badly for a guy who wants to promote American businesses, I'm not sure, you know, ...

MCENANY: It's not about Nordstrom's. It's about his daughter. It's about a father defending his daughter.

SETMAYER: He's president of the United States first. He's president of the United States first. As much as people ...

MCENANY: He's doing a great job.

SETMAYER: Is he really? As much as people don't want to accept the fact that the presidency comes before everything else including your family, that's a responsibility that he has chosen to put himself in and the American people have voted him to do, not to defend his daughter in a free and open free market, fair market capitalist decision and not to carry her product.

BEGALA: When he made that comment, when he said, I've learned a lot about terrorism in the last couple weeks, my heart went out to him.

SETMAYER: Me and mine too.

BEGALA: I have seen presidents briefed on terrorism and they become ashen. And it is like -- they should be affecting that way. And so, for a minute there, I thought well maybe he's growing into the job, and then Acosta tells us that 21 minutes into that briefing he was tweeting out about Nordstrom's. I'm like come on, Mr. President, you care about the American people first and your daughter second.

COOPER: I do want to put up the latest approve poll that the Reuters methodology is not something that we generally follow. This is a Quinnipiac, approval 42 percent, disapproval 51 of percent. But as we said there are other polls but there -- the methodology we just want -- (inaudible) approve you can judge what you will.

Just ahead, more breaking news. Entire (ph) reference, more retailers dissenting themselves from the Ivanka Trump brand.

Plus, video (ph) tells about how Melania Trumps is fighting to defend her personal brand. We'll be right back.


[20:45:00] COOPER: More breaking news as we talked about before the break, two more retailers T.J. Maxx and Marshall distancing themselves from the Ivanka Trump brand. They instructed employees not to highlight Trump merchandize on standalone racks.

Again, this comes after Nordstrom's decision to drop the brand from its stores sparking a Twitter attack from Pres. Trump. More on that now from our Kate Bennett.


KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Attack Pres. Trump and he hits back.

TRUMP: We have this guy lying Ted Cruz. We know lying Ted, right?

BENNETT: Attack the Trump brand and he hits back even harder.

TRUMP: Don't shop at Macy's. Don't shop. BENNETT: Attack the Trump family and its brand, he takes to Twitter. In a tweet this morning, Pres. Trump lashed out at Nordstrom, the department store chain that last week announced it would not be carrying daughter Ivanka Trump's fashion brand this season as it has in the past, citing less than stellar sales.

IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER: I'm incredibly excited because I want to share with you today some of my favorite styles from fall.

BENNETT: A spokeswoman for Ivanka's label earlier this week challenged Nordstrom's decision saying it's not sales that matter but integrity and principles. And Nordstrom is pushing back against reports their move was politically motivated telling CNN in a statement today, "We made this decision based on performance. Over the past year and particularly in the last half of 2016 sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn't make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now."

For her part, Ivanka Trump has remained silent, keeping her social media feeds occupied with images of her family, the most recent yesterday evening, posing with 10-month-old son Theodore in the halls of the White House's east wing.

President Trump's Ivanka defense today comes on the heels of Tuesday's news that the First Lady Melania Trump is also fighting back in defense of her own brand. Lawyers for Mrs. Trump re-filed a defamation suit against "The Daily Mail" online seeking $150 million in damages.

Trump's lawyers charging that the August story about the first lady's past is inaccurate and that it potentially harmed her earning potential as a spokeswoman and brand ambassador for her future potentially selling everything from beauty products to a jewelry line and put in peril her, "unique once in a lifetime opportunity to make millions off of business relationships."

And while many question whether Melania Trump might attempt to profit from her status as the first lady, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump told CNN that the implications in the court filing were not meant to imply she would benefit from her position saying, "The first lady has no intention of using her position for profit and will not do so. Any statements to the contrary are being misinterpreted." Kate Bennett, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: A lot to discuss. Joining me now is Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth About Trump." Also, Timothy O'Brien, author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald" and executive veteran at Bloomberg View who also once sued unsuccessfully by Donald Trump for defamation for reporting that Mr. Trump was worth far less than he claims.

So, Tim, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, essentially is saying that this was a direct attack on his policies, Donald Trump's, and Ivanka's name. I just don't understand how Nordstrom's is viewed by the White House as attacking Ivanka Trump.

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN "TRUMPNATION: THE ART OF BEING THE DONALD" AUTHOR: Well, I mean there's two problems with this. One is they got rid of her merchandise because it wasn't selling. So Sean Spicer standing at the podium in the White House and he's essentially lying, he's fabricating a reason for why Nordstrom's dissolve this relationship that wasn't true.

Secondly, Ivanka had said that she distanced herself from that company, from her own company, and has already distanced herself from the Trump organization. So, presumably she had nothing to do with any of this. So, you wouldn't think the president would have to rise to her defense if she authentically detached from the company, which I actually don't think she has.

COOPER: But it also shares, Michael, just how involved it would appear at least it gives the appearance that Donald Trump, president of the United States, is still involved with the economic output of these companies.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP" AUTHOR: What's fascinating is, first of all, everything is personal with him, but also everything is about money. It's strange. It's as if the only value he has is cash. So if you attack his ...

COOPER: Cash and crowd size. I mean crowd size factors.

D'ANTONIO: Right. Things that can be measured, not values like leadership, public service. Where is the idea that Donald Trump has been elected president? He's there to serve the United States of America, and his daughter has accepted a position advising him.

COOPER: So, interesting, you know, essentially -- you're saying Sean Spicer saying that this is an attack, you know, that they view as an attack on Donald Trump and on Ivanka, or Donald Trump's policy. The president may actually see it as an attack because if he's valuing money and he values, you know, crowd size or poll numbers or ratings or market share, whatever ...

D'ANTONIO: Maybe he should try being president, because that would be thrilling for those of us who want his leadership rather than to see him dwelling on these mundane matters.

[20:50:4] I actually talked to a brand consultant today about Nordstrom's, and he told me that it's a consumer friendly service oriented company, they knew what they are doing, they were doing something oriented toward their shoppers. And I think it was a strategic decision on their part.

COOPER: But, Tim, I mean, we can someone (ph) agrees that obviously is business savvy of Donald Trump, you know, says he is appears to be would understand the idea of, you know, failing sales or lessening sales, whether it's politically motivated because of a boycott or whatever it is, business is business.

O'BRIEN: But I actually don't think he knew that. I don't think he had the information at hand. They began dissolving the relationship with her in January. So, this was an old story. It got revivified in the media because "The New York Times" and Bloomberg and others wrote about this recently. And that's why it resurfaced through him. He was actually addressing an old issue.

And, again, you know, people are constantly looking for this notion of strategy in Donald Trump's tweeting or strategy in his day to day operations. And the reality is, he's very emotionally driven. He makes decision, and operates by the seat of his pants. And this White House has been plagued by this. And this is the latest example of that.

COOPER: We've actually never seen into the heart or mind of a president or the insecurities of -- or the, whatever it is, the personality of a president in such real time as we have with Donald Trump. I mean nobody has tweeted like this. Presidents are usually somewhat cut off or at least circumspect in what they say publicly.

D'ANTONIO: Well, he's authentic. He is the real ...

COOPER: For better or worst ...

D'ANTONIO: ... Donald Trump.

COOPER: ... or not.

D'ANTONIO: Right. You know, it's fascinating to see this pour out of him. We've always thought, you know, do we know what the president is really thinking? I think we know what this president is really thinking.

COOPER: We also saw, obviously, on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, Melissa McCarthy did the impression of Sean Spicer. "POLITICO" reports that it wasn't the content of the skit that bothered Pres. Trump but the fact that a woman was playing Sean Spicer. Does that surprise -- I was stunned when I heard that. I don't know, again, it's "POLITICO" reporting. Did that surprise you?

D'ANTONIO: No, he's a man of the 1950s, not of the 2000s. This is a guy who like many men in the past is appalled by the idea that a woman could imitate a man. Throughout time, it's been OK for a man to go in drag and imitate a woman. But women are worthy of a man's derision, they're worthy of making fun of, a man? Well, how could a woman mock him by pretending to be an exaggeration of masculinity? This cuts someone like Donald Trump to the core.

COOPER: But do you really -- I mean that sounds like a deep psychoanalysis. I mean is that.

D'ANTONIO: But ...


O'BRIEN: ... they made him look weak.

D'ANTONIO: Yeah. O'BRIEN: You had a skit that made Sean Spicer look weak, and during a week where they've been made to look weak in millions of other ways.

D'ANTONIO: And female equals weak.

COOPER: Michael D'Antonio, thank you, Tim O'Brien as well.

Up next, hugs and happiness as Syrian refugees land in the U.S. and reunited with family. The trip installed last week, obviously, about the travel ban. It happens while an appeals court decides whether it should actually be reinstated. Details ahead.


[2:55:55] COOPER: At sometime tomorrow or later this week, a federal appeals court could uphold or overturn the temporary restraining order on Pres. Trump travel ban.

Now, in the meantime, refugees and other travelers are rushing the airports to get to the U.S. fearing that the door for them could close again.

Tonight one such flight to a new life and one young girl's dream come true. Here's the story from Randi Kaye.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Twelve year Lubna Dabbah old lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. She came to the United States eight years ago with her parents as refugees. And for years has prayed that her grandparents from Syria would be able to join them. After the travel ban was announced she uploaded this video to Facebook, her personal plea to ask the president to reconsider.

DABBAH: So I ask, Mr. President, please don't stop refugee resettlement and not destroy my dream and my brothers' and sisters' dream, because we love America. Thank you.

KAYE: Her grandparents on her father's side fled Damascus, Syria and have been living in Jordan. After years of vetting, they were finally supposed to arrive February 1st. But just days earlier, Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely.

When you hear people talk about refugees and you hear what the White House is saying, how does that make you feel?

DABBAH: That hurts me very much. And, like, I know that Donald Trump is trying to make a point, but it's not a very good one. And it's not true at all. The terrorists are not coming from those countries.

KAYE: After the travel ban was temporarily suspended by the courts, Lubna's grandparents rushed to set a new arrival date. Late Tuesday night, we waited for them at Erie's airport.

How much do you want to see your grandparents here in this country?

DABBAH: Out of 100, a million.

KAYE: You love them so much.

DABBAH: I love them so much. I can't wait till I hug them to death.

KAYE: Just before 10:00 p.m., Lubna had her chance.

What did you say to her?

DABBAH: I said, (inaudible) that means, I miss you so much and welcome back.

KAYE: When Lubna's father, Bassam Dabbah, came from Syria to the U.S., he waited five years to get his citizenship. He's been working to get his parents here for two years now.

So once they cleared customs in Chicago you could breathe easy?

BASSAM DABBAH, PARENTS FLED SYRIA: Oh, yes. Yes, now I'm really like very happy, very excited. I want to hug them.

KAYE: The family celebrated into the early morning hours then settled in at Bassam's home.

B. DABBAH: I wish for Mr. President to see -- what our family are human beings. Doesn't matter I am Syrian or I'm American. We still human. It is very important to let him know that we have feeling. They are victims of the war. We are not terrorist.

KAYE: Do you consider are your self lucky that you have your family here now?

B. DABBAH: Very lucky. I'm very lucky.

KAYE: And what is the first very American thing you want to do with your parents here?

B. DABBAH: I want to take them to -- like one of the buffet as in like try American food.

KAYE: ... American buffet?


KAYE: Big portions?

B. DABBAH: Yes. That's right, American food and, yeah.

KAYE: That is very American.

B. DABBAH: Yeah.


COOPER: Joins us now. What are the next steps for the family?

KAYE: Well, first of all, Anderson, they're going to need a bigger house. So they're going to move so everyone can live together now that the grand parents are here. They'll also get their green card and then in five years they'll be able to apply for citizenship. Hopefully for their sake they will get that as well.

And as far as what they'll do here, the grandfather is retired. He was an accountant in Syria. The grandmother wants to work -- she on the clothing store, she wants to get back to doing something.

And, of course, Anderson, they will have to learn some English, moved by the 12 year old girl in that story she was in Spanish Immersion School and learned Spanish and English. She taught her own parents Spanish and English ...


KAYE: ... and hopes to teach her grandparents some English as well, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow, Randi, thanks very much.

Up next, as we -- with that Appeal Court decision on ...