Return to Transcripts main page


SCOTUS Nominee Gorsuch Rebukes Trump; Warren's Wrath; Snowstorm Bearing Down on Northeast. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 9, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's Supreme Court nominee with strong rebuke of the president's harsh words for the judiciary. We'll tell you what he said.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The next attorney general is set to be sworn in and that's drawing another round of scorn from Senator Elizabeth Warren.

MARQUEZ: And here comes the snow. The first major snowstorm of the season getting ready to slam the Northeast. We'll tell you who is going to get hit hardest and when.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.

ROMANS: It is 85 and sunny in Los Angeles.

MARQUEZ: Just for the record, and Berman wanted a snow day.

ROMANS: I know. I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, February 9th, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Up first, a stunning indictment of President Trump from his own Supreme Court nominee. Judge Neil Gorsuch using the words demoralizing and disheartening to characterize the president's recent attacks on the judiciary. Gorsuch made the comments in separate meetings with two Democratic senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal. All this while appellate lawyers from across the nation were delivering a letter to the Justice Department, complaining about the president.

That letter reads, in part, "Lawyers across the political spectrum believe that the president's personal attacks on individual judges and the judicial branch are improper and destructive. Because judges face ethical constraints in their ability to respond directly, the letter calls on the president to retract and end such personal attacks."

MARQUEZ: Recently, the president has been firing off tweets either pressuring judges or criticizing them, like this comment by the judge who suspended his controversial travel ban. "The opinion of this so- called judge which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned." A decision on whether that judge crossed the line when he halted the president's executive order could come as early as today. We get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Miguel, in a speech to law enforcement officials here in Washington, the president delivering a sharp tone against judges, against the judicial branch, question, does politics was involved in their decision.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't ever want to call a court biased. So, I won't call it biased. And we haven't had a decision yet. 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. That has to do with security of our country, which is so important.

ZELENY: But those sharp words from the president drawing a rebuke of sorts from his nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch. As he is making the rounds to Democratic senators on Capitol Hill and Republicans as well, he said yesterday, he was disheartened by those comments about the president politicizing judges. He said it is simply not right.

Now, he, of course, is trying to distance himself from the president as he tries to get some Democratic votes to win confirmation. But there is no question the president, despite his rhetoric, is trying to win the case in public opinion. Also, all eyes here at the White House today once again on San Francisco and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. President Trump is awaiting a ruling on his executive order on immigration and the refugee ban that could be delivered today -- Christine and Miguel.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much, Jeff Zeleny. Busy day for you, Jeff.

President Trump now claims he wanted to give travelers one month's notice before implementing his seven-nation travel and refugee ban. But he insists he was overruled by law enforcement officials. Mr. Trump did not specify which agency overruled him during his speech to big city police chiefs in Washington. But he said he was urged not to delay the ban because the advance warning could trigger a flood of terrorists into the country.

MARQUEZ: This morning, President Trump will take part in a ceremony to swear in Senator Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general. Sessions was confirmed in a 52-47 votes, mostly along party lines, a bitter pill for Democrats, especially Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was silenced by the Majority Leader during a contentious Senate debate.

Warren refusing to remain silent, firing off this tweet, "There's no Rule 19 to silence me from talking about Jeff Sessions anymore. So, let me say loudly, this is just the beginning. If Jeff Sessions turns a blind eye while Donald Trump violates the Constitution or breaks the law, he will hear from all of us.

If Jeff Sessions makes the tiny attempt to bring his racism, sexism, and bigotry into the Justice Department, he will hear from all of us.

Consider this my warning. We won't be silent. We will speak out and we will persist."

Senator Warren's use of the word "persist" is notable. It's a word used by Senator Mitch McConnell used to describe her actions right before he silenced her on the Senate floor.

Warren telling CNN's Manu Raju, she felt that she had no choice but to keep talking.


[04:05:06] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: If you knew it was potentially a violation when they warned you, why not just move on?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I was moving on. I was moving on to talk about the facts of what Jeff Sessions had done when he prosecuted civil rights workers who were trying to help black citizens vote. And I thought quoting Coretta Scott King's letter to the Senate about that was absolutely relevant.


ROMANS: Republicans are not backing down. Many of them accusing Senator Warren of using the Sessions hearing for publicity. Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham insisting it was Warren who was out of line.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line is it was long overdue with her. I mean, she is clearly running for the nomination in 2020. The Democratic Party is being pushed really hard by the most extreme voices in their community. They just don't know how to handle it. If they empower her, then I think the Democratic Party is going to lose its way with the vast majority of the American people.


ROMANS: Before Senator Sessions' confirmation vote, several male senators took to the Senate floor to read the same letter Warren was told she could not read. They were not stopped.

Overnight, a protest broke out in front of Senator McConnell's home in Washington, D.C. Demonstrators bull horns reading the Coretta Scott King letter that Senator Warren could not.

All right. The hearing for labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder pushed back again. It will now happen on February 16th. And Democrats have a long list of questions they want to ask. Puzder is the CEO of the company that owns Hardees and Carl's Jr.

Democrats will likely paint him as the low wage hamburger king who doesn't care about workers and has no business holding companies to labor standards when his own companies couldn't abide by those labor standards.

One reason his hearing has been delayed four times is paper work for office of ethics was just filed last night. It shows he will step down as CEO, possibly give up his 2016 bonus if he's confirmed. He will also sell his stock holdings back to the company and ditch shares in 200 other companies, as well as divest from 13 investment funds.

He'll face some of the most high profile lawmakers at his hearing, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, among others. All of them are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

And I will tell you, the Democrats are emboldened by the activities of the last 36 hours and Senator Warren's performance on the floor of the Senate. So, they are really looking to --

MARQUEZ: She can really drive this --

ROMANS: They're looking to really, you know, they're going to --

MARQUEZ: Push their advantage, whatever advantage they have.

ROMANS: I think a lot of people think he's going to get it. He's going to get the labor nomination, but he will be bloody and bruised by the time he gets there.

MARQUEZ: A lot of his picks are.

Critics pouncing on Donald Trump after he attacked Nordstrom department stores for dropping his daughter's fashion line. The president saying on Twitter, "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person, always pushing me to do the right thing. Terrible."

He later retweeted his tweet using his official government @POTUS account. That government account is only supposed to be used for official business. The attack on Nordstrom is once again raising questions about ethical conflicts.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer coming to the president's defense, accusing Nordstrom of attacking the president's daughter because of her father's policies. Nordstrom says dropping Ivanka's fashion line was a business decision based on sales performance. The company that owns T.J.Maxx and Marshalls also confirmed to CNN it recently instructed workers not to highlight the Ivanka Trump brand in stores.

ROMANS: This is exactly what ethics have worried about, that the president would use the Oval Office to advance the business interest of his family. It's interesting to me because she has stepped away from the business, right? She said she stepped away. MARQUEZ: She stepped away from the business. She has no role in the

White House. And yet --

ROMANS: But they carried her name.

MARQUEZ: And he used the POTUS account is curious.

ROMANS: But what kind of message does that send to anybody who's doing business with any of these companies if they want to cancel a contract for whatever reason?

MARQUEZ: Nordstrom went up 4 percent yesterday. The anti-tweet.

ROMANS: All right. Nine minutes past the hour.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says Senator John McCain should apologize for criticizing the recent raid in Yemen that cost a Navy SEAL his life. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he cannot characterize any mission as a success if a U.S. service member is killed.

Listen to Spicer push back on those comments.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will prevent it. The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt. Any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions he took.


ROMANS: CNN has been reporting Yemeni officials want U.S. anti-terror operations to stop because of all of the civilian casualties. But a U.S. defense official insists nothing has changed since that deadly raid.

[04:10:01] MARQUEZ: The White House is thinking about using the designation of foreign terrorist organizations for the Iran Revolutionary Guard and Muslim Brotherhood. But executive orders have been placed on hold. That's because national security agencies are warning the White House about the consequences of such a move, including the difficult position the designation would create for the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a key partner in the fight against ISIS who also relies on the supports of the Iranian Revolution Guard. President Trump plans to speak by phone with the Iraqi leader today.

ROMANS: All right. Good morning, I-95 corridor. Get ready for a messy commute this morning. The northeast going from record highs to a foot of snow in just a day. It could be a treacherous morning. We're going to have the severe weather forecast for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: All right. The snow has begun here in New York City. And the Northeast is about to get slammed by the first major snowfall this season. A foot or more of snow is expected to fall up and down the Northeast corridor.

[04:15:03] Winter storm warning covers more than 40 million people, blizzard warning has been in effect for Cape Cod and eastern Long Island. Schools in Philadelphia, New York and Boston are closed. Many of them made those announcements yesterday when they were looking at this radar.

Some 2,700 flights already cancelled. The storm coming just one day after temperatures in the 60s and 70s in some areas of the Northeast.

And that is our live shot. Look at that, it's really just beginning --

MARQUEZ: I came to work an hour ago and it was 40 degrees and felt like a spring day.

ROMANS: Yes. Well, it's not going to feel like that for much longer.

It's going to be a messy, dangerous commute. The storm is going to intensify throughout the morning.

I want to bring in CNN's Pedram Javaheri. He is live for us this morning at the CNN Weather Center with more on the path and what we are expecting.

So, that I-95 corridor, I mean, this is going to be really messy for the next few hours.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's going to strengthen very quickly, guys. I think you said it very well here when it comes what we have in store, because you go from, of course, a dramatic shift in what we saw yesterday to what we have in store for the next couple hours. The storm system itself where it's located right there around northern Virginia, just outside of Washington. Some rain showers pushing in off the heels of what was a 74 degree afternoon yesterday around lunch time in Washington.

But around 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., I think the storm will park right off shore. That's when the snow begins really picking up in intensity. Cold air, strong winds back behind it by 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.

We could see periods with snowfall rates up to 2 inches per hour in over a 10-hour period. Even in New York City, we could get at least one inch per hour for over a ten-hour period, ending sometime around 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. So, it is a quick moving storm system, but it packs a tremendous punch.

So, you do the math on this. We are talking a foot in a lot of areas in the major cities. New York in particular. Think 8 to 12 inches across New York City and Central Park in particular, work its way out towards Boston and points just to the west of Boston. Maybe 13, maybe 14 inches of snow. Again, from right now until 3:00

p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and parts of 13 states under winter weather advisories, watches and alerts at this hour. And now, a blizzard warning issued for also Long Island and the Cape in places.

You know the winds will howl across the region. We could see it at lunchtime at 30 to 40 miles per hour out of New York City. That's your peak wind around lunch time from New York, and Boston around 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., that's when your strongest winds come in about the same sort of a wind speed, 35 or so miles per hour. And then the storm pushes offshore beyond that, and it quickly gets cold and very cold down into the 20s by tomorrow night.

ROMANS: It was some bizarre. Pedram, yesterday, my kids were in t- shirts getting the sleds ready because, you know, think about. I mean, it just was 60 degrees one day and a foot of snow the next. How does that happen?

JAVAHERI: You know, it's the time of year, you begin to see the transition. We are having a battle with winter wanting to hang in there and spring pushing in the area. And 60 record temperatures, almost tied or broken. A high concentration of them around the Northeast, guys.

And you take a look, high pressure has been in control. We had southerly right out of the gulf, the jet stream also bringing all that warm air right towards the North. But keep in mind, with the jet stream, it often divides the cold air across to the north, to the warm air further to the south. The jet stream keeps shifting a little further south, the door opens from Canada. So, you go from the dramatic warming trend to cooling trend in just a matter of a few hours.

And, again, our days are increasing in New York by three minutes per day. In February, we pick up about an hour and a half of time from the beginning of the month to the end of the month. So, spring is around the corner.

ROMANS: That's the bright side. Literally the bright side.

MARQUEZ: Wow. Pedram, you're going to be busy guy today. Thanks very much.

ROMANS: Thank you.

JAVAHERI: You bet.

MARQUEZ: Former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley arrested after being ejected from Madison Square Garden during a game on Wednesday night. He was forcibly removed by security guards from his courtside seat. Oakley is charged with three counts of assault. According to the Knicks, he behaved in a, quote, "highly inappropriate" and abusive manner. But Oakley denies yelling at Knicks owner James Dolan before being thrown out. He tells "The New York Daily News", Dolan didn't want him and when security asked him to leave, Oakley said, "I'm not leaving." ROMANS: Oh my.

MARQUEZ: Now, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin fighting for his life. The latest on his condition and what his wife thinks made him sick.


[04:23:44] MARQUEZ: Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, a frequent critic of President Vladimir Putin, is fighting for his life this morning. His wife tells CNN she believes he was poisoned. It's a technique that Kremlin has allegedly used to silence critics in the past. But officials in Moscow are calling that notion pure nonsense.

We want to get more now from CNN international correspondent Ivan Watson who spoke with Kara-Murza's wife. He joins us live in Moscow.

Ivan, what is she saying about her husband?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the good news is that he has emerged from he's medically induced coma in recent days. And as of today, he is off the breathing machine, but still very, very gravely ill. The family, friends and even U.S. Senator John McCain who called him a hero on the Senate floor this week, they are suggesting that he may have been poisoned now.

Take a listen to an excerpt from my conversation with Kara-Murza's wife.


WATSON: What is your husband's official diagnosis right now?

EVGENIA KARA-MURZA, WIFE OF VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA: Acute intoxication by an unidentified substance.

WATSON: What do you think that means?

KARA-MURZA: It's poisoning.


WATSON: Now, this is the second time, Miguel, that Kara-Murza has fallen very, very sick in two years, suffering massive organ failure.

[04:25:04] And his family, and he himself after it happened two years ago, claimed that he was poisoned for his criticism of the Kremlin. A Kremlin spokesman has told CNN that that utter nonsense, trying to link these mysterious illnesses to the government in any way -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: All right. Ivan Watson for us in Moscow -- thank you very much.

ROMANS: All right. The president's Supreme Court nomination taking exception to the president's repeated criticism of the judicial system. What judge Gorsuch said behind close doors, next.


ROMANS: A strong rebuke of the president's assault on the judiciary from the president's own Supreme Court nominee. We'll tell you what Judge Neil Gorsuch says.

MARQUEZ: With Jeff Sessions set to be sworn in as attorney general, actually has been sworn in this morning, Elizabeth Warren is promising to be a political opponent, a day after being silenced on the Senate floor.

ROMANS: And break out the shovels. The first snowstorm of the season will make for an ugly morning commute across the Northeast. We're talking 40 million people in the path of the storm.