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EARLY START

Judge Gorsuch Seeking Democratic Support; Warren's Wrath; Snowstorm Bearing Down; Charles Oakley Arrested. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 9, 2017 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump Supreme Court nominee with a strong rebuke of the president's harsh words for the judiciary. We'll tell you what he said.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And the next attorney general is set to be sworn in and that's drawing another round of scorn from Senator Elizabeth Warren.

ROMANS: And here comes the snow. The first major storm of the season getting ready to slam the Northeast. We're going to tell you who is getting hit the hardest and when this whole thing really gets rolling. Hint: your morning commute.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUEZ: Good morning to you. I'm Miguel Marquez. It is Thursday, February 9th, 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

We begin with a harsh verdict against 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 Mr. Trump. Author of the letter says 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."

ROMANS: Recently, Mr. Trump has been firing off tweets either pressuring judges or criticizing judges. Like this comment about 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 the president's executive order could come as early as today.

Let's get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's at the White House for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

[05:00:01] 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Thanks to Jeff Zeleny.

This morning, President Trump will take part in the ceremony to swear in Senator Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general. Sessions was confirmed in a 52-47 vote mostly along party lines, a bitter setback 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 a series of tweets. "There's no Rule 19 to silence me from talking about Jeff Sessions anymore. So, let me say loudly and clearly, this is just the beginning.

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."

Warren's use of the word "persist" is notable. It's the same word that Mitch McConnell used to describe her conduct right before he silenced her on the Senate floor.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now, Republicans are accusing her of using the Sessions hearing for political gain, for publicity.

Listen to Senator Graham insisting it was Warren who was out of line.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

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.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

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

Let's go live to Washington and bring in CNN politics reporter, Tal Kopan.

And on the subject of Elizabeth Warren sort of like taking the news cycle for the last 24 hours. Is that emboldening Democrats as they move for the labor secretary fight and for confirmations ahead? What has it done for the Democratic Party here?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Absolutely. You know, I quibble with one thing you say. You said, Elizabeth Warren taking the news cycle. You could argue Elizabeth Warren being given the news cycle. You know, the fact that Mitch McConnell did this is sort of baffling to some folks.

You know, Mitch McConnell does nothing without thinking it through, and our reporting is that he knew exactly what he was doing. But he really handed her a gift. You know, people were tuning in a little bit to these sort of all-night floor sessions. But there no stakes. Democrats were just sort of doing speeches. As soon as the attempt came in to make her sit down, they gave

Democrats some stakes. And so, I think Democrats know they are still in some ways bashing their heads against a wall, right? Like they know they're not going to be able to stop any of the nominees if Republicans will not help them. But it certainly energizes their base, it certainly puts the attention on them as fighting for it and it gives them that victory symbolically.

MARQUEZ: And perhaps the biggest fight coming is that from the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch. He met with two Democrats yesterday. Then it leaked out he was critical of the president's tweets about the judiciary. This is all has the feeling to me of being very sort of orchestrated and part of his effort to sort of plow the way for that confirmation.

[05:05:03] ROMANS: And may be good politics, honestly. I mean, he has got to secure that nomination. Maybe it's good politics to say, look, I'm going to be independent of this president.

KOPAN: Yes, and, you know, Chuck Schumer was asked about this. So, the way these comments came out is that yesterday, Senator Blumenthal said, recounted part of his conversation with Judge Gorsuch. It turned out that Judge Gorsuch had made similar comments to Chuck Schumer the day before. Schumer came out of that meeting saying there were not a lot of answer.

And when asked about it, Schumer said he was not convinced that Gorsuch was being sincere.

So, you know, there's still going to be -- on the one hand, it's certainly remarkable to see a Supreme Court nominee already casting some criticism. The president who nominated him this way. At the same time, Democrats need to be convinced. It's not enough to seem like you are saying the right thing.

And so, he's going to have to keep having these meetings and he's going to have to really nail his confirmation hearing. But if he does those things, you can certainly imagine some red state up for re- election Democrats getting on board and giving them the 60 votes they need.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the president bringing his family business into the Oval Office for a moment here. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has a clothing line that bears her name, as you know. It's sold in a lot of places, but also Nordstrom. Nordstrom dropping that line., the clothing line, saying it was a sales issue, it was a decision essentially.

And Donald Trump, the president, from his personal account and then retweeted from the POTUS account, this is what he said, "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person, always pushing me to do the right thing. Terrible."

To call out a company about your daughter's business line while sitting in the Oval Office where you are supposed to represent --

MARQUEZ: On the POTUS account --

ROMANS: -- it is the conflict people feared would happen. And Sean Spicer, the president's spokesman, defended it.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think this was less about his family business and attack on his daughter. He ran for president. He won. He's leading the country.

And I think for people to take out their concern about his actions or his executive orders on members of his family, he has ever right to stand up for his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What is interesting, in my world covering the business world, they worry about a vindictive president of the United States who will try to hurt their company or ice out their company if they are on the wrong side of the president's opinion or policies. It's a fascinating development there.

KOPAN: Yes, with all due respect to Sean Spicer, I mean, that explanation just doesn't make much sense. I mean, everyone can see the tweet. And to say this was some personal attack on his family when Nordstrom said from the beginning, it's just the sales that we're using to make the decision.

You know, it's -- one of the remarkable things you are starting to hear around Washington is remember Solyndra? Remember when Republicans were just trashing President Obama for what they called picking winners and losers. You know, and that was an instance where President Obama gave money to companies that he thought had some good purposes like, you know, solar power, that kind of thing.

But, traditionally, the Republican Party has been extremely critical of meddling in the free market. That's core to the Republican dogma. And to see a Republican Party sort of getting away with it from his own party of really sort of meddling a bit in market forces, I wonder if that turns at some point. Right now, they are not calling him on it, which is quite interesting actually.

MARQUEZ: Well, and that aside, all of the concerns about ethical issues with Donald Trump. I mean, he has to realize people are watching for that. For him to use the POTUS account to retweet his own tweet and invite those ethical questions in the front door of the White House. I mean, is there going to be any blow back from that?

KOPAN: There might be and keep in mind, you know, the Office of Government Ethics, part of the problem is there are not a lot of laws or constitutional, you know, provisions restricting what the president can do in office. That's why this is murky from the start, is that there are no clear requirements. One of the requirements, though, is that an elected official may not use their office to make an endorsement. And this is something that the Office of Government Ethics sort of subtweeted Donald Trump before he took office. So, you wonder if he's going to get any kind of warning letter or call after this tweet.

ROMANS: You know, all of that talk and show of all of the big files that show how he separated himself from his business and his daughter saying she is stepping back from his business, it shows he is still very, very into the money-making endeavors of his family.

MARQUEZ: Trump Organization.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much.

KOPAN: And his name.

ROMANS: Yes, and his name.

We'll talk to you in a few minutes. I want to talk to you about the travel ban in a few minutes. We'll come back.

KOPAN: Thank you.

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

[05:10:01] Democrats will likely paint him as a low wage hamburger king who doesn't care about workers and has no business holding companies to labor standards when his own company couldn't -- even his household couldn't. One reason his hearing has been delayed four times, his paper work for Office of Government Ethics was filed just last night. It shows he will step down as CEO and possibly give up his 2016 bonus if he is confirmed. He will sell his stockholdings back to the company and he'll ditch shares in 200 other companies, as well as divest from 13 investment funds.

He will face some of the most high profile Democratic lawmakers at his hearing, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, all of them are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension. I will tell you, I am told that Democrats are emboldened by the last 24 hours with Elizabeth Warren, even though they think he will still get through. That nomination, they will use it for -- as much as they can for political purposes.

MARQUEZ: They clearly will not give him an inch at any point in the process.

ROMANS: No.

MARQUEZ: Well, warm up the snow shovels. Get ready for a messy morning commute. The Northeast is going to hit record highs to a foot of snow in just one day. We are tracking severe weather. The forecast is coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:15:20] MARQUEZ: Well, the Northeast getting slammed by the first major snowfall of the season. Shocking that it's in February. A foot or more of snow expected up and down the Northeast corridor. Winter storm warnings covering 40 million people.

Blizzard warnings in effect for Cape Cod and eastern Long Island. Schools in Philly, New York and Boston closed. Allentown, Pennsylvania, really coming down there.

Some 2,700 flights cancelled. The storm coming just one day after temperatures were in the 60s and 70s. T-shirt weather in areas -- most areas in the Northeast. Today, though, expected to be messy, dangerous and miserable. Snowy commute as the storm intensifies throughout the morning.

Let's bring in CNN's Pedram Javaheri, he's in the CNN weather center.

Where is this thing going? How bad is it going to get? And are we going to have any fun, Pedram?

(LAUGHTER)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Depends on your definition of fun, right?

You know, we had about 3,000 flights cancelled so far this morning and it's just getting started. A lot of that being preliminary cancellations. Almost 70 percent of flights out of Logan canceled this morning, but there is the storm system itself. It's the center across northern Virginia, will push offshore inside the next couple of hours, that will set the stage for not only -- for a tap-in some of moisture and bringing some heavy snowfall across parts of the Northeast, but also the temperatures across the area, well interior portions of the Northeast at least, well below freezing.

Notice places such as Boston, still above freezing. In New York, just dipped below freezing. So, you'll begin to see some flakes fly across the area. If you already haven't across this region, but the storm system is as quick moving as they come.

It pushes offshore some time at about 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. and moves out of here by sunset. The amount of snow that could come down with some banding that could take place could bring 1 to 2 inches per hour over the 10 hours, closer to one inch per hour for New York City potentially, and 8 to 10 hour period. That will give you a total of about eight to 10 inches, maybe a foot in some areas of town.

But again, very widespread region here. Of course, it is a very densely populated area. So, the impact will be significant and west of Boston with 13 or 14 inches in a few spots. And the winds will be howling as well. Blizzard warnings in place, right around lunch time. I think New York will see its strongest winds around 40 mile per hour gusts around Boston. That picks up in intensify closer to 6:00 p.m. before the storm departs and the New York will begin to see conditions improving around that time into the afternoon and evening.

But there, the blizzard warnings in place around the Cape, around Long Island. Again, winds could get up to around 60 miles per hour with the snowshowers across that region and parts of 13 states underneath these winter weather advisories at this hour. And, of course, this is coming off just a couple of -- just yesterday where almost 60 cities set record temperatures or tied record temperatures in New York City, in Central Park, we went from 62 yesterday at lunchtime down to 28 is what is forecasted at 3:00 p.m. today. A remarkable shift in temperatures, and again, you're going to feel it very quickly across this region, guys.

MARQUEZ: Wow, that is just wild. There is Washington, D.C., the snow coming down hard there. Just shocking to see how quickly this storm has moved in. It is already sticking to the ground as well.

ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you. Talk to you soon.

There's extreme weather of a different kind in California. Water rushing into the car stuck in four feet of raging water dangerous floods there. An elderly man trapped in the car.

Fresno firefighters rushed to the scene, they break the passenger window to free the 76-year-old driver who had to be dragged through the water to safety. Glad he is all right.

A scuffle in the stands at Madison Square Garden. Former Knicks star Charles Oakley ejected from the arena and arrested. What was going on here?

Coy Wire with the morning's "Bleacher Report", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:29] ROMANS: OK. Former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley arrested after being ejected from Madison Square Garden during a game Wednesday night.

MARQUEZ: This video was unbelievable.

Coy Wire has more.

Coy, what is the story here?

ROMANS: What happened?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, my goodness. Yes, it's crazy.

Miguel, Christine, good morning to you. But 54-year-old Charles Oakley played for the Knicks for a decade. He's one of the most recognizable players from the '90s. He has been charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal trespass.

Now, the Knicks say he was ejected for acting in a, quote, "inappropriate and abusive manner", unquote. Oakley denies he was yelling at Knicks owner James Dolan down there on the left where his back to us.

And Oakley tells "The New York Daily News" that Dolan did not want him there. When security asked him to leave, Oakley said, "I'm not leaving." He was forcibly removed by security guards from his courtside seat and the New York Police Department says he punched three Madison Square Garden employees on his way out. Fans were chanting "Oakley, Oakley" as he was escorted out.

All right. Fresh off the heels of Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank calling President Trump an asset to the United States, Steph Curry, a close friend to President Obama and one of Under Armour's most high profile athletes, has responded via Mercury News saying, quote, "I agree with that description if you remove the 'et' from asset", unquote.

Plank, one of several CEOs that Trump met to explore business growth opportunities, and Curry said he sought clarification on where Under Armour stands on issues and their stance will not affect his deal.

[05:25:05] Julian Edelman made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history on Sunday. Do we have to watch this again, guys? My goodness. Well, lucky for us, the folks at NFL Films had him miked up during the game. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shotgun snap to Brady. Throw to Edelman. Julian diving in court.

JULIAN EDELMAN: I caught it. I caught it. I caught it. Hey! Watch. No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: Just looks like kids out there playing ball on the playground. He was right about making incredible catch. He broke this former Atlanta Falcon's heart.

The case of Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey may have a new wrinkle. TMZ Sports says the jersey may be on an 18 wheeler headed back to Boston. A law enforcement official told TMZ they were hopeful it was packed up right after the game and was put on a truck headed home.

CNN has reached out to the Patriots for comments but hasn't yet gotten a response.

Christine, I heard you yesterday, and said, hey, Tom Brady, if they don't find it, he has four other Super Bowl jerseys.

ROMANS: I would like to say, life is about experiences. Not things.

MARQUEZ: It went missing, though. That's crazy.

What, is there history with Oakley and Dolan?

ROMANS: Yes, what was that about?

WIRE: Yes. So, November, the Knicks celebrated the 70th anniversary. Oakley was not one of many players to be invited to this. And there had been other functions as well.

So, you know, there's some bad blood between Oakley and Dolan for sure on record guys.

MARQUEZ: I said just history and Siri asked me what I wanted.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Thanks, Coy. Nice to see you.

WIRE: You're welcome, guys.

MARQUEZ: The president's Supreme Court nominee taking exception to the president's repeated criticism of the judicial system. What Judge Gorsuch said behind closed doors, next.

ROMANS: And a quick look at Allentown, Pennsylvania where it is snowing. The I-95 corridor, folks. Stay home if you can. You're going to have a really ugly commute. We'll have that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)