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Supreme Court Nominee Slams Trump's Attacks on Judges; Trump Attacks Retail Giant Over Daughter's Clothing Line; Warren: Sessions Will Discriminate as Attorney General; Massive Winter Storm Hits Northeast. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 9, 2017 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:58:37] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, February 9, 6 a.m. here in New York. There's a powerful winter storm slamming the Northeast at this hour. Forty million people in 13 states are in this path. Snow is beginning to pile up.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Just getting going. There are lots of blizzard warnings in effect. That's three hours, at least, of sustained snow with high wind. Governments on the state and local levels taking no chance. Schools are closed in New York, Boston Philadelphia. More than 2,700 flights already canceled. We are going to give you live reports throughout the entire affected area all morning.

CAMEROTA: OK, but first, how will President Trump respond to his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch today? Mr. Trump's pick for the highest court has been rebuking the president's attacks on federal judges. Gorsuch calls those words "disheartening and demoralizing."

CUOMO: Now, the key is that the comments were made during the judge's meetings with Democratic lawmakers in private behind closed doors. They're now calling on him to say it publicly. Is that the right move?

Let's begin our political coverage with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. The White House and the nation still waiting for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on the president's travel ban. Meanwhile, the president's Supreme Court nominee now caught between a rock and a hard place. Between his loyalty to the president who tapped him for the court and his loyalty to the branch of government he serves.


JOHNS (voice-over): Judge Neil Gorsuch's denouncing President Trump's recent attacks against the federal judges weighing his travel ban.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: After some back and forth, he did say that he found them to be disheartening and demoralizing.

JOHNS: In a private meeting with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, the president's nominee to the Supreme Court slamming Mr. Trump's biting criticism of the federal judge in Seattle who halted his order. Some Republicans praising Judge Gorsuch's comments.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT) OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE & GOVERNMENT REFORM CHAIRMAN: It sounds like Neil Gorsuch might be a good judge. He's not going to be politically swayed on one side of the aisle.

JOHNS: But Democrats...

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: It's a step in the right direction.

JOHNS: ... including Blumenthal himself are still skeptical of the nomination.

BLUMENTHAL: He has to come to the defense of the American judiciary. Strongly and explicitly and unequivocally. Maybe he's moving in that direction, but it has to be much stronger and more direct.

JOHNS: This as the president continues to lash out at the judiciary.

DONALD TRUMP (R), 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.

JOHNS: Belittling the three-judge panel set to rule any day on his immigration order.

TRUMP: A bad high school student would understand this. Anybody would understand this. "Suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants."

JOHNS: Mr. Trump also claiming he initially wanted to delay implementing the ban.

TRUMP: I wanted to give, like, a month. Then I said, "What about a week?" They said, "Well, you're going to have a whole pile of people, perhaps -- perhaps -- with very evil intentions coming in before the -- the restrictions."

JOHNS: The president is stoking fears about terrorism as he awaits the appellate court ruling.

TRUMP: 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.

JOHNS: His startling comment a departure from the messaging of past presidents who urged Americans to be vigilant and not afraid.

Meantime, the president making it clear, despite pledges to the contrary, he's still looking out for the family business. Mr. Trump blasting the upscale retailer Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka's clothing line, tweeting the company treated her unfairly and retweeting it from his official government account.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: For someone to take out their concern with his policies on a family member of his is just -- is not acceptable; and the president has every right as a father to stand up for them.


JOHNS: Nordstrom, by the way, pushing back, saying their decision was an economic one based solely on performance, citing declining sales over the last year.

The president meeting today with airline CEOs and later with Senate Democrats -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Joe. Thank you very much.

There's a lot to discuss. Let's get to our panel. We want to bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory; CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times," Alex Burns; and national political reporter of Bloomberg Politics, Jennifer Jacobs. It's great to see all of you.

So Alex, what -- what does President Trump do today now that Gorsuch, Judge Gorsuch, his side confirmed that he had this conversation with Senator Blumenthal. So as we know, President Trump doesn't like it when somebody publicly says he's disappointed somehow in the president, so now what?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. This is -- throughout the entire campaign, this was the one line that, as a Trump supporter, Trump surrogate, Trump advisor, you were not allowed to cross. Right? To publicly say that he had done something wrong.

There may be an argument among other senior Republicans, including in the White House, that Judge Gorsuch simply had to do this. That if he didn't speak out at some point, he was just going to get hammered in those hearings and at least when those hearings come he can now point back to this statement.

It's not clear whether any of that will actually matter to the one guy who matters most in that judge's life, and that's Donald Trump. I think we have, between the judge's comments and the upcoming 9th Circuit ruling, just an enormous task both for the president's self- control and just his respect and deference to the judicial branch in general.

CUOMO: He used this very dangerous word yesterday, the president, "but." David Gregory, whenever the president says he's not going to do something, and then he says the word "but," you know what follows is going to be exactly that thing. And sure enough, he called the courts "so political," once again coloring whatever decision comes out of the 9th Circuit.

But why put this on Gorsuch? Is it fair for a Supreme Court nominee to have to make political statements about how he felt about the president's rhetoric?

[06:05:06] DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Because I disagree a little bit. I don't think it's a political statement. It is a defense of the independence of the judiciary, which is a key pillar of our democracy.

You know, we can spend time in the media and in the general population trying to make a distinction between crude and false things that the president says. I think we've got to pay attention when he attacks the judiciary, attacks a pillar of our -- of our free government; and that's what he doing.

It's fine to disagree with the judiciary, disagree with the Supreme Court decisions. Citizens United, President Obama was outspoken in his opposition to that, and he worked on changing the law; wasn't able to do that.

But in this case, to call them disgraceful, to call someone a "so- called judge." You go back to his racist attack on Judge Curiel during the campaign, all of which raises questions about whether he'll even listen to the judiciary.

You heard the president yesterday saying the code that's in question here is so clear that anybody should be able to understand it. It was as if he was saying, "Why do we even need the judicial branch of the government?"

So yes, in this case, I think it's both appropriate for someone who's been nominated to the Supreme Court to stand up for the independence of judges and to show that he is an independent judge who's going to sit on the Supreme Court for 30, 40 years. It's also good politics. Right? Gorsuch has a real reason to show that he can be independent of this president, to show Democrats that he's got some moxie in this area.

CAMEROTA: You know, there's another more ominous byproduct, Jennifer, of this. Art Roderick, one of our CNN contributors, a former U.S. marshal, said that federal judges are under threat all the time, and the U.S. Marshals protect them. We don't talk about that. We don't know much about that. But by sort of, you know, impugning them, it just puts federal judges on a whole different level. I mean, not only does it talk about the independence or lack thereof that David was talking about, bug effects their life and I just wonder if we'll hear from Judge Gorsuch at any point publicly.

JENNIFER JACOBS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Well, know that he's meeting with members of Congress regularly, so that gives him an opportunity to explain himself to them. And we're hearing a little bit about what he's saying, obviously, since Blumenthal filled us in on that private conversation, and his spokesman confirmed it. So yes, I would imagine that we will.

CUOMO: Alex, they said -- the president in his comments said they said if we delayed the order for a week, the travel ban, you would have a flood, perhaps -- perhaps -- they said, of bad guys, really bad guys trying to get in. Who would they be in that situation? Who would have informed the

president that the existing vetting, which has statistically done a good job, would suddenly break down because of notice; and in one week the entire vetting system would break down, and you'd have a flood of bad people coming in?

BURNS: Well, I think we could expect about who in the White House might have said something like that to President Trump. But Chris, we saw this over and over in the campaign, where he would go out and attribute interesting or offbeat or wildly incorrect ideas to a lot of people or "some people are saying" or "Someone told me," right? So -- and it's not clear whether someone did tell him that or whether that's an argument that he comes up with and then finds it stronger to attribute it to, you know, an unnamed third party.

But as you say, there's no actual security expert who thinks that, if you had announced this travel ban, effective one week from today, suddenly, every terrorist in the world would have booked a flight to the United States. If they could do that so easily, they would have already done it.

CAMEROTA: David, what if today those federal judges, the 9th Circuit Court, decides that the travel ban doesn't work, and they keep the restraining order in place? What does the Trump administration do?

GREGORY: Well, I think they keep pushing the issue, because I think there's the merits of the case; and then there's the idea of the restraining order.

I think that there's a real interest to avoid more chaos that accompanied the original implementation of this executive order that was just totally botched by the administration, for no good reason whatsoever. I don't think they want a repeat of that. And I don't think the courts want a repeat of that.

So then you get to the substance of the issue where, again, the president still has an advantage, which is courts generally defer to the president on questions of national security.

I'm wondering whether, if there are limitations put on the executive order, if you get into some negotiation around whether refugees from Syria can come on a date certain. Again, remember, there are already safe guards in place. You can't just get in. It takes sometimes as much as two years. Versus these countries that are effected, where you might be from Yemen and you might be a Yemeni citizen and have a British passport. And that's what this was really designed to address, which is you can't just fast track into the United States. Maybe they negotiate something on that that provides some delay and then create room for visa holders and others to come in the country. So those are just a series of my questions.

[06:10:06] My sense is that, whatever the ultimate determination is about the executive order, that they don't want to then just reverse it. They want to keep some continuity so we don't have chaotic implementation. CUOMO: Hopefully, they're actually coming up with additional

procedures that they term extreme vetting, because that would be very good leverage, for them to actually have something that they want to do that's addition that will keep us safer, as opposed to just the ban.

Jen, let me ask you this: the Nordstrom deal that's going on right now, Sean Spicer says the president has every right as a father. I don't know about father's rights, but certainly as an American citizen, he has rights to say whatever he wants. But does that make it right, as the president of the United States, using his official Twitter account to go after a store because of their business arrangement with his daughter?

JACOBS: Well, I can tell you that the first daughter did not ask her dad to do that. We have an apparels reporter named Lindsay Rupp who's a very -- who's been chasing this story and has been breaking news on this. And she did not ask her dad to do this.

But Nordstrom didn't pay a Price for this criticism via Twitter. They had their biggest single-day advance in their shares yesterday, up 4.1 percent. So Nordstrom is not seeing, you know, the after effects. They did dip a little bit in their shares, but they're back up again.

But if anyone is worried about Ivanka's brand either, you know, her spokespeople say that they're expanding, as well. So even though they lost Nordstrom, they are going from having their products available in 800 stores to having their products available in 1,000 stores. So they're growing, as well.

But it is interesting. It raises a definite discussion about the conflicts again.

CAMEROTA: All right. Panel stick around. We want to have more discussion with all of you. And coming up on NEW DAY, we should let everyone know Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal will be here. He will talk about his meeting with Mr. Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

CUOMO: So we have a new attorney general, Jeff Sessions. He's going to take the oath of office in just hours, capping a contentious confirmation battle, but one of his top critics, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, says she will not stay quiet. Or the word of the moment, she will persist.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on Capitol Hill with more.


President Trump will be in the room this morning when Senator Sessions becomes his new attorney general. And while the White House can now officially put this fight behind them, the fallout over this battle up here on Capitol Hill certainly continues for Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Immediately after Sessions was confirmed last night, she fired off a series of tweets, essentially amounting to warning shots, saying basically, "Senator Sessions, I will be watching you." She said, quote, "Consider this my warning. We won't be silent. We will speak out, and we will persist."

And there has been a lot of pushback from Republicans up here on Capitol Hill, really questioning her motives for elevating this fight, including Senator Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA (via phone): 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, and 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 a vast majority of the American people.


SERFATY: And there was one notable moment from yesterday's debate on the Senate floor. Senator Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican senator, came to the defense of Senator Sessions on the floor. He read a series of hate mail and mean tweets that he received for supporting Senator Sessions, including one that called him a disgrace to the black race.

Now the Senate moves on today to another controversial nominee, Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, who potentially could get confirmed as early as tomorrow -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sunlen, thank you very much for that.

Now to our other top story. There's a powerful winter storm hitting the Northeast at this hour. Schools are closed in several major cities and thousands of flights cancelled. How much snow are we looking at?

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is live outside in New York's Central Park with the latest. What are you seeing, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, yesterday I got my 10,000 steps in, because it was 61 degrees right where I'm standing. Now, people are jogging this morning. I don't get that. And I renamed the "you can't fix," because I guess you can't fix healthy. If you want to jog when it's 31 and when it's snowing, I guess you're just going to have to do that.

But now the snow is sticking, Alisyn. We'll have 8 to 10 inches before it finally stops, maybe a foot. But the good news is the first two inches actually melted. The ground was warm last night, and so things are a little bit better than they could be this morning.

But this is the first big snow we've had on a work day. All the other snowstorms that have been here for Saturday or Sunday or whatever. Not on a weekday when people are trying to get to work. There are no cabs to be had this morning. You need to take the train if you're trying to get into the city, for sure.

[06:15:09] So here are the stats. Forty million people are affected by some type of warning, whether it's a blizzard warning, winter weather advisory, winter storm warning, whatever. We have the schools closed in major cities, like New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and the like.

Check with your local TV station, because if you're in this storm, people are cancelling ahead of the storm, even though it will be over by 2 p.m. this afternoon. They're not taking chances with children today.

And almost 3,000 flights are already done for the day. That means the backlog. Your fight isn't getting to New York City, so it's not going to get to L.A. You're sitting in L.A., saying, "Where's my plane?" Well, it's stuck somewhere in the Northeast, because it didn't get here in the first place to get to you.

Here's the radar. The wide screen shows that there's rain to the south and snow to the north, and we're in the snow band. Now that snow band will get all the way down to D.C. later today, but only a couple of inches. It is snowing now. It will stop in New York City by 2 p.m.. It won't stop until probably 6 p.m. in Boston, and it will be over in Philadelphia. But all the big cities expecting at least 6 inches, and many of them expecting 12. They'll be able to deal with it. Maybe planes will get back in the air tomorrow. But it's going to be a tough commute today, guys.

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: Chad, I am with you. People's commitment to cardio is astounding, that they would be jogging in this. Take the day off, people.

CUOMO: New York City, no joke.

I like Chad's CNN outfit. I didn't know about the new addition to the outfit. Can we see those boots again?

MYERS: What's that? These little boots? Oh, yes.

CUOMO: There's nothing little about them. I haven't seen many men wearing those boots. I like those, though.

MYERS: You know what? When I lived in Michigan, you would not go duck hunting or walking with your dog without these boots right here. They are water proof up to the knees.

CAMEROTA: Bam. He threw in the duck hunting.

CUOMO: Yes. He's never been duck hunting.


MYERS: I've never been duck hunting.

CUOMO: Cut him off.

CAMEROTA: Chris cuts his mike down.

CUOMO: He's never been duck hunting. He told me that before.

Did the Rule 19 move they pulled in the Senate, did it really backfire on the GOP? Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has her biggest platform yet; and she wants you to know something about our new attorney general, next.


[06:21:22] CUOMO: In just hours, Jeff Sessions will be sworn in as the new attorney general. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren says she's going to continue to fight his, quote, "radical hatred" and won't be silenced by Republicans.

Let's bring back David Gregory, Alex Burns and Jen Jacobs. David Gregory, how did this move play out so far?

GREGORY: Well, I think if you're a Democrat, particularly Elizabeth Warren, you have a very active base of the Democratic Party that wants to see fight, that wants to see a fight to deny Trump his cabinet, to fight over issues like the executive order, and so the move, I think, by the Republicans here looked weak and defensive. You're not going to silence Elizabeth Warren, not in this day and age. It's not 1947, where if it doesn't happen on the Senate floor, it doesn't happen. You know, she was able to take it to social media and get the message out.

But you see in other comments, from Lindsey Graham and other Republicans, that you know, Elizabeth Warren is a divisive figure. You know, she is polarizing on the right. She is unifying on the left. And she was happy to have this fight; and I think Republicans were happy to have it, too.

CAMEROTA: Jennifer, I'm confused. Why was Senator Elizabeth Warren reprimanded by the Senate for reading Coretta Scott King's letter, but then when Bernie Sanders did it, when Senator Tom Udall did it, when Senator Jeff Merkley did it, they...

CUOMO: Sherrod Brown, I think, did it also.

CAMEROTA: Why weren't they?

JACOBS: Right. It raises questions about why a male senator is allowed to allegedly impugn a fellow senator but why a woman wasn't. So what Mitch McConnell did, you know, if he had just allowed her to continue to, speak maybe we wouldn't even have, you know, been paying attention to what Elizabeth Warren had to say. But this really drew attention and gave her a huge platform.

And it draws attention also to just, you know, Republican women in the majority. They've been struggling for a long time to gain a foothold. We know that Republican women have been given titles, especially in the House. They've got three committee chairs who are female. But I know from talking to our congressional reporters that there are some questions about, you know, whether those are just token titles, how important they are.

There There was an awkward situation a couple of weeks ago when Vice President Pence was meeting in Paul Ryan's office with some leaders, and the highest ranking Republican woman walked by and had to ask reporters what's going on in there? And she didn't even know that the vice president was in there having a meeting with these GOP leaders.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my goodness. But I mean, is this sexism? I mean, has the -- has Mitch McConnell explained why the men were allowed to and she wasn't?

CUOMO: They put out an explanation that part of it was about you can't apply Rule 19 retroactively and that these men had suggested that they had done it and it wasn't called at the time. So they couldn't call it afterwards.


GREGORY: That's really good. That's going to hold up. That's going to really...

CUOMO: That was their explanation.

GREGORY: I hear you, I hear you. But I mean, this is -- this is an example, too, of why people are disgusted with Washington and about the rules. And the idea that, look, this was a power play, very inside Washington. Let's find a way to shut Elizabeth Warren down. Republicans love to have that fight, and...

CUOMO: But doesn't it make it gender based? Does the fact that it's a woman, and then guys did it afterwards, is that the way you see it, Alex? Let me put you on the hot seat, where your answer almost invariably will be "both." But do you think it was that she's a woman or that the move backfired the first time, so they didn't do it when they were baited by the Democrats again?

BURNS: Look, I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that, you know, the way things work in the Senate is that the rules are only applied when somebody takes the initiative, actually, to apply them. Right?

There was a question also after the Elizabeth Warren situation about why this rule wasn't applied to Ted Cruz a few years ago when he accused Mitch McConnell of lying on the floor of the Senate. That would also seem to be impugning a fellow senator.

CAMEROTA: I mean, she was reading a letter from Coretta -- a 30-year- old letter from Coretta Scott King. Calling somebody directly a liar is much worse.

BURNS: Right. And the answer, as far as we have one, is that nobody called him on it. And if you let the -- if you let the pitch go by, you can't go back afterwards and say, "Well, let's actually slap Ted Cruz on the wrist, too."

But, you know, look, in the big picture, at the moment in the culture of the Senate, you know, talking to folks in Washington over the last few days, they see this as a real sign of where that chamber is headed in the Trump era, where it may have been headed for a long time; that whatever pressure Democrats, including in a red-state Democrats, more conservative Democrats than Elizabeth Warren, might have felt after the election to work with President Trump or find a common ground with Republicans, they just don't see those incentives and pressures there in the same way anymore.

When you have Jeff Sessions getting voted down or drawing opposition from every single one of his Democratic Senate colleagues except for one, that's a real change in the culture of the place.

CAMEROTA: Jennifer, Hillary Clinton seized on this moment. She tweeted out -- she basically tweeted out what was a quote of Mitch McConnell's, and then added her own addendum. It says, "'She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.' So must we." I mean, that's basically Hillary Clinton's, you know, wheelhouse. I mean, this is a message that it makes sense for her now to dive back in.

JACOBS: Right. "She persisted." That's the big catchphrase for today. You know, yesterday might have been "Easy D" with Trump but now it's she persisted. And so it's definitely getting Democrats fired up.

CUOMO: David Gregory, in terms of where we go from here, this idea that Alex is suggesting, that this is the way forward. It's going to get worse and worse. Does it have to be that way?

GREGORY: Well, it doesn't have to be that way, but I think Republican do have a choice. You know, they're in a very difficult situation politically. Why is it that -- that going after Elizabeth Warren is such a popular thing to do and there's such a rallying cry? That very loaded language, you know, that she was warned and she persisted.

And at the same time, where were they in condemning the president's attack on the judiciary? I mean, these are Republican leaders. They control the government. Don't they believe in the independence of the judiciary? They have an obligation to speak up, and instead they are cowering in a lot of cases and then picking fights about their own culture internally.

CUOMO: They're clearly providing cover for the president right now. He's drawing enough heat as it is. How long can they maintain it and maintain their own integrity? You're asking the right question.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Great to talk to all of you.

CUOMO: All right. A quick programming note: The truth is messy, so Van Jones is going out there to explore these divisions. He's got comedian Bill Maher on. He's going to talk to Trump supporters with them.

CAMEROTA: What could go wrong?

CUOMO: Tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: Up next, a major winter storm is hitting the Northeast right now as we speak. So who's getting hit the hardest? How long will it last for all of you affected? We have a live update next.