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Supreme Court Nominee Slams Trump's Attacks on Judges. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired February 9, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those that think you could silence Senator Warren couldn't be more wrong.

[07:00:05] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This isn't really about freedom of speech. It's about decorum.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There's a powerful winter storm slamming the Northeast.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Forty million people are affected by some type of warning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, ANN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Let's take a look outside. Winter wonderland. This is New York's Central Park. Didn't look like that just an hour or so ago. There is a massive winter storm slamming the Northeast. Forty million people, 13 states in the path. You're seeing it's starting to pile up. Look on your screen. We'll keep -- keep giving you the relevant data throughout the morning. We're looking at as much as a foot.

CAMEROTA: OK, parents, listen up. Schools are closed this morning in places in New York, in Massachusetts, in Pennsylvania, in Connecticut, and more than 2,700 flights are cancelled across the country. We will have much more on this storm throughout the program for you.

CUOMO: All right. First, big news about President Trump and how he might respond to his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Why? Because in a closed door meeting with Democrats, this judge allegedly said that the president's remarks about the judiciary were "disheartening and demoralizing."

CAMEROTA: I think his spokesperson confirmed that.

CUOMO: He hasn't yet. And he hasn't said, except in -- behind that door.

CAMEROTA: Right. So the comments were made during the judge's private meetings with Democratic lawmakers, and now those lawmakers are calling on Gorsuch to go public with those statements and any criticism.

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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. The president's critical comments about the judiciary putting his nominee for the court in a tough spot, turning up the heat on what was already expected to be a tough confirmation process.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Judge Neil Gorsuch 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 darn 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, "Well, 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: But Nordstrom is pushing back, saying their decision was an economic one solely based on performance, citing declining sales over the past year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And the president weighing in this morning on the Judge Gorsuch controversy with a tweet that says, "Senator Richard Blumenthal, who never thought in Vietnam, when he said for years he had -- major lie -- now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him with a question mark."

[07:05:05] So we do expect to see the president later today at the swearing in of his newly-minted attorney general, who was just confirmed last night.

Back to you.

CUOMO: All right. We've heard the tweet. We've assessed and, you know, there's something in there that's relevant. So let's discuss now with the chairman of the Republican senatorial committee and member of the Senate committee on foreign relations, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner.

Always good to have you on the show, Senator.

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. So as a question of fact, Blumenthal says Judge Gorsuch said it was demoralizing to hear the comments about the judge. The president of the United States tweets that Blumenthal misrepresents what Gorsuch told him. The man who is leading communications for Judge Gorsuch confirmed that he did say what Blumenthal says he said. Your response?

GARDNER: Well, again, I think last week you and I had an opportunity to talk about a phone call with the prime minister of Australia that neither of us were participating in. I wasn't in the meeting with Senator Blumenthal or Judge Gorsuch when they had this conversation. That's what Judge -- that's what his spokesperson said that Judge Gorsuch said. That's what Senator Blumenthal said.

It's highly unusual for a senator to hold a press conference and disclose the entirety of a meeting after a private meeting like that with a nominee. But that's what he said. I have no reason to not believe Senator Blumenthal or Judge Gorsuch, what he said, or his spokesperson.

CUOMO: All right.

GARDNER: And I would agree with Judge Gorsuch.

Chris, this is not the first time that we've seen somebody besmirch a court. In fact, if you go back to January of six years ago or seven --five years ago, President Obama, in front of the nation, in front of a joint session of Congress, belittled the Supreme Court in front of them by attacking a decision that they had made. And I think he started it out with, "With all due respect," which of course elicited the now-famous response by Justice Alito, "That's not true."

And so this isn't the first time that a president...

CUOMO: Right.

GARDNER: ... has used the power of the office...

CUOMO: Right.

GARDNER: ... to criticize a Supreme Court decision or justice or a judge.

CUOMO: Right. And there's no question that you have the right. It's about whether or not it's right.

Now, we've spun a couple of turns away from what I asked you, though, which is I know neither of us were party to the conversation, but if that were the only basis for having an opinion about something, nobody would ever talk about anything, right? Unless they were first party.

GARDNER: I have no doubt...

CUOMO: We now know that the communications director says that Gorsuch said what Blumenthal said he says.

GARDNER: Yes, I have to reason to doubt what they said.

CUOMO: And the president says Blumenthal misrepresented it. And I'm asking you, what is your response to the president calling something essentially false when everybody else who knows says it is true?

GARDNER: Look, I don't speak for the president. I don't tweet for the president. What I know, I have no reason to doubt Senator Blumenthal. I have no reason to doubt the spokesperson for Judge Gorsuch about what was said. So we're arguing about the same thing. We both agree that Judge Gorsuch said what the senator said that he said.

CUOMO: No argument. I'm just asking you, Senator, is it right for the president to impugn the credibility of a senator when it seems, by all indications, he is telling the truth?

GARDNER: Well, again, I don't think it's right for a president to impugn the character of anyone. I think that's something that we, as Americans, expect of our president. And we've had this conversation before.

But I also think that it's fair for us to have a discussion about what is happening in Washington right now. When you mention the word "impugning," and I think what we've seen over the past several weeks is a tremendous amount of hostility in a process that has changed dramatically from what it was by the founders since 1789. That goes to the cabinet confirmations. That goes to the invocation of Rule 19 as it relates to Senator Elizabeth Warren.

The fact is simple. Democrats have obstructed the Congress in the Senate to an unprecedented level, for the first time since probably going back to 1789. A member of the Senate spoke, Cory Booker, against a fellow member of the Senate at a confirmation hearing. Five cabinet members in the history of at least modern history have received 40 no votes for the first year nominations by a president. Only five have received more than 40 no votes. Three of them happened under this president.

This is an unlevel -- unprecedented level of obstruction that we have seen. And I think you're starting to see that frustration mount. And it's mounting across the country with voters who elected this president and voters who seem to, once again, have been forgotten by -- by Democrats as the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party takes charge of the party.

CUOMO: We heard the same thing, like, seven years ago when it was your party that seemed to have been taken over by an extreme wing of your own party. And we dealt with all these issues. It will be interesting to see if it's different this time. But do you think it adds...

GARDNER: Well, if you look at the number of nominees...

CUOMO: I think you have a fair point on that. You have a fair point that what Democrats have been doing with these nominees is unprecedented. And you know what their side of the case is, that the nominees are unprecedented in their own either lack of being well- acquitted for the office or lack of ethical preparation for the vetting.

GARDNER: Well, I don't think -- I don't think Republicans were excited about Eric Holder. I don't think Republicans were excited about Loretta Lynch, and yet they were both confirmed.

CUOMO: True.

GARDNER: This is something that is truly -- I think that what's happened here is the Democratic Party has forgotten the reasons already why they lost the election.

[07:10:08] If you look at what happened on November 8, the American people were tired of the status quo in Washington, D.C. They wanted to send a message to Washington, D.C. And now we have the doubling down on the strategy that caused their defeat this past November; and so I think they're forgetting the lesson that they learned. The American people feel like they've been forgotten over the past 8 years, still are seeing the same kind of policies promoted by the left, and they don't like it. And it's just politics at its worst.

CUOMO: Do you think that your party's apparent reluctance to call out the president of the United States when he says outrageous things or does things that are highly controversial is adding to this imbalance in Washington?

GARDNER: Well, I have certainly done everything I can to speak where I felt I was important to speak.

CUOMO: You are not easy to get -- it is not easy to get you to take a position on what the president does. This is proof of that.

GARDNER: I took a position on the executive order. I took an executive -- position on the executive order, that it was overly broad, that it needed to be fixed. I've taken a position on Russia. In fact, we have a hearing today on Russia. I'm sending a letter to the president today. It's a letter that basically says here's where we have to stand as a country against the overly aggressive, the illegal aggression of Russia. It's a letter that's signed by members of the intel committee, the Defense Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee. But that's how I'm standing up, to make sure that we do what's right in this country.

CUOMO: Do you mention in that letter how you feel, as a collective or individually, about this president of the United States apparently creating a moral equivalence between the United States and Russia?

GARDNER: Well, I think what I've said before, and I've said this publicly in town hall -- tele-town hall meetings I've held, there is no equivalency between the United States and Russia. Russia is a thug-ocracy, led by a dictator, a person who uses murder and all kinds of illegal tactics to promote his own interests, self-interests, self-dealing. And there's no equivalency between the two of us.

CUOMO: So what do you think about when the president was asked about why he seems to have an affinity for Putin, who is a killer, in the term -- in the words used by the interviewer, and he said, "What about us?" How did you feel about that response?

GARDNER: Again, I disagree with the president, but I think you'd have to ask the president about why he said that. I don't speak for the president.

But today we're sending a letter, having a hearing with General Breedlove, the former commander of NATO forces. We're sending a letter to the president, saying, look, these are -- this is where we have to stand on Russia. What they are doing in Ukraine is illegal, and we can't lift sanctions

on Russia until they stop their aggression, until they return Crimea. They've murdered 10,000, killed 10,000 Ukrainians. It's unacceptable. What they have done in Aleppo, what they have done in Syria is unacceptable. Their activities on cyber around the globe is unacceptable, including in the United States this past year. That's where we have to stand.

And again, if you want the comments of the president, go to the president. If you want tweets from the president, go to the president. If you want my response, I'm standing up for the people of Colorado.

CUOMO: Right. And if you want to stand up for the people of Colorado, obviously, you'll be a voice about what the president does, because you're supporting their interests, not just partisan ones.

GARDNER: A you have a letter right there, yes.

CUOMO: Do you mention in the letter, do you clarify for the president what you seem to be making clear right now, which is that Russia has definite involvement with the separatists that are fighting in Ukraine right now against the government? Because it seems to be unclear about Russia's involvement. Do you mention that in the letter?

GARDNER: Yes, we talk about the separatist actions in the letter. We talk about the fact that we've seen this in Eastern Ukraine, and we talk about the need to return Crimea and any other ill-gained territories to the people of Ukraine. That's just one example that we use.

But I think it's important that we highlight beliefs of many senators, our colleagues, across the national security committees that we do have certain lines that cannot be crossed when it comes to Russia. There is no quid pro quo that can be given to Russia when it comes to, "Hey, if you behave well over here, we can lift sanctions over here." No. We can lift sanctions and possibly lift sanctions on Ukraine involvement and Russian involvement in Ukraine if they get out of Ukraine and return Ukraine. You can do the same thing on Syria, but you can't say, "All right, we'll make a deal here to make a deal there."

CUOMO: All right. Senator Gardner, always a pleasure to have you make the case on NEW DAY.

GARDNER: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: I look forward to having you back.

GARDNER: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right. Coming up in our next hour, we are going to have the man of the moment, Senator Richard Blumenthal, about his meeting with the Supreme Court nominee. To apply the Gardner standard, he was present for the conversation. He should know what the judge said. And we'll get his reaction to the president's attack of him and his credibility.

CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile a massive winter storm is battering the Northeast at this hour, so schools are closed in several states. Thousands of flights across the country are cancelled. What will today look like across the country?

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is live in New York's Central Park. As we always say, there is a ripple effect. What happens here in New York stretches across the country.

MYERS: No question. It's not just New York. It's Philadelphia. It's D.C. It's BWI, all the way to Harrisburg. Hazleton Mountain already has five inches of snow. That's in central Pennsylvania. And it will be all the way to Boston. It started snowing about four or five hours ago. Right now, 40 million people are under some type of warning.

[07:15:03] We have all the schools there, the public schools -- Boston, New York, Philadelphia -- closed for today. And already now about 3,000 flights cancelled. The number keeps going up as the flights get cancelled from here in the Northeast. They don't get to where they're going. And so it will be a cold snowy day.

Now, it will be a cold snowy day. It won't be a cold snowy night. The storm is over in New York City by about 2 p.m. That's the good news. The snow moves away, and it stops. It will be cold, but at least they can plow it, get it going, get the airports back running again, because right now, they're not doing very well.

This is what I want you to know about the snow in New York City right now. This is what our producer's snowman looks like. And this is what most of the snow in New York City looks like. It's a dirty snow. It's not there yet. You're picking up off the ground, and there's a lot of dirt underneath. So you probably have the dirtiest snowman in North America right now.

CUOMO: You know, Chad, the only thing that matches your accuracy is your tenacity. Your desire to stand out there, where we were unwilling to go. Thank you for being there, my brother. Appreciate it.

MYERS: It's fun. All right. Talk to you later.

CUOMO: See you soon.

President Trump taking on Senator Richard Blumenthal in a tweet moments ago. How will Democrats respond? Up next, we're going to speak with a Democratic senator who is meeting with the president today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[07:20:21] BLUMENTHAL: After the 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right. That was Senator Richard Blumenthal, revealing Judge Gorsuch's opinion about President Donald Trump's attacks on the judiciary.

Moments ago, President Trump weighed in to this. He said, "Senator Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had -- major lie -- now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him."

Joining us now is Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He is part of the Democratic delegation meeting from President Trump today.

Senator, thanks for being here.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: President Trump, it sounds like, is trying to get the public to believe that Senator Blumenthal is lying. However, Judge Gorsuch's own spokesperson last night confirmed that Judge Gorsuch did call it demoralizing. The language that Senator Blumenthal used is -- was confirmed by Judge Gorsuch's spokesperson.

So what do you make of all this back and forth?

COONS: Alisyn, this back and forth just makes me feel like I'm back in high school. Frankly, what matters here is whether or not Judge Gorsuch, who will be up for confirmation for the Supreme Court, in meetings with senators and then ultimately publicly in his confirmation hearing, demonstrates judicial independence, demonstrates his understanding that an independent judiciary is one of the cornerstones of our constitutional order. And that President Trump's recent comments, personally attacking or challenging judges who are delaying or may ultimately overturn his travel ban, deserve respect not to be attacked.

CAMEROTA: So are you then calling for Judge Gorsuch to also speak out publicly about this?

COONS: In my meeting with Judge Gorsuch, I will also ask him about judicial independence. And I think, in due course, we will ask him about that during the confirmation hearing.

I don't think it's constructive for President Trump to weigh in on this and to level accusations against sitting senators. I frankly think the more he stays out of this, the better for his judicial nominee. But this simply highlights why judicial independence is going to be so important for me and for other senators as we go through the process of meeting Judge Gorsuch and considering whether or not he should serve on the Supreme Court.

CAMEROTA: Look, you know, President Trump wants Judge Gorsuch. He can't criticize, I think, his own Supreme Court nominees, so he goes after the messenger...

COONS: Right.

CAMEROTA: ... Senator Blumenthal. So if you talk to Judge Gorsuch, do you feel that he should and can publicly speak out and say, "Yes, I do find this demoralizing and disheartening"?

COONS: Well, I think we need to focus on the larger issue here, Alisyn, rather than the "he said, she said" about what Blumenthal or Gorsuch did or didn't say.

The larger issue is that judicial independence is at risk. President Trump is not responding well to a challenge to his unvetted, I think illegal travel ban that affects seven different majority-Muslim countries. District court judges in several different districts across the country have stayed that ban, have challenged that ban. It's now being considered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay of that order. And I think President Trump is going to harm both Judge Gorsuch's chances of confirmation and his standing as president if he continues to undermine the independence of the federal judiciary.

CAMEROTA: OK. So today you are going to the White House.

COONS: That's right.

CAMEROTA: To speak with President Trump. Tell us exactly what you're going to tell him.

COONS: Well, we have not met in the White House before. I met him over at Dover Air Force Base last week, when we received the remains of an American SEAL killed in action in Yemen.

I'm going to press him on the point that I think his executive order was not well-conceived and should be withdrawn. And that, frankly, I think his challenging the independence of the judiciary isn't helping. And hope that he might yet make more measured comments and understand the importance of the separation of powers.

I do continue to hope that we will find some way to work together on the problems facing America, on strengthening manufacturing. You just had Senator Cory Gardner on. Senator Gardner and I are introducing a bipartisan bill today to help small manufacturers. There are things we could do together. But as long as President Trump keeps engaging, in his first three weeks as president, in this style of tweeting constantly and of upsetting our allies abroad and undermining, I think, our constitutional order here at home, it will be difficult for us to find a positive common path together.

[07:25:08] CAMEROTA: Your fellow Democrat, Senator Jeff Merkley, said about Judge Gorsuch and about this Supreme Court vacancy -- let me read you his quote -- "Filling this stolen seat with any individual other than Judge Merrick Garland will destroy Americans' respect for the court."

Where are you on this? Should you oppose Judge Gorsuch because he's not Merrick Garland?

COONS: All last year I said in the Judiciary Committee and on the floor that it was outrageous that Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans here in the Senate refused to give Judge Garland even a hearing. And I think for me to do the same thing back to Republicans would be hypocrisy, so I've said that Judge Gorsuch deserves a hearing. The hearing that Judge Garland never got.

That respects the American people and allows my constituents to hear Judge Garland's [SIC] background, experience, his constitutional philosophy. And I think we should have that hearing on the Judiciary Committee.

After that I think we should see, but I don't agree with Senator Merkley that we should simply refuse to even consider his nomination.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, I heard you just called the travel ban from Mr. Trump illegal. It doesn't sound, based on the oral arguments, that the 9th Circuit Court thought this was an open and shut case.

COONS: I think it is an arguable case, as are so many. But as I looked at the details of how it was prepared, how it was implemented and what its impacts will be, I think it goes against the Immigration and Naturalization Act, because it does discriminate based on nationality and religion. And I frankly think the way that it was implemented shows that it violates at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution.

The president made it clear in his campaign for the presidency that he intended to impose a Muslim ban; and this is, in fact, a ban on Muslim countries. So I think we'll leave it to the courts to determine whether they see that as unconstitutional. I certainly think it is illegal.

CAMEROTA: Senator Chris Coons, please let us know how your conversation with President Trump goes today. Thanks so much.

COONS: I will. Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn.

Why would President Trump call out Senator Blumenthal as misrepresenting comments from Judge Neil Gorsuch when Gorsuch's own people says he said them? Next.

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