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Judge: Travel Ban Fails to Pass Legal Muster; GOP Health Bill in Trouble?; Trump Doubles Down; March Madness Begins Today. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2017 - 05:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to fight this terrible ruling. We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.


[05:00:03] CHRISTNE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, President Trump promising to push back after his new travel ban was blocked by a federal judge. How will the administration make its case?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House sensing trouble with the Republican health care plan. What's the president saying as the House speaker acknowledges the bill will have to change to pass the House?

ROMANS: President Trump doubling down he was wiretapped by President Obama, despite the House intel chairman offering a starkly different take.

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

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. It's Thursday, March 16th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. It's 7:00 a.m.

We expect #Trumpbudget which is trending on Twitter. That is the place for politics. You will break that down for us later on.

But, first, this morning, President Trump vowing to appeal a federal court order to block the 2.0 version of his travel ban. At a Tennessee rally, the president declaring he will go all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn the order by Hawaii Federal Judge Derrick Watson.


TRUMP: A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries. The order he blocked was a watered down version of the first order, that was also blocked by another judge and should have never been blocked to start with.


ROMANS: That order issued by Watson just hours before the ban to take effect. The Justice Department slamming the order in a statement, saying it "strongly disagrees with the federal district court's ruling, which is flawed both in reasoning and scope."

BRIGGS: All right. So, to help us better understand the ruling, let's bring in CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett.

Laura, what were the main reasons the judge in Hawaii decided to block this travel ban? And good morning to you.


Well, the judge in the case was really squarely focused on Hawaii's constitutional arguments about the executive order disfavoring Muslims over non-Muslims. And the judge said, look, even if the text of this new executive order doesn't make any express reference to religion, I can't ignore the unrebutted evidence of religious animus being behind this order and the president's own statements from the campaign trail betray any idea that the travel ban had a secular purpose, Dave.

BRIGGS: Is that typical we hear past statements apply to a U.S. federal judge ruling?

JARRETT: Well, I think the judge in the case was really moved by the facts. Repeatedly, he pointed out, look, this is unusual. It's not every day that we have the president-elect or even the president on the campaign trail making these statements. So, I think it was really tailored to this case.

ROMANS: What happens next, Laura, in court? Another appeal to the Ninth Circuit?

JARRETT: I think that's pretty likely. The Justice Department, as you said earlier in the segment, came out last night calling the ruling flawed and said it's going to continue to defend this executive order in the courts. And so, I'd expect to see a pretty early appeal very soon.

BRIGGS: Another interesting development last night. Five judges on the Ninth Circuit appointed by the Republicans openly backed the president's travel ban. They said, quote, "Whatever we as individuals may feel about the president or the executive order, the president's decision was well within the powers of the presidency."

So, Laura, how could this play out if the Ninth Circuit does take up the case again?

JARRETT: Well, this really raised some eyebrows last night, because there is no pending appeal in the Ninth Circuit. So, the judges kind of just did this all on their own because the Justice Department dismissed their case their last week after Trump signed a new executive order, thinking they didn't need the appeal anymore.

And so, this group of judges, I should say, said if we don't like it, our colleagues, last month were wrong and Donald Trump had the authority to do this. And this is important to note because these comments are coming from judges who if it doesn't impact the case in Hawaii may eventually hear the appeal in the Ninth Circuit. And so, they now signaled they think Trump is right on the law.

ROMANS: Interesting.

What about all of the other travel ban legal cases? There's one in Maryland. There's one in Seattle. Are we likely to see more decisions from judges there, too?

JARRETT: Well, that's right.

So, we've got cases in Maryland and Washington state. And the judges are in the process of evaluating the challenges there. I would guess they will likely defer those rulings for now to avoid confusion in light of the nationwide decision from Hawaii -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Laura Jarrett in Washington for us this morning, nice to see you bright and early. I saw you on TV all day yesterday. I know you had a busy run with this travel ban. Thank you.

JARRETT: Thanks.

JARRETT: For some context and analysis, let's turn to CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan live in our Washington bureau.

I mean, really a stunner here. Another setback for the president on this travel ban, something that got him elected.

[05:05:00] TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, it was interesting.

Everyone was sort of watching how he would respond in terms of his relationship with the judiciary. You know, keep in mind, the first time this was struck down, he faced some criticism for the way he spoke about judges, you know, that something that really turned off the judiciary to a certain extent was how much the presidency and the White House was asserting that the courts can't review them.

He was a little bit more muted last night, said he made allusions to the fact that like people would criticize him if he perhaps went after the judges. So, he appears to have learned that lesson a bit. But we'll see. You know, when he feels he is on defense, which right now, his travel ban is and his policy is, he has a tendency to lash out.

And, you know, as Laura said, this is going to continue to work its way through the courts. At this point, there's really, you know, no indication that it's going to go into effect anytime soon and court cases can take years. So, we may be talking about this for many, many mornings to come.


Tal, it threw off I think the messaging that the president was hoping for last night. Saw a bit of a delay. What everyone was waiting for is how the president will sell the plan to repeal and replace health care and how he sold it certainly raised some eyebrows. Here's what he said last night in Nashville.


TRUMP: The House has put forward a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare based on the principles I outlined in my joint address. But let me tell you, we're going to arbitrate, we're going to all get together, we're going to get something done.

Remember this, if we didn't do it the way we're doing it, we need 60 votes. So, we have to get the Democrats involved. They won't vote no matter what we do. They're not going to vote.

So, we are doing it a different way, a complex way. It's fine.


BRIGGS: There's a lot of hand gestures there. But what do you think of the sales pitch he made for this health care plan?

KOPAN: I don't think it is the sales pitch that Republican leadership in Congress would like. You know, they are happy. You know, Paul Ryan's spokeswoman tweeted a link to what he said, sort of saying, you know, I hope people are paying attention that he endorsed the House bill.

But, you know, it's really frustrating for House leadership which is trying to in some ways muscle the bill through without many changes when you get mixed messages of I support this bill. It's exactly what I campaigned on. We're also going to negotiate and we're going to make it great.

And so, he continues to signal to conservatives that their concessions may end up coming into the bill, which is encouraging them to continue to give their leadership fits by opposing the bill and, you know, sort of using that as leverage. So, I think that Republican leadership in Congress really prefer a clean statement from Trump, this is absolutely just what I want.

BRIGGS: Right.

KOPAN: But he continues to send this message, I'm open to changes. And so, it's going to continue to work its way through Congress.

ROMANS: You know, I think it's fascinating too, Dave, because it's sort of a preview of what kind of style the president has in leadership and ushering and helping the legislative process. He's got a very big agenda here. You know, you talk about tax cuts, tax reform, talking about infrastructure. A lot of things on their plate that they are planning out for later this year.

BRIGGS: And it all hinges on this.

ROMANS: It all hinges on this. This is sort of the first go around. So, a lot of folks are watching that very carefully. I want to talk quickly about something the president said yesterday.

He was on FOX News talking about the wiretapping claim, the as yet unfounded, zero evidence wiretapping claim. He almost gave it new life.

Listen to what he told Tucker Carlson.


TRUMP: I have been seeing a lot of things. Now, for the most part, I'm not going to discuss it because we have it before the committee and we will be submitting things before the committee very soon that hasn't been submitted as of yet. But it's potentially a very serious situation.

Wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.


ROMANS: You know, Tal, as a reporter, sometimes you have to look at the words of what the president said to try to parse exactly what he means. Wiretap covers a lot of things. Wiretapping is something other than wiretapping? The president saying that on Fox I think gave all of this new life, didn't it?

BRIGGS: No question.

KOPAN: Well, we started to see this a few days ago when Sean Spicer also, you know, started to reinterpret the original tweet. And keep in mind, you know, when Spicer said that from the press podium, everyone went back to those tweets and I think there were four of them and they very clearly all said wiretapping, which, of course, very specifically refers to tapping a person's phones to listen in on what they are saying. It is a technical term.

And, you know, early on, Spicer said the president's tweet speaks for itself. And then this week, we saw the White House start to change a little bit and say, no, wiretapping was sort of a euphemism for all kinds of surveillance. It wasn't specific to President Obama, although, you know, again, all of those tweets, very specifically said President Obama.

[05:10:02] So, you know, it's an instance where it all goes back to, you know, what our colleague Salena Zito has said, of seriously versus literally. It is very hard to pin Trump down on what he exactly meant because he has shown a propensity to interpret that.

BRIGGS: Air quotes come in handy here.

ROMANS: He is either charging the former president of the United States with breaking the law or he is acknowledging that there was some legal reason for there to be a court order to listen to him. Either way, it has to be cleared up.

BRIGGS: How is it cleared up? To what end, Tal?

KOPAN: Well, that's absolutely right, Dave and Christine, both of you. I mean, he is essentially calling Congress' bluff, right? This move to say, oh, we're not going to provide anymore information, but we expect a congressional inquiry, which again, they presented evidence or they presented a claim with absolutely no evidence and then told Congress to figure it out. And now, they're suggesting they may be presenting some evidence to Congress.

But they are putting it congressional hands and those lawmakers could come back and say there's nothing here. You know, that could be a potential embarrassment or they could, Christine, as you said, actually find, you know, court ordered surveillance based on probable cause which you may need in order to get that court order. And that itself could also be a problem.

So, we'll see what Congress decides to do with what they actually find.

BRIGGS: Right. Because the president wants this wide definition, but Devin Nunes, his stance supporter, and the head of the House Intel Committee, has said that allegation at this point is wrong.

So, anyway --

ROMANS: All right. The president promises a lot of interesting things coming to the forefront in the next three weeks. So there you go.

Tal, nice to see you. Talk to you in a few minutes. Thanks.

The White House releasing the budget blueprint today. Details of how big the cuts will be and what agencies will feel the squeeze as the president tries to dramatically remake the federal government.


[05:16:03] ROMANS: All right. Get ready for what's called a hard power budget. That's what's being released later this morning by the White House. Hard power budget.

BRIGGS: What does that mean?

ROMANS: It means we are going to show America first. Tell the world we are a hard power.

BRIGGS: Got it.

ROMANS: There's going to be big cuts to do that and a huge boost to military spending. The State Department faces a 28 percent budget cut according to the preview of the hard power budget provided to us by administration officials. That is a 38 percent to foreign aid. Officials in the EPA tell us they are expecting at least a 25 percent cut.

The Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be on the list. He said he wants to move money around the agency by eliminating some programs. Eliminating programs in HUD, many advocates for the poor are terrified by that notion. It literally what keeps the lights on in some -- and the power -- and the heat on in some low income neighborhoods.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: The National Endowment for Arts could be wiped out. Founding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is likely being stripped from 50 years of a Republican priority to make cuts like that.

The cuts will create some rooms to spend big in another years, most notably the Pentagon. President Trump wants to increase military spending by $54 billion. The administration will also ask for a modest $1.5 billion to start building the border wall. Mulvaney says that will increase over time.

The release this morning will not be a complete budget, but a blueprint that sets the White House priorities on spending. The full budget is expected to be ready by May.

BRIGGS: The global manhunt this morning for two of the four suspects indicted by the Justice Department for massive hack of Yahoo in 2014. Two of the accused are believed to be Russian spies. Justice officials laying out a range of criminal activities in the 39-page indictment, including spying on executives and spam operation and using Yahoo accounts to target other services like Google's Gmail.

Two of the four suspects are in custody. One arrested in Canada. Another in a twist has apparently been arrested in Russia for spying on the U.S. The other two men are still at large.

What a major story that is, Internyet. Very clever headline.

ROMANS: Clever, "The New York Post".

BRIGGS: "The New York Post".

Well, let the madness begin. Sixteen college hoops games today. No work getting done across the country. Will a top seed fall? Who will emerge as the Cinderella team?

Our guy Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.

Hey, Andy.


[05:22:54] BRIGGS: March Madness finally here. Least productive day probably in the year rather the Super Bowl. The first round of the NCAA tournament starts in about six hours and 33 minutes. Who is counting?

ROMANS: We need to have like those countdown clock.

BRIGGS: Countdown clock, we need a CNN countdown clock.


ROMANS: Andy Scholes, he's got more in the "Bleacher Report" -- hey, Andy.

SCHOLES: Hey, good morning, guys.

Yes, the first round of the NCAA tournament, for me at least, is the best two days in all of sports, 16 games today, 16 games tomorrow. Everyone's into it with the bracket.

According to Wallet Hub, companies across the country lose about $4 billion dues to employees being unproductive. But, hey, not us here at CNN.

Now, last night USC and Providence battling it out to advance to the first round. The Trojans were down by 17 at one point in this game. But they mounted a comeback for the ages. USC would end up winning this one, 75-71, avenging last season's tournament opening loss to the Friars. They move on to play SMU on Friday.

Now, today's action tips off at 12:15 with Princeton and Notre Dame on TBS. It is UNC Wilmington against Virginia at 12:40 on truTV. Winthrop is going to take on Butler at 1:30 on TNT. South Dakota State tries to knock top seed Gonzaga on TBS. Those are your early games. Now, the fourth seeded Florida Gators will be taking on East Tennessee State at 3:00.

And Turner Sports and is giving you a unique behind the scenes look of how they are getting ready. Embedded with the teams since selection Sunday. Gators are all business as they prepare for the big dance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are as hungry as they are. If we're not, shame on us. We lost two in a row. We are searching for a win. We need a "W."


SCHOLES: Former President Obama may not be in office, but still filling out his March Madness brackets. He released his picks on Twitter yesterday via the Obama Foundation now. Take a look.

He picked North Korea Carolina to win it all, beating Duke for the championship. Arizona and Kansas round out the final four in his bracket.

[05:25:01] President Trump respectfully declined to fill out a bracket this year.

But if you think you can pick a better bracket than those anchors here at CNN, go to and make sure to fill one out with us. You've got six hours left to get it done. And, Christine, I had to ask you. You're not picking Iowa State to

win it all again, are you?

ROMANS: No, I'm not. That was such a heartbreaker for me. No, I'm not. I did take them --

BRIGGS: A couple of rounds?

ROMANS: I take them a couple of rounds. I feel like that's my obligation.

BRIGGS: I did too to support her. I actually have them winning two games as well.


BRIGGS: But I have the same two as President Obama in my final. But Duke wins it all for me.

SCHOLES: Sure. I was saying, Dave, I wondered if you were Duke, Duke, Duke all the way through?

BRIGGS: Who wins in your bracket before we go?

SCHOLES: I'm going Arizona Wildcats.

BRIGGS: Oh, I like it. Very good.

ROMANS: I got the Zags.

All right. I'll see you later. Bye, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: President Trump won't go down without a fight after his second travel ban meets the same legal fate as his first.



TRUMP: We're going to fight this terrible ruling. We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.