Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Lawyers Butt Heads Over Muslim Travel Ban; Parents Accuse Fraternity of Murder; Report Says Trump Handed Fake Time Magazine Cover. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 15, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And joining me now is Dan Simon. You are there in Seattle. This is not the first time the Ninth Circuit has been tasked with deciding the immediate fate of this travel ban. Back in February a federal judge overturned the ban. So, what's different now?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You had a Seattle federal judge originally rule against the administration's first travel ban that was followed up by Ninth Circuit the court of appeals. They also ruled against the administration while the white house made some tweaks, they issued the second travel ban and lo and behold, once again, we're in front of the Ninth Circuit court of appeals. And it's clear that what the candidate said on the campaign trail then candidate Donald Trump could be of considerable importance to these three judges that you just heard that exchange there with the judge wondering whether or not Trump has disavowed some of his past campaign statements.

What you're hearing the solicitor general say is what he said on the campaign trail doesn't matter so much. It's his actions now and his words now. They are trying to make the argument that the President has clarified his positions. That he's trying to ban people from certain terrorist groups in the countries that harbor those terrorists from coming into the country. But the state of Hawaii, which brought the case forward is saying that any objective observer can say this is a travel ban against Muslims. We have never seen anything like this in it the country and the President's words what he said on the campaign trail should be very important that context matters.

KEILAR: Thank you so much for that. Joining me is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. He's an expert on constitutional law. And Thiru Vignarajah. He is former Maryland deputy attorney general, former supreme court clerk and former federal prosecutor as well.

And Eugene, to you first. You wrote back in February about the use of campaign statements and you said that basically this isn't fair. This is not just an issue of whether it's fair, but it's not something that can be used in court to make the case. Why is that?

EUGENE KONTORVICH: PROFESSOR AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: It's unprecedented to look at the private statements of a politician before he even took office to interpret otherwise perfectly valid measures. The court is not saying that there's anything wrong with the travel ban. Essentially what they are saying is there's something wrong in their opinion of Donald Trump. They are disqualifying our chief executive from controlling the immigration policy.

KEILAR: The solicitor general said, yes, this was something he said. He talked about the shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S. but he said that statement, that opinion was qualified over time. So then why not go with the statements that were qualified over time?

THIRU VIGNARAJAH, FORMER MARYLAND DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think the difficulty for the President is that he has not clarified. He's doubled down on his original statements. He has time and time again reaffirmed and ratified that we know what he means on the very day of the signing within a week of him being elected to office, he specifically said I'm not changing my mind. I'm not going in a different direction. You know what I mean. In fact, we do. Federal courts did realize he was simply reaffirming and delivering on his campaign promise to engage in an absolute shutdown of Muslims entering the country. And that plainly offends the constitution.

KONTORVICH: It's not a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the country. The President has the authority to control immigration policy from foreign countries. As it happens, they have Muslim majorities. The court is suggesting because of the understanding of Trump's believes, he's not allowed to control immigration from a quarter of the world's countries. Next are they going to say he's not allowed to conduct military operations in Muslim majority countries. All of the military operations that the U.S. is conducting are in Muslim majority countries. So, this threatens not just to disqualify them in terms of immigration policy, but to cripple the President.

KEILAR: We learned something last week in testimony on Capitol Hill about some of the folks in the U.S. who have been detained for terrorist activities and I think some people were surprised to learn that a lot of them actually hailed from Iraq. I believe if I'm quoting this testimony correctly which has been dropped from this ban since the last time this was challenged. So, if you're trying to look at this just in the efficacy of the ban, in keeping people who may be coming from companies that could foster terrorism, how does this make the case and not convince the judges to look instead at the statement of the total and complete shutdown of Muslims in the U.S.?

KONTORVICH: Of course, Iraq was dropped from the list to satisfy an earlier ruling in the court. So, the very perverse attempt --

[15:35:00] KEILAR: To that, I want to add for our viewers it was dropped because there's a lot of information known about folks coming from Iraq. Then we saw this testimony. So, you're saying that's just sort of ridiculous to look at that change.

KONTORVICH: And at the same time, in order to be valid, it doesn't have to capture every terrorist or respond to every security threat. There's broad discretion that immigration matters. So, long as there's plausible danger, which would be hard to say there isn't the President is justified in using the discretion which congress has given him in the matters.

VIGNARAJAH: The problem with Eugene's position is that you don't have to ban all Muslims from the country to violate the constitution. If you say we're going to ban some Muslims, or mostly Muslims or people because of the faith and god to whom they pray, that by itself, if that's the primary purpose violates the constitution. This would be a harder case if this actually defended national security. If this was not a very thinly vailed pretext for going after and denigrating a religion millions of people here in America are adherence of this faith and billions of people around the world. That makes it deeply troubling and deeply a violation of the constitution.

KEILAR: There's a clause that prioritizes religious minorities through and some people pointed at that and said that's clearly making protections for Christians over Muslims.

VIGNARAJAH: I think the challenge for the president is that he has done his best to try to lawyer his way around his primary purpose. We have found and should be thankful for the fact that federal judges don't fall for this. They are able

to divine the true purpose based on the words that came out of the President's mouth, and we are going to take what he said seriously he seems clear his primary purpose was to disfavor a religion. That's not just contrary to our constitution but contrary to everything our country stands for.

KONTORVICH: What the judges are doing here is not reviewing the executive order. They are reviewing Donald Trump. And they are saying this is fine. If any other President adopted it there's no problem. But we believe Donald Trump has nasty views. We're going to disqualify him from performing the constitutional functions of the President. And I should say these countries have a lot in common other than being Muslim. These are countries that were on President Obama's list of unstable countries with poorly functioning governments. These are countries the U.S. is conducting or has recently conducted military operations. So, they are picked because they are Muslim countries, this is disingenuous. As it happens that President Obama's list where the country has forces in combat operations happened to be Muslim countries. No one can suggest because they are Muslim.

KEILAR: I have so many more questions but we'll have to leave it at that for time. Thank you so much. I do appreciate you talking to us. And next, President Trump loves to rail against fake news, but false articles sometimes find their ways right on to his desk in the oval office. We have the new details about how he has been swayed by the false information at times.


KEILAR: Parents who lost their son in a hazing incident are speaking out and criticizing the university for not doing enough to change the campus fraternity culture. Timothy died in February while pledging a fraternity and 18 frat members have been indicted in his death. Court documents say they supplied him with excessive alcohol and he fell down a flight of stairs, nobody came to his rescue until several hours had passed. Sara sat down with timothy's parent and she's joining me now. This was an emotional interview. Your heart just goes out to these folks.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really does because when you read that indictment, what's alleged against these fraternity members, Timothy didn't just fall one time. He fell six times. Twice down the stairs hitting his head on a railing and stone floor, on a door and instead of calling for help, the grand jury found that those fraternity members were googling remedies, arguing over what to do, even trying to change his clothes before calling 911 to make him appear to be in better condition. So, this was a 19-year-old who wanted to be engineer to make prosthetic limbs for children and soldiers and now his parents are calling for change and say the first step of that is a criminal trial. Take a listen.


[15:45:00] GANIM: The indictment is horrific for anyone to read, but as parents reading that, when you read those details.

JIM PIAZZA, FATHER OF TIM PIAZZA: They killed him. They fed him lethal doses of alcohol and killed him. They treated him like a rag doll and road kill. They slapped him around, threw water on him. One kid punched his area that it was clearly visible.

MOTHER OF TIM PIAZZA: They said his spleen was shattered.

JIM PIAZZA: It was chilling. In my mind, it was murder. They let him suffer for 12 hours. They let him die a very slow death. It's not any way anyone should be treated. People in that house knew he was dying. When they knew that death was eminent, they waited 42 minutes to call for help while they told people to clean up. Cover up the evidence. Get rid of it. This wasn't boys being boys. This was criminal activity.

GANIM: What has been the response to you guys from Penn State officials? What have they said to you?

JIM PIAZZA: I have had dialogue with the President of the college. But Penn State has been fairly silent. No one came to the wake or the funeral.

GANIM: No one? None of these fraternity brothers came to the funeral?


GANIM: No Penn State officials? You expected a different response from them?

JIM PIAZZA: I expected people to care.

GANIM: You feel like they don't.

JIM PIAZZA: I feel like they are covering their butt.


GANIM: The family told me that no one actually told them that Tim was taken to the hospital when an ambulance was finally called hen wept by himself and his brother who is Penn State student when e he realized his brother hadn't come home to h to think to call the hospital and he found his brother unconscious being treated at the hospital. This case will move forward and in mid-June the 18 students will face a preliminary hearing on these charges. In addition, the family is expected to file a wrongful death suit.

KEILAR: Thank you so much for that report.

Next, President Trump, he loves to rail against fake news, but are false articles sometimes finding their way right to his desk in the oval office. What my next guest uncovered.


KEILAR: President Trump has frequently lashed out against what he calls fake news, but a new article suggests he may have fallen for misinformation numerous times, and the article details how people with access to it the oval office often slip him articles in an attempt to sway his opinion. They are not always the best sources though, like a "Time" magazine cover supposedly from the 1970s warning of a coming ice age, and another "Time" magazine from 2008 talks about surviving global warming. These covers apparently found their way on to the President's desk. They got him very worked up about the media's hypocrisy. Turns out the 1970s cover was a fake, part of an internet hoax that has circulated for years. Joining me now is the author of this chief Politico's white house correspondent Shane Goldmacker. You say a news story tucked into Trump's hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the President's entire agenda. There's numerous examples. Give us one.

SHANE GOLDMACKER, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You might remember just a couple of weeks ago that the administration rolled out a tax reform package. When Trump first said he would roll out a tax reform package in an interview with the Associated Press, it was news to his own staff. They didn't know he was planning to do this. Turns out he read a "New York Times" op-ed by some of his campaign advisers who were criticizing how his administration was proceeding on taxes. He called a meeting of his senior staff. Read this op-ed, make this our tax plan. Gave this interview and within a week rolled out a tax plan following basically what the op-ed called for and told his own advisers, hey, I read this in the paper and this is what I want to do and he made it happen.

KEILAR: But knowing he's so motivated by, that you now have top aides who slip things on to his desk like in the case of the tax reform or in the case of the "Time" magazine covers. It was K.T. McFarland, his deputy national security adviser who put the "Time" magazine covers. Astounding that someone at his level is putting something like that in front of him when it's completely false.

GOLDMACHER: Normally you would have a process in place in a white house that before something gets to the President you imagine their most valuable resource is their time. You don't want to give them things unless they absolutely need to see it, but that's not how Donald Trump works. An open oval office policy, people coming in and out, phone calls with friends. Loves all the incoming information and it's a huge problem for the white house staff who can't control this. Can't control what he sees or when he sees it or whether it's even true and even this McFarland thing that was dropped off this, hoax of "Time" magazine covers, another white house official defend it had, saying this was a fake cover but the broader idea was true. They called it fake but accurate. Sort of a new phrase as far as I was concerned.

KEILAR: Fake but accurate. That's a quote from your story. Really fascinating story, and there's another example that I thought was pretty fascinating, too, where someone trying to cause mischief it seems gave him a copy of an article from a dubious news source that took on the deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, is behind a bunch of leaks, and then we ended up seeing her leaving the white house, right?

[15:55:00] GOLDMACHER: Because of the warring factions in the white house, you've got the Jared Kushner faction and the Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus faction and Kellyanne Conway faction, all these different folks give the President what he reads has an impact so often there's little ways to slip into things to the President hoping maybe it changes them -- changes his mind about one adviser or the other or gives them an edge because he's set up these competing groups all the time. They are always looking for edge, and they know giving him something negative to read about one of his own staff he often believes it intuitively and it creates problem for the staffer question.

KEILAR: And you talk about how the chief of staff Reince Priebus is trying to get a hold on this. What the is he doing?

GOLDMACHER: He and the staff secretary rob porter are trying to create a system that all the paperwork flows through the staff secretary to the President. If you want to give a memo to the President, you've got to give it to the staff secretary. Now, this is normal. This is how it was done in the Obama years, how it was done in the bush years. Typical white houses have the paperwork flow this way because you have to archive it for Presidential records. Anything the President sees is archived. This is what they are trying to do. The problem is staff is not necessarily abiding by it. I quote one senior administration official saying, look, yes, it's the system, but I don't necessarily follow it.

We talked about those factions. Jared Kushner is his son-in-law. He doesn't just have access to the President in the west wing. He has access to the President in his residence, and so some of the west wing advisers say, look, I don't want to only give the President through this system if I know one of the people I might be competing with on ideas is giving things to the President back in his house part of the white house.

KEILAR: Or talk to him at the phone or at dinner. Thank you so much.

And a quick programming note. The leader of the Democratic opposition in the house, Nancy Pelosi, is going to join Chris Cuomo for a live town hall. We'll have that tonight at 9:00 eastern right here on CNN, and next the white house says it sees no need for a special prosecutor to investigate possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Details on that and where the President stands on picking a new FBI director.