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Wapo: CIA Captured Putin's Orders On Election Meddling; Trump: Mueller And Comey Are 'Very, Very Good Friends'; Eight GOP Senators Have Doubts On Health Bill; Dems Lick Wounds After Expensive Georgia Race; Rumors Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is Retiring; Off- Camera Briefings Escalate Tension Between White House & Media. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 24, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you never really know what's going to happen.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's really why we're here. These cats are all up for adoption. Some of them are special needs. Some have been through a lot. So, it's nice to find that connection.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Saturday. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. It's great to have you with us.

President Trump is back on Twitter responding moments ago to the stunning new report in "The Washington Post" that details how and when President Obama first learned that Russia was leading a major campaign to sway last year's election.

The president tweeting this, "Since the Obama administration was told way before the 2016 election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T."

And then he went on to say "Obama administration officials said they choked when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn't want to hurt Hillary?"

Now, "The Post" report also details what actions President Obama did take and how he and his advisors wrestled with various options for retaliation.

CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski has the riveting details.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: A bombshell report. Starkly laying out the U.S. intelligence community's case for Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and revealing it was directly ordered by Vladimir Putin.

"The Washington Post" detailing that intelligence sources had captured Putin's own instruction to "disrupt and discredit" the presidential race, with the goal of defeating or hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump. The CIA delivered the intelligence by courier to President Obama in August. "The Post" interviews with former senior Obama administration officials revealed the frustrations.

Now among some of them that more was not done to punish Russia. Quoting one, "It's the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked." They say the administration was worried about appearing to try to influence the election themselves as well as provoking Russia.

One official explains, "Our primary interest in August, September and October was to prevent them from doing the max they could do." And after the election, some of the harsher options for punishing Russian like a massive cyber attack on them or sweeping sanctions faced concerns and roadblocks from a number of corners.

Former deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken defended the Obama administration.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Maybe the judgment was wrong. Maybe we should have acted differently. Maybe we should have done certain things that we didn't do. But given everything we were dealing with, given first of all, again, the perception that Russia's main objective was to undermine the confidence in the elections. That was really one thing that motivated us to be careful about how we played this in public.

KOSINSKI: The Obama administration did set the ball rolling for secret program to infiltrate Russia's infrastructure, with cyber weapons controlled remotely like digital bombs that could cripple Russia's systems. But Obama left office while it was still in the planning stage.

The White House says Trump stands by his January comments that he thinks Russia was involved in the hacking. And has no plans to fire the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, despite Trump in an interview expressing worry over Mueller's friendliness with fired FBI Director James Comey.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Which is very bothersome, but he's also -- and we're going to have to see.

KOSINSKI: In that same interview on "Fox" Trump also addressed why he alluded to possibly having recordings of his conversations with Comey when in fact he had none.

TRUMP: But when he found out that I -- you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether its governmental tapes or anything else and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean, you'll to have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.

KOSINSKI: But when CNN pressed --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But my question for you is what is the White House -- what is President Trump now doing to prevent Russia from doing this again?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, this report is new and we'll discuss it with him later.

KOSINSKI: Again and again.

CAMEROTA: I mean, against Russia, what is he doing specifically to try to stop this?

CONWAY: Alisyn, I realize that you just like to say the word Russia, Russia to mislead the voters and I know that CNN is aiding and abetting this nonsense as well. But --

CAMEROTA: Kellyanne --

CONWAY: -- you've asking the same question three times now and I am answering it.

CAMEROTA: You're not answering it, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Yes. I am. He is the president of United States.

CAMEROTA: And what is he doing?

CONWAY: He has said very clearly that he wants the voter integrity and the valid integrity to be protected.

KOSINSKI: So, on the investigations as of the end of the day Friday, which was suppose to be the deadline, the House Intelligence Committee was still waiting for James Comey's memos, as well as any official word from the White House that they don't have recordings of the conversations between Trump and Comey.

And as we see the investigations evolve, now, the Senate Judiciary Committee wants information from President Obama's former attorney general, Loretta Lynch to see if she might have improperly influenced the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

[17:05:12] Michelle Kosinski, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Let's discuss. Joining us, CNN national security analyst and retired CIA chief of Russia operation, Steve Hall and Professor Emeritus of Harvard Law School, Alan Dershowitz.

Steve, I want to start with you on a few things. One of the most explosive parts of this new "Washington Post" reported that the CIA was able to get Vladimir Putin's specific orders from sources deep within the Kremlin we're learning. What is that tell you? And do you think the Russian president will be rattled by this? STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, according to "The Washington Post" reporting it was some of the intelligence coup in the sense that they got, you know, a very valuable piece of intelligence which frankly analytically we had sort of assumed and sort of come to the conclusion awhile back.

I mean, I think you've heard a number of people on your program and others, myself included, saying that really not a whole lot goes on in the national security front, on the intelligence front or really pretty much any front in Russia without Vladimir Putin being involved.

And it's no surprise to me that a former intelligence officer like Putin would have wanted to be, you know, either kept up to speed very quickly on these types of -- that type of operation, influence operation to try to change the elections or actually be personally involved in it. That's just I think sort of who Putin is.

CABRERA: Now, in December, President Obama placed sanctions on Russia, closed down the compounds in New York and Maryland. Was that enough? I mean, President Trump is criticizing their reaction. We know the compounds were allowed to operate in the first place in the "Post" report that U.S. officials knew they had enhanced espionage capabilities.

HALL: Well, the other thing is part of that sanction package that they did which I think arguably was probably more damaging to Russian operations here in the United States was the expelling of 35 Russian diplomats, probably most of them intelligence officers.

So yes, they shut down the two -- the two vacation sites, the two Dachas. And, you know, were those being used operationally, who knows. You know, my guess is they're good spies. They probably would try to figure out ways to use those locations.

But it's really a hard -- it's a hard thing. I mean, you know, they got the intelligence. And then the question is from a policy perspective, what do they do? And that's what was fascinating about "The Post" article was, you know, you have the one end of the spectrum which, you know, you go very harsh. You go sort of cyber warfare. And then the other side, you look at the sanctions which are perhaps not as emotionally satisfying or as helpful.

It's not as easy as it seems to come up with a good response when you're sitting here, you know, as a pundit trying to say, "Oh, this is what they should have done." There's some pretty tough choices there.

CABRERA: Alan, President Trump has been getting classified briefings as well since he was nominated last summer. And he's known Russia hacked the election since at least October when the public found out. Doesn't him highlighting this issue with his tweets also highlight what little he's done?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, I think it shows that we're going down the wrong track by having a criminal investigation of the Russia connection. Criminal investigations are not designed to uncover the truth. They're designed to uncover admissible evidence against particular individuals.

What we should be having is an independent commission much like the 911 commission bipartisan, nonpartisan set up with subpoena power to get to the bottom of what Russia is doing, how long they have been doing it and how to stop them from doing it in the future. This is a national issue.

This is not an issue of partisanship. This is not an issue for criminal justice. This is an issue for information gathering so that all Americans know the extent of the problem and address the problem for the future. We're going down exactly the wrong road by --

CABRERA: Now, we do have that criminal investigation -- but we also have those four congressional committees that are also investigating. And those are bipartisan committees as well.

DERSHOWITZ: No, they're not bipartisan. They have the majority Republican. They're not bipartisan. The Democrats don't have subpoena power. There has to be a nonpartisan commission consisting of people who want to get to the bottom of this and are not trying to get partisan advantage either for the Democrats or Republicans.

And not trying to point the finger of blame, saying, "See, this is what Obama should have done. See, this is what Trump should have done." That's exactly the wrong approach to this problem. And we have to have an objective, nonpartisan information gathering approach so that we the American people can decide how to respond to this.

CABRERA: Alan, you don't have faith in Mueller to do that, to be nonpartisan?

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely not. It's not that I don't have faith in him to be nonpartisan. His job is simply to find crimes. And there probably aren't any crimes committed by Americans, even if there was -- even if there were Republicans who took advantage of what the Russians were doing, that's not a crime.

You're not going to get to the bottom of this by a criminal investigation. You only get to the bottom of this by of a broad based investigation. Remember, Mueller's jurisdiction is limited to finding violations of existing federal criminal statutes. And that doesn't give him a broad enough basis for getting to the bottom of what happened here.

[17:10:09] Second, well, he doesn't make things public. He either gets an indictment or doesn't get an indictment. We, the American people are not going to know what went on behind the closed doors of the grand jury.

CABRERA: So Steve, let me bring you back into the conversation and talk about what can be done in order to prevent the Russians from doing some kind of interference again. We heard from Jeh Johnson, the former Homeland Security secretary say this week, he believes that systems are so vulnerable, the Russians are not deterred.

Do you see a strategy behind President Trump's approach that appears to be opening relations with Russia versus punishing them?

HALL: I do not, but in fairness it's difficult and a lot of that -- I think certainly the modern era, the past presidents that we've had have all started their administrations thinking that they can work it all out with Russia just through their strength of personality.

Obama did the same thing. George Bush did the same thing. So this is not an uncommon thing to say, "OK. We're going to fix it with it Russia." And then really it becomes difficult when you say, "OK. How, what are we going to do, given the fact that we know that the Russians did indeed conduct an influence operation during our elections?"

I think what we really need to do is we need to take a very close look at our cyber capabilities both offensive and defensive and start developing them specifically more of the offensive things. It's extremely difficult to conduct good defensive operations when you're connected to a system, the internet primarily, designed for the free flow of information.

So, what you have to do is almost see this as a nuclear situation. You have to make it so unattractive for your enemy in this case Russia to conduct such an attack in future that they're not going to want to do it. The only way you can really do that is to be able to threaten significant cyber damage yourself. It's very tricky. It's a very slippery slope. Just Russian -- just like nuclear weapons are.

But that's what we have to take a look at. That's where our military might and planning and R&D I think needs to be focused in the coming months and years.

CABRERA: All right, Steve Hall, and Alan Dershowitz, thank you both.


CABRERA: Still to come, did President Trump last -- just lay out the groundwork for the Democrats' worst fear he may try to fire the man leading the Russia investigation?

Next what President Trump says bothers him about Robert Mueller. A hint, that's something to do with the last guy he fired, James Comey. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:16:37] CABRERA: President Trump is trying to cast out on special prosecutor Robert Mueller's objectivity. Mueller is in-charge of the Russian investigation that has now expanded to include Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey. And Trump says Mueller is "very, very good friends with Comey". And the president said that is very bothersome.

CNN's Randi Kaye looks into the relationship between the two former FBI directors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No question these two former FBI directors have a history. It dates back to 2004 when James Comey refused to authorize an NSA surveillance program called "Stellar Wind" under George W. Bush.

Comey learned members of the Bush administration were heading to then Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital room, to get him to reauthorize the spying program. Comey called Robert Mueller who was the FBI director at the time to alert him.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I told him what was happening and he said I'll meet you at the hospital right now. He's one of the finest people I've ever met.

KAYE: Comey was deputy attorney general at the time and was serving as the acting head of the justice department while Ashcroft was in the hospital. He was later named FBI director in 2013 by President Obama right after Mueller stepped down.


COMEY: So, help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. Director.

KAYE: For years, Comey and Mueller have spoken highly of each other.

COMEY: It's daunting to follow Bob Mueller, but it's also a gift even the way he's led his agency for 12 years and I promise to do my best to uphold his legacy.

ROBERT MUELLER, SIXTH DIRECTOR OF FBI: I have had the opportunity to work with Jim for a number of years in the Department of Justice. And I have found him to be a man of honesty, dedication and integrity.

KAYE: Still, after Breitbart quoted a former FBI assistant director saying "Comey and Mueller are the best of friends and have been for over two decades." Comey's attorney tried to set the record straight. He told Snopes, "Jim and Bob are friends in the sense that co-workers are friends. They don't really have a personal relationship."

The attorney said they have never been to each other's house and that the two men have only had lunch together once and dinner twice.

Another important note despite some claims the two men are very good friends, Comey had nothing to do with Mueller's appointment as special counsel. President Trump had already fired Comey by the time Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein brought Mueller in to lead the DOJ's Russia investigation.

Now, whether or not Mueller and Comey have much of a friendship, they do seem to share many of the same values and beliefs. Both were educated at Virginia Universities, Mueller at the University of Virginia and Comey at William and Mary. Both had also given up big jobs at private law firms and worked with Eric Holder during his time at the Justice Department under the Clinton administration. While the extent of their friendship remains unclear, they do both share a reputation for having a commitment to credibility, truthfulness and honesty.

MUELLER: Regardless of your chosen career, you are only as good as your word. You can be smart, aggressive, articulate and indeed persuasive. But if you're not honest, your reputation will suffer. And once lost, a good reputation can never be regained.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


CABRERA: An update now on Republican House with Steve Scalise who was shot in the hip last week during a GOP baseball team practice. He is out of intensive care, and the hospital statement says that the congressman is listed in fair condition. The hospital notes Scalise still faces an extended period of healing and rehabilitation.

[17:20:15] Meantime, another victim of that shooting Matt Mika is now in good condition and back at home. Mika's family says Mika is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing multiple surgeries for his injuries. So, good to see that big smile on his face.

Well, the end may be near for Obamacare. Its fate is in the hands of five senators -- GOP senators who currently say they're not willing to back the current legislation that's been presented. Can the majority leader get this bill to the President's desk? And if he does, what might that mean in the midterm elections? You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:25:01] CABRERA: Two votes, that's how narrow the margin of error is for Senate Republicans trying to pass the American Health Care Act.

They have waited seven years to try to finally make good on their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. And now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a significant problem -- the math problem.

Five Republican senators say they won't vote for the bill in its current form. Three more have concerns. And McConnell wants a vote on this bill in just five days before Congress leaves for the July 4th holiday.

Let's talk it over with Republican Strategists Alice Stewart, a Former Communications Director for Senator Ted Cruz's presidential bid and former chairman of The Washington, D.C. Democratic Party A. Scott Bolden. Thank you so much guys. So, Alice if this bill came --


CABRERA: -- to a vote tomorrow, it could fail. Can McConnell get it across the finish line, yes or no? ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGISTS: Well, if it came up for vote tomorrow, yes, it would fail. And I have confidence in McConnell that he can bring this across the finish line.

Ana, if you think back to when the House was working on their version of repeal and replace Obamacare, we have a two more scenario. The first original bill that was put out base opposition, the more conservative members of the House spoke up and say this doesn't go far enough. We need lower costs which we promised our constituents. That's exactly what's happening here.

Look, Senator Lee and as well as Ted Cruz, they say this doesn't go far enough. Ted Cruz wants to get the yes and he will. The only problem is we need to -- he needs to see a version that has lower premiums and greater flexibility at the state level. And if they can come to terms on that, I do see this passing.

CABRERA: But if it goes to -- further to the right, to meet those conservative demands, it then would alienate the other people who have concerns that are the more moderate GOP family. So how do you square that, Alice?

STEWART: That's part of the whack-a-mole game in politics. As you -- but you have to come to the middle. And both sides know they have -- there's negotiating. This is the art of the deal. It worked in the house and I see the original bill -- look, everyone realized there was going to have to be some conversation and some talk there.

I do see McConnell bringing people together and talking, letting conservative members have their say and get some of what they want. At the same time the more moderate. And those that aren't quite as hard core on some of these issues letting them get what they want. But everyone realize you can't sacrifice the perfect for the will of the good. And they campaigned and won on repealing and replacing Obamacare and they're going to work to do that.

CABRERA: Well they all had a unifying message that's for sure. But not everybody's going to get what they want. You just said, go get a little bit of what they want, they'll get a little bit of what they want. But both sides are saying, we've already given too much. So I'm not quite sure how that's going to happen. We'll wait and see because it's not our job to figure that out.

Scott, Senate Democrats seem to have no good options either right now. They can't stop this bill necessarily because they don't have enough votes to prevent it from passing. What would you tell them to do if you have one piece of advice for the caucus?

BOLDEN: Well, I would certainly tell them to continue to fight this. This is a bad bill. You know, the definition of a bad bill is when you have moderates and then you have conservatives on the Republican side, and they can't agree on a bill, because you can't get to the center because you've got a constituency out there that you made promises to, one, to repeal. But you've also made promises not to cut Medicaid. You made promises to lower costs, and you made promises to cover everyone. And it's just untenable within the Republican Party, that's why this is a challenge.

But the Democrats also, they say, "Listen, don't repeal Obamacare. We know it's not perfect. Let's repair it if you will. We'll work with you on repairing it." But I got tell you, the Republicans and the Senate and the house are just hell bent on repealing it. And it's untenable because you've got midterms in 2018. You're actually going to have to sell to your constituents in your home districts that you actually cut Medicaid and raised the cost on the elderly. And that it's not going to cover everyone.

Oh, but we got rid of the individual mandate. We did do that. We're going to see whether in the midterms that sells. The Democrats are hoping and betting on the fact that it won't sell, because they're going to be there to remind their constituents in heir home districts what the Republicans did if they pass this.

Remember, this got to go to conference even if they do pass it in the Senate.

CABRERA: Well, it's kind of interesting because when you look at the poll numbers and approval, Obamacare's approval ratings are going up while Republican GOP Health Care Bill ratings are going down. The house bill at least has been polled. What do you think that's all about, Alice?

STEWART: Well, you have to look at the big picture with regard to Obamacare and millions of Americans are suffering. When this was passed into law years ago, we were promised lower costs, we were promised greater choices and better access to health care and that hasn't happened. There's many count --

CABRERA: By why is the approval rating start going up then? I mean I know that there are people who have had bad luck on Obamacare, who are very, very desperate for a change. There is, you know, that's a fact. But more people say they would rather have Obamacare than they would have the Republican plan.

[17:30:05] STEWART: The bottom line is there are still millions of Americans who are suffering under the weight of Obamacare. And while the poll numbers may be going up, it's a snapshot in time, because people want change. That's why President Trump was elected. That's why we have Republicans in control in the House and Senate because people across this country wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare. There's an overwhelming mandate in Washington to repeal and replace this health care plan that doesn't work. And Republicans in Washington are going to do just that.

CABRERA: But, Scott, this week, Republicans won a race that the Democrats poured millions of dollars into. Karen handle defeated Jon Ossoff to win Georgia's sixth district. But the party had money. But did the Democratic Party have a unifying, cohesive message to get their base and Independents fired up?

BOLDEN: Well, every race is local. One message works in one state, another message works in another state. Did we have a unifying message? I don't think any party, Republican or Democrat, has a unifying message on strategy. Ossoff decided to take a moderate message, and Republicans who were in the heavily Republican district decided to go with the party as opposed to either voting against Trump or voting for Ossoff. So when you talk about a unifying message, it's hard in a deeply red state. All four of the races that the Democrats have lost they have shown they can be competitive when they weren't supposed to be. But they have to find that unifying message going forward.

I call these races practice runs. They wouldn't have changed the dynamic in the House and the Senate but it would have shown America that Trump's message and the Republican's message wasn't working. They got close, but no moral victories. Take what you can get from the losses and then figure out what that message is going to be. Find great candidates in 2018, because that's the real test. We have got to take the Democrats -- the Democrats have to take back one of the Houses. They better get to getting, as my grandmother said, because we have only six to nine months.

CABRERA: Real quick, Alice, Republicans are winning the seats but the results are closer than people would expect. Handel won by four points and Tom Price won by 23 points in the last election. That has to worry the GOP.

STEWART: And Johnny Isakson won in double digits and Newt Gingrich before that. That's my home district and I'm familiar with it. At the end of the day, a win is a win. And she won.

I will hand it to the Democrats. Ossoff did a great job. They had tremendous momentum. They had made great progress. But they didn't have the message that resonated with that district. Now, if they're able to take that momentum and the enthusiasm and turn that into votes, then more power to them. That's exactly what they need to do.

But in the end, with this district, they wanted someone who would stand up for limited government and fiscal responsibility and be a check and balance on Donald Trump, which is what handle campaigned on, and she'll do a fine job for people in that district. And I think another win for Republicans goes to show that the Trump message in repealing and replacing Obamacare is still front and center on voters' mind.

BOLDEN: Barely.

CABRERA: Alice Stewart and Scott Bolden, thank you both for being here.


CABRERA: Well, there are nine Supreme Court justices, but one of them is the swing vote on close cases more than any other. Up next, why the possible retirement of that one justice is the talk of the town in Washington.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:37:30] CABRERA: Other people in Washington don't have enough to worry about, rumors are swirling that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will soon announce his retirement. Kennedy's departure, if it's true, it has the potential to drastically change the court and help the conservatives put in place a right-leaning majority that could last decades.

Let's talk about this with Harvard law professor emeritus, Alan Dershowitz.

Professor, the last vacancy was caused by the death of Antonin Scalia last year. What could Justice Kennedy's departure mean for the court, if he leaves now, especially in the current political climate?

DERSHOWITZ: So it would mean the substitution of a more ideologically right-wing justice for a right-leaning centrist justice, who has strong views about the rights of gay people and health care and a range of other issues. So I think we see some change in some decisions. But I have to tell you, I think we way exaggerate the impact of the Supreme Court on the daily life of Americans. I have been watching the Supreme Court for more than 50 years. And I can only think of maybe a dozen or even fewer cases where the Supreme Court has really made a difference in the life of the average American. Obviously, the desegregation case would be one, the gay marriage case. An abortion case would be another. But you really you can count on one or two hands. Take, for example, the issue of money in politics. Money in politics, apparently, doesn't have as big of an impact as we thought it did. Donald Trump spent far less money and won the election. On gun control, you know, the states were not going to pass gun control anyway. Even abortion and gay rights, they were going -- it would happen more slowly and not in every state. But I think the impact of the Supreme Court on the daily life of Americans tends to be exaggerated by lawyers, law professors and even the media. We will survive the appointment of a conservative justice to replace the great Justice Kennedy who will go down in history as --


CABRERA: But Justice Kennedy, I think it's important just -- I didn't mean to interrupt you. But the bottom line is he has been a swing vote in a lot of the cases that you just ticked through, on the abortion issues, on the gay marriage issues, same-sex issues, on the affirmative action case that liberals had cheered where he came down. And on other cases like gun rights, you mentioned, and the election money, conservatives cheered where he came down. So he, in particular, seems to -- you know, I don't know if you say play both sides or be very much in the middle. So his replacement could make a big difference, right?

[17:40:18] DERSHOWITZ: Oh, no, I don't think so. I don't think we'll see a reversal on the gay marriage issue. I think that's here to stay. I don't think we'll see a reversal on Roe vs. Wade. I think we'll see some cutting back at the periphery. But these rights, once they're established by a majority, tend to stay in effect. We may see some change in affirmative action, but that may have happened anyway. I think that there are a great many people who think that maybe race- specific affirmative action has run its course. And we may see some pulling back no matter who the justice was, even with Justice Kennedy.

So I think we should understand that this is an important -- a significant change and it may impact some of the 5-4 decisions. But let's remember that most of the decisions are not 5-4. Many of them were 7-2, 6-3.

And also, the list of justices that President Trump promised he would pick from, the Federalist Society, many of them are judges who believe in precedent and who would not want to immediately overrule prior decisions of the Supreme Court. So it's an important event, if it occurs, but not a cataclysmic event.

Look, it takes on more importance when you have a president and both Houses of Congress in the same party that requires checks and balances by the United States Supreme Court. And we may see a little bit less of that. But the sky is not falling. The rule of law will prevail. And we will survive whoever is appointed to replace a Justice Kennedy.

CABRERA: And we're talking about it this weekend because there's a meeting of the past clerks from the Supreme Court that are coming to Washington, and so that's where the rumors start to bubble up. Is there going to be a big announcement? Would you see be surprised to see Kennedy retire right now?

DERSHOWITZ: I would. I think that he very much, I think, wanted to serve for a year on the court with his former law clerk. It's really a thrill to serve with your former law clerk, Neil Gorsuch. And he's served now for a few months. But my own suspicion is he'd like to serve out the one additional year. But I think he'll retire before the end of the first Trump term. We can assume, whether it's now or next year, we can assume that President Trump will get at least one appointment. And then, of course, nature takes its course. We have so many justices now who are at an age when, even if they choose not to retire, nature may take its course, and we may see more than one appointment during the first term. And if there is a second term, obviously, the entire court will change quite dramatically.

CABRERA: It's not a matter of if, but when this is going to happen.

Alan Dershowitz, thank you very much.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

CABRERA: Justice in a rape case. A former Vanderbilt University football player facing at least 15 years in prison after being convicted of raping an unconscious woman inside a teammate's dorm room. 23-year-old Brandon Banks was found guilty on Friday. Two of his ex-teammates have been convicted in the case. A fourth player, who testified against the other three, has yet to stand trial. Players used cell phones to record their crimes and videos of the 2013 incident that were shown in court.

Sean Spicer is no stranger to standing in front of the cameras, but the White House wanted the cameras turned off this week. What is the press secretary worried about? We'll talk about it.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:48:22] CABRERA: Most days, the White House press secretary walks to the podium, stands in front of the reporters and explains what's the president is doing and thinking. But these are very different times. Here's what we can show you from yesterday's press briefing. Sketches. No video. Because the White House wouldn't let us. It doesn't want you to see its spokesman answering reporters' questions. It's an apparent escalation of the uneasy relationship between the White House and the media.

We'll talk about it with CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

Brian, why is the White House doing this?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: They want to focus on the president's agenda and not on the controversies and scandals that surround his White House. The banner on the bottom of the screen says, "White House in crisis." They very much are. But when you think of the Russia investigations, the Trump aides like Jared Kushner, who have been under scrutiny, be they want us to pay attention on the V.A. signings and focus on that and not the other stories.

CABRERA: Can they do that on camera, talk about the issues they want to talk about?

STELTER: I agree with you. I think they're making a mistake by requiring these events to be off camera. So I think in the minds of Sean Spicer and his aides if you have President Trump in the -- and the only person speaking on camera during the day it puts the focus on his agenda, on his accomplishments. This is a very interesting and tense situation.

CABRERA: Do you think they the questions or the coverage will be different?

STELTER: My sense is they're thinking of CNN and the cable news channels, no so much "The Daily Show" that use the sound clips that hold the White House accountable. It's harder to play a clip from a year ago of Sean Spicer making a promise or making a statement and then play it and show you they didn't follow through if we didn't have it on camera, if we don't have the audio. What they're trying to do is shirk that kind of accountability function, making it harder for us to go back and remind people about where the White House has stood on various issues.

[17:50:23] CABRERA: I want to read a tweet from Jim Acosta, who covers the White House press briefing. He writes, "Call me old fashioned, but I think the White House of the United States of America should have the backbone to answer questions on camera."

What's your sense about how much the public cares about seeing these briefings? STELTER: Some said it's whining by the media, but it's not about the

press. It's about the public. If you're a fan of President Trump and you don't care if there's ratings on camera, you care when there's a Democrat in office, and vice versa. If it's a Democrat in the future, but whether Republican or Democrat in the White House, there's a push and pull. Clinton, Obama, Bush, all past presidents in the age of technology news, have tried to control the message. Not to this degree. This is a much more dramatic escalation of this attempt to roll back access.

CABRERA: What's the deal with the inconsistency, though, not saying we're only doing it this way, on and off camera sometimes, use the audio, then you can't.

STELTER: A lot of confusion, especially this month. These this happened in June with more off camera, shows frustration and security at the White House. A day they are confident, they are on camera, guessing here, but I wonder if it has anything to do with that. This is not just briefings, but transportation broadly. Today President Trump was at the golf course, and he was probably golfing, we don't know. We've not seen who's influencing him with the health care bill, you know, people who are golfing, and might talk about policy, and it's not telling us anything about those weekend excursions. The president said he's always working. We don't see it. We don't know. That's the example of the lack of transparency. Beyond just the daily briefings, that, I think, is detrimental to the public.

CABRERA: All right, Brian Stelter, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

CABRERA: As always, don't miss Brian on "Reliable Sources" at 11:00 a.m. eastern tomorrow morning here on CNN.

Up next here in the NEWSROOM, President Trump says no tape, Twitter says, no kidding. Jeanne Moos has reaction to the tale of no tapes.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

But first, finding a job is a problem for a lot of Americans. For those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it's a crisis. Amy Wright, the mother of two children with Down's syndrome, set out to change that, and that's why she's this week's "CNN Hero."


AMY WRIGHT, CNN HERO: People with disabilities are the largest minority in the world. And yet, they're an invisibility minority because most of them are so used to being in the shadows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your first today.

WRIGHT: Our 40 employees. they're proud to be employed and they will shout it from the rooftops. It's given them a sense of being valued and respected in ways that we take for granted.


CABRERA: Go to, and while you're there, nominate someone who is changing the world to be a 2017 "CNN Hero."


[17:58:00] CABRERA: For weeks, Washington wondered, did President Trump tape his conversations with the Director James Comey? This week, the president revealed the answer, where else, but on Twitter.

Here's our Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN ANTIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tapes? What tapes? As President Trump shrugs this one off, Twitter reaction ranged from a laid back, "Oh," to, "Are you kidding? You literally threatened Comey with tapes and now you say you don't have them?"

"The man's mind games are exhausting," tweeted someone else.

Sorry Mr. Comey.

COMEY: Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

MOOS: The actual Trump tapes, according to this tweet, "are duct, scotch and masking, all misspelled."

The president's supporters fired back.

"Trump did what was necessary to make Lyin' Jim Comey speak the truth."

Tweeted another defender, "Lordy, POTUS just bluffed one of the most powerful men in the world, and it paid off. Imagine playing poker against Trump."

Actually, he revealed his hand early.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are there tapes, sir?

TRUMP: Oh, you're going to be disappointed when you hear the answer. Don't worry.

MOOS: Maybe disappointed isn't the right word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, this is nutty.

MOOS: You've got to keep your eyes on the magician's hands at all times.

"I never believed there were tapes but now Trump says there weren't any, I'm not so sure."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is a national version of Candy Crush, wasting our time whether we like it or not. MOOS: Some Trump critics took the president admitting the obvious in


"It's OK. He'll take care of it."

Referring to special counsel, Robert Mueller.

After the president tweeted, "I did not make and do not have any such recordings," one critic used a previous Trump tweet to reply, "What a load of covfefe."

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CABRERA: I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being with me. I'll see you back here in one hour from now, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

"SMERCONISH" is next.