Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With California Congressman Eric Swalwell; Health Care Bill Estimate; Supreme Court Allows Part of Trump Travel Ban. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2017 - 16:00   ET




President Trump's travel ban is taking a trip all the way to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the nine justices allow part of it to take effect right away, as the White House claims victory. But is it really a clear-cut win?

Bracing for the numbers. Any minute now, we could find out how many Americans could lose health insurance under the Senate health care bill. And what will it mean for Republicans trying to pass it this week?

Plus, President Trump using Twitter the point the Twitter at his predecessor, claiming, without evidence, that it was former President Obama who colluded or obstructed on Russia. So how is Obama responding?

Good afternoon, and welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Jake Tapper.

And we begin this afternoon with the politics lead and two major stories we are following.

Any minute now, the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release the numbers, its analysis of this GOP Senate health care bill. We will bring you that the very moment it happens.

But, first, the Supreme Court ruled today that it will allow parts of President Trump's travel ban aimed at six Muslim-majority nations to take immediate effect, this as the justices also announced they will take up the full case this fall, setting up a major constitutional showdown over presidential authority.

The president quickly declared the decision a "clear victory" for U.S. national security.

CNN's Jessica Schneider now on what the ruling means and what happens next.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the unsigned opinion, the court sided with the government in part, temporarily barring entry for foreign nationals who are unable to make a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's clear from today's decision that most of the justices think that the lower court decisions went a bit too far and that at least parts of the travel ban should be allowed to go into effect.

SCHNEIDER: But for those with family, business or educational ties to the U.S., the executive order will remain on hold. As long as those seeking a visa can prove a close familial relationship or a connection to a business or educational entity that is formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, they may be considered for entry, people like students who have been accepted to universities or a worker with an offer at an American company.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The court seems to thread a needle actually quite elegantly where they have dealt with the people who have the biggest hardships, the saddest stories, the people who have close relatives.

SCHNEIDER: Three conservative members on the court dissented in part, saying the decision didn't go far enough and should have allowed the full travel ban to go into effect. Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the peaceable approach may be unworkable, writing: "Today's compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding on peril of contempt whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country."

Justice Neil Gorsuch joined in that dissent as he starts to show his leanings as the newest member of the course. Gorsuch has already joined several times with Justice Thomas, the court's most conservative member, and agreed the full travel ban should go into effect.

VLADECK: That's a pretty strong vote and it's a pretty strong show of support for the president by really his most important nominee to date.

SCHNEIDER: But this decision is only temporary. The court has not yet determined whether or not the ban is constitutional or whether it violates immigration law. The full court said today it will hear those critical arguments in the fall. Lawyers for those who challenge the ban are focused on the bigger fight ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will counting on the Supreme Court to affirm what the American people have made so clear, that there's no place in this country for any policy that attempts to discriminate or divide us based on how we pray, what we look like or where we come from.

SCHNEIDER: But for now, the Department of Homeland Security has declared it a win for the administration, saying the Supreme Court's decision restores to the executive branch crucial and long-held constitutional authority to defend our national borders. It was chaos at the nation's airports when the first travel took

effect in January. Now the administration has 72 hours to issue directives to begin implementation of the portions of the travel ban that are allowed to proceed and clarify how travelers can go about proving that they have a bona fide connection to people and entities in this country.


SCHNEIDER: And one thing missing from this opinion, the Supreme Court did not weigh in on the president's own words. The lower courts focused extensively on President Trump's tweets, as well as his statements about this travel ban.

We will see if the Supreme Court weighs those when they hear the full arguments in the fall -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Potentially momentous decision, no question. Jessica Schneider at the Supreme Court, thanks very much.

While the president is claiming victory on the travel ban, he's also pushing to pick up a win on health care, as well as reserving some time for a Twitter tirade against former President Obama.

CNN's Sara Murray has the story from the White House.


QUESTION: How do you feel about the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. President?



MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is cheering the Supreme Court's decision to temporarily reinstate part of his travel ban, calling it a clear victory for our national security.

The nine justices unanimously agreed to review lower court rulings that said the ban likely violates the Constitution by blocking refugees and nationals from six majority-Muslim countries. In a formal statement, President Trump said: "Today's ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our nation's homeland."

And he dispatched his press secretary to handle questions off-camera.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I think it's a positive step forward, as I mentioned at the outset. The Department of Justice in particular is reviewing this in terms of both its implementation and its impact, so I don't want to get too far ahead of all these brilliant legal minds.

MURRAY: After months of questioning Russian interference in the U.S. election, Trump is now appearing to admit Russia may have played a role in election meddling last year, but he's blaming former President Barack Obama for not taking more action to deter it.

TRUMP: If he had the information, why didn't he do something about it?

MURRAY: Today, Trump tweeting: "The reason President Obama did nothing about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win and did not want to rock the boat. He did not choke. He colluded or obstructed and it did the Dems and crooked Hillary no good."

And Sean Spicer piled on.

SPICER: They have been very clear. They have been playing this card about blaming Trump and Russia. And yet at the same time, they were the ones who, according to this report, knew about it and didn't take any action.

MURRAY: A former Obama White House official said the previous administration issued a robust response, including shutting down two Russian compounds, and added, "The administration's attacks on President Obama's response to Russia cyber-meddling is a transparent effort to distract from the terrible impact of their ACA repeal."

Back on his domestic agenda, Trump is admitting that reaching consensus on the health care bill is sure to be a challenge as the Senate struggles to tally the votes to repeal and replace Obamacare.

TRUMP: Health care is a very, very tough thing to get, but I think we're going to get it. We don't have too much of a choice, because the alternative is the dead carcass of Obamacare.

MURRAY: Trump even admitting he described the GOP health care bill that passed the House as mean, saying he hopes to see a more generous version pass the Senate.

TRUMP: Mean, that was my term, because I want to see -- I want to see -- and I speak from the heart. That's what I want to see.

I want to see a bill with heart. Health care is a very complicated subject, from the standpoint that you move it this way, and this group doesn't like it. You move it a little bit over here -- you have a very narrow path.

And, honestly, nobody can be totally happy.


MURRAY: Now, the White House knows that getting this health care bill done is a heavy lift, and officials say the president is going to be working the phones mainly to keep conservatives on board.

But just to give you a sense of the presidential juggle that has to occur, he's not just focused on domestic policy today. President Trump has also welcomed the Indian prime minister here. They had a meeting and they're expected shortly together in the Rose Garden -- back to you, Jim. SCIUTTO: Well, that one was on camera, not the press briefing.

Sara Murray, thanks very much.

Does the part of the travel ban that is staying in effect actually improve national security? We're going to ask Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's on the House Intelligence Committee. That's next.



SCIUTTO: We are back now with our politics lead.

The Supreme Court ruled today that portions of President Trump's travel ban will stay in place, that is, until the court takes up the case in full in the fall.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

He serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Thank you, Congressman, for joining us today.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: My pleasure, Jim. Thanks for having me back.

SCIUTTO: Congressman, as you know, the ruling states that the ban will take effect when it comes to -- quote -- I want to quote from the ruling here -- "for nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

In your view, does this ruling make clear exactly who qualifies and who doesn't?


I disagree, respectfully, with the ruling. I still believe it is a Muslim ban. And I look forward to it getting a full hearing in front of the full court in the fall, and hopefully resolution very soon.

SCIUTTO: Were you surprised that none of the court's, if we could describe it that way, more liberal justices did not make their dissent clear in this decision, in effect, let part of it take effect now before ruling on it in the fall?

SWALWELL: Well, Jim, this was not a full hearing, and it was really just to see if the stay should remain in place.

And so I do hope that that is considered, especially the president's own words, which, by his words, it's a Muslim ban, by his owns, it's a travel ban.

I also just want to say it makes us less safe and it makes it less us, less safe, because countries who we need cooperation from to fight terrorism are going to be affected. It perpetuates the myth that the United States is not welcoming to Muslims.

And less us, just because we're a country that opens arms to refugees. And we're turning away from that if we continue to allow a policy like this to go forward.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned refugees specifically.

But make the case to the American people. Why should people who have no tie here, whether it be, for instance, an example given is a student visa to go to university or a family member here, if they don't have such a tie, why the expectation that they should be allowed into the country?

SWALWELL: Yes, Jim, first, any person who comes here should go through full security vetting.

And there is no evidence that that is not happening right now. And if there's places we could toughen it, that's great. But every country in the world has a responsibility, when your neighbor or other countries in the world have violence or an environment where people are not safe to open arms, and welcome them.

We've done that before with Vietnamese refugees and countries have done that around the world. It just makes you a good neighbor. And, certainly, we don't want anyone who has -- if you can't find out a full security background on this person, then I don't think they should be able to come here.

But I think it sends a bad message to countries that have taken on refugees that we want you to cooperate with us, but we're not going to be a team player when people are fleeing violence or just trying to, you know, bring their families here for safety.

SCIUTTO: You're a former prosecutor. Are you surprised that the president's public statements, prior public statements were not, it appears, factored in to the decision here?

SWALWELL: I hope they're factored in when the full decision is considered, because when you look too intent, there is no better way to decipher it than somebody's own words, and we know the president and Rudy Giuliani and others have, you know, said that this is a Muslim ban.

And what concerns me is a blanket ban will really just peddle this belief that Muslims are violent people by nature. It draws no distinguish between the 99 percent of Muslims who are peaceful and 1 percent just as you have in every religion who would carry out violence. And that is actually something that makes us less safe.

SCIUTTO: Congressman, don't go anywhere. You're a lawmaker, of course, who's investigating Russian interference in the election. Did the Obama administration wait too long to respond? We're going to get to that when we come back.


[16:20:40] SCIUTTO: We are back with our politics lead.

In a morning tweet storm, President Trump claimed that the Obama administration failed to respond to Russian meddling months before the November election because they expected Hillary Clinton to win. Trump also accused the former president of obstruction and/or collusion again in that tweet.

Back with me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell.

Congressman, you look at that and could you say President Trump has a point there? We heard Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, criticize Obama administration over the weekend as well.

SWALWELL: Jim, I don't really follow the logic of the Russia report which I don't accept involves President Obama not doing enough, which I believe, but the rest of the report, you know, is something that I discard or try to throw out anytime I'm confronted with it. I mean, it just doesn't really make much sense.

At least President Obama tried to do something, and we have a president right now who is either being deceitful or in denial about what Russia did.

SCIUTTO: One key question, of course, as you know, that Trump mentioned it in his tweet. He mentions it all the time, the question of collusion. The White House certainly believes there is no evidence of collusion. But we've also heard that from some senior Democrats, Dianne Feinstein as well.

You're on the Intelligence Committee. Let me ask you straight up, have you seen any evidence of potential collusion or evidence that merits further investigation of potential collusion between Trump advisers and Russia during the campaign?

SWALWELL: There is certainly evidence that merits further investigation. Jim, I just want to say, you know, evidence is not conclusion. Evidence is a collection of facts, accounts, documents, stories that have to be tested, bended and probed, and then you make an evaluation.

You know, the FBI announced they have an investigation under way, too, and they don't just wake up and launch investigations without some evidence. And so, it has to be explored, and certainly there is enough evidence at this point to continue exploring it. And hopefully, we can draw a conclusion very, very soon.

SCIUTTO: I want to talk now about future elections. Homeland Security officials testified that election systems in 21 states were targeted by Russian hackers. That's information that Russian hackers maintain. We have elections coming up, of course, in 2018 and 2020.

Speaking to Americans now, should they be concerned that Russia or perhaps other countries might go further next time and actually tried to affect vote tallies in those elections? SWALWELL: Yes, Jim, and this is what worries me most, and it's where I actually see the biggest opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to unite. Donald Trump is the president. He was elected in this past election. But what we can do going forward is make sure that whether it's the Russians or other countries who have similar capabilities, or just your cyber criminals, that we do everything we can to make sure they don't have an opportunity in 2018 or 2020 to do this again. And right now, we are failing at that because we are divided and we're not able to make progress in the House. And I think the only way to do that is to have an independent commission, as we did after 9/11, to put experts together and come up with reforms that could protect us from ever being in a mess like this again.

SCIUTTO: What change would you like to see made, beyond the commission, whether it's legislation or increased security, so that Americans could feel confident the next time they go to the polls, those results are actually reflective, that Russians or others would not be able to affect vote tallies?

SWALWELL: Two big changes. First, I think it would be federalizing our elections, and giving states and counties the resources of a federal government so that they can conduct stress tests on their polling places and other polling software and to make sure that when people go to the polls, they are not worried about vote tallies being change because there's no way it can happen. The second one is more -- is more difficult. But having a general awareness about other countries using propaganda and their intelligence services to try and influence outcomes I think would serve as all better as we evaluate news and sources and why people would necessarily be putting that kind of information forward so close to an election.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Swalwell, thanks very much for taking the time.

SWALWELL: My pleasure, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And coming up, any moment now, we're going to get the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the Senate health care bill. We're going to bring you those numbers the very moment we get them.


[16:29:01] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SCIUTTO: Breaking news, just in to CNN, the Congressional Budget Office has just released its score of the Senate GOP health care bill. The headlines, listen to this, 22 million more Americans would not be insured under this bill by the year 2026. The CBO also estimates this version will also reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion by the same year 2026.

I want to go right to CNN's Phil Mattingly. He's on Capitol Hill reading the report, as we are.

What more are you learning, Phil, as you look at this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a couple of interesting things to dig out here. Obviously, the top line coverage number is something that everybody pays close attention to and notably, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, Senator Susan Collins both said those were -- that's a key number they want to keep an eye on.

But you've got to dig a little bit deeper, too. And one of the key things here is deficit reduction. According to CBO, $321 billion over the course of ten years. The Senate mandatorily, Jim, has to save $133 billion. So, what does that mean? That means they've got $160 billion, $170 billion to work with there in terms of using money, using financing, possibly, for Medicaid, possibly for other issues to try and get senators back into the fold, some worried senators.