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Cardinal Law Dies; Judicial Nominees Withdraw; Trump Considered Rescinding Nomination; Packers Shut Down Rodgers; Quessenberry to Play; Palin's Son Charged. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:30:02] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We do have some breaking news. Cardinal Bernard Law, who became a symbol of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal, has died. The Vatican confirming the 86-year- old's death in Rome. He was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after "The Boston Globe" reveal Law protected abusive priests for years.

CNN's Delia Gallagher is live in Rome with more.

This is the end of a very tainted chapter, Delia, at least for Boston.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. The Vatican confirming in a very short statement that the cardinal died in the early hours of this morning, Rome time, after a long illness, they say. No other details of his death were given.

As you mentioned, he has been in Rome since 2004. Because after he resigned in 2002, in a state of disgrace, the Vatican didn't quite know what to do with him because he resigned as archbishop of Boston, but he was still a cardinal. There were no criminal charges ever brought against him. And so John Paul II brought him over here and gave him a position at one of the main basilicas here, which many in the United States viewed as a kind of honorary position, but which for the Vatican was meant to keep him away from the limelight, although he did continue to serve on some Vatican committees and indeed elected -- participated in the concave in 2005 that elected Benedict XVI.

But after 2011, when he turned 80 years old, he resigned from all of those positions and did led a relatively quiet life in the Vatican. But, of course, he will be remembered most for his pivotal role in the scandal which rocked Boston, the Catholic Church and indeed the rest of the world for the cover-up, for the fact that he knew about some pedophile priests and failed to act. So he became the lightning rod for outrage about what they call accountability, a question for bishops that is still continuing today in the Catholic Church.


BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Delia, thank you.

Well, coming up, three of President Trump's judicial nominees have withdrawn from consideration in recent days, raising questions about the vetting process. But what about all the ones getting in? How is the president and his team picking their choices? Some surprising revelations coming up.


[06:36:26] WEIR: How Donald Trump packs America's courts will create a legacy that outlives him by a generation at least. Three of President Trump's judicial nominees have been forced to withdraw their names from consideration in just less than two weeks. And a new "Washington Post" report highlights how the president is rushing to fill court positions, therefore altering the judiciary. He's reportedly told advisers he has three main criteria for nominees. They must be young, under 50, conservative, very, and strict constitutionalists.

Let's bring in Joan Biskupic, she is CNN's Supreme Court analyst, to discuss, joining us from Washington.

Good morning, Joan.


WEIR: I want to talk about the ones that are getting in, but the headlines this week were dominated by those who didn't. And let's show this clip. This is a guy named Matthew Petersen being grilled on Capitol Hill by the Republican congressman from Louisiana, just trying to suss (ph) out his legal acumen. Take a look if you haven't seen this.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Have you ever tried a jury trial?




KENNEDY: Criminal?




KENNEDY: State or federal court?

PETERSEN: I have not.

KENNEDY: Do you know what a motion in limine is?

PETERSEN: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition.

KENNEDY: Do you know what the Younger Abstention Doctrine is?

PETERSEN: I -- I have heard of it but I, again, that --

KENNEDY: How about the Pullman Abstention Doctrine?

PETERSEN: I -- I heard --

KENNEDY: You're going to see -- you'll all see that a lot in federal court.


WEIR: Joan, that was effectively the end of his nomination?


WEIR: Yes.

BISKUPIC: It was. It was painful. It's pain -- I've seen it a million times, Bill, but every time I see it, I feel the same pain watching that.

WEIR: So the question to you is, how did he get in this seat?


WEIR: Who is this guy and what is his connection to the White House?

BISKUPIC: OK. Well, here's what you should know. First of all, he was up for a district court seat, which is our -- the bottom level of a three-tiered judiciary. And usually those nominees don't get a lot of scrutiny by the Senate. But I think Senator Kennedy there noticed that it's time to start giving some of these individuals scrutiny.

This man, Matthew Petersen, is a former colleague of Don McGahn, who's the White House counsel, and is the inside judge picker for President Trump. So he was chosen in part because of his relationship with, you know, Don McGahn. He's on the Federal Election Commission. He obviously has no trial experience. He really should have never been nominated. That was -- they really set him up. And he might have slipped through, Bill, because, as I say, that usually these district court nominees don't get much attention.

WEIR: Right.

BISKUPIC: But we're now seeing why they should.

WEIR: Yes, and that is a lifetime appointment it's worth pointing out.

The two others, Jeff Mateer, forced to withdrawal when it was discovered he said in 2015 that transgender children are part of, quote, Satan's plan.

BISKUPIC: Right. Yes.

WEIR: And Brett Talley, his nomination fell apart because he's reported to have posted the defense of the first KKK in an online comment and then his wife works for Don McGahn. So do you get the sense that it is McGahn sort of interfacing with

very conservative -- Heritage Foundation think tanks that are picking this list and Trump is sort of relegating that responsibility to him, or do you think the president knows judges around the country that he'd like to tap?

BISKUPIC: I don't think he knows many judges, but I -- a couple things here. I think he has definite views about who he wants on the courts. And he has delegated it to Don McGahn, which it's traditional that the White House counsel would have responsibility. They've also -- they're also heavily relying on the federal society for names and help. But that's mostly come in, Bill, at the appeals court level and the Supreme Court level, the judges who are actually setting the law of the land.

[06:40:12] For these ones who have been outed, so to speak, in terms of their views and their problems -- the problems they could probably create if they had gotten through, that's been a little bit of cronyism, I believe, because of their connections to Don McGahn and to others. And I bet Donald Trump really knew nothing about these individuals.

Now, the ones that are getting through at record numbers --

WEIR: Nineteen have been confirmed of the 59. Yes.

BISKUPIC: Right. But then also, Bill, here's another statistic for you to know. Twelve have already been appointed to the appeals courts. And those are a very powerful set of judges there.

Donald Trump has managed to get on a dozen individuals, which is an all-time record throughout American history of getting so many judges in place on the appeals courts because -- and what's important here, to let viewers now, is that most of the law is actually set at the appellate court level --

WEIR: Right.

BISKUPIC: Because the Supreme Court itself only takes, you know, like 1 percent of the -- less than 1 percent of the appeals that come its way.

WEIR: Right. People, when they go to the polls, how will the president really affect my daily life? This is -- this is a big way.

Let's pivot to Neil Gorsuch, Supreme Court justice.


WEIR: Another "Washington Post" report. They have 11 people saying that the president actually talked about rescinding his nomination because he didn't think he was sufficiently loyal and he was critical of the president's being critical of the judiciary. Does this ring true?

BISKUPIC: Oh, it so rings true. Let's all remember what was going on last February when this conversation first took place. President Trump was very critical of federal judges who were ruling on his travel ban. He was very dismissive of them. And as Neil Gorsuch, who had just been nominated to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, as he was going around in his courtesy visits to senators, senators were naturally asking him about President Trump's criticism of the judiciary. And he apparently said to Senator Blumenthal, it's very demoralizing.

Now, remember how President Trump reacted just to the report from Senator Blumenthal. He immediately attacked the senator --

WEIR: Right.

BISKUPIC: And complained saying, you didn't have it right. And, you know, then it emerged through Neil Gorsuch's testimony in March that he indeed felt that it was dishearten to hear President Trump's comments.

So it rings very true. We know how much loyalty means to him in many other facets of his appointments and his administration. But the thing is understand is that the judiciary is different. These individuals are supposed to be independent of a president, even though we know politics comes into it. So it's a very sharp signal to his current nominees, future appointees, that he's watching their remarks, he's watching their rulings, and he might have his own litmus test.

You mentioned three criteria at the start of this report, Bill, you know, in terms of age and their conservatism. We might add a fourth factor, and that might be fidelity to the president.

WEIR: Joan Biskupic, thank you for your insight. We appreciate it.

BISKUPIC: Thank you, Bill.

WEIR: Have a great day.

CAMEROTA: OK, Bill, there's a feel-good story developing in the NFL. The Houston Texans adding a cancer survivor to their 53-man roster. Andy Scholes has all the details in this morning's "Bleacher Report," next.


[06:47:44] CAMEROTA: Well, with nothing left to play for, the Packers decide it is not worth risking Aaron Rodgers's health for the next season.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Tell us everything, Andy.


You know, Aaron Rodgers' comeback from his broken collarbone was short-lived as the Packers decide to shut it down the final two games of the season.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

So Rodgers played in the loss to the Panthers after missing seven games with that broken collarbone. He took some big hits in that game. So fans probably not having a big problem with not risking his health. But the Packers eliminated from playoff contention.

And while Rodgers is sitting out, one Texans player is suiting up for what will be a special day. Texans Offensive Linemen David Quessenberry will play in his first NFL game after a successful bout with cancer.






SCHOLES: So that was Quessenberry back in April after receiving his last chemo treatment in Houston. He was so excited that he broke the bell off the wall. Quessenberry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma three years ago. And I'll tell you what, Bill, pretty cool that he's going to get to suit up for his first NFL regular season game on Christmas Day against the Steelers.

WEIR: What a gift. What a gift. That's fantastic. Although I'm still depressed, Andy. You know, I'm an owner of the Packers. I have one share.

SCHOLES: You've got some stock?

WEIR: Yes.

And people in Wisconsin know that when you realize the Packers are out of contention, that is when winter of the soul begins.

SCHOLES: Rough year. Hey, what are you going to do?

WEIR: Yes. Good to see you, Andy.

CAMEROTA: And he's depressed, but we're going to try to work through the show and work it out.

WEIR: Somehow press through.

SCHOLES: Have a good one, guys.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Andy.

WEIR: Coming up -- thanks, Andy.

The Palin family back in the spotlight after the arrest of Sarah Palin's eldest son for allegedly attacking his father. We'll have insight from a Palin biographer, next.


[06:53:57] CAMEROTA: Sarah Palin's oldest child, Track Palin, has been arrested, accused of beating up his father. According to court records, the former vice presidential candidate tells police that her son was, quote, freaking out, and was on some type of medication.

Joining us now for insight into the family and what's happening is co- author of "Sarah From Alaska," Shushannah Walshe.

Shushannah, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So you covered Sarah Palin when she was running for vice president. You were on the plane with her all the time. You then went to Wasilla, Alaska, to work on the book.

So, at the time, I mean, obviously this was years ago, but you knew the family. I mean what was her family like then?

WALSHE: No, I think that they seem like a close family. But it clear that the struggles that they're going through are some of the same struggles that a lot of military families are going through also this country.

CAMEROTA: Meaning that you think that what we saw with Track, the attempted burglary, the assault charges, that that's PTSD.

WALSHE: It seems like it. Of course, she did talk about it in 2016 when she was endorsing Donald Trump. She did say that her son suffers from PTSD. So it seems like that's what they're going through.

[06:55:02] CAMEROTA: Let's remind people of that moment of what Sarah Palin said about what Track was going through a year ago. Listen to this.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our wounded warriors, sometimes in body and in mind, coming back different than when they left for the war zone. I can talk personally about this. I guess it's kind of the elephant in the room because my own family going through what we're going through today with my son, a combat vet, having served in the Stryker Brigade fighting for all, America, in the war zone.


CAMEROTA: That is sad. I mean it's sad. When you were covering her, Track was in Iraq.

WALSHE: Right. Well, during most of that campaign he was in Iraq.

CAMEROTA: But, listen, when I read the details of this police report that I combed through, let me just tell everybody about it. There was a threatening phone call that came from Track into the family, into Sarah and Todd. He wanted to borrow a truck.

Todd was so worried after this phone call that Track was coming over, he took his -- he grabbed a gun. He had a gun in his house to protect himself against his son.

Track then did show up at the house. He was pounding on the door. He broke in through a window.

Todd still had the gun. They wrestled around. Todd, the dad, ended up blooded, bleeding from the head. He and Sarah Palin then fled the house because Track was so out of control.

Well, first, Sarah Palin called the police. When police came, they saw Todd and Sarah leaving. And Sarah Palin said to police, he's freaking out.

WALSHE: Right.

CAMEROTA: My son is, quote, freaking out and I believe he's on medication of some kind. The police then tried to make contact with Track. Track went up onto a roof and was pacing around erratically on the roof of the home and called the police peasants, told them to drop their guns. They tried to communicate with him. He told them that he had consumed a couple of beers.

When I heard all of this, I didn't know the PTSD background, I thought drugs. I mean obviously this sounds like somebody in the grip of drugs. And, by the way, Alaska is struggling with the opioid crisis.

WALSHE: Right. Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: And she said, I believe he's on medication of some kind. Do you know anything about the family's history with alcohol or drug abuse?

WALSHE: Well, what we do know is that in 2014 they were involved in a drunken brawl in that party. So we don't know exactly his -- Track's background with drugs. We do know, of course, that, as you said, Alaska, but a lot of the country is dealing with this opioid crisis. A lot of veterans are struggling with that same opioid crisis.

So we don't know exactly what he may have been on. But it's a horrible story. And when you read the details, it's almost surprising that it didn't escalate into something even worse.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. It could have been so much worse.


CAMEROTA: I mean when I heard that Todd had his gun and he was trying to protect himself from his own son --

WALSHE: Right.

CAMEROTA: I mean it just -- you know, the high drama --

WALSHE: It's terrible.

CAMEROTA: It's terrible. It's heartbreaking.

So, you know, you make the point that America thinks they know this family, of course, because we saw them all, obviously when they were littler and younger.

WALSHE: Over the last decade we've seen the -- the American public has seen them grown up, not just of politics when they were thrust into the national spotlight, but also through the reality shows over the last 10 years.

CAMEROTA: And the reality show that they were in, did that capture their dysfunction, any dysfunction, or did it sort of gloss over any of that?

WALSHE: No, it was more -- you saw the average American family, but in rustic Alaska, doing Alaska activities every single week. And also, of course, not just that show, but also "Dancing with the Stars," her oldest daughter Bristol was on "Dancing with the Stars."

So the reality shows that we've been watching this family on painted them, you know, in a very positive light over the last 10 years.

CAMEROTA: Of course there's been drama with her daughter as well.

WALSHE: Definitely.

CAMEROTA: I mean we know that, you know, her love life was in the media. Her pregnancy.

WALSHE: A lot of scrutiny.

CAMEROTA: Right, there's been a lot of scrutiny. But this is just truly heartbreaking to watch. And do we know anything about Sarah Palin and Todd Palin's relationship with their kids? Are they still close? Were they still close to Track in the recent years?

WALSHE: Well, it seems like they have been very close. But Track's struggles have been really all over the news. His last incident, which is --

CAMEROTA: Well, there was domestic violence --

WALSHE: Right. Well, that was right before that sound bite we just heard, right when she was endorsing Donald Trump. That's the incident that she was talking about. So there was that incident last year with Track. There's this one and there's that 2014 one we just spoke about.

CAMEROTA: Well, Shushannah Walshe, thank you very much for all of the insight.

WALSHE: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Obviously, we'll follow what's happening with the Palin family.

We want to thank our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. And for our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: After eight straight years of underperformance, America is ready to take off.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: What a disgrace. That's what this bill is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we can get to vote twice for families and small businesses, glad to do it.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's not tax reform. It is a heist that steals from millions of middle class families and hands that money over to the wealthy.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On the personal side, the president will likely take a big hit. On the business side, he could benefit.

[07:00:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The conductor was in the actual passenger section at the time of the accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden it was just crash and there I was, down.