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U.S. Supreme Court Weighing Travel Ban; Interview with Rep. Mike Quigley; Federals Judge Rules DREAMers Stay, Government Must Accept New Applications Concerns over Trump's VA Secretary Pick; Comey Hires High-Profile Lawyer for DOJ Investigation; Macron Breaks from Trump on Issues While Addressing Congress; Kushner's Father Takes Blame for 666 5th Avenue Bad Deal. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 25, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[13:30:00] ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE (voice-over): -- given this context, in which this hypothetical president was making virulent anti-Semitic comments.

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JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So a very long line of questioning there from Justice Kagan.

What's interesting is the attorney for the challengers, he indicated that this case might have never even gotten to the Supreme Court if President Trump had disavowed his campaign statement, something he said the president they have did. Of course, the solicitor general shot back that the president has made crystal clear as recently as September that this wasn't a Muslim ban.

So, Wolf, now, of course, this is in the justice's hands. This travel ban, it continues to be in effect while they weigh these arguments. We're expecting a decision and opinion perhaps by the end of June here.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes. We've got some hints from these justices. But you can't tell how they're going to decide when all is said and done based on the questions.

SCHNEIDER: They sometimes ask questions of both sides.

BLITZER: Sometimes they play devil's advocate.

SCHNEIDER: You've got it.

BLITZER: Jessica, thank you very much for that.

Former justice and national security prosecutor, Joseph Marino, is joining us right now, and CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro is joining us.

Joseph, how will the president's comments during the campaign and tweets affect this case? We all remember what he used to say. JOSEPH MARINO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, that's the wild card here.

If this were a traditional case, most likely you would see the conservative justices give large deference to the president on national security grounds. But these texts, the tweets, the comments on the campaign trail are really a factor here. It's interesting to see if any of the conservative justices will be convinced that these comments the president made meant that the policy was implemented in bad faith. If that's the case, that could corrode support for it. So most likely we're not going to get a unanimous decision here. You're going to have partisan lines. If the liberal side can peel one conservative justice to their thinking, that could be a real debate to this policy.

BLITZER: There are five justices, Ana, two were appointed, named by Republican presidents, four named by Democratic presidents. How do you think the makeup of the court will impact the case? As you know, Justice Kennedy is very often that swing vote.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's funny because I think it goes back to what we saw in the campaign. I have so many Republican and conservative friends who didn't like Donald Trump but told me the only reason they were holding their nose and voting for him was because of the Supreme Court, because that was going to be decisions made there, that affected our lives for decades to come. We are seeing that now play out. Donald Trump has not had many legislative victories, but he did give Neil Gorsuch on the court, giving him the majority. What we are seeing the justices wrestle with, when to take this president literally and when to take him figuratively is something that in the media we wrestle with, it's something that Americans wrestle with. We don't know when it is a serious presidential statement or when it is the former host of "the apprentice" who can't keep his Twitter finger at bay, and who can't help but make some of these outrageous comments.

BLITZER: You know, Joseph, at one point, the chief justice, John Roberts, stressed the president's national security concerns in this area. But in a number of friend-of-the-court briefs, former national security experts argued that the travel ban not only violates American law, but also has harmed national security. Could that influence the court's final decision?

MARINO: Wolf, it could. The president has the right to make policy, even bad policy. Of course, others have the right to disagree with him. What the court will weigh in on whether the policy is effective or ineffective, and possibly even bring us a big step back, that's possible. But I think, to Ana's point, it's going to be, what was the intent behind the policy, and was this simply a subterfuge for enacting a ban on Muslims? President Trump made that comment a number of times. Even during the campaign, he made a comment, not just wanting to have a Muslim ban, but how he would tweak his rhetoric to make this sound more legal. So the justices, I think, very well can dig into that and say was the genesis of this rotten to the core? And if so, will they allow it to continue.

BLITZER: Ana, a separate issue, a federal judge ruled yesterday that protections for young immigrants known as DREAMers must stay in place and the government must resume accepting new applications at the same time. What is your reaction to this and how do you think Congress will go forward on this critically important issue?

NAVARRO: Look, I've given up on Congress. This is an issue which has over 85 percent approval rating amongst Americans. And yet this Congress cannot get anything done. I have now heard the two past Republican speakers, John Boehner and now Paul Ryan, make promises on the DREAM Act, say they would get it past. I heard Paul Ryan say that to a DREAMer on our network, that he promised to get this done, and nothing has been done. We are getting closer and closer to an election. Frankly, if you are a supporter of the DREAMers, as I am, thank god that there's an independent branch of government still in this country, which is the judicial. We've seen that Congress acts as a subservient branch to President Trump. And Republicans leadership, despite saying they want to see a solution for the DREAM Act, cannot get its act together. The White House has changed its position I don't know how many times in the last six, seven months. So what we see is a complete disaster on the political front. And it seems that it's the judiciary doing the right thing here. I'm grateful they get another reprieve. But I think it's dereliction of duty by Congress and the White House this continues to happen, and these kids continue to live in limbo.

[13:36:03] BLITZER: Ana Navarro, Joseph Marino, guys, thank you very much for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There is other news we're following, including the allegations of excessive drinking and mishandling prescription drugs swirling around the president's pick to lead the Veterans Affairs Administration. But the White House is standing by Dr. Ronny Jackson.

Plus, just days after the Justice Department announces an investigation into James Comey and his leaked memos, we're learning new details about his high-profile lawyer. Stand by for that.

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[13:40:53] BLITZER: Possible future member of the Trump cabinet, Dr. Ronny Jackson, is under fire. President Trump's pick for the Veterans Affairs secretary is facing serious questions about alleged personal and unprofessional behavior. The president has encouraged Jackson to fight for his confirmation.

Joining us from Capitol Hill is Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley. He's a Democrat. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, lots to get through but let me start with Dr. Jackson. He says he's not dropping out, even though the deck seems stacked against him by numbers from both sides of the aisle. What would your advice be, fight or drop out?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, (D), ILLINOIS: I think my advice would be to the president of the United States, why add to the problem? We've had 19 people leave the administration already. Mulvaney, Zinke, Pruitt, Mnuchin, others are under fire. You're supposed to be draining the swamp. But adding Dr. Ronny Jackson to this mix seems to be adding water to the swamp, instead of trying to solve the problem.

BLITZER: So you want him to drop out, and the president find someone else?

QUIGLEY: I think the president doesn't have any choice at this point. It just seems the utmost in stubbornness, recognizing there are calls to have Mr. Pruitt resign, and there are other investigations.

Here's what is frustrating. Just last week, Mr. Mulvaney, under my questioning, said that he wouldn't tolerate the activities of Mr. Pruitt, and the expenditures and activities and his administration, and that he was going to do that investigation. And then we read last night that even for Mr. Mulvaney, Director Mulvaney, policy appears to be for sale at the White House.

BLITZER: I want to get to some other issues. The president has repeatedly called the former FBI Director James Comey a leaker and a liar, and now the Justice Department is actually taking a new look into the case. We know that one of Comey's attorneys is Patrick Fitzgerald, former U.S. attorney, a special counsel in the Scooter Libby case. What does this tell us about the state of the investigation right now and about Patrick Fitzgerald joining Comey's legal team?

QUIGLEY: Mr. Fitzgerald is from Illinois, a well-respected attorney, and someone who I am sure will do a good job. I think what it tells us in the larger picture is this, the administration, including those involved on the Republican side of the House Intelligence Committee, continue to find other issues to investigate. In the meantime, they have dropped, on the House side, the investigation of the Russian interference to the democratic process. So they're no longer investigating what Russia did, but continuing to investigate their own government. It's their priorities that are mixed up.

BLITZER: The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the Russia investigation. But has not, at least not yet, stepped away from the criminal investigation in New York, the U.S. attorney in New York into President Trump's long-time personal attorney and close friend, the so-called fixer, Michael Cohen. Should he recuse himself? Should Sessions recuse himself from that investigation?

QUIGLEY: He promised he would. He said during the confirmation he would recuse himself. When questioned as to investigations that might be in the periphery, he said he would stay out of those, as well. He's simply not doing that, and that makes this task far more difficult.

BLITZER: You were there in the U.S. Congress when the French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to this joint meeting of the House and Senate. You're a supporter of the current Iran nuclear deal. What did you think of President Macron's new plan for expanding that nuclear deal?

QUIGLEY: Look, I think the deal could always be improved. I think the problem would be if the Trump administration decided to pull out of it entirely. I don't think the rest of the world would follow. And Iran would be free to do whatever they wanted. I don't think our allies would follow us. If our allies work with us, and Iran, to commit to a better deal, all is the better.

BLITZER: Do you think Iran's ready to accept a new deal? Let's say the allies joining -- the original nuclear deal included France, Britain and Germany, but also Russia and China.

[13:45:06] QUIGLEY: I don't see all of them agreeing to a new deal. I think the deal is working. It is far from perfect. I would love to see it improved. I can't imagine it taking place under the circumstances.

BLITZER: Congressman Mike Quigley, thanks so much for joining us.

QUIGLEY: Any time. Thank you.

BLITZER: An important note to our viewers. It's your turn to ask James Comey the questions. Anderson Cooper moderates a live town hall later tonight, 8:00 p.n. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Up next, he rarely speaks, but CNN caught up with Jared Kushner's father to talk about the deal that tainted his son's business reputation, and why he's taking the blame.

And remember, we're also standing by for a White House press briefing. There you see live pictures coming in from the West Wing of the White House. Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, getting ready to answer reporter's questions. Stand by for that.

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[13:50:27] BLITZER: It's the deal that tarnished his business reputation and put Jared Kushner's face on a bad deal. Now Jared's father is making a confession about the Manhattan sky scraper at 666 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

"CNN Money" and politics correspondent, Cristina Alesci, tells us how his Charles Kushner is now shouldering the blame.

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CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a rare and wide-ranging interview, Jared Kushner's father says the family business is a target of the president's political opponent.

In the last year alone, plans for an $800 million residential project in New Jersey were stalled, and another in New York to rezone 140,000 square-foot lot scuttled by local politicians. Kushner, calling them, quote, "Trump haters."

MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Kushner faces some very real challenges that another investor here in New York would not face. ALESCI: Charles Kushner, who declined an on-camera interview, tells

CNN, "That's discrimination. That's like me telling you I'm not giving you a loan because you're a woman or because you're Jewish."

Despite these challenges, he says the company is still securing funding, including $1.5 billion in fresh capital this year.

But it was the family's own missteps when scouring the globe looking for capital that drew unwanted attention to its crown jewel that is now a financial and political albatross, 666 5th Avenue, a 41-story tower in Midtown Manhattan that the Kushner's company bought for a record $1.8 billion just before the financial crisis.

Jared and his father were finalizing a deal with a large Chinese investor to redevelop 666 in 2016, during the campaign, igniting allegations of conflicts of interest.

COHEN: The appearance of impropriety, doing business with another country, and to be controlled by a government of another country, would give the appearance of some kind of potential quid pro quo with the administration.

ALESCI: Then Charles held at least one meeting with the Qatari finance minister in 2017 while Jared was already in the White House. Charles tells CNN he accepted the invitation out of respect to tell the Qataris there was no way they could do business, admitting now that, "Taking the meeting was stupid." The Kushner patriarch now concedes the original deal for 666 was both bad timing and judgment on his part. Charles says if the blame is to fall on anyone's shoulders, it's his, saying, "I pushed Jared to do the deal."

COHEN: The fate of 666 5th Avenue looms large over the Kushner brand and reputation.

ALESCI: Although Jared sold his stake in the New York sky scraper along with other projects to a family trust, real estate experts say his proximity to the president alone gives investors pause.

Charles telling CNN he's poised to seal a deal on 666 any day now but declining to provide additional details.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Cristina is joining us live from New York.

Cristina, Kushner's companies clearly having some problems with major real estate deal also, but this one across the river in New Jersey. What can you tell us about that?

ALESCI: That's right, Wolf. Plans for a 66-story tower, residence tower, in Jersey City, now at risk for falling apart, Wolf. It's a very high-profile deal for Kushner companies, and it's facing opposition from local Democrat politicians.

Now Kushner companies, Charles Kushner telling me, in that interview, it's discrimination, it's a political attack on his family and his business. The mayor shooting back saying, no way, if there's opposition here it's because Kushner companies has missed deadlines and there's been delays in construction.

But clearly, this is another example of Kushner companies facing some very serious headwinds since Jared left and took a high-profile senior adviser job with the administration at the White House.

And, Wolf, the biggest challenge for the company really lies ahead. They have to refinance at least $1.2 billion for 666, and it is a definitely a mark on the family's legacy if they can't pull that deal off. And we'll be watching very closely to see how they do it -- Wolf?

[13:55:13] BLITZER: We certainly will.

And what did he say about his son's decision to come to Washington, leave New York with his wife and family, Ivanka, and take a job in the White House?

ALESCI: Well, it was a very emotional part of the discussion with me, Wolf. And he said he speaks to his son every day. And he also very -- he very honestly said that he had a frank discussion with his son before taking the job. And he declined to say whether or not he advised Jared to take the job, but that Jared was so excited, thought he could make such a positive impact that Charles, his father, ended up giving him his blessing in the end -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Cristina, thanks very much. Good reporting as usual.

Any minute now, the White House will be holding its briefing as the president's pick to lead the Veterans Affairs Department finds himself embroiled in controversy. Stand by for that.

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