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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
U.S. Mourns, Senate Fights, in the Wake of Justice Ginsburg's Passing; Interview with Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Fight for Her Replacement; Trump Announces He's Naming a Woman to Replace Justice Ginsburg; Joe Biden Calls on Senate GOP to Do "What is Right"; New Trump-Woodward Audio Tapes on the Courts. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 20, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. It would be hard to find a more significant moment than this or week ahead with such potential to affect so many Americans so far into the future. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has of course left a void in those she inspired and those who respected her fierce intellect and steely determination.
Tonight the black wool crepe on her seat on the bench speaks to that void and to the larger-than-life marks she left on American history. It's unfortunate that we can't dedicate the program to just that tonight, but the court is one of three branches of government and right now the other two are up for grabs. So the decision they make are front and center.
The president has already said he expects to name a successor this week, a woman, and most certainly a very different jurist than Justice Ginsburg with abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act to consider as well as potentially a contested election.
Now any or all of that will affect millions of lives for decades to come. And people will be voting, no doubt, with that in mind. They may also be considering the actions of Republican senators who publicly opposed even holding hearings on President Obama's choice of Merrick Garland four years ago. Back then they said it was too close to an election and promised they'd say the same no matter who was president. But that was then.
There's also the larger immediate context which can't be overlooked tonight. The sad fact that the country is about to pass 200,000 deaths from COVID. The president often speaks in the past tense about the pandemic. It is unfortunately all too present.
Which is why we can't simply look back tonight on someone who inspired so many to aim higher, not the least of whom her daughter Jane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: In her high school yearbook on her graduation in 1973, the listing for Jane Ginsburg under ambition was to see her mother appointed to the Supreme Court.
GINSBURG: The next line read, "If necessary, Jane will appoint her."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She spoke back then to decades of effort by millions of women leading first to Sandra Day O'Connor's and then to her service on the court. Here she is more than two decades later during the Garland battle, talking with PBS' Gwen Ifill, also sadly no longer with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINSBURG: I wish that the spirit that prevailed in 1993 when I was nominated, I wish that that could be restored. 1993, the vote on me was 96-3.
GWEN IFILL, PBS HOST: It's very different now.
GINSBURG: Yes, but there was a true bipartisan spirit prevailing. Democrats and Republicans worked together. They got things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, just moments ago, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, spoke to reporters. He spoke of Justice Ginsburg's wish just days before she died that she not be replaced until a new president is sworn in. And he spoke to the stakes of a vote as he sees them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If you care about all these rights, if you don't want big powerful, wealthy special interest to turn the clock back 100 years even, please, our fervent plea, our fervent wish is that you call your senator and say, abide by the wishes of this saintly, brilliant, caring woman, and let -- wait, let's have an election, let's see the results and then let us choose somebody on the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So he's letting down a gauntlet there for Republican senators in tight races. For more, CNN's Manu Raju joins us now from the Capitol.
So what do we know where certain Republican senators stand on filling the vacancy?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, most Republican senators are falling in line behind the president, behind Mitch McConnell, despite their past positions over the Merrick Garland nomination. But there are a handful of senators who are not saying which they will come down and ultimately will require four senators to break ranks to either do two things. One, to punt this nomination until after the election, between November 3rd and January when a new Senate convenes, or four senators altogether to say the next president, the winner of the November 3rd election, should be the person actually making that choice.
We don't have four senators yet. We do have two senators who have so far broken rank. That S Susan Collins of Maine. She said in a statement on Saturday that given how close things are to the elections, I do not believe that the Senate should move forward on a nominee prior to the election.
Now I asked her -- I asked her office whether she's an automatic no vote on a nominee before election or an automatic no vote in that lame-duck session of Congress if Biden were to win. She has not said. Her office is not responding to those questions.
The other senator is Lisa Murkowski. She put out a statement today, a similar statement, making clear that she does not think that they should move forward before the election. She said the same standard must apply that they applied back over the Garland nomination that Barack Obama made back in 2016.
And I also asked her office what about the lame-duck session. What if Joe Biden wins? Does she believe that Trump should have his nominee confirmed in that lame-duck session? Her office would not -- said that she did not have a comment at this time on that topic.
There are other senators we're looking at very closely, too, Anderson. Cory Gardner of Colorado. He is in a very difficult race in a Democratic leaning Colorado. In 2016 he said, "I think the next president ought to choose the nominee." We're asking his office this weekend, does he still stand by that? They have not responded to us, but he did take questions from voters in Colorado and he was asked that same question. Will you stand by that same standard?
And he also sidestepped that question, Anderson, by saying it's time to pray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's family. Let's worry about politics later. And there's also some other senators. Veteran senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the former Judiciary Committee chairman, he's the one who refused to have a hearing on Merrick Garland back in late July. I asked him what happens if there's a vacancy now, he said, my position is if I were the chairman, I couldn't move forward with it.
I asked his office over the weekend, does he still stand by that position now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away? They are saying that he has no comment at the moment. And the last person we are looking at very closely is Mitt Romney, the party's 2012 presidential nominee, someone who has been at odds with this president, someone who voted to remove this president from office, the lone Republican to do so in the impeachment trial. He has not commented yet on the process. His office says he will not have comment.
So tomorrow, Anderson, that will change when those senators come back to Washington. Reporters like myself will be asking for those specific questions. We'll see where senators ultimately come down. But, Anderson, it's so significant. Obviously, the new nominee could
change direction of the court for years to come. But before or after the election could determine a number of things. The Affordable Care Act is coming before the court right after the elections. What if there are election disputes that go up on the Supreme Court. So a highly significant decision that could affect the lives of so many people that these senators will be making here in the coming weeks -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. The stakes could not be higher.
Manu Raju, thanks very much.
Coming up next, to the White House we go, and CNN's John Harwood.
John, what more do we know about the timeline when the president might announce his pick and who it might be?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, some conservative advisers thought the smart political play for the president would be to delay this nomination, to keep conservative voters hungry going into the November election, and also diminish, take some of the edge off of the zeal of Democrats once a specific name is out there.
But restraint is not in Donald Trump's repertoire. He has indicated over the weekend that he's going to put out this nomination within a few days, perhaps as early as this week. He said it's going to be a woman. And some of the names are pretty obvious. Amy Coney Barrett was the runner-up to Brett Kavanaugh for the last choice. She's a conservative Catholic. That's a key constituency for the president, longtime professor at Notre Dame Law School. She's now on the Appeals Court.
Barbara Lagoa, she is a Cuban American in Florida, also on the Appeals Court. The Cuban American constituency is extremely important to the president. And then Allison Jones Rushing. She's also a district court judge from North Carolina operating in the Fourth District Circuit out of Richman. And those are among the leading names that we're hearing talked about.
COOPER: John Harwood -- John, thanks very much. Appreciate it from the White House. Before we get to our next guest, we want to play another moment from Minority Leader Schumer's call to resist any rush to confirmation especially in light of Republicans' foot dragging in 2016 because they said that was too close to an election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: We're not close to an election. We're in an election. And to try and decide this at this last time, at this late moment, is despicable and wrong and against democracy. It's shoving the wishes of the hard right and the Republicans who go along with them down America's throat.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff who are led the impeachment case against the president in the Senate not so long ago. It may feel like decades.
Chairman Schiff, what's your reaction to what Minority Leader Schumer just said? You're not a member of the Senate but are there any lever the Democrat can actually pull at this point to block a nomination, to slow down the process? Because he's really just talking about people making calls to their senators or Congress people.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, first of all, I think he's exactly right. People are in the midst of voting right now in a presidential election. That needs to come first.
But look, the Supreme Court is going to decide whether we have the Affordable Care Act. That argument is going to be heard right after the election. So this election may very well determine whether millions of people lose their health care during a pandemic that has now claimed 200,000 American lives.
But that court will also decide whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, whether to allow regulation of our air and water to try to address climate change. So the stakes could not be higher. And for that reason, if the Republicans ignore their own rules and stack the court, then I think Senator Schumer needs to contemplate well, how do you unstack the court? And it's wise for him to make sure that he leaves nothing off the table.
COOPER: Well, Schumer has said everything is on the table if a Trump nominee is confirmed this election year. Senate Democrats won a majority in November. They could push legislation to expand the Supreme Court, the numbers of justices, add additional seats. Is that something you would support?
SCHIFF: Well, look, if they rush through this, if they ignore their own Senate rules, McConnell's own rule in an effort to stack the court, then I do think that Senator Schumer will need to consider, OK, how do we unstack the court after the election? So, you know, I think it is something that he should definitely open. I don't know that he or I or anyone else needs to be certain at this point because really I think the maximum pressure needs to be brought to bear not to violate the Senate rules that Mitch McConnell established.
Not to allow that kind of blatant hypocrisy. And I think that this will really motivate people frankly to go to the polls because they know their health care during a pandemic is at risk if the Republicans are able to stack the court this way.
COOPER: It does seem extremely unlikely that not one, but two more Republicans would vote with Democrats to stop the nominee from getting confirmed. I mean, it isn't just -- you know, isn't it just the reality of politics that elections have consequences? Because clearly the hypocrisy doesn't matter to I guess anybody who's already now switched their positions. SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think the hypocrisy matters to the American
people. It also matters to the American people whether they can keep their health care. So, you know, I think that they will pay a very high price if they betray their own word and do so right in the eve of an election. But nonetheless, if they betray their word and they pay a penalty at the polls but the damage is done because they have forced through and stacked the court, then Senator Schumer will need to figure out, OK, how do we need to unstack the court? What's the remedy here?
Because what Mitch McConnell is doing is now violating his own precedent to the detriment of the country, and I think Senator Schumer will need to figure out, OK, then what's the response? Because there'll have to be one.
COOPER: Earlier today Speaker Pelosi was asked about the possibility that the House could move to impeach President Trump or Attorney General Barr as a way of stalling and preventing the Senate from acting on the nomination if Republicans pushed through a nominee in a lame-duck session. Pelosi said we have our options, we have arrows in our quiver.
Do you have a position on that? I mean, have you discussed any options with the speaker? I mean, would that actually slow things down or would that stop the process?
SCHIFF: You know, I think, Anderson, that's obviously one of the paramount questions, which is, there are a lot of tools that we have on the House. Which ones would be efficacious? So, you know, we haven't had a chance really to discuss this yet. We'll be back in session tomorrow. And that will be at the top of the order of business because, you know, one of the things that I think is really driving support for Joe Biden at the polls is the fact that the president has done such a terrible job handling the pandemic. So many lives have been lost.
And health care is on the ballot. And now with the Supreme Court seat up in the air, with that argument on the Affordable Care Act days after the election, nothing is I think more motivating to voters and to all of us in the House than protecting the health and wellbeing of the American people. So this will be front and center as soon as we come back into session tomorrow.
COOPER: You posted a photo on Instagram, I believe, of you and Justice Ginsburg. And you wrote about an encounter you had with her during the impeachment proceedings. Can you just talk about what happened?
SCHIFF: Yes. Well, you know, I'd say I almost ended my career that night because it was rainy, it was dark, I was rushing into the capital. And I was half way through the door when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on her way out. And I almost knocked her down. I -- you know, I stopped myself rightly before I collided with her. I said hello to her. She was very gracious. I stepped around her, watched her disappear to the night, and then I looked at a couple of my colleagues waiting in the entryway, and they said, you do realize you almost ended your career? [20:15:07]
And I said, yes, I do. And what's more, it would have been deserved if I knocked her down. That should be the end of my career. But thank goodness I didn't.
COOPER: How will you remember her?
SCHIFF: You know, I -- Anderson, years ago I formed a House caucus on the Judiciary to try to improve relations between the Congress and the courts and invited her to come speak with us. And she was gracious enough to come. And, you know, she was -- you know, this small diminutive person with a giant brain and a giant personality and intellect. And she left such an incredible mark on our society for the better.
And I love how she became this icon. This, you know, RBG, Notorious RBG. I just love it. And no one could have deserved that kind of -- you know, that kind of iconic status than she did because she was such a trailblazer. So I think all of us have a fond place in our heart for her. And she's certainly a blessed memory.
COOPER: Congressman Schiff, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up next, what Joe Biden said today about what should happen next, and later Bob Woodward and not yet heard audio, the president talking about the court.
COOPER: The Supreme Court has yet to formally announce memorial plans for the Justice Ginsburg. The president says he'll likely appoint a woman, likely this week, and Senate majority leader McConnell says he'll push the nomination forward. Senator minority leader Schumer calls that despicable. If it happens, it'll be the quickest vote in a long time.
Justice Ginsburg's confirmation took just 50 days on a 96-3 bipartisan vote, as you heard earlier in the program. The election is just 44 days away. But votes are of course already being cast in a number of states.
Joe Biden spoke on the subject today as well as what's at stake. Our Jessica Dean joins us now with more.
So the former vice president is bringing up the fate of the Affordable Care Act as a reason sort of front and center for people to be concerned about the vacancy.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. They are making defending the Affordable Care Act and its protections for preexisting conditions a key part of this argument surrounding the Supreme Court vacancy. A campaign aide telling us that they really believe this is a motivating factor for voters. And look, look back at 2018 when House Democrats regained control of the House. That was their message.
It was all about health care. And that was a winning play for them back in 2018. We did hear the former vice president talk about preexisting conditions and about the Affordable Care Act today here at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. This is something we expect him to come back to again and again. And it dovetails in to the broader theme and argument of the Biden campaign, which is to continue to hit President Trump and his administration on their response to COVID.
Vice President Biden making the argument that you cannot take away health care for millions of Americans during a global unprecedented pandemic -- Anderson.
COOPER: Is Vice President Biden going to release a list of potential replacements for the seat?
DEAN: Right. So obviously we have President Trump calling on him to do that. He has said before and he said again today he's not going to do that. And he kind of laid out the reasons why he doesn't want to do that. At first he says it could influence that person's decision making as a judge. Secondly, he said that person could be exposed to a number of political attacks. They wouldn't be able to defend themselves because at earliest, if Joe Biden wins, they wouldn't get a hearing until 2021 any way.
But he said most importantly for him, he wants to consult Democrats and Republicans in the Senate before he makes his decision. Before he makes his pick. Going back on tradition, and really trying to make a mark of unity and that kind of restoring tradition to this process.
Also, Anderson, important to note he has said multiple times and again said today he does intend, though, to nominate the first African- American woman to the bench.
COOPER: Early voting has started. There were long lines on Friday in Virginia before Justice Ginsburg's death was announced. What is the Vice President Biden saying about that?
DEAN: It was interesting to hear him talk about that today. He reminded everyone that back in 2016 as you all have talked about all day long, back in 2016 Senate Republicans refused to take a vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee, saying it was an election year. That they need to wait until the new president. And that's when there were still months before voting.
Vice president Biden making the argument today as you just said early voting is underway in states cross America right now. He says that's a bell that cannot be unrung. And he went back to the statement that we heard from him Friday when he gave his first remarks on the passing of Justice Ginsburg. He said that he believes the American people should choose the next president and that that president should then choose the next Supreme Court justice. We'll see, of course, how that all plays out -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jessica Dean. Jessica, thanks very much.
Joining us now is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin who's written extensively about the court over the years. Also former senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, currently CNN senior political commentator. With us as well, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Senator Santorum, I want to get right away to what Lindsey Graham said in 2016. He said, I want you to use my words against me. We have the slide. Let's just play the sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination and you could use my words against me, and you'd be absolutely right. We're setting a precedent here today. Republicans are.
That in the last year, at least of a lame-duck eight-year term, I would say it's going to be a four-year term, that you're not going to fill the vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we're doing here today. That's going to be the new rule.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Senator Graham repeated that sentiment just two years ago. This year he backtracks, that the Kavanaugh confirmation process changed things for him. Now he's flat-out saying he's going to fill the vacancy. I mean, isn't it -- I understand just the politics of it, but, I mean, do you agree that it's hypocritical that it is a reversal?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think for some people, obviously for Lindsey Graham, I think it's pretty clear that he made that statement and he is reversing himself. Now he gives the Kavanaugh process the reason. But I don't think that was ever Joe Biden's position or Mitch McConnell's position when they were -- they put forth that position.
I think their position was that the nomination approval process is a two-step process that involved two branches of government. And each branch has a say. And when they are divided, when you have a Democratic president, Republican Senate, then it is the prerogative of the Senate to consider or not consider that nomination. And I think what he's saying here when you have Republicans who control the Senate and the White House, there's the prerogative to go forward. And so I don't think that from Mitch McConnell's point of view it's hypocrisy, but clearly by what Lindsey said, in his case, you know, he is going back on what he said. COOPER: But, I mean, McConnell had said, Jeffrey Toobin, that let the
voters decide. I mean, that the voters should have a say.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, what Rick just said is just a complete word salad. I mean, look, you know, they are trying to confirm a Supreme Court justice for one reason because they can. This is obviously a much more egregious example of what they said they were opposed to four years ago. I mean, no one has said anything about opposition party or any of that nonsense. They all just said this is the last year and we don't want to have a vote.
That's what's happening now except it's much closer to the election. The election is underway. So to pretend this is a consummate act of hypocrisy by Mitch McConnell and every Republican who is going forward with this nomination is just an absurd joke.
SANTORUM: Well, hold on, Jeffrey. To suggest that what I said is a word salad is really ridiculous on its face, Jeffrey. I mean, of course if this was a Democratic president, as Obama was a Democrat, and the Democrats controlled the Senate, they would have confirmed Merrick Garland, I mean, they would have been any doubt that they would have done that. Why? Because they were aligned.
The only reason this was a contentious issue is because there were two different parties and there are two different branches. So by definition, it's not word salad. That's the reality of why it was contentious. There was no --
TOOBIN: But the Constitution says nothing about how the confirmation process is different whether it's a Democrat or a Republican. I mean, and what you were saying --
SANTORUM: But it is the prerogative of the majority party to make that decision. This is not a constitutional question. I agree with you. It's not a constitutional question. But it is the prerogative of the party in control to make that decision, and the Democrats would have confirmed Merrick Garland in a heartbeat and the Republicans wouldn't. Why? Because the elections have consequences.
COOPER: Dana, obviously, the months are very different in the Merrick Garland case. That was early on in 2016. And obviously, this is now -- the election is already underway. There's voting going on in states.
Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, not terribly shocking that they are opposing confirmation right now. They've left it opened about a lame- duck session. Collins I guess it goes further than Murkowski did on that. Are there other Republicans you think actually might join them?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps. There's certainly a lot of pressure on Cory Gardner, for example. Manu talked about it earlier in the hour. Republican from Colorado, one of the most vulnerable, up for reelection in, you know, 40 plus days in a purple state. And then Mitt Romney, everybody is waiting to hear from him because he has a history of kind of going against the grain and siding with institutions rather than the party and certainly this president.
However, if you just kind of put the numbers aside because we're not sure where that's going to go, my understanding is regardless, the president is planning, he said this publicly, to send up a nomination very, very soon, and the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Lindsey Graham is likely to start the process very soon because the hope since we are so close to an election among Republicans is to hold the hearings. Because the feeling is that that will continue to shine a spotlight, a bright spotlight on this issue, help motivate the Republican base, motivate Republicans in general.
And that that is something that wasn't necessarily happening when the focus is entirely on COVID. That is why on the other side of the aisle, you are hearing people like AOC, Chuck Schumer and every Democrat who comes before a camera or on social media saying we need to do this. Use this as a motivator as well. Let's think about health care. Let's think about Obamacare, which is going to come before the court just I think about a week after the election.
So both sides are using it as a motivator. And I would not be surprised, vote or not, if this process starts in an aggressive way before the Senate before the election.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, do you think it motivates both sides equally?
SANTORUM: Well, I can tell you that Donald Trump wouldn't be president today if Antonin Scalia's vacancy were not still there. I mean, that's how he won. I mean, I can tell you that's why he won in Pennsylvania and a lot of other key states. And so, you know, the real question I think is whether you -- I agree with Dana, they are going to move forward on the process. The president certainly has the right. No one is arguing he has the right to nominate somebody.
The question is whether the Senate will confirm and Lindsey is going to move forward with the hearings. The question really is, will they vote before or after the election? And that is a question of two things. Number one, when do you have the votes to win? And number two, what do you think helps you most on election day? Having won and have that nominee in place, or motivating people to elect Donald Trump so that nominee will be confirmed. That's sort of open political questions, as far as I see it.
BASH: But the latter is very, very tricky. It's very risky for Mitch McConnell.
SANTORUM: It is.
BASH: Whose whole public, you know, life and agenda has been about the courts, the courts, the courts, the courts, because if they roll the dice and say that there's a vote after --
SANTORUM: But he has to have 50 votes, Dana. Yes, he has to have 50 votes. And so really the question is -- BASH: Yes. And he might not have that after the election.
SANTORUM: He might not have 50 votes before the election, he might have them after the election. We don't know. And then -- that's what's I'm saying, that's the calculous he's got to look at.
COOPER: Jeff, do you -- is there any political penalty for just complete hypocrisy? Probably not in this day in age.
TOOBIN: Well, let's see. I mean, I'm prepared to reserve judgment on that. I mean, I would like to see Cory Gardner explain to his constituents in Colorado how -- you know, he said there should be no vote for Merrick Garland in 2016, but they should jam through someone in October of 2020. I mean, it's a complete joke to think that there is any meaningful distinction between the two situations.
I think the voters, you know, they understand hypocrisy. Now whether it's a voting issue or not I certainly don't -- you know, I don't pretend to have an opinion about that. But the idea that these Republican senators, especially in swing states, are going to be able to make a distinction between the two situations, I think that's extremely unlikely.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, Rick Santorum, and Dana Bash, thank you very much. Appreciate it. We're going to continue the conversation in just a moment with the man who interviewed the president 19 times this year for his new book. Bob Woodward will join us, along with audio we have not heard before. The president, in his own words, on Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and judicial appointments.
COOPER: President Trump's desire for a Supreme Court fight to unify the factual wings of his party could not have been more apparent earlier this month when the first revelations from Bob Woodward's new book "Rage" were released.
On September 9th, after the nation heard the first recordings from Bob Woodward's 19 interviews of the president in which the president admitted to downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, the White House quickly added a news conference. It would be the only public event for the president that day. The topic more potential Supreme Court nominees his voters could expect if given another opportunity.
Joining us now with audio we haven't heard before of his talks with the president, Bob Woodward. Thanks very much for being with us. Author of "Rage."
So, Bob, during your interviews with President Trump for your book, you spoke with them about the judiciary and the Supreme Court. And I want to start just playing a part of the conversation you had with him back on January 22nd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I just signed my 187th federal judge. It's a record. 187 judges in less than three years, Bob. And two Supreme Court judges. Never been done before. The only one that has a better percentage is George Washington because he appointed 100 percent but my percentage is, you know, like, ridiculous.
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "RAGE": And there were a couple of those judges --
TRUMP: A hundred and 87, I'll end up with -- when I get out I'll probably have more than 50 percent of the federal judges in the country appointed under Trump.
WOODWARD: And Lindsey Graham has said that there were a couple of those judges that he himself didn't care for and rejected them. Are you aware of that?
TRUMP: Yes. And other senators, too. Yes. And when they don't like them, I don't put them in. You know, I don't want that.
WOODWARD: Does he have kind of -- you know, that's his committee and they --
TRUMP: Yes. No, if Lindsey and other people don't like him, I don't put them in. You know why? Why do we want a broken system? You know, they don't like him because they may be in some cases they're not conservative or they don't believe or they came out of a couple of bad decisions on something.
WOODWARD: And it's interesting. Lindsey Graham is worried that the judiciary is going to become too partisan. Do you agree with that?
TRUMP: Well, it depends. Yes, it's very partisan right now basically. It's always a party vote.
You know, I mean, the whole country right now is a partisan vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It doesn't really sound like he's concerned at all with a politicized judiciary.
WOODWARD: No, it's winning and what he wants to do. What's interesting in these conversations with him about judges and the Supreme Court, he clearly is engaged. He realizes or believes it may be a winning issue for him. And instead of talking about the virus, now we're talking about the Supreme Court nominee.
Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who is a senior adviser in the White House, in the book I quote Kushner saying that there's a theory behind all of this, and that is controversy elevates message. In other words, if you have a controversy, it will elevate your message and the message here -- we're certainly going to have a controversy. And the message here from the president's side is going to be look, he's tough. He's looking out for his base.
He's going to get conservative Republican new justice, which conceivably, I mean, the people who are being talked about now are age 48, age 52, if they lived -- if they get through and join the Supreme Court, they could be on the Supreme Court. If they live this long as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for 35 years. This is a remaking not just of the Supreme Court. It's a remaking of America.
COOPER: It also, in a way, I mean, the idea that Donald Trump's legacy, perhaps his only legacy as president would be the number of people he put on the Supreme Court.
WOODWARD: No, he's going to have much more of a legacy, particularly with a virus, which as we now know he has mishandled. He has not protected the people, which his job one for a president.
COOPER: You also spoke to the president about his federal judge appointments. The first part of what we're going to play is from a conversation you had with President Trump in December of 2019. The second is from May. I'm going to play that now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know what may just the biggest thing is in the whole world is judges.
TRUMP: If I have 10 ambassadors, and a judge can take long to get approved, you know, which I guess is probably right. It should be. Right?
WOODWARD: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: He will absolutely ask me, please, let's get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors. You know, the Democrats put up roadblocks at every single stop. But we don't need like on vacancies, on people vacancies, we don't need thousands of people going to the State Department. We've got thousands and thousands of people. It's so ridiculous. And then they'll say, he doesn't have as many as somebody else. I don't want them.
WOODWARD: OK, but here's my --
TRUMP: And Mitch's big thing is judges. Biggest thing.
WOODWARD: I understand that.
TRUMP: And we have broken every record.
WOODWARD: But listen, you've got -- you want a serious, real history. And so when this comes out, people say, ah, OK. This is what --
TRUMP: I want a real history. That's the truth.
WOODWARD: Yes. Exactly. Same here. And I'm -- TRUMP: If people have any idea what I do -- now, if you just look at
the list, hey, Bob, I'm going to be up to 280 judges very soon. Nobody has ever had that. 280. You know?
WOODWARD: I know.
TRUMP: Nobody has ever had that. You know what I did? You have the judges. A lot of them are older.
WOODWARD: I know.
TRUMP: And they go on senior leave. And we convinced many of them to go on senior leave. And more importantly, Obama gave us 142 judges when I came here.
WOODWARD: Yes. Yes.
TRUMP: It's never happened. He never had one. If you were a president, you would never have any -- you know, they're like golden nuggets, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Did you ever get the sense from the president that he expected to get a third Supreme Court vacancy on his watch?
WOODWARD: Well, specifically, what he's talking about there, which is really important, that when Obama was president in the last period when Republicans took over the Senate, McConnell meticulously and aggressively blocked all of Obama's appointments. There were 142, Trump recalls. I think that's about right. And so when Trump started as president in 2017, as the president puts it not necessarily artfully, they are golden nuggets. Other words, he can fill those vacancies right away and it -- there is an emotional engagement on this issue, which he has that I didn't see in lots of other matters.
COOPER: President Trump has appointed two Supreme Court justices so far. Obviously Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh. You asked him about Justice Gorsuch joining the liberal justices and Chief Justice Roberts in ruling against his administration. I want to play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: What do you think of --
TRUMP: Of course they weren't able to do it.
WOODWARD Of your Justice Gorsuch who kind of led the charge against you on LGBTQ issues?
TRUMP: Well, it's the way he felt. It's the way he felt.
WOODWARD: And that's OK with you? TRUMP: When you say against me, against --
WOODWARD: Well, it was against your administration's position.
TRUMP: Yes. But this is the way he felt. And, you know, I want people to go the way they feel. I mean, he felt he was doing the right thing. I do think it opens the -- I do think it opens the spigots for a lot of litigation, you know, with that, with the ruling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's interesting. I mean, I don't know -- I wonder if you have a thought on whether it bothered him more than he was saying that Gorsuch didn't display, you know, loyalties. Obviously it's something that's important to this president. But, you know, what he said there is what you'd want somebody to say, which is, you know, you want the justice to go with what they feel the law is.
WOODWARD: Yes, but I think if you can play the next segment, which is maybe more interesting.
COOPER: I'll get to that. We're going to take a quick break.
WOODWARD: Yes, I'm sorry.
COOPER: Yes. No, no problem. We'll do that in just a second.
As the nation approaches 200,000 coronavirus deaths, we'll take a look what grade President Trump gave himself on handling the pandemic. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Back now with Bob Woodward, author of the new book, "Rage," with another newly released audio tape. This time let's play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: I think he's doing exactly the balancing act that a chief justice -- I mean, I've talked to Lindsey Graham about this a lot. And as you know, Lindsey Graham doesn't think it's a good thing that you make the courts part of politics.
WOODWARD: You really want to get people in there who are good lawyers and can think, and if you politicize the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, that's a bad thing for America. Do you agree?
TRUMP: Right. Well, is Roberts doing it?
WOODWARD: Well, I think he's been very careful. And I think he finds issues like this issue, I'm -- you know, I'm pressing, but I think if you were on the Supreme Court, you would have voted for more freedom. TRUMP: That's very interesting. OK. Well, I'll never get that vote.
WOODWARD: Well, maybe you can --
TRUMP: I don't know, but --
WOODWARD: -- appoint yourself.
TRUMP: I am what's good for people. All people. So, you know, that's where I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What do you make of that?
WOODWARD: Well, I make of it that I was pressing him and I think he does believe in freedom for people. It's kind of one of his core beliefs. And maybe the freedom gets a little out of hand. And that opinion by Gorsuch in the court written by the court really extended the Civil Rights Act to LGBTQ people, and I have thought about it. And so I asked him, if you were on the court, you'd vote for that. And he said, well, that's interesting. And then I said maybe you can appoint yourself to the court, which technically he could do. And then he said he stands for people, for everyone.
COOPER: You also -- and I'm raising this because we're about to cross this grim milestone, 200,000 Americans killed by COVID-19. We have new sound of you asking the president back on July 21st what grade he would give himself on the pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: So what grade do you give yourself on the virus for the last six, seven months?
TRUMP: Other than the public relations, which is impossible because it's a fake media, fake. They're fake. I know you --
WOODWARD: Yes, I do. But --
TRUMP: OK. Other than the fact that I have been unable to --
WOODWARD: So what's the grade, sir?
TRUMP: -- media on treating us fairly, I give ourselves an A. But the grade is incomplete, and I'll tell you why. If we come up with the vaccines and the therapeutics, then I give myself an A plus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, that was July 21st. He's giving himself an A, but really wants an A-plus and thinks they are close on that. I mean, on that day over a thousand Americans died from the virus. There were more than 140,000 dead at that point. Now we're on the cusp of 200,000. WOODWARD: 140,000 dead and he would give himself an A. And we know the
record in his own words is he failed to protect the American people to use his knowledge. He failed to tell the truth. 142,000 people dead on the day he said that. Two months ago. It's one of the saddest utterances I have ever heard from a president of the United States, including some of the things that Nixon said on his tapes.
COOPER: Really? You think -- I mean, because certain stuff Nixon said on his tapes, I mean, were, you know, racist and shocking.
WOODWARD: Shocking and criminal. But 142,000 people did not die. And we've got to look at what the president's job is, and documented now, I mean, even people who were at the meeting on January 28th have confirmed that this is exactly what happened. He knew he was told that this was coming. Matt Pottinger, the deputy National Security adviser, had been a Marine intelligence officer, as I said, it worked for "The Wall Street Journal" for seven years.
You couldn't design a person more informed. And he had authoritative sources in China who laid this out and said to the president of the United States, not indirectly, but passionately and directly that a pandemic is coming to your country. This is the intelligence channel. The doctors like Fauci and so forth really weren't in on this.
I report that Fauci heard exactly this from Matt Pottinger, and thought, oh, he -- you know, he's exaggerating. He's thinking. And then when the pandemic exploded, he said, my god, Matt had it right.
COOPER: Wow. Bob Woodward, as always, it's fascinating to hear. I really appreciate it. Thanks for your time tonight.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
COOPER: Ahead on this special Sunday edition of 360, we'll talk to CNN's Manu Raju on the road ahead in the Senate for the expected nomination of a justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We'll also drill down on the playbook Joe Biden faces in the coming weeks.