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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  January 31, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST

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about his supreme court pieffor to build suspense for the deal. dereliction of duty. the acting attorney general fired by president trump is accused of betrayal by the white house. will other administration officials who defy the president's travel ban face a similar fate? external threat. the european union chief suggests president trump and his immigration crackdown may pose a danger to the european continent. the trump administration now arguing there is no ban, even though the president, himself, used that word. and boycott. democrats take advantage of senate rules to stall committee votes on key cabinet nominees. members of minority party now searching for an effective strategy. do they have the power to trump the president? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
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this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking news this hour, president trump just two hours away from announcing his u.s. supreme court nominee. sources say there are increasing signs that he'll choose conservative appeals court judge neil gorsuch of colorado, but cnn learned until finalist, judge thomas hardiman, summoned to washington, d.c. insiders warn the president could change his mind at the last minute. also breaking homeland security secretary john kelly defends the rollout of the president's controversial travel ban and denies reports he wasn't involved in drafting the executive order. even the republican house speaker paul ryan now publicly admits the rollout was, in his word, confusing. also tonight, multiple new lawsuits are being filed, arguing the limits on immigration from seven mostly muslim nations are discriminatory and unconstitutional. all this just hours after president trump fired the acting attorney general for refusing to
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defend the travel ban. sally yates said she believed the order was unlawful. now the white house is ramping up its criticism of yates with press secretary sean spicer accusing her of betrayal and a dereliction of duty. as outrage over the travel ban escalates, senate democrats have delayed a committee vote on the president's nominee for attorney general. jeff sessions. they're also boycotting votes on mr. trump's choices to lead treasury and health and human service. i'll talk to a key republican on the house judiciary committee, congressman raul labrador standing by live along with our correspondents and analysts as we bring you full coverage of the day's top stories. up first, our cnn supreme court correspondent pamela brown with more on the president's announcement tonight. pamela, what are you learning. >> well, wolf, we learned the white house is taking extraordinary measures to conceal the top pick, even summoning the two top finalists for the supreme court to washington, d.c., adding to the building suspense before tonight's announcement. just hours before the
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president's big primetime announcement, cnn caught up with one of his two top contenders, judge thomas hardiman on his way to washington stopping to gas up in bedford, pennsylvania. >> can i ask about your trip to d.c.? or are you the potential supreme court pick? >> reporter: while judge hardiman was heading to the capitol -- >> it's lovely to be here. >> reporter: -- sources tell cnn increasing indications is trump's big is judge neil gorsuch of colorado and he's already in d.c. his judicial philosophy aligns with the conservative icon he could replace, justice antonin scalia and believes in scalia did in the literal interpretation of the constitution, the two men seen her fly fishing in colorado were said to be close friends. >> the world suffered a seismic shock with the loss of justice scalia. >> reporter: judge gorsuch, harvard law graduate who clerked at the supreme court has not ruled on abortion from the bench, but legal opinions on religious liberty attracted the attention of those helping trump make his pick. >> separate church and state!
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>> reporter: in the hobby lobby case he sided with the corporations who claimed the so-called continue seraceptive penned a book arguing against assisted suicide and euthanasia, writing, "the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong." at 49 years old gorsuch could remain on the court for a generation and become one of trump's most lasting legacies. >> if he serves 30, 35 years he could have an enormous impact on the law of the land especially if president trump gets another confirmation or two during his presidency and someone like neil gorsuch becomes the center of the court as opposed to anthony kennedy. >> reporter: but it's still possible president trump could choose judge hardiman, a well regarded conservative with a blue collar background. >> i'm going to try to channel my inner newspaper delivery boy, lawn mowing and taxi driving experience to see if i can be of
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service here to the panel. >> reporter: hardiman, a 51-year-old georgetown law grad who sits on the 3rd u.s. circuit court of appeals has earned the approval of conservatives on issues such as guns and immigration. last august, he joined an opinion that ruled against central american immigrants detained on u.s. soil. something that could have been a big selling point for a new president drawing a hard line on immigration. >> the court of appeals held that central american migrants who were in the united states but out of status weren't even entitled to judicial review, let alone to be released from their detention. that's a pretty important precedent and if you were to follow that on the supreme court, that could have obvious ramifications for questions of the rights of immigrants especially under this new executive order. >> reporter: hardiman also has a powerful ally. >> it was our job. >> reporter: sharing the pench in the 3rd district with trump's sister who is a federal judge. with three justices in their 70s
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and 80s this may not be the president's last supreme court nominee, leading to discussions on the hill whether democrats should hold their fire and save it for the next time when that nominee could shift the ideological balance of the high court. wolf? >> all right, pamela, thank you. pamela brown reporting. to the controversy surrounding the president's executive order on immigration. the trump administration going to new lengths today to try to defend that decision and define it. let's go to our senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny. he's got more. jeff? >> reporter: wolf, they are trying to defend it and define it but amid all that, there's great frustration here at the white house. part of it is the media, they believe some misreporting. a lot of it is at democrats for protesting. there's also a good degree of frustration here at the white house with republicans who they believe have not been standing up enough for president trump's order. the white house is still trying to clean up the mess and clear up confusion across the government. from its executive order on immigration. secretary of homeland security, john kelly, coming out today in
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hopes of restoring order. >> this is not, i repeat, not a ban on muslims. >> reporter: four days after president trump signed an order closing the nation's borders to refugees and others from seven predominantly muslim countries, the controversy threatened to escalate into a washington crisis. the president fired acting attorney general sally yates. a holdover from the obama administration. after she stood in defiance of trump's travel ban. the white house said she betrayed the department of justice and swore in a new acting attorney general. ♪ this land was made for you and me ♪ >> reporter: as democrats protested the substance of the order republican leaders were rankled for not being consulted. they worked on language of the order without alerting their bosses. >> incredibly the rollout was confusing but on a go forward basis, i'm confident sec tair kelly is going to make sure this is done correctly, they get a
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good review and we're going to make sure we get this program up and running with the kind of vetting standards we all want to see. >> reporter: secretary kelly who must implement the action at the department of homeland security did not directly say how much he knew about the order before it was signed. >> i did know it was under development. had an opportunity to look at at least two, as i recollect, drafts as it got closer to friday. >> reporter: but across many agencies, the order came as a surprise. and chaos ensued in those early hours at airports and on airplanes. white house press secretary sean spicer argued today the order could not be called a ban. >> by nature not a ban. >> reporter: yet a ban is precisely how the president described it on saturday. >> it's working out very nicely and we're going to have a very, very strict ban and we're going to have extreme vetting which we should have had in this country for many years. >> reporter: pressed whether it was or was not a ban, spicer blasted the media today. >> i'm not confused. i think the words that are being used to describe it are derived
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what from the media is calling this. he's been very clear it is extreme vetting. >> reporter: on capitol hill, democrats are seizing on the confusion. holding up confirmation of some nominees to the president's cabinet. >> the level of incompetence of this administration already, only ten days into the presidency, is staggering. >> reporter: now the protests are not limited to this immigration order. the white house is also being protested by other corporations across the country and businesses are feeling the heat from this. it is one reason we are learning tonight that president trump is canceling a scheduled trip to milwaukee on thursday. wolf, he was scheduled to speak at the harley davidson motorcycle factory but that company quite simply was getting blowback from his potential appearance there. so they've decided to pull that back. now, that is one, something that worries this white house. he needs to go out in the country, of course, wisconsin is a state that he won, to promote his agenda. it's one of the reasons they hope that supreme court appearance tonight, that
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nomination tonight, changes the subject at least for a while. wolf? >> 8:00 p.m. eastern we'll have live coverage on cnn. all right, jeff, thanks very much. jeff zeleny reporting. let's talk about all of these breaking developments with republican congressman raul l labrad labrador, thanks very much for joining us. >> great to be here. >> pretty extraordinary, less than two weeks into this presidency, all of a sudden today we learned that the president was supposed to go to wisconsin on thursday, meet with representatives from harley davidson, a u.s. manufacturer, of course. this is one of his gut issues, as you know, manufacturing here in the united states. harley davidson decides, you know what, there are going to be protests, mr. president, this is not a good time to come to wiscons wisconsin. have you ever seen something like this so early in a new administration, a new presidency, where the president can't even go out to a factory in wisconsin to make, to deliver a speech and sign some executive orders? >> i haven't seen anything like this but i haven't seen anything like what the democrats have
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been doing. if you think about it, the day after the president's inaugurated, they decided to do a huge protest all over the united states. they decided that they're not going to accept this president. they're going to do everything they can to make sure that he's not successful at his job. i think it's pretty irresponsible behavior from the leaders of the democratic party and it's hurting them, wolf. it's really hurting them because the american people are not going to stand for that. they have no problem with actual debates on politics and issues and having the debates that we've had over the last 200 and such years here in the united states. but what they're doing is trying to prevent the president from doing his job. >> you can't blame the democrats for the -- what the speaker, himself, speaker ryan calls the confusing rollout of this travel ban. >> yeah, but -- >> if you will, which has caused these protests, caused a lot of this chaos. >> they're all ginned up protests, they're all organized by the same groups. the same groups that organized it a week ago, they're organizing it again. i assume they're going to organize it next week and the week after because right now they're in disarray.
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as a party. they don't know what to do. they have lost. >> there are a lot of republicans who aren't very happy with this travel ban, either. senator mccain, senator lindsey graham, whole bunch of republicans have said, you know what, this is not the way to do it. >> but they're wrong. this is actually exactly when he said he was going to do. we campaigned for a year and a half saying that he was going to do something like this. i don't think there should be any surprise to anybody. and what's really dangerous is the language that people are using. people are talking about this being unconstitutional and illegal. there's absolutely no evidence this was unconstitutional, illegal. in fact, the president of the united states, our previous president, president obama, did the same actions three times during his administration. there wasn't a single protest. and the most ironic -- >> there were some nuance -- there were some dichbls differences, we don't have to go through that. >> i have one right here, 2011, suspension of entry of aliens, immigrants and nonimmigrants --
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>> that was from iraq, because two iraqi refugees in kentucky -- >> no. we have -- this is a separate one. we had an iraqi one, we had this one and at the end of his administration, on the last days of his administration, he actually completely suspended the cuban adjustment act and he did it under the same powers. so it's ironic that i didn't see any protests two weeks ago when the president of the united states used his authority to do this and now, in fact, if you think about it, wolf, there were over 200 cubans in transit to the united states who were also -- who were all detained. they were all prevented from entering the united states. >> the cuban issue isbecause the u.s. has normalized full diplomatic relations with cuba. we don't have to get in a whole issue about -- >> he was doing it as -- >> what he was doing was -- what he said he was doing is since the u.s. and cuba now have full diplomatic relations, you don't need that anymore. people can come to the united states from cuba through the regular diplomatic process. >> so he actually changed the law. >> he did change the law.
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>> changed the law without authority which is opposite of what the president has done. >> let me get your reaction to these 900 career foreign service officers, diplomats, at the state department who have just signed this dissent channel memo complaining about this travel ban. it's pretty -- i mean, they've been doing it, there's dissent channel -- >> this is a process that's available. >> -- that's been going on for the 900 career diplomats have signed this dissent channel memo to the president saying you know what, you're making a mistake. that's pretty extraordinary. >> what you have is political decisions being made by career bureaucrats. that's exactly what the acting attorney general did. that's what these career bureaucrats are doing. they're all democrats who are upset that their preferred candidate lost. i think they need to do their job. i think they need to make sure -- now,-septemb septembese fact the state department has a process that allows them to dissent and i think that's healthy but i don't think it's anything significant and shouldn't be surprising to any
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of your audience that the state department has a bunch of democrats working there. >> you don't know if all these 900 are democrats, these are career foreign service officerses who go out there and serve all over the world, they come back and they're complaining. let me -- you say it's okay to have some dissent. >> absolutely. >> listen to what the white house press secretary, sean spicer, though, said. listen to this. >> i think that they should either get with the program or they can go. if they don't like it, then they shouldn't take the job. >> you agree with him? >> i agree. they can dissent, but if they're not going to do their job, they need to move on. >> they can do their job but they cab disagree -- >> they can always disagree. >> it's okay to disagree -- >> absolutely. >> than to say, you know what, mr. president, we think this policy is wrong. they're going to go ahead and u.s. at the u.s. embassy -- >> correct. >> -- in bangkok or someplace like that. they're not happy about this. >> the president of the united states -- it's not the career bureaucrats that set the policy. it's the president of the united states. we had an election. our side won the election. i think they should have a right to dissent and they should not be fired for expressing their
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views. but if they refuse to do their job, i don't think they should be work -- they should actually resign. that's what they should do if they don't think that they -- >> he said if they don't like it, they shouldn't take the job. basically meaning they should go. >> they should resign. if they're not willing to go forward with the policy of the united states, just like under the obama administration, if you had a republican or a more conservative member of the state department who didn't want to do their job, they should have moved on. and many did. many people left the state department. many people left the cia. they didn't go out and protest. they actually just said, you know what, i can't handle what this president is doing. many people left the military. >> so you think that's what sally yates, the acting attorney general, should have done instead of releasing a statement saying the president's travel ban was unlawful, she should have simply resigned, is that what you're saying? >> absolutely.
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you actually have some pretty liberal law professors that -- you have people like laurence tribe and other people that are saying -- i'm sorry, not laurence tribe -- >> alan dershowitz. >> alan dershowitz and other senators saying she never should have done this. her duty is to go to the court and debate the issues and this is an issue, first impression. my staff and i, i was a former immigration lawyer. my staff and i spent the whole weekend trying to see if there was case law on this issue. there's no case law on this issue so for her to say she knows it's illegal when there's actually no case law on point, it was pretty irresponsible. >> she was a federal prosecutor in the justice department, a career prosecutor, for 27 years. >> but she -- >> worked her way up to be the number two, the deputy attorney general and now the acting attorney general. so she comes with a wealth of experience and very highly regarded. >> but she disagreed with the policy of this president and she should have resigned. if she could not do her job, which her job is to go to the court and argue the case, that is her job. and if she cannot do that, she should resign.
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she wasn't a martyr. she was a political grandsta grandstander. >> the argument this isn't a muslim ban, she says when you take a look at all the statements that were made, even though they deny it's a muslim ban, she and others have argued it is. let me play a few clips for you then we can discuss. this is the president, when he was on the campaign trail, more than a year ago, what he said and what rudy giuliani, who's now an adviser to the president, said only the other day on fox. >> donald j. trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of muslim s entering te united states. >> when he first announced it, he said muslim ban. he call ed me up, said put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally. >> so basically what rudy giuliani helped him come up with with this formula, for having a muslim ban but not calling it a muslim ban. >> you're misleading a little bit, wolf. >> tell me why.
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>> if you listen to the entire interview that rudy giuliani said, he said, and we told him that a muslim -- you know, he taught him that a muslim ban would be unconstitutional, illegal. >> you believe that -- >> absolutely, that would be -- >> the president, as a campaigner, what he originally said, donald j. trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of muslims entering the united states, he went on to say until we can figure out a way to resolve the terror problem or whatever. when he originally said that, he was wrong. >> he was wrong. and rudy told him that he was wrong. he says you can't do that, but here's what we can do. and what we can do is we can look at the terror threats to the united states, so he turned it from something that would have been unconstitutional to something that is legal and constitutional. >> the other argument that the critics of the president made, and you've heard this, is take a look at what his key advisers have said in the past. in 2010, steve bannon, top strategist, he said "islam is not a religion of peace." last year his national security adviser general flynn tweeted,
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"fear of muslims is rationale." so do those comments put the trump administration on shakier legal ground which is what some of -- what sally yates and others have argued? >> no, that's preposterous. i think those comments are inappropriate but you have to look at the actual policy. you have to look at what was written on the page. and if you look at what was written on the page, it's not much different than what president obama did on three different occasions. so that's what you have to look at. that's what the courts are going to look at. they're going to look at the language. they're not going to look at some twitter accounts online. >> well, very quickly, congressman, we're going to continue this, what do you say to muslim americans who are worried when they hear this kind of talk? >> they should be worried when they hear that kind of talk. most muslim americans also understand they want to be safe in the united states. most americans want to be safe. what this president is trying to do is keep america safe. i think he's doing it the right way. i wish there wouldn't have been
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confusion over the weekend. there's a couple of things they could have done better but i think most americans and the polling data is coming out, most americans agree with the president. >> congressman, we're going to have a new poll later in the week on cnn as well. i need you to standby. much more to discuss. much more with congressman raul labrador right after a quick break. just checking my free credit score at credit karma. what the? you're welcome. i just helped you dodge a bullet. but i was just checking my... shhhhh... don't you know that checking your credit score lowers it. just be cool. actually, checking your credit score with credit karma doesn't affect it at all. are you sure? positive. huh, so i guess i could just check my credit score then. oh! check out credit karma today. credit karma. give yourself some credit. sorry about that.
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between $12 billion and $15 billion. are you ready to use taxpayer money to come up with taxpayer money and spend that money right awhey? >> i am but we should pay for it. we shouldn't be borrowing money just like every other -- >> where should the money come from? >> i'm a fiscal conservative and i believe we should always balance the budget and i have voted for things that are important if don't have the money -- >> where does the money come from? >> you can cut spending. a lot of things we're doing do not make us safe. we can cut spending in some areas. >> give me some examples. >> look at the budget in homeland security, qua awhat ar things they're doing, what are the things they're not doing? need to talk to the border patrol agents. i worked very closely with the border patrol agents. they can tell you in some sectors we don't need an actual wall, we can maybe use a virtual fence. there's different things we ban do so we need to look at sector by sector by sector and work for closely -- >> you'll vote for the, let's say, $15 billion? to fund the construction. he wants to start the construction in a matter of a
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few months. you'll vote for it. >> if we pay for it, yes. >> the u.s. will pay for it. do you believe mexico will pay for it? >> you know, i've never gotten into that debate, that's a debate between president trump and the american -- >> you know what the mexican people, mexican president, mexican people say they're never going to pay -- >> you can find ways for the mexican people to pay for it. >> one example was a 20% tax on mexican imports into the united states. making those products, by the way, more expensive for american consumers. you support that? >> i do not. i do not. you can find ways to do fees on immigration, different things. i'm not going to get into the debate because that's not a debate i think is that significant. to me, the significant debate is whether we're going to have border security, are we going to have a wall? are we going to build that wall, be able to have interior enforcement, be able to keep the promises we have made to the american people? the irony about the last two weeks is that we're having a debate about a president who for the first time is keeping his
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promises. so people are mad because the president of the united states is actually doing the things that he told the american people thatronic. >> we got to leave it on that note. congressman raul labrador, good to have you in "the situation room." >> thank you. still ahead, we're standing by for the president's supreme court announcement. if confirmed, how influential will this new justice be? we're also learning minute at the suspect in that deadly mosque shooting and the connection, his connection to the far right. if you have medicare
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there's breaking news up on capitol hill are senate democrats are boycotting votes on some trump nominees for cabinet positions. our senior congressional reporters manu raju is up on capitol hill with the latest. manu, republicans, they are fuming over this. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. democrats know full well they cannot stop donald trump's nominees from eventually getting confirmed, but what they can do is delay the process and that's exactly what they're doing. tensions are erupting in the senate as democrats are delaying confirmation votes for president donald trump's cabinet. complaints came after democrats suddenly boycotted a said finance committee vote on two of trump's nominees. congressman tom price to lead the health and human services department.
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and steven mnuchin as secretary of treasury. >> anybody can do something like that, it's a complete breach of decor decorum, complete breach of committee rules, complete breach of just getting along around here. >> reporter: democrats complained the two men misled the committee in sworn testimony, demanding more answers. >> our republican colleagues are trying to rush these through. you know, advise and consent doesn't mean ram the nominees through. i know why they want to do it. these nominees are not what donald trump promised and not what represents american middle class values. >> reporter: trump has also called for quick action to confirm senator jeff sessions as attorney general. but democrats delayed the committee vote until wednesday pushing back a final confirmation until week's end. this after democrats dragged out for another day the confirmation vote of rex tillerson as secretary of state. >> thanks for that question. >> reporter: while warning they'll do the same for other
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controversial nominees including betsy devos to lead the education department. but even though devos won committee approval tuesday on a party line vote, some republicans are warning they may not support her nomination on the floor because of her shaky testimony. >> she has not yet earned my full support and when each of us have the opportunity to vote aye or nay on the floor i would not advise she would yet count on my vote. >> reporter: tonight, wolf, betsy devos under fire for appearing to plagiarize some questions, answers to questions that senators had including one about how her views about bullying lgbt students appearing to lift, directly lift passages from a senior obama justice official in response from questions to senator patty murray of washington state. now the white house saying this is a character assassination going after betsy devos and the top republican of that
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committee, lamar alexander, telling me he does not think it could scuttle her nomination but if lisa murkowski votes against her as well as susan collins of maine who also has concerns, it could be very close, even mike pence may have to break a tie. wolf? >> manu raju on capitol hill. thanks very much. let's get more from our correspondents, experts, our analysts. gloria borger, let me start with you. we're just getting a statement in, this chris christie who was a major supporter of donald trump, governor of new jersey, said the president's goals were laudable with the travel ban, but his plan is too broad, its implementation was terrible, the rollout of this executive order he said was terrible, the right people were not involved or consulted, there was confusion in the enforcement that went on here. that's pretty strong words from chris christie involving such a sensitive issue for the new president. >> what does he really think about it, wolf? look, this is -- this is the man who was in charge of the transition, if you recall, until
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he got fired and just summarily dismissed from the transition. he did not get a place in the administration. i think, however, his criticism, if you want to set that aside because a lot of people in the administration will say that, you know, this is sour grapes from chris christie who didn't get a job he wanted and was fired. if you look at his criticism, it comes from somebody who was very familiar with how government is supposed to work because he got very immeshed in the details of government when he was trying to figure out the transition. and what he's really saying here is that something went wrong. what he is saying is the people inside the white house don't really have a full appreciation for how the government is supposed to work. and that, perhaps, is what chris christie thinks he could have helped him with. >> evan, evan perez is with us as well. you broke the story on the acting attorney general sally
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yates and her concern thinking it was unlawful, the president's travel ban. she's since been fired. i want you to listen to an exchange she had back in 2015 during her confirmation process to become deputy attorney general, an exchange she had with then-senator, still senator, jeff sessions. >> right. >> president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no? >> senator, i believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president. >> could we see more examples of this down the road? >> you know, i mean, i think that sounds a lot like what happened over the last couple of days. i think that's certainly the way sally yates and her supporters of the justice department, that's the way they believe this went down. that simply put, she was standing up to a president who was asking her to do something that she didn't think was lawful. i think what gloria is pointing out, too, is exactly right, i
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think the frustration at the justice department is the people at the white house don't have an appreciation for how to actually get things done. how to govern and a lot of those people, the initial people that they had handling the transition including at the justice department would have handled this a lot better than the ones that carried this out. >> steve is with us as well, law professor at the university of texas school of law. what she also said is the intent of the order was a muslim ban in effect, that president trump had called for a muslim ban, as you remember, during the campaign trail, you also have some comments from his top advisers in 2010, steve bannon said islam is not a religion of peace last year. his national security adviser, michael flynn, tweeted "fear of muslims is rationale." do those comments put the trump administration on shakier ground when they deny this was a muslim ban? >> oh, wolf, i think there's no question that they do. when you have those kinds of statements and have president
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trump tweeting about the success of the ban, you know, you were speaking with congressman labrador before who referred us all not to look at the statements but look at the text of the executive order. wolf, even the text of the executive order militates in favor as seeing this as a muslim ban because of section 5b, an express exception for religious minorities in the seven named countries. wolf, all seven of these countries are muslim majority countries so i think courts are going to have very little trouble agreeing with deputy attorney general yates that this is, in fact, a muslim ban, it is motivated by an intent to d discriminate on the basis of religion. the real question is whether do they go from there? >> well, it's a good question. david swerdlick, sally yates' dismissal, firing by the president sent out a strong messa message. what options do career officials whether at justice or state or elsewhere have if they disagree with a policy decision made by the president? >> yeah, the firings send a strong message but i think her actions send a stronger message, wolf. i think sally yates comes off looking fairly good in this
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situation. she laid out her reasons pretty clearly in the departmental letter and went on to issue it knowing she would probably be dismissed and accepting that. for other lawyers and other career government employees who don't have the reputation that she has or the platform that she has, i really do think it's a concern. i've talked to lawyers in other agencies who are on the fence about carrying on the work they're doing versus working for an administration they may not always agree with. >> i want to go to jeffrey toobin joining us from overseas. jeffrey, senator sessions' staff, some staff members were involved in drafting this travel ban memo, if you will, or executive action as it's called. what do you make -- but chairmen of various committees and members were not involved at all. what do you make of this level of secrecy that was involved in coming up with this decision? >> reporter: well, i think it's indicative of how what a small group has been making policy
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during the early days of the trump administration. there are very few confirmed senior officials. there are not many appointed officials. and so they are relying on this very small group and the question about jeff sessions, which really is very clearly raised now, is what will his role be if he's confirmed as attorney general? will he be a check on the president as attorney general sometimes has been, or will he simply be rubber stamp on everything that the president wants to do? that's a question very much present now as his nomination comes up for a vote at some point. >> all right. everybody, stand by. there's much more ahead including the european union president slamming president trump calling his administration an external threat. will this damage american foreign policy? there's also breaking news coming in about the hundreds of career state department officials signing a letter
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there's more breaking news this hour. sources now telling cnn 900 career state department diplomats have now signed a memo of dissent opposing president trump's travel ban targeting seven muslim majority countries.
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our global affairs correspondent elise labott is working the story for us over at the state department. you're learning new information, elise, share with our viewers. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. well, this memo was circulating over the weekend and yesterday and throughout embassies around the world, on facebook, what started as a few dozen grew to a couple hundred and now upwards of 900 career foreign service officers and civil servants passing a dissent memo to the incoming secretary rex tillerson saying that this visa ban, this refugee policy, would be counterproductive, not only would it make america less safe, not prevent terrorism, would increase anti-american sentiment and alienate allies in the war against terror. wolf, this is really dissent is a culture here at the state department after sean spicer yesterday told those diplomats if they didn't like the policy, they could leave. a lot of talk about resignations, but today at a retirement ceremony for a few
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people that have been asked to leave the state department, they asked the state department to stay and make sure that there were good choices in this administration going forward. >> all right, elise, thanks very much. elise labott over at the state department. gloria, it's pretty extraordinary not even two weeks into a new presidency, you have 900 career diplomats, state department officials, signing a letter like this. the president was supposed to be in milwaukee on thursday at a harley davidson plant promoting product development here in the united states. has to cancel that because harley davidson said there's going to be protests, they don't think it's a good time for him . >> it's extraordinary and a divided country, wolf. almost half the public, according to some recent polls, believe the travel ban is a good idea, the other half doesn't believe it's a good idea. i think that, you know, what you're seeing play out is what we saw play out during the
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election, quite frankly, and on this dissent channel in particular, it's going to be interesting to watch what donald trump does if anything. it seems to me that as president he doesn't have to do anything, but if rex tillerson gets confirmed, the question is what does he do when he gets into the state department? i want to remind you, after there was dissent on syria with only about 50 people signing a dissent, john kerry, secretary of state, met with the dissenters and when there was dissent on bosnia in the '90s, the clinton administration met with the dissenters. so my question to rex tillerson is -- will he do the same leads the state department? >> you're our expert on the supreme court. jeff zeleny, our senior white house correspondent is telling us donald trump likes the contest. that's why he's brought in the
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two finalists to washington for the 8:00 p.m. eastern announcement. what do you anticipate? >> these are both highly competent, highly accomplished judgments, but the big picture is that the republicans will get what they wanted when they delay the nomination of merit garland to the supreme court. they get a justice regardless of which of the two it is, who will vote very much like justice scalia. both judges are very conservative. that's what this is about. we'll discuss the subtleties of how conservative and in what areas but what we are looking at is replacement for justice scalia who will vote like justice scalia, and that was one of the major things at stake in this presidential election. >> how do you see it, steve? >> i think jeff's right. i think the reality is whether
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it's judge gorsych or hardiman, you won't see a seismic shift in the court from this nominee. scalia stood out not just for his judicial philosophy by his style. he was brilliant, brash, and could be a bully. i think we'll see in either judge hardiman or gorsich a little more civility, respectful disagreements. they'll be there for a long time. chances are they'll outlive the other eight on the supreme court which means the fight is not about this nominee, the fight's going to be about who's the next seat on the supreme court and will it be president trump with the republican senate who gets to fill it. >> they could have influence on the court for 30 or 40 years. >> one more thing. >> very quickly. >> the fact that gorsich was a justice kennedy clerk will
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encourage kennedy to quit during the trump administration. and i think that's a big factor here. >> all right, guys. everybody stand by. remember president trump's announcement of his u.s. supreme court nominee is coming up. we're also learning new details of the suspect in a deadly attack on a mosque. officials are calling it terrorism. you do all this research
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>> reporter: we're learning that he did hold some very far-right views. he was known to a refugee group, welcoming refugees. they're aware of his support for the far-right politician marine le pen. they were aware of his feelings against immigration and women as well as his really strong nationalistic feelings. and so they knew him from some of the postings he had made. we also spoke to students here at laval university. this is where we're standing. he was a political science major and those who were in his class say he was extremely anti-social, that he came to class but never brought a notebook and would never engage in the conversation. two students actually who also attend told us they were in the middle of a political conversation on facebook and out of nowhere he joined in. they didn't know him. they were surprised he was speaking. but they described his feelings as so aggressive and opinionated they actually made a picture of him -- again, this is five days
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before the shooting -- basically saying if you don't like it here, go live elsewhere. there's a sense this was somebody who was really outside on the fringes but he did leave a mark for anybody who did interact with him, wolf. >> new details about the man mistakenly identified as the shooter. what are you finding out about that? >> reporter: well, what we're finding out about him, this is a man whose name is mohamed khadir. he knew something bad had happened inside. he ran in and was leaning over people to figure out who was alive or dead and he went to place his coat on somebody who was still breathing and all of a sudden he turned and looked back and he saw somebody who had a gun and he ran. what he didn't know at the time is that it was a police officer who was coming in and so after he bolted, that's when obviously police gave chase. >> deborah feyerick in quebec, thanks very much. and this important note, i just want to leave our viewers with a thank you. we want to say good-bye to our
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friend and talented director gina fellows as she's joining our colleagues in new york. she'll still be part of the cnn family, but her "the situation room" family will miss her very much. good luck, gina. we miss you already. "erin burnett out front" starts right now. "out front" next, breaking news, president trump about to reveal his supreme court pick. who will it be? we are just moments away. and we're bringing that to you live tonight. plus more breaking news, chaos on capitol hill. democrats boycotting trump's nominees while another pick now accused of plagiarizing. and trump's travel ban. will it hurt or help america? mark cuban is "out front" tonight. let's go "out front."

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