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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Acting Atty. General Defies Pres. Trump's Executive Order; Trump Fires Acting Attorney General; New Acting AG Named Dana Boente; New Acting AG Dana Boente Sworn In. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 30, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:01:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Topping this hour of "360", breaking news, the highest ranking law enforcement official in the land is saying that President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees is not lawful. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is her name. She's an Obama holdover. In effect, adding her official voice to the protest still unfolding around the country and the world. That's in Columbus, Ohio we've been watching for the last hour.
President Trump firing back tonight, tweeting, "The Democrats are delaying my Cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G." What he has not done, not yet, is fire her. CNN's Even Perez joins us now.
So, this order from the acting attorney general to the Department of Justice, what are your sources telling you?
EVEN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we -- we're told that Sally Yates, the acting attorney general struggled with all of this over the weekend. She didn't learn about this executive order until Friday when everybody else saw it. And it's something that the White House should have consulted with her, if you expected that, the Justice Department and the lawyers that work under her were going to have to defend this in court. And so that's something she struggled with all weekend.
Finally today, she issued an order to the lawyers and Justice Department saying, "I don't defend this law." And I'll read you a part of what she said in her memo to the lawyers. She said, "I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful." That's -- those are words, Andersen, that will last beyond her tenure.
Obviously, she -- we know that she's only in office for another few days until Jeff Sessions, the Trump nominee, takes office until he gets Senate confirmed. But these are words that have been now written by an acting attorney general. And you can bet that people challenging the executive order are going to use this against the Trump administration.
COOPER: Right. In multiple states, there are people challenging the executive order.
COOPER: I mean, could her lawyers still go ahead and defend the government's case?
PEREZ: This is an order from the attorney general. So she is ordering the lawyers inside the Justice Department that they cannot do this at least because they would be doing it in her name.
Now, there's a couple of options, right? The Trump White House can simply bring in outside lawyers to defend this. There's also a possibility that they could fire her and then bring someone else in to take her place. The problem is, that you need someone who is Senate confirmed, Senate confirmed official to do all of the functions of the attorney general.
And one of the big, big jobs is to sign off on foreign surveillance warrants. That's one of the things that they -- that she does every day. And so, that's one of the things that I think the Trump White House is struggling with tonight is how to do that. Obviously, Sally Yates, a 30-year career lawyer at Justice Department, she was appointed under President Obama. But she's acting here as someone who has been in the department for nearly three decades.
COOPER: All right, Evan Perez, appreciate the update.
Let's get some legal advice now from George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley. Joining us again this hour is also a CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor and constitutional lawyer, Page Pate.
So, Professor Turley, what is this? Is this a political move by the acting attorney general? Is it the right legal move?
JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I don't think it is the right legal move. I have a great deal of respect for Ms. Yates. She's a wonderful career, recognized as a true career prosecutor. And that's why it surprises me a bit about this. She hasn't explained why she thinks it's unlawful. At best I think the law here is unclear. There's arguments on both sides. If anything, I think, the administration has the stronger argument based on past cases.
[21:05:01] Also, she cites statements made before the executive order was signed, presumably statements by Mr. -- by President Trump during the campaign and by Rudy Giuliani.
The Justice Department has routinely opposed those types of statements from being considered in litigation. I've been in litigation against the Justice Department where they insisted motivations behind legislation and other policies are not relevant. So it's very surprising to see that in the letter. It departs from the long standing principles of the Justice Department. I mean this is the department that defended the torture program and many of us were saying that enhanced interrogation was in fact torture. They still felt that they could defend it and there is a value to that. It's important to get this issue into court. It's important for it to be argued well on both sides. And so this, I don't think is the right move that she's taking.
COOPER: Page, what do you make of Professor Turley's arguments because before against Professor Dershowitz, you were essentially saying they've got to look about the legitimacy of the Department of Justice?
PAGE PATE, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Well, I think that's absolutely true. I mean with an order like this it should have gone to the senior executives, the senior level folks in the Department of Justice before it was ever signed by the president.
So, while I certainly agree there are serious constitutional issues that need to be litigated, that need to be decided in court, you can't ask the Department of Justice to jump in and simply defend what the president has done without doing their own review of the document. That should have been done well before it was signed.
So I think Sally Yates has an obligation as a public servant and one that she has been for many, many years for decades and has served both Republicans and Democrats, to make sure that the process is followed. And it was not followed here. And it concerns her. And I understand that.
COOPER: Laura, what about you?
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, Sally Yates I think did not make a simply political decision. One of the things that everyone has been grappling with over the past three days is what power has the president exercised to make this authority and make executive order, and also how is he intending to defend it and also enforce it? And it's just untrue that the Department of Justice would just be a marionette of the president. It's simply trying to enforce an ambiguous law that may have sections that are unlawful or maybe constitutional.
DOJ and attorney general has every right and in fact a responsibility to ensure consistency about how things are enforced. And for a president who complained a great deal about bureaucracy, by not having the clear-cut order and by not having the DOJ be in place in order to help enforce that law, you've empowered many a bureaucrat to make arbitrary decisions. And that simply goes against the principles of our Justice Department including equal protection.
TURLEY: Yeah, I'm afraid that I don't entirely agree with that. I agree with some of it. Part of it, this isn't very consistent for the Justice Department. The Justice Department during the Obama administration, just last year, was arguing in the courts that courts shouldn't second-guess the president on immigration. Reaffirming the president had sweeping authority in these types of national security decisions.
I disagree with this executive order. I think it's a terrible decision by the Trump administration. But this acting attorney general is departing from past Justice Department practices. They have always argued heavily in favor of discretion to the president to the point, in my view, of almost absolute discretion.
COATES: Well, that's true, except for the fact that when you talk about civil rights cases, which is also really a part of the underlying, you know, concerns here, the Justice Department always looked at the intent. It's very rare that you would have somebody be able to explicitly state a discriminatory purpose behind a legislative act and be able to enforce it blindly.
The Justice Department routinely looks at legislative intent and in this case, the foundation for why the president made the order as a way to guide them. And in this case, if you're unclear about -- the intent, and whether or not it can be enforced down the line, you have a right, and an obligation not to willy-nilly act as a marionette.
PATE: And it's not just the intent as the manner of enforcement. We've already seen several inconsistent moves by the White House is that how this order is going to be enforced. Does it cover lawful permanent residents? Green card holders, does it not? And so, I think the attorney general, and even she's just acting attorney general, has a responsibility to make sure that the process is lawful and it was not in this case.
TURLEY: You know, that's where I'm a bit confused about all of this. And that is, yes, they have in fact, exempted hundreds of people. They have stepped back from the green card holders. They have made changes that have improved the situation for many.
I don't want to be defending this executive order, I find it offensive to the point of being grotesque, but it's the question is a constitutional one. There are very strong arguments that this administration has that he has all the authority to do this.
[21:10:00] He's doing what other presidents have done. Was this incredibly negligent in the way that it was ruled out? Absolutely. But I disagree that courts routinely look at intent.
TURLEY: The Justice Department has a long line of cases, that says that the law can stand on its own if there is a, a valid, bona-fide rationale, regardless of what people for example with legislation may have said on the floor.
TURLEY: I've been in cases where they've argued that. COOPER: Professor Turley, I appreciate it. Laura Coates, as well. Page Pate, thank you.
Whenever you think a President Trump's executive order, it's hard to argue it was arrived that is Professor Turley said with the kind of careful deliberation, attention, ramifications that any presidential action would seem to demand. However that's exact what the administration is arguing. And quite a Republicans are not happy about it.
CNN's Dana Bash tonight reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Confusion and chaos. Not the imagery one might expect from a president who promised to bring private sector competency to government.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.
BASH: But here, President Trump and his team acted more like he did as a fly by the seat of his pants candidate than an orderly CEO.
TRUMP: I am really good at business and I can make this country so rich and so great again.
BASH: Giving little direction to those expected to interpret and carry out orders that have real world consequences.
SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R) OHIO: You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have had. And as a result, the implementation we've seen some problems.
BASH: Problems on policy and a political quandary for Trump's fellow Republicans.
Ever since Trump was elected, congressional Republicans from leadership on down have been preparing to deal with an unconventional president. Many GOP sources say that means picking a battles and not criticizing every controversial move he makes. But even Republican sources who say they wanted to be supportive of what could have been a popular move to keep Americans more safe, say they felt compelled to condemn it because it was handled so poorly.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's a good idea to tighten the vetting process. But also I think it is important to remember that some of our best sources in a war against radical Islamic terrorism are Muslims. Both in this country and overseas.
BASH: From the Senate majority leader to Senate foreign relations chairman, Bob Corker who tries to be supportive of President Trump but in this case said, we all share a desire to protect the American people. But this executive order has been poorly implemented. Corker told CNN he found out about it through the press. The White House now argues it had to be a close hold.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If we announced this a lot earlier, it would have given people plenty of time to flood into the country who could have done us harm. That's not exactly a sound strategy, right? So the people that needed to be kept in the loop were kept in the loop.
BASH: Republican House Homeland Security chairman, Mike McCaul, who backed the idea in general, wasn't consulted either.
REP. MIKE MCCAUL, (R) TEXAS: This was an overreach.
BASH: Several high profile Republicans say the sloppy executive order will actually help recruit potential terrorists.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I think the effect will probably in some areas give ISIS some more propaganda.
BASH: But one GOP lawmaker I spoke with who is concerned about Trump's actions found a silver lining. Saying, this is the first signal to worried Americans that checks and balances can work. Five courts temporarily blocked the president's order on travel restrictions. And while Congress hasn't passed legislation, they did voice loud concerns.
It's an open question as to whether President Trump and his team, advisers like Steve Bannon who never worked in government will learn a hard lesson about governing and all its implications or whether stirring controversy and doing things differently is exactly what they think Donald Trump was elected to do.
Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And that's the question for the panel which is back for the hour. Matt, you raised this idea earlier about sort of chaos theory that maybe this is to Dana's point their idea of, you know, this clash and it shows that well they're stirring the pot.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think it is chaos theory. I'm not saying it's going to end up well. It could end up very bad for them. But I think this is not an example of sloppiness or incompetence. I think this is part of a strategy. Now everybody -- not everybody might be in on the strategy, but I think this is indicative of Steve Bannon, Steven Miller.
If you sort of follow where they're coming from, they're sort of disciples of Saul Alinsky, this liberal organizer trying to take what the left did. There's a book called "Confrontational Politics" by H.L. Richardson, that really spells out what this is. It's a theory that says you're always on offense. You have to constantly be fighting. Most Americans like peace. We like committee. They believe that you are always fighting. And you shake things up. And that is what I am seeing. I do not think this is an accident. [21:15:09] COOPER: It's interesting though that that theory, if that is the case, that theory is now at play in the White House by the most powerful person in the world.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, (D) FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Right, in fact, I think that what is going to happen here, my prediction is, this is a man who ran on making America great again. But the steps that he is taking is actually going to make America unsafe again. He will be setting himself up for a primary opponent on the Republican side of people who are saying I don't like the way that we have stoked the Jihadists, given them an -- recruiting organism. I don't like the way you have taken off the director of National Intelligence, and the director of the joint chiefs, so you are not getting full information. Making us unsafe.
GRANHOLM: Making us unsafe and telling the career professionals who make us safe every day that they got to go.
COOPER: He did have 16 GOP opponents earlier --
COOPER: -- and they didn't fare too well.
GRANHOLM: Right, but I don't think people knew that he was going to be running a chaos theory or chaos candidacy.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: But a lot of them made that argument from the more hawkish wing of the party and that's been --
GRANHOLM: But now that you have data. You've got things order. You've got our allies totally up in arms.
CHALIAN: But I think there's a way --
GRANHOLM: You've got sales of Pepto-Bismol going through the roof, those people are so freaked out.
CHALIAN: Yeah, I do believe that you can both be a disruptor and blow up Washington, but do it in a way that serves your interests well. That's where I think, not incompetence but just --
LEWIS: That's political talk.
CHALIAN: But listen, you can -- but, no, because I'm still saying you can blow it up and that's usually. Newt Gingrich --
COOPER: Have your ducks in a row.
CHALIAN: Yeah, Newt Gingrich have quote today, it's like watching somebody on roller skates for the first time. There's only so much that you can understand in advance. You got to just get in the skates and go. And I think that's what we're seeing in this White House right now. I guarantee you, we are going to see more methodical and thought out implementation going forward. But I agree with you, that the fight works for them politically.
LEWIS: Yeah, and let's see what happens to that.
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He is doing. He is still campaigning. And I think that's the thing that is so troubling to so many Americans.
COOPER: Well it --
ROSEN: He is still -- he is playing politics, not policy. He is not doing what he said he wanted to do which is unite the country. Let's not forget, these protests across this country are unprecedented. We have never seen Americans take to the streets, take to the airports, in the kind of numbers that we are seeing. Never really in our history.
LEWIS: You saw that video that we just played.
ROSEN: I'm sorry. This is just believable/
LEWIS: This video we just played in Pennsylvania.
LEWIS: That video --
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right.
LEWIS: -- that we just played of Pennsylvania sort of middle America, working class, white voters who elected Donald Trump.
LORD: That's exactly right.
LEWIS: How do those protests play for them?
ROSEN: It doesn't matter.
LEWIS: It does matter.
LORD: It does matters.
LEWIS: It matters greatly.
ROSEN: It doesn't matter to Donald Trump. And it doesn't matter to Steve Bannon. But it matters to America. Because if you want to be the president of all the people you don't want to have those kinds of --
LEWIS: But if you want to win elections --
COOPER: If you want to win elections, Donald Trump won.
ROSEN: No, but he has -- it's not about winning elections, it's about governing now, it's about making America great again, it's not about holding America divided.
LORD: You have to have your base. And the people in that diner --
LORD: -- in your county, are exactly the people. This is why I always felt that he was going to win.
COOPER: It's such telling, I'm so glad we had Randi --
COOPER: -- to talk with this, because it so --
COOPER: -- it so easy to get caught up for all this protests. But how is it playing in the states where Donald Trump won?
ROSEN: But you're making a political analysis and that's what --
COOPER: They're all politicians. That's every -- you are telling me Obama wasn't a politician.
ROSEN: But this isn't about politics, this is about real people's lives. This is about people who are threatened.
ROSEN: This is, this is about Syrian families, who, you know, are being turned back at the border back -- to go back to violence. This is not about an election. This is about actually governing a country, to make it better, to help people.
LORD: Yeah. At the end of the day --
COOPER: OK, we're just been told that Sally Yates has been relieved of her duties as acting attorney general. We're told that she has been replaced. We'll get that name for you. Reaction, Ryan?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well this is unprecedented. We have -- we're nine days into the Trump administration. And he has fired the acting attorney general of the United States, because she disagreed with the -- where she had a different legal understanding of his executive order. And I can't think of a, of a precedent, I don't remember a time that that's ever happened. They fire people in the Justice Department for cause. They fire them for -- you can fire them for all sorts of things.
But since Nixon, since the Saturday night massacre we have not had a president dismiss someone because she disagreed with the legal analysis.
LORD: I mean bravo to him. He is the president of the United States. I mean, I'd say exactly the same thing if these were reversed and these were President Obama and there were a conservative in there saying, well I'm going to go in exactly the other direction. Presidents are elected for a reason. No matter who they are. This is --
LEWIS: Trump likes confrontation. This is confrontation. I think he invites -- I think he welcomes this. But I also agree with what Professor Dershowitz and by the way I think those legal panels were terrific. I mean a president has wide latitude indiscretion to make --
[21:20:04] LEWIS: -- decisions about immigration. And was -- when President Obama, as we said earlier, when he paused, refugees coming from Iraq, was that unconstitutional?
GRANHOLM: He's used to saying you are fired. That's true. But every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. You do not think that this will have a ripple effect throughout the --
LORD: Hopefully --
LEWIS: I guess we have to get Sessions in there right away.
GRANHOLM: I'm not just talking about the Justice Department. I am talking about through the entire federal government.
COOPER: Right, but I think --
GRANHOLM: And maybe people will think that's a good thing.
COOPER: -- that's why he was elected. Right.
GRANHOLM: Well -- I mean maybe that -- maybe people will think that's a good thing, but when you, when you need somebody -- when you need people there to advise you on the most intricate and difficult scientific issues that you've got to follow through on as a president. And you don't have people there who have that expertise, then you are in a world --
LEWIS: It's a great argument for confirming Sessions tomorrow.
LORD: It was said that -- Governor, you said this tonight and I heard this --
COOPER: By the way, I'm sorry Dana Boente, is the new acting attorney general, U.S. attorney from eastern district of Virginia, I'm told. Dana Boente. We'll get you more information on her soon as we have -- LORD: But you said this --
COOPER: -- excuse me, on him.
LORD: And I've heard this from a number of people. That well something like this will only antagonize ISIS. Yeah, I have to tell you, this sound exactly like -- Neville Chamberlain telling Winston Churchill, if you would only shut up, Hitler could be controlled. No, Hitler was Hitler, ISIS is ISIS, they're beheading people.
GRANHOLM: But you are calling John McCain, a Neville Chamberlain, you're calling Lindsey Graham, a Neville Chamberlain. You're calling people who have been in this, who understand that the reaction is out there and who have been looking at this websites and --
COOPER: But you're making an argument, appeasement, there's a difference between appeasement and painting the entire Muslim world with a broad brush which plays exactly into the rhetoric of ISIS and these groups like al-Qaeda, want --
LORD: But Anderson, they were doing this before, Donald Trump, before Barack Obama was elected.
COOPER: They're trying to box the United States into a war against the entire Islamic world. The argument people who don't agree with his policy, is that -- this actually helps them do that.
LORD: I just think it's wrong. And I do think that this is based on the assumption that if we only don't do this, then they won't do that. That's just not so.
ROSEN: First of all, there is no evidence.
LIZZA: -- that are better and worse in terms of playing into the enemy's hands, right?
LORD: No, no.
ROSEN: You know, he picked countries where are terrorists have not come from. So that's number one. There are --
LORD: Hilary, just yesterday, an American soldier was killed in Yemen. What was he doing there? He was doing there to fight terrorism. What do you mean --
ROSEN: In Yemen, not in New York.
LORD: But it's all part of the same problem.
ROSEN: No, I'm sorry it's not. It's about who are we welcoming -- LORD: If they're being killed in Yemen, they're not --
ROESN: What I resent is I resent Donald Trump and you, Jeffrey, suggesting somehow that people who oppose the way this ban is being implemented are somehow soft on terrorism or do not believe that there should be extreme screening of people --
GRANHOLM: Preach it, Hilary, that's right.
ROSEN: That is not true. We do believe that. We have had that. And in fact, there have not been the inflammatory problems that Donald Trump and his apologists are calling for in order to play politics. That's what were --
LORD: We just had an incident in Ohio State from a Somali refugee, yes, what was he doing there?
ROSEN: Somalia is not on the list.
LORD: As you know.
ROSEN: Tell me why he got this list. It's politics.
LIZZA: Just to go back to the breaking news here, I mean today is a pretty extraordinary day with two things happened today. One, there was a leak out of the State Department that a number of State Department officials were using the official Dissent Channel at the State Department to oppose this executive order. When the White House was asked about it, Sean Spicer basically said, they should just leave. That's extraordinary. That's channel set up at the State Department after the Watergate era to make sure that State Department career officers had an official channel to register dissent.
The White House is telling them they should leave the government. And now tonight we have an acting attorney general who disagreed with the White House over the executive order she's been sacked. I do agree with you, Jeffrey in one sense, she was a holdover. I think he has wide discretion here, so that's --
CHALIAN: Sessions is attorney general. This is a little bit about theater and not really about policy.
LIZZA: That's right. That's right. But we are learning from a president who got in there and said he wants people around him who disagree, in two pretty extraordinary moments today the White House is saying --
LORD: Drain the swamp.
LIZZA: -- you know, what we don't want you to disagree that much.
COOPER: I want to bring our CNN legal analyst Laura Coates who's back with us. What do you make of Donald Trump firing the acting attorney general on? COATES: You know, I am shocked that he would take this action not because I think it's not his prerogative to do so to replace her. I mean obviously he already had Sessions lined up and its confirmation appears to be imminent. But because the order that she was speaking about, seemed to be lacking in the clarity that she needed to actually enforce it.
[21:25:00] And the idea that one could be fired, a career attorney, essentially from the Department of Justice not for cause but because she was seeking clarity and also ordering her subordinates not to try to justify what she did not know was going to be a lawful act is very surprising. And again, one of the things that she appeared to be fighting against was the idea that there would not be uniformity in the application or enforcement of it when you left it in the hands of the Justice Department trying to parse out what they thought was lawful and constitutional and what was not.
Remember, the DOJ's role is to simply try to enforce the laws, not to create it, not to clarify them. Not to try to undo or eliminate any ambiguity. I am surprise he chose this course. But it certainly was in his prerogative to do so.
COOPER: Laura, can you think of a time this has happened before?
COATES: I cannot. I mean to have somebody be relieved of their duties not because they have been -- I don't think she was totally insubordinate. I think what she was doing was trying to clarify and say, look, I cannot enforce what is inconsistent and may be contradictory to our actual laws in our constitution. And it may be. You know, this its not --
COOPER: But don't -- I mean lawyers have different legal opinions and now he has found somebody who apparently thinks he can defend this.
COATES: Right. And, you know that -- but that is the most concerning part, because remember, the Justice Department, as I said before, is not the marionette of the president. They are acting on behalf of the people of the United States. And so their job is not simply to cosign and give carte blanche to any action by the president.
You know, it was his prerogative to actually make that order, but it's also the prerogative and in fact the obligation of the DOJ to try to figure out what they can enforce and whether or not it's consistent. And so --
COATES: -- to be relieved of her duties is very shocking.
COOPER: I want to -- Professor Alan Dershowitz is joining us once again on the phone. Professor Dershowitz, I wonder what you make now of this latest development?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, LAWYER: Well I think it's a serious mistake. I think he could have worked around her. He could have gotten the court to appoint another lawyer to represent him in court and to represent his positions. Now he's made it political and it's going to be very difficult for anybody in the Justice Department to side with him, obviously, this will also give the Democrats an excuse for trying to delay the Sessions' confirmation.
So I think he has responded in a political way which will remind people of the Saturday night massacre of Nixon, the Archibald Cox, and he could have done it in a much nuance and subtle way.
COOPER: But Professor Dershowitz --
DERSHOWITZ: -- he has the power to do it. He should have exercised.
COOPER: Couldn't you also make the counter argument which is, this may be political, but it actually serves his political interests. If you want to be seen as draining the swamp, shaking up Washington, as not putting up with status quo, and being, you know, a strong leader who is not going to take, you know, what he views as a -- as political grandstanding by an assistant attorney general, that this actually plays into him politically, in a positive way.
DERSHOWITZ: I think it does. I think short term it gives him a political benefit. But he's going to have a hard time now getting the Justice Department to have somebody who will stand behind him and, the courts may say that since he is basically dismissed this person, he doesn't really have the right to come to court and seek his own lawyer. It's hard to know what the longer term or middle term implications would be. Short term, I think it may help him politically with his base. But, you know, it almost is never a good thing to be flexing ones muscles with the Justice Department.
Because there are a lot of career people in the Justice Department who will resent this very much. And these are people who will stay on. He is not going to be able to drain the entire swamp of the Justice Department, there are thousands of employees who have been there for years and years and have civil service status.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz, can attorneys who are going to be arguing against the Justice Department in court, arguing against the president's executive action, can they use the fact that the now former assistant attorney general raised questions about the fairness and legality of the executive order in court?
DERSHOWITZ: I certainly would do that if I were a lawyer challenging this rule, of course if it's a strong argument. It's -- no, it's not a legally binding argument, but it's an argument that I think some judges will have sympathy to. If you have the acting attorney generals I will not defend this law. It will make it easier for the judge to grant the stay, sure.
COOPER: And -- how quickly, Professor Dershowitz, I mean the person now who has been appointed the new acting attorney general, will they immediately then instruct the Department of Justice attorneys to begin defending the executive order?
[21:30:01] DERSHOWITZ: Well, remember what happened with the Saturday night massacre. And that is -- that he fired the attorney general and the number two person said no, the number three person said no, and finally Robert Bork later to be nominated unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court said, "I'll do it. I'll do it," and finally, he did it. So, you know, it depends on who now succeeds her, what that person's position is going to be. And I think that's unpredictable.
COOPER: Professor Dershowitz., I appreciate talking to you. Thank you very much.
DERSHOWITZ: Sure, thank you.
COOPER: We're going to continue now with the panel. You're actually -- I -- you're looking at this, right?
LIZZA: Well, I think it's very clear that Dana has -- from the statement that the White House has put out, it seems very clear that he is on board with this executive order. There's a quote in the White House statement from the new attorney general saying, "I am honored to serve President Trump in this role. Until Senator Sessions is confirmed, I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected." It seems very doubtful to me that he would allow a statement like that in the press release, take the job, unless he disagreed with Sally Yates and was prepared to defend this executive order.
ROSEN: They also went further though and attack Sally Yates, a career prosecutor, in saying that she is an Obama administration appointee who's weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.
Now, I don't think that's going to sit very well with lawyers at the Justice Department or frankly lawyers across the country to sort of suggest that her reason for doing this is because she is weak on illegal immigration.
COOPER: And there's another portion. I just want to read that. It said, "The acting Attorney General Sally Yates has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of United States." Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee, as -- that Hilary said, who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.
The word, betrayal certainly jumps out. More on how this may play out in terms of national security, I'm joined now by Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the CNN National Security Commentator. Also Eliot Cohen, the former State Department counselor under the George W. Bush administration, and author "The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force".
Mr. Cohen, first of all, what do you make of this latest development?
ELIOT COHEN, FORMER COUNSELOR OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, I'm not a lawyer, so I can't really pass any judgment on it. I mean what struck me really about what the president did was just the kind of recklessness, the lack of consultation, the, you know, falling things like turning back interpreter who'd served with our forces in Iraq and sending them back. Not having thought this through. Everybody is in favor of well-maintained borders. I don't think that's an issue. There was something about the way they did this, which argues either extreme incompetence or some sort desire to be provocative. I think it's probably a combination of both.
COOPER: Do you think it makes the country less safe?
COHEN: Well, you know, General John Allen, our former commander in Afghanistan seems to think so. And I have a lot of respect for him.
You know, this is just one item and there are going to be lots of others. And I do think it's problematic. And certainly if you look at the reaction around the world, it isn't going to make our allies more likely to support us.
COHEN: Chairman Rogers, both the executive order and also how it was executed.
MIKE ROGERS, (R) FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, the last couple of days, it's been like watching an octopus put its socks on in the morning, a little bit confusing.
One of the things that I think they got right is they went through the intelligence of all of the seven countries that were listed. And by the way, these countries have been used to stop immigration in the past by some five different presidents, starting with Jimmy Carter. So the intelligence was, hey, we know that ISIS is trying to infiltrate these groups, we know that there are people who are trying to get to the United States, commit acts of terrorism. Does the security measures we take now meet that threat? I would argue probably not. And there were some things to do.
So a temporary ban for the purpose of reconfiguring your security measures, through the processes of these seven countries, made a lot of since to me. What didn't make sense was that lack of coordination on green cards. Not knowing that you would in fact impact, but the way the order was written, means you just didn't -- you weren't inclusive enough, enough people in the room to say, "Wait a minute. Now, we also have to take care of people who were risking their lives for the United States, serving as interpreters for our special forces in really dangerous places. We need to make sure they don't get caught up in this."
That part of the conversation didn't seem to happen. But I will tell you this theory around this thing doesn't get to the core element of it. And the attorney general, I have to tell you, is a former FBI agent who -- you know, we were void of politics, when you see an attorney general, OK, if she didn't agree, you don't go on this public tirade about what you didn't agree with the administration. You pick up the phone and say I need to come down and work this out if her issue was that.
[21:34:57] So for her, I think her mistake and her error was, taking this fight public. It was -- it sure appeared political to me. And, you know, candidly, she didn't have that right. She need -- she had the right to go down and disagree with the decision and the elements of implementation with the White House. She didn't have the right to go public on this. And I -- that part, I guess that's why I think there are rights and wrongs all over this stage in the last couple of days.
COOPER: But Chairman Rogers, you know, there are reports that the head of Homeland Security wasn't consulted, the Secretary, you know, Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, learned about it, you know, in the last minute. Does that make sense to you? I mean if you are rolling out a policy like this, I mean, the head of Homeland Security would seem to be one of essential people you would want to weigh in?
ROGERS: Completely. Again, I like the idea that they were trying to base it on what we knew was a good intelligence picture of the level of threat from these countries that the threat matrix wasn't being met by the current standard to let these folks come into the United States. Again, even the president said it wasn't a ban, it was a temporary security restructure, that makes complete sense to me.
Not bringing in more people into that room to have that discussion, was, you know, really a dumb mistake, because again, you have a lots of this angst and misinterpretation of what you are trying to do. Now, the administration is going to spend the next 10 days trying to tell people, "No, no, no, it wasn't a Muslim ban. It was X, or it was Y, or was Z." You're losing the fight when you do that.
And, again, I heard one of the panelists talk about they like a fight. OK, you're making the point. You were right on the policy of a temporary ban to fix the security problems, and they were security problems, no doubt. I just think that it would have been smarter to bring those people in and walk through the process including by the way the attorney general, the acting attorney general to say how would you implement it and how do we do this in a way that allows that to happen and be highly effective. And then let's talk to the American people. I think you'd have lots of people. Remember, Obama, you know, tossed out over 2 million people in this country. He also restricted visas from these seven countries in 2011.
So, sometimes how you do it is as equal as to the importance of the issue that you're trying to deal with and I argue they had a great issue here because it was right. If you look at San Bernardino, the security issues that failed there never got fixed. They had the chance to fix them with this temporary security review. And again, the way they did it, I just didn't think took advantage of it.
COOPER: Go ahead.
COHEN: I mean it is not clear to me. And certainly there's no evidence that this was actually triggered by any particular intelligence or anything like that.
ROGERS: That's not correct. COHEN: And the way I look at this, it seems to me it fits its part of the pattern of the first couple of weeks of the Trump administration, which is they're going to issue a barrage of executive orders. They're not going to consult any of the people who actually have to implement them. These are basically aligned with promises during the campaign. They are designed to whip up the base and they are to some extent successful in this.
But it came relatively that they're badly executed and they're detrimental to the security of the United States. I would just point out among other things, the idea of, you know -- this idea of building a wall along the Mexican border and making Mexico pay for it, you know, which helped blow up our relationship with one of our most important neighbors.
COOPER: But this is --.
ROGERS: That's a political argument.
COOPER: But Chairman Rogers --.
ROGERS: If you look it, there are intelligence that say we have some gaps --
ROGERS: -- from these seven countries.
COHEN: I have to say, I don't know that. And --.
COOPER: And Chairman Rogers, Sean Spicer himself said today there wasn't any specific intelligence behind this.
ROGERS: No, no, there is a vast body of intelligence over those seven countries and what we know ISIS is trying to do to infiltrate both refugee streams which they have been successful.
COOPER: Border of (ph) Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia.
ROGERS: Well --.
COHEN: Excuse me.
ROGERS: But clearly the intelligence didn't rise to that level. And again they're going to --
COOPER: Just for Pakistan?
ROGERS: -- they should get extra scrutiny if you have the evidence to prove it. Well, these seven countries --.
COOPER: You talk about San Bernardino, the wife who you are talking about who came over, she came from Pakistan. No?
ROGERS: No, no, I know, that's the policy. You have to -- You have to have multiple layers of intelligence to reach this kind of a conclusion. And if you look the at the multiple layers of intelligence to reach this conclusion, they were right in ordering a security review. Because the things that allowed that wife in San Bernardino to get in, were never changed. Meaning, if you have a higher threat level in these seven countries, and those pre-existing conditions already exist, your threat level goes up.
And so, it's a reasonable, rational person. Even the people protesting at the airports would look at that matrix and say, "OK, let's fix those problems, what happened was I think they, they were in such a hurry to do it that they forgot about the actual consequences of the implementation.
COOPER: You're saying they fix the problems from Pakistan, there is no security problems that they can address in Afghanistan?
[21:39:58] ROGERS: No. But again, just now to be very clear, there are different levels of intelligence about threats from different countries when it comes to infiltrating the United States of America. That is APEC.
And so does this rise to that level, those seven countries? And by the way, President Obama believed it did in 2011. That likely didn't change?
ROGERS: And maybe it could be Pakistan next year, who knows. But they haven't risen to the other five factors or six factors that go into it.
COOPER: President Obama's decision on Iraqi refugees back in 2011 was in direct response to an action. A terrorist action by an Iraqi refugee and they relooked at how the screening was being done for them and, allegedly, according to the Obama administration, you know, made it tighter. There have not been terrorist attacks by people from these countries in the United States. Whereas we have seen from Pakistan, in the whack of San Bernardino.
ROGERS: Not in the United States. But we have seen terrorist movements from all of the countries with the expressed desire to come to the United States.
Again, Anderson, you have to -- Again, I'm arguing that I agreed with President Obama in 2011, and I agree with the notion that you need a tougher security view. One thing they didn't do in 2011, they made the right statement, and then they didn't follow-up with the other factors that needed to do on security, including the same kind of things we found in San Bernardino. There is a direct line you can draw.
(CROSSTALK) ROGERS: And again, what they did though is they said we're going to do it for everybody, forgetting the green card issue, which to me was crazy. If you wanted to make the legitimate, I think legitimate intelligence and security arguments on the seven countries. They kind of screwed that up with the fact that they just included green card holders --
COOPER: Right, OK.
ROGERS: -- which wouldn't fit that criteria.
COOPER: Mr. Cohen, I want you in.
COHEN: Yeah, I -- You know, I'm sorry, I'm just not willing to assume that they are -- that this action was in response to a careful evaluation of all of the intelligence that have been put in front of them, which they'd have less than two weeks to look at what they're trying to stand up a government. There's just no evidence of that. And we know, I hate to say it, that they are not actually particularly candid or honest administrations. So I'm not going to take their word on faith that this is a response to a particular set of threats. And in fact, I really rather doubt it.
What I think this was an attempt to follow through on a campaign promise to project an image of toughness. It was done thoughtlessly. It was done without any consultation with General John Kelly, who probably does take American national security pretty seriously, and it blew up in their faces. And more importantly, it's done damage to the United States. Maybe it is good for their, you know, their relationship with their political base, but that's the only way, in which this is a good thing.
COOPER: We're going to leave it there. We are over time. Eliot Cohen, I appreciate it, Mike Rogers as well, always.
We've just learned the new acting Attorney General Dana Boente, I mispronounced his name before, Dana Boente sworn in at 9:00 Eastern Time.
I want to bring back the constitutional lawyer, Page Pate.
Obviously, a very fast moving night, Page, we now know the new acting attorney general. The attorney general has been sworn in at 9:00. What do you make of all of these developments, tonight?
PATE: Well, obviously he is moving very fast. And I don't think any of us should be surprised based upon what Sean Spicer said earlier today that basically if you don't like the way we do things here, you need to get out.
So I can totally understand him firing Sally Yates. And I frankly surprised that someone like Sally Yates would work for him for any period of time. She has a very strong moral compass. She did what she thought was right. And I think the people of America really expect from our Department of Justice more than a bunch of automatons that would just going to listen to the president and do his bidding. So I don't know if the White House has cleared it with this nominee that they want to have as acting attorney general. Are you going to do what the president wants you to do? Or are they going to give him some discretion as well? That remains to be seen.
COOPER: All right. We're also back with our panel. I mean, Ryan, it is just fascinating. This is something we have not seen.
LIZZA: Well, you know, the other thing that strikes me is, they were so quick to get this executive order out. If they had just waited until Jeff Sessions was in that job, they would have avoided this confrontation.
So, another -- You know, Jeffrey said that he thinks this executive is an example of Trump's great executive skills. Well, delaying a week he would have missed this entire confrontation and he wouldn't have had to worry about having Obama holdover there to enforce the law.
LORD: Yeah, yeah, I think --
LIZZA: I don't think -- You know, usually, I don't buy that this is all a grand plot. I think --
LIZZA: I think they wanted to show a flurry of activity in their first week that he was following through on the campaign promises and they just didn't think through all the bureaucratic.
LORD: -- listening to all this. You know what this reminds me? It was when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and there was --
LIZZA: I can't believe --
LORD: -- all kinds of hand-wringing in the Washington establishment, you can't do that, there's 11,000 of them, you know, planes will come down, it's terrible, et cetera, et cetera, and he walked out there and said, "You know, get back to work by. In 24 hours or whatever it is or you are fired." And he kept to the promise.
[21:45:01] LEWIS: And tomorrow there is going to be a Supreme Court Justice pick that's going to change the tone a little bit.
LEWIS: And today he signed an executive order, rolling back regulations. It's not really going to -- could have huge ramifications on the country. That's not getting much attention. I think they're flooding the zone. And I think that's part of the strategy. There's a lot of stuff happening, we can't keep up with it.
GRANHOLM: Only boring.
COOPER: Let's just recap. Let's just recap for our viewers. President Trump has fired the acting attorney general who resisted his executive order and replaced her with Dana Boente, the former U.S. Attorney from Virginia's eastern district. We're told he was sworn in at 9:00 p.m., just 45 minutes ago.
CNN, Sara Murray at the White House has more. What are you learning, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I mean I think it's clear that the president acted very quickly when he saw that the acting attorney general was not going to follow through on defending the travel ban. We have been waiting. We know there were staffers at the White House who are in meetings deciding how to respond to this. Obviously decided to make a move late tonight and sort of relieve her of her duties.
Now, I think it's telling to look back at what Sean Spicer had to say, the White House Press Secretary in the briefing today. He was at the time being asked about state department officials who did not agree with Donald Trump's travel ban and essentially said, either they should get on board or get out. And that seems to be the view the administration is taking.
Now, obviously we know Sally Yates was not going to be on very much longer. She was an Obama appointee and they are waiting for Donald Trump to have his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions confirmed in that position. But if you are a critic of Donald Trump, whether a democrat or republican, I've heard from a number of people saying why has the president moved so fast with a number of these executive orders without having his own team in place, and they're particularly pointing to the travel ban and the attorney general saying you're leaving yourself open to criticism, with really no one to defend you. And I think we saw the ramifications of that play out tonight, Anderson.
COOPER: It is interesting, Sara. I mean whether it is by design or just -- I don't know what the strategy is, or if there is a strategy, but it certainly is kind of flooding the zone, it certainly is moving from one thing to the next. And if Donald Trump was elect to stir things up, to drain the swamp, to, you know, to change Washington, I mean, you can see the idea of just executive order after executive order, after executive being attractive to him and Steve Bannon.
MURRAY: That's certainly right and that move will give some members of Donald Trump's team more heartburn than others. There are certainly a number of people on Donald Trump's team who are hearing from people, "Look, you need to slow down. You need to focus on one big thing at a time." That is not how Donald Trump wants to turn his shrun his show. That is not how Steve Bannon wants to run his show. And it's worth noting that Steve Bannon, in particular, seems essentially immune to a lot of criticism. He is used to it. He thrives on chaos. And Donald Trump is sort of similar. He also tends to thrive in a chaotic environment. And I think when they look at these days, at the end of them, they're saying, "Look, we knocked out a couple of our big campaign promises each day. We are living up to what we promised voters."
I think the question is, whether they are just throwing too many things at the Washington establishment, if you will, or congress in particular, for them to digest at once. Remember, just because you have 53 republicans in the senate, just because you have majority of the house and senate, doesn't mean your party has to stick with you on every priority. And I think that's what the risk they run.
COOPER: I'm not going to turn right now to Jeff. But I would imagine what Jeff would say and what a lot of supporters of Donald Trump would say. You know what, if Washington has some indigestion, that's maybe not a bad thing at all. In fact that's why he was there.
MURRAY: Well, exactly and that was their sort of goal coming into the White House.
COOPER: Right. All right. Sara Murray, thanks very much. David, I mean it's fascinating to watch this all playing out.
CHALIAN: Without a doubt. And I agree. Nobody in their right mind thinks the Trump White House and Trump administration is going to follow some script that we already understand.
CHALIAN: That was not why they got elected. There's no doubt about that. I -- But what I think Sara hit on there that I think is really important to look at is, there is a divide in the inner sanctum of Trump world also. There is sort of the Reince Priebus faction. You saw him yesterday on the Sunday shows get out and try to explain the green card portion. Clearly there wasn't a strategy. He said, well, going forward, the green card is not part of this anymore. That's because, they, included it accidentally. So you have somebody who in Reince Priebus --.
COOPER: Sometimes the right hand doesn't know what the far-right hand is doing.
CHALIAN: He's trying to communicate to the Hill. He's trying to keep things on course against a Steve Bannon that is into perhaps the chaos theory they are discussing. So I do think it's a little bit of both. I don't think we can just look sat one or the other.
COOPER: It is interesting, though, that this is not just a Republican/Democratic divide. I mean that there are Republicans, you know, that we are hearing, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, but there Republicans in Washington who are, you know, to Sara Murray's point, telling the White House, "Look, you got to just focus on a couple of things." There's Republicans who are concerned, though.
[21:50:01] LEWIS: Totally. There's a political wisdom, you know. There are, you know, books written abut Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, and there is a political wisdom, and almost a playbook. This is if you're a political person, if you're smart political operative, you do A, B, and C, what Donald Trump, is throwing that all out.
So anybody who came up in the normal school of this is how you run a campaign, this is how you manage a crisis, throw that out. Steve Bannon, I believe, may be an evil genius. I believe they're operating on a different plane than the rest of us. And I think this is -- We have to sort of put ourselves, in his head, he is a radical, he is a revolutionary, he is a nationalist, everything we know about politics, and that we've learned actually is a handicap, that actually hurts us when it comes to understanding what they're doing.
GRANHOLM: Call me old-fashioned, call me boring, I kind of like a government that is not in total chaos all the time, that is not picking fights with our allies, picking fights with the media, picking fights with the 1.4 million people who work inside of the government. I want to see a little bit of stability. This is the moment where I long for Barack Obama.
LEWIS: This is actually --
CHALIAN: But we have reason and it is the White House go to the hill. There is, at a certain point, you can do a bunch with executive order. But if he's going too have big impact and want to accomplish, big agenda items, Donald Trump is going to have to get a legislative agenda passed in some way. And that is when some of the old rules of Washington will apply.
LORD: There's one thing that we're leaving out here. I guarantee you that down there in Florida, Rush Limbaugh is sitting there doing show prep, and I'm using his emblematic of talk radio. And talk radio is going to come out tomorrow, they're going to be 10,000 percent in favor of what Donald Trump has done today and that is going to help him a lot and put pressure on all these republican members of congress. Because the belief is totally that you got this massive bureaucracy here that they're anti-conservative, anti-republican, they've got their own agenda, they wait for presidents to come and go and they just keep sailing on as somebody described tonight. And they're going to go after him tomorrow.
COOPER: We also have our legal scholars, Page Pate is with us, Laura Coates as well. Page, how quickly does the new acting attorney general -- I mean I guess he shows up for work tomorrow and starts signing off FISA court orders and just -- I mean it's that quick, I suppose?
PATE: Well, the acting attorney general in this case is still not been confirmed by the senate. So I still think we have that potential issue of who's going to sign off those orders.
COOPER: Oh, that's --
COOPER: That is historical. PATE: And you know, this is really unprecedented since Watergate, since Nixon. So, you know, like everything else so far in this administration, we're kind of making it up as we go along, and I agree with the governor, that is no way to run a government.
COOPER: So it's an important point that you make. And for viewers who are just joining us, let's talk about that, because though the new acting attorney general who, there we see him on the screen, Dana Boente has been sworn in, he has not been vetted and confirmed by the senate and, therefore, cannot sign off on these FISA court warrants, correct?
PATE: Now, Anderson, if he -- previously served as a United States attorney, he would have been appointed and he would have been confirmed by the senate in that capacity, but not in the capacity serving with main justice as the acting attorney general. So again, this is not something we've seen. I'm not sure if he's going to have the legal authority to sign off on those orders.
COOPER: And those orders -- I mean, how are -- they're every day?
PATE: I hear that they are every day, but of course they're secrets. So lawyers like me, we don't know about them, we don't know about them until they're executed and we're trying to defend them in court. So that entire process is run through someone that congress feels has the confidence of the American people, and is qualified to review those orders and then present them to the FISA court.
So the fact that you have to go through a senate confirmation is just to give the American people a little bit more security that the person signing those orders or those requests for orders knows what he or she is doing, and has the confidence of the people.
COOPER: And Laura then of course, we do expect Jeff Sessions, I mean the democrats can try to slow it down, but most likely not actually block Jeff Sessions from becoming the new attorney general?
COATES: That's right. I mean that's why you know what Sally Yates did. It was maybe largely symbolic in the sense that there is an imminent confirmation of Jeff Sessions. So what it does is leave a lingering trail of doubt surrounding this executive order. And I think what you've seen here, Anderson, is the Washington, D.C. version of the apprentice. It is very scary to think that somebody who may contradict or question the legal parameters in which the law is trying to be executed or enforced will have their head roll. And I think that's a very telling tail. But either way, I think Jeff Sessions will be in the same boat that Sally Yates found herself in a sense that he will be trying to figure out how to ensure uniformity in the application and enforcement of a law that's otherwise ambiguous and does have some serious gaps in terms whether its constitutional perhaps and lawful.
[21:55:00] COOPER: To governor Granholm's point, though, about wanting, you know, stability in government, you know, chaos there is one thing running a business. I guess it's one thing. Can government function with all its levers in that way? LIZZA: Look, unless Trump has changed the rules about governing, the way he did about campaigning and winning, certain rules will apply, and that is that he will be judged on his success, does he pass this legislative agenda through congress, right? Yesterday --
COOPER: Does he create jobs? And I think that's, you know, that his bottom line.
COOPER: Does live up to promises, like jobs and security?
LIZZA: So for instance, yesterday, he attacked Lindsey Graham and John McCain. They represent two thirds of his marching victory in the senate vote, right? He's only got 52 votes in the senate. He's personally attacking two of the senators. He's going to need to pass his infrastructure bill, to pass the immigration reform bill if he wants to do that, right, to pass the tax reform. So --
LEWIS: And McCain was just elected, so he may be immune to that pressure from the base to a certain degree that Jeffrey was tied.
GRANHOLM: And he can't speak to any democrats, because he attacked Chuck Schumer today personally about fake tears, which is another --
LORD: Obama --
LIZZA: With just one final point on the new attorney general. This is going to have huge ripple effect now in the senate over Jeff Sessions's nomination.
COOPER: It will among democrats.
LIZZA: Among democrats. You're going to have democrats saying, "Wait a second, we need to slow this nomination down. There are now questions about judicial -- about independence. What is Sessions's view of this firing?" And maybe they don't have any ability to do that, but his nomination will now be a referendum on both the executive order and this action that Trump took tonight firing himself (ph).
LORD: Any attorney general is going to be representing Donald Trump, as -- let's be candid here, Eric Holder was a close Obama ally, and was representing Barack Obama. So that's to be expected whether it's Jeff Sessions or Jeff Sessions got hit by a bus tomorrow and there were another nominee, you betcha, the White House would want him to be he or she to be representing Donald Trump. Absolutely and they should.
LIZZA: Well, yeah. But Jeffrey, the attorney general does not represent the president. The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer.
LORD: Oh, Ryan. Oh, Ryan.
LORD: You think Robert Kennedy was saying there, Mr. President, I know you're my brother and I love you, but go to hell? I don't think so.
LIZZA: I mean that's the example we look to to say that this is not -- that was not the model that most lawyers looked to.
LORD: Well, I mean Eric Holder and Barack Obama were very tight. I mean --
LIZZA: And I remember every republican in Washington saying they didn't like that. You want judicial independence in your attorney general.
LORD: Right. But I'm saying it's a fact of life, it's a fact of life. If you think Ed Meese told President Reagan, "Well, sir, sorry, I don't think so."
LIZZA: But all I'm saying is that the fact that he was such an integral part of Trump's campaign and now there is this issue of the independence of the Justice Department that has been raised, you're going to hear a lot about that in the next couple days with Donald Trump.
COOPER: We've just learned from an administration official that apparently -- just a little kind of details on what happened, Yates, who at that point was the acting attorney general, was told -- Sally Yates was told by hand-delivered letter that Trump was dismissing her. And -- yes?
LIZZA: I mean let's be honest, she submitted her resignation when she took this action.
LIZZA: And I think she had to know that. I don't think this -- you know, I thin that's --
LORD: Maybe she wants a political career?
LIZZA: Well, you know, I think most of the lawyers we've had on tonight were skeptical of her of what she did, right?
COOPER: Yeah, yeah. I mean the professors, Professor Turley and also Professor Dershowitz --
LIZZA: So she was -- she's essentially saying a lot of lawyers that I've been reading were not that impressed with her legal argument in that letter she wrote, but she was clearly saying as a moral argument, she could not defend this executive order because she found it discriminatory. CHALIAN: Sally Yates for Senate dot com.
GRANHOLM: I don't think she's going to do that. She's not a political person.
LIZZA: She is now.
COOPER: So tomorrow, likely --
GRANHOLM: But she's a hero on the left.
COPPER: -- well, likely Donald Trump will announce a pick for Supreme Court.
CHALIAN: Yeah. But remember, that pick is going to be to replace Scalia. So he's going to replace a conservative with a conservative. This battle for the court is not for the change of the make-up of the court. That's the next likely.
LORD: I think that will be tough. I mean, look, he is bringing change in so many directions all at once, and he's got, I would say, X number of months before --.
COOPER: It's also an interesting strategy because there's almost not enough time to focus too much on any one thing, because things are changing and things are -- you know, so many executive orders.
At some point, though, do Republicans start to become concerned just as they did with President Obama about too many executive orders?
LORD: Only if the people in that Pennsylvania diner start to say, I don't think so. And I don't think they're anywhere close to that.
GRANHOLM: Not -- you know, it's only day 10.
LIZZA: And not all the executive orders have been really that impactful. I mean some of them were the equivalent of press releases about his policy priorities. The one this week on immigration obviously was one of the important ones.
COOPER: I want to thank everybody on our panel. A lot happening tonight. Our breaking news coverage is going to continue of course right now on CNN TONIGHT with Don Lemon.
[22:00:06] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, you're fired.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
President Trump taking action about an hour ago in a statement, the White House is saying the acting attorney general, Sally Yates --