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EARLY START

Gorsuch Rebukes Trump's Assault on Judiciary; Warren's Wrath as Jeff Sessions Sworn in as AG; Snowstorm Bearing Down. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 9, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A strong rebuke of the president's assault on the judiciary from the president's own Supreme Court nominee. We'll tell you what Judge Neil Gorsuch says.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: With Jeff Sessions set to be sworn in as attorney general, actually has been sworn in this morning, Elizabeth Warren is promising to be a political opponent, a day after being silenced on the Senate floor.

[04:30:02] ROMANS: And break out the shovels. The first major snowstorm of the season will make for an ugly morning commute across the Northeast. We're talking 40 million people in the path of the storm.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUEZ: And I'm Miguel Marquez. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

We begin with the harsh verdict from President Trump from his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch using the words demoralizing and disheartening to characterize the president's recent attacks on the judiciary. Gorsuch made the comments in separate meetings with two Democratic senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal. All this while appellate lawyers from across the nation were delivering a letter to the Justice Department, complaining about Mr. Trump.

The author of the letter says, in part, "Lawyers across the political spectrum believe that the president's personal attacks on individual judges and the judicial branch are improper and destructive. Because judges face ethical constraints in their ability to respond directly, the letter calls on the president to retract and end such personal attacks."

ROMANS: Recently, the president has been firing off tweets either pressuring judges or directly criticizing them, like this comment about the judge who suspended his controversial travel ban. Quote, "The opinion of this so-called judge which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned."

A decision on whether that judge crossed the line when he halted the president's executive order could come as early as today.

We get more from Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Miguel, in a speech to law enforcement officials here in Washington, the president delivering a sharp tone against judges, against the judicial branch, question, does politics was involved in their decision.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't ever want to call a court biased. So, I won't call it biased. And we haven't had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what's right. That has to do with security of our country, which is so important.

ZELENY: But those sharp words from the president drawing a rebuke of sorts from his nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch. As he is making the rounds to Democratic senators on Capitol Hill and Republicans as well, he said yesterday, he was disheartened by those comments about the president politicizing judges. He said it is simply not right.

Now, he, of course, is trying to distance himself from the president as he tries to get some Democratic votes to win confirmation. But there is no question the president, despite his rhetoric, is trying to win the case in public opinion. Also, all eyes here at the White House today once again on San Francisco and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. President Trump is awaiting a ruling on his executive order on immigration and the refugee ban that could be delivered today -- Christine and Miguel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Thanks, Jeff.

President Trump now claims he wanted to give travelers one month's notice before implementing the seven-nation travel and refugee ban. But he insists he was overruled by law enforcement officials. Mr. Trump did not specify which agency overruled him. During a speech to big city police chiefs in Washington, but he says he was urged not to delay the ban because advance warning could trigger a flood of terrorists into the country.

ROMANS: This morning, President Trump will take part in a ceremony to swear in Senator Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general. Sessions was confirmed in a 52-47 votes, mostly along party lines, a bitter setback for Democrats, especially Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was silenced by the Majority Leader during a contentious Senate debate.

Warren refusing to remain silent, firing of a series of tweets. "There's no Rule 19 to silence me from talking about Jeff Sessions anymore. So, let me say loudly, this is just the beginning.

If Jeff Sessions makes the tiny attempt to bring his racism, sexism, and bigotry into the Justice Department, he will hear from all of us.

Consider this my warning. We won't be silent. We will speak out and we will persist."

Now, her use of the word "persist" is notable. Of course, that's the word used by Senator Mitch McConnell to describe her conduct right before he silenced her on the Senate floor.

Warren telling CNN's Manu Raju, she felt she had no choice but to keep talking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: If you knew it was potentially a violation when they warned you, why not just move on?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I was moving on. I was moving on to talk about the facts of what Jeff Sessions had done when he prosecuted civil rights workers who were trying to help black citizens vote. And I thought quoting Coretta Scott King's letter to the Senate about that was absolutely relevant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Republicans are not backing down from Senator Warren, many of them accusing her of using the Sessions' hearing for publicity.

Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham insisting it was Warren who was out of line.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line is it was long overdue with her. I mean, she is clearly running for the nomination in 2020.

[04:35:02] The Democratic Party is being pushed really hard by the most extreme voices in their community. They just don't know how to handle it. If they empower her, then I think the Democratic Party is going to lose its way with the vast majority of the American people.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Before Sessions' confirmation vote, several male Democratic senators took to the floor to read the exact letter Warren was told she could not read. They were not stopped.

Overnight, a protest broke out in front of Senator McConnell's home in Washington, D.C. Demonstrators with bull horns reading the Coretta Scott King letter that Senator Warren could not.

ROMANS: And all of this emboldened Democrats in another upcoming confirmation battle. Donald Trump's pick for labor secretary facing a tough road to confirmation. Andy Puzder's, his hearing has been rescheduled five times and is now set for next Thursday. He just filed paper work with the Office of Government Ethics and it shows he will step down from the restaurant chain and sell multiple investments.

Now, he's going to face questions on that, but Democrats may cast him as a low wage hamburger king with a sketchy past. He's a vocal opponent of Obamacare. He does not support a $15 minimum wage. He does not support new overtime rules.

He has been faced with labor disputes in the past. And currently, his company is facing 33 state and federal lawsuits. The charges include wage theft, manipulated overtime, sexual harassment, unfair labor practices. Plus, early this week, he revealed that a housekeeper he employed was not documented to work in this country, was an undocumented immigration.

Puzder said he terminated her employment when he learned of her status and he paid the IRS back taxes. Now, that issue sank President George W. Bush's labor secretary and President Clinton's attorney general pick. And one thing that a lot of people are saying, if this is the person who is supposed to be in charge of protecting the labor rights of workers --

MARQUEZ: It's the Labor Department.

ROMANS: -- somebody who ran a big company and knew how to hire properly, but didn't hire properly in his personal matter. You know, is that a big conflict?

MARQUEZ: The labor designee has a labor issue.

ROMANS: The labor designee has a labor issue.

Critics pouncing on Donald Trump after he attacked Nordstrom department stores for dropping his daughter's fashion line. The president saying on Twitter, "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person, always pushing me to do the right thing. Terrible."

He retweeted that with the official government @POTUS account. So, the White House, the official government account, for official business used to attack a company based on the business of his daughter. It's raising questions about ethical conflicts.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, though, defending the president, accusing Nordstrom of attacking his daughter because of her father's policies. Nordstrom says it dropped Ivanka's fashion line because it was a decision based on sales performance.

Now, separately, the company that owns T.J.Maxx and Marshalls also confirmed to CNN it recently instructed workers not to highlight the Ivanka Trump brand in stores, not to use the big signage and to mix Ivanka Trump items in with other items, not to set them apart separately and highlight them.

MARQUEZ: The war of retail. Interesting.

ROMANS: The idea that this is exactly what people were so concerned about. MARQUEZ: He's inviting the conflict in the front door which seems

like a mistake, but where will go?

Now, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says Senator John McCain should apologize for criticizing the recent raid in Yemen that cost a Navy SEAL his life. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he cannot characterize any mission as a success if a U.S. service member is killed.

Listen to Spicer push back on those comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will prevent it. The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt. Any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions he took.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: CNN is reporting Yemeni officials want U.S. anti-terror operations to stop because of all of the civilian casualties. But a U.S. defense official insists nothing has changed since that deadly raid.

ROMANS: The White House is thinking about using the designation of foreign terrorist organizations for the Iran Revolutionary Guard and Muslim Brotherhood. But executive orders have been placed on hold. That's because national security agencies are warning the White House about the consequences of such a move, including the difficult position the designation would create for the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a key partner in the fight against ISIS who also relies on the supports of the Iranian Revolution Guard. President Trump plans to speak by phone with the Iraqi leader today.

MARQUEZ: Now, apprehensions at the Mexican border are sharply down for the month of January, according to the statistics obtained by CNN from customs officials. Overall, apprehensions dropped 27 percent month to month.

[04:40:03] Numbers can be misleading and apprehensions typically fall in the month of January. But Trump supporters are using the statistics as vindication, claiming the president's tough stance immigration stance is deterring migrants from crossing into the United States.

ROMANS: All right. So, how much snow will fall across the Northeast? What's your guess?

MARQUEZ: I hope a lot.

ROMANS: Yes. It's just starting to intensify with the latest on the storm's path. I'm going to say 8 to 10 inches in New York. That's my call. MARQUEZ: Ten inches I say.

The Northeast about to get slammed big time by a first major snowfall of the season.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUEZ: Well, the Northeast getting slammed by the first major snowfall of the season. Amazingly enough, that's in February. A foot or more of snow expected up and down the northeast corridor. Winter storm warnings covering 40 million people. Blizzard warnings in effect for Cape Cod and eastern Long Island.

[04:45:01] Schools in Philadelphia, there's Philadelphia right now, but it's really coming down there. New York and Boston, they are all closed. Some 2,700 flights already cancelled. The storm coming just one day after temperatures were in the 60s and 70s across the Northeast.

ROMANS: Seventy-four in D.C.

MARQUEZ: Cray-cray-crazy.

Today, though, is expected to be a messy mess. Dangerous commutes as the storm intensifies throughout the morning.

We want to bring in CNN's Pedram Javaheri, the busiest man at the CNN weather center right now, on the storm's path.

Pedram, what's the good news?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The good news, you know, the potential for the storm to move through quickly. That's really the best news with this at least, that it can move out and potentially get out here by the evening commute. So, what could be left in place could still be at least 8 to 10 inches, maybe 12 inches and a few spots.

But there is a center of the storm outside of Washington as it begins moving Northeast and East. And we think it will park offshore sometime around 7:00 a.m. or so, and then the heavy snowfall begins, picks up in intensity right around 11:00 a.m. noon. We can see at times 1 to 2 inches of snow per hour, but at least 1 inch of snow for an extended period, potentially 7 to 10 hours across parts of the Northeast.

You factor in that with the strong winds associated with it, this is why officials across New York have over 400,000 tons of sand and salt on hand. 2,000 plows and trucks as well to clear all of this as quickly as possible, because widespread coverage here for the pink and purple coloration. That's again, 8 to 12 inches of snowfall.

And I want to show you for New York City, you know, we have seen big snowstorms in recent years. It was last January where 30 inches from one storm. But that was on a weekend. The last weekday storm was actually 1,092 days ago. That was 13th and 14th of February in 2014, where New York City picked up 12 1/2 inches of snowfall.

So, it has been a long time coming. And talking about New York City snowfall, I'll show you where we are with conditions. You know, 8 to 12 inches is in line with what we have seen so far this season. About 11 inches has come down, 15 inches is normal at this point in the season.

So, big changes in store the next couple of hours and blizzard warnings issued for parts of the Cape and also Long Island with gusty winds and heavy snow later on this morning, guys.

ROMANS: Wow.

MARQUEZ: Wow. The pictures in Philly are amazing. Snow is sticking already. It is sticking here in New York.

Sixty degrees, I didn't think it stick this quickly, it was 60 and 70 degrees across the Northeast yesterday. How did we go that quickly from so warm to so cold and snowy?

JAVAHERI: You know, the pattern is shifting quickly because we had record temperatures in place. We had everything necessary. In fact, temperatures were almost 100 degrees yesterday in south central Texas. Yes, 96 degrees in parts of Texas.

And again, that southerly flow. The jet stream to bring the arm air in place. The jet sinking south, you have what is considered normal for this time of year and that is pushing in. That is happening across the Northeast. So, we're going from dramatic, which would be typically early spring weather to the heart of winter in just less than 24 hours.

MARQUEZ: Wow.

ROMANS: All right, Pedram Javaheri. Everyone, get ready to shovel. Thank you so much. Talk to you soon.

JAVAHERI: Talk to you soon.

ROMANS: Extreme weather leading to a rescue in California. Look at this. Water rushing into the submerged car following dangerous floods. There's an elderly man trapped inside there. A neighbor calls authorities. Fresno firefighters rushed to the scene breaking the passenger window to free the 76-year-old driver. Rescuers say the vehicle was stuck in four feet of water. Thank goodness he is OK.

MARQUEZ: I wonder if he tried to cross the stream, always a danger.

Former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley arrested after being ejected from Madison Square Garden during a game on Wednesday night. He was forcibly removed by security guards from his courtside seat. Oakley is charged with three counts of assault. According to the Knicks, he behaved in a, quote, "highly inappropriate" and abusive manner.

But Oakley denies yelling at Knicks owner James Dolan before being thrown out. He tells "The New York Daily News", Dolan didn't want him and when security asked him to leave, Oakley said, "I'm not leaving." Wow.

ROMANS: All right. Forty-nine minutes past the hour.

The Trump stock market rally is on pause, but it's not over. We'll tell you the three things keeping investors from pushing stocks higher. Three things when we get a check on CNN Money Stream next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, a frequent critic of President Vladimir Putin, is fighting for his life this morning. His wife tells CNN she believes he was poisoned. It's a technique that Kremlin has allegedly used to silence critics in the past. But officials in Moscow are calling that notion pure nonsense.

Let's get more from CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson, who spoke with Kara-Murza's wife. He joins us live in Moscow.

Good morning, Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

Vladimir Kara-Murza suddenly felt sick. He was having massive organ failure last week. His wife rushed from Virginia, where they live with their three children, to Moscow to his bedside.

Take a listen to what she had to tell me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: What is your husband's official diagnosis right now?

EVGENIA KARA-MURZA, WIFE OF VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA: Acute intoxication by an unidentified substance.

WATSON: What do you think that means?

KARA-MURZA: It's poisoning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: This is the second time, Christine, that Kara-Murza has fallen so deathly ill in just two years. And last year, he told us that he thought that he had poisoned the first time. That's why his wife is saying this again, the second time, he is a critic of the Kremlin. He was traveling around Russia with a documentary that was highlighting the assassination of the fellow opposition leader who was gunned down within sight of the Kremlin two years ago.

[04:55:00] That's why his family is accusing the government of creating the climate that could have led to this alleged poisoning. A Kremlin spokesperson says it's utter nonsense to try to link the government with this mysterious illness -- Christine. ROMANS: Fascinating. All right. Ivan Watson, thanks for that this

morning, live from Moscow.

MARQUEZ: Now, a joint investigation by CNN and CNN Espanol revealing a scheme by Venezuelan government officials to sell passports and visas for thousands of dollars and includes allegations that passports were given to people with ties to terrorism. One confidential intelligence document obtained by CNN links Venezuela's vice president to nearly 200 Venezuelan passports and IDs issued to individuals from the Middle East, including those connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

For more on this comprehensive investigation, go to CNN.com.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on the CNN Money Stream this morning.

The Trump stock market rally is stalling. Dow futures flat this morning. Stock markets in Europe and Asia rising a bit here. The Dow surged 9 percent in the two months following the election and it's now up just 1 percent so far this year.

Three factors keeping stocks from moving higher. Number one, the strong economy is already priced in. There's little doubt the economy is humming. But stocks are a leading indicator. All that good news is already factored in.

Number two, also priced in, the promises of growth. President Trump vowed to kill Obamacare, roll back regulations, cut taxes. Obamacare is proving more difficult than a quick and easy repeal and repeal. And while tax cuts may be coming, there's a divide over the so-called border adjustment tax that could complicate timing.

And number three, Wall Street is waiting for a pivot away from immigration issues. More than 125 companies are on record against the president's travel and immigration ban. They say it hurts customers and employees around the world. And now, they are bracing for changes to work-based visas, all they say, this is a distraction from the goal of creating jobs.

One of those companies is Intel. On Sunday, Intel told the court it believed President Trump's immigration order was unconstitutional. And then on Wednesday, Intel's CEO stood next to Donald Trump in the White House, announcing the $7 billion investment in a new U.S. factory. He said the investment was due in part to Trump's policies.

The real story, as it always is, is more complicated. Intel originally announced plans to build that factory with that guy, the former President Obama, in 2011, saying it would pour $5 billion into the Arizona plant. Obama even gave a big speech at the construction site.

Now, a spokesman tells CNN Money that money was just to build a shell of the factory and it was never completed because there wasn't enough demand for products. Now, there is, so the company says it's building the rest. MARQUEZ: Smart PR, two bites at the apple. One president. Another

president.

ROMANS: I've got to tell you, the PR departments of all these big companies are just spinning in overtime, because they have to show the president they are making products in the United States and they're playing game -- playing ball with him, even as they are concerned about the other policies.

MARQUEZ: All very interesting.

EARLY START continues right now.

(MUSIC)

ROMANS: President Trump Supreme Court nominee with a strong rebuke of the president's harsh words for the judiciary. We'll tell you what he said.

MARQUEZ: And the next attorney general is set to be sworn in and that's drawing another round of scorn from Senator Elizabeth Warren.

ROMANS: And here comes the snow. The first major storm of the season getting ready to slam the Northeast. We're going to tell you who is getting hit the hardest and when this whole thing really gets rolling. Hint: your morning commute.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUEZ: Good morning to you. I'm Miguel Marquez. It is Thursday, February 9th, 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

We begin with a harsh verdict against President Trump from his own Supreme Court nominee. Judge Neil Gorsuch using the words "demoralizing" and "disheartening" to characterize the president's recent attacks on the judiciary. Gorsuch made the comments in separate meetings with two Democratic senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal.

All this while appellate lawyers from across the nation were delivering a letter to the Justice Department, complaining about Mr. Trump. Author of the letter says in part, "Lawyers across the political spectrum believe that the president's personal attacks on individual judges and the judicial branch are improper and destructive. Because judges face ethical constraints in their ability to respond directly, the letter calls on the president to retract and end such personal attacks."

ROMANS: Recently, Mr. Trump has been firing off tweets either pressuring judges or criticizing judges. Like this comment about the judge who suspended his controversial travel ban. "The opinion of this so-called judge which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned." A decision on the president's executive order could come as early as today.

Let's get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's at the White House for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Christine and Miguel, in a speech to law enforcement officials here in Washington, the president delivering a sharp tone against judges, against the judicial branch, question, does politics was involved in their decision.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't ever want to call a court biased. So, I won't call it biased. And we haven't had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what's right.