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Supreme Court Upholds Trump Travel Ban. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 26, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Good morning to you all of you. Good morning, Mr. President, just in case you're watching. The word from the White House this morning is that the president is watching tv, watching coverage of the major decision out of the Supreme Court and a major victory for him.
Just moments ago, a divided Supreme Court upheld President Trump's travel ban against seven countries, five majority Muslim countries. The president not hiding his glee in this tweet, the first statements coming out from his, of course. "Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban. Wow."
Justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider is at the Supreme Court. Jeff Zeleny is at the White House. Jessica, first to you. What do we know about the ruling?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the Supreme Court ruling this morning in a 5-4 decision that the president does in fact have brought powers to enact this version of the travel ban to protect national security. In fact, the chief justice, John Roberts, who wrote this opinion putting it quite plainly saying, this distinctly, "The proclamation is squarely within the scope of presidential authority."
The chief justice also seemed to dismiss many of the president's comments that came before he took office, where on the campaign trail he called for a Muslim ban, saying that the proclamation itself, this travel ban was neutral on its face.
And that the president's words before he became president did not erase his authority under immigration law and the Constitution to enact this travel ban. But, of course, there were four justices who dissented in this. A few of them issuing fiery dissents.
In fact, two justices read their dissents from the bench, Justices Brier as well as Sotomayor. Of course, reading from the bench with a dissent is an extraordinary move that really shows just how much they disagreed with the majority opinion.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor even compared this to the 1944 decision by the Supreme Court that allowed for the imprisonment and internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II. Justice Sotomayor even going so far as to say the majority here completely sets aside the president's charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant.
She went on to say how not irrelevant the president's statements about Muslims before he became president and since are. So, the Supreme Court this morning issuing a ruling that has been closely watched and highly anticipated.
The Supreme Court saying that the president does in fact have the authority to enact this travel this being the third version that travel ban that restricts travel from seven different countries, but definitely a win for the Trump administration and for the president himself -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Jessica, thank you so much. Jeff, over to the White House now. What is the White House saying?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, there's no question we saw in the president's short but powerful message there in all capital letters and exclamation point the word "wow." The White House views this as vindication. That is the exact word I got from a senior White House official just moments after the ruling was issued.
The president was in the residence of the White House watching this unfold on television. Members of the White House Counsel's Office came in to explain the ruling to him as they were reading through the ruling.
And there's no question that the president views this as a major win. One thing you will not hear him say I'm told when a White House statement is coming out soon, is about the different versions of the travel ban.
We should be clear, this is a very different travel ban than the one that was enacted the first week of his administration that prompted an outcry and uproar. This is largely holding on to the principle that he first announced back on the campaign trail back in December of 2015.
It's one of the things that helped him win that Republican primary. He called it a Muslim ban at that point. Of course, the language has changed, but they will seize on this as a win.
There's one sentence, Kate, in particular in the chief justices' words that the White House is pointing out to me. They are saying the president of the United States possesses extraordinary power to speak to his fellow citizens and on their behalf.
They believe that that is a sign that all of these, you know, the commentary that he has made online and in other forums about this he has the right to do. So, look for him to tweet more.
He'll be praising the justices, but particularly Neil Gorsuch. It is probably his biggest accomplishment since taking office. We saw that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sending out that picture of him shaking hands with him, and boy, did that ever make a difference. But look for the president to say more on this soon perhaps in this hour, Kate. But again, vindication is the world here at the White House -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And with the vindication, Jeff, let's just drill down just slightly on the difference between and it's over a long period of time between debacle of the roll out of travel ban one to where they ended up with travel ban three, and everything in between?
[11:05:07] ZELENY: No question. It was a dramatic difference specifically in the language in the different countries, Venezuela, and North Korea also added. Look how much has changed in, you know, on the affront of the North Korean regime just specifically.
That shows how long this has been until way. Remember Steve Bannon? He was front and center in the crafting of this first travel ban, a member of the National Security Council in that first week of the Trump administration he is gone as well, so another sign of how much has evolved and changed here at the White House since those early days of the travel ban.
But again, Kate, I would not expect any of that to be litigated. They're seizing this as a victory, and as the president's words here today.
BOLDUAN: Jeff Zeleny, a lot more to come from you. Thank you so much, Jeff. I really appreciate it.
A lot of reaction now coming in as lawmakers are beginning to digest this major decision from the Supreme Court. Let's see how they are reacting to the news on Capitol Hill. Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. He has been talking to lawmakers. What are they telling you, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, the reaction is breaking along party lines, much like the way the Supreme Court broke down earlier, bitterly divided here in the halls of Congress. Democrats saying this is a very dark chapter in American history.
It is not consistent with American values, trying to figure out what, if anything they can do to try to overturn this ruling despite their minority status on Capitol Hill. And Republicans, by and large, applauding the decision, saying that the president got it right after revising this travel ban.
And that the president deserves credit for making changes, and of course, applauding the fact that Merrick Garland is not on the Supreme Court and that Neil Gorsuch is after the Senate confirmed President Trump's nominee.
Just moments ago, we spoke to the two top senators, Senator John Cornyn and Senator Dick Durbin. This is their reaction, much like the reaction that we are hearing all around breaking down along party lines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: This is not a Muslim ban. It's not anything that President Obama didn't do when he was president. So, I'm not surprised the Supreme Court ruled the way they did. I think he's trying to keep the country safe.
SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don't agree with the Supreme Court ruling, but to categorically brand people because of their religion or background, what country they're from, is not the way we should do things in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, the question is, where do we go from here. Senator Blumenthal who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee told me earlier that he wants to propose a bill to overturn this ruling, but as Dick Durbin told me after Blumenthal said that, they realize realistically there's no chance of that happening.
So, the argument is going to be made this fall in the midterm elections as the Democrats try to make the case to take back control of the Senate by saying, look, if there's another Supreme Court vacancy-look how much significant any one seat has in determining the and what it means for the country and the world.
Republicans saying it's so important what Neil Gorsuch did in upholding this travel ban and all the other 5-4 rulings we have seen so far this term, so we'll hear the political argument going forward, but no consensus at all on what this means, and the party is breaking down on party lines here -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely not. At this moment, let's see what happens in the next few minutes. Manu, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Let's get some more reaction, though, now. On the phone with me is Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Congressman, thanks so much for joining me.
REPRESENTATIVE KEITH ELLISON, DNC DEPUTY CHAIR (via telephone): Yes. Glad to be on with you today.
BOLDUAN: Give me your reaction to the ruling from the Supreme Court.
ELLISON: Well, the Supreme Court has said that no matter how bad the discriminatory language is before, during and after President Trump's run as long as he puts a very thin veneer of national security on top of all that discrimination and racism, they will buy it.
In other words, as long as the pig has some lipstick on it, it's fine. That is what they have said. All I can say is that the people who believe in dignity of all people, who believe in freedom of faith, freedom of religion in America, we're not going to stop fighting.
In fact, this is going to enliven us, inspire us to push even further and harder to establish the dignity of all people in this country. We're not daunted here. We're going to keep on pressing.
It just proves one thing, if you steal and rip off a Supreme Court justice, then you can try to jam any kind of nasty racist ugly policy you can down the throats of the American people. But we're not taking it. That's what I feel. BOLDUAN: Well, I mean, Congressman, that is -- you are really upset about this.
[11:10:05] ELLISON: Let me -- look, let me just tell you this. You know, our country has gone through some ugly days. I mean, the Supreme Court in the 1850s said that it was OK to own a black person. That's the Judge Scott decision.
That decision hit the dustbin of history so did (inaudible) versus Ferguson so did (inaudible) and this one will too. I'm telling you, discrimination and racism and hatred and religious bigotry is never going to be winning in the end. So, we're just -- we're fired up and pushing forward.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, when the majority opinion writes the proclamation is squarely within the scope of presidential authority, indeed, neither dissents and even attempts any serious arguments to the country despite the fact that the plaintiffs' primary contention in the briefing before the court was at the proclamation (inaudible) statute.
They said -- I mean, they are saying that it is squarely, whether you like it or not, is what they're saying, it's squarely within the president's authorities and you're saying, what?
ELLISON: It is not within the president's authority to discriminate on the basis of religion. It simply isn't. The fact that he slapped a few language -- pieces of language on there, and threw in a few other countries as an afterthought doesn't correct the fundamental and original flaw.
The president set in one of his opening statements in his campaign, he wanted a complete and total ban on Muslim entry into the country. He reaffirmed that position multiple times before during, after the election.
The fact that he comes out with an initial ban and then throws a few extra countries in there and says it's about national security, it does not change that essential fact. It does not change the fact that this is his intent, what he wants to do with this particular provision.
And the Supreme Court majority ignoring that is simply ignoring precedent, ignoring the truth of what the president was trying to do. I think that Justice Sotomayor put it very well, she made it very clear.
You know, the United States Constitution is founded on the promise of religious liberty. The Supreme Court majority has failed to uphold that today. It's a shame, but look, other majorities upheld separate but equal.
Other majorities upheld like the Roger Tawny court in the 1850s said you could own a black person and blacks had no rights that whites have to respect. We've seen majorities highly politicized not ruling based on law, precedent, best principles of our country, but just naked partisanship.
And that's what this Supreme Court majority has done. They have misrepresented this country's best legacy, and they have literally tainted themselves and shown --
BOLDUAN: So, Congressman, when the White House -- we're waiting to hear an official statement from the White House. When the White House is telling Jeff Zeleny -- when the White House's initial word to Jeff Zeleny was they're saying vindication, as the first Muslim-American elected to Congress, what do you say to the president?
ELLISON: I say that a gloating braggart is not going to win at the end of the day. I say that, you know, he has his supreme court tailor made to his ugly philosophy, this par san court. Gorsuch should really not be on the supreme court.
In my view, he may be there, but he's not there properly. You can do that. You know, you can jam in a supreme court by denies a sitting president their right to appoint the Supreme Court justice.
That's exactly what happened, and Gorsuch has just done what his paymasters sent him there to do. It's a shame, but I have deep faith that the best impulses of this country are about liberty, equality, religious liberty and freedom, and it's just not going to stop, and we will prevail.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, you are leaving Congress in order to run for attorney general of Minnesota. If you win, you're in a position maybe to do something. Will you challenge this? Can you challenge this?
ELLISON: Let me tell you this, I think the duty of any state Supreme Court justice including the Minnesota attorney general is to uphold the rights of all people. That's what our job is, to stand with people who are being trampled by powers that are much greater than themselves.
That's what I intend to do. To me this is a classic example of a big federal government trying to roll over people just because of what their faith. That's the kind of thing that I will never stand by and let happen on my watched.
[11:15:12] That's why I am running for attorney general because I want to stand with people who need an advocate and that's what I do, and that's what I'm going to do.
BOLDUAN: You have people who want to come from Libya, Yemen, Somalia into Minnesota, what do you tell them today? I mean, the Supreme Court has largely let the travel ban go into place. What is different today?
ELLISON: Well, what's different today is that before we were all hoping that the Supreme Court would find it's the best and noblest ideals of our nation and uphold them. That has changed. The Supreme Court has said, no, we're going to give into the worst impulses, the divisive, discriminatory impulses, the impulses of religious bigotry. We are going to give into that, but all I say to those folks, who have an American dream is that there is still plenty of Americans who believe in that dream, and we're still fighting for it. We're not going to quit.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you so much for coming on, giving us your reaction. We're getting more reactions throughout the hour and we'll continue to check in with you. Congressman, thank you so much.
Coming up, we'll have much more on the breaking news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: That was Donald Trump in December of 2015. That was how this travel ban started. Now June of 2018, the Supreme Court has had the final word. They say those words do not matter, as the policy in its current form is squarely within the president's power.
With me right on now to dissect what exactly the Supreme Court is saying and what this means going forward, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst, Joan Biskupic, and CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez.
Joan, let me start with you. I want to get your reaction from what we've learned from the justices, what the main point of the majority is, and also, why in the end freedom of religion was not really part of this decision.
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Let me tell, Kate, I've been covering the Supreme Court for more man 25 years, and these were the most dramatic moments in the courtroom I have ever seen. For 40 minutes, beginning with the chief justice, John Roberts in the center chair, telling people why this is a valid exercise of Donald Trump's authority over immigration.
He starts, and he explains first how this executive order complies with long-standing tradition, under immigration law. Then he goes to the establishment cause question that you talk about, about how this isn't a violation of religion.
You could tell that he was trying to head off what the dissenting justices were about to say during their time in the courtroom. He said, we're aware -- his message was we are aware of what Donald Trump said on the campaign stump, we are aware of what was on the website, aware of what he said since he became president. But that doesn't matter. We have wade everything and we have looked at this executive order and it is neutral on its face and it is more comprehensive he said and explained with more thoroughness that orders for example President Reagan or President Carter had put in place.
Then he said in one of the more dramatic moments of a very stunning about 40 minutes, he said this is not Korematsu, because he knew that the dissenters and many other people across America who are going to see this are going to liken it too when the Supreme Court upheld the federal government's sending of thousands of Japanese-Americans to concentration camps here in the U.S.
He said this is not Korematsu. In fact, we're going to overrule Korematsu officially, but this is different and President Trump, if you talk about any other president, would have the authority to do this.
And then two sets of dissenters spoke, first Justice Breyer on behalf of him and Elena Kagan, and then the most moving statements were made by Justice Sonia Sotomayor on behalf of herself and Justice Ginsburg.
She said essentially pay attention here. Pay attention to the kind of statements he had made against Muslims, pay attention to how much this is exactly like Korematsu. There was a moment when she read some of his statements just as the chief had, but she said, let those sink in.
You know, like Muslims hates us. You know, they can't dissimilate. She was going through those and the chief had gone through those too. But she said pause for a minute to let those sink in.
Those were said by the president of the United States, and nothing the majority is saying today about Korematsu could possibly compensate for what's happening in this case of Trump versus Hawaii.
And then finally on the national security interests, which is what the administration has asserted here, she said it's a sham. What they are saying is a sham. So, the justification that the majority is pointing to is a sham.
BOLDUAN: Jeffrey, you have pointed to a part in the majority where they say his for words don't on matter, where it says -- at the heart of the case is a series of statements by the president and his advisers. Both during the campaign and since the president assumed office.
The issue however is not whether to denounce the president's statements, but the significance of those statements in reviewing a presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility.
But I just had Congressman Keith Ellison on, very passionate and upset on how this went about.
[11:25:06] And he said, in the end, this is exactly what -- the president's words are exactly what they intended, how can they not take it into account? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, this is how Donald Trump has changed so much in the United States. You look at what he said, and you could tell, as Joan so vividly describe in the courtroom and read it in the opinion, the Supreme Court was embarrassed by having to defend Donald Trump's words.
That that, you know, Justice Kennedy said, you know, we have to be careful about people's -- you know, when officials speak. Chief Justice Roberts in the majority opinion, you know, sort of cleared his throat and was uncomfortable, and talked about how good presidents talked about religion.
But let's be clear, Donald Trump won. He won notwithstanding the fact that he has espoused views that are clearly, clearly bigoted during the campaign and certain points during his presidency.
And the Supreme Court can clear its throat and, you know, be all furrowed brow all at once, but Donald Trump won, and that is -- you know, it's a green light for him to continue restricting Muslim- majority countries, their immigration rights.
It's a green light for him to say anything he wants because the Supreme Court isn't going to hold him to it. This is Donald Trump's America that reflected in this opinion.
BOLDUAN: And Evan, I mean, what is the reaction that you are hearing from the Justice Department? Do we have any reaction from Jeff Sessions?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he's traveling today, the attorney general is smiling today, but he obviously is very pleased. It is because of the Justice Department that this travel ban has been upheld, Kate. If you remember, I mean, we should not forget the way this policy was first put into practice.
BOLDUAN: Lay it out because it has been so long, Evan. I think it's very important at this moment to remind everyone the debacle of travel ban one, what we saw in airports after travel ban one, and what they say now with travel ban three.
PEREZ: Right, exactly. This travel ban, that's been upheld is far from what was first enacted. That weekend, if you remember, millions of people were getting on airports, they were green card holders, who are in the process of getting naturalized trying to get back to their families, and they couldn't because they weren't sure whether or not they would be allowed in this country.
There were people who are help up at airports for hours and days as the court system was trying to figure out whether or not this thing could actually get into place. So, it was frankly just incompetent the way the president and his lieutenant, Stephen Miller, and some of these people put this first policy into place.
And it caused a tremendous amount of problems. It caused a tremendous amount of damage for the administration. It's because of the way they did that, that this has become 18 months later we're still talking about this.
If they had done version three on day one, perhaps this would have been settled a long, long, long time ago. That's the reason why I think if you're the Justice Department, despite the fact that the president regularly attacks the Justice Department, say he was unhappy, this was a watered-down politically correct version of the travel ban, but you know what?
This is the version of the travel ban that could pass constitutional muster. If you're at the Justice Department, this is exactly why they exist, why they should have been part of the process when this policy was put into place in the first place.
BOLDUAN: Here's the tweet that you're talking about, Evan. In June of 2017, Donald Trump tweeting, "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down politically correct version that they submitted to the Supreme Court."
Regardless, since right now his words don't matter, is what the Supreme Court said with regard to this. Jeffrey, what do you think -- what does this mean in the context of this decision comes down at a moment when the country is mired in another type of -- in another entirely different immigration debate and fight, started with a policy put forth by the Trump administration.
TOOBIN: Well, you can be sure that the administration will try to tie the two events together. The last thing the administration wants to keep doing is talking about 2300 kids who have been separated by their parents and remain incarcerated.
They can try to change the conversation to say, look, the Supreme Court has said that the Trump administration is protecting the borders in a way that is constitutionally permissible, that we are following the law and doing it to protect the American public.