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Neil Gorsuch Becomes Newest Supreme Court Justice. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired April 10, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He said that the fact about Justice Kennedy, as well. Historic, as well, that he will be swearing in someone who worked for him as a -- on the Supreme Court as a young man and now the judge will be sworn in as the 113th justice.

So, Kate, this is probably going to go down as the biggest accomplishment of the Trump administration in the first 100 days or so. We are nearing that benchmark here at the end of April. But one of the challenges, of course, is what else will they get done.

But at least for now at this moment in this sunny day in Washington, the Trump administration is breathing a sigh of relief and smiling that they have their first appointment to the Supreme Court.

And we talked to president Trump last week when he flew down to Mar-a- Lago, he said that he believes he will get other appointments, as well. Justice Kennedy, his retirement is one of the most talked about things here in Washington.

If he retires at the end of this Supreme Court session in June or maybe next year, but he has told his friends and confidants that he expects to. So this is the first of, you know, possibly many, at least a couple Supreme Court appointments to this court by this president -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And it all begins right now. This is the moment that this president has been waiting for. This is the moment that, as you said, Mitch McConnell has been holding out for and waiting for since the campaign until now. A very big moment for everybody.

Jeff, Jeff Zeleny is in the Rose Garden. We are waiting any moment for the president to walk out. Jeff is there. But first, let's quickly go over when we talk about there is really no rest for the wary here.

The newly minted Justice Gorsuch will have to hit the ground running and fast, get seated just in time really to help the court finish out its current term with some very weighty issues.

CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue is joining me now from the steps of the capital. Ariane, as I go to you, I'm just looking, you see some of the justices walking in right now.

I see Justice Ginsburg and Justice Thomas, and I think right back there is Chief Justice John Roberts. All of the justices are expected to be present for this swearing in, Ariane.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Yes, this is a big day, right? It's been over a year since Scalia died and you are absolutely right, Kate, no rest for the wary, right, because Gorsuch has completed that grueling confirmation process.

He met with over 80 senators. He did over 20 hours of Congressional testimony and now he's got to get to work. As early as Thursday, he will meet behind closed doors for the closed door regular conference with his new colleagues and they'll discuss cases that could be coming to the court.

Haven't been accepted yet, but there are some big issues there. There is a second amendment case about conceal and carry. There is a voter I.D. case about North Carolina strict voter I.D. law that was struck below.

And there is an interesting religious liberty case about a cake artist who did not want to make a cake to celebrate the wedding reception of a same-sex couple. Those are big, meaty issues. The court could take some of them.

And then not only that, next week, he takes the bench. For the first time, he'll wear that robe and start hearing cases. So, he hasn't had a chance much catch his breath -- Kate.

KEILAR: Absolutely. Perfect timing, Ariane, we're now seeing President Trump walking out right now. Let's take a moment. Huge moment for this president and the country, the swearing in of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Friends and distinguished guests, welcome to the White House.

We are gathered here today for a truly momentous occasion in our democracy, the swearing in of a United States Supreme Court justice.

In particular, I'm greatly honored to welcome to these grounds every sitting justice of the United States Supreme Court. Welcome. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Mr. Chief Justice and fellow justices, it's a privilege to have you here to join in this historic moment on this very beautiful spring day in the Rose Garden. Spring is really the perfect backdrop for this joyful gathering of friends, because together we are in a process of reviewing and renewing and also rebuilding our country. A new optimism is sweeping across our land and a new faith in America is filling our hearts and lifting our sights.

TRUMP: I'd also like to recognize Senator Cory Gardner. Here's Cory. Cory Gardner.

Mike Lee. Where's Mike? He's around here someplace. Thank you.

And Mike Crapo. Good. Hi, Mike.

Thank you very much and for all your work. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

And although he could not be here today, I especially want to express our gratitude to Senator Mitch McConnell for all that he did to make this achievement possible. So, thank you, Mitch.

(APPLAUSE)

I'd also like to give my appreciation to Chairman Grassley for conducting such a fair and professional confirmation. Senator Grassley. Where is Senator Grassley?

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Senator.

Finally, a profound thank you to Louise Gorsuch and to all of the Gorsuch family. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

And, Louise, I've heard it firsthand. I know what a total inspiration you are to your husband and to your entire family. So, thank you very much. Fantastic. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

We are here to celebrate history: the taking of the judicial oath by the newest member of the United States Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.

Justice Gorsuch, I just want to congratulate you and your entire family. It's something so special.

In fact, I've always heard that the most important thing that a president of the United States does is appoint people -- hopefully great people like this appointment -- to the United States Supreme Court. And I can say, this is a great honor.

(APPLAUSE)

And I got it done in the first 100 days. That's even nice.

(LAUGHTER)

You think that's easy.

(APPLAUSE)

This ceremony has special meaning as Justice Gorsuch is filling the seat of one of the greatest Supreme Court judges in American history, and that's Antonin Scalia, who is a terrific -- was a terrific judge and a terrific person.

Justice Scalia was a patriot who revered our Constitution. He was beloved by many, very many, who are here today. And he is deeply missed by all of us.

I want to, at this time, recognize his incredible wife Maureen, who I got to know very well over the last short period of time.

And, Maureen, please stand up. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you and your family. Thank you. Thank you, Maureen.

Americans are blessed to have in Neil Gorsuch a man who will likewise be a devoted servant of the law.

Over the past two months, the American people have gotten to know, respect and truly admire our newest member of the United States Supreme Court.

In Justice Gorsuch, they see a man of great and unquestioned integrity, they see a man of unmatched qualifications and most of all, and most importantly, they see a man who is deeply faithful to the Constitution of the United States. He will decide cases based not on his personal preferences, but based on a fair and objective reading of the law.

Today, we have all three branches of government represented at this event. It is a very special thing and a very special happening. And it's worth taking just a minute to remember what it all means.

In our founders' incredible wisdom, they gave each branch of government a different role in our great republic. We have a Congress to write the laws on behalf of the people, we have a president to enforce those laws and defend our nation, and we have a Supreme Court to apply and interpret the law in a fair and impartial matter when disagreements arise.

TRUMP: The founders separated power because they knew it was the best way to protect our citizens and keep our Constitution secure.

Justice Gorsuch, you are now entrusted with the scared duty of defending our Constitution. Our country is counting on you to be wise, impartial and fair, to serve under our laws, not over them, and to safeguard the right of the people to govern their own affairs. I have no doubt you will rise to the occasion and that the decisions you will make will not only protect our Constitution today, but for many generations of Americans to come.

In just a moment, Justice Gorsuch will be sworn in by Justice Kennedy, a great man of outstanding accomplishment. Throughout his nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy has been praised by all for his dedicated and dignified service. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude and I am honored that he is with us today.

(APPLAUSE)

This is a very, very special moment, because many years ago, a young Neil Gorsuch started his legal career as a law clerk to Justice Kennedy. You remember that, right?

(LAUGHTER)

It is a fitting testament to Justice Kennedy's impact that upon giving the oath to Justice Gorsuch, he will become the first ever Supreme Court justice to serve with one of his former law clerks. That's sort of a big deal, isn't it? I sort of like that. That's sort of good.

(APPLAUSE)

It has never happened before. That's pretty good.

It also shows you have a lot of respect for this man. It's very good.

We're thrilled to share this historic moment with Justice Kennedy, with all of you here today and with all Americans watching us at home.

Justice Gorsuch, I again congratulate you and your entire family and I wish God's blessings on your amazing journey ahead. I have no doubt you will go down as one of the truly great justices in the history of the United States Supreme Court. I now invite Justice Kennedy to say a few words. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. Chief Justice, Justice Gorsuch and my fellow adherents to the idea and the reality of the rule of law, as many of you know, there are two oaths that a member of the federal judiciary must take. The first is the constitutional oath that so many of you are familiar with that applies to all three branches of the government. The second oath is one that applies just to federal judges. Both of the oaths date from the founding of the Republican -- of the republic. The judicial oath dates from 1789.

And both of these oaths remind us that we as a people are bound together. We as a people find our self-definition, our respect, our heritage and our destiny in the Constitution.

And so, Justice Gorsuch, there is one oath remaining for you to take, the judicial oath, before you may receive and accept your commission from the president of the United Sates. Are you ready, Justice Gorsuch, to take the oath?

Are you ready to take the oath, Justice Gorsuch?

Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Neil M. Gorsuch, do solemnly swear...

GORSUCH: I, Neil M. Gorsuch, do solemnly swear...

KENNEDY: ... that I will administer justice without respect to persons...

GORSUCH: ... that I will administer justice without respect to persons...

KENNEDY: ... and do equal right to the poor and to the rich...

GORSUCH: ... and do equal right to the poor and to the rich...

KENNEDY: ... and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform...

GORSUCH: ... and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform...

KENNEDY: ... all the duties incumbent upon me...

GORSUCH: ... all the duties incumbent upon me...

KENNEDY: ... as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States...

GORSUCH: ... as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States...

KENNEDY: ... under the Constitution and laws of the United States...

GORSUCH: ... under the Constitution and laws of the United States...

KENNEDY: ... so help me God.

GORSUCH: ... so help me God.

KENNEDY: Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

GORSUCH: Thank you.

I see before me so many to whom I owe so much. I know I would not be here today without your friendship and support. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

I want to thank the president for nominating me and for the great confidence and trust he's reposed in me.

I want to thank the vice president for his constant encouragement and friendship throughout this process. It's not possible to mention here everyone I should mention. But I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the president's counsel, Don McGhan, and Mark Paoletta, the vice president's counsel, and every single person in the White House Counsel's Office for their tremendous and tireless support.

I want to thank Kelly Ayotte and my day-to-day team for their humor, for their sage advice, for their faith as we spent months and so many miles trooping together through the Senate complex.

I want to thank every single person -- and there are so many -- in the White House and the Department of Justice who worked through so many late nights and long weeks on my behalf.

I want to thank, too, Senator McConnell and Senator Grassley and their excellent teams for their support and leadership.

And I must thank my former law clerks and my dear friends who gave so much of themselves so selflessly through these last three months.

You are dear to me. This is truly your doing. And this is your day. I wish I could mention each of you by name. But you know who you are, and you know your names are etched in my heart forever.

This process has reminded me just how outrageously blessed I am, in my law clerks, in my family and in my friends. And I hope that I may continue to rely on each of you as I face this new challenge.

To my former colleagues and the wonderful staff of the Tenth Circuit, I thank you for your faithful service and your friendship over so many years.

To my new colleagues and the staff of the Supreme Court, thank you for the very warm welcome. I look forward to many happy years together.

And I cannot tell you how honored I am to have here today my mentor, Justice Kennedy, administer the judicial oath, a beautiful oath, as he did for me 11 years ago when I became a circuit judge.

To the Scalia family, I won't ever forget that the seat I inherit today is that of a very, very great man.

To my wife, Louise, and my daughters, Emma and Bindy, thank you for your perseverance and your patience, your courage and your love. I simply could not have attempted this without you.

GORSUCH: And to the American people, I'm humbled by the trust placed in me today. I will never forget that to whom much is given, much will be expected. And I promise you that I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain seated --

KEILAR: And with that, Neil Gorsuch becomes 113th Supreme Court justice. The Supreme Court is now officially a full nine, once again. Jeffrey Toobin has been sitting with me here throughout. Jeffrey, before I bring everyone else in, just your thoughts on the ceremony today.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's Justice Clarence Thomas and behind him on the right is Justice Steven Bryer, Justice Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayer and Justice Ginsburg. You know, you don't see these folks on television very much. There's Justice Kagan.

BOLDUAN: That's Justice Scalia's wife walking out behind --

TOOBIN: And that was Eugene Scalia, Justice Scalia's son who is a prominent lawyer in Washington. Jeffrey Maneer (ph), who is the counselor of the chief justice, the gray haired gentleman right there.

This is not just a major event just in the history of the Trump administration. It's a major event in American history. These do not take place very often. These are important events. These people have a lot of power over issues that we cannot even imagine at this point.

One of my favorite lines about the Supreme Court by Justice Robert Jackson, he said, "We are not final because we are infallible, we are infallible because we are final." Somebody has to have the last word in American politics and life.

It is the Supreme Court and we now know that there are nine justices and the fact that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in November 2016, this different nomination, Neil Gorsuch as opposed to Merrick Garland or whoever Hillary Clinton might have named is really perhaps the biggest difference, biggest consequence of that electoral result.

BOLDUAN: Also joining us right now is Joan Biskupic, a CNN legal analyst and Supreme Court biographer, and Nia Malika Henderson, a CNN senior political reporter. Joan, these are the moments as Jeffrey perfectly lays out that I always wonder what is going through Neil Gorsuch's mind. How much has his life just changed?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Totally. I also wondered about thought bubbles above the other justices, too, because this is the start of a new chapter. And these events at the White House have always had some hoopla to it, but this time there seemed to be much more.

The president spoke longer than usual for a president in that situation. He actually brought in some political themes, Jeff just referred to Mitch McConnell, who the president thanked. The president has Mitch McConnell to thank on two fronts.

First of all, for getting the rules changed that allow new Justice Gorsuch to be confirmed, but also to have that seat held for more than 400 days during the remaining part of Barack Obama's term.

And I thought it was interesting the way President Trump used the moment to talk about this beautiful spring day, this new beginning in America. A lot of political themes that don't, you don't often see at this time.

But I think to get to your question there, Kate, about what Justice Gorsuch must be thinking. You know, what a wonderful event. He's -- he will be seated in just a couple days to decide the law of the land. It's for life. He can say or do whatever he wants. It's unlikely that anybody would touch him and he'll have such an important role in deciding, as I said, the law for all of us.

BOLDUAN: And, Nia, as Joan points out the president in his opening remarks who is hitting a very optimistic tone talking about spring is the perfect backdrop. He said, we are in the process of reviewing, renewing and also rebuilding our nation, a new optimism sweeping across the land. This is a much-needed big win for this president. You could kind of see it in his upbeat tone there.

[11:25:08]NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. You could see it. Some of that language, renewing, rebuilding and reviewing is somewhat new. I mean, he had touched on that a bit earlier in some of his rallies in Florida, for instance, a couple months ago.

But you can tell this is kind of a new chapter for him, at least this week, at least with this event, and he touched on it. He said he was able to do this in the first 100 days. Sort of patting himself on the back in that speech and saying it wasn't easy to do that.

And Joan alluded to all of the things that had to go in to making this moment happen for Donald Trump. I do think when you look at the wins from the first 100 days, this will be top of the list. I think the question is, what are the other wins that will come from this White House, from this administration? Gorsuch, of course, will sit on the bench.

A lot of people from the far right and conservatives are looking at this justice to see whether or not he's in the mold of John Roberts who, in many ways, disappointed a lot of conservatives because he upheld parts of Obamacare or if he's in the mold of somebody like Clarence Thomas or Justice Scalia, who he is replacing.

So that will be interesting. He will get an opportunity, really, off the bat with some of these court cases that are before the Supreme Court already to really, I think, curry favor with some folks in the far right sort of Evangelical communities that were a little nervous about some of his answers around Roe v. Wade, same sex marriage and religious liberty, from those really long confirmation hearings.

BOLDUAN: Very long, 20 plus hours of confirmation hearings. I want to get to what people think of his style in just one second, as you were alluding to, Nia. But, Jeffrey, I think we both could have heard wrong. But after the swearing in it did seem that President Trump leaned in and said go get them. In the theme of going and getting them, what is the week ahead like for Neil Gorsuch? Lay it out.

TOOBIN: He has been given briefs to read even though he hasn't been a justice yet. He will have to sit in the justice' conference where they decide which cases they're going to take and then next Monday, he is going to hear arguments.

But you know, there is a weirdness about these events. Justice John Paul Stevens, who served on the court for longer than almost anybody didn't like having justices appear at the White House for swearing in.

You know, here you had Justice Gorsuch praising the White House counsel, praising Mitch McConnell, praising Chairman Grassley. He's going to rule on cases in a matter of days where they are participants in the cases.

So, you know, the judicial -- there's a reason why you don't usually see Supreme Court justices at White House events because the White House has an extremely strong interest in how these cases come out. They have a Solicitor General's Office that files briefs.

The fact that the Supreme Court justices are essentially at a pep rally for one political party is something that you can sort of understand why it happens, but, it makes some of them uncomfortable.

BOLDUAN: I don't know if it falls in the line of irony, but maybe a little bit of irony welcoming the new justice in just as you possibly this president could be trying to welcome the retirement of another justice who was standing on the stage, as well. Anthony Kennedy, of course, as we were talking about there. But a huge moment for this president and for this country as we discussed. Great to see you all. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, what is President Trump's policy on Syria? Depends on who you ask. Why his team doesn't seem to be on the same page right now just days after striking the Assad regime.

Plus, drama inside the palace also known as palace intrigue. President Trump's deputy national security adviser is heading out. He's also telling his son-in-law and top adviser to work it out. We'll discuss.

And a massive manhunt is under way for a man who sent President Trump a manifesto. New details on his letter and why he has been able to elude police so far and what he stole just before going on the run. We'll be right back.

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