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Supreme Court Rules For Baker In Same-Sex Wedding Case; Trump: I Have The "Absolute Right" To Pardon Myself; Lawyers Admit Trump "Dictated" Misleading Don Jr. Statement. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 4, 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. Let's begin with the breaking news out of the Supreme Court, a case that put religious liberty up against gay rights. The justices deciding in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He claimed doing so would violate his religious beliefs.
For all of this, I want to get to the Supreme Court, CNN's Jessica Schneider is there. Jessica, it was a decisive majority ruling in favor of the baker ruling narrowly though on the facts of the case. Lay it out for us.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. It was a 7- 2 ruling, Poppy, in favor of the baker, but in terms of the actual decision here, it was quite narrow. It did not get to the constitutional questions here as to whether someone has a broad religious or free speech right to refuse services to gay couples.
So, it really -- this wasn't the big religious liberty case that many people were expecting here. This majority opinion, it was written by Justice Kennedy, of course, he has been considered a champion of gay rights because he was the one who also wrote the opinion in Obergefell, the 2015 case that granted same sex couples the right to marry.
But what did happen in this case, some people might say, wait, I thought Justice Kennedy was a big proponent of gay couples, the champion of gay marriage and now he is ruling for the baker in this case, how can we square that?
We can square that because Justice Kennedy here in writing this majority opinion along with the six other justices who joined him had a problem with the fact that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission appeared to show animus toward the baker's religious beliefs here.
And they wrote extensively in the opinion about the fact that there may be other cases that have to come to the forefront in order for these broader constitutional questions to be answered.
Let me read you from the opinion here, from Justice Kennedy, he said, "The outcome of cases like this and other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in the open market."
So, you can see there from the language that Justice Kennedy wanted to toe this line from respecting the religious beliefs of this baker in particular, but also maintaining the dignities of these same sex couples. So, a narrow ruling here, a 7-2 decision, 7-2.
Justice Clarence Thomas, though a conservative, he joined in the decision, but dissented in the reasoning here. So not quite the big religious liberty case that many had expected, but still a narrow ruling for this baker saying that he does not have to make this cake for the same sex couple -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Jessica, thank you so much. Let's talk much more about this. CNN legal analyst, Joan Biskupic is here, CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston, and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan. Joan, give me your take on what
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Sure. I was in the courtroom and when Justice Kennedy came in, he was holding two sets of papers, he had given an earlier decision and the climax of the morning is when he announced this. It seemed this entire opinion seemed to be designed to sort of lower the temperature on this issue at this point.
Couple of things to add to Jessica's report, Justices Kagan and Breyer, two from the liberal side, joined in, kind of as a sign that, OK, we're not trying to do too much here, but I would say that the two dissenters, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said, look, even though the commission may have made -- commissioners may have made disparaging comments about religion, this was assessed by other entities, by courts, and there was no need to say that the context here affected the case.
That these two individuals did face discrimination and it should be read as that. So, they were the only two that broke off, but as I say, Justice Kennedy, I think he wanted to caution everyone in the courtroom, and probably anyone reading this opinion, that this is a very small step in the case of these particular men.
Again, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor said otherwise, but I think it really opens the door to what would come next from the next case. I would just add one other thing, Justice Kennedy noted that in 2012, when this had happened, Colorado was not allowing gay marriage. And he seemed to talk a lot about that historical context in that moment that now will be so different going forward.
BOLDUAN: And that's fascinating and important because, Paul, I'm left to wonder here, this baker wins this case, does another baker win a future case?
[11:05:11] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think that another baker may lose a future case. The reason I say that is because this is kind of typical of the court in looking at the process that took place in the lower courts, in this case in the commission. A lot of times, for instance, in a criminal case, an appellate court isn't deciding necessarily that somebody is innocent or guilty of a trial. A jury has already done that. What they're trying to decide is was it a fair trial?
And here the fact that two liberals, Kagan and Breyer, joined in the majority decision, it suggests that they thought the commission treated the baker unfairly. I was looking at the specifics of it, and apparently the baker was accused of harboring opinions similar to those in favor of slavery and saying that the holocaust didn't exist.
And so, he was being subjected to ridicule for his religious beliefs and I think the court felt that that was an important principle and so I think this is about how the decision was made, not what the decision was, and we'll see a different decision in the future probably more favorable to gay rights.
BOLDUAN: Mark, this was a case that was rife with politics in the sense that there were so many friends of the court briefs that were submitted, 86, I think, was members of Congress, kind of signed on to support the baker. What is the political fallout if there is? I mean, this, does this become a bigger issue in the midterm now?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: As this ruling was coming down, a very well-known Republican pollster was sitting in my office and just kind of looked up at me and said, this is interesting, how this is going to play out over the next six months or so.
And I said, well, explain. He said, well, if this is going to be framed by Republicans as an effort for freedom, for religious freedom, then that is going to help us with our base.
But in the near term, he thinks that it is actually going to hurt Republicans a little bit because it is going to be framed as discrimination or this is what he thinks by the media, that in fact that they're allowing discrimination to move forward.
Now, whether or not this plays out in the midterm elections we'll have to see what happens, but whenever you talk about religious freedom, these are the kind of hot button issues that do get people out to vote. So, I would expect conservatives and Republicans to really play this out.
BOLDUAN: You know, Joan, Kennedy was the deciding voice in the 2015 gay marriage decision, writing the majority opinion here. In your view, is this decision by the justices complicating things or clarifying things with regard to gay rights in America today?
BISKUPIC: Is there a third choice? It is not clarifying for sure, but it is saying in this particular instance, given what the commissioners had said, religion Trumps everything. And, but, Justice Kennedy during oral arguments was the ones who pointed out the commissioner's statements or focused on one commissioner at the time.
And it is dual principles we have here, one is that Justice Kennedy is very serious about religious liberty at the same time he talks about the dignity of gay people. And when he started speaking from the bench today, the first thing he talked about was the dignity of gay people that they cannot be regarded as outcasts and that's how he led off his analysis also.
But it is essentially a warning to people who are deciding these cases out, you know, beyond the beltway, that be careful your rational for this. And, give both sides a fair hearing. That's what it is about, giving both sides a fair hearing, but I don't think he undercut his decision in Obergefell from 2015 at all.
And I think, again, that's why he was able to draw in the votes of people on the far right, and people on the far -- not the most extreme left, but enough on the left to make it seem better than the usual 5-4 decision, which is what it was in 2015.
BOLDUAN: Yes. This is far from over. This case, though, decided. Guys, thank you very much.
I was just handed a first statement coming from the attorneys who were representing the baker -- representing Masterpiece Bakers in this, Jack Phillips. Here's a quote for you, "Jack serves all customers. He simply declines to express messages or celebrate events this violate his deeply held beliefs. Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convicts without the threat of government punishment."
That from the attorneys representing Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Bakers, who just won before the Supreme Court. Thank you all so much.
Coming up for us, President Trump says he has the absolute right to pardon himself as his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani says Trump could shoot James Comey and get away with it. What's going on here, honestly. That's coming up.
[11:10:07] Plus, Bill Clinton gets heated over questions about Monica Lewinsky saying he doesn't owe her a personal apology. Does he see that scandal in his political past any differently in the age of the "Me Too Movement?" We'll play it for you. You can be the judge.
BOLDUAN: He's the commander in chief and he's turning into something of a partner in chief, but could President Trump pardon himself if the special counsel found he committed a crime?
This morning, he tweeted in part, basically that, "As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to pardon myself. But why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?"
Followed by this, "The appointment of the special counsel, his spelling not mine, is totally unconstitutional. Despite that, we play the game because I unlike the Democrats have done nothing wrong." So where would President Trump get such a DIY pardon idea? Hello, Rudy Giuliani, once again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [11:15:07] RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He has no intention of pardoning himself, but he probably -- he doesn't say he can't, it's really interesting. Can the president pardon himself? I think the political -- it would be an open question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And Rudy Giuliani is on a roll, again. He went on to make another shocking claim to "The Huffington Post" saying the president could have shot former FBI Director James Comey and not be prosecuted.
Here is the quote, "If he shot James Comey, he would be impeached the next day. Impeach him and then you can do whatever you want to do to him." It is a theoretical argument and clearly an extreme example, of course, but what are they trying to do here?
Joining me right now, S.V. Date, Senior White House correspondent at "The Huffington Post," who conducted this interview with Rudy Giuliani. What did you think when Giuliani told you that?
S.V. DATE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": I was very interested in how far they would take the argument they can do basically that they want. They seemed a very regal expansive view of the presidency. When it came out that he could end any investigation, I was curious what else could they -- what other kind of investigations could he stop?
I said, well, what if hypothetically he -- you got angry at James Comey and shot him instead of firing him. Mr. Giuliani said, yes, includes that, no crimes. They would have to impeach him first. And he was confident that that would happen very quickly.
BOLDUAN: S.V., I'm struck also by how often and openly Rudy Giuliani seems to be talking about impeachment here when it seems the furthest thing from what the president would like. That also is starting to tell me it is looking something like a strategy. What does it tell you?
DATE: Well, strategy, I'm not so sure about that. You know, the mayor likes to talk to a lot of folks about lots of different things. And we asked him questions you get an answer at least. I was expecting to say, well, no, that's an outrageous thing and just a crazy hypothetical and I'm not even going to answer that.
He was -- he went there. He said, yes, any crime means any crime. And with the president, he's immune from that while he's in office. So, it is not surprising then that the president had that tweet this morning about he can pardon himself because it is obvious he's thinking more and more about that.
BOLDUAN: But we've also heard two, maybe more than two, two things about Rudy Giuliani, it is he speaks for the president and also that the president himself is suggesting he does not speak for the president because he doesn't get his facts straight. Do you at this point get a sense now that Rudy Giuliani speaks for the president?
DATE: Well, I don't know. Depends on the time of day, I guess, what day --
DATE: You get all kinds of answers when you ask things of the White House, right? I mean, we had that statement multiple statements from the White House about that statement aboard air force one, that he dictated, did he not dictate and that that letter they sent to the special counsel's office in January, turns out, yes, he did dictate it. So, I think we're getting about as much accuracy and consistency with Rudy Giuliani as from the president or from the White House generally.
BOLDUAN: Not a high bar at this point. S.V., thanks for coming in, appreciate it. Great interview.
DATE: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: All right. So, as S.V. was talking about, Rudy Giuliani comments came after the "New York Times" published a confidential letter that Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow and John Dowd at the time sent to Robert Mueller in January, and they claimed the president cannot obstruct justice because the Constitution gives him the authority to, quote, "terminate the inquiry."
In that same letter, a buried bombshell, the president's attorneys admitting that the president, quote, "dictated," that's a key word, that first misleading statement from Donald Trump Jr. about the purpose of his meeting with the Russian government lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.
Here is a quote for you, "You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the president dictated a short, dictated a short but accurate response to the "New York Times" article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr.
His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.
Nothing to meeting, we can debate for days that we have discussed that quite a bit when we said he would love to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Regardless, the president's involvement in that misleading statement was something Sekulow and the White House denied and denied and denied and denied when the news of the meeting first came out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was written by Donald Trump Jr. and I'm sure with consultation with his lawyer. So that wasn't written by the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president didn't sign off on anything. The president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly didn't dictate, but, you know, he, like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:20:04] BOLDUAN: All right. Let's get to it. With me now, Kim Waily, the former assistant U.S. attorney, who worked in the Clinton Whitewater investigation, Joe Lockhart, was President Clinton's press secretary, CNN political commentator, and joining us, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, also now a CNN political commentator.
Let's do this. Congressman, someone is lying, either the president or his attorneys. Do you care to take a bet?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know what the president shared. I have no idea what the president shared with his attorneys. It could be the attorneys were stating what they thought was the truth as they knew it. But clearly someone is not telling the truth here, either the president or the people who spoke on his behalf or both. It is pretty inexcusable, really indefensible.
BOLDUAN: Joe, look, lying to the media, lying to the American public, is not a crime. But this is so blatant on the dictate the statement, not dictate the statement. He did not dictate the statement, absolutely, he did dictate the statement. I don't think you can find another example, but this is today's outrage du jour. If you were in your old job, what would you do with this today?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If I was in my old job, I probably would have left several months ago. I would be here talking to you about how the president doesn't have a -- the difference is the timing here. When he told Jay Sekulow and Sarah Sanders before January I didn't do it, he knew Mueller hadn't spoken to the people in the room.
Now they have written this letter because he knows the people have gone in and underwrote, told Mueller what really happened. So, I think it is another example about Trump's lack of any sort of concept of how important the truth is, and the fact that he'll put anybody out to say anything to protect him and everybody is just sort of cattle to him. It's all about protecting him.
BOLDUAN: And, Kim, why would they ever admit this to the special counsel? Is it they had to? What do you think?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL, WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION: No, I mean, that entire letter is unnecessary. There are two issues here, one is people are talking about whether it is truthful or not. Of course, lying to the press is not illegal, it gets to why the president's lawyers don't want him to sit down and testify under oath, because he's extremely vulnerable to criminal liability for perjury.
The second question has to do with obstruction of justice and the letter goes into that in great detail, did the president make decisions with the corrupt intent to flout the criminal justice system to the extent to which it is engaged in a legitimate probe of Russian interference with our election.
And that really gets to state of mind and the evidence including this little fact is mounting that the president certainly had that intent. Now, then we get into bigger constitutional questions as to whether he can be indicted, if he's indicted, prosecuted and convicted by a jury, then could he be pardoned?
I think the president is making a case, a very complicated, I think obfuscating one for the American public, that he can pretty much do what he wants, and I think it is actually a good thing that that's now being put out in the open because it is so outrageous as a matter of democratic theory, we all need to pay attention to it.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of can he or can't he pardon himself or is this special counsel constitutional or unconstitutional because I think the question is really why is the president doing this?
DENT: Well, call me old-fashioned, but I do not believe that the presidential authority is absolute. And I think we talk about pardons, you know, this process should be done in a thoughtful, considered manner.
I have been involved with some individuals who wanted pardons, and there is a process that should be observed that the Justice Department conducts, and I don't think these pardons should be handed out on a presidential whim or to send a message or to retaliate against a certain prosecutor.
I'm deeply troubled by this. And I'm very concerned that the Congress has given up a lot of its article one authority over the years, didn't start with this president, this has been going on for a long time.
We have seen executive actions under President Obama and others and Congress needs to step in and assert itself. The founders established Congress -- the first branch of government, article one, and so I think this notion of absolute presidential power is absurd.
BOLDUAN: Guys, stick around. If you can believe it, I won't let you leave, a whole lot more to discuss and doesn't have to do with President Trump at this moment.
Coming up, Bill Clinton gets testy when faced with questions about the "Me Too Movement" and Monica Lewinsky, saying he doesn't owe Lewinsky a personal apology. That's next.
BOLDUAN: New this morning, former President Bill Clinton defending himself from renewed criticism of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the era of the "Me Too Movement." Asked a simple question about how he feels about -- if he feels differently about that scandal today in the light of the "Me Too Movement" by NBC, here's his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: No, I felt terrible then and I came to grips with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever apologize?
CLINTON: Yes, and nobody believes that I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million in debt, but you typically have ignored gaping facts and describing this and I bet you don't even know them.
This was litigated 20 years ago, two-thirds of the American people sided with me, they were not insensitive to that. I had a sexual harassment policy when I was governor in the '80s. I had two women chiefs-of-staff when I was governor.
Women were overrepresented in the attorney general's office in the '70s. For their percentage in the bar. I had nothing but women leaders in my office since I left. You are giving one side and omitting facts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you didn't apologize to her.