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INSIDE POLITICS

Supreme Court Upholds Travel Ban; Trump Calls Ruling a Victory; Candidate Trump's Travel Ban Promise; Republicans Celebrate Supreme Court Decision; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:03] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this big breaking news day with us.

Big breaking news being President Trump's travel ban upheld by the United States Supreme Court. It was a divided court, a 5-4 decision, and two of the justices that sided with the White House lectured the president for his rhetoric, even as they embraced his view of executive power. But a win is a win. And we expect to hear from the president any moment now. Reporters being told they'll be allowed into a White House meeting.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said this, quote, the proclamation is squarely within the scope of presidential authority. Neither dissent even attempts any serious argument to the contrary. End quote.

Now, it's important to remember, the court ruled on version three of the Trump travel ban. The first two attempts were, to put it mildly, a mess, both legally and politically. Still, the president is claiming vindication. His Twitter feed suggesting he might also be a bit surprised. Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban. Wow!

Jeff Zeleny live at the White House for us right now.

Jeff, give us more of the White House reaction as we await to hear from the president himself.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, those words sum up the president's view, I'm told, pretty perfectly. He was in the residence of the White House this morning watching this unfold on television. Members of the White House Counsel's Office were explaining the ruling. And the word that came out immediately was "vindication." And that word is also in an official statement the White House released from the president just a short time ago.

Let's take a look at it because it's quite interesting in its language what it chooses to say. The statement says this, today's Supreme Court ruling is a tremendous victory for the American people and the Constitution. The Supreme Court has upheld the clear authority of the president to defend the national security of the United States. In this era of worldwide terrorism and extremist movements bent on harming innocent civilians, we must properly vet those coming into our country.

It goes on to say, this ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country.

So, John, a bit of a midterm election message there. The president has been saying again and again, blasting Democrats for, you know, he says not want to secure the borders. Of course, with little evidence of that.

But it is clear the president is seizing upon this Supreme Court victory, which specifically is about that third version of the travel ban revised again and again, not the overall immigration argument. But he is making it part of the argument. He is going to be speaking in the Cabinet Room with members of Congress who are over here for a prescheduled meeting.

But, John, important to point out, what has changed here at the White House since that early travel ban, Steve Bannon, of course, his top adviser, was deeply involved in that. He's gone. So much has changed over the last year and a half. But the president will ignore all of the nuances of this ruling and he will simply claim vindication.

John.

KING: And as he does so, Jeff, I just want to make clear, reporters are now being allowed into this meeting.

ZELENY: Right.

KING: That was not the plan until we knew the decision, correct?

ZELENY: That is absolutely correct. There was -- the meeting was with members of Congress. It was closed press, which means the press is not allowed and there is no White House briefing scheduled either. But it was decided that cameras would be allowed in. The White House officials made that decision to me shortly after -- a few minutes after it was clear what the Supreme Court ruling was, John.

KING: Understandable the president wants to celebrate.

ZELENY: Indeed.

KING: Joining us now is Jonathan Turley. He's a constitutional law expert, professor at George Washington University.

Jonathan, let's start first. Often we look at a Supreme Court decision and we say American law has been changed today in this way. Has it been?

JONATHAN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Frankly, I don't think it has. Now, I have to admit, from the first opinion issued on the travel ban, I thought that it would be reversed by the Supreme Court, because the court was relying -- the lower courts were relying so heavily on the president's public comments and tweets. And that was pretty unprecedented to the degree to which they did it.

And so what the majority said is that you can't ignore the rest of the record, you can't rely so heavily on those types of statements, even though the majority took a sort of a slap at President Trump at one point. I mean they talk about how other presidents have elevated the discussion, including President Bush going to a mosque after 9/11. And so the majority conveyed they didn't agree with these statements.

But they were really focusing less on the travel ban, less on President Trump, as they were on the judicial function. And they said that this really goes to the record upon which we have to rule, and they felt that the Ninth Circuit had gone outside those navigational beacons.

KING: Essentially saying what candidate Trump said, or even early President Trump said was not the issue, it was version three before them.

Does this president -- does this president or the next president have any new power today that didn't exist yesterday, or did they just clear up this argument about whether him, as a candidate, saying Muslim ban, or as early -- the early messy moments of early in the administration that they were going to set that aside, even though they didn't like it?

[12:05:06] TURLEY: John, I think it's the latter. You know, what the majority pointed out, which I believe is demonstratively true, is that courts previously gave presidents sweeping authority at the border as to who can enter this country, and they said, you can't just simply disregard that in this administration. And so part of this really does go to that judicial function aspect.

In terms of going into the future, there's no question this is a win for the president. But presidents have been really getting wins for about two decades now on immigration. There was a very important decision last year that said that you did not have to give a bond hearing to hold people effectively indefinitely. This is part of a long string of victories in that sense. So Trump is playing a strong hand when he deals with immigration policies in the court. It doesn't mean that it's politically the correct thing or not.

But I do think this is a shot across the bow for lower court judges. Many of us criticize President Trump for the statements that he made on Twitter and on the campaign trail, which were reckless and they were disconcerting, to say the least. But this is a warning to lower court judges that you're going to have to distance yourself a bit more and focus on what is a more traditional record in making these decisions.

KING: Read the law, not follow politics, I guess, might be one way to put it.

Jonathan Turley, appreciate your insights there.

TURLEY: Thanks, John. KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, "Politico's" Rachael Bade, CNN's Joan Biskupic, Olivier Knox with Sirius XM, and CNN's Abby Phillip.

John, you were in the courtroom. I heard you right after. You've done this for a while. And this case brought new drama.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Completely. As I said, you know, more than 25 years, but when you imagine the weight of this question, the president we have, and the justices involved, for more than 40 minutes they talked about, you know, who should win, who should lose, starting with Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledging what Donald Trump had said. He read back some of those statements, you know, Islam hates us, and he referred to the website that Donald Trump had used for his campaign and didn't take down until after the inauguration. And he said, those things do not significantly undercut what is the president's power, and not just under federal law, but under the Constitution on religious rights.

And the chief also, I believe, anticipating -- not just the dissents that were read from the bench, but the kind of divisions that we've seen played out and that you put on the air earlier -- tried to head off that kind of criticism saying, we are looking right at the law. We are looking at Donald Trump as a president, not so much as Donald Trump. So it was -- it was quite amazing.

And then the thing that came after that was Steven Breyer speaking for himself and Elaina Kagan, two of the decenters, and then Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaking for herself, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg taking the most liberal position saying, wait a minute, look at what he has said. Look what you're doing here. And she used the word "sham." Those national security interests that you're hanging your entire opinion on here, the federal policy power of the president, those are a sham. And she likened it to Koramatsu (ph), which was the Supreme Court decision upholding a government order that took thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II and put them in camps.

KING: All right, so the press pool has been brought in at the White House to this meeting with Republican senators. So we will hear from the president momentarily. We'll bring you that as soon as we get it.

To you point, first a little bit of the timeline. Remember, this was version 3.0. January 27th, one week after taking office, the first Trump executive order banned foreign nationals from seven Muslim majority nations. March 6th, 2017, a new executive order after some losses in the courts, exempting people who already had visas and green cards. Remember the chaos of the first week of the Trump travel ban.

And then -- then by June 26th, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the travel ban. And then the third version of the travel ban, from six majority Muslim nations, it added North Korea and Venezuela, which helped the administration's argument this wasn't all targeting Muslims. That's the thing there.

Now, to your point, I want to read to you from the majority opinion. I found it striking, no legal expert, but that both the chief justice, who wrote the majority opinion, and then Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on this court, who wrote a consenting opinion, went along with --

JOAN: Concurring. Concurring.

KING: Concurring opinion, forgive me, with the majority, both lectured the president for his rhetoric. They essentially said, we believe you have this power. We don't like the things you said. We're still going to let you have this power.

Plaintiffs argue that this president's words strike at the fundamental standards of respect and tolerance in violation of our constitutional tradition. But the issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements. It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility. In doing so, we must consider not only the statements of a particular president, but also the authority of the presidency itself.

In essence, a president, any president, has this power. So we're going to let you have it, even though we don't like what you said.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, John, you asked earlier about whether or not this gives a president more -- any sort of more power, it changes the law. I do think it empowers this particular president who, throughout this entire a time in office has repeatedly made statement that are potentially unconstitutional, made statements about policy that he wants, and then had his administration turn around and try to craft it into something that will pass legal muster.

[12:10:22] That is, for a lot of people, an unsustainable way of governing. But I think, for this president, this is the way it's going to be. And I think what this ruling essentially says to him is, your words don't matter as much, and your Justice Department can turn around and try to make something that works, cobble something together that works, and you can go ahead. I think that's very empowering for President Trump, who has not wanted to really rein himself in, in that way.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: Yes, I think -- I think the way I'd put it is it doesn't -- it doesn't confirm (ph) a new power, but it gives a lot more clarity to this White House about what this particular makeup of the Supreme Court will tolerate, how they are approaching these matters of law. And for a White House that is, in large part, defined by that kind of chaos, I think that's probably pretty useful for them. They know -- they now know how -- roughly how this 5-4 breakdown will come.

BISKUPIC: And those five are not going anywhere. If Anthony Kennedy leaves, it will be a President Trump appointee there. So this is -- this is for the -- probably his whole first term.

KING: Right. And so I wasn't going to get to this today, but since you mentioned Justice Kennedy, the final day of the court is tomorrow. We'll talk more about this tomorrow. But there are some Kennedy watchers, tea leaf readers, this is a closet industry in Washington because we're at the end of this term -- BISKUPIC: That's right. Right.

KING: Who read his lecture to the president, which is even stronger than the chief justice's, saying, you know, come on. You know, this is not -- this is not appropriate conduct. You have this power. Any president has this power. So I'm going to go along here, but I don't like this. There are some people trying to read that into, well, Kennedy's not going to leave because he's mad at Trump. Is that reasonable?

BISKUPIC: You cannot believe how many theories are out there, John. And all I can say is, I'm inclined to think he is not leaving. But because of how much Anthony Kennedy mulls and wrings his hands over decisions, I think for this ultimate decision on whether he's going to retire, I cannot bet what he's going to do.

But I think it was important for him and important for the chief justice to lay down some markers about how they view the president in those statements. But, you know what, you can't take a thing off of this ruling. It was 100 percent for Donald Trump.

KING: Yes, it was for Donald Trump. And, again, I want to reiterate, it's version 3.0. The president, to his credit, a win is a win. He will claim a political win here. He gets a big legal win here.

Just a reminder, let's go back to the campaign trail. Version 1.0, the Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, not very well lawyered, not very well written version, was based on this from the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

I called for a ban after San Bernardino and was met with great scorn and anger. But now, many years, and I have to say, many years but many are saying that I was right to do so. And although the pause is temporary, we must find out what is going on.

People were so upset when I use the word "Muslim." Oh, you can't use the word "Muslim." Remember this -- and I'm OK with that because I'm talking territory instead of Muslim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Look, the president's going to claim a win. If you look back at the history, it's pretty messy. The Supreme Court is essentially saying once the professionals in your administration took over the writing of this, they got it right within executive authority and we're going to let it slide, all that stuff.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, they certainly looked at his comments. But the opinion also gave a statistic, which was that the travel ban only encompassed 8 percent of the world's Muslim population. And so even though they were looking at this and they said, yes, all these five original countries are Muslim -- predominantly Muslim countries, there is a huge -- you know, there's a lot more countries that have Muslims. So clearly this wasn't directed just at religion is what the court said. So, yes.

KING: Right. And, again, we're waiting to hear from the president. He's in a meeting at Capitol -- he's in a meeting at the White House with members from Capitol Hill to discuss another immigration issue, but he will talk about the travel ban. We'll bring you that momentarily.

And then also reaction up on Capitol Hill, where this decision is as much a victory for one Republican senator as it is for the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:18:27] KING: Welcome back.

Today's big breaking news, the Supreme Court delivering a victory for the president on the travel ban. The president meeting with reporters right now at the White House. We'll have it for you in just a few moments, says this is a great victory for our country. We'll bring you the president's remarks in just a minute.

It's also a cause for celebration if you're a Republican up on Capitol Hill, especially if you are the top Senate Republican up on Capitol Hill.

CNN's Manu Raju is on The Hill for us working the halls.

Manu, what is the big reaction up there to this landmark decision in the president's favor?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, breaking down in large part along party lines, John. Democrats in particular are outraged by this decision. Outraged by the fact that they had a Supreme Court seat that they thought that could have been confirmed in the final year of Barack Obama's tenure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeping that seat vacant for a year. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to that spot. This ruling 5-4 today, divided on the court, divided on Capitol Hill.

I caught up with Senator Cory Booker, a possible 2020 candidate. He said this is not in line with American ideals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: If it really was about our safety, it would be a different list -- a different tailored list. But, again, this stems from a person that started their campaign talking about Mexicans and Muslims in a way that just disappoints me.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), MAJORITY WHIP: I tell you, this is part of the never Trump resistance to mischaracterize this as being a Muslim ban. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And, John, one Republican breaking with John Cornyn there, Jeff Flake. I just caught up with him. Of course, a Trump critic. He told me, I think they got it -- they got it where they needed to be constitutional. But I think the world sees it for what it is intended to be, a Muslim ban. So Jeff Flake clearly sees this as a Muslim ban, in line with Democrats who are also saying the same thing today, John.

[12:20:17] KING: The conversation will continue today and through the midterm elections. Manu, appreciate that.

"The Daily Beast's" Jackie Kucinich joins us here in the conversation.

I just want to show, again, this is a victory for President Trump. It's also a victory -- Democrats don't like this -- for Mitch McConnell. Because, if you remember, they was a vacancy in the last year of the Obama presidency. Mitch McConnell would not even Merrick Garland even have a hearing. So the vacancy carried over into the Trump administration.

Look at this picture tweeted out by team Mitch. This is the senator's campaign fund, not his official Senate account. That's Mitch McConnell gloating, sending this picture out with him shaking Neil Gorsuch's hand to gloat about this, saying, as you thank you -- you know, as the president celebrates, thank me.

JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": Oh, yes, they're spiking the football. And you saw this immediately upon this ruling coming down, when you saw the breakdown, the words Merrick Garland all over Twitter from Democrats. There's still so much bitterness from that. So you have to -- and as -- if Democrats are able to take over the Senate, you can see the tit for tat already bubbling to the top and -- should there be another vacancy. I mean there's a lot of ifs here, but the tit for tat is definitely boiling to the surface.

KING: Let me add -- let me add to the ifs. If you look in the rear view mirror, including the 2016 presidential campaign, when Hillary Clinton tried to make an issue of Merrick Garland, tried to make an issue of, who do you want making that Supreme Court pick, me, Hillary Clinton, or him, Donald Trump?

If you look in the rear view mirror, if the issue is the judiciary or immigration, Republicans win way more often than they lose when those are the issues. Democrats say this year will be different. Any reason to believe that?

PHILLIP: Yes, that remains to be seen really. I mean, to your point, in 2016, the exit poll showed that Clinton voters, 41 percent of them said this was the big issue is the Supreme Court. Fifty-six percent for Trump voters. It's -- it's -- they're being blown out of the water by Republican voters who are voting on this issue because in -- of the life issue and any number of things.

But I think what's different about this moment is that Mitch McConnell really changed the rules when he took the Merrick Garland seat, basically. And Democrats had never seen that before. They didn't think that was a -- that was a thing. And I think that really changes their orientation --

KING: They didn't think he would have the spine for it. They didn't think he would have the spine to hold out.

PHILLIP: Yes. It changes their orientation potentially around these Supreme Court seats. And not only is it a question of what do Democrats vote on, but what do Democrats do if they take control of the Senate? Will they, in fact, be able -- be willing to give Donald Trump the same gentleman's agreement that they thought that Barack Obama had. I think that remains to be seen.

KING: It is a danger to try to apply consistency to the Trump administration. But I do want to remind people, as we wait to hear from the president, he's in with reporters right now. Again, he says it's a great victory for the country.

As this was making its way through the courts, the president got mad at his own people tweeting a year ago, in June, the Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court. So his lawyers got it right, stripped away all the stuff the White House had put in versions one and two that were ruled by lower courts to be way across the line. And the president was whacking them until the end, although he'll celebrate today.

KUCINICH: Details, details.

KING: Here's -- I want to just read some of the Democratic reaction here. It's -- this is now -- it's a legal decision, the president has won, 5-4 in the courts, we're done.

But the Democrats want to continue the conversation. This is Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat. The president's travel ban doesn't make us safer and the Supreme Court's ruling doesn't make it right. This is a backward and un-American policy that fails to improve our national security. Is that a policy argument or is that again the Democrats' efforts to this time try to use this issue, the courts and immigration, to motivate their base as opposed to watching the Republicans do a better job using it to motivate theirs.

KNOX: But they're not running on the courts. Democrats are not running on the courts. They're running on health care and they're running on, you know, the opioid crisis and they're running on these other -- all these other issues. They're following the Virginia model much more than what Chuck Schumer's saying about this.

KING: Right.

KNOX: There is a policy argument to point to this -- to this -- these restrictions and say they make no sense. There are a lot of countries with major extremism problems that aren't on this list. So you can actually make a national security counterargument. That's not going to motivate a ton of voters, I suspect. But, again, we can -- we can hypothesize about conservatives turning out in better numbers because of judges. Democrats, right now, aren't running on Merrick Garland. Twitter is running on Merrick Garland. But candidates across the country at every level are not running on the judges. And I don't think this changes that.

KING: All right, we'll sneak in a break as we wait to hear from the president of the United States. Again, he's meeting at the White House. He's talking about his victory in the travel ban cause before the Supreme Court. He's also meeting with senators about zero tolerance, about funding for his border wall.

When we come back, more on the immigration debate. The Supreme Court, on the travel ban. But there's many more immigration fights just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:29:19] KING: Welcome back.

We're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. A big victory for him at the Supreme Court today on the travel ban. He is meeting right now inside the White House. A meeting to lobby Republican lawmakers for his border wall money. There's a spending bill that comes up a bit later in this congressional sessions.

We'll see the tape of that meeting shortly. The president has been talking to reporters for 20-plus minutes so far.

This meeting a chance for more tough talk from the president after his big reversal and new signs his zero tolerance policy is no longer really zero tolerance. Look at these headlines here. The Customs and Border Protection commissioner said he's stopped referring migrant parents for prosecution, while the zero tolerance policy disappears, Republicans on Capitol Hill today penciling in Wednesday, that's tomorrow, for a vote on what they call a compromised immigration bill that they expect to fail and fail bigtime, even though they're going to bring it up for a vote. House Speaker Paul Ryan telling reporters today he wants to do well on the vote. Not quite sure what that means.

[12:30:13]