tv CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello CNN January 31, 2017 7:00am-8:01am PST
quote. he said he will, quote, respect, end quote, roe v. wade but believes the decision, quote, violated the constitution, end quote. as attorney general who says he believes a woman's well-established fundamental rights are unconstitutional is essentially inviting states to pass more restrictions to women's access to health care knowing full well the justice department may, in fact, support those in court. in fact, i asked whether the justice department under his leadership would seek to overturn roe or change precedent on reproductive rights. he left the door open by saying, and i quote, such decisions would depend upon the unique circumstances of the case or cases as they arise.
i will not prejudge the issues, end quote. and when asked by senator blumenthal whether he believes a woman should be punished for having an abortion, as the president said during the campaign, senator sessions could have given a simple no answer, but he did not. he refused to rule out punishment for women. instead, he merely noted that while the supreme court had upheld the right to an abortion, that right had been limited by various state and federal statutes. quote, many of which have been upheld as constitutional, end quote. and noted that his role as attorney general would be to faithfully enforce all laws. he clearly left open the
possibility that he would enforce laws that punish women. the final issue i'd like to touch on, mr. chairman, is civil liberties. ever since 9/11, we have had an intense struggle between civil liberties and national security. i think people know i believe in strong national security, but i also believe we must never sacrifice our values or fundamental constitutional rights as americans. it's clear from the record the nominee believes otherwise. senator sessions was one of only nine senators in 2005 to vote against the detainee treatment act which contains senator mccain's and my bipartisan amendment that prohibited cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment for individuals in american custody.
in 2008, on the senate floor, he praised a prior attorney general for refusing to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future and claimed enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary to stop additional terrorist plots. specifically, he stated, and i quote, i'm glad attorney general mukasey is able to say waterboarding was utilized only three times and that it had not been used in five years. but i am glad he also said he would not say it would never be done again, end quote. that's not true. in fact, one detainee alone was subjected to waterboarding 183 times. and as the senate intelligence committee's extensive study on the cia's interrogation program
revealed, the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, particularly waterboarding, were and are ineffective and did not produce actionable intelligence. in the summer of 2016, the nominee was 1 of 21 senators to vote against prohibiting waterboarding and other techniques not found in the army field manual. he has even expressed support for the detention of americans captured on american soil to be held without charge or trial. these positions give me no confidence the nominee will uphold our laws and civil liberties as attorney general. mr. chairman, today we are being asked to vote on the one person who will lead the department of justice and its 113,000
employees charged with defending the interests of the united states according to our nation's laws. and ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all americans. we're being asked to vote on a nominee that will have to stand up to a president who is clearly willing to ignore the law and even issue orders in violation of the constitution. we are being asked to determine whether this nominee's record demonstrates that he will have the objectivity to enforce the law for all americans and be an independent attorney general and not an arm of the white house. yesterday, early in the evening, we clearly saw what a truly independent attorney general does. sally yates, the acting attorney general, who enjoyed broad
bipartisan support when she was confirmed as deputy attorney general declared that under her leadership, the department could not defend trump's executive order on immigrants and refugees. here's what she wrote. and it's important. and i quote, my responsibility is to ensure that the position of the department of justice is not only legally defensible but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. in addition, i am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution's solemn obligation to all we seek justice and stand for what is right. at present, i am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am i convinced that the executive order is lawful, end
quote. cons consequently, for as long as i am attorney general, the department of justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order unless and until i become convinced that it is appropriate to do so. members, that statement took guts. that statement said what an independent attorney general should do. that statement took a steel spine to stand up and say no. it took the courage of elliott richardson and william rukleshouse who stood up to president nixon. that is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do. i have no confidence that senator sessions will do that. instead, he has been the fiercest, most dedicated and most loyal promoter in congress of the trump agenda and has
played a critical role in the clearing house for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda. with that in mind, i must vote no. thank you. >> senator hatch. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i enthusiastically support the nomination of our colleague and long time member of this colleague, senator jeff sessions to be the next attorney general of the united states. his qualifications for this position are unmatched in american history. none of the previous 83 u.s. attorneys general had his experience in both developing and implementing criminal justice policy. as i review the widespread support, i was struck by the relation between support for him and knowledge about him. the longer and better people knew jeff sessions the more they support his nomination. mr. chairman, one of the letters we received was from judge louis
freeh, director of the fbi under bill clinton. i have served and interacted with senator sessions for over 25 years. >> we're going to break away from this hearinging for just a moment. you're watching "newsroom" with carol costello. you just heard an impassioned speech by dianne feinstein, the democrat from california, saying she'll vote no on his nomination. you see orrin hatch here singing the praises of jeff sessions. i would suspect he would vote yes. it's a busy day. we expect the gop leadership to hold a press conference at any time now. i want to go live to washington as we await this gop presser to sunlen serfaty to put this day in perspective. >> very busy day up here on capitol hill. as you have many of president trump's cabinet nominees inching towards confirmation, and we just saw the ranking democrat on
the senate judiciary committee, dianne feinstein with a very fiery statement speaking out against the fleury of executive actions and executive orders that president trump has taken in his first week and putting this into context against the nominee they are considering today and will vote on today, senator sessions. she blasted in her words the seemingly unconstitutional executive action. she said the most egregious of them all that's deeply concerning is president trump's immigration travel ban. that executive order he took over the weekend. here's more of what she had to say moments ago. >> i believe the broad -- this broad order goes against our core values. it disregards our obligations under international agreements, undermines critical protections in our constitution and it effectively bans one religion, the muslim faith.
>> and she later went on to say that she will vote no to senator sessions. her point that senator sessions doesn't have the independence or objectivity to uphold the laws of the united states. she said she is not confident that he will do that. certainly a contentious statement, but i should note, carol, that he is expected to pass out of committee. that will then be sent to the full senate likely for a larger senate vote later this week. >> that's right. it's extremely likely that jeff sessions will be confirmed as the attorney general of the united states. sunlen serfaty, thanks so much. to illustrate the roll-out of this temporary travel ban, five days after president trump signed that executive order, his new department of homeland security secretary will hold a press conference at noon eastern to tell the country the operational imtplementation of the executive order. he'll tell the country exactly how the administration plans to execute mr. trump's temporary
ban on immigration. i want to bring in cnn's justice correspondent evan perez. what do you suppose is going on within the justice department right now? >> well, carol, at this moment, the justice department is trying to figure out how they're going to defend this executive order. it's been a bit of a whiplash for the last 24 hours where you had sally yates, the former acting attorney general first instructing the lawyers there they were not going to defend this executive order because she did not believe that it was lawful. and in this memo essential ll l daring the president to fire her, which he did four hour laters or so. the u.s. attorney in alexandria who is the acting attorney general says he will defend the executive order. so we expect that in the court cases going around the country that we're going to see justice department lawyers present a defense. but i've got to tell you. over the last few days, you described some of the chaotic roll-out of this. that included the defense of
this executive order. you had some justice department lawyers showing up in court over the weekend and they clearly were not prepared to defend this just because they did not know, they did not know what this order was about and how to defend it. he did not have time to get their legal arguments ready. and we also saw, you know -- >> evan, i have to interrupt you. paul ryan has just approached the podium. this is the gop weekly leadership press conference. so let's switch to that. let's listen to what paul ryan has to say. >> we hear it from the people who have been denied choices. this law is collapsing and we need to step in and restore real choices and real competition so that we can actually lower costs for patients and families. second, under the congressional review act, the house will expedite five resolutions to block costly, harmful regulations, including turning the page on what has been a war on coal jobs in america. these measures will deliver relief from regulations that
threaten to wipe out thousands if not thousands of jobs in the energy industry. in addition, we're setting in motion reforms for a more sensible regulatory reform system. earlier this month we passed the rains act which requires congressional approval of any major new regulation. and yesterday the president took action to cap the costs that regulators can impose each year. this regulatory budget is something we proposed in our agenda we ran on last year and we're very excited to see it off and running. this is not just about blocking bad regulations. this is about smart regulations, jobs and economic opportunity and entrepreneurs and small businesses and manufacturers. we want to pave the way for real growth, higher wages and more success for the workers and small businesses who are at the heart of our economy. >> thank you, mr. speaker. regulatory reforp has been a primary focus of this house since week one. we've been engaged in a two-step
process. the first step was changing the structure of washington, putting the power back to the people. that's where you saw the passage of the raines act and the regulatory accountability act. now we're starting to part two. the congressional review act. we're going to -- i'm not going to go through the full list we'll have this week but let me highlight just two of them. we will start with the stream buffer. stream buffer will actually affect more than 64% of the counties coal reserve. put them on off limits. we're talking somewhere between 40,000 to 78,000 jobs are threatened. talking about bringing america's energy back, all the above jobs and the whole part of america that has lost work. this regulatory reform bill, the cra, will see a fundamental change. secondly, we're going to bring oup friday, the bureau of land management, methane rule. i'm going to have mr. tipton
talk a little more about that. what you're find with the congressional review tact, they become privilege starting january 30th. for the next two weeks, looking at that two rules, finding the common sense for the last legislative days, ways that we can keep the environment safe and still bring jobs back to america. that's the focus of this house. the focus of this congress and we will get the work done. >> the house is going to pass bills this week to bring jobs back to america by rolling back some of the radical regulations that were put in place by unelected bureaucrats in washington. i think it's exciting to see that we're continuing to focus on creating jobs and getting our economy move again and rebuilding the middle class that a lot of barack obama's policies helped erode. if you look in the last week, it's been very significant for those of us who stand up in defense of innocent life. last week before we left for
philadelphia, we passed historic legislation making permanent the hyde amendment. a bill very bipartisan, a bill that most americans support, the idea that taxpayer money should not go towards financing and fund abortion. and then we saw hundreds of thousands of people come to washington for the march for life. and i abroad the thousands of people from louisiana and the hundreds of thousands of young people who came to washington to stand up for an innocent life. and then later today, president trump is going to announce his supreme court pick to replace antonin scalia. looking forward to a spirited debate about the foundation of our democracy. the way that the constitution is supposed to be carried out by the judicial branch. it's important to note that you have already got senate democrats saying that they're going to oppose president trump's pick for the supreme court before they even know who it is. that's an incredible level of
irresponsibility by senate democrats who should be looking to carry out their role of advise and consent instead of prejudging somebody before they know who that's going to be. i hope the senate does their job and senate democrats trying to block president trump's agenda would allow him to carry out his job and look at his picks for cabinet secretaries. at this point, in barack obama's tenure as president in his first term, just in his first week, barack obama had 11 of his 15 cabinet secretaries already confirmed and working for the american people. today, donald trump only has two of his 15 cabinet secretaries approved by the senate. it's time for senate democrats to stop blocking the work the american people elected president trump to do. and let's get our economy going again like we're taking action in the house to do. >> our unified republican government is an opportunity for positive disruption from the status quo that we've seen the
last few years under president obama. the status quo that puts bureaucrats before people. with their pages and pages of rules and regulations. so this week we're taking action on the explosion of regulations that we've seen hurting families and costing us jobs. all across the country. it's why we wanted representative tipton to join us because he's really been a leader hard at work on the congressional review act to help roll back some of the most damaging regulations of the last eight years. every day, we hear stories of people that are stuck in the red tape. colleges and universities bound by mandates. tech companies and start-ups trying to deal with the overtime rules. families of small business owners that are just trying to get by. but even with all of this happening, we're focusing our efforts to repeal obamacare and replace it with people first health care. that's going to work for everybody. this week at energy and commerce we're holding hearings on the next steps for replacing
obamacare. republicans are working to make sure pre-existing conditions are covered. the insurance market is stabilized. and medicaid is strengthened and prioritized for those who need it most. president trump has made clear that he is a man of action, and we are ready. >> good morning, everyone. i'm scott tipton out of colorado's 3rd congressional district. the house will take important action this week to undo some of the most harmful attacks previous administration perpetrateod hard-working americans across the country during its final months. i'm a firm believer that when done right, regulations play an important role in keeping our communities safe and secure. what we saw out of the obama administration during its final months went far beyond safety and security. our -- and the 2.0 rules and
many others fell on deaf ears during the obama administration's final days. what we saw was an outgoing administration more concerned about approval ratings than about the livelihoods of american families. we lost 68,000 coal mining jobs during the obama administration. standing here in washington, it may be hard to imagine the impact of losing those jobs. but for families, families that i visit with every time that i'm home, it means falling behind on your mortgage, struggling to be able to put food on the table for your children and picking which bills will have to go unpaid this month. and the twilight hours of the obama administration, the department of interior finalized a rule that applied to every coal mine in every state in the country. when it was originally only supposed to apply to the surface vines and six appalachian states. the rule amends over 400
existing regulations including some that are normally in the jurisdiction of other agencies. the complex and duplicative requirements in the rule could lead to a 60% reduction in coal production in a state like colorado. there's no clearer example of a federal agency implementing a redundant one size fits all mandate than this last-ditch effort to regulate the coal industry out of business. another great example of duplicative regulation issued by the obama administration is the bom vetting rule. the authority to regulate air quality and clean air act resides solely with the environmental protection agency and cooperating state agencies which is why in may the epa final idesed its own rule on methane emissions. the blm venting rule was passod a law passed by the state of colorado to limit methane emissions. the epa's own data shows from 1990 to 2014, methane emissions
fell by over 5.5%. so not only did the blm overstep its jurisdictional authority, it did so in states and private industry have already taken sufficient steps to improve energy in the sector. the rules are two that are harmful examples in many districts like my own, all of the congressional review act resolutions we are -- will provide relief for americans in diverse communities across the country. the house is responding to the signal that americans sent on november 8th. we're saying no to overly burdensome one size fits all regulations. there is a better way to regulate and the house has already taken first steps to help us get there. earlier this month, we passed midnight rules relief act and the raines act, both of which set the stage for implementing the regulatory reform plan
included in our better way agenda. using the congressional review act this week to roll back the obama administration's last-minute regulatory overreach, puts us on the path to advance the policies we need to create jobs. keep people earning more of their hard-earned money in their pockets and restored confidence in america that unfortunately has been missing in many of our communities these past eight years. >> anybody have any questions? >> want to know what your thoughts are on the president's executive action on refugees and is there any immediate role congress can play in addressing some of the concerns? >> first off, i had a long talk with secretary kelly yesterday and i am pleased and confident he is on a going forward basis going to make sure things are done correctly. look, the president has a responsibility to the security
of this country. go back, remember when we had the paris shooting, we heard about credible intelligence that isis was trying to infiltrate refugee populations? we passed, i think it was called the s.a.f.e. act with 289 to put a pause in the refugee program. so what is happening is something that we support which is we need to pause and make sure that the jetting standards are up to snuff so we can guarantee the safety and security of our country. that is what this does. we want that goal to be achieved. i support the refugee resettlement program. it's important. but we can be generous and watch our national security at the same time. that's why i am confident that secretary kelly, along with other cabinet members are going to make sure we have the proper review n vetting to get this program up n run with the proper national security safeguards. it's regretsable there was some fusion on the roll out of this. no one wanted to see people with
green cards or special immigrant vis as like translators get caught up in all of this. there was regrettably the rollout was confusing but on a go forward base, i i'm confident secretary kelly will make sure this is done correctly and that we'll make sure we get this program up and run with the vetting standards we all want to see. there's always a role for congress. congress oversees these things all of the time. this is clearly in keep with the president's authorities. take a look at immigration law. look at the way the refugee laws work. and this is very similar to what we passed a year ago after the paris shooting. we just want to make sure that it's very clear, that people understand what this is and is not. and that on a going forward basis that it's executed and implemented so we can have both. we can have a good refugee and resettlement program while making sure we don't have people trying to infiltrate the refugee program. >> when you do a cost benefit
analysis, people from these countries haven't carried out deadly terrorist attacks in the united states since 9/11 but a lot of military experts, intelligence experts warning that this is going to serve as a recruiting tool for isis. are you sure this is going to make -- >> i think the rhetoric surrounding this could be used as a recruiting tool and that's dangerous. but, remember, these countries were named by the obama administration. these countries were named in legislation that we talked about last year. these countries were named by the obama administration and there is an issue with respect to terrorists trying to infiltrate our refugee population. we're not here to debate. we're here to answer your questions. there is nothing wrong with taking a pause and making sure we had the proper vetting standards in place so that we do not have a problem like france had with paris. [ inaudible question ] >> i'll refer you to the judiciary committee on the specific aspects of this.
we weren't involved in this. chairman goodlatte walked our members through how this worked. i'd refer you to him. >> when you talk about the role of congress, these are temporary measures. do you plan to pass any measures? the trump administration is looking at further immigration limits? what do you have planned in the works and when were you told specifically about this order? some of the members said they were -- >> pretty much at the time it was being issued. i don't know specifically. we were briefed on the contents of it as it was being rolled out. and i had a conversation with secretary kelly to make sure that we separate fact from myth. that we make sure the confusion gets cleared up very quickly. clearly none of us want to see people with green cards get implicated in this. we want to make sure that's very much clear up on a go forward basis. what the president has asked us to folk ous and something we
completely agree osomethin, som we agree on is we need to secure our border. the physical barrier on the border is all about. we have security concerns given this age of terrorism and the fact we have drugs coming across our border, an opioid problem. lots of reasons our focus is on border security. >> thank you, mr. speaker. >> all right. we're going to break away from this press conference. it was the gop weekly leadership press conference. let's talk about what just transpired. i want to bring back in our panel. politics editor at the root.com, jason johnson. columnist for the daily beast, patricia murphy and cnn legal analyst laura coates and george turwiliger who was acting attorney general under george h.w. bush. thanks for sticking around. i want to start with what paul
ryan said about donald trump's temporary immigration ban. the roll-out was confusing, but i guess in the end, jason, he supports it? >> of course he does because the republicans are pretty much going to support anything that donald trump says. this is the issue that i have with it from a legal and a moral and a political standpoint. i have said this repeatedly. we've had more americans killed since 9/11 by white nationalists in domestic terrorists than anything from any jihadi, from any part of the world. so for him to suggest that this policy that the only problem is the roll-out and the rett ruk around it is not the issue. the issue is that there's no evidence that blocking visas and preventing people from coming from these countries keeps us any safer. we should have the focus here in the united states on dangerous people here and that's not the concern. this is a racist and dangerous policy promoted by paul ryan and the president of the united states. >> george, i want you to answer to that because you were a former deputy attorney general. what do you think?
>> this is a very intelligent pause in a policy that's designed to ensure the security and safety of our citizens. look, for years during the cold war, we had different criteria for the entry of people from soviet bloc countries because of a number of different fears, including espionage. to take time out here, all the his tronn histronics and what we just heard, the rhetoric, is all we're doing is taking time out to put into effect new screening methodologies to ensure that when we go through a refugee program, when we let people in from countries with a history of terrorist violence, we're making sure that the people who come here are coming here for the right reasons to assimilate and become part of our culture. that's entirely logical, appropriate and legal thing to do. >> of course, laura, democrats
have completely the opposite opinion. in fact, 11 lawsuits that have now been filed against mr. trump's executive orders. so what do you suppose will happen in the end? >> ironically, the same message that ryan has been spouting and everyone else in support of the firing of sally yates is about an intelligent pause and waiting to figure out the clarity that you need to enforce it in a uniform and systematic and lawful way. in fact, that is the role of the department of justice to be able to understand the breadth of an order and figure out whether or not they can enforce is uniformally. you misconceive the notion the department of justice is somebody who the president of the united states says here is my directive. now figure out a way to make this lawful and legal. that's actually the opposite theory of the doj. in fact, their role is supposed to figure out how they can enforce any lawful order. but if there are questions about whether or not it's ambiguous as to its lawfulness, let alone its
constitutional eig constitutionality. and the doj, the attorney general or the acting attorney general, they will have the same conundrum. which aspects can be enforced in conformity with the constitution and in conformity with what we know about the immigration and national act? >> patricia, i don't know if you heard -- >> that statement is just wrong. i'm sorry. that statement is just wrong. the role -- what sally yates did was an affront to the institution of the department of justice and the career men and women who work there. you don't have to defy -- >> sir, i have -- >> sir, i have been a career attorney for the -- >> may i finish, please? may i finish, please? i'm sorry. you don't defy a presidential directive and order subordinates to abandon their duty to go into court in an adversary system and represent the interests of the united states. the real hero here is dana
bente, another employee of the justice department who has stepped up to this task. >> as a career attorney, i actually believe that the president does have the prerogative to lay off or fire sally yates if she does not follow his other directives. however, this always presumes one really critical component. that they have a duty to follow lawful orders. and the arguments you are using is that she has betrayed the department of justice or her authority is inaccurate. what she has done is simply said -- >> i've got to interrupt this debate for just a second because we are getting so much breaking news this morning. we just found out the senate democrats will be boycotting the department of homeland security and treasury nominees when they come up for a committee vote later today. this is a meeting of the democratic weekly leadership press conference. we're going to monitor this. and, of course, we'll bring you any more pertinent information as it transpires.
but things are going to get quite contentious. i want to go to patricia about this. what do you make about this? democrats appear to be quickly formulating the strategy that they are going to just obstruct everything they can in any way they can? >> well, democrats right now are struggling with exactly how to be responsible and effective opposition to donald trump. he is doing so many things at the same time democrats know they have to pick their targets. they know that they complained so much about republicans who were obstructing president obama's agenda that they'll look hypocritical and be ineffective if they don't decide when and where to stand up to donald trump. the reality is they don't have the votes. democrats changed the rules in the senate in order to block any of these nominees. it's not going to be possible unless they have republicans come over to their side. and at this point, they are relatively neutered in what they can do. they need to have message events. this will be a big message to
send to donald trump. at the moment, democrats just don't have the votes to stop what donald trump is doing on their own. >> and i just want to repeat what i said because i don't know if i made a mistake. democrats are boycotting the votes for the treasury secretary and the department of health and human services. i want to make sure i imparted the correct information for our viewers. but this is just setting up so much ugliness in the days and months and years to come. >> well, we've seen this for the last eight years. this is -- when you are the party in the minority, and when you have changed the rules to make it difficult for the minority to do something, you have to obstruct. republicans did this. democrats did this. but i want something -- i want us to go back and make this very clear about not only the firing of yates but eventually jeff sessions coming into office and this ban in general. the issue shehere is facts and truth. there is no evidence that we should be afraid of refugees who
are already being vetted coming into this country. to put forth this ban and to not determine as to whether or not our own interpreters and people like that can come into the country is dangerous and it's not based on evidence. and it's a very similar attack to what jeff sessions and president trump and steve bannon have been saying about voter fraud. these are lies. these are myths being developed by this administration to push forth an agenda. this may be constitutional and may be in donald trump's right to do so but it doesn't mean it's right for the country. doesn't mean it's safe and certainly doesn't make anybody in this country or this panel any safer. >> george, let me put it this way. let me put it to you this way because donald trump didn't really confer with many experts when he came up with this executive order. and some people say he did that for a reason. he just wanted to push it through, and it didn't really matter if it was constitutional or not because that fight was to come later because jeff sessions is going to be confirmed as the attorney general and, as a trump supporter through the election, he'll probably support donald trump whether it's
constitutional or not. >> well, i don't believe that. i don't think jeff sessions would advise the president to go ahead when he's attorney general with something that was unconstitutional. look, what we've just heard here is that this is a policy debate. is it a good policy or a bad policy to impose these sorts of temporary restrictions as a matter of national security procedure? maybe it is, maybe it isn't. i'm not pretending to sit here as an expert in that policy. but the fact of the matter is that it's a policy debate. and if sally yates had a disagreement about policy and a crisis of conscience over it, she had a crisis over conscience whether it was lawful, then what she should do is quietly resign and turn the job over to somebody else. instead she grandly politicized the decision and put people in the justice department, career people, hard-working people in a terrible position.
>> let me throw this out and i'm going to pose this to you, patricia. okay, the way that donald trump fired ms. yates, right, it's very clear to me that mr. trump will fire anybody who disagrees with him in a most public way. they could have sent a line to them saying you're public. he publicly accused her of betraying the justice department and being weak and jeopardizing american safety. is that an intimidation factor, or am i just kind of making too much of it? >> well, there is a distinction within the executive branch that's going to be really important going forward. the people who are defying president trump and being punished for it, are they political appointees or career civil servants? and sally yates was a political appointee. she had to know she was going to get fired and made this decision to make a loud and broad statement anyway. and the president really did
have every authority to fire her and we know donald trump is going to do it with a big splash and get the most headlines he can. what is more troubling is something that sean spicer said from the podium yesterday. if anybody at the state department, any career civil servants don't like what's going on, they need to either get on board or get out. that could be political intimidation and extremely problematic. there are a number of protections for career civil servants and if the trump administration starts to punish career civil servants, that becomes very dangerous. >> i'm hurrying you along because i want to go to phil mattingly. senate democrats were boycotting the committee votes for the treasury secretary and health and human services secretary. the phil mattingly has been monitoring the democratic leadership presser. what do you got, phil? >> what we know is as you noted, the democrats on the senate finance committee, the committee that was supposed to consider the nomination of steve mnuchin
and tom price, they chose not to show up. now this is something to keep a very close eye on for a couple of reasons. we've noticed they have delayed several committee votes by using procedural tactics, by kind of standing in the way of things and now by boycotting them entirely. the chairman of the senate finance committee orrin hatch said it's something he's never seen before. he believes it's because the democrats can't seem to grasp or accept the fact that donald trump is the president of the united states. the democrats are saying this is nominee specific. they have to feel like they've been lied to by tom price related to some of his personal stock purchases. they've been lied to by steve mnuchin, related to some of his former banks or the baunk he and his group owned and their relationship with the foreclosure crisis. that's what they are saying. but what we're seeing right now is a pattern for the democrats. and it's important to keep an eye on this as we watch everything fall out from that executive order as we watch everything fall out from the firing of sally yates as acting
attorney general. you are seeing democrats in the u.s. senate start to pull the mechanisms, use the levers they have, even in the minority to slow things to a crawl. that's something we could see a lot more of going forward. i'm told there's no central concern strategy to follow through on that but we have seen it a number of times over the course of the last couple of days. expect to see it more going forward. one kind of contrary point to that, though, jeff sessions, that vote is still expected to happen in committee today. >> absolutely. i was just thinking of the coming supreme court confirmation hearings because as you know, donald trump will announce his pick for the u.s. supreme court, right, and that's got to go through the senate. i'm going to stay right there because i want to bring in my panel and jason johnson to ask you about this because that is expected to be all-out warfare within the senate, this u.s. supreme court pick in the nomination process. what do you expect in light of what's just happened today? >> i think there's going to be a lot of grandstanding.
i think there's going to be a lot of speeches. there's going to be a lot of people putting together hot takes and clips for political commercials in 2018, and i think whoever donald trump selects is going to get into, you know, on the supreme court. the numbers are just not there for democrats to provide much actual rezuftan ancrezuft zifta than to complain. they still want to be loyal to the president-elect. but i think that again, the larger question is this. if you continue as the president has done so far to pick people driven as much by ideological loyalty to him as they are to the law, this may be cute in the first couple of months of the presidency but can create constitutional crises down the road if they are interested in doing what trump wants rather than what is right for the nation. >> we're going to continue this conversation. "newsroom" will come back right after this. ♪
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all right. we continue our roller coaster ride. back to the senate judiciary hearing. that's lindsey graham. he's speaking, some positive things about jeff sessions saying his closeness to the president of the united states shouldn't necessarily disqualify him. let's listen. >> i can't remember, a couple of years ooh the son-in-law in -- he was put on a navy ship for a couple of weeks, sent to new york and read his miranda rights within two or three weeks of capture. not held as an enemy combatant, given a life sentence and here's what i would suggest that jeff sessions will stop that practice. that if we catch enemy
combatants in the future, high level al qaeda operatives, that we're not going to read them their miranda rights. we're going to hold them in the rule of war, interrogate them consistent with the laws of the land and geneva convention and try to gather intelligence to prevent the next attack. to my friends on the other side, the world is on fire. and somebody needs to come along and change our legal system so we can better defend ourselves. only god knows how much intelligence we've lost in the last four years for an insane policy that treats an al qaeda terrorist as somebody who stole your car. as to dianne feinstein, i admire greatly but we've had this running debate about what an american citizen can and can't do. you can't join al qaeda and collaborate with them without consequences. hamdi versus rumsfeld, an american citizen was held as an enemy combatant. justice o'connor said we can
hold even one of our own as an enemy combatant if they've been collaborate with the enemy. if you get to america, you don't get rewarded. hopefully our laws work here even on our homeland. i think jeff sessions is right and senator feinstein is wrong. bottom line about the job of attorney general. i think jeff will follow the law. no matter what his political opinions are. i have no doubt about that. as to roe v. wade, millions of americans share that opinion. you mentioned a march where thousands of people came to protest president trump. you were right. they were peaceful. most of them were around my house. very nice folks. you ark parentally missed the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets just a few days ago and had a sincerely held opinion that roe v. wade is bad
law. so can you disagree with roe v. wade? absolutely, you can and still be attorney general. at least i hope so. because millions of americans do. but it is the law of the land and there's a process to change it, and that will come from the courts. jeff sessions, this is the one that gets me the most, i guess. i expect criticism to come our way on both sides of the aisle. i voted against senator leahy's proposal for violence against women even though i'm very supportive of the concept of protecting women because i didn't agree with his construct. so i guess maybe i can't be attorney general either. jeff, the man. john lewis. john lewis, if anybody deserves to be called a modern hero it is john lewis. he literally risked his life to stand up against oppression at a time when a lot of people were not. that's something that he should be proud of and we should all revere. but he came before the committee
and he made a pretty damning indictment of senator sessions. so here's what i ask my colleagues to do. look underneath some of these criticisms and see what you find. this is the same man who basically accused sarah palin and john mccain of having republican rallies that reminded him of george wallace's time. senator mccain and governor palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division and there's no need for this hostility in our political discourse. he went on to say george wallace never threw a bomb or fired a gun but created the climate that caused vicious attacks against americans trying to exercise their constitutional rights. because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on sunday morning when a church was bombed in birmingham, alabama. i think most of you know i'm very close to senator mccain. senator mccain had a chapter in
one of his books about john lewis. and when asked about three people you would seek their counsel and advice when he was running for advice, john lewis was one of them. i don't think i've ever been more disappointed than when john lewis said those things about my friend john mccain. it hurt him to his core. i recognize congressman lewis' service to our country and his heroism, but there has been a pattern here starting with senator mccain, where i think his criticism is off base. the naacp. jeff sessions says one of the greatest civil rights organizations. i think it's probably earned that title without any question. but when you look at where we're at today in 2017, 2016, every republican on this side of the aisle gets a 25%, at best, on their scorecard. you can blame them or you can blame us. when you look under the
criticism, there's more to do about republican conservatives not being able to agree with the naacp than it is about jeff sessions the man. so what i want to let the committee know is that i voted for almost everybody that president obama appointed, disagreeing with them on most everything. but i never doubt eed any of the people were bad people because they disagreed with my. the one thing i can tell the united states of america in my view, that jeff sessions is a republican conservative who is a good, decent man, who will follow the law as he sees it, will try to take the country down a different road and president obama and his attorney general and that's what the whole election was about. you can't have it both ways. you can't lose the election and expect the government to represent your view of what we should be doing. the question is, is he qualified? is he a decent, honorable man?
and he's ever been as qualified and ever been as decent and honorable as harriet kohler and loretta lynch. >> thank you for the seven minutes you took. go ahead, senator durbin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me say at the outset this exercise, this responsibility in the senate judiciary committee is one which i perhaps didn't anticipate when i ran for the senate but so often we are called on to judge other people to stand in judgment of people who are seeking positions as judges, u.s. attorneys, u.s. marshals, even cabinet members. and it really puts to a test each one of us in terms of trying to be fair and be honest and to anticipate what will happen if we entrust that person with a special responsibility. it's complicated even more when
it involves a colleague, someone you've served with. in my case for 20 years with senator sessions. i believe that i can take the measure of that man as he can take it of me because we've heard one another's speeches to the point that we can give one another's speeches. i certainly understand his philosophy and values, political values. and that is making this even more challenging. i would like to make one comment about senator graham's statement about john lewis. senator graham, i may not agree with everything that john lewis has said. i certainly, if there was any conclusion about senator mccain, relative to his position on race or such, i would agree with you completely. i don't believe that he should be assigned any title that questions his commitment to racial equality. but i also believe that john lewis paid in blood on the
edmond petis bridge for his right to speak his opinion, even if i disagree with it. even if you do. and i think that's what you said, and i respect you for saying that. but when he was dismissed by the president in a tweet for his lifetime of commitment to civil rights, i found that to be below the belt and unacceptable. day 12. this is day 12 of the trump presidency. it is hard to imagine that it's only been 12 days. as senator feinstein has said, this new president has issued six executive orders and ten presidential memoranda. wide ranging in issues and subjects that they address. but certainly they should give us pause because in 12 days, this is what we have, what can we anticipate for the next three
years, 11 months and 16 days. we ought to understand that this is not just a hearing on a nomination, an important nomination. this is a constitutional moment. this is a constitutional moment and a challenge to us to envision what the next attorney general will be facing in the remaining three years and 11 months with this president. back in my youth, dubious about the wisdom of the vietnam war, i marched around and carried signs and so did a lot of others. i found myself when the trump cabinet was being proposed curiously gravitating toward marine corps generals, hoping that there will be more and more of them in the cabinet. and my reason? i believe in the case of general
pet tis and general kelly, they are men of proven allegiance to this country, proven integrity who at that critical moment when they have to stand up for what is right will do it or will walk away from the job. we can expect nothing less of people who serve this country, either in our military or in our cabinet, and we can certainly expect nothing less when it comes to the attorney general of the united states of america. i join with the statement made by senator leahy about sally yates. for more than two decades as a prosecutor and a person i worked closely with in the department of justice, she is a person of character and integrity. what she did -- >> all right. we're going to pull away. this is the senate judiciary hearing for jeff sessions to attorney general. you can hear the impassioned
speeches. truth be told, he is expected to be confirmed as the attorney general. things will get interesting at 8:00 p.m. tonight when donald trump is in the white house in the east room and announces his pick for the u.s. supreme court. democrats have been fighting against those picks even though they don't know who they are as yet. thank you for joining me. i'm carol costello. "at this hour with berman and bolduan" starts now. >> this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm john berman. >> i'm kate balduan. today -- >> the president gets to make who to nominate to the highest law in the land. there's different kinds of legal drama. the acting attorney general -- >> president trump sent --