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tv   Inside Politics With John King  CNN  January 26, 2022 9:00am-10:00am PST

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hello and welcome to "inside politics." i'm john king in washington. thank you for sharing a busy breaking news day for us. an invasion warning as the united states puts pen to paper. america makes clear it will not judge on vladimir putin's central demand to close the door on nato and ukraine. plus, we're learning the united states and its allies are deliberating whether to send troops to eastern europe before putin makes his decision. plus, covid exhaustion brings new intensity to the fight over masks and schools. virginia is the new hot spot. and house speaker nancy pelosi says she'll be on the ballot come november when she'll be 82. any moment now we expect to hear from the secretary of state antony blinken. but first, some breaking news. a leading member of the supreme court is retiring. let's get straight to cnn's
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jessica schneider. huge news. >> reporter: this has just been confirmed by our wolf blitzer that at 83 years old justice stephen breyer, the leading liberal on the court, he will retire. we're still not exactly sure of the time line, but presumably not until the end of this term which ends usually at the end of june. this retirement announcement comes after what has been a persistent drumbeat of calls from progressives to retire from the court dating back to about a year. it was about a year ago when the progressive group demand justice actually hired a mobile billboard that drove around capitol hill in front of the supreme court urging breyer to retire. now we know he will retire presumably at the end of this term. justice stephen breyer spoke with us last year, and he talked about what would prompt him to retire. he said it would ultimately be
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about two things, his health and the court. we don't know about any issues with his health, so presumably this is all about the court, preserving the status of the court, despite the politics that are at play here. justice stephen breyer has repeatedly talked in speeches about preserving the integrity of the court, keeping politics out of the court. not letting politics stain the public reputation of the court. but now, despite or possibly because of those progressive calls for him to step down, the justice will retire. and, of course, justice stephen breyer knows all about the political implications of his position especially after the sudden death of ruth bader ginsburg that gave that third nominee to donald trump, now making it a solidly 6-3 conservative court. justice breyer served as chief counsel in the '70s to the senate judiciary committee. he helped investigate watergate,
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so he knows full well the politics at play here and how the politics have been even more in the forefront when it comes to this court over the past several years. justice stephen breyer, he has relished his position as the leading liberal on the court. right now he's the third most senior justice after the chief justice, after conservative clarence thomas. justice breyer talked about how he relished his role as this leading liberal, getting to speak for the liberals first in their conferences. he's written some important decisions over the past year as well talking about free speech in schools. so he has been a really vocal member of the court. john, he just put out a book in september talking about how politics should not permeate the high court. that has been his consistent message. but perhaps today, john, potentially politics playing a role in justice breyer's decision to step down after
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almost three decades because progressives want to have that chance before the november midterm elections to get a biden nominee to the court. so big news today justice stephen breyer, we've learned, will, in fact, retire. john? >> look, the justices all say they try to shield the court from politics. they shield themselves from politics. as you mentioned justice breyer served as an aid to ted kennedy for a long time. he also understands the pressure on him. the raw politics if the republicans take control of the senate and if breyer waited much longer and we were after the november elections and republicans were going to take power in january mitch mcconnell would make clear we won't take up a biden pick. there will be a fight over any biden pick but at least now the president gets to make his pick while he has a 50/50 democratic senate with the vice president kamala harris making the key deciding vote. >> reporter: exactly. and still plenty of time left in the court's term. usually they end at the end of june. this would allow time for the president to make his pick.
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we know that during the campaign president joe biden pledged to nominate a black woman, so we have our eyes on several. there is judge brown-jackson currently at the d.c. circuit, another is out in california. a few names there but, of course, more will likely come out as we enter into the next phase of who exactly will be president biden's nominee and enter into the politics that will no doubt play into this decision. john? >> jessica, stand by, i want to get to kaitlan collins. kaitlan, a decision that inside the white house they wanted. they wanted very much for the president of the united states to get to make a choice here and they wanted very much that if justice breyer was going to retire that he do it as far away from the november elections as possible so that biden can make the case, i'm president. we have the majority. the american people don't vote until november. we're going to do this now. >> reporter: it's one of the most delicate situations any white house has to deal with. of course, the timing is
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everything for a white house. we've seen how it has played out before, the last three justice that is were confirmed to the court. john, we are getting the first reaction from the white house now, from press secretary jen psaki who has tweeted it has always been the decision of any supreme court justice if and when they decide to retire and how to announce it. that remains the case today. we have no additional details or information to share from the white house. though, of course, typically these announcements are something that are done in conjunction with the white house, they typically communicate beforehand this is something that a justice wants to do. we're still waiting on the details of how justice breyer has decided to do this. of course he is someone who has close ties to this white house. some of his former clerks are top aides here inside the west wing in the biden administration. and so, of course, this is a significant moment for this white house and for this president to be able to make a decision potentially of someone he wants to put on the court. and it remains to be seen how justice breyer is going to move forward with this announcement, how it will be done in
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conjunction with the white house. they're not offering a lot of details right now and declining to comment any further on that. it is certainly a significant moment and, you're right, john, it is one the white house wanted to see, it's one every white house wants to see, to be able to have that kind of a lasting impact. it was certainly one biden's predecessor had with those three justices he put on the court. of course this is going to raise so many questions, as jessica was just noting, about who will be on this list. one thing insh should highlight remember the white house said they would release the visitor logs, the logs trump and the trump administration said they were not going to make public because they believed it was a matter of national security not to know who was coming in and out of the white house. i remember when the biden administration announced they would release the visitor log. it did have an asterisk at the bottom of the announcement saying, for example, potential supreme court justice nominees would not be considered public and being made public in the visitor logs, if that's someone who came and met with president
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biden. that is where the focus is going to go here, who does president biden want to pick? how do they get this done? what's the reaction on capitol hill? and, of course, the president himself's reaction to this. >> and, so, kaitlan, stand by. i want to come back and talk about the process. you noted whether viewers like or dislike president trump's picks they had a process in place. from our veteran court watcher, joan, you have interviewed justice breyer several times. i have loved your interview with him a few months back where he bristled at the political pressure on him to resign. but clearly, clearly, a man on the court for some time but came out of democratic politics understood that pressure, understood the calendar, understood the mid-term election clock, and now this momentous decision. >> reporter: yes, that's right, john. i think he was under a lot of pressure last year to go. he resisted it plainly thinking he had this year. but by virtue of picking the last week in january as he has
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he's leaving nothing to chance. this is the earliest since it was announced in march. part was the pressure he has been feeling but the other element, john, is our highly partisan times that he has seen the confirmation process spiral out of control. he does not want to leave anything to chance. he is likely to condition his retirement and the appointment of a successor, which hasn't been done since 2005 when justice sandra day o'connor stepped down. so that's a big difference and the difference of the timing of january. and, you know, look, he has been here since 1994, a democratic appointee, a man who had served on the senate judiciary committee. he understands the politics of the moment.
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i'm sure that he's tried to do this in a careful way. i presume right now he's trying to personally tell his colleagues on the court now that it's out here in the open. they last met as a group last friday. they're not going to meet as a group again until later in february. so this, i'm sure, it going to be both predictable for some of his colleagues but also sort of surprising that he chose this early point of january. but, again, it shows us, john, the times that we're in right now when the senate hangs by a single vote for the democrats. joe biden should be able to move an appointee this summer and before the court begins its next term in october. but in these times justice breyer probably just did not want to do anything more risky than he had already done in waiting one year. >> joan, stand by as well. we'll continual our important breaking news coverage. i want to bring in my colleague, wolf blitzer, who broke this
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news at cnn. you are our senior white house correspondent back when bill clinton put stephen breyer on the court. >> it was 1994 you and i remember it well, john, i was covering the white house during the bill clinton administration, and i think we were first to report the news that stephen breyer would be nominated to be a united states supreme court justice. i have now learned, i have confirmed that he will make the announcement together, i'm told, with the president of the united states, a formal announcement, that could come as early as tomorrow over at the white house. but he won't actually leave the supreme court until a new nominee is officially confirmed and becomes a supreme court justice. so he will remain for weeks, if not a few months, whatever it takes to get a new nominee confirmed. he made this decision, it was a very difficult decision for him, he's a relatively healthy 83-year-old. he realizes, obviously, as
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everyone does, john, the politics of what's going on right now. there could be a change in the majority in the united states senate after the mid-term elections. and so this is a good time if the democrats still have that 50/50 but with the vice president a majority they presumably could get somebody confirmed to replace him. and as you have reported and all of us have reported over these months president biden has said he would like a black female to be his nominee to be on the united states supreme court. we'll see if that happens. i assume it will happen. i am told he will informally or formally meet with his colleagues on the supreme court, the other justices, and let them know of his decision before i'm told he will head over to the white house for some sort of formal announcement with the president of the united states and president biden will thank justice breyer for all the important work he's done over these years this is clearly a significant development, a very important development, for the united states supreme court.
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>> and it will not, of course, change the ideological balance of the court which is now decidedly conservative because of those three trump picks, one of them, the last one replacing ruth bader ginsburg stirring all the pressure from democrats who wanted her to resign back when when president obama was president. a joint event with the president, which is interesting, because the press secretary keeping her cards close to her vest tweeting just moments ago, jen psaki, it has always been the decision of a supreme court justice if and when they retire and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today. jen psaki for now saying we have no additional details. that, wolf, out of respect to justice breyer to let him inform his colleagues and to give the white house to plan an event in which they will, number one, thank justice breyer but, number two, brace for what, even though the clock is on biden's side, even though the senate math just barely is on biden's side, will be a bruising mid-term election year confirmation battle.
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>> it depends on the nominee, who president biden picks to replace him, to succeed him on the u.s. supreme court, there might be some republicans who vote to confirm. usually it goes along those lines. but we shall see. we'll see who the president nominates, how long this takes. there will obviously be hearings before the senate judiciary committee before it goes to the full senate. this is going to be a long process, and as i said, justice breyer will remain -- will remain -- on the supreme court until the new nominee is officially confirmed by the united states senate. he's not leaving, at least not yet, although i anticipate he will make the formal announcement after he meets informally with his colleagues on the supreme court and he heads over to the white house. i think there will be some sort of event with the president of the united states. president biden wants to express his appreciation to supreme court justice breyer for all the work he's done. >> biden's relationship dates back to when breyer worked for
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kennedy. let's get some perspective from a law professor at american university. it will be a bruising confirmation battle without a doubt. we'll spend some time on the legacy of justice prior. when you look ahead to a biden getting a supreme court pick, we have lived through some remarkably bruising battles in years past similar or different within the biden presidency with a biden nominee? >> john, i think wolf is right that there's a chance that one will look a little bit different. compared to the last two confirmation battles where you had brett kavanaugh, amy coney barrett replacing ruth bader ginsburg, i think everyone will understand that from the perspective of the court as an institution a biden appointee might move the dissenters slightly to the left. whoever replaces justice biden -- justice breyer might be more progressive. it rests with kavanaugh and amy coney barrett that will not
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change. >> it will not change the court balance. might it change because now you have this high-profile first resignation and retirement and then a nominee and a confirmation process. it will put front and center many of the giant issues in american law right now, many of the giant issues this court will be considering this term, chief among them in my view, the texas anti-abortion law. >> not just texas, john, but, of course, the mississippi law as well the court is hearing in dobbs, whether or not the court will overturn roe v. wade. that's an important point f. we assume the confirmation hearings will take place over the summer, that the idea would be to have a successor in place when the court comes back in the fall. this will be on the far side of whatever the supreme court does with regard to abortion, to second amendment rights, with regard to the administrative state, with regard to religious liberty.
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it's impossible to predict how big of a deal this will be. we'll have almost certainly a confirmation battle in the midst of the supreme court handing down what are expected to be pretty significantly pro-conservative rulings further emblematic how successful president trump was moving the court to the right. it's huge news anytime a supreme court retires. i actually think this might be a little bit of a less big deal compared to each of the last three vacancies, when justice scalia died when justice kennedy stepped down, when justice ginsburg died. to put this in perspective whoever president biden appoints will be the 116th person, presumably, if they're confirmed, to serve on the supreme court. all of that history there have only been six not white men. when president biden says he's committed to appointing a black
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woman, someone with different -- someone who will bring more diversity to the court, that's another opportunity today's news presents. >> without a doubt. the president has been crystal clear he believes his first pick would be a black woman. stand by. we are continuing our breaking news coverage. justice stephen breyer, cnn has been told, is retiring from the court. we are told that by our wolf blitzer. let's get up to capitol hill and manu raju. wow, just in the sense we know this is a dicey mid-term election year to begin with. now you have a supreme court confirmation fight. steve notes republicans are aware this will not change the balance of the court. so maybe it's not quite the energy and the fury, but mitch mcconnell relishes these moments. democrats will recoil at my saying it that way. but lay out the landscape for us. >> reporter: this will be a huge fight out of the ideological balance of the court and the president has a very good chance of getting his nomination
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confirmed. if they keep all their members in line they can get vice president kamala harris to break a tie. and joe manchin himself has voted for conservative nominees and more liberal nominees. he has been the key swing vote all year long in this 50/50 senate. he did vote for two of president trump's nominees, brett kavanaugh, neil gorsuch, amy coney barrett. he supported other justices in the past. there is still a very good possibility they can get him onboard. he tends to support nominees put forward by a president for other judicial positions. but this is a confirmation process. it remains to be seen who the nominee is or how that nominee fares under intense questioning before the senate judiciary committee and if any problems emerge from that, from the nominee's past. if you do look, also, john, back in history during obama's term, having his two nominees confirmed, sonia sotomayor and
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amy kagan, there are those who did vote for those nominations. kagan had 63 votes back in 2010 and sonia sotomayor as well. they had 60 senate seats and 59 in that senate majority, but they were able to peel off some republicans like susan collins, li lindsey graham. a lot has happened in the last dozen years, but there is, assuming some republicans potentially like a lisa murkowski who voted against brett kavanaugh on the court, she could be in play here. there is a lot of opportunity for the democrats to get a replacement confirmed, get their party in line, potentially pick off some republicans as well. this will had still be a huge fight. it will still be a big effort and a huge focus of this senate to get this through but at the moment, john, the chance for
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confirmation are high. >> you make a key point this puts pressure on the republicans as well. you mentioned senator murkowski, normally a senator who devers to a president's pick unless it's way out of the mainstream. one of the many republicans we will watch as this plays out. manu, stand by. let's bring back in our cnn court watcher joan biskupic. president biden has this big decision. he has been very clear he believes the next opening on the court should go to a black woman, an african american woman. who would be leading his list of potential choices? >> reporter: sure, john, in the country's 230-year anniversary of the supreme court, 233 years, i think, it has never had an african american woman. so that would immediately change the court. here are some names that have been in the mix and ones that will be familiar to you. topping the list is someone who has been a law clerk to justice breyer, judge ketanji brown jackson on the d.c. circuit court here in washington.
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a very prominent court. president biden named her to that last year. she has a very distinguished record as a trial court judge and now an appellate court judge. she, i think, would be at the top of the pack in terms of her credentials, her back ground. her connection as a former clerk to justice breyer. another woman would be leondra kruger on the california supreme court. she is someone else who is highly credentialed who would be in the mix. a possible late arrival to the candidates that the president might look at would be judge michelle childs. she's on the district court but nominated to the d.c. circuit, a prominent stepping stone to the supreme court. chief justice john roberts, clarence thomas, ruth bader ginsburg, they all came from that court including brett kavanaugh. i think those, john. the other thing i would mention in terms of how the court could
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change, of course it's going to add another liberal but will probably be a different kind of liberal. first of all, someone much younger will now have three women on the left side of the bench if president biden does carry through with this. the other thing i would say is we're likely to have a more polarized court. justice breyer was able to work the middle a little bit more than some of his colleagues on the left, so that will, no doubt, change. now in terms of the timetable, i would think the white house would take a little bit of time to screen some of these nominees even though several of them have already been through the process recently. the confirmation hearing really should start probably june or july as they have in the past so that the person could be seated by october. >> it will be a fascinating process to watch, joan. i appreciate that reporting. let's bring our legal affairs correspondent paula reid into the conversation.
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paula, joan goes through some of the potential choices and raises a key question about the process which is how quickly will the biden white house be ready to move. and, again, a giant decision for justice breyer to resign. the asterisk it's unlikely to change the ideological balance of the court because the conservatives have such a clear majority. still this is a giant choice for the president and a giant change in american legal life. >> absolutely this is one of the biggest decisions that a president can make, a justice can serve for decades. their decision can last for generations. we saw with former president trump he was able to appoint three conservative justices, really change the balance of the court. he said himself multiple times it's one of his biggest legacies. as you said, time is of the essence here. we know several republicans have made it clear if they retake the majority in november that they will try to block any of biden's selections, so this is likely going to be a process they're going to want to move forward on quickly. we know as joan pointed out several of the names that have
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been floated are folks who have already been vetted and that is significant because that's an incredibly time consuming process. if you take someone who already has been vetted you can get them before the panel more quickly and confirmed more quickly. >> paula, i appreciate that very much. let's bring in our legal analyst, laura coates. paula makes a key point in the sense that some of these judges are sitting on the bench. some of theme have republican votes to confirm them for lower positions. that could be afn asset if you have a bruising battle, you have a 50/50 senate, to get at least a few republican votes if, and i emphasize the if, possible. >> reporter: it certainly would add to the idea if they were now to change their minds because of a supreme court opening it would demonstrate a hypocrisy that someone could serve on a court
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as well-revered as the d.c. court and be prepared to do that but somehow the rules change and your ability and your intellect when it goes to the supreme court of the united states. the proximity from which something like a judge brown to an opening in the supreme court would really point out why was it okay in this court but not the other? i remind people there have been more than one supreme court justice to come from that. i think one of the questions people might have is the length and tenure of the names being floated on the appellate benches. someone like a sitting justice, amy coney barrett, a relatively short tenure as an appellate judge before going on to become obviously a supreme court justice. and so tenure is not going to be the issue hopefully that it was in the past. but overwhelmingly think about what this really means. not only the exercise of the prerogative of justice breyer who, john, as you know and we've talked about this before, has been persuaded, shall we say to
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retire because they wanted to have the opportunity for someone to be appointed. when he came in it was a different era. senator orrin hatch and bill clinton, and think of where we are right now, where we're even thinking of the prospect of what bipartisanship would look like and it comes as no surprise that at a time wrought with the tension we have, with very key cases there, who will sit in that seat will be very important but might not change the ideological balance of the court. it's more like what happened when justice scalia left the bench and was replaced, so to speak, by someone with a similar ideology. it will still be impactful nonetheless. >> this is much more of a personal question than a legal question. if we could put up on the screen the potential nominees to replace justice breyer. president biden has said if he gets a pick, his first pick will be a black woman. when you look at those judges,
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and europyou're right, they are accomplished professionals, there's no question about their capabilities. no question about their capabilities. what would it be like for someone on the supreme court, finally, to look like you? >> reporter: i would be overjoyed and thrilled somebody who looks like me and has the mental prowess each of the women have and the credibility, the capability, the distinction of having served as judges would finally, finally, be given the opportunity to sit on the highest court in the land. and it's not to be taken lightly. we talk about the many decisions that are before the supreme court of the united states, i never had the luxury of leaving any part of my identity at the door before i walked no a courtroom, walked into a boardroom, walked onto these very sets on cnn. i brought with myself the entirety of being a black woman,
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the lived experience of what that's like in a country like this. and i think it's incumbent upon our country to recognize if we do not bring all of america and the holistic views of people, including black women, then we are doing a disservice to any objective evaluation of laws in this country. just think of what's before this court, just this term alone. the mississippi abortion ban. we're talking about discussions around the profound disparate impact of black and brown laws. how about the discussions about affirmative action? we learned from justice sonia sotomayor where she described herself as the perfect affirmative action baby those years ago, describing it unapologetically of the gains and the benefits of having a race conscious admissions process. wouldn't it be wonderful to have a black woman in that position as well? i'm not assuming what their holdings will be, but i am assuming that they will bring
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their entirety with them and we will be better for it. >> the diversity of life experience, legal views are up to the justices. diversity of life experience is critical in every setting. it would be amazing at the highest court in the land. this is not pure speculation. let's listen to then candidate joe biden saying if i get a pick this is what i will do. >> if i'm elected president and have an opportunity to appoint someone to the courts, i will appoint the first black woman to the courts. >> said in the middle of a political campaign, laura coates, when candidates are trying to get votes, trying to appeal to important democratic constituencies. but of critical importance for a president who always says he got into politics because of his views on civil rights and is president of the united states because of the support in the democratic primaries of black voters. >> reporter: yes. and black women often complain, and we do with justification,
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about the ways in which phrases like black girl magic are thrown around during an election year and an election cycle and the black woman vote as if it were a monolith is coveted. and then people suddenly abandon and their attention span goes other places. and oftentimes we're left with the wheels spinning left with the bridge between campaign promises and what you'll do in reality of practice. here is an opportunity for that to be defenmonstrated and, agai it's not because you're making a promise that can't be supported by qualified candidates -- let me repeat this to people so there's never any mincing of the words. we're not talking about plucking somebody out of oblivion and saying you're a black woman and i promised to have a black woman on the bench, so how about you? we're talking about black women who are revered in their field for their impartiality, their intellect, their ability to synthesize information, who have court experiences up and down the levels of what it means to be a public servant in the law.
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and that is the ideal sort of choices that you are going to choose from. it will be a difficult one for this president to make. but, you know, in the last few weeks we've been hearing about the president who has been in some ways condemned for his deprioritization of voting rights in this country, a legacy of a promise made to black voters and also to voters in this country who believe in voting rights and not just the beneficiaries. this is yet another instance for him to make good on a promise that should be easy given the breadth and scope of so many skilled black woman judges in this country not the least of home you said have been nominated and confirmed on a bipartisan basis. >> it's fascinating and potentially historic moment for the president of the united states. i want to bring in "new york times" white house correspondent. you've done reporting on this and you have some insights on not just the pressures but the process the president used to
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get to his decision that if i get a pick the first one would go to an african american woman. >> reporter: absolutely. john, it is true that regardless of this pick the conservatives will still have the majority of the supreme court. but for all of the reasons that laura just noted, there is -- it is going to be crucial. it is going to be impactful if the president makes good on his campaign pledge to nominate a black woman to the supreme court. we have seen the white house has faced increased criticism for the congress, failing to actually pass police reform. that was a campaign promise by the president. they have not passed that thus far. we also have voting rights. that has not been fulfilled which has heightened that chris si criticism. legal and personal for many constituents would also provide him something politically to point to going towards the midterms and going towards future elections. now i want to take you back about a year, my colleagues reported at that point it's about february 2021 and you have
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representative james clyburn of south carolina, highest ranking african american at that point in the house. he basically goes to meet with the president and immediately goes to vice president kamala harris' office at that point, and the first topic he brings up, which goes and is emblematic of the priority of this for democrats, he brings up the supreme court. now in that case he brings up district court judge michelle childs at that point. she happens to be from south carolina, which obviously was a crucial state for president biden when it came to running for president during the campaign. obj obviously pivotal in fueling him to the presidency. not saying that is definitely going to be the nomination, not saying that at all, but i mention that meet ting to show w this is being prioritized and how many democrats in congress as well as the white house and throughout the country have really looked to this appointment as pivotal going to
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the elections. you saw that with that early meeting by the highest ranking african american in the house bringing up immediately to vice president kamala harris as well as president biden just shortly after they were elected. >> zolan, i appreciate that. let's bring in our senior political analyst. nia, the president has said his first pick would be a black woman. you're talking about filling a slot by the president of the united states. it will be a confirmation process and a mid-term election year where history and current polling puts a stiff wind in the face of democrats. this is a confirmation pick that, again, number one, is about the court and, number two, will be about mid-term politics. >> reporter: and also some symbolism, too, joe biden wanting to nominate a black woman to the supreme court, making that pledge in the dead of -- the dead heat of those primary battles.
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clyburn has said his endorsement was him pivotal on saying he would nominate a black woman to the supreme court and this goes back even further than when joe biden was in office and he and clyburn had the meeting with vice president harris. so very much a priority, i think, for a huge part of the democratic constituency. so what you've seen i think so far is a lot of disappointment in joe biden's presidency so far in terms of the deliverables, whether it's voting rights, whether it's criminal justice reform, whether it's some of what's happened with covid as well. and so going into a midterm this could be a real jolt, i think, to rank and file voters, african american voters in particular, who you look at the polling, they're about 70% in terms of seeing joe biden's approval
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rating. it's higher than sort of the general public but still fairly low. you want that in the 80s or 90s because it's an important part of the democratic constituency. it will be a real battle, of course, a high-profile battle, going into a very tough battle for the midterms. but i imagine this will give a real jolt to a key part of the democratic constituency. >> one of the many fascinating pieces. nia-malika henderson, thank you. we're following this major breaking news this hour, the supreme court justice stephen breyer, we are told, plans to retire. that decision, of course, means president biden gets to nominate his replacement in the thick of this mid-term election year. justice breyer is 83 years old. he is expected, we are told, to stay on the bench until the end of this term and until -- this is an important condition -- until his replacement is confirmed by the united states senate. president biden has said in the past he would nominate a black woman if given a first pick. let's bring in our court
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analyst, joan biskupic. it's a big decision for him to make which then hands his friend, the president of the united states, an even bigger decision. >> reporter: that's right. he's known joe biden for a long time, and, you know, this will give president biden the chance -- the first time in 12 years that a democratic president is going to be able to name someone to a lifetime seat on the supreme court, and you can see the effect given that stephen breyer is 83 years old. if he chooses someone who is in her 50s, her 40s, that person can be here for this generation, the next generation, our children's generation. so this is very big. i know it was a hard decision for justice breyer. he's been under a lot of pressure. he saw what happened to ruth bader ginsburg when she declined to step down when she was pressured in the obama years and
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then died in office in september of 2020, which has transformed this court because of her successor, amy coney barrett, and i nknow he did not want tha to happen this time. he thought he had the two years the senate was democratic, and, indeed, he waited until this year but, again, is not taking any chances with it. i just want to pick up on some of the things our colleagues have said about the experience of some of the women who might be candidates for this seat and their tenure on lower appellate courts. just to remind folks that justice elena kagan quite accomplished never served as a judge before she was appointed. and clarence thomas was on the d.c. circuit appellate court only for about a year, maybe a little bit more, when he was named to the supreme court. john roberts only about two years. so appellate experience has been important for many nominees, but not for all. and the other thing i want to
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mention in terms of the diversity that my colleagues have been referring to, the very first case that's going to be up next october is one the justices just announced on monday that they would take and that tests affirmative action policies at harvard university and the university of north carolina. a very important case, one that involves race-based remedies that justice breyer had wholly supported but many of his colleagues now today do not. whoever president biden puts into that seat will be thrust into the culture wars. who knows whether abortion will still be lingering then or if they will resolve that completely this spring in the mississippi case they have. i wanted to mention those. thinking about the changing face of the supreme court when justice breyer retires he is leaving his post as the senior
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liberal justice, the liberal wing, of course, is down to just three justices, but one of the reasons he stayed on was because he thought he could have an effect in that position and when he steps down this summer it will be justice sonia sotomayor who is named by president obama in 2009. she will now be the senior justice on the left, which is quite a new -- it will be a new role for her. we know of her in her position as a very strong dissenter these days to so many cases, but she will have more authority now on the left to try to figure out just how collectively they want to take on this conservative dominance that is now the way of this supreme court, john. >> that's a fascinating point, the personnel, the domino effect and stature and leadership on the court. i want to bring steve vladeck back in to talk about this path ahead. steve, it's the legal team that
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does the original vetting, inside the biden white house and the trump white house. it's lawyers and legal experts who do the vetting. then the political team gets a good look, too. you're thinking is there anything in the record that helps or hurts us. one of the candidates and your perspective. judge ketanji brown jackson was confirmed to the d.c. appellate court last year. she got 53 votes in june 2021. that's a 50/50 senator including from susan collins, lindsey graham and lisa murkowski. you're looking at that vote and saying essentially, you voted for her just a year ago. here we go. >> she spent eight years on the federal district court in washington. she was an appointee of president obama's. the other thing about that vote
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last year, john, it was understood at the time whenever there was going to be a short list for a supreme court seat in the biden administration, she was going to be on it. she got the three republican votes. it was a pretty good sign that at least going into this conversation she is going to be in the mix and that she's going to be very high on a lot of folks' lists. john, i think another point it's worth not losing given the politics of the last couple of weeks is look how big a deal now in retrospect the georgia runoff elections last january were. yes, we've had a lot of frustration on the left with west virginia senator joe manchin, with senator kyrsten sinema but this is a different conversation, john, a different political equation for this white house. even this embattled white house, with a democratic senate, with kamala harris in a position to break a tie if it comes to that. and so given that political reality, given the vote you mentioned, this is actually, i
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think, probably not going to be the hardest political battle that the biden administration fights this year. i think that is part of why this timing was especially important, as joan said, by putting the announcement out now, by conditioning his retirement on the accomplishment of his successor. justice breyer has given president biden and the white house just about as strong a hand as they could have had for this particular confirmation process at this particular point in time. >> steve vladeck, i appreciate the insight. justice stephen breyer will resign from the supreme court. dramatic news. it will give president biden a midterm election year a pick for the supreme court. we'll continue our breaking news coverage in just a moment. behind neuriva plus. cience unlike ordinary memory supplements, neuriva plus fuels six key indicators of brain performance. more brain performance? yes, please! neuriva. think bigger.
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breaking news surprise this hour from the supreme court of the united states. the leading liberal justice, stephen breyer, plans to retire. his decision will shape the arc of president biden's second year giving the supreme court pick in the middle of a mid-term election fight. justice breyer has said he will serve out his term, and this is important, he will stay on the bench until his successor is in place. let's get more insights from our reporters and analysts beginning with kaitlan collins. >> reporter: it's a massive moment for president biden because this is the opportunity that every president wants, not every president gets. and, of course, biden's predecessor had three of the opportunities to put a justice on the supreme court and now president biden will have the same with this announcement from justice breyer and, of course, as a candidate on the campaign trail to get to the white house biden pledged to nominate the first black woman to the supreme court. and so, of course, when it comes
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to the nominees and the names we will be looking at over the next several days and weeks while we wait for an announcement from the white house that is a point of focus from president biden. his aides including his press secretary, jen psaki, has said he will remain committed to that pledge to put the first black woman on the supreme court. so, of course, the next steps here will be critical of what this looks like when they first announced this retirement. as wolf blitzer noted earlier, he said it could come as soon as tomorrow where president biden and justice breyer come out and formally announce that he is going to be leaving the court, but there are going to be so many questions about what will happen next on capitol hill because, john, as you know very well, democrats had the slimmest of majorities but they do have enough votes to get someone confirmed if all democrats voted for president biden's pick and they have a very short window to act, of course, with the midterm approaching this fall. it will be significant here at the white house today. >> fascinating political moment and legal moment. kaitlan collins, i appreciate the reporting from the white house. perspective from our legal
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analyst, laura coates. let's hear from justice breyer because he knew about the pressure. democrats, remember, ruth bader ginsburg was sick in the obama days. she stayed in the fight and, bless her, she was a warrior. a lot of liberals thought we lost that, we lost the opportunity to republic place ruth bader ginsburg. justice breyer said, eh, listen. >> what do you say to people who argue that you should retire as soon as possible while the democrats have the senate majority? that's the basic issue those pro protesters are saying? >> that's their point of view. there are a lot of considerations. i don't want to add to what i've said tonight. every time i add something it becomes a big story. the less i add, the better. i think i have most of the
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considerations in mind and i simply have to weigh them and think about them and depp side when the proper time is. i've also said i hope i don't die on the supreme court. and there we are. >> and here we are. it's a funny answer because justice breyer is a funny man. obviously he brushed off that criticism because that's what you do until you make that decision. now the president of the united states has the momentous decision to stay thank you to justice breyer and turn to a historic pick. >> remember, of course, it is the prerogative of somebody who has a lifetime appointment to d decide when that lifetime on the court will end. one of the issues i'm sure he was grappling with are the reasons in the 2021 book, concerns about the perception of the supreme court as being a political extension, a political arm as opposed to impartial and apolitical. a sentiment echoed by the likes of colleague sonia sotomayor and
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others as well and people across the spectrum who have commented on the idea of how consequential elections can be because obviously it leads to having political appointments and nomination that is lead to who could be on the bench. and so while we want to talk about this being an apolitical body, the process by which to get someone nominated and confirmed is political. he was averse to trying to feed into that by saying, you know what, unless i think about my time line according to who is in the white house, i'm doing a disservice to democrats. if i do that, then i'm feeding into the presumption that we are thinking about political consequences. having said that there is the reality, of course, that it is a consideration, that there's a limited amount of time to be able to have a president in a position to provide a lifetime appointment to somebody again. the people you've talked about in the past whose names have been floated are also skewing younger, the idea of having to be able to capitalize on the
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relative youth of so many people, to have their presence felt for decades to come. that's a good thing or a bad thing depending upon how you view their ideology. >> laura coates, appreciate that perspective. let's bring nia-malika henderson back in. several tweets from black democrats in the house saying they are grateful, thankful for the historic opportunity and the democratic majority leader of the united states senate chuck schumer saying the nominee will get a prompt hearing. welcome. welcome to a bruising fight. >> reporter: it's going to be so bruising. whenever it happens i think you will see republicans really trying to make this a tough vote for some of the senate democrats who are up in 2022. some of these folks have already gotten the thumbs up from folks in the senate. i think given how high profile this will be, given the fact we know republicans will try to make 2020, those midterms, a referendum on the culture wars whether or not democrats are too woke is a conversation going on. you will have this person who is
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likely going to be a black woman be a prominent figure in these culture war debates and fights that republicans are so expert at hanging around the necks of democrats. so it is going to be just, i think, a really vicious, ugly fight and debate that we see over whoever this woman is, likely a black woman, this sumner a runup to the midterms. >> i want to thank all of our reporters, correspondents and analysts hustling. chuck schumer is an optimistic man. he says the pick will be considered and confirmed by the full senate. we'll see how this plays out. justice breyer was the last of the supreme court confirmation hearings joe biden presided over as chairman of the senate judiciary committee. we'll see you tomorrow. ana cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break. share the love event, h u we are proud to have donated over two hundred and twenty five million dollars to charity.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm ana cabrera. a bombshell news reverberating across the legal landscape. justice stephen breyer plans to retire. this is according to a well-placed source familiar with the matter and breyer's departure will give president biden a chance to nominate a successor. ic


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