Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says that he has very serious concerns about justice in the US if Trump chooses a Supreme Court justice nominee from his list of 25 conservative candidates.
ERIN BURNETT: Up front now, independent senator, Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, I appreciate your time. Look, we understand the president made is choice, and when you talk about just the logistics of getting someone there and forming them, making it at 3 o’clock Eastern is pretty darn late for a 9:00 PM announcement, but that’s what we understand. Senator, is there anyone this president could realistically pick that would be acceptable to you?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Oh, there are many people he could realistically pick, people who respected the rights of works, people who respected women’s rights, people who are concerned about the environment and climate change, people who believed in justice.
If President Trump were to nominate somebody who held those beliefs, of course I could support that person. Do I realistically think that that is going to be the nominee? No I don’t. As you know, Trump has indicated that he’s working off a list of 25 right-wing legal people, and that, during the campaign he said pretty publically that his nominee would be somebody to overturn Roe v. Wade.
BURNETT: Yes, he did.
SANDERS: If that is one of his nominees, no, I certainly will not support him or her.
BURNETT: All right, so, out of the list of 25 that you’re not amenable to one of the judges that we understand – I don’t know if you just heard or Jeff Zeleny, but he’s saying it could obviously be anyone on that list of 25, but we do believe at this point he had whittled it down possibly to Judge Thomas Hardiman and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I want to ask you Thomas Hardiman. Obviously, he’s in – on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals right now, and part of the reason he’s there is because of you. You voted to confirm him as a Circuit Court judge, so –
SANDERS: Well, wait a minute. Let’s – who else voted for him on that one? In fact, everybody voted for him, right?
BURNETT: Well Democrats did. My point is, you’re saying you’re now putting him a conservative you couldn’t support, but obviously a decade ago you didn’t feel the same way?
SANDERS: Well, there’s – yes, but there is a difference between voting for somebody in a lower-court and somebody floating – voting for somebody in the highest court of the land. There’s fundamental difference, and if he –
BURNETT: Which is what? I mean, principles would matter in either case, right?
SANDERS: Well, the principle is that the Supreme Court makes the law of the land and determines what happens in our country, in virtually every area. So, yes, there is a fundamental difference.
Look, what we are talking about here is in a moment in American history where we have right-wing extremists controlling the House, the Senate and the White House. If we appoint another right-wing extremist to the Supreme Court I have very serious concerns about justice in this country and what will happen to the –
BURNETT: So –
SANDERS: – men, women and children and the future of our nation. So we will –
BURNETT: But just to understand (ph), would Thomas Hardiman be a right-wing extremist now, as you define it?
SANDERS: Yes. So if he is on a list of the 25 that were presented to the president, yes, he would be somebody that I would feel impossible to support.
BURNETT: Your colleague, the Democratic senator, Bob Casey from Pennsylvania, he said he’d oppose anybody on the list, which I – I – I believe is similar to what you’re saying to me now, right?
SANDERS: Yes, yes, yes.
BURNETT: OK. The White House deputy press secretary, Rod Shaw, responded, and his response was, "Unfortunately, though not surprising that even before his or her qualifications can be evaluated, Senator Casey is refusing to even consider the president’s nominee." Doesn’t he have a point? I mean –
SANDERS: Not really. It depends. I think what Bob said is that if it were part of the list of 25, and that list of 25 is not just an arbitrary list, these are people who have been assembled by right-winged jurists, and they have views on role versus wage. They have views on workers rights.
SANDERS: They have views on the environment, which in many cases are well done, so this is not just any old person. I – I would not say that, you know, any person should be summarily rejected, but if they’re a member of that list they shouldn’t (ph). Look –
BURNETT: Do – do you regret – do you regret, then, voting for Thomas Hardiman on that lower-court because I know you’re saying it’s different, but the reality is he wouldn’t be up for this if he hadn’t gotten that (ph), so?
SANDERS: Look, I voted for – when you vote for lower-court judges sometimes they get blue slips, and there’s a process that goes by. When you – I think that vote was 95 to nothing, was that correct?
SANDERS: 95 to nothing, and there are a number of votes like that, but let’s be clear, voting for a Supreme Court justice is very different than voting for anybody in a lower-court. Look, what we’re talking about is a right-wing agenda of which, not only wants to end role versus wage (ph) despite the fact that 70 percent of the American people support the maintenance of role versus wage (ph), not only wants to overturn decisions regarding gay marriage and gay rights despite strong support from the American people.
The right-wing agenda goes so far is – is to really side, time and time again, with large corporations who are attacking workers rights, even the concept of the minimum wage, which now is now a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour. There are people, right-wing people, saying, "Oh, no, that’s unconstitutional." We’re talking about healthcare. We’re talking about issues of women’s health, in general.
BURNETT: I want to ask you before – before we go, but while I have your time, about the deadline tomorrow, which you know, of course, is the government’s deadline to reunite children under-5 who were separated at the border from their parents. Half of the children are going to be reunited by that deadline.
The Trump Administration isn’t sure about the rest. Now the federal judge, though, who set this deadline for reunification said he’s quote, "Very encouraged, thus far." Again, I’ve said half of those children will be reunited by the deadline, half will not. Are you encouraged?
SANDERS: Am I encouraged by a president who ripped children out of the arms of their mother and a situation in which the authorities did not even know where these kids were, am I encouraged, no. I am outraged by what Trump and his administration have done. Obviously, I would hope and expect that every person in this country, every person in the world, believes and expect these children should be united with their parents. We will see what happens, but I have – if you want to know what I’ve been impressed by it’s by the incompetence of the Trump Administration to even (ph) the simplest things in this area.
BURNETT: ICE has become a lighting-rod in this, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell was followed out a restaurant this weekend. Protesters yelling personal insults at him, chanting abolish ICE and vote him out. I wanted to play a clip for you, Senator Sanders.
BURNETT: Senator, among the protesters were members of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Do you think their behavior was acceptable?
SANDERS: I – look, people getting back to this very issue of immigration. There are people all over this country who are outraged that little kids have been separated from their parents, which, no doubt, will cause, I guess, permanent psychological damage when you separate a kid from his or her parents.
So people are outraged, and I understand, but I happen to believe that if we want to deal with real immigration reform, if we want to deal with real criminal justice reform, if we want to deal the environment, the area that we should be focusing or energy on is ending republican control over the House and over the Senate.
And I am going to do everything I can, and millions of people are going to do everything they can, putting together a grass-roots which demands that we have a government that represents all of us and not just wealthy campaign contributors. So I think our focus of energy should be on bringing change to the House and the Senate and supporting a progressive agenda.