HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: To help us analyze the latest political developments surrounding the Trump administration, I'm joined from Santa Barbara, California, by "NewsHour Weekend's" Jeff Greenfield.
Jeff, you know, FOX News made it a point to tease out some of what was going to come out in the interview before the Super Bowl with the president. We've had a chance to see at least a good chunk of that excerpt that's been broadcast nationally.
The comments about President Putin and possibly almost a moral equivalence on the behavior on the part of America or American leadership, ever heard anything like that?
JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: From Republicans, not counting Pat Buchanan and maybe Ron Paul — no. That's what's so striking about it, the notion that, you know, we're not the moral leaders of the world. We do bad things. You kind of expect from Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn or maybe at times Bernie Sanders.
But it's but such a core belief am knowledge GOP conservatives that Democrats aren't sufficiently wedded to American exceptionalism, all the way back to Gene Kirkpatrick at the ‘84 Republican convention saying Democrats always blame America first, or the notion fact that Obama was on an apology tour. And that's why the reaction has been so strong. I mean, Liz Cheney, new congressperson and daughter of ex-Vice President Cheney, very tough on Trump because as in a lot of other areas, Trump is a heretic about some core Republican beliefs and I don't know how this plays out, but it certainly is going to cause him a lot of grief. I can't wait to see the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page on this one.
SREENIVASAN: Jeff, let's talk a little bit about the comments the president made about the judge in Seattle.
GREENFIELD: This is what's going to spill out, I think, in the coming days and weeks — the fact that Trump attacked the judge, calling him a "so-called judge", a George W. Bush nominated judge, confirmed unanimously by the Senate, with a conservative record, is going to create questions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to Judge Gorsuch, how independent do you pledge to be from Trump or any other president?
And I think Gorsuch's record suggests that he is less deferential to presidential power than, say, late Justice Scalia was. But I think once again, that kind of comment, when you link it to what he said about the judge last year who was presiding over the Trump University case, suggests a kind of willingness to not just say that the judge was wrong, but to go right after the judge on grounds of either core competence or even integrity, and I think Judge Gorsuch is going to be asked a lot of questions about that.
SREENIVASAN: Is the court in one of these scenarios is going to be more unified in protecting its own turf or from perhaps the overreach of the executive branch?
GREENFIELD: That's the question that Chief Justice Roberts probably is wrestling with. You know, the one time he broke with the conservatives on upholding the Affordable Care Act, I think if he'd been an associate justice, he wouldn't have voted that way. He was trying in my view to protect the court from being thrown into the political thicket.
But one thing I think we know is that every conservative who backed Trump with reservations did so because he was going to deliver them the Supreme Court. And so, I think the idea that there's going to be any hesitancy to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" is misplaced. They're going to do whatever they can to get that court back in a conservative majority.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Jeff Greenfield, thanks for joining us.
GREENFIELD: Thank you.