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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Insists: "I Call My Own Shots"; White House Battling Backlash Over Travel Ban; Democrats Ramp Up Pressure On President Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 6, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDE CLIP)

[12:30:00] ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Stanley, prepare to go to war. Steve, I think that was bad. Was that bad?

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: No, it went just according to plan.

BALDWIN: Whose plan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Your plan.

(END VIDE CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It's always interesting when a presidential aide seeps his way into pop culture like "Saturday Night Live," but whose plan? Your plan, my plan? Why is the president tweeting this morning that he's in-charge. Don't -- do we have any doubt?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think we know why.

MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: So this is -- but, you know, you ask the question before the break, is the White House already in turmoil. That I think the proper word is it's always in turmoil, right? I mean, this has been the case throughout Donald Trump's business career, throughout his campaign, and now his White House operation. He is someone who thrives on chaos, who always creates competing power centers with different aides and makes them vie for his favor.

And I think it is -- it's somewhat strategic on his part. He feels that he gets better results that way. And it seems like a tough place to work, but he feels that that is the best way to insure success.

KING: And is he comfortable with people saying on "Time" putting Steve Bannon on the cover saying that Steve Bannon essentially manipulated him into the role of this travel ban, to keep it closely held into the White House, to not really inform the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, to not inform members of Congress so that you had let's say more than one hiccup along the way in the roll up? Is he comfortable with someone else getting the attention?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: No.

HENDERSON: No. Absolutely not.

(CROSSTALK)

RAJU: So Dakota is not yet to be -- they appear to be in the reports this weekend and that effect that he was not too happy about that. But a lot of this is his own doing. I mean he created these different power centers within the White House in his administration. People who come view policy and politics completely different --

KING: Yeah.

RAJU: -- or are at complete odds with someone who works -- who would work in the same building.

So, that has led to a lot of questions. Who is he listening to? Who is actually driving the policy of the administration? And that's one of the reasons why Reince Priebus had to make very clear in interviews with "The Post" and "The Times" over the weekend that he is in charge.

HENDERSON: Yeah. But you have to --

KING: But if you have give an interview that you're in-charge --

HENDERSON: Yeah.

KING: -- doesn't that tell you -- I mean if you have to tweet that I have to call the shots or --

HENDERSON: Yeah.

KING: -- could the chief of staff and you have to say I'm in-charge, doesn't that raise a question?

HENDERSON: No. And one of the things that always -- it's also led to this sort of chaos is leaks. I mean, embarrassing leaks. And reading the "New York Times" who richly detailed the of the Glenn Thrush story, there is the image of Donald Trump in his bathroom watching television. I mean, I'll never get that image out of my head at this point. I mean it is not a flattering picture. It's not a dignified picture of the leader of the free world. So you have all of this power centers sort of leaking stories, some of which make Donald Trump look like he is in over his head and then sort of competing and trying to undermine each other in the press. Whether it's Bannon or Kelly, who knows where these leaks are coming from, but it's just not a great look for him.

KING: Let's read a little from that story by Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, both of whom our friends of the program here. "Mr. Bannon has rushed into the vacuum, telling allies that he and Mr. Miller -- that's Steven Miller, the policy director -- have a brief window in which to push through their vision of Mr. Trump's economic nationalism. We're moving big and we're moving fast, Mr. Bannon said when asked about the upheaval for the first two weeks. We didn't come here to do small things."

BALL: Well and I think what matters to Trump here is the idea that he has been use -- being used. The idea that others are using him as a vessel for their agenda, because he is the one in-charge, he is the president. And if things are being put in front of him of for him to sign that are being misrepresented in a way that has consequences or make him look like he's not in charge, that I think matters to him much more than an unflattering story about a bath robe.

He is loyal to people he thinks put his best interests first.

KING: Right.

BALL: And he is going to, I think, discipline anyone that he sees as putting their interests or some policy or ideological interest above the interest of what is best for him.

JONATHAN MARTIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And Bannon's on the record, by the way. I think it was before he joined the campaign, calling Trump a crude instrument.

BALL: That's right.

MARTIN: Last year for his sort of vision of economic nationalism. So, Bannon basically said that, you know, he use Trump as a tool. You know, I'm just struck by -- there is a sort of notion of, you know, either intentional or not, bar lowering for the coverage of Trump in some ways because you have to because there's so much of it. Can you imagine any other president trying where they tweet out the Al Haig moment I'm in-charge here, who's questioning really going after a federal judge and saying any terrorist attack is on this judge personally.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

MARTIN: And then, you know, equating the American government with what the Russian government saying, you know, there's no angels here in America.

KING: Only three weeks in.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

MARTIN: The terrorist and then -- but as soon you mention, you know, attacking Schumer as a clown. It goes on and on and on.

So I just laugh at this notion of, oh, the press collectively has hooked up on Trump. Think about just those three examples that I mentioned, and any other president either party and sort of covering that what it would ensue.

[12:35:03] The challenge with Trump is that there's so much of it, and the deluge that comes the next day, it sweeps now the previous weekend. And this happens again and again and again. We are used to this in the press cover if we have a cover in the campaign. The capitol -- the folks in the capitol are not used to it. I think this is the most fastening story.

KING: Yeah. MARTIN: When does the exhaustion set in.

HENDERSON: Right.

MARTIN: OK.

KING: Right.

MARTIN: We've done it for a year and a half now, but this is different. A different sort of culture than Washington is used to. When to the folks on Capitol Hill get tired of the constant drama in terms of --

KING: And who do the folks on Capitol Hill call when you have a big question? Do you call Invanka if it's Child Care Policy or do you call Steven Miller or do you call Reince Priebus? Do you call the secretary of state or the secretary off homeland security or do you call Steve Bannon if it's a question about border security and enforcing this ban? And it's early. It's only a couple of weeks. Maybe it sorts itself out where they saying all is fine. But that's a pretty big question early on.

RAJU: Yeah. There's no particular.

BALL: Maybe they just stop calling.

KING: Yeah.

BALL: Maybe they just decide they're going to run the show themselves because the White House is too chaotic to deal with it.

RAJU: And I find it interesting that point about Bannon and Steve Miller is seeing that there's a brief window to get their agenda through.

HENDERSON: Right.

RAJU: But their agenda is a lot different than the agenda of the Republican leadership on the Hill who want to focus on Obamacare, who want to focus on tax reform, getting rid of some Obama regulations. Not necessarily this -- the travel ban and other social policies that perhaps the White House is pointing.

KING: Right. Everybody sit tight. Up next, the Democrats see the new president as politically weak, and they aim to keep it that way, but finding a voice isn't the same as finding the votes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40:36] KING: Welcome back, President Trump's approval rating is underwater, earning him the distinction as the least popular new president in at least 60 years. Democrats don't want to let him off the mat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: This guy is a fraud. This guy ran for president of the United States saying "I, Donald Trump, I'm going to take on Wall Street." These guys are getting away with murder. Then suddenly he appoints all these billionaires, his major financial advisor comes from Goldman Sachs, and now he's going to dismantle legislation that protects consumers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Aggressive language from the Democrats here. Before we start the conversation, I just want to show one of the dynamics to play here. The president's approval rating as I said underwater. Meaning more people disapprove than approve.

But look at the partisan breakdown. Ninety percent of Republicans approve of the presidents job performance. Only 10 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of Democrats disapprove. You see independents it's more split with 54 percent disapprove.

But to that, if that -- you hear Bernie Sanders. This guy is a fraud, I'm not criticizing senators. I'm saying senators just walked away from his principles. He believes the president, you know, isn't what he said he was in the campaign. Isn't this in tune with the blue collar workers as he thinks, but how much just the fact that 89 percent of Democrats disapprove of this president pushing Democratic members of congress to probably go even farther than they would like in opposing the president.

MARTIN: A huge dynamic right now. And they're trying to keep pace with their own base. And, you know, you see protest in the street pretty much every weekend now. They're trying to grapple with how to accommodate voters who they don't just want opposition. And they want really, you know, basically to stop this person in his tracks.

It's nothing like we've seen in this country. It's not like a sort of small day democratic opposition of, you know, we're going to, you know, rally support, you know, hope that Trump wins on cheats in '18. This is much more like other countries have had. No, this guy is a threat to the country.

HENDERSON: Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: He must be stopped.

HENDERSON: Well, yeah. And you saw it --

MARTIN: These are Democrats in Congress who don't speak pet language and trying to accommodate that, and it's ungamely to watch it on.

HERDERSON: Yeah. And you saw Schumer -- yeah, you saw Schumer early on come at him. Even Bernie Sanders to a certain extent and say that they could, they thought like they could work with Trump on any number of issue, with the infrastructure, on trade as well. In talking to progressives, they finally feel like they have gotten some of these folks, like Schumer to, as they said, join the resistance, which is what they're calling this movement. Like in John's have said we haven't seen anything like it. I mean --

BALL: I think they have. I think this feels very much like 2009 when Republicans were inclined to try to work with the new President Obama and it was their base, but not the Republican base. A new movement outside of the Republican Party, the Tea Party that literally was sending hundreds --

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

BALL: -- of thousands of people to the streets putting pressure on Republicans who might otherwise have wanted to find compromises saying we will not stand for that and then making good on that threat by literally throwing them out of office.

(CROSSTALK)

RAJU: This is the real dilemma for the leadership. Because, especially in the Senate. Chuck Schumer has to worry about five red state Democrats from really red states. I mean 10 states Trump won, those Democrats sort of and they're up for re-election in 2018, but there are five very, very red states.

KING: Yeah.

RAJU: Those senators need Trump supporters to help them win re- election, and Chuck Schumer needs those five senators to win the re- election in order to even have a chance to get the majority or keep the margin the way it is.

And this is going to play out especially in the Neil Gorsuch confirmation proceedings because a lot of those red state Democrats want to be open to possibly voting for, you know, Gorsuch but the base wants the furious fight. And Chuck Schumer's caught in the middle because he does not necessarily want to go all the way out, force them to use the nuclear option, change the filibuster just to get another conservative to replace conservative Scalia.

So this is going to play out a lot of key fights.

KING: In the Supreme Court pick, we still have a few cabinet picks. The Senate is supposed to deal with those this week, and you're just saying during the break they might be in session all night because the Democrats have some business they want to do.

The question is, if they can' get anybody, if they don't stop any of the Trump nominees and the Supreme Court pick Judge Gorsuch gets confirmed. Well we see where it go from the protest like the Tea Party, two, we'll cyber or a Senator Heitkamp (inaudible) primary camp.

HENDERSON: Yeah. I mean I think that's the big question. And obviously, the Trump administration knows it. I mean they coined this phrase Trump's state Democrats so they know the real box, I think, the Democrats are in. Because is it the party of Bernie Sanders or is it the party of Schumer or somewhere in the middle or Heidi Heitkamp who causes one of those Trump state Democrats. I think the big test is 2018.

[12:45:01] You mentioned the Tea Party very successful in terms of turning the tide, in turning the numbers on the hill and Democrats, because their base is so diverse and diffuse. And people are talking about Black Lives Matter, they have issues with the environment. I mean it's so diverse and diffuse in terms of the issues they care about. It's hard to know if they're going to be able coalesce around candidates --

KING: Yeah.

HENDERSON: -- in 2018.

KING: And the rhetoric has become quite striking. We -- earlier in the show the democratic leader say I want to know what the Russians have on him. Bernie Sanders, who probably said this anyway he's (inaudible), he's a fraud.

Listen to Dianne Feinstein here, again, ranking senior senator from California, ranking Democrat on intelligence matters. She's long involved in judicial matters here. She's talking about president Trump criticizing the judge who blocked the travel ban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The president is not a dictator, Chris. He is the chief executive of our country, and there is a tension between the branches of government, specifically the framers of our constitution wanted a strong Congress for the very reason that most of these kinds of things should be done within the scope of lawmaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: She's a moderate, by the way.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

KING: But you can say the president is wrong.

BALL: Right.

KING: But she's saying the president is not a dictator.

MARTIN: And now this is somebody who does not come from the kind of radical liberal wing of the party, you know. She's viewed as a right veritable right winger in San Francisco which is her own town. And she has actually caught flack out there because she voted to confirm both Pompeo and John Kelly, breaking with Kamala Harris her new freshman colleague.

But that's the kind of pressure that you see being brought to bare. And I've got two words for you that right now Democrats have on their minds. They are very worried about Blanche Lincoln. She was the senator from Arkansas if someone recalls this. She was the senator from Arkansas who lost her re-election in 2010. Not entirely but in small part at least because she had to spend months that year fending off a primary from the left. And the sort of point there is that even in these fairly conservative states, there is a liberal bench of activists, and they can find somebody, even people at Arkansas to challenge a Democratic senator from the left, they can find one in Missouri and North Dakota and Montana as well.

KING: People now know that.

BALL: But she's still won that primary.

KING: He did.

BALL: I mean the problem that they've had making a tea party --

KING: Right.

BALL: -- of the left in the past is that progressives don't have the numbers.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

BALL: Even in democratic primaries attacks with that --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Would she got blown out on the poll. Probably would have lost anyway.

KING: We will see. The seeds are being planted.

MARTIN: Right.

KING: We should see what grows. Our reporter share from their notebooks next, including a group of Republicans still looking for a voice in the Trump White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:51:50] KING: We close every day by going around the "Inside Politics" table asking our reporters to share a little bit from their notebook to get you out ahead of the big political news around the corner. Nia?

HENDERSON: Yeah. So Trump last week had his roundtable sort of with black America to mark black history month, and the liberals obviously were very critical of some of the things he said, but also in talking to black Republicans, they were also critical as well in terms of the people he is surrounding himself with. They look at people like Omarosa, who is in his -- on his staff, people like Ben Carson, and they don't see many black Republican establishment types. They do see white establishment types who have been welcomed into the White House. People like Reince. But they don't see a lot of those same type of people in terms of black Republicans. I think in looking in the coming weeks for black Republicans to make a little bit of noise in terms of wanting to have real sort of establishment black Republicans who are steeped in policy to have a voice in this White House because so far they don't really see that.

KING: Still a lot of vacancies.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

KING: Jonathan?

MARTIN: Watching the policy intrigues so far from this White House has been about the sort of establishment versus nationalist divide, Reince Priebus versus Steven Bannon. I've actually carried up over the weekend a little bit of unease among some folks in the White House who are more traditional Republicans about the role Jared Kushner played last week in scuttling the executive order on LGBT rights.

And the fact that it was leaked pretty fast, that Jared and Ivanka, the presidents daughter their fingerprints were -- what we're on has irritated folks who is thought that Jared was being naive to think that there are liberal New York friends, would ever somehow think better of Trump because of this one executive order, and what I was told is that all of this does is basically irritate our allies in the religious conservative world and that's never going to get us any capital with the left. That's going to oppose Trump regardless.

So, sort if fascinating issue there because Kushner obviously comes out of a much more of a democratic orbit in Jersey than New York.

KING: Tensions, tensions, tensions. Manu?

RAJU: John, we've talked from the last segment about those red states Democratic senators, but right now there is a very aggressive recruitment push by the Republican leaders to insure that they can have five challenges against the five red state Democrats. They're really leaning on House Republicans to consider jumping into these races.

I talked to Kevin Cramer of North Dakota who is certainly open about challenging Heidi Heitkamp last year of course. Now that she's been passed over for Donald Trump's cabinet, she's at the top of that target list, and also people like Luke Messer from Indiana considering challenging Joe Donnelly. Watch for those names to start to get more prominence as they start to decide whether or not to become candidates next year.

KING: That's the most important part, candidate recruitment. Molly?

BALL: That interview with Mitch McConnell on this network yesterday was so remarkable to me because you heard, if you listened, shot after shot sort of across the bow of Donald Trump delivered in McConnell's in inevitable way, very gently without calling attention to itself. But, you know, disputing his characterization of the judge, saying the senate won't implement the travel ban, say -- disputing his characterization of Putin, saying the Senate doesn't want to take up the voter fraud investigation, and differing with Trump on the nuclear option. You take all this together.

[12:55:07] Mitch McConnell is very clearly saying to Donald Trump if you want to do any of these things, you're going to hit a brick wall in the form of the Senate majority leader and just as he did in the campaign, he is showing he knows better than anyone how to handle what Donald Trump represents.

KING: Quietly but firmly and, again, remarkable who was just heading into the third week of the new presidency. I'm going to close with this. We call this the patriot way its Coach Bell Trick might call it doing my job. There was a football game last night. Maybe many of you watched it.

First, let's just take a look at this, this is my hometown newspaper. Look at that win for the ages. And that it was Nia's laughing at me here. Look at that. That was great. But the favorite photo of all was this one. Let's turn now. Come on. Give me the commish.

RAJU: Is there any news here for you John? A victory lap?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That would be MVP. Thanks commish. Thanks for joining us on inside politics.

Minutes away now from a speech by president Trump to military leaders at the U.S. central command, my colleague Wolf Blitzer picks up our coverage after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)